Transitioning my working life from purely doing voluntary work; to some much appreciated financially paid employment as well has been challenging. With my devotion to my family it has been a very tricky time meeting every ones needs as well & adjusting our lifestyles. There is a sense of role reversal for my parents & I. About time they could enjoy their retirement & stop worrying about their daughter,...if only that were true. I have a better appreciation now of how difficult it must be for new Mums to have to leave their children to go to work or for those who have been away for along time looking to return to the workplace.
My dear friend Lucy has been such a kind compassionate friend to me & I was so pleased to meet up with her again this weekend. She has been through so much & has such a friendly sweet nature everyone who meets her falls under her charming ways. She is soon about to undergo a life affirming experience at the same Brighton hospital I went to for my GRS remarked, you look so alive. We had a lovely time together. She is so serene so calm & peaceful we both have complete faith this will be right for her.
For me what has been so magical about the changes I needed to make to my life is that I am able to be at peace with myself now, so alive. I interact with the living, no longer a ghost or trapped by an invisible barrier to entomb me in myself.
Life is so different for me now, I have to be careful to check in with my “new self” not the old if that makes sense. The old self Bob existed through so much turmoil but without a true sense of self, could never truly partake in life or find the energy to keep fighting against how things felt inside mind or soul. Pre-transitioning living/existing in perpetual anguish with zero self esteem, no confidence & a daunting future sacrificed for loved ones, crushed by external pressures real or imagined, took real courage & for those in similar situation my heart goes out to you.
Finally discovering I had the strength within to overcome some of the hurt that was holding me back & survive all the pain. To overcome my fears of what I may lose, discovering who actually owned some of the fears I had believed were mine, proved a turning point.
My new self Debbie with her sense of self so full filled has a far more rewarding life even though I may have swapped one lot of challenges for another. The potential physical pain of the major surgery grs and ffs was for me fortunately very minimal with regard to recovery from GRS. With FFS the challenge in the first ten hours post op the worst physical pain of my life but for me that was easy compared with the mental trauma of trying to live with a dysphoric screaming voice inside me that cried out ever stronger with each day to push me to a very dark place. For me there was no mental anguish with either surgery, more a mixture of tranquility & euphoria. Transitioning really did feel like going from a dark monochrome place to a life full of colour. Every time I faced my fears I found my sense of self, my faith in myself & my religion grow ever stronger.
No ones way regarding dealing with dysphoria is right or wrong it has to be what is right & possible for them. Transitioning did not take away magically all my problems. I knew it never would. I have many more good days than bad now. To be able to stop looking inward all the time, second guessing, thinking what if, I now know my truth. GRS was not an end of my journey, nor a badge of honour, just a very important pivotal procedure, a moment in time, a leap of faith, I had complete faith in!
I still fall easily, I may always be vulnerable to certain health issues particularly anxiety but to be able to see more clearly outward, to be able to bounce back after experiencing so much change/turmoil to survive & be able to appreciate the simple things in life, is both a heaven sent gift & a joy.
I am not schizophrenic, two people in one body. I cannot deny my past but I have no wish to live there either, I never truly authentically lived back in my past. The photo above captures a magical moment in time when two Tigeeeeers broke their self imposed boundaries; sadly they are still trapped in captivity by societies will. Safe, well looked after, hopefully they will help their kind to be more understood, appreciated, an advert for their kind’s conservation but sadly not able to live their lives as nature truly intended. In our life times the only tigers left may be captive ones as they are so vulnerable to human kind. I could have waited a very long time to capture such a moment on film but when I least expected it, nature was kind to me.
I have been so busy so far this year I have struggled even to find a moment to keep in touch with some of my friends, especially those not logistically close to home. When a far away friends blog goes quiet for too long unless you know they are really busy you do begin to worry something may be wrong. One dear friends had even begun to become concerned for me & phoned to see how I was. Julia a very intuitive friend sensed there may be something wrong. I had not been able to get near my computer for a while & not been home when she had phoned. By chance she caught up with me & her call was really appreciated.
Below is part of an email to my inspirational volunteer manager at the hospital where I began my new working life. She was the only person who I felt needed to know all of my past as I began my attempt to return to the workplace with my new more appropriate role in life. I had to give up my previous career of nearly thirty years due to ill heath & my job no longer existing back in 2005 & it’s been a long journey back. The email covers my experiences over the last ten days or so but also a bit about how I feel now, my reflections writing this blog post, with my new life & how grateful I am for our NHS.
