You’re a Super Hero

These days I’m pretty busy just living my life but I do take time everyday to reflect on where I came from and where I am now.  Most days I am in awe of the life I lead today compared to even a couple of years ago.  I’m here to tell you, if you doubt that you can flip your whole life upside down, inside out and survive it, that you absolutely can.  And, in fact, you will be a much better, happier person for doing it.  Your friends and family may fight you every inch of the way but at some point even they will admit that you are a better person now than you used to be.  Will it be hard?  Yes, of course.  Everything worth doing is hard.  Will it get worse before it gets better?  Yep, most likely it will.  Can you do it?  I have no doubt.

Why am I so confident in you?  Because I did it and I was just like you are right now.  Scared, terrified even.  Absolutely sure that I’d lose everyone and everything that meant anything to me.  Convinced that I’d have to live in my car and eat food from the dollar store to survive.  Afraid that no one would ever love me again and pretty sure that I’d never be taken seriously in my real gender.  I was the kind of person that would say, “well, that’s ok for other people but not for me”.  I have too much to lose.  I’m too this, too that.  Too old, too fat, too feminine looking, too dependent on my partner, too scared, too weak.  I didn’t think it would be worth all of the turmoil I’d have to put myself and my family through.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.

I’m not telling you to transition.  That’s your decision to make.  But I want you to know that you can do it.  You absolutely CAN do anything you want to do.  I did it and so can you.  I’m not special.

Well….

Actually, I am special.  And so are you.

You see, people like us, the misfits and maladjusted freaks of society are the most amazing people.  We’re superheros.  We grow up being taught that who we are is wrong and we get beaten down into submission until we can’t take it any longer.  I look at the general population now and I feel pity for them.  They don’t know what it’s like to grow up the way we did and have to pull ourselves out of the abyss and rise above our upbringing.  I am stronger than they will ever be because of what I’ve been through.  They whine and moan about their aches and pains and every day worries while we’re out here reinventing ourselves into the superheroes we were born to be.   Once you find your truth you are unstoppable.  Take your truth where it leads you and don’t let fear stop you.  Feel the fear but do it any way.  Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear is a liar.  You’re not weak or worthless.  Quite the opposite.  You’re one of the strongest people on the planet and you are special in ways others can’t even imagine.  Whatever your deal is that makes you feel like a misfit, turn that shit around and make it your greatest strength.  Think of all of the crap you’ve had to deal with in life because you’re not like all of the sheep in the world.  You’re not a sheep.  You’re a fucking lion.  You’re a fucking superhero.  All that crap has made you stronger and stronger.  Your muscles are popping out every where from all the heavy lifting you’ve done in life.  Now put it to good use and start living your wildest dreams.  Be your own hero and I bet even the person closest to you that tells you this is crazy will thank you for it one day.

PTSD and Growing Up Trans

I read an article recently on trans.cafe that I found to be very thought provoking.  The article is called PTSD and the Act of Transitioning by Zane Tyler. Zane tells a story of how his mom outed him to a playmate when he was young by using his birth name.  The playmate had thought Zane was a boy, like him, and got angry.

“I would liken this feeling of being separated from oneself—society’s refusal to acknowledge who we really are—to a baby who does not get held. We know what happens without touch. I would suggest that a person who can’t hold themselves up, and who instead lives in a split, and forced performance, is experiencing a slow accumulation of real and pronounced trauma.”

“..a slow accumulation of real and pronounced trauma.”  That statement really hit me in the gut.  Yes.  Being denied the ability to self actualize as a child is traumatic and every incident of being forced to perform as someone we’re not splits us from who we actually are.  It is a slow accumulation and the trauma is devastating to our psyche, creating a split in a lot of cases.  I know it did for me.  I’ve talked before about feeling like I was leading a double and even a triple life at times.  There was the whole straight/gay split and then there’s the ‘I feel like a boy, not a girl’ split.  So you walk around the ‘real world’ looking like a girl and presumed to be straight/heterosexual while in other circles of the ‘real world’ you are presumed to be a lesbian because you appear to be a female you is attracted to other females but the whole time in both situations you really see yourself as male.

BOOM!  Is that a total mind blower??  I know it makes my head spin.

How can that not be damaging to a person, especially a young person?

Zane goes on to say,”Recently, I was diagnosed with PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder. I’m a textbook case: flashbacks, hyper-awareness, an inability to trust people. I believe my PTSD went unacknowledged, unchecked for years, because of the lack of understanding of what it means to be trans, the core separation from self that is experienced when you are forbidden by society to be who you really are. I’m still re-experiencing what I went through in order to get here, which has impacted my ability to enjoy what I now have.”

You do not have to be a combat veteran to experience PTSD, however, I would say that what we experienced as children growing up trans in a world that didn’t understand us is more likely to be classified as Complex-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrom).  The difference is based in the cause of the trauma as well as the duration.

