The Filter (Part 4) – “Stagnation”
I think of this period of my life as stagnation not because of what was actually going on, but how I probably looked from the outside. This time of my life, I lived with my mom and made very little visible progress toward becoming a good person. Yet, personally, I made amazing progress. I did not show much of it but there was an amazing amount of things going through my head at the time. In many ways, I had become happy near the end of this time, and the dysphoria was starting to go away… If only temporarily. The period for these events was June 2005 – August 2011. It was six years of my life yet, I am amazed it was that short. I worked my way through a great deal of thoughts. If I had help I probably could have processed them faster, but I never asked for help. With the amount I processed I expected it to be longer. Also, a lot of these events are jumbled around in my brain I’m finding I can’t place them in any particular correct order but I am doing the best I can. Please only take this to be all of these things happened during this period. Do not take the order I wrote as the order they occurred.
The way I processed things always confused some people. I was a solitary person when processing mental issues or personal concerns. I pushed all my friends away, I locked myself in my room, and I would think my way through each issue one at a time. Many people would think that I needed an outside opinion process these issues… I would argue to an extent I already had another person to talk with. Joe and Jo conversed frequently during this time even though I did not realize I was talking to a different person. I’ve always been able to see other people’s perspectives a little easier than normal. Some people would call me empathic. Now I know why. I have had a built in second perspective this whole time.
After withdrawing from the first University, I was lost. It was now 2005 and I had failed yet again. I had moved back in with my Mom and felt like a failure of a person. Why did I always fail? Why could I never succeed? Depression started forming in my mind. Through sheer will power, I decided that sadness was not the answer. I needed to figure out what was wrong with me. It was that day, in early June, that I decided to fix myself. I started to write as a method of introspection and healing. I had never kept journals before but I started trying to write up a life story so far. However, as I started writing I would always find places that I could not pass and just start crying. There was something blocking me. There was something, possibly repressed, stuck deep under many layers. This method was not working. I quickly destroyed all these documents out of anger. In retrospect, I should have kept them.
At the same time, my mom and I were looking for me not to just be a bum. Sitting around the house doing nothing was making me feel sad and lonely anyway. I was under the impression you needed a college degree to get any kind of good job. There was a mutual decision to pursue schooling again this time at a commuter university. It also had a different scheduling system where it was two classes every eight weeks instead of four classes every sixteen. At this point, I was under the impression that I was failing at school because I was getting bored with the classes after 7-8 weeks and was petering out near the end. In retrospect, this wasn’t the case. Either way, we thought the new school would be different for this reason. I enrolled again into a University.
At first, the new university was different. I went in had my class and immediately went home. I was doing okay, not great, but at least I was not failing. I commuted into downtown Chicago and went to what amounts to an office building. It had no campus, it had no social life it was the place of business. Many of my classmates that were in those classes were adults trying to get another degree or trying to get their first degree. I was always the youngest people in all those classes.
I started doing stuff around the house and keeping the house up kept. It made me feel meaningful and helpful. I was doing some of the little stuff around keeping a house going and working. While I did not really do cooking, cleaning, or laundry I started to see what being a househusband was. Even things like unlocking the door just before mom was to get home. I was doing things every day to make someone’s life just that little bit easier. As time went on, I realized I liked it more and more. I dealt with all the people that needed to come and go in those days. I made all the phone calls; I was always the one there to meet them. I provided a value to the life of my mom. I did some of the small stuff like mowing the lawn and other random stuff. At the same time, I wanted to do the cooking; I wanted to do the laundry… The filter kicked in and I could not say it. Mom just kept doing those things.
I was starting to become happy with what my life had become except I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head. Why did I always fail at life? Am I going to live like this until I find a significant other and provide the same for them? I was still smoking at this point in my life and had begun drinking larger and larger quantities when provided the opportunity. I was also still losing myself in video games, particularly MMOs where you could be anyone you wanted. At this point, I was still playing female characters but being fully truthful that I was a boy behind the screen.
