October 15, 2019
Brave Faces Advocates, Aiden Mares and David Wharton, shared their true stories of mental health recovery at Shasta College’s educational series, “All Things [Not] Being Equal: Gender in the North State,” a discussion on the intersection of mental health and gender.
In his youth, Aiden, a transgender man, struggled with anxiety and depression that he later discovered was related to intense gender dysphoria. When he realized the impact his depression was having on his daughter, he decided to search for the root of his mental health challenges.
Aiden said, “As a parent, I wanted my daughter to be happy. I asked myself, how can I show her what happiness is, when I don’t know what that is for myself?”
After doing some research and introspection, Aiden accepted transition as a necessary part of his wellness, despite the stigma he would face from friends, family and society.
David pushed through many layers of stigma to reach a place of healing in his life. As a gay man growing up in a religious family, in a time when being LGBTQ+ was not as accepted, he developed anxiety and depression over years of having to suppress his identity.
“I’ve learned that having to constantly hold in any part of your identity is destructive to your mental and physical health,” said David.
The stigma surrounding medication and counseling also influenced David’s well-being. Lacking support and healthy coping skills, David self-medicated, which led to a substance use disorder, which led to risky behavior and, eventually, a diagnosis of HIV. His life was upended when he got the news, but it also gave him a reason to seek the help that he needed.
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