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

Q 11: Queer homemaking and other messy things

My wife and I are both in our mid-thirties, and we’ve been together almost fifteen years. One of the things I love best about our relationship is that classic queer thing of having to decide for ourselves how our home works, how we divvy up responsibilities, what a marriage means to us. For a good while, we had this balance that felt…well, like how modern women are supposed to be (trap number one!). We both worked full time, we split up chores and domestic stuff based on who liked/least hated what, and we felt bad for our straight cis women friends who struggled hard with getting their boyfriends/husbands to chip in with anything outside of work. We had it Figured Out.

Oh but wait, a twist: WE DIDN’T. We didn’t because while we were happy with each other, we were both miserable in our daily lives outside of that. I started my own business a few years ago, and I love it, and I’m good at it, and it’s doing very well. But it’s also a lot of stress and juggling, and I’m overwhelmed at finding the time/energy/brainspace to take care of the home, too. My wife, on the other hand, has never had a job she’s liked, and she comes home from her current one anxious and depressed every single day. What she does love is domestic projects and making stuff. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and provide her own food and sew and build and weave and hammer and putter around the house. All the things on the to-do list that make me despair at the end of a day. After endless long talks about it, we know what we want: I want to keep at it with my business, which has gotten to a point where it actually might be enough to take care of both of us. She, on the other hand, wants to quit her job and homestead. In other words, I provide the money, she provides the home.

Here are the hangups. I know these are all internalized bullshit and societal pressure bullshit and things I should ignore. I know that. I just need some wise learned queers to help me unpack it.

1. HOO BOY DO I FEEL WEIRD ABOUT POTENTIALLY LEAVING THE BULK OF THE HOUSEWORK TO MY WIFE WHILE I GO OFF TO MY SELF-IMPORTANT JOB. I know, I know this is different than straight couples wherein the dude expects that to be the dynamic. But my feminist heart feels like I’m being selfish or lazy here, or that we’ve reverse engineered the patriarchy or something. Yes, we’re both women and we came to this on our own, but I cannot get past this. There’s the added layer of icing that she presents super femme, and I’m somewhere in the tomboy realm of the spectrum. I feel like all of our cool self-definition journeying has somehow led us to traditional-looking gender roles, and I’m feeling fucked up about both what that means for our relationship, and what it means for my own sense of what it means to be a woman if I am also the literally-pants-wearing breadwinner who doesn’t do her own damn cooking.

2. My wife has no idea how to explain this to her family. I don’t need to explain the baggage that comes along with the word “housewife.” She’s afraid of looking lazy and worthless. (Why do we both feel like not doing ALL THE THINGS makes us lazy? This is rhetorical, I know the answer, it’s garbage.)

3. We’re not alone, right? We know there must be other couples like us out there, but if you google “lesbian housewife,” you wind up with nothing but porn for straight cis dudes (this was a depressing discovery).

I know this is all capitalism and the patriarchy’s fault as per usual but I could use some help untangling this.

A 11:

You have to divorce yourself from the idea that there’s only one right way to create a life with someone you love. You make the rules together and you can change those rules together. It sounds like you’re both extremely self-aware people who have figured out what you want in life AND how to make it happen. Be proud of yourself and decide, today and every day, not to give a single shining fuck what anyone else thinks about anything you’re doing!

If your wife’s family thinks she’s lazy and worthless, they don’t know her and they’ve never run a household. I was a housewife for a decade or more and it was EXHAUSTING but SO MUCH FUN. It was an honor and privilege to have so much control over how I used my time. I learned more about myself and humanity than I could’ve imagined.

And no, you’re not alone! I suggest substituting “queer” for “lesbian” when you’re doing a search like that, specifically to avoid the porn shit. Here are two sites I found with a quick search and I’m sure there are more:

Postnuclear Era
The Queer Housewife

Q 12: Mother’s Day help

How do I dodge direct questions about Mother’s Day? My biological mother is a manipulative, cruel sexual abuser, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing this with coworkers. On the other hand, I can’t stand the patronizing orders to “call her.” I don’t really have anyone else in my life who I would consider a “mother” such as grandmothers or older friends. Should I suck it up and lie? This also makes me feel gross, like she doesn’t even deserve to be lied about, but maybe that’s my best option? I wish I had a clever way to turn this back on the asker without being obvious. Thanks.

