I came out of the closet shortly after grad school, though I knew I was gay since I was 14. I had attended a creative writing program, and for my thesis I wrote both fiction and nonfiction, though you might say I simply wrote fiction. While there, I admired one of my instructors for her candid portrayals of herself in her stories and essays. She was real in ways I wasn’t. I also took a course that dealt with the way writing can heal trauma. While I don’t feel that dealing with my sexuality was traumatic, I embraced the idea of writing as healing. I finally came out because I knew I couldn’t live an authentic life while in the closet.
Perhaps I don’t learn my lessons well, or maybe I just like closets, but life handed me another opportunity to come out. As with my sexuality, I long knew about my OCD. I’ve had it since childhood, though I didn’t have a name for it until I was a teenager. I did what you’re not supposed to do: I diagnosed myself. I’m not sure how I put the pieces together, but I remember seeing the book Brain Lock and recognizing its truth. I remember reading a bit of it, furtively, in the bookstore before becoming so afraid of what it said that I put it down and snuck away.
I stayed in the closet for another 15 years or so when a tragedy finally forced me out. I lost a friend to a car accident, and that amped up my obsessions and compulsions in ways I’d never experienced before. I constantly checked traffic reports when I knew a family member was out driving. I called my folks every night to make sure they were still alive. I literally grew sick with worry, enduring a bout of the flu that included a trip to the ER and an expensive IV. Finally, I broke down one night while talking on the phone with my mom. That’s when I sought help.
Now I’m fully out of the closet and able to share my story without reservation. I’ve always admired people who, like my professor, can speak authentically. It took some time for me to realize it, but I’ve been trying hard to be just like them. In a way, I’ve finally received my master’s degree.