My guest, Brian George, shares that the messages he received while growing up were so strong that he truly believed he could never be his authentic self... he would die pretending to be someone other than who he was. This caused him to live with deep depression, anxiety, and a profound desire to end his life... end his pain. This went on from high school until his early 50s. It was an affair with another man that opened his eyes and helped him realize that he could no longer deny who he was. From miserable, suicidal, and hiding behind a fake smile, to becoming happy and content. Listen to his story of how he finally broke through.
Brian authors a blog called Hiding Behind The Smile.
Hiding Behind The Smile
Coach Maddox 0:03
Hello, Brian George, and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I'm really delighted to have you as a guest today.
Brian George 0:11
I'm really excited to be here. I've enjoyed talking with you so far. And so I'm looking forward to spending the next a little bit of time together.
Coach Maddox 0:18
I think the listeners are going to really get a lot out of what you have to share today. And that's what it's all about is making that impact. So let me tell the audience that Brian, Brian and I met on Facebook dating fairly recently. Yes. And we had, we had some chats back and forth. And then we decided to share a zoom call, and we shared some zoom calls. And since then, we've had dinner three times, I think, and we recently went dancing together. And so getting acquainted and learning about each other. And when he learned what I was doing with this podcast, he threw his name in the hat and said, I think I'd like to do that. So here we are. So I would say maybe we've known each other for what maybe a month.
Brian George 1:16
Yeah, a little over that. It might only be Yeah. Might be around four to six weeks. Yeah. Somewhere in that time. Yeah. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 1:22
Not long, but long. No, definitely getting to know each other and enjoying the journey.
Brian George 1:28
Coach Maddox 1:30
So Brian, is the author of a blog entitled, hiding behind the smile? And what would you like to share with the listeners about that, Brian?
Brian George 1:43
Yeah, that blog is really just an avenue for me to express my perspective on a lot of different mental health issues. I have suffered for a lifetime with depression, anxiety, OCPD, and suicidality, to the point at which, you know, couple of years ago, I got to the point where I can no longer see myself living a couple of months. And so it's all about my perspective on these topics, how I dealt with it, what I felt and helping other people understand and realizing their symptoms, even within themselves or others, it's, it's been a blessing, I've had lots of people reach out through that blog, and really just look for safety and look for somebody to chat with, and help them sometimes off the edge.
Coach Maddox 2:33
That's a very beautiful and courageous thing for you to do to put yourself out there in that manner, in an effort to help others that are going through something similar. I really admire that, Brian, thank you.
Well, with that, let's jump in. And first question of the day is, what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man? How would you define that?
Brian George 3:00
I define that as living my life as I was created. And I say that because so much of my history and my story, I did not do that. It's really only been in the past two to two and a half years, where I've really started exploring who I am on the inside, unpacking all of my issues that were swirling in my head, and really trying to figure that out. So for me, it's relatively new, but it's just, it really just comes down to that core of living who I am feeling those emotions, and, you know, wanting to live each day. Just being honest with myself and honest with everybody around me. Sometimes I feel like and I've mentioned this before, maybe I'm a little too honest. But nonetheless, that's what that's what it means for me to be an authentic gay man.
Coach Maddox 3:57
Beautiful. I love that Brian. And once again, I know you guys out there and listener land have heard me say this, he did not know I was going to ask that question this, I don't give the questions to the guests in advance. It's all organic and off the cuff. So thank you so much for that. I love that. And we'll get a little bit deeper into a few of the few of the pieces that you mentioned. Just then. So now for our topic of our our time together today. And that is what has been the biggest challenge that you have gone through in this lifetime or are continuing to go through.
Brian George 4:36
So as I think about this, it's really, it really goes back to that being authentic aspect, quite honestly, that has been my biggest challenge throughout my entire life and living out who I really am. And it's been such a struggle because of my upbringing and my background. You know, I really knew at a very young age, I'm gonna guess second or third grade that I was attracted to guys. And because of the very small community, I lived in a very religious family. And just the expectations that I felt were put upon me, you know, I learned very early on to not express that, and lead what would be seen as a heteronormative life. And so that that really is my challenge is just being authentic living at who I really am and dealing with that over 54 years now.
Coach Maddox 5:32
And how did that play out? I mean, you started at that very, very early age, but tell us a little bit about how that played out that heteronormative life and that not being able to live as the human being that you were created to be
Brian George 5:50
the the pressures that I felt on me to be a hate this word, I'm going to say, quote, unquote, normal, we're just so extreme that I could not express that so. So I first started really struggling with this, I would say around late middle school, somewhere around mid to late middle school. And, you know, I can remember just standing in front of the mirror and just hating myself and loathing myself because of these feelings, and because of the things that I was going through. But yet, you know, I couldn't be that me. You know, I had to be the, you know, popular guy kind of scenario, when in all reality, you know, I was, I was anything but Vladek I was very creative. And so, you know, growing up in the 70s, and 80s, that just, you know, early 80s, that just really wasn't something that was normal, and really allowed to happen in my family and in in my circles that I lived in and associated with so, it Yeah, it's just been really difficult. So I started really early on just with an extreme hatred of myself because of the way I felt and and who I knew I was.
Coach Maddox 7:10
Wow. Yeah. And, and when, when did that really start to take its toll that that self hatred and and that not being able to be who you who you really were, when did you start to really notice that taking a toll on your mental health and showing up in ways that were very clearly detrimental to your well being.
