Daily Archives: May 12, 2017

Chicory Days

Earlier this week, mixed-state depression settled in like chicory coffee—black, thick, bitter—and I panicked a little over the mental discomfort.  Seems like I’ve lost all my stamina—physical and mental—and must remember to be gentle while I rebuild both.

Thrashing around last night, trying to find something to ease the cramped thoughts and emotional acid reflux, I remembered my Pinterest boards—particularly, the board I created for just this situation.  Braying Like a Donkey.  There are memes and videos that still make me guffaw, plus photos of celebrities and common folk laughing hard—lost urine and milk-squirting-out-the-nose hard.  While not everyone shares my sense of humor, I invite you to go look—just in case you need a pick-me-up.

Then, today at my regular Friday therapy session, I asked the staff to make marks in my art journal.  I knew they would, even though some consider themselves artistically challenged and prone to perfectionism (it felt sorta good to challenge them for a change).  I will take their marks (and the mangled flower one of them used as a paintbrush) and create something that that is ours.

I needed that.  I needed to engage with people who unreservedly adore me, who remember who I am when I forget, who ask nothing of me other than to be authentic.

This is stamina-building, finding new ways to beat back the darkness.

I did good today.


Illustration Friday: Mother

For more maternal art, click here.


My Life-Affirming Alternative to “13 Reasons Why”

The novella Brooklyn’s Song by Alexis Zinkerman A few weeks ago I published the post Stunned by Alexis Zinkerman’s Metronome – my post title says it all. Please read it if you haven’t had a chance yet. After I read Metronome, I bought Alexis’ novella Brooklyn’s Song and I wrote a review that doesn’t begin to do it justice, especially since … Continue reading My Life-Affirming Alternative to “13 Reasons Why”

3 Transition Obstacles I Never Expected as Mentally Ill and Transgender

Originally published at Everyday Feminism.

“I think we need to hold off on this,” the therapist tells me, “until you’re doing a little better.”

My heart dropped. I was stunned, sitting in total silence.

This was the third time I’d been given a red light and told not to proceed with top surgery – a surgery I desperately needed, but struggled to access because of my mental illness.

This was a struggle I knew all too well as both mentally ill and trans – a struggle many of my other transgender friends had never even heard of.

Intersectional feminism tells us that the various aspects of our identity will impact our lived experiences – especially as it relates to power and privilege.

This is true for me as a transgender person who is also white, and thus does not experience racism and benefits from white privilege. I think it’s really important to be mindful of the ways that this impacts how I move through the world – and how I can be a better ally to trans people of color.

I wanted to write this article because, as a trans person with mental illness, I encounter obstacles that trans people without mental illness seldom, if ever, need to worry about.

Issues of access and competence because of my illnesses are a daily struggle – and these are issues that many neurotypical trans people take for granted.

If we’re going to uplift all transgender people, and not just a select few, we need to be mindful of the complex lives we lead – which necessitates an intersectional approach.

And for mentally ill trans people, you’d be surprised by the complexity of our struggles.

Here are three obstacles I never expected, and the real consequences that I’ve had to deal with as a result.

1. My Clinicians Have Interfered with My Access to Hormones

The first time I was hospitalized for mental illness, the psychiatrist said to me, “Have you ever considered stopping the testosterone?”

I was in total shock.

My hormones were suddenly being considered optional, rather than a necessary part of my care as a transgender person. No one seemed to believe me when I said testosterone was not optional, and that not having it would make things worse – not better.

Later that day, when I went to the nurse’s station to receive my medications, my testosterone was nowhere to be found.

“Do you need that?” the nurse asked me. “I don’t think we have that.”

Furious, I had to advocate for myself – demanding that I receive my testosterone and even threatening legal action. My partner then contacted the prescribing physician, who said, defeated, “If they won’t give Sam his hormones, I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do.”

Eventually, I did get my testosterone the following day, despite being discouraged by doctors and nurses alike from taking it. The prospect of being hospitalized under an involuntary hold, with my hormones being left to the whims of a trans-incompetent staff, terrified me.

I’ve never felt so powerless in my entire life.

I wondered how many other mentally ill trans people had this exact experience, and when I started writing publicly about it, I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one.

A psychiatric hospitalization is meant to stabilize you with competent and compassionate care. But as a transgender person, my experiences taught me that even a so-called “safe space” can re-traumatize us in ways we didn’t think were possible.

While access to hormones can be a struggle for many transgender people, mentally ill trans people are especially vulnerable because we’re assumed to be untrustworthy and unable to determine our own needs.

This is unacceptable. Yet, it happens to mentally ill trans people far too often.

