‘I found hope’: How coming out helped this gay singer confront mental illness

'I found hope': How coming out helped this gay singer confront mental illness

‘I’ve discovered the light of hope through my journey of darkness’ writes Leon Else | Photos: Provided

My whole life I’ve just wanted to be normal. For the pain to finally stop. For so long, the sadness swallowed and suffocated me. I was losing and drowning in plain sight. The darkness seemed like a normal state to me, having not known anything else.

My name is Leon Else and I’m a singer/songwriter living in LA, creating pop music. After struggling in silence for 27 years, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and have since come out as gay.

‘A glimmer of light came through a boy I kept as another secret’

My new music is my most personal to date. It depicts everything that I’ve been holding inside for so many years.

For so much of my life, I’ve felt I wasn’t good enough. I suffered abuse growing up that didn’t allow me to freely be myself.

But I worked hard and fought for a life of my own. I began to pursue music and eventually was signed to a record label.

I was living out my dreams of being an artist. Everything was falling into place. But it didn’t matter. I felt empty. I wasn’t expressing my true feelings in my music. And I felt like a ghost floating, looking dazed and lost. I was a volcano waiting to erupt.

Not only was I struggling with my mental health in silence, I had hidden my sexuality from the world. A glimmer of light came to me through a boy I kept as another secret.

He became my everything. All-consuming to me. But even though I felt my lovelife was falling into place, the reality was that it very much crumbling around me.

I had a plan to leave this world during this time. I had bought pills. But walking back to my hotel one day in New York, I decided to just kept walking.

‘I was diagnosed with bipolar manic depression’

I walked for what seemed like days. Then, peace came over me.

There was an air of calmness and tranquility and I saw myself in slow motion. Over the noise of my ruthless mind, I heard a faint voice speaking the truth. I didn’t want to do it. It became louder and clearer and I knew that that night wasn’t the night.

I needed a community. My manager knew something was going on with me and urged me to receive help.

This was the turning point. I came out to everyone. Dealing with the shame was incredibly difficult. It was difficult trying to process it, trying to help others process, while thinking you’re being judged.

I felt like I was standing in the world with no skin on. I was feeling everything so deeply.

Soon after, I went to see a psychiatrist where I was diagnosed with bipolar manic depression. My medication has helped tremendously. It literally changed me. It took a moment to find the right medications for me, but we got there. It’s still an ongoing thing you keep an eye on. I see my psychiatrist at least once a month and go to therapy with my psychologist once a week. It really helps to talk about anything that’s on my mind, a non-judgemental place that can also act as a soundboard.

This whole process has completely changed my life. To think I nearly took my life scares me. I hope this can inspire others to seek help, because it is there.

I chose to write my truth during this time. It became the first time in my life I was creating songs from a place of pure unfiltered emotion. It became my therapy. My lifeline. It helped me understand. Heal. Deal. Confront, and sit with all my fears, my worries, my problems. And learn to try and understand who I was.

‘I am also loved, wanted, and full of hope’

I dove into my darkness and began a process of healing with these words. My upcoming EP contains these songs. I hope they can create a space of love and healing for those who need it. And I want you to know – no matter how dark the world may seem, there is beauty to be found.

These new songs are a far cry from my previous work. I know it has not been what some of my fans were expecting. I just ask that everyone listens with an open mind. This body of work represents me. Who I am and what I stand for. I am proud of it and I am proud of myself.

One thing I have found is that in my moments of despair, when my mind is going a thousand miles an hour, when I want to destroy, cry, laugh, hurt – all of it – is hope.

Somewhere, hope has emerged. Sometimes more obvious than others but it is there somewhere. Even when you feel all hope is lost, it isn’t. You can change your path, your present and future. Look at how far you’ve come in life, and know that’s incredible.

‘Life can be wonderful’

I think to myself, you have withstood more than most and you are still here. I think that is pretty fucking amazing. What strength you have! Now is the time to harness that strength for change. Life doesn’t have to be exhausting anymore. Life can be wonderful. It’s a beautiful world, even if you can’t see it right now.

Please allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Leon Else. I am a survivor of sexual, mental, and also emotional abuse. I am also loved, wanted, and full of hope. My new music is for everyone who is struggling. I hope it touches your heart in the way it has helped to heal mine.

For more information about Leon, visit LeonElse.com.

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