"Now I'm not only a Mormon cliché; I'm also a puppy." - Claudio
Question #89492 posted on 05/02/2017 2:39 p.m.
Q:

Dear friends,

Hi. I have loved the Board for years. As I come to you in a time of personal need, I’m praying that my question can fall on sympathetic ears, or at least listening ones. If you feel it’s best to be harsh in your response, please know that I am prepared to take your criticism.

At the end of my freshman year at BYU, I’m reflecting on my personal development. I have been loving my classes, and my only wish is that I had more time to give to them day-to-day; as it is, I fall behind because I find it difficult to dedicate that much time to focusing on schoolwork. For a modicum of context to my question, I also enjoy my social life, my wonderful roommates, and the strong community of my YSA ward. In my free time, I love laughing, reading, hiking, and biking.

Despite this façade, I have been hiding something about myself: For years, I tried to ignore or reject the fact that I am attracted to other guys and not to girls. For years, I convinced myself that when I looked at guys I thought were attractive, I just envied them for their looks, and I forced myself to believe it was nothing more than that. When I was in high school gym class and I liked what I saw in the locker room, I told myself that I was just comparing myself physically to everyone else, and that I was normal. When I craved any platonic physical contact with another guy, I forced myself to believe it was only because I needed close friends.

Just recently, I have been coming to terms with the idea that I’m gay. I’m pretty sure about it now, even though I sometimes worry I could just be delusional. Accepting my sexuality as a part of my identity feels scary, and after all, it’s not as if it’s in vogue these days to come out while you’re living in the BYU dorms pre-mission.

As I type this, at a carrel in the Business and Economics Collection in the lower reaches of the HBLL, I feel alone and ashamed. I’m terrified of what the future holds, and I’m terrified of the vulnerability that would come with opening up my story to someone else. Furthermore, I can’t claim that my current struggle is merely a product of my circumstances, because I have had anything but a passive role in nurturing my own current prison inside myself.

I’m not worthy to serve a mission. Because I confessed to my bishop that I frequently masturbate and sometimes view (gay) pornography, he certainly is hesitant to recommend me for missionary service until after prolonged abstinence from those behaviors (the contemplation of which abstinence tends to overwhelm me).

[actual question]
How can I cope with the anxiety and frustration that are now strong forces in my daily life? How can I heal? How can I overcome my challenges? Can I have legitimate hope that it gets better?
[/question]

Typing parts of this question made me feel as if you are well within your rights to be disgusted with me and to condemn me for the ways I have failed. If I’m simply naïve and I deserve a quick slap across the face, please let me know.

-- Ἀλεός

A:

Dear Ἀλεός ~

i just want to point out that you have not failed. Being gay is not a choice, and there is no blame to be placed on anyone for it. You are simply an imperfect human. As am I. As we all are. We all have different trials. We all have things about ourselves that we don't like that we didn't choose. And guess what? Learning to accept ourselves and even love ourselves for exactly who we are is part of our journey on earth. If you focus on what you cannot change, you will only become more and more depressed. You will not be able to see yourself as a beloved child of God! Learning to accept this about yourself and deal with social stigmas is your trial. You have all of my heart-felt sympathy for everything you have been through and everything you will still go through. But please, PLEASE, stop blaming yourself and thinking of yourself as a failure. Because you are not. You can still be worthy of every blessing. You are still a divine son of God. You have done nothing that many straight men and women have not also done (viewing pornography and masturbating. It still requires repentance, but you are not unique in this sin because you are gay.) I am not sure I can emphasize this enough: Being gay is not a sin! It's just not. And I know that's hard to believe right now, but it's absolutely true. You did nothing to choose this. This is not your fault. Do not expect people to be disgusted with you or condemn you. If anyone does do that, the sin is theirs. Not yours.

My advice to you is to learn to love yourself. Who you are. Right now. Pray to see Christ's love for you. To see your value in His eyes. You are not second class. You are first class. You are loved. You don't deserve a slap; you deserve a hug.

