TW mental illness, depression, suicidal ideation.
It seems appropriate that today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and the theme of many of the global discussions focus on mental health and well being. This morning I finally went to my appointment with a trans affirming psychiatrist and will hopefully be getting a bit of support navigating the desolate place that has been mental landscape for far too long.
The following is somewhat of a stream of consciousness and hasn’t been proof read or edited so please bare with my ramblings as I try to get the stuff out of my head before I lose my nerve.
I have hinted at the fact that I’ve been in a bad place recently. Frankly, I’ve been too scared to even begin trying to access psychiatric care because of a really bad experience I had about 2 years ago.
I went to a psychiatrist because post partum depression had turned into a major depressive episode and that combined with a massive trauma had left me suicidal and hopeless. I waited an awfully long time to get to see a psychiatrist who had been recommended as queer friendly by a cisgay psychologist friend.
The fact that there was a TV showing the Kardashians screaming at each other at an uncomfortable volume in the waiting area should have been the first clue that this was not the right doctor for me. I was desperate enough to need to see a doctor and I just couldn’t wait any longer so I stuck it out through the hour and forty five minutes that he was running behind schedule. Finally he calls me in and I am struck by his casual appearance and that his outfit would not look out of place at a trendy club or in an R&B video. He asked me why I was there and I replied detailing my struggles with post partum depression. And this, dear reader, is where everything unravelled disastrously.
Within the space of 15min he had diagnosed me as having Borderline Personality Disorder had shamed me for being depressed and invalidated every aspect of my experience. The way he made his diagnosis by his own words is that he “reads people.”
Want to know what his diagnostic criteria were?
Blue hair – impulsive and rebellious
Deaf – self harm via music (actually degenerative calcification of the tiny bones in my ears)
Unusual gender presentation – rebellious
Tattoos – rebellious
Complained about the TV being too loud to hear the receptionist over the phone – oppositional
Experimented with drugs in my youth (15 odd years ago) – impulsive
Abusive parents – well this is the one thing that actually does fit as an aetiology.
He actually told me that my suicidal depression was irrelevant and that it would sort itself out if we treated the real problems. The real problems being my non normative presentation.
I honestly can’t decided if the issue was homo/transphobia or garden variety misogyny but this doctor had taken one look at me and made assumptions about my mental illness and then looked for things to confirm his gut feel, rather than base his diagnosis on clinical case taking or history.
I left the appointment broken and confused. I sat and cried for almost an hour before I was able to drive home. Looking back, if I hadn’t had the supportive spouse to go home to, and psychiatrist friends, who upon hearing recount of my experience, insisted that his behaviour was malpractice and negligent, I would have probably not survived that experience. I was left unmedicated and unsupported by the very person I had entrusted myself with at my most vulnerable.
It has taken me 2 years to work up the courage to go see a psychiatrist again. Two years of battling through depression alone. Two years of clawing my self out of the dark. Two years of falling back in to the pit unexpectedly.
The last 6 months have been hard. We have had major crisis after major crisis. A failed business, financial troubles, freak accidents with our kids, my car being vandalised, a massive betrayal of trust from someone we let into our home, a terrifying health scare, and then the separation from my parents. All of this while I was going through second puberty on T. It all got too much. I stopped T to try cope slightly better with my emotional coping mechanisms no longer turbulent with hormonal changes, but by that point I was so deep and far gone in the grip of mental illness that nothing was helping anymore. Too little, too late.
In the last 2 months, my mind has been a constant litany of “you’re worthless” “you’re a burden” “your family would be better off without you” “just kill yourself” “your function in this family could be filled by a competent au pair” “do it now before your kids are old enough to remember you” “you’re invisible”
“WHAT ARE YOU FUCKING WAITING FOR? DO IT!”
And then new words added to that familiar dialogue.
“It’s because you’re trans” “there is no space in this world for people like you” “you’ll never make a living because you’re too weird” ” you’ll never be accepted, look not even you parents can accept a freak like you”
That constant stream of negative thought, toxic internal dialogue and internalised transphobia had me struggling to cope day to day, barely surviving at all in fact.
Finally I reached the level of desperation that was necessary to disregard my fear of psychiatry and I made an appointment.
It has been a couple days of swallowing the fear and nausea lodged firmly in my throat, days of trying to breathe past the panic and calm my racing heart. This morning I managed to walk into the doctor’s rooms, suppressed the urge to run screaming and greeted the Dr with a babbling apology about being nervous and shed a fair few tears within seconds of walking through the door.
She was nice. She used gender neutral language for my spouse and I. She listened intently, asked sensitive and well considered questions, and then after 45min sent me on my way with Wellbutrin, sleeping pills, her mobile number written on a piece of paper in case of aggravations or side effects and a glimmer of hope.
So begins my medication roller coaster. These things are never straight forward, but I hope this time I have someone in my corner to whom I can hand over some of the weight of my mental illness and who’ll carry it for a bit until I’m stronger again.
Now I’m going to nap and hope some of the panic and tention will dissipate.
Wish me luck.