Your therapist or mine?
by Amanda Kerri
Transgender Issues Columnist
Those of you with the more entertaining and informative calendars know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It would be easy to crack a few jokes about being aware of a few people who lack mental health. Or even a joke about Donald Trump who quite clearly is a crazy person.
But I’m going to forego that for an actual discussion of the topic with just a slight bit of humor. It’s a topic that does actually deserve to be discussed seriously.
In my own experiences in life, I have needed the help of a therapist or psychologist more than once. Shocking, I know. In fact, I can say that more than one psychologist’s career has been smashed against the rocks of my mental issues.
Fortunately, I know well enough my own issues that when I have needed the help of one, I can tell them right away what my past issues have been right down to the medical diagnostic code. Which is better than one of my therapists.
When I was first coming out as transgender and told my therapist, she got sort of a confused and lost look on her face, and I had to point out to her where gender dysphoria was in the DSM-IV. Yeah, never a good sign when a patient has to show their doctor the diagnostic criteria for their health issue. I think it goes without saying that that particular therapist was not the most helpful person.
That’s why I was very excited about the mental health symposium put together last year as part of the Pride Week celebrations. While not for the general public in practice, it was for therapists from all of the state to get together, discuss and improve their ability to care for the mental health of transgender folks. This year it will be held again, and is planned to be larger than last.
One particular part I enjoy about events like this is that it shows other trans people that they are not alone. There is a supportive community out there for them. Being trans introduces all sorts of mental health challenges and simply being able to sit around and share the burden with others is a great help. As they say, misery loves company.
While all of this is great, and is a great benefit to the community, it’s not enough though. As much as I personally have always enjoyed the benefits of the “back yard beer” and “barstool” therapy session, it doesn’t quite cut it. Sometimes genuine professional help is needed, and as often as I like to be an armchair shrink, I know when I am ending up over my head.
Substance abuse, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and anger issues are just some of the many mental health problems that come with being trans, and sometimes a good cry or night of getting angry drunk doesn’t cut it, especially when those nights are every night and those cries are a daily thing.
I know that I myself have been faced more than once with having to fib a little to a doctor that I wasn’t thinking about hurting myself because I was afraid of being locked away. I also admit that the reason I never finished college is because I drank a lot of my pain away.
That’s why one of my personal pet projects is to help build up a resource library. I want not just trans people, but all LGBTQ people to be able to come to a resource to be able to find doctors, therapists, lawyers, hospitals, and other resources to help them out.
There are lot more friendly doctors and clinics out there than you think. My endocrinologist for my hormone treatment was a crotchety old army doctor who fully supported my transition. I only found him through the help of another trans person.
That’s why I’m asking for your help here on something. Those folks who read my column and haven’t developed a hatred of me yet can help me out. We can develop a resource to share with us who you see for your mental health, where you go for hormone therapy, for general medical care, for anything where they are LGBT friendly. Send me information on your LGBTQ friendly providers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can start building a collection of LGBT friendly doctors, lawyers, therapists, support groups and more. Even if we can’t fix everything, or help you pay for these services, we can at least get you pointed in the right direction to take some of the stress out of your life and improve your mental health.
The Gayly – May 26, 2016 @ 9:25 a.m.