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Social Anxiety and Questioning

Discussion in 'Sexual Orientation' started by LoomingOcean, Apr 16, 2024.

  1. LoomingOcean

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    I've been struggling with pretty severe social anxiety since my early teens. I've been in therapy for it for years and have made some progress, but it's been a slow and difficult process.

    In high school I developed a really strong sense of self-loathing, and I would spend the days not talking to anyone and trying to pretend that I didn't exist. This self-loathing I think is the biggest obstacle to really getting better from my social anxiety.

    I'm opening up here because I've been suspecting for a long time now that I might be gay, and that the loathing has been coming from me thoroughly rejecting this about myself and feeling the need to hide it from everyone and not acknowledge it in any way.

    It's been hard to figure out for sure if I'm actually gay because the anxiety keeps getting in the way. I don't have any LGBT friends (or any friends really, outside of my family). And I had multiple panic attacks about it when I first started seriously considering that I could be gay, though that's gotten a lot better over time. I still get anxious and feel like I'm doing something wrong when I'm questioning, though. Maybe this is from me growing up in a Catholic environment including going to a Catholic school. I was never taught any outright homophobic beliefs, it was more just never talked about at all, by my school or my parents or any of my friends.

    But seriously behind the anxiety and self-rejection I've seen glimpses of myself feeling really happy when I imagine myself with a guy, and that's why I've been so persistent in trying to figure this out despite my anxiety. But quite often I worry I'm just making it up and lying to myself somehow. And it's not like I've got any real-life experiences to back it up.

    I've been trying to work up the courage to tell my therapist that I'm suspecting that I'm gay, but I keep having the thought "but what if I'm wrong?" and that's been paralyzing me. Part of me worries that I'm just making this up because I want to feel "special" or something. I trust my therapist I just don't trust myself very much.

    I just feel like I'm going crazy and I needed to tell someone. Trying to figure this all out in my head is exhausting. I want to learn to love and accept myself so I'm not so afraid of other people noticing and getting to know me. I'm so tired of this. I'm tired of feeling lonely.
     
  2. quebec

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    LoomingOceasn…..I usually catch people when they make their first post in the "Welcome Lounge" but I missed you there, so I'll catch back up to you here! :old_rolleyes:

    …..Hello and a big LGBTQIA+ welcome to Empty Closets! :old_smile: I can remember the first post that I made on EC. I was desperate for help and I got the help that night that I so needed. I hope that we can help you in the same way that I received help. The most important thing to remember about Empty Closets is that we do care about you! We're very glad that you found us here on EC and hope that we can answer questions, give you support and provide a place to vent (as long as it's not violent! :old_wink: ) when that becomes necessary! This is a safe community of loving, caring and very supportive people and we will do our best to help you blend into the community.

    *****There are 18 different sub-forums here that you can check out, join in the conversations or start your own thread/conversation. When I first joined Empty Closets I was in need of a lot of support and encouragement and I found it here…EC is a safe place. I hope that you'll find good things here too! Folks here will talk to you and share...you don't have to be afraid of asking questions...we're glad to have you! Empty Closets is all about making connections and giving LGBTQ folks a voice when they otherwise don't have one in their day-to-day lives. :old_cool:

    *****In particular you may want to check out the forum that is titled "Sexual Orientation”, there are people there who may have dealt with some of the same kind of issues that could be challenging you.

    Some info on how to navigate EC: :old_confused:
    When you have made at least 10 posts on various threads you will be able to post messages on a member's Profile Page. Just click on a member's Avatar Picture and then click on "Profile Page" in the dialogue box that pops up. You'll then be on their Profile Page and there will be a box that says: "Write Something”. When you have been on EC for a few weeks and have made at least 50 posts on various forums, you can apply for Full Membership. Only A Full Member can send Private Messages (PM) and then only to other Full Members and share personal contact info. Right now you can only send a PM to a Staff Member as that is always possible. Here is a quote from the Full Membership information forum:

    *****To be eligible you must be a member of Empty Closets for a minimum of two weeks, and have a minimum of 50 posts. These posts must be across numerous forums (Fun & Games does not contribute to post count), and consistently posted across a minimum of two weeks. You wouldn't be eligible, for example, if you registered, had no activity for two weeks, and then returned to post 50 times on your 14th day of membership.

