During the 18 months with my therapist (a regular Jungian, not specifically-gender-focused), I processed through a number of general life topics and also a bunch related to gender dysphoria. Like so many friends I’ve talked with, I spent 30 years trying to quit female clothing, yet continually kept being drawn back to it. I’d beat myself up, feel ashamed, repent to God and myself, to my wife and accountability group friends, and then buckle down and try even harder to stop. But, it was never long before the desires crept back in. One time I even downloaded a sobriety app and white-knuckled it through two miserable years.
OK, back to the therapy journey … one of the questions I started asking myself was:
How much of my desire to feel feminine is because of my identity? How much is possibly due to behavioral or chemical addiction?
When doing actions that society deems to be taboo, we often experience a sort of high. From what I understand, our body shoots endorphins (oxytocin, serotonin, and other such bio-chemicals) through our veins, generating a level of excitement. As with any pleasurable chemical, even biological ones, addictions can be formed. So when I spent time presenting my feminine self, I often described that experience as having felt free and it enjoyable, exciting, and peaceful. I felt the “pink fog” like so many of us have, and I questioned, “Why was I feeling it,” and “What was its source?”
We talked through the signs of addiction and which of them applied to my situation.
- >You spend a lot of time thinking about it.
- >You have a hard time giving yourself limits.
- >You try to quit and are unsuccessful.
- >You can’t stop yourself, even if you want to.
- >You need more and more and build up a tolerance to the effects.
- >You feel strange when the drug wears off…shaky, depressed, confused.
- >You have a hard time taking care of normal everyday tasks.
- >You fail to complete your work, home, and school obligations.
- >You lose interest in things you used to like.
- >You keep doing it, even when it makes bad things happen in life, conflicts with friends, family, and work.
- >You have a new set of friends that create a kind of double life.
- >You look through other people’s belongings for your fix.
- >You eat a lot more or less than before.
I had to be brutally honest with myself; no under or over exaggerating; No hiding.
After talking through these, my therapist was pretty certain this wasn’t an addiction issue, but I wanted to keep checking it out. I decided on the goal of “making my feminine experiences boring.” That’s the way I worded it. I wanted to make those times so normalized that I wasn’t experiencing those bodily highs anymore. I figured that way, I’d see what kind of peace and freedom was left, so I could learn more about my identity.
I set a schedule. Once a week, I would go spend a day in the city, working, doing normal tasks (not shopping, which is another endorphin-injecting activity). I did this for four months. It became just another day in my week. And through this, I verified what my therapist already told me: this wasn’t addiction-based. That still didn’t mean it was identity-based. There were many more things to sort through. But this helped me to see that my feminine days didn’t harmfully affect my demeanor and my life production, they increased it. I was more productive and focused, more at peace and free, livelier and empowered.
This process didn’t answer everything about my gender dysphoria and behaviors, but it definitely put one important piece into the puzzle.
What have you done to sort through any feelings that could potentially be addictive?