Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Expressing Gratitude, something I rarely do...

I woke up early this morning. I felt tired, but that is not new. I did some surfing on the Internet, and went to put away the dishes. When my legs and hips started to hurt, a thought occurred to me. I wondered if I had been focused so much on what has gone wrong in the past year that I have failed to appreciate the good things in my life.  As I walked out to the kitchen, thinking that it needs a good cleaning, as I usually do, I thought I would take the time to inventory them.

First, there’s the housemate.  I don’t really know how to thank her for what she’s done. She’s given me a place to stay.  This place has allowed me to transition. Cathy may almost be as stubborn as a Pennsylvania Dutchwoman, and I’m slowly trying to adopt her into this tribe, particularly with food offerings, but she thinks it’s better to remain a Hoosier.  Let’s boil this down to the basic facts. Without her, I’d be on the streets right now, and things would be much worse for me than they are. She is one of my transgender sisters, who I often fail to appreciate.  It’s hard to realize that the people closest to us suffer with us, even if they cannot fully understand what is happening inside of our bodies.

Then there’s my biological sister.  She may be stubborn, opinionated, and a Fox News devotee, but she’s almost always been there when I needed her.  700 miles may separate us, but she’s always been the biological family member I’ve been closest to. I know she does not think much of people who have my diagnosis, and does not necessarily understand the invisible part of the illness, but I think she acknowledges something is wrong. I think she might think I’m exaggerating, and sometimes I wonder if I am. Usually when I get this way, a really bad pain day will come along to remind me that I still have issues.

Before I forget them, my brothers. I was going to separate this into half- and full-, but I realized that’s ridiculous. They’re still blood relatives, no matter how many of my parents’ DNA we share. Andy and I may not get along or see eye to eye, but there are still times when he has been there for me, and my actions – particularly regarding refusing to use State Farm because of what his State Farm agent did while he was in Afghanistan – have surprised him.  Bill probably would like to have known his other siblings better when he grew up, but circumstances prevented this. He is trying to reach out now, and that is what counts.

My family in general. My grandmother has tried, even though I have kept information from her. I don’t want to worry an 88-year-old woman unnecessarily. My father still tries, even though he thinks what I’m going through is merely the result of getting older. (I’m getting tired of hearing this from people, by the way.  The only normal part of aging out of this has been the need to wear eyeglasses constantly.)  The remaining aunts and uncles have offered as much support as they can, if they’ve paid any attention to my Facebook page.

Online Friends.  I have always felt more comfortable sharing my feelings online in semi-anonymity than I do in real life.  Partly, this is the whole socialized as male thing, which I hate in more ways than I can describe. Even though I hate it, these behaviors have long become habit.  Vlad has been there to offer a shoulder to cry on the most throughout this process, and I’ve probably adopted them as an unlikely mentor who guides me through unfamiliar territory.

Online support groups have been helpful, and I’ve tried to focus a lot of my complaining there.  At first, I told everyone, but that started to get old, even for me.  The people I chat with regularly in the Fibro support group I’m in, who I know as Poolgoddess, Quilter’s Way, E1989 and QueenPink know the struggles and the ups and downs of going through the disability process.  One of them, Quilter’s Way, managed to get it on the first time through. PoolGoddess and I are going through reconsideration, and QueenPink, who lives in Ireland, has not had to go through the social security administration to get disability benefits.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

I still hide certain emotions, even though I no longer need to

 People who are socialized as male – whether they are male or not – are taught to keep most of their feelings to themselves. They are expected to display three feelings at most. Anger, joy and a null state of emotions are all society allows. Feminists decry this as one way the patriarchy harms men, but I am not going to use their language, even if I am using their arguments.  However, transition is in many ways a life-changing experience. While I would not give up what I have gained in the past few years, it is also important to note that I have lost things in the process as well.   Sometimes, however, transgender people do not take advantage of what they have gained, even though they should. Being able to display feelings more openly is one advantage of transition that does not take place easily.  Hormones do not change a lifetime of societally-enforced behavior. Even if someone can show their emotions more freely, it does not mean that they will. Crying might be one of the biggest examples of this.

Men are taught not to cry, or if they do, not to do it openly. Special circumstances, such as the death of a loved one, grant an exception.  Since starting HRT, I’ve found that tears come more easily, especially if it’s something that makes me sad, like hearing of the death of someone’s pet.  Last night, was one of those occasions.  Even though I can cry more freely and openly, I felt the need to hide my tears, because that is what I have always done.

HRT caused many changes, physical, social and emotional.  One of the more difficult ones I faced was experiencing a greater range of emotions at first. (Of course, there was also a childish glee at having breasts, something I wish would have subsided much sooner than it did.)  Even the way I felt anger changed.  It is not the expression of normally repressed emotions; it’s generally because I have reasons to be angry.

And I must admit I’ve experienced a greater range of mixed emotions, although they are not necessarily contradictory. Perhaps the most recent example is finding out I have the beginnings of osteoarthritis.  While I’m not pleased about this, I was happy that it wasn’t what I feared. In fact, I felt like celebrating because the news was considerably less bad than I feared. (If German doesn’t have a word for this, it should. It’d probably be a variation of schadenfreude.)  I also have mixed feelings about being referred to a physical therapist. I’m afraid, excited, and filled with a desire to waste as much of Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shields funds as possible for all the crap that they’ve put me through over covering my estradiol in the past. There’s also a desire to use as many of Indiana’s resources as possible because of their failure to provide adequate safety nets.  Experiencing an array of emotions over a situation is something I rarely experienced presenting as male. I might have once, but my peers, bullies and other quickly taught me that emotions were bad things to have.

As I go through the process of learning to be female, an experience I was denied, I find myself questioning whether I should be hiding this. People may state something if I become too emotionally charged, or view me as overly emotional, but they won’t openly ridicule me.  Women may do a lot of things behind the scenes that I do not understand or know about, and this, unfortunately, is also part of the learning process, and because it’s a social skill, I’m not sure I’ll ever learn it fully.  Maybe one day I’ll even be okay with openly crying rather than trying to hide it.  [Spoiler Alert!] At least for the moment, I’m glad no one saw me cry when Tris’s mother gave up her life for her in Divergent.

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