Friday, November 13, 2015

Please be gentle. I'm sharing the depths of my soul here.

Lots has been said and posted and shared over the last week or so. One bit of advice that I really like is that we should all listen with love and compassion when someone opens up about something so personal. To mourn with that person instead of suggest ways to fix it or why their problem really isn’t so bad. We are commanded to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I think it’s hard to do that if we don’t understand what the other person is going through. When talking about homosexuality in the church most members are at a complete loss. This is something they know nothing about first hand. How can they know what it feels like to grow up this way unless someone tells them. This is me telling them. I hope it somehow is a benefit to people who read it. Share it if you feel so inclined.
This post is a mess. I didn’t want to sit down and plan it all out because I wanted the raw Macsen to come out so it’s completely disorganized and probably doesn’t make sense and it rambles. But it’s full of my emotions and it’s something I needed to get out. Treat it more like a stream of consciousness piece.
On to the main event:
I’ve had a lot of people ask if I’m ok over the last few days. The short answer is no. No I’m not ok.
Here’s the long answer:
Once upon a time I was born into a nearly perfect Mormon family and raised up unto the Lord by two imperfect parents who did a darn good job. Some of my earliest memories are of family home evenings, going to the airport to bid farewell or welcome home my older cousins who served missions, reading the scriptures as a family, singing songs in primary, feeling the spirit – a LOT because my parents did everything they could to have the spirit in our home. I also feel like I’ve always had some divine help feeling the spirit. For some reason God decided to bless/curse (calm down it’s a joke) me with a keen ability to feel the Spirit of God, unwavering knowledge that He exists and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.
From a young age I had dreams of one day serving a mission, getting married in the temple, having kids of my own – and not because I was brainwashed to want those things. I wanted those things because I could feel that God felt those things would be good for me.
Life was fine and dandy. I feel like I had a fairly normal and happy childhood. Then one day, in 6th grade, everything changed. I woke up and went to school and was bewildered and alarmed to find that suddenly all the boys were WAY more attractive than all the girls. It was confusing and unnerving and scary and worst of all it felt intensely SHAMEFUL. I was only just starting to understand what gay and straight were at the time. But I knew that according to the church I was supposed to be attracted to and want to marry a woman. At the same time, middle school age is when you become aware of society at large and what it deems is normal and what is not. Remember how crewel society was to the LGBT community back in the 90’s? I do. It was awful. So awful that I decided pretty much instantly that I would never tell a soul because then they would hate me as much as society hated gay people and they would reject me just like society rejected gay people. And as a people pleaser the idea of being rejected by anyone was unbearable. I cannot imagine how much worse this all was for the generation before me.
From that point on I was under constant and intense cognitive dissonance (noun: PSYCHOLOGY, the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.) Basically cognitive dissonance is hell. It’s like your soul is being ripped in half by different parts of yourself that cannot exist in the same space at the same time and yet, somehow they do exist in the same space at the same time. Cognitive dissonance leads to unimaginable emotional pain. I’ve been told by my dad and siblings that I was a pretty grumpy teenager. Now you know why. I was internally at war with myself, I hated myself, I couldn’t stop being attracted to guys, and the expectation from well-meaning parents and aunts/uncles to live a gospel centered life saddled me up with soul-crushing pressure. As an 11 year old I had NO idea what emotions were or how to handle them. All I knew was that they were big and overwhelming and scary so I did whatever I could to avoid them. I ate – A LOT – which made me fat. Which made me feel worse about myself. I got caught up in pornography and masturbation. That’s probably TMI but guess what? Sorrynotsorry. It’s time to start openly talking about these issues without shrouding them in shame and secrecy.
I feel like the imperfect culture of the church might see shame and godly sorry as the same thing. At least that’s what it feels like as a young child. However, they’re not the same. Look up Brene Brown’s TED talks to educate yourself on that. In short, shame drives you into hiding and makes you believe that you are a bad person. Guilt or godly sorry makes you believe that you did a bad thing, but that thing isn’t a reflection on you as a person. The way the youth are taught about sin and its consequences and how they’re confronted about sin when they’re caught in it and then disciplined about it is so shame inducing its, well… it’s shameful. I have no idea how to go about fixing this cultural issue but we’ve got to figure it out. Shame is killing us. Maybe it should start in early childhood. Reminding a child that they’re a good kid even if they sometimes do bad things.
So there I was a scared insecure and shame ridden 11 year old. Then I turned 12 and became a deacon and fairly soon after that I was taught the law of chastity. Now, before this point I had no idea that anything I was doing was bad. I walked out of that Sunday School lessen feeling so ashamed I wanted to die. So now there were two huge things that I was ashamed of. I liked boys and church and society are telling me I’m bad because of that. And I’m bad because I’m addicted to pornography and masturbation. You can imagine how this affected my emotional state. On top of that I felt immense pressure to be a perfect Mormon so my family/extended family would be pleased with me, but inside I had come to the sad conclusion that I was a bad person – and that I was the only bad person who did bad things in my entire perfect Mormon extended family. At least they all looked perfect to 12 year old me. On top of the other stuff I was lonely (we had just moved), I was fat, which brought on a host of other insecurities, I was terrified that anyone would find out I was attracted to guys because I was certain that I would be rejected and even hated for it so I held back on trying to make friends even though I was terribly lonely. And I had no idea how to handle these emotions. And I was too afraid to talk to anyone about them. But eating and watching pornography distracted me and made me feel better, only now that I knew pornography was wrong that made me feel worse but I couldn’t stop because that’s the definition of addiction. Try as you might you cannot stop.
I went through all of middle and high school with this awfulness stewing inside me. And all the while I knew serving a mission was coming up. It was weird to anticipate such a milestone with both excitement and dread. I’m one of 88 grandchildren in a wonderful family of pioneer stock. EVERY male grandchild before me had served a mission and you better believe there was no way in hell I was going to be the one to ruin that perfect trend. Gotta fulfill those expectations. This isn’t to say that I didn’t want to go. I did! I loved hearing my parents and older cousins talk about the awesome experiences they had on their missions. I wanted and was excited to experience that as well. At the same time every week at church I had it hammered into me how critical it was to be worthy to serve a mission but here I was addicted to porn and very clearly not worthy. There was a time I worked with the bishop about porn, but I was too afraid to talk about liking guys because I was certain they wouldn’t let me go on a mission and then I would ruin the trend of perfect missionary service in the Ray family and everyone would be mad at me and I would feel like a failure and feel SHAME and young women don’t want to marry non-missionaries because they’re bad.
I’m bad. I’m terrible. I hate myself. I’m ashamed. I’m terrified. I’m alone. I’m bad.
Senior year. Mom dies of breast cancer. It’s my fault because I’m constantly sinning and I’m a bad person. And God has punished my entire family because of me and now they’re suffering because I did bad things because I’m a terrible person. These are really thoughts that actually went through my head. And I believed they were true.
Freshman year of college. What the heck!?!?! Suddenly I have a girlfriend. I have no idea why on earth she pursued me. I’m ugly. I’m a terrible person. ANXIETY. Her Ex-boyfriend is really cute. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! There’s real chemistry here with her though. (AND ALSO A LOT OF ANXIETY) and it’s really fun to kiss her. She turns me on. ANXIETY. Did NOT expect that one. But hey, maybe there’s hope for a future marriage to a woman? ANXIETYANXIETYANXIETYANXIETYANXIETYANXIETYANXIETY Yay?
Everyone starts working on mission papers. “when are you gonna start your papers?” “when are you going to go?” “will you do one semester of school first or two?” Young men are smothered to death with well-intentioned questions like these. For me it was torture and I’m sure I’m not alone. Starting on mission papers means talking to the bishop about all my sins which are bad and shameful and terrible and I can’t talk to him about the big one because then I won’t be able to go and I CANNOT BE THE ONE TO NOT GO.
Pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure
Well…..I just won’t talk about it. I’ve kept it a secret this long. I’ll NEVER act on it because if anyone ever finds out then eventually everyone will find out and then everyone I know will hate me. ANXIETY. It’s fine. I can still serve a mission. It’s fine. ANXIETY. I’m fine. I’m not fine. ANXIETY. This is not fine. THINGS WILL NEVER BE FINE.
The mission call comes. Russia. Russia!? (awesome!!!) Russia?! (isn’t that a really hard place to serve?) I’m a bad person. I’ve lied by omission to my bishop, stake president and now to an apostle. Anxiety. Pressure. MORE ANXIETY. But look how pleased everyone is with me. Pressure. Can’t back out now. ANXIETY. DREAD. I really do want to serve. Don’t feel worthy to serve. ANXIETY. Can’t back out. Pressure.
Time to go to the temple.
That’s serious.
That’s scary serious.
I’m bad. I was bad before, but now I’m REALLY bad. I’m not worthy. PRESSUREANXIETYPRESSUREANXIETYPRESSUREANXIETY. I can’t break free of my addictions. I’m weak. I don’t have enough faith. I’m buried with shame. I hate myself. I’m a terrible person. Pressure pressure pressure pressure…. “Bishop lets postpone for a few weeks. I’m not ready yet.” Such a relief! That was a good move. What the heck?! I didn’t even blink and 3 weeks has gone by. And I’m still a mess and I’m still addicted and I’m still unworthy. And I’m still anxious and THERE’S SO MUCH PRESSURE I’M GONNA DIE. That was the quickest 3 weeks of my life. No more time to postpone. It’s time to go. Now. Pressure. Can’t disappoint everyone.
