Family Ties

Families are a complicated organism, this is especially true when one is trans. All the emotions, all the politics, the hurts and slights present in the world at large are also present in the family dynamics of those of us that are transgender. To this toxic mix we also have to add a dose of guilt along with potentially a sense of betrayal, when our expectations clash with their actions.

It’s always said that blood is thicker than water, While that may be true in some cases it isn’t a universal truth, it depends entirely on context and expectations based on your particular perspective. Does a hurt delivered by a family member hurt more than the same insult delivered by a stranger, Does their inability to understand your situation allow them to claim the “I had no idea excuse.”

My former brother in law and his wife were incredibly hateful to me when I began to transition and it ended very badly, so naturally their beach house is the location for a Campbell family get together. After the way I was treated I would never go there, and in fact I haven’t had any contact with them for almost three years. There is no doubt in my mind I would not be welcome and absolutely nothing would be accomplished by my showing up.

The trouble I’m having is my obviously unrealistic expectation that family should consider my feelings when planning events like this. I usually find out it second hand, an offhand comment that simply appears in an otherwise innocent conversation.

So I write, dumping all my hurt feelings, my sense of betrayal, my disappointment into poems and blog posts. sometimes they’re angry, sometimes bitter and always somewhat sad. Needless to say the words never make any difference.



Storm Clouds

I can feel the downward pull at the corners of my mouthstorm clouds

As if these tiny muscles had forgotten how to resist the pull of gravity

It always seems to start with the disappearance of my smile

A warning issued like the storm flags rising on the coast

The signs of the coming tempest unmistakable to any that would see

The darkening sky, the rising wind, the deepening frown.

What drives the storm, and which came first, the thought or the gale

Could knowledge of its origin restrain its progress or shift its path?

Concern shifts to how bad will this be, will simply closing the shutters suffice?

Or do I need to flee to higher ground?

As the day draws to a close, darkness settles incrementally

While the threat of a desperate battle remains unfulfilled.

The night passes slowly, sleep arriving reluctantly

Ears strain for the first rumble of thunder that never comes

Curiosity at what awaits the coming light of day

Provides the theme for restless dreams.

At the first moment of awakening awareness

Gratitude shines at the sunlight that greets me.

Hurriedly scanning the horizon for hidden turmoil

The storm, its energy spent in the darkness,

Nowhere to be seen.

Law of Unintended Consequences

I’ve written about the Cruel Irony of being triggered by individuals whose job is to help me.

There was a time that I would never have let them or anyone else know what it was that had suddenly turned my world upside down. To my credit, my growth into the person I am today has included a giraffeshealthy dose of self-confidence as well as a new-found ability to allow myself to be vulnerable. What that meant in this case was that this was the very first topic of conversation at my next therapist appointment.

In fairness to her, after unloading all my shit, in a nice way naturally, we had a long discussion about the demons rattling in my head that were so offended.

I accept the rationale that medications need to be monitored especially since the anti-depressant treatment is basically a trial and error crap shoot.  The problem that I have is that I have carried a load of baggage through my life, much of it related to my existence as a trans woman. Years of having thought I was insane and it would only be a matter of time before I was carried away to a locked psych ward has left me slightly less than trusting. This fear prevented me from seeking a therapist all my life much to my own detriment. The feeling that these providers could be whispering secrets about me, while not really rational, is no less real to me.

The casual mention of bipolar disease lit up my fight or flight response warning lights. A diagnosis like that would carry so much more stigma than being simply depressed, not only in my own head but in the world at large. It changes the response from one of sympathy to one of fear, with many people view it as something akin to schizophrenia, a mental illness that could potentially make you dangerous.

So, an off-hand comment about my fear that the good mood I was in wouldn’t last or was all an illusion led it become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  In the end I have decided that I’m not bipolar, an opinion shared by my therapist and others, but the smallest seed of self-doubt was left behind.

As an accomplished over thinker having worst case scenario as a core strength I’m sure this will come back to bite me at some point.

Cruel Irony

Some may be aware of the six months I recently spent down at the bottom of a deep hole, the sky a tiny dot of blue almost infinitely removed from my existence. It was a very long six months and it wasn’t the first time I had taken up residence in that place.
Then about four months ago I agreed to meet with a new mental health provider, one that was more versed in medication and could actually write a prescription. The goal was to find an antidepressant that works and doesn’t make me feel like a dog turd in return.

