Feeling Lighter

Well it’s been a little over two months now and things by and large have been fairly smooth on the recovery front. There’s been a couple of non surgical bumps along the way, some physical, some emotional. The first time I went out to do something other than walk to the local shops I had a fall which shook me up and knocked my mobility back a couple of weeks. I also lost a wonderful friend to cancer a few weeks back, a couple of weeks before the third anniversary to losing dad in similar circumstances. that aside, I’ve come through things ok, considering I’m aware of just how big an impact surgery and recovery can have on mental health. I won’t lie, I have had the odd time where it’s been time to dilate and had a bit of that “I’m getting tired of this” mentality, but I know it’s a temporary thing. As time goes on I’ll have to do this less and it’ll help.

A couple of weeks ago I had my post op check up and my surgeon has been happy with how things are progressing. Aside from having to come home with a catheter for a week the only other complication I’ve had is granulation. It’s very common with wound healing for patches of skin to get over-active and heal in such ways you end up with little flaps here and there.

I had one which was interfering with the last part of my surgical would to heal (the area in the middle of the fourchette). Thankfully there’s a fairly simple remedy for this: Silver nitrate. It basically chemically burns off the offending skin. It does sting a fair bit, but it settles down fairly quickly. I’ve still some healing to do and I think I’ll need another appointment to deal with some of the less annoying granulation, but apart from that the only other thing is I’m now down to dilating twice a day. This is a big thing because it means I don’t have to split my days up any more and planning things so I’m home by early afternoon to do the midday one. It’s also an hour reclaimed from dilating, clean up and maintenance. As I said earlier on, this helps from a mental health aspect. I’m less tired as well because I’m spending less energy on this, so lately I’ve been able to go out and do more than just trips to the shops. Oh I still get tired quickly, but it’s not as bad now.

Of course, I’m still getting used to a lot of things. I don’t really have pain any more, aside from random nerves healing up and causing twinges, and I’m steadily gaining sensation in most places now. Meanwhile the swelling is still going down and things look subtly different each day. it took a good seven weeks before I could finally sit up properly and not have too much pressure put on stuff because of the swelling.

Like a lot of other things transition related, I have that big feeling of feeling so much happier about things the way they are now, compared to beforehand. No need to worry about tucking, being mindful of clothing because I don’t want things to show up. I can just wear what the hell I want and not care, and I feel a lot lighter for it.

The only slight cloud on the horizon is I’m getting near to the point where I’ll have to go back to work. Given I do a fairly physical job I am worried about how I’m going to get through the day as I know my energy levels aren’t anywhere near there yet. Hopefully we’ll get a return to work plan sorted out this week that’ll have this in mind.

Oh, before I go, shout out to my Uncle Jim and Auntie Mary Jane for 25 happy years of being married to one another, and here’s to many more for you (as I know my aunt reads my ramblings on here 😀 ).

 

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Slow and Steady

Just a heads up, this is pretty all talk about medical stuff, might want to skip if that’s triggering. With that out of the way …

Well I’ve been home a week and a half now and it’s been two weeks since surgery. I’ve settled into the post op routine of resting up, taking things easy and not overdoing stuff, along with dilating three times a day.

Dilating generally means spending the best part of 40 minutes on my back in the spare room inspecting and monitoring ongoing healing and areas of concern, cleaning things up and then going to work with Hope and Mercy, my dilators. This is follwed up by 10 minutes or so in the bath cleaning up and setting things up for the next round.

Of course this means having to split the day up to accomodate this, which can put a crimp on plans and get wearing after a while, but after ten weeks or so this can be dropped down to twice a day. If I get to the point where I start geting frustrated I just need to remind myself that like so many other things, we’re playing the long game here. Things will improve, slow and steady.

Things are progressing nicely on the healing front. I’ve had no signs of infection thus far (though I am monitoring my body temperature every day) and things are generally mending well. I have had a couple of fairly raw spots that have opened up alog the stitching at the base of my vagina, but that’s to be expected as it’s an area where a lot of movement happens, as well as being the area my dilators go in. If I’m honest I was expecting this, as well as having to delicately remove any dead tissue from the area. hankfully I’ve not had much of this.

I seem to have been fairly lucky on the pain front too. I’m actually shocked at how little pain I’ve been in so far, relatively spoeaking. I thought there’d be times I’d be screaming the place down, but no, the worst pain I’ve had has been mainly through catherter issues. The day where I had the first one out and couldn’t wee was easily the most discomfort I’ve had so far and then the first week at home I’ve had to be so careful not to knock or move it.

I finally had it removed on Thursday and I’m shocked at just how much more moble I’ve become since. I’m no longer having random stabs of pain because I’ve moved the wrong way and caused the catheter to shift and keeping myself clean down there is a lot easier now I don’t have to gingerly work around the line in.

Being able to wear clothes properly is so underrated. With the catherter in to be honest, wearing anything on my lower half was more trouble than it was worth. With that out, and seeing my underwear actually fit and not trying to hide things anymore is a good feeling I can’t put into words. Mentally, having that chunk of dysphoria finally disppear is great. It’s like a static hum that has finally been silenced. In computer terms it’s like deleting a program that’s sat in the background far ages and hogging a large chink of the CPU resource.

It’s also good to see Minnie (yes I called my vagina Minnie, sue me 😛 ) in all her splendour now that thing is out. Of course things look a bit battered still but the changes day by day, seeing things improve as swelling lessens and things heal is nice.

