Posts Tagged ‘coming out’

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An Anniversary

12 March, 2012

An Anniversary

Trigger Warning: Coming Out, Psych Facilities

One year ago today my life took a dramatic detour. The road I was on lead to the patriarchy’s promise of a wife, a career, financial security, oh and also a degenerative disease and an ever-increasing pressure to play the role of man and husband as defined by everyone else. The detour was marked by a tremendous, looming road sign that read: Psych Ward.

This side trip started out as a medication balancing one or two-day visit. Just long enough to change the medication I was on (Adderall) for something less “intense” (Strattera). It became a one week stay, where I was forced to confront my gender issues. This was hard to do in a facility that had no traditional group therapy sessions, you only saw your psychiatrist once or twice a week, and the staff stayed locked inside a sound proof office, monitoring us through the large window running the office’s circumference. They gave me a packet with some forms to fill out. One for drug abuse/addiction, which I didn’t need because that wasn’t why I was there, and another for gender identification. The second one seemed quite advanced to me at the time, but since I have researched things in greater earnest this past year, it is amazing how simplistic and binary reinforcing the packet was.

Without visitors and without any real staff guidance, the only people left to talk to about my issues were the patients. I was lucky enough to share group time with a woman who is the mother of a trans man. In conversation I learned that the feelings I had were similar to the ones he had and that there was no running from them. Well, there was, but it was leading me down a self-destructive path. I had developed the symptoms of early onset Parkinson’s—symptoms that went into remission after transitioning; stress?—and an increasingly crippling hatred of myself that I now recognise as dysphoria. I began identifying as female when we talked, and soon I was identifying as female full-time, while in the ward.

Now, don’t misunderstand, this was not some Hollywood picture full of self-discovery and wise mental patients. The ward was intended for those with chemical addictions. Some of these people were good people who had hit a few rough bumps, others were mentally fried from the drugs they had been numbing themselves with. My roommate—always a male—changed every night. There were nights where I was afraid to go to sleep for fear of being attacked or molested by the man sharing my living space—identifying as trans in a psych ward is not the safest way to start the journey—but the meds they were giving me made it impossible to stay awake. It was at once a frightening place and place of self-discovery. Perhaps the best of places are both. Forcing you to deal with the world even as you hide from it.

The thing that got me through those days was writing. The first day there I got some blank sheets and a pen that I kept tucked inside an old calendar I used as a folder. They were a bit reluctant about giving me the pen and paper. Afraid of what I might write, I guess. A suicide note or an exposé? I am tempted to write an exposé on the place. There was a lot of not good that should be exposed, though there were a few staff members who were very good people doing the best they could with limited resources and help. I worked a lot of what I was feeling out in my writing. I had written a lot before that stay, but it was always about other people or fictional characters, never about myself. I realize now I could not write about myself because I was denying who I was. That was the best and scariest part of my stay; I had to face myself.

Part of me would like to go back to that ward. To see some of the women I befriended while I was in there, though I hope they are no longer there. The bonds you forge when staying at a ward are not like bonds forged in the real world. They are strange friendships born of like-brokenness that fade away after leaving the facility, but they never fully fade out. They leave traces behind. Those traces get in your blood and impact your actions every time they come circulating through your brain. Sometimes they are positive and bolstering; other times, a lot of times, they leave you feeling inadequate to the tasks still ahead of you. That’s the danger of being on a psych ward. You are tainted afterward and there is always the temptation to go back. To go back to a place where the problems were smaller and there was someone to wipe away the mess if your royally fucked things up.

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Caitlin on Life (While in Flight)

18 April, 2011

[Written mid-flight to Duluth, Minnesota; updated comments are in brackets.]

In flight now. Somewhere over the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a kind of limbo state. People don’t really stay in Wisconsin; they either pass through or they are visiting the strange, unusual, and freaky tourist traps: the Wisconsin Dells, the Mystery Spot, and the House on the Rock. I feel like I am living in Wisconsin. I am in the beginnings of a strange transition period as I go through a divorce, deal with a probable genetic disease, and leave the person I present as behind in favor of who I really am. The people in my life seem like Wisconsin tourists. They are either “just passing through” and don’t want to see too much of who I am or they are the tourist trap lovers who are here only to see the strange pseudo-lady. I have very few friends who are also residents of Wisconsin (thank you Diana, Duke, M, Heather, Mark, Mom). It seems the unusual and the open-minded are rapidly becoming the last of their kind.

I am up in the air, literally–flying to Minnesota–and figuratively–trying to figure out who I am and how I should live. I am also in the air because of family. I am flying out to see them partly to get help working through my divorce from M. Mainly, however, it is to help them understand and accept who I am. Dad, in particular is the reason for the visit. He is the one who is in the dark about who I am and what I am going through. As far as he knows, I am experiencing a hormonal problem and I need to get them balanced. My Mom and Brother don’t know much more than that and, my sense of gender dysphasia, and how I go through life presenting. They will all be surprised to learn that Caitlin Song is reality.

GID is not a turn on or off choice. It is a fact. It is simply a part of nature. Most important it is like a cancer or a retro-virus. Caitlin has always been, but she came in small regulate-able, easy to manage doses. But the older I get the more present and persistent she gets. She grew inside me, getting stronger, demanding more. More time. More freedom. More me. Now Caitlin is the dominate self. Caitlin is who I am and the other, A, is the presentation. A is who I am when society forces me to hide. A exists only to serve a function and is a role that I, Caitlin, slip on when the situation warrants it. A is the presentation and Caitlin is the reality. I am Caitlin.

This hurts my family, who have only known A. But what they don’t seem to understand is Caitlin and A are the same person. We inhabit the same skin, have the same likes and the same dry, quirky humor. I am still A in so far as that A has always been Caitlin. As I said, Caitlin has always been here; fear kept me from living as her. That is, fear kept me from being myself.

Also, as I said, Dad will have the hardest time with this. I can see the response now: he gets very quiet, perhaps he says whatever I need to do I need to do, or perhaps he says nothing [this is the response I suspect; last night when he saw my hair a look of disapproval came across his face, he shook his head, and walked away]. Either way, what will follow will be two or three days of tourniquet conversation as he tries to get his mind around what he has learned. I believe he loves me and that  love will, eventually, enable him to accept who I am–even if grudgingly. It is getting to that point with him that will be hard. I do not look forward to hurting him this way or to the look of betrayal I expect to see in his eyes [that was a painful expression to see].

These next few days will be the hardest I have ever lived through and it is impossible to say how they will play out. For now, my life, like my physical location, is up in the air.