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Stephen Denekamp profile

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:04] I'm Stephen, I'm gay and I grew up in Auckland with three younger sisters. When I was young, we went to church quite a lot. So about kind of the age, I was five. And so I was always kind of had a lot of those values instilled in me as I was growing up. Some of them were really, really good values, like the whole thing around being fear and that stuff, but also, you know, I don't know how you take it on board. But they say that that age period is like the imprint period. And so there was just stuff around, like, say, for example, if ice if there was something gay on TV, and my mother would do this shaking her head thing that like disapproving shaky hits that mothers do really well. And so it's just picking up those kind of things. And I think I also picked up that there's a very like this, there was right and there was wrong, there was that kind of whole church type thing. [00:00:56] When your mother shook her head, did she shake it up any other things one day people? [00:01:02] Probably? I don't remember specifically, I just specifically remember that when there was something queer related on the news, that they'd be that kind of disapproving nod that I'd say, and so I picked up that, you know, this was something that wasn't good. Even though I didn't understand it at all. It was just not something that was [00:01:23] allowed or appropriate. [00:01:25] And so how did you feel when you saw your mom do that nod. [00:01:31] At the time, it didn't matter, because I wasn't identifying as gay, I wasn't like hadn't even probably gone through puberty at that stage. It was just taking it on board that that thing was bad. Which, of course made when I realized that I was gay, I already had this association that I was something that was bad, or something that wasn't good. And so I mean, it was because it was, it wasn't till I was 13, where I kind of put two and two together with this week, gay meant, well, it was something that I was and that it was a really negative thing. And so this part of my this one part of myself as being gay, I really, really didn't like I like, hated it. And I did what we always got told in school never to do, which was bottle up your feelings. And so I just kind of tried to ignore that part of myself hoping that it would go away. And course it didn't, because it was an integral part of who I was. And so I just screwed, I hate it more and more and more. And what began to happen or is that at some point, suddenly, that hatred of that one thing turned into a hatred of everything about myself, I thought that it was me that was bad and evil and disgusting. And that I felt that I shouldn't actually be here or shouldn't be alive. And, and so we've got like, several years at high school where I'm just feeling crap about who I am. [00:02:49] Was Was there any other kind of contributing factors that made you feel bad about the word gay or about being gay? [00:03:00] When you hit especially when you hit high school, there's there's the gay jokes that are sit around and and even my, like, really screw must group of really supportive friends, you know, would laugh at gay jokes. And it was is, it's just kind of around everywhere. I think it's any any real? Well, I really start to notice that when I'm dead, he was really quite hypersensitive to it. And it's all coming up in those teenage years. So it just kind of all compounded. Yeah. And I mean, then it got to a point like after so many years of hating myself, where everything kind of ramped up. And then I started to have suicidal thoughts, sad to think drink, have dreams around dying or killing myself. And it just got like, really bad. I remember feeling like quite sick at the time, because I guess it's not a place where any human should really be. And, and it was at that point that I finally told them, it was a friend to I was friend from school who I was just chatting with online. And he just did the normal, you know, how's it going? And rather than doing the normal, I'm fine. I'm good, just kind of those whatever comments, I see that I'm feeling crap. And he got really interested as to interested into as to what was wrong, and started asking me all these questions. And for the first time, I finally told someone that I was feeling crap that I was depressed. And also that I came out that I was gay. And he was like, really supportive, which is really cool. And he really encouraged me to go talk to some of my closest friends, and also to go see the school guidance counselor, because it was really, really worried about the fact that I was so depressed and having suicidal thoughts. And so I did, I wrote a letter to my closest friend, because I just couldn't tell them. So I wrote it all, like fully out, and handed it to him. And then after I read it, he said, you feel better now. And I was just so relieved. Like, every I think every friend I started to tell it felt like a big weight coming off, because it was just released, like lots of pent up emotion just going out. And then my small group of friends that knew they were all very much pushed me to go see the guidance counselor, not because I was gay, but because they were really worried about my mental state at the time around being suicidal. So I went to the school guidance