Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Changes, mental pt 2 - how being yourself changes your head

So this chapter is all about the, let’s say, psychological changes that I have gone through as a result of starting hormones. And also coming out cause that is Huge! The emotional changes that I would suggest are not changes as a result of changing head chemistry – placebo effects I guess I could say. The changes I had read about that I hoped I would experience as a secondary effect of the hormones – and the ones I was somewhat sceptical about.

Taking the hormones. Well, I said in an earlier post that I felt ready to start hormones but, once I had them, I was suddenly weirded out by everything. At first, sure, I was apprehensive about taking the pills – but this was my dreams in pill form, dreams built over 30 years. So I just said “sod it, see what happens”. Well, straight away having started the meds it was no longer a dream. No longer something I wondered about. It was reality. Part of the apprehension comes from “what if they don’t do much? What if I still look like bloke? What if they make me ill?”. These are valid questions.

Some trans folk start hormones with insane expectations. Sometimes they will have a huge effect on your body and mind. But there are also women about who have taken them for years and honestly still look like blokes in dresses. I am not being mean, these people are amazing – the courage to carry on when you stick out must be so hard. Then there are the kids I see who just take to the changes like they had never been born male, they have it so much easier. Again, not easy and I still respect them hugely (with minimal but some jealousy) – transitioning is never an easy step. I wish everyone could take to them so easily.

And I hope, so much hope, that I am not one of those that does not have any visual changes. I expect that I will be clocked, that I will have tell-tale signs of m2f transition – but I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. (Oh how amazing makeup can be in this respect!) So I watched a whole bunch of transition timelines on YouTube. The inspiration you get from middle age men, who look like builders at the start and after a few years look like women – it really is an inspiration. 

It gives you hope. And this is a big part of writing this blog. Mainly it is a diary for my friends to understand me. But maybe at some point some folks will read my story, find the similarities and it will give them hope and courage to move forward, as I have from so many before me. 

Hope is such a huge word during transition. The biggest word in the English language.

So yes, I was scared and sorta remained so for about a month. But once you start taking them you realise you are finally doing what you always wanted to do. This is an amazing thing. You have hope from watching other internet folk. And yes, just knowing that you have made that step. It is amazing the boost you get from that. And then you start to notice little changes. Little changes here and there. It does not take much. But once you notice a little something the smile that creeps across your face. Oh gosh, I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat at such little things that no one else noticed. But to me they were huge. Maybe not at the difference itself but at the hope it gives you.  There are changes – there will be more. So you have lost of the stress of wanting to start hormones – and then you lose the stress of worrying they will not do anything. And it does not take much for this to happen. 

You suddenly feel that your dreams are within reach.

So it is happening. You are hopefully changing physically. (Two folk told me they thought I was ill because of how different I looked before I ‘came out’.) Now, I had planned to wait to go full time until I return to the UK (and finish my current job so as to not rock any boats). So I thought to myself  “ok, I do not need to tell anyone till then”. But as I say, I saw my mum a few months in and the changes were enough to let her know something was going on so keeping folk in the dark becomes harder. And then there is the other thing – you become happier. Noticeably so. And you wanna talk about it. So bad. Within a month of deciding not to tell anyone I had started slipping up all over the place. And once you tell one person you want to tell more. (Assuming, as I had, that everyone you know is super amazing. I guess in different circumstances I would be less keen – and understandably so. For those out there that get pain for coming out, I feel for you so very, very much. Xx)

So think about this (if you ain't been in a similar situation yourself) - you have this huge secret. You keep it to yourself. For me, this was for thirty years. Most of my life I had this big massive thing that I couldn’t even tell a therapist. This secret that I had hidden so deep that I had erected huge barriers to prevent anyone knowing anything. You have the fear of rejection. You have the fear of making your life difficult - opening yourself up to abuse from strangers. The knowledge that you will affect your job / career options. The fear that those you love will reject you or see you so differently that your relationship is forever changed. In my case, I never believed this – I know how amazing the folk in my life are. But even thought I did not believe it, it does not mean I did not fear it. Hell, I was not even sure that admitting this stuff would not change how I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF, after 30 years of contemplation, so how can I know what others would think?

