27 November 2010

PE: My Story Part 7- Life or Death

I had come to the conclusion that I had three options:
  1. Reject my orientation and live according to what I was told was right by the church and continue an existence that held no place for love. Continue feeling like I was living a lie, that I was a walking hypocrite. I would simply be waiting to die to enjoy my existence. 
  2. Reject the teachings of the church and embrace my homosexuality, living as a gay guy, seeking companionship and enjoying life to some extent, but also always believe I was going to hell.
  3. Commit suicide.
I had already been trying to live by that first choice for my whole life. Living that way brought me to a place where I felt emotionally and spiritually dead. I really felt like the walking dead. No hope. No confidence. I could not choose to go on living that way.

The second choice scared me. I didn't want to go to hell. I wasn't a bad person. I really believed that choice #2 would mean an eternity in hell.

So that left third choice. I decided that dying would be better than living a miserable life waiting for death to relieve me. It would be better to make one offensive choice than to go on racking up a list of sins as I lived as a gay man. It was the best way I could think of where I didn't have to make the choice between hell and a miserable life. Just end it. The last choice I'd ever have to make.

Thinking about death was the only source of relief. I would dread the night. I knew what the night would be like. I wouldn't be able to sleep. I'd be in physical agony wanting so badly to die. I didn't know what to do or who to trust. My mind wouldn't stop. I would think about all the different ways I could kill myself. Then I would get online, and research. I would gather information about all the different methods I could think of. Success rate, level of pain, materials and preparation needed, etc. This went on for weeks.

I'd be going to or from school and unintentionally notice a tree or stair case that was high enough. I would make mental notes, "that would work. I could hang myself there in the early morning when people were asleep. People on the street wouldn't be able to see." I'd catch myself thinking those things all the time. And while I realized that was dangerous thinking, I didn't care much. The only thing that kept me from doing it was because I knew how bad it would hurt the people I loved. I couldn't do that to them. I couldn't hurt them so badly. It wasn't long though before I realized that I would hurt them no matter what I did.

I drove home for a short visit in August. I wasn't planning on telling my family, but I didn't rule it out. While I was there, my mom talked to me about things that were going on in my siblings lives. I listened to her as she blamed herself and her relationship with my father for the faults or struggles of my siblings. I knew right then and there that I couldn't tell her. She would take this "sin" upon herself, blame herself for the way I am. She already had so much going on, already on the brink of a mental breakdown.

Then, the news came on and announced that Prop 8 was being turned over to the courts to determine if it was constitutional. You have to understand, my parents were both active on the campaign. They were on the phones and going to people's doors just like the church asked them and organized them to do. So this news definitely brought out reactions. Comments were made by everyone. For example, we had been shopping at the mall together, and I tried on a shirt. My sister said, "eww- that's a fag shirt." I asked her if that was the only problem she had with it. The most stinging remark in response to the news about prop 8, was made by my dad who said, "they used to just kill the gays, that's what they should do." My mom was more subtle in her negative responses, but they were there nevertheless.

In the past, all this negativity was easily dismissed by my extreme denial of my own sexuality. In fact, in some ways I embraced it. I figured if I could hate gay people, I could hate the gay right out of me while fooling everyone else too. But now that I had come to terms with it, and knew that this unwanted orientation wasn't going anywhere, these comments were personal. They were about me. I didn't sleep much that night. Nor did I sleep at all the next night which was the last night before I was driving back to Utah. Instead I was online, finalizing my plans for suicide. It was done. The decision was made. I realized that I couldn't subject myself to that kind of talk from my family any longer. It was too painful. And while they might not say those things if they knew, I couldn't tell them because it would hurt them too much. They would hate me and blame themselves for me being so disgusting. So there it was, I was going to hurt them no matter what course of action I took.

I hated the thought of being around to remind them of how much I hurt them and embarrass them. I hated the thought that I would live knowing my family was ashamed of me. I figured, everyone dies... it was a part of life. It is natural. Not everyone is gay. That wasn't natural. So they would be able to get over my death much quicker than they would be able to get over me being gay.

The next morning, I had breakfast with everyone. I said goodbye for what I knew to be the last time. Despite only sleeping a few hours over the last two days, I left for Utah. I didn't care, I had to get away. I went over my plan. That week I was going to buy the materials I needed, write goodbye letters, and get things in order. I hadn't cried since I was 12. But, let me tell you, I was bawling. For over an hour. It wasn't because I was afraid to die. I was so upset that I was going to be such a source of pain for my family. I was distraught over how much I'd hurt them. But I knew the pain was inescapable.

The drive was emotionally draining. But that week was actually the best week since this whole situation blew up in my face. I was in control. I knew the end was coming and that it was in my hands. That was such a source of comfort. I found peace in the death that I would be inflicting upon myself. I wrote my letters. I went shopping for materials. I even started a playlist of music I was planning on listening to as I died peacefully.

