Friday, 29 May 2015

A return to work

It's good to be able to write about something positive for a change. When I lost my job back in February 2013, and then became Mandy's carer, I soon realised that I still needed some form of employment. 

There were three main reasons for this. The first was to have something to do and to get me out of the house, away from my caring role for a few hours. Mandy needs a fair level of care but not constant. It is usually in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. This gives me good scope for getting out for the bulk of the day. The second reason was to keep my working skills alive. Even if what I am doing is mundane, the process of having to go and do a job keeps a certain set of skills fresh. But most importantly, I wanted to contribute something back to society. I get allowances and benefits for being a home carer but I do not want to just take, take, take. I wanted to be a part of the world and help with it machinations. 

As this blog has described, I found a job in a charity shop. Sadly, this shop closed in October last year and with my surgery beckoning, I was happy to wait until afterwards. I did however, find a position helping disabled people fight for their rights. I did a couple of months of training before my surgery with the intention of returning afterwards. When I did return, I found it incredibly difficult job to do. The environment was incredibly difficult to work in and the work itself was very tough going. I found that with my new emotional state, it was just too much for me at this time. I decided to resign although it was kept open to me to return. 

Whilst this was happening, the idea of volunteering for my gender clinic was cleverly implanted into my by my therapist, Lynda. This was an interesting idea, one that appealed to me but also challenged my thinking at the same. 

Why should such an idea challenge myself? Those that have followed me on this blog, and also my friends, will remember that have been some very difficult times at the clinic. There were quite a few buckets of tears shed in those familiar rooms there and more than once I rushed out of the place after my appointment crying. I made three formal complaints over the time and they were all accepted and (hopefully) dealt with. The place has history with me and the thought of returning to work there would once have seemed unthinkable.

But things move on and the clinic have made great efforts to admit their mistakes and improve. I have always said that Lynda was wholly responsible for turning it around for me and without her, I would never have made it to the end. She really did keep me in there and something I have sensed is a passion within her that goes beyond it simply being her job. I also must remember others there that have been helpful. Every time there was an incident, I always seemed to bump into the same therapist on my way out. She could always sense when something was amiss and spend a few minutes talking to me. The clinic manager too, always understanding when I had an issue, and apologetic when it did happen.

Perhaps too by volunteering there, I could put these past issues to rest. There was at least one member of the staff who I found difficult to even be in the same room as. This was unhealthy and by volunteering, I would have to speak to them. I could seriously sort some gremlins out for myself with this opportunity.

Yesterday I did a day of observation with one of the existing volunteers.This was just to see what the role encompassed as well as get an idea of how to conduct myself. Confidentiality is a priority, and my work at Samaritans has taught me the importance of that. Rest assured, nobody's story is going to be written about on here. In fact there is very little I feel I am able to write about yesterday once I had entered the clinic. My idea is that anything that happens beyond the clinic doors is not for disclosure to anyone.

It was good though to go to work, so to speak. To have to get up, get ready and drive to work felt satisfying. Not only that, but because of the parking charges, it made sense to use the park and ride in Exeter. I have not used a bus in nearly four years, although I have as Lucy but before I started actually transitioning. So even now, there is still the occasional first still cropping up!

I had lunch out with another new volunteer and it was good to swap stories of our transitioning. We are both at the same point and we shared many similarities in our approaches and experiences. Our journey through the clinic was vastly different however and this made for interesting conversation too.

The day came to an end and it back on the bus and then home. It was a long day, but it felt good to have done something again. I start properly next week, once a day although my upcoming holiday curtails that for a short time. In a way though, it will be something to look forward to on my return.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Thoughts for the future

I think it's clear for anyone reading this blog recently that I have been struggling a little emotionally, again. I can report that I am much better and perhaps learnt a little more about how to cope when things are tough.

With the case of the triggering message I was sent, there was very little I could have done to avoid this. I open and read messages all the time and it's difficult to steer clear of this method of communication. Nope, this is one risk that I have to accept although I can limit the damage by restricting who I have as friends on social media and being careful who I communicate with.