counselor. And I remember I went into the office sat down, and she's like, you know, why do you know, what do you want to chat about? And I told her, I'm depressed or I've got depression. And she almost said this. Kind of, Okay, well, let's chat about it. And being you know, almost like all decide whether you've got depression, or I don't know, if she's had someone come in and say, This is what I have. And so we checked about, talked about what was going on. And she's like, Yeah, I agree, you do, do have depression. And I think for me, though, as great as that was to be sharing that I was still getting worse. I think it was almost like a Macbeth syndrome of I was down like, and so deep that to go back was just too much too much. If it like it felt down someone like most people have. Most people have good days, but the occasional bad day, I had bad days with the occasional Good day. And that was the difference. And then at one point, I remember doing a speech in English, and the topic was teenagers have never had it better. And because of how I was feeling, I turned it around and see teenagers have never had it was. And partly through my speech, I got a pair of scissors and I cut my arm in front of the class like was actually written in the speech, I wrote it the night before, I don't know what I was thinking like looking back on it. Now, I can't imagine how someone could do that. But I think it was very much a cry for help. And as you can imagine, that freaked out the whole class, when they started to realize that it wasn't just symbolic that actually happened. And that got me synced to the guidance counselor again, of course. And so she took that being very, very serious. And so she, with my parents, they organized me to go see a psychiatrist to start really dealing with what was going on. And so I started talking with the psychiatrist. And she gave me She gave me a book around depression, which is really cool, because it was the first time where I was reading about what depression was. And that's when I started to really kind of make that disconnect of that depression is not who I am. It's something that I'm experiencing. And so that was really helpful. And also because I was it was just like I was down so bad. It was just it was too It felt like too much work to get any better. So they put me on antidepressants, which I was on for about six months to a year. And what they did is they just picked me up enough so that I actually wanted to try because to get better from where I was, was felt like a lot of work. [00:07:42] And as part of that process was also about [00:07:45] finally coming up to my parents. So I [00:07:48] told mom and dad, actually with the psychiatrist, I was so freaked out like it was the most nervous thing of it was nerve wracking thing I've ever done. And it was also really, because this whole I mean, the whole thing was this built up secret that I had. And I just kind of let that go right in there. And mom and dad were while mom was not too happy about it. I could say I think it really challenged a lot of her beliefs as well. They both said, like we are some we still love you. But there was still there. But we don't want you to be gay type of atmosphere. I mean, my dad was more collective because he's a doctor. So I guess he kind of understood the mental health side of things. But at least it was it was out at that point. And also by that point the entire school you like everyone it just I don't quite know how it came out. But I after the incident like it just room as we into the in the night. And I that point I just wasn't going to deny it was just like someone asked me, I just say yes, and so the whole school found out like any good school gossip. And the great thing at my school was that that didn't change anything. Like everyone was still friends. Like I didn't have any of that disconnected friends. It was nothing. Nothing externally bad happened really was just the whole negative self talk I had and the beating myself up. That was the main issue. And I suppose next was that my sister's finding out. So one of my sisters was at the same high school I was at at the time. So she just found out through the grapevine that was cool. Then another sister who's five years younger than me, I told her and she was just like, so like that was the reaction was just like, okay, yeah, what else? Like it was such a non issue. And then I told my youngest sister, who's seven years younger than me. And we have quite a it's really cute relationship because I'm actually quite the big brother to her. And she's my little sister. And I told her and she. And I'm trying to remember back to what she said, but it was something like, she was all that's a shame. Because she really quite like the guy that I was dating at the time. And of course, that means that he was gay. So now he was off limits. So yeah, that was that was really cool. So it was really, really supportive. And, and what kind of happened for me after that, as I was gradually getting back to a normal level, like gradually coming out of depression. And, and that's just like an interesting journey in itself. I know, my parents had to have their own journey around what being gay was and all that stuff. [00:10:21] And for me, I just I got really into doing any sort of personal development work. [00:10:26] So obviously, I did a lot with reading around