According to Out of the Fog, “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of:

  • domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • entrapment or kidnapping.
  • slavery or enforced labor.
  • long term imprisonment and torture
  • repeated violations of personal boundaries.
  • long-term objectification.
  • exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
  • long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull,splitting or alternating raging & hooveringbehaviors.
  • long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
  • long term exposure to crisis conditions.”

Out of the Fog goes on to say, “C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.”

It’s not at all a stretch of the imagination to see that being forced to live as someone you aren’t is abuse.  Abuse like that over a lifetime is a real game changer for most of us.  I didn’t realize I was actually trans until I was 47 years old.  That’s FORTY-SEVEN years of forcing myself to live as a woman, as a lesbian, and denying who I really knew myself to be.  Forty-seven years of being told that I was wrong for wanting to just be myself.  Forty-seven years of living a lie.  And forty-seven years of not even really understanding who I was because my family and society had so brainwashed me that I believed they were right and I was wrong.

How does this kind of long term abuse effect a person?  Well, speaking from my own personal experience, I have struggled with the following issues my entire life:

  • Anxiety/Panic Disorder
  • Depression
  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear of conflict
  • Social anxiety
  • Low self esteem
  • Chronic anger/rage
  • Chronic irritability
  • Social dysphoria
  • Physical dysphoria
  • Chronic lying to cover up and hide my split worlds and to try and hide who I was
  • Inability to connect emotionally to others
  • A tendency to be a loner
  • Extreme introversion

How has this effected me?  It’s beyond my understanding all of the ways this has impacted my life.  I would go as far as to say that it has impacted every moment and every aspect of my life.  I’ve lived a lot of my life in a fantasy world to help me cope with reality.  While my symptoms have seriously held me back and stunted my ability to thrive in the world, I feel fortunate that I didn’t have other, more severe symptoms such as self harming or suicidal ideations, eating disorders, or substance abuse.  I can honestly say that I’ve never considered any of those options as a coping mechanism.  But many folks do.  And many don’t make it to the age of forty-seven.

Physically transitioning does help to alleviate some of the symptoms, like physical and social dysphoria, but it does not always help with the mental split from the abuse of being forced to live a false life.  There really is no cure for PTSD other than to get out of the situation that caused it (transition), acknowledge the trauma, and mourn what has been lost.  Along with all that, it’s a matter of managing the symptoms with meditation, mindfulness, exercise, yoga, being around supportive people, therapy, and sometimes anxiety and/or depression medications.

At the beginning of my transition I used to say that understanding all of this was like peeling away the layers of an onion.  After all of those years I no longer knew what was really me and what parts had been socially forced on me.  Separating all of that to get to the heart of who I really am has taken years and many tears and I’m still discovering hidden layers to myself.  While the trauma was intense and destructive on many levels, it has afforded me the opportunity to understand myself and the world I live in in a much deeper and thoughtful way than most people ever take the time to understand.  That is the hidden gift in all of this, in my opinion.  In the end, we understand ourselves and know ourselves at a level that most never dream.  There is value in that, but it’s also time consuming and takes away from pursuing a fruitful and enjoyable life.  I feel stunted from all of these years of naval gazing and anguishing over my gender.  I feel like I’m behind because of it in some ways.  But I’m also far, far ahead in others.

With understanding comes great responsibility.  We can no longer use “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t understand” as an excuse to live a blind life like so many others do.  Now that I know, I can’t un-know.  Now that I know, I have a responsibility to myself to make it right to the best of my ability.  My transition has been a journey of understanding and making things right for myself.  This can be an epic journey or a holy hell and sometimes both.  The world thinks nothing of forcing its abuse on us in the name of cultural norms.  The trans youth of today give me great hope that as we continue to evolve there will be less and less of us dealing with the symptoms of a lifetime of societal abuse.  I dream of a world where children are allowed to express themselves and grow up exactly as they are and that being trans is of no more concern than being born with any other minor issue.  Being trans should not have to define a person’s whole life.  Until we get to a point where being trans, or gay, or queer is considered as normal as having brown hair we have a lot of work left to do.

 

An Epic Journey

I have a little sun room in my house where I like to sit in the morning, sipping coffee while reading or writing on my laptop.  I remember sitting there five years ago feeling desperate, alone, misunderstood, unloved, depressed, tears streaming down my face as I struggled to decide whether to start moving towards transition or not.  My relationship was near ruin and on the brink of breaking apart.  We had just built a beautiful new home that I dearly loved and all I could see was that if I moved forward towards living as male I would lose everything I had built over the past 15 years, including my partner and my pets.  My business was struggling too because I had been ignoring it for the past couple of years due to a vast depressive period I had gone through.  My life was falling apart.  I had escaped into an alternate reality to escape my life and now it was all coming to a head and there was no avoiding reality any longer.

I had to do something.

