I’ve been catching up on a lot of the back catalogue of leftist YouTube personalities lately, and I finally worked up the courage to watch Philosophy Tube’s video on Suicide and Mental Health. It’s a rough video to watch, especially as someone who’s been there, has dealt with those feelings, and still deals with those feelings. However, it did convince me to write this post, despite having sat on it for months before finally posting it.
I covered a lot about being transgender and having depression and anxiety already, but that was more through the lense of the fact that being transgender isn’t in and of itself a mental illness. This time, I want to discuss my experiences with self harm, and with that comes a huge content warning. If you’re not willing to read about suicidal ideation and self harm, you should skip this particular post.
For me self harm was never about physically hurting myself, but instead doing as much damage to myself psychologically as I could. Physical self harm isn’t something I have ever been able to spend much time thinking about. Knives and sharp objects make me squeamish, and the thought of physically hurting myself is something I have never been able to handle.
Unfortunately that doesn’t stop the ideas from popping into my head. That is why this blog post is titled suicidal ideation, and not suicide. Suicidal Ideation is having the idea of suicide and taking your own life. In my case, I primarily suffer from passive suicidal ideation. This means having thoughts of suicide and wishing that I would die, as opposed to actively planning to do something to make it happen.
I’ve had suicidal thoughts for about as long as I can remember. Collective Soul’s self-titled album came out in 1995, and featured the song The World I Know. The same year, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness came out by the Smashing Pumpkins, featuring the song Muzzle. I was 11 years old and empathized with these songs in a way that I dared not tell anyone. In a strange way, these two songs kept me going. It’s a shame that Billy Corgan turned out to be a conspiracy theorist, showing up on Alex Jones’ show to talk about social justice warriors.
Grades 4 through 8 were hell for me. I did everything I could to fit in with the boys in my class, but I was constantly teased, picked on, had my belongings stolen, you name it. Technically, that was the period of time that I saw my first therapist, but truth be told I was too young and stupid to get much out of those sessions. It didn’t help that they were only 15 minutes long, and largely spent talking about the awful things my classmates did to me that week.
I never told anyone during that period of my life that I wanted to die, or had thoughts of dying. Part of me wanted to talk about it, but the stigma of mental illness and suicide kept me from doing so. Even at that age I understood that suicidal thoughts meant getting put into a hospital.
High school was better, not by much, but enough so that I don’t specifically remember much in the way of suicidal ideation. The biggest benefit of high school was that the school I went to was large enough that there was a clique I found myself a part of. Still, I was picked on relentlessly, and nearly flunked a class because of a fellow student stealing all my homework as it was passed up to the front of the class. Things weren’t great, but they were tolerable. Tolerable, at the time, felt like it was as good as things could get.
College is where things got really bad again. I thought it was going to be another fresh start, much like high school, but a lot of the classmates that caused me problems also went to the community college that I went to. In practice, my college years just felt like high school all over again. That is also when my depression was at its worst.
Some days, I made it to school, but couldn’t bring myself to actually go into class. Instead, I sat by myself in the cafeteria, or outside by the lake behind the school. I remember driving to school and wishing that I’d have the courage to turn the wheel into oncoming traffic. I wondered what it would feel like, if it’d be fast, or if it’d be painful. Still, I never told anyone. A friend at the time ended up in the hospital for an attempted suicide. We didn’t hear from him for two weeks. I refused to let that happen to me, but it didn’t make the thoughts go away.
It took me 6 years to get through that community college. I flunked out twice. Depression kept me from going to class. It kept me from focusing on my school work. It kept me from enjoying what friendships I had at the time.
My mental health started taking a turn for the better when I finally got out of college, and got my first career job. It was still hard though, because my first career job was at a very religious family owned business. Around this time is also when I started questioning my gender, largely because the worst aspects of my mental health had gotten better, which left my brain looking for more things to be depressed about.
This questioning of my gender in the early years of my career were largely due to being forced to wear masculine business casual attire. I hated it. Nothing but slacks and button down shirts and uncomfortable dress shoes. It felt like being back at Catholic grade school and high school. Being out of my parents’ house for the first time let me explore my gender more than before, and the dysphoria started to come out even more. Of course I didn’t recognize it as dysphoria at the time, but looking back it is as clear as day.
Then came the dating scene. I could probably write an entire blog post about dating and its effect on my transition. On the subject of this post, however, it made my depression and dysphoria skyrocket. Loneliness took hold, and I found myself being more jealous of the women I would see in various dating sites than actually wanting to date them. This was especially true when I would run across another trans woman’s profile. I can’t tell you how many times I came close to messaging them just to find out more about what it would be like to transition in the midwest. I never did though.
Suicidal ideation returned. I thought I would never be happy. I thought I’d never find someone who truly understood me.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that those who truly understood me were already surrounding me, but I was convinced that those people would never accept me if I were to transition. I couldn’t transition, because of work, because of family, and because of friends.
Depression convinces you of so many things that aren’t true, and that is where the self harm comes into play.
As I already mentioned, self harm for me has never been about physical harm. It is purely mental and psychological harm. I clung to unhealthy and abusive relationships. I spent time going through old photos that do nothing but make me depressed and fill me with self-hatred and doubt. I alienated myself from my friends, because my head told me that they didn’t want me around and didn’t or wouldn’t accept me.
When I finally got real help for my depression, and found myself on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, suicidal ideation and self harm started to dissipate, and the gender questioning returned.
The gender questioning was yet another symptom of depression, and eventually it was a symptom that I couldn’t ignore anymore. I had to transition, or at least try and see what happens.
Of course transitioning wasn’t a fix-all either. The depression never truly goes away. It’s always in the background, always present, and always causing struggles. What helps the most is therapy, which I haven’t been to in months, which of course means my depression and self harming tendencies are returning. Yet another thing on my list to deal with when I have the time, energy, and money.