Y’All Need Help #25: Spring Cleaning Part 4

Welcome welcome, to the fourth round of Y’All Need Help Spring Cleaning! Imagine me covered in cobwebs and figuring out how to use the vacuum attachments, listening to The Moody Blues, burning some incense with the windows open. Spring cleaning.

Let us begin.


Q 1: Queer wedding planning resources?

Hey Autostraddle! My nb-partner and I are super excited to have a big ol’ lesbian wedding at some point in coming years and are pretty sure we’ve picked out some rings we want to propose with! It’s a REALLY cool thing to contemplate doing – they’re my best friend and a kickass partner. We’re doing the international long distance thing (I’m the Canadian girlfriend and they’re American) which is part of why we’ve got loads of time to plan for marriage because of logistics and money… but in the meantime we could use some help. We’re mostly looking for any book / website / general recommendations for planning the actual ceremony, but in like…. a customized gay way? Or a forum / community in which to discuss gay weddings in a chill way? We both miss the days of livejournal and are wondering if something like that still exists somewhere that we don’t know about. Thanks in advance for any suggestions and much love for your website and this column!

A 1:

Congratulations! By far the most useful resource that I found when planning my wedding in 2015 was A Practical Wedding, specifically their Getting Started section. They have everything you need for planning and logistics and numbers and protocol (obvs it’s up to you whether you want stick to that protocol, but it’s useful to know) without dragging you down with heteronormativity. My favorite places for inspiration were H&H Weddings (we’ve also worked with the founder, Kate Shaefer, in the past and she’s SO GREAT), Offbeat Bride, and Catalyst Wedding Co. — all of which have Instagram accounts so you can be obsessing over weddings from sunrise to sunset with just a flick of the thumb. After the wedding I immediately found about a million other queer-specific wedding sites/Instagrams, including Dancing With Her and F Yeah Gay Weddings.

Now let’s see what the readers have up their sleeves!


Q 2: Communication and stress

If my girlfriend (of 6 months) were more relaxed I’m almost certain she’d forget to breathe. I, however, have Olympic medals in stress and anxiety. I absolutely adore her but we are both in the midst of a very busy patch with work/university/general life stuff, and we have both noticed a distance growing between us. We are going weeks without seeing each other and while that is not an huge issue, our communication is really breaking down. I don’t need to know every detail of her day, but not knowing when she has plans makes me feel a bit unimportant and sends my anxiety into a tailspin, especially when those plans override plans we have made together. Her relaxed ass, however, does not really see this as a problem. Is there any way I can communicate this with her (and explain why I need her to communicate better) without sounding like super-needy-needer?

A 2:

When I’m feeling needy, I like to get that truth right out on the table immediately, plop it down like 50lb steak in The Flinstones. HERE’S WHAT I NEED. And listen it’s not always pretty, usually I’ve waited until I can’t stand it anymore and it’s very nearly a need-emergency. But if you’re trying to play it slightly cool, I think instead of explaining to her why you need her to communicate more/better, it would be less super-needy to succinctly express that you’d like to carve out some time without distractions when the two of you can just relax into each other again like you used to.

Busy patches like the one you’re going through are part of life, and it’s important that you prioritize your relationship (and your own downtime) somewhere on your list, otherwise you’re both going to burn out and feel like garbage AND you won’t have anyone to talk to about it! Make personal obligations as important and unbreakable as professional obligations. That’s what the life coaches say.


Q 3: The universe is a cold, cold place

Hi. So I’m a shy demisexual with walls higher than Troy. However, I know this awesome girl and managed to ask her out. She was all up for going out and we have been talking most days since. Never actually managed to go out due to work (both of ours) and an accident (hers). A few days ago she let me know that on scans they have found a tumour (unknown prognosis as yet). She won’t put me through what’s coming and has gone for radio silence. I understand this/that the last thing she needs is someone else to worry about/bad time for distractions/needs to be with family etc but man it hurts. I am so angry with the universe – I’m scared stiff for her, helpless, and angry that bad things happen to good people. And almost grieving what could have been if that makes sense. Does that make me bad? I stick a toe outside my walls and the universe drop kicks my heart off a cliff, but she’s going through hell so who am I to be upset?

A 3:

These are normal feelings you’re going through! You are perfectly and bitterly normal. You took a chance with your heart and its feelings, and due to circumstances — terrible, truly fucked up ones — beyond your control, this hasn’t gone the way you’d hoped. Not the way anyone would’ve hoped. It makes sense that you’d be sad and angry and scared and grieving. Those are all very normal reactions to what’s happening. Are they pretty reactions? No, and the realest ones rarely are.

What would make you a self-centered asshole is if you pestered her for answers, or went to her or any of her friends or family with these feelings, expecting comfort or even an understanding nod, but you already know that. Send her a note or something that lets her know you hope nothing but the absolute best for her.

