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21 Things That I Have Learned About Anxiety Since Being Diagnosed

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during the darkest time of my life when I was in rehab for alcohol addiction. It was a difficult and painful realization, but also one that has saved me many times since then. Before being diagnosed with anxiety, I often felt as if there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t figure quite out. Fear of judgment over my situation kept me from opening up to friends. I was scared that if I revealed the racing thoughts going through my head they’d abandoned me. I learned later that my racing thoughts and fears of abandonment were mostly symptoms of my anxiety. But eventually, with the help of my family, I sought help. And I am so glad I did.

Ever since I was diagnosed with anxiety, I have learned so much about myself and my mental health disorder. I can’t remember a day since my diagnosis and that anxiety hasn’t been a part of my life in some way but, thanks to therapy and a variety of other things, I have learned to cope with it in a healthy way that no longer involves relying on alcohol for stress relief.

My anxiety turned out to be a mean biotch but I’ve also found strength in dealing with it. For anyone who suffers with the monster I want to say this: You are not alone. And for anyone who isn’t sure if you are anxious or not, here are 21 things that I have learned about anxiety since being diagnosed.

 1. There are different types and levels of anxiety.

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Anxiety is actually much more complicated than I ever realized before. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are five major types of anxiety disorder. Those include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder). Beyond that, many people with anxiety disorder have a combination of two or more of the above.

2. The reason why some of us don’t seem like we have it is because of high-functioning anxiety.

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High-functioning anxiety hasn’t been dubbed an official status as a mental disorder, but many psychologists assert that it is very real. According to Women’s Health, someone with high-functioning anxiety (like me) is a perfectionist with controlling patterns. I’m constantly keeping myself busy and have a crippling fear of letting others down. And, worst of all, I never, ever say “no” to anyone. It’s kind of like being a high-functioning alcoholic (another thing I know something about), but with anxiety.

3. Therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, is the best.

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Therapy has been absolutely crucial for me in learning how to deal with my anxiety, and in particular, I love my therapist because she focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT focuses on developing skills that help you cope and there are several things I’ve learned that have helped, such as recognizing rumination (when you’re repeatedly bothered by a worrying thought) and using mindfulness techniques.

4. It’s not shameful to go on medication.

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Medication is something that is seen as very shameful in the Latino community. I know many Latinxs who discount medication as something just for “la loca” in the family. But the thing about anxiety — or any other mental health condition, honestly — is that you need to do what is best for you in order to deal with it. If medication is right for you, and that’s something you should talk about with your doctor, then do what is best. Don’t worry about what others say because going on medication is NOT shameful.

5. Anxiety isn’t just mental, it can be physical too.

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Anxiety, like depression, seems like it is a mental-only ailment but it can actually have a lot of physical attributes as well. For one, people with anxiety often have bad nights of sleep. I mean, how can I fall asleep when there’s a million and one thoughts running through my head? Then there’s things like back pain, a faster heart rate, and even sometimes shaky fingers (for me, anyway).

6. And it can actually make you sick.

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Anxiety can cause a lot of stress for your mental health and your physical body, too. What often happens with me and my anxiety is that I am working on some big project and I power through till the end, but then get sick immediately after, Like, come down with the giant flu/cold/etc type of sick. It’s likely because the anxiety and stress have caused my immune system to lower and be susceptible, but it also makes me power through before giving in to the “being sick” thing.

7. Trusting your feelings is tricky.

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I am the kind of person who is very in touch with her feelings, but having anxiety also makes that pretty complicated. The reason is that, with anxiety, I sometimes can’t tell if my feelings are my own or what anxiety is telling me. For instance, I recently had a freak out about the house my husband and I just bought… and I honestly couldn’t tell if it was all my anxiety talking or whether I had actual concerns. This actually happens pretty often, and one of the reasons that anxiety can be a bitch.

8. And sometimes I just explode with ranting.

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I don’t know how anyone else’s anxiety works for them, but mine often results in ranting when I am having an anxiety episode. I don’t really like to call them attacks because I don’t feel attacked and I don’t always have physical symptoms like a racing heart, but what DOES happen is ranting. Often, I find myself starting to talk (usually to my unsuspecting husband) and just end up sprinting around in circles over whatever it is that is on my mind and that I am worried about. I call this “thinking out out” but it’s often more like “being anxious out loud.”

