My co-worker’s last day was yesterday. He is moving on to work security at one of the middle schools. Some people have a lot of co-workers; I really only have just one. I have a supervisor, a co-worker, and then a 3rd person who works per-diem 4 hours per day (so, a co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same.) We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked at the same time, and for the majority of each day, it was just us in the building (along with after-school activity groups.)
He started roughly 3 years ago, and we got off to a rocky start. I can’t really explain it, but it wasn’t just rocky – it was jarring, and jagged. It was, in effect, a disastrous mix. Things slowly repaired themselves, with time and effort, and I learned a ton about human connection and priorities, during this process. Maybe someday I’ll really write about that, but it won’t be here.
In some ways, we are opposites he grew up in a rough part of the city and now lives in the suburb I grew up in, and he generally stays put out there. He seems to know everyone there. I moved to the city as soon as I was able to, and I never spend time in that suburb, unless I stop at the grocery store after work, or get gas, etc. I feel a comfortable level of anonymity within the city…
We had a complete turn around within the time we worked together – he was the person I confided in the most. He actively participated in being my ally in a bunch of different ways. I wrote about this a little, over a year ago, here:
I came out to my co-worker
As soon as I told him about my preferred name, he started using it when no one else was around. He called me “Kam-Ron” at first, and then just shortened it to “Kam.” This later became, “Killa Kam” and “Cuz.” He lightly pressured me to come out at work when he could feel it was imminent. I appreciate it more than he’ll know. Well, he does kinda know – I explicitly told him yesterday that I wanted to thank him for being my ally, most specifically.
Super early on, he organized a district-wide work happy hour at his dive bar. I was the only one who showed up. Later, he narrowed down the guest list, and our co-workers / kitchen staff hung out one time outside of work. That was a first! He later bonded with me through my enthusiasm with a local community radio station I volunteer with. He came on the air with me on two occasions, taking pics and putting them on facebook and just hyping it all up in general. One time, we met for lunch before work. That was a first.
Last night, I picked us up some tacos from that place we had lunch the one time, and we just chit-chatted one last time. He had gotten a bunch of cards from students, like whole classes-worth, and a couple of gifts from teachers. He was exuberant, like he often is, gesticulating a lot, not sitting down, etc. I was low-key, like usual, trying to offset that a bit. While still being interested / engaged.
I’ve never met anyone like this person. I observed the ways he navigates through situations with my eyes and ears perked. Out of everything I learned from him, I think the most all encompassing thing was what he summed up as “teamwork makes the dream work.” (He would say this a lot.) But not teamwork in the way I knew of teamwork – this is a different brand of teamwork. I thought of “teamwork” as doing the same thing at the same time with another person or group of people, until the job was done. But whenever I tried to enact that with him, we would usually clash. His teamwork involves a network of small favors with as many people as possible, like, “I do this, which motivates you to do that,” kind of thing. Which may or may not work depending on the other person, but he is an extremely motivational person. In addition to just going way above and beyond, in that rare situation which arises from time to time, just to help you out.
He made a personal connection with probably almost every single person, whether principal or teacher or part-time staff, in the entire school. And now he’s moving on to go do that in a school that’s twice or maybe three times as big.
I’ll miss him.
I also wrote about the co-worker I had before this co-worker, here:
Saying goodbye to my mentor / co-worker
That was when he retired, two and a half years ago.
Lately, I’ve felt an increased breadth of emotionality, and I’ve been wanting to embrace that and document it. At this point, I’ve been on injections for about 2 months. I’d say I could first recognize this about a month ago – I saw the film, Moonlight, and I felt choked up / on the verge of tears a couple of times. This was no small event: I haven’t cried or even come close for a very very long time.
