It’s been six weeks since surgery and I feel a bit bad that I haven’t been able to update you all on how I am doing. So, I wanted to take a quick moment to do so, and talk a little bit about how the healing process has been for me so far.
Physically, the surgery was very simple. Although my scars are a bit longer than anticipated I’m very pleased with the results. There was some itchiness and there was some awkwardness, but nothing too bad. Honestly, the three weeks of a 5-pound weight limit, and the additional three weeks of a 20-pound weight limit, were more frustrating than anything else. My graphs are great. I think my scars will be very aesthetically pleasing. I also generally don’t have a lot of bruising or swelling, so for the most part what I see is what I got. Although it’s still taking some getting used to I love what the finished part of this journey looks like.
The reason I haven’t been updating, here on my social media much, has been an intense bout with postop depression. Although I understood that that was a possibility, I had been waiting so long that I really didn’t believe it would happen to me. Postop depression can happen after any surgery and it is not more common after top surgery, but can be more emotionally complicated.
I should have remembered that changing your body has deep psychological impacts from my previous surgeries, but I didn’t. I was so looking forward to returning to myself, to the euphoria I’d feel, that I really didn’t consider it. What a fool I was. When something that feels immutable is removed it closes a lot of doors that were possibilities. And yet, opens the doors to suppressed past, and frightening new opportunities in the future. But too much of a good thing is still too much. There is so much grief happening for me. In so many different and unexpected ways. The happiness I feel about how I look and experience my body has been overshadowed by immense grief.
I find myself grieving the past. The child who never felt like I fit in. That child has viewed himself through the eyes of others as a way of seeing himself. Only then to wonder, and be distressed by, the cognitive dissonance. The grief of waking up and finding yourself a grown man not really sure when it happened, yet knowing you wasted years of your life trying to be somebody you weren’t. The grief of thinking you had experienced a particularly isolating girlhood, only to realise really on some level you had experienced a boyhood. Internalising many of the messages that men get despite the fact of also being expected to be a girl.
I found myself drowning in the existential horror of recalling what it felt like for my body to turn on me changing ways I did not consent to. The stress and distress of it being entirely overwhelming, among people who are overjoyed for these changes. I felt cursed. My self-understanding of being considered a tomboy, no longer being acceptable, and the realisation that I was trapped in this body that was no longer my own and expected to uphold a role I did not want was… devastating.
I found myself with increasing awareness of previous trauma because suddenly my body looked prepubescent in a way it hasn’t in many years. So I stumbled down a rocky hill right after my reveal, nauseous and disturbed by the flashes I have but don’t fully remember.
I’ve been struggling with the feelings of other people being ginger or uncomfortable around my body. I feel like other people are disgusted by me, which makes it hard to want to be near other people. I’m aware that as a man who primarily dates men that the scars mark me as other. Moreover, this is a reality that I will continue to struggle with, because my body does not match the traditional male body. Comparison is a bitch.
I have needed to question what it means to be a man. And what kind of man I am. Who I thought I was, or rather who I told I was, does not match the person I am. The lessons I learned do not match our people treat me today. I feel torn between feeling proud, confident, and as though I have something to share, and small, sad and weak. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like I’m supposed to be happy and I’m not. I feel like you aren’t allowed comfort as a man. Men are meant to be strong and functional, not weak and sad. I’ve struggled with my own self-worth, because being so limited in my ability to show up meant I was limited in my ability to prove myself to myself. In my grief, I felt incredibly isolated. Unsure of what to do with these complicated feelings I was unprepared for.
I am afraid.
I am afraid that this will not get better. I am afraid that I’ll never look in the mirror and see a reflection of how I feel. I’m afraid then I’ll always be lacking. That as a man my gentleness is a weakness that I can’t seem to get rid of. That I’ll care too much. I worry I’ll never be confident enough to use my speaking voice, to fill a room with a lower tone. I am afraid I won’t be able to meet the expectations of my loved ones, because despite how it looks, this is also new to me. I’m afraid when I’m physically limited I won’t be able to protect myself, which doesn’t let me sleep at night. It scares me to think that the things that have helped me together for so long, maybe part of what drives my loved ones away from me now.
I worry that the people who supported me in having this process done will think ill of me, think I am undeserving, because I do not feel how I thought I would. Even though, I know this will pass. Because it has been! It has been getting better slowly but surely. I’ve been finding my footing and doing the work that needs to be done to build myself into the image of myself that I stopped believing was possible. I’ve cried more in the last few weeks than in probably many years. I’ve screamed and yelled, and I’m not proud of that. I’ve asked for help. I figured out little things that help me feel less awful.
It’s been six weeks and I still find myself staring at the ceiling for hours at a time. There are things I wanna be doing. There are projects I want to start, yet I can’t. Life, just feels too overwhelming. Everything just feels so hard, and I feel so sad and so tired. A few weeks ago I thought I wanted a caretaker. I thought I wanted people to hold me and tell me it would be OK. I thought I wanted for someone to handle everything and let me relax. I thought that would be better, and it’s what I thought I wanted for many years.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned I hate it. I like being self-sufficient, I like taking action, I like being bold and making choices and doing difficult things. I love a challenge, I love a bet, and I love to push myself to be the best version of myself along with everyone around me. I’m quite intense. But I’ve also learned, but I don’t wanna do it alone. But I have lived a life of loneliness that has eaten at my heart causing me copious amounts of fear and disillusionment. On my own I work myself to the bone without any consideration of my own body or mental health as a distraction. Being unable to do that has left me with a frightening awareness of my social needs through my struggles to meet them. As well as a deep desire for various companionships, intimacy, love and care. Things not only can I not give myself, but additionally don’t come from meeting challenges. It’s a softness I desire.
It’s the ability to spend the day being a strong as I need to be to survive a life as an intersectional minority, then turn to my relationships and be seen as more than just that. To be able to sit down my burdens, knowing I will pick them up again, and I will handle them as I always do, but for now it’s not needful. I can hold my loved ones, I can listen to them talk, take them on walks and spend time doing things together knowing that despite it all I’m wanted. I want to laugh and create and be included. I want peace. I want simplicity. I want the world to slow down, so I don’t feel like I’m constantly running to catch up. I want to make people happy, and to feel loved and cared for and seen. I want that in return. I want to believe it or not only am I allowed to exist but that my existence is celebrated. And that as much as I love other people, at least some will love me equally as much.
There has been much to think about, and more I haven’t talked about here. I just think it’s important to talk about how I’ve been doing, particularly to those of you who seem invested in my happiness. I’m so incredibly grateful for the support I received to be able to do this, even with the depression that came along side. I hope that in the coming months this depression will pass and I will be able to express the amount of joy and comfort I have from having this done. Because underneath at all, I know that this is part of the journey into becoming a fullest version of myself.
It’s just gonna take some time.
If you read this far no matter whether we’re close or not thank you so much. This has been hard to write, and actually, it’s been done all through dictation because otherwise, I will have to continue to freeze. I’m not happy about who I’ve been the last six weeks. I’ve dropped the ball in many areas and not shown up in the way that I want. Yet, continuing to try to force me to be ready sooner has not been working. So, I’m going to continue to take my time, I’m trying to figure out what exactly it is I need from my loved ones to feel the companionship in this journey, so if nothing else I know that I’m no longer alone.