What does mental health look like for you?
For me, mental health is how you deal with setbacks. We all have good days and bad days, and how do you cope with those bad days? Can you get through them? Are your coping mechanisms healthy? My own answers to those questions vary, sometimes yes, sometimes not so much
You’re starting an amazing queer fashion show called GenderChill, tell us more about what you are working on!
Yes, I’m so excited about GenderChill! I’m a co-chair for GradOUT, the LGBTQ Graduate Student group at the University of Miami and along with my co-chair, Jess Osborne, we are producing a queer fashion show! Fashion can be a great way to express your gender and sexuality, it can help you feel confident, and it can be super fun! We’re hoping that everyone involved has a great time, and that this event brings more visibility to LGBTQ people, especially those who are generally less represented in the media & gay community.
What are your thoughts on labeling gender, sexuality and mental health?
Personally, I find labels really hard. Any time I adopt a label, I end up failing at it somehow. That used to bother me a lot, I felt disingenuous, I would tell someone I was a dyke and then a week later be dating a dude, or I’d say I was trans but not be taking any steps to transition. Recently, I don’t identify as anything other than queer, which is open ended enough that I never feel like I’m failing at it.
What are the most important things you to do to keep yourself healthy?
I’m a pretty serious runner, so running every day is the most important thing I do to stay physically and mentally healthy. Running helps me regulate my mood and I sleep better when I exercise everyday. It also gives me a reason to keep other healthy habits, like eating healthy. I know my training will suffer if I’m not eating enough or if I’m drinking too much.
I also make a conscious effort to stay connected to my community. When I’m feeling bad, my first instinct is to isolate myself, but experience has taught me that usually that makes things worse. I try to fight that temptation and reach out to my friends and family regularly, even when I don’t feel like it.
How do you talk about mental health with others? What holds you back from being open or encourages you to reach out?
Sometimes, yeah. I have been in therapy for much of my adult life, including currently. I try to be open about that because my therapists have helped me so much and I wish there was less stigma about going to therapy. I’m not always super open about why I am in therapy. It’s hard to find the right time to tell people the full story and I try to be aware of how telling my own story could be triggering to other people. Sometimes I want to tell people I’m close to, friends, partners, people I’m dating, but then I get into a battle with my own mind about how I’m not obligated to tell anyone. Which is true too, I’m all for openness but I don’t think you should ever feel like you have to tell your family or your partners all the details of your mental health. It’s a hard line to walk.
If you had a chance to talk to the 15 year old version of you, what advice and hope would you pass on to them?
It’s ok to grow up and be even more confused. There’s no age when you have to have all the answers. Embrace change, enjoy the journey.