Big Day Tomorrow

Well, hello there, friends.  It’s been longer than planned, as it always seems to be.  But no matter, I’m still here, still typing, which is better than nothing, right?  Or maybe not.  Oh well.

So.  Best news first.  I’m having top surgery tomorrow.  I’ve been meaning to update here earlier, but I had my pre-op assessment on Thursday last week, and I’m due for admission for bilateral mastectomy tomorrow at 11am.  Cue dramatic music.

I’m less nervous than I thought I’d be.  Even in the pre-op assessment, when they had to do all kinds of tests and swabs and things, and I had to see several different people for several different things, but I panicked no more than any other time I’m outside.  And the parts about tomorrow that worry me most are the interactive bits.  I’ve been told that there will be people galore coming and going and lots of chaos, albeit in an organised way, and the fact that people will have to be trusted completely, when I’m unconscious, to Do Their Thing despite my existence as a strange little lump of confused humanity (and thus, of course, worthy of nothing other than ridicule and pain, according to the angry little bastard inside my phobic brain cells).

The procedure itself worries me far less, amusingly, even though it turned out that I need the double incision despite my initial sort-of-flat-chestedness (Mr Yelland, my surgeon, took his first look and said “too much skin”).  Ditto for the recovery.  Uni starts up again on Monday, and I have computer lab sessions that day which I don’t intend to miss.  I guess that makes a point about how easily my phobey brain can take over most things with its own selfish agenda: panic, and lots of it.  Just not about the logical things.  Anyway.

I’ve got some packing to do (these people will be seeing me sans clothes, which is terrifying, but I will fill my bags with everything soft for post-operative comfort purposes, the thought of which makes up for it somewhat), so I’ll stop typing there.

Updates to come when I’m back.  Hopefully.

Posted in Gender, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Sanity: Sapped

This little interlude of a post is yet another hi-I’m-still-here-don’t-forget-meeee one, I’m afraid.  I’m still reading, and my thoughts are with you all, even if my comments aren’t (yet).

My mind’s playing games, and I’m losing.  Whatever that means.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

In Which He Loses His Mind

And now for the mental health update.  This might be even more fun than the last update, if that’s even possible.  This one’s been a long time in the making, due in part to laziness and also the fact that it’s sodding hard to spend too long on this topic without overthinking in a less-than-positive way, so I’ve been trying to do it in bursts.

Before I start, I’m putting out a general trigger warning for mental health problems, food issues, self harm and suicide.

So, uni forced me to acknowledge that I’m struggling more than others seem to, partly because of the Asperger’s, and partly because my mental health made it damn hard, if not impossible, to do important parts of the course, and so I was having to work harder to keep up.

After a particularly frustrating conversation, the details of which I don’t have the energy to type out – and I’m sure you don’t have interest in reading anyway – I had one of my most productive slumps to date, and typed out almost 2000 words in an application form to Student Psychological Services, the university counselling people.  I’m far better in print than in speech – which says painful amounts about my verbal communication skills – so I thought if I was ever going to get Proper Help, it would come from something I’d written.

Anyway, they said they would analyse the forms and get back to you with an appointment time within two weeks, but it was only two days later that they had an appointment for me.  I went for my assessment – which was an ordeal in itself because of all the buzzers for entry and the announcing myself and all that jazz – and they suggested continuing appointments of CBT (that’s cognitive behavioural therapy, for those blessed enough not to have come across it before).  I was, however, warned that they only do short-term sessions – a maximum of six – and would have to refer me on if I wasn’t cured within six weeks.  So, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t hopeful.  Maybe that was the problem.  I don’t know.

CBT Adventures
So, after an encouragingly good start, in which I started to believe I was being heard for what I was actually saying, and not what they wanted to hear for ease of treatment, things went downhill quickly.  Well, it would have to be quick, I guess, within only six sessions, but still.

We identified goals – shopping was the main focus, seemingly whether I liked it or not – and built up a hierarchy of difficulty; we went out together early on as she’d forced the issue.  The whole time, she was asking me (loudly) about my anxiety levels, drawing attention to the problems I was having and – given that we’d agreed on a set amount of tasks to attempt – she extended the excursion much more than she was supposed to, cue freakout early on.  We didn’t do that again.

