Typically, after posting part one of this series, I've started a period of really struggling with dysphoria again. So rather than a nostalgic look at gradually becoming more and more uncomfortable with myself, I'm really only capable of thinking about how it's hitting me right now.
I have groups of people that I'm more or less comfortable with, depending. On a good day, I wear my binder when I'm in public and until it becomes uncomfortable, and drink lots of peppermint tea on those days that I miscalculate how long I will be around people. Housemates, ex-housemates, metamours and my partner count as one strange extended family that I can stand to be around without binding (which is useful, since otherwise I would be damaging my health far more than I already do). And on a good day, I can forget about it.
On a bad day, I can't forget. Sometimes my body protests, and I choose between physical pain and not socialising. Other times the binder isn't enough, and I'll spend time hating my voice or hips for the way they are. At times, I'll look at friends or acquaintances and feel nothing but envy for their body. I've seen one person describe their experience of dysphoria as the 'Ah Shit!' moment of seeing a person and longing for that ease or those physical features. I think of it as a moment of vertigo, the ground dropping away beneath my feet.
Those are the days that I'll bind for twenty hours and make myself ill, the days that I will be struck by discomfort mid-conversation and have to escape to my room, the nights I'll stay fully dressed until under the covers with the lights off. And I'm never sure what triggers it. Possibly it's just being tired or stressed in my day to day life, maybe I've run out of the mental resources to ignore or reimagine my body as fiercely as I usually do.
This weekend I found myself in a situation - due to long hours - where I had no choice but to socialise without my binder, and it took me forty-five minutes to leave my room. Not because I was concerned about the people I was with, or felt unsafe in any way. Just because there was an irrational terror and unwillingness to be around them while being so wrong. I got over it in time to go out and have fun, and I'm glad I did, but it was anxiety on a level I've not experienced since before I started binding.
And where the hell does that leave a body positive feminist? I mean, really, what right do I have to even try and claim that kind of philosophy when I'm working towards hormonal and surgical alteration of my own body just so I can face people?