Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Origins of Tammy World and The Block

Awhile back, my friend Sophie Lynne challenged me to write a blog post about my writer's block.  We were chatting on Facebook one night and I was telling her about my long, storied history with writer's block, which she found fascinating, so she gave me an assignment to write about it.  In the meantime I fell victim to my two greatest nemeses when it comes to writing, procrastination and my old friend writer's block. 

Today she asked me out of the blue to give her a writing assignment, so I thought of something and she came up with this interesting piece, some of it very deep and quite dark.  Throughout my own life, much of my writing has been of a dark nature.  In fact, the most extreme of my dark compositions are what originally got me in trouble and became the origin of my epic case of writer's block.


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In school I was a creative kid.  The older I got the more creative I became.  I wasn't good at sports, I wasn't popular, I wasn't a math whiz.  My grades were very good but I wasn't first in my class, which was a fairly small class because for the first 10.5 grades I went to a private school.  It can be said that I made good grades without putting a lot of effort into it, but many of the kids went the extra mile and were considered better students.

The older I got, the more withdrawn I became.  When I was 12 years old (I must have been in the sixth grade), things started going downhill for me.  I had been a relatively happy kid before that, different but fairly well adjusted and fairly happy overall.  Other kids sense that you are different and always treat you differently but it wasn't so obvious.  I was transgender of course, but I did not realize it per se.  I felt it but it wasn't so apparent on the surface and at the time I didn't know what it was.  I wasn't going around wearing wearing women's clothes or anything or telling people I wanted to be a girl.  I tried that when I was younger and it was not well received so I hid it, acted out in private when I could and held a lot of things in.

When I hit puberty things began to take a different turn.  Now something was going on in my body that felt foreign to me and my mind started to go black.  A cloud fell over me.  I always lived in a fantasy world that I never completely shared with anyone.  It wasn't just wanting to be female, it was much more than that, more complex.  I do remember that I created an entirely different world in my brain that was similar to earth but not the same.  This world had two equators, different land masses and some of the laws of science that apply here were irrelevant there, 

The older I got the more complex this world within my head became.  I never wrote much about it, I just spent a lot of time thinking up various scenarios for my world rather than interacting with other people or doing my homework etc.  My parent's still remember a song I sang to them when I was very young, though I don't remember my age at the time i think I was in grammar school.  The tune was Mathalon Marches On, and it was basically the national anthem of a fictitious country named Mathelon that I created.  I didn't live there and and it was somewhere overseas, maybe a mirror image of England, or something along those lines. 
 

In some ways, I did not live in the real world.  I didn't like the real world and wanted little to do with it.  It was a few years later, when I was 17 and began smoking a lot of marijuana every day, that I began to spend less time delving into this deep fantasy world.  When I could be high, that was enough to numb me, I didn't need to spend as much energy creating my elaborate world, although it would be many, many years beyond my teens before I stopped spending much time thinking about living in my alternate world.

Maybe my fantasy world was the origin of Tammy World.  When I started this blog and came up with the name, I was establishing a new world for me, one that is reality based.  Tammy World is not a fantasy at all but reflects a time in my life when I can put the fantasy aside.  Yes, a lot of my fantasies were of things like being a middle aged housewife or being a teenage girl.  I think when I was younger I fantasized more about being older and the older I got the more I fantasized about being younger.  In any case, none of this occurred on Planet Earth.  My world was similar but different.  I think we were both carbon based life forms but other than anything was possible in my other world.

This brings us to my case of writer's block.  Actually, I didn't write much about my alternate world.  It was my thing and I didn't want to share too much of it.  I was a very inward, private kid and I have been that way pretty much throughout my adult life.  This is something I am working on now as part of my life therapy.  I did go through a period in school where I was drawing elaborate maps of places I made up. Some of those maps still exist in notebooks at my parent's house but I don't think any of my writings still exist.

