Saturday, January 4, 2020

Life With Depression (Part I)

It began sometime in 1969. I must have been 14 years old. My earliest memory that something was amiss was at one of my first boy/girl parties. During the course of that afternoon my best friend since kindergarten had paired up with a girl from our class. They weren't making out in front of everyone but they were very close, with her sitting in his lap and talking quietly. I can't say whether it was jealousy that I felt but I remember thinking to myself "why can't that be me?" I wanted to be more than a best friend. I was having my first feeling of real attraction toward someone. But it was seemingly same-sex attraction. I knew even at that age that there was no way in heaven or hell that I could express this to my friend. Puberty was kicking in and over the next few years I found that I was experiencing this same attraction, not to girls, but to other boys. At this same time I was becoming increasingly convinced that I should have been born a girl. It's difficult to put into words but with this attraction toward boys I didn't wish to be close to a boy as a boy myself. I had the strongest of feelings that waht I wanted more than anything was to be close to a boy with myself being a girl. It was thoroughly confusing and I had no idea what to do about it. I could not bring myself to talk to anyone about it. I knew of no one else that felt this way. I do remember eventually wishing with all my heart, and praying to God, that somehow I could change from a boy to a girl overnight. Of course, that never happened. Having these feelings, unable to act on them, and feeling myself to be a lone freak I was deathly afraid of having someone learn of this secret. As I got older I became frustrated and angry with this life, and by the time I graduated from high school I had subconsciously given up any hope of ever being normal. I realize now that in those few years following high school I experienced my first real bout of Depression.

I don't recall ever consciously considering suicide during that time. However, I had total hate for life and existed very much on the edge. My life consisted of consuming alcohol and drugs on a daily basis, and I truly had no fear regarding anything that might happen to me. A few incidents occurred during that time that, if things had gone a different way I would have ceased to exist. One time I was driving to work down the main drag toward downtown Marion. A high school kid came barreling out of a side street, blasting directly into the side of my car. The driver's side. My car was totalled but surprisingly I only suffered a few cuts on my face where my head had slammed into the steering wheel. Another time, late at night, I was alone in my car, drunk and high, following behind some friends on a gravel road. We came to a T-intersection. But instead of turning right or left, the only real choices, I went straight, into a ditch almost as deep as the height of my car. This time my car was only slightly dented on the front end and again I only suffered a few cuts & scrapes. Perhaps the worst time I consumed about 25 grams of psilocybin mushrooms followed by a whole fifth of scotch. Before I passed out I could only lay on my back watching the ceiling & walls moving and swirling in different designs and colors. I was increasingly becoming an ever worse and imminent train-wreck.

Sue came into my life when I was around 24 years old. By that time I had totally given up on myself. I felt that I would never, ever establish any kind of relationship with a guy. I certainly wasn't seeking friendship with a girl, but Sue was different. For whatever reason I felt drawn to her and eventually we started talking. As I got to know her I found her to be so very honest and true. I wasn't so much attracted to her in a physical sense but became increasingly attracted to her whole being. Her mind, spirit and soul. She had values and goals above those held by the majority of humanity. At that time I was a long-haired, hippie-type, drug-using nobody and I could not imagine what she saw in me. Beyond belief she says it was something similar to how I came to view her. We became closer. We fell in love. We married.

Sharing my life with Sue was more than I could have ever dreamed for. She truly cared about and loved me, and I for her. I settled into the life of a husband and a man, and it was okay. I buried those feelings of gender incongruity for a very long time. Except for the feeling that I was still a bit different. I always had this sense that I was never quite as good with handling life as other guys. I never felt as if I truly fit in anywhere but with Sue. In any case we shared life. We went into debt but together found ways to get the bills paid. We had a beautiful daughter. Sue talked me into completing college and I was able to find better jobs.

One day though, during the holiday season of 2005 or 2006, I believe I hit another period of Depression. Thinking about it I can think of no reason for it. But I stayed home from work claiming to be sick. That sick day became about ten straight days of staying home and doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had no desire or energy to do anything. Eventually I returned to work, not because I really felt better but because I was running low on paid time off. I don't know what caused this, and I don't really remember coming out of it, but for a couple of years after that I seemed to be okay again.

