As a child, I grew up into a family that was Catholic. My family was very vocal of their beliefs. My mother was the driving force of this family dynamic. She was the biggest influence in my life. I feared her.
Expectations are some of my first memories of my mom, ever. She had a strict set of rules, believed in a set of values, and was one of the most judgmental people in my life. As a child, I was a little different than the other girls. I liked Batman movies, loved to play with the boys outside, and despised dolls to my core. For years, my mom would come into my room, lock the door, and yell at the top of her lungs for not liking and doing things girls do. She wanted a real daughter.
My self-esteem growing up was at rock bottom. If a person like my mother, who was supposed to love me unconditionally, judged me every day, then there was no question all the others will judge even worse. I felt shame for not being the definition of normal my mother wished I'd be at the age of 10. How I longed to be normal for my mother.
High school only got worse. My feelings for my girl friends was becoming stronger than ever. I craved for their attention. I craved quality time with them. At night, I laid in bed thinking about them. Looking at our pictures together on our phone. Finding reasons to text them. I thought about them with a smile and butterflies in my stomach—at first. Then butterflies turned into a bottomless pit in my stomach. Why was I thinking like this? My friends daydream about boys and I was daydreaming about my best friends. The flashbacks of not being "normal" hit even harder this time around. There was an unspoken feeling of shame I carried. My thoughts and wants were going completely against the beliefs I was raised on. Fuck. My mom can't know about this.
I thought my feelings were temporary. I needed to try dating boys to understand what my "normal" friends felt. I said yes to almost every date I could get my hands on with a boy. I was a great faker. These boys thought I was interested in them. But after every hang out, my shame and worries only deepened. I hated going on dates with boys. I was uncomfortable. The dates only further solidified I wasn't into them. I was into my girl friends.
I gave another chance to the most popular jock at my school my sophomore year. He took advantage of me—fuck.
The slightest thought of being with a boy made me sick. I grew up to be emotionless with others, which I confused for "mentally strong." I faked my feelings. I put aside my feelings for my girl friends. I wasn't vulnerable. I wasn't going to tell anyone about that night. I, for sure, wasn't going to tell anyone I was gay. I thought it'd go away in college.
I was at a new low even harder to explain. I was completely disgusted with myself. I was angry. Anger is not a strong enough word to describe how I felt. Regret is not a strong enough word to describe how bad I felt about my decisions. I went to college and immediately knew I was gay, and no amount of prayers could change that. I walked around with the weight of shame on my shoulders every day. I felt I was constricted and chained to what had happened in my life. Those chains and events were how I was going to be identified. My solution was to learn how to carry all that baggage and pretend to live a life of happiness. I focused on distractions to fill my holes.
I’m broken. I’m lost. But, for the first time, someone told me I wasn’t too broken to be healed. I wasn’t too broken to help others and that it was my time to face my ghosts. I wanted to believe it, but didn't believe another person would believe it. I will forever owe my new life to the university therapist. I was scared to be weak that day, but I did and it changed my life. From that day forward, I began to see myself with a different light. I made the conscious effort to remind myself I deserved to be human. I set alarms on my phone to remind me of my worth. I surrounded myself with empowerment quotes. Being gay wouldn't make me feel less of a person anymore. The biggest victories came when I was vulnerable. I'd lie if I said it wasn't hard when I began to tell others about who I was and the secrets I held in. I cried every time. Every new person I told hurt, but then it wasn't at all as bad as I thought it would go. Every new person I told became a small victory. A step towards loving and accepting myself. It became better.
Know Your Worth.
Feeling the shame you have for something you can't control is a pain I will never be able to describe to someone who hasn't faced it. If you are dealing with shame of who you are, know that you are not alone. There is someone in your corner who will remind you about your goodness. Who will show you the love and respect you can't give yourself. You are loved and accepted. You are not a mistake, not broken nor disgusting. Find the people in your life that loves you and accepts you and don't let them go. Be vulnerable and find the small victories in that. It will get better. Find the courage to leave the table if respect is no longer being served.