Wednesday, 26 November 2014

PTSD: Ashamed Of Being Afraid All The Time

Returning home earlier from work, I was initially glad to be back indoors now that it's getting pretty chilly outside. Then I heard it again.

*thump* *thump* *thump*

I could feel some part of my mind shrivel up in fear at the sound of this. Then the sound stopped for a moment and I felt the tension fade again. Readying to prepare dinner I had music playing in the background. This always helps to drown out the sounds some. Yet today it wasn't enough.

*thump* *thump*    *thump* *thump* *thump*

Every thump sending a jolt through my body, instinctively reacting to this perceived threat. Part of my brain was screaming at me to start running, that I had to get away from here right now, yet I realized that I couldn't run away. This is my home. There's nowhere to go. I realized that I was making panicked noises again as tears began to flow down my cheeks. Before I knew it I was crying in fear and terror. Any moment now. It'd happen any second. Got to get away.

Then rage. I would show them. Fight back. Anger. Determination. Ready to counter with force. This followed by the realization that none of this was an option and feeling the urge to just destroy this body as my final defence. I admitted to myself repeatedly that I felt really terrified. Then finally dinner was ready and I could sit in front of my computer with headphones on and music playing. The tension was still there, but fading with nothing but my own, controlled environment to worry about. Only the sounds and other stimuli which I expect.

There's a reason why I have been toying with the idea of writing the landlady or janitor or whoever a letter describing my daily terrors in my own apartment. From the *tick* *tick* of the heating system to the *thump* *thump* of walking, toilet usage and sometimes entire conversations from the upstairs neighbours, most of the time that I'm at home I'm either wearing headphones or put in earplugs when I want to sleep. Even earplugs don't keep out the thumping noise, though. I often find myself fearfully listening whether I didn't just hear it whilst lying in bed. Falling asleep is mostly a matter of getting the terror down to a level where I feel safe enough to sleep.

I'm not proud of living like this. I feel ashamed. Humiliated. I'm tired of feeling like a caged animal, agitated and restless every second I'm awake, mostly because of noises around me. I feel ashamed because I'm apparently the only one. Everyone else seems to take noises like these and worse in stride and can ignore it. For me it's as easy to ignore as getting kicked into an active battlefield is. Once a noise or similar trigger activates my fight-or-flight mechanism there's no escape for me any more. First I want to run. Get away from it, which is usually impossible. Then I feel the need to fight back. Making noises myself in revenge. Breaking things so that they stop making noise. Anything to make the threat go away. Then the collapse as I realize it's all impossible and futile.

There's obviously something very wrong with me that I cannot live with things everyone else has no trouble with. I must be deeply mentally disturbed if something like a ticking heating system or hearing upstairs neighbours walk around makes me want to claw open my own skin.

I can't let others show these weaknesses, though. They will abuse it. They always will. Can't trust others. Never again. More tears as I realize how deep my paranoia and distrust towards others around me goes. I want to be able to trust humans again, but I realize I likely never will do so again. The realization how cut off I am from society as a whole.

Knowing that I feel like this because I am still being herded towards my death - preferably by my own hands - by actively denying me medical care for my intersex condition and instead damaging me psychologically to the point where I will break. I cannot otherwise explain why I'm being fed two completely opposing conclusions by the medical world, with likely one the truth and the other a complete and utter lie. Or maybe both are lies. All to break my spirit.

I'm so ashamed. Ashamed of being like this. Paranoid. Delusional. Obsessed. Of being terrified of everything and everyone. Of being a dysfunctional human being in so many ways. And yet in the knowledge that the only thing that is wrong with me is this post-traumatic stress disorder. A disorder caused by the systematic maltreatment and brainwashing by physicians without knowing why.

I don't know why. I don't know anything. There's only the constant feeling of terror. Of knowing that the next horrible, agonizing thing will happen any second now.

*thump* *thump* *thump*

Any moment now. Can't be long now.

*tick* *tick* *tick*

Can't you hear it? It's right there. Better start running.

*thump* *thump*

Nowhere to go? What a shame. Nobody cares.

*tick* *tick*

Huddled in a corner, crying like you just witnessed the slaughter of your entire family and barely escaped with your own life. What a crybaby. How shameful.

Just some sounds. Nobody would get so upset about that. You're pathetic.

The thing that frightens me most is that the only time I can remember in my entire life when I felt the most calm and most at peace with myself was when the pressure had become too much and I was readying myself to take these beautiful white pills which would end my life right then and there. That was over three years ago.

The one moment I was in control of my own life. Of my own destiny. That's all gone now and only fear and terror remains. It's all I will know for the rest of my life, because I am not allowed to feel in control of my own life. The medical community and everyone else will make sure of that. It's them versus me.

I'm ashamed of who I am. Of what I am. Of being weak. Of allowing everyone to do this to me. I feel humiliated at having to make such a confession, but I also know that I need to hang on and send out a cry for help if there still is a possibility of help.

I realize it's better to feel ashamed and humiliated than to feel nothing any more and give up. I still pray and hope that having been born with this intersex body doesn't mean that I will have to die, even after ten years of everyone around me doing their utmost to prove that the only way to escape is to take my own life. It's the only way off this battlefield. The only way to stop feeling afraid. The only way to find peace with myself.