Her health has nothing to do with you at all (except that you care about her) and you’ll get no sympathy from the world at large because of it. I know that’s not what you’re even looking for, but just to be super clear. Don’t try to make her health scare into the reason you never take a chance on someone else again. Let this be a reason to be radically tender and loud about it, to everyone you care about.


Q 4: Relationships and bi identity

Hey, I could use some help. I’m a bi girl in a five-year (and temporarily long-distance) relationship with a straight man whom I met in college overseas. He’s super awesome, I really love him, want to marry him, whole nine yards. Thing is, sometimes I idly wonder what it would be like to date a lady (or just someone else in general, he’s only the second person I’ve dated). Kind of a vague, “oh, I’ve never done that, wonder what that might be like.”

However part of me is also wondering if it’s less that I actually want to leave this guy and more that I want to be seen more as bi in general and not just as filling out the perfect straight dream life that pleases my family. I’m out to my bf and about three close friends (who are all supportive) and that’s about it.

See I’m back in my super religious and conservative home country for a bit (yay immigration issues) and it’s really not safe to be out and queer because it’s seen as having a mental illness/just having something wrong with you in general/being seen as terribly forward and in your face/spitting in the face of God/not wanting to be a functioning member of society/a fair target for violence. All of these statements I’ve heard from my family members and coworkers. Needless to say, I am not out to anyone here.

A lot of this, “I want to date a lady” has only come up in the last year, when I moved back to my home country, almost three thousand miles away from my bf who I’m missing a ton and in a really unpleasant situation that makes me feel invisible and stifled. So…I don’t know. Can you give me some advice with how to deal?

A 4:

It’s normal to idly wonder what X would be like while you’re doing something else, so don’t let that panic you or make you feel like a bad person (not that you are panicked or thinking you’re a bad person now, I just want to make that clear). I think you hit the nail on the head in your second paragraph — your whole self is being stifled while you’re living at home and those parts of you that can’t see the light of day right now are understandably really pissed about it, and wanting to get out. I’m so sorry you’re in a situation that makes it impossible for you to be fully yourself! Is there an underground queer scene in your area, or maybe an adjacent area? Are you active in queer spaces online? I feel like it sound like I’m trivializing the severity of the anti-gay sentiments of your country and I don’t think my actionable advice is especially helpful here.

I’m hoping our readers with similar experiences will have some more solid advice for you!


Q 5: Help ignoring internalised homophobia

So, I recently met a really awesome girl who I have a lot in common with and is definitely queer, single and looking to meet people. Great! But I’m so super scared of asking her out/letting her know I’m interested, and while talking it through with a friend I realised that I’m dealing with some internalised homophobia – I can’t let go of assuming that if anyone finds out I like them their response will be ‘ew that’s gross!’ I’ve been out for years and I’m generally pretty ok with my sexuality, but I’m really struggling to move past this.. any ideas??

A 5:

You just have to do it! You have to do the thing that scares the hell out of you in order to prove to yourself that it won’t kill you! It might hurt or something, but it won’t kill you. Like ripping off a bandaid and then slamming that injured body part against the wall a couple of times and LOOK it didn’t fall off, you are safe.

Try to imagine the worst case scenario — and I don’t mean let your imagination go wild and imagine literally the worst case scenario, involving armageddon or your eyelids being held open by little pins. I’m talking about just your regular, boring, run of the mill worst case scenario: you, looking very cute in that one outfit you love the most and having an impossibly good hair day, express your interest in this really awesome girl, right to her face. She, looking devastatingly gorgeous in that one shirt that changed the way you thought about shirts and having an impossibly good hair day of her own, sitting in the perfect shaft of sunlight or is it the soft glow of an exquisite lamp?, very gently (because she is truly as awesome as you claim she is and therefore isn’t mean or rude) turns you down.

Are you with me? Imagining? Ok great.

What happens next? Maybe an awkward half-sentence comes out of your mouth, maybe she changes the subject immediately. But there are no hellfires, no bloody screaming demons raining down from the sky, your face has not melted off, no one passed gas, the earth did not swallow you, you still have to do your laundry later, seasonal fruits and vegetables are still at your local grocery store, birds still chirp. YOU LIVED.

So that’s all you have to do! Just do the thing you want to do but are scared of doing. It’s as simple as lifting a large boulder that’s actually not nearly as heavy as you thought it was and then throwing it over a cliff. Poof!


Q 6: Discussing scars

So, I’ve had various mental health issues throughout my life, but I’ve been working through them and finally managed to access some therapy (I’m in the UK, so therapy is free but waiting times are looong). I’m now in a position where for the first time I can actually picture myself in a healthy relationship and it’s something I really want. However, I have quite a few self harm scars, which are fairly noticeable. I really don’t know how I would discuss them with a potential romantic partner without scaring them off. I’m fine at talking about mental health in general, but talking directly about my own issues is really hard and previous self harm even more so. I can’t hide it so I’d want to be honest in a relationship but I have no idea how I would even start that conversation! How can I bring it up without making it a super big deal that’s really scary??

