To Anyone Who's Gay, Mentally Ill and Coping With the Pulse Shooting Anniversary
Below is a list of the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse Shooting so we never forget:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old
Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
When a hateful man took the lives of 49 men and women on June 12, 2016, I vomited for two days. I did not leave my home. I posted tearful pleas on social media for people to teach their children about love, empathy, tolerance and how not to hate those who are different. I screamed at the video recording on my phone, “We must be better. We must be different.”
I was simply “another gay person” affected by this slaying.
However, I happen to have rapid cycling bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. This event left me reeling. I became paranoid that if I ever left my home, my son would be left without a mother. I winced when my girlfriend held my hand because my heart beat so fast I thought it would break from my chest. I could not breathe. I could not sleep. There was no reprieve. I felt compelled to grieve for the 49 lives lost. My emotions were unchecked.
I was angry at myself that I was alive, complaining about so-called “first world problems” and having suicidal thoughts when they had died for being who they are, for being who I am. I felt unrelenting guilt for my depression. I was alive, I was breathing and my heart was beating. How dare I be so ungrateful after what happened? My anxiety and fear felt like nothing compared to what they must have felt in their last moments.
However, one day, as I was in tears, my son came to me and said, in the wisdom of a 4-year-old, “Don’t be sad, Mommy. Be brave.” The Pulse victims, casualties and their first responders were brave. They were strong. I had a light bulb moment. It took time and medication changes, but I found courage in Pulse. A pulse is a heartbeat. My heart was beating. My guilt turned to action. It was OK to grieve in the same way it was OK to recover from mental illness. It was OK to hold my girlfriend’s hand. It was OK to go outside.
I may have confused fear with anxiety. I still could not tell you. If I let fear win, the opposition wins.
I am mentally ill and that’s OK.
I am gay and that’s OK.
Forty-nine people died and that will never be OK.
They will never win.
Love is a victory and I intend to celebrate it every day.
So, to anyone out there on the fringes like me, I can only offer the truth. The truth is, the atmosphere for the mentally ill and LGBTQIA community can feel dark. The truth is, we feel each other’s pain, because we are a worldwide family and their blood is our blood. The rainbow flag flies above our cause because of its fierce colors. It demands to be seen and heard. If you’re like me, be seen and be heard; in the doctor’s office, in the psychiatrist’s office or even simply at the grocery store. Never let anyone make you feel invisible, ignored or underserving in the medical community or in the human family. And if you ever feel alone, know that I am on the fringes right there with you.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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Thinkstock image via nito100