I really didn't feel irrational in my approach. I really did feel that death was a logical and legitimate method to deal with my situation. I was open to any possible thought or idea that I hadn't considered that may provide a good reason for living. But I had honestly thought through everything I could think of.

After finishing a goodbye letter, I got a message from a guy in Salt Lake who I had expressed my situation to. He sent me his perspective on his experience. It was beautifully written. More than that, it had a scent to it that smelled a lot like hope. Hope was something my life was drained of long ago. But it sparked something in me. He demanded I read a book called "No More Goodbyes" by Carol Lynn Person. I knew that if that book was anything like his words, I needed to read it. It was a matter of life and death.

I went straightaway to Barnes and Nobel to buy it. This friend in Salt Lake (who I hadn't actually met in real life) kept checking up on me to see if I was reading. That wasn't a problem because I devoured that book. The words breathed life into me. It spoke of hope. I wasn't alone. There were so many people just like me. There were good LDS people out there who cared about their gay brothers and sisters. I didn't have to die. I could go forward in confidence and determination to live a good life, regardless of others opinions on what a good life was.

It gave me the courage to live in the last days of breath that I had left. It also gave me the courage to tell my family. Before I was even done reading, I purchased another copy to have mailed to my parents house.


I have to make a note here. If you feel like I describe in this post, please, PLEASE find "No More Goodbyes" by Carol Lynn Person. It saved my life. Also, send me an email. I will talk to you. If possible, I would even be willing to visit you and talk to you face to face. Life is worth living. And you are not limited to the three choices I thought I had. Happiness is waiting out there for you. More happiness then you can imagine right on the other side of thick hedges that surround you. You CAN break through those hedges into the light and there are people that will fight along with you to cut your path through. I will always be willing to help anyone in their fight because I know how painful it is to do it alone.


apronkid said...

Thank you for you story! This is really great. The way you wrote about being suicidal was especially powerful. I've never ever considered suicide, and it's stories like yours that make it an impossible option :)

ControllerOne said...

Wow. I have so been there. Been to the library.  Been online. Looked into all the options. Especially to avoid any kind of painful death. I'm such a wuss about that. I'm so bad that I can't stand having my blood taken. 

Here's what worked for me:  knowing I could make that choice aytime I wanted to but that I couldn't reverse taking my life. That one would be permanent. I finally convinced myself that I should stick around and just see what happens. If it ever got to be too much, well then a swan dive off a bridge was always available. 

Glad you decided to stick around too. 

Gay Mormon said...

@apronkid- I am so glad that you haven't ever considered suicide and that you have learned enough to know that it is not the answer. I can only assume you are younger than me and I wish that I was in such a healthy frame of mind as you are in now when I was your age.

@ControllerOne- I also didn't like the idea of pain. I wanted the least painful method I could find. But there were times when I really didn't care if it was painful. Now of course, I am so glad I never went through with it. I will be forever grateful for those whose words sparked hope in the shell of a person I had become.

Trev said...

I'm glad all of you decided to stick around!

This is very well-written. I like how clearly you convey the thought process that makes suicide *seem* like a viable option. I hope that this can help those who have not had personal views of that thought process to envision the reality of this problem and that more people can be helped. What I meant was, of course it will thus help anyone who reads it, so I hope lots of people will read this.

Invictus Pilgrim said...

Thank you for your voice, for sharing your thoughts and experiences so authentically and so articulately. I'm sure that your words will give strength to others.

I am one of those men who chose a variant of your first option, i.e., to repress their natural sexuality/identity and embrace what the church taught was good and true, a choice that came with a price. In this regard, I adopt your words to Apronkid as my own: "I wish that I was in such a healthy frame of mind as you are in now when I was your age."

Too Hard Headed to Give Up said...

thank you for sharing this. although the beginning of my story is different, i have definitely felt the pain and compulsion to suicide. i am glad you found a friend that helped you through, and you are still here to share your story.

Gay Mormon said...

@Trev- Thanks. I hope that sharing it might help someone. That is a terrible spot to be in.

@Invictus Pilgrim- I hope that one day, the regrets will stop. That perhaps our kids can grow up feeling comfortable and confident with who they are and will never have to look back and say, "I wish I would have realized this sooner, before I made life decisions."

@Too Hard Headed to Give Up- I'm glad you are around too. I hope those days are past for you and that you are finding joy in life.

Kiley said...

So many similarities. Thanks for writing the things I have not been able to.

Boris said...

Thank you for an exceptionally intimate and thoughtful description of what many of us have experienced in our own lives. Like yourself, I thought seriously about suicide as a way out of my hopeless existence as a gay Mormon. But, after trying to suppress the inherent (and programmed?) guilt by drinking too much for too long, I finally settled on Option #2. That was several years before "No More Goodbyes" was published, and even before the support group Affirmation was organized. But it was also after I first discovered a monogamous gay relationship could be loving and spiritual and uplifting--as much so as I previously believed temple marriage would be if my orientation/gender attraction had only been heterosexual or even bisexual. The Mormon experience will always be a part of who I am, but I will never again accept that the LDS church and its leaders have a monopoly on either truth or spirituality.