The first appointment arrived and proceeded with the obligatory recounting of the last four or five years’ worth of ups and downs, suicidal thoughts and extended stays at the bottom of that well I mentioned earlier. Add to this a brief foray into my childhood and all that being a closeted transgender adolescent added to this mix. What I discovered was that even if you’re feeling pretty good that day, this retrospective is sure to bring up something that will linger all day. It wasn’t exactly a pleasurable hour and a half but with that out of the way we could move on to reason I came, the “meds.”

Her approach was conservative, “lets start with what you’re taking now” I had good results when I started but it seemed to have become less effect with time. I was only taking 20mg so first step, up the dose. Then wait…..

OK that seems a bit better but not quite where I hoped to be, so up the dose again. Now I’m at the maximum dose. More waiting, then suddenly one morning, presto… smiles and happy thoughts.

Three months later, I’m still smiling and getting ready for my next check in. The expected questions are waiting, how are you feeling? how have the last months been?

I said I’ve been great but ended the declaration with the depressed person’s lament, “I hope it lasts”

This was her opening to make sure I knew that what goes up must come down. Then it was on to an interrogation about how happy I’ve been, a brief mention of bipolar ensued which left me defending myself against the implication that I was manic. Her mention of having spoken to my therapist planted a lingering suspicion about what the two of them could have said about me.

Well, that appears to have cured me of my apparently irrational happiness, plunging me back into second guessing how I feel. I resisted medication for a long time thinking about just these concerns, if I feel better do I really feel better or it akin to having a couple of drinks. It has me wondering if my therapist knows something about me she hasn’t shared with me.

All in all, it knocked me a bunch of rungs down the ladder and left me wanting to scream

Fuck this, fuck it all…







Tell Me a Story

Deep into history I fall, thoughts meandering to times gone by.

Times not of my time, but of those passed to me in storiesillus058a,

As part of my passage through childhood.

As when voices were the only connection between generations.

I’ve grown up to contemplate history as an unbroken line,

Believing the intimate details of its passage always discoverable.

While true of the world at large, of events on the grand scale,

The sounds, smells, the intimate details,

dwell only in the memories of those souls present at the scene.

I’ve walked the cemetery in Johnstown and considered

The rows and rows of those taken in an instant.

Or the section containing families laid side by side, day by day

By the great flu epidemic, so many stories lost, so many voices silenced.

My father had a brother once, gone while still very young

James was his name is all I know, all the rest, the how, the why

wiped clean at dad’s passing, as a slate at the conclusion of the lesson.

Gaps in the knowing appear, leaving bits without continuity,

The line lies broken, littered with lingering questions,

All with answers unknowable.

We squander the opportunity to know, believing we’ll always have time.

Assuming that tomorrow will arrive, and we will greet it

risking that all may be erased by the unforeseeable.

The only certainty, that when the end comes, the stories vanish.

Replaced by deafening silence.

Lifes musical soundtrack

Mulling over the peculiarities of memory and the triggers that call up long distant lives. I hear a song from my youth, that song is imprinted on my mind and evidently will remain so until the bitter end. It wraps itself around good times and bad, conjures up faces that I haven’t seen in many years.

Its strange the way it and the other songs from the soundtrack of my life are so intimately woven in the fabric of those memories and stranger still the effect that my current mood has in determining the feeling I get from a given song.

If you were to ask me if I remember the words to a given song I would probably so no, but put that song on the radio and they all come flooding back including the harmony parts and the sequence of songs on that particular album.

Naturally it will then morph into an earworm and play over and over until I’m ready to go screaming into the night.

Living in Chains

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.” – The Eagles

Thinking of what I want to write about this morning when I arrive at my favorite coffee shop. This song came on the radio, and these words struck me right in the heart. It is such a metaphor for my life, I don’t think I could ever come up with a better way to express the time I’ve wasted.

With so much more behind than ahead it seems instinctive
That memories have more substance then the dreams that seem elusive
Yet dreams don’t carry the stain of already certain disappointment
At this point in my life I find that I have very few dreams left,

I’m unsure when looking back, what dreams I have ever really had
Other than the constant prayer that I arise one day with the sun
To discover that my life as a man had simply been a long dark nightmare.
Yet wishing could never make it so, having lived a life without courage

It calls for a titanic leap of faith, to imagine another life
To accept the truth that eluded me for decades
It fills my heart with satisfaction that I finally found the key
That I always processed the courage, to make the dream reality.

I have passed into the realm of my personal truth
Existence as the person I’ve always been
But I’ll never forget nor could I ever forget
Where I came from, That life in the shadows.