The first issue I wanted to tackle during this time was sexuality. I had previously come out as bisexual but I knew that I did not want a life with a woman. I realized though much self-introspection that I just wanted to be best friends with women, however I did not know how to do that without showing interest in them though this manner. Shortly thereafter, I came out as gay (to everyone except my mom) and started perusing my physical attraction in men more. In retrospect if I had asked for help and been honest with all these feelings, I probably would have been able to tackle all this much more quickly.
As time went on, I started piecing together the times in my life that I felt depressed, anxious, extremely distracted, or otherwise abnormal. I went so far as to make a chart. I wanted to find a connection. I found various connections between various items. I found points where I was depressed. For a while, I thought I had an anxiety disorder. I explained some of the times through my being gay. However, there were some unexplainable items, and it felt like there was one single answer to all of these little “symptoms.” I felt like it should be simpler than “I’m an unexplainable mess of many problems.” I was still a mental mess. However, at this point most of the day-to-day pain and anxiety was gone.
At this point, I was living a world alone. The only people I saw were my friends and my family that I had had forever. Without a doubt, I was still filtering, but it was not causing me any undue stress because I had already built the persona I was showing all of them. I knew who I was in front of all of them. My mask was up for them. However, inside I needed help. I really did. To all of those of you around me during that time: I am sorry. I should have asked for help. I know you all wanted to help. Some of you may have even seen how much I needed the help, but did not know what to do. I could not admit to anyone that I needed help. I vowed to handle it alone. I vowed to be strong and work though it in time. There were pieces I was missing. I bet some of you could have filled in missing pieces. I bet some of you had an inkling even if you were not sure. However, nobody had a chance to help because I could not admit I needed help.
At this point, I was also developing a drinking problem where I would periodically drink excessively and end up sick. I could not figure out why, but I also could not keep myself from doing it. There was one particularly rough night I remember. I still had a couple of good friends at my first University who I still spoke to and with whom I still hung out. It was three of us, my friend, me, and a flight student. They were bonding. I was not. I felt extremely dysphoric in that moment. All of my past came back to me in that instant. I felt like I had made no progress, that I had discovered nothing. I don’t know how quickly I drank it, but I know it was without much food or water. What I drank that evening was two 20oz bottles of vodka I was chasing one, with the flavored (green apple) one. It was equivalent to having 26.7 standard US “Drinks.” It was probably the second time in my life that I could have died. I believe my life was saved that night too. Without a doubt I will be forever thankful. Instead of the worst possible scenario, I woke up the next morning in the hospital but still not feeling well. It took a couple of days for me to feel physically better after that. My friend who I was staying with let me stay during that time. Mentally, it made me realize the problem was still with me. However, there’s some about near death experiences that make someone realize problems in life.
Eventually my classes moved to a different campus. It was actually a campus with clubs and other people my age. That made it a little more natural to stay a bit after class and integrate with the people my age. As I started integrating at the new school, I joined the Anime club. Meeting people and being in a social situation immediately had me on edge again. I didn’t know how I was supposed to present myself. I didn’t know what would be acceptable in that situation… My dysphoria returned when they asked questions like what I liked to do as a hobby or why I liked certain anime. My taste in anime was oddly feminine. I got overwhelmed and distracted with thoughts and memories of trying to fit in. Depression returned in spades. I immediately quit the club and started shutting down at school again. I continued to see those people around the school and they asked me why I left the club. How was I going to answer that? I ran again. This schooling experience had a similar result to the previous except that I told everyone that I had graduated. I wanted to show everyone around me that some progress was happening. I didn’t want to show constant failure.
That’s when the “search” for jobs began. I wasn’t really searching for jobs because I didn’t want one. I wanted to sort out my problems first. However, I had found a clue. The issue happened in social situations. Every issue I had happened when I was uncomfortable in social situations. This time I recruited help. I started seeing a therapist, but among other things I couldn’t admit why I was there. I feel like he learned a great deal about me and I learned a great deal about social situations. I didn’t spend the time with him in the way I should have. I deferred the topic and spoke in a way that would allow me to take his thoughts with me and process but not tell him or give him input on the actual problems.
