Wednesday, March 23, 2016

3-23-2016 Entry: Finding Reasons to Keep Going

Hello my darling readers. Yes, I am still alive and kicking. I know that I haven’t written in over three weeks, which is the longest I think I’ve ever gone without updating the blog, but I am back and will hopefully return to writing once or twice a week.

So, what has been happening over the last (almost) month in my world? Well… a lot of things but many of them were not good things, I’m sorry to report. A big reason I was not writing during the past few weeks was because I was terribly depressed. In addition to that depression, and in some ways also a serious contributing factor to that depression, was a marked increase in alcohol consumption. I was spending up to four days a week at the bar and each visit included a great deal of drinking. The alarming part of this drinking was the rate at which it was increasing and my seeming inability to limit myself or control the number I drank. Instead of going to the bar and being able to limit myself to one or two drinks, I would endeavor to do that only to end up drinking five or six drinks. And these weren’t wimpy drinks either; we are talking about Crown and Cokes or Long Islands here. For someone who drank maybe twice a month for years on end, drinking upwards of 25 in a week is a huge difference.

Worse still, and perhaps some of you are already aware of this, but alcohol consumption to that degree pretty much undermines my anti-depressant’s ability to work to the point of making it completely ineffective. In fact, that much alcohol consumption that often was enough to not only undermine the medicine’s effectiveness but was pushing me further into depression than I would have been had I just stopped taking my meds. So, what did that look like? Well, it is an understatement to say I was depressed most, if not all of the time. My degree of depression was so deep and powerful that it actually inspired a psychiatrist to coin a new phrase she is going to use with her future patients: The Pit of Despair or P.O.D.

You know your shit is fucked up when a practicing psychiatrist who has been doing this work for many years has to come up with a new term to describe how bad things are for you. Needless to probably say, I was deeply suicidal. Very, very, very suicidal. I spent days on end contemplating doing it; contemplating when, where, how, and why I was going to do it. It got to the point where I asked my therapist what I had to say to her to make her have to put me in the hospital for my own safety because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that myself. Ultimately we chose not to do that and we set up a safety plan that included me visiting the psychiatrist to evaluate my medicinal needs and me not being alone.

I cannot adequately express in words what it is like to see your therapist of nearly 18 months, who has never been overcome with emotion in the nearly 100 sessions, be brought to the brink of tears because of how worried they are for you. This person has been an amazing resource to me, has been an amazing ally to me, has been my one source of stability in a life that has been painfully chaotic over the last few months and I made her cry because she was forced to think about me killing myself and not being around anymore. I’m really not doing this justice, but she is trained (I’d know since I’m learning to become a therapist) not to become overcome with emotions in session, so when I saw the tears begin to form in her eyes, I knew things were serious. Isn’t it funny that that’s what it took to bring me back from the brink? It is just so ridiculous that I had to drive someone I care so much about to a practical breaking point before the danger really registered for me.

And that’s the thing about suicidality. In the words of one of my favorite songs, “The danger doesn’t register, the fear feels like an act.” I knew, cognitively and logically, why I was reacting the way I was to the events in my life (more on this in a moment). I knew I was being triggered. I knew that what I was thinking and feeling was really just a post-traumatic experience of my childhood trauma and the trauma of my divorce, yet I could not pull myself out of it. I could not, for the life of me, think or rationalize my way out of it. The thoughts were compulsive and continuous. Add to that compulsive and continuous thinking the fact that I live alone and spend a great deal of time by myself, and you can likely see how grave things had become. I could kill myself and there would be no one to stop me, no one to know, no one who could intervene. If I was going to do it I had the means, the opportunity, and the desire.

Thankfully I said something to someone. I told my therapist, and after that I told my friends. I made sure I wasn’t alone for several days until the new medicine that the psychiatrist prescribed had time to kick in. Additionally I have made the decision to stop drinking altogether, possibly forever. I do not generally have an addictive personality but I was starting to see how I was heading towards alcoholism. If it didn’t kill me by driving me to suicide I would have continued to drink more and more and more as I tried to numb the pain. The pain of what, I wasn’t sure at the time, but it was too much to endure without self-medicating with alcohol.

So, what was bringing all of this on? In short, dating. So much has happened in the last three weeks I’m not even sure where to begin but dating is at the heart of my troubles. I do not know what it was or why it was happening, but all I seemed to be attracting to me as potential partners were 24 year old walking disasters. It was a steady stream of people who were in even more chaotic or disrupted states in their lives than I was. Maybe it was my caring, kind, and care-giving nature that was appealing to them, or maybe I somehow gave off the impression that I was stable (which was not the case at all, as we have seen), but regardless of the reason I kept finding myself in romantic settings with people who had even less of a right to be dating than I did. Honestly, I shouldn’t have been dating at all, but we will get into that momentarily.

The girls that I was attracting to me were amazing people, honestly, who just were incapable of being something good for me at this point in time. They needed someone to take care of them because of their disaster-like state of being, and as much as I really wanted to do that I just couldn’t. (As an FYI I have a previously unconscious desire to save others because I could never save my mother from the pain I had to watch her endure) What I really needed, was someone to take care of me. I was in no place or state of mind to be able to carry the burdens of others, not unless they were willing to offer me the same degree of burden sharing. The thing about most 24 year olds, however, is that they do not have that capacity either because of a lack of emotional maturity or simply because they are not stable in their lives.