About two years ago, I was seriously depressed for a year. It’s definitely different for everyone, but whenever I’ve been depressed in that way, I do not cry. I don’t have any emotional experiences, really, other than fear and panic and deadened mental capabilities. And physical pain, but not in the way where I want to cry. Then, after about a year of trying different meds, I got on one that I actually like, for the first time ever. It helps me sleep. It helps me not think in obsessive ways. It helps me absorb new information and changes and take those things in stride. I’ve had some serious high notes, in this past year. This drug has actually helped with that, perplexingly. I’ve also had a couple of anxiety attacks, but they were extremely few and far between, and related to stressful times.
But I had not felt sad, or any of those nuanced pallets / ranges within the emotion called “sadness.” Until I started (again) on testosterone – which is kinda interesting because the more likely narrative is “once I started T, I couldn’t cry anymore.” I have yet to actually cry, but the sensation is there, and I welcome it.
Today, I was listening to a podcast, and I felt overwhelmed with emotion. Like I said, this has been so rare, that I embraced it. It was “This American Life,” the episode called, “Ask the Grown Ups.” Tig Notaro was giving some advice to a teenage girl who’s mom had recently passed away. It was so moving that the world around me changed, temporarily.
Also, I’ve recently been seeking out music that I listened to while I was depressed, 2 years ago. (There’s not much at all to uncover because I listened to so little music. It’s basically 2 albums by Royksopp, something by The Notwist, and, probably a couple more I could track down if I really wanted to dig…) It’s been… interesting. There have also been big changes in my life lately, mostly at work, that has triggered some images of violence to flash before my eyes. I’m all too familiar with this, and in the scheme of things, it’s been super mild. But, yeah, haven’t experienced that in a very long time. Instead of acting on it or obsessing on it though, I just came home, took my pills, and went to bed early. I feel sooooo grateful that that’s all I have to do. And then the next day it is not too bad. What???!!! It’s true!
So, essentially what I’m saying is that I have felt some intense emotions over the past couple of years, but very rarely did that involve any form of sadness. Which, is pretty bizarre if I think about it. And that’s been due to depression and medication. And then, this higher dose of T opens back up a world I have not been able to access. It includes nostalgia and emotional connectedness and feelings associated with the weather and isolation and the season and the environment, etc. etc.
As long as I’m not continuously bawling my eyes out, it’s all good.
Last month, I wrote about coming out at work, and I left a few loose ends that I want to circle back to.
Real quick first though, I wanna acknowledge this blogging milestone! It’s been 3 years and 6 months now. Which is 42 months, meaning I’ve averaged close to 5 posts per month. And that’s been fairly consistent: I haven’t had times of being prolific followed by times of not writing anything and back-and-forth. Same with word-count – posts have been no more than 1,000 words, no less than 600 words.
Although it’s been moderate and steady, the way I feel about the writing and the blog changes fairly drastically and frequently. Sometimes I feel like I’m an objective observer, recording down what has transpired. Other times, I have put so much of myself into what I write, that the process, and the feedback I get has helped boost me up through some really difficult times. So, thank you, for all that feedback! Sometimes I’ve felt like there isn’t much point to continuing; I have nothing to say. Other times, I feel super good about this ongoing personal account of experiences that are valuable for others, and myself, to look into / look back on.
I’d say, currently, it’s mostly the first thing: I’m an objective observer, writing down what is happening and feeling kind of distanced from it. And that’s OK – it’s not going to always feel this way, I have learned.
So, in that vein, here’s that account I said I would write, of my first month being out, at work: A quick recap – I had talked to my supervisor, co-workers, 4 teachers, the principal, and the assistant principal. I had also gotten things moving in the HR department, and we were just going into Xmas recess. During that week when kids and teachers were out, I though it’d be a great time for my co-workers to start, while it was just us. I wrote, ” I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.” The first day, my supervisor called me through the walkie talkie, “[old name], can you get a 20″ red pad?” Me, “It’s going to be Kameron now.” Long pause. Her, “Kameron, can you get the 20″ red pad?” Then when she saw me, she said, “You’re going to make me practice now?” “Yeah!” And we were off! With, as I hoped, my co-worker leading. But the thing was, I didn’t actually have to correct anyone.
