Battling Mental Illness in Isolation

As someone who’s suffered from anxiety first hand, I can’t even begin to put into words how debilitating the combination of anxiety and self-isolation can be. I’m one of the lucky one’s who has learned how to manage my anxiety and find creative outlets for my mind when it begins to wander but not all of us have gotten there yet. And honestly, there are going to be some people who develop anxiety and depression because of these circumstances who would ordinarily consider themselves “normal” on the spectrum of mental illness. They will need our help as sufferers and survivors.

When I had my first panic attack, it felt like the world was closing in on me despite sitting on my deck under the stars. I found myself hyperventilating for hours, numbness creeping up from my toes and fingertips until my limbs were pins and needles – lack of oxygen. It wasn’t until I thought I was going to pass out that I made the trek from my bedroom to my moms room. I call it a trek because the thought of moving from the shelter of my bed made my head spin.

When I finally got to her room, she took one look at me and knew exactly what was happening. She took my hand, led me through some deep breaths and sat me on the deck outside with a glass of water. I’ve lost a lot of my memories from those six months of constant panic attacks but one thing I do remember was her telling me to find something that would ground me.

The weight of that word – ground – really resonated with me. If you’re someone who has suffered from panic attacks before, you understand the sensation of floating while waiting for your mind and body to come back to one another – that out-of-body feeling as if you’re looking down at yourself. What grounded me was the sky.

I didn’t understand how fortunate I was during those first few panic attacks. My mom also suffered from anxiety after a traumatic incident. She told me of her struggles a few days later but up until then, I thought I was fighting this thing alone.

Soon, my panic attacks became more frequent. I would wake up to them in the middle of the night – it was always worse at night – dizzy with panic and out of breath from hyperventilating. My mom slept in my room with me for at least four months until the anti-anxiety medication (Prozac and Ativan) got into my system. I’d eventually throw up. She’d try to calm me down by rubbing my back, reminding me to breath and grabbing me a glass of water or the trash can that we always kept next to my bed. Then I would lay awake for hours watching something mindless on TV and willing myself back to sleep.

Soon it began to trickle into my social life. I couldn’t drive at night. I couldn’t be in big crowds. I couldn’t sleep over anyone’s house. If I did leave the house, I had to be the one driving. I couldn’t drink or smoke. I couldn’t be around people who drank or smoke. I couldn’t be in confined places. If I thought I had left my emergency medication at home, I would panic. If I couldn’t find my emergency medication, I would panic. I had that tiny little bottle glued to me for years. Some days it was so bad I couldn’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, let alone make it through a whole day of classes. I lost my appetite, I stopped doing my homework, I stopped living.

And this was all while I was able to leave the house, attend my therapy sessions and distract myself with friends and family. Take all of that above, one single mental illness in comparison to many, and add self-isolation. You can imagine how anxiety and depression would flourish in this environment.

This is a time where people are dying from a deadly virus, yes. But this is also a time when buried mental illnesses are returning to haunt us with every waking moment we spend alone. It’s a time when they’re planting their seeds of self-doubt and manipulation in the heads of those who thought we had overcome this battle already. And it’s spreading probably quicker than COVID-19 as the endless days drag on. People who would not consider themselves to have depression or anxiety are no doubt feeling the effects of this quarantine and those of us who have overcome it before are lucky enough to recognize the signs. But, for those of us who have not experienced it before, you might not know what to look for and you might mistake the symptoms as the effects of isolation.

From my own personal experience, I want to share some of these symptoms to look out for, for the people who just maybe have’t been feeling right lately.

If you’re about to stop here and not read further, I want to remind you that you are not alone. It is not embarrassing or shameful to suffer from mental illness. It does not have to control you or debilitate you. You can live with this. It does get better. This situation is not forever. My door is always open, I am a phone call/DM/email/letter away – if you need anything at all, please don’t be afraid to reach out. We need to be here for each other and I can do my part to contain the virus by staying home but I also want to do my part by being an ally and fellow survivor for those of you/us that are suffering.

