Friday 15 December 2017

Dear Patricia: I have fought against my feelings for other women

Dear Patricia

I'M a woman in my early 30s and have fought for the last 10 years against the fact that I feel attracted to other women. I have never been with a woman, due to lack of opportunity, plus an inner belief that it is wrong. While I have no issue with other people being gay, I don't want to be. In my heart of hearts, I'm not convinced that it is natural, which is maybe the result of my religious upbringing.

I have kissed a few men over the years, but have never been in a relationship. While I have enjoyed good friendships with guys, these all ended when the guy wanted to be more than friends. The whole thought of a physical relationship completely terrified me, and I ran a mile in the opposite direction, which ruined the friendship. Any guys I kissed were just men in a nightclub, or pub, and I found it boring and wanted it to end.

I think my fear of being in a relationship with a man, and my desire for a female, relates back to my childhood. Both my parents were in their late 40s when they got married and it was more a marriage of convenience.

They spent most of their married life shouting insults at each other. My brother and I woke up almost every morning to the sounds of their screaming rows. Then, every now and again, my mother would retreat into her bedroom for days on end. And she spent a lot of time threatening to kill herself, and making half moves in that direction.

Although this happened on countless occasions, it still terrified me each time. It even cost me the course I wanted to study at college because I couldn't concentrate on my studies. That still angers me.

We lived on a small farm and had no money. There was no love in the house, my mother never hugged me, or my brother, not ever. Neither did my father. Nor did they ever praise me, or say anything positive at all. My father is now dead. But even to this day, I cringe at any physical contact with my mother. Her hand at mass causes my blood to boil. It even annoys me if my nieces and nephews try to hug me. The truth is, I hate anyone touching me, even in a friendly manner. If someone does so unexpectedly, I jump and instinctively hit out, pushing them away.

When my father died, it was positive in a way, since the shouting and fighting stopped. But my mother went on for another 10 years regularly threatening to kill herself. She is a lot better now, and has calmed down. I now live away from home, and am in two minds about whether to move back or not. Several of my friends have moved back, and I miss their company. But I'm not sure if I could take the mental stress of being around my mother.

Anyway, I now just want to move on and not keep fighting the demons of the past. I'm tired of being scared of people and scared of letting anyone like me. I just need to find a path to get there.

Patricia replies:

THIS clearly isn't a problem we can sort out in a few sentences. So let me say a couple of things to you. I do not think it would be wise to move back in with your mother. There is too much history there. You need the physical and social space to sort out the emotional trauma. Find another way of staying in contact with your friends.

We can't just walk away from our past. The demons, unfortunately, dog our footsteps. You have to turn and face them. To do that, I strongly suggest you find a therapist or counsellor who will help you leave the anger and anguish behind you.

At the moment, in a very real sense, you are still living in the past. You are stuck, helpless and trapped in the trauma.

Like all of us, what you badly need is to stop feeling so helpless, so powerless, so undefended in the face of those demons. If you like, your unconscious mind needs to recognise the fact that you are now an adult woman, not a dependent child.

Therapy helps us to feel the confidence and power and strength which comes with adulthood. It helps our unconscious mind to realise that we can now defend ourselves. It helps us to look at the past, rather than constantly reliving it. And then we can let go.

I just don't think that lesbianism is the issue for you right now. The capacity to be physically close to another human being is. You need to unlearn your distress at being touched. Then you'll see more clearly whom you want to be close to. You are a very brave lady. Find that therapist and get the support you deserve and need.

Sunday Independent

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