Sunday, December 29, 2013

What a difference a pain makes

Despite my attempts to be as open as possible in my entries there are certain areas of my mind and soul that I am not ready to expose to the world for critique.

The darkest areas of of my being.

The issues buried so deep ... protected so well they should never see the light of day.

The thing about packing things so tight and so deep is it doesn't take much pressure to start the seams ripping.  Once the breach begins it is only a matter of time before everything unravels ... and the pain of the tearing fabric is intense ... beyond words ... beyond emotions.

It is amazing what the human spirit can tolerate ...

It is scary what the mind will do to cope with such pain.

I am beginning to learn this.

I cannot explain ... I do not understand ... I don't know that I want to.

My muse is painting disturbing, macabre images ... telling dark, frightening stories.  It is not unusual for her to be a bit chilling or somber ... this often releases anxiety and tension.  Recently she seems to have incited darker more terrifying thoughts ...

Thoughts that have encouraged alarming actions ...

Actions I have little control over.

After discussing my issues with my doctor he added a new antidepressant.  It has helped a little ... but just a little.  I feel a bit less edgy ... a little less physical pain ... a little more clear minded.

But the voices remain ...

They taunt and torment me ... much like my classmates from years ago.

Although the rage is much less than a few weeks ago, the voices evoke strong emotional reactions from me ... emotions I am not sure I can deal with ... emotions that eat away at the foundation of my being.

This past week was very emotional ... too many things to discuss compounded atop each other increasing my stress exponentially ... chipping away at my emotionally stability ... encouraging the voices to harass me.

It started with the now familiar murmurs in the distance, and like before it graduated to the laughing and taunting.

I couldn't drown them out ... I couldn't ignore them.

I felt the emotions building.

The voices began chanting, "It won't hurt ... it won't hurt."

I am torn about how much detail I want to give.  At some point I may feel more comfortable discussing this in more detail.  I have given some cryptic hints, so you may have an idea what I am referring to.  All I will say for now is this ...

They were right ... it didn't hurt.

I found a moment of relief ... but merely a moment.  As I thought about what I had done I began to become more agitated.

It is quite disconcerting to think I may not be in control of my own mind ... my thoughts ... my actions.

I have much to work on ... much to learn ... many issues that are surfacing that will need to be resolved if I ever expect to find a level of normal.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rehashing some issues ... ...


So here's the deal ...

This is my blog.

Let me refer you to my very first post A Proper Introduction

Simply put ... I write what is on my mind, how I'm feeling, how things are affecting me ... nothing more ... nothing less.  If you have issues with this then please do not read.

If it seems that many of my entries are negative or that I do not take the feelings of others into consideration ... well, let's think about this a moment ...

- I've lived the majority of my life trying to hide who I really am.  I've tried to live the life society expects ... to be the upstanding family man, and despite the immense happiness and love my wife and son bring me, I have never truly been happy until recently.

- I was harassed, teased and bullied for 12 years of school ... 14 if you count college.  I was never accepted for who I was, so I tried to change and was still not accepted.  I dreaded waking up.  I dreaded school, recess, lunch ... everything.  I had no relief ... only brief escapes into my own mind.

- I am the youngest of eight children ... I was treated like the youngest.  There was a great deal of tension and often animosity between me and one of my sisters while we grew up.  This is not saying that there were no good times, only that the teasing, and sometimes hurtful comments at home were compounded on top of what I suffered at school ... even my own father called me an effeminate queer when I was growing up.

- My wife and I lost our first son at three months due to SIDS.

- Our second son was born with Respiratory Distress Syndrome and spent several weeks in the NICU 50+ miles away before he could come.

- The year my father died was the last year that we had a true 4th of July family gathering.  I sat and watched the family split as 2 other family members had an argument over political views.  I do not believe the family ever recovered from that.

- I watched helplessly as Pam sank into a deep depression.  I held her numerous times as she had anxiety attacks and could not do anything to help her.  These issues are a continuing battle.

- Pam eventually lost her job due to her depression and anxiety.  We lived on 1/2 our normal income for several years.  We are still financially floundering ... scraping by would be making it sound better than it is.

- Eventually I began to suffer from depression, anxiety and insomnia.  Watching Pam worry about me felt like someone was ripping my innermost spirit from my body.

- I finally decided to seek counseling for my gender identity issues.  Everything was going to turn around ... but to do this I have to face all the demons from the past.  I have to deal with all the issues that prevented me from transitioning early in life.

- My brother Walt committed suicide shortly after I started counseling.

- It was discovered that I had a mass in my chest that had grown to the diameter of a volleyball.  I was also told there was a chance I had lymphoma.

- My mom began having great difficulty getting around.  She recently had back surgery to help relieve the pain.

- The family consensus process to get the house ready for her has not been smooth.  Although there was a lot of work accomplished, there was also a mess left for a smaller number of people to clean up.

- During this time I've slid back toward depressive modes ... but it's different ... out of control.  After discussing the symptoms with my therapist she believes that I am suffering a form of PTSD.

So ... do I seem a bit negative at times?  Yes.

Do I take everyone's feelings or points of view into consideration when I write?  Well ... do they take my feelings and point of view into consideration?  Seriously ... why would I write something for the specific purpose of hurting someone's feelings?  Since this blog is about my trying to coping with all I have dealt with in life, then sometimes it will touch on things that may not make some people happy.

Like I said ... you don't have to read it.

I know that at least some members of my family read my blog.  I would love to tell all the silly happy stories from the youth group at the local church, or some of the goofy things we did in the hay field behind the house ... but those aren't the memories that curse my mind as I flail in the abyss once again.

