I concluded my last collection of essays with a rather bleak ending. I’d just had my first hospitalisation because I was at the beginning of an extreme breakdown and I promised that by the next time you heard from me, I would have tried my best to recover.
I have many amazing childhood memories, but through therapy I’ve come to the realisation that I spent too much of my childhood thinking things that I really shouldn’t have. Issues about gender identity and extreme confusion that no child should have to deal with. In a way, I feel like I was robbed of the “normal” childhood experience.
As a teen, the entire focus was on my sexuality. Everyone around me was so confused by the fact that I was a “feminine boy” and they constantly projected their discomfort onto me. My teenage years were full of harassment and me doing anything I could to survive. I know the teenage years aren’t easy for anyone, but I think mine were difficult in ways that they really shouldn’t have been.
When I turned 18, things started to improve. I wrote a book, I started doing media appearances, I finally got into a good rhythm of work, leisure and self-care. I was given so many amazing opportunities for somebody my age and things really seemed to urn around for me. I had an awful lot of happiness during these times.
The year that I was due to turn twenty, I started to get ill. Things began to slip out of my control and my mental health really suffered for it. I found the littlest things to be completely overwhelming and I became very suicidal. After an awful, lengthy battle, I had to be hospitalised. I spent a considerable amount of 2017 in a psychiatric hospital trying to work through my mental illness and trying to learn how to live again.
Thankfully, I got through it. Even though, at some times, it looked like I mightn’t and I’m very grateful to be here today. However, my struggle is far from over. I’m constantly working on my improvement, but I had a pretty serious mental breakdown that I need to try my best to prevent from happening again.
This means accepting my limits and that’s something I’ve never been good at. I’ve always had a self-inflicted pressure on me to be the best person that I could be. To exceed everyone’s expectations and to do more than everyone thought I could handle. I planned to pull off my 20’s extremely well. Going out, working, continuing my media career, having casual sex, doing moderately irresponsible things. Just being a normal 20-year-old in the city.
But it’s looking like I’m not going to be able to do that for the foreseeable future. Since turning 20 my life’s looking very different. I’m focusing all the time on getting from one day to the next and I’m happy just doing that. However, there’s part of me that really feels like I have to mourn my 20’s because I’m not going to have the “normal” 20-year-old experience as long as I’m this ill. A big part of being in the hospital was accepting that I have a limiting illness that I need to face up to.
I’ve done very extensive therapy which has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve met with a range of different professionals and gone to a variety of workshops. I’m currently doing an outpatient programme to combat my anorexia which is focused on getting from day-to-day with healthy food habits and healthy thought patterns. I’ve learnt an awful lot about myself and I’ve learnt a huge amount about my illness.
It’s hard to know where my illness stops and I begin but for now I’m quite ill, which means I have to treat myself like an ill person. I’m not trying to be bleak about all this. I know that everyone’s life has a different path and no two people’s lives are the same. I know that I’m not the only twenty year-old who’s suffering from illness or who can’t do things that are considered normal because of their circumstances.
But it’s really hard to be one of those teenagers when I’ve always tried so hard to not let anything stop me or bring me down. My illness is the thing that finally got me and I’m devastated about that. I’m not sure what the future will look like. I’ve been improving slowly but surely for the last while and hopefully it will continue that way. Maybe I will have the experiences that I crave. But I’m accepting that there’s a very real possibility that I won’t.
And I’m angry. Because in a way, as irrational as it may sound, I feel as though that’s how I’ve managed being trans and feeling different. By being my very best self and striving to do things that were probably out of my reach. My eighteenth and nineteenth year were completely going uphill and I really came down with a very hard bump. This saddens me.
I wouldn’t wish this illness on my worst enemy, but I definitely wouldn’t have wanted it for myself. I suppose I naively thought that when I turned 18, my struggles were over and I hate to use the term going backwards, but this thing has really felt like a step in the wrong direction. Even though I shouldn’t place blame because I couldn’t help this at all.
So instead of being about being wild and fun and having crazy night, my twenties are about recovery. This is okay. I’ll be okay. I’ve dealt with so many things before and I’ll deal with this too. But first I’ll allow myself to grieve my twenties a little bit. I’ll be self-indulgent and I’ll cry about how life is unfair and I’ll do all those very humans things we do when we’re upset. Because there may be a lot of things that I can’t help, but it’s up to me whether I punish myself or not.
Read the conclusion of my last collection of essays here.
Watch my #MeToo experience below: