All Rights reserved
"Student body president. Recruited football player. Loads of friends. Caring family.
"Miserable. Coping with suicidal thoughts."
With those words, Harrison Wilkerson describes his life as a gay high school student, just one year after surviving the ordeal of battling depression, coming out, and learning to live.
Now attending college in Southern California, the 18-year-old wrote a first-person account of his struggle for OutSports, a moving, heartbreaking reflection of his fight to cover up and finally confront his truth.
Wilkerson is from a small North Carolina town, where "there's only a handful of stop lights and you can almost guarantee you will run into someone you know just about every time you leave the house," he wrote.
The teen confessed that he realized something wasn't "clicking" when he became an upper classman:
"While all my teammates were talking about girls in the locker room I couldn't have been more uncomfortable. I had no interest in the topic whatsoever. As a high school boy, this was not the norm, and a few guys began to notice. Not knowing the answer myself, I denied many times having any interest in guys, but the denials weren't enough to quiet the questions."
Wilkerson even dated girls to earn "cred" with his teammates. But there was no sexual connection, and depression took hold of him.
"Deep down I knew I was gay, and there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted so badly to be straight, but I knew there was no more denying who I was.
"Unknown to anyone at the time, I struggled daily with anxiety and severe depression. I wrestled privately with suicidal thoughts for months. Bullying and harassment increased at school. People in passing cars screamed homophobic slurs at me. At one point another vehicle literally ran me off the road. All of it was because I was coming out of my cocoon, finding the need to be my truth. Yet simply because I was different, life was becoming a living hell."
He wrote that with the help of his parents and friends he avoided suicide, and learned to "live my life authentically."
"Eventually I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The day came when I was able to finally look myself in the mirror and say 'I am gay.' I soon confided in one friend that I was in fact gay, like so many had suspected. From there my confidence grew. I began to tell my closest friends, then a few more. Eventually it became the worst-kept secret in town."
Wilkerson wrote that he he decided to share his personal, private and painful story so others would know they are not alone. He's calling for greater awareness of mental health issues, stating depression can indeed be a matter of life or death.
"For a long time I have debated writing my story publicly. I don't want to seem self-indulgent, or that I am sharing this for attention. However, I can't live in fear any longer. I am willing to deal with people's false assumptions if it means somewhere out there some kid knows it's perfectly OK to not feel 100% all of the time. I am doing this piece because I can't get another text, see another Facebook post, or read about another person in the news who ended their life because they had no one there for them."
Read the full article in OutSports,here.
LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) considering suicide can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities. And if you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860.
According to OutSports, Harrison Wilkerson would love to hear from other LGBT youth struggling with loneliness or depression. Click here to connect via Facebook, or here to connect via Twitter or send him an email at email@example.com