Brian George 7:38
So it was, it was for me high school, and I don't remember the exact years, I know, it started just a little bit before I was able to drive. So I was probably, you know, 1415, something like that. But it really started with the fact that I had a couple of relationships with guys very much in the closet. And those were not initiated by me, because I never would have felt free to do something like that. But they obviously saw something in me that they initiated and I became a very willing participant. And so that retallack just based upon my background, like I described there, I can remember, as a teenager, doing something with a guy coming home, lying in my bedroom, and just crying and weeping and just calling out to you know, the God I believed in, you know, why on earth did you make me this way? It's not right, you know, it's not something I can pursue. But yet I enjoy it. And I want this. And so I, you know, I begged and pleaded and bargained with God, you know, all around that whole concept and said, You know, I want you to take this away from me, you know, because I hate myself, I feel guilt, I feel shame. And, and this isn't a little this is a lot. I mean, it was deep. And so after doing that many, many times, I basically came to the point of, well, you know, if you're not going to take this away from me, or you're not going to take me from this earth because of this, I want to do it myself. And I had already started with depression in the middle school era. And that's the whole self hatred and loathing and the feelings and all that kind of stuff. So I already had bouts of depression then. Now I'm adding on to that then a strong desire to just end my life to end my suffering.
Coach Maddox 9:39
And how old were you when that started to show up?
Brian George 9:43
Oh. Like I said, it was it was pretty early on, I'm gonna guess somewhere around ninth grade, because I was in. I was in geometry class. And I really, really stood are good with geometry. You know, part of my background in history is I tried to overachieve in order to get at least some love and acceptance from family and people around me. And, you know, that kind of stuff never works anyways, but I was really struggling. And so I couldn't maintain, you know, my solid A and high be average, because I was doing terribly in this course. There was one night, I was sitting there doing my homework and, and I just lost it. I just lost it. I said, you know, that was the first time I really thought of active suicide, I said, I just want to kill myself over this. You know, and, and that, that was a very troubling night, I ended up working my way through it. Only because of a friend, I called a friend for some geometry help. And they were very caring and compassionate. And just the way they talked and spent time and they weren't getting some of it either. But at least it it made me relate to someone and really made me think about okay, now this isn't really the thing that you want to do, you shouldn't end it all over something like this. But that was really the first time that I can identify that I had a suicidal ideation.
Coach Maddox 11:17
And how old were you when you actually made your first attempt?
Brian George 11:23
It was really just a few years later, it would have been the summer of 1989. For me, I would have been between my junior and senior year in college. And I worked at a religious summer camp in the summer. So as a counselor, and I can remember, mid summer, that year, that I just really was feeling lonely, which is amazing, because there are people around me all the time. You know, I had made some, I still have some very good lifelong friends from that timeframe that we keep in touch with and visit and, and so on. But I remember just going into this one week, and I was so down. I said to a very good friend of mine. I said, you know, how can I be around all these people that yet feel so lonely?
Coach Maddox 12:19
I'd actually like to speak to that. I think you're bringing up a really, really valid point right now. And I don't know that this is that I've been able to language this up until this moment. But I'm, I'm really getting clear, it's that there is a very direct connection between extreme loneliness and our inability to be authentic.
Brian George 12:48
Absolutely, I felt like, okay, so. So it's hard maybe to relate for some listeners, just because of, you know, I did come from a very, very religious background. And so that was my life. You know, it was in high school and middle school was youth group and hanging out with the same friends at school and doing all kinds of activities based on you know, Christianity, it was for me. And so that was my life. I go off to college, I go off to a relatively small college in western Pennsylvania. And it is a Christian college. And I studied theology, along with information systems, I was a dual major. And so I've got this mindset, this thinking, but all the time, this turmoil in my head of this is what your religion says, This is what you feel. Why, why would I think that anyone else would be in that same boat? And so I did. I felt very, very lonely throughout all of my formative years, quite honestly, I felt like I didn't fit in. I talked a lot about that on my blog, actually.
Coach Maddox 13:59
And while you're saying, you know, the Christian summer camp counselor, now, you know, the major in theology, you're describing, part of what was putting the repression in motion
Brian George 14:16
Coach Maddox 14:19
And it goes, it goes where it's worth saying that how do I want to word this? You know, when when we can't be ourselves, for whatever reason, and we're wearing social masks to cover up what we don't want people to see. Those social masks are not really anything anybody can relate to, except for another person wearing a social mask. Light acts acts like you know, when you got social masks on, you just attract people that have social masks on and between my masks and your man So that's a lot to get past to get through to actually have a real connection. As we become more authentic, we drop the social masks and we become real, we attract people that are more real. And that's when true connection begins to happen. And so what you're describing makes perfect sense to me, you had all this repression going on, you've worn multiple social masks throughout your life up until about two years ago. And so that really alienated the rest of the population from you, other than people that were very much like you and trying to connect with, with somebody like that's almost impossible. So once again, it's going to leave you exceptionally lonely. I think it's really important to call out here, because there's a certain percentage of my listeners that I know, are struggling with loneliness. Loneliness, is epidemic proportions, in the gay male community. Now, loneliness is everywhere. But I'm not addressing everybody, I'm addressing an audience of gay men. So I'm going to go home and talk about us. Loneliness is an epidemic in our community, it's even worse than it is in the strike community. There's been studies that have been done about this. And I think that the number one contributing factor to this loneliness is our either inability, or unwillingness to get real, to lower the social masks, and to be our authentic, authentic self. That's very scary talk to anybody that's lived it and and has actually made it through to a more authentic self. The thought of taking those social masks down is horrifically scary, to the point that some people never ever lower the mask ever, in their entire lifetime, they live their life out, wearing those masks, and they die with those masks on and we bury them, we go to the funeral and view them in the coffin with the masks on overdramatizing. To make it a point, make a point here, I just want my listeners that struggle with loneliness, to see how important this story is that you're telling. Gay men are many times over, more inclined to commit suicide than our straight male counterparts. And this is the number one thing right here is because of the isolation and the loneliness, even if we've come out of the closet, and we're fully out. I've been out of the closet for 41 years. And through most of that entire 41 years, I had huge social masks on was isolated, was lonely, had a gazillion acquaintances and no friends.
