A Tale of Grief and Relief

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I can´t describe what it feels like to finally be approved for top surgery. Previously, I was told that it could not be done, that I needed this permission and such approval, but I did it. I hung on like a desperate pit-bull and would not let go, even nearing utter emotional exhaustion. My stubbornness serves me well.

I fought for testosterone and I fought for this, every step of the way a battle between personal freedoms and institutional restrictions. I´m not done, considering that getting a hysterectomy is the next step in my endeavor, and considering that I have medical conditions which potentially make me a candidate for earlier hysterectomy.

The emotional roller-coasters and unrelenting perseverance that I needed to accomplish top surgery, however, have left me exhausted. The whole experience, coupled with two years of bad gender therapy experience, messed with me quite a bit. Thankfully, I now seem to have a “normal” gender therapist, who respects my boundaries.

Things are looking up and I have renewed hope that this thing might turn out okay after all. I can make it through this. At the same time, there is so much grief about the fact that I harmed myself, about nearing suicide several times, about the fact that the process was so devastating in its ability to make me re-live the powerlessness I did as a kid.

It´s become blindingly clear to me that this entire ordeal was about coming clean with my own past and learning to cast aside destructive dependencies on other people. Learning that I am my own man, that I need to go my own way, and forget about people who bring up the worst in me, no matter what the cost.

I was scared that going my own way would alienate me, and I was scared that I would end up losing, but here I am. The abused self that I carried around, along with many destructive habits, disintegrates with every victory – making way for a compassionate man, one who understands the sacrifices that she made for me.

 

The Dysphoria Trap III

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It´s been really warm today. I´ve spent most of it inside, waiting until the temperature drops, so I can escape my room and get some groceries. Since I don´t have a lot more to do and there are no more episodes of Last Week Tonight, I figured I might as well write the third part to the dysphoria trilogy.

In my first post, I explained how it´s possible to deal with dysphoria by distancing yourself from any mental associations your brain may create. Sort of observing yourself without judgement. This method requires that you either have or create a lot of mental fortitude, for example though meditation or working on your general awareness.

Testosterone lessened the dysphoria for me, before coming back with a vengeance and making it unbearable. With my body looking gradually more masculine, the zen-master approach no longer worked for me. The chesticles and genitals were a sore reminder of the fact that I was not born the way that I wanted to.

When the surgeon first declined my referral for top surgery, I flipped out and hurt myself quite a lot, wearing the KT tape way too long and also intentionally damaging those areas. Neither mindfulness nor being active, nor taking calming medication was helping anymore, so I resorted to the last option I had; going to the coffeeshop.

The coffeeshop here is a place where you can get not just coffee, but an array of weed and hashish. To any outsider it may seem strange that you can just wander around the block and buy some drugs, although in my opinion it is no different (even more benign) than buying alcohol or getting a prescription for antidepressant drugs.

I am not advocating that everybody with dysphoria just go to the dealer and buy soft drugs. After all everybody is different, and marijuana may or may not help you with anxiety. For some people, it makes anxiety worse. I personally am glad that I tried this last resort. It was the only thing that helped ease the extreme stress I was in.

Taking to the Sky

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I haven´t told you much about flying lately. That mostly because well, I haven´t flown much at all. I was completely drowned by stress; whenever I tried to focus on flying, I either could not concentrate or would space out. The situation was dangerous both for me and for my instructors; a fatal mistake could be the end of both of us.

After discussing it with my instructors, I decided to downgrade my membership. Paying a fortune not to fly at all would be a sour waste of money. Better to stay on the ground and fly once in a while – I would not learn much or be able to expand my skills, but at least I would stay involved in the club, and retain my place among the others.

I´ve missed not just the physical act of flying, but the emotional clarity and the freedom of mind needed to engage in it at all. Most of all, I felt like a big rock. Unable to move. Unable to go anywhere. It wasn´t just planning surgery, or moving around due to construction work, or news that my grandmother has come down with cancer.

It seemed to all rain down on me at once. As life does. No small bits, nothing bite size, but all at once in an avalanche of unbearable memories and anxiety. There was no place left for anything. Most of the time I either wanted to sleep or temporarily die, which perhaps is sort of the same thing.

After the quicksand, as last year, things seem to be speeding up. I have a new gender therapist who says she will respect my boundaries, I´m on injections, I think shark week has stopped, and I´m on the waiting list for surgery. Things are looking a bit brighter than they did two weeks ago.

Most significantly, I dreamed about flying a week ago, and as of right now, I have the sensation that I am airborne. Usually this means that things are headed in a better direction, and perhaps it also means that I am ready to get in the cockpit again. I will try one of these days and see how it goes.

Surgery Update I

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Last week was one of the longest in my life. On Thursday (which is today) I had this appointment with the hospital psychiatrist, to see whether I would get scheduled for surgery. Or at least put on some type of waiting list. I had no idea what I would do if he said no. I did not think that I would be able to make it, not after this month.

I was afraid of many things. I was afraid that if he said no, it would be the final straw to push me over the edge. I was afraid I would hurt myself to a very serious degree and end up in the hospital or worse. A human being can take a lot, but the combination of feeling powerless and the constant reminders of childhood trauma were driving me loco.

So you can imagine the apprehension with which I boarded the train to Amsterdam. I was so absent-minded that I can´t remember much of my journey there. I just sort of arrived there, and went to check myself in. When Dr Lam (the psychiatrist) came to call me, I recognized him from a photo I found online (I like to know who I can expect).

