As a common saying goes, “everything can change in an instant”. Personally I have had a few of those circumstances arise for me personally such as: paralysis and waking up after my GRS feeling like my meat suite was completely my own for the first time. It seems like no matter your stage in life or area of expertise we are all just waiting to achieve that next goal in Hope’s that it causes a shift in our lives for the better. We should be more focused on just being happy in the present despite the conditions.
I will always honor the years I have spent rehabbing my body and the daily activity required to maintain my health for the rest of my life as one of the best life changing moments because I learned to see the world in a whole new light. Among many other things I learned, patience, self love and gratitude for the smallest of wins. If I’m still alive when middle aged I think om going to be one of those people that says things such as,” every day above ground is a good day.” People think it’s intense that I see that event as a positive thing, but I actively made the decision to have my right temporal lobe craniotomy revision, I even signed the surgical consent myself because I was old enough.
Honestly in the weeks leading up to my recent operation I pretty much fell off the grid. Going into surgery I was so stressed my anesthesiologist was actually cracking jokes with me to try and get me to relax before she gave me the epidural, of course I panicked my last operation left me half paralyzed. There was literally no better feeling than “waking up” post OP and realizing that the procedure had gone just as planned and despite still being frozen from the waist down , which was kind of strange I was left with tears of joy rolling down each cheek with a grin from ear to ear. I’m not going to lie, I definitely had my doubts if this surgery would complete my medical transition or not, but to my surprise it did. I might need to learn to just have a little more faith in things turning out well. It turns out surgical recovery is pretty relaxed. when it’s an uncomplicated minor operation. I have been trying to just take it easy so I heal, but those who have followed me over the years will know that I’m bad at taking it easy.
Few things are as empowering and equally as lonely as making the choice to transition medically. From the isolation to the generalized misunderstanding outside the trans community the entire process can be pretty rough. Most of us have to make concessions to be able to transition medically, for reasons of social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, and or overall health. My move back to BC was both for my recovery and my transition, but moving back here also meant being back in my hometown with all the acquaintances and friends I never had here. Recently I started the process of my legal name change to actually be Addison Blake on paper and have never felt more comfortable in my own skin.
Between my weekly/monthly physical improvements and knowing that my medical transition is done and I’m just waiting for surgery, I no longer feel as trapped here as I used to. After I get my grs (hopefully this year) I can go live wherever I want and even go back to school if I want to. Now as I continue to heal it has started to become easier to get social and make new friends, which would have been much more appreciated through the beginning of my transition when it would have helped to have a local friend by my side on the journey. It has only been a few months since I started to feel more comfortable in my gender and less concerned about how I may be perceived publicly in a place that is not exactly the safest for any queer minority.
The stigma behind the ridiculous concept of ‘passing’ is real. I am lucky in that I confidently try to not look cisgender in my daily life as a non binary individual. The other day I even got misgendered dropping off signed copies of my novel at a local joint and instead of being offended I just quietly chuckled to myself, which seemed to embarrass the person. The best part of my name change is that for me it’s a fresh start of who I have always seen myself as internally. instead of having an overtly masculine name my first and middle names are fully gender neutral, which is perfect for me because I am fairly androgynous. There are tonnes of people who will tell you that they hate being trans, but I am not one of them. I am glad i live in a day and age in a country where i have the ability to be who I am, whatever that may be. Even in spite of how lonely parts of my journey have been I am grateful to be on this journey being visible for the following generations to witness and see that authenticity is a possibility.
What is something you’ve done to live your fierce authenticity?
Every single one of us, no matter the amount of external sunshine has a darker less sparkly side of themselves. The one that keeps you lying in bed morning after morning because you just do not contain the desire to start your day or any day. I’ve been stuck in a rut for a few weeks for sure now. I should be happy with how feminine I have become with the help of fourteen months of hormone replacement therapy, but instead I am left here on edge feeling unsafe due to my appearance. The last time I looked like this I unfortunately experienced some trauma and just having a very similar figure to that time period leaves me in tears.
