The topic of mental health and its intersection with the LGBTQ experience is a fairly new conversation. A very welcomed one, of course, I’d go as far as saying a long-anticipated one. It comes with a sigh of relief; It opened a door that gives me a platform to share my story. Mi feel like a long time dis story ya fi tell. Let me be clear, being a member of the LGBTQ community does not mean that you will suffer from a mental health condition. Research does show, however, that we are three times more likely than others to suffer from a mental health condition. Being who I am was putting me at risk, It’s so hard to hold back the flood of emotions that is raging inside of me. That being said, I believe accepting myself as a lesbian actually saved and transformed me into the woman I am today. It allowed me to overcome trauma and mental health issues that I was already suffering from.
I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaica, as we all know, is celebrated for its amazing music, culture, food, and athletics. What no one talks about is that according to The Independent, of September 2017, Jamaica was ranked #18 out of the top 20 most dangerous countries in the world. Loop Jamaica tells us that as recently as 2018, Kingston was the 16th most dangerous city in the world. As a young girl growing up, my occupation was survival. I had to survive having my face pummeled by a man, who called me a “sodomite,” for not responding to his sexual advances. I was preoccupied with the safety of my siblings, putting my body between my sisters and flying bullets. When would I have time to stop to think about trauma? On any given Sunday, I would have to wash my uniforms, as well as my sisters’, in preparation for school the upcoming week. Where was the time to concern myself with the dead body on the sidewalk affront my home? Eventually, the police would come to tag him and bag him, because as I said, it’s Sunday and I have shit to do. All I know is that, at that time, these experiences were socialized as the norm for me. As such, getting through the day and preparing for the next was my obligation. I was too fucking busy to make time for trauma, but trauma made time for me.
The aforementioned was just a reflection of my immediate surroundings, and then atop that, I was a lesbian. Adding insult to injury falls short in describing my experience with sexual orientation amidst the violence. May we not forget, the homophobic context of Jamaica. Jamaica is ranked 12th among a list of the most homophobic countries in the world. This heightened my sensitivity to potential danger and dictated how I traversed my social circles. In a nutshell, it made everything worse (this is where the 3 times more likely statistic comes into play)! I was always afraid of being found out and that made me paranoid. I ended up leaving Jamaica because I was denied graduation from high school. Why? Suspicion of me being a lesbian. I figured soon after suspicion arose, questions would soon follow. As a result, I left. How could this happen? How is it that an excelling academic and national representative, both of which I was, be forced to leave school without a high school diploma? It was time to go! I accepted an offer to come to the U.S., on an athletic scholarship, and that’s where my life changed. Or so I thought.
Did I mention that Jamaica has the most churches per square mile of any other country in the world? I didn’t, but it does. I may not have because I didn’t go to church in Jamaica. As a result, I was never conflicted between religious doctrine and my sexual orientation. College, in the U.S., was a different story. I attended Liberty University (a school founded upon Christian doctrine.)where I couldn’t be gay there or I would lose my scholarship. I had to blend in or go back to Jamaica, or at least that is what I told myself daily. In my head, not only did I abandon my sisters in Jamaica, but I was still not able to be myself. The result? I suffered from survivor’s guilt and self-hate. I kept thinking, “Something must be wrong with me!” It had to be me!
The religious pressure to conform was always looming, to which I eventually gave in. I got “saved” to “liberate” my soul from the sin of being a lesbian. I thought, “maybe being saved will take the gay away”. It didn’t. Instead of liberation came suicidal ideation. It became so bad, I actually plotted my demise. I was losing my mind from torturous, guilt-ridden thoughts. My salvation, despite being “saved,” was still not something tangible. I wanted to die! Until, in that psychological storm, came that singular moment of clarity and the answer wasn’t theology. The answer? Therapy! Independent of the stigmas around therapy, I was out of options, so reluctantly I went. I got help. Therapy helped hush the persistent thoughts in my head about wanting to die until they were quiet enough for me to function again.
It wasn’t until post moving to NYC, after graduate school, did I put my foot down and take action. Enough was enough! The self-loathing had to stop. The guilt had to stop! Everything I was thinking and feeling that didn’t serve me had to stop! I figured it out. It only took me 22 years, but I figured it out. I had to stop fighting. Guilt needed an ego to survive, so I humbled myself. Death needed a life to take, so I gave up my life. In lieu, I gave my life to the service of others and became an advocate. It all started when I accepted that I was a lesbian. I accepted that my life was traumatic. While unable to identify my demons, I was open to learning their faces and their triggers. I needed professional help. Previously, therapy hushed the voices. Now it was time to silence them. I started therapy again and that was a triumph for me. What about people like me? How was I going to advocate for them? To the little boys and girls who felt as I once did, I’d say, “Your presence is a gift and your existence necessary.” Know that you can do and be anything, AND be LGBTQ.
In efforts to help others who went through self-loathing, self-denial, thoughts of suicide and the trauma that comes from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, I began to advocate in my own way. I once wanted the world to see me overcome all the shit I have been through. Now my purpose is to help the world overcome all the shit that it is putting others through. I started a YouTube channel (Dianna Mitchy TV). My platform will be dedicated to advocacy, motivation, and inspiration. Your circumstances do not define you, only you can define yourself. #amplifythenoise