By Benny Cartwright
In the last edition of this paper, I wrote about a very important issue in the community: body shaming. I received a barrage of feedback — more than I think I ever have over my 20 years of writing for the local LGBTQ press — and I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who reached out, posted comments online or on the various social media that shared the column, sent me private messages, or spoke with me out and about.
By writing the column, I was not seeking any validation or fishing for comments, rather, I wanted to shine a light on the expectations we have for people’s bodies and the unwanted comments people make about bodies that don’t belong to them. While I appreciate everyone who did share with me that they think I look fine, great, handsome, etc., the comments and conversations that stood out to me most related to mental health struggles and the general discontent many people are feeling.
I’m not a mental health professional, so I don’t claim to have any special insight into any specific mental health issues people are facing. I can share, though, another reminder that we need to continue to do our best to be there for each other, in whatever way we have the ability to do so.
The world is really strange right now. And that strangeness is amplified on social media. Many people are being exposed to things that they would have never been exposed to before the advent of social media and our brains are adapting. Beyond that, we just came out of a pandemic that changed life for so many people for such a long time – including job losses, changes of life routines, and for some, the loss of loved ones. Many people have still not recovered from this very strange time in our human history, and some may never bounce back to the person they were before it.
We have conflicts in the Middle East right now, particularly in Israel and Palestine. I can’t claim to know much of anything about these centuries-long conflicts, so it’s not my place to comment or really form much of an opinion on it, but I know the atrocities that have happened across the world are weighing heavily on a lot of people. And some people, who are passionate about issues like this, are taking to social media to express their opinions, just to get into massive arguments with people who have differing opinions, and people online can be particularly cruel and cause some real trauma.
More locally, for those of us who live in San Diego, we are experiencing what has now been named the most expensive city in the nation to live in, with many of us – even those who work multiple jobs — barely hanging on. I’ve never seen so many people I know talk about or post on social media pondering if they should move out of state because they just don’t think they can make it here financially.
And on top of that, the homelessness crisis in San Diego and really the entire nation, is one like it has never been before; at least it is more visible than it ever has been before. It can be really taxing to see so many people struggling on the streets, some of them dealing with addiction or severe mental health issues, others just down on their luck. Some people have even shared with me that it scares them to see people suffering on the streets because they feel like they are just one emergency or missed paycheck away from being in that same place.
There’s also community infighting, political bickering, real and perceived threats of violence and danger to the LGBTQ community, family issues, health concerns, and so much more. We are all going through a lot and it sometimes feels like things aren’t going to improve anytime soon.
As I mentioned in the beginning, not being a mental health professional, I don’t have any solutions or recommendations to help people deal with the many real life stressors they are dealing with. What I can say is that, for those who have the capacity, we really need to be there for each other more than ever.
Be a shoulder to cry on, or lend your ear. Just listen without feeling the need to interject your own experiences or share advice. Sometimes, people just need to vocalize what they’re going through. Encourage your friends to take social media breaks and lots of them. The tool we once thought would connect us in such great ways has done that, but also caused people to become more divided and angrier than ever.
Seek resources that already exist. If you are one of the lucky ones who has an employer that provides benefits and an employee assistance program – take advantage of it! Most of these programs offer access to a host of professionals who can help you with all sorts of life challenges. Our local nonprofit service providers also offer many needed services that could be of help to you — don’t ever be afraid to ask, there are people who have dedicated their lives to serving others and are waiting for you to reach out.
And finally, if you’re in a position to do so, stand up and put yourself at the table to make changes to our community or world. I write about this frequently, but I always want to remind people whenever possible that you — yes you – can be on a community board of directors. You can be our next city council member or senator.
There is a very small group of interconnected people who have been making decisions for us for far too long. I know that many of their decisions have made me very unhappy, which is why I have future plans to run for elected office. If that’s something that interests you, consider doing it, too!
It’s rough out there and I just want to make sure everyone can find ways to be ok. Please continue to look out for each other and never be afraid to ask for help!
Have a great November!
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