As I’ve said, I’m from a small town in the South. But I’ve not always lived here. In fact, I just returned after completing a graduate program at a university in the middle of a desert in the Southwest, nearly 2000 miles away.
As should be fairly obvious by now, I’ve been in and out of depressive states throughout my life. Each one a different story, but generally tied to a central theme. My time in the desert, though, was both the most unique, and the most powerful.
I always wanted to have an adventure, and for whatever reason, I always knew I would end up in the desert at some point.
After graduating with undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Mandarin Chinese, I took a gap year and delivered pizza. Weirdly, this was a pretty good time for me, though I was going nowhere. Delivering pizza is an almost zen-like experience, at least for someone who already enjoys driving. And I was regularly working about 40 hours a week, and had more money in my bank account than I ever had before.
But that sort of life can’t last forever, and delivering, while not bad overall, is completely unfulfilling. So, I began applying to graduate programs.
Did I have a direction? No. And the more I applied, the less that future appealed to me. I didn’t really want to become an academic: I wanted to do something where I could have a positive impact on others. So, after submitting a few applications to a few different places, and leaving one in particular only half-way finished, I quit applying.
I was accepted into a program or two, but graduate school is extremely expensive, and without having much drive to go in the first place, I mostly ignored these.
Weirdly, the school that I did not finish applying to also accepted me. I ignored this, until about a week before I had to tell them if I wanted to go, when they sent a second letter offering a TAship which would not only cover the entirety of my tuition, but would give me a monthly stipend, as well.
I wasn’t doing anything better, so without much time to prepare at all, I started the exodus to the desert, leaving behind a great support network of friends and family.
I never knew loneliness until I was in a completely foreign environment, surrounded by strangers, doing something for which I had no passion.
To make matters worse, I grew to actively hate my program, and knew that I would do nothing with the degree after earning it. But I am foolish and stubborn, and so I refused to quit, even when my parents stated that they would support me if I chose to do so. They even offered that support without my asking for it: they could just see how miserable I was there.
I won’t get too into the details about my studies in the desert. Instead, I want to talk about the sort of depression I had there, and how my dysphoria played into it.
The screwed up thing about depression is, if you have it bad enough, you go out of your way to be miserable. At least, this was true for me. I never went out. I never spoke to anyone unless spoken to. I woke up, looked at the stranger in the mirror, walked to campus, did what I had to do, walked home, and sat in front of my computer or my TV until I went to sleep. Nearly every single day.
Sometimes, I would drive my Celica GT-S up and down a nearby mountain at ludicrous speed. I’m talking 80 MPH or more, redlining the engine at just over 8000 RPM, taking hairpin turns like some sort of Andretti-wannabe. It was reckless. It was stupid. And it was the best therapy I had on my darkest days.
I was more afraid of being pulled over by a cop and having my license taken away, or being fined exponentially more than I could afford, than I was of hurting myself. I’m not trying to be dramatic, that’s just the truth.
My other therapy? Sitting on my laptop and shopping for women’s clothes. Or watching makeup application tutorials. Or reading about transgender issues.
One ritual that many crossdressers are cited as having done time and again is the buy-purge-buy-purge. Basically, it goes like this: feverishly buying all sorts of feminine clothing/accessories, dressing up for a while, feeling extreme guilt and shame, throwing it all away, and repeating.
This is basically what I was doing, except I could never afford to actually do any of that, and I wasn’t brave enough to anyway, so my shopping was limited to the window-variety. But the feelings were the same: “shopping,” guilt, clearing my history that no one would see anyway, waiting a week or two, and doing it all over again.
Why do I mention all of this? Because while it’s been two years since I left the desert, some of those patterns are still there. Namely, occasional reckless driving down country roads, reading/shopping/pretending, and not wanting to be happy when I’m down.
If I ever come out, it will cause nothing but pain and misery for those I love the most. How can I do that to them? And so, I do not deserve to be happy myself.