You probably know my name, my face, and my story. You may at some point looked up to me. That’s fine. I sought out a role as a leader in the community for a reason. I thought I could help, and people tell me I have succeeded. Researchers tell me their studies keep coming back with the same result; study participants keep saying the group that I somehow ended up leading saved their lives.
I’m glad I could help people.
The problem is I can’t even save myself.
For all the shiny happy people rhetoric, my life is a shambles. My job leaves me tired and depressed. My partner and I are staying together for the kids. Financially we are a smoldering crater of debt, and I can’t find a way to pay for medical expenses. I cry myself to sleep in my now empty bed several times a week. Every night when I got to sleep, and every morning when I wake up, the empty divot next to me is a glaring indictment of my failure at the thing that meant the most to me.
I’m trapped. Ethically I can’t justify doing anything other than what I am doing. What I am doing is killing myself slowly. When I was in the closet, I suffered to keep others happy. I came out of the closet, and nothing has fundamentally changed.
I get to the end of each week zombified from the effort of trying to meet the obligations of a 42 hour work week, doing everything expected of me to support the kids, cook, clean, exercise regularly, save the lives of people in even worse situations, and find a moment in the evening to put some effort into the ashes of our relationship. By Friday, I am usually two days behind on sleep.
It doesn’t matter, I am expected to be the one who gets up at the same time as the children on the weekends.
I love my therapist, but we have reached an impasse. How many times can I say I am flailing about, looking for some way, any way, to improve my situation? How many times can I say I am tired and depressed? How many times can I say that I don’t know what to do, or that my flailing is as close as I get to hope on a day to day basis? How many times can I hear her say that I should just continue to do the right thing?
I can’t quit. My partner hasn’t been able to find full time work a very long time. The children need me. The people in the queer community I am leading look to me for strength, hope, and the chance I might get them to the promised land.
I can’t admit weakness. The carefully constructed image of strength I project doesn’t allow it. Losing that image will not further the interests of the people looking up to me. I know how important having role models is to having hope for your own future.
People always assume that the life of a “leader” is easier than theirs somehow. It’s not. It’s messy. It’s exhausting emotionally and physically. It hurts. A lot.
Most of all, for all the thousands of people who think they know me, where I live is a very lonely and desolate place, full of quiet desperation, sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Does it get better? Not yet. But I’ll let you know when I get there.