Recently, my home state proposed a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Although the bill didn't pass, it created greater awareness for how damaging conversion therapy can be to a person's mental health, especially for teenagers. So many young queer people are coerced into therapy that they believe will "cure" them of something that wasn't harming them to begin with. And because people's gender identity or sexual orientation is such an inherent part of who they are, conversion therapy can lead to serious mental health issues and perpetuate gay discrimination.
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.
Just in case you haven't heard the news by now, with very few exceptions, yoga is good for you! And if you happen to be an LGBT individual committed to better mental health, then you may find that a simple yoga practice is just what you need. Anxiety, depression and high stress levels are serious problems for many of us in the LGBT community. A study of 4,000 people by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) concluded that "almost 80% of LGBT folks have suffered intense anxiety within the last year"! It seems to me that we are carrying a disproportionate share of mental health issues across the globe, and yoga is a no to low cost way for our community to practice mental self-care.
It's important to honor our feelings, to treat them with respect and to not judge ourselves for having them. Even embarrassing feelings, or hateful ones, or angry ones. We can honor our feelings without acting on them immediately because when you own your feelings, you have self-discipline and can allow feelings to pass in and out of you until you feel ready to act on them. Or not. Learning to honor our feelings teaches us to honor ourselves.
I come from a large quirky family of addictive and codependent personalities that bred what seems like nothing but toxic relationships; relationships that ultimately did more to harm our mental, physical and emotional well-being than good (7 Basic Signs of a Toxic Relationship). I've never really considered us "dysfunctional" because we actually functioned quite well as long as everyone did their job and played their role. That job or role always being to pacify and enable the person with issues by protecting them from reality or the consequences of their actions. It looks a little something like this:
Each new year, I believe the universe gives us an opportunity to reflect on the year passing and to set new goals or intentions for the year ahead. The goal-oriented overachiever in me had a love/hate relationship with this time of year because no matter how great my achievements for the year, I always came away feeling like I failed in some way. As atonement, I would vow to “do more” and “be better”. At the beginning of 2012, after approximately 4 months of intensive treatment for my never ending panic and anxiety, I gave up on goal setting and instead set intentions for the new year, the most important of them being to practice better mental self-care.