Self-Discovery in a digital age [My coming out story]

It baffles me when I hear some of the stories from people who bravely declare their truths only to lose everything they’ve ever known. Parents disown them, relatives not speaking to them, their churches turning them away; all because they had the courage to live as who they really are. To anyone who has had such a horrible loss, I am sorry but I am also incredibly proud of you for loving yourself in a way that no one ever could. I stand with you always.

My personal story of coming out was an exceptionally lucky one when it came to sharing my identity with my family and friends.

I was 17 years old when I first started to realize that I didn’t identify as a straight woman. At the time, I was heavily into on-line roleplaying on Myspace and began writing characters that were romantically connected to both males and females. My attraction was matched for both of the sexes which was a new thought to me. Experimenting on-line was my quiet way of figuring things out that didn’t require me actively going out anywhere or talking to anyone in person. I lived a very sheltered childhood so my ability to go out to different places to explore this idea in person would have been difficult. Being online was my own private world where I could be whoever I wanted without the need for anyone’s approval. After a few months of writing relationships with both sexes, I found myself needing to tell someone in my personal life. The first person I came out to was my-then boyfriend. He was understanding for the most part but quickly grew jealous at the potential of my leaving him for a female or him not being included in the scenario should I ever decide to try it. It was a hard thing to manage because at the time I was still very much in love with him but his jealousy was so prudent it was hard not to want to remove myself from the relationship in the search for more. We eventually split up. Young love wasn’t meant to last for me this time.

The majority of my experimenting remained on-line until the story jumped off the page and I met my now wife in person in January 2009. We went on our first date and I had my first experience formally dating a girl. It was nice for the most part but the date wasn’t much to write home about. She was still figuring herself out just as much as I was and we ended up parting ways as friends for the time being. Her on and off again relationship with a woman prevented anything from flourishing until she decided it could, when she finally broke up with the woman she was seeing. We started seeing each other more that summer and that’s when I knew that it was time to tell my family my true feelings because I could no longer pass her off as the girl, I met at college in an Anthropology class.

The first person in my family that I came out to was my mother. My Mom and I had a rocky relationship in my teens and early 20s. She was trying to mold me into what she thought was a girl and I was everything but the mold she had set up. My coming out only furthered that. I was never going to be the mold she set up for me and she was going to have to accept it. Despite, being in shock her love never faltered. We may not have always seen eye to eye but I’ve always known that there is no fiercer a protector than my mother. She is the living example of lifting a car off of her children if she needed to. Her protection and good intentions knew no bounds for us growing up. My new found bi-sexuality would be a challenge for us because she would continue to challenge my feelings and call them a phase but eventually, she realized my wife wasn’t going anywhere no matter how uncomfortable she was in the new found thought of my romantic relationship with a woman.  My mother grew into the idea of the possibility that I would marry a woman and ended up being one of my biggest supporters of my relationship always providing guidance wherever she could.

I’m forever grateful that we didn’t have the tragic ending which could have cost us our relationship. She loved me fiercely through it all and I’ll always be thankful.

My father was next for me to tell my truth to. My Dad has never been one for big ordeals or a scene to be made. We were driving in the car and Katy Perry’s I kissed a girl came on so I just went for it and told him. His reaction was minimal as expected but loving regardless. The only thing he wanted to know was if I was happy and I promised that I was. He went onto to continue to enforce that anyone I dated needed to love me half as much as he did and continue to treat me with the same respect I deserved regardless if it was a man or a woman. I was told that just because I had changed the rules didn’t mean any exceptions would be made for any of my partners. They still wouldn’t be allowed in my bedroom with an opened door. It’s a funny story to look back on but it proves the consistency that my Dad posessed. All romantic interests would be viewed with the same scrunity and watchful eye for his baby girl. It was a sweet notion and my bi-sexuality was something he never challenged despite genuinely not understanding the concept of it at times.

After I told my parents which were the most important people at the time, I moved onto my brother and eventually my best friends. My brother never cared about who I was dating as long as they treated me well. He also confessed he had already known about it and was glad that I had finally come to terms with telling other people. It was a relief to not feel like I had to go through a whole explanation of my new found thought. I just was his sister and there was nothing else to say. My best friends all welcomed the new idea and they all offered their reassurance that nothing would change between us and they were eager to meet my newest potential girlfriend whenever I was ready.

I realize how lucky I am that my story doesn’t have a tragic loss involved. My family and friends never once changed the tempo of our relationship because of my identity and never stopped trying to be as present in my life as they could.

