Sunday, 21 June 2015

A fortnight in the Lakes

Our fortnight in the Lakes, as told by photographs. I hope this goes ok, Blogger can be very tricky when it comes to formatting and images.
A gentle walk around Whitehaven, it was quite chilly and windy for June.
The harbour mouth at Whitehaven.
A walk to our nearby lake, Bassenthwaite.
From above Bassenthwaite village (the lake is in the distance)
Ennerdale Lake, a gentle and flat looking walk, that was anything but in reality!
Ennerdale from the North end.
Ennerdale from the South end.
The only way for Mandy to see Penrith castle was down into the moat and back up again. She was not keen...
Penrith Castle.
Derwent water from part way up Skiddaw, the 4th (it may be 3rd but there is debate about this) highest mountain in England.
Across to Scotland from Skiddaw.
931 metres from sea level!
Or over 3000 feet above sea level.
A lovely sunny day in Windemere.
More sunny smiles.
Skiddaw (that we climbed) shrouded in cloud.
Heck, I gotta go paddling at least once!
Nearly trod on this toad whilst walking one day.
The river Derwent, and Susan.
The same river, and Me!
The three of us in Carlisle.
Derwent water, a little ways from Keswick.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Holiday reflections

I was intending to do a write up of the holiday using photo's to describe it. Typically, our mobile broadband we our using has decided to go a bit flaky on this second week, probably due to the poorer weather and it is very on/off. The thought of trying to upload 40mb of photo's is not even thinkable. I will have to wait until we get back and on to our more stable wired broadband. Instead, perhaps some more thoughts on this holiday.

The two weeks is (almost) over and on reflection, this has been a very satisfying holiday for myself. There are many reason for this, probably the principle one is my feeling of completeness and for once being able to enjoy myself as who I am. The timing has been good, coming 5 months since my surgery and I feel like this has struck a line between my recovery and moving forwards with things.

There's been bad in this holiday too. Primarily we have discovered just how disabled unfriendly the Lakes really are; I have really struggled to find things for Mandy to enjoy and sadly she has ended up stuck in the cottage a few times. I know some areas will always be difficult for disabled people but I feel there could be a great deal more done for them here. The Equality Act 2010 was brought in with the aim of enabling people to have a more equal country to live in, but our experiences of it are that disabled people seem to benefit the least. It's a very useful piece of legislation to throw at companies when it comes to trans discrimination, but for physical improvements to those with mobility problems; it's a different area entirely.

Despite this we have managed a fairly active week for us all. Susan and myself have engaged in four decent walks, although this second week has found us a little more tired possibly due to hay-fever being a problem, although my own is now much better than it used to be. We had a couple of long local field walks, a walk around Ennerdale Lake (8 miles) and a scramble up the mountain of Skiddaw (931 meters at its summit). 

These walks have felt much different now I am post-op. There is now a freedom in the clothes I can wear with no obvious bulge now down below. That bulge had never been a real issue in my transitioning but since its removal, I have explored different styles finding a top and leggings to be much better than a skirt when walking. There is also not having that reminder swinging away when walking, it feels freer and just more comfortable.

There is a downside to it all too, and that is toileting! Gone are the days of having the convenience of the nearest tree and it is a different kettle of fish now. I have documented this new issue in the past and found squatting ended up with a massive risk of wet knickers/leggings. I purchased a female urinary device, the Go-Girl, and this has been used quite a number of times recently. It has been an educational experience, the first few times were very hit and miss and I ended up with wet knickers more than once. By the final walk this week, I pretty much had it nailed and knew exactly how to use it without problems. Urinating in the middle of nowhere though is a much more time consuming experience and I will need to select quieter walks for the future, especially when I am on my own with no one to be on "look out"!

As I said, involving Mandy has been a little more difficult but we had a few trips to the small towns in the Lakes. Last Friday was nice in that we had a trip on the ferries that go around Lake Windermere. Two of the bigger vessels are well equipped for wheelchairs and we spent over three hours going around the lake taking in the scenery, a good way for Mandy to do this.

