Being queer in isolation

This article was written by MIRI, a musician and member of the Speakers Collective.

My artist name is MIRI and I'm a singer-songwriter. Being a musician has led me onto unexpected paths. My work now includes being a music mentor and facilitator for various music and mental health programmes. I have run music sessions in mental health units and worked on the wellbeing team for Girls Rock London.

Being queer with not much family contact or support during this pandemic has been a challenge. I've continued to work towards healthier life choices but it's been tough. Living in isolation reminded me how important being part of an LGBTQ+ community is for me.

“I’m still healing from all those years I suppressed my sexuality”

When you lack compassion and consistency in an important area of your life, you search for it in other places. I recently attended an online funding support session for LGBTQ+ creatives and saw an abundance of pronouns light up my computer screen. I felt at home. I realised how much I missed not being able to attend queer spaces in real life.

When I first came out, I was led to believe that my sexual identity wouldn't always feel so impactful and would eventually settle. Yet fast forward to now and it's become bigger for me.

In lockdown, I learnt that I'm still healing from all those years I suppressed my sexuality. I craved understanding and acceptance from the environment I grew up in but I realised that people can only truly comprehend if they put time, heart and energy into educating themselves on what it means to be LGBTQ+.

Part of my anxiety and mental health difficulties stems from suppressing my voice and truth. I was in primary school during the 80s and Section 28 played a harmful part in stunting my personal development and growth.

“I wanted to move forward with my life”

During the first lockdown, I had been doing counselling once a week. Counselling can be intense. Doing this in isolation without being able to gig or meet up with friends heightened that intensity. Although having this therapy was necessary for me at the time, I got to a point where I needed to change the route. I didn't want to feel angry any more. I wanted to move forward with my life.

I had originally accessed the services of a holistic lesbian and gay centre 10 years ago.

Based in East London, it offers a whole range of social, emotional and support services to LGBT+ communities. As I follow the centre on Twitter, I came across one of its opportunities. It was offering six free sessions to help people with their triggers, creating a self help toolkit. This was exactly what I needed and, after a few disappointing scenarios with counsellors, I longed to feel anchored again. I’d known the centre for a while so I trusted I'd be in safe hands.

“I’d be given a fresh outlook and actions to take”

I was assigned a wonderful mental health worker who created a wellbeing roadmap for me. These 1-2-1 sessions offered me a range of tools and activities. We looked at The Drama Triangle, which helped me to further understand patterns and behaviours. This helped me to gain more clarity which then gave me confidence to make alternative choices for myself. I was given grounding techniques, coping mechanisms, and even homework!

For one week I had to go away and write down all the things in my life that I found difficult; the people and situations that ignited my anxiety and low moods. We’d then talk through what I’d written in our next 1-2-1 and I’d be given a fresh outlook and actions to take.

Another week, we looked at safe spaces and I was asked to create a list of people who I feel comfortable to go to when I need that extra support. I learnt a little about body-based therapies. I’ve done kinesiology before and if I were to revisit counselling in the future, I would definitely wish to explore body psychotherapy.

In counselling, I was often working through and bringing up a lot of past trauma. This, of course, is important for many reasons. But I got stuck. Moving away from this particular talking therapy and entering a new chapter was necessary and offered me the support and space that I needed to feel better.

“Receiving help from an LGBTQ+ organisation brought me extra comfort”

Now, if I experience a challenging moment or situation, I know who to contact and I recognise my safe spaces that help me to feel grounded. I know to be kinder to myself and my body when I’m feeling vulnerable or distressed. For me this is invaluable and empowering.

I wouldn’t have known where to start with any of this if not for the support of the people at the centre. It can be easy to doubt oneself when treading a new pathway so having someone who genuinely cares and who is offering you guidance and assurance does wonders. Since these sessions, I have started to feel lighter and a sense of relief. It's been rocky at times but I feel more self-assured in the direction I’m taking.

Identifying our needs and the type of support that is right for us is key. Receiving help from an LGBTQ+ organisation brought me the extra comfort and safety that I needed in order to keep growing and learning.

A message from us

Just as MIRI sought support from a specialist organisation, there are lots of other LGBTQ+ counselling services across London available to support you. Search online or visit your local council or NHS website to find support organisations and community groups in your area.

Good Thinking provides a range of resources to support your mental health, including NHS-approved wellbeing apps, expert advice, podcasts and videos. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or sad, you might find the following helpful.

Five ways to good mental wellbeing (article)

Self-assessment tool (anxiety, stress, low mood, sleep and general wellbeing)

Self-compassion workbook

Speakers Collective Mini-Series (videos)

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