Sunday, 26 January 2014

In Last Week's Episode, Or: Parties Are Terrifying

Yesterday I went to a party organized by the company I work for. Suffice it to say that I'm not really the party kind of person, for a number of reasons. Nevertheless I figured I should give it a try. Finding the location of the party was easy enough, yet after that things are blacking out for me a bit. I remember standing and sitting in places, mostly just feeling absolutely alone and frighteningly out of place. On top of that many colleagues came with their partner, the sight of which dragged me regularly down into the murky depths of my traumas. I mostly felt terrified and on the verge of panic during the first few hours of the party. I had to remind myself that I could just grab my coat and leave any time I wanted to stave off a full-blown PTSD attack.

As the evening progressed into the night and people got more and more drunk this didn't improve much, though fortunately by then I had found some people to talk to, which fortunately gave me something to cling to. In the end I was one of the first to leave, together with the children of the colleague at whose place I'm currently staying. At close to 1 AM I thus went to bed and pretty much collapsed. I slept about eleven hours. Even as I'm writing this I'm still feeling tired, with the headache I started the day off with fortunately almost gone. I don't think that parties are a good thing for me, at least not yet. Too many impressions and too many triggers.

Just learning to be part of and get along with a family as I have to where I am staying is already quite a struggle in many ways. It wasn't until I came here that I began to realize for just how long I hadn't been part of a family, but just locked away inside my own room with everyone in the house living their own separate lives. To communicate and helping each other at daily tasks is an almost alien concept to me, though I'm more than willing to learn those things which should be second nature to most.

Much of what I'm doing these days is about building my life up from scratch. One of the essential items I'm still working on is getting a place of my own, which I'll hopefully get good news about next week. On Thursday I went with my boss to view an apartment in Karlsruhe which I found to be much to my liking. As I'm not the only one interested in this place, I hope that being backed by my boss and his company will increase my chances there. I'd much prefer to start planning moving into this new place next week than to start from the beginning on apartment hunting.

Also part of building up my life here is all the little details like a bank account, which has been completed aside from receiving the last details for using my cards, and getting health insurance. On that last item I sent an email to the company which I got registered with if everything went well, and asked them what the status is. Once that's taken care of I'll have to soon contact my surgeon about making an appointment. That, or maybe ask around a bit more for a good surgeon for this so very important surgery for me. I will probably only get one shot at this, so it better be a skilled surgeon.

Directly related to this surgery are the period pains I have every month. They seem to be worsening the past few months. I can not really call them menstruation pains because I shouldn't have the relevant organs to menstruate. The exact medical explanation for these pains so far completely eludes me based on my admittedly somewhat limited knowledge of the processes involved. The pains themselves are located in the lower abdomen, mostly on the right side, but also center and left, and vary from a burning to a sharp, stabbing sensation. The pains also extend to the groin region where it's mostly a burning sensation with a painful numbing of the skin upon touch, the hips which are painful whether sitting or walking, the right leg which feels sore and itching, burning and stabbing pains in the area of the vagina.

Compared to the confirmed female organs I have this is curious. The vagina by it shouldn't play much of a role here, beyond maybe a change in its wall's internal structure, but shouldn't cause any cycles. My hormone therapy is constant and not cyclic. The only reasonable explanation I have so far is that I do in fact have ovarian tissue in some kind of configuration capable of inducing the hormonal changes which are part of menstruation. Whether I have any tissues which respond to this outside of the vagina is unknown. I do know that if any tissue exists anywhere which conforms the inside of the womb, this will massively change due to these hormones and eventually shed the new tissue at the end of the cycle. This discarded tissue is a massive risk factor in the causation of sepsis. Based on my symptoms every month it seems reasonable to assume that something major is happening, but without any idea of how dangerous this could be to my health, long-term.

It is my hope that I'll get this apartment next week so that I can finalize that part and start focusing on my physical health. The last half of this week I have felt exhausted and worn out, with a near-constant headache and feeling just ready to sleep before half of the day is over with. Maybe I'll start feeling better once this month's period is over with. So far it's driving me to near-despair. As soon as I have this apartment and my health insurance taken care of I can go to the general practitioner. Dutch GPs have never taken me seriously, let alone that they would ever consider for real that I experience actual periods. I would gladly stop worrying about what these monthly pains do or do not mean for my health.

