Depression. Pornography addiction. Suicidal thoughts…
Sadly, these are things many of us have also dealt with, but there is help out there. Various articles, support groups, help-lines, and therapy options are out there ready to aid in your recovery from and coping with these often devastating afflictions.
We have compiled here a number of resources to help with these and other important issues related to overall emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. These sources themselves are not the definitive solution to all problems, but we hope they can act as a starting point in your own personal journey to becoming a healthier you.
Help with Same-Gender Attraction
When initially coming to terms with feelings of attraction to other women, asking for help is often a very difficult thing to do, especially when what we need help with is a sensitive subject and where there also tends to be a lot of shame and taboo attached. Sometimes there are concerns that people won’t understand or that people won’t know how to help. Maybe you feel like you can take on this task on your own. Well, you can’t! You need the love, support and assistance from a number of others if you’re going to be able to find healthy resolution—resolution which will feel empowering in your effort to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, as opposed to shame-laden, “white knuckled” effort that will eventually leave you little more than burned out. Many of us have spent years struggling with these issues on our own but we have learned isolation is not the way to tackle any difficulty.
When you decide to open up to someone make sure it is someone who really genuinely cares about you and will support you in your values and goals. There are a lot of different views about this issue and not all of them will be in line with what you want in life. Some people you talk to might misunderstand the issue of homosexuality, or they might have specific ideas about what they think you should do. This is your life. Don’t be influenced by those who tell you that you have no choice. It’s wise to seek counsel from trusted and wise mentors but at the end of the day, there are many choices and they are all yours to make. Counsel with your Eternal Father about them and seek to follow His Spirit. A few places where you can get help are:
A bishop, while he might not understand completely, can help you get the spiritual support you need, including repentance where necessary and developing a deeper reliance on the power of Christ’s atonement. If he seems to not understand much about same-gender attraction you can send him to the North Star website where we have both a list of faith-affirming resources specifically for Local Church Leaders, as well as comprehensive lists of Church Publications and General Authority articles addressing same-gender attraction, where he can start educating himself on the issue. His desire will be to help you attain your spiritual goals in this life and help you cultivate an intimate relationship with your Father in Heaven and your Savior, Jesus Christ. Where necessary, help him help you.
Family can be a critical resource because typically it is a great source of unconditional love—and, for those who have been sealed in the temple, the ties of those eternal sealing covenants certainly don’t hurt. Family will often love you and try to understand your situation even if they are initially confused or upset by it. People tend to feel the most fear or anxiety around those things they don’t understand and it will take time for your parents or other family members to come to a place of peace with what you are telling them. Be as patient with them as you would want them to be with you. And be sure to reassure them and help them to understand what your intentions and goals are. That will help them to feel greater peace, particularly if they know that your desires are to continue to live the gospel and to find resolution that is consistent with gospel teachings.
In addition, they may need additional support resources or to connect with other parents or family members of those who experience homosexual feelings, so make sure to provide them with some resources like those available on the North Star website.
Developing meaningful friendships is an especially important part of staying healthy. Oftentimes, a close friend can be the best person to confide in as some may tend to develop closer relationships with friends than anyone else. The emotional satisfaction that we feel through authentic and intimate friendship can be one of the greatest joys in life—to say nothing of the fact that having friends who know and love us fully and with whom we can talk openly about same-sex attraction can do much to reduce or eliminate shame–something essential to working through these issues in a healthy way.
In addition, some have wondered if it’s appropriate or healthy to cultivate friendships with others who experience same-sex attraction. One of North Star’s values (LINK to Mission Statement and Values Page) is that supportive fellowship and friendship with others who share our life experiences, values, and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ can be extremely rewarding and similarly helpful in reducing shame and feelings of “different-ness.” That said, it’s important to have an appropriate balance of same- and opposite-sex friends, and of friends who do and do not experience same-sex attraction. What that balance might look like is an entirely personal decision you’ll have to discuss with the Lord in prayer. This is an area where what might be right and healthy for one person could be wrong and unhealthy for another.