 [hugs]

~ Dragon Lady

A:

Dearest friend,

This is my opinion, and one that I share with many wise and gentle and good souls: Being gay is a valid way to be. Being gay is not an imperfection or a trial (though it may be accompanied by unique trials, especially when paired with an LDS identity). You are exactly who you are supposed to be.

It breaks my heart to hear how much you expect and feel that you deserve our "disgust" and "a quick slap across the face." You deserve these things for being gay no more than I deserve them for having grey eyes. Don't ever accept such treatment. You're entitled to respect and love.

As for your questions—

Anxiety management:

  • Consider counseling. Cost can be prohibitive, but BYU has a counseling department, and sometimes bishops will agree to pay for therapy through LDS Family Services. Personally, I would go for a non-LDS-affiliated therapist in this case, as the odds of finding someone LGBTQ affirming are probably higher. There are definitely bad therapists out there, or just bad fits, so don't give up if you don't click with the first one or two.
  • Find a confidant who will truly love you unconditionally and without judgment. Lean on them. A hippie aunt, perhaps? An old high school friend? 
  • I often recommend this list to people. It's one of my favorite little pages on the internet. It applies perhaps more to depression than anxiety, but it can be useful either way.

Healing:

  • Again, therapy. 
  • Again, support system.
  • Love yourself. It may start as tolerance, then acceptance, but I hope it can turn to an embrace. I recently went with a friend to a "queer Shabbat celebration" (it was also catered by "a performance art story telling sausage company"....yes it really was that magical) and it was such a fantastic celebration of being queer and embracing exactly who you are. I was blown away by the warmth and support and emotional generosity of every guest. The world is not always a friendly place to LGBTQ, and LGBTQ folks have made their own friendly world to compensate. Whether you enter into this community or not, I hope that you will one day open yourself up to celebrating who you are.

Overcoming:

  • What exactly are you trying to overcome? Your sexuality? Because I don't believe it is something to be "overcome," nor can it be forced. Sexuality can be fluid, but it's not up to our conscious choice.
  • Anxiety and self-hatred are goals worthy of overcoming. You can start to overcome these by, as listed above, seeking therapy, taking care of your body, finding a support system, and accepting (then loving) yourself.

There is hope for the future. It will get better. You're in the mire right now, but you will find your equilibrium again.



All our love and support,

Waldorf and Sauron

A:

Friend,

This war you're fighting doesn't have to be a battle. 

In my years of self-loathing+anxiety+learning I couldn't go on a mission+having to withdraw from school+change my whole life around, one of the biggest lessons I've learned is this: 

God doesn't want anything but you. You are most important. Grades, careers, relationships, the ability to get out of bed and will yourself to shower or put on pants. None of it can hold even a fraction of worth compared to you. I'm still learning this, and I probably will be forever, as it's a truth that goes beyond words. 

Another big lesson: He can handle it when you can't handle him. So if you're feeling that way now— alone, unwanted, ashamed hold on to what you do know and hold true, even and especially at the most basic level. 

Also, the good news is that mission-or-no-mission, you can still go through the temple when you're ready. Those blessings aren't denied to you. 

To end, a request: If you still feel like this in a week, or a month or a year or anytime ever let me take you to lunch. Wait, no, I am broke. Let's just meet and I'll help you hold on to the good that is already inside you. Or you can talk and I'll listen. Or we can cry. Crying is easier with other people. 

I've learned that it's much easier to hold on when you have a support that you can be open with. I don't have to be that, but I can be a step, if you'd like. 

(I know that I'm quick to make such offers, but I just... I don't know. There have been many instances when I didn't want to live anymore or felt too ashamed to exist, but I'm still here. And as long as that's true, I'd like to be of useful service.)

-Auto Surf

A:

Dear Ἀλεός,

My little love, welcome out, albeit in some limited way. I realized I was some flavor of LGB at BYU too, right in the middle of all the Prop 8 stuff. I know that this moment does not feel like a positive one. I know how alone this feels, and how shameful. I also hear you on sometimes not being sure if you are actually gay. A friend had to suggest that I liked women because I was so disconnected from the possibility. It took me a while to realize the extent to which they were right. And you know what, I then spent seven years identifying as bisexual before I identified as gay. Growing up gay in Mormon culture is an exceptionally difficult thing to do and reckon with as an adult.

