Monday, 15 February 2010

Standing on the edge of something new

With all I have been through in my life, as crazy as it sounds I do not like change. I took this blurry photo after a sleepless night with blurry eyes, as the sun began to rise as I lay in my hospital bed, too afraid to move very far in case I started to bleed again, after my GRS in November last year. Three months later I am ready to open my wings and begin to experience my new life.

I am still very happy and have no regrets. I continue to have my challenges, my personal demons.

One of my major Goals for this year is to try to return to paid employment. After having to give up my career due to ill health caused by gender dysphoria, work related stress and a degree of victimisation, some five years ago, I need to keep my faith and try not to panic. Trying to find any kind of paid employment during a world wide recession while dealing with the separation anxiety my family and I feel having such a loving close relationship is proving quite daunting.

I burst into tears today at a meeting with a kind gentleman who has been advising me how best to achieve this. They were actually tears of joy. I have come a very long way and my life has changed so much for the better now but none the less I find taking the next steps in my new life a real dilemma. I need to push my boundaries, keep moving forward. I also have to be careful to judge the pace of my recovery, the movement I need to maintain and not to do too much too soon or set myself up to fail.

Recently I was very moved by the wise words of a very kind lady called Tess on the Angels support forum. A forum for transgendered people which used to be such a haven, a forum from which i have made some very special friends. She kindly reached out to support a sister and replied to a person who was struggling to face the next big challenge in her life. Her wise poigniant words are below.

The words of an Angel.

"Sometimes when we stand on the edge of something new, even of something we have planned and wished and hoped for for years, the immensity of the step before us is paralysing.

Whatever it is we are leaving behind it is familiar. It may have been warm and comfortable, but wrong; it may have been an awful place that we have been desperate to leave. Whichever it is it is what we have known and its boundaries, its dangers and its comforts are well-known. However horrible it is we are safe there, we have routines and we are habituated to it.

Standing on the edge of the new life, with our wings spread is the worst moment of all. Below us is the unknown and we will be stepping away from everything that was once reliable. Here, at this moment, we can step back. We can say “No.” After all we have survived here for so long. Curling back onto a ball will make the fear go away and the familiar come back.

But what if this chance only ever comes once? All that time spent dreaming, planning and preparing, all the effort we have put into getting to this point that was about what might be; the things that we want. These plans have been built with hope, with love and with excitement. If we don’t take that chance, seize this opportunity there is no reason why we cannot plan it all again. We will always have that plan, we can enact it anytime. But deep inside we know that the chance has gone, that it will never happen now. So when we dream and plan even prepare we are no longer building with hope, we are building with regret. And nothing good has ever been built with regret. "

May your week be kind to you.
Peace and love

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A return to Eden?

Time seems to have flown by. I am now three months post op and looking forward to the future. For so long I dwelled on my past, existing in stasis, never believing some one so lacking in confidence and self esteem as me would one day get as far as being able to finally live my dreams.

My 12 weeks post op appointment in Brighton last month proved to be a very emotional thought provoking experience.

GRS was important and right for me but not the holly grail, part of a new beginning, a very necessary procedure to correct a birth defect not an end.

The journey we may take to get there is a precarious one especially with our clarity of thought to see the right path to take clouded by stress, dysphoria and the resulting ill health that can bring. What we need to do, the changes we feel we need to make to our lives and their effect on our relationships with our loved ones, our families, friends and colleagues, our careers, our ability to make a living and support our families often bring so much heartache. Sometimes not getting what we wish for can be a blessing as so much of the consequences of what we feel we need to do once done can never ever go back to the way they once were. Unfortunately for many this is not a choice or a lifestyle, equally some cannot make the changes they need to. No ones path is right or wrong, bigger or better. We are people not labels! I felt the pace of my transition took for ever but changes only really happened successfully when I was ready and from my humble experience you know when you get to this point. I found others stories inspirational and once you begin to make little changes you can get swept along by the successes of others. May be too quickly and perhaps the author of those successes chooses not to tell you the bad bits. Its not a race and ideally it has to be what is right for you.

Our aspirations for any surgical procedures we undertake require a lot of soul searching and very careful research. The convalescence period can take quite a while before you begin to feel anything like how you used to and can give you plenty, perhaps too much time to reflect on all you have gained and all you have lost along the way.

Just as I struggled with my creativity regarding my painting I have found myself blocked from blogging lately. Partly due to devoting my time to caring for my parents, building my new life, lack of access to a computer but also lacking confidence in what I should or should not write. I feel very conscious of how lucky I am and how fortunate I have been in so many ways. I always try to write from the heart and be truthful. I have lived in the shadow of depression for so long I now feel more able to look on the positive side. Does that make my view too sugar coated? I still get anxious feel frightened and aware of my history for depression but I no longer want those feelings to control and define me as well as bore friends rigid.

