Every year around mid-November, I tend to think back and reflect on a defining period of time in my adolescence. And for as long as I’ve had this blog, I’ve written something about it, annually. When I was 17, I voluntarily admitted myself to a psychiatric unit. I envisioned I’d be there for a day or two; in the end I was there for 3 weeks, with everything quickly no longer becoming my choice. It was both good and bad that I went voluntarily – On one hand, I didn’t resent anyone else for making that decision, and I may have made some things easier for calling that shot so early-on in my downward spiral. Specifically, I could have been walking around in a mild/moderate psychosis for a long time without giving off any glaring red flags, which could have been much more damaging in the long run, led to me slipping back into that state easier and more frequently as the years went by. On the other hand, I couldn’t forgive myself for the longest time, and I blamed that traumatic experience on being just the start of all problems and struggles that came after it. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, everything would have been different, I thought. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, I wouldn’t have lost my mind, I thought. Now though, 19 years later, I don’t think those things anymore. Instead, I think that I was an incredibly self-aware teenager, and I acted out of self-preservation.
When i was in the hospital, it was expected that I keep up with my schoolwork, or at the very least, try. In Humanities class, we were just starting to read The Handmaid’s Tale. Instead of my school-issued book arriving for me to read, a copy was sent from the Central Public Library, which made me immediately suspicious. I was paranoid that we were being force-fed, brainwashed, and doped, and every little detail just added fire to that flame-in-my-brain. I started reading it anyway, but I didn’t get far. On pages 3 and 4, phrases such as,
“A window, two white curtains. …When the windown is partly open – it only opens partly…” “I know why there is no glass, in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window only opens partly and why the glass in it is shatterproof.”
really freaked me out!! All I could think about were the parallels. The decor in my own hospital room, the panic and the dystopian surrealism of it all. This part especially has always stayed with me:
“It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”
I’m pretty sure I did eventually finish the book. But I dropped the class. I dropped a bunch of classes when I got back to school, out of necessity. In order to graduate and have as little stress as possible while doing so. In order to try to put some of my mental health issues behind me and to look forward to college…
My spouse and I just finished watching The Handmaid’s Tale, up through season 2. So depressing and distressing. Just a really jarring portrait of where we could end up, some of it hitting way too close to home – not so much on a personal level, but in a collective consciousness kind of way. Hauntingly horrifying.
I got the book out of the library again – my local branch this time, not the Central Public Library… Gonna attempt to re-read it.
Here’s what I wrote in the past, on the topic of being hospitalized:
2013: Continuing to work through a specific trauma
2014: That specific trauma is still there
2015: That specific trauma is no longer a big deal
2016: Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name-change
2017: As that specific trauma dissipates further…
The bathrooms (all except for two) at the school I work at are getting a complete makeover this summer! (This is only a part of the remodeling / demolition that’s been going on – it’s been a fairly chaotic and atypical few months. Most of the time it feels like, how is all of this going to be completed by September 4th?!)
Here’s a quick rundown of the bathroom count:
3 boys gang bathrooms
3 girls gang bathrooms
1 mens staff bathroom
1 womens staff bathroom
2 gender-neutral staff bathrooms
1 girls gym teacher bathroom
1 boys gym teacher bathroom
1 nurse’s office gender-neutral bathroom
7 classroom gender-neutral bathrooms
2 girls single-use bathrooms
1 boys single-use bathroom
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that my workplace has more bathroom options than pretty much anywhere else, ever. As a genderqueer person, I have never stressed out about where I was going to go pee. Never, until this summer. All bathrooms are out of commission except for one girls gang bathroom and one boys gang bathroom. “Gang,” in this case, means that more than one person can enter and use the bathroom at a time. I am missing my gender-neutral option!
Before I came out at work, I was using both womens and gender-neutral bathrooms. After I came out at work, I gradually transitioned to only using gender-neutral bathrooms. One good thing about all this upheaval is that when they’re done, there will be 4 more gender-neutral bathrooms than there had been previously. !!! !!!