A 12:

What if you just matter-of-factly stated that your family doesn’t participate in Mother’s Day? People who ask pointed questions about a personal holiday and then give unsolicited advice are the worst kind of people. Just shut them down as quickly as possible and turn it back to them and their dumb lives. “Oh my family doesn’t observe Mother’s Day. What do you have planned?”

Q 13: Complicated religious question

I first noticed a same-sex attraction to women when I was 18 and kept quiet about it. I tried to make myself interested in guys so much that I’d try online dating or talk to other guys on forums but all we did was talk. I never met them in person or dated them. I just couldn’t go through with it. Around 6 years ago I was trying really hard to be straight, so much in fact that I found an online religious forum and in the prayer section I asked for the members to pray away my same-sex attraction. 3 years of unhappily trying to please everyone I stopped and admitted I was a lesbian. For the past 3 years I have had the worst luck finding a woman to begin a relationship with or even just go on a date. I feel like those members of a Catholic community, mind you, prayed so much that I’ll never be in a relationship. I’ve made myself visible in the LGBT community – online and off -and it feels like I’m cursed and God, the Universe or whoever is up there intervenes and says – Nope, not for you. Some days I just feel like giving up. Why does religion and sexuality have to complicate everything?

A 13:

I am so sorry, this is a terrible way to feel and to think of yourself! I’m confident you’re not cursed, though, and I believe you have just as much of a right and a chance to be happy as anyone else does. Asking for people to pray your gay away wasn’t a fucked up thing that has ruined your chances at happiness. You were doing what you thought was best, and no one — not even you! — can fault you for that. Forgive and love up on the past version of you who tried so hard to do the right thing. I’m sure that was an exhausting and miserable time, and it took a lot of inner work to pull yourself through it.

Dating is hard and stupid and weird. It’s not just you — it’s like that for almost everyone. I mean just take a scan through any advice post on this website and you’ll see that dating and putting yourself out there is something pretty much all of us have slogged through, and there’s no magic answer to make it any easier, other than just doing it. Just keep showing up and being the best version of yourself. Keep being dedicated to your own truth, and to having fun, and to seeing the bizarre beauty of this whole thing.

Q 14: Confused bi/pan/queer

Hi! I am a 24 year old bi/pan/queer woman and I am feeling VERY confused. Specifically, I am confused about how I want to present myself, who I want to make out with/date, and just generally how to be a fully expressed/realised version of my queer self.

Firstly, I am confused about how I dress and hair/makeup etc which sounds vain but I am very femme presenting so I get read as straight which pisses me off. I want to look more futch/tomboy I guess but I look like an awkward teenager if I dress this way! Like lipstick and eyeliner and a dress makes me look my age and put together. If I wear a shirt and jeans it just looks ill fitting and awkward.. any advice?

Secondly, I want to date a lot of people and it is very confusing and overwhelming. I want to meet lots of people and see what happens but my family keep pestering me to find ‘the one’ but I don’t want to find just one person I want to be with lots of people! I think because I haven’t dated anyone in a while I now want to date a lot of people in a casual way… but I have never really done that before…

Which I guess brings me to my last point that I feel kind of like a caterpillar in a little cocoon about to burst forth into all this queerness which is wonderful and exciting but also terrifying. I am not out to my family because they are homophobic but I am tired of hiding and being small. I want to live my life as my complete queer self but it’s scary. I guess I am just writing this for a bit of encouragement to start being myself. Thank you x

A 14:

Ok first of all, you don’t sound vain at all and your family has no say in how you date or when you ‘settle down’ or whatever. If you’re in a safe place and aren’t financially or physically dependent on your family, go ahead and come out to them! It’s absolutely something you can do and that kind of honesty is something you deserve to express. It’s not bad if you don’t come out, but I think a lot of people feel like their own coming out can wait, or that it’s not necessary or that it’s selfish, when actually coming out can feel like taking the first step to being who you really are, and everyone deserves that.

Keep trying different styles of clothes and hair. Hair grows back, so cut it, color it. Clothes can be replaced with other clothes. Try looking for styles and clothes at places you don’t usually buy from. Find a celebrity or even just another regular person whose style you admire and pick it apart. Find versions of what they wear and try them out. Makeup can be worn differently, so look around for other ways to express yourself. Keep trying! There are so many options between eyeliner and a dress and jeans and a t-shirt! And go, get out there and meet people and date them or don’t! Go go go and have fun and be kind and make mistakes and keep trying!

