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. 

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? 

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.

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

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.
 
 

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 
 

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.
 

Disability

I started realizing that I need to come to terms with the physical effects of CPTSD throughout the last semester. I have to come to terms with my own disability.
And a lot of that starts by saying it out loud.
I really don’t want to.
I don’t want to admit that I am not able.
But my dudes.
I missed my last day of shop class because of pain I’ve had in my shoulder off and on for the last 4 years (after taking off the entire week before because I was so overwhelmed that everything was being triggered and I was not in a safe headspace to machine). On Tuesday I couldn’t tie my shoes without wincing let alone use a vertical mill to drill some holes in a block.
I am disabled.
My CPTSD isn’t a fun fact, it is a disability and it impacts me physically just as much as it does psychologically and mentally. That combined with my recently identified extreme likelihood of AD/HD has made getting through this last semester of school extremely difficult.
But I did it.
I made it through and I got help at school and from friends. I now have all of the accommodations and I’m seeing a psychiatrist next week to talk about how to treat learning disabilities. I’m starting Physical Therapy for my shoulder in June, because the intermittent massages I’ve been getting, while helpful, aren’t enough to get rid of Sir Knotsalot.
I’m trying hard not to overburden myself next semester and taking most classes later in the day (save Jazz, which is a morning class, but also it’s dance, so) when my brain is more able to focus.
I don’t have a point to end this on, I’m still trying to hold all of these pieces and deal with the limits of a body that’s held more stress than it deserves. It’s a feel, lemme tell you.

If I had a quarter for every time I sat down to write and the first sentence was something along the lines of “I need to write but the words aren’t coming” or “every time I sit down to write the words vanish” I wouldn’t be as broke as I am now.
It seems to be a good way of getting through the block though – acknowledging that it’s hard, that there’s resistance, that there’s something in the way of me and my words. There’s something behind them that requires energy, there’s something more to work on and process.
Writing is a part of that process, but sometimes it has to start with a long hard look at reality: it’s sometimes really fucking hard to write because the act of writing and digging through my brain is as exhausting as it is helpful.
So much so in fact, that this is currently all I can manage.
I am an ocean of feelings and exhaustion and thoughts that don’t have sentences to them.
Soon though. I will have many long rambly posts about what the fuck this semester has been.
In the meantime, enjoy a doodle.

It Feels So Stupid

Last night, I was curled into a ball crying in my partner’s arms because everything about school is hard. It’s not necessarily the material or the course load, it’s that Laney isn’t designed and has no support structure for visibly/non-passing trans students to exist in. Let alone the ones who are out and openly existing outside of the binary with no hope or intention of passing.
I eat and drink just what I need to get through the day without passing out. I am essentially starving and dehydrating myself because the labeled single stall, all gender bathrooms are in the tower or across campus in the bistro (nowhere near where I am machining all day). I’ve been called out for using the “wrong” restroom in multiple places on campus already.
I am behind in all of my classes, and on the verge of failing welding because of this.
It’s just peeing.
It feels so stupid.
It feels like I’m making it up.
It’s ridiculous that the most basic need of my meatcage is something that creates anxiety that interferes with my ability to be fully present on campus (where I operate heavy machinery and open flames on the reg).
I went to Cal State East Bay Queer Con today and got to vent about that a lot. It was really helpful to be listened to by people who also understand what this feels like. And be understood (or at least seen) by people who don’t have that experience.
I am worried every time I’m on campus, every time I enter a bathroom, that someone is going to lose their shit and report me for harassment for peeing in the “wrong” place. I choose the danger I know, so I use the women’s room. I still get she’d half the time on campus and the men’s rooms are in more of a state of disrepair and have very little privacy (sometimes the doors don’t even shut), so I don’t usually even dare with that. I choose the danger I know.
And I get that I have glorious facial hair and look super masc especially when I’m wearing my safety glasses or skullcap, but I still have to pee. somewhere.
It feels stupid that this one simple thing is holding me back so much. It’s devastating my health and school performance. I’ve talked to the queer faculty about it and they are on board with All Gender Bathrooms and support infrastructure being things that exist. But all of the progress there is just stuck in some kind of ether and I can’t seem to make it move. No one seems to have spoons to do the work needed to get shit off the ground and I’m losing stamina.
I don’t know how much more I need to literally be destroying my body and ruining my ability to focus and study and shouting it from the rooftops before something changes. I don’t know if it will change before I become too overwhelmed by trying to hold being a student (which Laney somehow expects to exist outside of my trans experience) and existing that I decide the physical, mental, and emotional toll is too much of a price to pay and drop out.
I can’t keep this up for ever.
I’m fighting as hard as I can, but I’m really tired, and really lonely.
But if any faculty or staff member asks me how school is going for the remainder of a semester, they are getting an earful of school while trans issues dumped on them, because if I have to hold this and am expected to somehow put it aside and get good grades, they at least get to know the fucking overhead they’re not helping me carry.
 
All of the advice that I’ve been given today, by people who’ve started clubs or are faculty is all stuff that I have already done. I don’t know what else to do.