It’s Time..

It’s time to talk.

This will likely be a little long, but I won’t apologize. #sorrynotsorry.

I’m fairly candid about my struggles with mental health overall, but I don’t know how many people realize just how dire the situation got a few years back.

I wasn’t just an angsty teenager (21 actually- but who’s counting?). I was depressed and closer to making a permanent decision than I’ve ever been.. I got in my car, not knowing what else to do or where to turn. I didn’t know how to ask for help because I didn’t know what was wrong. I had come out as gay, and thought that was it.. but I’d fallen to a place even darker than before I’d come out. I drove for a bit, eventually stopping at a bridge just on the outside of the town I lived in. As I sat with the door open and figured out how to write on a napkin what was going through my head, Demi’s ‘Skyscraper’ came on the radio. I’d never heard it, or if I had, I’d never given it much thought. For whatever reason, on that night in October of 2011, it made me pause. I turned the volume as loud as it would go and just listened. It made me think about what I was doing, and how desperately I wanted to feel better. I closed my door. I put the napkin and pen down. I sat on the side of the road and I sobbed. I cried for the desperation I felt; I cried at the thought of being a disappointment; I cried for all the things I wished I could be. The song that played was one of resilience, of not letting outside factors win, and of never giving up. I took that with me as I pulled myself together, turned my car on, and drove home. I crawled into bed as if nothing had happened. As if moments before I hadn’t been literally teetering on the edge of taking my own life.

I won’t say that Demi is magic and I was immediately better.. I still struggled deeply with my depression, and my anxiety started to present around that same time. It took me another 5 years to finally find my answer, and those 5 years were some of the hardest of my life. I fought every day just to stay afloat. Even now, my depression and anxiety still rear their ugly heads to remind me that they are never fully gone. It never gets quite as bad- my worst days now are better than my best days back then.

Many people think I’m just a random fanboy of Demi, but the truth is, I literally owe her my life. My sheer love for her comes out of gratitude, because if that song hadn’t come on that night, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I would not be around today. Every time she comes this way on tour, I go see her play. Until tonight, she always played that song, and I always cried. Tonight was the first time since 2011 she didn’t put Skyscraper on her set list. Tonight was also the first time that I have acknowledged that it’s okay to talk about my experience. I have told parts of this story to exactly 5 people in the almost 7 years since it took place. Only one of those people knew me in those days, and we weren’t nearly as close then as we are now. I was always fairly vague with the details; I didn’t talk about this before because I was ashamed. I didn’t want to admit that I had very nearly given in. I didn’t want my family to know, and to worry. **For my mom and dad, if you’re reading this: I’m sorry that you’re just finding this out. I am okay now. I promise you, I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not going anywhere.**

It’s taken me until now to come to terms with the fact that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to struggle. It’s important to know in those times of desperation that things will get better. I’m living proof of that, thanks to Demi Lovato.

 

…Because Why Not?

 

 

Superhero Serum. That’s what I have so lovingly started calling the testosterone that I take weekly as part of my transition. It never fails to make me feel a little bit better after a long week. My shot day is Friday, and I do that on purpose. A rush of hormones to the system weekly has some side effects, and I tend to be a little rambunctious in the first 24-48 hours after my shot. I also feel the best in those first couple of days, so of course I want to time that so that I can enjoy it to its fullest potential.

When I started T, I had no qualms about weekly injections. I grew up around a diabetic mother who would check her blood sugar several times a day and eventually started injecting insulin daily. For several years, I worked in a hospital and got a flu shot without batting an eyelash. I didn’t even hesitate when they asked if I would be okay giving myself injections. For 7 months, I had no issues. Every week I would draw testosterone into a syringe, switch needles out, and inject without a second thought.

Last week, I drew up as normal and switched needles, prepared my injection site as normal, and then froze. A movement that had become so familiar felt foreign, and scary. It took me several moments to be able to actually inject the needle into my muscle, and when I did, I did it so slowly that it ended up burning terribly and hurt for several days afterwards. Something in me was absolutely terrified of the pain, which even as I type it seems ridiculous because it doesn’t hurt for more than a second, if I do it right. I thought maybe it was a fluke, that I’d gotten distracted and just needed to focus more for the next one.

I needed to refill my script this week, as I had run out last week. I found myself putting it off all week, until finally yesterday I had to call and request that my provider change my name on the script so that I could go get it. They did, but then I delayed picking it up. I found every excuse I could not to go pick it up. Finally I did, and I just got done with it in the last several minutes. I had the same reaction this week as I did last, and now I have decided to acknowledge that is an actual problem.

I have developed a fear of the one thing on this planet that brings me a little bit of a reprieve from the dysphoria I feel every day. Very few people have been made aware of this to this point, but I struggle more than I let on with that dysphoria. I very rarely feel comfortable in myself, and am constantly tense when I am going through each day. I don’t look at myself in the mirror often. When people comment on how much more masculine I look, I nod my head in agreement but still see the features that keep me looking just feminine enough to be misgendered in public. Thankfully, that is happening less and less and only seems to be happening now with people who knew prior to me starting T. I speak, and even though I know my voice is worlds away from where it was 7 months ago, it never seems deep enough to fully put my unease to rest.

It’s times like these that make me realize that I may never be fully “through” this. I am legally male, my name has officially been changed, and I have been on T for closer to a year than not. So when do I get to feel like I’m finally me?

30 Days In…

It has officially been 30 days since I had my first shot. 39 days, if you want to get really technical, because I’ve been putting this post off for days. I’ve been putting it off intentionally, because I’ve been afraid of it to a certain extent.

I am overall thrilled with my transition thus far; I have the greatest support system someone could possibly hope to have while going through something like this. I haven’t faced much by way of opposition, at least not by outside factors. But this post will not be the sunshine, rainbows, and “my life is so wonderful” post you might think should come around this point.

