Monday, July 28, 2008

An Interesting Breakthrough

I think I'm finally ready to write this post. I have been struggling for weeks to find the perfect way to put it. I have been so afraid that someone out there will take what I have to say wrong and hate me, or even worse be angry at the Church or worse still, be angry at God. I have finally found the courage to go ahead and write what is on my mind and just pray that people at least give me the benefit of the doubt and simply choose to respectfully disagree.

A while back, I posted a paper I did for a New Testament religion class. It was based primarily on insights that I had gained while reading James R. Ferrell's book The Peacegiver. I talked a lot about the nature of sin and how an accurate understanding of sin allows us to better appreciate and access the atonement. Interestingly, my breakthrough was simply an application of the principles I had learned, and even discoursed on, earlier.

I explained the principles with scriptural backing a lot more clearly in that earlier post: Sin and the Atonement . Even better, I highly recommend reading the original book. Brother Ferrell explains things much more eloquently and compellingly.

One night, I was explaining to the wife my sordid and complicated history with sex. By that I mean a lot of how my thoughts/fantasies changed over time and, rather in detail, the timeline of my addictions to pornography and masturbation. At the end of it, I stopped, looked at her, and said, "Oh, that's where my SSA comes from." I don't mean that SSA comes from looking at porn or masturbating! I do mean that by choosing to engage in those activities, I subjected myself to the captivity of Satan. By sinning, both in thought and action, I allowed Satan to gain power over me. By sinning, my very nature was changed. The way that I view the world was slowly warped. Finally, through the infinite power of the atonement, I was liberated from the chains of sin. I could see things as they really were. Again, I don't believe that sin is the ultimate root of SSA. I simply mean that much of the intensity of the allure of homosexuality-for me personally-came from the deception that Satan used to confuse me.

I would like to try to use an analogy to explain this idea. For a long time the only picture of happiness I could see was one that Satan had created, that of an intimate and sexual relationship with another man. Eventually, I began to see another picture. This one included my wife, children (still to come), and this time it fits into my beliefs of God and eternal life. So for the most part I tried to stay focused on this new picture. However, from time to time, something-like a hot guy or a memory-would draw my attention back to the other picture. It would take all my power to rip my gaze away from that picture of happiness in homosexuality and look at the picture of happiness with an eternal family.

Then suddenly, it was like looking at a picture on extremely high zoom. I saw all of the individual pixels-all the lies of Satan-that were woven together to make a very inviting picture.
Now when I look back all I see are lies. I am NOT "cured"!!! I am still attracted to men. However, for me a lot of the overpowering need and desire to have sex with another man is gone. I can see clearly that it won't make me happy. In fact, what I need is real connection with other men, and I know how to get that. And when I do, I can find happiness. And the happiness I do find is amazingly real and satisfying.

I want to clarify again. I'm not "cured" of my same-sex attraction. However, I have made a major breakthrough. I have made a really big step in learning how to deal and live with my attractions.

Now, I really don't know what I'm trying to say or if I've said everything I mean to, or if I've explained it well enough. I don't even know if this post will make it through the night. I'd really appreciate feedback on what you're thinking.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Atonement Can Fix That Too!

This is the first of a number of post about the insights I've had over an amazing month and a half.

I had an enlightening experience a few weeks ago. In one of our bi-weekly interviews, my Bishop told me that if I slipped up and looked at pornography again, we would start the year of my disfellowshipment over again. Needless to say, that really bothered me. I was livid! As far as I see it, this is a pretty difficult addiction to overcome, and to suddenly expect me to be able to really stop immediately is absurd. I have been trying for years and am finally starting the process of healing and overcoming this addiction. Well, I decided that I'd never talk to him again. At least I'd never tell him anything about what was really going on in my life.

I was venting one night to a friend who is much wiser and more experienced than me. I finished by telling him that "I guess I'm learning that church leaders are imperfect." He said:

"Yes, but I believe that the Atonement can fix that too."

Well that stopped me dead in my tracks. I was speechless. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thanked him and quickly hung up the phone. I got on my knees and prayed, begging the Lord to bless me through the atonement to make up for the mistakes of another. The most amazing thing happened next. A feeling of peace and comfort immediately came over me. I knew that despite my Bishop's inadequacy, everything was going to be okay. I was able to go to sleep without any frustration or anger.

Incidentally, my Bishop was appalled when I told him I was really hurt by what he said. He had meant that if I lapsed and acted out with another guy again! Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that I had been healed from this miscommunication. The atonement had made up for the mistakes of another.

In reflecting on that experience I was reminded of an old John Wayne quote. In his movie Big Jake, the Duke says to the bad guy "Anything happens, your fault, my fault, nobody's fault; and I'm going to blow your head off." Okay so the last part isn't so critical to this important insight. But I belive that through the Atonement, Christ can fix anything that happens to me, my fault, your fault, nobody's fault.

