Well it looks like it’s going to be a long couple of months, especially for those impacted by the marriage equality debate. Of course, we are all affected one way or another – as a vote about human rights this is about all of us – but some of us will be finding this much tougher than expected. Maybe that’s you. It’s definitely me. I’ve realised I really wasn’t prepared for this, and as I speak to others I find that I’m definitely not alone.
We knew that a public poll on marriage equality would expose people to arguments, debates and messages that were hurtful and harmful. But I’m not sure the wider community understands how traumatising these messages can be. As we have all been told repeatedly – ‘everyone has a right to their opinion’. The problem is that certain opinions are extremely painful to hear, not just because of what they mean in the present, but because they tap into much deeper past experiences of hurt, rejection, marginalization and even abuse that LGBTIQ people have faced individually and collectively.
We know for a fact that suicide rates are much higher among LGBTIQ young people, and many of us understand exactly why that is. Because we have felt it too, especially as young people finding our way in families, schools and communities that have clearly sent the message of ‘you are not ok’. And many of the current arguments and perspectives take us back there, re-living experiences we thought we had processed, put aside or effectively buried. It comes as a shock and it hurts. It’s not something we want others exposed to, especially not the current generation of young people … but here we are.
So dealing with all this is hard. It brings up a whole myriad of feelings – some expected, others less so, all valid. Sadness, anger, helplessness, grief, frustration, apprehension, exclusion, fear, overwhelm. For our own well-being we need to look after ourselves and find ways to process and deal with this stuff, so we can keep on going about our days and our lives, keep on promoting a message of unity and love, and keep on engaging with our families, our colleagues, our classmates and our communities.
How do we do this? We all have our own ways of taking care of ourselves – doing something enjoyable, talking to someone who understands, taking time out (especially from social media). But times like this may require us to be more conscious, intentional, and compassionate in our approach. The starting point is to tune in to what we are really feeling, and work out what is needed from there. This is a very individual process so I’ll just leave you with this brief self-compassion exercise which can be done anytime, in those moments when difficult feelings arise.
- First recognise and acknowledge the feeling/s that arise and their impact: ‘This is anger’ (or ‘this is grief’… or ‘this is stress’ – whatever). ‘It hurts’ (or ‘it’s hard’…or ‘it’s painful’).
- Then recognize that this is a human experience: ‘Others feel this too’ (or ‘I’m not alone’).
- Then offer kindness and compassion to yourself: ‘May I give myself the compassion I need’ (or ‘may I take care of my needs at this time’).
- Then take some time to breathe and, in this state of awareness, work out what you need to take care of yourself.
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Please feel free to share your tips for maintaining mental well-being during difficult times in the comments.
Please also understand that this blog aims to provide a safe place for support and understanding. Any comments that could be perceived as hurtful, threatening or inappropriate towards either side of this debate will be removed.