The Loneliness of Being a Gay Man in 2017

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Learning to Fly with Broken Wings and Learning to Love with a Broken Heart


I’ve oft discussed this phenomenon on my radio program (‘Trev,’ Wednesdays from 8:30 – 10:30 PM CT on uicradio.org and the mobile app Radio FX, also soundcloud.com/trevshow), one in which LGBTQ+ youth in particular struggle to fit in with a group that truly meshes with their identity and damaged sense of self. You see, the one thing that truly unites queer people is a certain level of damage. This damage can arise from a variety of sources and circumstance.

Paradoxically, gay men in particular find very little difficulty attaching themselves to individuals physically, sexually or romantically. What results is a very isolated and unstable foundation of support. Placing all bets on a single, extremely flawed individual is a sure fire way to return not only to the loneliness with which one was accustomed to before, but in fact an even deeper, darker sense of isolation. One fraught with the always-difficult transition from companionship back to solitude. The transition in and of itself is not one containing smooth or stable components.

The underlying issue is that, by their nature, gay men are, frequently, incredibly damaged. Indeed the basis of a romantic, male, homosexual relationship is one between two parties who haven’t been shown much love in life and yet are expected to somehow know how to do it. The results speak for themselves. I do not think it is a stretch to say that the extremely high rates of suicide among queer youth can be directly traced to this sort of all-or-nothing level of support.

See, when a heterosexual goes through a breakup, there is an entire community of support waiting for them in the wings. Mom, dad, sister uncle, all universally relate and empathize with the heartbroken straight boy. Conversely, homosexuality, even now, is something that at the very least isn’t spoken of among even the inner-most core of a family structure, even if it isn’t vocally opposed. Adding to this is the media’s frequent portrayal of happy, fulfilled gay couples (primarily white and male in nature).

The overused cliche of puberty is one of a caterpillar turning into a beautiful, transformed butterfly, which older butterfly creepily comment and make advances towards, but that’s besides the point. (These are the butterflies who could end up violently splattered on the grille of a car without even a modicum of remorse on behalf of literally everyone. Good riddance, you pervy rainbow moth). Gay puberty features significantly more bumps along the way.

Imagine, instead, of a caterpillar in its cocoon being ripped from the branch, stomped on repeatedly, and somehow managing to emerge, broken, but alive nonetheless. This damaged larva begins its post-transformation existence with broken wings, attempting to the best of its ability to assimilate into the life and culture of its peers. Often failing to do so, a fellow damaged monarch approaches it and offers, at once, a sense of familiarity, unity and aid. Finally, someone who gets it.

Instead of insects, imagine that damage lies within the heart of a human being. A heart that has faced dogma and violent opposition of its own kind. Mothers, grandparents and “friends” alike. The heart of a young, gay man is one that has been stomped and bruised since its inception. While it continues to beat, through lens of judgment and basic survival, it fails to empathize with those even within its own community. Infidelity, internalized homophobia, and all sorts of destructive behaviors are fueled by an overwhelming sense of self-hatred and guilt. Things that are not intrinsically or naturally a product of its lifestyle, but rather the environment with which it so inefficaciously tries to perform. A gay man is a butterfly with broken wings trying its best to fly. A gay man is a human with a broken heart, trying its best to love.


Trev Richards is host of the weekly talk program Trev on UIC Radio; Live, Wednesdays 8:30 – 10:30 PM Central Time. Follow/listen on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes and SoundCloud

Stop Glorifying Drugs – Addiction Is Not A Joke

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Last night around midnight I was listening to, “The Brightside,” by Lil Peep when I came across a tweet that read, “RIP lil peep.” My initial thought was that this was just another media scam, but I refreshed my timeline and my feed was flooded with the news that Lil Peep had actually died.

It didn’t feel real to me. I was literally listening to his voice through my headphones when I found out that he had just lost his life.

For those who don’t know, Lil Peep (Gustav Åhr) was a SoundCloud rapper on the rise. He found a way to create an unique sound within his music by blending emo and hip-hop. Lil Peep had been recording in his bedroom from the skid row of Los Angeles –  making something out of nothing – Lil Peep was one of the most promising and influential artists emerging from SoundCloud. In addition to rap, Lil Peep was also a fashion icon who had just begun making runway appearances. He was only 21. Only 21 years old and lost his life due to an alleged overdose.

