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Yesterday my counselor asked if I'd like to move from biweekly to monthly sessions...because she feels I'm doing quite well, managing the challenges that come along, and doing well taking new steps as old ones are done. She says I should feel free at any time to ask for more frequent ones if I need them, whether because of present stresses or because of working more on old backlog thanks to the present going better.

This is hugely encouraging to me. I trust her assessment very much.
 
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It turns out that the reason this particular bunch of shaving gel absolutely failed to foam up well is that it was shampoo.

I'm off for a checkup this morning. Time to update the blood chemistry tests, and I'm really looking forward to finding out what's up.
 
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I have new shoes.

Now, to a lot of people this wouldn't be a big deal. But those of you who know just how sick I've been in recent years may get a sense, and I'll see if I explain it to the rest of you.

I spent five years really pretty much housebound, you see. And early in that time I developed very severe edema in my left foot, ankle, and shin. I had to wear sandals, unless I were going to try hunting out men's size 15 or 16 or so, instead of my regular 12-13. (I'm not sure any available size would actually have done the job, but it would have to have been at least that much.) It was depressing. I couldn't go anywhere much and couldn't wear anything appropriate if I could, and it was just a very bad loop.

This year, of course, I've been improving a lot, and with winter starting to close in, it became clear that I both should and could have some real shoes again. So last night I went out, hunted unsuccessfully for a while, and then got first-rate service at a nearby Macy's. (I've realized that I take it as a good sign whenever I run into someone who's paid by commission and willing to talk slowly. It seems to go with quality attention.) Now I have a nice pair of well-fitted black casual oxfords, which will do me just fine.

I am really, really happy about this. 
ceri: Pale woman casting a spell (White Witch)
Ahhh. I got out to the Ingersoll Center's weekly trans support group for the first time since, um, several months ago. (I'm too lazy to go look it up, but it was summer.) I've just had one thing after another, but resolved to make it happen again, started specifically carving my schedule to allow it, and this week it fell into place.

It is so, so good to be in a roomful of people who actually do know what this part of my life is like.
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I get concerned pings from friends every few days lately, and I must say that it means a lot to me to know that folks out there are thinking about my well-being and concerned and seeing if there's anything wrong that maybe they could help fix. I appreciate it more than I can say. In years gone by it's been a literal life-saver more than once, and a comfort, blessing, and joy many, many times. Some of you I've known a long time, some of you I've only gotten to know and like this very year, but I appreciate everyone who writes stuff I like to read and leaves me comments that fill the plenum of fun, useful, interesting responses.

It's taken me this long to realize that boredom is a big part of my response to net discourse right now, along with the anger and unhappiness I'd already identified and embarked on measures to separate myself from. I guess it's not a huge surprise, exactly, but it's one thing to acknowledge a possibility intellectually and another to look at oneself and say, yes, this is actually for real part of my mind and soul right now. Sure enough: some of what I've been thinking of as maybe any of several other emotions is boredom. I've read (and written) so many words on some too-familiar topics, generally to little if any real use.

It's not all futile, of course. Many of you reading this have influenced me in big ways and small, and I know I've returned the favor in some cases. But even the productive stuff is still so much the same again...but it turns out, really, that what I'm bored with is the act of writing down my thoughts and feelings on a regular basis, as opposed to talking about them. I like talking again. I like anticipating times of talking, and reflecting on them after they've happened. Using my words typety-type style just feels like so much extra work and so much limited right now.

What will this evolve into in the long run? I don't have the foggiest idea, nor any concern about it. It'll do what it does. I feel that right now I'm doing as well as I ever have in listening to my impulses, thinking about them, and dealing constructively with them, and that's what matters. When they change, my responses will too.

And that's why I'm posting so little at this point.

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I've noticed that when I set myself a timetable to do anything, even something I like doing, on a regular schedule, I end up resenting the constriction even though I freely chose it and like the activity itself.

I think that part of it is how tightly associated that sort of "do X every day" schedule is, in my life so far, with medical stuff. Take my prescriptions, measure my glucose levels, clean the air filters, and so on. So part of my mind thinks "that's medical and I'm tired of it" given the fact of the scheduling.

