Be Not So Fearful

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A friend told me that transitioning would simultaneously be both the hardest thing *and* the best thing I have ever done.

That has proven to be true. I have no regrets whatsoever (other than waiting so long), in spite of the tumult of the past year.

Even with that in mind, some weeks are more trying than others.

Last week was one of those weeks.

It was a combination of things, not all of which were transition-related.

But the end result was one of the more frightening experiences of my life.

And an epiphany.




I have been having a seemingly unending string of health-related woes that stretch back to last March, when I broke three ribs on the day I was offered my current job. (An omen if ever there was one.)

I collapsed at work in September from overwork/insomnia.

I came down with a particularly tenacious flu bug that started just before Christmas and still has not completely run its course.

I was hit by a van, which led to injuries to my oft-injured right wrist and ankle.

And then, when I thought at long last I could begin to start exercising in earnest, I came down with a case of food poisoning.

As a result, I was essentially housebound since just before Christmas. I have a lot of energy, so this enforced stretch of inactivity - nearly a full year - has been agonizing, and quite frustrating.

Because of the food poisoning, I had to work over the long weekend, when I desperately needed a break. I had yet another in my seemingly endless series of deadlines the following Friday, so the work simply had to be done.

I worked all day Saturday and Sunday, and still had at least 10 hours of work on Monday.

I woke up on Monday with the tell-tale signs of a bad day in place. I've suffered from depression my entire life, although I didn't realize until I was an adult. As a result, I now know the symptoms.

I still hadn't received clearance to exercise post-hit & run, and I felt horribly out of sorts, both physically and emotionally, as a result. I need the release it provides, on top of needing it to burn off some of my excess energy. It had essentially been an entire year of being unable to work out beyond some walking.

To further compound matters, I'd essentially been alone in my house for nearly two months. I'm a loner by nature, but this took more of a toll than I expected. I realized later that I literally spoke to no one for three days.

So that Monday I felt isolated and lethargic. Also, I hadn't shaved for several days, as my electrologist had requested; it helped her during our weekly Tuesday night sessions. When I looked in the mirror, I thought I looked just the way I felt:

Ugly.

And I had ten hours of work ahead of me.

Long story short: it got done. It took more than ten hours, but I knew I wouldn't be able to relax until I finished it. I sent off email to my manager and the necessary contacts before calling it a night shortly after 1:00 AM.

As I turned off the light, I tried not to think about the fact that I had the Tuesday morning meeting I dread in barely eight hours.

It didn't work.

I realized shortly after 2:00 AM that it was too late to take a sleeping pill, and that I would simply have to grind out the following day.

When I arose to get ready for work on Tuesday morning, I felt... shaky. I can't explain it, other than to say that is how it felt, physically and emotionally. I was on the edge of something, although I didn't know what it was.

I gathered up my computer and backpack and headed down to my car.

***

As soon as I closed the door I knew something was terribly wrong.

I reached into my pocket to retrieve my car keys after arranging my bags...

...and realized my hands were shaking.

So badly that I couldn't put the key in the ignition.

I felt short of breath, and could literally hear my heart pounding. I was sobbing uncontrollably.

I desperately wanted to get out of the car - it felt as if it was closing in on me - but my legs were like jelly. I knew there was no way I could possibly walk at the moment.

Finally, after nearly 20 minutes, I felt I had regained enough control to make it up the stairs to my apartment. It felt more like an eternity.

I staggered up the stairs and literally collapsed on my bed, fully dressed. I lay there for over an hour, trying to summon the energy to call my manager.

When I finally did, I dialed her cell phone.

No answer.

I tried her home number.

No answer.

I tried her office number.

No answer. (It was barely 7:00 AM where she lives.)

Then my cell phone rang.

I answered with a barely audible "Hello?"

"Cass? Are you OK?"

It was my manager, L, her concern palpable.

I lost it.

I cried and cried and cried.

L kept reassuring me, telling me it was OK, and to let it all out, that she would wait as long as that took.

I tried several times to speak, but broke down each time.

"Talk to me, Cass," she said. "Please. Just talk to me. This isn't your boss L; it's your friend L."

I finally managed to summon enough composure to babble, semi-coherently.

About feeling utterly worn out.

And overwhelmed.

And scared.

And alone.

She listened without interruption. When I finished after who knows how long, she finally spoke.

She told me how sorry she was that I had to go through such an awful experience, and to be alone when it happened. And that she was equally sorry for what a difficult year I'd endured, both personally and professionally.

"I can't possibly imagine how hard it is go through this process under the best of circumstances," she said, "And you most certainly have not had that."

"But you haven't given up, or in. You keep moving forward, at work and in your transition. That takes incredible strength, and determination, and courage."

"I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again: I'm so glad I hired you, both because you're really good at what you do, but much more importantly, because I got to become friends with you.

"I will do absolutely everything I can possibly do to help you with your job and with your transition. And I say that as your manager and your friend."

We spoke for nearly 90 minutes. I kept apologizing for calling so early, and for making her late for work, and for causing her so much trouble.

Finally she interrupted me.

"Would you PLEASE stop apologizing?!?" she said, mock-angry. "It is completely unnecessary. I've *told* you that over and over! God... you are *such* a girl!"

That made me laugh. Her too.

"I mean it, Cass. You really are. I think of you as Cass. In fact, I have a hard time remembering to think of you as "him" at work. So do S and B. And if it's that hard for us, I can't imagine what it's like for you."

"But remember: it isn't going to be like this forever. You've made so much progress, only you can't see it. You're too close."

"But B sees it. And so does S. They tell me so. I'm coming for a visit there in a few weeks, and they've both told me to be prepared when I see you, because you've changed so much since Thanksgiving (her last visit)."

By the time we finished, I felt immeasurably better.

I thanked L profusely. She asked if I felt better, and I said yes, I was going to head into the office in a few minutes.

"Are you f***-ing INSANE?" she exclaimed. "You are in no condition to go anywhere other than to bed, Cass."

I began to protest as I sat up, then stopped short.

"Is everything OK?" she asked.

"Oh my God.," I said. "I'm absolutely drenched. And so is my bed. I mean, it's soaked right through to the mattress."

"That does it," she said. "You are to get out of those clothes, change your bed, take a hot shower, and then rest. And that is an order. I mean it."

She did, too. I agreed, grudgingly.

"Oh, and one more thing, Cass," she said. "I swear to God, if I get one more 60- or 70-hour timesheet from you, or one more email message at 3:00 AM, I am gonna get the next flight up there, drive to the office, and kick your scrawny Irish butt all over the office with everyone watching. And THEN I'm going to call your sister and have her do the same thing all over again."

She paused.

"And you know we can both take you."

Did I mention what a great boss I have?

She made me promise to call her whenever I woke up ("because I'll worry myself sick if you don't") and to not check my email or voicemail the entire day.

"You've met all of your deadlines, in spite of the craziness; now it's on THEM. If they don't review stuff by end of day tomorrow... then it doesn't get in the release. Period."

"The days of you working 18 hours straight at the end of a project  because they don't have their s*** together are OVER. O-V-E-R. And I am going to tell them that, in no uncertain terms, as soon as we hang up."

"So, get your rest today. And I want to start working on this after today too."

"The worst is over, Cass. Your next deadline isn't for months after this. You can finally learn how to relax. Because you do *need* to learn it. You clearly have no idea what it means."

"So now is the time. I'll help you. So will S, and B, and folks in your group. They call me, you know, to tell me they worry about you, and how hard you work. Let people help you. Think of it as part of your transition, OK?

"So... deal?"

"Deal," I said.

I was smiling.

***

I had a session with M, my therapist, today, and told her about these events.

I told her it was the first time I've ever had a panic attack. She suggested that it is highly likely that I've had them my entire life. I was so shut down emotionally that I simply wouldn't acknowledge them. I asked how that was possible.

"You told me you broke your foot several times as a teenager, didn't you? How long did you say it was before you saw a doctor about it the first time?"

"Well... months," I admitted. "But that was because it didn't really hurt."

She just looked at me for a moment.

Suddenly I understood.

"Oh," I said. "Oh. Wow."

"Exactly," she said. "As awful as this was, it's a good thing - because you let it happen. You let yourself experience and process those emotions, as scary as they were.

"And just as important: you reached out afterwards. You didn't ignore it, or blame yourself. You have a strong sense of self-worth now, and knew you need help. And you knew that you had friends who *would* help. Just like you would if the positions were reversed."

During my transition, I never cease to be amazed at how so often dealing with things that are frightening, and painful, and seemingly insurmountable, so often result in catharsis. And, pretentious as it sounds... growth. (My apologies. lol)
I've been making up for a lifetime of being too afraid, or ashamed, to be myself. And to simply... be.

I'm getting there.

Slowly but surely, I'm getting there.

***

Here is another lovely song from Bill Fay, the British folksinger whose stunning cover of Wilco's "Jesus, Etc." I included in my last post. This song is from his self-titled debut album, released in 1970:


4 comments:

Halle on March 3, 2013 at 4:57 AM said...

Oh my. Epiphany indeed. Such growth in so short a time is painful and you have gained strength from it.

Cassidy on March 3, 2013 at 11:34 AM said...

Halle,

Thank you, Halle. :c)

I actually had a *second* epiphany at the very end of my session yesterday, if you can believe it. I joked with M, my therapist, that she should bill me for two sessions as a result. :c) I will write about that as well when I have some time.

These posts are piling up! lol I still need to write about events that took place just before and after the holidays - very *positive* events - that I need to write about as well. It can't ALL be doom and gloom, after all, tempting though that may be to a Celtic lass's heart!

Hugs,
Cass

Calie on March 25, 2013 at 9:39 PM said...

OMG, Cass....you poor thing. You absolutely have the best, most understanding boss in the world and that is so, so important for someone transitioning.

Your mention of the inability to exercise just reminded me how much I depend on that to keep my sanity. To not be able to exercise would not be good for me. I do hope that, by now, you are able to.

Calie xxx

Cassidy on March 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM said...

Hi Calie!

So sorry for the delayed reply; I have been waging a losing battle with insomnia all week! My sleep patterns are totally shot today. Ah well.

Yes, my manager is the best. Ever. She is really a dear friend who just happens to be my manager. She has pledged to do everything she can to support me, and has proven it repeatedly.

In spite of my weird schedule and the horrid weather here, I *have* been able to exercise pretty consistently 5-6 times a week the past five or so weeks. I'm not remotely close to where I feel comfortable in terms of fitness, but I DID miss an entire year. I can feel it beginning to come; another few weeks of struggle and I should turn the corner.

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods, Calie! We REALLY need to catch up once your schedule eases up; it has been far, far too long!

Happy Saturday, hon!

Hugs,
Cass

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