When I look back at how this blog has settled down and evolved, I see one major change occurring. It has become far more personally intimate. There are things I’m more comfortable committing to the aether now, things that I would never have written about when I started. However, there’s been one area I’ve studiously avoided publishing, that is how the development of melody affects my mental health.
I never used to consider my mental health. I didn’t need to, or at least that’s what I always assumed. Even when I did have an issue, I never considered it an actual mental health one.
At around the age of 20 I was close to developing a stomach ulcer. With what I know now, this was actually full on stress anxiety on its way to developing some nasty physical symptoms. I “snapped” out of it, changed my lifestyle a little and on realising what was causing the stress I taught myself not to worry about it – to paraphrase Stanley Kubrick “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stress”. Lucky me.
Regular readers will be familiar with the fact that I have gender dysphoria and that this has become strong in recent years. The female persona that has emerged has taken over and doesn’t let the old male persona back in. To the extent that I’m not even sure that he exists any more.
I spent so long trying to convince myself that melody was just part of my imagination that evidence she was real was hard to accept. I know she’s real and I still have difficulty accepting what a different person she is. The initial key characteristic that was different was in how she processed emotions. There’s a point where she turns to actively feeding off them. It’s an out of control roller-coaster that eventually runs out of steam where it leaves me drained and exhausted. Tears may not have been shed, yet for a week or more afterwards my eyes can feel as if they spent the whole emotional episode weeping.
As she’s integrated and taken control I find that all sorts of things that were never an issue to my old male persona are very different for me now. One of those is recognising that there are strains and stresses that make me aware of the state of my mental health.
I’ve been very wary in writing this post in that it’s very easy to look as if I might be seeking attention or sympathy. A quick “look at me” as I tot things up like one of those surveys that awards points for answers a), b) and c) to tell you which type of cat or dog lover you are and to impress you with my high score. It’s more in the nature of personal observations. A discussion with myself.
I thought that there had been plenty of time to assimilate the gender dysphoria. I came to the realisation about being transgendered well before the melody persona started to make herself a royal pain in the arse. If your favourite diagnostic manual is DSM-V, then gender dysphoria is a mental illness. If you prefer WHO, then it’s been reclassified in ICD-11 under sexual health and is no longer considered a disorder. It doesn’t matter which category it comes under since there’s no cure or treatment for it [as an aside, my father from his time as a counsellor believes otherwise, just as he similarly believes that gay conversion therapy ought to be an effective treatment]. I can live with that. It might be nice to find a pill that could cure it, but the world doesn’t work that way.
Having come to terms with that in a fairly sensible manner with lots of internal dialog, I naively wasn’t expecting much more. And here the rise of melody has come with some extra surprises that are not so easy to deal with.
I’ve taken several online mental health tests that indicate what I knew, anyway. I have signs of anxiety and depression that are a significant warning. Yeah, I already knew what the knotted nauseous stomach was telling me.
What I find curious is that these mental health symptoms come about when I have to deal with things that you might call part of the ‘old life’ and not the life melody wants to live. It’s very much a sign that she wants to go waltzing off into the sunset and leave all that behind. The stress comes from the fact that she can’t do that, there are responsibilities to maintain that she deeply resents. When she can be in her own place with none of those external responsibilities all the ‘old life’ symptoms vanish.
I know some of the literature and I’ve had many discussions with friends over their mental health issues. Sometimes I wonder if the knowledge I have gained has me wanting to be accepted as part of the gang, replete with my own set of symptoms I can point to as we compare notes and play mental health top trumps over a good meal and a bottle of wine. Wondering if it will all go away when I ‘pull myself together’.
And I really hate that phrase because I’ve heard it so often. My parents spent 15 years as counsellors, I’ve been in private gatherings where the majority are counsellors and talking ‘shop’. The last thing I want to do is put people off seeking therapy but I’ve heard these professionals in private settings laughingly pushing the line that most clients just need a good kick up the arse to pull themselves together (the ‘curtain’ diagnosis they call it). It’s probably jaundiced my view on whether I could trust a counsellor if I went to see one.
I don’t think any of this is some sort of wish fulfilment emerging as melody has grown stronger and taken over. Nobody would really wish such things on themselves, though the mind is a strange and powerful thing. What finally convinced me these things are real, beyond the nausea, is finding myself wistfully wishing I could shut my eyes, peacefully drift away and not come back.
To find myself looking at those kind of thoughts is brand new. They’re not even particularly dark to the extent that I question whether they are of suicidal inclination at all. Just a gentle wish to not have to bother any more. The bugger of all this is that theoretically I knew that gender dysphoria can be a gateway to anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies and I thought I’d assimilated and coped with it.
