Sometimes all you have, is you.

August 30th, 2017

Next month will be a year since I came out.

A year and a half since I came out to myself, to some of my closest friends.

A year since a relationship that taught me so much about myself, so much that I thought I’d die without figuring out.

It had never seemed clear before.

I never thought I’d allow myself to get to this place.

A year since I first experienced what it really felt like, to be so full of appreciation for someone, for the life I’d chosen to live, that I was blissfully unaware of the rest of the world.

I chose this life.

It was me.

I did it myself.

I decided that my life had to change.

I decided that I had to put my happiness first.

In doing that I risked everything; my stable yet unfulfilling life was turning upside down, rattling.

An aura of self-confidence surrounds my every move now,

Because one year ago my confidence was all I could rely on.

The harsh reality that you might lose the ones you love does that to you, creates this shield.

Some may try to knock you down and you have to be sure of yourself,

And if they walk away you need someone. And that someone, sometimes all you have, is you.

Throughout it all I was glad I had a hand to hold,

I thought I’d continue to watch this link unfold,

But it stopped. I didn’t expect it to stop.

And I thought I would stop too, but I didn’t.

This was the moment I’d anticipated, but not when I’d expected it.

Sometimes all you have, is you.

But that’s life.

The world keeps spinning and life doesn’t stop for anyone.

I had to learn to appreciate it.

When you experience the highs, sometimes you have to face the lows.

And I’m grateful for that.

If I didn’t experience the ups and the downs of coming out,

Then where would I be?

Sitting at the bottom of my bed, asking myself again,

“What do you feel?”

“Nothing. Emptiness.”

I don’t look back on my journey with sadness,

I’m fucking proud of myself.

Of the person that I’ve become,

Finally able to say that I’m gay and smiling,

Not curled up in a ball in my bed, through choked up tears and a pounding head and a pain in my heart because I can’t face my life in this lie that I’m living.

It still feels surreal.

Almost one year on, and a lot has changed.

Acceptance has come my way,

Slowly but at the same time, faster than I had ever imagined.

To hear that one of my favourite people said,

“Promise me one thing; that you’ll never turn your back on her.”

When they were who I most feared would turn their back on me,

Well it makes everything worthwhile.

I’ll always be grateful for the life I have now,

That I fought so hard for.

I will always appreciate my journey.

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Donuts heal broken hearts

This time last week, I was preparing to have a conversation I didn’t think I’d be having so soon, with a person I did not want to have that conversation with. I was so drained of energy and emotion, that I did not think it was possible to cry anymore; I was wrong. I didn’t think it was possible to feel any more crushed than I already did. Again, after that conversation, I learned that I was wrong. I was wrong about a lot of things.

Break ups are difficult, and no matter how hard you search, you won’t always get the answers to your questions. It can make getting closure a never ending task, because without those answers you always wonder where it went wrong. We’re always seeking closure.

That night I went out, and in true post break up fashion, I got drunk. And I cried, hysterically. I cried so hard that I had a physical pain in my chest. I balled my eyes out to the point where I couldn’t keep my upper body upright. This wasn’t because I was drunk though, I was just tired. So tired. This had happened a few times in the week beforehand, where I was so drained that my body just collapsed into my lap as I sobbed. I didn’t have the strength for this.

My friends brought me home. They hugged me and they listened to me, and they reassured me that I’d be okay. They took care of me. All my friends had been taking such good care of me. I realised the next day that while they were doing this, I needed to take care of myself. You can have twenty people picking you up when you fall down, but you have to be willing to pick up the extra pieces yourself. You have to be willing to get on with your life.

When you’re going through a break up, it can be easy to just wallow in your own self-pity. To stay in bed for three days straight and listen to sad songs and think that the world is ending and your life is over and you’ll never be happy again. Maybe the last bit is an over-exaggeration, but you get what I mean. It’s okay to feel shitty to a certain extent and we all need time to cry, but you have to stop at some point. The world keeps spinning and life doesn’t stop for anyone.

That same evening I was sitting on the cold, dirty floor on a wet evening, waiting on my bus to the airport. The rain was hitting off my skin and I hoped that every sudden drop would shock me and jolt some kind of energy into me. It didn’t happen, but it made me realise something.