It’s also nice, being a bit more mobile is doing humdrum things around the house. The other day i was able to make breakfast for me and Rebecca. Granted it was only tea and toast, but given I’ve not been able to do anything for two weeks, it’s a big thing to me. Rebecca has been a star, she’s done so much for me over the past couple of weeks and I have been fighting that feeling of feeling bad becuse I can’t do anything much. I know feeling bad for not doing stuff becuase of the surgery is daft, but try tell that to my brain. Of course i still can’t do much and it’ll be weeks before I can do anything vaguely strenuous, but being able to do litle jobs again is a relief.

I even escaped the flat yesterday, even if it was just to accompany Rebecca to the shops. I couldn’t do anything more than push the trolley around and I’m still shuffling around like an old woman but it’s nice to be on my feet. Of course there was a bit of discomfort here and there but my main issue was my blood pressure, which keeps dropping off at random. Thankfully I took my stick with me and there’s places to sit down, and I had time to get there as I know the warning signs well. Hopefully it’ll sort itself out in time.

If I’m honest I’ve not really had that feeling of cabin fever that I know some people get post surgery. Feeling as I am I an quite happy not leaving the flat for a week and especially so during the heatwave. My body really doesn’t function well in 30c heat so even if I wasn’t recoveringfor surgery I’d be planning stuff so I wouldn’ have to be outside after 11am anyway as I can’t be dealing with sunburn or heatstroke.

If I’m honest my only real frustration right now is an inability to sit up properly. Things are just too uncomfortable at the moment so I’ve been doing a lot of lounging or lying down lately. Oh well, here’s hoping that’ll change soon and things continue as they have been.

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(I escaped 😀 )

Well, It Happened

 

To carry on with the terminology from my last blog, launch happened on the 12th July with very little complications thus far. Owing to the fact I felt unable to sit down and write in any great depth aftewards I opted for a series of video logs detailing the event and how I was feeling. Excuse the laclustre quality of said videos, I recorded all but one using the laptop camera and microphone and haven’t a clue on how to edit stuff. I shall put them in chronological oder below for anyone curious.

 

 

 

I returned home on the 18th July, but I did have one complication. After recording my final video I had my catherter taken out at midnight. At first things seemed ok but by 4am I was having issues, namely things swelling up and being unable to wee. After a four hour ordeal I was re-cathertered before being discharged.

It’s not an uncommon complication from the procedure I had and I’ve now got a few days of emptying bags and trying not to snag the line while doing my maintenance and getting around. Hopefully things will have settled down by the time I have it out next week. All things considered and the other kind of complications that can hapen, this is a minor one.

I’m home, Rebecca is looking after me and is being a super girl and I have a  routine up and going for doing maintenance, taking care of the surgery site and trying to prevent infections and generally concentrate on getting better.

Go For Launch

There, I think that title says it all really. Ok, maybe I should add some context to that. Well launch procedures run on countdowns and in a way so have I. with all this surgical stuff. I should add here said countdown got paused for a bit, and by a bit I mean a month as my op date was somehow double booked, but whatever. It’s happening and it’s getting pretty close now.

The last pre-launch checks have come back clear too, and by that I mean I had my presurgical assessment last week. Now I was intending to write about this sooner, but I didn’t get a chance on the day and since then I’ve had laptop troubles. Anyway, back to what I’m meant to be writing about …

I’ll spare you the travel details down to the hospital, though I did find a way there that didn’t involve tube trains, a good thing as my last outing on one of those triggered a meltdown. All in all i got there with no problems, everything ran on time (amazing given the present rail chaos at the moment) and I was miles too early for my appointment. It must have been a quiet day though as I had the waiting room to myself and we got on with stuff pretty much right away.

park

(Here we are again)

Tests were done, quite a few at that. I had my height, weight and BMI checked. (5,9″, 11st, 22.7 for anyone interested) Hmm, seems I’ve lost an inch somewhere. Blood pressure was next, 120/70 as usual. It’s no secret that HRT raises blood pressure, happily in my case this has meant my blood pressure is boosted to where it should be for a normal person.

had a chat with the nurse about my medical history, any family medical history of relevance and my health in general.

MRSA swabs were next, a new thing for me. Basically a cotton bud was rubbed around the inside of my nose (which tickled), and then the same for my groin. Thankfully I could do that one myself and only involved putting the thing in that crease where your leg meets your body.

Blood tests were next. I’ll spare you the usual minor freakout I had because I can’t handle the sensation I get from feeling a needle go in me. Blood tests were for the usual things, like liver function, making sure I wasn’t anaemic and so on. Also useful for figuring out my blood type, necessary, just in case a transfusion is needed (unlikely, but it’s a possibility with this surgery).

Finally came the ECG, or echo cardiogram, yeah, that thing where they put half a dozen sensors on you and wire them to a machine to check your heart rate. It’s something that according to my nurse a lot of people hate. I’m not bothered by it, I’ve seen them done before and knew the procedure. Here’s a fun fact. My reaction to needles is so strong it nearly wrecked this test. it took us a while to get a clean reading.

And after all this fun I had the final glamorous task of going off to wee in a bottle for yet more tests before going for a sit down before moving onto part two. this would be with a lady called Iffy. I’d been in contact with her over the past few months in the run up to this. She’s got a reputation for being a brilliant nurse and I had heard a lot of really good things about her from other trans women.

With Iffy we went through the hospital procedures, timetable, what to expect and so on. This is good because a lot of unknowns were sorted out and I am a bit more relaxed now there’s a structure to things. We went through admission day, surgery day and the days after, before going through the big reveal day and dilation procedures. Things I learned?

