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.