To also keep myself safe, I have found myself being extremely careful what I say on social media. I completely withdrew for a few days and then slowly eased myself back in but observing some safety rules I imposed on myself. I typically kept to advice only discussions. These have a relatively safe aspect in that provided what you say is correct, there is little that anyone can say back to you. Of course, there is always someone who knows better. Even worse are those with the "you should not be asking this on the Internet, see your GP instead" attitude. This is one that really grates with me, if we went to see our GP's with every single query through our transitioning, we would soon be struck of for wasting their time. The Internet is a great resource for information, and often GP's do not know everything. Suffice to say, I've managed to ignore such people recently.

I have been very careful to steer clear of topics that involve displaying personal opinions. There have been many discussions recently about a Miss Trans UK competition. These have been very divided in opinion and I have sat on the sidelines as an observer in these. I have seen many attacked for their well expressed opinions (both sides) and I have despaired at the lack of tolerance within our community about having differences of opinion. Interestingly in all of this, the organiser of said competition has been the most attacking of all when it came to differences of opinion. It of course goes much deeper than this and perhaps this is for another discussion. 

I have found this read only approach to be very beneficial recently. There have been a few times where I have been itching to write a response and managed to keep my fingers from the keyboard. There are groups that I have seen as places of safety in the past, and now they feel dangerous. 

I have also had the problem of the hyper-empathy but realisation of this has led me to be more cautious in how I take on board others issues. I have been much more successful at limiting my connection to essentially complete strangers and can keep myself more together for my friends. 

It is clear I have been very careful in my on-line activities.

This kind of leads me to the future. I'll admit to struggling for inspiration about what to write for this blog and recently it has felt like I am just lurching from one crisis to the next. Off-line it hasn't been quite so extreme as that, but there hasn't been much of anything positive to write about.

In just over a week, we head off up north to the Lake District for a fortnights holiday. In the meantime, I will try to publish a couple of posts on something and then on my return, I intend to use a slightly different approach. Instead of writing about when something happens, I am going to go instead to a weekly update (probably Sunday's) of what has been happening through the week. There is plenty going on, just last week I had an evening of riding around in a police car observing the police doing their jobs. This is more what I think I should bring to my blog, day to day life but in a weekly format to give it some substance.

In between, I will try to write about other issues aside from that. This is where I can perhaps go in depth about something to do with myself, the issues that the trans world faces or something else. Perhaps here I can be a little safer expressing my opinions rather than in the wider world of social media.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Hyper-empathy

"Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's shoes." - link

Recently I have found myself discussing empathy with a friend and during this discussion, it was felt that we both had had to learn how to empathise during our transition. It was not something that came naturally and over the years we have had to develop the skills needed to empathise with others. Our discussion went much deeper than just this and the reasons for this lack of empathy within both of us could be considered very controversial. They are not evidenced or researched so they are not for this blog at the moment.

My lack of empathic skills is evident in the fact that I did not even know what the word meant until I started training with Samaritans a few years ago. Empathy is a key skill needed in being able to listen to people in distress, despairing or suicidal and I was in at the deep end with this training as I was simply unable to empathise. I managed to get through this, but it was incredibly tough and I feel it was only with the help of the training team that I did make it.

Over the years since then, I have developed a much better set of empathic skills. I left my Samaritans work last year, mainly to concentrate on getting through the difficult times prior to my surgery. I did take my skills from that work and I support people from time to time that are struggling. Being able to see everything from a persons perspective is key to helping someone and I have become quite good at it over time.

This year, not long after my surgery, I was invited to join an on-line trans support group that focused on exploring emotional difficulties. With 10 or so others, we all worked together to develop our empathy skills and the results were quite impressive. It was a very useful group, any issues could be brought there, without fear of judgement and worked through. Everyone started to understand that it was less about bringing own experiences into discussion and more about concentrating on the immediate issues of the struggling person.

