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Connecting Sexual Orientation With Mental Health

Because these conversations need to be had.

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I've always had an infatuation with women. Not always sexually, of course, as I was a child once. I do have my fascination with men as well (shoutout to Joe Biden). But ever since I was a little kid, I would become interested in certain female celebrities. It was always Kelly Clarkson or Idina Menzel or Agnetha Fältskog from ABBA or plenty of other women you've probably never heard of. I never thought anything of it, because it wasn't sexual. At least, I didn't think so. I didn't even know what sex was until I was much older.

When I was 11 or 12, I was called a lesbian by two girls who I thought were my close friends. I literally did not know what a lesbian was. Or maybe I did, I don't know. But I didn't think I was one. How would they know and not me? This was a reoccurring theme throughout my teenage years although I was never sure how people could tell that I wasn't into men. It was mind-boggling to me. I always pretended to be into men. I don't know what it was that made my peers skeptical, and I may never know. I don't really think I care anymore.

The next year, I went through your typical 13 year old depressive state (stay with me). I never told anyone until much later but I was passively suicidal for months and I was obsessive compulsive. I thought I was just sad. Teens at this age go through a lot of crap, which I had been told. I was having all sorts of issues with my body that weren't normal. I was diagnosed with PCOS (basically, my hormones were out of control), and around this time is also when my eating disorder started to really take flight.

When I was 14, I had my first gay friend. It was a huge deal in my middle school. This person was the only gay person in my school (that we knew of at the time). He got made fun of a lot, and he was probably bullied as well. My friends and I took his side, though. I was never super close with him, but I knew that being gay was okay. This person was still my friend, and him being gay didn't change anything.

That whole situation had me thinking. I think everyone asks themselves if they're gay once in their life. Especially as a young teenager. My answer was obviously "no" at 14. I even tried to conversion therapy (I turned it into a verb, whatevs) myself out of being attracted to women. In middle school I was all about Michael Johns (rest in peace, I miss your beautiful voice!) and David Cook from American Idol. Also the weather man, Adam Joseph, who happens to be gay. *Facepalm*, although in the back of my mind I knew I preferred super-weatherwoman Cecily Tynan, who is gorgeous. Look her up. We actually became friendly after a few times of running into each other.

I knew I was gay, I just didn't want to allow myself to believe it. I thought it would change everything. So I hid myself. I stayed in the closet until I was 19.

However, there was a weird time during my senior year of high school where I was extremely depressed. I missed two weeks of school. I might have mentioned this in another blog post, but during this time, for whatever reason, I told my parents I was bisexual. So I went on that. I liked men and women. I used this to give my parents ~some~ hope, because I was afraid that being a full blown lesbian would scare them to death.

The summer after high school ended, I went for my first round of eating disorder treatment. I didn't talk about my sexuality at all. I kept it to myself because I didn't feel like it had anything to do with my eating disorder when in reality, it had everything to do with my eating disorder. It pretty much defined my eating disorder. Which is why when I went back to treatment two years later, I told my peers I was gay. I felt that it was a safe space. I still didn't tell most of my friends or my parents, though. I also avoided using the word "lesbian" because for whatever reason it sounded dirtier and more taboo than "gay". I don't really prefer one label over another now, to be honest. Call me gay, lesbian, queer, etc. I don't mind unless it's obviously derogatory.

Eventually, my wonderful therapist got me to admit to myself that I was a lesbian and it was 100% okay. She even convinced me to tell my parents. It was easier than I thought it would be, shockingly. My parents still loved me. Coming out didn't change anything. The only thing that bothered me was that I couldn't openly talk about women I liked without feeling uncomfortable. But then again, who talks about sexual attraction with their parents? That would be awkward with anyone no matter their situation.

At one point, I think on April Fools day, I changed my "interested in" status on Facebook to "Women", but it wasn't an April Fools joke. I just left it there and see who noticed. However it turns out that nobody noticed because Facebook doesn't notify anyone of that sort of thing. So I started gradually coming out to people. First it was my online friends, then it was my college friends, and then at one point I just posted a (vague) status on Facebook on National Coming Out Day.

I now come back to mental health. Hiding my sexuality has been number one on the list of things that affected my mental health. Sometimes I still struggle with it. I felt that after my summer of inpatient hospital stays and intense therapy that I NEEDED to let it go. I needed to just flaunt it. I accepted that I was gay and that I was proud of who I was. I knew I was never going to get better if it stayed hidden. That's why on National Coming Out Day this year, I posted another Facebook status that got right to the point. A graphic that said "I'm a lesbian!" Perfect, boom, done. It got almost as many likes as when I first posted my picture with Joe Biden.

If you are struggling with your sexuality and have mental health issues, know that the two could be related. I am so very fortunate that I had a safe space to come out, although I didn't realize it for many years. I didn't lose one friend over it, and I didn't get disowned by any family members. Your situation might be completely different. I get that, and I'm sorry. Just know that there are safe spaces to talk about these things. Even if you're just questioning, maybe talking to a local LGBTQ+ center might get you where you need to be. Maybe just telling one person you trust can make you feel better. You might not feel as free as I do now, but at least it's something. I wish the world was nicer. I wish conversion therapy wasn't a thing. I want all of my brothers and sisters and gender non-conforming and transgender siblings to feel safe in their skin. I know people are suffering and I would feel fulfilled to change just one anti-gay mind.

It's not always gonna be easy. It might never be easy for you. You may have to stay closeted for longer than you would have hoped. You may never know what your sexuality actually is, and that's alright too.

I have so many important LGBTQ+ people to turn to and look up to. So many of my online friends and college friends are somewhere on the "not straight" spectrum. I look up to women like Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi, Kate McKinnon, Erin and Ella McLeod, Jodie Foster, and a zillion other celebrities. I also have allies in the United States Congress, if you can believe it. Senator Tammy Baldwin is an absolute gem, as is Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past four years.

Today I got a book written by (don't shun me, democrat friends) Megyn Kelly. My dad bought it for me because he's a republican and he thinks it's hilarious to buy me books written by people who aren't my favorite, but also aren't my least favorite. (don't worry, he didn't vote for the cheeto and he would never buy me a book written by Ann Coulter. I can't believe I just mentioned Ann Coulter in a blog post). I saw the cover and was like "Well, at least she looks hot." My parents didn't turn their heads or hesitate. They let me be myself, as strange as I may be with women like Megyn Kelly (I'm actually really excited about reading her book, she fascinates me, as does SE Cupp, whose book I also possess. These anti-Trump republicans really get me, I swear. Even if they are very, very married). I think that's what inspired me to write this post. My mental health is better than ever. My eating disorder is barely even there most of the time. I don't think about how anxious or depressed I am 24/7. I know I'll always have anxiety issues and depressive days, but I think coming out fully really really helped.

I'm gay, I'm me, and I finally feel completely free.

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