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.


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

When is it allowed to feel suicidal?

Just over four years ago my mental health was deteriorating quickly: after the divorce of my parents I felt I had lost the last home I used to have, had found zero sympathy or help from (Dutch) medical specialists for my intersex condition, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was suffering increasingly frequent bouts of complete mental breakdowns which had me either collapse in a paralysed state or send me into dark places where I'd tear and rip at my own flesh, choke myself until I passed out or inflict pain on myself in some other way.

At that point I was then told that I had to leave this person's place where I was staying at that time, even though I had virtually no money, no job, no education and zero prospects in my mental state at that point. I just went through the motions then: I found a room to rent (horribly expensive) and my mother would come over to help with the moving. I realised quite well that there was no future for me at that point.

Even if I did move, I'd run out of money in 2-3 months time, be unable to pay the rent and get kicked out. The night before the move I found the only way I could make peace with my situation. I ensured that the stack of sleeping pills were where I had left them and went to bed.

The next morning I got out of bed, got dressed, did my hair, my face and rest of the morning routine. Then I took every single one of the sleeping pills out of their packaging and took all of them with some water. After that I just remember walking towards the door of my room before everything went black.

I do not regret trying to commit suicide. I still feel it was the right decision and I would do it again if I were placed in the same situation. Without any prospects and no help there was after all nothing that I could have changed. I am also fortunate that my mother understands this and in a sense also was glad that I took that step as it managed to shake things up in a way which otherwise would have been impossible.

This then brings me to me feeling completely suicidal again this morning as I cycled to work. Not to the point where I'd veer into a bus or do something else impulsive, but more at the point where planning out a new suicide attempt seemed like a good course of action. I mean, why not?

At this point I'm also struggling with housing, true. I may also risk getting thrown out or at least face continued harassment by the owner if I do not find something else. Yet it's not just that. The main issue as far as I can tell is that I am not two people.

For the past eleven, nearly twelve years I spent begging, fighting, doing everything humanly possible to get information about my body and help with my intersex condition. When I finally got this help - early this year - it caused the most incredible sensation which I hadn't felt before in my life. Finally I had completed this one thing which had pretty much occupied me since I was five years old and had begun to feel ever more isolated from my body.

That feeling was one of emptiness, of a sense of aimlessness. But also of extreme tiredness. No longer did I have to fight. It was finally over.

Yet I am but one person. That life-long fight took it all out of me. Before I finally found help I was on the verge of giving up on it. This final doctor was quite literally a last-ditch attempt as I didn't have the energy to try it even once more afterwards. Yet even though it was at long last the success I had hoped for, I didn't suddenly, magically regain all my energy and shed the decades of trauma. None of that changed.

Thus it is that the minor effort yesterday of just occupying myself with replying to this one single email from the relocation service, explaining to them once again what it is that I am looking for and why, which has sapped my energy. The emotional disturbance caused by thinking about this issue and by some well-meaning advice by others then sent me spiralling into a suicidal depression which I only slowly managed to crawl back out of during today at work.

I clearly do not have the energy to help myself at this point, whether it be by hunting for houses being rented or anything else involving emotional stress. Not on my own at least. If this relocation service doesn't work out because families have priority, or since I'm single I must be satisfied with an apartment since houses are for families... then I may have to consider contacting a real-estate agent and look at buying a house.

Money makes the world go round, after all. Money also staves off suicide.

Money is wonderful.


Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dealing with depression, or: why do other people even exist?

It's commonly known that the first step towards dealing with a problem is to admit that the problem exists.

For mental health problems there is no exception. You admit there is a problem, you get it diagnosed, and then... well, theoretically solutions could then be found and implemented, but beyond stuffing the person suffering from the mental health problems full with drugs, one may as well not even try to find help. Sure, for serious things like schizophrenia we know too little to provide any proper solutions, but there are so many cases where solutions are easy and permanent.

I was officially diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2009, along with a host of other, related mental health problems. Along with this PTSD I suffer from frequent periods of depression, suicidal thoughts (with one failed attempt), and a general state of mental suffering. Daily life is difficult to get through, with very little required to send me spiralling back into another depression, PTSD episode, or worse.

To these problems I have admitted and I am frankly quite open about it. I'm chronically depressed. I have a severe stress disorder. I tried to commit suicide once before and may try again in the future. I admit to none of these things being a good thing, and I would be more than overjoyed to fix these problems.

I can have pills, sure.

Find justice for the traumatic things which were done to me? Nope. Get help with finding a place where I can live without risking triggering my PTSD and suicidal depressions? Nope. Reach a level of emotional and mental stability where I can maybe feel relaxed and happy? Forget it.

I survived horrible things, and I frankly wish I hadn't. The bleak outlook for my future as I consider my mental health issues and being stuck in a situation where it is only exacerbated makes me think that it would perhaps have been better if I had succeeded with that suicide attempt, a number of years ago. I didn't want to survive it. I'm not glad I did.

A handful of people truly do care about me and would help me if they could. The rest might as well not exist for all the effect they have on my life. From 'professionals' calling me insane for claiming to be intersex or making fun of me for saying that I suffer from PTSD, to regular people taking advantage of me.

