How Losing One's Mind Can Help You Find Yourself
By Carin Chea
LGBTQ and mental illness advocate, David Rabadi, is the epitome of how pain can be transformed into beauty.
Though we all need to believe that no hurt goes to waste (especially during these epically trying times) Rabadi goes beyond that and has allowed his struggles to evolve into new beginnings and lessons for others.
Rabadi, whose book How I Lost My Mind and Found Myself is available on Amazon, bravely chronicles his journey from abject fear to triumphant emergence into his true self.
The autobiography is a much-welcomed beacon of light during our current dark times.
What does a typical day look like in your line of work as a mental health and LGBTQ advocate?
I speak to youth and different organizations, helping fight the stigma with mental illness and the stigma of being middle eastern and gay. The violence is everywhere with LGBTQ people, and we've come a long way in America, but in the Middle East it breaks my heart that they're still jailing people for that and even killing them.
I also speak for NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness], going around to different colleges and organizations and share my story with bipolar disorder. I also volunteer at The Loft, which is an LGBTQ center. I speak to the youth about being true to yourself.
Helping others brings you more happiness in your life, knowing that you're bringing joy to their lives. I go around sharing my story because I want people to know that you can be true to yourself and live a life of respect. Educate yourself, be kind, an act with integrity: Those are my three main principles in life.
Tell us about growing up in a culture where coming out as LGBTQ could potentially mean death.
Being Middle Eastern and gay is very taboo. I was so scared as a child because I'd hear about people who were jailed after coming out or even killed. At home, I lived a traditional Jordanian life. I have 4 siblings, and my brothers are very macho, but I had a very feminine side, so obviously I'm the pink elephant in the room. But no one ever said anything.
I've always felt different and I knew what fear was at a very young age. There was no one else I could talk to about this. I didn't know anyone else who was gay. I thought that if I came out, they'd ship me out to Jordan.
I was a teenager in the 90s. I remember being in high school, feeling so uncomfortable with myself. I didn't feel that there was anyone else in my high school that was gay. So, I was very quiet because I was afraid of being judged.
I came out in the middle of a psychotic episode. I had walked out onto the divided line on the highway. I thought, "Yeah, I'm going to speak up for closeted Middle Easterners everywhere!" There I was walking, one foot in front of the other - the cop comes and says, "You can't just walk out on the highway" and out of nowhere was channel 12 news.
I see this film crew, and the police officer was dispatching for more help. Out of nowhere I see these 5 cops running towards me. They roughed me up, put me in the backseat of the car, and drove me to Valhalla Medical Center. That was the day I told my parents I'm gay.
How would you describe your journey toward who you are today? Who is your support network?
I didn't come out until I was 30, and that was thanks to a psychotic episode. I wish I had come out earlier because so much of my life was spent living in fear.
I was watching my brother's wedding tape the other day. I couldn't recognize myself. I was not living my truth. It's such an amazing feeling to live your truth and be true to who you are. There was a choice: I could live to be myself or die as someone else. I was cheating my family and friends out of getting to know who the real me is.
My journey has been a horror in many ways. For example, I was intimate with a girl, and I didn't want to be. That was a horrible feeling. I had a lot of fear starting from the age 4, when I was molested. A lot of my life had been living in fear and suppressed.
Now, I'm 41 and I still have to deal with issues: My dad is not comfortable with me being gay. He said that if I ever marry a man, he wants nothing to do with me. The most important person in my life is my mother, and knowing she loves and supports me is the most important thing. LGBTQ people have so much fear because they're afraid of being disowned.
There was one time when I was depressed for 8 months and was in bed for that time. Even in my darkest hours, I wanted to be an example to my nieces and nephews. Ending your life is not the answer. Someone out there always needs you.
I have a niece who was born deaf, and when I was struggling, I thought about all that my niece went through. I wanted to be strong for her. I wanted to be an example for her.
Tell us about your book How I Lost My Mind and Found Myself.
I lost my mind - I was psychotic, and then I came to terms with who I am in the middle of my psychotic episode. I had to live as I wanted to live as authentically as possible. That is the most rewarding thing: To live out your truth and be authentic to who you are.
There are some Arabs who haven't come out but have confided in me and say to me, "You're crazy for coming out." And I say, "That's crazy that you're living a double life, marrying someone, having kids, and cheating." I know their pain. They're nervous and scared. Who wants to be ostracized?
What do you want your readers to take away from your book?
When you are faced with challenges and adversities, you can get through this. Being true to who you are is the most rewarding thing in life. Don't get caught up in someone's perception of who you should be.
Who are your heroes?
I was asked that question before. I'm not being cocky, but I realize I'm my own hero. My older brother once said to me, "You know I always thought I had a hard life, but it's you who've had a hard life."
There was no one who held me by the hand and told me I'd be okay. I was in it alone. I do have inspiration, like my sister who showed such great courage. She married out of the Middle Eastern race.
She was the first in the family to marry someone not within her ethnicity. She fought for it. It was like World War III: She fought for it and got to marry the person she loved and gained the family's support. I saw her courage and she inspired me.
If you could go back in time and communicate with your younger self, what would you say?
Do not to be fearful of who you are and how you identify yourself. I'd tell myself to get rid of the fear and be brave enough to come out and live my truth. I lived the majority of my life suppressed and not being true to myself. I was denying that I was gay because I was scared.
I knew all the negative connotations of how gay people were perceived, to the point where I even thought of taking my own life. I never attempted it, but contemplated it because I thought my family would be better off. So, what I would tell my younger self is: Don't be scared of who you are.
I've just recently been able to be content with what I have. It's learning to be in your space, in your moment, at that moment. Not projecting your future or worrying about your past.
Are there any upcoming projects you'd like to tell us about?
I met this guy who has a production company, and we talked about doing a reality show. So, I'm writing a pilot for a reality show that follows my friend and I finding love in the city, and how we navigate life. It's called Being Gay in the City.
For more information, please visit DavidRabadi.com.
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