“…Do you accept these covenants of your own free will and choice?”
               My mouth: “yes.” Because pressure and because it’s time and because you’re in the middle of the ceremony with TONS of family there and you’d rather die than sprint out of there as fast as you can but at the same time you’d rather die than stay there knowing you should not be there. ANXIETY!!!!!!!!!!
               My brain: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! This can’t be happening! I’m not worthy! I’m not ready to be making these covenants! I’m not worthy to be making these covenants! I am truly awful. Now I’m lying to God himself. I should NOT be here. I shouldn’t be here! So why don’t I get up and leave? The video said I should. Can’t. Too much pressure. Too much shame. I. AM. A. TERRIBLE. PERSON. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. I’M BAD. Please God don’t strike me with lightning. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
Everyone in the entire church: “How was the temple?”
               My mouth: “It was awesome!”
               My brain: “I have officially damned myself to hell. I desecrated the temple. I made a mockery of those covenants. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. I’m a terrible person. ANXIETY
Time to go to the MTC. Shouldn’t be going. I’m not worried. Oh wait actually I am worried. I’m terrified. ANXIETY. Pressure. Shame. I hate myself.
               My brain on every single day of the mission: “Repeat after me a billion times: I am NOT attracted to my companion – Liar, yes you are – NO I’M NOT.” ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY “I’m not worthy to be out here.” Shame. Pressure. Anxiety. Terror. “I can’t talk about it now because they will surely send me home and what’s worse than not going on a mission at all? Coming home from one early. ANXIETY. Can’t face the family. PRESSURE/ANXIETY. No girl will ever want to marry me, not that they’d want to anyway because of the trainwreck of a person I am” ANXIETY. “Why don’t we have any investigators? Oh. It’s because I’m not worthy. Obviously”…”Why are the missionaries in my zone struggling so much? Because I’m not worthy to be a zone leader and therefore the spirit can’t direct me on how to help them”
Mission President: “I released you as a zone leader because you weren’t worthy to be one. Your addictions will ruin your life if you don’t learn how to control them.” (I had talked to him throughout my mission about my addiction to masturbation)
My brain: “Wow his tone was angry. Ouch. My mission president is REALLY disappointed in me. OUCH! It’s not like I haven’t been trying! I HAVE been trying, but I’m also failing a lot. Every time even. I’m a failure. SHAME. Everything I’ve been telling myself is true. I’m not worthy. I. AM. A. TERRIBLEAWFULHORRIBLE PERSON. It’s not worth telling the mission president that I like guys now because I go home in two transfers anyway. Oh CRAP. It’s almost time to go home. I’ve squandered all my time out here as an unworthy servant. I’m sorry God. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry.” SHAME. I’M BAD. ANXIETY.
My favorite sister missionary left me a note when she went home. Mission Pres gave it to me in that interview.
Sister: “look me up when you get home because I think you’re awesome and I want to date you”
To say I was floored is an understatement. Getting to know this sister and her goodness was one of the best experiences of my life. She is lovely in every way and was a stellar missionary. I had no idea what she saw in me because all I could see by this point in my life was the mountain of terrible ugly. But holy cow! This is my ticket to a normal future with a woman. I CANNOT LET THIS ONE GET AWAY FROM ME BECAUSE WITH HER IT WOULD WORK. ANXIETY. Would it really work? ANXIETY. Gotta try because of the pressure. So much pressure. Pressure. PRESSURE.
“Welcome home! You should go to the temple and pray to see if God accepts your sacrifice of two years. He will and it will be a wonderful experience.”
My mouth: “oh! What a great idea!”
My brain: “NOT THAT PLACE AGAIN!” ANXIETY. “I missed being in the temple a lot – no temples in Russia – but I’m still not worthy.” SHAME.
I went anyway.
Me while praying in the temple: “Sorry I went unworthily and sorry I couldn’t control myself and sorry I wasted two years. Sorry. I don’t even want to ask if you accept my sacrifice”
I asked anyway.
God: -deafening silence-
My brain: “so that’s a no then. O.U.C.H. That’s pretty much the ultimate confirmation that I am a truly terrible person. And that I have gravely offended God. I feel like shit. I HATE myself. ANXIETYPRESSURESADNESSSHAME. Hello horrible evil coping/distraction mechanisms I’m still addicted to. I’ve missed you. I’m terrible for thinking that. Who admits that they’ve missed their sins?!” SADNESS
Called up that sister missionary.
Sister: “I just started dating a guy and I need to see where it goes”
My mouth: -probably something really awkward that tried and failed to mask the hurt-
My brain: SHAME. God took her away from you because you’re not worthy and she is too good of a person to be ruined by you. SHAME. OUCH. So much SADNESS too.
Time to head back to BYU. YAY! Yay?
Every priesthood leader (and their wives) in Provo: “date. date. date. date. date. date. date. date. get married. get married. get married. get married. get married. get married. get married. get married. get married. It’ll give you the most happiness ever!!!
Most priesthood leaders and Peter Priesthood Elder’s Quorum Presidents: “If you’re not going on 500 dates a week you’re not fulfilling your priesthood obligations and you should be embarrassed and you should feel bad and look at all the poor single girls who just want to go on a date and you’re a terrible person if you aren’t dating them”
My brain: SHAMESHAMESHAMESHAMESHAME “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. ANXIETY. Dating makes me so anxious. The expectations. The pressure. ANXIETY. I can’t handle this! Can’t let it get serious with anyone because if it gets serious I will HAVE to talk about all my problems with them and I am NOT ready for that. ANXIETY. And no sane girl would ever stick around after finding out that I’m attracted to men and NOT attracted to her and that trying to be with her makes me feel so anxious I want to die. Plus ANXIETY. Plus SHAME. Plus I find her dad and her brothers more attractive than her. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! I’m a terrible person. I’m disgusting. That is just sick and wrong!” SHAME.
Every single group date I went on:
My brain: I’d rather be on a date with that guy in our group. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! On paper this girl is perfect, and she’s beautiful. Why don’t I feel attracted to her at all? Why is there no spark like there was with Brianne during my freshman year? WHY AM I SO DANG ANXIOUS?! I’m flawed, I’m broken. What’s wrong with me? Hello awful addicting coping mechanisms. SHAME. “I’m bad”
I spoke to every bishop I had at BYU about my addictions. Nothing ever came of it. Except for me feeling like a failure because I couldn’t be stronger than my addictions.
At a Ray Family Reunion: One of my aunts who married into the Ray family shared with the Ray siblings (my parents/aunts/uncles) that she had a niece on her side of the family who was a lesbian and wanted to bring her partner to a family reunion and how it was tearing that side of the family apart. And this got my own aunts and uncles talking about how they would handle such a situation. I don’t remember the specifics of what was said but I remember that the tone scared me into the very back of the closet and convinced me that I would NEVER come out to my family because it would ruin everything. SHAME. ANXIETY.
Junior year. Hello beautiful tall girl with brown hair. I want to date you. Wait, what? Did my brain really just say that? Yup. Sure did. She’s cute! Date her. ANXIETY. She’s way out of my league. ANXIETY. I’m not ready to talk about my problems. ANXIETY. I’m such a terrible person that I don’t even want to tell her how I feel about her because I truly believe she will see all of my ugly horribleness and reject me. ANXIETY. But this is the only girl I’ve actually been interested in since that sister at the end of the mission. I can’t pass this up! ANXIETY.
To make a long story short I ended up forming this really unhealthy attachment to the idea of marrying Liz and being normal. Sorry Liz. :-/ We weren’t very compatible, but I was blind to that because THIS IS MY CHANCE TO BE NORMAL! She dated a few guys, I hung back in the shadows but at the same time became great friends with her. We eventually decided to date but in the very same conversation decided that wasn’t a good idea. Shortest relationship ever. CRUSHED my heart. But I couldn’t let go of this chance of normalcy so I did everything I could to remain friends with her. And we did remain friends and it took a while but eventually I was ok, and I think she was ok too. And there was still hope because we were still friends. But I was too scared to ever make a move and I was anxious. So anxious all the time.
During winter semester of my junior year I was knocked flat on my back by deep, dark depression but I had no idea what depression was. All I knew is that happiness didn’t exist anymore, nothing good existed anymore, I couldn’t sleep, I quit trying to avoid my additions because they were my one and only source of relief, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t get up in the morning, I couldn’t study, I skipped a lot of class, I sat doing nothing for hours on end. I looked forward to going to work because work was distraction from how awful I was feeling. I had no idea how dysfunctional I had become. And I hid it from everyone because I’m good at hiding ugly things and I didn’t want to burden others with my problems. I found a new coping mechanism: shopping. BUY ALL THE THINGS! I started with all the parts I needed to build a ridiculously nice mountain bike. And of course only the best things will do. After the bike it was camping things. After camping things it was skiing and snowboarding things. And a study abroad. And a nice camera. And clothes. And food. And EVERYTHING and ANYTHING I could rationalize that I “needed”.
I was put on academic probation and called in to talk to an academic counselor
Counselor: “you should probably choose a new career path because you’re never going to get accepted to medical school”
That was a huge slap in the face. I’ve never been so pissed off in my life.” Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do lady?! I’ll show you! Just watch. I’ll prove you wrong.” I think my anger helped bring me out of depression maybe.
