Chemistry and Smiles

images2I have never really been acutely self aware, Its only in the time since I began to transition that the thousands of moments that make up each day have stopped sliding by unnoticed.

In the year before my gender confirmation surgery I walked, almost every day. I was trying hold back the ravages of time, strengthen some abdominal muscles to make my recovery easier. I walked 5 or 6 miles four or five times a week and over the course of that year I walked over a thousand miles. I think it definitely helped as I was up and walking again within a few weeks of my return home.

I was doing well, but as usual a storm was brewing on the horizon. The anti depressant I had been taking wasn’t working anymore and a change in medications was a disaster. Then there was the election which made me insane. In August of that year it all caught up with me, I stopped walking, my diet went to hell and I started smoking again. How I thought that would help anything is beyond me, but I never blamed the depression I was dealing with or should I say not dealing with. My Zoloft experience, otherwise known as my Zoloft detour into the night of the living dead convinced me to skip the antidepressants completely. It wasn’t long before I was back on the roller coaster again, up and down, up and down.

I have said that I’m not absolutely opposed to taking medication to ease the wild swings in my world, but I’m not willing to abandon all of my joyful moments in order to avoid the sorrowful ones. So it was, that after a number of months on the emotional carnival ride, I was forced to reassess my situation. My conclusion was that I had only one course of action and so with a bit of mild trepidation I agreed to try another antidepressant. I know that all these negative thoughts and self destructive habits all boil down to an upset in the chemistry of my brain. Although knowing and accepting are definitely two different things. Back to the chemistry lab I go…..

Well I’m happy to report that the first week has found me back to my old self, or at least on the road to that destination. I’ve begun walking again, it’s been two days since I’ve smoked and it even seems that I have lost a couple of pounds.

So here’s to a long and satisfying run with this miracle of modern chemistry.

 

 

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Amidst the Waves

imagesMy life exists amidst these waves,

laughter and tears swing in time to their rhythm,

Undulations passing in relentless cadence

Pursuing their endless journey beyond the horizon.

 

I’m left to rise and fall, as crest follows trough.

Sadness, dense and impenetrable, is once again spreading

Each time I hope to be the last, yet wishful thinking won’t make it so

Each arrival leaving me blind to all the joy that came before.

 

I long for the first rays of morning and the return of the light

But dawns arrival, reveals sadness stretching beyond my sight.

Preserving my remaining happiness depends on forward motion

Like a flat stone skipping across calm waters.

 

To stop, is to dive headlong into a vast despondent sea.

Yet this eventual plunge seems inevitable, unstoppable.

Intervals between each touchdown have grown briefer,

The rise from each momentary graze becoming shallower.

 

Whether I settle gradually as momentum fails.

Or crash abruptly on the face of a windblown wave, the result is the same

I’m submerged once again, shrouded in silence, cloaked in darkness.

Struggling again to regain the surface, to divine heavens direction

 

At last it appears that I am lost, and exhaustion has taken me body and soul

When fighting further seems pointless, the peace beyond calls to me.

At the moment when acceptance of finality has replaced fear

The surface parts and I stare again into the blue of a cloudless sky above

 

Sun shines down upon my face, my lungs fill with unexpected reassurance

A raging sea only moments ago, now lies tranquil and calm

Buoyed by the unexpected passage of the storm,

I float placidly as my strength returns, as my hopes are renewed.

 

Once more, from the light into the darkness and back again into the light

Once more the cycle has been completed.

Once more I turn and begin the steady passage back to shore.

Once more I wonder how long the light will last.

Waves of Darkness

I walk the sands at the water’s edge in search of a balm

To an ocean of dark thoughts and pain suddenly gripping my heart.

Is the answer out there somewhere in the rolling waves

Their constancy soothing to my fear for the future

 

Standing here at the shore, the sea stretching to the horizon

Planting my feet, I imagine them immovable against the advancing tide

Staring in fascination as the dark waters swirl and rush toward me

Unimpeded by obstacles in a relentless advance up the beach,

 

Suddenly doubting my resolve, I take a step back and then another

While the fear of being overwhelmed roils to the surface

The waters cease their advance, and pause momentarily suspended

Yielding at last to the resistance of incline and coarseness of sand

 

I recognize in the motion and mystery of this dark ocean,

A kinship with the thoughts and movements of my mind,

Never still, moving to its own rhythm, at times steady and thoughtful

At times lashing out in anger and confusion, its direction erratic

 

The next waves builds, its power indiscernible at this distance

Will this be the one that overcomes all of my resistance?

