Someone wise once said that we should never regret the past as it made us who we are today. We cannot change the past so there is no use dwelling on it. We can only change the future.
I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents. My family attended an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Church my whole life. I was saved at an early age and immediately jumped into church work. I had always wanted to be a teacher and I enjoyed working with kids of all ages. I taught Children’s Church and Wednesday night prayer meeting and eventually began playing piano for the church when I hit high school age. I was very active and although there were many things in the church that bothered me, I kept those to myself (inwardly believing that they were wrong) and put on the facade that was expected. In the early days, I didn’t question authority or what was said, but simply accepted it like most fundamentalists do. In fact, I was outwardly the perfect model of what was expected in fundamentalist circles.
I guess I’ve known I was gay since I was in 6th or 7th grade. It wasn’t a choice for me – that I know for a fact. After all, who in that environment would choose to go against the “norm,” so to speak, and deal with all that comes with being gay? As others have said on this blog, I prayed for God to take it away but the harder it seemed that I worked, the more I struggled with my homosexual thoughts.
I had some very bad “Christian” counseling while at BJU. I was told that those feelings would go away if I “stayed close to the Lord,” married a good Christian girl and prayed about my sin. I foolishly followed that advice, thinking that I could do it and that if I tried hard enough, it wouldn’t be an issue. It seems ridiculous now, but back then I was desperate to fit in and be the Christian that was expected from family and friends around me. I heard sermon after sermon about homosexuality, all of them dripping with hatred, not love. I remember being in high school and in church with the hypocrisy all around. I remember people judging others and their “Holier than Thou” attitudes. I heard how some of my friends spoke about gays and it was never anything but negative and hateful. I didn’t want to be on that side of their criticism so I played it straight.
I poured my energy into my work, always looking for the next promotion, or next big event. Always thinking “X will make me happy when I get it.” I distinctly remember receiving a promotion at age 27, something I hadn’t anticipated until well into my 30′s or 40′s. I remember the initial excitement of the challenge and then very quickly slipping back into the unhappiness of my life. Without anyone to talk to, I quickly spiraled into depression. I was good at putting on the facade that everything was fine in front of my friends and family, even at work. Inwardly, I was dying every day, but outwardly, most people saw no difference except that I worked harder and longer than most people. My depression became darker. Many days it was all I could do to just function. I wanted so badly to be accepted and to make my family and friends proud; for, you see, in those days I was living for others’ praise and I cared way too much about what others thought. I knew that the struggle between “my real self” and “my fake self” would worsen and I knew which one would eventually win out — the one I couldn’t accept.
As my depression worsened, I found it harder and harder to sleep: sometimes sleeping only a few hours a night and going on just hours of sleep each week. I worked harder, and tried to dull the pain with alcohol or by working longer hours — anything to take my mind off my internal struggle. Those were psychological band-aids, and eventually they stopped working as well. I was always surrounded by friends and people as I’m a very outgoing person; however, I’d never felt so alone as I did those couple of months leading up to the event that would change my life.
I wanted nothing more than to be happy and knew that the only source of true happiness would be to be true to who I was. I was living a lie and for me, coming out to friends and especially to my family just wasn’t an option. I had come to a point where I no longer wished to live. I felt that I had no options. My judgment was so clouded by the guilt over the disappointment I knew I would bring to my family and friends. I just wanted the internal struggle and the emotional pain to stop. I had grown to hate myself for who I was.
My parents are very conservative and I knew that they would never accept my being gay. I love my parents and have so much respect for them. I was still married at the time and knew how they felt about divorce. I was big on pleasing people my whole life so knowing I would disappoint them was the worst thing I could possibly imagine. Not to mention my friends and co-workers — I really didn’t know how they would respond.
I had contemplated suicide many times in the months prior to that night, but could never quite bring myself to do it. I would research the best ways to do it painlessly and would always end up not being brave enough to actually follow through with the act itself. After about a month of little sleep, and with my internal struggle more fierce than it had ever been, that courage finally came. I was at home alone for the week. I couldn’t handle the pain any longer and I simply gave up.
To make a long story short, I said my goodbyes to my family that night. They did not know that I had planned on it being our last conversation in this world. It was superficial and brief but I made sure I told them I loved them before I said goodbye. As I said, I truly love my parents even though we don’t see eye to eye. Depression clouds your judgment and emotions. I reasoned that it was better for them to have a dead son then a living gay son.
I also called a good friend of mine, the only one who knew the struggles I was having, having come from a similar experience and also being gay. He knew something was wrong and came over to my house despite the fact that I asked him not to. He had just finished med school and knew what to do to save my life that night. He took me to the hospital to be treated for an “accidental overdose” and spent the next three nights with me. He forced me to see his therapist, taking me himself the first few times to make sure I would go. After a few weeks of therapy, I realized that I had many issues to deal with. The depression subsided a bit and some of the clarity came back, but I wouldn’t really begin healing until almost a year later.
I hit rock bottom again when my friend was tragically and ironically killed in a car accident several months later, shortly after moving to another state. I remember the immense guilt I had over his death. He saved my life, but lost his own months later.
Thankfully, as my therapy progressed, I eventually began healing. It took years of therapy to finally be freed from the bonds that kept me in unhappiness and depression. I divorced and came out to my friends, who have been incredibly supportive of me. I have some of the best friends anyone could ask for. I don’t think anyone has a more selfless and loving group of friends as I am blessed to have. The few friends that had issues with my homosexuality are no longer in my life. They weren’t my true friends to begin with and I realized quickly that I didn’t respect them enough to fight for them, so I let them go. I realized my true friends were the ones who stuck by me through the hard times.
Years of therapy and the support of my friends throughout the years have made me into someone I am proud to be, for once in my lifetime. I found true love when I met my partner almost two years ago. I have been humbled to tears many times in certain moments we have shared, realizing that I almost missed out on some of the happiest moments in my life. The love and respect we share always humbles me. I’ve never looked back; I’m proud of who I am. People can judge me and my relationship with God all they want, but I believe that we will all be chastised if we spend all of our time judging others when there is so much imperfection in each of our own lives.
I’m glad God saw fit, through my friend, to give me a second chance at my life. Looking back at everything I nearly missed out on in this wonderful life brings me to tears of gratitude. The wonderfully supportive people in my life and my partner, who is my best friend and companion, have made every minute of my life worth living. I am happy now, and free.
“Be yourself. People may or may not like you, but it’s important that you stay true to who you are.”