The above picture sums up my current mood. It was taken as I started to randomly sob out of exhaustion and living with constant pain and discomfort.
My 60 day post op thoughts are:
- I’d offer caution to my pre-op sisters
- Feeling completely cured of period dysphoria
- Done with surgery… (for now)
- Still doubts; Still not sure it’s worth it; It feels like a lot of to deal with just to change some skin
1. I’d offer caution to my pre-op sisters
This might patronising and it’s everyone’s personal choice to make; everyone’s body is their own. But if someone asked me about this operation for themselves – I’d caution them.
I wouldn’t ask someone if they were sure; I’ve been sure since I knew such a thing was possible.
I wouldn’t ask if they were ready; same answer
The question I’d ask someone that was considering it would be are you prepared to do this?
- Mental toughness & endurance
Ask yourself honestly: are you prepared to be in a lot of physical discomfort for a long period of time? Are you prepared to actively cause yourself physical pain several times per day to keep up with the dilation schedule? It is brutal & exhausting. Some days it feels like there is no hole there and you’re just pushing against a wall. It feels like it wont go in. Like it’s tearing you apart. Three times every day for 30-60 mins. Then clean up. I am so sick of showering and douching at this point. Again – three times per day.Sometimes I feel so exhausted by it that I need a week or even a day off, but if I take a break for a dilation, then the next will be harder; It will be tighter and more painful than the last. The only way is to keep plodding forward regardless of how weak or exhausted you are, no matter how much you don’t think you can continue, you must. There is a sense of being trapped in this cycle. No choices; Just the next dilation.Some questions to consider: What is the hardest thing you have done that required grit and determination? How mentally tough are you? Be honest.For example: I have absolutely no idea how people run marathons – I’ve run 3 or 4 miles, but the thought of the toughness of someone that can run for three or four hours for over 26 miles is incredible to me. Maybe you have had to lose a lot of weight and that required courage and utter determination. Strength of mind is key to this.
I arrogantly assumed that I’d be all right to return to work six weeks after surgery. The reality is that I have found doing much more than a maybe six hours in the office hard and I need to do at least a couple of days per week at home. I find it really uncomfortable and sometimes painful sat in upright meeting room chairs. The worst part is that it’s not dependable: Some days I feel strong and relatively mobile, others I can barely get out of bed; I hate the idea of being flakey. I seriously consider just taking a leave of absence and taking the hit to my savings; It is really hard.Some questions to consider: Are you and your employers prepared for you to have more time off work than you think you will need? Are you and your employers prepared that, when you return, you may feel weak and may not be operating at 100%? If paid time off is limited, could you financially afford to push your return by a few weeks if you need to?I have been very lucky so far. My bosses have been explicitly understanding and accommodating of my need for flexible working. I could just have easily been unlucky. My strong advice is talk to your employer in advance about the possible realities of your return & how much you will be able to do.
- Personal Life
If you are in a relationship, is your partner ready for this? I feel pretty unattractive most of the time. Indeed I am pretty physically unattractive at the moment – recovering from surgery isn’t attractive. I know I am tetchy with the people closest to me and I’m not really doing most basic domestic chores such as cooking and cleaning. Is your partner ready for this version of you and to take up the slack?If you have children are you the primary carer? If so how will you fill the gap in your capabilities? Do you have other family that can help? I can’t even pick my children up right now. Whilst I’m not the primary carer, again I have been lucky that my ex has driven them to see me and collected them every weekend since I’ve returned. It’s a round trip of 200 miles and it’s an act of generosity given that she chose nothing about this. I am acutely aware that I am diminished as a parent to my daughters. I can’t take them to the park as I can’t stand or sit for long periods. I have to leave them with the television or toys for periods while I dilate. Again, I have been lucky: They are gentle and kind and have shown remarkable compassion for a 4 & 6 year old.
I suspect that if I’d been given any of this counsel I would have proceeded regardless and indeed even if I could send a message to my past self telling me to delay, would I? I wonder if I ever have been prepared for this? Is there any advice that would have caused me to delay? I knew it would be hard, maybe not this hard, but this is what I signed up for I suppose.
As I said above I would not be so patronising to put someone off, just to question if now is the time.
2. Feeling completely cured of period dysphoria
Some trans women experience dysphoria around completely undesirable aspects of female life. One of which is period dysphoria.
I felt somehow like it was an aspect of the female world that I’d never know. Women openly talk about this shared experience and sometimes even remark “well at least you won’t have to deal with periods” or “I just came on… You’re so lucky that you don’t have to go through this”. Indeed they are probably right – who would want to deal with all the unpleasantness: Stomach cramps and pain and dealing with the blood and used sanitary products and feeling wildly hormonal. Who on earth would want that?
