Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Even the worst situation can get worse

When I got forced out of the apartment which I had lived in for four years, I figured that it'd just be a temporary setback. I'd quickly get set up as a freelancer, and with the help of friends I'd find a new house or apartment to live in.

None of that happened, of course.

While the freelancing thing is something that's slowly coming along, this had its own share of setbacks. Worse, however, was the attempt to find a new place. Three months later and many dozens of houses and apartments later we've seen so many terrible places, came across a number of fresh slumlord locations, had the place given to someone else before we had a chance to look at it, or the person or agency behind the ad simply never bothered to respond.

Now on Friday my belongings will be put into storage and I'll be trying to find somewhere to sleep. There had been the hope that this place in the Alsace that we looked at on last Friday would have worked out, with the documents being sent to the agency and them saying that they'd put the rental contract together. Today they went back on their words and now they'll 'contact us about the place' in the coming days.


With everything that could have been firmly burned to the ground this way it makes me wonder whether it's a healthy idea to try and hang around in this part of Germany. Or Germany at all for that matter. It really does not get any better since I first moved here in 2013.

To be honest I do not know what the right choice is. There are some people and things here in Karlsruhe which I would not gladly lose, but not having a home any more and just drifting from shelter to couch and to shelter is not the kind of life that I'm envisioning for myself.

When to give up, when to keep trying? I don't know.


After the mounting stress of the past weeks I went back to something which I figured I had left behind me after trying out many years ago. Despite all that may be bad about alcohol, it does have this pleasant numbing effect that makes it work better than any anti-depressants and similar medication that I know of. It's not a solution, but it might just provide that little bit of buffer to keep me sane.


What will happen tomorrow, Friday, during the weekend or afterwards? I don't have the faintest clue. I'm almost afraid to try anything any more, as things just seem to fall apart. Then there's that part of me which has long noted that my struggling over the past fifteen or twenty years has been pretty much futile. That since those adults decided to lay their filthy hands on my 5-year old body, my fate has been pretty much sealed.

I'm not sure how I'm dealing with homelessness and the continuing hope that things may soon improve. It's been promised to me for decades now that things would get better. I'm honestly still waiting.


I also still think that most people would be much happier if I simply ceased to exist. Including myself.


Maya

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Life is that game where nobody tells you the rules and everybody laughs at you

As I already alluded to on Twitter over the past days, things are going somewhat sideways, currently (still?). When I rented this one apartment for two months, it was in the expectation that I would be able to find something new and permanent during those months. A house in the Alsace, naturally. Because I had been told that this would be easy and thus I trusted it would be.

That notion I quickly got disabused from, downgrading my expectations to 'just an apartment will be more than fine', but with landlords and real-estate agents either not bothering to return a response, or just telling me that the place had already been given to someone else, time began to run out quickly.

Now I'm supposed to be out of this current apartment by early next week, and I do not have an alternative lined up. Worst case it's going to be putting my stuff in storage and me roughing it on the streets. This week I'm still trying to find alternatives together with a friend, but it's going to be tough to impossible.


Worst of all has to be the constant accusations, whether spoken outright or not, that I have simply done things wrong. That I didn't put in enough effort (alongside establishing myself as a freelancer), and simply should have been more proactive (despite dealing with severe PTSD).

It all makes me feel so very sad that I didn't just get hired at one of those many places where I interviewed at last year. That I could be living in California, Spain, Sweden, Scotland or somewhere else, and would never have gone through any of this.

Clearly because I did something wrong.


Is it truly so amazing that someone in my position is struggling to feel a shred of positivity when it comes to being alive? When nothing seems to work out, and all you can get are snide, hurtful remarks from people. People who consider you to just looking for an 'easy way' when you ask them for help.

The general attitude I have encountered over the past fifteen years no matter which kind of life struggles it comes to is that people just don't care. They don't care about you being homeless. They don't care about you being in pain. They don't care about you being unable to find medical help. They don't care about you living in poverty. They. Don't. Care.

For people who live the easier lives it's hard to imagine just what it feels like to have everything from one's own body to one's living situation constantly go sideways, without any explanation given. Just that one should 'try harder'. Basically don't make any mistakes in life, or the wolves will eat you.


I'm desperately trying to stay optimistic and hopeful that somehow that this will work out, but the weight of pretty much half my life so far spent trying to survive is weighing heavily on me. If I keep screwing up this badly, and things will not get any better as a result, then maybe it's time to just quit trying, no?