I did not ask to be born transgender ... but I must deal with it.

I did not ask to suffer from depression, I did not ask to have anxiety attacks ... but they are part of my life.

I did not ask to have medical issues ... but they needed to be taken care of

I never wanted to see my mom suffer ... but we need to do what we can to keep her healthy for hopefully many more years.

And obviously I did not want to experience PTSD ... this honestly scares me.  I have no control.  I go from zero to rage in 1.2 seconds and sometimes do not even know what triggered me.

I honestly do not like the term.  PTSD is what soldiers, police officers and other people who have seen and suffered a great deal of trauma suffer from.  I am just vividly remembering and reliving events from the past.

I have not survived this long to give up now.

I have not started my transition only to hide who I am just because some are uncomfortable with the real me.

This is not an easy road, but it is the road I am destined to travel.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dusting off old memories

Nothing in life is guaranteed.

A collage of family photos in 1979
Everything is a risk ... and every risk has its reward ... or its consequences.

Standing still ... staying in your comfort zone has its own risks.  The reward ... feeling safe.  The consequences ... being left behind and possibly losing yourself in the process.  Soon you find out that there is no comfort zone ... only familiarity.

It's a tough choice ... Step outside your boundaries and face the unknown or stay in your circle and miss out on what life has to offer.

There are a handful of people that I know that have lived their life stepping beyond boundaries ... at least boundaries that society has set.  They live on the fringes of society as my eldest brother Russ says ... he likes it there.  He has done so many things I would never dream of even trying.

I have not seen Russ many times in my life.  A few days here ... a day there ... he fades into the shadows for a few years then emerges for a brief time.
Peppers ... yummy


I can remember a family trip to Disneyland.  Russ was driving an old Bronco with one of my sisters, another brother and me in typical Los Angeles traffic.  A double trailer tanker into the lane we were in nearly hitting us.  Russ uttered a few expletives as he laid on the horn.  "I'm not letting this asshole get away with this," he said as he pulled up beside the truck and flipped the driver off.

Then he cut the truck off.

Have you ever seen the movie Duel ... cheesy early Steven Spielberg film with Dennis Weaver ... about an insane truck driver that terrorizes the main character ... ...

In hindsight it is all quite funny ...

The card and letter
He very recently sent me a wonderful gift.  He grows peppers, pickles them and cans them.  He sent me several jars ... but that isn't the best part ...

In the box was a card ... in the card was a handwritten letter ... in the letter he says he is behind me 110%.

I cried when I read it ... amazing how a few simple words can generate such powerful emotions.

He has written quite a story for himself ... but then again so have all my siblings ... teachers, accountants, nurses, computer programmers, paramedics ... all have accomplished quite a bit.

This chapter of my life would be stressful enough just truly starting my transition.  Dealing with work, friends and family is difficult enough at any time ... add an outside stress and your world can be turned upside down.

We, as a family, have about 2 weeks to get the house ready for our mom's return from surgery and rehab.  My family is not only dealing with my transition, they are dealing with the stress of our mother, they are dealing with their own stresses and circumstances beyond their control.

It is not easy ... for any of us.

I have many issues that have surfaced that must be dealt with ... Seriously, you cannot try to redirect your life without dealing with the issues that caused you to not head in that direction in the first place.

Everything is a memory ...

Everything is a potential issue ...

Add caption
It is a little disconcerting to not know what may cause a meltdown or when it may happen.

This is why cleaning my mom's room is difficult at times ... it is also why I have enjoyed unearthing some of the treasures.

I remember my mom getting a music box when I was young.  It had drawers to hold jewelry and a little window with rickshaw ... the wheels would spin and lights would blink on and off.  I used to sit in my mom and dad's room and listen to that over and over.

It was never lost ... but I feel like I found it for the first time again.

I was so excited.

Invisible ...
I dusted it off ... I wound it up and I watched and listened like when I was a child.

I was a bit disappointed because the lights didn't work, but the music brought back memories ... but how did the lights used to work??

Were there lights?

Did I imagine them.

I looked for switches ... I looked for a battery compartment ... there clearly was no electrical cord.  Finally, after nosing around a little, I found the battery compartment.

I'm not insane ... there were lights!

Well ... there were lights.  I may still be insane.

I changed the batteries and opened the box in excitement ... ...

No lights ...

I messed with the batteries, I looked for switches ... nothing.

I grabbed my camera to video the box so you could at least hear what I enjoyed as a child ...

The lights flickered and blinked!!

video

Truly a minuscule flicker of light in a stressful time.

I am finding enjoyment in my writing and my photography again ... this may be the thin layer between me and the verge of depression I seem to feel so close to.  I don't proclaim to be a great writer or photographer ... but I can capture and express my feelings through my words and through my lens.

I wrote this poem a while back.  Nothing special, just my thoughts:

My life is just a simple book
with many chapters penned
But as they’re written by the scribe
the words will not amend

From comedy to tragedy
and genres in between
This story contains everything
my eyes have ever seen

With friends and foes and confidants
all inked into my life
The script would read of misery
but for my son and wife

Though scenes and plots will twist and change
one theme remains the same
A secret buried deep inside
that reads of fear and shame

A million words cannot describe
the depth of joy and pain
But truth be told, if I were asked
I’d write it all again

Yet through it all with all I have
I still don’t feel complete
But chasing what I held inside
could spell my own defeat

So now I start to walk the path
with fear I cannot measure
And soon I come to realize
my secret is a treasure

And now I learn to live and trust
as my life rearranges
My story will continue on
but now the cover changes

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reaching out


I have six surviving siblings, four sisters and two brothers.  Of these, three of the sisters have friended me on Facebook.  One brother has not mentioned my transition … but he has talked to my wife, so it is not like he’s disowned me.  One brother and one sister are trying to get a better understanding of what I’m going through … as they are the closest to me in age and watched me grow up, I am sure it is most difficult for them.

