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Bridging the Gap Posts

Scared

I am fucking terrified. 

This week has done a number on me emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I’m so tired of thinking about it that I barely want to talk about it. But it’s the background radiation of my life and I am having FEELINGS right now and it’s frustrating because it feels so isolating. 

Reynaud’s apparently flares with stress so I’ve been freezing and while I have done zero strenuous activities all week, my body feels like I’ve been fighting bears and climbing mountains. 

I feel awkward and sheepish for being (what I imagine is perceived as) alarmist when I look at everything that’s happened this week and tell people it’s only going to get worse from here so we need to start preparing. Not awkward enough not to say it because the worst part about it is I know I’m right. I’ve read history. I grew up on Pence’s side of the aisle, I know how to read the writing on the wall, I can hear the dogwhistles in their approaches. I know what to look for and I know where they want to end up. I can’t know the future, but I sure as hell know the direction we’re going right now. 

And I am fucking terrified. I haven’t been able to bring myself to admit it out loud but I am scared. My body has not stopped being tense for a week, I find myself holding my breath and not realizing it. 

I’ve thrown myself into campus organizing. I worry a little bit that I seem like a conspiracy theorist but at the same time, IT’S ALL FUCKING HAPPENING. That’s what I hate about everything; and that more than anything is what gnaws at me in the night. 

I KNOW. I KNOW because I was there. I was trained to be part of the movement that made this happen. This feels personal to me in a way it is not personal for most people and I’m having a really hard time handling those feelings. I wasn’t important, I left before I got to play a role, but I was being groomed. I knew the rhetoric, and the strategy, and the hopes. When I left I hoped all that would stay behind too. Like somehow it would disappear because it left my conscious and surely the majority of America wouldn’t let that happen.

But it didn’t. They started winning. A lot. And now we’re here. 

And I’m scared.

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Future.

Since the last post I’ve been able to sit with myself for a few minutes and think about where I go from here. 

I’ve decided that I am definitely going to focus on Labor Studies since Coming Out Week went so well and I got an email about the Student Organizing Cohort that the Ethnic Studies Department is doing at school (I have an interview for that this week). 

I have a meeting this week with Disability services to see about getting a medical withdrawal from shop so my incomplete does not give me an F for just not being physically capable to machine safely. As it turns out, losing an entire reproductive system takes a lot out of you even after your stitches are healed. Mixed with stress disorders and trauma it’s just…not happening.

I met with a counselor about changing majors, and ever since I decided to act on it, I’ve felt more at peace and in alignment with myself. I feel like this is the thing I should be doing, and I feel centered when I think about it. 

I also feel a bit nervous because I think it will be really challenging in good and frustrating ways, but hopefully in ways that I’m a little more equipped for.

Honestly after the news this week, going to school for an organizing AA, organizing on campus and in the East Bay, and doing the work to at least make this portion of the world less hostile is how I’m keeping myself from melting into despair.

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Future?

My therapist asked me what it would look like if just asked myself what I had spoons to do each day and did that, instead of running myself into the ground trying to do everything. We talked about how when I started school I was set on finishing everything on time and thought I’d be able to do everything, but that isn’t actually how school works. It’s a series of choices of what you can and can’t get to, what you lose points on, and what you make extra pushes for.  

We talked about approaches – maybe instead of telling myself “if I get everything done I can do X” because it’s unrealistic and just cements the feeling of inadequacy, I start by taking stock of my bandwidth and asking what I need to do to lift myself up so then I can do whatever homework I need to get done.

English class has been more like a sociology course than anything else for me. As the token trans I take up the middle space in the classroom where everyone assumes I’m a dude, but I talk from the perspective of someone who was raised to be a woman. My voice gets heard by the cis dudes when I explain the ramifications of the oppression not-dudes face on a day to day basis, how that informs our lives, and how that informed Elaine Brown’s life. It’s frustrating because none of what I’m saying is new, it’s only being absorbed because my voice is deep and booming, if any of my femme counterparts made the same arguments they would be written off.

