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1.24.13

“I completely understand it. It’s all from Satan.” This was the last message I received and the last contact I would have before it happened and the darkest four days of my life began.

I completely understand it… How many times had I heard that before? How many times had I heard from well-meaning people that my very serious mental illnesses were an attack from the devil and not a medical condition that needed major intervention? When that message came across on that Thursday morning in January 2013, I was grasping for anything that might allow me to hold on just a little while longer. The night before, I got into a major argument with my parents, one of the worst we had ever had. The weeks leading up to this morning were full of major mood swings. I would be euphoric one moment and then super melancholy and reflective the next. In hindsight, that should’ve been a major warning sign something was seriously wrong.

I woke up the morning after the argument in an extremely low place. For weeks leading up to this morning, my vulnerable mental state was causing some physical complications, as well. My legs couldn’t stop shaking. They were almost like jackhammers and would keep me up during all hours of the night and as you can probably assume, getting so little sleep obviously wasn’t helping my mental health any.

A few weeks before my dark day, something began to break in me. Like I said previously, I was becoming increasingly erratic with my mood swings and my depression and anxiety were at an all-time high. My mind was beginning to fail me. One morning, a week or so before it happened, I went incognito on my internet browser and typed this into the search field: “How many [redacted] is considered lethal?” I came across a bunch of people on message boards trying to offer others help, “Don’t do it. There’s hope.” Thank God, I didn’t end up getting an actual answer to the question I had sought out because of what happened that fateful Thursday morning a week later.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – 8:10 AM

“It’s all from Satan.” After receiving that message from a well-meaning friend, I was at a loss. How many times did I have to hear that line before people figured it out: I was sick and not possessed. How many times did I have to feel like a burden to my friends and a liability to my family before they understood that I needed help. No, this time, I was done. I was done with the pain, done with the advocacy, done with the fight. A year of this had taken its final toll on me and this had to be it.

That morning, I decided to put my plan into action. I waited until both my parents left to take my younger brother to school so no one could foil what I felt had become my only option. After they left, I wrote out a note on my iPhone, removed the passcode so everything could be explained and through a ton of tears I finally did it: I tried overdosing to end it all. What happened next continues to, at the same time, elude and haunt me: I sent off one last text to my best friend “Help.” 

Then, darkness.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM

That could’ve been the end. I had every intention for it to be the end, but that afternoon, I woke up. I woke up in the lowest place I believe a human can find oneself. The one thing I thought I had control over, I couldn’t even succeed at. It’s a kind of twisted logic only those of us who have been in this place can truly understand. The chain of events that transpired over the rest of that day were mostly a blur, the emotions I was feeling, however, are still etched in my mind.

After I woke up, I feebly walked downstairs where my parents were sitting. I just tried to kill myself,” I said as I collapsed to a ball on the floor, sobbing. My dad leaped up and went straight to my room where he discovered the empty pill bottle under my bed. I managed to make it over to the couch, where I promptly fell back asleep.

Later on, my best friend I’d texted got ahold of me after he got out of class and I managed to tell him what had just happened. He would later tell me that call was one of the worst calls of his life and he often will describe to me how grim

and lifeless my voice sounded. He said he had never heard anyone sound as low as I did in that moment. I spent the rest of the day sleeping until that evening, when my parents told me to get up to go to a doctor’s appointment.

I don’t remember much of the appointment at all, aside from a few major details. When we got to the doctor’s office, I walked in and saw my counselor’s therapy dog, who immediately recognized I was in distress. She came up to me and licked my face, which I remember made me feel a bit more at ease. The doctor came out to call us back. He told me to sit in a chair near the door, away from my parents who went to sit next to him. I knew it then: This was an intervention.

All I remember about what happened next was my dad pulling the empty pill bottle out to show the doctor, which he replied something to the effect of “Well, I guess Tim can’t be trusted.” He added that if something like this happened again, my parents should immediately call 911. I got very angry and tried to storm out the door. The doctor picked up the phone as my dad tackled me. For the longest time, I didn’t know exactly what I was thinking when I tried to storm out, where I planned to go or what I planned to do, but one eerie memory has always haunted me when I think back to my thought process at that moment. I believe now that in that moment, my life was in imminent danger. If I had managed to get out that door and outside, I truly think I wouldn’t be here writing this right now. My dad and my doctor most likely saved my life that night.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – 7:00PM-Midnight

While my dad had me on the floor, I was screaming and trying to get away. Within minutes, the ambulance came along with the police. I was mortified and in tears. I remember the EMT’s asking me about school and where I graduated from, but nothing else. We got to the emergency room, where my belongings and clothes were taken. I felt exposed, in more ways than one. This was going to prove to be the longest night of my life.

I was cleared to begin receiving medication again, so the nurse was able to give me some Ativan to ease my mind, seeing as I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even while writing this, I feel extreme sadness but at the same time, love for my former self, and it’s almost as if I’m looking over his frail, limp body wearing a hospital gown, almost as if the exposing nature of it were a metaphor for this whole ordeal. With this imagery in mind, I have the desire to reach down and give myself a long hug and tell him everything will turn out okay. At the time, I needed hope like that. I needed a friend.

The night wore on, and there turned out to be no beds available in the psych ward at my local hospital in north-central Illinois, so the nurses began looking into the Chicago suburbs. They found a hospital about two hours away that was willing to take me. So, the hospital staff began preparing me for transfer.

Friday, January 25th, 2013 – 2:00 AM

Another ambulance arrived after two in the morning on that Friday. I remember it being bitterly cold outside with a snowstorm on the way. The EMT’s wrapped me in a ton of blankets and loaded me into the back of yet another ambulance and off we went. Because of the snowstorm, it took over three hours to get to the new hospital. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I wanted the ambulance ride to last forever. “Maybe they’ll get lost and we’ll be stuck driving around Chicago for days on end,” I thought. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be. Like a sixth sense, I knew we were getting close as we exited the interstate and got onto the main roads of Glendale Heights, a Western suburb of Chicago.

