Sunday, March 13, 2011

It Gets Better, Pt. 4

To my millions of readers: sorry for taking so long to update! I've been in the throws of wrapping up a semester at school. On the upside, school has definitely improved my grammar and sentence least I hope it has.

On my very first day of high school, I missed the bus. Now how a normal person in this situation would react would be to be frustrated, but find a way to get school. I, however, was not a normal person. When I saw the school bus pull away from the corner, I had a full blown anxiety attack. I ran home, locked myself in my parents bathroom, and cried on the floor. Part of me was relieved, because I was terrified of going to high school. Another part of me was frightened to show my face after being late on the first day of school. Hey, I never said anxiety made sense!

My mother insisted there was something terribly wrong with me, and that I needed to see a counselor that day. In under 8 hours I saw my physician, a counselor, and a pharmacist. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and immediately started on Prozac. An unfortunate reality in my family, is that mental illness is strongly present: clinical depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder to name a few. I even suspect there are a few severe sociopath's running around in my family gene pool. Being a child a member of my family is a veritable Russian Roulette of being genetically pre-disposed to mental illness.

There are downsides to putting a teenager on Prozac: 1) Teenagers are irresponsible. I was terrible about consistently taking medication consistently. If Prozac isn't taken consistently (i.e.--taking it for several weeks at a time, then skipping a week, and taking seven Prozac at once to make up for that skipped week), it can cause some pretty nasty outbursts. 2) Teenagers are prone to outbursts. Even without the side effects of withdrawals from Prozac, teenagers are going through some pretty severe emotions, and therefore prone to random crying, door-slamming, and shouting across the house. Add Prozac withdrawals, those symptoms of teendom turn into inconsolable sobbing, broken door frames, and screaming until hoarse. My poor bedroom door took a severe beating in my teen years.

Looking back from 30, my high school years are pretty hazy,which is probably due to drug induced peaks and valleys. The most present emotion I recall, is how badly I didn't want to be there. I couldn't pay attention in class, so because I missed entire lesson plans, I just skipped. All I could think about was how unhappy I was, and how nobody really knew it. I remember calling my mother one day to tell her I wasn't feeling well, and I wanted to go home. She drove all the way down to the school just to tell me she wasn't going to take me home, and that I would have to tough it out. I remember falling to my knees in the school foyer, grabbing her hand, and begging her to take me. Even after begging, and humiliating myself, she still left me. So began the days of ditching.

Starting in my junior I began ditching a lot. I would show up to class a few times to start, and then disappear for the rest of the semester. There was only one class I never ditched: Theatre. I signed up for as many theatre classes as I could in a semester. Theatre was the only class I felt I was happy. I adored the theatre directors, and my only friends in high school were in theatre. It literally was my hiding place. If I didn't want to go to class, I would go to the theatre. I would either hang out with friends, talk to the teachers, or sit by myself and write. My emotional instability is probably what landed me the title role in David and Lisa, playing a schizophrenic with duel personalities. My happiest moments were always in the theatre.

All throughout my 4.5 years of high school (I had to repeat my senior year, due to all the ditching), I always felt like I was hiding something. I never really understood what it was. I had only one boyfriend, and that was very briefly in my sophomore year. All of my known crushes were on guys who eventually came out after school. My unspoken crushes were on my writing and poetry teachers; all women. I never told anyone I had attraction to women. Living with my conservative mother, who would have random outbursts of how gay people molest children, and spread disease, I dared not acknowledge any twinge of feelings for the same sex. I couldn't escape it though. While my peers would lay in bed at night imagining kissing boys, I would lay in bed imagining kissing my female poetry teacher; which was immediately followed by me chastising myself and forcing myself to think about kissing boys. It never came easily. All I could hear was the sound of my mother shouting, "Gay people are ruining this country!", so I had to think about boys.

The start of my second senior year was my hardest. All of my peers were gone, and I was fighting with my mother more than ever. Two women in the same house who inconsistently take Prozac does not a happy household make. I began locking myself in the bathroom, and cutting my arms. After a particularly bad fight, I decided I wanted to take my life. I locked myself in the bathroom, and began taking Prozac pills, one at a time. I got to ten pills, when my mother broke into the bathroom. She took away the pills, and told me the only person suicide would hurt is me, and left me there in the bathroom. After that, cutting became a daily ritual, rather than a post fight ritual. On my second suicide attempt, I tried to cut my wrists with razors. My mother caught me, and told me it was time to see a psychiatrist, or she'd check me in to a hospital.

