Monday 18 December 2006

Out of My Depth

I'm in a situation - well, two situations - that I'm having great difficulty coping with.

The first is probably the easiest: it's been absolutely, blindingly, glaringly obvious that I've lived a very solitary, lonely, and repressed life. I never had an adolescence, never did anything wild, exciting, or even slightly unwise. I believed the propaganda, that good girls - or good boys - didn't do certain things (like kiss before age 18), and besides which, I wouldn't have known how nor had the desire to. Never been to a disco, been to a bar once in my life, only been to the movies with the girl I married, had lunch maybe 6 times with another girl in my teens, I'm not just talking about an introverted nerd here, I'm talking about dangerous abnormality. Someone who was 21 before they ever got kissed.

Now I could blame my Very English Middle Class Parents and my upbringing. My sister was a party animal, got involved with the "wrong crowd" and nearly wrecked her life as the result. I went the other way, too much so. Given the fact that I had to travel 5 hours a day going to school and back, never having any friends who lived in my suburb, that might have had something to do with it too.

But really, there's nobody to blame but me. And given my hormonal screwups, dealing with being Transsexual, I can't even blame Me either, not overmuch. These things happen.

Meanwhile, married to such a stick-in-the-mud homebody "husband", my partner's social life zeroed as well. Our idea of a riotous night out was to get a pizza and read on the bed together. Always scrimping and saving, paying off the mortgage when it was 17%, pinching pennies even more when I was "between jobs" and contracts were scarce. Not much call for Rocket Scientists and Combat System Designers here in Australia.

So much of my life - about a decade of it - was spent away from home, working where the work was, then after work going to a single solitary room, and reading. My wife, the love of my life, was not with me, and going out anywhere would be weary, flat, unprofitable and stale.

I was never able to do the after-work male pubcrawling/bonding bit. Sorry, brain not actually set up to think that way, to get inside the male hierarchical social scene.

When my transition first started, my partner started becoming more outgoing, gregarious, it was wonderful to see. While she had a stick-in-the-mud husband, she felt she couldn't go out. It wasn't that I'd ever forbade her - for how could I forbid another adult to do anything - or even disaproved, she just felt she couldn't.

I tried to do the same thing, but she was out dancing or socialising 6 days a week, sometimes seven. I tried to ask for one day per week, then when that didn't work out, one day per month to go out myself, but somehow I always had to cancel the arrangements as she had paid for some tickets, or had promised she'd be there to a friend, or had to help out with the catering, or whatever.

Never mind, I had lots and lots of time with my little son, it was not just no imposition, I rather liked staying at home. I didn't want to go out, really. Where would I go? The weekly meeting of the wargamers - but you had to arrange the game in advance, and I could never do that, opponents got tired after the fourth time you apologised for not making it. Maybe the SF society. I really had no idea.

There was one evening, an event held once a year, that I did want to go to. But Carmen didn't arrive back until 3 hours after she said she would, so it was far too late. I got upset then, she hadn't realised how much it meant to me, and we had a good talk and cuddle session instead. Which I enjoyed more than if I'd gone.

But now I have everyone, and I do mean everyone, my shrink, my friends, even people here at the Suporn clinic all telling me that I have a fully functional, even enjoyable body now, and that I should go LIVE A LITTLE.

Trouble is, I haven't the faintest idea how to.

I'll be getting up before dawn, dilating, cleaning up afterwards, seeing my boy off to school, going to the Uni, sitting in front of a computer, working, getting up from my chair, collecting my boy from school, dilating again while he stays with his grandparents or mother if she's not spending the night with her boyfriend (she does that 6 days a week), then playing with him until bedtime, then a bath, then bed.

I feel as if I should live a little, that not to do so would be unhealthy, spiritually and psychologically. But I'm not sure I want to, I certainly don't know how to, and am totally sure that unless this life regime changes, I'll have zero opportunity anyway. Canberra is, after all, notorious for its complete lack of social life for over-25's, and precious little for those under 25.

OK, that's the easy situation. Things will probably change, and despite the fact that I'm an ugly 48-year old sexually repressed virgin who isn't even sure she's not asexual, I'll get a life. If I decide I want one, which I probably will.

Now the difficult situation. You see, I've been a member of a number of support fora, various mailing lists, and the like. Because my Google-Fu is Strong, and because I've had to do so much research on my own condition, I've managed to help a few others. OK, many others, maybe over a hundred. Yes, I've saved a number of lives too, and do you have any idea what it's like when someone comes up to you and says "Thank you for saving my life"?

Do you know what it's like when you get an International Reputation for being some sort of Den-Mother, a combination of Ask Abbey and Mother Theresa when you know you haven't got the faintest idea yourself, you've just been in worse situations and so can see the bright side and be encouraging? Do you know what it's like to have Private Messages and e-mails calling you a Saint and not joking, when you know your feet are of clay?

