"For all of my life, I've been different. When I was a kid, my favorite color was purple, and I didn't have many friends that were guys, as I didn't relate much with them on an emotional level. I was sensitive and kind. I grew up in a strict Baptist (later non-denominational) household in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, with my father being a pastor for as long as I could remember. I was homeschooled from first through fifth grade. When I finally braved the halls of public school (against my will, from what I remember), I wasn't ready for what was waiting for me. Being homeschooled, I realized that I was not cultured in the same ways my peers were. They would make comments that I didn't understand and call me names I didn't know the meaning of—interacting in strange ways with one another. I felt like an alien. Despite being embarrassingly behind in academics due to different standards of teaching between public schools and my parents, I wanted to be better; I wanted to be as good as everyone else.
As time went on, I started understanding the strange new culture that I was immersed in and made gains slowly in my academics. It wasn't until seventh grade that I started to realize just how different I really was. People started to bully me because they felt like I was too feminine and emotional. Finally, I was known as "the closeted gay kid" by my peers. There were a few boys who would wait outside the lunch room every day and corral me into the handicapped stall of the boys' bathroom, and taking turns, two of them would hold me while the other slung insults at me—along with occasional punches to the stomach reminding me "You're nothing," "you're worthless," "your parents would be so ashamed if they knew who you really were"—those were the things they would say to me, and those were the things that I would carry around with me like my backpack. But those words were heavy on my heart, rather than my shoulders.
After seventh grade, we moved to Republic, Missouri, and that was the place where I realized who I was: I was the gay kid, though I was no longer okay with being "closeted." On November 5, 2012, I came out to my best friend, and later to my family and peers. I felt free, and though there was quite the backlash from practically every group of people in my life, it was just surface level; to the core, I finally felt whole.
Later on, in 2013, I started to struggle with this deep, dark depression. No one really understood how bad it was until I called my sister one day to tell her that I loved her, and I was sorry, and that I had just taken all of my medication in an attempt to end my life. Over the next few years, there were more overdoses and hospitalizations than I can even remember.
In May, 2015, I had what, at the time, seemed to be my final overdose. Though the doctors said that my chances weren't great, somehow I came out of it in perfect physical health. We were all stunned. I had always been a person of faith, but that was a defining moment in my spiritual life.
I was better for quite some time, until I experienced the loss of a few of the people I held dearest to my heart. I thought it was all over. I thought that I had lost the war I'd been fighting with everything I had—that I was just a lost cause. During this time, I had adopted a mentality of 'I need to be okay for my family. I need to get better for my family," but it just couldn't keep me out of the pit that I was in. 'You can only almost lose someone so many times before it feels like they're already gone' is what I was told at one point—confirmation that I wasn't the only one who felt like I had already lost. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it was for those who loved me and were so deeply invested in the battle to keep me alive.
My music was all that I had to express my feelings, and there was a lyric that stuck around for quite a while in my head, and that was 'How do I get better, when in your eyes I'm already gone?' One night while I was crying in my bed, I started thinking about that—trying to expand on it—when this thought popped into my head: 'You are the only one who can appreciate how hard you fight this demon inside you. You need to be proud of yourself and stop craving affirmation from others. No one else knows what goes on in your heart and in your head. You need to start fighting for your own life, rather than the happiness of the people you love.' I immediately stopped crying. I knew that this thought wasn't my own, but was God intervening in my uphill battle.
I had lost faith in God, but in that moment, I knew that He was with me and that He was the only one who could save me. After that night, several months ago, I've not had one serious suicidal thought and can now find the strength to fight off the thoughts that would take me down that road before I even get there.
"Out of the ashes" of my battle, I became a new person: a strong, happy person. Though my life still isn't perfect, and I'm not exactly what most people's idea of what a Christian would be, I've dedicated my life to love and help those who are in the pit that I knew so well, for such a long time. I'm new. I'm whole. I am not broken.