I don't want to believe that.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

You're All Freaks; Reviewing Nature Vs Nurture

The 'nature vs nurture' debate has always been something which has intrigued me from a young age. Partially because the concept that at least part of our preferences, behaviours and biases might be encoded in our very genes and thus translated into neural structures as our bodies develop in the womb. Partially because it means that by tweaking the physical layout of our neural pathways we can modify the way we think, react and what we prefer. Many scientists and less-than-scientific individuals have attempted to use this principle to 'fix' various disorders and conditions attributed to wrong wiring in the brain. The more cruel approaches here involved electroshock therapy and lobotomies.

What part of a person's behaviour and preferences are taught and thus able to be changed has also long been a topic of debate, with some refusing to acknowledge the genetic contribution even long after such a connection has been proven, as is the case with for example sexual preference where a distinct part of the brain has been shown to infer this preference for a sexual partner. To some extent one can override these neural-encoded preferences via conditioning, also known as 'brainwashing'. This underlies the 'therapies' being offered to desperate parents of children who have shown a sexual preference for a partner with whom they'd not be able to reproduce.

Brainwashing is something I am sadly intimately familiar with. First there was the brainwashing out of ignorance about my true condition for the first 21 years of my life, whereby the facade was kept up that I was a boy even as during puberty the first major cracks in this lie began to appear, while my body and appearance increasingly became more mismatched with the falsehood being kept up. Then another decade would follow in which active brainwashing was applied by the medical profession in the Netherlands.

It only needed some bright lights shining into my face to complete the image, and some doctor or psychologist yelling into my face with specks of saliva flying into my face as my hands were tied behind my chair. As it was I might as well have been trapped in some KGB or CIA secret prison and subjected to daily torture and brainwashing sessions. There was no room for discussion or compromise. I absolutely, completely, beyond any shade of doubt was a boy, biologically and in appearance. The medical results I had brought back from German private clinics? Utter nonsense, the imaginings of incompetents. I was shown the MRI images over and over as they pointed out that nothing could be seen on it.

I'm a boy. I'm a male. I'm a guy. When I look into the mirror I see a guy. Everything about me is male. Even when friends, colleagues and random strangers see me as a woman, I'm still a guy. When I'm dating lesbian women, I'm still just a guy. Thus speaks the brainwashed part of my brain.

Catching sight of my profile in a window's reflection or similar I'm often hit by the fact that I look like a woman. That I have curvatures which can only be described as 'female'. That my voice is considered to be that of a female, even by random strangers. When shopping for clothes I have to go for women's clothing and realize again that I have such boring dress sizes that I can pick anything and know it'll just fit. I'm a woman, then?

Growing up, I always knew something was wrong. That I wasn't really a boy. My mother and grandmother shared that feeling, as they told me later. Clearly my genes were fighting back against the unintentional brainwashing as the male gender role was being rejected.

Now, after a string of successes in getting my official gender and first name changed, many things have normalized now that my name, appearance and official gender are finally in alignment. Not having to explain my situation to flustered assistants and officials is a major relief. Yet the brainwashed part of my brain is still informing me that I'm just a guy.

It often feels like my psyche has fallen apart into three pieces, many years ago. One is the part which is the 'I'm a guy' part and although it's been losing in influence the past years, it's still there. There's also the 'I'm a woman' part, which is about as self-assured and confident as a 6-year old girl being sent by herself to fetch some groceries for her mother for the first time.

Then there's the part which is simply put the 'hermaphrodite' part and may be the one true part of myself. It feels the most stable and... normal, I'd say. Though it comes with its own set of complications. As I have learned to see myself as having a normal (male, then female) body, this has significantly affected the way I see others. At this point, to me there's clearly only one 'normal' type of body: that of a hermaphrodite, i.e. a woman with also male genitals. Seeing a naked male is just... bizarre, like it's some kind of alien. The spindly form, without any hips or breasts looks almost comical. Similarly, a naked woman looks almost normal to me, just with some genitals missing.

This is the part where I'm not really sure where nature ends and nurture begins. Of course I have had no one teach me what it's like to be a hermaphrodite, or to feel like one, so that has to be something genetic. The way I regard the bodies of plain men and women might also be genetic, or something I have taught myself over the past years as I felt myself become ever more estranged from such bodies as my own body and my being intersex got rejected again and again by the 'normals'. Or a combination of both. It's hard to say, really.

I do know that I am likely to find some answers if I can ever extricate myself from this tangled mess of medical madness and get the female side of my genitals sorted out. The recent request I sent to another surgeon has gone unanswered so far, which isn't very hopeful. With that surgery completed, however, I could start healing and resume my journey of self-discovery. Maybe I'll be able to figure out what part of 'me' is truly genetics and what part isn't.

At any rate, you're all a bunch of lovely freaks to me :)


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Too Late For This Body Of Mine

Last Friday I was at the office as usual, working on debugging a mysterious crash in the project I'm currently assigned to. It was during this that I noticed that I began to stretch out my right leg, because it felt more comfortable, I guess. After a while I began to feel this sharp, constant pain in my right hip, which I managed to ignore just enough to keep working. When getting up at one point I noticed that my right leg was dragging a bit, indicating that mild paralysis had set in.

This entire week I have had severe lower abdominal pain, combined with pain and a general sensation of discomfort in the vaginal region. It's pretty much like that every month for the past years, though it is getting more severe every time. The general pattern seems to follow the usual female pattern of mittelschmerz [1] which is ovulation-related pain, followed by dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) [2]. The discomfort I feel in the vaginal region would be due to some kind of fluid discharge, which of course is trapped there without an opening. The disconcerting thing about the severity of the dysmenorrhea is how severe and persistent it is becoming. This brings the unpleasant possibility of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) [3] to the foreground.