During the extended trip, I had actually managed to calm myself down quite a bit but as we approached what would become my new reality, my heart began to race yet again. As they loaded me out of the ambulance and down the long stretches of the hospital’s hallways, I remember looking at the ceiling, the glow of the florescent lights stinging my eyes. I had barely gotten any sleep, or at the very least, any quality sleep. We finally came to a locked door with the sign “Behavioral Health – AAU” above it. I wondered what AAU meant, but even then, took exception to the term behavioral health (I still do take exception to it, by the way).

I remember the EMT’s loading me off the stretcher and a male nurse took me into a room to evaluate me, which was absolutely humiliating. I immediately broke down into tears. The hospital staff thought it would be a good idea for me to be alone for a while so I could get my bearings and maybe feel a bit more at ease with my new circumstances.

“I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.”

“Closer to Love” – Mat Kearny

They showed me to my room where I collapsed on the bed, pulled the covers over my head and just sobbed for hours. I had never cried so much or so hard in my life and haven’t cried like that since. I was absolutely broken. I thought to myself “How could this be my fate? A year ago, I was at the pinnacle of my life, on a missions trip in a foreign country, no less, on top of the world. Now, I’m here. How could it all fall apart so quickly?” And then, I cried some more.

There’s a song that goes “I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” The lines of that song echoed in my mind as I laid there and cried. I was at the pinnacle of my life a year earlier, and now, here I was: In a dark hospital room with bars on the windows, the lowest I had ever been. It was just me, a pillow, a too thin blanket, and my fervent prayers to God to come quickly and rescue me because I needed Him now more than ever. I didn’t even have the clothes on my back to keep me warm. I had never felt so alone. I had never felt so forgotten. I had never felt so hopeless. But I was alive. Maybe I didn’t want to be yet, but in time, I would.

Oh, and I was not alone, I was not forgotten, and I was not without hope. Not by a long shot.

The End is Only the Beginning 

The hospital can be a lonely place where time seemingly doesn’t progress. I was there for four days, each day getting a little bit better than the one before it. The doctor ended up transferring me out of the ward I was in to a more calming area with higher-functioning patients, many of whom were going through similar struggles to my own. After they transferred me, things began to get better quickly. I was able to, for the first time, voice what I had been feeling and just how broken I thought I was. I found camaraderie with those around me and felt hope for the first time.

My parents came to visit me every night from back home, two hours away. They started to notice a difference in me within a couple days of me being there. My medication had been stabilized and I was now turning around quickly. My parents and I put a game plan together one night about what to do when I returned home. Because of the trauma of the events I had experienced in the last year, we mutually decided I should take a semester off from school. College had not helped the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from the last year and I needed time to heal. It gave me yet more hope and relief that my parents understood this. After that conversation, it was all uphill from there.

I was discharged from the hospital that Monday evening and went home feeling better, but incredibly winded and frazzled. It would be a long road to recovery, but my life had been saved and I was at least stable.

Hospital stays are never fun, especially under these circumstances. It was downright awful there for a while, but I know now that I needed to go through that, I needed to be there. They saved my life. I was here, I was still breathing.

I was alive and this time, I wanted to be.

I remember that first week being home. My friends said how happy they were to have their friend back, a friend that had been MIA for over a year. A year that seemingly came from the depths of hell itself. But there I was, on the other side and on the mend.

I was going to be okay.

I tell this story not to bring you down or to seek attention for myself. One thing that’s aided in my recovery in the years since my suicide attempt has been my growing passion for mental health and suicide prevention awareness. By telling my story, I’m shining a light on a very difficult topic people generally don’t feel comfortable talking about. But I believe the only way to erase the stigma of mental illnesses and suicide is to talk about it. Shattering the stigma and the silence of suicide and depression can only save lives.

I also tell this story specifically for those of you reading this who may feel like you’re at your end. You may believe all hope has been exhausted for you, that ending it all is your only recourse left. Maybe, like me, you feel like you’re a burden to your friends and a liability to your family. Can I tell you something, as someone who has been there? It may sound trite, but it’s very true: You are not alone and there is so much hope for you. You are loved and treasured and beautiful and your life is just getting started. Don’t let your story end. You’re going to make it. Take things one minute at a time. Sometimes, that’s all you can do and that’s okay.


It’s been exactly six years since Thursday, January 24th, 2013. But today is a new day in my life. Six years later, I’m still alive, and although I still have my days, weeks, and even months, I’m doing better and back to my old self. I still struggle with anxiety and depression and it will most likely be something I deal with until the day I die, but I’m learning to manage. I’m lightyears away from where I was on my darkest day six years ago, and in time, you’ll get there, too. You may think life will never get better, but just trust me on this one, it most certainly will.

Today may be Thursday, January 24th, but for me, it’s no longer 2013. Today is Thursday, January 24th, 2019, and this is only the beginning. My story, my mission, is far from over.


Old Me

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a religious fundamentalist with a horrible view of self and a bad mental state. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I’ve felt the need to apologize for him much throughout the last number of years. Man, he got so much wrong. But I’m learning not to beat on him too much.

This is all a journey, after all. He is me and I am him. We’re very different people, but somehow, the same. It’s almost as if he was holding his breath. He was trying to fit into a group and a worldview that would never have him. He was always different, after all. Not afraid to break with the status quo, even if that meant a blow to his own reputation. He, like me, wasn’t afraid to be blunt. He wasn’t afraid to tell people what he thought. That hasn’t changed. God, has it not.