How I cope with everything is by staying fit and getting those endorphins flowing so that even if I don’t feel the greatest in my body I’m still in a relatively decent mood and day. I called this post dancing with my demons because when I feel anything negative I dance it out. I just sync up some music and I dance until I feel better whether that takes half an hour or four hours does not matter.
I know I’ve been absent lately, but I’m hoping to get everything from my recovery to my pain back on track. Finally taking the advice I’d give anyone else in my position and take each day as it comes with minimal expectations. Recently I even invested in a binder for days where my girly figure makes me feel uneasy and it has been helping that aspect of my dysphoria and mental health in a big way. Just one of the Joy’s of being in the non binary section of the gender spectrum.
What’s one thing you’ve done recently to make yourself feel better?
This one was another reader suggested topic so here’s my attempt. With all the ups and downs of the roller coaster we call life it can be quite a task to learn to see things in a positive light and not kick ourselves when we are down. In both my transition and my continuous physical rehabilitation finding the positive aspects and internal happiness has been a skill I had to learn to not throw in the towel every other day.
One of the most helpful tricks I rewired my brain to do subconsciously and modify my own thoughts was to acknowledge the bad, but only give attention and focus to all the positive aspects of any scenario. Life truly is about finding the balance so instead of wallowing in the bad parts I figured out how to enjoy even the worst of my dysphoria days and the static days in recovery.
Some days I have limited to no functional mobility in my hand to this day, especially when I am stressed or sleep deprived. Instead of focusing on the anger I sometimes feel towards my paralysis I thank my body for not giving me any say and forcing me to take a rest day that I never take unless I cannot function. A day off here and there shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re a workaholic towards your personal goals like myself.
When my dysphoria get’s so bad that I wish I could rip my own skin off I find one part of my body that I at least like and find a clothing article that emphasizes it so that even my own attention is drawn to it all day. For me this is usually my bust despite all the pain it causes me. Sometimes distract-o-boob is all I need to get through an escalated dysphoric day.
I promise that if you can find one positive in every day and hold onto it that you will make it no matter the struggle. If you are struggling also do not forget to reach out to a friend or connect with your mental health professional and learn some healthy ways to cope.
Love and light,
In a few days I get the wonderful opportunity to celebrate the date of my paralysis and the increase over all these years of my chronic pain. Well that was an extremely dark intro and while yes I may be celebrating those things there is no one thing that has led to more personal growth, internal struggle, and pure happiness from within. On that note I’m going to talk about all the things I’m grateful for thanks to my recovery as I sit here writing this today.
The last 5 years I have been my own personal science experiment day in and day out. Whether it included applied past knowledge or I was just learning along the way once again I became the expert of my diagnoses learning what was best and worst for my recovery. With that knowledge I know I can tackle any task at hand no matter the time or effort it takes.
Having to be in a very committed relationship with my recovery despite all the struggles and even the times where I pushed my body past limits to where it got unhealthy. Every day despite wanting to fold and walk away I decided to fight it and prove everyone including myself wrong. It was the traumatic situations that I ended up in as a queer person with a physical disability that taught me to fight even while having flashbacks for days on end so intense I barely slept every night for a year afterwards. Knowing how far I had come and with the support of a few phenomenal friends I made it through.
3. Indomitable Spirit
Despite the hundreds of bad days I’ve had in this period I still got up every day and trudged on with a smile on my face. It was only this year that smile stopped being a mask of my physical and emotional pain, but hey we all have to fake it until we make it sometimes. This year I also started having flashbacks to the moment that my paralysis set in and I had to find the hope to recover instead of getting trapped in the fear of what was to come and the waterfall of tears pouring down my face.
4. A Modified Prospective
Trading one illness for another and adding a loss of some of my visual field in both eyes. Literally I see everything a little bit differently now. This is amazing I used to hate life so much and even with less joy than struggle in recovery the light has been so much more valuable post paralysis. It was the beginning of a streak of traumatic events that taught me to find the positive aspect in every situation. Now I am always looking for the lesson in the bad and appreciating the good.
