Patient Story

Elizabeth: A dawning acceptance of herself and her journey

UMP - image - Statue Patient StoryFor much of her life, Elizabeth* struggled with confusion over her attraction to people of both genders. Then, while talking with her doctor, she decided to make an appointment at the Center for Sexual Health, a University of Minnesota Physicians clinic. Now, after a year of working with Dr. Jordan Rullo, a psychologist there, Elizabeth has learned to accept herself and realize there’s nothing wrong with her.

Confusion gives way to acceptance

As a high school girl, Elizabeth had crushes on boys, the same as all her friends. When she eventually realized she was having sexual feelings for both men and women, it was confusing. She had serious, long-term relationships with both men and women, and it was confusing to her that she would have feelings both ways. When she was in a happy relationship with a woman she shared the news with co-workers, who didn’t understand and felt uncomfortable with the subject.

Messages from her church and society made her doubt herself. Before working with Dr. Rullo, Elizabeth says, “I was very confused, thinking I should only be attracted to men.” She also faced a lack of understanding from some of her lesbian friends, who had a hard time understanding her feelings for men as well as women. Her sessions have helped her realize that it’s perfectly normal to be attracted to both women and men, and that it’s the person that matters, not the gender.

Dr. Rullo, who Elizabeth describes as “a wonderful listener, very compassionate, caring and knowledgeable,” talked about the Kinsey scale which describes sexuality as a continuum between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual. Most people fall somewhere on this continuum and not at the extremes.

Expressing herself with words and art

Dr. Rullo also helped her frame a conversation with a woman who had been judgmental, allowing Elizabeth to articulate her point of view and help the woman see things from a more accepting perspective. That’s a big step for Elizabeth as she works toward the goals she had set for her therapy: to feel whole, integrated and good about herself.

“Coming to an acceptance of myself has been a real gift,” Elizabeth says. “Now I don’t feel confusion or shame for loving a woman, as that is where my heart is leading.”

Now, every sunrise gives Elizabeth another opportunity to express herself. A gifted sculptor, she channels her life journey into her work, including one of her sculptures entitled “Emerging Woman.” Though she had completed it before her work with Dr. Rullo, it now speaks to her in a new way.

“I wanted her to be strong,” she says. “Now I see her as not only strong, but also the integration of who I am: normal, natural and just fine. . . and free to be myself.”

The Center for Sexual Health helps individuals, couples and families of all backgrounds and ages. The center offers assessment, treatment and therapy in the areas of relationships and sexuality, compulsive sexual behavior, sexual offending, transgender health services and sexual abuse. It also offers HIV counseling, as well as psychological treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

* Not her real name

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