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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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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.