Today is National Coming Out Day and yesterday it was World Mental Health Day. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about both my coming out story and my struggles with mental health. Apologies for my writing skills.
HEAD IN THE DARK
I want to start by talking about mental health and my journey. I warn you, I’m going to open up more than I have done before. Normally I wouldn’t talk about this because of the perception some have that people only say they have depression just for the sole purpose of seeking attention. I don’t want attention. I want to help.
I am not the only one, you are not the only one. No matter how bad it might seem, it’s never as bad as it looks. Several years ago, after reluctantly seeking help for the deep depression I was suffering for a few years prior due to a messy breakup, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality and Bipolar Disorder. I’m in a constant battle with my own head, I have days of great happiness and I have weeks or months feeling like I want to end it all. To some I put on a facade, to others, they know me for my true colours. For as long as I can remember I have had an unstable mind. I would display sudden outbursts of rage, I would constantly be panicking and be in constant fear, I would feel a deep sense of emptiness and loneliness. I would struggle to sleep, eat, be motivated. And I would have phases of suicidal thoughts and very nearly acted on them multiple times, I have been close to jumping off bridges and leaving everyone who cared for me behind.
On the other hand I would be overly affectionate, extremely happy with the people I proudly call my friends. Have days of energy, excitement and joy. Have constant ideas flowing through my head. Feel happy with my life and enjoy my time. To some this may sound bizarre and confusing. How can you be both very sad and very happy? I wish I could fully understand this myself.
Over the years I have lost people close to me due to my actions. I have taken those people for granted and relied on them heavily. Until I got overly possessive and started pushing them away, sometimes severing ties in an explosive manner. Friendships shattered in an instant, no going back. Every time it happens, it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. Much harder. Recently this happened one too many times and my mind snapped. A revelation so strong that I underwent the toughest journey of my life. At the same time pretending to everyone that I was normal. I took a very hard look at myself and punished myself. As a consequence I wouldn’t sleep for weeks and spent most nights sat in bed crying my eyes out for hours. If I were able to sleep I would suddenly wake up in a panic, shaking and quivering. It took me several weeks to finally let others in and explain why I was acting so differently.
That is just one example of the many struggles I’ve gone through in my life. I have to remind myself that I can’t do this alone and that I must seek help from a professional. I have been seeing someone for many years and they have been instrumental. I cannot thank them enough for giving me guidance in the toughest of times. I don’t know where I would be without them. There are times when I revert back to my old ways of hiding, keeping things to myself and convincing myself I can get over this by myself. Please don’t do that to yourself. Do not be afraid, they are there to help and not to judge you. It doesn’t matter what you do or say. There is help for you. It took me far too long to figure that out, don’t make the same mistake. It will be one of the best things you could ever do.
CLOSETS OF SECRETS
To change the subject a little; so Charlie, how did you come out as homosexual and did you encounter any roadblocks? I would like to say I have a very dramatic coming out story but the truth is I was one of the lucky ones.
At a young age you really don’t know who or what you are. You’re still growing and learning, finding yourself and discovering who you are. As a child there was something that felt a little different to me. I noticed how I was thinking and how others were and they weren’t the same or similar. It wasn’t until I was in Secondary School (High School for some of you) that I discovered and understood sexuality and interests. So, I’m gay? Okay then, sure. I’m gay. And that was it. Like a revelation or a slap to the face, except I didn’t feel scared or guilt. It was an absolute acceptance. It’s very hard to explain but one day I was different and the next I was gay. Did I feel like telling anyone? Did they need to know? I didn’t think it was relevant.
I was bullied at school but not because I was gay, they didn’t know. I have an autistic older brother who has a very short fuse and was an easy target because of how simple it was to set him off. So two years later when I turned up at the school, surely his younger brother was the same? Nope, I was a lot more resistant and didn’t react. Did that mean they didn’t bother with me? No, they tried harder, much harder. The usual slurs used were typically ones of the homophobic variety but that in itself didn’t put me off the fact I was gay. I wasn’t offended by them but their bullying did affect me mentally.
I left school at 16 and I still had not told anyone. No one needed to know and I wasn’t interested in being in a relationship with anyone, in fact, I thought the idea of being in one was awful. I had seen how my fellow classmates were when they were in ‘love’ and I didn’t want it. It wasn’t until 4 years later when that whole idea fell apart, and I didn’t even know it was happening. When I turned 20 I followed and talked to this guy a lot off Twitter and one day a mutual friend noticed something, something I hadn’t. He put us both aside and simply said; “Charlie is gay and he loves you”. My heart raced with fear. Someone had noticed my secret and for over an hour they were trying to convince me to come out and that there was nothing wrong. I hadn’t spoken to many people who didn’t use ‘gay’ as an insult. So reluctantly, I conceded. I told them I was gay. And boy the relief I felt was immense, a much stronger reaction than I thought. And I was in love with this guy and I really did want a relationship.
The next step was to tell others. How would they react? I had to tell mum, somehow. It took weeks but finally after my little sister had set off for school, mum and I sat down in the living room with our mugs of coffee and tea. My hands trembled and my heart smashing my chest. I struggled to keep a grip onto my mug of tea. I was going to spill it. “Mum, I have something to tell you and it’s something I should’ve said a long time ago”. “Oh?” she responded. “I’m gay” I very nervously said. “Are you sure?”, I was sure. For 9 years I was sure. She looked at me and told me that it was fine and we spent the following hours talking about it. Everyone I told over the coming weeks were very accepting. My dad, who was barely there when I was a child said to me that he was proud of me. Something I thought I’d never hear him say.
My case won’t be the same as everyone else’s. I was lucky. I realise there are people who really cannot come out due to the people in their lives or their families who aren’t accepting. Everyone belongs in this world no matter what others may say. You are loved for who you are and one day you too will be able to live free of fear. The world still has a lot of growing up to do.