With few clues available as to what my internal anatomy in my lower abdominal region looks like it's hard to say what might be going on. There's the strong suggestion of a monthly cycle, which would require the presence of ovarian tissue - likely partially formed - and some kind of of tissue that would respond to the hormonal cycle, i.e. like the tissue lining the inside of the uterus. As PID brings with it the severe risk of scarring and other unpleasantness (responsible for infertility when left untreated in normally fertile women), it seems pertinent that my symptoms be further examined. Only thing I know at this point is that taking the anti-conception pill reduces the severity of the symptoms significantly, pointing towards a hormone-based cause.

Unfortunately that is pretty much what I have attempted for the past ten years. Even here in Germany I have found that there are no physicians or gynaecologists with any knowledge of an intersex condition like mine, let alone who knows how to examine it. Also considering the trouble women I have talked to before have getting help related to menstrual and related pain with their perfectly boring female anatomies, I deem it quite unlikely that I'll ever get answers.

Thus my options are limited to waiting and hoping for the best outcome, namely that I'll just have to deal with this crippling pain every month for a week or more. If the symptoms continue to become more severe and complications begin to develop (with sepsis as absolute worst-case option), I can only pray to the uncaring heavens that the pain won't become severe enough that I'll be bed-ridden for roughly half the time each month. Or - heavens forbid - end up actually dying.

While it may seem fun to have a unique body there's nothing which frightens me more right now than the whole 'not knowing' part as pains which Dutch physicians have assured me are completely imaginary tear through my abdomen every month again, driving me to tears as no painkiller is strong enough to stop them.



Back Into The Job Hunt

To quickly recap the work-related events of this and last year: I got hired as a freelancer early last year by the German company I currently work for, as a mobile (iOS/Android) developer. At the start of this year I got offered a fixed contract. After a short while I got asked to 'temporarily' work on a Java project as the iOS project I was working on was a bit overstaffed at that point. That's when things got funny, as suddenly instead of getting more mobile projects, all mobile projects we had been eyeing got handed to other parties and only Java projects remained.

In short, despite having no Java experience beyond the Android-related programming, I have been trying to struggle along in one Java servlet-based project after another. To say that this didn't go well is putting it mildly and led to some sad faces during the last feedback meetings with my employers. After the last meeting it was clear that things weren't going to work out, but I got put on a relatively new C/C++ project which was kinda drifting around at the time. I got to work for about three weeks on this new project before the final meeting, earlier this week.

The difference between working on something you have roughly fifteen years experience with (C/C++ and related) and something you have virtually no experience and very little interest in (Java projects) is like night and day. In just three weeks time I managed to completely retool and improve the Makefile-based build system of the new project and get a cross-compiling setup on Linux and Windows hosts working to Linux and QNX targets across two CPU architectures, despite some fierce resistance from the antiquated toolchain and external libraries which hadn't been designed with a QNX on ARM target in mind. I had and still have a lot of joy in working on such projects, to be honest.

During the meeting this week with my employers this became apparent as well, where sadly the conclusion was that they'd love to keep me on as developer as my performance on the current project had been very satisfactory so far, but that they just don't have more of such projects for me. As a result I'll get a new contract which ties me to my currently assigned project until it's done/its budget runs out, which will be early next year regardless. This will give me the time I need to find a new job hopefully here in Karlsruhe as well which is more befitting to a senior C/C++ developer like yours truly. While it's sad that we have to part ways like this, I'm at least glad it was possible to arrange things in such an amicable way.

Hopefully I'll be able to find a new job by March next year so that I can transition to it without any gaps in my employment and thus income. In case anyone is interested, I still have my Curriculum Vitae (resume, for some :) ) up on my personal site here:

The coming time I'll be updating this CV as it doesn't even list my employment in the Netherlands or my current employment here in Germany. I reckon I can also add 'German' to my list of 'spoken languages' by now.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more draft chapters to finish of this Android game development book I'm still writing for Packt Publishing. Call it my other full-time job (which isn't paying yet ;) ).


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Why Feminism Has To Die

Feminism originates in the 19th century. Initially it was about giving women legal 'person' status so that they too could be considered equals in contracts, in politics, marriage, parenting and property rights. This also included the right to vote. Later this movement expanded to include reproductive and economic rights and to this day keeps expanding its coverage, with disagreement among its members on what exactly defines 'feminism', with some arguing that certain extreme types of feminism is actually harmful to both men and women.

In this whole history there's one issue which is rarely touched upon, and that is the highly exclusive nature of feminism. This became painfully clear in the second half of the 20th century already when the struggle to have a non-heterosexual preference recognized as 'normal' started. Instead of feminism evolving to become more inclusive, instead new movements formed to represent the rights of homosexual and bisexual individuals. The same happened for transgenders and other minorities, with their presence in feminism at best considered to be tolerated.

The exclusive nature of feminism is painfully obvious to someone like myself, an intersex person who physically and emotionally identifies and is identified as female. There is virtually no overlap between what is important to intersex individuals and that of feminists, at least where I live in Europe. Income inequality is quite rare here and at least here in Germany the strong maternity laws ensure that women aren't being punished for wanting to start a family.

Now, I and many others like me suffer from many types of medical and psychological abuse, neglect and outright maltreatment, all for the simple crime of having been born with a body which society feels uncomfortable with. Feminism doesn't represent us, ergo intersex organizations had to be established over the past decades, which are struggling to get any recognition, while feminism largely ignores this.