There was a fair amount of drawing things out and faffing about with expressing rather obvious “revelations” on paper, when we could have been working on actually combating the problematic parts instead of highlighting them over and over again as if the key to “curing” my lifelong avoidance issues would be – gasp – knowing they’re there.

Generally, the whole set of sessions went badly, where I ended up avoiding more than ever before, and adding a new Avoidance Area – namely CBT sessions – to my list.  Actually, to be fair, I didn’t miss any sessions, but my opinion about further treatment was quite radically affected for such a short-term fix.  I felt patronised throughout; in fact, it was my Personal Tutor at uni who’s come closest to understanding this out loud, in terms of intelligence and insight and MH professionals’ expectations of service users.  And here comes the rant…

I had worries about starting the most intense set of labs at the end of the second term, and during the session that we focused on that, we made a list of the things that could and could not be controlled, respectively.

This seemed logical enough to me, the List Maker from Hell, right up until I was cut off before I could list many of the “Could” items.  From then on, the focus was on the “Could Not” items, which is fair for the purposes of, but then she tried to use the comparison between the length of the lists as reasoning to Let Go.  Cue lots of dramatic argumentative points swirling around my brain – goodbye concentration on the present – and, of course, a complete inability to articulate them.

Then she suggested that I “don’t focus on the things you can’t control”.  Round of applause for the Blindingly Obvious please.  So I prompted her.  “How?”

“You just accept you can’t control them.”  Well, I’d never thought about just accepting before.  Give that woman a banana*.

How?”

I never got an answer.

I’m hoping that my short experience of CBT was negative not because of the (validity of the) technique itself, but rather how well (or otherwise) it was practiced.

By the end of the sessions, she suggested I get on medication, and asked if I would be happy to be referred on for more treatment – this time longer-term, and on the NHS.  I said yes, purely because I didn’t know what else I could do, and I had a first appointment with the New People a month later.

Psychiatric Referral
OK, this one was a one-off for transition-related purposes, but I’m including it because it ended up sort of splitting itself between gender and panic while I was there.

I had help finding the place and announcing myself (from an Awesome Person who continues to be awesome in my direction, Christ knows why I deserve such awesomeness, but I’m not complaining), and then I was led into a room by the most stereotypical psychiatrist I’ve come across so far.  And that’s saying something.

NHS clinical rooms are just as depressing as you’d expect.  More so, if you have the stomach to imagine it.

We did the usual routine questions, blah blah blah, and I misheard him – to my cringing amusement – several times, also routine for me, before we did The Gender History all over again.  I think I’ll have it memorised soon enough.

Then it was social anxiety.  Very quick-fire questions, to my surprise, seemed all that was necessary for an official diagnosis.  Usually that would have made me nervous in itself, but I already had the answers ready – partly because the symptoms I was having to describe were right there, poking me, as I was talking about them.  I don’t know if I already had a diagnosis of social anxiety, because the way it seems to work here is that each professional draws their own conclusions and says fuck all to their actual patients about it – not to mention therapists’ peculiar downplaying technique (depression = “low mood”; panic attack = “worrying” or similar) which I can only assume is meant to reassure the patient.  Sure as hell doesn’t work for me.

Moving on.  He said that social anxiety of that extent needs much more “intense” treatment, which equated in his mind to at least 18 sessions of CBT and at least 200mg sertraline (that’s Zoloft, by the way, an entertaining word to find excuses to say out loud if there ever was one) daily.  And when I asked what I should do if none of it helps, he said they have a specialist unit that I can be referred to, and there are other options.  Which I’d genuinely not heard before.  By most standards, it seems to be CBT Or Nothing, which is of little comfort to someone who doesn’t think much of it.

Long story short, he said I was fine to be referred on, but it was only a month ago that I found out he hadn’t sent it when he was supposed to – in March – so my GP chased it up, and it’s finally now underway.

Although, a word of warning to anyone going through similar adventures, if you’re at all prone to self-consciousness or reaction to criticism, don’t read psychiatric reports about yourself.

