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In high school, I dismissed SSA by doing well in school, playing intramural basketball and drinking when in social settings. These endeavors allowed me to run from myself and hide from others. In college, away from my parents, I experienced stronger urges to let loose but the fear of excommunication from my fraternity kept my SSA buried deep inside me.
Inwardly, my heart and flesh longed to experience love and romance. Outwardly, I shut it all off. Watching others freely enjoy the warm fuzzies of romantic desire made my struggle all the more lonely. While I would dance the night away in a heterosexual pretense, my true desire was to collapse into the arms of a guy. Such desires could never materialize without great consequence. In this setting, repression tempted me to cut off my longings. In the process, I slowly cut myself off from relatives, fraternity brothers and other friends.
By my second year of college, I regularly retreated to my dorm room during weekend parties. I remember going through the same routine each Saturday night. The energetic anticipation of the weekend would spread through the fraternity house. After dinner as everyone prepared to party, I would shower and shave. Back in my dorm room, I would dress up in clothes that made me feel attractive. Splash cologne. And then…the big shutdown.
All my energy would turn inward. Shut the door. Lock it. Rearrange the sofa cushions under my bunk bed. Turn the dimmer light down low. Light a candle. Sit down. Dream about love. Get up. Rearrange small collectibles. Look at myself in the mirror. Try to get the tears to come out. They never came. Watch the candle flame flicker. Dip my fingers in the candle wax. Sit down. Flip through old photographs. Fantasize about a guy rescuing me. Wait. Hours later, take my clothes off. Go to bed. Anticipation of what could happen always collapsed into a retreat where nothing ever would happen. Have you been there?
Lonely? Yes. Painful? Absolutely. Hopeless? Yeah. Suicidal? Eventually, yes. God makes our spirits strong, but there is only so much a person can take. Eventually, this kind of isolation tore me up. In total, I spent 12 years hiding from my sexuality (from 12 until 24 years old). The last 3 years nearly cost me my life. I graduated college and started a nice job, but nine months later I was barely functional. On the outside, no one knew. Maybe they saw depression, but they also saw me working out and doing fun activities. At a certain point, repression requires one to hide the pain. By that point, it is pretty easy to do just that.
This inner retreat ultimately robbed me of every ounce of energy and motivation to live life. I was so numb that at times I could not tell whether I was awake, dreaming or dead. In my attempt to protect myself from rejection, I slowly fell into the dark and dangerous place of cutting myself off from life altogether. This is where hoping that the dump truck will cross the yellow line has the potential to turn into concrete actions to end one’s life. Thankfully, for me, I never stepped (or swerved) across that line. I easily could have, though.
Mental breakdown led to me finally seek help. The first person I ever shared my secret with was a counselor. She did what I have spent the last couple of weeks doing – encouraging all young people to tell their parents about their SSA. Having little else left to lose, I came out to my parents and experienced a tremendous release from anxiety, shame and isolation. Many years later, I experienced a deeper release as I discovered the nourishing peace of spiritual surrender. This came only because God invaded my heart, and I encountered the presence of Jesus Christ for the first time in my life.
Humans can live without sex. Living without disclosure? Living without being known? Living in isolation, fear and hopelessness? My friends, that is no life; that is a living death. You cannot afford to stay there too long. Join me tomorrow as I unveil hope for those caught in the snare of repression. There IS hope!
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