ANXIETY (some symptoms overlap with depression)

I suffered more from anxiety than I did from depression but I no doubt suffered from both at one point throughout my self-recovery. I had strong feelings of helplessness and suicidal thoughts coupled with the common symptoms of both so it was hard to differentiate at times what I was feeling. But there was no doubt in my mind that when I was anxious, the signs were there. When I was depressed, I categorized it as a side effect of anxiety. 

  • I find myself to get tired more easily. I’m run down by the most mundane things such as making my bed in the morning, cooking breakfast, emptying the dishwasher. Anything that requires more energy than sitting in bed all day is immediately a red flag to me. Definitely attributed my exhaustion more to my mental state fighting this seemingly endless battle than I did to depression.
  • Difficultly concentrating was a big one for me. I got stuck in my head a lot, milling over the what if’s and the when I’m better’s. I worked myself into panic attacks because I couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand and I let my mind get away from me.
  • Racing heart. This was the absolute worst physical symptom for me. I had EKG’s done, stress tests done, heart tests done just to determine that my heart was healthy and my palpitations and chest pains were caused by anxiety. For those of you that don’t know, panic attacks sometimes directly mimic the symptoms of heart attacks. For me, my heart felt like it was fluttering and skipping beats which would send waves of anxiety through my body to my head, resulting in dizzy spells and feeling lightheaded. I’d eventually throw up and then my body would come down. The trauma would cause me to shake violently, which is when I knew it was finally over but I couldn’t warm up for hours no matter how many blankets I bundled up in.
  • Insomnia/over sleeping/trouble falling asleep. I have had insomnia my entire life but when my anxiety was at its peak, I laid awake all night praying for the sun to shine so I could get some sleep. Something about the dark made my anxiety worse and the second the sun started to rise, I would fall into a deep sleep and sleep all day. I was eventually prescribed to Trazadone which is a heavy duty sedative that I finally got off a little less than a year ago.
  • Emotional changes: Restlessness, irritability, feeling on edge, lack of control over yourself, dread and panic. I lived my life worrying when I was going to have my next panic attack which would result in more panic attacks. It was the feeling of panicking that made me panic which I’m sure doesn’t make sense to a lot of people but when I panicked, it was like trying to escape my own head and find clarity but I was so consumed with the overwhelming feeling of dread that I lost sight of what I was working towards. My panic attacks left me defeated, embarrassed and absolutely exhausted. They took such a physical toll on me. If I had a panic attack in the morning, my day was considered over. I needed hours to recover and nurse myself back from that edge.

DEPRESSION (some symptoms overlap with anxiety)

I strongly believe any depression I endured was a direct result of the mental battle I was fighting every single day with anxiety at the forefront. I no doubt was depressed too but mine was more from wishing every single day that I would just catch a break. And of course, the nagging feeling that I couldn’t endure my anxiety much longer. 

  • Exhaustion/heightened fatigue with everyday, mundane activities.
  • Lack of concentration is a big one too. If you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media, bouncing between apps and games on your phone, even if you know you have stuff that you should be doing or want to be doing, force yourself to get up and engage with anything other than your phone and your bedroom.
  • As I mentioned above, I lose my appetite and lost a lot of weight. This is a telltale sign of depression and anxiety. Not wanting to eat or not having an appetite of course leads to weight loss. For me, it became a battle to eat anything before noon and when I did eat, it was normally a breakfast bar and then nothing until something small for dinner.
  • DIFFICULTY SLEEPING AND OVERSLEEPING. If you notice that you or a loved one is spending all day in bed or is having trouble falling asleep/staying asleep, encourage them/yourself to just get up. The first step in fighting mental illness is getting out of bed in the morning. Take it from someone whose own mother wouldn’t let her get a lock on the bedroom door because she knew I would not get out of bed and she would need to come get me.
  • Loss of interest/no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbies. This was a big one for me. I would do what I was supposed to do (read, my homework, go to my horseback riding and dance lessons) but anything more than that, I lost interest in.
  • Some emotional changes: heightened irritability, hopelessness, sadness, anxiety or restlessness. I know this can easily be confused with self-isolation in general. I think given the timing, we are all a bit irritable, anxious and restless but this is still something to keep in mind throughout your days as things continue to get harder for us.
  • Suicidal thoughts/tendencies or feelings of self-harm (cutting, burning, pinching, biting, etc.)

