Recovery Continues

It’s been just over a week since I had chest masculinization surgery.

Generally, I’m feeling great. I’m beyond ready to have the drains removed, but by the time you read this, that’s probably already happened – the appointment is scheduled for Thursday morning. That’s also when I’ll get a better look at what my chest is really looking like. I’ve seen under the compression vest I’m in a couple of times now, but it’s been accompanied by the stress of a shower (which, when you’re not allowed to face the water or let the little nipple bolster/cushion things be hit directly by the water, and you don’t have your full range of arm motion, is a pretty stressful experience), and the ever-present drains were a factor then. Still, from what I can see, I’m pretty happy. The right side of my chest is pretty bruised, but that’s not particularly surprising after surgery. All in all, my biggest reaction so far has been feeling like this wasn’t that big of a change. This is untrue, but since my chest in real life now looks like it already did in my head, it feels a little like not much happened.

A couple of days ago I traded the heavier pain killers for ibuprofen, which has been working out fine. The worst I’ve had for pain has been what feel like muscle aches. Nothing too serious, mostly just distracting when it happens. The meds have done a good job of taking the edge off, which is about all I ever hope for with pain medication.

My partner’s dad stayed with us and helped out around the apartment for the past ten days; he went home last night. It was great to have him here, and I’m grateful for his help and support!

My week has mostly involved reading (I’ve finished Mara Wilson’s autobiography, Where Am I Now?, which I bought a few days before surgery, and Terry Pratchett’s Wintersmith, which my best friend sent me for recovery reading), knitting (slowly, on a project where tension and gauge don’t make much of a difference), napping, and watching movies. Which is to say it’s been relaxing and (thankfully) uneventful. Next week I will be totally on my own at home, so that’ll be an adventure, but I’m not worried about it. I’m supposed to go back to work the week after, but I might opt to work from home that week, just to ease back into things. We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for all of your support. I’ve been flooded with sweet texts, emails, and Facebook messages, and I have no doubt all the love coming my way is part of what’s making this all go so smoothly.

Post-Op

Hello, friends! I am writing this Wednesday morning, my first full day post-op, so this is going to be a short one, probably.

Surgery happened yesterday afternoon, and went very well. The operation itself took less time than the surgeon had estimated it would, although I made up for that time in recovery (I was a sleepy bear and it took me a while to wake up all the way). I really wasn’t nervous at all – the entire staff at the surgical center was charming and kind, and I felt very well-informed every step of the way. By far the worst part of the process was getting the IV started (my line is always, “I am not afraid of needles, but my veins are,” and that definitely proved true yesterday), but even that wasn’t unbearable.

Today I’m pretty sore, but thanks to help from my partner and his dad, who came down to help us out this first week, I’m staying on top of meds and getting top-notch aftercare.

Thanks to everyone who has texted, emailed, Facebooked, or otherwise sent good vibes my way! I’m definitely feeling them.

Counting Down

The countdown to surgery is officially in the single digits, now. All the paperwork has been submitted, insurance has approved it, and I’m all set to go.

It still doesn’t feel totally real. But it’s getting closer to feeling like reality every day.

I’m excited, but it’s not a particularly exuberant excitement. I’ve got some pre-op jitters, for sure, but for the most part, I’m feeling pretty calm. It’s a quiet sort of excitement. It feels right. It’s been a long time coming, and considering the fact that binding is increasingly painful (even just in the past few weeks), it’s definitely the right time to do this. (On that note, I saw this study on binding going around on Facebook, which has also been a long time coming, and I hope to see more like this.)

There’s an awareness suffusing the excitement of the fact that there’s no going back from this. Not that I want that as an option, but I’m aware that this is a level of permanent change that could keep relationships with certain members of my extended family from ever coming back. I don’t know that most of those relationships are salvageable, anyway, but this does feel more…final, I guess.

I’ve been binding for five years as of this month. I’ve squeezed myself into various rib-crushing configurations of compression shirts almost every single day of that five years. When I started, I thought it was going to be a thing I just did occasionally, to play with gender. I didn’t have any idea how much I would like my flat-chested silhouette. The first day I wore a binder, I spent most of it aware of how much harder it was to breathe, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it again. The next morning, I put it back on without thinking much about it. There were times when the particular type of binder I was using caused so much pain in my ribs that I had to stop binding and switch to sports bras for a few weeks, and that was almost more agonizing that the rib pain. Thankfully, binder technology has come a long way in five years, and thanks to gc2b I’ve been able to bind much more comfortably (and, presumably, more safely) for the past couple of years. But I am so, so ready to be done.

