Monday, 20 December 2010

Merry Christmas From Debbie

The human spirit is a wonderful thing. I have been privileged to be working with some incredible patients in recent months at our Hospital. The children of the children’s cancer ward are truly inspirational as are the staff. They somehow manage to concentrate their emotions on the "here & now".

They are the bravest of the brave. The staff seem to focus on giving the children as normal a day as possible, always encouraging/planning for their future but in a very subtle way. Both the staff, the children & their families find the most amazing faith inside them in such adversity, a belief they really do have a future together.

Time is the most precious of gifts. As we all seem to rush around trying to cope with transport problems & the commercial hype of Christmas the meaning of Christmas can sometimes be lost. It can all get so stressful wishing we had been better organized & delivered all our cards, bought all our presents early, managed to see all our friends & family.

Volunteering can sometimes be the best paid job in the world.

A month ago I began the most rewarding, heartwarming, humbling, heart breaking job I have ever had. I did not know if I could be emotionally strong enough to cope. I was to be working in the same ward my cousin’s courageous son who had leukemia twice & had a heart transplant as a result of his treatment. The ward had only just opened then but all these years later the compassionate staff still remembered him & his parents. With his passing this year I was afraid I may let everyone down & the last thing I wanted to do was to become emotional in front of the children I would be working with. The staff had reassured me working in the ward would be a life changing experience & they were right. All the baggage, my insecurities, my fears etc evaporate as you enter the ward.

I was asked to provide some art therapy for a young lady who was a patient at the hospital. To look at her she appeared to be doing so well. She was so enthusiastic to do something creative. I had earlier prepared some simplistic child friendly images of an owl that could be made into a collage or painted. She wanted to do something more realistic & grown up; more akin to the owl in a Harry potter Film, so we sat down together & experienced something truly magical.

I would paint one wing, and then she would work on the other. She was so determined to do her best & became upset with her self when things did not go quite as she hoped. I told her not to worry & just enjoy painting. We could always make things right with the painting. Together we would give her the wings to help her creative confidence fly. I encouraged her & got her to correct my lousy wing as hers was so much better than mine. We then worked on the eyes. She watched & listened intently. Her Mum came to join us & was so pleased to see her daughter enjoy herself so much. We lost track of time. Doctors came & asked her how she was feeling. Nurses checked on her too but nothing seemed to distract her from painting. I had checked with her Mum & the resident teacher what time we needed to finish so as not to tire her. When her Mum came in with some tablets I knew we had to come to a close. I asked her to sign her beautiful owl & she beamed the warmest of smiles. Her Mum was so pleased. She had the difficult task of asking her daughter to take an extra tablet both of them knowing they would make her feel worse before she could begin to feel better. I waved to them as they left to go back to the ward from our classroom.
It was only then I was informed by the teacher what she had been through. That she had been there a couple of months & been really poorly, sleeping most of the time or not able to take an interest in anything due to her health. The ability of the children, their family & staff to focus on the “here & now” is so inspirational & humbling. Just for a moment we shared a universe where emotions & mind found a unique peace.

I have been working there one day a week, ever since, more if I could. Last week we had the Christmas Nativity Concert. There were so much, joy & laughter. They do not entertain sad thoughts only hope & positivety.

A young boy who had been in hospital for much of the past two years sitting in the audience stole the show; when he reappeared wearing a Father Christmas costume, playing Christmas Carols on the violin.

This week I received a job offer to start part time paid work at the hospital doing admin work which I am really grateful for. Hopefully all the paperwork can be sorted out for me to start some time early in the New Year. I am looking forward to being able to pay my way in the world again.

I hope you can all come home safely to enjoy your Christmas with your family, friends, your loved ones.

Some things as precious as time, can be worth far more than money.

Wishing you all a very Mery Christmas
Good Health & Happiness in 2011.
Peace be with you.

Love
Debbie

Sunday, 12 December 2010

May Peace be your gift this Christmas.


This is a little different.......................Happy Christmas to you all.




T'WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,

HE LIVED ALL ALONE,

IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE,

MADE OF PLASTER AND STONE.


I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY,

WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,

AND TO SEE JUST WHO,

IN THIS HOME, DID LIVE.


I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,

A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,

NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,

NOT EVEN A TREE.


NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,

JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,

ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES,

OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.


WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,

AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,

A SOBER THOUGHT,

CAME THROUGH MY MIND.


FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,

IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,

I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,

ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.


THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,

SILENT, ALONE,

CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR,

IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.


THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,

THE ROOM IN DISORDER,

NOT HOW I PICTURED,

A TRUE BRITISH SOLDIER.


WAS THIS THE HERO,
OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?

CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?


I REALISED THE FAMILIES,

THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,

OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS,

WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.


SOON ROUND THE WORLD,

THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,

AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE,

A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.


THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM,

EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,

BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,

LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.


I COULDN'T HELP WONDER,

HOW MANY LAY ALONE,

ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE,

IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.


THE VERY THOUGHT BROUGHT,

A TEAR TO MY EYE,

I DROPPED TO MY KNEES,

AND STARTED TO CRY.


THE SOLDIER AWAKENED,

AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,

"SANTA DON'T CRY,

THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;


I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,

I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,

MY LIFE IS MY GOD,

MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.."


THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,

AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,

I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,

I CONTINUED TO WEEP.


I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,

SO SILENT AND STILL,

AND WE BOTH SHIVERED,

FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.


I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE,

ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,

THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR,

SO WILLING TO FIGHT.


THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,

WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,

WHISPERED, "CARRY ON SANTA,

IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE."


ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT."


This poem was written by a Peacekeeping soldier stationed overseas. The following is his request. I think it is reasonable.


PLEASE. Would you do me the kind favour of sending this to as many people as you can?
Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to all of the service men and women
for our being able to celebrate these festivities. Let's try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of
what we owe. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.
Please, do your small part to plant this small seed.

Paula.

I received this very poigniant poem from my best friend. It really makes you think.

May Peace be your gift this Christmas.
Love
Debbie x

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snow Lucky to have him.

This little guy came in to my life when I was at a really low point.

He transformed all our lives.

He gave me a reason to come out from under my duvet & go out for walks.

It seems you are never without friends if you have a dog.

In no time at all he had me fully trained & had captured all our hearts.

He never judges me. He always listens, although he can sometimes be conveniently hard of hearing.

He did not complain when my appearance changed quite radically. He knew I was still the same person, only happier.

Come rain or shine or even snow, his enthusiasm to be my ever faithful companion remains.

He helps keep us all young at heart even when we can feel our age catching up.

We are truly blessed to have our dear little corgi for a friend. His love is unconditional although a biscuit in your pocket is always appreciated.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.† You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?


Keep safe & warm.
Be happy
Bless you
Love
Debbie x

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

My first Anniversary



My first Anniversary November 3rd 2010
It seems a life time ago since I posted anything on my blog. I wish I could bottle the feelings of peace & tranquility I felt after my surgery & send it with love to all the friends I have made & those I am yet to meet.

To have a glass of “mindfulness” for those times we all get during our lives where we face a huge challenge & we anxiously question what path we should take.

I feel so lucky to have had the surgery & had such excellent care. The seemingly endless medical rehabilitation involving longer periods of tiredness than I had perhaps anticipated & the tedium of all the time required in dilating to maintain the surgeons work, were all worthwhile.

The butterflies of deliberating what changes I needed to have, how to achieve them, with who, how & when was best for my loved ones & I, is now thankfully in my past. I had many sleepless nights before deciding what to do as I had always had trouble making decisions & trusting my judgement. Its hard to decipher all the information out there. I was lucky to find the right surgeon & hospital for me & my circumstances. A place whose staff I felt at ease with & confident in. Once the decision had been agreed I felt so much calmer although the time just seemed to race by, with so much to plan for. I certainly felt a whole lot easier once everything was in place. My biggest worry was the thought of coming off hormones before surgery & the effect on my emotions. I dealt with any anxiety as best I could by looking at the surgery as just another process to go through, a river to cross. The feelings you get on the other side are unique. For me they were life affirming, validating completely what my heart & soul felt but in truth for me was truly a leap of faith.