I wasn’t going to feel better by sitting around and waiting for happiness to be handed to me on a silver platter. There was only so much moping around I could do before I was going to get used to it, to get comfortable with it, to think that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I made a conscious decision that day that I was going to try, to really, really try, to feel better.

Going home and visiting my friends was the first step, but I knew I wasn’t going to feel on top of the world again overnight. The next day, I didn’t cry. Or the day after that, or the day after that, or the day after that. I’ll admit it, yesterday I did get a little upset. But I cried for a few minutes, and I pulled myself together and I felt a little better. This is what it’s about, feeling that tiny bit better every day and knowing that you can get through this.

I went to visit one of my best friends in London. I went to a job interview. I ate donuts, plenty of donuts, because donuts heal broken hearts. I surrounded myself with positive people, and I left the house; even when I didn’t want to. I haven’t drank any rosé yet but I’m planning on it. I started to read a new book. I made myself healthy dinners. I wrote more. I bought a new purple, glittery lipstick. I started watching a new TV series. I made an attempt at my assignments, and I didn’t get much done, but I tried and that’s the main thing.

As each day goes by, I’m feeling that small bit better. My life has changed a lot in the last year, and now I’m free to be the person that I’ve always wanted to be. Yes, this is an ending, and endings are always horrible. But it’s also a chapter with a new beginning.

I was wrong about a lot of things, in that a week ago I said I couldn’t do this.

Keep doing the little things that make you happy, and you’re going to be okay.

And remember; donuts heal broken hearts.

pinkdonut

Vera

“I bet you thought you’d gotten rid of me.”

Vera smirks, she perches onto her dusty, tattered thrown. It’s almost as old as I am, because Vera is the name of my anxiety and she’s been with me for as long as I can remember now.

Vera is an elf like creature. She’s tiny and I should be able to fight her, but I can’t and it kills me that she’s so powerful.

Vera is in my brain and in my heart. She’s in my chest and my stomach, my hands, my legs, my eyes. She is wherever she wants to be, and she knows she can take over me.

Vera’s hair is black and matted and her skin is greying. Her clothing is torn and she looks battered after all these years, and all my failed attempts to drown her out. I never succeed.

Vera’s voice is the part that fills me with dread the most. It’s louder than ever now, she demands to be heard. She screams and screams and screams over anything left of the rational thought process I’d tried so hard to build up. She will be heard. She knows how to get to me.

Her voice goes in waves and whirls until it fills my head and I feel it all the way down to my throat, and it’s choking me.

Vera gets angry with me, she’s screaming now. Was I incapable of looking out for myself? How had I let this happen? Why would I put myself in a vulnerable position? She says that now she’s back to protect me, to stop harm from coming my way.

Vera clicks her wicked fingers, her long black fingernails are touching my own and now suddenly, there’s pins and needles. I can’t feel my hands, and then it’s my feet and I’m trapped.

I’m stuck and I can’t get out and I just sit and I listen to Vera punishing me.

I let myself get like this.

This is my fault.

Why hadn’t I been afraid?

Vera asks me what’s wrong. When I won’t tell her, she yells at me. She yells at the top of her lungs and although she’s so small, her roar makes my whole body shake and I can’t stop.

I tell her what’s upset me, begrudgingly. She shakes her head and glares at me with bloodshot eyes, her pupils a sea of blackness into her dark soul. “Your fault,” she shrieks.

Her shrieking brings a tear to my eye, and another one, and another one, and another one, and they won’t stop and it could be hours before they do and that’s the scary part.

Vera wants more answers and she knows she’s got control of me now. She knows I can’t give in and give her the rational answer, even if I want to.

“There’s no point.”

“You can never fix this.”

“It can only go wrong.”

“She hates you. Why shouldn’t she?”

Now she’s clip-clop, clip-clopping on my heart with her spikey leather boots. She’s kicking and she’s thrashing and now she’s down on all fours and I swear this is the time she’s going to give me a heart attack and I’m going to die.

Vera screams that everyone is out to hurt me and that everyone secretly hates me, and I wonder if she knows how much I hate her now.