But I felt boxed in.  Every direction I looked all I saw was loss. All of my options were lose-lose.  Where was the win in any of this?  I couldn’t see any.  My partner had made it plainly clear that if I transitioned than we were done.  And if I transitioned I’d be alone, poor, probably living on a cot in my shop and eating instant mac and cheese if I could even afford that.  And how would I even attempt to transition without any money or health insurance?  This was my rock bottom and it was pretty awful.

I look back at that time now and I’m overwhelmed by how far I’ve come.  How far my family and friends have come.  How far my relationship and my business have come.  I still have my partner, my pets, my home and my business.  All are thriving.  And me?  I’m living as a man.  Sure, my partner still calls me she, but we’re working on that.  Or we will be soon.

How did I get here?  Well, my partner and I separated for a few months and slowly started “dating” each other again.  I started seeing a gender therapist who sent me to an endocrinologist for hormones who also checked other things and found that my thyroid levels were very low.  So I started taking thyroid pills two weeks before I started taking a low dose of T (androgel).  Remarkably, the thyroid pills made me feel better immediately.  My mood lifted significantly from that alone.  And then I added the T in and my outlook on life shifted 180 degrees.  In my darkest hours, alone, separated from my family, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was all going to work out somehow.  I had no idea how, but I was 100% convinced that it would.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  My partner and I slowly rebuilt trust and our life together again.  I came out to some close friends.  I changed my name.  I had a hysterectomy and top surgery.  I went from a low dose to a full dose of T (about 2 years ago).  And now, I get called sir at drive-thrus and can walk into the men’s room without anyone batting an eye.  It’s amazing!

But before I got to this point I had to go through what, for me, was the second hardest part of transitioning (first being the initial decision to begin).  And that was being in the muddy middle ground between male and female and nobody, including myself, knowing whether I was a girl or a boy.  I struggled hard with my identity at this point.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.  Every day I could feel my old, female self slipping further and further away and this new, more masculine, awkward person emerging.  I wanted to go hide in a cave until it was over.  It was hard to leave my house and go to work, see people, interact with people I have known a long time.  I felt so naked and self conscious.  Vulnerable.  Raw.  Exposed.  My mask was slipping off and I couldn’t hide it anymore.  My deeper voice and receding hairline were giving it away no matter what clothes I wore.  There was no closet big enough for me to hide in.  I couldn’t just stay home all of the time.  This was not an option.

So, with the knowledge that the only way out was through I made a bold decision to just come out about it to as many people as I could as quickly as possible and stop hiding who Shawn is.  I brought Shawn out into the light of day as boldly as I dared, despite my pounding heart and sweaty, shaking hands.  I stood up naked for all to see and it was terrifying at first.  But no one freaked out (well, maybe one person, but she’s better now) and the sky did not fall in on me.  I still have my partner and home and business and pets.  And now I have more friends that I’ve made through blogging and my connections in the trans community.  I have more support than ever and my relationships are genuine and honest, completely honest, for the first time in my life.  No hiding who I really am anymore.  I’m strong enough now to honestly say to myself that if they don’t really like me enough to accept this about me than I don’t need them in my life.  That, my friends, is a HUGE triumph!  I’m so proud of myself for getting to this point that I feel like I could burst.

Last weekend, Candace’s mom had a commitment ceremony with her boyfriend at the annual family reunion.  She asked me to stand up with Candace and her other daughter’s family with her at the ceremony.  She asked me if I wanted to wear what the other men were going to wear.  Yes!  I was nervous.  I’ve never been in a wedding type ceremony before and the whole family was there to watch and SEE who I am now.  Candace reminded me that no one was going to pay attention to me since this wasn’t about me.  Yeah, right!  They noticed me.  Anyway, I did it and a lot of people told me how great I look and no one made any negative comments to me or Candace.  Were they talking about me in private?  I have NO doubt that they were.  And I’m ok with that.

Changing people’s perceptions of us takes a lot of time, effort and patience.  This is a big ship to turn and it doesn’t happen overnight.  Little by little, slowly, gradually, people  start to acknowledge and appreciate who we have always known ourselves to be.  The first step is always in accepting that yourself.  Bringing that which has been hidden out into the light is both liberating and terrifying.  But, just like with anything new and raw, with enough time, light and air, it starts to feel normal and healthy.  Some of us are braver than others.  I am by far not the bravest person in the world.  Most of the time I’m wrought with anxiety, indecision and self doubt.  Most of this process has been extremely slow and gradual.  Excruciatingly slow and gradual.  But that’s the way I had to do it for my own comfort.  Every so often I put a little bit more of myself out there for the world to see and once I’m comfortable with that I add something else.  Some things are bigger than others, like changing my name.  But some things are as small as wearing a button down shirt instead of a polo to work one day.  Or wearing a binder, or a packer.  Will anyone notice?  Will anyone say anything?  It’s all about testing the waters and finding what’s right for me.  And the process continues.  I’ve been growing out my chin and mustache hair for the past month.  I’m sure people have noticed but no one’s said anything to me.  I’m just laying this on top of all the other coming out layers I’ve already set down in place.  This is anything but methodical, but in a way it is.  It’s about testing the waters and gaining confidence.  Do a little thing and observe.  Do another little thing and observe.  Nothing bad happened so lets do another little thing.  Layer upon layer upon layer upon layer.  Thin, delicious slices like a Smith Island cake*.

