PTSD & Depression in the LGBTQ Community

Until recently I would never have thought I could suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I had thought that this was a disorder only suffered by members of our military. From the outside looking in most people would agree that I have had an easy life in almost every regard. And I have done my best to perpetuate that image to friends, family, and coworkers. Looks can be deceiving. First I must apologize for the long silence with my blog and I hope all 5 of you will forgive my silence. I have been dealing with depression since 2012. I thought all my issues stemmed from losing my younger brother and mother to the same disease within 18 months of each other. I am certain these deaths of immediate family members drove me into treatment for depression. But I have been fighting depression and PTSD for much longer, years longer.

I am in treatment now with anti-depressants and CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and I am deeply grateful to my employer and co-workers who support me in my journey to healing. It’s been a roller-coaster of a journey with many ups and downs. One experience in particular stands out for me, at the age of 17 I came out and began working at a gay club. At 17 I was painfully naive. One afternoon two older men that I only knew from the club took me to their apartment across the street. I didn’t pick up on anything out of the ordinary and didn’t realize I was invited over for sex. I was raped by both men. The experience led to a distrust of men and has bubbled to the surface frequently over the past 30 plus years. I always felt guilty, that it was all my fault, “I must have sent the wrong signals” or “shouldn’t have trusted two practical strangers”.  I never shared this experience with a soul. It was made worse by the fact that the two guys kept coming to the club I worked in,  I felt shame and embarrassment every time I saw them. I left that job within six weeks of the incident and never went back.

Through therapy I now realize that experience had a profound effect upon my life, my sexual life, and in my relationships since that time. Many times the guys I dated would tell me that I was “closed off emotionally” and I suffered from sexual hang-ups too. I always had to be the one in control of the situation, to be the one who “topped” eventhough I have always desired to experience that closeness and trust that comes from “bottoming” but could never still my fears and make myself vulnerable. Then AIDS rocked our world and the sexual landscape for gay men changed. AIDS related diseases took my friends, often seemingly a whole neighborhood in Oaklawn would disappear overnight.

This fanned the flames of my insecurities and fear surrounding my sexuality in general, and sex in particular. This was aggravated by my religious upbringing and my families disapproval. But we’ve come along way, HIV is no longer a death sentence thanks to the advancement of anti-virals those who are now diagnosed with HIV can expect to live normal life spans and if adherent to  viral suppression don’t need to worry they will pass the virus to their partners. Pep and PrEP have been added to the arsenal in addition to condoms that give negative men and women the tools to protect themselves against HIV. So get tested and KNOW YOUR STATUS! I have made it this far and will continue to heal; my biggest regret is that I didn’t start this process many years earlier.

My purpose in sharing this now is to help others, especially LGBTQ youth to know that tomorrow will come, there is help available, and it does get better. Never allow anyone to put you down, being LGBT isn’t a choice it’s how you were beautifully made.  Reach out to your local ASO, talk to a friend you trust, seek professional help if you need to, call the Trevor Project, a national, toll free, confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth. The Trevor Project can be reached at 866.488.7386, 24/7 if you are feeling suicidal or just need to talk. On the web visit itgetsbetter.org for links to services in your area. If you are dealing with gender questions the Transgender Suicide Lifeline is 877.565.8860 or online at translifeline.org