I cannot believe that I started this beautiful and fulfilling medical journey to becoming who I had always been on the inside a year ago. So far my medical transition has been relatively seamless and fairly “straight-forward”. Other than some dosage adjustments here and there and the torment of dysphoria I experience as a non-binary person. The social transition (name, pronouns etc.) Has been a lot tougher. It has been an amazing year where recently I even started to see my inner me and not the toned fit boy I hid as for the longest time. In no way is being trans or transitioning easy, but just as I said in my speech, it is worth it no matter the struggle. For the first time in my life I’ve been at peace with my body and I’m still recovering from paralysis too.
At the beginning I truly believed I identified as female, but it did not take long for me to realize i was much more in the non-binary section of the gender spectrum and this was different because personally I experience bits and pieces of both trans feminine and trans masculine dysphoria. My dysphoria is the lowest when I present as androgynous as I can. I have always loved being kind of androgynous so it’s no real surprise that is where i am most comfortable, but with my now very feminine figure it can be harder to present androgynous without wearing a bunch of men’s clothes. Even at the beginning I had started doing facial hair electrolysis but I quickly realized it made me more dysphoric to not have the shadow or stubble so I stopped the hair removal and am enjoying letting it fill back in.
The social transition was the hardest especially because as soon as everyone that was going to roll with it started using she/her I changed my pronouns to they/them and gender neutral pronouns can be fairly hard for people to grasp. She Is still more acceptable than he, but there are very femme people who I let use more feminine pronouns or nicknames to identify me. It’s hard loving the chest I developed over the last year and yet sometimes wanting to tape it away and look as masculine as possible for both my own comfort and safety. I don’t keep anyone in my life that doesn’t respect my name or pronouns, which in turn forced a lot of people out of my life. I may not have a perfect body, but for once it feels like I am living in my skin and no longer a costume or mascot that I fully disassociate with
Above 11 months on HRT
Above: 2 years before HRT
I sit here a little overwhelmed at everything that is going on right now, but realistically I am coping pretty well. Both physical and emotional pain have been high for a couple weeks, and I’m doing what I can to deal and push through it. With my pain levels as high as they have been my progress has slowed, and I’m trying to accept this as just a step in the process.
Let’s start with the emotional pain: this week my brain acknowledged that a handful of trauma anniversaries are coming up all within the next two months and I’ve been using every coping mechanism I have. I’m lucky enough to know myself and exactly what I need in these times because, December and January have been tough ones for me for years now. My most used tools this week were: square breathing, meditation, physical activity, and getting musically creative. If you are struggling this season do not forget to reach out to someone you trust and talk about it.
Between a spike in my chronic migraines and recovery pains I have gone back to having more rest days than productive ones and being the perfectionist I am is quite frustrating. So much of this time is spent pent up on the couch staying as still as possible so I don’t make the nausea worse. Probably why I used to play three instruments that took little to no torso movement before paralysis haha. As the body heals and muscles grow so does the pain. It feels like every other day the pain is a new game. I have to wake up and take each day as it comes, no plan, only a general direction and the internal drive to continue to heal.
I am hoping that next week is at least physically easier so I can get some of my personal goals back on track. Whatever happens happens and will continued to be honoured as just part of the journey. How are all of you doing this week?
I’ve been in recovery for almost 58 months, also known as almost 5 years and along the way I have learned quite a bit about my own body and other people as well.
- Nobody will understand why the recovery wins are so amazing.
- You will likely be resented for focusing on yourself
- You aren’t ever less exhausted
- Each day is as much of a struggle as the last
To someone who has had to modify everything they do for years when you start to do even minor things the way you used to it is amazing. Fully able bodied people will not understand why you are ecstatic just doing a basic every day task. I had to train a couple people in my life how to respond when I excitedly share recovery progress with. All it takes is mirrored enthusiasm. Every time a part of my body moves or looks more like it used to before paralysis are the highlights of my week no matter how small the difference.