smith island cake

Classic Smith Island Cake

Eventually you get something that looks like your true self.  Which is continually evolving and changing anyway, so there’s always new layers being added onto the base of what you previously built.  Cake upon cake.

stacks of cakes

Transition, for me, has been more like a death and a rebirth than a transition.  Dawn was already dying when this all began five years ago.  Shawn emerged from the fire of burning down what was left of her.  I’m a better and much improved version of myself now.  Everyone who knows me can see this.  It’s not only about how I look but how much more open and authentic I am now.  I’m still learning to let my guard down, but I’m a lot less guarded and shielded than I’ve ever been before.  My walls had to come down in order to traverse this path.  I’m more at peace with myself and with life now.   I’m less angry.  I’m more patient.  My anxiety and depression is better.  Life is all about evolving and learning as far as I’m concerned.  Staying stuck and stagnant is certain death for me and that’s where I was five years ago.  I’m so thankful that I woke up when I did and had the courage to move forward into a new, uncertain future in spite of all that I seemingly had to lose to get here.  The journey has been incredible and in some ways, it’s just beginning.

 

*Note:  If you’re curious about the Smith Island cake or Smith Island itself, here are a few links of interest:

http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/symbols/html/dessert.html

https://smithislandcake.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Island,_Maryland

Testosterone: Panacea or Pandora?

Just in the last couple of days three bloggers I follow posted about how hormone therapy was causing them problems mentally.  First there was butchcountry67’s post here, then Sam’s thoughtful post here and then Eli’s post here.  Their experiences really made me think hard about how I’ve been feeling lately.  I know a few of you are thinking about starting T and no one really talks a lot about the mental aspect of transitioning or what the hormones do to our brains. I’ve even written a little bit about how I wonder if T is making my mind do interesting and sometimes alarming somersaults.  There was this post that I wrote recently as well as this one where I talk about my mental acrobatics of late.  My anxiety has been off the charts since November/December of 2015.  Like I’m often apt to do, I have tried to figure out what is causing this sudden and unexpected surge of anxiety in my life.  I’ve blamed it on the holidays, on surgeries, menopause, aging, stress, work, transitioning, hormones, diabetes, my weight, my diet, my lifestyle, lack of sleep, society, early dementia, you name it, I’ve thought of it.  Maybe all of that plays into our mental state.  Maybe one thing alone doesn’t make that much difference but all added up it creates a nice mind noodle soup that sends us into another realm.  I don’t know.

I try to remember when I started T exactly but I’m just not that sure.  I think it was around 2011, so about 4-5 years.  I started on a super low dose of Androgel.  My first prescription was a baggie with 4 or 5 little packets in it.  I put 1/4 packet on my upper arms every morning.  I did this for a while and then went to 1/2 a packet.  Eventually I was given a bottle of the stuff and applied two pumps per day.  I was on the gel for a couple of years I think.  Physically, I did see some minor changes.  My body odor changed pretty immediately.  There was some minor growth downstairs and a marked increase in libido.  My facial hair got much more fuzzy and pronounced and I started getting hair in new places like my butt and upper thighs and my voice dropped a little bit.  Mentally, I felt really good.  My moods leveled out and I felt unusually optimistic during a pretty rocky time in my life.

But I didn’t like having to put the gel on every day.  It’s messy and can rub off on pets and partners (so they say, though I’m not so sure about that once it’s dried).  The little changes I had experienced made me hungry for more so I asked my doctor about switching to injections.  I had intended to stay at the same dose or slightly higher than what I had been on with the gel.  But he wrote my script for a full dose (which I didn’t know at the time).  I did some research to try and figure out what a full dose typically is and realized he had plopped me up to full dose in one fell swoop.  I called and talked to him about it and he told me to take a little less if I wasn’t comfortable with it.  He made it sound like I was already to a full dose on the gel.  Maybe I was.  I don’t know about that since no one really talks about what a full dose of Androgel is.  I think I was up to 3 or 4 pumps per day a the end.  Not being either a doctor or a math whiz I’m not sure what the equivalents are.  So I injected .4cc or 80mg per week of T for about a year.  I saw a dramatic drop in my voice right away and some real facial hair sprouting as well as some chest and arm hairs and a serious increase in libido that was beyond overwhelming at times.  I didn’t dislike the changes.  He had given me carte blanche to toy with my dosage if I wanted to so I upped it to .5cc (100mg) per week for a while (maybe close to a year).  I had a hysterectomy and a vein surgery in the mean time.  People started increasingly seeing me as male out in public.  Using the women’s toilets started to become a problem.  Not being out as trans to friends started to become a problem.  People started wondering what the heck was going on with me.  Some people still do since I haven’t told everyone yet.  Still, mentally, I felt pretty good.