    *****Well, as I said, we're very glad you found us! :old_big_grin: If you have any questions at all, you can send me a Private Message as you can always send a staff member a Private Message.

    …..David :gay_pride_flag:
     
  3. quebec

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    Looming Ocean.....Now that the greeting is done...I am glad that you are talking to a therapist. Spending time with a therapist was one of the best choices that I ever made. Do you know how your therapist feels about the LGBTQ Community? Important question!! Check their CV or website to be sure. Hopefully they are ok with working with the LGBTQ Community. If so, then I would absolutely suggest that you talk to them about your thoughts on being gay. Whatever you say to a therapist is always going to be held private, so no problem there. Talking to them about this will take the pressure off you. It will also let you explore this about yourself and help to determine if it's really true or not. I can't imagine a safer way to work this out.
    .....David :gay_pride_flag:
     
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  4. FemWired

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    It's completely understandable to have doubts about yourself, heteronormativity tends to do that. I've had similar fears and doubts about my gender identity. What I found helpful is accepting that it's OK to be uncertain, understanding your own emotions and coming to terms with them can be difficult. I've sometimes felt like I have to know all the answers immediately, but that's not true at all.

    Telling someone you suspect you might be queer may be very intimidating, especially when you are so unsure of yourself. But talking to someone else about it is very helpful, the fact that you were able to open up about your feelings here is already a great start! And if it turns out you are wrong, well, so what? You will have gained a better understanding of yourself either way.

    I can't tell you if you are gay, only you can answer that. But there is no need to prove that you are gay, if you tell me that you think are, I will believe you, no questions asked!
     
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  5. Lek

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    LoomingOcean: Welcome to EC.

    I too am happy to hear you are seeing a therapist. When I was in therapy, I would think of a goal or two to focus on in a session. Perhaps you can make exploring being gay as a goal.

    ⬆ Maybe something like that is what you can tell your therapist. Learning how not to box yourself into "what if I am/what if I'm not" thinking might be another goal to work on.

    This is why I feel you are so special. (And you deserve to feel special.) You have a very clear and achievable goal. It sounds to me like you're ready.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
     
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  6. tallslenderguy

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    The cool thing is, that's what therapists do (i.e., help us sort out feelings and thoughts). Your therapist can only help you when you're open with them though. You may be onto something and this could mean a great break through for you in dealing with anxiety.
     
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  7. LoomingOcean

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    Thanks for the replies. I'm planning to open up to my therapist about it at my next session. After posting that I felt really scared but now it feels like such a relief to have finally told someone.

    Tbh I've been having suspicions that I'm gay for almost 5 years now, but the whole time I've kind of felt like I was just making it up. I think that was really me not wanting to accept it. And also I get intrusive thoughts where my brain makes me try to "prove" to myself that I'm not straight in order for my feelings towards men to be valid. Sometimes it feels like my entire brain is against me finding clarity here, but really I think I'm just scared and have shame issues I'm working through.

    I know this is a dumb question, but is it really okay for me to feel attracted to men? Is that a valid feeling for me to have? I already know that the answer is yes... Some part of me feels like it's just not okay though.
     
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  8. 2024confused

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    Do you have sexual fantasies at all? If you do are they about guys or girls or both?
     
  9. tallslenderguy

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    i don't think this is a "dumb question" at all, but that it's revealing. Homophobia is still a big part of social/cultural conditioning, to me what is expressed in your question is wrestling born out of homophobia. Rationally, you 'know' its okay to feel attracted to men, but you emotions have been conditioned otherwise.
     
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  10. LoomingOcean

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    So, I told my therapist about how I'm thinking I might be gay. That was far more difficult than I thought it was going to be... It took me almost the entire session to finally say it, and I was a complete nervous wreck. She responded supportively, though there wasn't much time left to talk about it. I'm just glad the hardest part's over now. I don't know why I got so scared. I think part of me is still very much in denial, feeling like I can make it go away if keep refusing to talk about it. It was hard to so blatantly defy that part of myself, but I'm glad I did it. And now that I've broken the barrier of silence on the topic it should be much easier to talk about at future sessions. I still feel kinda shaken up from how vulnerable that felt though.

    When I was a teen I liked to imagine myself with a woman's body having sex with a man. Back then I was so confused why I liked that fantasy, haha. I think I liked imagining what it was like to be deeply loved and desired by a man, and I was only taught how hetero sex worked. In the past few years I've found it more difficult to have sexual fantasies, I think because I've been too afraid to let myself have gay fantasies. I've been afraid to do anything that can be used as evidence that I'm gay, even when no one else will know.

    This makes sense to me. It's hard to know how to un-condition my emotions though. I try to be open-minded but my brain keeps freaking out and throwing tantrums at me. It's real exhausting to deal with. I'm trying though, and this forum's helping
     
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  11. tallslenderguy

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    It's not a moral issue, eh? Nothing to feel guilty about or like you're 'failing' at something. We are conditioned toward a certain way of thinking and feeling, it's sort of like a habit pattern. Neural pathways get established and we just 'do' an 'feel' like we've been trained. It there wasn't something else, something intrinsically different, we might never even notice, let alone question being hetero stuff. It takes time to physically build new neural pathways. Neuroplasticity is a fascinating topic. Essentially, and probably over simplifying, i think 'practicing' differently will build new pathways, and not 'practicing' the old ways they'll weaken and wither away because they are not getting any exercise.
     
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  12. LoomingOcean

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    Okay, I think I get it. I'm gonna try to slow things down a bit and be more patient with myself. I never really realized just how strongly I'd been conditioned to feel like it's not okay for me to be gay. But that makes it understandable how much anxiety I've been feeling through this whole questioning process. And that's making me think I'm probably right about myself. There wouldn't be much reason to keep making myself face all these difficult emotions if I was fine with being straight or asexual. But the way I've been living has caused me to suppress a lot of feelings that are important to me and it's caused me a great deal of emotional pain. That's why I think it's important to let myself keep exploring this despite my anxiety.

    Hopefully over time I can get the anxiety and guilt I feel to go down. I struggle to be patient with myself, especially when feeling intense emotions
     
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  13. Ran

    Ran
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    I think the one thing to tackle for you right now is that anxiety. Anxiety can make everything seem 10 times more worse than it really is. In therapy you can learn methods how to deal with your anxiety on certain situations and how to calm yourself down. Therapy has been really helpful for me there.

    Intense emotions are another thing I struggle with as well. To me breathing exercises have been helpful here too and another thing is medidation and truly taking time to look deep within about why you are feeling these intense emotions. Journaling and mood tracking can be helpful for some people.
     
  14. BiCavalier

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    Hi LO.

    I have been diving into my early years and thinking about the conditioning that distracted me from accepting my same sex attractions an from living and being my true self. I can (many of us here) can relate and empathize with the anxiety and confusion that you may be experiencing in your journey. I am so glad you reached out to EC! You will find love and support here throughout your journey. Extending mine.:purple_heart::purple_heart::purple_heart:
     
  15. LoomingOcean

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    At this point I'm feeling pretty sure that I really am gay. I still feel uneasy about it, but it's the explanation that makes by far the most sense to me. I seem to have a pretty undeniable attraction to men, and the only evidence i have against that is my brain telling me that I'm somehow delusional and making it all up. But I'm not, I'm really not. I'm not making it up, I'm just scared. I'm scared of being judged, I'm scared of how difficult it might be for me to find a partner, I'm scared that no guy is going to love me in the way I want to be loved.

    One thing I've noticed that I find encouraging is that my usual barrage of self-critical thoughts has gone way down over the past week or so. I think I'd been using self-hatred as a way to keep myself in denial about being gay. I dunno how I feel about that in hindsight. I don't know why I've been so scared about this.

    Man, I need to go to bed. It's almost 1 in the morning:dizzy:
     
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  16. 2024confused

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    Sounds like you've figured it out! And it looks like a lot of mental barriers against the idea that it looks like you're overcoming.
     
