Being a carer is hard work at times. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. I do it through choice. But lately caring for Anne has become a whole lot harder. Her illnesses have gotten worse and she has become very depressed, frequently experiencing suicidal thoughts.
I can’t switch off from it. I’m receptive to her state of mind, and — believe me — when you’re prone to depression yourself it’s extremely stressful to feel the echoes of somebody else’s. It negatively affects my own emotional state and after a while, day after day, it builds up to the point at which I have to do my best to shut off. To lock myself away and wait for the overwhelming feelings to recede.
It is exhausting. I have found myself needing to take a break more and more often. And that is a cause of stress in itself because I feel guilty for failing to be there constantly. She relies on me, she needs my help, and I’m not always able to respond.
I’m aware that I’m not looking after myself as well as I would normally. I’m mostly subsisting on take-out food and candy. Things like washing are falling to a bare minimum. I’m becoming snappy far too often, my motivation is poor and I’m feeling low. Oh, and aspects of my gender dysphoria are increasingly intruding on my thoughts.
There is a feeling that I’m losing control, adrift and at the mercy of life’s currents. I know from past experience that this is a dangerous situation for me because it is a powerful trigger for self harm: cutting in my case. The thoughts and impulses are there, even as I write this. I sat for about an hour over the weekend holding a blade, just thinking about using it.
I haven’t yet because I do consider it something of a last resort. I’m just concerned that the time when I yield to my impulses is getting closer by the day: the time when I will regain the illusion of control over my life, at least for a while. The temptation is strong but so far my fear of falling into the cycle of dependency has stayed my hand.
I love hugs. That comforting feeling of envelopment engendering an ambiance of safety in the folds of a loving embrace. Sometimes my need is so great and the release so totally involving that I am reduced to tears.
It is said that a thing is known by its opposite, and that is true of hugs for me. Because there are times when I yearn, when I physically ache for those few moments of relief. To be held tightly and be able to let go of all my immediate fears and worries.
My need manifests as a feeling of absolute emptiness. My heart is a void that cries out to be filled with that demonstration of love, of physical closeness. Such a desolation of spirit. I am exposed, flayed, eviscerated. Left as an empty husk of a person.
My world is without light; all I see is shadows of what surrounds me. Until I am released by the touch of another, bringing a golden light into my darkness, restoring my pain-wracked body, showing me that there is hope. Giving me another day to live.
Trust is such an important concept. I couldn’t get by without the trust I have in my wife to handle certain aspects of my life. And trust extends to the readers I have here: I trust you to interpret what I write in the way I intended it.
That goes especially for my poetry (not that I have a particularly high opinion of my scribblings, as I’ve mentioned before). But still, I use poetry to capture images in my mind and can only hope that some echo of what I see id transferred to my readers. Some thoughts are easier to represent in a form other than prose. Poetry provides the means to stimulate a reader into an expectation of an interpretation beyond the literal.
This strikes me as ironic given my own literal inclination. The strange thing is that to me what I write in poetic form is literal. It’s a translation of what I see in my mind’s eye into words.
The potential problem is that it might be too dependent on my own experiences, my own response to particular words and phrases. But I persist because I trust that my readers will understand my meanings. After all, I believe that we have more in common than not.
As a follow-up to my last post I’m going to talk about Gender Dysphoria. What it is, what it feels like, why it is different from conditions such as body dysmorphia, and how it is treated. Read more
Flicking through channels on the TV last night, looking for something to watch (anything as long as it’s not endless re-runs), we came across a show on TLC called Body Bizarre that featured a transgender couple. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much: the show’s sensationalist title as good as tells you this is going to be a modern-day freak show.
Sadly I was proved right. The narration did use pronouns correctly and showed the two young people just living normal lives, but that was as good as it got. The show fell back on old stereotypes, using terms such as “born a boy”. Most cis (non-trans) people won’t pick up on this as problematic, but it is an inaccurate and misleading description because it implies that the person’s gender identity has changed: that they have chosen to be a different gender. I am female. I was born female, but the gender I was assigned at birth was male. I was not “born a boy”, I just looked like one.
The other serious problem with the reporting in this show was the focus on genital surgery. Somebody watching this who didn’t know any better would think this is the biggest part of transitioning and would not be aware that a large number of trans people opt not to have these procedures. In fact the process of transition was barely mentioned: you would think that it was like flipping a switch. Male one day and female the next. There was no suggestion of the difficulties faced by somebody who is transitioning, or of how long the process can take.
The picture of transgender life painted by this “documentary” was so incomplete and slanted that I feel it only qualifies as factual on a technicality: the few facts presented seemed to be accurate. It provided little information about gender dysphoria or its treatment: considering that the channel is called TLC — The Learning Channel — it was mostly free of any educational value. The superficial treatment of a condition that is associated with shockingly high levels of depression and suicide did nothing to further anybody’s understanding and does not benefit trans people.
There are documentaries that provide in-depth coverage of this subject, that portray their trans subjects accurately and with respect. That will educate their audience and give them some insight into our lives. That will foster the understanding that leads to acceptance. I know: I have seen some of them. This was not one.
Perception is a strange phenomenon. Seeing is not really believing, and while the truth may be out there, there’s no guarantee it’s standing up and waving its metaphorical arms to be noticed. I don’t believe in ghosts, but…
I was about 8 or 9 at the time, lying in my bed that was up against one corner of my bedroom, the long left side against an outside wall. Beyond the foot of my bed in the same wall was the window, a large 6′ x 4′ single pane. Closed. I was waking up although it was still dark — I don’t recall what time of year it was.
All was still and quiet, no sounds from the rest of the single-story house. Not from my brother’s room next to mine, nor from my parents across the hallway. It was as if I was alone in the world.
But then I became aware that I was not alone. There was somebody else in the room with me. Standing next to my bed, looking over and down on me was a figure. Standing to my left, where the wall should have been. A young woman with dark hair, wearing a simple long white dress.
I guess I ought to have been scared by her impossible nature but she was a comforting presence, radiating calm and peace. She never moved or spoke, and I could not describe her face to you at all, but she had a beauty and elegance to rival any fairytale princess.
I hadn’t noticed her arrival, nor did I notice when she vanished never to be seen again. I’ve never forgotten her. I wonder sometimes who she was. Was she some figment of my imagination? Was she perhaps an angel watching over me? Or was I seeing my future self, the person I am inside?
I don’t know, will never know the “truth” of this experience. It was mine alone, and I must make of it what I will. But I still don’t believe in ghosts.