Ten years ago, I came out. Seven years ago, I started therapy...
It wasn't until I sat down at lunch with Audrey today outside of the Chase food court on the steps next to the fountain, listening to the rush of the water and feeling its spray on my recently buzzed scalp that I realized it's been a decade since I stop saying I was "struggling" with same sex attraction and started identifying as gay. That summer demarcated the era of denial from the era of acceptance. I didn't know it at the time, but nothing would ever be the same.
That was the summer of 2004. Three years later, in the fall of 2007, I met my friend Darryn. I had just moved into my first apartment in the city, and the ensuing isolation, a consequence of no longer living in campus housing, ushered in a season of depression that would grow to define me for nearly the decade. Seeing the tell-tell signs, Darryn gave me two choices: find and begin seeing a therapist, or be committed against my will for fear of "harm to self." Needless to say, I chose to get a shrink.
...if you'd told me then that the depression would ultimately get better, I wouldn't have believed you...
Talking with Blake earlier this week, I sat silent for a moment. I actually had to think about the last time I'd wanted to harm myself. I couldn't remember the last time I had an uncontrollable crying fit that stemmed from self-hatred and internalized homophobia. I had no recollection of last placing a slew of rubber bands on my wrists as a makeshift method of aversion therapy. And I sat there on the off-white couch with teal and brown pillows looking at this man I now call friend and just breathed.
We spent the majority of the session thinking over the last seven years. You do that in therapy sometimes... take stock of what's changed, of things that have caught you by surprise. And my list was far longer than I would have imagined seven years ago when I first met Blake.
I'm still alive. I'm no longer a smoker. I have a Master's degree. I'm married. I'm financially stable. I have a career path. I'm getting ready to make a major move away from the city I've called home for over a decade. I've built lasting friendships that are mutual and reciprocal. I have people who care for me without expecting me to change. I've shaped my faith into something I can stand behind, something I can stand on... something I'm proud of. I have a family who loves me, even if the future is uncertain. I've learned how to set healthy boundaries in my relationships. I've stopped trying to be someone I'm not. In fact, I have a better sense of who I am than ever before. I made it to 30. I've taken charge of my physical health. I'm starting to love me.
Reading it in text, it almost sounds selfish. And some people in my past would call it exactly that. But to me, I see it as progress, as growth, as evolution from boy to man, from a fearful child to a fearless adult force to be reckoned with
When I say I'm surprised I made it, I mean that. And many of you are to thank for my still being here, for loving me into the man I am now, and for loaning me your strength when mine faltered or was altogether gone. I hope that's how you hear this. I hope you feel my thanks and my gratitude.
photo credit: Dafne Cholet via Flickr