I didn’t know Yvonne Parker, creator of Yvonne’s Caption World and other similar blogs. But her untimely passing—according to her brother, by her own hand—is the kind of thing that can deeply affect members of our community—even being as disjoint and anonymous as we are.
I know the kind of pain she felt. We all do. Whether we’re cross-dressers or transsexuals, most of us know what it feels like to want something we can never attain. We long to see a beautiful woman reflected in our mirror, but are too often let down. Many of us seek womanhood itself, whether as a temporary change or a permanent condition. We feel the sting of disappointment when our efforts fall short. We despair as we grow older, and taller, and heavier, that we will never truly know the sweet feel of the woman we might have been—had only fate been kinder, or we ourselves dared try harder when we were young and full of fear.
This is a hard road to travel. Its broken surface snakes through the wilderness, with a bandit around every corner and a troll under every bridge. It’s full of fear and frustration, and the usual result is a traveler with a poor view of herself. But in spite of all that, most of us manage to trudge onward and live with who and what we are.
So why did she do it? It’s trite to say that only she knows the answer, although that’s certainly true. But at the risk of offending, I’d like to venture an answer. Yvonne didn’t end her life because of her very real frustration at being trapped in the no-man’s land between genders; she died because she was suffering from depression. That may sound like splitting hairs, but the distinction is very important.
Depression is something I know about, having lived with it (on and off) for most of my adult life. Everyone thinks they know what depression is, but most people don’t—because depression, the mental illness, is mixed up with the emotional state of being depressed. Confusion is guaranteed by the same word being used to label two different things, to say nothing of how similar they look from the outside. I won’t go into detail here—volumes have been written on the subject—but the important thing to know is this: people suffering from depression lack perspective.
To put it another way: they’re not thinking straight.
Everyone has problems; the TG community is certainly not unique in that respect. Most of the time you can either deal with your troubles or ignore them. But when you become depressed, those same problems suddenly morph into insurmountable, soul-crushing burdens—and may even seem unbearable. But what really changes? From one day to the next, your problems are the same. What changes is your thinking.
Here’s depression’s big secret: it’s actively looking for a stick to beat you to death with. It doesn’t matter what that stick is. It could be your cross-gender frustrations, your low self-esteem, your loneliness, or your childhood guilt over pushing your sister into a threshing machine. It doesn’t matter. Whatever your problem is, depression forces you to obsess over it, and tricks you into believing that that’s the real reason you’re depressed.
It’s pure propaganda: repeat the lie often enough, you end up believing it.
Doctors don’t really know what causes depression (the mental illness). Low self-esteem may figure into it. Stress can trigger it. But the chemistry of the brain itself changes as well, so biological and environmental factors may also play a role. But what doesn’t cause depression is the problem that only a day before (or week, or month) you were content to deal with, or simply ignore. Not all on its own. Not without a lot of help.
That’s the underlying tragedy of suicide. It’s a decision taken at the worst possible moment, when you’re not thinking straight, when you lack an outside view on both your problems and yourself. What the suicidal need most isn’t compassion (although that’s a very good thing), it’s perspective.
So if you’re out there tonight, feeling the way Yvonne felt, thinking that maybe her solution could be yours, you have to realize that you’re not thinking straight. That’s not your voice nibbling away at your mind; it’s the depression talking. What you need is another viewpoint. Talk to someone, about anything at all. Let some time pass. Watch the sun come up. Watch the sun set over water. Feel the wind on your face, the air in your lungs.
Then remember Yvonne, and choose to live.