Because of the social climate we are living in, members of marginalized groups are teaching other people how to understand them. I see people trying to meet them halfway; to try and understand what it’s like to live in the other person’s skin. As a Black, queer, mentally ill person from the South, I know what it’s like to feel stigmatized.
Having the opportunity to communicate to someone what’s like to be me has been a long, bumpy road. Now, at age 25, I’m just learning how to do that without shame or fear.
I’ve experienced depression since age 12. The seed was planted when I first endured bullying in school and my self-worth quickly deteriorated. I became secretive and reserved. My academic performance suffered, which created tension and disconnect between some of the teachers and myself. The relationship with my parents also suffered. Friends came and went. Back then I didn’t know how to adequately describe what I was going through.
At age 24, I was diagnosed as a major depressive. This diagnosis came after ten years in and out of therapy, and a stint on anti-depressants.
Telling someone I had been diagnosed with a mental illness didn’t come across as I had hoped it would, not as it does when I have a physical health problem—I speak only from my own experience when I say this. The year before, I had undergone an exhausting series of medical tests and doctor visits. I even wore an ambulatory EEG for the first few days of 2019. I had been having what appeared to be neurological issues. It seemed everyone who knew of the situation was making a fuss over me.
But as soon as I mentioned that I needed support for my mental health, the tone shifted. People would tell me I had their support, but it never went further than an empty promise.
Between then and now, I attempted suicide. This attempt to take my own life was followed by a six-day involuntary stay in a behavioral health facility. In a way, it felt as if I underwent a surgery for my soul.
A friend recently told me, “Please forgive me if I overlook something you’re trying to tell me, but also, please let me know.” This friend would also say “I always care, even if I don’t know what to do or say.”
Those remarks carried a lot of weight. I had been walking on eggshells, leaving warning signs here and there, waiting for someone to notice. I bore emotional scars that not many seemed to see or care to see. If someone asked how I was, I would say “I’m hanging in there.” But what I meant to say was “I’m hanging by a thread.” When I spoke, I wondered who was listening. I began to withdraw from activities and commitments expecting someone to ask why, but no one ever did.
In life, there are often times when we don’t always know what to do or say. I am not exempt from that. I have found that writing is one of the most effective ways for me to convey what I need to—just as I am now. Slowly, but gradually, I am sorting out how to guide people in understanding me and how my brain functions. I challenge moments when a call for help is met with silence. I do all that I can to educate people on how their energy and actions impact others. Most importantly, I have finally learned how to advocate for myself.
Sometimes we don’t show concern until it’s too late. Maybe it’s human nature. Thankfully, it was not too late for me.
Whatever you are facing, there is always hope. And we will hold on to hope until you’re able to grasp it yourself. If you’re thinking about suicide, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.