Wednesday, July 31


As time goes on I realize that I have some major necessary gratitude that has gone unfelt, as far as my trials and life go. Things I took for granted that definitely aren't granted in everyone's cases.

The most recent is triggers.

Or, maybe more accurately, the lack of triggers.

As far as I understand, and for the purposes of this, triggers are subconscious, mostly uncontrollable intense thought patterns (intense temptation, intense emotional feelings) that are linked to events that bear some type of similarity to emotionally intense events of the past. A guy looking into a guy's eyes at four inches away might trigger a strong desire to kiss him. A guy putting his head on another guy's shoulder might trigger something else. Even something as simple as a hug or handshake... time of day or location... prior events or sound or smell or taste... can be a powerful emotional trigger.

People who have intense triggers, will sometimes (often?) route their lives so that triggers don't get pulled. Maybe they avoid touch altogether. Maybe they avoid emotional intimacy with others. Or maybe they work at it and then have to figure out how to deal with triggers safely.

I recently realized that I don't have any physical triggers short of the line that morality dictates. What may summon an onslaught of temptation in one person doesn't usually do anything to me... and I'm grateful for that. And I don't really want it to change.

Some people I know developed physical triggers when they went too far with physicality. And then some or all of the preceding events - previously benign or at least not condemning - change nature and become triggers.

I still have to be aware of others, and boundaries and expectations are a definite must regardless. Triggering someone else, and unleashing the onslaught of emotions that accompany the experience, is usually not a good idea. I know that when I was abused years ago, that triggered everything that had gone wrong in my life, and I lost ground on everything I had been trying to accomplish. 

And I guess that sometimes triggers can probably come of their own bidding... which means I should be vigilant regardless of the circumstance. To emphasize that, my dad just texted me (and probably my siblings) with this message: "Please be extra careful today . I have that feeling something bad may happen. Be extra patient and careful in what is said and done. Pray for special help and guidance in what is done today." In the past we in my family have all had feelings that have helped us stay safe.

So be extra patient and careful. Extra aware of the needs and triggers of others. Extra diligent in doing the right thing to keep me and the people I love (who are sort of everyone) safe.

I think I can do that.

Monday, July 29

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I recently watched the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Parts of it grated on me. Like the fact that the protagonist (who is characterized so that the audience assumes he has some type of autism) had major difficulty communicating yet also had the perfect ratio of eye contact. How is that possible? But maybe it's something that only someone who has been there would notice.

Other parts struck me hard. When I was little I would never answer the telephone. Everything still has to make sense. I don't tell people I love them enough. I seem to break and make relationships worse before they ever get better. I do things that are probably outside of social bounds. I avoid loud noises, and for a long time couldn't handle someone touching me. It's hard to believe anyone can think like me.

I found myself aching inside, wondering. If I have so many problems... if there are so many things between me and other people, how am I ever going to make this work? The mom in the story went out before her son, priming every single person to accept and love and help him. I know that in the scriptures it says that God will go before our face, but I still find I often feel like a failure more than not.

Maybe the issue is that I over-think things. No... I'm pretty sure that's the issue. I look back on my life and see two distinct time periods. For years I lived in relationship bliss - totally and blissfully unaware that I was really different from other people, unaware of their thoughts or feelings and not really needing to care. Perfectly happy in being perfectly alone. And then the switch happened, and I suddenly realized people had thoughts and feelings other than what they communicated clearly, and that I couldn't read their minds... or their gestures... or their inflections in voice... and my lack became an obstacle in my newfound need for acceptance and people.

Part of me wishes I could go back to the bliss I once had. I know people who are my age, with ASD, who never had the switch. They still live in that (albeit imperfect) bliss.

And part of me wants to conquer the things that the universe has set in my path. To prove that, somehow, against the odds, I can overcome my fears. Or learn to communicate clearly. Or actually be a friend, and be befriended (and feel it) in return.

And then I wonder what God has in store. Whether a crisis that will smash the things I've worked for... and make me humble... or a miracle that will bless my life forever. Or bits of both.

Whatever happens, it'll work out. At least I know that much. And, at least in my life, it all eventually makes sense.

Sunday, July 28

From Lifelong Partners to Eternal Friends

Steven and Kenneth are two men. They both had same-gender attraction, were attracted to each other, decided to become partners, and have lived together for years.

Today they're faithful, temple-worthy members of the Church.

The first time I heard Steven and Kenneth's story, I wasn't sure how to respond. People had asked me if the doctrine of the Church allowed for "celibate partners" and I honestly hadn't really met anyone that had effectively made that work. I had, on the other hand, seen countless stories of people who had gotten more and more intimate with their physicality, then cross the line and lose (and/or abandon) their Church membership.

What I've realized in the time since is that all I needed to understand was a change in vocabulary. A partner, in context of relationships, implies that you live together and share sexual intimacy outside of marriage. A friend, specifically a best friend, can be almost the exact same relationship but without sexual intimacy.

Do the doctrines of the Church allow for friends? Yes. President Hinckley went so far as to assert that every member should have a friend in the Church. People all need someone to talk to, someone who understands, someone who cares. There are some exceptions to this rule - just like there are to every "should." Just like there are people who never find love in this life, there are people who never find mortal friendship. Thankfully, God fills in the gaps in all cases where life has left a ravine. He can be the friend I need and give the love I can't find, regardless of the circumstances that I face in life. But, in the end, whether mortal or divine, the friendship President Hinckley asserted is still pretty important.

"Best" friends are a little different I think. The moniker seems to hold a connotation to me that everything is shared... and to imply some type of long-term commitment on both sides. A friend may come and go with time, but a "best" friend doesn't. Or, at least in my mind, shouldn't. Scriptures and stories don't always use superlatives, but they still talk about the roles of "best" friends and the impact they had. Joseph and his brother Hyrum. David and Jonathan. Alma and Amulek. Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah. Helaman and Moroni.

While we aren't sealed to our friends (except spouses...), I'm convinced I'll be friends in Heaven with my friends on Earth. (As long as I get to Heaven.) And if I took the time, I'm sure I could find scriptural and other references supporting that belief.

So the implications follow. The doctrines of the Church support friendship. They support "best" friendship. The commandments establish a standard of morality for those friendships to follow. And any friendships that follow those commandments and help people come into Christ are definitely ok. Including if the people involved were at some time in love.

If every man or woman in the Church had that - a friend who was totally and completely committed to them, who loved them completely and also loved the Lord and understood the role of God and His commandments in love... I think the world would be a better place. We'd have less infidelity in marriage, more love within and without. And fewer people would leave simply because they think that no one understands or cares. Do I think that young men with same-sex attraction should abandon the search for a spouse and instead find a best friend to spend life with? No. Marriage is ordained of God and a crucial part of His eternal plan. It also happens for some men with SSA and not for others. That's between the individual and the Lord to figure out. Friendship, when it leads us to Christ, is always a good thing.

Steven and Kenneth were partners (in every sense of the word) at one point. But they made the choice to change and submit their relationship to their beliefs. They repented, and eventually one baptized the other into the Church. They've been roommates, caretakers (they both have HIV), and best friends ever since.

I don't know how many other super-close SSA friendships like Steven & Kenneth's are out there. How many men or women have found friendship in someone who shares not only their complete love, but also their complete commitment to the gospel. It honestly sounds a bit utopian to me... but that's coming from the guy who has trouble navigating even the simplest of friendships. I envy people's relationships anyway. Either way, I think the doctrine of the Church does allow for best friends. It encourages us to find them and hold them close. Yes, between friends that share common trials, precautions to stay safe are essential. And those need to be personally applied - recovering alcoholics should probably not meet up at a bar, even for the dancing. But if I can bring a friend closer to Christ, and him me, then in the end... we're just friends, regardless of the trials we may individually or severally face. 

And that's definitely good in the eyes of God.

