In light of yesterday's tragic events in Las Vegas and the media's focus on mental health, I felt like I should take a minute to write a few things down to share with y'all.
I'm. Fuckin'. Nuts.
It's not that big of a deal, but it also isn't nothing, ya know? I've figured out a way to manage my brain chemistry the way some people manage their blood sugar. The most important thing about mental health is being able to identify that you have problem with your mental health. I promise, once you KNOW you're crazy, the rest is easy. Getting to the awareness? That shit is hard.
I battle anxiety on the regular. Also, I'm a big ol' lesbian. Enter the "angry lesbian" portion of my personality. If I get caught off guard or thrown into an uncomfortable position, my responses are usually curt. That is because I'm nervous. When I'm nervous, I shut down. Maybe your idea of anxiety is a woman crying. Sometimes, it's a woman yelling. Or a man crying. Anxiety presents in a ton of different ways, it's a tricky lil thing. On more than one occasion I've gotten caught in a panic attack that has left me downright exhausted. Literally exhausted from sitting in one spot, just thinking crazy stuff. Fucking nuts, right?
My close friends know that they might get a spew of texts from me, out of the blue. Most of them know it's silly to respond right away, it will likely end in a few minutes, thirty five texts later. God forbid I get stuck on a topic and my brain gets the option of looking for the worst possible scenario. I PROMISE you it can come up with a scenario much shittier than most could imagine. I am a creative, after all. Taking thoughts past the limits of what you'd think of is what I am hardwired to do. Do you know what scenario it has NEVER come up with?
Killing anyone else.
I have battled suicidal thoughts in the past, which I have written about. As a matter of fact, about a month ago, they started again. They came and went, sporadically. I battled them for a week or three, then admitted defeat, told my boss my brain was broke and I checked out. I'm privileged. I am able to check out. I don't have a kid, a mortgage or a giant loan payment. I am able to recognize that suicidal thoughts mean that my brain is under duress and when my brain is under duress, I need to let it rest. I need the swelling to go down, as it were.
That last paragraph was the hardest to write. I'm in the middle of launching a program to help LGBTQ kids struggling in oppressive environments. Confessing that I may always struggle with mental health whilst simultaneously trying to secure funding for a summer program, is stressful, to say the least. It shouldn't be. Self awareness should be applauded but there is stigma attached to it. On the flip side. I'm starting a program to give kids a mental health break. How am I an effective leader if I bullshit my way through it? Simply put, I'm not.
I can't tell you if it is genetic, because I am not a doctor. I can tell you depression has been a thing in my family and I've grown up around folks who lived much better through chemistry and when properly medicated they kicked ass at life. I've also had great examples of humans who acknowledge the battle and make diet and exercise choices that help them navigate their specific humanity. I've also lost family members to suicide. It was all around me, and yet I still didn't understand what I was working with until I was about 35. This is the world we live in.
Why am I writing this? For a few reasons. Number one. People kill people. Sometimes people kill themselves. Sometimes they kill themselves and other people. Is mental health a factor? Absolutely. Do all people struggling with mental health issues become homicidal maniacs? Nope. It has never crossed my mind. Not. Even. Once.
If we live in a society that only talks about mental health related to mass murders, we might start equating mental health to murder and then the distance between me and a weird dystopian future crazy camp gets much shorter. Furthermore, if we live in a society that stigmatizes mental health issues, we will never have the transparency required to treat it effectively and stop tragedies.
Number two, I'm writing it because maybe you need to hear it. My manager reminded me in the kindest way possible that I live at the end of the earth, and maybe, just maybe my sanity has been questioned already. I agreed wholeheartedly. Still, I think it's important for everyone to realize that a lot of good work gets done by crazy people. In this time of shifting truths and mounting tensions, mental health is as important as ever. As with any marginalized population, visibility is a way to counter oppression regarding mental health. So, You get this blog.
Now. Go hug a crazy person.
••Bonus side effect, when someone calls you crazy you can be all "ya, no shit buddy". It really takes the wind out of their sails.