For many of my clients, some type of dysphoria is usually the number one issue that they struggle with. Dysphoria with your gender or sexual identity can lead to depression, anxiety, or worse. As a Trans Woman, overcoming gender dysphoria has been central to my journey. Not all Trans people experience gender dysphoria. The Trans experience is different for all of us. However, there are a significant number of Trans Men/Women that do struggle with Gender Dysphoria. Many of us become entangled in the dark web of never being enough or never being worthy. Many of us turn to destructive behaviors that harm us, our loved ones, and damage our lives. And yet, there are many of us that do find a way forward and overcome the feelings of dysphoria. There is a path to a healthier, happier, more authentic life.
For many years I had no words to describe what I was feeling. I only knew that my soul identity did not match the physical appearance of my body. I went through many periods of depression, malaise, anger, and anxiety. It wasn’t until I reached my early thirties that I began to understand what was going on inside of me and then finding the strength to seek help. There were many times I thought about harming myself. Self mutilation and suicide were constantly on the fringe of my thoughts. How did I overcome this? Where did I find the strength to survive in a world that cast aside and mocked people like me?
A question that I am asked more than any other is, How did I overcome the dysphoria? My answer is that I haven’t. While you would never know it, there is always part of me grappling with the thoughts in my mind that I am not feminine enough, or that because I can never truly experience all the things a cisgender female can, that I am not truly a woman. And while there was a time that these thoughts would lead me into a deep depression, I have found ways to overcome them.
In the beginning it wasn’t easy. Not only was I dealing with the unkind words I was saying to myself, I had to deal with the way I was being received by coworkers, people I thought were friends, and my family. I was constantly in a state of emotional upheaval. I believed that I would never be accepted as my authentic self, that there was no way I could live up to the expectations being placed on me. And then I realized it didn’t matter. What truly mattered was that I could find a way to live with myself.
I came to understand that there was no right way to be either gender. All of us come in different shapes and sizes. Our voices all sound different. We are all unique individuals living separate lives while sharing the same time and space. I had to be okay with me and how I was living my life. It wasn’t necessarily about how I looked, but more about how I felt inside and if I could live a truly authentic life. I knew that just existing in a state of constant anxiety and depression was not the way to live. I came to know that any kind of surgery alone would not be enough to quiet the the thoughts in my head. I had to find a place of peace and happiness filled with love for myself. I had to come to terms with the fact that my past was also part of my present and future. For every step forward I took towards creating an authentic life I could be proud of, I had to overcome the negative thoughts around my body and lived experience as a male. I knew I could not rewrite my history, and that by trying to rewrite and erase my past, I was only denying myself. Instead, I began to embrace my story and experiences and use them to create that place of peace and happiness so that the future me could thrive. All the struggles, hardships, and pain that I had experienced up to this point had made me stronger, more resilient, and more courageous than I would have been without them. Just as all of the happiness, and love, and kindness I had received gave me hope and encouragement. I stopped comparing myself to others. I began to see myself just as worthy as anyone else.
More importantly, I began to affirm these ideas to myself everyday. I would tell myself that I am beautiful, that I deserve to be happy, that I deserve to be loved, that I deserve to enjoy success, that I am enough. In doing so I felt the negative thoughts fall away. I began to see all the positive aspects of this life, this gift, that lay in front of me. I began saying these things to other people. And I discovered that having empathy and compassion for others allowed me to show those same things towards myself when things became difficult. Allowing myself to have some grace, knowing that it is impossible to live up to society’s expectations and my own, created space to acknowledge that I am enough. I will always be enough.
This did not happen overnight. I began my transition ten years ago. And I truly feel that I will always be in transition. That every single one of us will be. Transition is change. And at each stage of change we have to overcome different challenges. While one of my challenges has been gender dysphoria, I have experienced many others. Change is inevitable and the choice is up to each individual person to accept and embrace the future in front of them, or to stagnate where they are now. Creating the change and overcoming the challenges takes commitment and time and effort. As someone that has completely changed the arc of their life over a decade, and looking back on all of it now, I would do it all again to get where I am today.
Right now there is someone out there reading this, and telling themselves that they can’t. That they will never be able to do the things I have talked about. I am here to tell you that yes you can. I have been where you are. I was in the middle of Indiana when I transitioned and I did it! Where ever you are, what ever it is you are trying to overcome, you can do it too! You can use this same strategy to overcome anything. The way you talk to yourself matters. It all begins with believing that you can. I can help you. All you have to do is reach out and tell me you want the life I have described. I can help you develop the strategies and skills to create your most authentic life!
We only have one life, and if you aren’t running like you are on fire towards your wildest dreams, what are you doing?