Q 15: Is this as good as it gets?

So basically, I’m unhappy, every day, but I feel like it’s not valid/not a real problem because I am drastically less unhappy than I used to be. I’ve had some serious mental health struggles over the years, and invested many years in an effective outpatient program, as well as finding a medication combination that works well for me. I’m better. I’m a lot better. I’m a lot more functional and a lot less destructive and overall things have really improved for me. But like…..I’m still so unhappy and unfulfilled and just fucking discontent with myself and my life. And I am struggling with whether or not I need to just stop whining and accept that for me this is perhaps just as good as it gets? Like we all have a finite amount of happiness, or a happiness plateau, and this is just mine? Like I’ve improved things a lot but perhaps this is realistically as good as things will ever get for me? And I don’t know what to do with that. Some days I feel like I should just be grateful that I’m much less miserable and dysfunctional than I used to be, instead of complaining that my life isn’t sunshine and rainbows. But other days I feel like if this is as good as it’s possible for me to feel, I’m not sure I can live with that.

A 15:

I don’t know if it’s possible for you to be happier with sunshine and rainbows and all that jazz, but I do feel like you owe it to yourself to keep trying to find out! For me, my depression is like an enormous ocean that I’m always floating on. So some days are sunny and there are cool fish down there in the calm waters and things are cute and great, and other days it’s storming and dark and I can’t sleep or hear anyone over the roaring and crashing waves. I try so hard, constantly, to remember all the days on this ocean, and accept that all of them can’t be sunny and know deep deep down that all of them won’t be dark. Maybe there are small bursts of happiness for you and you’re not putting as much stock into them because they don’t sustain themselves and don’t last longer? Even the happiest motherfuckers aren’t happy all the time though. Maybe the difference is that ‘happy people’ are just the ones who recognize all the times they’re happy and keep them together in a lantern to use when it gets dark?

I really don’t know. I wish I had a neat answer for you. I’m not sure if it’s possible for everyone to ‘find happiness’ in the way that we’re taught to define happiness. Maybe it’s a matter of redefining happiness. I think just keep trying to find out if you can be even a little happier. Try small things, like really fucking small things: a new plant, changing the curtains in your bedroom, playing different types of music. See how those things feel and then keep trying small things? As always, I think a therapist could help! If you’re already seeing one, maybe try another one, or a different type of therapy altogether.

I know you deserve to feel happy. I do know that.

Q 16: In love with my friend and can’t get over it.

I fell hard for my friend when I met her online, a year and a half ago. It was a love forged out of shared interests and misery; we met through a love of the same fandoms, and we’d both been single for a long time and suspected that we were both too difficult in our own ways to find relationships again. She understood me in a way that I rarely feel understood. I could talk to her about anything. I fell pretty fast.

We live far apart, but I invited her to join me at a queer event I was attending, and decided to ask her on a date while we were there. When we got there, she wasn’t interested. Not in the same way I was. We talked about it, and realized that we’re not very compatible romantically. So part of what I can’t quite parse about all of this is it’s not about not getting what I want. If we tried to be together, we wouldn’t make it past sex or even making out for the first time without annoying each other very quickly.

But of course hearts are stupid and don’t listen to logic.

I might have walked away from that and cried for a few days then returned just as really good long distance friends. If anything she proved how awesome a pal she is by not ghosting on me when I told her I was into her. I felt like she was that much more trustworthy as a friend by navigating that awkwardness, and talking to me honestly about her feelings instead of freaking out. Things might have been fine, except at that event we met people who host another event, which is in her city. I told her she should go – I would go, if I could have. It was exactly the sort of thing we both love.
So she went. And she met a girl there. And they started dating.

I know partly, I lost my partner in misery. We were both convinced there was something essentially unlovable about us, and she found someone she loves who loves her back. She broke free from that while I’m still there – and feeling like it’s that much more true in my case, because look what happened when I tried. Partly, I feel like I’m getting kicked around by bad luck. I’ve been in a bad place financially for a while now, and she’s been very generous to me with emotional support and gifts. I suspect her generosity comes from gratitude that she has a girlfriend because I got her to get out of her house and do things. But that feels weird, like I’m a supporting character in someone else’s story. Especially since it’s a story I wanted a leading role in.