And you are not just keeping things from people. If you keep a big secret you know how bad it feels. But when it is something that affects most of your waking life, as GID does, then you have to lie. You have to cover up things. You have to fudge truths. You have to change facts. You cannot give sensible reasons for things you do sometimes. For me, this hurt. I hated the situation and I hated the lies. I care about my family and friends too much. This gives you so much baggage. Each year an extra bit adds to the baggage. And it gets heavier and heavier.

But then you tell people. - and the order there is important. But you gain confidence as you go along. If you are lucky, like me, those you tell offer support and love and – best of all – total acceptance. And, damn – no more secrets. You can explain stupid things you did. You can explain flimsy lies you told folk. Ha, some folks immediately realised some of my past 'untruths'. You can be honest. The weight disappears and you really do feel like you are floating. 30 years of stress – gone. And in my very, very lucky case – without hurt or ‘losses’. In fact, I had so much support and understanding. All my lies were forgiven. Yes, I am THAT lucky! And you can talk, discuss, share. Be yourself with your friends for the first time ever. Amazing.

I should stop being teary now. But – that is how happy it made me. And still does when I remember.

So, you are reaching for your dreams, you have faced your biggest fear and you have released all the stress built up over years. You can now discuss things openly. And I can make up for 30 GOD DAMN YEARS of hiding!!! With this, there comes a sense of maturity. You just start to see things differently. You are finally able to start growing mentally as all the bad stuff takes up less of your brain power. And so you do feel yourself grow in maturity (despite having 14 year old girls boobs!). Do not get me wrong. I am still very silly and childish. My growing My Little Pony collection is a testament to that.

There are two vloggers I watched quite a lot before I started hormones (and as I started). These two women had ideas and thoughts similar to my own and made me feel less alone – given that a lot of vloggers are over the top camp kids I do not relate to. Both said a similar thing – but as one put it “who you are is not who you will be". This sounds odd. But the idea is that as you start hormones you will be able to deal with the changes better as you go on, as you mature. Do not worry about what will happen as you'll develop the mental tools to deal with the changes. This is so true. I am the same person. I have the same hobbies and likes. But I have gained a different perspective on things. I do see things from a slightly different angle. I put this down to the increasing maturity and a less cluttered brain. I am the same, and I feel the same. But I also feel different. Two very dear friends have told me separately that they can see how the weight has lifted; the constant dark cloud above my head has dissipated. How happy I am. And how comfortable I seem to be with myself.

And I guess that is it. I am comfortable with myself for the first time. And it feels amazing. I want to tell everyone. And I shall…

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Changes, mental pt 1 – just how different female brains are

So. The mental changes. WOW! They really are, um, mental! Seriously. It is hard to believe. As I discussed with the physical changes it is really hard to imagine just how strong and clear the differences mentally are. This I will split into two parts: The first, the differences I have noticed between before hormones and after, i.e. ‘male’ and ‘female’ brains from a trans point of view. The second; the psychological relief of finally transitioning, accepting it and coming out.

Ok. So let’s start with the changes that would seem to be a shift towards a female mind set and not just the psychological result of transition which I will discuss next. Er, these are my thoughts. I have read a lot, been through bunches of YouTube videos of m2f and f2m folk who have transitioned. I will never be a cis-female so I can never say for sure whether what I experience is the same as a cis-female or not. But I chat to friends and I think I am in a similar ball park at least. I come to these ideas from a point of cynicism. What I mean is, I read or watch these transition stories. And the mental changes sound like what you would expect as a kind of trope for cis-women. Stereotypes. Like they are saying what they want to believe. It is hard to imagine that a few chemicals can change a brain so much. The way of thinking, maturity, reactions and emotions. I was hoping for a few changes. But now I have them, damn. My cynicism was way misplaced. Hormones are AMAZING! They really do change your head.