A 6:

So happy for your therapy and progress!! Aaaaaaaah I’m yelling for you right now I’m so THRILLED! Ok so these scars are both a very big deal and not a big deal at all, depending on how we’re looking at them. Big-deal-speaking, these fucking things represent a fucking time, one that you lived right through and fought your way out of. That fucking time was no joke, and one way or another, even if you didn’t have any physical scars to show to anyone, you’ll be carrying that time around inside you for the rest of your wild beautiful life. There’s a bookshelf of you on your insides, and that fucking time is on one of those shelves, next to the first rollercoaster you went on, the time the teacher embarrassed the hell out of you in music class, the time you fell and broke your thumb, the first time you saw the ocean, the night you really quietly cried yourself to sleep at summer camp and then the next morning when Natalie let you eat some of the cheeseballs her mom had packed and then she showed you how to shave your legs, the best quote you’ve ever read, the first framed art you hung on your wall, the first time you had to dress yourself to go to a funeral, the time you couldn’t remember how to ride a bike after all and E laughed at you because it really was hilarious and so dumb. All those things and a trillion other things, and that fucking time when the scars were created is right there with them! That’s a lot!

But also, those scars don’t mean shit. They had their time and now that’s over. You’re bigger than they are, and you do more important things and matter more to people than they do. YOU you you. The scars take up just that little bit of room on your bookshelf and there are so many more interesting things surrounding them. They’re there, yes, but tell me more about when you broke your thumb, and I wonder what Natalie is up to these days.

I have scars and I don’t even remember how I brought them up to Megan. I think I was just like “Oh, yeah. I have those.” and she must’ve been like, “Hm, ok.” and that was probably that. We’ve talked about them since then and I’ve always been in charge of how much of an explanation I gave and the tone of the conversation, and she’s never pushed me for more or made me feel like a broken beast. I was with another girl once who also had scars — we weren’t close and had no intention of dating seriously at all — and as she was taking off her shirt she said, casual as a motherfucker, “I have some scars right here because I used to [etc], and you really can’t miss them so I’m just telling you?” and I said, “Ok” and then we kept making out.

A potential romantic partner who’s worth your time will understand all of this and anyone with even a general acquaintance with the idea of politeness will take their cues from you. Bring it up when the time feels right to you, and don’t apologize for them — they’re you. Don’t apologize for you.


Q 7: Needing more.

I’ve been really into this girl for months and finally told her so a month or so ago! It was really scary but we ended up hooking up and spending more time together and that has been really nice. The problem is that she is the world’s WORST texter (as in, short responses with lots of punctuation 6 hours after I text her) and I have been doing all of the work in this bizarre semi-relationship. I always have to text her first if I want to see her at all and she doesn’t pick up on any of my attempts to flirt. I know that I need to have a conversation with her where I ask her how she feels and tell her that I really need more communication from her and more security about her liking me, but I literally haven’t been able to get her alone for weeks and now I’m feeling like I’ll seem overly eager if I keep texting her. How do I get her to have this conversation with me without sounding like a crazy person and scaring her off? What do I do with a person who doesn’t know how to communicate feelings the way I need her to?

A 7:

Hmmmmm I believe this is just who she is. Where you’re a person who texts and wants to be texted, she appears to be a person who does not wish to text. Does she speak full sentences to you and seem to care about you when you’re in the same room together? Which is to say, do you really need to have a conversation with her about how she feels about you, or do you already know? I feel like this sounds harsh but I’ve been mulling over your question for some time now and this is what I think is true! Talking about texting sounds like the worst conversation I could ever imagine. She doesn’t want to respond to your texts immediately, and so she isn’t — whether this is because she’s not into texting or she’s not into you or doesn’t have time or whatever, this is what she’s giving you right now.

If you’re texting her little things throughout the day that don’t require an immediate/semi-immediate reply — like you’re not setting up a date or asking her to come over and lift this piano off of your chest — and she’s taking hours to reply to them for whatever reason, do you really want to keep sending them? Are you having fun? If so, keep doing it and having fun! I fucking love texting my wife while she’s at work and can’t respond. I actually prefer it to texting her when she can respond. I send like 300 one-line texts over the course of a few hours and I know she won’t reply to any of them — not even later, when she could reply, because she won’t remember anything I’ve said — but I send them because I’m bored or I think it’ll semi-annoy her (in a cute way, you know) or because I think what I’m saying is brilliant and hilarious and she took a vow in front of like 40 people promising to love me forever so she’s the person who has to get these texts! It’s a BLAST for me! But if I was hoping she’d respond to every little thing I’d sent and then she did not respond, I would not be having fun, and I would not do it anymore. I’d wait and say those things to her cute face instead, so she’d be forced to respond because that is what a conversation is.