Maya

Friday, 3 May 2019

Coming to terms with being forced into transsexuality

The most ironic thing about my intersex condition will probably always remain that I could not have known about it sooner because I simply did not know that it existed until I practically tripped over the term and read up on it at Wikipedia. For about a week during early 2005 I figured that I had to be transsexual because I had just realised that I really felt more comfortable in a female role, rather than the assigned male role.

After that revelation and subsequent roller coaster of events, it culminated in an MRI scan on the 21st of December 2007 which showed that I have both male and female genitals in addition to a feminine skeleton. During the following twelve years my body would gradually change, with the sudden arrival of a second puberty at the end of 2014 kick-starting changes that would see me not only drop hormone therapy fully, but find myself grasping at physical changes that simply could not be happening. Changes that essentially transform my body from that of an adolescent female into that of an adult woman.


Winding the clock back more than a decade, the struggle that I had to deal with was that the doctors at the VUmc gender team as well as those elsewhere in the Netherlands, the UK, US and so on, had virtually no clue about 'intersex'. I got told that it was not possible that I could be intersex. That they had found no sign of intersex on my body. That I likely was suffering some kind of psychological delusion that made me perceive my body improperly.

Imagine defending your views against doctors and psychologists for more than a decade, as first one group tells you that you are obviously a true hermaphrodite based on the MRI scans, ultrasound and ultimately an exploratory surgery and biopsy of undeveloped testicles. Then the next group will happily tell you that your body is totally that of a male, but that they'll gladly help you transform into a 'beautiful woman' if I only just would accept that I am not intersex, but just a transsexual male with a desire to become a woman.


A big part of my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes from those experiences. Where people in positions of absolute authority would consistently repeat those statements, which had been contradicted by their colleagues months or even days before. It forced me to really think about myself, about this thing called 'gender' and what it meant to be a 'woman' or a 'man'.

Looking back, I can see that the role which I was forced into was essentially that of a female-to-male transsexual, made possible by my outwards appearance as a child being that of a male child since none of the primary female characteristics were visible from the outside. As puberty approached, however, this became problematic.

The development of secondary male characteristics on my side were rather spotty and ultimately highly ineffective, with no real change in my voice or facial hair growth noticeable, even as I got feminine hips and a slim waist. Later it would be found that my testicles had essentially not developed to the point where they would have produced more than minimal levels of testosterone. The natural production of estradiol by ovarian tissue on the other hand was apparently strong enough to start some breast development and kick-start a monthly cycle that started off with a super-painful first menstruation event when I was eleven.

Not knowing what was going on with my body, I was forced to suffer in silence as I believed that my body was that of a regular male, even as the secondary female characteristics were becoming ever stronger, with this sudden second puberty seemingly finishing what got started back then.


Doctors ever really helped me with this. Aside from this one Dutch urologist and the one German surgeon, it's been mostly me against the world, trying to understand what it was that made people want to make me believe that I had to be transsexual, and just what in blazen's name my real identity and body are.

With nearly fifteen years of intense experience and plenty of time to think about it all, I think that I have reached a point where a lot of it is beginning to make sense. The concept of 'male' or 'female' has only meaning in so far as they apply to the biological, sexual elements. There's no such thing as 'gender', just one's personality. There's no way to define a 'man' or a 'woman' outside of those crude biological terms.

As for transsexuality, it's always irked me that it was so hard to pin down, and to understand how such a term could conceivably apply to me. Quite recently I wrote a bit on the topic of Body Identity Disorder (BID, also called Body Integrity Dysphoria) [1]. This disorder/dysphoria seems to provide a lot of insight in the topic. The main characteristic is a person with BID feeling like they are 'born in the wrong body', with one or more parts of their body not being part of it, and extreme measures such as amputation being the only reasonable course of action.

As noted by R. Bou Khalil and S. Richa in their December 2012 published article "Apotemnophilia or body integrity identity disorder: a case report review" (doi: 10.1177/1534734612464714), a literature study shows a strong correlation between BID and transsexuality. While detailed research is still spotty, one could state that for a person to be transsexual they need to have BID, with a strong desire to get rid of those elements (genitals and/or secondary characteristics) that feel 'wrong' to them.

Generally people with BID have these fantasies of themselves in their 'new' body, living this different life in which they are happy, unlike in their current existence. This fantasy and the differences between themselves in it and their current reality is what causes their psychological suffering. So far only amputation (i.e. giving into their desires) has shown any reasonable success in resolving their BID.

Why then the insistence on 'transitioning' if a simple amputation of the offending body parts could suffice, skipping the hormone replacement therapy and big risks of sex reassignment surgery? One could postulate here that the concept of 'transitioning' gives those who suffer from genitals-related BID an acceptable way to deal with their problem. Acceptable in the sense that moving between the two binary states that are ingrained into society can be presented as an extreme but acceptable solution to this form of BID.

The misfortune then is for other types of BID patients that there is unlikely to ever be a socially acceptable way to present the amputation of a body part that doesn't have such a counterpart, or another state that they could transition to. To lose a limb or two, lose a hand or even become paralysed from the neck down are things that usually result in the affected person being met with pity at best and them getting shunned at worst. Not by celebrities championing their 'right' to undergo limp amputations. Here one would truly wish for a less tragic solution.


For me then, as someone whose body has so made it so clear that a binary sex is a nice theory but in reality unworkable, to me I find peace in such knowledge. That there's nothing wrong with my body. That there's no sex binary, and that there are no 'male' or 'female' roles, just societal roles which differ per culture. That we're all just individuals with our own personality, and that 'gender' is an obsolete, archaic term without relevance on a modern way of thinking.

Yes, there is still a lot of suffering out there, but most of it seems to be inflicted through society's strict and old-fashioned roles, as well as our ignorance on how the brain works when it comes to understanding things like the mapping between the body and mind. Those are things which still need a lot of research. With our current knowledge we can already clearly see just why performing non-medical genital surgery on intersex infants is so incredibly harmful, as it ignores this mapping between mind and body.


Yet above all, working through all of those different aspects of a topic that so consumes humans has allowed me to take my distance from it. Through a better understanding it has lessened my agony about how I got treated by doctors and psychologists. By gaining an appreciation for how things fit together and my own place as a decidedly non-binary person in this whole, it has given me a much deeper understanding of what it means to be simply human.

Because in the end, the thing to strive for is to simply be a human being.


Maya



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_integrity_dysphoria

Thursday, 2 May 2019

The worst part of PTSD is not feeling anything any more

It almost doesn't seem fair that when you have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), it set ups your brain to work against you. Apparently all due to self-protection mechanisms that got pushed too far. One of these involves the amygdala and other parts of the brain involved in dealing with stress and pain regulation. In PTSD sufferers the recollection of traumatic events (consciously or as part of a trigger event) leads to what is called stress-induced analgesia [1].

Essentially this deadens one's perception of pain along with other sensory input. Another effect of this is a lack of emotions. All one can still feel are the negative emotions along with fear and varying levels of apprehension. The result of this when one is exposed consistently and for extended periods to those triggers which cause stress-induced analgesia is often that one begins to harm oneself [2][3]. Usually this involves hurting oneself in a way which may or may not cause permanent damage. This has some overlap with Borderline Personality Disorder [4].

Suicide is generally not the goal PTSD sufferers in this situation are aiming for. As mentioned [3], it's often a form of coping mechanism for upsetting feelings and emotions. It also helps to reduce the feeling of being dissociated from one's body and the general feeling of numbness.



I guess it took me a long time to realise for myself that my level of emotions and feelings is not regular. I had noticed on many occasions even as a child that the only emotion which I could feel strongly was that of sadness. As a teenager I'd often try to provoke this feeling by watching sad movies and series as it'd allow me to feel something.

The other thing that would evoke very strong emotions in me was gestures of kindness. When for example in a documentary or movie it'd be described or shown how someone or multiple bystanders would selflessly dive into the fray in order to save one or more people. Or someone being taken into a person's home after losing everything, for no other reason than to help that person out.


Any other kind of emotion, though? It's weird how you don't really realise that you haven't really been capable of experiencing such emotions for many years because the last time you really felt them was when you were like five years old. I'm not sure that it's better or worse that I cannot recall feeling such memories the way I did as a young child. If I could remember, it might convince me that such feelings actually are real and that I can feel them again one day.

As things are, however, I'm in a horrible situation, where I cannot find that new home, where I had to give up on trying to find medical help for my intersex condition, where I'm in a strange country and where I am at severe risk of becoming homeless or worse.

If I had found that home. If I felt safe and secure. If I had no big worries about the future. If I felt that I didn't have to push myself beyond what I'm mentally and psychologically capable of every single day.