Continue reading “Stop Glorifying Drugs – Addiction Is Not A Joke”

Blahsmopolitan No. 10: “Urbana-Champaign for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends” AKA “You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Show His D**k”

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This is Blahsmopolitan, a weekly column about one sophomore’s misfortune as he navigates his New Adult Life in Chicago. New stories are posted every other Monday, alongside a curated Blahsmo playlist, and an audio reading, to take the journey yourself. This week, our columnist meets the four Fates of U of I, crosses paths with a probable murderer, and goes skinny dipping in hopes you can learn from his mistakes.


I hear people tiptoeing around me. Floorboards make little creaks and doors are opened and closed ever so gingerly. All talk is kept to a hushed murmuring. Am I still wearing my boots?

Ohmigoddddd, how are we gonna fit the Omega through the dooooooor?”

“I don’t know, Sylvie. I just don’t wanna chip it. The girls were up so late painting it last night.”

God is doing the Hoedown Throwdown on my skull and has injected fire ants into my temples.

Continue reading “Blahsmopolitan No. 10: “Urbana-Champaign for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends” AKA “You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Show His D**k””

“You’ve Lost Your Muchness”: An Open Letter to My Present Self

The following post contains the words my younger self would say to my present self, if she could. Though tailored to my personal experiences, this post serves to publicize the damaging effects of depression and anxiety which students are at risk of developing at varying points in their 20s: 

What have you done to us? I don’t know you.

To quote one of our favorites: “You were much more… muchier… you’ve lost your muchness.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

I want to call us “us” or “we” but we are not the same person, and we should be.

Yes, before you interject, I know change is good. It would be foolish to expect, and rather disappointing to discover, that five years have passed and everything has remained the same.

But you were supposed to grow. And today your most upright stance is a struggled crouch.

We used to exude life.

Everyone was attracted to our magnetic presence. We made a difference. We uplifted others. We thrived on interpersonal interactions and made friends everywhere we went.

But now you fall silent during most social interactions.

And again, before you argue, I know there is nothing wrong with being a voyeur, watching and listening instead of explicitly participating. For some, this is ideal and comfortable. Someone has to do it. But that’s not what you want. I know it’s not.

You want to share your ideas, your voice, and your talents. You want to reach out and make meaningful connections with people.

But you’re paralyzed by fear.

You beat yourself into submission with the same endless loop of self-regulating thoughts: “What if I stutter? “What I say something stupid or wrong?” “What if they don’t think what I said is funny?” “What if I’m boring?” “Oh, I am boring.” “Don’t even bother trying.”

So you follow your own advice, and you sit there. You use your phone, a book, a pen, anything within reach, as a crutch to distract yourself from how horribly you struggle to perform the simplest task.

But your mind still decays. “People will think I’m rude.” “She came to a party, to dinner, to coffee, etc. to be on her phone?” “What’s her problem?”

But the first series of thoughts are stronger, so you submit to them. You would rather have people think you’re too pretentious to give them your attention than to simply flick your eyes upward to meet their gaze.

Best case scenario, you push away the contradicting thoughts, convince yourself that it’s “okay,” and continue fiddling with your distraction while you miss your chance to make some meaningful memories. Worst case, you repeat the two progressions of thought in your head — self-regulating, bargaining, repeat — until you succumb to an anxiety attack.

Pick your poison…

Hey, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to assault, belittle, or upset you. I love you, even if you don’t love yourself.

But I’m outraged…and I want you to be too.

Please, keep fighting. I know you want to.

X,

Katerina

Ways to Curb Oncoming Bouts of Low-Functioning Depression

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At some point in their lives, people experience situational depression—which can occur in response to stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of one’s job, divorce, etc.—but these cases are the most treatable. Talk therapy, the support of friends and loved ones, or a combination of both assist in eradicating this form of depression and help us move forward.

However, those afflicted by persistent depressive disorder, depression that persists for two years or more, are aware of its….tenacity. It follows you always: shackled to your person, gnawing at your flesh, deceiving you about the reality your worth.

This kind of depression can occur as either high-functioning or low-functioning, where high-functioning occurs when people go about their day working and socializing “normally” on the outside but are suffering on the inside and low-functioning is used to describe individuals plagued by lethargy, the inability to make decisions, and feelings of hopelessness. I have the latter.

It’s been ten days since I’ve felt even the smallest bit depressed, but unfortunately, I haven’t been healed. Due to the nature of persistent depressive disorder, my depression is always present, but it fluctuates.

It’s easier to live with right now, but that won’t always be the case.For this reason, I’ve taught myself a few ways to keep my depression at bay, or at the very least at a tolerable amount.

Avoiding Negative Distractions

Normally, distractions are a good way to keep from falling into a spiral of low-functioning depression because they keep you active, but certain distractions produce the opposite effect. Browsing social media is my undoing.

It’s fairly easy to consume photos, videos, tweets, posts, etc. in large volumes for a couple hours when you aren’t depressed, but the temptation is all but unavoidable when you’re already lying in bed and lacking motivation to get up.

I’ve wasted whole days watching others live the idealized representations of their lives on social media which only leads to scolding myself for spending the day doing absolutely nothing.

I have found myself less likely to give into sluggishness if I limit the amount of time I spend on my phone/online. Start small, cut back by an hour, then cut back a little more. Keep shortening the amount of time you spend on social media per day until it no longer interferes with your day.

Taking a Break or Switching Routes

Depression can make even the simplest of tasks arduous. It can take me an entire day just to muster the energy to do laundry or even write a blog post.

One thing I’ve found to remedy this is to take a break: walking around the neighborhood, playing with my puppy, reading a chapter of a book I enjoy, or anything else that either relaxes me or would normally make me happy.

Alternatively, if I notice I’ve spent too much time on a particular task and haven’t made much progress, I switch to a different task that needs to be accomplished. Struggling to do your homework? Go wash and put away the dishes. Having issues cleaning your room? Go drop those envelopes in the nearest USPS box.

This way, you’ll be able to cross tasks off your list, feel accomplished, and be better equipped to take on the tasks that are leftover.

Setting Small Succinct Goals

Though it’s important to set long term goals for yourself, there are dangers of fixating on long term goals if you feel a bout of low-functioning depression approaching or are currently in the midst of one.

If small tasks feel impossible, obsessing over larger plans like buying a house, starting a business, or reaching a personal fitness goal will only aggravate your depression and intensify new or preexisting feelings of hopelessness.

Instead, chop up those goals into more manageable chunks. Start setting aside as much of your paycheck each week (or two) that you’re comfortable with. Record your fitness routines in a journal and take progress pictures every month. This way you can track your progress and let yourself enjoy the small victories.

Eating Mindfully to Fuel Your Body

This can be the toughest obstacle to overcome whether you overeat or aren’t eating enough. During a period of depression, a person’s body and mind either fail to register basic needs like hunger or confuses hunger with feelings of boredom, sadness, anxiety, frustration, to name a few.

Both over eating and not eating enough contribute to feeling lethargic. In order to combat these issues, set timers for each meal, and each snack in between, to set specific times for you to eat and instill a healthy routine.

Eating the right food is also extremely crucial to proper functioning. Foods containing refined sugars and saturated/trans fats will not provide your body with the nutrients it needs and will contribute to feeling sluggish. Ditch the soda, fast food, and candy.

Make sure to eat foods that are high in protein, antioxidants, and omega-3s. Incorporate foods like spinach, walnuts, almonds, unsalted peanut butter, bananas, berries avocados, and lean meats like fish and chicken, into your meals.

Talking About Your Depression

Talk therapy may not sound appealing to everyone—it didn’t to me at first—but I strongly recommend it. Counselors and therapists are professionals; they aren’t there to judge you or impose their opinions. Their goal is to listen to your concerns and ask questions that will help you find solutions to your problems.

If the idea is still daunting, talk to someone you know. They don’t have to be a professional, but confiding in someone you trust can yield similar results as talk therapy. Saying your concerns out loud helps lift the burden momentarily and could help you realize a solution you might have overlooked when contemplating your concerns in your head.

Even if talking doesn’t produce any solutions, it will help you gain control. Acknowledge your depression. Separate it from your person. It’s something you have, not something you are. Confront it. Break it down. Control it.

X,

Katerina