I know these are very personalized to me but if any of these symptoms resonate with you, fight it. It’s so easy to give in to how you’re feeling and let it consume you but the only way out is to fight with everything you have because this is not a road you want to go down. And I know so many people will say, well you don’t have a choice if you’re depressed or prone to anxiety and you’re absolutely right but there are ways to fight it as opposed to letting it consume you. Get angry, resist it and push back.

It’s okay to give in to the feeling, temporarily. A lot of people find comfort in their depression and their anxiety because it’s constant and familiar to them whereas fighting it is unfamiliar and unnatural. That said, if you’re going to give in to it, allow yourself a couple of hours or a day at most. Find little things you can do to take your mind off of how you’re feeling. Ordinarily, people suggest hanging out with friends and family, going for drives, shopping and other self-care options. Obviously, that’s not something we can do given the circumstances. And I say “we” because this is undoubtedly something we as a society and a community are going to go through together and we are also going to overcome it together.

Just the other day, I spent the day in bed. Monday, it rained all day. I felt defeated, exhausted, filled to the brim with sadness and fear and total uncertainty at what was going to happen tomorrow let alone the next couple of weeks. Being in the situation that we are in, we are all fearful. For our jobs. For our income. For our health. But we should also be equally as fearful for our mental health. This isn’t a battle everyone will overcome. They are estimating that there will be a dramatic increase of suicide/suicide attempts, self-harm and reported mental illness in the following months.

For whatever reason, this isn’t something people are talking enough about. We are all-consumed by COVID-19 and the threat to our physical health but this is a trying time for those of us that are susceptible to mental illness and to those who may have already relapsed. We are on the brink of a very difficult time as a community and I think opening this discussion and reminding people that it’s okay to talk about it and that it SHOULD be talked about is incredibly important, if not more important, than COVID-19. They’re developing a vaccine for the virus but what vaccine is there for our mental health?

I want to take the rest of this post to talk about some thing’s we can do as individuals to better our mental state. Things that don’t include swimming in our private pools, taking our million dollar cars for rides or adopting dogs at the animal shelter. Reasonable, sustainable solutions and distractions that can benefit us in the long run and that cost little to no money.

