Friday, August 15, 2008

Self-injury, and TEACH

*TW for mentions of self-injury and sexual assault - but nothing graphic*

Why is self-injury such a closed topic at TEACH? I know full well that many of us do it, or have done it - yet there are people who are too self-conscious to wear short sleeves at meetings. Even people who tell most of their friends, who don't give a damn when rude strangers stare at their scars, and who are upfront about other parts of their lives.

Most of us have been through a lot. But yet, we don't share the aftermaths of our experiences. A few other volunteers know that I was raped in high school, but only some of those know that I struggled with PTSD and depression for years afterwards. Even fewer know that now, much later, I still have my bad days, my sleepless nights.

In our stories, we bravely bare the truth about our parents' reactions, bullying, and the violence that we experienced; sex; masturbation; first kisses; broken hearts. TEACH volunteers have stood in front of countless high school classes to discuss issues of race, sexism, media, politics, and sex changes - including some rather graphic details. But I have yet to hear someone discuss mental illness, although it is prevalent in the queer community. We vaguely touch on suicide and the social circumstances leading up to it, but usually leave out that this internal emotional turmoil has a name: depression, anxiety, personality disorders, PTSD, eating disorders...and the list goes on.

We have discussed occasionally how queer people are stigmatized by psychiatry, as diseased due to our sexuality. It is time for those of us who have experienced mental illness to name it. I would describe my experiences of mental illness and my sexual orientation as two people running from a zombie: they are separate, but sometimes they trip each other up while trying to save me from themselves.