Thursday, July 14, 2016

7-14-2016 Entry: Return of the Blogi ;)

Greetings my lovely readers. I know, I know, I promised I’d write more and then I went over a month without adding anything new. For that I apologize. My life has gotten rather busy as of late and I’ve found it difficult to accomplish much of anything, let alone writing.

I suppose I should start with the biggest things first, yes? First I want to say that I have officially started working at the PRIDE treatment center and it has been amazing. Stressful, but amazing. When I say stressful I’m not using that word in the typical sense that I might have when I was working a stuffy office job of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. When I say stressful I mean it can be physically and mentally grueling to be a chemical dependency technician. I am constantly on the move and am on my feet 90% of the time I am working. Eventually I will get used to this but after nearly five months of being unemployed, it is a huge adjustment. More than simply exercising muscles that were content to sit around playing Skyrim rather than being a functioning part of society, I’m exercising a mind that has been relatively free to wander for awhile. The situations at work are CONSTANTLY shifting, moving, and evolving. There is no status quo for how my shift is supposed to look. Sure, I have duties that I’m supposed to do every shift and the responsibilities I’m being trained on are relatively black and white, but I’m learning quickly that what’s on paper and what actually happens is vastly different in the mental health field.

As a paralegal, paper was everything, both literally and figuratively. Nothing I did contradicted the paper trail that I left behind me. Sure there were components to that job that weren’t documentable in a literal sense, but you basically just had to follow the guidelines. Maybe things would zig or zag one way or another depending on the matter I was working on but for the most part, they were basically all the same with very little variability. Prep, File, Bill, Report to Client, rinse and repeat a million fucking times. My last job was sort of like working at the USPS, or at least what I imagine that job to be like. One patent looked almost identical to the next. Maybe if I was more on the technical end and was working with the engineers to develop the product I’d feel differently, but to me if a patent went across my desk it was no more or less remarkable than the one before or the one after. I imagine sorting mail is basically the same. Sure, the size might change and the color might vary, but at the end of the day it’s just fucking mail. That’s what my last job was like, and endless stream of unremarkable documents to be prepared, filed, and billed for.
Working in the mental health field is nothing like that at all, at least not so far. I can see how one patient/client might blur into another in an endless stream of addicts and alcoholics, but even if that were the case, all of them are unique. Every client I work with right now is unique in his, her, or their own way. Each of them has a story behind why they have arrived in treatment. All of them have trauma and pain they’ve tried to bury with alcohol and drugs. Even if they are only ever temporary parts of my life and we will never really interact outside of PRIDE, they still become a part of me (and I them).The work I’m doing now is soooooooo different. In fact, it’s so different that there are moments when I have to remind myself that I’m being paid to do this work, and when I do remember that, I am filled with joy. I cannot believe I get paid to do something I love so much.

There were years on end where I feared I’d never be able to do a job I actually liked doing. I felt so hopeless that every job would be as draining and soul-sucking as the last several had been. Each one came with its own dose of misery, and I don’t use that word lightly. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this job will have its downsides too, and I’ve already seen a few of those. Everything is not roses and ponies and rainbows and sparkle-dust at this new job. There are some things I don’t love having to do, but the good far outweighs the bad, so much so that I can honestly say I love my job. If you’ve been a longtime reader then you likely understand just how much that means to me. To love my job? It seemed like an impossible dream a few months ago, but alas, here I am, loving my job.

The best part, I get to work closely with transgender individuals going through struggles that only other transgender individuals can truly appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, a cis person can absolutely be an ally and empathize with the best of them, but there is a certain comradery that occurs when two trans individuals commiserate on the bullshit or stress we have to deal with. Just the other day I was sitting with a client who was in a bad place. Some things had gone down the night before that left them feeling rather depressed and as such they refused to participate in the group activity they were required to go to. I made the decision to approach this person and find out what was going on. Rather than approaching with an authoritarian mentality of making them go to group, I approached them with kindness and compassion. As a result we had an amazingly rewarding conversation. I know that for sure for myself and their changed demeanor since our discussion and they way they interact with me now tells me it was rewarding for them as well.

Obviously I cannot give any details about this person because their anonymity is paramount but suffice it to say they are an older transwoman struggling with their desire to make medical transition decisions. Through our conversation I found out that this person has a teenage son who plays high school football. This son lives with his mom and step-father, who was described to me as a rather masculine man (he was painted as being rather macho lol). This client explained to me that they felt shame about their desire to go dressed up as their true selves to their son’s football games. They explained that they didn’t want to be a burden to their son and they felt shame that they couldn’t be the masculine father their son needed. There was a hint of jealously that this step-father figure could so easily be that picturesque masculinity that this client wished for their son to have in his life.

I could only begin to imagine what it must be like to be a “father” to an athletic son when you are a transgender woman, and to endure the shame and guilt of deciding to transition later in life. What a heavy burden to bear, what a terrible price to have to pay to be one’s true self. I know what it is like to not be the masculine person another person needs or wants you to be. I struggled with some of those feelings of guilt and shame that I couldn’t just be Robert the masculine man that my mother believed I was, that my step-father tried so hard to make me, that my father thought I was, and that my wife expected me to be after marrying me. To be a parent, though, is even harder. My heart broke for this client as they laid out all of their pain and sorrow about their experience as a transgender person.