During my first and then second senior years (haha!) the cognitive dissonance I had been feeling since 11 years old started to simmer and build. By the time I graduated it was at a rolling boil. My soul was tearing in half. I was more anxious than ever. I was more emotionally distraught than ever. No way could I choose one (my faith) and drop the other (my attractions) because it just doesn’t work like that and either way I have to sacrifice something HUGE and I don’t want to sacrifice either things because they’re both such big important things. I’ve felt too much from the spirit to reject the gospel now. I know it’s true. Darn that incessant testimony! It would be so easy if I could just walk away and not feel guilty. But I can’t reject it and I don’t want to reject it because I value it and I believe it and appreciate how it shaped and molded me as I grew up. But I really like men and that is here to stay and I’m really lonely and I’m watching everyone get married and have babies and I want that too but I’m stuck and I still believe that I’m bad and undesirable and ugly inside and out and broken and a mess and despite YEARS of praying for God to somehow fix me he hasn’t. Am I not worth fixing? Do I lack faith? What’s wrong with me. SHAME
Every extended family event ever:
Family member: “so are you dating anyone?”
My mouth: laugh’s it off and says “No…..(smiles) No. Not right now.”
My brain: “PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE. I’m a failure. Are they starting to wonder about me? They’ve got to be wondering. FEAR. Here come the jokes about being a menace to society. Ouch. Anxiety. I’m lonely. Sadness. I’m a failure.
Family member: “I know this great girl, can I set you up with her”
My mouth: “………….sure”
My brain: ANXIETY. PRESSURE. I’d rather die. I can’t say no because what if they start asking questions? Plus are they going to be disappointed if I decline? Anxiety. I’m a failure. I’m bad. I feel AWFUL about myself > addiction > I really am a failure > I hate myself.
My brain weeks later: why haven’t I called that girl yet? I hope so-and-so doesn’t bring it up. Crap. They brought it up. And they told me that the girl is waiting for me to call….so I really should call. But I’m ANXIOUS and I hate the pressure. I feel like if I don’t like the girl then I’ll be letting so-and-so down. Yuck. This is silly. Why am I so nervous about this? It’s just a simple date. I should call her. Nope. Too anxious.
To all the girls I was supposed to call or email or text or seek out on facebook and ask on a date:
               I’m sorry I never tried to contact you. I’ve since learned that many of you were hurt by this, that you blamed yourselves, that you wondered what’s wrong with you and “Why won’t he just call?! Am I not worth calling?”
 I’m so very sorry. SHAME. ANXIETY.
Time to take the MCAT. ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY ANXIETY. I can’t concentrate. I can’t study. I barely scraped by my college chemistry classes. I should be studying. I can’t concentrate. I’m a failure > I feel AWFUL about myself > addiction > I really am a failure > I hate myself. But in my patriarchal blessing it says that I will have success in the career of my choice. Does my patriarchal blessing really count anymore? I’m not worthy of those blessings. Shame. I should be studying. I can’t concentrate. Postpone. I can’t concentrate. Postpone. I can’t postpone anymore because this is the last test date of the year and if I don’t take it now I lose out on the $400 I paid to register for this stupid test.
God must have guided my pencil to the bubble sheet because I walked away with a score that was 2 points above the national average. Maybe there was hope after all. Why did God help me? I don’t deserve His help. Look at me! I’m terrible and I’m flagrantly breaking his commandments. SHAME.
Applying to 23 medical schools was awful. And expensive. And all the rejection letters were devastating. I really am a failure. Thankfully one school took a chance on me. God I’m sure you orchestrated that somehow. Thanks? I can’t believe you’re still helping me. I’ll try to do better. A week goes by. I’m not doing any better. I’m worse. I’m bad. SHAME.
Time to go to medical school. I’m going to go crazy because my soul is ripping in half and I don’t know how to handle it and I’m too afraid to talk about it. No one knows I’m coming out to school. No one expects me at church. It would be so easy to just not go. SADNESS. Thankfully God made sure I ran into Tyler and Brittany Jones at the bank just a few short hours after I landed on the island of Dominica. Brittany was alone in the bank looking terrified. She had her little daughter in a stroller. I knew she was LDS because I just knew it. I was overcome with a HUGE compulsion to talk to her. I couldn’t NOT talk to her. Tyler shows up. He’s 2 feet taller than her. Aaaaaaaand those are his garments sticking out the bottom of his basketball shorts. I KNEW they were LDS. We chatted a bit while I was waiting in line. As they got ready to leave Brittany asked me if I was coming to church on Sunday. I had all but decided that I wasn’t going to go. But now someone wants me there.
Ok then God. I hear ya loud and clear. I can’t quit going to church because just…nope. Not an option. I have GOT to figure out a way to reconcile the parts of myself that have been fighting each other for so long. I’m so exhausted of the fighting.  
Brittany and Tyler you guys played such a pivotal role in my life. I love you guys. Tyler ended up being called as our branch president down there. I had prayed and prayed and prayed that God would choose someone I felt safe talking to. Sorry Tyler. If you’ve ever wondered why you got that calling and the stress that came with it you can blame it on me J
Fast forward to Christmas break. I flew into SLC because it was way cheaper than flying into Boise. Liz lives in Salt Lake. I want to see Liz because she is one of my closest friends. Had a great 3 hour conversation with Liz, said goodbye and left and started backing out of her driveway and suddenly she’s at my passenger side window. And she’s crying and she starts talking a million miles a minute and I have no idea what she’s saying and she gets in the car with me and keeps talking and crying and I swear I didn’t catch any of it until the last sentence
“…name one reason why we’re not dating”
My brain: oh no. OH no! Oh NO! oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no oh no . NOOOO! It’s happening. This can’t be happening. That moment I’ve been dreading my whole entire life is happening. RIGHT NOW. I’m not ready for this. I feel so anxious I want to throw up and crawl under a rock and cease to exist. Do I trust Liz enough to open up to her?
God: you should trust Liz
So I told her. And that was the most terrifying experience of my life. And she was perfect.
Liz: -looks at me and cocks her head a bit- …..”I know….” Laughs
And I about died. Does EVERYBODY know?! ANXIETY is gonna kill me dead right this very minute.
               Liz: “I mean, I didn’t KNOW know, but I have the gift of discernment and I just…..knew. And it’s ok. And you’re not a bad person because you’re attracted to men…”
Never in my life had I heard anyone say that. It totally rocked my world. Liz was a champ. She was the perfect person to be the first to tell about my secrets.
So in a matter of a few hours we went from friends to dating. Like DATING dating and talking about marriage and did I think I could I marry her? And the whole time my brain was screaming because it was anxious and also because this is my shot at being normal!
We jumped into things WAY way way way to fast. I was a train wreck inside and had no business getting into a relationship at all. I shared everything with Liz. No more secrets and it scared me to death and it also scared her to death. Rightfully so. I desperately tried to hold on to her even though I was anxious beyond any anxiousness I’d ever felt. It was the unhealthy attachment to her. That’s what I was holding on to. I was madly in love with the idea of marrying her and being normal. It was complicated and confusing and relieving and terrifying and wonderful and awful all at the same time. Before Christmas break was over she was having MAJOR doubts about the whole thing because of course she was. I don’t blame her at all, but you better believe I blamed myself. I understood why she had to go. It broke my heart. Again. It’s my fault. I’m a mess. Of course she left. God must have warned her to get out. He doesn’t want me to ruin her life either. No girl in her right mind would ever take this on. SHAME > emotional pain > addiction > everything is worse.
Christmas break is over so it’s time to go back to school and loneliness and stress. In case you didn’t know, medical school is really ridiculously hard. It’s HARD. It’s hard when you’re in good mental/emotional health. I was NOT. And I was getting worse. Couldn’t sleep, really struggled to concentrate, was super lonely. Yuck. I felt like I was going check-me-into-the-loony-bin crazy. My soul had almost torn all the way through. My emotions were out of control. Gay me and Spiritual me were shooting nuclear bombs at each other every waking moment of every day without any rest or any sign of stopping. Ever. I felt out of control. It was scary. I didn’t want to go talk to the schools counselors because I worried they’d advise me to drop my faith and accept who I was and move on. I ended up googling the nearest LDS Family Services office. It was in Florida. I called anyway and pretty much word vomited my predicament while sobbing to the poor receptionist who answered. Sorry receptionist. I’m pretty sure I freaked you out a little bit. A few days later she emailed me a list of LDS counselors and for who knows what reason I chose to email Kyle. I’ve heard from lots of people that usually you kinda have to shop around to a few different counselors in order to find one that’s a good match for you. It’s a good thing Kyle was the one for me because mentally I couldn’t go much longer without getting some serious professional help.
Counseling was both wonderful and awful. I went with Kyle because the tiny bit I read about him revealed that much of his practice was built around helping men with same sex attractions reduce/eliminate those attractions. Now, even though he did NOT promise a change in orientation what he offered sounded great to me. It gave me hope that I could be fixed and I could be normal and would eventually be ready to marry a woman and not feel anxious about that and it would be great because that means I CAN HAVE HOPE AGAIN!!!!!!! This type of counseling or therapy has turned into a very controversial thing. There are ongoing legal proceedings about whether or not it’s consumer fraud. I don’t want to get into all of that now. But you should know that I did willingly choose to give it a shot. And I talked to a lot of people who had been through it. For some it worked really well. For others it worked marginally. For still others it didn’t work at all. I decided it was worth a shot. The premise of conversion therapy is that during childhood you experience emotional wounds around masculinity, men, boys your age, girls your age, women, etc. which lead you down a path that ends up with you being attracted to the wrong sex. The solution is to comb through your history for those emotional wounds, revisit the trauma and examine it and learn from it and honor it, and LET YOU BODY FEEL THE FEELINGS SURROUNDING IT which allows your body to naturally resolve it so you can finally let it go.  If you work through all the wounds your attractions will diminish. Revisiting every painful experience you can ever remember is awful. AWFUL. It was unbelievably emotionally and mentally taxing. It was hell. But despite that I think it’s also necessary. Yes, it broke me. It uncovered problems I didn’t even know I had. And it revealed horrible things I believed about myself. You can gather what they were based on how often I repeated them on this post. The end result was that I came to believe that I was a horrible monster who wasn’t worth being loved by anyone – God included. What an ugly thing to believe about myself. And realizing that I wholeheartedly thought that belief was true was devastating. It was horrifying. But Kyle was there to help me sort through the mess and one of the most important things he taught me is that my emotions won’t kill me. My entire life I had done everything imaginable to avoid feeling the ugly, sad, dark, nasty feelings because I was terrified of them because I had no idea how to handle them. I’m not trying to justify my misdeeds but it’s no wonder I got so trapped in horrible awful addictions. They gave me fleeting and relieving escapes of pleasure from a world of non-stop emotional torment. And I had to learn to have some compassion for the broken person I had become because that was the first step in learning how to love myself.
