Yesterday, reading Sam Dylan Finch’s piece about the experience of partners of someone with an „invisible disability“ had me in a bit of a crying fit (here’s my note to myself not to be reading this type of stuff while at work). The article hit me in all the wrong places, probably meaning all the right places because it highlighted once more some of the issues that I have to work through before I can start my medical/social transition in earnest. And yes, there’s a rationale (or maybe, rather, an affectionale) behind writing this in English, which is not my „mother tongue“ (come and have a field day, Freudians :-)). I need to create a distance between myself and these feelings, and language is as good a means to doing this as any.
The article I read is a rather personal account of what it means to be the partner to someone who suffers from a number of „invisible“ conditions, including chronic fatigue and depression. The author describes the feeling of helplessness he has experienced, and continues to experience, living with and supporting his partner. Reading it massively triggered my own feelings of guilt towards my partner, because I have been on the other side of this divide/equation: for more than three years I was the one suffering from such invisible conditions — severe food intolerances and allergies, followed by massive fatigue and a „reactive depression“. There was a point when I was down to six or seven foods that I was able to eat at all without reacting immediately, and when climbing even one flight of stairs became almost too much for me to accomplish. For someone who has used exercise to compensate for negative feelings all my life, this was disastrous.
My partner witnessed all of this happen. As I spiraled downward, he stood by me, no matter what, always putting himself second. Back then, I felt so much guilt for putting him through this, for always taking, while at the same time being unable, in my perception, to give him anything valuable in return. I felt I didn’t deserve his care and love. I thought he would be better off without me, no matter how many times he denied this.
For me, the struggle with these „invisible disabilities“ ended (partly) when I finally realized and acknowledged that I am transgender. I know there is no telling how my psyche and body interacted, and whether there is any causal relation between my various somatic conditions and the fact that I suppressed this knowledge of being who I am for so long. But ever since I acknowledged my identity, my bodily „symptoms“ (if that’s what they were) have gradually been improving to the point where I am capable of eating almost „normally“ (whatever that means these days) and of exercising moderately again.
Yet this relative return to „normalcy“, which my partner and I both longed for so much, comes at an enormous prize. For me „getting better“ is inextricably tied to me pursuing my transition, socially and medically, into my „true“ gender. My partner is unable to accept this. So for me trying to get better now means hurting the person who did everything for me, unconditionally. After everything he has given me, I am failing and betraying my partner. I can’t put into proper words how much guilt I feel over doing this to him. I’m constantly torn between giving up myself to relieve this feeling of guilt and pursuing the steps that I know I must take if I want to at least have a chance to maybe, one day, be at peace with myself. So these days I’m oscillating between a feeling of extreme guilt and the unbearable thought of staying stuck where I am right now, in the wrong gender role and with a body that makes me feel sick and alienated. I have to find a way of bridging the gap between these two poles. Getting better also means learning to accept that even though I feel guilty, I am not. And it means learning to grant myself the right to pursue this path.