depression and stuff. I got involved in rainbow youth, I went along to some of these support groups, which is really cool to be chatting with people who had had similar experiences, or completely different experiences, ended volunteer work by went into schools and shared my story. And to me actually, like, as wonderful as that was for the work that it was doing for the community. Really, it was actually healing myself, every time I would like sit in front of a class and share my story did the healing going on. And I remember when I first shared it, the person who was kind of because we've always had like co runners, like who was running it with me afterwards, she said, you know, be cool if you could kind of be a bit happy when you share your story. Because apparently, it came across very, very depressed, which was great. But it really got like, every time I shared it. I guess I saw it from a different perspective, and how it allowed me to grow. And kind of the good side of it, which they are kind of is with everything. And so that raised me up again. And I mean, everything from my life since then has just been about I guess changing how I see the world to the point where I am now we're like, I get that I get to choose how I feel. And so depression just isn't even on the radar anymore. [00:11:45] When you so you get to choose how you feel? [00:11:49] How do you do that? [00:11:51] Well, it's my belief that we all we all choose what we do. So to me, if I was to do depression, now it would be I would have to do depression. Like it used to be that too Christian is something I at first it was depression is me, then it was depression is something I have, that I'm experiencing. And now it's like, well, depression is something you do. Like it would be a series like, if I wanted to be feel bad, I know I would have to hold myself a student way I'd have to tell myself student things. And my, my kid. And so also to choose how I want to feel it's just a matter of noticing my thoughts. And and you know it and it changed from doing really simple things like I don't know if it was I read it, right heard it, but like to flirt with yourself in the mirror. Like I remember reading it at the time saying you'll feel silly. And I remember doing it and thinking this is really silly, like two simple things like looking yourself in the eye and telling you you love yourself. So I started doing it. And just being silly, like just silly, flirty stuff in the in the moment, it's just yourself. And it felt really weird and forced to the point now where if I look in the mirror, that's my natural reaction is a lot of people they look in the mirror, and the first reaction is, look how Whatever you're looking for, or, or I hate you or stuff like that, like people have so many negative conversations in the head the whole time. And I remember with all the stuff that I was doing, I remember one time feeling God, I've been so happy the last few weeks. And then I thought back Oh, that's because the voice in my head is shut up. Or when it's talking, it's coming in with positive things. And at the point, I'm at the point now having practice that we're when something negative does come up, I just kind of asked a different question and flip it around. So it can never get to where it was before. [00:13:33] That obviously takes a lot of kind of personal insight. And imagery, I guess does not. [00:13:39] Yeah, it does. I mean, I think it takes a lot of fun, it can take a lot of energy to have to actually look at yourself. But for me, it's also been a really fun journey. And really eye opening. And kind of the point of life, really, if I'm just going to get all different spiritual about it. [00:13:59] So to you what is the point of life, [00:14:03] the point of life [00:14:07] is to kind of choose to be the next highest version of that vision that you have about yourself, like people have a vision of what they like, the highest vision of them is. And it's about being the next level of that. And then once you have that the next level, but that, that you really experienced life and [00:14:27] doing whatever you feel you need to do. [00:14:32] And that pretty much be it and having fun along the way. [00:14:36] So how does that play out in the databases? [00:14:39] And the day to day since I think for me, the big thing is that I'm just so relaxed with life now like stuff just doesn't bother me. It's like, yeah, I have my you know, I still have emotions. So so have the good stuff and the bad stuff. [00:14:56] But it's [00:14:58] in terms of choosing to be who I want to be. For me at the moment, it's about finding what I'm really passionate about and doing that. And knowing that if I'm doing stuff I'm not really passionate about that I'm choosing to do that. And I know it's not going to give me the huge sense of fulfillment that I'm after. Which is cool. As long as I'm aware of that, rather than just blindly going through and like sitting in front of the TV for five hours, not realizing that I'm sitting in front of the TV for five hours. Yeah. [00:15:27] Can you talk to me about how, when you're visiting schools, how the students reacted to, [00:15:35] you're doing workshops in high schools is one of the most awesome things I've done. The students, you get various in various degrees of classes, some who are really well behaved and others who were kind of giggling