The Dysphoria Trap III

dysphoriatrap

It´s been really warm today. I´ve spent most of it inside, waiting until the temperature drops, so I can escape my room and get some groceries. Since I don´t have a lot more to do and there are no more episodes of Last Week Tonight, I figured I might as well write the third part to the dysphoria trilogy.

In my first post, I explained how it´s possible to deal with dysphoria by distancing yourself from any mental associations your brain may create. Sort of observing yourself without judgement. This method requires that you either have or create a lot of mental fortitude, for example though meditation or working on your general awareness.

Testosterone lessened the dysphoria for me, before coming back with a vengeance and making it unbearable. With my body looking gradually more masculine, the zen-master approach no longer worked for me. The chesticles and genitals were a sore reminder of the fact that I was not born the way that I wanted to.

When the surgeon first declined my referral for top surgery, I flipped out and hurt myself quite a lot, wearing the KT tape way too long and also intentionally damaging those areas. Neither mindfulness nor being active, nor taking calming medication was helping anymore, so I resorted to the last option I had; going to the coffeeshop.

The coffeeshop here is a place where you can get not just coffee, but an array of weed and hashish. To any outsider it may seem strange that you can just wander around the block and buy some drugs, although in my opinion it is no different (even more benign) than buying alcohol or getting a prescription for antidepressant drugs.

I am not advocating that everybody with dysphoria just go to the dealer and buy soft drugs. After all everybody is different, and marijuana may or may not help you with anxiety. For some people, it makes anxiety worse. I personally am glad that I tried this last resort. It was the only thing that helped ease the extreme stress I was in.

Mission: Impossible II

jump

Usually, I don´t post pictures of myself on here, but I will make an exception. You cannot tell that it is me anyway; I´ve changed so much since the above moment, that people would not recognize me. Anyway, yeah. The above was my first skydive jump. I went static line, which means my chute immediately deployed as I fell.

In my quest to find out who the (offensive swearing) I was, I tried a lot of things. Skydiving was one of those things; I wanted to overcome, explore my horizons, and figure out what lay beyond. I explored the new-age hippie movement (basically woodstock 2.0), took flying lessons, and you know the rest.

I eventually found out what was missing from my life. As you know it was my own, unexpressed – and to some extent repressed – gender identity. When I finally found out, I mistakenly thought that I had reached the ultimate goal. More accurately, I did not understand that my goal was not an end-destination, barely a new beginning.

While testosterone re-aligned me with my true self, now more than ever I wanted to be free, to liberate myself from the 27 years in which I lived as a mere shadow of my potential. Despite the personal growth and the physical and mental changes that testosterone handed to me, my body gradually became harder to tolerate.

It´s this fight that I´m dancing with now, the challenge of living in a body belonging to the past, to some extent even feeling trapped in the past. I want nothing more than to break the chains and jump. It´s been much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Impossible to tolerate, even. And yet I am doing it.

I have a hardheaded, non-negotiable, and hard-line drive to survive. While paradoxically this is the same drive that often makes me hurt myself, and sometimes drives me to the very edge, it might just be the factor that ultimately enables me to endure. Rather than hope, it is the cynical nay-sayer in me, that helps me get through this.

Mission: Impossible

impossible

I have never watched this movie. Not sure if that´s a horrible thing and I should be somehow admonished for it. Feel free to tell me to watch it, if it´s absolutely essential to my western cultural development. But I do really identify with the symbolism of Cruise hanging either from a tower or almost falling from a plane.

I´m aware that I often describe my transition in dark, downhearted and sometimes despondent terms. Mostly, this is due to the fact that I am honestly not sure if I will survive it at all. I´ve been suicidal so many times since I came out that I lost count and often have to fight impulses to seek or inflict harm upon myself.

Friends and family telling me that “it will all get better soon” often means nothing to me, even though I appreciate them trying to talk me through it. When you are reliving abusive circumstances (in this case, my parents controlling my fate and ridiculing my efforts to survive), “soon” becomes a vague abstraction, a mere illusion.

For me, all that exists is this moment. It´s been impossible to step out of my mental frame, I just can´t do it. It feels as though I would be trying to fool myself, instead of being there for myself in the most difficult moments of my life. I don´t want  to escape to an imaginary future. I will experience this, no matter how awful it is.

In the past I often had an extreme feeling of abandonment. I once told my dad that I was suicidal, long ago when I was a child. He laughed in my face. It´s been hard for me to take my own turmoil seriously since, but I am decided that I will stick with myself through shitty times to the bitter end. I am not abandoning myself like they did.

Perhaps in the middle of all this negativity, suicidal thoughts, and fears, there might be a positive note. Not in a “don´t worry, everything will be all-right” kind of way, but more in a Lieutenant Dan Taylor kind of way, when he sits atop the shrimping boat in Forrest Gump, in the middle of lightning and storm, screaming: “this all you got!!?

Pain and Strength

alone

Before I start, you need to know something. This is not a post where I romanticize pain by saying that any hardship you go through, will make you more resilient. I went through a lot of traumatic pain in my life and it has not transformed me into an ubermensch who can handle the most difficult of hurdles.

It transformed me into a mess. For a long time, I was not able to handle anything. Chronic pain, whether physical or psychological, has a negative influence on the function of your body and your brain, and decreases your ability to withstand strong impact in the long run, rather than make you invulnerable to pain later on.

Having gone through physical and mental abuse does not mean that I can handle transition any better than those who are healthy. Transitioning does not make me any stronger than people who are not transitioning – and believing so is a load of horse-shit. All it means is that I will need to process this whole experience later on.