[For me, it was both dysphoria-inducing (there was a section where my height – or lack thereof – acne and facial features were discussed; apparently I was “feminine, particularly around the eyes, but otherwise presented as a man”.  Slightly concerning that most people he would be seeing on this basis wouldn’t have started T yet, and so their “presentation” being based on their natural bodily features rather than less permanent things is not exactly comforting, but still) and physically hard to stomach (the way these things are written have a tendency to make me feel ill, partly because they’re writing about me, partly because there will be others reading about me, and partly the sort of sterile form of writing used is often painfully abrasive).  Just to add, ‘n’ all.]

I’m going to continue this in a separate post to save on brainspace and patience, and I’ll queue it to give you all a break.  More gender updates also on their way.

*as my former German teacher would say.  (She was awesome, just in case you wanted to know.)

Posted in Life | 4 Comments

(Attempts At) Productivity

After a day of surprising productivity, I’ve got a fully-functioning CV.  I haven’t had one of them since we were prodded into making them at school, at which time we were expected to show our “skills” by referencing things like “I started a club” or “I did this project in class”.  And there’s not much difference between now and then, so it turns out.

I’ve got two weeks’ work experience, thanks to school pressure to set it up ourselves, after GCSEs finished, and several months’ worth of voluntary work as part of a scheme from two years earlier still.

And that’s it.

There’s a massive gap, filled only by A Levels and uni, which won’t easily be explained away.  Interviews, if I can even get to them, will be additionally difficult if I have to admit that the gap’s there “because people made me panic, and they still do now, but it was worse then so I couldn’t do things because everything involves people”.  And since I can’t even use the phone now, I’m not expecting that time to come any time soon, in which case that gap will only get wider.

This was meant to be a positive post.  Sorry about that.  I’ve now got a CV, which is the point, and tomorrow will be spent researching – because I was losing hope in things, but I reached a conclusion that involved, erm, not giving up, basically – options, to give hope to a good friend, with any luck.

So, the aim is to keep myself doing things and moving forward, and hopefully ending this reactive slump for the foreseeable future.

Watch this space.

Posted in Life, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

12 Months On Testosterone

This is a miniature post to announce that I’ve been on T for 12 months today.  That is, 12 cycles of 28 days, 48 weeks, and not a full year, but I’ve been measuring by injections, so it feels like a Big Milestone nonetheless.

Changes ‘n’ things have been recorded here, in case anyone’s interested.  That’s all for today.

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And The Second Year Ends

That’s right, friends.  The time has come.  That six-month black hole of blogging is about to be filled.

This will not be a fun post.

So, the point where I went off digi-grid was in the Christmas holiday.  I has tests to revise for and an essay that drove me bonkers in the attempt to finish it in time.  No January exams this time, but it was far from a relaxed break.

The next term was much the same as the previous one, full of frustrations and poor organisation, pointless and time-consuming meeting with my Personal Tutor, and much more besides.  It’s not really interesting enough to blog about, especially given that I’m not in the mood to try and make it more entertaining than it is, so I’m not going to.  I spent much of the time angry, anxious, despairing, made all the worse because it was caused by others and could have easily been avoided if they’d just put a bit of thought into what they’re doing.

Then we had the Easter *break*, in which there were five sets of coursework and some lab work to finish, as well as revision for the exams coming afterwards.  I didn’t get to a single tutorial through the year – and my Personal Tutor’s opinion fluctuated wildly from week to week, from “well, if they’ll make you so anxious you won’t learn anything anyway, it’s not worth it” to “it’s really vital that you go, or else you’ll be screwed forever” – because of the anxiety, but I didn’t fail despite that fact, which I guess I should be pleased about.

And then there were the exams.  Cue dramatic music.

I can’t say I handled them well.  I sort of shrivelled.  Hallucinations were part and parcel of my exam experience, because I’d lost so much sleep, and I was pacing up and down in my room for up to 14 hours a day.

I did get through them, but in so doing, I became the neediest human being ever to walk the Earth.  Not something I’m proud of, but at least I did the exams and didn’t splat at the last minute.