Brian George 18:05
Coach Maddox 18:07
always on the outside looking in was what you would hear me say, never, never felt like I fit in never felt like I belonged. And by the way, those are two different things belonging and fitting in are two very different things. And we'll leave that for another day. I touched on it every once in a while. But
Brian George 18:25
you're It wasn't until
Coach Maddox 18:26
I actually began to lower the social masks began to take down the fortress that I was living in, that some of the loneliness began to dissipate. I don't really consider myself a lonely person that I have lonely moments every once in a while. Yes, I do. I'm single and I live alone. So yes, I do. But do I consider myself a lonely person? Do I live in this lonely isolated space? No, I don't. But that's only come about. Because I was willing to walk into the fire. I was willing to do the work. I was willing to do that scary part of lowering the masks and letting people see who I really am. And this is exactly what you've done in the last two years now. Yours had a lot to do with the coming out. You just came out two years ago. And now in these this two years, or a little over two years. You have
Brian George 19:22
no it's really it's really only been about a year and a half since I admitted to my family and a very close friend. And it was really just this past fall that I publicly said to everyone you know, this is who I am. So so so I just wanted to clarify that a little bit because it's really not been all that long. You know that I've been out but but I do want to go back if you if you don't mind to the the mask concept. That's why I call that's why I call my blog hiding behind the smile My mask was a smile. You know, I knew very early on in life I wasn't fitting in I was different. People made fun of me, they teased me. So by the time I got the middle school, I finally figured out, okay, well, you can either be laughed at, or you can make them laugh. And so I would make people laugh, I became a class clown, I became a cut up, I came out of my shell, I was very, very reserved and shy in my early years, and I became very quite the opposite. And that's actually carried with me through my life now, but it's all around that concept of trying to make people laugh, so that they would never see the inside me. Yes, I never could, except if anyone thought I might be gay. I did things to do. To make sure it looked like the complete opposite. You know, if I would say something, I'd be like, Oh, my God, that was gay sounding. You know, I need to I need to counter that with something or, or, okay, no, I can't sit with my legs crossed that way, or whatever. Because while my mother sits that way, you know, you know, I can't do that. And so you know, all this turmoil and everything is building up inside my head. Some of the time I really got to even late middle school, early high school, I had built up that fortress, that mask so strong, that people just assumed that's who I was. They never saw the inside of me the turmoil that was going on. In fact, there was only one person that knew that that was an actual suicide attempt, in that summer of 1989. And that was my fiancee at the time. It was a rare moment in time where I reached out and admitted. And, you know, unfortunately, because people don't know what to do. And that's why I write a lot about how do you respond? What are the signs? We never got treatment, or anything we just kind of brushed it off of okay, well, that was weird. Let's go on with life. Well, no, it wasn't because all it did was lead to an entire lifetime of extreme depression, because of the turmoil going on inside of my head, because all the things that are floating around in there that I don't like about myself. And it got to the point where suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts were becoming so frequent, when I hit that spot two and a half years ago, that I literally, I broke down, and I said, you know, I cannot see myself living to my next birthday. And it was only roughly two months away. But, but I was so good at hiding this stuff behind that smile, or at least I thought I was because this turned out there a lot of people that saw gay aspects of me for a long time and wondered, or suspected, but But I finally hit that wall where I can no longer live the fake me. I can't do it anymore.
Coach Maddox 23:12
So I'm, I'm getting this message that like this intuitive message to call out, you know, our paths are similar. In some regards. We both experienced many, many, many years of isolation and loneliness. While I never attempted suicide, there were a couple of times in my life when I thought about it. One in particular, the most profound one was in 2005. When I was at the gym one day, working on one of the machines, you know, are working out. And I'm lifting the weights. And in my mind, I'm writing goodbye notes to my loved ones. And I just stopped pumping iron, I just had this oh shit moment, you're actually writing imaginary goodbye notes in your mind. And I thought, wow. And I just sat in silence for a moment. And I, the little voice in my head said you either have to change or die. And I knew I didn't want to die. So that only left one answer. And that was that I had to change. And I didn't. I didn't have any idea what that was going to look like. But I knew that it had to happen. And that's another whole story. So I won't go down that rabbit hole. But I think it's important to call out here. We as gay men so frequently if we're in that loneliness and isolation, it's very easy for us to believe that we're in that loneliness and isolation because we're gay. That if we were straight, we wouldn't be in this lonely and I loneliness and isolation and I don't believe that, you know, or are we We're we're this lonely and isolation because you Well, okay, let me back up. The thing that differs between us as we've identified, the similar thing is the loneliness and isolation. Yours appeared to be because you were not coming out, you know, you were repressing, I figured I would take this to my grave, I was completely out, and still feeling the loneliness and isolation. But the thing that we have in common is that we were both really cut off from any authenticity. And that's the point I'm kind of wanting to make here is, for those that are, are, are lonely, what if it's less about the fact that you're, maybe maybe the gay plays a role in there? What if it's less about that, and it's more about the fact that you just haven't gotten real with yourself or with anybody else? Because I know, and you can share your story, Brian, but I know for me when I started to take the social masks off, and show people who I really was. Suddenly, I had a circle of friends around me. I had people that were responding quite favorably to me, as soon as I just merely let them see who I was. And I realized, wow, you haven't had any fucking friends? Because you haven't let anybody see who you are. You've been invisible your whole friggin life? How can anybody like you, when you don't let them know you? It was a big moment. How does that land for you? I mean, I know that we've talked about this personally. But how does that land for you? When you think about? What was the biggest factor in the loneliness? Was it that you were gay and didn't know how to deal with that? Or? Or was it that because you were gay, you didn't know how to be authentic? I mean, one is a cause. And one is a symptom. Does that make sense?
