Undrowned


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Living with intense anxiety my entire life, I learned to avoid a lot of things.  The biggest thing I avoided?  Risk.  Everything in my life was divided between “inside” and “outside”.  I drew a circle around myself.  A very small circle.  This was my safety perimeter.  This was my inside.  Everything outside of that circle represented danger.  Basically, the rest of the world.

Growing up, I developed a lifestyle of strategies to manage those risks.  I stayed close to home, figuratively and literally.  I avoided any situation or circumstance where I had to venture out alone or exist independently without my safety-blanket of the familiar.

As  a kid and a teen, I was able to get away with this, because my life pretty much existed within my family circle.  And I fostered it by sticking close and never letting go.  But after high school, my carefully pinched life began to fall apart.  My anxiety increased, because now I had to deal with adult things.

All this is a long preamble to one of the reasons (and there were many) that it took me so long to transition.  My delay involves more than confusion about gender, sexuality, or self-identification.  The fact is, I’ve always been an emotional mess.  I was just able to mask it by doing all the “normal” things “normal” boys  were  supposed to do.  Except I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a boy and, as I grew older, had absolutely no inkling of how to be a “man”.

Hitting my twenties, I found myself unable to work, unable to make friends, unable to have any romantic relationship–and to be clear, that means not just emotional intimacy, but also sex.  Never.  Ever.  Not once. To this day.

So by the time all my peers were working, finding partners—living adult lives—I was essentially surviving on wishful-thinking, even as I grew more fearful of the world.  I drank in secret and I told no one else about my worries.  I never left home.  I hid.

When I was twenty-four, after a summer of anxiety and paranoia (basically going crazy without anyone knowing it), I attempted suicide by cutting my wrist.  After that, I settled into decades of depression, anxiety, self-medicating, and avoiding having a life.

Until now.

But the secret is, transitioning isn’t simply about one thing.  It’s about a lot of things, all of them interconnected.  I had to deal with my life-long depression and anxiety before I could deal with all the medical and mental issues transition brings.  Last November, after two years on Prozac, the desire to affirm my true gender overwhelmed every sense of my being.  The thought of it made me so happy, so ecstatic, that I wanted to cry.  All the time.

I guess my whole point is this:  I never thought to myself, “Wow, if I could be a woman, all my anxiety and depression will end.”  Quite the opposite.  It wasn’t until I had dealt with my anxiety and depression that I finally realized:  “Wow, I’ve always been a woman–now I can deal with it.”

It’s a lovely thing to realize.


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What’s The Narrative?

All trans-narratives share pieces of a common story, but all trans-narratives are not the same.  Class, color, economic conditions, and age–all these things matter.  My personal history is shaped by my place in society.  I do not face the same set of obstacles that many trans people face.  I haven’t had to deal with rejection from my family–rejection that many people are left to deal with.  And I have access to health insurance and a place to live.

It’s hard to realize the amount of grievous loss suffered by many people who come out as trans.  Love, work, friends, home—one or all of these things could be gone in a flash.   I’m someone who’s had a great deal of support during my transition.  My family is 100% on my side.  I have a great therapist.  Due to a history of chronic social-shyness and anxiety, I have limited social contacts.  But the friends I have, they remain true.  In short, there are many bad situations I haven’t had to navigate–at least for now.

Not to say it’s all rainbows and unicorns….

Sometimes it’s hard to realize the amount of losses that can’t be seen.   I count myself lucky to be alive.  (There were several times when things could have ended for me).  It’s scary when I look back at my life and realize how much time was spent waging internal battle with myself.  This was my biggest loss, my biggest struggle.  And it still is.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but there are still times when my self-esteem and sense-of-self go crashing to the ground.

After that, rock-bottom could be just a short trip away.

That internal struggle for self-identity is perhaps the one absolute thing that all trans-narratives have in common.  At least that’s what I believe.   Keep mind, I speak for myself and for no one else.  So, whenever I write from my own experience (good or bad), I don’t mean it to be universal.

But in this case, I’m pretty sure it is.