Autostraddle Roundtable: All About Our Mental Health

As a community, LGBT people have a lot of mental health struggles! Historically our very identities and experiences have been pathologized, and in modern times we’re “almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder,” often exacerbated by living under deeply oppressive systems. A lot of the requests from readers for advice and for personal writing are about mental health, so today we thought we’d share with you about our brain situations, what helps, what doesn’t, and what we’re still working on.

Ali, 29, Staff Writer (New York City)

I am now a person who has four panic attacks a day?

It’s not like I’ve never had a panic attack before this summer. I’d have one once every four years, thereabouts. But now I have panic attacks like folks giving birth have contractions. I try to get things done between them, and then when I feel one starting to happen, I go hide somewhere and let it wash over me. On Thursday I hid behind a First Republic Bank and cried before going to teach some undergraduates. This is new. I am still figuring out how to be a person who has panic attacks, which really means I am still figuring out how to be a person. I sure can tell you what doesn’t work — waiting until the good health insurance kicks in to find a therapist. I can decidedly tell you that this does not work when you are having four panic attacks a day. I have found that taking a walk helps. I’m steps from Central Park; there has been quite a bit of communing with the Angel of Bethesda Fountain because it’s the perfect walk distance for me to feel calmer after. I am also a big fan of reading comics my friends have written (currently obsessed with Hi-Fi Fight Club and Moonstruck) because I can hear their voices in them so, so clearly, it’s like they’re sitting next to me and I feel far less alone. Texting folks — gosh, my poor friends, they are hearing so much more from me lately. Hopefully they’re enjoying the conversations as much as I am.

Mey, 30, Trans Editor (Los Angeles)

Oh gosh, I have depression and anxiety disorders and have dealt with a lot of suicidal ideation throughout my life

I first started therapy when I was in the fifth grade after my friend killed himself. But I was only in it for about a year. Then three years later I had my first serious thought about killing myself. I didn’t go to therapy for a long time after that, but started up again two years ago, when I was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety issues, and now I go weekly. I’m also on 40 mg of Prozac, which is working really well for me. Right now is an especially tough time for me. I was hospitalized for six days at the end of May for a suicide attempt and I’m still working on getting better from that. I have good and bad days, but I’m definitely doing work that is helping me. I talk to my therapist and take my pills and talk to friends, like Fia and Vi and Cecelia, and I talk to my girlfriends and hold them tight and I take breaths. I’m still working on not exploding little things into giant things, putting an entire world of meaning on meaningless things and seeing everything in black and white, but I’m doing better at that too. I’ve got work to do and I’m looking forward to doing it.

Tiara, 32, Staff Writer (Melbourne, Australia)

”Diagnostic Dilemma” – Depression? Panic disorder? Bipolar II? PMDD? ADHD? BPD? WHO KNOWS

I was first diagnosed with panic disorder and depression the year I turned 17 after a string of panic attacks. I’d suspected that I was some level depressed for some time (I was first suicidal at 11 due to immense racism) but it was still remarkable to get diagnosed and treated given that I grew up in Malaysia, which refuses to acknowledge that mental health is a thing that exists. (I would later learn that I was far from the only person in my school with mental health issues, but we all got dismissed as “hysterical” and “making it up for attention”; mind you, this was an all-girls school.) I went on Xanax, which made me a zombie even with the smallest dose possible, and first on Aurorix for a short while before the headaches made me switch to Serzone, which worked great, but then I had to come off Serzone because apparently it can lead to liver failure! So I was off-meds for about a year and asides from the odd panic attack I was mostly fine, probably because I was also done with school and thus far away from my biggest stressor.

About a year later I moved to Australia and for various reasons was placed back on treatment — this time, Effexor, a.k.a. THE WORST. After a few years I found that I hit a plateau and decided to come off Effexor — a very slow and involved process that felt like withdrawal from hard drugs. Right after that was a trial of various drugs that had different levels of suitability: sodium valproate (made me ditzy), Seroquel (made me sleepy), Remeron (a last ditch attempt before I moved to the Bay Area because it was closest to Serzone). My doc tested me for brain problems and toxoplasmosis (the “crazy cat lady” parasite) and both turned out fine. In a letter to future doctors he started off by saying that I was a “diagnostic dilemma.”

When I moved to the States I found student health insurance to be a scam. They wouldn’t cover the visit to the psychiatrist that prescribed me Lamictal (which I’m still on with the Remeron) or both my meds. An emergency when I suddenly ran out of one of my meds turned out to be a blessing in disguise; the Alameda County health services got me signed onto Obamacare, which got me free meds and free GP visits for the rest of my time there. I also found an amazing therapist who understood the challenges of being an international student (Morgan you rock).

I’m back in Australia now, in a different city after nine months in Malaysia where I was languishing from lack of therapy options (my original psych had retired). Part of my move was because I needed my mental health care; I’m seeing a therapist again and will soon have an appointment with a local psychiatrist to review my treatment.

What I’ve found really helps for me is keeping myself ridiculously busy. People ask me how I’m able to be involved in so many things; most of the time it’s literally the only thing getting me out of bed in the morning. Creative pursuits are especially good for this. I’m in the middle of a massive performance art production right now and it’s incredible how I’m able to put aside my angst for a while to work as my character. I’m also a talker: I feel much better talking about my issues with friends or therapists, and even just having their company helps a LOT. They don’t need to actively engage with me, we can just hang out while rectangling and it’s good.

Meditation does jack shit. Exercise makes me feel worse. (Creative physical pursuits, like circus or dance, are great because I get to focus on the creative side.) Sometimes the best I can do is sit through it and let it pass. Some days I’m “alive by default” — somehow I’m still going.

I’m still trying to manage the hormonal cycle/PMDD aspect of this. Treatment for PMDD is very hit-or-miss and it’s annoying to feel randomly in despair for a week and a half almost every month. I also suspect that I have ADD, given how similar my brain works to people with ADD and how I have similar issues with focus and attention — I’m hoping the new psychiatrist will have some leads on that.

Erin, 31, Staff Writer (Los Angeles, CA)

DEPRESSION

I suspect, after having many conversations with doctors over the years, that the concussions I suffered in college – particularly one that left me with cognitive problems in the weeks that followed – played a big part in how intensely my depression rolled out in in my early 20s. Depression super runs on both sides of my family, so the genetics were there, but how dramatically and suddenly my sleep schedule/emotional state changed makes me think the two were very linked. Regardless of what it was, it really made an entrance!

My family is very catholic, which in my experience means you don’t talk about emotions or believe that mental health is actual a thing, and so my vocalization of some of these issues when they presented fell mostly on deaf ears. Luckily I had just enough drive to make an appointment for myself (which isn’t always a given), and after a couple of tries got on a medication that works for me.

I know a lot of people don’t like to “alter their brain” or whatever some people say when they don’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs, but I am a huge advocate of being on pharmaceutical drugs when you need them!!! And I do, so I am, and I will likely be on them for the rest of my life because I’ve tried not being on them and it never goes well. Shout out to Wellbutrin love you boo.

