TW: depression, suicide, body image
Sorry it’s been so long since I posted last–a lot has happened. Here’s the short version: I lost my job as a university lecturer, then I lost my job as a professional scorer (of standardized tests) and moved back in with my mother, who is a far cry from the best ally a trans girl could ask for (she hung my deadname stocking on the mantle this Xmas, for instance, and told me I probs couldn’t go to a store for a bra fitting because “I don’t think they let men into the women’s dressing rooms” >.<).
I learned the antiandrogen I had been taking, spironolactone, a blood pressure medication not designed to be taken long term by trans women yet also the most prescribed antiandrogen, basically should never be taken by anyone. If you’re trans and reading this, one of the best things you can do for your health (according to contemporary research) is to throw you spiro in the trash, go back to your endo for new labs in a month, and adjust your E intake from there. Spiro causes depression, visceral fat retention, belly fat retention, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT, heightened background cortisol levels which mean heightened stress response to everything, and some other stuff I can’t remember atm. I was on the highest possible dose of it. For three years. And–here’s the kicker–the entire class of drugs (antiandrogens) aren’t necessary for trans women. You can control your estrogen levels simply by adding E. Of course, I’m not a doctor myself and can’t dispense medical advice, but the evidence was convincing enough for me. It’s pretty clear I’ve been receiving substandard medical care since I began my transition, and that every other endocrinologist I’ve seen since my first one hasn’t known what they’re doing, otherwise I would have been off spiro a long time ago. Had I been receiving the best care, I never would have been on it.
The good news is, I’m taking progesterone now, and have been off spiro for about two months now. I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself, too, which is welcome. I felt the cognitive impairment pretty hard this last year–had been wondering why everything felt so disorienting and difficult to grasp, even accounting for everything happening on the national political scene.
It has not been a good time to be alive. I attempted suicide in February, in September, and around this past Thanksgiving. I’m seeing a therapist I like now. Have been for a month or two. We’re making real progress on long term trauma I’ve been carrying around since I was abused as a kiddo, and she’s helping me get plugged in with the local trans scene here, and helping me find affordable medical care beyond that one endocrinologist who isn’t really affordable and was kind of a jerk–I tried to tell him what I had learned about spiro but he dismissed my claims outright. I didn’t bother to show him the articles I printed; he didn’t seem interested in hearing anything new. So I’m filling out paperwork now to instead get treatment from this new endo who practices a bit of a drive from my mother’s house. On the upside, the new endo is apparently trans-aware, does sliding scale appointment costs so I could be paying $20-30 per appointment instead of $150, and does comprehensive healthcare instead of just endocrinology. I haven’t had a general practitioner doc since I left graduate school two and a half years ago, so I have some health business I can catch up on with him.
I am still unemployed. I have been so depressed/nonfunctional/suicidal for the last few months that the prospect of work has seemed beyond my reach. Far beyond it. Leaving the house has been its own challenge, but it’s getting easier with therapy. I don’t want to be/cannot be a teacher in the American education system anymore–it pays too little and works you too much and increasingly doesn’t provide benefits or even a living wage and you can’t turn it off when you go home at night and nobody’s happy with what’s happening in schools atm–teachers, students, parents, admin (maybe admin is happiest), everyone has legitimate complaints about how things are and where they are moving, yet they keep moving in an anti-human, anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-learning direction. Otherwise I’d likely be adjuncting somewhere in town.
