A few notes before getting into it… For one, if you’re someone who is affected by reading content that deals with topics like mental health struggles, etc. I would urge you to excercise some caution in reading ahead. There’s nothing that I describe in here that is particularly vivid or egregious, I promise. However, I understand that sometimes certain topics can be sensitive for some people, so I wanted to mention it in advance. Secondly, and completely unrelated, but I had planned on embedding music links in here to break up some of the passages, but I’m finishing this up on my phone while I’m at work and I wanted to post it today, so I’ve had to forego that idea unfortunately. If you’re someone who really relates to things through music, I can send you the links I had intended to include separately. Maybe I’ll even just include a link to a public playlist if I end up making revisions anyways. That being said, I began work on writing the following several months ago, which is why the “narration” starts in August. Today, October 15th, 2017 is a significant day for me, and it might be clearer as to why after reading this.
Today is Tuesday, August 15, 2017. I am laying on my bed listening to The Disintegration Loops by William Basinski. 24 hours ago now, at the time of writing this, I was listening to the same piece of music while I got in a minor car accident in which I was at fault. It was my first and hopefully last accident. In the last few weeks, I have been late to work several times, and missed an important appointment, feeling as though I’ve been “off by a day or two” for a while. “Foggy” is how some might describe it. “Scatter-brained”, “out of sorts”. I’m a bit of a mess right now. I had a terrible headache on Sunday night, and my feet were in some of the worst pain they have been in during the last several years, likely from standing up all day, almost every day. It could also have something to do with the fact that I was born with messed up feet. I spent much of the first year of my life with them in casts. My god what a dumb sob story this is already. I’m sorry. If you keep reading this, you’ll probably notice that I’m actually just bad at bridging topics. Anyways, sometimes things in life just aren’t the way you feel they should be. Sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or start something off on the wrong foot, as the saying goes. I guess that’s what I’m getting at.
So it’s important to me to make a note of the fact that my intention is not to be writing any of this as some kind of dramatization, or cry for help or attention. I honestly do not intend for any of the following to sound like it’s a complaint, nor do I wish for pity, etc. There’s something I need to get off my chest. I’m not sure how best to accurately describe this (in a way that feels personal to me at least) without getting a little long-winded. If you’re in for the long haul as far as reading through this, I would like to thank you upfront. Thank you, really. It means more than you could know. If you’ve gotten this far, and have reached enough of a conclusion already to negate having an interest in reading on, I totally understand. I understand the sense of comfort that’s attainable by avoiding the details. Which is why I want to do this in a way that’s pretty direct, but again if I’m being totally honest, I don’t fault you for not being into “over-sharing”, or the practice of doing so. I’m not really either. But I have made this whole thing available because for some reason or another, I thought you should know, and have the chance to hear me out.
So far, in recent experiences of talking more openly with people about the topic(s) that I intend to address right now, I have found that it’s easiest for me (and more relatable perhaps for the person I’ve spoken to) to begin by talking about mental health. No one really wants to just jump right into it, it’s not generally an easy thing to discuss. I feel like I’m dancing around the whole thing as I write this, which is typical of me, still. Mental health issues are something most people I know (or most of my peers at least) are familiar with in some way; it also seems that a lot of the relationships I’ve formed since high school are based at least in part on a selection process that is largely informed by commonalities between myself and others who also happen to have some experience with mental health issues. What I’m trying to say is that if you’re here because I linked you here, it’s probably because we have some life experiences in common. And so here goes.. In 2006, I experienced distinct feelings of sadness and loneliness for the first time in my life. The root cause or “reason” for these feelings was a mystery to me. I felt my friends slipping away except for a select few, and I started to come to the realization that most of us have at some point around this time, which might go something like
“things are not always what they seem/I don’t feel like I belong here/my life is changing”, and a marked shift towards contemplation, solemnness, and introspection started to occur.
I was 11 at the time. Within a year, I started cutting myself. It was a source of relief, and a way to remind myself that I am capable of feeling things in a way that I can control. I felt like it allowed me not to slip, or to get lost in the haziness and confusion of early adolescence. I didn’t know that at the time. I don’t think I had an honest answer for my motivation to do that to myself for several more years, until long after I had finally made the choice to stop, in 2009. And even then, it was only because I was afraid. In the time between, specifically in 2008, I fell completely out of touch with my surroundings, in more ways than one. During this time, I lost contact with my few remaining friends, I stopped speaking during school (like literally mute), and I lost track of time completely. I was no longer in any sort of dialogue with myself or the real world. Completely detached. There were only a few times where this alarmed me, and those few times were probably when I caught myself in the middle of, let’s say, planning an escape route/doing my best to think of an exit that was easy and guilt-free. That same year began a relationship that I pursued and would fight to “keep on track” for the next 2 and a half years. I wasn’t in my right mind to take this on at the time, and honestly, I never was the whole time that it ran its course. EDIT: I just wrote out a whole thing regarding this, and I’ve decided to scrap it. It’s not all relevant, at least not some of the particulars that I was going to describe. In short, it was a mess and it did me a lot of harm. In some ways, it lead me astray from my own development as a person, and allowed me to further lose touch with myself. We often used it as a means to hurt ourselves and place the blame elsewhere. People do this all the time. It’s not special, and it’s honestly not worth getting into. What I want to make clear is that I learned how to almost successfully bury my own problems during this period. I adopted someone else’s, and I tried to be a caregiver while completely disregarding my own feelings, instincts, and behavior.
