Vulnerability

Before writing this post, I considered whether I wanted to write it at all. I was on my way home from work, a podcast playing, but my thoughts distracting me from actually listening. You see, Katie and I have had a rough few weeks. Sometimes I think it’s the hardest few weeks we’ve ever had, but then I remind myself there was a time just after Katie came out where I had to completely readjust the framework of my marriage, my identity, and the image of my future and I think, “That was harder.” Or was it? The most complicated moments of my life felt so difficult at the time, but time eventually dulls their pain, scabs the wound. As I parked the car, trying to gather myself before heading up to our apartment, I remembered when I opened my locker in 7thgrade to find notes with the word “bitch” written on them from girls I thought were my friends. They didn’t even know my parents were fighting at home, sleeping in separate bedrooms and headed toward divorce. That period of time was hard too, but I made it through.

Writing about Katie and my struggle is really difficult. Before this blog, my pain and insecurity belonged to me and I only shared with those I chose to in my own time. Inevitably, people will read this blog and fill the gaps not covered with their own ideas about who I am and my marriage. The idea of people not seeing the whole picture and passing judgement makes me feel vulnerable. Every time I think I don’t want to write about an event that happened because “it’s private” or “too personal”, I eventually come back to the same thought: “I wish someone would have written it already, so I had something to show me the what the hard parts look like.” I’m finding more and more stories that document what this experience is like. Even more powerful, so many of you reach out to tell me about your own experiences, which is incredibly consoling, and I’ll never be able to say to what depth it’s appreciated. That said, I feel an obligation to write about what’s been hard for me so maybe someone can find hope when I struggle to see it.

Katie has had more bad days than good over the past month. The depression feels stark in contrast to the euphoria she experienced when starting hormones in April. It’s really hard to watch the person you love profoundly struggle. The weight of the energy in our home feels heavy. I just want to fix her, but I can’t. I want to find the right combination of words or nice gestures to present her that will magically change her mood, but I can’t. I can’t seem to ask the right questions to inspire or help her find words to talk about what’s she’s going through. There isn’t enough space and time to give her so she can eventually come to me. Sometimes it feels like I’m failing over and over again. I know rationally there is nothing I can do. The chemicals of her body and decades of a meticulous, self-preserving repression of her emotions are both beyond my ability to fix. That’s why we have experts to help us.

Part of what complicates identifying what is causing Katie’s increased depression is that she is undergoing a robust alteration of her biology through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). It would be naive for anyone to think this wouldn’t have an impact on her emotions or physical body. Additionally, every human body is so different. Katie’s Endocrinologist has decades of experience and scientifically proven process to how HRT is applied to each of his patients, but there is still a level of “guess and check” as Katie’s body discovers what does and does not work for her. When Katie has low days, she struggles to find any energy to do even basic things like get out of bed. She struggles to engage socially. Communicating becomes very difficult, let alone finding words to describe how she feels about what she’s going through. We have to explore all of the following questions: Is this depression related to her new-found emotions that she’s connecting to in therapy? To the influx of estrogen? To the decrease of testosterone because of testosterone blockers? To dysphoria? Would being fully transitioned help? Would being out at work help? Is this related to depression completely unrelated to anything having to do with the transition? This week, Katie reached out to her Endocrinologist and let them know that she has felt unlike herself. I’m relieved at the thought of the depression being related to the HRT, but the path to diagnosis is not simple or clear. We have a very long road ahead and it often feels like we’re walking it blind-folded, bumping into the meridian, bruising our egos.

For some background on who I am, my parents did not have an easy marriage. At an early age I felt a distinct responsibility to protect my sister from the stress caused by their battles. I remember being very young and thinking about how much the fighting must have been scary for my sister, setting aside my own fear to close our bedroom door, put on a movie for us, play Barbies and hide from the tension on the other side of the house. I had years of practice and am an expert at carrying other’s emotions when it’s not recommended or necessary.

My solution to knowing I can’t fix Katie and knowing I tend to be needlessly responsible for fixing people has been to intentionally make myself busy, telling myself to invest in me-time with my friends, attempting to remove the temptation of carrying the weight of Katie’s transition. Due to my overly booked schedule, Katie and I have been struggling to find comfort in each other as we normally do. My patience is thinner, making it harder to meet Katie where she is in the moment. All of this resulting in the blow-up of the horrible Saturday I wrote about in the last post. In talking about it in our therapy session last week, our therapist looked at me from my computer screen (we talk to her via online forum every other week) and said “Natalie, you’re too busy for your marriage.” I knew it before she said it, and I knew she was right. I needed to hear it. I felt hopeless after that session. I sat on the couch next to Katie crying, telling her that I was scared for us, that I don’t know how to fix how disconnected we have felt in the last month. We both admitted to feeling doubt this marriage is the right path for both of us. Admitting it out loud was a relief in some way. We’re both scared which means we both value what there is to lose.