With all the uncertainties in the world, with the continued recession & cuts to services the opportunities to have any kind of surgery via the NHS is likely to become ever more difficult. I fear the surgery I was so blessed to have will be low down on the list of priorities & so when cuts need to be made, such operations will be first to to be delayed. After many years of feeling cursed, I really do know how lucky I am to have had the operation I needed. I had the most wonderful care & very little pain. In the few very difficult times in hospital when I had problems with excessive bleeding the care was second to none. Nothing was ever too much trouble for all of the team at the Nuffield in Brighton. Emotionally transitioning has been right for me. I had never experienced feeling so at peace & tranquil as felt post surgery. I surfed a wave of euphoria which lasted a very long time before crashing into the blue stuff. I am not sure if that was inevitable post op blues or the challenges of external events.

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending is a quote I read recently. I cannot deny my past even if I wished to. As a very shy private person with no self esteem & little confidence when I first transitioned it felt at first like I had to almost wear my past on my sleeve. By living the life I found a confidence within that I never dreamed possible. The GRS gave further validation. Life is not perfect for anyone. My hopes & dreams before surgery were realistic but were exceeded in many ways. It felt a very spiritual time for me.

I was extremely tired when I first came home from the hospital & had to go back on my HRT a.s.a.p. before I became too much of a moody cow! There was a period initially when I came home to recover which felt like testosterone's last stand. Probably due to being off hormones for several weeks & exhausted my body seemed to go through a second puberty. This involved changes to hair texture. I had been warned by the lady who did my laser & electrolysis that there may be a brief period when apparently dormant facial hair would have a spurt of regrowth & she was right. On the plus side there was to be an unexpected change in the texture of the hair on my head which has grown thicker with every month. Not a miracle growth but significant enough to boost my self esteem. Once the short period of hormonal imbalance settled down the tranquility returned. Gradually my body changed, I put on over a stone in weight, thankfully I needed to & most of it went in the right places. Although I had been on prescribed hormones for 12 years before my op & never been blessed with more than an A cup, they had almost completely disappeared in the 6 weeks I had to be without my HRT patches. The cheeks of my face which had been rather gaunt for several years filled out nicely. I have my bad hair days & days when my confidence evaporates due to an avalanche of insecurities but they feel "normal", the same as any other woman. I just get on with life now & when I fall on my bad days I find I can bounce back so much stronger, most of the time. From being too afraid to be my true self & wondering how people can go through so many changes, I now feel I have earned the right to be out there just getting on with my life, the same as any one else. I have always had respect & compassion for others but for so much of my life always treated myself in ways I would never have a friend. How I feel about my self has changed so much. The ordinariness of my everyday life, the simple pleasures, the quiet times are to be cherished. where once a dysphoric voice would always scream there is mostly always peace. Occasionally I have dysphoric times but I have been very happy with the outcome. Life has been so much better than it ever was before.

One of the realities I have had to come to terms with & have begun to question is when it comes to relationships; at work, socially or in our private lives, how I/we fit into this world as a woman with a certain historical past. Our past is always going to be there & with the potential to be used negatively against us when it suits. No matter how far we travel, the memories will follow in the baggage car.

I am very emotionally driven & its taken a while to realise I need to change my way of thinking .The golden times are when I am able to live for the moment for the "here & now".

I have made some wonderful friends. According to CS Lewis Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one." So many of the friends I have made here have been inspirational. You helped support me on my journey especially through the difficult times & is something I will always be grateful for. You really helped transform my life.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world.

The tender handshake between myself & the remarkable Liz Hills on the day I left hospital says sooooooo much.

So sorry for leaving it so long between posts. I have been so busy living life. A minor temporary set back to my health with a virus made me feel a little poorly & unable to blog but its nice to be back online again.

God Bless.
Take care
Love
Debbie x

Monday, 11 October 2010

As one door closes another one opens.

Some time ago during a rare quiet moment while I was working with the volunteer manager at my local hospital she had asked me "what dream job would you like to do if you were able to have the opportunity?" "Art therapist", I had replied. She explained they do not have many opportunities for that kind of role but she would try to find out for me. As I believed you needed to have a degree to do that kind of work I thought no more about it.

There is a familiar old saying "as one door closes another one opens".

On the very same day last month when I had received a letter bringing so much despair to my life, the hospital volunteer manager had been contacted by the acting head teacher of a very special school which is situated in the grounds of the hospital. They provide a homely and welcoming environment in order to support, care and manage children’s physical, psychological, educational and social needs from the ages of 0-16 years. They use a structured programme of care and treatment usually in a non medical setting. They are a highly specialised inpatient paediatric/psychiatric unit, providing assessment and treatment of serious chronic illness using holistic, medical and psychological models of treatment. Due to the unique implementation of a joint medical and psychological inpatient approach, they can sometimes offer treatment for a child/young person and their family if other treatment has not been successful. They wanted to meet me.

A week ago last Thursday I went for my for my first interview there. Miraculously I awoke after a very rare good nights sleep, minus depression & found myself climbing out of the bed on the right side, for the first time in ages. I was so nervous but I need not have worried. The deputy head teacher was so compassionate, just as you would imagine for some one in that position. She was impressed by my portfolio of work & willingness to help in any way I could. She invited me a long for a second interview where I could meet further members of the team including both nurses & teachers. They required an artistic person to support their full time teaching staff on one of the wards. I was a little taken aback when she asked me to attend the children's cancer ward where she needed to do an assessment for a child's educational needs.

I did not want to let anyone down. The children's needs & care are paramount. I could not say no but I was not sure if I was capable of providing the right kind of support to their so precious lives. This was a duty that requires you to be totally giving. No thoughts for self, no introspection, no insecurities, no gender issues. Recently my creativity had felt blocked & my emotions had been all over the place, which made me vigorously question if I could or should pursue this role even though it was potentially a golden opportunity to pursue a dream.

I went to the children's cancer ward on Thursday for the second interview. It proved to be a day which could change me for ever. In a world of total flux & uncertainty the one thing those courageous children could have some control over was their education. By offering them the chance to continue their education the wonderful staff gave them hope & belief they have a future. The staff quickly build up a very close relationship with the children.

They are an incredibly supportive, intuitive team & seem to have a second sense of how the children, their families & also their colleagues, are feeling. If they did not care or feel for the children in their care they would not be doing the job. All the staff care deeply & sometimes the emotions get too much for them when a child's health takes a turn for the worse. When this happens they have a quiet room to go to away from the children & their loved ones, as its vital they avoid distressing the children & their families. This was the part of the job I feared I may not be able to cope with. I had previously naively assumed these staff somehow possessed a special ability to control or hide their feelings from the children in their care. When a student, volunteer or new member of staff joins they always try to establish if the new team member has any emotional link with the ward such as Leukaemia in the family. This way they can better understand how they may react in certain circumstances so as to provide the best possible care for the children.

While speaking to the staff leader I felt it appropriate to tell them about my beloved nephew who had leukaemia twice & subsequently needed a heart transplant. I told them of all the wonderful medical care he had received then. When I told her his name she remembered him & his Mum. She had worked there many years & he was a patient when the ward had first opened some 19 years or so ago. It all looked very different now. I was amazed she had such a memory as they must have seen so many patients over the years. When she asked how he was doing now we both shed a tear as I had to tell her he had tragically passed away this year after his heart finally gave out. He had been an inspiration to all who had meet him & touched many lives with his marvellous outlook on life. He lived life to the full, cherishing every moment. Music was his great passion & he fulfilled his dreams by becoming a very successful DJ.

I never imagined one day the circumstances in which I would find myself visiting the same ward in which he had received so much compassionate care. I am not sure if I will be successful or if I am right for the role of supporting the staff in this ward but with the memory of my nephews courage, I am going to give my all, to every day.

The staff leader who I briefly worked with Thursday morning said those who come to the ward have their outlook on life changed for ever & she was right.

Surfing emotions

Last week the tsunami of sadness that washed over me finally abated. I am trying hard to learn how to surf with the waves of emotions I am prone to rather than allow myself to be totally immersed in them, if that makes any sense? It is all very well being driven by my heart but I also need to be mindful to learn to use my head as well.

I have continued to receive some really heart warming support from my friends. Several phone calls & emails lifted me. My surfing needs a lot more work but every time I have failed I have managed to keep going & learned a few valuable lessons along the way.

Dependency is unhealthy. When you make anything the focus of your whole life, you create a deep seated fear of losing it. Ironically, your neediness can often make you lose what you most want to hold on to. If you invest too much of your emotions in only one aspect of your life, such as work or relationship you can set yourself up for pain. When you experience a loss in that area you are likely to experience emptiness, loneliness & depression. I have invested so much in my friendships & creativity. They both mean so much to me & I was so frightened I had lost them. In my case my art society group of friends had become like an extended family to me & I perhaps placed too much value on those friendships. I was also able to reaffirm how valuable true friends can be.

I realised I had begun to cut myself of completely from my creative friends, as it was all too painful. The thought of people blanking me who I had once thought were my friends, even if they may only be small in number filled me with dread. Equally if friends were too compassionate towards me I feared their kindness may dissolve me into a pool of tears. I felt anxious that my vulnerability may add fuel to those who were trying to smear my reputation. The endless self analysis I had put myself through beating myself up that what had happened to cause my depression was my entire fault came to an end last Monday, in what proved to be a tumultuous week.

I visited a very good friend who runs an art gallery & tutors many of my creative friends. I made sure I went when the gallery was quiet. I had actually introduced her to our art society in the days when it was so special. She was one of the first ladies the man who has caused me such pain had fallen out with & continued to behave so cruelly too. He had actually done her a favour because she found the confidence in herself to start up a successful new venture right at the start of the current recession. We have similar values; we appreciate all our friends & treat people the way we would like to be treated ourselves, with respect & kindness.

I was quite afraid I would have a panic attack just going back to her gallery as I had been going there one evening a week for informal tuition & a chat for quite some time. Many of our Art Group also went there too, including one who was very supportive of the guy who had hurt me & had been instrumental in my distress.

We talked for ages over a nice sugary cup of tea. So many of the experiences I had been going through she had felt too. The big difference was she has none of my T baggage or health issues. She has been so supportive of me when I finally came out to the world as needing to transition. If I am honest she was everything I wished I could have been. A wonderful Mum, supremely talented with a great husband, two teenage children, a loving family. Last year she had tragically lost her beloved Mum just as her new life with the gallery was proving such a success. Her life had experienced great change too.

We talked about so many emotions something I had never ever been able to experience in my previous existence when I was perceived to be a man. It was quite beautiful & life affirming. It was simply two girl friends together, totally platonic. She succeeded in helping me break the continuous never ending loop of depressive thoughts I had been beating myself with for weeks, in a way the medical team who had come to my rescue in recent weeks, my parents & other friends who had all tried so hard to help me had been unable to solve. She gave total validation for so much of the feelings I had been through & installed renewed confidence in me, that I could find the strength in me to turn my creative life around once more.

Peaceful thoughts
Love
Debbie

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Hello Darkness my old friend issue 03: I really do have Angels for friends

After being in remission for most of the last two years my depression has come back to such a degree that it has really scared me. I am dealing with it as best I can. I had been doing so well & feel like all the self confidence & esteem I had, has been completely kicked out of me, due to recent events.

I had deleted this post twice last week. I thought my mood was improving. I did not & do not want to worry any one but I am anxious & frightened just now. Its my dear Dads 86th birthday next week & my parents are due to go on a much needed Holiday shortly after. I should be focusing on his big day. I love him so much. My counsellor has her civil partnership next week on the same day as my Dads birthday. My best friends has been very worried about me. I have had some lovely emails & texts from friends who caught this post before I took it down. Special thanks go to Karen & Al. I am struggling so much. I am trying to hold every thing back from worrying those who still care about me. I am trying so hard not to let anyone down.

The depression comes in waves. Huge sadness followed by muted anger has become replaced by the blackest of depression. So black it felt as though I was only just short of having suicidal thoughts, in fact for a brief moment they flickered through my subconscious. I could feel the darkness coming over me. It was part of me for so long but I thought I had escaped its clutches.

Rather than let things go I have been questioning everything.

The value I place on all my friendships. The importance of how much a particular group of friends I have known for the last fifteen years mean to me. Especially as those going back earlier all rejected me once I transitioned. Feelings of how relationships with friends & the divisions caused by one dominating poison apple can bring back old fears of the prejudice of having been born as I have & with a history of mental health issues. The way people find themselves taking sides believing the lies that seep out. Assuming because you have transitioned or have a mental illness that you are some kind of freak/leper or some one you can patronize. Was I actually insane had I been behaving erratically to my friends?

There is also unquestionable an element of anxious self inflicted T paranoia. Even so, it does appear all too easy for me to be smeared or for people to question what has happened. If asked & I tell the truth I fear the man who hold so much sway with our group will destroy me with his bullying/smearing as he will get angry or if I say nothing it will be assumed I did something wrong. I cannot win. It plays on all the insecurities, paranoia I had about what may happen when I found myself needing to transition.

I am fighting with all my heart but the depression is still very bad. I promise you I know I have too much to live for but this is without doubt the biggest challenge to my health that I have faced since transitioning. With my judgment blurred by black depression & medication I have to be careful to keep questioning just how low my mood is. I found this quite useful http://www.firelily.com/support/depression/depression.selfcheck.html

My health records now stained with the return of depression my chances of ever finding paid work again seem even harder. Just when I was so close my vulnerability, my disability my anxiety has caught up with me. I was feeling so good & in my anxiety to give something back to the friends I love so much it has all gone so horribly wrong. I seem unable to control my reaction to the premeditated thoughtless behavior of a person completely opposite to me in the value he places on friendship.

I am trying to keep going. My creative group of friends have become like an extended family to me. They provided me with the friendships that enabled me to finally live as I should always have been. It provided a special haven with incredible friends. I clearly place too greater emphasize on those friendships. Reality is showing me that just now. With the exception of my true friends the lack of concern, the silence is deafening, the lies have been spread, their poison so destructive. I can see through my best friend’s eyes now how it must have appeared to her when I had tried to move on, it may have appeared I was dancing with the devil. I do not use friends I value each & every one.

My best friend & her husband held my hand as I began my transition & faced my eternal fears of risking being rejected, isolated from our mutual friends. All those fears proved unfounded back then. Had that gone wrong, had friends not been so kind I would not be here now.

How cheaply that which I held so precious can appear to be tossed aside by people I trusted. How needy how naive of me. We had been for a period right up to just before I began living full time as Debbie what may be quite rare an artistic group without ego's clicks or eletism. Sadly as my life needed to change so a change in circumstance for a pivitol character in my creative group of friends caused them huge stress & bought their own issues to the surface.

Right now it feels like a very special part of my life is completely dead. A very substantial part of the foundation on which I had been able to successfully transition has subsided into oblivion & taken my creativity with it. That all feels very frightening to me. I cannot go on like this. I felt hopeless, totally lost. I have to dig deep to get myself out of this. In writing this it looks like a cry for help, I fear I may be worrying any friends who read this. I promise I could not put my parents through the agony of ending my life but I seem to be stuck in a spiraling loop of depressive thoughts.