It’s probably safe to say at this point that for the next several years after, throughout the rest of high school and into my late teens, I continued to (sometimes knowingly) develop tendencies to try and elude examination of my depressive symptoms. New friends, old friends. Sleepless nights. A progressively worse performance in academics, and a lack of investment in education. Growing apart from lots of people. Putting my head down again, only to look up occasionally and notice that I’ve missed out on an entire season of the year. Anything to occupy my time that didn’t have the potential for too much real reflection. I picked up a few new instruments. I read a lot. I went on walks until the late hours of the night. Buried myself in music and films, and late night television, and the internet, and images and words that brought me no solace. I was growing older, I passed these things off as a change in demeanor, taste, sensibility, “perspective” even. Time passed and I got my first full-time job, by which I saved money for the sole principle of musical endeavors. I had started a band, and the energy put into these things seemed to be well-spent. Some of this might sound oddly positive, or “goal-oriented”, or productive even. There’s an important distinction here, at least by my estimation, that just about anything can be used as a tool with which one uses to escape, avoid, hurt, and punish oneself with. There seemed to be moments in which my own complacency with pursuant anxieties and self-loathing just seemed like an aspect of who I was. Events and interactions, engagement with daily life were framed through an unconscious detachment from everything. I remember a conversation during this time where I said with some certainty that I was only capable of enjoying things through nostalgia, as I was so removed from things as they happen, that it’s like I’m not really there, like I’m only capable of remote observation and later recollection. I wasn’t scared by my sense of removal. It seemed acceptable even, like a decent trade-off for not having as much agency or stake in my own life; it’s not something I wanted to really be a part of anyways. I would have given it up, or traded it, for something else in an instant.
At some point, in all of this self-doubt, and in not seeing much of a future for myself, I started to really self-reflect again, passively at first. Things had to get worse before this came to be, but pointing out much more than “jobless and bedridden” as descriptive terms here is probably unnecessary. Contemplation about certain thoughts, patterns, behaviors, etc. were often met with my own unchecked anxieties or apprehensions, a likely pairing when I was initially uncertain about having any real desire to undermine my dissociation from myself. Every time that I experienced a “depressive episode” for several years from roughly 2011 to 2016, I was eventually led away from it by the type of propulsive force that being afraid of something gives you. Like the type of kneejerk jump or skin-crawling you feel when you know a bug is in your bedsheets, or you start down a dark alleyway which seemed quicker to pass through than it really is, and now you’re halfway down it. These are some instinctual things which bring to mind a similar type of very real panic. Maybe we’ve at least shared this type of circumstantial feeling. This dualism of states, depression then immediate anxiety, (and the pattern that this lends itself to) was a terrible thing to try and make sense of. I think that even after I had come to grips with certain signifiers, ticks, nerves, repeated ideas, phrases, and things that stuck with me throughout this period, I felt as though I couldn’t help myself. It still meant nothing if years went by, patterns observed and measured, plots pointed in an unending trajectory. I felt helpless, like I would never be able to explain to anybody what was clearly at the center of this whirlwind.
In mid-August of 2016, almost a year ago now as of writing this, I reached a certain vantage point. This is the kind of place where you can see everything laid out very clearly in front of you, but you’re high up enough on this point so as to just as easily choose to abandon all of it. It’s a strange thing, seeing it this way; on one hand, a potential for clarity and answers, and on the other, the potential for absolute freedom and oblivion. I guess more than strange, it was terrifying. I had allowed myself to climb a very long way up here in the first place. The way I’ve tried to describe my thoughts at that time are roughly as such: “I feel like something bad is going to happen to me. I don’t know exactly what, but it’s going to happen soon, and I know for sure it will happen.” The self-admitted lack of “knowing what will happen” was pure denial. I knew exactly what I meant, who would cause this, maybe even where it would happen, and how. It was me, of course it was me. I wouldn’t have had that sense of knowing for sure that something terrible was going to happen like that if it wasn’t for the fact that I was going to be the force behind it. The dissociation I’m describing was very much present in the feeling of dread that I carried with me with for several weeks about a year ago. I was a complete danger to only myself, and only I knew. I didn’t trust myself to not just pick a moment to carry it out. What I didn’t know was when, and I couldn’t live with that. I’ve lived alongside intense depression, the perceptual unending sameness of every day, blurring into one another, losing track of time and placement in the world. I’ve also experienced much of the irrational panics of anxiety, and the sharp moments of wanting to hide. Feeling shaken in every fiber while trying to maintain perfect stillness, or just a steady breath, and failing at it; something so seemingly simple. These things were easier to live with. At the end of August 2016, I made a decision to try and find some help.