I can’t say that I offered any amazing insights that forever changed their life but our conversation was filled with a mutual understanding of those burdens we, as transgender individuals, must bear alone. We share struggles and we share sorrows but in the end, we are always alone in our struggles. They are completely our own, even if they resemble those of others. The same can be said for most anyone, really, but there is something even more poignant to the transgender experience. It is so tied up in individual identity and expression that other struggles maybe don’t quite compare. I’m not qualifying anything here, so please don’t read my words that way, I simply mean that the transgender struggle for expression, individuality and identity is a rather solitary road to walk; regardless of how many friends, allies, or fellow trans people you have in your life.

But, I digress. That is what work has been like for me. It has been an amazingly rewarding experience and I am so very happy that I get to do it. I suspect that stories like the one I just shared will happen again and again. I probably won’t share all, or even most, of these stories simply because I want to protect the confidence of the clients I work with and I don’t want to get into trouble for oversharing the details of my job.

In the personal life arena, however, things have been a bit of a shit-show. That’s also a big reason why I haven’t written a lot lately. Between the decreased time available to write because of work I’ve also been struggling with some personal things. I have to be vague on the details of some of them but I did have a couple setbacks in my life where things became unmanageable again. These setbacks were triggered by relationship problems with Yuffie. The first of these came after Yuffie more or less deviated from what I believed our polyamorous understanding to be. I will admit that we didn’t really discuss in details some of the things we needed to about when and how new romantic partners could or should arrive in our lives, but regardless of this I ended up feeling hurt.

To put it shortly she decided, without any previous discussion (and plenty of discussion about how it would never happen), to sleep with her roommate; who just so happened to be a man. Yep, that’s right, the lesbian girl who didn’t want to pursue things with me because I was trans, more or less cheated on me with a man. Again, anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile likely understands the significance of that. For those who don’t, my ex-wife decided she couldn’t be with a trans person anymore and cheated on me with a man. True, these were very different circumstances when one is having severe trauma triggered by outside events, the brain doesn’t fucking care that they are different circumstances. The same emotions and physiological reactions occur, regardless of the situation. I tried my damnedest to stay ahead of the curve on this one, to keep my wits about me and understand that what was going on and what I was feeling was not in line, but I failed. Eventually the emotional gauntlet of arguing with Yuffie all day took its toll on me and I did the only thing I knew how to do, I sought an escape, and I found one; temporary as it was.

It didn’t solve anything, it didn’t take away the pain in any permanent state, and in the end it just ended up hurting more than I already was. The next setback was because of the shame and guilt I felt about the first setback. They feelings were too great and so I sought escape again. I’m happy to say that that was the last time I did and have been travelling along well enough since then.

Things with Yuffie, however, have been anything but smooth sailing. I admitted that we hadn’t really set out the rules of our relationship or the expectations around new partners, so I couldn’t be too mad at her, not when she regretted it and seemed genuinely sorry. I took her back and we had our discussions about new partners. We set up expectations we could both live with and while I didn’t tell her outright, I put down a barrier around my heart. I knew that if she was going to hurt me like this once it was likely to happen again, and so I refused to give all of myself to her again. I would let her in but the tender parts of my heart would be off limits; possibly forever.

Things went along okay for a couple more weeks until it became obvious that not only could I not give her the attention she wanted but she could not give me the respect and space that I needed. Rather than being able to respect the importance of my work and my need for self-care time (because working in mental health really really really requires self-care to maintain any level of sanity or ability to actually be of help to the clients), she would push and push and push some more until I had nothing left to give. After a long weekend of bad interactions and missteps and harsh words, we both came to the realization that things needed to end, and they did… at least temporarily.

We have seen one another once since this happened but it was different than before. Things have been permanently altered between us so that what was before cannot be again. I don’t know if that means it is terminal and we will never see one another again, but it will have to be in different way than before.

Unfortunately this relationship with Yuffie started to get in the way of my relationship with my other partner. Yuffie demanded so much of my time and attention that I was never had much energy or time left to give to my other person. This, in the poly world, is not necessarily all that uncommon, even if it is problematic. With Yuffie and I somewhat on the outs, however, I have been given the opportunity to reestablish my connection with my other partner and we have gone out together a few more times. We spent an afternoon together at the MN Pride festival which was a lot of fun and hit up a burlesque show together.

All has not been for naught though. I have learned a great deal about myself, about relationships, about polyamory, and about sex. As chaotic as my relationship with Yuffie might have been and as much as it might have strained my other relationship, I did grow a lot from it. And the sex… oh the sex… suffice it to say there was a lot of it and none of it triggered my dysphoria. I never thought I’d be able to find a “lesbian” who would be willing to be intimate with me in ways that were affirming for both of us. It wasn’t perfect, by any means, but it did restore my faith in my ability to be sexual as a transwoman and that sex didn’t have to be a traumatic experience for me.

But, I digress. It’s late at night and I have to be up early tomorrow. I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while and thank you to the people who left comments that reminded me how bad I’d been about updating this. I’ll try to be better about it. Now that I don’t have Yuffie consuming all of my spare time, that might be a bit easier. I certainly have been having many wonderful and interesting experiences that I want to share with all of you. It’s just a matter of actually sitting down to write again.

Anyways, good night my loves. Remember you are beautiful, you are smart, you are one of a kind, and you matter. Live fabulously, love furiously, and never forget to smile.



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