When break was over and everyone was back, I told 8 more people in person, and also had a 2nd, much more productive, conversation with the principal. More details are in the post, How I became “Mixter”. We talked about how to come out and the timeline, how my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door, and bathrooms. She told me I could think about these things and get back to her tomorrow. That all sounded fine, but as I went about my cleaning routine that night, I thought about how tough it is to just catch her, and what if it’s a while before I am able to get back to her. Plus the monthly faculty meeting was the following morning!!! (And even though I don’t attend these, that’s a great place for school announcements.)
So, I left a note on her table that night, so that action could start rolling ASAP. The note read:
Here’s what I”m thinking:
Fac Meeting – a heads up about a forthcoming email
Email – That I’m changing my name and that I’m now using male pronouns (he/him/his)
Sign on Custodial Door – Mx. [last name] (pronounced Mixter). I’m comfortable answering any questions about this.
also a recommendation if you one day have a transgender student:
A podcast called “How to be a Girl,” told from the point-of-view of a parent – with lots of input from her 8-year-old daughter (male to female). They talk about school, friends, privacy, etc. The parent is a great advocate.
There was some slight confusion in which the principal included all this information in the school-wide email, where, for example, I had only intended the podcast recommendation to be for her. But, I realized, the fact everyone received all of the above was actually way better! It gave people more context, which, I really really really think helped the information lodge into their brains better. Like, I have not had to correct anyone, once! Which is just completely blowing my mind. People seem more into addressing me by my name than before. Some people have decided to call me “Kam,” instead, of their own volition, which I’m OK with – it’s just plain fascinating. (My one co-worker / ally has been calling me, “Killa Kam” for a while now. Haha.)
A barrier between me and other people has definitely started to lift, just within this past month. I have had more conversations with more people about a wider variety of things than ever before. This is what being a person within a work environment is mostly about. The connections are what make it something more than just a random assortment of people that you (seemingly) have nothing in common with.
I wanna just keep running with this!
PS: This post has 882 words. Haha.
PPS: Posts coming soon about this amazing podcast, “How to be a Girl.”
I started going by “Kameron,” socially, in May of last year. I had a turning-point conversation with my spouse a couple of months before that, but I wanted to let it sink in, because once, years ago, I picked out a name I thought I wanted to go by. But then I just didn’t do anything more with it. So I wanted to see if that was going to happen again, or if I would actually move ahead. My spouse started calling me the name around the house, and then, a pivotal moment was trying the name out within a group of strangers that I was only seeing on a temporary basis: Being transgender while in a partial hospitalization program. That helped immensely; to hear the name repeatedly and see if it would sink in. Once that felt right, I emailed a bunch of people with this new information (and with a new phone number). That was a big move, but I haven’t regretted it. It’s been a super easy transition – no one, surprisingly, has messed up in front of me, once. Plus, acquaintances and friends of friends heard word from others, so I barely had to tell or remind anyone! So cool! (Well, ok, except for family members, which is different).
Last Monday, I finally went downtown to get the process rolling on getting it legally changed. I think the hold-up was: I wasn’t ready to come out at work, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change my last name, too, while I was at it.
I’m now feeling good about coming out at work within the near future. Also, I decided to change my first, middle, and last name. That’s going to take some getting used to, since I haven’t changed that anywhere yet, even socially. Guess I gotta come up with a new signature too.
The process was not too bad: I printed some documents out from an online site, and fortunately my spouse’s dad is a notary, so we were able to go over to her parents’ house to get that all in order and signed, the day before. I had Monday off work, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day, so I decided to bike. (So glad I did because I ended up having to go back and forth, and to a few places. Parking is tough downtown, and I was able to zip around and lock up at VIP spots anywhere I was going, haha – VIP spots meaning street signs and trees.)
