1. ‘The term was originally used to mean “carefree”, “cheerful”, or “bright and showy”
2. ‘Gay is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual’
It’s an ironic word for me, in that the two meanings are somewhat interchangeable. I love girls which I suppose defines me as definition 2. In addition to this, girls have a way of making me very “cheerful”, “bright” and…showy? Hmm we’ll keep it PG for now!
Anyway, today, we’re going to talk about the latter of the two meanings…girls liking girls and boys liking boys.
“Coming out” is often the most poignant event in what I like to call the “gay life calendar”. It’s the time when you announce to friends, family and the wider world who you truly are…a normal person who just so happens to be attracted to the same sex (or maybe both?). So why is it such a big deal? It’s because the LGBT community have historically received a great deal of stigma for being who they are and loving who they love. Whether it be religious beliefs, “a generation thing” or a simple case of narrow-mindedness – the LGBT community have historically had a difficult time when it comes to being accepted. Therefore, “coming out” is a scary time for many as it is telling the world who you are and almost expecting that there will be some people who judge you for it.
Whilst “coming out” is the scary part for most, my story is a little bit different. It was actually realising I was gay that was the hard part and the thing which I believe triggered the beginning of my struggles with mental health. I say “triggered” because when I look back on my life, I’ve always been an “anxious” person. I’m a perfectionist who needs tasks to be done ASAP. I give myself a hard time if I don’t get at least 70% in an exam. I worry about what people think of me in almost everything I do and as a result, have became a definite “people pleaser”. However, despite all of these characteristics I possess, I don’t believe I experienced overwhelming, life changing anxiety until I was in the process of realising I was gay. This was where I crossed the line between being a generally anxious person, to suffering from depression and anxiety.
Being gay didn’t make me depressed. It didn’t give me anxiety. However, the process of realising I was gay was the event in my life which seemed to bring those feelings to the surface. Not being able to explain or make sense of what I was feeling made me depressed. It made me anxious. For the first time in my life, the control freak in me was faced with something I couldn’t control. It just so happens that “thing” turned out to be liking girls. It was unexpected, it caught me off guard and it absolutely threw me and turned my life upside down.
That’s the thing with mental ill-health, it can come on unexpectedly with no warning and at the time, it may be extremely difficult to pinpoint why you feel the way you do or what the cause is. Sometimes, the most frustrating thing of all is when there is no apparent cause. You feel how you feel and you don’t know why. If you go to the doctor with a broken leg, they’ll ask you what you did to it. They’re looking for the cause of the issue. However, when it comes to mental health, often it’s not that straight forward. How do you attribute cause or reason to something which you don’t have a reason for? Similarly, how do you treat something which you can’t actually pinpoint?
There’s a section of an old Kate Nash song which I really like, it goes:
“Thinking is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever come across and not being able to articulate what I want to say drives me crazy”
That rings true for me on so many levels. Thinking is stressful, feeling is stressful, thinking AND feeling when you don’t actually understand what you’re thinking and feeling is stressful and it’s enough to put anyone in a bad place. The human mind is both amazing and terrifying. What often scares me, is that I sometimes feel at war with my own head. Then I’m posed with the question: in a battle between you and your own mind, can you ever be the victor? The answer is yes, yes you can. It’s really f***** hard, but you are stronger than the parts of your brain that give you these feelings of hopelessness and self doubt. The challenge however, is realising that and finding ways to strengthen yourself and tell that part of your brain that you’re not going down without a fight.
So, if we rewind a little…realising I was gay is what I believe triggered my struggles with mental ill-health. In early 2014 I went through a really dark time. I went from being a sociable, extroverted and (what I thought was) carefree individual to someone who came home from work/university every day, laid in bed and cried. I stopped going out at the weekends. Any nights out I did have were alcohol fuelled and often ended up with my sitting in a park or my bedroom in floods of tears. I stopped socialising with friends. My grades at university suffered, which, in itself was something that the perfectionist in me didn’t cope with. It was as if I was on the outside looking in, watching, as the person I had spent 20 years becoming, fell apart in front of my very eyes.
This all reached a bit of a climax when in January 2014 I came home from a night out and took an overdose. At this point, I’m going to go back to the lyrics from the Kate Nash song about how “not being able to articulate what I want to say drives me crazy”. I reached a point where felt I physically could not go on. I had no idea what was going on in my own head, but whatever it was, it had taken over me and it had got me. It had got me good. I know a lot of people will be familiar with the series “13 reasons why”. **Spoiler Alert**
Near the end of series two, we hear how Hannah Baker had written a list of “reasons why not” and weighed them up against the reasons for. We then hear Hannah’s mum tell Clay “you know there’s always more reasons why not”. Hearing that and having come through what I have personally, I now know that’s true. I am young girl with an absolutely amazing family who support me in everything I do, who love me, cherish me and are first to sing my praises. I have an amazing circle of friends who I can trust, confide in and have a great time with. I’d consider myself reasonably intelligent with a good drive in life to achieve and better myself. I have talents, I have achievements, I have a good job and good grades. However, that night in 2014 – my brain didn’t think to consider those things. My brain thought about the pain I was going through and it thought “this needs to stop”. I’ve heard people in the past describe suicide as a selfish action. I disagree, but at the same time I understand where they’re coming from. Had I left the world that night…had I left my family, my friends, my life, I would have left a trail of devastation behind me. That’s not me being big headed, that’s me being realistic and knowing how loved I am by those close to me and knowing the impact my departure would have had. I’m going to put this out there now and I hope that my opinions do not offend, as they are just that…my opinion: 1. Those who take their own life/attempt to, are not selfish – but f****** hell, they do hurt a lot of people in the process.
2. Suicide is not selfish – but it is NOT the answer and there is ALWAYS a light at the end of the tunnel.
In a competition of reasons why V reasons why not – I would challenge anyone, friend or stranger to hit me with their reasons why while I encouraged them to think of the reasons why not. This may be the stubborn Stacey and the competitive Stacey talking – but I guarantee you – I’d win!
So – I have rambled on about 2014 and the darkest point in my life. I’m sure the question on everyone’s lips is…what happened next? Well…I think that’s one for another post, which I hope you’ll be kind enough to join me for.
Until next time…stay positive! X