And then, of course, when the exams finished (and, for some, while exams were still going on), we had a third-year lab module to finish off the year, because presumably the third year isn’t long enough to fit in all the material, so part of the second year has to give way to allow for it.  I was doing computational chemistry, so I didn’t have long hours in the lab like most, instead spending much of my time sitting in front of a computer, battling with UNIX – and my own stupidity.

Little did I know that computational chemistry was such a social module.  There was very little actual time available to do this module, but they wanted us to fit in a set of individual questions, plus group work (research project) and a presentation.  So, erm, that went well.

I didn’t do the presentation, I was utterly useless at the “group” part of the group work, and for such a short space of time actually spent doing the damn stuff, I was in a ridiculously bad headspace.  That coincided with my latest injection failure, which didn’t surprise me massively; exams were bad, but this was worse by far.  Anxiety shat all over this module, but it actually did help in a weird and twisted way, as it provided enough motivation for me to finally get some Proper Help.

(Except, of course, I spent all year chasing people and doing Massively Uncomfortable Things in order to set up this support system and therapy and medication and all-round progress stuff, which is probably going to end up null and void because to get those things – at least without having to start the process all over again, thus delaying actual help for another year or so – I need to be in the right area to receive said help.)

And now I’ve moved out of Halls, I’m back home, doing very little and resenting very much, needing to sort out more Things than my brain has space for.

This was a Public Pessimistic Announcement.  Coming up next: an in-depth description of my sadly-entertaining experience of the adult mental health services.  As always, run and hide while you still can.

Posted in Chemistry, Life, Mental Health, University | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Did Things. I Was Proud.

So, an… optimistic little interlude before the bulk updates come spilling. Run for your lives, before it’s too late.

I’ve not been doing too well, as I said in my last post.  We’re all quite used to it at home now; my parents have all but adopted cajoling me into doing basic self-caring tasks as part of their own everyday routine. And today was no different in that respect, just amplified, because I had an additional task.  An Everest of concentration.  I had to return something to uni.

See, that involves getting up – early – and washing and eating and dressing and breathing – on purpose – and, evil of evils, commuting during morning rush hour, preferably without dying in the process.  And, given that I’m me and all, it also involves walking home from the train station, uphill, for 40 minutes, because it’s too much of a panic-inducing effort on top of everything else to get a bus.

I did it.  Sort of.

Sleep eludes me, and has been doing so for months; last night was no different.  I lay awake, drenched in a cold sweat, for hours before I needed to get up, because it was that night – of all nights – that my brain decided I wasn’t allowed to power down when there were Issues to think-and-panic-but-ultimately-come-to-no-conclusions-whatsoever about.

Still, I got up, swallowed something resembling food at points, did my required splashings and brushings (and, a relatively new but welcome addition, shavings) and the like, and got to the train station without collapsing out of exhaustion.

Quite an achievement, I’m pathetically pleased to announce.

I got stuck trying to pass someone on the platform.  Apparently my voice is not loud enough to politely get people to move the hell out of the way, so I come out looking like a rude and moody (can’t really argue with that one though) twit – not to mention the “must be on drugs or hallucinating or something” part, which admittedly might have been more justifiable than “not a good day today” from my behaviour at the time.

I got into uni, still without collapsing, still proud – although it was slow, plodding and resentful – and went to return the Thing, a mobile broadband device I was testing for a friend.

It turned out that I’d come in especially… only to forget the cable to charge the damn thing.

She tolerated my presence, or lack thereof, for three hours, bought me hot chocolate and exchanged stories with me (read: ranted maniacally and then listened while I did the same).  She got angry when I needed her to, “aww”ed in all the right places – well, to be completely accurate, she “oh shit“ed in the right places – and, more importantly, helped me with things I couldn’t face on my own.  She reassured me that she didn’t need the cable if I couldn’t face bringing it in, but I said I’d bring it in on Friday.  I might regret that, but we shall see.

And then I went to get my grades.  We only get the chemistry grades, and only letter grades – we have to wait until the end of July for the numbers – but I was disappointed.  I’m not going to be second in the year this time.  I’ve got As in everything but one unit, which was a B, and I won’t know how bad the B is, in relative terms, for a couple of months.

