Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wrong

Don't get me wrong, but sometimes the wrong word used in the wrong context can give the wrong connotation and be interpreted in a completely wrong manor.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Not necessarily anyway, but often when there is miscommunication someone can feel wronged.  Please don't take that the wrong way.

Last night I made a rare appearance at a transgender support group meeting.  In fact, it was only the fourth time I've attended such a meeting in person and the second time I've attended this particular group.  I'm really at a point in my life and transition where I don't particularly need to go to such meetings but I will continue to go when I can to offer support and see my friends.  In the past, when I was more in need of support for issues such as coming out, it was logistically tough for me to attend these meetings.  That's still the case today as I am usually busy with my boyfriend or other things when the group meets that one Saturday a month, but I will make the effort to attend whenever possible.

During the meeting, one of the members made a reference to having been made to feel wrong for exhibiting signs of being transgender.  In their case these feelings were bestowed on my friend by certain religious people who feel they are righteous and everyone who doesn't follow their strict doctrine is wrong.  Oh, don't we all know that type.  They are particularly prominent in the south where religion is as strong as a shot of brandy on a Sunday morning.

Another person in the group noted that there is a movement to get away from referring to ourselves and our activities as wrong.  The new, politically correct way to express our experience is to say that we are different or variant.  The idea being that if we say we were made to feel wrong it can perpetuate the idea that somehow being trans is wrong.  Just like the term and diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder has fallen by the wayside as yesterday's thinking, the idea that we are wrong or have engaged in wrong behavior should be left by the wayside.

While this is actually a noble effort, all of this is sort of tit for tat to me and the whole conversation seems much ado about nothing.  The fact that disagreement over terminology, or the interpretation of terminology, ruffled some feathers in the groups seems to me, well, wrong.  One group member was made to feel wrong for using the word wrong to describe how she was made to feel by others earlier in her life.  As another friend said, it is unfortunate that someone can leave a support group meeting feeling worse than when they came in.  Something is inherently wrong with that.

*****

My take on the matter is that the use of the word wrong to describe the transgender condition is not wrong at all.  At least not in my experience or interpretation.  While I do not feel it is wrong to be the way I am and have been, I know that for most of my life being trans has made me feel very, very wrong.

Personally, I didn't have many instances of being made to feel wrong.  Like almost all of us, I dabbled in expressing myself by trying on clothes and makeup of female family members as a young child.  I don't recall being caught while doing that clandestinely but I do remember one instance of dressing in my grandmother's clothes and wig then walking out of the room to show her and my aunt's. 

I didn't feel wrong for dressing in her clothes like that, and for a few minutes the women seemed to get a kick out of it when I walked out of the bedroom to show them, but then my grandfather came home and definitely let me know it was wrong.  That's how they looked at it then anyway.  I realize many others had much worse experiences with family members than I did, but after that I totally went in the closet with it.  It would be later in my adult life before I made a serious attempt to put an entire look together and go out, and I know that repression was due to the fact that I felt like my coming out and expressing my true self was wrong, or at least it would be interpreted as being wrong.

Much deeper than any feelings that any of my actions would be seen as wrong, were the strong feelings inside of being wrong.  These feelings didn't start until I was about 12 years old, as I recall, but they played a huge role in shaping my life from that time forward.

I've described that feeling as a dark cloud that came over me and it did begin about the time of puberty.  The feeling of being wrong was organic, internal and extremely powerful at times.  Oh My God, something is Wrong!  I feel I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and I believe it was caused by the sudden surge of the dreaded hormone testosterone. 

From that point on my inner being was ruled by this tragic feeling, this dark stranger.  From the age of 16 I tried to quell these feelings with alcohol, drugs, or any form of escape.  It was only when I knocked down the testosterone and began taking female hormones that this feeling went away and I finally began to feel normal, to feel right.

I'd had feelings of being female inside, never fit in or felt right being male and had symptoms of gender dsyphoria (including genital dsysphoria) most or all my life.  I'd found out the term and figured out I was transgender several years before beginning transition but I'd never put two and two together to figure out the chemical nature of my dark psychological cloud.  I was producing the wrong hormones and it created a clash of the titans in my brain.  The light that came on within me very soon after I began taking testosterone blockers, then the female hormone estrogen, made this crystal clear.

So for me, the word wrong is the right term to describe my inner feelings before beginning my medical transition.  None of my behaviors have been wrong and no one can make me feel wrong about the changes I've made to make myself right. 

Those that believe that what we do or how we feel is wrong, are wrong themselves in an extreme way.  We as transgender people are different, as all people are unique and different, and not all trans people have the same feelings I experienced.  We are a varied group and have varied experiences.  I just know that I survived a very dark period that lasted a very long time.  Now I feel right inside and outside,  There is nothing wrong with that.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Sixteenth

My, what a difference two years makes.  On this day (December 16th) in 2012 I came home from an overnight stay with my boyfriend Mitchell.  He'd worked the previous day, a Saturday, in Danville, Virginia and I made the 2.5 hour drive to spend the evening with him in a hotel.  That Sunday, before it was time to check out, I'd been hit by an emotional outburst and crying fit.  I had the strangest feeling.

So much was going in my mind.  My life was getting ready to change in some very major ways, some I didn't even realize at the time.  I had a goal of coming out to my parents by the end of the year and as the Holidays approached it began to look like I would be talking with them on New Year's Eve, if I could muster the courage.

My plan was to come out by the end of the year (at the latest) and transition to life as myself (Tammy) as soon as possible after that.  My actual goal was to transition at the beginning of 2013 but in order to accomplish that I had to come out to my parents first.  Being somewhat of a procrastinator and deathly terrified of coming out to the only family I had, I'd managed to go through almost all of 2012 without coming out.  This had been my stated goal since the beginning of 2012, so yes I was procrastinating.

The coming out letter was written and I was as prepared as I could be to talk to my loving but conservative parents.  I was nervous, as this was my Mt. Everest that I had viewed from the distance for so long.  Occasionally, through the clouds, I would catch a glimpse of it's peak and stand mortified, contemplating a hundred disastrous scenarios that might follow my ascension of the dreaded mountain. 

So yeah, I had a lot on my mind.  At home things were not well.  My marriage had gone from bad to much worse as the cancer of my pending transition, and her knowledge of my relationship with Mitch, poisoned the semi content friendship based partnership my spouse and I once had. 

After my coming out and going full time we were going to try to secure another living arrangement for Joan, perhaps an apartment nearby.  Maybe it would be me that moved out, we had not decided yet, but I surmised that when left with the house alone she would no longer want to live there. 

Details, details...  Details that would be decided later as my mind was a million miles away, on the frozen, windswept slopes of the looming mountaintop.  I was so distracted by the task at hand (coming out and transition) that I didn't see what was happening at home, right before my eyes.


