As I stood on a slight mound in the middle of a park in Brighton, I could see it all laid out before me. I started to feel a little emotional as there before me was the biggest assemblage of trans people that I have ever seen, considering that I transitioned over 20 years ago this may seem a shock to some. I was of course for the first time at Trans Pride Brighton, and I had marched alongside all these people the length of the seafront.
Seeing this sight in front of me with this vast, diverse range of trans, non-binary, gender non conforming and their allies and friends filled me with a joy that I cannot describe. It also reminded me of times in 1997 just after I had privately come out as trans to a small email group, we had arranged a meet up for a meal in Manchester, we mustered two dozen people into a relatively safe space in the LBGT village, and now 22 years later there were close to eight thousand people that had marched.
What astonished me was the age of the group in front of me, so many young people, and I realised that many of these people had possibly not even been born when I transitioned, while I was fighting to retain my job, and using that to highlight the injustice at a union conference.
When I came out it was just 20 days before my 27th birthday, and in my group of trans friends I was amongst the younger of the range, yet here were this group where the average would have been close to that or younger.
Then it struck me, these were the people that I had been fighting for so many years for, to see all these happy smiling faces without a care in the world, just being free and open and happy. Even if just for one afternoon before walking outside the park and into the world where they are still misunderstood and ridiculed.
Suddenly it made all the sacrifices and hardships that I had endured worth it. It also filled me with a renewed fire to do more, there are people out there that still need our help, that are lonely isolated, have unaccepting parents like mine. We must reach out and help those in the community who need us. Just as others like Christine Burns, Helen Dale, Pamela Sexton, Kymmy Leigh-Thompson, Rosalind Mitchell, Anne Wallace and others did for me as I first came out.
Each generation reaches out to the next and offers out the hand to guide and support, I would not be here today without that support that was given to me and now I offer it myself to those who need…
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”
Today was just one of those days, not sure exactly 100% why, but I just don’t have the energy both mentally and physically to get out of bed.
To be honest, the trouble began last night, and it’s just developed from there. I received a rejection for my book earlier in the week and after the initial disappointment, I was coping Ok with it. But for some reason last night it boiled over, and I became very despondent about the whole project and posted a very negative post to social media in which I suggested that I might give it up totally.
Now ever since I came back from a recent trip to the UK and Iceland I have been a little tired and suffering from a mild cold that I haven’t really been able to shift. This is probably having a small knock-on effect with my Mental Health, I just wish I could wake up with energy and be able to accomplish things. I have such a feeling of failure when I have these days that I cannot achieve anything, and that only adds further to the cycle of low self-worth that I feel.
I feel torn so much by this, one part is screaming that me that this is classic burnout and if I am not careful it’s all going to come crashing down with something bad happening to me. The other part of me says that I need to push through it and keep going so that I don’t let people down, hoping upon hope that sometime soon I will be able to take a break away from things and truly recuperate.
Then comes the question how to recuperate, I need to work out ways to loosen the grip that anxiety has on me before it overwhelms and consumes me completely, dragging me down to the dark places where I have been before and I don’t want to return to.
So for now…
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world?
Before I knew it I was the beginning of March, and suddenly I had a flurry of hospital appointments for the various tests that had been ordered on my previous visit to the endocrinologist on Tenerife back in January ( see https://helresa.com/taking-flight/ for details)
So in the space of a week, I had a number of vials of blood taken, my breasts squeezed in a vice like device and laid on a human version of a flatbed scanner. After all that it was time once again to board the plane that would take me the short hop across the water.
Soon I reached the hospital to find things a little chaotic due to an IT failure on the booking system, and then the Nurse getting a little confused because they couldn’t find me in the system, until I realised they had got my names mixed up and were thinking that Theresa Jo-Anne was my surname. Many Spanish people get confused by the fact that I only have one surname as in Spain you normally have two.
Eventually I did get in to see the Doctor and it was a bad news, good news type situation. The bad news was that my bone density scan wasn’t in the system, and my blood tests showed that I am borderline diabetic. But the good news was that once I signed the consent form to agree that I was OK taking a medicine for something other than it’s licensed purpose ( Technically estrogen is not licensed for use on trans people ) I was able to walk out of there with a prescription for estrogen patches and some other meds to help me not go full diabetic.
After a bite to eat and a lovely walk around the historic center of La Laguna it was time to head back to the airport and my flight home, only when I scanned my phone over the scanner it wouldn’t let be enter security. Then I looked and despite my paper reservation clearly showing today’s date, somehow the app was showing a date for tomorrow. This entailed a quick run to the check in desk and thankfully she was able to change things pretty quickly and I made the flight.
It then took another couple of days to get the patches as the pharmacy was out of stock, and then the first patch didn’t stick all that well, but now I’ve gotten used to applying them again and things are going great. The only other big shock is that when I finally got the results from my bone scan, it appears that due to the lack of hormones for 11 years I now do in fact have the bone density in my lower spine of a 95 year old woman.
I shall wait and see what happens on this after my next appointment in Tenerife in July.
It was a dull grey day at the end of January when I eventually got to fly to the appointment with the endocrinologist in Tenerife. Having a 10 o’clock appointment meant the only flight that was available to me in order to get there on time was the first flight of the morning at 8am. In order to make sure I made the flight I arrived at the airport an hour before, it’s a rare occasion that you are forced to wait for the security checkpoints to open. When they did it was straight through and on to the plane.
Taking off and climbing above the clouds in the early morning light was an experience, it helped immensely to reduce some of the nerves that I had been feeling about this trip, that had only been made worse by a weeks delay. The downside of the flight from La Palma to Tenerife is how brief it is, before you know it we were preparing to land in Tenerife.
