Sunday, 23 September 2018

To struggle for survival

What I want my life to look like in the short to medium term: to live somewhere quiet, work a day job to make money, write books and work on my software and hardware projects in my spare time. Finally get those robotics, AI, asynchronous CPU architecture and similar projects into a usable state. Have my autobiography published and hopefully change forever life for all intersex people around the world for the better.

Instead, where I am now: being thrown out of my current apartment despite having paid all my bills and not caused trouble. Not having a job despite many months of applying and flying all over the world for on-site interviews. Struggling to finish my current reference book within the deadlines as the full-time job search and dealing with depression and bouts of suicidal thoughts make it almost impossible to be productive.

Each day my situation feels more hopeless. The hope for an easy resolution to my situation has died months ago. With each new rejection after a job application or simply a lack of response it becomes ever more clear that my existence is optional and in no way required or essential.

But to survive is not about feeling comfortable. It's about still dragging yourself forward through the mud and freezing rain even after you have broken both legs, had an arm crushed, running a fever and almost delirious from the pain. All in the hope that things will get better if you keep going. For how long? Until you collapse and die.

While trying to find a job and with it the relocation help I seek, I am ignoring the worsening physical pains and warning signals by my body. At this point endometriosis seems almost certain, with peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdominal wall) providing a clear explanation for the generalised abdominal pain and extreme abdominal swelling at the end of each monthly cycle. This in addition to the extreme and localised pain in the perineum around the same time, which would also be triggered by the blood and/or other fluids that get released.

Of course I have tried to find help for this during the past years, but without luck. And now the symptoms just keep getting worse, possibly also due to the stress that I'm under as a result of my current situation.

What will happen next? I do not know. I may get lucky and my wish for a more quiet, predictable life may come true next week after yet another on-site job interview. Or not, and I can keep struggling to somehow find that way out of this Hell. Yet I am terrified of this dark side, this voice that keeps pushing me to admit defeat, to give up and terminate this impossible existence.

Am I meant to exist? Hermaphroditic intersex people like myself are very rare, because most times embryos merge like that, a miscarriage results.

I don't even know what I am. Who I am. I'm still in the process of trying to make sense of this body of mine. Of what has happened so far. To somehow deal with the trauma of the past years, even as I try to move forward.

What's fair?

This is survival. There's nothing fair about surviving. It's when everything has gone wrong to the point where one's existence has practically been lost already.

I want to survive this. I want to move on, to move forward, but the deck is stacked against me. With the incredible physical and psychological pain combined, this makes it seem all too tempting to give up. That's my fear.

Like seven years ago, when I also found myself in a similar situation, I didn't know what to do and everything was hurting. That was when I remembered the two boxes of sleeping tablets which I had in my room. They were the only real way forward which I could see. I was so happy that I had found a solution. Something which I could do, instead of just letting things happen to me.

I slept really well after I realised this. The next morning I got up all cheerful and feeling extremely calm and at peace with everything. The pain and agony that I had been feeling inside for what seemed like years had all vanished. There was no hesitation as I took all of the tablets out of their packaging and swallowed all of them with some water.

I still feel that things should have ended there. Me having been born still feels like a mistake. Me not dying seven years ago feels like a mistake.

Yet I still want to live. I just want... no, what I need to live is for all of this pain to be taken away by others. The pain of being unwanted and unneeded, of being the cause of problems and just a collection of unfulfilled promises and regrets. For people to trust me, instead of seeking to betray and discard me. To accept that I have a traumatic past, but that things will be fine once I'm in safety.

If not, then there is no stack of sleeping tablets available to me. Yet the temptation remains. I don't know what may happen if this dark, traumatised part takes me over again. The point where I will have lost the fight to exist in society, in this life and also the fight against the traumas from my past.

Even as I prepare for yet another attempt next week to make this future I want work out, I notice how much my attitude has shifted over the past months. From feeling hopeful and quite certain that things will work out, to pessimistic and downcast in addition to feeling exhausted as I struggle to care about the fact that I am still alive. And still surviving.