Heather Hogan, 38, Senior Editor (Astoria, New York)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, ADHD

I was no kidding eight years old the first time I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe and my chest hurt like a rubber band was wrapped around it and I just laid in bed and assumed I was dying and never told anyone. It became so normal to feel that way and so normal to not have anyone to talk to about it that I was in my late 20s before a therapist — who I was seeing for a completely different thing — was like, “Oh whoa hey kiddo you could actually NOT feel like that; most people don’t.” After some more talking about some more things over some more time she also finally confirmed what every teacher in my life had suspected: ADHD! I went on and off a bunch of medicines trying to find a good combo but nothing ever really worked perfectly for me, and so a couple of years ago I went off all my meds because I was determined to figure out exactly how GAD and SAD and ADHD were manifesting themselves in my life.

I manage my ADHD by managing my environment. No clutter, everything has a place and at the end of every night or the beginning of every morning I put everything in that place, white noise, a handwritten planner/task list system, soft clothes, soft light, aromatherapy, routines, routines, routines.

I manage my GAD and SAD with exercise, meditation, journaling, sleep, and therapy. I know for sure that I could squash some of my bigger symptoms with meds; they’ve worked for me in the past and it might become time again for them in the future. Mental health isn’t static, you know? It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. But for now I’m doing better than I ever have with that combination of actions. Meditation and mindfulness, especially, have transformed the inside of my head in ways I didn’t think possible. It’s not just my thought patterns that have changed; it’s also my relationship to the way I think. The quality of my mind, as Headspace Andy would say. I’m calmer and more at peace and more purposeful, even when I’m sad or angry or worried. Also: ASMR has done a number on my anxiety. I’m not sure I was ever relaxed, not one time ever in my life, before it.

(Look, man, I thought all this stuff was was baloney rubbish too until it worked for me.)

Luckily I live and work in my own house so I have a lot of control over everything. It’s when I’m in unfamiliar or shared spaces that things get tricky. I don’t know how to balance what I need with my desire to make sure everyone else has what they need and it wears me down pretty fast. I’m actually not sure there’s a way to have a handle on that. I think instead of trying to manage my whole deal in those situations I just try to maintain until I can get back home. May the goddesses protect me if I ever have to work in an open office floor plan.

Stef, 33, Vapid Fluff Editor, Brooklyn, NY

Major depressive disorder!!!

I’ve had some sort of depression most of my life; my parents first put me into therapy in third grade and I’ve been sort of bouncing around trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me ever since. I was staunchly anti-medication for a very long time, until a couple of years ago when a friend explained that for her, medication hadn’t changed who she was as a person; it had made it easier to be herself. When she put it like that, it didn’t sound so bad, so now I take what seems to be an abnormally high level of Wellbutrin every day. I have to admit that even with that and weekly therapy with a person I like a lot, I still struggle with my depression on a daily basis. There’s an essay I’m figuring out how to finish for this very website about a time I was involuntarily committed because of it, which is something I’m still struggling to work through. It’s a story I’m never really quite sure how to tell.

I know that I can stave off the nameless dread by being creative and staying busy, spending time with friends doing things that make me feel productive. When I have time to wallow in it, that’s when things get tricky. I have never been a person who found exercise cathartic, unfortunately, though people love to tell me how much it would help. In stressful situations, I tend to Scorp(io) out and feel things very intensely before truly understanding what specifically has made me so upset. My therapist has had me start journaling, which I curiously haven’t done since I was a kid, and that helps me organize my thoughts.

Interestingly, I’m in the middle of taking a bunch of blood tests to figure out if there is some kind of physical issue happening somewhere that’s causing me to feel particularly out of it. There are certainly days where I wonder if my entire personality is just a vitamin D deficiency or a thyroid problem! I’m a lot of fun to be around.

Nora, 30, Fashion & Beauty Editor (Brooklyn, NY)

Acute Anxiety and Some Suspected Other Stuff

I only became aware of my clinical anxiety six months or so ago; before that, I spent a lot of time blaming myself for not just bootstrapping myself into normal adult life. On a day-to-day basis, much of my anxiety is of the social variety; even on meds, it’s painful for me to introduce myself to new people, attend events that I really ought to for the sake of my career and friendships, etc. Weed helps to an extent, but I’ve started CBT again because while I don’t consider medication a sign of failure, I am afraid (shocking, I know) of a future in which I lean solely on the crutch of pharmaceuticals. I still have to identify my triggers and how to deal with them responsibly.

I also realize that I need to talk to my therapist and psychiatrist about the seasonal, if not general, depression I suspect I have — the effect of overcast skies on my mood and productivity are no joke — and about how the effects of emotional abuse and codependency in my family are magnified by my illness(es), and vice versa. I have a ways to go, but it’s been so crucial for me in my mental health journey to be around people who talk openly about their own battles with their brains; it’s nice to know I’m not alone, or just making stuff up.

Alaina, 26, Staff Writer (Austin, TX)

Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, ADHD!!!!!!!

I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder after I tried to kill myself when I was 17. In my last year of college, in an attempt to find the treatment I needed, I got tested for ADHD and found out I also had PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder! I’m a lot of fun.

I am honestly still learning how to manage my mental illnesses. I stopped drinking this summer because I hate how I feel when I’m drunk, but it’s also one of my favorite ways to forget about things that are causing me stress. I have a pretty active spiritual life and lean heavily on spirituality and religious rituals to work myself out of crisis. I see a psychiatrist twice a year and re-evaluate how my meds are doing. I also live a very regimented, controlled life. There is very little surprise in my day-to-day business, and that helps me to feel secure/as if the earth isn’t going to fling me into space.

I do not go to therapy, and that is my biggest hurdle right now. I don’t drive and I don’t want to drive, and getting around in Austin without a car is doable, but also something that I have to really prepare for. I also go to a huge school with an overworked staff of therapists who don’t have time to see me. These are all excuses. If I wanted to go to therapy, I could, but I hate talking about myself. I hate how personal therapy is, and I hate the anxiety I feel when I walk into a group therapy session. My favorite way to deal with feelings is to sleep until they go away, or to make plans to run away and become a hermit. Therapy is the exact opposite of that, and therefore I’ve got a lot of friction when it comes to seeing a therapist. Which means that I haven’t been to see a therapist since I started grad school over a year ago. Instead, I smoke a lot of weed and have gotten very comfortable crying in public.

Carrie, 29, Staff Writer (Los Angeles, CA)

Anxiety

I started going to therapy a few years ago to get over some writer’s block, which led to the discovery that I actually have an anxiety disorder. I haven’t received a detailed diagnosis because my therapist isn’t big on medicalese — I just know that I have anxiety and that it will run the place if I let it. It manifests as a feeling of perpetual guilt, like I’ve screwed something up before I’ve even begun, as well as the assumption that everything (from going to the grocery store to finishing an important project) is a Big Deal. I haven’t quite figured out how to shut down those running loops yet, though I’m getting closer. Now they just feel like outdated brain software that really needs an update.

