Yes, it’s a thing. I see it often. In fact, I can expect to see a client who’s “done with transition” about 6 months later, usually after Gender Corrective Surgery (GCS), and most of the time it’s in my MTF (male to female) clients.
If you’ve ever known someone going through a gender transition then you’ve probably witnessed what I refer to as “trans glow.”. It’s like a state of euphoria. The person is elated because they finally see the changes they want, reaffirming that they’ve made the right decision. They’re excited because they are finally taking action on an issue that they’ve been hiding behind for years.
This is where the person becomes like a horse in a race with blinders on, seeing nothing but the finish line. This metaphorical “race” lasts about a year. There’s a lot to do within that year: coming out – to family, friends, partners, work, and school. There’s HRT, surgeries, getting surgeries scheduled, figuring out how to pay for them. A transition takes up a lot of time and energy.
Once the person has been “just living” as male or female, “real life” sets in and the person realizes that the transition was never going to solve all the problems of life and make everything look like rainbows and kittens in top hats. The excitement of the transition has turned into complacency which often turns into a whole new type of depression.
I liken it to the “post party blues.” You’ve had a great time with all your friends in one place, listening to music, playing board games, having a few drinks. Then the next morning everyone’s gone and there’s a lot of mess to clean up. This is what the person “done with transition” often feels like.
Usually people come in under the guise of something else, not realizing what’s going on. The client might report that she’s just not been herself lately, or her partner noticed she wasn’t herself and wanted her to come back in to see me.
I’ll do my usual assessment on depression: changes in sleeping patterns, changes in appetite, feeling lethargic or hopeless, lack of motivation, sadness, etc. The symptoms will be there but the client can’t pinpoint what the trigger was. It started occurring to me a few years ago that the “post transition blues” was actually a thing.
When I mention it to the client, at first they seem puzzled. Then when I explain it, I can almost see the lightbulb go off over their head. Then it all comes together. It’s not that the client’s life is worse, it’s just normal, boring, everyday life.
Dr. David gives a whole presentation on this very topic. He compares the experience to when he was getting his PhD. For years and years, he ate, slept, and breathed his work on the PhD. When he finished his final presentation to the panel of professors, left and made his way down the hall, one of the professors popped out and addressed him as “Doctor Baker-Hargrove” and he realized he had done it. And he explains feeling super elated for about a day and then experiencing months of depression.
He realized he needed to take on some other big projects that he felt passionate about to consume his time and energy.
I don’t even look at it as “depression” as much as it’s a weird kind of “boredom.” The person still has all this energy but now has to find somewhere to direct it. I let clients know early on in transition to make sure that they have other goals in their lives to work on besides transition.
Hope this helps!