Does this title strike a cord with you? If it does, you are not a lone. Many trans and gender non-conforming individuals have been informed about the importance of pursuing transitional desires (e.g. hormones or surgery) to help combat feelings of depression. Many articles online have suggested that certain types of depression are indeed linked to gender dysphoria (persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender, and discomfort with one's own assigned sex). You can read one here from HealthyPlace.com that speaks to that very problem. However, what if you've been on hormones for months or years or have had surgeries to help with symptoms of dysphoria and still find yourself feeling low?
Take some time to think about how you feel in your current transitional process
This is a BIG factor I always stress to my clients when moving through their transition. When people come in to my office for gender therapy services, I've noticed in many there seems to be this sense of immediacy to wrap up mental health, schedule appointments with doctors and get that prescription in hand for hormones or blockers! For surgeries, the same can be said as well. Trust me when I say I can understand that feeling of wanting to get to the end result, especially if you've been thinking about that day for quite some time! I want to see you at that finish line too as I know it will ultimately help you in your mental health journey! For some though, moving too quickly through the process does not allow time to completely digest how you feel at each phase, or how it will or does affect you socially or emotionally.
For those who have had some time in their transition socially or medically, think about the last time you've taken inventory of how you feel at this point in your life, or if you are happy with the changes you've made (e.g. clothing choice, preference in names, pronouns, medical, etc)? For some of my clients who are well into their transition, they've later discovered a change in their preference of clothing style, or have decided they no longer identify as trans, but maybe gender non-binary or another gender variant under the gender umbrella. Some have also reported problems with low self esteem that they believed would be resolved with hormones or surgery, but the feelings persisted through their transition.
So take a step back and give yourself time to think and process through where you are at, where you are headed in your journey, and if you still agree with the changes you've made thus far. If you find yourself second guessing a change or no longer enjoying a certain aspect of the life you've formed, it doesn't mean you have been wrong in your transition. It's possible you've outgrown certain habits, styles or preferences and it's time to embrace new personal growth!
Do you have underlying issues that are unrelated to your gender identity?
Because gender therapy is typically focused on aspects of gender related issues, other mental health factors can sometimes get overlooked. This is why I do my best to ensure as many mental health points are covered in session before making a referral for hormone therapy or surgery. Sometimes the excitement of becoming who you are can overshadow other issues in your life. It's hard to think about the negative when wrapped up in something positive happening. But once that high wears off the unresolved problems are still there. Particularly for those who have experienced trauma or abuse in their lives, the onset of depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and other factors could have a huge impact on someone's current mental and emotional status.
Other issues such as how family, friends, co-workers or employers choose to treat you before, during, or after your transition can also affect how you feel about yourself or the environment you live in. If you also happen to have been diagnosed with a co-morbid (one or more) diagnosis mental health wise or medically, then you want to ensure the proper treatment of those issues (e.g. through medications, substance use treatment, individual, group, or family counseling, etc). Take time to reflect on your personal history with friends and family, how things might have changed before and after your transition, and if you are being properly treated for other issues that may also be affecting your mood and emotions.
If you've taken some time to think about the above items and still don't know what could be the issue with your depression, don't just let it sit!
Don't feel like there's nothing you can do about your depression! There are ways to work through what's going on in your life, and get you back on a healthy path after your transition. I have had numerous clients who have either come back or come in for the first time needing to address problems surrounding symptoms of depression unrelated to their gender identity. Becoming who you are is simply one step in your life's journey; learning how to deal with other problems from your past or present is the next phase in developing a healthy you and health ways of dealing with stressors.
If you feel you are in need of immediate help, contact your local and national crisis numbers to speak with professionals who can help you right now.
Grand Junction Crisis:
Mind Springs Health
24/7 Crisis hotline: 888.207.4004
24/7 Colorado Statewide Crisis: 844.493.TALK (8255)
24/7 Textline: Text TALK to 38255
Devin Pinkston is a local mental health counselor and Gender Therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a free consultation today at 970-644-2392