On A Personal Note: The Wound
by Matthew Breuer, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist
My whole life has been a preparation to be a counselor. From a young age, I was concerned with the well-being of others. Whether pleasing my parents, making peace among friends, or looking out for my younger sister, I sought harmony among people. At the same time, I sought a tranquility within myself.
Starting around the age of puberty, I began to feel different from my peers. I knew the cultural expectation of a guy was to like girls, but I found myself attracted to other males. This divergence took place within a conservative family and a Catholic school upbringing. There was no place for this type of person within my environment. I lived with this dark secret for many years, weighed down, despairing, fighting against these desires. Eventually my psyche could not take the strain and stress. I plunged into a deep depression around the age of 12. Counseling did not seem to help as I could not face the real problem of my sexuality at that age. My anxiety soared and I recollected the OCD of my past, being obsessed with cleanliness. I was not clean; I had to become pure.
Unfortunately, this seismic shift in my brain chemistry triggered an underlying mental health disorder. Not only was I depressed, but soon I found myself exhibiting other behaviors. I was hyper-talkative, had racing thoughts, conceived of myself as superior and was irritable around my parents. At the climax, this odd behavior manifested in delusions. My parents took charge and brought me to a psychiatric hospital in Madison.
I found myself among others with a panoply of problems. From the girl with extreme anxiety and bedwetting to a female with severe anorexia, I wondered what exactly was wrong with me. Thankfully, I was soon to receive a diagnosis as my 14 year old birthday present. Not necessarily wanted at the time, but necessary for later success.
Thus began a journey of more counseling and medication. After trial and error, a balanced mental chemistry was restored. Unfortunately, the psychological discomfort continued.
I reintegrated back into my 8th grade schooling, finishing with my middle school diploma and a faculty award for academic success while overcoming difficulties. After a summer filled with sunshine and a leading theatrical role in a community play, my next step was high school at Wayland Academy. My life was beginning to come together on the outside, but on the inside, I was still tormented by my longings for other men.
At the same time, the religious dimension of my life shifted in a Protestant direction. I was attending bible studies with my evangelistic uncle. This path eventually led to an obsession with reading every word of the scriptures and distributing gospel tracts of my own making. While my faith deepened, so did my conflict, as the good book appeared to condemn my choice of love object. I began seeking out reparative therapy to become more masculine and release my latent desire for women.
As can be guessed, this treatment did not work. I continued along in life, beginning my college career. I made more friends than ever before, even making a connection with a young woman who wanted to be my girlfriend. I tried to make it work, but to no avail. I talked with her about my quandry, saying I’d rather be dead than gay. My trek to acceptance was still years away.
Along the collegiate road, I found shelter in the school’s counselor Cindy. She was pivotal in listening to my concerns and supporting me in my growth. While non-directive and allowing me to pursue change therapy, I now know that all along she was patiently waiting for the day when I would accept who I really am. The time was drawing closer for tranquility, but a cataclysmic storm was on its way.
The summer before senior year, I decided to go off my medication on the sly, without doctor or parent approval or knowledge. The fall started off fine, but I slowly then dramatically escalated into a frenzied state. I began pacing the streets late at night and isolating myself from fun and socializing. My grades also began to take a hit. All my energies became invested in trying to find a semblance of stability in health and schooling. The rough ride lasted a few months, but eventually came the nose dive. Over winter break, I plummeted into depression. I tried returning to finish my last semester, but the lethargy of clinical sadness left me without motivation or focus to complete my studies. I took the spring off at home, admitted my need for medical treatment, and began a path to accepting my diagnosis of manic depression.
After months of recovery, I began to feel my mood stabilize. Concurrently, I began a physical fitness and nutrition routine, in total losing 80 pounds. This combination of psychological and biological success boosted my confidence in my abilities after the chaos of the previous year. I triumphantly returned to school and finished my bachelor’s degree in psychology.
During this time, I was also facing and accepting my sexuality. I started reading affirmative books and fiction, and by summer after graduation, I ventured into the world of meeting other men. I was beginning to find wholeness in myself and with the type of partner for which I was made. My religious mind began opening to eastern spirituality and other unique ways of looking at the universe. My family was also confronted with a change in worldview. No longer was their son going to find a cute, Christian girl to marry.
Drawing closer to the present, after dating and meeting others like me, I’m now happier than I’ve ever been, both with my sexuality and my sanity. I’ve accepted that these are facets of who I am, who I was meant to be. Now it’s time for the next chapter of my life to begin, the one in which I help others begin to love themselves.