Thursday, November 26, 2009

A day to give thanks

This day has been coming for a long time. The day my family sees me, the self that I see in my mind's eye.

And what's more, today is Thanksgiving here in the United States, a day during which we reflect on the year past, and be thankful for our many blessings, large and small.

Perhaps that's what put me in the mindset of wanting something that I didn't have - the support of my family. I wanted to force the issue, and come to a sort of ultimatum point. I wanted to dare them to accept me, to support me, to love me.

Why should one have to dare her family to do what families are supposed to do in the first place? Coming from a place of anger, as I am regarding them, it might be the intent to hurt, to dish out what one has received. Lashing out is unhealthy, and is unproductive, and is ultimately unsatisfying. No one wins; everyone loses. The unfortunate truth is that it's a reflex: you hurt me, so I'll hurt you.

Elevated thinking notwithstanding, I wanted to make the dare, and I wanted to do it today.

I spent a couple hours crying my eyes out. Despite my anger, I was still scared to death. Playing chicken with somebody else's feelings is no simple feat. There is every possibility that they won't flinch, and the whole encounter will end in a terrible crash. Everybody loses, again.

Once I got hold of myself long enough to dial the phone, I managed to get out about two sentences before I dissolved into body-wracking sobs again. But I had to continue. If I gave up on this, as I had been trying to convince myself to do for the previous couple hours, I would never be able to progress. I got hold of myself again, and forced the words out: I need to be able to be myself with you. I need you to be able to know me. And I need to do it now, today.

I was met with... my mom, being a mom, doing what moms are supposed to do.

The rest was anticlimactic. Once I started getting ready, the stress basically left me; it was just another day out. I got ready and went, and the parents saw, and we cooked and ate our simple Thanksgiving dinner, and I came home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Out of whack

Today was not a good day.

I'm still in recovery mode following my surgery; I don't return to work until Wednesday, so I'm just at my apartment, trying to find things to keep me busy. Eating, watching netflix, and poking around on the 'tubes is about all I have to do. I've even tried working on a programming project that had fallen by the wayside a few years ago.

But for whatever reason, I spent most of the day trying to keep from bursting into tears.

C sent an SMS a bit after lunch, offering to come visit me this evening, since he figured that I might be getting a little stir-crazy being home by myself. He also offered to bring some dinner. I accepted on all counts - I just needed some human contact.

Once he walked through the door, and asked me how I was doing, I couldn't hang on to my composure any longer. I just started weeping, and he held me for a few minutes while I cried myself out.

Once I got hold of myself again (however tenuously), we ate and visited for a while, which helped take my mind off whatever was going on. C suggested that it's probably a huge change in hormone levels resulting from the surgery; I'm sure that is exactly the case.

This is not the first time I've been caught unaware by my hormones. I feel like I should have at least seen this one coming, but apparently I wasn't thinking. Now that I know better what to expect, I might be able to handle it a little better, or at least I hope I can.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Still here!

I kind of fell off the grid yesterday; I was hoping to have a new blog post every day through my surgery experience, but yesterday just got too busy, and pain meds have a way of making things seem not quite so important.

The day of the surgery, E and I got there right on time, and were shown in to the pre-op ward after a couple minutes. They had me change into everyone's favorite hospital garment, the backless gown, and put me into a bed with a thing they called a bear hugger. The bear hugger, oh my, what a wonderful invention! It's a heater and fan, connected by a duct to an inflatable blanket, which is lain over the top of the patient. It's like being in a warm and toasty cocoon.

A nurse came in and went over some more papers with me, which required a couple signatures. We then went over what was going to occur over the rest of the day. She then tried to start up my IV, but missed. She was so very apologetic, but I kept reassuring her that everyone has an off day. In reflection, I find it rather interesting that, even with scary stuff impending in my own life, I will take the time to reassure another person who's having trouble with something. I just like working with people, rather than against them.

The nurse left and E and I just sat and talked, and waited, and talked. She was just telling silly stories about her daughters and trying to keep my mind off the worry, and just keep me in good spirits. The nurse came back after a while to inform us that they were running a little behind, and that she would try to find Dr. Raphael and have him come talk to me before everything got started. More time passed, and the doctor came and visited with us for a few minutes. He's such a lovely person; he has such an easy manner, and it's very clear that he cares for his patients very much. I tend to not name full names or endorse people or businesses here in this blog, but I had such a wonderful experience with Dr. Raphael and his staff, I will not hesitate to recommend him.

