So in my last post I spoke about how since I’d started T I haven’t been to the gym much at all. Before I started testosterone I had been going to the gym 4-5 times a week for over two years, and exercising was a very big part of my process in terms of fighting dysphoria with body modification. I discuss in this last post how now that I was on testosterone and had no more excuses to not have the body I’ve always wanted, I’ve been holding myself back because I’m scared. Scared of letting go of my weight as a protective mechanism.
I’ve been more fearless this month after vowing to let this protective mechanism go. After telling myself that I really no longer needed that protective mechanism, I’ve been back at gym and have also been attending boxing training with a boxer once a week.
Day 1 of the end of the war with my body
While I’m looking forward to fighting an actual opponent rather than the urge to throw up, pass out, cry or hit my trainer during boxing, I must say that I’m really, really enjoying pushing myself to my limits and beyond. Boxing training normally looks like this:
Warm up 400m warm up jog 3×20 squats + 2min boxing combinations + jogging between three cones between sets 3×20 lunges + 2min boxing combinations + jogging between three cones between sets 3×20 push ups + 2min boxing combinations + jogging between three cones between sets 3×20 burpees + 2min boxing combinations + jogging between three cones between sets 5mins boxing 20x crunches 20x seated leg extension crunches 20x oblique crunches 20x sit ups to combination punch pad held above me. Cool down.
So yeah, intense does not cover it… Along with that I’m also doing a 6-week online personal training course with @ladideathstrike and it’s kicking my ass… What’s great about training with someone else cracking the whip is I’m doing things I never thought I would be able to do. Before this I could do 3x push ups and I only did burpees as a party trick to entertain others. Now I’m doing 60 burpees as part of a training session! It really is incredible how much stronger we are than we think we are.
It’s also a reminder that I need community, the daily check-ins with my friends on Instagram who are also pursuing their best selves, and how asking for help is such an integral part of that journey.
The great news is that it’s helped my depression. After sleeping the first two weeks of January away, the last two weeks of the month saw me much more productive – even if it was just getting up to go to gym.
The link between the outside and the inside in mental health selfcare never ceases to amaze me… Literally. No matter how many times I’ve learnt this lesson over the years I have to keep re-learning it. When I’m struggling internally, looking after the external always helps, immediately, accumulatively, and in the long term. And this emphasises for me the link between body and mind. Body positivity really is essential for my general well-being. Exercise is, by far, the best anti-depressant and daily way to manage dysphoria and that feeling of not being in control of your life, yourself or your body.
And it pays off physically as well . . .
In terms of other changes, I have one word for you: HAIR!!! Hair. Everywhere. Whereas at first it was just bum fluff everywhere and longer leg hair, the hair on my upper thighs started coming in almost overnight, I continue to sprout back hair, and the inevitable ass hair is in full force.
My voice drop has been most dramatic this month, and while it hasn’t broken (not all voices break; some just become deeper and deeper over time), it’s the first time I can notice a marked difference in the voice log.
While my depression is markedly better in terms of having no energy, I’m still struggling with depression in terms of anger, irritability and apathy. Everything is an effort. I saw my Dr this month and while my T levels are the same as they were last month, I need to do something to help the depression. It’s difficult to admit that testosterone has not been a magic pill, and while it seems to be so for a lot of guys, it is not so for me. Is this because I’m one of the only people speaking out about the struggles? Is this because of the pressure we feel to be ok now that we have what we’ve been yearning for all along? I don’t know. All I know is I’m not going to pretend I’m ok just because I’m scared people, including myself, are going to think this proves I shouldn’t be on T.
There really is a certain perception about being on T that pervades Instagram. The interactions, especially online and on Instagram, begin to circle around three things: Dude! You look so good! (muscles or gym routine). Dude, that’s incredible! (muscles, gym routine or facial hair). Man, you really are an inspiration! (muscles, gym routine, macros or facial hair). Because when you’re a bro or a dude or a man or a buddy the interactions trickle down to the superficial markers of what makes a man. Anything outside of this, like, say feelings or life or how you’re struggling (god forbid) with your transition or testosterone or being trans is not spoken about.
This has left me feeling exceedingly like a failure. As if I’m doing this all wrong. Because nobody else speaks about their struggles (apart from @transindustry, @samdylanfinch, @butchofwands, @becoming_heath and @king_caviar), I feel that by blogging about the emotional and physical difficulties I experience that I am having the worst transition ever and that I’ve missed the memo on How To Have a Happy and Successful Transition.
And partly this sense of failure is due to the incredible pressure I feel to be good at this. This transition. This being transgender thing. Because of the handful of people who believe this isn’t the right path for me and who are waiting for me to wave the white flag. Because of the larger number of people who are rooting for me because I represent living my truth no matter the cost. Because part of me, no matter how much I know it’s just not plausible, expects testosterone to be a magic bullet that ‘fixes’ everything. Yeah… Just like that anti-depressant or this anti-depressant or this therapist or exercise or this or that religion or spirituality or atheism fixes everything… Why do I, no… why do we expect things to be magic bullets that make everything better? Who told us that living authentically would bypass the truth that life is hard?
So I remember that struggling is ok and to be expected and is ok, and I remind myself that the dudes and bros and guys are also struggling and that beneath the self-censorship there is a need to connect on an emotional level and beyond the muscles, gym routines, macros and facial hair. I just wish masculinity would give itself a fucking break sometimes. And then I thank my femininity for allowing me to be strong enough to do that. And I remind myself that by pointing out #masculinitysofragile I’m calling for a masculinity that embraces vulnerability as strength.
And part of that vulnerability is recognising that something has to change. So I’ve dropped my Depo T dose from 1ml of 100 to 0.6. If this doesn’t have appreciable results within six weeks I have to up my psych meds dosages. Which I loathe doing, because they don’t help weight loss in the least. But me being centred and feeling good is more important than my weight.
What I also have to admit to is the fact that it should be no surprise that I’m feeling depressed: transitioning is not easy. Firstly. Secondly, while I forced myself out of my December/January depression, there are still the after-effects of that depression influencing my mood. And I, for some reason, don’t admit these to myself. For example, my sleeping pattern. Going to sleep at 10pm and waking up at 9 or 10am can’t be good for my mood. Waking up that late and then taking my psych meds at irregular times, or forgetting to take them and only taking them at lunch time, cannot be good for my mood… Not eating well is not good for my mood. Not eating properly while training very hard is not good for my mood.
Am I happy I’m on testosterone? Do I wish I hadn’t started. Yes. No. While it is not what I expected (damn expectations!), I am enjoying many aspects of being on testosterone and I’m enjoying the journey. I just need to get a handle on this depression, which I really should have expected. Being prone to depression and being on psych meds would not interact well with a mood-affecting hormone, as depression is a hormonal imbalance and psych meds affect the hormones. Duh!
So onwards and upwards. This journey is amazing. This journey is not easy. And I, for one, will continue to view vulnerability as strength and will continue to value honesty above all else. Because I know there are others out there going through the same thing and I don’t want them to feel as lonely as I do. (The question of me taking a break for the sake of myself vs. this need to be there for the community is, of course, something that I’m aware of. But I struggle to let go of my duty to the community and my belief that my voice is important for those who struggle).
This. In our transition journeys it’s easy to get lost in who we think we should be, what we think masculinity or femininity or non-binary identity looks like, and it has us feeling not good enough, not manly enough, not genderqueer enough, not trans enough. And that just makes us think and do and become things that aren’t us. Sometimes it’s important just to remember that we’re recreating ourselves and letting go of selves that others forced us to be. And that power over our identity, our journey and who we’re becoming should be enough. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.