It Gets Better: My Mental Health Journey as a Queer Person

Depression has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. It has always sat on my shoulder, a devil whispering in my ear. I remember when I was a kid I would often be overwhelmed by sadness for no apparent reason. I would cry alone in my room and I remember that while I cried, all I could ever think was, “I want to go home.” I was home. I was in the only home I’d ever known, the same house I’d been raised in. It just never felt right and I didn’t know why. Those feelings grew up with me. They matured and grew stronger as I did. Mental illness runs in my family.
Unfortunately, so does stigma. I was raised on the idea that depression equaled laziness. I wasn’t even aware that mood disorders existed until high school. My parents passed away in my early adolescence, and I fell into the first of many serious depressive episodes. I felt absolutely hopeless. I was stuck at the bottom of a deep, dark pit; occasionally I could see a pinprick of sunlight miles above me, but I didn’t think there was a chance in the world I’d ever escape.
I was twelve years old. The first time I realized I had feelings for a girl that went beyond friendship, I cried until I made myself sick. I was disgusted by own heart, convinced that I’d never be able to fall in love because I couldn’t ever date a woman. From that point on, suicide felt like less of a “when,” and more of an “if.” I had never been educated on mental illness, so I had no idea how to put my distress into words or how to seek help. I put myself through years of self-harm and destructive behavior. I figured it was just a matter of time before I gave up trying to fight my demons, laid down my sword and let them swallow me whole.
When I came out of the closet and lost contact with nearly all my family, I felt more alone than ever. I was terrified to date, intimidated by all the openly queer people around me. And beneath it all, I was grieving the loss of a different version of myself, one who married a nice Catholic man and made her family proud. Slowly, I branched out. I found myself welcomed with open arms into the LGBTQ+ community, a community that quickly began to feel like true family. I formed strong, loving relationships and began to embrace my queer identity. But even so, I felt myself falling deeper into depression. On the outside, my life seemed better than ever. Yet the first anniversary of my coming out saw me crying on my bathroom floor, with no desire at all to wake up the next morning.
In the end, that lowest of low points was a blessing. My own disregard for my life scared me enough that I ended up finally making the psychiatrist appointment I’d always talked about. I found an LGBTQ+ doctor, described the symptoms I’d always struggled with, and received an official diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. And when I heard those words spoken aloud to me for the first time, I finally felt hope. I walked out of that office, armed with an antidepressant prescription and a weekly therapy appointment, and knew I had a battle ahead of me. But I also felt, for the first time, like I actually stood a chance.
Everyone always says, “It Gets Better!” And they’re right, it does. But we don’t talk enough about the fact that it doesn’t always get better on its own. Someday, you will be surrounded by caring, supportive people. Someday, you will learn to love the parts of yourself that feel impossible to love right now. But these things don’t come overnight, and you may need help getting there. Try to remember that seeking help does not make you weak. Making that first psychiatrist appointment was the strongest thing I’ve ever done for myself. It takes courage to heal. Be brave, and be willing to accept help when you need it. You can and will make it back out into the sunlight. I look forward to seeing you up here.