Kayleigh found it difficult to talk about her feelings, so she wrote about them instead.
The idea of not being straight didn’t sit too well with me at first. Growing up, I ached to fit in. I wanted the stability of conforming to a societal norm.
Sexuality was never really discussed in my family, especially as I come from a religious background. I was aware that the LGBTQ community existed, but it felt as though it was something you shouldn’t want to be a part of. The word ‘gay’ was casually thrown around as an insult, which only fed the idea that homosexuality was wrong.
The difference between the ‘gay world’ and ‘straight world’ seemed black and white, but I felt stuck in the middle
I didn’t understand my own feelings. I knew that I was attracted to people regardless of their gender, but this went against everything I had been taught. I wasn’t even quite sure about where I fit in – the difference between the ‘gay world’ and the ‘straight world’ seemed very black and white, but I felt stuck somewhere in the middle.
I was confident that coming out would alienate me further, so I tried to convince myself that it was just a phase. Everyone has those ‘phases’, right? Denying my sexuality would mean that I would be able to walk through life avoiding the difficult conversations, stereotypes, and labels. If I put my energy into gaining social approval by passing myself off as straight, then I could push away the anxiety-provoking thoughts about my sexuality.
My teenage years were spent hating who I was. I ignored the parts of me that didn’t seem to fit in, and it was having an adverse effect on my mental health. My depression worsened as I withdrew myself from those closest to me, and with each passing day I felt increasingly more alone. I was losing the battle with my self-loathing and internalised homophobia.
I felt like university was the big ‘break’ that I craved; moving away was my chance to be true to myself. I was surrounded by people who celebrated diversity… but I felt like I wasn’t able to embrace my differences alongside them. I was envious of those who were out and proud, but I’d been living with my secret for such a long time that I had no idea how to go about coming out. Maybe I had left it too late? Scared that no one would take me seriously, I remained closeted. The fear of being misunderstood or rejected by my friends stopped me from accepting my sexuality.
There were so many openly gay people on campus, but I was too embarrassed to ask for help
During university, my mental state was at an all-time low. I had so many questions but felt like there was no one who could provide me with the answers. There were so many openly gay people on campus, but I was too embarrassed to ask for help – aged 20, I felt as though I was too old to still be confused about my sexual orientation. The stress of trying to label myself, combined with feeling separated from the majority, caused me to sink deep into a depressive episode. I watched my grades slip as I disconnected with my education; and my friendships broke down as I pushed away those closest to me. I felt utterly hopeless, and I was desperate for respite from my suffering.
I began to keep an online blog – it was the one place where I was able to express my inner conflict without having to vocalise how I was feeling. Somehow, writing about my emotions seemed easier than talking about them. My entries were deeply personal, but I felt as though I was able to finally be myself through my online platform.
I found myself coming out about my mental health and my sexuality at the same time
Writing about my sexuality and mental health was liberating as I was able to put my thoughts into a more permanent form. I wasn’t writing for an audience; I was writing for myself. Outlining how I was feeling enabled me to make sense of my emotions, and things started to become a little clearer. Progress was being made, but I needed support from others.
I still felt uncomfortable talking about my mental state, so I began by sending my blog to a small number of close friends. In doing so, I found myself coming out about my mental health and my sexuality at the same time. It was a difficult, but incredibly worthwhile, process which helped to repair broken relationships. My peers were able to understand how I was feeling, which prompted a number of eye-opening conversations, and I started to realise that I wasn’t as alone as I had originally thought.
The main difference between then and now is that I’ve come to realise that I don’t need a label in order to validate my feelings.
Accepting who we are and being open about our sexual identity can reap positive side effects, despite the potential negative consequences we may experience. Now that I am more confident in myself, I try to hold conversations on both mental health and sexuality; when I was struggling, I may have felt a little less uneasy about discussing how I felt if I had met someone who was open about their history. The power of communication should never be underestimated; if a conversation seems hard, then it’s probably one worth having.
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