Cutting down on phone time has made the single biggest difference recently. I find that the less I use social media, the happier I am, which should come as a surprise to precisely no one. I read two books back to back that helped me get a handle on routines that were doing more harm than good: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and (especially) Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi. Now I spend a lot more time in silence, with no background noise to spice up tasks like washing dishes or driving, and it’s remarkable how much calmer my brain feels when I give it space to just exist. I also personally rely on Buddhism and the old standbys of exercise, therapy (!!!), water, and sleep. None of that fixes everything, but my mind gets a lot quieter when I have all the routines locked in.

Alexis, 23, Staff Writer (Maryland/USA)

C-PTSD/BPD (possibly on the spectrum and working with therapists on possible diagnosis)

I was first aware of my mental health conditions, well at least one of them, when I was like nine. I asked my mom, “Does it ever feel like you’re not really here? Like you’re in a movie and you’re just watching your life movie play out?” and when she couldn’t understand that, I started to be on the lookout for what could be wrong with me. I was diagnosed with depression in high school and PTSD and BPD around the time I would’ve been in college so between 2012 and 2015.

Leaning into the emotion usually helps me get on the other side of it. And even when I’m feeling something, knowing I don’t have to act on that emotion or that I can wait until I feel more even, helps. Talking in third person/narrating are big things for me, because it helps me get out of the loop in my head and try to be more present. Therapy has saved me more than I can count. I’ve found that stressballs are the best kind of fidget for me. They help me stay grounded especially when I’m dissociating. Writing helps though I avoid it more than most creative work because it’s too… honest? Like, sometimes I wanna get better but also I just want a nap and for one second not to feel like I’m always an emergency. These help: Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, Child Trauma Handbook by Ricky Greenwald, The Moment by T.C. Anderson, Self Care After R*pe, and The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison and I keep an archive of sorts of things that help me when I’m going through Tumblr.

I have no idea how to manage obsessions especially during manic phases. Like, it’s gotten to the point where I can be in the middle of one and I keep trying to walk away from it, but end up talking about it in my down time or going down a good rabbit hole, and I feel myself leaving my body while constantly asking, ”Okay, but are you finished or are you done?” and the answer for some reason is always no. I’m also fantastic at self-sabotage. Like, I know what to do, but I’m pretty sure making myself miserable will do it better.

Molly P, 32, Staff Writer (Montana/USA)

Depression and anxiety

I had a panic attack my sophomore year of college after an entire lifetime of living with anxiety, and after that, a psychiatrist put me on antidepressants. What works for me is a mix of chemical treatment — Cymbalta and Wellbutrin, holla! — and talk therapy with my therapist I’ve been seeing for about five years now. I also have a medical marijuana card to crack back on that anxiety, which works really well and in coordination with my other meds (my primary care physician and therapist and I are a goddamn dream team).

Sometimes, even after years of knowing I have depression and anxiety and how low they can knock me, I still get surprised by the depths of the lows, and am taken aback and get confused as to why my life is so terrible, why I’m suddenly worthless, why I’m sure no one loves me, why I’m certain I’m toxic. That knocks me around for a few, then I try to get my feet under me and remember: This shit makes my brain a liar about me. That’s hard to grasp sometimes, even now.

Reneice Charles, 28, Staff Writer (Los Angeles, CA/USA)

Depression

I was diagnosed in high school but first became aware in middle school. My family made a big move when I was starting 5th grade and it really took a toll on my mental health. I’ve lived with depression of varying intensities ever since then. I need to be social in order to manage my depression as it’s strongest grip on me comes when I isolate myself. I’ve also done a lot of self-work to be very self aware because I’m the type of person that if I let one thing fall off in terms of self-care or mental health management, I eventually snowball and fall completely off track. I’ve had to get better at catching myself when I start to change my eating based on my emotions or avoid social contact or begin losing interest in things and stop in my tracks as soon as I’ve noticed it’s happening so I can figure out what the trigger is and keep it from derailing my whole life.

The biggest item I’ve yet to master is getting out of bed when I feel like sleeping all day and know that the desire is driven by depression not a true need for rest. I used to be a therapist and I have my masters in social work so I know literally all the coping skills and tricks but knowing and achieving are different beasts. It almost makes it worse because I know that I know exactly what to do and how, but I just can not drag myself out of bed some days. It’s always a bummer to lose that time, but I just have to have faith in myself that I’ll get better at it over time and try not to be too hard on myself about it in the meantime.

Rachel, 29, Managing Editor (Massachusetts, USA)

Depression, Anxiety, General Inconvenient Emotional Baggage

The first time anyone ever told me I was depressed was when I was maybe 12 and the court-mandated therapist I was seeing gave me a depression scale test. No one ever really needed to tell me I was anxious because since I was very young I had been doing things like refusing to fall asleep alone, having screaming night terrors, and avoiding going near windows at night because I thought something was waiting outside them. Much of my adult life has been trying to manage those and how they dovetail specifically with all my baggage and weird learned behaviors from growing up with a dad with narcissistic personality disorder, which leaves you with a lot of codependency and weird trauma stuff.

I’ve been in and out of therapy for sooooo long, starting when I was about ten through middle school. I later went back into therapy briefly in 2011 (so, when I was 23) during something of a personal crisis when a friend gently forced me into seeing her therapist as a bandaid for a few months. I found my own therapist at the end of 2016 and I’m glad I did! I’ve never used antidepressants or a regular medication regimen for anxiety; I’ve had it suggested to me but it but it never felt like a good fit (although I do have a Xanax prescription, and I take one maybe a few times a month). Cognitive behavioral therapy is often recommended for depression/anxiety and I do find it helpful sometimes (I like the app Koko a lot, which has a CBT basis) but overall I’ve found a dialectical behavior therapy approach more useful for me; its focus is on helping with “emotional regulation,” which is definitely Something Of A Struggle for me. I will also be real with you and say that some mildly hokey self-help books have been really good, like the Codependent No More books and Harriet Lerner‘s unfortunately-named “Dance of” books.

I’m still working on — and will probably always be working on! — managing my anxiety and discerning between what’s a realistic concern and what’s an irrational fear; also how to actually experience emotions and then address them through the confusing haze of depression and maladaptive coping mechanisms. It’s about the journey not the destination etc! The real lesson of mental health was the friends we made along the way!!!

Riese, 36, Michigan for another two weeks and then California!

Major Depressive Disorder, ADD, Fibromyalgia, Social Anxiety

I showed signs of depression pretty early on, I was an “intense” child. Things should’ve been okay but things felt like an abyss a lot too. I was sent to a series of therapists as a kid and pre-teen, starting when my parents got divorced, then again when my Dad died, then again when I was having nightly mental breakdowns during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, then again in college when I started falling apart for a series of new and brilliant reasons. But I always got my way out of it. I didn’t like talking or crying, especially to strangers. Then I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and forced to see a psychiatrist regularly to get my meds, and so I kept seeing her for therapy all through college. It was hard to sort out the differences between dealing with difficult stuff and being messed up. It still is sometimes.

