Monday, March 24, 2008


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.


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

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

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.