I Recognize This Place

I recognize this place, I’ve been here before

More than once.

As usual I describe it as being in a funk or occasionally a deep funk.

Which is simply a self-protective way of disguising what is actually mental illness.

So I’m not in a funk, nor just feeling sad or feeling down.

I’m in the throes of a major depressive episode.

So… having been here before I know how this goes.

The first thing is to stop the slide.

Call the therapist,

Explain I need help, it’s bad, it’s getting worse, I’m scared.

Her list of objectives is pretty simple.

Keep me alive, keep me out of the hospital.

Sounds simple, straight forward. Just wish it was.

Discuss the options, make her promises for one more day, one more night.

Even though the point of it all eludes me.

So the battle goes on

In a war that promises to go on forever.

I Gave Her My Word

I gave her my word
I’d be here in the morning

That didn’t stop me from uttering
My prayer not to wake up again

Because that wouldn’t be like breaking my promise

What I’ve learned is that those prayers
Don’t work any better

Than the ones I whispered as a child
To wake up as a girl

The Dream took me Back

The dream took me back as dreams sometimes do

To that previous life.

The time of suits and ties and wingtip shoes

Business meeting haircuts, leather portfolios and hundred-dollar pens


It was a role I knew well but never owned.

Stolen from tv shows and business magazines.

Borrowed from those that took their rehearsals

So much more seriously than I.


I spent the night trying to find the answer

To someone else’s problems.

To prove that I belonged, that I was indeed one of them.

I needed their gratitude to affirm my value


Yet who was I?


I didn’t hear my name spoken, or any name

Was I Rachel or was I Richard?

Is he still in there? And does it really matter, if it was a dream?

Or is it simply a synapse or two that refuses to fade away?


Could it be a message fighting to surface from deep within?

To covey a meaning I cannot seem to grasp.

The question remains, will he always be there

Waiting in the darkness to poison certainty with doubt?

Full Circle

I used to chase quiet spots at the base of waterfalls

Where flowers grew to the water’s edge

Where in solitude I could write hundreds of words

on the shape of the swirling clouds above

Or the rise of the mornings fog on the mountainside

I wrote dozens and dozens of pages

On the beauty of finding myself,

At the surprise

of finding within me, courage I never knew existed.

Year after year, the words trickled forth

From a vast reservoir of emotional memories

Impounded over a lifetime

They made their way onto paper then out into the world.

I was so proud of the story I was creating

In the face of fear and uncertainty

Fashioning a life from bits and pieces

Copied from others or as imitations of the visions

I saw in the world around me.

My confidence nurtured acceptance

And eased my passage through the world.

With fewer slights and fears to cloud my mind

I’ve felt secure in my visibility and

proud to leave my mark on the world.

Yet always on the horizon depression has lain in wait

Ready to assault my heart with lies about my worth

Stating with certainty that every friend

Will eventually break my heart.

And so it is, I pass my days, from confidence to doubt.

Mother’s Day Rebirth

I lay unaware, stretched out like a corpse on a mortuary slab.

Gone but apparently not irretrievably so

I can only imagine the burst of adrenaline

That exploded in that room,

But for me time had ceased to exist.


A minute or a lifetime could have passed

The events only reconstructed later

by nurses’ comments and strategically placed bruises.

Testimony to incredibly enthusiastic CPR.

That had transpired in my absence.


I returned to the living at the insistence

Of 1000 volts of electricity

Its ability to negate the effects of gravity

affirmed by my vertical rise from the table.

and pain beyond anything I could have imagined.


Pried from momentarily dead vocal cords

A shout announcing my return to the living

And a plea of,” Don’t do that again!”

Then the questions, “where am I?”

What just happened?


It slowly became obvious whatever it was,

Was far from being concluded.

Voices from the darkness provided a running commentary

While screens staring down gave proof in black and white.

That my heart while now beating, was in serious trouble.


I watched, fascinated at an unexpected glimpse into

The mechanics of my mortality.

At an analogue of a great river system

With its largest tributary now completely blocked

It’s downstream course white and bloodless.


I watch as a snake dark and lifeless, slowly makes its way upstream,

Toward the blockage, beyond which no blood moved

A tiny push forwards the smallest pull backward

Subtle directions issuing forth from beyond my awareness


It’s left to me to trust that the final outcome

Will be whatever it is destined to be

It was at this point I surrendered completely to

The peace of the darkness to await the answer.

I died on Mother’s Day

A few weeks ago, I died.

It was a quiet Sunday morning

Filled with warm sunshine

and a mild chest discomfort

I surprised myself

by doing the prudent thing

without knowing what I was doing

I arrived at the ER…Just in case

I listen as someone is told it could be a

Heart attack.


That’s me they’re speaking to.

We’re going to lay you out on this table

And check out a few things, just to be sure

Just relax we’ll take care of everything.