The basic summary is that despite the progress I am making there are still far too many things for me to get far too stressed about, which probably exacerbates these same issues.


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Dream: Attack Of The Smokers

I had just watched the first part of a movie at this cinema, and was sitting outside on this double bench with a table in between, together with a few others. A structure built around it shielded us from most of the surroundings, though the part in front of me was largely open. I was sitting there with a few others, nameless and faceless people, probably just waiting for the next part of the movie to begin.

Then suddenly this guy leans in from outside, holding a cigarette between his fingers, and says something to me. I feel uncomfortable by this and tell him that he can't be smoking in here, pointing at a no-smoking sticker. I then realize it's a 'smoking allowed' sticker. While the guy and the others make fun of me I flee back into the cinema. That's when this girl pursues me and starts harassing and bullying me about something. That's when I just start a conversation with her and suddenly it's okay. We both leave the cinema, though not before her mentioning something about she really being a guy and me saying that I could see it in her face and behaviour that she does indeed appear more masculine.


What's striking about this dream is the initial part of this dream where smokers are a source of intense discomfort and harassment to me. This is likely born from the regular intrusion from smokers in real life on my personal space with their acrid, carcinogenic smoke which they feel fine with blowing straight into a crowd of people who are most likely not okay with this. This makes them into a perfect representation of a bully and anti-social person which can chase me away in a nightmare.

The second part is likely linked to my continuing struggle with myself as I try to define and come to terms with myself. Who and what I am. Despite the fluidity in my physical sex, I still feel the need to nail down the exact facts about it. With the hopefully final surgery looming in the near future, it probably rekindles a lot of existing struggles.


Sexuality As A Drugs Peddler

Sexuality is one of those things everyone has experience with in some way, but which nevertheless is so incredibly hard to define. The physical aspect of it is easy enough to catalogue and give a place. Where it gets complex is the moment emotions and feelings enter the picture, for if it wasn't for those aspects the only use of sexuality would be its reproductive nature, to be employed in a rational, when needed basis.

It thus comes down to the aspects of sexuality as entertainment and its place in human relationships. I think that hereby sexuality, or rather the act of being sexually active, should be linked to intimacy in general, specifically that of physical contact between humans in general. This process starts at a young age, even before birth with the presence of the mother somehow imprinting itself on the developing child. After birth, as a baby and child continuous caring, physical contact between the individual and their parents as well as others has shown to have a very positive effect on its social development.

The phrase 'didn't get enough love from his parents as a child' is often used in a derogatory manner - as if it's not entirely a valid excuse for any behaviour as an adult - yet current research shows a markedly different brain development for individuals who have regular positive social (physical) contact compared to those who don't. It therefore bears reminding everyone of the sheer importance of such simple motions towards others, whether it's just an embrace, a pat on the head or playful wrestling. It can literally save a child.

I used to think that my youth was just fine like that, yet recently I have been forced to recognize that this wasn't quite the case. While initially things were heading into the right direction for the first five or six years, after this a rift formed between me and my environment, including my family. I grew up without any true friends, while also not having a lot of contact with family. I kept a lot to myself, shying away from forms of physical contact. My mother remarked recently to me that even as a child I would shrug off any attempts from her to hug me.

Puberty then was the final thing to do me in. Becoming ever more estranged from my own body I would essentially ignore it for the largest part. Together with the stalled emotional development at the time, I was unable to deal with these new feelings and urges puberty introduced, something I was painfully aware of, yet incapable of doing much against. At the time I compared it to an itch. Ignore it all you want, but at some point you will be forced to admit defeat and scratch the spot in question.

Then later on this urge became a whispering, velvet voice of temptation. Being sexually active would make everything better. Getting a girlfriend would make everything right. Giving in would make my lonely, confusing life suddenly a joyful, bright experience. My response to this seduction was to even more forcefully deny these feelings, as I knew it wasn't true.

