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Stephen Denekamp profile [AI Text]

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I'm Steven. Uh, I'm gay, and I grew up in Auckland with three younger sisters. Um, when I was, uh, young, we went to church quite a lot. 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. Um, some of them are really, really good values like the whole thing around being fair 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, [00:00:30] like, say, for example, if I If there was something gay on TV and my mother would do this shake of her head thing that, like, disapproving shake of heads that mothers do really well, um And so I was just picking up those kind of things, and I think I also picked up that there was a very, uh like there. There was right, and there was wrong there was that kind of whole church type thing. When your mother shook her head, Did she shake it at any other things? other than gay people. Probably. Um II I don't [00:01:00] remember specifically I. I just do specifically remember that when there was something queer related on the news that there'd be that kind of disapproving nod that I'd see. And so I picked up that, um, 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 allowed or appropriate. And so how did you feel when you saw your mom do that nod? Um, at at the time, it didn't matter because I wasn't identifying as gay. [00:01:30] I wasn't like I hadn't even probably gone through puberty at that stage. Um, it was just taking it on board that that thing was bad. Which, of course, meant when I realised that I was gay. I already had this association that I was something that was bad or something that wasn't good. Um and so I mean, it was because it was It wasn't until I was 13, where I kind of put two and two together with this word. Gay meant, um well, it was something that I was and that it was a really negative [00:02:00] 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. Um, and I did what we always got told in school never to do, which was bottle up your feelings. Um and so I just kind of tried to ignore that part of myself, hoping that it would go away. And of course, it didn't. Because it was an integral part of who I was. Um and so I just grew to 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 [00:02:30] a hatred of everything about myself. I thought that it was me that was bad and evil and disgusting, and and 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. Was was there any other kind of contributing factors that made you feel bad? Um, about the word gay or or about being gay? I think when you especially when you hit high school, there's, um there's the gay jokes that are sitting [00:03:00] around and and even my like, really group. My group of really supportive friends, um, you know, would laugh at gay jokes. Um, and it was It's It's just kind of around everywhere, I think. And you and you. Really? Well, I really start to notice that when I'm that age, because I'm really quite hypersensitive to it. And it's all coming up in those teenage years, So it just kind of all compounded. Yeah. Um and I mean, then it got to a point, like after so many years of hating myself where [00:03:30] everything kind of ramped up. And then I started to, um, have suicidal thoughts. I started to think dream, have dreams around dying or killing myself. And, um, it just got, like, really bad. I remember feeling, um, 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 someone, um, it was a friend who I was a friend from school who I was just chatting with [00:04:00] 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 said, 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, um I was feeling crap that I was depressed, Um, and also that I came out that I was gay and he was, like, really supportive, which is really cool. Um, and he really encouraged [00:04:30] me to go talk to some of my closest friends and also to go see the school guidance counsellor because he was really, really worried about, um, the fact that I was so depressed and having suicidal thoughts. Um And so I did. I wrote a letter to my closest friend because I just couldn't tell him. So I wrote it all, uh, like, fully out and handed it to him. And then, like after he'd read it, He's like, So do you feel better now? And I was just so relieved, like every I think every friend I started to tell it. It felt like a big weight coming off because it was just released like lots [00:05:00] of pent up emotion just going out. And then my small group of friends, they knew they were all very much pushed me to go see the guidance counsellor 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 counsellor, and I remember I went into the office and sat down, and she's like, You know, why do you You know, what do you want to chat about? And I told her I'm depressed or I've got depression and she almost had this kind of OK, well, let's chat about it and then, you know, almost like I'll decide [00:05:30] whether you've got depression or not. I don't know if she's had someone come in and say, This is what I have And so we chat about, uh, talked about what was going on, and she's like, Yeah, I agree. You do do have depression, and I think for me, though, um, even as great as that was to be sharing that I was still getting worse. Um, I think it was almost like Macbeth syndrome. If I was down, like in so deep that to go back was just too much, too much effort, like I felt down for so long, like most people have, Most people have good days with the occasional bad day. [00:06:00] I had bad days with the