I think over time, this has led me to become almost too good at empathy and I have got to a position of having too much. This has been shown with recent events and today I think I came to the conclusion that I have a problem.

Last week was a bad week, as written about here. The gender dysphoria is not the main issue at hand, that was merely a side effect of the traumatic week. What was more apparent was how sensitive I was to the deliberate triggering in the message I was sent. In addition, I had the emotional relief when my friend told me she was going to deal with her serious problems. I was still shocked at how much this had affected me over the weeks that she has been struggling and I spent the weekend pondering it from time to time. 

I had already started to work down the lines of the reality that I may be over empathising, this morning. I get too much into the perspective of the other person and really take on board their issues including the distress they are suffering as a result. My mind started suggesting possibilities of hyper-empathy; a phrase I have never heard of and I used it in a message to a friend yesterday. Today saw a discussion occurring in a trans group and the distress of the person who started it was apparent. I was involved in the conversation with solutions as to how they can solve it. The discussion was never heated, everyone was keeping to boundaries and yet by the end I was almost in tears. 

Why was this?

I sat back from the keyboard and realised this was hyper-empathy in action. I opened a new tab, Google'd "hyper empathy" and there it was. This article was interesting and I list the following symptoms from it:
  1. If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it too?
  2. Are my feelings easily hurt?
  3. Am I emotionally drained by crowds, require time alone to revive?
  4. Do my nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
  5. Do I prefer taking my own car to places so that I can leave when I please?
  6. Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
  7. Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships.
I can disregard 5 and 7, they do not apply but all the rest seem to be me at the moment. I also like the quote, "an empath can easily become an ‘angst-sucking sponge’." This perhaps sums up what I have been doing. I take peoples distress and take it on board so much, I end up in the same distressed state myself.

My Samaritans training, and subsequent experience, taught us about barriers. There were also support mechanisms in place to prevent this from happening. In the outside world however, I am typically supporting people that I form an attachment to and the barriers are then no longer there. In addition, I feel very privileged to have completed my transitioning and wish to help others complete theirs. I want people to have the same ending that I had and I get caught up in their worlds trying to help them. 

This morning was a stark reminder that I can't save the world. I can support, but people need to work through their issues themselves. I have found the problem, and now need to work at it to keep myself intact. I can still be empathic, but I must stop putting myself completely in other's shoes. I need to relearn this and stand by their sides looking at things instead of seeing it through their eyes.

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Dysphoria Strikes Back

It is getting hard to find catchy titles for my posts, but lets be honest "it's been a shit week and my emotional state has been a bit dodgy" does not start a post very well. Please bear with it as there is some really good stuff mixed in.

I have not written a post in nearly a week now, and this is always a good sign that things are amiss. When I am particularly troubled, I find it difficult to write for my blog. This is odd because writing can be very helpful for working through difficulties, but it does not seem to work for me at the moment.

This week has been tumultuous, as in that there has been a massive amount happening all at once. It has been deafening in some ways and I am back to a situation where I am being overwhelmed. It's also not all negative, but the bad stuff has done some damage. There is also a great deal I can't divulge as it involves others whose privacy needs to be protected. 

I think it started Sunday, and it centred around misgendering. I hadn't been misgendered but the subject had arisen in a group and this is something I am quite passionate about. The whole debate deserves a post of it's own but in a shortened version; I have been told for too long by my peers that misgendering is something I have to accept. I am expected to shoulder the hurt that it causes and not try to let it get to me. 

A message regarding this was sent to me on Monday and this message triggered me badly. For those that do not understand triggering, here is a good definition:
A specific thing that causes a mentally ill individual's brain to go into a state of hyper-vigilance. The thing that triggers them makes them feel unsafe and or threatened. Contrary to popular belief, this does not just occur in people with PTSD, though it is much more common in people with PTSD and a type of anxiety disorder. 
I have a diagnosis of mild PTSD but I do not think it triggered any of that. However, I have had anxiety problems recently but again, I do not know if that is what was triggered. Regardless of the messages intention, it spiralled me into a very despairing state. 

