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.
27 Replies to “Personal Struggles: February 5, 2016”
wow! re your piece: “Personal Struggles” I am genuinely happy for you. Vince I had NO idea you were in so much pain. I feel like such a horrible friend for not “picking up on the clues”. God is good – and He had a plan.
I wish your mother were here to share this moment in your life with you – there is no question she would be proud of the man you’ve become and find great joy in knowing you’ve found and claimed your “space” in life.
In fact, I’m thinking it is her love and your memory of her that literally gives you the strength and inspiration to find every word you write.
Now, ’bout “The Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta” – how is that choir tho? Would love to join you for service on my next visit to ATL!
Thanks so much for your beautiful response and for being a beautiful friend and support. I definitely feel I’ve claimed my space in life. I am deeply passionate about writing. The writing is for me, but the fact that it could possibly uplift, encourage, inspire, or motivate others means the world to me. I look forward to your continued feedback and sharing this journey called life with you.
Vince, it is so good to hear from you. I love reading your blog. I have thought about you so often, and I remember how you are gifted in so many ways. My Son has went through alot of your same struggles. A Mother’s love is unconditional. Look forward to hearing from you every week. Blessings friend. Jo
Great hearing from you as well. It is always my hope that by sharing my journey with others that it will help them in some way. Thank you so much for sharing. Your unconditional love is God-like. It is our purpose here on earth. To love and serve. Much gratitude to you for that. I look so forward to hearing more feedback from you and sharing this awesome journey of life with you.
All of the reasons I love you, Vincent Michelle!
1. Your razor sharp wit.
2. Your artful sarcasm to get through difficult situations.
3. Eye rolls and expressions only you can do.
4. Your cheerful disposition you showed me every single day.
5. Your ability to do ALL of the above with so many other things going on in your life.
You always have me and my respect as a friend no matter what.
Thank you so much for your beautiful kind words. They mean the world to me. Your love and support over the years is priceless. You are a compassionate, intelligent caregiver that always set a good example for me to follow as we took care of our critically ill patient population. I look forward to more of your feedback as we continue on this journey toward Optimal Health together.
Vince – So real, so vulnerable, so open! Can’t tell you how happy I am that you have found peace and a place and I’m so glad that we got to spend some time together in the bookclub. You are spirit and you shine! ~ Gigi
Thanks so much for your beautiful comments and for being the light you are to me. Your light also shines bright and has at times given me inner strength. Thanks for your support and feedback.
Thank you so much for your honesty and for coming forth with your life story. Being raised in the same small town and the same Pentecostal church, I can attest to the fact that a person being gay, whether suspected or not, was something that was unspoken of. Whether or not I suspected you as being gay is irrelevant, because it did not and does not define you. It took me being away from that small town and meeting and working with gay people to fully understand this. Some of the greatest people I know are gay, and it doesn’t change my opinion. If people would have gotten past the righteous indignation and prejudice side, they would have seen what a wonderful person you are.
I have always looked up to you as a wonderful, talented musician and overall Great person. I did and will always consider you a mentor in the music field. I told you a few years ago that your sexual preference doesn’t matter. I love you for the person you were then and are now. If people couldn’t and can’t accept you, it is a great loss to them. Keep the blogs coming.
Your open support and show of unconditional love, not only for me but for all of God’s creation is beautiful. I thank you so much for that. The world could certainly use more love. God is love, therefore we are love. Love is in us and flows through us if we allow it to. Thanks also for your kind words. Your feedback really means a lot. Be blessed and have a beautiful week.
Oh My God!
Step right up Ladies and Gentle Men we are seeing some spontaneous healing taking place up in here! Thank you Vincent, for your truth, for your strength, for your beacon of light! When we go through struggles in life, they make us stronger. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” When you share those struggles, you let someone else know they are not alone. Fear can save us and it can kill us. It is a survival tool, but emotional fear causes stress. When your body experiences stress response, it cannot do the job of repair. Repair comes with physiological relaxation, emotional calm, and lack of fear.
