I feel like people grow up learning that doctors and dentists and such are authority figures, because as children we are small and they are adults and specialists and it breeds an unhealthy mental relationship. If you ever are belittled, or don’t feel safe or listened to by a medical professional, you need to advocate for yourself. You can get other referrals. You can fire them. They are not your superiors because they went to school for a long time. YOU are the expert on your symptoms. You are a goddamn grown human being with worth and value and they are too. You are EQUALS. Remember that. You are not inferior to someone with more education. Your sickness doesn’t affect your inherent worth and value and shouldn’t affect your treatment.
I think I deeply underestimate the effect of pain on my mental health.
Oftentimes that pain will lead me to seek out medical care.
That medical care will fall short in myriad ways.
The most damage is done when I am treated like I do not know what I am talking about(which I do, it’s my body and I’m a smart cookie).
They go on to not listen or ignore symptoms.
Ultimately, ineffective treatments and I have wasted hours, expending myself mentally and physically, with nothing new tried, no answers, no treatments, no referrals, no belief that it would improve, a whole mess of micro aggressions, and worsening pain.
I was writing my suicide note in my head while driving home.
I wasn’t worth listening to. I wasn’t worth respecting. I wasn’t worth treating. I was a drain on the system.
A creature of pure torture and it wasn’t going to get better.
Because I will always be the person that writes “LOL” when a form leaves 8 spaces for you to put your medication list.
Because I will need multiple specialists who for some reason can never coordinate their blood work requests.
Because the combined costs for the surgeries I will need to no longer squirm like a child at a funeral just at the idea of being in my body exceeds that of most suburban homes.
Because I have wanted to die as long as I can remember, and only regular therapy, medication monitoring, inpatient hospitalizations, and the occasional emergency interventions keep it from happening.
There’s so many stories lately about resuscitating addicts. Someone mentioned a “three strike rule,” where they’d no longer administer emergency medication.
So where does that come in with suicide? How many times do you wake someone up with a smile and tell them they aren’t worthless and sit beside them coloring and chatting as they stare off in to space and beg the universe that JUST ONCE someone would have thrown up their hands and said “well I guess they weren’t worth saving after all.” How many times do you say hello and goodbye to the staff that all knew you anyway before the EMT blacklists your house?How many interventions does it take until when a patient says “I’m worthless,” the reply is, “Well, you’ve met your mental health value quota so, yeah, you’ll have to find some worth somewhere else in life. ”
The mental health system is slow, toxically still full of stigma, and prey to every -ism.
But here I am still.
I was past three strikes years ago, folks.
I thought a line should go in my suicide note- “In lieu of flowers, please send letters to local hospitals and your congressmen.”
I came up with some clever lines. Even some stuff about the selfishness of suicide.
Because it’s not. It’s not about you, and you’re being arrogant if you think that. If anything, it’s selfish of you for wanting to keep someone who is suffering that much around, just so you can feel marginally better.
Things like that mindset guarantee I’m not pleasant to be around, I’m pretty sure I don’t have all that many friends, mostly acquaintances.
Profound mental illness, it turns out, is uncomfortable.
I hide behind biting sarcasm a lot. It’s actually the shield that bites back.
Then I got to thinking about family. Ain’t that a can of worms.
I thought about the funeral. It’d probably be at the church I grew up in and was chronically awkward in. The one that was 400 people that met in a pole barn when I was 2 and vomited on someone’s shoes and will never live down. I was there as it expanded. As it moved. As it kept rejecting me socially. I was there for the newest addition, millions upon millions of dollars raised. I toured it it when it was scaffolding, sheets of plastic and exposed concrete. I watched as it stretched a video outreach across the globe and my father would occasionally do some paint touch up work on the pastor’s massive boat.
Somehow non-denominational is its own particular denomination. Whodathunkit, it has some very traditional and conservative mindsets.
I knew that without a legally changed name and gender marker, I would be deadnamed among my family until we were all dirt.