Ok, ok. Enough rambling. What do they actually do?!?

The big thing - emotions. What I thought were emotions before? Well, turns out that they were really tuned down background images. The trope of the emotional female could be seen as a male point-of-view stigma used to keep women down. Now - this is just me. But since I started hormones - yes. I am a lot more emotional. My emotions are much closer to the surface. I can feel them. They are always there and can be struck at quite easily.  I need to clarify something here. These hormones are new to me. In effect I am having a 14 year old girls puberty, both mentally and physically. I have this influx of emotions and I have not learnt how to deal with them. So over time, the severity and frequency of 'emotional moments' should die down. But these are real emotions - and they are different to those of a male, even one such as myself that was always pretty damn emotional to start with (or stroppy maybe...).

So I need more detail here. Well, a very pleasant change I noticed early on. I noticed that listening to beautiful, emotional music affected me a lot more. The term would be moved. I connected to the music and I heard it so much clearer than ever before. I would stick on albums just to lie and listen to them so that I could be moved. I am listening to one now for that very reason - which I found in my 'in-box' shelf and have no idea when I bought or, until I listened to it, what it was btw... anyways. In the past I listened to music to listen to music. I love music. If you know me you know that it is my first love. I like how the parts fit together. The poetry of the lyrics. I get excited over little interludes and trills. But this is different - it is almost like I can hear the parts in-between. I get carried away in the moment. I lose all my other thoughts and drift off. And, more often than not, I have to clear the tears from my eyes afterwards. Now, I am sure some women do not see this and some guys do. But for me - there was a change. And I put it down to a more real emotional connection to the music. (Note, I do not have this reaction to NOFX. It does have to be moving music!) 
(Update: actually reacted to lyrics on equality in a NOFX song. Maybe this is getting out of hand...)

So yes, I have had this amazing extra layer added to my first love and I can only attribute this to the availability of my emotions thanks to hormones. What more reason do you need? Transition NOW!

OK. Then there is just the raw emotions in everyday life.  I catch myself saying "awwww" in response to cute animal videos. Now, people that do that are open to being laughed at. Who does that? Well, now - me. Also, I sit in meetings, my mind wanders a little and I suddenly get teary about something completely random. "oh, this pen has such smooth writing action". What?!? I actually cry at coming out stories. Damn, get a grip. Males do not do this. Or it is rare. I certainly didn't. (I was wondering whether I was actually a robot or not...) But I do now. It is odd but also nice. I have times when these things happen more, time when they happen less. But, I cherish them in a weird way.

My niece made me laugh of late. Now I have always been prone to laughter becoming hysterical till I cannot breath and I have shed pints of laugh-tears. But my niece, earnestly changing rules of a game we were playing so that she could win (with no concept of forthright, plain cheating) just cracked me up. So funny. But then, some weird emotional reaction went off and I just started crying - not my hysteria tears but just tears of pure joy at how amazing she was - a miracle of life with a whole, wide world open before her smart little self. So I just passed it off, pretending to yawn to make the tears have a reason. But no. This was pure emotional happiness and not something I experienced except in exceptional circumstances in the past. And I talk to cis-female friends. And they say yes - this stuff happens.  Sometimes worse, sometimes less. But it happens. Like it is the most natural and obvious thing in the world. To me, experiencing it for the first time, it is not. Like I say, it should reduce. But it is such a different experience that neither cis-males or cis-women will, in my view comprehend in magnitude.

