Being Okay

Hands cut out of many colors of paper come together to form a heart

Phrases like “Love is love” and “Love is never wrong” are deeply significant to us as members of the LGBTQ+ community. These phrases push back at the messages we received growing up. I grew up hearing all sorts of denigrating messages. As a lesbian, I’ve heard my brand of love and attraction described as: disgusting, sick, sinful, perverted, abnormal, and deviant. Many of these descriptions came from people I knew and loved. No matter how clear I am that these messages are wrong, they have still left a mark. In fact, research is revealing that continuous experiences of discrimination and microagressions* have an impact on the brain that is similar to that of other types of trauma.

As a young person, I rarely heard positive messages to counter these hurtful words. On an emotional level, I translated these messages into negative beliefs such as “I am not okay,” “I’m a bad person,” and “I am unloveable.” Sure, these beliefs are untrue, but they have operated on a subconscious level. These negative beliefs have had a huge impact on me throughout my life. I’ve placed other people’s happiness and importance above my own. I have held back. I’ve lived a smaller life than I might have otherwise. And I’m certainly not unique in this regard. In fact, many of my friends have experienced much more intense levels of rejection and hurt.

The Power of EMDR

As I mentioned in my previous post, Old Wounds Heal, Pal, I’m working with a therapist who is skilled in EMDR. My therapist has helped me recognize how these messages have operated in my life. Using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), she is helping me to transform these negative beliefs to positive ones–”I am okay,” “I am a good person,” and “I and lovable.” While it may sound a bit like a Stuart Smalley skit on Saturday Night Live, it is really a matter of reprogramming the brain to incorporate new thoughts, images, and associations. Certainly talk therapy can also help us work through these experiences, but I have found EMDR to be a much more efficient and expedient path toward healing and being okay.

EMDR can help reprogram other negative beliefs as well, whether they result from discrimination and marginalization or other life experiences.

The work of recovery is not always easy. It sometimes seems as if it involves healing the wounds and climbing out of a large, vast hole just to be on par with other people. As I move forward though, I’m reaping the benefits of the work on so many levels. I’m getting closer and closer to being okay and knowing I’m okay. I’m finding ways to go out to meet the beauty of this world and live a bigger and fuller life.

I’d love to hear about your healing journey. What has helped you to heal from experiences of marginalization and oppression?Feel free to share in the comment section.

*A microagression is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Love is never wrong.

Melissa Etheridge

Let ’em laugh while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them

Brandi Carlile, The Joke


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