Londoner James Kelly opens up about how feeling that he was never good enough for men led to him self-sabotaging relationships and reveals how an attempt on his life was the wake up call he needed to live a happier life….
No matter what people tell you or how happily they appear to be living their lives on Instagram, every one of us experiences a turbulent life journey. Sadly that’s just the way it goes. But for many of us, these experiences are character building and help to develop us as individuals and to discover things about ourselves that we didn’t know. Sure, it’s pain in the arse to have to endure these shitty moments, but once we reach the other side we are filled with feelings of accomplishment and self discovery.
Here, handsome video editor James Kelly opens up to GuysLikeU about how his feelings of abandonment as a child led to a series of doomed relationships and how he managed to finally take control of his life.
What were you like as a little boy.
I had an average childhood. My mum was a single parent and I was an only child so I didn’t have a father figure in my life. My influences in my life were my mum, auntie, nana and grandad. It was a fierce united family until my grandad left for an American woman when I was about four. He moved to the deep south, USA and we don’t speak to him anymore. When I became proud of my sexuality I decided to remove him from my life because he was also homophobic and racist. I also didn’t really see him much growing up, maybe three times in the space of ten years. So both male figures in my life were kinda non existent.
When did you realise you were gay?
I think I knew from a young age, but it wasn’t until I fancied one of my school friends that I was like – ‘Aah, okay here it is.’
How did you come out – what were the reactions?
I came out to my close friends first, they were all supportive. I did that kind of bi-transition that some of us go through, but after a first failed attempt at sleeping with a girl, I decided to put the sex thing off for a while. It wasn’t until I got to university when I started hooking up with guys and found out who I really was.
And did you keep this to yourself?
I hadn’t yet told my family by the time of me graduating university. I had a boyfriend at the time, and my mum was visiting me for graduation. I sat with a friend contemplating how to tell my mum and she said – ‘just call her!’ My friend went to the bathroom and I bottled it and sent a text… my mum was more than okay with it, she said she kind of knew already!
Were you looking for a proper relationship at this stage?
I didn’t really know. I knew I liked this guy, and I thought to myself at 22 it was time to give the relationship thing a go. We lasted about 20 turbulent months. There were big arguments, but a lot of good times too. I definitely don’t believe in the perfect relationship, I think to believe in the perfect relationship is naive and a recipe for disappointment.
Have relationships been difficult?
I think each relationship has taught me something about me, something about how I am – something about what I want and how to treat people, each time I learn a little more. The reality of this first relationship was that we just didn’t fancy each other by the end of it. We remained friends, until his new boyfriend was uncomfortable with it and we cut contact.
You dated another guy who wasn’t out – how did that affect the stability of your relationship?
When I was working in Canada I met a guy at the bar I worked at, he had a girlfriend who was moving to Scotland so they decided to split up and remain friends. Somehow, and I still don’t know why to this day, we ended up getting together. He wasn’t out, to anyone, not even a best friend. So we really had to keep things secret. By this point I was proud of who I was. On Christmas day he invited me to his family dinner as his ‘friend’ and we would sneak off to the basement to kiss. It was all very sus! His girlfriend came back and visited and she stayed with him, they were sleeping together again. By the time she had left, I hadn’t seen him in two weeks and I told him it was ‘me or her.’ I should have probably nipped it in the bud then, but I didn’t want to.
And who did he pick?
He chose me. I thought from this point it’d get better but he was struggling to come to terms with what was happening and we couldn’t maintain a healthy enjoyable relationship. I ended up leaving the country (I wasn’t being dramatic, my visa was up!) and we have remained friends.
How did that experience make you feel about yourself?
It made me feel worthless, as stupid as it sounds, I felt like I wasn’t good enough for him because I wasn’t female. I know, ridiculous right? But we had this deep, intense connection, physically and mentally. Each week would be another argument because he would make me feel ashamed of myself or like he was embarrassed of me or the situation because we couldn’t be together in public. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I wasn’t in a place where I could be with a guy who hasn’t yet come out, I didn’t have the belief of trust in relationships to do so.
After this guy did you fair well with relationships?
Not until my most recent one, each one turbulent, I wouldn’t trust, and when I finally did trust, I was cheated on which would send me into a downward spiral. I won’t put all the blame on those guys, I had my own demons. Fundamentally, I didn’t love myself.
How did these bad relationships make you behave?
