Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Undatable (Oooh good horror movie title)

One of the most interesting things about being a major in psychology was to see who would pick what topics to write their research papers about.  I heard one of my professors say one day that usually, the people who struggle with something will choose that topic to write about.  That makes sense.  It's a really good way to do a lot of research about your struggles under the guises of academia.  How awesomely brilliant!
 
And I was no exception to the rule.  I remember writing about homosexuality, pornography, bullying, sex education, emotions, depression, and other subjects that had either directly or indirectly influenced my life.  People may say they choose something in the social sciences for altruistic means.  This is simply not the case.  People just working in the social sciences because it helps them feel good, helps them feel appreciated, fills a little hole inside them, or provides them with some sort of purpose.  This is not to lessen the impact that these people have on the lives of their clients (I would never debase myself like that), it's more of just a general observation as I've worked in the field for a little while now.  I am at the point that I can be honest with myself enough to know, or at least try to understand, what my motives are.
 
I have been doing some self-evaluation lately.  Unfortunately I can't say that it was because of some desire to be a better person, or some other more noble motivation.  Honestly, it happened because I was dumped twice this last week.
 
To give you an update, I have honestly been doing *so* much better now that I am on Wellbutrin.  I have noticed a huge change.  I still get down because of actions or situations that affect me.  But I don't get so down that I feel like there is no way out.  I am quicker to laugh, more understanding, and more helpful than before.  Honestly I don't think I've had this many giggle fits in a long time.
 
So this last week-ish, maybe a bit longer, I went on some really good dates.  One was with a guy that I had been talking with for a little while online.  He and I would write long emails to each other a few times a day.  I felt like we had a lot in common.  I went out with him, thoroughly enjoyed my evening, and thought that maybe I would actually have a chance with this guy.  He was beautiful, fun, and we seemed to get along fine.  Then I didn't hear back from him for a few days.  The only time I would was if I texted him first.  So one day I just honestly asked him if he was interested.  He told me he wasn't.  He told me he was looking for a quiet life and I'm more of a city boy.  And that was that.
 
The second boy I took out seemed to go better.  We got along well, enjoyed each others' company, both seemed to get excited about our upcoming dates, and he and I went out a few times.  Unfortunately, he did not feel that *spark* that most people do when they are in a relationship that they feel really good about.  At least he was honest and open enough to come and tell me he wasn't interested instead of just hoping I'd give up trying like the other guy.  Honestly, this second guy hurt me, and when he came to talk to me I couldn't stop crying.  A lot of my own issues and insecurities came up in that moment.
 
This is where I got to thinking.  Both guys had told me some interesting things.  They told me I was fun, cute, smart, charming, genuine, loving, and overall just a good guy.  So...I'm not seeing a problem here.  If I have all of these wonderful qualities, why is it that I feel like nobody wants to date me.  That thought was the heardest to bare.
 
So what are my good qualities?  And what makes me undatable?  This is what I've been thinking of for the past week.
 
I've noticed more of the good that I do this past week than at other times.  I work with at-risk youth.  Many would consider that a tiresome and hopeless job.  It is tiresome, but I enjoy my work.  I get a great satisfaction from it.  I am very helpful here: both staff and residents give me good feedback and appreciate having me around.  That's definitely a plus.
 
I am usually quite good at listening and being patient with people and their problems.  This has come into play more in my social life than in my personal.  I had two friends in high school tell me that if it weren't for me, they would've taken their lives.  I made them feel special and worth something.
 
Which brings me to another thought.  If I can make others feel special and worth something, what is it that makes it so hard for me to make myself feel like that?  I honestly look around at others and are envious of them.  I see they have more friends, people talk to them more, they seem more happy and stable, and other things.  I judge myself very harshly based on these and other characteristics.  I think to myself that other people *deserve* to feel special.  I, however, do not.  There is simply no room in this world for someone like me.
 
This is not to say that I am incredibly depressed or sad or anything at the moment.  I've actually had quite a good day and am feeling very positive.  I'm just honestly trying to analyze my feelings.  Or perhaps overanalyze is a better term...boo being a psychology major...it ruins lives!
 
So, what makes me undatable?  Well I've been trying to process my feelings with friends over the last few days.  One suggested that I might be intimidating to some.  I have a hard time with that one considering that I am a little guy with absolutely no power to do any harm to another person using brute strength.  But maybe my personality is intimidating.  Someone told me that I seem very confident and put together.  Well I'm glad the facade is working!  Or maybe I am just more confident that I even realize.
 
Another friend said that guys just aren't ready for commitment.  Well, not all of them aren't, and I have plenty of evidence of that!  I've had more people that could be my father hit on me than I can even count.  And that's just creepy.  I like older guys and everything but people please?  I draw the line at 32.  But it is true that most guys my age are just looking to where they can get their next hookup.  Which kinda sucks for me since I'm looking for something a little deeper.
 
It was also asked of me why I was in such a rush to get into a relationship.  I think that question has multiple facets to it.  I was definitely raised in a culture where marriage at a young age is desirable and almost forced upon me.  The fear of never finding someone that I can truly have a connection with has also crossed my mind.  Will I live out a life totally alone and devoid of an emotional and spiritual connection with another person, so deep that my heart and soul is invested in it?  I dare not think about it.  Er...obviously I do or else I would not have suggested it.
 
So is there a point to all this?  Maybe not.  Maybe I've just been rambling or wanting to write in my blog since it's been a while.  I don't know.  We are our own harshest critics.  That I can truly attest to.  And many of my friends can attest to telling me positive qualities about myself, that I just refuse to put stock into.  Maybe my thinking is too black and white.  I feel like the bad of me outweighs the good, so therefore, I must be bad.  Just a possibility.
 
I will continue living life to the best of my ability.  I must be doing something right if I have so many friends, and so many positive experiences with those friends.  This might just be a time where I have to have faith in myself, and faith enough in my own abilities to begin to like myself. 
 
I've come to the point where I've stopped asking people on dates.  I don't really see a point to it.  Why waste money or my heart on something that will probably just end in dissappointment?  If someone asks me on a date, awesome, I won't be turning it down.  But this dating frenzy of mine needs to stop.  It's not going anywhere, and it won't go anywhere.  It's time to accept that.  At least just being with people as friends will help take the pressure off.  Then maybe I won't look so desperate.  That's probably why I'm undatable.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Look Around

Take a look around you. Maybe not physically but more metaphorically. What's going on with the people around you? How well do you know these people and what they're dealing with? I would have to say most of us don't really know what's going on.

For me, and a lot of people like me, something in their heads sings this song to them almost every day of their lives.

video

I'm sure everyone at some point or another has heard that haunting voice singing to them and telling them they're not good enough, that there is no hope for the future, and that the best thing to do would be to succumb to the gloom that depression offers.

I know I've certainly been there a lot.

When I take a look around, I see a lot of people trying to do good. There's this campaign going around to try and inspire hope: the It Gets Better project.

I've taken a part in it. I created a music video a few years ago in which, coincidentally, was about the same time I was coming out. The video is about a person coming to terms with themselves.

But then I really think about this project. Yes, I do think that it's a positive thing, and I do believe that it does inspire some hope in those who are feeling hopeless. But really, why all the effort on reaching out to those that we do not know?

Now, before you jump to any conclusions about that question, lemme clarify. I do think that people who are working on these projects are good, and they have good intentions, and that they are inspiring some hope. However, if you take a look around you, there are a lot of people you *already know* that need more of your attention.

There are people at our parties that go unnoticed, there are new classmates that go unwelcomed, old friends who have gone silent, family members who have lost their vitality, and so many others that we already have a relationship with that are simply fading away.

I have a way of trying to express my grief. And yes I know that often times it can be unhealthy. I post a facebook status, write a poem, or write in my blog. For the most part, I get people who text, write, or call asking to help and I begin to process. Maybe I'm just too stubborn to directly ask for help. But then, more often than not, I get some sort of message from someone I had previously considered a friend. It usually tells me that I am being ridiculous in my means of seeking help, that I'm dragging others down, that I need to suck it up and just get over it.

And, incredibly, these are some of the same people that are reaching out the countless unknown faces who need help. It seems that their concern lies more with being heard, and being known or popular, than with actually doing some good.

I have been working harder on finding those in my circle of friends who are feeling left out. It is truly rewarding to find someone that really just needed a friend to talk to. Their eyes light up, their smile comes back, and there is a very strong emotional connection that is built. Those connections usually last far longer than a stranger saying in passing, "things will get better".

I'm sorry if this has come across as a pity party for myself. It was not intended to do so. I simply wish to call people to pay attention to what is going on right in their very own relationships.

Find the black sheep. Find the kid at the party sitting by himself. Invite people beyond your usual circle of friends to do something fun. Be aware. We all know what it feels like to be left out, and feel like if we just disappeared, the world would go on as usual. Don't let your friends feel like that. They're your friend for a reason. Find the good in them, and *be* the good you wish to see in others.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Therapize Me!

Well I suppose an update is in order before I begin the main event this evening...

Dating...sucks! I used to think dating was all fun and happy. Well, duh, that's cause I was dating girls and there was never any drama or major romantic feelings involved with that! You'd think I would've gotten the gay clue earlier...he he he. Anyway, now I have to try and learn how to date all over again! Now there are awful feelings like jealousy, rejection, betrayal and of course lots of drama. I hate dating...

