I started another post this morning about a similar topic but from a more positive perspective. I will finish writing that one and post it soon, but I really needed to write about my experience earlier today and my thoughts on navigating the mental health system as a transgender woman.
I just met with my case manager and psychiatrist. They are both very nice people with the best intentions. I left the meeting feeling discouraged and down though. It has taken the rest of the afternoon for me to sort out what was bothering me about it and put it into a somewhat comprehensible post. I wish I could have come up with the words during the meeting. I did not want it to come across as anger though and I think I often do come across that way when my emotions get the better of me. I guess I can thank BPD and anxiety for that.
In this meeting I told both of them that I thought I needed more support in the form of mental health groups or a community peer support worker, which I was told I would have access to even before I left hospital. They told me that there are no transgender support workers available. Now I wish I would have told them that while maybe that would have been idea, any support would be better than what I have now. As for groups, again their focus was on groups for the LGBT community. The honest truth is that I have that covered myself and probably know more about that than they do. My needs from them are mental health supports.
I have seen the statistics that I am sure they are familiar with about the increased risk for suicide among transgender individuals. What I do not see in those statistics are the reasons for suicide. Sure, I tried my best to kill myself and I happen to be a transgender woman, but one was not directly related to the other. I remember seeing a statistic somewhere about females suffering more from depression than males. Sorry if that is not correct, but my point is, I do not think a doctor would assume someone is depressed solely because they are female. Gender would not be the main focus of the caregivers.
To me, it has seemed that the health care providers in our hospital system cannot get past the label of transgender woman. They assume all of my problems are because of that. If they would look deeper they would see that I do not let that label stop me from socializing, working or living my life. In fact, it has not been an issue in my day to day life except when I interact with the health system. They seem to make it a bigger deal than it is. I do not want my identity to rest solely on the diagnosis I have been given or on the fact that I am a transgender woman. I am me.
I have given a lot of thought to how my mental illness and gender may be related. I am no doctor but all I can see is that maybe hiding my true identity for so long contributed to my lack of self identity. I stress the word contribute and acknowledge that it is by far not the only contributing factor.
My feeling is that the health system needs more education. Transgender people are just people, like anyone else. If gender is a problem for someone, please help them. If a transgender person commits or attempts suicide, please do not assume the only reason possible is gender, though. I feel that focusing so intently on my gender is a subtle form of discrimination. Treat me like you would treat anyone else. If I say gender is not an issue for me, focus on what the real issues are. If a transgender person is not available as a peer support worker, give me a choice of someone else.
One more vent from today, then I am done. The highly functioning thing is rearing its head again. It seems that unless I am in full crises mode, they think I am doing good. I am unsure of how to get through to them that I am not as good as it must seem.
Does anyone else have experiences with doctors not recognizing the real problems or only fixating on one issue? I would love to hear your comments.