One of the biggest barriers that prevented me from seeking out counseling back in 2009 was because if I went to therapy it meant admitting that I needed therapy, and if I needed therapy then I had a problem, and I didn’t want to have a problem.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. Therapy was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
At first we talked about a traumatic sexual experience I had. But then we started talking about all the other things I was suppressing. At this point I was already using alcohol as a way to cope and my therapist was bringing up all these issues that sometimes made things feel worse.
We started talking about how my parents split me and my girlfriend up the summer before senior year of high school. We talked about my religious upbringing. We talked about my relationships with my siblings, and alcohol, and school, and activism, and my romantic relationships, and stress, and anxiety, and depression.
During one tearful session, I admitted that I thought I had depression and my therapist agreed. I started on an antidepressant through my campus health center. I would be on antidepressants for the next 10 years.
I continued to see that therapist almost weekly for 3 years. I’ve continued to see various therapists since then.
I’ve tried numerous times to get off my antidepressants but I was scared. I was told that I shouldn’t get off my antidepressants during any periods of change – like moving or changing relationships changing, etc. But my life was always changing and I didn’t know when I was supposed to get off my antidepressants, even when I felt like I didn’t need them anymore.
Eventually, though, I moved to Pennsylvania and my girlfriend moved in with me and then we got engaged. I felt like I was in a stable place and I wanted to wean off my antidepressants. The doctor who prescribes me my HRT can also prescribe my antidepressants. I spoke to him and we came up with a schedule together to wean off the antidepressants. After six months, I was off the antidepressants and I felt good.
Despite the fact that I'm no longer taking antidepressants, my mental health isn't all good, all the time. My wife and I recently bought a house and the house-buying process gave me so much anxiety that I started going back to therapy after about a two-and-a-half-year gap.
I recently saw a therapist who uses hypnotherapy and tapping, called EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, to relieve anxiety. I know that I can always go back on my antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medication. It’s there if I need it. For now, I’m trying to relieve my anxiety without medication.
I am an extremely privileged man who’s gone through some hard times. I’m a trans man whose family didn’t accept them at first, who’s been through traumatic experiences, and who used alcohol and other unhealthy behaviors to cope.
But I came through the other side.
I found trans-affirming and competent therapists, which is no easy task, to help me along the way. I have a beautiful, smart, passionate, and ambitious wife, we own our own house, and we both have jobs we enjoy and futures we dream about that are slowly turning into reality. I live in the world as a cis-passing, straight, white man. I have privilege. And I still need help, and I still struggle, and that’s OK.