Process and the Power of Vulnerability

Guest Blogger Maximillian Matthews candidly shares his process- a journey from suicidal thoughts and depression towards self-discovery and healing. 

I decided to take my life when I was thirteen-years-old. This was the decision of a boy grieving the death of his father and grandparents. There was also a sexuality developing inside of me that I did not understand. I was ten when my father passed and knew nothing about grief. I was twelve when I discovered my attraction to males and I knew nothing about sexuality. There was, however, one thing that I did know about: loneliness.

As the only child of my parents, I was extremely lonely and longed for a sibling that I never got. I have an older sister, but she lived with her mother so we rarely saw each other. The void that I felt as a child grew widely after the passing of my father and grandparents. My childhood ended when these things happened. I literally had no idea how to discern all of the things happening in my life. Even after my suicide attempt failed, I still did not deal with what led me to that place. I simply pushed it all away and distracted myself by focusing on school and my future. It would only be a matter of time before my pain revealed itself again.

After coming out to myself and accepting my sexuality while in graduate school, I went to a gay club for the first time. I discovered a club called Icon. I walk in and the guy, Daryl, who would become my first love is there. We exchanged numbers, which led to about two years of us being “together.” I put together in quotations because neither one of us knew anything about relationships although we had the title. We barely knew ourselves.

Daryl was only 18 and I was 22 when we met. My pain manifested itself in the relationship. I looked to Daryl to ease the pain and fill the voids inside of me, which grew since I never confronted them. Of course, he did not know how to love and give me the intimacy that I craved for since he was so young. Although we ended on good terms, I walked away from that relationship even more empty inside.

Fast forward to 2012, I am living in Washington, D.C. working my first full time job. I learn about one of the top dating apps for gay men of color called Jack’d. I download it and meet Josh shortly thereafter. We would spend time together and hang out at his place. He gave me the affection that I would dream of with Daryl and I ate it all up. We seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Nonetheless, our courtship ended when Josh recognized that I was falling for him too fast.

I was distraught. I never experienced a pain that cut so deep until Josh. With “Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Luther Vandross on repeat, I would lay on my bathroom floor in tears asking myself unanswered questions. Getting out of bed was a struggle. Being at work was a struggle. Simply living was a struggle.

I believe the severity of my depression was my body and soul lamenting all that had happened in my life up until that point. Can you imagine the magnitude of my emptiness? And nobody even knew.

My search for a fulfilling career brought me to Charlotte, N.C. years later. I fell into the habit of looking to men for validation and happiness since I kept avoiding my emptiness. I heard of another dating app called OkCupid and it was there where I discovered Marlon. I slid in his DMs on Instagram and we befriended each other. Marlon told me he was not interested in doing long distance since we lived in different states, but my feelings continued to develop.

Although he had me in the friend zone, I fell in love with him, for which I am fully responsible. I fell for his personality, humility, intelligence, and sense of humor. What really got me was a weekend that I spent at Marlon’s place. I slept in his bed after Marlon noticed how much I was tossing and turning on the air mattress next to him. Marlon had somehow ended up taking all of the covers and I got cold. I woke him up and asked if I could move closer to him to absorb his body warmth. After I asked, he opened his arms and said “Come here.” My heart exploded.

He held me and did it so well. I listened to his heart beat as my head rested on his bare chest. It was bliss, the intimacy that I had wanted all of my life. I knew then that I was in love with him. Two months later, I confessed my love and shot my shot. The shot failed. I was devastated. Leading up to my confession, I earnestly prayed that my fears of rejection would not come true, but they did. Daryl could not give me what I needed. Josh saw how damaged I was. Marlon did not choose me. I was left with a combination of grief, pain, emptiness, and trauma, resulting in a severe love drought within.

In one of her amazing blog posts, the superb Candice Benbow writes “We deserve the time for our full selves to heal from the trauma. While navigating my own grief journey, a counselor told me that I need to take the time to acknowledge every space in me that hurts…and why it hurts. Many of us need to do the same as we journey through heartbreak to wholeness.” Rather than run away, I decided to sit with my depression. I let myself mourn for the boy who never found the intimacy he needed, the boy whose childhood ended too soon, the young man that never fully explored his identity, and the man who did not love himself.

I wrote in my journal often. I listened to Lemonade over and over. I drank, smoked, turned up in the club, slept, vented to close friends, fasted from social media, read books, prayed, cried, drove up and down Interstate 40 many nights, ran miles in the gym, took long walks, and even confronted Josh about how profoundly he hurt me. I did whatever the process called for. I confronted the love drought that brought me to my bathroom floor. I began therapy, which has served me well. My therapist is an outstanding black woman (which is what I wanted) and we talked about everything from my insecurities to dismantling white supremacy.

Daryl, Josh and Marlon were the catalysts for my healing. I am grateful for each of them and will love them always.

The remarkable Janet Mock sums up one of the greatest lessons that I learned from those men in her excellent book, Surpassing Certainty, when she writes, “You cannot retreat into someone else for fulfillment.”

In my process, I healed when I heard others share their stories. I believe there is power in vulnerability. Although I recognize that everyone has a different story, I am sharing mine so others will draw strength and not feel alone.