Joan had reluctantly agreed to help me put up a Christmas tree.  I was thinking this would be our last Christmas together and I wanted something spectacular, a huge live Frazier Fir.  Normally, the thought of such a tree would have excited the little child in Joan but this year she wasn't into it at all.  I bought the tree a couple of days before leaving for my overnight trip to Virgina and put lights on it, but she had yet to decorate it by the time I left.


I'd come out to her a little over two years prior, in October 2010, and our marriage had been in a downward spiral ever since.  I still kept secrets from her but earlier in 2012, right before I began my transition with hormones, I decided my life needed to be transparent with regards to my spouse.  Before the end of the year it would be transparent to the whole world, but I still had that mountain ahead of me.

*****

It's December 16, 2012 and as I'm getting out of the shower something hits me in the gut.  My mind is thinking back to beach trips with Joan and the dogs, one of the few things we really enjoyed together in our later years.  I'd been trying to get her to take one last trip with us that Fall, as I knew it would be our last and likely the final trip for our oldest dog Jumper, who'd just turned 16.

I realized that we would never have such a trip again and I began to cry.  Usually I am very happy when I'm with Mitchell but he understands that sometimes I can get emotionally nostalgic.  In transition most of us lose something and I was about to lose my friend and housemate, as well as one of my dogs as she would surely take Jumper with her.

This loss would occur sometime in the future, perhaps a couple months or more down the road, but there was also the grave uncertainty of what would happen with regards to my parents once I came out.  Of course that was weighing heavily on my mind that morning.


But there really was something very different about this emotional outburst.  I could literally feel, at the very core of my soul, that Joan was gone.  It was a hollow, panicked feeling.  I knew something was wrong and I couldn't stop crying.  As I lay face down on the bed, Mitchell held me and attempted to comfort me.  I could feel his loving warmth (something I'd never experienced in marriage) but it wasn't enough to stop the sobbing.  I liken that feeling to when someone dies and a loved one can feel it from far away.  I'd been thinking back to what good times we'd had and suddenly, everything went black.

The time of day I was experiencing this feeling was consistent with the actual time she left the house.  When I got home late that evening the dogs were in the house and it appeared they'd been left there all day.  There was no Joan. 

On the kitchen table was a letter.  Oddly, it wasn't from Joan.  On the envelope was my old (legal at the time) name so I picked the letter up and opened it.  The letter was from an attorney Joan had hired to file for legal separation. 


This would not do!  She wasn't going to leave me like this.  Not now.  I needed her to stand by my side when I came out to my Mom, or at least be in the picture.  She couldn't do something like this without talking to me first.  She just wouldn't.  But the letter said she was filing for separation and instructed me to call this lawyer as soon as possible.


With tear filled eyes I looked up and saw the beautiful, green Christmas tree.  She'd put a few decorations on it before heading out the door.  Bless her heart....


    

Driving into Destiny

This was taken on my way to Danville, Virginia on Saturday.  On Sunday December 16th I would return home only to discover that my spouse had left me and also left me a letter from an attorney she had hired to file for divorce. Talk about a blast from the past, this was the day before my world crashed in on me and I saw an opening to begin my new world. 3 days after this picture was taken I came out to my parents and 6 days later, on the winter solstice and last day of the Mayan calendar, I began my new life; full time as Tammy Ann Matthews.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Finality

It's Over.  In my dirty little hands I'm holding a sheet of paper stating that the court has ordered that "The bonds of matrimony which have been established between the parties are dissolved and the plaintiff is granted an Absolute Divorce from the defendant." 

Absolute divorce, absolutely.  In this case I was the plaintiff.  It really didn't matter in our case, it was just a matter of who filed first.  Joan and I both wanted this and now it's over.  We are now Officially divorced.

Sometimes I tear up when thinking about where this failed marriage might have led if only for this or for that, even though most (but not all) of my tears over this have already been shed.  If we had been different people leading lives, in a different world, with a different set of circumstances, in another life, we would have lived happily ever after and been the most content couple in the world.  In this life we were always a mistake.

There are, of course, two ways to look at life.  The proverbial glass can either be half empty or half full.  As y'all know, the glass of my outlook on life has overflowed in recent years, or at least tipped past the half full point.  In the case of my marriage though, the truth is the glass wasn't full at all.  It was completely empty.

*****

I met Joan when I was but 23 years old.  Being an "older woman", naturally it was she that made the first move on me.  Being sort of directionless, I played along and soon found myself in a relationship.  We actually got along really well.  We shared the same taste in music and enjoyed doing the little things in life together.  Joan and I both looked at life from what I will call a childlike perspective and everything we did seemed like sort of an adventure.  We couldn't wait to see what was around that next curve.

For several years we shared the intimacy that loving couples are supposed to experience.  My favorite thing was kissing.  I remember sitting with her in the back seat of a car riding somewhere with friends, Joan and I making out like teenagers.  We do have some good, loving memories from our early years.  In those days we were as close to being a normal couple as we would ever get. 

There's one memory, from our first months together, that haunts me.  Even though Joan lived in an apartment where her mother stayed downstairs, I would stay over sometimes and sleep upstairs with her in her bed.  When the lights went out, Joan wanted to cuddle with me and go to sleep.  Somehow I wasn't comfortable with that.  I remember her asking me if I liked to spoon.  Having never technically slept in bed with anyone, let alone a lover, it was just something I wasn't comfortable with so we barely did it if at all.

Seeing things now from a woman's side of the bed and realizing how amazing and important cuddling at night with your lover is (now that I finally have that in a relationship), I feel horrible that I deprived her of that special feeling of being held at night.  Sometimes I feel that was the beginning of the end of us ever having a great, lasting relationship.  

In later years, when we finally got married, I remember trying to cuddle up to her at night.  I think by then I'd realized the importance of holding someone and I felt it was something I needed myself.  By then she didn't want to anything to do with it.  I could almost feel her cringe when I would touch her and after a few seconds she would kind of wiggle away.  Had I planted that seed of coldness by turning my back on her all those moons ago?

*****

Of all the things that made ours an empty marriage I believe it was the lack of kissing that stands out the most.  Our last kiss, our last really good kiss that was more than just a peck, occurred the night before we got married.  We'd been dating over 11 years and by then any true physical romance had already left the relationship.  We weren't fully having sex and what's worse, we never really kissed.

That night in the hotel room Joan and I made out for what seemed like the whole night.  One kiss lasted at least an hour and in her arms I felt the passion I'd felt in our first year together.  That was the year that she told me she loved me more than anyone she'd ever met.  I yearned to feel that same thing and I was moved by her revelation.  Somehow to me it didn't feel exactly right but I knew I loved her.

That kiss, I might call it our Last Kiss, is something I will never forget.  It gave me hope that marrying someone I cared deeply about was the right thing to do, even though our relationship had grown cold and was more of a friendship.  Maybe there would love in this marriage after all.  Maybe I would finally find inside myself the real love that would make me a normal person.