While I am happy overall and wouldn’t change any major decision I have made so far, I feel that it is also important to be honest. The fact of the matter is, this is an overwhelmingly large change in not only my life but in the lives of everyone who interacts with me on a regular basis. And while it’s true that they are also going through a transition to a certain extent, this really is mostly about me. And that’s okay; I’m allowed to be a little selfish here.

My first experience with any negative aspect of this journey came in the workplace. This was the one place that I hoped it wouldn’t; in fact, I went into this thinking that I could effectively “turn off” anything related to my transition while at work. I knew that the hormones would effect me and that I would be going through a second puberty, if you will- but I told myself that I would be able to be an adult at work and then when I went home I could be a moody teenager. It became very apparent to me very quickly that this would not be the case, and it came in the form of a small outburst that caught everyone, including myself off guard. I am fairly laid back in the workplace, or at least I was. All this took was one misplaced comment and I was loudly exclaiming that I was going through puberty. It’s humorous now, but it certainly wasn’t in the moment when the bossman was looking at me like I’d sprouted an additional head right in front of him. Regardless, it prompted me to panic and request a meeting so that we could all discuss what is happening and how I’m processing (or not processing, incidentally) all of the changes that are beginning to take hold.

I am unable to focus on anything for more than half an hour or so, whereas before I began hormones I could sit down and work on a project for 8 hours solid without even batting an eyelash. I get agitated very easily by too much stimuli at once, where I could once tune out even the loudest of interruptors. I get sidetracked very easily, and my short term memory is, at times, on the same level as a certain lovable little blue fish in the Disney universe. I don’t process things as quickly, and it takes me longer to work out the solution to a problem or come up with an answer.

These are all side effects that I didn’t prepare for, because I thought I would certainly be able to work through them quickly and efficiently. I was sorely mistaken. Luckily, I have an incredible management and HR team behind me at work, and out of the meeting came a fairly successful combination of several workarounds to the struggles that I’m facing. They have also been wonderful in checking in more regularly now that it’s been made clear just how much I was struggling. I didn’t want to admit that I needed to figure out a new plan, because to a certain extent, I felt weak. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was less committed than I have been, or that I don’t care about my job any longer, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once work was sorted out for the most part, I settled back in for a week or so and things were fine. And then, last weekend happened. Friday night rolled around, and I was reminded in no uncertain terms that I was born biologically female. Mix that emotional roller coaster with the dysphoria that was stirred up, and I was already a mess. Saturday morning I went on a short adventure with boy twin number 2 to the grocery store. When we went to check out, the clerk made a comment about just how alike we look. We started to laugh, because that’s actually something that has begun happening more frequently as of late. We do share several physical features that are incredibly similar, and we have very similar personalities to match. At one point, she made the comment, “you could be brother and sister.”

In that moment, my whole world stopped, everything got quiet, and I realized for the first time that though I feel as though I am miles away from the person I was born as, I am not quite as far from that person as I thought I was. It was the first time I had been truly misgendered in public, and I was devastated. It hurt more than I would like to admit to be referred to as a female. This was the first time it actually upset me, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how bad it made me feel for days.

Fast forward a few hours; we had a great day watching movies (and napping, if we’re being honest- we had stayed up until 4 or so talking on my couch), and then everyone convened at my place so that we could go out and celebrate that I was officially 4 weeks on T. At some point, we started watching videos on Facebook. There are some old videos of me before I came out where I was involved in a lip-sync battle, as were several of the people in the room. We decided to click through them and give them a watch, because they are extremely comical.

Looking back on it, and after speaking through this with several people, this was a terrible idea. At the time, though, I had no idea that it was going to trigger me the way that it did. I didn’t know until we were already clicking into my old videos that it was going to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever come across. By the time I realized it we were so invested in the videos that I didn’t want to put an end to the fun we were having. I watched myself on that screen, but for the first time it didn’t feel like me. I got up and walked away at one point, because there was a particular video playing of me lip-syncing to Dolly Parton’s (love you, Dolly!) “9 to 5.” dressed to the nines in a dress, heels, and a blonde wig. I couldn’t watch it. It made me so physically uncomfortable that I felt sick to my stomach.

When that video was done, we moved on to Youtube, where I found an outdated channel I used to have with my roommate. In the spirit of having fun, I pulled up one that doesn’t make me uncomfortable- our lip-synced (are you noticing a pattern here?) version of “I’ll Make a Man out of You” from Mulan. From there, a couple of older videos played. During one in particular, one of my friends made a perfectly innocent comment of “look how happy you look.”

That comment threw me into a tailspin I wasn’t prepared for. All I could see when I looked at that video was how unhappy I was, and here someone was looking at me thinking that I was the exact opposite. It made me realize how large of a front I was able to put up. I constructed walls that I forgot were there, and put on a brave face every day to show people how happy I was, when really that was the farthest from the truth. Someone recently told me, “the clowns are always the saddest… and those who go to ridiculous lengths to be silly and smile and bring levity to life are often fighting for their own.”

This stuck with me throughout the week, and continues to stick with me now (as I put on my battle armor to finish the post that I’ve been trying to write for almost 7 days). The thing about this statement is that it so accurately describes what I was feeling in most of those old videos. I was never actually happy, never felt 100% content with my life. Instead, I worked hard to be okay; I was so desperate to actually be okay that it became my standard operating procedure to go out of my way to show just how happy I was.

This week was one giant struggle after another, but I made it through. It took several conversations throughout the week, and several people checking in pretty regularly, but I made it through. I would love to say that I bounced back quickly and that I am back in the “I love everything” mindset I had been in before this setback, but I cannot do so. I have to remind myself daily that I don’t have to love every day of this journey.

I just have to take it one day at a time.