  • I get fragmin injections to look forward to each day I’m there (more needles).
  • Nil by mouth after midnight and I have a nice enema to look forward to at 6am
  • I’m going to have emla cream prescribed so I will cope better with the canula/anaesthetic procedure on the day.
  • I can get up and about the day after surgery and providing there’s no issues I can go wandering about and can even leave the hospital during the day to go to the local cafe if it takes my fancy, provided I let them know where I’m going of course.
  • My catheter will be taken out at midnight on the day I’m due to go home.

Once home it’ll be a case of eat, sleep, dilate three times a day, repeat for the first 8 weeks before dropping dilation down to twice a day if things are well and no doing anything strenuous for 6 weeks.

Am I nervous? A bit, but as I said to Iffy that won’t really kick in until the day before, when things actually start happening, at which point I’ll probably skip nervous and go straight for panic attack. To be fair, and as Iffy said, I’ve never had an operation before and I’ve chosen a biggie for my first. We’re going to be doing something that’ll basically punch a big hole in the most powerful muscle in your body.

Do I have any doubts? Is this what I want? Two questions that I have asked myself occasionally throughout transition. I’m not afraid to admit that. Questions that I answer with a counter question; Am I happier now? To which my entire mind screams out “Fuck yes”. It’s nice to have consensus for a change.

Mission Control? Resume the countdown. We are go for launch.

eva

(Eva 01 launch sequence, from Neon Genesis Evangelion.)

 

 

 

Years Became Months …

Then months became weeks, now it’s getting to the point where weeks become days. Yep that’s life at the moment and now the endgame is in sight. I’m also feeling the closer I get the more layers I shrug off that were holding me down for a long while. I feel lighter, stronger, and ready to take on something I know is going to be hugely challenging.
Again I’m writing kinda cryptically here, but it’s how stuff is forming in my mind and I’m just rolling with it.

Today I had a pretty important appointment. It’s taken three years to get to this point, but I’ve crossed it now. I’ve had a consultation on the surgery I’ve been after for so long. Now that’s done I’m looking at a time scale of weeks now until it goes ahead. Soon those weeks will be days (which I’m already counting down) and then I’ll be there.

I’ll spare you the usual travel details and whatnot and my usual issues, though I will give a mention to my local bus company who really need to get their shit together. Thanks to my first bus being late (again) and my connecting bus seemingly vanishing out of existence it took an hour to travel the 5 miles to the train station. Rebecca couldn’t get the time off work for this one so it was a solo trip, hence the buses.
Still, I got to my appointment with an hour to spare (about average for me) and promptly ran into a friend I keep in contact with on Twitter and tend to see at big meet ups such as Trans pride. A few minutes nattering away and I get called in. Surprised given I was so early. I’d even packed a book for the waiting room.

This time the appointment was going to be rather different, less emphasis on gatekeeping and much more on what I’d like and what would and could happen. I’d done my research but even so I was feeling a bit like I was walking into the unknown after so many formulaic appointments at Charing Cross.

Things proceeded quickly. After the usual greetings, a quick question on how long I’d been living full time for came up and we were onto medical stuff. Questions about close family, any personal health conditions or family conditions mainly, before being asked what procedure I was after (penile inversion) as well as all the usual complications that might arise from surgery. Stuff like possibility of prolapse, things not healing well, not having any sensation, among other rarer things.

Then came the bit I was most anxious about: The psychical examination.

This had been causing me anxiety on two fronts. First off, I’m not all that keen on letting anyone see my bits, much less someone I don’t really know. The second was concerning hair removal. I’ve been paranoid that having spent this long waiting I was going to get told ‘No’ because hair needed removing, something that falls under ‘Stuff that can be done while waiting around’.

It was something that had bothered me so much I took things into my own hands (literally), got Rebecca’s electrolysis machine set up and went to town. Electrolysis is a fiddly practice. It involves precisely guiding a very thin needle into a hair follicle and then burning it out with a jolt of electricity. It’s also a procedure I know I’d have a zero percent chance of sitting still for if someone else was doing it (I jump enough with face lasering). So several hours have been spent numbing down below with emla cream, trying to get as comfy as I can while being hunched over and frying any hair in any areas I was worried about. I was having to battle body, my dysphoria and intense dislike of touching myself, never mind having to pull and move things so I could get the angle right on the needle and my ADHD, which when I’m trying to really concentrate loves to kick in and shut my head down.

It was all probably worth it though because I was told I don’t need any hair removal I nearly cried. The biggest barrier left had been removed. I have plenty of material to work with and I’m fit for surgery. Thanks to work I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been in my life, which is not really saying much as my fitness levels have always been fairly low between my joint issues and mild asthma.

Anyway, back in my clothes and back in the consultation room, we turn to getting things moving. I have to stop HRT soon (to help minimise the risk of blood clotting and DVT). I only have to stop 4 weeks before surgery because I’m fairly fit and at a low risk anyway. This is a relief as I am dreading the hot flushes that come with HRT withdrawal. I’m awful at thermoregulation at the best of times and very prone to overheating which I often don’t notice) and breaking out in hives.

I could have had a date for surgery at the end of this month because of that. The thing is I kinda had it in my mind it would be longer so I’ve picked something a couple of weeks after that initial date (which funnily enough is now the day I’ll have my pre-surgical consultation). I feel I’ll have enough time to get everything in order, sort out a couple of family birthdays that are coming up and get a couple of other ongoing matters tied up before going in.

At the end I had a piece of paper in my hands with the dates (and a folder of stuff to read on for my next appointment). That was surreal. Physical proof, I could hold and touch, that it is going to happen. And there in the middle of the waiting room I laughed, damn near cried and started bouncing like Tigger and doing my happy dance as that moment hit.

After that things were a bit of a blur. I remember calling Rebecca and giving her the news, and then a couple of trains were involved, and then I was in the car, almost crying again while bouncing because I was so overwhelmed. She’d snuck out and got me a card and cake on the way to collect me as well. She’s the best.

