mental illness and compounded effects of marginalisation
DISCLAIMER: This article is written only from my own experiences and is not meant to represent other people’s experiences of ableism, transmisogyny, sexual assault, or other experiences.
Trigger Warnings: Rape, sexual assault.
A lot of people look up to people who appear to be struggling with life, as if they are inspirational in some way. I feel like while this can be perceived as a form of understanding, but it feels hollow to me. When people tell me I am brave for enduring so much shit, it feels like a way for people to be supportive without actually doing anything. I guess the point of this article is to get people to understand what living like this is like. When you are reading this, imagine if you had to go through all this – and then know that many people are going through it. Try and think of ways that you can make your spaces safer for these people. For people like me.
I have had to deal with a lot of crap in my life, including, but not limited to, sexual assault, rape, depression & anxiety.
These issues compound together to make my life very difficult, which often result in a lot of disabling triggers and fears for me. I have various irrational fears as a result of this stuff, including fears of bathrooms (which are slightly rational), and fears of libraries. These compounded effects make spaces that should be safe for me, unsafe. I haven’t really used libraries or read books for a long time because the thought or similar brings up triggering thoughts. It is this behaviour that compounds with my mental illnesses and other marginalizations to make me feel unsafe and awful.
Living in a rural and regional area is really difficult for me because I can’t actually access any resources or events for me, or people like me. With 0.3% of the population [according to some American statistics] identifying as transgender, and even fewer being disabled as well – the chances of finding a disabled trans woman in a rural and regional environment is very low. Not having that kind of specific support can be quite demoralising – having general support is good, but I often feel like I am repeating myself in explaining basic content to people.
Mental illness can compound these feelings of isolation – and depression is especially skilled at doing this. Depression makes you feel like everything you do is a colossal waste of time and energy, despite the logical half of your brain arguing that what you do is important. I feel isolated because I’m worthless and pathetic, and then I start to doubt my own identity because I feel like I am the only one who feels this way due to isolation. Being poor as well doesn’t help, as I can’t solve the problem of my isolation, or of medications to either slow down the depression or start a physical transition. And when people constantly refer to you as your deadname, or use the incorrect pronouns, it really is like getting slapped with a wet fish. And that starts the cycle of self loathing and hatred yet again, which never seems to end as everything continually sets it off.
Being mentally ill is a real challenge but at the same time… I don’t want people to praise me for how strong, or how courageous I am. I want people to actively try and make spaces safer for me, by not questioning why I am triggered by certain books or by libraries. I want the stigma against hospitalised people to be dropped, so that we can seek help without the fear or being shunned. It should not have taken me until this time to hospitalise myself, and seek the help that I need. I want people to promote self-care and self-love over one’s usefulness to the wider community.
Natalia blogs at A Transgender Phoenix.
Natalia – this is a great piece and it is brave of you to share. No one should ever have to be strong enough to deal with hate, sexual assault or mental health issues, but in saying that, it is true that every day you get out of bed and give life a try, you are truly being strong, so don’t second-guess yourself there. Other people may expect more from you but you don’t need to listen to them and they should know better, they should create a safe space for you.
This is a great post, especially about hoping to just be left to get on with it after being triggered by something. One issue I find regarding people with mental illness is that someone who is triggered periodically often gets even more marginalised, written off as too unstable to be trusted with any sharp thoughts or ideas.