I hate to use that word, “depression”. It evokes in all of us a sense of utter sadness and an inability to deal with our lives or external circumstances. Since a third of all people in the Western world have been diagnosed with depression at some time of the other, and regularly take drugs and do therapy to escape the suffering of their inability to cope with themselves and their surroundings, “depression” is way to harsh a word to describe what I might be going through.
Also I have to consider the people I know. Some of them know that they’re crossdressers for many, many years, but are completely unable to dress — either because they don’t dare to tell their families (many might even have started a family to “forget” about crossdressing, which obviously won’t work, but they realised it too late…) or even though they have told their Significant Other about their urges, they’re strictly forbidden of doing so. This, of course, is a much more serious burden to place on anyone who feels they’re crossdressers. Just the last Sunday I found someone on MSN who is completely destitute, lives with the sister and the brother-in-law and has no means of getting a job, or of studying to improve their chances to get a job, and is a crossdresser with a strong urge which cannot ever be fullfilled. Since that person works at the same place as the sister and the brother-in-law, it means spending all the time together — at work, at home, during vacations — and not having a single moment for themselves. How can such a person possibly ever deal with the urge of crossdressing, specially if “revelation” is not a choice?
Under these circumstances, it would be more than natural to expect that people like that would be very frustrated and that, in turn, would lead to depression. Another friend of mine, who is currently under transition, had a long history of depression for many reasons; she revealed herself to her wife, who forbade her to crossdress. This just aggravated her condition — and her relationship — to the point of getting a divorce (both were very religious and were not keen on that solution, even though at the end there was no other choice). She immediately started her transition afterwards, and due to her clinical past of so many depressions, she was swiftly passed through all successive stages in record speed, and is now ready to begin her real life test: her doctors believe that refusing her the swiftest transition might aggravate her depression levels. Things are linked together, and it’s the doctors belief that by dealing with one thing — transition — will deal with the depression as well.
I’m sure you can add a lot of similar examples, more or less drastic, where the two things are tightly related. So tightly, in fact, that I’ve already written a previous article on that: in some cases, the urge to crossdress might come from a wish to deal with a depression, but the individual is not truly a crossdresser — just someone with a depression — and careful testing should be done by a professional therapist to separate both issues.
The problem here is that it’s a very difficult condition to diagnose, and one that requires a lot of symptoms to be present to be diagnosed at such. It’s not just “being sad all the time”, for one reason or the other. Many people might not feel actually sad at all, but nevertheless be depressed, sometimes without even the slightest idea that they are depressed. And often this state of mind doesn’t last long enough to be qualified as depression at all: we all feel some of the symptoms — like lack of interest in certain activities, tiredness, inability to make decisions, etc. — some of the time, and then revert back to “normality”. This is technically not a “depression” at all, just a way of our organism (and the mind) to react to a certain temporary condition, which might simply go away, and we “come out of depression” on our own: healthy individuals will do this automatically.
I remember saying a few years ago that I found it very hard to be “sad all the time” and thus it was easy for me never to feel “depressed”. I’m deliberately putting that between quotation marks, because I still made the mistake of equating “depression” with “feeling sad”, which is just one of the symptoms, albeit the most popular one. In fact, in May/June 2004, due to a series of terrible circumstances in my own life, and being stalked by some petty criminals who were blackmailing and extorting me, for about two weeks I found myself completely unable to make a single decision. I was sort of apathetic, not really feeling sad, but unable to make any kind of decision. It seemed to me that my brain had stopped reacting and I didn’t even know what was best for me. There was bafflement and the sensation that things were not real, or that I simply was unable to cope with reality — I swinged between both perceptions and couldn’t get a fix on either. At some point, however, someone made the decision for me — “we have to leave our home” — and then, all by itself, this strange state of mind, which I had never experienced before, simply disappeared, and I literally “snapped out of it” and went on with my life.
Now I had seen a lot of depressed people who were just crying and crying, feeling sad at all the time, and unable to do anything because they just felt like crying… and that’s what I thought that depression was. As a matter of fact it’s just one form of depression. Apathy and the inability to make decisions, even if there is no actual feeling of sadness, are other signs of depression. So in retrospective I think now that those two weeks were the only ones where I actually felt something close to a depression, which remained undiagnosed, because it was not something permanent: it simply faded away as soon as someone made a decision for me and put me in the right track.