In many ways, I’m thankful for him. I’m thankful for what he went through. His experiences and his stumbling. If it wasn’t for those, the current me wouldn’t be possible. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I simply wouldn’t exist in my current form had it not been for growing up the way I did.

I’ve done things nowadays that would drive the old me mad. There are people who I’ve called out that I never thought I would. These people who I once considered close now see me and the causes I care about in a very negative light. I’m not being facetious. They seem to view me as an enemy. But to paraphrase Paul the Apostle, when you grow up, you put childish things away. Some people simply can’t join you on your journey forward because you’ve grown up and they have not.

But that comes with the territory of change. Somehow, the old me propels me forward in a way not much else does. It’s not that I’m trying to undo everything he did, he simply wasn’t that powerful. Which is a good thing. But he inspires me to continue to be better. To continue to do better. And like I said, some things between us are the same. We’re both people who have a fierce conscience and the courage to change.

Old me reminds me of where I’ve been. He shows me that progress is possible and things are in constant flux. He shows me that change isn’t a bad thing. That we should normalize changing our opinions and worldviews when presented with new information. He shows me how to sit and listen instead of speak. He prophetically tells me to look out for my mental well-being and just how quickly life can come undone.

The old me has taught me more about this life than almost anyone else. He’s taught me to be myself, despite the consequences. The twists and turns that got me here to this moment, are because of him trying to find his way. And I know in ten years from now, I’ll be saying the same of who I am today.

Life is in constant flux. We’re always hopefully growing and changing with the seasons. It’s something my twenties have taught me more than anything else. That I don’t know it all. That I should listen to my gut instinct, it has rarely steered me wrong. If something feels off, it’s usually because it is.

Old me teaches me how to be authentic. I try to never hide who I used to be. I can’t. He’s a part of me. It would be like denying my dad is my dad. He may not be who I am anymore, but he made me who I am. He’s important. As much as I think he was wrong about so much, I cannot and should not disown him.

How I got here is just as important than the fact that I am here. From where I’ve been, I can get an idea of why I truly care about the things I do nowadays.

I hope because I’ve grieved. I love because I’ve lost. I find because I sought. I healed because I’ve hurt. I live because parts of me have died.

It’s not in spite of the negatives that I am where I am today, but chiefly because of them. They made me who I am more than anything. I know I can never go back to who I used to be, but I can look back and see clearly, that it’s because of who I was that I am who I am today.

So, here’s to the old me. You made me a better person. You showed me so much. I love you. I’m rooting for you.

10.6.16

Four years ago today, my life changed forever and in ways I would’ve never expected. When I came out as gay four years ago, I did so with caution. If I were to have come out today, I probably would word some things differently, and maybe the whole blog post I wrote back then would take a different tone overall. But that’s the thing, really. If I didn’t come out four years ago, the monumental changes I’ve gone through wouldn’t have happened. I would maybe still be floating in the same headspace I was back then. I’ve learned a lot, taken many steps forward, and a few steps back. Through it all, however, I’ve learned to love who I am and who I’m becoming, more and more each day.

Coming out changed my life, it changed my outlook, it changed my beliefs. It gave way to new ways of thinking, new ways of living that have all been for the better.

We can never predict where the future will lead us, and I sure couldn’t have predicted back then, just where these last four years would go. 

It’s been wild.

Wonderfully Made From The Beginning

My sexuality is not a mistake. I didn’t choose to be gay, but the question remains: Would I change it if I could? After four years of this new life, after living as an out gay man and all that entails, the answer is a resounding “No.” I wouldn’t change it for the world. God knows I’ve tried. Even though I’ve lost people, the new friendships I’ve formed have been some of the most fruitful of my life. 

The new people who’ve filled the void in recent years have profoundly changed me and given me a sense of comfort that I’m not alone. That never would’ve happened had I not ventured out on this path in the first place.

When I was making the decision to publicly come out, I spent months counting the cost. It was the hardest and bravest decision I believe I ever made. I knew people wouldn’t like it, I knew everything was going to be subject to change. In many ways, no stone has been left unturned. Much has changed, and very little has stayed the same. 

Through many trials, toils, and snares, I’m finally living as my authentic self, and I couldn’t ask for more. These last four years have brought challenges, but they’ve also brought peace. 

I’m genuinely happy with who I am. I’m discovering more of that person each day. I like him.  I think he’s a badass, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.


I spent my formative years in a very right-wing, evangelical setting, one where the worst thing you could be was gay. I dissociated from a very important part of myself. I wasn’t able to fully be me. As I entered my late teenage years, I started to realize that I was gay and it terrified me. 

Someone would find out, I was sure of it. I could casually mention a cute guy and my secret would be out. 

But no, I kept this secret strapped tightly to my chest for years. No one knew. I’m a terrible secret keeper, but my entire social survival hinged on this.

So, I suffered in silence.

I suffered in silence until I couldn’t any longer.

I came out late one fall night on an old blog and then went to bed so I couldn’t take it back.

The secret was out. The toothpaste could not go back into the bottle.

Bird Set Free

But oh! I tried a few times to put that toothpaste back in. But there comes a breaking point for everyone, where you just have to say “fuck it, I’m being who I am, to hell with the consequences!” It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, to be honest. Probably the best. It’s empowering to be who you are and to be unapologetic for it.

Truth be told, I’m still finding my wings. 

Sia’s song “Bird Set Free” speaks to me on this one.


“I sing for love, I sing for me, I’ll shout it out like a bird set free”

Sia

For years, I was a caged bird, held down by my own shame of who I was and who I loved. Typing that out now, I realize how silly it really all is. That is, being ashamed of love. It’s sad I spent so many years of my life worried what certain people would think, or what my reputation would be if I came out.

