Game changing significance was loaded on top of more and more significance, this past week. On Monday the 7th, Leonard Cohen passed away. Then, of course, the upsetting election results. My spouse woke me up to tell me the news. I was in a hazy half-sleep, largely induced by my medications (I think), and I just replied, “Ohhhhhhh,” and immediately fell back asleep. It was a surreal half-consciousness, and, in a way, I continued on in that space for a long time after, even now, as I try to wrap my head around it.
She also texted me later that morning saying “Happy anniversary of our ‘legal’ marriage today.” I had completely forgotten about that. We have much more meaningful anniversaries between us; this one is not a big deal. But, interesting that it happens to fall on this same date. Plus! It was the one year mark of the launch date for the radio station I am a DJ at. Also on this day, a friend’s father passed away. The next day, my spouse’s sister proposed to her boyfriend!
The following day, I heard word that two pride flags had been burned in our neighborhood. Talk about being hit close to home! More on that in an upcoming post. We attended a rally on Saturday morning with some friends, and the spirit of that event was totally incredible.
Also, around this time, 17 years ago, I was hospitalized for 19 days, and was traumatized by the process, for a very very long time. I take a moment every year to think about this and reflect. (In the past, it’d been much more than “a moment” to reflect. For too long, it had felt like constant rumination.)
Three years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist: Continuing to work through a specific trauma.
Then two years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it. I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time: That specific trauma is still there.
Last year, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal. The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it: That specific trauma is no longer a big deal.
This year, this personal matter has simply been buried underneath all this other stuff going on. I don’t have the capacity to think about it and write about it right now. I don’t see that as a problem. It’s not like I am grieving the loss of space and emotional energy to be with this thing. It was a thing. And it gradually became not as much of a thing. It is OK.
I also experienced an upswing this week. Probably galvanized by the shitty stuff going on. I cancelled a doctor’s appointment that I didn’t want to go to. I called my grandpa and talked to him about different ways to save for retirement. I solidified plans for my spouse and I to take a trip to Washington D.C. for her birthday – right around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and just in time to get the fuck out of there before the presidential inauguration. We are going to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian, which just opened a few months ago.
I also submitted my stuff to legally change my name! Finally! I did this yesterday. (This might also be a separate upcoming post.) I also emailed a lawyer to see if he would be willing to work with me toward gaining legal non-binary status. I haven’t heard back yet, and I realized that the timing is shit. This is such a low priority right now, as transgender people scramble to get their Social Security card, passport, etc. in order before the Trump take-over. And I know this lawyer in particular is probably swamped with going above and beyond to help people with this. So, I’m going to wait on it.
But a time will come. I know it.
Around this time, 16 years ago, I voluntarily admitted myself to a psychiatric unit, but then I got stuck there for 19 days without knowing what was going on. The lack of communication was horrendous. I suffered a psychotic break and left with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I accepted this for years, and I internalized that I have a mental illness in some pretty detrimental ways. This has always stayed with me, always felt like something I needed to work through and get past.
Two years ago, I wrote about how I came to finally acquire my medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist:
Continuing to work through a specific trauma
Last year, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it. I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time.
That specific trauma is still there
This year, although I’m acknowledging the anniversary, it feels like just the slightest emotional blip on my radar. I talked about it in therapy yesterday. I finally got my hospital records back from my therapist (she had been holding onto them for me for a whole year!) I looked through them again last night – there was always one page I skipped over. It was handwritten by me, explaining what had been going on in my social life that led me to feel like I needed to be hospitalized. I read it and felt OK about it.
Although this seems counter-intuitive, I think it helps that I was hospitalized in January. Where everything went wrong the first time around, everything went right(?) (maybe not right, but it went smoothly) this time around. I can overlay this experience on top of my shitty traumatic experience, and things make more sense.
I resisted the diagnosis of bipolar disorder for a long time, I’d been off all meds for 9 years; I felt relatively stable. When it was re-affirmed that I have bipolar disorder by the psychiatrist I was assigned, (“Once a bipolar, always a bipolar.”) I bristled at that. Actually, I bristled at him in general every step of the way. Appointments with him lasted a mere 2 minutes. He was inflexible and adamant I stay on meds forever. He forgot pertinent information about me. (At one point he told me I needed to stay on meds because I had been hearing voices.) After 6 months, I just stopped making appointments with him. With all his intensity toward me staying on meds, it was surprising how easily he let me just get away. Maybe he didn’t even notice I left.