But part of it is that I'm still in the midst of this general disengagement from external obligations that aren't in my primary interests. I've been reading some about memory and consciousness, among other topics that support the historical research for Project N,  and I find research support for an intuition of mine. I've long felt that I remember most clearly when I'm in physical or mental conditions similar to the ones in which events I'm trying to recall took place. And, it seems, memories can bring with them evocations of those interior states, more strongly for some people than others. I hazard the guess that I'm at the high end of susceptibility to this and that I have more and varied traumas to recall than many folks.

So it makes sense: this urge I have to drop out of things I've done in the past is in part a very sensible response to the realities of memory on a physical, electro-chemical level. I need to remember this, and think about how to set it up so that the next time I want to do a regular-reporting or regular-posting kind of thing it doesn't hit on the same recollections.


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I had another small chunk of insight today about my online withdrawal.

Ever since I discovered BBSing and then Usenet, the net's had to carry the load of most of my social life, because health and circumstances kept me so isolated. And it's done it really well. I am profoundly grateful for its presence and for all the wonderful people who've been so good to and for me over the years.

But now I actually have more people to talk to face to face, starting with my counselor and soon (I hope) to include more folks of other kinds, including some of the neat people I got to know online. And what I'm finding is simple: given the real thing, I just don't find what has been for me a surrogate as appealing anymore.

Thinking about this way, I am even less guilty-feeling about it. :) 

Surnames

Sep. 15th, 2009 11:29 pm
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This isn't an announcement of a decision made or anything close to it; this is me thinking aloud and knowing I'm in the very early stages of consideration. I like to be clear about the difference.

In the wake of turn off social media presences in my legal name I find myself, first of all, really, really enjoying the mental quiet. More time to be purely at my own pace, thinking my own thoughts. I'm in touch with nearly everyone I want to still be in touch with, but at a slower tempo. So that's good right there.

What I've been wondering about the last couple days is just how much of a tie I ever want there to be publicly between my old identity and my new one. It's not an impermeable wall or anything, I've written far too much overlapping stuff already for that. (I mean, I could ditch this choice of name and start over but I don't really feel inclined to do that.) The deal is that my surname is rare in the first place and very rare in my professional field, so much so that it'd pretty much always be a flag "yep, that's me".

Wondering in an idle sort of way whether I want to have that happen or not.
 
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Not complaining, either. For best results, imagine the subject line spoken in the pleased style of animated Ringo, about 2 minutes into this clip from Yellow Submarine

I continue to block myself from reading sites where I tend to get into lengthy unproductive arguments, or simply get depressed by the displays of arrogant, bigoted callousness. It's not a pure break—I do end up editing my hosts file every few days to take the occasional peek at this site or that. But I always end up putting the blocks back in after just a few hours' reading, or even less.

This is my second month in a row of making a small donation and planning to skip a meal or two out to make up for it, for the satisfaction of doing something. Last month it was a donation to my Representative, since he's one of the folks in the House of Representatives committed to blocking any "health care reform" that lacks a public insurance option. It's not enough—they need to scrap all talk of individual mandates, and for that matter just go to sane, sensible, time-tested single-payer of some sort. But it'd be a real improvement, unlike a bill without it, and besides, he's reliably a good voter and worth some support.

This month it was the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. I can't say I agree with all their positions, but I can say that I'm sure they're fighting important fights and clearly deserving of my support. Furthermore, the kind of disagreement I'm having with some of their stance is the productive kind, where I find myself challenged by a clash between facts I recognize as true, principles I agree are moral and justice, and policy stances I've taken in the past that now seem less than entirely satisfactory. That's the sort of reflecting I'm happy to do right now, and much better for my soul than the Nth iteration of trying to persuade homophobes and reactionaries of basic realities they'll keep denying anyway.

It feels good to know that I'm doing some tangible good. I'd like to take part in some activism myself, but right now health still makes it not feasible. Supporting others in the good fight is a marvelous cure for feelings of powerlessness.