Brian George 27:05
It is so. So it's a very, very complex issue for me. I had lots of friends, lots of people I could call on, you know, it goes back to those days where I learned to be the life of the party, I love to give parties. And so there are always people around me and a lot of people I would call friends. Now I had a very tight circle of what I would call my best friends. And that was, you know, a handful or less. And so those are the ones that I could kind of be a little authentic with, but I couldn't fully be because I couldn't have anyone learn that I was gay. And so, so yeah, there's a there's a lack of authenticity there. There's a lack of really being able to share to your deepest levels. You know, even my wife at the time, I could have never, never told her that I was gay. Oh, my God, you know, what would that do? My social standing would fall, my friends would disappear, you know, whatever. So. So I think for me, it really revolves around the fact that I couldn't be authentic with anyone. But the process of starting to become authentic, literally started about two and a half years ago. It was not my my last ideation, I actually had an attempt after this, that was near success. But you know, one Friday evenings, some circumstances happen. All the stuff that I hit in the back of my mind comes out, my self loathing comes out, you know, and I can spiral from I'm okay, I've got this life is good, too. I'm done. I'm out of here. Within an hour. I mean, that's how quick it was the in those latter days. I would, I would have thoughts of suicide multiple times a week. But But where where it went this one time is I had that Friday evening. My wife at the time was able to kind of figure out what was going on. The next morning, she recognized me preparing for the end. She put a halt to it. We talked it through, but I had a huge dinner plan. Dinner party planned that evening at a really nice restaurant in downtown Dallas for a bunch of our friends. And she's like, Okay, we need to go to the hospital that cancer I'm like, No, we've got this dinner party planned. I'm okay for now. Let's go. I somehow convinced her to go. We went. I literally not to boast myself up but I it was a great party. Everybody laughed. We all had a good time. It was just like air free thing was normal. I didn't sleep at all that night. In fact, I woke up very early and And I wrote a message saying that, hey, I can't do this anymore. My life is a mess. I struggle with depression and suicide. And most most everybody in my life did not know that even that was a secret that I felt I couldn't share because I would be ostracized. So I had an extreme fear of being ostracized over lots of different topics, being gay being one of the biggest ones. So I sent that that message out via text to my closest friends and some family. And then I put a post up on Facebook and Instagram that said the same thing. And immediately, people were like, What do you mean, you want to commit suicide this morning? You know, I was my one of my closest friends was, I was just with you last night you drove, you know, me and my wife home and you were having fun and stuff? How did you go from that too? Wanting to kill yourself? And I was like, oh, no, no, no, you got the story backwards, said I was going to kill myself Saturday morning, stopped. And then I went to dinner, had a great time, I had the fake Mian, I had the smile, I had that person that I hid behind. I could turn it on as quickly as I needed to. So that everybody thought everything was a ok with Brian, and that he just had a great life. When in all reality, it was quite the opposite. I struggled. I struggled with a lot of things in my head that we've started unpacking over the past couple of years. And finally, like I said, admitted about a year and a half ago that I'm attracted the man, I'm gay.
