Medications orbiting my headPosted: July 9, 2015 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, doctors, emotions, identity, medical treatment, medications, mental health, moods 10 Comments
I drew this picture to illustrate the jumble I feel is going on. Just to recap, 6 months ago, had a manic episode and was hospitalized. I previously was not on any medications, but suddenly I was thrown back into all of that – psychiatric visits, side effects, adjusting dosages, trying different drugs. I’d definitely say the hardest part of the past 6 months was being depressed for a good chunk of that time. But almost equally hard, just in a different way, is the long term.
Early on, I was cavalier. I was sure that I’d get off of all these medications within 6 months – just go back to the way things had been. I was even reluctant to add an antidepressant – things had to get really bad for me to go there. Now that it’s been 6 months, I can easily say that time frame was way too short. And I’m also not so sure anymore: Which drugs are helping? Which side effects can I tolerate? How long will I be seeing this psychiatrist? Do I potentially want to stay on any of these long term? (That last question scares me – it’s almost as if being med-free has been a part of my identity…)
Some of this journey has felt crazy. I was having hot flashes and cold sweats, my mouth tasted metallic, I threw up a few times (and I have a stomach of steel). At one point, I went on a drug called Cogentin. Its purpose was not to help with symptoms, but rather to help with side effects. One of the other drugs, Geodon, typically causes hand tremors and a stiffening of facial muscles. When a nurse practitioner asked if I was experiencing these things, I said, “I guess so.” So she prescribed yet another thing to add to the mix. After 3 days of taking it, my nearsighted vision became blurry. Overnight. One day was fine, the next day, I couldn’t read the computer screen. I wasn’t reading books at the time, so that wasn’t an issue, but I remember eating food and not being able to see it and just feeling enormous sadness on top of depression. I didn’t put the pieces together, but luckily I had an appointment with my psychiatrist 2 days later, and when I mentioned the blurry vision, he said, “Oh, that’s common with Cogentin.” What?
I also cycled through 4 different antidepressants within a short amount of time. Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro were making me feel famished all the time, which was just making me feel anxious. I got on Wellbutrin, and luckily that’s been side effect – free as far as I can tell.
Ideally, I don’t want to be medicated. And it was so easy when it felt like that wasn’t on my radar. But now I am faced with all these decisions and timelines. And although there is strong input from other people (mostly my psychiatrist, who thinks I need to be on at least something for forever), it’s all ultimately up to me.
For now, I just advocated for myself to lower the amount of Geodon (mood stabilizer / antipsychotic) that I’m taking. I feel really happy about that. I have plans to tackle Klonopin (anti-anxiety medication that I’m using as a sleep aid) next. As for Wellbutrin (antidepressant), I’m not quite decided. I’m just going to take these things one step at a time.
A manic episodePosted: June 25, 2015 Filed under: mental health, Writing | Tags: anxiety, bipolar, bipolar disorder, depression, emotions, hospitalization, mania, medical treatment, mental health, therapy 7 Comments
I could easily write a 5,000 word essay on this topic; maybe one day I will. This is an abbreviated version:
Over night, my brain became a frenzied jumble of free associations. Every system I could imagine (friendships, technology, routines) opened up, and I was in the center of all of it, connecting all the dots.
I thought that Leelah Alcorn, the trans-teen from Ohio who committed suicide, was an elaborately staged message created by a group of people on Tumblr. Meaning, I thought she was not a real person – more of a call to action, one more thing to add to “The Transgender Tipping Point,” and finally really make some changes happen.
But I thought a lot of things right around this time period, for a couple of days. I believed I’d been chosen for amazing things, I was choosing my own adventure, and the further I could get before running into a dead-end setback, the more rewards I would gain. If I made it to my therapist’s office, she was going to give me this new phone I’ve had my eye on. If I made it through the entire day, I’d be going to a party thrown by everyone I know. I briefly had the thought, “My partner wouldn’t like that; that’s too much.” So my logic led me to believe I shouldn’t make it through the day at this rate. I should definitely get the new phone, but I should see what my therapist thought after that. Maybe.
