I was lost. It was as if everyone around me had a road map leading them to the intended destination of happiness, and I was just fumbling in the dark.
If anyone had told me that in a year I’d still be alive and the happiest I’d ever been, there’s no chance I would’ve believed them. The darkness that was in my head kept me from seeing a bright future for a gay man like me.
Yet, here I am – proud of the person I am, making the most out of this life I’ve been blessed with, and telling you my story. If this helps even one person going through depression or anxiety, my job here is done.
Best of all – you won’t believe how close to the solution you are already!
My name is Thomas, I’m 32, gay, and currently living the life I never even dared to dream about.
I don’t necessarily always include my sexual orientation in my introduction. But in this case, it plays a huge role in understanding the root of my depression and anxiety.
People belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community experience depression and anxiety at higher rates than heterosexuals. This is mainly related to the stigmas and prejudice still surrounding this topic today.
You can only imagine what growing up with constant bullying, threats, and fear for one’s physical well-being can do to a person’s mental health.
Hitting rock bottom
By the time I reached my thirties, I was struggling. I had alienated all of my friends, being too afraid to fully be myself around them. I was doing everything to numb the pain I had taken with me from high school and couldn’t let go of. They say everyone has their own cross to bear, and I had accepted this one as mine.
Ironically, they also say that no one is given more than they can handle, but I was crumbling.
Not only did I not accept myself, I loathed myself. How could I possibly love someone no one else seemed to care about?
I was completely alone. On the rare occasion that someone did reach out, I’d ignore their calls and texts. I knew if I responded, I would end up going out, pretending to be someone I wasn’t just to try to fit in.
Those nights would end in even more self-loathing thinking of the weak, spineless person I was. It was a vicious cycle without a happy ending in sight.
Oh, and when I say I was doing everything to numb the pain, I mean EVERYTHING. I was drowning my sorrows in alcohol, I was doing drugs to escape the miserable reality that was my life, I was hanging out with the wrong crowd… You name it – I had probably done it.
No coming-out party
It’s probably important to mention that I was “out.” I was openly gay since I was 17. And my so-called coming out was not this huge epiphany moment, where I felt a magical relief and a sense of freedom to finally be myself.
I didn’t necessarily have the best childhood where I enjoyed the endless support and love from my parents. My dad was, and still is, a construction guy. It goes without saying, my artistic expressions through my flamboyant clothing sure didn’t help win his approval.
My mom had her own issues with mental health. She would often fall into these dark patterns where she’d lay in bed days in a row. I was terrified that opening up about my true self to her would send her over the edge.
On the other hand, I was afraid that suppressing my real identity might just do the same for me…
I convinced myself that as long as I hadn’t said it out loud – as long as I hadn’t declared I was gay, I still had hope for a normal life. How could anyone reject me for something they didn’t even know was a fact?
Looking back at it, I think everyone around me kind of always knew I was gay. And I was just the last one to fully accept it after years of trying to convince myself “it was just a phase” or that those feelings I had would eventually pass.
I believed keeping up the facade would keep me from passing the point of no return and entering complete isolation.
Admitting it would’ve meant giving up – giving up on the hope of ever fitting in, of feeling “normal,” of getting the traditional wife-kids-dog-white-picket-fence type of happy ending.
But by the time I turned 17, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t pretend to be into the girls on Baywatch, I couldn’t laugh at another gay joke, and I sure as hell couldn’t force myself to kiss girls only to fit in with the cool guys.
My dad was never going to change his beliefs, my mom didn’t seem to be getting any better, or worse for that matter, and I was done playing the role of someone else.
So instead of fighting the homophobic slurs used about me, buying Playboy magazines, and making up stories about girls I’d hooked up with, I surrendered. I gave them what they wanted – I let those slurs identify me, I let the shame wash over me, I let myself be rejected.
I didn’t feel like I came out – I felt like I gave in.
And don’t get me wrong – just because people knew did not by any means mean that everyone accepted me for who I was. Coming from a small town where everyone knew everyone, I was “the gay guy.” I’m pretty sure more people knew me by my sexual orientation than my actual name.
What’s worse, having the courage to finally admit I was gay didn’t stop kids at school from bullying me or trying to “beat the gay out of me.”
Time for a change
So when I graduated from high school, you bet I was taking a lot more than a diploma with me.
I had years worth of bullying, violence, and being ostracized, all packed up and ready to hit the real world.
Once I reached the “promised land,” the harsh reality set in – the real world wasn’t any better. Frankly, it was worse. In high school, I at least had something to look forward to. I could at least tell myself that once I escaped that prison of judgy and mean adolescents, I’d finally find my people and fit right in.
Once I was out of high school, I was still alone, still judged, still without my people. The only difference was that at that point, there wasn’t any hope left for the next chapter of my life to be any better.
By the time my 31st birthday came around, I honestly couldn’t remember the last morning I had been excited to wake up. I was coasting through life without any vision, purpose, or perspective. I was alone, miserable, and ready to call it quits.
