… was over a twenty-five-year period. The main theme was my struggle with my sexuality knowing from a young age that I was gay. I was in environments that included a domestically violent home, bullying at school and moving into adulthood having a faith and being constantly told from the pulpit that my faith would not be valid if I did not adhere to the norms written down.
When I was in my early twenties, I fell ill with chronic fatigue syndrome. I was told from the pulpit that all my issues, both physical and mental, were the result of all the decisions I had made, and this was my punishment.
Life became very dark. It was compounded by the messages I received about my situation being all my fault and no matter of outside help was going to “cure me”. What did not help was conversion therapy.
For many years I would search online for help, someone to talk to who would not think that I was evil. I had more failures than successes. I would find organisations online, but when I tried to contact them their emails would bounce back or I would not hear from them.
Over time, I finally thought I found some help – a counsellor that I connected with. However, the phone counsellor resigned. I was told I would be given another counsellor, but this never eventuated. Stops and starts made things more oppressive.
One thing that would be spoken about at our church pulpit was love and that the only love you can find is the love that a church environment can supply. For me that was not the case. The love that I did find was a LGBTQI community group that was run by Sharon Jones, who listened and treated me as a human being.
It took another two years or so to even become comfortable enough to share my most inner fears and suicidality. One weekend, I turned to Sharon and said I do not want to be here anymore. Sharon said she understood, and I finally felt that a lifetime of anguish and pain might have a chance of being sorted out. That conversation, those few words spoken to me by Sharon, started a three-year journey of being able to start to look at the pain and the hurt, and step by step, or even three steps forward one step back, move ahead.
I was able to get long term counselling. My counsellor helped me to realise that what had been spoken into my life was not truth or love but fear. I went through stages of anger that I had been lied to and grief that my belief system was twisted. Slowly I felt a sense of freedom that I might be able to live a life that was true to who I was. I was able to rekindle my passion for singing. I started a Facebook page to share information about relevant topics and social events so that maybe I could help one person not to have to go through as dark an experience as I had.
The most loving, caring people can be the starting point of a person’s healing journey. They are the ones who show unconditional love and compassion.
Rob Tierney, Tasmania