The biggest reason I can remember that motivated me to try to die in February was that I just didn’t want to go back to work the next day. I didn’t want to stand in front of a classroom in my ill-fitting trans body sweating through my ill-fitting trans clothes, trying and failing to look like I knew what I was talking about, asking questions I couldn’t answer to my own satisfaction and feeling like a total fraud even though I was/am SO QUALIFIED to be there doing exactly that, talking about literature and gender and writing and rhetoric and contemporary culture with people who at least have to pretend to be interested in what’s happening in front of them, even if one thing in front of them has breasts and a beard and a low-register voice and her pants don’t fit and her rainbow belt digs into the belly spilling over her pants like a squeezed balloon. Teaching as a tran in Tennessee felt like I was going before an alt-right firing squad some days, especially in my gender class, like my existence was on the line each time I made a lesson plan, on the line getting misgendered at the Chipotle for lunch and at the Starbucks in the morning and sometimes even by students in class and then having to go and ask questions like “name one gendered interaction that happened to you today” and watch the girls write a whole page while the boys are chewing the ends of their pencils still wondering what gender is (from week one) (hint: it involves labels and expectations and is actually pretty complicated and varies per culture but ultimately it’s all bullshit and we make it up as we go along and it would probably be a lot easier if we got rid of it because ultimately everybody loses at gender). Wondering which of them would write complaints to the dean because I brought up 45 in class this term, like last, and could I avoid that, and how was wanting to avoid that affecting my teaching, and what the fuck is happening in American higher ed anyway where that’s a thing that happens.
I had gone to a writer’s conference the weekend before, a bastion of all things academic and writerly, where inclusivity and diversity is preached, and everyone is a nerd nerding out and the nerdiest nerds nerd out so hard you can smell it. Yet I felt so obliquely alone that whole conference, surrounded by other writers talking about writer stuff in a place my difference is said to be valued, so alone that I didn’t go to any offsite readings (where the real fun is supposed to be at gatherings like these), so alone that getting home with my crappy luggage I didn’t want to unpack and sitting on my bed covered in cat hair I’m allergic to but I tolerate because it means I get some company from time to time, staring at my wrist, actually alone then, away from the sea of inclusivity that felt like but was not true aloneness, looking at the floor and the vein running along my forearm into the dark and bloody recesses of my hand, that moment felt like I was an echo of myself, cast over a still lake that refused to vibrate with my motion, fading into the anonymous dark of night that would swallow and erase me–terrifyingly alone and woefully inert, so aware of how brief life is and how fragile we all are and how the fuck was I going to face them like this again tomorrow? I felt like an echo of myself, and I had felt that way for years. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I didn’t know how to not feel like that anymore. But I had to plan a lesson for the next day of classes still and I didn’t have the energy to, so I went to bed. I woke up cursing and felt like I had already failed everything I needed to do that day, things that used to be second nature. I didn’t know why they felt so difficult now but clearly I didn’t belong here anymore, so I went to the bathroom and called in sick (obvi I was sick) and tried to open my wrist with a kitchen knife, the kind with teeth you save for steak or chicken or a tough-ass baguette. Clearly–clearly–this is not the profession for me. At least not right now. Maybe not ever. Maybe it never was.
My brainstorming for other possible careers has not been very fruitful. The only things I seem to want to do anymore without being prodded to are play video games, play drums, listen to music (sometimes), and (rarely) write.Last I checked, it’s really difficult to make enough money to live from any of those things. I am trying to be really patient with myself–I have a lot of healing I need to do, and this is one of the darkest periods in my life, so I have plenty of reasons to take this slow and prioritize my healing. Capitalism has other plans, though. Bills beckon. Doctors cost money. Food costs money. And the world has plans too. The sun rises and sets no matter when I go to sleep. But I’m still alive, and getting better, so I am optimistic I’ll find something, given enough time.
My new project is learning to cook. Quesadillas to the face. Next up: beans. Want to gain more control of my eating, as a way to get back in touch with my body and exercise more control over my health.
Despite the odds, and despite the prohibitive cost of medical care in America, I am healing. But I need more funds if I am going to continue healing enough that I can eventually find work and get back on my feet and lead a more self-determined life again (and leave my mother’s house for a less-transphobic place). That’s the reality right now. I can’t support myself yet, but I need real support.
I have a gofundme set up for donations to help with the cost of medical care. Feel free to share the campaign. Please donate yourself if you are able. Any little bit helps.
This has been a long and meandering life-update kind of post, and also a soul-vomit kind. My book is due to the publisher in a month or two, and I get a break from an editing project soon, so I may write more in coming weeks.
Health comes first. Thanks for reading, and happy new year.