Posted in Personal

Stuck in the Middle

I’ve never been comfortable with middles. I much prefer beginnings. Beginning a new project always holds more appeal for me than working on one already begun. I acknowledge that there will be satisfaction in the finishing of a project, but before the end is the middle, and middles hold very little satisfaction at all.

Recently, I came to the realization that my life is currently constructed of middles. I’m in the middle of so many writing projects I can’t even count them, the middle between teenager and adulthood, the middle of transition (post voice-change, pre-beard), and the middle of my college career, teetering between finding my footing and trying to launch myself into the future after graduation.

I think one of the reasons I’m so uncomfortable with middles is that it’s hard to keep track of when the middle is beginning-middle or when it is middle-end. Right now, I am a week away from completing my sophomore year. Is this week still beginning-middle, or has it begun the middle-end? Should I still be losing myself in being in college, or should I start planning for the great unknown?

I am solidly in the beginning-middle of the math major, even as my time at college begins its shift to middle-end. This clash of middles makes me even more uneasy. It’s hard to decide what to do after college when I haven’t taken most of the upper level classes of my discipline.

Middles aren’t certain. While in the middle, there’s no way to predict what the end will look like, but the beginning is so far gone that you forget how to even came to be in the middle. College is a decently pleasant middle, more pleasant than the middle of mental health troubles. That’s a simultaneously comforting and frustrating middle, because rest assured, until I keel over at age one hundred and three, I will always be in the middle of some kind of mental health debacle.

For now, I suppose, I will have to come to terms with my existing within the middle. I guess I’m just in the middle of figuring that out right now.

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Posted in Personal

A Boy and His Uterus

13. I have been fainting for 3 months, stumping doctors as to what could possibly be wrong with me. My absences are starting to impede my academics, I am pulled off my soccer team, and the first attempts at medicating my mystery illness begin. It’s May 2012, and in the midst of the chaos, I begin my period. I am too ashamed to tell anyone at first, so it takes a day of bleeding through my pants for the truth to come out. Within 48 hours, I am in the hospital to try and stabilize the intense fainting episodes that follow. Within a month or two of starting menstruation, I begin birth control.

16. My mental health is tanking, my mood swings unpredictable and uncontrollable, and my eating all but stops. I have been on birth control for 3 years, and my doctors begin to suspect that it is impacting how my medications are being taken by my system. I am taken off estrogen-based birth control, and for the first time in my life, I have a regular period. Suddenly, my mental health gets exponentially worse, but now it becomes predictable. Like a werewolf on the full moon, when I begin my period, I go berserk. A chaotic mix of fury, anxiety, and all-consuming depression. Doctors are too afraid to mess with my medicinal cocktail, so they let it continue.

18. I have just started testosterone, ecstatic to be allowed to medically transition to the person I always knew I was. After three months of T, I still am menstruating. That’s not too unusual, it could stop later. 6 months pass. 9 months. A year. A year and 3 months. I’m still menstruating, and it devastates me every time. I end up completely bleeding through my pants in the Charlotte airport, spiral out of control, and end up sobbing, feeling broken, in the airport McDonald’s, bleeding through the flannel I have tied around my waist. It’s hard to find a light at the end of the tunnel, when I know every month I will be reminded of what evolution programmed my body to do.

19. After many hard conversations with my doctors, my family, other trans folk, my partner, and my friend, I find myself 8 days out from having a hysterectomy. And given my hard, heart wrenching relationship with my uterus, it should be an easy decision. It’s not. It is making sure that I will never carry a child, something that has been promised to me since I was young. I have a hard relationship with my body, as a lot of trans people do, and I’m learning how to be more comfortable with it. Having a hysterectomy is a piece of that. My six year It’s Complicated relationship with my uterus comes to an end in 8 days, and let me tell you, it’s complicated.

Posted in Personal

Change Is Scary; Transitions Are Terrifying

Preface: this is something I have to write in order to get my thoughts down. I don’t know how well thought out it is, or how uplifting it’s going to be. I often talk about the lighter topics regard my transition–you may not believe it, but I do censor myself sometimes–and right now, I need to be brutally honest.

Before I came out as trans, I was confused, depressed, terrified, and felt completely alone. When I came out, I was ready to be my authentic self. However, they don’t tell you in trans boot camp that those emotions don’t just go away because you are out. No, coming out just takes all of those raw emotions and paints them all over you where everyone can see them, and trust me, everyone has an opinion on them. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life is transition.

