Dysphoria - My Biggest Enemy
There is one enemy within my mind that dwarfs all others. It is a darkness hiding in the back of my mind, waiting, patiently for the right moment to strike. And when it does, it comes forth from the abyss like a wave of negative emotion and sweeps aside all feelings of happiness. In its wake, it leaves nothing but emptiness and longing, hopeless longing to be someone I'm not.
I know this enemy. I've identified it many times. I've seen it in my mind, I've seen where it waits within the shadows. It's almost like an old friend, it's been with me so long. Knowing thy enemy is half the battle, but the innate existential inadequacy that this enemy brings is something I have yet to overcome.
I am talking about Dysphoria. This is defined as ' mental state in which a person has a profound sense of unease or dissatisfaction'. This summarises the state aptly, but for me, it is more than a simple mental state without a cause or reason. I know exactly what causes this feeling and it is existential in nature. It is rooted deep within the very core of who I am as a person, my soul, if you like.
I have tried many times to overcome this Darkness. Yet, each time, my simple coping mechanisms fail to provide long-term relief from its grip. I don't know where I wanted to go with the post, but I am currently under the shadow of the Dysphoria as I type this and I know almost exactly what causes it. The problem is, I am not so comfortable addressing this issue directly.
It is very personal to me. Instead of being straight to the point, I'd rather take the time to describe the emotions that overcome me, as they take root and grow, I'd like to describe how I feel and exhibit self-awareness as I feel this is the only solution to this mental health crisis I find myself within.
As I type this, I am listening to the Halo theme, Epic-Style. It is a good piece of music that is very motivational; well suited for a difficult battle, a struggle against a seemingly impossible foe. But one that I can overcome. I have to. I don't think I can live under the shadow for much longer.
There will be phases where I will be ignorant to the Dysphoria. It will retreat back into the shadows at the back of my mind and allow me to feel content, to feel happy, and adequate as a person. That is part of why it hurts so much to feel the full strength of the Darkness now. There are triggers, they are well known to me. I have lived with them for so long, after all.
The first time I felt this way was many years ago, almost a decade. I know the exact trigger and it's not dissimilar to the one that causes my current state. I think it is time to explain what that trigger is.
For a long time, I've felt an uneasy dissatisfaction with my body. But it goes deeper than that, much deeper. It's not just physical. It's difficult to explain, but I can say it aligns quite closely with Gender Dysphoria - I am not comfortable being male. The depth of this feeling is far beyond just physical criteria (genitals, etc). In fact, it goes beyond that entirely. The physical aspects of being male are almost secondary to the core of the feeling that I am not a "man" in who I am. I don't know what I am, but it's not a man. I don't even know if it's a woman, either.
The subject of gender identity can be a convoluted mess; filled with non-binary uncertainties and on top of that, a lot of lack of understanding and hatred from others who refuse to understand the depth and extent of human personal identity and how that is disconnected from physical biology.
I don't want to type about Gender identity in this post. I don't care if someone else doesn't accept me for what I am, not yet. I first need to overcome the fact that I do not accept myself.
Back when I first encountered this trigger, I didn't understand it. I felt a fondness of the character "Alyx" in Half-Life, after playing the games for the first time. I read the wiki, and felt admiration for this female character in ways that transcends what you'd expect to be mere attraction, or just respecting another person for their qualities. It was deeper than that, and it drew direct comparison to myself. The result was existential inadequacy of who I am, what I am, as a person. I'd compare myself to Alyx and feel completely, and entirely, worthless. This feeling of total lack of self-worth was the driving force being the Dysphoria that crippled me.
It is no different now. This trigger was when I first played Tomb Raider for the first time, the new reboot series. Of course, Tomb Raider has a strong female lead character, Lara Croft. The first signs of the Dysphoria rearing its head were there from the start. I ignored them.
I don't regret doing so. I enjoyed the first game (2013 reboot) and I plan to play the next two games. But this doesn't change the fact that the underlying cause of this dysphoria is identical; I compare myself to strong female characters in video games and I feel completely worthless as a result.
It doesn't happen with male characters. For example, I have a great affection for Marcus in Gears of War, but that fondness doesn't result in self-comparisons with who I am and it doesn't make me feel worthless. I love Marcus, but I don't feel like I want to be him.