So next time something hurts, or isn't fair, or just plain sucks, even (maybe especially) when it isn't your fault, just remember that the Atonement can fix that too!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Breaking Points and Derparate Outposts

Wow, it has been way too long since I last posted. Things have been going really well for me lately. That isn't to say that I haven't had my share of problems. It's just that I have found ways to meet my needs and take care of myself. I know how to get through my challenges while still keeping my priorities in line.

I have learned that God really likes breaking points and I believe that he wants us to become intimately familiar with our own breaking points. The Lord has a special way of pushing us right up to the point where we feel we cannot go any farther. Or in some cases, he lets us be pushed there whether by ourselves or by mortality. However, I have come to the conclusion that He never ever actually pushes us past our breaking points.

So often I get proud and think that I know better than God. I get convinced that He is simply pushing me too far. But the more I experience in life, the more He teaches me that He knows me and my strengths and weaknesses and if I allow him to He will show me who I really am. I'm a lot stronger than I think I am, I was reading a thread on North Star about CS Lewis and I remembered a quote by him.

"
Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle."

I used to look at it just like it says-in a negative way. "I'm not good enough no matter what." But now I turn it around. I feel like SSA and depression are some of the most desperate posts in this battle. So the fact that God has chosen to send me to to this situation, which is not being treated very tenderly and in which he doesn't simply grant me my prayers that all my troubles will go away, may just say something about me.


Through my trials, especially with SSA, I am coming to know who the Lord really is. I am beginning to know Him and what He wants. But just as importantly, my trials are helping me know who I am. Stripped of pride, I see that I am strong. Humbly, I see just how brave it is to face another day even with all the obstacles ahead of me. I've learned that even when it feels like I am ready to break, knowing that God won't push me further than I can handle has allowed me to find out just how far I can go. Then when God releases the pressure and I am able to relax a bit, I see that I endured more than I ever though possible

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Whatever it Takes

I don’t have a lot of explaining to do on this one, but my wife and I heard this song on the radio the other day and both started bawling. I couldn’t have written any words that better explain my situation and how I feel.

By Lifehouse:

A strangled smile fell from your face
It kills me that I hurt you this way
The worst part is that I didn't even know
Now there's a million reasons for you to go
But if you can find a reason to stay

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know that I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
Believe that I can change
I'll keep us together whatever it takes

She said "If we're gonna make this work
You gotta let me inside even though it hurts
Don't hide the broken parts that I need to see"
She said "Like it or not it's the way it's gotta be
You gotta love yourself if you can ever love me"

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know that I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
And give me a break
I'll keep us together, I know you deserve much better

But remember the time I told you the way that I felt
That I'd be lost without you and never find myself
Let's hold onto each other above everything else
Start over, start over

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
and believe that I can change
I'll keep us together whatever it takes

video

Brotherhood and Legitimate Needs

I heard this song by Josh Groban on the radio earlier this week, and although I had heard it before, I was really touched by it’s message. I took it as the Savior speaking directly to me.


video


Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy
I will lift it for you

Don't give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved

Don't give up
It's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside
I will be there to find you

Don't give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don't give up
Because you are loved

You are loved
Don't give up
It's just the weight of the world
Don't give up
Every one needs to be heard
You are loved

It resonated with something I had read. My counselor recommended I read the book Homosexuality: Symptoms and Free Agency by Scott Anderson. In it Scott quotes Elizabeth Moberly: “Healing must imply the fulfillment of unmet needs. God does not cure people of legitimate needs.” (from her book Homosexuality: A New Christian Ethic)

That really hit me in a powerful way. For so long I have prayed to Heavenly Father to remove my desires. The truth is that those desires are not based on anything evil. My homosexual desires are simply an offshoot of the need to feel acceptance and emotional connection with my brothers. That is not a bad desire. In fact, it is a very natural and divine desire.

I was moved as I noticed the way the General Authorities expressed their love for each other in General Conference. That brotherhood is a very real part of God’s eternal plan for us. For the first time, I began to see that an “Eternal Family” was not limited to the mortal definition of family. Those who reach the Celestial Kingdom are going to spend eternity with their brothers and sisters. Sure I will have the opportunity to spend the rest of eternity with my best friend—my wife. But just as real will be the relationships that I form with my spiritual brothers. That makes me excited. I can imagine being happy in a heaven where I will interact with other males in an intimate, yet appropriate way. The idea of being happy in a heaven with only my wife and kids seemed incomprehensible to me.

Anyway those are just a few of my thoughts on brotherhood and the very real and legitimate need to experience that love. I know that as I have experienced that connection, my feelings of SSA have diminished and I have experienced true happiness.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Inbetweeners

I wanted to post about some thoughts sparked by a conversation that I had with my therapist a couple of weeks ago.

Relationships are funny things. I was asked to define how I classify men in my Elder's Quorum. I really struggled with that one! I ended up grouping men into three main categories. Socially Overconfident, Socially Awkward, and the Inbetweeners. To explain those groups simply:

The Socially Overconfident are the "cool" guys. They frequently initiate contact and activities and respond well when I initiate interaction. I am usually attracted to this type of man to some degree or another. I really want to interact with and be like them. The problem with them is that they are so comfortable socially that they don't need me. They have a bajillion other friends, and while the fact that they don't have time to initiate things with me often isn't rejection, it doesn't change the fact that they are busy.

