Mental Health & Sex Work

So this is a post I’ve wanted to make for a long time now. Well, by long time, I really only mean about 2 years. Talking about mental health isn’t hard. Talking about sex work isn’t hard. But each can be really hard if you’re talking to someone who a) isn’t a sex worker or b) doesn’t understand mental health…or both.

I never considered that I had anxiety until I had a stranger move in with me in my old apartment. We met one New Year’s Eve and a very short couple months later, she was moving in to my spare bedroom. I honestly didn’t know the name for what I felt & experienced. I’ve dealt with “mild” depression on and off for years. The inexplicable sadness, darkness, hurt, lack of motivation, crying… you name it. And I was also dealing with what I referred to as being “socially awkward.” I’d be the girl who had to put on front to be in social situation, only to go home mentally exhausted. I was terrified to meet people not under my own terms. I’d have panic attacks over a variety of things that seemed to range from minor to major. I didn’t know that aside from dealing with depression, I was also dealing with anxiety. So anyway, it wasn’t until I had this roommate that I realized that it is ok to feel socially awkward. And it’s ok to embrace it and let people know that you often have to do things on your own terms. She never really outright told me all this stuff, but we talked enough about mental health (both directly & indirectly) for me to feel less anxious about feeling anxious. To see someone who was very “out” about her anxiety constantly be surrounded by loving people who genuinely cared about her was really important for me.

Growing up, I always thought that feeling anxious was a good thing! Anxious about going to visit my grandparents or anxious about what to give my family for birthdays & holidays. I didn’t really know that I wasn’t so much anxious as much as I was excited. I’ve learned the difference since then and realized that much of my anxiety is socially based.

You see, I’ve never been great at making friends. It sometimes gives me the jitters. I often feel like I have to put on a front for people to like me and accept me & all my quirks. It’s not been easy. Which is perhaps why I’ve clung to being a sex worker so hard. Making friends with people is/was rough because I need to find common ground with people…and the more difficult it is for me to find that common ground, the more difficult I find the friendship. But sex work! Man, sex work changed that! Once I really stepped “out” as a sex worker and really started meeting people, I realized how much easier it is for me to make friends with those who I can refer to as coworkers & colleagues, even if we’ve never actually worked together. We’re all under one big umbrella of the term “sex worker.”

Without wanting to out anyone, I’ve really learned that I’m not the only one within this community who suffers with depression & anxiety. This has really been a vital part of both my personal & professional growth recently. It’s really allowed me to connect with people who are going through a lot of the same things that I’m going through. For a long time, I put myself on this island within the community of sex workers, and that island was really lonely. It took having a roommate who unknowingly helped me discover and label my mental health problem for me to really start to be able to open up within my community…6/7 years into my career.

To say that I’m “over” my depression or anxiety is absolutely false. If I said it, I’d be a filthy fucking liar. But more importantly, I’d be ignoring an ongoing health issue. Some days, like this past Tuesday, I woke up and if I hadn’t had somewhere I *had* to be, I wouldn’t have left my bed. As is, when I got home, I had to force myself to eat something. The only time I got off my couch was to eat a tiny plate of cheese, crackers, pepperoni slices & an orange. I spent a majority of yesterday crying. Want to know why? I have no idea. My head was in a cloud…and not the good kind of cloud. More like a dark, rainy, windy, cold cloud. The kind of cloud where you don’t want to leave your house and you’d rather spend the day cuddled up with pets or someone who you can just be with. It felt awful and empty and lonely.

Then there’s the whole motivation thing. Finding motivation to do the things I want to do is a struggle. Some days I wake up and I know I can and will do all of the things. Some days I wake up and feel like I’m empty. Some days I wake up and I want to do all the things, but something inside of me is holding me back and I can’t seem to make myself do anything. It’s on those lack of motivation days that reaching out privately to someone and asking for help or empathy or even just kind words is so important. It feels impossible on those empty, clouded days.

While this post is very much so a “me, me, me” post, I want it to serve as more than that. It is my hope that someone else who is now in the mental space that I was in several years ago is able to feel less isolated due to their mental health. It is a challenge, and it definitely is not easy. But, I would like to invite my sex worker coworkers and colleagues to reach out to me anytime you need to talk about anything. I know it’s not easy. I know that I’m basically a stranger. But I hope that maybe you’ll remember that we’re walking under that magical “sex worker” umbrella together and knowing that will make it a little easier and/or a little less scary.

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