Transitioning, for me, is a traumatic experience. From day to day, I can´t be sure of my continued survival, and I inflict physical harm upon myself because I don´t know how to otherwise deal with the extreme stress that it entails. And I am not talking about taking hormones or having surgery. Those are actually easing the stress.

I am talking about the red tape. About being forced to undergo psychological screening, even if doing so triggers old traumatic experiences, about being forced to deal with dysphoria because gender  reassignment surgery is viewed with less urgency that say, genital reconstruction for a cisgender person.

If I survive this, if somehow I make it through, this is not a statement about my personality. If anything, it is a testimony to how ridiculously difficult transition becomes when third parties, such as insurance companies, are allowed to interfere in the process and demand that someone´s gender identity be psychologically tested.

 

Beneficial Rage II

roaring

Any negative emotion conveys power regardless of the message we choose to draw from it. If we merely accept that we feel insufficient or lacking, and project this unto other people – or unto ourselves, then hatred is damaging. If on the other hand, we choose to harness the hate and take a look at our selves, it can be constructive.

I´m telling you this because hate is a predominant topic in my life. I´ve felt hate very often. Most of the time, the anger and resentment I was feeling stemmed from being made to feel inferior and obsolete. As I internalized these feelings, it was easy to believe that I was truly inferior, and consequently hate the world for it.

The emotion of hate stemmed from a gut feeling that the world was wrong for putting me in an inferior position. And so, by accident, I had discovered my own truth: that the feeling of inferiority was untrue. The hate I was feeling told me that I should drop the idea that I was inferior and embrace my own power.

Unfortunately we are human and we never learn our lessons at once. Instead we stumble on and repeat the same old tired pattern until we´ve fooled and bruised ourselves a thousand times. Hence, despite these things I´m typing, I still deal with the same old tired emotions of inferiority and rage.

The difference, after taking hundreds of hits, is that now it takes me three months to recognize the nature of these emotions – instead of six months. And when I do, I can stop fooling myself and stop believing that I can be conquered by dysphoria. I can choose to look myself in the mirror and embrace the force of these emotions.

It´s a journey without end, for us to recognize and wield our emotions as a force for good, instead of becoming entangled in them. And while negative emotions can drive us to despair and even unto the brink of suicide, it is the same force that can give us that push we need to stay alive, and trust ourselves.

Beneficial Rage

kingofthejungle

Quite a while ago, I posted two posts that dealt with hate. In those posts, I stated that hate, as an emotion, is not always negative. The feedback that I got was (understandably) that hate is necessarily bad and that it isn´t constructive. I disagree. By this I do not mean that hate crimes are great and hating other people is fantastic.

No. I don´t mean that. What I mean, is that hate, as well as other overwhelming negative emotions, often conveys messages and insights to us. Most of the resentment, intense anger and hate we feel results from either suppressing ourselves (for example, denying our own sexuality) or being actively suppressed by others.

Hate and rage carry overwhelming power. And I mean overwhelming. They can be so devastating, that when people project their feelings of insufficiency onto the world, it often results in violence. Other times, the feeling of not being sufficient is projected unto ourselves and we direct this violence towards ourselves.

Nevertheless, if we choose to look into the mirror with witch these emotions present us, there is quite a lot we can learn. They tell us that we are actively ignoring or suppressing a part of ourselves; and that we are not harnessing the power of these emotions to live up to our entire potential. Instead, we use them to hide from ourselves.

The fact that people are scared of these emotions makes sense. Because – when we feel these emotions, we often feel that we are lacking, or criticized, or inferior, anything horrible and negative that you can think of. We actively judge these feelings of hatred and resentment and turn them into something that they are not – damaging.

There is one thing that is present when we feel intense negative emotion. Raw power and unfulfilled potential. Rather than letting them destroy our sense of self, and using them to inflict violence, we can wonder what these emotions are trying to tell us, and how they are trying to help. When understood and embraced, they show us who we are.

Being (Un)happy

sprinklers

I had not gone running in ages, due to my depression and due to the dysphoria. When I run, things shake (even when thoroughly packed in all kinds of wrap) and it takes a lot of willpower for me to ignore it. So usually I don´t run. However when on Saturday I went for a walk, I felt an urge to bust through the stagnation.

So the next day, all the time while hyperventilating and trying not to self-harm, I put on my running shoes and went. As usual when I go anywhere, I avoided the traffic and chose streets with lots of trees and shadows. It makes me feel better. Breathing in exhaust fumes isn´t my idea of a healthy workout.

I ran through streets bursting with bird song and spotted a sprinkler system with a reach too big for the tiny garden it was in. I ran towards it and waited for it to come my way. Big drops rained down on my head and my shirt. They brought back memories of running through my grandma´s garden as a kid.

They also brought back memories of enjoying sensations on my skin, the way I felt before extreme dysphoria. I imagined how wonderful it must be to have top surgery and run around in the rain. For a short moment I remembered that being alive can be great. Which is a feeling I haven´t had in a long time.

All this being unhappy is wearing me out. Though this year marks my thirtieth birthday, sometimes I feel as though I am aging much faster than time suggests. For example, last year feels like three years ago. It´s hard to fathom that back then, I wasn´t on testosterone yet. Time brought changes and a bunch of wrinkles.

I am hoping that I will slowly crawl out of the stagnation of mid-transition. I can´t wait to approach surgery and know that my body and my life will finally be changed for good. I have big plans for the future – when all this over, I want to go to wonderful places, where nature reigns wild, and enjoy the cr*p out of life.