So, as I became involved with each of them in turn (there were a couple, somewhat simultaneously, and some that I didn’t talk about back in February) I was forced to watch these relationships, if we can even term them that, begin wonderfully only to implode shortly afterwards. They liked me. I liked them. We were attracted to one another. Things were looking like they had great potential for fun, sex, or maybe even love and then BAM!!! Something gets in the way and we are forced to part ways leaving me feeling rejected. I do not want to go into specifics because this entry would quickly become a novel, but each of these failed attempts at dating left me feeling more and more alone, isolated, and traumatized. I started to believe, as I’ve been fearing for many months now, that I was doomed to be alone forever. I started to hate my transgender identity and body. Even though that wasn’t necessarily the reason things weren’t working out, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that my potential pool of partners was limited a great deal by my trans-ness.

And that’s when things got to be their worst. That’s when the suicidality became something I was thinking about and contemplating and standing on the proverbial edge of time and again. The moment when I finally, openly, painfully accepted that I might have made a mistake. I think many transgender individuals go through this moment at least once if they decide to make a life transition as I have. The regret. That moment of wondering and being almost convinced that you have made a mistake by transitioning. I sat, rejected and depressed, looking back over the past year and what I saw did not comfort me. Since deciding to transition I have had so many bad things happen to me, and not small bad things either, but huge, life altering bad things. I lost my wife, I lost my job, and I have been on the edge of suicide more times than any other point in my life. Could I really say that I was happier now than I was before? If I’m not happier now then does that mean I am meant to be miserable forever?

That regret is made all the worse when the inescapable conclusion bubbles to the surface that there is no going back. There is no going back for me. I can never go back to living as Robert the man. I can never turn away from this path I’ve chosen and not even just because I burned the bridge to that life by coming out so publicly. I cannot go back to that life because I wouldn’t be able to stomach it long enough to survive the de-transition. The shame and humiliation would drive me to self-inflicted death faster than you’d believe.

 I can’t go back to being married to my ex-wife because even if I became Robert again, she wouldn’t have me. I would lose most of my friends and the respect of so many. I would confirm the suspicions of those who were skeptical all along that this was just a phase and that I never really meant it. The inescapability of this situation can be a crushing weight to bear sometimes.

And that’s when it all came crashing down. That’s when it became so bad that I could hardly bear the thought of living another day. I saw no hope for my future, no conclusion that was worthy of sticking around for. I was miserable in this new life just as I had been miserable in the one before, and so there was no option besides throwing in the towel. I was done. In the words of Bill Paxton in Aliens, it was game over, man. I held the knife to my wrist and I contemplated how much pressure it would take to make it all go away. I just wanted it to end. I wanted the pain and sorrow and disappointment to end. I wanted to be done, to rest, to not have to carry around this awful burden of being a freak of nature that no one wanted. I was tired of having bad things happen to me and wanted to escape the future traumas I would have to endure…

The danger didn’t register and the fear felt like an act.

I stared at the semicolon tattoo on my other wrist as I held the knife and tried to remember why I didn’t go through with it last time. Why had I chosen to keep going when everything since then has been such a shit show? “Maybe I really did kill myself on October 30th and I’m in hell already and just don’t know it,” I woefully thought to myself.

I couldn’t remember why I made that decision before. I didn’t know why I’d decided to live instead of die. I couldn’t see how that was the right choice to have made given everything that’s happened since then. Sure, I had friends and a social life now, but who cares? I was doomed to be alone and if I had to be this alone how could any of it be worth it?

I pressed the knife harder into my skin and felt the blade cut through the very outer layers of my skin, but I stopped. Why? I honestly don’t know. I think there was still some part of me that was sane, some part of me that said we shouldn’t be doing this even as everything else inside of me wanted to do it more than anything else. That small sane voice cried out over the chorus of voices telling us to go through with it and pleaded that we needed to go to the hospital. The chorus of voices shouted that we wouldn’t do that, we wouldn’t make that choice. And so there was a debate that happened and eventually we decided that we would ask someone else to make that choice for us. Somehow that felt less like admitting defeat and so we put the knife down and proceeded the next day to ask our therapist if she would put us in the hospital.

Long story short, I have been place on two new medications that have leveled me out quite a bit. It’s odd to wake up and be happy about being alive. To have something shitty happen and have it brush off our shoulders with relative ease instead of sending us into the dreaded P.O.D. It’s amazing to feel the difference between what healthy and stable brain chemistry feels like and what very dysfunctional brain chemistry feels like. It’s like we are walking around most of the time beaming sunshine and love. We are eager to be here, eager to be alive and hopeful about the future. We made the decision to give up drinking and that has only helped to stabilize our day-to-day level of functioning. Sure, there are still brief periods of depression or crying about sad things, but they come and go. They do not linger for days on end plunging us into the darkest and loneliest of holes.