5. My Authentic Self
My paralysis taught me that no matter how hard anything is I can make it out on my own so after my body was what I considered healed enough to begin my medical transition I did. With the loss of muscle mass the muscle tension in the left side of my body was conveniently reduced and it became easier to heal once again. As most trans people would tell you starting that process was the beginning to an end and removing that weight of not being yourself makes every day a lot easier. Yes I had to disown most of my family once I took those steps, but the self-love that took their place in my life more than made up for it.
I guess the really cliche thing to say would be I love my imperfect life.
I cannot believe that I started this beautiful and fulfilling medical journey to becoming who I had always been on the inside a year ago. So far my medical transition has been relatively seamless and fairly “straight-forward”. Other than some dosage adjustments here and there and the torment of dysphoria I experience as a non-binary person. The social transition (name, pronouns etc.) Has been a lot tougher. It has been an amazing year where recently I even started to see my inner me and not the toned fit boy I hid as for the longest time. In no way is being trans or transitioning easy, but just as I said in my speech, it is worth it no matter the struggle. For the first time in my life I’ve been at peace with my body and I’m still recovering from paralysis too.
At the beginning I truly believed I identified as female, but it did not take long for me to realize i was much more in the non-binary section of the gender spectrum and this was different because personally I experience bits and pieces of both trans feminine and trans masculine dysphoria. My dysphoria is the lowest when I present as androgynous as I can. I have always loved being kind of androgynous so it’s no real surprise that is where i am most comfortable, but with my now very feminine figure it can be harder to present androgynous without wearing a bunch of men’s clothes. Even at the beginning I had started doing facial hair electrolysis but I quickly realized it made me more dysphoric to not have the shadow or stubble so I stopped the hair removal and am enjoying letting it fill back in.
The social transition was the hardest especially because as soon as everyone that was going to roll with it started using she/her I changed my pronouns to they/them and gender neutral pronouns can be fairly hard for people to grasp. She Is still more acceptable than he, but there are very femme people who I let use more feminine pronouns or nicknames to identify me. It’s hard loving the chest I developed over the last year and yet sometimes wanting to tape it away and look as masculine as possible for both my own comfort and safety. I don’t keep anyone in my life that doesn’t respect my name or pronouns, which in turn forced a lot of people out of my life. I may not have a perfect body, but for once it feels like I am living in my skin and no longer a costume or mascot that I fully disassociate with
Above 11 months on HRT
Above: 2 years before HRT
Earlier this week I was honored with the opportunity to speak about my experiences as s transgender person at an event tied into the transgender day of remembrance along with help out with a couple other events. This was the first time I have ever spoken about the violence I experienced as a trans person and it was a truly amazing experience even with a darker topic. Even with its hiccups I will admit the day was a success
While projecting my words with several cracks in my voice my eyes welled up and I let it all out in a full room of strangers. This was a level of raw vulnerability I had yet to experience. The room welled up with me and laughed with me when I tried to lighten the mood by joking about the cooler happier things I have accomplished like my recovery and my novel. They appreciated the attempt and let out a chuckle. It was incredibly intimidating, but everybody in the room was an ally solely there to be better allies to the community. With a few days to process the event I can say that personally, I found crying in front of a room full of people to be cathartic and emotionally I feel lighter and happier.
My community may not be the best, but over the last few years it has gotten significantly better thanks to allies stepping in and joining the fight to a better tomorrow. The other members of the society I was representing were equally emotional throughout the day and at the end saw the day as a success. It may have been tough and the reason I have been quiet for a while, but if I am available next year I hope to partake again. There is literally nothing more rewarding than a day of healthy, open conversation with people who are just trying to learn.
P.s. I’m going to try to get back into a weekly post for you guys.
Rest, Down time, Chillaxing, whatever you would like to call it. Everyone required to recover from any illness or medical diagnosis needs it. Despite being what most doctors have referred to as “medically interesting” since I was three years old (almost 2 decades ago) I have still not mastered downtime. I like to treat my paralysis recovery like a new sport i can train in. Yes, this may not be the brightest of ideas ex: the vomiting mentioned in my last post. If burnout was a place I would be the mayor or ruler. If I was paid based on the intensity of my recovery burnout I would have enough money to never worry about anything ever again. I am so incredibly horrible at downtime that my friends have begun to intervene.