IT’S SO INFURIATING. But this is the power I have so I’m going to fucking wield it because apparently cis dudes only listen to people with deep voices and cis dudes aren’t doing the work of educating each other. But, as my therapist reminded me today, that isn’t my job.

So today the choice I’m making is to skip english class, because I know if I go to the class I won’t have the spoons to write the paper that’s overdue. I already know that english class is going to step on a bunch of triggers that are already exacerbated by the Kavanaugh confirmation, and I wouldn’t be able to recover.

I’m contemplating skipping all of school today, and sitting under this tree on the UC Berkeley campus until my laptop dies.

My body is reacting to the complete overwhelm of stress and anxiety with nausea and exhaustion. I am numb and tired. I am depleted. I have nothing to offer and no energy to take anything in. I am just going through the motions trying to get things done right now.

What’s haunting me that I haven’t gotten to in therapy yet, (because it’s buried under immediate problems) is that I don’t see a future for myself. I don’t feel like I have one. I can’t picture anything beyond the end of next year. So I’m having a hard time finding the motivation to finish my certificate, or find a job, or do anything besides sitting under this tree.

I feel like if I had somewhere I wanted to be, or something I wanted to have done, in like 10 years or so, that would help. I could make decisions based on things that brought me closer to it instead of just wandering aimlessly. But we don’t even have a functioning country right now. Even if we managed to survive (or overcome) the Christofascist takeover and the impending spread of fascism all over the world, our planet is dying.

I don’t know if there will be more than this dust sheet of a democracy existing in 2020, let alone if the planet will even make it to 2040 with all the efforts we tried to make with EPA standards and whatnot getting rolled back. How do I even gather enough hope to plan for a future when it seems like I’m going to be swallowed whole by the planet itself if the nazis don’t get me first?

I don’t know.

I don’t know and that’s why I’m under this tree unable to think. Trying to sit with myself in the uncomfortably familiar terror and dread. I remember this feeling when my parents told me that I was meant to follow in their footsteps. To make all the same mistakes they did. When they said I’d get married and have kids and homeschool and live as a reflection of them. There was no hope, no escape, no out, it was as god intended. If I was lucky enough, I would live to see the start of the end times, when the world catches on fire right before Jesus came back to save us with the rapture.

Right now, it feels a lot like that’s happening. It feels a lot like what my parents spent years of reading Revelations predicting and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me. Not in the “The Bible Was Right And I Am A Christian Again Now!” way, but in the self-fulfilling prophecy that the Christian right has organized against climate change just like they’ve spent the last several decades gathering political power for this moment. We are several steps closer to their utopia, which looks an awful lot like hell for everyone else.

I’ve done a lot for one person in one lifetime.
All I want to do is be held and cry.
But the tears aren’t coming and all I can muster is numbness.
As grounding as it is to be sitting in dry grass, pushing the stress knots in my back against the roots of my tree friend, I can’t climb out of my head.

I don’t have answers, this is just where I’m at.

In the immediate future, I guess, I come to life when I organize, and when I talk about organizing to my therapist she notes that my demeanor changes and I stop being wracked with anxiety.

Organizing on campus is why I haven’t dropped out. It’s grounding, I’m great at it, and it’s fulfilling. I feel energized and empowered when I organize and I can channel a lot of emotion that otherwise lives in my body.

After this semester I’m gonna follow that. I’ll look into the labor studies program at Laney maybe. I could be a Union Organizer, which I recently learned is A Thing and it’s apparently not the same as “you are a machinist who organizes on the side”, as far as I can tell?

When I think about that, hope flickers again. So maybe that’s where I should go.

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School is for Healing

I’ve been coming to grips with some stuff about what I’m studying lately, which is largely that 1: I really enjoy machining, but 2: I do not believe that I am capable of being a manual machinist in a traditional shop and I don’t see that as my future. 

It’s a weird sentence to write, sitting at a table in the student center waiting for my next class, but I haven’t been able to convince myself otherwise. I don’t have the physical stamina to operate heavy machinery, or the emotional stamina to be the only trans person in a shop. It’s hard enough being the only trans person in my english class. 