Until then though, I’ve had to make some tough decisions. As the bathroom options started to shrink (due to demolition), I was getting creative, for a while. For example, I realized there was still a toilet not yet destroyed in on of the classrooms, and I was using that for a while. My co-worker, who knew I’d been only using gender-neutral options, asked me, “So which bathroom are you going to use?” Being semi-facetious, I replied, “I’ll use the womens for #1 and the mens for #2.” And I actually was doing that for a while.
But then I started running into other people who were also using the bathroom as the pickings got slim. And I started getting nervous. I’d rather people saw me as male and used he/him/his pronouns for me than not. Some people get that I’m neither, and that’s great, but I don’t need the whole school understanding this nuance. Things have been so much better for me since coming out; I just want to keep up that momentum.
So I made a stark, black and white decision, that I was going to use the boys gang bathroom, no matter who was around or who wasn’t around. It was tough to wrap my head around because, since top surgery, coming out, and being on a regular dose of T (in that order), I’ve been in all sorts of bathrooms depending on the context, how I’m feeling, and what the options are. But I STILL prefer and gravitate towards womens rooms. And I STILL have not been stopped or questioned once.
But, in this case, I’ve been feeling like I gotta do this because I’m trying to assert and simplify my identity so everyone gets the picture / is on the same page. It’s been working. Almost everyone (except my former supervisor who keeps leeching onto the building) uses he/him/his pronouns for me. Essentially, I haven’t been wanting to confuse people or have them question where I’m at. Even the contractors – all of them have been calling me “buddy,” and that actually feels really good!
It defintely has been nervewracking though. A few times, I almost ran into the girls room when I heard that someone was in the boys. I’ve never been in a mens/boys room with other males. (Er, actually, maybe a handful of times when I was traveling in Turkey, but that’s it.) But I stuck it out and passed them at the urinal in order to use the stall. Or was in the stall and heard them using the urinal. Or at the sink, etc. I went into the boys room while B&G (buildings and grounds – for the district) workers were around, while my co-workers were around, while (female) teachers were around.
And in the end, it’s all been OK. (It was a little less nerve-wracking, overall, because contractors were made to use a port-a-potty outside. Sucks to be them!) All I mean by that was that there were way less males using the school’s boys bathroom.
As soon as I can though, I will be right back in those gender-neutral, single stall bathrooms, which will be all over the place!!!
Wanna see other posts I’ve made in this series? Here they are:
Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective
Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective (pt. 2)
Oh, and, as always, I’ve been all over both the girls and the boys bathroom, in order to clean them, daily.
Back in November, I lamented about not being able to find much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of a psychotic episode. In the past few weeks, two such books sorta fell into my lap, so I want to mention them!
My spouse picked up a book called Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind from the library last weekend. They pointed it out to me, like, eh? You’ll want to read this! This weekend, I was super sick, and I binge read it in 2 days, while trying to stay warm on the couch. It was compelling for so many different reasons, one major one being that I could relate to so much of it. The author, Jaime Lowe, was also hospitalized for a good chunk of her senior year of high school, and she also just took the pills without much reflection for years and years. Like, it’s something that is a thing now. (Although, for me, it was Depakote, and not Lithium.) She had another manic / psychotic episode when she tried to get off Lithium at age 25. I successfully(?) did get off all my pills in my early 20s, and that was my new normal for a long time, until I had 2 subsequent manic / psychotic episodes in my 30s. She had to switch off of Lithium because it was killing her kidneys, and she had a really hard time stomaching Depakoke, but she finally did get through it.
Having to switch sent her on a spiritual journey to learn about Lithium as not just a psychotropic drug but as an element, super common in nature. Which made the book encompass much more than just her mental health trajectory. The best thing about it though, was how thoroughly and deeply she gets back into that headspace of being so completely out of her mind. The slightest suggestion toward a minuscule thing could send her on an all-day (or longer) journey to do and/or be that thing. She devastated every aspect of her life that second time around. I was surprised by the fact that everyone around her wanted to keep her out of the hospital for a second time because she was no longer an adolescent and the adult ward was apparently to be avoided at all costs. As a result, she was in that state much longer – days, weeks… I was brought to the hospital like, BAM! So fast my head didn’t get a chance to spin out too far too fast with too many repercussions.
