Life is a Journey - Make sure you get the right roadmap to the universe

I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Panic Room

We all have those mornings where we wake up, after a long stretch of horrible sleep nights, to a day of clarity and calmness, feeling refreshed and anew.  Those moments, as we all know, do not last very long and become consumed by the minutiae and general stresses of reality and life.  When they do happen however, they can be an opportunity to see what has been plainly hidden in sight all along, yet unseen.  Today was just one of a handful of those days.

I've been very stressed lately.  I haven't been fully forthcoming of the level of that stress to anyone and, instead, have been denying it's existence to myself.  Apparently, the adage I oft quip and only half believe, "IGNORE THE PROBLEM, IT WILL GO AWAY" was my downfall that would catch up from behind my back and consume me.

It was this past Saturday Evening that J and I were out to a local T-Bones Steak House.  The restaurant was packed to the gills and the wait for a table was told to us to be a half hour or more although the bar had plenty of open seating.  In an unusually refreshing twist, J motioned that we take the seating at the bar.  It was only unusual, to be sure, in the days past when I perhaps didn't blend in as well as I do now.  Five months on Estrogen, an increased sense of confidence and a more self-assured sense living my life as a woman has had profound effects both physically and mentally, and was visible outwardly to those around me.

We talked about a number of things that evening, as girlfriends do.  These were not the conversations nor the topics we shared years ago as a married couple but now as two friends would.  It was delightfully refreshing and affirming to be living and relating in ways I have always felt inside but was never able to materialize to the world, but at the same time, there was a gnawing sense of loss which I was feeling in the gut of my stomach that night.  There has been a huge paradigm shift in how we are both now separately living our lives together.  It was something that I thought a single alcoholic drink with my meal might quell.  It did not.... as I was soon to become aware.

The next morning, Sunday, I awoke feeling restless and mentally clouded and agitated.  I couldn't put my finger on it at that moment but I knew something was going to be very ominously off with my day.  I could not have imagined what was to come.  We went for a 20 mile bicycle ride together that day and when I returned home, that ominous gloomy feeling took hold and my stomach went into knots.  Within moments of feeling the tension and nausea in my stomach, I began to feel skips in my heartbeat.  I panicked.  Was I having a heart attack?  I took my blood pressure and found it wildly off and that little "broken heart" symbol indicating an arrhythmia.

I felt overwhelmed in those next few moments and hours.  For reasons beyond the obvious physical ones, I broke down and cried in waves that I had only experienced years ago as a teenager when I was going through puberty and seeing my body change in ways that left me not wanting to live any longer.  This time around, I was feeling waves of sadness, loss, guilt, fear, emptiness and loneliness all at once.  I didn't see the signs but I was truly having a panic attack (although I didn't know it at the time) .....one that lasted well into the next morning leaving me feeling like I had been run over by a truck.  I barely slept that night and called my doctor early the next morning, who graciously squeezed me into her busy schedule and saw me two hours later.

Everything looked normal but to be sure, I was ordered to have a stress test to check my heart function.  I showed up at noon the next day at the Concord Hospital  and was hooked up to an EKG machine and another machine that provided a real-time ultrasound picture of my heart beating.  I was a bit at unease, checking in with my male name.  With each person I met, I would give them only my last name so that when they would look up my record, I could immediately surmise for myself by the surprise in their reaction that I was not (to them) a woman.  The techs who came in also tried not to show their surprise although I could tell that what they were seeing was contradictory to what they had envisioned when they read my name before stepping into the room.

I took the situation I was in and turned it to to a more positive atmosphere to deal with the stress, ultimately commanding the room in the way that those who know me, know I do... and suddenly it became a very jovial and connected atmosphere between all of us.  I was asked to wear an open johnny in front so that the electrodes could be hooked up and hanging off freely.  The two women there had no problems whatsoever but the one male tech, who had been trying to rationalize me off as a lanky, lean and effeminate yet still-in-his-mind-male computer scientist as we engaged in a number of "guy topics" prior to the doctors showing up.  The quandary was that when I was not looking, he seemed to be curiously focused  on my well-past-an-A-cup breasts and very visibly puzzled.

The stress test went well.  It went better than I had expected.  I was told by the techs that this would be a tough test and that the levels of difficulty would increase to the point that only those who were in excellent shape, the young and the athletes, could manage in the latter stages.  Not only did I get up to and through the steepest of the high-speed inclines but I kept on going well past, all while simultaneously having a conversation while jogging up this endless mountain.  Ultimately, they told ME that it was OK to stop whenever I wanted to.  I turned to the doctor and and looked at her as I was jogging a 5 mph pace up a 30 degree incline, "I can do this all day.  You call it."  She smiled and we had a little bit of a back and forth as we argued over who should call an end to this.  "What time do you go home?", I asked.  She pushed the button.

