Wednesday, 21 May 2008

My creativity is back.

I love being creative but sadly my passion for wild life painting has been put on hold for far too long. The painting on the left is one of my favourite paintings. It was a commission a friend asked me to paint & is of two orphaned Orang Utans at a Borneo rescue centre called "Hope & Austin".

My health problems in the last few years have caused me to give up painting. I could no longer connect with my feelings, my creativity. I have missed it so much. I found it very distressing & have cried a lot in utter frustration. That is all about to change, I hope. So so close to picking up a brush. I can feel it.

I feel like painting more than I have ever done in the last two years. My creativity is back. It feels like the return of a long lost old friend. I want to hug it, & hold it close for comfort. Much like Hope & Austin. With the dramatic surge in confidence that has come about from my ever more comfortable sense of self, it feels so close now. My ability to concentrate on anything other than my gender dysphoria is finally approaching a level that I can begin to think about everyday more normal things.

I had no idea how bad gender dysphoria could be. It starts of quietly & in fits & starts creeps up on you. Sometimes it screams out loud. It breaks your spirit & reminds you constantly of natures cruel trick. It can be there like a background noise. Those cursed with it suffer different levels of mental torture. The confused thoughts, the denial stage, the darkness, acceptance & the reality of your situation. Some people live with it & do not need to make life changing decissions which risk everything you hold dear. If you are lucky enough to have a family you love, you try to find a balance, between your loved ones feelings & your gender issues. No one in their right mind would chose to transition if they had any other choice. Your brain keeps whispering you are female, yet your body is that of a male. Everyday you wake up with this knowledge. It sounds crazy to us, so for some one who has never experienced it it is very hard to imagine. I guess it can seem like an obsession. Only this is not a mental condition. It cannot be cured by therapy. How I wish it could. You can be helped to live with it & many people do.

Some people discover the feelings are so intense & so clear they need to transition very young. Others like me try to keep running away from it. Puberty was hell for me. How can you deal with that period in your life. I found myself attracted to women yet at the very same time I wanted to be one & could not understand why I felt this way. I learned to hide my feelings. I tried as best I could to impersonate a man. They never seemed to talk about feelings. Just sex & sport. I used to binge drink when things got to bad, which was awful. I just could not fit in. I knew I was some how different & felt pressurised to conform. The world perceived me as a man & although I had no idea what a man thought like I learned to play the part as best I could. I could never let anyone get too close in case they found out my secret. I never went to parties. I only had one or two girl friends then. I was too scared of losing them once they found out I was a girl inside. It became too painful. I just blocked any romantic feelings out, any way I could. You have to like yourself before anyone could possibly like you & the level of hatred I had for myself was frightening. Why was I born this way? became a constant thought. I definitely was a "woe is me" transsexual. Not a nice person at all. I enjoyed the company of women. How I wanted to be part of their world, their friends but it just reminded me of the freak of nature I felt inside to be in female company. Societies expectations & my parents asperations only added to my confusion.

I became something of a workaholic for a number of years. I was jokingly called the overtime king, queen would have been closer to the truth. Anything to distract those feelings.

I was really struggling to live a lie. Things culminated after a 6 week stint away with the company in Barrow. Miles away from my beloved family. No place to hide or feel safe. I was expected to hide my feelings & be a man 24/7 for five days a week. It completely broke me. When I got back to our office the work load began to ease up. I was given less demanding work that could not occupy my mind & this gave my gender dysphoria free rain to take effect. I had a complete mental breakdown in 1996.

I received counselling at my GPs surgery & was after a short time sent to gender specialists in London. After three months of intensive specialised gender counselling I was sent to see the well known gender specialist consultant psychiatrist Dr Russel Reid. From everything I had described during the counselling he determined I was gender dysphoric & was suitable for treatment as a male to female transsexual. This involved the controlled administration of female hormones. On the 19th November 1996 I finally began my journey. Just receiving support & recognition for all the feelings I had been experiencing helped lift my depression. My dear parents who were in their middle sixties then asked me not to transition while they were alive. I am sure they were just trying to protect me & were dong what at the time they thought was best for me. In truth if they had said ok we accept you want to transition we will support you, I was too shy & did not need to then. Quite simply I was not ready. At least I had been diagnosed.

I was never an alcholic but my binge drinking occurred at least once a month up till the time I accepted I needed help in 1996. I no longer had the need to drown out those feelings & gave up alchol all together. I was advised to find a new hobby that I could enjoy & relax with. I had always loved art as a child & my parents encouraged me to like wildlife by taking me to zoo's & always having pets at home. By chance my Mum spotted an advert for "Brush with the wild" a painting weekend course run by a wild life artist at our local Zoo. This piece of luck transformed my life.

