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First adventures in binding

or forty years of being misgendered?

This may be a true thing, or it may not. Eventually the possibility had to come out into the light to be held up and prodded at. A secret kept so close and for so long and I just blurted it out to my psychiatrist at my last hospital appointment.

Did I need to say it at all? I think so. Years of therapy, years of anti-depressants have got me nowhere, certainly nowhere close to the happiness that is advertised as a ‘right’. My last/latest bout of depression seems to have just gone on and one, trying one tablet after another and getting nowhere fast. The way my local health authority is organised I had to refer myself to the ‘Healthy Minds’ service while waiting for chemical assistance from the local hospital psychiatric unit. I’m sure the staff at ‘Healthy Minds’ mean well but the practical constraints that they work under means that the most they can offer most people is 6 half hour sessions of CBT over the phone (over the phone!!) and if your score manages to fall below the threshold of likely self harm/suicide risk then they drop you as soon as they can.

In the run up to my gender revelation I had been so low that I considered suicide to be a rational option in my situation. The mystery man on the phone was telling me to keep busy, that depression thrived on inactivity … Oh, I’d never heard that before (sarcastic voice) … The telephone sessions weren’t even half an hour, the phone calls came from a noisy office where I could hear other staff gossiping and laughing in the background and the priority seemed to be completing the same list of question each time to assess your level of ‘risk’ (in the last two weeks how many times have you considered harming yourself? – not at all, several days, most days, every day) before going on to advice given by script.

Nothing was changing, nothing was going to change. It all just seemed like a box ticking exercise, the local authority showing that they were doing something. If I had an addiction they could put me on a program. If it was just low self-esteem they could offer 6 group sessions and the same for other single issue hang ups (all of these options assuming that I was also out of work and available any time). Only after you have gone through all the ‘beginner’ options with no progress is there a chance that something more tailored will be offered.

So. I was at the hospital thinking nothing was ever going to change, feeling like it didn’t matter what I said or did. I would just get better with time, or I wouldn’t.

It turned out that I saw the same psychiatrist as my previous appointment. This was new for me. They told me that they would be my psychiatrist until September 2017 (when, no doubt, the NHS would move them on). We talked. I don’t even remember thinking about it. I just made a comment that things were always worse for me in winter, that the turn of the year always reminded me of the feelings of wrongness that I’d had since being a child and how detached I was from this body of curves and fat. Suddenly it was easy to say it. To confess how every night I would go to sleep wishing I would wake up a boy, my daydreams had been full of make believe that a doctor would turn up and explain that a mistake had been made when I was born and that I wasn’t a girl. If I could wish hard enough, just wish hard enough and I would be changed. I confessed my extreme horror at puberty, not only because of the physical evidence of being female but because I clearly hadn’t wanted to be a boy hard enough for all my wishing to work.

They didn’t laugh at me. Can you believe that? They didn’t laugh. They took me seriously and asked me further questions. I was asked if I could wait to see the consultant. Of course I could. The consultant didn’t laugh at me. He also asked my questions and took me seriously. He explained the different options available to me (from therapy and staying as I am all the way up to full reassignment) … along with the warning about how long it will take to get seen at a Gender Identity Clinic.

I left feeling lighter and happier than I can remember. Giddy almost (if such a word could ever be used with me). Obviously I have a huge way to go but putting out there, starting to consider that my feelings may be real has provided more of a lift to my mood than any of the chemical supports I’ve tried over the decades. I know about all the bad things can come out of this if I take it all the way … or even any part of the way.

I don’t know how long all this will take or how I will end up. For now I have my first Underworks binders and the feeling of a permanent hug thanks to the extreme compression they give. And I have a secret weapon to help me through. My secret weapon is my husband who was neither angry or offended when I told him. My husband who only wants me to be happy and who I can only be thankful for.

 


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Isolation of depression

I sit and I sit.

People talk and I’m not sure it’s me they are talking to. Most of my conversations go on inside my head now, arguments with analogues of my husband and others.

Depression isolates completely. I cannot ask for help, I cannot ask for time or understanding because I never really feel that I’m worth any of it. So I sit and the voices I’ve created do their work on me. Even when I’m ‘well’ they are there. I assume that everyone has them, but that maybe they are better at ignoring them or their words are not so harsh.

Now I’m at the stage where I’ve dropped my therapist (one advantage of paying for it I guess) because she didn’t seem to be helping any more and the version of her in my head had joined the voices telling me how useless I am. My job doesn’t help … but at least those voices telling me I’m useless are real ones, and the only reason they are in my head is because I wear a headset at work.

Everything has to be muted, everything has to be avoided. One step distant to try and stop it hurting.

I had an operation last year to try and make some parts of my life better/easier to cope with. I don’t know if it has been successful or not. I’m under some pressure to ‘test’ the results but have been unable to do so. The cycle repeats, the loop closes and becoming unattractive, unwantable, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The voices are my company. Whatever you might think you are saying to me is filtered through them. How do I step aside? Step back and start again, do over and be something that you would want to be with.

The voices remind me how useless I am. How little value I have and how much better things would be if I just wasn’t any more.

Me and my voices went to see the doctor to try to get something that would work without the disastrous side effects of previous tablets (never really gave the last two versions time to work because of the side effects). In less than ten minutes. Said what I wanted and why. Left with new prescription and vague comment that I should go back in a couple of weeks so she could see how I was taking to them. She asked the question that she had to ask and the conversation kind of went like this:

Doctor: Have you considered harming yourself?
Me: Yes, nearly every day
Doctor: Will you do anything about it?
Me: Probably not, it’s just there.
Doctor: Why not?
Me: Getting up and carrying on is the habit.

No upside from the tablets yet (how she thought there was a chance of improving in 2 weeks I’ll never know). The blessed relief of sleep that they seemed to offer started to wear off after the first couple of days. Weight has started to go up. I know it’s listed as a side effect but I can hardly blame a piddly little tablet for putting all that chocolate in my hand. I know I can counter it … then get dragged into the whole ‘what is the point, no one will find me attractive anyway’.

Maybe that is how I will feel comfortable again? When my outside matches what my inside tells me I am.

I’m not writing, I’m not doing anything. The drama is all going on inside and saps my will to do anything. I don’t talk about it because the voices tell me I’m worthless, no one is interested, no one wants to know. If you step back I cannot follow you, cannot force you to talk to me about it.

Is the waiting for it to pass all I have left?

How do I recover this distance?

These things I should be saying to the person I live with. He steps back, he doesn’t know what to do. He might care but not know how to deal with me (after all, wasn’t that what the therapist was for? wasn’t that what a friend is for? surely that’s not something he should have to deal with?). Depression doesn’t make for a pretty sight.

The voices are there, the voices don’t mind what I look like. They are so kind to remind me that everything is my fault.

Depression makes us all our own special island. I’m not waving, I’m not drowning. I’m just here, waiting.

 


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I am not the Death Star on legs

Therapy write up again. Homework from a recent session was about looking at myself and looking for things that I liked.

Simple?

Yeah, right. Try that without the ‘not bad for someone my age’, ‘in a low light’ and the inevitable ‘but …’. This isn’t anything new. This has been me wanting to be taller, thinner, prettier (there, I said it and I feel ashamed of myself) for as long as I can remember. I seem to be incapable of seeing myself in any positive light, the most I manage is a kind of grudging acceptance of my plain-ness.

I am terrible with compliments. I will blush and make excuses and think you are taking the piss/setting me up for the punchline of some joke. I work hard at deflection rather than take the difficult step that someone might mean it when they say I have nice eyes. Call me a Hobbit and ask how long I spend shaving my feet and I am immediately more comfortable.

I think I have always been terrible with compliments. Less so, perhaps, with what might be classed as compliments for ‘intellectual’ attributes rather than physical ones but I am still uneasy. Kudos from my little writing exercises on AO3 make me happy then spiral off into ‘oh, but what I really wanted to write was …’ or ‘but I am so slow and need to get around to writing more’. People taking the time to make comments is something I really can’t cope with – is it possible to be flattered and shamed at the same time? They are too kind to me.

I do not ‘fish’ for compliments. That seems to be one of the big taboo things I grew up with. They don’t count if you have to ask for them. I grew up asking if clothes looked ok, not if I looked ok (and always the little voice in my head added on the provisos of ‘for a short girl’, ‘for a plain girl’, ‘at least I’m fat in proportion’). Clothes shopping now is an exercise in never really looking at myself.

I have had some good feedback from work. Feedback is another word for compliment. I do not let it touch me. I discount it and devalue it by comparing myself to others and the feedback they get. Even doing well at industry exams makes me uncertain how to react even though those results are as objective as can be. I think I managed 10 minutes of being happy at getting ‘master’ level of the Service Desk Institute Service Analyst course before telling myself off about it and then refusing to see it as anything other than what should be expected of me (‘been doing the job over 20 years, of course I should be able to get qualified in it’ and so on).

It’s like everything has a ‘but’ attached to it.

Anyway, speaking of butts, back to not being the Death Star on legs.

I know I’ve mentioned working at Oddities Heaven. Sometimes I’ve wondered if this re-enforced my discomfort with myself. Back then, back when VHS tapes were over £50 (I kid you not) there seemed to be very few women in fandom, fewer still who might have been considered ‘normal’. Go with me on this, I don’t want to be specific but trust me.

I thought men were just being friendly but then I realised that some of them were chatting me up. (Shock and horror, I know.) I was asked out to lunch, drinks after work … did I fancy getting dressed up for a photo shoot? I always put this down to the the small pool of women that:

a) seemed to have similar interests
b) were not the size of the Death Star on legs
c) didn’t chat to their spirit cats in public (and related quirks)
d) were apparently available

I was a shop assistant! Of course I was going to smile and talk to you.

If you are brought up never to fish for compliments then you can tend to overthink those few that you get. I think I self-sabotaged by always taking the source of the compliments into account. Being a fan may be cool(ish) now that Big Bang Theory is one of the highest rated programs around, but I have to be honest and say that there are still a lot of guys out there more like Captain Sweatpants than Leonard. What do you do when your first memories of personal compliments were from people who make even Captain Sweatpants look like he has every social grace.

It’s cruel to say it, but if these people thought I’d be interested, if that was all I could aspire to … then what did that say about me? Not being the shape of the Death Star seemed to be my only asset.

Way to go there with the self-esteem Andrea.


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Counting down the days

My contract is up in a month. I don’t know what I’m going to do. No, literally. I don’t know if I am going to be extended or shown the door.

Is this uncertainty the cause of my (current) malaise? I’m not sure. I mean I’ve clearly been unhappy for some time and I really do want this job to go well but my mood has been getting lower the longer this has gone on.

I caved in and asked my therapist if I could have an appointment. I have to applaud modern technology – I’m in the UK and she’s in Israel now but can still see her thanks to the wonders of Skype. So I sat and I waited for my appointment, patted the cat on the head and made a few notes. Here they are:

Maybe I’m actually just not suited to work? So what do I do?

  • carry on anyway? (Isn’t that what grown-ups do?)
  • keep changing jobs in the hope that I find a company that suits? (Believe me, I don’t think anywhere could be more me than this lot.)
  • change career altogether? (Yeah, like I’m good for anything else.)
  • give up and stop forcing myself to be something I’m not?

Am I just someone who will always tend toward depression / maybe I don’t have it in me to be ‘happy’?

  • why is that bad?
  • are the tablets really to help me cope or just to mask the symptoms so other people don’t see how I am inside?
  • why do people always seem to think that being with other people is something you need to do to be happy/feel better?
  • I might not be ecstatic on my own, but I’m certainly not un-happy.

What has brought things to a head now?

  • a gradual build up, reality setting in perhaps or maybe just an effect of the godawful windowless bunker I work in.
  • my inability to cope with too much uncertainty – what is going to be on the call/what is going to be the rule for the day/what am I doing?
  • a long run of co-incidental and random blues coinciding and piling in on top of the usual underlying fatigue and feelings of uselessness?
  • biology. The crappiest reason of all. I said it as a joke to my doctor but, oddly, I do kind of keep coming back to that as an option.

After my Skype session I think about what we said. I reflect on my silences and where things may be going. The conversation included the usual well trodden paths – I am a failure, I am not worthy, yada yada bloody yada.

My body is failing me. Signs of fertility that I never wanted, and that always disgusted me, are on the wane. Am I just jealous of those young people with everything ahead of them? Is it their youth, their potential … their … attractiveness?

I work in an office where young men enjoy the opportunities that our environment has to offer (well, when we get out of the bunker). Even when I was here as a student I wasn’t someone that anyone looked at. I never have been. I never will be. I’m not saying I have a face to curdle milk but I’m not someone anyone would notice. A shadow, part of the furniture … just a voice on the phone.

And now I’m fading away even from that. No one notices that I’m here, or there, or gone.

 

 


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The lure of Tumblr, the glamour of A03

aka … so I did a thing.

Another break from therapy, holidays this time. Tomorrow I start back.

Tomorrow she’s going to ask me how I’ve been and what I’ve been doing to take care of myself. No doubt I’ll end up pulling that face, you know the one, the one that says ‘you really really don’t want to know what is on the internet’. I’m not sure if I’ve been taking care of myself or just distracting myself again.

I still haven’t really managed how to reblog as successfully as I would like on Tumblr. Always some weird delay on the keystrokes that messes with my head on laptop and on phone is just dangerous (maybe I should look into it but, frankly, not that arsed). Still, the images I see are pretty so I’m happy enough with it. Tumblr is strange. Tumblr has support and is welcoming and accepting. It is ideal for lazy people like me and education can be had when you think your dashboard is just meant for fluff and photos.

Tumblr led to the AU of all AUs. I know there were others before and there are others now but Archive of Our Own is truly a construct of awe and wonder. What started as a mild curiosity with Johnlock (duh! I mean really, that’s not even possi…) back in March has, with the inevitability of the fall of civilisation led to setting up an account (honestly, just so I didn’t have to accept the warning messages each time I went on there) and the account then led to looking at the buttons available once you log in. Like a consulting detective folding napkins for a wedding it just kind of happened.

I’ve even got a friend desperately waiting for more from me for the damn book. Instead my head now has an added layer of Johnlock and I know that I’ve got at least one story in me. Maybe, on the same basis that at least 50 Shades of Grey got people back to reading books I can claim that the odd bit of Johnlock is just a way of keeping the old writing habits ticking over while I get over my current block. Oh, ok. I know it’s not.

But I’ll say this. It is a weird thing to hit the button and have people find it and read it almost immediately. No one has laughed openly, the sky hasn’t fallen in. Some people have even clicked the ‘kudos’ button. Hang on, this could be good for me after all. Safe, anonymous small scale recognition from a niche audience … it could be the safest place to be. (Kind of like being here but I know I’m never going to shock anyone on A03.)

ao3
John, the day after (2531 words) by Meretseger68
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Sherlock (TV)
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Author Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Sherlock Holmes/John Watson, Sherlock Holmes & John Watson
Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Mrs Hudson
Additional Tags: Confusion, First Time, Was it?, Hangover, John feels a bit not good, Angst, Tea!
Summary:

John really shouldn’t drink to much when he goes on the pull. One day he might wake up to a surprise.


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Homework: What do I need?

I went back to see my therapist last week. So far, so ho-hum.

We’d had nearly three months off. I shouldn’t have let it go so long, got myself so wound up … so much pain and then the inevitable wait before she could slot me back in. Why hadn’t I gone back sooner? I was ashamed. She’d asked me to try something over a New Year break and I’d made a complete balls of it. I admit this. The sky doesn’t fall it, of course not, I am the one paying for her services after all but this then becomes the start of another uncomfortable hour when she tries to get me to stay to the point.

We talk about disappointment, we talk about being let down, we talk about my fear that if I do ever have the argument I should have (whichever one screams out of me first) then no one will come after me when I walk away. We talk about the constant anger and simmers, and roils and eats away at me … and now I think that I feel it so much because I am the one who lets me down the most.

She sets me more homework and makes me write it down so I don’t do my usual wriggle on semantics: What do I need? Not a treat, not a want, but what do I need that would be beneficial to me. A sentence beginning “I need …” (a common tendency is to avoid “I” when it’s something important, kind of a drawback when needing to update a CV).

This probably doesn’t sound too difficult … mmm. The inside of my head can be a random place at the best of times so trying to get me to think coherently and consistently about myself tends to be an exercise in cat herding. What do I need? Cue a jumble of random shite ‘cos I really do have trouble sticking to the point and can over think things as simple as ‘would you like a coffee?’

Would I know  real need if I fell over it?
Is a want just a need but without the commitment?
If you don’t have needs you can’t be let down … oh, could be getting somewhere, can I grasp that or will it slide away again?
If I don’t have needs I don’t have to put myself first. If I don’t have needs I don’t have to say, “no, don’t talk to me now, I need to [insert activity] … “. All the time, the words sliding away because my head can’t hold on to them and I have to sit and pretend that it’s ok … no, don’t mind me … no, whatever you want to talk about … no I really don’t mind you distracting me from the one thing I’ve waited hours to see and you come in and talk all over it so I can’t hear any of it (ooh, that sneaked under the radar, I wonder if it showed on my face at the time?)

Then I remember she came at me, from left field, with a question about this bloody albatross of a book. Was I making progress / would I have anything to show her?

Maybe that is my answer, my sentence should be “I need an hour every day with no distractions so that I can work on my book”. It doesn’t sound much, it doesn’t mean that an hour of writing would get done (honestly, you do want to know how long this has taken – thank you internet explorer for crashing just as I made a breakthrough here and I didn’t have a draft saved so I’m now trying to get my head back where it was). It’s a kind of nice, non-threatening statement that shouldn’t trigger, you know, that argument and gives me a space without guilt.

