Post-transition crash

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Finally, for the past three weeks I’ve been feeling better. Since January, I had been struggling something fierce.  Many days, I hated life.  The littlest things set me off. I didn’t know why.

The crazy thing is, I could have been told that finishing my transition might plunge me into depression.

I even could have figured it out for myself.

Letdowns are normal and natural

When I became a minister, a pastor warned me that the day after Easter I might feel a letdown, a depression for a few days. He said that it would be due to the busyness of Lent, which has Lutheran pastors writing two sermons a week and conducting extra services, with the big buildup toward Holy Week and its services on Thursday and Friday, and then the huge crowd on Easter. Easter afternoon would feel great—a successful completion to the seven week sprint—but, on Monday, with everything completed, the letdown likely would arrive.

Sure enough, it did. I was glad to be warned of it. Knowing it might come, I knew what it was. After a few days, I felt better.

I did not associate that with when I crashed hard in 2008. For two full years, I had been minister to two congregations, as the neighboring parish’s pastor had moved to another church.

I. Was. Busy.

In the middle of those two years, I had the heart trouble which resulted in my receiving two stents, and then the last of our four kids, the two boys, moved out. It was a hectic two years, filled with upheaval.

Soon after I was back to only serving one congregation, I was fit to be tied as to why I felt so lousy. As I told my brother pastors, I should have been happy now only serving my own church, yet I felt as if I had a part-time job. And I missed my boys something fierce as this new empty nest thing finally came home to roost in my heart.

I now understand that all of this dramatic change is what caused the deep angst and depression. If only someone would have told me to expect it. If only my brother pastors had been savvy enough to say, “What you are experiencing is a completely normal and natural letdown.” It was the post-Easter thing X 100.

A day or two after I had my sex reassignment/gender affirming surgery a year ago, I experienced a very strong “What did I do to myself?” I physically hurt so badly, and the recovery seemed positively daunting, and here I had gone and done this of my own volition.

At my first post-op appointment, I told Dr. Gallagher. She said, “I’ve heard this from all of my patients.” I don’t think I replied, “Why didn’t you warn me?” but, two weeks ago, at my final visit with her, I did. And more.

I told her how I had been struggling with myself the past three months, that I had experienced a wonderful high after my final surgery in November, that the euphoria lasted until early in the new year, and then I crashed into a nasty depression.

She replied that this is pretty common. It’s like we are unconsciously saying, “The long trek to transitioning is done. It’s time to move on,” but we’ve not prepared ourselves to move on.

I suggested to her that patients need to be told these things, that I found all of my surgeons, for my three surgeries, to have neglected key things about my recovery. I was pleased when she told me that her assistant had been gathering this kind of information and they now give the info to patients who are preparing for surgery.

Within days of seeing her, I saw my endocrinologist. Telling her of this difficult down period, she commented that she’s had patients describe this. A pattern was emerging. Finally, I recalled what happened in 2008, and the mini crashes after every Easter. My experiences have not been unusual, but to be expected. Or at least be aware that they are possibilities, and if they happen they are completely normal and natural.

Weird and unusual are hard to swallow. Normal and natural goes down nicely.

Get thee to a psychologist!

This year’s crash was so bad that, in late March, I engaged a psychologist. (Yes, wiseguys, at the encouragement of Julie. She remains the brains of the Eilers household.) I found a new therapist. I wanted someone who did not know me so that I would be heard with fresh ears, and one who does not specialize with transgender folks so that he might not be prone to only seeing me as a trans person. I found a man who is a tad older than I, with over thirty years in general practice. From the initial phone call, I was confident I had found a counselor who might be up to my task.

Last week, I had what might be the final of six visits with him. Indeed, I found him up to my task. He heard me. He asked good questions. When he suggested ideas, which he was assembling from our discussion, his thoughts about me made sense.

Though I have yet to change anything, I have been feeling better. After the first week with him, with two intense sessions, my load was feeling lighter. I have not had any days in which I feel completely out of sorts. Indeed, I once again feel hopeful about my life.