What we do suggest, however, is that counsel given to you in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet is wise for all of us: “Everyone needs good and true friends. They will be a great strength and blessing to you. They will influence how you think and act, and even help determine the person you will become. They will help you be a better person and will make it easier for you to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Choose friends who share your values so you can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards.” We also suggest that a wide array of friendships with different kinds of people can help us develop an appreciation for the diversity of human experience and help us to love all people more fully. As Moroni said, charity—or the pure love if Christ—”seeketh not her own” (Moroni 7:45), meaning that we don’t seek to be only with people who are just like us.
While your bishop can provide spiritual support, developing a strong spiritual foundation is just one component of working through difficulties associated with homosexual attractions—be that seeking resolution to homosexual attractions themselves or addressing potentially concurrent difficulties such as depression, anxiety, shame, sexual addictions, etc. We need positive, healthy social support from others, but that support can take many forms.
Some might seek out support and accountability in the form of formal group therapy. Others might look for peer-led support groups with others who similarly experience same-sex attraction or with others who do not. Having a handful of close and intimate friendships can also serve as a form of support. In addition, North Star sponsors a variety of different demographic-based online discussion groups, message boards, or a Facebook group that can serve as supportive network with other Latter-day Saints. For those who struggle with sexual, chemical or other addictions, the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) or an LDS-based addiction recovery group can be helpful.
What is critical is that you understand that if you are feeling distressed with your feelings or with compulsive addictive behavior, you need to get some help. Doing this alone is not an option. A support group is a great way to start down the road that will lead to a healthy, happy freedom from the situations that are burdening you. Having an understanding and supportive group to talk to when things get tough can be invaluable in assisting meaningful growth in your life.
If you are struggling with suicidal feelings, depression, codependent friendships, pornography or other addictions, if you’ve been sexually abused, or if you are distressed with your feelings of same-sex attraction, it can be important to enlist the help of a professional counselor or therapist. If there are deep wounds or traumas that are causing distressing feelings or behaviors, a good therapist can help you explore and heal those issues in an empathetic and supportive atmosphere.
Even if you don’t struggle with more significant issues such as clinical depression, pornography addiction, the affects of childhood sexual abuse, etc., there’s no shame in enlisting a professional counselor or therapist to help you work through issues that may be inhibiting meaningful growth. Each of us has blind spots, and it helps to have someone knowledgeable explore those blind spots with us and help us to work through them.
Help with other Health and Wellness Concerns
As noted above, there are a number of issues that you may be struggling with independent of your attractions to other women, some of which may even be of greater concern to you than same-sex attraction. As much as you may struggle to resolve homosexual feelings, some of these other concerns are also important for you to get help with. They may even be interrelated and, thus, you won’t be able to resolve or diminish homosexual feelings without addressing these as well. For example, if you struggle with an addiction to pornography and/or masturbation to erotic fantasy, it will only serve to reinforce the thought- and sexual response-patterns associated with same-sex erotic attractions, making it more difficult to de-sexualize attractions to others of the same sex and to develop healthy, meaningful friendships.
Below you’ll find a description of some of the more common difficulties people struggle with–suicidal feelings, shame and emotional isolation, depression, sexual addictions, wounds related to childhood sexual abuse, and emotional dependency–along with some references to helpful resources. You may not struggle with any of these, or you may struggle with many of them. What is of greatest concern to us is that you know you are not alone, that help is available, and that you need to get help if you are going to thrive and live a rich, healthy life.
Sometimes life seems like it is too much to handle and we understand that the feelings of same-sex attraction can often compound feelings of hopelessness, particularly if we feel a lot of shame or emotional isolation. Same-sex feelings can be confusing: the Church teaches that homosexual behavior and relationships are wrong but the world tells us we’re born with these feelings so gay and lesbian relationships are only natural. Sometimes we feel that if others knew something so “bad” about us, they would not accept us. And many of us, as we finally realize that these feelings are real and aren’t going away on their own, or through prayer alone, see our dreams of a family, marriage, and activity in a church we love slipping away.
These types of thoughts have sent many of us to contemplate whether suicide was possibly the best answer. We promise you that suicide is not the answer and that many of the thoughts that lead us to contemplate such a decision are false.
If you are feeling suicidal please get help. If you are just struggling with the thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone. A friend, family member, therapist or Bishop. All of these people love you and will not judge you for your feelings. If you have a serious plan, call 911. Just know that suicide is not the answer and that over time you will realize that the only thing that is set in stone or certain in life, is that you have a choice in everything you do.
