Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.
– Soren Kierkegaard
I’ve been very joyful the last few days, but this week began with an absolute mental breakdown.
Pretty much every Sunday my stress about the upcoming week coupled with all the impending homework assignments boils over into a hot mess of panic attacks and emotional shutdown. This happens like clockwork, and every Sunday evening I end up spending more time than I can afford working through my emotions enough to mitigate the anxiety enough to get at least one of my assignments done before the wee hours of the morning enough to pass my classes. Not good.
This Sunday was no different except that I was very conscious of what was causing the anxiety. Some time after dinner a thousand voices attacked me and my identity from every angle possible in a cloud of damnable darkness. Every ill-bearing voice of dissent in my life screamed at me at once, telling me I have to figure it all out, I need to get this right, I must be crazy, I can’t be loveable, I need to pretend to be a certain person to be loved, it’s up to me to figure out the transgender mystery, I’m probably walking a tightrope over eternal fire, and what’s the point?
I was getting more and more overwhelmed by the second, and my thoughts became increasingly morbid. I don’t know how I would have gone about killed myself, but I was more than certain in my desire for a God-sent quick death, like a careless automobile or a lightening bolt.
I felt incredibly alone. I begged God: “please, just at least send me someone to talk to!” By some strange twist of fate, everyone I’d tried to hang out with since the day before Valentines Day had gone AWOL. I was in the center of a communications blackout – email, texting, facebook, everything. It was like I didn’t exist. “Please, God, I just want there to be someone out there!”
And then, only a few minutes after this choked up prayer, a buzz from my phone heralded a God-sent text. The divine message was from a very dear friend of mine, who told me: “So, I’ve been praying for you lately, and whenever I pray for you I get super under spiritual attack and start to suffer from depression and anxiety myself. And I feel right now that I’m under attack because I’m supposed to pray for you.”
I promptly called her, and we talked for a long time about all sorts of stuff. She says she’s been experiencing intense morbidity and anxiety out of nowhere, and whenever she experiences this she gets a spiritual sense that she’s bearing it for my sake. Wow.
Anyway, we talked a lot about stuff like gender theory and passed several hours discussing, sometimes arguing, the philosophy of sex differentiation. It was a good discussion, but I felt drained by it because there was never a straight answer. I kept realizing something: these pressing questions like what is gender or what makes a man/woman are mysteries that I can take a gander at, but I’ll never figure them out completely. I can have the most beautiful theology in the world about why I am the way I am, but it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change who I wake up as every day and the challenges before me.
What the conversation kept hitting home for me is how at the end of the day I’m faced with the towering giant of LIFE which always beckons me to LIVE. I can talk myself silly about how things ought to be or whether or not I’m a girl, but at the end of the day I’m still transgender, I still have a deep psychological and medical reality to face, and I still need to live a life that is coherent, beautiful, active, and engaged in love.
The glory of God is man fully alive.
– St. Irenaeus
While I love connecting my life with my faith, I’m never going to truly figure things out. I won’t know anything until the day I die and begin my Heavenly reality. Until then I can put forth my small offerings of what I think my experience teaches the world about what it means to be human, but they’re never more than shots in the dark. And I think they’re beautiful shots in the dark, but they aren’t my life. Life consists of loving people and living joyfully. At the end of the day there’s nothing to do but make steps to be fully alive.
After the phone call with my friend, I was still utterly useless, practically comatose. My roommate eavesdropped on the tail-end of the conversation and kindly turned to me and asked me about what was going on. I told him there are so many voices tearing me down, and there is a part of me that wants to believe them because I want to be loveable and apparently being trans is an unloveable condition. With his usual talent for cutting through bullshit, he commanded me to stop listening to the voices if they are wrecking my soul. If doubting my identity and trying to desconstruct everything makes me borderline suicidal when I’m otherwise happy, it’s obviously not of God.
So I stopped. And I remembered that life needs to be lived. As myself.
As a result, this week has been great! I’ve had barely a care in the world because I don’t have to figure it all out. I don’t have to perform to be okay. I’m just me, and I really don’t have to be someone else. In fact, I can’t be someone else (believe me, I’ve spent most of my life trying). It’s okay to just live sometimes. It’s okay to be.
We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.
– Thomas Merton