I cannot count the acquaintances and friendships that faded because I did not have the time or the energy to see them as much as they would have liked through my recovery. I’m a social being I can and will make new friends when I want to haha. I know I fell off the face of the earth and one day when I’ve healed and am ready I’ll get out there again. I used to be out at every event, I spent at least 3 nights a week out doing something or supporting a cause. My quaint little recovery life was shellshocking to me too.
No matter what you do as your body heals the exhaustion is real. Surprisingly a day of rest is just as tiring as doing hours of exercises. This is a recovery point that is just downright cruel. Thanks to rest days and exercise days being equally as tiring I’ve learned to just push through the chronic pain and take way more exercise days than one should. Eventually you end up living in chronic pain for so long that there are levels of pain that your brain doesnt even recognize leaving pain spikes so detrimental.
You would think that as your body heals you would be less frustrated with your body day by day. Haha nope, as the tasks you cannot achieve perfectly become hinged on the most minuscule need for improvement it gets more and more frustrating. My roommate has finally learned that when I’m bitchy it’s mostly just at my body for still not being where I would like it to be physically. I miss training in sport a few times a week. I turned into a recovering hermit just so that one day I can be the athletic social butterfly I once was again.
If you’re reading this right now there is a chance that you’re wondering what the next step to living your authentic and potentially less boring life. I get it every step I took between childhood and now was on for safety and to position my now disowned family further away so I could be as happily queer as queerly possible. I do not care and I do not want you to care at all about what the societal norms are, because if they do not match up with your happiness they do not really matter.
As long as you aren’t breaking laws or hurting anyone (including yourself) why should it matter anyways. I came out as gay at thirteen just to hide the reality of being transgender from my family. I was not even attracted to men I just faked it really well just as I did pretending to be a cisgendered male. Years later once I came out as trans i was told that if i wore gender affirmative clothing to a family dinner i would not be allowed to eat because it was disgraceful. To very abruptly tell the hostess off I wore the hottest dress I owned and painted just my middle fingers with nail polish. Out of pure jealousy of my figure she proceeded to tell me how I needed to lose weight and did not speak with me the entire event. People ask me why I disowned my family for my own health and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Having to fit into their picket fence expectations never worked so I stopped.
If you have to move out of your province or state to get as far from family as possible to find yourself and your happiness, do it. I did it for a year and despite being the hardest year of my life it was one of the most rewarding years of my life. Wait until you can afford to do it, but it is fairly rewarding if I have to say so myself. If you have to cut out all your friends and acquaintances to start being yourself, do that to. It will be lonely too at first, but you’ll gave room for those that fully love and support you in your journey to authenticity.
The topic of surviving emotional and physical pain was a suggestion from one of you lovely followers.
Making it through the turmoil of simultaneous physical and emotional pain can be a tricky game. The rules of the game change depending on which one is worse from day-to-day, but unlike fight club the first rule is not that you cannot speak of it. Despite my chronic pain I generally resort to making as many muscles ache as I can when I just cannot deal with the emotional pain at hand. Yes that results in an eventual burn out after you’ve run through the chemicals that working out releases in one’s brain, but that’s inevitable.
People often forget how physical recovery can be extremely emotionally strenuous all on its own. No matter whether they are positive or negative emotions it can be a little more than overwhelming paired with the hours of day of rehabilitation one has to do. I have recently talked of the negative so I’d rather focus on how emotional the positive days can be. All it takes to shed happy tears for the rest of the day is a minuscule improvement in strength or range of motion in a toe or finger. To any average person it sounds like nothing, but as someone who has the flashback of being told they would never get anywhere near where they have in recovery it results in being overjoyed.
From the day that I went from having no hope to knowing that even if it took my whole life I would heal, time got faster. In that moment I began to grieve and process my entire recovery journey. Honoring every toe wiggle and finger twitch has aided immensely in loving my body enough to train it and feed as it needs every day. There are people who think I fell off the face of the earth because sometimes I shut down, but really I’ve just been quietly feeling and accepting every emotion I’ve had towards my paralysis. Even my closest friends barely hear from me right now as my only priorities are health and happiness.
