Sunday, 25 September 2016

What not coping with stress and PTSD looks like

After yesterday I thought that I'd be able to stabilise a bit emotionally, count on being able to negotiate away at least most of this sudden hidden fee for the new apartment and just wrestle my way through all the tasks involved in switching places. Today I learned that I was horribly wrong about that assumption.

From hitting my head repeatedly until I could taste blood, to having to force myself to not plunge that knife into my abdomen, to otherwise prevent myself from inflicting grievous harm to my body... it's been an eventful day. It also demonstrates in a most painful manner that I am not capable of dealing with situations like this, nor that I am in control of my PTSD. It shows just how dangerous trying to find a new place is as well. Without the self-control I displayed today, I'd now possibly be in the ER with severe abdominal wounds.

As a result of this I may have to concede that unless the situation with the new apartment resolves itself, I may end up not signing the contract and look elsewhere for further options. While my current apartment is terrible and the current owner (large real-estate company) tries its best to get me evicted somehow, it's at least something I have learned to somewhat cope with over the past years.

I have already let my contact person at the relocation service known that my trust in this new apartment owner has been shattered by this hidden fee. Tomorrow I'll hopefully learn what their response is.


With how much stress, pain and triggering of my PTSD this all causes me, it almost makes me think that those who recommend that I have myself checked into a mental hospital have a point. Maybe I'm just not capable of dealing with daily life and society at all. Maybe I do need treatment before I can pretend to be just a happy little cog again.

Still, having others take care of me and me not having to worry about a thing would be kind of nice... it would be like committing suicide, but without the 'permanently dead' thing.


This morning I even got an email from my psychotherapist, in which she spelled out her worries for me after reading yesterday's blog post. Unfortunately I wasn't able to send her a text message to reassure her as she requested (buggy iPhone refuses to send SMSes), but I did send an email in response, explaining that I feel that talking about all of this is pointless. What I need at this point are people who help me deal with this part in life.

Of finding a good place, of helping me move in and all the little details around it. Things which for others are easy and not fraught with emotional traps.

I also noted that I'll have to just try to survive the coming weeks, yet that I will not find happiness. The expectation is that I will become happier now that I have fewer things to worry about, but frankly I am not seeing it. This whole housing thing may ultimately be the thing which does me in, instead of the twelve years of fighting for medical recognition and help.


I do have to wonder, what is the point of living anyway?


Maya

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Humanity can go bite me

The past weeks have helped to more than remind me of why I did not want to embark on a search for a new place to live, terrible as my current place may be.

Sure, the new place I did find is better in most ways, but it's just a temporary thing again, for 3 years at the most. It does however again mean sharing a house and everything with other people. People who I do not know and which thus make me feel frightful, inclined to just withdraw into my own place where I can ignore the outside world.

I want the new place to be a positive place where from to transition to a place where I really want to live. Yet today my mood regarding the new place got soured as the new landlady saw fit to add hidden charges, including demanding a few hundred Euro merely for her presence at the signing of the rental contract and handing over of the keys. Things like that make me lose trust in people. What is to say that they will not continue to keep up with sudden new charges?


Generally I feel that I'm pretty much done with people. Living in a city is somewhat of a nightmare to me. Being this near to so many people and constantly having to experience their noise, smells and presence is causing me no insignificant stress. Part of this feeling likely originates in me having to deal with so many people so closely while I was trying to find medical help for my condition and trying to survive at the same time.

I must have overdosed on people. This is in some ways ironic since I'm not an introverted person, yet it also shows the sheer depth of the traumas I went through over the past twelve years. I can deal with people no problem, but I absolutely need a people-free zone where I can live, rest and recover.

During the coming three years I have at this new apartment I will thus be tempted to find a house to buy which is as remote as possible, even if it means also buying my first car. Only if I can distance myself from others do I feel that I can find the peace and quiet I require to even begin to heal from my traumas.

Others caused the incredible emotional pain and agony I still regularly experience. Others have betrayed, hurt, used and harassed me. Considering how much I have been crying and thought about terminating my life the past weeks, it's clear to me that continuing on that path is neither helpful, nor healthy.

This somewhat ties into my previous blog post, I guess. The expectation by society that one just puts the chronic, suicidal depression away somewhere and acts 'normal'. For me to try and keep up that pretence will surely harm me. Whether it's due to me merely feeling unhappy all the time, due to an increase in self-mutilation events or outright suicide. I know that others are incredibly dismissive about this, and there's no 'mental health professional' who will do anything but shrug at such proclamations, but talking as someone who is intimately, personally experienced with self-mutilation as well as suicide, I can only say that is all as real as it gets.


