Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: testosterone (page 1 of 3)

Anniversaries

November is a month of anniversaries.

The beginning of the month marked my four year anniversary of starting testosterone. The day after Thanksgiving was the three year anniversary of my legal name change.

As of the 17th, my partner and I have been together for seven years. It’s been a wild, wonderful ride, and one I don’t intend to get off of anytime soon.

And on this day, four years ago, Accidental Fudge was born. What started as blog about the adventures of transition has morphed into a blog about the adventures of my life in general. I can still count on two hands the number of Thursdays I’ve missed since I started this thing, and that, to me, feels like a significant accomplishment.

I don’t have a whole heck of a lot to write about this week, but I wanted to take a minute to thank all of you who stop by every week to read what’s on my mind. This is a pretty self-indulgent blog, and I never really expected to have any sort of audience. There aren’t a lot of you, but there are a lot more than I expected, and I appreciate you.

In the spirit of what this blog has become, let’s wrap up this post with a handful of happy things from the past week, shall we?

  1. I wrote last week about my general distaste for Thanksgiving/Black Friday. I do, however, like to support local spots on Small Business Saturday. This year I went to four or five different shops in my neighborhood and the surrounding area, and got about 80% of my holiday shopping done. It was exhausting, but I also had fun.
  2. On Monday, I went to see Thor: Ragnarok with a friend. I was not expecting great things, but oh my god, it was wonderful. It’s hilarious – basically slapstick with swords and explosions and superheroes. And there’s gothtastic Cate Blanchett, and…yeah. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  3. Yesterday, I took a sick day because I was completely exhausted when I woke up, and felt mildly feverish. Which sounds like a not-so-happy thing, but I slept a ton and had a really relaxing day, which means that I’m feeling 90% better today.

Three Years

Yesterday marked three years since I started this blog!

The fact that I’ve managed to write weekly posts for three years running with only a handful of missed weeks continues to amaze me. I often don’t know what I’m going to say when I sit down to write these posts. My life is not often terribly exciting or eventful (which is exactly how I like it – I am a creature of habit and routine), and it often feels like I don’t have much to talk about. But it still feels like a worthwhile exercise to make myself follow through each week.

Three years and a handful of weeks ago, I took my first shot of testosterone. I started this blog as a chronicle of my experience with transition, but it’s morphed over the years into something slightly different – still generally self-indulgent and focused around my life and experience most of the time, but it’s been less about transition directly and more about life generally, because I came to realize that, really, there weren’t weekly milestones in my physical transition to document. Broadly, it’s very exciting, but in the day-to-day, it’s really a rather boring process, and doesn’t make for very good blog fodder.

I appreciate those of you who come back each week to take a peek at the parts of my life that I share here. There aren’t huge numbers of you, but you come from all over the globe, and that’s pretty cool. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of Accidental Fudge!

Transition, Present Tense

I was struggling to find a topic for the blog today, and then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago that I had thought would be a great topic for a post. (Thanks, KW!)

My friend asked me if I thought of “transition” as a past tense verb for myself, here in this stage when I have the ability to grow awesome sideburns and am read more and more frequently as male. The immediate answer was a resounding, “No!” There are still things I’m waiting for, like the arrival of a full beard, and concrete steps I still want to take in terms of physical transition at some point in the future, like top surgery. I am still very much “transitioning” – present progressive tense, dynamic and ever-evolving.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized…I don’t believe that “transition” will ever be a past tense verb for me. I think I will always be evolving and learning, shifting and growing. What allows me to feel comfortable in my body today might not tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or five or ten years from now. I am transgender, and queer, and those things won’t change…but precisely what those words mean to me just might.

It’s entirely possible that this outlook is a product of where I’m at in life. The six years that have passed since I took my first tentative steps out of the closet have been packed with change. Every six months or so has brought with it another world-shattering revelation. Every time I think things have slowed down and I have achieved equilibrium, something else comes up. It’s been quite a wild ride, though in retrospect I wouldn’t give up those big revelations for the world – I’m so much happier now. Still, it’s hard, from my current vantage point, to believe that things will ever really slow down. I could very well be wrong. This is another thing the past six years have taught me – I do not know everything about anything, including myself. There’s always something more to learn.

