My Story: Coping With Mental Health Issues Before Transitioning
By Amy Agigian —
Masha explains how her mental health has interacted with her gender identity. She discusses how she dealt with mental health and how much has changed since her transition.
OBOS Today: I was wondering, like, I guess like how you feel like your gender identity has, like interacted with your mental health?
That’s a really interesting question. I think in a lot of ways—so I have—this is not nearly as much a part of my life now as it was before I transitioned. One of—the first, like, diagnosis that I ever received mental health-wise was depersonalization derealization disorder, which basically just means that I would have these episodes that were often unpredictable, that were also largely associated with, like, trauma and traumatic triggers, where I would just, like, go completely out of my body: I would have trouble remembering what had happened during those time periods; everything looked different. It felt like everything was like a movie set, or like—you know when you’re in, like, Disneyland or Universal Studios and they have those, like, houses that are like four feet tall, that are, like, supposed to look like real houses from a certain distance, but they’re not real? That’s how, like, all the buildings looked when I was, like, dissociating, and so that diagnosis was really, really scary, because, like, sometimes those episodes would last for like a month and that was just, like, very off-putting and, like, destabilizing.
And, not completely, but 99% of those symptoms have gone away since I transitioned.
I also was anorexic for a long time—that has, like, that sort of continued throughout my transition and became tied to my gender stuff, because I was like, “Well, if I look like, like the skinniest, smallest version of myself possible, no one will see me as a threat, and no one will see me as a man. They’ll see me as, like, small weak vulnerable woman.” So there is the eating disorder component of things; there is the depersonalization component of things. There’s also—
So one of the several diagnoses that I received, like, freshman year of college was Harm OCD, which I don’t really experience the symptoms of anymore. But essentially, for those of you who don’t know, it’s basically like—it’s like OCD, so you have obsessions and compulsions. You have things, intrusive thoughts and the things that you obsess about, and compulsions that you do in order to, like, fix those thoughts or, like, make things feel right. But with Harm OCD, the obsessions are generally focused on being afraid that you are like a violent person or a predator or like a threat in some way, or that you have hurt people or that you’re going to hurt people—and so it’s all of these really irrational—and at the time they don’t feel irrational, but like looking back and having processed this with, like, mental health professionals it feels irrational. But like just like, yeah. This, this view of yourself as like this evil terr—like, harmful person, and that I think was definitely associated for me with, like, gender dysphoria, and stopped me from transitioning for a long time, and stopped me from, like, realizing my, like, sapphic-ness for a long time.
And now I, like, very rarely get symptoms of that. So I think in a lot of ways—none of this is to say that, like, those mental health conditions were really just, like, dysphoria. But I think that they do have a complex relationship. And I think that certainly transitioning, and being more honest with yourself, and being more true to who you are, and discovering more about yourself and having that self-knowledge, can make working through those things a lot easier. Yeah.