Julia, was a kind and generous woman who was brought up with the beliefs that she should put others before herself. She was a gentle soul who wouldn’t intentionally hurt a fly. Because of the beliefs that were installed upon her as far back she could remember, she put her life on hold for fear of upsetting her parents……for fifteen years.
She always felt as if she played second fiddle to her younger brother of four years, Kevin. Just as she was about to come out…. Kevin pipped her to the post and came out on the very same day…only earlier.
Convinced of being accused of copying her fourteen-year-old, camp as Christmas little brother, she decided that her news could wait. In a way it was a good thing because she got to witness how her parents coped with his revelation.
As her parents were separated, and had been for over a year, Julia tended to have a lot of the same conversations, just with a different audience. She found that her mother was nonchalant about Kevin being gay, it slid off her like water off of a ducks back. Her father however was angry. She was surprised that he wasn’t angry about the fact that his son was gay, he was angry at the way society treated gay people…and rightly so. He didn’t want his son to have this extra struggle in his life but welcomed his lifestyle choice as best he knew how.
Fifteen years Julia waited in the shadows, unable to be true to herself and live her life. Fifteen years of watching her brother have numerous relationships, all embraced by her parents, yet she was living a lie…
As the lie encompassed her being like armour on a medieval knight, remarks about men bounced off of her and, unfortunately, dreams of women did too. She was between a rock and a hard place. Kevin, who’s boyfriend at the time, Dave, was even invited to Julia’s aunts wedding. It was like he was part of the furniture. Even though it was Kevin’s life, she longed to have a beautiful princess on her arm, showing her off to all of the family…instead she had anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.
Yes, Julia had become mentally ill. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when she was first hospitalised at the tender age of nineteen. It would have been from the night she sat on her bed weeping away the day she had planned to come out…. that was the night it started…. that was the night she first self-harmed.
She was cutting her upper thighs for over a year before anyone noticed. Her mother only found out by happenstance when she was washing Julia’s bloody bed sheets. It wasn’t the first time and definitely wasn’t the last, but as she started to change her sheets every couple of days for a fortnight her mother knew something was up. In the end, Julia owned up to her actions as the wound on her leg was deep and obviously infected.
Julia’s mothers first point of call was the GP who instructed her to go to A&E and get admitted to a private psychiatric facility through them. The first time her parents actually met face to face in over two years was in the waiting room, her father insisting that she be transferred to the private sector immediately.
It was hard for the young woman to be away from civilisation sporadically over the course of her life, but she didn’t see hospital as a bad thing, she saw it as a place to get well and meet other people who had similar life struggles.
When she was twenty-one years old Julia was a heavy-set girl, with very short, blood red hair. She had never experienced a sexual encounter with either a man nor a woman and she was starting to feel the pressure from family as to when she was going to bring someone home. Because of this peer pressure, she threw caution to the wind and went onto an online dating website where she met Savi. They conversed for a couple of weeks before meeting up. Julia lost her virginity to him and there was talk of kids and marriage, but Julia wasn’t comfortable with the idea. Yes, she wanted to get married, and yes, she wanted kids, but she dreamed of that being with a woman and not a horny Indian man who she respected too much to string along. She couldn’t even tell him that she was gay as she didn’t want him to think of her as using him. Julia was flattered by his advances but gratefully declined them crushing his hopes and dreams.
Steering away from men and working on her mental health, Julia found herself ‘between psychiatrists’ when she was twenty-eight, during which she was psychotic on and off for the better part of a year. There was a cap on the number of anti-psychotics her GP could prescribe so she fought the battle of her life, all the while praying for the letter for an appointment with a new consultant. When the psychosis set in, she was under the impression that she was with a woman, Wendy, and that they did everything together. She locked herself in her bedroom with Wendy and wouldn’t come out, except to use the facilities for over two weeks. Her mother was so worried that she called her father to come and try to help motivate her to ‘snap out of it'…. but it wasn’t as easy as that.
When she eventually got on new consultants books, she was looked at once and rushed into hospital. It took years for Julia to stabilise. She had to endure medication change after medication change until finally finding ones that suited her. She was also put in contact with Simon, a schema therapist who she began to start work with, work which she still is encountering to this day.
Julia was thirty-three when she looked back on her life and wondered where it went. She wasn’t happy in her body or her mind, and she definitely wasn’t happy on her relationship, or lack thereof, status.
As Julia was in a session with Simon, he asked her how she was doing and she broke down in tears. This was very unusual for Julia as she rarely cried. Simon reached over to his desk and grabbed the box of tissues and handed them to her. She managed to blurt out two words between sob, ‘I’m gay!’ Simon didn’t know where to put himself. As a kaleidoscope of butterflies ensconced Julia, Simon readjusted his position in his chair and together they did some deep breathing. Julia felt the butterflies dissipate slowly and when she had gone through the box of tissues, blowing the mucus from her nose, she began to use the sleeve of her jumper to wipe her eyes.
She had obviously stunned the therapist as she watched him wringing his hands and leaning forward on his chair. Julia explained why she hadn’t said the most daunting two words of her life before, Simon putting it down to her subjugation schema. Upon leaving his office, Julia felt a sense of relief. After fifteen years of trying to swallow the words, she finally regurgitated them and it somehow made her feel free.
When she got back to the ward, her eyes as red as tomatoes, mucus still being expelled from her nose, she was asked how the session with Simon went. The water works recommenced and for the second time in a couple of hours, she admitted she was gay. She cringed as she said the words as she was unsure how they would be received. It was one thing telling her councillor of five years, it was a hell of a lot harder telling a nurse who she had only known for a couple of months.
To her delight and surprise, the nurse wrapped her arms around the quivering Julia and congratulated her warmly. This made Julia feel empowered to continue revealing her true self to everyone else in her life.
Upon her next visit, she prepared her mother that she had some news and that she wasn’t to flip out over it before…she told her. She was surprised at the level of support she was receiving. Just as when Kevin came out, her mother took it on the chin and smiled at her daughter. ‘I thought you were going to tell me something awful!’ her mother admitted to Julia’s relief. They laughed together and her mother enveloped her in a big hug. One parent down, one more to go….
Julia rang her father and begged him to come in and visit her. When he did so, bingo was about to start. She sat him down in the lobby of the hospital and nonchalantly said, ‘dad, I’m gay!’ Before he had time to respond, she dragged him in to play a game of bingo. The next day she got a call from him. When she saw the caller ID, she began to experience the butterflies again. They were quickly squashed when he asked, ‘and how is my lesbian daughter today?’ They laughed together and her heart grew warmer as she finally did what she had wanted to do for fifteen years. Next was her brother, then her aunt, all of whom welcomed her with open arms.
That night she lay in bed and wondered how she had suffered over this news that she had been carrying close to her chest for so long when, in fact, there was no need. She had subjected herself to so much hurt and pain over something as menial as her sexual orientation. Finally she was accepted for the true her, the her she had longed to be for fifteen years.
picture from pixabay