In 2007 I began to recognize my attraction for girls was...well, an attraction to girls--physically, mentally, emotionally, and personality-ly. I read an article in the Ensign (October 2007) and decided that I just had to get rid of my feelings--shove them away into a dark closet and forget about them. Oddly enough I spent a lot of my time during the 2007-08 school year literally hiding in my closet. It's hard to push your feelings away when you're roommates with the girl you like...
In the fall of 2008 I had a crush on my relief society president. My entire ward talked only about Proposition 8. My roommate at the time told m once about one of her friends who was Mormon and gay, but he chose the "gay lifestyle" and even though she still loves him she's sad he made that decision. That year I was so determined to go on a mission. I was going to study so hard and be so prepared that I would knock everyone's socks off.
Spring of 2009 I realized that my attraction to girls wasn't going away. Later that summer one of my really good friends/woman-I-look-up-to said to her son with her whole family in the car (and me, too) "We don't hang out with gay people." That summer I started cutting. At the beginning of the school year that fall one of my close friends came out to me as bisexual. She and I walked to school together that day and she told me just before we turned into the giant parking lot by the law building. I can't say that I expected it. It took me by surprise to hear her say it, but I felt so excited. So relieved. Finally I knew I wasn't the only one. I came out to her just seconds after she told me.
During fall of 2009 through spring of 2010 I saw a counselor at BYU. I had about 4 or 5 sessions with her before finally saying I felt attracted to women (she was the 2nd person I came out to). I still remember how I couldn't look her in the eye. How my fingers were trembling as I clutched my journal and read the words I never thought I'd say out loud. I'm attracted to women. My counselor didn't react. Here I was sharing the deepest, scariest part of myself and she was like, "so?" Probably she had already guessed it, because a few days later another close friend of mine said, "I have a question for you." She guarded it with don't be offended and I'm just curious. I buried my face in the blankets on her bed. Then she said, "are you bisexual?" I said, "Sort of, but I only like girls." She said it was ok. It didn't change our friendship. A while later I admitted to her that I liked her. That didn't change our friendship either. She's still my best friend.
While in counseling I learned one key phrase, "Where are these 'shoulds' coming from?" My therapist loved to say that to me any time I used the word should. It was annoying and frustrating at the time, but now I see how great it was. How she helped me look at things in a different perspective. How she helped me focus on me and not what other people expected of me. How she helped me realize that I could make decisions for myself and my life based on what I want and not what I think the people in my life want for me. I stopped cutting in the winter of 2010. And in the spring of 2010 I stopped seeing my therapist (mostly because I was leaving for a summer job and she was soon leaving to be a real-life therapist rather than just an intern).
In fall of 2010 my friend recommended I try some free life-coaching sessions from Vaughn Life Coaching. I took the free sessions over the phone, and was actually pretty amazed at the outcome. For one of the sessions Vaughn (I think his first name was Kyle) asked me to write down the five things I value most in my life. This is what I wrote then:
When we talked about these things in my next session I told him how surprised I was to see that a major part of my life was missing from the list. Nothing about church or god or "spirituality" (in terms of how most religions seem to see it) was on my list. This was when I finally let myself understand that I did not value the LDS church. This isn't to say that I didn't learn some important things in the church or that I didn't love the people who are part of it, but I realized then that this is no longer one of my personal values in my life. While I felt this for quite some time I had never really understood exactly what it meant. For the next assignment, I was to write down different ways to include these values of mine more in my regular, day-to-day life. And, of course the next thing was to actually follow through. I spent a lot of time in nearby canyons reading books by Terry Tempest Williams, going for little hikes, and writing in my journal. In doing these things for myself I started to see that I could then have better relationships with the people around me. I had to take care of myself first. I had to live for my own values before I could really truly love the people in my life.
Anyway, I only had a life-coach for a few weeks (until the free sessions ran out) and it really changed my life by helping me recognize different approaches to getting to know myself. I learned that I am always changing and that my values shift and evolve throughout my life. It's important for me to re-evaluate every once in a while.
So, two years later here is my current list:
Creativity--meaning creating stories, art, forts, etc.
Learning--research, reading, taking classes, listening to people
Wilderness/Outdoors--hiking, camping, walks, bike rides, picnics
Health--exercising, eating good foods, taking mental health days, setting aside personal time
People--family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, strangers at the grocery
I think in a lot of ways these things make up my spiritual existence. When I allow myself to be creative and to learn new things and to take time to go for a solo hike in the mountains then I have been spiritually filled. Once I have taken care of myself in that way, I'm ready to turn around and love the people in my life by taking time to write a letter or an email, even send a text message or make time for a lunch date.
One of the most critical aspects to finding out who I am and what I"m thinking and feeling is to write. I carry a journal with me almost everywhere I go and I write things down when I'm confused or excited or upset and it helps me process my experiences and my growth.
What are your five most important values?