Coming Out: The Aftermath

Well, it’s been just short of three weeks since I came out to the world on this blog. I’m sure some of you are wondering what these last three weeks have been like for me. It’s difficult to try and formulate everything into these posts, but I will do my best.

Before I go any further, however, let me put some uneasy minds to rest: my post three weeks ago was not how I came out to most of the people in my life. My family and close friends have all known for a while, but I needed to take that final step of declaring publicly that I am, in fact, gay. In order to help those who are like me and are suffering in silence, I needed to make a public statement. So the post was not intended to tell those closest to me that I was gay, but rather to help them understand a bit of what I’ve been through, as well as to send a message to those who are suffering that they are NOT alone.

So, anyways, back to the purpose of this post.

These three weeks have been a roller coaster. As I said before, most of the people that I encounter on a day to day basis already knew. So what was the big change? What made a difference?

Well, to start off, that post meant that, for better or worse, I was out to the world. There was no taking it back. Years and years of painful repression finally came to an end as I was finally able to open up to those around me and let them know who I am. Who I really am.

You see, up to this point, I have been acting. I’m not an actor in the sense that I would be any good in a play or movie, but I have gotten really good at acting like I am the person that everyone expects me to be. Like I’m the perfect ministry major who is going to graduate in May and go into full time ministry in the Nazarene church and marry the perfect woman and have 2 kids and a dog. This is what I felt I had to be. To do anything else would have been to disappoint those who saw what a beautiful future this could have been. So I became really talented in this particular aspect of acting.

Since coming out, I have been able to hang up my mask and costume and just be myself. Words cannot express the relief that comes from being able to just be yourself.

Let me, once, again, explain before some questions and concerns arise in the back of your minds. I am still me. I still love puns and make way too many Dad jokes. I still watch sitcoms endlessly and, most importantly, I still love Jesus. Ultimately, I am called to ministry. This is something that I can’t deny or avoid and, trust me, I’ve tried. God knew that I would be coming out when He called me to ministry all those years ago, and yet He still called me. Far be it for me or anyone else to presume God was wrong. I have not changed. I am still me. I’m just free to be more myself than I have been in many, many years.

So coming out has given me freedom. It has allowed me to breathe. It has allowed me to put the buttons that you see in the picture above on my backpack as I go to class and work, showing that I am unashamed of who I am and those who are like me. So it’s made me more comfortable with myself. Given me self respect, something that I haven’t had in a long time.

But even more than that, it revealed to me the pure beauty of the people around me. Coming out in this way was risky to say the least. I could have easily been barraged with micro aggressions or even downright hateful language, but instead I was showered with love, support, and acceptance. At the time of writing this post, my coming out post has gotten 488 views. Sure, some of these are repeats from the same people, but that is still 4 times higher than my next highest view count for any post. Nearly 500 people read this post, and yet I received less than 5 negative responses. Instead, I was showered with comments from friends, loved ones, people I haven’t spoked to in years, and even strangers. Comments such as:

“Thank you so much for sharing this. ❤️ You are a shining light!!!”

‘’You’re going to change the world, Thomas ❤️”

“So proud of you, Thomas! Thank you for being vulnerable and open with us, never stop being you. ♥️”

“You are strong, bold, and inspirational! Thank you for willing to be vulnerable! Love you and praying for you and your future ministry!”

Let this stand as a message of hope to those who might still be suffering in silence: it gets better. There will be those who do not accept you. There will be those who spew uninformed and closed-minded comments your way. But, with any hope at all, there will be those who come beside you and show you love for YOU. Those who not only allow you to express yourself and be comfortable and proud of yourself, but who are proud of you as well and will support you throughout the process. Sometimes, the most unexpected people will provide you with the most support.

One last time, however, I must address some responses to what I have just said. This is MY experience. Even more, this is representing the good parts of my experience. There are aspects of coming out that have been EXTREMELY difficult for me, and have required a lot of healing. This process did not start just three weeks ago for me. Some of these things happened months ago, or even years ago, and I have been able to work through some of them. I still have things to work through.

Don’t expect that everyone is going to have this same experience. I do believe that it will get better for them. I do believe that everyone has someone in their lives who will love and accept them. But PLEASE don’t expect someone who just came out to be as comfortable as I am. This is an extremely difficult time and the stories and experiences are as varied as the people who tell them. So be there for people. Show them love. Let them know they’re not alone.