Vera flutters down towards my lungs and my stomach churns and she smirks at me. She knows that she has me under her spell now, and she’s cackling. She tells me I’m worthless and she asks me a question,

“Why would anyone want to be around you?”

She screams and screams and screams, and she won’t stop and I can’t think and she’s tricked me once again.

She knows she’s the winner; she’s always the winner.

She squeezes my lungs and a heavy black cloud weighs down my chest and my throat closes up and I can’t breathe anymore. I’m hyperventilating now and I can’t make it stop and all I can hear is this screeching inside of my head,

“This is your fault.”

“You’re so stupid.”

“You’re pathetic.”

My ears are ringing and it drowns everything out. The sound of my friend trying to calm me down and the rational thoughts are all washed away with every breath that I struggle to take. I know she’s won, again.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

Then sometimes there’s a thud, and my exhausted body collapses onto the cold, hard floor. Often it feels like the easier route because for a moment my eyes black out, and I can’t hear, and I have peace for just a few moments. Its peace, all the same.

And eventually the short staggered breaths even out, but the tears keep flowing and my body is full of this emptiness.

Now Vera is staring, beady eyed at my hunched over limp, lifeless body and she shakes her head and asks,

“Who wants to deal with an anxious mess like you?”

She turns away and I think that’s the end but somehow, somehow in between my sobs she finds the space to hurt me one last time.

Vera squeezes me tightly, her claws digging into my skin so hard that her words are left like tiny scars on my arm. She says,

“Don’t let this happen again.”

Now I’m alone with my thoughts, and Vera’s words keep swirling through my mind; I know she’s wrong but she always manages to take over me. Vera knows I’m afraid of putting myself into a position where she’ll come back again. She knows I’ll avoid facing my fears.

She knows she’s the winner; she’s always the winner.

Stop flaunting your sexuality

Why is there a need to validate our sexuality in this day and age? Why is there even a need to come out at all? Why can’t we just love who we want to love, be with whoever we want to be with? Why is it assumed that we’re all born heterosexual, with young girls being told that one day they’ll find their Prince; oblivious to the fact that for some it might actually be a Princess? Because it’s 2016 Ireland, and although people think we’ve made leaps and bounds since the Yes vote in the marriage referendum, we haven’t come that far yet.

We understand what it means to be straight, and we understand what it means to be gay. For decades we’ve been campaigning for gay rights, proclaiming that gay people were born this way and were not able to change their sexuality. Eventually, people began to accept that others were gay. They did not entirely understand it, but they got their head around the concept. Then along came bisexuality; people were finally comfortable coming out and admitting that they were attracted to more than one sex. There are many different sexualities out there, and it’s up to each individual to find onelesbian that fits their preference (or they may choose not to label themselves at all). We’re now aware that heterosexuality isn’t as “normal” as we once thought, so why is there still a need to say, “I’m gay.”?

After the success of the marriage referendum, some may think that the process of coming out is way too dramatized. That it shouldn’t be a case of proclaiming, “Look at me, I’m different!” When really, nobody actually cares and you’re not that different at all. It seems that now, if you come out people are thinking “What’s the fuss about?” Because it’s just another gay, bisexual or queer person. We know so many of them now, and that’s amazing. Coming out should not be dramatic, nobody wants it to be. But for many people, it is.

As much as we like to tell ourselves that the world is a kind, loving and accepting place, sometimes it just isn’t. Yes, people have become more accepting of the LGBTQ community since the marriage referendum, but we still have a long way to go. People seem to forget that, although our generation are overwhelmingly accepting, some of the older generation are still alive, kicking and not too happy about same-sex relationships. There are parents out there with a “not on my doorstep” attitude, and small town syndrome is still prevalent all over the country.

When young people come out these days, it can still be dramatic. They go into it knowing that they could lose some of their best friends and closest family members, and for some of them, they do. You might think it’s not that big of a deal because your family voted Yes in the marriage referendum, but for some people coming out, it’s a huge deal. And granted that it all goes well, that your family say they still love you and your friends couldn’t care less: if you’ve waited 23 years to come out and you’re finally comfortable with your sexuality, it’s a big thing. You should be able to celebrate that without complaints that you’re making a fuss.

