15 things I do that prove I’m doing better than I think

3 months ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. One of the most damaging effects of the disease is that my filter for understanding reality is severely biased. I “connect” better to negative feelings than positive ones, so a negative interpretation of anything feels much more plausible than a positive one. Such reasoning soon spirals into very destructive patterns. I often end up with conclusions so awful that it is unbearable to exemplify them here. Because of this I no longer trust my own assessments of how bad things might be. Instead I made this post to remind me of 15 important things I’m actually doing right, things that prove I’m doing better than I tend to think.

15 things I do that prove I’m doing better than I think

1) I keep trying. This luckily apply for other things as well, but for example – writing and reading coherent blocks of text is very hard for me to do right now. This post took me the better part of three days to produce, but it felt important and I eventually managed to get it together because I kept trying. When it comes to depression, to keep trying is the number one survival skill, only challenged by…

2) Ask for help. I know I can do it. When in doubt – a god time to ask for help is when “Keep trying” is not working, preferably before you stop trying.

3) I have a supportive network. Due to the depression I tend to think that people don’t like me or have forgotten about me. But I am very capable of maintaining relationships even now and my loved ones haven’t given up on me. They stay in touch even when I’m no good at answering and help to push me out of my comfort zone so that I don’t isolate myself. The bravest ones ask how I feel.

4) I eat. I’m almost never hungry. But with a little effort I plan, cook and eat anyway. Proper food, several times a day.

5) I sleep. When you are depressed, sleep is often disturbed in some way. I have struggled with difficulties to sleep my entire life. Surprisingly, I’m doing much better now than I have for a long time.

6) I get out. I have a dog. That means I have to take him out on his walks, even if I’m having a bad day. I get up in the morning, I get some daylight and basic exercise. Daytime walks and exposure to sunlight is clinically proven to ease (if not cure) mild to moderate depression.

7) I challenge myself at the gym. It is not uncomplicated to go there, but I try to disregard the difficulties and have a proper workout 3 – 4 times a week. I get stronger by the day and my routine also helps to keep dysphoria at bay. The plan is to stay active and create some structure in my life built up around training.

8) I get the medical care I need. I’m an active patient, I see my doctors and therapist every week. I follow their advice in the smallest detail and take notes on how my meds are working to get the best possible follow-up. Except for the inadequacies of Swedish transgender care, I feel that I get everything I need.

9) I cry. Much more than I’d like to, admittedly. But to allow oneself to cry is to be honest with oneself. It is okay to feel things. Life is tough and sometimes the most reasonable thing to do is to give in and cry until you feel better.

10) I protect myself. The other week something very tragic happened that caused lots of people I know to grieve and very understandable they wrote about it on Facebook. Suddenly my wall and inbox was full of my friends reflections on death and suicide. I triggered hard on it and I panicked. I escaped Internet for several days to avoid further exposure to things I felt that I couldn’t handle to read about. A friend had to log in on my account and clean up triggers before I could come back. There is only one good thing about this, but it is not to be underestimated: My first reaction was to take my feelings seriously and protect myself.

11) I commit to the future. I cant stand thinking ahead more than a few hours. I dissociate a bit in order to be able to put something in my calendar, but every time I do it is as if I anchor myself a little bit in my own future. I usually manage to have something set up for every day, something to do that makes that day feel meaningful.

12) Secure income. Dealing with the authorities in the well fare system is neither easy nor kind on personal integrity. But after a long bureaucratic procedure I made it. I now have the right to a minimum income. I don’t have to work or study and I can pay for (most of) the basic necessities in life. Hopefully this will allow me to focus on my recovery.

13) I’m creative. Not nearly every day and I keep it very simple. But there is something deeply therapeutic in being creative or fixing broken things so I have made it a priority. Working with my hands is one of the few things that still feels good. It puts my mind at rest.

14) I don’t hide feelings. When I feel terrible, I tell someone. I try to trust a few of my best friends to bare with me even in my darkest moments. Some degree of transparency on my emotional state keeps my friends and my security network updated. That is why you can read about this and together we can help break the stigma of mental illness.

