Losing everything to find yourself

Hester Wilson

3/01/2020 1:52:22 PM

When Trevor first came seeking help for stress and low mood, Dr Hester Wilson sensed there was something deeper going on.

Confused woman
Finding yourself can be a long road.

After Trevor’s marriage ended five years ago, the two parents agreed to share custody of their two school-age kids.
I first saw Trevor (a pseudonym) after the divorce. A member of a local support group had suggested I might help manage Trevor’s health needs.
At our first appointment, Trevor spoke first about experiencing stress, insomnia and a persistent low mood. I suggested a health review might be useful, and ordered bloods and re-booked a longer appointment.
Blood results came back normal, and Trevor cancelled the appointment.
If results are normal I usually leave it there. But given the mental health issues, I sensed something was amiss. So I rang, Trevor answered and I said, ‘Your results are normal, and I wanted to check you are okay’.
 ‘I can’t speak over the phone, but I’ll re-book to see you,’ Trevor answered.
A week later, Trevor walked in. ‘Thanks for coming,’ I said. ‘I get the feeling there’s something important going on for you. Is that right?’
A shake of the head and no words. So we sat there in silence for what felt like a very long time.
You know that feeling you get where the silence seems to ache? It was like that.
I had a very strong sense that something hard, something important needed to be said. A choice had been made to consult with me. But the words weren’t ready yet.
Finally, Trevor sighed. ‘I don’t know where to start.’
And then, of course, it came tumbling out. Childhood, marriage, kids, jobs, friends, a whole life. And through it all, there was something hidden.
Trevor was a woman.
‘I was always a she,’ she told me. ‘It’s just that I was living a sort of pretend life, living as a man and doing the best I could until I discovered that I was, in fact, a woman. So I don’t think of myself as a he becoming she.
‘I’d always “longed” to be a woman, and always related better to women, but I didn't know what that meant and I didn’t realise that I was doing that because I was, indeed, a woman.’
Now, at 45, Trevor realised that it might be possible to align her true self with her outer self.
‘Once I affirmed my real gender, everything just clicked and I could finally be the real me,’ she said.
That was the first step. But there were challenges ahead, taking that mental realisation into the physical world. 
I listened as Trevor spoke about the sadness and loss, of everything that had to be given up due to a burning need to be true to herself. About how this had become all-consuming. It was time to stop running.
So we began the long process.
Over the next few years, I saw Trevor for regular reviews as she began to change her appearance.
We talked everything through. The hormone surges, what it was like living as a woman – first part-time, then full-time.
We talked about losing a job, losing some friends, conflict with family members, the backlash from an angry and resentful ex-wife. About trying to find a way to tell the kids.
We talked about the struggle to raise money for the reassignment surgery, about cosmetic surgery, laser hair removal, speech pathology to alter her voice, buying an entirely new wardrobe, how to change names in the eyes of the government.
We discussed the loss of her old identity and the gaining of the new.
As time moved, we also spoke about the emerging joys. About her delight when her children began using her new name – we’ll call her Catrina. About the relief she felt when her kids accepted her, saying that, ‘As long as you’re happy, we love you anyway’. About acceptance by more and more old friends, and gaining new friends in the trans community.
Over the years, I watched as Catrina became a calm and bubbly person. Her inner turmoil had vanished. The pain of trying to reconcile who she was with who the world thought her to be had disappeared. Gone was her stress, insomnia and low mood.
These days, when Catrina comes to me for her regular check-ups, I find myself marvelling at what she’s achieved. And I feel privileged to have been able to witness her epic journey to find herself.

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Dr Martina Mary Gleeson   7/01/2020 8:08:52 AM

Beautifully written Hester. thank you.

Dr Vincent Bernard Gallichio   7/01/2020 10:11:08 AM

Where heart and head meet in Medicine! Thank you for sharing this heart-felt experience and for making a difference!

Dr Hester Hannah Katherine Wilson   26/01/2020 12:53:07 PM

Thanks Vincent and Martina,

I always feel so honoured by my work with patients, their incredible resilience and struggles and the life paths for those of ‘diverse’ gender