One final message to those who have suffered or who continue to suffer in similar ways that I have:

You’re not alone. You are loved. The mountains that you face might seem insurmountable, but there are people who will climb it with you. Don’t feel obligated to tell anyone anything, because this is your story. This is your life. You alone get to choose when and how you open up. And whenever that journey begins for you, please do not hesitate to reach out (trfarmer18@gmail.com). I am here for you, and there are so many others who are as well. You can do this. You can breathe. We’re here with you.

Love, Thomas.

(Yes, that was a direct reference to Love, Simon. If you haven’t seen it, then you need to. It’s a life changer for LGBTQ+ and those who love them. That’s all. Have a great day!)

Why the tattoo?

People ask me why I have the tattoo that I do. Here’s my reason:

Isaiah 40:28-31 says,

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My entire life I have wished I could fly. Not just in an airplane or with an epic jet pack, though those would be great as well, but I myself, with no outside assistance, flying through the air. Not even in the Superman type of flying where I can soar through the sky at inhuman speeds, though that would also be cool. More in the way of floating.

I’ve suffered from depression for years. There are seasons of wonderful reprieve, and there are seasons of terrible darkness. As I have had to cope with the dark seasons, I have learned of the peace that can come from a long walk to nowhere particular. In my darkest moments, this is my therapy.

A few months ago, I began to process through some things that I had suppressed my entire life. All of the pain that I had hidden away came crashing to the surface and poured into the forefront of my mind. The feeling was overwhelming, and there were nights that I couldn’t imagine continuing. A few nights in particular, I strongly considered taking my life.

On one of these nights, I did what I always do and went for a walk. As I slowly walked down the dark street, trying my hardest to avoid openly weeping in front of some stranger’s house, I closed my eyes. I continued to walk down the street with closed eyes, aware of my surroundings yet no longer fully present.

I pictured myself slowly rising, my head turned heavenward as the earth slowly fell away. The pain, fear, despair, hopelessness, and desperation fell with the earth, leaving only me and my breath. I was weightless; the problems of the earth below had no hold on me. For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I was free. I slowly kicked my feet back and forth, the rhythmic sway in tune with my heartbeat. For a few seconds, in this mesmeric trance, I was free.

I know I can’t fly. I know I never left the ground. My feet were still chained to the pavement, with no hope of defying gravity. My problems never really fell away.

But for a moment…

These verses remind me that even though I’ll never be able to fly on my own, I can still find freedom. I will get weary. I will stumble and fall. But if I hope in the Lord, he will strengthen me, and I will soar. No longer bound to the earth and its entanglements, but finally free.

I may not be able to fly. But through the Lord, I can be free.

That’s why I have this tattoo.

Revival

You may have seen my last post. It was an admission of defeat. I was overcome. Numb. Tired of fighting. It’s funny how quickly things can change.

As a student at a Christian University, I have the opportunity to attend Revival at the Nazarene church on campus every semester. I’ve gone to most of the revival services since I started here, and have attended revival services my entire life. During my first semester last year, a professor told me something that I had never heard before: Revival is for the Church.

I mean, sure, it is an extremely powerful time for saints and sinners alike, but the entire purpose of revival is to revive our relationship with Christ. And man, did God come through this week.

I didn’t want to go to the service tonight. I was defeated, my head was pounding, I was exhausted, and I had tons of homework to do. Basically everyday for college students.

However, I had committed over the weekend to greet at every evening revival service- no matter how I was feeling. So I went.

I am so amazingly glad I did.

At the beginning of today, when I posted my previous blog entitled Numb, I had given up. Not on life. But on feeling anything. I had resigned myself to being a desert- because to allow any feelings into my life was to allow the possibility of depression to drag me down once again. I couldn’t face that possibility. So I chose apathy.

Then God revived me.

From the very beginning of Dr. David Busic’s message, I knew God was going to speak to me. The text used was Psalm 22. It’s a Psalm of lament. It’s not everyday that you hear a sermon preached on lament. Every word that Dr. Busic spoke as he read the psalm tore deep through my apathy into the emotion that I had tried so hard to abandon.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer.

I am a worm and not a man.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

The Psalmist- presumably David- is crying out to God. Asking him why. Why did you abandon me? Why do I not feel you? Why am I alone?

Dr. Busic made a point of saying that 70% of Psalms are of pain and not praise. Lamenting is a good thing. Being honest with God is a good thing.

And you know what?

The Psalms of Pain always come before the Psalms of Praise.

I could feel my sorrows come rushing back to me. Everything that had weighed me down over the last 7 years came to the surface at once. I had to lament. I had to ask God why.

Why? Why was lamenting to the God that for some reason I blamed for my pain a good idea?