  1. Call your friends, family and loved ones: If you’re anything like me and you already suffer from anxiety and depression, then you know that being home alone for hours on end can contribute to the spiral of your mental health. Maintaining a sense of community (outside of necessary trips to the grocery store and pharmacy and client/co-worker calls) is imperative. Keep in touch via text, phone call and video chat. It’ll keep you sane and give you the sensation of socializing without leaving your home. If you think you might get really bad or are already really bad, set up a schedule. Create times throughout the day and maintain these times as we head toward a long isolation and potential quarantine.
  2. Self-care goes a long way: Take a bubble bath, do some facemasks, paint your nails. Make sure you’re eating regularly and you’re eating well. It’s okay to indulge in the snack drawer but don’t make it your lunch. Also please keep in mind that coffee is not a meal replacement! Since we can’t go to the gym, try to get creative with your exercise routine. Whether you do sprints on your street, yoga indoors, stretches before bed or make it a goal to squat the fridge, try to get your heart rate up and your body moving at least once throughout the day!
  3. Self-soothe: A lot of us that already suffer from anxiety and depression have little tricks we partake in to calm ourselves down or remain calm through stressful situations. Some people like repetition, such as a movement, exercise or an app/game. Some people prefer to read or write (this is what I do to stay present and mindful). I also like to make detailed lists like the places I want to travel, the next books I want to read or the next blog posts I want to write. Whatever you do, definitely don’t watch the news.
  4. Stay busy: It’s so easy to get caught up in a lack of a routine while at home, whether it be staying in bed until noon or mindlessly watching Netflix all day. I’m super guilty of not being productive in this environment but I’m forgiving myself and giving myself a grace period to adjust to this new lifestyle. A lot of people recommend creating a schedule for yourself. Something along the lines of when to get up, eat breakfast, read/write, exercise, cook dinner and let yourself relax/enjoy a show or a movie. This allows you to plan your days efficiently and maximize your time. I would respond well to something like this but I wouldn’t be diligent with it which would lead to me being disappointed in myself which is obviously counter-productive. Some other alternatives would be to learn a new language, teach yourself a new skill that you’ve always wanted to learn, research a topic of interest, read more books, write about your days and clear your head, practice yoga/work on your flexibility, buy some plants and learn to take care of them, start a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try, plan a vacation for when all of this is over. There’s so much we can do with the Internet literally at our fingertips. If you don’t have access to the Internet or don’t want to sit in front of a computer all day you can invest in some board games, brain puzzles (Sudoku, crosswords), card games, new recipes, organizing or cleaning. These are all things I have done personally to get me through the days until my roommates come home at night.
  5. Appreciate the little victories: If you are suffering from anxiety, these suggestions might be extremely difficult when you are lacking motivation. To that, I would start by just getting out of bed. Wash your face, brush your teeth and drink some water. Try to avoid going back into your bedroom by sitting on the couch or even on the floor but resist the temptation to get back into bed. That in itself is a victory to me. If you can overcome the urge to go back to sleep, you’re winning in my mind.
  6. Challenge yourself every day: Create short term and long term goals for yourself. For example, if getting out of bed by 10 was your goal the previous day, challenge yourself to get out of bed by 9:30 the next day. If you only managed to get out of bed and brush your teeth the previous day, challenge yourself to get out of bed, brush your teeth and eat a piece of toast the next day. If you started doing yoga last week and found a pose you want to work on, make it a goal to master the pose by the end of the new week.

I’m sure there are countless possibilities and activities you can do to combat mental illness and stay busy but these are a few that resonate with me and have worked for me personally. If you have any suggestions of your own, please comment – I am always looking for different and new things to do!

I know we are all feeling a bit defeated during this time and some of this stuff seems silly and pointless but I will leave that up to you for interpretation. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself, no one else’s. You don’t have to fight this battle alone unless you choose to. That said, reach out to those around you if you need help and check on your friends who might be struggling. Everyone can use a little support right now and the least we can do (those of us that are fellow survivors and sufferers) is be present, be supportive and be available to those who might need us right now.

As always, thank you for reading and I hope everyone stays safe and healthy!

 

Coming Out Part 3: Telling My Family

 

IF YOU MISSED THE FIRST PART OF THIS MINI SERIES, YOU CAN CHECK IT OUT HERE. 

IF YOU MISSED THE SECOND PART OF THIS MINI SERIES, YOU CAN CHECK IT OUT HERE.

It’s kind of ironic how parents can predict things before we have any inclination whatsoever.

I know I’m not the only one who has been in a relationship where you make the mistake of telling your parents too much. This trust we have in our parents, to them, seems almost like an invitation for their input and skepticism.

Soon you’re hearing, “Is David* still selling drugs to high schoolers? I really hope you’re done buying that stuff from him.” or “Did Tom* unfollow that girl on Instagram whose pictures he kept liking?” and “From what you told me, it sounds like Kyle* has some serious issues. Run.”

*Names have not been changed to protect the identities of ex-boyfriends

Next, they’re giving you advice about how he’ll probably get a girl pregnant before he can start his life and that the two of you are so toxic you’ll end up ruining each other’s ideas of love forever.

All of a sudden, you’re 23 and you look back and realize, holy shit my mother was right.

Except, when I told my step-dad I was interested in this girl as more than a friend he told my mom he always thought I would end up gay.*

*I do not identify as a specific sexual orientation

I don’t know how parents are able to predict this kind of stuff, but this was news to me. Because up until the very second I kissed this girl, I had no idea how I felt about women.