Much like it’s taken me up until just about here to get to the actual point, it also took me a long time to finally get around to it in the therapy sessions which I started going to last year. Probably a few months, in fact. I’d seen therapists before, over the course of the last 10 years. I was in a psychiatric institution for a week in 2008. I don’t feel like I ever honestly gained anything from being in the professional psychiatric care of anyone until recently. This might be a topic for another time, however. Maybe part of the reason for this was because I didn’t want to be in anyone’s care in the first place; all those times in the past, I felt like I didn’t have anything to gain from it to begin with. In some cases, I wasn’t even there by choice. I never really opened up, I didn’t feel compelled to. Things might have just seemed simpler then. Maybe I just hadn’t had enough time to trace the dots. I honestly don’t remember what I must have said to those people. Times have changed since then anyway. This is another idea I might refer back to briefly below, as I find that it’s particularly relevant. So after a few months of counseling last year, towards the end of 2016, I started to slowly and privately open up about my motivations for seeking out help. I explained that I had spent the last several years doing some deep self-reflection and analysis, some “soul searching”, and some things which I’d already been thinking on had come to light in the process. It wasn’t particularly easy to just go ahead and accept these things at face value (another thing which I hope to touch on later) but I had arrived at my conclusion based on personal, lived experience that goes back at least 10 years. I was there because I needed to say it out loud for the first time ever, and I wanted a measured response from someone who has experience in handling these kinds of things. And I’m here repeating it now in this document. For the last 10 or more years, (for almost half of my life) I have suffered significantly, and at great detriment to myself, from depression-like and anxiety-like symptoms. Now without further ado, I believe that these things have not just been manifesting in and of themselves without reason, not at least for me. It is also my firm belief that these symptomatic effects are largely due to a greater, longstanding struggle with my own gender identity. An integral part of this particular phenomenon is known as “gender dysphoria” in currently accepted medical, academic, and clinical terms. Gender dysphoria is something that is experienced by people who are, by most accounts, transgender. Now in order to allow for some sense of summary here, I feel the need to perhaps (at this point) restate that what I’ve been describing thus far has unfolded on a timeline which spans my entire life, or within a certain breadth of experience, memory, socialization, and personal development. I think that there’s a case to be made about how knowing something and believing something can be separate states, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyways, that’s pretty much what I’ve been working toward saying this whole time: I’m trans. And I feel more than obliged to say that it hasn’t been an easy thing to accept about myself, or to get around to talking about.
So, in the interest of not repeating myself too much, I’ll say that I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with this. I’d assume that most people who go through this kind of thing in life would say they’ve also shared feelings of denial, and doubt, and hopelessness at some point along the way. In 2015 or so, I knew. Before that, it was an idea that scared the hell out of me because of what it would mean to move forward. Move forward as in telling people, coming out, transitioning. Talking about my experience, saying it out loud. “I identify as female. I want to transition and live the life that I see fit. In fact, I need to transition, because there’s a good chance that I won’t be able to carry on with the weight of knowing who I am, but never expressing it.” There’s a certain momentum behind those words that I never truly felt (or was too afraid to acknowledge) until it was almost too late. Thinking about growing older as a male was like a living nightmare for me. It was happening at one point. I was growing into it, literally. A part of me hasn’t felt right since adolescence, since puberty. I haven’t been identifying with a “male experience” in life, not the way most guys do, for a very long time. I know this from my friends, from peers, from most people that I’ve met; gender sinks into interactions with the world in countless ways. It’s involved in so much of what we do, and how we engage. Being socialized as male, (and feeling that my internal sense of self doesn’t at all match what I present to the world) I feel, has given me a certain insight into how crippling that fact can be when you’re someone who experiences gender dysphoria; this is the feeling that your gender doesn’t match your birth sex, and the disconnect that results. It borders on being traumatic, for some people who experience it. Terminal, and unbearable in the most severe sense, for others. For me, it’s something that is hardly new or strange anymore. More on that another time, perhaps. That being said, at some point last year, at that “vantage point”, I realized — — I can either keep this a secret forever and maybe let it get the best of me eventually, or I can try and make a change. I can start being honest. I live in a time and place right now where there are resources available to help people like me, to alleviate dysphoria. There’s a chance, even if it’s a small one, but a chance nonetheless, that I might be able to find the help I need and move on with my life. So one option is very likely suicide, and the other is a bit of a leap, still also a sacrifice in some way, but it may be for my own good. What, am I just going to deny myself the possibility of seeing this through, knowing that I might be able to heal, and readjust, and have a chance at a new grasp on life? What for? So I can be a martyr for my own self-doubt? So I can continue to maintain symptoms that are now very obvious to me, and hide away my own identity with self-constructed mechanisms, which very well might lead to my own undoing anyways? What is the benefit in that? How can I allow myself to keep rationalizing my way right back into this mess I’m in? — —
