Very long term readers to this blog will understand that I have had a very chequered history with the Laurels GIC (Gender Identity Clinic). Recently I found myself reviewing some of my old posts and found them to be quite hostile with regards my attitude to the clinic.
Over two years ago, I found myself writing some extremely distressing posts about my treatment at the clinic. I even stopped blogging for over a year because I found this toxicity has spilled over into my words and they were having a negative effect on me. I resumed writing last year, major mistakes then happened and again I found I had to stop writing.
I resumed in November last year and although a little erratic recently, I have written in great detail about the surgical part of my journey and the effects it has had on my life afterwards.
In some way I feel the need to revisit my past attitude towards the clinic, why I found it so difficult and how the clinic is doing so much for me since I discharged myself.
I must say that I do not regret being critical of the clinic in the past. I re-read the posts and feel very justified in writing them because mistakes were made. For so much of my transitioning prior to the Laurels, I had had to push myself and suddenly I found myself in a therapeutic setting being poked and prodded about the decisions I had made. I expected a congratulatory response to what I had already achieved and instead found a doubting attitude as to who I was. I remember shouting "I just need fucking treatment" to someone at the time when pushed to tears because of the endless questioning.
I did of course complain and in the response it was even suggested that I could consider moving to another clinic. In amongst my reply was of course a curt, "you aint getting rid of me that easily!". I did offer the opportunity to strike a line under everything to try to move on and after a long discussion with the clinic manager, I was offered the option of working with Lynda.
As historical readers will know, Lynda worked incredibly hard to regain my trust in the clinic. It went wrong more than once further down the line but I always felt that Lynda was there helping through the problems, and to a certain extent the clinic manager, Maria.
So I acknowledge that they both did work really hard to get me where I am now. I was so grateful for this that I felt a return as a volunteer would go some small way to thank them for this. I also felt that one way to help improve the service was to be involved with it.
My experience as a volunteer has far surpassed what I expected to gain from it. For a start, just being there to talk to people going through their own journey's is incredibly humbling. I thought I had developed good listening and empathy skills with Samaritans, but my role at the Laurel's has taken this to a whole new level.
I am also taken aback to my new relationship with the staff. It did take them a little while to get used to me which is understandable but once this barrier had been broken, I have found I have gained quite an insight into other little worlds within the clinic. I have found many clients to be critical of how long it takes for a letter to get out of the place, but I have seen how hard all the staff work and it is genuinely not their fault. A lack of resources is what is to blame for this and it's simply down to money at the end of the day. You simply do not see this side of the issue when you are a client.
I am also being utilised in many ways and have become involved in several other things alongside my main volunteer role. This has been rewarding on so many levels and I am still reflecting on how much I have gained from it all. To have my ideas and opinions so valued is a very new experience because as trans people we are generally not used to this. I never felt I had a problem with self-esteem but this has highlighted how perhaps I did have a negative view of myself because it feels like I am growing in such a positive way since starting there.
It is ironic that since my discharge, I have found my personal development growing in such a massive way. It almost feels like the driving test analogy; that you only start learning once you pass your test. This feels a lot like that and working at the Laurels has helped shape where I feel I want to go in the future. I have started to take an interest in the idea of counselling and psychotherapy and this is being encouraged by more than one person. They are giving me the confidence to consider major new challenges and I am growing less fearful of accepting them.
I get paid nothing for what I give to the clinic, but I receive far more in return than money could ever pay me.