Looking back, however, I can tell you that a new pattern with my anxiety disorder was emerging.  I would go quite a while and everything would be ok but then suddenly, out of nowhere, there would be a huge surge of anxiety/panic attacks over some particular thing that would be debilitating for a while.  First it was bridges, then it was bathrooms, now it’s my mind/memory.  Is this the work of the T or is it just how my disorder is progressing?  I don’t know.  I had the two Transient Global Amnesia attacks.  The first one was before starting T, the second one was after being on it for a couple of years.  So, I can’t say that the T caused those.

What I can say, however, is that, while who I am has not changed, the way my brain thinks and processes information most definitely has.  I have disturbing thoughts throughout the day that scare me and make me wonder who I am becoming.  Sometimes these thoughts get a grip on me and don’t want to let go.  It upsets me greatly and freaks me out.  These thoughts are usually sexual or violent in nature.  I remember getting my eyes examined by a new doctor one time.  She was an attractive young woman (in my opinion anyway) and she had really muscular, well defined arms and was wearing a sleeveless dress that day.  I got fixated on her arms and wanted to comment on how beautiful they were.  I literally almost came unglued because this desire was so strong in my head and I knew it was inappropriate to mention something like that to her.  I had to will myself to stay quiet.  Then the other day I was driving along a back road and I saw an attractive lady (again, my opinion) wearing a very flattering outfit jogging on the opposite side as me.  I had a sudden urge to slow down, lower my window and tell her how nice she looked and how that outfit really showed off her figure.  What?  Who does that?  NO!!  Only perverted idiot men do that kind of shit!  I thought, oh my God, I’m turning into a sexist asshole pig.  Of course I didn’t scare the crap out of that woman thank God but I had the urge thought and that freaked me out.  This is NOT who I am.  These are two examples.  I have random thoughts like these throughout the day.  Every day.  Sometimes I get sudden bursts of anger that are hard to control, usually while driving.  Even the slightest little infraction from a fellow driver will send me into a fit of anger.  Again, this is not me.

Perhaps I’ve found that point where I’m beyond enough into the too much territory.  I reduced my dose back to .4cc for the past couple of weeks and my brain has settled down some.  I considering going even lower to maybe .3cc and see how I feel.  But after reading butchcountry67’s post I feel like I should ask my doctor before doing that.  Knowing him he’ll tell me to do whatever I want.  He doesn’t seem at all concerned about it when I talk to him at my bi-annual visits.  Maybe that should alarm me.  He’s more concerned with my diabetes.  He is an endocrinologist after all.  That’s what he specializes in.  The hormones are just a side gig for him.  But for me, they are a big deal and they impact my life just as much as being diabetic does.  To be totally honest, I’ve even been considering stopping my T altogether lately.  I doubt I will do that, but it is floating around my mind noodle at the moment.

I’m talking about this because it’s important for folks to hear the truth about hormones.  They are powerful and can mess you up if you’re not careful…and sometimes even if you are.  Throw in some mental disorders like depression, anxiety, bi-polar, etc. and you can have some really unpredictable outcomes.  I’m not saying don’t try HRT for yourself.  Not at all.  Just be aware  that they are serious and you need to closely monitor yourself mentally as well as physically while on them.  I don’t know if T is to blame for all of my recent issues.  My guess is that it isn’t.  But since lowering my dose just a little (20mg) has made a difference in how I feel, I’m pretty sure that some of it is from the T.  Doctors want to just throw a standard dose at everyone like we’re all the same and not think about it too much.  They suffer from the same issues the rest of us suffer with, namely, too much to do and not enough time to do it.  They don’t want to take the time to be thorough because they have a waiting room full of impatient people waiting to be seen.  It’s up to us, the patient, to advocate for ourselves and ask the questions and demand the answers.  Sometimes, the doctors truly don’t know the answers because there just isn’t enough information out there through research and studies.  This needs to change.

A Rocky Start

I haven’t written much this year yet.  The year got off to a rough start at work and I still don’t feel like I’ve found my footing in this new year that is now almost 1/4 of the way done.  I find that somewhat depressing.  I’m finally getting my work stuff straightened out and by the end of this week I should be feeling fresh and clean there and ready for a new start.  Nothing like finishing last years projects almost four months into the next year to charge you up!  Sarcasm, if you didn’t know, is one of my favorite forms of expression.  Anyway, besides feeling increasingly like the big bad wolf is about to blow my work house down I’ve been going through some emotional things that have increased my anxiety levels to new heights.