Yes, some of my community couldn’t join me on this journey, others came late, and still others were already miles farther down the road than I was. I also found new people on the journey that I would’ve never found otherwise.

I also found my voice.

A voice that speaks up for those who are persecuted. Namely, the LGBTQ+ community and the mental health community. I’ve found incredible, strong people in both these wonderful communities and it’s made such a difference in my life getting to know them.

It’s been said that it just takes one voice. My voice is a quiet one but don’t be mistaken: It’s fierce. I’ll always stand up for my communities against bigotry and stigma and bullying. I’ll educate, I’ll learn, and I’ll continue to grow.

I’m far away from where I was four years ago when this all started to go down, but I wouldn’t change any of it for anything.

My life is wonderfully complex. While there have been bumps in the road, things did get better. Then, they got fabulous. 

They also got much more glittery.

#BeHereTomorrow

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today. If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know my story and my multiple brushes with death by suicide. This year, I didn’t want to rehash those stories. You can always go to the archive and read them if you wish and I encourage you to do so.

This year, I want to take a look back at what the last year has been like, how I’ve grown as a person and how my advocacy moved from this blog and Facebook, out into the real world. I’ve made so many new friends this year in the local mental health scene and I’m probably more proud of that than anything. These people are warriors. Each and every one of them. They all have incredible stories of heartbreak, fear, pain, loss, resilience, courage, and strength.

Last year, I was a part of an event that changed my life. The event was put on by my local NAMI chapter. It was a Kevin Hines event. If you don’t know who Kevin Hines is, I encourage you to pick up his book “Cracked Not Broken,” here. His story is absolutely incredible and he tells it best. A lot has changed in my life since the last time I wrote about suicide prevention and how much this cause means to me.


After that Kevin Hines event, everything seemed to go in an entirely new direction. My story took off, as a matter of speaking. I was able to tell Kevin a little about my story at the event and give him a hug (this was obviously pre-COVID). Almost right after that, my local NAMI got into contact with me and asked me if I wanted to partner with them. Since then, I’ve been able to tell my story of a suicide attempt survivor trying to live mentally well, and in some ways, I feel, at least on a small scale, I’m making my hero, Kevin Hines, proud.

A couple months ago, I woke up and discovered something: That I am doing exactly what I feel I need to. I’m fulfilled in this work and it makes me feel I’m making a difference. I’m no longer content to sit on the sidelines, typing away on a keyboard. While my blog is a large part of my advocacy, this last year has shown me the importance of showing up, making my presence known and my voice heard.

I’ve gone through hell and back and I want everyone around me to know that they matter. I want to be that someone that I desperately needed when I was at my lowest. Someone devoid of the toxic positivity that so often plagued my friend group at the time (they’ve all since grown and have become mental health warriors along with me). Someone who can acknowledge the hard truth that yes, life does suck. Your depression is real. Your suicidal ideation is something that we should talk about.

I’m doing this all the while having to pay extra attention to my own mental health. I was on solid footing before COVID-19 ever came along, and I’ve been able to, for the most part, maintain being mentally well throughout the pandemic. But I’m finding that may get more difficult as fall rolls around and the days get shorter. I’m someone who’s incredibly susceptible to seasonal depression, and this year’s already no different. The past few days have been in the 50’s and raining here, and for the duration, I’ve felt a tightness in my chest and I’ve been lethargic to a high degree.

But I think I’ll be okay. No toxic positivity here, it’s just what I feel in my bones. And I trust by bones more than anything else.


For you, I hope life is treating you well. I know, for many of you, this year feels like another gut punch almost every day. Some of you may be on the edge as you read this. Please know that I’ve been there. I know there is no quick fix. I know recovery is hard work and it takes time. But I also know that it has been worth it in my own life.

Growing up, my parents took my brother and me on long, cross-country road trips. I simply loved them. I loved being in the car for sixteen hours at a time. I loved road food, Casey’s Pizzas, seedy motels, driving through the never-ending flatness of Nebraska and enjoying the peaks of the Rockies in Colorado. Every summer, I was blessed to go on one of these grand journeys.

Recovery is like that: It’s a journey, as well. There’s mighty peaks and long times of flatness. There’s seasons of seedy motels before you get to spend the night at the Four Seasons. But as beautiful as the purple mountain majesty, my recovery has to be to date, the most challenging, rewarding, and encouraging journey I’ve ever been on.

It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade.

So, today and every day, I echo my hero, Kevin Hines’ motto: Be Here Tomorrow.

The Rotten Truth

As I’ve mentioned before, The Gospel Coalition has been a huge detriment to my faith. That, and homophobic statements like The Nashville Statement, make it abundantly clear to me that evangelical Christianity has no place for me or my community.

Honestly? I see Christ more in my new LGBTQ+ friends than I ever did in the majority of those that led my Christian school or the majority of what I’ve seen in white, evangelical churches. I’ve talked to a number of people, both LGBTQ+ and not, who are vastly dissatisfied at what evangelicalism has done to my community.

It took me years to make peace with the fact that I was gay. It took me even longer to say it out loud, and even longer still to be able to tell someone. Even then, the first person I told was forced to out me to myself with a game of 20 Questions. There was serious shame. All brought on by the way any sort of sexuality was taught to me. It was all bad in the eyes of those I grew up around. But being gay?

That was unthinkable.

Maybe it’s out of fear, or losing status, or losing their job that no one who’s dissatisfied says anything. I can empathize with that, I guess.

After all, that’s what happened to me.

I lost the clout I had with my Christian school when I came out and many people who once sang my praises slowly bowed out of my life. The kid who God was once turning into a “solid Christian man” was now an enemy combatant in their ill-fated culture war. Someone to be pitied. Someone to send homophobic articles to because you just “love me enough to tell me the truth.”

