Statement on World MENTAL Health Day 2018

STATEMENT ON WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 2018

By Elijah Manley

It's World Mental Health Day. As a person who has had a hard year due to mental health, I want to share some messages with you all. First, do not stigmatize mental health. It is not funny, nor is it a joke. No one wants to suffer through a crisis. Second, please check up on your friends and close ones. Many times, we are not okay. I was not okay. Being alone is a very intense feeling, and no one wants to suffer without people there to comfort. Third, never think that people who are reaching out are a burden. Sometimes people may feel that they are, but they can't help it. Every thing you do, every conversation, saves someone from ending their life. Trust me, I know. If you are struggling through a mental health crisis, please reach out to someone. Preferably multiple people that you know. My DMs are open on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I understand what you feel. If you feel like it's unbearable, get immediate help! In addition, if you are a young queer person, especially queer POC, please please reach out. I know how it feels to not have support or anyone to understand your pain- which is a different type of pain. A very ancient one. Please read below for my personal story on pain and mental health.

A LITTLE ABOUT MY STORY ON MENTAL HEALTH

I grew up as a young African-American in the south, which is a very different reality. My family was poor, and every systematic form of oppression you can think of, we experienced. My mom was disenfranchised, and disabled. My dad was not there for my growing up. I never met a grandfather. As a young man, I had to learn things the hard way. Trial and error. I had to teach myself "how to be a man." I had to do that, in a toxic society, where masculinity was about violence and aggression. I quickly discovered something about me that I didn't understand before. I discovered that I was gay. I grew up thinking something was wrong with me for having thoughts and emotions I couldn't explain. Everyone was christian around me, and people's attitudes towards queer. people were very violent and aggressive. So, I didn't have an easy coming out. I was a queer POC without any support. No father figure, no one to guide me & teach me how to be a successful gay man, and I didn't have a "gay dad." As far as I was concerned, I was my only bet. I experimented. I made many mistakes. People were eager to exploit my mistakes, naivety, and youthfulness to take advantage of me. I thought I knew what I wanted, but the older men should have known it was wrong. So, I ended up being harmed multiple times throughout my youth. Some might ask: "Why didn't you tell anyone?" Well it's not that easy. Many things discouraged me. First, I wasn't out yet. You could see how that would have stopped me from saying anything. Second, I was scared. Third, I didn't fully understand what was going on. I did tell some folks. I knew that something bad had happened but was embarrassed and didn't understand. I blamed myself. Like many other survivors, the burden is always on us to speak up. In other words, we must re-traumatize ourselves so people can know that assault is wrong. That's extremely hard to do. Eventually, I came out about my sexual orientation. However, I had wounds of sexual trauma that would follow me for a long time. Deep wounds. I didn't understand at the time, but it caught up to me. Recently. I started feeling self loathing, useless, and that it was my fault. Many nights I would cry myself to sleep. Some nights I was afraid to even go to sleep, afraid that I would relive it in my dreams like prior nights. I couldn't fall in love, because the wounds were too deep to share with a partner. Every time I did, I just got hurt anyways. Growing up wasn't easy. I had support, but not the type of support I needed as a young queer POC. I had to figure out things on my own. How to be a gay man in a toxic society. How to dress. How to make friends who were gay. How to love (still in progress). How to make love. It took multiple mental breakdowns to know that I didn't love myself. Deep down, I was still blaming "me" for those events. [It is never the kid's fault for sexual violence. It is ALWAYS the rapists fault.] The breakdown started affecting my run for office, my political career, and my college success. I still have ways to go to heal, but I wanted to share this because people don't hear how difficult these things are often. Someone you know could have also a similar life to this. You have to speak to people to know if they're fine. Check up on your friends and loved ones. It's #WorldMentalHealthDay, and I want everyone to know that you aren't alone. It's never too late. It's never too much, it's never a burden. Together, we can end stigma, end violence, and grow together.

Posted October 10th, 2018 at 11:28pm by A. Schatz