Un-Alone

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This is my 200th post.

I wanted to post something upbeat, but I also try to be honest about what is going on in my life when I write.

The past week has been very difficult.

But I got through it.

And how I got through it is a lesson in how far I have come since deciding to transition.


I had a panic attack last Monday morning.

A bad one.

In fact, "terrifying" is not too strong an adjective.

I would prefer not to get into what brought it on; I can say that I am taking steps to address the likely cause.

I was quite shaky emotionally for the next few days. The worst part of panic attacks (for me, at least) is their randomness. Since I don't know what triggers them, I live in constant fear that one could strike at any time.

I had over two hours of laser and electrolysis last Tuesday night, focused primarily on my chin and neck, two areas where I still has a heavy beard, unfortunately. That session followed on the heels of a 90 minute session the preceding Saturday.

Any work we do in this area is painful, I've found; I guess it's a particularly sensitive area for me. As I always do, I soaked with Epsom salts and applied moisturizer before going to bed.

When I awoke on Wednesday morning, my face was unusually blotchy, irritated, and sore.

Previously, I could shave the day after a session, even a long one like this, with few problems. And since my sessions were so close together, I hadn't shaved for five-plus days. So I was really, really looking forward to getting rid of all of those cursed whiskers.

I turned on my electric razor and ran it once on my neck - and dropped it instantly.

It felt as if I had scraped it with a jagged shard of glass. My face felt as if it was on fire.

Doctors have told me I have an unusually high pain threshold. I can attest that this hurt just a shade less than when I broke my ribs last March. It was an unusually warm, humid day, and in hindsight I am sure that played a large part in the intensity of my reaction.

And it was quite intense. In fact, I was in agony. And that is not a word I use lightly.

I started crying, it hurt so much. And if anyone has followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I rarely cry.

It wasn't just the physical pain, although that was considerable

It was also the pain of feeling as if I weren't getting anywhere, even after all of the endless, painful sessions I have endured the past eight-plus months.

I looked in the mirror and saw... him.

Even through vision blurred by tears and pain... the chewed up, grizzled visage I saw was his.

Not mine.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

I had to go to work like that.

The pain lessened as the day wore on, but emotionally I felt as if I had thousands of nettles stabbing me. By the time I reached home on Wednesday evening, I was utterly drained.

And I had two more days to go before the weekend mercifully arrived.

So of course one of the two people seemingly devoted to making my life miserable at work decided late Friday afternoon was the perfect time go blame me for what turned out to be a failure entirely of their own making.

Again, I prefer not to go into the specifics; suffice it to say that this person went out of their way to send me as insulting, demeaning, and thoroughly unprofessional message as I have ever received in 16-plus years as a technical writer.

And they copied my co-workers on this project.

I have gone out of my way to give this particular person the benefit of the doubt. Their behavior had seemed to be improving the past few months.

But the first time something went wrong - again, something THIS person was responsible for, something that they failed to do three years ago, long before I worked for this company - this person reverted to form.

I wound up working nearly 13 hours on Friday, primarily to clean up the file affected by this error. If I hadn't, my co-worker D, perhaps the single nicest person I have ever worked with, would have come in over the weekend to do it himself.

D has demonstrated more integrity in the short time I have known him than most people demonstrate in a lifetime. Quite simply, I would walk through a brick wall for him. That is a measure of the esteem in which I hold him, and even more so, a measure of how much I value him as a friend.

I was spent, physically and emotionally, by the time I got home at nearly 9:30 that Friday evening.

I tried to watch a movie, but I could not focus for more than a few minutes at a time. I awoke at 3:30 in the morning on my couch, my laptop perched on my lap, right where it was when I apparently fell asleep four hours prior.

I *never* do that.

But I did last Friday.

I have rarely needed a weekend away as much as I needed it last week.

***

Over the next two days, I took several long walks. While I like going to the gym, there is something about walking that brings me comfort that goes beyond the simple pleasure of exercising.

Mostly, it is because it gives me time to let me figure out what - and how - I am really feeling.

And as I walked and walked on that warm, humid Saturday, the negative/painful events of the week began to recede in importance, much to my surprise.

Instead, a different focus emerged.

One that was far more indicative of where I am in my journey, and of how far I have come.

***

I thought back to the previous Monday, when my panic attack set in as I was preparing to drive to work.

