Hitting Bottom and Reaching Out
[CW suicidal thoughts, depression]
I used to tell myself that I’m depressed, but at least I’m not suicidal. Well that all changed after my first poor coming out.
This is the year I came out. To myself. To my friends. To my family. Thankfully most of my family and many of my friends have been super supportive. They have expressed their love for me regardless of how I identify. To others I’m out about my gender, or my “gayness”, but not my asexuality. Those people have been quite accepting as well.
Despite this overwhelming amount of support I have still been extremely, extremely depressed for the last 2 years, before and since coming out. They always say you feel better after you come out. It’s freeing. It’s liberating. yada yada yada.
So why don’t I feel better yet? And why do I feel soooo sooo sooo not resilient after 2 very poor coming out experiences, when the majority of them have been completely, completely fine?
I’m in a 12-step program and they always talk about hitting your bottom. For me- one of those poor coming out experiences was my bottom. When that happened I made a decision to reach out. I know that was probably the best decision I have ever made.
There are so many reasons and barriers for not reaching out. I’m in a foreign country. Therapy is not covered by my insurance. There’s a stigma against it. I don’t have a strong community here, let alone queer friends. So I really didn’t feel like there was someone I could call in the middle of the night bawling.
But as I sat there with tears streaming down my face, reading and re-reading the email that had just entered my inbox, I knew I had to do something different than before. The whole last year I had deliberately isolated myself to seek solitude, and try to be independent, and learn how to love myself on my own. But it was clearly not working. My depression was only getting worse. And now it was plummeting.
In addition to googling a local therapist, I immediately started emailing people in Korea and back home, both acquaintances and good friends, to set up skype calls, lunches and coffee meetups. I made sure to have something set up every day for a good 3 weeks. Because I honestly didn’t know what would happen if I didn’t. I’m still setting up at least a few calls or meetups each week, because otherwise I easily backslide into bouts of depression, after just a few days of isolating.
The thing I’ve learned is that people let you know when they are ready to support you. I didn’t know who I would be able to really be vulnerable with until I met them. Some people I’d meet, and I’d mention I was depressed and they’d be sympathetic, but we’d slide on to the next topic. Others would immediately ask more questions in a gentle way and share their own stories with depression.
One friend said to me- “Tell me everything,” as soon as I responded to his “How are you?” with a “I haven’t been doing good.” There were my 12-step friends who I could call on days where I was super triggered and my suicidal thoughts were really scaring me. I never really told them the full extent of why I was calling. But they listened and that was what mattered. There were friends back home who said I could call anytime, or set up a weekly meeting if I needed to. There was my gay friend back home who I called up, and as soon as our skype ended said, “Let’s chat again next week.” Those are the people I knew I could trust.
I’ve learned that not everyone is ready to give you the support you need. I’ve been there. I’ve had those moments in the past myself where I probably gave the wrong advice, or said the wrong thing to friends and family who were depressed because I didn’t really get it yet. But the ones that have been most helpful have tended to be others who have been there themselves. Who know first hand how confusing and helpless it is to be stuck in depression. And who know that all the rules and normal advice go out the window.
In those moments, the most helpful friends are the ones that can just listen. Without giving advice, or solutions, or telling you what to do. Sometimes all you need is to be heard. And have someone else confirm that your pain is valid, your experiences are real, and your feelings are ok because they are yours and it’s ok to have them.
It was only in writing this post that I realized how much asexuality is directly tied to my depression. Sometimes I think if I weren’t asexual and just “normal” gay, it would be easier. Then I wouldn’t have to use different terms that people aren’t familiar with, and they wouldn’t get confused, and they would know that I was coming out when I came out to them.
But what can you do? I am who I am. My identity is valid because it’s mine. And if other people get confused about it, it’s not my fault.