[Image description: a soft pink medicine box. Peaking outside of the box is a blister pack of small white circular tablets. The words on the box read Escitalopram. 10 mg. Contains 28 tablets. Take 1 time a day in the morning. For +10 DEF against anxiety & depression. ]

Mission Unlocked: Navigating Mental Health & Intersecting Identities

by Si Lexa

[Image description: a soft pink medicine box. Peaking outside of the box is a blister pack of small white circular tablets. One is missing. The words on the box read Escitalopram. 10 mg. Contains 28 tablets. Take 1 time a day in the morning. For +10 DEF against anxiety & depression. ]
[Image description: a soft pink graphic emulating a pop-up window on a computer. In the middle there is a illustration of a pixelated purple heart. The font on the graphic is bubbly. It says ALERT! Dear MC, Payer 2 has joined your quest! If you click “YES”, the following quest will be in ‘Co-op’ mode. Defend your base(s) from Generalized Anxiety Disorder’s (GAD) attack. (CAUTION: JOINT FORVED ATTRACT STRONGER FOES!) Continue? At the bottom, the graphic has one large YES on the left and one large NO on the right.]

Salutations dear reader! I want to take you on a tale of my ongoing quest of battling two major antagonists: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD). My quest has not always been a smooth sailing trip, as there have been other ‘mini bosses’ that I have encountered throughout the past year. You might gasp at the thought of battling multiple villains and possibly respond:

“B-but Main Character… what do you mean by ‘mini bosses’? I thought that you only have to fight two villains.” WRONG.

When you are trying to defeat your personal antagonists, there are some instances where you will encounter additional quests. This is the case for those who have lived experience of navigating intersecting identities. What could those additional villains be? I shall introduce you to three of the main ‘mini bosses’ in my quest: stigma, pitfalls, and queerphobia.

The first henchman that I encountered in my mission of fighting the dreadful GAD and PD monsters is stigma. This villain feeds itself on the remarks that demonize people with mental health issues through the use of labels that describe them as being ‘sinners’ or as people who have been possessed by demons. The stigma monster also thrives in conservative communities that still perceive people with mental health issues as ‘lacking in faith’. Do not underestimate this villain’s power; at one point I was caught under its spell of internalised shame, which caused me to doubt my decision of equipping antidepressants to gain extra defense points against anxiety. In order to ward off the stigma’s internalised shame spell, one must always remind themselves that seeking help is not something to be ashamed of. If you are an ally in another person’s quest of fighting monsters, do not shame/belittle them otherwise you will only make the stigma monster’s attack a lot stronger.

What’s this? The anxiety monster has cast another spell. ANXIETY monster has released another henchman: PITFALLS.

Ah yes the ever dreadful pitfalls monster! Unfortunately, this particular being is invisible to some characters because it preys upon international students. Due to the fact that not everyone encounters this being, characters who battle this villain are often overlooked. One must obtain the scroll of Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to unlock additional support from mental health professionals, and it does come with a price.

Finally, here comes the toughest mini boss in my quest: queerphobia. It is a wizard who has the power to cast a dangerous spell called hostility. The queerphobia monster also has another attack up its sleeve, where it could shroud a person in a cloud of self-hatred towards their identity. You see… once the cloud of self-hatred is internalised, it seeps into the person’s mind, and in my case it has affected my current relationship. It often presents itself as a whisper that constantly tells myself that I am less of a queer person because of my current relationship. It feeds itself through remarks that invalidate my identity through statements such as ‘it’s just a phase’ or ‘why can’t you pick a side?’.

At this point in the story, you might be thinking that that seems like a lot of side quests involving different mini bosses. However, I shall assure you that I am not alone in this fight. While there are some cases where my journey is dealt with in isolation, I’ve begun to gain support mainly from my sister and my friends, but now…

PLAYER 2 HAS ENTERED THE GAME!

I have gained a partner in battling the GAD monster. While it is true that the GAD monster has become a joint quest between my partner and I, bear in mind that we have our separate side quests and mini bosses. Sometimes our mini-bosses are invisible to each other, and we cannot be directly involved, but it’s important to keep in mind that we are allies and that we have each others’ backs.

As I look back on my quest over the past year, I vividly remember how the thought of sharing my story seemed impossible. I’ve slowly opened my doors to reach out to people with similar battles and welcome allies into my quest. I have also given the chance to be completely honest with myself. Perhaps this could be a stepping stone into a new branch in my quest? Who knows?

Si Lexa is your cat-loving queer nerd with an immense love of social justice and puns. Si Lexa uses she/they pronouns and is currently paving their way through final year of an English/Linguistics degree. You can find her/them on Instagram at @lethargiclexaproleftie. 

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