My therapist helped me find a new psychiatrist; she’s awesome! She’s willing to follow my lead on what I want to do about drugs, and she’s willing to dialogue with me instead of ordering me what to do. I still don’t know what to do about drugs, but at least I have the space to feel supported with whatever I do choose to do. For now, I’m staying on them, but I can’t pinpoint why.
I respect this new psychiatrist. When she (also) told me I fit the criteria for bipolar type I, for the first time in a very long time, I felt like I could accept that. I don’t need to incorporate that in any particular way into my identity; it doesn’t need to mean I view myself differently. Personally, it’s not a core part of who I am. It just is an aspect of me that can just be, and I can leave it at that.
And I can finally integrate the difficult journey toward mental health as parts of myself, rather than things that happened to me.
I don’t go to church, but I made an exception last Sunday for my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. My family surprised them there and attended service with them, then we took a drive to the church they were married at to take some photos, and then we went out to a fancy lunch.
It was awesome to see their surprise. And to meet some of the congregation. I realized I never see my grandparents outside of a family context, so it was novel and exciting to see them interacting with their church people and see them being celebrated by the entire church.
One congregant in particular was super outgoing and came over to introduce herself before the service started. She went down the row of where we were in the pew, and we all introduced ourselves. When she got to me, she asked, “Is this a grandson?” And my grandma replied, “Granddaughter,” even though I have told her (and my whole family) how I identify. This lady didn’t seem to catch that or care, and when I told her my name (the name I’m using with family, for now), she heard something different which was fine by me!
She came back after the service and pressed some more. She said,
“I think I’ve met you before! Were you with him [pointing to my uncle] outside of Dick’s Sporting Goods one time? I definitely remember that.”
“No, I don’t think I ever was,” I replied.
We went back and forth a little more until it got cleared up that it was actually my adult male cousin who had been with my uncle. (We look nothing alike, he’s big and has huge muscles and facial hair, but I thought it was pretty awesome!)
It’s strange that these occurrences never seem to fluster my family members (maybe they’re uncomfortable on the inside though) yet they can’t seem to integrate how I identify (and how I’m sometimes seen by others) with how they interact with me. Some of them are trying though – three in particular are consistently using male pronouns while the rest of the family responds with female pronouns. Maybe there will be a critical mass at some point where the tables turn. I hope…
Today is the day I’ve been writing on this blog for one year. And… I really don’t see an end in sight – it doesn’t feel like I’ll be running out of steam any time soon. I’m gonna hope that this is true!
There are a bunch of reasons I started and a bunch of reasons I keep going. Some of them include:
- I’m an exhibitionist, in a sense.
- I really really really enjoy writing. And ideas keep popping in my head.
- The more I put into this, the more I get out of it. That has not been the case for a lot of endeavors I’ve undertaken.
- I’ve really been enjoying reading blogs by like-minded (and different-minded) individuals on a variety of topics, but mostly blogs about being queer and/or trans* in some way or form. The blogs I read help keep me going.
- It has helped me hone my writing / find a voice. I’ve had pieces accepted for 2 anthologies this year (the process of editing and publishing is currently ongoing), and I’m working on a proposal for a 3rd piece.
- I want to continue contributing to a body of information that is pretty obscure and hard to find, at least at this time.
Before starting this blog, I was writing epic emails to my therapist, generally on a weekly basis. For over a year and a half. I’m talking really really long emails. Although she always read them – and we often talked about them – she would never reply to me. She would also sometimes downplay how important they felt to me, referring to them as “notes,” when I would have chosen the phrase, “an outpouring of my soul,” haha.
I rarely ever write to her anymore (sometimes I cut and paste from my blog in an email to her, or ask her to look at a specific post). I think I was relying on her to fulfill this really specific need (collecting and organizing thoughts through writing, knowing someone’s reading those thoughts), and I’ve shifted it all into this incredible, creative outlet. She’s probably relieved about it – I know I kinda am, haha.
