So, I had other plans about blog posts this week, but this one seemed more important to get out of my head. I want to talk about mental health. A lot of people think my blog is all about sex, and that just isn't true. I want to help people to know and love their bodies and their minds. It's really quite difficult to love one without loving the other. Not to mention, it can affect how we interact with other people.
Mental health is difficult. We try to pretend it isn't everywhere, it isn't important. It's hard because when someone has a cold or the flu, we see their symptoms, we can empathize and help them in little ways. Mental disorders are a lot of the time invisible. We can't see that a person is struggling. And a lot of people only believe things are real if they can see them. I've struggled my whole life with people not believing my anxiety and depression are real. And it's hard to convince other people when you can barely place it yourself. Why am I sad? Why am I scared? Even now, people close to me will ask, "aw, what are you anxious about?" But so much of the time, there is no answer to that question.
Depression is feeling empty, lost and hopeless despite everything in your life going better than ever. It is wanting to break down and cry constantly, for no reason. It is doing all the same activities you usual do, but feeling no happiness from them. It is walking around feeling like there is a block of guilt in your stomach, like you've done the worst thing a human can do, despite the fact that you haven't done anything. It's smiling and laughing in the middle of a crowd, but not caring about any of them and feeling lonely.
Anxiety is being afraid to do anything. It's being afraid that if you do one little insignificant thing the wrong way, something bad will happen. Or, not doing something insignificant will cause something bad to happen. It's being jittery and shaky, even when you didn't drink coffee. It's a surge of fear and a need to escape--from nothing. Think of a time you were really afraid of a situation. Now, imagine that pure fear and adrenaline despite there being absolutely NOTHING to be afraid of. Feeling apathy towards everything--feeling absolutely nothing BUT the fear. Sitting there trying to incite SOME kind of reaction to a thought or situation and not being able to do it. Knowing you should be happy and enjoying things but feeling indifferent to anything around you. Thinking you are bad person and feeling like something is sitting on your chest and it's making it hard to breathe and your brain starts racing and you're thinking of every bad thing you've ever seen and heard and then you swallow the lump in your throat and smile at the person in front of you and say, "I'm good, how about you?"
Because how do you describe these feelings to people? How do you stand in front of someone, with no visible disability or illness, and tell them getting out of bed this morning was the hardest thing you've ever had to do? How do you tell your parents and friends about all of your recent accomplishments and good luck while crying because you're sad on the inside? How do you explain that you're just suddenly and overwhelmingly terrified of everything and nothing all at the same time?
You can't. Because there aren't accurate words for it. And it is awkward and it makes us feel ashamed and weak. There's no reason for me to feel like this, so if I just push through it, I'll be okay. If I just FORCE myself to get up and do something, I can beat this. Because people won't believe you. And people will tell you it is all in your head, mind over matter. People still are constantly policing others, writing notes and leaving them on their handicapped car, telling them they have no reason to park there because their disability wasn't immediately apparent to the rest of the population.
Now, imagine all of this anxiety and depression and other mood disorders--and now imagine it on top of your lifestyle anxiety. Already feeling all of these feelings for no discernible reason, and then adding on the shame, the guilt, the fear of being someone other than your body shows you to be, or being attracted to someone other than society thinks you should be. Luckily, I don't have that added stress. But hundreds of thousands of people do, and the LGBTQ community has struggled with it forever. Somewhere, an intersex baby was born and their parents chose them to be a boy. But that baby is, on the inside, a woman. So now, that person has all of the normal depression and anxiety that anyone else might feel, but they also feel this fear of displaying themselves opposite from what their parents chose, opposite from what the world has seen them grow up as. Somewhere, a girl is hitting puberty and realizing she is fantasizing about talking to the pretty blonde girl in her class and wanting to kiss other girls. That shame and guilt of being someone that society doesn't want her to be, the fear that someone might someday prosecute her for it.
We focus so much on people's genders and sexual orientation that we aren't paying attention to what really matters--their health. Who cares who other people are fucking, we should be caring that they feel safe and comfortable in their own body and life. All these protesters and people who condemn others should be attempting to HELP them. You don't think these people already think they are wrong? We raise kids to think that anything besides what society wants for them is wrong and they should be ashamed. Then they grow up and attempt to be the person THEY want to be, and we attack them for it.
I remember, years ago, having a bit of a break down. I called a help line for assistance, and I was transferred from one person to the next, given several phone numbers and names and got a lot of, "I'm not sure what to do about that, let me transfer you to so and so." And then so-and-so would get on the phone and say they couldn't help me. I felt like guilty for accepting medication. I felt like I should have been able to help myself without it.
There is no shame in medication. Our experiences in life make us who we are. Sometimes, those experiences lead us to feel anxiety or depression. And there is nothing wrong with saying you need help. I don't care who you are, SOMEONE out there wants to help you, even if you think you are alone. As many horrible people are out there wishing to hurt you, there are tons more that wish to help you. It's hard to maintain a healthy relationship with another person when you can barely maintain yourself. If you are struggling, PLEASE get help. And more than anything, the reason I wrote this post, is to say that you aren't alone. And also for me to know that I'M not alone.
Samaritans 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (212) 673-3000
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Common Ground Crisis Line 1-800-231-1127 (you can also text this number)
Planned Parenthood chat with health educators