15) I have an escape plan. If life becomes unbearable, I have a plan ready. It is about breaking isolation and seeking support to get professional help quickly, if need be. Or just hot food and company, if that is enough. I have asked a few friends if I can come and stay with them in case of emergency, so there are safe spaces to go to.

/ E.

IMAG5352Note to self – Here is a little practice in positive thinking. Remember that a secret admirer sent you flowers last week? Also, you excel at the gym right now. Lunch date scheduled with long-time-no-see BFF tomorrow. And there is chocolate cake in the fridge, eat as much as you like. You managed to spring clean the balcony and fix the pride flag – very well done! See? Everything is going to be all right and things will likely start to get a lot better soon.

More:

5 Things to Do (And Not Do) to Support Someone with Depression

Rorschachs hostage.

wpid-wp-1410862083754.jpegToday I was at the last meeting with the psychologist in the investigation team prior to diagnosis.

The last three or four meetings with him have been all about testing my mental resilience and general grade of functioning regarding IQ, memory, concentration, verbal abilities and problem solving. The team wants to know that my situation is stable, that I’m well enough to continue and that the gender dysforia I experience is not caused by a personality disorder or depression, for instance.

I’m usually totally exhausted after an hour and a half of intense testing.The first time I was asked intimate questions such as if I “like to behave like a woman, sexually”, what ever that means. That pissed me off so much I haven’t even been able to write about it properly. Then I had to solve logic problems, do advanced 3D jigsaw puzzles and answer questions regarding general education, like how hot water is at it’s boiling point or what the word “palliative” means.

Today, among other things, I had to do a Rorschach test, the old ink stain test that means to examine my personality characteristics and emotional functioning based on how I freely interpret nonsense paintings. 0 It is well known that Rorschach-tests are not reliable, so I didn’t think they were used any more. But I was wrong, they are widely used, especially in the juridical system in Sweden and it is a matter of some controversy.

It makes me feel awkward, frustrated and exposed to interpret pictures in front of a gatekeeper who decides if I will get the medical care I ask for, or not. The Rorschach test is a projective test, normally used to judge if a person has psychotic tendencies. I’m not convinced that it is a valid tool for evaluating my creativeness and personality, like the doctor said when I asked why I had to do it.

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Me at a larp, wearing a 1930’s doctors outfit matching the style and age of the Rorschach-test.

I feel like I’m someone’s hostage and cannot be free of this process until we are done with it. I have to cooperate and be a very, very good boy if I want to continue with the investigation. No matter how intimidating or insulting the questions are, how irrelevant they may seem or how badly the tests are managed.

The good news is that there will be no more psychological testing after today.

When I had finished the doctor summed up my profile as normal to above average, but uneven. No surprises here, I told him all about this the first time we met, about me being an academic nerd with ADHD. Perfectly in line with that he pointed out that I have dips in concentration that show extra well after a long time when solving logic or mathematical problems. Otherwise I’m generally very quick, performing well and I’m especially good at verbal tasks. Not psychotic at all, no signs of depression, no personality disorder and I have very low rates of anxiety.

That was it, all testing done and all relevant information gathered at this stage. I expect things to go more slowly from here. I’ll get a doctors appointment in a month or three. Hopefully I’ll get the diagnosis then. After that I’ll have to go through a thorough medical examination and get a recommendation to start the hormone treatment. I can’t wait. But we knew that, I have another diagnosis for it. 😉

/ E.

 

More about why Rorschach-tests are not reliable, in Swedish;

http://www.barnasrett.no/Artikler/rattssikkerheten_hotas.htm

http://ww2.lakartidningen.se/ltarkiv/2000/temp/pda20501.pdf

The first meeting with the transgender investigation team

Yesterday I proceeded with the plan I wrote about after my meeting with the gatekeeper psychiatrist. The plan was simple: Call the transgender teams receptionist and gently ask  when I can come and see the team. Just to say that I’ve met the gatekeeper and that he told me that I was ready to proceed with my investigation. I had expected to be turned down or to be told to be patient, just wait and see. Another nine months or so of nothing but waiting would not be out of the ordinary for this sort of thing. I had expected almost anything for an answer, anything else than “Well, how about tomorrow morning, 9 am?”

