Category Archives: mental health

Rebooting and Continuing

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

I woke up this morning with the intention of shutting down this blog. I’ve been in a deep, black depression for months, and I’ve felt for some time that I simply don’t have the energy to keep writing.


But then I realized that if I quit, the black dogs, the Dementors, will have won. And so I’m continuing.

Think of it as a reboot. Whenever my computer gets bogged down because of memory management problems inherent in the operating system, I shut it down and restart.

So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m rebooting my brain. Steve Wozniak, after a near-fatal crash in a small plane, said he had to rewire his brain from 0 to 1. That’s a pretty good description for what I’ve been going through for the past few months.

I’ve rebooted, and am ready to go on with my life and with my writing.

To Blog, or To Journal?

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

BLOG: (noun)
1. a website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites.

2. a single entry or post on such a website:
She regularly contributes a blog to the magazine’s website.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/blogging

JOURNAL:
The definition of journal is a diary you keep of daily events or of your thoughts or a publication dealing with a specific industry or field.
http://www.yourdictionary.com/journal#Siti5uupUCzDVOrm.99

My standard disclaimer applies: These are my own thoughts about things that work for me. They may or may not apply to you.

Blogging and journaling are two forms of therapy that work for me, with this difference: what I post on my blog are random thoughts and ideas I feel comfortable with sharing with others. My journal, on the other hand, are my deepest thoughts that I keep to myself. They’re not things I’m comfortable sharing with anyone else.

Both methods help me keep centered. From time to time, I may go back to my journal and discover something I am comfortable in sharing, and so I’ll post it on my blog.

For more information about the health benefits of journaling, I’d recommend “A new reason for keeping a diary,” or “Journaling for Mental Health.”

I’ll admit I’m biased in favor of the URMC article, because that’s where I’ve been going for my mental health help for the past 8 years, and because I know one of the reviewers of the article.

Regardless, take a look at both articles and see if they offer any insights for you.

Friday Nights At Ed’s

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Yes, it’s been a while. The Dementors had a hold on me for far too long, but I’ve shaken them off.

A large part of shaking them off was Friday Nights at Ed’s. And therein lies a tale.

I first met Ed near the middle of August. I needed to find a place to live and I found Ed’s post on Craig’s List. He had a room to rent, and I answered. A week and an interview later, I moved in.

Ed hosted a small gathering of friends on Friday night. It was a potluck, with Ed providing the main course, and everybody chipping in with side dishes and desserts.

The first time I went, I hadn’t planned on attending. I went downstairs to the kitchen to fix myself a sandwich, and somebody—I think it was L.—told me to grab a plate and join in.

That was at the beginning of September, and I haven’t missed a night since. It took me a while to feel comfortable, but I managed to overcome my Social Anxiety Disorder and fit in.

It helped that I wasn’t the only one with emotional or mental issues. E., L., and J. suffer the Dementors, so they understand.

S. enjoys philosophical issues, as do I, so we have that in common. We both also are wrestling with weight issues, as we are both Persons of Size.

D. always serves as the bartender, and he mixes some wicked-cool drinks, which also help me relax. But let’s be clear: I know my limits, and only got drunk once. The rest of the time I’m a Good Girl™.

G. is always good for the herbal blessings; sometimes I participate, but most of the time I don’t. He’s also the permanent Dessert Queen, and his choices are always scrumdiddlyumptious. Just as some people have a knack for pairing foods with wines, G. is a master at matching for the munchies.

Other people drop by from time to time, and they always are a welcome presence.

Oh…one other thing: many of us are gay or lesbian, so I blend right in.

The point of All This

The Dementors feed on your loneliness. They strike while you’re at your lowest ebb, because that’s when you’re most vulnerable.

There are various ways to fight them: professional help—whether a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other form of counselor—is always at the top of my list of recommendations. Group therapy can also help you cope by putting you in touch with others who can share their experiences and help you that way.

For me, my group therapy is Friday Nights at Ed’s.

On Genders, Binaries & Fluidities

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Let’s Define Some Terms

Gender: (noun) the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).

Sex: (noun) either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.