I wasn’t shunned or turned away, I was given the floor to have open dialogue about what I was embarking on and loved just as much as I was before they all knew who I was growing up to be.

Acceptance is the foundation of our pride. Love is our bravery, even when it challenges what is considered to be the norm. Your family are the people who should accept you with condition. I am so thankful to have all of this in my family and friends as my strongest allies who supported me from the very beginning of my journey to my true self.

Happy Pride 2021 – A weeklong SERIES.

Pride month was first acknowledged in 1999 when President Bill Clinton declared the month of June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month”. Every year since then we have grown in knowledge of history and inclusion and it eventually became LGBTQ pride. This is a catalyst to the countless riots, marches, and protests by previous generations of LGBTQIA+ people fighting for themselves and their community. Rights for freedom of expression, safety and love were all something that so many people went without. The demand for change became impossible to ignore as our community took a stand for ourselves in politics, quality of life in our country and our abilities to express ourselves wherever and whenever we saw fit to do so. I am so honored to be a part of this community and grateful for those people who the stand for generations to come. Last year, I was admittedly sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate my first Pride month as a married woman and honor those that came before us. I wanted to celebrate and honor those who pioneered activism for LGBTQ civil rights which paved the way for a future where everyone can be who they truly are and love who we want without fear of harm to our community or injustices. I know we still have a long to go until total equality but I am so proud to be in the LGBTQIA+ community and thankful for those generations before.

New York City, New York, USA – August 24, 2019: Historic Stonewall Inn gay bar in Greenwich Village Lower Manhattan [IStock.com]

With that being said, I wanted to share some of my pride journey with you and highlight some of experiences as a bi-sexual woman in our world today. I’ve chosen to run this series at the end of June because the last week of June is always New York City’s usual time to host Pride events and have their annual march. I am not only a proud bi-sexual woman, but I am also proud to be a New Yorker where in 1969 the Stonewall Riots, launched the movement we know today paving the way for more change than any of us could have imagined. To be able to dwell in the neighborhoods of the birth of so much free thought and love is inspiring and motivating to continue the work of ground breaking activism that blazed our paths today.

I am considering this my very own personal celebration of sharing my truth, my experiences, and my own Pride in myself and the community in general. I will not be attending any in-person celebrations, but I look forward to sharing this series with you and hope that I can encourage and inspire in some way along the way.

More than anxiety ridden [My journey to more]

The first case of Covid-19 happened in New York City on February 28, 2020. The disease was no longer something that was happening in the news, it had knocked on our front door sending my wife and I into a survival mode. We prepared for the worst and bought extra food, cleaning supplies and medication. We both thought it would only last two weeks’ time but less than three weeks later New York City had closed entirely. We both began working from home and started the 24/7 loop of what felt like a Groundhog’s Day of working and dwelling in our three-bedroom apartment together for the foreseeable future.

We did little things to cope. We had zoom nights with friends, watched a lot of TV, played video games, and drank more than we should have. Every day we’d sit by the TV and watch Andrew Cuomo give the latest updates on the city’s status to a potential return and every day we became more disappointed and disillusioned with the outcome of his press conferences. We’d try to find the little wins in everyday but for me it began to be increasingly difficult to see. I was away from the routine of going to work that kept me sane and the family and friends that I missed desperately. I was always a hypochondriac, so being in a constant state of fear of catching this deadly disease felt crippling to me. None of the things that usually helped me cope were available, and I was drowning in the fear of the worst. Summer 2020 offered a little bit of relief. We began to capture whatever normalcy we could. We outdoor dined, we walked for miles around the neighborhood, we saw family when it was safe, and took a trip to Salem to see my best friend. The distractions were good, but they had only masked the unbearable mental pain I was carrying around. My mental state still took a downward turn. I knew that outside help was now the only option. I began therapy in early September 2020, after convincing myself I had gotten Covid-19 from a fork at a restaurant because it was metal and not washed by the staff properly. The general paranoia of sickness had become too much for my wife and I to handle on our own and we both knew that I needed therapy now more than ever before.