It's bizarre to watch discussions by self-professed feminists, proclaiming the inequality and oppression women suffer in Western countries and you find yourself wishing that you only had to 'suffer' through that, instead of the physical and mental torture which comes standard with being born intersex. Women don't get forced surgery as an infant to 'fix' them (aside from FGM in some places). Women aren't forced to undergo brainwashing to make them think they're something they're not (though some claim the 'patriarchy' does this...). Women don't have organs ripped out of them as an infant and then have their medical file hidden from them when they get older.

Heck, I'd love to be a regular woman, even if I had to suffer sexual harassment, catcalls, lower wage and the like as a result compared to my male colleagues. Those are issues one can easily fix by banding together, as the feminist movement has done in the last two centuries already. The 'not heterosexual' movement is also making rapid progress (even if especially lesbians report feeling quite unsafe in countries like the Netherlands), with seemingly half of the world's CEOs and celebrities having a non-heterosexual preference. Not that anyone really should care, though.

That's the thing in all of this and the point I want to make. Feminism is about equality for women (relative to men), but suffers from the binary sex/gender problem. Fortunately long before feminism existed there was another concept already in the form of humanism, with egalitarianism as an economical form of it. Egalitarianism is the concept of 'equal opportunity', ensuring that in life everyone starts off and grows up with the same opportunities as others to grow and develop. Humanism is the rejecting of any supernatural forces, the focus on the value of human beings and the preference of critical thinking and evidence (rationalism/empiricism) and thus the exclusion of doctrine, which is what underlies so many types of inequality and injustice in society.

This all is why I cannot identify as a feminist, and why I would very much prefer to see the feminist movement vanish. I consider it to be a movement which has run its course and which is no longer relevant in a society where we no longer have just men and women. In a world with so much human diversity, in terms of skin colour, body types, types of sex development, gender identification, sexual preferences and so on, it seems almost inhumane to ignore all of this while only focusing on a narrowly defined sub-section.

I am a humanist. To me diversity is normal and something to be embraced. I believe in allowing humans to be who they want to be and to give them the opportunity to do so. I believe in stopping any kind of discrimination, including inverse discrimination (e.g. forced quotas for coloured/female/etc. members). I want to see humanity embrace science and critical thinking, to further their understanding of themselves and others.

Sadly I also have to recognize that we humanists still have a long way to go with rampant inequality especially among those groups which mainstream feminism has ignored all these decades. Still, maybe one day all humans will be humanists and we can leave all those fragmented faction movements behind us.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Survival In The Absence Of Safety

Those who follow me on Twitter may have noticed me suffering another mental breakdown last Friday. For the past weeks it's been a recurring thing that I'd be returning home after a day at work only to break down in tears. While work is a bit more stressful than I'd have liked due to the usual dealings around contract renewal, it's only a small part of the immense emotional load which has been steadily building up over the past months. The main issue is that of safety.

Tracing back my memories a year, two years, a decade... even two decades ago I do not recall feel 'safe', if we define 'safe' as feeling care-free and without any significant worries. Primary school saw me being bullied a lot in addition to being forced to redo one of the early years because I was deemed 'too playful'. This led to my contact with my few friends at the time slipping. At home I never felt really safe because of my older brother who'd not shy away from physical force if I refused to give into demands. In effect I grew up alone, with only cursory contact with my fellow human beings, including my own siblings and parents.

Books were safe, I guess. Withdrawing from reality I could forget about the worsening situation as my giftedness curse made itself very apparent during high school when I'd bounce between schools and options, losing track of myself and my true capabilities. I began to suffer intense migraines due to the stress, also from the intense bullying I had to deal with. Until last year I had nightmares involving school. At home I had to deal with my father who didn't understand why I was being so 'difficult' and why I couldn't just be good at school if I was as smart as I claimed to be. My mother protected me, but could only do so much.

My room was the last safe place I had. Then my parents divorced and I had to move together with my mom, leaving behind all that I knew. The rest is well-known to anyone who follows me for a while now; unable to find anything to ground myself in reality all I had were my programming and science projects. After moving again I tried school again for a bit, but felt no connection and got scolded by the teachers for 'doing too much' and 'being unmotivated'. I felt I had to find a place for my giftedness, but just couldn't. Ultimately I quit school altogether.

That's when the whole 'intersex' thing came into play, making me realize that everything I thought I knew about my own body was an utter and complete lie. That my very existence and life had been built around a deception. I wasn't this person I had been told I was. Heck, even the mirror had been lying to me all that time as I began to realize as I allowed more and more of reality to slip into my tiny little world. Shortly after that I became the victim of rape by someone I trusted, forever shattering any fantasies I may have had about sexuality being wonderful and respecting another person's body.

To make matters even worse then, my body became the battleground for different teams of physicians, each coming to an entirely different conclusion. Some insisting that I was clearly mentally ill as my body was obviously that of a male while I couldn't see this, while others clearly saw that I have a hermaphroditic body. This war left both my body and mind a wreck and forced me to flee the country where I was born and raised as I could no longer feel safe there.

Yet even having escaped the country it still haunts me. My body is still a battleground. My body and mind are still a wreck until it can be resolved through medical intervention which is actively being denied to me. The Netherlands is actively denying that I suffered any traumatic disorders due to its treatment of my case and is relentlessly pursuing me in a criminal case which resulted from me suffering a mental breakdown and black-out due to a DID-episode (Dissociative Identity Disorder: the splitting of one's memory/personality due to extreme trauma) which was the direct result of this treatment. Not to mention having physicians in the Netherlands refuse to treat me due to being intersex.

