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To Anyone Who's Gay, Mentally Ill and Coping With the Pulse Shooting Anniversary

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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 or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image via nito100

Originally published: June 14, 2017
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