Daily Archives: August 13, 2016

On Being “Normal”

Note: You only have to watch the first two minutes of the video to catch the “normal” reference. The source link takes you to the video. One of my favourite sports at the Olympics is swimming. Canada’s medals (11 so … Continue reading

Am I the Only Transgender Person Sick of Transitioning?

This is not your “before and after” video that shows me ten thousand times hotter than I previously was, confirming your suspicion that transition takes you from an awkward caterpillar into a glamorous butterfly.

This is not your “I found myself” testimony, where I explain how transition fixed all of my problems and how I’m now living my best life in my best body, the life and body I was meant to have.

Nope. This is your “this sucks, why does this suck, why didn’t anyone tell me that this would suck?” blog entry, by a trans person who is just as confused as before, only this time with more acne.

As a genderqueer person whose desired body leans masc, desired expression leans femme, and overall identity seems to be “alien boy” but I’ll call it “well fuck, your guess is as good as mine,” trying to transition has been a puzzle at best, and a cluster fuck at worst.

About eight months ago, I threw testosterone into the mix hoping it would ease some of the social and physical dysphoria, and maybe answer some of my lingering questions (questions like, do I want to live my life being perceived as a man? how much body hair is too much body hair? can I grow a better beard than my brother? will this make my butt more compact? you know, the important shit).

Spoiler alert, on testosterone I’m totally emotionally unstable, I’m greasy and covered in acne, I have the ability to braid my leg hair, I’m building muscles in places I didn’t know I could develop muscle, and I’m growing (admittedly very cute) whiskers on my face.

So in other words, I’m a moody cat on steroids that desperately needs Proactiv. These were not my #TransitionGoals.

Everyone tells me that, having only been on testosterone for less than a year, I should be patient. But the thing that no one told me is that medical transition – and really, transition generally – can suck SO HARD.

No one tells you that not every aspect of transition will feel right or feel good. That the side effects of medical transition may make you more uncertain than ever of your choices. That sometimes it’s trial by fucking fire, learning what you want and what you don’t as you go.

That it can take a long time before you look in the mirror and say, “Aha!”

That some of us – and this is critical – don’t know what will work for us. We only know what isn’t working, and that’s valid, too.

For non-binary folks, this delicate balance is even more challenging to achieve. Some of us end up back pedaling with our dose or coming off of hormones altogether, trying not to swing too hard in one direction of the binary or the other. Some of us have to settle for something imperfect, others of us are too afraid to begin.

Pass the Tylenol, please – navigating hormones in a binary world is enough to give anyone the migraine of the century.

Truthfully, I spend most days worried about how testosterone hasn’t been this magical, life-affirming journey that has made me more certain of myself – feeling like I’ve done something wrong, or made the wrong choice if I’m not perpetually ecstatic about it. 

I’d like to think that there’s room for trans people to feel something other than endless joy – that actually, it’s an unrealistic expectation that every transgender person on hormones will have the time of their life.

I’m not unhappy, I’m just waiting for it to come together. I look at myself in the mirror nowadays and like anybody else whose body is rapidly changing, I’m just really weirded out. I haven’t had that big moment (is there even a big moment for everyone?).

I’m just sitting around like, “Whoa, bodies are totally STRANGE” and “Did my face get uglier or is it just the acne eating me alive?”

If anything, medical transition has raised more questions than it’s answered. Questions about my relationship to masculinity, what gender identity truly is, about the layers of my dysphoria, about the fluidity of my own gender (and if it’s so fluid, how do I choose a static representation?), and most importantly, what it means to transition as a trans person who is genderqueer.

I did not sign up for some philosophical obstacle course, but here we are.

Mainstream narratives convince us that transition is reserved for people who are brimming with certainty and clarity, neither of which I have. Mainstream narratives convince us that transition will be revelatory and complete us, but I have yet to feel enlightened or whole.

Is it just me?