Coach Maddox 31:39
So Brian, what was the determining factor? What what I mean, after so many years, and so many attempts, and all of a sudden, there's just this turning point, and you admit that you're gay, you come out? What was the the determining factor,
Brian George 31:56
it was a slow process. So I meant to count up the number of suicide attempts I actually have. It's, it's over 10, I can't remember off the top of my head, I'd have to go back to my list. And when I, when I was nearly successful, and I came out of the hospital, I went into a very intensive outpatient program, and I was in it for quite a few months, I also found a psychologist that could challenge me, she's perfect for me to challenge my thoughts and make me rethink things. And so I was finally able to start peeling back, you know, I hate it. It's such a cliche, but paying peeling back all those layers of this onion. And so what we were doing was basically what I would call unpacking my closet, my brain because I stuffed a lot of stuff in there I didn't want to deal with. And so we worked through a lot of things that, you know, some of which I'm still working on, which is, you know, my whole concept of self worth, and, and the fact that I was sexually abused at an early age, and, you know, just all those kinds of things, we were hitting on those, and we were, they're pouring out, and I'm journaling, and we're talking through all of this. And it finally got to the point where, and I'm not proud of this, and I never would recommend this to anyone, but I actually had an affair before I came out, and it was with a guy. And that made me realize, you've still got some bigger issues that you're still struggling with that you still haven't admitted to anyone. And so I finally got to the point where I was willing to admit, I'm gay. Now, it's interesting, because we were talking about loneliness, and so forth, because I still feel lonely to this day. In fact, I feel more lonely now than before I came out because as I was getting my shit together over the past two and a half years, you know, after that, that attempt, where are the ideation I had, and then went to dinner that evening, so many people pulled in close to me, when they finally recognized because I admitted, I deal with depression and suicide I have my entire life. And it's becoming so prolific at this point in my life, and it's recurring more and more often, that I can't make it to that next birthday. A couple months later, people drew in people that I would call out on the fringe or stuff like that were checking in on me all the time. It was a it was a great feeling. It was a great feeling to know that I could be authentic with people, but I wasn't wholly authentic still. I in fact, I'm still probably not I'm still working on it. shoes. But, but when I finally came out to everyone that I'm gay, oh, people dropped like flies, I knew I would gradually have to make new friends. And I knew that in my very, very Bible Belt, conservative circles that I ran around, and that this was not going to be a safe topic or an acceptable topic. And I was surprised actually at how quickly people quit returning calls or texts, and just disappeared out of my life. And, and that's unfortunate, because I think that that fear right there, for a lot of gay men who were in my situation where they repressed it, and were hiding behind a whole life. That was anything but gay. I can't be the only one that feared that. And it, it actually plays out true in this instance. And so I'm trying to rebuild friendships, trying to find people that understand me and understand those experiences. And it's it's just really, it's, it's been tough. It's been a very tough couple years, struggling and dealing with a lot of things. And coming out to the point where I'm, I'm still the same level book cut up me. But yeah, I have a handful of friends now. And that's kind of it socially, you know, I don't have a large crowds of people that I hang out with, like I used to, because of all the things I was involved with.
Coach Maddox 36:37
Well, I personally, am quality over quantity that so that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Less people that you share more with, to me is much better than lots of people that you don't share anything with.
Brian George 36:52
I agree, but, but it's just difficult because my whole life, my whole life was spent behind that smile, there were cracks in it. There were times that I reached out. But my whole life was spent behind that smile. And the way that I coped a lot was just surrounding myself by people with people. And now to go from that to very, very quickly, in a very, I mean, golly, it didn't take but a couple of months, when I could tell who really was going to be in it for the long term and who wasn't to go from that kind of surrounding and and I'll just call it normalcy, because that's what it was to me, you know, just being around a lot of people, too. Now, suddenly, I've got a lot of time on my hands, I'm not going out drinking, you know, with my buddies anymore. I'm not, you know, going out to dinner with a lot of friends. And you know, it's just, it's weird dynamics, because, obviously, I have separated from my wife, I shouldn't say obviously, but most people do. And so, you know, a lot of friends are split, then they're like, how do we deal with this, so they just kind of disappear from both you. So to go from, you know, an environment where I was, more or less bolstering myself or finding some self value and worth out of that type of stuff to now I'm like, alone. That is tough. And I think a lot of gay men do struggle with that, you know, especially when it comes to the whole authentic relationship part. Just me finding people that understand my experiences has been difficult, let alone then finding somebody that I could literally share some of my deepest, darkest secrets with and fears and that's, that's tough. Because even when I was married, I couldn't do that with my spouse. I couldn't, because then she would know I was gay. She would know parts about me that I could not let come to the surface. I literally thought I would take my sexuality and who I really was to the grave.
Coach Maddox 39:23
And how did you muster up the courage to do what you finally did?
Brian George 39:29
It was all because of the affair. And once again, I never I don't believe in that type of stuff. It's not you know, from my perspective, I just don't think it's right. Because you've made a commitment to someone, but it happened. It lasted for quite a few months. And we started growing feelings. And so I called it off. And I knew at that point, it was time to Come on up. I needed to own up to the fact that I had an affair. And I needed to own up to the fact that it was with a guy. And I needed to just see where things landed. Just I had to I could not continue. I couldn't. I couldn't. In my head I struggled with, how do I even keep this a secret? And I don't like the fact I'm keeping a secret because that's not what I believe even still, to this day. That's not what I believe. And so it forced me out. It forced me out. Well, and not
Coach Maddox 40:37
a secret anymore. You just set it on a podcast where the whole world's gonna have a chance to listen to it. So
Brian George 40:43
oh, I've been I've been all over social media too. With my story and and stuff not on my blog yet. I I need to start writing about some of these things on my blog and my sexuality. I haven't taken it there yet. But But yeah, everybody that knows me. Yeah, if they don't know that I'm gay by now. They don't know where they've been. So yeah,
Coach Maddox 41:08
under a rock somewhere under a rock, you know, I want to speak to the the affair because, you know, setting if we set aside right or wrong, because it's done now. So it doesn't really matter whether it was right or wrong. It's it's its history. But it clearly did serve a very definite purpose in your life.
Unknown Speaker 41:31
It very that is it.
Coach Maddox 41:32
You know, if it hadn't been for the affair, as you said, you would have probably taken this secret to your grave, and you would have lived that. Live that repression to the end. Now I get that you're still struggling, I'm hearing that there's still loneliness and isolation. But is there some relief and not being just in, engulfed in that repression? You're not repressing anything anymore? Was there any liberation or freedom from that?
Brian George 42:15
Absolutely. So So even that, just the process of starting to deal with the turmoil inside of my head, one of which, you know, was being gay and, and not being able to express it or admit to it? You know, just even the process of starting to peel back all those layers and really process those thoughts and feelings and everything that would come falling out whenever I hit a low spot. I haven't had any suicide attempts in two and a half years.
