Monday, June 23, 2014

"I've Lost Track How Many Times My Son Has Attempted Suicide"

Update: Since this post was published in Dec. 2013, Mikey has passed away. I don't know the details of his tragic death, but in his honor, I'm reposting this piece.

I'm Carole T. Warburton. I'm the author of this blog. I am not gay, nor do I have any close family members who are, but I'm very interested in creating a dialogue to increase understanding. I'm so grateful to the people who have opened their hearts to share personal stories with the desire to increase understanding about our LGBT children, brothers, sisters, and friends. This week I talked with a friend, Shelly, about her wonderful son, Mikey.          

The following is written by Shelley, as told to Carole. 


Our son, Mikey, said he knew he was gay when he was ten. When he was 18, he left a voice message before leaving home. That's how we found out. He’s now 25, and I’ve lost track of how many times he’s attempted suicide. If he really wanted to be dead, he’d be dead. But three or four years ago we almost lost him.  Someone dropped him to Logan Regional Hospital after he'd been drinking or doing drugs. They’d admitted him and he aspirated during the night. So the hospital called me around six in the morning and said, you need to get up here. And I didn’t even know he was in the hospital. When I got there his body had shut down, and then he went into cardiac arrest. He didn’t have a heart beat for seven minutes. It was in January and life flight couldn’t land because of the weather. So they brought a team up from Salt Lake. Even though the roads were really bad they took him to Salt Lake where he was on a respirator for probably five days. He spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit. He recovered but still has lung damage from it. He gets sick really easy. And he’s gone into septic shock a couple of times.

We’ve had a hundred prayers answered. His life has always been up, down, up down. Maybe if he’d been able to accept who he was, he might not have gone down that self-destructive road. He was always fighting with himself and was a defiant, angry and unhappy child. Now I know why, but we didn’t know. I wish we'd known. Even though, he was teased in school, he didn’t tell me. I was supposed to be his protector and he protected me. We had him in therapy as a young teenager. But because of the confidentiality, the therapist couldn’t tell us very much. It’s taken a long time, but for the most part now he’s stable and happy. It’s on a daily basis though, and can be rocked anytime. He’s had a partner for about three years now. They have their ups and downs, just like any other couple, but we just want them to be happy. Mikey has a heart of gold. He’s very caring and compassionate.  He has a tender spot for the elderly and loves to do random acts of kindness. He never hangs the phone up with me without saying he loves me.  He is a very good cook and loves to try new things.  All the cousins just love him and want Mikey to come play and come to all the family parties. My family has been a great support too. 

When I first found out though, I was just devastated. I had been taught that being gay was wrong and that it was a choice. But Mikey said to me, “Mom, do you think I would choose this? Do you think it’s been an easy go? Do you think it was fun in school?” It took me a couple of years to come to terms with it. Now I just hope others would educate themselves. The good ol’ Mormon families that sit in church every week can be the cruelest. I have a lot of resentment about that. People can be mean. People have been mean, not just to Mikey, but to our other two children. Sometime, I want to teach a Sunday school class and just lay it all out. Teach people. We don’t really know for sure what God’s plan is. And sometime science will prove this world wrong, and they already have. It’s not a choice. Sometimes you hear stuff in church that hurts. Sometimes people claim they don’t judge, but then they stab you in the back the first chance they get. I’ve become very protective of myself and my family. I keep to myself a lot. I don’t want to put a lot out there just for people to judge and make fun of. I wish church members would be more Christ-like and not judge. I guarantee you there’s not a person in this world who thought they would have a gay son or daughter. But I also think education starts in the home. Parents need to teach  their kids.

Some church members and leaders have been helpful. I visited with our stake president (when she found out) I was so distraught. I couldn’t deal with anything. I didn’t know where to turn, so I went to talk to him. He just looked at me and he said. You’re not alone. And he said, All you do is love, love, love, love. He said, You’d be surprised, there isn’t one person in your ward, or any ward that is not affected by a gay relative.  Don’t let people tell you different. I guarantee there is someone in every family who is gay. That was very positive for me. He didn’t say, come in and let me meet with your son, I’ve got to talk to him. He just told me love, love, love. And I was just like OK, that’s all I need to do. Another woman said to me. Your wants and dreams are not his wants and dreams. I wanted him to have a wife and kids. I was devastated that he wasn’t going to give me any grandkids. I think for a person just finding out that their child is gay, you have to give it time. It’s sad to say, but it’s almost like mourning a person’s death. You have to grieve all those emotions in order to move on and work through it. Eventually it’s going to be ok. And knowing that in the end you still have your son (or daughter) that you can hug at the end of the day—that’s important. Because we almost lost our son. But when you stop and look back at the picture. Ok, these were my dreams and my wishes. Now turn it around and make your dreams and wishes ones are possible for them. Dream that they find a good partner. Wish them happiness.

Our bishop now is a wonderful guy. He’s always very concerned and asks how Mikey is doing. We appreciate that. Last Mother’s Day, we went to church and took Mikey and his partner. His partner has a niece and a nephew that I just love. I treat them like my grandkids. So we sat in church with these two little kids and our whole family. The bishop came up and talked to them. Mikey and his partner met the bishop. He greeted them. I couldn’t believe we did it, but afterward, I was so proud of myself. I deserve to sit in church on Mother’s Day, or any other day with my family, just like anyone else. I wasn’t even uncomfortable. But I could tell people were staring. I said, well I just wanted to make sure everyone had something to talk about come Monday morning on the Paradise hotline.

Even though there is a lot of judgment and misunderstanding, especially in such a small town, there are also some good families who have been kind and invited us all over for dinner. But some leaders haven’t been as wonderful as our current bishop. One bishop kept coming overm sure he could change Mikey. I didn’t understand that. And then recently Mikey called really upset and said his bishop in Logan sent the missionaries over to their house and one asked, “Do you have a problem with same-sex attraction?” The first thing Mikey wanted to do was have his name removed from the church. But I asked him to let it go. The missionaries were just doing what they were told. But why would he do that? I get really frustrated with that. I think there should be a place in the church for the gays, and for my son.

My faith has changed. It’s hard for me to have faith in the church. I pray a lot. I have a relationship with God. I know he answers prayers. I don’t know why my son is gay, but I know he created him to be who his is, just like he created me. In a lot of ways, I am a better person now. God creates a lot of different people. I think we should be more loving, caring, and be more accepting. It’s just like our former stake president said, love, love love. I can do that.