But I have such excellent news for you. You ARE normal. Being gay is not an abnormality. It may not be average, but nobody's life experience is really average, and who wants to average anyhow? What's more, every LDS gay person has been where you are right now. We end up in every place: celibate and active; active and dating but not sexually engaging our partners; partnered and as active as we can be; celibate and inactive; not celibate and inactive. However, we all started right where you are. Most gay people of any religious background started at some version of here. There are so many people who understand this point you've reached. And you know what? You belong to our community. You are entitled to a special amount of our support and our love. Some folks think that they have to be ready to be out! and proud! and dating! and nonreligious! to be included. You don't. Many of us aren't. The point is that we know what this moment is, and that we are ready and willing to love and help you if you will let us. You would be shocked at the amount of support I could rain down on you with a few emails, and I live 400 miles away. You may be anxious and frustrated and sad, but you, my friend, are not alone.

Here is something that will happen to you one day, if you go looking: You are going to find a community of gay people who have experienced what you have experienced. Maybe that's USGA or North Star or a support group at the new Provo LGBT center or just a special group of friends. You are going to walk into that room and talk to those people and realize that they understand where you come from, and you will suddenly feel more at home than you ever have in your life. This happens to almost all gay people at one point, and it is going to blow you away. It is going to make you understand what straight cis people feel in everyday life and a lot of things about how you feel about life are going to make sense to you.

I remember feeling shame that I was gay. Then I remember feeling like it was hard. Now I am so grateful and joyful about being gay. There is so much to take pride in, whether you ever have a same-sex relationship or not. There is so much good that comes with belonging to the community we share. Being gay is AWESOME, and there is not one thing wrong with it or you. You are precious, and the world is lucky to have you. Being gay is just one more great thing about you, and it is going to help you bring so many unique and valuable perspectives to the lives of those around you. Again, there is NOTHING wrong with you. You can find this all over mormonandgay.lds.org, but feeling attracted to people of the same sex is no sin. You are NO LESS than anyone else.

My darling, you didn't make yourself gay. It seems like you think that your porn and masturbation habits contributed to your being gay, and that just isn't so. A lot of people used to think that masturbation by itself made men gay, but the prevalence of masturbation among straight men would suggest otherwise. Us folks who were raised in Mormon culture, we have a way of taking responsibility for things that we don't have responsibility for. According to the website I referenced above, and I quote, "The intensity of same-sex attraction is not a measure of your faithfulness." Your watching gay porn didn't make you more gay or cement that in you somehow. You have watched gay porn because you have watched porn and you are attracted to men. The problem isn't that you watch gay porn. It's that your watching porn, period, leaves you in a spiritual place you don't want to be. You could abstain from porn and masturbation perfectly for the rest of your life and you would still be gay as the day is long. And again, that is something to celebrate in yourself, not something to be ashamed of or feel bad about. That process takes time, but it is still true.

Growing up gay in Mormon culture is traumatic. You are dealing with so many issues right now. Not going on a mission right now means you can use your time and energy to deal with some trauma. Your mission will still be there when you are ready to go, both by meeting mission standards of behavior and by being emotionally ready. You are not a failure. You are moving mountains of emotions and that is so difficult. You are doing so much work and fighting the good fight. There is no shame in not having things in your life go perfectly during times when you are overwhelmed by big transitions and emotions. There is nothing broken about you. There is nothing wrong with you. You have things to work on. So does every single living person. You are going to get there. This moment in your life is going to end sooner than you think. That doesn't make it less painful or desperate. I know, but I promise it is temporary.

And loving your classes, your social life, your roommates, your ward community, laughing, reading, hiking, and biking is not your facade. That is who you are. Just because you are struggling with being gay right now and it's a secret doesn't mean that it takes over your entire identity and relegates everything else to the details. You are you, a whole, beautiful, wonderful, needed, precious person, not just an ashamed gay man who can't go on a mission right now because he watches porn and masturbates. You existed as a complex, complete person before this moment, you exist now, and you will exist after this pain is a memory.