The second book I’m reading with a portrayal of a breakdown is called The Petting Zoo, by Jim Carroll (of The Basketball Diaries fame). He wrote this book in 2010, and according to the forward by Patti Smith, he died at his desk while writing. He had finished it at the time of his death, but it was still in the editing process. A few people had their hands in trying to edit as close to Jim’s style as possible. It’s fiction. It’s hard for me to get through (probably largely because it’s fiction – I almost always gravitate toward non-fiction and memoir). The book opens with the main character, Billy, in the midst of a manic frenzy. I didn’t know the book would be about that at all – nothing about that on the back cover summary – I bought it on a whim from a record store that was going out of business. So it was interesting to get thrown into that unexpectedly, but I gotta say it felt lacking in… something.
Billy has some kind of crisis over an art opening at the MET and how what he saw of this one artist affects how he’s approaching his art for his own upcoming show. He careens off down the steps, on his own, into the Central Park Zoo, more specifically a side spectacle, an outdated petting zoo. From there, he flees down the street, in his tuxedo and fancy shoes, to a building that reminds him of an Aztec temple. He then hits his head and his eye on branches or something and starts shouting something about a knife. He has a momentary black-out and the cops pick him up. At which point he comes back to reality, and that’s it. Although the aftermath ends up taking longer, red tape and everything. He has to stay overnight in a mental ward, which is just kind of looked at as a novelty, a curiosity, a stop-over.
In conclusion, real life is zanier (or at least more compelling to me) than fiction.
I have not come up against very much resistance or ugliness as I’ve come out, in stages, in different ways, over the span of like 18 years. I’ve been called rude things out car windows. I’ve had uncomfortable and disconcerting medical appointments. I’ve faced silence-as-acceptance(?) from certain family members. I’m still dealing with people not grasping the right pronoun, or referring to my spouse as my “friend.” But these things have been few and far between, and although they do add up, they don’t feel terribly crushing. Most of the hardest feelings have come from within, and not outside forces.
Two weeks ago though, something came up that was deliberate, that would affect me long term, and that I can’t just let go. It’s my name plate at work.
I’ve worked at this school for over 10 years, and I’ve struggled to find my place within the rest of the staff. As a default, I’ve been distant and out-of-the-loop for the most part. It took me 6 years to get a name on the custodial door at all, and that only happened when a new person started and he got his name on the door. Then it was suddenly, hey, wait a minute! I had been fine without one, or so I told myself, because I’d rather not have one at all than be a “Miss” or a “Ms.” or later a “Mrs.” or even a “Mr.” All of those feel cringe-worthy and totally wrong for me. So when I was actually asked, and I said, “KT [last name]” and that was accepted, I was thrilled. That was the name I went by. It felt right. At the time.
And then it didn’t. I came out at work last December. Holy what, that was a year ago! Part of this included talking to the principal about my name and pronoun change. I also made it clear that I was not transitioning to male, exactly, and I’d like it to be known I identify as in the middle or as a little bit of both genders. She replied that that distinction was not necessary, and that was more of a private thing. PS- It isn’t. It’s my identity. Instead of deciding I needed to clarify in that moment though, I attempted to grasp onto other compromises and specifics. So that, when she asked me about my name on the custodial door, it was immediately a no-brainer. “Mx. [last name].” It’s another option, I said. It is in use. It’s a thing, I tried to assure her. I said, “If this is representing my name, then I don’t feel compelled to spell out [in a coming out email she was going to be sending on my behalf] how I am neither gender. The title will speak for itself, and people can ask me if they want.” The principal nodded. It felt very much like we had agreed on this. She had told me that it could say whatever I wanted although she would like there to be some uniformity with everyone else’s. Mx. seemed perfect. I assumed there was follow-through on this.