But as things stand I don't know what'll happen to me next week, let alone a month from now. This basically means that I'm almost constantly feeling this numbness and dissociation, of none of this being truly real and - worst of all - that nothing matters. The point where one can think about taking one's own life or dying in general and only feeling a slight sense of relief as it'd end the sensation of pain.


The frustrating thing there is that the solution to stabilise my current situation is so incredibly obvious: find that home, ensure that I have nothing immediate to worry about in terms of my living situation or finances for the immediate future. Yet when one has 'mental health issues', then the only 'solution' that's on offer is apparently to be stuffed full with drugs, whether SSRI anti-depressants or others, and kept in a barren room with staff constantly checking up on you to see whether you have managed to hurt or kill yourself yet.

Maybe there truly isn't a solution, no way out of this situation.

That'd be tragic.


Maya


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004970/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4155484/
[3] https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/self_harm.asp
[4] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Keeping a brave face

Sometimes I wonder whether it's truly possible at all to take one setback after another and come out unscathed at the other end. There seems to be plenty of gushing advice from people around one about how one should 'just keep it up' and 'things will soon improve'. Others will gleefully inform you that you aren't doing enough and you're sure to fail horribly if you insist on continuing on this course.

Do I know what the right course in life is? Of course I do not. And so does nobody else. We all got our own experiences and expectations to deal with, and are basing presumptions and dreams on those. People like me just happen to have more experiences and far fewer expectations than the average person.

From having one's innocence and trust in adults crushed as a young child, to a seemingly endless torture session by psychologists and doctors - who kept trying to force this whole horrific 'you're transgender' thing on me - to losing one's home and finding oneself moving from place to place, all the time worrying about finances and a place to sleep.


At this point I'm ignoring the very likely medical issue of ascites [1] and whatever underlying cause may be responsible, because doctors have ruined practically every chance that I can ever trust them again, and because it's something that's simply less urgent than not becoming homeless and running out of money.

As a freelancer I'm still struggling to establish myself, not helped by me not doing any freelancing for half a decade and struggling with severe depression and associated PTSD, all the while worrying whether I'll be able to find a new apartment or house or anything to move into before I have to leave the temporary accommodation which I'm staying at until the second week of next month.


Then getting told that one should 'try harder' to find a new place, even as one works 15+ hour days to try and get some income going. That's not helping. It's just another reminder of the setbacks I have had to endure almost constantly for years now.

Just another thing which won't work out. And another one. Another glimmer of hope that got brutally crushed. Another lead that led to nowhere. A sudden change that should have brought a great improvement, but just turned into another hell. Yet another legal case which drags on for years, without any fault of my own. Having my belongings stolen. Having money stolen with credit card fraud.

And still no prospect of anything improving any time soon. Honestly, why do I even keep trying? Isn't half my life of bashing my head against this same brick wall sufficient? It's not like it's suddenly going to topple over. Why can't I just admit that my life just never was going to work out? That I screwed it up beyond repair, or that the deck was always going to be stacked against me?


Of course, that's just whining. I should just 'man up', grow a pair, find hidden sources of immense physical and mental energy, ignore the medical problems and the chronic sleep-deprivation on account of only being able to sleep six hours or less each night.

Just keep smiling and do all the things, even as ignoring yourself is causing irreparable damage. There shall be no rest, no respite. No time to think of one's health or work on getting some rest and proper sleep. There will be time for those luxuries once I have spent the next few weeks working 15+ hours a day, looked at 1-2 apartments a day, scored a dozen new customers and solved world hunger.

Because to be human is to be weak. To show weakness means that the tribe will turn on you.

To expect empathy and respite from the endless hell that is society is the kind of naivity that will get one killed.


On the bright side, being homeless isn't nearly as bad now that it's almost Summer. Should be comfortable sleeping underneath a bridge somewhere.


Maya



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascites

Thursday, 18 April 2019

On not having a place in this world

Imagine, you're standing on this hill, surrounded by trees which are filled with blossom, as Spring moves towards Summer. You can smell the wildflowers on the air as the sound of birds and other critters mixes with the gentle rustling of the tree leaves in the breeze. As you close your eyes and lift your face towards the sky you can feel the warm sunlight caressing your skin.

This is the moment when you realise that you're in a place where you're home. Where it's safe and everything is all right. Where in a moment you'll return to the house where you live alone or with others, but it's all because that's the way which works for everyone.