It took 4 months to work through my fears of people finding out about me. FOUR. MONTHS. I was that terrified. The first 6 months of counseling were spent on undoing all the damage that carrying my secrets had caused me. It was hard and it was awful but the end result has been amazing. I have more self-worth than I ever have. I love myself and all my flaws. I was never able to honestly say that before. I have compassion for myself even when I make mistakes. I became centered and whole as a person. I learned how to recognize and focus on my emotions. I learned how to ground myself on something safe and feel what I needed to feel until my body found its way back to emotional stability and peace. I learned healthy ways to handle emotions – the most important of which is to LET MYSELF FEEL THEM. Our bodies were designed to feel so many different wonderful and awful and scary and peaceful and incredible emotions and they were also designed to naturally resolve those emotions. Sometimes it’s through crying. Sometimes it’s through being held. Sometimes it’s by safely letting out some anger. Many of us can only identify with crying because that tends to just happen. Why do we cry? Because that’s how our bodies are designed to resolve the emotions that make us cry. Now you know why you feel better after crying. It’s because the emotion has safely passed and you actually DO feel better. You have let yourself feel the emotion to completion and your body has resolved it and you’re left feeling better. It’s sad that applying these principles is so tough. Emotions are scary and powerful things. I still struggle to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s mentally exhausting to sit and focus on an unpleasant feeling and let it completely wash over you until you have felt ALL of it. It’s one of the most taxing things I’ve ever done, but it leaves me feeling a whole lot better. Looking back on my life I think I would have come through with a lot less baggage had I been taught what emotions were and how to handle them. This is NOT me blaming my parents. They had no idea how to do this either. Nobody had any idea. I would encourage everyone to educate yourselves about this – and to educate your kids from the very beginning.
Moving on.
The 2nd 6 months of counseling we sorted through every emotional scar I could dig up surrounding masculinity and men and guys my age and girls my age and women and sex and arousal and all of that. It was awesome to learn why things played out the way they did and to see that my poor brain was doing the best it knew how to protect me from feeling emotional pain. Unfortunately, without training our brains have no idea what they’re doing. I’m so glad we worked through the many issues I never knew I had. I really came to own my own masculinity. I stopped fearing forming meaningful relationships with guys. Now that I wasn’t afraid of my secret being found out I wasn’t afraid to get close and let other guys get close to me. For the first time in my life I developed deep and meaningful friendships with a LOT of guys and it was AWESOME and it’s STILL awesome. I worked through my fears of being rejected by my peers. Those fears often kept me from even attempting to form friendships. You know why. I feared that if they found out about the true me inside I’d ultimately be rejected and I didn’t want to risk having to face that. I worked through intense body image issues. I had surgery to correct Gynecomastia. Look it up. It’s no wonder I had body image issues. My body wasn’t normal. Now that it is normal I am continually surprised and pleased with how attractive I find myself.  Hahaha! I’m sure that sounds terribly vain but it’s true. I had never thought of myself as attractive or desirable or beautiful or masculine or sexy or anything other than ugly and disfigured. Boy was that a nice issue to let go of. I learned to stop seeing men as eye candy and start seeing them as human beings that I should actually get to know. I learned so much.
There was a problem though. As we were working through all these issues that centered on why I was gay I theoretically should have felt my attractions to men diminish. The fact that I was developing so many healthy friendships with guys was also supposed to diminish my attractions to men. In reality the opposite happened. I wasn’t attracted to the friends I was making because I was having my needs for emotionally intimacy met. I felt platonically close to them which is what I had been longing for. But I was still found other men attractive and I still wasn’t attracted to women. And my hope of change and becoming normal started to crumble and it was so very disappointing. “why isn’t this working for me? I’m trying, God! I am doing everything I can think of to change! Why can’t I change? What’s wrong with me?” And SHAME reared its ugly head again. For so long I had held onto the hope that somehow, someday I could be normal and find a good LDS girl who I could love and who could love me and all my problems and who I would feel ok about getting married in the temple to. But the more I worked through my emotional traumas the more obvious the lack of change became. It was crushing. Once again, hopes were dashed. It literally felt like someone died. I mourned. Alone. I had finally opened up to a large portion of my family about who I was and my intentions of diminishing my attractions to men and committing to living gospel principles. I couldn’t bear to let them know that it wasn’t working. They had all been so happy with me and encouraging and I couldn’t bear to disappoint them. And suddenly the cognitive dissonance was back in full force and I felt more torn than ever and I was lonely and I was tired of being lonely and I wanted to start dating and I knew that I wanted to date men and I was sad and I was confused and I was unhappy. And then I got depressed again but it was SO much worse than it was when I was at BYU. And for the first time ever I felt completely disconnected from God which had never happened before and it was very disconcerting and unnerving and confusing because I had been trying so hard to do what is right and do all I could to change. Was it my fault that I wasn’t experiencing any change?
And there I remained stuck. Unable to choose between two different worlds. Unable to reconcile those worlds to each other. Unwilling to disappoint my family. Unable to see any possible outcome that would leave all parties feeling at peace. I spent hours thinking entire lifetimes down as many different pathways as I could think of and NONE of them ended in happiness. And this brought on despair. Hope was dead. Happiness was dead. Peace was dead. Dreams of normalcy were dead. I wanted to be dead. I almost did it. The only thing that stopped me was the dog I had with me. I was worried about what would happen to him. There was nothing else stopping me from jumping off that overpass right into freeway traffic. That’s how awful it got. It was agony. And my counselor didn’t know how to help me because he recognized that I was stuck and didn’t want to sway me in one direction or another so for months on end we spent every session with me lying on my bed sobbing uncontrollably because the place I was stuck at was literally killing me.
Aside from Kyle nobody knew what an awful state I was in. A lifetime of putting on a happy face when you’re feeling like shit inside came in really handy. Thankfully I successfully finished up the bit of school I had to do and moved home with my parents. I think I scared my dad to death because of how completely dysfunctional I was. It was at his urging that I sought out a professional to help me find a better medication combo because clearly the one I was on was NOT working – and I was so dysfunctional I didn’t even realize it wasn’t working. My life was in shambles. I had racked up $25,000 of credit card debt by buying all the things in the entire world while trying to find happiness. I had failed and repeated a semester of medical school effectively wasting an additional $30,000. By this point I had failed my schools required practice board exam 3 times. Nothing was working. Everything was awful. Life was hell and it took all I could muster just to roll out of bed in the morning and stumble down the stairs just to collapse on the couch and spend the whole day there wishing I could just cease to exist.
And then I had people start telling me I was depressed because I was breaking commandments. Yeah, I was deeply entrenched in my pornography addiction but Really? REALLY?! One of the biggest reasons I started turning to pornography in the first place was to escape all the hurt I was feeling. I didn’t know how else to find relief. Talk about kicking someone when they’re down. I had been trying so hard with professional help for almost two years to do and become the right thing. And I had been trying on my own ever since that first lesson on the law of chastity. Could they not see that? Were they really so ignorant to believe that depression is always caused by sin? How dare they! If Elder Holland can give a conference talk about the fact that depression is real and is caused by physical and chemical problems in your brain then NOBODY has the right to automatically assume that depression is brought on by sin. It’s time to put that one to bed for good.
It took 5 weeks to finally find a drug combo that worked for me. The months of June July August and September of 2014 were so awful I can’t even put it into words. But one day midway through September the most bizarre thing in the world happened when I woke up and realized “Oh! I’m back! I feel like myself. And I’m happy. And the feeling of drowning and being smothered is gone. And the fog is lifted. And hi God, I can feel you again.” This happened on the same day I had my appointment with Kyle. I was still stuck, unwilling to disappoint my family. Kyle brought to my attention that being stuck there had made me so unhappy that I almost killed myself. He walked me through an exercise:
