We’re pretty fortunate in Las Vegas. We enjoy weather that is warm and invigorating almost all year round. Take it from this Midwesterner. I am reminded that in many areas of the country, with the passage of Spring, people are looking forward to a healthy and active summer. “Spring has finally sprung in Chicago,” some good friends texted me just the other night from Chicago. Winter and the long season of inclement weather is over. People are looking forward to the invigoration of going outside. We’re motivated to get active, to lose weight in order to get into our bathing suits. There’s a general sense of getting fit and making ourselves fit. It is an annual and cyclic ritual of sorts.
I’m constantly reminded of our ability to be emotionally fit and well balanced. We’re made aware of those challenges in our work at The Center where we have the privilege to serve a wide variety of individuals in our LGBTQ community. As LGBTQ we face extraordinary odds as we live life out and proud. But living in a way that is true to ourselves can sometimes be extraordinarily challenging. We have to stay healthy amid the stresses. And, like those who are gym buddies who rely on the support of one another to pursue fitness and well-being, we need to rely on one another to challenge us to be emotionally fit and strong.
There is significant research that suggests that LGBTQ people are likely to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. In one national study comparing LGBTQ people and heterosexual groups, researchers found that gay and bisexual men were more likely to report major depression and panic disorder. Lesbian and bisexual women were more than three times likely to have experienced generalized anxiety disorder.
The reason for these wide disparities is most likely related to the societal stigma and resulting prejudice and discrimination that LGBTQ face on a regular basis from society at large, but more intimately, from family members, peers, co-workers and classmates. In a recent meeting that I attended in planning for our upcoming LGBTQIA Wellness Conference in June, one collaborator emphasized that “coming out” was a repetitive phenomenon. We have to constantly be alert to our environment. We have to be aware of the prejudice that exists. In each of these circumstances we have to be strong, proud, and continually come out. Being true to our very deepest selves is a constant challenge.
That’s where emotional fitness comes in. Because we’re taught to be self-made individuals, we believe that if we make all the right choices, life will be OK. Well, sometimes we make choices and at other times, choices are made for us or presented to us. That’s a fact of life.
Someone once said that daily life is like the weather: it is full of highs and lows, sunny days and rainy days, blizzards and hurricanes. I believe that weathering life’s storms is a learned skill. It requires a sort of fitness to be able to manage life in a balanced way. And, when we support one another in the journey, we promote emotional fitness.
We stay emotionally fit when we’re able to share with one another. I have been so privileged to take part in a variety of groups at The Center where LGBTQ from all walks of life freely share their experiences and their feelings in order to help another companion make sense of life. We are a generous community where we freely share our struggles and our successes. By doing so, we offer hope to one another. We become a source of hope. Others manage their own way because another has shared that they have been there and they have done that.
As we ponder fitness and well-being in this issue, let us be aware that fitness is much more than our ability to lessen body fat. It is more than building muscle mass. It is more than bulking up, looking buff, and being on top of our game when we get into our bathing suits. Fitness is a sense of being. It is maintaining a sense of balance and centeredness. It is our ability to be emotionally strong, rooted, and at peace so that we can weather the ups-and-downs of daily life and we can offer a helping hand to others who may need it.
I can’t speak more respectfully about our LGBTQ community. They are a community who cares and who show that care each and every day at The Center. The more rooted we are and fit as human beings, the better we can be of service to others. It’s time to get fit and to be emotionally fit for each other.