Not much has changed in that respect, many years later. The many mental and emotional scars I have suffered since then as a result of being weak and giving in have made me ever more aware of how insidious sexuality truly is have made me both more resolute in denying it access to my life, as well as more desperate about it still being there, always present in the back of my mind.

What I have been forced to admit is that the weak spot I have is that of about twenty-five years of having been isolated from proper human interaction. No caring physical contact, no friends, no fun, relaxation or feeling safe. Against this background the promise whispered by the voice of sexuality is that of safety and security in the embracing of free, mindless, casual sexual contact. This despite me having been there already, years ago, and only having horrific invisible scars to show for it. It's a kind of torture born from my own mind, induced by a desperate desire to feel loved and cared for.

In this sense this voice is exactly like a drugs peddler; offering a chance to feel really good for a little while, with the catch of always having to come back for more. It's a vile, condemnable trap. Much like not doing drugs, one should also never do sexuality. It's just not cool.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Intersex And The Abortion Issue

When it comes to the issue of abortion I have always been a strong supporter of the pro-choice, deciding about your own body side of the issue. It wasn't until I discovered that I was intersex that this issue became personal to me. Not just because some have suggested that intersex babies should be aborted before they're born, or because I took on a female identity. The reasons which made abortion into a personal issue for me was simply put the many parallels which exist between it and the difficulties encountered simply by being intersex.

Both have the issue that an overbearing system of very unpleasant people wish to dictate to a large group of individuals what they can and can't do with their body. They want to say that a woman can not and possibly is incapable of deciding about an issue like terminating a pregnancy. They also want to say that an intersex individual should be 'corrected' physically as soon as possible, even if that entails lying to the person, or doing it years before it turns into a self-aware child or teenager. Same with the many lies surrounding abortion.

It's curious how in both types of situations it concerns largely real, medical and psychological issues whereby an individual suffers immeasurably, but is denied the care which would solve their direct problem. In both cases the denying of care results in suffering, poverty, suicide, depression, social isolation, death through lack of medical attention and so on. Yet in neither case a reasonable reason is given. We're not talking about hypothetical situations here. Whether it's a life-threatening issue during a pregnancy, a family unable to support another child financially, a girl or woman who got raped, a person not understanding their body, someone worried about an unusual puberty and the like, they're all real, every day things.

Why was I denied medical care in the Netherlands? Why did physicians and psychologists feel this incessant need to lie to me? Why did I get harassed and ridiculed by regular Dutch people for merely expressing what I thought was my problem at that point?

Why are so many women being denied medical care? Why do physicians and psychologists often feel the need to lie to them? Why are regular people harassing and ridiculing these women for merely suggesting a reasonable solution to their problem at that point?

Every day women die because they were denied an abortion. Every day women die because they sought salvation in an illegal abortion under hazardous circumstances. Every day women commit suicide because of the shame of being pregnant. Every day intersex babies are mutilated for life to hide that they are intersex. Every day intersex people die because they couldn't bear the shame of merely being themselves.

Even if any of these things didn't happen every day, wouldn't it still be horrible if it happened even just once a year? When society makes one's body into one's enemy, or something which is growing inside of it into a monster, that's when things have become completely wrong. It's not society's prerogative to denounce or judge people for what they do with their bodies or what they call themselves. People are people, with a large variance between them, physically and in their opinions. To then go and judge others for being different is tragically humorous.

In the end it comes down to the tyranny of the powerful minority setting the rules for the meek. Even before I took on a female role I considered myself to be a feminist, as I could quite well see how much of the patriarchal society was weighing down on women and girls. As a very unusual woman myself through my experiences and also my occupation I can honestly say that I would never settle for anything less than men would get. Simply because there is no justification to do otherwise.

We women do not determine the reproductive rights of men. When we started taking the pill it was about our own bodies and our own health and reproductive rights. We do not set rules for whether men should be able to use viagra and other aids. We don't institute rules which limit how often a man can have sex and that he should be married faithfully to the first woman he impregnates for the rest of his life. If this was a matriarchal society we might have, but it isn't. In this world we have to fight just to not have others limit our freedoms out of pure discrimination on our physical sex.