Rest, Down time, Chillaxing, whatever you would like to call it. Everyone required to recover from any illness or medical diagnosis needs it. Despite being what most doctors have referred to as “medically interesting” since I was three years old (almost 2 decades ago) I have still not mastered downtime. I like to treat my paralysis recovery like a new sport i can train in. Yes, this may not be the brightest of ideas ex: the vomiting mentioned in my last post. If burnout was a place I would be the mayor or ruler. If I was paid based on the intensity of my recovery burnout I would have enough money to never worry about anything ever again. I am so incredibly horrible at downtime that my friends have begun to intervene.
After I started to bounce back from my day of sickness mentioned in my last post the girls got me out of my house for twenty-six hours of relaxing girl time and some good food. It is so easy to be constantly burnt out because I train my body like paralysis recovery is the new hot sport. If you aren’t sweating, bleeding, or in tears you are not trying hard enough. probably not my most brilliant tactic, but it is how i got this far in my recovery so why stop now. I will admit that taking two days off of my normal routine and just chilling was extremely difficult, but I felt so much better afterwards. Please be kind to your body and be less of a try-hard than I.I have lost track of the amount of recovery injuries I have had because I work my body to the point of complete exhaustion.
Transitioning and recovery have been a beautiful combination though. Since getting my hormone levels right, or as close to right as they have ever been I no longer lay in bed for hours just too depressed to function. I have gone back to being that happy annoying person that wakes up without an alarm with a smile on their face at five in the morning. This also means that I have been able to push my recovery harder than every because I am not distracted by disturbingly dark thoughts all day. when your mental health improves it makes it so much easier to improve your physical health and working on either one benefits the other, which is pretty handy. The combination of my mental and physical health lately have left me using almost solely artistic endeavors to retrain the left side of my body and make up for lost time.
I am going to end this bluntly: Don’t be a dick listen to your body and your limits so that you can heal.
Everyone will tell you that recovery eventually gets easier. I am well past my half way mark and I have to say I cannot agree. There’s nothing worse than being so close to being able to do all the things you desire and yet all of them are out of reach still. So I guess all of recovery is difficult for different reasons. At the beginning it was finding the drive to keep going every day, in the middle it was the struggle of lost time because every day looked almost exactly the same and closer to the end it’s trying to not best yourself up for being so close, but so far away.
At the beginning one just goes on because they are told to, despite everyone and I mean everyone saying you’ll never get better especially after every treatment to try to correct it fails. You eventually begin to lose hope and direction and you resort to living each day just to get through the day in front of you. One day none of the tips or tricks you were given to help you work at all and when you find ways to curb it is where the next stage begins. The beginning was the worst for me because it also paired with the severe post op depression that comes with neurosurgery. I had to convince my brain every day that there was something to fight for even though most of the time I did not believe it myself.
The middle of my recovery was a strange stage where I became obsessed with finding the best ways to better my physical health. Every free waking moment spent running every possibility through ones mind of the exercises, stretches and activities one can try to get better. This was a stage where most things only worked in bouts, there was a fair bit of crossed pathways so it was a stage summed up by “One step forward and two steps back”. This felt like a plateau without further analysis, but really my body was trying to sort out its own problems, which on the outside appeared with what looked like severe muscle confusion. Then comes the final stage and final stage take: 2
In the second to last stage you are conquering recovery, have figured out how to thrive through both your good and bad days and are just itching to get back to a normal life without putting your health on hold again. This is where I am at, I can see the stars, yet I still cannot smell the roses. Every time you think you’re almost at the finish line it turns out it was a mirage and you’re going to have to fight like hell to not give up every day. I know that every other day I get a little closer, but still just wish I could pick up and start over where nobody knows my name. I’ve mastered my habits so on these days I try to just rest and maybe take a nap if I’m super trained.
I hope to get to the final, final stage within the next couple of years or so, so that I’ll be the fun life living person I used to be once again. Even if the rest of my life involves a couple of hours of physical therapy a day that would be a lot more manageable than eight to ten-hour days.
What have the stages of your recovery been, feel free to share them with me.