The Socially Awkward do not initiate and do not respond well to my attempts to initiate relationships. In fact I really have no desire to even try to initiate things with this type. It is obvious that they don't make very good candidates for fulfilling relationships.

And then there are the Inbetweeners. These are the guys who don't catch my eye at first glance (or even second) when I walk into a room. They usually don't go out of their way to initiate or form relationships beyond the casual hello. But they are unique. They usually respond well when others attempt to form relationships. This is why I love inbetweeners!

Now I'm not saying that it is easy for me to be the one to extend myself and make the first move. But I can do it. The problem has been that I have wanted so badly to be accepted by the Socially Overconfident group. When I try to form relationships with them, they are usually very kind, but then seem to forget me. I have taken that as rejection in the past.

So I got all down and think that my only chance to have friends is with the Socially Awkward group. You can see how those attempts would flop. So then I get really messed up and start thinking that my only hope is to have a gay relationship. I have completely overlooked the Inbetweeners.

Inbetweeners come in all different shapes and sizes. They can be talkative, relatively quiet, or somewhere in between. Inbetweeners, if given enough time, will actually initiate getting together or hanging out. They might be totally unattractive physically. Then again some of them are actually quite cute. Inbetweeners are almost always fun to be around. Best of all, Inbetweeners care. They really are interested in me. They accept me for who I am and like be because (or in spite) of it. I always feel better about myself and my life when I'm with an Inbetweener. They make me want to be a better person.

Inbetweeners really deserve a better name. Like Awesomers, or Reallyneatguys-ers. But those sound dumb and Inbetweeners fits my views of other men really well, so that's what I'll call them.

I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to meet a few Inbetweeners lately. It is so nice actually feel like I have friends. I know that they care about me and accept me. That feels so good!

So thanks to all the Inbetweeners out there. You really make life worth living.

The Sun in All its Glory

As I was praying a scripture came into my mind. I thought of Mosiah 3:19. I realized that the struggle inside me was really between the natural man and the spiritual man. Until I was able to see my life spiritually, I was never going to be happy. Somehow I needed to truly complete the process of “becoming a saint through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” I knew that the process involved “yielding to the enticings of the spirit,” but I was unsure of how to do so.

That thought weighed on my mind a lot over the next day at church. Then in Elder’s quorum, someone brought up a scripture in Alma chapter 34. While I was open to the verse, I happened to glance over and read verse 31. “. . .therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your heart, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.”

That verse hit me so hard! First was the possibility of the plan of redemption (forgiveness as well as its synonym the plan of happiness) being immediately enacted in my behalf. There was one small catch. I had to repent without hardening my heart. Given the insight that I had about my emotional openness that was a challenge. But then again, that was the perfect explanation to why I hadn’t felt the influence of the Lord in my life on a regular basis, despite the fact that I was doing everything I was supposed to.

I was that what I needed to do was turn my heart over to the Lord. To open my heart to Him. It took me a day to figure out how to do that and to be willing to open myself up; to become vulnerable. I was scared to death of opening the wall. But I knew that if I was going to have any hope of ever being happy, I had to have the Lord in my life. I realized that while I had been keeping the commandments, I had done so without having my heart in it.

Tuesday, I was truly open. I felt a lot of connection with the men in my group. I felt so happy! I felt so good. As I have continued to be open, I have been happy. Having come to accept myself and then being open to the connection, I felt it. It was really amazing. I found that I could either sit and whine about how miserable I was with a prosthetic and focus on all the ways it was inferior to a real leg and all the things I couldn't do, or I could live my life to the fullest and accept the prosthetic. That week, my therapist suggested to me that I shouldn't just content myself with a prosthetic for the rest of my life. He said that he feels that over time through a lot of emotional healing and effort on my part, the male relationships I form can become, little by little a real leg. I liked that thought.

Later on in the week, I found that as much as I tried to be open, my heart had figured out the password I was using to open it up and had changed it. It was locked. Try as I might, I still struggled with the same emotional bullshit that I had before. I was still trying to be "open" and it was helping, but things were far from perfect.

I had the opportunity to travel to SLC with my wife to meet two other couples that also deal with SSA. It was so good for both of us to start to establish a network of support. That is something that both of us have needed. And the best part is that, being emotionally open, I was able to feel that emotional connection with them. It is so good to truly feel that I have friends.

I told one of those friends about my new struggle with the locked gate and he said that we always plateau. At that point, we need to find a new way to think about it, new terminology to describe the process. He told me about a method that has continued to work for him. He called it sitting with the emotion. He said that you sit down and just chase the emotion through all the layers until you find out what is really at the root of the emotion. He referred to being “open” as being “present.” I have also heard it called being “authentic” or “genuine.”