I don’t know if anyone believed me at first. I mean, they acknowledged my short hair and masc dress, they mostly called me Linden, mostly used he/him pronouns. A lot of people told me they weren’t that surprised. Yet, when I talked about wanting to start testosterone, I couldn’t escape the lectures about how risky it was, or how I wouldn’t know if that’s what I would want when I’m older, or how I was putting myself in danger. It took months, three hospitalizations, and a doctor telling my parents that having me start T might be the final resort in a long line of treatments that might “fix me.”

I started T, I moved to college, and I started living truthfully. My skin started to thicken with new, stronger emotions on top of the raw insecurities. Then in November, one month before my scheduled date, my top surgery was delayed because of a hospital stay. Though I tried to plead that having the surgery would remove a layer of dysphoria so thick that I might actually be able to breathe again, the brakes came back on. There was an air of “You’ve already started hormones, do you really need this?” Doubts started peeling back my skin, terrifying me. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I could just be happy without top surgery.

Spoiler alert: I had top surgery. It’s been 7 months now, and I can honestly say I have never been happier with my body. And you know what? I’m still dysphoric. I’m still fighting all those emotions I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

I officially scheduled a hysterectomy a few days ago. Well, that’s not completely true. My mom did it. I can honestly say that two and a half years ago, when I came out, I did not plan on ever having a hysterectomy. But I’m trans, and sometimes I have to do things that I don’t plan on, or even really want that much, to cope with the shitty circumstances I’m in, simply because I was born in this body. I’m terrified about the hysterectomy. I’m confessing that with the knowledge that I’m painting the raw emotions back on my skin and I’m learning how to be ok with that. I have to be ok with that. Being scared is ok sometimes; being scared is ok all the time.

Transitions are scary. I don’t just mean transgender-y transitions. All transitions. Change is terrifying. Life is constant motion, and I’m still finding my footing. I’ll figure it out. Until then, I always have late night blog posts, huh?

Posted in Personal

Left is Right/Right is Wrong/Right?

There’s a restaurant that I’ve been going to since I was a kid, and today I went there with my mom. As we were about to sit down, I raced off to the restroom. I began to turn right, as I had for years, but I stopped. Right was the women’s room. This time, for the third time in my entire life, I turned left, and used the restaurant of my childhood’s men’s room. That should feel triumphant; I have finally found myself, and I get to embrace that. But it doesn’t. It feels like a gaping loss.

In the women’s room of this restaurant, my ten year old self wept, curled into the corner of the stall, ashamed and demoralized after a fight with a friend. In this room, my twelve year old self screeched and laughed, flinging water at friends. In this room, my fifteen year old self told someone for the first time that I might actually like girls instead of boys. In this room, my seventeen year old self comforted my best friend as she cried into my shirt.

Now, that door, those memories, will always be closed off to me. And that’s okay.

Posted in Personal

A Year Ago

Facebook has this fun function now called “On This Day” where you can pull up posts you made years past on this particular day. I check it for laughs, the occasional sentimental posts, etc. However, since November 10th, there hasn’t been anything on my On This Day. I’ve realized that there won’t be until the 16th, because this week last year, I wasn’t posting on social media. That’s because this week last year, I was in the psychiatric unit of a hospital for a week.

Mental health needs to be talked about, but I’m not going to dissect the emotional intricacies right now. Most of you know me, most of you know that depression has been a long journey and fight for me. Most of you have probably experienced depression, either within yourself or within a loved one, and know the complexities of it. So, I’m going to start talking with you from that base assumption.

When I was first admitted, on November 10th, 2016, I was placed in a holding unit with no windows for 26 hours. My family was not completely aware of where I was, because I was not allowed to contact them. I was too upset to speak to anyone, and due to fear for my wellbeing, I kept my binder on the entire time. I was angry and non-responsive, blaming the world around me for my situation.

I don’t remember much of the next week except a blur of nurses, cold showers, and short phone calls with my loved ones.

Now, when I think back on it, I can understand that it was my fault. It wasn’t my psychiatrist for prescribing the wrong medications, it was mine for not taking them. It wasn’t the universe’s fault for giving me mental illness, it was my fault for not accepting my reality and working with it. Not to say I could have in that moment; I needed to not accept fault. However, that wouldn’t let me have any control over my situation.

It’s weird to me that that’s who I was last year: a scared kid who probably should have listened to literally everyone telling him he shouldn’t go to college. It’s kind of amazing, though, because I’m not that kid anymore.

Yeah, I still have depression. Yeah, I take four medications every single night. Yeah, life is still a constant battle, and I can’t always win. But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am the most consistently happy I’ve probably ever been in my life. I still get overwhelmed, I do often, but I can get back from it. I’m taking a full load of classes, I’m working, I’m doing extracurriculars, and I’m doing ok.

I think the main difference is that last year I was trying to do fantastic, and when I inevitably couldn’t,  I would spiral. This year, I’m aiming to do okay, and that’s something that not only can I do, I can surpass.