In any case, this is where I am for the moment – in transition, present tense.

March Mayhem

I am, at the core, a homebody. Given the choice, I could spend days on end in my house, curled up with books, movies, and knitting (although if I’m forced to stay in my house due to illness, injury, or inclement weather, I do go a little stir crazy). There are a number of other personality traits at play here – I am an introvert, and have a tendency toward laziness. But mostly, I just really love being in my own space.

This aspect of who I am is often at war with another part of me – the one that wants to do ALL THE THINGS. This month, this latter part appears to be winning.

As of this week, aside from my usual 37.5 hours of work, I will have, on a weekly basis:

  • Guitar classes Monday evenings, and an approximate 10:45pm return home,
  • Songwriting classes Tuesday evenings, arriving home around 11pm,
  • My volunteer gig at the Old Town School of Folk Music‘s Resource Center Wednesday evenings, arriving home around 10:30pm, and
  • Knit Night at Windy Knitty Thursday evenings, arriving home anywhere between 9:15 and 10pm.

On top of all of this, I decided this week to start getting up at 5:30am each morning and attempt to do some sort of home workout – Pilates, weights, stretches, that sort of thing. I fully believe that “health” is a pretty nebulous concept, and it’s absolutely not my goal to hit some arbitrary numeric value that a doctor will deem “healthy”. However, I am increasingly frustrated with how quickly I tire out, how hard it is for me to keep up with people, and how frequently my back goes out due to a lack of core strength. I also know from past experience that being more physically active is better for my mental health. So, I’m easing into increased activity.

I also need to work practicing guitar and writing a song into each week. Plus the things that need to get done around the house.

I will be honest: last week I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, in light of the battle I was having with DepressedBrain. I ended up needing to leave the office early on Friday to avoid having a total meltdown at work. Thankfully, Friday evening brought with it the arrival of a new binder, which helped to mitigate some of the dysphoria that was making a significant contribution to DepressedBrain. (The binder, by the way, was ordered from these guys and is amazing – equivalent binding power to an Underworks 997, but replacing the fear of permanent ribcage damage (which was the reason I had to switch to the much less effective 982 a while back) with something so comfortable I almost forget I’m wearing it – and may warrant an extra blog post for a review at some point in the near future.)

I was feeling rather better Monday morning, but I have to admit, I still didn’t really believe I was going to be able to handle this schedule until shortly before I started writing this post yesterday afternoon. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home Monday and Tuesday, and yesterday I had a hell of a time getting myself out of bed. As the day wore on, I was pretty sleepy, but I think I hit the point where I started to remember how to work through the fatigue. I am convinced that, eventually, being more active will mean that I will have more energy. I just need to stick with it long enough.

Part of me continues to wonder what on earth I’ve gotten myself into. But mostly, I’m feeling optimistic. And that’s a nice change from the past few weeks.

Never Saw It Coming

I’ve known that I was Bipolar for close to six years now. In those six years, my cycles have typically followed a fairly predictable pattern. I’ve rarely jumped with no warning from one end of emotion to the other: usually, there’s a ramping up or a sliding down that happens and warns me of what’s coming.

I don’t know if it’s because there were sad things that happened while I was manic, which made things weird, or if it really was just very sudden, but that wasn’t how this most recent turn to DepressedBrain went. There was no easing my way down into darkness. I didn’t see it coming. It hid just out of sight and jumped out at me from behind a corner and suddenly, out of what felt like nowhere, I’ve found myself at one of the lowest points I’ve hit in the past year or more.

I wrote last week about the fact that I’ve recently started battling with body-related dysphoria for the first time. I’ve spent the past week trying to deconstruct what that means for me, what it feels like, why it’s so hard for me to figure out how to work around it. I don’t have any easy answers, but these are the best words I’ve found for it so far: after I started on testosterone and my body started changing, I experienced a period of time where I felt more comfortable than I ever had before in my skin – like I fit in my body for the first time that I could remember. There was this sense of wholeness, and rightness, to it. But now dysphoria has swooped in, and I’m back to feeling fractured: it’s not so much that I hate my body, but that it doesn’t feel like it belongs to me. It doesn’t fit me anymore. And that’s maddening and heart-wrenching, particularly after having experienced something better for a while. I don’t really know what to do with it.