I’ve stopped and asked myself a lot over the last three semesters What am I even doing here? Why am I doing this to myself? What’s the point?  

I asked these questions before therapy today and then talked about it a bit at the end. Why do I keep going if all it seems to be doing is dredging up pain and trauma I haven’t dealt with and didn’t know about?  

And the answer is because the only way I can heal from the lies I was told about my worth, my abilities, about college and school, about learning, and teachers is to expose myself to it.

The only way I can recover is to face the terror every day and learn through experience that everything I was told for so long is bullshit.

I’m at school to learn what school is like, to learn how to learn, to learn how to navigate organized education, to learn that not every teacher is my mom reincarnated. I’m here to force myself to face a field of unknown mines and survive it. 

If I’m lucky I’ll finish my certificate, I’ll get an associates in something eventually, a nice perk would be placating capitalism. 

But I’m here to heal myself through exposure. Apparently. 

Maybe that’s valid too. 

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Laney Queers

Tabling at Club Rush

This time last year I was on campus feeling very alone. I learned that there wasn’t a queer club before I started and decided that I wanted to make it happen. 

Right before I got on the plane home from YIMBYtown on Tuesday, I got an email from the club advisor saying that the Laney Queers has been officially chartered! 

Bathrooms are going to be in my building on campus very soon, and we’re going to have 4 dedicated all gender bathrooms in trades department buildings by the end of the semester. 

I have a list of almost 50 people on campus who want to be part of building something and making it better. I’m working on bridging the gap in communication between faculty staff and students and when I stop to breathe and look around for a second, I’m really proud of myself.

I honestly don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never been part of a school club. I don’t know what you can and can’t do with them. I don’t know. I’m just a trans boi who wants to make campus feel less hostile.

Apparently I’m doing something right? 

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English 1A

I keep coming back to that part in the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry asks why the Dementors seem to affect him more than other people, and Lupin explains that the Dementors feed on every good memory until all that’s left is trauma, they affect Harry the most because he has actual horrors in his life, things his classmates have never experienced. 

This is resonating with me a lot lately. I’m taking an English class which I was really excited about because I miss writing. Our teacher is having us read A Taste of Power and Gather Together In My Name, and our research essays are one of 6 topics that have to do with current social issues (prison industrial complex, healthcare, war on drugs, military industrial complex, electoral college, and the Berlin Conference of 1885 for “something different”). 

On one hand, I love this. I appreciate that he’s using this class as a way to get people to think more deeply about what’s happening in the world around us and how we’re impacted. 

On the other hand, this class has drudged up and revealed so much trauma. Every class has brought something to the surface, reading A Taste of Power reminds me of growing up in fundamentalism, and reading healthcare papers that dehumanize my existence is its own beast. 

I got a C+ on my first essay which was supposed to be a scene from something that happened in elementary school. I turned in, essentially, an unfinished draft. Trying to find something to write about that happened as part of school between the ages of 6 and 11 was not easy. I wrote about the day we started homeschooling, when I was 5 or whatever. I was devastated when I saw the grade. I re-read my paper and it objectively wasn’t great, I was upset because it was so much work to write.

While I was supposed to be working on that essay we were also watching The House I Live In and Sicko in class which both dredged up a lot of trauma and feelings that I wasn’t ready for, and made it impossible to finish by the time I needed to.

So last week I emailed asking for an extension on my research paper because between dredging up trauma in class, reading A Taste Of Power, and trying to research, I just could not write. 

Asking for the extension felt harder than writing, but I needed to do it. I needed to get over myself and ask for the accommodations I need to get through school with CPTSD and as-of-yet-untreated/diagnosed ADHD. I didn’t get the extension until we met during office hours and I vaguely explained my trauma and how my background being homeschooled makes navigating this infrastructure really difficult. 