I’d like to think that it’s okay – and that we can make room for these experiences, too. Transition is not amazing all the time. For some folks, it isn’t amazing at all, but necessary still. And if we don’t acknowledge this, we’re just being really fucking dishonest about what transition is actually like.

So y’all, I’ll just say it: I’m tired. All these bodily changes, all these lingering questions, and the work that goes into deciphering your non-binary gender in a binary world – it’s exhausting, and it sucks.

Word on the street is that it’s worth it, though. And I may not know exactly what’s in store, but there’s no way in hell I’m going back.

He’s The Man

Last night I handed hubby my weed and told him I don’t want it again until I ask for it. I’m hoping that disappointing him will be enough to stop this daily smokefest that I am on. The depression is almost fully here now.

Living With Discomfort

Well today is Day 3 of not smoking (cigarettes, still off the pot too) and I have to tell you, it’s only hard when I have the feels!  Which is . . . much of the time.  I think I might be what you would call a “feeling stuffer” and no that is not a good thing.  I find that I have anxiety, sadness, and just plain boredom that I am used to smoking away.  In and out, that smoke does something with my feelings.  It’s fucking magic!  And no, it’s not just the nicotine.  I’m sitting here wearing an XL-Loaded-For-Bear-Strong-As-You-Can-Get nicotine patch.  It helps some.  But I still want that magical smoke going in and out of my lungs.  Somehow THAT is the hard part of the addiction to break.

This post isn’t meant to be all about smoking, however.  It’s about discomfort.  I seem to have a low tolerance for it.  I am trying to coach myself to sit with my discomfort.  To tell myself, it’s ok to be uncomfortable.  I can feel sad.  I can feel lonely.  I can feel bored.  I can deal.  What a novel idea!

With my work, Dr. Flaky brings out my inherent anxiety that I have had with every job.  Because I don’t hear from her for long stretches of time, I start to wonder if I’m fired.  When I email her and she doesn’t respond, I wonder if I’ve done something wrong.  She told me once that she trusts me, but once the trust is lost, it’s lost.  So I wonder, does she think I’ve done something untrustworthy?  I haven’t, but it’s all in her perceptions.  So, not hearing from her leaves my imagination to run wild.  Working for ANYONE brings out my insecurities, which leads to anxiety.  I’d rather not go through any of it, frankly.

I don’t know where to go with this, except to take my own advice:  treat yourself like you would your best friend.  Be kind.  Be compassionate.  Offer help.  Offer advice, which in the case of Dr. Flaky would be to detach from the situation, understand she earned her name, and she is who she is.  If you want to work for her you have to understand that things go on  her unstable timetable.  For right now, some work is better than no work, because some money is better than no money.  Keep looking for other opportunities.  Keep being professional.

With that, I think I’ll go troll the want ads.  I saw something on Twitter that said “If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door.”  That is somewhat comforting to me.  If the opportunity is right for me, it will open up.  I hope all of you have wonderful, restful weekends!  Thanks for reading❤

Filed under: Bipolar, Bipolar and Anxiety, Bipolar and Smoking, Bipolar and Work, Psychology Shmyshmology Tagged: Bipolar, Blogging, Hope, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader

A Year of Firsts

It’s been exactly one month since Will passed away. To say this is a difficult day would be an understatement, but I’m facing a whole bunch of them so this first “anniversary” is only the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve been warned about this by other widows. There is an entire year of “firsts” to get through—the first wedding anniversary, the first holidays, the first birthday, the first Father’s Day—all without him. We would have been married 36 years next month, a date I’m dreading…couples are supposed to celebrate together. We’re supposed to go out to dinner and maybe a movie, eat cake, and drink Martinelli’s sparkling cider. What am I to do on that day now that he’s no longer here?

The one thing that’s holding me together is the love of my family. Ethan and Clark have taken to spending evenings with me instead of going to bed early like they usually do; Clark’s mom Shelly shares with me wisdom gleaned from her four years without her husband; my other kids are keeping in close contact except for Mandy, who’s still living out in some forest without a home to call her own. That situation distresses me to no end, even though she and her family are planning to come back here after Labor Day. I’m still disappointed that they didn’t come out at least for the funeral…her Dad wanted nothing more than to see her before he died, and it didn’t happen.