And yet… I always felt I’d do anything to have one – just to know what it’s like; To nod knowingly when another woman makes reference to it.
I recognise that all of this is potentially a little cis-sexist in that many trans men have periods and are still men. Trans women do not have periods and are still women. Indeed many women do not have periods for a variety of periods and they are no less women.
But it’s what I felt.
However I think I’m cured.
I’ve been bleeding and oozing out of my vagina for weeks and weeks now. If I never see a bloody sanitary towel again it’ll be too soon. Often when I go to the toilet and wipe the tissue is covered in blood. I’m taking laxatives to relieve the constipation and prevent bowel movement from tearing something and causing more bleeding, but this leads to stomach cramps and a sickly lethargic flu like feeling. I’m a complete hormonal mess as my body adapts to life without a large piece of my endocrine system; I am either aware of the raging hormones or some days the stark lack of them. It’s not a period – but close enough & it’s all pretty horrible and traumatic.
3. Done with surgery… (for now)
I used to have a shopping list of surgeries, that if time and money were no constraint on, I’d want to have done. I suppose I still do. It’s a much smaller list these days. I have an aspiration to get Voice Feminisation Surgery with Yeson clinic in Korea; I hate getting misgendered on the telephone. Beyond that I’m getting more and more comfortable with my late transitioner’s body and so a lot of the more superficial things seem less important. Social transition and living my life has hugely contributed to this.
After Facial Feminisation Surgery I was literally counting down the days till my trip to Thailand. Now I feel like if I never see the inside of a hospital let alone an operating theatre, I’ll be really happy.
I still, in the back of my mind, want to get VFS, but rather than booking it or having a timetable, it’s shifted into the “one day” column. I’m doing it “later” rather than in March or April next year.
I also know that I have the option of a cosmetic revision for my GRS. Dr Suporn is almost unique in that he offers unlimited free revisions. He wants perfection. I suspect I won’t end up with a perfect cosmetic result without further intervention, but right now – the idea of consciously choosing to have someone operate on me for aesthetic reasons seems unthinkable.
At this moment in time I can’t think about the next thing. All I need is recovery.
4. Still doubts; Still not sure it’s worth it; It feels like a lot of to deal with just to change some skin
In my 30 day post, I said I wasn’t sure I could say it was all worth it yet. I still can’t.
I think back about my old life and it was light and easy. I was in such a good place really. I was going to the gym. I was eating well. I was socialising. Life was good. Towards the end I wasn’t even really that bothered by ‘it’ being there; ‘it’ didn’t impact on my life most of the time. I’d integrated ‘it’ into my sex life. To all intents and purposes it was becoming less of an issue.
In fairness, I remember the day I started feeling less genital dysphoria was when I booked the surgery, so I do recognise that this was an illusionary state. I do remember that I felt odd every time I saw myself naked and that for most of my life I’ve felt it was incongruent with my body… But it had become less of an issue.
However, now my life is ruled by dilation. Every time I finish, the clock is ticking down until the next one. The morning dilations are physically the hardest. The late afternoon one is most crippling to my social and professional life and the evening one is a chore because staying up late is tough when I’m already exhausted and as soon as it’s finished, I have to sleep only to wake for the next one and start the excruciating cycle all over again.
Not only that, but I’m a pained cripple now. Admittedly this is temporary but it’s horrible. I walked to my nearby supermarket, which used to be a 15 minute round trip, now takes me nearly an hour. I feel hunched as standing with good posture feels uncomfortable and unnatural. Getting out of bed or a chair is painful. Laying on my side is painful, but it’s the only way I can fall asleep.
Everything about these early weeks after GRS sucks. It’s just awful. The only thing that keeps me going is that in two or three months it will be better.
At this stage – it honestly feels a bit silly paying all that money, being diminished as a parent, friend and employee, being in near constant pain and committing to a lifetime of dilation for what? A different configuration of a private part of my body?
I know this is just the recovery talking. I know I am exhausted. I know that in a couple of months the sun will have started to rise and I’ll be more active and more comfortable. I’ll be able to drop one of my dilations and my life will begin to return. I’ll be stronger and happier and less tired. Maybe then the balance will shift and I’ll start to be able to talk about this experience positively.
I’m not there yet.
I apologise for the whinge-a-thon that this post has been and yes, I do know the enormous privilege I am complaining about, but – it’s my truth right now.
Talk to you all soon