I feel as though some mental health topics, namely suicide, despite the world being more open to discussions of mental health now than ever, are still taboo. Sure, we can recite statistics and even policy without fear, but as soon as the conversation creeps closer, and turns from the generic to the intimate, it hesitates and loses confidence. A shame, considering suicide and its facets are nothing if not personal. In light of this, I’ve decided to write about what I’ve learned from a few times and people in my life where the topic was especially relevant.
In college, it’s pretty common to hear people refer to themselves as “a literal alcoholic” because they went to Barnyard on a Tuesday night. It’s easy to laugh these comments off and go on with your night, but they can actually minimize what alcoholism is. It is not getting drunk in your freshman dorm a couple of times a week, it’s something that can fully ruin your life and is something that caused me immense amounts of pain throughout my childhood.
For people in the LGBTQ community, mental health is something more visible and more worrying. Social ostracization, family issues, gender dysmorphia, and other internal conflicts can create environments where LGBTQ people are more susceptible to anxiety, depression, drug addiction, and suicide.
In general, I’d like to consider myself an honest person. Most of the time, if you ask me my opinion, I’m gonna give it to you straight. It also doesn’t help that I’m a terrible liar, and usually, I’ll start bursting out laughing or smile really widely if I tell a lie, and it’s a dead giveaway. For the past three years, however, I’ve gotten surprisingly good and lying to my parents about my well-being at school, even if they can sometimes tell what’s up.
Throughout high school, I never placed much priority on my mental health. I would always rather ignore stress and anxiety rather than address it, and I would certainly never ask someone else for help. But, what’s scary about the effects of mental health deterioration is that they’re not immediately noticeable. Unlike physical health, there are more subtle signs of degradation. You only really notice it after the healing process begins and you begin to fix the issues in your life. You only really notice when damage has already been done.
When I was fourteen, the only friend I had made in high school told me (over a phone call conversation) that she could no longer be my friend because she did not want to be associated with a slut. She did not like the rumors that classmates and members of neighboring high schools had to say about me, and did not want her reputation to be affected. This event, along with a plethora of teenage stresses, led to a downward spiral of self-loathing that eventually resulted in me having a skewed perception of sexuality and what it meant to be a woman.