My apartment isn't safe either. Every moment another letter can fall into the mailbox which horribly upsets me. There are ticking, stomping and other noises all the time which make my mind switch from 'alert' into 'agitated' mode to then trigger another emotional breakdown. Wearing headphones and listening to loud music is how I survive during the day. Wearing earplugs at night is how I manage to get at least a few hours of restless sleep. The stomping about of the upstairs neighbours is audible whatever I try and always interpreted as a threat by my mind. There's no peace or quiet anywhere. There's no place where I can sit down, relax and just let my mind wander for a while without any sounds disturbing me.

Oh, and stalkers. Got those too.

I survive at this point only by blotting out reality as well as I can. All sounds and signs of it whenever I can. Yet I cannot stop my own thoughts from agonizingly pouring over all details of everything that hurts me. While my mind stuffing the worst traumatic memories into their own little sections (DID) so that I can still function somewhat in daily life, this is somewhat akin to storing all kinds of heavy, pointy and blunt objects in cardboard boxes suspended above your head with thin strings. All it takes is one trigger.

Friday's breakdown - which continues today - is me just running out of the mental energy required to keep fighting. Sure, I can still perform the programming tasks I'm required to perform at work, but don't ask me to socialize or deal with anything else other than those which merely require me to use my intellectual side. I cannot deal with what the accursed country of the Netherlands keeps throwing my direction. I cannot deal with trying to find a solution for this horrific body I was cursed with. I doubt that there's a place for gifted people in society and cannot deal with people any more trying to find someone who actually understands my conundrum there.

You could say that last Friday was when I died emotionally. There's nothing to live for any more, because I'm already dead.

Not that any of you people are real, of course. Nobody actually read any of this I wrote on this blog. I imagined all interactions over the past decade except for the medical and psychological torturing. Because otherwise I'd not still be suffering. There is no safety in this world. Things will just get worse from here. Any of you voices inside my head claiming otherwise have to explain the past decades to me.

Better to end this suffering soon.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

In Between: A Love Story

I finished revising the story I started writing yesterday, titled 'In Between: A Love Story' and it can be read via my Scribd account at this link:

It's somewhat related to my other series I published on Scribd before called 'In Between And Neither' and I won't deny the obvious similarity in the titles. It's about different characters, however, and in a completely different setting. The central topic is still being 'in between', which is another way to say 'intersex'.

In this post I would just like to put some of the motivations behind writing it down on paper, so to speak. It'll be all spoilers from here onwards, naturally. The central themes in the story are love and sexuality, with the struggle to deal with these topics while being intersex woven into it. This is an area which, as many who regularly read my blog and/or follow me on Twitter know, is something I struggle with a lot in my personal life. This provided a fertile ground in which to let a story take root, but I didn't really know what form it should take.

The spark came when I was reading a short Japanese manga featuring a somewhat similar scene, also involving an intersex girl like the main character in my own story. While that story was quite short and rough, it nevertheless gave me the inspiration to take its basic concept and come up with a scenario which would cover the topics I thought were relevant. The creative process before I started with writing was relatively brief and quite intense as usual as my subconsciousness gleefully reached me more and more things to add to complete the story.

As a result it's barely recognizable as the original story which inspired me, but more a collection of my own memories and experiences, as well as dreams, fantasies and wishful thoughts wrapped around the simple framework commonly referred to as 'overused', namely that of finding true love. Naturally it's just that at its core, but the characters I created I think are both filled to the brim with aspects of myself, making them quite realistic. While I took some liberal shortcuts in the (anonymous) main character's situation to not burden her overly with the complexities I deal with in my own life as a hermaphrodite, I nevertheless think I managed to give a reasonable explanation for why she feels so bitter and resentful to the people around her.

It's this mixture of bitterness and hopeful optimism which I know so well from my own life and which made its way into the story without me even having to consciously think about it. The main character is basically just this side of me. Resentful, wishful, sad but filled with optimism. Downcast yet always looking ahead. It's the me I both hate and love.

The Cathy character is essentially a part of me as well. She symbolizes understanding, fully devoted love and loyalty. Also safety and strength. She's also me, but maybe more the 'me' I am trying to or wish to be. When I think of the few times that I have felt at ease while together with someone I think I can glimpse the character of Cathy in myself a bit too.

There is one scene in the story which was basically in the original comic as well, but which I have added heavily to with my own experiences. The original story was a lot more casual about things getting resolved despite the dramatic and painful reveal. In my experiences that's not how it goes. The running off, feeling crushed and ready to just expire on the spot is more close to how things would go. Then the part I hate the most: the person who just hurt me coming to look up on me. You just want them to vanish. It's been too many times that it was me like that: lying there in the dark, wanting to run away or cease existing, but knowing that I'm trapped and the problem won't go away. It was somewhat painful to write that part of the story, but it adds the depth which in my opinion was needed for the part afterwards.

Then the big question: is it an erotic story? If so, it would be the first time I have written one. In my opinion it barely qualifies as 'erotic'. Sure, it has some parts in it which are fairly descriptive, but my focus was on the emotional and mental part, not the physical. In my judgement it's got only the necessary parts in it to make its point, namely to show the struggles an intersex person like me would go through while finding true love.

Is it a mere fantasy, then? One could definitely look at it like that, though in the understanding that it reflects the true feelings someone like me would struggle with whenever the topic of sexuality and relationships is raised. It's in some ways a pleasant dream about a happy ending, about a fantasized reality in which one would find the perfect person who'd in one fell swoop bring the waves of understanding and compassion which were so sorely lacking before. To put it bluntly: yes, I wish I was the story's main character.