Some things were already in motion, and there was no stopping me! My social media outlets were blowing up! My blog was going to get huge at this rate, and I was going to get a book deal out of it. Should I quit my job? I kinda like working there, as a janitor, so I’ll keep my job. I better write a note so that everyone will know I wanna go back to work. I pulled out one of those Mr. Sketch scented markers – it was Blue Raspberry – and scrawled out really big and doodle-y on a piece of artist’s paper, “I will want to go back to work.” It was barely legible. When I showed my therapist a few hours later, in fact, she couldn’t read it, so I just had to tell her I want to go back to work. I wouldn’t want to be someone who sits around all day, writing their book. I would get bored!
I called my therapist at 2AM and asked her, “Can you just come over?” I called her again at 7AM, just to see if she’d drop by instead of me meeting her at her office at 9. I was making some really cool displays in the house, and I wanted her to come check them out. I was playing a record – The Days of Wine and Roses by The Dream Syndicate, and everything was clicking into place. (Actually, the record is still on my turntable, untouched 4 months later – I’m playing it right now.) The lyrics were making perfect sense and informing me of things I should write down. “You say it’s a waste / not to learn from mistakes.” “Textbook case.” “It’s Halloween.” “She remembers what she said.” These messages were of utmost importance. This record was THE record to end all records.
By 8AM I was so bored and fidgety from doing stuff all night long, that I decided to take off for my therapy appointment early. I had everything I needed packed – My toothbrush and toothpaste, notes from work, and 6 bottles of hoarded Androgel (my prescription allows me to get more than I need, so I just collect them). I had no clue what would be happening next or how long I’d be gone after therapy (I might be put up in a hotel!), but I could figure out clothes and other stuff later.
Driving was a bit tricky. I was relying on intuitive cues, more than the rules of the road. Fortunately, my gut was telling me to slow way down and put my hazard lights on, rather than try to drive at the speed my mind was racing. I still got there early; when I arrived, I slammed my backpack into the corner of the waiting room, above the door. To alert the security cameras that I knew all about it. A man briskly walked past me and out the door. He was planted there to exit when I arrived. I proceeded to be loud and messy. I dumped out a bin of toys. I knocked over a chair. I said, “I’m borrrred!” I talked loudly about a Mazda advertisement on the back cover of a magazine. I finally understood how advertising worked – they weren’t fooling me! In fact, this whole magazine was rigged. I should just take it with me – I’ll need it later. I stuffed it into my backpack. One other therapist was there (this was a Saturday) and she tried to gently corral me until my therapist got there. She picked up the toys. She said she’d call my therapist for me. She talked to me in a steady and soothing voice. She wasn’t patronizing me.
Finally, my therapist arrived. We engaged in a delicate dance around each other. I knew on some level that I was going to the hospital. But I also knew that wasn’t necessary, and she was totally going to come over and check out my displays and then I’d be reunited with my partner to proceed with the most fun day ever! In reality, my partner was on her way to North Carolina with family (I’d successfully convinced her everything was fine / I believed she was just out with friends and I’d see her in a couple hours.) My therapist started calling hospitals for availability, and I conveniently went to the bathroom to shield myself from that stuff. I came back and dumped out all the contents of my backpack. This would be more fun. She immediately sorted things into piles to make sense of it. She called my partner and left a message. She asked me what my best friend’s phone number was and I told her. I left the room again while she talked on the phone. Before I knew it, my best friend was there! Magic! Everything was going my way.
I talked to my friend about the displays and we played Rubix cube. Suddenly we were all leaving. They led the way, and I went into the bathroom again. I wasn’t so sure anymore. I yelled out, “I set some things in motion, and I don’t know if I want it to go this far.” We were still just going to my house, right? My therapist replied, with forced enthusiasm, “Come on!”
I got in the car with her; my best friend went separately. I curled up into a ball and shielded my eyes from the world. I started to feel sad; I verbalized what I thought about Leelah Alcorn. I said, “I don’t know much about it. I know her name, where she’s from, and that’s about it.” She had been on the news. That was big. What I was trying to convey was that no one knew much about it. If everyone just saw her picture, her name, and her suicide note, maybe she wasn’t real. And maybe this kind of stuff happens all the time. What is real in the media? Scattered thoughts breaking down. My therapist said, “I don’t actually know where you live.” I replied, desperately, “Yeah, but you can find out.” She had a smart phone. People with smart phones seamlessly glean information all the time.