What helps is medication and exercise! After college, I moved to New York and it took about a year to get set up on Medicaid with a therapist and psychiatrist but I did. Her name was Lindsay and I love her. I saw her for four years and then she moved her practice and I got placed with a new therapist but she wasn’t Lindsay. So I moved to California and saw no therapists ’cause I couldn’t find one / was maybe avoiding myself. I went back to therapy about a year ago, in Michigan, they assigned me to a trauma specialist ‘cause of [things] and it was like the lowest place I’d ever been, even lower than when my Dad died, which I didn’t know was possible. This past year has been putting myself back together again, bit by bit by bit by bit.

Also working for myself and being my own boss gives me flexibility w/r/t my needs for how I work best and sleep and exercise.

I haven’t figured out how to manage social anxiety without alcohol or somebody else’s Xanax, which feels not ideal. And I feel like for some things, I’ve yet to really successfully & consistently employ any systems besides various medications. So yes, those things work? But they often have negative physical side effects so I can’t rely on them forever. That gives me anxiety! lol it’s a cycle.

Yvonne, 26, Senior Editor (Dallas, TX)

Anxiety

When I was coming out and having a really tough breakup in college, I had a horrible experience seeing a therapist for the first time at the university mental health center. The male therapist I got assigned to asked me inappropriate questions about my sex life and it made me hesitant to seek help from a therapist again.

I’ve never been officially diagnosed with any sort of anxiety disorder but I’m sure I have one. I’ve always been super anxious and worry about everything but I thought it was just the way I was and not something that was detrimental to my well-being. After college, my anxiety became more intense, especially when it came to my work and deadlines. I would spiral and it would paralyze me from getting my work done and stop me from enjoying my life. I recognized I needed to manage my anxiety in some way but I never got the courage to look for a therapist because of my previous experience and also because I thought it would be expensive. I tried dealing with it on my own. I did yoga, made to-do lists, planned out my goals and tasks, and generally wrote everything down. But my anxiety was just so overwhelming at times.

Last year I finally decided to try therapy! I found a therapist in my health insurance network and went biweekly for a few months. The therapist helped somewhat but I didn’t really like my therapist. She would say things that I’m guessing was supposed to be encouraging and helpful but they weren’t. I stopped going after Trump got elected because she made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. I was frustrated with her and I thought this wasn’t the way I was supposed to feel when I went in to talk to a professional. I haven’t gone back to see a therapist or a doctor to really figure this out and I know I should. I’ll try again soon.

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66 Comments

  1. This is a lot of sharing and a lot to think about! I definitely wish I could show it to middle school queer girl, who thought she was a freak and was told she was a fuck-up for the things she did as a result of her fun new (untreated) anxiety and depression. Thank you all for sharing this! ?

    • I live in a blue dot in a purple state, and am grateful that there are a couple therapy places that are loudly by-and-for a venn diagram of women of color, qpoc, and white queer women – e.g. https://amplifycolectivo.com/about/. When I went through a college counseling system, I said on my screener I was queer and that I wanted a woman and lgbt-friendly counselor and luckily they delivered and she was really really great. When I went through an employer’s system that didnt’ have an lgbt-friendly option, I wasn’t comfortable with the person (white woman) they sent me too and I didn’t go back.

  2. Thank you for sharing, everyone. I haven’t ever been to therapy aside from family sessions after my mom and dad split up when I was in middle school. So, I’ve never been diagnosed with any mental illnesses, but I am certain that I suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s not severe enough that I can’t function, but it definitely makes a very negative impact on my life.

    I can’t even go to the grocery store without feeling extremely anxious. I break out in a sweat the whole time and panic when I have to make casual conversation with the cashiers. I have to pump myself to make any phone calls, even just ordering takeout. As far as depression goes, it’s a struggle to talk myself into doing the daily things I should be doing to take care of myself. At times, something as simple as brushing my teeth seems like a monumental task.

    I know I should be in therapy and be taking meds, but that falls under the struggling to take care of myself thing, too.

    But I do think it helps a little to read about other people who are going through similar situations and doing something about it even if I can’t convince myself to do the same yet. So, thanks again for sharing.

      • OH MY GOD I find phone calls EXTREMELY anxiety-inducing. There was a point in my teens where my mum had to do my phone calls for me because I could not talk. I hate bothering people!

        This time I’m better at it, to the point of going straight to phone if it’s an emergency situation (not like 911-level emergency, but other situations), but I’m still anxious the whole time.

  3. Also also also, I would really like to hear from anyone who actually has found a therapist they like, who is intelligent and helpful, so that I can remind myself that DOES happen!

    I have had therapist after therapist who says “wow you’re really in touch with your own feelings. So…do you want to meditate?” And therapist after therapist who never asks questions or calls me on my bullshit and maybe it’s my fault? But at this point it’s really hard to open up to them and I want to know that there are people out there who will actually work with me to get to the bottom of things, instead of letting me stare cagily at them for an hour while I alternate explaining all the things I already know about myself and making pleasantries about the weather?

    This has been a rant 😀

    • For reassurance, it took me multiple therapists to get to the one who was my best therapist and with whom I made the most progress. (My first therapist was pretty terrible and insisted I bring in my journals for her to read to figure out why I’d broken up with my girlfriend, among other things.)

    • I had a therapist during college who was great! I was super depressed for a lot of reasons, but this therapist was super queer and never minimized my concerns or made me feel uncomfortable when when she was pushing me into stuff that I wasn’t really excited to talk about.

      I haven’t found another therapist that good, but I promise they exist!

    • I’ve been with my therapist for a little over 4 years and she strikes a great balance between pointing out positive things (“You recognize that avoiding X and doing Y helps you, and that’s great”) and challenging me in a very kindly way that points out my BS without making me feel bad about it.

    • My wife’s a therapist, and she’s super queer, and her clients are almost solely queer and trans people. I might be biased but I think she’s really fucking awesome.

      Also the therapist I currently go to is queer, radical, encouraging, compassionate and sometimes cries with me when tragedies happen (Pulse, Trump, etc). Finding the right therapist can be hard work, and sometimes it takes time and energy and money that you don’t have access to. But if you do find the right person, it can make all the difference.

    • Morgan!! The therapist I mention in my spiel. She was a godsend. We both had the same shared international student experience (she was from Canada) and thus could get that particular stressor really well, even if she didn’t necessarily relate to being a queer poly-a person of colour (coz she’s white and presumably straight & monogamous though honestly I never asked). Even with stuff she isn’t directly familiar with, she lets me take leadership on my own experience, and just helps me ask questions of myself to figure out how I feel.

      I’ve had other therapists too, most of them pretty good (including the one I see right now) but Morgan stands out.

    • They are out there! I have been working with someone named Leslie who is great and has helped me tremendously. It is expensive to see her as often as I’d like and I’ve taken a break until I have more money. Partly because I’m doing well and partly because I don’t want to start all over again with someone new, even someone who specializes in LGBTQ/gender stuff more than Leslie does.