Having had a taste of what the pleasures and joys of a relationship can be like I'd definitely put this story under 'wishful dreaming', maybe as part of a Harlequin-series aimed at intersex individuals to make them feel less lonely in this dark and cruel world.

And then there's always the question of how relevant such a thing truly is. Being infatuated with another person is nice and all, but what does it truly amount to in the end? Unless it really improves the quality of one's life, it would be better to just forget about it. Call it the sceptic's view.

Having seen the many sides of love, sexuality, sex and relationships over the past years while collecting more emotional scars in the process than could possibly be health, I am unquestionably sceptical and veering into sheer bitterness at other times, easy to denounce, ridicule and reject such matters, while cradling the traumatized part of my psyche protectively.

Even so, a tiny flame of hope inside my mind is still lit, lighting the way as I wait for my own Cathy to appear.

I'm only human, after all.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Living Life Through The Haze Of Trauma

Despite a number of studies on the subject, the understanding of the long-term, permanent changes psychological trauma can inflict on a person is even today still a very immature topic. The appreciation for the daily ordeal those afflicted with post-traumatic conditions like PTSD and DID have to go through is therefore also very limited. To the average person it seems unimaginable that you can't just put 'something bad' just behind you, like a bad memory. Even many psychologists and psychiatrists today reject the possibility that someone would suffer PTSD without having spent some time on a battlefield.

"You don't have PTSD. You haven't fought as a soldier." That's (paraphrased) what a psychiatrist of Dimence in the Netherlands told me a few years ago. This despite even the official manual for psychological and related disorders (the DSM) having acknowledged a long time ago already that any type of traumatic event has the possibility of culminating in PTSD. Whether a traumatic event actually turns into a long-term affliction, which is to say a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depends on a number of factors.

One factor is the type and severity of the event. Generally it is something which takes one so far outside of one's comfort zone that it shatters the ability to feel safe afterwards. A battlefield is a good place for this, but things like long-term abuse, severe physical violence and the like can occur anywhere and any time. For me what caused my PTSD and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) was about a decade's worth of questioning the true nature of my body, discovering my intersex condition and becoming caught between the wildly differing conclusions of the Dutch and German medical communities. Five years worth of having Dutch psychologists and physicians trying to convince me that I am supposedly transgender, just a boy, crazy, biologically male, going to the extend of apparently falsifying medical evidence and reports.

Based upon how regular people respond to me and see me, I can only conclude that I do not have the body of a male and I am in fact intersex, though without any further medical help it's a chapter of torturous uncertainty I won't ever be able to close. This basically means that while I have PTSD, the underlying trauma which caused it is still there. I'm still trapped on the very battlefield which originally trapped me. I have to live in fear every day that it'll be my last. I have to find joy in the few moments of relative safety before I am forced into no-one's land again, praying to uncaring gods that I won't be shredded to bloody bits.

Even if nobody is actively threatening me with physical violence and to any random outsider it seems like I am doing well, especially after leaving the Netherlands and with it seemingly the bad memories behind. Trauma is never left behind. Nor are pressing, frustrating questions about one's own body. Unless I could leave this body behind I am tortured every day with the fact that I am still failing at life because I don't even know what I am. This induces a constant state of panic and restlessness in me.

I already have a hyper-acute sense of hearing and smell which wasn't such a big deal as a child, but after suffering these traumas it's even more of an issue. While I have my own apartment where I should feel safe, I feel constantly threatened and unsafe. There's nothing concrete I can point to, of course. It's just with noises that make me feel first agonized, then terrified, then frightened out of my skull. The ticking heating system is a major source and the reason why I do not use the living room any more as the sound is just too strong there.

Hearing the upstairs neighbours walking. Low-frequency *thump* *thump* sounds on a regular basis. It annoys me on some level, but it also terrifies me. I cannot bear to hear it for very long, but have to drown it out with some other noise or music. While lying in bed small noises. Something ticking here, something going *plonk* elsewhere. It brings me to full alert with my heart thumping in my chest, unable to sleep again for another half hour at least. Without earplugs I'd be a proper insomnia patient.

And even then there are the memories and dreams. Half-remembered dreams and nightmares related to things I'd really like to forget about. Regular flashbacks during the day. Sights and sounds bringing back horrible memories. Interpreting things said or written by others in a completely wrong manner because of some memory sneaking in and morphing it into something completely different without me noticing. Same with social situations, or on the work floor. Moments when you have to fight off paranoia about your co-workers or random people on the street or in stores. Your own mind is projecting your fears and memories onto your environment until it feels like every moment you're alive is just reliving the past over and over.

Then there's seeing bodies. Human bodies, especially those of attractive women. They make me feel bad, reminding me of my failure to get answers and live my life. Then there's sex appeal and just plain sex. Seeing images of women in sexually suggestive poses, even on calendars at work, is painful and horrible. Being reminded that there's such a thing as 'sex' fills me with agony and disgust. Virtually every memory I have of it is negative. I wish nothing more than for sexuality to vanish completely. Yet knowing that it's always there and that I'm not immune to it either due to it being programmed into my very genes is an agonizing reality I'm not sure I can accept.

I know what has to be done to resolve this negative cycle: have a surgeon do a proper examination, perform whatever surgery is possible with the female reproductive organs and associated tissues as I was born with so that I only have certainty and resolved questions and wishes there. This would hopefully also finally allow me to put behind the trauma I suffered in the Netherlands due to the constant denial of my very body's existence. Unfortunately I have not succeeded in finding such a surgeon. The one I had an appointment with for surgery in July this year went silent and hasn't bothered to respond to any of my communications. I keep trying new options helpful individuals offer me, but I very much doubt that there will be an end to this torturous existence.

