Thanks to Jack Thorne for contributing this story to our Project: Speak series on athletes’ experiences with mental health in their coming out stories.
I’m not usually someone who talks about my mental health history with people I don’t know. It’s something I usually keep pretty quiet. Everyone’s coming out story is different, there are people that come and go, different reactions, the emotions that the athlete feels are always slightly different, they’re as unique as the person feeling them. I’m not going to claim that this article is going to help everyone or that everyone can relate to me, but I am going to hope that my story can help at least one person feel better about what they’re going through and realize that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.
Before I came out to my mom my Junior year I was in a pretty dark place, I remember waking up every day hoping that something would change and I wouldn’t feel the way that I did; that I wouldn’t hate what I was; that I wouldn’t spend the entire day watching what I said or who I looked at so I wouldn’t give anything away. It was exhausting to be scared and sad all the time. Waking up and seeing something in yourself that you hated and couldn’t change was one of the worst feelings imaginable.
Over the summer between my Sophomore year and Junior year started to realize that It was going to be okay. I still didn’t necessarily like that part of myself but I accepted it and began to realize that my life would go on and that It wouldn’t be miserable.
I decided to tell my mom in the September of my Junior year, she was one of the first people I told and I couldn’t have been more scared. I knew she would be amazing but no matter how amazing you know someone is going to be the act of admitting it to someone is scary. I told her and it went well. Then I started to come out to my close friends and teammates over the course of the year.
With each person I told and with each positive reaction, my confidence grew, my confidence grew despite a few bumps here and there the process was so easy for me. During the summer between Junior and Senior year I decided that I needed to just come out and be done with it. Everyone that needed to know knew and I was sick of having to come out to everyone that I didn’t really know or field the awkward questions about my love life.
On June 23, 2014 I posted a message to Facebook and I posted that same message on the sports website Outsports. This moment changed my life. The outpouring of support I got was incredible.
I want to take a moment to say that coming out does not magically cure you of any mental health difficulties you have, It didn’t do that for me. In fact during the fall of my Senior year I had the largest fight with depression and anxiety I’ve faced up to this point in my life. The difference that coming out makes is that it opens the door to getting better. Coming out helped me realize that I would be ok and that my life wouldn’t be miserable. It helped me figure out how to like myself again and once I was comfortable with who I was then I could start getting better.
I also want to note that It doesn’t get better just like that. It takes time. It takes work and there will be good days and there will be bad days, but it does get better. I started noticing that the time between the bad days started to grow. It went from 2 or 3 days to 5 then to 10 then to two weeks and so on. I still have bad days here and there but they’re no where near as bad as they were a year ago or as bad as they were for the first 3 years of high school. Accepting that I had an illness and getting treatment for it was one of the hardest but also one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Jack Thorne is currently a swimmer at Northwestern University. He has been a swimmer for 7 years. He is double-majoring in Psychology and Sociology.
Project: Speak is a story-sharing series to promote conversation surrounding mental health, addiction and suicide in LGBTQ* athletes. If you are an athlete interested in sharing your story, contact us as email@example.com.