There was a funny incident a few weeks back. This was the start of the emotions really kicking in. I had thought they had earlier. Certainly I had had a shift and the stories above happened before this. But then, one day, a gear shifted up and for a few weeks and I was struggling to keep above the emotions. But - loving it at the same time and these are precious memories. But one day, the first day of the gear change, I was sat at home. And I decided that my hormones do not work. So I started crying. Then I stopped. Then 10 mins later I remembered that I thought my hormones did not work, and so I start crying again. Like this. All day. The next day I just laughed at the irony of it all. But that day. Yep. The start of a new world for me!

And one last story in the 'crazy emotion’ vein. So in an earlier blog I mentioned how much I coveted my sister's flower-fairy dolls. (That wasn't in the ten commandments - was it?) So recently I watched a little English TV and there is an advert for a UK store that has fairies flying around. So first off, this reminded me of my sister's dolls - mainly because this was fairies at Christmas and I remember my sister getting those dolls and putting them on our Christmas tree. Then I think how pretty and petite the fairies are, how lovely their bodies.

So I not have said this before but when I was pre-transition I stared at girl's bodies. Not because of attraction reasons (although, that does happen too). But because you want to look at how the female body is. Compare it to your own and see what you are missing. Also analyse their makeup, get jealous of their long hair and wonder where they bought those cute boots or dress. Yep - that is what a person likes me thinks about when staring at girls. Not all guys, but those like me. So maybe 'that' guy staring at you is not a creep. He probably is though. Anyways... 
So yes. I look at the pretty fairies with bodies I want and realise I will never be a fairy. Because they do not exist. So I did not actually want to be mythical. But now I know I cannot be a fairy. Man I started bawling. Crying away. And for two weeks after, whenever I remembered it - because it is funny - I went from laughing at myself to crying in seconds. And I tell my female friends and they just say "yep. Things like that happen sometimes." HUH?!?! Guys - be aware. This stuff goes through a girls minds. Now you know.

And the thing is: it is amazing. I said earlier, some of this stuff is the stereotype of a female. But damn, it is amazing. The difference in how I feel emotion really does make me feel female. Like my brain is actually reacting in a feminine way. And, despite the oddness of it all, normal. How my brain should react. It is a little overwhelming to get used to. But honesty - it is so amazing. My hormone doctor told me I would 'feel' female when they took hold.

 And he was so right.

Monday, 5 January 2015

2014 - My Chrysalis Year

2014 has been one heck of a year. One fantastic ride. So much so that I needed to write about it, share it with you and publish it for posterity. I learned to overcome my fears. I decided to reach for my dreams. I dealt with my head. I realised I don't give a bugger what other people think of me. And I confirmed what I have long suspected, I have the best family and friends I could ever hope to have.

There is a little chance that there will be some overlap in this blog with previous entries and those I have written but not yet published. The reasons I transitioned have already been discussed here as well as the start of the journey. But this is pretty much shot from the heart. It will be a little cheesy in parts but it is an honest recount of my year - the year I really did do the chrysalis thing. I ain't no butterfly just yet but I believe I am getting closer.

2014 was a real difficult year to start. I was a few weeks into the realisation that I am trans and that no matter how much I thought it was not that big a deal, it was. I could continue. I could go on living as I was living. But the truth is I no longer wanted to live as a boy. I have my happiness's. Heck, I have an amazing life. But it was not quite the life I knew I should be living. I was altering what I did and wanted to do, lying to everyone including myself. I was fitting myself to other people and my own head had started to fight back - making me live a solitary life and one that could easily have become hermit like. And I accepted that as the truth of my life. In 2014 I realised, decided, that not only did I not want this, but also that I could have a real life. I could have my friends, I could have my desired life and I could live free of the chains holding me down. 

 It took a while though.

I started 2014 very unhappy, very depressed. I knew that I needed to transition but had no idea how I would find the strength to do so. The courage to turn my life upside-down. Because I was scared - very, very scared. And I hate to say things that make me sound full of myself but so many folks have said how brave I am to transition and come out. I realise it is true. There are so many folk that need so much more strength than me to come out, transition, etc due to social circumstances. But if I was not scared I would have done it years ago. This was my biggest fear and my biggest desire. And at the beginning of 2014 I knew I needed to find the strength.

