Yesterday, I experienced something very nice. Putting it to words felt a little difficult, so instead, I wrote a piece of fanfiction about it.
CW: depression, selfhatred
Hi again! It’s been quite a while since I last posted, and that’s what I’ll talk about today.
My HRT is progressing nicely. I doubled the estrogen dose to 4mg/day after two months, and I have a feeling it has had a big impact on my body. In nice, expected things, but also in not so nice things.
The first major side effect of the bigger daily dose of E was the triggering of a phase of depression so strong and deep that I’d never gone through anything near it. For nearly a month I was unable to work, that is, on most days if I got up from the bed, it was more than I expected. I was torn between the fear of lowering the dose back to 2mg and the subsequent slower changes, and the fear of staying in the pit of depression. I started to accept that second alternative however, nearly even getting past the hurdle of accepting myself without being able to work, to do anything – being of no use to anybody, that old voice kept repeating. That would have been a lesson worth learning.
But then one morning the depression was gone – simply, gone. I had been afraid that it had been caused by some dark thing from my past that I hadn’t even realized existed. Instead, it had been due to a hormonal upheaval that came and went without a warning and hasn’t come back. I was happy for its departure, but I failed to learn that important lesson.
After a couple of weeks of peace, the migraines arrived. Reducing me to a whimpering thing lying behind closed curtains, praying for rainy days and failing that, bags of ice on my forehead, they started coming in late March, and have now kept me company for two and a half weeks, leaving me alone for days and then ringing the doorbell at inconvenient intervals. As migraine is one of the things linked most closely with estrogen, I have no doubt my new hormonal system is behind that.
What kind of unwanted side effects of HRT have you experienced?
CW: trans clinic arbitrariness, medical gatekeeping, non-specific mention of mental health issues
Three years ago, when I turned 25, I made a promise to myself that by 30, I’d have a passport marked with an F instead of M. Soon after, I met with the medical staff of the trans unit of the local big hospital, and my hopes were high.
However, after a few visits, the doctor told me in a carefully ”friendly but firm” tone that they didn’t consider my mental state stable enough to continue with the process, and that as I had the state-funded therapy sessions, I’d best clear my head first and then come back if necessary. The message was clear: you’re too crazy for us too help you, but it’s really not our problem.
Fast forward two years, to Spring 2016. Feeling better than in years and years, I approached the trans unit again. The welcome was much warmer than last time, as clearly the doctor saw me now as a QED, an example to prove their point. ”Send an ailing person away and hope they will manage, and somehow they will!”
Now the long examination process started, with me seeing first a nurse, then a psychiatrist and finally a psychologist, for months, each asking me the same kinds of questions with slight variations. This felt like a cross-questioning, as I had to remember what I had answered when last asked the same things. The medical staff were nice and friendly, but all the time something unsaid was hovering in the air: we have total power over you, so we can afford to be nice. It was like somebody pointing a gun at you and smiling all the time – the cognitive dissonance quickly became very stressful, and I knew that I’d need to utilize every ounce of the friendly and nice queer girl that I could find in myself. Sometimes I failed, getting angry at their prodding, and then spent days afterward being afraid that I had messed up my chances.
When I finally had jumped all the hoops set for me, came the time for the ”treatment plan meeting”, ie. the passing of the sentence. The day where I would either be given a diagnosis, or denied it. The power of the medical staff is absolute, and there is no complaining, no jury of peers.
It was nearly two months between my last meeting with the psychologist and the treatment plan meeting. I dreaded the day, and the waiting didn’t help. Why couldn’t they have informed me of the decision earlier and then we could have discussed my future in the meeting? I was really very angry at this arbitrary handling of my life, and at the people responsible.
When the meeting started, I was in a state of panic. I don’t know what they said, or how I responded – I don’t remember. But when they told me that they had given me the diagnosis, and that the hormone clinic would be in touch shortly – it was like
into the world, I hadn’t realized it was missing, but now the grey faded out and the rich late autumn colors replaced it, all the browns and and faded greens, the blue of the sky, the red of traffic lights.
I’m 28 today. Three years after the promise I made to myself, my world is full of colors. Grey is one of them too, and will always be. But it’s not the only one. And so, the medical gatekeeping system will have to be changed. Replaced. So that the colors will be available to anybody who needs them. To everybody.
[In the picture there is the writer of the blog. They have light skin, and are wearing round, golden glasses, a brown winter coat, and a bright pink beanie. The photo is selfie-style. They are looking at the camera with a very slight, anxious smile. They are standing in a bleak train station waiting hall.]
This post will be like a scrambed egg, made of bits and pieces not necessarily linked with each other. Can’t seem to find a common theme today.
This week I’ve mostly slept, or at least that’s how it feels like.
It takes a lot to admit to being weak: it’s something I need to practice time after time. I think I’ve already reached a peacelike state of mind many times in these last few years, but then something always happens and I find myself searching for it again.
Right now I’d like nothing better than giving up everything and just staying home. Life becomes a series of going-to-beds, with something in between them that I find myself unable to recollect.
I did donate blood on Wednesday – maybe that’s one reason for the fatigue.
This was a difficult week. From Monday to Thursday, all I felt like doing was crying, with no apparent reason. I decided to plow through the three workdays and concentrate on myself on Thursday – I didn’t want to go too deep into scanning my feelings when there was work to do, fearing I might not surface soon enough, and as I knew there were two free days in the very near future, that’s what I did.
I started to feel, well, threadbare, with all the crying going on. Worn out.
Thursday came and I took time for myself – the tabby cat helped, planting herself on my chest and purring away determinedly so that there was no way I could do anything.
This is usually the point where I let my mind wander, until I get a view on whatever it is that’s causing the anxiety at the time. This time – nothing. My mind was empty and free of thoughts, devoid of any knots or tangles of difficulty. This time the crying, so it seems, was a thing of the body, not a sign of a troubled mind.
Thursday was still a bad day. On Friday I still felt exhausted, but the tears were gone, they had retreated wherever it is that tears go.
In the two weeks I and my partner spent in Central Europe, my smell seems to have changed so much that our cats now behave differently with me. The ginger one, who before HRT used to sleep at my feet, now uses the other end of the bed. The brown one, who used to be somewhat indifferent towards me, is showing me a new-found affection. (For example it’s hard to type this right now, as she’s literally all over me:)