At the same time I decided to drop out of high school. I couldn't bear the feeling of failure, and I decided to take my G.E.D. and start going to community college. My mother took me to a psychiatrist and a psychologist during this period. They diagnosed me as bi-polar, and put me on depakote, and paxil. I would visit them on a weekly basis, my mother would come in with me, talk for me, and I never really got to say what I wanted to say: that I'm gay. I didn't fit in anywhere; not at school, not my family, not at church. I felt so completely lost. What was worse, was that the depakote made me violently ill. I would take it and immediately get dizzy, and throw up. After six months of pointless appointments, and pills that made me ill, I decided I'm not bipolar, but rather I'm in a bad situation, and needed to make changes.

The changes started, when I found a place where I could be me. I started working at a local music shop, where I met my best friends. They accepted me for who I was, and one night at a party in a drunken moment, I shouted out to all of my friends, "I'm bisexual!", which of course wasn't the complete truth, but it was a start. I don't think it really stuck with anyone, because nobody really recalled it, except for my best friend Casey. Weeks later we went out for coffee, and I officially came out for the first time. I was standing by my story that I was bisexual, but Casey didn't buy it. I knew it too, but at the time I felt bisexual was more socially acceptable.

When I came to accept that part of me, that was when things started getting better. Over time I decided that I was truly just a gay lady. I was terrified of coming out to my family. I wasn't afraid of being judged by society; I'd spent the entirety of my life being rejected by my peers for how I looked, so being gay really wasn't going to change anything. I just couldn't stand the thought of losing the love of my family. It wasn't until I met my first girl friend, and fell in love, that I decided it was time to come out.

My father actually called me out. He turned to me and said, "I don't care who you love, as long as you're happy...just don't tell your mother...yet." I cried, and he said, "Do we have to make this a crying thing?" Stoic as ever, my dad. I told my mother on impulse months later. That was harder. It was after my girl friend and I decided we wanted to get married, and I didn't want to get any further into my engagement without telling my mother. In retrospect, the way I decided to come out wasn't very wise. I was driving home from work, and decided to call her, and ask her to help me plan my wedding. This is along the lines of how the conversation went:

Me: Hi Mama! So I wanted to talk to you about something. What would you say if I told you I'm getting married?

Mom: Summer don't do this.

Me: you know?

Mom: I suspected, since you spend all your time with her. Summer Jean, I did not raise you to be this way.

Me: But this is who I am, Mama.

Mom: No it's not, it's not who you are. It is a SIN. I did not raise you to be this way!

Me: Well I'm sorry you feel that way Mom, but I'm happy. I want to get married, and have children...

Mom: What?? You had better not have children! You will answer to God for that! You will destroy a child! You will answer for eternity for doing that to a child!

Me: How could you say that to me? Well fine, if this is the way you feel then I have nothing more to say.

*click* (well not click, I was on my mobile, but you get the point)

Following that was two weeks of my mother and I not speaking, and pleading from my fiance and my father for me to call her. It was this bit of wisdom from my fiance that pushed me to rebuild the bridge between my mother and I: If you want her to accept you as you are, you need to accept her for who she is, flaws and all. From there, I began working hard to repair our relationship. After years of just being who I am, and showing her that me being gay doesn't change me as a person, I think my mother came to accept me, and accept that being gay doesn't make me an evil heathen.

I'm only 30 years old, and in my short life (yes 30 is young!), I've gone through many versions of me, and many levels of acceptance. The message that rings true is this: it DOES get better. You will go through a lot: fighting society, fighting your family, and even fighting yourself. It doesn't have to be hard though. Surround yourself with people who love you and accept you as you are. Block out the negative voices that tell you that you are wrong. The first step to freedom is self-acceptance. Love yourself as you are, and everyone else will love you too. You will meet dark, and hateful forces in this world, but the only truth to them is they are made of lies. You are worthy of being loved, so love yourself!

This is the fourth and final part of a series of short stories in accordance to the "It Gets Better" campaign. I would have done a video but I don't know how to work the camera.


  1. Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa ( may be another solution to hoarse and sore throat. i know a lot of people use it, its also non alcoholic, though it's effectiveness is not as good as alcohol based cough medicine, but it's still good to use on not so serious sore or hoarse throat. Hope you are getting well soon!!!

  2. Wow, Summer. I didn't have the whole picture of what you were going through back then. I knew some stuff but not about the mental illness and suicide stuff. Funny thing is that my image of you has never changed- at it's core you have always been my sweet, smart, beautiful, hip, thespian cousin with a huge heart. Your journey up til now hasn't been easy but I know you are now in a place to finally take a breathe and follow your dreams. It's a joy to see you conquer.