and everything. But the thing for them is they really liked it, because they were like, it was kind of like, I can't believe we're actually talking about this stuff. Like because this is maybe it's lyst. So now, but it was it was stuff that you just didn't get talked bad in school, like being gay, and all the stuff that kind of comes with it. And so here we're talking about it, and they have the chop had the opportunity to ask the presenters and ask me any questions they wanted. And it could be really personal questions. It could just be general factual information. And, and that was just like a really cool thing to do. And I think most young people, as long as you know, if you're just sharing your stories, and you hearing what they think, and that's like a really great way to learn. [00:16:33] What were some of the most difficult questions? [00:16:36] You know, I don't know if there were really any difficult students from Christians, they were the ones I loved. Were the ones that really made me think which were more with it asked me how I felt about something. And I'd have to go and actually go and how did I feel about that? And then come up with a response, which is great for me. When you got questions about like, being teenagers, you'll get questions about six about face boyfriends and stuff. And they were just great. Because you just say well, maybe you can ask your health teacher about this Christians next time you learn about six it. So I guess the only difference if they had to be something that was difficult is when someone would challenge you with a theory of view of like, well, don't you think it's wrong to be like this? Or what about adopting that, or my religion says this, but none of them were hard, because all I had to do was say, Well, this is how I feel about it. And it's me. So there's no dictating This is how it is, it was just sharing everyone sharing kind of their own view. [00:17:32] Just going way, way back to when you were 13. ish. And I'm just wondering, do you think the depression came on because of external influences, like people saying this is this is wrong, or was it more internal, and if it was internal, we didn't come from [00:17:55] terms of depression, my view around depression, ultimately, now is that it's always internal. It's always from the thoughts we tell ourselves. However, having said that, we all are the makeup of what we've kind of grown up is. So I somehow took on board when I was younger, like the internalization of things. So if there was stuff that was negative, I would take it inside and, and that's where all the negative came came, stuff came from. So then first I've like, we've got several things besides taking negative stuff inside. And then when I hear that, when I've growing up learning that it's wrong to be gay, when I kind of put two and two together, it was just like, my natural reaction was to our understanding of thing, and then just go and be negative about it. So it's easy, sometimes it's an easy solution to say that it's, it's all it's because of this reason why I I ended up depressed. But for me, it was because I had all those negative conversations with myself. And that's not about it's not about blame, anything. But the cool, the cool thing with it is that it's about responsibility of that if I'm feeling this way, because of all my negative [00:19:06] talk about myself, then that means I can also feel good [00:19:10] about what if I talk I tell myself, so it gives you It gives, it gives you your personal power back of saying, I can now choose to have a different conversation with myself and therefore be happy. And it doesn't ignore the fact that these external factors when we're growing up, because [00:19:25] that's there, [00:19:27] it's pulling the most responsibility in the most power, most empowering part of it with yourself and back on you back on who you are. Because then you can actually do something about it. [00:19:38] Can you describe how your parents reacted to you coming out and also the depression? [00:19:45] My parents [00:19:47] reaction to coming out there were like a few things. At the first, I [00:19:49] think there was actually a bit of almost a bit of relief. And that because [00:19:53] before the ended, we've been going through this depression thing. And I'd had [00:19:56] had eg readouts and like scans and stuff to find out what was wrong with our son. I mean, I found it was because I was gay. It was like, oh, okay, so it's not like, he's got some mental, blah, blah, blah, or whatever it was, you know, just all around this. But then, of course, as soon as that happened, it brought up the own stuff, because we did, like, especially when I was really young, we required into the church. And I don't know much about my parents kind of history around that. But I know for my mom, it was really challenging like we had, there was kind of this awkwardness around it. Where I'm once she told me, she felt that I was rejecting woman and like, so she always had a lot of personal stuff to deal with it. My dad was very, [00:20:38] I don't know who's most very stoic about the whole thing. And he'd like, [00:20:42] I remember once he asked, he offered to, he said, Well, look, I could [00:20:45] buy some porn, if you'd like I could buy obligate ones that have girls and guys like to, I don't know, see if I could explore which way to go. But at