As a passionate advocate of LGBT rights, Stephen is bringing Pride to Surrey on 10 August in Woking and will join our CEO, Patrick Wolter, to run our LGBT Support Group in Leatherhead.
“Growing up was – what I could only describe as – a challenge but then again, life is full of challenges, right? At the age of 13, I kind of realised that I was different to other people in my school. It was also very obvious from looking at me, that I was different to other people in my class. Life did go on, but when you don’t fit in, it’s hard and it plays tricks on your mind. Anyway, my family were there (I grew up with five sisters) and of course, there was the odd teasing comments about how I was different but again, my obvious thought was: I just need to crack on.
At the age of 16, I went to work in a holiday camp. It was amazing and I felt free. It was as though I was able to discover who I was and be around people with a similar mindset. I knew then – in fact I probably knew it before – that I was Gay but it was at that moment that I felt like I could accept it and tell everyone how I was feeling.
Being around supportive, welcoming people that understood how I felt really helped me but unfortunately those positive thoughts were short-lived as I fell ill and had to leave that one place I felt safest. With troubled health, I was out of action for some time and I was at, what I’d describe as, an all-time low. I was extremely troubled around the reasons I fell ill, but also I felt lost. The rug was pulled from beneath my feet and with an anxious burning feeling, with a worry that I’d never be happy, I locked myself away – literally – only eating and sleeping.
It took the brutal honesty of a relative and a long time to try and come to terms with how I was feeling. It was difficult and, of course, there were good days and bad days, but going to support groups, meeting people like me who wanted to feel better, it helped. It made me realise that I wasn’t alone and that my sexuality didn’t define me, my personality and what I do day to day does.
Years have gone by, life has thrown many challenges but I know anytime I feel the slight bit of anxiety that I will pull through. I will pull through because I have to. Mental health is something that shouldn’t be ignored. If you break your foot, you can’t walk, and if you break your mind, you cannot live. Be strong, stand tall and remember that you are NOT alone.
Unfortunately at the moment, I am fighting ill health but as I say, life throws us challenges and the best word of advice I’d give anyone is “Surround yourself with positivity”.”
For more information, visit our Leatherhead LGBT Support Group page and check out the Pride in Surrey website.
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