Call it perfectionism (which it is), but it feels like a blemish.  Although I know that’s only because I’ve been hassling them for help and telling them I’m struggling – with the badly-organised piling-on of work, not the difficulty level – all year long.  Anyway.  That’s a side note.

Then I went home.  Trust me to have so many issues that teleportation would be the only acceptable option.  Sadly, that’s not, erm, possible (yet…?) so an uphill walk was the lesser of All Evils.

Believe me, walking uphill on Depressive Lead Legs and zero sleep is no mean feat.  And another thing I’ve noticed is how dangerous everything becomes when you’re in, erm, certain states of mind; it’s kind of hard to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, or breathing, or whatever when you’re so busy envisioning how you could kill yourself with a cardboard coaster.  (Side note: the other thing I’ve noticed is how my imagination actually peaks in productivity during times like this; doesn’t say much for my personality, does it?)

And then I get home.  I manage to fail to unlock and open my front door the first time around, and my legs give way almost as soon as I succeed in my door-opening endeavours.

My mum phones from work to check I’ve got home without throwing myself in front of a car or something (I had to use my last energy reserves trying to stay on the damn pavement/platforms today; rarely do I feel like becoming housebound by choice is such a good idea), and thanks to the wonders of caller ID (a service which we’ve only recently added), I answer.  She can’t hear me, because my voice doesn’t work beyond a sort of Morse code of shaped breaths.  She suggests I lie down for a while, because being miserable for no good reason is such an exhausting task, and I resolve to ignore it.

And then I spend the rest of the day as still as possible (typing, of course, doesn’t count), albeit sitting up, just to be difficult.

This is probably the most productive thing I’ve done all day.  And with that happy revelation, I’ll try and sleep now.  Until things beyond my control (naturally) actively change, though, I’m not holding out much hope.

Wow, I’m a right little optimist today, aren’t I?

Posted in Life, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The World’s Worst Blogger Returns

… and is ready to belly-flop into your inboxes once again.

So I’ve managed nearly six months of digital inactivity*.  “Achievement” is probably not the word.  It’s been a harder year than even I’d expected, and the longer I went without posting, or even reading, the harder it became.  Which, I guess, is the story of my phobey life.  And whenever I did have time left over which could have been spent wordspinning for your, erm, entertainment, most of that time was instead spent trying to figure out what the hell I was thinking starting a blog at the same time as a chemistry degree.

But life has not been dull.  Well, it has, actually, in many respects, but I’ll be reporting some of the highlights (and lowlights) because changes have happened, and progress has been made as well as lost.

I’m aiming to do separate reports on gender things, uni things and mental health, because all three together might be a bit on the concentrated side, like trying to drink a bottle of mouthwash in one go.  Gender things first, because I can report on those more easily.  Ready?   Here I go.

Bad news first.  I found out yesterday, as the last Thing in a long line of Things so far to hit me on my holiday (which have proven to be ultimately sanity-shattering, especially when timed so expertly), that the referral onto the NHS pathway – which I thought had happened in March – has not been done.  My GP referred me to the mental health service for assessment by an NHS psychiatrist in November, and I got a (rescheduled) appointment in March, which lasted no time at all, and where I was told that there were no problems and the referral would go ahead.  I knew there were long waiting lists, so I hadn’t expected to hear from them for months anyway, but apparently they’ve not received any of my paperwork.  So that’s something I’m going to have to chase up; whoopee for incompetence everywhere.  Anyway.

There have also been problems with my injections – although there’s been a glaringly obvious correlation with stress which doesn’t need explaining – where I’ve found it harder and harder to self-inject as time’s gone on.  I’m not remotely needle-phobic, nor am I any more pain-phobic than anyone else – as far as I know – and I never had problems to start with, until uni started again.  Then I started having problems; it took me longer and longer to psych myself up, and last time I couldn’t do it without help.  I know why – it correlates with stress, and I could probably set an equation to it, which has been worsening steadily as uni’s progressed.  But that’s another post for another time.  Point here is that I’m working on it.  There’s no way in hell I’m letting myself go backwards permanently.  A lot can be said for stubbornness.  So there.