The journey to heal felt like it would be long one and would never come to a reasonable end. I thought something was inherently wrong because I was experiencing awful physical symptoms in my body. I was dizzy all the time, my heart raced, and I felt like it would pass out at any moment. I thought I was ruining my work and home life because I spent every day in a perpetual state of doom strapped to my couch in fear of moving at all. I was convinced that I was one anxiety attack away from death’s door and there was nothing that could be done. I went through a month’s worth of insomnia, more crying than I’ve ever done in 31 years’ time, and the unlocking of feelings that I never wanted to deal with to begin with. My first therapist worked with me through Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I began to learn the tools to rationalize the outcomes to some of my greatest fears and realized that physically I would be okay. I began to cling to the logic until I couldn’t any longer. January 2021 began my journey with the second therapist. This therapist was trauma specialized and explained that while the CBT was helpful that I needed to go deeper into what hurt me and really break a part all the lies that my anxiety had created. The first few weeks were hard, we’d have a breakthrough and I’d feel like a million bucks and then fall into a panicked state again and think the whole process was futile. It was those weeks that taught me that recovery in general is linear and won’t just heal like a broken limb. I needed to dig deep and do the painful work of realizing that anxiety was never the problem; it was the lack of acceptance of myself.

The initial weeks, I was being seen two times a week and working through all the nooks and crannies of emotions that I had long buried with distractions, writing, and finding love in my wife. I was vulnerable and terrified because I turned the light onto myself and looked inward to what was bothering me beyond the circumstances of a pandemic. Therapy was a long-time coming, but the pandemic thankfully broke me enough to put my best foot forward to invest in myself. Two times a week, became once a week and I found myself in a state of a baseline anxiety that my therapist taught me was a positive way to live. I was no longer paralyzed by the fear of my physical symptoms, I was navigating my fear of my mental health, and realized that I was never just anxiety ridden. Anxiety was not an identity but rather a state of mind that I wasn’t forced to be imprisoned into. I am more than my anxiety; I am so much more.

The last few months, I’ve come on here and gave little breadcrumbs of my journey out and a positive spin on all of it. Before I say goodbye to this version of my writing and embark on a new chapter as a blogger and writer, I wanted to tell the whole story of what led me to my conclusion and introduce my new identity to the followers that have seen me through the last seven years. I entered this blog also terrified and not sure of what to make of these feelings. I wrote about what came to mind, experiences I went through, and my metamorphosis outside of my parents’ child and being an adult. I made friends along the way and followed their stories and took inspiration from them into my own life. Specifically, Dawn from Tales from the Motherland. I read your letter to your adult children and your feelings on them leaving the nest and found so much comfort and understanding in your words. You gave me a window into my mothers’ feelings and an empathetic approach to our new world together. I will always be thankful for that. Not to mention, the clear name rip-off that you were always so graceful not to mention.

I am more than anxiety ridden and I cannot wait to show you the depth of my journey and the writing that comes along with it. The domain will be changing, and I will do my best to give this site a face lift to introduce the next chapter for me. Mental health is still going to be a huge part of the journey and I will always advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves but I am excited to show you a broader picture of my life as a writer, fan girl, wife, dog-Mom, New Yorker, and everything in between. 

Feelin’ 32.

On Sunday, May 23rd, I enter my 32nd trip around the sun. I love my birthday to begin with, but this year has me particularly reflective. Life inside of a pandemic has been a tricky one. My mental health has flopped around like a fish out of water, my time with family and friends was grossly limited and life in general was just uncertain overall. I celebrated my birthday last year in a very limited way and it bummed out. While I appreciated the absolute best efforts of my wife and my brother and my sister in law, I found myself with a serious case of the blues. I love people, that’s something that this pandemic confirmed for me so being without all my people on my special day made things a little heavier than I would have hoped they would be.

This time last year, I had already been away from my parents for three months, there wasn’t really a direction to when this pandemic would end, and no one really knew how to continue a daily life. Were we supposed to hunker down and stay totally inside? Could we see people we knew were safe? Should we see people at all? There were so many questions with very few answers. The end looked like it would never come but here I am a year later and there has been glimmers of hope that have left me grateful for time and perspective. While we are far from out of the woods, we now have vaccines available and much better testing protocols. My entire immediate family has been completely vaccinated, which provides me with the ability and utmost happiness to say that I will be spending my 32nd birthday with all my people once more! Huzzah!

I enter this upcoming weekend with much gratitude for the ability to do this and sheer excitement to have plans to look forward to. There have been a lot of growing pains in the last year and there are still more to come but I am learning to love myself in ways I never thought were possible. Compassion and patience have not been my strongest suits but I hope to approach everyday in my 32nd year with those two things in mind and a grateful heart to have the time back that was lost in the hellish year of the global pandemic.

What now?

It’s been six months since my last appearance here and truthfully, I didn’t think I’d ever get the urge to come back and continue to tell my story. October 2020 felt like the end to a burden that I had been facing for a long time. The physicality of anxiety plagued me for longer than anyone knew and now that I had the tools to get past it, I felt healed! A lot of my journey in my mental health had been about completely eradicating the issues. I took on my mental health in the way one would take on their physical health; sleep, rest, and do what you’re told, and you’ll feel better. I did that and the desired result came. I felt better, I was no longer terrified to move and function; I had everything that I thought I wanted out of the work I had done in my CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) therapy. What could possibly go wrong?

