Stand by your beds because it’s all about to come tumbling out.
It’s been a hard week. I’ve faced a fair amount of pushback on social media for my political and theological beliefs, I also had therapy for the first time in a month and that is the longest I have been without seeing my therapist since I started attending 3 months after John died. I’ve overthought myself to the point of barely sleeping, and have had to rely on mild sleeping tablets the past 3 nights just so at least I got a few hours and can have some functionality.
I’m still in two minds as I write this post as to whether I shall even publish it because to say what I want to say I am going to have backtrack and more, and it’s gonna be a long long tale.
A while ago I wrote a blog called Headspace: https://vickmcq.com/2019/07/10/head-space-very-long-post/ It is a very long post but in it, I tell of my journey of how I have gone from being hostile of the LGBTQ+ lifestyle to inclusive and affirming. I say a couple of things that I need to clarify and somethings I have changed my mind on or realised are not true and haven’t been even though when I wrote it I genuinely believed they were….
I said in the blog post, “I have skirted around this issue for sooooooooooooo many years, for various different reasons, but if I’m being honest, I have been engaging and then furiously avoiding since I became a Christian 23 years ago.” The various different reasons for not engaging in it, and why I was engaging in it and then furiously avoiding it was because as I say later on in the post, “…but if I was [gay], I’m not afraid of it like I used to be. ‘What if it’s lurking somewhere ready to pounce’ I used to worry. Well, it hasn’t pounced and I don’t believe it will…” I used to be genuinely worried that a part of me was gay and that’s why I was engaging with it and then furiously avoiding it.
Let’s take a step back into my history, it’s circa 1997/8. I am playing a game with my school friends where we are rapidly firing questions at each other about which teachers we would snog ( I know! I know!) and when it’s my turn they throw in a female teachers name, and to my and everyone else’s surprise I say ‘Yes’…Erm, what? And this led to about 3 years of me trying to figure out for the life of me what had happened that day. My friends who had been playing the game with me knew the struggles I was having and which, I am sure would be to their shame now, and I don’t wish to embarrass them, coined a nickname for me: Homo. Such was the extent of my feelings and attraction to that teacher, however through all of that I still very much liked and was attracted to boys. It was such a hard time in my life, cause I was a fairly new Christian and I had read “those” parts of the Bible and obviously taken them like the rest of it at face value. I told my prayer partner, who told my youth leader, who didn’t reject me as I was convinced was going to happen. They arranged for me to meet someone who was Christian and gay. I did, her name was Ruth. That is as much as I can tell you as I cannot remember anything about the meeting other than I was unconvinced by her arguments. I met with one of my friends who was a relationship counsellor. She suggested I waited it all out in case it was a phase. Then various things happened in my life which took my main attention away from it, but it niggled away in the background, and then came back with a vengeance. I was in distress about it and I remember it being my birthday and crying myself to sleep about it. I used to attend a Bible class with a dear lady down the road who taught me and some other young people from church, and I would sit there all night thinking to myself “You are such a fraud if these people knew.” It must have been bothering me more noticeably than I had realised as one evening my Mum said, “What’s going on?” I tried to brush it off but my mum wasn’t having any of it. She kept chipping away at me till I finally and somewhat over-dramatically burst out through sobs “I fancy a woman.” She screamed, “Don’t be so stupid!” Stormed out the room and slammed the door. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea what to do. We never spoke about it again and I suppressed everything heavily. I wouldn’t let anything remotely related to “gayness” near me. The moment any thoughts or feelings cropped up I would internally harshly scold myself. Please note all this time I was (and still are) attracted to men.
While at Stratford College I encountered some fellow students who were lesbians and noted how dysfunctional their relationships were. This reinforced my view that any form of homosexuality was bad and wrong. Phew, I thought. Dodged that bullet.