I have drugs! Wait...lemme clarify that...I have *prescription* drugs for depression now. I think it's about time I started taking these things again. Prozac was terrible. It made me feel absolutely nothing which, believe it or not, is worse than feeling sad all the time. Now I'm gonna be starting Wellbutrin tomorrow morning and see how that plays out. While I was in the psychiatrist's office, she said, "oh goodness we don't have a whole lot of time" and I wanted to cry. Seriously, felt those tears sneak attacking me from behind my eyeballs. Then I thought to myself, ya, this is probably good for you to get some medicine.

So now for the main attraction. My therapy session. Ya, I saw those shivers run down your spine.

We talked a lot about being assertive today. I have a hard time with this one. I am about as assertive as a piece of paper. I feel like I get blown all over, thrown out, and drawn on by two-year-olds who can't stay in the lines!

Ahem, so these last two weeks I have worked on being assertive and I feel like I am making progress. I was even bold enough to tell a guy straight up (if I can say that texting counts as straight up) that I wasn't interested in dating him. I was so nervous to tell him that! Bah it was scary! But it turned out ok, and in the end I don't have to worry about trying to drop subtle clues that I'm not interested that we all know guys never get anyway. You know that's interesting...it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, guys will never get clues. How's that for food for thought!

As we continued our discussion I told her about a situation that happened recently. I was with a guy, yes it was a date ok, and we were driving home. He was telling me a rather interesting story which took place in a strip club. I became very uncomfortable. Naked people in any form are just awkward ok? Deal with it.

So I listened to his story and then realized a thought flying around in my brain. Can I only date people with my same standards in order for me not to feel like I'm lowering my standards?

Of course I can look at that now and wanna smack myself in the face and be like, no! But at the time, this thought was very distressing.

From there, my thought took its course. It transformed into the "you are lowering your standards monster" followed by the "you should just jump off the deep end and do whatever you want" monster and ultimately grew into the horror of horrors--the "you're not good enough" monster which usually ends up biting off vast amounts of my delicious thunder thighs...

At this point, emotionally, I basically give up. There was a small voice in the back of my head that told me to just get up and keep going. But now, I had to shut down. So I crawled into bed and cried for half an hour. Only *then* could I actually get up. Ya I know, I have more raging hormones than most teenage girls. But those hormones probably gave me my fabulous lampshade of a booty. So I'm ok with that.

"So how does that make you feel?" I lie down on the couch and prepare to delve into my deep Oedipal complexes... Ha ha just kidding!

But we do decide to talk about it. Basically, we came to the conclusion that I am not assertive with myself. Sure, I'm doing well in being assertive with others, but not myself. So the plan of action? When I feel uncomfortable, and that thought first pops into my head, I need to remove myself from the situation for a moment. This will give me time to ask myself what I really want. The reason I ask myself what I really want is to make sure I don't use passive aggressive techniques to process the information. So instead of being like, "wow I'm really lame, you can't hang out with me because I don't do any of that," I can say to myself, "I have chosen to live this way and I trust you to respect my limits and boundaries I have set." Wow! Do you see how powerful that statement is! It's like Mr. T. Seriously....

So that's the plan! I hope it'll work. Oh another goal I made in therapy is to jog. Yes, I am succumbing to the necessary evil of exercise.

There was another thing I realized in therapy this evening. I am trying to reclaim some things I lost when I was a kid.

Before I decided to try and be super outgoing, I had a very small circle of friends. I was confident, quiet, smart, invested, passionate, caring and the best listener *ever* in the history of the universe. After I decided to be more outgoing, I lost some of those qualities. I began to expect myself to be the life of the party so that people would notice me. Oh they'd notice me, but I'd still end up feeling worse about myself than before the party. I lost a bit of empathy and some of my listening skills. Now I was in the high-paced world of texting! I needed constant communication from everyone to live!

So where have those qualities gone? Well, they're still in there, and dating these last two weeks has brought them out a bit. I've stopped texting as much. I am more interested and invested in the other person and their wants, comforts, likes and dislikes. I'm funny and dorky in a quiet way and get more out of having meaningful conversations, and quoting random movies, than talking about all the people I know and all the cool things I do. Ya I'm cool (I mean duh) but that doesn't mean I need to shove coolness down their throats!

I am getting in touch with my more natural and authentic qualities. It's like eating at one of those health food stores, but for the soul! Mmmmm, me gusta.

And there ya have it. The update on my life. I have tried to incorporate more of my sarcasm and wit that I used in the last blog post into this one. So if ever at any point you were thinking, "holy crap this kid is totally conceited" I know that I did a good job. There was a very positive response from my last blog post. And it's much more fun to read anyway.

I think I hear my bed calling me... Wait, maybe I need to go back to that therapist again... I'm coming poopsie-kins (that's my bed, not my therapist...wow I'm tired)!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The ER Drama

So, as mad as I am right now, I can't help but laugh at this whole situation. The entire thing is utterly ridiculous and insane! But before I really get into that, let me back up a bit and give you some history.

I get depressed sometimes. If that's not clearly evident to you in some of my blog posts, then you need to have your emotions examined.

On Sunday, I was feeling down, as does happen, and I had previously talked to my mother about it. We talked about future steps of going back to my therapist and possibly seeing a psychiatrist to get some medication. Then I went home and continued my evening. Later, I received an email in which I felt personally attacked and humiliated by what was said.

And then I had a nervous breakdown. I do freely admit that I was not in a healthy place. In my expressions of my feelings to a few close friends, I told them I was feeling trapped and that suicide had crossed my mind.

Pause...Just because suicide crosses a persons mind, does not make them suicidal. Let us continue...

As good friends are, they were concerned. I gave them a promise that I wouldn't hurt myself, I wasn't planning on it anyway, so that they would feel better. But that wasn't enough. Not that I'm complaining! I'm grateful for their help. I slept over at a friends' house and the next day called my therapist and a psychiatrist and moved on.

Tuesday was a bit of a rough day. I started crying later that night and felt really alone and unwanted. I texted some of those same close friends expressing my feelings of being alone. One in particular called me and we talked for a few minutes. He encouraged me to call me therapist. So I did. My therapist and I talked for about twenty minutes and I was feeling much relief and was about to hop on my computer to do some therapy homework for my appointment later today.

Little to my knowledge, the friend that I had been talking to right before I called my therapist called the police. There was a loud bang on my door. I ran downstairs to answer it and there were two police officers.

They came in, told me that there had been a report that I wanted to kill myself. I showed them my text messages which clearly showed that the ONLY text that could've been seen as suicidal was sent on Sunday, and not that night that they showed up. They asked me some questions, were pretty polite and understanding, and left.

I went upstairs and began talking to my roommate about what was going on. Then there was another bang on the door. Aaaaand, they were back.

Apparently, when they left and updated my concerned friend, my concerned friend then told them that I had actually sent him a text *that night* saying I was suicidal. Um...ya, not true Mr. Popo. I showed you my texts.

So I began arguing my case. I said I wasn't suicidal and that that certain text was sent Sunday. This is when the police start not liking you. 'Cause they're always right...

They basically forced me to go to the hospital. There were threats made of legal action against me, my concerned friend was in a panic, and so me, being incredibly frustrated but wanting to appease everyone, went to the hospital.

I'd never ridden in a police car before. Wee it was fun! He wasn't that great of a driver, I hope you know. But there were no flashing lights, so I didn't cause too much of a scene as we were careening down a residential road going at least 60 MPH...

I arrived at the hospital. All the paramedics and firefighters were just staring at me. And mmmmm they could stare all they wanted 'cause those boys were SO ridiculously attractive! And this is where my psychology degree kicked in. For better or worse. But I'm thinking worse, but with a light humor added.

They sat me down to take my vitals. I turned to the nurse and asked, "Do you guys use Q15's here?" which is a system we used at the RTC I worked at to monitor patients. Then I was like *Doh!*. My brain was like, "Steven, that makes it sound like you've done this a lot before. That's a bad choice..." I was like, "Oh crap, you're right, shutting up."

They made me take off all my clothes, good thing I had shaved my chest earlier that day so I looked super hot, and I was left to put on that ridiculous hospital gown over nothing but my hot pink American Eagle underwear.

If you're not laughing at this point, I think you're broken. I was giggling inside actually. Which probably did not help my case seeing as I was in the psych ward of a hospital in the suicide watch room!

I sat in that discolored white room for about three hours in total. During that time, everything I did was analyzed by my psychology degree and my brain told me to cut it out. If I picked my nails, I had OCD. If I put my head down, the voices were talking to me. If I scratched my head, another personality was emerging. If I relaxed in the chair, I wasn't taking my situation seriously and must obviously be suicidal. If I tried talking to the nurses, I was schizotypal. He he he, it was very amusing actually. So the moral of the story is, don't major in psychology. It ruins lives! :P

I did the usual hospital stuff: I peed in a cup, answered questionnaires, and gave blood. Have I ever told you how much I hate needles? Ya, it's not quite a phobia but there is definite anxiety around those things.