This happened early in the morning and I briefly wrote back a reactive angry reply, fought my emotions and got Mandy off to her day centre. Then it was back to a very empty flat and try to cope with everything. Thankfully a lifeline came along and I had a 2 hour conversation with a friend on Skype. The face to face contact with someone who would listen was what I needed to get myself back to some semblance of functionality and get on with things.

I had a meeting in the evening, this was part of a group that works with the police advising them of local needs. I go representing the trans community and feed information in with regards local and national trans issues. It is useful and many people around the table have expressed surprise at some of the insights I have given them about life as a trans person. However, given the fact I had been attacked by the community I was representing, I felt like I couldn't be bothered.

As I approached the evening, I found myself looking in the bedroom mirror and it hit me like a brick in the face; I was dysphoric. I could see a man staring back at me and it frightened me. This was the most severe it had been since my GRS and possibly in all the time I have been on hormones. The lead up to my GRS was also quite dysphoric with the testosterone surge I experienced, but now that is completely gone and I am running on oestrogen alone. Seeing him in that mirror was a shock and I was filled with self-loathing.

I sat on the bed and started deciding what to do. Should I abandon going to the meeting? I called Mandy in and spoke to her. We decided in the end that I should try a change of clothes. Clothes do not make the woman, but femme'ing myself up helped a great deal. It did not remove the dysphoria but smoothed off the edges and made it possible to face the world again. As it happened, the meeting was an interesting event and it has opened a possibility of a very exciting opportunity for me and the trans community.

In amongst all of this, I have been supporting a friend who is going through a terrible time. I have been very worried about her and her situation and it has been close to me dragging her away from it and bringing her to our flat to give her a break. She knew everything that was going on and despite all her issues, she sent me a kind text message on Monday. This touched me in many ways, and despite the cost, I rang her mobile to talk to her. She knows dysphoria inside out and reinforced my idea of using clothes to help me in difficult times.

The week plodded on and I was reminded of the saying that everyone has something unseen going on in the background. I put on a smiling face, whilst inside it was all just going round and round. I talked to another close friend but the stark truth was that I still had to deal with the original message that had started off this dysphoria. I did this yesterday and it was unpleasant but I think it has been put to rest. I had to concede a lot to lay it to rest, but sometimes admitting you are in the wrong (even if you felt you were not) shows strength. I needed to put this behind me and by backing down, I could at least start dealing with my dysphoria as well as developing a way to avoid this conflict happening again. 

Today my friend messaged me saying she was leaving her situation for a time and going somewhere safe to stay. As well as that she has made a courageous decision to deal with her problems. I empathised with her, it might have felt like it was a step backwards, but it made a great deal of sense. Within seconds of getting the message, I was in floods of tears. Perhaps her difficulties had touched me more than I realised. I told her so, she rang me and we spent an hour talking. 

She reminded me that there has been good this week. I have learnt more facets to gender dysphoria and how to cope with them. I have a couple of good opportunities coming up and I have shown that I can back down in the face of adversity; sometimes proving you are right is not always important.

This has been tough to write. I have had to keep from telling everything as well as protect peoples privacy. I also wanted to try to keep it from being as negative as possible, but the reality is that I do have mental health problems and I needed to get this written down to help me work through it all. Mental health aside, I also find my dysphoria has not quite gone away. Whether this will lessen in time, I do not know, but the illusion of it all gone away is shattered and I need to remember my coping strategies of old. At least the physical dysphoria is gone and I do not need to deal with that. Perhaps this reminder has been useful...

At least now, I feel it is over and I can move back to a happier place.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Discharge!

Before anyone thinks this is to do with my GRS, you might need to rethink. This post is actually about my discharge from the Laurel's G.I.C. and not any kind of fluid emanating from my body!

I recently wrote about making this decision in a post called Decision making. Because of a massive influx of referrals, the clinic is now overwhelmed and waiting times are rising dramatically. A conversation with the clinic manager last week led me to make the choice to dispense with the services of the clinic 8 months early. It was made with me in mind too, I simply do not need to be visiting there every 3 months for a chat with Lynda, nice though that is. I also expressed an interest in helping the clinic with volunteering and one of the stipulations of that is that you are essentially ready to move on in your life, with no more therapy needed.