It’s still sinking in now and I’m glad I’ve got the day off tomorrow to process this and start getting a plan together. Well I say getting it together. I have notes and things down already, now it’s just pulling it all together and getting ready.

I’m sure the ‘Oh shit, what am I doing?’ moments will also creep in. I’ve never had an operation in my life and surgery of any kind terrifies me so I’ll have all that to deal with over the next few weeks.

And then the weeks will become days … I can hardly wait 😀

 

 

(Left to right: Me all set for the day, grinning like the Cheshire Cat after my appointment, and the card and cake Rebecca got me).

To Fall In love With Life Again

(CW: mentions of self injury, as well as sex stuff)

Hello everyone, I thought it would be time for an update on life and all that’s been going on. I’m going to be mostly talking about trans stuff, so if there’s any trolls lurking on here who objects to this, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

No, seriously, I logged on here a while back and had a comment from someone who called themself an ally but had all the hallmarks of a TERF trying to bitch me out for banging on about trans issues. Funnily enough they never came back after calling them out. But anyway…

The past few weeks I feel like I’ve awakened from a the depths of a long winter. An apt metaphor in a lot of ways because this winter has been the hardest I’ve had for a couple of years in terms of my mental health. Back before Christmas I had finally gotten my second surgical opinion and it then took until the end of March to finally receive that in writing. This basically means I’ve been in limbo for three months because this means the hospital were also waiting for this. Until it was sent out, I could not progress and I find that extremely hard to deal with. Having to make half a dozen phone calls to chase this up while seeing friends go through this state and onto surgical appointments only added to things while I was getting so frustrated by being held back for no appreciable reason I would have meltdowns that ended up with me smacking my head as a result.

What was also not helping was the fact in the meanwhile I had heard there was a very good chance I would not be going to my choice of hospital (Parkside) as there’s evidently a disconnect between Tavistock GIC and Imperial College. Imperial only send people to Parkside if they can’t get people through their place within 18 weeks of referral, while the GIC imply we have free choice regarding which surgeon we want to go with. With all else going on I was at the point where I didn’t give a damn who I saw, I just wanted things done.

Thankfully this has finally been resolved. I got my letter towards the end of March and was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from Imperial a week later asking if I ‘didn’t mind’ going to Parkside as they had capacity issues at Imperial. Needless to say I said yes to this and another week passed before hearing from Parkside and I’m now two weeks away from my surgical consultation.

The thing that irks me most about all this is the fact after you get your second opinion, it’s good for 12 months. Not 12 months from when they send the letter out, 12 months from the day you’re seen. Thanks to all this mucking about, 4 months of that time has been burned up. I really don’t want to know what the procedure is if 12 months elapsed. It’s just one of so many things that are fucked up with the present system and needs reforming.

Presuming I don’t have any complications I should have everything over and done in the next couple of months and I can focus on just getting on with life now that I feel energised once more. Speaking of which …

It’s the end of a week off from work  for us both here and unlike the last time off we had I feel like we’ve achieved stuff. We have a new sofa for the living room and new side units to go with them so we’ve got more storage for stuff. I also did a spot of minor DIY and repainted and treated the mould in the window bay as well as put some new curtains up.
The back bedroom is organised to a point where I can set up the spare bed and use the room for the aftercare I’ll need to do post op too. It’s probably just as well we spent the holiday doing productive stuff as I fully expect my next chunk of time off work to be recovering from surgery.

Basically because things are finally progressing and I’m getting closer to getting a big thing in my life sorted out I’m feeling more more energised and more able to do stuff and tackle some of the other ongoing stuff that crops up in my mind from time to time.

First off, I finally got a proper hair cut. I know that sounds trivial, but given I’ve spent the last few months flip flopping between styles and not being able to make a decision, it’s a big thing to me. I didn’t want to rush in and regret it later as it’s taken me 4 years to grow my hair out it’s a big deal to me. As you can see I’m over the moon with the results.

 

 

Secondly, I’ve managed to sort out something else that I’ve ummed and ahhed about for a while not. Y’see, you spend all these years trying to live a life that you then find out isn’t you and it all unravels because you figure out you’re trans and then rebuild from there. You get left with all these snippets and not knowing what to do with them, if they’re still a part of you, if they’re still relevant, or just another piece of the shell that you broke out from upon coming out and finally living as your true self and doesn’t belong to you now.

Sex, sexuality and kink are some of these fragments and for the past two years I’ve made a few goes at sitting down and trying to figure them out, only to become rather bewildered and pack them all away, to try again later. Well without going into too much detail, I’ve finally partially figured this out As you many well have noticed lately I’ve taken to wearing collars and chokers once again.

In kink terms wearing a collar indicates you belong to someone, in my case I belong to Rebecca. For me a collar is a symbolic thing. I’ve said from early on she’s got my heart and soul and in wearing one it’s a physical manifestation of this. I feel more secure for doing this, there’s a grounding element to this, form the perspective it’s a reminder that no matter what is going on in my life, she is always there, always protecting me, always loving me for me, and odd as this sounds I feel liberated for doing so. Being able to trust someone enough to confide in this and give myself fully to. I’ve not figured out much else beyond this, but even making this step is more a help than you can imagine. Once again I’m struggling to put things into words, but I’m not struggling, if that makes sense.