Of course as usual, I have consumed far too many calories this holiday. Although the walks have burnt up some of these alongside several runs, I know that my weight has increased because some of my skirts now no longer fit again. When we get back, I need to get cracking and try to get back to my pre-op weight. I did it before, so I know I can do it again!

Attending to myself has also been a new addition to this holiday. Of course there is the dilation, which I have managed quite well and not skipped a single session. There has been one issue that took me by surprise. I noticed after a week or so, I was experiencing some vaginal soreness. It took me a time to get to the bottom of this but in the end I suspected it was the soap I was using. On the advice of Brighton, I used aqueous cream for a time whilst using Simple soap for my bodily washing. Eventually I moved to using the same soap for washing my new vagina. When we packed for the holiday I found a bar of Dove soap, that I used to use pre-op so I packed that for a change. This was the cause of the irritation and a tub of aqueous cream made things much more comfortable, perhaps taking 12 hours to calm things down. It was a good reminder that things are still very much new down there ad still need a bit more care than normal.

Tomorrow is our last day here and then Saturday we head back down the M6 and M5 to home. Watch out from Sunday for those photo's.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Lake District memories

We are just about halfway through a fortnight's holiday in the Lake District, along with our good friend Susan. I will detail the holiday in more depth next weekend when we return. In the meantime I have found how interesting it is with regards how many memories being here has provoked, especially during the long walks I have enjoyed with Susan.

This is actually my fourth visit to the Lakes during my life and I have been reflecting on how these visits have been relevant to my life of gender dysphoria and eventual transitioning.

My first visit was during the eighties as part of a school trip. I was a very confused teenager, struggling with my hormones and my gender issues. I knew I had gender dysphoria (although I was not aware of the term); I knew I was a girl, but my body was that of a boy and this meant I was spending most of my capacity in trying to survive portraying the wrong gender. I could not comprehend the other boys, their behavior was baffling to me and this taxed my capabilities. During this trip, there were some extremely unpleasant memories including sharing a dormitory with probably 25 other boys. The bullying that I had endured during school was just the same on this trip.

There were some rays of light in this trip though. First was my appreciation for the beauty of the lakes and the ability to be close to nature with regards where our hostel was located. This led to me forming a rare friendship with three others, two girls and one boy. To be able to interact with girls was a helpful experience, but just to have a friendship was just as pleasing. I remember memories of the four of us walking up the river that cascaded below our hostel and swimming in a deep pool that was located a little way away. As well as that, we climbed Scafell one day and when fog descended, I was stuck at the summit (the Pikes) with one of the girls from my friendship. I remember us being completely free to talk, no inhibitions and being honest with each other. I think at that point I could have told her about my gender issues. I didn't and eventually the fog cleared with the trip soon to end. Sadly the friendship we had formed seemed to be destroyed when returned to the school environment. Those three that wanted to know me during that trip, did not want to be associated with me when back in the school environment. 

The second trip was somewhere about 7-8 years ago when I was deep into my chronic denial of my gender issues. Mandy and myself booked a cottage near Carlisle that was also a coarse fishing complex. Fishing was one of my old life past-times and the holiday was to be a mixed affair with that and some visiting on the Lakes. It was a truly hideous holiday, the complex was just awful, the fishing was rubbish and we were some distance from the lakes. This holiday was a non-event.

3 years ago in 2011, we decided on a return to the Lakes and because we had missed out before by being so far away, we booked a place in Bowness-on-Windemere, right in the heart of the Lakes. I would have said at the time that I was happy with my current situation, I was a kind of working male, but living all my time outside of this as a woman. I had told my friends and family and thoughts of going full time were in the distance somewhere. This holiday was going to be different, I was going to live the whole fortnight as Lucy. Our living situation meant I could not leave as her and had to change in the local motorway services. I left those services as Lucy and stayed that way until we returned two weeks later.

The whole fortnight was a complete eye opener. My treatment by the residents of the Lake District was so completely accepting that it helped me to make the decision to go full time. This was not to say that I had had any serious problems close to home, but to go away to a strange place and be completely accepted as who I am made my decision easy. 