What do you do when word gets around, and people you've never met point you out as someone who's helped many others?

I've been treated here at the Suporn Clinic with more kindness than I have ever been treated before. More kindness than the rest of my life put together. I've recieved e-mails, and phonecalls, and SMS messages, and goodness knows how many expressions of support on various mailing lists I belong to. And have you read the comments on some of the articles on this blog?

I don't know how to handle this. Adversity, challenge, difficulty, yes, those I know, and I may not always win against them, at least I know what to do about them. Be it saving someone from suicidal ideation, or just battling bureacracy.

But Kindnesss like this, almost unlimited. Hugs. Good wishes. Genuine love, caring and affection, from so very many people, how do I deal with that? Tears are pouring down my face again, I've been so blessed. I can't believe Life can be this good.

OK, lots of psychological hangups, various bits of baggage no longer wanted on life's voyage, I'll be right, just need to shovel a lot out.

But I still don't know how to handle this outpouring of Kindness I'm receiving. It's overwhelming. Thanks, everyone. Please forgive me for this rambling, incoherent and emotional post. I'm in an ocean of Kindness, and I'm just out of my depth.


Steve Gilham said...

For the first part - story of my life too. I'd always assumed that that was the inevitable introvert/geek lifestyle - especially when combined with going to an all-boys school 11-18, and an almost all male university. Then it's a vicious circle of not having made the social mistakes early, so not knowing what to do in an unstructured situation. "Lurk moar" doesn't really seem to work in real life the way that it does in a vicarious internet substitute for a social life.

Calamity Jane said...

Oh pull yerself together yer silly cow! There, did that nastiness even things out a bit for you?

Zoe, personally I think you don't actually HAVE to do anything until you're ready. Take things at your own pace, if you want to get out more set yourself a goal of getting out of the house once a week to start with, to do something that you would enjoy. Maybe go to a museum, a gallery, a walk in the park. a movie?

I have difficulty socializing too, I had very little practice when I was a child - I came from a very small family and my parents never went out to parties or the cinema or even down the pub. They never had friends round to visit. Also being a diabetic I was never allowed to go out and do anything myself, I never developed any self confidence.

As a consequence I find it very difficult to go out and have fun like "normal" people and I get intimidated by crowds of people ie more than 3 at a time! If I get invited to a party my automatic reaction is to say no, if I say yes I spend all week fretting about it.

I've even had therapy to help me, basically I have to force myself to get out of my comfort zone which is at home. The only place I seem to function well is at work. No-one there believes that I'm shy and lacking in self confidence!

As for all the kindness I think all you can do is just absorb all that good feeling being sent your way and radiate it back to people that need it.

I don't pretend to understand the relationship you have with your wife but it seems to me that you currently have an unequal partnership and only you two can resolve that one. I'm sure that Carmen has issues and fears with what is happening to you that she is working through in her own way, maybe going out a lot is part of the process?

Time is a great healer, I know it's a cliché but things will work out for you if you just give it some time.

Enough of the pseudo psychobabble ... you're doing well, you're arranged how you should have been arranged from birth, people love you, you're a smart cookie and you are NOT ugly!

Zoe Brain said...

Jane, that was exactly what the doctor ordered. Or at least, what I needed.

I will also be very glad when I can get a baseline blood test done, and get back on the HRT regime that in the past evened out the mood swings.

The 1-hour phonecall with Carmen helped too. Talking about things like Andrew's schooling, whether she's going to the South Coast between Christmas and New Year, treating me as an equal.

More later on this, I have a shipload of psych baggage I didn't know I had.

Basic problem : I now have some means of comparison between a sorta normalish life and the past one. The relief is just ... well, I've never known anything like it, is all.

Zoe Brain said...

Oh and Steve - it cpould have been worse. You could have been in an all-girls school, and then going to Bryn Mawr, while still being Steve inside. Despite the cheerleader body.

Happens to a lot of guys, 1 in 10,000 or so.

Might I say that those Men who do the FtoM transition I consider some of the most courageous guys on the planet?

But I have a place in my heart for the Geeks too, and I wish you all the best in finding the human companionship that we all need.

Steve Gilham said...

Zoe, I'm going to second what Jane said about looks — your masthead photo actually looks kinda hot (if I can say that sort of thing without it being construed as sexual harassment in these Puritan days).

What I was clumsily trying to express in my earlier comment, indirectly & by example, is that there are a lot more people out there who have walked at least some of the same journey and can express fellow feeling, besides the ones heading to the same destination - or having the same possible route out, depending which way you look at it. FWIW I'm someone whose psychological gender usually comes out as 50/50 androgynous when doing tests for that sort of thing.

I'm personally extremely thankful that I've not had to cope with all that you have had to (in whichever direction); but one doesn't have to be uncomfortable with wearing a male body to be mentally at a loss when dealing with the male hierarchical social scene.