Saturday, June 29, 2019 - Part Two

Written Saturday, June 29, 2019

[Published retroactively on 2021-09-03, with only very minor edits.]


The last entry was from like 1AM and then I went to bed and then I did today and now it's close to 11PM. So mleh.


I'm going to try and stay simple here because I don't want to get stuck trying to be fancy with words. A bit ago I was poking around reading about thought habits and wandered into an article on CPTSD. It talked about some of the awful things that can appear in survivors and victims. A lot of it was sadly familiar (which isn't terribly surprising) - problems with emotional processing, relationships, self-image, etc. I've known for a while now that this model fits me very, very well.

But I re-read some of the symptoms with recent events in mind, and it was unsettling. It just kind of added up to making me feel really uncertain. I had the sudden question that maybe I've been thinking that I am trans but really it's just the confluence of a bunch of fucked up trauma stuff.

I think that "usually" it would have been really easy to dismiss that out of hand and not even really notice the thought. But given the bumps I've had lately with doubting my identity and feeling like it's hard to stay visible even to myself... it was scary for a moment.

I did talk myself out of it pretty quickly. In fact I very nearly just moved on without writing anything at all. But I want to poke at this a bit, because maybe the process will be helpful to reflect on later. And, if I'm really honest, I kind of hope that this can help create something that others can benefit from too.

One of the big points I found helpful was remembering that there are definitely plenty of trans people with CPTSD. It's totally a legit thing to have both experiences in one person. So the "argument" becomes more focused; if I am "not trans because it's just trauma" then what exactly distinguishes that from the (acknowledged) case where maybe I'm both?

Obviously the simplest refutation requires demonstrating that "me being trans" is a real thing, independently of "me being a trauma survivor." This gets murky really fast. I can't rely on chronology, for example; my early recollections of trans-indicative experiences are still very much in the same time period as the ongoing trauma itself, so it's difficult to say "ha, I was trans before I was fucked up by the other stuff."

So there's more subtlety needed than simply "here, trans and trauma are totally separate buckets." Instead of reasoning that I am both trans and traumatized by pointing out that the two exist independently, there is promise in doubling down on the idea of them coexisting. Specifically: trauma is assumed to be the more "stable" element (I'm not scared of being wrong that I have CPTSD...) so how, exactly, would things look if I had CPTSD but the "trans identity" was a retroactive idea that I had constructed recently to "explain" trauma effects?

I keyed most of this in my head on one central observation. I learned about CPTSD a while ago, and first really began to explore the framework as a way to help myself heal right around a year ago, almost exactly. For months I tried to use things like affective self-therapy ("inner child" type approaches) and found them disheartening and frustrating. I seemed to always resist the attempts and even recoil or lash out very negatively in response to them. I actually had pretty much given up on self-talk until very recently... when I discovered, basically by accident, that my intense negative responses to self-talk were not based on the actual content or ideas involved. I wasn't rejecting the concept of communicating with myself; I was disgusted and defensive about it because I had always been trying to talk to a boy. I started over, looking to make contact with a girl instead, and almost literally overnight everything I felt about affective therapy changed completely. Since then I have had incredible and increasing success with interacting with facets of myself, provided I am respectful and (often most importantly) I gender them correctly.

These pages open, in fact, with a very vivid example of this. I learned, in short order, not only to operate from the "inner child" paradigm, but also to see parts of me that are in the present. I talk and joke and reassure Little Amelia almost constantly now; and I am always tickled when she quips back at her Big Sister Amelia in her distinct, adorable, elementary school girl voice. I spent time with my contemporary facets - boy mode, Sarah the enigmatic enby genius, and of course Amelia as I have settled into now. (I had a fascinating trip into the ideas of plurality/multiplicity and, although I now feel quite stable and singular, I have a lot of unanswered questions I would love to explore someday, when the spoon reserves are a bit less depleted.)

Anyways, my key reasoning was pretty simple. CPTSD is a set of responses that develop in reaction to prolonged trauma; affective therapy is aimed at engaging the portion of the self that most intensely remains trapped in that horrific experience. I started attempting inner-child work long before I had any conscious notion that I might be trans. And it didn't work, because I was trying to operate with the notion that I was a cis male. It began to work once I involved the new understanding that I'm a girl. The inner perception I had of myself, in CPTSD's framework, was formed and locked in long ago - and already a girl, long before I had any thoughts at all that maybe I'm trans.

(Pedantically, lest the objection be attempted that maybe I just ret-conned my past to be a girl out of wishful thinking or something, at that time I was still very much hesitant to even think about female identity; consciously I was still identifying as male and maybe enby in a fluid configuration. Discovering that my past was a girl was a surprise to me - far from any kind of overt revisionist bullshit.)

So really... far from CPTSD being the source of some kind of delusional belief that I am a trans girl, it's actually a pretty compelling (not to mention validating) argument that I am definitely trans, and have been for a long time indeed.