occasional good day, and that was the difference. And, um, 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 said, Teenagers have never had it worse and part way through my speech, I got a pair of scissors and I cut my arm in front of the class like it 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 [00:06:30] very much a cry for help. And as you can imagine, that freaked out the whole class. Um, when they started to realise that it wasn't just symbolic, that actually happened, Um, and that got me sent to the guidance counsellor again. Of course, um And so she took that being very, very serious. And, um So she, uh, with my parents they organised me to go see a psychiatrist to start really dealing with what was going on. And so I started talking with a psychiatrist and she gave me [00:07:00] She gave me a book around depression, Um, 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 [00:07:30] up enough so that I actually wanted to try because to get better from where I was was felt like a lot of work. Um, and as part of that process was also about finally coming out to my parents um So I told Mom and Dad actually, with the psychiatrist. I was so freaked out like it was the most nervous thing I've It was nerve wracking thing I've ever done. And it was also a relief because there's I mean, the whole thing was this built up secret that I had, um and I just kind of let that go right then and [00:08:00] there, and Mum and Dad were Well, Mum was not too happy about it, because I think it really challenged a lot of her beliefs as well. Um, they both said like we are, so we still love you. Um, 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. Um, but at least it was it was out at that point. Um, and also, by that point, the entire school knew, like [00:08:30] everyone had just I. I don't quite know how it came out, but after that incident, like it just rumours went and then and then and I at that point, I just wasn't going to deny it. I 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 disconnecting friends like there was nothing. Nothing externally, bad happened. Really. It was just the whole negative self talk I had and the beating myself up. That was the main [00:09:00] issue. Um, and I suppose next was that my sister is 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, and that was cool. Um, then another sister who's, uh, about five years younger than me. I told her, um and she was just, like, so like that. That was her reaction was just like, Oh, OK, yeah. Mhm. What else like it? It was such a non issue. And then I told my younger sister, um, who's seven years younger than me, and we've quite [00:09:30] a It's a 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, um and I'm trying to remember back to what she said, but it was something like she was like, Oh, that's a shame, because she really quite liked the guy that I was dating at the time. And of course, that meant that he was gay, so he was off limits. So, yeah, that was, um that was really cool. So it was really, really supportive. And And what kind of [00:10:00] happened for me after that is 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, um, around what being gay was and all that stuff. Um, And for me, I just I I got really into doing any sort of personal development work. Um, so obviously I did a lot with reading around depression and stuff. Um, I got involved in Rambo youth. I went along to some of their support groups, which is really cool to be chatting with people [00:10:30] who had had similar experiences or completely different experiences um, and did volunteer work by where I 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. There'd be healing going on. And I remember when I first shared it, the person who was kind of because we we always had, like, co runners like, who was running it with me afterwards? She said, You know, it would be cool if you could kind of be a bit happy when [00:11:00] you share your story. Because apparently it came across very, very depressed, which was great, but it it really got like, every time I shared it, Um, I guess I saw it from a different perspective and how it allowed me to grow and kind of the the good side of it, which there 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 where, [00:11:30] um, like I get that I get to choose how I feel, And so depression just isn't even on the radar anymore. When you say you get to choose how you feel, how how do you do that? Well, it's my belief that we all we all choose, uh, 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 depression is something I First it was depression is me. Then it was. Depression is something I have [00:12:00] or I'm experiencing. And now it's like, Well, depression is something you do like. There would be a serious like if I wanted to be feel bad. I know I would have to hold myself a certain way. I'd have to tell myself certain things in my in my, um, head 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 where it was. I read it or I heard it but like to flirt with yourself in the mirror like I remember reading it at the time, saying you'll [00:12:30] feel silly and I remember doing it and thinking This is really silly, like simple things like looking yourself in the eye and telling you you love yourself. So I started doing that and just being silly, like just silly, flirty stuff in the in the mirror when it's just yourself. Um, and it felt really weird. Enforced to the point. Now where if I look in the mirror, that's my natural reaction. Whereas a lot of people, they look in the mirror and their first reaction