I first went to the information desk at the County Clerks’ office. The lady was brusque, giving me 2 other documents that had to be filled out, asking me if I had my index #, and telling me I needed 3 copies of all these papers. Luckily, my spouse’s dad, who works downtown, had told me I could contact him if I needed anything else. I called him, biked over the few blocks to his office – it was cool to see where he works! – and he helped me fill out the rest, plus he made copies of everything and paper-clipped everything neatly and efficiently, with clips on both the top and the sides!) I thanked him and rode back and got in line, where I stood for probably a half hour. When it was my turn though, I got through quickly. I paid the $210 fee, got my index number, and got a receipt.
They told me I then had to go to the Hall of Justice, to the Judicial Clerk’s office. This involved more bike riding, plus a walk through a metal detector and asking around in order to find the right room. Things went smoothly there too, although I noticed that on the receipt I got from the County Clerk’s office, they spelled “Kameron,” “Kamerson.” Aarrgh! I asked if this was going to be a problem, and I was assured that it was fine – the judge wasn’t going to be looking at that at all.
I then biked to a coffee shop and worked on some writing for the rest of the afternoon. About to head home, I ran into a friend, and we chatted for a while. Then a stranger approached us with a digital recorder, and he asked if he could ask us a question for a radio show. I said, “probably!” So he launched into, “OK, so the Cubs won the world series, and that hasn’t happened in 108 years. And then Trump was actually elected president. So, with all this going on, what’s next?” I said, “Flying lizards,” just because it was the first thing that popped into my head, but if I had thought for even just a second, in retrospect, I would have said, “SUPERMOON!” because I’d heard that on that day, (November 14th), it was the biggest it’s been in 69 years, and it’s not going to be that big again for another 34!
Oh well. Next time I’ll make more sense.
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.
Content Note: vanity.
When I first saw my chest, looking down while everything was being unwrapped, I was pretty happy. Everything looked good, except for the fact that the left side was larger than the right. I was assured it was due to swelling, and everything would even out.
Now that another week has passed though, I’m not feeling it. I am more and more skeptical that there is much, if any, swelling going on. My spouse agrees. Regardless, I’ve been taking arnica and bromelain… using ice packs a little bit.
Right now, there is not enough symmetry, in multiple regards. The areolas are different shapes, and they are too large (not “nickle sized,” like we discussed). The nipples are also too large, but it’s kinda hard to tell what’s going on there (they’re currently being smooshed flat, and will continue to be for another 2 weeks.) The biggest thing, though, is, I have different sizes going on, which contributes to the areolas/nipples being not in the same place, on each side. I don’t like that!
All these differences are fairly subtle, but definitely noticeable. I know it’s way too early to be coming to conclusions about how things look, but, so far, not so good.
I’ve been in a pretty negative space. I’ve felt so negative at times, in fact, that it was hard to feel motivated to do all the showering and “nipple care” stuff. This has gotten better over time. Everything could change a lot, as I heal; I do recognize that. It’s not all bad. Every time I have the sterile pads and binder off for a little while (to let things air out), and I put on a t-shirt (carefully!), I think, “This could work!” Excitement is there, somewhere. Sometimes I push down the good stuff, and remain guarded and reserved.
There is something here though: When picking a surgeon, I wasn’t going off of a whole lot. I mean, I pored through what was available on transbucket, for sure, and searched resources, youtube, and the like. But I didn’t really entertain all the possibilities very much, in my head. I had a gut feeling about one route, and kind of just stuck with that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve made huge, life-changing decisions in this manner. But I kind of hope it might be the last time. (I know it won’t be, haha.) There are better ways to go about narrowing down all the options!
There is one resource that I just learned about a couple of days ago, because a fellow blogger pointed the way. Gabriel wrote a post called Getting Started With Top Surgery. He mentioned “top surgery Facebook groups where people share their results and stories with their surgeon as well as the price quotes they’ve paid.” Oh yeah! Facebook. That had not even crossed my mind, unfortunately. So I just joined an FTM top surgery group, and wow, this is where all the good stuff is. Wish I had known about it 6 months ago.