What I did get into in my early teens was writing poetry and increasingly dark prose.  I would spend hours scribbling stuff into notebooks, and I am not sure how much of it even made sense.  I know that I didn't write violent, threatening things but I did write very morbid things.  Some of it may have been deemed suicidal but I was not trying to kill myself.  I just wanted to leave this world and I had created another one that was ready to take me.  No one understood this, including me.

So here we have the origins of my aversion to therapy that kept me as far from metal health professionals as possible.  I have been convinced most of my life that I am insane, and after reading this you are probably convinced of it to.  It was only when I entered actual therapy, a little over 2 years ago, that I began to become convinced that I am not insane after all.  Building up a new word for myself, a real one, has not only let me get away from my fantasy world, but let some light come in.  People that see me as a positive person today did not see the withdrawn, negative person that existed before.  I am a different person, and I don't just mean the gender transition.  Of course I am still a work in progress in all aspects but it is much, much better today than ever before.

Actually, there was an early foray into therapy that contributed to my writer's block.  One day I came home from school and my parent's had found some of my notebooks.  I think they were as amazed by the sheer volume of stuff that I had written as they were alarmed by its content.  All I can think of now to compare to what I might have written is something along the lines of an entire book that says "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."  Over and over again.  Of course that was not what I was saying and I thank The Shining for the analogy, but I think the dribble was just as mindless.  At any rate it was something that nobody wanted to read and it landed me in a child psychologist's office.

All I remember of my afternoon in therapy is putting together blocks, taking some kind of tests and talking with either one or two psychologists.  I didn't tell them much and tried to them exactly what they wanted to hear.  All I wanted to do was get out there, they were keeping me away from my world.  At the end of the day they told my parents that I was normal but very unhappy.  We went on with our lives.

Some of the poetry I wrote was considered quite good.  The writing I did for school got me consistent A's and praise from the teachers.  As I got older, they said I had the potential to be a writer.  I enjoyed writing and began to write a lot.  Some of it was bad and some of it was good, I guess.  And by bad I mean it had bad subject matter.  Much of it probably had death as the theme.  It was the very bad material that caught the attention of one of the teachers and landed me in the school's office with the counselor, teachers and whoever was in charge of that little school.  Whatever it was that I had written, they didn't want to read.  They were concerned but it wasn't serious enough to go forward with any discipline, as I recall, but i do think my parent's were contacted.  I also recall deciding to shut down writing anything of any consequence after that day.

I still wrote my school assignments and did very well on them, but I no longer wrote for myself.  I turned my attention to photography as a means to express myself and was considered talented at that too.  As I progressed in school, I continued to write for the school newspaper and did some freelance writing, sports and other assignments, for 2 local newspapers.  But there was no more poetry, no more crazy prose, nothing interesting.  The few times I would write something like that for myself I would destroy it fairly quickly.  Even though I wasn't actively worried about people finding it and passing judgement on me again, I just didn't do it.  Eventually I lost much of my interest in expressing my thoughts on paper.  I would sometimes write poems in my head, or song lyrics that I thought were quite good, but didn't write them down.

As an adult I write quarterly articles for my mother's historical newsletter.  Even that has been like pulling teeth though.  Somehow, after my experiences as a teenager, the joy of writing was sapped out of me.  Through this blog I have taken steps to get back into it but even now it is often hard to get the motivation to write.  I hate reading what I have written  and always pick it apart or want it to be better than it is, but I guess that's typical. 

Writing this blog has brought me a lot of joy, when I can push through the writer's block that has become so instinctive.  Slowly, I may be coming out of it.  I have found the most painful subjects the easiest to write about but that has probably been true my whole life.  It's just that now I try to write things that make sense.  In the past, especially the teenage writing that got me in trouble, most of what I wrote was coded jumble alluding to something or some feeling I was experiencing, without actually saying what it was.  Nobody really understood much of it but from reading it they understood I was having problems.

