April 1, 2014

The realisation that I may not be entirely straight did not sit well with me at first. At 19 I felt I was somehow late to the party and had missed out on some important LGBT rite of passage (no, I don’t know what either). Throughout my teenage years I struggled with a depression that consumed all aspects of my life, and ultimately left me more interested in controlling my suicidal urges than kissing someone. In hindsight, I think this was probably what resulted in me essentially not noticing that I wasn’t straight. Regrettably, I think I probably just repressed a lot of the feelings I had at the time – which didn’t help with the depression either.

I had reached the other side of a bout of depression that had lasted 7 years 

It was at the end of my first year of university that I started questioning my sexuality. I had reached the other side of a bout of depression that had lasted 7 years and had been travelling and got a first in my end of year exams. I was, for the first time I could properly remember, truly happy. It was around this time that my best friend asked if I was asexual. I was shocked. Whilst I was sure that I wasn’t asexual, I never realised that those close to me had taken notice of my lack of romantic history. Slowly, I began to understand why I’d never been able to imagine myself falling in love with a guy. It’s hard to get across just how difficult I found this process. Not only did I feel unbelievably angry and frustrated with myself that I ‘hadn’t noticed’ my own sexuality, but absolutely terrified of the obstacles that I felt I would encounter.

I relapsed into my old ways as I was completely overwhelmed

For a time I relapsed into my old ways as I was completely overwhelmed, and unfortunately this wasn’t helped by the reactions I sometimes encountered. I was incredibly lucky when I told my close friends that everyone was supportive, however my coming out was often met with ‘I always thought you were gay’ or another similar comment. I know categorically that my friends were not saying this to upset me, but it made me feel as though I really had no idea who I was, and perhaps even worse, that everyone else knew me better than I knew myself. Equally difficult was the knowledge that people thought my coming out as liking both genders was just a stepping-stone to coming out as a lesbian. It is very, very hard to tell people something about yourself that could quite easily be met with antipathy, and having people effectively not believe me was difficult. I’m now stronger than I was and know that orientation is a difficult thing for some people to get their head around, but at the time I struggled with it a great deal.

The process of telling people about your mental health and your sexual orientation are very similar

I’m at the point now where I have come out to the majority of my friends and family – both in terms of my struggles with mental health and my orientation. I definitely think that the process of telling people about your mental illness and your sexual orientation are very similar. Whilst both can be difficult, I think doing so is an incredibly worthwhile process that can help to reduce stigma and strengthen relationships. I’m a firm believer that honesty sparks honesty, and I’ve had so many eye-opening conversations with people after I’ve shared things about myself. Now that I’m in a good place and am able to talk openly about my experiences, I do try to start conversations around both subjects. I know from when I was struggling that if I met someone who was open about his or her history, I would have felt more comfortable being open about my own. I have no doubt that communication has been one of the most significant contributing factors to my recovery, which is why I support the work of Time to Change.

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