As the months went by and I still didn’t have a name on the door (my supervisor had ripped off my old one), I wondered what was a reasonable amount of time to wait before asking what’s going on? But then I was out of work in May for mental health reasons. And then it was summer, and stuff like that doesn’t get done over the summer. I again had a new co-worker. I decided I would just ride in on his coat-tails. It would be easier, and that was the route I preferred to take at that time. And sure enough, within the first couple of weeks of school starting back up in September, he got his name on the custodial door. And I still didn’t. It was Mr. [last name]. I went to the administrative assistant that day and asked about my name. She apologized for not adding mine to the order, and she said she’d order it right then and there. I gave her a piece of paper where I had written it out, so there’d be no confusion: Mx. [last name].
It took 2 months, but it finally came in 2 weeks ago, but it was all wrong. I checked the custodial mail slot like I do most days, and I was appalled to see two new name plates: one for me and one for my co-worker – both of them were our first and last names. No titles at all. My ears turned red, my pulse quickened. I paced around a little, trying to move forward with my work while processing this. The principal was still in her office, adjacent to the hall where these mail slots are. I started to gear up to approach her, but then I hesitated, thinking I should wait until I’m more levelheaded. I didn’t get a chance to decide because right in that moment, she left.
My first, more general thought was that this is disrespectful in a classist sense. Why should ours be the only names that don’t have a title with them. Other thoughts spiraled out from there, most prominently, “I don’t want to have to deal with this!”
When the name got put on the door, I told my co-worker that’s not what I wanted. (He failed to change out his name plate, so mine was the only one with a first name). I then told the administrative assistant, and she said this was the principal’s decision. Which I already figured; I just didn’t want to talk to her! For 5 days in a row, I gathered myself to go talk to her, only to be met with her on her way out the door right in that moment. So finally when passing her in the hall on the 6th day, I asked, “Can I talk to you before you leave today?”
That worked! I talked to her and it was no big deal on her end. I wrote out what I wanted, for a third time, and she said it’d be ordered the following day. Which was yesterday. We’ll see how long it takes this time around; at this point it’s been over a year!
Every year around this time, I revisit the first time I was hospitalized, which was Veteran’s Day weekend in 1999. It used to feel like the worst thing that ever happened to me. And, in terms of fallout, I still think that it was – it just no longer feels that way.
Two years after this hospitalization, I wrote an essay for a class, including every little thing I could remember about the experience. A few months ago, I gave that document to my therapist to read over. I didn’t necessarily want to delve into it or have her probe me about it. I just wanted for her to have read it. And she really only said one thing: “There were always questions about whether you had been in a psychotic state or not. This definitely shows that you were.” And, strangely, I was satisfied with that. As if I could lay to rest whether I needed to be there or not. For the most part…
I’m currently giving my most recent hospitalization (from 6 months ago) the same treatment, as best as I can remember. I’m up to 2,500 words so far, and only about 15% done. I don’t have any plans for it other than just something that I want to do for myself. We’ll see. I feel like there’s not much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of psychosis. (If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!) That does not mean I have lofty goals for where I could take this writing; it’s just a motivating factor, something that pushes me to try to capture it as best as I can.
Here are the other posts I have made, yearly:
Continuing to work through a specific trauma – Four 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.
That specific trauma is still there – Three 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 no longer a big deal – Two years ago, 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.
Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change – Then last year, I wrote about how other things were going on, and I really didn’t have the space or time to reflect. Which was perfectly fine. Between the election results, working on getting my name legally changed, and other emotional markers, it just didn’t come up.
This year, I am thinking about it, but it is more in terms of “one of the times I was hospitalized,” rather than, “a traumatic event – the worst thing that ever happened to me,” etc.
I’ve been thinking of all the little occurrences that go into the bigger story. Like, for example, in that state, my mind was so malleable and adaptable that it seemed like, theoretically, anything could be true and just as easily, not true all at once. Which is one of the reasons I avoided watching any TV. (There were two TVs on the unit – one played music and had legalese constantly scrolling, in both Spanish and English – like a “know your rights” kind of thing. The other TV had a remote and listing of channels, and we could watch whatever we wanted, 24/7.) At one point I did sit down, and there was a documentary on about pineapples. (Er, rather I’m sure the documentary was on something more broad, but I saw the pineapple part. I started yelling about the unlikelihood about these pineapples growing. Don’t pineapples grow on trees like sensible fruits? What were these miniature pineapples growing up from fronds in the dirt?! A patient who knew-all immediately matched the intensity I was spewing, and argued for the realness of these pineapples.
