Before I share more of my story, there is really only one thing I want you to take away from this post - and it’s this:
You are good.
You are worthy.
You are loved.
There are people out here fighting to keep you alive.
I don’t know what I believe about God. A substantial part of me wants to believe in the story of Christ. My body fights this. It fights this because it’s been hurt. Every time that I see something that reminds of my previously closely held Christian traditions, I experience this deep pain from within. Every fiber of my being tells me to run. It’s really difficult for me to step foot inside of a church. I’ve done it a few time since I’ve moved to Nashville - but only when I was with somebody who made me feel incredibly safe. When I’m with a group that begins to pray, muscle memory brings my hands together and with it the echoes of a soul that once believed these prayers mattered.
I’ve wrestled with some form of depression and anxiety for the better part of a decade now. I’ve never really had the resources to seek professional help. I still don’t. Not having that help has brought me to really awful places. Last year was probably the most difficult time for me - my untreated depression and anxiety led me to a place of suicidal thoughts. And I never desired death more than when I was at mass or in eucharist adoration. These places were supposed to be safe. I was supposed to feel peace and consolation in the presence of my God.
When I finally found the strength to share my experience with close friends, I decided that the best thing for my mental health and stability was step away from the Church and pretty much everything that might remind me of it (excluding the people that I loved). I left my job at a Catholic non-profit (which had no direct role in my trauma and I still respect). I definitively decided to no longer attend mass (which was a shift from rarely going to never going). I stopped praying. I stopped listening to the music that I heavily associated with my experience of the Church. I stopped calling myself a Catholic. And the change in my life was unbelievably good. Removing the biggest stressor in my life significantly brought me more peace. I no longer had to worry about an eternal fire. I no longer had to worry about the small things that I would do that would keep me up at night because they were things that most Christians might consider sin. I was free to believe what I did and not what I didn’t.
Leaving the Church hasn’t made things perfect. I didn’t expect it to. Depression is still depression. It’s still an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. I’m writing as a way to manage these chemicals. Art has always been a way for me to fight that imbalance, and I hope to soon be able to enlist my favorite medium of art to express my story.
I still don’t know what I believe about God. Is God a male? Female? Non-binary? Is God involved in our lives? Is God all powerful? Is God expressed only through Jesus? I don’t know. There is only one thing that in this moment I can say I’m certain of. And even just a few weeks ago, I don’t know that I would have said this.
God is love.
Creation is an act of love.
Creation is being sustained by love.
Evil cannot create.
It can only destroy.
My existence, your existence is being sustained by a force that knows only love. That force created me, created you and has instilled worth in us. A worth that cannot be taken from us. We have been made good from the very beginning.
In the middle of the drought, I kept coming back to two songs that showed me a vision of a future filled with hope. When I could not see my God, I saw art.
The first of these songs was “breathin” by Ariana Grande. A song that is as much of a bop that can get you off your feet as it is a song that brought this man in his 20s such peace and hope. Speaking about the song, Ariana said: “It’s about anxiety and feeling like you can’t get a full breath. It’s like the worst feeling in the whole world.”
That’s why it spoke to me. I felt heard and known. When my understanding of reality slipped from under me and I was falling into a void, all that I could do was just keep breathing.
Feel my blood runnin’, swear the sky’s fallin’
I know that all this shit’s fabricated
Time goes by and I can’t control my mind
Don’t know what else to try, but you tell me every time
Just keep breathin’
There’s a theme in the music that I listen to when I’m feeling down.
I’m not looking for music that will magnify those feelings - that isn’t exactly healthy when you’re also fighting for your life. What I need is music that will get my body moving, dancing. The second song that I ran to when I needed help was “brighter days” by San Holo. Much like Ariana’s song, it focused on a vision of hope instead of just reflecting on the past.
Think I’ve found the light it’s been so long
I better hold on to this feeling before it’s gone
Both of these songs were very formative in my queer experience, but Ariana specifically. Her music represented more than just hope in the dark. Her music was a quiet rebellion from the Church. It’s odd how a straight pop star might be my symbol for my queer rebellion, but she was.
Ariana was regularly used as an example as what was wrong with the world. Her music was provocative and glorified a life of sin. She wasn’t modest enough.
To me, she helped me find liberation. My sexuality became my own.
— The Soundtrack To Coming Out is a series about the music that has formed my experience as a queer/bisexual person. Check back regularly if you’d like to hear more.