The fear that I might be wrong about what this body of mine is after all leads me to constantly hold off on actually putting behind all these questions about what in the world this body is. I still don't know what I am seeing in the mirror. I'm just feeling confused at what I see of this body. It makes being alive a torturous thing and leads to the unfortunate urges to harm and destroy this body as I cannot help but see it as the reason for why I have to feel terrified every second.

I wish to be happy and carefree. I want to feel safe, but I can't. I try to shield myself from the cruel reality of my tortured existence by surrounding myself with happy things with no negative connotations, but reality has a way of sneaking through any defences. I don't ever want to feel the cold metal claws of trauma grip onto my brain again, to feel despair and pain wash away any possibility of reason or coherent thought until I am nothing more than a sobbing, pitiful wreck lying on the floor.

I must find a way off this battlefield, but I fear there is no end to it. No escape. No salvation. Just this unending nightmare which doesn't care whether I'm awake or asleep. I fear it won't end until I finally die. And that's probably the most terrifying thought of all.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

One Question About Giftedness I'll Never Be Able To Answer

The past week has really brought back to me rather unpleasant memories of trying to deal with being gifted, most of them school-related. Of failing at one level of education and going down a level to try it there, only to find out that it made things only much, much worse. Of grasping the basics of string and M (membranes) theory, not to mention a profound interest in the principles behind faster than light travel by space-time folding (using a space-time 'bubble'), while nearly flunking the basic Newtonian physics classes and performing poorly at best with highschool-level mathematics.

Much of my life seems to consist out of others as well as myself asking me why I can't just do those simple things if I apparently understand much more complex things so well. That's really the core question: Why do I have such an incredible hard time doing anything simple if I'm so smart?

Only answer I have found so far is, while truthful, a rather simplistic 'because it's boring'. I described this in the previous post as well to some extent. I always feel this pull to focus on cool, shiny, highly complex projects. Something involving high-level mathematics and complex engineering processes, doing something I preferably haven't done before yet to create something awesome and amazing which approaches sheer magic. Things like human-level AI, a new, superior processor architecture or artificial organs matching or exceeding the capabilities of their organic counterparts. You know, things which are quite possible if you just spend some time and effort on it.

For me to function on a daily basis involves a lot of pulling myself away from the tasks I enjoy to do the boring, menial tasks. Like eating. Or getting the mail. Or sleeping. That's not to say that they have to be tasks I dreamed up myself to be interesting, though. If someone points me to a project or task where I feel I can challenge myself in some way that's just fine too. Even assembling some Ikea furniture works well at times. Those can be vicious projects, as many can attest to.

It's still hard to explain this properly, though. Heck, I cannot even properly grasp it myself what I'm really trying to say here. Why can't I do simple things? Why do I get distracted so easily if not challenged? What exactly draws me in a task? What is challenging and interesting to me? What motivates and demotivates me?

Supposedly I'm really smart. While I don't like IQ numbers, the results of the test I took at a Dutch institute many years ago combined with some additional research would place me somewhere pretty high, with a wide distribution of things I'm really good at, only limited by my 'crippled' auditory skills as a result of being a purely visual learner. I'm a complete autodidact, have photographic memory and tend to be very independent. Yet this appears to be all just a handicap when it comes to daily life.

In the case of giftedness it's, as many have said before me, a matter of living in a different plane of existence. It's like you can see more than others, see connections and possibilities they can't. You can see this big, beautiful world, nay, universe of options around you, but you feel crushed every time you realize that it's just you seeing it. Every time you have to work in 'their' plane of existence you feel downcast, out of place and quickly demotivated. You just want to go back to your own plane, your own place of being.

Even as I write the above I feel like it'd just seem like gobbly-gook nonsense to many reading it. It's more of a way to visualize and describe what I feel and what I have heard others like me describe before. The feeling of not really belonging in society, of having no interest in 'common' tasks, of always seeking the next intellectual challenge, of never picking something 'easy'.

In some ways it's good, but also terrible for me to realize all of this so clearly again. As if me having been born with a super-unusual body wasn't enough to make me feel not quite part of human society - especially after the treatment I got because of it - my giftedness has always been that 'thing' which I have. Even as a young child I was always the quick learner, the technical-minded one, the one who got always jokingly referred to as 'the professor'. I also always had to hear how high people's expectations were of me. I have no idea how highly people thought or still think of me, but I always feel like I haven't lived up to any of their expectations, never mind any of my own.

I didn't pick to be born intersex. I didn't pick to be born gifted. I didn't pick this society which deals very poorly with either. It's my burden and curse which I'll somehow have to learn to live with. Explaining it to others so that they can maybe understand me better would be a good first step.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

On Intelligence And Feeling Not Quite Human

Often 'feeling human' appears to be synonymous with 'being like everyone else'. In a way this makes sense since a society is supposed to be composed out of more or less like-minded individuals, with the more deviation from what's considered 'normal', the less cohesion you'd find. Society is order. This also implies that relatively small issues can tear a society apart, even if it's on issues such as food, drink and entertainment.

Inversely this means that for an individual to be considered part of a society they have to 'fit in', i.e. they need to have sufficient overlap in all areas considered relevant by a society. This is the source of a great deal of strife for many individuals. Sadly also for myself. Even ignoring the chaos surrounding my intersex condition there are plenty of reasons why I'd have trouble fitting in.