“Pretend you are the only person that exists. There are no other people, no society, no family, no pressures, nothing. It’s just you.” I asked if God was there and Kyle asked if I wanted Him to be there. Of course I wanted Him there. He’s always been there and I’ve always known He’s been there even when I couldn’t feel Him because depression was hiding Him from me.
“OK, so it’s you and God and that’s it. Who are you attracted to?”
“I’m a son of God and I’m attracted to men and I feel like I am at peace with God.” Never in my life have I felt God’s love so intensely. It was as if God was speaking to me. Telling me, “Macsen I know you. I know who you are and I understand you and the impossible situation you’re in and I want you to be happy and it’s ok if you start dating men. It’s ok. You’re ok. I love you. It’s ok.”
This is something that I have only shared with a select few. I stopped talking about it because nearly everyone freaked out. “You’re delusional”….“That is in direct opposition to the commandments”…..“That cannot have come from God”….etc.
Here’s the deal though. It does not matter what you think because it was between God and myself and that’s the ONLY relationship that really should hold power over me. I don’t have to live my life so that you are pleased with my choices. What matters is what God thinks of my choices. I know that what God told me flies in the face of doctrine. God knows that too. But He also knows the complexities of life and love that come to LGBT members of the church. I’m not excusing or rationalizing my behavior. Nor do I think God gave me a free pass. I have no idea how to explain it and I don’t know why He did it. But nobody can tell me it wasn’t real and that it wasn’t from Him. There is NO way that the devil could imitate the feelings of love and peace I felt during this experience. And I walked away feeling hopeful that there was a spot for me somewhere in the plan of salvation and that just maybe God didn’t want me to be alone.
So I started going on dates. And my family FREAKED out. And I knew they’d freak out. And I thought I was prepared for the freak-out but I wasn’t. While everything that was said to me was doctrinally true the presentation and the vitriol and the tone was harsh and cold and it hurt because it was coming from the people I care about most in the whole world who I had desperately hoped would have my back and would try to understand. My parents tried to be ok with things but just couldn’t. It was too much too fast too soon.  I don’t blame them. I ended up moving out to keep the peace. That shattered my world. Gone was the support system I thought I would be able to rely on. It was completely obliterated and it was awful. And I’m sorry if this is making my parents and siblings feel bad. I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you. I understand why it happened. Please don’t be mad at me for sharing this with the world.
I’m glad my relationships with my family members weren’t irreparably damaged. Things were rough for a bit. I didn’t talk to them. They didn’t talk to me. I was terrified to start talking again because I didn’t want another onslaught. Slowly we managed to work through it. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and chose to move beyond the hurt because I love them.
It turns out dating is really fun when you actually date the sex you’re attracted to. I met a lot of really nice guys but something was always missing. I wanted to find someone who shared my background and my beliefs and who wanted to live how I wanted to live. From the very beginning I have promised God that I will remain involved in his kingdom no matter what and I intend to honor that promise. I quickly realized that finding someone like me would be nearly impossible. I met a lot of really nice guys online who were raised LDS but had fallen away and didn’t miss it and couldn’t see why I wanted to stay. I ended up dating a catholic guy for a while. He knew a lot about Mormon culture because while growing up he lived next door to a missionary apartment. But I never really felt settled and knew that something important was missing. We broke it off and parted ways.
I talked to God a lot about dating. I never felt like I was horribly offending him. I never felt like I was distanced from him. I never felt guilty which surprised me. I continued to feel horribly guilty about my pornography use, but not about dating. I don’t know how to explain any of that. But because I felt at peace with God I continued on the path I was on.
I had little hope I would actually find someone who wanted the same things I wanted, I mean, come on! What are there odds?! There can’t be very many gay guys in the church who have a testimony and won’t ever leave it but don’t want to spend a lifetime alone so they’re looking for someone just like themselves who would remain active (meaning would never stop going) no matter what. Seriously there can’t be more than 100 or so. Probably even fewer than that.
So when I found him it was a total shock.
Both of us felt like our meeting was orchestrated by God. I understand that many people won’t like the sound of that. Why would God orchestrate the introduction of two people who would then break His commandments? I have no idea. Jarrett was in the middle of a move from Portland to Bountiful. He was temporarily staying at his parent’s house just a few miles away from where I live. Now, there aren’t many avenues for LGBT members of the church to meet each other so we turn to our only options: Dating apps. Specifically gay dating apps. Sue me. Let me tell you there are tons of guys on there who are only looking for their next piece of meat. So there was a lot of sifting to do. Every once in a while I would start chatting with a decent fellow. I only met a fraction of those good guys in person. I managed to meet 2 or 3 guys in my area who were raised LDS, but had since fallen away. Jarrett hadn’t dated anyone for a long time. Over a year I think. He hadn’t been on any of the dating apps in months. For whatever reason on August 5th of 2015 he decided to log on. I was scrolling through and his profile photo was on my feed and it was of him standing on a mountain top which is usually a pretty good indicator that he’s not just looking for something of a carnal nature. So I opened up his profile and read his little bio and liked what I read so I started messaging him. Pretty quickly we found out we were both LDS. Based on how many LDS guys I had come across while dating the fact that he was LDS was enough of a reason for me to want to ask him on a date. So I did…...for the very next day. Jarr later told me that as a rule he never went out with someone so quickly because a few weeks of texting usually reveals if the guy is a weirdo. I’m glad he broke his rule. He got to the restaurant first. When I walked in he was sitting on the bench facing away from me chatting with the hostess. He turned around and stood up and flashed a big huge smile at me and I was sunk. Hook, line and sinker. Head. Over. Heals. Yes it happened that quickly for me. I hadn’t eaten all day and was starving. I’m sure I looked ridiculous eating as fast as I did. I was kinda happy it didn’t throw him off. Haha! Conversation was even better than it was over text. That’s a big deal because 90% of the guys I went on dates with couldn’t hold a face to face conversation to save their lives. Neither of us wanted to be done after dinner so we went for a walk on the greenbelt and told each other our entire life stories. That’s kind of what you do when you meet another LGBT Mormon. We talked for 6 or 7 hours straight that night. And the next night. And the next….Talking to Jarrett has always been easy. We both proceeded forward full steam ahead, totally unafraid of opening up our hearts so quickly. Unbeknownst to each other we both asked God if it was ok to proceed. Both of us felt at peace about it. I don’t know how to explain that. But proceed we did and it was fun! And it was exciting! And it was powerful! And it was meaningful. And it was deep. And it was safe. And it was warm. And it was peaceful. And it was bliss. And it felt like coming home. And in just a few short days it felt like I had known him for years. Eternities even. This was the first time I opened up 100% of my heart and truly fell in love with someone. I couldn’t ever do that with girls because I was SO dang anxious about everything.
 8 days after we met I brought Jarret to go camping with my family and extended Viehweg family. It was just us in the car and it was a 4 hour drive and we never ran out of things to talk about. Nor did we run out of thing to talk about while sightseeing in Yellowstone. Nor did we run out of things to talk to on the 4 hour drive back home. I did something crazy during the drive home. We were working our way through the 32 questions to fall in love (google it). In answer to one of them I told him I wanted to marry him which was insane! The rule of those questions is to say the first thing that comes to your mind and that was the only one that I was seriously tempted to cheat on. Much to my surprise he said he’d been thinking the same thing. Who does that?! Who in their right mind starts seriously contemplating marriage that quickly?! I guess we both know how it feels to be one of those crazy couples that gets engaged after 23 minutes of knowing each other. I still can’t believe I wasn’t scared to death by the situation. Jarrett couldn’t believe he wasn’t either. Of course we couldn’t tell anyone in our families about any of this. They’d FREAK. We knew we’d have to wait – probably a really long time but – that didn’t bother us.
Jarrett had to move to Bountiful UT before the end of August. He wants to go to Occupational Therapy school at the University of Utah so he’s becoming a resident of the state to take advantage of cheaper tuition. We were sad to be so far apart but neither of us were worried in the slightest. I saw him when I went down there. He saw me when he came up to Boise. We spent hours talking on the phone and facetiming. Things felt so right and both of us really started looking forward to eventually building a life together – especially the little insignificant thing like doing dishes, grocery shopping, cooking and folding laundry together. At one point in our lives both of us hoped desperately that somehow we could make marriage to a woman work. Those hopes were dashed as we pursued every avenue available to change or diminish or learn to live with and manage our attractions and none of the things we tried worked. For Jarrett and I that broken hope of somehow making things work with a woman was replaced by the hope of being together and trying the best we could to live the principles of the Gospel. On the third day we knew each other we made it very clear to each other that that is what we wanted. I promised to Jarrett that if either of us ever felt moved by the spirit that our life together was wrong we would do whatever it takes to align ourselves with God’s will. Both of us believed and hoped that if that were to happen it would be years down the road.
