The Pain of the Closet

husband

I sometimes felt like a balloon that would burst. At a certain point in my marriage, I became sure that I was gay, casting aside the thought, held onto for too long, that I was bisexual. So then what? I felt deeply committed to my marriage. I had made a life contract with an individual that I was going to honor. But at what cost? When chronic diseases came, diabetes and hypothyroidism, I asked myself if any of it was to do all the things I was keeping inside. As my emotional distress and mental anguish grew over the years, when would it be too much?

The closet feels like looking at the world through a piece of glass. You are on one side of the glass, and everyone else is on the other side. During family events, I would feel lonely, quiet, hidden. I was unknown. The pain of hiding left very little to talk about, and so I was silent.

In her poem, Who Shall Deliver Me? Christina Rosetti wrote these lines, which I love. They describe the wall I felt between myself and the world. The lines make clear that it was me who locked the door against the world. She writes, ‘who shall wall self from myself, most loathed of all?’ We wall ourselves from ourselves and hate ourselves for it:

‘All others are outside myself; I lock my door and bar them out

The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself, And bar them out;

but who shall wall Self from myself, most loathed of all?’

So often over the years, I felt an icy steel door baring my heart and keeping the gay man within from ever seeing the light of day. I would let myself have a physical illness and mental anguish before I would ever speak my truth.

It was a combination of two things that had me come out: the dramatic changes in the American landscape regarding LGBT and my own internal growing anguish and pain.

Increasingly I felt a kind of anguish that had me snapping at and mean to my wife, distant from my family and frequently in emotional turmoil. I retreated into work and continued to climb the corporate ladder and gain professional success as I grew more hidden, distant, and pained in my personal life. Work became my freedom. I worked long hours and dreaded coming home. I’ve always felt a kind of honesty and success in work that was utterly lacking in my personal life.

Coming out at work a few months ago begin my healing and the integration between my work and private life. It’s been a fascinating process because of how accepting everyone at work has been.

I could not have imagined how powerfully healing coming out could be. This last year I have been happier, healthier, more integrated than ever in my adult life. There is a feeling of freedom and ease I feel in the world that was absent before. I no longer sit quietly in a group because I no longer need to hide. Coming out fully and proudly is a powerful antidote to depression and internalized emotional distress.

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