Telling My Family

Before we jump into the terribly awkward, self-humiliation that is my true coming out story, I want to preface this by saying I am so incredibly thankful to have the friends and family that I do. Daily, they have continued to make this process as easy as I could have hoped it would be, and how I hope it can be for everyone.

The first night Jillian came over to hangout with me, I told my mom a “friend” from school who I had recently re-connected with was on the Cape for Christmas (we hungout for the first time December 22) and neither of us had anything to do so she was coming over to make a gingerbread house with me.

This wasn’t a total lie, we did make a gingerbread house, but she definitely wasn’t a friend from school. In fact, I had no proof she was even a real person at this point so I kind of just invited a stranger to my house based on a few days of text exchanges and a cute picture of her online.

Thankfully she wasn’t a serial killer.

My parents weren’t home when she got to my house because, unlike me, they actually have lives. We set up the gingerbread kit, starting pasting chunks of icing onto a cardboard house and every so often (probably every 10 minutes), I checked the window to see if lights were coming up the drive.

I’m not a very good liar, especially when it comes to myself. I like to be truthful with my parents and get their advice on things but this whole “thing” was so new and so unexplored that I honestly didn’t know what to say. So I lied.

When they finally got home, they asked her the standard questions. Did you go to Roger Williams, too? Where on Cape are you staying? What was you major?

Thankfully, being the paranoid freak I am, we had gone over all of these questions except she didn’t go to Roger and her family wasn’t staying on the Cape and although she said she majored in business, she actually didn’t go to college at all. Now we were both lying.

This would all come out on my moms birthday few days later but until then, we had passed the friendship test and went to the basement to watch a movie.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I had someone over that I was interested in, I would invite them to the basement to watch a movie. My parents definitely caught on to this and there were only so many times during this “Christmas break” that I could invite this girl over my house to watch movies in my basement before it got weird.

And weird it got because one day, my mom was driving home and the words spewed out like vomit.

“Hey mom, yeah Jillian’s here again yeah she’s gay and I might be too and I don’t want you to be weird about it when you get home so just act normal, OK? See you in bit. Bye,” and I hung up.

She later told me that the pure shock of this sentence alone made her almost drive off the road. Not because she wasn’t accepting of me but simply because I had dated guys my entire life and not once did I mention any sort of possible interest in women.

I had decided to hold off a bit longer to tell my step-dad but the morning of my moms birthday (December 29), as Jillian parked her car at the end of my driveway and walked towards the house in stilettos and a black dress, I blurted it out.

“Jillian’s gay,” I said as I stood in the newly remodeled kitchen, leaning over my phone with my elbows perched on the island. I didn’t even glance up.

“OK,” he said back.

“I might be, too.” My face was now buried in my phone, Jillian was almost at the door and my moms coffee just about spewed out of her mouth.

“Ok and?” he said. He kind of chuckled and went back to drinking his coffee.

At this point, Jillian was walking up the front steps, hand in a fist, ready to knock.

“I thought you were going to wait to tell him?” my mom said as the knock echoed through the living room.

For whatever reason, I had invited Jillian to a play with my family and me in Boston. Little did I know, when I texted her and asked her, she paced through the kitchen coming up with all of the reasons why she shouldn’t go before texting me back an hour later saying yes.

Now, we stood side-by-side in the kitchen, the abrupt announcement lingering in the air. Oblivious to what had taken place seconds earlier, Jillian gave my mom a bottle of red wine and wished her a happy birthday. We filed into the car, shipped up to Boston and up until the day I asked her to be my girlfriend a couple of months later (February 22), it wasn’t brought up once.

Not because they didn’t care or because they didn’t approve but because as long as I was happy, it didn’t matter who I was with. So I guess, in a way, they didn’t care that I was seeing a girl. I had fantasized about the scrutiny I would get from family members, concerned glances in my direction as I paraded her around family functions, snide comments as we wafted past.

But it didn’t happen. The conversation didn’t come. The concerns weren’t voiced. The questions weren’t asked. Instead, I was flooded with congratulations as we made our relationship “Facebook official,” comments from relatives excited to meet her, likes from past friends and family members I hadn’t seen in years. All writing the same thing; you look so happy. 