We weren’t going to my house. When we stopped and I uncurled myself, we were at the hospital. But it still wasn’t too late. If I just told her this is where it ends, and we go to my house from here, everything could still be OK. I looked her straight in the eye; I put my face two inches from her face. I said, “This is where it ends.” This had worked with my partner a few hours earlier. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Everything’s going to be OK.” I gave her the green light to go on her trip. This time was different. My therapist probably interpreted that as, “The journey ends here, at the hospital.” I meant here in the car. Still though, I complied and followed her. After all, my best friend showed up here too, so it probably was all OK.
Five hours later, I was on the psych ward. I’d been in the emergency department. My mom had shown up. I had talked to my partner on the phone – it finally sunk in she was 6 hours away, and she and her family were turning straight around. My best friend had been with me. My therapist had left at some point. I’d peed in a cup. I’d gotten blood drawn. I’d signed some papers by drawing big loops over the entire page, not knowing what I was signing, exactly. But now, it was just me, and suddenly my choose your own adventure had come to a dead halt. There was no more choosing. I started yelling, panicking. “I NEED MY VITAMIN D PILL AND ELDERBERRY SUPPLEMENT!” I needed to maintain my body’s delicate homeostatic state. I was given a pill and took it; it was Haldol. It knocked me out for 18 hours. Before I faded out, the nurse was talking to me really sternly. She was really butch. “Do not start shouting on my unit – we don’t do that.” “I know I know it’s not like me at all…” “Also, you smell really strongly bad so I’m going to shut your door.” Then she started yelling. “He gets whatever he wants!” And I was out.
Still struggling / We got catsPosted: April 17, 2015 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: anxiety, cats, depression, emotions, insomnia, mental health, pets, sleeping, therapy 35 Comments
It’s been three months now since I was hospitalized. I was out of work initially for 2 weeks, then I went back for about a month before being out for another 2 weeks. I started to feel like things were improving – it was starting to be spring, time was on my side, and I would have moments where the crushing depression was lifting.
Then I had a really rough few days last week. I had 2 nights of disturbed sleeping in a row, and that really made the difference in whether I was OK enough or not OK. I called into work one of the days, but that started to not feel like enough. Things at work were starting to really trigger my anxiety, and this just got worse and worse over the weekend.
I had an idea about the trajectory of my recovery, but my brain is not following along. I thought, “OK, I just went through a manic episode with delusional thinking. This was followed by about 2 weeks of hypomania and then some mixed symptoms. I thought I could get away without sinking into depression, but it caught up to me. I should be in this depression for a few weeks and then things will start to lift and I’ll feel like myself again.”
Those few weeks have been stretching into 2 months so far. Like I said, a couple weeks ago, it started to feel like things were improving a little bit, but then I fell again, fast and hard. That wasn’t part of the plan. My therapist suggested going out of work for even longer, to give myself some time to heal. So, I am currently out of work for a month. It feels like defeat/relief. I started taking Celexa in the hopes that it will help.
Some of those nights when I haven’t been sleeping well have been agony. There were nights where I didn’t actually sleep at all – just kind of dozed only to be pulled out of it by some thought attached to an anxiety-reaction, over and over and over again. Does anyone else go through periods of insomnia? I kept trying to go to sleep in the guest bed, then switch to the couch, then back to our bed, then the guest bed, the couch, our bed, the guest bed… The night stretched out to infinity. I started getting agitated. Pacing. Swearing at myself. Punching a soft chair. I could have done worse, so I’m glad it was just that.
I’m at a new low. When I thought recovery was on the horizon, I sunk lower. In my past, I have been more depressed than I am right now, but who’s comparing? This feels pretty fucking bad.
When my feelings were so bad I didn’t think I could even be with myself, my partner helped me arrange to spend the day with her mom. We went to the bank, got coffee, ran an errand at the mall, she brought me to my therapy appointment, and then we had lunch at her house. That helped.
When it wasn’t any better 2 days later, I called a friend and she picked me up on her way to doing a bunch of deliveries for work. We ate lunch at an Indian buffet. That helped.
When I couldn’t imagine being home alone anymore, I went to yoga with my partner. That helped.