There are small details, such as me not smoking cigarettes, not drinking alcohol or coffee, not eating meat and fish, these because the way I experience things like taste and smell in a very different way from what is considered 'normal'. I found out that I'm at least in the relatively small group of so-called 'super-tasters', which are people for whom the experience of especially 'bitter' and related taste is far more pronounced, making ethanol, coffee and such to be decidedly unpleasant to taste. The social impact of this is relatively minor, but can make situations slightly awkward when everyone around you is drinking alcohol and you settle for some soda or fruit juice.

There are also other physical differences, such as me being ambidextrous, meaning that my brain doesn't make any difference between my right and left hand in terms of capabilities. Being able to use a mouse, pen, (power) tools, etc. equally well with either hand is a proper asset in my view. It's also fun to freak out north-paws (right-handed people) by configuring your desktop setup in a south-paw setup. It's a great party trick and socially more of an asset, really.

If it was just that I'd be doing okay, I guess. Unfortunately, even long before my intersex condition became such a hugely negative thing in my life, something else I was born with was overshadowing my life already. It's the kind of thing which nobody who doesn't have it truly understands and which is decidedly both a blessing and a terrible curse. This is largely because in a society where everything is more or less based around average or slightly-below average intelligence, being highly intelligent (gifted) puts you right outside of what people can deal with. Worse, it leaves you in a situation where neither you nor your environment knows what to do about it.

The positive part about me being gifted has been an uncanny ability to absorb knowledge and skills, also thanks to the photographic memory I was blessed with. I can scan through a text on any subject and give a perfect summary. I'm also in a quite rare group of gifted people, too, as I'm a visual-spatial learner as it's called. This means that I do not think in 'words', like most people but in visual impressions. To me anything spoken and anything audible is just another 'image'. When I listen to a song I see the song: its structure and colouring. I can also link parts of its structure to other songs based on what it looks like to me.

Not being able to deal well with spoken language puts me at a distinct disadvantage, sadly. If I don't focus on a conversation so that I can convert it to a visual representation, it's gone. This makes one on one discussions quite tiring and something like a two-hour meeting at work into near-torture. It also means that I have a distinct preference for communicating with others in a non-auditory manner, such as via written messages on internet forums, IRC and the like. While I'm very much an extroverted personality, many mistake me for an introverted person for this reason.

There's also a thing like knowing and seeing too much. To a gifted person usually the world doesn't look black or white, but has so many greys and colours that it's often hard to exactly see all the different nuances. This also makes it hard to communicate with non-gifted people, as they tend to function in this 'black and white' world, with or without a few shades of grey mixed in. Sometimes it feels like you're trying to talk with a blind person about the wonderful colours and shapes one can see on this planet and in the universe. An uninterested blind person at that, who is more than content to stay that way.

It all leads to motivation or the lack thereof. School is very hard, especially for visual-learners like me, as without sufficient stimulation we tend to drift off with our thoughts and focus towards more interesting topics and projects, thus flunking the subject and getting punished for being 'bad' at something, while all that's the problem is merely a lack of motivation. I was supposedly doing 'poor' at mathematics during highschool, while I was merely bored and doing quantum mechanics instead, reading up on my M membranes, string theories and different approaches to the Theory of Everything (solving the contradictions in special relativity, gravity and other theories). I saw logarithmic equations and classical (Newtonian) physics merely as tools you read up on in a book when you needed them, not as a required skill to learn then and there.

Teachers of course don't understand this. Despite it being clear that I wasn't dumb due to the hundreds of books I had read at that point, not to mention winning the story contest the first year with a 'very mature' contribution according to the jury, they were frustrated with my seemingly inability to learn certain things. All of it led to things being dumbed down, resulting in me losing every more motivation until at the end I was mostly just reading print-outs from scientific articles, working on a concept for artificial, magnetically actuated muscles and reading books during classes while still acing most tests after scanning the textbook once. I didn't do homework either, yet the final year I easily made it through the final exams with relatively good scores. Imagine if I had actually been motivated.

Where I am today, when I ignore the intersex mess again, I still don't feel that I really belong in society due to my intersex condition. The more I go to the fringes of society, where I meet up with the other nerds and similar social outcasts, the more I come across like-minded people and the more I feel at home. Sadly that's not really where one can make a living in society. At work I notice that few of my colleagues can understand the way I think or work. They can just decide to do a task and embark on it right away. I first have to analyze it, then come up with an approach which is most optimal and implement the whole thing in less time than they took while preventing any bugs and other potential issues. Along the way I'll also come up with at least half a dozen related ideas to optimize other parts of the process and/or project.

To then have to work together with others who don't think like me nor understand or appreciate how this brain of mine works is then borderline impossible. It's frustrating for both sides and not very productive as most of the time we'll just be feeling lost about what the other is thinking. Communication suffers and ultimately the others give up on me while I become completely demotivated and try to find something to challenge me instead. Meanwhile I'll be feeling useless, incapable of doing anything useful, let alone capable of functioning in a team. So much for motivation.

It makes me feel like I'm some kind of alien in a human society at times. I don't think and function like a human. I don't even see, taste or smell things the way they do. My mind is constantly filled with the most wondrous ideas, concepts and prototypes for amazing technologies for robotics, AI and such, which I have to keep tearing myself away from to focus on some mundane task which I'm quite sure I could have automated or otherwise improved on if given a week to work out the details. No chance, of course, so I have to keep suppressing these thoughts.

All of it makes me wish I could just go home, to whatever planet I actually came from. I don't want to be 'human' if it means giving up being who and what I am. Not to mention what I wish to become, just so that I can 'fit in'.