Edit: My spouse suggested I stop looking at the FTM top surgery page for a while. That sounds like a good idea – I was starting to get obsessive about it. She said wordpress is good. Stop going on facebook. Haha. I agree.
I feel torn about whether I will post pictures or not, and if so, where. Before surgery, I was sure I would not post pictures on this blog, but I would post them on transbucket, when I feel ready. (They can be accessed if you create an account on transbucket). This still sounds like what I’m going to want to do. I do not plan on ever being shirtless in public. So, in regards to aesthetics, the most important thing is how everything looks while wearing a t-shirt. Other than people looking up pics as a resource, the only people who are going to see my chest are my spouse and me (and medical professionals, when necessary). So is it important what it looks like? Ultimately, yes. But for right now, as long as I can wear whatever I want, I will be happy enough…
During my most recent therapy appointment, right before surgery, I had said, “I’m worried my chest won’t look as good as it does now.” As opposed to saying, “I’m worried my chest won’t look as good as I envision.” That, to me, says a lot.
In other news, I had a great time in Philadelphia with my mom, after my follow-up. We went to a brewery and record store. We met up with friends at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference and went to two workshops. Wish we could have stayed longer!
Also, my spouse and I went to a wedding this past weekend, and it was a lot of fun! Their ceremony reflected who they are, a lot, and everything was casual and laid back. After the ceremony, I was asked to sign the marriage certificate, as one of the witnesses. This was a total surprise! I felt honored. I asked the officiant if it had to be my legal name, and she said it didn’t matter. Awesome!
Going into surgery, I was in pretty rough shape. I felt sick (although I didn’t want to say so, specifically, to anyone other than my spouse… I kept saying “slight head cold”) and exhausted. Luckily, my cold symptoms were not too worrisome, medically: no fever, no chest congestion / trouble breathing. Other than the cold, I felt mentally prepared. In retrospect, I totally was. But, not so much prepared for the recovery process…
office/home/guest rooms mansion
Surgery Day: We arrived at 6:15am, surgery was from 7:30-9am, I was sleeping till about 10:30, and we were leaving by 11:30. At which point, I felt a lot better than I had for days – it even felt like my cold magically disappeared.
Everything went smoothly, except for the fact that the surgeon was about to do the wrong procedure. I was afraid this was the case because during the entire process including the consultation, the paperwork continually listed “double incision mastectomy with free nipple grafts.” Even after I called a month ago to verify we were on the same page with the peri-areolar procedure and was assured that we were. So when she came in and said, “Double incision.” I said no, and luckily wasn’t phased by the mix up. She said peri-areolar, I said yes, and she drew circles around my areolas. I talked to her about nipple size, saying I wanted them small. She said, “They’ll be smaller. Your nipples will be nipple-sized.” That was not very reassuring, but after she left, and before the anesthesiologist came back around, my spouse clarified that she had said, “your nipples will be nickle-sized.” That sounded better.
If you want to read a more detailed account of what it’s like, here’s a good one someone wrote just a few days ago: Surgery. It was a lot like that. Back at the guest room, we texted with some people, a Philly friend came and visited for a while, we watched Seinfeld, and we went to sleep early. I was up a lot that night, ravenously eating snacks and just not able to get comfortable. I was sleeping sitting up, at the foot of the bed, a lot.
Day after surgery – The next day, we were driving home. And I was in bed by 6pm. My cold symptoms were back, and I was not feeling so good anymore. I’ll bet that first day, I had a good mix of adrenaline and endorphins flowing, plus whatever they put in the IV. And then I crash.
2 days after surgery – I sat outside for a while. A friend came over, and we chatted for about 30 minutes before my spouse and they went thrift shopping. We listened to some podcasts. I read a book about subway art, written in 1984, a book I had found in the trash at school. We watched 2 episodes of Mad Men.
3 days – Podcasts, Mad Men. I stopped taking the pain meds (Percocet) because they were causing OIC (opioid induced constipation). The pain increased throughout the day, but it’s not like Percocet was all that effective anyway. We went to my spouse’s parents’ house, which did not go so well (I could not bear being social, especially once a family friend came by – I just went and sat outside.) We went to the grocery store on the way home – that was OK.