I think something broke again inside of me a while ago. I'm currently keeping myself somewhat sane by focusing on work and hobbies. Things unrelated to emotions. Everything else will just go wrong on its own anyway. I'll get kicked out of my current apartment at some point, I'm sure. If it doesn't drive me to commit suicide first, that is. More people will come along to claim money from me and to generally make me feel even less safe and happy.

It's pointless to fight against those things. Whatever I do is pointless. Whatever I try is meaningless. Nobody who can help me will help me. Admitting to having a mental health problem is utterly useless. There's no hope. No salvation. Just hanging around, waiting for the inevitable.

The last time I felt truly happy was when I thought I was about to end my life.

I couldn't even do that.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

Children aren't that important, anyway

For the first two decades of my life, I - and those around me - assumed that I was just another guy who'd grow up to likely find a nice girl to get married and start a family with. Puberty did however confuse me more than it should have, when I began to grow breasts and had male clothing fit extremely poorly, among other hints that something was off.

When I discovered that I was intersex - now over eleven years ago - thoughts about my future vanished to be replaced by more immediate concerns and questions regarding who and what I actually was. Now, throughout those years I have learned that all I had all those years ago was the illusion of choice. Not only was I never a guy to begin with, but with only partially developed reproductive organs on either side there never was any question of me being fertile at any point in my life.

It isn't that I feel some kind of incredible yearning or pain at this point for not being able to procreate, but more that it's just another one of those reminders that merely by being born intersex so many choices were taken from me. Sometimes it feels like it just isn't fair.

Then again, when is life ever fair?

By having the nerve to be born both intersex and highly gifted, I had to waste over a decade of my life on meaningless, antiquated medical biases and outdated social systems, not to mention circumvent an 'education system' that's more of a hazard than an asset to those who aren't perfectly standard. In that regard the medical and education systems can shake each other's hands as they're both equally outdated and dangerous.

Yet enough of that. I never had a choice in this particular situation even though I was once led to believe that I did. That hurts. Through my own experiences trying to find help for my intersex condition I can somewhat understand the lengths some couples go through to obtain a child of their own, even if both situations are hardly the same. Yet the drive to 'fix' something is similar.

I will never have children of my own. I'm fine with that. I am likely to remain single. I'm fine with that. I may never get that reconstructive surgery. I'm fine with that. None of those things are essential or required in any way to be or become happy. Happiness is an internal thing, only accomplished when one has found, identified and resolved all that bothers one inside one's own mind. Letting go of things which are not relevant is part of that.

Life is too short to worry about the inconsequential.


Saturday, 30 July 2016

In the days that remain to each of us

Form is nothingness. Nothingness is form. All that has colour and shape will one day disappear.

Such is the inevitability of mortality and the progression of time, whether it concerns a flower, a human being or even a mountain. The celebration of life is simultaneously the acknowledgement of death. In this the only distinguishing thing is how each of us self-aware beings handle the briefness of our existence.

To simply ignore it; to submerge oneself into the shallowness of human societies, to perhaps accept that life cannot accept without death. This is one way. It is also a way which forbids the questioning of one's own mortality and along with it the very definition of one's self. What's mortal about us are our bodies. What will vanish one day is that which is material. All that which has colour and shape will one day return to nothingness.

The simple conclusion I drew as a child when I found myself struggling with the inevitability of my own death, was to realise this simple truth. While my body as it exists today will die - just as it is busy dying every single second - that part of me which is actually 'me', being my memories and the resulting personality, is not bound to this body or even this particular brain.

Essentially my conclusion back then was that immortality is merely a technological and scientific challenge. It was this realisation which drove me so strongly over the past decades to pursue software and hardware development, quantum physics, classical physics, biology, artificial intelligence and many more topics which would likely prove to be useful at some point during this project.

There is not, and cannot be, any forced decision in such a matter of whether one seeks to embrace mortality or to reject it. I know many people who are vehemently opposed against the idea of immortality, as it clashes with their perception of the world as they know it. Yet similarly, I know many others who share my view. People who can see beyond these mortal shells and perceive what truly makes us who we are.

In all of this there is an inherent tragedy: much as it has throughout human history, the concept of free choice has been mostly a bald-faced lie. To have free choice one needs to be simultaneously capable of reasoning, be in possession of the relevant facts and be free to act upon the conclusion one reaches. As far as I can perceive, the embracing of mortality is to give up on one's humanity, to allow oneself to be extinguished.

We only have the briefest of moments on this planet, in this universe. A moment during which we must either choose our destiny or to let others choose it for us either through us relinquishing the choice or by having it forcefully denied to us. Even if we had a full hundred years to dedicate ourselves to the question of whether we would embrace immortality, or accept nothingness, it is doubtful many of us could reach a conclusion during that time.

Is one truly happy living less than a decade, or is it just what we tell ourselves? Is to face the prospect of sudden death or a slow, painful death through disease or age something which truly makes us into who we are? Would we lose something important if we could live century after century, millennium after millennium with nary a care for such mortal matters?