To the Moon

The other day I sat down and did something I said I was going to do for a while: Play a game. Might sound odd, me saying that given I’m often playing games, but this one was different. It was a little title I stumbled across a year ago, immediately bought on Steam and then left it. A little indie game called To The Moon. A nice, little RPG game with an element of puzzle solving to it, but mostly an interactive story more than a game per se. It was created by a group of people called Freebird Games. (You can learn a bit more about them and their game here )

Without giving too much away, you play as a scientific duo from a company who provide a service for people at the end of their lives. A service where they had a desire or a wish that went unfulfilled for whatever reason during their life which would then be fulfilled before they died. This was achieved via a miracle of technology which created an alternate life within the mind of the individual in which their wish was fulfilled and they lived it out, like a second life. In this case, it concerned a gentleman who wanted to go to the moon, but didn’t.

In order for this machine to work, the scientists had to go through the individual’s mind via memory hops to a time early in life, where they would then implant the wish and then events would unfold and the wish came to pass. This meant exploring and reliving memories, searching for clues, spotting patterns and things of significance in order to create the next memory link to create a bridge to the next significant life memory and progress onwards.

I’m not going to reveal too much more as I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone intrigued enough to go look this game up but various things and themes came up and were explored during the game that resonated with me and I’ll talk about in a while, but after spending an afternoon on this, going through many twists and turns we get to the game’s conclusion. The old man at the centre of this gets his wish and lives out his alternate life and then dies.

Between the plot, being so swept up with the story and the beautiful soundtrack which accompanied it (which I’m listening to while writing this) I was in fits of tears. Rebecca too, as she’d become mesmerised towards the end and had dropped what she was doing at the time to watch. It’s not the first time a game has done this to me and it won’t be the last.

It’s also why I had kinda put off playing it until the other day. I knew it was going to have this kind of effect and would likely unsettle me afterwards. Sure enough, I’ve not felt myself the past couple of days. I’ve felt like I’m on the outside the room looking in in regards to stuff going on around me during the day and my mind has been racing like an overclocked processor, head humming as a result, as I get when I’m in one of my analytical ‘trying to process stuff’ modes. I’ve spent my break times at work reading up more about the game, the story and so on, trying to piece things together and learn all I can about it while jotting down memo notes on my phone.

It’s something I do with anything that really grips me. It’s also why despite the fact I love games, I play relatively few of them. The ones I play grip me so entirely I’m doing all these things on the side that tie in with them, be it reading up on them, watching playthroughs on YouTube or just figuring stuff out. Soundtracks usually end up being hunted down and played a lot if the music is good and sooner or later end up becoming part of an ever expanding repartee I’m often humming or whistling to myself while doing stuff. (That’s often a good indicator of my emotional mood. If I’m relaxed I do this a lot).

In short I become somewhat obsessed, which until recently would draw some snide comments about ‘Why are you wasting time with that?’ and ‘All you ever do is that’ when I do go through one of these phases. I can’t be thankful enough to Rebecca for being the complete opposite to this when I’m working through an obsessional phase. She lets me get on with it, work through it and make sure I’m ok.

In the case of this game, I was trying to link together a few things to do with one of the characters in the game, a woman called River, and things she was doing throughout. It’s heavily implied she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as an adult ( Asperger wasn’t directly mentioned but the game references Tony Atwood, a man who wrote several books on the subject when her diagnosis came up). I had a shrewd idea she was on the autistic spectrum pretty early on in the game, because of a few things she did, and later on in the game I was finding myself relating a lot to experiences she had while growing up, which is one of several things I’ve been thinking about a lot today.

She pretty well spent her life in her own world, not really caring what people thought and quietly doing her thing, pursuing her choices, hobbies and making a few life choices that had the people around her scratching their heads over. Sounds familiar, huh?

I’ve had a feeling for a few years now I might be somewhere on the spectrum myself. In time I’ll go about taking steps to get that looked at, once the transition stuff is over anyway, but I digress.

Going back to the question of why I put off playing To The Moon for as long as I had and why I’ve felt unsettled. If I’m honest, I get scared by my emotions at times, what they say about me and what others think of me when I express them. As a kid I had a lot of trouble with ADHD influencing my behaviour as well as bullying at school. People would often provoke me into lashing out because seeing me lose it was entertaining. If something upset me to the point of tears, well that was a field day for them. If I was having meltdowns I’d get hassle for that. one that comes to mind is the time someone provoked me at a time when I was using a school laptop for work after
damaging one of my wrists coming off my bike. In among other things I tired to do I was trying to wrap the laptop round their head. Needless to say I got an earful for that, which I really didn’t understand as it wasn’t me who started the altercation.

Another was a memory of dad snapping and shouting at me in an exasperated fashion came to the fore. Usually if I was getting shouted at by a parent it would be mum. If dad was doing the shouting you knew you’d done something really spectacular. Later on in life I’d often get remarks from my ex that were pretty demeaning because of my temper, though looking back now with all that was going on it’s hardly any wonder why I was in a default state of being wound up to snapping point and doing things like shredding a phone book when I boiled over. Any wonder why my emotions terrify me at times when I ended up having the strength do do things like that.

Over the years and after enough digs and prods from people you get to a point where you just bury stuff, repress things and try and fit in, conform and appear normal, which just fucks things up in the long run and leaves me where I am now, struggling to express myself and finding some middle ground in a world of extremes. Most of the time I feel pretty robotic in situations, for the lack of being to feel what the situation calls for. Nine times out of ten I react appropriately, or at least guess right and do what is expected, or at least not get odd comments for it, but it feels like I’m experiencing life through a filter and not feeling connected. I’m not even sure I’ve described that right, it’s the best I can do without telepathy. That feeling of really not being able to express things adequately is one of the reasons why I talk so little, preferring to write things down. I have processing time then, to organise things before feeling able to express what’s on my mind.