The next day we drove to a wedding chapel in Winchester, Virginia and said our vows.  Joan was so pretty in her wedding dress and I wore a suit.  Everything felt empty to me then, it always had, but in going through the motions of life some days were better than others.  At the time I considered that a good day.

We never consummated the marriage in the normal fashion of husband and wife and we never again shared a passionate kiss.   We were truly great friends and pretty good partners in life.  We slept in the same bed most of the first half of our marriage but only some of the last half.  Occasionally we would satisfy each other but still never truly consummated the marriage.  We enjoyed our trips to the beach, occasional trips to the mountains and raising our dogs together.   Yet, over the years we grew more and more apart.

When I finally realized that I had to transition at some point in order to survive, I came out to her.  It took me almost 2 years to get the courage to talk to her and by that time it was 2010, just a little over 4 years ago.  From that point on she never touched me, not even a hug.  Even the little pecking kisses went away.  She moved into a separate bedroom and our lives became more separate than ever.

She did support me in my idea to come out to my parents and go "full time."  She even made me begin to believe that it would be a possibility while they were still alive, and she supported me in other little ways like encouraging me to get my ears pierced and grow my hair.  Overall though, she was more tolerant than she was supportive.  It seems like she was happy with being only friends and she spoke of leaving me when I transitioned.

*****

One of the things that hurts the most about my divorce with Joan was the fact that she tells me today that it wasn't my transition that caused her to leave, but rather my finding another lover and finally coming clean about it to her.  No, that is The Thing that hurts me the most.  If she had simply left because of my transition I could look at it as abandonment during a tough time in my life.  That's how many others want me to see it but in my heart I feel that she left because I had someone else and was bringing them to the house. 

I don't regret starting to date Mitchell.  Looking back I would have done some little things differently, like not bringing him to the house when Joan was away, but I needed a chance to experience real love for once in my life.  In a sense I met him a little too early but in a way I met him at exactly the right time.  Joan and I were never truly happy in our marriage and if somehow we were still married today I think we would be taking that unhappiness to a whole 'nother level.

In fact, Joan and I are taking our relationship to another level today.  It is a level of truth, honesty and reality.  We are friends.  We seem to be starting over on that friendship again recently after having a hiccup for a couple months after my surgery.  I think she needed a little time to digest that and to get used to not only being separated but being divorced.

I saw Joan twice this week and I will see her again at Christmas, maybe even once again before the Holiday.  I'd be lying if I said that a part of me didn't want her to come home, even though all I (we) want her to do now is live in the guest house.  No one else in either of our families seems to want that so I doubt it will ever happen and that's for the best really.  We do get on each others nerves and bring out the worst in each other I believe.

We need to have separate lives but we need to be friends.  We still have the common bond of the dogs, which are like our children.  She needs visitation time with them probably more than she does with me, but that's okay. 

Unlike in our marriage, in our friendship the glass seems to be half full.  At least it's not completely empty and it is an honest relationship.  It's not a mistake.  And occasionally I get a chance to glimpse that childlike sparkle in her eyes.....













Monday, December 1, 2014

Blowback

A friend told me awhile back that after "the surgery" some people would react to me differently, perhaps drift away from my life.  That didn't make sense to me.  I was already "out" and had transitioned a good while ago.  Everyone who mattered already knew about me so why would having GRS affect any relationships any further?  Nothing changed that anyone could see or in a way that would affect them.

It's been over two months now and I haven't seen Joan since I got back from Montreal.  We talk, but not nearly as often as we did before I left for surgery.  We keep making little plans to get together to walk the dogs but somehow those plans keep falling through.  Could our relationship be suffering blowback (unintended consequences) from my GRS?

The dogs are the ones suffering, I guess, not seeing someone who helped raised them and was so important in their lives.  Being apart from Joan hasn't really bothered me so much.  I've stopped reaching out to her by calling so often and I don't miss her calls the way I might have in the past.

What did she expect, that we would somehow get back together as husband and wife?  Unless she is delusional, she knew better.  I really do not think that is what she expected.  Perhaps she is just afraid to see me now, I don't know.  It's weird.

Tomorrow is the day that we have scheduled to meet halfway between our homes and take the dogs for a walk in the park.  Usually we have lunch and maybe do a bit of shopping if it's not too hot to leave the dogs in the car.

Tomorrow is when we planned to get together.  Always tomorrow, until today becomes tomorrow.  Then it's tomorrow all over again.  Tonight I wait for her to call but I don't think I will call her.  This scenario has played itself out quite a few times in the last few weeks.  I am surprised by how much it really doesn't matter to me.

I'm also a little surprised and disappointed that she didn't come to see me when I first got home and was at Mama's recovering.  We were sorta surprised when she didn't visit Mama on her birthday last month.  Now she tells Mama that she is going to come by for dinner on Christmas day, as the rest of her family will be out of town and Mama and I will be home alone.  Seriously?  We will just have to see....

*****

There's one more friend I hear much less from and have not seen since returning from Canada.  My old high school Buddy and pensive supporter doesn't talk to me as much now.  Is this too because of blowback or just life's circumstances.  I don't know and I think it matters.  I don't feel like I've lost anyone from this act of transition that I hadn't already lost, and a little distance from some people doesn't bother me.  Again, when it comes to Joan it is surprising that I feel this way.

*****

The closest call I've had to actually seeing Joan in the last two and a half months was when her sister and brother in law (the people she lives with) went out of town for a weekend.  Mitchell was due to come home the following day and in fact that was his birthday.  I'd told her about this a week or more in advance but the night before she called me several times wanting me to come see her and bring the dogs. 

The next morning she called and asked me again to come by and I again told her I couldn't.  She went on and on, about everything, and I had a hard time getting her off the phone.  That call was unusual because most of our recent conversations have lasted about 5 minutes, tops.  While talking to her I drove over to Mama's and finally handed her the phone.  Mama ended the conversation after a few minutes, much to my relief.

That week was sort of a dark period for Joan.  I sensed her depression and it sent me into a phase of intensified guilt for leaving her alone and "ruining her life."  Over time I was convinced that she was suffering from a bout of bipolar symptoms and either hadn't been taking her medication or needed an adjustment to her medication. 

Joan's bipolar disorder was something I dealt with for the entire 25 years we were together.  Though she didn't know about it until recent years and it affected me in various ways, when I finally began to deal with my own disorder (GD), she began making plans to get out of Dodge.  When I took the step of transition to make peace with my gender dsyphoria , she followed through with her plans, packed up and left. 

The realization that Joan wouldn't be there for me the way that I had been there for her has eased my guilt to some degree.  Of course in my situation it wasn't just transition that caused her to leave.  Yes, I had found someone else to love.  That's the price of a loveless marriage, or at least one with no intimacy.  It was also my jumping at the chance to fulfill my lifelong desire to love a man as a woman, but it was primarily just because I had finally found true love.