9. Anxiety can affect anyone.

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Anxiety doesn’t know if you are white, black, Latinx, whether you’re straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, whether you have a good job or a terrible job, whether you graduated college, or pretty much anything about you. It’s a mental health disorder that can affect anyone at any time. You might think you’re better or smarter or stronger than it, but you’re not. That’s a difficult lesson I had to learn, but I am glad I did because it allowed me to seek help eventually.

10. And sometimes happens for no reason at all.

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Certain types of anxiety, like PTSD, can be triggered by something very obvious. You had some sort of crisis or trauma and, now, anxiety is your BFF. But that’s just not how it works for most people, and anxiety can appear for no reason at all. For instance, I don’t have any particularly bad trauma in my past that would explain why, today, I am riddled with high-functioning anxiety. But I am, and that’s that.

11. Telling me to “just breathe” never works.

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A lot of well-meaning people will see someone having a panic or anxiety attack and tell us to “just breathe.” Look, if I could “just breathe” my anxiety away, then I would. The problem with this advice, although I do believe most people mean well by it, is that it actually makes the anxious person more frustrated. This has nothing to do with my breath. Instead of dolling out this advice, I remind people that the best course of action might be to ask the person suffering what they need. Me? Personally, I can usually calm down after a really nice hug. Some people need other things, though. And I doubt it’s to “just breathe.”

12. Figuring out how to deal with it is tricky.

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I already mentioned therapy and medication, which are two of the ways that some people (myself included) deal with their anxiety disorders, but there are many other ways. The one I would definitely not recommend is treating your anxiety with alcohol because it can lead to serious consequences (trust me, I know). Still, you have to deal with it somehow, right? Sometimes, I deal with my anxiety by having way too much candy…. another not great idea. Instead, I would recommend trying meditation, taking a lengthy walk outside, coloring books, and more. The key for me has been to try different things and seeing what works for me, because it won’t be the same for everyone.

13. Finding a support system is really, really important.

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I can say without a doubt that one of the top reasons why my anxiety is in a much better place today than it has ever been in the past is because of my husband. He has been my rock in more ways than one, has listened to many an anxiety-fueled rant, and has always stood by me no matter what. But you don’t need a special someone in your life, you really just need to have a solid support system. A good support system includes your family, friends, and possibly a therapist. It can be anyone so long as you feel comfortable opening up to them during times of heightened anxiety.

14. Depression is kind of anxiety’s BFF.

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It doesn’t happen always, but depression and anxiety sometimes go together. I know several people who suffer from both anxiety and depression, and I’ve had my bouts of depression that has coincided with my anxiety before. It’s not an easy thing to deal with, but definitely something that should be considered and talked about with a mental health professional. The stigma is even worse for depression than anxiety, but this isn’t something that you can overcome alone.

15. It makes sex and dating much more difficult.

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One of the things that was difficult for me, as a woman, was dating. Dating can be a big pain for anyone, to be honest, but dating and sex while being an anxious person can be a particular kind of hell. After any date, my mind would swirl in that very special anxious way with all of the things that I could have done wrong and all of the reasons that the guy or gal in question might not give me a call back. This would get particularly bad after I was first intimate with someone, second guessing my decision to share my body with them and wondering if I had made a mistake.

16. Some people might never fully understand what you’re going through.

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This has been a constant in my life ever since I was diagnosed with anxiety by my therapist in rehab from alcohol addiction: My well-meaning parents, who helped me through rehab and still support me unconditionally, just don’t get mental health. They try but they don’t. It’s not something that either of them grew up talking about, so it’s difficult for them to understand it now. I try to be open and honest with them, but there’s only so much I can say before it clearly becomes a futile effort. I’ve come to accept that, no matter how hard I try, some people simply won’t “get it” and it’s best to just move on. I have plenty of support and understanding from others.

17. Perfectionism and feelings of failure are not uncommon.

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One of the main symptoms of my anxiety is perfectionism and a deep fear of failure. This isn’t uncommon, and I have found that it is particularly prevalent in those of us with high-functioning anxiety. I am very ambitious, which has led to a lot of hard work but also perfectionism which is sometimes difficult to handle. The fear of failure and perfectionism, in particular, have meant a combination that often keeps me from not only doing my best work but from finishing bigger projects. It’s scary to fail, and so my anxiety keeps telling me that I shouldn’t even start. It sucks, to be honest, but I’m trying to deal with it.