Jarrett came up to his parent’s house for conference weekend. Unbeknownst to me for the week leading up to conference he had been feeling that God wanted him to stop being romantic with me. Jarr struggled to know if it was his own insecurities talking or if it was actually God so he fasted and prayed that if it was truly God’s will that we stop walking down the path we were on that I would feel it too. We agreed to spend Saturday at his parent’s house, go with our own fathers to priesthood session and then spend Sunday at my parent’s house. Saturday morning I could feel that something inside my heart wasn’t right. I knew what it was but I didn’t want to admit it. I spent the entire day pleading with God that I wasn’t feeling the things that I was feeling. Begging him not to ask me to forsake the man I had come to love so dearly. By priesthood session my uneasiness had progressed to a full volume roar inside me. During President Monson’s talk I felt so strongly that God was telling me to break off the romance that it was palpable.
God: “This is now wrong. You need to stop. Stop. STOP. STOP. STOP.”
Me: “why? Oh God why? It hurts. I hurt. I hear you even though I don’t want to. Please God no!!! Not Jarrett! Please don’t make me give up Jarrett! Please don’t ask me to be alone again! Is this really what you are asking me to do?! The only way I’ll do it is if I have zero doubt that this is your will.”
God: “STOP. It has to stop. You must stop. STOP IT. STOP.”
I saw Jarrett later that night. I think we both knew what we were feeling big huge scary things but neither of us wanted to talk about it very much. We agreed to wait until the end of conference before making any major decisions.
Sunday I experienced the same feelings. I have no idea what was said at all because all I was hearing was God telling me to stop. We left my parent’s house pretty quickly after the last session was over. Jarret had to get back to Nampa; his ride was set to leave less than an hour later. He had picked me up on the way to my parent’s house and when he dropped me off he came up to my apartment to say goodbye. We were both very somber when we got to my room. We knew what was coming. We embraced each other, clinging as tightly as we could.
Jarrett: “Tell me what you’re feeling”
My mouth: “I don’t know…….I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know…….
But I knew. Oh how I knew what God demanded to be done and oh how it broke my heart. At that moment I was more worried about Jarrett than I was myself. I didn’t want to hurt him. We had talked extensively about how afraid we were of being alone and the dark places that took our minds to. I tried to maintain my composure but I couldn’t and I started to weep and shake my head no.
Jarrett began to cry: “So you felt it too?”
I nodded. He started to suggest that we wait a few days…
Me: “It’s not gonna matter. We could wait a day…a week, a year. It doesn’t matter. I know what I felt and I cannot deny it.”
Jarrett was nodding his head. He knew it as much as I knew it. And we both had no doubt that it was from God and that waiting wouldn’t change things. And he hated it every bit as much as I did. We stood there looking into each other’s eyes and watching each other’s hearts and hopes and dreams crumble to pieces. Watching that wash over his face was absolutely horrific. I would rather die than experience that again. He left and I collapsed on my bed weeping like I have never wept before. I texted my dad about what had just happened. He came over and climbed into bed with me to hold me as my soul was breaking.
Me: “It’s not fair. You raised us not to pull that card but it’s true! It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair.”
Dad: “No…… it’s not fair”
Me: “Dad I broke his heart! I broke his heart! I broke his heart! You should have seen the look on his face!” … “Why did God make me this way? Why did God allow my life to end up this way?”… “What is the point of my existence?!” … “Does He really want me to be alone like this?”
Dad just held me and cried with me which was exactly what I needed.
The days since then have been very bleak. I cry a lot. My heart is broken. It’s raw and it hurts. And it’s not ok. And I’m not ok. And I’m not going to be ok for a long, long, LONG time. I don’t feel happier. I don’t feel at peace. I don’t feel comfort.
Jarrett and I still talk and we still see each other from time to time. Neither of us felt like God told us to walk away entirely – nor do we want to. We still love each other very much. But where there once was nothing but openness and love in our hearts there are now walls and fear. We can’t be as open to each other as we used to be. And that hurts. Our hearts are lonely again and the walls of protection and distance are being rebuilt. I miss him. I miss spending time with him. I miss the reassuring feeling of his touch. I miss listening to him. I miss sharing every detail of my day with him. I miss having someone to focus my love toward. I am not ok. I don’t see how this will ever be ok.
I wonder if others can understand how scary, lonely and empty facing a lifetime with no spouse, no family, no specific person to focus your love on really is. I can only speak for myself but when loneliness comes up in conversation everyone one is so quick to jump in and in rapid-fire style shoot off an entire list of reasons why I’m not really alone: “But there’s always your siblings” “What about your nieces and nephews?” “Your ward can be your family” “There are other ways to find fulfillment” “You can choose to be happy” ad nauseum. Inevitably Sheri Dew comes up. Now, I have nothing against Sheri Dew. But really, LGBT members are NOT in the same boat as her. Really we are not. I know all of these points are well meaning and come from a place of love but BOY do they hurt and man do they feel hollow. My siblings have families of their own or the can hope for families of their own. My nieces and nephews have parents of their own. I love spending time with them, but they’re not mine to love or to parent. Wards are wonderful places to connect with people but you know what? At the end of the day I go home to an empty house and sleep in an empty bed. And unlike Sheri Dew or any other single and straight member of the church for me there is NO hope that the loneliness will end until the day I take our last breath. Sheri Dew and Sister Single-and-Sad and Brother Alone-and-Distraught all can hold out hope that someday they’ll find someone who they can take to the temple. No matter what there is no way I will ever be able to do that with a man. Ever. Do you realize just how awful that is? When it comes to love and marriage and family there is NOTHING I can hope for. Is it any wonder why so many of us struggle with suicidal thoughts?
“God I’ve figured out my test. Can I please check out early? I cannot bear the thought of being with this loneliness for another 30-40-50 years.” I won’t lie; checking out early has been on my mind. I can’t help it. I realize it’s not a rational thought. I’m not making any plans so please don’t freak out. Can you honestly look me in the eyes and say that if you were in my shoes feeling what I’m feeling and facing what I’m facing that you would feel any different? That you would be happy? “But happiness is a choice” No. NO! Happiness is not a choice. You can’t choose how to feel about something of this magnitude. I can choose to put on a happy face. I can choose to flash a smile and spit out “I’m doing great!” when I’m asked how I’m doing. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel nothing but devastation inside.
We are also told to not despair because if we aren’t to experience every blessing the gospel offers in this life then, rest assured, we will get to experience all of it in the next life. Based on how I currently feel about being with a woman – which is deeply uncomfortable and filled with anxiety in case you hadn’t gathered that already – the promise that I’ll be able to be sealed to a woman in the next life really doesn’t instill a lot of hope in me. To me that sounds awful. Yet everyone offers that tidbit up as the most precious bit of wisdom they can possibly impart with the idea that it will finally give me SOMETHING to hope for. Here’s a newsflash: it does the exact opposite. Why would I look forward to something that makes me extremely anxious and fearful and frankly filled with dread? Sure, its possible homosexuality is a condition of the fallen state we live in and maybe in the afterlife I won’t be attracted to men. Honestly we don’t know. If the Brethren know they haven’t shared it with us. All they have said publicly is something along the lines of “It will all be sorted out in the afterlife. But while you’re alive if you feel like it’s right for you then you can get sealed to a woman but we’re not advocating that anymore because it’s ruined a lot of lives.” Cool. Thanks for the direction.
All I know is that I am here, in this life. Feeling what I feel. Attracted to men emotionally, mentally and yes, obviously physically. And it’s not something I chose. It’s not the consequence of something I did. It’s not the consequence of something someone else did to me. Do you know the current research or are you sticking to outdated and disproved reasons of why someone ends up gay? The most current research suggests it’s an extremely complex pathway involving numerous things including genetic predisposition, the specific levels of a woman’s hormones at specific times during the pregnancy of a child who ends up gay.  And yeah, of course part of it is environmental and life experience. Researchers are confident that even more things go into it. Please do your research before you tell me why you believe I am the way I am.
I’ve been told that homosexuality doesn’t define me. Sure, I’ll buy that and I recognize that there is SO much more to me than my sexuality. That being said, here’s what I feel about being gay: It’s not a superficial or insignificant part of who I am. Since the day I realized I was gay it has been the paradigm through which I have experienced the world. It has informed every decision I’ve ever made and it has influenced every aspect of my life. Aside from that of the gospel and my family, being gay has been the biggest shaping influence that turned me into the man I have become. I feel like it’s a deeply rooted and core part of who I am. Remember Elder Hollands talk just a few weeks ago? He shared the story of a mother’s love to her gay son. Remember what he said?
“And, I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change—no one assumed it would.”
It’s time to stop expecting our orientations to change. Please. I beg you. When I’m told by anyone that they hold out hope that I’ll end up loving and marrying a woman it kills me. All the shame comes flooding back, all the anxiety comes back. The feelings that I have failed and that I am a disappointment come crashing over me. It hurts. Please keep those thoughts to yourself. I know this is a lot to ask. It might help you to mourn the life you thought your loved one would lead. I sure mourned mine.