QuickLinks: | National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are feeling hopeless and alone, these are feelings that we can relate to. We’ve been there before and the good news is that you don’t have to feel this way forever. Depression can be a trying experience and sometimes those around just don’t understand what you are feeling or going through. These aren’t feelings you simply pray away; we understand that it isn’t that easy. Depression can be caused by various things including difficult life circumstances and even biological factors. Regardless of the cause it can be worked through. If you are reading this, you are taking the first step toward relief.
Feelings of depression and your response to them, including the need for medication or therapy, are nothing to be ashamed of. Seeking out the help is something you should be commended for, it shows responsibility for your life and a desire to improve your situation and to make your life better. People who can help you are family, friends, Church leaders, therapists, and medical doctors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help it has been our experience that most people are very understanding and loving when you open up to them about this difficulty.
If feelings of depression persist, you’ll likely need a combination of medication and therapy. Go first to your doctor for blood tests to make sure hormone levels are normal (in approximately 20% of cases of depression, thyroid hormone levels are low). If you’re severely depressed, you may also want to ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-depressant. If you’re moderately to mildly depressed, you may or may not want medication, but, in any case be sure to seek out counseling with a qualified mental health professional.
Shame and Emotional Isolation
One of the most important truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that each of us, as literal children of our Eternal Father and Mother, is fundamentally good. As “gods in embroyo,” as President Ezra Taft Benson once described us, we have infinite worth. Thus, one of the most spiritually destructive and blinding emotions someone might feel is shame. Shame is an emotion in which the self is perceived as defective, unacceptable, or fundamentally damaged. Shame is often confused with guilt, which is a related but distinct emotion in which a specific behavior is viewed as unacceptable or wrong, rather than the entire self. When we feel shame, we feel not just that others might not love or accept us, but that something about us makes us unlovable or unacceptable.
That feeling, then, leaves us holding back from engaging authentically and intimately in our relationships with others. But we need to be able to emotionally connect with other human beings in authentic and intimate ways—we’re neurobiologically wired for human connection—or it leaves us feeling emotionally starved, alone, and depressed.
If there is anything that is an inhibitor of emotional growth and of a vibrant spiritual life, it’s shame. One of the paradoxes of personal growth is that if growth or change is motivated by shame, it can actually keep us stuck. We first have to learn to love and accept ourselves fully as we are even if there are ways in which we would like to grow in order to become more like God and to fulfill the measure of our creation.
Childhood Sexual Abuse
If you’ve been sexually molested or abused, it’s important for you to know 1) that you’re not alone and 2) that you may have been deeply affected in many ways. It’s difficult to know just how prevalent child and youth sexual abuse in the United States is. Because of the shame and stigma associated with abuse, many victims never disclose such experiences. Current estimates of childhood sexual abuse range from 12% to 40% depending on settings and population. Most studies have found that among women, approximately 20% — or 1 in 5 — have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18. For men, some researchers estimate that 1 in 6 men have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18.
Some of the common effects of childhood sexual abuse include emotional isolation, self-blame and guilt, difficulty with trust, anger, depression, and perhaps even self-harming, addictive, compulsive, and suicidal behaviors. Those who were sexually abused often experience difficulties in relationships as well. For example, abused children are forced to do what the abuser wants. The abuser’s wants come before the child’s needs. As a result of this kind of abuse, adult survivors may feel they have to put the needs of others above their own by feeling protective of others, and over-responsible. In relationships, the survivor may have problems asserting themselves. This may be with friends, partners, relatives, or people at work. Some survivors have problems in sexual relationships, because sex and physical contact may recall the circumstances of the abuse.
If you’ve been sexually abused, help is available. Real help, that works for you. For just about any woman interested in finding help, there are several options between reading a web page and being in therapy. And there are many different therapy or counseling options (short vs. long-term, focused on particular current problems vs. “processing” traumatic memories, etc.). The following are some resources we hope will be helpful as you get started:
Emotional dependency is a common concern for those who experience homosexual attraction. The emotionally dependent person relies on another person to have his or her emotional needs met. In an emotionally dependent relationship, what might have begun as a healthy friendship can quickly grow to become one in which one or both parties believe that the other individual is necessary for her personal well-being. The emotionally dependent person can become so enmeshed with the other person that she loses sight of his own needs in favor of constantly seeking assurance and connection to the object of her dependency. A desire for constant contact (phone calls, texts, even stalking), emotional connection (often through physical touch), and exclusivity in the relationship are hallmarks of emotional dependency.
