I'm sitting here at my computer just thinking about my life. Usually when I do this I get depressed and end up shutting the computer off and going to bed, no matter what time it is. This time is different. I started to think about all the positive things that have happened in my life and what obstacles I have had to overcome to get where I am today.
I think that the longest running obstacle I had to deal with is being Gay. As early as the fifth grade, I was teased for hanging out with the girls during recess. I wasn't into sports and I didn't really ‘hang’ with the other boys in my neighborhood. Before things got out of hand with the boys at that school, I ended up switching schools in the middle of that year, but not because of the teasing. It was completely different at the new school for a short while. The only person that I knew at my new school was my cousin, who happened to be a girl. So, I ended up spending a lot of time with her. Next thing I knew, there was this bully saying, "You're a fairy nice guy queer through." I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Later that night, I told my mom what this kid had said. She explained what the words meant and I was completely confused. How was I the one that was queer when he was the one hanging out with the other boys? I just chalked it up to him being the school bully and tried to ignore him. That was the first time I had heard anything about the gay topic in any form. Two months later I was playing soccer with the rest of the boys and the bully started saying how cool I was. Go figure.
It wasn't until the seventh grade that I started becoming aware of my physical attraction to other guys; it didn't really bother me, except when I had to change for gym class. I saw how the older boys picked on this poor kid who would get an erection every time we showered. Whenever I would start to get aroused, I panicked because I didn't want to get picked on like this poor kid. I survived without anyone noticing.
It wasn't until high school that I started having a problem with being gay. At that time (1979), being gay was not tolerated nor accepted. Kids were always making comments about other kids in school who were thought to be gay. I got caught up in this disgust for gays. Now I had a problem. I had all these feelings for some of the guys at school, but I hated gay people. I started dating girls to prove to myself that I wasn't gay. Now, I have to say, I really did love my first girlfriend. It wasn’t an act and I didn’t force myself to date her. I still remember going through the whole gamut of emotions while I was with her. I don't think we truly forget the first person we fall in love with. But she crushed my heart when she cheated on me with another guy. That pain is still felt as I type it here.
Later, I began experimenting with my best friend (I was 15 at the time) and then later with another friend of mine. I was finally acting upon the attraction I felt toward guys. This went on for about two years. I also lost my virginity during this time.
Now I had a real problem. I knew I had these feelings and I acted upon those feelings as well, not to mention enjoying myself. But the day after I did anything with my friends, I was so depressed and felt horrible with myself for letting it happen. I was so afraid to be gay, that I refused to accept it. I didn't want to be gay. I hated gays. So I told my friends, no more and I continued with dating girls. My second girlfriend was terrific. I was a junior, she was a senior, we both were in drama class together, but I really didn't feel the same attraction that I did with my first girlfriend and definitely not as much excitement that I felt messing around with my friends. We ended our relationship on good terms and I started to date girlfriend number three. That relationship lasted for exactly one week. The love that I felt for her was not because of attraction, but as a very good friend. We are still friends today.
Depression started to kick in full throttle. I was confused and suicidal and afraid to say anything to anybody. It finally got so bad that I ended up taking a whole bottle of aspirin and went to bed to die. I had written a note that I left on the kitchen table, letting my family know that it was nobody's fault but my own. The room got dizzy and I started to get a ringing in my ears as I cried myself to sleep. The next thing I remember, my mom was screaming at me to get up, as I was late for school. I thought, oh my god, I'm still here, at which point panic set in, thinking she had to have seen the note. I was still dizzy and I could barely hear anything at all. I stumbled into the dining room and I could see my mom doing the dishes in the kitchen. Right in front of me was the note. How could she have missed it? I picked it up and stuck it in the bottom of the trash so no one could find it. I stumbled into the shower and cried as I realized that I was still alive. I thought I was a complete failure. I couldn't even kill myself.
At that point my mind must have had all it could take because I completely suppressed my homosexual desires. I barely graduated from high school, as I would skip most of my classes to hide out in the auditorium. Since I knew the most about the lighting system in the auditorium, I was given a key that I could use to set up for assemblies, plays, or other performances. I then went on to Community College, but didn't do very well. I kept dropping my classes and was later placed on "Progress Probation" and was forced to take a semester off from school. I had gone to college for three years and only received a semesters worth of credits. I’m surprised they didn’t do something sooner.
My mom told me that as long as I wasn't in school, I had to either get a job and pay rent or move out. I didn't know what to do. I cried myself to sleep for a week. I then thought of joining the military.
During my four years in the Navy, I never once became depressed. I was able to do everything I was asked or ordered to do and I didn't once feel like I was a failure or didn’t belong. I did fall completely head over heals in love with a shipmate of mine. I never told him how I felt, because I had seen other guys get kicked out of the Navy for being caught together. Even to this day, he has no idea how I felt. I had it so bad that I would just sit and watch him sleep. I finally admitted to myself that I was gay. But I stayed closeted because I didn't want to get kicked out.
"Don't ask, don't tell," don't believe it. There were witch-hunts that went on regularly. Sure, you couldn't come right out and ask somebody if they were gay, but getting caught with another guy was grounds for a dishonorable discharge.
Well, after I got out of the Navy, I began to embrace who I was and allowed myself to accept that I was gay. It wasn't until I went back to college and attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (1994) that I came out to my family and friends. I’m lucky to have a very understanding family and extended family. I have read too many horror stories about people being shunned or kicked out of the house and disowned after admitting to their family that they were gay.
One of the nastiest obstacles that I had to overcome is being Bipolar. Now I haven't really overcome that, it is a part of who I am. The obstacle was learning to deal with and accept the emotional roller coaster and mood swings that are part of being Bipolar. Now mind you, I'm not saying that when I'm depressed that I can function on a "normal" level. Sometimes I can't even get out of bed. What I am saying is that I no longer beat myself up for ending up like this. I came to realize that I only have so much control over what is happening, that sometimes, no matter what I say or do, I can still end up in the crapper, and this is with being on medication.
From 1992 to 1996, I committed suicide over 10 times. I say committed and not attempted because I took enough aspirin, Tylenol, sleeping pills, or whatever current medication I was taking at the time to actually do the job. Most of the time I did this, I ended up in the emergency room and then escorted to the nearest behavioral health center. Now, I’m not a religious person, but I’m not an atheist either. I guess I’m agnostic. Anyway, someone had to have been looking out for me or I wouldn’t be here today. I believe I must have some important purpose to still be alive. I came to that conclusion back in 1996 after the last time I tried to kill myself.
I have since then, helped other people who were thinking about suicide or were dealing with issues that they couldn’t handle on their own. I try not to get too wrapped up with the emotions, but I am very empathetic and find it hard some times to separate their feelings from those of my own.