It took me nearly two hours to regain enough composure to tell my manager, L, what had happened.

As always, her primary concern was with me as a person.

"Don't worry about work," she said. "Take a shower, put on some clean clothes, make yourself some tea, and let yourself rest. You're more important to me than finishing a few Help topics today."

She asked me to call whenever I woke up later that day, because she would be worrying about me otherwise. And she also ordered me - ordered me - to call her immediately if I needed to, for any reason.

"I've gone through these before myself, Cass," she said. "Know that you can call me ANYTIME. I mean it."

Have I mentioned what an incredible boss I have?

***

I then thought about what happened after I finished speaking with L.

I sent a text message to my dear sister, April, and told her what was going on.

She was feeling poorly herself that day, as I later found out. But her instant concern this day was for me.

"What can I do to help, sis?" she texted me. "I can talk anytime if you want to call me. Or if you want me to call someone, I can do that too. Just let me know whatever you need, OK?"

"And remember: we'll get through this together."

Next, I reached out to another dear friend, one whose opinion I respect as much as any person I know. She was the first person to reach out to me when I first began blogging, and has been unstinting in her support ever since.

She has told me over and over that I can get in touch if I ever need to talk to her, and if necessary, she will drop everything to do so.

I briefly summarized what happened, and asked if we could speak later that week, when I had time to recover.

"I can make time for you whenever you need me, sweetie," she said. "You tell me what works for you; I'll make it work for me."

We spoke the following evening.

She confirmed that I had likely identified the culprit for my attack, and urged me to take steps to address it. (I am, which will be the subject of a future post.)

"That's great, hon," she said. "You are going to feel so much better once this is over. You have no idea how much of a burden you're carrying now; you can't, because you've always had it. But once it's gone you will be amazed how much lighter you will feel."

"I can't guarantee your panic attacks will go away. But if you do get them, this won't be the cause.

"You're doing everything you're supposed to be doing in your transition, sweetie. And you have a group of kindred spirits now who have all been there."

"No matter how scary or awful it may seem in the moment, one of us has been there already. And even if we haven't, you can reach out to us."

"Don't EVER think you have to get through something by yourself. We spent our entire life doing that before we transitioned. Now we don't have to anymore."

"So remember: you're never alone. Ever."

"OK?"

I was more than OK.

***

Several days later I finally saw my sister C and told her about my week, particularly my  encounter with Jerk #1 at work.

She is made of far sterner stuff than your narrator, I can assure you.

In her plainspoken way, she reminded me of her skepticism when I told her several months ago that this person seemed to be making an effort.

"You bend over backwards to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially people who don't deserve it," she told me.

I nodded my head ruefully.

"Do you remember what I told you when you first said he was treating you better?" she asked.

"'Once a snake, always a snake,'" I replied.

She nodded.

"Now do you believe me?"

I admitted I did.

"I've also told you that you're way, way nicer than I'll ever be," she said.

"Take it from a b****:  people like this jerk are never going to learn. They can't help but be a***holes. It's who they are. They'll keep at it and keep at it, because they think they can.

"But you can put a stop to it . Get right up in this guy's face. Call him on his bulls***. And tell him this is how it's going to be the next time he tries it."

"And the thing is, there won't *be* a next time. Because bullies are gutless cowards. And thats what this guy is. A coward."

Without going into details, that is essentially what happened.

I can't tell you if he learned his lesson or not.

But I sure did.

I felt so much better afterwards that his reaction has become totally irrelevant.

And I know why.

I spent most of my life thinking I deserved to be treated the way Jerk #1 was treating me.

I hated myself, and thought I was worthless. Why would I expect anyone else to feel differently?

The most amazing thing about my transition, then, isn't how I have changed physically. (In the case of my "baby boobies," that isn't much at all! lol)

It is how much I have grown emotionally.

I *like* myself now.

A lot.

And I know I deserve to be treated with respect.

Not only that, I have the right to *demand* to be treated with respect.

That is how I have always treated others.

I deserve no less.

And I will no longer tolerate anything less.

***

I'll end with a brief vignette from the end of my most recent electrolysis session, this past Tuesday.

I told M about the previous week, including the painful reaction to the previous session.

"Come here, hon," she said, and gave me a long, long hug.

"You are having to go through so much just to be yourself, Cass," she said. "It breaks my heart sometimes how unfair that is."