As I write this, I cannot stop crying. For reasons I do not understand my hands have strayed to my throat a few times now to try and choke the life out of me, pointless as such a gesture may be. Maybe it's just about the pain, though. Yes, I did find a new place to move into, but the stress of it, and the dealing with the many compromises involved has just led to a singular outcome: I really, really want to die.

Life isn't worth living like this. It really isn't.


Maya

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Smile, because nobody wants to see that you're crying inside

This week has been a busy one. Monday another visit to my psychotherapist in order to talk about my upcoming reconstructive surgery, as well as the traumatic events in my past as well as current ones. Tuesday saw a Dutch film crew drop by in order to do an interview with me for the second episode of this new series on gender in 2016. This had me rehash my past again, of course.

Wednesday just had me working on my project at work, and attempt to breathe life in my CPU prototype project at home.

Today I had the first appointment with my family doctor (GP) since March this year, so I had to give her a full rehash of anything relevant that has happened in the intervening months. Then tomorrow I'll be signing the rental contract for the new apartment and begin the arduous process of moving, changing addresses, getting internet at the new place and probably fighting a legal battle with the owner of my current apartment, which would have me likely lose at least some money and definitely lots of sleep.


I find it interesting how full of smiles and positivity I am when I talk to my psychotherapist or GP. Reassuring them that everything is heading in the right direction. This while my mood during this week and especially earlier today was probably closer aligned to a dissociative episode and severe depression than this person I keep portraying.

If you ask me, it's not fair.

It's not fair that one can suffer through traumatic events, come out at the other side scarred, emotionally barely clinging on to sanity and then be expected to carry on as if nothing has happened. I know I have touched upon this before on multiple occasions, but I feel it bears repeating.

If we want to seriously care about mental health issues in society, then it's pertinent that we admit that not everyone in society is equally capable of going through the daily motions in life. That there are people for whom merely doing groceries is a mentally tasking event. People for whom the mere realisation that society expects them to 'just act normal' is enough to make it overwhelmingly clear that said society does not care about them as a person.

Society is about enforcing the collective tyranny of The People onto its members, even if few in society realise that this happens. Some things are accepted, while others aren't.

You're not supposed to be depressed. We cannot use depressed people. We cannot use traumatised veteran soldiers. We cannot use those who do not conform to our image of normalcy. You're not depressed, you're just pretending. You just smiled, you cannot be depressed. Everyone else can do it, so can you.

Just act like everybody else, and stop the depressing talk. It will be fine.

Just keep smiling.


I am smiling because I do not want to be crying. Not outside, not inside. I want to feel happy and care-free. Not haunted by fears that I may suddenly lose all my possessions again, or once more find myself without money, or get beaten up again. I am smiling because I want people to treat me nicely, to care about me. To make me stop hurting inside so much that it feels like the entire world is either against me or feels comfortable stepping over my broken body.

I smile because I want to believe in this better world. Not in this world I grew up in, filled with psychologists who tell me that I am crazy, doctors who try to make me believe that I am transsexual, or refuse me as patient for being intersex and religious people who call me 'unnatural'.


The only path forward I can see at this point is one where I keep smiling. Smiling while every step along the way tears off a little bit more of my soul. Things are unlikely to get easier any time soon. Only way is to keep suffering. Suffer while pretending to be just like everybody else. Depressed? Suicidal? PTSD? Of course not, what are you talking about?

Just look at me, I'm a perfectly normal, fully integrated human being performing their role in society just as specified. Don't you worry. Look, I'm even smiling and making jokes.

I'm fine. Pain is strength, suffering is bliss and what doesn't kill one makes one stronger, etcetera.

Trust me.


Maya

Saturday, 17 September 2016

That which makes a woman into a woman

A question which I have been asked countless times over the past decade by everyone from regular people to TV show hosts and journalists is whether I 'feel like a woman'. Frankly, I have never been able to really answer that question. If only because I'm being asked to compare my own feelings with something which is basically undefined. It's like asking me what my thoughts are on a particular god or on a habit by this particular alien race named on the planet .

What I have learned over the past decade is that there are three aspects which affect the way a person regards themselves: the physical aspect, the neurological aspect and the emotional aspect.

The physical aspect concerns such things as one's phenotype, being how one's body looks and functions. Here differences are plentiful, from the skeleton to muscle development and fat distribution. The skeleton itself shows marked differences pertaining especially to the pelvis, but also to the skull.

