Patrick Weston — 10-30-2018
Social media shouldn't just be about the highlights. Let's get honest.
The past year and a half has been a particular interesting time for me. I’ve had a lot of fun, but I’ve also done a million ordinary things. It’s easy with social media to dwell on the highlights, but I want to talk about the difficult times too.
I know it may be hard to spot with my smiley veneer, but for the past few years of my life I’ve had spouts of depression. For this last year, I’ve even had panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.
I came out as gay to close friends and family about a year and half ago. At the same time, I ended a long-term romantic relationship with unarguably my best friend. After these life changes, I felt lost. The future I was headed toward was radically different than what I had longed for. I felt spiritually confused and unlovable by God. I was terrified of what people might think of me. I was nervous to be my true self.
The rural, semi-conservative society I grew up in trained me from a young age that my attraction was something to be ashamed of. Growing up gay folks were outliers and were never talked of positively, and I only knew the stereotypes: wild clubs with lots of drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex. That’s not who I was or who I wanted to be. As a defense mechanism, I labeled my feelings as bad and did my best to repress my “abominable” attractions. I told myself I was a straight guy who happened to also think guys were cute.
I lived the next 15 years of my life with a towel-wringingly tight grip around my sexuality. If I cut out emotion and ruled with logic, I could avoid temptation. I maintained distant emotional relationships with friends because I didn’t want them to stumble across this piece of myself I was trying to change. As friends would often say, I was robotic. In romantic relationships, I couldn’t connect physically. I hid behind the shield of religion, excusing this lack of physicality as trying to maintain a sense of purity. I thought I was doing the right thing.
This approach worked for a few years. In mid-2017 though, I hit a breaking point. I felt depressed and in despair. I had tried for so many years to change myself thinking it would make God and the people around me happy. Like countless others, I tried to pray the gay away. I just wanted to be “normal” but it wasn’t working. The people around me weren’t happy, and I wasn’t happy. Forcing myself to be straight was crippling my life. I felt out of control and broken, and I didn’t trust anyone to talk to about things.
I can distinctly remember my first really low point: I had woken up sometime in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. As I ventured into the hallway, I tried to turn on a light. Because it was dark, I missed the switch and only flipped it about halfway. I could hear the electrical current popping and buzzing as it tried to make a connection. I let the electrical song continue as my hand lingered on the switch for a few moments. I remember thinking – when I was barely conscious or awake – that things would be much easier if I just got electrocuted then.
I remember thinking – when I was barely conscious or awake – that things would be much easier if I just got electrocuted then.
Thankfully, this moment helped me realize my unstable mental state. A few weeks later, I made the decision to move from Chicago back home to Ohio. I’m fortunate to work for a fully distributed company; I just need an internet connection to do my job. My parents also graciously housed me, and I fulfilled the millennial stereotype of moving back in with one’s parents.
Even with their love and support I still struggled over the next 9 months. I had frequent panic attacks. I would lie wide awake for hours after going to bed. I gained 20 pounds. I lost 15 pounds. I had suicidal thoughts at least twice a week. I would think of old pill bottles laying around. I would think of wooded areas I could drive into at high speeds from nearby roads. I thought of the sharp knives I knew were in the kitchen. I worked out obsessively, punishing my body physically for my mental shortcomings. I cried quiet tears in the shower.
I was being pulled in opposite directions attempting to solve scary, seemingly intractable problems. How could I be gay and a Christian? Will I ever really find love? Should I be perpetually single instead? What if I want to have kids? Is 26 too late to come out? What if I don’t like everything that other gays like? Would the rest of my family love and support me? How will this affect me at work? Does it even matter that I’m on this Earth in the first place? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give up?
I was being pulled in opposite directions attempting to solve scary, seemingly intractable problems. How could I be gay and a Christian? Will I ever really find love?
I honestly don’t know how I arrived at answers to some of these questions, but by the grace of God I did. It was through weeks of dragging myself through the day and heading to work. It was hours spent pouring over stories just like mine or listening to Queerology or trying online therapy. It was long conversations with a best friend while visiting foreign countries or meals with other friends who shout “Patty!” as I walked in the room. It was text messages of all lengths and funny GIFs in Facebook Messenger threads. It was love and affirmation and incredible parents and being checked in on by family after coming out. It was realizing life exists in the gray, and I don’t have to have all of the answers.
I can happily say I’m on the other side. I moved into my own place in Columbus a few months ago, have started my life up again, and am doing well. Every day isn’t a good day, but 90% of them are.
I’m not writing all of this to get sympathy for my situation. I’m not writing this to try to change anyone’s theology. I’m writing it because I need to let my soul be free. Free from the fear and shame and pride that’s ruled my life for far too long. I need to be free to live authentically.
I still have so much to learn and figure out, but I’m giving myself space to grow organically. My confusion and slowness with figuring this out led me to hurt some of the people I was closest to in my life. To those I’ve hurt, to those who feel betrayed or lied to, I am truly sorry. I was psychologically damaged, but I still take ownership. I did this, and I hope to eventually make things right.
I’m vowing to move forward with humility, honesty and a new level of transparency. I recognize how little I’ve done and am thankful for those who have made my journey possible. I hope by sharing my story I can enable change in my little corner of the world. I hope I can help people challenge the religious and societal dogma that tells LGBT individuals they’re broken or in need of change for acceptance. This is the opposite of the truth – we are all loved by God, in full, exactly as we are with no exceptions.
I’m excited to finally be able to live as my whole self. As I try to figure things out, I hope you’ll think and pray for me along the way.
PS: A truly great resource is B.T. Harman’s Lifeboats film. I highly recommend it. I get that you may also have questions, and luckily for you, I love answering them. Please feel free to reach out, too.
PPS: Shoutout to the #FaithfullyLGBT folks. I apologize for liking every single tweet you’ve ever tweeted, but at times it seemed like you were the only ones who understood what I was going through. Your bravery and confidence continue to inspire me.