Living With Your Transgender Partner and Dealing With Dysphoria
It is estimated that one in every five people in the US will experience an episode of depression at some point in their life. Which, if I might say so, is a very alarming statistic. Depression is categorized as a medical illness, but because we all have different body chemistry it can manifest itself in many different ways. For some folks, it is severe sadness, but others might feel irritable, anxious, or angry. Depression affects the way you perceive the world, feel about yourself, how you act, and your decision making. It can also make the relationships in one’s life slightly more difficult. For some folks dealing with depression, they turn to alcohol and or drugs to cope with it. For sure, that is the worst thing you can do to deal with this.
When my wife experiences depression, it is usually the result of her dysphoria. When dysphoria strikes it’s as if the world stops, she becomes immobile and overwhelmed with negativity. Every good thing in our lives gets deleted, and all she can focus on is our adversities. Crying, feelings of hopelessness, and what seems like the end of days usually accompany this experience. I cannot even put into words what it’s like to watch the strongest person I know, who also happens to be the love of my life, get beaten down by their feelings. It’s as if someone is ripping the heart right out of my chest and the pain is unbearable. I wish that I could somehow turn those feelings off for her and take away her sadness, but it’s impossible.
> "SOMETIMES I CAN HELP HER GET THROUGH IT BY REASSURING HER, BUT OTHER TIMES I FEEL AS THOUGH I AM JUST MAKING IT WORSE..”
When my wife experiences a bout of dysphoria, I go through a range of emotions. Feeling helpless, angry, sad, anxious, and sometimes frustrated. It is an exhausting roller coaster that I can't just seem to get off of. Sometimes I can help her get through it by reassuring her, but other times I feel as though I am just making it worse, and I need to walk away and let her work it out. Nine times out of ten she is feeling better the next day, but I sometimes feel left with the burden of all this negativity. My wife and I are symbiotic in that way, when one of us experiences an emotion, we usually both feel it. It is as if I am a sponge. I just absorb all her pain and hold onto it. This is not always good for my own health.
Though one may come as a result of the other, dysphoria and depression are two separate things. This is often why mental health professionals who don’t understand the complexities of gender often prescribe antidepressants to transgender patients. Though they can be helpful in treating the depression experienced as a result if dysphoria, they do not address the root cause which is gender. Even when taking an antidepressant a person can still deal with bouts of depression and in most cases, you are only treating one symptom of dysphoria. This is why the best treatment for dysphoria is usually transition.
> "THOUGH I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS TRULY LIKE TO EXPERIENCE DYSPHORIA FIRSTHAND, I DO SHARE IN THE PAIN THAT MY WIFE EXPERIENCES AS A RESULT OF IT."
Though I will never understand what it is truly like to experience dysphoria firsthand, I do share in the pain that my wife experiences as a result of it. I know it is something that she has no control over and that there is no way to just magically make it go away. You would never tell a physically injured person to get up and walk it off, so you should never say, “come on snap out of it” to a person suffering from dysphoria. In a world of instant gratification, you might be tempted to do so, but I can assure you it will only make the situation worse. Because dysphoria is often invisible to the naked eye, you need to remind yourself that this is something that your partner is struggling with. Overcoming the depression associated with dysphoria is difficult, but possible. Remember communication is key to any successful relationship.
I know that transition is not an easy journey because I eat, sleep, and drink it every day. Along with me writing a weekly article for Transgender Universe, I run a transgender community center with my wife that demands a lot of our time. So what usually happens is that I put myself last on the list of things to do because everything else seems bigger than me and way more important. Every now and then I have to be reminded to jump off the merry go round and take care of myself. Doing something that I enjoy and that gets the happy endorphins in my head moving is great. Other times I just need to sit and decompress. Journaling is also a great way to get all of those things that rattle around in my head to be still. I need to take care of myself because my own state of mind also affects not only myself, but my partner as well. Most importantly, no matter what we experience, whether it is dysphoria, depression, or anything else, I know my wife and I will get through these moments together.
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