I wonder if, maybe, the best thing I can do is take my focus off myself and onto other people. My sister was in town last weekend. (We don’t share any genetic material, but many years of shared experiences. Her family of origin treats her in ways no person should ever be treated, and I’ve had my own frustrations with my family of origin, so we’ve pieced together families of our own, and they include each other.) Neither she nor I nor my partner felt particularly up to venturing out of the apartment and into the cold (or for a host of other reasons), so the weekend consisted of a lot of me cooking a lot of good food and all of us sitting in the same space reading books and reminiscing. I was reminded how fulfilling it is for me when I am able to create a safe space for someone I love. Being a host stresses me out to some extent, because I always worry that I’m not being entertaining enough. But knowing that I am creating a space where we can all be ourselves mitigates that stress to some extent, particularly when I’m taking care of someone who I know has too few safe spaces in their life elsewhere.

I may not know how to take good care of myself in this moment, but at least I can still take care of other people. It’s not a long-term solution (or, really, even a solution at all), but it feels like it’s helping.

My Brain is Unpredictable

My brain is unpredictable. This is nothing new. I am Bipolar, and have been aware of that fact for almost six years. I have navigating my way through unexpected brainspace down to a fine science.

In the past week, though, my brain threw me for a loop: this week, I was unexpectedly visited by the dysphoria monster.

I should have known it was coming. I mean, I’m a trans guy. It had to happen eventually.

It’s not the first time I’ve dealt with dysphoria. Not entirely. But my whole previous experience with dysphoria was centered around my voice, and how uncomfortable that made me, and with the introduction of testosterone into my system, that faded into the background.

No, this is a new experience. I knew I was incredibly lucky, up to this point, to not have experienced a great deal of body-related dysphoria. I’ve seen many people near and dear to me go through it, and was grateful to have dodged that bullet. It seems, though, that my relationship with my body is changing.

On the one hand, I’ve reached a point where, for the first time in my life, I actually like myself. I’ve gone from loathing to tolerating to feeling benevolently indifferent to actually liking who I am as a person the majority of the time.

On the other hand, I’m finding myself increasingly anxious about how I’m perceived by the rest of the world, particularly because of certain realities about my anatomy.

I bind my chest pretty much every day (unless I’m not leaving the house, and even then, I might). But I can’t wear binders that are especially tight, because I have an enormous ribcage, and the tighter the binder, the more my ribs hurt, and the more I’m at risk for causing myself some serious medical problems. Lately, I’ve felt like the binder I have that I was satisfied with a couple of months ago just isn’t cutting it anymore: every day I’m more conscious of the fact that I often look like a butch lesbian with sideburns. (Which is not to say anything against butch lesbians – I think they’re delightful – I’m just not one of them. I’m not a lesbian at all. I’m a [very] queer man.)

Before I started pursuing HRT, I went over the course of about a month from being reasonably okay with the fact that the world was insisting on seeing me as a woman to having daily panic attacks because I was terrified that no one would ever see me as anything else. I haven’t gotten back to the point of panic attacks, but I’m worried that it could be lurking right around the corner.

My brain hasn’t been too bad a place to live in for a while now. I don’t love that I’m going to have to relearn some coping mechanisms that I’ve let slide since the last time I had to wrestle regularly with myself. But I guess that’s all part of life in transition.

Some Things Change; Some Stay the Same

It’s the first Thursday of November.

The first Thursday of November last year, I learned how to self-administer testosterone injections, and gave myself my first shot.

It’s been a year.

A year ago, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was making the right choice. I was convinced, however, that I had to do something, and since starting HRT was suddenly an option that was open to me, I went for it.

And after a year, I have to say…I haven’t regretted it for an instant.

It’s not that I hated being a woman. I just…wasn’t particularly good at it. This body that I recreated with the help of hormones fits my soul in ways it never did before.

