Overcoming Depression During Transition

I have yet to meet a transgender individual, young or old, male or female, who has managed to escape experiencing some form of depression that was directly related to his or her transition. It happens – it is common. There are so many reasons that transgender individuals experience depression while transitioning. It might be because it is a very slow process, and once the decision has been made to proceed, the only thing that seems important is getting through it quickly and obtaining ideal results. It does not help that these individuals are likely looking in the mirror every day without noticing dramatic changes. Add to that negative responses from family, friends, coworkers, classmates, or other members of the community. We often allow others to assess our worth, status, and ultimately our approval through verbal and non-verbal feedback. If these social peers do not signal approval, we may interpret the response as failure, or worse – shame. And if all that is not enough, resources that are necessary for a steady, healthy transition may be limited or entirely unavailable. Doctors, therapists, medications, legal processes, etc. all have price tags attached that are, at best, only somewhat negotiable. But there are a couple of things that can be done.

  1. Identify those things that can be controlled, and control them

You may not be able to control your height, but you may be able to control something else, like your weight, hair style or hair color, clothing preferences, and so on. You may not be able to speed the physical changes in your body, but you can be sure to take your medications on time, every time. Though you cannot control others’ thoughts, feelings, or actions, you absolutely can control your own.

  1. Learn how to positively redirect negative factors

It is rare that something comes into our lives that is entirely negative. Most of the time it is possible to find a glimmer of positive within or alongside the negative. But we do have to look for it, and we must want to find it. Once the positive is found, latch onto it, embrace it; let go of the negative. I am a fairly tall woman. Instead of focusing on the fact that I am heads above most of my female friends, I choose rather to revel in the fact that I am statuesque, like the 5’11” Nicole Kidman. It takes practice, but it beats depression and anxiety.

There is one more thing worth noting, and you may have picked up on it already. Transgender individuals who are transitioning are unable to stake sole claim to depression. Everyone is capable of identifying a dozen things in our lives that could potentially lead us into a state of depression. I might be too fat, too skinny, have an overwhelming schedule, have few friends, suffer from a terminal illness, struggle with my classes at school, and on, and on, and on. You need not be transgender, or actively transitioning to feel the oppression of society with all of its expectations. And, you need not be transgender to benefit from the thoughts you just read. Why is that true? Because we are all human beings, experiencing humanity in the same ways – despite gender identity or expression, or any other differences.

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