"And I feel awful about how your last session went. You never complain, so I didn't realize we may have done too much. I'll be more vigilant about that from now on."

"You can always tell me if it hurts. I think you're so used to pain you can't feel it sometimes."

"You won't offend me if you tell me I'm hurting you. I want to help you, hon. If it takes a little longer, then so be it."

"I think you came into my life right now for a reason, Cass. I know you've told me you felt that way about me, but it's mutual. I feel that way about you."

"I'm learning so much from our sessions."

"And not just about transitioning. Just watching how you conduct yourself through this has been an education."

I truly didn't know what to say.

So I didn't say anything.

When she squeezed my hand a moment later, I knew I didn't need to. :c)

***

I am amazed to realize that I have never posted this song before.

Not only is it perfect for this post's subject matter, it is a personal favorite a song from one of my favorite bands of the Eighties: Translator.

They were considered part of Los Angeles's Paisley Underground scene early that decade, which featured terrific bands like Green on Red, The Rain Parade, and, most of all, The Dream Syndicate. (Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of their 1982 classic The Days of Wine and Roses; you won't regret it.)

Unlike those bands, though, Translator hailed from San Francisco. (As does Green on Red guitarist / songwriter Chuck Prophet, now that I think about it. Again, you won't go wrong with any of his stellar solo albums - in fact, his most recent, Temple Beautiful, is one of his best - and is an affectionate tribute to the San Francisco of his youth in the 1970s to boot!)

While Translator featured the same Velvet Underground-influenced guitar pyrotechnics as those bands, their sound was equally inspired by their shared love of Big Star/Badfinger-inspired power pop.

You can hear it in their best-known song, "Everywhere That I'm Not," from their 1982 debut album Hearts & Triggers. And even more, you can hear it in one of my very favorite songs ever: "Un-Alone," from their self-titled 1983 album:


I listened to this almost every morning for a year to wake me up in the morning; it never failed to do so. It still gives me an immediate energy boost, guaranteed.

I *still* listen to their music to this day. Their 1986 swan song, Evening of the Harvest, is one of those special albums I turn to when I am having a difficult time. I always find solace there when I listen.

(As a side note, I can also now acknowledge that lead singer Steve Barton is very, very easy on the eyes as well. Not that I would ever let something like that influence my opinion of their music, of course. [cough cough])

:c)

***

So, to sum up:

Translator: Evening of the Harvest (1986)
The Dream Syndicate: The Days of Wine & Roses (1982)
Chuck Prophet: Temple Beautiful (2012)

Happy listening, kids! You won't go wrong with any - or all - of 'em!

2 comments:

Stace on May 19, 2013 at 2:55 AM said...

Sorry you have been having a bad week.

I've not done electrolysis yet, so I have don't know what that's like, but being two years into laser I know the pain that can cause, as well the after effects. It's not fun, and you do start to wonder if it will ever be over - but you de get there with it and when you do it's a wonderful thing.

As for the jerk in the office, just do your best to know that you are better than him and do what you can to protect yourself from him.

Most of all... Keep liking yourself!!!

Hugs,
Stace

Cassidy on May 19, 2013 at 6:10 PM said...

Hi Stace!

I'm feeling better now, thank you. :c) And that mood was one-and-done sort of thing, thankfully.

You have *never* had electrolysis?!? You mean that gorgrous complexion is from laser alone?!? That settles it... I hate you! lol

Kidding, of course. :c) I actually feel the way you wrote about so touchingly in your recent post; I'm already dreading having to say goodbye to mine. I told her I loved her a few weeks ago, and I meant it. She is very special. I am a lucky, lucky girl. Klutzy... but lucky. :c)

Thank you for the kind words, Stace! You are a sweetheart!

Major hugs and love,
Cass

P.S. Listening to Doves on my walk home - a live album I downloaded through eMusic. They're good! Thanks to you, I've now become addicted to Muse, and a big fan of Elbow, Doves, and, from the sound of it, Frightened Rabbit! Great stuff, all. Think I might give Manic Street Preachers a whirl next!

Of course, Muse rules above all! Well, other than Radiohead. But that isn't fair. It's like comparing other bands to The Beatles and Dylan; they simply play in another galaxy populated by the gods, not extraordinarly gifted mortals. :c)

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