The reality of life’s challenges occasionally continue to drag me back into the darkness but my life is unquestionably infinitely better than it would have been had I not accepted the changes I felt I needed to make. GRS was never going to be a miracle cure for all my insecurities and anxiety issues. In truth it has not entirely removed all symptoms of my gender dysphoria. As my energy levels improved and circumstances allow I have found myself finally able to live my life relatively dysphoria free but there remains a baggage we seem forced to still carry which society and our own perhaps excessive self analysis never let us forget.

With some friends who may read this blog facing difficult times regarding loved ones or approaching or experiencing surgery I have found it really difficult to share my experiences in case they prejudice their expectations, upset them by increasing their fears or by glossing over the bad experiences not forewarning them of what could lay ahead. We all have such different complex lives, different emotions and needs as well as pain levels etc I really value the friendships I have made here with you.

How different our experiences can be with one surgeon and the same medical team using the same hospital was bought home to me by the patients in the waiting room to see Mr Thomas the surgeon, clinic. For me the outcome of the surgery remains a life affirming experience. There has been a lot of fatigue, a few hormonal mood swings and physical uncomfortableness. Perhaps a little more pain than I have chosen to disclose here but for me a process that was no where near as daunting or painful as I expected and trust me I am a coward when it comes to pain. The saying “no sense no feeling” springs to mind! A consequence of any surgery may be that you do not recover all feeling. I still have numbness in a small part of my lower lip from my facial feminisation surgery in Jan 2008 which is now unlikely ever to return and other aspects were not perfect but my expectations of how the surgery may help me were realistic and achieved. The surgeon Dr van der Dussen had a very poor canvas on which to work, the wrong shape and texture! Could he have done more or a better job? Do I wish he had been able to do more? Yes but perhaps more out of vanity and how much I could afford than dysphoria. I am still happy with the results. Regarding my recent GRS lets just say I have been very fortunate not to experience very much pain but there is also so far absolutely no feeling in certain personal aspects of the surgery I do not wish to disclose here. I am still very very happy with my surgery and the care I have received. I was reassuringly told they have more problems with complicated hernias than they do with GRS but if you are one of the unlucky ones its of little comfort.

The Nuffield Hospital Brighton feels like "a smile factory" to me. I still have to pinch myself to believe that I too had that post op smile beaming brightly. The drive to Brighton sharing a beautiful sunset with Mum felt like I was returning to a kind of Eden but occasionally sometimes as the story goes that apple can be poisoned and the outcome very painful. You can never tell quite how you are going to react to each aspect of the procedure.

The patients attending Mr Thomas evening clinic comprised of one lady who was there with her partner, who gleefully told me she was really happy with her surgery and even knew exactly how many days it was since she had her surgery. Another lady appeared in terrible discomfort and could barely walk. My heart went out to her. A Mum arrived with her very young looking daughter. The young lady appeared as any other genetic female of her tender years and perhaps that was the case but either way she was attending Mr Thomas clinic that night. They may well have suffered at the insensitive hands of the journalists who chose to cruelly sensationalise their story. She looked as though she may have been on some form of puberty blocking treatment which delay the ravages that testosterone can have on our bodies until she was of an age where she could be sure or legally be able to have surgery. I would be lying if I said I did not feel a tinge of regret or envy at not having had the opportunity or in truth been ready to have the surgery when I was her age.

I was sat there all smiles but frightened of what they might need to do to me at the appointment. Being so blessed to still have my Mum alongside me; supporting me after all she had been through recently meant so much to me. My Dad had kindly offered to come if she was too poorly to have made it as he did not want me going alone. With a life time of trying to deal with a transgender daughter with what had for so long been the limited knowledge/beliefs and understanding from a bygone age. For them both to have found themselves in the hell of denial for a dozen or more years to be offering the level of acceptance and unconditional love they do now and for me to cherish everyday with them is simply incredible and way beyond my vocabulary.

I did require a remedial procedure involving the removal of some granulation tissue which had built up unknowingly to me as my body had tried to heal itself too quickly. I was very lucky it had developed in an area which did not cause me pain while dilating. The procedure was uncomfortable but I was able to drive home. It has set my progress back a little and been painful and tender for a while but not too bad. The news that the follow up appointment with Doctor Curtis the gender specialist who monitors my hormone treatment would be paid by Mr Thomas as Doctor Curtis referred me to him for GRS was welcome news. I am now ready to try to make my way in my new life. I read a very poignant reply by a compassionate and wise lady called Tess on Angels a UK transgender support forum regarding a woman who was very nervous about beginning her new life which I will post shortly.

I am on that edge, wings outstretched, ready to fly, very excited, a little frightened, separation anxiety regarding my devotion to my parents weighing heavily on my heart and conscious, not sure if I can deal with life’s really hard knocks having lived in such a safe familiar environment for so long but there is no regret no turning back now.

Lots of love
PS many thanks to Anji for the lovely photo on the postcard above which she kindly sent to me. That lady reminds me of someone I know, who should be painting!