I’m sure my transition will take time for everyone to adjust to … but as I keep telling those who ask, this is the period of adjustment.  I do not expect everyone to suddenly or magically perceive me as … … sister … aunt … female … whatever.  About all I can expect is for family and friends to ask questions … raise concerns … whatever.  I am very open to discussion as it helps me cope with issues as well.  Refusing to talk … refusing to ask … refusing to acknowledge what is happening will only cause more issues further down the road.

I have wrapped my fears around me so tight and for so long it is difficult for me to let them go. 

I would rather not disconnect from friends … I would rather not disconnect from family over my decision to stop hiding what I am, but it is truly a small price to pay to gain happiness.

I am willing to talk … to answer questions … to meet people halfway or try to work out some form of solution to help smooth out this awkward time period.  But in order for people to meet in the middle, both sides must move … for one side to expect the other to do all the walking is not even trying to compromise … it is being stubborn.

But I am willing to wait … I am wanting to take as much time as is necessary to help friends, family, coworkers … whoever, to adjust.

One of the good things that has come from this series of events is my brother and I are talking on Facebook.  He has many valid concerns … he also has children who are barely adult or not quite adult who he is watching out for … all this must be horribly confusing to them, and I am sorry for that.

When I am asked a question in earnest I try my best to answer in the same manner.  I may not always succeed … this transition is new to me as well, so I do not always have a simple answer or a simple solution.

I have copied and pasted a portion of a conversation with my brother which recently happened via my old account on Facebook.  Regardless of the outcome of all of this I truly admire and love him for reaching out to talk to me.  It will be difficult for him to adapt … and possibly he might not be able to, but he is making an attempt, and that’s all I can ask.

11/14, 6:28pm – from my brother:

I have some questions I'd like to ask. I have been waiting until things settled down a bit, but perhaps now is as good a time as any. I'll start with one that is central to my struggles with this. It is not really directed at you per se, more at your counselor. Don't answer right away. I'd rather you think it through and maybe even talk with your counselor. This is a very sincere question. I am wondering how I am supposed to alter my relationship with you from what it was with Tim to what you'd like it to be after your transition. You are stating that the person you were is not and has never been the real you. That person, in essence, is false. Yet the very aspects of your life you are now moving away from are the exact pieces that mark my relationship with you. So, by moving away from them, you are also moving away from me. How do those of us who are not transitioning deal with that?

I appreciate you and all that you have done for Mom over the years. I suspect it will start to get more difficult from here on out. Be strong.


11/16, 3:51pm – My reply:

Regardless of how I ramble, the only thing I am doing is trying to answer your question …

I have discussed this with my counselor, and likely will discuss it more as future family events or visits with friends come up. There is no simple answer … it is a period of adjustment in many ways.

Here is one issue … All of my memories of you come from the perspective of being the younger brother, that will never change. By deduction I can figure that all of your memories of me are from the perspective of having a younger brother and that will never change.

So now the question becomes how do we both alter our mindsets …

I don’t know. I am not going to go out of my way to dress extra girly or wear lots of makeup to prove I’m female. I’m likely not going to alter my voice during family visits … and if I do, it’s not a huge change … it’s more androgynous than female. If you see me after work, or if we go someplace I may wear makeup, but otherwise my clothing will be the same as it has been for the past couple of years.

My sense of humor hasn’t changed. Unless I’m truly stressed or in a depressive mode I still tell and like to hear the same kind of jokes … I still enjoy the traditional family stories … I am still an avid Steelers fan … I still have the Chezum stubborn / competitive streak … I still love to cook and BBQ (and unfortunately still love to eat) … I am still a very private person and very introverted.

When you talked to me July 2012 (I am skipping this past July and last Thanksgiving because I was not mentally right at those times) what did you talk about? When we were in San Diego what did we talk about? Odds are the same interests are there.

The biggest adjustment is the name and the gender pronouns. Pam has known about me for over a year and still slips with “He” or “Tim” … it is not an easy or quick adjustment. Like when scientists told us that Killer Whales are not truly whales at all and should be referred to as Orcas … I still can’t get used to that … of course now Killer Whale is considered an acceptable term again. Or when Pluto got demoted from being a planet … …

Am I comparing myself to a whale, or saying I’m way out there? Hmmmmm, maybe

Everyone adjusts or adapts at their own rate and in their own time, and that’s fine. It’s truly the effort or the thought that matters. Some never adjust or accept at all, and that’s fine as well. It is a lot to ask of someone to alter their way of thinking.

Any time people from my past, or family members friend me I post an announcement to my other friends on FB asking that everyone be patient with them if there is a gender or name slipup in any post.

Some people in my situation simply make the announcement and demand that everyone instantly adjust.  I know life and people do not work that way. The fact that we are discussing this is a huge step that I wasn’t sure would be happening this quickly.

Another truth is I didn’t expect to be on hormones until sometime in 2014. Walt’s death, my medical issues last year and the feeling like I was sliding back into depression were key factors in speeding up the process.

When I speak of past events where you gave me advice, you were giving advice to your brother … you were doing what you felt was correct and I love you for that. The only issue is it wasn’t right for me … I just did not know how to tell anyone it was not right for me. My own fear held me captive. If you were talking to a sister about dealing with a bully (or any of the dozens of other topics we talked about) odds are you would have had slightly different advice … had you known … had I been able to be honest everything would be different right now.

Then again … if I was able to “come out” back then I never would have met Pam, I never would have fathered Timmy … so many things would be different … I may not have been able to transition smoothly back then. We will never know.

The fa├žade of Tim was trying to be brother, the boy, the man that society expected. It was nothing about my interests … I still love photography, writing … I would love to get back on my bike if I could stop having nagging injuries to nurse. Actually, I think getting back on my bike would do wonders for the reoccurring depression symptoms, but whatever.

“I am wondering how I am supposed to alter my relationship with you from what it was with Tim to what you'd like it to be after your transition.”
 
I have typed a lot of words but feel I have not answered the question. Maybe the simple answer is this:

I understand that aspects of the relationship will change in ways that neither of us fully comprehend yet, but I don’t want to be treated any differently. All I am asking is that female pronouns be used and some form of the name Tiffanie be used.

You saw the blog … I am not picky. Some nieces like and already say “Aunt Tiffanie” and I like it … others may never be able to use that, and that is fine as well as long as the attempt is there to remember my new name.

You and the other siblings may not be able to think of me as a sister and that is fine … just remember that I am not the brother in the way you remember and try and address me with proper pronouns and etc.

How all the dynamics will change in a month … in a year … in a decade will gradually unfold. We all will learn and grow together, just as we always have regarding every issue.

You may think this was a quick answer that you asked me to dwell on for a while … but remember the chess thing. I was already writing this response in my head in August 2012 when I started having laser treatments on my beard.


My brother’s response is not relevant.  The fact that we are talking is very important to me, and hopefully to him. 

Some people ask what I want from this.  This conversation is an example of what I want … show a bit of respect … voice your concern or question … be honest … and maybe most importantly … … Talk to ME.  Don’t tell Pam or Timmy about your difficulties … they are adapting, too and telling them things and not me is adding unfair stress to them.

I want this to be as easy as possible for everyone … but that is a lot like saying I want everyone to stay as dry as possible as we go white-water rafting.  Some people will get wet … others soaked … but I am in the raft, too.

To my brother – thank you.  I hope we can keep this line of communication going.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Voices


I was born with a vivid imagination, a strategic mind, an unusually powerful memory and a quick temper.  This is not necessarily a good combination for anyone … especially a child.

My sister Linda taught me to read when I was very young … four at the oldest.  I have fond memories of going to the local library and getting books that were far above my age level (which isn’t too hard to do when you’re four years old in a library).  Although I did like books with pictures, I began to find them a bit distracting … the drawings were not always how I imagined things to be … but I could still here the voices of the characters as they talked, the tall grass rustling in the breeze, the rhythm of the horse hooves on the cobblestone streets.

I don’t know when I lost my love for reading … perhaps it was in school where they insisted I read books that were of no interest to me … or maybe it’s just been a growing frustration as my astigmatism worsened over time causing my dyslexic tendencies to be highly exaggerated.  More recently it is due to the volume of reading I do at work … work is reading … reading is work … words do not relax nor entertain any more.

I have always loved writing … well, always loved writing stories, poems and songs … homework assignments and reports were not fun … they did not require thinking or imagination … just work.

I remember in first grade we were asked to tell a story to a teacher’s aide so she could write them for us.  My story was too long … it didn’t fit on the page.  When the assistant read the story back to me she used a voice for one of my characters talking and I said, “No.  That’s not how he talks.”  I don’t think it occurred to me that she could not hear his voice … it didn’t occur to me that many people don’t hear the voice they are writing … and most likely would not admit to hearing voices.

I did … I always have.

I have mentioned before that much of my grade school days were spent alone.  Not that I never played with the classmates … not that I was always an intentional outcast … much of the time I just preferred being alone.

I have lived much of inside my mind … ok, insert whatever “out of your mind” comment you want.  When I imagine, my world is limitless … I am whatever I want … I am wherever I want to be, even places that do not seem to exist. 

When I am living outside my mind I am limited to the physical world. 

I remember the first time I heard Neil Diamond’s song “Shilo” … I could so relate to the words … “So you turn to the only friends you can find … there in your mind.”

So where is all this leading?

I’m not sure …

I have had a string of unusual events recently and I am just trying to make sense of them. 

When I am truly writing at the top of my game I can speak to my characters … literally.  I talk to them, I interact with them, I hear them and sometimes I see images of them.  I will often take the part of a secondary character in the story and live the scene.  I can smell the dust in the air, taste blood dripping from my wounds, feel the cool water on my parched throat.

Is that normal?

I don’t know.

Am I crazy?

Again … …

When I was nearing and in the deepest point of my depression I was not able to write.  I would get upset and yell … yell at the voices stuck in my head … the characters yet unwritten … because they were taunting me.  They talked to me, and I had to listen … there was no drowning them out.  It was not always clear voices … sometimes distant murmurs … tormented souls pleading to be released.

When my insomnia was at its worst I had daymares … events unfolding in front of me with vivid detail that were not actually happening.  I suppose I should call them hallucinations, but whatever you call them they were real to me.

Once I began to sleep … after I was on my antidepressant these events slowed and eventually stopped.  Soon I was back to my normal interacting with the characters of my story again.

Choosing to transition has found me in an entirely new world of stress.  Despite the fact that I had been on the road to happiness … despite being who I’ve always believed I was supposed to be, things have been crumbling around me lately.

I do not understand why.

Many recent events have created a confluence of memories and emotion.