That's the bitter fight between the sexes which never should have been. A newer fight is the one by those without a stereotypical physical sex, such as yours truly. I have the option to freely switch between the official genders of man and woman due to my physical characteristics. I have noticed that while some think that this is awesome, others perceive me with a profound lack of understanding or even outright fear. To them a person like me is a violation of what they perceive to be the natural laws, threatening their way of living and thinking. This is the direct reasoning behind the systematic eradication of intersex individuals which takes place every single day around the world.

And we are the meek. We women and intersex individuals alike. Yet we are the majority. We don't have to be ruled by the tyrannical minority of closed-minded individuals. We can stand up and be heard. We can set our heels in the sand and refuse to move an inch, as the anti-apartheid movement in the US and South-Africa did last century. Regardless of how public our discrimination and harassment is, the response is the same.

If I had been born a regular woman I'd have thought about this the same way, most likely. If I had been born a regular man I'd have thought about this the same way, most likely. Regardless of how one is born or how one changes during one's life there is always this overwhelming notion that one wishes to have the freedom to do with one's body as one desires. Whether it's covering it with tattoos, piercing it with metal, injecting or ingesting various types of substances whether harmful or not, affecting the natural functioning of one's reproductive system or any of the thousands of other things one can do, it's all our own personal responsibility.

The most important part here is that of an end to all the lies. End the lies about abortion. End the lies about intersex. Stop with the secrecy and shame. We're grown people who can discuss this as mature adults, not a herd of gawking chimpanzees, barely suppressing the urge to fling poo at the other for disagreeing on anything.

I'd like to think this much is at least possible in today's society if we have this grandiose mindset of calling ourselves 'civilized'.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Optimistic Positivity As A Life Philosophy

Once again I'd like to start with the disclaimer that I may be somewhat incoherent and rambling, this time due to a party I had last night, resulting in a slight lack of sufficient sleep. I guess it's a good sign that I'm actually building up a network of friends and acquaintances, even if it can be quite tiring at times.

The last time I wrote on my blog I was about to move to a new place. This has since happened, moving me to the other side of the Rhein river, opposite of Karlsruhe. Other things have also happened or are in the process of doing so. The first is the health insurance with the German Krankenkasse. This turned out to be quite easy as my employer will set this up for me, with me only having to indicate which insurer I'd like to be with. This I took care of last Friday, together with the request form for a German bank account. Hopefully this will take care of these issues.

Next week I'll register as officially living in Germany and the colleague at whose place I'm staying will be contacting a real-estate agent about a house which is for rent. Hopefully I will have my own place by next month. The old apartment I hope to be rid of next week as well. It appears that my TODO list is finally shrinking somewhat.

That's not to say that I'm feeling happy or content in any sense, though. As I mentioned in my previous post it's a struggle for me to fit into a normal life, having to adapt to a life style I am unfamiliar with as well as having to fit all of my memories of especially the past nine years into this new life. I'm not sure that's even possible. I noticed that with the party last night, for example. Regular social interactions work out okay for me because I know how I'm supposed to respond and act based upon previous observations. I also liked the movie we watched: Dark City. For some reason my PTSD got triggered during the movie without there being any obvious triggers in the movie. It was probably more due to the stress I'm under at this point.

The main sensation as the dissociation which accompanies a PTSD attack set in was one of being lonely, abandoned and unloved. I just saw myself lugging this body around to places when people told me to, but it never amounting to anything. Eventually the dissociation got bad enough that I couldn't move or feel anything any more. Fortunately the student at whose place I stayed before was present as well, and she knew how to deal with dissociation. After a brief bout of crying I snapped out of the mood, more or less. The hours after that I'd gradually normalize and stabilize again.

At some point the party's guests had divided themselves into two groups: the men and the women, me obviously being in the latter group. As seems to be standard when you put a group of women together, the talk invariably turns towards periods and sex, not necessarily in that order. As far as the first item goes, I do have periods, but since I lack an open vagina and other organs it's not as messy, just really painful and inconvenient. The student was quick to point this out to the others as an advantage. The second item really doesn't have any advantages to me, however. When asked at one point I could only say that until my final surgery has succeeded, sex will remain something traumatic to me.

