Having grown up as a Pentecostal gay boy in a very small rural Virginia town, I think I know just a little about personal struggles. Having to hide the person I really was for fear of rejection, mockery, condemnation by the church, judgment, and social isolation was challenging. I kept that closet door pulled tight and just pretended to be the person I thought others expected me to be instead of being my true authentic self. Even through my fear based efforts to hide it, I was still called names, isolated, and at times laughed at. So, I am sure people knew but I dared not admit it. I kept pretending I was someone else.
That was then
Not only did I grow up hiding my true identity but I also grew up in a home without indoor plumbing for the majority of my childhood. Going to the out-house in the middle of the night to use the bathroom wasn’t ideal, especially on those cold winter nights with snow on the ground, but it was our reality at the time. The one thing I always had growing up, and through her entire life, was the unconditional love and support of my mother. It is what sustained me.
After I graduated from high school, we left the small rural town and moved to Asheville, North Carolina. Yay!!!!! That move started the major transition in my life. In the midst of poverty, I was able to work hard and put myself through nursing school. Again, I was motivated by my mother’s love and support and I wanted more than anything to make her proud. After nursing school I met my first true love. He turned out to be very abusive both mentally and physically. I stayed in the relationship for 3 years. Can we say co-dependent. It was then that I decided to come out of that closet and tell my family I was gay. It was well received by most of my family with the exception of a few who thought it necessary to continue to judge and condemn me. That was difficult but I knew as long as I had the love and support of my mother, I’d be fine.
I later met the real love of my life and we spent the next 18 years of our lives together. In 1999, approximately 7 years into my relationship with him, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and was not expected to survive. I was hospitalized and on the brink of death. Lucky for me, I had him and my family for support. After 18 beautiful years, the time had come to redefine our relationship. I grieved for a good year even though we were still great friends. Just as I was getting past that somewhat, I received a call at work one day that my Mom had lost her life in a car accident. My most precious gift was gone. I was done. I was suicidal to the point of having a well thought out plan for taking my own life.
Six months after my Mom’s death I met the third man in my life. Was I ready for a relationship? No. I was still very much grieving the loss of my mother. He was, however, an incredible human who got me through the first holidays without Mom. He was a great support. I fell in love with him but unfortunately the relationship ended after 2 ½ years most likely due to my unresolved grief and other issues. The compounding effect of all the loss was taking its toll on me. I was back to being suicidal, depressed, lonely and hopeless.
This is now
After being hurt by the church so bad, it had been about 20 years since I had been to church. I knew it was imperative that I get back in touch with my spirituality if I was to survive. Keeping in mind that spirituality and religion are completely two different things. I still wanted nothing to do with religion. I stumbled into The Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta 2 months after the break-up from my last relationship. The moment I walked in the door I felt enormous love, warmth and acceptance. I am still attending today and am now a member. I’ve come to realize that the sun is always shining even when we can’t see it. Even when the sun has rotated creating darkness, it is still shining. Even though the time in my life was incredibly dark, the sun was still shining. I couldn’t see it at the time but I am grateful to be in a greater awareness of it now. We have a choice in life. We can stay in the darkness of our past with whatever loss and personal struggles are there, or we can move into a more beautiful now. I was awakened to the fact that I must be my true authentic self in order to obtain optimal health. Secrets lead to sickness.
Remember, that was then, this is now. You can overcome any personal struggles in your own life. It is my hope that you will know, and feel, the sun shining in your own life even during times of darkness and personal struggles.
Have a beautiful week and I’ll see you next Sunday for the weekly Sunday blog.