If only the source of all my recent worries had spoken to me first I could have easily resigned without any smearing going on. I should not let this all hurt me but it does. In my case I feel extremely vulnerable & marginalised because of the cruel way this has all been handled & frustrated at my continued inability to control my reaction.

I should have walked away when he bullied my friend two years ago but I was too weak then. His friendship with me ended that day I kept him at arms length an acquaintance. I had managed to move on but not forget. As I was so upset for the hurt I had unintentionally caused my best friend last year & a number of friends had been expressing how uncomfortable they felt at being amongst friends at our annual exhibition because of his behaviour towards them I made a determined effort to support them as they have me. My words in the catalogue pinned my colours to the mast, like a red rag to a bull. I am so pleased my most valued friendship survived.

Mum was very poorly last weekend because of the worry I was causing her. I took her to see her GP on Monday morning. She was looking a lot better then & her results were fortunately good. Once my reaction to events began harming the health of my parents I knew I had to act. I drove from Mums GP directly to the hospital that had been caring for me to see the duty doctor. When the receptionist kindly asked” how did your exhibition go?” I just lost it & burst into tears. As usual the care I received was exceptional. They managed to get me an appointment with the consultant who has been looking after me. With huge despair I accepted his advice to increase my medication after so much progress. If this saved my parents worrying about me I had to do it. I knew with my fragile mood & my creativity equally fragile taking anti-depressants would kill my anxiety but also my creativity but I had no choice. Last Tuesday I managed some how to blag my way through a day volunteering at the hospital but Tuesday night I felt physically sick at the thought of going to my art group.

On the Wednesday I had another appointment at the hospital for some cognitive therapy I had recently been attending http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy/Pages/Introduction.aspx. The doctors conclusion regarding my reaction & behaviour was that I am a very compassionate person yet I was showing no compassion to myself. I would never treat a friend the way I was beating myself up for feeling so weak & vulnerable. My reaction to what had happened in context was perfectly valid but all the other issues I had loaded on top were crushing me. Most nights I had been unable to sleep properly often waking at 4 oclock crying & not getting back to sleep until 5 minutes before the alarm would go. The cumulative effect of this made my depressive episodes even worse.

Thursday I felt almost Zombie like but wanted to keep going. I managed to get into work in the afternoon & see some volunteer friends at a meeting in the evening. I did not want to let anyone down & wanted to deliver some photos for my best friend. Fortunately their kindness did not trigger off any more tears so the drugs must be working

On Friday I received the sweetest of supportive emails from one of my fellow committee members. Saturday I managed to drive to Brighton to deliver some pictures to my friend Lucy. She bought them at our recent exhibition. I should not really have driven. In my dark past I had occasionally driven with the competency of George Michael although all my medication was prescribed. I had a lovely time with a truly special friend who shows dignity & serenity way beyond my capabilities. She provided the most delicious cooked meal & excellent company. It was a shame to leave her.

Last Sunday I finally made some progress. The realisation that Mr ##it had almost certainly already planned to bin me before the exhibition crystallized. My parents made me see that. It was not my fault, my actions or anxiety. It was my reaction to an external event. If only I had not added so many inseccurities & issues on top. If only I could have let go then!

On Tuesday I managed to go to work again with only fours sleep but with my creativity blocked I could not face visiting my art group in the evening. I some how managed to keep going & by Friday my mood had lifted enough to give me hope.

My depression is thankfully easing a little but my mood is so erratic. I will get through this with the help of my parents, true friends & kind medical help.

After all the support & kindness that I have received. All the wonderful things that have happened in my new life I feel like I am letting everyone down by blogging this.

This Saturday my mood crashed again after a bad nights sleep. I managed to take my parents out to their social club this evening & hide how I was feeling from them. Alas I cracked & was really struggling on the way home. I was getting lower & lower & lower. Then a miracle happened. The phone rang. It was a true & special friend. Julia's timing was immaculate. I cried & cried. I talked & she listened & listened, bless her. I was not suicidal but I was so low until I found once more. I really do have Angels for friends!

Love
Debbie

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Let it go

When I am feeling bad & my heart is aching my emotions run & my tears flow. We all have our own problems, we all have our own thought processes. Mine are clearly emotion driven. I am too often guilty of over analysing things & just cannot let those destructive thoughts go.

I came across this track by U2 which I found very uplifting
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgBtoiNxPyE&feature=related

((((((Peaceful thoughts)))))))

Love
Debbie

Bless your hearts, thank you.

Bless your hearts, thank you for all the kind replies to my previous angst ridden post crying for help. True friends who are there for you when you most need your spirits lifting are so important in life. They can give you a hug (even a cyber hug) as you all have, hold you by the hand to guide you & simultaneously touch your heart.

This post had started in despair & ends with great joy.

"I don't cope well with bullies.
I have never been able to stand up for myself.
I have never liked confrontation.

I had to fight back a mixture of desperately sad & dysphoric tears to put on my make up to take my dear Mum to the docs yesterday for an appointment with the Asthma nurse. I came so close to letting her down.

I am scared of letting everyone down & losing everything I have achieved. There are dark periods where I feel I am spiralling downwards out of control into depression, my foots pressing hard on the break but for the moment I have lost all control. Then little chinks of light, sprinkled by the Angels I am blessed to have as my true friends appear, which I cherish.

I fought so hard to get where I was so at peace with the world. For the first time since I had to stop painting a few years ago I had really discovered my passion for creativity & now this vile man threatens to rip that most precious gift from my fragile grasp.

I am struggling today even to get out of the door for a gift for my best friends birthday. I go from grief to anger back to self loathing at how weak I am.

I am off to hospital this afternoon for some urgent cognitive therapy. It was to have been a routine appointment to help teach me coping mechanisms to ward of the tsunami of emotions that I very occasionally feel so susceptible to because of my past life experiences. In the here & now I had been doing so well, this was just to be the icing on the cake & then this evil man reminds me of just how vulnerable I still am. The bullies winning & he is already spinning his evil smoke screen of lies.

What a picture of self pity this outburst has been".

Then the gift that true friends bring, that is absolutely priceless, perhaps something invisible to the eye that only the heART can see, lifted my spirits. To look outwards again not in.

I must keep my faith & change my negative thought processes to stop feeling this way. As Nicky kindly eluded to in her comments on my last post you can experience something life affirming when body and mind are finally at peace. You gain a strength inside you from the journey you have been on, which can give you inner strength previously never dreamed of. When I think of friends who have shown great courage, kindness & tremendous spirit it is poignant to remember a dear friend who should be having a special day today.

My dear wonderful friend Julia should be about to have her surgery at Charring Cross today & my thoughts should be with her. She is an amazing woman who has been through so much & deserves to be happy. God Bless you my friend , I hope the surgery brings her everything she wishes for.

Update:-

This post ends with the great news my friend Julia successfully had her surgery this afternoon & came back to the ward around 4.30.

Much love
Debbie

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Saying Good by to a world you thought you lived in

"Saying Good by to a world you thought you lived in"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As61-cmK4OI

The words from a song by MIKA which are a sound track to my life just now. The bitter bitter man from the soundtrack the bully who in any other world could be so easily defeated is awakening my demons. I'm really struggling to smile like I mean it just now after such a lovely period.

I have been devoting my time helping at our annual wildlife art exhibition once again. Life had been a glorious blur of enjoyable experiences, watching friends grow to discover & fulfil their many talents.

I managed to encourage my best friend find the confidence to be among her many friends in spite of the presence of a bully from our past. Her dear husband was also finally able see what we had allways known. He discovered the belief in his beautiful artistic photography.