When I couldn’t fathom what I would do with these unstructured days, I looked into a place called the Creative Wellness Center. They have a bunch of art workshops and support groups, and it’s all free. I went to a jewelery making workshop just because that was what was being offered when I got there, and I went to a support group. That helped, momentarily, but I would have to say the social element was super taxing, and I’m not sure if I will go back.
When I expressed extreme despondency in therapy today, she suggested a partial hospitalization program. She looked into it and they do currently have openings. It runs weekdays from 9:30-3:15. I think this is what I need right now. She is going to fill out the paperwork and get back to me – I may be able to start next week.
In brighter news, my partner and I adopted 2 cats two weeks ago. Their names are Joan (after Joan Jett) and Jarboe (singer in a band called Swans). Normally, getting new pets would probably be exciting and fun. There are elements that are nice – it’s fun to watch them play together, and I like when they are cuddly. But to be honest, it has been stressful, just because of the state I am in. They are cats, doing their cat things. They get into stuff and knock things over. They eat things they shouldn’t. We’re containing them to the first floor right now, and Joan keeps getting through to go to the upstairs or basement. They are a whirlwind of motion; they are creatures being alive.
I keep hoping that they will save me from what I am feeling, but the best they can do is distract me momentarily. That’s a lot of pressure I’m putting on them!
Am I bipolar?Posted: March 30, 2015 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: bipolar, bipolar disorder, depression, emotions, hypomania, mania, medical treatment, medications, mental health, SSRIs, therapy 11 Comments
Today is the 2nd annual World Bipolar Day, an event that strives to educate the public about bipolar disorder and encourages an open discussion to end the stigma associated with brain illness. There’s a facebook page where people can share stories, and there’s lots of links to different organizations. It was chosen to fall on this day because it’s Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday. He is said to have suffered from bipolar disorder, and he committed suicide at age 37. Bipolar disorder is fairly rare – roughly 1% – 2% of the population are bipolar. Some estimates say up to 5%, but there is this sense that it’s over-diagnosed. When I have questioned in therapy whether I am bipolar, she has replied something to the effect of, “That was a very popular diagnosis then. A lot of teens were being diagnosed.” Sometimes people think they have it because their moods are extreme; really something else might be going on.
I thought I’d take a minute to reflect today about whether I am bipolar or not. I mean, I did just go through a delusional manic episode 2.5 months ago, no doubt about it. And I am currently sinking through a rebound depression – definitely a clinical level depression. But I strongly do not think I am bipolar. It’s been 15 years in between episodes, and I’ve only ever had 2 episodes. Much of that time I’ve been off all medications. I can accept that I have bipolar-like tendencies (and I’m hyper-sensitive to stress levels), but I don’t think I fit the criteria, nor do I think I need to be medicated long term. In fact, I plan to go off my medications in a couple of months once this passes and I feel like myself again.
My new psychiatrist told my partner, “Once a bipolar, always a bipolar.” Meaning, I’d been (mis?)diagnosed already (at age 17), and there’s no taking that back. ??? He thinks I need to be medicated forever. He doesn’t get that I’ve been stable and have managed issues in my life in other ways for a long time. I’m pretty sure someone who is really bipolar doesn’t get to do that.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually be bipolar. To have to balance a medication cocktail indefinitely or suffer the consequences. Because when you’re actually bipolar, you can have an upswing or downturn without much prompting, if you’re un-medicated or if the medications are not right for you. If I was pretty sure I would be going through more mania and more depression in the near future, I would be living in fear of that. I honestly do believe I am prone to going through mania and depression again, but to a much lesser extent than someone who actually has bipolar disorder. And that’s scary enough.
One other factor that makes me think I have bipolar-like tendencies has been my reaction to SSRIs. I took Paxil for a few weeks about 13 years ago, and it caused me to feel super agitated and become hypomanic. Apparently this will happen if people with bipolar disorder take SSRIs. I do take this seriously, but ultimately I’d have to say I do not have bipolar disorder. Today I’m thinking about everyone who actually does.