Before this, I’d never had a blog in such a public way. I’d had private online “diaries” and mostly “friends only” online journals when I was younger, just about life in general. But I’d never put this much about myself out into the internet in any shape, previously (my Facebook info and involvement is super sparse, for example). Sometimes I’ve second-guessed myself. Sometimes I’ve worried if so-and-so will find this, etc. But overall, those fears are quickly drowned out by all the positives. And ultimately, the type of anonymity / level of being out there publicly feels like it’s right where I wanna be.
To many more years!
My non-binary self has made it one whole year on testosterone(!!!), and it feels like there’ll be no end in sight (I wasn’t planning on there being an end). I still feel highly motivated to apply the topical gel (Androgel) daily. The benefits have been more than I could have even imagined.
If you’re a numbers person, this paragraph is for you (if you’re not, just go ahead and skip it): There are probably a lot of estimations about what is considered a “normal” range for testosterone. There are plenty of articles and websites to find info on levels, and what “free testosterone” is, etc. Also, I’m not a scientist. I’m a janitor. So I’m just going based on what my blood-work form says: Females have a general T range of 14-76 ng/dl Males have a general T range of 300-800 ng/dl. I started at 59. I’m now at 102.3.
This makes quite a bit of sense in that I am now in neither a female nor a male range. Which is how I’ve felt myself to be for a very long time, and it’s now being reflected within this potent hormone/steroid level. It’s not high enough to be exhibiting secondary male sex characteristics. But it’s high enough for me to feel much more comfortable in my skin, being someone who is non-binary in this specific way.
Instead of repeating a lot of that info, I thought I’d go back to what I wrote a year ago. I did not yet have this blog (I started it last July); I was writing in a paper journal about what it felt like to start testosterone. Here are a few choice excerpts:
3/18/13 – My initial start level was 59. I’m hoping for about 100 or so [good guess!] – enough to feel different, but not enough to induce physical changes… Applied it to my shoulders. It was a lot more, volume-wise than I was expecting. Didn’t notice any changes, but had a dream that night that two men (strangers) were out on the street, checking out each others’ erections and making sure things were working properly.
3/19/13 – Felt just kind of increasingly calm, which can be attributed to any number of things… Toward the end of my work day, I was reclining on an inclined weight bench (I clean the weight room) listening to my mp3 player, and when I sat up, my visual field was new and improved. Everything looked sharper, brighter, more organized. I scanned the room and structured it by color for the first time. Made me wonder if I’ll be able to “see” differently.
3/22/13 – Switched to applying it to inner thighs. Makes more sense in terms of touching and potential transfer. I’ve been feeling really warm and fuzzy lately, which is the best part of this whole thing. Still feel calm, and simultaneously energized, like relaxergized!!!
3/29/13 – I need to convey more how awesome everything is. Anxiety is gone completely. I have never felt this way in my life. I’ve never been on Extacy, but I’m gonna take a guess I’m feeling similar to that. Last night, I rolled around on the living room floor like a dog. I’m just kinda reveling in my own skin over here – I feel so safe in my body.
The intensity of these feelings has, of course, diminished over time (although wouldn’t it be cool if I could feel this high for the rest of my life? Even that would get boring though haha.) But the difference between where I was and where I am, in terms of how I feel, is so great that there’s no question for me about whether I should continue.
My voice hasn’t dropped. I don’t have to shave my face. I don’t look any more masculine, in my opinion. However, I do think my face shape is morphing ever so slightly. It’s hard to know what might be due to aging and what might be due to testosterone. But here are some pics to illustrate:
Today is the day C and I have been together for 7 years. This anniversary, which we refer to as “Randomtimes,” trumps the recent new date on which we got married, for sure.
How we met (this would be a medium length version): We met briefly twice, through a mutual (more than) friend, in the winter of 2005/2006. I was buying a house the following summer, and she was looking for a place to live that wasn’t her parents’ house. I phone-interviewed her; she had previously lived in a co-op with a bunch of people. She moved in that August, into the tiniest bedroom ever. She painted it bright blue with mint green trim and had a bunk bed. Two other people also lived there. It was cool times; it felt important to me, this household identity. She and I were both in relationships that imploded, exploded, and / or fizzled out within a few months. We started to hang out a little bit, tentatively. She was working downtown, and I invited her on a few “dates” on her lunch breaks. These weren’t indicators to her that I was interested. She thought maybe they were fake dates, whatever those are. : )
Finally one night in December, I wrote her an email from across the upstairs hallway, being a hell of a lot more direct. I had been out late dancing, and felt pretty good about myself right then; she was asleep. I told her I like like her and would she want to talk about it in person with me? It was a very long email – but that was the gist, haha. She did want to talk; a couple of days later, we went for a walk and talked. And talked and talked (and then made out!), and talked some more because, dang, it was kinda complicated – we lived together, yet didn’t know each other super well yet. But we decided to risk it and see how it felt.