But your truth does nothing more than lie, steal, and destroy the lives of queer people every day. Your truth forces LGBTQ+ youth out of their homes and onto the streets because their parents can’t accept any deviation from that truth.

No, your truth is nothing but poison. It’s rotten to its core. And it’s high time more people step up and call it what it is. Your reputation be damned. People are dying here.

The Gospel Coalition can take all its truth with them and see themselves out. And they can take their fake, white Republican Jesus with them. God is much too big to make us all different and then expect us to be the same.

That would be pretty silly, now wouldn’t it?

Gay Christian

From my earliest memories I was taught God loved me, but somewhere over those years, that message got lost. I went to a very conservative evangelical Christian school growing up that gave me views about my faith, my humanity, and my sexuality that were very toxic. Being gay was something I could never openly be at school. Mainly because they erased that being an option for people.

“Gay” wasn’t something innate to you, it was a choice you made and it was a choice that could be reversed.

It wasn’t until junior year of high school when I started to realize I was different. I thought I liked a girl but when someone told me that attraction was important in a relationship, I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, “I’m not attracted to her. But I *am* attracted to that guy over there.”

I stuffed that thought right away. I was a good Christian boy, after all, a model student, how could I be gay? From then on and for years after, it would come up in my prayers late at night, in the most hushed tones, I would ask God to take my sexuality away. I was deeply afraid someone would eventually figure me out. In many ways, I feel my high school robbed me of my ability to be myself. Fully and completely myself. It wasn’t fair. And to this day, they do this to students. They’ve even doubled down.

I gradated from that school and went on with my life. After some major mental health challenges in 2013, I was forced to take a hard look at my life, my viewpoints, and my faith. This marked the beginning of a seven year journey that lead me to where I am today. I started softening my positions, I started listening to fellow members of the LGBTQ community. Their words continued to inspire me. With each passing year, my prayers began to change from, “God take this away” to “God, will this be the year I come out?”

2016 was that year. When the attack on Pulse nightclub happened, I remember staring at the TV in horror. I cried hard that night and I made a promise to myself that over the course of the next few months, I would come out to those closest to me and ultimately, maybe come out publicly.

By that October, I was out to everyone. And I was happy to identify as a gay Christian.

But a few events that year and the years following shook my faith more than anything ever had.

For starters, soon after I came out, a former high school teacher of mine sent me and all my friends an article by someone claiming to be “ex-gay.” This article was dripping with homophobia, condescension, and hate. The God this person was describing did not sound like the God I knew. This former teacher of mine wrecked my faith that night and I spent a long time away from the church because of it.

At one point, though, I went back and was actually thriving in church again.

But one night, I was at an elders meeting after my former pastor had left. The meeting was centered around how the church would go forward. During this time, diversity and inclusion were brought up and someone asked a question about the church being more accepting to the LGBTQ community. I was sitting there, inspired by this person’s words. I was proud someone was finally saying something. Maybe, just maybe, I would be accepted. Of course, I thought I already was, but getting them on the record would just codify that. Maybe things would change. When this person finished their question, one of the elders spoke up.

He said that, while LGBTQ people are welcome to attend, they cannot serve, and they especially cannot serve with children because they could “influence” the kids in negative ways.

I still don’t know what that means, but I can take some guesses.

What happened next broke my heart. The congregation gave the elder a round of applause for his “bold” answer. I sat there, arms crossed and horrified. I was about to cry. I realized in that moment, a large part of who I was would never be accepted here in this church.

A bit more about this: Clarity is important. You can’t say “all are welcome” and put an asterisks on it. You can’t say “come as you are” and then expect people to change who they are. I’ve seen too many people in the LGBTQ community, myself included, crushed by churches they thought were accepting, but in a moment like my elder meeting story, find out they were anything but all along.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

It’s now 2020, and I’m still a Christian, but it looks far different, and frankly, a lot more colorful than it used to. I hold my faith very lightly these days. I strive to embrace all the uniqueness of people, those like me and unlike me. My faith has to be affirming and inclusive of everyone. I mean, why would God create all this diversity if everyone had to be the same? I’ve reconciled my past and my faith with my sexuality. They now sing the same tune.

I’m proud of the person I’m becoming. I’m more myself than I ever was before.

To put it another way, as I look at the life I’ve created, I say that it is all very good.

Queer as Folk – Growing Up Gay in Jesusland, USA

“Why do you think I asked you to get lunch with me today?” I asked my best friend. “I have an idea, but I don’t want to offend you.” He said. “Just say it, I think you might surprise yourself.”

“Is it because you want to tell me you’re gay?”

In that moment, a weight had been lifted. A weight I carried around all my life, but was conditioned not to pay it any attention. Like a frog in boiling water or the dog in that burning house, I always just smiled and said “This is fine.”

This is how I got here.

For any onlookers, my childhood would seem like any normal, midwestern child’s of the 90’s and 2000’s. Nickelodeon was always on our TV screens, I grew up on Rugrats, Catdog, and SpongeBob. I loved them all. I had a gameboy, a Nintendo DS, had every Maxis game ever introduced, even well before The Sims had ever become a thing. (SimAnt, anyone?) It was all normal.

But I also had something others didn’t. I went to a private Christian school. I was also gay. And that wasn’t a combo that played nice.

From very early on, I learned to stuff my sexuality, to the point it became invisible, even to me. In my little Christian bubble, “gay” didn’t exist. It couldn’t. How could God create someone like that? He doesn’t make mistakes, after all. I was taught that people who were gay chose to be that way.