(Read Steven and Kenneth's Story, along with others, at

Saturday, July 27

Allaying Terror


I'm terrified. At noon today I scheduled a massage at the Utah College of Massage Therapy. The terror doesn't have a rationale to it. Maybe it's a holdover from being hypersensitive to touch for so many years. Maybe it's a holdover from a couple of toxic experiences with touch. Maybe it's just fear of the unknown.

Either way I'm terrified. Which is why I'm getting a massage... to get rid of the terror.


I've done hours of reading to try to determine what to expect. I'm still not sure about this, but I scheduled a massage for my brother at the same time - and it's a 2-for-1 deal. That means I'm going through with it.

I decided to wear a speedo. I grew up on the swim team, and I definitely feel far more comfortable in a speedo than I would without most or all of my clothes, even draped. But I can't find it. And I'm sweating bullets. We're leaving in 8 minutes.


After a handful of prayers, I get an image of where the suit is in my mind, and somehow find it. I'm still sweating bullets.


I grab my brother and we drive up State Street, then check in. I had bought a couple of non-refundable gift certificates so I couldn't back out. But the gift certificate I have doesn't work with the 2-for-1. Whatever.


A group of 7 massage therapists line up at the desk. There are seven of us in the waiting room. Now I'm concerned again. What if I don't get a guy therapist? What if I do?


I walk down the hall with my therapist, a young woman a few inches shorter than me. No, I've never had a massage before. I had some traumatic experiences with touch in the past, and I'm trying to work through them. 

I think the terror is going away.


This is okay. I don't know what pressure to ask for, but I think my therapist sounds tired. Being a massage therapist must be exhausting.


I think I'm ok. It's not terrifying. There's not any intense emotional involvement. It doesn't hurt, emotionally or physically.


Done. After years of avoiding touch, that feels sort of anticlimactic. Maybe I'll just sleep better tonight.

But it worked. The terror, at least, is gone. So it was worth the investment.

I still have a couple of gift certificates left. So I guess I'll go again. But when they're gone I think I'll be good.

Friday, July 26


There are times I find myself incredibly conscious of what my body looks like, and sometimes feel something inside that says it isn't good enough. That feeling (thankfully) is rarely strong, but sometimes still there nonetheless. Look in a mirror. I'm not strong-looking enough. Not handsome enough. Even the absurd not "glowing with the light of faith" enough.

I think that part of it must come from pornography. Obsessing over visual images of the male form over time, regardless of present context, definitely created pathways that influenced my view of what men should look like. What I should look like.

I think that part of it is a belief somewhere inside of me that if I match the perfect image of the male form, I'll somehow fit in. Maybe people will like me more (wow, that sounds a bit shallow... but if it helps people overcome other prejudices to at least try to get closer, that's ok, right?) or I'll be more adept at navigating the roles that I've struggled to fill in the past.

That part stands in direct conflict with the (usually ruling) part of my mind that is ardently opposed to body image issues. The importance is what I do with my body, not what it looks like, and I can't be on a more restrictive diet for health... nor could I find a healthier diet than the one I was on before. I'm doing the right thing there; whatever my body decides to do is fine... and I can love myself regardless.

I've never rejected someone as a friend because of their body. Do physical attractions differ from one guy to the next? Definitely. Physical attraction determines whether or not I'm initially physically drawn to a guy. But if there isn't emotional and then spiritual attraction, the physical is short-lived. Even with really good-looking guys. So it's interesting that part of me thinks that maybe people would reject me for my body - especially when I usually feel pretty good about it. And it makes me wonder about using beauty as a method to overcome other potential obstacles and bring people closer. I know that I'm attracted to certain guys more than others at first glance; I'd assume it's similar for others. But I also know that different guys like different guys... which complicates matters. Lol.

In the end, I think that I'll just be happy with where I am now, and constantly try to do the "right thing"... and be happy with whatever results I get. If I morph my body into the perfect male form that is hidden somewhere inside my mind, great. If I look just like I do now, great. Regardless of what happens, I can make this work, and be happy about the outcome.