A doctor came in after I was waiting for about an hour and a half and asked me a few questions. I told him about my previous plans and that I was going in to see a therapist and see a psychiatrist. He was very polite and told me it sounded like things were blown out of proportion and asked me if I needed anything. I was starving. I hadn't eaten since lunch. So he said he'd get me some food.

Liar! The food never came...

But at least by this point the nurses knew I wasn't completely insane. They began talking to me little by little. One even asked what he could get for me. I said food. It never came.

Oh will the lies never end?!

Later on, I had a social worker pop her head in and tell me my mum had called. Crap! Not my mother! She's been through so much in her life I hated to give her more stress. I told the social worker I was worried about her.

And she jumped on that like Oprah on a honey-baked ham! She instantly pulled out her notebook and said, "oh really? Why are you so concerned about your mother? What's going on between you two?" Bother... Apparently I'm not allowed to have human emotions of worry either without them being connected to some Oedipal complex embedded deep in my psyche.

She left. A while later, a different social worker came to talk with me. I wish I could describe how she talked to me. It was as if I was five years old with a hearing problem. You know in movies, if someone doesn't speak English, people around them speak really slowly and loudly? That's what she did. I hid my smile as best I could.

Then my mum walked in. She was perfectly calm. No tears, no puffy eyes, no runny mascara. All was well. My dear mother attested to my mental stability and I was soon discharged.

I laughed the majority of the way home. My mum did too. The whole ordeal sounded like some twisted version of a B-Movie gone horribly wrong.

And so, I'm ok, dear reader. I am annoyed beyond all reason because my entire extended family knows about the situation, but not from my perspective.

So I wrote this post. I hope you have laughed, or at least smile at the irony of placing a psychology major in a psych ward. I took excellent field notes, don't worry. And there were some *very* interesting people I heard/saw while I was there. Let's just leave it at that.

Now, however, I am a bit stuck. I'm sure my bill will be coming in the mail soon. That'll be fun to pay for! And I have my entire extended family to reassure along with some of my friends who still, for some bizarre reason and against all the opinions of the social workers and doctors that I saw, think I want to hurt myself. I don't! Bah!

As for my concerned friend who made all this possible? I'm not sure how to feel about him. I'd like to let you all know though that if a person: 1. Doesn't have a suicide plan, 2. Doesn't have a history of suicide, 3. Has made a promise of safety to friends, 4. Has made immediate steps to remedy the depressed mood, and 5. Is no longer hysterical on the phone, they are most likely not going to attempt suicide.

I am not saying this out of malice or anger. It's more simply out of what you should know. Do I think my friend made the right decision in calling the cops? Hell to the no! *snaps the z* But do I believe he was feeling malicious and wanted to put me through that? Not at all.

He cared for me. A lot, so it seems. Maybe a bit too much ;)

Ahem...so, I am alive and well with a medical bracelet as a souvenir for my trip to the ER. Hope you enjoyed the read.

P.S. This is not just based on a true story. This actually happened!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Questions without Answers

Maybe writing will help me figure this all out. I honestly don't know.

I came to a decision today. I was planning on locking myself in my room, only venturing out for food and to go to work. Honestly, it would solve a lot of the issues I seem to be having. And I seem to have about the same impact on people's live whether or not I am actually involved in their lives.

It just, doesn't seem to matter. I went to church today and was once again recognized by no one. I've been going to that same ward since March.

I attempted to contact a friend today who seemed to be having some issues. He didn't answer the phone and, in my opinion, quite rudely stated that he was perfectly fine with the things he'd previously complained about. The message I took home from that: bug off.

So why is it that I try so hard? Why do I put myself through so much agony caring what other people think about me? Why do I constantly seek to help people, which a lot of the time ends up blowing up in my face?

I don't know.

I had a wonderful phone call the other day. What was the thing that made it so wonderful? I felt useful and needed. A friend called at the beginning of a mental breakdown. I could barely understand her with how much she was crying. But I instantly turned into my silly, optimistic self, and helped her. I laughed, I commented, I made insightful remarks, and I talked about almost nothing at all. By the end of the conversation, she was feeling much better. I was glad I was of use to someone.

To be trusted in a situation like that is a rare jewel for me. Well, I do encounter it often at work but that's a different scenario. To have a friend who is in a seemingly terrifying situation pick up the phone and call you is a great trust and a privilege. I was honored to be among her chosen friends to accept such a phone call.

So what else happened to me today? I had a talk with my ex again. This wasn't in an effort to be boyfriends again or anything. He saw that I was bothered by something so we went outside and talked. And I quickly shut down. All I can remember is hearing my own thoughts ringing in my ears saying, "this is why you're not good enough...nobody really cares about you...why does he even bother with you...you'll never amount to anything..." and all sorts of other wonderful things.

I've come to the realization that a lot of my behavior is based on feelings of shame. I am ashamed of who I am.

That statement leads to hundreds of automatic assumptions about myself and the world around me. Some of them are: I will never be good enough; I have to be liked by everyone; I must be the best or else people won't like me; I cannot be open about my feelings--they are stupid; my ideas are not of value; I am not of value and finally that the world would be better had I never come into it.

This is a lot to handle. And honestly, I've only told some very few, and select individuals to know about my shame-based beliefs. I am scared to death that sharing these will drive people away. In an effort to own up more to who I am and what I want, I am willing to take that risk, and share these feelings with you.

I'm an expert at pushing people away. Well...maybe just in my head I think I am. I push back when people help, I ignore people, I pick petty fights, and I shut myself down.

But why would I do that when I'm feeling so lonely?

Well, luckily for me, I have a twisted enough mind to think that if people *really* care about me, they'll fight through it all. They'll push and shove and kick and scream and take my pushing back until they reach me. Then, I will know they care.

Holy crap I'm such a freak! What a stupid way to go about living life! Isn't the fix obvious? If you want people to care about you, open up and stop being so dramatic.

Sometimes that's how I talk to myself. I know in my brain what I should do. My therapist and I even talk at great lengths about how much I know. When in therapy, she tells me how calmly I analyze situations and know just the right answer she wants to hear. Problem is that I know the answers, I just have no clue as how to apply them. I am at a total loss.

I seek attention, yet shirk away when it's given. I yearn to be understood but when confronted I shut down. I long for a connection with someone and don't let them in.

And this is all so engrained in me that I feel like there is no way out! Yes, I know what you'll say: "things will get better, keep trying, take one thing at a time, sleep on it" and countless other things people say. The only problem is that those sayings just don't work. I know, hate to burst your bubble.

It's like when my brother died, people would say how sorry they were for me or how they felt for me. Empty words. What I valued the most was when people said, "I have no idea what you're going through. I only wish to help." Wow...thank you for being honest!

Some people are afraid of saying, "I don't feel well-equipped enough to try and give you advice on what you're going through. But I'm here to listen and empathize." Don't sympathize for people, they'll get no comfort from it and probably won't trust you. Empathize. Put yourself in another person's shoes. Sit and feel what they're feeling. A great joy of mine is when people visit me when I'm sad, and just sit and let me take my time in opening up. It feels more real.

So I know all of this. Or at least I think I'm smart and know all of this. Truth is, looking back at what I wrote, I don't sound smart at all. I sound like a total psychopath who might be stepping towards the edge of Borderline Personality Disorder.

It's a bit overwhelming and a bit heartbreaking. I've worked so hard and have so far to go. Ya, I know it's a lifelong process. That doesn't make it any easier for me right now.

So to where do I go? Do I attempt to keep fighting? Do I trust those who have voiced concerns and actually BELIEVE them when they tell me they care about me? Do I keep doing what I'm doing? Do I shut myself off from the world? Do I move and start over completely?

And how do I find myself? How do I change this awful monster that seems to consume my mind? How do I know what I really want? Will there be some satisfaction down the road to let me know that I have been doing well?

Questions I may never find an answer to.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Center

I thought it'd be prudent for me to share my experiences at the residential treatment center I used to work at. This stems mostly from some side comments I get from people when I tell them that I quit because of the stress. They seem shocked that a residential treatment center would cause enough stress for someone to quit and not just "hang on" and wait it out.

My first official shift went fairly well. I was getting the hang of the rules and was asked to sit and watch a girl in the time out room. I dutifully took my post outside the room. I could see the scars on her arms where fresh wounds had been ripped open by her fingernails. The blood was all up and down. She asked to use the restroom which was perfectly in her right so I let her. Then after a few minutes I called into the bathroom. No answer. Again and again I called but still no answer. I called on the radio for help and my coworker and I opened the door to find her huddled in the corner ripping out huge pieces of her hair. She attacked us and was put into a restraint. I held her in a corner with the help of my coworker while she kicked and screamed and bit until the shot given to her in the butt finally took effect. Great first shift.

I was assigned to the younger boys unit. Only problem was that these "younger boys" were mostly bigger than I was. And this kid was no different. His mood fluctuated like no other and he constantly had the look from the crocodile from Peter Pan glued to his face. While he looked comical, he was not to be messed with. After throwing a temper tantrum in class, and upon return to the unit, I went to the whiteboard to change his level and for him to lose his privileges. He dared me to change it. I tried reasoning with him and reached out to change the board. Next thing I knew I was on the floor with a terrible pain in my head and him being taken to a time out room. My coworkers emerged with cuts to their faces and bruises on their bodies from the restraint. I was left shaken but otherwise relatively in-tact.