I am infinitely more comfortable and confident now. This doesn’t mean that I am comfortable and confident 100% of the time, but I waste much less energy on self-loathing than I used to.

The sound of my own voice rarely causes me to cringe anymore. On the best days, I love it. On the worst, I just realize that old speech patterns, just like any other habits, sometimes die hard.

I have an ever-increasing volume and distribution of facial hair. I realized this week that I have actually reached the point where I can shave in the morning and have stubble by the end of the work day. I’m sure there are men who find this annoying. I think it’s wonderful. And I’m learning to feel a sort of benevolence toward the hair sprouting pretty much everywhere else on my body. The hair on the top of my head may not be growing as quickly as it was…and it’s possible that I’m losing it more quickly than I used to. But I’m not any more afraid of balding than I ever was of going grey (which is to say, I’m pretty sure I can rock it however it plays out).

I’m still soft, and I have curves, but they’re distributed in some different places. My lower body is much more compact, where my upper body feels more solidly built. And for the first time since, well, the onset of my first round of puberty, really, my weight hasn’t fluctuated more than five pounds in the past year.

My Bipolar cycles have evened out to some extent. They’re still there, and still noticeable, certainly…but I have fewer days lost to feelings of madness, and it’s much rarer for me to feel like I’m out of control.

In a couple of weeks, I have a court hearing scheduled to legally change my name. I still have a few loose ends to figure out, but everything feels like it’s clicking into place.

I’ve been unspeakably lucky. I have a supportive partner, supportive friends and chosen family, and even a largely supportive work environment. I have dear friends on their own similar journeys who have not always been so fortunate, and I hope I never lose sight of how much of a privileged life I lead.

It’s been quite the ride, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Here’s to a year of adventure ahead!

Happy Anyway

I’m sick. I tried for a while to convince myself it was just fall allergies, and maybe it started that way. But it’s become evident in the last few days that I do, in fact, have a cold (which may turn into something even less fun today, since I got my flu shot yesterday).

On top of that, it’s been pretty overcast the past few days. Yesterday’s dreariness in particular made me acutely aware of how much my mood and general ability to be an adult are influenced by the weather. When it’s cloudy for more than about 24 hours, all I want to do is hide in a giant blanket nest and not come out again until it’s sunny.

But you know what?

I’m still pretty happy.

Because, really, life is pretty good. I might be feeling under the weather, but there are still reasons to smile:

Tomorrow is Halloween. It also marks three years since I first tried on the name Alyx and found that it fit. It fit so well that it was briefly terrifying, because I knew exactly what sort of precipice I was stepping over. But the terror quickly gave way, because it felt so…easy. Comfortable. Right. Pronouns may still be a weird thing for me to navigate, and I’m not always sure exactly what is going on with my relationship to my body, but my name? That’s mine. There are no questions there.

In a few weeks, I will legally become Alyxander. I will have an ID card that matches my actual identity. And HR now knows and has told me what they need from me to change things over in their systems. I have all of the prerequisite paperwork together; it’s just a matter of waiting, now. I’m nervous, but mostly, I’m excited.

And, though it’s an exceedingly silly thing, I bought aftershave for the first time this week. It smells kind of like it belongs to a curmudgeonly old man, and I love it. This may be the thing that pushes me into shaving more than once a week. (Not that I don’t like shaving, because I actually do: I have a wonderful double-edged safety razor that I bought myself as a “yay, I started testosterone” present, and a brush and some great soap that I got from my partner as a Christmas gift last year, and I find the whole ritual kind of soothing. I’m just lazy. Not so lazy that I won’t link to all of my shaving gear in a blog post, apparently, but lazy enough that I only end up shaving when I look really scruffy, which takes about a week these days.)

Gratitude

A friend of mine nominated me on Saturday via Facebook to come up with three moments of gratitude a day for five days. Well, that was about five days ago, and I haven’t done it yet, but that seemed like a good direction for the blog this week. So Amanda, here’s my list; thanks for the inspiration.

  1. A partner who will join me on silly, spontaneous adventures. Last Thursday, I had the wild idea that we should rent a car over the weekend and drive to Cedar Falls, IA to catch Joe Stevens in concert. The conversation went something like this:

    A: We should go on a road trip and see Joe Stevens!
    E: But it’s Iowa.
    A: But concert!
    E: But IOWA.

