LGBTQ+, Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 37: Loving a Woman Changed my Worldview

“It was terrifying to love someone who was forbidden to you. Terrifying to feel something you could never speak of, something that was horrible to almost everyone you knew, something that could destroy your life.”
-Cassandra Clare, Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices, #2)

Dear Readers,

For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to women. This energy translated in all kinds of ways including the trivial and experimental. When I was young, I could not determine if my preference was tied to my predisposition toward manic depression, the result of trauma, or the simple product of my incessant curiosity. Perhaps my preference for women was simply just that, a preference. I was not privy to the possibility of expressing my sexuality in a healthy way and so, like most young women, I found myself stifled and oppressed until the spillover became too great. Falling in love with a woman changed my worldview by leading me to discover my personal truth and informing my capacity to receive.

For decades not only was my sexuality snuffed out by others, but also by myself. My own ego and fear would be the final frontier between me and my true happiness, at least until I learned this type of self-sabotaging behavior is completely unnecessary. When I look back and see how glaring obvious all of this seems it almost feels silly. I was in middle school when I started spending the night with my lady friends. Growing up in the north woods of Minnesota I was completely unaware of same sex couples. So, even though I had a loud biological response toward women and girls, I certainly didn’t know how to navigate those feelings due to my lack of exposure. Add to that my mother’s mean intolerance for the very same reason and suddenly it isn’t too hard to imagine why I kept my mouth shut. As I grew older though, it became harder and harder to hide. I would often enter relationships with men only to cry myself to sleep at night. I spent a tragic number of years aiming to please others and it cost me greatly. At best, living dishonestly can only be described as a repetitive re-traumatization of self.

When I was sixteen, I met my first boyfriend. Not surprisingly he was an effeminate man and sexually ambiguous. Seemingly towing the line between male and female he would often take too long to fluff his appearance, wear eyeliner atop his envious eyelashes, and shave his under arms. Still, I maintained and often acted on my eye for women with consent from my partner. I continued this pattern of dating men while kissing women for many years before finally getting married in 2014 against the adamant counsel of my father. To no one’s surprise the marriage dissolved two years later, and suddenly I had no choice but to my face my personal truth. I am in fact a very gay woman. After a handful of lukewarm encounters, one fiery female romance, and countless nightmarish dating scenarios I gave up all together on finding anything truly meaningful. That is, until I met Alice.

When I met Alice, I was what I would describe as perpetually open-minded. Coming out for the second and final time left me in a state of strange infancy. I was vulnerable, fearful and excited by the days ahead. While I would never be foolish enough to turn away from the real thing, I also was not actively seeking a serious long-term monogamous relationship. In retrospect, a great many of my life choices have been a direct result of my inclinations toward the notion of love. At the seat of myself I remain a romantic and I will never apologize for that. However, this type of vulnerability often comes chock full of aching organs, bittersweet endings, and lessons hard learned. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t become somewhat jaded after being force fed a heaping pile of disappointment. Some part of me though, however microscopic, clung to the swirling daydream that lasting love could exist for me if I could somehow find the courage to live honestly.

My encounter with Alice was the most natural unexpected experience I have ever had in my life. Our conversations were playful and organic before evolving into the meaningful inquiry we all hope for. We began to chip away at our commonalities, our biggest fears, our hopes for the future, and our own points of strength that we promised never to compromise on again. We promised never to discuss religion and politics, and then characteristically proceeded to do so. No topic was too scary. Nothing was off limits. It wasn’t long before our hearts began to lean in and our minds grew curious. In the same shared breath and quelling anxiety, we realized we both had nothing left to do but meet in person. I never imagined being able to remember the night clear as day, but I do.

After sharing a quick and unflinching bond with this woman I had one last order of business. I had to kiss her. Lucky for me, Alice felt the same way I did and agreed to meet. We agreed to go in comfy clothes and half brushed hair in order to lower the pressure for us both. So, I put on my favorite red pants, my favorite oversized hoodie, tied my hair up in those tiny clips that always seem to fall down the drain, and drank in the biggest gulp of bravery I could muster before wandering out the door with all the false confidence in the world. I knew I wanted to arrive early because living with anxiety taught me long ago that I will never be the girl who loves to light up a room. I slinked up to the bar and promptly ordered two beers to calm my nerves. Her texts came rolling in as she got closer and closer. Ten minutes away…five minutes away…almost there. The suspense was killing me. Finally, she walked through that door, tilted her head only the way she can, and smiled that sideways smirk that still drives me wild six months later. All she had to do was say one little hello to me and in that moment, it was as if all my broken pieces were pressed back together. I was hers. I calmly invited her to get a drink of her own before retiring to the couches on the other side of the bar, but inside my head was swimming. We did our best to get to know each other better above the clatter and belligerence of the patrons. Some time passed until finally she leaned in through the smoke, pausing only to gauge my reaction, and kissed me for the very first time. Suddenly, everything I thought I knew about the world shattered. I had butterflies in my stomach, crawling skin, a cloud in my head, a spark in my heart, and tears in my eyes. I had no idea what was going to happen next, but I knew I felt relief in feeling that in a world that had so often made me feel lost and forgotten, I was finally home.