Whoever said that words will never hurt you is a complete moron. Yes, sticks and stones can break bones but guess what? Words, and endless harassment and taunting can create severe psychological deficits in the form of social skills which lead to unhealthy relationships which unfortunately continues to spiral. I have never been called "fag" until I worked at the treatment center. To walk down the halls was to hear countless whisperings of gay, fag, queer and other words I care not to repeat. To think that I was investing myself to help these kids and to hear that they had absolutely no respect for me was, to say the least, very discouraging.

I transferred to the girls unit. A few days later, riots broke out in both boys units. The police were called in and several arrests were made. The boys unit continued to tank from that point on.

At first the girls unit was a lot better. And overall, it was an excellent decision. I felt safer physically, felt like I could joke around more with the girls, and felt more at ease in conversation. That was until the honeymoon period was over. Anytime there is a new staff or a new girl, things tend to run smooth for about two weeks or less. Then, they begin to act like they normally did.

In the hallway between classes, the staff were watching over the kids and a few were talking towards the end of the hall. On the way back from the bathroom, one of the girls decided to jump and attack a staff. This resulted in the staff being taken to a hospital, complete chaos as girls began to fight other girls, and other girls fighting other staff. Our staff never returned to that unit. Why did this resident attack this particular staff member? Because she just didn't like her.

In the cafeteria, a knife restriction was placed on the girls for self-harm reasons. There were too many instances of girls taking the plastic knives to change them into shanks or to use to cut themselves with. A girl ran for the knives, she broke through staff, took the knife, broke it on the floor to make it even sharper, and began stabbing herself in the arm. I have never seen anyone take an object and with no care of their own well being, plunge it into their own skin over and over and over. I was shaken and felt like throwing up.

These are only a few instances of some of the things I encountered at this center. If you still believe I should've toughed it out well...you go give it a shot. We'll see who lasts longer. I could only take five months. And what happened on my last day you ask?

I cried. I had not cried that long, especially in front of people I didn't know very well, in a very long time. My heart was broken because these girls had promise. They had been given opportunity after opportunity and they were literally throwing their lives away. I wanted them to succeed. I wanted them to take advantage of the therapy offered and of the caring staff that had stuck with them for years and get out of that awful place! But, there is no way to force someone to change. Even if it is for their best interest.

Although I have concentrated mostly on the negative to give you an appreciation as to the struggles that those in the mental health field endure, there were positive things as well. I built real relationships with some of these kids. Relationships that I realized would change their lives for the better. For some of those girls, losing me was very difficult. And they told me how much I had changed them and how much they appreciated me. It was gut-wrenching to leave those that I cared so much about, just because some would never learn that violence solves nothing and real change can only come from within.

I value the lessons I learned from that center. I learned that being invested in people is a worthy goal. I learned that life completely sucks, but that there are people that make it all worth it. I learned the meaning of loving someone no matter how stupid their choices were.

And I learned what a difference it makes in a person's life when you can look them in the eye after they hurt you and say, "I forgive you."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It Finally Happened

We met at a friends birthday party. He looked a lot older than 22. Which is probably why I thought he was so handsome. We didn't get to talk a lot that night. I wasn't feeling quite myself and he seemed a bit shy at the time. We did however talk enough to add each other on facebook. Ah facebook, what a wonderful thing for those of us who are way to shy to ask for a phone number.

He messaged me on facebook a few months later saying that we should hang out. I told him my work schedule, gave him my phone number and soon, we had our first date set.

Dating again?! What?! I couldn't believe that I was thinking about doing it again. I had "dated" before but they weren't really dates because I wasn't really looking. I thought that maybe this time I was ready for something more. And I was determined to take things slow.

He picked me up, we hugged and headed off to dinner. He took me to a Thai restaurant and we began looking over the menu. He ordered for the both of us and we began talking. To be honest, he came off a bit strong that night--he was very sure of what he wanted, took things seemingly too seriously, and even had the audacity of ordering MY food for me! Goodness gracious. But I persevered.

After we finished eating, he told me we were going dancing. I almost dropped dead right there. Yes I am gay. Yes I am ok with that in my own little safe world with my gay friends and also just being alone. What he was suggesting was taking me out into the non-gay real world and wanted me to dance with him... Talk about a shock. But I persevered.

We went dancing. And no longer was I persevering, I was having a great time. I learned how to relax. I felt like I could be myself around him with all my little insecurities and imperfections. He was interested in me just for me. He liked the awkward, badly coordinated dancer that he was trying to teach. And I liked this new, very attractive young man with an incredibly open mind.

And recently, I wrote about how we have now been dating for two months! And since that first dance, I've been going to a dance every night with him. I'm actually getting to be quite good if I do say so myself.

I had planned this July 4th weekend for a while now. I had bought Stadium of Fire tickets and was going to surprise him with it on Saturday. I told him to keep his Saturday open and everything was going according to plan.

But, because Karma hates me, things exploded. Well, at least temporarily. Casey's sister reminded Casey that their family was going camping that weekend and they'd had that planned for at least three months if not longer. I felt terrible for asking him to change his plans and he felt awful for thinking he'd have to cancel.

So we meshed the two together. I went camping with him and his family Friday night. We had a wonderful time. I brought my violin, and his father and brother-in-law brought their guitars and we had a concert. Then we talked while sitting around the fire and snuggled up next to each other and his two siblings for a nice rest.

The next day, we headed to my house for a family BBQ. We ate until our stomachs were distended. Then we ate dessert which sent us into a food coma. Blast you Karma you've done it again.

After we awoke from our coma, we chatted with my extended family and Casey began asking what we were doing that afternoon. I told him we were heading to Provo and yes, he guessed we were going to the Stadium of Fire. Curse you Karma!

I tried to save it by saying that we were just going to watch the fireworks. I think he bought it briefly. Once we were in Provo, we met up with one of our wonderful friends and walked around campus and enjoyed the pre-show activities. Casey grabbed a drink and said he'd save it for later. Me, being the moron that I am, said, "Casey you won't be able to take that into the show..."

Holy crapola I just ruined the surprise. Curse you!! But hey, we were still going to have fun.

The show was fantastic. The music was spectacular, and the company was even more beautiful than the entertainment. Not only that, but Casey had never been to one of these shows before. It was like a brand new experience for me seeing it through his eyes.

Now came the most important part of the evening. I wanted to ask him to be my boyfriend. My friend in Provo suggested we go on a walk, I pick a flower, put the ring I got for him on the flower, and give it to him. And that was the plan...until it took us an hour to get back to the car and another half hour to get out of Provo. Hmmmmm...there had to be another way.

We arrived home very late after a quick trip to Denny's. I sent him upstairs to turn on one of our favorite TV shows while I grabbed us some ice cream. That's it! Ice cream! I stuck the ring at the bottom of his cup, scooped in the ice cream, walked up that eternal flight of stairs with my heart beating like crazy, and gave it to him.

Then we began to watch. Nothing happened. We were still watching. Still nothing happening here... I was beginning to wonder if I had mixed up the cups. Then he started to laugh as he tried to eat the ring I gave him. I told him to run over to the sink and wash it off. While he was over there, I was frantically trying to come up with something incredibly romantic that could be passed on for generations.

And blast it Karma didn't give it to me. He sat down, and I pulled out the matching ring for myself. Taking a deep breath, and trusting that he did actually like me, I simply said, "Well, I had to get two matching rings if I was going to ask you to be my boyfriend."

Then....

Nothing....

No, just kidding. He looked at me, and a huge smile came on his face and he said, "Of course I want to be your boyfriend!"

Oh how happy I was! This is my first ever gay relationship. My heart began to slow down from the hummingbird setting and we sat with our arms wrapped around each other, finished our ice cream, and finished our show. Ahhh, now this is the life, I thought.

So there you have it. That is our relationship story. I'm a little anxious to see how he responds to what I first thought of him...(I haven't even told him any of that yet! Mwahahaha!)

Thank you dear reader for staying in touch with me. Thank you for your patience and understanding in my ramblings. I hope they are fun and entertaining for you because it is a pleasure for me to write them.

I am continuing to try and live the best as I see fit. I am still going to church. I still believe in the church. I am dating a man. I believe in the happiness and joy that I've felt in our relationship. And these worlds WILL fit together. I can promise you that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One Year Later

I cannot believe that a year ago today, I came out to the world on facebook. Prior to this day, only a few close friends and my family knew of the burden I carried. Coming out was a way of sharing my burden and showed to me that there are SO many people who love me. Soon I realized that it wasn't a burden at all, but a blessing.

Sure it was definitely a blessing in disguise. There were days when I wanted to take a pill that would magically turn me straight. There were days when I was so fed up and disgusted by the gay world that I wished I had never felt feelings for other men. Then there were those days when I was with my gay friends and I felt at home, at peace, and loved for who I was, and nothing else.

My initial experiences were all over the place. People had crushes on me and I had no idea what to do. I committed myself to not having a relationship. End of story. This was not only because I was not ready for a relationship, but because I was new to the gay world and wanted to take things slow. At the time, I couldn't understand why it was so easy for so many to just throw caution to the wind and jump into being open and gay.