So why are you texting her? If you have something to say and she’s not a texter, just say it to her face. If she can’t seem to find a time to put her face in front of yours for the purpose of exchanging words and ideas (either because she truly can’t because she’s busy or she can’t because she doesn’t want to), she’s not prioritizing this relationship. In which case I don’t think you need to have the talk about feelings because it’s the not talking that has told you everything you need to know.

BUT MAYBE I’M JUST BEING A CYNICAL OGRE so let’s ask the readers what they think!


Q 8: Coming out to a husband

Hi there, I am a woman in my mid-30s who’s been married to the best man in the world for 10 years. I realized around 7 weeks ago that I’m gay instead of bisexual (as I always thought I was). I accidentally got really drunk and told him. Then I immediately took it back and said I’m still bi, but we’ve both been in a really dark place ever since. I lost around 10 pounds from being too anxious to eat, and got super depressed. My therapist wants me to keep dropping hints to him of my attraction towards women, or to keep communicating in some way, but I’m so scared. I had a panic attack about two weeks after the revelation and ended up in the ER, and when I asked him to come be with me he said he was too busy at work. I had this vision of him leaving me and got terrified. Since then we haven’t communicated, just pretended like everything’s fine. How do I open the gates of communication when things are so fragile? For what it’s worth, he’s from the opposite side of the planet and all his friends and family live there. I’m his only support network here, and I’m also scared that if we broke up he would move back there and I’d lose the opportunity to keep him in my life. Also, my doctor told me I have to get pregnant by the end of 2018 or freeze my eggs, and having a child is something we’ve always wanted to do. The clock is ticking on my making a decision, or at least owning up to my uncertainty and what it will cost us.
Thanks for any advice you can give, I’m super alone.

A 8:

I’m yelling on the inside for you because this is too fucking much for one person to carry alone and I’m really mad that you’ve had to do it! Damn it! Right now the person who needs the most from you is YOU — not the husband who doesn’t have a support system and won’t come to the ER with you and is pretending not to know that you’re gay, and not the baby you may or may not have. You have to show up for yourself and you absolutely deserve to be happy and fully who you are, and this situation is actively preventing all of those things. You have to have a very real conversation with your husband. I don’t think dropping hints is the way to go, but your therapist probably knows more about you and your situation than I do, so possibly that’s the right approach for you! Either way this isn’t a sustainable situation and it has to be changed, for everyone’s sake.

Go ahead and make plans to freeze those eggs, because now is not the time to get pregnant. Freezing them, if that’s a financial option for you, will eliminate at least one giant looming thing and free you up psychically, so you can devote yourself to figuring out the here and now.

All the great wonderful best husbands in the world who are married to gay women also deserve to be happy! And being a straight man married to a lesbian isn’t fun, you know? It’s not great. So while this — having the difficult conversations, possibly divorcing? — will probably feel like the most selfish thing you’ve ever done, never forget that you’re also doing it for him.

I’m so sorry this isn’t easier, but you’re not alone! Go back to the comments of previous Y’All Need Helps and see just how many women have been in your shoes. There are, um, a lot of us. YOU CAN DO THIS you can have the hard talks and make the hard decisions!!


Q 9: Please help me to not ruin this lesbian wedding

Next month one of my best friends is getting married. It will be a lesbian wedding, and a large portion of the guests will be ex-girlfriends/people I hooked up with when I slept through my friends group in my early 20s. I am stressed as hell and have been for months now. It will be a small wedding, and there were no plus ones on the invites so I’ll be going solo. I am nervous about seeing so many of these people, but I am v. v. v. nervous about seeing The Ex Girlfriend (who I was in love with for many years and it had a horrible ending and we haven’t seen each other in a very long time). My question is, how do I navigate this situation? How do I make sure I am prioritizing celebrating my friend’s marriage, instead of just thinking about myself and my own history? Do I full on ignore my ex, or do I go make nice to her and be polite? How do I avoid spending the night crying in the bathroom/getting too drunk from the anxiety/throwing myself at another ex/taking too many Xanax/making a total fool of myself/causing general drama/JUST RUINING THE ENTIRE WEDDING?!?!?

A 9:

D O  N O T  G E T  D R U N K !

I love you, look at me in the eyes THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU, Lorna. I’m calling you Lorna. This is your best friend’s YOUR BEST FRIEND’s wedding! It’s not your ANYTHING do you hear me? The only feelings you’re allowed to feel on that day are the ones of pride and love and hope for your friend. THAT’S IT, LORNA. That is IT.

Be nervous, be sick to your whole entire stomach if you must, but squash it all the way down into a fine powder and blow it the fuck away like the compartmentalizing, grin-and-bear-it motherfucker I know you can be. Lorna, look at me. Look at me. Is this about you at all? This wedding? Is it about you?

NO IT IS NOT.