I was stunned, so, so happy!! Off course I agreed to come. So now I’ve been there again, at the hospital. I’ve met another psychiatrist. This one asked almost the same questions as the last one, but were different in every other way. Firstly, she is not a gatekeeper, she is the welcome committee. She clearly had plenty of experience working with transgenderd people. She was not overly conservative. And best of all, she’s a part of the team that’ll follow me for the next 2-4 years during my medical transition. That means that I’m finally in! 😀

The last post about my medical transition was represented with a selfie of a very nervous and lonely-looking Emil, taken outside the hospital. Today everything was different. My flatmate and best friend was with me. I was not a bit nervous and I was finally in, under the wings and care of the transgender investigation team.

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We’re in.

This time the questions about my background went deeper into my experiences and thoughts on gender identity during my childhood and teens. I told the story of me as a lonely tomboy growing up at the countryside. I was playing with my brothers and their friends, to rough for most of the girls I knew then. Me and my brothers built tree houses and defended them from the other kids in the neighbourhood, fighting each other with wooden swords, bow and arrow. I still do that, only wearing better armour. (Yes, stereotypes come easy for me.)

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I still like to play rough. Here I’m the little one to the left, covering up for my fallen comrade and fighting the enemy of with my stick/spear.

Then she asked me about my marriage. I got married when I was twenty-four years old and my husband-to-be was thirty. I was young, madly in love and struggling to find a way to deal with womanhood. It was a good and mostly sound relationship that lasted for nine years, all in all. We got divorced halfway through 2011 and are still good friends today.

During our time together I adapted into the norms of heterosexuality, but I did not feel like a grown up woman. Even thou the relationship was sound, every time I had to say that I was someone’s wife, something felt slightly wrong. I never felt like a woman, not at all comfortable with my assigned gender role. Only women become wife’s. Since I never felt like one, it was weird being someone’s wife. I felt like I a fraud. I often explained it in a humours manner: “I’m not really a woman”, not understanding the seriousness of it myself.

I tried so hard. But failing to feel comfortable as a woman, I tried to be as girly as I could ever manage instead. I was better at that, but I guess I was overcompensating. The psychiatrist got curious about this and asked if I had any pictures. I have plenty. My friend quickly found one on Facebook and showed it. To see this picture again made me smile – I’ve sure gone a long way since this was taken in the summer of 2007…

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Compare this to the pictures of me from my last post, about claiming masculinity.

Then we talked about what sort of help or medical care I’m looking for, what it was like for me to come out to my parents and about my social situation today. She was impressed to hear about the genuine support I’ve got from people around me. Especially about the fact that I’ve got so many transgenderd friends and experienced transgender allied covering my back, thoroughly supporting me every step on the way.

I think I made a good impression. After all, I mostly feel good about myself and transitioning is improving my life. Only, now when I’ve come so far, I need some help to get further.

She gave me a pile of papers to fill in, a questionnaire with tricky questions about gender identity. I’m to hand it in to the psychologist I’ll see in a month or so. That is the next step, lots of tests and paperwork. I was informed that I’ll have meetings with different specialists in the transgender team every 3 – 4 months from now on. There will be a social investigation about how my life is working, what my relationships are like, how I feel about different aspects of my life. I’ll meet psychologists and psychiatrists on a regular basis to sort out if they can offer me what I want; medical treatment, surgery and in the end recommend me to send in an application for change of legal gender.

I’ll also see a doctor and a gynaecologist to do basic medical examinations, only to see that everything is alright. And in about a year, I’ll see a endocrinologist, a doctor specialised on hormones. I was told promptly that we will not discuss hormones until then. That made me sulk a bit, but there is not much to do other than to cooperate and comply. If I’m lucky things will move on faster, but it is just as well to accept that it mostly will be out of my control.

Finally she asked me how sure I was, about going through with my transitioning, taking it further. I replied honestly that it is impossible to be entirely sure on anything, especially when it comes to committing to permanent changes in your life and body. But I’m at the least 98% sure that this is the right thing for me. At that she smiled and the meeting was over.