Question 3 from the Perspective of a Non-Binary Young Adult

November 28th, 2018

trans military ban protest

By: Rachel LaBrie

Recently, in our midterm elections on November 6th, we had a ballot question that could’ve made life a lot more frightening, and potentially dangerous, for folks who are not cisgender. For anyone who is confused, cisgender means you identify with the sex assigned to you at birth. For example, if you were assigned female at birth, and you identify as female, you are cisgender. Transgender, which is an umbrella term, means you do not identify with the sex assigned to you at birth.

The law that we were voting on, and we inevitably kept in place with our votes, made it illegal to discriminate against someone for their gender identity in places of public accommodation. For example, it made it illegal for places like sports venues, hotels, and restaurants to discriminate against you for that reason.  If we had a “no” vote on this question (question 3 on our ballot), this law would have been rolled back. We would have been the first state in the country to roll back protections for transgender people. That would have set a dangerous precedent for the rest of our nation.

As someone who is not cisgender, this law being taken away would have had an impact on me. I identify as non-binary and gender fluid. Basically, for me, that means sometimes I identify as female and use she/her/hers pronouns, and other times I feel like I’m somewhere in between male and female, and on those days (which are most days) I use they/them/theirs pronouns.  I could have been denied service based on this fact. That would be devastating to me.

I’ve been asked, as someone who is a contractor for a youth organization (Youth MOVE Massachusetts) and PPAL, why it was and is such an important question for our organization to have a stance on. A lot of our youth and young adults are transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming. This law put the livelihoods of our folks at stake. It is so important to recognize that this law is so important and crucial in keeping our folks protected and involved in their community.

There is still a lot of work to be done to educate the community on gender identity. So many people don’t understand the terminology, or the disparities in care that people experience when they are transgender. I hope to see a day where we can all coexist without this constant judgement and that people will stop feeling entitled to have an “opinion” on whether or not people like me exist. Because we do, and it is not a matter of opinion. We are here. And we will continue to be. And the sooner we can all respect each other, the better.

Rachel LaBrie is a advocate and a writer. They are currently working on compiling a book of poetry about their struggles with mental health. 

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Am I not deserving of a forever family?

October 31st, 2018

people holding handsGrowing up in surroundings so mental health and trauma based, I used to ask myself what is this for? Yes, I am getting treatment for a diagnosis that I had and I couldn’t help, but I still think about how my entire childhood and adolescent years had been taken up by trauma, negativity, and struggle. I had to stop and ask myself, “What can I do? What can I do to make up for all this lost time?”

I found myself struggling to find any sort of redemption for actions I made and events I caused in the midst of my self-destruction, and trying to rekindle the once pure connection with those who cared for me. This is how I turned the trauma that destroyed me into something that made me.

I would consider myself being in the childcare system and behavioral health system since the age of 3 and a half, maybe 4 years old. Nothing was ever handed to me. I worked hard for acceptance, love, and attention; somethings that should have been a given to a young child yet I still could never quite grasp. Even though I was placed in a family does not mean I received love and attention. Just because I was placed in residential does not mean I received the help I needed.

Growing up was a struggle for me. There were days I asked myself, “What am I doing wrong? Am I not deserving of a forever family? Was I not strong enough to defeat depression?” My nine year old self thought, “Would people finally look at me when my picture is placed in a big frame memorializing me for the years I lived, and mourning me for the years I could not have?” Yes, I was nine years old when suicide first crossed my mind. I had lost everything most important to a child for the second time. I lost a mother, my brothers, my home, my beliefs, and my trust for any and all adults.

Flash forward to my adolescent years when I struggled through programs even more than I could have imagined. I was 14 years old with so much potential but completely blind to it. I was struggling with depression, PTSD, substances, and anger. I made many mistakes as any teenager does, but my mistakes were a self- destructive engine that would soon kill me. It wasn’t until I hit the age of 17 that I was able to recover enough to function in reality on my own.

I learned a lot in my years of struggle and recovery, including the need for advocacy and support from relatable people who know and have lived through the system of childcare and residential. I also believe that no matter what struggle one goes through in life, there is never “a reason” to stop fighting the struggle. What I mean by this is if something negative happens in your life, do not give it the power to “steal” those valuable and precious good moments of your life. Turn it into a situation where the negative moment was there to help you learn and guide you on a path to an evolved “YOU.”

In my case, I did not let my parent-less childhood and 10 years of residential experiences steal my childhood and adolescent years. I let it teach me how to support and care for youth and young adults who are struggling through the same or similar experiences, and help guide them to success and happiness using the strength and knowledge gained through my firsthand experience. I was not going to let my past destruction destruct my future self, and so I let my past destruction be the knowledge I gained to make me who I am. Today, I am someone who cares, loves, understands, empathizes with others, and support those who need it.

Mateo Anderson is a young adult whose focus is on supporting and advocating for youth and families of mental health. He is currently working in the peer support field. 

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I Am Not My Mental Illness, And Neither Are You

September 28th, 2018

seacoast sceneI am most certainly not my mental illnesses.

Although I have ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and most likely an upcoming OCD diagnosis, I am not defined by those labels.

I am a lover of poetry. I get lost in the words I write, pouring the bottled up emotion onto paper, and making it sound like a symphony. I love to sing, love to hear music flow through my headphones, a form of escape sometimes, and other times indulging in sadness.