I am ready to be done wearing a binder plus and undershirt plus a regular shirt every. single. day.

I am ready to relearn what it’s like to breathe to my full lung capacity.

I am ready to be done with aching ribs and chest muscles.

And most of all, I’m ready to be able to look in the mirror and see a reflection that matches my mental image of myself.

It’s a Process

Holy shit, it’s September!

That’s about as coherent as my thoughts have gotten over the past few days. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job with anxiety management lately, but as October draws closer, I find I’m often just a big old bundle of nerves.

I’m still waiting on a letter from my doctor that is a crucial part of raising my chances of having insurance cover surgery next month (if I’m lucky, I’ll have the letter by the end of the day today).

Once I have that letter in hand, I can turn it (along with the letter from my therapist) in to the surgeon’s office, who will submit all of that to my insurance, and then I cross all appendages and wait to hear if I’m covered, or if I’m going to be in a whole lot more credit card debt at the end of all of this.

Still, despite the anxiety, things are going pretty well. I am constantly reminded that my people are the best people, and I am super grateful for that. I have such a great support system, and multiple creative outlets, and a cute, cozy place to live with the love of my life. So even though I have several thousand dollars of credit card debt that might be about to double hanging over my head, I feel like I can’t really complain too much. I’m finally in a place where I feel like things really are going to work out, somehow.

Momentum

Despite the fact that the entire rest of my work team was on vacation last week, making for a rather sleepy week at the office, it feels like my life is really picking up speed.

I’m less than 50 days out from chest masculinization surgery. There are a handful of details to finish nailing down between now and then, but for the most part, it looks like it really is going to happen. It’s starting to feel real. It still feels like it’s a long way off, but then I start looking at the actual numbers, and really…it’s coming up faster than I think I’m allowing myself to process.

I’m playing two different shows in the next couple of weeks. Sunday night I’ll be playing my longest on-stage set ever (a whopping 45 minutes). I was asked to do the show with one week’s notice, and in a moment of madness, I agreed. I’ll manage to get everything polished enough to play by then, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking. It might be my last big show of the year, depending on how recovery goes after surgery, so there’s also some self-inflicted pressure there, to go out with a bang.

In a few weeks, I’ll be participating in a show comprised entirely of covers of songs written by one of my dear songwriting friends. So that’s two additional songs I need to get cemented in my head within the next few weeks. I’m excited and honored to have been asked to participate, and I think it’ll be a really fun night. I never really do covers, because I generally feel like I can’t do another musician’s work justice. So it’s an exciting challenge.

I’m trying to cherish all the time I’m spending playing my guitar right now, since it’s going to be a major challenge (and for a while, an impossibility) post-op.

I’ve been a little down the past few days, for no real reason I can figure aside from the cyclical nature of my brain. But I’m aware that things are falling into place, and that’s a comforting thing to realize.

Short and Sweet

I realize I’m a little late posting this today. Sorry about that! The cold I thought I’d managed to kick last week came back with a vengeance, and I have spent the past few days feeling pretty miserable. I still sound horrible today, but at least I’m back at  work and feeling a little more human.

That said, I don’t actually have a whole lot to write about. So here’s a quick list of things I’m looking forward to in the near future:

  1. Top surgery is now officially less than two months away. I’m in the process of pulling together the documentation I need to bring to my next visit with the surgeon. I’m looking forward to getting it all over with, and I am looking forward to having three whole weeks off from work.
  2. One of our favorite folk musicians is playing a couple of places in town in the next couple of weeks. It’s always a pleasure to hear him play, and it looks like we’ll be able to catch a couple of his shows.
  3. More than anything, at the moment I am looking forward to a weekend spend hanging out with my partner (whose birthday is tomorrow!) as we both work on recovering from our respective colds.

Things are Looking Up

Last week was awfully full of feelings, many of them rather negative.

This past week has been full of feelings, too, but largely of a more positive variety.

Last Thursday night, my partner and I went to a songwriting workshop at the Old Town School put on by one of Mouths of Babes, one of our favorite folk duos. It was phenomenal and inspiring and made me want to write all the songs.

I haven’t really had time yet to start on writing all the songs, though. Friday morning I picked up a giant rental SUV before work, and that evening, my partner and I went to IKEA, where we picked up four pieces of furniture and a handful of other organizational tools. Saturday was spent building furniture and rearranging most of our apartment. We finished up Sunday, and even had time to go to MSI with a friend and then to a Mouths of Babes concert (which was also phenomenal and inspiring).

And then Monday came.