To see seeds of creativity blossom such as the young girl who attended our show with her parents who was kindly given the opportunity to practice on the very expensive work in progress by a very gifted best selling artists was one of many highlights. An artist friend who had been a member for 5 years who finally found the confidence in her abilities to display her work for the first time & sell it.

To see my Dear Friend Lucy revisit us after attending one of her first visits to the big wide world only last year was a joy. She is such a sweetie & her confidence has grown so much in such a short time.

To meet another kindred spirit who had been struggling to paint who courageously shared something quite remarkable & humbling with me.

It’s nice just to be able to have your work enjoyed by others & displayed for many visitors to see. In my case having been too ill to connect with my creativity not that long ago the simple process of creating a painting at all had been a simple pleasure. This year I finally got back to where I wanted to be with my painting. Although I only had time to produce two new ones they both sold & an older reworked painting seemed to receive the odd kind comment. There were unfortunately a number of very talented artists who had either recently received awards & or sold out regularly previously for no discernible reason other than the lack of the right visitor coming through the door. failed to sell any. The empathy & understanding from like minded creative friends is of great comfort but it still hurts as we invest so much emotion if a paintings to work well & not having a red dot, not selling, does not necessarily make yourpainting a bad one.

I wished I could have found the courage to invite my best male friend who I still miss dearly who sadly having pledged his support once I transitioned found things too complicated. I had to respect his wishes & finally say good by to him. I miss his smile, his sense of humour, just spending time with him. It seems really difficult for mates to suddenly become male friend & boy friend. The whole dating game seems a scary complicated place with the unwanted baggage I have to take with me. To live in stealth is not an option for me & if it were it would still seem like living a lie anxiously fearing discovery, a relationship built on trust with honesty seems a goal to dream for one day, who knows.

I had a lovely two weeks or so pushing my boundaries enjoying life socialising & working so hard giving my time freely in support of our friends, when bang a red dot appeared on my back & the bully who had been biding his time shot with deadly accuracy. I have been told I am no longer to part of the team who work so tirelessly to put the event on, the reasons a smoke screen using my history as an easy excuse. In an instant something I had always cheerished was gone. I am stronger now but my confidence is once more so fragile.

I have to finally say good by to the creative world I once found sanctuary in, as the bully has found yet another female to victimise. For those of you who have been reading my blog you know who this bullying pivitol character is. My best friends really angry & upset that he has done this again to one of us. I do not want to play the part of a victim any more but its hard to hold on to my shattered confidence & change my behaviour. There are far worse things & more important things in life than this so I at least still have my perspective.

Please send me a hug, paint me a blue sky as I grieve for a special place that was once a haven in which I could safely enjoy transitioning. Its time to finally move on. I have come too far now to let this person beat me. I feel weak heart broken & vulnerable to panic attacks again but I do not want to let anyone down. I need to reach inside & find ways of coping with all these emotions as my Technicolor life fades once more to grey.

God Bless
Love
Debbie

Monday, 9 August 2010

The Candyfloss Girl

One of my dear friends Nicky “The Candyfloss Girl” is someone I will never ever forget. This post is dedicated to her as is the painting, which is of a young cheetah cub elegantly making her way along the savanna bathed in the evening sun.

Nicky always strives to be the best person for everyone, to keep everyone happy. When I first contacted her in 2007 she needed to be in many many places at once. I suspect that still remains the case in her busy life today. Something so many of us can probably relate to.

There is a wonderful benefit to be had from blogging, far more than I appreciated. I selfishly find it sad when friends move on & no longer share this blogy kingdom of cyber space, but there probably comes a time for all of us to move on one day.

Nicky has a heart of gold, totally honest. A warm spirited, sensitive, compassionate, creative woman whose “Love will find a way” to the happiness she deserves.

Her empathy & kindness were a shining light in the darkness during a very difficult time in both our lives. She encouraged me to look forward & not back, a habit I still find myself guilty of slipping in to sometimes. I have yet to discover "the Secret"! For her a new day in her new life has dawned & the sun has set on her blogging days. She is now able to make her way into the big wide world. You might just be able to follow her path by the crumbs from her cake; with a TARDIS for a tummy, she has the most amazingly trim figure, a beautiful person both inside & out!

Recently I had a land mark birthday. About the same time I was contacted by the lovely Calie http://calietg.blogspot.com/& asked if I would consider writing a post for T central http://t-central.blogspot.com/. A place originally created by another inspirational friend Lori D. When I am able to fully connect with my creativity I find it much easier to express myself through painting than the written word. Lori much like Nicky & Jo seem to have a gift to express themselves so ellequently in what ever creative medium they chose. In order to write the post http://t-central.blogspot.com/2010/08/transition-thoughts-reflections-guest_07.html I found myself reflecting on my experiences. An exert from the post on T central is below. Its relevant here as testimony to how valuable friends like Nicky are.

“When I was finally allowed to seek care from a gender specialist Dr Curtis http://www.transhealth.co.uk/in London, in 2006, I discovered the answer to my eternal dilemma of “why or how do some people find themselves needing to transition”.

I broke down in tears during the appointment. At this point he explained he had come across a small number of transsexual patients who perhaps with low self esteem, had chosen to sacrifice their lives for their loved ones. He also suggested it may help for me to find like minded friends who may be experiencing similar challenges in their lives. How prophetic his words were.

These wise words initially broke me. When I got home that night for the first time in my life I found myself coldly & calmly planning my own suicide. For those in the UK with such things on there mind we have the Samaritans http://www.samaritans.org/?gclid=CNWysqW3rKMCFQY9lAodEEWS6Q Thankfully I was not alone that night. I really did have Angels for friends. Life is so precious. His advice about finding friends who understood what it was like to experience GD was to transform my life. The empathy & kindness of those new friends I made at this traumatic stage in my life is something I will never ever forget.

I joined a support group called UK Angels http://www.angelsforum.co.uk/phpforum/index.php?sid=62e83a31f131cf342140b76699baf554 & was blessed to find some wonderful supportive friends. I was so fortunate to join such a haven at this particular time. Gradually I began taking little steps forward. Facing those fears I had & growing with each challenge faced. Critically they were undertaken at a pace that was right for me & my loved ones. It was time for my life to blossom. I began pushing my boundaries more & more. I had always known of my condition but I was unsure if I could actually live the life I so longed for.

Inspired by kind hearted friends from all over the world, I was able to discover I had a spirit inside me I never dreamed possible.

We can be thousands of miles apart. Yet so close. We are all unique but perhaps share that time where we feel so isolated & alone, our wings caked in the oil that is our GD. Yet we have sisters, some so close in the same town or far away in another country, whose empathy helps us survive, to find the path that is right for us. We share the same tears. The love of those kindred spirits; keep us going, & will always share a place in our hearts.

There came a point in time when I finally felt ready to transition that for me really did feel like a leap of faith. Did my bell go off; did my own realization of mortality push me into being a late onset transitioner? I am not sure I will ever know.

One thing I do know is that my life was made all the richer for being blessed with a friend like dear Nicky "The Candyfloss Girl".

Debbie x

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Brilliant Girl (s)!

I would like to dedicate this painting & post to my dear friend Jo & all the other brilliant friends out there whose inspiration & kindness has helped me so much. I feel so privileged to know you as friends.

The painting is of a snow leopard cub called Binu. In the wild they are critically endangered due to human activities. Against all the odds a few thousand of these very elusive felines are hanging on, often in the most extreme of habitats.

My ability to paint is very much dependent on my well being & perhaps even reflects my soul. I love to paint. For a few years as my emotions became blurred & laden with storm clouds, I really struggled to reconnect with my creativity. I finally got it back last year only to lose it once more after the heartbreak caused when a cherished friendship hit the rocks. My brushes lay dormant once more but now we are firmly reacquainted. Thankfully that cherished friendship is now back on track & my mind more at peace, to enable me to paint again, with a passion, from my heART!

