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.
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.