If I do let things go, the really go, like they did the other night at the end of the game. Rebecca remarked at the time I don’t cry enough or let things out, but that’s a lifetime of social conditioning for you. Afterwards I’m having to ask her if what I did and how I reacted was normal. That’s how unsure I am and how scrambled my head feels for the most part.

Having spent a large chunk of my life creating various fantasy worlds in my head and using them as an escape from various traumatic events it’s really no surprise why To The Moon and it’s plot and premise has resonated so strongly with me.

Thankfully these days there’s less pressure upon me to keep up a pretence of conformity. I can spend the day at work just getting on with the job, not being expected to or having my arm twisted into interacting with my co-workers beyond anything that’s not work dependant, because believe me, being in my own world whistling away to whatever random music is playing in my mind at the time is a lot less stressful.

As for the gaming? Well I’m aware the makers of To The Moon have recently released a sequel. I just hope I don’t put off playing that for as long as I put off playing this.

moon

(For those interested in giving the game a go To the Moon can be played from Steam, or downloaded into your phone)

Introspection.

Well it’s 2018 today, so happy new year and all that. Truth be told it’s just another day for me. We didn’t stay up late to see the new year in, didn’t even get woken up by fireworks. Rebecca’s at work today so staying up late wasn’t an option even if either of us wanted to. As for me? Well I’m just ambling along, being a bit introspective I guess, as you do at this time of the year.

Resolutions didn’t happen last year so there’s none of that going on. The important things stayed the same. I’m still with Rebecca and we’re very much in love and have talked about the future together and what we want to do. I’m still here, a line of thought a holdover from the bad old days where there were times I seriously doubted I’d make it to 30, such was the state of my mental health back then.

I also got a bit fitter the past year. I had been conscious of the fact that I’d put on weight because of HRT and very conscious of the fact that for the surgery I’m hoping to have this year they need your BMI to be below 28 to help with results. Well my present line of work, allied to cycling to work for the first time in years has helped there.

Last year I guess I could say I got to the stage where I could make peace with various things in my life. My transition, for one. It’s still going along, the HRT doing it’s magic and hopefully this year the one thing that is still bothering me on that front will be sorted out. I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve been on HRT for two years so and all the major changes have more or less taken place, so whatever I’ve got, that’s probably all I’m getting. You know what? What I’ve got I’m pretty happy with. I’ve got a nice enough figure, my boobs are at a point where they look like boobs even without a bra on and look the part. Yes, they could do with rounding out a little more. Maybe that will still happen in time, who knows. The body hair’s more or less taken care of itself, with a bit of help from the epilator and a touch of electrolysis for the odd bit here and there I really don’t want.

I was hoping to have been done with the stuff on my face but I’ve had to take that slow as I’m on as high a setting as my skin will take and I’m often a hairs breadth away from a meltdown because of the anxiety I get going to these appointments. Put short, it bloody hurts. I decided a few months ago once the dark stuff is done, that’s it, I’m not bothering with the blonde and ginger stuff that I get. A quick shave twice a week sorts that out and 20 seconds with a razor is much less aggro than electrolysis. Cis women shave, epilate, wax facial hair so that’s one instance of making peace with things that I was on about. Comparing body features and getting jealous of what other people have is not something I really get. I get it now and then but it’s no longer a dysphoria thing, it’s just a ‘She’s got a nice whatever’ kind of feeling instead of the pre-transition dysphoric hell of not looking like you feel you should and wishing you could look like a woman.

At some point I got more comfortable with going out without bothering to put a face on. There was a time where this would be unthinkable but these days it’s along the lines of ‘Right, need milk for the shops, get my shoes and keys and go get it.’ I might not have even shaved that day either when doing this, something else that was once unthinkable.

Something else I’ve made some headway on this year is dealing with the fact I’m not a neurotypical person and instead of trying to fight various things on that front in an attempt to appear normal I’m just rolling with it. Yes, this means sticking my hands over my ears because of loud noises in public, having meltdowns because of high anxiety and overanalysing and overthinking stuff, not hanging around areas that are overwhelming my senses, speaking up when I’m having trouble with concentration and so on. I realised that doing what I do is ok and if anyone has a problem it’s their problem and not mine. Realising that challenging behaviour in others is a big trigger point for my anxiety is another and is what’s resulted in me leaving care work for now because I really don’t want to have to deal with that any more. Having a partner who’s been very encouraging and reassuring me it’s ok to change jobs because of such things has been a big help.

I am aware that embracing this side of me is a bit of a double edged sword, especially when it comes to social situations, particularly group stuff. I tend to shy away from group stuff. I end up being the one in the corner sitting silently and seemingly not joining in because I struggle with interacting and judging when to talk without interrupting others and picking up on social cues. I’m the sort of person who says little but listen, take things in and remember stuff that is then important later on, even in a 1 to 1 setting. In groups I can shut down completely and then later get wound up about it, like I did in Brighton.

It’s a double edged sword because I can easily become withdrawn and stuck into a routine where I don’t try new things and don’t really go anywhere as a person. Case in point; Makeup. My sister got me some lovely new bits the previous year but because I am so set in my ways and stick with what works because it’s predictable and I don’t end up worrying it took me nine months before finally looking at the stuff. When it comes to makeup I figured out a simple routine that works early on in my transition and it’s barely changed since. I might pick a different colour lipstick or eye shadow once in a while but things are fairly static. When I’m at work this is ok. I have a routine that’s quick to do and lasts the day without me really needing to think about whether it’s holding up or not, because I know it does. Away from work I really need to try and do new things occasionally. This goes for a lot of things really and I’d like to be a bit more expansive this year because I worry about becoming withdrawn again. That was a default state of being before transition and I don’t want that again. It caused all sorts of issues that I’m still dealing with now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the past few months I’ve been rather wary of my frame of mind and really not wanting to start slipping backwards again. Maybe that should be a resolution for the year. Who knows? Maybe I’m just overthinking things again. Happy new year everyone.