Its true strength unapparent until its potential is unleashed

My pride in my ability to stand against the tide seems foolish.

 

I breathe a momentary sigh of relief at the realization that I am out of its reach.

Yet today’s victory over my dark thoughts provides only temporary refuge

Each successive wave another opportunity to be overwhelmed.

Victory today only affords an opportunity to fight this battle again tomorrow.

 

An ocean of waves stretches as far as my eyes can see and beyond

The next wave draws closer and grows more formidable with each moment

I brace for the power of the onrushing water with acceptance that it’s too late to run,

If I have underestimated its strength, survival becomes the only hope.

 

Swirling depression wraps about me, rising higher and higher.

When it seems that all is lost, it recedes from whence it came

Yet in its rush to return it carries with it bits of sand, bits of me

One grain at a time my strength begins to vanish,

 

In its place a hollow where my foundation once stood

Each fleeing wave, shouts that permanence is illusionary

Luckily so far, I have danced beyond the reach of the darkest waters

It is time to turn my back to the ocean and walk inland

Am I Old? or I Am Old!

I look down at the bruise on my arm, I haven’t the faintest idea where it came from or what caused it, which speaks to several points. First, that it looks like my mothers arm when she was older and secondly, things like this never happened when I was younger.

If you asked me how old I am I would say 39. That is how old I feel. I’m attracted to women for the most part and they all seem to be about 39 or close to it, just coincidence? The calendar has another idea, it shouts out that I’m 64, when I insist that can’t be true it begins to roll through the milestones of my life my marriage at 28, birth of my daughter at 32, the jobs, the moves from city to city, each with its corresponding year attached. I add them up again and again, the result always comes out the same.

My mind still resists the facts. If they hold true then I have missed most of my life. Now that I have finally found the courage to live the life I deserved, time is running out. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to experience as the woman I am. Experiences that I was always denied. I want to be in love, I want to be desired, I want to be cherished as the feminine soul that I am.

All that came before this time was akin to a prison sentence. Time stretching out before me without an end, a time to simply be endured. Now is the prize to be savored, but as much joy and satisfaction as I draw from this moment and as insistent as I have been about never wasting precious time on regret, it appears that it is not possible to keep the “what if” questions from arising. It is such helpless feeling, there is simply nothing that can be done, no way to redo the past, no way to recapture my lost youth. It is not only the youth that escaped, I would not go back to my childhood as it was, that is not what I long for. I long to go back to my childhood that never was.To have grown up as the woman I knew I was, but when I was young, this metamorphosis was not even a remote possibility, there wasn’t any sense in dreaming for something that could not ever going to happen, but….

Things change, people change, society has certainly changed. I now live my life as I should have lived it all along, however so many things are pinned to points on life’s timeline. I struggle to accept that those days are long gone. Proms, college, weddings, the milestones of a life as a woman. I can only watch as others move through life’s events  and hope that they are as appreciative of their good fortune as I know I would have been.

What really hurts are those years when these changes were possible, when I knew they were possible and yet I still could not muster the courage or the will to commit to that first step. That ten  years feel like they belonged to me and I feel now as if I squandered them. If I could only have those years back, but there is no bargaining for such things, leaving me to grapple with the question,

Is what I can have going to be enough?

If not what then?

 

 

 

Reflections on a Trans Woman’s Passing

In Memory of Brynn Kelly

I cry because I never met her
I cry because I knew her so well
She is the sister I never had
Her death, leaves me an only child

I could not have imagined her pain
Though I live some of it every day.
Her loss is felt by us all
Yet how anonymous her passing

I cannot understand why she could not go on
Although at times I feel exactly the same
The reasons are always the same
Even though we each claim them as our own.

She was a writer, accomplished at her craft
Yet unable to rewrite her own story.
What happens to all of her words?
Composed yet uncommitted to paper

Did they cease at her passing
Have they been lost to the world?
Or do they exist somewhere in the ether
Waiting to be discovered

Was there a time that day when just the right word
Spoken at just the right moment, in just the right tone
Could have rewritten the ending of her tragedy
Turning it into just another bad day

So much we will never know

Something Changed

As my therapist started to tell me the arrangements she had made. A backup plan to safeguard my sanity during her vacation absence, I said don’t worry it’s OK, it will work out. I watched as her composure changed ever so slightly. What she wanted to say but was prevented by simple professional good manners was “What the hell did you say?” Granted she hadn’t heard anything even remotely like that from my lips in almost six months, but today something had changed. I repeated myself and assured her that she had in fact heard me correctly. Breaking into a bigger than usual smile, she grabbed her recorder and asked if I would like to repeat it one more time so she might preserve it digitally for all time. It was an acknowledgement that indeed something was different. It had been only a few days since the last of my classic melt downs. The day when all of my elaborate plans for my near term future simply blew up.