I would act out, especially when drinking, purely because I didn’t trust them. I thought they were going to leave me all the time, cheat on me, wanted other people but me. I didn’t think I was capable of being loved, why on earth would they want me? I’m not good enough, never have been, never will be. Because I didn’t feel good enough – I believed that someone else better would come along. Because of this I would self-sabotage my relationships, guys would like me, we’d have a lot of fun, they would fancy me. Then one little blip – they didn’t reply, they liked someone else’s picture, honestly petty, small, ridiculous stuff would send my mind spiralling into these worst case scenarios. I would go over them in my head. I’d tell myself, ‘don’t get in touch with them,’ ‘you’re over-reacting’ and then an hour later I would send a message ‘I think we should stop seeing each other.’ – Because that would give me at least a small sense of relief. It was over, I didn’t need to think about them anymore. It was the only way I could get to sleep sometimes. I knew that this wasn’t about them and about my head, and my insecurities, so I made an appointment with the doctor.
What did you tell the doctor?
I explained everything going on and he referred me to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as well as getting me started me on some anti-depressants. The CBT did well for me, they work through exercises with you to retrain your mind to think differently. All was going well – until my boyfriend at the time cheated on me, with a random in a tent on a camping trip. Gross. It all went out of the window, my trust issues flared back up.
Did you feel suddenly better or was it a difficult process to recovery?
It was a good feeling to know I was doing something about it. I didn’t start to feel lots better until I talked to people about it, friends, and it was fascinating and reassuring to know I wasn’t alone, so many people I spoke to told me that they too had had therapy, that they suffer these insecurities and anxieties. Just by talking to people, I felt safer, and more like I was wearing my wounds rather than hiding them. I’ve been open about my past issues ever since. But there was a period of time when I thought there was no way out and I did something stupid.
Unfortunately I attempted to take my life. I took a lot of painkillers that I found in the medicine cupboard of my shared house. I took them all and I called an ambulance soon after. It arrived and I was unconscious. My housemate was in and opened the door not knowing I was even in the house. It’s something that I still to this day cannot believe I did, and looking back now it sounds like someone else’s story when I think about it. Sometimes we all go to really dark places, and when it gets too much we just want out. It got too much, I felt like I was going through my adult life failing with family, friends, relationships and I didn’t see a point anymore. I didn’t want to fight anymore.
Was it a wake up call.
It was the biggest wake up call of my life. As soon as I was done moping about the situation, I jumped onto my feet and said ‘no more’. I was back at therapy, I gave up on relationships for a bit whilst I got my head into shape, I worked hard, I got a personal trainer (this was a massive help for my mental health.) I quit my miserable job in sales and began my dream of working in television, and I turned my life around.
How do you cope now?
Following the therapy I continue to eat as healthy as possible and work out, spend time with friends and keep my priorities in order. It sounds simple but a routine is key, and I always know that I have people to talk to, who understand, that’s also really important. I’m off medication now but sometimes I do still have to remind myself to love me and not to worry about other people’s actions, and trust in your own actions. I’m much less of a worrier than I was.
Are you in a better place?
I’m in such a good place now, a really strong place. It’s almost like my suicide attempt kicked me into gear. Not that I would ever want anyone to do that as a means to do so, but it was the wake up call I needed. I learnt to love myself, and know and understand that it is perfectly fine and very fun to be on your own and single. I started to think the prospect of a relationship was a bonus to your life, not a necessity. From having so many people walk out on me in my childhood, I had to realise that it’s okay to leave the past in the past, and don’t let it define your future.
Is finding love still the goal?
I have found love, and we are each others rock, we understand our issues and we talk about them whenever we have a problem. There’s no more jumping to conclusions or fighting about things that may never happen. We’re living for today and the future, whilst keeping the lessons of our past close to our hearts, and we’re very happy.
Do you think you could deal better with a cheating boyfriend?
I know now that I would be able to handle this. Naturally, I’d be very upset – but I have my self love and I’ve learnt from previous relationships and by the suffering of my own hand that if you can hold onto your dignity, you can hold onto your self.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Exercise will keep your head as clear as possible, and give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself and love yourself before anybody else. Bad things will always happen, it’s life and its unavoidable. When bad things happen or when you start to get anxiety. Take a breath, step back and analyse the situation. Keep your dignity where you can in situations and be the better person. People will try to bring you down – it’s up to you if you let them.
Is hard to be gay in big city like London?
Gay London life is amazing, perhaps one of the best scenes in the world, a great community. But it can become addictive in all the wrong ways. We try to keep up with the Jones’ romantically, socially, on social media. We want to look our best all of the time and put ourselves down if someone has an extra ab than us. It’s natural I guess, but it’s draining and it’s bad for our mental health. I got caught up in this. I got out of it by removing myself from social media, understanding that you don’t need to be everyones friend, you can have a close core group of people who you have a mutual care and trust with, and this can be fulfilling. You cannot hold a healthy relationship, be it with a partner, family or friends if you don’t take care of yourself first. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason, because its true.