is, Oh, look how whatever you're looking or, um or I hate you or stuff like that, like people have so [00:13:00] many negative conversations in their 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 has 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 practised that where when something negative does come up. I just kind of ask a different question and flip it around. Um, so it it can never get to where it was before. That obviously takes a lot of [00:13:30] kind of personal insight. Um, and energy, I guess, doesn't it? Yeah, it does. I mean, I think it takes a lot of I mean, it can take a lot of energy to have to actually look at yourself. Um, 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 was going to get all deep and spiritual about it, Hm? So to you, what is the point of life? Um, the the point of life [00:14:00] 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're like. Their highest version of them is, and it's about being the next level of that. And then once you're at the next level of that so that you really experience life and, uh, doing whatever you feel you need to do. And that would pretty much be it. And having fun along [00:14:30] the way. So how does that play out in a day to day sense? Um, in a day to day sense, I think for me, the big thing is that I'm just so relaxed with with life now, like stuff just doesn't bother me. And it's like, Yeah, I'll have my you know, I, I still have emotions. Um, so I still have the good stuff and the bad stuff. Um, but it's in terms of choosing to be who I want to be, um, for me at the moment, it's about finding what I'm really passionate about [00:15:00] 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 fulfilment 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 realising that I'm sitting in front of the TV for five hours. Yeah. Can you talk to me about how, um when you were visiting schools, how the students reacted to you? [00:15:30] Yeah. Doing workshops in high schools is one of the most awesome things I've done. Um, the students, um, you get various 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 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 less so now. But it was It was stuff that you just didn't get talked about in school, like being gay. Um, and all the stuff that [00:16:00] kind of comes with that. And so here we're talking about it, and they have the 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. Um, and and it 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're hearing what they think, then that's like a really great way to learn what were some of the most [00:16:30] difficult questions. You know, I don't know if there are really any difficult students from questions they were. The ones I loved were the ones that really made me think, which were more when they'd asked me how I felt about something, and I'd have to go and actually go away and go, Oh, how did I feel about that? And then come up with a response, which is great for me. Um, when you got questions about like because being you'll get questions about sex and about first boyfriends and stuff and they were just great because you just say, Well, maybe you can ask your health teacher about those questions next time you learn about sex, Ed. Um, [00:17:00] so I guess the only difficult if there had to be something that was difficult is when someone would challenge you with a very a a 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. Um, and that's me. So there was no ever dictating this is how it is it was just sharing everyone sharing kind of their own view. Just going way, way back [00:17:30] to, um when you were 13, I and I'm just wondering, do you think, um, 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, um, where did it come from? In terms of depression? My, my view around depression ultimately now is that it's always internal. It's always from the thoughts we tell ourselves. [00:18:00] However, having said that, um, we all, uh, the makeup of what we've kind of grown up. As so I somehow took on board when I was younger. I like the internalisation 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. First, I'm taking negative stuff inside. And then when I hear that when I'm growing up, learning that it's wrong to be gay when I kind of put two and two together, [00:18:30] it was just like my natural reaction was to oh, well, I'm this negative thing and then just go and be negative about it. Um, 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, um, it's not about blame or anything, but the cool The cool thing with it is that it's about responsibility. If that If I'm feeling [00:19:00] this way because of all my negative talk about myself, then that means I could also feel good about whatever talk I tell myself. So it gives you it gives it, like, gives you your personal power. Back of saying I can now choose to have a different conversation with myself and therefore be happy. And that doesn't ignore the fact that there's external factors when we're growing up because that's there. It's putting the most responsibility and the most power, most empowering part of it, with yourself and back on you and back [00:19:30] on who you are, because then you can actually do something about it. Can you describe how your parents reacted to you coming out and also the Depression. Um, my parents reaction to coming out there were, like, a few things at the first. I think there was actually a bit of almost a bit of relief and that because before the end that we'd been going through this Depression thing and I had had EEG readouts and, like, scans and