Here’s what you’re going to do Lorn, you’re gonna get a gorgeous outfit and a haircut, maybe a color, too, I don’t know your life. You’re gonna make sure your skin is opulent and glowing, that you are well-rested, fresh-breathed, bright-eyed, HYDRATED. Look down at your shoes, they are perfect. Smile in the mirror. What a killer fucking smile, Lorna. Excellent. You are doing great. Who are you here for, Lorna? Who matters today? Your best friend, correct.

You absolutely do not ignore the ex. You smile with a face that says, “Denise, it’s not about us today!!!!! NOT TODAY!!” and “Aren’t you so, so fucking happy for my best friend? I am.” You are not here to make friends and you’re not here to make enemies, Lorna. You’re not even here to fuck. WHAT ARE YOU HERE FOR, BABE.

YOUR FRIEND THAT’S RIGHT.

You are a self-assured, hydrated, sober/mostly sober woman in the prime of her life. You’ve moved beyond any petty behavior, including gossiping, glaring, laughing sarcastically, giving anyone the silent treatment, getting drunk in public, crying in a bathroom that doesn’t belong to you, taking too many Xanax, falling down, throwing oneself at one’s ex, or participating in anything that anyone could ever describe as “drama.”

Now you get your ass to that wedding and you be an example for all lesbiankind. MAKE ME PROUD.


Q 10: Broke and done with this place, but…

I’m currently very unhappy with where I live, and I’m doing everything I can to move to a new city, pretty far away. It’s a slow process because I’m also at a financial low in my life right now; I’ve had to move back in with my parents. I can’t afford to simply get up and change locations right now.

I’ve also been feeling pretty emotionally low because of all of these factors, and a few friends have suggested I should start dating again. I haven’t dated in a while because I’m broke and I don’t want to be here anymore. Dating seems like a great way to stay broke, and get attached to someone in a way that keeps me from leaving (although granted – kissing a woman would probably improve my mood tremendously).

Should I stay single? Also if anyone has any suggestions on changing locations while broke, I’d love to hear them.

A 10:

Stay single but hang out with people! Make more friends and do more cheap/free things and keep saving that money!! You’re doing GREAT. You have a plan, you have friends, your parents have opened their home to you, I bet your hair is cute. You are on the path! Get out of your house, do free things, have inexpensive fun experiences, take pictures, make a new playlist for every month, have a good day. Never forget that you have a PLAN, and keep your eye on that prize.

Readers, if you have tips for moving on the cheap, let this person know!


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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and she thinks you're fucking rad. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, some personal essays and a lot of emails in her inbox.

Laneia has written 785 articles for us.

23 Comments

  1. #3: Maybe check in with your friend (Yes, I’m putting the friend in here on purpose), ask how her day was, if everyone’s been treating her nice, if you need to beat people up, maybe.Ask her whether she’s already seen “Killing Eve”. Once people get sick, normalcy becomes something of a rarity and maybe she doesn’t want to bother you or burden you, but maybe you can signal her, that it’s ok (if it is).
    I got the vibe that you feel blown off and you’re blaming it on the disease instead of her, and you’re angry about it, but don’t really dare to be, while she’s punishing herself for being sick by cutting you cleanly from her life in an effort to not harm you with her crap. All of this is maybe not entirely necessary.

    #15:Happiness.
    Congratulations. You have clawed your way out of mental hell!
    Now, surprisingly, you are not happy.
    Turns out, that happiness is not the default state of being once you’re healthy, but more work!
    Two things:
    1.Figure out what makes you happy.
    2.Figure out what makes you unhappy.
    And then fumble around with the two until you find something that works.
    I believe that this is an ongoing quest that regular people struggle with continually.
    However, you, dear friend, have the unparalleled advantage that you are aware of the fact that you are unhappy and moreover wish to be happy.
    You have fought so hard and come so far, you deserve it!
    Most people are unaware that they are unhappy. Even more don’t really make it a priority. As long as food is on the table and the kids are well, the mortgage is paid off..whatever.. who cares about their own happiness? Who goes to seek and find it?
    You do, that’s who.
    Happiness IS a lot of small things.
    Unhappiness sometimes is, too.
    And it’s usually never the things one suspects either.
    Being happy often enough requires a lot of insight and learning and change.
    All of these things require a certain fearlessness.
    Being happy is an act of courage, of vulnerability, a quest that takes the reformed depressive and mentally ill into the great unknown.
    I’m not happy either. But I know why I’m not, which changes I’d have to make. Which ones I’m too chickenshit for, yet.
    I feel like I was locked away into my castle of thorns while everyone was busy making plans and now, over ten years late, I’m trying to cobble something long term together, trying to find a clue to what I really want.
    Good luck to you. If you want some advice:Take notes, even of the smallest things. Especially of the small things.