It’s hard for me to talk about what I’m going through because I’m not sure I understand it.  I don’t know what’s causing it and I don’t even know what it is.  I think it’s related to transitioning and possibly using hormones.  For a while I thought maybe my dose was too high (standard dose of .5cc per week) and it was making me feel crazy in my head.  So I dropped it down one cc/10 mg to .4cc or 40 mg and that might have helped but I’m not absolutely sure.  I’ve talked to a couple of folks about it and they think it’s purely anxiety.  What’s happening is that sometimes I feel mentally fragmented like there’s a part of my brain that I can’t access.  Sometimes I get this weird feeling like I don’t know who I am anymore.  I go through my mental quiz with myself to make sure I’m not having another episode where my short term memory is messed up.  My therapist suggested I start taking B vitamins since they’re good for memory and I do think they’ve helped a little bit.  They also help with anxiety which is good too.  Then I was reading about the affects on the brain from living with narcissists and how it affects your memory as well.  There’s a thing call Complex PTSD which is similar to regular PTSD like soldiers experience after being in war but is caused by prolonged exposure to mental and/or physical trauma.  I definitely show signs of C-PTSD and it probably has a lot to do with my anxiety and phobia issues.  Along with being sensitive to a lot of stimulus and not dealing well with stress it is probably a perfect storm brewing inside my head, along with all the fun stuff that transitioning does for a person.  How could I not be feeling in a heightened state of anxiety?

On top of all this I scheduled my top surgery for April 7th.  I find myself wondering if my timing is bad on this.  I wanted to get it done now because the rest of the year is going to be pretty busy with work and trips we have planned and if I don’t do it now I’ll have to wait until late in the year or even next year to do it.  And there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to do it then either since we never know what the future holds.  Now is definitely the time to have my surgery but my head is spinning out of control some days and I’m relying more and more on my anxiety meds to keep my stuff together.  Another thing that’s been bothering me even though I’ve been told by two nurses that they think it is anxiety as well is that my heart often feels like it’s going to pound out of my chest and I can feel my pulse throbbing up into my ears.  My blood pressure and pulse are all normal and I don’t have heart issues but it still scares me.  Last night when I went to bed I felt like my whole body was buzzing/vibrating and thought that at any moment I might start shaking all over.  I didn’t.

Now, dear reader, you may be thinking, “Wow, poor Lesboi is a hypochondriac and has some serious mental issues he needs to take care of ASAP!”  I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that.  Honestly, I wouldn’t.  I think it too most days.  Except I’m not a hypochondriac and usually, other than some depression and anxiety, I’m pretty mentally stable.  I don’t know what my problem is to be honest.  I feel like I’m losing my shit and I’m not even sure what shit I’m losing.  I’ve even considered quitting my T altogether in case it’s the root cause of my malaise.  I’ve been on T for about 4 years and at this dose for close to two so it’s not like I’ve been messing around with the dosage or trying new things.  My guess is that it isn’t the T.  But what is it?  Stress probably.  I felt great at the end of 2015 with all that I had accomplished in my transition and looking forward to finishing it all up in ’16 but work-wise I didn’t wrap things up like I had wanted and the holidays put me in a real downward spiral emotionally.  I’ve been a mess ever since then and it’s getting worse, not better.  I’m hoping getting work fixed up will take some of the stress off me.  But I also have the stress of the upcoming surgery which I am really looking forward to, yet have some anxiety about as well.  This is my big transition surgery and it has a lot of meaning to me.  It symbolizes the end of my life as a female bodied person.  The last outwardly visible cue of my female gender will be removed that day.  Don’t get me wrong, I want them gone.  I’ve never wanted breasts.  But, just as I felt a pang of sadness when I erased my old identity at my college a few weeks ago I think having my breasts removed could possibly trigger some deep emotional response as well.  I’m a little afraid of how it will make me feel to have them gone.  I know that body parts don’t equal gender and that lots of men have boobs.  I get that.  But, for me, they were the most outward and obvious sign that, yes, I definitely am a woman even if I don’t like it.  When they came in I had to reconcile that within myself and my psyche.  I have boobs.  I am a woman.  I’m never going to be a boy or grow up to be a man.  And I put all of those thoughts out of my head for a very long time.  As I’ve said before, I have a lot of internal shame around my desire to be a boy and really struggle to feel worthy of claiming male as my gender.  Even so, my plan is to change my gender marker to Male once I’ve had surgery.  It’s a big deal to me.  Whether Candace knows it or not, it’s a big deal to her too.  How will it affect my relationship?  What will people think?  I won’t be able to hide anymore.  I will be visibly trans or at least visibly not female.  This is my thinking anyway.  Reality will probably teach me that I’m wrong the first time someone calls me ma’am after surgery.  And I’ll get mad about it, I’m sure.  I’ll have to come out to my employees too and I’m really dreading that, yet I’m pretty sure it’ll go fine.  Today, a customer called me sir in front of one of them and I didn’t “correct” him.  I was sure that my employee would say something but he didn’t and I was thankful for it.  Maybe he didn’t hear or wasn’t sure what he heard.  Either way, the time has come to clear all this up for the people I work with.

