Tag: depression

Transgender and Gender Atypical People Deserve the Simple Right to be Themselves

I knew that I was different from the boys around me when I was eight years old, and because of this difference, my childhood was filled with tremendous amounts of alienation and secrecy, as I tried mightily to be someone that I was not on the inside. This story is not atypical, and because of this shared struggle, many transgender people are victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and have one of the highest suicide attempt rates of any minority group at levels between 40% to 55% according to a recent in-depth inquiry into transgender peoples’ lives (Haas, Herman, & Rodgers, 2013).

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5 (DSM-5), transgender people who are not yet being treated for their condition are suffering from Gender Dysphoria. Gender Dysphoria is defined as individuals “having a marked incongruence between the gender they have been assigned to (usually at birth, referred to as natal gender) and their experienced/expressed gender” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). There are many different expressions of this condition from individuals who were born with a sexual anomaly such as intersexuality to those who merely enjoy acting in accord with the opposite gender’s norms but lack the desire for treatment.

Those that are distressed by their condition to the point of desiring to live full-time as the opposite gender may seek treatment via various means. They might require the use of cross-sexual hormones (testosterone for those assigned female at birth and estrogen for those assigned male at birth). Also, various surgeries are available to assist in these individuals achieving a body that more closely matches their inner perception of gender. When transgender people who wish to transition are treated for their condition, they no longer qualify for a gender dysphoria condition. Whereas the older versions of the DSM labeled transgender people as possessing Gender Identity Disorder (GID) for life, the newer manual sees gender dysphoria as a treatable and therefore suppressible condition.

This topic is highly controversial, and there are numerous opinions and positions related to transgender people. Often, these opinions come from non-transgender people. I can say that my inner life has grown immeasurably better since I transitioned 8 years ago. I have a sense of peace about myself that I never had when I was living as a man. Also, I know that the transgender people that I’ve met on my journey tend to be some of the most authentic and strong people that I know. Hopefully, with continued advocacy, we transgender people can attain the simple status of just being normal people who are allowed to be themselves from birth.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.

Haas, A. P., Ph.D., Rodgers, P. L., Ph.D., & Herman, J. L., Ph.D. (2014). Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults. The Williams Institute.

What I’ve Learned from Living with Chronic Illness

Antibiotics are chemotherapy. The word antibiotic means anti life. I have to take some antibiotics right now, and the side-effects are really heavy. I’m feeling very low and drained. But I think it’s the right decision, because I have prostatitis which is related to my fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS). I usually just kind of live with it and focus on the positive to not lose my personal power, but right now, the bombs have to be dropped to see if it helps. It sucks, but I’ll get through it.

Honestly, I’ve been thinking pretty heavily about my chronic illness. When I first got sick in my early twenties, I got a lot of resistance from the medical establishment and loved ones. I learned to sort of put it in my private life and not really share it. It’s a very difficult psychological balance to live in a fast world with a “hidden” disability. Our medical tests at present are very poor with detecting what’s going on in lots of chronically ill people, so often the medical establishment just defaults to the “it’s all in your head, take an anti-depressant, and deal with it” approach.

I deal with a ton of symptoms including: cognitive impairment, confusion, deep muscle and joint pain, intense fatigue, depression, anxiety, sensitivity, insomnia, and others. They seem to follow a very irregular pattern and always pop up at the seemingly worst time. It’s something I’ve had to shoulder silently for decades now, and I did reach a point two years ago where I was completely overwhelmed with my health and various other difficulties. But I reached my bottom, and I gave up. I acknowledged my powerlessness, and said “OK, I don’t have control of this situation, but I’m going to keep climbing no matter what. I’m listening and open to learning.”

Dealing with chronic health issues is a very complicated thing because often the best drug is optimism. When you have a poor self-image, a victim mentality, and a “the world is all against me” thought process, it can make you sick. I honestly believe, and the data backs this up, that a lot of my chronic health issues are due to a childhood of trauma and disempowerment. That’s not to say that there are not real, material things at work in my body, but the two factors go together.

My diseases and queerness and losing my children and everything else really broke me, and now I’m happier or more at peace. I don’t care about small things. I’m human, and they bother me, but I soldier on with an understanding that life is pain. I feel disabled in some way, and I have to do a complex set of daily adaptations to handle my various disablements, but that’s ok.

So, I’ve decided that my five year plan is to go back to school to get a Masters in Counseling in some capacity with a focus on the Psychology of Chronic Illness and start working in that field. I think I can help others find balance in a very confusing and overwhelming circumstance, and I feel a real calling to do so. Ultimately, I want to work outside of the medical establishment and integrate my alternative beliefs like the power of ritual and empathic therapy into my practice. But I need the paper to be a “real therapist.” 

There are often not any easy solutions in situations like mine. There is just work and balance. Maybe providence will smile on me, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. I know what it’s like to feel crucified here on Earth, and there is transcendence in letting go and accepting our limitations. There is a tarot card that keeps popping up for me lately: The Hanged Man. In most decks it shows a man hanging upside down, completely suspended and powerless. He has lost all of his earthly power, but in so doing, he sees the world upside down, and he has total spiritual clarity. Life picks us up and turns our lives upside down, and although I’ve seen great loss, pain, and trauma, I’ve grown to see divinity and feel a joy that never dies, even in extreme darkness.