Trying to get back to the workplace, so I can be able to pay my way in life again, has exposed my vulnerability to anxiety & stress but also taught me a lot about myself. At first I wobbled & felt like panicking when confronted by a very stressful working environment but I managed to work through it. I am not giving in to my old fears no matter how long it takes. May be I am perhaps stronger than I thought. I have so much to be grateful for. Trying to do the right thing for everyone, taking into account all our needs, hopes & dreams, seems at times akin to a plate spinner, juggling plates at a circus! Our love will find a way.

Letting go of my past, without denying it, never mind having the choice, all seem to add baggage to the journey. In times of stress I often draw strength thinking of how you, my friends, have coped in such adversity. When the emotional bombs have finally stopped, there still seem to be after shocks to deal with.

The inspiration you have all given me will never be forgotten. It has been so heart warming to have shared part of your lives. Your spirits shine so bright, where ever your path takes you.

I have been incredibly busy trying to rebuild my life. Caring for my parents, increasing my work experience & painting furiously for our annual art exhibition. Time just seems to be racing by & it has felt increasingly difficult to keep up with friends as much as I would like, especially those here, which makes me sad. I even missed the opportunity to wish dear Jo a belated happy birthday. So much seems to be going on in everyone’s lives. Some very special friends have moved on. Saying Good by to a world you thought you lived in, can bring on so many emotions both happy & sad.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

Dear Jo
Good luck & best wishes with your new home & new job but most importantly of all with those loved ones you cherish so dearly, your brilliant girls.

God Bless you Brilliant Friends!
Love
Debbie

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Halcyon moments

We seem to have have shared a few halcyon moments recently. Halcyon is described variously as A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was supposed to have had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice. Calm and peaceful; tranquil. Prosperous; golden.

Dad & I finally managed to catch a glimpse of an elusive kingfisher while out recently walking our doggy along the river. We are so lucky to still be able to share such moments.

Of late my Dad has been struggling his knees have been playing up but worst of all he has been going deaf & had started to become very withdrawn. He had given up wearing his hearing aid & could no longer hear family conversations as well as the early morning bird song. I wished there was something I could do to lift his spirits.

I decided to take him back to the hospital where he had previously visited the audiologists department & been very upset with the lack of care he had received. Unfortunately they had only just moved to a new department & the place had been chaotic. This time they were great & could not be more helpful. A new hypoallergenic hearing aid should be arriving any day soon. He was so happy when he left.

As we walked back to the car arm in arm he felt so relaxed & at ease. I felt quite emotional as I became aware we were actually walking right by the department of Psychiatry I had first visited back in 1992 regarding my gender issues. I had a tear in my eye as I told him “I never dared dream when I had gone there; that some18 years later, we would be walking together as Father & daughter”. My beloved Dad replied “Debbie my dear, way back then I never even knew I had a daughter!” He is a Dad in a million, my hero & means the world to me. My thoughts go out to those who have lost their beloved Dads as the poignant time of Fathers day takes place this coming Sunday in the UK.

A few days later I received the shock news I had been given an award for my volunteer work with the National Health Service at a civic ceremony. I have only been volunteering for 18 months. The volunteer scheme has had such a positive impact on my life.

In my darkest times when I realised I needed to make major changes to my life that my loved ones so apposed I doubted I would ever make them feel proud of me again. We had been through so much together. This award was for us & it meant so much to have them accompany me to the ceremony. I still suffer from anxiety & the butterflies were in full flight come the morning of the awards. We got there, my Dads knees held out, I beat my nerves & Mum put up with us both!

There were some extraordinary volunteers present who were all great assets to the city for their various charities. Many of them had given their time freely for many years to help others, often mentoring those with similar conditions or circumstances to their own. I felt so humble to be there. It was very moving to hear their individual stories. My challenge was to overcome my anxiety & shyness, my underlying story rightly remained private between myself & my parents & of no consequence during my time working as a volunteer. The awards were presented by the newly appointed Mayor. I had been so nervous about meeting her yet I need not have worried she was quite nervous too but kindly made me feel at ease as the speaker read out my award. My Mum & Dad looked on from the audience. I so wanted them to share the moment with me. It was a joy to see their faces when they got to meet her afterwards.

It was a very friendly occasion & Mum & Dad thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour of the mayors parlor & offices. I smiled at what seemed the rather austere masculine appearance of the mayors very formal parlor which contrasted with the decor of the gentler more feminine office which had been decorated to the taste of the new mayor s. During the Second world war the German bombers had used the guildhall & its tower as a guide. It was a landmark they tried to avoid bombing. My parents got to see the area where a stray incendiary bomb had hit the building during the war, which bought back memories of the poor children killed in an air raid near by who had hidden in the basement of an adjoining art gallery. My parents were blessed to survive the war & been through so much together. Having to cope with an unexpected daughter like me was in the grand scheme of things quite a modest challenge in hindsight. We are a very private ordinary little family & this occasion was not something we had ever expected to attend. There are far more deserving hero’s & heroines, inspirational people who rightly received awards. Brave courageous people make a choice, we did not chose the path we as a family had to take but this was a truly Golden day, A halcyon Day we never dreamed could ever happen.

Wishing you calm and tranquil; prosperous golden days & peaceful lives
Happy Fathers day this weekend
Love
Debbie

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Mayonnaise Jar

I have had some lovely experiences with kind friends recently. As the pace of life can some times become rather hectic its all too easy to lose touch with what really matters in your life. Good friends can reach out & hold you in your of need, be there for you, share successes & failures.

Having just received an unexpected phone call from my friend Julia which brightened my day, I received a rather sweet email from another friend called Anne. It contained the following story:-

"When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,
When 24 Hours in a day is not enough,
Remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class
And had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,
He picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students, if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured
them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open Areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively
filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided,
'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things - family,
children, health, Friends, and Favorite passions –
Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, Your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else -- The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' He continued,
'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for the things that are important to you.

So...

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Play With your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

'Take care of the golf balls first --
The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.
'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'"

Update:-
No sooner had I posted this story & another dear friend Nicky called.

If there is a friend you have not called for a while just taking the trouble to make a quick call can make such a difference.

These two special friends certainly lifted my spirits today. You have all touched my heart, bless you.

May life be kind to you.
Love
Debbie

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Six month Anniversary



It is just over six months since I had my surgery. Time seemed initially slow filled with recuperation & endless medical procedures, then it raced on by as I wanted to make up for lost time. It has been quite a challenging time in many ways. Life never goes as planned. It has occasionally been a little chaotic & at one point recently I seemed to lose my way a little but I have no regrets & so much to look forward to.

When I sat on the bench in the evening Sun dreaming of my future, nothing could have prepared me for how it felt in the hours & days preceding my surgery last November. I will never ever forget how lucky I was to have my surgery via the NHS at a place of my choice & have an outcome I am very happy with. One month after surgery I was able to trudge through the snow getting modest amounts of shopping in & taking our doggy for his walks.

Physically it has been quite demanding but I feel I have been very fortunate. I seemed to get all the slightly scary stuff out of the way in the hospital & could not have wished for better care. In honest truth from the first day I came home, so kindly delivered to my door by my kind friend Lucy, fatigue and thankfully not too much pain, continues to be one of the biggest challenges. That & the hormonal changes. A kind of second puberty at a million miles an hour which randomly slows & then takes off seemingly with on a mind of its own. At first post op there seemed to be an emergency back up mode which sent what remained of my testosterone producing organs crazy. Facial hair texture seemed briefly much coarser. Thank goodness that phase seemed to subside after a month. Being off hormone therapy for six weeks before my surgery sent me even more batty than usual. It may have been imaginary but felt real.