I wrote to Lynda advising her of this and she wrote back, quite upset. It seemed she wanted to do this with me face to face. I wrote back saying that if she wanted, I could come in at short notice when convenient and go ahead with this. She found an appointment for yesterday and Mandy and myself duly went in.

This was to be by far the best appointment so far. Despite all the bad history, I found it quite strange to have got to this point. When you embark on this part of transitioning, the end seems a very long way off. I started in February 2012, although there was a mistake and I didn't enter the clinic until February 2013. There were some massive errors, a couple of serious ones and it was a very bumpy start. Lynda was instrumental in getting me to regain some faith in the clinic and the system, often acknowledging that I had been failed. 

I have managed to get through the system fairly quickly and those coming through behind have some massive waits in front of them. I wont get too political but my feelings are that today's election result does not bode well for the trans community as a whole and the next five years are going to be tough going. This morning before setting out was gloomy, even tearful, because of this and I even felt that it might be difficult to show I was ready to be moving on.

By the time we got to Exeter, my spirits had lifted. I think it was just the despair I had been reading on Facebook had gotten to me. Getting back out and in the real world helped enormously and of course a good bucket of latte helped too. We walked into the clinic and found it a far different environment than normal. It was quiet and peaceful with hardly any of the usual bustle. Friday is usually a much quieter day and this made the staff seem in a much more relaxed mood. The clinic manager was not rushing off to somewhere for once and made time to chat to Mandy and myself, handing me the application forms for volunteering. Lynda was soon out and we were herded in for my appointment. 

This was more of a chat than anything, and it felt more like and official goodbye. We talked in depth about a lot of things particularly the future for gender services in this country as well as how the election result was going to affect things. Lynda seemed worried, and this reinforced my fears. If she was worried, then the worry was real indeed. I spoke of my need to be involved with the community for the time being and she felt that volunteering at the clinic was a very good way to help and give back. The finances of the clinic were very strained and every bit of help was desperately needed. 

Lynda also made a big point about moving away from things and drifting away from the community if I felt the need. I fixed her with a raised eyebrow and said she was hardly the person to be pushing that on me given how much she does herself. She also spoke to Mandy and we agreed that she can return at times to help Lynda with work she might do concerning partners and family. 

We go out to the main reception and we spent the best part on an hour there chatting to the manager again as well as one of the other volunteers. We set a date for a start of my work, some observation work and it's time to leave.

So that's it, almost. I no longer have to attend any more "therapy" session but I am technically still on the books until my final appointment with the Dr. in 5 months time.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The axe-woman cometh!

Recently I wrote about how transitioning can consume and take over your life to the point where you exclude other interests in your life. One of those interests that I dropped whilst transitioning was the learning and playing of the guitar. Perhaps a little history might be in order.

Way, way, way back in my childhood, possible younger than 10, I did try to learn then. It was incredibly difficult and I struggled to grasp the concept of the instrument. I only had a full sized acoustic and some very boring tutorial books that seemed to start easily and then jump to seriously harder stuff really quickly. I had enough problems with life, bullying and hidden gender issues were always with me and adding another attractant for the bullies made me turn off this very quickly.

I have tried playing drums in the past, I have quite a natural ear for rhythm and percussion and would dearly love to pursue this as a musical interest. However, they are not a choice for when you live in close proximity to other people so this will not likely happen. 

I have always enjoyed my music, my preference is for rock (most forms), prog rock, heavy metal and other sub genres of these types. About 8 or 9 years ago, I saw an advert on the TV for a game for consoles and PC called Guitar Hero. It was rock based and after some research I found you had to buy a guitar shaped controller that had a set of buttons on the neck and a strum bar. I was intrigued and did a little more research on the Internet. I found a YouTube video of two people playing Black Sabbath's Iron Man and suddenly I had to have this game.