As I have learned to accept my emotions and find out what those emotions really are, I have been happy. A big part of that has been being open to the Lord and the spirit and allowing them to influence my life. It has been a week now since I figured it out and there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t been happy. I had hoped for one day of happiness. I never dreamed that I would experience a whole week of it. What’s more I have had no signs that this has to end. As far as I can tell, this is the secret to a lifetime of happiness, to an eternity of happiness. And that, more than anything isW exactly what I have been looking for.

Stumbling

Having freed myself from the pressures of shame, I no longer felt trapped. I wasn’t trying endlessly to prove myself worthy of love. However, I wasn’t quite convinced that I had worth that didn’t rely on my actions. Essentially, I needed to test out the assumption that my self worth was not dependent on what I did.

To make a long story short, (and I WILL NOT tell it in its full length) I acted out with another man.

The long part of the story that I am willing to share is the aftermath. The next morning I felt awful about having cheated on my wife. So I told her what I had done. Watching her reaction is something I never want to experience again. To see her pain and anguish over the betrayal and feeling her pain to a small degree was almost more than I could bear. She did assure me that she loved me and still wanted to be with me. Sill, that afternoon and night were long and painful.

I realized something in that time, though. What I had experienced with the other guy simply wasn’t worth the misery it put me through. My wife and I have come up with an analogy that we feel fits the situation pretty well.

She compared my emotional self to my physical body. She said that emotionally I have grown up with out a leg. That leg is feeling the closeness and love of another male. I got to feel what it was like to have that leg for a few hours. But that brought me to a decision. The leg was whole and I knew what that felt like, and honestly, it was amazing. However, I found out in no uncertain terms that I could have the leg only at the expense of everything else important in my life: my relationship with my wife, my hope of a future family, my relationship with my parents, my horses, my relationship with God. I could have one or the rest, but not both.

I didn’t want to cut off the leg that I had waited so long to get, but I wanted to keep everything else. The decision was which did I want to keep more?

If the choice was between everything else and living without the leg, I wasn’t sure. I was almost ready to just give up and not have to make a decision. However, that would have been a decision in itself and an irreversible one at that. Then my wife pointed out that I could have a prosthetic. It couldn’t be put on the stub immediately. I had to give the process some time, but if I was patient, I could have appropriate relationships with other men. Would they ever be quite what the real leg was? Maybe not, but I could still get by pretty well.

With that hope, I made my decision and cut off the leg to save the body. I called my new bishop and started the process of repentance which included being disfellowshipped.

A number of blessings have come into my life since that weekend. One is that my motivation to keep the commandments has been recreated. This time it has nothing to do with shame. This time it is about knowing what will truly bring me happiness in this life and in the life to come. It is in knowing that the Savior has suffered for me and that He and my Heavenly Father still do love me. That love and my worth to them is not at all dependent on my actions. If I want to be truly happy there are some guidelines that they have outlined to bring additional happiness into my life and I can follow them. Following or not following the commandments, however, does not affect the way they love me. I can choose for myself what I want to do, and I choose the path that will bring me the most happiness.

The next blessing came piece by piece as I prayed for the guidance of the spirit and for knowledge of how to obtain forgiveness and happiness in this life.

Night Again, But a Glimpse of a Permanent Dawn

That experience helped to pull me out of my deep, suicidal depression. It was so powerful and uplifting. However, with in a couple of weeks I was back to being depressed. I told myself that if the only thing I had to look forward to in this life was one experience like that every ten years, or every year, or even just once every month, it wasn’t worth the pain that I experienced the rest of the time. I had a couple of good experiences with “healthy male relationships.” And the most frustrating part of the whole thing was that I didn’t feel that those experiences really helped me fill the void at all. I was pretty down.

Then I met with my therapist. He listened patiently while I ranted on about how miserable and hopeless my life was. Then he asked if I had ever heard of emotional reasoning. I told him that I hadn’t. He then used the example of a girl who has roommates who are fighting. She may feel guilty and somehow partly responsible for the argument, but the only proof she has that she is responsible is that she feels guilty. He then asked if I had any proof that I was unhappy, unfulfilled, and hopeless other than the fact that I felt that way.

I had to think about that for a minute. I had lots of reasons things sucked, but no proof that they were the reason I was feeling that way. The proof was that I felt that way. He then told me that all emotion has a motivational purpose. For example, if you are angry, your emotions are telling you to resolve some tension or to avoid being hurt in the future; if you’re lonely your emotions are trying to motivate you to connect with others. Well all emotions have a motivational purpose except one.

He asked me if there was any chance that the feelings I was having were based on the emotion of shame. I told him no way! This depression was not coming from the fact that I felt guilty about looking at porn now and again. I didn’t feel shame because of that. I was working to overcome it and felt good about my progress.

He then told me that shame didn’t have to be for actions at all. That stopped me in my tracks. It hurt like hell to admit it, but I realized that ultimately I was ashamed of who I was. I was ashamed of the “real me” that if anyone knew about, they’d hate me.