I was relieved. Still, it would take me some time to tell my dad.

The first time my dad met Jillian was on New Year’s Eve. We stopped by the house before our first “public” night out together. I introduced her to my dad the same way I introduced her to my mom; an old friend from Roger that was on Cape for the holidays.

Once it was made “official” online, I knew I had to tell my dad. I didn’t want him finding out from someone else, so I made plans to have lunch with him the following day.

We have a really good relationship but we’ve never talked about relationships. Since I lived with my mom, she was always the one that saw my significant other the most and was forced to get to know them. My dad would be introduced eventually and they’d make small talk, always cordial with one another, mostly around holidays or family events.

I was more scared to have the conversation with my dad than I was with my mom. Again, not because I feared judgment but these weren’t exactly the conversations we were used to having. Unlike my mom, my dad doesn’t have much of an opinion on who I date. He is very passive with mine and my sister’s life choices and rather than telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, he lets us figure it out on our own.

Sitting across from him, I could feel the anxiety creeping up into my throat as I forced down my food. With every bite, I hoped I would be able to swallow my unease.

He was picking away at his sandwich when I decided to start the conversation.

“Do you remember that girl you met on New Year’s?” I asked him. I took a sip of my drink and waited for him to look up at me.

“Yeah,” he said in a drawn out voice.

“Well, her and I are kind of dating,” I said. The words trailed off at the end as he finally looked up at me.

He paused for a few seconds as I choked back an awkward laugh.

“Like lesbians?” he asked me. He sat back in his seat a bit more and had a funny look on his face. That look you get as a child when you know you did something wrong, like poop in the litter box, but your parents are laughing too hard to punish you.

That was the look.

“I guess,” I said as I sipped at the empty ice at the bottom of my cup. “But I’m not gay. I just really like her.”

I was waiting for a reaction but nothing came.

He just adjusted his glasses, picked up his phone and leaned back into the booth. He mumbled something about it being a phase and how most women go through them. I didn’t want to correct him or argue with him so I let it go.

It wasn’t brought up again. I asked a few times if he wanted to talk about it but he always said there was nothing to say. I was happy, so he was happy. Simple.

Simple. 

I would wonder about the simplicity of coming out for months. How could it be so simple, so passive, for me to announce I liked women, but so brutalized and condemned for so many others?

I had hyped up the idea of being gay. I had given it it’s own place in my head where it could live and wonder. It’s own secret garden. I planted flowers in my mind and watered them with my thoughts. Fuel to flourish and a place to feel safe. Confidence to speak and courage to accept. To accept myself. They would sprout from my ears, petals falling from my eye lids and like a mid-summer rain, I’d open my mouth to catch them on my tongue. I’d swallow them whole until I was almost bursting. Full. Whole. Ready to show the world what I had so preciously built. And in the center of it all;

us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Out Part 2: How I Knew and Dating Women

If you missed the first part of this mini series, you can check it out here. 

So how did I know? How does anyone know what they like?

The answer is simple: try it.

Looking back, part of me wishes I had just swallowed my pride and the little bit of humility I had left and explored the thoughts of my adolescent mind. Honestly, it would have been so much easier had I come out when I was 13 or 14. Then, everyone would already know when I got to high school. Girls that maybe thought they were gay or thought they were curious would probably talk to me, maybe I’d have a few girlfriends here and there. I would be the girl that I eventually became jealous of; the girl who was confident and fluid in her sexuality.

Then I’d go to college, probably date a few more girls, be asked to do a bunch of threesomes,* and find the love of my life. Simple.

*If you don’t know this already, guys are obsessed with hooking up with two gay girls – we are not your entertainment; we never have been and we never will be.*

But instead, here I was at 23-years-old, straight (lol) out of my college experimental years where I didn’t experiment, trying to find girls to talk to. Do you know how difficult it is to jump into the gay dating scene when you have absolutely no experience and have never even flirted with a girl before?