I remember going into town and picking it up from Argos. I plugged it in to my PS3 and I was hooked instantly. The guitar itself consisted of 5 coloured buttons and a strum bar. I spent hours playing that game and got quite good at it. It had various difficulties ranging from easy, medium, hard and expert. I ended by being able to play many tracks on expert but found the most enjoyment by playing on hard. This mode used all the buttons and often combined most of them into it's own form of chords. I actually became quite good at this and was ranked in the top 15 on the PS3 leader-board for the world at one point.

This eventually led to thoughts of whether this was actually teaching me anything. I seriously wondered whether I could progress to a real guitar from this. I was under no illusions that it would be a simple challenge. Guitar Hero had 5 buttons and a strum bar. A stratocaster style guitar has at least 21 frets with 6 strings that each represent a strum bar. The equates to 126 buttons compared to Guitar Hero's paltry 5!

I bought a decent set-up consisting of a guitar, multi effects pedal and practice amp. I bought some books and set about trying to learn. I struggled, it was seriously tough going but eventually I was starting to get somewhere. I think the overriding problem with it all was that it was seriously boring and had none of the enjoyment that Guitar Hero had.

It was all dashed one morning when at work, I managed to smash the end of my left little finger off. I was taken to hospital and after several hours of messing around with it, they announced that I had to admitted and operated on. I was told I was going to lose a part of the finger.

This knocked the wind right out of my sails and the guitar gathered dust for quite some time. I played Guitar Hero for quite a while but I got bored of that. Eventually, I sold the guitar and equipment. I also grew out of Guitar hero and sold all that gear too. My transitioning was also a massive factor in this loss of interest as I couldn't devote my energies to anything else whilst doing that.

Guitar Hero died a death anyway and for five years there have been no new releases until a couple of months ago it was announced they were reviving the series. A new controller was going to be developed with an different layout and an extra button. Memories of the hours I had spent playing that game were brought back to me and I was interested.

In the time that Guitar Hero has been away, another program has been developed and marketed under the name Rocksmith. This is less of a game and more of an educational tool. It uses a similar way of playing to Guitar Hero but uses a traditional guitar to play it. It can recognise the notes you play and tell if you have matched them up to what is needed.

So I considered this option. My transitioning was over, my finger has become less sensitive over time and the thought of trying to learn guitar again was intriguing me. I costed it up, Guitar Hero with new controlled was probably going to be £70 and a cheap Strat and Rocksmith was going to be £100. I had some money from my birthday so I decided on the second option.

That was four weeks ago and I can report some definite success. I am surprised at how quickly the basics came back to me. Even after all these years, I was plucking successfully very quickly. Rocksmith is very intuitive in how it teaches you and above all else, it is very fun and enjoyable. There are a couple of tracks where I am over 50% of the way to mastering them. There are of course a couple where I am under 3%!

There is much talk around as to whether Rocksmith does teach you to play. It includes a whole mass of lessons alongside the music and I have been through some of these. I am of the mind it does teach, but in a much different way. You are not going to learn to read music as the notation is guitar tab, but that is fine. I can read music to a point but have always found tab much easier to get along with. The lessons are quite good and have varying levels for each type of lessons. Also as you are playing, whenever there is a chord to strum, it gives you the name of the chord so slowly you gather this information in your memory. 

Above all it is fun and sure beats the old days of trying to educate myself with books and tabs from the Internet. You can see improvement every day you play it as well as finding a challenge in trying to better your progress from the time before. Above all else, it seems much easier now than before. My mind feels so much clearer and absorbent and I wonder whether I have ever been in such a position in my entire life?


My axe and me!

Tuning! Easy with this program.

Shredding away. See if anyone can guess the track I am playing. Use the comments for your guesses.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Decision making

Two important decisions were made this week, in amidst dealing with granulation and other matters.

