Accidental Fudge

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Tag: body image

Dysphoria and Dysmorphia Monsters

I had a weird day yesterday. I had to get up early to go to PT before work, and that was fine, and then I missed the bus I was hoping to take to get to work on time, which wasn’t a huge deal – I knew I’d have to stay about half an hour later than usual, which is annoying, but not impossible.

But then I got to work, and little things seemed to throw me way off-kilter. (Like when I walked in and discovered that whatever facilities person was working the night before had left my trash can on my chair after emptying it. Who does that?) I was irritable, and easily flustered. And most of all, I felt really, really unsettled in my body.

It wasn’t until I got home and caught an unfortunate glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror in which I felt I looked like I still had breasts that I started realizing what the problem might be.

Dysphoria is a hard thing to explain, even to other people who experience it, sometimes – because while there are common threads of experience, everyone’s relationship with their body is different. A lot of people are familiar with the feeling of body dysmorphia, but dysphoria is…well, it’s different. Sometimes related, but different. It’s not so much having an objectively inaccurate perception of what your body looks or feels like as it is the knowing that some part of your anatomy or physiology is wrong, and feels like it doesn’t belong to you.

When I first came out as genderqueer, I didn’t really experience body-related dysphoria, but I hated my voice. It made me feel so utterly wrong in my body, like it wasn’t even my voice at all.

As time went on, I did start to experience body dysphoria, but I didn’t think I could call it that, because it looked different for me than it did for other trans folks I knew. It wasn’t so much that I hated my body as it was that parts of it (my chest in particular) felt like they weren’t mine, and I didn’t know what to do with them.

Things have been a lot better in general since I had top surgery, because that directly addressed the greatest source of my dysphoria. I think because I hadn’t had really intense feelings of wrongness in my body since then, I kind of let myself get lulled into this false sense of security, like it was over and I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.

But when I think about yesterday, and how uncomfortable I felt in my body, and how viscerally I reacted to seeing a reflection that didn’t feel accurate…well, I’m realizing now that it was a visit from the fraternal twin monsters of dysphoria and dysmorphia. Surgery wasn’t a magical fix for everything, which I knew, but kind of forgot. Same with hormones. Because of the person I am and the body I have, I will probably always struggle with these monsters from time to time. Which is…not fun.

I debated back and forth about whether I wanted to write about this at all, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it took me years to recognize what dysphoria looked like for me because everyone else’s story sounded different from mine, and I feel the need to remind folks that every trans person’s story is different (just like every cis person’s story is different). We all experience the world and ourselves in different ways, and we need to make space for that.

Ink

I very nearly forgot to write a post for this week: I was home sick yesterday, which threw off my routine enough that blogging almost slipped my mind (plus, you know, I was sick, and therefore pretty unmotivated). This week has been a bit of a bummer in the health department. However, there is some excitement in my near future, so I’m going to focus on that. 

Next Friday, after work, I am getting a tattoo. 

I currently have only one tattoo. It’s a trinity knot on my right forearm that I got done five years ago, as a reminder of the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit and of the fact that I was a complete person: a reminder I very much needed at a time when I’d been feeling pretty fractured. 

This new tattoo follows a similar theme of body, mind, and spirit. Last summer, I began using tarot cards as a means of meditation. I’m not using them to make any sort of attempt at clairvoyance, but I find that the meanings behind the cards can be an excellent mirror for the subconscious. Typically, when I meditate, I’ll draw three cards, and look at the meanings of the cards individually and as a whole, and what I find in those meanings helps bring my mind into focus. The tattoo I’m getting next Friday is based on three cards from my favorite deck, which each correspond to one of the aforementioned aspects of body, mind, and spirit. 

First, there’s the 9 of Pentacles, which is a card that’s all about a sense of home. As I’ve been dealing more with dysphoria, I love the idea of a reminder on my skin that I carry my home with me — that my body is home. 

Then, there’s the Hermit, a card that deals with solitude (which appeals to my introverted self) and the pursuit of Truth (which appeals to the part of me that never stops asking questions). The Hermit also lights the way to Truth for those who come after him, which is a really great reminder that as my mind has opened and learned new things, I can lead others by example to the same. 

Finally, there’s the Ace of Wands, which is full of creative energy. As a writer, a knitter, and a musician, the urge to create is an integral part of my spirit, and I am most fully myself when I am being creative. 

I am incredibly excited about this tattoo (the cards will be in a ring around my left forearm). A little nervous, too — it’s been a while since my last one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this tattoo causes some drama with my family. Ultimately, though, I’m looking forward to it. In the end, it’s just another step in molding this body of mine to match my internal vision of myself, which, along with a beard (which is steadily filling in on my face now), has a number of tattoos. I’m making this body a home I want to live in. And that’s important. 

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