There is more to it than this. I can type here, many examples of this feeling. Another example would be the game Fable 2, which I was very heavily emotionally invested in. Again, female characters in that game caused this issue. I remember well, how I'd force myself to play as a male character in Fallout 3 simply so I didn't start feeling worthless as I'd experience the exploits and adventures of my female character in game; but that didn't last. I'd always feel "wrong" playing as a man when the game gave me a choice. It's always been this way, no matter the game or genre. I'd always choose a female character - almost as if I was trying to live as someone I'm not, knowing I couldn't change myself in reality, but I could be someone else in games.
It was a double-edged sword. The more I'd live this "lie", the more I'd feel worthless and dysphoric about my real life. This would often culminate after the finale of the game, and I was no longer playing it. It was like being forcibly torn away from being someone I can never be in real life. Forced to face the reality that I'm a worthless, ugly, weak, pathetic male human being that is innately unattractive and overweight.
Countless times, when meeting new friends online; I'd pretend I was female. I built entire personas online around being a female that felt "right", or at least, much "closer" to who "I am" (or should have been), than being true to myself as a male. Almost every single online community I've ever been a part of, knew me as a female at first. Often times, the double-edged sword of living a lie that I briefly mentioned above, would rear its head. The more I pretended to be someone I'm not, the more it sunk into my brain that I could never change who, what I was in reality. I'd often go months as a female persona then "break it to them" that I was a male. At first, I'd not explain my gender dysphoric feelings, I'd make excuses. But then, as time progressed, I started acknowledging this condition I have, and being more upfront about it.
A lot of people were very understanding, even online. Many remained my friends after I'd told them, there were a few that didn't, but I don't pay them much mind anymore. As I started to come to terms with the feeling, I started exploring ways to change myself to try and "fit" this "idea" of who I should be as a person - more feminine in almost every way.
That is when the complexity behind gender identity and its disconnection with physical biological sex became clear. I can't sit here, and type this now, and tell you I want to be a woman, a female. I don't know.
I bought wigs, false breasts and I shaved my body. I felt a lot better about myself like this, but it didn't feel... complete. I felt it might be more complex than simply changing my outward appearance to the other side of the "binary classification" of gender.
In recent years, I have felt more comfortable identifying as a 'femboy', but aligning myself in the male category for legal and social simplicity reasons. It's not ideal, but it has worked so far, at least up until playing Tomb Raider.
As I type this, I feel this existential inadequacy might be more related to my complete lack of self-confidence than it is with gender identity, but the two are definitely intertwined. I feel if I was more outwardly attractive, lost weight, and stayed more true to my feminine side I could achieve, or at least, get very close to achieving, that state of comfort with who I am.
I wasn't expecting any positivity from this post, but it has developed that way. Likely due to the fact that my medication has kicked in and is in full force; but it offers little long-term comfort as I know my medication merely hides the Darkness for a short time, it doesn't remove it.
Yesterday, I shaved my arms and legs and my face, and I felt a lot better for it. Removing body hair has always made me feel better, and likely emphasises the more feminine aspect of my internal gender identity. I think, today, I will try my wigs on again and take some pictures to see if I can reach that "satisfaction" point with an unedited image of myself. That is quite important in reassuring myself that I can, in fact, be OK with who I am, with how my body looks.
I've never considered long-term sex-change or gender therapy because I'm not sure if I fit into the female category on all points, as I mentioned above. I have other views on this subject that could be misconstrued as transphobic; which is an incorrect assessment as I am extremely progressive and have no issue with women or men that were born with the opposite sex and changed their sex to fit their identities. But that doesn't mean I feel it would work for me, or I could live like that and be OK with it. This is about me, after all.
I long to be a heroic, female adventurer that 'saves the day' and shows strength, passion and resilience in the face of impossible odds. Instead, I am an overweight, ugly male bedroom dweller with no job, no friends and no future. Perhaps that, even if not the seed of the darkness, is the fertile ground upon which that seed grows.
After all, a seed alone cannot grow. We are shaped by our actions in life, or in my case, my inactions. That is why I like to self-reflect. I learn so much.
Maybe there is hope, maybe. I feel better now, but I know the darkness will return later. There was a lot more I wanted to type in this post, but it's already extremely long and my fingers hurt, so this will have to do. I think one of the reasons I will not type about the other thing is because I am not yet ready to acknowledge it myself.