The same-sex marriage postal survey currently being conducted across the country by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been, and will continue to be, a tough time for many in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Beyond Blue recently reported a 40 per cent increase in calls since the time the postal survey was announced, and other groups including ReachOut and Headspace have also reported spikes in engagement.
Personally, I've experienced a great deal of anxiety and bouts of depression since the survey was confirmed. I consider myself to have very thick skin - but the topic being so inescapable - wherever I am, every day - has not been easy. It's been overwhelming, and I am not ashamed to admit I've cried myself to sleep more than once.
I know my own self-care methods - they are tried and tested through many years of dealing with mental illness, and the never-easy situation of having to come out as a queer person. I'm lucky to be of an age that I've had time to develop these methods, as well as find myself in a place in my life where I can prioritise myself, and my loved ones thankfully support me. Still, I can't help but think back to myself at the age of 13 - I was vulnerable, I was struggling to fully comprehend and express my feelings, and I felt completely alone.
During the survey, it's time for us to pass the torch. Pass on our methods of self-care, just in case someone in our community is feeling lost, alone, and overwhelmed.
I spoke with a number of people in the community, asking them to divulge their methods of self-care. The responses range from specific and personal, to the very general advice of 'call a friend'. This might seem very simple, but in times of crisis, the simple things are easily forgotten.
Some of these methods may not be particularly helpful for you - everyone's different, and it's about trying a variety of things to figure out what works best. I hope the list helps you do that, if you're one of the many of us who are feeling not-so-great right now.
1. Chloe Sargeant, 26
"My favourite thing to do is surround myself with reminders of the enormous amount of love and support of the LGBTQIA community, around myself personally, and on a larger scale. If I feel up to being social, calling or catching up with a friend who's also within the community is always a good reminder that I'm not alone in this.
"If I'm feeling a little more introverted (which I often am), I love to dedicate a whole day to watching movies and television shows about queer history and culture, and reading books on the same topic. Movie and TV show suggestions include: Paris is Burning, Pride, Kinky Boots, RuPaul's Drag Race, Please Like Me, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (usually followed up by the excellent short doco on the making of it, Between a Frock and a Hard Place).
"Other self-care methods that help distract me and calm me are: hugging my partner for an extremely long time, taking a book to one of my favourite quiet pubs and reading in the sun with a cold beer, dancing in my room with headphones to a playlist made up of iconic queer music, and having a long bath (complete with a lovely-smelling essential oils) and doing a DIY facial to soothe my stressed skin.
"None of these things are new, or particularly unique - but they make me feel a bit better when I'm anxious or feeling down."
2. Eliot Hastie, 26
"Self-care is something I have never thought anything about until this debate. For me, I get it all out at the gym. I know this doesnt work for everyone as the gym is still a scary environment for many in the LGBTQIA+ community but it works for me.
"Every day at lunch I smash out a gym session after a mostly full morning of reading this debate sh*t. It also really helps for a run in the morning if you've seen stuff at night. Exercise has always cleared my head and honestly it's the only thing thats keeping me sane during the debate."
3. Hayley Rochefort, 33
"Ordering takeout and watching Brooklyn 99 (Fun! Hilarious! Not problematic!) instead of [watching] the news."
4. Samuel Leighton-Dore, 26
"Making little holiday plans for AFTER the results are announced, so I've got something lovely and relaxing to look forward to regardless of the result.
"Also, making time for all the little people in my life, friends' babies and little cousins - those who are too young to learn prejudice and have no grasp of what's going on. It's super soul nourishing."
5. Amelie, 27
"Spending the day out in the sun, or spending time with other queer people helps me to not feel so isolated."
6. Mitchell Steed, 31
"Music - I have created a few Queer playlists featuring artists who identify as queer, lyrics with queer undertones or just down right queer icon bangers that make me feel all happy and dancey.
Movies and TV - I've been watching my fave queer movies and shows and have felt empowered to be strong.
Colour - I normally have fairly colourful clothing, but I've upped my game. I got myself a bright pink keep cup from IKEA, a yellow hat with sign language of "okay" embroider on the front, purple/ heaps of colourful socks, I have a full collection of Keith Haring tees I've been wearing (one of my fave artists) and a few tees by one of my fave queer graphic designs from NYC (Hey Rooney) . No matter where I look I'll catch a glimmer of the rainbow flag in my outfit reminding me of our amazing community and their support which makes me happy and feel safe.
Acts of kindness - I'm making much more effort to make people feel supported in public. Where ever I see a marriage equality tee, someone with queer tattoos, gay parents with their children, people with rainbows etc I smile, say hi, say thank you for their support etc. I've noticed that it not only makes me feel happy and safe, but I now walk down my local streets/go to local venues and have a very large community of allies who will greet me each day, smile or just be nicer in general.
Emojis - using way more colourful emojis on social media and n texts. Especially rainbow, glitter heart, painted nails and sparkles."
7. Antonia Vial, 22
"[I] listen to 'Not Worth Hiding' by Alex The Astronaut." [Author note: This beautiful song about coming out and proudly being who you are was recently recorded live by triple j - you can watch it below.]
8. Kelly Walker, 27
"I spend time with my partner and gay friends to focus on the fact we're not weird or different. We're just normal people doing normal things. I'm then reminded that venom being spewed is the problem of people spewing it, and it has nothing to do with my existence. I'm not wrong, they are."