18. Taking a mental health day is super important.

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You know how you take a sick day whenever you aren’t feeling good? (Well, hopefully, assuming your company policy allows for this and you don’t feel obligated to go into work even when feeling like sh*t.) The same should be done for when you are having a huge bout of anxiety. I like to call this a “mental health day.” It’s like a sick day except for your mental health. 

19. Anxiety is something you HAVE, not something you ARE.

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This is possibly one of the biggest lessons that all of us facing mental health issues can and should learn: We have mental health issues, like anxiety, but they do not make us who we are. It’s really difficult to transition from saying things like “I have anxiety” instead of “I am anxious”, but it’s an important distinction. Anxiety is not a part of my personality and it’s not something that weighs me down. It is something I have, sorta like freckles, and need to deal with in some way. For instance, I need to put sunscreen on my freckles so that I don’t develop skin cancer. And I need to treat my anxiety with self-care (see below), therapy, and more.

20. Self-care is crucial.

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My mental health days, as I mentioned, are all about self-care. But you shouldn’t just wait to take care of yourself on that one elusive day of the year when you take time off to do just that. Instead, self-care should be something that you incorporate into your life. For instance, my favorite form of self-care is getting a pedicure. So I make sure to make time for them and also save up money for them because I enjoy them so much. Another example is the fact that I love taking a bath so, when it came to moving houses, I insisted to my husband that we find one with a really, really nice bathtub so that I can do just that. It’s little things like this which make my days and weeks easier.

21. It’s okay to be just like Frida Kahlo.

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If you’ve ever seen any of Frida Kahlo’s pieces, then you are probably pretty well aware that she had mental illness. Her life and art are filled with an incredible amount of pain, suffering, and loss represented in gorgeous self portraits. One of the most moving, for me, has always been “Henry Ford Hospital, 1932” in which she beautifully painted her miscarriage. It is such a sad yet powerful painting. Like Frida, I have come to recognize that my mental illness (in my case, anxiety) is something that I can put into my art. Although I am not a painter, I am a writer and I use mediums such as this to talk about my mental illness as a way to relate to others. What I want someone else to know is that they are not alone, just as Frida was never alone in her suffering. It is through sharing our stories, in whatever medium we see fit, that we find strength to go on. (P.S. Yes, that’s me, wearing a Frida-Kahlo-as-Rosie-the-Riveter shirt even though it’s a little hard to see.)


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After Two Parkland Students Commit Suicide, Community Unites To Share Mental Health Resources

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After Two Parkland Students Commit Suicide, Community Unites To Share Mental Health Resources

One year after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., two students have died in apparent suicides, compelling the community to come together and share mental health resources.

On Saturday, a sophomore at the school, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting last year, took his own life. One week prior, Sydney Aiello, 19, a recent Stoneman Douglas graduate who lost her best friend in the massacre, also ended her life.

As the Florida’s emergency chief Jared Moskowitz calls for the state Legislature to send more mental health resources for the high school’s students and faculty, calling mental health a “bipartisan issue” on Twitter, the community has stepped in where the state government has been slow to respond.

On Sunday, more than 60 school, county, city, child services and law enforcement officials, as well as mental health specialists, teachers and parents, met for an emergency meeting. Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old freshman who was murdered on Feb. 14. 2018, said that the school district will be giving parents the “Columbia Protocol, six questions that parents should ask their children, the Miami Herald reports. Based on their answers, they will know what emergency resources are available to them. Additionally, nonprofits are offering free therapy groups and services.

Online, it’s students, former and current, who are using social media to offer resources to those still suffering from the trauma and loss of last year’s school shooting. David Hogg, who graduated from Stoneman Douglas in 2018 and has become a fierce anti-gun advocate, took to Twitter, reminding Parkland students and grads that trauma doesn’t go away quickly.

“Stop saying you’ll get over it,'” he wrote. “You don’t get over something that never should have happened because those that die from gun violence are stolen from us not naturally lost. Trauma and loss don’t just go away, you have to learn to live with it through getting support.”

According to Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, who spoke with Teen Vogue, witnessing traumatic events can lead to symptoms consistent with acute stress disorder, including recurring memories, dreams or nightmares of the event; mood changes; irritability and more. These memories, she adds, can lead to negative thoughts, hopelessness, trouble sleeping and more.

Hogg wants youth to know that these symptoms are normal and that they can be managed through help, like therapy, talking with friends and family, meditation and self-care practices.

He, along with others, shared his own self-care routine.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, know there is help available. For immediate support, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and are unsure where to turn, you can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line by sending HOME to 741741.