Or more likely, the accelerating transfer of persona brought on by gender dysphoria has created a lot of conflicting stresses between the old life and the one the new persona wants, with melody feeding off new found and occasionally intense emotions compounding those stresses.
I was born male, I still look primarily male and I have gender dysphoria that’s only getting stronger and has me seeking to be female in shape, form, outlook and emotionally. I am having to assimilate a fresh persona that has usurped primacy and is strongly female. When I consider it in those terms, the surprise is that it’s taken so long to be aware that my mental health can now fluctuate in ways I could never have envisioned only a few years ago.
I am thankful that despite these new fluctuations I seem to get off lightly for now. I commonly see tweets from transgender accounts that tell me how bad the struggles with mental health can be, that for the moment at least I have it comparatively easy, though it can feel savage in the midst of it.
This anonymised example shows the depths of hell that gender dysphoria can inflict on the mind. Parts of it I find familiar in thankfully less dramatic and intense ways.
[If I showed a picture of the above person the vast majority would not believe that she wasn’t female]
Ugh I’m raging today. Dysphoria is kicking my ass. I am a man. Pure and simple I look like a shitty drag queen or some trucker-sissy. Yeah I’m sick of this shit and I wish I were dead. Pure and simple. Don’t care about doing this shit anymore. Would be awesome if I died
How can I do this job when I look this bad? How am I supposed to make a living when I look like a brick? Some wannabe trying to be one of the pretty girls. I’m so angry. Life is unfair I get it but I don’t have to like it. Sitting here looking like a boy in shitty makeup.
And every fucking person is like “I think you’re cute” well here’s a fucking newsflash, it ain’t about you. Or just flat out dismissing my feelings. My feelings are valid, I have eyes and I’m critical enough to know what looks good. I know objectively i look shit. I don’t pass.
I read this and I know how it is to look critically at my image and see every flaw. The same image that others will say is lovely or cute. And this is before I reach the point of creating a passable look for face and hair. When I do get there, I know I stand a high chance of feeling a lot more like the quote above.
I’ve had to understand that this is not just a bit of roleplay fun exploring gender, something to walk away from when it gets difficult. The drivers inside me are deadly serious and the stresses to mental health will probably get worse and need careful handling. As much as you might at times wish to, you can’t walk away.
When I first researched this almost 30 years ago, the terminology was TV/TS/TG. The nomenclature was difficult. To be a TV (transvestite) implied your leanings were only to cross-dress, the line between dress up for roleplay and dress up for comfort or need was blurred and either way it was considered to be a fetish rather than a ‘real’ gender issue. The TG (transgendered) label was closely linked to TS (transexual) and rather huffily assumed that anyone who was TG just hadn’t gone far enough yet to be TS.
The stand out thing from reading literature and posts on TG/TS was how committed and obsessed the ‘sufferers’ could be about their gender issues. No obstacle was too much to pursue the necessity of being what they had an imperative to be.
I couldn’t identify with the obsession and necessary commitment to overcome obstacles I knew I could never face. For that reason I happily spent decades considering myself a TV and adapting the definition as time went along.
And here’s the thing. Time does strange thing to us. In light of many things I changed my personal labelling scheme to TG. Somewhat easier to do these days since it’s accepted as a destination in its own right as opposed to being a halfway house to TS. This development goes hand in hand with the rise of melody as a full persona. Which is parent to which is debatable. A big change is that I’m now starting to identify with the obsessions needed to tackle those obstacles. Give me a rational debate and I will probably tell you that I do not want the pain and anguish that those obstacles can create. Yet there’s an increasingly strong sense inside melody that she’s longing to take a running jump at them.
I already know that with melody, eventually impulse will beat logic. What I once knew with absolute certainty that I could never and would never face is now a looming reality. Way back then, it was a simple choice – that it’s too hard, complicated, uncomfortable, even irresponsible, so it’s a no-brainer to never go down that path.
Why actively engage in the path of pain and anguish ? Logic can’t rationalise it.
The internal imperatives scoff at logic.
Though here’s something that others might take on board for themselves. For 50 years I considered myself immune from mental health issues. I’ve actually been lucky in having close friends who have mental health issues that we’ve talked through, because otherwise I would be mortified at the perceived stigma of admitting that I now struggle in ways that I never considered would ever be a problem before. Yet, here I am having to learn that this is now a part of me. I also know that only as melody is such an admission possible and be prepared to talk about it.
Written for #sb4mh “Suicide Prevention Awareness”. Why not go check out other posts by clicking on the button.
Suicide Hotline Numbers
UK Samaritans: 116 123
US: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255)