-          Coming out to my family at a time and in a way I never intended to
-          Many people from early school days finding me via my old FB page
-          My mom having surgery, starting rehab, suffering a setback, and getting ready for rehab again
-          Unusual levels of stress at work

It feels like depression is creeping its way back into my soul.  I will fight to the death to stay away from that dark and miserable hell.

But I don’t know how … or even what to fight.

My own memories?

My emotions?

I mentioned in a previous post an incident that happened in grade school.  I was giggling and enjoying watching my classmates play two-square.  One of the boys was getting angry and yelled at me because he thought I was laughing at him.  I do not remember the exact sequence of events, but I was chased by my entire class … and likely kids from other classes.  They cornered me … they circled around me … they laughed at me.  They laughed at me until I crumbled to the ground crying.

I was hurt …

I was humiliated …

I swore I would never let anyone get hurt again.  I turned off my emotions … but that just bottled everything up.

That was a very long time ago … that is a very deep scar … and I have not truly faced the feelings of that time in my life yet.

Recently I had a very emotional period.  I felt as if the world collapsed around me … on me, and I was suffocating.  I went outside … it was a dark night.  I sat on the grass and began rambling to myself.  Two of the neighborhood cats sat near me.  I heard a noise in the field behind our yard.

The cats did not react.

I listened … ever intent to figure out what I heard.

A murmuring of voices seemed to be directly behind the fence, but I did not see anything.  One voice stood out from the rest as he said, “Get her.”

Then the laughing started.

It surrounded me, just like 40 years ago … taunting, merciless laughing.  I crumbled in a heap and began to cry … just like 40 years ago.  I covered my ears to try and make it stop, but it would not go away.

After what seemed like an eternity it faded.

I freaked out.

After talking to some friends online I was able to calm down.  I chalked it up to all the stress and reuniting with some friends from that period of time … at least that reasoning allowed me to sleep that night.

The next day I pondered the situation.  I realized it was not completely isolated.

When I was on Topomax I was mental meltdown about to happen.  I will not rehash all the details, but that night at my work … that night when I was standing at the dumpster with that shard of glass against my arm I heard the same provoking, spiteful laughter.  All I could think was, “I bet it wouldn’t hurt much.”

Perhaps if the glass had cut my arm the voices would have stopped.

I can still rationalize all this for myself.  The diet medication, the stress, first truly stressful time on estrogen … all these things could easily cause temporary mental disturbances.

Since that night in the yard there has been other moments where I’ve heard things … murmurings … voices.  If I concentrate … listen intently I can almost make out what they are saying … like listening to a conversation in another room.

Again I can rationalize why this is happening.  My way of writing a story involves interacting with characters that are not truly there … perhaps my brain is just trying to work out details of events long ago, and to do that it must make these characters real.

I am lucid.

These events have not deterred me from going to work or other duties … but that is a half-truth.  I did go to work Friday, but I felt so mentally unstable that I left early.  I was afraid of melting down in front of my coworkers.

The voices are not encouraging me to hurt others or commit crimes … they just annoy me.

I do not know what all this means, nor how it will shape my future.  The three things I have feared the most since I was a child … going blind, being paralyzed and going insane.

I did temporarily lose my sight when I was in fourth grade, but that is a story for a different time.

I can vividly recall a dream I had many, many years ago:

I was sitting in a dark room.

I was struggling to move, but I couldn’t.  I was in a straight jacket.

My heart raced as I slammed my body against the wall in frustration.  The walls were covered, but the impact of my efforts jarred every bone in my body.

Sweat dripped off my body, trickling down my nose like a tiny river over a waterfall.  I could see the drops glisten as they fell onto my lap.

I looked at the door of the room.  I could see the silhouette of a man wearing glasses watching me.  After a moment he stepped away.

I began to sob uncontrollably.

I woke up in a cold sweat with my heart racing … it was so real … I could feel the chill in the room and the binding of my restraint.

This is truly where a counselor can save your sanity … an unbiased view … a different perspective.  She does not believe I am going insane nor am I having any true psychotic episodes.

So what is it?

She thinks it may be a form of PTSD … reliving old memories in vivid details … memories I have never truly dealt with.

If I had a choice I would not choose to deal with them at this time.


Thank God I have Pam.  Losing her is now my biggest fear.  She is my foundation … she keeps me grounded, supports me, comforts me … she is my everything.  If I lose her I will go insane.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Time line ...




By the time this 8th grade photo was taken
I was planning on running away to transition.

It occurred to me the other day that I have really not given any true updates on any issues in a while.  I have actually been writing a lot, but have not completed or posted anything significant in a few weeks.

As I write this I am filled with a mixed bag of emotions.  So much has happened in the past few weeks or so I'm not sure where to begin or even if I can explain everything.  After posting my last entry I have felt a bit emotionally drained ... but there is a lot to feel drained about.


Early transition

Not necessarily in this order, nor in this order of importance:

- Multiple big wig visits to our bus yard and our sister yard.  Likely some shakeups at the other yard.
- Pam Sedona and I took a road trip and visited my eldest sister ... fun trip, got my tragus pierced (so did Pam), but traveling is always tiring
- My mom had surgery
- My sisters and brothers are stressed and worried ... not to mention Pam and me.
- Due to a sudden driver shortage I started a new class ... but my training time is limited as I am driving morning and afternoon.  This is a good thing in a way ... I am Tiffanie all day long.  Nothing but female references from kids, parents and school staff.
- I believe my entire family now know of my transition ... not exactly how or when I planned, but it is a weight off my shoulders.