    I acknowledged it was a pretty ridiculous idea, but I was a little sad…until I got off work and was greeted by a text to the effect of, “So, about that concert…”

  2. Friends with whom I can escape reality for a while. Saturday was Dungeons & Dragons & Knitting, which is the monthly Pathfinder game with some folks in our knitting circle (the original idea was to play D&D, but Pathfinder ended up happening instead…we just never changed the name). Four of us have an adventure in group storytelling while our partners hang out in the other room and knit and make fun of us. It’s consistently one of the highlights of every month.
  3. Open spaces. We did end up renting a car this weekend and going on a road trip into Iowa, taking a detour on our way to Cedar Falls so that I could show Ethan some of the northeast corner of the state, which is not entirely flat and very, very pretty. The farther we got from Chicago, the more I relaxed. Don’t get me wrong: I love living in Chicago. But wide open spaces do wonders for my soul.
  4. People who choose to love me because of who I am, not in spite of it. The reason I know that there is a pretty part of Iowa (the aforementioned northeast corner) is that my grandparents live there, on a farm in a valley surrounded by trees and bluffs and wildlife and gardens. I remain convinced at age 26 that their farm is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We were close enough on Sunday that, had I so chosen, we could have stopped by for a surprise visit. But I didn’t. I love my grandparents very much. They love their grandchildren very much. But when I came out to them as Alyx in a letter two years ago, their response (also in a letter) was that they would never call me Alyx, because Alyx was “an imaginary person.” I am almost entirely certain that they don’t know that I started any sort of physical transition. I haven’t seen them in over two years, and I haven’t been on their farm in at least three, and I don’t know when (or if) either of those things will happen again, which is heart-wrenching whenever I think of it. But it also reminds me that I have a whole bunch of people in my life who not only accept that I am Alyx but actually celebrate my life with me, and that is a great comfort.
  5. Those moments of recognition by others in our communities. Visibility is such a huge thing, both for those of us who are still frequently misgendered, and those in our community who pass so well that no one believes they’re trans. There were a handful of those moments this weekend.
  6. Approachable heroes. Meeting Joe Stevens was great: he’s one of our songwriting idols, and is just a fantastic person. But even better than meeting Joe was the fact that we got to actually talk with him. By the end of the night, we were giving each other hugs goodbye. We’re now friends on Facebook. This is still blowing my mind.
  7. Adventures that lead to more adventures. When we got to Cedar Falls and started talking with Joe (and River Glen, who’s touring the Midwest with him), we mentioned we’d road tripped it from Chicago, at which point they told us they were actually going to be playing a house concert in Chicago on Monday night. Throughout the night they told us several times that we should come. We got in touch on Facebook and got the details, and despite the fact that my partner had only slept about 45 minutes and had worked a full day, and the fact that we’d returned the rental car and weren’t entire sure how we were going to get home after transit stopped running, Monday night we found ourselves in the very humid basement of a hippie couple we’d never met, sweating with strangers (and new friends, and someone we met at a karaoke bar three-and-a-half years ago), enjoying more music.
  8. Music that inspires me to create more music. I felt two things in regard to the music at both shows: first, that my songwriting is totally inadequate, and second, that I want to write more songs. There are times when I get the first feeling but not the second one; this was one of the beautiful moments where my feelings of inadequacy were outweighed by inspiration.
  9. New friends. We met some awesome people on Sunday and Monday.
  10. Thinking about the future. My partner and I have been doing a lot of talking about our future together, and it’s really wonderful not only to have a partner I want to have a future with, but to be able to think about the future at all. There was a long time when I could barely see past tomorrow. I’m learning to dream again.
  11. Air conditioning. This is a silly one, but it’s been ridiculously humid in Chicago this week. We don’t have AC at home, but I have it at the office, and I’m grateful for the times I can spend in places where everything does not feel soggy.
  12. Comfort in my skin. This isn’t a constant, but I’ve been feeling fairly centered and okay within myself this week. I was able to go to both concerts without feeling more than momentary social anxiety, and a lot of that had to do with being comfortable being myself. I spent a lot of years stuck in self-loathing, and while I’m not my biggest fan, I’ve at least reached the point where I feel a sort of benevolent indifference toward myself, which is unbelievably better for my mental health.
  13. Fresh perspective. I’m not sure exactly how to explain this one, because it’s been a largely internal thing. Mostly, there have been tiny things happening in the past few weeks that have helped me to look at the world in new (or old but forgotten) ways, and it’s been refreshing.
  14. A (mostly) calm brain. There have been a lot of storms here in the past week. My brain tends to get really uncomfortable when the weather is shifting back and forth rapidly. I’ve felt surprisingly stable in the midst of all of it.
  15. Concrete future plans. I alluded to this in last week’s post, and now that I’ve told my family, I can announce it to all of you: at the end of September I will be filing the requisite paperwork for a court date to legally change my name. By the end of the year I will legally be Alyxander James! There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to express how excited I am.