I met a man with whom I ended up having a relationship. It was a short relationship. He was a rugby player and a permanent resident from England. I think I originally fell for his accent. He did something rather unique he treated me like a woman. It’s not that he thought I was one, but he was very clear that he was the man in the relationship. I had no problem with that. I found out over time that all he really wanted was a physical component of a relationship. He took things further and faster then I wanted and that was the end of the relationship. I realized that I had no real attraction to each gender physically, but at the same time, I liked being the woman. At no point did I feel uncomfortable in a social situation when I was with him. I still saw myself getting married and having a relationship with a man. I just didn’t care for physical intimacy. All I wanted was emotional intimacy. He was the opposite.
During this same time, I started writing a book. Since my attempt for written therapy had failed I attempted written therapy through different means. It started by writing a story, this was a short story and I decided to write it based around the thing I wished for most but didn’t have. It was a romance short story. I created the characters in a way that they all are in three parts. The first part of each character is a part of me. The second part is a characteristic from a friend I know. The last part of each character is something incredibly stereotypical. From there I wrote the story in an organic way which allowed the characters to grow without my thinking about what they were doing, saying, or thinking. At one point, I provided my story to a friend and she said “It sounds like they’re all trapped in a prison but that’s not made clear. Is that your intent?” I immediately reread the story though fresh eyes. There was a latent voice of being trapped… there was a latent sound of being imprisoned. I didn’t intend to write it but it was there. My subconscious had spoken. This book became my extended therapy. When I was feeling well, I didn’t touch it. When I had dysphoric moments or episodes, I worked on it. I’m going to be writing more about the book in the future post… In addition, I will write about how it was like my therapy, and how it is going to come out of this blossoming as well.
I figured out many things during this time. Some on my own, some with the help of the therapist, some by writing, some by having friends tell me hard truths. I think during this time I made much more progress than I could have imagined at the time. I thought I was getting nowhere. However, I found that most of the time I was realizing more than I thought. I realized that I was feeling trapped, but by what I din’t know. I realized that a social situation where I preformed a classical male role created my dysphoria. I realized that at the time I was asexual. I really had no physical attraction to anyone or anything. Although I still had that biological need that men have. I realized that I had issues and anger with my physical form itself. I knew that to an extent I preferred girl’s clothes although I wasn’t sure to what extent. I knew I wanted to upkeep the house and provide the services to the household to make the life of those inside easier. These were all the things that contributed to or created my dysphoria the question was… My next step was to figure out how are these problems are linked. That’s what I didn’t know. Of course, all through this time, I did my best to put on a brave face, attempting to keep myself hidden and to live in piece while trying to sort out my problems. I’d gotten a nice chunk of puzzle pieces over six years, I just din’t know where to put them.
At this point, I had not solved the problem… However, I had a couple leads. I had good leads. My next step was to talk about each one of these leads with my therapist. I resolved to do that. However, something happened. A job offer landed in my lap. Because I had told all of this to nobody, I felt that I had no recourse to say, “I need more time.” I got the job offer and began work, and that was the beginning of a new phase of my life.
All through my life, I was weak, passive, fearful, and cowardly. Even if I had been courageous, right then in my life and said “No! I need more time for this mental issue.” I may have been able to come to terms with who I am many years sooner. Coming out as a transwoman and finally confronting this issue is easily the most courageous thing I’ve done in my life. However, I had many opportunities to figure it out throughout my life; I was just too cowardly to face it at the time.
Yet, I thought I was being strong by trying to figure out it. At the time, I thought I was being strong by picking up the pieces that had and moving on with my life and moving into the work force. I would hide what I had, move on, and work it out next time I got a chance. I vowed next time… I would break the code. I had such a great start now. I just have to figure out what these pieces mean. I would confront everything next time around.
I want to end this post with a song. This song really sums up these six years of my life. The song wasn’t out yet at the time, but it really speaks to me now in regards to how I felt at the time. Please make sure it plays in a quality level where you can read the subtitles. It’s a Japanese song.
Please, continue on to Part 5.