Happiness: three main ingredients

We talked a lot about how I might move forward. He told me his formula for a person having a happy life. It has three ingredients, which must be fairly consistent. They are meaningful work, love from family and friends, and fun.

We determined that I have pretty consistent portions of love and fun, but am lacking in meaningful work. Indeed, because I had been feeling so lousy, I had been struggling with being interested in writing, which has been my most meaningful work, so the problem was made worse by the crash.

He and I also spent a lot of time talking about my being transgender. Odd as it might sound because I did fully transition, I continue to struggle with being transgender. I wish I were not.

We talked a lot about a person’s worldview. In my worldview, which is that of a Christian who practices a traditional view of the Bible, along with my being highly conservative in every aspect of how I live and think, transgender does not fit.

Worse than putting a square peg into a round hole, my being transgender is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle where every piece has been crammed into the wrong spot.

The depression lifting, hopefully the crash is over. It sure helps that spring is here. I have my garden started. I hope that is a metaphor for where I will plant myself, to find a job where I can be fruitful.

13 thoughts on “Post-transition crash

  1. I think this is life. We’re always looking for “something” that will make things better, be it work, better health, a relationship, fun, a better church, the weather..whatever. None of those other things can take the place of our God. It’s only when we put our trust in Jesus that we are comforted and given a real hope. I preach this to myself. Prayers for you…

    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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  2. It certainly is true, Kathy, that we often are looking for “something” that will make things better. I can think of times that I have done this.

    The other part – the theme of my post – is not that we are looking for “something,” but how we are adversely affected when we have to move on from big moments in life – as I wrote, pastors after Lent and Easter, me after two grueling years with two congregations, kids moving out, and finishing my transition. This is a quite common phenomenon. The more we admit that it has happened to us, the more others can know when and why it happens to them, and they won’t feel guilty, as if they are doing something wrong.

    As for the Lord’s words in John 16:33, I often quote these to myself! I chose this as the confirmation verse for my youngest child, and for the sermon text when a seven-year-old girl in our congregation was killed. “I have overcome the world” is everything for us!

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    1. I am delighted to see the Bible verse John 16:33 in your post. Earlier today as I struggled with ‘a situation ‘ in my world, I heard that verse on the radio and thanked God for letting my ears hear those words. 15 minutes ago I shared that same verse on my FB wall. And now I read it again here. Thank you God for repetition.

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  3. I understand what you’re saying. When I was a Marine Officer stationed at Parris Island, SC, the recruit training depot, I’d lead a team of drill instructors and 120 to 140 recruits through their 13 weeks of training. At the graduation parades, I’d give that final command, “Senior Drill Instructors, dismiss your platoons.” Then, I’d walk back to the battalion…alone. The thing is, we often live for those big moments.

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    1. Thanks for this, Kathy. We sure do live for those big moments. We build up to them. The more I ponder these matters, and hear from others, the more it makes sense to me that we experience these letdowns.

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  4. My own experience with depression is that it tends to run in a circle. You don’t feel good, so you don’t feel like doing anything, so you don’t do anything, so you feel worse, rinse, repeat. I equate this to your difficulty writing. I could be wrong, but that’s how it seems to line up against my understanding.

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    1. You nailed it! One negative begets the next, begets the next. I was hurting so badly that I couldn’t concentrate, nothing interested me, and I could see no good in anything I might write. Plunge, plunge, plunge!

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  5. My own experience with depression is that it tends to run in a circle. You don’t feel good, so you don’t feel like doing anything, so you don’t do anything, so you feel worse, rinse, repeat. I equate this to your difficulty writing. I could be wrong, but that’s how it seems to line up against my understanding.

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    1. Oops, it appears that your comment has appeared twice. Oh, I think I see why – your first name is now correct! In case you don’t see my reply to your first post, here is what I wrote: You nailed it! One negative begets the next, begets the next. I was hurting so badly that I couldn’t concentrate, nothing interested me, and I could see no good in anything I might write. Plunge, plunge, plunge!

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