2. I Keep Being Denied Surgery

It’s not a secret that medical transition can be necessary for some transgender people – trans people like me – and that our mental health outcomes are often better when we access the care that we need.

And even though this tends to be the prevailing attitude amongst the majority of clinicians, I still struggle to access surgery because of my psychiatric health.

It becomes a catch-22 for mentally ill trans people: Clinicians want us to be reasonably stable before we access surgery. Yet, many of us can’t be stable until we access those same surgeries.

The fear is that if our mental health is too poor, we will be unable to care for ourselves after surgery, or the stress of a major surgery will trigger a worse episode and fling us into crisis.

While these can be valid concerns, overly cautious clinicians have used these concerns to deny mentally ill trans people their agency and bodily autonomy, resulting in an unbearable limbo in which we spend months, and even years, unable to access surgeries that are necessary for us to be mentally well.

A friend of mine who struggles with schizophrenia and gender dysphoria told me that they fear they may never be able to access surgery, after continually being denied because their clinicians don’t trust them to know what they need and what they can handle.

Accessing surgery can be a tremendous challenge for any transgender person – but mentally ill trans people are at a significant disadvantage, because we’re not believed to be “objective” enough to assess our own needs and priorities.

And the worst part?

This leads trans people to lie to our clinicians about our mental health, or not seek out mental health treatment at all because we fear it will interfere with our transitions.

For example, recently, a blog reader reached out to me to say they desperately need anti-depressants but are fearful of taking them because they’re scared they won’t be able to access surgery if they do.

This is outright dangerous. We’re taking huge gambles with our mental health – and it’s antithetical to why we transition in the first place.

3. My Clinicians Don’t Have the Research They Need to Help Me – Because It Doesn’t Exist

When testosterone led me to start losing my hair at a significant rate, I was prescribed Finasteride (also known as Proscar/Propecia) to help me.

Not much later, I experienced a deep depression that led to suicidal thoughts – and my first psychiatric hospitalization.

I stopped taking Finasteride while in the hospital because the nurses didn’t give it to me. Interestingly, I completely recovered from my depression not long after stopping.

I figured the new psychiatric medications must’ve worked.

Fast forward many months later, when the hair loss started to accelerate. I gave Finasteride another try.

Shortly after, just exactly like before, I experienced a deep depression that led to suicidal thoughts – and was hospitalized for a second time. I was given Finasteride in the hospital this time, and when I was released, I was still hopelessly depressed.

That’s when I started to wonder: With Finasteride messing with my hormonal balance, was it possible that this was the culprit? So I stopped taking it on my own. And to the surprise of my clinicians, the depression and suicidality almost completely subsided within a few days.

My psychiatrists were shocked by how rapidly I recovered when I stopped taking it.

And my prescribing physician admitted that because this is usually prescribed to cisgender men, we don’t have enough research to know for certain what Finasteride might bring up for trans folks – and especially for those with a history of mental illness.

While this side effect was one she hadn’t heard of, she conceded that it was totally possible that Finasteride and I weren’t a good match. “I believe you,” she said.

And she had good reason to. I later found out that we actually have research that links suicidality and depression to Finasteride users, and we have users and loved ones alike who are demanding answers, including a lawsuit alleging that the drug company failed to disclose this as a potential side effect.

But – no surprise – that research still focuses on cisgender men.

We really have no concept of how risky Finasteride could be for trans people, especially mentally ill trans people who could very well be more susceptible.

My clinicians never once considered that the way that Finasteride affected my hormones may, in fact, be affecting my mental health. And because there’s no research or precedent on how to treat patients like me, I have hospital bills and trauma from two hospitalizations that may have been totally preventable.

My clinicians have unanimously urged me to never take Finasteride again.

This is all well and good, but what about the countless other transgender people who are still being prescribed this – especially those with a history of mental illness?

Without proper research, we will never be able to definitively say what the risks are – and trans people, especially those most at risk for mental health struggles, will continue to take drugs like Finasteride without properly knowing what those risks might be.

Hormones and psychiatric medications are so complex, and we have little to no research that tells us how to treat mentally ill trans people.

As such, we receive disjointed care – care that doesn’t take into account the complex interactions between hormones and mental illness.

I’m no doctor, but it terrifies me to know that without setting a precedent for how to holistically care for mentally ill trans people, we may very well be receiving subpar treatment – treatment that could endanger our lives.

***

Every day, I receive e-mails and blog comments from all over the world, with mentally ill trans people asking me what they’ll be up against if they begin their medical transitions.

I can’t say for certain.

For one, we’re all so vastly different, responding to hormones and medications in unique ways. Access and clinical competence also varies widely by geographic location. And, frankly, what little research exists doesn’t help us much.

