I started 2013 as Ben, the man in black: long-haired, bearded with black jeans and a black leather biker jacket. I was often feeling uncomfortable when out socially, my relationship with my wife was rocky, and I was getting drunk regularly.
On the bright side work was going well: I continued to be happy in my job as a software developer. I was organizing darts competitions in my local pub.
But on a personal level the cracks were showing. By the middle of the year tensions at home were very evident and I had been contemplating separation. My wife told me several times that I wasn’t the person she had married: I had changed.
I guess I was aware of this subconsciously as a kind of dissatisfaction with my life, a feeling that things used to be better. If I could only go back to those happier, more innocent days… I was spending more and more time in introspection, analyzing myself, trying to figure out what was out of balance in the machinery of my mind.
I finally took steps to seek help with one of my problems: anxiety. I underwent a course of CBT to help me handle some of the situations where my anxiety was seriously affecting my ability to function. It helped with one small area of my life but I recognized that I had other problems and was suffering deeper and more frequent bouts of depression.
I started writing about more emotionally difficult subjects, trying to exorcise the demons of my past. Maybe some of this acted as a trigger, maybe it was just the build-up of stress, but I began to break down. I was feeling scared, sad, lonely, tired and trapped. My marriage appeared to be beyond salvation and my wife and I were at each others’ throats.
I ran away for a few days, staying with friends. I took time off work. I wrote a post that was as close to an admission of my true feelings as I had been able to come so far in my life. I saw my doctor and started treatment for depression. And finally I revealed to my wife a secret that I had held for about thirty years.
And over a few weeks, through a combination of my new-found openness — no more secrecy, no more pretending to be somebody I am not — and medication, I started to feel better. My relationship with my wife not only improved but became stronger than ever.
As this year draws to a close I am, at last, happy and optimistic about the future. It has been an exhausting journey and there is still a long way to go in terms of changing my body to match my gender identity. But I have had such support from my friends and especially from my wife that I truly feel accepted and loved.
So I’m finishing the year as Alexandra and I feel a long way removed from the person I was twelve months ago. After so many years — decades — I can be myself openly.