Now that I've got a bit of money in my account again, and more coming (particularly after I get this next review written), it's time to do some spending on something trans-related for myself. Not sure what yet, but it'll be something for fun, that makes me happy and feel like I'm making progress on expressing the person within. You'll read all about it, I'm sure. :)



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Something came into focus for me this afternoon, as I was exchanging e-mail with an old friend about, among other things, the temptation to believe that the definitions we use are as objective as the world we apply them to. 'Tain't so, of course. Both our categories and the options within them are definitions we construct, and the world isn't obliged to conform. But in practice we can't be always stopping to define stuff if we're actually engaged in any kind of exchange with others. We use available definitions where they don't miss too horribly badly and sort of roll on....

But right now I have very few obligations to be engaged in that kind of exchange. Meanwhile, I do have some real need to be reexamining more of my own mental landscape and my definition of it. I hadn't explicitly connected these things before, but it seems obvious as soon as I did it: I am withdrawing from blogs, forums, and other net interaction so that I can spend more time in self-definition. I'd been thinking "I'm withdrawing, and I'm re-defining", but I see that the connection is stronger than that.

My counselor's been encouraging me all along to make sure I take the proper time to deal with all of this stuff, both the actions called for and the thoughts and feelings they stir up. So this is very much part of that overall therapeutic project. And I'm glad to know that.

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I worked out why I kept coming up short on carbohydrate counts: I was preparing my meals with carb counts suitable for having three meals a day, and three snacks with a carb count adding up to the same as one of those meals. But in fact I have two real meals a day, and four-five snacks with a carb count that adds up to a meal's worth. So what I will try this coming week is adding some carbs to each meal, and a bit to my snacks, and I think that'll get me where I want to be. Math will resume on Monday.

I am having much greater difficulty than I'd like keeping away from political-type blogs I know would just leave me pointlessly angry and miserable. So far I've resisted the urge to go back and edit my /etc/hosts file again, and shame keeps me away from it, but damn is it hard. I need to be reading and writing more, I really do.

In part to support the above, I'm also culling down my music collection. Like a lot of people online a lot, I have way, way more music than I can ever actually listen to, and I simply don't need most of it. I'm giving things a chance to win my favor again, and if they don't, they get archived and/or nuked. I have the packrat habits formed in pre-Internet days, when if you passed up a chance to get a rare album you might literally never get another chance at any price you could afford. But that's no longer the case. As with my bookshelves, I'm aiming for a condition where every track is a wanted track, something that makes me glad to play it when I'm in the mood for that kind of tune, that has good associations, that is an active asset to me.

Now that I'm over the hump on medical crisis—stuff remains to do, but it's all incremental now, I think—I'm beginning to think and (more importantly, perhaps) feel about where to go with gender identity. I'm still pretty clueless, but it's a more comfortable sort of lack of clue right now. I have time to work on it with Cassie, my counselor, and to get advice from fine folks like readers like yourselves, and read, and think and ponder, and I'm confident that by the time my next birthday rolls around early in October, I'll be moving somewhere on it.

More to come. :)

 
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How else to start but by defining terms? 
 
When I write about things serving as symbols and images, I mean something specific but a little hard to articulate. I do not mean allegory: I don't much like allegory, and can only thoroughly engage with fiction where things are first and foremost, themselves. What I like as an extra layer, though, is when the fictional things, which are themselves, evoke something about the real world. A lot of the fantasy, sf, and horror I like says things about reality by giving what is in reality just states of mind a more tangible meaning.
 
So, vampires. Take Stoker's Dracula. Dracula is a vampire, not an allegory of something. But he caught on in late Victorian England partly because he was also a great embodiment of a lot of Victorian fears about sex, that it was thing which had great power but was innately defiling and ultimately corrupting to society as a whole. Anne Rice successfully re-riffed on the theme, building a foundation of innate glamour partly because we're less inclined to think of sex as innately yucky, but reworking the corrupting force within and without. 
 