  2. 15: Over Christmas I asked my mum this question, “Do you think I’ll ever be happy or shall I just accept things as they are and get over it?” And she said, “we don’t really come from happy stock.” Which, by the way, is an appalling thing to say to your kid. Anyway, I’m less unhappy than I was, perhaps because I was so incensed by my mum’s comment? Also because I have been thinking a lot about how happiness doesn’t have to be the goal for a meaningful life.

    • Can we get a friday roundtable where everyone shares the worst things their mothers have ever told them?

      I was three days out of inpatient treatment after a suicide attempt and two weeks away from my 22nd birthday when my mom told me that her 20s were the worst years of her life, and then she met her second husband (my dad) in her 30s and the “Lord restored the years the locust had eaten.”

      WOW. That might have made a way better speech for my 30th bday.

  3. For the person planning to move, do you know people in your new location? Can you start by subletting, which usually involves a lower security deposit or none at all?

    I moved to my current location for the cost of one plane ticket, but that only really works if you’re bringing next to nothing with you. Do you have friends or family members you can get help from with boxing and transporting belongings? Even if you don’t, you can still do it! You got this.

    Also, when you file for a change of address with the USPS, they send like a zillion coupons, so that’s helpful!

  4. #6: I have extensive scars on my body. I haven’t self-harmed in years but the scars are still very evident. At times I feel a great bit of shame and embarrassment. I never know who is going to say something. Sometimes it’s a complete stranger. The way I think and feel about it now is that I was using the only resource I had to survive an incredibly difficult time. I worry about not being given a chance because of it but I think sometimes that’s my shame. There are people who will judge but I have found that the really cool people in the world can recognize that I’m more than my scars. I have recently started thinking about getting some tattoos to cover a few of them, but if I do I want them as a way to honor the battle, not because I’m ashamed.

    #15: I guess this piggybacks a bit on #6. I went through years where several times a day I had to make a conscious decision to stay alive. Multiple medications, ECT, hospitalizations, outpatient programs, PTSD groups, and tons of therapy. Today, my OCD is under control, I can handle anxiety without medication, no more panic attacks, and I am a functioning person. I have been on disability for 18 years because of my mental health issues. I have worked really hard. When things starting getting better I started making some lifestyle changes that would help me in my ability to function. I have great friends, a kick-ass twin sister, and I get to do things I enjoy. My life has to be structured and I know there are things I have to do to avoid falling into old unhealthy coping skills. But I am never really happy. Most days, just not living in a dark void or wanting to die is enough. But sometimes I wonder if I will ever feel anything other than just ok. Then I feel ungrateful because I am so much better and I have worked so hard to get where I am. I have accepted that I will never be able to go off of medication. I’ll never work a full-time job again, which presents a whole other set of negative feelings. I know that no matter how well I take care of myself I am still capable of falling into a severe depression. And if I’m having a bad day I’m like, wtf? I’ve been through all this shit and here I am unable to get out of bed. So, for me, it’s about carving out moments. On those bad days, I try to remember kayaking across the inlet to a private island with my friends. Or watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. So, I don’t know if I will ever feel happiness. But I have moments of joy and contentment. Right now, those moments are more common than the feelings of emptiness. I laugh more than I cry. It’s a pretty good life an I’m glad I’m for those moments.

    As for dating and relationships, I’m completely lost, because I feel like I’ve been in this mental health fog for so long. My life is very structured, I live with my sister, and I’m poor. I don’t exactly consider myself a catch. So, no help in that department, sorry.

  5. #3: Your person will have an evolving relationship with their diagnosis, kind of like going through the stages of grief? Initially they may need space and just being a benevolent presence in the bkground is the perfect way to be supportive. Later on after they’ve had time to process, who knows maybe they will want to re-kindle a little flirtation? Having the chance to flirt could help them re-claim parts of their pre-diagnosis life?

    I could be wrong about all this, just thinking about going through something like this when one of my close / flirty friends went through a traumatic experience, how to be supportive of them.

  6. #15: I read a few things that helped me with this recently!
    Matthew Inman, the guy who writes The Oatmeal cartoon, wrote about it here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/unhappy

    Basically, embracing the idea of focusing more on whether we are interested in what’s happening in life from week to week, rather than only if we are happy with life.

    Also, I found out recently that our dopamine levels increase only with expected reward, rather than actual reward. So, finding five bucks on the street gives us a bigger burst of happiness neurotransmitter levels than getting five dollars in a birthday card, maybe.

    Like, how many of us just *expect* to do well in our classes or get a decent job or whatever, because that’s what’s considered normal, the baseline life story? So we don’t experience that much happiness when they do happen, compared to the Extreme Bummer we experience when those things don’t happen. It’s an imbalanced set of expectations, so one strategy is to try and recalibrate our expectations of life.

    Or, half-jokingly, when all else fails, I lower my standards.