By finding and sharing your truth, and struggles, your spiritual growth takes place. The Love you HAVE from your mother is a gift that we all should be blessed with. Thankfully I am Blessed.
From this day, your light just got brighter, your optimal health just got closer to being achieved. In this blog you have fostered healing on a mental, spiritual, and physical level.
Love, faith, and pleasure are highly effective preventative medicines.
Love to you, Let that “little light shine.”
All I can say is Thank you. Your words regarding fear, stress, and struggles are so true. You too have been a bright light in my life and I am thankful for you, your love, and your support. Instead of keeping my “little light shining”, I think I will let my BIG light shine.
It is very brave of you to expose your heart for the benefit of others. I am proud of you. The journey toward self authenticity is hazardous. It is, unfortunately, a series of tests that allows us the opportunity to see the strength inside. I am thankful that you have been a part of my journey. I miss you.
Really appreciate the feedback and love you as well. You are so right, it takes the struggles to bring us growth and awareness. For that alone, we must be thankful. I look forward to sharing this journey with you and again, appreciate your support.
That was just absolutely beautiful Vince. I to lost my mom long before I ever expected her to go. She struggled with depression and rheumatoid arthritis and had many dark days. She was my guiding light and I hers as well. I am that same gay little boy that you mentioned yourself to be. We were everywhere. Hiding what we had to hide and putting ourselves out there for all to see. I am the only one in my family to earn a college degree. I had a brother who alway said I was Moms favorite. I do not necessarily see that as a truth but it sure made me smile on the inside just to hear him say it. She saw the struggles that I went through just as your Mom saw yours. She was proud of me and I was proud and honored to call her my Mother. Now Vince I am having a good little cry party for one.
Oh Jeff, thank you so much. My personal struggles are not unique to me but I wanted to share them in an effort to let others know, you can survive and thrive after the struggles. Thank you so much for your beautiful feedback.
Thanks for sharing, Vince! Beautiful Blog! We all go thru something in life, It’s not going to always be like this. God’s Grace is sufficient….. keep writing those Blogs! I’ll be looking forward to next Sunday’s blog. Love you Vince!
Thank you Dianna,
Your kind words mean a lot and you are right, Gods grace is sufficient. He has given us everything we need but it is up to us to use it. Thanks as always for your support.
Here’s my email
Thank you for sharing Vince; it takes great courage to open up about yourself and your personal struggles. I love you.
Oh Diane, I love you too. We all have personal struggles on our journey through this life. It is our reaction to the struggles that makes all the difference. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the struggles. Thanks for your support and feedback.
Vince , I have been waiting these last couple of weeks for you to finnially tell you story. As a little boy I watched your life and never laughed or ridiculed you but I tell you this deep down in your spirit you know Jesus Christ is the only answer for happiness in your life no man , woman or eastern religion will suffice. We all have struggles last year after 50 years of not having a father in my life to say I love you or come to school or anything but to watch him love my brother in front of me and cheat on my mom for 20 years I took him in my home to care for him with cancer 3 months into this God spoke to me to forgive him before his life is over, so I was able to lead him to Christmas 29 days before his death the last days he told me I love you every day and reconciled with my mom now she lives with me and my wife God allways has his way.
Thank you Steve
Thanks for sharing, Vince! I knew you through some of those dark and sad moments and while you may have felt a lack of spiritual connection and despair, you didn’t portray that to others. I’ve thought of you as one of the most caring, fun people I know. I can always count on laughing when I’m with you! Love you!
Thanks for your kind words, love, and support. My struggles are not special or unique. We all have personal struggles. The difference is our reaction to the struggles. Sometimes people are crying inside and smiling on the outside. It is important that we show loving kindness to all people.
Beautiful blog this morning Vince. We love and support you always . Michelle
Thank you so much for your feedback. Family support is very important to me and I have always appreciated the love and support of you, Forrest, and the whole family.
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