Before I answer your actual question, please know that this agnostic atheist lesbian would be so thrilled to get into her Subaru (because of course I have a Subaru), drive to Provo, and drive you around to Mormon-positive gay spaces until you have connections. I may have almost 10 years on you and I may be a gay woman, but I know where to look, and I'm no longer a starving student so I could buy you some good food. What's more, I can keep a secret and you wouldn't have to out yourself to anybody. Please, email me and ask me. I would be so honored.

So, my advice:

  • Please, make gay friends. Make friends who are going to normalize your experience and start helping you reduce that shame. There are lots of gay people along the Wasatch Front who understand Mormonism and are supportive of people who want to stay active. I promise.
  • To cope with the anxiety and overwhelmed feelings that come with contemplating never masturbating or watching porn again, don't think about the fact that you are trying to never ever do that again. I mean, if you told a lot of people that they could never eat chocolate again they would get overwhelmed, and that's just chocolate. Switch your perspective. Focus on the day to day, hour to hour. That's what I do when I'm overwhelmed.
  • See a therapist. This isn't because you are broken or crazy. This is because you are going through a lot of changes and challenges right now, and you need to start unpacking some of the trauma that comes with figuring out that you're gay in the context of Mormon culture. I have so much advice about finding therapists or specific therapists in Utah I recommend or how to know if a therapist is a good fit peppered throughout the Board. If that process is overwhelming, email me, and please, make sure your therapist is gay-positive.
  • Oh my darling, I promise you it gets better, as long as you start accepting yourself and working on your shame. No matter what you decide to do about being gay later on in terms of relationships or religion, it gets better. There are hard days ahead. This transition is not easy. On the other side though? Freedom, my dear. Freedom that seems impossible right now.

- The Black Sheep, reachable at byublacksheep at gmail dot com

A:

Dear,

I'm here to say I love you. Other writers who are more qualified will give you better advice. My understanding of what it means to be gay in the church is shifting, and instead of answers, all I'm left with is love.

You are not disgusting or broken. What you are is hurting, but pain is not gross. The fact that you are gay is fine and normal, and it is not your choice. It does not affect your worth. There are many, many, people out there who believe as I do. There will be people it will be safe to come out to, and they will love you. Your heavenly parents love you now, and they know. I don't know how your family will react, or your current group of friends, but I know that there will be people who will love and support you. Depending on what you want and will accept, there will be men out there who can love you, too.

Look, you love learning and joy and the outdoors and people. You want to be the best you can. Those are good things. You are a good person. What gender you're attracted to has nothing to do with it. Whether or not your coping mechanisms are as healthy as they could be has nothing to do with it. You are a force for good in the world. You already do, and you can continue to make the world a better place. You should do that. Find purpose in it. Make it your goal now to leave the world better than you found it, to help other people be happier and stronger. And then go out and do it.

Certainly, you should take care of yourself. Don't save the world at the expense of yourself. You won't be able to help the world much if you stop being able to function. So absolutely get to a counselor or therapist or something. They can help you set new patterns of thoughts and behavior. They will tell you that you have legitimate hope that it can get better, and you can trust them because they are experts.

Until then, trust us. We love you. We know you're gay and you masturbate and watch porn and we love you. We want you to be happy. We know you can be, with time, and work, and support.

-Uffish Thought

A:

Dear A,

Everything people are saying is correct--you are who you are, and that is perfect. I want to focus on the "It's not in vogue to come out at BYU" part. 

If you're a freshman, you're planning on being here for three more years. I hope this summer you can take a deep step back and decide if that's best for your long-term happiness. I know gay people who have graduated BYU and enjoyed their experiences. I also know gay people who suffered with major depression and self-hate while at BYU, but felt happier with themselves and their lives after getting out of the bubble.

I don't know what's best for you, but just make sure that you're putting yourself in the best place you can be in, physically and emotionally. Just don't think that BYU is your only true path to joy and a diploma. Expressing yourself and having the experiences you need will help you.

