The difference a year can make…

It gets better

It’s been one year (give or take) since I started anti-depressant medication and I can honestly say that my life has improved massively since my breakdown last October/November (I can’t remember when it was exactly.) A lot has changed for me in 12 months.

1. Getting out of “the system”

Last year I was in the first placement of an 18 month training scheme which I started in July. This year I am 1 month away from finishing it. I have learned that uncertainty causes me a huge amount of stress, as does pandering to the requirements of a government-funded organisation and the restrictions placed upon me by the scheme. I remember feeling this way several times in the past – when I was in my final 2 years of secondary education, when I attended an institute of technology, and in certain jobs where I was micro managed by a superior. I’ve always hated being told what to do, but it’s the inflexibility of certain situations imposed by “the system” that particularly stress me out.

I remember being told by a career guidance counsellor that I went to aged 15/16 that “the system” wasn’t designed for “people like me.” I maintain that if it hadn’t been for the support, encouragement and understanding of my parents, I would’ve been a “high-school dropout.” These past 18 months have simply hammered into me what I was told but did not fully comprehend 12 years ago – that I need to make my own way in this world, free from social restrictions and societal/institutional restraints.

2. Relationship bliss

Last year I was also in a relationship with a lesbian who actively disliked my masculine-leaning presentation and personality. This year I’m 11 months into a supportive relationship with a transguy who not only likes, but supports my masculine presentation and personality. It has been with the support and understanding of my partner that I have been able to confront my masculine side, consider openly my genderqueer-ness and come out, both to myself and my family and close friends as transgender. This time last year I was ashamed of who I was, ashamed of my fear of being myself and of my shame in myself. I hated how I looked, I had made no friends since moving to Belfast 4 months previous, I was lonely and I felt utterly alone.

Just 6 weeks after starting my anti-depressants, I had my first date with my current partner and everything changed. When I had told my ex-girlfriend about my depression, she had been quite unsupportive and completely lacked any understanding for my situation. When she more or less told me to “buck up,” that was the end of our relationship – a mutual breakup that saved me from a further downward spiral into self-hatred and loathing. It was this drastic change from unsupportive girlfriend who wanted me to wear dresses and “femme-up” to a very supportive and understanding transgender boyfriend who utterly understood my “masculine” side that helped me to come to terms with the fact that I am transgender. I also have friends now in Belfast who support me, which makes such a huge difference.

3. Sobriety

This time last year I thought that the anti-depressants would be a short 6 month miracle course that would “cure” my depression. After many ups and downs that started with the devastating down of my granny passing away in the new year, I have come to realise that my depression is a rollercoaster that I must learn how to ride without wanting to jump off or get sick. I know now that the Citalopram (anti-depressant) is a facilitator for managing my depression, not the cure. At the moment, I can’t imagine coming off them, but I intend to at some point in the future when I feel better able to cope without them.

One of the side effects of taking Citalopram is my inability to drink. As an ex-cocktail bartender, my love and knowledge of all things alcohol-related was hard to let go of. This time last year I really struggled with being the “non-drinker.” I came up with all sorts of excuses to avoid drinking and succumbed to social and familial pressure easily. Now, although it’s not extremely easy, it’s much easier for me to just say “I don’t really drink.” Last year I would’ve been afraid that people would think me boring and dry. Now, I just don’t care because not drinking has cleared my head beyond recognition. Now I’ll only drink if there’s a particularly nice bottle of wine or a craft beer, and I’ll struggle to finish a glass or a pint. It feels better this way – my choice, mt way, and a clear head to boot.

This time last year I never thought that it would get better, but life has really improved so drastically that it’s unrecognisable from last year. Long may it last!

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