*****

Blowback from my having surgery or not, Joan and I have drifted further apart recently.  Emotionally this has not been tragic for me, but under my underlying sense of numbness about the whole situation, there are feelings.

Not long ago I had a dream in which Joan and I were at some sort of establishment in a downtown area.  The roads had become icy and I was going to give Joan a ride (to her home).  She walked away into the crowd and I followed her all over the place.  The scene was downtown Rocky Mount, the beach, and some other strange crowded place that might have been Disney World. 

I was walking and everywhere I went she was either way in front of me or out of sight, with me just having missed her.  I stayed on her trail but could never quite catch her.  This was one of a few semi disturbing dreams I've had recently after which I wake up in an emotional state.  Outside of the dream world, my emotions regarding Joan have been subdued for the most part.

*****

That numbness held true tonight, when I opened an email from my attorney stating nonchalantly that my divorce was final.  It seems the judge signed the papers last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. 

Out of nowhere, 10 minutes after reading the email, I suffered an intense bout of crying.  Not a typical boo hoo, this was one of the wailing, almost screaming cries that scares the daylights out of Mitchell when they hit me.  Fortunately, they aren't common so he's not subjected to that too often. 

Only the dogs were here to console me tonight, and Nightingale came and sat beside me for awhile until I calmed down.  Then, as suddenly as it had come on, the crying spell and any sad emotions I had about the divorce or anything else left me.  The state of numbness over my divorce and lessened friendship with Joan had returned.

I am left with new normal when it comes to EX (now I can literally caller that).
It's not so bad after all.....



D.I.V.O.R.C.E.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2 Months Post Op, A Thanksgiving

I cannot believe it's been 2 months since I had gender reassignment surgery (GRS) with Dr. Brassard in Montreal.  Actually, it has been 62 days as of today and 9 weeks tomorrow.  Quite a lot has happened since my last update, at 6 weeks post op.

I'm now walking both of my dogs at the same time, which means that except for rainy days (like today) I have 2 helpers making sure I get out and get some daily exercise.  I haven't been getting enough exercise though and have been eating way too much (like everything in sight, including boxes of cookies) so I've gained about 8 pounds in the last couple of months.

My nails have been in terrible shape since having to remove the gel before surgery.  Finally I decided it was time to have them done again, so I went back to the nail salon and got shorter gel french tips.  I also got my first pedicure and brow wax since leaving for Montreal and it was great to get back into my maintenance groove.  I've done a lot of eyebrow plucking during this time, but it was really awesome to get them shaped again.

At Exotic Nails in Golden East Mall waiting to have my nails and brows done.
Last week I also got my hair done (or "did", as the saying goes) for the second time since coming home.  As you may recall from one of last month's posts, the last time I went to the hair salon in Raleigh I was with Lisa and Teri.  I was only three weeks post op then and that day and long night out on the town was wayyy to much for me at that time.  I suffered a setback and ended up having to see a doctor in Raleigh for post op care and to treat a condition called granulation that I developed that day.
Leaving Total Hair Salon in Raleigh after getting my root color again, practically a monthly chore.  I've been going to that salon for 2 years now and a couple of the stylists always rave about my hair and how far it's come in that time.
The treatments have been going well (I've had 2 now) and healing continues slowly but surely.  I was a little down after my doctor's appointment last Monday so I didn't post an 8 week update as I had intended.  Not being my surgeon, she couldn't answer a couple of questions I had about my new anatomy.  At one point I was afraid that I didn't have a clitoris! 

I've since gotten the nerve to explore my body a little more and am convinced that everything is alright.  My roommate and surgery sister from Montreal told me that her clitoris isn't prominent either but she is able to achieve orgasm using a vibrator.

Hearing that and wanting relief from my own anxiety I decided to get out my own small vibrator and take some time to explore myself before and during my afternoon dilation yesterday.  Let's just say that I got relief from more than my anxiety.  Wow, just wow!

Speaking of dilations, last week I finally began using the #4 (orange) dilator.  My schedule now calls for using all three dilators three times a day.  I was two weeks behind schedule starting this regimen, that will last two months.  At that point I will be blessed with only having to dilate twice a day, so a more normal life can resume.  You can see this schedule and have access to all the other information I was given in my last post, The Vagina Manual.

My dilators.  I am now using all three, 3 times a day.
Overall, I had to say that my post op pain is down.  It's not quite gone but it is way down.  Some report not having any pain after leaving the hospital but I have to admit to being extremely sensitive to pain, especially "down there."  Any twinge of pain is magnified in my mind and can also cause worry and anxiety. 

Next Monday I will see my post op doctor in Raleigh again.  In the last 24 hours I've gone from planning to tell her how worried I was about myself, to feeling very good about my healing and situation.  I just have to hit myself on the head every so often and remind myself that this is a slow process.  Sometimes (most of the time) I want recovery to be over and be 100% right now.  That's just not how it works.

I still worry about some things and questions always come up, so I will keep seeing my doctor and sending off emails to the nursing staff in Montreal.  I am waiting for a response to my latest email now.  Everything always seem to be okay, but I just need that reassurance.

With pain down and my energy level up, I am starting to resume more of my regular activities.  I'm not having to lie around all the time like I did after the granulation first started.  I'm staying home a lot but am able to sit for longer periods without discomfort.


I'm still having to deal with a little spotty blood about half the times that I dilate.  I think it's due to using the large dilator and still having granulation.  I find very little (usually none) on my panty liners when I go out.  Soon, maybe soon (hopefully soon) the blood will stop appearing.

Out to eat at Chili's in Rocky Mount with Mitchell last weekend.  When he isn't here I am so lonely and bored, but when he comes home from work on the weekends I am alive.

With American Thanksgiving upon us, I realize that I have a Lot to be thankful for this year.  I have 2 dogs that love me unconditionally, and (more importantly) two wonderful humans that also love me unconditionally.  We are a small family but they accept me just as I am and I know how fortunate I am to have Mama and Mitchell in my life. 

I'm also really, really fortunate that this year I was able to achieve my dream.  I was able to achieve womanhood, if you will.  My body and mind now match as well as they possibly can, which is pretty fine by me.  I feel more normal than I ever have and I'm feeling a lot more confident too, in some ways I didn't expect.  Soon, I will have to expand more on that thought.

I also want to thank all of You for reading my blog and following my journey.  Hearing from all the people that have gained inspiration or knowledge from reading this blog is a Big inspiration to me to.  I have a Lot more of my story to tell, so please stay tuned. 

And Thank You!







Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Vagina Manual

My vagina came with a manual.  Yes, Dr. Brassard gives us a manual to go with our vaginoplasty and I thought I would share mine with y'all. 




Saturday, November 8, 2014

6 Week post Op Update

This week has brought some excitement mixed with the boredom of forcing myself not to do too much during recovery, here at the 6 week post GRS mark.
         