  7. 10) this is a bit of work in terms of applying and stuff but americorp is an awesome way to travel (actually move and live in a new city) real cheap. yes you gotta work for not tons of money but they usually help out with housing and stuff and you get an education grant at the end (or some real money whichever you choose). the nonprofit im working at actually has a place for me to stay for freeee. also, if this applies to you your school loans are deferred while youre doing your service.
    there a ton of options for most major cities in terms of the type of service you can work with (homelessnesss, environment, education etc.) and like it seriously looks awesome on a resume plus you get to learn and use a ton of different skills that could help in literally any career. also you’d probably work with a ton of passionate and kind people, which could definitely help with your low moods. also I have no idea about your background but for a lot (like a lot) of the positions you only need a high school degree or some college if that would be something you’d be worried about.
    I know this one person who did americorp in my city (they weren’t from there) and they got like super involved in the queer community outside of their americorp work and ended up opening a clothing shop for trans folks. so there is also room to just like meet people outside of your work and do whateva it is that you like to do

  8. #17 – did i send this in my sleep?? relatable as ALL HELL.

    #5 – to quote the ineffable carrie fisher: “stay afraid, but do it anyway”. this advice has helped a lot in my life! do the thing – it’s bloody terrifying, but ultimately you’ll either get what you wanted or you’ll be able to move on, knowing that you tried your best, and you won’t be left with a horrible ‘what if’ hanging in a corner of your mind.

    #6 – i have never been through what you have, but as someone who’s encountered new friends with scars, i can say that i for one would either be completely unfazed by this or just sad that you had to go through something that caused you sadness and harm and i’d be very thankful that you’re still around. i can only imagine i’d be the same way with any potential romantic partner!

  9. I just wanted to say that your answer to #6 was absolutely perfect. I’m not the person who asked that question, but it’s so relatable that I easily could have been. Your words meant a lot to me, and I imagine I’m not the only one. Thanks for what you said.

  10. Hey #13, have you read Building a Bridge by James Martin? I don’t think it’ll necessarily have an answer to the question you asked here, but it’s a nice book you can read in a sitting, or maybe a couple-three, and I really liked reading it and recognizing that a) I’m not the only queer Catholic that exists and b) the “typical” (negative) interaction between LGBTQ+ people and the Church doesn’t have to be all there is.

  11. Hey there #13, I see you! It can be really hard to figure out sometimes what a religious background means when you’re trying to move forward and embrace your queer identity. If you’re interested in religious affirming spaces for queer people, #faithfullyLGBT is a great online community that is sex-positive and intersectional! Podcasts like Mathias Roberts’ Queerology were particularly helpful for me to figure out what faith meant to me as a queer individual. You’re absolutely right – religion and sexuality are complicated, but there are communities out there dedicated to inclusion and recognizing the beautiful complex diversity in religion, gender, and sexuality, if you’re interested.

    But hey, spiritual trauma is a real thing. It can be really damaging and if that means you need to take a break or remove yourself from religion entirely know that there is absolutely no shame in doing that! Your health is most important and sometimes taking space is the best way to recover from painful experiences caused by harmful institutions. You know yourself and your needs best.

    On a personal note, just some more reassurance (in the form of a personal story) that you’re not cursed – I tried to pray the gay away for *years* as a teenager and I’m now living as a queer person in a healthy, happy relationship with a wonderfully supportive woman who helps me work through my past and live every moment in the present. You sound like you’re putting yourself out there and you’re doing great! Just keep surrounding yourself with a supportive community of people who are fully affirming of your identity in all of its facets. I’m rooting for you!

  12. #6: I dated someone for years with very visible self harm scars. She told me when we stopped kissing so I could explain I sometimes have panic attacks during sex… like oh hey here’s our “let’s warn each other” time before we get naked. I guess my point is that most queer people have some history of trauma or really awful anxiety or something they dread telling new partners. Yours happens to be more visible than many people’s, but anyone worth dating will understand that we have all been through some shit (some of us more than others) and that’s no reason to not date someone.

    You also don’t have to tell anyone. People worth dating will refrain from asking invasive questions about your body, whether that is scars or the tattoo of an ex’s name. But it might help you have have planned ahead of time what you want to say.

    Good luck ❤️

  13. laneia i love you and reading your advice makes me love you even more if such a thing is possible EVERY TIME

    #2 – i both intensely relate to it being tough to see someone when you’re both super busy and … think your girlfriend is kinda being a jerk tbh? and you’re not being needy at all. like especially if she is able to keep plans with other people but not you?

    #6 – maybe it’s who i’ve slept with but i do feel that this isn’t particularly uncommon. :-/ i’ve encountered it many many times — often before the getting naked part since scars can be visible with clothes on too — and until we are actually emotionally close, i generally haven’t asked and they haven’t said anything. when i’ve seen it i’ve just assumed that they, like so many of us, have been through some tough shit at some point. some of us have scars and some of us don’t. personally have one that was only slightly visible that i covered with a tattoo but that was for me not for other people.