It turns out that my heart is in very good shape for someone who is almost a half-century old.  All the numbers looked excellent and, after that workout, I found the stress that apparently was the culprit ahold of me these past few days, gone.  I told the three individuals in the room with me at the time that I was surprised that I passed with flying colors.  I mentioned to them that I had an overnight  "Go Bag" packed in the car in case I was admitted to the hospital for some dire issue they might find.  That brought some chuckles to them and a relief for me.

Coming back full circle to THIS morning, where this story all started.  I woke up after having one of the best night's sleep in weeks.  My blood pressure and pulse checked out fantastic and I couldn't find a skip in my heart on the several trials I made.  I know that they could come back at any time and I thought back that morning to memories long past of my childhood and realized that I have been having these events off and on my whole life.  I had just lost track and sense of recall after these now seemingly countless years,  I recalled at that instant, those times as a teenager going through male puberty, going to bed so stressed out with my life changing in ways that betrayed my inner sense of identity and hoping to God that I would die in my sleep.  I recalled at that moment, a memory that I had long thought forgotten, of hearing my heart miss a beat, or two or sometimes three.  I felt, in those seconds that felt like an eternity lieing in the stillness of a darkened room in my bed, that I would die.  And I deftly recall that when my heart seemed to start again, that I began to cry in disappointment until I fell asleep.  That's a memory that I had forgotten until this past week but which came back in this renewed form now.

This morning, when I awoke, it was as if I had slept for a year.  I awoke for the first time in weeks, literally weeks, feeling refreshed and with a mental clarity I had not felt I possessed in some time.  The foggy mind which seemed to pervade me through these past few panic-attack stricken days was gone.  I am sure I have figured this all out.  It just took me a trip to the hospital to be convinced that it was not simply a physical issue but, rather, a combination of things that led me to this point.

I'm realizing at times how terrified I really am.  As much as J has lost a husband and gained a sister, so I have lost a wife and gained a sister just the same.  It's an "out of control" sensation that has me feeling my life has gotten ahead of me....that I have started this train rolling and, when I am not aware of it, all is fine.  That moment that I sense that I am moving and how far I have come gives rise to me looking ahead and realizing where I must be going.  It's terrifying as much as it is amazing and spectacular.  I feel very whole as a woman, in a way that is completely unexplainable without having a personal frame of reference as I have had for the first 45 years of my life.  Yet, although I feel whole, there are so many times that I feel utterly alone.  I don't mean the type of lonesomeness that requires a girlfriend or a boyfriend.  No.  This is a type of loneliness within a sense of one's own self.  I am the master of my own ship and I sail it forward....yet it is my ship unto myself.  Although others may see it, may come aboard for a time, they have not sailed with me for life;  have not experienced the emotions, scars and the thoughts which I alone bear.  Sometimes I just become perceptive of that fact, that I am sailing forward on my own, and it overpowers me, as it did in a huge way for me now.

My identity; who I am as a person, is clear to me.....and in ways that it never was for so many long years.  That frightens me as much as it begs me to leap forward.    How often do we spend our entire lives trying to please others, to be what others want, need, desire or expect us to be? My mother lost her own sense of individuality and identity in being the person my dad needed her to be. I have known countless women who have struggled with losing themselves to their responsibilities, their relationships, their family at the loss and sacrifice of their own sense of self. I see, in renewed clarity this morning, the life my mom never lived because she lived for us. I see her struggle through my own eyes as I come to realize, after 49 years on this planet, that I am only just now coming to find my own identity and my own sense of unique self. Why does it have to take a lifetime for some to come to this point and to break free? I think the answer is simple. "We are the ones who attempt to live our own lives through the sacrifices we make to give to others, to our families and to our loved ones". Unfortunately, in the long term, this leads to regret. My mother, who knew I was transgender, knew I was transitioning as a woman and had seen me in pictures as a woman, was always my staunch supporter. She always knew from my early years that I was not an average boy. In one of the last sentences my mother remarked to me, she said, "I wanted YOU to have a good life. I'm very proud of who you've become". Unfortunately she never "became" herself. Never let your identity become a shadow of someone else's life. It will be a day of silently apathetic regret to come to the end of one's life and know one has not fully lived.


“But I have lived, and have not lived in vain: My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire, And my frame perish even in conquering pain; But there is that within me which shall tire Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire; Something unearthly, which they deem not of, Like the remember'd tone of a mute lyre, Shall on their soften'd spirits sink, and move In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.”
― Lord Byron


I'm OK.  I'm better than OK.  I'm going to be alright.  I had turned my back, ignoring what was ahead of my ship sailing forward on this sea and continued to look instead behind me at where I had been.  In so doing, I was hit by a wave unseen and of immense size across the bow.  The damage was minimal and the wave has passed.  An eerily quiet calmness fills in around me on a still sea now in its wake.  There is much yet to explore on my voyage.  The sail, luffing in the quiescence of still air after this storm, fills once again with the breath of life.  She is under sail and moving again, into waters unknown and adventures yet unseen.  May the friends she chooses as her crew be there for her as she is for them.  Even the captain of her own boat sometimes needs guidance.