Last Sunday was Mitchell's birthday and I was so happy to get a chance to spend some time with him on his special day.  He came in about 5 that afternoon so we were able to go out to a nice dinner at Outback Steakhouse, then we went over to Mama's for a little birthday party.  To him, she is Mama Matthews and to me she is just Mama.  No birthday would be complete without a celebration at her house even though there were just the three of us this year.  Our family is small but we have Big love for each other.
At Outback after taking Mitchell to his birthday dinner, my treat this time.
My baby about to dive in (literally) to his cake that I had special ordered for him from our favorite restaurant.
Mitch had to leave for work very early Monday morning, so early that I was able to go back to sleep for a couple of hours.  Monday was also my day to go to my new doctor and get my first post op check up.  It's always a good idea to have a local doctor, preferably one experienced with post op trans patients, perform regular check ups after GRS.  I was lucky to find this doctor in Raleigh even though it took me a couple of weeks to secure an initial appointment with her.  When I saw her Monday I was 40 days post op.

Dr. Keelee MacPhee bases her practice in both Raleigh and Durham, NC, but my appointment was at her office at the Women's Center at Raleigh's Rex Hospital campus.  I actually arrived a few minutes early (what was wrong with me?) but had to drive around the parking deck searching for an opening.

There was an SUV in front of me as we climbed level after level of the full parking deck.  Coming around one last corner I saw that we'd reached the end of the lot.  The SUV stopped and I stopped at a normal following distance behind her as I contemplated having to turn around and head back down to see if anything had opened up at a lower level.  She began to back up and I didn't have time to move out of the way.  I managed to blow my horn and laid on it for a few seconds thinking she would hear or see me before we made contact, but alas she didn't.  She made a nice little bump into the front of my car before coming to  a stop.

The other lady got out of car about the same time I did and my first reaction was to loudly say, "What did you do?"  She seemed upset and very apologetic but within a few seconds I gave her a hug.  I've done things like this before so I could certainly relate.  She said this was the first time she'd ever had an accident and by her reaction I believed her.  We both had appointments at the Women's Center and she said she was late for hers.  Maybe that explains her impatient driving, I don't know.  With no injuries and only minor damage to both cars, I decided just taking a few pictures and getting her insurance information was sufficient, so she apologized again and after another hug we went our separate ways.
The damage to my car from the parking deck fender bender.
Dr. McPhee has a very large, upscale office and, on this day at least, it was not crowded.  After finishing the paperwork you always have to fill out at a new doctor's office, a young woman in a dark blue uniform came out to get me.  At first I thought she was a nurse but then realized this was Dr. McPhee herself.

We went back and talked for awhile.  She is experienced with transgender patients, as we are a large part of her practice.  She performs breast augmentation, facial feminization surgery and a host of other procedures as you can see here on her website.  Remarkably, she has been trained by renowned trans surgeon Marci Bowers to perform GRS but she has yet to perform her first solo sex change.  She is brand new at GRS.  She told me she is ready but the hospital isn't quite ready yet.

I was referred by my friend Carla who has been seeing her for post op check ups.  Carla also had GRS with Dr. Brassard in Canada, about a month before me.  Dr. McPhee actually said she has seen quite a few of Brassard's patients, so post op treatment is not new for her.

After asking me lots of questions and me telling her about my communications with the nursing staff in Montreal, it was time for the doctor to examine me.  Any modesty issues I had over having my genitals examined have been cured by both surgery and my experiences in Montreal, so I took my skirt off and got on the examination table.

The doctor said she doesn't like to use the stirrups so I just laid back, but she does perform an "interactive" exam and wanted to show me what she was seeing, so she handed me a mirror.  She thought that overall I was healing well for the 6 week mark but she did confirm a small area of (hyper) granulation tissue.  She treated that with silver nitrite, which was basically a wooden stick with the active substance on the end.  This treatment took only seconds and was basically painless.

There will not be any lasting effects of this hypergranulation tissue.  Even though I seem to have a mild case of it, it's made things like sitting a dilating a little more uncomfortable so I am glad to be getting treatment.  We made another appointment for November 17th, 2 weeks away, and I do look forward to going back.  I like this doctor a lot.


We had yet another birthday in the family this week.  Wednesday was Mama's birthday and this year it was kind of mellow because we celebrated alone.  We both really miss Daddy and I know it was hard for her having a birthday without her husband of 54 years. 

The dogs and I did spend most of the day with her.  We had small cake and opened her presents after a lunch that I brought in from KFC (her choice).  That evening we had an nice, early dinner at Cracker Barrel.  After dinner we went to Cato and a couple of other stores for a little mother daughter shopping.  Most of the time (when Mitchell isn't here) Mama and I are all each other have and I am really happy to be able to spend a lot of quality time with her.  Things have gone so well with us since I came out, although we got along well before too.

*****

This week I had another correspondence with nurse Anne, of Dr. Brassard's staff.  She seems to be handling all of my emails, even though I had one response from head nurse Patty.  They appreciate me sending pictures every week as that is the only way they really can check on you from afar. 

Apparently my recovery is going smoothly with the only issue being the hypergranulation.  Many of my friends have mentions pieces of skin sloughing off in the weeks after surgery.  I haven't noticed anything like that and as that seems to be normal, this was one of the questions I had for the nurse.  She said the hunks of skin peeling off is from parts of the vaginal skin graft not adhering.  Even though this is normal, for me it is a good sign of healing that I have not yet experienced it.

*****

Life continues to slowly get back to normal.  I had an orthodontist appointment this week and in the next few months I'll be winding down my long treatment with Invisalign braces.  (This will have to be the topic of another blog).

I'm still not walking the dogs unless I have someone to help with Nightingale.  The next time I see my doctor I am going to ask if it's ok to start back walking both dogs, as I feel ready (or nearly ready) to get back to our normal routine.  The dogs are certainly ready right now!  It will be awhile until I get back on my bicycle though.

Seeing the doctor seemed to help me mentally and perhaps the treatment she gave me is making me feel better physically too.  When you are worried that something isn't right it's hard to be in a good mood.  Feeling better physically means I am not having take as much medicine, even though I'm still taking Ibuprofen for low level swelling and mild pain.  I'm also able to sit more now and move around much better with less discomfort.

Caution is the biggest reason I am staying home most of the time and laying around a lot.  I certainly don't want to overdo it again like I did a couple of weeks ago and mentioned in my last blog.  The biggest thing I am looking forward to this coming week is starting to use the largest (orange #4) dilator.  That is going to be big news for sure, so stay tuned for next weeks update to see how that goes.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Some Good Times and a Setback, 5 Weeks Post Op Update


In my last post and 3 week post op update, I told y'all how much better I was feeling and that recovery seemed to make a big improvement between days 18 and 20.  I also mentioned that I had company coming later in the week and I was looking forward to some long awaited good times. Well, the good times rolled and I did indeed get out of the house that Thursday for an afternoon and evening on the town in Raleigh.  More friends came to town Friday evening for a nice dinner here in Rocky Mount, and Mitchell came in later than night to spend the weekend with me.  Yes I had a really good time that week, but unfortunately I overdid it and am still paying the price.