And so after years of suppression, I thought it was indeed just a phrase, but I was hyper-vigilant in case I caught a whiff of it ever again. In 2006 my mum passed away and I was left reeling. At the time I worked for John Lewis in Solihull and a few months after mums death I started to notice I was attracted to someone in the next department… a woman. Ut oh… I quickly transferred departments.
Fast forward to 2008 and I meet a wonderful man named John, fell in love completely and utterly. Whirlwind romance, engaged, married as happy as I could ever be. It was a phase I was convinced, didn’t need to the think about it apart from to condemn others who were embracing what I believed was their sin. I was so in love with John I can honestly say I didn’t find anyone else attractive in the slightest, my eyes never wavered for a second on anyone else. I was consumed with him, and ai was beyond happy. I was so proud to be a wife, but particularly his wife, as he was the kindest sweetest man anyone could ever hope to meet let alone spend their life with. All very good in the hood. And then John dies and I am undone. My faith is in tatters (see the first blog posts Feb 2017 onwards) church is so incredibly difficult and I just don’t know what to do. I want to believe in God but after what has happened how can I? And then I lose my sister to suicide and I am totally floundering. I cannot find God anywhere. When I started therapy after John died my decision was whatever it turns up, I’m facing it, no matter what that may be. I am being open and honest about everything. I’m being as authentic as I possibly can be.
In times of deep grief, I have found what really helps me is watching TV series and letting my mind process in the background. Father Brown is one of my absolute favourites as it’s gentle and yet has some astoundingly beautiful theology in it. A few months after Paula’s death I was watching an episode “The Lair of the Libertines” and in it, Lady Felicia gets seduced by the female murderer and ends up kissing her. I turned away quickly when it came on the screen. Problem was I couldn’t get it out my mind. Nnnoooo I thought. Come on. Fight. Fight. But I didn’t have the strength. Not having the strength to fight I turned it upside down, downloaded an app on my phone, found a bloke who was interested, met up with them and ashamedly slept with them. I felt totally out of control. My therapist was not happy. We had work to do.
In October 2018 I was led (I believe by the Holy Spirit) to a little church down the road and I encountered God again like never before. I knew that I knew that was where I was supposed to be, but I was beyond hesitant. It was an inclusive church, meaning not only were they open and affirming the Vicar herself was gay. I could not deny that I had encountered God there so for literal months I sat outside the church in my car and weighed and tested whether I should properly start attending and move churches, as I knew I would have to face the ‘gay’ question.
One of the inevitable things about John’s death and then Paula’s is, both of those things are some of the worst things that can ever happen. When I was married to John I knew the worst thing was if he died, how would I live without him. Yet somehow I do, and that means I’m not scared as the worst thing has happened and I’m still here. Nothing is going to be as hard as that. And so with that thought, I dug into my theology, prayed a ridiculous amount, talked it all over and over with my therapist a million times (poor woman) made my mind up and swopped churches. It wasn’t easy to leave the church John and I loved and attended but I knew if I stayed there the grief would swallow me alive. And for what was round the corner I needed to be in the church I was in…
As part of my therapy, I and my therapist have spoken about inner narratives and the voices that are inside us, I don’t mean external voices in your head that you have no control of, I mean more like your inner dialogue. So I started to listen to mine and what I found was interesting. The overwhelming dominative voice was controlling, not necessarily always bad, sometimes good controlling, like normal everyday safety stuff, but most of the time highly critical and viciously condemning. There was a smaller voice that was calmer and compassionate but it didn’t surface often at all. My therapist suggested I make a note of the times the narrative is controlling, critical and condemning and when it is compassionate. And what I found surprised me. The compassionate voice only appeared when I was totally at the end of myself and was trying to hold it all together. The critical narrative was the loudest whenever anything remotely to do with homosexuality came up. It was ridiculously loud. Surely that can’t be right I thought. So I decided to watch a programme that I knew would safely test whether this was true or not, I started watching Gentleman Jack. And it was almost like I was having a physical fight with myself to even watch the first episode the critical narrative was so loud I could barely watch it. “Vick you are stupid.” “I’m warning you, Vick, you are awful.” “Vick you are wrong.” “God hates you.” “Everyone else is gonna hate you too.” “Even I hate you.” ” You’re a weirdo.” “You are disgusting.” Then I thought… I wonder what would happen if I overrode that narrative. And so I watched the episode again and this time tried as best I could to override it. And what I found was that I was fine, and I really enjoyed the programme for what it was, good TV! What I also found about that inner narrative is that it would stop me from speaking and that it was very powerful in doing that. So many times in conversations with others or just when I was alone verballing processing it shut me down and for really no good reason, that I was astonished. It also stopped me from enjoying things I wanted to, like certain songs, or liking certain things. So I began consciously overriding it.