Because lament is a result of a faith in a God that is present in the darkness- in the pain- in the sorrow.

God listened. He loves.

The desert of numbess that I had created for myself was suddenly inundated with refreshing, painful, amazing, scary, and wonderful water.

I am relying on Him. I am choosing life. I am choosing revival.

I am choosing to feel again.

Praise God.

It’s One of Those Days

It’s one of those days. Where nothing’s wrong but everything is going wrong.

Everything that comes my way is too much it’s weighing me down.

Get out of bed, go to class, eat lunch, go to class, it never ends. The sheer act of opening my eyes and facing this life is taking all of the life out of me.

I can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel because I think I’m in an endless cavern with no way out.

Mountains rise before me too steep to hope to climb and yet I must.

I must climb because if I stop…

I wish it would stop.

Just stop being sad, smile, be happy, we all have crap, just get over it.

You stop.

Don’t belittle my pain or deny me my thoughts.

Leave me alone because that’s what I need.

But don’t leave.

I need you.

I need contact.

I see you see me but you don’t see just how messed up I am.

My mask is broken but yours is in tact covering my pain so you don’t have to see.

I’m pathetically apathetic but I care too much.

I can’t find value in anything but I need value.

I need time when all the time I am wishing for less time and the time that I have I am wasting away while my body is fine but my mind is full of decay.

I can’t.

I can’t fight, I can’t move, I can’t climb up this mountain- it’s getting steeper.

It’s not that I’m overworked- I’m just under the weight of the world with nothing tangible weighing my world down.

How are you doing?

I don’t know! Nothing is fine yet everything is fine but to me the world is falling down and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

I say I’m sorry and I don’t know why but the why isn’t important as long as you’re not mad at me.

I’m a burden.

Perhaps it’s because everything in my life is more burdensome than before and I wonder how I can even stand.

I can’t give up because this life is worth more but the worth is elusive.

I pray to my God for deliverance from this but nothing is heard.

I need you, God. 

I need you to take me out of this pit and stand me on my two feet but no they fail just like everything else, can I stand on you?

But then what if I can’t find you?

I know you’re there but I can’t seem to see you; my brain says you’re there but my mind thinks you don’t care.

There’s a difference.

You see, the brain is the logic and fact while the mind is what twists everything beyond recognition.

Do you recognize me?

I don’t.

Every minute I’m awake I can’t place who I am, what happened?

I can’t. I can’t continue with this fight when the mountain will rise and the path gets so narrow and the rocks get larger and the wind gets stronger and the climb never ends.

It would be so easy to jump.

I know I won’t and I know I can’t but like Paul I feel that to die is gain.

But to live is Christ.

So I must. 

I must continue this fight and climb till I die because somehow this will help- don’t tell me this will help when right now I can’t find help.

I’m done.

But I can’t be.

My future and present are battling and all I can do is cower and wonder how will this ever end.

Because it has to end, right?

It has to end.

This pain and this fear and this weight of the world must end- for if all good things must come to an end, so should bad, right?

Yet it hasn’t.

My hope for the end is so elusive by now because the end is elusive and the fight is much too present.

But I fight.

Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could

As many of you know, I have been struggling with depression for years now. It was only within the last couple of weeks, however, that I was diagnosed with Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder. Basically this means that I will most likely struggle with depression my entire life. While this is a scary thought, and certainly a daunting challenge, this news was somewhat of a relief to me.

Yes, I really did just say that. I was relieved to learn that I have this condition. It validated my thoughts; it gave me an assurance that this wasn’t just all my own twisted way of messing with myself or getting attention. I have a legitimate mental disorder that causes my brain to throw me into depressive states and hinder my ability to come back up to a normal state of mind. It gave these thoughts and these doubts and these feelings a definition. I can’t express enough how important that was to me.

I have been trying my best ever since to shorten the depressive states and to make them less frequent. Obviously, I try to distract myself. To quote Car Radio, one of my favorite songs by Twenty One Pilots, “silence is violent.” When I find myself alone and bored, my mind quickly plunges into a depressive state. Here is a sample of just some of the thoughts that plague my mind:

Why is nobody here? Do they all think I’m annoying?
Are they only my friends because of some obligation or pity?
Does anyone truly care about me?
Why do I have to even do any of this?
What is the point?
When can all of this just end?

These are the thoughts that constantly plague me. They have lead me to some dark places, and they only get worse. I can’t control these thoughts, I don’t want them to come to me, but that’s how depression works. So, to battle that, I have decided to fill my life with as many positive reminders of the sanctity of life as possible.

To that end, let me tell you a little story. One of my best friends also suffers from depression. A good portion of our conversations revolve around this very topic. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, the importance of someone that understands can’t be overstated. Anyways, we were both pretty bogged down in life and whatnot, and I decided we were going to have what I so eloquently call “A Night of Spontaneity.” Basically, we met on campus and my friend had no idea what we were going to do. We walked to the Kroger off campus and each purchased something that reminded us of our childhood and brought up positive thoughts. She bought a Finding Nemo coloring book. I bought The Little Engine that Could. This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and still is to this day.I remember reading this book and thinking that it meant I could fly, or I could become President, or I could bring my stuffed dog to life. Now, this book means so much more. It reminds me that I can beat this; that life is not impossible. I don’t have to just wonder when this life will end, I can try and enjoy it. I can live.

The other day I went to a local park with my friend Matt. We sat down on a bench and looked out over the fields at the white, puffy clouds floating lazily across the sky. The way the light fall breeze combined with the breathtaking view laid out before us made me stop for a minute. Finally, I had a moment of silence that didn’t end with me questioning everything and falling deeper into the darkness that engulfs me. I felt God’s creation, and for a moment, I felt like I could fly.

Last night I went to an open mic night with two of my closest friends. One of them was performing (and did a fantastic job). Soon after I walked in, they had a raffle and gave away a painting that one of the artists had painted. As soon as I saw the painting, I could feel my mood improving, I could sense once again that little bit of light that was piercing the darkness. There was just something about the painting that made me feel at peace. I knew that I wanted that painting. God must have known as well, because out of about 30 people that were present, I won. This painting (pictured above) is now prominently displayed in my dorm room. Every time I look at it, I feel a little bit of peace.

You may wonder why I am telling you all of this. I mean, who cares? It’s just a bunch of odd, quirky little experiences. Well, here’s something else you should know: I am a very sentimental and symbolic person. I always have been; I always will be. These little symbols help to remind me that life is not only possible to accomplish, but worth the fight. I still have down days and I always will, but it’s the little things that bring me back up.

If you are struggling with something like this, then look around. Tell someone. Let them know. Don’t do it alone. And find your own Paintings, Light Breezes, and The Little Engine that Could. It may save your life.

Recovery

As many of you know, I struggle with depression. In fact, I have struggled with it for so long that I hardly know what life is like without it.

It’s become a part of me.

This year has been especially rough. I have not been my usual self. My friends began to worry about me and my family began to notice a change in me. Every day I thought about the futility of my life and felt completely alone. I overthought everything from jokes to quick glances. Everything somebody said or did was, in my depression soaked brain, a statement of their disdain towards me. I worried that every relationship I have ever had was just a superficial relationship out of mere obligation and pity. I had become susceptible to the idea that I was worthless.

That’s what it’s like to deal with depression. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. There is no trigger, nothing to indicate when it will hit me. Most of the time I am overcome with loneliness, doubt, and self loathing. I doubted my faith and felt abandoned by my God. That alone threw me even deeper into the pit of depression.

At least, that’s what it was like before.

4 weeks ago, I started attending therapy through the Counseling and Health Services offered by my university. 4 weeks ago I was in utter despair and lost in my depression to the point of thinking I would never see happiness and joy again. I spent more time collapsing in on myself than anything else, and I was pretty much at the end of my road. Remember, this was just 4 weeks ago- 4 sessions with my therapist.

I am not ashamed to admit that I need therapy or that I am depressed or that I don’t have all the answers. God created us to rely on Him. As a ministry major, I have always had this idea that I need to have my life together all of the time and never waver or struggle, and if I do I could certainly never show it. My job- my entire future- depends on helping others through this very same storm that has been plaguing me for so long. It is through that storm that I am growing into the minister that God intends for me to be.

4 weeks. 4 weeks ago I was broken, battered, bruised. I had no hope, no ambition, my entire life was full of apathy. Today, I am writing this with the joy of being able to say that I am in recovery.

This does not mean I am cured. I still have dark moments, dark days, and crippling thoughts. But I am once again able to experience hope, joy, ambition, life. I can finally see the end of this road I have been traveling for so long. I don’t know how much longer I will be struggling with this, but I am finally able to say that my struggle is turning into strength. It’s a long, arduous journey, and it’s one that we can’t travel alone.

If you are struggling with these same issues or any like it, please let me or someone else know. You can’t recover on your own. We weren’t created to do this alone. We are creatures of community.

It’s a long road. Don’t do it alone.

I love you guys. May God grant you all peace and joy. Thanks for your continuing prayers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10