How the anxiety of coming out helped me gain introspection, and started me on the freeing journey of losing my faith.
The sleepless nights were adding up. I was restless, anxious, sweating, and my heart was constantly beating like a bass drum. I could distract myself during the day, but it caught up with me each night. I was a Junior in college, living with my parents, studying Religion, hoping to become a Minister. Even though my parents slept just down the hall, they were unaware of the torment my brain and body were experiencing.
I had recently started coming out to my friends and immediate family, and so far, every time I mustered the courage to tell someone new, the news was received with openness. My family was incredibly supportive. My church accepted me. Friends celebrated, drinks were had, hugs were given, gay clubs were danced in, and my first queer kisses were experienced.
Waiting for What Might Come
Even with the positive responses, I was waiting for the backlash. Every coming out story I had ever heard had backlash: unsupportive parents, bigoted faith community, aggressive homophobia, punching, beating, attacking. I knew it was coming. Hence, the anticipatory anxiety. This fear of something that may or may not happen in the future, held me tight and prevented me from embracing all of the joy that is also on the other side of the closet doors.
But, that backlash did not come.
I had been out for some time when this anxiety gained control. It reached a palpable tipping point one night while I was laying in bed trying to force myself to sleep. Praying wasn’t helping, crying wasn’t helping, breathing intentionally wasn’t helping. So, I sat up quickly, grabbed a candle on the desk at the end of my bed, lit it, stared into its flame, and attempted to center myself. I asked for God to be with me, and for too many moments, I felt nothing; no change, no warmth, no peace, nothing. I felt myself getting angry at this lack of response, but that anger compiled on top of the myriad other emotions wasn’t helping. At this point, I decided that if God wasn’t going to comfort me, then I had to comfort myself. I closed my eyes and asked myself, “How would you help someone if they were feeling what you are feeling?” At that moment, behind closed eyes, in my sleepless delirium, I felt two distinct parts of myself; the one asking this question, and the one who answered, “I would tell her that I love her and will never leave her.” A dam broke within me. Emotions poured out instead of welling up, and the release allowed for the best sleep I had experienced in a long time.
When I look back on that night, I recognize it as a major shift in my understanding of myself, and my faith. I realized that I could look to myself for many of the things I thought only God could provide. As a self-conscious, socially submissive, self-critical young woman, I had grown to think I had little to offer, believing that everyone around me must have more. This was the beginning of seeing myself as worthy and important, and putting trust in myself.
These days, my faith has continued to shift away from this Junior in college. Luckily, so has my self-worth. But if she hadn’t done that soul-searching in that time of need, I would not know my own strength, as well as the depths of my anxiety. I wouldn’t be me without her. And no matter what, I still love her, and I still won’t leave her.