These types of relationships usually lead to a loss of self and can cause someone to feel extremely possessive of the time and attention of another person. A guy or girl susceptible to these tendencies often either seeks to fulfill what he perceives to be unmet needs in another and s/he takes on a caretaking role, or sees in the other an opportunity to have their own needs met in a way they believe no one else can — or both. Once an emotionally dependent relationship has been established, it is very difficult to break free of the unhealthy patterns inherent in such a relationship.
Body Image and Eating Disorders
Body image and eating disorders are a growing problem, particularly for guys who experience homosexual attractions. A 2007 Harvard University study found that 25% of those who reported struggling with anorexia or bulimia are men, suggesting that men are more prone to eating disorders than previously thought. Also of note is some findings in a large 2007 study that there appears to be a significantly larger incidence of eating disorders among homosexual men than heterosexual men. An earlier 2004 study showed that those who view pornography or are regular consumers of muscle and fitness magazines are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies, and that homosexual men who viewed pornography were more likely to experience social physique anxiety.
What is important to understand from all this is that for whatever reason, men who experience homosexual attraction tend to be more prone to body image concerns and eating disorders than other men, and negative body image perception can be devastating to emotional health. It tends to spawn poor self-worth generally and can lead to eating disorders, which in turn can have extremely negative consequences on physical health. As a man, it can be especially difficult due to cultural perceptions to admit that you worry about your body image or are trapped in behaviors related to anorexic, bulimic, or compulsive eating disorders. Please know that you are not alone and aren’t of lower worth because you struggle with these complicated psychological afflictions. There is help for you, including the following sources:
Pornography and Sexual Addiction
Pornography and sexual addiction have reached epidemic proportions since the advent of the Internet. The problem is growing at an incredible rate. And while pornography use and addiction is especially a problem for guys, it’s becoming a pretty big problem for more and more girls as well. Entanglement in pornography can often augment a lot of other problems such as masturbation, other forms and habits of sexual addiction, and even depression. It can compound the confusion you may already be experiencing regarding your attractions to other women and will certainly intensify the sexual feelings (as opposed to the desire for emotional connection, which is actually healthy and normal). If you struggle with addiction to pornography or masturbation, sexting or erotic chat, or even acting out sexually with others, just know that you are not alone.
Pornography is easier to get a hold of than any other drug, and the chemicals that are released in our brains during pornography use and other sexual behaviors are impossible to get away from because they are built into us. The release of these chemicals makes pornography and sexual addiction a very real addiction. Dr. Donald L. Hilton explains this further in his book He Restoreth My Soul:
“Why is it that some consider adrenaline and dopamine to be drugs if drug companies produce them, yet they will not acknowledge these same chemicals to be drugs if pornography [or other sexual behavior] stimulates the brain to produce them? As we will see, they are very powerful endogenous (meaning your body makes them) drugs, which can actually change the physical and chemical makeup of the brain in addiction, just as they are powerful exogenous (meaning we take them into our bodies) drugs, when prescribed by a doctor. The problem with pornography is that we are using adrenaline, dopamine, and other powerful brain drugs without a prescription. Pornography is actually a form of prescription drug abuse when viewed in this light.”
Often sexual addiction is viewed as “not that bad” because we are not introducing any chemicals into our body but as Dr. Hilton has observed, we are very much creating a chemical dependency in ourselves just as powerful as other drugs. Understanding sexual addiction in this way helps us to understand that the same types of interventions are needed to recover as those used with alcohol or drug dependency. The help of a loving church leader, a 12-step support group, and therapist are all important components in overcoming a pornography addiction.
There is no quick fix. Don’t give up! Make sure you have support and don’t try to do this alone. You won’t make it without God and other supportive people in your life. There is freedom from this addiction and life is much brighter and enjoyable once you are out of the dark shroud of addiction. Check out some additional resources below:
Additional books to help you Get Healthy
The following are a few additional books addressing health and wellness concerns that many of us have found helpful and that can help you become a healthier you. In the top carousel, you’ll find books addressing more general approaches to personal growth. For a more comprehensive list of books to help you with a variety of issues, see the North Star Bookstore.