So that’s that.  On to happier things.  I actually have some, which should count as a Happy Thing in itself, as far as I’m concerned.

Surgery.  It’s been researched, and I know what needs doing and when, so it’s just a matter of setting a date now.  I meet the criteria for top surgery on 30th June, then I need to obtain a letter confirming it, and then I’ll be off to Brighton – haltingly, twitchingly, phobic-ly off, of course – some time this summer to rid myself of those unmentionable alien shapes.

That’s all I can manage for the moment.  I promised myself I’d post as soon as I had the time, but I’m doing less-than-brilliantly.  Trigger warnings for food related issues under the cut (also, I’m explaining my current mental health, so please don’t bother reading if you don’t want to!).

Continue reading

Posted in Gender, Life, Mental Health, Updates | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Frustrations

And so, here I am, with three weeks of “free time” on my hands… and still no posts.  It’s not personal, internet, I promise.

Be warned: here comes the unirant of all time.  Hey, look, I invented a word.  I did not, however, invent the practice.  That one’s been around long before I had anything to do with it; even though I could rant for England, I can’t take credit for this one.

OK.  So, before the reality checks and “be grateful for…”s come flooding in, I’d like to state that I’m far from the only one struggling here.  I have a friend, also with more than one disability, who is having to restart the year – simply because our department refused to make any effort to help her or even understand the problems she was having.  She did everything right; believe me, I’m a very good pesterer, and I know that she told the right people at the right times, and she asked for nothing unreasonable.  But now she, who has far more of an interest in chemistry than I ever will, has been put off (hopefully not for life) coming back because they were so damn disinterested in making allowances.

There is another person I know of, not by name, but through my disability mentor (who regrets that she can do no more than pester them on our behalf, without really having any Shiny Pushy Power or anything).  He has multiple disabilities as well, including mental health concerns since childhood.  He was also one of those Huge Achievers in the first year, so you would think there would be even more incentive in his case for the department to keep him happy.  But nope, sorry, no cigar.  He came to them with concerns (the nature of which I’m not privy to, all I know is that it’s mental-health-related), and was clearly failing in his attendance and coursework and most everything else.  And what was he told?  Work faster.

I kid you not.

When I came to them with my own mental health concerns and trouble keeping up, I was advised to get study skills help for my time management failures.  And I’ve also been put forward for specific Aspie mentoring (which is a more time-consuming thing than what I’m already having, in that I will be assigned a person who stays with me all the time and… erm, helps, I guess).  It seems like I’m the only one who can see the problem here: all these things take up time, which, since my time management skills are clearly so lacking (you know, in my inability to fit in 50 hours of extra work into 20 free hours a week, etc), is less than helpful.

I’ve seen a disability rep for the Student Union who has confirmed that my uni is very good with lip service or even practical good appearances, but awful with, you know, actually helping people in the way they need them to.  He’s chasing things up on my behalf, because – believe it or not – I’ve not had the time, so we shall see how well that works.

We were supposed to have a uni version of half term (which was when I’d been hoping to post originally).  Last year, they scheduled a compulsory group project during that week so we couldn’t leave uni in the first term, and they had labs through that week in the second term.  And the third term doesn’t have one because it’s all exams.  This year, we had lectures throughout, and coursework (for which we were given precisely zero notice; in case I’m not angrily explaining enough, that’s guaranteed to be an Aspie nightmare), not to mention the lab introduction and precursory work, for which there was even less than zero notice.  I won’t even go into details on that because steam will start coming out of my ears any second (just thinking about it).

So my Unknown Aspie Comrade is expected to catch up over Christmas, whether he’s medically able to or not.  Even without that expectation, we have enough work to successfully stop any chance of festive celebration (or even sleep).  I have to catch up on the entire term’s tutorial work and try and salvage my understanding of materials chemistry from the two-thirds of lectures missed because of a clash with maths for chemists, with another chemistry option, for fuck’s sake (ie. through no fault of my own)… and then do the rest of the expected work and revision and General Chemistry Death.

