However, it did end well and all the problems that had stacked up did seem to have a happy outcome. I'd like to try to review everything that was difficult and see what I gained from it in a positive way.
Positivity from depression? Yes, I do believe that it is possible to take something from this. I experienced varying forms of the black dog throughout the year due to incompetence at the Laurel's gender clinic in the first part and then due to a lack of funding for my GRS in the second part. The second part was by far the worse and a lack of communication made it spiral to darker and darker depths and it could have been avoided by people keeping me in the loop.
What I do gain is an understanding of depression. Whilst for a few years I have spoken to many that have had this problem, I never really knew how damaging it can be. I am now in a much better position to speak to those people and be more empathic to them. I also understand the warning signs of depression starting and can help myself better were it to happen again.
Depressions ugly sister also visited whilst I had the depression and to be honest this was even harder to deal with. I was constantly worried about missing phone calls with news of anything as well as this fear of having been forgotten by the system. It was more physical than the depression, leading to headaches, shaking and tendency to outbursts of emotion.
It is much more difficult to take anything positive from the anxiety as I felt it was a much more destructive problem then the depression. It has certainly left scars and they will be with me for some time. About all I can take is the same as depression, an understanding of it and ability to recognise it.
The housing situation
Way back in January, we had already embarked on a battle with the local council. Our housing was clearly inappropriate given my partners disabilities but they were insistent that we could cope. In addition they refused to accept my protected characteristic and the realities of what we would face when I had my surgery. We fought them for 7 months with letter after letter and they made so many errors it was unreal. We had a social worker and housing advocate helping us but to no avail. Eventually we got to the point of involving the Local Government Ombudsman, they backtracked and we won. We were awarded the top banding for housing although it took a little time to find a suitable flat for us. This was perhaps the most positive outcome of the year and we are fantastically happy with our new home.
In March we also had the spectre of homelessness. This was very frightening indeed and the local council were very un-supportive in all of it which included giving us wrong information on what to do if this became a reality. Again, they refused to recognise my protected characteristic and we would had to have fallen back on Mandy's disability were it to have happened. Luckily, Shelter helped us with the right information and this helped enormously. I also remember having a speech therapy appointment on the day we found out about this and the memory of the kindness of my therapist will remain with me for some time. There were more tears than any practical therapy but it reminded me how many supportive people there are out there.
I'll keep this brief and wont mention any major details because that would be unfair to the other side. I received my final divorce papers on the 4th December, ironically 15 years to the day from my wedding. This was another fantastic development for me and it means I can now apply for a gender recognition certificate in the new year.
Ok, it didn't happen as planned but I did get my date which was a blessed relief.
Sadly, I resigned from one voluntary position due to difficulties and then the other post became redundant. Completely by accident, I landed another role as a case worker helping disabled people fight for their rights. I have only just scratched the surface of this role prior to my surgery but it looks like a very exciting and challenging role.
This took sheer determination but I succeeded. I realised when I started on the road for my GRS, that I would need to lose weight. I was at a BMI of nearly 35 and this was clearly unsuitable for anaesthetic. Mandy and myself took a serious look at our diet and without being too harsh, we made significant changes whilst not needing to starve ourselves. I eventually got to a suitable weight for my GRS but decided to keep going and ended up with a final BMI of 24.5. At this point Mandy felt my face was looking gaunt so we decided that was the point to stop. Christmas has seen a little go back on, and I fully realise that my post-op recovery will see some more go back on but I am at least starting in a good place.
Having achieved this, I have found that it has been a fantastic liberation.I now have much more choice when it comes to clothes and my body shape matches my female gender much better. Whilst confidence was never a massive issue, the boost I have gained has been phenomenal.
I found I struggling to deal with my issues with the gender clinic in May, and decided I needed some support. I plucked up some courage and went to my first ever pride event in Exeter. This led me to make some new contacts and it also enabled me to deal with the issues I had. I believe that if I had not made this step, I would still be waiting for a date for my GRS now.
In amongst this, I made a very good friend. We shared some difficulties on our way to GRS and I think we helped each other through it. She had hers recently and this has been a very good learning experience for me. I have kept her company over the last few weeks and it will be good for the same in return in a few weeks. Were it not for the difficulties I faced, I would never have made this friend.
2014 certainly seemed very dark at times. When I look back at it though, I realise just how much I did gain (and Mandy too). So much has clicked into place at the end of it, and now there is really just one more piece of the jigsaw and that is in less than two weeks. I'll finish with a few favourite photo's of the year.