Fast-forward to the present day. Life goes on, and life goes relatively well, with its ups and downs. Some projects I’ve worked on did succeed, most failed; some months I was clueless about where to get money to sustain me from another month, just to get a new assignment after a few days which would last for half a year, and something else would come up. My wife, who is chronically ill, came close to get surgery “by mistake” just to be rescued by a better diagnosis, and some treatments started finally to work for her and restore her to a semblance of normality. Except for a brief period in late 2004, we’re now financially at the lowest point ever, but since we now get the money regularly, it feels as if we’re actually much better off than ever before — we just learned to cope with reality. Life is not just money and health, and it goes on just as before — in some cases, having more free time to enjoy is actually nice for a change 🙂 So during all those years I never gave much thought to my own mood, I was far more worried with my own wife’s health and condition.
In the past few weeks, however, as my wife’s condition seems to be stabilising (not really getting better but at least becoming predictable in some way), I turned my thoughts to my own self and the relation with my own moods. In general, I’m always a happy person, in the sense that I don’t bear a grudge to nobody, don’t truly feel that “external conditions” are somehow preventing me from continuing to be happy, and pretty much accept that, while those external conditions are not under my own control — and thus it’s silly to get angry or frustrated at them — my own mind and my feelings are definitely totally under my control, and thus I depend exclusively upon myself to be happy (or not). Putting the blame elsewhere will simply not work. Blaming myself is not really a good expression: what I try to see is that most of those “problems” are just the way I look at things and label them as “obstacles”, but the person doing those labels is just myself. So that’s easy to fix. For instance, I might get “angry” or “frustrated” (like on my previous article) about not crossdressing enough, but the major reason is that m own mind links “frustration” to “lack of crossdressing time”. If I can just realise that for what it is, I won’t be frustrated. “Time for crossdressing” is beyond my control — so why bother and get frustrated? If it were under my control, I would take advantage of it, and be happy all the time. Since it isn’t, it’s worthless to worry too much about something beyond my control. So, in general, this made me deal with the frustration to a reasonable, tolerable, acceptable degree.
I would be lying, though, if I said that it’s easy to do. In fact, what I’ve noticed in the past few weeks was a growing sense of apathy and indecision — which then leads to laziness. And this is a bit uncommon for me; I’m the kind of girl who is always doing a gazillion things and complaining of not having enough time for anything! But recently, the reverse seems to be happening. Or rather: what happens is that a lot of circumstances, all beyond my control, push me here and there, like leaves on the wind, leaving little actual time for “myself” to do what I need to do in my work. And when that finally happens, I feel exhausted, tired, and unfocused, thus avoiding to work — writing blog posts, for example, instead of going through my research, which is allegedly what I should be doing. Then, of course, work gets postponed, and this means that on the next day, I have twice the work to do than the day before. But on that day new things would happen preventing me to find enough time to deal with that, so the pattern repeated itself: until I dealt with everything, I would become immensely tired and unable to do the regular amount of work, much less twice — so I started to drop things and give up any pretense of being able to deal with them. And on top of all that, when finally I got a day with plenty of time and no interruptions, what would I do? Crossdress, because that’s what I always do when I finally have the chance to thoroughly enjoy it for a long stretch of time! While sometimes I would work crossdressed — some of my friends complaining that I looked “too serious” on the webcam and wasn’t paying attention — the truth is that those days were exceptional cases: usually, when crossdressing, I’m not truly thinking about “work” and just about enjoyment.
So of course the mind starts playing tricks. On a daily base, my very confusing schedule leaves me numb, bewildered, flabbergasted, unable to decide much, unable to get anything done, and incredibly tired. Those are not “my best days”, and I label them as such, and store them in my memory. Exceptionally I would be able to crossdress, and since that was what I always dream of doing, those days would obviously be filed as “a good, happy day”. Naturally, since we all strive to have “good, happy days” most of the time, this meant that I would be craving more and more for those rare crossdressing days, and pretty much cope with, as best as possible, with the non-crossdressing ones. This cycle repeats itself and enhances my habitual tendencies: more and more I would label the non-crossdressing days as “worthless” (in the sense that they wouldn’t truly matter) and only look forward to those scattered crossdressing days. In fact, it might feel shocking to some of you, but I’m looking forward much more to my next crossdressing session than to Christmas Eve or the New Year party or whatever else. Besides my spiritual training, which still has the highest priority in my life, crossdressing comes so high as a second priority that it overwhelms everything below it: it simply lost all significance.
