I recently ended an extensive period of therapy sessions. I had reached an emotional state I considered rock bottom.
Side note: while I’d never intend to belittle these totally valid thoughts, I’ve since realised it’s possible that my big, gay brain thought I was in a soap opera and actually, things could have been much, much worse.
Nevertheless, after about 10 years of on/off depression, I finally accepted that I couldn’t bring myself out of this pit on my own.
I lost my mother to cancer at 15 years old and at the same time, I was experiencing fairly intense internalised homophobia.
I convinced myself I was ugly, useless, not worthy of love – I was so ashamed of who I was. And I was grieving the loss of my main source of emotional support.
Those feelings never really left, but I learnt how to bury them deep down inside.
As I got older I thought I’d got over the trauma. But in reality, whenever I felt my emotions get the better of me I found a new method of running from them. Needing to find a way of numbing the pain, I turned to drugs.
I don’t see any merit in the black and white perspective of ‘drugs are bad’. But there was a time when I was either high or coming down. No in between. I couldn’t handle reality. So I hid in a colourful, drug-fuelled fantasy.
The fact that drug abuse and suicide rates are significantly higher amongst the LGBTQIA+ community (emphasis on the trans intersection) than the straight, cisgendered majority is no secret.
Various studies show that queer people are twice as likely to have used an illegal drug in the past year. Similarly, sexual minorities, young people and particularly trans youth are up to thee and a half times more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide than the heterosexual population.
The correlation between these statistics is undeniable, in my opinion. It seems to suggest that the LGBTQIA+ community is at a higher risk of substance abuse due to the higher probability of their experience with mental health issues and subsequent suicidal ideations and attempts.
At this point it’s worth questioning: what we are running from? What collective experiences do we have as a community that contribute to these mental health issues? Why do we feel we need to escape reality through these means?
As I mentioned earlier, I experienced some pretty deep internalised homophobia throughout my teens.
I went to school around the time when gay was used as an insult. Anything negative was gay and displaying any form of sensitivity or femininity was greeted with disgust.
There were very few out and proud LGBT people in media that I can remember. No one to look up to or convince me that I shouldn’t be ashamed of the way I was feeling.
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge the struggles of those who came before us. Who endured much more than my generation hopefully will have to. But I think it’s safe to say that all members of the queer melting pot have experienced some form of homophobia.
Whether it’s internalised or not, it’s due to the way we’ve been treated by society. It’s difficult to deal with and can lead to issues later in life. In my case, it led to depression, self-loathing, and a dependency on substances that distracted me from the way I was feeling.
For others, depression and dependency can run deeper and become more and more destructive.
This idea of dependency as a means of escaping reality served as the inspiration for my latest song, ‘Buried’.
The song itself is about having a vice that influences your thought process beyond your control. I can only quiet my thoughts and find comfort if I satisfy my craving. It’s about the idea that you can only solve your problems by succumbing to their ‘siren call’. Escaping to the fantasy they provide.
The music video served as a visual enhancement of this idea. In a more abstract, psychedelic setting, it looks at the idea that submitting to the enticing calls of your addictions can make your mundane reality seem like a wonderful colourful fantasy.
It’s about how people use their vices to escape the monotony and struggles of their real life but also how this can lead to sinister consequences
Since going to therapy I’ve learnt how to deal with my mental health issues in a healthy way.
I’ve learnt how to be kinder to myself. I’ve started to re-programme my brain into being less critical. My immediate instinct is not to punish myself anymore. I don’t feel the need to tell myself I’m worthless. And where I’ve seen improvements in my relationship with myself, I don’t feel like I need drugs anymore. At least not on a daily basis.
Maybe ‘addiction’ is no longer the correct term for me. Maybe I was addicted to the way they made me feel. Now that I don’t need to escape reality, they no longer serve a purpose.
Drugs may often be the easiest way to lose yourself. But it’s a quick fix. It is at this point that I am inclined to repeat the gay mantra we all know, love. That we recite mindlessly as we stare at our TV screens. In between screeches of ‘YAAAS GAWD’ and ‘okurrr’.
It goes: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?’