While sitting there with the other women it made me realize that while I have virtually nothing in common with men, even physically, I do not feel completely in my place with regular women either. It's not that I feel embarrassed or anything, but more that I realize how much my life has deviated from that of such women. My first period involved me having gigantic cramps for over an hour, but since it's all internal and no one saw anything I merely got scolded and made fun of by my family for making a fuss. Similarly, all of the other usual things were experienced in such a different manner by me that I almost feel like I'm some different species. Not a woman, not a man, not a human. Just something vaguely like it.

The past days and weeks I have been talking a lot about my experiences in the Netherlands, my hopes for the future and the details of my intersex condition. I'm not sure whether this is responsible for the surge of emotions and memories I'm struggling with recently. It feels as though a certain numbness is gone and the pain about my treatment by Dutch physicians is only now turning up to full strength. The apprehension I feel when I think about the upcoming surgery must be fuelling it as well, with this same apprehension being fed by those traumatic memories in a hellish feedback loop. The urge to break down in crying is almost too strong at times.

If I have to say what my life's philosophy is, I'd have to say that it's about seeking out what is positive, while avoiding that which is negative. While going through life all these years I have only sought out that which is negative when I expected that by going through the negative part I would gain something positive. Call it optimistic positivity if you wish. I suffered through years of medical incompetence because I knew I had to find the positive solution to the problem I was having, no matter the cost. This year again, seeking contact with a surgeon and baring my soul again to the possible backlash if things do not turn out the way I had hoped, or if I somehow have to defend myself again. All because I know that there is only one possible outcome which is fully positive and that is through such an uncomfortable experience.

Even if I do not end up with a fully usable vagina after the surgery, I won't be too horrible upset. Disappointed, yes. Yet I realize quite well that just the fact that I have a developed vagina is biologically speaking something of a minor miracle. As long as it's in some way usable and perhaps fixable would be infinitely preferably over just leaving things the way they are now. Optimistic positivity. I think and hope that with a successful surgery behind me I can finally successfully fight back against those horrible recollections of Dutch physicians. There just is no other way to conclude this medical chapter.

I guess that meeting this surgeon and the surgery which should follow it are at this point the biggest items on my TODO list for the coming weeks and months. It's looming up for me like a gigantic iceberg out of the darkness. Looking at its impregnable surface I can only shut off my emotions as well as possible and just continue. One second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

Don't think. Don't feel. Just look at the positive things and keep moving. It's all that's keeping you sane.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Strangeness, Reality, Adult, Emotions, Life.

The past few weeks have been beyond strange to me. Looking back, the past seems to take on this unreal shade, as if it never truly happened. Maybe this is just what happens when lots of changes follow each other, that one has the sensation of being cut loose from everything, of just drifting from one event to another. I'm really not entirely sure what to think about things, beyond doing the best I can do with my rational thoughts and feelings.

While the initial start in Germany wasn't so stellar, I have had a few weeks now to get my bearings at the place where I'm currently staying. In many ways it's been a return to normal life, something quite unusual to me, as all I have known for the past decades has been a constant push into ever stranger and less familiar territory, culminating into the medical horror story of the past decade. Being caught in this flow of 'normal' life it has finally given me time to think about things I didn't generally spend much time thinking about, such as my own looks. Not in the general sense at least.

It's only at this stage of my life that I don't have to defend or question who or what I am, or what looks back at me in the mirror. I now just have to accept the truths which have crystallized over the years to where it is not possible to deny them. Truths including that of me being an adult. An adult woman. A pretty, adult woman. It casts me back in my memories to 2005 when I was struggling with a similar realization, at which point I could not comprehend in any fashion that I was no longer a child. Rationally I was aware of this fact, but emotionally I could not accept it in any form or shape, let alone that of me being a woman.

Now, nearly a decade later and after a harrowing war fought in the Netherlands against the System, I feel that I have aged far beyond my years in an emotional sense. I no longer have trouble accepting that I am an adult. I can accept that I am an adult woman. I do however not feel pretty. Looking at myself in the mirror I just see the exhaustion and scars. The grime of the battlefield covering everything and the gouges left in my skin.