first, it was really negative like, and I would, I'd be very careful. Like, I wouldn't talk about any of my gay friends. That'll be very careful about bringing anyone over. And there's always this tension. And what is really interesting is, as I guess, my parents went through their own journey. The tension actually became all mine in the end. Like, we're to the point where my mom was like, are you seeing anyone, and I almost freak out going on to I say something now, because now they've got to the point where they've obviously dealt with whatever they need to deal with. And now I need to deal with Actually, I can be really open and relaxed with my parents, because they now very accepting of [00:21:34] that part. [00:21:35] And I think what my mom put it as later on, was that, like, when I asked her This was partway through, I guess the journey was, you know, like, Well, how do you feel about making games? She said, Well, you know, you, you don't end up with everything you kind of [00:21:49] want from [00:21:49] your kids originally like, which was a huge movement from before where it was really bad. It was just like, Oh, it was just almost more of a [00:21:57] disappointment. And I think now it's just, [00:21:59] I haven't actually asked him, but I think now it's just a non issue, because like, my partner is treated as just part of the family. And but he's kind of expected to show up if we have a family thing now. So yeah, I think that parents have when you come out, they they do go on their own coming out journey, [00:22:16] just as much as the person who's coming up. [00:22:20] What are your thoughts, in more general terms about kind of a mental health issues in lesbian and gay queer communities? [00:22:30] I think to me, it just seems so obvious that why there be lots of mental health issues in the in the queer community. I mean, if you're looking at any community that is marginalized. And that goes from the negative stuff that gets sit about, I mean, you look at when the civil union bill came out, and you hit all the stuff that both camps arguing, which is great, but if you were a 13 year old kid, going through issues, that just kind of [00:22:54] adds to it. [00:22:56] That you know, I mean, it just stands to reason that there's going to be mental health issues, because anyone who's gone under pressure or gets gets put down, that's going to add to it. Assuming depending on the mind state, though, as well, because I have friends who have gone up and have the most amazing mentor like, [00:23:17] like most would equal psychology of excellence, like they're really [00:23:22] just got it. And they've had like the same growing up as [00:23:24] everyone else, pretty much. So it depends, I guess how you've, you've grown up to take that on board. But if you're in a group that is gets marginalized, and gets put down, we're the aren't all the strong role models on TV are certainly not and that used to be, then where are you going to look for strength. And unless you have somebody that's there to show you how to do that, or you've learned how to do it yourself, which will again be from someone else, when you were younger, showing you how to do that, then I would guess this much higher probability of hitting into mental health. [00:24:03] So what do you think some ways that we as a community, or as individuals can help other people, [00:24:15] I think the best thing that anyone can do for helping other people is by allowing them to be who they are. [00:24:24] And it's this like, with everything in life, like if you're, the more we allow people just to be who they are, regardless of that is the more it's just common knowledge that [00:24:32] I'll be accepted for who I am anyway. [00:24:36] And that's not just around the queer community that's around everything, you know, if Little Johnny wants to go and play, whatever sport then awesome, that's [00:24:44] great. [00:24:45] If he wants to go do something else, and that's cool as well. [00:24:49] And I think as individuals, it's also our responsibility to, [00:24:56] to like shine our own, like our own light. Like I know, New Zealand, there's a bit of the whole top of syndrome thing, but for me, it's that the more you shine your own light, [00:25:04] and I don't mean showing off, I just mean, fulfilling who you are. [00:25:08] You, you give permission for other people to do the same thing. And it's just about having that supportive environment to do it. And that's going to make a difference. [00:25:18] Do you think depression will ever come back and visit you? [00:25:25] division will never be coming back and visiting me because I know. I know, I know who I am, like, I'm a different, completely different person. Now, if I was the end is still me. But there's just none of that, that negative self talk like and I know when I've had like, really, like really bad days and I'll feel crap. [00:25:44] But I know that's just me feeling crap, [00:25:45] that's not going to lead to something else. Whereas when I was actually getting better initially, there was stuff like that, like I'd have a bad day and I could feel myself much like myself being pulled back down again. [00:25:58] Whereas now it's just like, know that I can't it's [00:26:01] just doesn't go there. It's it's not [00:26:03] it's not a part of who I am anymore.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.