Virtual makeover
So, yeah ... the last few weeks have my head spinning.

I guess the good news out of all this is I am technically living full time ... that thought also did not dawn on me until the staff at one of the schools I go to basically gathered around me during their girl talk session ... Maybe I've shifted farther on the gender spectrum than I realized..

The excitement of being so close to my dream is tainted with extra stress and disappointment.

My mom had a setback during her recovery.  She is back in the hospital being treated for an infection.  It is just added stress to an already overloaded platter of worrisome things.

My brain is wired so differently than so many others I know ... no, not the female brain in a male body thing.  That's been pretty well discussed and if you understand that concept you understand why I am transitioning my body.  But also, I am not a girly girl ... although some girly things seem far more alluring since starting hormones.  I consider myself to be a sort of tomboy hybrid.
August 2012
Wearing Pam's top

I believe the fact that I was introduced to chess at a very young age, 4 or 5 I think ... and the fact that I truly grasped the game and its intricacies very quickly molded the way I think and plan things.  My typical strategy was very defensive ... minimal moves ... moving pieces in patterns so they would wind up where they started .. making pieces seem vulnerable to see what my opponent's intentions were ... but always leery the opponent would discover my tactics.

Somehow I manage to see the dozens of responses a move may cause, and the dozens of reactions those in turn will cause.  This is not an infallible science as you never know what script your foe is following ... and in my case the foe was me.

In many ways my transition has been a well played game of chess ... my opponent ... my fears and anxieties ... the unknown.  The problem is in order to win this game I must risk putting myself in check ... be willing to lose a few pieces ... even then, the game doesn't end ... but without the risk there'd be no reward.

January 2013 - {laying with makeup
The heaviest I have ever weighed
Many small manipulations ... different styles of pants ... different color shirts, even women's polo shirts ... then working my way back to "normal" ... well, never quite back where I started.  Earrings in both ears ... two piercings in each ear ... wearing studs ... small hoops ... dangling earrings ... always moving toward feminine then backing off a bit to see what reactions were.  Having a beard ... going clean shaven ... backing off and wearing a mustache ... back to clean shaven ... to laser hair removal.  Each step a little more permanent ... each step a little more obvious ...

The one step I had no strategy for ... telling people ... anyone.  Regardless of how, when or where I told people I was risking being put in check ... the chess strategy was useless at this point ... I had to risk everything.

Everything.

April 2013
I felt I was risking my marriage ... my friends ... my family ... my sanity ...  ...  The only thing I knew wasn't immediately at risk was my job.  I am protected by company policy and state law ... but what if ... the drivers or other coworkers don't accept me ... the customer doesn't accept me ... my regional or corporate supervisors don't accept me.

Every fiber of my being was screaming to return the pieces ... protect my half of the board ... don't let anyone know anything, that way I cannot get hurt.

But I made the move ... I put myself in a position of vulnerability.  Unlike my chess game it is not merely one opponent who can damage me ... it is many ... all different ... all dangerous in my eyes.

*** ***

On a different note ... despite the fact that I have received no overt or direct acts of contempt directed toward me, many have expressed curiosity and concerns toward my choices.

May 2013
Pre-HRT
Many have stated things like, "This is rather sudden."

Ummm ... no, not really.  Before my depression meltdown in 2010 I was already beginning to alter my appearance.  And truth be told, I was wearing some form of women's clothing even before that.  So really, the only thing that is rather sudden is learning why I've been making these changes.

I've also heard things like, "You have a huge head start over us in understanding this."

Again, that is not entirely true.  I have known about my gender issue since I was 3, but I have spent the majority of the past 40+ years denying it ... fighting it ... resisting it ... hiding it as if it was some disgusting secret ... trying so hard to be what others expected to be an usually failing miserably ... burying it so deep in the magma at the core of my being that it would never be unearthed ...

But it would erupt.
June 2013
Early HRT

Pressure like this never stays contained.  It builds ... ever stronger and stronger until it finally escapes ... either slowly, over time in a constant flow ... or suddenly with destructive force.

 I have only been in counseling for about 17 months.  When you consider the time missed due to my surgery and the time missed when Catharine was recovering from a car accident ... and the times our schedules just didn't mesh ...  The point is, there really hasn't been 17 months worth of therapy.

I started on hormones in very late May ... about 5 months ago.  Yes, finding out that I am taking hormones may be a surprise, but the experience is still new to me.  The changes they create are slow ... sometimes taking more than 2 years to fully take effect.

I came out at work and have asked to be called Tiffanie less than 2 months ago.  I'm not used to hearing my own name, and I have only used it a few times in work memos ... but because my legal name is different than my desired name I will not be able to sign the name Tiffanie Faith Chezum to anything ... unless I change my name.
Early June
New hair color

I do have a head start, but not as much as you might think.

Some have questioned, "Have you considered the consequences?"

Ummm ... yes ... remember, I'm a chess player.  Not only have I seen the consequences, but I've seen the consequences of the consequences ... but unlike my game of chess, in real life more than one of the consequences may actually happen.

Have you considered the consequences of me not choosing to transition?

And truly ... why do you think I would put myself through this?  I'll give you a hint ... it's not some desperate plea for help ... I'm not wanting to be the center of attention ... it's not a phase.  Face it ... nobody in their right mind would choose to subject themselves to the scrutiny ... to the questions and already drawn conclusions of the public, or friends, or ...to the judgment that many make regarding my rationale, or my consideration about the feelings of others.
June 2013

Have you considered my feelings?

