More Than A Label: LGBT+ Mental Health

Everyone is made differently- looks, personality, likes, dislikes and even sexuality.

Some of us are attracted to men and women, some are attracted to those of the same sex. Some don’t have romantic attraction towards anyone. There are even people that are attracted to men, women, non-binary people and others.

This is okay. We can’t help who we fall in love with.

I haven’t written a lot about sexuality, but it’s Pride Month. It’s somewhat out of my scope but I’m willing to discuss it.

I previously wrote a post about this topic –Talking About Pride

However, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community can lead to some issues that aren’t always given a lot of attention.

This is My Scope of Knowledge

Mental health issues are common in today’s world, and being seen as “different” can add to an existing condition or even lead to symptoms of a new diagnosis.

Anxiety

Those that identify as non-heterosexual are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety than others – this is the same for adults and teens. This can be a result of issues in home life, school/career and other areas of life. Anxiety is hard enough to handle without questioning your sexuality. Anxiety, of course can lead to other issues, as in depression, drug use and even suicidal ideations.

Coming out to friends and family can be a cause of stress alone. A person might be fully ready to live their life but the idea of telling those they are close to can be difficult. This isn’t to say coming out makes these issues disappear, but it helps.

Depression

Depression is very common in the community. Having to keep your sexuality a secret can be devasting, and so can having to pretend to be someone else. It eats away at your soul and can lead to some very dark thoughts. Not being able to share the person you love is also painful.

Sometimes people become depressed or it worsens after coming out. This can be a result of a negative response to the announcement. There are still many people who don’t agree with the “lifestyle” and can be very judgemental towards people who aren’t heterosexual, even if it is their own child. These thoughts of not being loved/accepted can spiral into actions that endanger lives- substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, etc.

For the record, I do not care if my kids are gay, bisexual, or anything else on the spectrum. As long as they find someone who they are happy with and they’re treated well, then I am good.

For some reason, those who identify as bisexual are diagnosed with depression more than those who identify as a different sexuality. One in four bisexual people in a study have been diagnosed with depression at some point. Other sexualities have lower rates. Some of this has to do with support, or lack thereof, especially at school and/or at home.

This is why it’s so importatnt to support the LGBT+ people in your life, no matter how old they are. It’s hard to reach out for the help you need when you feel as if a therapist will judge you or even not see you because of your sexuality.

Teens go through a lot of changes as it is, and figuring this out can be difficult. Teens struggle more if their school is not a supportive place for them, because they may feel they have nowhere to turn.

Bullying is already a topic that many are familiar with. This can be excruciating for teens that identify as LGBTQ+. It just adds to the feelings of not being good enough, or shame at being “different”. It also makes a teen feel unsafe in a place that they should feel safe. Having to defend yourself 5 days a week can be physically and emotionally draining.

The Importance of Community

I can’t stress this enough- if you are reading this and you need LGBTQ+ support, in any way, please reach out. There will be resources at the end of this post.

It’s not healthy to feel like or even try to go through life alone. Everyone needs someone they can tell about really good or even really bad dates. People need to belong. It’s a basic need.

The feeling you get when you are around others that understand you is wonderful. It’s nice to know you are not the only one.

Resources:

LGBTQ Information on Addiction and Suicide

HRC

LGBTQ Youth Hopkins Medicine

MHA

LGBT Community Mental Health

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

No Rest for This Mom

In light of recent events, I’ve been thinking a lot.

I have two black sons. One has autism and even though he’s verbal, I still worry.

What happens if he gets pulled over? Will he react appropriately or will he act in a way that might get him killed?

Julian’s not a huge fan of rules, so this is one of my biggest worries. I don’t know how he may respond. There’s a few factors- is the police officer being kind or combative? Do they understand that my son doesn’t do eye contact well? Can they keep their composure should Julian react in a bad way?

When I say “in a bad way”, I mean being rude, argumentative, or even aggressive. I would love to think he would just be nervous, as many of us would, but I know that may not be what happens.

This may be three years away but I think ahead.

I plan on talking to both my boys about what to do if you’re pulled over. It’s a talk that I didn’t think would need to happen, but here we are. If it’s something that may mean the difference between my son coming home safe and me having to bury him, I will talk like there’s no tomorrow.

I watched some of the coverage from Minneapolis and it reminded me so much of the LA Riots. I was 10 when that occurred. I don’t remember anything from watching it unfold, but I’ve since learned about it.

Cameron would likely be nervous but I think he would comply. I still worry, because he’s a soft-spoken young man. He may ” look” white, but his hair and eyes say different. All three of my kids got my brown eyes and curly dark brown hair. (Mine is black, so the brown part is from Matthew.)

What about Lily? I have no idea when she would be able to drive because of various issues. I’m sure she would become very nervous and possibly cry. I worry about her too. Black women have been mistreated by the justice system, you just don’t hear about it as much.

My kids already know they “look” different, even in their own family. They’re the darkest kids on Matthew’s side and next to my mother, the lightest on mine. They have learned my reality of being stared at because of my skin tone. They’re not scared but they are aware.

My kids, however, have had it so much easier than I did growing up. That’s one thing I wanted so badly for them. I didn’t want them to be the only biracial kid in their class, one of a few in their grade. It’s basically the opposite for them.

Lily’s had friends whose families came from other countries. Cameron learned Spanish from a friend in middle school because he was born in Puerto Rico. They’ve been taught to accept people for who they are, not what they look like. They don’t even think of not being able to play at a friend’s house because they are biracial.