But it is what it is, and there are no do-overs. I’m so glad I was there for Will at the very last, and I’m proud of the way I put the funeral together. I’d never done such a thing before in my life (and hope I never have to do it again!). And I’m pleased to say that underlying all the sadness is a stable mood; there is nothing pathological about grief, and self-harm is the furthest thing from my mind. I just could NOT do that to the family, and to be honest I’m too afraid of spending eternity separated from God—and from Will.

So I’ll be here to endure this year of “firsts”. There’s no way around it but straight through it. I know that. But it sure doesn’t make days like this any easier.

I Have to Write Something. . .

I feel so frustrated today.  I’ve been on my right medication now for almost six months and I am not doing as well as I was this time last year.  I am more nervous and anxious and I’m completely blocked with my creative endeavors.  I can’t keep up with the house as well as I’d  like and I feel like a total slug wanting to sleep all the time.  I do not know what the problem is. I should be doing much better.  I don’t know if changing my meds for almost six months led me to a place where I can’t recover from or what.

THe other day I had the urge to run away again–to my parents’ house, of all places. I know how foolish that would be.  It’s not that I want to leave Bob; I just want my old life back.  I want to feel normal.  And I’m starting to wonder if I ever will again.

I’ve never had this much trouble this time of year.  THe only thing I can think of is that my middle one will be graduating this year and that that is already stressing me out.  If that’s the case, it’s going to be a long hard year for me.  I don’t feel emotional about her graduating.  I‘m happy for it.  At least that is what I m telling myself. I will miss her because she is so dependable, but it’s not like I’m seeing a lot of her anyway with how busy she is.  I do remember stressing about my oldest one graduating and  waking up after the day of it feeling better than I had been in a long time. I hope that’s not  what is bothering me.

I know I am stressed about Bob being sick.  He has a hard time with the meds they have him on and he’s so sensitive to everything in the air that he can’t hardly leave the house. And he’s much sicker than he used to be and he’s sick more often.  And I dont’ know what more I can do to help him.

Just please pray for me that I can find out what the problem is and get on top of it before it gets worse.   I don’t want to give up on the writing and quit my degree program.  I want to succeed in it.  I just don’t; know how,


Cortical Molecular Markers Differentiate Psychotic, Bipolar Disorders

braintemporallobets_1017632The researchers quantified the transcript levels of GAD67, parvalbumin, somastatin, and Lhx6 in the prefrontal cortex.

GABA or γ (gamma) amino butyric acid is the inhibitory neurotransmitter in our nervous system. That is, it reduces the activity of neurons to which it binds. Interestingly enough, benzodiazepines also bind to GABA receptors, therefore it is believed that GABA’s reducing neuronal activity also reduces anxiety! Hmmmm, will have to look into this! There are also excitatory neurotransmitters in our nervous systems, eg. glutamate, will have to steer well clear of those! Except if in catatonic depression! But seriously…

The study below finds that there are deficits in GABA related molecules such as the GABA synthesizing enzyme GAD67, the calcium binding protein Parvalbumin, the neuropeptide Somatostatin, and the transcription factor Lhx6.

These deficits are most pronounced in a subset of Schizophrenia patients identified as ‘low GABA marker’ or LGM molecular phenotype.

Schizophrenia shares clinical features, possibly genetics, and abnormal cortical circuitry with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. Therefore they determined to what extent the LGM molecular phenotype was present in these other disorders.

Approximately 49% of the subjects with schizophrenia, 48% of the subjects with schizoaffective disorder, and 29% of the subjects with bipolar disorder, but only 5% of unaffected subjects, clustered in the cortical LGM molecular phenotype.