Giving Credit, Taking Blame

My MTC sister district (entered at the same time, went to Italy, same branch, next door) had two missionaries go home from the MTC. One left after just a few weeks. The other left the day before we flew to Italy.

I didn't know either missionary very well. I didn't really know anyone except for my companion, and even then that was a stretch. But when I learned that the first missionary was just gone - without telling us - and the second made his rounds right before leaving, something inside me took blame. I've been there for people in the past, been able to watch them work through their problems and come back from the edge of suicide or crises of faith. Most were strangers. And when someone close needed my help, I wasn't there.

It doesn't matter that I don't know what it was that made them go home. That it was their choice and that there were other people definitely involved in helping them make the right decisions. I watched it happen, I was close... and I felt responsible.

The same thing happens when someone I know loses someone to suicide. I wonder if maybe I were a better friend, had gotten to know their son/daughter... maybe I could have averted the disaster.

It's delusional. I know. And, according to psychology, probably horribly egocentric, since it means I believe I have influence over the choices of others. But don't we? Aren't we all our brothers' keepers? And shouldn't we feel intense and immense sorrow when we realize that somewhere along the line the pain happened?

This all came on as I realized that yet another person I know has left the Church because of same-sex attraction. It's never a split-second decision... but a long pathway of changing and substituting beliefs and immense frustration and pain.

And I was clueless.

When things go right, God should always get the credit. He enables me to do the good things I do. Honestly, all the good things I've done in my life have been things God set me up to do - not just in preparation, but by barring every other door. But when things go wrong, it's always a mortal failing. And it makes me wonder who else is suffering... who else is going through silent turmoil and needs a friend to listen and understand. Maybe nothing would have changed had I known and done my best. Maybe. But I still feel like there are people of the world in silent pain... and I should somehow be doing more.

Thursday, July 25

Little Things

Sometimes it's nice to be grateful for the little things in life. My diet's going really well, and I'm having a blast coming up with new recipes. My friend found her lost cat, the health food store on the corner had a sale on tofu (which ended up being less expensive yet significantly superior to the one I've been eating) and some probiotics I've wanted to try on clearance... it's cool at night and someone mentioned to me that it might get cooler this weekend... yeah. Little stuff, but it definitely makes me smile. And helps me feel grateful for the countless blessings I have in life.

Yeah, I may be trying to sort out the Lord's will for me on a couple different levels. I'm far from perfect in my own life, and my ability to create and maintain friendships is still on par with an infant - you know when they poke their finger in another kid's eye because they're clueless? That's me. But I'm okay with all that today... because I know that God loves me and I'm getting better.

I'm grateful for the people who try to get through to me. For peers who tell me they care. For opportunities to just listen and talk and sit.

And I'm definitely grateful for the little things.

Monday, July 22

The UK: Blocking Pornography Nationwide

There are already countries where Internet pornography isn't a problem for youth. Where people grow up and don't get addicted, want to get away, and yet are tantalized at every turn by a ubiquitous demon. But moving to a Muslim state isn't really an option for most 12-year-olds. It wasn't for me.

End-user filtering is always imperfect because it can be broken. I convinced my parents to install filters on our computers when I was young, then summarily hacked through them. And in today's world, where the Internet is the touch of a button away on a phone or an unlocked wifi network somewhere else... the good and the bad are always at your fingertips.

Most people I've met with SSA are or have been addicted to pornography. It started benign, then smashed them. But this isn't an adult addiction; it began between 8-14 for the majority. Yes. Your 8-year-old son could be addicted to porn.

Now I want to share good news.

David Cameron, the prime minister of the UK, announced today that ISP's (internet service providers) would begin automatically filtering Internet throughout the country for pornography unless subscribers personally opted in to pornographic content - similar to how the US mail service works. He called upon the firms' best minds to overcome the technological hurdles to make sure it worked.

And he's doing it to protect the people who are most likely to be addicted and have no control - the youth of their country.