TomboyPosted: March 24, 2015 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: androgyny, emotions, gender, gender identity, genderqueer, graphic novel, lgbtq, non-binary, queer, tomboy, trans, transgender 10 Comments
I just finished reading Tomboy, a graphic novel by Liz Prince. Definitely worthwhile if you come across it. She recounts growing up as a tomboy, and continues to self identify that way, even as a 32 year old adult. She’s kinda a rare breed – someone who is cisgender, heterosexual, and a tomboy (it’s not just a childhood phase she grew out of). She recounts sibling dynamics, friendships, birthday parties, playing in Little League, bullying (there’s a lot of bullying, some of it physical), crushes, relationships, changing schools, basically her life from age 4 – age 18. For the most part, growing up, she rejected all things “girl,” including girl friendships and feeling OK as a girl. A big part of the book is her growing into the fact that she is a girl, and that the way she performs “girl,” is acceptable in the same way the way others choose to perform “girl” is. It’s just different. Boys / masculinity is not superior.
A lot of her journey is relate-able. Wearing a t-shirt over her swimsuit while swimming. Finding comfort behind a baseball hat that she wears constantly. Feeling like an outsider – being rejected by both boys and girls. I can’t believe (and I can believe) the amount of times she was bullied.
It made me reflect on my own childhood / adolescence. I haven’t written about this at all… yet. I kinda feel like I was a tomboy and I was not a tomboy. I looked like a boy from age 10, (cut my hair short, wore boys clothes) but I didn’t feel comfortable with boy stuff or boy friendships. I had one friend, and she was a tomboy, and I emulated her. If she wasn’t around, I reverted back to my painfully shy, nerdy self. I liked learning about endangered animals. And the 50 states. And the US presidents. And the countries of Africa. I didn’t play with action figures or video games much. I mostly remember reading and organizing my collections. And riding my bike a lot.
I honestly don’t have a lot of strong memories of being a kid. I didn’t have many strong emotions that I can remember. I was pretty easy – agreeable, liked all foods (except black licorice, stuff with fennel or anise in it). My parents allowed me to dress the way I wanted, for the most part. But I still had a hard time asking for explicitly boy’s clothes. I did get to wear boys clothes; I just don’t remember how that played out – don’t remember being that vocal about it. Or about anything really. I didn’t get bullied. A part of me believes I was too shy to be on peoples’ radars, thankfully. And plus, my one friendship was solid; we always just played together. We sat at the “boys table,” something I never would have done on my own. I was in girl scouts for a couple of years. I was on a girl’s softball team.
I don’t remember being all that happy, but I don’t remember anything traumatic happening either. It was just… a neutral childhood. I didn’t have a lot of strong preferences.
Adolescence is a different story, for sure – a different blog post for a different time! I do remember my tomboy friend growing out of her tomboy phase starting in middle school, and me being stuck, left to wonder what is going on with me. I definitely questioned why I wanted to look the way I did. I didn’t conform though, I just became more and more isolated in my head.
Anyone else relate to being a tomboy? Being trans and being a tomboy / gender non-conforming child often go hand in hand, but often the two are mutually separate…
Depression and taking testosterone pt. 2Posted: March 2, 2015 Filed under: Testosterone | Tags: androgyny, depression, emotions, gender identity, genderqueer, hormone replacement therapy, lgbt, medication, mental health, non-binary, testosterone, trans, transgender 11 Comments
A couple of months ago, I wrote about my aversion to antidepressants and how I’ve felt like testosterone has been acting well, in that way for me. A reader had asked if I have experiences with being on antidepressants while starting T, and since I hadn’t, I asked for thoughts from others. That post is here:
Depression and taking testosterone
I’m going to elaborate on some of those thoughts now because I am currently depressed. I’ve been feeling this way for close to two weeks now, and I acknowledge that it might be a little while before I really pull out of it. It’s not all that surprising or hard to swallow. I suffered from a break from reality and a manic episode 6 weeks ago, and then I spent some time (weeks) in a hypomanic and slightly agitated state. Usually what follows naturally is a rebound depressive episode. My brain is still sorting itself out.
I’ve been spending a lot of my free time sitting and thinking. Or laying down and thinking. Or sleeping. The thinking isn’t doing me any good / getting me anywhere. It’s a lot of dead ends and connecting things to fear responses. But it feels like all I can do at times. Reading has been challenging. Socializing has been challenging. Feeling like doing anything extra has been challenging. Writing (surprisingly) is doable, and always has been when I’m depressed (as long as it’s personal writing as opposed to fiction or academic writing). I’ve been feeling forgetful, and like it’s tough to grasp the details of what is going on around me.