4 days – Glad to be off Percocet – realized that there are other pain meds (D’uh!) so I took an Alieve. I feel like 95% of the pain now is due to this fucking surgical wrap I have to wear for 7 days. I can only take shallow breaths; I can’t laugh or yawn or cough; it’s digging into my ribs and underarms; it’s way too tight; it just fucking sucks*. There’s a reason I didn’t bind! We went to the movies – nice to get out of the house. Also, one of our cats got suddenly freaked out by my Frankenstein walk (even though I’ve been doing it for days), and she bolted off the table, knocking a bunch of my records onto the floor. It was loud. Also, I had a mini melt down about hating asking for things that are so basic, telling my spouse that I keep doing things because I would rather do them than ask – open and close doors, get ice trays out of the freezer, pour water from our britta, reach up high for a Q-tip, carry my laptop… I gotta stop so I don’t mess up my healing process! She was on it and strategized a bunch of new ways to make things easier!
5 days – My spouse went back to work. Our refrigerator was making a loud noise this morning and stopped working. That was stressful! I called a repair person, then changed my mind because we should just buy a new one because this thing is super old. My spouse’s mom came over to save our freezer items for us, store them at her house. Then the fridge started working again, so it feels like less pressure – we’ll still get a new one, but it doesn’t have to be today. A friend brought over lunch – I liked that! My mom stopped by after work. I felt anxious and lightheaded for a lot of the day. I was feeling really confined/claustrophobic, as if this binding thing were made of plaster of paris, or steel. I had a serious melt down (I got an all-too-real glimpse of what it could feel like, if I lost it right now – I felt in danger of becoming more and more triggered), and told my spouse we need more people around us, helping. She called her parents to make that happen. We talked and I felt a lot better.
6 days – That’s today! I only managed to sleep 3 hrs. I’ll be spending more time with people today. I’m just going to try to relax. I also gotta start preparing for going back down there tomorrow, to get this fucking binding off. Oh, and the drains. I’m going with my mom.
Overall, I’m in more pain than I thought. And I’m way less out of it than I thought (like, I didn’t get to be in a fun pain-killer induced haze, haha). And I don’t like TV that much and I’ve been up and about a lot. I hate not doing things because it reminds me of being depressed.
* Note: this may be the only time I’ve used swear words on this blog (in reference to the surgical binding). It’s that bad. Also, though, I appreciate this thing because it reminds me of where the limits are and also it’s preventing me from coughing stitches open or anything like that.
One week feels about right – it neither feels like it’s approaching too quickly nor like it cannot come soon enough. I already have everything that the surgeon’s office needs turned in; my to-do list now consists of things I’m trying to think I want to get done before I won’t be able to do stuff for a while: cut my hair, cut my spouse’s hair, cut the grass, purchase extra cat litter because I won’t be able to lift that, do laundry, install the air conditioning unit in our bedroom window… I know my spouse can do a lot of this stuff as it needs to get done, but I guess it feels good to be getting as much out of the way now, while I can. I do not look forward to not being able to do things. I’m going to have to accept it.
I’m also thinking about what, specifically, I will miss. I’m going to take some pictures, but, what’s impossible to capture is how that part of my body feels – both the shape and the sensations. I’m resigned to the fact that I will most likely lose sensitivity in this area, and I wish I could remember it how it is, somehow…
Last Saturday night, my spouse and I went with friends to see The Man Who Fell to Earth. Without giving any spoilers, there was a scene in which David Bowie’s character is undergoing surgery while conscious. Doctors are cutting into his areola with a scalpel, and he is yelling for help. This was like whoa. Unexpected. Hitting a little too close to home. Not making sense, story arc wise (the story arc was less of an arc and more of a jagged pattern-less wave anyway).
