I think personal stories are a powerful tool, as they create a foundation for shared experiences, feelings and thoughts with others, lighting the dark lonely path we sometimes feel we’re traveling on. Hopefully my story can shine some light on that path, whether we walk on it once in our lifetime or on a daily basis.
I grew up in rural community where there was never a discussion about mental health or sexuality, in part due to the underlying assumptions that everybody was straight as well as mental health being equated with mental strength and will power (e.g. toughen-up). Growing up I experienced issues around both my sexuality and mental health, which I kept quiet from everybody and to an extent myself, through self-denial.
Denial around my own sexuality contributed to experiences of loneliness and depression, mainly because I was at a stage in my life when I was discovering my identity and didn’t feel comfortable in sharing it publicly or having my individuality categorised and labelled under a stereotype. Thoughts of opening-up made me feel vulnerable to judgement by others and thoughts of hiding my identity made me feel inauthentic. This had a negative impact on my wellbeing. Initially, I thought I was just experiencing sadness but after a few months it got progressively worse where negative thoughts became invasive and I began to lack motivation to do even the most basic of things, like getting out of bed.
I tried about a hundred different ways to deal with my depression through self-motivation techniques and other strategies but they were only a temporary distraction. My most important decision was when I acknowledged that I needed to reach out for support, and without questioning my pride I booked myself into see a psychologist at Monash Counselling Services that day. When meeting with the psychologist it was a relief to get all of my issues off my chest, just to tell somebody how I was really feeling, especially because they had no attachment to me. The psychologist was a professional, and a stranger, who would not tell anybody and would not show judgement for what I said. After several meetings and progress updates with the psychologist I was slowly able to address the underlying concerns about my depression and identity. The progress and professional support I received empowered me to share my real thoughts and feelings with close family and friends. This has over time has placed me in a better frame of mind.
If my experience can be of any help or guidance for others it would be that you shouldn’t feel alone on your own personal journey in life, especially if you are going through difficult times or you’re not feeling your authentic self. There is always support if you are looking for it. For me Monash University Counselling Services provided me support as a student, which I am grateful for.
If you are a Monash student or staff member and looking for similar support: