Tangled Web

Deceptions of a transgender guy

Cloak of Invisibility

Bohemian Rhapsody in a Cloak of Invisibility

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Like many children, I too sometimes daydreamed of a cloak of invisibility and while wearing this cloak, I would pretend to save the damsel in distress from a monster or villain or both. Little did I know that I would be wearing such a cloak throughout the rest of my life.

With hindsight I now realize that I had been living with depression since my teens. The confusion and anxiety of not being able to find a labeled box for myself, intensified in my early adult years. It seems as if everybody had a niche – a spouse, a lover, babies, loving family, a circle of good friends… Just not me. I stood aside, alone, ever the watcher, never the participator.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” (An aunt I had not seen in a long time).

“When are you getting married?
I want to walk you down the aisle!” (My cousin, 22 years my senior, wanting to stand in for my deceased father).

“Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.”

I tugged my maverick cloak of invisibility tighter around my shoulders.

I tried sharing my depression.

“No! You can’t have depression. You are always cracking a joke!” (A colleague).

“I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
  Because I’m easy come, easy go,
  Little high, little low,
  Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.”

I felt the cloak of mental disorder descend.

I endured year after stress-laden year under a control freak of a manager, until I physically began to feel like the grasshopper in the Biblical parable, dragging myself through one exhausting day after another. My depression intensified correspondingly, but in the 1980’s you simply did not just consult with a therapist. With the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest still fresh in memories, “seeing a shrink” was admitting to be “cuckoo”. I knew I could not function at work, but I had to, I had a family to support, so I sought refuge with my general practitioner. With visit after visit to him, I was starting to feel like a hypochondriac with varying symptoms, but he referred me to a colleague, who himself  had been stricken by a “disease” with similar symptoms to what I was presenting. This doctor thankfully was able to name my by-then-ever-constant companion: Fibromyalgia (FM).

At last I could tell people that I had a chronic disease, a medical condition that explained why I was absence from work so often, I thought and hoped.

Ha. “But you don’t look sick, you look just fine!” (A colleague).

“Oh, Fibromyalgia is just a label for creating illness behaviour and disability, causing individuals to take on a “sick role” and behave as if they are ill.” (A skeptic).

How do you convince these skeptics that you might look fine, but that you really feel everything but? And that chronic psychological distress causes chronic physical illness, and vice versa?

“Too late, my time has come,
  Sent shivers down my spine,
  Body’s aching all the time.

You take refuge with the cloak of chronic illness’ invisibility draped around you.

With my hearing deteriorating, I experienced all the stages of grief, finally accepting that I would have to wear hearing aids for the rest of my life or till I become deaf. The depression stayed, however.

“Oh, I didn’t know you were deaf. I did not see your hearing aids.” (A colleague).

“But you wear hearing aids, you should be able to hear perfectly now.” (A manager).

“He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
  Spare him his life from this monstrosity”

I don the cloak. Colour me hearing invisible.

When at last I did consult a therapist and came to the realization that I am transgender, I felt the cloak billow in the wind – could the real me dare to expose myself? Or will I stay a little silhouette of a man under my burgundy transgender cloak?

Fandango

“I see a little silhouetto of a man,
  Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango?
  Thunderbolt and lightning,
  Very, very frightening me.

 “Nothing really matters
   Anyone can see
   Nothing really matters – nothing really matters to me
   Anyway the wind blows…”

 **Lyrics from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody
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Author: Kris

Hi! I'm Kris. I live in South Africa with my life partner of 27+ years, whom I call B or Madam in my posts. We have a Pug dog child, Remi, also known as Pooch, who has graced and enriched our lives for the past 12 years.

22 thoughts on “Bohemian Rhapsody in a Cloak of Invisibility

  1. We all have burdens to bear, it took me ten years to learn to balance mine: Arthritis that doesn’t get better from treatment, anxiety, burnout and now a jammed rib. Life isn’t fair, but nowadays I enjoy every second of it thanks to my fabulous drugs that keep my anxiety at bay and my current coworkers that makes my life so much easier!

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    • Fredrik, great to hear your medication works so well for you and your coworkers are supportive. I cannot say that for mine. 😦

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      • I’m so sorry for you for that. Understanding colleagues has helped me tremendously. I should add that therapy, an understanding wife and time helped me too. After my burnout I was on sick leave for one and a half year and could still not go back to my old work as a teacher.
        I wish you all the best, know that we all here are thinking of you and that we wish that we could do or say anything to help you get better. Cyber hugs are sent your way!

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  2. Kris, did you write this, or did I? I see so much of myself in you. The chronic illness, the invisible depression since you always seem like such a cheerful person… Hell, yes, I could easily have written most of this myself. Eerie.

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  3. It’s a lot to handle, isn’t it? You are so right about the 1980’s and peoples’ perceptions. It’s a shame that people can’t be more understanding about conditions that aren’t easily seen.

    And Queen does rock! 🙂

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    • Well, I have had many years of practicing the ‘bearing’ – it helps sometimes. The rest of the time, it is grin and bear! Luckily I have this great online community support. 🙂 Jip, Queen still rocks – volume turned way up for me to hear!

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  4. This is beautifully written.

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  5. The shame and the longing are a toxic brew. I didn’t think I was depressed (even though I was in therapy) because I was so numbed out and disconnected from my pain – I thought depression meant I would be crying and sad all the time. To other people my stoicism made me seem stronger and more together than I was (than I am).
    Let the cloak billow, and give yourself some air (and remember that if Freddie Mercury felt that way you are in good company).

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    • Strange how people associate depression with crying and sadness. I withdraw and like you, may appear strong on the outside, while there is turmoil brewing inside. Freddy Mercury still IS the Queen! Thanks, Jamie, I will let the cloak billow, maybe Superman emerges, who knows?

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  6. Really well written!

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  7. Hi Kris, Thanks for sharing your story. Gender dysphoria, depression, fibromyalgia and hearing loss…what a heavy load to bear. I hope you feel encouraged to become your true self. I am sorry that others dismiss your health issues. <>
    PS – Queen fan too!

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    • Thank you for your empathy – there are still people like you who see, hear and understand and are my “crutches” to lean on when the load makes me want to buckle. But I hobble along, ever forward. Queen still rocks!

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