“I am one of the one in four people who has experienced a mental health challenge.”

Trying to come to terms with being gay has been an intense journey spanning several decades.  While being gay is not a mental illness, the depression that came as a result of my attempting to live a life outside of whom I was created to be, definitely is.  

As a child, I was keenly aware of my same sex attractions.  I can remember as an elementary student staring at older guys thinking about how beautiful they were.  When I hit puberty, I was thrown into major chaos.  I had been taught by my family, society and through my religion that "normal" for a guy was having a girlfriend, eventually marrying and raising a family. It was an abomination to have feelings for another guy, and it would eventually send me to hell.  I was convinced that this was true.  Yet, even the fear of eternal damnation could not alter my attractions.

In high school, while attending a Christian School, I began to date girls.  Unlike some gay guys, I did not have a harem of female "besties", I always hung out with the guys.  I practiced presenting as manly, watching the way that I walked, the way that I spoke and my mannerisms.  Some of the girls that I dated would only go out on one or two dates because I was not the macho man trying to get up their skirts.  I was awkward when it came to kissing because I felt like it was an obligation versus something that I longed to do.

In my later years of High School and early years of college I spent hours in prayer in meditation asking God to change my desires….it never happened.  This added greatly to my depression.  Those who know me know that I am an extrovert, but during those years I would find myself becoming so depressed that I would not want to leave my room.  I threw myself into my studies, wanting to be perfect in everything that I attempted to fill the places where I was falling so short in my sexuality.  I graduated second in my High School class and became president of many of the college organizations.  People wanted to be me because they thought that I had life by the horns.  Little did they know the hell that I was living in.

During my freshman year, I met the girl that I would eventually marry.  We dated for a very short time; I told her that I loved her and asked her to marry me.  She immediately accepted, and we planned the event, being engaged one year out.  I thought that getting married and living as husband and wife would be the answer to making me straight.  I was so wrong.  Two months before our nuptials I was beginning to have second thoughts about how I could live this lie, but I decided to go through with it.  Now, not only did I have the conflict of being inwardly gay, but I also had the guilt of having promised a "normal" life to a woman without the capability for filling that promise to the greatest extent.  To this day, I love this woman more than I can love any woman, but I am still gay.

During my married life, my mental health was all over the charts.  I would experience times of great joy, especially when my wife would become pregnant with one of our children.  It was then that I would feel like I was a "real" man.  Soon, though, the yearnings, impulses, desires and extreme attraction for other guys would engulf me.  I would fall into intense, severe depression, or I would act out on my desires, after which I would become smothered in self-condemnation.  This condemnation would, of course, lead to deeper depression.

In the mid 90's I blew a disc in my back and underwent surgery.  It was the first of 5 surgeries spanning a 15 year period.  These surgeries, although being necessary, gave me the opportunity to escape my inward life through the use of drugs.  After my 4th surgery, I became addicted to OxyContin.  I had to have relief from the physical pain that my degenerate disc problem caused, but I ended up using as an escape from the mental and emotional pain that was in my life.  Now, not only was my depression ruining my life, but my drug addiction was also consuming me.  Through a process, thank God, I was able to conquer the bondage of Oxy's.  After each of my surgeries, I would speak to my doctors about depression.  It was classified as situational depression since I had just gone through a traumatic experience.  I would be placed on an anti-depression medication.  These medications would even me out, but it never got to the root of my situation.

In 2009, I began to see a therapist.  I soon discovered that a therapist can only help you if you are totally honest.  I was not.  I was known in the community having been a pastor for over 20 years.  My children had been leaders in the schools and my wife a nurse in a local doctor's office.  How could I admit to anyone that I am gay?  We worked on several issues in my life but never got to the root of my situation.  I ended up leaving the ministry, leaving the area with my wife, and going into case management.

Now, my children were grown.  The relationship between my wife and I had become as distant roommates.  My wife had known for years that I had same-sex attractions, but she described it as a sin for which I could be forgiven and delivered.  My escape had become gay pornography.  In November of 2013, she discovered some photographs and websites and confronted me.  Her words, "Rick, you have to admit that you are gay," were some of the most cutting, yet most liberating words that I had received.  I replied, "Yes!" 

Separation came, and it was decided that we would dismantle our home, our possessions, and our lives.  I was not ready for the incredible loss that I felt.  It became overpowering.  The fear of the future, the unknown, the sense of hopelessness, loneliness, darkness, and foreboding overtook me.  I experienced depression as never before.  In my despair, I decided that it would be better for everyone, including myself if I no longer existed.  I sent a text to my children expressing my undying love, found the bottle of Ambien, and while holding it in my hand getting up the courage to consume them, my youngest son ran through the door and said, "Dad, what are you doing?"  He literally saved my life.  I collapsed in his arms, and he talked me through the crisis.  It was decided that I would go live with my daughter in San Diego to start a new life.  I was going to be able to live my life as I was created to live.  I was coming out!

I have battled depression all throughout my life.  I wish that I can say that "coming out" ended its vice grip on me, but that would not be true.  Coming to Lafayette was one of the most healing and therapeutic decisions that I have ever made.  Meeting the pastor at Congress Street UMC and eventually being employed as an assistant pastor, as well as coming out to our congregation has been amazing.  Knowing that God loves me just the way that She created me and that the congregation accepts me for who I am and not what I am, has brought so much healing.  I am stronger today, but not cured.

I know that depression will be an ongoing battle for the rest of my life.  I still have days when it hits me, and I don't want to face the world.  I have built walls around my heart, and I actually trust only one or two people in my life.  I present myself as optimistic, yet I am always waiting for the next devastation to hit.  Through it all I am stronger today because I am honest, I am out as gay, and I am not afraid to name my depression.  I am living the life that I was created to live, one day at a time.