November 2020 began a journey into acceptance. An acceptance that this journey was no longer something I could fight away or wish away. My mental health would need to be tended to with the same love and consistency that I had shown for my physical health. Stress began to pile on and I had a setback that hit me like a freight train. I had a very disturbing dream which I now know was an intrusive thought. These disturbing thoughts and fears began to surface while waking and I was thrown back into the spiral that I thought I had escaped. The details of the dream and thoughts are something that I don’t feel comfortable sharing online. If you’ve had this type of thing happen, I’m sure you can assume that the gravity of these thoughts can be very jarring for anyone whether they have experience with this or not. I was forced to come face to face with the mental portion of my journey that I had long been avoiding. I lived my life very one-dimensional. If there was a problem, it was meant to be fixed and moved on from, but this wasn’t going to work out that way. 

CBT had taken me as far as it could. There was only so much I could rationalize before I had to go deeper. Emotions that I had been avoiding needed to be dealt with. A change in therapist was necessary. I found someone who specialized in psychodynamic and relational approaches. At first, I had no clue what that would mean for my new journey through therapy. It all seemed new and scary. I had done CBT so many times in years passed without really touching on the actual feelings and emotions that I was carrying (directly in my body I might add). Through this new approach, I was able to dig further and start to grow beyond just rationalization and realize that every emotion and feeling had its purpose and it was something I no longer needed to be afraid of feeling. There are no good or bad emotions/feelings, they just are. Each one holding its own individual message for me to listen to and embrace as needed. Am I perfect at this now? Absolutely not. I’m still struggling with the fact that I will always have some form of anxiety. I would love nothing more than to wish it away and never have to deal with it again. However, just like my physical health that I spent so many years obsessing over, I am going to have to give this the same level of care (maybe not obsession). 

So what now?

Well, I am down to seeing a therapist one time a week. It’s a new schedule and one I’m still getting used to. I am slowly realizing that sometimes putting down the self-help books, putting aside the therapy homework and just living for each day as it comes is needed. The bigger acceptance is, we’re all works in progress and I will never achieve some pinpointed level of perfection where work will no longer be needed. Change is good and it’s taken me 31 years to come to terms with it. I have spent the last year in fight or flight and I’m hoping to wind down to a place where I can still work on myself but take my life back to some of the passions I set aside to face this journey head on. I miss writing, I missed this blog, I have a novel that’s sitting in the vault that I’d love to get back to. I think the fresh perspective of not having my emotions on level 100 will take me back to the safety of writing again. Writing has always been my way of handling things. I would either take the time to write the words my brain was too shy to say, or I would create the worlds that my brain would daydream about. I am a creative being and I am very excited to play around with that again. 

As for the fate of this blog, I really can’t say what a definite timeline would look like for posting. I’m leaning toward more letting this go and letting it serve as an archive of my journey but I also know how inspiration works and sometimes keeping my mouth shut is utterly impossible. I want to help others. It’s another passion of mine and after the experiences I’ve had in the last year, I want to use my new voice and hopefully reach people who don’t feel like they have their own. I am blessed with health insurance for therapy, I am blessed with a steady income, and most of all I’m blessed with a steady support system to nudge me along when I need it. I know that it’s not everyone’s fate and I hope that by sharing my story, I can reach as many people as I can. Being inside of your thoughts isn’t always a creative means. Sometimes it’s downright scary and if I can pay it forward by being a source of comfort in some way, I want to. Next to writing, helping others is something that I love to do. I’ve gotten myself into some new non-profit work this year that I’m very thankful for. I’ve begun writing letters for The Letter Project, a faith-based nonprofit organization that writes letters to women of all ages whose family members or themselves ask for extra encouragement. I’ve written letters to people in the U.S. and beyond and I have received my own bundle of encouragement that I will cherish forever. I am also participating in a local community program where I will have virtual (for the time being) visits with a senior citizen very soon. I want to be of service to others in any way that I can and I am very excited to be a part of this program and hopefully forged a bond with someone who can use the friend just like I could at times in my life. 

To those who got to the bottom of this post, I thank you. Anyone who’s ever taken the time to read what I have to say is very special to me and I hope that I can continue to tell my story in some way and share with you all down the road. Please feel free to leave a comment on how you’re doing. I’d love to hear from you.