Afraid to Be Me. James’ Story

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2015  Nancy Virden

Stigma is a chosen ignorance. Stigma doesn’t only affect people with mental illness. 

James is a young adult who came out aphoto-24765824-two-young-men-having-a-conversations gay a few years ago. In some circles, James is not welcome. 

I met a young woman in rehab trying to break the cycle of self-sabotage. She cried as she described the LGBT community. “They accept me, and support me when I’m sick or out of a job.”

I asked about church and she scoffed. “Yeah, no.”

I’ve been to conventions, on radio programs, in churches, and in schools. In each venue I witness some form of prejudice, judgment, and hypocrisy. I’ve seen far fewer people in church settings willing to be vulnerable in public than in other places.

There is a reason so many of the LGBT community are angry at so-called Christians who throw around the word “abomination” so freely. In the same scripture  slander and gossip and abuse are listed as abominations in the eyes of God. Some Bible readers glance over their own blatant hatred to focus on someone else’s issues. (Can we say “plank in the eye?”)

This is the one reason we won’t see James in church very soon. This is why the young woman will not visit our church outreach programs.

James said, “I didn’t realize what was happening until I started thinking about me and my life. The assistant pastor has been a father figure and I want him to be proud of me. I think I let him down by being gay. I’m afraid to acknowledge my homosexuality among  people who actually care about me. I’m not afraid of being rejected because I know my friends are going to stick by me no matter what –  they’ve all proved that in their own way. I just don’t know how much of me they accept. Mostly I’ve just held it all in, afraid to be me.”

Whether in hospitals or support groups, we who live with mental illness understand that the reason we are receiving treatment is to save our skin.  There is an unspoken bond between people who have fought the same battles. I venture to guess James’ vulnerability in a support group, or maybe even in a hospital would be met with empathy. There, no one boos. No one throws rocks. No one judges.  

However, in a church he will likely be met with an agenda. We can save this man. James needs people who will love him because he is James. James exists = James deserves acceptance and love.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 – pictures from


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