By Rowan Collins
Talking about dysphoria makes me anxious. For so long, I kept it to myself, unaware that there was even a word for the war my mind was waging with my body, my container, my vehicle. Even now, google chrome is trying to tell me it’s not a recognized word. That angry red scribble under my word. My word, an extension of my hands, typed into my computer.
Some time a few years ago, I discovered that there was a word for something approximating this discomfort, this excessive desire to crawl away from my body – to levitate and take everything good I loved about myself with me and leave the body behind. The body. Not my body.
Saying “my” body makes it personal, makes it me. And it is me. I never used to have moments where I felt like saying “my body” sounded right to my ears. It sounded foreign; far away. Like my head was underwater, straining to hear what someone on shore was yelling to me.
Dysphoria has manifested itself in too many ways to count over the last decade or so. Sometimes it creeps up on me, soft and slow, and other times it feels like someone just hit me in the face with a large hammer. Not one of those comically large blow-up hammers you win from the fair when you manage to knock down some empty bottles with a softball. A hammer that you use to build - working instead to destroy something inside.
Dysphoria can feel like it’s crushing you under its massive, invisible, intangible weight. Most of the time though, my dysphoria feels like the few months after someone you love leaves you for good. You’re managing pretty well, getting on with your life, but no matter how hard you try thoughts about that person just keep popping into your head about 100 times a day. And it just knocks the wind out of you every single time. Sometimes, my dysphoria just feels like a really ill-fitting outfit that I can’t get off. A pebble in my shoe and it won’t shake out. Different feelings every time.
This can make me forget that I deserve to be loved and respected (by myself and others), to smile, to be taken care of. So I’ve put together a list of things that I do to run as far away from dysphoric feelings as possible. Some of these might work for you, some of them won’t. I have this list written out on paper and slipped inside one of my favorite comic books from when I was a child (Asterix the Gaul), so I can look at it whenever I need. I’d recommend coming up with your own list and putting it up on a mirror, in a book, under your bed, on your door, wherever is going to work best for you.
Here’s to self-care.
- Watch Winnie the Pooh – that little guy always takes care of you
- Look outside and watch the sky for ten minutes – focus on every detail, memorize the feel of the clouds until you’ve forgotten you have a body and everything is air
- Go see the horses – they’re friendly. Talk to them because they understand beyond human words and rationalizations. Or whatever animals you can find. The squirrels here are nice.
- Make a mix and give it to someone you care about
- Look at pictures of cute baby animals – because your body might be the worst right now but it still lets you feel joy at the sight of otters holding hands
- Smell something good – cookies, grass after rain, someone’s really super nice body spray, the pasta that person down the hall is cooking, your friend’s awesome hand soap
- Read a book – one that speaks to you and keeps speaking even after you’ve cracked the spine and traced the words a thousand times over. You’re never really alone there.
- Call or text or facebook or send smoke signals or a carrier pigeonto your best friend or friends or mom or cat or someone else really lovely
- Listen to something good – something that makes your insides feel so alive it doesn’t matter what your outsides are doing
- Climb something – a tree is good, maybe just a big rock. Maybe your really highly lofted bed. Conquer something tangible so you can conquer the intangible next.
- Eat some chocolate because I’m convinced dysphoria is caused by dementors.
- Really though – chocolate.
- Put on your favorite outfit. Look so dashing and awesome that you can’t help but smile at yourself.
- Find the best thing in the fridge and treat yo’ self. If you don’t feel like eating it right then, save it for later. Or maybe invite someone nice over and share it with them
- Breathe in so deep you think you’re not going to leave any oxygen for the other 7 billion people out there. Just for a little while – they’ll be okay.
- Drink some tea – do it excruciatingly slow, so slow that you can experience the feeling of liquid down your throat and in your stomach.
- Write down everything you feel – all of it and everything in a stream of consciousness. Then throw it out, or shred it, put it in the trash, your garbage disposal, make a paper airplane and send it out the window, let a small animal rip it to tiny pieces.
- Imagine a better minute, hour, tomorrow, week, month and hold on so fucking tight to it. Don’t let it control you, don’t let it overcome you. Nurture it. Put it someplace safe so you can come back to it and it will greet you with a smile and a “there you are, we’ve been waiting”.
This is all from my own body and my own heart and my own mind, so this can’t fit anyone else perfectly. Do what helps you, and only that. Don’t try to make any of these work if they don’t. It’s like forcing a square peg into a round hole and you’ll start to wear down at the edges. Make your own list, tape it somewhere special.
Share yours, if you want, here, in my askbox, at The Self Made Men askbox, on our site, or just with your friends, or your favorite stuffed animal.
Also check out our new article: Voting While Trans