A Week of New Beginnings

It’s been a week of beginnings, and of reflections on beginnings.

Last Tuesday, I did something scary. I went to an Aikido dojo, and watched a class, and wound up signing up for membership for June and buying a gi. Sunday, I went to my first practice. While the fact that I never quite managed to execute anything perfectly was frustrating, I surprised myself by sticking with it the whole practice and not taking breaks. Everyone was really friendly, and there was a minimum of awkwardness around pronouns, and no one questioned my presence in the men’s changing room, so that was great. I intended to go back yesterday morning (it’s another Jewish holiday, so I wound up with two free days this week), but I caved to the desire to get some extra sleep. I will be going back tomorrow after work, though. I’m going to try to make two practices a week for the month of June, and if I decide at that point to stick with it, I’ll probably try to work in a third in coming months. (For the record, as I am writing this three days after the fact, I am still sore in places I didn’t know I had. I still plan to go back. This is a big deal.)

This Tuesday was my birthday. I am now 26, which is not a particularly exciting age, but it’s a new year, and there’s always something to be said for the beginnings of things. I never would have imagined, looking ahead as I turned 25, that the year would hold so much change. I got a new job, which has been infinitely better than anything I had hoped to find, and which is teaching me new things and giving me opportunities for growth every day. I’m working in a field I’ve always been interested in but never thought I would pursue for a career. There are certainly things about my job that are frustrating, but hey, that’s just kind of part of life, right? I have a great manager, a great immediate supervisor, and a work environment where I can safely be out.

Which brings us to another big change that’s happened since my last birthday: I started on testosterone. When I hit 25, I was only just barely starting to consider testosterone as a possibility, and I assumed it was going to be something in the distant future. Prior to last spring, I had written it off as something I should never try, because I was terrified of the possibility of my fairly well-managed Bipolar brain being destabilized. By August, I had been destabilized by the dissonance between my mental image of myself and the reality I saw in the mirror. I had panic attacks whenever I thought about going out in public. It felt like a snap decision when I made the appointment to talk with my doctor about testosterone, but by the time I started, it was clear that it was a necessary choice for the sake of my well-being. And I can gladly say that I am so much happier and more comfortable in my body now than I was a year ago. I can stand the sound of my own voice (I even enjoy it sometimes). I have some scruffy facial hair, including sideburns that my partner predicts will rather resemble Hugh Jackman’s sideburns as Wolverine when they fill in more (I can dream, right?).

I also started songwriting classes in the last year. I wrote songs in high school (quite a few, actually), but they were all pretty horrible, and I’d only made a couple of attempts since then, none of which were particularly great. It’s been fascinating to watch my progress as I’ve gone through 20-some weeks of classes. I can honestly say I’m proud of a couple of the songs I’ve written, and I can see myself growing less and less afraid of experimenting as time goes on. Between the weekly songwriting assignments and the weekly commitment to keep up this blog have been great for my sanity. I need creative outlets in my life, and it’s been so, so good to have them consistently.

As I take my first tentative steps into this next year of life, I am particularly aware of the fact that I have no idea what the future holds. What I do know is that I am excited about the year ahead. I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago, and for that, I am grateful.

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