They concluded that these findings support the characterization of psychotic and bipolar disorders by cortical molecular phenotype which may help elucidate more pathophysiologically informed and personalized medications.

All this research is fascinating, and advances in the field are being made daily. I just can’t wait till some of it is put in to practice for us, the people who have these disorders.


Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia share certain genetic risk factors, as well as clinical features including psychosis and cognitive impairment, with patients diagnosed with either schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder.

New evidence indicates that patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder can successfully be identified based on their cortical ‘low GABA marker’ (LGM) molecular phenotype. Researchers affiliated with University of Pittsburgh conducted the study, and their findings were published in Psychological Medicine journal.

Postmortem analyses of brain tissue in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia consistently show disturbances in gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). These findings have repeatedly been replicated, and deficits in GABA neuron-related mRNAs cannot be attributed to the use of antipsychotic medications.

“Alterations in inhibitory neurotransmission have been reported to contribute to cognitive impairments that are present in schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder,” the authors noted in their publication.

In the current study, researchers quantified the transcript levels of GAD67, parvalbumin, somastatin, and Lhx6 in the PFC to identify the cortical phenotype across these 3 severe psychiatric disorders. In line with previous reports, the investigators show that only 5% of typical, healthy control participants (n=87) present with a LGM molecular phenotype, compared with 49% of patients with schizophrenia, 48% of patients with schizoaffective disorder, and 29% of patients with bipolar disorder.

GAD67 is an enzyme that catalyzes the decarboxylation of glutamate to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, and the ablation of GAD67 results in an almost complete reduction in basal GABA levels in the brain. Parvalbumin is a calcium-binding protein present at high levels in GABAergic neurons, and is an important modulator of intracellular calcium dynamics in nerve cells. Somastatin is a cyclic polypeptide that is colocalized and sometimes co-released with GABA, and has been implicated in various cognitive and affective functions. Lhx6 is a transcription factor that is expressed in GABAergic cells and its silencing impedes migration of interneurons into the cortex.

“The presence of the LGM molecular phenotype may represent a substrate for cognitive impairment in subsets of these subjects…. and individuals with [this] phenotype may potentially benefit from pharmacological treatments that focus on GABA-related disturbances,” the authors concluded.

Willingness is the Key

Life lessons. Sometimes they bonk us in the head seemingly from left field. But more often than not they’ve been staring us in the face and we have just been unable to see them. Until the bonk. Or at least this is my experience.
Sipping on coffee, under my favorite blanket embracing the ease of Saturday morning. In just a few hours we will hop in the car and “begin” our weekend. I find myself in contemplation mode. It’s been a week of erratic thinking and loss of perspective. I was manic and paranoid at the same time. I awoke on Tuesday at 4 am and was convinced I had betrayed my agency. My mind literally took on a mind of its own. For 2 hours I laid in bed while thoughts raced, confusion stirred and I was paralyzed. I work in social services. The rate we fund various agencies for their various services is set by the state. Very rarely do the rates change, much less rise. But there are always caveats. This time the nonsensical direction we were given is that already existing vendors would receive new rates, and soon to be or potential vendors would get the old rate. A collective HUH? was sighed around those of us dealing with this issue.
Somehow my mind was convinced I sent out the rate scale to all the soon to be vendors. While this is public knowledge, we do not hand out this information. We would share it at the time someone were to get vendorized with us. I had become a CIA operative in the social service world gone rogue. I agonized over this for 2 hours. I was so uncertain and confused of my actions I checked my sent email file to see what damage I had done. Which of course, was absolutely none. But it spawned the paranoia.
In all of this chaos I lost sight of my role. I was wanting to control anything and everything. If I “fixed” issues outside of my job description it was redemption. So in other words crossing work boundaries. Dipping into other departments. My new supervisor is all about the mantra of staying in your own lane. I was having trouble understanding what that meant. I kept on veering. Throw me a curve ball and I’m probably going to chase it.
Last night, well after work hours, I was bonked in the head with a realization. If I solved every problem that even remotely affected me, I would be in charge. In control. But really, I am ultimately wasting energy and causing myself stress. These are not my problems. I sent my supervisor an email asking her for guidance throwing the situation way out of proportion. She had a one line response. It didn’t indulge my drama. The answer she gave reiterated what I had said without trying to fix what I didn’t actually break. I was wanting to fix the ENTIRE situation, when clearly that is not my role here.
The internal chaos was quickly seeping to the outside world and breeding more chaos. I was waiting in the wings with bandages, band aids, and whatever else. My effort to regain control.
I am a social worker at heart. I truly do want to help. But I am starting to see that’s all well and good, but not in my job description. It’s cleaner if I stay on my side of the street until someone actually asks me for assistance. I jump the gun and bum rush a situation that doesn’t need my fingerprints.
A hard won life lesson embedded in a one line response. I had to be willing to read between the line(s). Which, when I think about it, prompted the bonk. Willingness. That’s all 😊

