To celebrate Trans Pride, we've invited Freiya Benson, author of ‘The Anxiety Book for Trans People’, to write a guest post for us!

Navigating anxiety as a trans person – Freiya Benson

I think we can all agree it’s been a rough time recently. For me, the coronavirus crisis has been a time where I’ve felt disconnected from the wider world, and my anxiety has, at times, been quite overwhelming.

The trouble with feeling disconnected, on your own little desert island, is that there’s not really anyone to share your worries and concerns with. And those worries, and the anxiety that comes with them, start to grow when there’s nowhere to share or put them. And then of course there’s the extra level of anxiety that comes with being a trans person.

It can all make for a very anxious time, so what can we do to help manage all this? Below are a couple of simple things that I’ve found have helped me, that I hope will also help you as well.

Remember that what you’re feeling will pass. At some point in the future you will feel better, even if it doesn’t feel like it right in this moment. Sometimes I see my anxiety as like an ocean. It’s big, and lots of it is unknown. Sometimes there are storms, and things get rough, but I also know that there will be moments of calm as well, because those storms will blow themselves out at some point. Their momentum is only temporary, and the calmness will return.

Another thing I find helpful to remember is that anxiety isn’t just about what’s happening to us in the moment. Part of the anxiety we feel is also informed by our past experiences, and the other part of it is about the what-ifs that might happen in the future.

When I came out for example, I felt anxious. My anxiety was partly about telling people something really personal, but it was also exacerbated by my memories of times before when I’d shared something personal and it hadn’t gone so well. Then of course there’s the what-ifs of the future. What if people hate it when I tell them I’m trans? Telling others personal things, be that about your identity, or that you’re feeling anxious for example can be a challenging thing to do, and this can get amplified when your past memories, and possible futures get involved as well.

Remembering that those past memories have already happened, and more importantly, that you survived those memories can be an empowering thing, as it goes against the narrative our anxiety gives us, that everything is terrifying and un-survivable. Similarly, those future what-ifs? They’ve yet to happen, and you can deal with them when, and if, they occur, (even if dealing with them just means removing yourself from the situation).

The final thing that really helps me is finding activities that bring me joy. Joy, in my mind is a powerful antidote to anxiety, and I try my best to bring it into my life as much as is possible. The key thing here is to make your joy all about you. It doesn’t need to be a big thing, you don’t need to be the best at it, you just need to enjoy it.

For example, I love to sing. Singing is a joyful thing, and it makes me happy. I’m not a good singer, I just sing along to songs in the kitchen when I’m cooking my tea, because it brings me joy, and gives me an escape from my worries.

If you can find things that bring you joy then you’ll also have things that can help counteract your anxiety, which can only ever be a good thing!

I know from experience how difficult anxiety can be, and how daunting and impossible it can feel. Knowing that there are things you can do, like finding out what brings you joy for instance, can really make a difference, and hopefully get that anxiety under control.

Freiya’s book ‘The Anxiety Book for Trans People’ is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ODL members have a special 25% discount when purchasing print copies. Use the code ODL21 at the checkout. .