9. Nayuka Gorrie, 27
"I cry. I text my mum. I talk to my partner. I keep thinking about my future children who will have queer parents. I keep having hot queer sex."
10. James Massey, 24
"I found a solid method of self-care last night: rum and Guitar Hero on 'Expert' = happy smiles. But more seriously, I always turn to music when I'm having a tough time. Just singing my feelings out helps tremendously."
11. Deirdre Fidge, 28
"I log the f**k off."
12. Lucy Watson, 27
"I drew a comic that expresses my feels:"
13. Elizabeth Duck-Chong
"I cry / talk to my partner, I cook for friends, I check in with queer friends just about how their days are going and to send cute pictures I've found. I go on long walks, and listen to podcasts about the horrible things happening in countries that aren't this one."
14. Kim Leutwyler, 33
"I turn to art for self-care. I paint LGBTQI+ identified and allied people I admire. [I] visit galleries and museums for some solitude in a crowd. [I] teach friends and strangers how to make ‘bad paintings’ while getting them outside of their comfort zones and making them laugh."
15. Carolyn Cage, 27
"I remember that in each city around Australia, tens of thousands of people marched through the streets dressed in rainbow, campaigning for our equal rights, showing a tremendous amount of love and support for our community."
16. Anonymous, 59
"I try to practice self-compassion every day, and practice mindfulness in order to keep the negative thoughts at bay. I also chose to volunteer at local charity, because I feel much better mentally knowing I'm helping someone else.
"I also try to take an hour every few days to just sit in silence, and read a book - making time in your daily life to rest and refuel makes the harder days far easier. Mostly, just be kind to yourself."
17. Eliza Berlage, 27
"I have been listening to lots of music, binge watching horror shows, started a new physical activity (pole dancing), I have been cooking nice food for myself, I try to check in with my queer pals and sent them cute pics or just say how much I care about them.
"It's hard sometimes 'cause I work as a journalist so I am reporting and exposed to a lot but I try to make sure I am putting the facts out there. Also on the weekends I try to do nice things outdoors instead of engaging online, or I read books."
18. Kaya Wilson, 33
"Around the same time as the postal vote was announced, I made a new Facebook page with my chosen name, and keep Facebook as a safe space with only people I know are on my team, so to speak."
19. Hannah Aroni, 26
"I'm a bi woman and dealing with the complication of not knowing how much this fight is my fight (I'm one of those "bad" bisexuals who dates mostly men) and so my self-care has involved seeking out and speaking with other community members with a similar positioning to my own and just spending time together (I'm finding that there are a lot of us electing to get involved in the front lines of the campaigning effort).
"In general, I think self-care for me means hanging out with community, and that the "self" part can be anywhere from misleading to irresponsible for a lot of us, when what we often need is to not withdraw or be alone with ourselves. (Different for introverts/those who recharge alone, of course!)
"Another big self-care thing for me is participating in imaginative and escapist hobbies like tabletop role playing - I get to both escape the world and play with tropes that are bugging me in the world in a safe and controlled manner, and it means I have a scheduled weekly hangout time with friends where we don't have to engage with anything except dumb jokes and our shared imagined world. Tabletop games can feel intimidating but they aren't all like Dungeons and Dragons (super rulesy and combat focused) and lots are good for working out frustrations about the world seeing you wrong or wishing you could rebuild society differently."
20. Laurence Barber, 24
"Other than slamming out angry thinkpieces, going to the cinema is often such a great tonic for me. Putting yourself in a space that deliberately seals you off from the rest of the world and, thereby, the news can be really restorative. Find something that's going to be cathartic and that can make you cry (or angry, or happy) for a reason that isn't related to your own pain is perfect; I see it as a way to release those emotions without allowing all the hate to be responsible for it. Also eat a whole packet of Maltesers while you're at it."
21. Amao Leota Lu, 46
"I draw upon my cultural identity; immersing myself in song, dance and humor. It's my go to when the Western world I live in gets too crazy. I am Samoan, Fa'afafine ([which is] a layered Rainbow community term).
My culture identity grounds and reminds me (of its general acceptance of Fa'afafine) that we are all human and that we all deserving of love.
I'm so proud of my Samoan cultural heritage and Fa'afafine identity. It allows me not to worry about constantly explaining my transgender status and to know and to see love and light at the end of the rainbow 🌈💕😊"
22. Harry Don Thump
"I quit my job, moved out of my house, packed a bag and ran. Probably not the healthiest option but an option nonetheless (there were other factors at play but this seemingly neverending debate on my legitimacy as a human was a big one). It's easier to block it out when you're not surrounded by it.
"Taking a step out of the storm just seemed like the right option for me in terms of self-care - maybe not as extreme as I did, maybe just an extended vacay is a more realistic piece of advice. Currently writing this from my laptop on a mountainside in Greece and feel so much better."
23. Nadia Kim, 32
"I've been reading stuff I know will make me cry (just reread Blue is the Warmest Colour, and The Paper House) for catharsis."
If you're having a rough time during the postal survey, and no amount of self-care is working for you, it's probably a good idea to reach out to the many services offered to LGBTQIA+ people in Australia.
If you're needing someone to talk to right now, give Lifeline a call on 13 11 14, or start a conversation via their online chat service.