Content Warning: Contains descriptions of self-harm and suicidal ideation.
I was never in the closet about my sexuality. Not really.
I was seventeen and crafting away in fifth-year art class when a repressed memory suddenly pulled itself out from the shadowy part of my brain. I was having unprompted visions of myself and one of my childhood best friends at a not-so-friendly sleepover and the second reality hit, I said aloud to a table of about seven classmates, “I think I’m bisexual.”
From the minute I realised, I never shied away from it. Sure, it took a few years for me to deliver the news to my family who had only ever seen me date boys, but I embraced that part of myself fully, with no hesitation.
Coming out as mentally ill, however, has been a much more challenging feat.
Today in my art and crafts class one girl made an origami fortune-teller and insisted on telling me my future. I picked my fortune but when she opened it up it was blank.
She looked me straight in the eye and said "CRIPPLING GAY DEPRESSION".
This child, somehow, knows my soul.
— Saoirse Schad (@SaoirseSchad) January 19, 2019
I was about twelve when my psychologist mother first mentioned that she suspected I might be a little depressed, but it wasn’t until Transition Year that I began to see it for myself. In fact, I couldn’t not see it. The cuts on my arms told their own story, as did the occasional black eye I gave myself when my access to blades became restricted.
The chaos of Transition Year didn’t suit me if I’m being honest. The lack of routine, while freeing for my classmates, made me feel like I was lost at sea. But fifth-year struck and I was more or less afloat until it was time to leave the safety of secondary school and venture out into the big bad world, one which I had never had the foresight to see myself in.
— Saoirse Schad (@SaoirseSchad) April 27, 2017
I don’t often use the word ‘suicidal’ to describe my mental state, past or present, because it seems like a big leap from ‘just a tad depressed’ and it’s a leap that I know would be too much for loved ones. The NUI Maynooth nurse, however, sussed it right away when I went in looking for meds for a common cold.
In all of five minutes, she got me booked in with one of the college counsellors and the college psychiatrist (who kept promising meds but never delivered) but it became clear that I was too miserable to pretend to be a regular non-suicidal college student – especially because there was a spot on campus that I passed by every day, knowing it would be the perfect spot to end my life quickly. So, I dropped out (for the first time, anyway), leaving behind my Arts degree and my vague vision of becoming a teacher, and I was lost at sea again.
I did my best to feel things other than depression. I went to clubs, drank as much as I could afford, kissed a bunch of strangers, and got some tattoos and piercings but in the end, nothing did the trick.
Until, one day around a year later, I just woke up feeling better.
I still remember that day so well. The anchor that had embedded itself in my stomach had been reeled in and the cage that had been constricting all of my insides had finally broken open. I could see the world in colour again.
Thankfully, I’ve never plunged quite to those dark suicidal depths again, although the thoughts have come and gone. Counsellors, too, have come and gone, with only one or two of them really striking a chord in helping me better understand my mental illness. Somewhere along the way, I learned to put on a mask that hides my depression behind giggles and a smile, and sometimes it comes on so automatically that it’s actually harder to come out from behind the mask.
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I might not be exactly what you’d picture when you think of a ‘depressed’ person, but the thing is, that person could be anyone and they could be presenting in an infinite number of ways.
A depressed person could be me, joking, laughing and frequently accused of being “bubbly”; it could be someone with scars on their body from times when they wanted to reclaim power; it could be someone who’s hospitalised or someone who never ever cries. It could be your best friend or your mother’s cousin or the gorgeous Instagrammer with millions of followers and a highly glamourous lifestyle.
Depression is hard to understand. But if it can kill Robin Williams, Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington I'd say it's pretty damn real.
— George Shrouder (@GshroudOCTW) July 20, 2017
Now, my brand of depression presents itself in a number of unsexy ways. It’s me, lying in bed, hungry and dying to use the bathroom but with no motivation to get up until I’m in physical pain. It’s me, unshowered for days on end. It’s me, too tired to do a simple act like taking my meds even though I only get worse without them. It’s me, needing days and days of recovery after a social event. It’s me, a three-time college dropout. It’s headaches and nausea and vomiting and hopelessness, despite a truly epic support system spread across my partner, family, friends and colleagues.
It’s a constant worry that I won’t be able to hold down a job or one day become a parent, because how can I take on responsibilities like those when I can’t put myself through a ten-minute shower or go to the kitchen to get some food when I’m hungry?
It’s clawing my way through life, constantly struggling to keep my head above water.
You can’t be an mental health advocate, professional or educator without making an effort to respect the pronouns of others. it matters even in your notes/out of session communication if your ignoring someone’s pronouns. If you can’t bring yourself to care, don’t be a therapist
— Chase 🏳️⚧️ (@Curious_Scholor) November 26, 2021
But, as many ways as my depression rears its ugly head, I also have a number of ways to combat it.
Meditation, writing, journaling, and cuddling my many pets – all have a place in my efforts to beat down the raging mental monster that lurks in my brain. Sometimes they help, and sometimes they don’t. But one thing that helps every single time, without fail (as my queer family will recognise), is naming it to those who might not necessarily see it right away. Like coming out of the closet, calling out my depression is a step towards freeing me from its clutches.
As much as my bisexuality, my depression is part of my identity. I might not always embrace it in the same way (there are no parades for coming out as mentally ill) but it’s made me who I am today and, most of the time, I really like that person. She’s kind and playful and compassionate. Most importantly, she tries her best. She doesn’t always get it right but she tries… and I wholeheartedly admire anyone who tries, despite the odds feeling stacked against them. Sometimes, the bravest thing a person can do is just try.
Having gone through anxiety and depression contributed fundamentally to shaping the person I have become today and I like that person. I wouldn't give that up; it would also mean giving up some of the best parts of myself.
— Saoirse Schad (@SaoirseSchad) February 1, 2019
If you have been affected by this story or are looking to reach out to someone for support or advice or just to talk, there are numerous services available for LGBTQ+ people, listed below, and many offer instant messaging support.
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