Not too long ago, I suffered a massively disabling trial in my life, changing everything forever. Although most of us can generally say that we've had a difficult time adjusting to life around us at times, usually we can go on with our lives without too much interference or intervention. Naturally, some people will struggle with difficult circumstances, mental illness, and so forth, but for the emotionally and mentally well individual, the debilitating situation usually will pass. In this case, that did not happen. In late August of last year, as you may know, I experienced a horrible nervous breakdown due to overworking myself and not properly taking care of my mental health. As a result, I actually landed myself in the adult psychiatric unit. Believe me, it is not the best situation to find oneself in. Now of course they did not treat me inhumanely or anything; in fact, I actually rather enjoyed the company of both the staff and the patients. Mostly, on my part I suffered there because it was boring as hell and I craved my freedom to do as I pleased. But anyway, how does such a story relate to SSA? Let me explain.
As a result of this horrible situation, I immediately requested a full term of my short-term disability benefit through The Home Depot, which lasted for 6 months. This resulted in my wages being sliced in half, which subsequently caused me to apply for state benefits through the Department of Workforce Services. I am not ashamed to admit this, because we all require assistance of some kind throughout our lives, and I wasn't about to refuse that because of my pride. In addition, I also started attending therapy sessions, to take care of my emotional issues I was having. For the next couple of months, I could physically feel the stress draining out of my body, like some toxic substance or energy my body was getting rid of.
Sometimes, I think people with SSA can push themselves to their mental, emotional, and even spiritual limits with their attractions. They allow themselves to become obsessed with questions, like "Why am I gay?", or "How can I live the gospel when I'm 'this way'?", or "Does God still care, after I've been through so much?". Still other questions can plague the individual who experiences SSA. And although I wholeheartedly agree that resolving these questions can lead to greater peace, answering them is not the answer for self-acceptance. Such a gift is one we give to ourselves, from within, by focusing on our true identity as sons and daughters of God. The best path to peace, I've found, is drawing close to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and allowing Him inside our hearts so He can pour out His Spirit, grace, and love upon us. Though I feel it natural and normal to go through a phase of endlessly asking questions, I think it unwise to linger there. Look to solutions and gospel-centered answers, and then you can find peace, is my opinion.
Other times, individuals with SSA will view acting out as the only source for relief. But, will that truly relieve the inner conflict and pain? Yes, it may temporarily, but it will always return until you dig to the root of the problem. What's your root? Maybe it's your relationship with your father or other family member, or perhaps traumatic experiences from your childhood. Or, it might just be the result of indulgences in curiosities towards same-sex pornography and masturbation. It could be a way to fill some kind of hole in your life, to numb the suffering you are feeling so deeply in your heart. Whatever the reason, I promise you from firsthand experience that sinning never alleviates pain. In fact - and Satan knows this full well - it will assuredly magnify your pain tenfold. As Alma simply said, "Wickedness never was happiness." I have tried to find happiness in committing ongoing sin. But pleasure can never satisfy, it can only temporarily tickle and shake up the senses, only to dig a deeper pit of craving for more. You cannot entertain lust without inviting its companions. It's impossible.
I've also seen individuals who wander from the path of righteousness (myself included) because Satan is SO good at nagging us all with diabolically false whisperings like, "You can't handle this... you've got to try something and experiment.", or "This is just how you are. Give in." Would we not do well to remember that such lies are born of desperation from the one who seeks our eternal misery, for his twisted, sick satisfaction and company in his personal misery? We know that Satan seeks for everyone to be just as miserable as he is, but why give him that satisfaction in knowing he's trapped us? I personally may not know everything in the gospel, or understand it, or even agree with it, but I do know my Savior lives. I do know my Savior loves me and knows me personally. And I do know He wants me to take hold of His grace daily, to take up my personal, tailor-made cross, and to follow Him. Sometimes those paths are so painful... I know. They are covered in broken glass and thorns sometimes, it feels like. I testify, though, that as I have followed my Savior, the pain and suffering I've experienced weighs on my heart like a feather compared to the bondage of sin and addiction.
Just because the Savior said His yoke is easy and His burden is light doesn't mean His way is the easy way, nor the one we can always just understand like magic. Some of the Saints will not understand many of the paths we're meant to take, and others may suffer with the crucible of doubt. Others may not understand that trials are probably the greatest expression of our Father's love for us, because of their power to refine and exalt us beyond measure. However, every single one of us, regardless of our trials of faith, can press forward with a willing mind, though it may doubt, fear, struggle to see clearly, or whatever else. When we can rise above ourselves, and look outside ourselves, what we'll find is that our Savior is watching over us, anxious to bless us for every good deed we perform. God is not a vindictive being who wishes to punish and/or condemn at the slightest sign of disobedience, nor is He one who just gives us pain without revealing a path to make it through. If you're hurting and struggling in your journey with same-sex attraction, turn to your Redeemer, and I promise He'll embrace you with love.
This path is not one we walk alone, nor is it one that Jesus cannot understand. I've been through SO many trials in my lifetime, and I'm just 25. And I can testify that when I slipped into a clinical depression for nearly 6 consecutive months, crying sometimes every day and even frequently wishing to die, my Savior was there. Experiencing same-sex attraction as a Latter-Day Saint is no different, at all. You may well feel overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, confused and even unable to see your way through. But Christ sees. Christ knows. You may bleed from the innermost chambers of your spiritual heart, this is true. But Christ bled from every pore of His holy body, so that we don't have to bleed as much in our own pain and suffering. You have never sunk so low in sin, doubt, emotional and mental anguish, or physical pain that our Savior has not condescended below it. As He so tenderly said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "The Son of Man hath descended below them all..." I testify that you can remain faithful and find joy in living this gospel, because our Savior made that possible in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary. He loves you SO much, more than you can possibly comprehend. I testify this is true. Until next time...love you guys!