A gentle push, an insistent pull, they align my body

Beneath the banks of technology

I’m looking up, into so many earnest faces

the self-assurance of those that have been here before

Their confidence seeks to reassure, to contain the rising panic

Among the crowd, my daughter, the tears in her eyes

Betrays the reassurance she seeks to convey

With a squeeze of my hand she quietly withdraws

In her place anxiety flows in, a cold grip on my imagination.

A disembodied voice says we just need to take a chest x-ray

I’ll just slide this plate underneath you

Stepping out of sight to take the x-ray

My heart chose that moment to stop.

No bright celestial lights appeared

No chorus of angelic voices

One minute the reassuring background murmur

The next minute, blackness and a silence as deep as death itself

Gone in that instant, my entire lifetime of certainty

And so, it was that I died on that Mother’s Day

Tomorrow’s Promise

Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone

How many times had that rolled across my lips?

A trite cliché with just enough philosophical import

to prove my intellectual depth

It’s the companion to “don’t take anything for granted “

Which of course I did

Which of course, everyone does

But as with all things, perspective is everything

And mine has been blasted into atoms

A lifetimes’ assumptions wiped away in an instant

Tomorrow isn’t promised takes on a whole new meaning

when the permanence of an unending string of days

is shown to be an illusion.

I’m now left with a void to fill

A void from which all my certainty had been extracted

A place that once was filled with religious dogma

Now filled simply with the unknown.

How am I supposed to carry on?

Certain now in the knowledge that life could,

without the slightest warning, end in any moment

and how without the intervention of providence

would have ended on that fateful Mother’s Day.

If I had crashed my car on the way to the hospital

I would have died

If I had gone home to lay down when I didn’t feel well

I would have died,

sobering realizations each.

Without a hint of how to cope with them.

I’m left to wonder if there was a reason

Things played out as they did.

Is there any hope I will ever understand?

Anxiety Comes in Darkness

There was a time that the nighttime brought me comfort

Under the warm closeness of its protective blanket

the day’s trials faded to insignificance.

Its soothing silence cancelling the noise of negativity

But this is a new day, the old norms no longer apply.

Now with so many assaults vying for prominence

The darkness has lost its ability to protect me

Once the ultimate refuge, a place of safe retreat

Now a fearful place, where my greatest fears lie in wait

Again, and again I wake, alone in the darkness

Without another’s gentle touch

To calm the flutter in my heart.

I Thought This Was Settled

I’ve wondered where the tears have been hiding

during this past month of smiles and orgasms.

This morning they announced their return from their brief vacation,

Overflowing with feelings of inadequacy they proclaim, today I am not enough.


Why does it matter today but did not yesterday?

I’m curious how others keep from losing their way

as I desperately struggle to hold onto who I am


How could I have lost all that once was thought to be unalterably settled?

Sudden flashes of incongruity, unexplained waves of dysphoria

shout that I don’t belong, that I’m not who I think I am.

That all the bits of womanhood I’ve gathered to myself

are just props in the stage production, in which Rachel is simply a character


What triggers this wave of self-doubt, has always remained just beyond reach

My intellect has proven to be no match

for deeply ingrained fears of being an imposter.

A lifetime of immersion in the masculine world

created patterns that although appearing to have been erased

have proven yet again to be indelible.


At a moment’s inattention they reassert themselves

Today, sitting on the edge of that familiar dark hole

Stuck in limbo, between then and now,

Between tears and laughter with no idea

How to move one way or the other


The theme for today is fear

Fear that I’ll lose my balance and slide into darkness

There are few of life’s battles as exasperating as those against my own thoughts.

The belief that I should be able to battle back

To take control, and exert my will,

has been proven to be a total fallacy.


I know the signs, I know the coping strategies

But as so much in life, it’s so much easier said than done

I am powerless to influence the direction

Of the wave bearing down on me.

So here I sit



Behind those Eyes



I’ve spent part of the evening staring at this photo, trying to decide what it is that lies behind those eyes.

Not long ago, during a particularly difficult time, my therapist told me I should write a letter to myself at seventeen. The goal, to find a way to forgive that person their foolish acts and stupid decisions that created such chaos. She said I had to learn to accept that it was what I needed to do to survive even though I never understood that.

Then suddenly appearing in a newsletter from my high school, is that person, at seventeen captured for all time in the very heart of the storm. Shortly after this photo was taken, I had a breakdown which looking back, totally changed my life. Looking deeply into his eyes,  I search for any hint of the turmoil raging under the surface? What does an impending breakdown look like? If I had had someone to turn to, or someone that recognized the signs, was there anything that they could have said or done that would have made a difference in how life unfolded?

My struggle with gender dysphoria was well under way at this point. In payment for the guilt and shame I felt at my perverted thoughts, I had already begun my collection of self-inflicted scars. When that pain wasn’t sufficient, thoughts of suicide were frequently added to my daily struggles.

I know what it was like to live that life, I have not forgotten. It lives on vividly, burned into my memories for all time.. Yet this photo takes all that pain and uncertainty and gives it a concrete existence.  What I see from this vantage point fifty years later, is deep sadness, eyes that look out toward a future holding no promise of any way to stop the suffering.