Joy of joys other positive physical changes started gathering pace after a couple of months. May be also due to a little inactivity but I began to put on weight for the first time in four or five years. Stress had caused me to be too skinny. Not a good way to diet. I have put on nearly a whole stone in weight. Thankfully most of it seems to have gone on, in all the right places. The biggest surprise was that the hair on my head appears to be a thicker texture & may even have started regrowing in follicles that had been dormant but not completely dead.

Emotionally; at first the peace & tranquillity was unbelievable. It still is now. It’s not been the crazy, loud manic times since, when I tried to push myself too hard too soon but the quiet times of reflection I am so grateful for. To realise that nagging dysphoric condition which had once engulfed my every thought was now largely silent but for the occasional whisper, has been the most wonderful experience. The surgery was never going to be a magic cure all but my life is so different & largely so much more positive now. I still have the challenge of my anxiety to conquer but my depression is thankfully much more an infrequent unwanted visitor. Worries & insecurities still remain but they are I can only guess quite common place for every one.

I do wonder if I will ever find a life partner. That was not my reason for surgery at all. I have been adjusting to the awakening of feelings I had suppressed since the confused pain of my teenage years of long ago. Can a woman with my past still be friends with a man who was once a "mate"? I think I will save that for another post.

Saying Good by to the life I thought I used to live has its euphoric happy times but also some heartbreaking losses of a few very dear friends. Thankfully one very very special friend is very much back in my life again.

A good friend is better than any pills. You certainly find out who your friends are on this journey. Saying Good by to the world I existed in when I was perceived a man & lived a lie has been easy. Saying good by to some of the worlds I lived in very hard. Sometimes it’s been hard to shake off the past & move on or indeed be allowed to move on.

I still have my demons, I may occasionally have sleepless nights where my brain goes into overdrive but the inner peace of finally being comfortable with my skin & having the continued love & the support of my family & friends has been both life affirming & humbling. “The greatest events aren't the loudest, but the most quiet hours” has a much greater meaning to me now.

Peaceful thoughts
Love
Debbie







Wednesday, 5 May 2010

First time voting, the return of the Iron Lady?

In a sense I feel I have a rather unique opportunity to be a first time voter, twice, in one life time.

In a previous life when I had the chance to vote in a general election for the first time, I hid a terrible secret, which I am ashamed of, to this day. In 1979 I voted “The Iron lady” Mrs Thatcher into power.

I was a very confused troubled soul back then. We had a woman prime minister who was strong minded, some would say very intelligent, some would say she had quite masculine trates. Admirable qualities? She certainly knew her own mind, unlike me. Mrs "T" love her or loathe her proved to be very strong willed, a heartless ruthless leader who by her own actions sadly proved she had no sense of community & no compassion in her body. In those days I did not know who I was or what I was, never mind who to vote for.

Way back then I knew in my heart I had to vote for changes to my life, to have a chance of a better future. Do I wish I had made those changes sooner, do I have any regrets? It is so much easier to be wise after the event.

Skip forward in time. Here I am reborn, feeling like a first time voter all over again. It is my first chance to vote in a general election using my rightful name.

Perhaps I am now more of an iron lady myself after taking my Holland & Barratt liquid iron supplement to boost my energy levels. OMG no I’m turning into………. My Dad now goes out wearing some of the strange clothes, that once hung in my wardrobes! How times have changed.

To have the chance to vote in a democratic society is such a privilege, something we possibly take too much for granted. I can equally appreciate young voters being disillusioned & not bothering to vote at all, but then perhaps if you don’t vote you have no right to moan, something we could win gold medals at in this country.

I have had endless election junk mail through my letter box. Joy of joy’s I had one from our local Tory counsellor asking for my vote addressed to Mr D. …………Charming, so caring & thoughtful, he certainly wins my vote as the number one local erection candidate!

Who should I vote for?
I for some reason like the principal of "Change that works for you!"

Unfortunately our elections now seem to be more about personality than policies. Sadly we do not have a charasmatic leader like Obama to vote for. If only our politicians could all work together regardles of party for a common good for the country, instead of appearing to work purely for their own personal gains.If we end up with a hung parliament & they refuse to work together for the good of the country it could be good fun voting x factor style to decide which politician gets hung first!

If you mix red & yellow you could end up getting brown & stuck with mud!

We could have the dreaded sequel to the iron lady, the iron man who is actually a "T" person at heart.

When David Cameron looks into a mirror does he see his true self, can we be sure a vote for him is not actually a vote for the return of the politics of the Iron Lady?

No one should tell you who to vote for. All of this is written in fun but there is a very serious side to this years general election. I just hope none of us have the same regrets about the political party you vote for as I had after my first, first time as a voter & we truly have a future fit for all!

Happy voting!
Debbie x

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Job Applications Disclosure Dilemmas including Security, CRB, GRC requirements

Recently I have experienced the dilemma of deciding how much you need to disclose about your past. There is always a risk of your past catching up with you. Socially the challenges of that emotional minefield are becoming much more apparent.

My journey has been a long one for my family & I. My path back to the workplace equally so, but a new day is dawning. It contimues to be a time of great change.

For now this post just explores my humble experience with regard to attempting to get back to the workplace & job applications, Criminal Record Bureau CRB checks & Gender Recognition Certificates. How should I deal with my T history? In my case I also have the dilemma of how much I have to disclose regarding my mental health issues.

Voluntary work does not normally require you to disclose your health issues. If you are offered employment CRB checks may be involved & more personal information requested. As with legally changing your name you can ask for the company’s assistance in making the relevant changes to your records & that it would be appreciated if they can preserve full confidentiality. There is a small team at the CRB office who are dedicated to those who are transgendered, who are very helpful and give very good advice. Further details are available on http://www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk/resource_library/crb_news/crb_news_nov_09.aspx

With the guidance of my counselor & an employment facilitator when I first started applying for voluntary work we prepared a disclosure letter which explained briefly about my reasons for applying, my previous work history, reason for leaving & relevant confidential medical history. Briefly this explained I had suffered work related stress due to victimization which caused depression & anxiety. During the recovery of which I found I needed to transition. This was fine in my earlier stages of recovering my health but not for the harsh reality of seeking paid employment in the job market during a world wide recession.

When applying for paid positions I have decided I will never mention my trans history in my CV or any application at all. If I am ever lucky enough to get to interview I would not bring the subject up. If I were fortunate enough to be successful & offered a position, I would prefer not to mention it. I think it could be illegal for them to ask me out right during an interview. My appearance mannerisms & voice are unlikely to offer me the opportunity of stealth. After a period of time & if I felt circumstances were appropriate, I may or may not chose to disclose. It should be no ones business but my own but life is not always going to be that simple.

This year I have been given an honorary contract by the hospital I attend to do my voluntary work, so that I can have the legal rights of a paid employee This enables me to undertake many more duties/responsibilities to help the staff I work with, than I could previously as a volunteer. It’s a win, win situation, as I also gain valuable extra work experience. I had to go through a new CRB check having been previously CRB approved as a volunteer a year ago.

For security reasons I was asked to produce my birth certificate. This caught me slightly unawares. Apparently employers are obliged to see proof of legal residency in the UK, for all new employees. This takes the form of a valid passport, a birth certificate or a letter from the Home Office. I do not have a passport or a letter from the home office & do not want to have to go through outing myself in writing if I am ever lucky enough to be offered a new job. This may happen for any new employment. So it would appear unless you have a Gender Recognition Certificate which should enable you to obtain a new birth certificate, regardless of your ability to pass (I hate that term & all the labels flame wars) you may not have the option of stealth.

As a result I had to be open with the HR department who were fine in this case. They took a copy of my old birth certificate & sealed it in an envelope marked confidential & retained it in my file until such time as I could produce my new birth certificate. For this I would need to apply for a gender recognition certificate. http://www.grp.gov.uk/formsguidance.htm I intend adding another post about my experiences with applying for a GRC.If you have recently transitioned, living full time in role & legally changed your name, it is a good idea to keep hold of some of your utility bills from the earliest possible time of living in your new gender role to provide evidence should you require a GRC.