Monday, 20 August 2018

Let's talk inclusivity in the tech industry

This year has been a weird one. After leaving my previous job at the end of last year I have undergone a number of medical procedures:

  • 3rd MRI scan at the neurologist for the cyclic weakness and pain in my right leg and arm.
  • appointments at the proctologist and gastroenterologist for the abdominal bloating and pains.
  • cycle monitoring and laproscopy surgery at the gynaecologist to gather data on my intersex condition.

Even after nearly fourteen years, I still know very little about my body, and finding specialists who got a clue and/or show interest is so hard that I envy those who are merely seeking for needles in haystacks. Currently I'm suffering more and more frequently from nausea during each cycle, though the sciatica (pain and weakness in my right leg) seems to have mostly gone away, indicating that things are changing.

After my body suddenly started undergoing its first proper puberty in 2015, with a dramatic increase in female secondary characteristics, it's been a confusing and harrowing time for me. I do not understand what is happening with my body, and how far it will keep developing like this, or whether there'll be any consequences of such a delayed puberty.

I know that my natural female hormone levels are pretty low for a woman, but adding additional hormones result in the symptoms of estrogen overdosing, so this is apparently the level my body is now comfortable with. I have also noticed old scars changing, wrinkles fading and of course the fat distribution in my body shifting around again, as if the hormone therapy I used to be on did just about almost nothing. Nothing about this makes any sense, and there's nothing in the literature that may help me with this. My best and only help so far seems to be one of those cycle tracking apps, allowing me to at least gather some data on the symptoms while giving me at least some useful hints and tips.

Oh, did I mention that I'm looking for a new job?

It's been eight months now since I started my search for a new job, and collected a few dozen rejection notes in that time. I'm supposed to have a new job by next month according to the lease extension I got for my current apartment, or I'm looking for a new place to stay. Worst case I'd be forced to return to the Netherlands without a job and no place to stay. After the 11 years of horror that I went through there, that's the last thing I want or can deal with.

I'm frantically working to catch up on the deadlines for my upcoming book on embedded C++ development, which I started on earlier this year. Fortunately my second book on C++ multithreading that came out last year is selling well. Combining writing a book with the job hunt and dealing with my medical condition is hard.

So, inclusivity.

It's a big word, which has been thrown around a lot the past years. Basically it means that everybody gets an equal opportunity, regardless of their circumstances. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Naturally, no employer who has rejected an application of mine has said why they did so, or gave any specific reasons. How would one even know whether one got rejected due to one's medical condition, circumstances of birth, or having opted to pursue medical help over a career?

I could be totally wrong about this, but at the same time I cannot exclude the possibility that after doing my best for months now to get hired, and having literally flown around the world for a multitude of on-site interviews, that in the end the primary reason why I do not get hired is because I'm an intersex individual. Someone who is open about it online, even.

Since I have no guarantee that this is not the case, and my professional experience should at least give me a fair shot at a job, it's sadly becoming a question which I and others are beginning to ask more frequently now.

Am I not getting a job because I am open about being an intersex person? Is the very fact that I'm intersex a factor in getting rejected from job applications?

It could just be that I have wasted all those years on not pursuing a career which is coming back to haunt me now, since employers do not like gaps in one's education-to-jobs timeline, but 'maybe' and 'possibly' aren't of much comfort here. With zero feedback from any job interview as a rule, one is left grasping in the dark for clues.

I like to think - and others confirm this - that I'm a highly dedicated person with a keen interest in science and technology, who is friendly and helpful, and more than willing to learn new skills for a project or job, while always being ready for a challenge.

It's hard to not feel like this is where inclusivity in the tech industry falls flat. Someone like me is different, yes. I have taken a course through life unlike what most people will ever experience in their entire life. Yet this should make me a unique asset to a team. Not a liability. Yet that's what it feels like.

Like I'm back in primary school, getting bullied and excluded for being 'different'. Ditto for my later school experiences and so on. Ironically those experiences taught me the value of communicating with others, even if it had to be initiated with one's fists. Some of those bullies actually became my friends later on. Yet back then I didn't know I was intersex, nor did anyone else. Being gifted was already enough of a struggle to deal with.

