Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Finish Line

Everything has its time.  Unless its perpetual motion, with any process there is usually a beginning and an end.  You have a goal and you set off on a journey.  Fueled by a desire and a need that burns brighter than the midday sun, you do all the little things (and the big things) necessary to bring you closer to that goal.  The road behind you becomes longer than the road ahead.  Then one day you look up and notice that you are there.  In my transition from male to female, I have reached the Finish Line.

A couple of weeks after arriving home from my surgical adventure to Montreal, I received a letter from Dr. Pierre Brassard certifying that the surgery he performed had changed my anatomical sex from male to female.  The letter also stated that "Any designation on her birth record and all official documents as male are incorrect." 

The question was raised by one of the mother's at the recovery center, "After you have this surgery, are you still transgender?"  Well yes, it's just a medical fact that we will always be this way.  It will always be a part of you but, in my opinion, it doesn't have to be you.  It doesn't have to be as all consuming as it is during transition or as worrisome as it was before transition. 

This is one of the things I am dealing with now, how to transition away from transition?  Does this mean that the journey ends?  Of course not.  Does this mean that the transition has reached an endpoint?  Of course it does.  At least that's the way I look at it.

In my case, I've only been on hormones for three years.  Hormonal changes can take place over 5-10 or more years, so I do have more change to look forward there.  I don't plan on having any more surgeries as part of my transition. 

For me there was only one male to female surgery.  Sure, I may get breast implants at some point even though I don't have to.  If I ever have anything done to my face or body (and I haven't had any work done yet) it will likely be more to stave off the process of aging than for feminization.  Anything else I may have done will be typical of what other middle aged women might get, not as part of a transgender transition.

Some of this is just how you look at it, but perceptions do often change at this point in the journey.  It's a tough mental transition as you ask yourself, "Where do I go from here?" 

The truth is I Never wanted to be transgender.  I fought it as long as I could, then went through the transition.  Now, I'd like to put that label and all that goes with it in a drawer and lock it away in my deepest memories.  Like the haunting images of being in war.  It's just not that easy to lock such a huge part of your heart, soul and experience away.

So, now I have my birth certificate.  In the eyes of the state I am me.  All previous records have been sealed.  Having climbed my own Mt. Everest I guess I've reached that peaceful meadow on the other side.  I made it here quicker than I ever expected, but yet it took forever to get here. 

The morbid pain of the majority of my life flashes across the back side of my brain.  I stand on the wet ground watching the black clouds move away across the plain.  Yet I still hear thunder.  Is it growing closer?  Are more storms on the way?  As the journey continues, we will have to wait and see.

At the end of the rainbow, what I found in the pot of gold was sort of surprising.  It was simply being myself. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Another Crash ?

With all the health challenges I've had this year, I sometimes wonder if I am having a crash like the one I had a decade ago after another milestone birthday.

When I turned 40 I had a psychological and physical breakdown in which I started having panic attacks, terrible headaches and was convinced I had a brain tumor.  As a result of that crash I decided I had to start facing my issues instead of burying them inside.  I made a major leap of self acceptance, stopped my drug use, heavy alcohol abuse and started taking baby steps towards becoming myself (transition).  Soon I was out of the woods and on my way home.  Somewhere along the way I learned to love myself and actually care about the little things in life, like the promise of tomorrow.

This year is much different and not nearly so severe.  Still, there is something frightening about having things go wrong with your physical health, especially strange, unexplained things.  Psychologically, I'm better than I've ever been, so there is no crash there.  I have to believe that psychological strength will pull me through the physical ailments that have befallen me.  I know that I am going to be okay.  I actually want to be okay, and that makes all the difference.

When I break it down, this year's health "scares" are not so frightening after all.  I've dealt with granulation, which is a common and not so severe complication from GRS.  The granulation is finally gone but I still have a lingering feeling of slight pressure in my right labia when I do something like cross my legs tightly.  This was the area tested when I had an ultrasound a couple of months ago.  The surgeon thought I had a swollen gland and that it wasn't serious.  I guess my next step is to see a gynecologist and take the mystery out of it.  It was determined to be benign whatever it is. 