And when I came out as pansexual I was told that “a line has been crossed in the eyes of God” if I would ever touch a woman.
And when I came out as transgender I was told that “this was an exploration” and “I will find a revelation.”
“God loves her more than we love her.”
You can change if it’s supposed to cut or be supportive depending on what you emphasize.
My dad had said in the session with my therapist that I have an “emotionally built feminine psyche” and that “guys don’t deal with these emotions.” He figured that a part of my transition goal was to get over trauma through that reasoning. He also said he has nothing but compassion for those that are internally conflicted, which I have been for a very long time.
He challenged me to find one person who was truly happy having done this, 10 years out, figuring that anyone who was transgender would just be so conflicted that they’d never really improve their lives.
Months later my mother was teary eyed when she asked me if I thought I was still saved.
She said “I have to hold onto the thought that you might still be in heaven.”
I wondered at the hellfire that was currently eating her alive, fresh and meaty and ripe, right on this plane of existence.
I thought of all this while I plotted my suicide note. The idea I could be so wrong, so broken that I would be cursed to brimstone and damnation had such a hold on her heart. I fumed.
I spewed. You know, in my head.
Then I craved. I wanted someone to read the note at my funeral. Read the note at the church I was raised in.
I wanted someone to tell them that this is not the gospel. Christ’s blood was spilled so no more has to be.
I got home.
I took some medication.
I pet fuzzy animals.
I relaxed on the bed.
I felt a little bit better.
Then I got angry.
Angry enough to do some good.
When you are low enough that you’ve almost stopped feeling bad, stopped feeling anything, you can find angry.
You can tap into it.
I realized that no one is going to do my advocacy for me.
I may already be fighting hard.
I will have to fight every damn day.
And it will keep hurting.
But I can’t give up and leave my mantle for another, they must carry their own.
I have to be vulnerable.
I have to do it myself.
I have to tell my story myself.
I have to live long enough to improve MY life myself.
To show who I am.
To prove it.
Maybe only to myself.
I have never been able to view myself as smart. Other people would hold that for me- teachers, tests, peers. My self esteem would not allow it. My parents had a systematic lack of regard for what I HAD done versus what I COULD do. “A 97? Why not a 100? A 100? Why not perfect attendance? We’re worried about your weight. Say, why are you coming home in tears so often? I guess it’s a teenager thing. Must need some space.” I lived in the shadow of my own potential, and my potential whispered sweetly about dreams and a future and having worth.
I cried writing the end of that sentence right there. It sinks me that I remain so far away from viewing myself as a creature with worth, yet I can dialectically hold the concept that all lives have inherent worth. I remain a raw, rotten lump of meat in the corner, an exception.
It’s been a rough 6 weeks or so. I’ve gotten strep, kinda beat it, had it come back with a vengeance and morph into walking pneumonia. My testosterone shot caused a giant weird painful lump in my leg. My mental health regressed enough that I ended up in a crisis residential program for a week. Additionally I’ve been in the ER three times, the Urgent Care once, and my PCP once. I got in a car accident and messed up my shoulder nicely. My anxiety is through the roof. Also, I’m not sure if it’s related to the car accident or the strep-hell but I can’t bind because it makes me completely unable to breathe. I’ve missed enough work that I’m worried about whether they’ll just give up on me like my last employer did.
I also got married, so that was cool.
I kept doing this weird thing during all this stress though. I kept house shopping.
See, I found out we were eligible for a down payment assistance program that’s really nifty.
It was a fun distraction if nothing else. But I let myself hope, and when it came down to it, if you’re getting 36 hours and your company still calls you part time, you have to have been there for 2 years.
I’ve had big dreams in the past.
Now all I want is a cute little fixer-upper and to SOMEDAY finish a damn degree above an Associate’s.
I was supposed to be so smart. One of those assholes that throws off the curve.
I’ll probably work entry level for the rest of my life because I am deeply, profoundly mentally ill.
Maybe smart doesn’t mean much if you’re broken.