Not only is depression “a problem for loads of students and therefore their problem to deal with”, according to my department, but if you can ask them for help, clearly “it’s not serious enough to actually be affecting your life”, and of course, therefore undeserving of help, and of course it’s also “chronic, so there’s nothing can be done [in other words, by them] to make it better”.  This was my aforementioned friend’s experience of asking for help, please note, not mine, who was being medicated and therapy-ised for depression at the time, and who had doctor’s notes from the university GP practice.  Suffice to say I was smashing things by the end of her story.  Ahem.

When I went to my GP about mental health problems, I was asked what subject I was doing.  When I answered, my doctor became immediately concerned, and “warned” me about trouble in the chemistry department.  I replied that I was no stranger to it.  Even those with no Shiny Additional Difficulties are struggling, many quite badly.

Still.  I think my rant is coming to a close now (please note that I am typing this spontaneously and am posting without checking or editing, so please excuse the spillage of word vomit all over your nice clean screens), so feel free to breathe a sigh of relief… now.

My final point being my doctor’s advice for my own mental health concerns (being people-evasion-related and anxiety-related more than depression, not that I expressed it very well, since I was, you know, ANXIOUS ABOUT IT).  She asked if I’d been to the Student Psychological Services – they’re the uni-run free mental healthcare people, and are the first port of call in most cases.  I said that that had been my plan since the first year, actually, but there’s a Sparkly Form to fill in… and therein lies the problem.  It’s quite extensive, and you have to tick boxes for when you’re free, so they can offer you an appointment.   It’s split into mornings and afternoons, and both years, I have looked through my timetable (for both terms), only to realise that there’s not a single morning or afternoon I could spare (through timetabling, that is, not in an “I refuse to give up my free time *stamps foot*” kind of way).  And yet it’s my time management that’s a problem.  Nothing whatsoever to do with their ability to schedule more into a day than there are free hours.  Sigh.

So, painfully long story shortish, I have been medically advised… to miss lectures.  Deliberately.  In exchange for my sanity.  It’s a situation about which I am enormously pleased, as this post clearly demonstrates.

And with that, I will stop typing and go and jump out of the highest (ahem, metaphorical) window I can find.

Posted in Chemistry, Life, Mental Health, Soapbox, University | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Lungs: Functioning. Brain: Not So Much.

Hello again, Shiny Internet People Who I’ve Missed So Much.  The above point being that I’m still breathing, even though coherence eludes me, but I’m taking another stab at posting in the hope that it makes something approaching sense.

Term finished officially today, and although we budding chemists don’t apparently get those “holiday” things we’ve heard so much about, there should be more room for blogging over the next three weeks before I (quite possibly) disappear into a reluctant silence again.

I like to think I have a good reason for not posting (namely murderous amounts of work), and I have independent witnesses to back up my claims if anyone’s that interested, but my frustrations are being saved for another post… and I thought last year was bad.  This post is a gendery one.  Because I like talking gender, and there’s definitely genderstuff to talk about.

Changes on T
I’ve been on T for five and a half months now, and there have been Changes.  With a capital C.  The details from month to month can be found over at my transition-specific space, in which I also swear a lot, in case anyone really wants to hear me say the same line over and over again to prove my voice is finally mine, you know, Real Exciting Stuff.  But in an overall-y sense, I’ll do bullet points (and try to make them as brief as is realistic for a person who can turn a single banal point into a dissertation, as this point itself is proving).  Here we go.