I know there will be major hiccups, but already most major ISP's in the UK are on board. Some people will combat heavily against the choice. But, in a world that always seems to be going in the wrong direction, in a world where I was addicted to pornography, this made me smile, and cry, and give thanks to God that there are still good people who care about their families and the welfare of the people around them... and who understand how devastating an addiction to pornography can be. For a 12-year-old, or for that same person grown up and married with kids.

Maybe America will watch and follow suit. I wish we would. I hope we will. I'd go into debt to make something like this happen to help the people I love. But I think that most of that pornography is coming from our borders. And billions of dollars has traditionally spoken American better than English. Maybe we can change that. I hope so.

Tuesday, July 16

We Are All Addicted

(Yes, the title is a reference to a Church hymn. "We Are All Enlisted" is a great Christian hymn that rallies people to the cause. I don't think my paraphrase will ever make it into a hymnal, but hopefully it rallies people to understand the things that they, and others around them, are facing.)

I'm giving up food this week.

Not completely, but almost. I found a diet last year that was completely effective for treating my bipolar, and when it's used for other conditions it has the chance of effecting a permanent cure. Just one caveat - you have to be faithful for two years. I did the diet for 6 months and saw total improvement - from up to 4 cycles of depression each month (each lasting from a day to a week) to 0. Then I got sick when my brother got leukemia, and mixed with the stress of 19.5 credits at school, two jobs, running our business, driving to the hospital and back each day, and life, I couldn't get better. So I stopped and told myself I would pick the diet back up when life became less stressful. Since CJ was declared cancer-free in January, I've felt the tinge to do it... but couldn't push myself to do it. But I'm doing it now.

That's why I'm giving up food - or more specifically, carbohydrates - because my brain is affected by them. Taking carbs out of my diet will cause my brain to slowly move over to processing ketones, which are metabolites of fatty acids. And, somehow, that fixes my bipolar.

I was realizing earlier this week that everyone in the world has probably been addicted to something. Now, when I say addicted, I mean that they indulge in an activity that they know is not beneficial in the long run, but that brings them immediate pleasure (or at least relief from pain) nonetheless... and either have no intentions of stopping or cannot.

Some of the major addictions are pornography (which definitely runs with same-gender attraction, as well as opposite-gender attraction), drugs, and alcohol, but then there are the newer-age addictions to video games, Facebook (or other stuff on the Internet), and the age-old addiction to food. I don't think it's an addiction to food, actually. I think it's an addiction to certain types of food - probably sugar and refined carbs because they have an immediate and important impact on the brain. Bring up the fact that refined sugar causes only bad things - oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and other things - on the body to a sugar addict, and suggest change, and it's like telling a porn addict to turn off the Internet to his house.

But yeah. The reality is that we're all addicted, or have been at one point. I think that's what the Lord meant, in part, when He spoke about the natural man as an enemy to God. We're entrenched in the ways of mortality and definitely have trouble getting out. And often, as much as this will grate on the nerves of everyone who hears it (because it grates on mine), when we're trying to get out of addictions, or to train our bodies and minds to do new things, we have to toss some of the good with the bad.

I went without Internet for a while so that I could have peace in my apartment and not have the temptation of pornography. It meant that every time I wanted to use the Internet I had to go to school, but since BYU had heavy filters I felt like I was safe there from myself. I know that my bishop suggests the same thing to guys and girls who go into his office and struggle with pornography. "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out." I wouldn't suggest self-mutilation (I think that some of us have thought about it, but, really, there are better options), but, metaphorically, it's better to go to Heaven blind than to go to Hell able to see. I could give up YouTube and email for peace of mind.

Giving up food has been just as hard. Last time I did this, I dreamed about eating whole-wheat bread. And had to stop myself even in the dream because I didn't want to create a pattern of giving in to temptation. I can have 10 grams of carbohydrates spaced throughout the day. With a multivitamin and calcium supplement, it's down to about 8. A piece of bread can have 40. Yeah.