Last Tuesday I came home from work with a piercing headache & felt sick. I just could not settle & before I could react I experienced the worst panic attack of my life. http://http//www.nhs.uk/Livewell/phobias/Pages/Panicattacks.aspx My Mum phoned for a paramedic who arrived so quickly & was so helpful. He talked me down, slowly & calmly. My legs were numb but gradually he got me to focus on my surroundings and regain control of my breathing. I spent most of last Wednesday recovering in bed. I took your advice & let the ## department I work in, know I was unwell & not able to come in for a bit of "as & when" volunteering doing admin computer training that day. They were very understanding & so supportive. They really make me feel part of their team which means so much to me.
From a previously very masculine dominated blokey bloke workplace and perceived role, I felt so much more at peace in the skin I was now in, the workplace & the way I was perceived now. I appreciate any job can be done by any gender but there are old fashioned views held in some quarters. Recent views expressed by the cavemen Andy Gray & Richard Keys spring to mind. The pressure heaped on their Innocent victim unintentional or not was thoughtless & so cruel. There is a fine line between banter and bullying of which both genders can be guilty but I digress.
I have not had a panic attack for at least three years and never expected the panic attack, particularly as I had such a good day working in the ## Ward and did not feel at all anxious. The previous week in the ward I worked on until nearly 6 o’clock as I had to take time out to run over to various departments trying to arrange my transition from purely voluntary work to being paid for some hours & wanted to finish some artwork for a display they needed a.s.a.p.
In retrospect the panic attack was more my old body physically warning me to slow down & perhaps also due to a virus that seems prevalent in the department I had been working in. On the same day I had to rest in bed I also received some great help from the doctor who is giving me cognitive therapy. She gave me some additional coping techniques to keep me going but warned me to take things steady & make allowances for how I was feeling. Prepare some plans to help manage my day correctly for all concerned. Only I could judge if it was more appropriate I stayed away or went in. What would be better for my well being? I did not want to fail or let anyone down. The only way to regain my confidence I felt was to at least try to go to work, something my old self had previously understandably been unable to do.
Thursday I went into work & took things steady in the morning but was able to support the team. In the afternoon I managed to get my brain in gear & completed two sections of online training which involved me working on a little, but it really boosted my fragile confidence as I am feeling so vulnerable. My thinking was "The sooner I get my training done the sooner I could be productive again & support the team properly". It is always easier to give advice to others about taking on too much but we sometimes fail to listen to our own advice. I should definitely have listened to the advice my parents & the medical staff had given me.
Friday I came in to work again but had to rush home for my first ever mammogram. Again the patient care & respect was second to none. I rushed back in the afternoon and completed an almost four hour online training session which made me late getting home. It was one of those online tests that unless you finished it completely you would lose all the hours work you had spent & would need to do it all over again. I phoned my parents to warn them I would be a little late & check they were ok.
My dear Dad trying to help took our doggy for a walk as I was running late & tragically fell over, damaged his knee & cut his nose badly which really shock him up & Mum as he looked so terrible. I felt so guilty at me not being there for him and putting my work before my family. This was my biggest fear when I tried to return to the workplace. Finding the right balance between returning to work & my responsibilities as a carer to my parents; who bless them also on occasion still have to care for me, is not easy & a source of anxiety & worry for us all.
When I got in my Dad looked terrible. I had to take my Dad to the local Health Centre which is being threatened with closure due to the cuts. Again the care was wonderful. They were so busy; the waiting room was full up but they never stopped caring for my Dad or showing any signs of the pressure they were working under.
In retrospect again my volunteer manager having read my email to her,wisely advised don't do guilt, it is a waste of emotion! Your dad chose to take the dog out - it gave him exercise and made him feel independent and helpful, ok he fell, so could you have done! Could you imagine coming in with a black eye or bumps and bruises???????
Dad like me struggled for a few days but he came out for a gentle walk today. I am doing art work for ## department & the ## ward at home today, the most rewarding job I have ever had. Every grey cloud has a silver lining. I cannot thank the staff in the NHS enough. All of you!
The care my family & I have received from the NHS particularly when we have been in crisis; as we have this last week and many times before, has been absolutely magnificent.
PS Please forgive me for the above rather long email; it is all about my gratitude for "our NHS" & keeping you up to date with my health/volunteering/work situation.
I will write you that email I promised highlighting the benefits of volunteering. Less is perhaps more. The BBC recently ran a story about "mindfulness" & the quote below beautifully sums up so much of how I feel regarding volunteering.
Doing things to help others is not only good for those we help it has a very positive effect on our well being too. When people experience kindness they also feel kinder too so kindness really can become infectious.
Thank you with all my heART.
A month without bloging is too long.