30 Days of Sandy Sue Altered: 19

My End of the Sanity Spectrum


Noise in My Head


A Screw Loose


Brain Fog

Did You Know I’m a Sex Maniac Stalker? Me Neither.

My grandma recently retired from her job as a secretary at a doctor’s office.  Every once in a while, she still tells me about her patients.  Over breakfast today, we were discussing the book Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton (the protagonist in this book has bipolar disorder).  My grandma took this opportunity to impart upon me the following information:  “We had a few patients who suffered from manic depression.  That’s another term for bipolar, you know.  Manic depression.”

Yes, Grandma.  I’m familiar with the term.

“Dr. Keith told me to watch out for those manic depressives.  They’re complete sex maniacs.  They just have sex with everyone.  And my brother, he knew a woman with manic depression, and she stalked him.  Like, really stalked him.  It was so creepy.”

Okay, that felt a little like a stab wound…

“Insane asylums really need to make them a higher priority.  I mean, they’re out there wandering the streets untreated.  Who knows what they can do?  They need to be in a home for the mentally impaired.”

Knife twisted.  Thanks Grandma.

After this monologue, I figured that would be a very inopportune moment to reveal that I am one of these scary “manic depressives.”  What if she kicked me out?  I have nowhere to go until my plane leaves on Sunday.  The thing about grandparents is that it’s very difficult to change their minds on things.  Still, on behalf of myself and everyone else in the mental health community, I felt like I had to say something.

“Grandma, I seriously doubt that everyone with bipolar disorder is a sex maniac stalker.  Actually, I’m positive there are people who aren’t.”

“Yes, of course you’re right,” she said.  “But you just have to be careful.  You never know.  Actually, some of them are very smart.  Did you know that many very gifted artists and writers have been manic depressives?”

Again, I’m quite familiar with the concept.  I’ve only spent infinity hours researching this topic…but I don’t say that.

“Yes, Grandma.  I’ve heard that.  It’s great that they’re so creative…many of the best artists of all time have been mentally ill.”

She looks a little pensive.  “I wonder why all the greats are insane?  What’s different about them?  Hmmm…  Well, their brain unlocks different levels of creativity, I guess.”

Yes, let’s please focus on that instead of the fact that they’re all stalkers.  We talked a little longer in this new vein of less offensive conversation, but honestly I was ready to hop off of that before she started asking uncomfortable questions.  You never know with grandmas…she started our time together this week by asking if I’m planning to get pregnant soon, and just today she said, “Hmmm…I don’t think you need plastic surgery yet, but you will when you’re older.”  Grandparents say the weirdest things.  I didn’t want her to ask about my mental health, because I am the worst liar ever (just ask my husband).

I texted my husband after this exchange, and he said, “Don’t let her get you riled up…you know who you are.”  And really, he’s right.  I do.  For a world where people are bent on “finding themselves” and “discovering their true identities,” the fact that I know who I am is actually a pretty big accomplishment.  Perhaps “who I am” is a bit insane, but hey, at least life will never be boring.