Overcoming Myself

tightlid

It´d be difficult to describe my state of mind in a polite way. The inoffensive version would be to state that I´m wrapped on tighter than the lid on a vacuum sealed jar. The other way of stating it (more offensive, but also more fun) would be to state than I´m wound so tight you couldn´t remove a needle from my ass with pliers.

This condition – which reveals itself in general nervousness, sleeplessness trembling hands, stiff knees and a locked jaw – exacerbates the emotional tendency to control everything and get angry at absolutely everything I dislike. Which is a lot. If I were to make a list, I´d have to sit here and write until the morning.

Physical dysphoria has really been getting the best of me. Just removing the tape from my chest now requires calming medication, and I´m currently involved in a fruitless fight with my misplaced genitals. My whole body is covered in hair, I´m all bones and muscle, and I´m having top surgery in two months.

And yet it´s been a challenge to focus on these positive points. Instead, I waste my time zeroing in on my feeling of emasculation. I´m having to remind myself that diving into my own misery won´t help much in regaining some of that much-needed feeling of virility and confidence. I´m having to “unscrew” myself.

Rather than wallowing in everything that I can´t do, I find that cliché male activities, such as doing push-ups while listening to military cadences, and even tired sayings, such as “man up” are actually helping me get a grip on the way I handle my emotions. They may not be politically correct, but they are pretty helpful.

Sometimes – specially when I´m stuck at a particular unhelpful state of mind – all I need is to give myself a bit of a “shove” and remind myself that life is pretty cool, as long as I´m able to stand wide and hold my head up high. Cliché masculine behavior, compensatory or not, is helping me get over myself and move on.

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Pain & Choices II

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In Pain & Choices I, I described to you how the crude and subsequent nice messages from my mother made me recall some childhood memories. Back when I would never quite know whether I was a good child who had a loving mother, or a piece of shit that deserved only abuse.

Traumatic flashbacks and PTSD have subsided over the years. But it´s not gone. And as I held the letter in my hand, feeling pain over the nicety of it – a switch went off in my brain and before I could stop it, there I was screaming and punching myself in the head, in the stomach, in the legs, as hard as I could.

I´m a piece of shit. I deserve abuse. In a panic, I searched for my medication and downed two. I hate childhood trauma, I hate it. I hate these fucking mind-games. I hate the fact that she thinks she knows what I´m going through. And I hate even more that she has no idea what her writing does to me.

I called my aunt. Gradually – as my medication set in – I began to calm down. My aunt asked me questions and I explained, feeling a bit better. She said not to blame myself for reacting the way I did. She asked me whether I wanted this kind of thing in my life, and I said no. But it hurts. Because I have to reject her.

I have to reject her, because I cannot have this in my life. I can´t go through life wondering if another trigger will go off in my head, causing me to hurt myself, or worse – commit suicide. She has never understood this. She thinks that we don´t ever talk because I´m angry. Because I hold a grudge.

The opposite is true. I am not holding a grudge – but that just makes it worse. I know how messed up she used to be. I know that she´s okay now, and that she is trying, and she cares. But for my own sake, I can´t receive any of it. Because no matter how helpful, she will never be able to fix my PTSD.

 

Pain & Choices I

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In the last post of “My Mother and I“, I finished telling you how I´d tried to make a sort of connection with her, and (as far as I knew) failed. Things changed today when I got a letter from her in the mail. It was a picture of a tree. Was it just a tree, or was it a Rowan tree? Does she even know my name means Mountain Ash?

Anyway. In the letter, she wrote that she was aware her email had been quite crude. She was wearing the ring I send to her, she said, and she did not know when we would see each other again, but to take care. You´d think that I´d be happy with a message such as this. All good, end good, right?

But I wasn´t. This hurt me far more than the negative e-mail – to the negative e-mail I could just reply in an equally cynical fashion. The positive email made me think of the times as a child, when she would do something nice for me. Like this one time, she´d hidden an easter egg for me.

I had found the easter egg, but I was afraid to touch it. I thought if I touched it, I would get a beating. So she asked me if I had seen it and then she said it was for me. I can´t begin to explain to you, how much this hurt me. One moment she would hate me and beat me up, the next moment she would love me.

My whole childhood, I was afraid. Afraid to live. My whole childhood, I was ashamed of my presence, and I felt as though I was worth nothing – I should just go ahead and be gone. When I was older, the same feeling would return, usually in the shape of nightmares and flashbacks.

Every time I felt like this, I would self-harm. For one, because I hated my feeling of humiliation, of inferiority – and two, because I still felt the world would be better off if I just killed myself. With time, and specially since I´ve started transitioning, this feeling has eased off.

Continue reading this post in Part II.

Labels & CPTSD

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I recently got into a bit of an argument with Sam Dylan Finch. In his post “Am I Traumatized Enough For A Complex PTSD Diagnosis?” he described the hesitance people often have in claiming this diagnosis, and failing to address the importance of their condition.

I thought it was an interesting question. I played devil´s advocate and wrote that a diagnosis as serious might inhibit someones ability to understand the temporary nature of their pain, and move past the event. If your hamster just died, a cPTSD diagnosis would not help.

The best thing to do, I said, would be to talk to a therapist. The therapist and you can determine whether you are suffering from cPTSD or just in understandable pain because your hamster died. Sam disagreed, and said therapy is a privilege not everyone can afford.