Coach Maddox 42:50
Are you and any thoughts of it? Have
Brian George 42:52
you not really any thoughts? No. There are thoughts only because that's so much my history. And I would think about Wow, I can't believe you know, I literally was dead that last time. And they brought me back, you know. So that that's the only kind of suicide thoughts that are there. Yeah, I don't have ideations and I don't have a desire to kill myself. If you take a look, in fact, at the things I have gone through over the past couple of years, and admitted to and struggled with far smaller things, in my latter years here, would have sent me straight to suicide. Just because I couldn't deal with it anymore. I just couldn't. And so to get beyond that, and finally feel like I can be who I was created to be, is an intense release and relief. You know, it just, it's a game changer. I mean, you know, I know that's another cliche, but it really, really has changed me, you know, even some of my old high school friends and stuff like that. got together with some of them this past fall, when I traveled up to Ohio where I grew up and stuff like that. So many of them. Were like, you look so happy. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen you this happy. And I'm like I am because I'm not trying to hide anything anymore. I'm living my life. I am who I am. Take it or leave it. And I'm okay with that. I'm free. I started using a phrase last spring. When I came out to my wife. I said you know, I am finally free to be and I journaled extensively about it and then always, it was always free to be dot, dot dot, and I would fill in the blank with whatever I was feeling that day. I am free to be the gay me. I am free to be a better father, I am free to be whatever, grandfather, whatever, just because so much of that burden had been lifted off of me of all the stuff, all the stuff I was trying to hide.
Coach Maddox 45:16
Well, you know, now when you do have friends in your life even if it's much fewer, you know, they're there. Because they want to be fully knowing who you are.
Brian George 45:31
Coach Maddox 45:33
You know, I know, you've stated that you are still experiencing loneliness and isolation. And I guess my response to that would be that makes sense to me. There's, I think there's a little bit of a lag, you know, you don't, you don't one day, say, I'm gay, and you come out and suddenly you completely have taken all the masks away. And you're completely authentic. You it's a process. It's a process. It's like, like you said earlier, the layers of the onion, it's the layers of the mask. Absolutely, you peel the mask off that said, you know, I'm a straight man with a with a wife, and children and grandchildren. And then there's more masks that have to be peeled off. I've been through that process myself now.
Brian George 46:24
Well, for me, it's been about three years,
Coach Maddox 46:29
where I had my epiphany, where I realized that the, the not belonging was something that I was generating, I was this, the source of that not belonging. And once I got clear on that, I knew that I could do something about it. And I and I realized that it was about CMHC. My story is, in all these years, when I could didn't fit in was was on the outside looking in, I'm talking specifically about with gay men, I could be fully my authentic self with all of my straight friends and my family. And I had an abundance of friends. But they were all straight. Now I love my straight friends, don't let no I'm not discounting them here. I'm just saying that there was this point, when I realized that there was a need that I had could not be fulfilled by a straight human being. There was a need that I had to connect with people that had walked in my shoes, and I had walked in their shoes. And as much as I love my straight friends, they cannot do that. They haven't walked in my shoes. That is very true, this missing piece. And so I had this whole area of my life over here where I was fully out, I was fully authentic, people love me for exactly who I was. But it was all straight folks. And when I stepped into the gay community, I was on the outside looking and just no connection whatsoever, lots of acquaintances, no friends. So when I finally got clear, and started to lean into them, starting to peel the masks off the layers of the onion, whatever you will. It's been a process. It's taken time. But what I can tell you is the more you lean into that authenticity, it's got to change, it absolutely has to change it, there's no way it could and it's inevitable. When we get real, we start to attract real people around us.
Unknown Speaker 48:38
But absolutely, we do
Coach Maddox 48:39
that gradually, we don't just jump into the deep end of the pool. Most of us, even if we tried, we wouldn't know how to do that. You know, we sit on the edge of the shallow end and we stick our toes in the shallow end for a little while and then we wait around to the shallow end. Or we sit in the shallow end where the water is only waist high when we're sitting. And then eventually we start to go in the deeper or that's been my experience. I can almost guarantee you if you stay on the track you're on the loneliness and isolation is going to dissipate.
Brian George 49:14
It will and I know it will. Part of my challenges also, you know, give me the four steps. I'm gonna get them done and tomorrow will be better. You know, so I've got that kind of mentality built built in in the way your problem solver. I am a problem solver and I'm very good at and I get that's what I do for a living. And life just doesn't work that way though. So
Coach Maddox 49:39
I think life doesn't work that way because in order to do what you're talking about doing, you solved the problem when you realize that you'd had an affair Oh, I do have feelings for men. You came out you solve the problem. But associated with that problem or the Let it go, that problem came a whole series of skills that you had to build, to acquire. And skill doesn't happen like flicking a switch the solution, sometimes all of a sudden, you know what you need to do. But now you've got to learn how to do it, you've got to bring on all the skills on board to do it. When skills involved, you don't just solve a problem and decide I'm going to be a pro golfer, you go out and buy some golf clubs, and you go and return it. No, you know, you maybe you go by the golf clubs, but you practice forever before you ever before they even allow you to be part of a tournament. Right? Right, you have to build that skill and authenticity in a odd sort of way is a skill, we have to become skilled at being who we really are. Because it doesn't come natural, it came natural when we were children. Were born fully authentic for rice breast. But I and many of my listeners have already heard me say this, through the varying different messages that we get in our childhood, we get that it's not okay. And we eventually commit what I call soul murder.