At lot of the dynamics of my life changed when I began getting high.  The things that were bottled up inside me did not need to come out because I could numb myself.  The pain didn't go away but it became manageable and the pressure inside seemed to subside.   Except for my forays into hard drugs, I always felt that the pot helped me and therefore I didn't want to quit.  Actually, the pressure never subsided it was just being temporarily subdued. 

Only when I started taking female hormones did the pressure go away and I was able to quit smoking pot.  Who knew?  I've never seen that on the list of MTF hormone effects.  Now I don't know what to do with my mind sometimes.  It is clear and it's not dark.  Although sometimes it can drift in that direction, it's not a problem.  I don't feel as if I am dying anymore.  A lot of what I used to write was about death, probably glorifying it.  I can see why the adults didn't like it.  I didn't want to feel that way but I did. 

I have decided now that I am going to live and I want to live.  This is a fairly new development with me.  I have a long history of embracing death without actively taking the plunge so to speak.  I am lucky because a lot of my behavior in the last 30 or so years was so self destructive I could easily not be here.  At least I never had the gumption, and probably not the desire, to blatantly do something to bring it about.  Still I have managed to come close more times than I care to think about.  Just one example was going to a hospital emergency room for acute cocaine poisoning or overdose.  It hasn't been pretty.  When I stopped writing about death and started flirting with it, I didn't do myself any favors.
 

Having made it through all of that and much, much more, I am really thankful to be here.  The light is on again.  Taking baby steps towards writing again is one of the good things to come out of turning my life around.  Hey, I didn't just turn my life around, I began to build an entirely new life and it is similar to the one I always dreamed of having.  There was a reason that dead, empty shell of a human being kept walking the earth. 

In my early twenties I moved to Florida for about 7 months.  My dad's friend got me a job as teller in a bank, but outside of work I had no social life.  I didn't make any friends and my only interactions with people outside of my work at the small bank branch were with street drug dealers.  While I was down there I had a lot of time to think and started writing again but I destroyed everything before I came back home.  That was typical of me but perhaps it showed I had potential to break out my writer's block one day. 

The thing I took away from my time in Florida was that I was dead.  I considered myself already dead so nothing that came after that really mattered.  So you see the empty shell of a human being analogy was pretty accurate after all.  In fact, it was no analogy.

I really wish I had not destroyed the volumes of material I have written over my lifetime.  Most of it was written when  was a teenager (a long, long time ago), but I think among the dark dribble there may have been a few gems.  Anyway, I am starting over, with my life and my writing.  Maybe it can even go beyond this blog someday.  I've been given another chance to live for a reason and I survived the abyss for a reason.  A lot of people have written me and told me they've been inspired by my blog but then again a lot of people are in the same boat that I was in and can relate.  A lot of trans people are living in an alternate world, or trying to get away from this one.  They are trapped and want to break free.  Maybe I have shown that it is possible, no matter the circumstances. 

So today I have a reason to write and something to write about.  Back when I was doing all the drugs, especially the bad ones, I told myself I was doing research for a book.  I was a character in the book going through scenarios to get material for my novel.  Much of it was quite interesting and even then I saw myself as a third person character going through the motions, doing research.  I never wanted to be whoever I was until I became myself.   

Now I have joined you in your world.  I think I am going to do something while I am here.  This writer's block has got to go!  I am going to take Sophie up on her challenge to write something every day.  It may not all end up here, but every day I am going to set aside some time to write.  I already write a lot of material for my group, Trans Beauty Network, and that is positive and often helps people, but much of the other Facebook stuff is mindless dribble.  At least it doesn't have the dark, death themes of my youth, but it doesn't accomplish much outside of the positive chats I often have, basically counseling people.  


Sometimes writing takes unexpected turns.  Today I wanted to explain the origins of my writer's block and expand on what I've written about it before.  Just writing about having writer's block in itself is a way to break writer's block.  And in the process some of the origins of Tammy World have been uncovered.  Fantasy world meets reality world, that's my life today.  I am really glad to finally be able to share Tammy World with real people and I am really glad to have you here.