  17. quebec

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    Looming.....What you are experiencing is actually quite common. Even though our society has been changing over the last decade, we are still overwhelmingly told by society that heterosexuality is the only acceptable form of sexuality. It's so hard to fight against heteronormativity. When a person starts to realize that they might not fit societies's acceptable "mold" we tend to feel guilt, shame and a whole list of other negative emotions. There is also a kind of a feeling of loss, a feeling of grief at the possible loss of the kind of life that we though we would have. There is a document titled "The Stages of Grief". It's a bit long, but I think you will find that it may fit your situation. I'll attach it here...I hope it will prove to help and encourage you! :old_smile:

    Stages Of Grief


    Stage One: Denial
    This first stage happens immediately. People can express themselves as "shocked." "I had no idea..." "This can't be."
    Yourself: "I'm not really gay." "I don't dislike girls." "I've never been with a guy." "I don't think I'm gay." "I will feel straight if I have sex with a girl." "I've never had sex with a guy, therefore, I'm not technically gay."
    Parent: "No you're not." "No one in the family is gay, and you're not either." "You don't act gay." "You don't know what you're feeling." "Have sex with a girl and you won't feel that way anymore." "You're confused." "You need therapy."
    Wife: "You're not the man I married." "You're stressed/tired/angry." "You're in mid-life crisis." "You're too manly to be gay." "Let's get therapy; I know you're not gay." "You have sex with me, thus, you're not really gay."

    Stage Two: Anger
    The second stage is a downer for those coming out. Once the trauma of coming out is over, and you think the coast is clear, the parent/wife enters the anger stage. How much anger, when they enter, and when they get over this stage is dependent of many factors.
    Yourself: "I hate myself." "I hate being gay." "I hate gays." "Why the fuck me?" "What did I do to deserve these feelings?" "Jesus! Why can't I love her?" "I want to be like X!!!" "I'm such a loser."
    Parents: "You're not sleeping with X are you?" "Don't you know there are dangerous diseases out there?" "Can't you just be normal?" "For God's sake, don't tell anyone else!" "Why did you tell me that?" "Don't come crying to me when you're life gets screwed up!" "Why didn't you tell me this before?" "Didn't you trust me until now?" "Would you have EVER told me this? (if outed)"
    Wife: "Why did you marry me?" "You lied to me!" "Why did you fool me?" "What did I do to deserve this!?" "You'll pay for this, mister!" "So, are you sleeping with X,Y, and Z?" "Who else knows?! Am I the laughing stock of town?" "You asshole." "Fuck you - oh no, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" "Couldn't you have figured this out before NOW?"

    Stage Three: Bargaining
    Bargaining is usually a welcomed respite from the Anger Stage. But, it can be equally annoying.
    Self: "I bet if I have sex with a girl, I'll find out I'm hetero." "Maybe I can get married, and have a fuck-buddy on the side that no one knows about but me. What would be the harm in that?" "If I don't tell anyone, then it's not really real." "God, if I promise to be good, will you make me straight?" "God, please make me straight. I'll do anything." "I bet if I lose weight and tone up, I'll be more attractive to girls and then I won't like guys." "I bet this will pass when I'm 20, no 30, maybe when I'm 40?"
    Parents: "Let me set you up with X. If you only had a girlfriend, you'd forget about guys." "God, I'll do anything if you make him straight." "I"ll buy you a car if you don't date boys." "Maybe we were too strict. If we relax our rules, will it make you feel more comfortable and feel like dating girls?" "I bet if you had more confidence in yourself, you'd feel more comfortable with girls. I'll set you up with a counselor/prostitute/assertiveness training class."
    Wife: "I"ll forgive you if you don't divorce me." "You can have your discrete fun on the side as long as it's safe and you don't leave me." "Look, honey, I bought this new lingerie. Isn't it sexy?" "If I lost weight/had a face lift/tummy tuck would you find me sexy again?" "Dear God, get him through this midlife crisis. I'll do anything." "We can have separate bedrooms and separate lives, just don't leave me alone."

    Stage Four: Depression
    This stage occurs when the preceding stages did not alleviate the grief, and the loss is not yet accepted. It is the brain's last-ditch attempt at not accepting the truth.
    Self: "I'm screwed." "I hate myself." "I'm not good at anything. I can't even make a baby." "Why am I here? What's the purpose of my life?" "My future is empty and hopeless." "I can't compete in the cut-throat gay world, I'm just not up for it." "I've ruined everyone's life around me, including my own." "I know I am going to burn in hell." "I want to die."
    Parents: "He's hell-bent on being gay. I'm helpless." "I guess if he wants to ruin his life and make me miserable, he's going to." "I give up." "I am so sad that I can not make him straight or be interested in girls." "I don't know what else I can say or do." "Why did I have children? Such heartache." "I can't imagine a future without grandchildren. What's the point of living?" "I thought I did better than that. Where did I go wrong?"
    Wife: "My life is over." "I will never love again." "I will never trust again." "How on earth will I cope?" "My future is empty." "I now feel nothing - for anyone." "I want to die."