Binary: 

(adjective)
1. relating to, using, or expressed in a system of numerical notation that has 2 rather than 10 as a base.
2. relating to, composed of, or involving two things.  “testing the so-called binary, or dual-chemical, weapons”

(noun)
1. the binary system: binary notation. “the device is counting in binary”
2. something having two parts.

Gender Fluid: (noun) Gender Fluid is a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is Gender Fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more boy some days, and more girl other days. Being Gender Fluid has nothing to do with which set of genitalia one has, nor their sexual orientation.

Gender identity: (noun) is a person’s private sense and subjective experience of their own gender. This is generally described as one’s private sense of being a man or a woman, consisting primarily of the acceptance of membership into a category of people: male or female.

Gender identity disorder (GID) or gender dysphoria is the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant dysphoria (discontent) with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. (I have a lot to say about this later in this post. In the meantime, just remember that these are the same “experts” who for so many years considered homosexuality a mental disorder.)

Cisgender: (adjective) denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.

Masculine:

adjective: having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness. “He is outstandingly handsome and robust, very masculine”
synonyms: virile, macho, manly, muscular, muscly, strong, strapping, well built, rugged, robust, brawny, heavily built, powerful, red-blooded, vigorous

noun: the male sex or gender. “the masculine as the norm”

Feminine:

adjective:
1. having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness. “a feminine frilled blouse”
synonyms: womanly, ladylike; girlish; soft, delicate, gentle, graceful; girly “a very

noun: the female sex or gender. “the association of the arts with the feminine”

A Rule To Remember

This is the perfect time to remind you that unless I specifically quote or cite other sources, everything on this blog site is my own opinion. I do not nor can I speak for anyone other than myself, so don’t use my words as an “all trans people are like this.”

Just like every other person on the planet, we are individuals. We have our own thoughts and feelings, and no one can presume to speak for any group. Besides, my opinions, thoughts, beliefs and feelings change over time.

This post is a perfect example of my changing ideas.

Who Am I?

All ideas of existential angst aside, I am a trans woman; that is, I was born into a male body, but I identify as female. I don’t consider myself “a woman trapped in a man’s body” (although at one time I did, before my knowledge increased). I did have a couple of women friends say that I was a lesbian trapped in a man’s body once. And that was prescient, since I hadn’t yet come out or, indeed, realized who I was.

So I identify at various times as wife, mother, daughter, sister, and grandmother. But that’s not really who I am; after all, I also call myself a writer, blogger, photographer, and baker. All these things are only parts of who I am: they are not who I am.

Some Background

For the longest time, once I understood the reasons I never felt as if I quite “fit in,” I considered myself a trans woman. Later, as my views evolved, I started to understand what it meant to be gender fluid. To paraphrase an old candy commercial, “sometimes I feel like I’ve nuts, sometimes I don’t.” In other words, although I mostly identify and present as female, there are still times when the boy comes through. So in this sense, I guess I’m gender fluid.

Not that I have ever been comfortable with the gender binary. It’s like the Kinsey scale as it pertains to sexual identity. Alfred Kinsey discovered that the majority people identify not as exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual, but rather somewhere along a continuum of sexualities.

Science today is discovering that the same thing holds true of gender—which is, after all, merely a social construct. And to me, all that being gender fluid means that I’m quite comfortable living on a continuum…

…most of the time:

genderfluid


Gender Identity Disorder, and Why It’s Frustrating

I consider the fact that my gender doesn’t match my sex to be an unfortunate fact of life. And fortunately, there are things I can do to bring my sex more in line with my gender. Indeed, I am already doing some of those things: I take a testosterone blocker, and I take estrogen supplements. All well and good.

But even with new insurance “reforms,” all too many of us are locked into a Catch-22. I’m referring specifically to sex reassignment surgery (initialized as SRS; also known as gender reassignment surgery (GRS), genital reconstruction surgery, sex affirmation surgery, gender confirmation surgery, sex realignment surgery, or, colloquially, a sex change).

Why do I call it a Catch-22? Because in order to obtain necessary treatment (indeed, it is life-saving in so many cases), we have to claim that we have a recognizable and diagnosed disorder, in spite of the fact that very few of us who experience it consider it to be a disorder.

Consider: if you had been born with amblyopia (aka lazy eye), you could simply consult with an ophthalmologist, schedule your surgery, and have it corrected. You wouldn’t be required to consult with a psychiatrist both before and after your surgery, nor would you be required to live for a full year as someone with normal vision before you could get the surgery.