Also very important there is the reproductive system, which - starting with puberty - massively changes how one experiences one's body. This is also the area which mostly makes me realise that I am 'different', since I possess both male and female genitals, with my sex hormone levels being confused until finally settling on a female level. Whether one has a period, can become pregnant, or never has to concern oneself with such notions definitely changes a person.

The neurological aspect is intriguing, as well. Based on fMRI scans made over the past years, we can definitively say that there a 'masculine' and 'feminine' brain structure, based on the activity observed while performing tasks. While the correlation between phenotype and brain structure isn't very clear yet, it's however obvious that there are two main development types of the brain. One displaying a tendency to reason and reflect before taking action while also possessing strong multi-tasking capabilities, and the other being more direct in how it processes input and decides to perform a certain action.

Finally, that leaves the emotional aspect, or the part where one can definitely say that one 'feels like a woman'. This part is an amalgamation of the former parts, along with one's experiences in life. As a result it is as unique as the individual themselves. Someone raised in a certain environment will adopt different habits and assumptions - thus changing the way they think and feel about themselves - than someone raised in a very different environment.

In the end this means that 'feeling like a woman' is a very meaningless phrase. Yes, there are certain physical and neurological characteristics which would cause society to stuff one into one of either binary box, or provoke disparaging remarks if both 'do not match up' (e.g. tomboys and 'girly' boys).

Personally, the physical part has made it more than obvious to me over the past decades that physical characteristics including reproductive systems exist on a spectrum. Neurologically I seem to be in possession of the former type of brain, though looking back I cannot really say that I couldn't have been a guy with this brain if I had been born with a regular male body. Frankly, I much prefer guys with a more strongly developed 'feminine side', as it's usually referred to.

The definition of a 'woman' thus is rather hard to pin down. No clear-cut definition is found in the physical aspect, or the neurological aspect. Further, it's patently ridiculous to ascribe a binary notion to the emotional world of an individual.

In the end the only conclusion one can draw is that we're all individuals, with individual bodies, individual minds and our own experiences and thoughts. The so-called 'gender divide' is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than anything grounded in biological or scientific fact.


Maya

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Kindness hurts the most of all

Early last week I was at work as usual, trying to focus on my project and staying away with plenty of caffeine. The preceding days I had been going home earlier, as I wasn't feeling too well, but it wasn't really until I walked into the office's kitchen that day that I got confronted with my actual condition.

In the kitchen I encountered the cleaning lady - whom I often help out with small tasks - yet the moment she saw me she immediately commented on how pale and exhausted I looked, with dark rings around my eyes. After this she practically dragged me onto the balcony to get some fresh air and a break. It was her display of genuine concern which really got to me at that point.

Of all gestures and actions I know, kindness is the one which hurts me the most, even if it is in a good way. It tears through the countless layers of negativity, uncaring attitudes and the keeping up of pretences. At such a moment there is only a sense of... warmth, I guess. Like the love a mother feels towards her child, or the companionship between really good friends. A point where everything is all right and will work out.


Yesterday I looked at a new apartment and today I got the offer to sign the rental contract. I guess this should make me happy, that I can finally leave the place I currently live in. Yet there's no kindness to be found there. It's all just business. Whether I am truly happy in this new place isn't important. How I may feel about certain arrangements is not relevant in any way. I just have to follow a soulless, uncaring contract.

Emotionally it is easier to just deaden every feeling and emotion. Go through each day trying to be as soulless and uncaring as everyone else around one. Especially for me over the coming months, as I have to deal with the big change of moving yet again, not to mention face the roller-coaster of emotions that will soon come in the form of this reconstructive surgery which I have been working towards over the past twelve years or so. Merely most of my adult life so far.

I'm still working through things with my current psychotherapist, but it's becoming more and more clear to me that even after a number of sessions we have barely scraped the very beginning of my traumas and very complete collection of disturbing experiences and more. There's the surgery, yes,  with me having found a measure of kindness in the current doctors who are treating me, in that they respect me as a person and are doing their best to help me.

I guess that the moving into the new apartment will work out somehow, by taking it one day at a time and using my sadly extensive experience on moving houses. Here I find solace in the thought that I can start probably next year on searching for a house to buy, after recovering from the surgery. A place of my own, with no responsibility to anyone but to the bank I got the loan for said house from. In my experience banks are more kind than landlords, if only in the sense that it's more beneficial to them to act that way.


In the end everything comes down to kindness. The way doctors, psychologists, police officers, politicians and many others have treated me over the past decade and some was anything but kind. I found some shelter in the respect I received from the media, but it's been so incredibly lonely and cold. It still is, in fact. Now I crave kindness and not feeling lonely more than anything else.

