MindOut ambassador and alt-R&B singer, ABISHA, talks LGBTQ mental health

brown appearing person crouching down and looking into the camera.

Hi Abisha, thanks for talking to MindOut and being an LGBTQ mental health super hero!

Can you tell us a bit about your own mental health challenges?

I think that I face a lot of the same challenges as the majority of people my age. I’ve struggled with anxiety since I can remember. I was a very anxious child but it came across as just being extremely shy. As I got older it began to affect me wanting to go out or see friends, and it was taking its toll on my social life. I learnt over the past 2 years how to handle these anxious feelings by identifying where they came from and noticing patterns. Through doing this, I realised that so much of my anxiety was because I was so afraid of what others would think; whether that was in relation to my appearance, my clothes, my hair, or just in general. Over the past year especially, I’ve learnt to not care what other people think of me, and I’ve felt a lot freer and happier and genuinely more comfortable with who I am.

How does this relate to being LGBTQ?

Growing up I already felt very different due to being mixed race in a predominantly white area, and I hated this. I just wanted to look like everyone else and ‘fit in’. When I realised that I was gay, this was something else that just made me feel even more different. I think this added to my anxiety as I was scared of what people would think and how they would react, and I still feel like this in certain situations where I have to ‘come out’ to new people.

Did coming out effect your mental health positively or negatively, or both?

I came out when I was 17, pretty much as soon that I figured out that I was gay. So I didn’t spend a long time thinking about needing to come out, or being afraid to come out. When I say I came out, I never actually really did. One of my friends outed me to the rest of our friends, and my mum found out through reading my messages. So I hate to admit it but I never actually had to initiate the conversation with the people closest to me.

Because I was just coming to terms with my sexuality at the time that I came out, and it wasn’t a secret that I’d been keeping or scared to open up about for a long time, coming out didn’t have a huge impact on me mentally. My friends were very relaxed and accepting, which was great. I had other openly LGBTQ friends too so it didn’t feel like too much of a big deal. My mum didn’t take it well at first, which of course had a negative mental effect for a while, but she’s okay with it now.

How has the pandemic affected your mental health?

I feel like the pandemic has had a yoyo affect on my mental health. Each lockdown I experienced a different mental state! The first lockdown was great, I enjoyed the sun and being able to just chill on my balcony and be creative, the second lockdown wasn’t so great because of the weather so I wasn’t so inspired to be creative. I also struggled with not being able to see friends and family around the time of my birthday. Towards the end of the last pandemic I

had a huge mental shift and started focusing on things and people that make me happy, speaking up more, focusing more on my work and what I love to do, which has made me feel a lot better mentally.

What do you do to keep your mental wellbeing in check?

By finding happiness and joy in the ‘little things’. I look forward to my morning coffee, walking my dog, fresh bed sheets, buying flowers; little things like that. By being more grateful for these things, I’m keeping my vibration high and my mood up, consequently attracting more positivity and happiness.

What’s the best support you’ve experienced for your mental health?

The best support for me and my mental health is my loved ones. My friends and my mum are my go-to when I’m feeling down and they always know how to support me and make me feel better. I also had therapy for a while which helped me through a hard time, and I recommend this too. For some reason therapy is still quite taboo, and it shouldn’t be. I feel like people are becoming more open to it though, which I’m so happy about!

Why have you decided to support MindOut and be an ambassador for LGBTQ mental health?

Both mental health and LGBTQ are both extremely important to me and very close to my heart. I can put myself in the shoes of those who are struggling or feeling down and feel as though they have no one to relate to. I know how it feels to struggle as a result of not feeling like it’s okay to be who you are, and I want to let people know that who they are is perfect. I’d love to be a positive role model for LGBTQ people to look up to and feel proud that they are part of the community. I want to make it a happy, welcoming, and safe space full of love and acceptance where everyone is equal.

What tunes do you listen to improve your mood?

I blast Rihanna on shuffle!!

Why is Pride season important to you?

Pride season is so important to me because it is an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate and feel proud of who they are. It’s also an amazing opportunity for everyone to educate themselves on how Pride began, the pioneering black drag queens that stood up for our rights and demanded that LGBTQ people were treated equally alongside cisgender and straight people.

In the spirit of RuPauls’s drag race, what would you say to 5-year-old Abisha?

I would tell 5 year old Abisha that being different is her superpower, no one else is her, so to celebrate being different and love herself for standing out!!

Check out ABISAH’s latest song here: https://ingroov.es/if-you-were-mine-ctizc. 

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