For me, that meant I couldn’t possibly be gay, since my seeming attraction to men wasn’t something I chose for myself. I just chalked it all up to thinking that I respected women more, I was on another level, but that cute guy I kept looking at? No, that’s nothing, he’s just someone I wanted to be friends with.

I always liked more feminine things growing up. I would play dress-up at daycare, and I even asked for a Barbie family car for Christmas one year, and I actually got it. Kudos, Mom and Dad.

But after years at a Christian school, I felt ashamed I wasn’t more “masculine.” I’ve honestly tried to bury a lot of the trauma this school put me through when it came to my sexuality and to purity culture. “Modesty” was also very heavily pushed, down to girls getting their skirt lengths measured and boys getting their hair length checked. It was like Big Brother was always watching, and because of that, I disassociated. It was almost as if my queerness didn’t exist and never had.

Looking back, it was obvious, but I was conditioned not to see it.

Sometimes, this erasure took on a more insidious nature. Slurs like “f*g” and “tr***y” were overlooked by administrators and teachers alike. A very flamboyant classmate was constantly picked on by the staff, conversion therapy and expulsion were threatened on students who came out in high school, and suicide attempts happened more often than the school would ever admit because they didn’t allow people to be who they were.

A former classmate of mine has a great piece on all of this. If you want to read more stories from women and sexual minorities who graduated from my former high school, her article is a great and thoughtful resource.

But I’m here to tell my tale. How did I get here, right now. How did the right-wing, evangelical, “solid Christian man,” as one teacher put it, become so outspoken, and even reviled, by the people he used to look up to?

Truth be told, it was a slow burn.

I started questioning things after a major bout of mental health problems in 2013. I started to realize something for the first time in my life, and that was simply that life wasn’t as simple as I thought it was. My bubble was burst through a string of events in 2013 and 2014.

Honestly, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I started fighting for those looked down on by society and Christian culture alike. It started with the autistic community, and grew into the mental health community, and by late 2014, I had quietly become gay affirming, yet still not ready to come out myself.

I remember what turned me. It was when Apple CEO, Tim Cook, came out in October, 2014. The public face of a company that I admired was gay, and that meant so much to me, as a closeted gay young man. Cook wrote in Bloomberg, “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

This line had me in tears that morning. I was who he was speaking to.

I felt heard. For the first time, I felt heard.

“The Enlightened Path”

But I still had the baggage of my past. How could I reconcile who I was with how I grew up? I started planting that seed. I began asking my friends how they felt about certain LGBTQ+ issues to gauge who was safe and who was not.

In the early summer of 2015, a heartbreaking but powerful moment happened for me.

My southern, very charismatic aunt was visiting from Kentucky. My brother ended up getting into argument with her about marriage equality. She was vitriolic with her rhetoric against gay people, all the while claiming she “had gay friends.” She kept yelling at my brother that she “was on the enlightened path” and therefore couldn’t be wrong.

Somehow, this all seemed to make her think her bigotry was okay. I stood up that night for the first time. After she had left, I told her in a facebook message how her rhetoric on her trip to see us hurt me. There was no apology and somehow, it was my fault for being an angsty teenager (I was 21 at the time. By no means, a teenager.)

During that trip, her homophobic rhetoric had an unintended result, though: It allowed me, for the first time, to literally look myself in the mirror and tell myself, “I’m gay and that’s okay.” It would be over a year before I publicly came out, but I was unmistakably on that path by this point.

Pulse, Coming Out, and Trump

The Summer of 2016 was a whirlwind. My futile attempts to be in a career field that didn’t suit me crashed and burned, the election was in full swing, and I was beginning to come to terms, more and more, with who I was as a gay man.

Then, something happened. Late one night that summer, I came downstairs to get a glass of water, when I saw NBC News had some breaking news. It was yet another mass shooting.

Whenever mass shootings would happen, I would usually retreat from the news, because of their frequency and the raw emotions that transpired in the aftermath was too much for an empath like myself to take in. This time was different, though. This time, I soon found out that LGBTQ people were the targets.

I stared at my TV and wept.

The next few days were a blur. Anderson Cooper on CNN, who is gay himself, read off the names of the dead, chocking back tears the entire time. That’s when I knew. I couldn’t let these people’s deaths be in vain. I had to do what little I could, in my own little corner, to remember them, to follow their example of bravery.

I was going to do it. I was going to come out.

I first came out to my best friend, who took it very well. And that would be the seeming experience I’d have with many of my friends, they all seemed okay with it. It all lead up to the day I publicly came out on an old blog that no longer exists in October of 2016.

Then, the election happened and I had to learn how to be an activist real quick.

I was initially in shock that something like this could’ve happened. How could so many of the people, who mere weeks earlier, said that they were fine with me being gay, go out and vote for such a bigot and authoritarian? I felt betrayed by my community, I felt alone and exposed. How? Why? And now what?

I discovered quickly that I could no longer identify with this group of people. So, I left everything I had ever known. It was brutal, but in hindsight, it had to be done. I started speaking out more. I started insisting that queer voices be heard over the loudness of the bigots. In this, I found my people, to say the least.


Looking at my life today, things are better than they ever have been for me. I’m happy to be who I am, fully and completely. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. As for my faith, that’s a more complicated story, but one I’m not worried about. There doesn’t always need to be an answer to everything unexplainable, and I find freedom in that.

It’s so far removed from the “all or nothing” approach my Christian school taught me, but it works for me very well. I don’t know what you call a worldview like that, but I just call it me. And all I know is that it makes me happy. And happiness is important, after all. Being yourself, even more so.

When it’s not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The holidays can be hard for many of us, myself included. This last week, for me, has proven to be very difficult. I’m trying to keep my head above the waters of responsibility, gifts, and my own mental well being. It’s proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be. My care routine has been put to the test this week in ways that it hasn’t yet.

