My sexuality was easy to ignore until I became sick.
I was very athletic as a child. Always full of pent up energy, recess was my favorite time of the day. Summer was my favorite season because it meant I got to have softball practices and games several times a week. I loved climbing trees and riding my bike and running the yard with our dogs. My body did exactly what I wanted it to, but then I became sick and it didn’t any longer.
The biggest different in who I was before I became sick and who I was after was time. The time I suddenly had to overanalyze every aspect of my life while I laid in my dorm, too exhausted and in pain to go to class.
I’d never had much time in the past. My schedule was always filled with advanced placement classes, hours of homework every single day, volunteer activities, sports practice, and other after school activities. I used to long for Sundays when I could sleep in a little.
It made suddenly having a surplus of time a very strange experience. I began noticing things about myself, things I’d refused to let myself previously acknowledge. I began to realize that the way I interacted with the guys my age felt very forced. I felt uncomfortable when they expressed any sort of attention toward me. Even the guys I supposedly liked left me with this unsettling feeling of wrongness.
For a while, I really believed in my façade of the constantly infatuated college student, but it got a lot harder to believe once chronic illness finally caused my life to slow down. Memories from my childhood and teenaged years kept popping up, seemingly presenting more and more evidence that I might not be straight. Like the way it felt in third grade when my best friend told me she couldn’t tell me if I was pretty or not because only boys found girls pretty. I was so unsettled because I found her very pretty, which meant something was wrong with me. There was also the way I loved to have posters of famous female singers and actresses all over my walls. It never occurred to me that I was strange to have so many posters of women on my walls until another friend pointed it out. After that, I was sure to incorporate more posters of men.
I grew up very accepting of my uncle who I knew was gay from a very young age. To me, it was just a part of him and wasn’t anything bad. As time passed, I made several friends that fell somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. It was easy for me to accept others, but I’d always had trouble accepting myself.
There is something about chronic illness that forces you to really get to know yourself, to learn things about yourself you never picked up on before. All the doctor’s appointments, the testing and hospitalizations, the constant pain, and medications taught me I was stronger than I ever knew, that I was resilient and determined. I also found out I was a lesbian.
I can’t remember exactly when I truly realized it, but I do remember that I kept it to myself for a while once I did. There was always “what if I’m wrong?” running through my head. I couldn’t bear enduring coming out only for it to all be wrong.
That period of time I kept my sexuality to myself really allowed me to begin my process of self-acceptance, a process that took years, a process I’m still going through. It had to begin somewhere though, and it was becoming chronically ill that put me on the path.