Changing back on returning home was incredibly hard to do and I made the decision the very next day to meet the landlord who we rented our cottage from and explain the situation. This gave me much more freedom to come and go as I pleased. I started a voluntary post a few days after and then it was just my work situation to deal with. That happiness with my situation I had had prior to this holiday quickly became unhappiness. It took me until July 2012 to go full time, in the end out of sheer desperation.

So here we are now, having returned to the Lakes finished with the essentials of my transitioning. There are differences of course, I now have to contend with dilation and still twice a day too. Doing this in a different place and with a different routine makes it a little harder but it has not been too bad. There are also hormones, and I think the last couple of days have been PMT affected. 

But I have that contentment now that comes with being complete and it has helped me relax on this holiday (outside of that PMT!). There is nothing to go back to with regards transitioning and it feels like this has been a very nice conclusion to my recovery period. My life is there beckoning to me on my return.

Hang on though, there's still another week to go! I will update about the fortnight in my next post.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


The title is supposed to reflect a sound you would make when relaxed or satisfied; like laying back after a hard days and going "ahhh". I think I am there now.

There have been some tough moments during my transitioning and I had expectations that post-op would see the troubles over. This blog has clearly shown that it has been a much different experience and the difficulties have surprised me greatly.

I expected a very long physical recovery and yet that never was the case. I was very much up and at it after my return from Brighton with none of the tiredness or pain that others have described. I thought perhaps this was down to my high level of fitness, but a friend who was fitter than me is at this moment having a much different experience. 

I have talked a great deal about the emotional difficulties I have had. For a couple of months, these were incredibly tough going and there were one or two moments where I had to try to fathom out why I had suicidal thoughts. None of it made sense to me for a while, I should have been happy and ready to move on with life but was thinking instead of ending it all. I do not think there was ever any danger of that, but those thoughts entered my mind. Not everyone gets to this point, but it is clear that a few do. It is something that no one wants to admit to easily either. This happiness you expect to have is also expected of you by others.

Why I had these difficulties is something I have pondered very deeply. It was perhaps a combination of lots of things. For a while your life is taken over a little by dilation, after-care and being scrupulously clean. HibiScrub, Kyjelly, dilators and douches take over your life as you learn this new aspect and it can be overwhelming. The future looks bright and free of transitioning, and it can be overwhelming. There is a void in your life where transitioning was, and it can be overwhelming. There is a horrific period with no hormones, just as long a period of waiting for them to work again and then their effects are very overw... (you know what's coming!).

Overwhelming was a word I used a great deal when I was struggling because that was how I was. Mandy would come back from her day centres full of energy and describe her day. I would shrink back from her as she did this because I could not take it all on board.

Over time though, I have managed to cope with this and I was beginning to get to a point where I felt quite contented, the dark thoughts had disappeared and I was starting to look forward to life ahead without the transitioning.Then someone sent me a terrible message on Facebook and it had the effect of triggering me back to the dark thoughts. It took me a little while to get over this one and I had to rethink ways of avoiding getting such messages. 

The last week, perhaps a fortnight, I have started to feel a new feeling in myself. The dark thoughts were a memory and there was a new found sense of contentment with the future. I think last week with my observation day at the Laurel's sealed it all up nicely and made me realise that I can look to my future with some sense of optimism.

I still have a few things to deal with, but then everybody does. I have this internal granulation, it gives me a little pain when dilating but I have the correct silver nitrate sticks in front of me now and an appointment with my GP on Thursday to treat it. Dilation itself is actually a nice part of my life, it is an important part of my relaxation and if I miss one, I miss it literally. I also have the issue of the mild PTSD but my CBT starts for that in a few weeks. I can then adapt my strategies and hopefully put that behind me.

I am finding myself truly now. It needed the surgery to complete this discovery, and then a little bit more work to get used to it all. For those that say GRS is the icing on the cake, pah! It was a heap more than that and the key for me to be able to go about my life content in the gender I have always know I have been.