Who knows, it could even lead to articulating other needs … steady on there, dangerous territory. They bubble up, unbidden, scenting a hint of freedom, the odd background noise of my head throwing images at me that I’ve tried so long to supress. I think about odd lines from the book, when Gihon is afraid I think he is me, when he says he feels old and fat and ugly and unwanted … he is me.

SmileFor some reason this was the image I had as soon as the words were said, “What do I need?” I just want someone to look up and smile. The image itself is nothing but a distraction, the feeling is an ache that could finish me.

Gihon is desperate to change. He is incapable of confronting his need and taking responsibility for it. He waits like it’s not tearing his heart out.

Maybe I just need to be needed.


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When is sick not ‘sick’?

I think it’s a bad sign that even I am uncertain when I’m ill.

The thing is, ‘ill’ is my default setting so when am I ill enough to be off work? Yesterday was just one of those days.

I’ve gradually been getting slower and slower, moving around has got harder and this most unusual English weather has reduced the quality of my overnight sleep from ‘getting by’ to ‘farcical’. So, yesterday, I got up out of habit then realised nodding off again in the shower was probably not a good sign. Then came the tricky thing of trying to decide whether or not I was ill enough to ring in sick.

  • Pain in joints – check. Full set? – double check
  • Not really wanting to be too far away from toilet – check
  • Difficulty supporting body weight – check
  • Brain not working – uhuh, you betcha

And then, on top of this, is the extra little frisson of stress absolutely guaranteed to wipe me out when I have to make the phone call. I hate it. I hate admitting not just that I’m ill, but that I’m weak enough to give in to it. I hate the reaction at the other end of the phone, the “just you take it easy and look after yourself” when I don’t have it in me to believe it. I know it is meant well and I know that the voice knows I’m not putting it on. It’s just this … thing … with me

Back to where I started. When is sick not sick, when is it sick enough and when am I ever ‘better’?

My hands hurt today (typing this has not been fun), my feet hurt (hello plantar fasciitis my old friend), hips and elbows ditto. But I’m only mildly nauseous, and lying down for most of yesterday has to have done me good. Hasn’t it? Clearly I’m now well enough for work …

 

 

*Edit* 29th July – a number of revisions were suggested today. Unusual to get feedback, so I’ve been giving this a bit more thought. (Apologies if I get this wrong, some of this is literally occurring to me as I type and my shrink is on holiday.)

All the little conversations I have with myself – ‘am I worse today?’ ‘how much real sleep benefit am I getting?’ ‘can I keep running on so little?’ and my classic of ‘is this sick enough to be off sick – have precursors in my first marriage and first really screamingly obvious self esteem problems when I had no idea how bad was bad enough.

All the times I should have been confident in my own ability to decide whether or not I’m too ill for work, or have been able to tell myself to take a break; all the times there is a voice telling me to take care they can’t hear the shouting voice telling me I’m worthless.

When a sensible person would have said enough is enough I let myself be shouted at, when I should have gone I told myself I’d made a promise (“it’s not like he hit you”), when I was pushed into the cupboard (“it’s not like he hit you”), when I was so scared I could not say no (“its not like he hit you”), dropped on my head, the slip down the stairs, when he raped me (“it’s not like he hit …”).

I’ve no idea where I was in that time of fear. Just a couple of years and so many people have it much worse off than me. Even afterwards I was ashamed of my shame, no esteem for my pain.

Clearly there must have been a problem before the days when I thought it was normal to be told that I was stupid, that I would never get a good job (i.e. like him, in IT), that I was just a waste of space as a fucking arts student. And the shouting. The nonsense rants that went on and on because he thought it funny that I was so confused and small and scared and silent. And so I waited. I waited for it to be bad enough to somehow justify getting rid of him because I didn’t think I had the right.

Why did I have to wait for it to get to rape?  And then why did I pay him off just to be rid of him instead of doing anything that would actually validate me? I paid him to go away, and never mentioned it because I didn’t think I was worth the bother. I downplayed it, it was just a thing that happened that didn’t mean anything …

I got through the day in the office on Friday, I dragged myself back there again today feeling sick and tired and so very, very, old. Today was bad. Today the mantra was ‘two more days then holiday, two more days then a rest. Tomorrow the mantra will be counting down the hours while I try and make sense of what is in front of me.

When is sick not sick? When I’m the idiot trying to work it out.