A few months later, my spouse’s aunt was visiting from Hawaii, and sure enough, she grows pineapples on her property and sure enough, she had pics to prove it. I can now accept it fully.
I don’t have a gynecologist. I haven’t had one for probably 15 years. The reason for that is because I felt so out of place there, so I let that aspect of my health passively slip away. I’ve always gone to the dentist twice a year. I was really into chiropractic care for years, consistently. I’ve gotten eye exams. I regularly go to a therapist and a psychiatrist. I even have a primary care physician, and more recently, an endocrinologist. But I’ve neglected and avoided anything related to my junk (this is just my preferred term for what I got going on down there…)
My last pap smear was in 2012, and I went through that because it was a prerequisite for getting testosterone gel. That was enough of a motivating factor to go through that. It was super painful and anxiety inducing, but I had done it! Since then, there’s been no reason to get it done again, in my mind. Prior to 2013, I’m not sure how long it had been.
About a year and a half ago, I was on a panel with two other trans-people, in front of a group of health-care professionals, talking about our experiences with health services. I mostly talked about my experiences with top-surgery consultations, but during the Q & A, the three of us were asked about sexual and reproductive health. I was super open about how uncomfortable I am with this aspect of health care, and how I have avoided it. I even felt a stubborn pride about it – something like, “if I avoid it, that verifies how little I relate to my junk.” This really makes no sense whatsoever, and why exactly is this a point of pride? My two peers were much more proactive – they had had lots of experiences with making sure their needs and check-ups were on track.
Two weeks ago, I was eating lunch with a super close friend. She was mentioning something about her menstrual cycle and about how she needs to get her routine check-up. I told her how long it’s been since I had a pap smear, and she seemed aghast. I said I wasn’t going to be getting one either. She said something to the effect of, “But you have to.” She sort of role played a scenario in which hypothetically something scary is found, like HPV or cancer, that could have easily been avoided by just getting regular screenings. The emotions she was pouring into it were what got me. I kept going back and forth between, “OK, I will get it done,” and “No way never again!” The conversation stayed with me.
A couple of days later, I had a lump in my armpit. I’d never had anything like that before. My spouse told me I should get that checked out. This was something that was more straightforward! I could definitely go to the doctor for something like this! I called and got an appointment for the next morning. Then it dawned on me that I should be getting a pap smear. I waffled back and forth for a while, wondering if I’d be able to get myself to call back. I finally did, pitching my voice as high as I could so it would be apparent that this request would not be totally incongruous. Blah.
The pap smear was just as painful as the other times I’d gotten one, but I would say it was less anxiety-inducing. What helped me get through it was trying to stay present in the moment, in the room. I did this by talking with the nurse practitioner. “This room is cold.” “Please use the smallest one possible.” “This is really hurting.” Etc.
I gotta admit I do not know the exact reasons pap smears are important – what is being tested, etc. But I do think I will be more on top of getting them every few years from now on…
To top this all off, on Saturday we were out in the woods with some friends. Sunday morning, I felt something chafing on my chest, and when I looked, there was a tick latched in right on my nipple! Eeaughhhh!!! My spouse tweezed it and pulled it in half. Half of it is still embedded in my skin. I’m thinking it will work itself out on its own. She talked to our friend on the phone – he regularly gets ticks and gets them tested in groups, after he’s collected a bunch. So far so good but lyme disease is a scary possibility. Do I have to go back to the doctor?!
At the school I work at, there are two main sections to be cleaned – upstairs and downstairs. For the vast majority of my time there, I’ve always cleaned the downstairs. The water fountain was better. It was cooler in hot weather. There were more people to interact with. The rooms were cleaner (for the most part). I was closer to things that I needed to access: receiving room with supplies, dumpsters, the custodial office.