Read: Survivor Of Florida School Shooting Emma Gonzalez Is Turning Her Anger Into Political Activism

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After His Wife’s Death, Diego Rivera Tried To Hide The Fact That Frida Kahlo Had Other Sexual Partners But It Didn’t Work

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After His Wife’s Death, Diego Rivera Tried To Hide The Fact That Frida Kahlo Had Other Sexual Partners But It Didn’t Work

During her lifetime, acclaimed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was not only renowned for her breathtaking surrealist paintings. She was also known for being a passionate lover with an insatiable appetite. An unabashed bisexual, Kahlo was notorious for her extramarital affairs with partners of both genders during her lifetime. Allegedly, Kahlo’s motto regarding sex was: “make love, take a bath, make love again”. In celebration of Kahlo’s liberated love life, we’ve compiled the definitive list of Frida Kahlo’s sexual conquests (that we know of). Take a peek below!

1. Diego Rivera

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Of course, we must start this list off with Kahlo’s primary partner and the self-professed love of her life, Diego Rivera. When Kahlo and Rivera married in 1929, many regarded him as an unusual choice of a husband. Not only was he 20 years her senior, but he was a notorious womanizer and grossly overweight, to boot. In fact, Kahlo’s parents dubbed the couple “the elephant and the dove” due to their size contrast. Despite their differences, Kahlo and Rivera were married for 25 years (not including a one-year period of divorce) and considered each other soulmates. She even wrote a poem about him, describing their all-consuming relationship: “Diego in my urine—Diego in my mouth—in my heart. In my madness. In my dreams”.

2. Chavela Vargas

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As we mentioned before, Kahlo was bisexual and enjoyed experiencing the carnal pleasures both men and women had to offer. One of these women was famous lesbian singer Chavela Vargas. According to reports, Vargas and Kahlo began a passionate affair sometime in the 1940s when they met at a party. Later in life, Vargas would refer to Kahlo as her “great love” and wrote about her extensively in her autobiography. As for Frida, she was evidently smitten with Vargas as well. In a letter to a friend, she wrote: “Today I met Chavela Vargas. An extraordinary woman, a lesbian, and what’s more, I desire her…Was she a gift sent to me from heaven?”.

3. Leon Trotsky

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Leon Trostky was a Marxist philosopher and politician who, with the help of Diego Rivera, fled the USSR to Mexico to escape Stalin. Because of Rivera’s deep commitment to the Communist cause, he insisted Trotsky and his wife Natalia stay with him and Frida for safety reasons. They ended up staying for two years. It was at Rivera and Kahlo’s residence, the famous “Casa Azul”, that Trostky and Kahlo began an affair. Upon hearing of the infidelity, Rivera became enraged. Rivera was tolerant of Kahlo’s same-sex dalliances, but her heterosexual conquests made him insanely jealous. Trostky and his wife left La Casa Azul in 1939. A year later, Trotsky was murdered in Mexico by Stalinists who were threatened by Trotsky’s controversial views.

4. Georgia O’Keeffe

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Kahlo had a complicated relationship with successful American artist Georgia O’Keefe that was a mixture of both awe and jealousy. In a letter to a friend about a trip she took to New York in 1939, Kahlo reveals that she and O’Keefe engaged in at least a sexual relationship, stating: “O’Keeffe was in the hospital for three months, she went to Bermuda for a rest. She didn’t make love to me that time, I think on account of her weakness. Too bad.”

5. Nickolas Muray

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Hungarian-born photographer Nickolas Muray was one of the men that Kahlo engaged in the longest affair with, their relationship lasting, on and off, for over 10 years. Their affair began in 1931 when Muray was working in Mexico. According to love letters between them unearthed in the 1990s, their relationship was incredibly passionate. At one point, Kahlo wrote: “I miss every movement of your being, your voice, your eyes, your hands, your beautiful mouth, your laugh so clear and honest. YOU. I love you my Nick. I am so happy to think I love you –to think you wait for me– you love me”. According to reports, Muray wanted to marry Kahlo, but she was intent on keeping him as a lover, not a husband. Although they ended their affair in 1941, they remained good friends until her death in 1954.

