Does depression have a compounding effect? Is the sum of two reasons to be depressed more than double the amount of depression? Because there are a lot of threads right now. For example, it’s well know that some people struggle with their mood in the winter It even has a name (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Then there’s the reality that many people find the holidays an especially distressing time (ask anyone who deals with suicide hotlines) and these are often the folks estranged from the usual family support structure. Closely akin to that is the dark moods often engendered by loneliness. While this is a year-round issue, many people who live alone or don’t have a healthy ongoing relationship – even people who are around others a lot but feel disconnected from them – are at a heightened awareness of feeling lonely at this time of year.
Then of course there’s the depression that comes to many when they look at the past year and realize just how much hostility towards trans people still remains in our culture, and how much we stand to come under political and social attack in the next four years. And there’s the sadness lingering for many from the recent remembrance of lives lost. That’s quite a load for anyone to carry, even one not prone to depressive episodes.
Yet perhaps the most common affliction suffered by trans people is depression. Certainly dysphoria driven depression is epidemic among those still closeted, but I find that even when one has made some gains in the process of transition, it is still not uncommon to be overwhelmed by what has not yet been accomplished. Particularly as one assess how difficult accomplishing a fully complete transition seems to be (due to finances or opposition or whatever). Indeed, when I struggle with these feelings the feeling is compounded by feeling ashamed to admit to them because I fear the reply “well if you are still depressed then this (transition) wasn’t what it took to be happy after all, was it?”
But that’s false. One can still be distinctly happier than they were before and yet still not completely content. As it is wisely said, transition is the solution to only one problem – dysphoria. It’s not a cure all. Worse, a transition that takes place with agonizing slowness, with fits and starts mingled with roadblocks and delays, is not at all the same experience as a transition that goes from start to finish in a straight line over 18-24 months as some are blessed to experience.
The point in all this is that at this time of year, in particular, we al have to be on guard against the effects of depression both in ourselves and in those we associate with. Sometimes, like me, you sense depression in a direct response to circumstances – I can’t afford my medicine, I’m going to lose my job, my wife doesn’t love me anymore, whatever – and sometimes it’s just a generalized overall sense of unhappiness with your life. Part of the reason I keep having to deal with it is that when your mood relates to circumstances, the only way to fix it is to change the triggering circumstance, or change how you feel about that reality. I confess I struggle with changing my reaction to a negative circumstance that stubbornly refuses to change. If, for example, having a consistant supervised course of HRT is important to me – and it is!! – then the circumstance which prevents that is never going to be one that I look on with anything but gloom.
I’m certainly not in a position to give anyone advice. More likely I need someone to hold my hand instead. But what I can say is that if you’re not in the dark places right now, please be aware of your sisters and brothers who are and be there to help guide them through lest any more of us slip into the darkness completely.
Photo by Lawrence Murray