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Yvonne: Being a Lesbian Mother with Erotomania

Yvonne is a single lesbian mother who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia over two decades ago. She now works for charity Thames Reach, and has also worked as a gay rights campaigner for more than

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Yvonne is a single lesbian mother who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia over two decades ago. She now works for charity Thames Reach, and has also worked as a gay rights campaigner for more than thirty years.

I’ve been a lesbian since I left school. I just felt attracted to other women, had fantasies about women, wanted to be near them, thought about their bodies. It was very difficult because of my cultural background as a black Christian. Back in the day it was positively frowned upon.

I decided to tell my mother and come out to my family. My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and so it took moments for her to realise the vast problem I had presented her with. However she stuck with it. She was very friendly and loving, and she was of the opinion that who I loved she loved. I holidayed with girlfriends and my mother in Amsterdam, she attended lesbian and gay weddings, and she met with my friends. She was brought into the mainstream of my life and I didn’t hide anything from her. Not even when I married a gay man, because I wanted to have a child.

My son is the only child that I have, and he was born by artificial insemination. People see single mothers as heterosexual. But I was a lesbian single mother. It’s difficult, raising a child and allowing them to be like other children but also at the same time knowing that there’s a difference.

Developing a love obsession as a lesbian

When my son was five I met a woman who was a parent at my son’s school. She was happily married. She had two young children with her husband. She was offering unconditional love and friendship. I grew to love her with a great intensity. I started by telling her that I adored her, I started to send her unwanted gifts, text messages, emails, I was visiting her. I thought, wrongfully, “if only I could get rid of the husband she would be all mine”. Nothing could convince me that she didn’t love me in the way that I loved her.

This went on for a few years. One day I ended up proposing marriage to her. She became completely distressed. I was at her shop and refused to leave. She called the police and I was arrested. I was given an order not to go back there. I broke the order the very next day. I was again arrested, and this time I had to appear before the judge.

The judge said if I stopped seeing her, and interfering with her, and harassing her, I could go. I told the judge “no, I’m in love with her and I can’t stop seeing her”. So he locked me up. I was on remand with infinity for an end date of release.

I was in Holloway women’s prison, which was the most awful, dire set of circumstances. And all the time, all I was thinking about was that I loved this woman. While I was in prison I was given me second diagnosis- erotomania. ‘Erotomania’ is a psychiatric term for love addiction.

I was driven to South London and Maudsley SLaM psychiatric hospital and placed in a locked ward. I wasn’t allowed release without escort and this lady had to be informed of my movement whenever I was off hospital grounds. They increased my medication to unprecedentedly dangerous levels. I was shaking, wetting my bed, I put on loads of weight, I was sleeping round the clock. And yet still, my mind was fixed, I was captivated, I was in love.

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Making a slow recovery

My son was taken into long-term foster care. I didn’t have any contact with him for nine months. Eventually his social worker came and visited me. There were provisions made for me to start seeing him on my release from the psychiatric hospital.

After five months within institutions I left the hospital. I work for Thames Reach, which is a homelessness charity. I had to be redeployed at work because they felt like me and my love addiction might compromise my work with vulnerable clients.

I was put into weekly group psychotherapy, where I vowed that I would try to reign myself in and leave that woman alone. I accepted that I still loved her, and I wanted to know about her, I was interested in her, I was fascinated with her, I was besotted. This went on for about a year. Eventually, I sent her an email and the police contacted me for harassment. I sent her another email. I was given a restraining order, a fine, I was disciplined and work, and there were consequences with contact with my son.

They tried me with mindfulness therapy. They wanted to try me on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but I was too fixed, I was too entrenched. This went on for 12 whole years. Even if I dreamt I was making love with some other woman I’d wake up and I’d be in such a bad mood. I didn’t want to fall in love with anybody else because I felt like it would be a betrayal to my love object.

Eventually a woman who I had known for fourteen years came along. I don’t usually transcend the boundaries of platonic friendships, but this woman really loved me. I was talking to her about my love addiction and the woman I loved. She felt traumatised, and terrified, by the intensity of my love. But she is, and was, a formidable woman and she prevailed.

I decided to take the tentative steps to try to have a relationship with someone else. And since that point, I haven’t been contacting the former woman. Even though she has since divorced her husband, started a long-term relationship with a woman, and openly describes herself as a lesbian. I’m now in a committed, loving, non-abusive relationship. I love my partner, I’m in love with my partner, and I wouldn’t want anybody else.

My son is now seventeen. He’s robust and he’s managed it well. I have endless amends to make to him. He hasn’t allowed me to do that. But I love him. He’s my beloved son, and I think the world of him.

Finding mental health support if you’re lesbian or bisexual

Rates of mental ill health are significantly higher amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual ethnic minorities than their white counterparts. According to Stonewall, 86% of minority ethnic women who identify as lesbian or bisexual say they have felt mentally unwell in the past year.

To find out more about mental health issues affecting LGBT groups, visit NHS Choices and Mind.

1000women@naz.org.uk

1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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