Welcome to Part Two of Justin’s week taking over the Blog! Be kind to him, he’s doing a really brave thing, as we have the honour of being the first to ever receive his story. Find him on Twitter at @thejustingriggs, go say Hi and Well done! – R
For so long I thought that the pressures were coming from everyone around me, but it took me a long time to realise that these pressures actually came from within. Insecurity birthed in self-resentment. A part of me believed that I have already come this far, I couldn’t just give up. I still believed that I wanted to change, but the only difference now was that I no longer wanted to change for myself, but rather for the people in my life. Did I ever want to change? I ponder on this often. Was the fact that I started believing that being gay was wrong because I was conditioned to think that way, or did I actually believe it? And if I really believed it, would it be so hard for me to overcome it?
If you think about alcoholism, when a person realises that he has a problem with drinking, and makes the decision to stop, he puts down the bottle and walks away. Same with any other addiction, you simply walk away from it. Hard is it may be, you still have the choice to turn away from it. How do you walk away from who you are on the inside? What could I have put down in order to let go of my ‘problem’? No, I knew that it was something that I did not have to overcome, I knew it was not a problem, yet I still chose to make it one. I chose this for the people in my life that I did not want to lose, and one of my greatest fears were to let them down, and that they would leave me.
Ironically, this was also one of my biggest regrets. I did not want to be pushed away or pushed aside, because for a long time in my life I believed that people always leave, and that no relationship ever lasts. But I was not going to let that happen this time. So, I pushed. I continued fighting against this thing that I started telling myself was wrong, regardless of how it made me feel on the inside. I remember days where I felt so lost in my own identity that I had no idea who I was. Eventually it just got easier to be who I thought other people wanted me to be. I lived this way until I lost my identity entirely. I had no idea who I was and what I wanted out of life. All I knew was that I had to be a certain way, with different people, in order to conform to their standard of life. I had no idea what was right or what was wrong. Or rather, I knew the difference, I just never felt like my opinion on the matter had any real meaning or relevance, so I just followed the status quo.
Looking back at it all, I realise that I had come full circle back to the place of basically hating myself. I went through a journey of resenting who I was when I was younger, to a place where I loved and accepted myself and found that identity in God, back to a place where God was no longer even featuring in my life, and ultimately back to the self-resent. Through all of this, through losing myself and my own identity one thing remained constant – I knew that my perceived disease was not giving in. I was not changing.
I remember having a conversation with myself one day, trying to make sense of what was busy happening on the inside, trying to understand why I was feeling the way that was feeling because I was so sure that this was what I wanted. I was sure this disease was something that I wanted out of me and finally be rid of, and I was willing to fight for it. But if this was the case, then why did I feel like I was busy doing more harm to myself than good? How did it get to this? All of this happened over time, but still somehow it felt like a sudden awakening to a reality that I had no desire to be a part of. It was like waking up from a nightmare in the middle of the night, heart pounding in your chest, and for a moment it feels like you have forgotten how to breathe. This is how I felt when I suddenly woke to what my life has now become. There were actual nights where I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like I was having a panic attack. Anxiety slowly began to take a hold of me and I could start feeling the effects that it was having on my body.
There were many nights that I could not sleep and over time it really started taking its toll. It is hard enough to go through an internal battle, but when the fight starts affecting your reality and the way that you live your life, physical exhaustion really does not help your cause. Again you have to understand that the way that I felt about all of this had actually nothing to do with being gay, but I think the fact that I suppressed so much of what I was feeling, and what keeping that side of myself hidden was doing to my self-esteem, all played a part to my own mental state of mind. All I wanted was to go back to when I felt happy with being myself, open and honest and not have the pressure of trying to be something different. Not having the pressure of fitting into the box that this new life had laid out for me, and no matter how hard I tried I just did not fit.
I had no idea how I got here. For so long I was consumed by being busy, or distracted with pleasing everyone else around me, that I never saw it coming. Oh, believe me, the signs were there. I chose not to see them. I had to be honest with myself and I decided that this was my defence mechanism. This is what I did to not have to deal with any of it. I avoided. I ultimately turned my back on myself and decided that I was not going to pay any attention to what I was feeling, because I realised that the moment I started paying attention to these emotions, I am going to have to deal with them. Have you ever been a place where you turn your back on yourself? If you are no longer willing to fight for what you believe or to stand for what you believe. I was in such a place. I told myself that I had avoided my own feelings and well-being for so long, to just keep doing it will not make any difference. This is how far I had lost myself at this point. That I did not even care that I was not happy, or that I was so afraid of conflict on this matter that I avoided it regardless of what I was going through. I taught myself that if I buried something deep enough it would never resurface, which meant that I never had to deal with it.
I think what hurt the most was I felt all of this while being part of the church. The thing that I wanted to do more than anything was the thing that was causing me more pain. There were times where I thought that the solution is simple, that all I needed to do was to leave and then I get to be who ever I wanted to be without having to be afraid of judgement. But you see, I loved these people. More than I loved myself. The friendships that I had built, the way serving in the church made me feel, the way when I spoke to people and they could see the love and care of God in my eyes, these were the things that I could not give up. I couldn’t imagine what else I would do if I could not do this anymore.
Reality is, that is the way that I was made to feel, that if you fall short from the expectations of those around you then you disqualify yourself from all this life has to offer. That is why I kept pushing the lie, that is why I kept on lying to myself, and to everyone around me because I did not want to lose what I had.
Unfortunately, it was at about this stage where things became really bad. I was in a really dark place and I had no idea how to get out. I was trapped in a dark maze of confusion, with no map or no idea where I was going. I was lost in a state of confusion and hurt. How nobody realised what I was going through is a mystery to me even today. Could no one hear the cries for help, or see that something was wrong? There were moments where I would reach out to friends and tell them that I am not okay and that I need help, but I was always told that I just need to keep on fighting. Things will get better. It felt like a generic answer that you give to someone when you don’t really know what else to say. I don’t even know what I wanted them to do, how could they help? All I knew was that I was dangling on the edge and my fingers were slipping.
Then came the moment where it all changed, the moment that would set of a chain of events that part of me knew was coming. This was the day that I finally decided to seek help, and be open and honest about what was going on inside of me.
Trust was always something that I struggled with. It was one of those things that if broken too many times, you just never trust again. What does trust even mean? I believe it is that moment, where you completely and utterly expose yourself to someone else, a naked vulnerability of sorts. To bare a part of who you are, hoping that it would be received in complete acceptance and love. I met someone. A man.
Peace be with you – R