A little backstory

So, why is this time of year hard for me? Like many of you, I lost family members this time of year, and that alone has caused the holiday season to be hard on me. Add to that, five years in retail, and then the picture becomes that much more clear.

And then, you have the stuff that most people don’t. Seven years ago, this time of year brought with it my worst period of my life. A month after Christmas Eve, I attempted to take my life. (That story can be read here.)

The Christmas season and the abyss beyond it always seems to bring the trauma of that fateful day with it.

Breathe

Some of us have a real issue with this time of year, and that’s okay. For some of us, Christmas brings with it boundaries, familial drama, loss, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. For many of us, hearing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” sung over and over and over again makes us ashamed that we don’t think that. People wonder why we are so down. I mean, “It’s Christmas after all! Don’t be a grinch!

But we’re not. We have needs at this time of year that others don’t. We sometimes need to take a step back. Maybe from others and maybe from even ourselves. I know, for me, if I’m left alone with my thoughts for too long, it leads to no place good. So I have to be out and about much of the time. For you, it may look different.

The point is, if this time of year is hard for you, if you don’t like the holidays, that’s okay. You’re allowed to not like them. You’re allowed to hate them even. It’s okay, you’re not going to combust into a pile of red and green glitter and twinkle lights.

Do what you need to do to get through.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Please Stay

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you know anything at all about my story, you know my history with mental illness and suicide. It’s days like today that put everything I fight for into perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot the past 24 hours about the nexus of all of this, what was one of the worst times in my life. It was a time I couldn’t have felt more alone and defenseless, but through it all I chose to stay.

Tim Coe who?

It was my sophomore year of high school and my grandma had just passed away, amid about a million and one other things went wrong in my extended family that caused everything I knew, everything I thought to be true, to come undone. Add to this, everything I was going through at school.

There were vicious rumors of a sexual nature going around about me at the time, started by one person in particular. I didn’t put two and two together until years later, but this kid was a bully nonetheless. He would torment me and call me a name that isn’t worth repeating. He would also post disgusting things online about me and get his friends to do the same. It all led up to the day he sexually assaulted me at school, in the hallway.

I did what my cop dad always told me to do in a situation like this, I reported it. What I was told and what was done (or not done) silenced me for years. I was forced to accept a non-apology from him to his face. I was told to “give him a break, his mom had just passed away.” Even at the time, I thought that excuse was disgusting. My grandma had just died, my extended family was falling apart, yet I wasn’t ever going to violate someone like he did to me. I wasn’t prepared to use my grief as an excuse to exploit people. Even so, the fact that nothing was done made me incredibly ashamed. The people who were supposed to protect me dropped the ball and made me feel as if I was the problem. And so, I shut up about it. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents, until last year.

But I knew. And it was slowly killing me.

Hold on tight a little longer

I remember standing in gym class and contemplating how I would tell my family goodbye. Would anyone at school even miss me? Would they even know who I was? What would the teachers say? What would be the excuse as to why it happened? I remember thinking up how I would die. But something told me to hang on. Maybe it was God, maybe it was the fact that by this time, it was May and summer was right around the corner. I don’t know, but I did hold on, somedays for dear life. Summer did come, winter did break, literally and figuratively.

The next two years of high school would be my best years of school yet. I made a name for myself being the kind upperclassman who looked out for the underdog. I did a double take my senior year when a kid called me popular.

“but I did hold on, somedays for dear life. Summer did come, winter did break, literally and figuratively.”

That wasn’t something I set out to be or even wanted to be, I just wanted to be kind to people. To be that person who I needed but didn’t have. If that was what made me popular, I can sleep easy at night. 

But none of that would have ever happened if I didn’t choose to fight for my life two years earlier. There would be many more times in the years since, for a variety of reasons, which would see me fighting in that same way, a couple times coming very close to taking me out. The fact I’m still here is something I am enormously proud of.

I’m brave for making it this far.

Facing suicidal thoughts and ideation is like staring down death itself for weeks, months, and sometimes, years on end. Just the fact that anyone chooses to stay and fight for a day takes remarkable, superhuman-like courage. Sometimes, the greatest battle is just getting out of bed. Sometimes, all you can manage to do is just simply exist. And that’s okay, you should be remarkably proud of yourself for getting up. Day by day. Step by step. Sometimes, that’s all we can muster.

I could easily be another statistic. I’m well aware of my risk factors. I’m very aware that, statically, there’s a higher probability of me dying by suicide than me dying of cancer.

But I know one thing, I’m strong. The fact I’m typing this here today proves it. It takes an incredibly brave person to battle their own mind, to fight against bullying, sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

I did, and I am.

I can’t say that I’m over what happened to me. Honestly, the person who did this to me is someone that I still haven’t forgiven. Every time his name comes up, or I see him tagged on Facebook, I get angry, I have flashbacks. This kid was almost my undoing, I don’t even think he’s aware of it, but he was. He took so much from me. But I’m strong. I continued in the face grueling circumstances, even though I had to go it alone for a long time.

If you’re in that same boat today, let me be maybe the first to tell you this: You are incredibly brave and you are unbelievably strong. Continue. Please stay.

It gets better.

Life in Color

They say there are only two ways to view the world. Either you think in binaries, black and white, or you have a more nuanced view of the world and think in grey. To me, that all seems too simplistic. I’d like to float something else, another way to see the world. And that’s seeing the world in color.

Seeing the world in color to me means seeing life all around me, the beauty of it all, and the tragedy. And not only seeing it but feeling it as well. Allowing myself to feel all the highs, all the lows, and everything in between that make this life what it is.