My personal view on this is that such matters only concern a mortal body and by abandoning such worries the mind can be freed to pursue the exploration of the universe and all the knowledge it contains in earnest. I am firmly convinced that the only way to better, maybe even save humanity is through immortality.

Yet as stated earlier this is not a decision which can be forced upon anyone. Just as those who embrace mortality shall not judge those who embrace immortality, the same is true in reverse. It would hurt to see some lives be extinguished, but in the end a truly free choice has to be respected.

That is one of the things which makes us human, after all.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

It's complicated

For a while now - about two weeks apparently - I have been thinking about many things I could write a blog post about. Lots of self-important, grand topics to make statements about, after all. Maybe try to convince people to help me again to find a new house and generally become happier. But the thing is that none of that is actually meaningful.

I just tried to write a few paragraphs, but none of them worked. I'm simply too tired to make sense any more. The past days I'm struggling with depression, nausea, assorted other pains and especially today unrelenting thoughts about suicide. I'm terrified that I'll soon try to commit suicide again, and that I am powerless to stop it.

I can picture life fading from my body after a successful suicide attempt, and this is a picture which frightens me. I don't want to keep living, but to end things like that is wrong as well.

For the past... months? Years? I have begged people to help me find a place to live where I do not have to feel terrified and hated like in this current apartment, but that was pointless. Next I'll try paying people to find a house for me. Hopefully that will work and I can remove one major stress point from my life.

The stupid thing is that things aren't even going that poorly. I will likely get my medical situation resolved in a matter of months. I have a fun, well-paying job. I have places to hang out in this city with people I know. My hobbies are enjoyable, with a lot of successes especially in the electronics and FPGA-related projects. Yet I feel terrified as I lie in bed and hear the upstairs neighbour stomping about, or hear the heating system tick up a storm during cold days.

There is also the landlady threatening me on a regular basis with legal action because I have the nerve to complain about dirty, rusty water, excessive noise from upstairs and from the heating system, as well as other issues. I hate this place. I want to escape.

...I guess that's basically it. Just this stupid, run-down crappy apartment with a hateful landlady which is ruining my life at this point. The horrible situation with the Netherlands got resolved by me paying in the end for the honour of getting beaten up by the police, with about 25 people ultimately donating about two-thirds of the fine [1].

I don't really have an issue with paying thousands of Euros to someone who'll help me find a great place to live if it means that it buys more happiness, allows me to sleep peacefully without earplugs and reduces these feelings of depression and suicide.



Wednesday, 13 July 2016

PTSD traumas: a fake world to believe in

What is the point of suffering a trauma? It sounds like a silly question, perhaps. Yet for countless people it is a question which dominates their lives. After everything is over and done with, the dust has settled and normalcy returns, with (possibly) justice served, nothing seems as poignant as the question of why one had to go through all of that.

Never will one be able to shake off or forget the feeling of rough hands grasping one's body, the smell and pulsating warmth of living entrails, the humiliation, the pain and the ease with which a life is snuffed out, with just the look of surprise left on a buddy's face as the sniper's bullet tears through his brain.

Suffering a trauma like that rips away the lies we are told and keep telling ourselves. It shows humans to be just lumbering machines of flesh, blood, bone and entrails. It reveals the machinations of human society and its politics to be the laughable yet very deadly game of children at a playground carrying live weapons instead of toy guns.

After the trauma has been suffered and the traumatic events officially concluded, there are the mutterings of sympathy from others, and the involvement of so-called professionals who have read books about trauma. Yet none of them will ever feel or experience what it is like. To see through the eyes of those who have seen too much. Those who have crossed the line of childish naivety and have seen what lies beyond.

Why did any of us have to suffer these traumas? In hindsight the answer is obvious: because this world of childish naivety and the playground games is the imperfect illusion, with cruel reality regularly savaging the innocent lamb. It is then up to the lamb to give up and die, or to turn into a wolf. It is the ultimate life's lesson.

With naive innocence cruelly slaughtered, there only remains the embracing of reality and the rejection of naivety. Human society is cruel and unforgiving. Humans can rarely, if ever, be trusted. Always expect the worst. Living is about survival. One can only rely on oneself and fellow survivors who found themselves in the same situation.

Many in human society live out their lives in this naive innocence and belief in humans as some kind of characters in a real life play. As if any of them actually matter. As if anything which happens in this make-belief world of humans actually matters. Yet reality isn't that kind. This is a tragicomedy in which everyone dies in the end.

Amidst all of this we are still expected to live and function as if nothing has happened to us. To pretend that we are still happy little lambs living our useless lives in completely naivety of the bleak truth. Any attempt to communicate our true thoughts and feelings are ignored, as regular people's brains are wired to blank out and ignore anything negative or unhappy. They are as likely to understand trauma as a fish can learn to breathe air.

And thus we remain; either we condemn ourselves to a life of lies as we pretend that indeed nothing happened to us, or we accept reality without the lies. The only survivable path there is a lonely and traumatic one. Yet it beats what awaits us on the other path: slow, cruel death through cancerous lies.