"The queer community has often had to look outside of the mainstream for support, mental health-wise," says Shira Erlichman, writer of Odes to Lithium about living with bipolar disorder. "But the idea that we have to bear the entire weight of others' struggles, or provide consistent emotional labor, or even put ourselves in harm's way to aid a friend is a dead-end."
Erlichman is referring to the ways trauma is inherent to queer upbringings. And as a consequence of our disenfranchisement, we often don't have access to the necessary resources or mental health counseling we deserve, and therefore turn to each other and our chosen families for emotional support. "Unless we're social workers, we're not social workers, so employ boundaries and share your limitations as openly as you do your empathy," she says.
We can't "fix" the people we want to nurture, nor do we have an unlimited amount of emotional energy to help heal that hurt. "No matter where we find comfort, guidance, or meaning -- all very important things -- we need to understand that mental illness is just that," she says. "Be honest, so you can heal."