I got through all of those years. I got through the past thirteen years mostly unscathed, even when it seemed as if my body, doctors, psychologists and the rest of the world were all against me. There was always someone there who offered me that one chance to move on, which I accepted even if it meant more big changes and massive effort on my side.

I just wish someone would give me that chance now.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

Thus we go on

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. All that we differ in, is in how much we accept these, and with it ourselves.

When I got bullied and beaten up during almost every year that I spent at school, I never blamed or felt hate for those who hurt me. I bore it as one does everything in life which one cannot change. If anything, I felt sorry for those who are so conflicted and damaged inside, that they can no longer feel their own feelings.

When I got told over and over by doctors, psychologists and others that what I was observing about my body being intersex was merely in my head, I felt frustrated at how they just didn't want to see what was in front of their eyes. I felt sorry that they had become ensnared by their ignorance and obsession with falsehoods.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. We are capable of inflicting enormous damage upon others by closing ourselves off from these.

One bears the effects of the flaws of others, even as one does their best to help them see their flaws, so that they can work on repairing them. One never blames others. Just oneself for not grasping the exact nature of the flaws of others and being unable to help them.

Even as I prepared to take my own life in early 2011 I didn't blame anyone. In the end I was taking my own life so that I could live up to my own inadequacies. Those I would be leaving behind would understand and accept that I was now in a better place.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. We can bring unimaginable joy to those around us by realising their emotions and feelings, and acting upon those.

When my suicide attempt failed, my mother was there to give me a new chance at life, even as almost everybody else dropped me like I was poison. Slowly I recovered and things began to look up, with concrete gains in figuring out my intersex condition, and ultimately me getting started on my career as a software developer.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings. We can destroy others without so much as a single caring thought.

I do not feel hate or animosity towards the owner of the apartment or the court which saw fit to remove me by force if necessary over their lack of communication about when an earlier agreed-up rent reduction would stop. That would be like trying to argue with an avalanche or pyroclastic flow, or any other force of nature.

I feel that I have failed in some way again, by being somehow inadequate. For having missed something obvious and failing to act on something which anyone else would have picked up on. I know with great certainty that I am the problem. Somehow.

Every rejection during now half a year of applying for a new job simply reinforces this notion. The world is fine. Other people are fine. I just missed something obvious and as much as I try to figure out what this thing about myself is that I should be changing, I do not understand.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. We can choose to end our lives at will.

I fear that it has taken me too long to figure what I did wrong. I fear that it is now too late.

Too late to keep living. I simply wasn't good enough. Not fast enough. Not smart enough. Not lucky enough.

Even as I have found myself once again begging to have people give me another chance, I am beginning to find it exceedingly hard to keep up this charade that somehow I'll turn into a real person.

I don't feel real.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Watching movies on transatlantic flights, or: don't cry in public

As I'm typing this, I am sitting in my Cupertino hotel room, in the very heart of Silicon Valley. On Monday this week I travelled to Canada, for an on-site job interview there. After the Tuesday interview, I travelled to San Jose on Wednesday, where for the past two days I had additional job interviews. In a short while I'll be taking a taxi to SFO to travel back to Europe.

On the flight back I expect to be watching in-flight movies again, just like I did on Monday. During that flight I immediately dove into the Chinese and Japanese movies sections. Though fairly limited in the offerings, I ended up watching one Chinese movie (of which I do not remember the title any more), and two Japanese movies.

Of the latter two movies, 'The last shot in the bar' (Tantai ha bar ni naru 3) [1][2] was a really fun yet still serious Japanese detective movie combining both slapstick elements and intense emotional scenes. By the end of the movie I found myself definitely engaged and interested in how things would work out. The twists the movie threw at me were not obvious and improved the story immensely. I have to watch the first two parts now, for sure.

The second Japanese movie was ゆらり ('yurari', English title: Last Night Rewind) [3][4]. This is a movie that was adapted from a theater play, and one can definitely notice this in how the scenes are put together. This is absolutely not a negative, however, as it allows one to focus on the characters. The movie description made me expect a different kind of movie than what I ended up watching.