I met her girlfriend a few months ago, and was shocked to find myself being catty towards her. This isn’t a way I’ve ever acted before, not even with exes and their new partners. And now, they just got engaged. I’m already dreading being invited to the wedding. I feel miserable, and I also feel like a jerk for not being happy for my friend. I know she’s going to want to talk about her hopes and fears about all of this, and all I can think about is how falling in love with a girl and then inadvertently causing her to meet her future wife feels like a trick has been played on me. It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody set out to hurt me. But I am very hurt and I don’t know how to get past it and stop being jealous of her relationship.

A 16:

Your subject line is that you can’t get over your friend but the thing to remember is that you have to. You have to get over her and move on. I can’t tell you how to do that with any specificity, but I can say that no, you’re not being a good friend if you can’t be happy for her, and if you can’t stop yourself from being catty toward her fiancee. That’s absolutely not to say that you’re not being a good person or that I don’t understand exactly where you’re coming from — I do! I have lived through a similar thing, it was a pile of shit. I understand and I sympathize with you, but you have to get your shit together here!

Instead of continuing to believe that you’re unlovable (which is not even close to true!), choose to see her situation as proof that you aren’t unlovable, let it give you hope. It’s trying to give you hope and you’re being a real bitch to it by not letting it give you that hope. Let it give you hope!

You were not the right person for her, and thus — and this is important! — she was not the right person for you. A person can’t be the right person for you if you’re not the right person for them. It doesn’t work that way. She was not and is not the right person for you. Period.

You have a leading role in your own story, right now. Caving to the feeling that you’re a supporting character in someone else’s story doesn’t give your story justice, and that’s shitty of you. Your story is very interesting and full of potential and excitement and everything, and you have to see that! You just do! You have to see it. Stop not seeing it! SEE IT. And stop suspecting that her generosity isn’t just that: generosity. Stop suspecting that she’s trying to assuage her guilt or show her undying appreciation for your encouragement. Let it just be generosity, and be grateful for it.

So in short, you have to get over her and you have to make yourself do it. Everyone has had to get over someone, so know in your heart that you aren’t alone in this experience. It’s easier to get over people when you cut ties with them, even if it’s just for a little while, so you can reset your life and begin to see them differently. That takes time but it’s 100% possible and necessary! And you have to love yourself and your story more. If you don’t love your story, change things about it but never forget that it’s YOUR STORY, the one you’re starring in.


Q 17: Repression?

I realized I was a lesbian almost a year ago, and spent several months after that coming to terms with things. I’m definitely in an okayer place than I was last summer, but I haven’t really liked anyone since then, and I can’t tell if that’s normal for me or because of repression. I’m not even fully sure what a crush would feel like because the things I was later able to identify as crushes on girls mostly involved me building a wall between me and my feelings and the “crushes” I had on boys I could feel so much more strongly because they were me renaming the very strong anxiety I felt about a guy getting near me. The times I know I had feelings for a girl are few and far between, but I don’t know if that’s because I don’t develop feelings easily or because I was so deeply in the closet any feelings had to be super strong to escape being shoved into my subconscious forever. This is very much in contrast to one of my straight friends, who once told me she had crushes on ten (10!) boys at once (which probably isn’t normal, but I don’t have much of a benchmark for these things here). If anything, I can’t help but wonder if realizing I was a lesbian made it harder for me to like girls because now any plausible deniability about my feelings is gone. I guess what I’m asking is: Am I being over dramatic and worrying about nothing or am I really still repressing my feelings the way I did a year ago? And if so, is there any way to stop repressing everything, because spending the rest of my life unable to love fully sounds not fun?

A 17:

It is totally normal to not have a crush or be into anyone, even for a year, especially in the first year after you’ve come out. You won’t spend the rest of your life unable to love fully because eventually someone will come along who’ll blow your doors clean off, and you’ll have no choice but to love her. And maybe, like the person up above you here in this post, she won’t love you back and you’ll WISH you could go back to having no feelings at all, but you can’t! So you’ll have to power through all that hurt and bullshit just like #16 there, and you will. And maybe months will go by and you’ll have no feelings for anyone but then, somehow and because the universe is wild and crazy, someone else will come along and you’ll be like UGH DAMN IT, HERE WE GO AGAIN.

Life is a fun ride, and you’re doing great! Also I think it’s normal to have crushes on up to 10 people at once because crushes are just excited feelings you get about a person without the full commitment of actually doing anything with or for that person, which is very nice and safe.

Q 18: Confused baby dyke.