    Stage Five: Acceptance
    At long last, we reach the final stage of acceptance. If achieved, depression lifts and anger subsides. This doesn't mean that we forget the sadness and anger, it means we don't feel it anymore.
    Self: "I'm gay." "I'm gay, and that's fine. Now what?" "I'm proud of who I am and the person I've become." "It's alright not to marry and have kids. I can contribute to society anyway - in other ways." "I am more than gay. My sexuality does not define me. I am 3-dimensional and have interests." "It's time to find a boyfriend." "It's time to get on with life."
    Parent: "OK, he's gay. I hope he finds someone who makes him happy,." "Have you found a boyfriend yet?" "How are you doing - really?" "I love you." "Be sure to tell X [boyfriend] hi for me." "I want you and X to come for dinner." "Tell me all about him." "I'm so proud of you." "I'm so happy for you." "You know what? His being gay isn't that bad. It's not like he's a murderer or dying or anything. Now, THAT would be tragic."
    Wife: "He's gay, but he's still a good person/father." "I need to let go." "I need to have a life." "Life goes on." "It's OK, we'll get through this together." "This is not a reflection on me - this is his issue." "That's the way he is; he needs to be happy." "I wish he'd figured this out before we got married, but sometimes it doesn't happen that way." "OK, my husband is gay. That's a reality. Now, what do I do?"

    Finally...
    One thing to remember - or recognize - is that frequently we come out to others when we have gotten to Stage 5: Acceptance, ourselves. And, sometimes this has taken us years to do. Thus, we can't be impatient with those closest to us who just found out. It would be great if we could rush them through to the Acceptance stage, but we can't. The best we can do is anticipate these phases and help them adjust to this information, just like we adjusted.
    Lastly, this isn't advocating coming out. Many men get to the Acceptance stage, and do not share this information with anyone. And, there can be compelling reasons for doing so. Thus, this piece is not meant to get everyone to Stage 5 and then bring as many of your closest people around you through it too. Rather, it's offered as one theoretical perspective on how people deal with what they perceive as a "loss" and if it's helpful in your situation, then it was worth writing down.
    .....David :gay_pride_flag:
     
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  18. 2024confused

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    ....wow, I experience all of this... but I don't think I am gay.

    How do you feel about it personally if there were no other factors like family and friends?
     
  19. LoomingOcean

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    Interesting, I suppose it makes sense that I'd be feeling grief over this.

    This morning I was feeling anxious and I fell back hard into denying the validity my feelings, which also involved a spiral of self-loathing. I called myself horrible names for "wanting to be gay", "pretending to be gay", and "trying to make myself gay when I'm not". Doing that made the anxiety go down for a while, but it also left me feeling really disoriented and questioning my perception of reality. It honestly feels a lot like I'm gaslighting myself. It feels like so long as I can keep myself in doubt over whether the feelings are real, then I never have to take it seriously.

    I'm not denying that the feelings are there, but I'm trying to frame the situation in a way that makes them not mean anything. I think that fits in the "Bargaining" stage. Though at this point I'm pretty much done with that. I don't want to treat myself that way anymore. I'd rather just let myself be gay, even if it makes me anxious and upset.

    Even without other peoples' opinions, I'm still judging myself and trying to deny it. I've definitely got some internalized homophobia. I keep feeling like I'm a bad person for having these feelings.
     
  20. Ran

    Ran
    Moderator Full Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2021
    Messages:
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    Location:
    Estonia
    Gender:
    Female (cis)
    Gender Pronoun:
    She
    Sexual Orientation:
    Lesbian
    Out Status:
    Family only
    You're not a bad person for having these feelings. It is internalized transphobia. Society has conditioned us to think that it's wrong to like the same sex, so we are trying to deny ourselves, just because of these conditions set within us. If you break these conditions then it feels like you're a bad person for doing this and defying society. You might feel quilt and shame and start to think is it really okay to be me and the answer will be yes. It might not be like this for everyone. I certainly did felt a lot of shame. If you let go of these conditions set by society, then you will see, that there is nothing wrong about you liking the same sex, it's just who you are.
     
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