About 2 years ago, I cleaned the upstairs for roughly 6 months. It was not my choice – things were rough in a lot of different ways, and this was just one more thing. One more really big thing though, in my head. I was in and out of work a few times, due to a serious depression. When I was up there, it felt as if I could barely do the tasks, and the fact that they were recurring forever and ever was intolerable. I was rushing myself, always feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything. I was at a loss as to what to do about all the recycling, which for me is a “must do.” I just felt like I did not belong up there. I was trying to pop in and out of areas before kids were out of school, and then backtracking, which felt totally inefficient but seemed to be the only way to keep busy. Just being felt painful. And the fact that the being was on the second floor made the pain feel compounded so tightly within itself that I was struggling beyond belief.
By about mid-October of 2015, I was told I was switching back to the first floor. Apparently my co-worker wasn’t doing a great job, there were complaints, it was more important to be clean on the first floor than the second floor. ?? Anyway, at that time, I was sooooooo relieved. It was a visceral feeling. All the negativity was left up on the second floor, and although I was still struggling, I fit right back into the first floor. A few months later, I got on a medication that really started working for me, and the next two years went really well for the most part.
Sometimes a little too well: As I’ve mentioned before, I went through a manic episode in May, and I was out for two months, recovering from that. In a good way though – so far so good on the avoidance of a rebound depression. However, I lost my status at work. When I got back, it was clear that the new guy was now the new second-in-command.
In the past, this would have felt devastating, and I would have clung onto whatever control I did have, to the detriment of myself, only, really. I know because I’d already put myself through all that, big time. This time around, I decided to take it all in stride, as best I could. Instead of arguing about how I couldn’t do the second floor or anything like that, I spent time “staking it out,” I guess you could say? Just, spending time up there visualizing this or that and getting accustomed to the idea, before kids came back.
Now that school is back in session, I am IN IT. And it’s not actually bad. So far it has felt preferable, in fact. I’ve made some changes to my routine that really feel like they’re making a difference. Instead of bringing my cart plus mop bucket plus garbage barrel to each and every classroom, I am “sweeping through,” first with the garbage and rags to wipe everything down, then with the vacuum for all the area rugs, and then with the dust mop. I am taking WAY more steps going through multiple times instead of going room-by-room, but it’s feeling good. Feeling faster, even.
And the weather has not been too hot. And there’s a new drinking fountain up there as of a couple months ago – the kind where you can easily fill up a water bottle from, and it says how many plastic bottles you are saving by doing so. I love it! And I like the fact that the teachers clear out early up there, for the most part. And the rooms have been clean thus-far.
Best of all, I have my own “room” to store stuff, up there. That’s new. So while things are kinda turbulent with co-worker dynamics, I am so glad to have all my stuff and activities separate from theirs, more-so than ever before.
All the negative associations I’ve held about the second floor have pretty much melted away. A lot of that has to do with mental health and coming out at work. I don’t feel like I’m trying so hard to get in and out of places. I actually feel like I belong. When I talk with people, I like my voice. When I walk and do all this physical work, more muscle mass is making it feel much more effortless.
The only thing I’m dreading now is “gym use.” Coming soon will be screaming children using the gym for their cheer-leading practice, from 6-8:30pm. And once that’s over, it’ll be basketball all winter-long. We’ll see how well I can adjust…
I have a mild case of trichotillomania. It’s come and gone during different times in my life, and it’s always been specific to the hair on my face, not on my scalp.
Trichotillomania, to paraphrase wikipedia, is an impulse control disorder, also known as “hair pulling.” It’s generally triggered by anxiety and stress, and is usually treated with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy.)
In the past, I have honed in on eyebrow and eyelash plucking, using my thumbnail and pointer finger-nail as tweezers. It hasn’t been bad over-all, like I still have eyebrows and eyelashes, it’s just that my left eyebrow is a little bit sparse. It’s barely noticeable.
I also would get chin hairs, from time to time, starting in adolescence, and I would pluck those too, with my fingers or tweezers. This was, apparently, “pro-social” behavior, because I was socialized as a female, and therefore, it’s necessary to eradicate any hint of a mustache or “chin whiskers.” ??? I mean, there’s a whole industry just devoted to that – bleaching the “mustache,” laser-hair removal, waxing, etc. Blah!