As I became closer to my gay friends, I realized that there were very few who jumped into the gay world. Many were in the same position I was for months or even years: not knowing what to do or who to turn to. It seemed like those who did get into the "gay-o-sphere", and possibly even started dating right away, were ill-prepared, and soon found themselves sitting in the gutter holding what was left of what they once believed.

Which sometimes makes me wonder why so many pushed me to BE ready for dating. I'm a rational person and I need time to adjust to new things and new situations. And the very idea that people who have gone through some very similar experiences would push me into something I wasn't ready for is just plain...well, it's wrong.

I've had many guys push me to drink, to smoke, or to have sex. A lot of those things are stereotypical to the "gay lifestyle" as people say. I didn't want that. And I chose not to have it. And even though I was harassed by some members of the gay community, for the most part I was told to stand my ground and to keep moving forward.

I have done so, and I love where my life is headed. I still go to church. I try to go every week. I still believe in the church and wish to remain a part of it. I have also realized that being gay and having the restored gospel in my life are NOT mutually exclusive things. I do NOT have to give up one to retain the other. And I won't give up either. I love who I am and I won't change it.

There are those who have a hard time understanding me. I am obstinant, I am moody, I am pushy but I also don't give up, I'm faithful, I'm honest, I'm fun, and I'm respectful. To those who do not yet fully understand me, I invite you to try. This is not out of a need to be liked or loved ('cause trust me there are quite a few people who *really* don't like me out there), but out of a general desire for me to become closer to you. As we learn about each other, we grow and change. As we make our journeys together, we hope not to make the mistakes of the past, but to forge a new path.

At this point in time I have started casually dating (funny after my whole paragraph about being pushed to date but hey, it's been a year!). I have for the past couple months. It has been absolutely wonderful! The guys who have taken me out have been sweet, honest, and loving. And I hope they can say the same for me when I took them out. I found a level of honesty in dating that I didn't think would exist. It made me trust a little bit more in humanity.

I have been going on dates with a friend for about a month and a half. To say that I am happy is a complete understatement! I find myself constantly thinking about him. I find myself becoming excited almost to the point of being giddy at the thought of us going on another adventure where I can't get our four-wheelers to start, or when I make myself look like a total idiot when dancing. I almost feel like a teenager again! Hmmmm... and that last sentence made me feel old...

I am ecstatic about our relationship. He knows my rules and respects them. He has never once asked me to do something that I was not comfortable with. Which is more than I can say about some other people I've met. He tells me to stick to my beliefs and to keep a high standard. And he really doesn't have to try hard to live up to my standard. He's already there, and I love him for that. There is no pretending with him. There is total honesty, support, faith, understanding, and love. I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin than I feel with his arm wrapped around me in an embrace.

But I digress. He is fantastic, but there is more I want to say. Specifically, today is also an important day because my brother would've turned 26 today.

His life was a complete roller-coaster. After leaving the church at a fairly young age, he struggled to make friends. But he didn't struggle for long. His charm, wits, and love made him very popular among his social circles. He was well-known and well-liked.

And I loved him. Oh how I miss him! I miss how much he understood me. I miss his appreciation of music and it's power over mind, body, and soul. I miss being able to laugh together as we quoted our favorite TV shows. Most of all, I miss his warm smile and his always accepting heart.

He taught me how to love unconditionally. There are times when I want to tear my hair out because I am so fed up with people around me. In those cases, I think of my brother and how he truly served those he loved. I hope to follow in his footsteps.

At his funeral, there were literally hundreds of people there to say goodbye. It was the most colorful funeral I'd ever seen. The people there had pink, blue, yellow, orange, and red hair, clothing, or skin. Each one came up to either my parents, or me, and told us how much they'd miss him.

And oh what a celebration of life my brother's funeral was! My brother left behind a legacy of compassion and forgiveness. I wish he were here to guide me as I continue my journey now. I know he'd be proud of me. He'd even be proud of some of his clothing styles I've adopted, which I show off proudly, such as my jewelry, my hairstyles, and even my crazy shoes.

As I begin this new journey of life, I hope to continue on my path of self-discovery and love of mankind. I do not wish to become like some of the gays I meet--gay and bitter at the world because THEY did this to me and THEY made me so hateful. No. I choose how to react to the world. And really? If you continue to love someone who hates you with a passion, eventually, they give in. Never underestimate the power of love.

Now go out, and live to love!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Understanding

To be understood I would venture to say is one of the main reasons we as human being choose to do anything. If you look back across history, we can see numerous instances in which one culture or belief was not understood, and in which efforts were taking for that culture or beliefe to become understood.

Think of the Crusades. At the time, a certain religious belief was not understood by the people of Europe and the Middle East. So what did England choose to do? They chose to MAKE people understand through a war.

Think more recently of September 11. I believe that our nation was attacked because we chose not to try and understand the Muslim culture. In an effort to force us to understand them, we were attacked. In an effort to make them understand our point of view, we retaliated.

What is the goal of an argument? It's to win right? No. It may appear that you are "winning" an argument, but what it seems you are really trying to do is persuade someone into understanding your point of view. If we go into an argument expecting to win, and striving to win, there will be a loser. There has to be a loser if there is to be a winner. However, if we were to enter more into a discussion, rather than an argument, and discuss our points of view, and really push ourselves to try and understand where the other person is coming from, we can foster a greater feeling of camaraderie and peace. Then, there would be no losers. Only understanding.

My heart was overjoyed this past week. I felt like I finally made a huge leap forward in my quest for others to understand me. In my coming out, I have had many people who simply don't understand me. Many people can't see why I've chosen to stay in the church. Many don't understand why I have chosen not to pursue a relationship for so long. And still others do not understand why I am gay at all. I too don't really understand why I'm gay but that's ok. This last week, I have made a huge stride in being understood by my parents.

Let me tell you about them.

My mum and dad are some of the most charitable people I know. In all of our family struggles, my parents were the first ones on the scene to show us compassion, wrap their arms around us, give words of encouragement, and offer their assistance. To them I am infinitely grateful. Their love and service to others is a constant reminder to me that I am no better than anyone else, and that I MUST serve my fellow men because they are also children of God. To ignore the needs of others reflects personal selfishness, immaturity, and a lack of empathy.

I wish to share with you some excerpts of a letter my father and mother wrote to me. They are currently in Europe and I am amazed that they would be so kind as to take such a long time to sit down on their vacation, and write to me to express their love, concern, and understanding.

The letter begins with my father (he was the main composer of the letter but my mother helped him as well) saying that he did not find any "startling new revelations" but rather that it helped him understand the "agonizing decisions that you face as a committed young Latter-day Saint."

When I first came out to the world, my parents were very hurt. They didn't understand why such a personal issue should be broadcast to the world. My father now believes that my decision helped curtail the "self-loathing that afflicts so many gay men and women from religious backgrounds." To hear that from my father gave me so much hope for myself and others like me. I pray that those who struggle in silence will soon be able to struggle as part of a family--whether that be their actual family or a family of friends.

My fathers next paragraph touched me beyond measure. I feel like I must share it word for word:
"You did not make a choice to be homosexual, God made you the way you are. Why you should have been given the challenges associated with being gay in a straight world, I do not understand. Perhaps it is not a test being place on gay people. Perhaps it is a test to see if those of us who are straight can live up to the challenge to 'love one another as I have loved you'."

The tears could not be held back at that point. I was amazed at the insight my father had about my situation even after such a short period of time of me coming out. Yes it has been two and a half years but when I think about it, many parents do not come to that conclusion after twenty years if at all.

"I cannot comprehend the possibility that God with His perfect love will deny his gay children re-entry into His presence. Just as people in all ages have created clubs, schools and associations that excluded people of other races, social classes and norms, so too have religious people created a heaven that excludes people who make them uncomfortable. Man's heaven is exclusive. God's heaven is inclusive."

Obviously I cannot share with you the whole contents of the letter. It is special, and I hold it dear to my heart and will forever after treasure it as a miracle. I am now confident in my parents willingness to understand me. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have fought SO hard to come to where they are today. They have done everything in their power to understand me.

And now it's my turn. I feel like I am generally a very understanding person. I don't think I've ever been "weirded out" by anything anyone has told me about themselves. But there have been times when I have been more concerned with being right than being understanding. I choose to be more understanding. I choose to place myself in the other persons' shoes before trying to persuade them otherwise.

I hope and pray that others will do the same. So now I have a new affirmation to make about myself.

I am understanding.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Am

Wow it's been an interesting week. I've had high highs and low lows all over the place. But right now I feel like I've settled down a little bit and am ready to write in my blog.

I am a good person.

I am kind.

I am patient.

I am a good listener.

I am fun.

I am generous.

I am loveable.

I am smart.

I am emotional.

I am sweet.

I am thoughtful.

I am loving.

I am giving.

I am silly.

I am happy.

I am a good speaker.

I am talented.

I am beautiful.

I am fashionable.

I am mature.

I am a kid.

I am successful.

I am religious.

I am spiritual.

I am part of a family.

I am invloved in the greater good.

I am helpful.

I am gay.

What are you friend? I've had a hard time this last week believing most of the things I just said I am. I did not do this in an effort to brag or say how amazing I am.

