To speak frankly, depression is a serious condition, particularly for those in the transgender community. The pressures on a transgender individuals are very real and can be scary. For me, being male has always been painful. This is a concept that is difficult to explain to those who are secure in their gender identity. Despite trying to bury the the feelings of wanting to be female, the desire was always there as the background noise of my life. As much as I tried to ignore the feelings and desires, they surfaced consistently. Sense of identity underlies one's health and well-being, and a transgender person can live with an uncertain identity for decades. More than just a feeling, I felt a true desire to live as a female.
On top of the drive, there are a unique set of pressures that begin to pile up. I lived in fear of being discovered. Religion, family values, and peer pressure are common examples of stimuli that can contribute, but a transgender person will have a unique set of pressures as individual as they are. The combination of a strong drive for something forbidden, pain fear, and stress easily add up to depression. If the attempted suicide rate identified transgender individuals is 45%, THE RATE OF DEPRESSION MUST BE MUCH HIGHER.
I am 41, and hold a PhD. in physics. I work at a national lab, designing specialized x-ray detectors for a synchrotron light source. I've been struggling with depression for approximately 1 year. When the depression got strong enough that I felt like taking my life, I have always had the presence to find help. I have a history of self harm, but I have always stopped short of a serious suicide attempt. I count myself as one of the fortunate ones.
Having said that, I have missed 14 weeks of work over the past year. I have been hospitalized for six weeks, and spent another 6 weeks in outpatient hospitalization programs. There is a cost to my lab in lost productivity, and approximate insurance costs for hospitalization have been in the ballpark of $100,000. Out of pocket, we have personally spent in excess of $6,000 for individual therapy with psychologists. The dollar numbers do not reflect the costs to myself and family.
So, why do I want to write about simple pleasures? Simply put, I am thankful to be alive right now. I was discharged from the inpatient program 10 days ago. I have not yet been cleared to return to work, but am participating in a "partial hospitalization program," an intensive outpatient therapy program. I currently spent 6 hours at the hospital daily, 5 days each week. The day is comprised of 5 hours of group therapy, with an hour break for lunch.
The good part of this arrangement? My depression has abated somewhat, and I have been able to attend my therapy sessions as a female. I initially attended outpatient therapy as a male, but switched to female clothing after a few days. I came out as transgender to the therapy group late last week. The response has been positive.
It's hard to express how relieved I feel as a female. The depression abates, and the extra stresses disappear. There are simple pleasures. People who use my female name (Rebecca), or gender appropriate pronouns (she/her). I was using the lady's room yesterday when an elderly woman entered and complemented me on my blouse.
I've become friends with some of the female patients in the program. Today one of the other women braided my hair. Luckily, my hair is naturally curly, and I've been growing it out for about 7 months. I normally just wear it curly, but was flattered to learn it was long enough to braid.