He told me he’d never thought about how homeschooling affected college experiences and basically implied I’m the first student he’s had with all of these intersections, so he’ll work with me. It was an exhausting conversation even though it ended well. 

I’ve spent the better half of the month trying to cope with the feelings of inadequacy and failure because the class that was supposed to be fun and easy turned out to be the opposite. I’m frustrated because this is the class I wasn’t supposed to need help with. This was supposed to be the one that I did fine at because writing is like breathing to me. But no, instead this class steps on every mine and reveals new ones. Instead, we are doing so many things at once that tackle so many of the intersections I’m hyper-aware of that I don’t have the emotional stamina to keep up and make it to my other classes.

The class I was supposed to ace I’m getting C’s in, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me. 

I feel very alone in my class in this way. My classmates know I’m a good writer, that I’ve spent the better part of my life writing, and they seek me out for feedback, which I really enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m falling behind everyone because of mental health issues that are making the pacing of this class feel like breakneck speed and I’m not doing as well as I thought I would be able to. My expectation of myself (and what I know I’m capable of) and what I am actually doing are two drastically different things and I’m honestly not taking that super well. 

I know that how I’m preforming in a class (that steps on all my triggers and thus impacts me differently than my classmates without CPTSD) has no bearing on how good of a writer I am, but it doesn’t really feel that way.

I know I’m better than what I’m managing to write, I just need time to work through all the trauma it’s bringing up. Which is why I went in, and why I talked to my teacher about it, and why I am now fucking exhausted.

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Recovery Update

I’m 10 days post-op, the stabbing sensation has largely subsided. I’m still spotting a bit, the incisions ache if I move or stretch too much, but I’ve been fine with two ibuprofen 600s (one around noon after I eat, and one after dinner/before bed) for most of the week, and I haven’t needed Percocet since Sunday. 

the Cowlicks have Cowlics

I haven’t been hit with menopause (no backup ovary + HRT), but my body is freaking out at the sudden ONLY TESTOSTERONE nature of itself.

My voice has dropped a ton since surgery (listen to the last episode and next week’s episode of Kitchen Table Cult and you’ll notice). My hair instantly started to curl and now my cowlicks have cowlicks. My smell is changing a lot, the pheromones are intensifying, and I sweat easier? My skin thickened and became extremely greasy. I need to shower every day or my skin feels like there’s just a weird film over it. My acne feels like it’s buried deeper in my skin, and some of that is ingrown beard hairs that want to sprout. 

I’ve ordered tea tree oil and a cream that my brother recommended. I’m using Differin on my face at least once a day, followed by argon oil and aftershave and that seems to be helping there. But all the rest of my body also has skin and it’s the weird hand-grease that is really obnoxious right now.

The upside, I suppose, is that it’s really easy to keep my incisions clean since I constantly feel in need of a shower. 

I went to see my Doctor on Monday because my throat hurt and I couldn’t swallow. I was worried I might have caught strep but apparently I have a canker sore on my tonsil (and that’s just a thing that happens?!) so I’ve also been going through all of our salt doing gargles so I can stay fed and hydrated while I’m recovering. 

The most annoying part is the lack of energy. I guess it’s also good because if I had a lot of energy I would be using it and not resting and letting the stitches in my belly button heal like I should, but my peak awakeness being between 9am and noon, and then needing to nap until 3 gets old quickly. 

Today, I’m compromising by doing some freelance work or playing games on my laptop while reclining instead. So my body is resting, but my brain doesn’t have to shut down.

I am extremely looking forward to: 

  • Laying on my stomach
  • Stretching my stomach
  • Walking more than 5 blocks without becoming exhausted
  • Riding my bike
  • The crusty skin glue getting out of my belly button
  • Not having ghost cervix itches (internal stitches/whatever suuuuck sometimes)
  • Being done spotting
  • Being able to fuck again
  • Being able to lift things over 20lbs (but realistically like, 5lbs)
  • Being able to swallow
  • Scratch itches on my stomach
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uterus = null

Monday I had a complete hysterectomy. I got to Mt. Zion hospital at 5:45am, surgery started around 8am, I was out at 11:30 and discharged around noon. Then I went on a really bumpy car ride to Concord, where I am resting and marathoning Harry Potter all week.