One of my friends told me, "thoughts become things". No they don't. Thoughts become things if you're a schizo and you hallucinate.

That was my initial reaction. And can I say a really stupid first reaction. I'm a psychologist. I know that our own thoughts make up how we view the world. Those tiny little things we choose to say to ourselves in our quiet moments will become how we view ourselves.

I don't know where all my negative "I am" statements came from. I suppose they have built up over the years because I do not tell other people these statements so they are not refuted.

I suppose it could also simply be that we are our own harshest critics. I told a friend the other day that I wish he could see himself the way I see him. He would never be sad after that. 

I am on a journey of self-discovery. I am rebuilding my thoughts and therefore my world. I am stubborn and won't stop until I have accomplished changing the world. I am powerful and will succeed.

I challenge you to write down some of your "I am" statements and see what you come up with. Believe in your self-worth as I am trying to believe in mine. Once we can accept ourselves, there is nothing we can't accomplish.

I am wonderful.

I am powerful.

I am special.

And I especially, am loved.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blah

Today is a blah day. I'm not sure if it's the weather or maybe my time of the week (men go through weekly cycles FYI) but I'm just feeling blah today.

I have a love/hate relationship with being gay. Last week on my dates I loved it. Today, I'm not such a fan. I read about a blog post describing some of the hate and prejudice that takes place against gays. It reminds me of the harassment I've dealt with. Nothing major but hard nontheless.

Can I just say that I love when people have the wrong idea about who I am? Ya...so...fun... I recently had to cut off an acquantence cause I was being harassed for things I never did.  I'm glad it's over now but it's sad when someone sees you as a terrible person. 

Then there are times when my work comes home with me. I'm not talking about being bothered by my kids' problems, it's more when I get so drained trying to help people with their problems.

I had a good friend tell me the other night after I was hanging with one of the dates I had last week, that he was so mad at me and just wanted to be mad at me. I told him to go ahead and be mad at me. People take out a lot of their frustrations on me. But apparently I'm also the cause of many frustrations. I dunno what to do with these people. I apologize but I can't make it better.

I'm so tired. Both physically and emotionally. There are times when I remember that I was born to serve others and make their burdens lighter. But there are days like today when the light in my heart is barely flickering and I just wanna curl up, and cry myself to sleep for a very long time.

Don't get me wrong, I had  some great dates last week and I also have some wonderful ones planned this week. I suppose I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed with all the changes in my life. 

My brother told me that natural introverts react interestingly when given too much social stimuli. They shut down. It's a way for the brain to build itself back up and become energized again. I think I'm going to take some "me time" tonight before I go dancing again.

It seems that I throw out all of this information about myself through blogs and just talking to try and get some of it to stick. It's like a shotgun approach to friendship. Taking the time to build friendships one on one is absolutely terrifying. I'm scared once people get to my core, they won't like me. And so I have tons of friends. I know a few of them closer than others and a few of them know me too. Most don't know really anything about me. I have too many walls up.

I can feel myself withdrawing and literally shutting down. I want to reach out but don't. I assume people just don't want to talk to me. Of course this is a skewed thought process but that's how it feels.

So there you go. I had some pretty amazing days recently and I guess I'm worn out and contemplative today. Thinking is dangerous. I should probably stop :P

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Different Reactions

This job that I'm in now is probably the first job I've ever had where the majority of the people I work with are not LDS. I realized this walking into work today and thought it'd be an interesting thing to talk about.

The Salt Lake valley is actually very different from Utah valley. Refreshingly so. I enjoy seeing people that look different and act differently. I enjoy making new friends with different views. And of course, I enjoy seeing the gays and actually being able to tell they're gay! Only some of my readers understand that :P

So I've noticed something working here in residential treatment. People treat me differently. Oh don't worry, it's a good thing.

I've had three close encounters with residents. None of them lead to anything too serious. Bruises yes but otherwise I'm fine. I've noticed that some staff here get beat up either verbally or physically a lot. But it's only certain staff.

Could it be because I'm LDS? People don't really ask what religion I am but it affects their behavior. Or is it because I am respectful of others? Are there some other character traits that help me at work?

When residents are mad, they yell and scream and swear. Then when I begin talking to them, they speak softer, and the swearing mostly stops. It's really interesting!

Most of the staff here are really good people. Some of them have a very tough loving approach though. But what're they like with me? They're respectful, considerate, and nice.

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that who you associate with creates who you are. I've seen people go different ways depending on who they associate with.

It's actually a phenomenon in psychology and research has proven that likes attract and that the environment has a huge impact on personality and especially behavior. The environment can be more effective in changing a persons behavior than a persons own personal beliefs and values.

The values that I cultivate influence the people around me. What I choose to show others through my actions has a huge impact. Past historical figures such as Gandhi and even Hitler have realized this and used it for better or for worse.

In my case, I've used it for the better without fully realizing it. I simply follow the rules I learned when I was a child. I respect others, I am curteous, kind, caring, and attentive. Many kids here who won't talk to staff will talk to me.

I just thought I'd put my ideas out there for you guys. Who we are and choose to act changes the way others around us act. Want to change the world? Change yourself first. Others will follow behind :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Side of the Story

It's time for me to tell my side of the story of this past week and weekend. But before I do, let me just fill you in on some things I've learned about listening from school and my work.

Be quiet. When you immediately jump into a conversation in which someone is trying to talk things out and give your infinite fountain of advice and knowledge, you come off as insensitive to the issue, and are basically telling the other person that they are not worth your valuable time. You are telling them to grow up, get fixed, and move on so they no longer have to deal with your issues.

When listening to problems my friends have or even the kids I work with, I don't say a word for a while. At least I try not to. I listen to what they're saying. I also listen to what they're communicating through body language or tone of voice.

Along with listening comes asking questions. Asking questions shows that you are indeed interested in what they are trying to say. Ask questions to get at deeper roots of the issues or to clarify confusion in your mind. It shows that you are invested in their well-being.

Now then, here is my story.

This week has been hard for me. It's been a very emotional week. I began my weekend really hoping that seeing my friends would help me feel better. I kicked it off by hanging out with a gay friend from work. We simply watched a movie and snuggled. It felt good to be close to someone again.

Then we went to a pizza party. At first I really didn't want to be there. And that feeling was confirmed by someone who in a failed attempt to get my attention and flirt with me, decided to make fun of me. I felt like I was back in elementary school.

The party continued with me feeling like I just didn't fit in until one of my best friends showed up. For the rest of the night, I stayed by her side and felt my mood lift. She loves me no matter what and has stayed by my side through a lot.

Then it was time to go home. My mood dropped again once I left the comfort of my dear friends. I felt alone.

The next day I had a date. It was wonderful and he was a perfect gentlemen. We toured Salt Lake City, had intelligent conversations, giggled at seeing cute boys, and shared personal stories to get to know one another.

So the date was perfect. Until he went home. After he left I received a text saying, "well I had a great time until reality set in." Um...what? Oh right, the reality he was referring to is the fact that I don't want a relationship. Now I had made that point clear before we met for our date. But I guess our date confused him.

The general conclusion of the conversation that followed is that I am a player and that I'm stupid for not wanting a relationship. He then told me we could only be friends from afar for a while. I did my best to explain that I never meant to hurt him and apologized profusely. But, he wasn't going to change his mind. End of story.

So I turned to my friends for comfort. Then the crap hit the fan. Now, this is what I feel like my friends told me. Actual reality and my perception of reality tend to separate when I'm upset.

Most of my friends didn't listen. They said I'm sorry and that was the end of our conversation. There were two who did what I said in the beginning not to do, they through their infinite knowledge in my face hoping something would stick. It's incredibly irritating when people assume what's worked for them is right for me.

One friend told me he wished he had never gotten physically involved with me. Um...ouch? Ya, major blow to my self-esteem. He also told me that every guy I've basically ever come in contact with feels played by me--they would die for me, and all I want to do is use them and move on.

Then came another friend who also has infinite knowledge and wisdom. He told me the way I build relationships is stupid. He let me know that I will forever be alone at the rate I'm going. My biggest fear = always being alone.

At this point I was numb. I couldn't feel anything anymore. I was planning on going to another party with this friend #2 but really didn't feel like going after that lovely little message.

I went with a friend who came up from Provo to keep me company. I was in tears the whole way there and was absolutely silent the entire night. Loved the whisperings going on around me instead of people just asking me what was wrong. Ya, that's good times.

I finally got to leave the party. Friend #2 felt like a total jackass for what he said to me earlier and wanted to talk with me today. I told him straight up to leave me alone and stop pretending like he cared. He did so.

There was only one friend who kept talking to me during this whole process. This was friend #1 who told me I use everyone. He was having a rough day too and while attempting to warn me in an effort to save me from more heartache, I felt like he attacked me on an incredibly personal level.

We talked a lot this morning. I told him that I feel like I'm trapped on an abusive relationship. I don't know how to open myself up on an emotional level and I use being physical as a way to feel important and loved. If I am wanted for my physical looks and features, I feel good about myself. Twisted, I know.

We also decided that most guys I hang out with are ready for a relationship and when I'm physical with them, they get confused as to why I'd do that when I claim I'm not ready.