When that started to happen, I believe I began to look at myself quite differently. Up to know, I considered myself to be a complex person with lots of roles that I would play according to the environment and society I was in. Crossdressing was just another one — a very important one, of course, since the urge to crossdress (like an ex-smoker’s continuing craving for tobacco, even years after giving up smoking) is always there. But now my mind has subtly changed. Now what I feel is that I’m a crossdresser who is being prevented, by circumstances beyond my control, to crossdress most of the time. It’s not that “crossdressing” is my only source of happiness — but it’s a guaranteed one. Even if I’m very tired and my feet are hurting from wearing heels, or the corset and bra are starting to chaff and get itchy, or the wig’s getting too burdensome, it still feels wonderful all the time, because, well, that’s what I truly feel to be “in tune” with what I truly like to do. But by contrast it means that I started, more and more, to lose interest in pretty much everything else: work, family, friends. Those are only external things that take up my valuable time which leaves me little left for crossdressing. Now this is a tremendously egoistic attitude, so, in truth, I still view them as important: work is what keeps me alive with food and warmth — and clothes — so that I can occasionally crossdress. Family is mostly who brought me into this life, and if my parents didn’t have me, I couldn’t enjoy crossdressing — so I naturally feel towards them an overwhelming sense of gratitude. My wife is who is always there for me to help me across the time when I’m not crossdressing and makes everything look so wonderful just because she’s part of it. And friends, of course, provide companionship, a way to discuss things together, exchange ideas and insights, share whatever good moments we have together, but also provide help in the bad moments, and so forth. They also provide me objects of study and of inspiration: why do they feel unhappy? Can I do something to help them out? Can I learn from the way they have tackled with their own issues and apply their solutions to my own issues?
But more and more I feel in a sense a bit “disconnected”. Most people I know define themselves as the “family they built”, as the “career” they created through hard work, as the “opinions” they have (and have made known), and eventually, on the more materialistic side of things, “the things they own”. More cerebral types will lean more towards the opinions they have, more materialistic ones towards the career and the objects they’ve bought, but, in general, for most people I know, the activity they do on their daily routines is how they define themselves. Most, unfortunately, are not truly satisfied with that; some might even be unhappy but pretend otherwise; a few feel somehow accomplished in spite of everything, but still strive for more recognition, a bigger family, or more ownership of pretty things. For me, however, all these are merely distractions — we have to endure them in this life because it’s expected of us, it’s thanks to those things that we have a relatively sane society, but they’re not important in themselves.
For me, the only thing that seems to be important in itself, besides a deeper studying of how my mind works — because that’s the only way to find permanent happiness, by changing my own mind to deal with everything — is to be crossdressed. Strangely enough, that’s how I define myself. At the core of my being, my self-accomplishment comes first by crossdressing, and only in a very minor secondary way through everything else — career, opinions, family, friends, and so forth.
This is a strange feeling, because it makes me neglect most of what usually is called “mundane activity”. If a career is secondary, because ultimately it won’t lead to any permanent happiness (jobs come and go, money is lost to ever-increasing taxes and creeps that cheat me out of it, so why worry so much about all those circumstances beyond my control?), it means that I don’t take my work so seriously, and, naturally, I’m not as eager to work as before. But this, of course, is no solution: it just means work piles up and people get more angry, and I might have to sacrifice crossdressing days in order to work more. This is the kind of thing that can indeed lead to some of the lesser-known characteristics of depression: a certain apathy and lack of decision regarding things that suddenly are becoming less and less important; and a craving towards something else — in my case, crossdressing — which becomes so overwhelmingly important that it eclipses everything else. When that happens, it means that the urge to crossdress becomes all-pervading. I not only dream of crossdressing, I daydream of crossdressing. My agenda (not the written one, but the one I have in my mind), instead of having meetings, holidays, and time to enjoy with friends & family, is a succession of crossdressing days and non-crossdressing days. I crave for those crossdressing days like most “normal” people crave for the weekends, the public holidays, or their vacations, and set their goals by those: crossdressing is a holiday for me, and the only kind of holiday that really matters.
While the urge and craving is “natural” for a crossdresser — we cannot change that, it’s how we are — the apathy and lack of decision that follows between crossdressing sessions is not. These are depression symptoms. Not enough symptoms to clinically establish a depression, sure, but perhaps some early warning signs. I’m truly not sure about that, but there is obviously a solution: talking to an expert. Unfortunately, due to my attitude towards work, and my wife’s own chronic illnesses, it also means that the amount of money free to consult an expert therapist is not currently available for me. I keep postponing that because my wife’s health, and our own daily need to survive with what little money we have is a much bigger priority. Also, I’m not truly fond of most over-the-counter solutions provided by therapists in general. Feeling depressed? Take some happy pills. That’s just masking the symptoms, not dealing with the cause. The cause might simply be that I’m “more than a crossdresser”, as I’ve suspected for half a year or so, and if a therapist confirms that diagnosis, what can they do but advise transition, which is currently not an option?
