My new life started from the raw ashes of the old. Others have described depression as swimming in grey goo, and that’s a pretty apt description. For me depression was like superglue, I’d sit down and not be able to move from that spot, my arms would be locked in place and I’d stare at the one eyed monster in our living room waiting for the blessed relief of sleep.
They say the biggest risk of self-harm is after the individual starts to recover, and that really is true. At the depths of depression I was simply too unmotivated to do anything as complex as kill myself, but as I felt better such thoughts occasionally took up residence in my head. Fortunately I never followed those impulses, but I found them plenty scary.
The first month was spent in therapy with a general therapist and taking Zoloft, which is one of the more popular SSRI anti depressants. Three weeks later I felt 100% better, which means I was just really depressed instead of a lump unable to move. You don’t appreciate just how bad off you are with depression until a year or so later when you actually start to come out of it, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be dealing with your issues and have found the right medications.
By the end of the second month I was seeing a specialist in transgender therapy. My first question? “Can you make this go away?” Well, it was worth asking right? It didn’t seem awfully likely but who am I to assume the answer? I had to make peace with never being “normal” again. I was very fixated on not being able to be a “complete” woman and was assured that I could get close enough; an assessment I agree with at this point.
She took me through all the stages of my life. She had an analogy that one takes a path on this journey and can stop at any station, e.g. some accommodation like wearing female undergarments under men’s clothing, and stay for awhile or for a long time or forever. At first she thought I was a poor candidate for transition and I suspected she was wrong but hoped she was right because we might keep our marriage together with some less intrusive accommodation.
The first thing I tried was just to increase my involvement in art and music, which I always felt engaged my feminine side more. Well, that didn’t do much for my dysphoria, so the next step was to try some “dressing” at home.
My therapist recommended a couple of shops that specialized in outfitting cross dressers and I went and bought some fairly sexualized clothing (actually a little hard to avoid from one of those shops). My wife and I negotiated some time when I could “dress” and be Rachel and not be disturbed and I agreed that I would keep all the paraphernalia out of sight.
This was finally something that helped a bit, although it wasn’t long before I felt I was wearing clothes, and it also became boring because sitting alone at home is fundamentally not very engaging. But I’ll talk more about that in another post.