stuff to find out what was wrong with our son. And when they found out it was because I was gay, it was like, Oh, OK, so it's not like he's got [00:20:00] some mental, blah, blah, blah, whatever it was, you know, just all around this. But then, of course, as soon as that happened, it brought up their own stuff because we did like, especially when I was really young. We were quite into the church. Um, 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 remember once she told me she felt that I was rejecting women and like so, she always had a lot of personal [00:20:30] stuff to to deal with it. My dad was very, I don't know. He was almost very stoic about the whole thing. And he'd like I remember once he asked, he offered to He said, Well, look, I could buy you some porn If you'd like, I could buy. I'll get ones that have girls and guys like to. I don't know, See if I could explore which way I wanted to to go. But at first it was really negative, like and, um, I would I'd be very careful like I wouldn't talk about any of my gay friends. Um, and I'd be very careful about bringing anyone [00:21:00] over. And there was always this tension and what was really interesting is, as I guess, my parents went through their own journey. Um, the tension actually became all mine in the end, like we are to the point where my mom was like, Oh, are you seeing anyone? And I'd almost freak out going Oh, do I Do I say something now? Because now they've I've got 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 relax with my parents because they're now very accepting of of that part. [00:21:30] Um and I think what my mom put it as later on was that, like when I asked her this was part way through. I guess their journey was, you know, like, Well, how do you feel about me being gay? And she said, Well, you know, you you don't end up with everything you you kind of want from 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 like disappointment. And I think now it's just I haven't actually asked her. But I think now it's just a Non-issue because like my partner is treated [00:22:00] as just part of the family and, like, he's kind of expected to show up if we have a family thing now. So yeah, I. I think that parents have When you come out, they they do go on their own coming out journey just as much as the person who's coming out. What are your thoughts, Um, in more general terms about, um, kind of mental health issues and lesbian and gay queer communities. I think to me, it just seems so obvious that why there'd be lots of mental [00:22:30] health issues in the in the queer community. I mean, if you're looking at any community that is marginalised, um and that goes from the negative stuff that gets said about I mean, you look at when the Civil Union Bill came out and you had all the stuff about both camps arguing, which is great. But if you were a 13 year old kid going through issues that just kind of adds to it, um that you know what I mean It it just stands to reason that there's going to be mental health issues because anyone who's, um, gone under pressure or gets gets [00:23:00] put down that's going to add to it, assuming depending on their mind state, though as well. Because, I, I have friends who would have grown up and have the most amazing mental like, um, like almost, uh, what do you call it, A psychology of excellence, like they're really just got it. And they've had, like, the same growing up as 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 marginalised, um, and gets [00:23:30] put down where there aren't all the strong role models on TV are certainly not than they used to be. Then where are you gonna look for strength? Um, 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're younger showing you how to do that, then I would guess there's a much higher probability of heading into mental health issues. So what do [00:24:00] you think are some ways that, um, we as a community or as individuals can help other people? I think the best thing that anyone can do for helping other people is by allowing them to be who they are. Um, and that's that's 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 I'll be accepted for who I am anyway. [00:24:30] Um, 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 great if he wants to go do something else and that's cool as well. Um, and I think as individuals, it's also our responsibility to to, like, shine our own, our own light. Like I know in New Zealand, there's a bit of the whole tall poppy syndrome thing, but for me, it's that the more you shine your own light [00:25:00] and I don't mean showing off, I just mean fulfilling who you are. Uh, you you give permission for other people to do the same thing, and it's just about having that supportive environment to do it in. That's gonna make a difference. Do you think, uh, depression will ever come back and visit you? Um, depression will never be coming back and visiting me because I know I know I know who I am, like I'm a different like a completely different person now to who I was. Then there's still me, [00:25:30] Um, 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, but I know that's just me feeling crap that's not going to lead to something else. Whereas when I was actually getting better initially there was stuff like that. Like I I'd have a bad day and I I could feel myself like myself being pulled back down again. Um, whereas now it's just like I know that I can't It's just doesn't go there. It's it's not. It's not a part of who I am anymore.

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AI Text:September 2023