“And every day, I get to be loved by lots of people and lots of animals. Now I've got a really clear view of who I am and what I want to be and where I want to go.”
Michelle talks about her experience of depression and anxiety while transitioning and overcoming others' views about her gender identity. She supported her recovery by talking to people in her life and helping others through peer support.
I just got rid of all of those expectations and started making a list of what are my expectations of myself in this world? Without anybody else’s permission.
And every day, I get to be loved by lots of people and lots of animals. Now I've got a really clear view of who I am and what I want to be and where I want to go. And that’s about the size of it really. I'm not expecting too much more.
I kind of felt like I was in a state of anxiety most of my young life as far as I can remember really. I felt quite anxious that, not only didn’t I have really any friends or anybody to talk to, but all of the boys at school all called me a girl. I looked a bit different than the others, kind of, and acted a little bit different. It was mainly about wanting to be a girl and wanting to wear girls’ clothes and wanting to do girls’ things, but I was really good at making damn sure that nobody ever knew that. My dad is kind of tough. I just thought I would give it another good shot at being macho Mike.
I went to a counsellor for a little while. The crux of that is that you can change your body but you can’t change your mind. It turns out you are transgendered. And I went to her to stop it. Stop it. I’m all good. I’m a fairly handsome guy, I’m really athletic, I’m strong, I’m kind of the top of my game, I can pretty much do anything I want in this world. Why on Earth is this happening? I need it to stop so that I can get on with my life and have proper relationships and all of that.
And it turns out you can’t stop it. You just need to be it. And I went overseas and transitioned in Australia.
So the anxiety of going over there, leaving my job and partner and all of the things, I felt like I just kept on doing this you know. So I lived in a state of sleep deprivation and alcohol and drugs and different bits and pieces, all the way from 14, all of the way through into my 30s. It took its toll, I guess. And then the hormones take their toll as well. They are kind of diabolical.
It wasn’t anxiety any more. it had gone well, well past that into quite a severe depression, and I drunk a lot of booze and intellectualised myself into not being here any more and that, if I just carried on, it would be more of the same. I just actually wanted to stop being so bummed out.
I ended up in Lower Hutt Hospital, and I got to see a psychiatrist who kind of listened to my story and diagnosed me with clinical depression at the time and PTSD, from just the shock of going to Australia and coming back and transitioning. I let it go too far and that was the thing. I should have talked. I should have talked to someone but I had spent my whole life not talking to people so …
It’s a real danger when you get into depression and don’t talk with people. I thought that I would only bum people out if I went and talked to them, and I didn’t want to bum anyone out. So that’s something I've learnt. And I talk a lot with Tams. I quite openly go, “I’m feeling like crap.”
So when I decided to live, I guess, that’s when I got into recovery, and that’s when I got into peer support. I went from working with youth to elderly, into crisis, and I went backwards and forwards. And that journey through peer support and being a peer supporter and staying on the phone lines helped me recover – talking about recovery, helping other people see the light. So now, 10 years later, I am a service manager and I actually run two peer support services, which is fantastic. So I couldn’t have been rewarded more for the down times. I guess now, looking back, they were worth it.