“There’s something wrong with me.”
Her kindness was visible to the naked eye, her beauty unarguable. She was that sweet girl down the street, from the “good home,” with a strict religious upbringing. She smiled, she laughed, she was a good student. People saw her and saw her goodness. But they never saw HER.
They never saw the struggle.
There were no words or explanations for what was different; her skin just didn’t fit. She felt the difference in her head, like a black fog making its way through her entire being, without her even being aware of what “IT” was. Most children grow up playing in a world of pretend; they’re super hero’s or princesses, they play at being their adult selves – actresses, the President or a plethora of other imaginary beings. They play to their goals, for who they want their grown up selves to be. They play to their passions and joys.
But her “pretend” was a daily thing, hourly even. She pretended every day she was “normal,” because normal was synonymous with good. Normal meant she was accepted and acceptance meant everything to her family, to her church, to her existence. Normal felt good too. As long as she was normal, she didn’t have to ask the hard questions of, “Why don’t I feel right? Why don’t I think the way everyone else does?” Normal wasn’t a sin, and normal didn’t judge you.
“Your sin is second only to murder.”
Because she didn’t truly understand what was wrong with her, she read The Miracle of Forgiveness, looking for answers, insight, help. It was the book that would allow her peace, forgiveness. Instead it left her broken and scared. While she couldn’t articulate who she was or why she felt off, she knew what she was reading in this book was not true. She chose to leave the church, after years of contemplation and questioning, because these teachings were false. She still didn’t have answers, the fog was still a friend and her skin was not right, but she left because that DID feel right.
Some of the teachings left a permanent mark and the shame won and she stayed “normal.”
She married her best friend, a man who was safe. She was overjoyed as their family grew to 6. Her 4 babies were her salvation and the reason she found joy in the world. Her marriage was comfortable, she loved being a mom and while anyone who knew her would call her a happy, confident woman, she was still not herself. SHE was invisible, unheard, misunderstood, not only by everyone around her, but in her own mind. How could she expect them to hear and see her, when she didn’t even understand what she was hiding? The black fog moved inside her body, inside her brain.
“You’re crazy, selfish and dirty. You ruined your marriage for sex.”
When she was 35, the fog lifted and she understood; she liked women. Her skin all of the sudden fit; life made sense. She confided in a few close friends, so she could let the anxiety out. Her friends were supportive. And so was her husband. While he told her he was hurt she had confided in others before him, he wanted to support her in her journey to understand what was happening. He told her he thought she was probably bisexual and liked women, but never got to explore those feelings because of her religious upbringing. He thought she needed to explore and have fun; go out with her friends, experience joy and maybe flirt. Harmless.
So she started going out, doing new things, reveling in the joy of music at a concert with friends, dancing freely and laughing. It was wonderful, until she met a lesbian woman and her world cracked. The attraction was a physical weight on her body, dragging her along with it. They connected, they talked – this woman was the first person in her life she felt like she could relate to. She was swept away.
Her newfound wonderment became a threat to her marriage. Each conversation a betrayal in her husband’s eyes. The fun she was supposed to be having, was supposed to be short lived, for an evening; a fleeting glimmer of excitement that would allow her an outlet but not enough to allow her to go untethered from her marriage. Her husband demanded she break all ties. She was successful…until she wasn’t.
Missing the connection, the understanding, she reached out a few weeks later and when her husband found out, they separated. She’d never strayed physically and never would, but the connection was too much for her husband to accept.
“You’re just depressed.”
Depression was the diagnosis from her family, who refused to say anything more about her revelation. The stress, fear and anxiety were too much and reality began slipping. The fog was back and her skin didn’t fit again and she resorted to praying for the gayness to go away. Praying seemed to help, along with going to therapy with her husband and deciding to give her marriage a second chance. Being back in her family, being “normal” again, felt good. She was relieved and they spent that summer happy. She’d told him the desire for women had gone away.
The happiness only lasted for 6 months and at this point, she had to admit she hadn’t been able to pray away the gay. It was inside her, it burrowed into her physical self as well as her entire being. They divorced and she worked to figure out how to live a new life, being someone she didn’t know or understand, while keeping it together for her kids.
She is depressed. Depression is not accepting who you are, feeling there is something wrong with you, that you are not enough. Depression is living trying to please others, along with anger that you can’t express yourself. Keeping depression at bay is a continuous battle and she doesn’t always win. Accepting her new life, the demise of her marriage and connection with her best friend, coupled with the shame that comes with being “sinful,” has been untenable at times. But her only choice is to accept being gay. Dealing with this new life is harder than when she came out; she is embarrassed, ashamed, and struggling to accept herself.
“The truth is never wrong.”
It may be the hardest thing ever but the truth isn’t wrong. Being who she is, isn’t wrong. In the past few years, she has moved from being a stay-at-home-mom, to working with youth in therapeutic boarding schools. It was all she knew and had previously done before she married. Life then presented her with a gift; her dream job at the local Pride Center, during which she did a writing internship for a local magazine. She’s currently program director for a step-down treatment program for teenage girls, learning to be independent and working to overcome issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
She’s purchased a home, her “House of Healing,” where she can pursue her dreams, so that she can give her best, most positive self to her kids. She’s nurturing herself, so she has enough to nurture the world. She’s finally, exactly where she needs to be.
She spends her days working, hiking, reading and writing and being a mom to the people in her life that mean the most. The people who look to her for guidance on how to navigate this world, how to fit into their skin and how to honor the truth. When her daughter recently told her she didn’t like girl’s clothes, they didn’t fit right, something clicked. She knew this could be a phase or it could be the black fog, but either way, she truly heard her daughter and the next day, they went shopping in the boy’s department. Her daughter has never been happier and she knows, her kids will find their way. They’ll be a step ahead of where she was and it’s because she will guide them, teach them honesty, self-respect and acceptance and empathy.
She’s working on a new life, where she accepts herself, surrounds herself with good people, and is a role model of living in the skin you were born with and accepting that it fits perfectly.
Because she is perfect, just as she is.