Here’s what I know for sure: We do face potential challenges and risks that are understudied, and we’re a community that is astonishingly underserved.

I can only speak from personal experience when I say that the terrifying and unjust reality is that our clinicians often don’t know what we’re up against. We’re left to be our own advocates, a position that is both difficult and scary.

And as a feminist, I know, unequivocally, that we deserve better than that.

If we want to be supportive of the transgender community, it’s high time that we take an intersectional approach and start advocating for those most vulnerable among us – mentally ill trans people included.

***

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Brave Face Faked

My kid’s school is having some Leadership thing today. I wasn’t going to go because crowds, eww, and plus at first she said she didn’t want me there. Then she said she did. I feel better today than I did yesterday (sunshine really makes a difference and yet it hurts my eyeballs, go figure.)

I bothered to put on half decent clothes, do my hair, toss on some make up and earrings. Still, I feel like a giant fat embarrassing-to-my-kid blob. And that shouldn’t matter, it’s probably my weight issue and the pms making me bloated but…Fact is, my kid is pretty shallow and concerned with what others think and being popular so I do worry that my presence will just make her upset. Yet my absence could, as well.

Making this more difficult is next week’s school carnival, which every year results in me overheating in their crowded halls and anxiety attacks that render me with flu like symptoms. Two outings in under 7 days? This is ballsy. This is brave. This is me faking it.

I need to leave in 15 minutes and I have no idea what to expect when I get there except the packed gym and hallways. It’s unnerving. But at least on this day, I have the strength to sack up and fake it for her sake.

Maybe later I meltdown, maybe not. But I got 12 pages written this morning, still pushing those boulders and double spacing to increase page count but…I am NOT hitting the wall after only 6 weeks in the writing zone. NOPE. Rather churn out drivel than let myself be cursor blocked by the bullshit my own body, mind, and the world throw at me.

I will be earning my spork of fortitude today. I just hope my kid appreciates it rather than having one of her epic mood swings and accusing me of coming when she said not to. She rewrites history that way, it’s pretty brutal for me.

I’m gonna fake it til I make it and if her mood has changed or I do embarrass her for whatever reason cos her friends don’t like my eye color or the sound of my breathing or whatever idiotic thing kids pick on…Sucks to be her. I’m the present parent. It’s all I’ve got going for me right now.


Beware of the Maize Maze!

Daily Prompt – Maze When we were both more active, Hubby and I helped out with our church’s youth group. One October I set up a trip to a corn maze. We were just acting as drivers; however, they didn’t … Continue reading

p 9 Edmond gym patrons report auto burglaries

While there is no way to track the scope of birthing tourism, NBC News notes dozens of websites courting parents from China, South Korea, and Eastern Europe do exist. In addition to the sites pushing the idea of a free education, the news outlet found they also aimed to sell the prospect of green cards for the entire family once the child turns 21.

I bought my first Coach in the late 70s, early 80s a Crescent Saddle Bag. They were being sold in a clothes store near the plaza in Santa Fe, NM and cost between $60.00 and $70.00, expensive in those days.

Police said that then on Aug. 10, Michael Kors Outlet was burglarized after a window was shattered and 85 purses valued at more than $27,000 were removed.Hood is charged with three counts of third degree burglary, three counts of possession of burglar tools, three counts of theft greater than $1,500, disregarding a police officer signal, second degree conspiracy, coach outlet wallets criminal impersonation, second degree reckless endangering, resisting arrest, three counts of criminal mischief, second degree vehicular assault and numerous traffic related charges. He was ordered held in the Sussex Correctional Institution on $75,000 cash bail.Police are still looking for a second suspect described as a black male who was wearing a brown or gray hooded sweatshirt with black pants.

I’m Ready

I’m finally ready to talk about my new project, 46Reasons.  It started out as just an essay to myself, maybe to use as part of my thesis.  I made a list a reasons, one for each year of my life, to not commit suicide.  I thought if I made the list while I was in a good place, I would make it sound convincing.  Each point is a little micro essay discussing that point and why it’s important to me.

I was at first thinking about sending it out, but I’ve decided to do more with it.  I’m going to make a website out of it and post one reason from the list per day.  And I’m talking to other people I know with mental health issues to see if they will be willing to make lists as well.  I can post reasons from them as well as they come in.  So I’m going to launch this website on June 1, along with a facelift of this site.  I’m really excited about it and what it could become.

 


How To Support Your Family Member/Friend/Partner With Depression – W.B

How to support your family member/friend/partner with depression: Don’t ask them why they are depressed. Do not say “if you change your mindset …” Do not give advice. I promise, […]