My surgery was laparoscopic so it was less invasive than it could have been and since we took out literally everything there was no need to carefully comb through my ovaries looking for endo.

I stopped bleeding yesterday, right now the most discomfort that I’m in is from the gas that is still in my body from surgery.

Being on testosterone before getting a complete hysto worked really well, I think. Because I have hormones in my body I’m not going into surgical menopause (plus I already went through menopause when I started T) and I feel like this helps make recovery easier too.

I didn’t really feel different as soon as I woke up, I was mostly just foggy and in pain, but after the drowsymaking painmeds wore off, I noticed that like…all the tension in my body around my uterus was just gone.

I feel right.

I feel whole.

I feel like the Thing That Was Incorrect Is Gone (because it is) and now I’m just me.

I’ve instantly stopped being at war with myself and the change is almost disorienting. I knew my uterus was where my dysphoria lived, but I didn’t expect it to go away so quickly. That was the first thing I noticed when the fogginess wore off.

I’m. not. at. war. with. myself. anymore. 

I feel present in a way I’ve never felt present before. Not disassociating is easy now? I’m so used to being disassociated by default that I usually have to actually work to be in my body, but now it’s like I’m home?

My energy levels are still real low, I haven’t showered in days, but holy shit.

I did it.

I don’t have a uterus anymore

I cannot reproduce

I can never have a period again

I will never need another pap smear

I will never have to worry about an ectopic pregnancy

I will never have to worry about not having access to birth control

I don’t have to worry about going back to being estrogen based if my HRT gets taken away (it will just suck to have zero hormones, but at least I won’t bleed)

I was raised to be a wife and mother, to train an army for god.

And I just took ALL OF THAT out of my body.

I’m reclining with a heating pad and blankets and liquid feeling slightly achey and really gassy, but I’ve never felt better or more at home in my skin than I do now.

 

 

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Hysto Date!

HOLY SHIT.

I’ve been wanting  needing to get my uterus out for years. I have talked to so many doctors about this, and about sterilization before that. I will document the process that I went through to get here later, but the big news is:

Monday, July 30th, 2018, at 9:30am I will be undergoing a total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy which in english means: it’s all coming out. No ovaries, no cervix, no uterus. GONE.

Gone and donated to science but maybe I will ask for a picture or something to burn later.

On Thursday, I’ll be meeting with the surgeon and sometime after that talking to the anesthesia people about what I need to do to prepare.

I’m not sure what all I will need (probably pads, soft things, a ton of gatorade?), but if you want to help me out, you can donate to the hospital/recovery/prep fund here: https://cash.me/$kieryn or https://www.paypal.me/mxdarkwater 

 

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The more I’ve been wanting to write, the more I’ve been resisting sitting down and doing it.

Depression has been eating me alive lately. The world seems to have gotten dimmer since school let out, and it feels like we’ve plummeted off the edge of a cliff, we’re past the point of no return and I’m finding myself struggling to stay motivated, hopeful.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about organizing and how that’s the way I cope with the world. I see everything going to shit and I know I can’t change all of it, but I do know how to change small parts of it.

Most of the time this is enough to keep me going. I can get up in the morning if I can make a small corner of the space I inhabit a little bit better. But sometimes depression is stronger than that and I get halfway through the week and then I lose all sense of motivation and the numbness sets in. I look around at everything getting worse, I worry, I know we haven’t even begun to see the worst of it and I don’t entirely know how to prepare.

I grew up on the other side of this. It’s….weird. It’s painful. It’s exactly what I ran away from but on a much larger scale. It’s gonna get so much worse before it gets better, and I feel that in my bones and I can’t shake it.

But I can organize. I can change my little corner of the space I inhabit. I can make a little bit of a haven, a little bit of change, and that little bit adds to everyone else’s and eventually….a long time from now, it’ll lead back to okay.

 

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