It was around the beginning of this century, probably around 2001 or thereabouts, that I last still felt somewhat like that. After that my parents began to grow cold towards each other and the atmosphere in the house changed. Not long after that my parents divorced and first together with my mother, then alone it was a continuous journey from one house and apartment to another, in search of a home.

At this point I'm staying in a temporary apartment, trying to figure out what to do next as the last weeks at this place come and go. My grand plans of moving to the Alsace region of France have run into the harsh reality of supply and demand. How will this continue? I do not know. I wish I knew.


Similarly, my struggle to get a job last year and early this year didn't result in anything. Supply and demand, I guess. In the end it's not about you as a human being after all. It's just capitalistic reality. Essentially it's about us being merely the cells in this organism called 'Society'.

For all my dreams and hopes I had as a child and beyond, the cruel reality is we humans have made for ourselves is that the value of a person - much like that of a cell in an organism - is determined by their contribution to the system. My situation isn't even the worst imaginable, and it pains me to imagine the situations others find themselves in. There's so much pain. So much unfairness and so much suffering that those affected try to ignore. Plastic smiles.

Are any of us truly happy by living in small, cramped, concrete or stone hovels, practically on top of each other? With small, grimy windows opening into an environment that is choking with the exhaust fumes from cars, trucks and buses, mixed with the acrid smells of cigarette smoke and stale beer.

Is this place where our children play on streets near traffic, breathing in polluted air and only ever seeing the blue skies when they look up at this small strip of sky between the towering buildings. Is this place 'home'?

This reality of 'making the best of things' isn't that different from that scene in George Orwell's famous novell 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' where this woman outside the main character's window is hanging up the laundry while singing one of those auto-generated tunes that play on the radio. Obviously poor, the woman finds a reason to sing even though she lives in a rundown building, in a state of abject poverty, just like practically everybody else.

Just like in that world which Orwell described back in 1948 in the midst of post-war reconstruction, there are the haves and have-nots. The reality is that the handful of people who have practically everything are perfectly happy with keeping things the way they are. They are doing fine, so why would they care? Why would they care about the rest of the population? Those just exist to do their duty. Like any good skin, liver or fat cell.


How many of us consider the impact that 'our' decisions have on the rest of our body? On the tissues that are suffering because we had to do that late-night party, that copious consumption of alcohol and the many cigarettes that got smoked. We do not pay them mind, because we expect them to bounce back. That's what they're there for, after all.

In that sense it's only natural for the rich and wealthy to not care about the have-nots, I guess.


Sometimes I think about what it would mean to me if suddenly I found myself among the rich and famous. It's something that could theoretically happen after all, depending on how well my upcoming autobiography (and the associated Patreon [1] ) do. Say, with the support of a legion of patrons I get my autobiography done and published, and it turns out to be an international best-seller.

Suddenly I find myself being flown around the world for talkshows in places I haven't been to yet, while the money comes pouring in. All of a sudden all of my worries about financial stability and a place to live evaporate. What would I do?

The answer to that is pretty much summed up by the first few paragraphs of this blog entry. I'd want nothing more than to have that happy home for myself, and everybody else. I'm beyond sick of this world in which human lives are essentially meaningless, merely feed for the machine, as relevant as a single skin cell that will reach the end of its lifespan and gets discarded.

I do not claim to know the answer to everything, but I do feel strongly that the world I want to see is one in which there can be room for actual happiness and self-exploration instead of this top-down enforcement of how we should be living our all too brief lives.

Because either life is precious, or it is not.


Maya



[1] https://www.patreon.com/MayaPosch

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

That uncertain future

So where I'm at now is that the old apartment has been handed back to the slumlord, with just the final bills and such to be settled. This means that other than some potential financial fallout the direct and immediate threat from that place should be over with.

That leaves me with the two other, more immediate issues. One is to get that financial stability, as I saw myself pushed into becoming freelancer after a year of unsuccessful job interviews. Not that being a freelancer is that horrible, mind you. It seems that at this point I'm mostly doing the writing of articles for websites such as Hackaday and soon Hackster.io, which provides me with some income.

In addition to this, there's also the pressing issue of finding a place to live. I still got about a month until I have to leave the current apartment where I'm temporarily staying. At this point I have abandoned the thought of renting a house in the Alsace region of France as the possibility of that working out was painted too optimistically. Now it's back to looking for apartments in that same region. Hopefully that will work out better.

What will be next for me? I'm not sure. I'll just have to keep trying and see what happens.


Maya