After I started to bounce back from my day of sickness mentioned in my last post the girls got me out of my house for twenty-six hours of relaxing girl time and some good food. It is so easy to be constantly burnt out because I train my body like paralysis recovery is the new hot sport. If you aren’t sweating, bleeding, or in tears you are not trying hard enough. probably not my most brilliant tactic, but it is how i got this far in my recovery so why stop now. I will admit that taking two days off of my normal routine and just chilling was extremely difficult, but I felt so much better afterwards. Please be kind to your body and be less of a try-hard than I.I have lost track of the amount of recovery injuries I have had because I work my body to the point of complete exhaustion.
Transitioning and recovery have been a beautiful combination though. Since getting my hormone levels right, or as close to right as they have ever been I no longer lay in bed for hours just too depressed to function. I have gone back to being that happy annoying person that wakes up without an alarm with a smile on their face at five in the morning. This also means that I have been able to push my recovery harder than every because I am not distracted by disturbingly dark thoughts all day. when your mental health improves it makes it so much easier to improve your physical health and working on either one benefits the other, which is pretty handy. The combination of my mental and physical health lately have left me using almost solely artistic endeavors to retrain the left side of my body and make up for lost time.
I am going to end this bluntly: Don’t be a dick listen to your body and your limits so that you can heal.
If there was ever a secret to paralysis recovery I would have to say that it is: indomitable spirit, and Persistence. Yes it is that simple the only reason I have continued to heal is because every day I continue to push my body to its limits. Maybe it had something to do with my high expectations of myself, my need to heal to transition, or knowing that neuroplasticity requires a “use it or lose it”, approach.
All of the above have been serious factors in my ability to stick with it despite all of the times I wanted to just say, “screw it”. Something I have yet to admit publicly is that I had big hopes to come out and begin my transition from Male to female the year I was paralyzed. For me that’s why paralysis was so devastating to me, I was finally ready to be myself and knew I needed to put that on hold for years before I could make it a reality. It was something that brought tears to my face often when i could not sleep in the facility. I admit I am not yet fully recovered and was even less so when I began my medical transition. Other than the deficits I continue to train and recover and I have been able to become the nonbinary person I have dreamed of since I was just five years old.
A huge part of my persistence was thanks to the therapist that told me I would never walk again on my own if I ever got that far. When someone tells me I am not capable of something I make sure that I can do said thing. This fueled some anger, which I took out by working my body to exhaustion every day for years. Fifty-six months later I still push myself to the point where I get so sore I cannot move my affected side. One day when I beat this I will be able to pride myself on the fact that I did the impossible.
No matter the situation if you can find meaningful internal reasons to pursue any goal, then there is nothing you wont be able to do.
Feel free to comment any questions about paralysis recovery or queer stuff and I will answer them as best I can.
It has become apparent to me repeatedly recently that I need to step up how proud I am to be a transgender person. Being genderqueer is one of the highlights of being me. From interview misquotes to even today while I taught at a conference.
Today as I walked the banquet hall looking for individuals that needed help I was pulled aside by a lady who wanted to talk. At first I was a little weary not sure what she wanted to discuss, but I was open to see how it panned out. As it turned out she just wanted to hear about my journey and how things got better after I began my transition and started living an authentic life so she could better support a family member in their journey.( not that I announce my transness to the world, but it could have been the five o’clock shadow beginning to show through my foundation) The conversation melted my heart and was just the reminder I needed today.
I will admit that transitioning is not easy in any way, but it is well worth working through. Once I gave up my nineteen year facade and started working towards my authentic life I found a level of joy and happiness that I had never experienced before. Since I started hormone replacement therapy everything changed as it is supposed to, before HRT I identified as a she and within a few months after I started I knew that I was more in the middle of the spectrum.
Being a they is the most authentic me I’ve ever been, sometimes that’s masculine, sometimes its feminine and thats ok, most people don’t understand that both gender and sexuality are spectrums. I didn’t even fully understand it until I started my journey.
For all the young queer folk out there I hope that you get to live your authentic lives from a younger age.
Happy pride month,