The first one occurred on Thursday and was an on the spot decision that I was surprised to have made. I had a meeting at the Laurel's gender clinic as part of the patient participation group I am a member of. Facts and figures were trotted out and it was clear the clinic was struggling to deal with a massive influx of referrals. This has come about because of waiting times being published about all 7 clinics. This document, http://www.uktrans.info/attachments/article/341/patientpopulation-jan15.pdf, shows that in January there was a 16 week wait time for the Laurels as opposed to nearly 18 months for Leeds. If you lived in the Leeds area, were desperate for diagnosis and treatment (as many people with gender dysphoria are) and had the means to travel to Exeter, then you would likely consider this option.

The reality is that people have flocked from all over the country to the Laurel's and the backlog of referrals is massive. The 16 weeks has now increased to 22-23 weeks* and we were given a plan on how the clinic were going to resolve the issue. However it was going to take time and at the moment, only new patients could be admitted once an existing patient was discharged. 

I considered this briefly and within the meeting suggested whether it was necessary for me to continue at the clinic for the year I was funded for. Were I to need anything they could provide, I would not even have thought about leaving, but the truth is that I have finished my transitioning and at this time, there is nothing more the clinic can provide for me. The clinic manager accepted this offer and asked me to write to her later to confirm my decision. I got home, talked it over with Mandy and then wrote an email confirming it.

As part of this I have also offered to volunteer within the clinic. They have a small volunteer base and part of the criteria for this is that you have to be discharged to do so. I felt it might be something I could be a part of as well as perhaps bringing more up to date experiences to the current base. 

Interestingly, when I emailed Lynda (my therapist) about this, she seemed a little upset in her reply. I told her clearly my decisions why and also that it was not the end and we were allowed to converse by email in the future. She wants to involve me in some research and I do not have to be a client to do this. I also mentioned about volunteering and that we would see each other more regularly, but even so, she seemed unhappy with my decision. 

It was always my decision to make, and I have made it. It feels right, I do not need any more help in this regards and I am effectively "bed blocking" so to speak. It is time to move on. I have replied again to Lynda suggesting perhaps another appointment so that she can formally discharge me herself, but sooner rather than later. I am not technically discharged yet, but it is imminent.

Following Thursday, Friday saw me making another important decision, a far more upsetting one. I returned to my voluntary work a fortnight ago and whilst I was ok with the first day, last week found another volunteer having a go at me. My solution at that time was to walk out.

I agreed to return after discussing it with the charity's director but as Friday loomed, I found myself very uneasy with the prospect of going back in. On my morning run, I churned it all through my mind and made the decision to resign. I returned from the run, dilated, showered, breakfasted and then wrote my resignation. I drove into Taunton and with tears in my eyes, I handed the letter to the person who is in charge of the office. 

We discussed things, he was reluctant for me to do this but accepted that he has to respect my decision. After more discussion with him and another volunteer, we decided to keep the option open for me to return after the summer.

This was not an easy decision for me. I reflected back on it and realise that I may not have been ready to return to this work. Whilst I am physically fit and recovered from my surgery, it is also apparent that emotionally I am most definitely not. When I left the building I had a long chat with another volunteer and I was crying as I was talking to her. This new phase of my life with the more powerful effects of the hormones is taking some adjustment and the work I was doing is not suitable at this time. It is harsh work, having to take in some distressing situations. On top of that is a cramped office that means everyone is on top of each other as well as a couple of other issues that I am not at liberty to divulge. It was simply too much for me at this time.

I returned home, and wrote to the director stating I had resigned. I also said that perhaps it was a hasty decision and that if it was agreeable, I would like to stick to the idea of returning in September. I also explained a little more in depth about my hormones and how they were affecting me this time around. At this time, I have had no reply but she is away on holiday.

So, after making these two massive decisions, how do I feel? 

The Laurels; I feel good. Staying another nine months was truly pointless. It was just going to be a waste of resources. It was good to chat to Lynda, but there was now nothing to be gained from it. My GP and myself are well on top of everything and any issues, we can soon contact the Laurel's for advice.