    • I LOVE MY THERAPIST SO MUCH. They are queer and have addiction experience and I am queer and an addict and they also are just really, really skilled at what they do. I’ve been in and out of therapy for 14 years and this therapist is by FAR the best one I’ve ever had. I’ve been seeing them for 3 years and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. My previous therapists may have kept me alive during deep depressions and I’m super grateful for that, but it always felt like symptom management instead of identifying and working with root causes. This therapist doesn’t just let me ramble on and on about whatever is bothering me at the time; as soon as they identify something we can work with, they offer it. (I can’t count how many hours of empty chair work I’ve logged at this point but damn if it isn’t super useful.) AND — they don’t force me to delve deeper if I don’t want to. They are understanding and supportive and smart and call me on my shit but are also really gentle and loving, but even more important than that is that when they do fuck up (which has happened a couple times), they admit it, communicate openly about it, and actively work with me to come to a place of resolution that feels good to us both. It has taught me that conflict can actually be a catalyst for a relationship to become stronger which was utterly unprecedented for me. Our therapeutic relationship is like a safer training ground for other relationships in my life. Coming to trust that I can be honest about the worst parts of myself that I hate and am ashamed of and have someone STILL LOVE ME, like for real, after coming to know those parts pretty well, is revolutionary. I won’t say that I’m able to trust anyone else to stick around after discovering those parts, but the fact that the person who knows me better than literally anyone else on the planet truly loves me and thinks I’m a good person who is doing a good job gives me hope for the future.

      So yes, it does happen! I promise! It may take a lot of false starts which really sucks, but there are not-shitty therapists out there who will be a good fit for you and actually be helpful.

    • Hello! I was in intensive outpatient for a little over a year and I still see those therapists weekly! They are some of my favorite people ever and push me to do better just by giving me space to come into myself and make sure I stay here, if that makes sense. And I take comfort in knowing that if my main therapist doesn’t get something, I can talk to one or two other ones and by next week, talk it over again with my main one and we always work through things. I’ve never worked through things! I didn’t know shit like this happened in real life and not just on TV, this is all to say, there are good ones out there and there are some that are so good, even when they know they can’t help you where you are anymore, they’ll make sure to help you find someone who can.

    • My girlfriend is a therapist, from what I hear, she’s wonderful at her job. She’s queer and she calls her colleagues and her boss out if she senses internalized homo- or trans*phobic bullshit.

      On a personal note, I was in therapy for my (social) anxiety and it was the best I have done for myself in a long time, maybe ever. I always considered my anxiety a weakness that I simply had to overcome but they helped me understand that we as anxious people are actually very brave because we do a lot of things every day that are frightening and terrifying for us but we do them nonetheless. And that it is okay that that is exhausting and not easy, of course.

      I’m much more gentle with myself now and treat myself better. And I’m lucky because I like working out and meditating and both help me tremendously.

      So, yes, they do exist, I truly believe it 🙂

    • My therapist is really good. She has questioned my previous behaviors (like me thinking I am a POS for example) and does work to help me how to counter these thoughts and actions.

      She also does work with a lot of queer, lesbian, gay, and trans folks, so she is pretty well versed in that stuff. But she is also not rigid/firm in that way. She understands that stuff (terminology, feelings, etc) will and do change, so she is pretty open to me being me and figuring it out.

      She is my third therapist? I think? I did look for one who was well versed in queer and trans stuff. It is possible to find one!

  4. It’s been a while since I contributed to any discussion here, but today I really have to share. Especially sice the topic is so spot on. I’ve been suffering from truly shitty depression few years back to which led even shittier relationship. I felt nothing. It was just this hole inside of me that kept me from feeling any joy, any happiness, any sorrow… I was simply empty. Each day passing by was even harder than the one before. I wanted to end myself. Goddess… I really wanted to die and just be over this whole crap going on. The only thing that kept me alive and helped me finally pull myself together was my beloved dog. She had noone else but me. And I had noone else but her for almost 12 years. Sure, there was my mom, but she was miles away and she couldn’t really understand what I felt. So my doggo did everything she could to force me to go out and enjoy sunny spring day. And day by day I startes to feel. I was getting better. Months later I was working, studying, meeting new people. I litteraly ow her my life. But today I’m sitting in my bathroom, trying not to fall into that hole of nothingness again. She died yesterday on my laps, in a car, on our way to the doctor. We lost a fight with cancer. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to go back home without bursting into tears. My roomate is with me, but it is just not enough… I just miss her so much. But I know that I have to keep going. I know she want me to. If there’s anyone dealing with this loss or depression or just any kind of mental issue, remember that talking to someone is always better option than hidding and pretending that nothing is happening.

  5. Thank you all for sharing this. It good to know we are not alone in this. I probably need to see someone for dysphoria, which can sometime on my tracks if I keep thinking about it. That and the depression that tags along with dysphoria. So the trans women and other folks who have dysphoria; how do you get over the fact that world may see you as something you are not? I want cry, want to hide, want to get lost in the ocean, when I am seen as something I am not. I feel like for me some of society needs to the therapy(mainly Republicans, conservatives, & Tr*mp fans) and that I am normal for having the trans feelings and dysphoric thoughts. I also worry that if I start hormones or even get partial bottom surgery, I may regret it. My only solace really is haning around lgbtq people who see me for me, and respect my gender.

    • As a trans woman, who isn’t on hormone therapy yet, I totally understand what you are going through Al.

      I’ll be honest there are days where I feel like I will never be seen as my true self. I know for a fact that once I come out my family will disown me (They are part of the groups you mentioned).

      But there are days I see myself so clearly and honestly, despite not starting hormones or going through all the steps to change my gender. Those days are amazing and what I have been doing is holding on to them. I journal about them. Or I take a selfie and write myself a love note about how I am feeling.

      On the bad days, when my dysphoria, anxiety, and depression drown out my voice, I try to find something that makes me feel like me. And yes sometimes I cry. Crying is okay. It is a release of feelings.

      I understand regret with transitioning too. Only you know what step you are going to take. So I just what to let you know, even if we don’t talk outside of this comments section, that I support you. And that you are a wonderful woman. I hope this helps in some small way.

      with love,
      Sarah

  6. Thank you for sharing your stories! I’ve been dealing with mental health issues like depression since I was 14 (which is also when I started questioning!) and was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder in 2015. While I’m always saddened to hear of other people experiencing hard times, I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one out there <3

  7. Thank you for writing this. After being silenced (by family) about my mental illness (ie. “don’t tell ANYONE about your agoraphobia or else BAD THINGS will happen”), I’m so relieved to be open about it. I want to help others who are going through the bullshit that is mental illness, and it’s totally okay to talk about.

    I was diagnosed with panic disorder when I was 13, after spending 3 years not telling anyone about my severe panic attacks with derealization. I didn’t get diagnosed with depression until I was 16 and agoraphobic (I was completely housebound for 6 months from the summer-winter of my junior year of high school). Then I voluntarily checked myself into inpatient treatment, where I was for a week. Then I went to a therapeutic boarding school for a week, which I hated, so I ended up back at public school, which had an emotional support program.

    I’ve been on meds since I was 13. Most antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. I’ve also been in therapy since I was 13. I started with CBT, but I’ve been in psychoanalytic based therapy since I was 15. I did 4 times/week psychoanalysis for 3 years, and since I moved to NYC 7 years ago, I’ve been going twice a week. I might be breaking up with my current therapist of 7 years (who’s also a psychiatrist). It’s hard.

    I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is sucking hardcore as I look out the window at work and see the darkness.

    If anyone wants to talk mental health, please feel free to message me. Let’s erase the stigma of mental illness and help each other. <3

  8. This is like, a giant call out post wrapped in a hug wrapped in that “we’re all in his together” song from high school musical.
    I’m working on my stuff (depression): I did one session of Headspace last week and it was great but haven’t done one sense. I need to do light physical activity like walking about every day, and I need to get off social media more. Thanks for your tips and stories <3

    • I’m also trying to get a new therapist because I recently realized my insurance actually covers therapy and I don’t think I have to pay anything! I’ve called about six female therapists so far and none of them have appointments that fit with my schedule. I will keep looking though.

      • I searched and searched before I found my current therapist. I was spoiled by the woman who wrote the textbook on the proper way to guide and help trans people of all flavors so maybe I was extra critical. Here is what I found I needed.
        1 we had jive. The person I choose must not be judgmental against who I am. So I search for People who work with lesbian, bi, gay and trans people

        2) I specifically ask. “You say you work with LGBT people, do you actually like LGBT people” you’d be surprised at the answers. Just to make sure they don’t want to ‘correct that sinful behavior’ just because they list LGBT doesn’t mean they are PRO LGBT.

        3. They need to exude confidence in their ability to help me without having a big ego or make me feel like a child.

        4 they have to willing to hold my feet to the fire and call bullshit when they think I am trying to wiggle around some difficult stuff

        5 they have to be willing to give me tools I can use and more importantly give me homework for me to work on between appointments.

        6 finally they have to have empathy without being all wishy washy just to placate my emotions.

        You know you have a good therapist when you two click and you leave your sessions mentally and physically drained. Yes it’s hard work and if your not being worked hard they’re not helping you grow.

        Anyway that’s my list Of requirements I use to find the right therapist for me.

        • This is a good list, thank you! I’ve had two different therapists in my life so here are my additions:
          1) I don’t want to know anything specific about your personal life because-
          2) You need to be a blank document I can just emotionally vomit all over without feeling judged
          3) I don’t want to know about any of your other clients! I don’t even care if we work in similar fields! This is not about them, it is about me! You shouldn’t be telling me about them, and you shouldn’t be telling them about me!
          4) You shouldn’t be asking my opinions on current events (unless I bring it up first) because you want to chat about them. Yes Trump is awful and his people are awful but this is not idle chit chat here WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING DOWN TO TOUGH SHIT and you are not supposed to act like my friend!
          Those are mine. Your #5 is definitely important! Homework makes you practice the shit/tools you actually learn in therapy.

  9. My aren’t we all a effed up bunch? ☹️

    I know it’s takes courage and sometimes it’s painful to open up about our own personal mental health issues but thank you for the effort it took to write. It’s nice to know I am not alone.

    I have had my own battles as well complete with SI and SH. It came down to transition or die. It’s right where I was headed then something awful happened, my father in law took his own life, the pain and devastation I felt and shared with my family made me realize that I had to transition. My FIL’s suicide saved my life. After my transition I was actually happy I’d sing and skip do n the halls at work. I was able to think of something else besides being manufactured all wrong in the wrong body. Life was good, then it wasn’t.

    I needed to have rib reconstruction surgery called a Nuss Procedure in order to get my sternum off my heart. The first surgery was done poorly and the bars flipped. Eight weeks after the first I had to go in for a “revision”. The surgery was at least nine hours long. The surgeon broke two ribs in addition to poorly placing the bars. When I came to the following day I was in uncontrolled pain I was intebated and had a NG tube up my nose.

    That I as 2013. Eighteen months after that I went to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale to get fixed up right. Long story short I am now battling PTSD with flashbacks and major depressive disorder. The recurring nightmares of the ICU. Of being trapped in my body in pain lead me to cutting and other bad episodes.

    Eventually I made contact with a LGBT friendly trauma therapist. We are doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) plus meditation and tools to refocus my energy away from the panic and anxiety attacks. My PCP listened to what I had going on and we made a lot lan for low dose time release Effexor without which I wouldn’t be able to get through my weekly therapist appointments.

    I also have a little bundle of fur that sleeps with me and his presence in my bed reminds me I’m in my own bed and not back in the ICU.

    So that’s the short story version of a long horror filled tale of woes.

    Thanks for this AS thanks for helping realize I am not alone with this stuff

  10. Thank you all for sharing this super-personal stuff! It really does help to peek behind the curtain – not that y’all aren’t pretty open with us anyway, but it’s cool to have a designated post that specifically focuses on personal mental health.

    My family also made a big move when I was a kid (shout-out to Reneice) and my earliest memories of depression are from around that time. I distinctly remember thinking, “I’m 5 years old; I shouldn’t be feeling this way” but I didn’t know how to talk about it or what – if anything – could be done. At 14, I read a book featuring a character with OCD and it was a total revelation. I was diagnosed with OCD and depression shortly thereafter and started taking Prozac and seeing a therapist, which continued until I lost my health insurance at 18.

    My mental health situation from 18 through 20 was pretty rocky – suicidal ideation, couldn’t get out of bed, almost dropped out of college, etc. – and started seeing a therapist again at 20, who put me on Celexa. I went off the Celexa after graduation (insurance issues again!) and managed pretty well until I felt the depression getting unmanageable again around age 24. I’ve always been an anxious person but I started having more trouble with anxiety (Heather, as you’ve surmised, the open-office floor plan is a hellscape – I was having daily panic attacks). I started going to therapy again but was (and always have been) leery of going on meds, so I resisted meds for as long as possible. Then an incident when I was 25 caused PTSD on top of the other stuff, so I recognized that it was time to go back on meds. I was formally diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia along with the OCD and depression, and tried a few different antipsychotics with a range of fun side effects and no noticeable positive impact.

    Currently I’m on Zoloft and Klonopin, but I’m titrating off the Klonopin because the long-term side effects can be pretty gnarly and I don’t want to be on more than one med if I can help it. I see my prescriber every two to three months and my therapist every two weeks. I rarely have panic attacks nowadays, and I’ve managed to harness the OCD to actually work for me (I work in quality control and editing). My biggest issue right now is anxiety, but that’s really no surprise in 2017 America 😀 😀 😀

  11. Everytime I’m in therapy with my current therapist, who thinks I’m a lot funnier than I actually am, I think about that David Rakoff piece where he describes how his therapist was sad when he left treatment, because he’d enjoyed talking to him, and the ensuing rant:

    “should you happen to be posessed of a certain verbal acuity, coupled with a relentless hair trigger humor and surface cheer spackling over a chronic Melancholia and loneliness, a grotesquely caricatured version of your deepest self which you trot out at the slightest provocation to endearing and glib comic effect, thus rendering you the kind of fellow who is beloved by all, yet loved by none, all of it to distract, however fleetingly, from the cold and dead faced truth that with each passing year you face the unavoidable certainty of a solitary future, in which you will perish one day while vainly attempting the heimlich maneuver on yourself over the back of a kitchen chair, then this confirmation that you’ve triumphed again and managed to gull yet another mark, except this time it was the one person you’d hoped might be immune to your ever creakier pale shallow side show barker variation on “adorable”, even though youve been launching this campaign weekly, with a single minded concentration from day one, well, it conures up feelings that are best described as mixed.”

    (Pls excuse the grammar; I transcribed this passage from a radio broadcast)

    • Like as in I recorded it on my phone, and saved it, and transcribed it, because that is how clearly and strongly I felt the truth of it in my bones, as a person who hides most things from their therapist.

    • Also, if you’d like to hear it: “Our Friend David”, episode 427 of This American Life. Apparently there’s an actual official transcript which I didn’t know about four years ago. I think I only got one word wrong! Still feeling dumb tho

      • This is potentially #trill. I realized when looking for a new therapist after my first that it was actually really important to me that I find a therapist who either a) doesn’t think I’m funny or b) makes me less inclined to amuse them by pointing out that “verbal acuity” is a positive characteristic I possess that makes me likable with excruciating earnestness. The latter is more tenable for me (I’m funny when I have feelings) because it’s uncomfortable enough to keep me from putting on a show and avoid the reason I’m there. It’s kind of an ingenious therapist move.

  12. This is a wonderful post, and a special shout out to Tiara cause the current situation with my (truly wonderful) therapist is “we don’t know what you have but we know it’s severe and all the meds we’ve tried to give you did literally nothing” so it’s always ‘nice’ to hear from someone else who’s also currently dealing with that whole thing!

    • urgh it’s the worst isn’t it. What I appreciated about the psychiatrist I only got to saw like twice in SF before student health insurance screwed me over was that his approach was “whatever the name of your diagnosis is is less important than you getting the treatment that helps”.

      I just saw the new psychiatrist in Melbourne and she’s skeptical about adult ADD urgh. “These things get diagnosed in children!!” yes well have you forgotten that I grew up in a country hostile to any sort of mental health support why would they even care about ADD

  13. I’m grateful for all of the queer spaces I’m in where we can talk about these things. Kudos to you all for doing so on the internet, which is riskier but also reaches more people and holds so much power. Thanks for being strong and vulnerable at the same time, and yay for normalizing discussions of mental health!

  14. I’ve wanted to kill myself during random parts of the week. I feel better and I am completing my work load. Not only am I completing my projects, but I am doing well. I think I have anxiety related to large projects, although I am roughing through it.
    Also rewriting my first novel is actually theraputic.
    I discovered Tommy Wiseau from The Room and I got such bad anxiety, like what if I am like him? Crazy and can’t recognize it. What is wrong with my brain. Why do I have these thoughts?
    That’s all I am willing to share right now.

  15. Thank you all for sharing your stories. I’m currently in therapy for C-PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a dissociative disorder. Even though it sucks we’re all suffering from this shit, it helps to know I’m not alone, so thanks.

  16. Anxiety and OCD here (the real kind, not the “OMG my socks always have to match I’m so OCD” kind). Wishing I could give big hugs to everyone in this post and comments who wants/needs them. <3

    • I wonder how much mental health malarkey can be attributed to insurance shenanigans. “Well we can’t really give you this pill that otherwise would be really helpful because it’s not technically covered by insurance under your condition”

  17. My issues started in kindergarten with verbal abuse and neglect from my teacher with some physical from other kids. Like I don’t know how to summarize my mental health without writing a mini biography. It’s ridiculous. But I can identify very clearly I need therapy to deal with some of the things that cause me to self sabotage b/c telling myself I’m worth it, have a place and a future in this world isn’t cutting it.

    Afraid of therapy for basically 3 reasons

    1) In the post columbine world of my tween hood a close friend was involuntary committed to a psych ward after confiding suicidal ideation to another minor who told a teacher
    Ended up needing therapy for that 3 days of hell more than the original issue of clinical depression.

    2) Kink, gender and sexuality being regarded as symptoms of trauma rather than facets of me. I was a kinky bisexual gender weirdo before being sexually or physically assaulted.

    3) The joys of misdiagnosis and bad reactions to medications I didn’t fuckin need.

  18. Thank you all for your sharing and opening the conversation. I have social anxiety which seems to be getting better & linked to the area (so its a good job I’m moving, although that’s an expensive way to deal). I hate going out around here as it reminds me of bullies from my past & I get scared I might see them but I’m pretty social (for an introvert) in my home county which I’m moving back to & perfectly comfortable there.

    Im on medicine, trying to come off it this month after three years on (better headspace now and my gp is scared I’ll get addicted). I didn’t see a therapist (I was scared my therapist wouldn’t be able to tell difference between my being aspie – I don’t consider that mental illness as its given me as much I like than that I don’t like, although if someone could cure my light/touch/taste sensitivity I’d be eternally grateful – and my actually being scared of ppl and try to ‘cure’ both) but my gp cleared his last half hour on Friday once a month and I talked to him which was mostly helpful, he even got me a book of poems. Also food. I don’t know if anyone else is a snacky person but snacks are a part of my routine & I found that snacking on honey/dark chocolate/fruit/sesame seeds/walnuts really boosts my mood in a way that lasts. They contain a chemical my brain was lacking in, the same one as my medicine (serotonin?)

    And I realise this is coming from a place with a lot of privilege but what really helped most is living a life that fits me. Im trying to be a full time writer. Volunteering with bigots as colleagues in what should have been paid work really didn’t help me, neither did social media (unless auto straddle and nanowrimo count I’m off that completely) and neither did desparately seeking work. Employers aren’t meant to be bigoted about aspergers but in practice they are and the constant rejection wasn’t healthy. Even little things like wearing tracksuits helps me – there was a time when I thought adult butches had to live in black/white/grey and wear suits all the time. Learning that I can wear my favourite colour and track suits might be obvious to most ppl but it was a revealation to me.

    I realise not everyone’s in a position where they can change their lifestyle so drastically but I really recommend doing things that make you happy & don’t hurt anyone, no matter how ‘daft’ they seem. It’s not something that works on its own but it can be a great addition to a mental health toolkit.

  19. Thanks for sharing so much vulnerability. It helps cope with mine.
    I am not done reading. I was just taken aback that two writers in a row mentioned not being fun, and I feel sad that I’m not the only one to do that. Who cares if we aren’t fun to be around!