Walking from the plane right past the baggage collection belts and winding my way through the throngs of tourists, I headed downstairs to locate the bus to the interchange, because in a great piece of logic, the tram system in Tenerife does not extend to the airport. This means taking a 5 min bus ride before I could change to the tram which delivers me right outside the hospital.
The next challenge was to figure out which of the many buildings that make up the university hospital was the one I needed to be in. When I had located the building, getting to the right place was easy as I knew which floor as that was on the appointment letter. The first thing when I arrived was being sent down to the nurse to be weighed and measured.
Then it was in with the doctor, most of the chat was going over my medical history, good job I had brought my initial report from Dr Reid and the surgical report from Dr Seghers, without these I might have had some issues proving that I had a trans diagnosis in the past. Some of his questions did seem intrusive especially regarding my sex life, however given the nature of the interview, it was understandable.
Then followed something that I hadn’t totally been prepared for, a physical examination, nothing particularly intimate. However I was on edge, when he said my blood pressure was a little high, and maybe it was due to being in hospital, I thought, “I’m sitting here in my knickers being poked and prodded and you don’t expect my blood pressure to be high”.
Once that was over and I was dressed, it was time to get the paperwork. First he wanted a full blood test to check my baseline hormone levels, a bone density scan to see what damage being off hormones has done to my skeleton. He also put me in for a mammogram due to the fact that my mother had breast cancer. He also gave me a copy of the contract I would have to sign to start hormone treatment, I have to sign this to say that I give consent due to the fact that technically the medicines are not licensed for what we are using them for.
With all this done I shall return on the 12th March and hopefully 12 years after arriving in Spain I will be back on HRT
This week I came close to a crash and burn, by Friday I was not in a good place and in fact my mind was going to places where it hadn’t been in a long time.
I realised that things were getting bad when on Friday morning while washing my face in the kitchen sink (still don’t have an indoor bathroom) I had serious thoughts of just reaching over to the knife block and pulling out a knife from it and cutting my arm. The thought passed in a flash but just the fact that my mind went there was scary, I’m still here and I’m coping better today but I need to process how I got to this point.
Over the last few months work has been pretty stressful, there are a number of factors, but somehow it has ended up with several projects all coming to a head in the next couple of weeks with compressed timescales, and some significant technical hurdles to overcome. This has meant a lot of chopping and changing and juggling with other day to day issues that we have to deal with.
Then Friday morning the bombshell hit, this was a front pager article in the Daily Telegraph, now I’m used to the regular Sunday morning hate piece from the Times but for some reason this was personal. As many of you may know I worked at the Telegraph for a number of years and while I was there I was very open about that fact that I was a trans woman. To see this transphobic article on the front page felt like a betrayal, now I know it has been 11 years since I left for Spain, but it will always have a soft spot in my heart due to the acceptance and respect I felt there.
I realised that I am once again teetering on the edge of a complete burnout, so I will take a rest this weekend and try and stave off the worst, until I can find a longer term solution.
It is normal for this time of year to make resolutions for the new year, I have made resolutions various times over the years and I’ve never really been that successful in keeping them. So this year I decided that I would take a slightly different track, I am to set some general goals and then some smaller actions that I can do to meet those goals. I’m not going to as far as full SMART methodology, but I would like to have thing more focused than just a simple goal that is vague and more than likely won’t be achieved.
This is almost a perennial on my list, every year I have but this down on the list and every year I have finished the year not a lot different from the start.
I’m however a little more determined this year than I have been of late. So how can I achieve this, here are some simple steps I want to make this year.
Now I’m not one for fad diets, I’ve tried them in the past and they don’t work well for me, something that I have tried and found works OK for me is to have 2 days a week when I have a restricted calorie intake. I want to continue this and also be a little more careful of the portion sizes, as I’m normally cooking for two it’s difficult as a lot of recipes are for 4 servings and just simply halving the recipe doesn’t always work out with workable quantities. So what I have been doing is when I make something for example a shepherds pie then I will make 2, one to eat then and freeze the other part for later.
I have already started to get more exercise than I did a couple of years ago, because with going into the office most days, this enables me to park at the other end of town and walk 20 minutes to the office and back again at night. I want to add a little bit to this with some gentle core exercises once or twice a week, and hopefully introduce doing some sit ups once a week.
Language and Voice
The key things that has come out of my more recent activism and other activities is two fold, the first is that my Spanish is atrocious. I’m OK on a day to day basis but under pressure I tend to mumble and struggle to grasp for words, So I need to be a little bit more confident with the language and extend my vocabulary, I should really get back to using DuoLingo each day so that the Spanish comes easier to recall.
The next thing is my voice, when I transitioned I didn’t have any formal voice training and while again I’m OK on a day to day basis but recently I had a conference call where I had a substantial echo and it was very disconcerting, and again with doing more public speaking I’d like the experience to be a little less dysphoric. I’m going to be using “The voice book for Trans and Non-Binary people” to try and train my voice a bit better.
Thats most of the stuff that I would like to change personally on a day to day basis, there are some other things that I would like to achieve this year, but more specific things.
Having written the book last year the big thing is to get it edited into something that I feel ready to publish, I have only let one person read it so far. I deliberately left it to one side after I finished the draft so that I could come back to it again with fresh eyes in January. I’m also still hunting around for a publisher, I got one rejection so far and that was on commercial grounds as they already have a number of similar titles, but they did give me a list of other places to try. I’m still awaiting to hear from one, and a number of options are still open at this point.
I’m still looking at what else I can do, I’ve definitely been bitten by the writing bug and I don’t think the current book will be my last, in the meantime while I search for inspiration I hope to keep writing things for this blog and who knows maybe some other things for elsewhere.