Good luck,

-Ace

A:

Dear Friend,

I would like to offer you hope. Hope that people will accept you for who you are, hope that people will love you, and--even more than hope--the fact that you are worthy of love and acceptance. Because you are, of that I am absolutely certain.

I can't promise you that everyone will be accepting and understanding, because we live in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. However, there are many, many people who are willing to offer support and love. Perhaps a personal experience might be helpful for you to hear to illustrate this point. One of my closest friends came out to me a couple of years ago that they experience same sex attraction. It did not change my relationship with them at all. I still saw them as the exact same person I already knew and loved. We are still extremely close friends.

Similarly, acknowledging your sexual orientation doesn't change who you always have been. It doesn't make you a bad person. In fact, I think it's vital that you do learn to accept and love yourself as you are, which requires accepting the fact you're gay.

I don't know how much this will mean to you, but you do have my love and support. Good luck, my friend.

-A Writer

A:

Dear friend,

If you've read the responses to this point, you know that none of us feel any disgust towards you. Not even a little bit. And if we, who are imperfect humans, feel nothing but compassion and concern for you, imagine how much your Heavenly Father loves you. Please know that you are loved. You are loved by your friends and family in your life, by others you know, and by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Nothing you could ever do can make you unworthy of love or kindness, especially not being gay.

Being gay is not something you chose, nor is it something you can change. You are human. Your soul is worth so much: always has been, always will be. All this pain and self-hatred isn't coming from God or something He wants you to feel. If you ever feel like, spiritually, God wants to you feel hate and shame towards yourself, you can be positive that's not God. God wants you to feel loved, happy, and at peace with yourself.

As far as your questions go, coping with anxiety/frustration is hard when it's so consuming. Like the writers above have noted, counseling could be a good option for you if you're having trouble with depression/anxiety and self-hatred. You're a BYU student, so CAPS is a free option. If you do go to CAPS, you may want to note in your intake report that you want someone who's LGBT-friendly. If you end up with a therapist who isn't, you can always request a different one. I've heard that the Comprehensive Clinic is also a good (and inexpensive) option. Otherwise, there are off-campus options--if you go that route, The Black Sheep has great advice.

If you have someone in your life you can come out to (maybe a roommate, a relative, a friend, or a mentor), this also might help you a lot. You mentioned that you're afraid of the vulnerability, and you're right: that is a hard, emotionally-sensitive thing to share with someone. But being open with someone after you have kept this secret for so long could help you heal. Coming out to someone is something that takes a lot of trust, but once you have, that's at least one person that you know still loves you while knowing that you're gay. So if you know someone you feel comfortable talking with, that might help you a lot.

In addition, I don't know how comfortable you are with meeting other LGBT Mormons, but having their support could help you feel so much less alone. If you don't have someone in your life that you can talk to, other queer Mormons can be that support for you. They may not know your story, but they'll be able to understand some things better than most Mormons. Here are a few LDS-LGBT resources:

  • USGA at BYU: USGA has weekly meetings on Thursday nights (7 PM) and "FabHE" activities on Tuesday nights (7 PM). Thursday meetings are in the Provo Library (Room 201) and Tuesday meeting locations are announced on their Facebook page. I know how terrifying going your first time is: personally, I didn't go until another person went with me. If you need someone to come with you for the first time, I would be happy to go with you (and you can send an email). If you're not comfortable with that right now, that's okay, but know that they are a very welcoming and kind group.

  • Encircle: Encircle is an LGBTQ resource center located right next to the downtown Provo temple. They offer support groups on most weeknights, including a young adult group (ages 18-21) on Mondays from 3-4:30 PM. Apparently they also offer counseling at a relatively low rate, if off-campus is a better option for you. If you ever need somewhere to go where you feel supported, you are also welcome to go there anytime.

  • North Star: If you're not ready to meet anyone face-to-face, North Star also has some online groups on Facebook or email. The email option can be completely anonymous, if that's what you're comfortable with. North Star is an organization that supports LGBTQ Mormons who want to live current Gospel standards. Although their organization is not right for every situation, they are good people. If that's what you're aiming towards right now, they could be a good support for you.

