Is being Gay a trigger for depression?

Gay people in Ireland are seven times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Depression is an equal opportunity intruder that affects people of all sexual identities. This includes gay men and women, many of whom experience depression after coming out. Depression in gay men and women can be triggered by a number of stresses, including loneliness, family rejection, or changes in lifestyle.

Lee’s story

Hi I’m Lee Kelly from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin and I realised I had depression when I was 19. I’m now 31. I had spells of being down and was generally fed up with everything. I was a student at the time and threw myself into student life. I do feel I was probably drinking way too much, about 6 days a week, (though not always to excess) but at the time it was okay right?, it’s what students do?

My anxiety and my depression started after I came out. Sorry, I was16 years of age when I realised I was gay, it was the night I was giving a speech to the other transitions years. In retrospect I had known before that night. But for me night remains the most important, that was the night I had told myself, that was the night I accepted it. Before that night I guess I had resisted admitting it to myself even though I had a huge crush on a boy in school when I was 14.

yesequality
Amazing piece by Artist Joe Caslin. Photograph by Joanne Dunne
So, as I was saying, after coming out I started to feel quite anxious, afraid I wasn’t going to be ‘normal’ and had a fear of rejection. So to counteract t this I pushed some friends away, unfortunately lost them forever. College time was a tough one for me; there were tough days, not because I was gay, because of my depression. I suppose being gay didn’t help, in the sense that I, myself, had some misconceptions about being a gay man. I am supposed to be flamboyant right? So drinking more than I should helped me live up to that persona and being the life and soul of the party.

Not a good thing, keeping up this charade, it just fuelled my low periods. I suppose we need to go through certain experiences in order to learn and develop. I have learned drink is not for me, it contributed to low periods, often extending these periods. Today I drink less an am aware the role alcohol plays in my depression.

Coming out as being gay, was tough, and again I do believe it was the trigger for my anxiety and depression. Coming out in Ireland was tough, we are still a society that is geared towards the way its always been. To be fair we are breaking ground (thinking of the referendum on May 22nd) and as a gay man in Ireland I can live a normal life as much as permitted in society. This does not mean it is any less stressful to come out (in more rural areas it is still a massive issue, probably more so than the urban areas) and to be yourself, to be gay. Indeed for many that pressure may and does manifest as depression and often this stress, this depression becomes too much and for some, sadly sometimes there seems to be only one solution.

Being gay does not define me, my depression does not define me, yes both are very much part of me. I’d rather be known as the computer geek who happens to be gay or happens to have depression. I was reading an article recently about a gay woman who said she spent such a long time making it her life’s mission to ensure absolutely everyone she met knew she was gay. Then one day she realised she was burned out and that no one really cared that much any more. I guess I came to that conclusion a lot sooner. It’s the way it should be, nobody cares, and we all need to live our lives the best way we know how. Hey, you never know soon being Gay might be as interesting as having red hair or blue eyes.

I will leave you on this note. Coming out and the battle with depression have and can still produce tough times for me, but I implore people in similar situations to remain optimistic, things will get better. My advice to anyone coming out about being gay and feeling depressed is to build a good support group around yourself. Share and you are not alone. Get out there and surround yourself with like minded individuals.There is a place in the world for you to be just who you are.

Karen and Bo celebrating their engagement
Karen and Bo celebrating their engagement

FACT

“There were high rates of depression and about 50% had engaged in an act of deliberate self harm, such as minor cutting and overdoses, compared with less than 20% for the rest,” said Cannon. “It appears if you are of minority sexual orientation you are at a tenfold risk of self-harm behaviours.”

The reason is unclear, although there is evidence that being part of a minority group suffering discrimination is itself stressful. Research indicates young people with worries about their sexual orientation and who were bullied had higher rates of self-harm. The disapproval of family members may also be a factor. National Suicide Research Foundation 

A mother’s Love

As a parent you want the best for your children. We want to protect them, keep them safe. When I found out Karen was gay, worry consumed me. Life is hard at the best of times and now, after coming out, it would be that bit more difficult. Looking back now, Karen’s coming out was the best thing for Karen, even now being faced with the challenges that come this exposure, she was able to be herself, to look at herself more and live the life and be the person she wanted to be, her true self.

Karen is lucky to be in a wonderful relationship, with a beautiful girl I will soon be able to call my family. They are very well matched and very much in love.

When Karen told us she was gay, we were there for her, I’m so glad she told us because you have to realise if she didn’t , we would not have known, we would not have been able to be there for her, she would have had to travel this road alone. As a parent that is the last thing you want, your child to suffer, you will do anything to be there, to protect , to support, to love.

Friends
Neil and Karen performing Improv with lowerthetone.com at the Harbour Playhouse, Portobello, Dublin
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I WOULD LIKE TO THANK:

Joe Caslin – Artist

David Sexton – photo ‘The Castle’

Joanne Dunne – photo ‘The Claddagh Embrace’

Karen Reilly, Bo Mulligan, Lee Kelly and Bernie Reilly for their valuable input

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