After living a year of pandemic life, we are beginning to resume some normalcy just in time for June, Pride Month. Many states have lifted mask mandates while more than half the country has been vaccinated. Entering the month of June, Pride Month in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community, after a year of social distancing could put a strain on our mental health. I know I have been experiencing anxiety surrounding the idea of gathering with my LGBTQIA+ community after so long apart. Here are a few ways I have been coping with this new way of life while planning to celebrate pride.
Depression – The life: LGBT
I have been hospitalized twice due to my erratic mental health. My gender expression of gender non-conforming (outward expression different from societal gender norms) was not taken seriously during these hospitalizations. I was subjected to uninformed mental health professionals and demeaning mistakes due to the lack of knowledge or respect for my gender non-conforming presentation. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community deals with barriers to gender-affirming care regarding mental health and hospitalization often. These are just a couple of ways I was subjected to insensitive mental health care regarding my gender expression.
When offering help to those we know with mental health concerns, we must remember language is important. Our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community especially requires attention to language when speaking with them regarding mental health concerns. Providing space for our LGBTQIA+ community is essential in productive mental health care. We can help provide space using LGBTQIA+-inclusive language as well as being mindful of what we ask others.
My mental health caused me to visit a psychiatric hospital when I was 19 years old. I had never experienced hospitalization for my mental health, nor did I have adequate coping skills going in. In addition to my mental health deteriorating, I had just come out as a lesbian. I was searching to find my place in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community. I found ways to cope once in the hospital, though. Read further to see what helped me cope during this dark time in my mental health past.
The new year ahead has caused me to reflect upon the major ways I advocated for my mental health needs to gain back stability; after all, the past year has been rough on my mental health. The year brought about new struggles for my anxiety and new lows in my depression. My posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flared with the added trauma of the pandemic as well. These changes required me to reach out for help. I realized my mental health was affected by my lack of feeling comfortable regarding my treatment when reaching out for help and advocating for my mental health needs.
Talking is something that has never failed to help me positively navigate my depression. Empathetic conversations with friends are soothing to me in moments of intense sadness related to my depression. Not all conversations with a trusted individual go as planned though.
September 10th is World Suicide Prevention day. No better time to shine a light on the high rates of suicide completion and suicide attempts that are present here in our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community. Trigger warning: this post involves frank discussion of suicide and a suicide attempt.
I'm not alone in using video games like "Animal Crossing" to cope with my mental illness. Ever since the shelter-at-home orders back in February, gamers have been purchasing the Nintendo Switch faster than they can be physically made. Video games became a form of escapism, and what was once a pastime became a coping mechanism for those stuck at home. While I’ve been trapped in my apartment in this pandemic, no Nintendo Switch game has been more useful for exploring and coping with my mental illness than "Animal Crossing."
The murder of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented civil rights movement and has changed our country dramatically. The face of the Internet has been completely reshaped, and discourse about racism is at the forefront of all of our conversations. Sometimes, especially for the mentally ill, the amount of information whizzing by is overwhelming.
I believe in the importance of self-care, especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. But I wasn't always this way. In fact, until this past year, I'd heard about the self-care movement but dismissed it as "narcissistic" or "selfish." I also thought that I didn't deserve to take care of myself when I could spend that time helping others.