Life in color also means that I see the world not as it is, but what it could be. Some people may think that I’m just burying my head in the sand. I need to be realistic, you know. There are bad people out there. Yeah, I get that. There’s horrible, unspeakable tragedy out there, very real issues that need addressing and fixing. They’re the very issues I am determined to help fix. Because, again, seeing the world this way leaves much space for tragedy and feeling it to its full. When you see the world as what it should be, not as it is, fixing those issues becomes a top priority.

A tale of two cities

I live in an old manufacturing town in the Rust Belt of Northern Illinois, a place many have written off as past its peak. But for years now, there has been a small group trying to make this city better. They see potential where others see a lost cause. They roll up their sleeves while others scoff on social media. These people, and what they’re doing is changing my city, and it’s not just cosmetic. Those scoffers? Their numbers are dwindling. People are beginning to have pride in this town again. I would know, because I used to be one of those scoffers a few short years ago.

But since I started seeing this place I call home for what it could be, seeing it in color, my mind began to shift from “this place sucks” to “What can I contribute to make it better?” Since then, everything has changed. In rooting for my hometown, visiting new places, and meeting new people, this place looks very different, I can see it in a new light. And the city is changing, every day. Pride is returning, all because a few people chose to see in color.

But since I started seeing this place I call home for what it could be, seeing it in color, my mind began to shift from “this place sucks” to “What can I contribute to make it better?”

A life transformed by color

For much of my teenage and young adult years, depression and anxiety have been major themes. They’ve even almost killed me a time or two. There’s been many days I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. In fact, a couple years ago, I was sleeping on average of eighteen hours a day. But seeing things not as they are but what they could be did good and set my recovery into motion. It got me into therapy, into a psychiatrist who found the medicine I was on was way off. I got help. I learned coping mechanisms, I know my limits, I know my boundaries and I stick to them.

Some people may see this all as idealistic and not a good way to view the world. They’ll say the old tired lines like they’ve recited them million of times: The world is a cold place and it will steamroll over you in a heartbeat if you let it. The world isn’t going to conform to you, you have to conform to the world.

Here’s the thing: Does this have to be our fate? Have we lost all originality to be able to do the work that will make this world better? I don’t think so and I refuse to believe that’s the case. My way of thinking is actually, I believe, the opposite of idealism, where idealism just ponders a better future, seeing the world in color helps create a better future. You don’t discount the pain and suffering, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or racism in the world, not at all. You feel every bit of it, because colors can be light or be dark. Seeing those dark colors with the light ones helps you put a plan into place to obliterate the hate, prejudice, and indifference that plagues our hearts.

This world becomes a better place with people like you, people like me, who see it not as it is but what it could be if we just roll up our sleeves and get to work.

And just like my hometown, it only takes a few of us to spark a movement.

A Midsummer’s Thunderstorm

If you’ve been following along for a while now, you may know that life has truly been treating me well. Really, this warm and nurturing time in my life could be described as my own personal Summer. But, it’s also been no secret to those close to me that the past few to several weeks have been quite difficult. Two family members of mine have been diagnosed with cancer, one has now passed away, and in addition to all of that, things have transpired to try and upend the progress I’ve made this year in terms of my faith and my future. I’m emerging from these last few weeks feeling a bit shaken.

Having a history of depression doesn’t help matters much, and has only made me more anxious that my depression is relapsing and I’ll soon be back down in that hopeless pit wanting nothing more than to feel something again. See, for me, depression often feels like nothing. Literally nothing. I get numb and disassociate in major ways. I shirk responsibly, cut off my friends, and hole myself up in my room. It’s a terrible feeling, especially for someone who is naturally expressive and is, somewhat, an empath. Being numb and holing myself up in my room goes against who I am. I hate it, but I can’t seem to help it when it happens. There were times in high school where I had to be literally dragged out of bed and into school because of a depressive episode.

I’ve been afraid the last few weeks that depression was coming back into my life again, after what has been a long period without it. In fact, I’ve been in “full remission” since mid-2018. My prognosis has never been better, and honestly, I’ve never felt better. But still, that fear persists.

Honestly, though, when I think rationally about this (which can be hard to do) I’ve had a hard couple weeks, which included getting bombarded with bad news almost daily and I’ve, for the most part, kept my composure. That’s progress, my friends! These kinds of things would throw anyone off, for weeks, months even. And it would all totally be okay. I’ve kept going this time. I haven’t shirked from obligations or holed myself up in my room, I’ve been out there, and have been present as much as I can be.

No, this isn’t depression. Not yet, anyway.

It seems to be more akin to a midsummer thunderstorm. You know what I’m talking about: You’re by the pool in the afternoon, enjoying your favorite drink and then all of the sudden, big, black clouds fill the sky and you hear it: The rumbles of thunder. Soon, those rumbles become crashes, followed by pouring rain. You can’t see beyond the rain right now, and for a second, you even forget something important:

It’s still summer.

The weather is still warm, the pool is still open, and the sun is still shining bright. It’s all going to be okay. Thunderstorms are just a fact of summer, they don’t last forever.

The weather is still warm, the pool is still open, and the sun is still shining bright. It’s all going to be okay. Thunderstorms are just a fact of summer, they don’t last forever. Sure enough, the thunderstorm subsides almost as soon as it’s arrived. The sun is shining once again and you go back outside to resume your day by the pool.

All is well.

That’s what I’ve been resting on these last couple weeks. My personal thunderstorm has shaken me a bit, but it hasn’t changed the fact that it’s still summer in my life. I’m still firing on all cylinders, I’m still moving forward, and me taking a day to breathe here and there is a good thing and not a harbinger of a depressive relapse to come.

As my mom used to tell me growing up: “Don’t worry honey. It’s just a little rain.”