  • Affirmation: Affirmation, like North Star, is an LGBTQ-LDS organization. The difference is that Affirmation supports Mormons in all spectrums of self-acceptance, choices, and relationships with the church. Some Affirmation members choose to pursue same-sex relationships or marriages. Some don't. Anyone is welcome, and anyone is supported.
     
  • The Trevor Project: This isn't an LDS resource but is a crisis line specifically for LGBTQ people. They have a call line, a text line, and an online chat. If you ever feel like you need it, please use it. You matter so much and deserve to have support. Their number is (1-866) 488-7386.

One of the kindest things a trans Mormon ever did for me was agree to meet up and talk with me on-campus when I was a freshman. They were the first transgender person I ever talked to. Like you, I felt unworthy of love and that God no longer cared about me. This person sat down with me and offered their support and their friendship. They probably don't remember that, but it meant everything to me. It's a difficult first step to take, but peace awaits you on the other side. If you need someone like that, know that I am here for you and would be more than happy to talk if you need it. If you would be more comfortable talking with a cis gay Mormon who might relate to your specific concerns, I also have some friends who would probably feel comfortable talking with you. You don't need to face this alone.

You have accomplished so much over your freshman year. The classes you've taken, friends you've made, and activities you've participated in are all amazing. Don't knock those accomplishments because they are truly wonderful (as are you). You've also accepted something about yourself that is hard to come to terms with. And coming out to someone else (even if it's just the Board) is also an incredibly brave step! You have courage and strength, more than you know, to have gotten this far.

So know that you're loved by so many people, that you deserve happiness, and that the path ahead for you may be challenging but also bright. You've taken some brave first steps, friend, and you have a journey ahead of you. You can do this! But you don't have to do it alone. Turn to God, turn to your friends and loved ones, and turn to other LGBT Mormons. You have a good and courageous heart. You have not failed. You are worthy of love and hope.

-Van Goff

A:

Hi!

I'm gay.  Well, bisexualish mixed with a little bit of asexuality, to be more close, but I use "gay" most of the time as an identifier.  So is my younger sister (she's a pure baby lesbian, though).  BYU was hard.  Really hard.  I had really suppressed any sort of sexuality before I could figure out if I was anything but straight, and just went with the default.  I figured it out once I was married to someone that I was intellectually and emotionally incompatible with, and that was the WRONG place to figure it out.  You're ahead of the curve here, because you've already started to realize this about yourself before going on a mission (should you choose to serve one I feel it's best to know before you go!), before getting married, etc.  That alone is going to save you so much pain!

If you're still active and a believing member of the church, my recommendation is to go to USGA meetings or another support group religiously, don't tell your bishops about your sexuality until you know that you can trust them, and foster some serious empathy for your LGBT siblings in the community, because they need you and you need them.  Take the next year or two to really get to know yourself, take advantage of the therapy at BYU (I really benefited from the group meditation therapy class, and know others who did too).  

Others have mentioned that there's the possibility of looking into courses at another university, such as the U of U or UVU.  There is a place for you at BYU, if you decide to stay! However, I would recommend at least doing a drop-in of a few classes at the other universities in the area, just to get an idea of the culture and to start feeling out what other universities are like, in case you start to feel like BYU is becoming a more stressful place to be a student. My sister is at UVU and it has been such a positive experience for her. She has the chance to navigate her faith and her sexuality without the fear or stress of having her church directly involved in her education.  For me, I lost the "bishop roulette" almost every time I got a new bishop, and I know that added heaps of extra stress to my schooling experience, but I stayed at BYU because I was even more afraid of what transferring to UVU or U of U would be like.

Now that I have graduated from BYU, I have felt a lot of the stress of balancing my sexuality with my faith melt away.  For me, I left the faith, but I have many friends who have stayed active in the church and are very happy and have found fulfillment in their lives while living according to the gospel standards.  

Please, please reach out to me via email. Yog (dot) in (dot) Neverland (at) byu (dot) edu.  I would love to talk to you about my experiences, in a conversation format, and to put you in touch with some of my faithful gay LDS friends who are older and more established in their lives than they were when in college.  There is so much hope for you, and you are such an important voice in the church, in your community, and at BYU! 

-Yog in Neverland

A:

Dear Aleus:

Love your sign-off. Greek mythology, am I right?

I found this passage from the Wikipedia article about your mythical namesake surprisingly touching and on-topic:

Croesus had dreamed that Atys would be killed by a spear. Because of this, to keep Atys safe, Croesus locked away all of his son's weaponry. A wild boar began to ravage the countryside and when a hunt was organized to rid the land of the raging beast, Croeus would not let his son join. However Atys said the boar would surely not kill him using a spear. So Croesus relented, and Atys was killed by a spear thrown by a fellow hunter. 

There's something so profound about that level of tragicomedy: isn't it often the thing that we think we have under control that proves our undoing? 

Life is filled with tragic twists of fate, suffering, uncertainty, and seeming injustice. The Greeks seemed to have been on to that more. (Not to mention a more realistic view of human sexuality.) Modern society sometimes seems to preach an unending buffet of fulfilling experiences, loving relationships, and tasteful Scandinavian furniture.

Take it from this single, straight chick pushing 30 still living in her home Congressional district: that's not real life, and that's okay.

I got the BYU Magazine in my mailbox yesterday and thought about your question reading an article about crazy anxiety reactions and coping mechanisms (including, and I quote, "pornography," but also potato chips and Netflix) among new BYU students. A passage on the culture of perfectionism really struck me:

Confronting personal limits can be particularly distressing for students who have come to believe that, with enough effort, they should be able to solve any problem—academic, social, or spiritual.

In a recent survey of 574 BYU students, ancient scripture professor and psychologist Daniel K Judd (MS ’85, PhD ’87) and his colleagues found a strong correlation between those who felt that their salvation was primarily dependent on their own efforts and those who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental-health problems. In contrast, Judd notes, “those who understood and embraced the principle of grace had dramatically lower scores.”

This winter, I struck up a romance with an old flame despite our rocky history and the best advice of those who loved me. Because, dear reader, sexuality and love and relationships suck and are hard and like Aleus and friends up there, sometimes they're bigger than us. I remember standing in the shower thinking the pain was so intense that I would not be able to bear it, and I asked Zedability her opinion on the Atonement for those who maybe don't entirely believe in it and definitely aren't "worthy" by any normal definition. 

Basically, I said that there was no way I could go on being that heartbroken forever, that if there was just a way to know it would stop hurting so badly even when I had brought my situation on myself, that it might get me past feeling that my life was a Grecian tragedy and that I had failed in my perfect-perfect-perfect life. 

Every answer above is fantastic and true and brave and you should reread each one and print it out and take it to therapy or whatever. 

I just want you to know that I don't really fully understand the Atonement, or Grace, or how to navigate the minefield that is loving other humans while projecting this perfect image that you probably worked really freaking hard for, but that reaching out did make me feel better. I don't know from tidy platitudes and inspiring hashtag-empowerment, but I don't think those who have it all figured out are the ones who need God.

I think the first step to really believing that it gets better and making that happen for you is stopping a cycle of self-blame and shame. You face unique challenges as a newly-out-to-yourself-probably-gay person. But everyone, even your Basic Frosh Hall-mate Straight Kids, has fallen short or will sometime soon. 

Who knows where you'll end up in ten years, Aleus? It sounds like you have some fantastic resources to turn to in the meantime. If that seems like a long, lonely, outrageously difficult burden to bear, I hope you can take one thing from us older and hopefully wiser writers: confusing anxiety and depression's messages as messages from God is the wrong tack. It's actually not clear from the BYU magazine article whether "Jordan" was straight or not, but he's a data point of one that beating yourself up isn't the way forward to a fulfilling college/mission/professional experience.

The thing about the façade, much like a Greek actor's exaggerated mask, is that everyone is relieved when it comes off. 

---Portia