Let me start by saying going to therapy was no walk in the park, nonetheless, this is my journey to self love & how therapy saved my life.
I remember seeing a therapist for the first time back when I was about 19yrs old. I was getting clean off of drugs and in a really vulnerable point in my life. I was at the end of my line and just barely hanging on.
Back then I didn’t have any hope things would get better.
I remember thinking to myself:
“What can therapy do for me?”
“What is seeing a therapist like?
“How does seeing a therapist help?”
“Therapy is a waste of time!”
“What happens when therapy doesn’t work?”
Unfortunately my first go at seeing a therapist didn’t work out like I had expected.
Even though we (my parents & I) had sat down and searched through who was covered under our insurance plan. Then we sought someone who specialized in working with LGBT individuals and family dynamics. Only to attend two appointments (the first with my parents)…before I was running out of that therapists office swearing I would never be back…No, I wasn’t running from my past trauma…
I was running from a monster.
In my first session with my parents present my therapist disclosed that he too was a homosexual, though was happily involved in a long term relationship and was seemingly stable. I guess you could say his story gave me a glisten of hope that living a life as a gay male could be possible, and I could be happy…
But it wasn’t even 30mins into our first session alone when he started making some odd suggestions. Things such as inviting me to stay with him and his partner. Telling me that my family would never understand me based on his observation of their relationship with me, and I would be better in a safe place like his home…That if I chose to stay with them I wouldn’t have to pay rent…And that it wouldn’t be much different from the ‘promiscuous behavior’ I had been getting into, just in a ‘safe’ environment.
As I sat in that chair, growing more uncomfortable with every word falling out of his mouth. It was as though time stood still.
I was in shock.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I told him I wasn’t interested in staying with him & his partner, or even moving out of my parents house for that matter.
I expressed that I was ready to leave.
He asked me why…
I explained that I felt uncomfortable and that what he was saying to me was wrong.
He told me that I was misunderstanding him. To give him another chance to make things right.
I exclaimed that this is not how a therapist should be treating their patient.
He insisted there was nothing wrong.
Following it up with telling me I was just really attractive and mature for my age.
I got up to leave, and as I approached the door behind me, he got up also.
He asked me where I was going. Demanding we still had another 20mins before the session ended.
I yelped out that I was going home and that I was done, then as I got my hand on the door handle to exit, he grew angry stating that at the very least I should come over and shake his hand for taking the time to see me.
My heart pounding.
My thoughts racing.
I swung open the door, and ran…
And I kept running for almost 10 more years until I ran into myself.
That man was not a therapist.
He was a predator.
I guess by now you are probably wondering…
“How did therapy help you?”
It took me all those years to be able to revisit the idea of sitting in-front of someone and unpacking my trauma. Laying my life out like some sort of messy pile of clothes for someone else to help me fold and put away properly. But as life became more stressful, my issues with my gender identity grew more complex…That ‘messy pile of clothes’ got so big it was time to deal with them.
I had no space to think inside of my own head. Life felt so overwhelming everyday that I struggled to get out of bed, let alone face a world I felt could not accept me as I was. Then late one night after a really rough day at work, I mustered the courage to call an employee assistance program and ask for help.
That was the first step…A huge step…And likely the hardest of all that would come after it…
After going through a series of questions with a nurse over the phone, she sent me a list of therapists within my local area who listed specific training with LGBT patients, and instructed me that once I found someone with an availability I was to call her back and she would provide a reference code to have my first few visits covered under the employee assistance program.
My first visit I was shaking before even leaving my house. I had tons of fear trapping me where I stood, but I also had hope. Hope that things would be different. Hope that therapy would help. So, I followed through with the appointment. I went in and went over all the paperwork necessary in order to start out patient visits, and what I hoped to accomplish.
My goal: I wanted to be more comfortable presenting myself as feminine, as I felt I was up against the world, and felt I would be happier if I were to transition using cross-sex hormones.
Little did I know, that goal would take me through my whole life story…But thats the thing…We have to unpack our trauma, and recount our truths in order to be able to heal. In fact it is one of the very reasons I sit here typing away my heart on these keys.
I am healing.
Over the course of about a year I grew to appreciate the perspective that my therapist was able to solicit advice from. For myself, it wasn’t about finding a therapist who was agreeable with me or even supportive for that matter, though I did appreciate their support. I was seeing a therapist for constructive advice to better myself, to provide me with the tools necessary to be emotionally stable and be the leader others sought from me. The dialogues we would have reframed the angle at which I saw and experienced my life from. They re-empowered me to assert myself and to be an advocate for my own needs.
It wasn’t a quick process, nor an easy one, but it was necessary in order for me to grow and to move on in life. To be who I always wanted to be. Therapy helped my anxiety attacks go from daily to almost non existent. Therapy saved my relationship. But most importantly, therapy saved me. In ways I could have never imagined…
Remember that goal I had made for myself? It changed.
Overtime I came to realize that although I was uncomfortable in my body for most of my life, I always knew deep down how I felt, and I was ok with that. What I was truly challenged with however, was how I felt other people felt about me. Up until that point, I had allowed my insecurities and fears to dictate the majority of decisions I made throughout my life. I knew things had to change.
Slowly but surely I started implementing the tools I was provided with by my therapist. Tools like practicing mindfulness for 2 minutes a day while brushing my teeth, until I could go for longer periods without my head being so busy. I would challenge myself to face my fears and wear make up in public, to be seen as I wanted to be seen, and to stop preventing myself the opportunity of being happy, at the expense of making other people comfortable.
