Without mental health, humans cannot be healthy. We all experience emotional ups and downs from time to time caused by events in our lives. Mental health conditions go beyond these emotional reactions to specific situations. They are medical conditions that cause changes in how we think and feel and in our mood.
Within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community, mental health conditions are just like the rest of the population.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds
- An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population.
- LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder
LGBTQ individuals do not often talk about mental health and may lack awareness about mental health conditions. This sometimes prevents people from seeking the treatment and support that they need to get better.
Lost Got Found, nonprofit organization, was founded in 2016 as a personal project, originally called “The Invisible Illnesses”, sharing stories from those affected by mental illness and suicide to help others know they are not alone. In June 2018, they were renamed to “Lost Got Found”. When silently struggling, many say they feel “lost” and that they have no purpose. But, once reaching out for help, they realize there is hope and they finally felt they “got found.” The hope is that, through reading stories and becoming educated through curriculum, people will know it can get better and you can get found, too.
Here are some stories of some LGBTQ folks who have shared their story.
“Don’t give up your friends like I did. When I first realized that I was depressed, I didn’t tell anyone for months. I had never been the best at expressing my emotions, choosing instead to play the role of the one who always goes with the flow. ‘Stifle and handle it on your own,’ is what I told myself in my head over and over again.
It was triggered by me being dumped after a relationship that only lasted for a weekend, by someone who suffered from depression. I wanted nothing more than to be there for him, but he wouldn’t let me. He didn’t want to hurt me because he was always hurting, and that was something I could barely understand at the time. I eventually began to resent him.
I had always been known as the dependable and insightful friend that people could come to when they needed help, someone who would compromise themselves for others, yet here was someone who was rejecting me entirely. How could someone who needed help reject me? How was I not good enough? It broke me before I knew it did, but even then, I didn’t tell anyone. Especially not my parents, who didn’t know about my sexuality at the time.
I got into the habit of keeping my emotions locked away in a box at a very young age. My dad hardly let me cry when I was a kid, especially when he spanked me, so I chose nonchalance over a smile. I also realized that I was interested in the same sex at an early age, and I knew I could never open up about that. I grew up in a Christian household with parents who would not accept it. I was also the black sheep in my family, finding interests in hobbies and activities that were deemed ‘too white’ for someone of my skin color.
My parents feared me trying to depart from black lifestyle and culture, so they geared me towards things that they felt would show me that life isn’t all bad in the black way of things. They were just trying to make sure that I kept an open mind. Instead, I resented them because they were keeping me away from hobbies that I cared about. Hobbies that I stopped speaking up about because I was shot down nearly every time.
When I finally got a car and a job by my senior year of high school, I pursued my interests on my own. I told myself that now, since I had the means to do so, I could start doing what I wanted without having to beg or wait on anyone else. ‘Handle it on your own.’ I felt like I was finally building something for myself that I could call my own, even if it was a few possessions I bought for myself here and there.
I went into college with the same mentality. ‘Handle it on your own.’ I did my best to ignore my baggage and excel in the new environment. I didn’t choose to be gay, so I stopped trying act heterosexual. I didn’t like rap music or most sports, so I wasn’t going to pretend like I did. I was just going to be me, the real me, as long as it didn’t leak back to my hometown.
So, in a sense, I was thriving in one environment, yet still having to close myself back up in another. My emotional security was already fragile, but I knew that as long as nothing went wrong too badly in Charleston, I’d be fine. It was my heaven away from hell. A place to be me without compromise.
When that weekend-long relationship ended, it broke something in me that took a while to reveal itself. Just as I felt utterly rejected at home, I was now met with the same degree of rejection in ‘heaven’. It didn’t matter if I wanted to be there for my ex, he wasn’t going to let me. He was afraid that I wouldn’t stick around, so he shoved me away without giving me a choice.
I didn’t know what was happening to me. I lost interest in going out with friends as much. Some days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. What was the point? If he was going to push me off the cliff like that, what was keeping others from doing the same?
I was eventually diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder, but I didn’t wear those titles on my sleeve. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I just wanted to get better, but I wanted to get better on my own. My social behavior became erratic, and I began burning bridges left and right.
If I felt like someone was going to abandon me because I couldn’t be the friend that I used to be, I went ahead made the decision to cut them off. If someone said that they’d be there and there was no follow-up, I cut them off.
“I was afraid to go to people for help because I feared that they would turn me away.”
I’ve lost so many friends to my mental illness that I pretty much gave into my self-fulfilling prophecy. Now I truly don’t have many people to go to for help. And I’ve even exhausted some of their patience because I keep doubting their ability and/or willingness to help me.
Don’t let it get this bad. Don’t give up your friends like I did. It’s easier to give up, but theconsequences are devastating. Speak up and get help, because nothing worth having comes easy. The people who really care for you don’t want you to suffer, so allow them to pick you up when you can’t do it yourself. Be well, and be happy, because life is too damn short to be anything but.”