I think he meant that often, people will only take themselves seriously after receiving a formal diagnosis. Which is in part true. Back when I had undiagnosed cPTSD, I was afraid people would think I was just pretending to be messed up in order to get some attention.

It took me a while to figure out that I was suffering  from this condition, and it would not be until six years later that I received the “official” diagnosis from a psychiatrist. But here´s the thing. I had been through sixteen years of violence. I feared for my life more than once.

PTSD is a devastating, awful condition to have. It can put you in a very vulnerable position – the position of a victim. Validating your own symptoms is a good thing – but thinking that you have a condition that will ruin the rest of your life, is potentially debilitating.

I think everybody who has ever searched their own symptoms on Google – only to find out that they had terminal cancer and have a major panic attack – can agree with me here. Take yourself seriously, examine what you are feeling, and if you suspect you have PTSD – seek help.

 

My Mother and I (III)

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In the second part of this post, I told you how I hoped the relationship between me and my mother would move in a better direction. I could not forgive her for what she did to me as a kid, but we could at least have a truce and see where things went from there. However, it did not go as expected.

Today, I got an email from my mom, in which it seemed as though all the progress I had made with her, had been reversed. She came back on her hesitant promise to aid me financially, and said that she could not do this because “I never did anything for her” and I could not “have the best of both worlds”.

It wasn´t about the money. To be honest, I don´t care that much. But something in the tone of her voice, patronizing me and telling me that I had not done anything for her (and thus did not “deserve” any support) almost made me lose my shit. I very much wanted to tell her to drop dead.

I had gone through the trouble of writing her a long and heartfelt letter, I had gone through the trouble of visiting her despite severe anxiety, which caused me to self-harm and visibly freak out in public, making myself look suspicious. I´d given her a ring that meant the world to me*.

Despite her earlier response to my letter, here she was accusing me of being a bad son, not forgiving of me at all – to the contrary, she was attempting to make me feel like I was abandoning her and stating that I should change in order to get any kind of support from her (emotional or financial).

The one thing she never understood – and does not understand to this day – is that I already am good enough. I tried very hard, despite my anxiety, despite the past, to make a connection with her, and yet apparently I am “not worthy” of whatever she could potentially offer me.

* When I was a teenager, she gave me a silver necklace that I never wore. A few years ago, my aunt transformed it into a ring. I wore the ring for a while, but stopped wearing it after my transition due to it being very feminine. I gave it back to my mother as a sign of a transformed bond.

My Mother and I (II)

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In my last post, I told you how my grandmothers´ funeral had raised my awareness of mortality. I did not want to end up in a situation in which my mother died and I never got to tell her exactly how I felt. So I set out on writing her the most painful letter I´ve ever written.

I told her that grandmother (her mother) had always wanted me to have a better relationship with her, but that I could not bring myself to do so. The abuse that I suffered at her hands still haunts me, and although the nightmares and flashbacks of PTSD subsided, I still suffer from anxiety.

I wrote that as long as the past defined me, I could not find it in my heart to forgive her. I asked her to understand this. I also asked her if she was able to forgive me for not being able to forgive her (talk about going in depth). This might sound like a paradox, but I actually think it makes sense.

She is my mother after all. When I was a kid, she forsake her calling to make me feel safe, to make me feel loved. The least she could do for me now is understand that I am not able to feel close to her, and not resent me for it. I sent the letter to her by mail and got a reply.

She said that she understood, and that she deeply regretted being so warped as a parent. I was surprised by the letter and thought (at the time) that it was quite a breakthrough. I then went to see her in person, which took all the strength I had, and a lot of willpower due to severe anxiety.

The visit went well, and to be honest, I thought that things had changed. I asked her if she could give me some financial support, since I had spent some money on nice clothes for the funeral, even though I was in debt already. She said yes, she could do that. I thought things were finally improving.

Read the conclusion to this post in Part III.

 

Transgender Shame

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In accepting a nomination for the Liebster Award, I answered ten random questions from a fellow blogger (read the questions and my answers here). Several of those questions made me contemplate my own emotions in relation to my transition, and how transitioning has affected my perception of myself.

When asked what I thought about forgiveness, I said that forgiveness is a good strategy to have when we expect too much of ourselves. I also said that this applies to transgender people in the sense of forgiving themselves for being transgender. This is an interesting discussion to have, because being trans is not a bad thing.

And yet, I often feel (and I don´t think I am alone in this) that being trans is somehow deplorable. When this is discussed in different forums around the web, people tend to frame this as “internalized trans phobia”. I think this is a bit rough. If transgender people were inherently trans-phobic, they would not transition. Ever.

And yet I know a lot of people who transition and feel shame. Which kind of makes sense. I mean, our society revolves around discussions about which bathrooms we are “allowed” to use, which is inherently humiliating and dehumanizing. We are growing up in an environment that regards us with suspicion and mistrust.

As a child who grew up in this type of environment, I think I can safely argue that if your value in society is constantly questioned, you are bound to start thinking that you indeed must be rather despicable. While not trans-phobic (in my honest opinion), we do internalize the fears and negative bias that society holds towards us.

This brings up an important question: how do we get over feelings of shame? How do we let go of judgement, and stop beating ourselves – figuratively, and in some cases, even literally. The first step towards a changed perception is probably the realization that they are wrong. Period. In devaluing ourselves, we contribute to their erred perception.

More on this in a later post.