It felt pretty great, but was also anxiety provoking, at least for me, at first! But ultimately, awesome. And since then, we’ve always lived with 2 other people, who have come and gone. (Although C moved out of the tiny blue room with bunk bed, and into the biggest room, which has the access to the attic, which is my room / where we sleep.) Up until a couple of weeks ago… the gentleman inhabiting the tiny blue room with bunk bed moved out, and our other housemate is potentially moving out within a month as well. (We asked them to look for a new place to move within the next 6 months.)
This is the first time we’re going to be living on our own, ever. What’ll that be like?!!
Fourteen years ago today, I was taken to the emergency room and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for nineteen days. It was by choice – I voluntarily admitted myself, but once I got there, I realized that basically, I was stuck, and things got much much worse for me. Essentially, I went from being in a confused and vaguely depressed state to suffering a full-on paranoid psychotic break from reality, which in retrospect, I believe could have been avoided had I not been there at all. My plan in my head was to go there and sleep and restore my mind and body for a day or two, and then make a plan from there. Their plan was to do what they do, on a medical and legal basis, and this took so long, I was unsure if I was ever going to get to leave. Also, I was a month shy of 18 years old, so I was not yet a consenting adult, and my parents signed everything that needed signing. (On the other hand, I’m relieved I was not yet 18, because that month’s difference was the difference between being on the Adolescent or Adult unit. I am glad I was with people my own age and younger.) This was during my senior year of high school. I went back to school with a (mis)diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and even more of a disconnect from everyone around me. I felt even more isolated, and self-stigmatized than before. I sank into a severe depression. I dropped out of a few of my classes and took a leave of absence from my job. I tried to stay occupied with some art classes at school, but nothing at all interested me. As the summer before college started, things finally did start to lift. I got my driver’s license. I started to hang out with friends a little bit. I felt excited to be moving two hours away and starting college.
This experience has stayed with me as a lasting trauma. In college, I wrote a lengthy personal essay about it, trying to capture every tiny thing I could remember. I was in therapy for a long time after – I was actually doing a lot worse in general after being discharged. I was on a lot of pills and unsure if they were helping. Therapy, at least, was helping. Therapy has been the one thing I’ve done for myself that has made the biggest difference in my adult life. Therapists have taught me how to be a verbal person and communicate with others.
About a year ago, I worked at talking through this experience that still haunts me, in therapy. My therapist was a little hesitant to delve into it – she’s not too big on rehashing the past. But she did help me through it, and encouraged me to talk with my mom about it, in order to dis-spell some long-held beliefs that might have actually been way off. Such as, “it didn’t really affect my mom that much, that I was there.” So I did talk to my mom about it (however difficult that was), and felt myself getting to a new place through doing that.
And then this year (every year around this time, I’m thinking a lot about it again), I decided to gain access to my medical records from back then. I didn’t know how to go about that because the hospital I was at has since been closed, demolished, and rebuilt into a new multipurpose health facility. But I was told my records are somewhere, on microfilm, and I can get them at a fee of $0.75 per page. So I went through the request form and noted I’d like to be informed of the length of the document before it’s sent. Two weeks later, a heavy package arrived, with a bill for $168.10! I thought we were talking about something in the range of 40 pages! This thing is 210 pages, and this bill is much more than I want to pay. (So I did email back and forth, explaining my request was ignored, and I did get the bill knocked down to $100.88 – still way more than I was planning to pay.)
The document itself is largely made up of pages that have no interest to me. And many pages in which I can’t read the person’s handwriting. But, in the process of gleaning as much as I can from it (and skipping over quite a few things that feel triggery, for right now), I’m coming to some kind of new terms with what happened to me, way way back then. And, something is lifting.