Yeah. The last few weeks have been hard. And the changes to the churches policies on top of what I’m already going through are like a slap in the face. To be labelled as an official apostate hurts. The policies about children of gay parents put the final nail in the coffin that holds my dreams of companionship and family and adopting/raising children in the church. I’m hurting. I’m sad. I’m lonely. I can’t think about the future. I’m not ok and it’s going to be a long LONG time before I become OK. Please be gentle with me. Love me. Listen to me. Hurt with me. Walk with me. Let me walk with you without feeling shame. I don’t want your advice. I don’t want you to fix this. You can’t. Only God can fix this. And I have to hope that someday, somehow He will.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

St. George Ironman 70.3

What an incredibly amazing day!  I still can't believe I did it.  I feel so accomplished!  I'll post pictures when I get them.
Woke up without an alarm this morning at about 5:15 so I got up and finished getting ready and headed out the door WAY to jittery to eat.  I stayed at a hotel in Hurricane UT which is about a 20 min drive to where they told the athletes to park.  For some reason I had it in my head that the shuttle out to the lake went until 6:30 so when I showed up at 6 and no one was there it was really hard not to panic.  But, I made the drive back toward Hurricane to park about 2 miles away from the starting area.  The shuttle bus I hopped on got to drive way closer than they usually do, so everyone was happy a late athlete was on board.  I shouted "you're welcome!" as I hopped off and then I RAN to get checked in.
Let me tell you, I could not have cut it any closer than I did.  Haha!  Handed off my bags, got numbered up, threw my lovely purple swim cap on and RAN toward the start.  Once I got there I realized I had forgotten my timing chip in my bag.  Doh!  Luckily they had a table right there at the water's edge with some extras.  I'm sure it happens all the time if they're that prepared.  By the time I hit the water my entire heat was already swimming away from the shore toward the start line which was about 50 yards out.  I was about halfway there when the horn blew to start but I think it worked out better.  I was able to avoid the huge crowd and my time didn't start until my chip crossed the line anyway.  Also, I was so panicked about getting to the start line in time I didn't really have time for nerves.  Bonus!
The swim went well, although it felt like I was doing terrible.  Compared to the Caribbean that water was COLD!  I wasn't used to wearing a wet suit either.  Plus St. George is significantly higher than sea level - and I felt that the most during the swim.  I felt like I never could get enough air and I never hit my stride and settled in, but I did it in just slightly longer than my usual time I was hitting during training.  Woohoo!  Coming out of that water was pretty cool.  Tons of athletes all coming out at once, lots of volunteers helping us strip off our wetsuits.  There was no way I'd have been able to get it off myself.  Can I just say that all the volunteers were AWESOME too?!  This one lady seriously helped me out in getting to the water in time.  I couldn't have done it without her.  I don't know how many volunteers they had, but it seemed like there were 5 for every athlete.  They were great!  So friendly and encouraging.  It was nice.  So, I'm out of the lake and I hobble barefoot over to where the bikes were racked.  I read horror stories about people not being able to find their bike after the swim because they couldn't remember where they put it.  I was glad that didn't happen to me.  They had the area laid out really well and I had no trouble finding my stuff.  Some of the pro's and wannabe pro's were really fast in & out of the transitions but I didn't even care.  I took my time and made sure I was all squared away before I unracked my bike and walked over to the mounting zone.  The same lady that helped me get checked in was there slathering copious amounts of sun screen on everyone so I got to see her and thank her and tell her that I made my heat on time and all that.  I'm glad I got to thank her.
And then just like that I was off on the bike.  I was SUPER nervous for the bike leg.  I didn't really train for it, unless you call riding my bike to and from school plus 2 twenty mile rides that were more walks than rides.  But, the biking went well.  My roady is MUCH lighter than the bike I had out at school and the gears are better for hills too.  About 5 miles in there was a pretty big climb.  I was glad for it because it warmed me right up after that freezing lake water.  The whole time on the bike I kept telling myself to "ride my own race".  I really didn't want to blow too much energy on the biking only to die during the run.  That strategy ended up working really well.  I quickly found that I was in the middle of a group that all had a similar pace.  During an Ironman you're not allowed to draft or anything like that, so the group I was with played leap frog pretty much the whole way.  I told one guy that I felt like we should be good friends because we both passed each other like 20 times.  :-)  The bike course had lots of hills.  None were overly steep, but there were a LOT of them and some of them were really long too.  I was happy with how I did - and then at about mile 40 we hit Snow Canyon.  WOWZER!  That was quite a climb!  I'm extremely proud of the fact that I didn't have to get off and walk.  I don't think I could have gone much slower though :-)  At about this point I really started worrying about having energy for the run, but I really wanted to make it to the top of the hill.  Boy oh boy I was glad when I hit the top too.  The downhill was super fun!  I hit 43 mph at one point 0.o  Never gone that fast on a bike before!  From there on out it was mostly down hill right into the heart of town for the next transition.  I tell ya, hopping off the bike after 56 miles really felt funny.  It took my legs a minute to remember how to walk.  This transition was much faster because less stuff was involved.  Just a switch of shoes and ditching the helmet and biking gloves.  I also had some ibuprofen in my bag which was a really great idea.  :-)  I started the run off jogging, but it wasn't long before I was walking.  It was flat for the first 1/4 mile, but after that it took us back up hill and out of town the same way we had just come in on the bikes.  Oh man that's when the mental games began.  I could only jog for about 100 yards before I had to stop and walk.  And my jogging pace was pitiful at best.  Haha.  It wasn't long before I noticed I guy about my age doing the same thing I was doing - which was trying not to die and cry at the same time!  I've always thought running with a partner was way easier than running alone so I turned to him and said something about how our paces were similar - aka DEAD - and that we should stick together.  Best idea ever!  His name was Justin and before long we were chatting it up which helped both of us stop thinking about the pain we were in.  They had aid stations every mile on the running course which was life saving.  Anyone can run a 1/2 marathon if there are aid stations every mile.  We'd run for a mile, hit the aid station, dowse ourselves with freezing cold water, drink a bunch of water and gatorade, eat an orange or banana, maybe stretch a bit and then set off on the next mile.  All the while we were chatting and encouraging each other.  It was great.  The whole run was really interesting.  I kept thinking over and over how it was more of a mental battle than a physical one.  I think I physically could have gone faster than I did, but mentally I was about at my limit.  I was also surprised at my breath pace, which was a lot slower than I thought it would be - both on the bike and the run.  I was breathing way harder during the swim than I ever did on the bike or during the run.  I didn't expect that.  Anyway, it wasn't until about mile 5 that I really felt confident in my ability to finish.  The 1/2 way point in the run had us way on the far side of a BIG uphill climb.  We might have speed-walked the final mile up that hill, but we both felt good about it because when we were heading out we noticed that nearly everyone was walking up that hill.  I'm super glad there was an aid station at the top :-)  I think that was about mile 8 when we finished the final big uphill push.   After the top of that brutal hill it was flat for a while and then at about mile 10 we started to drop back down into St George.  The downhill really felt great on our legs because it makes your muscles work differently.  Once we hit the city limits the sidewalks were filled with people cheering us on and one family that was handing out popsicles.  HEAVENLY!  About 2 miles out we realized that if we pushed we could finish the 1/2 marathon in less than 3 hours so we pushed hard to the end.  I kind of got emotional during that last mile.  It kind of hit me what a monumental thing I was about to finish.  The finishing chute was jam packed with screaming people.  Made me feel like a celebrity or something.  Haha!  Finishing strong felt SUPER great.  I can't even describe how awesome I felt when I crossed that line!  So amazing!  Justin and I grabbed a photographer and got a picture together before we parted ways.  I was surprised with how physically OK I felt after finishing.  When I did my 1/2-marathon a few summers ago I felt like I was gonna die when I finished - haha!  So I was kinda surprised I didn't feel that way today.  I walked through the crowd for a bit and then found a shady spot beneath a tree to lie down for a bit.  I may or may not have fallen asleep, because suddenly I heard the people sitting next to me ask themselves if I had stopped breathing.  Haha!  I guess I was really super relaxed.  Sure felt good to just lie there for a bit though.  They were serving pizza and soda and icecream sandwiches to all the athletes so I went and got some of that.  I didn't realize how hungry I was until I started eating.  HOLY smokes - I was suddenly famished!  The soda didn't really do it for me.  They had coke at almost every aid station.  Every time one of the volunteers offered it to me I just thought, "ew-gross".  Didn't appeal to me at all - but apparently it feels good on an upset stomach so that's why they offer it.  Glad I didn't need it.
So post race and post meal I had to ask around before I found a ride back to the lake (20 mins) away to get my car.  Got to my car and it wouldn't start..... because I left my lights on all day.  RATS!  In my frantic dash to the starting line I totally spaced turning them off.  Rookie mistake.  My ride's jumper cables didn't work so they took me to a store where I bought some and those didn't work either.  I was worried it was a bigger problem, but Geico Roadside Assistance saved they day.  The moral of the story is get a quality set of jumper cables.  None of this cheap Chinese garbage crap.  Apparently it really makes a difference.  By the time I got my car started and back down to St George the party was over and I had to go behind the scenes to claim my bike and one of my gear bags.  I was kinda sad I missed out on the awards ceremony and the atmosphere, but that's ok.  I'll take advantage of that next time - and you better believe there WILL be a next time!  I'm thinking one every summer.  Call me crazy, but I'm hooked.  Plus - everyone says that this course is the toughest one aside from Kona, HI.  So if I can do St George then I should be good to go everywhere else.  Who wants to do next years with me???