The big bad monster crept out of my mind to stab potential repeatedly.
It doesn’t whisper anymore.
There was an incredibly powerful exercise that I did once in a group session with other alcoholics and addicts. It was about the first step-admitting you are powerless. It was recommended by one of our peers, who said his sponsor guided him through it. He gave us all an index card and told us to number one through ten, leaving two lines for each number.
Then he said “I want you to think of ten of the worst things you did while you were drinking, and write them down. Leave an empty line.”
Our leader, Bob, was feeling sassy, so he timed people. The first person completed his in 27 seconds. Others needed to think a little harder. I was in the middle of the pack.
Then he gave us the key for the exercise.
After every statement, we had to write “and still I kept drinking.”
We had to confront the fact that not only did we facilitate these terrible experiences, we chose our demon again. And again. And again.
So for me it would start out a bit like:
I broke a goddamn toilet, and still I kept drinking.
I was sleepwalking naked, and still I kept drinking.
I let the horses out in the middle of the night, and still I kept drinking.
And so on.
It occurred to me recently that this same method could be modified a bit for other situations. I thought of my parents, the spiritual abuse they put me through, and how I’d keep crawling back to them.
So here’s another list. Yeah, it’s different, because the first reflects more personal choice rather than something being done to or with you. It was still a key moment for me to process this list, though. I think it’ll help give me strength.
1. They taught me how to tie a noose when I was really young*, and still I gave them more chances.
2. They told me I was getting fat, and still I gave them more chances.
3. They had me work for the family business in a shop from an incredibly young age, and still I gave them more chances.
4. They made me write pages from the Bible every day to improve my handwriting, until I developed carpal tunnel, and still I gave them more chances.
5. They held me to such high standards that it was impossible to ever succeed or feel like I could be good enough, and still I gave them more chances.
6. They stayed close with my exes even though it made me uncomfortable, and still I gave them more chances.
7. They put down my perfectly healthy dog unexpectedly without telling me while I was away in the hospital, and still I gave them more chances.
8. They left bible pages open about raising godly children after finding a dildo at age 16, and still I gave them more chances.
9. They guilt tripped me for how I was making them feel by choosing to live in my car rather than with them during a complicated time, and later gave me a mattress shoved behind a couch as a bedroom, and still I gave them more chances.
10. They refused to let me see a therapist or get medication for my depression, then insisted on a Christian counselor when it became court mandated after my first institutionalization, and had him perform an exorcism on me, and still I gave them more chances.
It was a pretty frequent pattern that I’d get sick of them and run off, or end up in a mental institution. But I always crawled back, and was always made to feel broken and wrong.
The last couple weeks, I kept getting little barbs from my Mom that indicated that she knew about the transition although I hadn’t had the guts to come out directly to them. Things like telling me how I was the feminine version of my dad, or how girly looking my hair was coming along to be, or how “a girl can dress up pretty and wear makeup and heels and have fun but when a boy does it it’s weird.”
It got to the point that I just walked out the door and left their property after she said something like that. Stopped talking to her. I texted her and said if she wanted to talk, I was meeting with my therapist and she could join, so she did.
She claimed she didn’t have a clue about the transition. She said that when she looks at me she sees “a very confused young person.” When my therapist gave me a chance to express how I was feeling, all I could come up with for a minute was “tense,” and she jumped in saying “And I’m devastated.” Not only did she continue to deadname and misgender me after we explained my wishes, she actively tried to correct my therapist and fiance when they were using the right ones. She asked my fiancé if he was okay with this, and after contorting her face in disgust when he said yes, asked “WHY?!?!” When he explained that his love had nothing to do with my gender, she said “Wow, so anybody can do what they want if they love ‘em.”
There’s another therapy session scheduled.
I added to the list number 11. They invalidated my choices about my gender and sexuality.
Any chances from here on out are to be supervised by a professional.
*It actually wasn’t until very recently that I realized this was fucked up. I mentioned something about it in passing on Facebook and a number of friends jumped in saying how gross that it was. I had been under the impression it was fairly normal, like a Boy Scout thing or whatnot.