Monday evening, a friend arrived in town who will be staying with us for a total of almost two weeks. My partner and I can’t take any time off during the week, but we’re looking forward to playing tourist a bit over the weekend and take advantage of some city sites we haven’t taken in yet in the 3+ years we’ve lived here!

But before that, on Monday, I worked half a day, and then went to a consultation appointment with a surgeon here in Chicago who, among other things, performs gender-affirming chest masculinization surgery for transmasculine folks.

The appointment went really, really well – the surgeon was charming and knowledgeable, and considering the rather intense anxiety I generally have regarding medical facilities, professionals, and procedures, I felt surprisingly safe.

Long story short, I set a date for surgery, so come October, I will be getting two literal weights off my chest. I am unbelievably happy, and far less anxious than I was a week ago now that I have that giant unknown better nailed down.

Momentum

A friend of mine who writes zines was commenting the other day about how much harder it is to find things to write about when life is going well, and I have to say, they’re totally right. I’ve been at a bit of a loss the past several weeks whenever I sit down to blog, because life is generally pretty good right now, and I don’t feel like I have much to process by blogging about it. And while life isn’t boring by any means, it’s definitely fallen into a routine, so I don’t often feel like I have big news to share here.

This week did have its particularly bright points, though, which include some exciting news:

  1. I finally finished the sweater I’ve been working on, and it turned out super handsome. I think it’s the best-fitting thing I’ve ever made for myself. I’m hoping to wear it to Yarn Con this weekend. Here’s a picture of me wearing it before I blocked it and wove in all the ends (I was being shy about posing, so my partner decided to pose me as a teapot to take the picture):
    IMG_1746
  2. I spent some time researching over the weekend, and on Sunday evening I contacted a surgeon here in Chicago who does gender-affirming surgeries. First thing Monday morning, I heard back from the patient coordinator (who was very friendly and helpful), and over my lunch break I ended up calling and scheduling a consultation for chest-masculinization surgery. I also sat down and took a hard look at my finances, and assuming I click with this surgeon and am able to move forward, I should be able to work out the financial side of surgery, and I’ll have enough PTO saved up to take the time off I’m expecting to need plus a little extra just in case.
  3. I signed up to play my second live show (not counting end-of-class showcases). It’s not until early May, so I have plenty of time to work out a solid set list. This time I know to prepare more than I think will fit in the allotted time, because I rush a bit when I’m nervous. I’ve written some stuff I’m actually pretty proud of since the last show I did back in January, so I’m excited to try it again.

Music Break!

I don’t have a lot to write about this week. Truthfully, despite the fact that I get a bunch of days off this month and the weather has been beautiful and I’m very nearly done with the sweater I’ve been working on, I’ve been feeling a little down. This week, though, we’re planning to go to three shows to hear some of our favorite musicians perform, which seems like just the pick-me-up I’ve been needing.

Since music is sort of the theme of the week for me, rather than write a regular blog post, I thought I’d share a song I wrote back in June and just finally got around to recording the other day. Enjoy!

Balance

Having an internet presence is a constant balancing act.

I love having this blog. I love that it makes me slow down long enough to write every week, often about things I might not otherwise take the time to think about.

But it’s always a balancing act. How much do I put out into the vast expanse of the internet? How much of my life am I willing to share with friends and strangers? When can I let myself vent about specific people or situations, and to what extent, and when do I need to just keep quiet?

I’ve been dealing with some pretty major emotional stuff lately, and I haven’t known how much to share here. But I think I need to say something, because I have a feeling it’ll come up on its own sooner rather than later, and I want to give some context before it does.

I haven’t spoken to my family of origin since March.

I just wrote 1000 words of explanation, but I am not going to post them, because this is part of the balancing act: I do not want to contribute to further drama. Suffice it to say that right when things seemed to be getting a little better, they turned around and got a whole lot worse, and I had to cut ties in order to maintain my sanity.

I don’t regret the decision to establish some distance. (Boundaries are a thing I’ve always struggled with, and it’s become very clear that I came by that honestly.) But it hasn’t been easy.

I’ve also recently realized that I’ve been avoiding dealing with how I relate to my body. Dysphoria, for me, has mostly manifested in me being very detached from my body…of course, once I realized this, remaining detached got harder, and now I’m painfully aware of my discomfort with my body.

Starting next month, I’ll be on an insurance plan that will make it a lot easier for me to see a therapist, so that’s my plan at this point, because I have a lot of feelings about family and about my body that I need to process, and my partner shouldn’t have to be the only person in the world to listen to me blather as I try to work through those things.

So that’s where I’m at: seeking balance. Whether I achieve it is still hit or miss, but I think I’m getting there. Thanks for coming along for the ride.