On top of all this, I’m planning to open a second location for my business in the middle of the summer, so I’m worried about that too.  I worry that it’s more than I can handle and that I’ll be overwhelmed.  Maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew.  I want to do it though.  I can’t explain it other than I just feel in my bones like it’s the right thing to do.  The stars have aligned perfectly for this to happen and I want to do it.  But it is daunting and scary.  Another reason to get surgery done now instead of later.  I know that the end of this year is going to be insanely busy with work and I won’t have time to take weeks off to recuperate and take it easy.

So as you can see, life is a bit wonky right now for me.  I’m managing ok most of the time but I often feel on the edge of losing my grip on reality.  I think.  If I can get myself in a new routine of meditating in the mornings and doing some exercises at night I think I’ll feel a lot better.  After writing all of this out I can clearly see that I’m dealing with a lot of heavy stuff and I need to learn to relax more.  I’m hoping that once I get work caught up I can take a few days by myself and do a mental retreat to work out some things and chill out away from home and work.  I wanted to do this in January, but like I said, work just didn’t allow it.  Now I just need to figure out where I want to go.

Is He or Isn’t She?

This morning I decided I couldn’t put off any longer two very time consuming chores that I’ve been dragging my heels about.  I needed to get blood drawn for my endocrinologist appointment next week and I needed to get my driver’s license renewed.  Both take a lot of time and are a pain in the butt.  I chose to go to the hospital first since I have to fast for the blood work and I was hungry.  At registration the nice lady that helped me was going along with no hitches until she got to a perplexing question on her computer screen.  She looked at me apologetically confused and said it’s telling me to ask you when your last menstrual cycle was because we have you in here as female.  I could tell from the way she said this that she had pegged me as male.  I just said, well I had a hysterectomy about a year ago and she didn’t miss a beat and said, oh ok, so about a year ago, right?  Well, no not really but I didn’t want to get into all that with an office worker.  I just said, yes, that’s correct.  Upstairs, after a bit of a wait the blood was drawn with no issues.  I was thankful that the building had unisex bathrooms so I could pee before going to the MVA for the long wait where they do not have unisex restrooms.  Oh, the things we worry about.

Sitting at the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) I felt myself getting nervous about whether they were going to say anything to me about my gender marker.  When my number was finally called, after about an hour of waiting, I was just relieved to be getting it done.  The lady that helped me was the same one that helped me change my name just last year.  I had a hard time understanding a couple of things she said to me and she did ask me something that might have been about my gender marker but I can’t be sure.  I answered no because I knew it was about a change and I knew I wasn’t making any at this time.  But I’m still not sure what she asked me.  It doesn’t matter.  The picture sucks worse than the last one which I hated but at least I’m legal to drive for another 8 years and the two troublesome chores are done and out of my head now.

No one gendered me at all after the incident with the receptionist at the hospital, which I find interesting.  No ma’am, miss, or sir in relation to me.  When my new license was ready she just called out my last name.  Previous people had been called either by their full names or Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss.  I found this interesting.

On another, yet related, topic, I’m hoping to have chest surgery in March or April of this year.  I haven’t set the date yet.  I have picked my surgeon though.  I’m going with Dr. Hope Sherie in Charlotte, NC.  She’s near enough I can drive.  I have family down there I can stay with.  And she performs the T-anchor surgery I’ve been wanting.  Her prices are in line with most double incision surgeries..around $8k.  Not having to travel far or pay for hotels/food helps a lot too.  She and her staff have been absolutely great to talk to on the phone and I feel very comfortable and confident in my decision.  I mention this here for two reasons.  One, as an update, since I’ve talked about it in the past and two, to lead into my feelings around changing my gender markers.

I’m still on the fence about changing my gender markers at this point, but the deeper I get into transition with hormones and physical changes the more I think it’s going to become really uncomfortable in the future if I don’t change them.  My biggest fear of putting the M on my license is that if I ever get arrested I’ll be put in with men.  Think about what it would be like for a person without a penis to have to share a cell with a cis-male.  This thought terrifies me.  BUT, how likely is that to happen?  I have never been arrested yet and don’t plan on doing anything to get arrested in the future so it’s pretty unlikely.  It’s a legitimate concern but not one I should be focusing on as much as I do.  That’s my anxiety going wild.  I think the advantages of having the M on the license and all my records out-weighs the negatives.  I won’t be asked about menstrual cycles or mammograms anymore which confuses people and aggravates me.  I will feel legit to use the men’s room.  It will just make a lot of things easier.  I’m leaning hard towards doing it once my chest surgery is completed.  I don’t absolutely need a surgeon’s letter to get the gender changed in my state but it is the easiest way to go about it.

