For the first time in my life I am seeking the services of a professional counsellor. I’ve been in a serious funk for the last three weeks. My pride is suffering, my stage presence is suffering, the cleanliness of my bathroom is suffering. I’m having a hard time leaving the house without a sigh long enough to slam the door on.
I’ve always had problems with self-esteem. I obsess over zits, body hair, the specifics of my boy-girl body. But the fact that tons of people find my sexuality disgusting never seems to bother me. Although I was certainly raised to believe that being queer is deviant, dirty and undesirable, I never absorbed the concept. It never felt wrong, so how could it be? It’s like telling children that chocolate is bad for them – it looks good, it smells good, it tastes good, so it must be good (and the parents must be lying). The logic is easy, the evidence clear as day.
The concept of counselling reminds me of being pushed to get “help” for being queer at age 14. It’s the place where they erase your identity and “fix” things that aren’t broken. It’s the place where my mother paid for the assurance, not that her daughter was okay, but that it wasn’t her fault her daughter was a freak. Going to counselling means I’m sick. Going to counselling means I can’t manage my own life, or I didn’t pay enough attention during Degrassi Junior High.
Obviously, I don’t have a clue what it means, but that doesn’t stop me from being afraid that either 1) it will be discovered that I’m fucked up or 2) I will magically become fucked up in the process.
I had to try six different centres before I found one that worked with my postal code, my schedule and my mixed-race identity. It was hard enough to make the first call – your ego takes a shot when you have to ask a complete stranger for help. By the time you talk to five more strangers, one of whom asks, 30 seconds into your preliminary phone call, “So, what are your issues?” your ego is lying in a heap on the field like an ambushed parachute.
As I wait for my first appointment, I struggle to self-diagnose, so I can cancel. I’ve always thought the whole fear of success thing was bullshit (it’s like fear of chocolate). Especially if you’re a woman, queer and not model-white or model-beautiful. I figure there are enough roadblocks between me and the top job to prevent me from worrying about having it. But I forget that success is relative, and at 26 I am leading a life I love more than I ever imagined I could. I’m in a beautiful relationship, I’ve got great jobs, I’m physically healthy and financially independent. I’m happy; maybe it’s stressing me out.
Or maybe it’s something else. Whenever I get down without an obvious reason (especially when my period is already long gone), I wonder if all the negative ideas I’ve refuted about my identity have still managed to poison me.
Is it accurate, or even possible, to say I have no internalized homophobia? I can’t be honest with most of my family. My grandfather always thinks I’m on drugs (which is the furthest thing from the truth – I still consider Advil “medication”). My mother, of course, betrays some excitement beneath her concern that each of my difficult times may lead to the revelation that I actually want boys to fuck me (I’ve just been afraid of the success that comes with a perfect straight life).
I was ditched in high school. I’ve been harassed at work. A lot of sad things have happened, not because I am queer but because people couldn’t handle my being queer.
In short, I have no idea what I’m going to say to the counsellor when I finally see her. I wish I wasn’t so uncomfortable with the whole thing. People tell me that seeking help is a show of strength, not weakness. But it doesn’t feel that way. When you’ve always relied solely on yourself to maintain your mental health, the prospect of using someone else is scary.
Maybe I’m afraid she’s going to blame my troubles on my sexuality (is that internalized homophobia?). Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between irrationally fearing the world will discriminate against me (self-defence equals paranoia) and expecting the world to discriminate against me (socialization and lived experience equals caution). Sometimes I have trouble distinguishing myth from fact.
If the counsellor doesn’t turn out to be an ignorant monster with a rosary beside her diploma, I’ll try my best to talk through my shit. If she does, it just might be the boost I’ve been needing to remind me of my relative sanity and get me through this funk.