This year I’m doing fantastic.

Posted in Uncategorized

On Public School and Hypochondria

Fall is not a great time to be me. Not only am I pretty susceptible to the common cold, I’m also a bit of a hypochondriac. If my nose feels a little stuffy, I probably have a sinus infection, if not pneumonia, if not the plague. Now, I was a pretty hardy kid. I didn’t get that sick all too often, and if I did, I was better in a few days. Believe it or not, I attribute that childhood hardiness to my college-aged hypochondria.

In public school, it is heavily implied that you’d best be knocking at death’s door if you miss school. This meant that for a middle-schooler with little to no physical health problems, I had approximately zero excuse to miss class. That being said, my physical health was much better than my mental health ever was. I was an extremely anxious, depressed, and ADHD kid, and sitting in class surrounded by people who didn’t like me and teachers who thought I was an underachieving loudmouth was not my cup of tea.

This started to foster a tendency of mine to exaggerate symptoms in order to avoid uncomfortable or painful situations. It may have started consciously, but it soon turned into a beast I couldn’t control. Teachers stopped giving me clinic passes, the attendance office pretty plainly did not believe I was sick for the fourth time that month, and my parents were left with the tough task of dragging my ass to school.

When I actually became ill, it took everyone a bit to believe me. I was livid at the time, because I assure you, fainting is one of my top two least favorite things in the universe, but now I can kind of get it. My anxiety was the highest it had ever been at that point, due to pretty intense bullying, and it was the easy assumption to make. He’s a hypochondriac attention seeker: he’s faking it.

I wasn’t.

After I got mostly past my fainting, my hypochondria reached an all-time high. Every minor symptom of lethargy was a resurgence of POTS, or something worse. I have chronic knee pain, and if it ever spiked, I came to the conclusion that I would never be able to walk again.

Now, I’m in a weird point of my journey. I can acknowledge, at least, that my sniffles are not the plague, but that’s where all the signals point to for me. Because of this necessity for my younger self to imply death’s arrival whenever I was even mildly sick, I have a hard time breaking the habit now. My girlfriend helpfully points out that whenever I’m sick and I talk about being sick, my voice, which was fine a second ago, turns into a croak. I’m working on it.

Posted in Personal

Hairy Situations

I wrote this in class with the prompt, “Write your story in three different hair related moments.” Hope you enjoy!

Eight.

Sitting on the toilet in the cramped bathroom, my mom hacked at my long blonde matted hair with scissors. She had never cut hair before, had no aspirations to cut hair in the future. She was doing this purely out of necessity.

Two days earlier, a foreboding note had been sent home with big font spelling out the “LICE OUTBREAK” that was dominating my elementary school. My parents had been threatening for years to cut my hair if I didn’t get better at brushing it, and when the day came that I started frantically scratching my scalp, for my mom, it was the last straw. She explained to me in no uncertain terms that I was to sit down and let her cut out the mats that the lice had buried themselves under. I sat there, tap-tap-taping my leg, turning my head every so often, just to have my mom grab my jaw and force me to face forward.

I saw the mats hit the floor, and I reached up to feel my hair. What had previously gone down to my shoulders now halted right above ears, and my bangs were cut up to above my forehead. It looked somewhere between a balding fifty-year-old man and a bowl cut. I assure you, it was quite a look. I took one glance in the mirror and screamed. I raced out of the bathroom and into my bedroom, slamming and locking the door. I jammed a hat on my head and curled into a ball on my floor. I couldn’t stop wailing that I looked like a boy, and no one was ever going to see I was a girl.

Fourteen

Three weeks before the first day of high school, I announced to my parents that I was going to make a drastic change. Middle school had ended miserably, and I needed to improve upon myself for the mature high school image I aspired towards. The first step towards maturity, I had decided, was dying my hair blue. I ended up coaxing my mom into driving me to CVS to buy cheap blue dye, and by eleven o’clock that night, I had hair that was mostly blue…ish.

The next day, I was so pleased with myself. My sister hadn’t yet left for college, and I knocked on her door to show off my new do. She took one look at me and said, “You look like a clown.” It was like she had turned an off button. I shrank into myself. Suddenly I was struck by how awful it looked, but she assured me that if we went to a professional hair stylist, she could right the wrong I had mistakenly imposed on my hair.

Two weeks before the first day of high school, and one day before orientation, I went to a hair salon, where the same hair dresser who had been taming my hair for years tried to reverse the blue. A day later, I proudly walked into orientation with shiny, freshly cut and shampooed…grey hair.

