I went into My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness expecting a lot of gay and maybe some poignant articulation of sad feelings. What I got was a story of a queer woman’s mental health and recovery from a dark place in her life.
Nagata discusses a wide range of mental health issues, and this book ought to come with content warnings for eating disorders, trichotillomania, self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression, and possibly also dissociation and emotional abuse by parents.
Her mental health issues left her unable to hold a job and living with her parents. She struggled with self-care and even leaving her bed. As someone who has reached this point myself, this part of the book resonated with me strongly. “Each and every day was hard,” Nagata writes. “Twenty-four hours without a moment of respite. No matter how I looked at it, dying was an easier option.” She kept searching for someplace to belong, some way to enjoy her life, but couldn’t.
“I’d think about the many merits of being dead over being alive… and it was surprisingly aggravating.” And this is how she reaches the point where she turns everything around. Lying in bed, wanting die, and finally shouting at herself, “God-dammit! I’ll claw my way out of bed with my last dying breath! If this is how it is, I’ve got nothing to lose!”
From there, she fights to get her life back together, starting with eating and sleeping regularly, then self-care, then finding a job. She pulls herself up one piece at a time. It’s honest and real, showing how hard the recovery process can be, and how disappointed in yourself you get when your small accomplishments don’t look like much to others.
The author reads some self-help books and ends up finding one that tells her the reason she’s sexually attracted to women is because she’s always been sexually attracted to her mother. This resonates with the author and she spends several pages talking about how this explanation brought her clarity and comfort. It seems to be the honest feelings of the author, and that is valid. However, it’s worth noting that this theory is an older one, and has especially been challenged by scientists who have found biological links to homosexuality that have nothing to do with one’s relationship to one’s parents. It’s a bit disappointing to see such an uncomfortable, outdated theory in an otherwise validating queer book. It may be true to the author’s experiences, but is not universally true by any means. (There is also a weird, scientifically-inaccurate discussion of hymens with some misinformation in it as well.)
This acceptance of her sexual feelings leads her to deciding to hire a female escort to be her first sexual experience. It motivates her in ways nothing else had before because she wants to be worthy of the woman she’s going to sleep with.
Her time with the escort is only a small portion of the book itself, though a large part of the book’s marketing strategy. What My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is really about is recovery. It’s about finding your footing as an adult, getting out of bed when life is overwhelming, and somehow learning to be okay.
Jaylee James is a demi-bisexual, bigender writer and editor from Kansas City with purple hair. Er main projects are Spectrum Lit, which publishes LGBTQ+ flash fiction, and Polycule, a true story blog about er polyamorous dating adventures. When not writing, e spends far too much time on twitter (@thewritingj), cuddling er dogs, and dating the entire metro area. More of er work can be found at JayleeJames.com.