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Goodbye to 2013 - and good riddance too!

Fitting that today it's been a full YEAR since I last posted.


I really didn't realize that until I was halfway done writing this post.  I've been meaning to write it for a few weeks now.  For some reason it just felt like today was the right day to do it.  Or maybe I just didn't want to study.  In any case, here goes.

Let me just say that 2013 was hands down the hardest year of my life.  Pretty sure it will hold that title for years to come as well.  I sure hope so anyway because it was ROUGH.  I've toyed with the idea of blogging about what I have been through...what I'm still going through... but I don't feel like that's right yet.  Maybe someday.
For now I'll say that I have passed through what I hope proves to be the darkest parts of a major crisis.  A crisis of identity, of personality, of flaws, of faith, of....almost everything.  It shook me to my very core and then took that core and blew it to smithereens and left me with all these confusing pieces that needed to be put back together.  But first all of these pieces had to be discovered and gathered one by one.  And they needed to be studied, understood, worked on, reshaped, fixed and then reassembled.  But it wasn't like putting back together a puzzle that a 2 year old tore asunder.  All the shapes of all the pieces had to be changed - and I couldn't tell how they were supposed to go back together.  And it was hard and frustrating and scary and tense and INtense and dark and ugly and mortifying and horrifying and depressing - like REALLY I-can't-get-out-of-bed depressing - and uncomfortable and revealing - of a lot of things I really didn't like finding - and often full of more questions than answers and it was exasperating and expensive and emotional and exhausting and messy and slow and painful and challenging and almost unbearable at times, and it often left me reeling and made me feel totally stuck and deflated and dejected and broken and worthless and totally lost and confused and unstable and unsettled and and like a failure and like every step forward only came with two steps back and...and...and...

And it was lonely - SO lonely!  Because for years I was too afraid to talk about my problems.

But it was also liberating and grounding and anchoring and healing and faith-building and rewarding and SO relieving and soothing and...and...and... and hopefully lots more things.... but quite frankly, the sting of it all is still pretty fresh.  Hopefully down the road I will be able to look back at this time of my life and be grateful I passed through it.  I think as time passes I'll be able to add a lot more to the list of good things that came out of the mess I went through.  That I am still going through.

A few little gems that I am most grateful for thus far:

First, I'm grateful for my counselor.  News flash folks:  COUNSELING ISN'T JUST FOR CRAZY PEOPLE.  Or is it that we're secretly ALL a little bit crazy underneath and therefore it IS for crazy people but that includes everyone?  The point is, a good counselor is invaluable.  I'm so glad I found mine.  I have no idea how he has the emotional strength does what he does, but I'm glad he's so good at it.  I was totally and completely stuck and had NO idea how to get unstuck.  Without professional help I never would have gotten unstuck.  And I could see a major breakdown coming if I had remained stuck for much longer.  If you're feeling stuck seek out a counselor.  It will likely be hard, but oh my goodness it is so worth it.  I have been working with one who shares my faith.  Can't imagine working with anyone else.

Second, I'm grateful the loneliness part is over.  It took about 3 or 4 months of intense emotional work with my counselor to get over the fear I had of being rejected by EVERYONE if they only knew what I was hiding under the surface.  Over the years I got REALLY good at hiding, and that contributed more than anything else to the thick fog of loneliness I was living in.  The constant fear and the paranoia it produced was awful, and it was definitely the hardest thing to let go of.  It's crazy how isolated I felt - for years - even though for most of my life I've been surrounded by good good people.  I isolated myself out of fear.  What a terrible thing.  Opening up has been SCARY.  It takes a HUGE amount of vulnerability.  I like to think it's getting easier, but I'm not so sure.  I'll tell you what though, it's been worth it.  Breaking out of the loneliness has been the best thing for me!  It has brought about deep and meaningful connections with everyone I've talked to so far - which is something I desperately needed after being so lonely for so long.  I'm thankful that, so far, everyone has responded with concern, love and support.  Even though it's scary at first I have really come to enjoy talking about my experiences.  But, like I said above, I'm not ready to tell the masses just yet.  I'm still REALLY careful about who I talk to and when I talk to them.  I hope this doesn't cause hard feelings.  God has had a hand in letting me know who to tell - and when to tell them.  It's the funniest thing and it often doesn't make sense...until it does.  And then it's just beautiful how orchestrated it all is.  I definitely trust His judgement, after all He's pretty good at knowing how to do things the right way.  If you want to talk then mention reading this post.  If God says it's ok then we'll talk.  If He says nope then we won't.  Simple as that.  And you're not allowed to be upset if God or I say nope.  :-)  The longer we've known each other and closer we are the more likely it is that I'll get the go ahead from God - and from myself.  haha!  I'm most comfortable talking with people who are related to me, but I've told a few close friends too.  Put some serious thought into it before you ask.  Pray about it.  I will on my end too.

Third, I'm grateful for the ability I have to feel the Spirit.  It's a beautiful, wonderful, priceless gift.  It's something I have come to cherish more than anything else.  It is and has been a beacon of light and comfort, warmth and love that has pierced through EVERY dark thing I have ever passed through.  The Spirit has always been able to break through to me, even when I believed I literally was not worth God's love - or ANYONE's love for that matter.  Even when I have been unworthy - when I have felt like I'd rather cease to exist than face God.  Even when I have felt like God isn't there.  Even when I've been really mad at God.  Even when I've felt like God didn't want to touch me with a 10 foot pole.  No matter what my relationship with God is like the sweet and comforting feelings of His Spirit have been there through it all.  ALL of it.  Including that huge list of horrible things listed above.  The only reason I am standing where I am today is because of the gentle prodding and encouragement and LOVE I feel as the Spirit works on my heart and tells me to push on.  I feel so lucky that I was blessed with a keen ability to feel it - and to WANT to feel it.  It has made making some extremely difficult decisions really easy to make.

Fourth.  It's amazing to me how God intertwines our lives.  People have been placed in my path because I NEEDED them.  I think lots of the LDS students out at school with me - and their spouses - wonder why their route to becoming a doctor brought them way out to the middle of the Caribbean.  All of them seem to figure out their own reasons why God wanted them here, but I secretly think they're here because I needed them here.  That's all.  God made sure I had a great group of supporting friends and saints to help me through the darkest days of my life.  And there were several key players who unknowingly played MONUMENTALLY pivotal roles in my life.  You know who you are.  You were some of the first people I started talking to because I was so grateful for the help you unknowingly gave me.  It's a deeply and profoundly beautiful thing to me.  To think that YEARS ago God started orchestrating who would be here, and when they would be here, and why they would be here.  It blows my mind.


I have no idea how to gracefully close this post.  Haha!  Am I where I want to be?  Not yet, but I'm headed in the right direction.  And I'm sure glad I'm not where I was a year ago.  I don't ever want to go back to that.  There's more work to do, but I'm confident I'll get there.  Is my relationship with God where I want it to be?  Not yet.  It's funny.  At times I've been really frustrated with Him.  I've felt ignored by Him.  I've felt like He has left me to do a lot of the work on my own - kind of like He has taken more of a backseat role when I wanted Him to play more of a starring / leading role.  I've felt alone and upset because I haven't felt the Atonement of Christ reshaping my soul as much as I have wanted to feel it.  I've felt extremely let down after PLEADING with God to save me from falling when I was totally powerless, and then feeling nothing.



This made me feel... humiliated?  Strung along?  Duped?  More than anything I was just really mad at Him for a quite a while.  I felt like His promises were crap.  Despite that, I could still feel the Spirit encouraging me to keep going, but that's not what I wanted.  I wanted to feel the hands of the Savior working on my heart.  Instead I distinctly felt like He was holding back.
It wasn't until I forced myself to take a step back and look at how far I've come that my relationship with God started getting better.  It was a quiet moment of retrospection that let God and I resolve our differences - and by that I clearly mean that's what it took for me to resolve my differences with Him.  He knew what He was doing the whole time.  Duh.  Once I was able to clear my vision, once I stopped being mad that God wasn't healing me how I wanted Him to heal me, guess what I was able to see.





That's what.  And, yeah, a lot of it has been my own work.  But a lot of it has been His work too.  I think He's just trying to help me see that I'm a lot stronger than I think I am.  He's gotten me this far and I'm confident that He can take me the rest of the way there, however far that proves to be.  I sure as heck can't take myself there.  That's kinda the point, isn't it?  It's a beautiful thing.