So, I still don't know how to open myself up emotionally. I am committed to my friends. But I have a hard time believing that they are committed to me. I have too many walls up to believe that they would want me as messed up as I am.

It is a defense mechanism for me to take things in an attacking fashion. It's easier to maintain my belief that I can't ever be loved than for me to start to believe people may actually care for me. In my mind, it's better to expect the worst than to hope just a little for something better and have those hopes dashed to pieces. And the latter has happened to me far too many times.

I really don't know what else to say. I want to be understood. I want to feel loved for just me instead of people wanting to fix me first, and once I fulfill their expectations, then they'll be happy with me.

I am going to try to be more open to emotional intimacy with my friends. Right now I have no idea how to do that but I'm hoping as time passes, it will simply naturally evolve.

To those who I feel have personally attacked me, I hope you understand more of my thought processes now as to why I assumed it was an attack. I am sorry for my automatic reactions.

Thank you to those who keep trying. Hopefully I can make you happy with me one day. That day is not today. I hope it will be soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sounds of Silence

The song Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel contains many literary devices. These devices allow the song to reach a deeper level within our understanding of ourselves, but of humanity as a whole. In writing these lyrics, Paul Simon used literary devices such as alliteration, allusion, symbolism, simile and oxymoron to convey a message of utter dismay at the total lack of communication and a real emotional connection between people and people’s lackadaisical approach to a mundane existence.

The words “sounds of silence” create an alliteration that almost leads the reader to imagery. There is actually no possible way to be in a place where there are no sounds. If a person enters a completely quiet chamber, they would still hear the sounds of electricity in the brain, a high pitched ringing sound, and the “whoosh” of blood as it is pumped throughout the body. Paul Simon uses this phrase to say that the only way to reach utter silence is to be dead. He uses this fact to stress to the listener that the lack of communication between people results in dead conversations where nothing is discussed, nothing is learned, and no words have really been spoken.

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord says that He will “hiss” unto all the nations. After listening to the phrase “sounds of silence”, I found that the phrase created a hissing noise. The word “hiss” that is used in the Book of Mormon refers to a warning. While Simon probably wasn’t alluding to the Book of Mormon, I do believe that there is a connection between what he wrote and what the scriptures say. As I have already stated, this song describes a lack of communication and an apathy towards a mundane existence. I believe that Simon was using his “hiss” as a warning to the rest of us to try and get rid of such negative qualities.

Another allusion that this song refers to is Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. The man in the story is like the man from Plato’s allegory who finally gets out of the cave. In Plato’s allegory, the man discovers all of the wonderful things that had previously only been seen as shadows. He runs back to the cave where his friends are still looking at the shadows being cast on the back of the cave. He tries to tempt them out of their cave of ignorance and look beyond the surface of things, but to his dismay, they refuse. Simon is referring to a frustration with people in general. Just like the man in Plato’s allegory, Simon writes that he had a revelation from the shadows of Plato’s cave. He leaves his superficial world and gains incredible insight. It seems that most people are unwilling or disinterested in anyone or anything. They are very much content to “hear without listening”. They will not go beyond the surface. They will simply accept the mundane around them because no one “dares disturb the sounds of silence”.

Symbolism also brings a deeper meaning to this song. The “neon god” that the people make refers to the technological advancements that are continually making our lives more convenient. But this convenience comes at a cost. In a world of instant messaging, emails and texting, people are “talking without speaking”. Of course ideas are being shared, information is being passed, but any emotion has been sucked out of such communication. The days where people would visit their friends seems to be fading. It is much simpler to just text your best friend and ask them how they’re doing. Although this is convenient, there is no deep exploration of how their friend is really doing through a text. Such a connection can only be enjoyed in person.

Later on in the song Simon writes, “take my arms that I might reach you”. I believe that Simon is symbolically acting as the role of the Savior. In Simon’s mind, it doesn’t make sense that people would wander around, accepting the mundane. Simon wants to reach out and save them from themselves! Like the Savior, Simon tries to warn the people, using a simile, that such silence is like a cancer that will grow and destroy them. And, just like in the Scriptures, the people reject the message and “like silent raindrops”, his words fall into the “wells of silence”. And like the Savior who taught us to continually serve others and find the lost sheep, we should also be reaching out to others. Simon also makes another interesting point when he says “take my arms”. We have to be willing to take the hands that are extended to us. There are times when I believe that I can make it on my own, but then I remember that I need help. I have to then humble myself and be willing to grab hold of the Savior’s arm, or even the helping hand of a friend.

Simon’s clever use of oxymorons draws attention to the fact that what the people are doing just doesn’t make sense. Simon points out that there is an incongruity between people “talking without speaking”, and people “hearing without listening”. After all, it makes sense that if the people wanted to talk, they would speak, and if they wanted to hear, they would listen. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The people are not expressing what needs to be expressed. The world is becoming ever more mundane as people push aside their emotions as a hindrance to their productivity. Thus, things are still being accomplished, but there is no emotional connection between anything. It reminds me of the idea that people are always after money because they believe once they have it, they will begin to enjoy life. However, this is usually not the case. The individuals who seek such incredible wealth, push aside real emotional connections such as friends, family, and religion to seek something common. Once they have what they wanted, the connections they once had are gone, and there is no point in them seeking so much money since now, they have no one to share it with.

Finally, I believe that the entire song is a symbol for loneliness. What I have previously described is a devastating blow to humanity. We are gaining in apathy, and losing in emotion. And while this song was most likely designed to help us see our flaws, I believe it was also designed to reach out to the one lonely soul. Can there be a more devastating event in a person’s life than to realize that no one can hear their cries for help? Simon shows that he, if no one else, understands how they are feeling. He already described how alone he felt when he tried to save humanity from their silence, so at least he can understand the lonely individuals and let them know that they are not alone.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Friends

I have tons of friends. People sometimes wonder how I've managed to acquire so many friends. Well it was after junior high school that I decided to not be a loner and put myself out there. For the most part, I have succeeded.

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I have some of the best friends in the world. When I'm down, people call me or text me. When my brother died, I had countless phone calls, friends just hold me while I cried, and many wonderful and thoughtful gifts. When I'm stressed, I can talk to any of my friends and they will listen to me vent and still be there after I'm done. Some of these friends have known me for almost all of my life. Others only a few years and still others are getting to know me. I needed to write this to say how much I love and appreciate all of you.

I have a problem. I'm sarcastic. Sometimes it gets me into trouble. It's a huge safety mechanism for me. When I'm feeling inferior or upset, I am far more sarcastic. But I'm also very sarcastic when I'm feeling really happy. It's an interesting phenomenon to be on both sides of the spectrum.

I have to apologize for being a jerk. I apologize to you guys for taking advantage of your generosity when I feel like total crap. I'm sorry for snapping when your arms were outstreched. You don't deserve that.

If I'm actually hurting you, please tell me. As much as I'd like to be, I'm not a mind reader. Sometimes I get carried away and need to be prompted to redirect my sarcasm. I need the feedback to improve myself.

My dear friends, thank you SO much for being with me through thick and thin. I know that I've pushed many of you away. It's hard for me to open up emotionally when I'm feeling really terrible. I thank you for trying to pry me open, make me feel worth your time, and love me for me.

I honestly cannot say thank you enough. There is nothing like having a good friend by you on a hard day. Sometimes you don't even have to talk, just sitting with a friend can be enough.

I miss my friends and especially my family. As I moved up to Murray, I realized I need to rely more on my social support because I am in an unfamiliar place. I get to see my family every week. I always don't want to leave after a Sunday visit with the best family I could have asked for. They are so understanding and loving. I am eternally grateful to them and for them.

Don't hesitate to call me up, text me or email me. I love to help wherever I can. I hope to be the kind of friends and family that you have been to me. Thank you all so much.

Love,

Steven Bristow

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wheels and Whores

I'm feeling quite overwhelmed right now. It seems that no matter what I do, drama seems to follow me. Maybe I'm just the cause of the drama. Maybe it'd be better if I just didn't have friends.

I am an introvert by nature. But I am desperately trying to become an extrovert. When I was in junior high, I realized I didn't have many friends. From then on I worked very hard to become friends with lots of people. People would never say that I'm shy now but honestly on the inside, I am very shy and it's incredibly difficult for me to force myself to be outgoing.

Having lots of friends leads to drama. Having lots of gay friends leads to even MORE drama. And being gay myself would contribute to some more drama. Yesterday, I had a friend nicely tell me that I'm a whore. Wow, what a great way to add to the happiness I was feeling at Disneyland. From then, I've been wanting to cry, but I just can't bring myself to do it. My friends are here, and they don't need to know what I'm going through. They probably don't understand or really even care.

Am I a whore? I don't think so. I have a need for physical comfort. It is necessary to my happiness. So yes, I do cuddle with a lot of people. So what? People understand that I'm not looking for a boyfriend, yet when I cuddle with someone new, people jump on me like a fat kid on a Twinkie, accusing me of being unfaithful. How do I be unfaithful when I have no commitments to anyone?

And I am also feeling a lot like a third wheel right now. I'm on a trip with my friends right now, and I feel like they only brought me along so that the couples wouldn't be even so that our parents would feel better about letting us go together. There are two couples, and me. It's been like that since junior high. I tag along so that parents are happy. I'm the gay friend that keeps people "safe" from their deep and dark desires.

