How are you feeling today? When you’re living with depression, the answer is often ‘not good’.
Depression affects people in different ways. Some can’t stop crying, some feel numb, some even feel suicidal.
Each action for me feels harder in the depths of a spiral. Just getting out of bed feels like I’m wading through tar. It’s not apathy, it’s not laziness – it’s just harder.
As LGBTI people, we are disproportionately more likely to live with depression. Even from as young as 10 years old.
Research indicates 40% of LGBTI people experience mental health issues compared with 25% of the wider population.
So because we’re likely to live with depression, it’s also good to know how to cope.
I asked a few LGBTI people from across the UK about their coping strategies.
How do you cope with living with depression?
Davey, a gay man living in Glasgow, says it’s hard to recognize the signs of a depression spiral.
‘It always sneaks up on me,’ he said.
But when it is bad, he tries and not beats himself up. While he might need to stay in bed, he’ll do it with intentionality.
‘I think, I’m going to stay in bed but I’ll read a comic and have a coffee. I’m gonna watch my favorite show a hundred times over.’
This past December, Davey did an advent calendar but only filled with self-care items for each day of December. It’s an idea he’s carried on for January as well.
‘Every day I did one thing like have a massage, read a book. People engaged with it. It’s great to do something every day that’s just for you.’
Creativity and staying active
Alex, who is non-binary, deals with their depression through writing stories and art.
‘They’re not exactly masterpieces but it helps me express it as otherwise it all gets locked up inside,’ they said.
‘I write across a lot of genres… I can get really involved with those emotions rather than the ones I’m feeling.’
They also listen to music, like piano music or videos of rain drops or wave sounds.
‘Staying active helps me as well, especially activities that give an adrenaline rush, like paintball or something,’ they said.
‘Even just doing a walk on a cold morning, because the cold can help bring me back into the present.
‘The best things are just little things you can blend into your routine when needed so you’ve got some structure in your life.’
Tatiana is a queer woman who has been dealing with suicidal thoughts since she was young.
‘I do have monthly counselling sessions which has really helped me a lot,’she said. ‘I try to have at least some me time every week.’
Being open about mental health
Rachel, bi woman, said it took years for doctors to take her mental health seriously. She was finally diagnosed at university after struggling most of her life with anxiety and depression.
She said: ‘I don’t fight it too hard all at once, but try to force myself to take small steps like showering, brushing my teeth, sending an email etc. one at a time. Some days are good because I did a full day of work and saw friends, others are good because I simply managed to get out of bed. Other days, staying in bed is the only option, but I’ve learnt that that’s okay too sometimes.
‘I try not to beat myself up for that anymore, and without the self-inflicted guilt, it’s so much easier to manage a bad episode.
‘I try to be completely honest with myself, and others, when I’m feeling low or anxious, rather than trying to make excuses for myself or hiding the truth. This openness has led to so much more self-acceptance and growth than any medication or therapy I’ve tried (though both of these things are worth trying, and trying again and again, until you find something that works for you, despite what others might have to say).
‘Sometimes all it takes is for me to acknowledge, out loud, that I’m not very well, and then go through the motions of accepting it, feeling it, and ultimately getting through it. I’ve got through every bad phase before this one, and I will do so again.’
Recognizing the root cause
Javan, a gay trans man, was diagnosed at 16 with depression. At 27, he was diagnosed with a personality disorder.
But his mental health story goes back longer, including suicidal attempts and self-harm as a teenager.
Since he’s transitioned, he no longer suffers as much.
He said: ‘I believe recognizing the root cause of depression, often based in who you are, your identity/sexuality as well as negative experiences, is the start of recovery.
‘In everyday life it is important to build up a network of supportive friends, and not to just try to cope or pretend you’re ok when you’re not.’
He added: ‘I found talking therapies were the way forward rather than just medication on its own because it addresses the causes and helps to build self-esteem and resilience.
‘Be true to yourself. Even if there are potential negative consequences to this, it is often worth it for the improvement in your quality of life.’
Get out of the house
Chris, a gay man, was diagnosed at age 11.
He said: ‘I try my very best to get out of the house. Since my depression is so interlinked with quite strong anxiety I try to find ways to keep my mind busy with hobbies or activities. The worst thing I can do for myself is allow my mind to stew and settle on negativity or dark thoughts.
‘I keep my mind busy with hobbies and activities. I try to be as active as possible and do things to keep me active. If I can’t find the drive to do that, I tend to go on long walks or spend time with my friends.
‘I would say don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have slip ups or low periods where you can’t function as you normally do. Know that eventually you’ll get back on top of things, and for now just doing things to care for yourself is ok.’
‘Remember you’re not alone.’
Nikki, who identifies as bisexual, said: ‘I do have to take medication every single day, which I used to hate doing, but now I’m grateful to be able to have something that just makes my life easier.
‘It’s like wearing glasses, without them I’d struggle to see the good in life.’
Mattocks makes sure she’s hydrated, eating well, taking her medication, and having things to look forward to.
To others living with depression, she has a beautiful message.
‘The sun sets but it’ll rise. This will pass, and there’s a way out of the darkness. Through talking, through medication, through routine, through your own incredible strength, life will feel worth waking up for again.
‘Remember you’re not alone.’
Need someone to talk to? This is a list of LGBTI helplines around the world. if you’re in crisis or in need of support. If you’re in the UK, you can contact LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30. The helpline is open Monday-Friday 10am-6pm.