“Growing up, I had always been seen as a gifted and talented honors student, and my intelligence was always really important to me. It was drilled into me as a child that not only was I better than other people, but that I had to stay that way and keep achieving ‘amazing’ things.
Figuring out I wasn’t inherently better than anyone else was actually a huge relief, but up until that point, I pushed myself constantly and beat myself up when I wasn’t scoring perfect grades or finishing all my work impeccably.
Being a straight ‘A’, 4.0 GPA student in high school nearly killed me. I went through my senior year in a fog. Most of the time, it was like swimming through soup: I was tired all the time, I couldn’t focus, and I couldn’t get anything done. I didn’t even have the energy to harm myself. I was in the IB program and marching band, but I had to quit many things just to stay afloat.
Even when I got to college, I was constantly tired mentally and physically, and nothing seemed to make it better. It took until the middle of my sophomore year and a suicide attempt to get the right medication and diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and Gender Dysphoria.
I finally accepted that I was transgender and came out this past spring, but there was a huge pushback from my family regarding my desire to transition that cut me deep. It’s really difficult to keep striving for happiness when you feel like you’re being punished for it. My own body just isn’t what I feel like it should be. Now that I’ve realized that, I’m a mix of both happier and upset: happy that I can transition, but also upset that I mightnever really be seen as a man.
I have a couple of mental health professionals I see and I’ve built up a good support network. Sometimes I slip, but most of the time I can go see someone, listen to music, or call my girlfriend. Most of it is just pushing forward one day or week at a time, and trying to stay organized.
Do I think there is a stigma surrounding mental health? There absolutely is. You’re expected to be able to take care of yourself and keep functioning ‘like everyone else,’ even if you’re struggling. Accusations of laziness or lack of care are insulting and unhelpful when someone has a mental illness, especially when they feel they can’t get the help they need.”
“If you are struggling with a mental illness, it’s okay. It’s okay to feel sad and tired and messed up- like you’re falling apart. It’s okay to let go of things that you can’t do. It’s also within your power to find and get help, and once you get started, it’s a lot easier to keep up with it. You will be okay no matter what happens. Please don’t give up on yourself.You’re worth having around.”
“I tried committing suicide three times. Where did it all start? My childhood was broken by the physical, mental, and emotional abuse of my manic mother. I would literally sleep with one eye open. I was deathly afraid of her, deathly afraid. There were countless incidents of abuse, but one in particular sticks with me…My mother was barely ever home; she would leave us for weeks at a time without any food, maybe an old box of pizza, if we were lucky. I was in the kitchen cleaning and putting away the dishes when she came up behind me and asked me whom I wanted to live with? I should mention that my parents had already been divorced for some time. As I stood in front of her silent, she softly says, ‘Be honest, you can tell the truth.’
I hesitantly told her that I wanted to live with my dad. She grabbed me by the neck, causing a glass to fall out of my hand and break onto the tile floor. Her sharp, artificial nails dug into my neck as she began choking me and banged my head repeatedly against the kitchen counter while yelling in my face. Events like these were common.
Growing up, I was always filled with creative energy that screamed to be unleashed. I wrote poetry, created short screenplays, built my own majestic mansion dollhouse with a pair of broken scissors, cardboard boxes, colorful fabric scraps, nearly dried out markers, and thumbtacks. I believed that I was a real human superhero. I wanted to be a world-class figure skater, a fashion designer, and then a traveling artist the next. Motivation came and it went.
I struggled with binging and purging; food became my friend and my enemy at the same time. I self-harmed- the scars are still visible in between my legs. I was the life of the party and lost in my own isolation simultaneously. I was a varsity cheerleader all throughout high school, so I created this bubbly and outgoing persona.
I stole jewelry from a local store, even though I had the money in my pocket. I dropped out of college, due to a manic episode. Flashbacks of rape and molestation haunted my mind. Without much thought, I packed my things and moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, where I lived for five months before returning home. Sleep was non-existent for days at a time, who needs sleep?
I heard things no one else could hear, the sounds getting louder and louder. I felt the physical pain of my first ever panic attack, I felt the panic alone could kill me. ‘I think something is wrong with me. I need help!’ The crying. The rage. The anxiety. The panic. The impulsivity. The depression. The paranoia. The otherworldly highs and the debilitating lows. The pain, I was so tired of the pain. Enough was enough.
At 27 years old, I sought psychiatric help for the first time in my entire life. I was initially misdiagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. After further evaluation, I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD.
At 29 years old, I am thriving and surviving. I am now working towards my Masters in Nutrition and Integrative Health, with a concentration in Human Clinical Nutrition. I am happily married to my wife, the love of my life, and living with our two rescue pups. I am staying on top of my medications, maintaining healthy friendships, and honoring my feelings.
I am thankful for the ups, downs, and everything in between. Some days are more challenging than others and that’s okay. I am happy.
So when did it all start? I don’t really know the exact moment. I’ve been like this since I could remember. I’ve danced through manic highs and survived the dark days of depression.”