Nineteen

After years of complaining about hating my long bushy hair, on my sixteenth birthday, I had 10 inches of it cut off. In five minutes, I had the shortest hair I’d ever had. Even shorter than the lice incident. Cutting my hair was like a gateway drug into expressing my gender identity. It was dizzying once my hair was gone how fast people just went with my quick transition from presenting as a girly-girl to presenting as a boy.

Now, three years later, I am growing my hair out. “Why?” my mom asks. “You’ll get misgendered so much more. Just cut your hair.”

“Why?” my friend asks. “You hated your long hair.”

Why? Because I didn’t hate my long hair. I hated the assumptions people imposed on me when I had long hair. Besides, if I don’t like it long, I can just cut it all off. It’s not like I’ve never done that before.

Posted in Uncategorized

Blood, Veins, and the Heart

On Tuesday, I donated blood. It really wasn’t a big deal to anyone other than me and the people whose lives are potentially going to be saved by my blood. It took a few days to realize why it was such a big deal to me. Now that it’s hit me, I’ve decided to write it down so I can stop thinking about it.

From ages thirteen to sixteen, I fainted pretty much all the time. Stood up too fast? Passed out. Bent over too fast? Out like a light. Sat down for too long? Syncopal episode. It got to the point where I fainted almost fifteen times a day, sometimes in bursts of five or six. At about fourteen, I was diagnosed with something called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, lovingly referred to as POTS. POTS defined my life. It determined what I ate, where I was allowed to go unsupervised (read: nowhere), when I was allowed to go to school, and how I felt on a daily basis. I was trapped in my own home; I was trapped in my own body.

After a long process of trying different experimental techniques, including one at Mayo Clinic that staved off the fainting for over a year, most of my symptoms are under control now. My heart rate is normal, if a little slow, my blood pressure is average, and I only faint about once every month or so.

In fact, my body is so normal that when I went in to donate blood, my heart rate, blood pressure, and hemoglobin were the perfect levels. Not to mention that afterwards, except for being a little floaty for an hour or two, I felt completely fine and faint-free!

Now, I see a lot of donations in my future. This future is so different than the one I had imagined for myself six, even three, years ago. I can’t wait to see what this new future has in store for me.

Posted in Personal

Some Same-Sex Suggestions

I love scrolling through my Facebook feed during pride month, because I get to see loving pictures of trans kids and their parents, queer couples, and just generally happy posts in a time filled with discrimination. So obviously I’m going to nitpick.

I have been encountering joy-filled post after joy-filled post of articles titled something like “Same-Sex Wedding Photos That Will Bring You Joy.” I would like to push back that those are not the photos I’m looking at. I’m going to say that I am actually looking at pictures of happy cis gay and lesbian couples. Yes, of course, that is so joyous and we need to see more of it. But the term same-sex is way more than that. 

When same-sex marriage was legalized, it also legalized same-sex queer + trans marriage, along with same-sex straight + trans marriage. Let me see the photos of two trans women, or a cis woman and a trans man, or of two same-sex non-binary folks. Don’t just show me the cisgender people. I know that they were the more visible targets of same-sex discrimination, but trans people aren’t being talked about at all. I, a trans male, love my cisgender, straight female partner and I want to see pictures that I can relate to.

To summarize this, call these amazing, loving posts “Gay Weddings” or “Queer Weddings,” unless you are going to include the spectrums that lie beyond those.

Peace,
Andrew

 

 

Posted in Personal

(In)visible

Here is a conversation I had this weekend in regards to my name change:

“I have only known you as Linden for 6 months.”

“The world has only known me as Linden for a year and a half; you aren’t that far behind the curve.”

The kid I was talking to stopped talking and just stared at me. He had a “what in the world?” expression on his face, but I didn’t clarify. It only then dawned on me that the boy I was talking to probably didn’t know I was trans. That’s a weird thought, honestly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need everyone in my life to know I’m trans. It is not the most important thing about me.

However, it’s weird to think that now, ten and a half months into testosterone, people look at me and assume “boy.” That was the secondary goal, right? Behind feeling more comfortable in my body, it was also a goal to be accepted more fully as male. But at this point, I’m just used to making trans jokes. All the time. What do I do now that not everyone knows I’m trans, so making a joke like that will either out myself or heavily confuse the person I’m talking to?

I want to stay visible, but it’s not a necessity anymore. I don’t have to correct strangers’ mis-pronouning me, and my name is legally Linden Andrew. For those who’ve known me, it is just one of those facts about me, but for those who don’t, they might not even know! Especially after top surgery. How bizarre.

So I have to make a split decision when I meet new people. Do I out myself? Or is it just not relevant to my relationship with this new person?

It’s pretty cool that I am just seen as male now, even by complete strangers.

Peace,
Andrew

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHANDLER! THE BIG ONE NINE!