I saw how shame had effectively isolated me from the emotional connection that I so desperately craved and needed. I had been so miserable in Jr. High and High School. I faced so much rejection as I tried to fit in and find my place in the social world. It was painful. Eventually I became so desperate to escape from that pain that I learned to “numb” myself. I build a thick wall around my heart, effectively keeping out the unpleasant emotions that I was dealing with. Unfortunately, this wall also kept out the positive emotions. Worst of all, it cut me off from feeling any sort of connection with others, regardless of how outwardly outgoing and involved I appeared to be. It even blocked the connection with God.

The ironic thing about my wall, was that in building it, I had locked shame inside. I felt so much shame at who I was that I hated myself. I felt that I was, by nature, unacceptable to anyone. But there was one hope for me to become acceptable and good. I simply had to be perfect.

Such a simple solution. So much pain and discouragement. The more I tried to be perfect, the more I realized that I was lacking. That became my motivation for everything. Not just to make others think that I was good, but to prove to myself and to God that I was good enough. That was why I did everything: serving a mission, getting married, praying at night, reading my scriptures, serving in the church, working hard in school, everything!

Shame’s most vicious effect was that I was barred from feeling accepted by others. Until I could accept myself, I would never allow myself to be accepted, and until I could feel accepted, I would never feel the connection that is at the root of my attractions. Shame was keeping me from an emotional connection and then tried to tell me that I was broken: incapable of feeling fulfilled in a “healthy male relationship.” In reality if had nothing to do with my ability to be fulfilled, it is just that the connection is incompatible with shame

I think it is important to note that shame is in no way related to guilt, or Godly sorrow. It isn’t feeling bad for what you did, it’s hating yourself for what you did or are. My therapist explained that shame really has only one purpose: it is used to control people. That sounds an awful lot like someone else’s plan. And shame ultimately leads only to despair and misery.

The problem was shame was causing a lot of other feelings like discouragement, hopelessness, and the feeling of being unfulfilled. I was just accepting those feelings as being true just because I felt them. I learned that I have to follow my emotions to their core and find out what is really causing them, rather than just accepting them. I could then immediately reject any feelings that where shame based.

Once I learned to do that, I felt incredible! I felt free and liberated. I had hope of finally being happy. I was a good person. I had worth that was completely independent of what I did. Even if I sinned, I was still lovable and acceptable. I was holding myself to a ridiculously high standard. On to which I would never hold anyone else! So why was I so different?

Well there is my spill on shame. I know it was long, but those insights have been invaluable to me and they set the stage for what happened next.

Light Dawning

About five days after I posted the last letter on the D2 and North Star support groups, I had received dozens of responses both public and private. Most of them were simply extending love and encouragement. I wrote the following update later that same week:

I want you to know that after shoving me head first into my personal
Gethsemane, The Lord has in great mercy gathered up my broken pieces
and made me whole. Well maybe not completely whole, but you get the
point. Almost all of that help can be summed up in a single
experience.

On Sunday, I had had the thought that if God really cared, He would
inspire my Bishop to talk to me. I sat through sacrament meeting
making to attempt to conceal my misery. After sacrament meeting I
waited around for the bishop to come talk to me and he didn't. So,
pouting, I left the chapel and sat on a couch in the upstairs foyer,
where no one from our ward ever goes. About half way through Sunday
School, I glanced over and saw my Bishop standing next to me. He
asked if I was okay, I told him that I wasn't and he led me to his
office. There I broke down and told him everything. He just cried
with me and let me know that He cared. I appreciated his concern, but
is didn't help. He then said, I have the distinct impression to tell
you to really pour out your heart to the Lord. I told him that I had
done that. He said, "That's just the feeling I have, to find a quiet
place and be perfectly honest with him." So I left right then,
missing priesthood and drove to a quiet place and really told the Lord
how I felt. I then waited about 40 minutes for an answer. I didn't
feel anything particularly special. I thought that I ought to ask my
dad for a blessing. So I went back to church, picked up my wife, and
drove to my parents' place.

I had told my parents a little while ago, and while they were loving,
they had no idea how to respond. Sunday night, I told them
everything, and my Dad gave my wife and I each a blessing. I was
thoroughly frustrated after the blessing. The counsel was to "keep
doing what's right eventually things will work out." He also told me
to know that my wife and my parents loved me very much and that they
were able to do so only because of teh Savior's love. I didn't feel
encouraged or more hopeful. But, after talking through the counsel
with my wife, I felt like I had the desire and strength to try to live
at least another week.

Then Monday night, I was laying in bed with my wife. One of the
things I struggle most with is feeling loved. Well, through the grace
of the Lord, I felt my wife's love for me in an intense, deep, and
powerful way. Then the words from my blessing came to me and I though
that that is a part of Christ's love for me. Immediately, I was
overpowered with the most intense feeling of love. It couldn't have
been any more real had Christ been there and physically placed his
arms around me. I knew that I was finally getting the answer of love
I needed from Him. It was amazing. Then yesterday, I had a great
session with my therapist. My wife was there and we both came to a
new understanding about male relationships and some very concrete
things that I can do to make that effort.

