My Story of How I was Saved

How do you save a life; people have struggled with since the beginning of humanity. First it was purely for survival of your family in the fittest.  Today we are living in an ever more increasingly complex world in which societies place enormous and unrealistic standards and expectations on its people.  This is very prevalent in our youth, not only the suicide rate is at its highest, there are teen pregnancies, drinking , drug use, and in our schools the bullying is accepted and looked at it as a necessary evil in which it is increasingly used as a means of discrimination.  I know this myself from my own experiences and seeing done to others.  We all have to be aware that it is happening and take a stand against it and have the moral courage to stand up and do the right thing.

In my first year of Junior High I was a typical guy who would go to the school dances and dance with girls like most other guys that age going through puberty.  Around the age thirteen I began having feelings that I kept attributing to what I would later on learn was self denial.  Those feelings were attraction, sexual attraction towards other guys.  I became withdrawn and depressed, all the while not realizing what the cause was as I was subconsciously in denial of who I am.  It wasn’t until shortly after I turned 16 that I woke up one morning and I said to myself   “I’m gay”.  First there was shock, and as I realized more and more that the feelings that I had made sense and it painted the picture of how I had been in self denial which caused my depression. I told my best friend of 11 years online (because I was ashamed and embarrassed to tell him face-to-face) that I was gay.  His first reaction was one of near disgust but after a minute or so he calmed down and even told me that it didn’t change anything; we were still best friends that grew-up together. However, that didn’t prove to be how things turned out.

It was the summer before my Junior year in High School when I had done the normal teenage things, like hanging out with my friends and getting my Driver’s License. That summer I had also had realized, admitted to myself, and came out to my best friend that I was gay. But my summer of major events wasn’t over yet. The shame and guilt I felt along with me knowing I would never be able to have the “normal” future everybody always sees themselves in, had led me into a downward spiral of hopelessness and depression. It resulted in me trying to take my own life.  While I was in the emergency room the Dr. told my parents to go home and search my room to see if they could find anything that I could harm myself with.  They did search and they found a magazine, “XY”, which is a helpful and supportive gay magazine for gay and questioning males in the age range of 13 all the way up to 25.  After finding the magazine they ask me if I was gay.   That lead to a nervous breakdown because I couldn’t live with myself for being gay and I wasn’t ready for them to know.  My parents however, were okay with me no matter what.  They had always had gay and lesbian friends all their life and have no problem with orientation, race and religion. My parents joined PFLAG and other activities. Even though I knew, this it didn’t give me any internal comfort and the struggle I had became more intense.

I went to IYG (Indiana Youth Group which is for gay & lesbians, transgender, people who were questioning and straight people). In order to go to IYG yours parents had to sign a form and the age was 13 to 21. I worked at the University and started going to the Queer Resource Center and functions at the University.  When high school started back I found myself having no friends initially. Not only did my best friend start treating me bad and our friendship ended, he told others and then I started receiving instant messages that were not at all nice and were completely negative and derogatory, then one had told me to go and kill myself. Then another friend was okay with it, however he found a girlfriend, and she didn’t want us to be friends nor did she want him to spend time with his other friends. So in high school I was working at the University and my friends were college freshmen. Even though I started meeting other gay & lesbian people, I still struggled and had more suicide attempts. After the instant message I decided to take my life, it really got to me and it wasn’t the first message I had received.  I got derogatory and vulgar text messages and phone messages which then I had to change my phone number. For years I felt alone and no social life even today I get lonely with no one to hang out with.

I started to get somewhat of my life back when a terrible accident happened to me. I was burned 3rd degrees over 31% of my body from my waist up and I had to be airlifted to Wishard Burn Unit and I was still fully conscious until the airlifting. That resulted in 3 months in the hospital and after that followed grueling months of physical therapy, burn suits, mask and more lotions and creams than you can imagine. I had to have multiple major surgeries in the few years following the initial burns. This was the worst physical and psychological event that I have ever experienced. Again the depression came on full force. I want the scars to go away but I know they will be with me. I have come a long way; most people tell me that they can’t even tell that I was burned so severe. However, I can and that adds to my thoughts will I ever find anyone for me since in general the gay population puts a lot of emphasis on looks for first impression instead of getting to know me.  I currently still have some upcoming surgeries. I go through weekly laser and injection treatment to help with the scarring to try to get my body physically as close to as it was before the burns.

Post burns when I had fallen to the lowest point I had heard the song “How to Save a Life” from the band The Fray. I had told my mom that there was a story and a group linked to the song. At that point she then had already emailed every talk show host and got no response.  I didn’t know it at the time, but she was trying to find me help as well as the rest of my family.  She then went to the web site for the Save a Life Campaign and read all about them and the tragedy their family went through. She wrote some of my story to them hoping and praying with so much desperation that someone would respond. Thankfully she got a call. Dave Fahrenkamp himself called and talked with my mom and wanted to help however he could.  When she told me that she got a call I couldn’t believe it, she couldn’t either. After talking with him within 24 hours of her email he wanted to meet me as soon as possible.  Within a week Mr. Fahrenkamp drove to Indiana and met with me and my parents.  Mr. Fahrenkamp gave me hope and helped realize that as long as you are still alive there is hope. I was amazed beyond belief and it was a huge surprise that he came. He made me feel special and that I mattered and he didn’t even know me. He promised no matter how long it took me to get to St. Louis he would be waiting for us to meet other people with the Save a Life Campaign.

Well, he kept his promise.  After two major surgeries and the loss of a family member and a close friend who died in a car accident. I was finally able to get to St. Louis. I was not only welcomed but treated with such respect and kindness that you only feel with family and life-long friends. Yet, I was a complete stranger. The awesome experience of being around a generous and loving group of people who are willing to open themselves up and invite you into their family is one of the best feelings and surprises that a person could experience. The Save a Life family has saved my life by renewing hope and giving me the courage to do the right thing. They all have made me feel like I have someone to connect with. My mom and I have been to St. Louis a couple of times and it has been some of the most terrific and memorable times of my life.

I’m now a volunteer EMT which is a passion of mine.  I went to school and learned the knowledge and acquired the skills to get my certification. I am paying it forward; even though I am helping others I feel the experience gained through my time-consuming volunteering is a reward. I feel like I do have a purpose and it is helping others directly, or indirectly and directly is so far from my experiences is the most internally rewarding.  However, I had to learn that before I could save anybody else’s life, I had to save my own first!  I am evaluating several possibilities; one of those is going on to be a Paramedic, or going back to college. I don’t believe that I would be where I am today without the support of my family and The Save a Life Family for believing in me when I didn’t. My family and I are so grateful to everyone involved with the Save a Life Campaign.

Forever Thankful,

22 y/o Male from Indiana