Do I understand consequences?  I've been dealing with the consequences for a while ... and the consequences the first consequences spawned.  Many have been exactly as I predicted, but many I have been off the mark ... so, like with chess, I adjust and move on.

Probably the closest thing to hurtful I've heard are the comments like, "I accept you, but I just can't consider you female." Or, "I want you to be happy, I just can't use your new name."

I don't think these people realize the contradiction spilling out of their mouth.

Seriously, if you accept me then you will eventually consider me female ... if you cannot ever consider me female then you do not truly accept me.

Catching my eyes in a green moment
And as far as the name thing goes ... if you truly want me to be happy you will learn to use my new name as I am learning to use it and hear it.  I have known too many ladies who have been married or divorced  ... I've adapted to at least several dozen name changes.  You know what?  Sometimes, even after many years, I will accidentally use the wrong name ... it happens.  Does that mean I do not at least try and show a bit of respect and attempt to get used to the new name?

The worst ... and luckily I have not heard it said in this blunt of a manner, "Why (or when) did you decide to be transgender?

October 2013
DUH
I will not even address this.  This is ridiculous ... I've known since I was three ... I didn't want this ... I didn't choose this ... but I cannot change this any more than a person can choose to change the color of the iris of their eyes ... or choose to change what they may be allergic to ...

I am very aware that none of these are truly black and white issues ... it is truly more of a spectrum of emotions.  In many ways it is like seeing the shopping mall where the vacant lot used to be.  You will still remember the fun time you had on the lot, but you can't say, "I don't accept this mall being here." and try to play kick the can like you used to.  You can choose to not go to the mall, but that does not mean the mall is not there.  Anyone who is new to the area will never know the vacant lot ... and actually, many will not care.  They like the mall ... they wonder why a city would leave a lot empty for so long in the first place.

As I have said to my friends ... as I have said to my family and coworkers, this is the adjustment period.  I am not in a position to demand anything ... I know I can never open a locked mind ... I realize that some will never accept me ... I know that most, perhaps all do not truly understand my situation.

My Moose being silly
Actually, I do not completely understand everything ... I am still learning about me ... I am still learning to cope with my issues.  Even if I could explain what is going through my brain, I do not know if it would be logical or if it would just seem like gibberish.

If you truly accept me ... if you truly want what is best for me, it is not that difficult.  We can learn and grow together  If you cannot, I respect you just the same.  Please know that I accept you for who you are.  That doesn't mean a life of rainbows and butterflies ... there will always be rough patches, but I will support your decision regardless of where I stand in your picture.

There are still many things I have not ironed out in my own head ... there are many things that are very clear as well ...

For Pam ... I am her husband - she is my wife - always.  This is what I promised to be on our wedding day and I never plan to change it.
Driving at night
Highway hypnosis

For Timmy ... I am his father.  Biologically there is no changing the fact that I fathered 2 sons.  If he feels uncomfortable calling me Dad, then we will figure out something else ... but there is no amount of estrogen in the world that gives me the right to be called his mom.  I did not give birth to him.

For my siblings ... I understand it is difficult to start considering me a sister, but it is relatively obvious that I do not look like the brother that you are remembering.  Perhaps something innocuous like "sibling" or even "Tiffanie" ... again, we can work on that.

Random photo
August 2013
For my nieces and nephews ... this one is very tough for me.  A big part of me would love to be called Aunt Tiffanie (Tiff or Tiffie also work).  A different part of me does not feel like I should accept the title of "Aunt" for the same reason I will not let myself be called Mom.  You can add estrogen to me, but mostly what will change is my body.  Again, I am not the uncle they remember from years back, but I am not truly their aunt ... but I do like the sound of it. I realize that all my nephews and nieces are adults, or very near adults and will be able to make up their mind as to what is appropriate.

My mom ... I am her son.  She is one of the very few who I will give a lot of leeway to in regards to name and gender references.  She is nearly 88, and I have been her son longer than I can remember.  I have not even mentioned changing my name and my gender legally at this time.  She is happy for me and accepts me.  I am blessed that she is as wonderful as she is.

A lighthearted expression
of facing depression
I feel happy and blessed for my entire family and all my friends.  I am willing to give them time to adapt to have them in my life ... but not at the expense of my sanity.  The fog of depression looms too near on the horizon for me to spend much energy trying to prove my worth.

I would never wish depression on anyone ... I watched helplessly as it swallowed Pam.  It didn't seem to matter how close I held her she seemed an eternity away.

Worse than that was watching the pain in her eyes as I sank into the mire.  I so understood her feelings ... the helplessness ... the confusion.  In a strange way hitting the depths of depression was a blessing in disguise.

As much as I hated every second of my time buried alive, it forced me to truly look at myself ... not just the gender dysphoria ... many things.
Enjoying a walk behind the house

My first counselor was a very nice man.  He worked with me a lot on my attitude and how I perceive things.  I liked the fact that he wanted to listen to my issue of the week rather than direct the sessions.  I didn't like the fact that he never seemed to understand that just because something frustrated me does not mean I am dwelling on something or having a horrible attitude.

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

Problem - Life rarely hands you lemons ... it throws them at you and hits you in the back of the head.  I can make all the lemonade I want, but those fucking lemons still hurt when they hit.

Down the I-5
"Recite the serenity prayer.  Learn not to let the things you cannot change bother you."

Well DUH! - That IS why they're irritating ... I CANNOT change them, but I still have to deal with them.  Just because I show frustration does not mean that I am not trying to handle the situation the best I can.