Lisa and Teri actually came to spend the night with me Thursday and we had our hair appointments for that afternoon booked before I went to Canada.  I'd planned on going if I felt good enough and rescheduling if I didn't.  Mitchell warned me not to overdo it but I felt like getting out, and going to the salon to get my hair done sounded like a nice treat after the medical ordeal in Montreal.  It's also hard to turn down a chance to spend some time with good friends, so when Lisa and Teri arrived we had a little lunch then hit the road for the hour ride to Raleigh.

This day involved a lot of sitting for me and you may recall me saying that sitting isn't exactly my strong point right now.  I brought my Kabootie seat and took my medication (including pain meds) so I did stay fairly comfortable on the ride up and in the salon.  While my hair color was processing I walked over to the other side of the salon and visited Lisa and Teri who were working with a different stylist.  Getting up and walking around helped but I was already spending more time seated than I needed to. 

After we left the salon we headed to downtown Raleigh to meet a couple more friends and have a nice Mexican dinner complete with my current favorite condiment, margaritas.  My friends Charlotte and Carla had both been to Montreal for GRS with Dr. Brassard, so it was good to catch up with them and compare notes now that I'd also had the experience.

Lisa, me and Teri after getting our hair "did".
Steaming Mexican camarones.
The food and drinks were good and I was really enjoying the company, but while we sat at the table I began to get very uncomfortable and started hurting. When I went to the restroom I saw bright red blood and thought, oh no what has happened.  Except for some low level stinging pain, I actually wasn't feeling that bad and had taken some more medicine so when my friends wanted to check out another bar I tagged along.

I was really enjoying talking to everyone, and getting on my feet and walking provided quite a reprieve from the pressure and pain of the prolonged sitting. We ended up having a couple of drinks at a big bar/restaurant I'd never been to, then 4 of us went to yet another bar for a nightcap.  It wasn't late by any means, about 10 pm, and I had an awesome chocolate martini that served as dessert.  I'd forgotten all about any pain or discomfort by this point and decided to call it a night mainly because I had one more dilation and sitz bath to do when I got home.  It had been a fabulous night!
      

Lisa, Teri, me, Charlotte and Carla after dinner.
Having a little pre Halloween fun.
Having our last drink of the evening.
Yes I had fun on my night out, maybe too much fun.







   











The morning after our big night in Raleigh, Lisa and I walked Buddy and Nightingale around the City Lake.  I'm still not walking both dogs because of Night's propensity to pull on the leash, especially if she sees a squirrel or another dog.  So when I get someone to help me I walk Buddy and let my friend walk Nightingale.  The dogs aren't getting walked as much right now but I believe I will be able to walk them both again pretty soon.
         


Back in form, walking Buddy around the lake.



















Lisa and Teri drove back to Raleigh after our walk.  Neither of them had been to the State Fair and they had a beautiful day to check out all the rides and exhibits at that fabulous annual event.  I really wanted to go but I had my grueling dilation schedule to attend to, and I was beginning to feel more irritation in my surgery area after the big night out.

They came back to Rocky Mount after their Fair day and we met up with local friend Christy, Stephanie (who made the 2 hour drive from New Bern) and Carla (who came down from the Raleigh area).  We had another good crowd for a nice Mexican dinner and a couple of margaritas, right in my neighborhood.

Friday night's dinner.
Mitchell didn't make it down from Virginia in time for dinner, but he did come down Friday night to spend the weekend with me.  He actually had to drive back to Danville, Virginia for work Saturday and stopped over in Raleigh on his way back to look at cars.  He didn't make it home until midnight Saturday night but he had good news.  He'd found a car he liked, and he bought it!
 

After another night of cuddling with my baby, we picked Mama up and the three of us rode to Raleigh on Sunday to pick up Mitchell's fantastic new car. It's actually a 2012 Dodge with low milage but it is a "muscle car" and with Mitchell being a true car guy, this was the perfect ride for him.  I even had to ask him if he was going through a midlife crisis, buying something like this.  :)
My baby and his new ride.


The trip to Raleigh and back Sunday was grueling for me.  Unlike Thursday, I was in a lot of pain sitting in the car for the one hour rides up and back.  My general pain level had also risen and the constant burning sensation had gotten worse.  I began to be concerned that maybe I'd damaged something. Thursday night, when the pain set in while sitting at the restaurant and I'd noticed all the blood when I went to the restroom, is when things started going downhill. Maybe all the sitting on such a sensitive area at such a sensitive time wasn't such a good idea after all.

After that weekend I took some new pictures of my surgery area and sent them to Dr. Brassard's nurses.  They confirmed that there was a concern, as the pictures showed that redness and irritation had gotten worse between days 22 and 26.  The nurse advised me to see a local doctor for a "wound assessment" and that I might have a condition known as granulation. This is something that is fairly common after GRS but treatable.  It's also a condition that women sometimes get during childbirth.

It will be this coming Monday before I make it to the doctor to get this assessment and a general post op check up.  The doctor I'm seeing has experience with transgender surgery and is actually training to perform GRS herself, so I am hoping she will be able to help me.  Things have gotten a little better since this problem first arose but it has not gone away.  It may or may not have come from me overdoing it but at least I will be able to get checked out and receive whatever kind of treatment I need.

I have to admit that I've been a little down since suffering this setback.  I missed posting an update last week because at that time I just didn't feel like writing about things getting worse, especially if my over activity had something to do with it.  In the last few days I've started feeling better mentally and physically, and I've again realized that this is a long, tough recovery.  There are going to be ups and downs.


Dilation has gotten easier and I am on the verge of being able to cut back from 4 dilations a day to 3.  I've really been taking it easy since that big weekend, spending more time laying around and almost all my time at home.  In fact I am lying on the couch now typing this update on my laptop.

Mitchell is coming in tomorrow night to spend the night with me.  Friday morning we will walk the dogs around the lake, have lunch and then he will go spend the weekend with his kids, for Halloween.  I can't wait until I can spend time with his kids but we are riding it out until after his custody hearing.  That whole situation is a story unto itself that I will have to tell you one day.  We are beginning to get impatient with things, but the courts move slowly down here so...


Sunday night Mitchell will come back to sleep over before heading back to Virginia Monday morning.  Monday is also my day to see my new doctor so I'm looking forward to my check up and hopefully getting some resolution to my condition.

I've been lucky so far to not have any major complications with this major surgery.  If I may be so blunt, sex change is a tough operation and recovering from it is every bit as tough as I'd expected.  I can't say I've experienced any post op depression but the past week or so has been as rough mentally as it is was physically, more so really.