The artist who ran the course was very enthusiastic & inspirational. At the time he was selling paintings for a hundred pounds or so in the zoo shop. Now he is an internationally renowned wildlife artist selling his brilliant work for thousands. He created an arts society from all those of us who had enjoyed his workshops. I discovered friends I never dreamed it would be possible for me to have. Here was a haven where I could just be me. Well almost. I felt at ease more than I had ever done before in social situations. The group consisted mainly of female members all with a common interest a love of animals & conservation, & art. We all became great friends & thanks to the inspiration of the professional artists who so kindly shared their enormous talents with us, the group flourished. We were like a family. Everyone encouraged each other, shared in our successes & kept us going. A wonderful group of compassionate creative people. I no longer loathed myself & finally grew as a person. I put all my efforts into painting. My family were all I lived for but my job was thankfully no longer my driving force. I had this lovely outside interest. I finally had a life. Gradually as my work began to improve I would get the occasional commission. Pet portraits & family groups mainly.

I went to evening classes twice a week. I made some more special friends there. I also had another stroke of good fortune, Janet our teacher had a wonderfully positive nature. She always found something good to say about your work & offered suggestions of how we might improve our work in such a sweet way.

When I had started work in 1976 I was a draughtsman & used pencils & paper. It was sort of artistic but all based around engineering & diagrams of weapon systems. For me not the most enthralling of subjects but I was grateful it paid the bills & a bit more. When computers came in, the creative aspect become dramatically less. Going back to art reawakened my passion for art. Painting & our local zoo became a big part of my life. It was there I was to find the amazing lady who became my best friend. She actually saved my life when on a dark day in April 2007 I nearly left this world. She & her husband set about transforming my life & gave me the confidence to be the person I am now. All my lovely artist friends mean so much to me.

It took me three years before I sold a painting. My early work at evening classes were quite unusual & evolved around me finding an outlet for my TS condition. Once this was out of my system after a year or so I found all I wanted to do was paint wildlife. I could not find the passion to paint without their being wildlife in it. It took me three unsuccessful years before I sold my first painting. The first painting I sold was of a very young Orang Utan called Gordon from Monkey World ape rescue centre in Dorset. He had big sad eyes & nearly always a bad hair day. Something I had great understanding of! I could completely loose myself in my painting.

I was very lucky to find that some very kind people seemed to like my work & I would regularly sell out & receive commisions. My prices increased to several hundred pounds. It was nice to sell but I was just grateful people enjoyed my work. I hoped our lovely group would inspire people to pick up a brush & also think about conservation, themselves. I was encouraged to go on Safari to Botswana. I would have loved to but I loved my family & besides how could I possibly hide the changes the hormones had made to my body, out camping in the wild. The couple responsible for creating our art society just knew I would enjoy it & persevered with me. encouraging me to go. Once you go to Africa you want to go back again & again. Botswana was unbelievable. You were camped out in the wilds. Sharing these amazing experiences with such creative people was a dream come true & I was so lucky to travel to Botswana three times. I was so enthusiastic about my painting & the very special group of friends I had. My extended family. They were to become life long friends. I value each & every one of them.

As time progressed my dysphoria started to reawaken. A dark depression started to engulf me. My company got taken over yet again & we moved even further away from home. I managed to stagger through the exhibition in 2006. I had been painting like I was possessed up to July 2006. I was using oils & loved their rich colours. I could not get enough of painting in between fighting off my demons. Then suddenly events at work caused my health to collapse. My gender dysphoria took off with a vengeance. I could no longer concentrate long enough to do my job properly & the increased use of anti-depressants especially the nightmare Prozac just served to shut down all my feelings. In a zombie like state I could no longer feel my painting.

The gender dysphoria became a screaming rage even through the fog of medication. I just could not function as a human any more. My depression at not transitioning destroyed me. Two episodes of suicidal thoughts followed & at that point I realised I simply needed to transition or I would die.

Which brings me back to today's posting. That GD rage after a couple of false dawns has finally gone much quieter. The peace & acceptance that has descended on both me & my family in the last week as a result of me legally changing my name has made such a huge difference.

I am going to do my first painting in nearly two years very very soon.


1 comment:

Debbie K said...

I have just realised how much art I have added to this blog. I have really enjoyed it. My passion is back. The creativity is flowing through my keyboard & into my words. I now need to discipline myself to actually mange my time more efficiently so that I can finally put my words into action & put brush to canvas. A dear professional artist friend advised me she never looks at her computer for the first two hours or so of each day. She is so dedicated to her art & works very log hours often late into the evening to meet deadlines. Its not easy to make a living out of art & many tremendously gifted artists have to do another job as well to supplement their income. I would love one day to make a small sum of money to supplement my income but I am realistic enough to realise I could never make a living at it. For me it will always be a hobby & is not about selling. It is aboutthe pleasure of creating something & having people respond to it & if I am lucky, they enjoy it.

You have all been so kind with your encouraging words about my art I really must paint again soon. I promise.