Basically, this movie is far better than what I had expected, with the struggles of a number of characters from a couple of families followed as they try to work things out. The first resolutions are emotionally intense, but they are just the beginning. This was the movie were during the final scenes and afterwards I had to fight to not burst out in tears.

Watching an emotional drama in public is slightly awkward at the best of times. In a cinema everyone is at least watching the same movie, so everybody is likely to respond the same way. In a public space where it's just you watching the movie, awkwardness increases exponentially.

Not having to hold back may make a movie even better. Just letting those tears flow freely while experiencing the crushing emotional depths of the story, instead of having to keep them in check. I think this is a good reason to rewatch those movies at some point in a more private setting.

I'm curious to see whether there's a new selection available on the in-flight entertainment system as I fly back in a few hours. And then of course to see how my own story will continue, as I receive the feedback of this week's job interviews.



Monday, 28 May 2018

Vlog: Flying and soaring, or...

  • On getting evicted.
  • Maybe a new job and moving.
  • Working on my autobiography, part I.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Being evicted next month

Today I had my psychotherapist guide me through the findings of the court in the eviction case against me. The news is pretty bad. Not only did the landlord get the okay to evict me without any further pause after the appeal period ends early next month. I will also have to pay a considerable fine. The total amount that I may stand to pay including lawyer costs and such would be about 10,000 Euro.

Naturally I have made use of the appeal option, with my therapist writing a new report on my psychological state because the first one got rejected on account of being 'too old' and 'not reflective of my current state'. This letter makes it again very clear that an eviction at this point would likely lead to strong suicidal feelings and a likely new attempt.

As during the therapist appointment I suddenly... seized up and found myself convulsing on the floor on account of the flood of emotions, after first resisting the urge to claw open my own throat, I would agree with this assessment. I'm barely holding things together as is.

It seems that the court here has managed to not only ignore the available evidence, but has made no effort to consider my fragile psychological state, or my unique position as a minority (intersex). All of this over a lack of communication from the landlord's site that led to me continuing paying 10% less rent as agreed. All I got were bills with increasing fines, with my attempts to communicate going ignored.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I really hope that I can soon get that new job and move to the UK. With all of the negative things that are going on at this point I'm not sure how much longer I can keep things up. I'm longing so much for a normal life, working an interesting job, having a pleasant home and hanging out with friends. Also receiving psychotherapy to deal with my PTSD, this time without living in an environment which just worsens said PTSD.

Maybe coming to Germany was a mistake after all.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The child, the adult, the tears

The child who's crying in the dark room, as the sound of the angry man's voice still reverberates in their mind. The sensation of adult hands painfully clasping around their limbs and grasping at their body remains, as does the realisation of being all alone in the world. None of this is right. None of this will get better.

The same person, years later, finding themselves back in that same room. Crying. Feeling the pain all over, as they anticipate the next act of violence. What can one do but submit oneself to those adults? You're just a child. They know better. They have the strength.

Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder is... well, you're not really dealing with it. Especially for childhood traumas it's just something that is there. It's become such an integral part of who and what you are that it's almost inconceivable that you can ever change.

I know that all of those horrible things which I remember, all of those sensations, that they are a thing of the past. That those adults who hurt and harmed me can no longer do so.

Yet today as I got the conclusion in the eviction case against me, I'm right back in that dark room, crying and feeling violated. I haven't even looked at it beyond the summary provided by my lawyer, and I'm already in such a state. I will have to wait until tomorrow, to read through it together with my psychotherapist. It's too dangerous for me to do it by myself.

Even though I already know from the summary that I can stay in this apartment, just nothing about any fines yet, it's not about those details. It's about the experience, of being dragged through the mud for two years, of having my integrity as a person question and having felt terrified for all that time that something horrible might happen to me any day now. Of feeling adrift and uncertain about my future.

If there's a bright spot in all of this it has to be that my search for a new job may have resulted in me scoring something pretty close to a dream job. Next week I'll be flying over for an on-site assessment. With any luck I'll not only get the job, but also assistance with finding and moving to a new home.

I'm honestly looking forward to this, and the positive impact it would have on my psyche. In some ways it'd feel like a little bit of justice still exists in this world.