Dysphoria Strikes Again!
By Mila Madison
It can be something trivial or an absence of thought for a second that somehow catches you with your guard down. Up to the very moment I felt I had come so far in my journey. I was more confident than I had ever been in my life. I was so much better at not caring about what people think. Here I was, a transgender woman who was managing to survive. I considered myself lucky. Most of my family was still intact. Yes there have been losses in my life, but I was well aware that I was privileged for at least that one very reason. Most people like myself lose everything. My dysphoria was becoming a thing of the past as with each day I was able to get closer to just being, me.
“IT WAS TIME TO START LIVING AGAIN. FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS WE HAD STAYED HOME, JUST HOPING TO AVOID ANY DRAMA.”
So it was Christmas Eve and my wife, kids and I were going to spend it at my mother’s house with a big group of family. It was time to start living again. For the last few years we had stayed home, just hoping to avoid any drama. This year it is different. Everyone in my family knows about my transition. The only person who hadn’t seen me yet was my Uncle. I heard he had some unruly things to say about me, but I didn’t really care. If someone couldn’t accept me I wasn’t going to hide from it anymore. So though the encounter was on the back of my mind, I was looking forward to spending the holiday with family. My wife and I were prepping food all week and would be doing a lot of the cooking. We spent the morning finishing up all the prep work and packing the car. I went and got ready. I put on this red sparkling dress that I have had for a long time, the one that I thought I would never fit into or have the confidence to wear. I painted my nails holiday red and we were rushing out of the house. We had a lot to do at my mothers and we needed to get there before all the other guests arrived, so we hopped in the car all decked out with my with my wet nails and headed out.
We made it to my mother’s and got everything ready. Guests were to be there soon so we started heating up the ovens and getting ready to cook. We arranged all the tables and chairs. While moving one of the chairs I had managed to gash the polish on a couple of my nails. It was no big deal. We had a little time and I brought some things with me incase something like this happened. I had a nice 3D sculpture going on with my nails now, so I figured I would fix it real quick. I grabbed my stuff and my mother said to use her bathroom upstairs in her bedroom. It would only take a minute or two to fix. At least I thought.
I went right upstairs into the bathroom and without a thought I proceeded to fix my nails. Never really thinking about where I actually was. My mother’s bathroom was tiny, but it was wall-to-wall mirrors, which made it seem infinite in size. You can see a 360-degree view of yourself in that little room and that is when I made my fatal mistake. I looked up from what I was doing.
“THAT WAS THE SIMPLE MOMENT WHERE I REALIZED I WAS IN THE ROOM WHERE MOST OF MY DYSPHORIC EXPERIENCES OCCURRED AS A CHILD.”
That was the simple moment where I realized I was in the room where most of my dysphoric experiences occurred as a child. It was like I was that kid again, staring at the body of this stranger. I started to shake as all the bad thoughts started to rush in. At this point I wasn’t sure how long I was staring, but I heard guests arriving and my wife was starting the cooking without me. I was starting to panic as I unraveled in the mirror. Here I was with the thoughts of this room, where I would get into my mothers makeup and her clothes from the closet across from it. The memories of the shame I had felt, as I was not able to understand why I was doing what I had done. I would wish my body would somehow change into what it was supposed to be. I cried a million tears in that room. I would go in there anytime I could get away with it without anyone knowing. I thought I was so far removed from this, so far along in my transition, but here I was having a dysphoric meltdown at my mother’s house on Christmas Eve.
It was a meltdown of epic proportions as I spiraled down into a well of self-hate and pity. I stared at every imperfection on my body, realizing how ridiculous I must look in this sparkling red dress. The confidant person I thought I had become seemed like some kind of fantasy. The negative thoughts rushed in. In that moment I felt I would never be complete. I was kidding myself. I would never have the money to fix this mess I was. Maybe all the haters, the TERFS, and the religious nuts were right about me I thought. I saw myself as this incomplete freak of nature and all of a sudden I was right back where I started. I would never get there and I was delusional to even entertain the thought that one day I might.
“…IN THIS MOMENT I WAS A COMPLETE FRAUD, A PHONY THAT COULD NOT EVEN GET HER ACT TOGETHER AT A FAMILY CHRISTMAS PARTY.”
I looked at a razor my mother had sitting on the bathtub. The thoughts were all there. I should just end it and do everyone a favor. I wondered how long it would take for anyone to notice. I couldn’t believe this was happening now, after all this time I had been able to not feel this way. I immediately invoked my privilege. I though about my wife and kids, something I always did to get me out of it. As troubled as I was, they all dealt with so much loss in their lives and I could never be selfish enough to do that to them, even though in that moment I thought they would be better off without me. The shame of having these thoughts was beginning to get the better of me. So many people have it ten times worse than me, and here I am feeling bad for myself. As someone who spends their days trying to help and be a positive force for others, in this moment I was a complete fraud, a phony that could not even get her act together at a family Christmas party. I was embarrassed, pathetic and weak.
By this time the guests were all there. My wife sent our youngest daughter to come and check on me. I was relieved to see her. When she asked if I was okay I told her I was just feeling really uncomfortable being around people at that moment, something a teenage girl can relate to. My daughter went back downstairs after a few minutes, I told her I would be okay in a little bit, but that was not the truth. I would most likely spend the entire night locked in the room of infinite reflections. Next my wife sent my mother upstairs for me. When I saw her I confided in her that this was where I used to go and get into her things and how I didn’t understand what was going on at the time. I expected my mother to be upset or simply disappointed about what I just told her. Instead she just asked me, “Well, which of my things did you like the best?” She was able to get a chuckle out me and we talked about it some more. She told me I looked beautiful, and though I didn’t really believe her it helped. Everyone was waiting for me and I felt ridiculous as the horrible thoughts dissipated. After a little more talking, she got me out of that room and we rejoined the party.
With the exception of an awkward hello with my Uncle where he said, “How are you buddy?” there were no real issues. I got right to cooking the rest of the food and actually managed to enjoy the rest of the evening. Afterwards I thought about this past year, how it started with so much hope. I thought about all the uncertainty ahead for our community, myself included. I realized no matter how far you are in your journey; there will always be setbacks. No matter how far along I get, dysphoria will always be a part of my life, but even with the meltdown I was getting better at dealing with it and getting myself out of it. I learned that nothing ever happens in a straight line. There will be some major bumps along the way and I have to expect them. I also realized that the next time I ruin my nails moving chair, I should probably just shrug it off and deal with it. I don’t have to always be perfect, even if I sometimes feel imperfect.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,