I’ve had a very quiet week as far as my blog goes, having been quite unwell, what I thought was a stomach bug may be another gallbladder infection so I have some antibiotics and am beginning to feel better, thankfully. It has also been a week where I talked to my GP about my ongoing bout of depression, he has been absolutely amazing in taking time to listen and to hear what it is that I need, to be honest I wasn’t particularly sure at the beginning, I just knew I needed a break before I had a breakdown! Over the last few months I have spoken to a counsellor and alongside that been offered a CBT programme, and have got to know myself a bit more.
I reflect back to someone who once said to me ” sometimes I think you are hiding in plain sight” , at the time I brushed it off and thought it was extremely rude of them, now I think that maybe that was not so! What if I have been hiding in plain sight? Well if I am honest I know I have in some aspects, and today was a reminder of that, a beautiful photo popped up in my Facebook memories with the caption, “sometimes you just need to take time out!
Lovely isn’t it, and I did stop and take time out, boy did I need it. I know exactly where I had been that morning three years ago, I was on my way from The District Superintendents meeting to another meeting and needed to stop. Why? Because that was the day the God in Love Unites us papers had landed in our email boxes, and the first thing one of my colleagues said was, “oh my how are we going to deal with this issue?” That did it, although I hadn’t meant to, I came out right in that meeting, without thinking my response was ” I am not an issue”. There was silence in the room for a bit, unusual amongst a group of ministers. At that point I had been an outspoken supporter of the LGBTQI community, and supported the celebration of same sex marriages in church, but hadn’t openly allowed anyone other than one of two friends to know who I was. Suddenly in that room the mask fell off and I was no longer hiding.
From that point onward I decided to be open and honest with myself and others about who I was, I wrote to colleagues and got in touch with my children, I wanted to take control of my story, and to tell it in my way as and when I needed to, one of those places was going to be the church who I represent and serve. Over the last few months I have been coming to terms with some of the fall out from that. In February 2020 I wrote this:
Well this is my story, of course I have always known who I am, but in the late 70’s and early 80’s rural Essex was not a place to come out, friends who did suffered quite badly, and I was somewhat confused and mixed up in more ways than one, my sexuality was only a part of that. It did cause pain and heartache, and I did opt for some rather unhealthy coping mechanisms, some of which I am still struggling with, but with the help love and care of friends I am getting there.
Some of my story is tied up with a faith journey, and one in which being queer was not an option, and yes I choose to identify as queer, and no I don’t see it as an insult even if it once was. Conversations with my children are interesting these days, because they rightly reflect that my early faith journey, I was an adult convert, counted many things as unacceptable, and being LGBTQI+ was definitely one of them. So I hid from myself and others denying a huge part of my identity, and have suffered for it. Over the last 20 years my faith changed and matured and a whole swathe of narrow thinking has been stripped away from my life as I encountered the Jesus who calls us into fullness of life and continually pushed the boundaries and barriers of my narrow religion.
It was in a post entitled Coming out at 57, reflecting on some of the criticism that Philip Schofield had received, I think that what I wasn’t prepared for was the way that my being open would now affect me, with the mask dropped I was vulnerable, the shield, unhealthy in itself was gone, but while many, many people were accepting and understanding others weren’t, I had a couple of people unsure whether they should receive communion from me, relationships changed, suddenly I was walking on egg shells, and some of my friends were too, in fact it was more them than me, but I was still me, the same me they had known. Comments from friends came with an extra sting, relaxing on a beach one day one friend remarked that she didn’t want to see gay people kissing on T.V. , straight people kissing is fine, but there are too many gays…. what???? I think if we did a study the balance would be about right!
I am very grateful to my children who have been amazing, one even said “I’m not surprised mum!”, the others just treat me like mum, as do my grandchildren who are being brought up in a differently accepting way.
All of this of course happened on what turned out to be the edge of lockdown, of Covid-19 and what was for many including me a time of real isolation, suddenly chats and catch ups after meetings were gone, with the press of a button Zoom cut us off, there was no down time between meetings either, and catch ups with friends for a coffee went out the window. While I know that all of this affected everyone, in some senses it pushed me back, if not into the closet then into a place where new interactions and support became inaccessible. I threw myself into work and burned myself out, add to that the gallbladder issues exacerbated by Covid and I fell down a pit, right now I am beginning to emerge from it, but in doing so I am asking myself what that will look like, who am I now? And is who I am okay? Can I still fulfil my calling, and has my calling changed.
What I don’t want to do is slip a mask back on, put myself back into a space of stress, which almost always seeps through the cracks in some way, I nearly reached breaking point during peri-menopause, I can remember crying uncontrollably and raging, experiencing real grief, was part of it for an unlived life, the answer is yes, though I also wouldn’t want to say the life I lived was bad, it just wasn’t whole, and at that time I couldn’t tell anyone, or at least felt I had no-one to tell.
As I reflect I remember that Jesus question was so often; “what is it that you want me to do for you?” of “do you want to be healed?” Do I want to be healed, well yes I do from this depression, but not from who I am, I want to become whole and (w)-holy who I am, and I want to know that that me is good and worth celebration. When I say good, I don’t mean squeaky clean, but made in the divine image good, that is what I preach, and my deepest joy recently was to be able to bless the marriage of two amazing women, who are an inspiration. I am sure now about what I believe and can challenge the nay -sayers with confidence, but as I said on a Facebook group recently the trouble is that for many of the LGBTQI community is that we need to keep coming out over and over again, or decide to stay in hiding, both of which are costly and exhausting. It is getting better, and I know I have many friends who have been out and proud for much longer than me, some of whom were surprised when I opened the closet doors, and others who’d been confused by me initially! We live and grow, I pray that we will keep doing so, but there are sinister moves afoot, the potential overturning of women’s rights to abortion in the USA could be the start of a slippery slope, the Taliban’s removal of education for girls and the demand that women once again wear the niqab in Afghanistan, the way that Trans-people are victimised and vilified is unacceptable. I hope we won’t take two steps back again, that movements like Black lives Matter and others will continue to produce a kinder world, I guess we can only do that by moving forward. The picture of the reservoir brought back many memories, and took me further back still, but now I want to look forward, one step at a time, towards healing and wholeness.