Brian George 51:15
Coach Maddox 51:15
So murder, where we completely sever any connection that we had, with our most authentic self, we sever that. And then we live in this place of isolation and loneliness. And we live in this place of, of seeking, we're seeking something, and we don't know what we're seeking, we just know that something is out there that we need. And what it really is, is we need to reconnect with who we really are. And no, absolutely no amount of job titles, bank roles, no amount of fancy houses, cars, perfect relationships are ever going to fill that void. They can't.
Brian George 51:58
You and I have actually talked a lot about that. Because if you look at my life in general, especially even starting in that late middle school, high school era, you know, I took on a very preppy lifestyle. Look, why was that? Because those are the people deemed successful. And they had it all and all that kind of stuff. So everything was a very predominant label on me, in fact, that actually carries through to this day. You know, I could do away with that some of the expensive clothes I bought, but it's still it's still hard for me. So. So yeah, you know, you present that, you know, I've climbed the ladder, I've been a vice president before. I hated it.
Coach Maddox 52:42
Oh my gosh, on paper, you had the perfect life. On paper, I did have the perfect life. You lead it's houses drove nice cars, you had a wife, you had kids, you had the job title, you had the money, you had the travel, you had it all?
Brian George 52:58
You're absolutely right, we're misery miserable, miserable be because miserably,
Coach Maddox 53:03
none of that stuff, or even the people can fill the void of that's that soul murder that we committed. The only way we ever recover from that soul murder is to reconnect with our most authentic self. And there are people that will live their life out and die not having done that they know they're seeking something that they don't know what they're seeking. It's my personal belief that what we're all seeking, whether we realize it or not, is to connect with that beloved part of ourselves that was fully authentic and fully expressed.
Brian George 53:40
Yeah, just because just because you're out or something like that, as a gay man, doesn't mean you're being authentic either.
Coach Maddox 53:47
No, no. So thank you for saying that. Bri. orj.
Brian George 53:51
I just felt like I felt like I needed to only from the perspective of, you know, just because I've, I've come out I've still got a lot of issues I'm dealing with, you know, from my past and my history, it's going to be I'm not sure you ever are truly authentic, you know, if you're striving for it, you're constantly improving. You're constantly trying to figure out, you know, what do I need to deal with? How do I need to improve myself, you're always working on something like that. But
Coach Maddox 54:18
at least I've been out for 41 years, there's still things from my childhood and stuff that I'm still letting go of and identifying and overcoming and, you know, we have to do the work. If we're ever going to have a fulfilling life we have to do the work. And, you know, I just this is an area where I see a real deficit in our community and that there are so many men who are unwilling to do the work is scary, so it's just easier to lose ourselves in either drugs, alcohol, sex, it's just so scary that will resort to anything rather than actually do the work.
Brian George 55:05
Yeah, my, my psychologist, when I first started seeing her a couple of years ago, she was amazed that I was not an alcoholic, or strung out on drugs, or just on the streets in a shambles, just because of those exact types of things, you know, it's just, I had so much built up so much going on in my life, my personality traits, everything about me, you know, just would have led to self destruction, which in all reality it was, but it was via suicide instead of those other things. Well, and it was, it was via even certain ways I would kind of sabotage myself throughout life, you know, and, and stuff like that. And so overcoming all of that, and really trying to be that authentic you is, I'm convinced it's a lifelong journey. I don't know that I'll ever get to the end. But all I can do is one day at a time. Work on it. And be honest, and be real with people be honest and real, that I struggle, and this is what I'm struggling with. And, hey, if you're struggling with it, too, let me know, because there are a lot of things I've kind of already worked through in my life, maybe I can help, you know,
Coach Maddox 56:19
I really identified with something you said a minute ago, and that is you're kind of shocked that you didn't end up, you know, with with drugs or, or, or alcohol addiction or something that I too have many times in my life thought, Wow, it's really amazing that you have gotten this far. And you've never gone down that road, I've never gone down any of those dark pads. And I don't know how I've managed that. Because, you know, I've been through some pretty, pretty tough challenges and things that would made a lot of people turn to drugs, or alcohol or sex addiction or something like that. And I didn't go down those roads, and I'm not quite, I'm not 100% sure how I manage that. I'm grateful that I did but I'm not 100% sure how I manage that.
Brian George 57:07
So So I did, I did have, you know, my while I did not go down the drugs and alcohol path. I did have an extreme addiction to gay porn for a long time, you know, and so I do have that kind of predisposition towards those types of things. It just happened to be porn, in my case. And then suicide, you know, those were kind of my addictions to deal with your your escapes, yeah, those are my escapes. And those aren't healthy either. But they're just not as outwardly visible as some of the other things are.
Coach Maddox 57:44
So let's, let's start to bring it home. What What would you like to share with the listeners about Brian's life today?
Brian George 57:51
I'm very happy, I am the happiest I've ever been. I don't feel like I have to hide anything anymore. And it just creates such a better outcome for me. I want to live now I want to grow old. I never used to. And, you know, I just, it's amazing. I've gotten to that point. I'm just, I'm happy and I'm content with who I am.
Coach Maddox 58:18
Well, I love that you're really happy. And I also want to call out because you and I have had previous conversations. The listeners know that that doesn't mean that your life is not without challenge. You've shared some of what's going on with family matters with me. And I know that there's a great deal of complex challenges going in and you're on in your life right now. And in the midst of that you're not allowing any of that to prevent you from being happy. No,
Brian George 58:45
absolutely. You're right. You know, I just I have to deal with all those things as they are presented and make the best decisions I can for everybody involved. But it doesn't mean that I can't be happy. Beautiful. I'm my my life right now today, because I'm helping raise my grandson isn't exactly what I had dreamed it would be a couple of months ago. But I'm still very happy, very content, and very proud of who I am.