"A Zen philosophy.  Water is flowing down a hill.  It runs into a rock.  It tries to move the rock, but the rock will not budge.  Eventually the water flows around the rock and continues down the hill."
Abandoned lunchbox

True - But regardless of how slow the water is flowing and how small the rock is, it still creates a disturbance.  When there are many large rocks and the water is flowing swiftly it creates rapids which can be deadly.

"When you are stressed or upset imagine yourself in a happy place."

Beautiful sunrise

The biggest issue with this is it is not always practical.  I cannot imagine myself in a happy place when I am dealing with a bus accident at work ... or during an anxiety attack.  My happy place is being alone with my thoughts ... with my music ... with my camera or while writing.  There is not a physical location that I can think of that holds truly, completely happy thoughts.

Eventually I gave up.  We were able to talk about many things, and I did learn new insights from him, but I was never able to truly open up with him.  It was a reminder to me about how different people really are.  It does not make me right because I choose to vent my frustrations ... it does not make him wrong because he chooses to "find something positive" in everything.
Depressive moments
The beast that hides within

I listen to music to escape ... to capture the essence of the moment ... to voice emotions I have no words for.  What my mind sees in the music cannot be explained, but sometimes takes me to the solitude I so desire and desperately need to maintain any level of balance in my life.

I take photos to express everything beautiful I see in life ... everything I cannot put into words ... everything dark and sinister that haunts my soul and pushes me ever closer to the cliff overlooking the jagged rocks below.

November 2013

I write to save my sanity.  Stories ... blogs ... poems ... random thoughts ... when emotions are building and I need a release I'll likely write.  I don't edit my blogs, my random thoughts ... I ensure they are readable, but I don't go back and review everything.  What is the point of simple stream of consciousness writing if it is going to be altered?

This blog has morphed a lot from my initial intentions.  It is no longer simply about transitioning ... or maybe it never was.  It is about everything ... everything from my frustrations with the church and religion to my attempting to lose weight and get back in shape to train (which right now is difficult as I am nursing a tender left achilles tendon), to learning to deal with my emotions and how badly some situations have affected me, or how poorly I have reacted to simple frustrations.

I have not had a horrible life ... I have enjoyed and been blessed by so much.  Maybe it is just the depression ... or the stress of transitioning that makes it seem as if I'm upset about so many things.
November 2013
New hair color

I'm not.

The past year was nerve wracking, but wonderful.  In many ways it restored my faith in humanity.  I've learned much about love and acceptance.  I have begun to be comfortable being me.  The past 5 months on estrogen has made a huge difference in my outlook on life ... much of the aggression and anger I have always bottled up is gone.

This does not mean I do not get upset.  In fact the roller coaster of estrogen induced mood swings is one of the issues I am having a hard time adjusting to.  I am human ... I have good days and bad.  Letting down my shield and allowing others to see my emotions is not a negative thing.

November 2013
Another difficult issue is my voice.  I can alter my voice to a degree ... I can hit androgynous or close to female, but I am very self conscious about using this voice.  It is not what people are used to ... I don't have the vocal strength to project or to hold the voice for extended periods.  This is not an easy task to accomplish, but I am working at it.

I will continue to learn and grow as my transition moves forward.  That is all anyone can expect from life ... to learn and to move forward.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Depression

 
Recently several different and totally unrelated events reminded me of what my life was like several years ago when I was in a relatively deep depression.  During this time another supervisor at work made a comment regarding a driver who had been off for a while due to depression.  The supervisor said, “I just don’t understand depression.”

“I hope you never do,” I replied.

“I just don’t understand why people feel they can’t work when their doctor says they have depression.”
 
I did try to explain, but quickly realized that there truly are no words or descriptions that would help somebody who has never felt the symptoms to understand.

After one of the situations drew my memories back to that dark time in my life I started trying to think of a way to better illustrate what depression feels like.

Of course it is impossible to truly describe depression for many reasons, the least of which is it is different for everyone.

 
You find yourself in a dark and dense fog.  You do not know where you are … you do not know how you got here.  Confusion enshrouds your mind as fear wraps its cold fingers around your soul.

You try and remain calm.  You decide to walk out of the suffocating haze, though you are not certain which direction to go. 

You ready yourself for your trek, but you find your feet are buried in the mire.

You cannot move.

You struggle, desperate to loosen your feet from their binding … but you cannot break free.  Soon you are exhausted.  You fall to the ground … flaccid … helpless.

You wonder why you are the one who is stuck.  You wonder why you are alone.

You begin to wonder if anyone realizes you are missing.  You begin to wonder if anyone truly cares.  You become angry … but you do not know what you are angry at.

You lash out, flailing at the mist as it presses you deeper into the bog.

Trepidation fills your mind.  You want to cry out for help, but you fear what may be deeper in the fog.  You are certain you will never escape … you’ll never be found.

You give up.

As you lie on the cold, dank ground you try to remember when there was no haze.  You want to cry, but you don’t have the energy to shed tears.  You just want it all to be over.

You may be lucky enough to have someone who wants to help, but it is possible they will not find you … it is likely they don’t know how.

There will be many that do not understand your situation.  They are apt to think that you are truly not stuck … that you entered the haze because you wanted to.

I pray you are one of the few who emerge from the fog with very little trauma … but even then you will always see the mist hovering on the horizon.  When the wind shifts layers of fog waft over you … it wraps you in its cold embrace to remind you how helpless you truly are.  It never truly goes away.


If you have read this and have never suffered from depression let me assure it is not completely accurate.  It is neither dark nor empty enough to truly represent how deep you may be buried.  It is also far too coherent.  Once the fog swallows you nothing makes sense … even the simplest things become complex and difficult.