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Self-determination: am I?

For the February Carnival of Aces

Other submissions

i.

First meeting.

I told her I was asexual on the getting-to-know-my-patient form.

(Use language they might know.)

It was a test. She passed.

Reward unlocked: basic trust.

ii.

She leans forward, in an overstuffed armchair.

I am twisting my fingers, seated on an overstuffed sofa.

“Do you feel like you’re denying yourself anything because of your sexuality?”

iii.

Am I?

I do not feel any less than whole, but…

Non-default sexuality. Limited options.

(There are paths you cannot walk. Choices have consequences even if you’re free to make them.)

iv.

“Yes, I do.”

“What, then? What don’t you let yourself have?”

“I don’t know.”

v.

Sex. Love. Relationship. Loneliness. Family. Future. Life. Community. Connection. Status.

I type in mental keywords until I see what’s labeled ‘denied’.

Nothing.

Relief, which ebbs when I realise most results are coloured with doubt (do I want this) and dread (where do I even start) and trepidation (must research alternatives).

vi.

“I figure it’ll just be, y’know, harder for me. Or different. Don’t really know how to fit things in my life that I want.”

“Why?”

“I’m not normal.”

“Don’t put yourself down, now.”

“Actually… I like being who I am, a little weird. What it means for my life, though, not a clue. Which kinda brings us back to the whole no-clue-having about my life in general that brought me here.”

vii.

What helped, before, upon discovery of my demisexuality, was others who struggled, or didn’t. Their stories.

…must research alternatives…

Find a Let’s Play for asexuality.

viii.

My identity: demisexual.

Umbrella: asexual.

Widen the search parameters, lieutenant.

ix.

What I say in my head: not ‘impossible’ but ‘difficult’.

How much have I denied myself, thinking that?

How much, by leaving things undefined, unexplored, chaos.

x.

By choosing nothing, what did I choose?

xi.

Lesson from a therapist: a good one will not just accept, but help.

Questioning sexuality included.

Reward unlocked: active trust.

xii

In writing this, I have had to go back and change every ‘we’ and ‘you’ into ‘I’.

False sense of safety in generalities and impersonal language.

How much have I denied myself?

xiii

Must research alternatives.

Quest accepted.

xiv.

Happy Valentine’s.

I stick my tongue out at the advertising, after checking the isle is empty.

I buy chocolates.

Quest part the first: Count Your Blessings.

Reward unlocked: family hugs.

xv.

I debate whether to post this. Therapy is personal.

It is exactly the sort of story I’m seeking.

Hm.

xvi.

I trawl blogs.

I am not alone.

Still comforting, several years in.

 

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Demisexuality and Mental Health, an urgent discovery.

15. Have you ever called in to a hotline, warm line, text or chat support network, etc.? What was your experience like? Can you think of any specific ways it could have been better? Would you recommend the service to other aces?

I haven’t ever called a hotline. When I first discovered the concept demisexuality, I did start googling it almost compulsively, returned to do so again every few days, and in the end created this blog and wrote several blog posts in a single day. It was cathartic.

I would recommend other demisexual or asexual newbies at least talk to like-minded people a couple of times or lurk on blogs and forums to get a sense of what it’s like to be ace or demi or grey or -romantic.

That first moment of recognition, identification, as well as subsequent issues, they are moments of such urgent discovery of self, of the world. Especially because asexuality isn’t all that well-known, and how to deal with issues arising from it, in relationships and all, even less. It’s good to share.

Here endeth the series Demisexuality and Mental Health.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, shutting up bullshitters.

14. When people tell you something like “you need therapy” or “get help!”—how do you respond? Have you found any particular method that works well for getting people to stop telling you that?

Be odd, but not aggressively. Make an off-colour joke, stare them down, resort to sarcasm, whatever suits your style, really. I’m not a person gifted with good social skills, much confidence or charisma. I’ve learned that putting people off balance, just a bit, provides a moment to push them in another direction.

Here’s an example: I went to buy something in a market and had to negotiate for the price. The guy opposite me named one that was too high. I didn’t know what to say, so an awkward silence fell. As I stared at him, he seemed to hesitate, repeated the price once more. I finally gave up and turned to go. He yelled a much lower price. Heartened, I turned back to stare at him, now holding back a grin. He lowered the price again. I walked away with the item and a big grin on my face.

I had discovered my negotiating strategy, by accident. Act clueless and socially awkward, on purpose.

It’s a power game, if such demands are made or “suggestions” shouted, so the question is, really, how do you take back power, in your personal life or in the work place? Same strategies apply.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, give and take of support.

12. Who do you turn to for support? Are there any ways they could more effectively support you? If they’re doing a good job, that’s excellent! What are some specific examples of things they’re doing right?

13. Are you a support person for someone else? What have you learned from being in that position? Do you have any advice for others?

My family, and they did an awesome job. See earlier post.

No… I’m not really in a supporting role for anyone other than professionally. That’s what this blog is for, to explore my sexuality and hopefully provide a starting point for others to find some information and comfort in theirs.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, courage.

11. What are some coping strategies you’ve developed? Whether with or without therapy, with or without being diagnosed with a mental illness, what is it that helps you deal with your struggles?

The only way out of fear is straight through. Sometimes that means doing something, on purpose, that I’m bad at, and repeat it, until either the fear is gone or I become good at it.

