Mental health advice for my younger, LGBT+ self

29/07/2021

It's possible to draw some parallels between the experiences of being LGBT+ and living with mental illness. While being LGBT+ doesn't directly lead to mental illness, all too often the stigma and discrimination faced by those of us in this community can take a toll on our mental health. That's one of the reasons for increased rates of mental illness within the LGBT+ community. Unfortunately, we know that there is also still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, creating a 'double whammy' for some people.

There are positive parallels, too. There's been a similar trajectory of change within the two communities in recent years. The conversations around some mental health conditions have improved. And there is increased representation of the LGBT+ community across our screens and on our timelines. But there is still so far to go, and it can still be a hugely daunting experience coming to terms with who you are as a young person.

With this in mind, we asked three members of the LGBT+ community with lived experience of mental illness to write some advice to their younger self. Here’s what they said.

Carol:

I was severely bullied when I was younger, so I didn’t come out until late. I was bullied for being soft, my looks, my fashion style, my personality, my physique amongst other things. This went on until well into my adulthood where I was also a repeat victim of domestic violence. I didn’t know how to protect or love myself back then. My pride song is Christina Aguilera’s ‘Army’. This song is my ‘survivor anthem’. Sometimes I wish my younger self had known she was stronger, wiser, smarter, powerful and beautiful. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been more proud of myself back then, and I would have been able to stand up to those people, teachers and professionals who also stigmatised me and let the bullying continue. The inner child never dies, so when we feel bad about ourselves as adults we must listen to her.

The advice I would give to my younger LGBTQ+ self about looking after and protecting myself is as follows:

1. You are beautiful, strong, smart and wise just as you are, never let anyone stop you from being your beautiful self.

2. You are not ‘worthless’ so don’t let those bullies tell you that you are. Talk, even if you’re scared. You do not have to hide behind the wall of silence. There are people who love you and want to be there for you. If you are afraid to talk, express that fear to someone you trust.

3. Being bisexual is special. You are special! You can love the best of both worlds, there is no shame in love. Those people who bully you do not yet understand love, but it is ok, because one day they will.

4. You are pretty just the way you are. ‘Beauty’ is hidden beneath the skin that dresses your body. You don’t have to be like everyone else to be beautiful.

5. I know it feels like a big struggle, but self-care is important. You do not need to hate yourself. The men and women you love will love you for being you.

6. You have a good heart. They can tell you you’re imperfect, but your imperfections come as a package. Love them with all of your heart.

7. In a world where everyone seems cruel and unkind, remember you are not one of them. You are kind too, and if everyone else seems unkind, then your kindness makes you unique.

Giles (pictured above):

You’ll find your voice at a young age, don’t ever doubt its power. Talk. Talk to family, to friends - their love is a gift beyond measure. Understand prejudice and stigma, because you’re gay with bipolar schizoaffective disorder and with all you learn, that voice of yours, be it in speech or written word, will be your shield, your sword, your flaming torch. And remember what your mother always said: be kind. Apply that as much to yourself as those around you.

Jasmin:

My younger self wasn't really aware of their queerness, as they were dealing with other issues in home and at school. The only way to protect your mental health in this situation is to love yourself like the religious love their gods. Be your own best friend, not your own worst enemy. You are going to have to be patient and trust that you are a gorgeous sunflower that will blossom when it is time. You are smart, unique and worthy of all the world has to offer. Who you are is more than valid and everything is going to be ok.

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