I did as a kid and it’s devastating. I was in the second grade and felt like something was wrong with me because I wasn’t black or white. My mom, being the badass that she’s always been, told me something along the lines of “that’s on them. You’re great the way you are.”

Both my boys can run pretty fast and well- we just watch Cameron closely. Julian is better at running and I hope he (or Cameron) never has to literally run for their lives.

I hurt for all the families that have lost someone to police violence. There’s no excuse for that, not should it be brushed off by the local government. Somehow this happens and riots can be a result. I’m not condoning the rioting, but sometimes people run out of better options.

The LA Riots started over anger after a period of police-related incidents, the most well known being the Rodney King case. Five days of rioting followed after not one of the four police officers involved in his beating were found guilty.

In case you haven’t realized it, I am proud to be black. All day and tomorrow, as Lil Wayne once said. I was raised in a home that celebrated blackness as much as possible. I can’t imagine being ashamed of this. I’ve raised my kids this way. It’s hard enough to be biracial without extra shame. I do realize that not everyone was raised this way and I feel awful for those who weren’t.

I chose to marry a white man. He’s who I love and want to share my life with. Some of the cousins on my dad’s side were mad and guess what? I don’t speak to them. One of Matthew’s uncles felt similarly and he wasn’t invited to the wedding. We haven’t seen him in years, both of these by Matthew’s choice. I wouldn’t dare force that.

My children are more than a hashtag. They are three different people that I am trying my best to guide to be good people. They are similar to millions of other kids- they just want to live.

Pics courtesy of pinterest

Another post on this topic: My Sons’ Future

“Wounded Healer” with Ashley

I’ve followed Ashley for almost the whole time I’ve been blogging. I was very curious about her series so I volunteered to do an interview. Thank you, Ashley.

The wounded healer interview series features people who’ve dealt with significant mental health challenges, and who also work in a helping role to support the mental health of others.

This interview is with Wrae Sanders ofOne Blog, One Day at a Time.

1) Tell us a bit about you, the helping field you’re in, and the mental health challenges you’ve faced.

I have anxiety and depression. I’m currently on medication. I also have three years sobriety from alcohol. I’m a behavioral health technician at a sober living facility.


2) What made you decide to go into your helping field? Did your mental health challenges play a role?

I like helping people plus I know what it’s like to be in a bad place emotionally. I also liked learning about why people do what they do.


3) How have your own mental health challenges influenced the helping work you do?

At one point, my depression pushed me to work harder because it was a great distraction. It also makes me more empathetic.


4) Do you think you’re a more effective helper because of your own mental health challenges? How so?

Yes. I’ve been in some of the same situations so I can put myself in someone’s shoes.


5) Have you chosen to share your own mental health challenges with any of your patients/clients? What influenced that choice?

I have to an extent- it really depends on the situation. I think it helps the patient/client realize they’re not alone and that we go through things too.


6) Has your training or experience in your helping field changed how you approach your own illness or mental health challenges?

Yes. I know that there is a stigma of having mental health issues but it’s okay to get treated. I have seen what happens when you don’t.


7) What advice would you give to someone who has faced mental illness or other mental health challenges and is thinking about entering your helping field?

Make sure you’re ready to share your story because it might help someone. Of course, use appropriate boundaries.

Thanks so much Wrae for sharing with us!

Visit Wrae on her blog One Blog, One Day at a Time.

Surviving the Dumpster Fire

I have lost count of the days we have been staying “healthy at home” as Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear, has asked.

Mid-March, probably?

Very accurate.

At this point there’s only so much we can do as parents to contain our kids.

My kids just started NTI (Non-Traditional Instruction) yesterday. I was mentally prepared for a disaster but nobody had issues. Yayyyy!

I’m pretty easy going these days because it helps my stress and anxiety levels, which helps prevent migraines and to some extent, RA flares.

Speaking of which, I have a phone appointment with my rheumatologist in an hour or so. I have great news to tell her- the medication she gave me in January is working. More yayyyy!

Kids are going through a lot right now- they don’t know when they will see their friends again. They can call, text or Facetime but that only goes so far. Some kids going to middle or high school may not see some of their friends before they separate for different schools. They’re anxious- what happens next? Is someone I know going to get the coronavirus? When can we go out and do fun things again?

I’ve been trying to explain things as well as I can to my kids. I’m glad they are old enough to understand most things. We do fun stuff at home.

The boys have been pretty chill- Julian said since they aren’t at school he can’t really miss the events that the 8th grade won’t get to do.

Lily has been a bit sad because she misses her friends and teachers. She and Bella (my friend Sara’s daughter) face-timed yesterday and she says she feels much better.

It’s the least I can do. I don’t like seeing her so sad.

There’s a load of laundry sitting on my bed waiting to be folded. I’ll get to it.

Probably.

Some things never change.

Meme courtesy of Facebook

The Trust Questions

Erasing people from your life?

Done it and kept moving.

I can’t say I recommend it. It’s painful, requires internal reflection and possibly therapy.

It’s hard to process the thoughts that run through your mind.

Was I not good enough?

How can I trust others again? (This is a big one.)

How do I hang on to the people I do have?

What do I need in a friend? Has this changed?

It’s not as easy as it looks but you can move last it and be able to trust others again in the future. It takes work, but it’s worth it.