There are very few people who I hang out with just one on one. Which is weird since I prefer to be in small groups rather than large, even though I am quite often the center of attention in large groups. The only problem with being the third, fifth, or whatever odd number wheel is that you're kinda left out. And I feel like I have been.

At Disneyland, I was always standing in the back of the group. The other two couples were talking, and snuggling in public (barf) and I was standing in the back feeling like it was expected of me to be happy and cheerful. Um, no. So when the comment came that I was a whore, my mood plummeted. I feel like crap right now.

Do people actually like me for me or just for the "services" I provide? Do I actually make a difference in the happiness of others or do I suck the fun and happiness out of a room, as I feel like I'm doing right now? Would there ever be a time where I wouldn't feel like a lone wheel 'cause I'll have someone by my side? I doubt it to be honest.

Sorry for the whiny post. I just had to write this stuff down.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Church's Little Monsters

I am attaching an essay written by one of my good friends. I thought it was absolutely beautiful while reading it. I hope you enjoy it as well. His blog is http://keeptreadingwater.blogspot.com

Enjoy the essay!

“What chiefly struck me was the gentle manners of these people, and I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered before...and resolved, whatever course of conduct I might hereafter think it right to pursue, that for the present I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching and endeavoring to discover the motives which influenced their actions” (Shelley 128).

There are those among us who hide themselves in their own hovels, watching others as they pursue the dreams and aspirations of a normal, healthy lifestyle. To those who are hiding in the hovels of despair, in their own personal closets, this paper is dedicated to you: The homosexual member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Published anonymously by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley in 1818, Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus brings up several points, actions and feelings that are strikingly similar to those that homosexual members of the Christian religion feel. These feelings are wide and varied, and cannot be compiled into one short essay. However, for the purpose of this essay, we will focus on the feelings of shame, loneliness, and joy and how they are similar to the feelings of Frankenstein's monster and those of gay members in the Church.

Gershen Kaufmann, Ph.D, writer and publisher of Coming Out of Shame, describes the almost damning role that religion has on those who struggle with homosexuality or who describe themselves as being gay or lesbian. He says, “While religion has been generally viewed as offering relief from the burden of sin (shame), religion in fact has more often been the cause of further shame...” (89). This shame that Kaufmann mentions so blatantly can come from a number of different things. His book does not focus on religion as being the source of shame, but it is a component. Some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are no strangers to this shame. Most cannot pinpoint a defining moment when they “knew” they were gay. They have just always simply known. We can describe this foreknowledge as either an innate desire, struggle, or burden. However, we read in The Book of Mormon that God gives His children weakness (Ether 12:27). Some members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community who are religious and devout members of the LDS faith attribute their homosexuality to be given to them by their Creator. We must believe that this is true with our knowledge of the scriptures and modern day revelation. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of the Mormon faith said, “The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build spiritual strength...” (Liahona, Mar 1996, 14 emphasis added). If God gives men weaknesses, and the Church defines homosexuality as a weakness, then it must be given to men and women. However, this challenge or blessing creates unnecessary shame and guilt. The monster of Frankenstein felt a similar shame for being created as well. From secretly watching the lives of others, the monster knew that he was different. He knew that he was not created equally as others were. This shame slowly began building inside of his soul until he pitifully cried out, “Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why…did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed?” (Shelley 162). He only wished to know the reason for his plight, and as he cried out into the darkness at his Creator, he received no answer. His cry to be relieved from his pain was unanswered and fell onto silent ears which only added to his deep feeling of shame.

Not only is the feeling of shame almost constantly present in their lives, gay members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also feel terribly alone. In the pamphlet entitled God Loveth His Children, we read that even though some may “...overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life” (4). Simply put, those great and spiritual men and women may never have the opportunity to be loved by a companion. The pamphlet also states that many of God's children will “...not have an eternal marriage in mortal life...many adults who, for a variety of reasons, [will] remain single” (Children 3). Being created in this wise gives way to feelings of depression and loneliness, much like the pitiful creature in Frankenstein. “I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me...my companion must be of the same species and have the same defects”(Shelley 173 emphasis added). The monster needed someone with whom he could associate. He needed a companion who shared the same “defects” as he. He was lonely and he had no one to relate to. Imagine the added pain and suffering the monster would have had to endure if he was forced to love someone who he never could? The same is with members of the Church who have homosexual feelings. In 1971, Spencer W. Kimball who was at the time, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “They [homosexuals] can be cured. Your problem can be solved...all can overcome it” (New Horizons for Homosexuals, Kimball 5, 15). These words grip the heart with an icy fist. Gay members of the LDS faith have shed buckets of tears, prayed for hours on end, read the scriptures for years, and still...they are not “cured”. Some members of the Christian faith believe that, if a gay person prays hard enough, they can simply “Pray away the gay” and be attracted to someone of the opposite gender. While this tactic may work for some people, it is more commonly known that prayer does not suffice. Most homosexual members of those faiths consign to either live alone or live happily with a companion who shares the same “defects” as the monster so quaintly described.

Even though the cursed creation of Frankenstein felt emotions as strong and painful as shame and loneliness, he did feel happiness and joy. The same feelings can be experienced by those who are attracted to their same gender. Rob Killian M.D, a gay member of the church has found that happiness. He said “I [found] joy in my creation. I [stopped] hating myself” (Gay Mormon Stories, Killian). The monster, as wretched as he was, found happiness during his travail on the earth: “I felt emotions of gentleness and pleasure, that had long appeared dead, revive within me...I allowed myself to be borne away by them, and forgetting my solitude and deformity, dared to be happy. Soft tears again bedewed my cheeks, and I even raised my humid eyes with thankfulness towards the blessed sun, which bestowed such joy upon me” (Shelley 168). Oh, the joy and love he must have felt in that moment! He allowed himself, regardless of the trials and temptations that did so easily beset him, to feel the joy and exquisite happiness around him. Even if that moment was fleeting, he did experience some joy in his miserable life. As time ticked slowly away, his yearning for happiness did not stop after that one moment. He roamed the land searching for meaning to his damned creation. Upon finally meeting his Creator in a dark and icy wonderland, the monster cried out to him, “...the picture I present to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in the wantonness of power and cruelty” (Shelley 176). He spoke of being granted the opportunity to love another just like himself, to share in joy and peace the rest of his life. He knew that he could only continue to experience happiness and peace if he could share it with someone who would love him back. He refused to walk the earth sad and alone, eternally in search of his companion. However, his wish was never fully granted. Sadly enough, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints only wish for true happiness in their lives by sharing it with a partner but are denied that wonderful earthly blessing.

The world and the Church may become more tolerant and accepting of those little monsters that have been created differently. We read, “For with God nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). This paper is not intended to discourage the readers testimony nor encourage behavior that is contrary to the teachings of most Christian faiths. It is meant to be a message of hope and love. It is written to show gay members of the Church that even though they feel like they have been abandoned by their Creator, there is still the possibility of love, companionship and happiness on this earth. God wants all of His children to be happy and do the necessary things “...that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). It is surely possible to both be gay and be happy.

The most important message that can be retrieved from reading Frankenstein and comparing it to homosexuals in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the ability to overcome the feelings of shame and loneliness. Members who are homosexual must learn to realize that just because they are different, doesn't mean they should wallow in their self-misery. Frankenstein's monster never truly understood that concept. Even though he tried to reconcile himself with his own Creator, he never forgave him. Right after Frankenstein's death, the wretch looked over his body and said, “...my agony was still superior to thine...but soon, I shall die, and what I feel now shall no longer be felt” (Shelley 277). Gay members of the church should never have a similar attitude. They must realize that their Creator has given them the wonderful blessing to be different and to learn from it. As hard as it is, the Lord has promised that He will help those who have heavy blessings to bear. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Despite the lack of love and appreciation that Victor Frankenstein showed to his creation, we must always know and rely on the love of our Savior.

As time goes on, other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have to learn to love their homosexual brothers and sisters. They must provide them with opportunities to grow as they all strive to become better sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. It took years for Frankenstein to finally accept the creation of his own hands. Homosexual members should not have to wait that long to feel acceptance and love from their Creator and fellow members of the Church. A great prophet of old said these encouraging words, “...I do not know the meaning of all things, nevertheless...I know that [God] loveth His children” (1 Nephi 11:17). Even though the feelings of shame and loneliness creep into the lives of homosexual members, they must and should always remember that their true Creator, their Heavenly Father, made them just the way they are and He will always love them unconditionally.



As an update in my life, the job is quite difficult. The kids like to push my buttons to see what I'll do and if I stick to the rules or not. I'm a softy. I have a hard time sticking to the rules so I'm working really hard to set accurate and doable boundaries for these kids. Their new nickname for me is "gay harry potter". To be honest, it really hurts. I'm going to confront them about it tomorrow so I hope that goes well. I hope I can adjust to this new job and not take things so personally. When a kid told me to f-off and then flipped me off, it didn't phase me at all. But this nickname is too much. I guess it's 'cause I am still ashamed of who I am. I am unhappy with where I am in life and in my sexuality.