Mental illness and a queer feminist activist

9 Sep

How are you feeling today ? These days I have been hearing it a lot from friends and loved ones. I know this question has been asked out of concern. But then I feel lot of pressure while replying to questions like this. I have no idea as to what to say, “Well, much better”, or “it depends”, I don’t know.  I know they are also concerned but for a person who has been diagnosed with severe depression, I don’t know how the situation of the health can change in a day.

Mental health is difficult to explain so is mental illness. It is even more difficult to explain her/hir/his situation to their loved ones, friends etc. I want to start with myself, I have been feeling quite unwell for days , infact months now. When I say unwell, i mean mentally unwell, I was feeling vulnerable, tired, cranky, emotional for some days. But i did not know how to explain my situation to my colleagues, my friends. Sometimes I just said, “I am not feeling well”. I did not know how the other person will perceive me. Physical illness is easy to explain; you have fever, your body shows, you fall down and you have a sprain, etc. How do I show my mental health? It was difficult and it is still difficult.

And then my migraine attacks happened. A person who actually has migraine attacks can understand the intensity of the pain. I had terrible pain and along with it, I had a terrible sensation which felt like 10000 ants running inside my body. Trust me, it was really bad. I so wanted to explain exactly how I felt, but I failed and people asked me how was/is my head? My head was/is ok but something is not right? Wish I had/have the language to explain it.

I volunteered to go to the counselor. She was good. However, I found myself unable to speak, I felt dis-oriented.  She asked me to see a psychiatrist. I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming, when I drove past the lane to my home many times, when I broke down many times for no reason while driving or while at home, when I was getting angry for no reason, when i cried for no reason, when I felt as if everyone around me is kind of ‘plotting’ against me, I knew it was coming. I decided to go. I told my parents about it(trust me it took guts), about what happened in my childhood, and it was of course of no help.

Well, why am I writing this! No, not to gain sympathy at all. (Please don’t write to me telling me how sorry you are to hear about my health. I don’t need it). I need you to understand that mental illness is something which many of us have been ignoring for ages now.  Feminist movement has been asking for special provisions for women with children, for disabled people, for flexible working conditions, for supportive working conditions. II think this is one area where many of us need to have provisions for to support a person with ‘mental illness’, ‘depression’, or other mental health issues.

Similarly queer movement has also not been talking about mental health issues at all. Many LGBTIQ/queer people have had mental health issues at many times of their lives. While growing up so many of us have felt as if we are the only one in this world, how many times have we felt lonely, isolated, mis-understood while we were growing up. Because of our gender identity or sexual orientation many of us have been abandoned, abused by our ‘family’ members. There is societal stigma and prejudice against queer people. Queer people also face severe discrimination on a regular basis from society at large but also from friends, class mates, co-workers etc. Mental health issues are so important to our lives, and inspite of this we don’t see these issues being talked about much.

Though many of my problems are not only because of who I am, but other issues while growing up, I feel we as queers need to talk more and more about mental health and well being because many of us have faced these issues at many points of our lives.

We are not lazy, we are not many any sort of fake illness to escape work, we don’t get hyper on our own, it’s just that something are beyond our control. Who does not want to live a life without any issues or tensions! Panic attacks do not come because we are vulnerable, it comes because for many many years certain things have been troubling us and these issues want a vent to come out.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. However, the kind of stigma attached to mental health issues, prevents the majority of people with mental illness from seeking help.  It is important to look at mental illness including depression as another  kind of illness. For any other physical ailments, we seek medical attention, support, love and care, similarly for this kind of illness, people need support and treatment. More importantly it is important to acknowledge that mental illness does exist and we need to deal with it more efficiently and sensitively.

(written by a Qashti member and a queer feminist activist)

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One Response to “Mental illness and a queer feminist activist”

  1. Kanika September 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I have been going through depression since a few months now.. I accepted it and consulted a psychiatrist. I was on medication for a few weeks, but then i stopped.. I am much better now, cause i have stopped isolating myself from everybody. But i cant say that i am absolutely fine… I completely understand what one goes through…

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