I started to find it in two ways. One was having a great therapist that understood my situation. Once you start to talk it through, realise you are not crazy or even alone then suddenly it just seems a little more reachable. The other is maybe not the same for all trans folk, but I needed to deal with my mental health issues. Whether my depression, ticks, psychoses are all related to my gender identity dysphoria or whether they are unrelated issues - or more likely a combination of both - I had to sort it out. There is a stigma to talking about it - I never did much. And there is a stigma to taking medication to sort your head out. I never wanted to take meds for my head, especially long term, for fear of becoming dependent and reliant on them. I have had asthma since I was about five and need to take medication for this; I always will need to unless there is a major medical development. This year I came to accept that my brain is no different. The meds are not the mind numbing chemicals they were when I was younger - medicine has moved on. I need help breathing. I need help making my hormones what they should be. And I need help sorting out the chemicals in my brain. Makes sense, but it took a long time to accept this truth.

So I got my head sorted out and I talked with someone that understood me and started to discuss who I really am. This gave me that push in the right direction. Things moved on. I realised where I was headed and the fear was there, large in mind, but hope was there too. This enabled me to get excited and I did, in buckets! I started hormones. Again, I was not sure what to make of this at the time and it took me a while to come round, to actually accept that I was making a start to transition! And once I did my spirits rose like never before. I started to understand pure joy rather than acceptance of my lot. The hope grew and I could see the future. I wanted to share this with those close to me and that meant coming out. This provided so much more anxiety but I was starting to understand that I could be who I am. I just got on with it. I had no option.

All my family and friends have been amazing. The acceptance I have got, the love, the support. I am so very lucky. Each person gave me more strength. It sounds cheesy but you have no idea how much I have got from each of you, and how that has helped me to move forward. Once I knew that those closest to my heart want me to be me I stopped being scared of rejection from those in the second and third orbits of my heart. From there it was easy to not give a stuff about those that I do not know or feel little for. So very easy. My confidence has grown and I know I am letting myself look more and more how I want to look as the weeks go by. It helps that my body and mind ore changing but I just feel so much more comfortable doing whatever the hell I want. Today in work I wore pretty much what I want to wear minus makeup. I had on pretty boots, looooong vest, tight tight jeans, shiny nail varnish, handbag and I have had my hair coloured and styled (complete with clips for half the day). Yep - those that do not know looked at me weird but I just smiled to myself. Bugger em! I actually just felt like I was myself - at work!!! Amazing. And I fully intend to continue this in 2015.
2014 ended with me receiving a card from my mum with 'to a special daughter. On the front and to Mummy' on the inside. I spent a lot of time with family and friends. I shopped for boots and handbags with my mum. I wore more or less what I want and was confident enough to do so in public. Everyone I know treated me like normal. Seriously, like nothing has changed. It hasn't but I was worried it would. There were questions, sure. But I love to talk about my new life - I have wanted it for so long. How can I not want to share the goodness? So the questions are so welcome. It shows people are interested in me! I spent the first time being completely honest and myself with friends and family which you cannot underestimate for the good of the spirit. And I welcomed the new year in in a dress and a little makeup with me mum - even doing the traditional stand outside in the cold to knock and be welcomed into the house, bringing in the new year, as myself. complete with new handbag.

2014 really was my chrysalis year. I went in terrified of the future and torn up inside, full of conflict and fear at the start. By the end I just feel like I am living my life and I am loving it. I have more growing and learning to do in 2015 but I am headed the right way. I have the hope that I can do what I want. I know it will all work out and that bumps in the road will be bumps in the road. I have the strength of my loved ones to overcome my fears and hardships. I know that life will not be perfectly easy but I am not scared to take chances and reach further out.

I thank you all for that. I wish you and amazing and prosperous, amazing 2015.

Tears of joy and love Clara xxx