I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories. Earlier this year, founder and Executive Director Nathan Manske and two companions successfully completed a four-month, 50-state Story Tour collecting LGBTQ stories from towns and cities across the country. They're pulling some of the most relevant, important and sometimes just enjoyable stories from their archives and sharing them with HuffPost Gay Voices.
Living your life openly and honestly as an LGBTQ person -- or any person, for that matter -- doesn't just lead to a happier life; sometimes it can actually save it. After years of hiding who she truly was, Ashley Jackson, from Brandon, Miss., was depressed and turned to what many people in her situation turn to: alcohol. As Ashley explained to me in her story:
It was easy to drink all the time, and that was one thing I could control in my life. I couldn't, you know, control the feelings I had for women, I couldn't control what other people would think about me being in a relationship with a woman, but I could drink, and that made me fun, and that made it easier to date guys, or to be in reckless relationships, and unprotected sex and being promiscuous, and all of these things.
On Christmas Eve -- Ashley's birthday -- a woman she was dating convinced her to go to another party after they'd been drinking. After an argument between the two, Ashley attempted to drive herself home.
I passed out, driving on the interstate. I was not wearing a seatbelt, and I fell into the passenger seat as I was driving, and I remember telling myself, "OK, Ashley, you're driving, you need to get up." And when I did that, I used my left hand on the wheel as leverage to pull myself up, and did that, and I jerked the car to the left and went over four lanes on the interstate and smashed into a concrete guard rail. I don't know how long I was there. I don't know who found me. But I ended up in the hospital for over a week. I had shattered my left ankle. I had 50-plus stitches in my face and had to move back in with my mom.
Facing death and becoming dependant on her mom again forced Ashley to face the issue that almost killed her.
If that's not a wake up call, I don't know what is. I realized I was hiding from who I was born to be, and I couldn't do that anymore. I couldn't live my life for other people anymore. And I told myself, "Okay, you're gay."
Submit your own story at ImFromDriftwood.com.
Follow Nathan Manske on Twitter: www.twitter.com/imfromdriftwood