Now we’re here and by the time I’m on the third draft of this, today on October 15th, I can say that I’m doing well. There’s something about the 15th(s) of the month this year that have been either exciting or terrifying, or sometimes both. I came out to my Mom on January 15th. I started hormones on March 15. It’s been 7 months now of finally settling in, and I couldn’t possibly be happier with the changes that have occurred in my life since. Some of you reading this might be aware of what’s been going on already, but regardless, if you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to thank you for sticking with me so far. So what does this mean? Why is it important to me that this be public knowledge? Because it’s one thing to tell somebody that you’ve been hurting, and that you’re doing better now, and why. It’s another thing when you’re faced with someone who is telling you that part of their recovery, and reintroduction to the world, and to your life, involves them looking and sounding a little different, and that this comes with a name and pronoun change. Then at that point, it’s a little less about just listening. So there’s a part of this that is just as much of a request as it is an exposition. Now it’s more than just me with this information. It becomes a “negotiation” as I’ve heard it very aptly put. And so there’s some give and take, some sacrifice, and hopefully some patience and understanding on either side of any engagement, with things moving forward. I think part of understanding something like this takes time, and I can absolutely sympathize with that. I’ve watched my family come to terms with what’s been going on slowly. I’ve had folks take better to this news that I might have expected, and I am humbled by the ability to still be included in so many ways. I guess the biggest step is just about to come. I’ve been feeling a real sense of urgency lately, and I think it’s just about that time. This means that next time you see me, you’ll be seeing both a whole new person, and still the exact same “me” that you already know. You’re not losing a friend, or an acquaintance. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, and that’s another thing that is worth addressing; the best and worst part of this is that you might already know me. It’s a positive because it means that we don’t have to start over. I’m not going anywhere. We still probably share some of the same interests, or sense of humor, or parts of our experience in life might have some parallels. I think you get what I mean. But on the other side of things, this kind of change does of course have the potential to upset some of the language, or behavior, or dynamics that shape or surround the way that we share a relationship. Some of the parameters have changed a bit. And I understand fully that it might not be a quick thing to reconcile, but I really genuinely hope that it’s all worth it to you so that we can continue to interact. In fact, I’m not calling for much of a significant difference in anything. I don’t think that it’s much to ask of, but of course that’s more so a personal feeling on the matter. I’m not here to change how you think entirely.
To clear the air, I’d like to reintroduce myself. My name is Isabelle, I’m a 23 year old girl from the US. I prefer she/her pronouns. It’s nice to meet you, and it’s nice to finally be present. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you in advance if you’re someone who would like to stick around and see the rest of my transition through with me, in some capacity. I’m glad that you could be here for the beginning, and even prior to that. Thank you for your friendship, your support, and your love. If you have thoughts, concerns, questions, comments, or if there’s anything I’ve missed, haven’t touched on, or that you think I’ve left out, etc. regarding anything you’ve just read, please contact me. I’m sharing this on facebook, but it will be hosted off the site so that anyone can read it. If you’re someone who would like to share this outside of my immediate circle, that’s totally fine with me, and you know where to find me, and how to put me in touch with anyone else who might be interested in hearing more. I can’t stress enough that I’m all for discussion. I want to hear from you. If none of this stuff has ever even crossed your mind before, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If this is the first that you’ve of some of the stuff that I’ve mentioned, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you’re straight, get in touch. If you’re queer, get in touch. Trans? I can probably relate! I’m open to talking about lots of stuff. I’m not an expert, but I’m okay with sharing my thoughts about some things. For example, that new Blade Runner movie was really good. I think I need to see it a second time. See? It’s not all about dysphoria and mental health struggles after all, I can talk about other things too. And I’m looking forward to it, all of it. It’s good to be here.