The fear inside sort of balled up in my throat. People tell me that I have an excellent poker face, which comes in really handy in these types of situations. I retained my composure and nervously fidgeted with my hands while he was out to get me a glass of water. When he returned, he asked: “so tell me, why have you come to see me?”

He knew why I had come to see him. But I figured this was a test to see how articulate I could be in expressing what my goals were. So I told him, that I had come to obtain permission for surgery, plain and simple. I explained that although my own therapist had already diagnosed me, the hospital would like me to get a second opinion.

The talk was over very quickly. He told me that I struck him as calm, stable, and resolute in my desire to get surgery. For a second, my poker-face budged into half a smile. I cannot recall anybody in the gender business ever giving me such a human and honest compliment. “Good luck!” – he said, as I went to see the surgeon.

You can read the second part of this post here.

The Autonomy War

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Due to the ways in which transition is arranged, namely the forced sessions with a psychiatrist, I often feel a sense of guilt that I don´t need to feel. Namely, that all of this is my doing: if I had not been transgender (or decided not to transition), I would not have to do force myself to undergo therapy that I do not want or need. Hence, it´s on me.

Although I don´t want to be conforming to forcible therapy at all, I often wonder what I can and cannot say – as anything I say could possible be used against me and/or raise suspicions that “I might not be trans after all” because I went through dramatic childhood circumstances. The past, it seems, is always used as a means not to trust me.

The argument that this scrutiny is good really does not echo with me, not just because the chances that I am a trans man due to my childhood extremely improbable (with just one instance that I have heard of). Most of all, I find it unethical that any psychiatrist would see themselves fit to judge if I should have autonomy over my own body.

I find it reprehensible morally because in attempts to insure that I am really a man (even though my official documentation says I am a man), gender therapists and psychiatrists recreate a situation in which again the autonomy over my own body is leveled over to somebody outside of me. Just like when I faced abuse at the hands of “caregivers”.

True, I am not getting the shit beaten out of me, but the situation makes me feel the same degree of humiliation as my parents had me undergo as a child. The argument that any shrink is more suitable than me to make these decisions, makes me feel physically sick. The only reason they could ever argue so, is solely due to insurance and legal reasons.

I have been fighting to get my autonomy back from people who somehow feel entitled to make decisions for me, for an incredibly long and exhausting time. The idea that someone else than me decides about my life, and that my destiny is not mine to own, is enough to induce suicidal rage, and yet this is not taken into account at any time.

Mission: Impossible II

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Usually, I don´t post pictures of myself on here, but I will make an exception. You cannot tell that it is me anyway; I´ve changed so much since the above moment, that people would not recognize me. Anyway, yeah. The above was my first skydive jump. I went static line, which means my chute immediately deployed as I fell.

In my quest to find out who the (offensive swearing) I was, I tried a lot of things. Skydiving was one of those things; I wanted to overcome, explore my horizons, and figure out what lay beyond. I explored the new-age hippie movement (basically woodstock 2.0), took flying lessons, and you know the rest.

I eventually found out what was missing from my life. As you know it was my own, unexpressed – and to some extent repressed – gender identity. When I finally found out, I mistakenly thought that I had reached the ultimate goal. More accurately, I did not understand that my goal was not an end-destination, barely a new beginning.

While testosterone re-aligned me with my true self, now more than ever I wanted to be free, to liberate myself from the 27 years in which I lived as a mere shadow of my potential. Despite the personal growth and the physical and mental changes that testosterone handed to me, my body gradually became harder to tolerate.

It´s this fight that I´m dancing with now, the challenge of living in a body belonging to the past, to some extent even feeling trapped in the past. I want nothing more than to break the chains and jump. It´s been much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Impossible to tolerate, even. And yet I am doing it.

I have a hardheaded, non-negotiable, and hard-line drive to survive. While paradoxically this is the same drive that often makes me hurt myself, and sometimes drives me to the very edge, it might just be the factor that ultimately enables me to endure. Rather than hope, it is the cynical nay-sayer in me, that helps me get through this.

Mission: Impossible

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I have never watched this movie. Not sure if that´s a horrible thing and I should be somehow admonished for it. Feel free to tell me to watch it, if it´s absolutely essential to my western cultural development. But I do really identify with the symbolism of Cruise hanging either from a tower or almost falling from a plane.

I´m aware that I often describe my transition in dark, downhearted and sometimes despondent terms. Mostly, this is due to the fact that I am honestly not sure if I will survive it at all. I´ve been suicidal so many times since I came out that I lost count and often have to fight impulses to seek or inflict harm upon myself.

Friends and family telling me that “it will all get better soon” often means nothing to me, even though I appreciate them trying to talk me through it. When you are reliving abusive circumstances (in this case, my parents controlling my fate and ridiculing my efforts to survive), “soon” becomes a vague abstraction, a mere illusion.

For me, all that exists is this moment. It´s been impossible to step out of my mental frame, I just can´t do it. It feels as though I would be trying to fool myself, instead of being there for myself in the most difficult moments of my life. I don´t want  to escape to an imaginary future. I will experience this, no matter how awful it is.

In the past I often had an extreme feeling of abandonment. I once told my dad that I was suicidal, long ago when I was a child. He laughed in my face. It´s been hard for me to take my own turmoil seriously since, but I am decided that I will stick with myself through shitty times to the bitter end. I am not abandoning myself like they did.

Perhaps in the middle of all this negativity, suicidal thoughts, and fears, there might be a positive note. Not in a “don´t worry, everything will be all-right” kind of way, but more in a Lieutenant Dan Taylor kind of way, when he sits atop the shrimping boat in Forrest Gump, in the middle of lightning and storm, screaming: “this all you got!!?