When I was nine I remember my father saying to me he may not be living with us much longer and I said “Why is that?” He said “Your mother and I disagree on things, she thinks that gay men are nice.” And I asked “What’s that, I don’t understand.” And he said “Men who love other men”. “But didn’t Jesus say we should love each other?’ I asked. “No no, not like that - men who kiss each other.” I was like ohh. That was my introduction to homosexuality.

My depression started up when I was about eleven. I was ruthlessly bullied at school, there was something about me that didn’t quite fit. Because I spoke clearly they would come up to me and say “are you English?” and then pretty soon it turned into “are you gay?” It was my first experience of people pointing the finger.

My mother really tried to be there for me but there was so much stuff that I couldn’t actually say to her because I felt confused and didn’t know what kind of response I was going to get.

When I was twelve I started having my first sexual dreams. They were of me wrestling with my friends and on waking I’d think ‘oh that’s wrong’. But it was something deep within me that I had no control over.

I guess my relationship to ‘gayness’ had moved significantly since my father first mentioned it. I’d gone from ‘I can’t see what’s wrong with it’ to feeling deeply worried and anxious and ashamed about what was going on inside my head.

And then in sex education class at Intermediate the local health nurse talked about wet dreams. She said “Sometimes you might even dream about having sex with your male friends - this doesn’t mean you’re gay, it’s just a normal part of growing up.” And I just remember this incredible sense of relief - oh, I’m not gay. But those types of dreams kept on happening.

So I became increasingly homophobic over my High School years. I suppose it was active repression, fighting the homosexual thoughts in my mind.

I started smoking cannabis, I always felt anxious and I found it very hard to go to school.

At the same time I began to take part in workshops run by my church. A big part of those was about examining yourself and I think I was starting to see the cracks.

I was sort of living two lives. There was a part of me - this sort of tearaway, loose cannon, self destructive person who was really miserable and had suicidal thoughts on a daily basis.

And then there was a part of me that needed to maintain an appearance of ok’ness and sanity by being this amazingly responsible person who the church group loved and adored.

So after leaving school I held down a few jobs before going on to the unemployment benefit and then because of my depression I moved on to the sickness benefit.

For two years my doctor kept signing-off my benefit until one day she said “Things need to change because you’re not getting better.” I was twenty-one when I agreed with her that I needed medication to help stabilize my moods.

I had stopped doing drugs and drink a couple of years before and was really anti-medication but the doctor gently convinced me into trying a very low dose of anti-depressants.

It had a profound effect on me within days. My anxiety about things calmed down and I could start looking at myself again. Part of what the meds did was to take away the bumps and dips so that I could start learning how to manage my emotions in a healthier way.

I went to an out gay counsellor who gave me the opportunity to talk about what I was experiencing. The more I talked about it and acknowledged it the more ok I felt about being me.

I think ultimately my mental state was because I had been repressing myself for so long. I had spent years beating myself up and beating parts of me into a corner.

It took quite some time for things to come right. I had a couple of relapses and major crashes along the way and even now there are still times I get unhappy. But I now know that I have the ability to take command of that and make it pass before it gets into more serious depression.

A big part of my story is about being true to myself, developing a sense of pride and stepping beyond my fears.