The weekend after that therapy session, our very talented friend took photos of us. Since Katie came out, I have mourned the memories found in our pictures together because Katie isn’t represented accurately in them. She’s there, of course, but in a body she doesn’t love and as a person she doesn’t know. I want her transition to be documented so she can look back at her progress with pride at how much work went into getting her to where she’s going. Katie doesn’t know this, but before the photos, I had a fear that I would look at them and not see us as I imagined. What if the love I think we have doesn’t translate in the pictures? I know that thought sounds insane, but this is where I am now: in a world with doubt and doubt is a fickle bitch. It’s scary and tumultuous. That said, I got the photos back and was reassured that there really is so much love in our marriage. Katie looks so beautiful and we look really happy. I couldn’t have faked that emotion if I wanted to.

Katie and I promised each other this week to make more space for us.  I promised her to be less busy. I can’t balance my relationship and my social life as I used to and I’m okay with that. I love Katie too much to not see where we can get to from here. I have to believe that, like pain flared by the jerks in 7thgrade, this too shall pass. Katie will get better. Manifest destiny. I think I can. Blah, blah, blah.

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Vulnerability

  1. I’m trying not to fill in the blanks concerning you and your marriage. It’s actually not that hard. Maybe I’m just reading and feeling and not really looking at the blanks. Hard to say.
    The way you communicate with such emotional honesty, doesn’t leave me wondering about what’s not there.
    I wish I could reach out and help. Offer something useful or constructive, but I can’t. I’m walking in shoes similar to Katie’s, not yours.
    For what it’s worth, if anything. When you share your life like this, it helps me a great deal to be more empathetic of my partners challenges. You are helping us make our way forwards.
    Thank you.
    And thank you for sharing your photo’s too. Seeing you and Katie together and happy is so beautiful. It makes my heart swell and I cry. Good tears though.
    Sorry, that was long. It’s just….thank you both sooo much. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Virginia Davis

    I would like to offer a possibility of what is going on for Katie.

    When I reached six months of transition, things just didn’t feel right. I started having a problem with my transition. I wrote a Reddit post looking for support and information titled “I am starting to fall apart”. Basically everything, after everything had gone so well at the beginning of my transition, just wasn’t fitting together correctly.

    The response I got from that post was that at six months, things often go off. Six to eight months becomes very difficult. I asked around and a few other AMAB I know corroborated. All this is, obviously, just anecdotal, but it is a possibility.

    I don’t know what may cause it. Maybe it is hormonal, maybe at six months the body finally switches over to our new hormone paradigm. Maybe it is psychological, suddenly at six months it all becomes ‘real’. Maybe it is some combination of them both. All I know is that so far it was the worst point of my transition.

    Now I won’t say this is definitely it, but it might be something to look into. Something you could talk about in group to see how widespread it may be? If you have any questions, I am open to that for either you or Katie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Virginia – thank you so much for letting me know your experience. I’ll definitely mention it to Katie. How did you handle 6-8 months? did you explore different doses or just fight through it? Did things get better? Your insights are appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Virginia Davis

        I tried anything I could think of that could get me through it. A lot of talking it out with whomever was receptive, beyond my therapist of course. I worked on my blog. I did a little retail therapy, (though I am pretty frugal, so that is of limited help). I did whatever I could to remind myself of the positives to my choice to transition and how much it has done for me. I have gained many wonderful friends and I spent as much time around them as I could. And they validated my womanhood, which helped a lot.

        It was a struggle for me, but I wouldn’t contemplate anything besides working through it.

        I don’t know if it was cause or symptom, but I was struck by my worst bout of dysphoria during that time. Five days of curled up in a ball, when I didn’t have to do something like work. I also was very critical of my value as a woman, my internalized transphobia was giving me psychological jabs, and I couldn’t validate myself. I even asked my therapist a question that really boiled down to me saying I was less than a “real” woman.

        I was affected by this for about a month, in varying degrees, mostly just low level moroseness similar to everyday pre transition. Then I was out of it and back to happy; I didn’t notice the change from blah to back to cheerfully embracing my transition so I am assuming it was gradual.

        I can’t say anything I did was a cure, but they did help day to day.

        Like

  3. Kate

    Natalie- thank you as always for being a constant reassurance that my spouse and I are not alone and that we too can make it through the transition. We’re only at the beginning stages- therapy is only just starting and she is still waiting to start hrt. But you have been a sort of guide to me, given me an idea of what might come next when I’m feeling so lost. Thank you for all of that. But I actually really relate to your comments about feeling vulnerable and wanting things to be private. I’m a really private person so I can’t imagine doing what you’ve been doing with this blog. I’m sure that while it’s therapeutic it’s also a really heavy burden on you. I just wanted to say thank you and that, while I appreciate all you do to support this community you’ve created, I understand if you just want to go quiet for awhile and deal with yourself and your marriage. Just don’t let this role you’ve created for yourself (the role of guide in my case) become something that’s taking time away from the really important things, like your relationship with your wife. I don’t think anyone that’s reading your blog wants that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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