“We are as diverse as the rainbows that fill the sky.”
To celebrate Pride Month in June, we wanted to highlight the unique experiences of the members of our chronic illness community who are also members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Today’s email is by Stephen Fratello, a Mighty contributor who lives with chronic conditions including mast cell activation syndrome, anxiety and depression.
It can be tough living with a chronic illness, and one decision we all face is who to “come out” to about our health challenges. I know about coming out because I’m gay. I also live with chronic illnesses.
Sometimes it can feel like I am continually having to decide how to reveal my health challenges and when. I try to determine if the person is a safe person to open up to. It can provoke a lot of anxiety and questions. Things like, “Will I be judged and rejected?” “Can I handle being abandoned for something that is beyond my control?” “Will people understand me?”
While I am long past any insecurities about my sexuality, it is not so simple when it comes to my diagnoses. Having depression and anxiety can carry a lot of stigma. Having a physical illness that is not fully understood in the medical field, as well as in society as a whole, can be really frustrating. It creates a lot of obstacles and it takes a deliberate choice to live authentically and unashamed.
I was inspired by singer Mariah Carey, who came out this past year about her struggle with bipolar II disorder. She once wrote the following in the liner notes of her CD, “Rainbow”:
In a perfect world,
Human beings would co-exist,
Harmoniously, like a rainbow,
A multitude of colors,
Each layer vibrant and clear by itself,
But in unison…
Boundless, breathtaking, celestial…
I just want to reach out and encourage everyone in the LGBT community to share their stories of illness, just as we come together to share our stories about who we are. We are as diverse as the rainbows that fill the sky. We all have a unique story to tell and in doing so, we make others feel less alone and marginalized, while simultaneously finding liberation for ourselves. It’s no wonder the symbol for the LGBTQ community is the rainbow – it’s a beautiful representation of the diversity that exists in the world.
It’s my hope that Mariah’s words come true — that all of us, no matter who we are, or what our challenges may be — might come together and live harmoniously, claiming our place in the world with authenticity, vulnerability and compassion for one another.
Please share your story at http://www.themighty.com.