I've been thinking lately that vampires can also serve as symbols of transsexuality. Consider. They are, first of all, exotic, and fit no easy standard category. They're rare. They're strange: they don't quite fit into society, though they can go disguised for a time. They can be deeply glamorous, but they are ultimately dangerous, and normal people must rally to defeat them. They are parasitic, dependent for their continued existence on resources others give, or are compelled to give. They're imposters, having only a semblance of what all normal people have for real—vitality, in the case of vampires, of course. 
 
This all sounds pretty familiar. I wonder if some of the stories I've been stalled on might work with this in mind as I appraise and revise. Might be some good drama in the interplay between this innately damaging existence and people struggling with ones that are seen the same way but aren't. Hmm.


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Counseling was really wonderful today. Cassie listened as carefully as ever, and had a lot of helpful pointers in the way identifying specific things grinding me down right now and going and ahead and dealing with them as genuinely serious, rather than brushing them off or trying to proceed just as if they weren't there. Long-time friends will know that I'm sometimes prone to a sort manic stoicism—when I first read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series, I found some familiar things in the Casseline Brotherhood's approach to personal challenges. There were some other things of note in today's session that I want to write up after I've assimilated them a bit more, too, particularly about reinterpreting some of the mysteries in my past. Great stuff.

As I wrote last week, I've been feeling resentful about the dislocations imposed by diabetes on my eating and particularly on my cooking, just as I was getting underway with a genuinely good routine for more or less the first time ever. So what does buddy Mark have for me today? A link to a collection of diabetic-friendly crockpot recipes, and then a link to a second such collection! Happy me! I am plotting shopping and cooking e'en now.

Last week was damn rough. But this week is looking up a lot.
 
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One of the things I wrote in my round-up of thoughts of living with depression is that it's important to recognize when you're just putting your face in the blender, and stop it. Another thing is that it's much easier to recognize others' need to do something and encourage them to do it than to apply this kind of advice to oneself. However, I'm trying.

The blender in question for me is political blogging. I was raised with an appreciation for social engagement. My parents grew up in the Depression, and Dad fought in World War II, and they always took the life of the nation seriously, starting with the idea that there is a life of the nation (and the whole world) and not just whatever works on corporate balance sheets. I like ideas and am interested in their consequences, and I know that many important good things come only through political action.
 
But not everything political is actually useful. There are things that responsible adults have to do, starting with voting and with being informed enough to vote (including recognizing when there are no acceptable options on the ballot, too—least evil is an important category but not always one that compels a vote). And there's stuff that has to be looked at between elections, most particularly at the moment internal challenges to established party figures via contested primaries and the like, and there's stuff that happens outside parties, including all the various manifestations of research and lobbying. But then there's just obsession and bickering.

In recent years I've repeatedly resolved to disengage from a lot of the basically sterile political back-and-forth online, and to use that energy for other things, but it never seems to last. But then things are different for me this time around. I have both the medical crisis at hand and the long-term gender concerns to occupy such time and energy as I can give them—learning about options and then doing something about them. So. I've just wrapped up my first quarter on Weight Watchers, started before I knew about all the medical stuff, and now I'm emerging from the first wave of crisis diagnosis and treatment. (There's more coming, but the pace is slowing substantially.) I have all of that to deal with, and my work.

This is my goal for the next six months: identify and donate to one worthy cause each quarter, to some group that seems to me to be lobbying effectively for causes of concern to me. And I'm going to try to keep away from every political blog I read that has a tendency toward vile stuff in the commentary, because that's upsetting to me and I need not to be pointlessly upset. Others can fight it out in the bloggic trenches; I want to focus on helping support those doing the most directly applicable work, and otherwise get on with my own life a bit more.

We shall see how well I manage this.
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I've been really blah a lot lately, and want to write down my thoughts so far about what's up with it. Cut tag in place for those who just don't need the extra blah-talk.

Read more... )

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(This is, more or less, insider politics. If you don't know what I'm referring to, don't sweat it.)

My thought: I simply don't have the energy to follow any of this stuff properly, and the world doesn't need any more people holding forth in ignorance. So I'm tuning out for a bit as I get my act together - dropping a few journals and blogs, maybe throwing a site or two into /etc/hosts to help myself not throw my face in the blender. I have a real obligation to myself and to people who care about and support me to deal with the immediate health issues—I need to not risk dying when there's stuff I can do to reduce the risk, basically. And I have a matching obligation to be aiming myself with some good long-term planning, to avoid the kind of death-courting rut I fell into.

