Shattering Stigmas is an annual blogging event that lasts two weeks. During this fortnight, we’ll be talking about anything and everything mental health related. The aim of these posts are to take away some of the stigma surrounding mental illness, to invite people to open up about their stories, and to help others learn.
Our next guest poster is Wendy, a book and mental health blogger. She is currently studying her Publishing Masters at University College London and hopes to champion diverse books in the publishing industry. You can find her on whatthelog and Twitter.
Queerness and Mental Health
I’m queer – bisexual, to be exact.
I’m mentally ill – it’s less easy to be exact here. I’ve got anxiety, depression, dissociation, paranoid tendencies, and much more.
For me, these identities go hand in hand. Now, I’m not saying that being queer will necessarily lead to mental illness – that would be ridiculous. However, I am saying that the pressure of coming out to my parents, my abusive relationship with a woman, and the lack of acceptance in some mental health settings has definitely played a part in my mental ill health. Let’s take these one by one, shall we?
Coming out to my parents was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. It’s a long story, but let’s just say that they didn’t take it well. I didn’t talk to them for about 6 months, and when you’re abroad in university for the first time, that really takes a toll on your mental health. I was lucky enough to have an amazing group of friends who supported me, but their lack of acceptance made me have serious thoughts of suicide. How could I talk to my parents about my mental health if they were playing a key part in it? Not having the unconditional love and support of my parents, which I had previously always had, was very, very hard.
My abusive relationship
My first ever relationship was with a woman over the Internet. I was 16, and she was 24. The age gap alone was bad, but the things that she used to say to me, and the way she emotionally manipulated me, were even worse. However, because she was female, I went with it. I naively believed that women couldn’t be abusive, and that I was being overly sensitive. This relationship was the trigger for my anxiety, my depression, and my panic attacks. I honestly believe that if this relationship had been with a man, I would have got out of it much sooner, and saved myself a great deal of emotional and mental pain.
Lack of acceptance in mental health settings
My first ever therapist told me that my bisexuality was a phase. Another therapist told me that my parents would just ‘get over’ my sexuality. A third told me that my sexuality wasn’t important. To be judged in a supposedly non-judgemental space is a heart-breaking experience, and one that I hope no one reading this has ever had. Ever since, I have always skimmed over my bisexuality with therapists and when seeing counselors, because I don’t want to run the risk of being misunderstood or told horrible things. Not being completely honest with a therapist really holds me back – I continually have to bite my tongue, and skip over life events that I honestly do believe are worth discussion.
Because of all these experiences, I firmly believe that all mental health spaces must also be intersectional spaces. LGBT+, POC and disabled people can have different reasons for their mental illnesses, and our experiences are equally valid.