6. Paulette Goddard

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Paulette Goddard was an American actress most famous for starring in Charlie Chaplin films and later marrying him. Goddard is primarily known for having an affair with Diego Rivera, but many historians agree that she likely had a physical relationship with Frida as well. Although Kahlo was no doubt jealous of the affair between Rivera and Goddard, she also regarded Goddard as a friend and was sexually attracted to her. Many biographers of Frida Kahlo conjecture that Kahlo’s affairs with Rivera’s mistresses were a means for her to reclaim some authority within their relationship. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, Kahlo’s relationship with Goddard was deep enough for her to paint a still life in her honor. The 1941 painting was entitled “The flower basket”.

7. Isamu Noguchi

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Isamu Noguchi was a Japanese-American sculptor who was both popular in the Mexican art scene when they started their affair in the mid-1930s. They had a short-lived, passionate physical relationship that drove Diego Rivera mad with jealousy. In Hayden Herrera’s seminal biographical work of Kahlo, “Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo”, Herrera recounts a story of Noguchi escaping a tryst between him and Kahlo by climbing down a tree outside the patio. The next time Rivera saw him, he threatened Noguchi with a gun. Although their affair was brief, Kahlo and Noguchi remained friends until her death

8. Tina Modotti

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Tina Modotti was an Italian model, actress, photographer, and political activist that was good friends with Frida throughout her life. Like many of Frida’s same-sex relationships, she was introduced to Modotti through her husband Diego as one of his mistresses. However, Kahlo and Modotti quickly became the closer of the husband and wife couple and became lovers and good friends. Modotti was portrayed by Ashely Judd in the Salma Hayek-starring biopic “Frida” in 2002, one of the only female lovers of Frida’s depicted in the movie.

9. Alejandro Gomez Arias

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Alejandro Gomez Arias was Kahlo’s first love and arguably the catalyst for Kahlo’s initial burst of artistic creativity. After getting in a violent bus accident in 1925 with Arias–an accident that mangled her body and left her with lifelong chronic pain–Frida was left bedridden and immobile for months. During this time, Kahlo was so frightened that Arias would lose interest in her that she created her first painting entitled “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress” as a gift to him and an attempt to keep him interested. Unfortunately, the painting didn’t work, and she and Arias ended their relationship shortly after.

10. Jacqueline Lamba

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Jacqueline Lamba was a French painter and the wife of famous writer and poet, André Breton. Kahlo met Lamba through her husband’s friendship with Breton. Although Kahlo found Breton “insufferable”, she became close to his wife and was “intimate” with her according to contemporary friends’ accounts. In fact, the relationship between Lamba and Kahlo was another of Frida’s same-sex relationships that inspired her creatively. Kahlo created the iconic  “The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened” painting after being inspired by Lamba’s recount of her traumatic wedding night.

11. Heinz Berggruen

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Heinz Berggruen was an art collector, art dealer, and a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany when he met Frida Kahlo in 1940. Before he was introduced to her, he was told by Diego Rivera: “You will meet my wife and you will fall in love with her”. He had a short love affair with Frida in New York in 1940 when he was only 25 years old and she was 32.  Berggruen, who lived to be 93 and died in 2007, said of his 6-week relationship with Kahlo, that she considered it “very freeing”, as she had just divorced her husband, Diego Rivera. Although he was a famous art collect and critique, Berggruen claims he never saw any of Frida’s work or talked to her about it while they were together. Of Frida, Berggruen said: “I met Frida Kahlo the woman, and that was enough for me”.

12. Josephine Baker

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Josephine Baker was an African-American singer and dancer who moved to Paris to escape discrimination. Baker and Kahlo met in 1939, right after Frida had separated from Diego. She traveled to Paris for an exhibition of her paintings where photographic evidence documents at least one of her meetings with Baker. While Frida was openly bisexual and proud of her relationships, Josephine was much more secretive about her affairs with women and denied them publically. However, her son, Jean-Claude Baker, later confirmed his mother’s affairs with women, referring to them as her “lady lovers”.

13. Jose Bartoli

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Jose Bartoli was a Spanish painter whom Frida met on one of her many trips to New York City. They had a secret three-year affair from 1946 to 1949 that was primarily conducted through letter-writing. Their relationship developed an iconic, public status when their letters were put up for auction in 2015 by his family. In one of her letters addressed to Bartloi, Kahlo wrote: “Last night I felt as if many wings caressed me all over as if your fingertips had mouths that kissed my skin”. According to Kahlo’s primary biographer, Hayden Herrera, she believes Kahlo “would have left [Diego Rivera] in order to live with Bartoli” and her love for Bartoli was “passionate, carnal, tender and maternal”

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