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How mindfulness helped me to overcome dysphoria

For those who still don't know that about me, I'm a transgender man.

Like many women in my family, I’ve been ‘blessed’ with an hourglass figure (thanks Grandma, for pointing out that my hips would be great for having babies).

For many years I was obsessed with the uneasiness of not feeling this body belonged to me, I spent hours looking in the mirror, hating the reflection, until a point where I was unable to recognize that image as mine. When I started the HRT, knowing that testosterone does not affect the bones I waited impatiently the fat redistribution that, in my mind would have given me Brad Pitt’s butt. I tried dieting too in order to decrease the percentage of body fat, with the end result of losing only belly fat and having an even waspy-er figure.

While my friends were complimenting my bushy beard and repeating that 'cisgender men can have large hips too', I was only able to see those hips and waist, no matter how good I was ‘passing’.

I was living and breathing thinking how much I wanted a more ‘manly’ body shape. At the time I was working in a food supplements store, helping bodybuilders with dieting and exercise and I was so envious of these bodies that, in my mind, were the ultimate representation of the perfect body I wanted.

I was going to the gym of course and I was literally destroying myself, but I wasn’t consistent in my training and the results weren’t coming.

‘It’s so annoying that I can’t achieve the body I want! It’s because I’m a biological woman!’

Well, guess what. It’s not because you’re biologically a woman. It’s because you expect results to appears overnight and waking up as Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Long story short, at 36 years of age and 10 years of hormones and 4 surgeries, I still had my hips, still had my waist, it was still a pain going to buy a pair of trousers and still a pain watching myself in the mirror in the changing booth. After trying an infinite amount of diets, infinite amount of supplements (legal and well… less legal) I was angry at my body, at the unfair fate that brought me in this world with this womanly shape, at the unavoidable realization that my dysphoria was undefeatable, and this anger transpired in every aspect of my life. I tried to hide my shapes behind shaggy, oversized clothes and every time I was looking at my reflection, I was constantly reminded of my demise. That feeling of defeat led me to not take care of my image at all. Long scruffy beard, shoulder always facing down, to minimize the space I was occupying in this world, avoiding constantly to look people in the eyes.

While I worked on recover from a big burnout, I’ve realized something. Why should I be trans-Don Quixote fighting against a dysphoria windmill? I have it and I will have it until I will have my hips and waist. The fact that I can make it disappear, doesn’t mean I can’t be happy. There’s no point in being a victim if the only outcome is being miserable. Really, can you think of a positive outcome of being a victim?

Learning mindfulness helped me to stop listening to the many screaming voices in my head and pay attention to that tiny, soft voice of reason that was whispering ‘the fact you’re born this way doesn’t make you less beautiful nor worthy of loving yourself’.

If I can’t defeat my hips, it’s not a reason for loathing myself. I’m still worthy of taking care of myself properly.

I tried one simple, to someone stupid, thing. I can’t focus on my hips, but I can take care of my face, to start.

I went to the barber, I had my hair shaved and my beard groomed, and from that day, every evening I was brushing my beard and every morning I was applying oil.

I was noticing some handsomeness emerging. That ritual reminded me (well, reminds, I still do it!) that I was worthy of being taken care of, I wasn’t even doing it to achieve a result, just to take care of myself, to love me a bit. Seeing a shiny, groomed beard pushed me to do something about my skin as well, so I started doing scrubs every week and hydrating the skin daily. Again, I was not expecting some results, I just enjoyed the ritual per se, it became a sort of meditation for me, I wasn’t thinking about anything. Just experiencing the senses and the cares I was giving myself.

After a month, suddenly, I noticed that my skin was looking amazing! What’s this feeling I’m having? I feel… handsome? Is that even possible?

That day I decided to start taking care of my body as well and started dieting, not because I wanted to have a gorgeous body, but simply because I wanted to take care of it. Stop junk food, stop coke, more veggies. I was energetic, happy to go for long walks to just enjoying the sun and the many animals live in this gorgeous, green Country.

Time goes by, summer ends and it’s time to pull out the clothes for the cold weather.

I open one of the drawers and I see my long-time nemesis. Suspenders. I always loved them, never felt I had the body to wear it, so I ended up avoiding it… and kind of hating it as well.

A thought pops up. What about…. Wearing them?

Tucking in a shirt? NONSENSE!!!!! Wearing trousers in my actual size? BLASPHEMY! Everybody will notice your hips! Men don’t have hips like that, you fool!

But the voice was telling me I was worthy, in the past months it became stronger, and I was starting being able to hear it every day more clearly. So that Saturday I was supposed to meet friends and have a look at the farmer’s market, and I decided to wear it.

I felt a bit awkward and insecure and self-conscious at first until I saw my reflection in a building. Hey! Look at that! You’re not bad my friend!

Dieting was having effects but I didn’t even care. The hips were still there, but I wasn’t reducing my whole image to it, in fact, they shifted in the background because my mind was just too surprised to see a man, well dressed, well-groomed, with a smile that was growing larger by the second.

Yes. I have large hips. Yes, I’m gorgeous. Yes, I love myself.

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