Hospitals, in my fairly limited experience, seem to be places out of time. There are few clocks where patients can see them, and time just seems to stretch out into infinity sometimes. Even with that timelessness, I could tell that we had been waiting a long time. E just kept deflecting my attention and kept me smiling and laughing. I asked once what time it was, and she wouldn't tell me, which told me more than she probably meant to. Eventually, the anesthesiologist, Tracy, another super nice person with a great bedside manner, came in and we spoke briefly, and he set up my IV. He had three syringes, which he put into my IV in quick succession.

I continued to lie there, and suddenly noticed that my eyes were closed, and it was quite a struggle to get them to come open. I could hear E and another of the nurses talking, so I knew everything was going fine. They noticed that I was trying to get my eyes open, and reassured me that everything had gone very well, and that even the surgeon was surprised at how smoothly the procedure had gone. I was mildly amused that this newest experience with anesthesia mirrored my previous one - a chunk of time and awareness was simply edited out of my mind's record. Once I gained a little more of a handle on my surroundings, I noticed that I was dressed in my clothes again. E and the nurse were talking about supportive underwear, to keep gauze and body parts in place, which led to changing into the padded girdle that I've had for a while, sans pads. After that, we said our goodbyes and the nurse wheeled me out to the car.

The rest of the day was pretty mundane: I slept and went to the potty, and that was about it. The nurse called a couple times to make sure I was able to use the potty, since I wasn't able right before they wheeled me out. Apparently my ability to go was an indicator for how swollen I was inside. First try was a big bust, and second try wasn't a whole lot better, but once I was able, things went more or less on autopilot. Drink, doze, pee became my world. E had to help me up the first several times, but as the night wore on, I was able to make the trip under my own power the last couple of times.

The next morning arrived, and with it came the various prescriptions - anti-swelling, antibiotic, pain pills. A lot of them are uncoated and bitter as can be, but I suppose if they work, I can't really complain. We got all our things packed up and took care of our morning routines, and checked out of the hotel on the way to the first post-surgical appointment, at 9:45. The appointment was pretty simple; the nurse just wanted to hear how I was feeling, if I was going to the bathroom ok, how my pain and nausea levels had been, and things like that. She also checked out the incision sites, to make sure everything was secure. She also changed my gauze padding, and showed me how to do it properly. We set up my next follow-up appointment, in two weeks.

Once we got out onto the road, a feeling of nausea started slowly, and I hoped I could just ride it out, but I could tell that just wasn't going to happen. I took an anti-nausea pill, which acted pretty quickly, and made me feel a whole lot better. The rest of the drive went without incident; more of the drink, rest, pee from the previous night, punctuated with eating and other medications at strategic times.

We got back to C & E's by about 3pm, and I just parked myself on a recliner and rested some more. I surprised myself with how much dinner I ate. Recovery, it seems, takes a lot out of a person. Once we all called it quits for the night, C brought me and my car back to my place, and he stayed the night to make sure everything was ok.

Now it's just up to me to take care of myself, and rest, and recover. Nothing glamorous, but it's life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today

So today's the day.

I'm just lounging in my hotel room, still in my jammies, waiting until closer to time to get up and do my morning stuff. There's not too much to be done, since most of my morning stuff is pretty moot today: just a quick shower, clean my "down south" region with Betadine, and put on comfy clothes.

Last night was pretty calm, mainly because both E and I were exhausted. Road trips always take a lot out of people, and I hadn't slept worth a darn in days, and I think she's pretty stressed with being away from her husband and children. We video conferenced with C and the girls for a little while, and showered, and she swapped my piercing bar for a nonmetallic one, and then we just relaxed a bit before going to bed. I worked on one of my sewing projects, which was being difficult, and E video conferenced with C some more. I took some of the prescribed Diazepam to help me sleep, though I'm not sure how much I really needed it; regardless, I slept like a rock.

A little over two hours to go. The butterflies have started a little bit. I'd love some breakfast to calm my stomach, but that's a no-no this morning.

Here goes nothing...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One day away

I am in Plano, TX, currently relaxing at the hotel following my pre-surgical appointment earlier this afternoon. Surgery is tomorrow morning at 11:30. I'm to be at the surgical office an hour before surgery begins, so I can get all settled and ready, and the anesthesiologist can begin hir work.

The trip here was a typical road trip. We hit a lot of rush hour traffic as we left Houston, so I was immediately feeling the "we're going to be late" craziness. I managed to get a speeding ticket as we went through Dallas. Despite the various stops we made, we managed to make it to the office right on time.

We waited a half-hour or so until we were called in. Catherine came in and talked to us for a few minutes, and gave an overview of how everything was going to work. Then she went to fetch Dr. Raphael, which took some time. Pretty typical doctor office type stuff. Once the doctor appeared, we had a great conversation; he has a great bedside manner, and was very personable, and made me feel a lot less nervous about everything, and answered all the questions we had. One of the nurses, Debbie, came in to go over the details, and answer any more questions. She also took my blood pressure (which was good) and drew some blood. Then we went up to the front, where they gave me 5(!) prescriptions, and I gave them the BIG check.

After that, we went for lunch, because we were both starving, and then took the prescriptions to the drug store. When the prescriptions were ready, the pharmacist asked for my ID. As I handed it to her, she quickly said, "no, I need to see your ID." My quick comeback was "that is my ID." And then she went on just as if nothing had happened. It was both very cool, and pretty funny. Then we came to the hotel and checked in.

Now we wait. We're planning on having a late dinner, since I'm not allowed to eat after midnight, until after I come out of the anesthesia. Last night's paltry four hours' sleep is starting to catch up with me in a big way; a short nap might be nice, though just staying up and crashing for the whole night would probably be the best way to go.

My butterflies are pretty well gone right now. The way I was treated by everyone at the doctor's office, especially including Dr. Raphael, has given me a huge amount of confidence.

I also want to thank all those who have sent their good wishes via Twitter, email, in Second Life, and in person. This has been a long journey, but your encouragment and love have given me courage and hope. I couldn't have gotten this far without each and every one of you.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Four days away

My emotions have settled down to a dull roar. I just want to get everything over and done with. The surgery itself is making me nervous, not because of what it is, but because it's surgery, and there will be pain, and recovery time, and all the other stuff. Not to mention all the little things I have to do before time, that are making me crazy.

That's not to say that all my roaring emotions are negative. I'm starting to get excited for what it means for me. I've had a pretty dull past few months, in which there has been little apparent progress, and now I'm about to make a pretty big leap forward. It seems like there is little left except a couple more huge leaps forward, and then it's all done. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.

It's interesting how adaptable the mind is. Before I started this whole odyssey, I was accustomed to pretty much nothing happening, or a general state of discomfort and self-loathing. That was my world for a very long time, so that's what I was used to. Then I got to the point where I could not live in that world anymore. I started making changes, so that became my standard reality. Sometimes the changes came pretty fast and furious, and sometimes less so. I stretched and pulled at my boundaries so much during that time, I thought I might break them. That world was pretty stressful sometimes, but it has been a good experience. I have grown in ways I never thought possible, and made amazing progress to becoming the person I am supposed to be. And now things have settled down, and I'm getting close to some possible finishing points, so I'll have to move into yet another different world. That new world probably won't be as harrowing as the one where I've been, but instead it should be a much more emotionally satisfying place for me to live.

I had a conversation with J a couple days ago about one of my recent blog entries. I've been viewing this upcoming event as the first can't-go-back event of my journey, but he countered by saying that every little step along the way has been a small rubicon of its own. The day he and I sat in the restaurant eating our gyros, and I told him who I was and who I needed to be, is something I can never take back. The first time I ever put on a skirt and went to C and E's, I can't take that back either. Every bit of progress, no matter how simple or mundane, has changed me, and I can never go back to that person I was not so long ago. That world is completely foreign to me now, and I'm not sure how I ever tried to live there. The real truth, I think, is that I never really did live there; I was wandering around in a state of emotional homelessness.

So the point of this whole exercise seems to be to get myself to a place where I can feel at home inside my own heart. The problem is that I'm not really sure how that's supposed to feel. The only thing I do know for sure is that where I am now is different from where I was before. I'm going to have to think about that a bit more, and write a post about it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Industrialization

Tonight was the outing of all outings. For most of it, I was in a constant state of surprise at how well everything was going.

A number of weeks ago, I was talking to C about information on his piercer, for getting an industrial, which I've been thinking about for a couple years now. He told me that he was taking E out to have some work done, and that we could go together. That immediately made me feel much more comfortable about the whole thing, since I trust both of them implicitly, and they would also be there for moral support. The proposed date for it was still a bit off, so all I could do was wait. Well, tonight was the night, put-up-or-shut-up time.

Once we finally made it to the shop, E, who's been pierced a number of times before, just went ahead and took care of her stuff. That was fine with me, since I was unsure of what to expect. She was doing a fairly sensitive area, and yelled a bit during hers. That was fine, I reasoned, the ear cartilage has a whole lot less nerve endings than the area she was having pierced.

Then the man who was helping the piercer came out and we got started setting up for mine. Once he started looking at my ear, he discovered that I don't have a very deep rim of cartilage around my ear. In the days leading up, I've wondered about that; after he left to talk to the piercer, I started to worry that they wouldn't be able to do it at all. Both the helper and the piercer took better looks, and decided that everything was ok, that there was just enough cartilage there to make it. Whew!

So the next thing was to fill out some papers - who I am, stuff like that. "Can I see your ID?" he asked. Knowing it was coming, and somewhat dreading it, I mumbled something to E along the lines of "this is the part that I was not looking forward to." So I placed my thoroughly male ID down on the desk, and told him "it doesn't match very well," which didn't seem to register immediately. He was looking at it intently for several seconds before he said that it was a bit of a surprise.

I'll take it.

The piercing itself was anticlimactic; I held on to C, and was braced for some serious pain, and... it wasn't bad at all. The anti-helix side was worse than the helix side, but I didn't make a sound for either, and may have wrinkled my nose for the anti-helix. Maybe.

After that was done, we went out to dinner at C and E's favorite sushi restaurant. The hostess may have been checking me out as she left the table, but it barely made a dent. The food was excellent, and the musical duo was playing some good tunes.

Pretty much every time I'm out in public, I expect to be read by everyone, and half the time I expect somebody to cause a scene, so when the interest is so low-key, it's a nice departure from the horror-stories I cook up in my brain. The comments from the man at the piercing shop blew me away. I'm sure he had no idea that he completely made my night.

Several hours later, my ear is aching dully, but even that can't remove the smile on my face. I need to clean up and go to bed, but I'm way too excited to have a chance at sleeping.

You can see my ear here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's coming...!

I've done all the scheduling for my upcoming surgery that there is to do. I have my days off from work, as does my support person (I heart you, E!), and I have our hotel reservation, and I have the surgery itself scheduled. It's happening!

Being the queen of stress that I am, I'm still worried. I think my worry is in two parts. The first is simply that everything with the procedure goes smoothly. The doctor is a professional, and this looks to be a procedure that he's done quite a number of times, so I'm sure it will go very well. But as I've said in the past, I never let logic get in the way of a good anxiety attack. It seems to be simply the way I roll. I've learned so much about myself over this odyssey so far, and not all of it is positive; my anxiety about, like, everything is just another of those things. Fair enough. All my worry on that score will be moot on the 20th, after it's all done. So for the time being, I'll just go with it, and try not to make myself too crazy.

The second part of my worry, I figured out a few days ago. It's about my parents. They're not very accepting of my proposed changes, and would be very happy if I just forgot about all this madness and stayed the way I was. Which, of course, has a snowball's chance. But something like surgery... that seems pretty important. And if anything should go wrong, they'll be absolutely blind-sided with some really awful news. As much as they exasperate and upset me, I still think I should let them know.

I've discussed the situation with a number of people. One of my very close Second Life friends said "why do they have to know?" That is an excellent point; none of my family has seen me in the altogether since I was, what, 5? 6? And that surely won't be starting back up now. Another Second Lifer brought up the "what if, heaven forbid, something goes wrong?" Also a very valid point. They probably do need to know, just in case...

I've done quite a bit of thinking and worrying about this, and I think, based on the feedback I've gotten from everyone, that I'll tell my dad. The statement that he made during my coming-out talk with him, "whatever support you need, you will have," is carrying the day. If he wishes to tell my mother, or my sister, he can. That way, somebody will be in the loop, but it will be somebody with a more open mind, who might have a chance of handling it.

It's the least bad of the available options, I think. I feel that nothing with a gender transition is ever ideal - it's hard on everybody, emotionally, psychologically, and even physically, and there are people who simply can't make that transition in their hearts. It's the same thing that keeps so many of us in the closet, afraid to take that first step: we don't realize that we need to take a pretty big leap in our own hearts, before things can start to improve.

So, one day this will all be done, and my family will either be with me, or they won't. Parts will be, and are, with me, and I expect some parts to go away, probably forever. It's a shame that this will happen, but there's not really anything I can do, other than something that I won't do. All I can do is shrug to myself, and maybe hold out a little hope.