So. Doing my best not to read, not to get sucked into, fights that I have nothing to add to, no help to give, nothing but the risk of being ground down at a time when I need all the scraps of physical and mental energy I have.

ceri: Pale woman casting a spell (White Witch)
I'm very shy. I'm excruciatingly aware of my limited social experience and fearful of making trouble. But I had my counselor as well as real-life friends and some of you who read this journal all urging to me to give a try to some trans group time, and in particularly to the Ingersoll Center's weekly sessions. So tonight I worked up my courage and went.
 
Wow. Just wow. And then some more wow.

There were about 25 people there, with many quadrants of the gender galaxy represented: MTF and FTM transsexuals, some androgynes, a couple of two-spirited people with their own approaches to balance, at least one intersexed person with a different kind of balance in mind...I forget what all other identifications came up, but it was a lot. And in terms of experience, people ranged from having come to a decision about their desired gender identity later than I did to having done so decades ago. 

I think I posted about the very high level of courtesy I've encountered in the Seattle Counseling Service and Capitol Hill Medical offices. that prevailed here, too. This was by far the best-managed group therapy and support I've encountered, with fantastically careful and effective facilitators, but everyone there was trying on their end, too. There was respect and courtesy all around, even with strongly contrasting experiences and priorities. I felt safe and welcome.

It's also now the first place where I'm identified out loud from the get-go as Ceri, which I like very much, and special thanks to all of you who were encouraging a little while back on the subject of claiming a name.

This is going to become part of my routine, I'm thinking.

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I've always had this small bit of luck: I've never been told "We can't do the thing that would help most because you're too fat." This has always been a slight surprise to me, given how heavy I am, but welcome. Well, that run came to an end today. I am too fat for the kind of compression hose the vascular specialist would prefer that I use, so I'll be making do with something partial (once we find out what Medicaid will cover) and monitoring to make sure it's doing something for the rest of my legs.

I'm discouraged.

I don't need efforts at cheer or reassurance or any of that stuff. I'll be keeping at it, doing what there is to do, seeking the relief that can be had. Things will change. I just need some time right now to go ahead and deal with one of those hurts I've been dreading for a very long time that finally arrived.
 
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I'm very low today. I'l explain why after I'm out of the slump. It's not "oh, yeah, you're gonna die" news or anything like that, just a huge nuisance because of circumstances I hate and can't fix.

I don't need anyone's efforts to cheer me up. I just need some time to get my footing back. Posting later.
 
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Queen Emily of Questioning Transphobia is guest-blogging over at Feministe at the moment, and has a great post up about what the sex declarations on forms mean in practice for trans people:

A small example: Imagine you went to the hospital, with stroke-like symptoms (it was later found to be “complicated migraines”). Because you want to actually be treated, you do not out yourself as transsexual. When the triage nurse filled in the forms, he puts female, and you leave it there. All is fine, the doctor for once treats you seriously, possibly because of the presence of your mum, aunt and cousin (quick lesson you learn when dealing with doctors while trans: there’s safety in cis scrutiny. Bring your mum or your partner with you into the examination room).

Fast forward to a week later, and I’m (sorry, you) at a neurology department to see a specialist to organize an MRI, when one of the reception people comes out to see you and starts screaming that you’re a GODDAMN LIAR because your forms say I’m female but some quirk of the computer system has found your birthdate and surname and pinged up an old treatment from when you were six. Because of this, they decide that your name isn’t real either, and it takes three trips to different departments with your changed birth certificate (changed in name but not in sex). In the end, they put a post-it on your file, with your name, your legal bloody name, in quotation marks like it’s a fucking nickname. And these are the people who are supposed to help you.

Now imagine what happens in an emergency situation.

As she says, this is one of those things that cis people just plain don't deal with very often. I haven't run into it yet...but inevitably I will. Every trans person does. The whole post (of which I've taken just one part) is well worth your reading.

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Ceri B.

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