 

 

Erm, Hurry Up and Wait?

Is that what I do now? Well it fits well with the rest of the transition narrative I suppose, what between the time from referral to first appointment, assessments for HRT and then for surgical opinions. I’m up past the two and a half year mark on that front and still going now I’m onto the next phase of proceedings.

Not going to lie, the past couple of months since my appointment was kicked back has been hard. It’s pretty much been a long, drawn out anxiety attack really. When I’ve had three appointments and two of them have been affected by someone cancelling and rescheduling months down the road I get very anxious that it’ll happen again. Navigating the run up to Christmas is hard enough for me without this extra thing going on in my head.

The week before my appointment was where things got really fun. First off, I get knocked on my back for a full three days with the flu. Secondly the car decides it’s had enough and starts giving up, by way of a massive coolant failure which resulted in the car doing it’s best impression of a kettle. The car, luckily enough we managed to replace, the flu however was reluctant to shift. Well, flu or no flu I was going to London. A meteor strike couldn’t stop me going so a damn stupid virus had no chance.

DRQZ6aSX4AAOLhF.jpg large
(Meet the new car: Includes mod cons such as working heating and stereo)

Anyway, Rebecca and I did our usual, got up, got ready, drove to the station and got the train to London. Thankfully it was an afternoon appointment so no rush hour to deal with and tickets are half what they cost at peak time. Things were going ok until we got to the tube. As you all know I despise the thing. At the best of times I struggle with the noise and closeness. Air quality is another issue. Between my asthma and fairly low lung capacity it doesn’t take much for me to get out of breath at the best of times. Off the back of the flu? It was grim, especially on the Victoria line where I swear the trains are coal powered. The air is so smokey down there it’s alarming. I got so out of breath Rebecca was having to hold me upright while trying to keep herself upright on a horribly jerky train. At some point the jolting does something to my left leg. By the time we get to Baron’s Court I’m wrecked. I had to sit down at the station for 10 minutes trying to get my breath back. A trip up the stairs reveals something in my leg isn’t right. It’s agony trying to bend it. I suspect sciatica, especially how it carried on coming home later.

Things are determined to try and get in my way this day. Even so, we set a new record for turning up to one of our appointments early. We were there three hours early. This sounds insane, but Rebecca and I both hate turning up late to places so allow a silly amount of time for incidents etc. It was something that was hammered home when we got to CHX and registering. Some poor guy who came in just after us had trekked halfway across the country and was 2 hours later for his appointment thanks to a broken down train. Luckily he was able to be seen and got what he needed but even so. The day they finally get a centre opened in Wales so people don’t need to trek all the way from there to London for care can’t come soon enough.

After getting some lunch we return ( I’d gone in and registered earlier on so I could stop panicking that the appointment wasn’t on) and while sitting and waiting we end up having a chat to other people there for appointments. A young trans man and trans woman spot they’re both massive Harry Potter fans and get chatting away in between questions about various experiences we’ve had while transitioning. An older trans woman tells of how her brother’s disowned her over what’s going on. I sit there thinking I’ll miss these moments, chatting, giving people not so far along advice and reassurance about things. I don’t get to think for long as I get called in 10 minutes early for my appointment.

Much like my previous appointment the first 10 minutes is spent catching up on stuff, how things are going, how’s family been, etc. Got asked a couple of questions on how I felt things are going and how long I’d been transitioning for, if I’d had any regrets, etc. The question of grief counselling comes up again after talking about dad again.

Medical history was touched upon. I fill the clinician in on my asthma and medication, get asked the usual questions on drug and alcohol usage (No, and barely drink these days, thank you).

After this we start talking about surgical options. This is pretty brief as I already know what I wanted and had my notebook to hand already. Seeing as I’m going down the penile inversion route talk turns towards that and what’s needed. I was asked if I was circumcised (I’m not). This is good as it’s more material for the surgeon to play with and because of this there’s a good chance hair removal down below is not needed. Once the referral is done and a pre-surgery appointment is completed, hair removal is usually the biggest hold up as there’s not much of a waiting time for the surgery itself at this point.

and various risks and drawbacks that might arise, how depth and sensation can vary (or be non existent), surgical complications such as prolapse or the rare but very nasty one where the bowel gets nicked during the operation and what’s needed to be done about that. Basically there’s a chance this could happen, a fistula forms and bowel fluid gets into your nice new vagina. This results in an operation to isolate the bowel and the need for the use of a colostomy bag while things are repaired and healed. After this, things are reattached and hopefully things will continue as normal. This isn’t a shock to me as I was paying attention back when I attended the orientation lecture a couple of years ago and I’m well aware of possible issues.

Aftercare is also discussed, dilation and generally looking after yourself until you’re ready to go back to work. I learned that I might not have to stop HRT before surgery. Most surgeons get you to stop for six weeks before surgery and wait three week after before going back on it as it helps lessen the chances of blood clotting occurring. Apparently one of the surgeons doesn’t insist on this though, not that I was told which one it was. Interesting to know because I’d rather avoid a menopausal hot flush mess if I can as I’m not that great at regulating body temperature as it is.

I’m asked what surgery would mean to me. For one it means I’d feel comfortable having some level of intimacy with Rebecca because things down there would be right. Peace of mind knowing I won’t ever have to worry about tucking and hoping things aren’t giving the game away ever again. Truthfully, it’s mainly peace of mind, being able to look in the mirror while dressing or undressing and not having a ‘Damn, it’s still there’ moment. I’m pretty happy with what HRT has given me after two years and nothing else gives me any real dysphoria these days.