I don't know where I was going with this. But I think that sometimes we look at people who are struggling to change major things in their lives (with addictions) and think that they are going through something wholly different from our own. I know I have sometimes. I look at my brother, who has trouble controlling his eating, and went for 30 days without pizza, only to go back on it again. Or others that I know who have dramatically different issues that they face. But even though I'm vegan and don't eat sugar, I still have to give up food because of the cards that life has dealt me. And I already know that I'll go through withdrawal.

Changing anything has to happen with the Lord's help. As I write this, it's begun pouring rain. A sign, at least in my life, that I'm doing the right thing and that God is involved in my life. *sigh* This is going to be hard though. It means giving up eating with other people in most cases. Giving up the opportunity for someone else to cook for me, in most cases as well. And much more complicated dating. Well, at least it's happening now. My hope is that I can fix the depressive cycles before I get married someday; that way I'll have at least one less thing to worry about influencing the most important mortal relationship in eternity.

We are all addicted to who we are. To what we know. To the present and the past and the safe. But the beauty of mortality, and the Atonement of Christ, is that we can all change, no matter what we face.

(double posted at

Tuesday, July 9


I'm thinking about trying to find a therapist again. I'm just not really sure what my goal would be. I mean, on all visible extents measures, my life is incredible right now. I just got a dream job (that fell from Heaven, almost literally), I have the calling that I've wanted for a long time (ward missionary & fellowshipping committee), my business is going well, I'm healthy, my MBA is finished, people in my life love me...

And, despite all that, right now I feel an incredible longing that I can't seem to quench. Sometimes it stays silent, but when I talk with someone, or think too deeply about life, it wakes and pulls somewhere deep in my gut and my brain. Pulling me, sometimes so hard that I can't concentrate on anything else... but without a place to go. Longing, so deeply that I sit staring... but with no way of getting there. When it comes, as it did moments ago, the feeling seems to shift and flow - sometimes feeling like a fleeting ethereal mist, then suddenly bordering on the edge of emotional pain so intense that it knocks me flat.

I'm not totally sure what the problem is. Maybe it's the feeling that comes right as my bipolar is about to switch into depression. Maybe it's some sort of embedded longing to cuddle with a guy. Maybe I ate something, or didn't eat enough. Maybe it's a longing to be emotionally close to someone - anyone - and an echo of the deeply resonating emptiness when I realize that even when I & others try we still have a long ways to go. Maybe it's a longing for Heaven - I read a CS Lewis quote today that was something like, "If I feel a longing that can't be met by this world, then the only logical assumption is that I was made for another."

I don't know.

It feels sort of like the wonder/awe/love I feel when I watch the rain and know that God loves me, but twisted and empty and backwards and opposite of all those things. Which is probably why, when I've felt this way in the past, I usually prayed for rain. And rain... or perhaps the presence and love of God... can somehow quench it when nothing else can.

And I wonder if a therapist could help me process my emotions or complete enough self-reflection to enable it go away and never come back.

Or even if I want it to go away.

Maybe it's just a reminder that I'm imperfect and need God... and this is one way He reminds me.

Maybe there isn't anything wrong with me at all.

Because in moments like this, on the edge of excrutiating pain, I find myself suddenly remembering the people around me... and caring about them far more than I did a few hours ago. I find myself writing a blog post when it's been days since I felt the desire. I find myself turning inside myself, trying to find ways to solve the problems that I see... and those are all good things.

Again, do I want it to go away?

Do I want to live a life free of pain... and also thus free of the reminders of imperfect mortality? Do I want to solve my problems and find complete and total peace... and perhaps forget or lose my desire to reach out entirely?

Would living a painless life make me forget how sweet it is to see the hand of God during suffering?

I'm thinking about finding a therapist, but I don't know what my goal would be. Maybe I'm attached to my own cycle of suffering and unable to give it up. Maybe I don't know how to get close to people, or I'm afraid of them, or maybe there's really nothing wrong.

I don't know.

All I know is that it hurts... and it hurts more because I don't know what it is, I don't know how or if to fix it, and I don't know how anyone else can help... and because it always ends up hurting the people that care about me, too.


I'm going to pray for rain.