- I know myself and what I need to take care of myself, and the first thing I do when I’m going through a rough time is hermit (even more than usual). Sharing this is a way of laying the groundwork for being able to reach out to friends when I need them for support. So this is not a need to receive pity or attention; rather just a need for self-care and knowing how best to do that.For the first time in my life, accumulated over years of struggling, I finally know the answer to that daunting “how do you take care of yourself?” question. At first self-care was a joke, something that felt less natural than running into traffic, because self-destruction was default. After years and hour-by-hours of forcing myself to act like I cared about taking care of myself, it became more natural than self-destruction, to the point where I now know exactly what the signs of depression are and what I need to do to combat it.
This doesn’t mean that it’s easy. I still have to force myself out of bed, force myself to eat (healthily, and at all), force myself to brush my teeth, and force myself to go to gym and reach out to friends. Because I know that although these things take huge amounts of energy I don’t have, they DO help.
And a note on friends: when I was in the midst of my chronic depression, I wanted someone else to save me, to take the pain away. I now know that that is not possible. There is nothing that anyone else can say or do that will take that pain away, or even make it better. What I know now is that it is enough just to go for coffee, or lunch or a visit, and it’s not even necessary to speak about the pain. What is necessary, and what is helpful, is just not being alone; being in the presence of someone else who knows, if not totally gets (because who can?) what you’re going through. This realisation completely changed the way I view friendships and their role during tough times: if I acknowledge that people cannot take the pain away, but that sharing my time with them helps me feel less alone and less isolated, then that is enough. This knowledge stops me from not telling my friends what is going on; it stops me from playing the ‘oh, I’m so isolated and misunderstood and nobody cares’ game. It stops me from destroying friendships by only being there when I am in a good space. It stops me from feeling that I am only good enough when I am happy and inspiring.
- The second reason I’m sharing this: I share my journey so publicly. The good and the bad. Not to share this feels like an omission, a lie. Being authentic and authentically sharing my journey means sharing even the rough times, especially the rough times, because they make the good times more meaningful.
- Because of my public journey, I know that there are many who learn from me, and more than anything, I want to be an example of triumphing through difficult times, because we all have them, and only sharing the good Facebook-sanitised life will not serve me or the people I share my journey with.
Ang and I have decided to end our relationship of 3 years and continue through our journeys as friends. She moves out this weekend.
I’m sharing this for a number of reasons:
The first thing I want to say is that no, contrary to popular belief, difficult things do not have an easy answer. It always fascinates me when people ask: why did they kill themselves? why are they depressed? why are they getting divorced/breaking up? There is never a simple answer, because nothing is simple or uncomplicated. My transition is NOT the reason for our mutual decision. To my fellow trans community in relationships while transitioning: your transition will very rarely be the reason for relationship-ending difficulty. If it is, the relationship was not meant to be, because your person should want nothing more than to see you happy, regardless of the body you inhabit.
So while Ang struggled with the transition, completely understandably (because it’s a HUGE thing and there is little to NO support for partners, and because partners have to transition with you), through our journey together we came to realise that the transition was used as a scapegoat for all of the unsaid, undealt with things in the past. Unsaid, undealt with things are the ends of lives, sanity and relationships. And when those things are said and dealt with, and the individual journeys are more important than the journey together, relationships come to an end.
My advice to my fellow trans community in relationships while transitioning: transitioning is a stressor on a relationship, just like moving, a death in the family, or any other stressful experience. So make sure that before you begin your transition, you and your partner have spoken about and dealt with all of the unsaid and undealt with things that might cause the transition to become a scapegoat. While this has not been my experience with Ang, I have heard this from a number of trans guys: If your partner is making you feel uncomfortable about the changes you’re experiencing on hormones, or continually slips up with your pronouns, or adds to your dysphoria, it is very likely that the resentment built up from the unsaid and undealt with is playing itself out and has nothing whatsoever to do with your transition. When these moments happen, take a step back and ask each other – what else could this be about? And deal with those things.
So it has been with Ang and I. While we love each other deeply, and wish each other happiness and the freedom to fully explore ourselves and our journeys, we’ve come to the very difficult and painful decision that these things will be best found individually, and not together. It’s that simple and that complicated; that easy and that painful. We’ve said the unsaid and dealt with the undealt with, and the truth is we’ve both been in denial that the relationship was over quite some time ago, and due to love, being the greatest of friends, and the inability to acknowledge that sometimes those things are not enough, we allowed the relationship to continue in limbo, which became increasingly difficult and painful for both of us.
How do we know that this is the right thing? We don’t. And yet we do. And the fact that we’re more supportive of each other’s journeys now than when we were too invested in the relationship to see each other clearly is proof enough.
Angu: I will always love you. You have taught me how to love for the first time. You are the person I completely opened myself up to for the first time in my life. You gave me the strength and the courage to make myself seen. You have given me the greatest gift – the ability to be and continue to pursue my authentic self. You have given me, for the first time, a relationship that has nurtured me instead of completely destroying me. And for that – the ability to trust love, relationships, other human beings and myself, I will be eternally grateful.