About a year ago I came out as bi and quickly ended up in a relationship with one of my best friends. We have been dating for just over a year and they were my first kiss. When we first started dating they were presenting as female but have since come out as trans FTM. This was fine with me and probably not relevant to the story but I think its important that he is queer. Anyway. The relationship is nuts. He is my best friend and I care about him on a very deep level. But he is also one of those people who said he ‘loved’ me after one week of dating. He also keeps planning things insanely far in the future. Its hard to tell him when he does something that makes me uncomfortable because he blames himself and goes off the deep end. To be honest I have wanted to break up with him for a while but he is a half suicidal mess and currently in the middle of coming out to his family. I am worried if I break up with him he will do something stupid and there aren’t many resources I can reach out too. I am tired of feeling like his therapist and dealing with wild mood swings. Over the past year I developed depression and an eating disorder. Its not fair to say he caused it, but he has put me in a lot of stressful situations. What can I do? Im also afraid of losing my best and only friend.

A 18:

You should break up with him. Here is our entire catalog of breakup stories and advice. His mental health crisis is creating a toxic relationship riddled with manipulation that, even if it’s unintentional, is playing a role in the ruin of your own mental and physical health, and it can’t go on.

Break up with him. His mental health is his responsibility just like yours is yours and mine is mine. We can and should rely on other people who love us and look to them for help when we need it, but it’s ultimately up to each of us to take action for ourselves in an effort to survive and thrive and be healthy. No one can make us healthy or even help us get a little healthier without us putting in our own work. He’s responsible for that work and he’s responsible for his own decisions.

There are online resources if you don’t have local ones available. Put together a list for him and offer to help him find someone who is trained to help people. You can’t be that person for him. Hopefully, after some work on his part and after you’ve had some time and space to work through your own health, you can be friends later. But right now this isn’t a friendship so much as it’s an unhealthy codependence.

Q 19:

I’m a lesbian in college. Freshman year I had a childhood friend that I hadn’t seen in years as my suitemate, and we rekindled our friendship. She told me she was a lesbian too (and asexual: that is important later). Now we are sophomores, and we are still rooming together… and I have a massive crush on her, even more than I did freshman year.

This wouldn’t be a problem, as I am fairly skilled at dealing with having unrequited feelings and I got over it freshman year, but recently (past two or three months) she has started saying and doing things that indicate my feelings may be requited, which confuses/upsets me, because I had gotten used to the idea that nothing romantic was going to happen between us. She told me freshman year that she’s fairly neutral on being in a relationship, and since she’s asexual she’s fairly neutral (or negative) on physical affection in general. Yet she holds my hand and takes my arm and hugs me all the time (I do mean ALL the time), and it’s becoming difficult for me to separate my desire for physical affection in general (from anyone, regardless of context) from my desire for romantic physical affection when I am with her.

I am not sure whether I should withdraw from the physical affection she offers me (which would depress me; I need physical affection lest I perish) or confess my desire to change the nature of our relationship from friendship to platonic romance (I’ve not much interest in sex either) OR just deal with the fact that I’m only going to get non-romantic affection from a person I’d very much like to be romantic with. Advice on which option to choose or tips for each?

A 19:

I think you could confess to wanting something more romantic while reiterating that you don’t have much of an interest in sex either, etc, and go from there. If she doesn’t want to move your friendship to a more platonic romance situation, you have two options: frankly telling her how the touching makes you feel and then setting up boundaries round that, or letting the touching continue while you work very hard internally to divorce that from anything else in your imagination. You just have to decide how important the physical affection is to you! Seems like it’s pretty important, so maybe get some practices in place for yourself to help deal with your other feelings!

AREN’T FEELINGS GRAND. I bet you wish you could get a little bit of what #17 is having right now, hm?

Let’s all have some nachos, for this has been a very long post with lots of stuff and things. GOOD WORK OUT THERE, EVERYONE.

Y’All Need Help is a biweekly advice column in which I pluck out a couple of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! (Except sometimes it’s not quick, but that’s my prerogative, OK?) You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and submit your own quick and dirty questions any time.

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  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.

    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.

    • Our lows in life always feel worse than how good the highlights feel, is what I’m trying to say. So just recognizing that and taking it into account can be helpful.

  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.

    • Same here. I’ve always felt a bit ashamed, and that my scars need an apology or at least an explanation, so your advice was super perfect and needed.

  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. Thanks for all this amazing advice that I didn’t know I needed until I read it!!

  18. #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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