Job application forms I have come across recently have asked for any periods of sickness during previous employment to be disclosed & any relevant medical conditions, reasons why including mental health, which in my case applied to, anxiety & previous depressive episodes. The reality of the stigma perceived or otherwise towards people like me who have had mental health issues adds to the challenge of finding employment. There is an excellent campaign running presently “Time to Change” http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/which aims to end the stigma & discrimination, which still have a huge impact on the lives of people with mental health problems, even though one in four of us will experience a problem at some time in our lives. Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end that discrimination.

Gaps in employment history have to be explained. How best do I explain my five year gap in paid employment? Been clothes shopping for five years, run out of money, just won't do!

The truth is I needed that time for my family & I to be ready for the transition, to give it the best chance of succeding. Then I had to go through the medical, physical & mental changes I needed to make to my life. There is now a period of adjusting to those changes which is both exciting & emotional. The pace at which this all happened remains critical to our well being.

My official version for my employment “gap” may go along the lines of “I took time off to care for my elderly parents who I am devoted to, while exploring/developing a new career as a wildlife artists” which is true, if a little economical with the truth.

Initially I did not appreciate I had transferable skills from my previous specialized career. With my new self image & improved self esteem I now realise I have a much better outlook on life. I know I need to concentrate on the positive aspects of my life experiences & what I can do, the life & work skills I can offer a potential employer.

For now I have to be realistic about how ambitious I set my short term employment goals. The only head hunters coming for me , have white coats! Without your health you have nothing. Having taken things a little easier recently I feel ready to face the challenges ahead. To be well enough to pay my way in life again & support my family.

Thanks you so much for your kindness & inspiration. You do make a difference. I think of the friends I have found here a lot although I find myself having less & less time to blog.

I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend, in spite of the UK weather!
May there be sunshine in your hearts & life be kind to you
Peace & love
Debbie

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Reflections on a slight dip, to my journey.

We patiently watched this Giraffe approach a waterhole in Savute Botswana. in the baking heat of the mid afternoon sun.

She took a very long time to get where she needed to be. Waiting her turn in the pecking order of wildlife that sought the use of this life saving oasis, only too aware of her vulnerability and her surroundings. Her life depended on this. She knew she needed to make that journey.

She could not risk bending down too long & having spent what seemed like a lifetime getting there she vanished, blending perfectly into her natural habitat. With experience she could feel more at ease but perhaps never allow her guard to come down completely.

I appreciate how boring all the medical stuff can get but I thought it was worth mentioning this as a cautionary tale for anyone who has major surgery that during your recovery you need to be careful not to over do things & be kind to yourself.

I recently made the mistake of bending over too long to attend to our corgi who had got rather messy after a walk. I should have been much more cautious. The following day I had to stay in bed resting. My new body still takes a bit of getting used to!

Fatigue continues to be a challenge to my full recovery. Being so much happier in my skin has been a great lift to my spirits, and I felt the only way to improve my stamina was to push my self on. Life has been a bit frustrating recently as I approach 6 months post op.

My diet had been effected by the iron tablets I had been prescribed to help with my mild anemia problems and boost my flagging energy levels. My tummy was in knots as I lay in bed that weekend. Probably eating too many Easter eggs that week had added self inflicted problems. Everything ceased up. I had unknowingly neglected to drink properly where I had been rushing around too much which dehydrated me and left me severely constipated. I was really frightened I might have damaged my surgery and perhaps have prolapsed. We were all worried I was going to end up in hospital. Why do these health crisis, always seem to happen at a weekend?

Fortunately a combination of “Senokot” tablets and the ongoing saturation coverage of the election with the nightmare possibility of the illegitimate son of “the Iron Lady” returning “the nasty party” to power did the trick!

I decided to stop taking the iron tablets & stop feeling sorry for myself. I always like to help if I can & find it hard to say “no” to anyone. It can get me into trouble sometimes. Too often I bend too easily as well as too long.

I foolishly kept pushing myself until the wheels finally came off last Thursday. As my energy levels slumped, my anxiety levels went off the scale. I crazily sat in our car determined to keep my volunteer duty appointment at the hospital that afternoon & I was shaking all over. Mum rushed over & stopped me from driving.

At the emergency appointment with my Gp he confirmed what my body had been trying to tell me. He has been so kind & helpful towards me, throughout my journey to better health & a new life. He did lots of thorough tests. Thankfully no permanent damage appears to have been done. He arranged for more blood tests to see if there is anything unusual that is causing the fatigue to go on but reassured me the chances are its just my body adjusting to all the changes.


I learned my lesson & have had to take things a bit easier. I'm much improved now & managed to do a day at work yesterday. I still have a lot on my tiny mind & find it hard to focus on my creativity as much as I would like.

Life is still good, I hope it is for you.

Be kind to yourselves.
Love
Debbie

Monday, 19 April 2010

Oh Deer!

Perhaps I have been overdoing things a bit as all of a sudden it all seemed to catch up with me. How many times must a doctor hear that?

As another landmark birthday approaches this year I am of an age where I am too old to die young and hopefully still too young to be considered an old dear, but.....

I did my best with the NHS Admin Computer course but it was not enough. The course was so intensive. By mid morning I had fallen behind. By mid afternoon I was the only one left out of six and as the tutor explained when she asked me to stop, just one of the ten percent who do not finish the course in one session. I completed five out of seven sections and got everything I did right but it felt like I failed. I was dreading failing but consoled myself that I had never seen or used the two different software programmes before & at least I had not panicked or got flustered. I am not going to give up. Sometimes things feel pointless. May be that path is not for me. Its only a failure if I give up and stop trying.

Afterwards I discontentedly went to see the volunteer co-ordinator to explain how I had got on. She told me not to worry and that the admin team I had been working with would need to be able to give me time to watch them using the live system for booking appointments and tracking information. They were all overworked and understaffed, the news of probable NHS job cuts appeared in the local paper that week, so moral was not good. I wanted to help them and not be a hindrance and also gain valuable work experience in the process but I could understandably not be allowed access to the system until I passed the course and they were all so busy.

I felt rather guilty but decided to indulge in some retail therapy and bought the new top I had promised myself just to cheer myself up. It had been the longest day I had been at work for many years and I was exhausted when I finally got home and became overtired struggling to sleep that night as my mind refused to switch off.
.
I really wanted to improve my chances of finding work so this setback together with more bad news from another company that I had hoped one day might provide me with an opportunity for employment left me temporarily feeling low.

I have financially never been poorer but I was reminded how rich my life is now by the simple pleasures in life I am now able to appreciate. While out walking along the river with my beloved Dad and our doggy in the early morning Sun we were blessed with the sight of a deer on the opposite bank of the river. At first only its white bottom gave its appearance away. I fortunately had my camera with me and managed a picture before it melted away back into the undergrowth. A crowd of our friends gathered to watch and as two gentleman walked by they remarked jovially "look at that Dear photographing a Deer, you don’t get to see that very often!”
As I was make up free, resplendent in my rather unglamorous dog walking gear, skinny jeggings and an old top, in the company of my dear Dad, who had once vowed never to walk with Debbie, with our friends who we had once thought may shun us, my gender not an issue, accepted and perceived the gender I have always been in my heart, this was another life affirming priceless experience.

I have been rushed off my feet recently as I have tried to push myself harder and had some health problems as a consequence but when I returned to the admin team last week they were so kind. Most of them had not passed the course in one session first time and even the supervisor had found the system difficult to learn, as well as some young students. They were all so lovely to me. They took me under their wing and made me feel like part of their team, one of the girls, closer perhaps to being an old dear, more than ever!

May life be kind to you.
Love
Debbie