My gender identity is still up in the air though.  Since we only have two options M or F and I am leaning so far towards the M now it does make sense to get it changed.  However, that doesn’t mean that I self identify as male.  Trans-male is more like it.  I still feel resistance to  being grouped in with cis-males.   Accepting the M for male does that and I don’t like it.  But I also understand the government’s need to simplify gender.  I understand society’s need to simplify gender.  It’s just that it isn’t simple for a growing number of the world’s population.   It would be nice if they gave us an option for TM or TF for trans male or trans female and an N for neither or neutral.  I don’t know how many people would take them up on the option of the TM or TF designation since it outs you to everyone that looks at your license but I would do it for sure.  I don’t know what the answer is for any of this and for now the options are limited.  We have to play the hand we were dealt so I’m fairly certain that later this year I will be changing my gender marker along with my pronouns.

Exciting and scary all at the same time!!

Shame

I’m taking Brene’ Brown’s class on Living Brave.  This week’s lesson is on shame.  According to Brene’, shame can not live in the light of day, so if we talk about it it goes away.  I’ve talked about how I’m filled with shame from my childhood on a few occasions here so I thought maybe I’d delve deeper into that topic.  My shame is mostly around two things: my gender presentation and my sexuality.  I think many of you can probably relate to that.  But I also carry shame from not taking better care of myself and my weight, having an anxiety disorder, not being a better partner, not making more money, not being more confident in myself and a multitude of other things.  Every where I turn I feel shame.  Every time I look in the mirror I feel it.  Too fat.  Too short.  Ugly boobs.  How am I ever going to pass as male in the men’s room without facial hair and these huge boobs?  Going out in public is a shame filled experience now.  Perhaps it always has been but it’s just more obvious to me now.

My mother constantly harped on me looking and acting more feminine.  I was never feminine enough for her.  She was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a boyfriend/husband.  And then when I was outed came out as lesbian I was shamed and disowned because of it.  My mother waged emotional warfare on me to get me to stop being gay.  She threatened to have me institutionalized, to put something in the newspaper about my sordid lifestyle, to call my college and have them kick me out for being lesbian, call my professors, out me if I ever joined the military or decided to be a teacher (both life ambitions at the time which I never dared to do).  In short, she threatened to ruin my life.  She even went as far as to drive around my college campus on weekends looking for me so she could roll the window down and shout nasty things at me when I walked by with my friends.  She came to a jazz band concert I was performing in and before we started stood in front of the band and called me a “finger f@*%er”.  She made my life a living hell.  I have PTSD from the things she did to me.  All in the name of making me turn straight and act like a nice young lady.  So, yeah, I deal with shame a lot.  And anxiety and depression too.

And on top of all that, I’m ashamed that I never stood up to her or told her where to go.  I’m ashamed because I’m weak and let her terrorize me and destroy my self confidence.  It set me up quite nicely to let others treat me just as awful.  I didn’t feel like I deserved respect.  Its’ sickening how much shame resides inside my being.  It’s a wonder I’ve been able to accomplish anything in life at all.  Somehow I just found work-arounds.  Instead of becoming a teacher, I pieced together a living teaching private lessons and doing other odd jobs, always settling for whatever I could get.  I’ve never made much money.  Guess why?  I don’t feel like I deserve it.  I don’t think I have much worth.  Even as a business owner now, I’m very susceptible to the complaint that my prices are too high and always worry that I’m charging too much, when in reality, I probably charge too little.  Shame and self esteem, for me, go hand in hand.

And now that I am finally feeling strong enough to try and live life on my terms I find myself bucking up against the same old shame gremlins I’ve dealt with since I was a child.  I hear my mother telling me I look like a man (in that tone of voice and disgusted look on her face) every time I leave the house wearing the clothes I like to wear.  Every time I get my hair cut I see my mother’s face scowling at me for how boyish I look.  It’s hard to enjoy any of the things that I’m getting to do now.  But I plod through and keep going.  Some days are easier than others.  I tell myself I deserve to live how I want, that no one has the power to shame me like my mother used to do.  I’m stronger now.  I would never allow anyone to say or do the things she did when I was 20.  But the damage is still there and all I can do is support myself and tell myself that it’s all going to be ok.  I got through this 30 years ago and I can get through it now.

I just shared some of my darkest memories with all of you.  I’m ashamed of them.  I’m ashamed that my mother was so awful and that she hated who I was so much.  But I can’t change any of that now.  It’s over and she’s dead.  The past is the past.  But I shared it because I want to shed light on it.  I want it to go away, but I know it won’t ever completely go away.  The scars will always be there.  My mother didn’t love me.  She hated me.  That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow.  And, no, I’m not proud of that.