Warning: this post deals with suicidal thoughts and may be triggering for some readers.
In July 2015 I was lying on the bed I shared with my fiancee, crying my eyes out. I had broken down after another fight and had taken off in the car, only to return 10 minutes later after doing blocks around the area in which we lived. I returned home and retreated to the bed. She followed and lay down next to me.
She asked what was wrong. I cried and cried and blurted out through the sobs that I was desperately unhappy. She then asked why.
I summoned up everything I could through the pain and trauma I was experiencing. My life had all led up to this moment in time.
Two months earlier I had been 30 meters up a tree in my role as an arborist when I suffered my first terrifying panic attack. I had come to the sudden realisation while I was working that everything I had been building and working for in my life; my business, my house, my apprentice and, most importantly, my fiance and her family was wrong. How could I tell this person I honestly loved very dearly that I was repressing my true gender and openness in my sexuality?
I had created a life over the previous two years that was a sham. I was not being who I really was. I was wearing an elaborate mask.
I acknowledged the fact that I was not being truthful to myself on many levels. It had all come to the surface in that tree and for a moment I froze. I couldn't move or think and I knew I was in serious trouble. I managed to get myself together enough to come down from the tree. I pretended nothing was wrong but on the inside I was freaking out, big time.
After that my apprentice climbed every day and I threw myself into my business. I internalised everything and tried everything I could to distract myself from the physical anxiousness that was now gripping me tightly and not letting me go. The panic attacks only increased and the fights intensified between me and my fiancee. I was terribly distraught.
How could I tell this person I honestly loved very dearly but was just not compatible with anymore that I was repressing my true gender and openness in my sexuality?
It was so complex and it has taken me over two years to come to terms with who I truly am, so at this point I was really at the foot of a mountain. It was incredibly daunting coming to terms with the fact that I was inevitably going to inflict an incredible amount of emotional pain upon all these people who had trusted me, loved me and brought me into their family.
The option of suicide came to me quite a few times and that was one of the reasons I chose not to climb trees anymore. I didn't trust my body or myself anymore. I had become so good at lying to myself in order to fit that I believed my own lies in the end. It all had to stop and I spent most of the time weighing the pros and cons of each back and forth and always coming to the same conclusion. I had to be truthful and destroy all that I had built and worked towards.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
I answered her question through immense pain. The words fell out of my mouth and must have hit her like a brick.
"I think I'm gay." I dared to open my eyes and look at her.
There was confusion and pain, and then a narrowing and malevolence. "Have you acted on these feelings?" she asked. I responded truthfully: "No."
I had become so good at lying to myself in order to fit that I believed my own lies in the end.
Over the next few hours of explanations, through lots of crying and pain, I began to tell my truth to her. It was the start of me becoming Penny, the transgendered woman I was always supposed to be.
Change is painful and painful change is what I needed. I didn't regret anything I had done -- it had all been a learning experience to understand what I didn't want in my life. Almost immediately after I had muttered those words I started to feel better.
I started wearing female clothes and adapting a female appearance within weeks of coming out and slowly I became more feminine. I started estrogen a few months ago and so far it's been a very smooth transition. It felt like my body had already begun preparing for this transition long before my mind was ready.
I've noticed I have much softer skin, stronger nails, a familiar sense of wellbeing, and a change in my habits and the way I do things. My attention to detail has risen as well. I am more precise about things and have had a massive softening on how I approach conversations and the way I interact with people.
I feel very happy about who I have become. Penny is slowly blossoming like a flower and will only continue to bloom. It is a truly magical feeling, being authentic and having the outside reflect what is on the inside.
If you or someone you know is suffering with their mental health, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.