In our newfound levelheadedness we came to a few different conclusions about why we have been struggling so much. We said earlier that we shouldn’t have been dating at all and there was a good reason for that. As much as we tried to convince ourselves otherwise and as much as we didn’t want this to be the reason we were dating, the simple fact of the matter is that we were trying to replace our wife. We were trying to replace Sarah because we missed her dreadfully. The last time I wrote an entry was her birthday and ever since then we have missed her more and more. Realizing that our desire to find a partner was a desire to replace something that was missing freed us from the compulsive nature of our dating practices. Nothing could replace our marriage. No one could replace her. There was no way to fill in the gap that she’d left behind after the divorce with someone else. The only way to do that was to fill it in ourselves. We had to love ourselves enough to compensate for the loss of our wife. We had to take care of ourselves. We had to be alone, as much as loneliness is a dreadful condition, it is requisite at this point in time.

(It occurs to us that we may not have told you about how we ended things with Rose, but she and I are no longer involved with one another beyond simple friendship. There were a lot of reasons we chose to do that but suffice it to say that the relationship was no longer serving us in the way we wanted or needed, so to continue to carry it on would have been inconsiderate of both her and us).

The next conclusion we came to is that when we do begin looking for a partner/partners, they will be older or at the very least, more stable and mature. We do not have the capacity right now to care for others in the way many of these disaster 24 year olds need. We need someone who can be a source of stability for us as we attempt to put ourselves back together. We need someone who is mature enough to be able to communicate effectively and can commit to things in a mature and consistent way. So much of our attraction to Rose was her ability to be a mature and effectively communicative person. She was not one to devolve into immature reactions or contradictory/flakey actions when things got hard or intense. She was wonderful in that way and that is why we wish to continue to be her friend as much as we can be.

The final conclusion we have come to is that there is too much we have to offer this world in the realm of transgender and queer activism to give up now. Perhaps it sounds self-important but we know that we are an asset to the LGBTTQQ2 community and without us, many things that must be done may never be accomplished. Even just yesterday we gave a two hour presentation in our multicultural therapy practices class on counseling queer and transgender individuals, and while we cannot be certain how long lasting our message was to our classmates, the simple fact of the matter is that were any other person in that class to have given that presentation it would not have been as impactful. There are now nearly twenty future therapists who have been given a very unique and powerful peek into what it means to be queer and/or trans* that will be much more capable of adequately helping any queer or transgender clients they encounter than they would have been otherwise. I cannot promise they will be the very best at it when the time comes but I can promise that they will go into it remembering that gender and sexuality are social constructions and that they must be mindful of how they approach those who transcend, break, or ignore those constructs.

Earlier this week another opportunity to be an asset to the community was presented to me and I took it graciously. A transgender woman has very recently moved to the twin cities area and I met her the very day she moved. Her conditions are not good. Her living situation is not good. She was at a breaking point of despair because of the terrible things that have happened to her and I was provided the opportunity to not only become a valuable friend (she’s even asked me to be at her wedding) but to give this person shelter in a desperately needed way. When she was at a point of nearly wanting to give up I was able to provide a sense of hope and stability for her that cannot be undervalued. This has inspired me to try to continue this work in other ways. There is a non-profit program that has just started and it is a housing program that takes in and helps homeless LGBTQ youth. One of my friends knows the head of this program and with her help I am going to try to get a job with this program. If I cannot find a job with them I want to at the very least volunteer for them.

Maybe it is vain to say but I have chosen to live because the world needs me. There are people out there that need what only I can offer and I must be around for them to have access to it. Although I couldn’t access the thought at the time, I chose to not give up, to not keep pressing that knife into my wrist until it hit the veins because I knew that the world needed me. I knew I had to be strong because there are others out there who will need that strength to help them through. This world needs more visible, active, and empowered queer and trans* people fighting the good fight, because there are so many invisible queer and trans* people struggling to survive in a system that oppresses and delegitimizes them. They need allies. They need examples. They need resources and they need therapists. I can be that for them, and because I can be, then I must be.

If you are out there right now, thinking about giving up the way I was, I want to urge you to reconsider. I will not promise you that life will be easy or convenient because the harsh truth is that it isn’t, especially if you are LGBTTQQ2, but I will promise that you will be stronger for your decision not to give up. I know it’s hard. I know how lonely it can be. I know that death might sound like a great vacation from the bullshit of this world, but this world needs you. There are things that only you can do, be, or accomplish. We would all be lesser without you around. If you feel like you have no one to talk to, no one who understands, you can always email me or reach out to a crisis line. Don’t suffer alone. Don’t hold it all in. Maybe someone else won’t fully understand but they should at least know that you are in pain. You might be amazed at how much love will be offered to you when you share your sorrows with others. If you’ve ever seen the movie Inside Out, then you know that sadness is an important emotion because it allows us to reach out to others. Don’t ignore your sadness by isolating. Embrace it by allowing it to do what it is supposed to, to elicit the help and care of others.

As I said before I will endeavor to return to my once or twice a week entry writing, but just know that I’m still here, I’m still kicking, and I’m still going to be rambling on about my crazy ass life.

With love,

-Emma

P.S. I totally have dark purple hair now! And I love it!