It was a gorgeous summers day and I was at a service at the Cathedral. We were outside afterwards and that’s when I saw her properly for the first time. And my response sent my critical narrative into overdrive. I couldn’t for the life of me take my eyes off her. She looked at me from a distance and I knew something in me was going on. I mean I couldn’t peel my eyes away. “What the hell do you think you are doing?” “You’ve gone too far now.” “You need to stop this immediately.” “How can you be like this?” “You are so wrong.” “God hates you.” “You are going to be judged for this.” “That’s it, God’s left you, the Holy Spirit has gone.” “You are so alone now” thankfully I was stood with a load of my good friends and so I couldn’t respond to my reaction or my inner narrative so it would have to wait until I got home. And when I got home, boy did I meltdown. The next few days were awful, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I just sat and thought about everything and what I was gonna do and I just didn’t know. How could this even be happening? A few days later I tried with all my might to tell my vicar what was going on but that inner narrative shut my words down, and for probably about an hour I started sentences and never finished them, till finally, my vicar said: “You tell me when you’re ready.” I was distraught because I knew I had to tell someone but I just couldn’t, I really couldn’t. I was beside myself. I got in my car and drove home. “This is it.” I thought to myself. “Clearly, I can handle anything but this.” “This is gonna be the thing that breaks me completely.” “I’m stuck and there’s nothing I can do about it and no one can help as I can’t tell anyone.” Later that evening I realised if I couldn’t say it, I would write it. So I wrote it out, and then I knocked on the vicarage door and handed the note over and then left. I went home, ate something for the first time in days and had a full nights sleep. I went to therapy and seeing as I had never said it out loud it took me about 40 mins to actually get the words out, but I am so glad I wrote that note and gave it to my vicar as there is no way I could have spoken about it in therapy if I hadn’t have done that. My therapist encouraged me to be calm and cool about the situation, and together look at it from different angles and think about why it might be happening, and whether it was real or not, or just an anomaly, a distraction or something else going on internally.
And since then we have talked over a mirid of things, we have come at it from all angles, I have been as honest and true and open about everything there ever was to be about on the face of the planet. And we have found that there is definitely a part of me that is queer. (Queer meaning denoting or relating to a sexual identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality, especially heterosexual norms.) I mainly am attracted to men, but there is a part of me that is attracted to women too. I was distraught about this, and said to my therapist, “I’m a weirdo. I’m 36 and this is when this all comes out?” and she said that actually if you look at the whole of my life in detail this makes total sense. Now that did shock me. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one, as she has been right about everything else.
Throughout my adult life, I have had in the background a strange frustration and anger that would appear seemingly at random times and random moments and I have never been able to explain it. Even John recognised this and would enquire what it was about, and I was never able to give him an answer as I just didn’t know. What I can tell you is, since I have accepted me the way I am, I haven’t felt that anger or frustration rise up once. And I can’t feel it rumbling in the background anymore either. I don’t know what all that means but that’s the truth and one of my observations. Obviously, I have had to work through a ton of stuff to get to this point and it has not been easy, to say the least. But here we are.
So there you have it. If I’m gonna continue to wake up every morning then I’m waking up knowing I have been as integral as I can be to myself, to God and to everyone else. Take me or leave me. Your call.