It’s hard to be cheerful all the time, with a genuine sunny smile. Some days I really don’t feel like that at all and I shrivel and curl up inside with my jaw grinding as methodically as I breathe. But at least you know that when I smile I mean it, and quite a few of my days come sunny side up now I am on the road to being me.
It’s just that my body is pissing me off big time right now. It’s like my physical boundary is disintegrating as my skin inflames, prickles, bleeds and scars. My left eye is infected, itchy and sore. My gut is feeling bad, I’m nauseous at times and I’m wondering if my ulcer is coming back. I probably didn’t do it any favours last Thursday when I drank the remainder of orange and mango juice from a carton that had been two weeks open in the fridge. Bad move when you’re already on the third stage of your employer’s sickness policy.
Stress comes out in me incredibly physically. My body mirrors the frantic pace of my survival thinking, but it struggles to keep up. All the cortisol and adrenaline that continues to pump around my blood is eating me up from the inside AND the outside it feels. It’s well documented that higher cortisol levels caused by chronic stress have particularly damaging effects on immune function and inflammatory response. Hence my difficulty in resisting infection and why my ezcema is so bad right now! Chronic stress is painful, a day in day out pain that flows like a river through you. Sometimes, often, it is a murmuring brook that trickles and meanders with you in daily life. Occasionally it deepens suddenly and you feel the dead cold of the bottom that you fear plunging into. Rarely, it blows your body into shutdown, causing you difficulty in breathing and momentary paralysis. My body’s responses to external stresses like threats are also on hyper-alert which is tiring and draining. My fight-flight-fright-freeze response has been fucked up over the years with various trauma and it takes a lot out of me when I feel under personal threat. I’ve felt more of that recently since I’ve been living as a guy and it’s a weird and scary thing being conscious of my vulnerability in a way I haven’t experienced before I did my counselling training and my own personal therapy.
I notice that in the come down from the adrenaline torrent I can get emotional. When I get emotional people around can’t help themselves but experience me as female again. The social pressure on guys not to cry is enormous and it profoundly changes the feeling of vulnerability I have when I get emotional now. Being a guy who cries carries more risks it feels than being a woman who is in tears.
Of course I mean MY body does this under chronic stress. Maybe your’s is different. But if you also have experienced chronic stress then you will connect with some part of what I feel. I am struggling right now with living with chronic stress as I try and recover from a serious depression and make the biggest single change of my life as I make my transition from female to male.
Like millions of other working people I am struggling to keep up with rising costs and debt repayments as wages freeze. My breakdown last year when my partner and I lost our home had many financial consequences and I am working with the National Debt Helpline to get a debt management plan together or face bankrupcy. These are shit hard times and I have a feeling it is going to get worse before it gets better. The stress of dealing with liability orders, baillifs, informing them all that I am no longer Ms or Miss, no I cannot make a payment right now, I live back with my parents and have no assets except my car and I need that for work etc etc.
But, on the other hand, I am aggressively determined to find £350 between now and May so I can see a private gender consultant and get my testosterone therapy underway. It pisses me off massively that this amount of money is less than what I spend in a month to run the car I need for work. In fact the WHOLE of my debt is less than a quarter of my annual salary. But like loads of other people I just cannot get credit to make it an affordable monthly payment these days, so it can and has in my case, spiraled further and further out of control.
Can someone explain to me why exactly it was only the bankers that have been rescued by government bail-outs in this current recession? The ones who are responsible for this fucking mess! What I want in this coming general election is for someone to have the bollocks or sharp pointy heels to call for writing off a good chunk of personal debt for individuals (especially people made redundant), a freeze on all interest and charges, an end to criminally extortionate financial fees, interest and charges and to enable millions of customers to reclaim what they have been forced to pay these last years.
I am seething with Santander who have just taken four weeks to explain why the computer still says no to my reasonable request to have ‘Ms’ taken off my bank card. Their legal advisor has informed them that the bank is under no legal obligation to comply with my request until I have in my hand my Gender Recognition Certificate some year and a half down the line for me. What about their ethical or moral obligation to one of their customers? Do they think it is ok to put one of their customers in a position where they are embarassed or humiliated when they are challenged over possible fraud because the retailer sees a guy trying to use a woman’s card? Even worse I could be at risk of serious assault in that conflict situation. So I am off to the Co-Op who tell me they will have no such problem with my request! Plus I can now try and claim back all those bastard charges Santander and previously Abbey have extorted out of me these last four years.
But it’s stressful in the extreme when you’re fighting off the vultures who want to strip your bones when you’re weakened and down. I am also completely desperate to get out of this alien skin and create the physical form for my real core gender. When I say desperate I really mean it now. It feels like I cannot move any further forward without starting my testosterone and getting my breasts removed as soon as possible. I need my body to be healthy and resilient for the changes ahead and my stress is getting in the way of this. Not only that but the WAIT is doing my head in now. I have to pay for a private consulation because it could take me until the end of the year or beyond if I wait for the NHS to deliver. My now new GP has agreed to continue the prescription once I have seen a recognised gender specialist. This is now going to be happening at the beginning of May, indeed quite possibly the day after the next General Election. But at least it is NOW going to be happening and that brings me some tangible relief that I could be starting my testosterone soon. I can then turn and begin to truly face the world as myself.
I am stressed about being ill again when I am so trying to look after myself. I am tired of the insomnia I am wading through night after night after night. I need the turbocharge boost of testesterone surging through my body to see me through this profound transition. I mean business and I want to deliver. But my depression is tugging me back constantly, kept at bay with a high dose of citalopram and the knowledge that I am doing a good job at work, generally coping well and am now only a matter of a couple of weeks off finally qualifying as a therapeutic counsellor. But inevitable obstacles and some deeply intense moments of vulnerability have made me understand that I am still living with depression and in no way ‘cured’ when I have a string of good days one after the other. I have been referred to a doctor by my employer so my depression can be assessed to see if it falls under the Disability Discrimination Act. That would protect my employment rights as a worker with ongoing mental health issues because the last thing I need right now is to lose my job on top of everything else.
I will be following the General Election from the perspective of someone who wants to see social, economic, political, environmental and ethical justice in this ravaged world. I have my own agenda of course. I’m a 43 year old professional worker hit hard by the recession like many others. I value solidarity not selfishness. I celebrate the rich diversity of our communities in this country I don’t feel threatened by difference. I detest racism and other forms of prejudice. I work with young offenders and their families and I want to see the resources provided to keep children and young people safe while allowing them to be young, take risks, play, learn and not get criminalised for being young and making mistakes. I want to see investment in safe and secure temporary housing/short-term foster placements for young people in crisis, to see more resources provided for working therapeutically with children, young people and their families. I want to see a whole heap of creative and radical policies up there to choose from about how we can get from the pit of doom we’re tumbling into now to a future where it’s need not greed that dictates public spending and where we are respected as workers and human beings who should be valued and respected wherever we are born in the world.
Above all else I want life to be about good stress not bad. I get a buzz from the adrenaline of taking on challenges and working with different people that I can learn from. I love the buzz of being physical when you feel happy in your body … I felt that during my testeosterone spurt of middle-late childhood. I just cannot wait to feel that again but this time with an adult brain to assess risk and an emotional literacy I wasn’t at all capable of as a kid!!!