Work actively on increasing your comfort zone, so to speak, but in ways that are enjoyable, like writing, or going to an interesting meeting with strangers… starting a blog to talk about your sexuality when you really daren’t yet in real life.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, you’re in and you’re out.

9. Have you ever felt subjected to gatekeeping in the asexual community because of your mental health? […] What can we do to combat that sort of feeling in our communities?

And…

10. Have you ever found that your ability to participate in any kind of asexual community activity […] is limited by your mental health?

I… can’t say? I’m only now getting to know the asexual community. From what I’ve seen so far, people are ignorant rather than close-minded, so information might need to be repeated or researched and confirmed before it is accepted, especially considering how new, for example, the concept of demisexuality is.

Mental health issues made me hypersensitive to being accepted or not. Made me read far more into comments than was there. That ties back into the vulnerability I talked about earlier. It’s a common side-effect.

And, well, people are people. There’ll be cliques and trolls and blunt people everywhere. I think it’s very important that all parts of the asexual community, whether blog or forum or meeting place, ensures it facilitators and moderators work to ensure a good atmosphere and safe environment.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, accepting (a)sexuality.

Are there any common assumptions made about a particular mental health issue that do not apply to you because of asexuality? Or have extra complications when you add in asexuality?

Let’s see where this list takes us…

  • Teenage lust was a non-issue. I didn’t feel any.
  • Promiscuity and STDs and condoms were only theoretical things.
  • Presence or absence of sex do not count as faithful symptoms, in my case, of good or bad mental health.

A deeper, cultural issue, to consider during therapy: I think for demisexual and asexual women especially, sexual freedom is important. Because it leaves you free not to have sex, or have it in your own time. It is with a profound relief that I can say that I’ve never experienced sexual assault, and only rarely heard of it second hand.

A general openness towards different sexualities (to the LGBTQ community), translates into a more welcome place in which to be ace or demi, I feel. Both because you’re encouraged to explore your own sexuality during your teenage years and because it’s less hard to get people around you to accept there’s variations in levels of sexuality, the way there is variety in who that sexuality is aimed at.

In an openly sexual country (aka the western world) I think you’ll have to deal with the pressure to have sex, in and out of a relationship. It’s probably the biggest point of inner conflict for me. In a more traditional culture, you’ll have to deal with the pressure to marry and have children. For women, that translates in having to have sex with your husband, whether you want it or not. I think that is a deeper horror when you don’t want sex at all.

In general, the drive to just have sex is like a foreign language. It’s harder to understand. Entire genres of commercials and music clips don’t make sense. You can go along in jokes and behaviour, the way you learn to buy a certain type of shoe or shirt. But you wouldn’t do it on your own.

Consider this: a girl walks down the street in a short skirt and is accosted. The assaulters claim she wanted it, and general audiences do, at least, agree she ‘dressed slutty’. This is a travesty. How much more so, if that girl didn’t just not want to have sex at that point in time, but never in her life has, or will, and doesn’t even really understand why other people do. And, because of a lack of information, can’t even articulate her confusion.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, dreading dating.

7. Are there any topics not necessarily directly related to asexuality, that you find uncomfortable partly because of your asexuality? […] Can you think of any way they might be handled that would make you more comfortable, or would you prefer that people just not bring them up?

I dread the very thought of dating. It’s taking me a year, and talking about it here, for me to be alright with it.

I still don’t talk at all about NOT having had sex for a decade when the human race in general is at its most sexual, with other people. NOT having had relationships in a time when peers did. I still do NOT like to think what assumptions people have made, if any, about me because they haven’t seen me having any relationships.

What’s been a great comfort? Information and the internet. Other people speaking of their sexuality. See some of my first posts for links…

As for dating, I’m considering trying out Ace dating and mixed-sexuality dating as well as regular dating. There’s a couple of events each year in my country, apparently… Now I just need to find the time…

Demisexuality and Mental Health, consensual healing.

6. What advice do you have for aces who are trying to find either a mental health care provider, or some kind of support group/system?

  • You’re in charge. You remain in charge. You are the one who lives in your head, who observes the problem, the process of healing.
  • Do not let people take away your independence. You will lose it, to some degree, but it’s yours to give to someone you trust, not theirs to take.
  • Should people infringe, whether parents or friends or colleagues or therapist or partner, stay away from them while you heal. You’re vulnerable and anything you do in this time will affect the rest of your life. The wisdom you garner will benefit you for the rest of your life. The hurt caused during this time lingers in deep scars.

Demisexuality and Mental Health, the secret weapon.

5. Are there any particular types of therapy that work better or worse for you? Or, are there any alternatives to therapy (like peer support groups) that you’ve used? Are there any other things that act as barriers to treatment for you?

My family was crucial. My parents loved me without reserve and this was the time I felt it. They gave me the space I required to express negative emotions. They supported me when I wasn’t able to do groceries or get out of bed on time. They gave me the space and time to recover.

They did not accept bullshit, however. They clearly communicated what they could and couldn’t do, not expecting me to ‘just know’. For all of us, it was uncharted territory.

And familial love was a powerful foundation to start rebuilding my life and activities once I had figured out the issues that were plaguing me.

A friend or partner could fill this role, as well, but it deepens the relationship to a degree of intimacy rarely present in a relationship where both people are healthy throughout. It’s good to keep that in mind, and discuss in advance if you’d want that, and if they consent.

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