I've also experienced a cold this spring (heavens!) and now this mysterious (to me) Bell's Palsey.  This one is the most terrifying of all because it is a paralysis and it affects my face,  I have been pretty much laying low since I developed this palsy 18 days ago because it looks like something is wrong with me.  I am so fortunate that it is probably not going to be permanent and the paralysis wasn't caused by something like a stroke. 

The worst part about all these events this year is the cumulative effect they have had on my daily outlook.  While I am still generally very positive, I've had moments when my mood has been lowered or I have been irritable.  The absolute worst has been a couple of (fleeting) moments where the thought crept in (for one second) that I was going to die. 

This dark feeling of impending doom was a near constant with me between my teenage years and not that long ago.  In fact, as I have reported here it was only when I started taking hormones that the black feeling of dread left me.  So, I know that the pull of death I felt, romantically at times, was either hormonal or psychological but some of it would revolve around physical elements.  Or at least blowing physical problems out of proportion.  That's the only thing I have to fight this year (just a little bit) putting everything into perspective. 

I realize how lucky I am to have my (generally) good health and I am super blessed to finally have all the pieces falling together so that I can enjoy it.  I now have a sense of what paralysis feels like and I can really sympathize with anyone that has to deal with it on any part of their body.  Its a scary feeling and when it's on your face, something that can make you very self conscious around others.


Update 5-5-2015

I went to see my "regular' doctor this week.  He took me off the prendisone, which I was on for two weeks, and predicted the Bell's Palsy would resolve itself.  In fact, his exact prediction was that it would be 75% gone in a month and completely gone in 2 months.  I don't know if he said that mainly to make me feel better or based that prediction on the typical experience of someone with this disease.  He also mentioned that the latest information on Bell's Palsy has it related to chicken pox, sort of like Shingles in that respect.

I have been able to regain a small amount of control of the affected muscles on the left side of my face.  Not enough to smile yet, but the face doesn't look as "droopy" and I can make small movements there.  I won't go back to the doctor until the first of July, when I'm going back for a full physical. 

This is also the doctor that started me out on hormones back in 2012.  I hadn't seen him a year so I told him about my surgery and getting my birth certificate changes, the last piece of the puzzle.  He had helped me get all my other documents changed by writing the necessary letters and he smiled when I told him I had finished changing everything that could be changed. 

"You are 100% female now," he said.  I'd have to qualify that by saying "as much as I can possibly be."  But yes, it does feel great to finally be the person on the outside that I am on the outside, and be accepted for being myself.  I'm just a little sick right now and will be relieved when I can be a completely healthy woman.  I'm not going to crash this time.  There's way too much to live for now!

The more life challenges me
The higher I will rise to overcome life's challenges.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Seven Months

Seven months ago and one week ago today,I was up early in my room in the Centre Metropolitain de Chirurgie, the hospital owned and run by Dr. Pierre Brassard in Montreal, Quebec, Canada .  I didn't have breakfast that morning as I was patiently (not really nervously) awaiting my surgery later that morning.  I was finally going to my gender reassignment surgery (GRS) that would (physically at least) complete my journey from male to female.

Out of three surgeries that day mine was to be the last.  Another girl named Ava went first and she was to have her trachea shaved as well as GRS.  About 9:30 AM they came for my roommate Samantha and as the nurses walked her upstairs to the operating room I found myself alone for a few minutes.  Soon Mama and Mitchell would arrive to keep me company until my turn to ride up the elevator.

The feelings I was experiencing were similar to those I've had in the morning before going to work at a new job.  Not exactly sure what to expect and just wanting to get it over with.  I never experienced any moments of doubt from the minute I scheduled this surgery, nor any great apprehension.  It was just something that had to be done, something I desperately wanted done, so I was just going to follow fate and let Drs. Brassard and Bellanger take care of business.  My job was easy.  I just had to lay there and take a nap.