There have head shaking and sighs about LGBTQ people throwing their gayness in your face since the beginning of time. What started with “I don’t mind gays, but I hate when they flaunt it” has turned to the likes of “I’m not judging you because you’re gay, I’m judging you know because you’re talking abolesbian3ut it on social media” as time has gone by. And what that boils down to is this; you are flaunting your non heterosexual sexuality by coming out and being visible. By having a presence, and letting people know that, “Hello, I’m Laura. I’m 26, I’m a nurse, and I’m gay.”

Ask an LGBTQ person about why they make such a big deal out of their same-sex relationship and you’ll get the same answer as you would from any heterosexual couple. When you’re in a relationship with somebody, they become a big part of your life. You’re proud of the person they are, you want to show them off and show others that you are together. It’s normal.

It’s not about flaunting anything. It’s wanting to show affection to your partner, to let them know that you appreciate and care about them. It’s about kissing them goodbye outside of the car, rather than hiding away inside. It’s about being comfortable holding your partners hand in public, just because you want to be close to them. It’s not a statement, and it shouldn’t be.closet

Ideally, we would love to live in a world where nobody had a problem with the LGBTQ community. But unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. This is why people still feel the need to “come out”, to label themselves and this is why sometimes the process is still quite dramatic. We don’t want it to be, but in reality, it is. And until there comes a time where we have complete acceptance of the LGBTQ community, some feel that they have to ensure they are visible. That they can say, we’re here; we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, pansexual, and whatever else. They still have to remind people that they exist.

The generation below us need to see that LBGT people are here, that LBGT people are visible, and most importantly that LGBT people are normal. They need to have someone to relate to, whether it’s a family friend or a famous Youtuber that they can identify with. With visibility comes the breaking of stereotypes, like the camp gay man and the big butch lesbian. It can only get better from here, but we have to be patient.

As much as we all want coming out to be a thing of the past, we need to respect that for some people it’s still a huge deal. Until it’s a thing of the past, the LGBTQ community will still feel the need to validate their sexuality. Because once upon a time, they had somebody they looked up to and thought, “He/she is just like me.” Maybe they want to help somebody too.

 

To feel something

Three minutes had gone by, I know because I’d been staring at my watch. Three minutes of awkward, stiff cuddling that just didn’t feel right. Three minutes of one-sided chit chat about college. “Well then, I’m gonna head home,” He said, picking his keys and passport up off the floor and swishing his hair back and forth, “I’ll see you again.” He flashed a smile and gave a quick nod and out the door he went. I sat up on the edge of the bed, and all I could think was, “Hopefully not.”

I sat there for a while that day, I wanted to give myself time to think. I was sick of this; the same old, same old. For the first time in a long time, I actually stopped and asked myself, what do you feel?

Nothing.

Emptiness.

The lack of emotion was frightening of course, but it wasn’t something I was unfamiliar with. I just chose not to notice it, I thought I could go on without it having an impact on my life. It did.

I thought this emotionless, rock of a human was just who I was. For a long time, I thought I wasn’t capable of feeling anything at all. “It’s probably just my anxiety,” I thought, or “Maybe I could be depressed.” Possibly, but no. I just wasn’t being true to myself.

Maybe I should have realised that I couldn’t keep up this act of content, but if you act out the same scene for long enough, you sometimes forget it isn’t real. It becomes a part of you, an alien part maybe, but you stop questioning it. You just start to accept it, or at least try to.

I asked myself what it was that I really wanted that day, and was mildly shocked and partly upset at my brain’s initial response. That first thought led to another, which led to another, and another. About something I’d always known to be there, but always known I could suppress. There was no suppressing it anymore.

From a very young age, I’d told myself, “This is not something you can entertain.” But something inside of me changed that day. I was sick of hiding. I was sick of being afraid. I was sick of battling with myself. I just wanted to feel something, anything, again.

I stopped doing what I felt like I should do, and started doing what I wanted to do. I stopped trying to be what people expected of me, instead focusing on being the real me. I won’t lie, there were times where I backtracked. Many “I can’t do this” moments, and I wasn’t the only one getting hurt this time.

