03 March 2010

What Doesn't Kill Me

I don't always have time to blog, but I do have bits and pieces of spare time here and there, and I try to keep up on blogs I like in those moments.  Last week, I noticed that there seemed to be a theme, and I assume it had to do with the 10th anniversary of the death of Stuart Matis.  It is still a loss that is felt very deeply, even by those of us who did not know him.

I think there are a lot of us who are no strangers to thoughts of suicide.  Being a gay Mormon and thinking about suicide seem to almost go hand in hand.  As I've thought about why that is, I think it's because the LDS religion is not just a religion--it's a way of life.  If you grow up in this faith, your life is completely centered around LDS activities.  Church on Sunday, mutual during the week, home teaching, visiting teaching, preparing to teach lessons, tithing settlement, prayer, reading scriptures, pictures on the wall, Sounds of the Sabbath on FM100.  It's literally in every part of your life.  You know what the standards are.  And unfortunately if you are gay, every part of your life becomes a struggle, because now you are below that standard.

For many of us, there is no other way of life.  And so we can't imagine a life that doesn't have the Church at the very center of it.  Coming out completely shifts that balance.  Even if we do everything that we're supposed to, being gay makes it not enough.  Even if you choose the Church life, continue to live in celibacy and be active in your religion, the very fact that you are gay casts a shadow on you that I don't know if you can ever get rid of.

It's a terrifying thing to venture beyond the iron gates of the Mormon Church when that is all you have ever known, when you've been taught that there is absolutely no other way.

I personally have attempted suicide twice.  I was nearly successful on my second try.  I've been hospitalized three times to prevent me from at least three more attempts.  I know what it's like to be in such a dark place that nothing else matters.  I know what it's like to wish that another car will hit me on the freeway and save me the trouble of pills or razors or bullets.  I know what it's like to pray to God to please just take me, because I can't take any more.

That is absolutely not a way to live.  There is no living when you're in that place.  You're barely surviving.

For me, in order to make it to my next birthday, I had to make a lot of painful decisions.  But I knew that none of them could be more painful than what I was already experiencing. 

I have not and I will never turn my back on my faith.  But that's my faith according to me, not according to the dictates of a specific religion.  My faith and my life centers on God and Jesus Christ and my faith in them.  It does not center on the LDS church.  The Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ have become two separate things in my mind.  While being active in a religion is very beneficial for some people, I have found that it is more beneficial for me to cultivate a more personal approach.  I honor my moral values and I hold myself accountable to ethical standards and I find that I am constantly praying.  God is still very much a part of my life, even if I don't go to church on Sunday.

I realize that this is probably a disappointment to my family and perhaps some of my friends.  But I think disappointment is easier for them to deal with than the guilt and frustration that they could possibly feel if I killed myself.

I have decided to be gay.  By that I mean that I have a girlfriend, I acknowledge that I am attracted to other girls, and that Danica Patrick is frickin' hot.  And I cannot tell you how many people have said to me, "Gosh Amy, you look like you're doing so well," "Amy, you've been so happy lately and I'm really excited for you," things like that.  These are people who have known me for years, through the ups and the downs and everything.  They are happy that I am happy.  And I am indescribably happy. 

We've all heard the phrase "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  If I don't kill myself, I can only make myself stronger.  Everyone has a different life to live. I can only be accountable for mine.  I have to be my friend.  I have to care about myself.  I have to live in a way that lets me live, because I know that it's easy to fall back into that pit of despair, and I never want suicide to look so appealing again.

The scar on my wrist has faded a little bit in the last eight years.  It's not cute and it's not my favorite thing to look at.  But at least I'm still here to look at it.

If you're thinking about suicide seriously, please pause for just a few seconds, take a deep breath, and reach out.  Don't give up.  I know sometimes it doesn't feel like anyone would even notice if you were gone, but there are more people who care about you than you know, especially in that moment.  Your life is important.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Trevor Project (specifically for gay youth) 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)

For a list of national and state specific suicide hotlines, go to suicidehotlines.com .

If you want to talk and you think I can be of some help, please just let me know.  You won't get judgment from me.  I've been there and I know what it's like.  We're all in this together.


Grant Haws said...

I am glad you are still here as well. As a lot of bloggers have said this past week or so, you have to follow the peace. And I am glad that you are in a good place, where peace is a part of your life.

Reina said...

Thank you for your post. Your comments about why being gay feels so devastating as a member of the church are so spot on. It is nice to know that there are other people out there that have gone through the same sorts of things.