The voluntary work; This was a harder decision. I feel it was right for me and although I need something to do, I wonder just how rested I am after my surgery. I returned after 3 months as this was recommended. However, the three months recovery has not been restful. I resumed my non-lifting caring duties for Mandy quite soon as well as having the maintenance of my surgery to contend with. There is so much to do post-op and those three months are pretty intense. I am going to take it a little easier for the next few months. I forget sometimes how involved my caring duties are too and perhaps I should not rush back into work. Of course, I still have other small pieces of work I do and I intend to carry on with them and there is also the possibility of the Laurel's although that is going to be much less intense than the work I was doing.

* I was given permission to disclose this information as I saw fit.

Friday, 1 May 2015

More granulation

I had my post-op check 5 or so weeks ago and at the time, they applied silver-nitrate to the granulation tissue I had developed at the time. I had a small amount underneath the clitoris and more internally towards the back end of the vagina. 

Recently, I have noticed the tissue around the clitoris has become sore again. It is an interesting kind of sore, unlike anything I have experience in the past. It is not too painful but more uncomfortable and tends to be more noticeable when moving around. Looking at it, it is evident where the problem is. The area is a lovely healthy pink apart from this small part that really stands out as red and angry. My granulation internally has never really gone away and is evident with pain on inserting the smaller dilator (the bigger one is fine oddly) and the gel that comes back out is a rusty colour.

I have gave it five weeks and took the plunge in emailing Brighton. I was offered three choices:
  • Get my GP to treat it - easiest.
  • Get my GP to refer me to a local gynaecologist - possible long wait.
  • Return to Brighton for them to treat it - 350 mile round trip.
Whilst the idea of visiting the staff at Brighton was appealing, it is a long drive and this adds in costs of fuel. My GP was obviously the ideal choice but there are stories of many problems with people finding their GP's unwilling to touch their new vaginas. I have a superb relationship with my GP so it would have been silly to have not even tried to explore it.

I rang them on Monday and explained everything to a receptionist. She didn't understand too much about what I was talking about but her suggestion was to ring first thing on Tuesday and grab one of the duty Dr. appointments that would be available that day. I did so and two hours later I was explaining to my GP what the problem was. 

She seemed un-fazed by it all and was more concerned whether I was happy for her to proceed. She stated she had no silver-nitrate in stock but could order it in if necessary. Would I like to lie on the bed for her to have a look at what the problem is? Actually, showing her my new vagina was not a problem and she had seen the gruesome sight that had been there before. Now she could see the real me and she was quite impressed with the outcome! It was also interesting with Mandy there too. All those years of being with her for her smear tests, and now it was me being "invaded". She didn't hold my bloody hand though...

We quickly found the external problem and then I am being asked about size of speculum's (or is that speculii?). I suggest a medium, given that I am at the biggest dilators there are. She puts it in very gently, and starts looking around. She proclaims confidently that she can see the problem and that she can get to it. She is more than happy to order the silver nitrate in and have a go. She then makes the mistake of pulling the speculum out a little quickly and there is an "ooh" moment!

"40% or 95% strength", she asks. We do not know to be honest so we opt for the gentler option. I am given a prescription and I take it around the corner to the pharmacy. The actually have it in stock and two days later, I work the system again and get an on the day appointment. Since then though, I have learned from Brighton that we actually need 75% sticks instead of the pencils we have.

I talk to my GP about this and we decide to have a go anyway with the 40% pencils. She starts work on the external and that familiar tingly fizzing sensation is soon apparent. In goes another speculum and with the aid of some forceps, she manages to get the pencil in and start working on the internal granulation. She even manages to find another patch too and worked on that. I clean up and now put a panty liner on, the first one for some time because there is going to be a mess!

I thank her for what she has done, and even mention how many GP's will not do this. She seems surprised at that, but that is the reality of what I hear from others. We agree that the best course of action is to put the 75% sticks on my repeat prescription and have another treatment in five weeks. This was booked on my way out and I left feeling confident that this will get sorted in the end, even if there are a few more visits.


My GRS time-line :


Also: