The topic of mental health and how it relates to the LGBTQ population is not one that is talked about enough and I’m glad that I was asked to share on this. Let me be clear, being a member of the LGBTQ community does not mean that you will suffer from a mental health condition. Research does show, however, that we are 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition. That being said, I believe that my sexuality actually saved me, and allowed me to overcome traumas and mental health condition that I was already suffering from.
I grew up in Kingston Jamaica. Jamaica we all know for its amazing music, culture, food and athletes. What no one talks about is the fact that, according to The Independent, in September of 2017, Jamaica was ranked #18 out of top 20 most dangerous countries in the world. Loop Jamaica tells us that as recently as 2018 Kingston was the 16th most dangerous city in the world. As a young girl growing up I was too busy trying to survive, I was too busy getting my face punched in by a man who called me a “sadomite” for not responding to his sexual advances. I was too busy putting my body between my sisters and flying bullets to even stop to think about trauma, I mean it was Sunday and I had to wash my uniforms as well as my sister’s to get ready for school tomorrow; eventually the police will come a remove the dead body on the sidewalk outside my front gate. All I know was that this is life, get through today and prepare for tomorrow. I was too f**king busy to make time for trauma, but trauma made time for me.
Read also: Dealing with internalized homophobia
That was my immediate surroundings, and then on top of all that I am a lesbian. Jamaicanis ranked in the top 12 homophobic countries in the world. This heightened my sense of danger and dictated how I traversed my social circles. In a nutshell it made everything worse (this is where the 3 times more likely statistic comes into play)! I was always afraid of being found out and that made me paranoid, I ended up leaving Jamaica, because I was denied graduation from high school due to the suspicions of being a lesbian. I figured soon after that the questions would come. How an academic and national representative, such as me, could leave school and end up without a high school diploma? It was time to go! I accepted an offer to come to the US on an athletic scholarship and that’s where my life changed.
I didn’t mention that Jamaica has the most churches per square mile of any other country in the world did I? That’s because I didn’t go to church in Jamaica so the conflict between religion and homosexuality was not one I had to deal with directly. Now at Liberty University, a school founded upon Christian principles. Blend in or go back to Jamaica, this is what I told myself every day. I couldn’t be gay here, I would lose my scholarship.I was suffering from survivor’s guilt and self hate. In my head, not only did I abandon my sisters, I was still not able to be myself, something must be wrong with me, it had to be me! The religious pressure to conform was always looming, I gave in, I got saved to liberate myself from the pressures of being a lesbian. Maybe being saved will take the gay away. I was wrong, instead the suicidal ideation started and I plotted my own demise. I was losing my mind and in one moment of clarity, the thing I didn’t believe in was my salvation. Therapy! The stigmas around therapy were glaring, and I was out of options, so reluctantly I went and got help. Therapy helped me quell the thoughts in my head about wanting to die.
“We need to change this narrative and the only way we can do that is by having the uncomfortable conversations.”
It wasn’t until after moving to NYC after graduate school did I put my foot down. Enough was enough, the self loathing had to stop, I accepted that I was a lesbian and that my life was traumatic and if I was ever to survive and be happy with myself I had to accept myself for everything that I was. I started therapy again and that was great for me, but what about the people like me? I know they exist, I was one of them. Again, enough was enough and it was time for little boys and girls like me to see that they can do and be anything AND be LGBTQ. In efforts to help others who went through the self loathing, the self denial, the thoughts of suicide and the trauma that comes from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, I started a YouTube channel where I tackle social issues surrounding mental health and the LGBTQ. We need to change this narrative and the only way we can do that is by having the uncomfortable conversations. I liberated myself through self acceptance and with therapy, I have ways to go, however, the future is looking really bright. I want that light to shine for as many people as I can reach. My efforts landed me here, I am grateful; I am open to where it takes me next. We are not our traumas or our mental health conditions, we are resilience. Keep fighting the good fight, the support is here.
Christina Mitchell is an Exercise Physiologist in the U.S.
Follow her on Instagram and Youtube: @diannamitchy