It was the most difficult period of my personal life and for the first time sadness started to consume me. Was I sad in the past? Yes but I was always able to reframe things and see the positive - maybe not right away but eventually. But this sadness didn't just last a few minutes or hours... it lasted for days... in fact, it lasted for months.
Those six months changed me forever. Those six months felt like a lifetime. Those six months were some of the darkest in my life. I was struggling internally with my emotions and feelings and I was unable to verbalize the struggle to anyone. I didn't want people to judge me. I didn't want people to be disappointed in me. I didn't want people to feel angry with me. I was so consumed with what others would think that I started to withdraw because it seemed easier to just deal with it alone.
Eating was difficult on a daily basis; being around people was painful sometimes; sitting alone in silence was deafening and would stress me out; and anticipating what people would say or think raised my level of anxiety to a place I had never experienced before. It was such an incredibly stressful time but I tried hard each day to put a smile on my face and step into my world. I acted as if everything were "normal," even though I knew that nothing would ever be the same moving forward.
I guess it came down to expectations. Expectations I had of myself and the expectations I thought the people around me had of me too. From my perspective it seemed that I filled certain roles in my personal and professional world and I felt compelled to try and keep everything the same. I wanted my family to think everything was fine and that my world was stable because that is who I was in our family. I tried to be the positive and supportive person at school because that is who our staff was accustomed to dealing with each day. I tried to be the happy and light hearted principal because that is what our students needed and expected. I tried to maintain normalcy even though I could barely define it.
What people didn't know at the time was that I was coming to terms with my sexuality and it was an incredibly challenging and difficult journey. I was going through that alone. I needed to figure it out alone because I needed to understand myself before I could share myself with the world. Was I really wired any differently? No. Was my personality going to go through some drastic change? No. But, I did realize that I am gay and that although my sexual orientation would not define me, it would, on some levels, redefine my world.
After coming to terms with my sexuality and having a better sense of self, I was starting to see the light at end of the tunnel. I started to shake the sadness that hung over me for months. I started to understand that my happiness was just that - mine; mine to find; mine to define; mine to celebrate; mine to share; and mine to cherish. Thanks to some much needed therapy, I was finally ready to share my story with the people in my world who mattered most - my family, my friends and the people who I respected.
In the end, everyone who mattered was incredibly supportive and understanding. They listened to my journey and offered love, support and encouragement. The people who mattered and cared about me did not judge me - they just wrapped me up in their love and helped me see that things were going to be ok.
I don't know why I thought the end result would be any different (I should never underestimate those around me) but I realized that going through the initial part of the journey alone, where sadness and anxiety became the norm, was a necessary part of the process for me. I needed to come to terms with myself before I could share my story with those around me. I needed to define my own happiness and emotional well being before I sought support from those around me.
Those six months were the most difficult time of my life. Coming to terms with my reality was not an easy journey but it was the most important one of my life. Does sadness still enter my world? Yes. Have I experienced challenges and difficult situations that make me anxious (it is happening right now as I write this post)? Yes. Is life all sunshine and rainbows? No. But, I feel emotionally healthy for the first time in a long time and because of that, I know that I am a better me.