And then it hit me – if we only get one life, I was not willing to give up on it yet. I wanted to get married, have kids, go and see the Grand Canyon. Heck, I wanted to celebrate my 32nd birthday!
I didn’t want to survive – I wanted to live!
But I knew I didn’t have the strength to get myself out of this misery alone.
I needed help, and another self-help book about accepting myself was not going to cut it. I wasn’t strong enough to reach out to my friends because that would’ve meant admitting to them what I had been going through, and I was not ready for that. They wouldn’t have understood.
That’s the thing about depression – it is impossible to explain it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I mean, how can you tell someone that you feel like you have no reason to live when from the outside looking in, they can only see a great career, a gorgeous apartment, and a fancy sports car?
From the surface, everything looks good, but it’s the inside that’s slowly wasting away without seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.
I needed something else. Someone else.
I needed a person I could talk to who would understand what I was going through and wouldn’t judge me.
But I was not about to pay insane amounts of money to get an hour-long therapy session every week with a therapist I maybe wouldn’t even click with. And honestly, considering the pandemic that was happening, seeing someone in person would’ve probably sent my anxiety through the roof.
I sure as hell wasn’t about to start popping any antidepressants either, considering my past with drug abuse.
And then I remembered hearing about this online therapy app called Talkspace on a random podcast.
Everything seemed easy enough, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Unfortunately, I definitely wasn’t the only one needing help.
I thought when I was assigned my own personal therapist that there would be an instant click, and it would be their priority to guide me through my depression and anxiety attacks.
Let me tell you, when you’re suffering from an anxiety attack, a short text message from your therapist 28 hours later is not really going to help.
I felt alone and abandoned again and was not willing to keep paying for short, impersonal, and untimely messages.
A light at the end of my depression tunnel
After doing some digging online, I suddenly remembered my friend mentioning this app DoMental. Their sister had used it to cope with the loss of her best friend.
So I looked into it a bit more and decided to give it a go. I really didn’t have much to lose, considering it cost about the same amount as my two lattes a day.
Considering my Talkspace therapist was not really the right fit for me, the fact that DoMental offered the possibility to switch therapists for free in case something like that happened gave me the confidence to go forward.
I took a 2-minute anonymous quiz that was specifically designed for people suffering from depression and anxiety. I had a good feeling as I felt the questions really gave a good overview of what I had been experiencing.
After taking the quiz, I downloaded the app and was matched with my therapist Michell, who specialized in dealing with depression and anxiety.
It was an instant click.
From the first messages, I felt as if she’d known me for years. Michell knew exactly which questions to ask and buttons to push to get down to the root of my depression and start digging it out.
And trust me when I say I didn’t make it easy for her. As much as I knew I needed help, I was ashamed to admit it. What kind of an adult man can’t fix his own problems and needs some stranger to come in and save him?
I was embarrassed and not that eager to open up and tell a perfect stranger about being beaten and bullied too many times to remember. About getting so drunk and high, I wasn’t sure I’d see the next morning. About how painful it actually felt to feel abandoned in a world with over 7 billion other people…
I definitely didn’t feel like all those confident, incredibly handsome, and stylish gay men on TV, surrounded by 25 of their closest girlfriends at all times. I felt like a failure.
But I also felt that maybe this was my solution. Maybe DoMental and Michell were my solutions.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t go into it thinking my depression and anxiety would just magically disappear, but I was looking for support to become strong enough to manage them and take my life back into my own hands.
And that’s exactly what I got.
Michell was like my best friend. She offered me a safe haven. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I wasn’t scared to open up. I never felt judged or misunderstood.
Michell was always – and I mean ALWAYS – there to guide me through my darkest moments and give me the tools to come out of any situation on top and in control. She knew exactly what to say, and I could see she wasn’t just “doing her job” and giving me some generic answers. She really cared.
The longest Michell ever took to get back to my message was about three hours. She truly was there for me 24/7, just a message away.
I felt as if I, too, had finally been given the road map to happiness, and it was called DoMental.
No longer surviving – I’m thriving
After three months of DoMental, I felt happier than I had ever been.
I was confident and no longer afraid to just be myself – Thomas. I’d realized no one could accept me before I had accepted myself, and Michell had given me all the tools I needed to do that.
Don’t get me wrong – I still had the occasional dark thought or a moment of feeling anxious. But thanks to DoMental, I knew exactly how to handle those situations and take control.
I didn’t even need to message Michell every time. Sometimes I just scrolled back to our previous messages and got the strength I needed to get myself out of a challenging moment.
The only thing I regret is not starting DoMental sooner, so take this as your sign to start now.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, take it from me – there is a way out, and it’s called DoMental. If you need more convincing, they’re even having a special price offer now.
You really have nothing to lose but a lot of happiness to gain.
Results may vary due to personal features. Always consult a professional for medical advice.