I caved and bought face wipes and moisturizer the other day.
I liked my skin. My skin was alright and did just fine on its own.
Now I’m an oil pit and yet somehow a dry oil pit. It’s a real bastard.
I’ve noticed this self care appreciation thing coming on gradually as I’ve increased my ritual before bed.
It really began with rubbing scar gel in where I was scratched at work. I’m seeing results, which is really like, dandy magic.
Then I bought the fancy floss.
God, I don’t even know what’s wrong with me. I’m so easily marketed to. I just- you know- I like nice things. I hadn’t known that floss was a fancy thing that I needed, before someone told me. Someone on the internet. Who was selling the fancy floss.
It came with a travel newsletter entitled “Flossophy.” There’s quizzes and recipes. Yoga instructions and an instagram challenge. It’s the most hipster goddamn floss on the planet.
But it is nice. Super scrubby feeling. Very effective. Why did I pay 8 dollars plus shipping for floss? BECAUSE SELF CARE THAT’S WHY.
To be honest, it’s worth it if I floss even a little bit more because of the fanciness. I gave up on my teeth for so long. I have such bad habits. I felt like there was no chance I’d even live to 30, so why should I worry about cavities?
I’m in a better state now, and I wish I could take that back. I think everyone that has neglected their teeth feels that way.
Now, though, I choose self care.
I rub scar gel onto my arms, so my battles can be my own business.
I floss so I can chew for many days to come.
I moisturize to keep from flogging myself with feelings of inadequacy.
This post involves a review of a sex toy and as such probably contains more than you want to know about me if we are acquaintances. Read at your own risk…
Soft and silent in a combative way, my self hatred spawned from a young, young age. It sat at my brain stem and sent little twitches of loathing, as central a part of my being as breathing or eating.
I am reclaiming my hate.
I’m coming for it.
Ink and hormones and surgeries will bring me closer.
Time spent in the gym will bring me closer.
I love what my body does.
I love the powers it has, I love the strength I have that no one expects of me.
But I do not love my body.
I don’t know that anyone who is trans can embrace a traditional form of body positivity.
I will seek out my male form, though.
I will sculpt it from underneath my hips and my breasts.
I will find a way to present myself, somewhere under there.
I weigh 333 pounds.
It’s a pretty number, but it’s not a pretty sight.
That’s up five pounds from three weeks ago, when these first pictures were taken.
Why did I take them?
I was starting Plexus. And I’m a skeptic.
Granted, I’m a skeptic with impulse control issues and poor budgeting skills. I wanted to try it out, and I wanted reference. I’ve gone up and down and up and down in my weight, over and over again. I usually try to not be entirely honest with myself about my body. I find its better for my mental health.
However, I’m on the cusp of some major changes. Testosterone for my transition. Bariatric surgery. I want to track how I change. I want records. A little bit of supplementation is a minor place to start, and easy enough.
They’re expensive, and sold through multi-level marketing. Does this mean there’s cheaper equivalent products out there? Maybe. But this is what I was going to try, after seeing how great my friend Susie and her family was feeling with them.
Naturally “becoming an ambassador” or buying in to the sales program gets you cheaper prices. I signed up. I got my shipment. I started my Triplex.
There’s the Bio Cleanse, which is basically a fancy magnesium supplement that’s supposed to help keep you regular. There’s more to the pitch than that, but that there’s the basics.
Probio5 is a probiotic that’s supposed to have great success surviving to get to the gut and actually do its work, it also has chitosanase which is supposed to cut through yeast overgrowth super effectively.
Then there’s Slim, the pink drink. You add one of these drink packets to your morning routine, and it helps to keep your blood sugar balanced and energy up. I can honest to god tell the difference on days where I’ve forgotten my Slim, I’m sluggish and crabbier and have worse cravings. It tastes a lot like a cherry tootsie roll pop. Not just the candy coating, not just the chocolate part. The whole damn thing at once.