I’m trying to go easy on myself – not berate myself for sleeping 10-12 hours a night. Accepting help from my partner and telling her how much it’s appreciated. Letting myself off the hook for not conversing with others the way I’d like to be, or not doing the things I should really get around to doing…
Things that are sad are even sadder than they’d normally feel. I haven’t been crying; instead I feel a sinking numbness. Things that should be joyful and exciting are just things that happened. Hopefully I’ll feel the joy and excitement later on, like a delayed response once I’m past this? Like I’m storing up the joy for later? Because some good things have been happening; I’m just not feeling it.
There is a bright side though, and that’s what I wanna focus on. I still do think that testosterone is acting as an effective antidepressant. Not so much on my mind / thinking, but definitely on my body / energy. Although I’ve been oversleeping, when I’m awake, I feel good. I don’t feel drained of energy or crushing physical pain, which is so common with depression. It’s not hard to go through the motions of living, even though I really am just dragging my brain along for the ride right now. That feels like a win.
My psychiatrist keeps asking, “How is your depression,” and saying, “If you’re depressed, we’ll add an antidepressant.” And I keep saying (so far) that my depression is fine. I don’t want to add more pills.* I know this is stubborn thinking, and if it goes on too long, I hope I’ll have the wits to just gracefully change my tune. But I really feel like this is a blip, and within a month, I’ll be feeling more like my usual self.
And that’s another win – a lot of times, that depressed feeling is accompanied by a conviction that it will never lift. I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ll be out from under this in no time.
And my brain and I might be friends again before I know it.
*I had been on Geodon, an atypical antipsychotic that was causing some strange hormonal side effects for me. I’m currently switching to Latuda, another atypical antispychotic that has been approved in the US for about a year now. I’m hoping this will go better.
A more complete picture of where I’m atPosted: February 11, 2015 Filed under: Testosterone | Tags: emotions, gender identity, genderqueer, hormone replacement therapy, lgbtq, medication, mental health, non-binary, queer, testosterone, therapy, trans, transgender, work 5 Comments
Last week, I wrote about some highy unpleasant sensations I was experiencing, that I’d deduced were from testosterone for me right now. Then I thought some more about it. I thought about how testosterone has never been anything but a good thing for me. I also got some insightful comments and talked things through with my partner and my therapist. The testosterone bit may be playing a part, but most likely it’s this new medication I’m on, being all wonky with my hormones.
Another big factor it took me a moment to think through is: my menstrual cycle. Although I’ve been on T for close to 2 years, the dose is low enough that I still get my period. Do I like that? No. But I haven’t been wanting to increase the T enough so that it will cease. Maybe one day I will get a hysto. That’s way down the line though. For now, my menstrual cycle is mild enough that I can deal with it. Until the addition of this atypical antipsychotic (Geodon), that is. While premenstrual, I was experiencing hot flashes and cold sweats. I stunk all around (feet, underarms, breath). I could not be around too much light or too much noise or too many people. (My partner and I call it TMS for Too Much Stimulation.) I was making it through the work day but had no energy for anything else. Or, conversely, I had too much pent up energy I needed to expend by dancing wildly or pacing.
Another piece of the puzzle, that my therapist filled in, was the idea that I’m still coming down from a manic jag. It was acute and short-lived, but the brain takes time to rebound from something so extreme. She told me that, essentially, agitation and “feelings of flying/fun” are two sides of the same coin, neurologically speaking. That made a ton of sense. I was still having fun when I was kicking back at home, on a leave from work. As soon as I returned to work, the stress shot through the roof. Makes sense.
Now that I have the pieces to make sense of all that, and now that my menstrual flow is dwindling, I’m finally feeling like myself again. Even better, actually, I’m feeling like I did when I first got on testosterone. All warm & fuzzy, all cozy and peaceful and grounded in my body. I know my brain <–> body connection still has some sorting out to do, and I know I’m going to get off this drug as soon as it is safe to / I feel like it. Right now though, I am so glad I’m out of the woods on this one.
(It makes sense too, because 12 years ago, I was on Risperdal, a different atypical antipsychotic. I was having really wonky hormonal side effects on that too. Some things don’t change much.)