But that is exactly what I would have to do before I could get my necessary surgery. Why do I say it’s necessary?

According to surveys, 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.

The most recent, comprehensive data on suicide attempts was gathered by The Williams Institute, in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Its report, Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults, analyzed responses from 6,456 self-identified transgender and gender non-conforming adults (18+) who took part in the U.S. National Transgender Discrimination Survey. The results are staggering. (http://www.vocativ.com/culture/lgbt/transgender-suicide/)

In the case of trans gender people, SRS can truly be a matter of life or death. And yet in order to qualify for it, I have to live as a woman for a full year before I am eligible. I would have to see a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist both before and after my surgery. And above all, I would have to “admit” that there is something wrong with me mentally.

This is the only type of reparative treatment that has these kinds of requirements.


What it All Means

To me, in practical terms, it means that I am no longer worrying or wondering about who I am: I accept myself as I am, with all my questions and wonderments. And having accepted me, I like myself. I’m comfortable with myself. Above all, I respect, admire, and love myself—and none of this is affected by any labels other people may hang on me.

 

Keep Calm, or, Happiness vs. Contentment

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Keep Calm and Take Your Meds graphic

Today I’m wearing an earring that says just that. The aspect ratio in the picture is wrong, since the earring is made from a Scrabble® tile, but you get the idea.

Like so many others, I am on psychoactive medications. The depression they help me cope with is a legacy from my mother, who inherited it from her father, and so on back for untold generations. I say “untold” because we don’t know how far back it goes. We do know, however, that it is cross-gender from generation to generation; that is, sons inherit it from their mothers, and daughters from their fathers. My two brothers also have their own battles with it.

A psychiatrist who was treating me told me that today is the best time in history to have depression. What he meant was we have a better understanding of it today than ever before. Consider: in the 1970s, when my mother was first diagnosed, there were no antidepressants. The solution (offered by a male doctor)? Right. She had a complete hysterectomy. “Woman troubles,” you know.

Today we have almost the opposite problem: too many medications, with no real understanding of how they work. In fact, any number of studies attribute their effectiveness to the placebo effect; that is, they work because the patient believes they work. Well, if that’s true, how can you explain the fact that for me, certain types of antidepressants work, while others don’t? And why do none of the newer, more “modern” drugs have no effect on my brother’s problems, yet MAOIs (some of the oldest meds available) work for him?

Happiness vs. Contentment

Anyway, as Arlo Guthrie used to say, “That’s not what I come here to talk to ya about.” I come to talk about happiness and contentment.

I recently saw contentment called the underachiever version of happiness. If that’s true, I guess I’m an underachiever. For me, happiness takes to much energy to maintain over time. I don’t do happy on a regular basis. Sure, I have bursts of happiness, even of joy sometimes. But happiness as a long-term emotional state? Sorry, I just can’t spare the energy to keep it up. As Brooke McAlary says on her blog at Slow Your Home,

“I don’t aim for happiness. Instead I aim for quiet, constant contentment. Things don’t
need to be great, but if things are good most of the time, I’m content.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with happiness! Far from it! When Stacey gives me a birthday card, I’m happy. But there’s a bill in the mail, so that puts a damper on the happiness. However, that doesn’t detract from my contentment. That’s still there, and it’s a constant.

Sometimes my depression gets the better of me, and I find myself crying for no reason. Obviously, I’m sad. But experience has taught me that eventually, I’ll stop crying, and the sadness will lift. That’s a painful lesson I’ve learned, but it gives me hope during the darkness. And so I am content to know that I will survive.

Back in 1971, Baba Ram Dass wrote his seminal work, Be Here Now. But more than just the title of a book, be here now is a way of living. And given the latest psychotherapeutic approaches, I think it’s safe to say that Baba anticipated mindfulness and mindful thinking by a few decades, even if all he did was repeat what Christ said a couple thousand years ago:

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these….Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Luke 12:25-34, Holy Bible, King James Version)

Or to put it to music: Three Little Birds.

And that’s really all I have for today, except to wish you endless days and nights of contentment, punctuated now and then with joy, happiness, and yes, even sadness.