Coach Maddox 59:14
Brian George 59:15
It is huge. I've never been I
Coach Maddox 59:18
couldn't always say that good job.
Brian George 59:20
I never could have said that really and be authentic.
Coach Maddox 59:23
Okay, folks, this is a this is a result of Brian doing the work. I'm just putting that in there. Brian does the work. And he's getting the results. It's been hard. It's so let's bring it bring it home. I would love to know. What would you like to share and all the experience that you've had? What are the words of wisdom that you would like to leave the listener with?
Brian George 59:52
You've got to be true to yourself. The minute that you start feeling like you have to hide something or be somebody that you're not not, it's not worth it, it is just not worth it. And it could be as minor as you know, pretending to like something that you really don't, because some of your closest friends love to do it, you know, just just be honest with them, you know, doesn't mean you don't, don't go or something or if it's an event or something, but it's one of those things you've just got to be honest and truthful with people. And however they respond and react. That's their problem, not yours.
Coach Maddox 1:00:32
Beautiful. I love that. I love that. Thank you so much for that. So are you ready for some rapid fire questions?
Brian George 1:00:42
Probably not. But let's go for it.
Coach Maddox 1:00:46
Okay, what are you afraid of?
Brian George 1:00:50
Oh, wow. At this point, growing old and being alone.
Coach Maddox 1:00:58
Got it. If you could go back in time, if you had a time machine, and you could go back in time, and visit a younger version of you. What age would you visit yourself? And what would you tell that young you that you now know? And
Brian George 1:01:22
I know this is rapid fire. But I've written extensively about this. So I know this answer. I would go back to that lake middle school me who was standing there in the mirror loathing himself. And I would tell him, it's okay. You're going to be fine. You need to just be yourself. Let it all out. And just love yourself for who you are.
Coach Maddox 1:01:47
Beautiful. You know, I'm an empath. I can feel that right now. I can feel you right now.
Brian George 1:01:54
When I when I wrote that. I wrote a letter to my younger me. I struggled with it for a couple of years. And it finally poured out this past, I would say fall. And it took me so long to get there. Because I just couldn't go back. I couldn't deal with going back and trying to relive that. But there was just one night that I think I've shared it with you that the emotions, the feelings were so intense. As you know, this was more in the high school years where I was laying there begging and pleading, those memories and stuff just came flooding back so hard that I could even I could I could kind of sense. You know, being in my room, I could smell the smells of my room. It was so intense. And I finally, from about midnight to 4am just poured out the words of what I would tell that younger me and it boils down to exactly. Love yourself. Don't hate yourself. You were created this way, and needed to be proud of yourself.
Coach Maddox 1:03:02
You know, when you said those words of all the words were very beautiful. What touched me was the energy that I could feel coming off of you when you said that as an empath. I could, I could literally emotionally feel it. What? What a gift you just gave me that was beautiful,
Brian George 1:03:22
Brian, it's It's the passion that drives me.
Coach Maddox 1:03:24
Yes. And final question. What is the one thing that you most wish that you could change about the gay male community?
Brian George 1:03:35
Oh, wow. Um, so So I'm relatively newly out here. But there are probably several things I'd want to change. One of which is just even my age. I'm mid 50s now. And I find it hard to find people my age, you know, because they're either in a committed relationship or they're just not going out anymore, or whatever. You know, and it's in and, gosh, you know, I was married for over 30 years. So the whole dating scene. Oh my gosh, that has changed. Yeah. So it's just it's just hard. It's hard. Getting out there meeting people. I just wish I just wish there were you know, easier ways maybe, you know, just to meet people and have fun and build friendships.
Coach Maddox 1:04:32
Yeah, I could do that. I think I could do that. And you know, I'm I'm 11 years older than you are and so I can certainly identify with there's this point where where do you go to meet to meet people you know, I'm kind of at a point in life were spending much time in bars is not really my thing. And this has been kind of an ongoing conversation and and I'm I'm getting a lot It'll better at it. But there's still room for improvement. And I'm not 100% sure what that looks like. But I too, I think would change. That's one of the things maybe I would would change as well. So well, this has been absolutely amazing. I am very grateful that you came on and shared your story with me and with my my listeners, it's been a real pleasure to have you here.
Brian George 1:05:27
Thank you. I've really enjoyed it. I didn't know where the conversation would go. But I just feel like it turned out where it needed to be.
Coach Maddox 1:05:34
I think so too. And I just want to honor your, your strength and your courage and sharing that story publicly, because I know that's a big deal. And there's one thing that I want to leave you with, and that is that, Brian, Georgie you are indeed an authentic gay man. Thank you.
Brian George 1:05:55
I am striving Thank you,
Coach Maddox 1:05:58
and it shows and it shows. Thank you, sir.
Brian George 1:06:02
Brian came out as gay very late in life. After a lifetime of struggling through depression and suicide attempts, Brian finally came to terms with and accepted his authentic self. His experiences growing up in a heterosexist culture resonates with many gay men. The pressure to be heteronormative overwhelms so many gay youth and men to the point in which they see suicide as the only option. Brian hopes to tell his story to keep others from this course and help them live an authentic life.