Then in the latter half of 2008 I started drinking. Without realizing what was going on I was falling into another Depression. This time I believe it began due to a few compounding factors. In May 2008, unexpectedly Sue's brother Al passed away. He was always a somewhat healthy young-ish guy and then one day he was just gone. Then a few weeks later, in June, the worst flood ever hit our city. The water covered an unbelievable amount throughout the city within 10 to 15 blocks of the river all the way through, as well as an enormous amount of the countryside. The water rose within a few days but took weeks to recede. The house that Sue's Mother and sister lived in was covered more than halfway up the living room in floodwater, as were hundreds of other homes in town. Sue's Mom and sister split time between staying at our house and another of Sue's brothers house, then getting a FEMA trailer. But during that time Sue's Mom fell and subsequently spent most of the rest of her time in a wheelchair. The devastation and loss apparently affected me more than I realized and by the end of 2008 I had started drinking regularly. That drinking gradually increased during 2009 reaching a point where I was drinking daily and going through a liter of hard liquor every few days. I kept this drinking secret from Sue, only doing so after she went to bed every day.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Life With Music

I was listening to some of my favorite music this morning. After a few tunes had come and gone I realized something curious about the music. There have always been certain songs that seemed to speak to me, either simply through the sound or through the lyrics or both. Just a few years ago some of these songs very much stood out, enabling my feelings of futility and hopelessness at that time. The strange thing is that this morning I heard a couple of those same songs but now they resonate with hope and life and goodness.

Music has been part of my life for a very long time. It began when I was 12 or 13 years old and my parents gave me a hand held AM/FM transistor radio. This would have been around 1966 to 1967. By the early 60's and due to the increased prevalence of television, music had begun to dominate AM radio formats. By the mid 60's the number of AM radio stations had exploded and since FM radio offered a better technology than AM more and more stations were beginning to broadcast within the FM band.

So at the time young me acquired an AM/FM radio, broadcast music was really taking hold. I found many listening choices even here in the hinterland of the country, the back sticks of east central Iowa. Music was as much of an enhancement to my auditory sense as pleasant scents were to smell or good flavors were to taste. Music enhanced my moods and my thinking. I developed quite an appreciation for most kinds of music. Over time differing aspects of my life began to influence the type of music I listened to. And of course, since part of my life held a concealed darkness, heavy metal became the musical genre I most listened to. I was drawn to its doom and gloom lyrics and sound, but at the same time I was able to distinguish the craftsmanship put into the better composed pieces, and this greatly added to my appreciation of well composed music.

My love of music never led to an ability to create any of it myself, but while I might not always recognize art when I hear it I know what is good. Today there are very few genres that I turn away from. For me, music is life.

Two Weeks Post-op

Two weeks ago I finally Gender Confirmation Surgery. All of my life a physical part of my body did not belong, an actual birth defect in that, while I am female, this physical thing that was attached to me was actually a piece of male anatomy. How utterly weird is that? I had no choice in the matter. Though wrong, it was simply the body that I had developed. While I never accepted that it was truly part of me I had to use it. There was nothing I could do to change my body. I always loathed this birth defect but the thought of having this surgery was always a mere fantasy. There were no experienced surgeons nearby performing such a thing and the cost was astronomical.

However, within the past few years things have changed. There are more hospitals putting teams in place to offer the full slate of gender related surgeries. And many insurance companies are now covering the cost. Even Medicare and Medicaid. The gender specialist I see in Iowa City informed me almost two years ago that the University of Iowa Hospital was putting such a team together. How perfect would that be! A surgical team less than an hour's drive away! In July 2018 I had an orchiectomy by one of the doctors training for gender surgeries and had a chance to discuss when they might become available. First I was told the Spring of 2019. But it kept getting pushed back until finally the first gender surgeries were to occur in the Fall of 2019. I was ready.

Meanwhile, I learned of a few transgender people who were planning on having their surgeries done at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. They had a team that had been performing these surgeries for well over a year and had developed a very good reputation. These friends pointed out that they preferred having their surgery done by an experienced team as opposed to acting as guinea pigs for the first surgeries in Iowa City. Then in July 2019 I drove one friend to Madison for her surgery and stayed a week while she had her initial recovery. I had a chance to see the University of Wisconsin Hospital myself and meet the surgeon. I was convinced. I had a consultation with this surgeon regarding my own surgery and the date was set for December 10th, 2019.

That was two weeks and two days ago. The surgery went very well as has the recovery, my having surprisingly little real pain and immobility. Oh sure, there is still quite a bit of swelling and scarring that will require a few weeks of healing time, and a persistent soreness that should also dissipate over time. I am to refrain from sitting straight up, or directly on my bottom for at least 30 days but this is a minor inconvenience. My body is finally as normal as is possible! I am in a very happy place.