When I was 25, I realised for sure that I was bisexual.
I then spent the best part of year figuring out how I was going to tell my husband.
Let me clear something up right now, as I feel sometimes bisexual people are all put under the same umbrella: I didn't want to leave my husband for a woman. I didn't suddenly want a threesome involving another woman. I'm still monogamous, faithful and I'm very much still bisexual, and it just so happens I'm married to a man.
Some people might want those things, but I basically wanted my relationship to stay exactly as it is now — except with the truth out in the open, of course.
I believe it was even harder knowing I didn't want my relationship to change, because usually if someone is married to the opposite sex and comes out as gay, for example, both parties know the relationship isn't going to carry on the same. For me, I didn't want to lose my other half, but in my mind there was a very real chance this could actually happen.
When I first consciously realised I liked the same sex in a not-just-admiring-your-lipstick kind of a way, I was scared shitless by it. Seriously. I think that has a lot to do with the way bisexuality is treated by a lot of people; we're known as "greedy," "not fussed" and "haven't made up our minds about what we like." Perhaps for a little while I also believed this about myself and figured I might grow out of it.
I had, at that time, been with a wonderful man for five years, as a straight woman. I'm biased of course when I say he's the most incredible human being I've ever had the pleasure of knowing; he really is the most grounded, openminded, accepting person I've ever met, but part of me thought it was a real possibility that if he found out I was bisexual, that he'd turn on me, we'd drift apart, and our amazing relationship would become just a memory.
Enter: the grieving process
My entire coming-out journey was really similar to the grieving process, except the only funeral involved was the fictional one I'd created in my head for my marriage.
To begin with, being bisexual frightened me, but I would justify it by telling myself I was just "admiring" certain women who caught my eye. I couldn't be a lesbian, no, because I wanted to jump on my husband every hour of every day. And it's not like I didn't know bisexuality existed, but rather I wasn't open to the idea that my sexuality wasn't what I had thought it had been for the past 25 years.
Now that I look back, I can't believe how in denial I was.
When I started to question myself more and open myself up to the possibility I might not be straight, I spent months staying awake every night after my husband had gone to sleep, trawling Google for stories or advice from other women who had been in my situation — bi and married to someone who doesn't know. I am an anxious worrier who always assumes the worst, so just like when you Google your mild headache symptoms and it tells you that you've got minutes to live, this was no better.
All I could find were stories of relationships ruined by one person's sexuality, that they wished they'd lied and never told their partner the truth, husbands and wives leaving each other and cheating and not trusting each other ever again. I never found a positive story in that whole time. I tormented myself for a long time and it convinced me that maybe if I ignored how I felt, if I never said it out loud, then maybe it wouldn't be real anymore and I could stop worrying about it.
That approach did. Not. Work.
Keeping something that big of a deal all to myself ate away at my sanity and it ended up being all I could think about.
It made my anxiety far, far worse and I began suffering panic attacks; my self-esteem hit rock-bottom and I was jittery all the time. As it dawned on me that I would have to own up and come out for real, I became really depressed. I have a history of depression and my husband is rock solid when it hits, helping support me and being a true friend to me to help lift me up again, but this time the one person I could normally talk to and rely on was the person I was avoiding spilling the beans to.
Inevitably, he could tell something was up. He didn't know what exactly, but he did his best to help me out.
I had a pretty shitty childhood, and I've been through some bad stuff so I do find that cognitive behavioral therapy and at-home therapy has helped me cope with my demons in the past. I started slowly addressing my other issues with meditation and sessions of CBT, but as I couldn't fork out for proper bells-and-whistles therapy sessions I had to make do with recordings from a psychiatrist to use at home (which are actually wonderful and I still use them). But the benefit for me was that I still didn't have to admit out loud what was really plaguing me.
As I slowly built my confidence up, I realised something: I had to tell the truth — right then. I guess so many months of having this heavy on my mind made it so the pain of keeping it a secret became worse than the potential outcome if I came clean.
So I planned the day to tell my husband.
On that day, we had lunch. I squirmed throughout the whole thing and had "I am bisexual" on the tip of my tongue along with my bacon sandwich but it just wouldn't come out (no pun intended).
I bottled it in person, so I did what any rational grownup does: I sent him a message on Facebook. When he was in the next room (yeah, I know).
I held my breath. With every step he made up our stairs I can tell you I was tempted to jump out of my office window and make a run for it.
I was definitely not prepared for him to walk up to me, not saying a word, wrapping his arms around me and hugging me for a good minute in silence. It seemed he was relieved too.
All these months worrying, waiting for something to go wrong, depression, insomnia and everything else came to a head in that moment. Standing back up again he just looked at me and said, "Is that it? Is this all you have been worrying about all this time?"
That is what I'd needed to hear for all those months. He told me he was proud of me for having the courage to come out and that he was so happy that he got the chance to know another little part of me. Not once was he judgmental. He felt comfortable asking me questions. All in all he was the man I married and admire, and my sexuality didn't change that.
And you know what? Having the most important person in my life accepting me for who I am helped me accept myself too. My self-confidence has grown tenfold, and while I still struggle with identity issues, I'm getting better thanks to owning up and telling the truth. Saying the words out loud makes it real for me, and I needed that. Some people are OK with never defining their sexuality, but for me, it became this huge burden that eventually I couldn't hold onto any longer. Having the confidence to just be who I really am instead of hiding it has made our relationship so much happier and less stressful.
I do realise not everyone is fortunate enough to have such a happy ending. There are many people I have not come out to yet as I still have that fear of rejection. But for me, life was too short and too miserable to keep my secret hidden for so long, and I'm a better person for having been honest.
I haven't changed, I'm still me. Just honest with myself. And happy.