It goes a little something like, “Hi, I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing but I think I might like girls and I don’t know if I want to kiss you or just play with you hair but would you like to talk to me for two months before I make up my mind?” In the meantime, they fall in love with you because girls are the most emotional creatures on the planet and then you’re just doomed.

I felt like I was jumping head first into that scene in Shark Boy and Lava Girl where they’re just passing through the Land of Milk and Cookies. The girls were the cookies, I was the ridiculously out of place girl with flames coming out of her head.

If you don’t get this reference, you’re too young to be reading my blog. Or too old.

How I Knew

I had asked a few of my friends who were bi/gay/lesbian/pan, “How did you know?” and they all said the same thing. You’ll just know. 

And I’d just respond, “What does that even mean?”

And they’d say, “Just download tinder, find a cute girl and hangout with her and for Christ’s sake Jamie, stop thinking about it.”

So I did. But getting a girls attention is so much harder than getting a guys attention. When I had dating profiles before, I would post cute pictures of me out with my friends, pictures from the gym, pictures of me holding fish.

If there is one thing I have learned from social media, women hate when men post pictures of themselves holding fish. Was it the same with other women?

I wasn’t trying to impress men here so I limited it to one fish picture (which I used as my last picture), a bunch of selfies without other girls because I didn’t want these new girls thinking I was posting pictures with past girls, and a picture of me in the gym because let’s be real, if I was a guy, I’d be a Brad. We all know this.

brad

Honestly, the worst part about this whole dating app experience was coming up with a bio.

“Curious!” You’re on a women’s dating app, obviously you’re curious. 

“Hi! Not sure what I’m looking for but maybe you’ll be it ;)” I would throw up if I read something like that in someone else’s bio. No. 

“I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing here.” Genius. Absolutely perfect. This is it. You’re ready. 

I was not ready.

The first few girls I matched with immediately asked me to have threesomes with them and their boyfriends. I was warned about this.

A few other girls said they had hotel rooms downtown and I should come over. This terrified me.

One girl invited me to a sex battle and when I asked what that was she told me to google it. Don’t google it.

And then there was her.

Our conversation started simple. Me saying her dog was cute (trying to break the ice), her responding that her dog was dead (the ice was not broken, it was shattered).

We chatted for a few days, exchanged numbers and truth be told, I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Honestly, I didn’t even intend to hangout with her. I was just trying to get into the mindset of talking to a girl as more than a friend because love stories don’t happen when two people meet on tinder. Nothing usually happens when two people meet on tinder. Except maybe herpes.

But our conversations were easy. They flowed. One topic to the next, I started to look forward to the moments I could lose myself in our exchanges. I started to look forward to the moments I could lose myself in her.

A few days later, I invited her over. All I remember from that night was watching Bird Box. The days went on. Talk of my anxiety here, a dab of her depression there, a sprinkle of self-reflection topped with the whopping secret that, holy shit, I like girls. 

I invited her over again and this time, she kissed me during Harry Potter. It was like my brain had re-wired in this exact moment. It was like everything I had envisioned a relationship to be was gone. It was like everything that never made sense in my life suddenly blossomed into this gay awakening.

They’re not kidding when they told me I’d just know. That it would just feel right. 

The “married to a man with two kids and a dog” scenario had vanished. It was replaced with gentle thoughts of holding her hand before bed, simply admiring her femininity and knowing that I possessed it too, tender kisses on a park bench in the middle of a city, painting our first crappy apartment, walking barefoot across the beach in white dresses.

OK, maybe I was moving too fast. Take a step back, try to get her bra undone or something before you start picturing your romantic, gay future together. You could hate it for all you know.

Although I didn’t know it then, she would redefine love for me and I for her. She would teach me what it felt like to be truly and selflessly loved. She would teach me to be fearless and unapologetic of my feelings. She would help me come out as me. And I would fall in love with her in the process.

But telling my family, sharing this huge secret I had been carrying around for so long, was the scariest and most relieving moment of my life.

(Coming SoonPart 3: Telling My Family)