Yes, money would help immensely, but it cannot resolve everything. The horrible traumas which plague and torment me during my sleep as well as when I'm awake may lessen, but will not go away. It would be beneficial to confront these traumas in an environment which is quiet, free of stress points and kind, however. For this finding the right place to live is crucial.

Please, have mercy.
Please, be kind.
Please, be humane.
Please, be gentle.
Please, be human.

Thank you.


Maya

Friday, 9 September 2016

Being kicked out of apartment, surgery, TV interview and more

This morning I picked up a registered letter at the post office after receiving a notice about it earlier. Instead of the expected late birthday present from my mother it turned out to be a letter from the landlady from whom I rent my apartment. To summarise, she wants me to clear out and depart the premises by the end of the month.

After a day of asking people at work - including my very knowledgeable boss - for advice and showing them the letter, ultimately it turned out that it seems that I have done everything right, with notifying the landlady about the defects at the apartment, when I cut back the rent I paid and with the landlady not fulfilling her duties according to German law (resolving defects where possible).

While this means that I can hold my own against the landlady, both the defects and the unpleasant dealings with this owner have made that I should be finding something as soon as possible, probably something to rent as finding something to buy would take much longer.

The defects in my apartment are still pretty much the same ones as before:
  • super-loud heating system (ticking) when in use [1].
  • occasionally brown to dark-brown water when using hot water (e.g. taking shower).
  • poorly insulated; constant draft during winters.
  • hearing everything from the neighbours upstairs (walking, using toilet, getting in/out bed, etc.).
  • lots of noise from the public hallway.

Since the owner of the building is more interested in threatening those who rent from them rather than resolving issues, it seems pertinent that I find some other place to live. Maybe I can find something via that relocation service, maybe via somewhere or someone else. I'll have to see.

This everything happens alongside a number of other events, such as the expected update on my pending surgery. Next month I should hear back on whether a suitable surgeon has been found, which would put start off a number of appointments and examinations, with a possible reconstructive surgery following at some time during the coming months.

Ideally this surgery would happen after I have moved into a new place and not while I'm recovering from said surgery. Hopefully the timing here will be favourable.

Fortunately the other event that's coming up is easier to organise: a film crew is coming to interview me for a new Dutch TV show, which will happen within the next two weeks and just takes one day. That may actually be fun, too :)

Along with all of that I'm also currently putting a lot of time and effort into finishing up a major project: the development of the first prototype of my custom CPU architecture. Over the past months I have gone through a crash-course in the VHDL programming language, learned the finer details of FPGA fabrics and associated toolchains and generally put enough effort into this to count as a second full-time job.

The goal of this all is to see whether I can maybe develop it into a commercial product, or at the very least explore expanding my career more into hardware development as well, along with developing further into game development and associated areas. Basically in order to find the things I enjoy the most and hopefully make it into something with commercial perspectives, if that makes sense.

Everything taken together it's definitely a lot to deal with at the same time. At this point I'm definitely looking forward to a time hopefully in the near future where I'm living in a place I do not hate, with the surgery over with and just my future ahead of me.


Maya


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EzwfL5IKXQ

Saturday, 20 August 2016

It's so easy to forget that I'm a medical miracle

I spend quite a bit of time on informing people about what it means to be intersex, whether it's via the media, or websites such as Quora. I feel that it is important to shed light on a topic which is clad in such mystery and surrounded by lots of misinformation and myths. That said, this sadly also highlights for me how big the chasm is between intersex people like myself and the rest of society.

I was born into a body which doesn't just refuse to stick to the gender and sex binaries, but has the audacity to feature both male and female primary characteristics. It doesn't even stick to the usual form of hermaphroditism with ovotestes: having both testicular and ovarian tissue combined. Instead there's an obvious duality, with both the female and male side clearly distinguishable. In the medical literature this is a very rare type of hermaphroditism.


Placing this against what human society is largely about and one can clearly see the problem. While transsexuals and homosexuals both fit into the sex and gender binaries, hermaphrodites in particular defy what Western society is about to such an extent that we might as well be aliens. We're certainly being treated as such, with how much 'normal' people fear us, know nothing about us, or actively seek to wipe us out.

If medical science actually cared about this topic, half a dozen researchers would have jumped at the chance to publish a host of papers on my situation. Instead I spent the past decades essentially proving that I exist and have a right to just be myself without being forced to undergo 'normalisation' surgery.


In such a situation, one tends to try to forget about one's differences in order to fit in with society, yet none of this takes away from the issue that people like me live in a society which we do not understand, and which itself does not actively seek to understand us.

We're life... but not as you know it.


Maya