Campbell comes to terms with mental health, embraces identity

%E2%80%9CI+know+it%E2%80%99s+cliche%2C+but+if+I+ever+have+any+negative+thoughts+I+just+tell+myself+%E2%80%98hey%2C+can%E2%80%99t+do+that%E2%80%99.+That+actually+kind+of+works.+Some+people+have+more+problems+with+body+imagery+and+that%E2%80%99s+like+what+I+have%2C+especially+with+the+gender+stuff.+I%E2%80%99ll+look+in+the+mirror+and+think+%E2%80%98disgusting%E2%80%99%2C+but+if+I+looked+at+my+friend+and+they+looked+at+themselves+and+said+disgusting%2C+I+would+tell+them+%E2%80%9Cyou+cute%E2%80%99.+So+I%E2%80%99ve+started+to+think+%E2%80%98would+I+treat+my+friend+like+this%E2%80%99%2C%E2%80%9D+Campbell+said.+%E2%80%9C%5BI+know%5D+that%E2%80%99s+cheesy%2C+but+it+works.+I%E2%80%99m+trying+to+see+myself+as+another+person.+I+wouldn%E2%80%99t+say+%5Bthose+things%5D+to+anyone+else+out+loud%2C+I+like+to+consider+myself+a+nice+person%2C+so+why+am+I+saying+that+to+myself.%E2%80%9D

Jane Thompson

“I know it’s cliche, but if I ever have any negative thoughts I just tell myself ‘hey, can’t do that’. That actually kind of works. Some people have more problems with body imagery and that’s like what I have, especially with the gender stuff. I’ll look in the mirror and think ‘disgusting’, but if I looked at my friend and they looked at themselves and said disgusting, I would tell them “you cute’. So I’ve started to think ‘would I treat my friend like this’,” Campbell said. “[I know] that’s cheesy, but it works. I’m trying to see myself as another person. I wouldn’t say [those things] to anyone else out loud, I like to consider myself a nice person, so why am I saying that to myself.”

By Caleb Goss, Harrisonburg High School

Facing mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and gender dysphoria, Grayson works on his mental health and his journey to find self love with help from his friends and his community.

It started at a young age. After seeing a counselor and receiving medication for severe anxiety when he was seven, junior Grayson Campbell went on to battle and struggle with other diagnosed mental illnesses such as depression, which stemmed from a long cross country trip through Europe where he felt alone. Coming to terms with his sexuality and gender, Campbell is also in the process of being diagnosed with gender dysphoria since coming out as transgender. As he’s grown and changed over time, Campbell acknowledges he has come to terms with the fact that it’s not just about what you think, but how you think, as he works towards self love.

“I just thought negatively all the time. Some of the things that go on, especially with gender is a lot. My anxiety has always been there. I feel when that gets worse. I just have paranoid times and that led to a lot of my depressive thoughts and just convincing myself that a lot of bad things happened to either me or the people I loved. I think that was at the same time, but as soon as I started thinking about my gender identity, that made me feel grosser,” Campbell said.

For Campbell, this search for self love started growing after he began feeling comfortable in his body. Eight days later after coming out, Campbell cut his hair. Flooded with relief, he started wearing men’s clothing and a chest binder.

“That was a huge relief because it took me a couple years to come to terms with the fact that I was trans, and when I finally did, I was like ‘man this sucks’. It’s a hard thing to know you’re in the wrong body and that was definitely adding on even if I didn’t want to admit it. I was definitely like ‘no I’m not trans. No I’m not trans,” Campbell said. “I saw where it had been affecting me that I didn’t even know. I was like ‘oh this feels so much better’,” Campbell said.

Not only did Campbell make adjustments to his appearance, he adjusted his way of thinking.

“It hit me in third grade and [I] was like ‘something is not right here’. I’ve always been a girl or I had always been a girl and that sucked, but in my head of course, I call myself a girl so, sometimes I just catch myself doing that without thinking and then I’m like ‘oh wait, I’m actually living the life I want to live right now, I’m able to transition,” Campbell said.

Campbell has found comfort and safety in his friends and in the LGBTQ community where he doesn’t feel alone. He has discovered a newfound pride in himself and his identity.

“My first thought on [being in the community] is having a word to describe what I am and knowing that I’m not the only person going through that, [it’s] really nice. I don’t think I’ll ever completely be out and proud. I won’t be like ‘I’m trans’ until I super dooper pass,” Campbell said. “When people don’t question that I’m a guy. I’ll be a trans advocate all the way, but even now I’m trying to learn to come [to terms] and be proud. It’s part of me and I can’t get away from that.”

Being proud isn’t always an easy thing but he realizes he just has to embrace it.

“I’ve always had a hard time being proud of myself for anything really. I was always super out about my sexuality in middle school, I just didn’t want it to be some big secret. It was just normal,” Campbell said. “I was super out and proud then, but at this point, I just want to pass, so I was just like ‘I can’t say anything about it’. I’ve just come to realize that it is part of me and it’s not a part that I’ll ever be able to get rid of unless I were to go back into the closet which is not possible. I really just come to the point where, what else do I do except be proud of it at this point. That doesn’t work for everyone, but that’s how I’m gonna be. I might as well embrace it,” Campbell said.

For years, mental health has been a taboo subject. As numbers rise in Virginia with 130,000 children and adolescents suffering from serious mental illnesses according to vakids.org, it is unclear if the numbers are rising, or if more people are just open to discussing how they feel. Campbell has found it easier to be open about his struggles with mental health, as he represents just one out of 130,000.

“[It’s] a lot harder because there’s always a stigma around needing mental help that we’re just getting over right now as a society. I see a lot more positive things about it currently than I ever have. Right now I feel like I can relate to other people and it feels really nice, but there are still points when it’s hard to just say what you are feeling and expect everyone to understand,” Campbell said. “I have had my friends and they are definitely there. I’m not the only one of my friends who have various mental issues. They’re all different. We’re really there for each other because we understand. I’m just glad as people we’re coming around to a point where it’s not normal, but acceptable.”

Campbell was affected by the negative stigma of mental health until he told his close friends as a cry for help. He now takes the opportunity to be there and help others who are now in the same position he once was.

“For whatever reason, I just had it in my head that mental illness was this super big weakness that I just could not tell people. I was suffering so much when I was younger. I mean my life is fine, I’m pretty privileged and I’m living life, but there’s just something in my brain, like the chemical make-up is like ‘no, now you’re sad’,” Campbell said. “It was really hard at first to ask for help because I was just going through so much, putting myself through so much, but now that I’ve definitely healed some, I try to be there more for other people because I know that’s what I needed. So, I try to take advantage of that knowledge and try to help other people if they need it,” Campbell said.

Campbell sees the positive outlet social media gives people, even with the it’s negative aspects. This gateway to expressing and relating to new people across the world helps both Campbell and those who feel alone.

“I think the first part of it is the science behind it. That’s had a lot of growth recently. We’ve learned a lot more from what I have done my research on. But then also with social media, it’s easier to be open to your screen and then other people see it and say ‘oh, me too’ and ‘oh, I’m not the only person suffering’,” Campbell said. “If you’re not allowed to talk about [it], you’re never going to know other people are going through what you’re going through and that’s lonely and worse. I think it just makes people feel better.”

Campbell realizes in order to push self growth and see improvement, he has to make his mental health a top priority as well as put himself first because, as his boss says, “you’re the main homie.”

“I know it’s cliche, but if I ever have any negative thoughts I just tell myself ‘hey, can’t do that’. That actually kind of works. Some people have more problems with body imagery and that’s like what I have, especially with the gender stuff. I’ll look in the mirror and think ‘disgusting’, but if I looked at my friend and they looked at themselves and said disgusting, I would tell them “you cute’. So I’ve started to think ‘would I treat my friend like this’,” Campbell said. “[I know] that’s cheesy, but it works. I’m trying to see myself as another person. I wouldn’t say [those things] to anyone else out loud, I like to consider myself a nice person, so why am I saying that to myself.”

Campbell not only has advice for himself, but also those who have anyone else in their life that are going through something. Rather than assume, ask. Ask how they’re feeling, ask how you can help, but if they tell you they’re not ready then don’t force it, don’t ask.

“[One way you can help is by] being a listening ear if they ask and they trust you to listen. That’s always helpful and don’t assume about anything. Don’t assume, ask. I would much prefer people ask me questions about me being trans, but that also goes with mental illness,” Campbell said. “You don’t know what people are going through. You don’t know what’s causing this and you can’t say ‘oh just be happy’. Don’t assume and just be there for people if that’s what they ask and don’t force yourself onto them in a way where you’re like ‘I’m gonna help, tell me about your problems’. If they need help, they’re going to come to you, or they should. That’s another thing. If you need help, get it.”

This story was originally published on The Newsstreak on January 27, 2020.