I felt that while the emotional void that has plagued me has not been
filled, that hope has acted like a balloon to fill the emptiness in my
life. This has allowed me to truly feel happiness for the first time
in my life. I am excited about living each day in my future. I know
that there are still battles to fight and emotional roller coasters to
ride, but hopefully by writing this down, I can look back and draw
strength from this experience adn know that the Lord really is in
control and that He will never allow anything to happen to me which
isn't for my good.

My Darkest Hour

About a month ago, I was really struggling with the combination of depression and SSA. I was really being double-teamed hard. I talked to one friend who suggested that I turn to the D2 and North Star groups for help and support. This is a copy of part of the letter I wrote to both.

I'm just tired of fighting this battle inside me alone. I don't feel
God's help or live in my life. Even when I am living in accordance
with his commandments, I don't feel the strength or support promised.
Even when I keep the commandments, I am not happy.

So, worn out and exhausted from fighting, I tried to deal with my
situation in a different way. I started cruising the internet for gay
guys about two weeks ago. I met one who I clicked with and this last
Friday I had lunch with him. The whole two weeks I was happier than I
had been in months. I no longer had suicidal desires. I was able to
focus on my wife and love her more fully than I have in the past. It
seemed so perfect to simply live two lives, that way, both parts of me
could be fulfilled and I could actually find some semblance of
happiness.

However, later that night, after the date, I fell apart. I believe
that happiness in living a double life is possible. However, it
requires that the gospel isn't true, or at least that the individual
doesn't believe that it is true. For better or worse, part of me
still knows the gospel is true. I couldn't convince myself that is
was okay to cheat on my wife. So I told her all about what was going
on. She handled it remarkably well. The problem is that I didn't

I am back to preferring to be dead rather than fighting this battle.
I am so sick and tired of God's indifference toward me. I never
expected him to take this burden away from me in some miraculous way.
I only wanted him to occasionally let me feel that He is there and
that he cares about me. Now and again I need a little strength beyond
my own. I am having a hard time still having faith in the gospel when
I don't feel those things. Are they too much to ask?

My wife and I felt inspired and directed to live where we are.
However, that means that I am out of range for any support groups of
even a friend who understands or even cares about what I am going
through. It just seems to me that God must enjoy tormenting me and
seeing me suffer. It's like He wants to see how far He can push me
before I snap.

Except for the fact that my wife repeatedly insists that she couldn't
endure life without me, I would have killed myself a long time ago.
That is the only hope that the Church can give of any release from
this torment: the next life. I'd do it in a second, if I knew she'd be
okay. But with that not an option and without being able to bring
myself to act on my attractions, I simply don't know what to do. I
have no desire to live anymore. I feel like God has won. I'm
defeated. I no longer have any hope in any peace or happiness in this
life. Yet there is nothing I can do to escape the misery and pain I
constantly feel. I have tried therapy and living the gospel and they
haven't helped. They've only destroyed any hope I once had of
resolving the pain. So, I am left just praying that God, or anyone,
will finally have mercy on me and kill me.

What else is there?

Life and Explaining

It’s about time I wrote an update. I have so much to share that I think I’ll do this in a couple of installments. First of all there are a few things in my life completely unrelated to my SSA that have happened in the last month. The biggest event is that my wife and I bought a house and moved into it. We really like it. The new house is in Idaho Falls. We are in a good ward, although I do have to say that I miss my old bishop. They just don’t come much more loving or understanding. My new bishop is loving and doesn’t claim to understand the SSA struggle, but recognizes that it is real. He just has a different personality.

In conjunction with the move, I started a new job working in a High School cafeteria. I really enjoy cooking and this job is great. The atmosphere is really fun and uplifting. I appreciate the lower stress level!

Also, once we knew we were moving to Idaho Falls, my wife told me that she was okay with me getting a couple of horses. When we moved into our apartment in Rexburg, we decided to sell all my horses because we didn’t have any place to keep them. Now we are close enough to my parents’ place that we are keeping them there. We bought one project horse for me and a really good horse for my wife to ride (and any friends who want to come riding). That has been really nice for me the last few weeks to be able to go do something I really enjoy. It is such a stress reliever for me.

Well stay tuned for my multiple part update.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Prayer . . . and an answer

I think that my post last night was as close to a sincere prayer as I've had in a long time. I really expressed my feelings and let the Lord (and others) know exactly how I felt. I haven't done that. I just pray for what I think I'm supposed to pray for. I usually feel too guilty to express anger at God. But that is where I ended up last night, with a desperate plea for some evidence that He cares.

And I think that I might just be experiencing that answer right now. I haven't received any clear answers. I'm still confused and angry and frustrated. But I don't feel quite as alone or abandoned as I did. I have a sense of hope about staying true and faithful, in spite of the struggle. I need to find a way to keep that sense of purpose even when I feel miserable and alone. I do still need a friend. I don't have a clue how that is going to happen, but until it does, I can rely on my Savior. I may still hate the imperfect way the Church and it's leaders handle this situation, but I know He loves me and cares for me.

I love my wife so much. I tell myself that I only love her as a friend, but what is the difference between that and what a husband "should" feel? Really? So I don't experience the "ideal" feelings with her. Isn't that the attitude I hate in the Church? Can't a relationship still be good, even really good, despite the fact that it isn't "ideal?" Can't I still be good, really good, even though I don't fit the ideal pattern? I really don't think that I could bring myself to leave her. I'd end up doing something stupid, and then I'd forever regret the damage I'd done to our relationship. I don't think I could live with that.

I'm not all better. One brief touch of hope can't compensate for weeks of pain and despair. However, it has made me stop and think. I'm curious to see what happens next.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On a Ledge

I am referencing my very first post Making the Decision. I really don't know where I am going with this, but I need to write to sort some things out. Anyway I am back on the ledge: looking down, looking up. It isn't the same ledge, but I'm faced with the same decision.

Only now, I have already tried one of the two options. I have tried to climb upward. I was reaching so hard. I believed in the promises whispered by the still, small voice. I made every effort I could to rise to the top. In many ways I made it. The problem is that once on top (back completely living the gospel), I found out I really was as alone as I had remembered. There were a couple of people who may have given an effort to try to help. Unfortunately, all they could do was say, "Just be happy. Keep trying. It's worth it."

That's not a whole hell of a lot of help. It doesn't help to know that what I'm going through is normal. In fact it makes it worse. I simply cannot believe that a "Loving Heavenly Father" would put His "children" through misery like this. Whether or not the Church is actually true is of little importance. John 7:17 says "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." Well, I've done His will and I have felt nothing but abandoned. A testimony is a personal witness, the things we know. Well, I know that God has not lived up to the promises made by His servants. Now whether that means the Church is not true, or that God doesn't exist, or that He simply doesn't care, I don't know. And, really, it doesn't matter to me. I can't rely on other people's testimonies, and God has ruined his chance to preserve mine. If the Church really is true, then that means that I am simply not Celestial material, because I can't live the gospel with what he has given me to work with.

Maybe if God had directed me to Provo, then I would have had the opportunity to meet and make friends with other people who are going through the same thing. But I felt "directed" to be here. I never would have met my wife if I was in Provo. And I believed that I was supposed to marry her and that everything would work out for me as long as I kept doing all that I was supposed to do. Well, here I am alone. I guess that's God's plan for me. He really must want to see me fail, or else He made a really big mistake. He has just pushed me too far. His only hope to keep me from completely losing my faith in him is to find a way to kill me soon, so everything will be okay in the next life, just like He promised. I won't take my own life, though I have desperately wanted to. But the church teaches that death is the only way to be happy.

I know some of you are saying that there really is a way for me to be happy and fulfilled living the gospel. I don't believe it. There may be for you, but not for me. My therapist convinced me to talk with me wife to help her understand my needs so that she can work to fill them. 1) Sexually, telling her can't help. 2) I did talk to her about my emotional needs for connection. And she has been great at trying to meet my needs. The problem is that I feel even worse. I don't feel any more connection, but I do feel guilty that she is trying so hard. It is neither her fault nor mine that I am flawed to the point that the things that should help don't.

And it isn't like I sit around and wallow in m own self-pity. I do so much to serve her and try to make her happy. I also find a lot of ways to serve others. The gospel promises that service is supposed to help me feel better: happier and less concerned about my own problems. Again, it just makes things worse. I don't know what else I can do for the service cure to work.

The last week I have started to consider leaving the Church and everything. I don't believe that it could be any worse than what I am going through right now. Before, one of the main things keeping me from doing so was the fear of eternal consequences. But now, I really can't say that I believe that. Right now the ONLY thing keeping me from packing up and leaving is knowing how it would rip my wife's heart to shreds. Still, I know that this struggle is taking its toll on her as well. I'm beginning to think that she would be better off without me. She is still young enough to find someone who can feel and be what she deserves. It might hurt her like hell in the short run, but it would be better for her than me dragging her though this hell for the nest 50 years, or even worse, leading her on and having kids before I lose my strength to pretend anymore.

The funny thing is that since I have considered leaving, I have felt the first hint of hope and happiness that I have felt in weeks. If God really wanted me to live the Gospel why wouldn't he have let me feel some hope sooner? Why would my personal experiences go so directly contrary to what the gospel promises?

Anyway, I haven't jumped yet. I haven't actually decided that I am going to jump. However, I'm here on a ledge. I'm not in a great rush to make up my mind, but I can't stand here in the middle for long.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Drowning

I really feel like I've hit the end of my rope. I am so sick of this fight going on inside of me. I feel like I really don't have any choices left. The gospel and everything associated with it have an iron grip on one half of my soul and my challenges in mortality have an equally unyielding grip on the other. Neither are going to let go. For all his power, God seems content to just keep pulling. I cannot choose one without cutting off the other half of my soul. I oscillate between which half I'd rather lose. In the meantime, my soul is getting stretched thinner and thinner. Maybe someday it will just snap and I won't have to worry about this struggle anymore.