Alice would go on to be the strongest most loving, loyal, gentle and patient friend I’ve ever had. Never once has she made me feel like I was going to lose her, although the thought alone motivates me to do everything I can not to. She is always pouring into me and giving back in ways she may not even understand. Best of all, we are both rewarded for being nothing short of our genuine self. The truth is, I could never imagine the life I live now and yet here I sit – in a completely new city, with a completely new routine, and a completely new sense of self that can only be the direct result of her generosity and respect toward me.

Falling in love with a woman changed my worldview by leading me to discover my personal truth and informing my capacity to receive.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health

Exploring Disability: Facing Mental Health Discrimination

WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION

If you have ever suffered from a long-term, short-term, or sudden psychological ailment, it is highly likely you are no stranger to facing discrimination in the workplace. When an employer inquires about your health, the right to disclose your condition (or not) is yours alone. Certainly, there are pros and cons to both scenarios. However, there remains a stark contrast between what should be, and the hard reality we all may come to face at least once in our lifetime.

Should you choose to disclose your mental health condition to a potential employer, you alleviate the stress of having to force an acceptable level of functioning, explain away any oddities, or any brief dishonesty that may come along with it. Likewise, you open a pathway for meaningful dialogue that may produce credibility and longevity in your role. This can also contribute to reducing stigma and assumptions surrounding other-abled populations. However, should you choose to withhold this information, you may have the luxury of a avoiding a harsh and unkind response, up to and including termination. Despite the fact that discrimination is perfectly illegal, and companies have incentivized job seekers by offering promises of integration and acceptance (these are the optional disability, gender, ethnicity, and veteran status check boxes you see on many job applications), many employees still experience intolerance when disclosing their mental illness. One may also experience the sensation of being squeezed out of a position through means of indirect but excessive discomfort at the hands of an employer.

SOCIETAL DISCRIMINATION

While the globe continues her awareness campaigns and demand marches, truly altering a societal mindset takes decades and must be a slow gentle progression. No one likes to be force-fed a brand new belief system. In the meantime, many of us with mental health conditions in the workplace continue to suffer either in silence, unapologetic ignorance, or abuse. Other than the obvious subjective nature of cognitive impairments, I believe the greatest misconceptions related to mental illness are understanding limitations and age.

So many people find mood disorders, stress disorders, anxiety and psychosis to be an excuse due to the fact that there will be periods of symptom dormancy. That is, some days are better than others and even when the hard days completely meet the criteria for disability, countless people ground their skepticism in periods of normalcy.

This is a mistake.

The reason conditions such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are qualifiers for supplemental support is due to their nature of general unpredictability. That is, turbulent mood swings, inexplicable crying spells, delusional paranoia, and terrifying psychosis paired with the extreme psychological and physical (yes, I said “physical”) suffering of the patient. Second to that, if someone is 28 years old than surely they should be in the prime cognitive and physical condition of their life, right? (Insert insensitive ignorant remark here.) This simply does not apply to mental illness because, as true irony would have it, clinical diagnosis does not discriminate. This sudden shift in social display and dramatic disruption to conventional performance given one’s age and the presence of an invisible illness is what makes some people unreliable employees, and yet, employers often become enraged and confused by these shortcomings.

PERSONAL DISCRIMINATION

In my personal experience, I have traveled both the path of disclosure and non-disclosure. I will tell you I prefer the truth for two reasons.

1.) Any relationship, employment or otherwise, that begins at the seat of omission will certainly create more stress and will almost always result in a complete disintegration of the opportunity altogether.

2.) If I am going to thrive and be successful in any role, I will do so as my genuine self and nothing less. I will be accommodated (or dismissed).

I will not apologize for my trembling hands or the fact that I forgot everything you just said to me the moment you finished (if I even heard it at all). I will not be the subject of ridicule or shame due to another person’s inability or unwillingness to accept my condition due to the very obligation a self-proclaimed integrated society affords me.

SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION

Perhaps most heartbreaking, discrimination exists even from within the national programs designed to protect these populations.

You must demonstrate your limitations to the court, but not so to fall into a trick question or diminish your credibility.

You must show that you can care for your children in a legally competent and unharmful manner, as well as the inability to find or keep a job.

You must collect and produce your medical history in a way that is substantial enough to satisfy the definitions, but also maintain a respectable level of care for yourself to show that you are actively engaged in self-help.

You must work limited hours in a skilless role or not at all, and demonstrate multiple failed attempts to work.

While unable to provide an income for yourself, you must wait anywhere from 3 months to 2 years (or more) to receive your acceptance (or denial) letter.

In the event of an appeal, you must produce a lawyer to promote your credibility as a witness and help the judge weed out those milking the system.

It is a long arduous journey to receive the benefits promoting social security even though many of us have paid in ten years or more before becoming disabled, and even when we actively demonstrate limited assets, resources, and a considerably compromised quality of life.

Whether we face mental health discrimination from an employer, a friend or family member, or the state- it does not come without vital consequence, including the influx of resource utilization that occurs by failing to properly support those with major progressive and degenerative illness.

So, when we can’t win at home or at work, how do we keep from falling through the cracks?

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!