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It was the best of times, it was the worse of times – Review of 2019

As the famous opening line to the book goes “It was the best of times, it was the worse of times” and that pretty much sums up this year. I have had some fantastic experiences this year, but also so disappointments, and struggles as well.
It started off good enough with my first visit to the specialist endocrinologist in Tenerife finally getting back on to hormones in late March, lucky I seem to have escaped any serious damage from my years without hormones, just some slight loss of bone density.
I also undertook a top-secret undercover mission, wherein total secrecy I smuggled myself back into the UK under a total social media blackout so that I could surprise my niece Mandy on the opening day of her new cafe.
This also gave me a chance to run around the country like a crazed thing making flying visits to friends across the country, many of which I had only known previously as names on screens.
Then it was the 1st big event of the summer, our daughter Sarah and Billys wedding which came in two parts. The first a fairly standard affair in Leeds town hall, with the normal traditional stuff. Then came the second part, as the following morning bleary-eyed we all boarded the flight for Reykjavik in Iceland, where we had the second Viking wedding, surrounded by earth mounds next to a fjord.
The summer was then filled with Pride celebrations first the second pride in the island, bigger and better than the previous years, then quite literally I travelled from than and the following weekend I was at Trans Pride Brighton which was an overwhelming experience, and another chance to catch up with friends and make new ones.
After that, it was like someone flicked a switch and things started to go the other way, firstly my depression and anxiety started to get bad to the point where I seriously considered self-harm at times.
To add on top of that we finally had to say to goodbye to our beloved cat Meep due to cancer. I finally had to admit that I had issues, and see the doctor about it, by the time I got around to doing so another problem had emerged.
Since the summer my resting heart rate had been slowly slipping slower and slower until it had reached around an average of 40 beats per minute. So when I spoke to the doctor about getting something to help with the anxiety and depression I also brought up the issues with my heart rate, which by this time was making me tired and sometimes a little breathless.
While the medication for the depression has helped and I’m now more able to cope on a day to day basis. But with the heart issue, it’s still not resolved, I’ve had several ECG’s and tests and medication changes, at this point I’m awaiting in January to go to the hospital where I will be wired up to a recorder that will track my heart for 24 hours. Then what will happen I don’t know yet, I know there is no structural problem with my heart, and I don’t have a thyroid issue, so the treatment options are becoming limited, and one of the only things left on the table is the fitting of a pacemaker.
So the last few months have been pretty frustrating and I don’t know what the new year will bring, apart from plenty of upheaval and changes, so I can only take one step at a time, each day as it comes.

Heartbroken

Heartbroken

I’m heartbroken, not in the sense that I have a relationship that has failed, but the fact that I have a heart that is broken.

It started not long after I returned from the UK, I started to feel very tired and lacking in energy, I have a Fitbit that I have been wearing for a number of years, so I was able to notice in the app a worrying trend, my resting heart rate was heading downwards. Now if I was an elite athlete this wouldn’t be a problem but being an overweight 48 year-old woman it obviously isn’t a normal situation.

The fact that I was suffering at the same time from crippling anxiety, my heart rate should not have been doing what it was, so finally I decided to bring it up with the doctors, the anxiety was easy to deal with and now have some SSRIs that are dealing with the anxiety perfectly, the solution to the heart rate issue, however, has been a little more difficult.

Because of different GPs at times I have been subjected to multiple blood tests, ECGs and various other examinations. I have completely dropped the medication that I have been on for high blood pressure as this was now normal and in fact at times quite low. But whatever they tried the Bradycardia remained.

This hasn’t helped that at the same time work has got a bit hectic again with multiple projects all competing for time and resources, coupled with a general lack of energy has made this very difficult sometimes just to get through the week, and most of the time I have spent the Friday working from bed and all weekend just resting. Most evenings, I haven’t been able to do much either, this had meant that some of the household chores have fallen to Helen. This has meant that work on any personal projects has stopped, this is the first bit of writing that I have been able to do in months, and I’m doing this laid in bed on a Sunday morning flat on my back.

One household chore that we’ve been able to sort out for both of us is keeping the floor clean, thanks to the newest edition to our family, Marvin the Roomba, so at least we have clean floors.

Sadly we have also lost one from our family, Meep our white cat sadly her cancer came back and started to attack her face and when we took her to the vet there was noting that they really could do so we had to make the painful decision to put her to sleep.

So that’s all up to date, now I am awaiting an appointment with the cardiologist at the end of November if they can’t find a cause of the bradycardia that can be treated with medication, and I’ve had tests for most of those already then it may be that sometime in the near future I’ll have to have a pacemaker fitted, and that worries me a great deal right now.

Reporting from the Blanket Fort

Reporting from the Blanket Fort

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?

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

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

Jumping through hoops

When I first came to Spain back in 2007, I didn’t get a formal introduction to the Doctor as I think I was working at the time. So I didn’t get my current medication that I had from the UK transferred over, and I thought I would be OK. I’d been taking hormones since 1998 and I didn’t think that it was urgent to sort out right away, and I would sort it out later, well one thing lead to another and it never happened, even when I started to be treated for high blood pressure it I never brought it up.

A couple of years ago when I started to realise that I had slipped into a depressive state and started to take action to deal with it, I decided that as well as an antidepressant ( I initially started on st. John’s wort) I would try and take some thing that was as close to a hormone that I could get, I found something that was based on a soja extract. The combination of these two did help to stabilise my mood and make it a little bit easier to get things under control. 

A few weeks ago just before I left for New Zealand I decided that I would approach the doctor and ask if she could put me back on hormones properly. At first she said that she would have to send me to the hospital so that they could do a ultrasound to check what was going on with my ovaries, I gave a chuckle at this point and explained that wouldn’t do any good, which got a blank look from the GP, So I took an intake of breath and explained that I was trans, etc, etc. She said she would give me hormones, but required a blood test first, This would have to wait until I returned as I was leaving in a few days and wouldn’t be back for about 3 weeks. So on my return I got the tests done and then went back to speak to the doctor, only this time I get a different doctor, and she said that she can’t do it and refers me to the endocrinologist at the central hospital on the island.

So I wait a few weeks to get a phone call from the hospital with an appointment, So at the required time I arrive at the hospital. When I finally get into the talk to the endocrinologist, she’s a little confused as to why I’m there, so I explain. It turns out that for some reason the original doctor totally screwed up the blood tests and referral it was down on the system as hyperthyroidism which is not right at all, and that there were no hormone levels on the blood test, only the thyroid hormone levels.

Then she drops that bombshell, that she can’t put me on hormones as a trans woman without approval from the specialist gender clinic in Tenerife so she sent them a referral. So once again 20 years later, I’m back on a waiting list for an appointment with a gender clinic. 

This a typical thing across the globe with any form of trans healthcare, had I been a cis woman presented at an endocrinologist with these hormone levels, then I would have been on HRT right away, but because I’m trans I have to jump through the hoops like a performing seal once again. There is an expression of the trans broken leg where you go for treatment of a completely unrelated medical condition, but it’s gets complicated or made harder just you are trans.

So hopefully sometime in the new year I’ll get a phone call and then I can take a flight over to Tenerife and continue the next step in the journey. It will be interesting to experience the gender clinic process in a new country.