  20. I have a lot of employment access and work at a place that’s open about mental health. Since it doesn’t require risking my employment, I share a looooot about going to therapy and dealing with undiagnosed depression, and basically every time I share it’s a positive experience. A while ago I was like ‘wow this person is so put together and totally fine’ and then I shared I’m doing therapy and she shared about her mental health stuff. Super great to have a role model who is handling her mental health stuff, and I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t shared.

  21. Thank you for sharing this round table with us. It definitely helps to hear other people say “Hey I have a mental illness too.”

    I guess this is a sharing circle now? ‘Cause I sort of want to share my illnesses, mostly as a way to get them off my chest for today. Maybe my comment will help someone out in the future? That’d be pretty rad actually. Hello future commentator! (waves from the past)

    (Just a warning there is going to be some talk of suicide and self harm in this part.)

    Anyway, I have depression, anxiety, and gender dysphoria. As far back as I can remember, I just felt “off”. I kept worrying about morbid things like my family dying, my pets dying, etc etc. Those thoughts still stick around today. I have panic attacks where it feels like I am drowning in my panic. Had one a few weeks ago during a vacation. It was awful and I did not handle it well, so I spent most of the night crying and throwing up.

    My gender dysphoria has always been with me in some form or another. Growing up, I was assigned the “boy role” in life. I went along with it because at 4 or so, I knew I was different, but I also knew that in my family (conservative Christians) not following the roles (being gay, queer, trans etc etc) was “wrong”. So I shut everything away and just tried to play that role.

    It didn’t go very well and I tried to kill myself before my 18th birthday. Spent that birthday in a 2 week in patient program, dealing with suicidal thoughts, my self harming, and my depression. I tried anti-depressants but I couldn’t stick with taking them every day. I also did talk therapy, but that was only for a few months. Then once I started college I did the same thing again, just buried all my feelings inside myself and put all my energy into school.

    It is only within the last 2-3 years that I feel like I have been able to get a good handle on my self. I started therapy again. I have a really good therapist. We meet once a month* to discuss what I am feeling and how I am doing. That has been really helpful to take a lot of what I am learning to do for myself and apply it in situations I end up in (like having a panic attack on vacation).

    I am also out more as Sarah. Not out to family yet, but I am out more online and with my friends. So I do have a decent support group if I feel not great about things. I have done a few things that I never though possible (because I had such a low self image and I hated the body I have) this year. Like I bought a few cute outfits, and makeup. Definitely a femme as far as that goes. Which makes me happy.

    But this year does feel like a good building year on who I want to become and the goals I am setting for myself. There have been setbacks, but I am doing my best to reach out and not isolate myself when I feel that way. Which is a huge step for me. I do feel more confident and more sure of myself as I figure out my place in this world.

    Healing does take time and it isn’t always linear. But being open about what I am going through with people I trust, or a pretty cool and open site like this one, is a helpful thing. I am just a woman who is trying to find herself fully and embrace that. Instead of shunning her.

    Hoping this helps someone else too. 🙂

    * I am on state insurance & wasn’t sure I could afford therapy, but what is really cool is that my therapist does work on a sliding scale of what I can afford, when I can afford. She doesn’t stigmatize my current lack of finances.

  22. Your openness and willingness to share these parts of yourselves has always meant so much to me. This was a great read.

    I have issues with anxiety and depression that I’ve been working on for a while now (years) and it has certainly been a process. When I first graduated from college, I started seeing a therapist because I was completely baffled about what to do with my life. I ended up sharing that I thought I was bisexual (though I now identify as gay) and wanted to know how to navigate dating… Who do you search for on dating apps? How am I supposed to know? And he told me that if I liked both men and women, why not just choose to exclusively date men? It would be easier on me. PROBLEM SOLVED.

    Needless to say, I have been hesitant to invest my time and money into working with a therapist since then. Yeesh.

  23. Thank you all for sharing, and for making me feel less invisible with my mental illness.

    I’m currently at home on extended sick leave. (Yay fulltime employment in a European country, I can’t be grateful enough about that.) Initially stuck home with a burnout, which turned out to be a formerly undiagnosed compulsive personality disorder. Basically, what an eating disorder does to your body image, is what this personality disorder does to my mental image. (My mind is basically this: http://78.media.tumblr.com/8070b87b4c8f9266548b005e19f69ad1/tumblr_ofl4qpAcxJ1qdewlro1_500.gif) I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for about 17 years now, have received various medication & treatment but never seemed to do much. (Both are symptoms of a personality disorder.)

    Now I’ve just really hit rock bottom, and just can’t do anything anymore. All I can do is wait for the therapy that I am signed up for, which has a waiting list of 6 months. So yeah, waiting for things to get better, I guess?

  24. Thank you for this!!!!
    Just a few days ago, I finally made a list of all my major traumas/diagnoses and such, cause I just started seeing a new therapist yesterday and thought sharing it in written form would be easiest to work from as we just cover background stuff and dive into this mess of my brain/life. It’s a lot to see what all is going on with me. A number of symptoms I haven’t experienced for 5+ years started showing themselves a few weeks ago, while I know I’ve worked through this before many times, its like starting all over again at square one of my recovery.

  25. I want to repost this Reply I left for Michou becasue I feel that maybe my advise might help someone find the right therapist for them. So this is it with some grammar corrections (posting with a cell sucks like that) and a few added points for clarity. Maybe this is wrong to do but hey I am kind of a rebel like that anyway.

    “I searched and searched before I found my current therapist. I was spoiled by the woman who wrote the textbook on the proper way to guide and help trans people of all flavors so maybe I was extra critical. Here is what I found I needed.

    1. We have to jive. The person I choose must not be judgmental against who I am. So I search for People who work with lesbian, bi, gay and trans people.

    2. I specifically ask. “You say you work with LGBT people, do you actually like LGBT people” you’d be surprised at the answers. I do this just to make sure they don’t want to ‘correct that sinful behavior’ just because they list LGBT doesn’t necessarily mean they are PRO LGBT.

    3. They need to exude confidence in their ability to help me without having a big ego or make me feel like a child. More importantly I need to have confidence that that have the skills to help me. Ask them details of their qualifications, this is after all a job interview and we, the clients, are the ones doing hiring.

    4. They have to be willing to hold my feet to the fire and call bullshit when they think I am trying to wiggle around or out of facing some difficult stuff.

    5. They have to be willing to give me tools I can use and more importantly give me homework for me to work on between appointments. Therapy is more successful if I have work to do outside of out 50 minute session.

    6 Finally they have to have empathy without being all wishy washy just to placate my emotions.

    You know you have a good therapist when you two click and you leave your sessions mentally and physically drained. Yes it’s hard work and if your not being worked hard they’re not helping you grow.

    Anyway that’s my list of requirements I use to find the right therapist for me.”

    I hope that maybe some of this will help someone. Hang in there this stuff is hard.

  26. As someone who has been dealing with mental health junk for literally years (Bipolar 2, adhd & anxiety) this was super cathartic to read. I really admire the Autostraddle team for not only being a light in the darkness for queer people but for being so transparent when it comes to the struggle that is mental health.

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