I've lost all hope of finding any fulfillment in a "healthy" same-sex relationship. Straight guys simple don't like me. I used to have a lot of hope that developing relationships and making friends with other guys would help ease my pain. Now, I'm convinced that isn't possible within the Church.

I am so sick of the Church and it's incessant preaching that if I just "live the gospel," everything will work out. When? "Oh, In the next life. Then all the holes in your soul will be fixed." That brings two thoughts to mind:
1) Why would such wise leaders make it so painfully clear that the only hope I have for happiness in living the gospel is death. That could easily be 57
or more miserable, agonizing years away. That is, if I don't do anything to shorten it, which happens to be an unforgivable sin.
2) So the hopelessness of the above brings me to my current conclusion: maybe I don't want all those hole fixed. Maybe the holes are caused by the gospel.

I have become so apathetic toward everything related to the church: my callings, this stupid school, even worse the men leading it who get confused about whether or not they are God. I absolutely hate going to church on Sunday. I can't even read more than a few verses from the scriptures with out slamming them shut in disgust. Is it really better to read them at all then?

I am just so lonely. I am having a hard time believing that this can really be God's plan for me, if he even has one.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

video

Breathing

I heard this song for the first time on Thursday. I have probably listened to it a hundred times since then. I love it. I feel that the words and the message could be my own.

"Work"
By: Jars of Clay


Just in case, I will leave my things packed
So I can run away

I cannot trust these voices I don't have a line of prospects that can give some kind of peace
There is nothing left to cling to that can bring me sweet release
I have no fear of drowning
It's the breathing that's taking all this work

Do you know what I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"?
What I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"

Empty spaces with shadows hit by streetlights
Warnings signs and weight of tired conversations
In the absence of a shoulder, in the abscess of a thief
On the brink of this destruction, on the eve of bittersweet
Now all the demons look like prophets and I'm living out
Every word they speak, every word they speak

Do you know what I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"?
What I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"
What I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"

Do you know what I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"?
What I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"
What I mean when I say, "I don't want to be alone"
Alone, alone, I don't want to be alone

I have no fear of drowning
It's the breathing that's taking all this work

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Friends

I can't believe that is had been over a month since my last post. So much has happened. The most important thing was without a doubt the amazing opportunity I've had to meet some great people. They are the numbers 2 through 9. Allow me to explain.

I had two pretty serious bouts of depression since my last post where I actually got fairly suicidal. When I told my counselor about this and explained what I was thinking, He told me that I have learned to rate my happiness with one of two emotions: Perfectly Happy and Life Sucks. When my life doesn't go perfectly (and with SSA it rarely does) I get into the rut of thinking that since my life isn't Perfectly Happy, it must, by default, really Suck. He said "In reality there is a whole continuum of emotion. I want to introduce you to the numbers two through nine." That phrase (which really echoes what another friend told me about all or nothing thinking) has really impacted my life.

I've come to realize that even though things are far from perfect, and with out complaining, they are pretty imperfect in my life. As many of you know all too well, this struggle isn't an easy happy one with a simple solution. I frequently wish that my feelings toward my wife were closer to the "ideal straight" feelings that I think I "should" have. I may never feel completely satisfied in my marriage. I don't yet get the male friendship and closeness that I need and crave. I may never get it if I stay in the church and with my wife. But then again I'll never be happy pursuing a lifestyle away form the gospel, and although my feelings aren't perfect, my wife is a dear friend. How could I crush her by leaving? Thoughts like this used to get me so depressed that the only option was ending my life.

Now, I can see that mortality is doings its worst to me. However, that doesn't mean that my life sucks. It isn't perfect. Whose is? Everyone has their own struggles and while mine may be particularly difficult, it sure as hell doesn't mean that my life sucks. My family may not understand my pain, but they live me. My wife may not fill every emotional need that I have, but she is as close to perfect as I could ask for. She is so understanding and caring. I sometimes feel that she feels every pain I do with twice the intensity. We have such an amazing friendship. And at times the Lord blesses me with the natural feelings and passions she needs. I have a close relationship with the Savior and am a Son of the Almighty God. I am Divine. So whatever mortality and Satan decide to trow at me, my life will never be a one.

Sure, there are a lot of days that fit in the 4/5/6 range, but I need to quit looking at that as a grade. That would be failing in school, but this is not school. 5 is half way to perfect. My wife and I went with another couple to see Martian Child last weekend. (WOW!) Anyway, the dad there says that he loves baseball because you only have to hit the ball three times out of ten to be great and is you do just a tiny bit better than that, you're a superstar. So is 3 is great, then two must be at least good, huh?

Anyway, I am happy. Today couldn't be any better than a six, but it doesn't have to be. I still have intense feelings of SSA. School still creates a lot of stress that I don't handle well.

But, Six isn't bad at all.