When things are progressively, if slowly, getting better and then there is a setback it can throw your whole mood down in the dumps.  Thank goodness I've been able to pull myself out of it and if my report is not tragic when I go to the doctor Monday, I will be back on top of the world again.  I will say that some feelings are coming back, some good ones, and this is lifting my mood even more.


It's been 5 weeks now since my surgery.  One feeling I've had since then is a sensation of the blade, of being cut.  That feeling is subsiding finally and I'm beginning to physically feel more like my new vagina is part of me and not just something that has been sewed on.  It's hard to explain but it's like my body is assimilating it's new part, in spite of any setback or minor damage I may have experienced.

Mentally it's been great since day one but physically its like the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place.  It's a big puzzle and it's going to take a long time, but the signs are there that it's starting come together.

Late night selfie on my big night out.  I will be getting back out soon, so look for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GRS: 3 Weeks Post Op

I'm three weeks post op today and a lot of people are asking how I am doing so thought I would post an update.              
Out and about again
Dilating is becoming more routine now, less painful and a little easier.  It's still time consuming and the larger one is sort of difficult to work with, especially in the first of 4 daily dilations.  I'm not really getting any blood now while dilating, which is nice, but the lubricant still makes a mess.  I can really see the need for the sitz baths or shower afterward.

Last Friday I went out for my first meal since coming home, had my first cocktails and it was Mitchell and I's anniversary.  This Monday (2 days ago), I drove my car out for the first time.  I probably did too much that day as I had a little bleeding later from irritation, but it wasn't bad and it is nice to slowly ease into normal activities again.
          

Out for a nice anniversary meal with my baby.
I am actually sitting up right now typing this and am not on any pain medication except Tylenol.  I have to partially credit my Kabooti cushion for making this chair comfortable enough to sit in but just a few days ago this would have been much more uncomfortable.  I'm still spending a lot of time lying down but I can see that changing now even though I have to watch out and take it easy.
Sitting is possible with my Kabooti cushion...thanks Mama!
A turning point seems to have occurred between day 18 and 20.  I had my first email correspondence with Dr. Brassard's head nurse and sent in some pictures of my healing progress.  She confirmed that nothing looked infected and in fact I don't have any signs or symptoms of infection.  All the sutures seem to be healing normally but have not completely closed so it is too early to being treating them with vitamin E ointment or the like.  Getting this feedback, feeling better and having things look a little better seem to have bolstered my confidence and mood.

Overall pain is much better.  This weekend it sort of got to me so I did aquire and take more pain medication but I don't seem to need it right now.  I'm taking Tylenol, as recommended by the nurses, and ibuprofen for swelling.  A burning feeling along with what's best described as discomfort is more evident than real pain.   Even these feelings are better each day and the steady improvement makes dealing with this discomfort tolerable.

Tomorrow I have some friends coming in to stay overnight and plans to go out of town for the day.  (Stay tuned to see what happens).  The next day they're going to the State Fair but I do think that's too much for me right now so as much as I'd like to, I am going to take a pass on that.  Mitchell will come in Friday to stay the weekend and this will be our first chance to cuddle since the night before I left for the hospital.  To say I'm looking forward to the next few days would be an understatement.

I'm still amazed at what has transpired over the last three weeks.  Even though things are getting back to normal now, the "new normal" it seems, stepping into this new level of womanhood seems so natural.  Friends have told me to wait, about 6 months after the surgery, as that is when the real "new normal" will sink in.  I am hopeful that I'm getting over the worst of it but maybe by that time life will be more about living and less about recovering.

Some have asked me if it is worth it to have the surgery.  I gotta tell ya, and if you've read my other posts, of course I do feel it is worth it.  Like I've mentioned, you really have to want it and be prepared for a long, tough recovery but I am sure in the end it's really worth it.  To me it already is.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Post Op Reflections at 15 Days

It's hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago I visited the stunning Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal.  I was moved by the beauty, enormity and significance of the most fabulous chapel I'd ever laid eyes on.  In addition to it's visual marvel, the spirit within that place was something I could feel deeply within my soul.  That day I said a prayer for change and, lo and behold, 2 days later I lay in a hospital bed on the other side of Montreal recovering from what I am told is life changing surgery. 

While there was an abrupt change to one part of my body, other changes have been subtle so far.  The surgery knocked me off my feet for a couple of days, and I'm still spending more time in bed than out of it as I regain my strength and abilities to sit and walk.  Overall pain is down but the daily aftercare schedule, extremely intense in the first month of recovery, is both time consuming and painful.

I think I may be feeling a bit different inside now.  When I see you across the room I will hobble over to hug you, and the love that I feel for you is the same.  How I feel about myself is a little bit different, though hard to describe.  This surgery of less than two hours in duration was physically successful but I think it may have been significant in other ways as well.  Could it have brought about a change in my spirit as well as my body?

*****

Physically, I have a long way to go with recovery, no doubt about it.  Besides getting my general strength back, the actual surgical area has a lot of healing left to do.  I'm very sore all the time.  I still have swelling, burning sensations and get stinging pains that come and go.  Some of that, I am told, are nerves reconnecting.  That's a good thing for sure, but many of the sensations are just those of the body healing itself after a severe trauma.

Blood is becoming a less frequent visitor and most of it now is very light colored and watery, possibly mixed with other bodily fluids as it slowly makes its exit from deeper parts of the affected area.  The affected area itself is still quite sensitive, making walking and sitting very uncomfortable if something has to come in contact with it.

My daily aftercare schedule consists of dilating 4 times a day, one shower, 2 "sitz" baths and 2 douches.  Dilating consists of inserting phallic shaped plastic dilators into my vagina, pushing them to maximum depth and holding them for a set period of time.  The actual dilating time is a total of 25 minutes 4 times a day but it can easily take twice that long with cleaning, preparation and insertion time.  In such a swollen, sensitive area this doesn't happen quickly.
The dilators.  Currently I am using the blue and the green.  Next month I "graduate" to a regimen to include the orange.
Sitz baths are simply short baths in slightly soapy water.   This is supposed to help break up blood clots that formed after surgery, and in fact I am mostly clear of them now.  It also helps clean the area and I enjoy them because they remove the excess lubricant, blood etc. from dilating.  Douching is pretty straightforward and is done in the morning shower and the last sitz bath of the evening. 

At first, douching was sort of an adventure.  Back at the recovery house, my roommate Samantha took her shower first on the day of our initial douche.  She told me that I could leave the door open when I did it in case I needed to talk to her for moral support.  OMG what was I getting into, I thought?  In fact, that first time did bring gobs of thick bloody substances that ran down my leg and fell into the tub.  Not for the faint of heart, this initial douche was sort of a rite of passage.  Now it's mostly just the clear, saline solution from the douche that comes out but it might contain a hint of blood or the lube from dilating.  Or perhaps something else?

