Strange World: R.I.P. Yvonne

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.

Amanda

3 thoughts on “Strange World: R.I.P. Yvonne

  1. Many of us have been down that road before and once you open that door it never really closes again. I led 33 years of my life trying to make “it all” just go away. To do things to disprove what I already new. To do things in and with my life because it is what I thought that everyone expected of me. I gave selflessly, not desiring praise, secretly hoping for forgiveness from God for “being stuck this way”. Thinking of ending it all when I was 11. As an adult I decided to push the limits and lived and did things that were incredibly dangerous for a career, for recreation. Hoping to die through means other than by my own hand.

    I reached a crisis state when I was around 30, boxes of obligations began to further limit my choices. Family choices, career choices, friends choices. For me, thank God I was born with a genetic defect where I am sterile and as the eldest child whatever was going on at the time affected me the greatest. I have never received a complete answer as to why I had so many scars around my genitalia. If does not matter about me. It makes me sad that my three younger brothers were afflicted to a lesser degree and could not father children.

    My mind was bending really badly, the guilt, the longing, thinking that if it ended maybe there would be a chance again. Finding myself doing 80 miles an hour on a dark twisty backroad at 2 am and catching myself thinking “and now only if a deer would step out onto the road….”. Professionally, responding to a bad incident where “someone” had to step into an area that was covered with about two acres of gasoline, “spinning the valve shut and thinking “just one spark”. These things began to happen more frequently, things I will not mention. I just did not want to cause my family any more pain. I wanted my shame to die with me.
    Over CompuServe I met a friend. A woman who had traveled down the same dangerous paths (re-upping for three years to fly with the 1/9 Air Cav in Vietnam, think of the scenes in the village with the helicopters, she flew a Loach for three years on dusk to dawn missions, by herself, part of “pink team” missions where she, in her little helicopter would get so low to the ground and use the skids to move the weeds apart, trying to get the VC to spring up with a rifle and shoot at her while a Cobra gunship was 500 feet up with it’s crosshairs on where you are. You throw a smoke grenade and roll out quickly, the bullets are already coming down to where you were.. Fun and games, her attempts at ending it all in a heroic way. It did not make the pain go away but she did earn a bronze star and an air medal.

    What I have to say to you all is this “don’t”. No matter how hopeless the situation appears, as long as you are alive there is always a chance, a hope. Reach out to others to support you. People like us, people who will not turn their backs on you in disgust, frustration or fear. YOU CAN MAKE IT THROUGH THIS!

    I finally had to leave, leave my career, my marriage, my house, my car and my doggie and move 800 miles away to my support. Someone who took a chance on me. Someone who had “opened that door” on ending it all before. She guided me through my transition, getting hooked up with a good shrink (if y’all live in the Houston area, look up Dr. Collier in Galveston at the Rosenburg Clinic, you are accepted the second you walk in the door.

    Transitioning is a process, it is a state of mind, it is an attitude and an outlook on life. Things that scare the hell out of you right now (social anxiety, etc…) go away with time. I completely re-invented myself (the legal stuff, drivers license, school records/ transcripts social security, (if allowed) a reissued birth certificate with the correct name and a gender of “F” (good news for you Illinois gals). All of that stuff is just tiny bumps on the road.

    Now I am a completely different person, not the extremely geeky pocket protector type.I can go out and be maybe not the life of the party (more like the instigator, LOL). I am coming up on 50 this year and I act like I am 25.

    The big scary (SRS) may seem like the ultimate answer, That everything will be better after that. My shrink, surgeon and endocrinologist (Rosenburg Clinic is a one-stop-shop) work as a team. The day after surgery my shrink came in with a big smile and said “eighteen months ago you began a new life, happy birthday, act 1, scene 1 is done, now get out there and live”.

    Please, get out there and live.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Tisha. Great post. I don’t know if you post over at TGComics, but if you put this up on the forum there, I guarantee you’ll reach a lot more people.

      Amanda

      • Thanks so much for your kind words Amanda. Sometimes I read something that “compels” such a response from me. Again, a 180 degree difference in who my evil twin was. Back then I thought of myself as a vulcan, to shut down all emotion. Now I open my heart and while it gets broken from time to time, at least I am feeling.

        Tisha

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