I have a million stories I could share about the things I’ve encountered regarding LGBTQ teenagers while working in mental health.
I will stop here and tell you, if you don’t agree with being gay, trans, or whatever, then I urge you to please read this post as well as the one next week. If you can read through them without feeling any sort of sadness or empathy for these patients, then please, unfriend me and I’ll pray for you.
Working inpatient, I had a lot of patients who would be admitted to the floor following coming out of the ICU after stabilizing from a suicide attempt. Many times, it is an overdose of some sort.
This girl, I can still see her face in my head, the day I admitted her to the floor. She was so broken and lost; you could see the defeat in her eyes and hear it in her voice. She looked down at the ground, avoiding eye contact with everyone if at all possible. The majority of the time, her eyes were filled with tears and I would notice her hands were always shaking if she was being asked questions about why she was admitted to the unit.
She had overdosed on medication from her parent’s bathroom medication cabinet. I can’t remember exactly what all she took, but I do remember that when her dad found her on her floor, he called the squad and she was admitted into the ICU for a six day stay. I remember getting report from the ICU nurse before bringing the girl to our floor. The nurse told me that this patient was so lucky to be alive, that had her dad found her a few minutes later, she would probably be dead.
She was only sixteen years old at the time of her admission, but the way she communicated, it was like she was much, much older.
She was on the unit for a few days before she started opening up with me about what truly happened, but when she did, it took everything I had in me not to cry.
She told me that she remembered being in second grade and never wanting a boyfriend. She said that her best friend, who is still her best friend, started saying she liked boys and was having new boyfriends every week. She said that she started getting upset because she just wanted to play with all of her girl friends, not the boys.
She then said she remembered being in sixth grade and feeling a huge amount of anxiety when it was time for their first school dance. She said that all of her friends were being asked to the dance by boys and that she hadn’t been asked yet. I remember her telling me that she wasn’t feeling anxious about not being asked, but the anxiety was building up because she was scared a boy would actually ask her and she would have to tell him no. She said that she had a ton of friends who were boys and she loved running around with them during football games or in elementary school during recess; she never wanted to be anything other than friends with them.
When a boy did ask her to this dance, she said she nervously said yes, only at the pressure of her best friend telling her to do so. The dance made her feel uncomfortable and she said her anxiety was so high the entire night. Her parents had took her shopping to buy a fancy dress and paid for her to get her nails done. She said she enjoyed that part, but not the part where she could have been faced with her first kiss or first time holding a boys hand.
She said that at the end of that night, her depression started. She said it wasn’t just anxiety now, but depression and an internal battle in her mind. The nights were the worst because she would always be up late asking herself, what's wrong with me? I don’t feel like all the other girls. Why don’t I want my first kiss? Why did I feel so anxious dancing with a boy?
Her freshman year of high school, she said that she was tired of feeling the way she was feeling and finally told her parents that she wanted to go to therapy. They agreed that she seemed withdrawn and started taking her to therapy once a week. She told me that it was helpful for a while, until it wasn’t anymore.
She said she was 14 years old when her therapist and her discovered that her anxiety and depression may be related to her liking girls, instead of boys.
She told me that she instantly hated herself. She said that her parents would kill her and that she did not want to be someone who was different.
She had multiple suicide attempts between ages 14 to 16, with the one that lead her to this stay being the most severe. “I wanted this to be the last one. I wanted this one to actually kill me.”
I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again: being a teenager is hard. Seriously, think about it. Think back to your preteen and teenage years. What were you feeling? Did you ever feel like you had everything figured out and then it all came crashing down? Were you ever scared or overwhelmed or confused? Did you ever feel like you weren’t good enough? Did you feel like you didn’t know who you were or what you wanted to be?
Add all of that on top of trying to figure out your sexual orientation; trying to figure out why you feel so different from your friends.
Let me tell you the worst part.
This girl’s parents came in for a family session and asked to speak with her nurse about some medication stuff. I was her nurse again that day so I was the lucky one who got to meet these close-minded, ignorant, selfish people.
The girl was already in the room with them when I arrived. She was crying and so was her mom. I asked them if they needed anything before we started talking and what I could do to help. I offered sympathy and encouragement and left the floor open for their questions. I waited for what seemed like forever, listening to both mom and the patient sniffle, trying to quiet their cries.
When no one said anything after a few minutes, I asked how the family session went. My patient started to have a panic attack and the mom got up and left the room.
I looked at the dad and waited for him to say something, for someone to fill me in on what was going on.
“This girl thinks she’s gay,” her dad finally said, almost in a yell.
“I don’t think I am, dad. I know I am!.” She was having a hard time catching her breath so I focused all of my attention on her and did deep breathing and grounding exercises. When she was calm enough, I asked her to go back onto the unit and I would talk to dad alone.
Dad looked at me, while the patient was still in the room and said, “I have nothing left to say. If she wants to be gay then go ahead and let her kill herself. I’ll let her this time.”
Read that again.
You think you read it wrong?
Nope. You didn’t.
Her own father said this to her face without even flinching. His voice was harsh and full of hate and it took everything I had not to jump across the room at this man.
I was going to ask the patient to leave the room, but instead I didn’t. I wanted her to hear what I had to say. I wanted her to know that even though her own family was wishing her dead, that she is worth so much more than the ignorant thoughts of her terrible father.
I remember feeling my face turn red. I forced myself to take some deep breaths and tried to remind myself that not everyone was raised to love one another. Some people were raised by hateful parents and in turn, now have hateful hearts. But how could you say something so devastating to your own child? It makes my stomach hurt even thinking about a child being told this by anyone, let alone a parent.
“She can be gay if she wants to. If that is who she is then she needs to embrace it. She is very smart and has her entire future ahead of her. Are you honestly telling me that you would rather have a dead daughter than a gay one?” I used the calmest voice I could muster up in the moment, but I could see that he knew he had started a fire in my soul.
“I did not mean that literally. I meant, like, I just don’t want her to be gay,” he stuttered, knowing that he couldn’t take back the painful words he’d already spoken.
“She is your daughter. You can love her for who she is and help her to overcome this depression or we can find someone who will,” I told him as I stood up to leave the room. I couldn’t stand to look at his face any longer.
I asked the girl to come with me because I could tell that she was still full of panic. We walked out of the room and I let the girl go back to a group that was going on. I then called the girls therapist and told her what was said. The therapist informed me that she had already made a report to child protective services because not only did the dad say those hurtful words, but he was refusing to lock up all sharps and medications in the home. It was like he was asking for his daughter to attempt again. It was like he truly meant what he said.
The girl discharged during my stretch of days off and I’m not sure what happened after she left. I’m sure she went back home to her mom and dad. Hopefully there was a continuous investigation by CPS, but unfortunately in cases like this, I never see much come of it. I didn’t get to take care of this patient for very long, but I hope that the time I did spend with her helped her to realize that it was okay to be who she truly was. I hope that her family open their eyes and love her for who she is and if not, I hope that she finds people who do. I hope she is able to thrive and live her life the way she wants to while being surrounded by people who shower her with love and acceptance.
If you are one of these people, someone whose family does not love them for who they are, please, reach out to me. I will be your biggest fan and accept you for everything you are. You’re not alone and you’re worth so much more than what hateful people have instilled in your mind. Please, do not stop being who you were made to be.