Swimming was discussed, that classical thing a lot of trans people avoid because of dysphoria, and getting changed. I promptly joke about my terrible swimming ability. I swim like a brick and I get so out of breath after a couple of minutes I usually don’t go again for years.

And after that little ice breaker I get the news I’d been hoping for: My second opinion. It’s like an early Christmas present, and a massive weight is lifted. Talk turns towards where I’d like to go for surgery. I’d decided long ago I was heading for Parkside. If I’m honest I’m not too fussed who gets to work on me: So long as things down below look alright and do what they need to do I’m not even that bothered about the look of the thing. I know this sounds weird and probably blasé too, but that’s me. Parkside got chosen for geographical convenience. Why tramp halfway across the country for something when it can be done 25 miles or so from home?

Thanks to the vagaries of the admin system, Charing Cross GIC can’t make direct referrals to Parkside, only to Nuffied in Brighton, or Imperial College across the road. For Parkside, they go through Imperial and they do the referral. Another vagary is the fact that in spite of the fact the report will be written up the same day, it’ll take six weeks for the GIC to sent the referral out to across the road. basically if I don’t hear anything by March I can start badgering people. Meanwhile, I do have a contact for a nurse at Parkside to discuss things, which I shall do in the new year. I mean, what’s a week or two on that front after all the time I’ve waited thus far.

Anyway, on that note, I hope everyone has a good time over the holidays and hope the new year brings good things to you all xxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

DRezh1KXkAIvHIK

(Once again my wonderful Rebecca’s by my side and being awesome)

A Change Of Pace

*Looks around suspiciously and leans in* I’m going to whisper this, but I might have found a job I feel comfortable doing this past week. Basically I’ve taken on a job at a warehouse for an international company, picking items for customer orders. I won’t say who for because I’m wary of doing such things online but after my first week I’m feeling pretty good, especially after the disaster that my last job turned out to be.

Seems a bit daft on the surface anyway. I’d spent the past four years in care roles and spent two of them gaining two NVQ’s and was lined up to start working towards a Care Certificate. Sounds a bit like a career really. The thing is I enjoy helping people, but I’m really not coping with a few things that came with the work.

Since transitioning I’ve gotten better at finding out what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’m also more aware of how things can stress me out, cause anxiety and so on. Basically I’ve figured out I need things to be predictable and fairly structured work wise to cut put a lot of stress and anxiety. This is something that has been in short supply at my various care roles, spanning from things like shifts being varied, the expectation that we can drop everything and have practically no life because of work demands and the work itself can be unpredictable because of client needs. The biggest thing of all is I’ve realised I really can’t deal too well with challenging behaviour, especially when things become violent. Even before transitioning I struggled with this aspect but nowadays, I can’t handle it. I get so stressed and anxious about this it was damaging my mental health.

My last job was all of the worst things in microcosm. My last job I was lied to at interview, in regards to hours per week and shifts, which has really pissed me off because I had three different jobs to choose from and I made a choice based on what was said at interview.I wouldn’t have picked a job that had 42 hours and 12 hours shifts if they said that at the time.

On my third shift I was physically attacked by one of the residents. I nearly walked that day and it was only because of my team leader trying to convince me to stick around for training that I didn’t. The following week I did training, including two days of learning how to deal with physical incidents and restraint techniques and really didn’t feel good about it. The following shift I saw some of the damage the resident who had attacked me had done while I was off and that finished things. If they could do what I had seen them do then I knew there was zero chance I was going to get close enough to them to try and do what I had been taught. I don’t have the physical capability to do so and frankly I don’t want to be put in such a position. I phoned in sick for my next two shifts because I was non functional because of my anxiety and the following day I quit. My then manager trying to guilt trip me on the phone with “But we said at interview you’d be dealing with people with challenging  behaviour” was ironic really. As Rebecca will tell you, I got so anxious about that job and having to make that phone call I almost snapped my glasses as I had them in my hands at the time.

My new job I have fixed shifts, predictable hours and a predictable job. I also get home early enough to have a couple of hours of evening to play with instead of coming home and needing to go right to bed, and can get up at a reasonable hour too. It’s also close enough for me to not need to worry about public transport. It’s 40 minutes on foot or 15 now I have a fold up bike, which I got because it’s a near flat road there and back. I’m pleasantly surprised how well my legs have held up considering it’s a more physical job and I’m on my feet most of the day.

I seem to have picked things up pretty quick too. I can find my way around with ease and work out where I need to get to next efficiently. I’m also pretty quick at finding what I need to get as well. Basically it’s all recognising patterns and memorising inane things, linked to navigation, things I’ve always had a knack for. My instructor was impressed enough with how quickly I’d picked up the store layout to call me a genius, which made me blush. It’s also nice I’m mainly left alone to quietly get on with things. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m doing something that is a millionth of the stress I had doing care work and I’m getting similar money for it. oh, and I’m going to improve upon my fairly lacklustre level of fitness, which will be good for other things.

It’s a nice work atmosphere as well, quite a strong team culture, we’re encouraged to contribute to the safety meetings we have each day, any ideas we have and the people there seem to be fairly happy and relaxed from what I’ve seen. It’s a nice change of pace.

Looking forward it looks like there’s plenty of opportunities to make this thing permanent as I’m presently working through an agency, so long as I’m hitting targets, my attendance and attitude are good and there’s several other roles to learn too, in time. Here’s hoping it’s not another false dawn.

1

Yep, I’m back on two wheels again 🙂