It was good for me to leave the Netherlands. I had to. Now that I have left it I feel as though I'm at least not standing on the battlefield any more. It still lives inside of me, but I can look around and see a world which is still whole and pure instead of filled with death and decay. Part of the nightmare which still lived in my head has faded away already, even if the countless wounds are still bleeding fresh blood. It will still take more time for them to turn into scars.

At this point I still feel like a child in some respects. I feel at home on the battlefield, where I'm fighting for my own life and for those on my side against the faceless, cruel enemy, just defending and attacking in a continuous cycle until I can no longer feel my arms, or my shoulders and I can not fathom where the oxygen powering my muscles is coming from as my lungs are on fire. Yet place me outside this battlefield and I feel as inexperienced and clumsy as a newborn babe. I'm not used to a world where people are not trying to kill or attack me in some fashion, let alone where I can just go out and get the medical help I require without having to spend a decade of my life fighting for it.

In some ways it's more frightening this way. At least in a battle I know the rules. Here I just feel awkward and fragile. Unprotected. Every time I do something wrong I feel horrible, because I know that I should have known better. Even though I'm learning, ever so slowly, it will still take a long time for me to stop expecting the worst to happen at any point. I expect physicians and psychologists to torture me. So-called friends I expect to abandon and ridicule me. Those claiming to care about me I expect to ruin my life.

There's only survival on the battlefield, no life. Learning to live a life is going to be so very tough.

Tomorrow I'll be moving to another place again where I'll probably be staying until I can find a house to rent on the side of the river opposite to Karlsruhe. After talking with some people about it I feel fairly confident that it is the area where I want to be living for the coming time. Hopefully it will all work out from here, as there's still so much to take care of, from getting a German bank account, health insurance, a place of my own, visiting my surgeon and so many more details.

As long as it doesn't lead me back onto the battlefield, it is all fine with me.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

One More Chapter Finished, But The Story Hasn't Ended Yet

The previous times that I wrote on my blog on January 1st I would reflect on the preceding year and my outlook on the next one. I would generally express my dismay at having not progressed much if at all in the year and portray a state of depression and a lack of motivation to continue. This time around things are different, if not as significantly as one might have expected.

True, I did finally get the job and income I was hoping for to pull me out of a state of financial despair, plus I was able to make the decision to leave the Netherlands for good and carry it out with the help from my colleagues. I also got my ten minutes of fame on the biggest talk show of the Netherlands. But the way I see it, those are things which simply had to happen, much like how a river flows from a high to a lower point. It is this year, here in Germany, that the next and hopefully final struggle begins.

Not only does this include finding a home and integrating into German society, but also the final stages of the medical part of my story. Maybe as soon as this month I'll already be heading to this German surgeon for an appointment, once again facing all my daemons and terrors. It's something I shouldn't even have to think about on whether it's necessary or not. I have had nine years to think through every single part of what I do and don't want or need. At this point I just have to follow this river's path downwards and see where it leads. Even if part of me is convinced that I will only face bitter disappointment, I still have to do it. There is only stagnation and emotional turmoil otherwise.

It's best to face your terrors and deal with the repercussions than it is to keep running away from them. I don't think I have ever truly done so, and I don't intend to start with it any time soon. It is for this reason that upon encountering people with issues I can help resolve I cannot help but feeling obligated to help those people too. Such a thing happened recently to me, and I intend to carry it through for as far as I can. It's always easier to face one's terrors with someone you trust at your side. It is my belief that by helping others in such a fashion, they in turn will end up helping me, thus making everyone better.

At the moment I'm working on tweaking the second and third chapters of my autobiography, as I intend to send these first three chapter to my publisher later today as the requested sample chapters. Writing these chapters is tough work, digging deep into my memories and emotional side. It has sadly reminded me how little of my youth was in any way carefree or happy. Maybe I had just wanted to forget the negative events, preferring to mask them away in favour of some almost idyllic recollection of a youth which never existed.

Maybe in some ways the next chapters about my high school period and my struggles with the Dutch medical system will be easier to write, as those have always kept playing through my mind, with few memories there being a hidden, unpleasant surprise. We will see. I will first have to await the response from my publisher on the sample chapters before I'll proceed anyway.

It'll be another tough, but hopefully rewarding year.