Wednesday, July 21

Childhood memories

After reading some of the psychological theories surrounding same-sex attraction, I've tried looking back on who I am... and it also serves as a good introduction for this blog.

I grew up in the ideal Mormon family - parents who are superheroes, a supportive ward, and happy extended family. My mom and I have a great relationship, but I've never been able to really understand my dad. Our brains work totally different.

I was a jock in school. And a nerd. And an arts kid. I did everything well, which meant my teachers loved me and my peers hated my guts. Finding good friends who also had high standards was hard. I was on sports teams, but I knew that even though I was idolized for what I could do, people didn't really understand me.

Whatever the reason, I started feeling physical attraction to guys when I was twelve years old.

I was really into computers and spent hours surfing the net. One day I discovered pornography. It sucked me in and began the process of destroying my life.

For the next four years, I struggled. I went between absolute guilt and depression to feeling, when I was ok, for weeks or months, like I was on top of the world. I prayed for help and tried everything to keep myself clean. I encouraged my parents to install Internet safety software, then found myself circumventing it the next night at 2 in the morning. And, through it all, I told no one. I knew what I needed to do. I skipped one of our temple trips because I didn't feel worthy. Each interview with my bishop just happened to fall after I had already gone through the pain and turmoil of repentance. I tried to make up for it by being super-righteous in everything I did. I thought that I had beaten it and could handle it on my own. And, in all the manuals of the Church that I had available to me as a young teenager (and I looked), there was no real concise information about what you needed to tell your bishop. I thought that my only problem was with pornography. I didn't even realize how much an understatement that would have been.

When I turned sixteen, I thought I was finally learning to master who I was. In my patriarchal blessing, it promised me that, in due time, I would be free of temptations. Then, during a routine yearly physical, I was sexually abused by my doctor. The pain and the guilt welled up inside me and made me want to die. I felt like it was my fault - that if I had been a better person, the doctor wouldn't have done that to me. Or maybe it was divine retribution for all the wrongs I had committed in the past. I told my parents and bishop about the abuse, because I was concerned for my siblings. But I could never bring myself to describe it in detail... and everyone forgot about it within a few weeks. Everyone but me.

Some theorists have observed a link between sexual abuse and later same-sex attraction. Whatever the reality, that was enough to break me. My pornography addiction came back, along with everything that went along with it. But I was older now, and the Brethren had begun talking about pornography. Here I am: a righteous, upstanding member of the Church, and inside I hide a terrible sin. I'm a hypocrite. I started suffering from major depression. But that only worsened the problem, since I thought that depression was a sin, too. I mean, I had a perfect family, the perfect life, the gospel, and everything I wanted. What right did I have to be depressed? So I put on a happy face to be true to my beliefs. Another thing that kept people from understanding who I really was. When I was alone, positive thinking worked some of the time. But sometimes I would be so low that I contemplated suicide. In those hours, I asked God to help me. I asked Him to take away my suffering, to heal me, to help me become a truly good person. And He answered my prayers... but not in the way I had asked. He didn't take away my suffering. But He sent me personal signs to show that He loved me... and inside my heart and mind He told me that I could do it. That He knew I could do it. While I cried and cried and prayed and wished that I could be healed, I knew that He loved me... and that He knew I could make it through. And I slowly learned to beat it.

When I first went to BYU, I tried to be as busy as possible. I worked as hard as I could and threw myself into everything. It worked for a little while to help me forget, but the depression and the urges came back. But I could fight them, right? Only this time, they came with the sinister realization that I was physically attracted to men.

When I went on a mission for the Church, I again prayed that the Lord would heal me. Two years without an Internet connection was freedom. And the Lord blessed me with companions that didn't stir up feelings I didn't want aroused.

I came home and started dating, expecting everything to turn out perfectly. I would fall in love with a great girl, get married, have a family. But I realized there was something wrong. Everyone else talked about people they wanted to date... from just looking at them. Everyone looked the same to me. The only way I chose anyone to date was talking with them - and then I would consider them for a first date if they could hold a decent conversation. At the same time, I realized that I was attracted to guys. It wasn't all guys. Just some... and as soon as my mind started wandering in that direction, I turned it off. There is no way that I could be gay. Absolutely no way.

The closest that I've come to falling in love was when I dated a girl after my mission. I wasn't physically attracted to her at all (that really bothered her). Other than that, we had a lot in common. But, for some reason, it just didn't feel right. She, and I, just needed to find someone else. I cried for months.

I found myself more and more attracted to guys, and dating became harder... today, life continues to get more complicated, but I am clean. Free of addiction, free of massive temptations. But that doesn't mean life is easy.

And that's where I'll end the memories.