I’m Bisexual and I Have Anxiety and I’m Not Alone
To know me is to know a few key things about me. It is hard to get through an introduction, a first date or meeting with me without walking away having learned a few choice facts. I’m opinionated, stubborn, and (I think) I am funny. I’m sarcastic, and tend to lean towards the pessimistic side of things. I’m one of the few people I know who is unafraid to grow up to turn into their mother because I think my mother is a saint.
We all have things that are so key, so integral to who we are, that we wear them right on the surface, like a collection of statement pins on a lapel.
My metaphorical pins say things like “Smash the patriarchy.” “Gender roles make me sad,” “Colorado native,” and “I like dogs more than people.” Two of the most important say “Bi Pride” and “Anxious is my permanent state.”
Yes, I am bi and I have an anxiety disorder, and I’m not ashamed.
Growing up, there were hints pointing to both my anxious tendencies and my bisexuality. They are both things I struggled to understand and, once I did understand, they seemed impossible to explain to other people. Both are also things many people refuse to believe exist; or, if people acknowledge their existence, they have too many mistaken preconceived notions to see them clearly.
I remember feeling my first attraction towards women when I was eight years old watching, of all things, the “Lady Marmalade” music video starring Maya, Lil Kim, Pink, and Christina Aguilera. That was the first hint I can specifically recall about my bisexuality.
The first hint I can recall of my anxiety was at age 10 when I couldn’t figure out my math homework. I had learned the concepts earlier that day and they seemed to make sense then, but as soon as I got home it all went right out of my head. It was taking so long, and I was so tired. The pressure to get it done and to get it done right was overwhelming. Now, over a decade later, I still remember sobbing, gasping for breath, pulling on my hair, and trying to explain my frustration to my terrified mother.
I began the coming-out process at 18, while wrapping up my senior year of high school. It seemed like a long time coming. I’d been finding myself having infatuations with girls in my school for years, and finally came to realize I was totally head-over-heels for one of my female best friends. It had been confusing, especially with the “girl crush” idea my generation was peddling. I eventually figured out that what I was feeling was a consistent attraction pattern not limited by gender. And once Grey’s Anatomy’s Callie Torres gave me a word for it and a quality example of it, I was good to go. My anxiety took longer to figure out.
My sophomore year of college I decided to move in with someone I’d just met. We seemed to really hit it off and we thought living together would be a dream. Sadly, it didn’t take long for me to realize that our personalities and idiosyncrasies didn’t match up quite like we’d hoped. Tension grew and eventually I reached a point where I began to feel my stomach turn at the idea of returning to my dorm room. My heart rate would increase and my breathing would become shallow. I felt completely out of control. It was my roommate explaining their own anxiety disorder to me that helped me translate what these symptoms meant.
We stopped cohabiting at the end of that school year, but the sparks of anxiety I’d felt over the years became a full-blown fire. It’s still a daily fight.
I am bi and I struggle with an anxiety disorder. Now, although I have grown to understand and accept both of these facts, they remain strange and oftentimes unfathomable to others. And they each come with their own set of stigmas.
Telling people I’m bi means hearing people tell me in return that bisexuality is greedy, and being bi inherently makes me slutty or more likely to cheat. It means being treated as too gay for the straight community, but too straight for the gay community. It means having to explain that no matter whom I end up with, I have not “picked a side.”
Telling people I have anxiety means having people underestimate me or think I’m too weak to handle what they can. It means having people feel as though they must walk on eggshells around me, as if I am likely to break at any moment. It means having others undermine my own experiences by saying things like “Oh, I get a little anxious too, sometimes. We all do! We all have anxiety sometimes.”
Yes, I am bi and I have an anxiety disorder. While both have been occasional sources of stress and confusion over the years, in both cases I can take comfort in community. Much like there are far more bisexual folks wandering around this planet than most people would expect, there are plenty of anxious folks, too. I can feel at home when there’s Pride festivals and LGBT clubs and bi resources all over the internet. I can feel understood when there’s group therapy and online forums and blogs about anxious life.
In my short time on this planet so far, I’ve learned that community can be one of the most powerful resources we have as human beings, and that our instinct to reach out to each other is one that cannot and should not be ignored. I’ve learned that when things get tough, I can find a home in supportive communities if I take a look around, reach out, and share my story with others. I’ve learned that we must encourage each other to do the same. There’s a great deal of beautiful variety in the human race, and that should be a source of pride for us all, never a source of shame. We all have unique qualities and face unique challenges, but we also all have a great deal in common. Community means supporting our differences and bonding over our similarities.
I am bisexual and I have anxiety and I’m not alone. And neither are you.