Trigger warning: Suicide
The ability to grow up, form substantial relationships and build a lucrative career all while comfortably identifying as the gender in which you were born is something many cisgender people take for granted.
Though she was struggling and deeply in pain, Tabbey was not quite as ready to receive care and counseling as she initially believed when she first approached the staff at Jefferson Center. This was due to some negative experiences Tabbey had with previous therapists.
Therapy can be a difficult adjustment for anyone, and it’s even more difficult when one is working to come to terms with their authentic self. Tabbey sought help from Jefferson Center after a second suicide attempt—anguish largely due to depression caused by a feeling of disconnect between her mind and her body.
“I felt like a social chameleon. I didn’t really have a personality of my own. I was whatever anyone else wanted me to be because who I knew I was (since I was five years old) was socially, religiously, and mentally taboo.”
Coming out as transgender had unfortunately led to an upheaval in her personal life. Her marriage collapsed, she lost stable housing, and she was losing her relationship with her daughter. When she attempted to receive solace from her family members, they pointed her to the director of a counselor who instructed Tabbey that she needed to “fix” herself with religion. A different therapist refused to acknowledge Tabbey’s true identity and only referred to her by her dead name. Another believed she was ready to begin Hormone-Replacement Therapy (HRT) and have surgery, though she did not agree with this fast pacing. Tabbey wasn’t sure exactly what kind of help she needed, and she wasn’t even sure that she could be helped at all. She describes herself as having become very good at living a forty-year-old lie, to the point of passive suicidality. She realized that, in order to regain control of her life and her happiness, she needed to take further action.
While seeking help and finding the right treatment was difficult, Tabbey appreciated that her team at Jefferson Center respected her as Tabbey, as her authentic self. After some time, her confidence grew, and she was able to fully commit herself to heal, seeing a therapist regularly and finding work through an employment specialist, who helped with even the smallest details, such as finding clothes for job interviews that fit the way Tabbey wanted to present herself. Jefferson Center’s affordable and accessible care also played a large role in her ability to stay consistent with treatment.
“I am now living my true life. I am productive, and I have meaning and purpose. I am better because of Jefferson Center.”
Coming out looks different for every member of the LGBTQ+ community. There is no “one-size-fits-all” method for disclosing this life-changing information, and there will be multiple stages of the coming out process, from communicating with partners, to close family and friends, to coworkers, and beyond. Of course, all of this starts with accepting, embracing, and loving your identity. When looking for help, we all wish we could wave a magic wand to feel better, and oftentimes this is what we hope to receive out of a few sessions of therapy, but, in reality, this takes real work and dedication. However, there are so many success stories of people who felt at the end of their rope and found relief with the help of mental health centers. It’s an old expression, and sometimes it feels tired, but things really do get better.
Tabbey feels that Jefferson Center helped save her life, and she’s dedicated even more of her own time and professional goals to the center after working for Jefferson for ten years. Through the support and care that she received, Tabbey was able to align her brain and her body, no longer suffering from that feeling of disconnect. She learned to embrace her individuality and build confidence to achieve ambitious goals personally and professionally. One of her greatest passions is engaging with her community, and becoming an advocate for both mental health and LGBTQ+ people. Tabbey wants her story to inspire others to seek the kind of mental health support that helped save her life.
Has your life improved because of mental health treatment? Do you wish to use your experience to help others?
Sharing your experiences with mental health treatment can help others who are struggling, and it can help fight the stigma of seeking mental health care.
You can remain anonymous.
For more information, please email VoicesOfHope@jcmh.org.