I'm still a very young advocate, having just gotten into HIV advocacy a year and a half ago, but I'm no newbie to depression. As a transgender individual I've lived with deep and debilitating clinical depression since I was eight years old. I should be an expert on the topic by now, you might think anyways. Over the past year I've been doing pretty good, despite having gone through a divorce after twenty three years and my children effectively disowning me. My therapist and my meds have really done their job for the most part, but sometimes I still really struggle and lately I've been going through one of those times. Sometimes it's for good and understandable reasons and sometimes it needs no reasoning at all, that's the nature of depression, either way still sucks.
Depression can cause a range of damaging effects to our bodies and minds. It constricts our appetites, ravaging our health and breaking down our immune system, disrupting our sleep patterns, impeding our ability to reason with rationality and make sound decisions, draining our energy and vitality, robbing us of our interests in the very things that can help combat our depression like social relationships and activities, and living with HIV can exaggerate these issues as well as cause a loss of interest in taking meds and adherence to treatment. It's definitely no small issue to be taken lightly and we must be vigilant to recognize it as the grave danger that it is.
Lately I've also been feeling really discouraged. It's not difficult to get that way living under the rule of the current White House administration. With all of the scandals, the corruption, and the monstrous policies put in place, the constant attacks on the free press, on American values, and basic human decency along with the rise of open and unashamed hate, further violence and disenfranchisement of people already oppressed, and the undermining of the institutions that have been created to help those people, it's a wonder how anyone remains strong in such trying times.
On top of that are all the personal struggles common to most women; trying to provide and care for our children in an environment where inflation and the cost of living continue to rise unrestrained, while wages, that aren't equal with men's wages in the first place, stagnate at levels that peeked sixty years ago, as well as managing a healthy balance of our time between advocating for our local or national communities and cleaning our house, feeding our families, mowing our lawns, giving our partners the time and attention that they require… you know, all the basic home maintenance and managements that can't go undone.
The weight of it all can feel unbearable, as though we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, a load that no one can carry. Meanwhile, our mental and emotional faculties suffer, often breaking down our physical defenses and even sometimes our resolve to stand in the gap to advocate for people we've never met. But we continue to push forward because it all needs to be done, our hearts and our conscience have ordained that these people we've never met really are important to us, they need us, and we feel that there is no one else to help them and fulfill our duties that we've chosen to take on but us, but this only half true. It's true that we are needed, but there are others who are there to relieve us when we need a break. Even soldiers of war are given, and take, leaves of absence, and for the same reasons, because sometimes you need to restore your own physical, mental and emotional health in order to have the fortitude needed to continue to fight for others. So there's no shame in stepping away from the helm for a moment to take care of yourself.
Self-care is as important a tool in our toolbox as any other; it's essential that we don't neglect our own wellbeing if we're to be mentally and emotionally present for our families, our friendships and our communities. We must give due diligence to take the necessary steps needed to achieve and maintain that mental and emotional presence that those who depend upon us both require and deserve. This means seeking the help we need by attending therapy, reaching out to our supportive networks, and even if need be, detaching ourselves from the source of our stress. It's better to step away to take care of yourself and return recharged and ready for the duties that come your way than to allow yourself to drown in the quicksand of depression and discouragement, thus, no longer able to help anyone, and the deeper you allow yourself to sink, the harder it can be to recover, but know that you're not alone. When you recognize the quicksand at your feet, don't wait to reach out; the strength, comfort and guidance of sisters, family, friends, and professionals are but a phone call, a text or an email away. My heart is with you.
Suicide Prevention Hotline