I am empathetic. I love to help other people. It’s what I know I was born to do. I am an advocate. I have advocated locally, statewide, and nationally, and it’s all a result of my burning passion for being a voice. I am a voice for those who have a hard time speaking out, for those who are growing tired of being treated like they don’t belong.

When I tell people I have a mental illness, it is an immediate judgement when that person doesn’t know what it is like to feel like there is no hope. Sometimes, hope seems so far away. It feels like I will never earn the right to be happy. However, there is strength within me. So when I feel like I don’t belong, I tell myself there must be a reason I’m still here. I think that reason is to pursue a better future, both for myself and others.

So yes, I am not my mental illness. No one is defined only by their mental illness. We are all warriors. We fight this battle bravely every day. We are not just “patients”, we are people who need our voices heard, for there is so much to be said.

By: Rachel LaBrie

 

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Body Image: 3 Years Later

August 29th, 2018

Start a revolution, stop hating your bodyMy name is Rachel LaBrie, and I wrote a blog about my struggle with my body image for PPAL three years ago. In that blog, I realize I sugarcoated a lot of things. Let me tell you the truth. Well, the full truth.

I have bulimia, and have since I was seven years old. It all started in dance class. The constant pressure to be long and lean took a serious toll on my mental health, and then my physical health. I started off hiding in the back of the room, so that not as many peers could see me. That transitioned to me emotionally eating whenever I’d get anxious. And as the guilt set in, that’s when the purging started.

I’ve been told seven years old is so young to form an eating disorder, but you’d be surprised. I’ve hated how I looked since I was 5 years old. It’s also a super common thing to have an eating disorder as a dancer.

I probably read how to purge in a book; I was an avid reader, and I often read books meant for teenagers. I never told anyone until I was 9, and it was my nutritionist, who didn’t believe me about my bulimia. My dance teacher continued to ignore the signs. So I did what I thought would stop all that…I quit dance.

However, the behavior was already developed and I just got more and more lost in my disorder. The Eating Disorder “Voice” kept telling me to eat. Chocolate, cookies, candy, whatever I could get my hands on. Then all of a sudden, “STOP!! GET RID OF IT! GET RID OF IT ALL!!” It yelled a lot.

I gave in for so long. I followed my eating disorder into fire until I felt I was igniting into flames.  That is until I hit a breaking point. I finally told my Primary Care Doctor, and she referred me to an outpatient eating disorder clinic. I did the Partial Hospitalization Program twice in 6 months.

It really did help. I haven’t purged in about 9 months. I feel better physically, but the “voice” still comes into my head from time to time. I’ve learned some techniques to shut it up.

It’s still hard. I still hate my body. I still insult it more than I should. But I recognize it does so much for me. It carries me around, lets me accomplish my goals. I need to thank my body more often for what it is, instead of criticizing it for what it isn’t. And maybe that time will come soon.

For everyone who has struggled with their own body image, I stand with you. I understand how hard it is to make that negativity in your head stay quiet. But we can do this.

Say something nice about your body to your body today. The littlest compliments help. It seems silly, but sometimes you need to convince yourself and your body that your body is worthy of love from you. I let my body become my enemy, but now, I feel like we are building a friendship. And I cannot even begin to tell you how good that feels.

Here’s to another 3 years of growth.

By: Rachel LaBrie

 

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Embrace It

July 26th, 2018

manGrowing up in a town where mental health was almost kept quiet among families made it hard for me to be accepting of the fact that I had some mental health issues of my own. Not only mental health issues, but behavioral as well. I used to struggle with the fact that I had to retain my feelings and invite my demons as guests rather than fight them. It came to the point where my behavioral issues developed. Doctors and clinicians, who were all strangers to me, would come and tell me that I was an angry person. Why? Because there would be days I would cry so loud like no one could hear me, days when I would run as fast as I could to my room and close the door so fast that a loud slam would follow. I would hide in my room hearing two voices, the one in my head speaking words only I could hear, and the other was the voice of my adoptive mother at the time screaming “Why are you like this!” before the inevitable holds that would soon follow each episode.

Why am I like this? Why am I the one of among three (at the time present) brothers who sees my past as if it were in front of me? Why am I the one who hears the voices whispering in my ear that nobody else seemed to hear, deceiving me to a path of self destruction? I was scared, alone, confused, and let down. At the time I had a very religious adoptive mother. God’s word was what I should live by, and most importantly, god makes no mistakes. If god makes no mistakes then what am I? Why am I not perfect? I dreaded the day I saw coming, the day she had no more fight in her. I was given up for adoption for the second time at the age of nine. I remember feeling at my all-time low, that there really was something wrong with me.

I was sent to a residential program where I learned that I was not the only one with issues that needed to be worked on. I remember residential programs to hold both my fondest and darkest memories. I learned how to accept that I have mental health issues. I learned to forgive and move on. Through building relationships with those who have been on, or continue to be on the same journey as I was, I learned that there was nothing for me to be ashamed of. Today I know that if I was in an environment where my mental health could be embraced and not repressed and shamed, things would have turned out differently. I guess I can now say I am proud to have mental health issues because it has made me resilient, strong, and a fighter. Characteristics I may not have developed, given a “normal” life. I stand proud with my mental health, do you?

Matt Anderson is a young adult whose focus is on supporting and advocating for youth and families of mental health. He is currently working in the peer support field.

 

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