The months since seem to have gone by slowly, maybe because I have generally not been as active as I was before surgery.  The first 5.5 months involved some degree of pain and daily bleeding during dilation from the granulation complication I developed, which has now completely cleared up as I reported in my last update.  In the last few weeks I have become more active physically as I try to lose the extra pounds put on during recovery.  Almost everyone gains weight after this surgery and I was lucky mine wasn't too severe.

Now I am hit by this Bell's Paley which is again slowing me down and keeping me close to home.  It's not related to my surgery or my transition and I believe that this too will pass, hopefully soon.  I will tell you something though.  My mindset now that I am post op is better than it has ever been.  I'm experiencing a peace of mind and confidence in life that I really didn't think was possible.  This mental rejuvenation will hopefully help me deal with any setbacks that life throws at me as well as allow me to maximize the experience of the rest of my life. 

I think not enough is said today about the psychological benefits of GRS for many trans people. The dark cloud I felt hovering over me all these years was partially hormonal, as I came to fully understand when I killed the testosterone and added female hormones, but it was largely based on having the wrong genitals.  This phenomenon is not as widely discussed a it used to be but it is the reason that SRS (GRS) was developed and has been such a successful tool in gender transition.  This surgery is rightly credited with saving lives by clearing the mind and aligning the body with the brain.

I believe that transition in general saved my life, but now that I have post op awhile I can see that the surgery is instrumental in creating an inner peace that allows me to feel complete.  It is a sense of relief and joy.  Now I feel totally comfortable with myself, a feeling I'd never experienced before.  Now I can experience life the way it should be, unfortunately only for the last half of it or so.  That's ok because I finally feel normal.


Yes, mentally this surgery is having a huge positive effect on me.  Physically, I am now coming into my own as a woman.  Recovery does take a year or so and I am not all the way there yet, but I feel like my long period is over and this is a relief. 

My schedule has just gone from two dilation a day to one.  Something else I am doing when I am in the mood and have time, is doing much longer dilations.  I may dilate for an hour or so even though the schedule only calls for a total of twenty minutes, 5 with the smaller and 15 with the largest dilator. Yes, I've found ways to make dilating enjoyable now now that the pain is gone.  If I need to because of time restraints, I will stick to the schedule and be done in less than half an hour.  Reaching the point where dilations no longer dominate life's schedule is nice, but it is a still a vital part of recovery.

Without getting too personal, I will say that I am finally getting to the point I can enjoy a normal sex life as a woman for the first time.  I am very fortunate to have a loving partner I can experience this with and I believe having a strong emotional connection makes all the difference in experiencing love and not just sex.

One thing that most people facing this surgery are concerned about is the ability to have orgasms after the operation.  I've alluded to it before, as I experienced my first orgasm 61 days post op, but at this point I have to say that this aspect of my life is much, much better than it has ever been.  I am sort of amazed that I can achieve this sensation so easily, so many times and often so intensely.  I am very satisfied with my ability to be satisfied.

My surgical scars have been problematic, as I do scar easily and redness shows on my fair skin, but they are now starting to fade away.  Dr. Brassard said that it takes a year for scars to fade and the aesthetics to fully express themselves.  I believe with me it will take every bit of that year but right now things are starting to look really good.  I have been told by someone special that my vagina not only looks and feels like the real thing, it is the real thing.

It feels great to be as real as I can be.  It feels great to be myself and I needed that.  That's all anyone can ever ask for isn't it?  Most people take being themselves for granted but for those few of us (trans people being a prime example) who do not feel comfortable within themselves, life is too much of a struggle and unnecessarily difficult. 

Physical and (more importantly?) mental changes from hormones make a huge difference.  Living as yourself and not hiding who you are makes it possible to feel some normalcy and comfort in everyday life, although in many cases it can open up its own can of worms in how others react to you.  Surgery, especially GRS, is a very personal part of the journey and is the icing on the cake for many of us.  I'm glad to be able to share my journey with you appreciate all the love and support I have received along the way.

I just want each and every one of you know that I am pulling for You!  Whatever it is in life that you need to be, know that it is possible.  Allow yourself to believe in yourself and never let go of that belief.