Stress symptoms due to testosteronePosted: February 5, 2015 Filed under: Testosterone | Tags: androgyny, anxiety, emotions, gender identity, genderqueer, hormone replacement therapy, lgbtq, mental health, non-binary, stress, testosterone, trans, transgender, work 12 Comments
I have been under a lot of stress lately. Between taking on an acting supervisory role at work for 3-4 months and being hospitalized, I can’t remember the last time I was so stressed out. Probably throughout college, over 10 years ago. And although it sucks, there are some interesting things I’m learning about myself at the same time. Namely, that stress is interacting with the added testosterone in some typical (but surprising-to-me) ways.
I’ve been on testosterone for close to 2 years now. And in that entire time, I did not experience a lot of the negatives you hear about – oilier skin, heightened agitation / quicker temper. Right now, I’m experiencing that. Plus some added hormonal weirdness: I feel hot and then cold and then hot and then cold. I am stress-sweating a lot. I STINK! My skin feels prickly, then I feel light as a feather, then I feel like I’m weighted down, back and forth. I’m getting more hairs on my chin and around my nipples. I am pacing and dancing and taking magnesium and doing a lot of other things to try to counteract these stress symptoms and just calm down. I feel calm right now, as I’m writing this.
Not too long ago, I was planning on increasing my testosterone because I’d like to appear even more androgynous. Now I’m thinking that won’t be anytime soon. There will be a time – it’s just not right now. I’m even considering stopping Androgel for a while, but that’s not something I’d do lightly. For right now, I’m hanging in there, because in my own mind, I’d like to be on it… We’ll see. I’ll probably talk to my therapist about it, first and foremost. She has witnessed a lot of my agitation lately.
Normally when I’m stressed out, I might tend to clench my teeth. I will have trouble sleeping. I will have obsessive ruminations in an extreme sense. Those thoughts can get pretty dark and even turn to uncontrollable visions of violence. I would probably get a cold, due to my immune system being compromised.
Right now? I haven’t been sick all fall/winter. I previously was having a lot of trouble sleeping, but due to my new medication, now I am not. I am clenching my teeth a lot. And my obsessive gauge is going at full throttle for large chunks of time. I’m taking super good care of myself – eating well, showering daily, applying deodorant often and chewing gum, to mask bad bodily smells.
I am really off my game, but I’m hanging in there…
These symptoms due to testosterone (educated guess) are really throwing me for a loop.
I landed back in the hospitalPosted: January 23, 2015 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: antipsychotics, anxiety, depression, emotions, genderqueer, hospital, lgbtq, media, medical treatment, medication, mental health, queer 30 Comments
This week has thrown me for a loop, big time. Between Saturday AM and Wednesday AM, I was in the hospital for mental health reasons, on a psychiatric unit. I don’t believe I ever thought I’d be back there; in fact, it was my biggest fear. Scarier than heights, the tallest roller-coasters, the dark, spiders, sharks, germs, etc. etc. (I’m actually not afraid of any of those things.)
Just to summarize my history briefly, when I was a senior in high school, I suffered a psychotic break and subsequent major depressive episode (lasting 4 months, and then on and off throughout college). I was on a mixture of different drugs for about 6 years, and I weened myself off all of them after a certain point. I’d been med-free for roughly 10 years, and pretty proud of that fact.
I’ve written about mental health before…
Here: Depression and taking testosterone
Here: That specific trauma is still there
And here: Continuing to work through a specific trauma
…and also scattered throughout many blog entries.
Although this blog is mainly about taking a low dose of T and working as a janitor, it is undeniably also about mental health and self-care. I slipped up pretty big in the self-care department, slowly and gradually at first, and then fast and unstoppably. I went through a full blown manic episode / psychotic break. A lot of it was so fun it’s kinda indescribable. In fact, I can definitely tell I still haven’t come down completely yet – I’m registering a heightened sensitivity to bodily sensations, both pleasant and annoying, I feel keyed up / antsy, I need to be in control of the stimulation levels or else I feel overwhelmed within seconds, smells and tastes are waaaaay off (not constantly, but sporadically), colors and patterns are popping out, my thinking is still relatively disorganized…
But I’m sleeping well and eating well and engaging in a lot of different things and spending 24/7 with my partner for a few days, and that’s what’s important right now. I was prescribed ziprasidone, which is an atypical antipsychotic approved by the FDA in 2001. Am I happy about it? No. Do I think I’ll be on it indefinitely? A strong NO! But I can accept it for right now.
