I’ve already written an article about escape strategies. Most people are unhappy for one reason or the other, and engage in some sort of escapism to literally ‘take their minds away’ from their problems and issues. It can be TV, it can be sports, computer games, a hobby, or just drowning yourself in hard work (which at least will earn you money!). In many cases, sadly, it means turning to alcohol, recreational drugs, or even hard drugs. Whatever the strategy, the purpose is to ‘forget’ about yourself for a while and keeping your sanity.
For a Buddhist, this is hard to do, because we’re supposed to be training to pay attention to our minds all the time. Buddhism is anti-escapism driven to the extreme: it means hiding nothing to yourself, laying your mind bare for analysis, and constantly paying attention to what goes on in your mind — at all moments of your life. It’s the only way to start your progress in the Buddhist path. That’s why it’s quite hard to do. Sure, during so-called ‘silent meditation’ you might have nice feelings of warmth, peace, and calm, and that’s why many people meditate. But those are merely ‘warm-up exercises’ to do the real work, which is to constantly pay attention to your mind.
While doing so, it’s quite clear to me that everytime my mind is focused, I just have one thought: how can I crossdress better? Or maybe I should even say: how can I turn myself into a passable woman? In fact, I might temporarily worry about other things — like getting a meal, worrying about my work, engaging myself into a computer game or a nice book. But these are merely ‘distractions’. In fact, I just have one single need and purpose in my life: to become a passable woman somehow. All the rest is really secondary.
Obviously, the intensity of that obsession varies from time to time. Most of the time it’s just a ‘background thought’, while I turn my mind to more productive things (like working!). Often, I can just ‘worry’ about details, like writing a list of makeup that I need to buy, or to make mental notes to myself to write an email to this supplier of amazingly realistic breastforms. On the street, I might just casually look at a boutique’s window, and imagine how cool that dress would look on me; or check out what the women on the street are wearing, paying attention to little details. There is probably not an urge, deep and violent, behind those casual thoughts. They might even be enjoyable, light, and mostly irrelevant; I might return home and forget about what I saw. At home, I might not be constantly looking at my ‘femme’ email and checking the latest fashion tips on my favourite sites; as a rule of thumb, I don’t spend time on any ‘social sites’ with my femme account, unless I’m fully dressed. So, to be honest, during those moments — which are most of the time, really — I’m not really feeling anxious at all. It’s just part of me. Some people might have similar feelings about their favourite rock band or football club; it’s their obsession too, but they don’t feel anxious about it.
On other times, however, the feeling of anxiety is overwhelming. For example, often I struggle with disappointment for being forced to skip a dressing session — or even missing another chance to go to a party with my CD friends, because, once more, my wife forbade me to do so. Sometimes I have this impulse to start kicking things around when I wake up, hair freshly washed, fingernails well-grown and groomed, ready for another day of dressing, and I notice the sun is blazing hot and the temperature will rise above 35ºC, making it impossible for me to wear anything (luckily enough, this has been quite a mild summer). Or my best plans have been thwarted because my wife ‘suddenly’ wants to go out and shop for food again.
Sometimes my anxiety is visible to my wife, and she even pities me. She sees how I get all tingly and excited for browsing through a woman’s boutique (when we’re looking, say, for a birthday gift to a female friend); or while going through the clothes of my departed mother to give them to charity (yes, I managed to save a few for myself!); or how I positively drool when my mother-in-law or sister-in-law, after dinner at their place, start unpacking old clothes for my wife to pick. Sometimes she notices how eager I look and even remembers to keep a few items for me. And one time we were standing in a queue on a boutique, waiting to pay, and we both noticed that the woman in front of us was very likely a transgendered person (we could only see her from the back, though). When we left the shop, my wife gently asked me if I wasn’t being affected by that, and I told her, no, why should I? To which she replied, ‘Well, I thought you would feel frustrated because that transgendered woman is allowed to go out and have fun shopping for herself, fully dressed as the woman she wants to be, while you cannot do so’. I was deeply touched by her empathy back then, and agreed that obviously the thought crossed my mind, but I could handle it. And I was being honest. In fact, I was more than happy to know that some transgendered people can freely go anywhere they like and do what they want without restrictions, so I was actually quite happy for that stranger! (Outside the shop, when seeing that person from the front, I questioned the assumption that she was transgendered; she just happened to be a very tall and large-boned woman from somewhere in Skandinavia. But it’s the thought that counted!)
It’s a bit like chronic pain from some illness. Except for some extreme cases (usually before death!), most people with chronic pain don’t feel the pain with the same intensity all the time. It gets worse and slightly better (and endurable) in cycles. With frustration or depression, the pain might increase; when engaging in ‘distracting’ activities, the pain might be bearable. Even on the best of days, however, there is this ‘pain undercurrent’: the knowledge that sooner or later it will start to hurt much more, even if right now the pain seems dulled. That’s the feeling I have with my obsession. The urge to become a woman never leaves me. It just gets dulled sometimes. It completely disappears from my conscious mind when I’m engaged in escapist activities — like work, or cleaning up the bathroom. Other times, it hits me very hard and I struggle with the urge, which seems overwhelming, thinking that I have to do something about it. Then it subsides.
Sometimes I even force myself to counter my own desires and urges. Often I have the opportunity to dress: by chance, the weather is fine, my wife doesn’t have any chores for me, I have everything I need for a session, but I deliberately don’t dress up. Why? Because I wish to keep a semblance of control. I wish to prove to myself that I’m still in charge. Today, for example, I had everything ready to dress up, but when the time came up to do so, I deliberately went to clean up the bathroom (which sorely needed it), making sure I scrubbed everything extra, taking so much time that I knew that when I had finished, there would be no time free to dress. I could certainly have done it tomorrow. But I did it today, just to make sure that I’m still able to keep my urges in check. Well, I’m still posting this in my blog — a compensation mechanism, typical of all crossdreamers that have to deal with their urges — but it’s still better than to succumb to frustration and despair. That’s how I keep my sanity: by constantly checking myself and noting that I still have a ‘freedom of will’, the ability to ‘fight back’ my innermost urges, and keeping a strong mind. I started doing that during my teens, after all. And nowadays I can use Buddhist techniques to deal with it, which are much more effective than my puny attempts 30 years ago…