When you have OCD, it’s even more difficult to come to terms with your bisexuality
I had never said the words out loud, but felt I could trust my psychiatrist. I was 16 and had seen him for almost half of my life. I took a deep breath and said the words, “I think I could be gay.”
“Okay, let’s explore that,” he replied. “Do you like women? ”
– Yes, I say. It was the truth, I loved women.
“Okay, so you’re not gay.”
“Could I be bisexual?” ” I asked. As far back as I can remember, I knew what bisexuality was – and I thought it really described my attractions – but I had never met a single person who openly identified as bi. So I wanted to hear what the mental health expert had to say.
“You are not bisexual,” he replied. “Bisexuality doesn’t really exist in men, and I don’t want you to be obsessed with it.”
Looking back now, I see that he was trying to prevent a spike in my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which I was diagnosed with when I was about nine years old and treated with 200 mg of Zoloft by day, the maximum dose for children. He must have thought I was suffering from Sexual Orientation OCD (SO-OCD), a subtype of OCD characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors related to a person’s sexual orientation.
People with SO-OCD “spend far too much time questioning their sexuality to the point where it can ruin their life and that of their family,” says Joe Kort, Ph.D., certified sex therapist and co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes. .
But by firing me like he did, my psychiatrist not only worsened my OCD, but also interrupted the self-exploration that could have led me to embrace my bisexuality much earlier.
This is the challenge of treating bi patients with OCD. “They start to feel internal pressure to choose a sexual orientation, and the more they worry about it, the worse it gets,” Kort says. “They are constantly trying to prove their true sexuality or reduce their obsession with their perceived sexual orientation and their thoughts can get out of hand to the point that their obsessive-compulsive disorder can become crippling.”
After my psych session, I was a wreck. I think I knew, somewhere deep down Deep low, that I liked both men and women, but my psychiatrist insisted that I was straight. This kind of cognitive dissonance is a nightmare for people with OCD. Your brain can’t rest until you find a definitive answer.
Throughout college, I constantly questioned my sexual orientation. It consumed my every thought. The thing is, I was messing around watching hot guys, and it looked pretty cheerful. I would pass out too and go out with men, and it seemed very homosexual. So I was like thinking I was gay, and right away I had a crush and started dating a woman. So I thought, no, not gay! But then I would start to guess myself. I told myself that I was actually gay and that I was just deluding myself into thinking that I liked this woman. But then I would love to have sex with her, which sounded pretty fucking right!
I remember being in my room one night, crying and saying to myself, “I don’t care even if I’m gay or straight. I just want to know which one it is, so I know who I should fuck and date. ”
Yet even if my psychiatrist had told me I could be bi and encouraged me to explore my attraction to men, it wouldn’t have cured my OCD. I would have been obsessed with other bullshit, but it would have saved me half a decade of sleepless nights in which I lay awake thinking, “What am I?” As if I were this AI robot that has just gained in sensitivity.
But alas, he said what he said.
The psychiatrist should have encouraged me to explore my sexual attraction to men, Kort explains. “Straight men with SO-OCD fear they have an attraction to men and try to force the attraction, but in the end they don’t,” he says. “So I would recommend that someone like you explore their sexuality safely, act on it, and then see if it’s actually pleasurable.”
However, even if you have a therapist who encourages you to explore, it can be difficult for people with biology with OCD to understand their identity. You might be so in your head while crawling that you can’t even tell if you’re enjoying the experience. Not to mention the fact that sexuality is fluid, and I would even say that it is Following fluid for bi people. Most bi people don’t have an equal attraction to all genders. Some bi people prefer to date non-binary people, while others are more sexually attracted to men but romantically attracted to women. Sexual and romantic attractions also change over time. I know sometimes I’m going to want to sleep with more women, and other times I only want to date men. Since people with OCD seek precise answers and like to see the world in black and white, fluency is one of the hardest things to come to terms with and embrace.
But it is not impossible. I was able to embrace my bisexuality and my fluidity, above all with the therapy. When I was 23 I started seeing a new therapist who on our second session told me that I looked very clearly bisexual. When I said, “That shit doesn’t exist in men,” he said, “Zach, you’re too smart to think that.”
Getting this definitive answer about my identity – having a trained professional say, “You are bisexual” – was huge. It made sense of all my thoughts, desires and behaviors and gave me the certainty I wanted. Much of my anxiety and obsession came from feeling in a way I didn’t think was legitimate – and so my brain desperately tried to fit me into “gay” or “straight” boxes. Knowing that there was a happy medium – bisexuality – was one way of embracing uncertainty. It wasn’t just about validating my gender identity, but it was also the very thing I needed to finally manage my OCD. I still had doubts. It wasn’t like my anxiety was gone overnight just because a therapist said I could be bisexual.
What really helped me come to terms with being bisexual was when I rethought what bisexuality meant to me by allowing fluidity within a concrete label. Here’s what I mean: I know I’m bisexual even though I never sleep with a man (or woman) again. I know I’m bisexual even though my attraction to certain genres comes and goes. I know I’m bisexual no matter what because bisexuality includes a range sexual and romantic attractions for different genres. So I am able to embrace my fluidity while always having a defined label. It allows me to go out and fuck whoever I want.
Since I embraced bisexuality seven years ago, I have also noticed that my OCD symptoms have decreased exponentially. Being able to accept being bi and the fluidity that comes with it has allowed me to embrace other aspects of my life that aren’t black and white as well. As a result, I became more comfortable sitting with uncertainty in a way I had never been able to do before. That’s why being bisexual is a gift to me, a gift that initially made my mental illness worse, but now helps me embrace the many shades of gray in the world.
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