But every time I tried to stop myself, I got more and more drawn in. There was always something pulling me back. What was it? I was unsure. I was unsure of everything, in a short few weeks it felt as though my whole life was being turned upside down. And one day, I realised what it was.

Happiness.

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“In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality..”

Many of us expressed frustration today, as Mick Wallace’s bill on abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities failed to get the support it needed from TD’s. As somebody who is a strong believer that we need to repeal the 8th amendment, I was frustrated too; until I really began to think about it.

“In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality” is simply not enough. It means that women are still not allowed to decide what will happen to their body, in the case of a crisis pregnancy. If this bill was to be passed, it would raise so many more questions; how fatal does a fatal foetal abnormality have to be before it’s deemed acceptable to terminate the pregnancy? Who gets to decide on this, and how? What type of abnormalities would fall into this category? With the state of Ireland’s medical system, most women would be almost full-term by the time the doctors had decided if her foetus had a chance of survival. And what about the women who are told, “Sorry, we’re not sure if your baby’s disease is fatal or not. You’ll have to carry on with your pregnancy and see.” How is that fair? And then there’s the women whose babies will be diagnosed with conditions that mean they will have no quality of life. Do they not deserve to abort their pregnancy if they choose to? “In the case of..” is just not a sustainable option.

It’s like when people say that abortions should only be available in the case of rape. Do they realise how long a court case can take? These things can take months, sometimes years. By the time somebody was convicted of rape, a child would already be born. And what if they were found not guilty of rape, but guilty of sexual assault? Where do we draw the line? In the case of repealing the 8th amendment, there is no drawing the line. It has to be all or nothing.

The decision on whether or not abortion should be made available in Ireland is in the hands of the Dáil. 78% of these people are men, who will never know what it’s like to fall pregnant. A vast majority of these people are stable in their finances and careers, and probably in their relationships too. This vast majority don’t know what it feels like to go through a crisis pregnancy, where you end up pregnant when you simply don’t want to be.

Enough of this talk of, “in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality” or “in the case of rape”. What about in the case of when a woman simply does not want to be pregnant? We seem to be skimming over the fact that unwanted pregnancies happen on a daily basis. What about the girls who are still in school, and want to experience a regular transition into adult life? What about the college students, who struggle to make enough money to look after themselves, let alone a child? What about the woman who already has four young children, and does not have the energy or financial means to raise another? What about these normal, everyday women? Do they not deserve a safe, legal abortion too?

“If they didn’t want to get pregnant, they should have used protection.” Moan the pro-lifers. Did you know that condoms sometimes break? Pills don’t always work? The implant isn’t fool-proof? And even if you didn’t use protection, it doesn’t make you a bad person. Uneducated about safe sex, maybe, but it doesn’t make you any less entitled to a safe, legal abortion than anyone else.

Recently I spoke to a doctor, and she asked if I had any plans for future contraception. I told her that I’d been researching the coil, and she said “Are you sure you’d want the coil? You seem very nervous.” And my response, “Well, a pregnancy would make me even more nervous.” It made me think, what would I do if I got pregnant at my age? My anxiety would sky rocket. I’d probably go mad. I’d be making myself physically sick with worry. But because of my own personal circumstances in life, I wouldn’t have an abortion. However I’d like to have the option to, and I’d like if other women were allowed to make that choice themselves based on their own personal circumstances. I respect that these women are able to make the best choice for themselves.

Until you’ve taken a pregnancy test while shaking, alone in a bathroom, or you’ve watched a friend burst into tears as a red cross appears on her pregnancy test, or you’ve seen a family member debate in despair about whether or not they can truly afford to have another child. You’ll never really understand what it feels like. You’ll never know the torment that these women go through, and it happens more often than we think. I’m sure the vast majority of us know somebody who’s had to go to abroad for an abortion, because our country is too backward to provide them here. Abortions need to be made available in Ireland, and it has to be all or nothing. There can be
no ifs, buts or maybes when it comes to such a serious repealissue.

Just Friends

Writing doesn’t help me to evaluate or figure out my problems. You’d think it would, since I’m training to be a journalist and all, but really that’s not the case. I’ve known this since I started writing about my life ten years ago, when I kept a diary full of all the things that were bothering me. But it didn’t stop me from attempting to silence my thoughts with a pen and paper again last week.

