I picked up "My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness" again for the first time in years, and reading it after a long time made me realize how much I could relate to the author.
I first read it when it was released, which was in 2016. This was around the time I had started to question my sexuality and eventually understood that I was bisexual. I was very young at the time, and while I was heavily depressed, suicidal, was actively self-harming and participating in very obsessive-compulsive cycles, I didn't fully understand or grasp the things that were written in the book. I could relate to the vague concept of being depressed, feeling hopeless, not being able to control myself and having complicated feelings towards sexuality and sensuality (I was raised Christian by first generation East Asian immigrant parents). But reading it again now, 6 years later, I understand what she is writing about a lot better.
Everything mentioned in the book seemed way too relevant to where I am in life right now for my own comfort. As I got older (I am still quite young, but nevertheless), my anxiety and depression began to become a lot more nuanced. It wasn't simply feeling like I wanted to die anymore. It was so much more complicated than that. I felt like I was trying so hard, but everything would fail. The smallest things, like remembering to take my medication that day or waking up before 1pm, felt like huge victories and I would be so happy, but when I would go to my mom and tell her the things I was proud of myself, I would be met with the things I could also be doing. It wasn't enough; the things I was proud of myself for even achieving was the bare minimum. Every day I would feel as though I was trying to run through syrup and my brain would be going a mile a minute but getting nowhere, and by the end of the day I would feel so exhausted. But to those around me it would just look like I was doing nothing and lazing around. Which is something that my mom would remind me of every single time she'd message or call me. And even as I would constantly remind her that I am trying the hardest I can and that even though to her it may look like I'm doing nothing and not putting in the effort, I was putting in 200% of my energy and doing everything with what I had. But then her answer to that would be "Then what are you doing in school? If you can't even bring yourself to do the most basic things, what makes you think that you can succeed as a student?". Which makes sense in a way, but the suggestion that I should give up on everything, that it's not even worth trying to succeed in other aspects in life made me so incredibly depressed. Which would make it even harder for me to do the most basic things on a daily basis.
And so the cycle would repeat. Over and over again.
Bringing back the topic of sexuality and sensuality: I had an existential crisis pretty recently regarding my sexuality. For years I had assumed I was bisexual - I was very sure that I wasn't straight, but for some reason I couldn't do any of the "normal" things related to hormonal changes and sexuality that teenagers would do. I didn't (or couldn't) masturbate. I didn't get turned on by watching porn, straight or otherwise. I had even thought that I might be asexual and incapable of understanding sexuality/sensuality. And I continued living like this for a very long time (another reminder, I am still quite young but it was a long time for me).
Upon entering university, I got myself a boyfriend. And after 3 months of dating, I would feel like something was off. I didn't want to date them. It wasn't that I didn't like them or wanted to date other people - something just felt off. I didn't know what it was, but I would start pushing myself away and feeling extremely uncomfortable. And so I broke up with him. I got another boyfriend in my second year. Same thing happened and I broke up with him. And in this process, I wasn't exactly sure why I would want to push myself away and distance myself from them. I almost thought that I was getting bored of them and that I was a horrible person, but I also knew that wasn't the case.
And so I visited the 'Am I a Lesbian Masterdoc' as a junior. I came to the conclusion that I'm a lot less 'straight' than I had thought. I would say I'm mostly sapphic. I still don't really have a 'label' for my sexuality; I don't identify with bisexual anymore, and pansexual seems pretty correct for me? (My present partner is non-binary). I do identify with the term 'lesbian' a lot more than I do 'bisexual' or 'pansexual', but 'lesbian' isn't correct either because I'm not sure that I'm only attracted to women? Either way, after having dated only men for my first two years at university, as a third year, I came to terms that the reason I felt so uncomfortable in my previous relationships (even though there was literally no reason for me to feel that way) was because:
I wasn't attracted to men!
My third year was a very significant year for me aside from my new understanding of my sexuality. I started to learn a lot more about myself, including mental health struggles (also got diagnosed with ADHD) as well as starting to understand the nuances of human interaction, emotion and life in general. The rifts between my mother and I would become more intense, my highs were getting higher but my lows would get much much lower as well. The process of self-realization was so difficult for me, but I couldn't place exactly why. I didn't know why it felt like I had to take huge detours in my quest of self-improvement and understanding. In chapter two of Nagata's book, it writes:
"I'd assumed I was trying to respond to my parent's expectations, but maybe I was just trying to satisfy 'the me trying to please my parents'. I'd always tried to be thinking of my parents, but they were never satisfied. After all I'd never been working hard to please them, I'd been working for 'the me trying to please my parents'. I hadn't thought about what I wanted, I'd only prioritized 'the me trying to please my parents'. Is that why I've had such a hard time figuring everything out?".
Nagata sums it up perfectly. Reading this back in 2016, I could understand it on a surface level, but it wasn't very relevant to my life. I didn't come to that realization for myself at the time (because I was a child!!), but now I had experienced a lot more of life. Reading those panels felt like a breath of fresh air.
I am currently in a much better place mentally, and even though there are things that sometimes make me feel worthless, I am slowly coming to terms with everything.