I’m not big on thinking that shitting more regularly and an extra bottle of water each day are going to cause much of a health shift. It’s been three weeks, and I did not change my routine. I didn’t change how I ate. I intentionally set out to “work out” exactly twice.
I also have less joint pain. Fewer headaches. I’m less forgetful. Not as sore. And there’s tiny sections around my body where it almost looks like I’ve been pricked by a pin and am deflating slightly.
I see fat loss in my arm, the top of my belly and sides of my hips. I see more definition in my shoulders. The changes are subtle, but they’re there.
I’ve also gained those five pounds, proving that you have to measure victories on more than just a scale.
I don’t give a rip if you decide to try the Triplex. It’s great if you do, I’m excited to share the journey with you, but I’m not gonna go around trying to be a salesperson.
The person that I care about getting this stuff to most? Myself.
I’m kinda selfish like that.
Wanna check it out?
I’ve been up since 5:37 am. My partner is snoring beside me. I can’t get back to sleep. Why?
Today is the day.
Today I get my instructional session on injecting Testosterone. Today I get my first dose.
It marks a huge milestone quite early on in a long journey. I’m excited and nervous and completely unable to shut my brain off.
“Will my snoring get manlier? I’m not sure that my snoring isn’t already manly. Must consult friends and family.”
“Will it be worth it?”
“Ooh, my belly hair will be socially acceptable!”
“When will I pass?”
“What a great opportunity to bring my Iron Man band-aids into the world of adult endocrinology.”
“I wonder if I’m gonna get beat up.”
“I think my voice just cracked!”
“Should I go into sex work to afford my transition?”
“My toe twitched, I wonder if it’s getting stronger, oh god what if the muscles come in asymmetrical and I end up walking lopsided or upside down or something.”
“Maybe self defense classes are cheaper for women, I should jump on that.”
“I’m kinda horny. I wonder if that’s, like, regular horny or T horny. I bet my genitals are gonna start finishing before my brain gets the chance to, and then roll over and go to sleep. Typical…”
“How much will they have to slice apart my body to sculpt something tolerable?”
“I’m on my period. Can a uterus have a testosterone seizure? Would that be any different than regular cramps?”
“When will I feel like myself?”
“My beard is coming in so PATCHY. Wait, I think that one has been there for awhile.”
“This isn’t going to make the pain of growing up go away.”
“Nevermind on the horny thing, I think it might have just been gas.”
“I’m driving up costs in every insurance pool I’ll ever be in.”
“I’m kinda hungry. Well, I’m essentially a teenage boy now, so…”
“One of these days you’ll have to talk to your parents.”
“How fast does facial hair grow anyways? *SPROING*?”
“Living authentically is hard. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if one of those suicide attempts had worked?”
There, right there at the intersection of mental illness and dysphoria, my frontal cortex quivers. I grow ever more hopeful as I pass these milestones, or when people who haven’t seen me since my haircut do a double take. That doesn’t stop a lifetime of self loathing from caressing the smooth edges as it slithers knowingly down into the grooves it has worn into my thinking.
I take another step in my journey, knowing there’s a hundred thousand more.
I might get blisters.
But I packed Iron Man band-aids.
I have been positively blown away by how lucky I’ve been and how good that the system has been to me. I called my PCP’s office to see if I could get in earlier than my next med check to discuss the potential of starting hormones at some point after my bariatric surgery. They had an appointment available the next day. He was absolutely awesome, and referred me to an endocrinologist, saying that it’ll probably take me two-three months to get in.
The endocrinologist’s office called me that day, and THEY had an appointment available the next day. Absolutely unreal… I feel so blessed.
So I went to that endocrinologist that morning, picked up the vial from the pharmacy at like 11, and on Thursday I have my instructional session.
They said I can start before the bariatric as long as I skip the injection a week or two directly before it.
This way might be a little harder. I don’t really know.
I’ve never been more excited for a shot in my life.
Also, today I got a haircut. Witness!