Friday, 15 May 2015

The Dysphoria Strikes Back

It is getting hard to find catchy titles for my posts, but lets be honest "it's been a shit week and my emotional state has been a bit dodgy" does not start a post very well. Please bear with it as there is some really good stuff mixed in.

I have not written a post in nearly a week now, and this is always a good sign that things are amiss. When I am particularly troubled, I find it difficult to write for my blog. This is odd because writing can be very helpful for working through difficulties, but it does not seem to work for me at the moment.

This week has been tumultuous, as in that there has been a massive amount happening all at once. It has been deafening in some ways and I am back to a situation where I am being overwhelmed. It's also not all negative, but the bad stuff has done some damage. There is also a great deal I can't divulge as it involves others whose privacy needs to be protected. 

I think it started Sunday, and it centred around misgendering. I hadn't been misgendered but the subject had arisen in a group and this is something I am quite passionate about. The whole debate deserves a post of it's own but in a shortened version; I have been told for too long by my peers that misgendering is something I have to accept. I am expected to shoulder the hurt that it causes and not try to let it get to me. 

A message regarding this was sent to me on Monday and this message triggered me badly. For those that do not understand triggering, here is a good definition:
A specific thing that causes a mentally ill individual's brain to go into a state of hyper-vigilance. The thing that triggers them makes them feel unsafe and or threatened. Contrary to popular belief, this does not just occur in people with PTSD, though it is much more common in people with PTSD and a type of anxiety disorder. 
I have a diagnosis of mild PTSD but I do not think it triggered any of that. However, I have had anxiety problems recently but again, I do not know if that is what was triggered. Regardless of the messages intention, it spiralled me into a very despairing state. 

This happened early in the morning and I briefly wrote back a reactive angry reply, fought my emotions and got Mandy off to her day centre. Then it was back to a very empty flat and try to cope with everything. Thankfully a lifeline came along and I had a 2 hour conversation with a friend on Skype. The face to face contact with someone who would listen was what I needed to get myself back to some semblance of functionality and get on with things.

I had a meeting in the evening, this was part of a group that works with the police advising them of local needs. I go representing the trans community and feed information in with regards local and national trans issues. It is useful and many people around the table have expressed surprise at some of the insights I have given them about life as a trans person. However, given the fact I had been attacked by the community I was representing, I felt like I couldn't be bothered.

As I approached the evening, I found myself looking in the bedroom mirror and it hit me like a brick in the face; I was dysphoric. I could see a man staring back at me and it frightened me. This was the most severe it had been since my GRS and possibly in all the time I have been on hormones. The lead up to my GRS was also quite dysphoric with the testosterone surge I experienced, but now that is completely gone and I am running on oestrogen alone. Seeing him in that mirror was a shock and I was filled with self-loathing.

I sat on the bed and started deciding what to do. Should I abandon going to the meeting? I called Mandy in and spoke to her. We decided in the end that I should try a change of clothes. Clothes do not make the woman, but femme'ing myself up helped a great deal. It did not remove the dysphoria but smoothed off the edges and made it possible to face the world again. As it happened, the meeting was an interesting event and it has opened a possibility of a very exciting opportunity for me and the trans community.

In amongst all of this, I have been supporting a friend who is going through a terrible time. I have been very worried about her and her situation and it has been close to me dragging her away from it and bringing her to our flat to give her a break. She knew everything that was going on and despite all her issues, she sent me a kind text message on Monday. This touched me in many ways, and despite the cost, I rang her mobile to talk to her. She knows dysphoria inside out and reinforced my idea of using clothes to help me in difficult times.

The week plodded on and I was reminded of the saying that everyone has something unseen going on in the background. I put on a smiling face, whilst inside it was all just going round and round. I talked to another close friend but the stark truth was that I still had to deal with the original message that had started off this dysphoria. I did this yesterday and it was unpleasant but I think it has been put to rest. I had to concede a lot to lay it to rest, but sometimes admitting you are in the wrong (even if you felt you were not) shows strength. I needed to put this behind me and by backing down, I could at least start dealing with my dysphoria as well as developing a way to avoid this conflict happening again. 

Today my friend messaged me saying she was leaving her situation for a time and going somewhere safe to stay. As well as that she has made a courageous decision to deal with her problems. I empathised with her, it might have felt like it was a step backwards, but it made a great deal of sense. Within seconds of getting the message, I was in floods of tears. Perhaps her difficulties had touched me more than I realised. I told her so, she rang me and we spent an hour talking. 

She reminded me that there has been good this week. I have learnt more facets to gender dysphoria and how to cope with them. I have a couple of good opportunities coming up and I have shown that I can back down in the face of adversity; sometimes proving you are right is not always important.

This has been tough to write. I have had to keep from telling everything as well as protect peoples privacy. I also wanted to try to keep it from being as negative as possible, but the reality is that I do have mental health problems and I needed to get this written down to help me work through it all. Mental health aside, I also find my dysphoria has not quite gone away. Whether this will lessen in time, I do not know, but the illusion of it all gone away is shattered and I need to remember my coping strategies of old. At least the physical dysphoria is gone and I do not need to deal with that. Perhaps this reminder has been useful...

At least now, I feel it is over and I can move back to a happier place.


  1. I have shown that I can back down in the face of adversity; sometimes proving you are right is not always important.
    That is by far the most encouraging line in your post. When you're falsely accused of something, or victimised because of your gender, it is very hard to back down. I know nothing of PTSD and the mental anguish you have had to endure, and my heart goes out to you, but I do know that learning not to fight every battle has done me a lot of good. I was once advised: "If you're right, you can afford to say sorry; if you're wrong, you can't afford not to"... which, I think, amounts to the same thing.

    As for clothes making a woman, I reckon there is some truth in this, especially for those of us trying to shake off a previous gender. Wrong clothing may accentuate masculine features such as broad shoulders, whereas distinctly feminine clothing has the ability to soften our features and make them much more acceptable. And what our eyes see IS important, as most of us need all the confidence we can get.

    Well done for going to that meeting. I hope the 'very exciting possibility' materialises.

    Angie x

    1. Thank you Angie.

      You have quoted something that did resonate with me yesterday. Once upon a time, I might have argued my point to destruction. In the end yesterday, I realised it was futile and continuing to argue would actually have damaged both sides. I even offered the other side an opportunity to talk to me civilly and try to heal the damage. This happened and perhaps there is a way forward for the future.

      My PTSD, that is another kettle of fish entirely and I did write about it here: I will have to deal with that for the rest of my life but hopefully I will be taught coping strategies when I get my CBT.

      It's interesting about the clothes thing, and again this is where I listen too much to my peers. Gender expression is something that moves about a lot and recently with me it has moved a little into the middle especially with my new-found comfort with my body. When the dysphoria kicked in, this middle ground was then not such a suitable place.

      The meeting and it's new possibility, that is yet to transpire but it could see a massive and exciting challenge for myself. One that will push my boundaries further than ever.

      Lucy x

  2. Love you honey and your support means a lot always.

    Big hugs and snuggles :) xx

    1. And to you honey. I wish you weren't so bloody far away so that we could make that hug and snuggles real :)

      Lucy x