Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Transgender + Bipolar =

Statistically speaking, transgender people are much more prone to depression and suicide than the average person. I think (do NOT quote me on this), they may be more prone to depression and suicide than gay/lesbian people are as well. I do know, they’re right up there with gays and lesbians, especially as youths, in the range of high-risk of suicide and depression.

The first time another transgender person I knew made a comment about attempting suicide, it had little effect on me. I was still muddling through the fact I couldn’t hide from being transgender any more, and that was difficult enough. Recently, another transgender person I know announced the same thing, and this time it really hit me what I may be setting myself up for.

This is what popped into my head:

Transgender + Bipolar = incredible risk of suicide/depression

I discussed this with my therapist yesterday, about how I was afraid now that following this transgender path into my psyche would put me at much more increased risk of suffering a severe depressive phase at some future point. I tried to kill myself once before, when I was in my early twenties, due to a home situation I had no control over. At the time, I was spending a week or two away from home, then going to visit every other weekend, and the transition from the peaceful away-place back to the home situation with my mother and her abusive alcoholic live-in boyfriend stressed me to the point I one day swallowed every psych pill I had and crawled up onto my bunk to “die.” I didn’t die (obviously), but I did spend the next few weeks struggling psychologically (after an excellent nap, induced by the sedative effects of my antidepressant) because I couldn’t dare risk admitting I’d swallowed them all in a suicide attempt because I didn’t want to be forced back into a mental ward. I’d done that trip once already back when I was in high school during a previous period of home stress which had gotten me into psych care in the first place.

But I told my therapist I was concerned about the possibility of me going off the deep end during a bipolar depressive phase. I told her I didn’t want to risk that, and she led me around to considering a few things. I’m still concerned, but my therapist helped me figure out where I stand.

1. I’m much more aware of where I’m “standing” on a psychological level, in a general, overall sense. Right now, I’m a bit depressed; personal hygiene has been out the window unless I’m expected at some sort of social event, I’m not too concerned about my writing even though I’d like to for the mood boost, losing weight and physical fitness aren’t even on the radar most days, and housecleaning isn’t getting done unless I need to sit there or use that dish or pan. I’m at a point where if I can spend my day reading, I’ll quite contentedly do so, with a few visits to the internet and online friends every few hours and I don’t really care to go outside and do anything.

2. I’m firmly connected to a comprehensive mental health care network. If I’m not slated to see my regular therapist up at the VA, there’s a hotline the VA provides that I can call for general bipolar depression psych needs, and, if I absolutely feel I must, I can see about getting myself committed to the hospital’s inpatient psych ward. Also, if there’s a question I have, I can contact my therapist via phone or email.

3. I am on mood stabilizers, and, even more importantly, I keep up with taking them when I should each day. If I have a question or concern about my medications, I can contact my psych doc to talk about things with him—and, furthermore, if we both feel I for some reason need to change or adjust my medication regimen, I can make an appointment with him to discuss it.

4. If being trans is upsetting me somehow, there’s a new Trans Lifeline I can call if I suddenly need to discuss it right away, and I can walk the three blocks to the Pride Center and possibly see about chatting with a therapist there about how being trans is making me feel.

5. I’m regularly attending a trans support group, and that is helping me. It lifted my spirits this past week when I went because it reminded me I’m not alone in my journey, and even though I don’t have direct contact with any other members of the group between meetings, knowing we’ll be meeting more regularly in January (after the holiday season) is helping me be more patient with myself and my fears right now.

To be honest, yesterday’s therapy appointment couldn’t have been better timed for me. My mood dropped about four or five days ago, and I really needed to go, just for that. It is, I think, combining in a bad way with the fear of risk of suicide, but I’m doing okay for now. I’ve been chatting with my family and some friends on the phone—just to chat—and though I haven’t told any of my online friends where I stand emotionally right now, I know they’d be supportive and encouraging if I did decide to. I think that as long as I get out of bed each day, get dressed, and make an effort to at least get to my computer for a while and feed myself, I’ll pull through this okay. Having my therapist help me figure things out is keeping me from losing myself in the fear of what only may happen.

This is just the way things sometimes go with bipolar disorder. As long as I’m mindful of where I’m at psychologically, I should be fine. And if I’m not at some point, there are people and places I can turn to for the support and assistance I need, for which I’m extremely thankful.

6 Comments

  1. Hey there, I am also transgender and live with Bipolar Disorder. I’m always around if you need to chat or vent.

    – B

  2. Hi Ashe,
    I am choosing to contact you publicly on your post as opposed to through email contact. I also live with bipolar and recently experienced my first manic break in about 16 years or more. My first serious break in my mid 30s was the catalyst that finally led to an explanation and understanding of my gender dysphoria and what transgendered meant (we are talking mid 90s here, pre-internet and I was married at the time). I began transition from female to male at age 40 in 2000. I believe that transition did contribute to the mood stability I enjoyed, so much so that I reduced my meds with my doc’s support just as work stress started to sky rocket. Not a good combo.

    You are fortunate to have trans related support, something missing for me locally when I transitioned. The loss of my job has led to some heavy therapy, re-evaluation and reclaiming my identity as trans, gay and queer. For years I cherished the invisibility of being a man in the world. It is a tough road, one which requires the acceptance that we are always on the borderlands in some ways, but I do know I would not be alive if I had not had the option to pursue this path.

    I wish you well. You will notice that my blog touches on the bipolar to some extent but only briefly on LGBTQ issues. It is primarily a cathartic writing exercise. But I wished to extend my public support.

  3. Yay for being mindful of where you are emotionally! This sounds so difficult to live with. I’m glad you have all these things to help.

    {{hug}}

  4. Thanks, Erin. I’m very, very lucky to live in a place where I have access to all the care I need. Makes me very glad I took the opportunity to join the military when I had it. I would not be nearly as well right now if I didn’t have the VA Hospital system to get care from.

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