Part of what led me toward the theory of Katie being transgender before she came out to me was her admission of depression while we were camping a few weeks prior. Depression, now that I know what to call it, is and has been a main character in our relationship. It is my understanding that depression is not an uncommon experience for our transgender loved ones. That said, what I discuss in this post, as with all stories I share in this blog, should be surmised as specific to Katie and my experience. Additionally, this post is going to share intimate details of suicidal ideation. I’m warning you because it’s serious and I take it seriously. I’m writing about it because I hope Katie’s story helps someone else feel less alone.
Recently, our therapist was in town visiting family and Katie and I did an in-person session with her. For background, we began doing our sessions online when our therapist relocated about six months into our process with her. While online in theory wasn’t my favorite idea when we started it, now that we’ve spent almost a year doing it I’m so grateful for the flexibility it provides and the continued relationship with our therapist. Discussing the complexities that surface in our relationship as Katie transitions is a vulnerability I’ve never known and I’m glad we have someone who knows us and can help us structure conversations about sensitive issues in an unbiased way. That said, in my opinion there is no perfect substitute for an in-person session that meets my needs – seeing her in person was a gift.
Before our session, I could tell Katie was off in a way similar to how I’ve written previously. Her contribution to conversation and her ability to engage or participate in our limited time together before our therapy session was minimal. We parked near the location of our appointment with a spare 45 minutes before session and I suggested we walk to Gasworks located just around the corner. She barely spoke. I asked her what was wrong, but she couldn’t describe it. Dysphoria? Maybe? Something tied an invisible dark veil around her we couldn’t see. As we strolled through Gasworks, we people-watched in the 75-degree weather, admiring the beautify of our city-skyline. Sidenote: Seattle summer makes Seattle winter totally worth it.
I checked the time and suggested we walk to our appointment. As we found the office and sat down on the couch across from our therapist, we chit-chatted about her visit, about the weather. I explained I had just gotten back into town from visiting a friend a few hours before and that Katie wasn’t in a great mood. At this point in time, the incident at the nail salon happened two days previous and I hadn’t told Katie yet. I waited because I didn’t know if I should and by the time I knew I wanted to, I knew we had therapy and saved it for us to discuss then. I also knew, as we sat down in session, that Katie had been at a friend’s gender-reveal the previous day and was misgendered there. She wouldn’t tell me by whom. In some twisted fate of irony, we both experienced isolated, separate events related to her identity, albeit in different ways, and we both were struggling with how to tell the other. I’d ask what the odds of this shared experience are, but the odds given the circumstances of our identity individually and as a couple are unfortunately high.
Now, this back-story is important to explaining what was discussed in session. The funk Katie was in she surmised was sparked by the misgendering. Our therapist prompted Katie to describe what depression felt like for her. When does she remember feeling that way? How old? What did that look like? Who did she tell? How did she handle it? I think Katie talked for at least 10 minutes before looking awkwardly at me and commenting she was taking up all of our time. I reassured her that our time, in that moment, in that session, needed to be spent on her. Sometimes our time together has to support her more than me. Sometimes our time is spent supporting me more than her. It’s a balance.
Upon my reassurance, Katie proceeded to describe her depression to our therapist. Some of this I knew before, but some of it was new to me as well. Katie remembered feeling confused and depressed as young as six. She described knowing her body wasn’t right, but now knowing what to do about it. She described feeling alone and feeling as through her parents didn’t understand her. She described not understanding why the rules were different for boys and girls. She went into detail about specific suicidal ideation as a teenager. She explained missing the bus one day after class and having to walk almost three miles home. On the way she passed a bridge and contemplated the success of her death if she jumped off it. Her 15-year-old brain concluded she might still live if she chose this outcome and, at the exact moment these thoughts were running through her head, a logging truck barreled down the road. As Katie shifted her weight to take a fatal step in front of it, somehow, someway, she didn’t.
Listening to her describe her thought process as a child was mesmerizing for me. This person sitting on the couch with me almost wasn’t. This person sitting on the couch next to me exhibited the same thought pattern before coming out to me. This connection didn’t take place for me until I heard the person across from Katie and me take a deep, choked breath. It was at this point I noticed our therapist was crying. In the entire conversation, I was watching Katie, watching her focus on connecting her story to the feelings she had within that story. It took one year and nine months of therapy to get her to the point of being capable of doing this, of understanding the connection between her body, her brain, and her emotions. In our first therapy session, Katie described her emotions to me and to our therapist as looking through a window. Her emotions and how she should feel were on the other side of the glass, capable of seeing but not touching. Now, here she was feeling them and describing them in such a way that someone was crying by their witnessing the honesty.
As I sat next to her, I was so proud and heart-broken at the same time. I’m so grateful she is here to teach me what is really beautiful about this world and this moment is one I’ll never forget. I’m so fucking lucky she is here with me.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing thoughts like Katie’s, please do not hesitate to ask for help or ask if they need help. I am here and I want you here. You are important and you matter.