I Am Having A Crisis & Can't Go On
Living day to day and dealing with racism, transmisogyny, ableism, (cis)sexism, and/or homophobia has a seriously bad effect on mental health. Marginalized peoples always have much higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, and developing personality disorders and other seriously difficult mental health problems.
If you are struggling and you don't know if you can go on, I want to let you know that I've been there. I've been there so many times and it hasn't even been that long since the last time. I want you to know that persevering is the biggest middle finger to everyone who's ever hurt you. The fact that you're here reading this shows that you have the strength to keep going. I believe in you. Let me guide you through some things that might help.
First, dunk your head in cold water
Get a large bowl and fill it with cold water. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and put at least the top half of your face (eyes, forehead, cheeks) in the bowl of cold water for around thirty seconds or as long as you can hold your breath. You can also dampen a rag or fill a freezer bag with water. Then, put the bag or rag on your eyes and cheeks while holding your breath. Thirty seconds, same deal. Please don't involve ice in this process. I tried that one time and it was way too cold.
You might be thinking "why am I doing this?" Doing this to your face tricks your body into thinking you're underwater. When it thinks you're underwater, it triggers the diving reflex which regulates blood flow and muscle tension. Even if you don't emotionally feel better, making your face cold like this will most likely cause an end to any panic attack.
You can also try doing some intense exercising or breathing exercises. I've detailed these more in Attending To Your Body.
Consider calling a hotline
I have had personal experience with the Trans Lifeline and can definitely say they saved my life. I know it feels cheesey but it's worth trying. It can't make anything any worse, right?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US): 1-800-SUICIDE (hearing) 1-800-799-4889 (hard of hearing)
Text messaging based crisis service: text 741-741
Trans Lifeline, for transgender people having a crisis: US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366
Trevor Project Hotline for LGBT teens (US): 1-800-4-U-TREVOR
GLBT Helpline for all ages (US): 1-888-843-4564
For other countries, here is a list of suicide hotlines by country.
I unfortunately couldn't find any identity-specific hotlines besides the "LGBT" ones. There don't appear to be any. The National Organization of People of Color Against Suicide (NOPCAS) has partnered with 1-800-SUI-CIDE at least.
Consider Therapy & Make Plans to Get There
Many of the skills on this website were taken from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), such as that thing about dunking your head in water. DBT is the form of therapy I use for myself, and personally I've found it incredibly helpful. Really though, any form of therapy is worth trying. If you're currently in psychotherapy and you're really not into it, then consider finding another therapist or another form of therapy.
I'm going to be honest, getting to therapy can be hard! It took me years to finally get to therapy. If you're in the U.S., there's a really good directory of therapists at Psychology Today. What I did was look through a directory that was specific to therapists who take my insurance.
The Safety Planning Skill was crucial for me when I was trying to get to therapy. I made plans with friends to sit with me as I called important numbers. I made plans with friends to spend time before and after in-take to make it less intense. I asked friends to hold me accountable, to check-in and ask "Have you called that number yet? Have you made progress in getting to therapy?"
If you don't have a support network who can help you in that way, you can try making a plan with someone from a hotline. When I called the Trans Lifeline, they helped me turn what seemed like an inescapable situation into a plan to get out of it. Whenever I started to panic, I returned to my plan. In time, I eventually made it to therapy.
It's understandable that the framework of therapy doesn't work for everyone. You are not obligated to go to therapy. I'm not suggesting therapy because I think there's anything wrong with you. It's just something that I've personally found useful and I think is worth trying if you're already at the point where you aren't sure if you can go on.
Other things to consider before giving up
Our bodies are our emotions. Feeling awful is a collection of things that pile up. Going through all the little things that might suck can reduce how much everything sucks overall. These are taken from Everything Is Awful and I'm Not Okay.
- Are you dehydrated? Try drinking some water.
- Have you eaten in a while? Try having a good meal.
- Have you showered in a while? Try cleaning your body.
- Do you have medications? Have you taken them today? Try taking your meds.
- Have you been wearing the same outfit for a while? Are you just in your sleeping clothes? Try changing into clean clothes and underwear.
- Do you feel ineffective? Powerless? Try accomplishing a small chore, like picking up some trash from the ground or emptying the disk rack. Maybe clean a few dishes. Taking out the trash is a good too if you're able to do that.
- Wait a week. Remember that things haven't always been like this and they probably won't stay like this.
If you've checked all of these, you'll probably still feel bad. The reasons you feel bad are legitimate and aren't just because you're hungry. However, eliminating all these little things makes it so you have less to deal with and you won't feel quite so bad.
Given the nature of this article, doing footnote citations seemed to be dissonant with the tone. These are all the citations about how microaggressions cause mental health problems, so that can at least be validating.
Burn, S., Kadlec, K., & Rexer, R. (2005). Effects of Subtle Heterosexism on Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals. Journal of Homosexuality*, 49(2), 23–38. http://doi.org/10.1300/J082v49n02_02
Deborah Tannen. (1986). That’s no what I meant! How conversational style makes or breaks you relations with others. New York, NY, USA: Ballantine Books.
Donovan, R. A., Galban, D. J., Grace, R. K., Bennett, J. K., & Felicié, S. Z. (2013). Impact of Racial Macro- and Microaggressions in Black Women’s Lives A Preliminary Analysis. Journal of Black Psychology, 39(2), 185–196. http://doi.org/10.1177/0095798412443259
Hernández, P., Carranza, M., & Almeida, R. (2010). Mental health professionals’ adaptive responses to racial microaggressions: An exploratory study. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 41(3), 202–209. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0018445
Huebner, D. M., & Davis, M. C. (2007). Perceived antigay discrimination and physical health outcomes. Health Psychology, 26(5), 627–634. http://doi.org/10.1037/0278-6220.127.116.117
Kevin Nadal. (2013). That’s So Gay: Microaggressions & The LGBT Community. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Mays, V. M., & Cochran, S. D. (2001). Mental Health Correlates of Perceived Discrimination Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91(11), 1869–1876.
Meyer, I. H. (1995). Minority Stress and Mental Health in Gay Men. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36(1), 38–56. http://doi.org/10.2307/2137286
Nadal, K. L., Davidoff, K. C., Davis, L. S., & Wong, Y. (2014). Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive reactions to microaggressions: Transgender perspectives. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(1), 72–81. http://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000011
Nadal, K. L., Skolnik, A., & Wong, Y. (2012). Interpersonal and Systemic Microaggressions Toward Transgender People: Implications for Counseling. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 6(1), 55–82. http://doi.org/10.1080/15538605.2012.648583
Nadal, K. L., Wong, Y., Griffin, K. E., Davidoff, K., & Sriken, J. (2014). The Adverse Impact of Racial Microaggressions on College Students’ Self-Esteem. Journal of College Student Development, 55(5), 461–474. http://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2014.0051
Torres, L., & Taknint, J. T. (2015). Ethnic microaggressions, traumatic stress symptoms, and Latino depression: A moderated mediational model. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(3), 393–401. http://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000077