  14. Hey #8 — *raises hand* There are so many of us out here! Lots and lots and lots of us! Just to share a quick thing: When I was going through my own divorce with my ex-husband, I knew approximately zero queers who had “straight” pasts (I was very young at the time, and in a very liberal area of the country). But now, years later? OH MY GOD THERE ARE SO MANY OF US WITH THIS STORY. You are not alone!

    Once you know something (like that you’re a lesbian!) you can’t unknow that, or sidestep it. Coming out to yourself is like opening Pandora’s Box and woof, that’s so much to take in. But you are wildly precious, and you (and your husband) deserve to be living the fullest and richest life. Right now it must feel unimaginably hard but trust me, the other side is unimaginably rewarding.

  15. #15: I was in a similar place last year! I had recently gotten out of a really bad place in my depression via a lot of therapy, and was doing a lot better. I was doing so much better! I could function and be okay! But I was still depressed. I was better, but I didn’t want to just be better, I wanted to be good. I told this to my psychiatrist, and at the time I was on the best combo of meds I had tried, but adding another med changed my life. Just because the combination of medications I was on was the best in my life didn’t mean that it couldn’t be improved. The same can go for therapy (types of therapy and frequency of therapy)! This is not just as good as it gets for you. It can get good after it gets better.

  16. #15. My gf accidentally says ridiculously wise things all the time and never notices that she says them, and then sort of blinks owlishly and continues onto a tangent. Her latest was “good things happen to people who notice when good things happen to them.”

    Which I recognize (as someone who was depressed for 13 years) is a really, really hard thing to do while depressed. Or even while less depressed than the most depressed. But I really do believe that depression can be left behind, or at least successfully managed… I’ve seen it in myself and in many of my loved ones. But it takes a ton of chutzpah and bravery, and it’s a long slow slog, and requires intense and scary work. That work can be different things for different people. It can be therapy of various kinds, medication, meditation, nutrition, being regimented about sleep, many things. Might as well be proud of the things you’ve done to get this far, and continue to try all the other things you haven’t tried yet. Why not!

    I will give some unsolicited advice: One thing that we do know for sure, that meta-studies have confirmed again and again, is that regular exercise is more effective by a long shot than any other intervention. That doesn’t mean going to the gym and lifting like a bro (although I personally love that), but any way you like to move. But I mean I was a competitive athlete who exercised every day in the depths of my worst depression, so, you know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    What I want to do is give you hope for a new kind of life where the asking yourself ‘am I happy’ is no longer relevant. Instead, future you can be present with the range of emotions, good and bad, and (I know this sounds crazy) even appreciate the painful ones. Life can be bigger/wider/richer than happiness/unhappiness, even though society likes to paint it narrowly. I’m excited for what you find out there when you get curious and start looking.

  17. #6: Congrats on getting help and entering a more stable phase in your life. I too lost a good chunk of my life dealing with mental health issues, including self harm. Now, when I do a thing I tend to go all out, and cutting was no exception. My arms (and to a lesser degree other parts of my body) are riddled with scars. More scars than I can count, because they cross each other like streets on a map of an extremely chaotic city. The majority of my scars were created 10-15 years ago (I’m 34). They have faded to white with time, but they’re big old keloid scars that are readily apparent to anyone who is standing next to me.

    Ok, so here’s the good news. I’ve dated many people over the years of many different genders and sexualities. No one has ever had an issue with my scars. It’s never to my knowledge stopped anyone from dating me. Lots of people I’ve dated have even told me that they’re beautiful and interesting to feel and look at. Strangers have asked if it was some kind of artistic scarification (I don’t wear long sleeves or try to hide my scars in my daily life). People who I’ve dated for long periods of time generally forget they’re even there. I tend to forget they’re there, most of the time. It’s just another feature of my body, like my tattoos, or my wrinkles, or my stretch marks. They certainly tell a story, but it’s just one of many stories my body tells.

    Here’s the thing: you don’t owe anyone a disclaimer about your body. Honestly, I think it would make things extremely weird and awkward to try to apologize or warn people beforehand. I think you should just date, have sex, show your scars, and be yourself without offering any explanation. Every once in a while you might have someone ask directly about them. Unless they’re a dick, they’re just curious and trying to understand you. Answer simply that you struggled with mental health issues in the past and used to self harm. Most people won’t ask right away, because we’ve all seen lifetime movies at this point and honestly.. They know what it is and why it’s there. It will organically come up as you get to know a person and divulge all your past baggage and all that stuff. I’ve never had anyone have a problem with it. If you do find someone who acts like a jerk, well, they’ve just weeded themselves right out of your life and good riddance. Many people in the queer community have had their own struggles, or at least are somewhat more versed in ability and mental health issues than the general population.

    Ultimately the past is the past. People change, evolve, get help, move on with their lives. Scars last, but I think anyone with any level of emotional maturity understands that just because you had some crap in your past it doesn’t mean you still have the same crap going on in your current life.

    Get out there and good luck!

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