Incidentally, I have heard and read Carol Lynn Pearson’s play, Facing East, addresses the problem of gay Mormon suicides more poignantly than almost anything else that has been done on the subject. I hope it will be performed in my region (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio) before much longer. Has anyone seen it during its runs in SLC or on the West Coast?

Anonymous said...

"Happiness is waiting out there for you. More happiness then you can imagine right on the other side of thick hedges that surround you. You CAN break through those hedges into the light and there are people that will fight along with you to cut your path through. I will always be willing to help anyone in their fight to reach the other side of that hedge."

Beautiful, Caring, Strong & Loving.

You're a good man! May God strengthen you and hold you up my friend. Christ gave himself a ramsom for all, and all need His redeeming embrace. I will pray for you and all who suffer.

Joe Conflict said...

Your description of your life is so fascinating. I have loved reading it this am. Can't believe how many similarities I see. As a missionary I threw Miracle of Forgiveness into a corner and never picked it up again after reading Spencer W. Kimball's description of Homosexuality, etc. All those stupid theories of this and that--just bunk. We are gay because God chose for us to be gay. Keep writing. Your writing will help so many.

Gay Mormon said...

@Joe- Thanks for your comment. I haven't thought of my life as fascinating, but I do think that in general, we would all be better, more understanding human beings if we were honest and open about our lives to ourselves and others. How can we bare on another burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort if we don't open up and share our lives with each other. At some level we all know there is so much more to a person than the facade they build up to present themselves. We are so afraid that people might find a fault in us even though we know no one is perfect.

I guess I have reached a point in my life where I am no longer ashamed of my imperfections and mistakes. This has allowed me to be completely open about my life. I'm glad that it helps.

Anonymous said...

I left the Church and I left it with a testimony. Leaving was the result of excommunication after years of feeling like I was being thrown back and forth between two concrete walls. I think deep down I wanted to be excommunicated--it might be a chance for a fresh start.

Problem was that pesky testimony. No matter how much I told myself the doctrine was illogical, the history checkered, the story sketchy...etc...there it was.

I wish I could pick up the Morning paper with the headline: "LDS Church Admits Smith a Fraud"
Now that would be a relief. Well, that's not going to happen. I still have my beliefs along with the sure knowledge I'm gay; no headline needed.

I enjoy the company of other gay men and the freedom to have a relationship if I choose to. But anytime I feel anxious or worried - out comes the Book of Mormon. Sometimes I just hold it. I actually have a copy in my car glove box. Go figure.

The lack of evidence doesn't seem to quell my beliefs (shaky as they are). I think it's like a good novel - if it's good enough you can forgive the holes in the plot.

So the struggle continues. I'm not going to magically turn straight and it doesn't look like I'm going to just instantly stop believing.

My way around all of this is to try to be a good guy and continue to pray for a resolution. I think that might happen eventually. Yes the Church and the Gospel are separate.

Too Hard Headed to Give Up said...

@Anonymous: I was reading a book by the Dalai Llama. He actually advises people NOT to convert religions, but instead come to love and accept your current religion. He was talking to Christians who wanted to convert to Buddhism. He didn't say why... just gave that advice almost in passing.

As a person that was leaving the church, and I liked the idea of Buddhism, I found that disconcerting.

I don't know why HE said it, but this is what I have gotten from it:
We can't change who we are. I will always be a Mormon. I was born a Mormon. My family are Mormons. If I convert, I put myself at war with myself...

I have never felt the spirit tell me the church is true. Or the Book of Mormon is what Joseph Smith said it was. Or the priesthood is God's power on the earth. I just never felt those things...

However, I have gotten some comfort from a scripture in the BOM. I have gotten priesthood blessings that felt really good. I have also gotten phone calls from Jewish friends that were exactly what I needed. And some of the most comforting words were from a book on Buddhism. And...

I believe we each have to find our own way. Joseph Smith was trying to do just that. He thought he found it. Everyone in the Bible. Every book ever written. By anyone. Is just people trying to make sense of their life. We can learn a lot from all of them. And then we find our own truth.

Mormonism is hard, because the prophets say things like, "Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order . . ." (Jeffrey Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, Deseret Book, 1997, pp. 345-47)


“Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” (Gordon B. Hinckley in GC, April 2003)

These quotes make it hard for me to reconcile within myself. However, if I start to look at even these words as just men trying to find their way... They have found the solution for themselves. The things that work for them. It gives them comfort to think that black and white, and they hope it will bring others comfort too... Then it seems less...prophetic??

Sorry for the long message, it helped for me to write this. Hope it helps someone else too...

Too Hard Headed to Give Up said...
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