Eventually douching will be something I do only occasionally.  When I got home, there was one oops moment, when I realized I had inserted the douche into "the wrong hole."  Luckily I had another douche available, as I threw that one away to avoid contamination.  Everything we do now has to be super sanitary.  I have hand sanitizers all over the house and am extra careful not to touch the surgical area unless I have sanitized.  So far I have avoided infection and over time the risk will continue to decrease.

Urinating can still be sort of an adventure.  Depending on swelling and how badly I have to go, it can sort of spray in different directions and make a bit of a mess.  The nurses told us that some of this is normal for women, but at this point in recovery urination isn't completely normal.  I do understand why women require more toilet paper than men when going "number 1" although I am sure mine will become more regular over time.  We are told at 60 days it should become more regular and if a problem persists after 6 months we can contact the surgeon.  I've had a few occasions, now becoming more often, where urination was sort of straightforward so I think that is closer to what I can expect eventually.

I started my hormone regimen back last Friday but I am easing into it.  Having been off for about 23 days and with my body still reeling from this major surgery, I want to take it easy for awhile.  I restarted at 1/4 of my pre op dose and yesterday, 2 weeks from surgery, increased it to 1/2.  At the end of the month I'll increase it some more and soon after will get a blood test to see where my levels are now. 

There has been major change to my endocrine system, namely my body will now only produce a fraction of the testosterone it once did.  Needless to say I don't need testosterone blockers anymore and will have to figure out the correct estrogen dosage.  I'm not anywhere close to being ready to be post menopausal yet, as I still feel I have a good ways to go with "teenage" puberty, so I will continue with an "aggressive" hormone therapy for some time to come.


*****

So, how have I changed inside since my little visit with the French-Canadian doctors?  And has my spirit been changed by this life changing event?

These are questions that are going to have to be answered over time, and it will  probably take a long time to really figure that out.  All I can do now is give you a few examples of how my feelings have been affected in these last couple of weeks.

While I was still in the hospital, nurses would come in periodically to check the bandages around my surgical area.  Several times a day they would change gauze etc. to keep the area as clear of blood and as dry as possible.  Remember, during this time my genitals were covered in a sewn in bandage to protect everything for a few days.

As they would pull the sheets back to make their check, something inside me flinched.  It was a gut reaction to having someone look at me "down there" and the initial feeling I got was embarrassment.  Then I would remember having the surgery and I would be a little more at ease with having them pull the sheets back and check on me.  I knew they had good intentions and I realized that I was different than I had been just hours before, so I was more at ease with having them look.  It is hard to describe, but this is the feeling I had every time they pulled the sheets back.

Looking back, as the days to my surgery drew nearer I seemed to have more and more problems with such mundane tasks as "tucking".  What had been so easy to do for so long, almost instinctive, was to tuck everything away after visiting the bathroom or when getting dressed, so it wouldn't be seen in my pants.  I'd do the same thing to a lesser degree if wearing a skirt or dress.  As the time of surgery drew nearer, especially the first few days I was in Montreal, it seemed like I just cou
ldn't get it right.  I'd spend an extra few minutes in the bathroom trying to tuck satisfactorily.  This compounded the feeling I'd always had in public ladies rooms that someone would see me doing this in the stall and expose me.  I'm not sure why this got more difficult right at the end.
 
One feeling that had been always with me was not wanting to take my clothes off around other people.  I'd worked through this, over time, with a very few people I was intimate with, but I could never completely escape a body modesty rooted in shame.  As a kid, when we got old enough to take showers in gym class or the YMCA, I quickly realized this was something I couldn't do and would go to great lengths to avoid.  For example, I remember once going to a university for a week for a journalism seminar and staying in a dorm that had the large, "open" showers for men.

I still don't understand why men are forced to shower openly in rooms like that, instead of using private stalls.  Even now, to me this seems like a brutal practice.  The handful of times I had to take showers in situations like that or fully change in men's locker rooms were traumatic to me.  I would always avoid those situations but that week at the university I got up at 4 AM to take my showers just to avoid any possibility of showering with someone else.  Anyone that knows me realizes that this was a big deal because I am far from an early morning person. 

My fears of these types of showers kept me away from certain activities as I grew older, like athletics or joining the military.  When I went to college I made sure I stayed at one of the few dorms where the men's showers at least had dividers with curtains. That dorm was also one of the few at the time that had air conditioning so there were other perks to staying there.

At L'Asclepiade, the recovery house adjacent to the hospital, there wasn't much privacy.  There was a private bathroom that Samantha and I shared, but much of the time in the rooms were spent in some state of undress and of course the nurses would come by and inspect our genitals during their rounds.

I don't think my modesty has completely left me, but the feelings I had having to be so exposed were completely different than those I've experienced previously in my life.  My roommate would often lie in her bed completely naked and I did that some but I would usually have a gown on, although to "air out," dilate etc. it was usually hiked up so that everything "down there" was exposed.  I would not have been in that situation if I hadn't just had surgery but I would have freaked out having to be so exposed if it were not for this surgery.  Could this aspect of my physical dsyphoria be gone now?  Only time will tell but obviously the feelings I have about parts of myself have been changed.  As messed up as it is at this point, I am more comfortable with my body now.

Some have said they see more of a sparkle in my eyes in pictures I've taken since my surgery.  I really don't see that but maybe it was from pain meds, I don't know.  Through the pain and constant discomfort I have been able to smile at least.  And it is a smile that comes from deep inside.  I do feel a little more peaceful. 

I hope everything heals up and turns out okay because at this point I really don't have many good feelings coming from my surgical area, although the pain is decreasing.  This is all considered normal and I just have to wait it out, which is ok. 

This surgery is a radical procedure and it certainly isn't something you do for short term gain, that is for sure.  I've had a few moments of worry that everything will not heal correctly, but I just have to trust in the experts who handled my surgery. 

Many report experiencing a post op depression when they get home.  I've been on the lookout for it but haven't really had any of those feelings.  Most that experience this depression are not sure what causes it and it is something they have to work through but I am hopeful this is something I can avoid. 

In the darkness, at night and alone, there can almost come a feeling that one has been injured and will never heal.  I did feel it coming on a couple of times and it cost me sleep but didn't send me into depression or reaching for the anxiety medication.  I'd gotten some of that medicine from my doctor before traveling north just in case I got anxious at any point.  I will do what I have to to make it through this tough time but so far I haven't had to resort to medication.  I can see how this long, brutal recovery process can wear on a soul but I feel my soul was prepared for this long before I packed for Montreal.

*****


Sitting in the Notre Dame Basilica, looking up at the fantastic images before me that depict a spirit more ancient than the religion that inspired the building of that chapel (indeed more ancient than life itself I believe) I asked that my body be prepared for this change.  I asked that my spirit be ready for what lay before me.  The answer I got was one that I already knew inside. I'd been ready for this my whole life.



Hey from back home, on a beautiful October day.