Negative experiences like stigma, bullying and discrimination are a daily reality for many LGTBQ people. Not to mention the constant barrage of negative news stories ― like extreme bias against transgender individuals ― that blatantly send the message that a person is “wrong” or “broken” just for being who they are or living authentically. As a result, queer individuals are three times more likely to live with a mental health disorder like major depression or anxiety, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
That’s where therapy can be a powerful resource. The process helps people deal with very real issues that can take a toll on their mental health. Research also shows talk therapy can positively, physiologically rewire the brain, which may be responsible for a patient’s long-term recovery from their struggles surrounding mental health.
But don’t just let the data speak for itself; take it from the people who experienced the benefits of seeing a mental health professional firsthand. We asked LGBTQ members of our Twitter and Facebook communities to share how therapy transformed their lives for the better.
Below are just a few of the ways the process helped them work through issues with their relationships, sexuality, identity and self-esteem:
“Counseling brought so much peace and enjoyment to my work now that I don’t fear telling my patients I have a wife ... ”
A huge part of that anxiety was my fear of being judged for being a lesbian at work. I am a nurse and it seemed every day I heard, ‘Oh, your husband must blah blah blah.’ I actually was worried that in correcting a patient or family member I would make them feel stupid or bad for being wrong. I made their feelings more important than my own. So, after a particularly heated counseling session, this all came to the surface and my counselor talked me through some scenarios and then she said, ‘Have you thought about how much you may be helping these patients by telling them you’re gay?’
That was a few years ago and since then I somehow find a way to say ‘my wife’ in the beginning of the shift so I eliminate even having to correct them. Not one person has said a negative or hurtful thing. Counseling brought so much peace and enjoyment to my work now that I don’t fear telling my patients that I have a wife, not a husband! ―Katherine Bang
“Having a space where you can talk about anything that comes to mind without judgment is really invigorating ... ”
This past year I made the decision to start going to a therapist and it has been amazing. Having a space where you can talk about anything that comes to mind without judgment is really invigorating. I have had the opportunity to talk about relationships with my family, my concerns about my alcohol use, my identity as a gay Latinx man, and a new relationship with an amazing human. It has given me an outlet to think through things that may be bothering me, get different perspectives on problems I may be facing, and really explore who I am and what I care about. I love it. ―Alexander Limas
“I found coping skills and finally got my medications balanced to help ... ”
I have struggled with mental illness my whole life. I am still learning to live with bipolar disorder every day. After the 2016 election, my mental illness put a filter in my mind that blocked all the things that previously made me feel good, like having a great wife, my kids being honors students, having a career that I am proud of and giving back to my community through volunteering. When I realized I couldn’t go on anymore I checked myself in to an intense outpatient therapy. I found coping skills and finally got my medications balanced to help. I felt a lot better and was able to see the things that made me feel good. ―LeAnne Manuel
“So much shame can be internalized when you grow up believing who you are is wrong ... ”
Therapy drastically changed my life. So much shame can be internalized when you grow up believing who you are is wrong. Therapy helped change my way of thought, eradicate some old defense mechanisms and write not just one, but two books. ―Andrew Kendall
“I can feel that I respect myself more and more every day and it’s great ... ”
I was having a lot of panic attacks, scared of being in crowded places and feeling anxious anytime I was a bit drunk or around too many people. I feel so much more comfortable about being myself after starting therapy. I deal with things differently and learned so much about how my body and mind work. I can feel that I respect myself more and more every day and it’s great! I really feel like it changed my life. Now I have a boyfriend that I love, something that I never felt that would happen to me, I respect my body and myself, I love myself and I am proud of what I have achieved. I recommend therapy to everybody. We must take care of our minds the same way (or more) than with our body. Mental health is as important as physical health. ―Lucas de Lima
“I was having an identity crisis and probably would have spiraled into a pretty severe depression if not for her support and guidance ... ”
I’ve been in therapy off and on for the past eight years or so. I went to a Catholic high school, and was in total denial of my sexuality for years because of everything I was taught in school. My self-esteem was in the gutter, I had no confidence or assurance in myself, and I really had no idea who I was. I started therapy because I wanted to build some confidence and work through my anxiety.
I formed a really great relationship with my therapist over the years, and she was one of the first people I came out to. I remember sitting in her office and bawling my eyes out when I told her that I thought I might be gay. She helped me work through the tumultuous emotions and feel comfortable with even admitting it to myself. I was having an identity crisis and probably would have spiraled into a pretty severe depression if not for her support and guidance.
Years later, I am in grad school getting my degree in social work. I want to be the person for young LGBTQ people that she was for me. ―Mike Bishop
“In a few years, I’ll look back on this and thank myself for taking the time I needed to work on me ... ”
I’m a nonbinary human living in New York City. I have anxiety and OCD. Therapy is the reason I’m capable of telling you this. After months of coming to terms with whatever is going on in my head, I’m finally talking about it with friends and strangers ― a healing process that’s worked wonders.
My experiences with therapy are both positive and negative. I’ve had therapists that truly understand me as a person and therapists that I can’t seem to trust. It’s kind of like dating. As a queer person, therapy is a necessary part of my life. There’s a lot going on in the world around me as it pertains to my identity, but I find that the internal struggles are harder to overcome. Therapy has helped me start to face those struggles.
I know therapy won’t be a forever thing. In a few years, I’ll look back on this and thank myself for taking the time I needed to work on me. As for right now, I feel lighter. The clouds are finally starting to disappear. ―Gabrielle Ricci
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
#TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.