Here in the University of Limerick, we have what’s known as the Living Bridge, I lived right beside it last year. The seats along the side are severely uncomfortable and often soaking wet, but at night time it lights up in a rainbow of colours. There’s something about sitting on that bridge that always manages to calm me down, and clear my head, I spent a lot of time there last year. I think it’s the sound of the water, it reminds me of home.

I hadn’t been there for a while. In fact, I hadn’t been there since this time last year. But last week I felt the urge to go back, I thought I needed something. I thought maybe it was space or fresh air, but I really wasn’t sure. I just felt like sitting there might help me feel better. Unfortunately for me though, it didn’t. This event ended in me scribbling down my thoughts on a piece of paper, ripping it out of my diary and throwing it in a ball on the floor. However I proceeded to pick this piece of paper up; if anyone read what I’d written they’d probably laugh hysterically and plus, I’m not a litter bug.

The realisation that came over me that day is that for once in my life, I’m not looking for a solution to my problem; I’m trying to figure out how to best deal with the solution I’ve been given. As a journalist, you’re trained to always ask more questions, to seek better answers, to always look for more. On top of that, my anxiety always has me exploring other avenues, even if I don’t want to. I can never just “be”.

What’s worse than not knowing where you stand, is knowing exactly where you stand and not being able to do anything about it. I was under the allusion for a long time that I was made of stone, but after challenging this I learned that it really wasn’t the case. The thing that always got me through the rocky periods was the idea that I was in control of my own happiness. Even when I was feeling down, I was in control and I could fix this. When I let somebody else put a smile on my face and make me laugh, I’d let my guard down; I didn’t know that I’d find it so hard to deal with the consequences.

I had this idea in my head that I’d end up falling in love with the next guy who so much as looked at me. This definitely was not the case, and I’m not sure if it’s a positive or negative thing. Two weeks ago, I had a guy kiss me on the forehead for the first time in a long time. And honestly, all I felt like doing was head-butting him. Sorry. I thought I’d have turned into a huge ball of feelings, when really I’m the opposite, I couldn’t care less. I keep making comparisons and although I want to stop, I can’t.

I’m guessing that people are sick of me talking about this, and that’s why I’ve finally succumbed to writing down my thoughts. I know that writing never helped me to solve my problems, but maybe it can help me accept the solution. This world is alien to me, I’m not used to feeling this way or being in these situations, I don’t know what to do with this. It’s hard to stay friends with somebody you feel something for, when you know that they don’t feel the same way.

I only began to think of this a few days ago when my housemate said to me, “It must be really hard for you to stay friends with him.” That’s the first time I actually stopped and thought, “Yes, this is really difficult.” But when you’re that attracted to somebodies personality, you don’t want to cut ties. So you stop what you were doing before somebody gets hurt and you end up ruining your friendship. I wasn’t meant to be hurting now; believe me, I’m beating myself up over it.

I know that you can’t change somebodies mind about you, or change how they feel about you, and I haven’t tried to. I tried to silently deal with the solution I’m faced with all semester, in the hope that eventually, any thoughts or feelings I had would vanish. They haven’t, and this has been a struggle for me.

You start every week with a “fuck it” attitude, and by two o’clock on Tuesday you’ve gotten a snapchat that makes your face light up. Being greeted with a smile, a hug and a kiss on the cheek shouldn’t affect you, but it does. It’s hard being in the same nightclub as somebody you feel something towards, knowing they’re with somebody else and you’re just, there. It’s just a feeling of inadequacy really, because you know they could have you if they wanted you, but they don’t. There’s nothing you can do, because you’re just friends.

My housemates question the other day really made me wonder why I continued to maintain this friendship when it was so hard for me, and as this semester draws to a close I’m wondering what to do next. In one sense, I’m happy that I’ll be moving to Manchester for a few months. I’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, and focus on other things. I can’t help but wonder if my mind will still be wandering elsewhere though.

There’s a part of me that wants to cut things off completely, but I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work. I could just quit while I’m ahead, but as I said, I’m curious. I always have more questions to the answers I’m provided with, I want to figure out why I invest my time in these things. I can never just “be”.