Nine months. The phrase has a resonating twang to it. Women — and men — associate it with pregnancy, and the massive lifestyle change that accompanies it.
I associate this phrase with my mental makeover. Over the course of nine months, I completely transformed, growing into a new version of myself. Everything around me was transformed, too. No pregnancy was involved, but I experienced my own kind of rebirth in nine months. What a coincidence.
Nine months ago, I was suicidal. I hated life. I hated myself. I existed, but I wasn't living. In fact, I felt like I was dying, both metaphorically and physically. Why? I was gay. That's it. But I didn't know how to allow myself to love who I wanted to love.
But I didn't want to be. I wanted to be "normal" (whatever that means). I didn't want to be because heinous people in the world around me had put this idea inside my head that my desires were wrong. And at the time, I was vulnerable to their words. I absorbed them like a sponge. Little did I know that each and every word was pure hatred disguised as some perverse kind of guidance.
Nine months later I got help. True help. I joined a support group for LGBTQ young adults. I got myself a therapist. I began undoing the "tunnel vision" mentality that was so deeply rooted inside. I stopped surrounding myself with people who only radiated negative energy.
With these changes, my true self began to rise from within — like small buds appearing after a cold winter. In time, I was reborn into a joyous individual who loves life.
Along the way, I learned some valuable lessons that are applicable to anyone suffering in their journey toward personal truth — whether it be related to sexuality, gender, career, friendships and more. Every day is yours to live, and you can "give birth" to a new you. It takes courage, but it's worth it.
1. Don't EVER feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life.
People who invite toxicity, cause you pain, or make you feel worthless don't deserve to be in your life. Your time and energy is precious. Cut the ties and affiliate yourself with people who accept you for who you are. You don't owe anyone an explanation for cutting them out of your life if the relationship is not only not serving you, but bringing you down.
2. Own your truth, even if it's scary.
A dear friend gave me this wise advice, and it was essential for my journey. While it's important to be flexible about your ideas, belief systems, feelings and so on, it's also important to accept what you cannot change. As I am describing, you can make huge, life-altering changes in your life (so much so that you feel reborn!) — but there are also core parts of ourselves that are constant, that we can't change.
It's essential to develop the courage to acknowledge what you can't change and develop the courage to work on changing the things that can. My sexuality is an inalterable part of who I am. I tried for years to change to no avail. Sex, religion, you name it. The only thing that I can do is change how I react to it. I have chosen love and acceptance, over hatred and intolerance.
3. Tap into the stories you're telling yourself — and then see which ones are true.
It's true. Inside my mind for so long, my sexuality was this thunderous dragon that needed to be slaughtered. I was convinced that there was something terribly wrong with me, inside of me. I felt afraid that the people who had my back were forced to hopelessly look on as I attempted to slaughter something that did not exist.
Sometimes we can't pick up on our own errors in judgment, which is why it's helpful to have friends that can kindly point out areas of irrationality. From there, it's up to us to change and redirect our lives. In just nine months, I was able to begin a new life, a life of my own …