Before no time I was seeing the results of establishing new routines, like working out daily and meditating. I developed a more positive outlook regarding my future, was presenting more fem, and felt ready to take the next step. Starting cross-sex hormones. It was a huge step, I had considered all the risks and the benefits. I researched the side effects, and the different changes I should expect at specific points in my near future. I learned about how the medications actually worked with the body, what alternatives were available, and after all the leg work I had put in until that point, felt there was no going back.
But, I was wrong.
The day I picked up my medications (estrogen and spironolactone) was hugely emotional. I cried tears of joy. I cried tears out of fear as to what came next for myself and my loved ones, but I had never had a sense of pride in myself quite like I did that day. As instructed though, I waited until the following morning to start, so as to maintain a specific regiment, and because in the beginning the medicines can stimulate you and keep you up if you take them later in the day.
I woke up and got myself ready as I always did. A quick shower, brushed my teeth, and ate a decent breakfast. Then I went into the bathroom cabinet and got my 2 pills in hand. I walked into the living room and sat on the couch with a glass of water in front of me for about 30mins second guessing if I was doing the right thing. I had never been so scared of doing anything in my entire life as I was when I began my physical transition, but the idea of everything changing was terrifying.
I took a deep breath and I swallowed the pills. Then I went on the craziest emotional rollercoaster of my life. From excited, to terrified, sad, to happy, scared, to empowered.
Then I felt a physical sensation start at the crown of my head, and slowly work it’s way down. It was a warm buzzing feeling, almost like getting goosebumps. Subtle, but a noticeable shift nonetheless. Then it moved into my chest, the same buzzing and warmth, started to pair with euphoria. Everything felt physically stimulating to the extreme.
When it settled, it felt like there was a heating pad resting in my lap. There was a weight to it, which I found odd, but it was somehow comforting.
The rest of the day I was kind of out of it.
I started my day just like the day before, and as I finished getting ready for work, I left the house with that same buzzing feeling as the day before. Except, the warm comforting feeling was gone. My mom picked me up and drove me to work, and I wasn’t there too long before I got a blunt pain in my groin. As the day drew on, the pain became greater and greater until I was bending over a counter at work thinking something has to be wrong, perhaps one of the medications was not agreeing with me.
I got in contact with my doctor and was assured that it was likely my spermatic chords moving from the testosterone blocker, which is fairly normal, but almost unlikely due to my dosage being so low. I asked if other patients experienced similar and was told that some have but the discomfort normally subsides and the mental relief was normally more important to them (so perhaps they didn’t communicate it?).
When I woke up on day 3 I felt nauseous. I was having consistent discomfort, though I would lean more on the side of calling it pain. I felt a significant shift in my physical strength and found it difficult to function at my regular capacity. I spent a lot of the day researching through online blogs/forums. Everywhere I had previously found a relatable experience in someone else’s transitioning no longer shared a similar experience.
I was stumped and I thought to myself, “How can I be the only one?”.
By the time I was headed to bed I was putting a lot of thought into stopping before consulting my doctor again.
I remember one of the last thoughts in my head that night being that I couldn’t feel my sexual appendage and it shocked me. Although I wanted to transition, the disconnection between myself and my body part was a lot for me to handle. I saw myself as a healthy person, but this feeling, or lack there of, didn’t feel normal.
On the 4th morning, I was awoken by the pains in my groin/stomach. I told myself that I would give things one more day before pausing the medication (while still early enough to not have to titrate off).
I drove Zee to work that morning and as I drove back home listening to music, I felt a strong urge to take my car off an embankment as I drove on the freeway.
Mind you, I was feeling fine before hand. No negative thoughts what so ever. No crying. Nothing. Just like a light switch being flicked on an off, and the thought was gone.
I knew there was something seriously disagreeing with my body. I stopped the medication, called my doctor and notified her, and made the decision to reconsider medication at a later time. In the mean time I focused more on my therapy and tried to develop a plan, as this was a significant upheaval.
Rediscovering My Power
The weeks and months that followed my stint on medication were some of the hardest times in my life. At times I felt I was in a corner with no way out:
How was I ever going to explain to people the decision I had made?
What would they think?
How does this change my relationship?
Question after question came up, from myself, and others. But as I continued with therapy, and focused on what I wanted, I realized I wanted nothing more than to be happy and healthy.
Which lead me to my breakthrough.
I was unhappy. Depressed if you would.
And for the first time I was able to recognize why.
My constant pursuit of aligning my physical body with my gender identity was almost explicitly out of an internalized transphobia I had inherited from years of others projecting their fears and discomforts regarding it on to me.
I had pursued my physical transition with the intention to find happiness at the end of my journey, and instead was confronted with the fact that my happiness wasn’t going to be provided by changing my body.
That’s when I set out to define a different path for myself. One of honesty, and authenticity. I not only accepted that I am who I am, I began my journey of learning to love myself. Where I was once deflated by losing my hair at a young age, I was emboldened to be a bald beauty. Where I once thought, “Nobody will ever see my true gender identity in this body”, I found that they see me not for my physical self, but for the person they have grown to know and love.
I was reborn.
Not too long after, my insurance changed with my job, and my therapist was no longer covered by the plan offered to me. It didn’t matter though.
I had done the work. I got what I had always been seeking. Some peace of mind, and assurance in my identity, however I chose to express it.
I had faced my fears of walking through my trauma, and relearned my power.
I felt capable.
I felt whole again.
My last session with my therapist didn’t feel like any of the rest.
I was sad, but not because of my thoughts or feelings, but because I was saying goodbye to my mentor.
I was saying goodbye to a friend who had helped me change my life unlike anybody else on this planet.
Until we hugged, and both said, “I hope to see you again.”
From the bottom of my heart.
I love you B.