For Orlando resident and pro-wrestler Mike Parrow, coming out to the public as gay was a long journey. However, in a candid interview the wrestler got personal about how his partner led him to accepting himself.

Parrow discussed the ups and downs of coming to terms with his sexuality with Gay Star News. The 34-year-old wrestler said it began with him realizing the distance he created in his romantic relationships with women.

“The older I got, the harder it got for me to have any kind of emotional relationship with a woman,” Parrow told GSN. “I would find ways to end it. I’d be like, ’Listen, I just don’t think you’re pretty.’ And I was kind of mean to some women. It’s wrong. And I wish sometimes I could have that back.”

Florida was where Parrow thought he could finally be his true self, but when he moved in his late 20s he was met with hate and criticism.

“Gay men can be the meanest, cruelest people you’ve ever met in your life,” he said. “I was ’fat,’ I was ’ugly,’ I’m a ’closet case,’ and at the time I was just looking to understand what’s going on. I learned you can get very much masculine-shamed in the gay community as of late, which is really weird, but it happens.”

The shaming and criticism almost pushed the wrestler to a suicide attempt and a trip to conversion therapy. The wrestler deems those moments as some of the most depressing in his life.

“I became massively depressed. Extremely depressed. I couldn’t get out of bed. And I knew what it was,” he said. “One of my major rules in life, my grandfather always told me, ‘If you need to lie, you’re already wrong.’ And that stayed with me: I was lying.”

However after meeting his now-husband Morgan four years ago, Parrow decided that the lies and hiding were over. Although the journey was not easy, the pro-wrestler is happy to be out and proud, especially following the tragedy at Pulse nightclub last year.

“That’s why I wear the 49. To honor them and be myself,” Parrow said. “To remind me that you do need to tell people. They do need to understand that not everybody’s the same, that everybody has a journey: You need to keep going forward.”