Also, when thinking very deeply about that option, it becomes obvious to me that I would be just switching problems. In exchange of “living crossdressed all the time” (i.e. become a woman), I would then need to deal with a huge lot of new problems which I don’t have right now, namely, the inability to sustain myself through my own work, since transsexuals have little or no opportunity of getting a job. So instead of struggling along, but generally surviving, I’d be starving and having few options to get some food — while having to deal every day with ostracism and anger at a transsexual. Who would sustain my wife if I were unable to do so? How would I deal with family & friends who would be no only unable to understand that “decision” but feel utterly frustrated themselves — specially my own parents, who might not be able to survive with the thought of “having done something wrong” in my education, as if that mattered? I would disappoint pretty much everybody who has been kind to me in some way, big or small. And then I would have to deal, on a daily base, with the consequences of that decision, and the new responsibility of having to deal with the blame that everyone would throw upon me, and the disappointment of so many people.
It’s such a hard choice that I obviously cannot even start to consider it seriously. But on the other hand, it also means that the whole notion of crossdressing (and transition!) sometimes becomes pointless on its own. Currently, the only person suffering from my lack of crossdressing is just me. That’s just one person to deal with, and, better still, it’s within my own power to deal with myself. If I transitioned, then a lot — and I really mean a lot! — of people would suffer, for several reasons, but I would be absolutely powerless to deal with their own suffering. I might explain in some cases, but still my family and friends would feel betrayed (at least). Some of my closest friends are even homophobic and genderphobic, and for them, the notion that they had been such close friends to a “naughty transsexual” would totally break them down. How could I possibly deal with the idea of being such a horrible person that would bring so much unhappiness to so many different people, just because, at a single moment of egoism, I decided to go ahead and do something just for myself?
There is an old Buddhist saying, from a great master, who once said: “All happiness in the world comes from thinking about others. All suffering in the world comes from thinking about ourselves.” This is not an appeal to become a mindless idiot who self-sacrifices oneself to be some sort of slave to others. Instead, it helps us to put a focus on our decisions. When choosing between an action that will only benefit us, but harm countless other people, what should be the correct choice? Why should my own unhappiness force others to become unhappy too? Isn’t it better to deal with one’s own frustrations and depressions, get rid of them — because we can! — instead of spreading out an ever-increasing circle of unhappiness to all other people? This is rather far more functional!
At least, from an intellectual and philosophical point of view — because we are so attached to our own thoughts and feelings, we tend to think precisely in the opposite way: do whatever is required to become happy, and let others find their own happiness for themselves — don’t care about them. Well, I’m trying hard to do the opposite of what is, for most people, their “natural” way of behaving. Every time I feel unable to cope with my lack of crossdressing, I start thinking about how many people would suffer (including myself!) if I crossdressed all the time (i.e. went through transition). And then it becomes more and more obvious that this is not my way to follow. Obviously I have to grudgingly and reluctantly agree with my more intellectual analysis, even though my own feelings and emotions give me a different answer.
So somehow this has to give me the strength to deal with those symptoms of apathy and inability to make decisions which might — or might not — be a prelude to a minor depression. By setting a higher standard than my own personal immediate happiness, I might find that crossdressing is, in fact, as little important as any other thing that I’ve mentioned: a career, success, glory and fame, lots of money, and so forth. It is definitely something deeply part of my mindset, as of every crossdresser, which I cannot change — but I can certainly change the way I let myself get affected by it. The so-called “easy way out” (i.e. transition) is just a delusion: a nice idea I create in my mind which lets me believe that by going ahead with such a plan, I will reach somehow a plateaux of absolute bliss and ultimate happiness, when in reality I would be just opening a Pandora’s box of new problems to deal with, some of which are way harder than the ones I deal with on a daily basis — and, on top of that, I would make lots and lots of people very, very unhappy. Thus I place the consequences of either decision on a balance and try to make a rational judgement about it. In the mean time, because I’m not yet at the stage of abandoning crossdressing as a “minor thing” in my live — exactly because it is, indeed, the most important thing in my life! — what can I do? Well, it means very likely to negotiate more crossdressing time with my wife. It means making her understand that her constant constrains put upon me (not being able to dress as much as I want, preventing me from going out, stopping me from buying more clothes, even cheap ones in sales) will only aggravate the current condition and make me believe that crossdressing is far more important than anything else in my life. I have to shake that feeling off and start concentrating back on the rest.
The good news is that I’ve managed to do so successfully for many decades 🙂 Just because I seem unable to do it now doesn’t mean that I cannot do the same again; it’s always easier to do something that you have done again and again — “practice makes perfect”. I just need to recall how in most of my life so many other things were much more important to me than crossdressing, and reduce crossdressing to the same status once more.
In the mean time, I wish you all a merry season! I shall be unavailable the week after Christmas, so, for most of you, this will also be the last message of 2011. I shall be back in January!