I had melted into a puddle of oh woe is me, what will I do, there is no hope, I had a week to get out of my apartment, I hadn’t finished packing, I had nowhere to move to and my son in law had shown himself to be a transphobic ass. I had also lost two friends that I thought would be lifetime friends but turned out to be moving in a different direction. It was several days filled with one problem after the other but instead of the usual response of let’s see how far down Rachel can go. I decided not to go there.

At a previous therapy session it had been suggested that perhaps I could use additional help for my ongoing mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts.  It had scared me so badly, that thinking about it makes it hard to catch my breath. In retrospect, it might have been just the wake-up call I needed. I spent hours thinking about where I am and where I had come from, was I making this worse than it needed to be? The events that had struck my life were all real but did I exacerbate the resulting emotional toll? The conclusion I came to was that yes, I was indeed a co-conspirator in this drama. What I’m not sure of is why now, did I wring all the available sympathy out of this misery or could it be as simple as some change in chemical balance? Does it matter, not really unless I want to spend my time worrying when the problem will reappear.

I have decided that I will accept this as a gift, I have had ten days in a row of smiles and positive thoughts and I’m slowly beginning to remember the previous three years. Years where I would tell anyone that would listen how my life was awesome, that some days invariably sucked but that my life was still awesome.

Here’s to a return to awesomeness and acceptance.

 

 

PTSD and other Mysteries

I have heard all my life, people claim to be suffering from some form or other of PTSD from some type of life event. I always poo pooed their claims, they’re be being too sensitive, suck it up and get on with your life. I could accept it as a result of combat or horrific traffic accident but as a result of getting fired, really?

I was privileged to again be shown how simplistic my views sometimes are. It is time to accept that this is a world filled with complexity, that the human condition is one of nuance and mystery. I would like to think that it doesn’t apply to me, it does. I would like to think that I can use my intellect and simply think my way out of this, I can’t. In fact, I believe that the empathy I feel, the sensitivity that is such a significant part of the way I make my way through the world has made it worse for me. All this is to say that I have been living a firsthand experience in what PTSD is really like.

I came to the coffee shop this morning in a really good mood, enjoyed a meaningful conversation on poetry with a friend that is a writer. I sat down to write a blog or a poem or a list of subjects I would like to address in a slam poetry venue. I’m not sure exactly where I would have ended up if the phone hadn’t rung, but it did.

Looking at the screen as it rang, a cold chill ran down my spine, the call is from my lawyer. I have had his name on my list of people to call for at least a week. Each time it would rise to the top I would find other things I needed to add ahead of him. I knew perfectly well that I was avoiding the emotional upset that would accompany our conversation, but try as I might I simply could not force myself to make the call………….It was time to face it, I answered.

At the first hello it all came rushing back, I’m in the manager’s office and I’ve been terminated. The feeling that a bucket of ice water had been poured over my head, a bucket that in fact had no bottom to it. The absolutely paralyzing fear, the shortness of breath as my mind struggled to accept that this was actually happening. The total disbelief that somehow I deserved to be treated this way. I relive the humiliation again and again as I beg for my job. The cold unfeeling response thrown back across the desk along with a sheaf of papers to sign.

The realization that after almost four years of trying to figure out who I was and charting a course to become that person, everything had been swept away in an instant. I had dealt with a divorce, the sale of my home, moving, the loss of a great many of my friends and now this.
All this took place in the moment after I had answered the phone with a shaky hello. The call lasted only a few moments. I answered a few questions about my agreement with the timeline and a status update and it was over, but it wasn’t over, it was only the beginning.
Now, the aftermath, my mind was free to swing into full blown over reaction mode. First I need tears, no good meltdown is worth its weight without a lot of tears. Then start the loop, over and over. That film will play again and again, all day and almost certainly part of the night.
OK, Ms. Therapist I surrender, it’s time to come up with a new plan, because it’s obvious I still have a lot to learn.