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Under Pressure

Intense conflict about being true to oneself or conforming to make others comfortable.

Photo: Ryan Arya via Freepik

Summer 2005. I sat in front of my laptop in my rented apartment in Thessaloniki, Greece, and was Googling “easiest way to commit suicide.”

I considered jumping off the balcony or taking a bottle of pills. Suicide was my singular thought that summer.

From the earliest age I lived with the pressure and the weight of feeling different. I was taught to value the opinions of others over my own. Over and over the message was relayed to me not to be different. Different was bad. Being bad made people talk about me. People talking about me ruined my reputation. Ruining my reputation hurt my family.

I learned that being myself caused too much trouble.

The impetus of my struggle to end my life was my coming-out. I chose to share the unwelcome news over Mother’s Day weekend, when my whole family was together. I wanted to get it over with — and fast. I felt I needed to tell everyone then, because in a few weeks I was headed away for law school’s summer study abroad program.

When I came out to my mom, at first she said it didn’t matter and that she loved me anyway. But later that night she locked herself in her room, and she didn’t come out for the rest of the weekend. My brother and sister said my timing was bad, and maybe it was.

After two weeks of not speaking to me, my mom showed up at my house with two Slurpees and said, “I want to talk to you about this gay thing.”

Confused that I had dated guys for most of my life, she said, “From all of the research I’ve done I have concluded that you are bisexual.” But she didn’t stop there. “If you’re bisexual, then you have a choice to be with men and not women. If you can be with men, I just don’t see why you want to be with women and hurt me. Don’t you care what people will think about our family?”

At that moment I came face-to-face with a central conflict in my life.

Being honest and making my own choices would make me happy. But my choices would make the people I love unhappy. So what’s better? Being selfish and happy or sacrificing to make other people comfortable?

I chose myself.

However, that summer, alone in a foreign place,the reality of my decision crashed in around me. Dizzy with regret and guilt, I buckled under the pressure and decided to give it another shot with a man. My short foray back into the hetero world proved to be unsuccessful and very confusing both for me and for the guy I dragged into that mess.

It was after things ended with him that I felt the worst. I had tried — really honestly given it the good ol’ college try — and I could not bear being with a man. It just didn’t work for me.

I wrote my best friend and told her I felt like I was falling into a deep tunnel. Killing myself seemed like the easiest option. I thought it would be the best way to solve the problems I seemed to cause
simply by being myself.

I reached out to a girl over the internet — another American girl living in the same city in Greece. We
met up for dinner. She was funny and kind, and she listened to me. I’m not sure if she realizes that her compassion saved my life.

Today I saw the cover of People magazine: “Teenage Suicide.” I feel for these boys. I am the same as all of the boys and all of the girls who cry in the afternoon and feel like shit because they are different.

I wish I could say that everything is resolved and that I don’t face pressure to conform, to tone it down. The truth is that sometimes it’s still really hard. But I try to stay on my side, and I stick to my guns. The people I love are learning to accept me and love me even when I don’t make them happy.

Now I want to fight for those kids who are suffering. I am joining the Trevor Project, an organization
dedicated to ending suicide among LGBTQ youth.

I want to be a voice at the end of the phone line that says, “You are not alone. We are many. It gets better, so just hold on.”

Originally published in The Advocate on Oct 14, 2010

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