Still though, I keep pulling those hairs out not as a gendered statement, but rather because I liked the sensation of getting at them from the follicle, that very specific and very minutely visceral feeling of a “pull” away from something rooted underneath some of the layers of the skin. It’s much more satisfying to get them with my fingernails, but I also use tweezers, so I can get ’em all! The reason I’d say it’s within the realm of “trichotillomania” is because I will do this out in public and I can’t seem to get myself to stop. It’s not just in front of my bathroom mirror. It’s during break at work, with people sitting in the same vicinity. It’s during a meeting, because I am bored. It’s during a movie with a stranger sitting two seats away. Etc. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. It’s a rough life to be constantly conforming to societal standards, at least in my opinion…
Facial hair, for me, is a hard limit. I do not want a beard. If I have a shadowy mustache, that’s fine by me, but that mustache never stays for very long before I start plucking out each hair individually. It’ll always happen eventually.
Now that I’m on a regular-ish dose of testosterone, I am getting more facial hair. And I just will not give in and shave. First off, I don’t feel like it! I prefer my methods, even if it ends up taking 10 minutes per day – more or less – to “groom” my face. Secondly, I do think that I believe that old wives’ tale, on some level, about the more you shave, the thicker and darker the hairs will fill in. I do not want to do anything that could potentially promote more facial hair growth.
I do realize this is a little bit counter-intuitive (is that the phrase I’m looking for?) Like, most people who are taking testosterone are embracing the full effect, whatever that means for them. But as someone who is non-binary, it’s a little trickier. Like, I like this effect, but this other thing screams “masculine” a little too loudly, and I’m not really feelin’ it. Something to that effect.
If my facial hair growth ever did start to feel unruly / out of my control, and / or the “grooming” ritual were creeping up toward closer to a half hour per day, something like that, I would not rule out laser hair removal At this time, it just seems a little too extreme, expensive, and unnecessary. But, hey, with this kind of journey, sometimes you never know what is coming up next!
Content note: blood, needles, things that might make you squeamish, self-injury.
Three days ago, I did my 24th shot of T. I started to psych myself out – for some reason, it suddenly seemed super-difficult. The needle looked extra long, and it has been looking that way for a while now. I decided maybe I should stick it in a “meatier” part of my quad muscle. I did, and must have hit a vein – it HURT a LOT and it bled quite a bit. I just felt like, “Damn, I’ve been working myself up about the pain more and more lately. I just wanna do it like a routine, without any glitches!”
It then occurred to me to look up the gauge online and see what was the range. I looked at my zip-lock baggie from the pharmacy, full of my syringes. I suddenly realized that my newer ones were a different shade of green than my older ones. I was looking at 23 gauge versus 21 gauge. In addition, the 21s were 1.5 inches, and the 23s were 1 inch – my fear that I was gonna hit my femur was semi-legit! I need to go back and get more 1 inch needles, pronto!
Needles are scary, right? It makes sense that people would fear needles. They hurt. Also, what about negative associations to getting shots at a doctor’s office, as a small child, vaccines and booster shots, stuff like that.
And then there’s the taking of the blood. Like, say, you have a medical condition that causes you to need regular blood draws to make sure everything is on track. If you are transgender, this is a common best practice.
When I was 17-21, I had to get regular blood work done every 3-6 months, because of a psychotropic drug I was on. I can’t remember the reason why. ( To check liver functioning, and/0r cholesterol? I forget.) It was a hassle, at the very least. But I did start getting very comfortable with it: I was present, it barely hurt – I just looked away so I didn’t have to see the vials filling up with blood.
Because of this, probably, I was intrigued by the idea of donating blood. I did it a handful of times between these ages (17-21), both at my high school and at my college. It was one of the most bizarre things, in my opinion: Here we are, a bunch of us, all laying down on cots. Any one of us might pass out at any time, and that would cause a chain reaction for others to pass out too. There are these nurses hovering over all of us, making sure we can stand up OK as if we are rising from the dead, with these baggies of blood tied to us. They are on hand with cookie packets and juice boxes. We can have as many as we want…
The one reason I stopped doing it was because I had a hard time maintaining the minimum weight requirement during college (110 lb). I didn’t have an eating disorder, per se, I just didn’t have an appetite or desire for much of anything at all. I also struggled with anemia.
And self-injury too. In that case, pain was my friend. I guess I can best describe it as, I would work myself up into such a frenzy that cutting my skin felt like the only thing that would bring me down. I was hyper-ritualistic about it. It was a fairly common occurrence for years, but never “severe.” And I don’t do it anymore.
Testosterone has changed my relationship to pain, for sure. I’ve written about that here:
Differences In How I Experience Pain
Here’s a quick excerpt (I wrote this somewhere around 3 years ago):
Before I started taking testosterone, I had a peculiar, but not really uncommon, relationship to pain. In many cases, I derived pleasure from pain. I would create sensations of pain, within my control, in an effort to calm myself. Also, when I’d hurt myself accidentally like for example, hit my arm on a doorway, I would feel alarm, followed by an adrenaline rush, followed by a pleasant soothing wave.
Now? If I hurt myself, it hurts! If I accidentally ran into a doorway, it would not be pleasant in any way, shape, or form. I remember the first few times I got hurt in little ways, in the first couple of months of being on testosterone; I was so surprised by how much pain was coursing through my body. I just felt like, aaaaaah! I’ve been swearing under my breath and feeling unnerved by how much stuff hurts.
So what am I trying to get at? I guess I just want to acknowledge that sticking yourself with a needle, in an ongoing way, is a really intense thing to do. And it’s totally understandable that some trans-people would just have a hard limit and say, “I’m not doing that.” For myriad reasons. So at least there are other options:
– Gels, patches, and creams (unfortunately, quite costly)
– Sub-cutaneous injections (not as deep)
– Stuff like Nebido that’s injected every 3 months or so
Does anyone have experiences with switching methods?
Doing self-injections feels like a badge of honor, but I’m not quite sure that it feels like an “honorable” thing to do…
I was in the hospital for psychiatric reasons, for a week in mid-May. It went so much smoother than my two other “stays.” (Those occurred in 1999 and 2015). I attribute that smoothness to:
– Having a complete social network around me for the first time in my life
– The fact that even though I had never been to THIS hospital, I was able to draw from my experience in 2015, and use that blueprint to (semi)-successfully navigate my way through, this time around.
– I was already on meds that were working pretty well, for the first time ever. This means that my psychiatrist wasn’t just taking a shot in the dark. She was just tweaking what was already working. (For me, specifically, this meant getting my Seroquel (anti-psychotic) increased from 200mg, to 600mg, dispersed into three 200mg doses throughout the day, and discontinuing the Wellbutrin (anti-depressant), at least for now.*
So, what were my priorities?
1. Getting on an adequate sleep schedule.
2. Eating the hospital food without having too many digestive issues (this included not relying too heavily on food visitors brought me, even though I was so grateful that they were doing this.)
3. Interacting as opposed to shutting down: Unless I was knocked out on meds, I was up and about, talking with people (sometimes shouting at them), pacing the halls (“going for a walk”), coloring with different medias and different methods / trying to do number puzzles (figuring out what was feeling more “right brained / left brained”), marking my turf / territory in ways that may have been specific to me (this, right here, would be a post unto itself… I’ll leave that for another day…
Some peripheral priorities / goals that I tackled / attempted and had some success with was:
1. Watching out for other people, checking in to see if they felt safe.
2. Micromanaging free-dance party / art times.
3. Getting other people condiments and other things they might need / want.
4. Modeling my behavior off of others / acting as a role model.
5. Pushing for Gym Time and Therapy Dog visits.
6. Reinforcing privacy vs. getting help. Also reinforcing quiet hours and other scheduled parts of the day.
7. Taking a shower every day (night) at the same time (10pm).
8. Dispensing important information.
I realize this post is a pretty vague sketch of some important things – this might serve as just an outline for me to fill in more interesting details / experiences / stories…
*I was also administered a shot, which I refer to as a “Haldol Cocktail.” 5 parts Haldol, 2 parts Ativan, 50 parts Benadryl. Plus, of course, my Testosterone shot – 50mg.