The Search of Happiness

by J James

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Posted by JJames
Gay Star News recently reported that according to a recent survey by Kings College London, gay men are one and a half times more likely to suffer with depression than straight men. Suicide rates amongst all members of the LGBTI community are much higher, but the figure is difficult to measure accurately due to the sensitivity of the topic. Studies also show that LGBT teens are between 30 and 40 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

I myself suffered with mild depression in the year prior to me coming out and then during the eventual collapse of my marriage to my wife. I don’t think at the time I realised I was depressed and I was certainly never diagnosed; but looking back on my behaviours and recalling those feelings, I think it was clear I was in a downward spiral. For myself it was due to a feeling of hopelessness and despair. I had finally accepted I was gay after a number of sexual encounters shrouded in deceit and yet I had no idea of how to move forward and how to manage these feelings. I felt shame, self-loathing, fear and above all; lost.

From my own research and from talking with many other men who struggled with accepting their sexuality, it seems that these feelings are so common and so damaging. When we live in fear of coming out we develop a wonderful ability to survive by putting on a mask and living a lie so convincingly that no-one would suspect there was anything wrong. For some men the negative feelings become too much and the ability to control, to manage, is lost, sometimes leading to tragedy. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts the annual rate of suicide in the U.S. at between 35,000 and 40,000 per year. A truly alarming statistic and yet it seems ironic when the definition for gay is to show a merry, lively mood.

But is it really any surprise that members of the LGBTI community are more likely to experience depression?

It is said that animals, (including humans), have two basic responses to their environment. When the environment is unfavourable an animal’s drive is for immortality – unending life. It is a survival technique to ensure our continued existence. When the environment becomes more favourable our drive is to reproduce. The desire to reproduce is seen as the purpose to the life of one animal so that the genetic material can be passed on to another. For me, the thought of not being able to naturally reproduce if living in a same sex marriage was a big contributing factor that lead to my own depression. It is something that I have struggled to comprehend – if I do not reproduce then what is my purpose? Of course, nowadays there are ways around this with surrogacy and many parents who adopt may even say that raising a child gives that sense of purpose whether it is your own blood or not. There are also many childless straight couples who choose not to have children and lead perfectly happy, healthy lives. I think the issue for me was that I was not choosing this, but I was seeing it as the unfortunate trade off of living in a same sex marriage. I think we sometimes underestimate the power and impact of our primal basic needs and the fact that most homosexual men remain driven by immortality and not reproduction, may be a significant factor in explaining the greater likelihood of suffering with depression.

It is also no surprise that a young gay teen, in fact a gay man of any age or any member of the LGBTI community would be a victim of poor mental health when you consider the bombardment of negative media press that we are exposed to. Even today when I opened up my Facebook page I was confronted with countless stories and reports and status updates which really challenge my ability to remain positive and strong as a gay man. Gay men mocked in restaurants, beaten by gangs, refused entry into churches, fired from jobs, alienated by communities and the list goes on and on. We all know the impact of constantly hearing something negative on self-esteem. And in some countries the story is far worse. The fear of being imprisoned, mutilated, tortured or killed are realities for thousands of gay men each day. It takes an incredibly strong person to rise above this and to hold their head high.

The negative comments will decrease over time I am sure, as education reduces the ignorance and bigotry of others. But in the meantime what we need is to develop communities of support for one another. When I was in my darkest place it was the kind heart of a stranger who helped me and I promised myself that I would forever pay that forward. I spend time now reaching out to other men on social media who are struggling to accept their sexuality. I ask you to do the same.

We will never remove all the haters but remember - when you are truly comfortable with who you are, not everybody will like you. But you won’t care about it one bit!

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