I don’t really feel anxious or excited, at least not yet. I’d be into the idea of getting through this without either or those emotions – we’ll see. It helps to read other accounts of impending surgery thoughts and feelings. Such as this post: Last Minute Concerns, from over 5 years ago. And recountings of the process, such as this post, from yesterday: It’s Never Too Late.
I only have 3 more days of work. Then I won’t be back till probably August. That’ll be weird. I wonder what my days will look like, once I’m recovered enough. Will I feel like being creative and getting stuff done, or will I end up just hanging out? We’ll see – I’m not going to make it be anything in particular.
Other stuff has been going on too. My spouse and I visited some extended family on my dad’s side last weekend, most of whom she had not yet met. I sent an email to as many people as I could in advance just mentioning my name change and that I go by male pronouns. I received only one reply, and my expectations were pretty low. Surprisingly though, everyone who said my name used my new name, and there were zero slip ups. It was awesome. I think this’ll help my dad get on board! (He is getting there, slowly… … very slowly…)
About 10 days ago, my breast tissue started to feel inflamed and tender. It wasn’t in line with my menstrual cycle, and it hurt way more than that would, anyway. As it got worse and not better, I wondered if it was some strange manifestation of a psychological reaction to my upcoming surgery. I wasn’t feeling stressed or anxious about it, but was this psychosomatic? Then a patch of skin below my left armpit started to really burn and sting, as well as the skin around my shoulder blade.
Then 3 days ago, I broke out into a rash in those areas… and my boooobs still hurt a lot. I was able to get in to see my doctor yesterday, and… it’s shingles. She said that would also be causing the breast tenderness, because of where it is. Shingles flare up along a line of nerves starting at your spinal cord, and wrapping around to the front of your body – so that you only get it on one side, within a range of area. It’s like chicken pox, redux. Everyone I’ve mentioned this to says, “You’re too young to get shingles!” All I know about it really is that Carrie Brownstein got shingles while on tour (from reading her memoir, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl,) so I guess I’m in good company.
I got 2 prescriptions to help with the pain and the duration. We’ll see – it should start clearing up within a week… I’ll be going back in 2 weeks for my doctor to take a look. If this had happened close enough to my surgery, it would have had to have been postponed. That would have made me really upset! According to this timeline, I should be OK. It’s just so mind bogglingly coincidental that this suuuper painful inflamation occurred right in the area I’ll be having surgery. I’ll let you know which ends up being more painful – this or surgery!
Other than that, I feel relatively prepared. I just had my pre-op appointment via phone call a week ago, and that has put things into motion for getting everything ready. I got a huge packet in the mail of things to sign (informed consent), directions for when to do what, etc. I made a checklist to make it easier.
Pay surgeon – I still have to do this. I exhausted all info about my insurance plan, and there is no way insurance would pay for any of it. I expected as much all along, so, no big blow there…
Get parking permit – In process. My spouse and I will be in Ardmore, PA for close to 48 hours, and we need a temporary parking permit to park in the municipal lots.
Get therapist letter – In process. My therapist just sent me her draft last night, and it looked good to me, so she should be faxing it at some point today.
Get prescriptions filled – Done. This could be done well in advance, so your meds are ready for you when you need them. I needed to get a pain med and an antibiotic.
Get lab work – Done. I did it yesterday morning.
Go through a pre-op appt. with primary care physician – Done. I did it yesterday morning. I killed 2 birds with one stone – this plus shingles diagnosis all in one. She will be filling out a form to clear me, despite the shingles, and faxing it in.
Send in consent forms and everything else that needs a signature by me – I gotta get this together. I think I need to re-print certain pages and figure out what I still need to read through.
Take photos of chest – I did this for the surgeon already, but I might want to re-do it. Not while I have these shingles though!
I feel ready for surgery, mentally. Emotionally, I’m wondering if something is going on (shingles are brought on by stress, which I’m not actually feeling). I set up an appointment to see my therapist (who I haven’t been seeing lately), just to cover all my bases. It can’t hurt!
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.