  • The Voice.  Said voice had changed already, the last time I posted.  It’s gone through the process of cracking, deepening, squeaking and cracking some more, and now it’s finally started to settle.  I think it’s safe to say that speaking is a lot more pleasant now; it comes a lot more naturally.
  • Hair, hair everywhere.  I didn’t realise that my legs were hairier because I no longer have a bath, but on a weekend home I noticed far more of a change than I’d originally thought.  I have a line of dark hair leading up to my navel now (whatever it’s called), the backs of my legs are as hairy as the fronts, and I never thought I’d be so excited about it.
  • I am also the proud owner of a single shoulder hair.  I thought it was worth mentioning.  It’s quite long, but I think it’s starting to get lonely.
  • Very early on, dark hairs on my chin and above my upper lip started appearing.  I shave them and can still feel the stubbliness afterwards.  They are fine still, and wouldn’t be visible unless you were looking for them (and if I wasn’t shaving them, obviously), but the fact that they’re there is a huge comfort.  There are more and more of them every day, but they’re still far from being Proper Shiny Facial Hair.
  • My hunger has stabilised, and I’ve been steadily gaining weight.  Very very comforting, since I have always had trouble gaining weight in the past.
  • Time has been hard to find, and since starting T no extra deliberate exercise has been done, but I’ve been doing a lot of walking.  I’d not expected anything to come of that, because it’s no more than I did before (when I’m stressed, I pace, and an anxiety disorder means I’m pretty much stressed most of the time).  But my legs have changed shape completely.  They’re chunkier, more defined, and my strength has increased massively.  My upper-body strength has boosted noticeably as well, despite nothing having been done to catalyse it.  No complaints here, that’s for sure.
  • My fat is redistributing, but I never had that many curves to begin with, so it’s not that noticeable yet.
  • I’ve been told by others (including Dr Lorimer, who’s only seen me twice) that my face looks different, but I’ve yet to notice much there.
  • Lo and behold, the acne’s back.  With a vengeance.  It’s driving my senses crazy so I’m seeing a doctor next week in hope that they’ll come up with something to help.  During Puberty Number One, I did over-the-counters, prescription topicals, antibiotics and even oral contraceptives (which, thinking about it, is hilarious, given that not only was I a FT…erm…Not-F trans person taking a testosterone blocker, but I was – and still am – aromantic and asexual, but there we go), and nothing made any difference.  I started getting acne, although admittedly not badly, when I was eight, and I’m 20 on Tuesday, so I think it’s fair that I want it sorted out, don’t you?
  • And speaking of Odd For Asexuals, I now officially have a sex drive, which – for those who don’t know from experience – is not a good mix with gender dysphoria.  That and the acne are so far the only things I could do without.
  • I also have some extra growth.  And that’s all I’m saying.

So I think that just about covers it.

Passing
I’m passing most of the time now; in that people assume I’m male without knowing any of my history, apart from one Very Stubborn Person who apparently remembers me from last year (although I don’t know him personally, and I don’t think we’ve ever spoken) and will not get his pronouns right.  But then again, I’ve not corrected him, because he doesn’t speak to me, just about me while I’m there, and I see little reason to.

Lots of positives though.  Everyone at uni uses the right name, and the right pronouns, and only my parents have ever slipped up.  Ever. They’re still slipping up regularly, and they still talk about their “daughter” with their friends and the family I have no contact with (by choice), which is probably not helping.  Sometimes it feels like they’re ashamed, but since I don’t interact with the people they haven’t told, it’s not up to me to force the issue, and it only bothers me because it hinders their ability to get their names and pronouns right.

But at uni it is glorious.  It seems as if no one is remotely surprised to hear about my being trans, and their ability to switch so easily almost reinforces the point that it makes more sense to them too that I’m better in my trans configuration than in the false female one (and since I’ve never really presented as female with much enthusiasm, if at all, that might have something to do with it).  Even my Personal tutor and the lecturers who knew me from last year had no trouble adapting.  Huzzah for humanity!

Some people at uni – those who don’t know me or my history, that is – have even been so sure about my gender that they have corrected others who have been less sure.  Yes, you read that right.  With no prompting or awkward explanations on my part.  And even better, those who have been corrected usually seem relieved, as if they had previously just been guessing, and then accept it without question and get it all right from then on.

It’s incredibly comforting, and as much as I hate to sound all mushy and float-y-thinking-y (explaining that term would take up a post in itself, so I’ll just pretend you all understand it), empowering.  Support, even when unintended as such, can have a profound effect on the general outlook of a person.  And knowing that my coming out adventures (especially because I’ve ended up doing more than I’d expected to) have not only gone well, but have been accepted as if they’d all been waiting for me to say it from the start, is helping me reach that critical point.

Now I’m of the general opinion that people will hear it, whether they want to or not, and then they can take it and deal with it the right way or fuck right off.

And that’s where I’ll end… on an, erm, high note.

Posted in Gender, Life, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments