I shall dance close to the flames
“But not too close my child”
I shall dance close because the flames are beautiful
“But not too close because you will be burned”
I shall dance because the flames beckon me
“But not too close because the flames will consume you”
I shall dance close because the pain means I am alive
I often tell people that I have two travelling companions. They are depression and suicide. Most of the time they are relatively quiet and don’t make too many demands. For me suicide has always been with me. As a child, I was subjected to sexual, physical and psychological abuse because of me identifying as a girl. I also was bullied throughout my grade school years. Being and thinking I was different led to self-hate and wanting to disappear.
I remember there were times when I was an adolescent where rage was consuming every fiber of my being. Maybe this was the beginning of my Bipolar Disorder. I would go from the rage to depression. I saw no sight to the end in the world of abuse or bullying.
As I got older I found alcohol was the best way to self-medicate and it was a way to treat my Dysphoric Mania cycles. What was killing me was that during the day I would dress and act like a macho male and at night I would be at war within because I hated what I saw in the mirror. This led to a night of drinking and the desire to never wake up. I often would drink an amount of alcohol that surely would cause alcohol poisoning. In hind sight I realize that I have an extremely high tolerance for alcohol.
During the darkest times I would sit on the deck of my fourth floor downtown apartment with a bottle of Scotch and go to the railing thinking I could fly off the deck. I have always fantasized of driving up to the Fremont Bridge in Portland and leaping off of it. In many of my cycles alcohol probably saved my life. I would drink so much that I would pass out.
As a transgender woman, I have discovered that suicide is endemic with being transgender. Now don’t say being transgender is a mental illness. Rather the societal, family and legal constraints put on transgender people causes damage. First you have to understand Gender Dysphoria is the incongruence between what the mind recognizes as one’s gender and what the physical body is showing. For me this incongruence has been hell. I have suffered with self-anger and hate because I used to think this incongruence was a perversion. Being brought up in a very conservative Catholic family, there was no acceptance of my identification of being a girl. At that time we looked under out beds for communists and LGBT people were considered mentally ill. I was sent to Catholic grade school and I faced bullying and abuse by nuns and a priest.
One of the long-term psychological issues I have dealt with is PTSD. This was brought on by physical, sexual, and psychological abuse both at home and at school. When a PTSD episode strikes, I go into hyper vigilance and my hypomania is at triggered. I will then dive into depression and thoughts of suicide commence.
The push for “Bathroom Legislation” happening in society now is devastating to transgender youth. They seek to be accepted, yet portions of society are vilifying them as sexual predators. This creates both depression and leads to bullying and suicide. The statistics are against me as a transgender woman. It is estimated that about 80% of transgender people have contemplated suicide during their life. Around 42% have attempted suicide and if the transgender person has a mental illness the attempt rate rises to over 60%. I am in the 60% group and possibly my likelihood of attempting suicide is higher because I suffer from Dysphoric Mania, a subset of Bipolar Disorder.
As I look back, I wonder what I could have done different and what I should say to youth today who are transgender and facing some of the issues I face today. Maybe try not to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. Maybe have the courage to report abuse and seek help when possible. Today I see a society that is far more accepting and I try to fight for the LGBT rights. For the youth today, I ask you to stand up for who you are and please don’t think suicide will change anything. Don’t let the bigots and naysayers win. The more we show people that we are real people the more we be accepted.