I’m sure I’ll return to some of what I went through, in an attempt to process things and just share where I’m at (it does feel like it’ll be an arduous rehabilitation process, and I’ll be out of work for roughly 2 weeks). For now though, I want to just write about a strange parallel. It might not mean anything if you haven’t seen Breaking Bad, but I’ll give it a whirl anyway (and there are no real spoilers in what is to follow):
Leading up to what I went through, my partner and I were watching a lot of Breaking Bad. Not really binge watching it, but watching an episode almost every night. Now we are not. Haha. We only have 4 or 5 episodes left, but we’re putting the show on pause. I suggested we start watching Malcolm in the Middle instead, largely because Bryan Cranston plays the dad in both shows (and I used to watch it as a teenager and thought it would be fun. It is fun). But – we just watched the 5th episode, and the family is getting their house tented and fumigated. They are in a camper trailer on their front lawn in the meantime. And the parents, at the tail end of the episode, put on gas masks in order to enter the house and get some alone time. I was flipping out. (I mean, my partner was too, but I was shouting and swearing and pacing and called it a night, basically). Haha. I’ll probably be in bed by 9pm.
Getting to know each other #3 / Year endPosted: December 28, 2014 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: blogs, emotions, gender, gender identity, genderqueer, lgbtqia, non-binary, queer, trans, transgender, travel, writing 4 Comments
Thank you PlainT (Queering the Nerd) for choosing me for the chain-style Very Inspiring Blog Award!
I’m going to move it along by selecting a bunch of blogs I’ve been enjoying lately. If I chose your blog, and you’d like to make a post following all the rules of the award, they can be found in PlainT’s post, here:
The rules of this award are…
Then I’m going to write a few facts about myself, sort of in the vein of a year end summary. I made a similar post last year; it is here:
This year felt different… in a good way
These community-driven awards are super important because it’s a chance for blog writers to connect with different blogs they might not know about yet. I enjoy seeking out new blogs regularly, and I find myself feeling invested in the lives of other blog writers. Sometimes I get bummed when a blog starts off really strong and then disappears! Here’s to the coming year, and strengthening this online community through mutual support and inspired blog writing!
A few blogs to check out (some are mainstays, some are more sporadically written than others, some are brand new)!
Tea With Ess
Dawn to Don
A Yellow Crayon
2 Women to 2 Men
Next up, here are some things about me / some things I did and felt this year:
– Overall, it was a pretty rough year for me. I continued to settle into a new and improved place with hormone therapy and talk therapy, but I’m finding I still have a LONG way to go until I really am where I see myself. I want to be out as non-binary in all areas of my life. I want to go by a different name. I want all the people who know me to use male pronouns in reference to me, not just most of the people… I might want top surgery…
– I felt a growing closeness with my partner, newer levels of comfort and ease, which is great. At the same time, she kinda had to put up with a lot from me. Lots of bouts of crying. Lots of insecurity-fueled jags. I had a rough summer. And fall. And just in general, lately…
– We celebrated our having-gotten-married (this occurred in November 2013) over the summer with friends and family!
– We went on some fun trips. To Massachusetts and Maine, to Toronto, To Philadelphia for the Philly Trans-Health Conference.
– We attended a foraging workshop with some friends, which was totally fun! We learned about edible plants you can find in our region, and how to prepare them into meal-like food items, over an open fire in the middle of the woods. We did that – everyone helped cook this food we’d found, and then we all ate it!
– Outdoors times were probably some of my favorite times this year. Just going for a hike or going to a lake. My partner and I got snowshoes recently, so we can keep getting out there, even throughout the winter.
– My pet rabbit passed away, and my co-worker retired. These have both felt like HUGE losses. Work has been tough and more drama-ful than need be, lately.
– I worked on 3 submissions for anthologies this year! One is already published, and two have been accepted and are in the works, the editing stages… This feels AWESOME!
– I got involved in a local group that is putting a new radio station out into the airwaves. Currently I’m helping out a lot with their facebook page, and within the coming year, I will be a weekly radio DJ!
That was, more or less, what 2014 looked like for me.