transgender

GRS – 3 Surgeries and One Beautiful Nightmare (Part 2/3)

[Content warnings for graphic depictions/images of bodily functions, surgery, suicide, mental illness, swearing]

This is Part II of my little tale about having serious difficulties + complications with lower surgery, and coming back from the brink to make a better life.  You can find Part I here.

This isn’t an in-depth look into GRS, just a story of recovery, if you’d like me to discuss any part more thoroughly please leave a comment here or send a direct message on Twitter @unexpectedamy.


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Morphine is weird.

I woke up groggy as all heck, keeping my eyes closed for a moment until I felt an intense pain and an awareness of beeping.  As soon as I opened my eyes, a kind consult came to me, explaining softly where I was, that everything had gone ok, and asked what my pain levels were.  I imagine I was slipping in and out of consciousness, perturbed only by the pain, moaning about how much it hurt and that the painkillers hadn’t taken effect yet.  On the other side of the curtain I heard another patient also weakly moaning, after a bit of time the morphine kicked in so although I was in pain I was too wasted to notice it.  Apparently I spent a lot of time asking if things had gone ok and flirting the nice man who was there for me as I woke, trying to distract me with questions about life and music.

When I had regained some of my sense I got wheeled back to my room, high and exhausted.  I spent the rest of the day talking garbage in my inebriated state, sleeping, getting used to all the strange sensations of my body.  The Flowtron boots loudly massaged my legs, the heart monitor beeped, the world outside my room went on as my head spun and I just rolled with it because it wasn’t anywhere near as horrifying as I had feared.  At the surgery site was a big bundle of near bloodless bandages with a catheter leading to a bag beside my bed which began to fill as I was allowed some water.  I didn’t really have the energy to care or think “Oh wow, I have a vagina,” in fact once I calmed down I was more interested in continuing my research.  I wanted to stick to my regular schedule so much as possible to take some of the pressure off all the other changes happening, so I mostly just lay with my eyes closed listening to lectures and seminars.

The next few days were to do as little as possible, I was still exhausted, obviously couldn’t move, was being fed consommé as a substitute for food, and was pumped full of happy drugs, so my energy levels were low but my spirits were high.  I was incredibly fortunate to have a few visitors over the next few days, including people I had only spoken to previously online, met through this blog and Twitter.  With their support and the wonderful words of Twitter followers I was able to pass the days without too much concern.  The staff were mostly very nice and helpful, even Mr. Thomas seemed more personable when he came to visit.  The first few nights I sweat a lot, needing my clothes and sheets changed fairly often –  I do have to commend the patience of the staff for helping me so much whilst I was infirm.

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The sexy combo of mesh underpants and compression stockings.

The back pain and trapped wind is the worst – for as much as the surgical site hurt it was nowhere near as bad as I had anticipated, about 7 at worst, I’ve had worse haemorrhoids if I’m honest.  I’m not used to sleeping on my back so from the second night I was able to lie on my side with the aid of a mountain of pillows, which was no easy feat, eventually letting out the most classically elegant farts I’ve ever heard. On Day 3 I was able to eat a little – toast, tea, and rice crispies – after nearly a week of tasteless food and fast I’m not sure I’ve ever been so enamoured by sustenance.  Things were going pretty well leading up to getting my bandages off and learning to dilate for the first time.  After a few days I was encouraged to get up a couple of times a day just to stand and sit in a chair, which is very difficult with a bunch of bandages containing a raw new vagina.

Unfortunately there was a medical error, I relied on the staff to provide my medications but for 2 days they forgot to give me my anti-depressant and my mood plummeted. I didn’t know why at the time, but when it came to taking off the bandages I was a total mess. A specialist came in with a nurse and they removed the dressings, one of the most painful parts of the experiences as they had been set on my pubes for a few days. After that they pulled the bandages out of my vagina like a clown pulls handkerchiefs from a sleeve, the feeling new, numb yet sensate, indescribable, unpleasant. I had been informed that my vagina was quite tight and difficult to work with because of a strong pelvic floor muscle, but it looked pretty good comparatively.

I was in no state to go ahead with dilation, crying my eyeballs out completely incensed in fear.  I did all I could but was so tense at the idea of having things jammed into unhealed flesh I completely dissociated and missed a lot of what happened.  I was miserable at my results, 3.5 inches of depth and too tight for the larger of the two dilators.  The next day I finally realised I hadn’t been given my meds which became a point of contention with the staff who didn’t believe I was as upset as I was.  Even after taking my antidepressants again for a couple of days I felt gaslit and now unsafe with the staff.

With everything going on I didn’t make energy to connect with my vagina, I looked at it and saw just bruises and blood clots, it felt good to not have a penis, but the pendulum didn’t fully swing.  The day before we asked to leave the hospital I had a discussion with staff and got the opportunity to dilate again, only after Mr. Thomas intervened as the staff were preparing to throw me out because I was upset at being minimized and told I wasn’t in pain.  For a couple of hours I lay with one of his consults crying my way through dilation again but this time learning what I needed to.

At some point I got the catheter out, a couple of seconds of absolute agony, and was allowed to pee. Of course it was different to any other pee I’ve ever had, the urine has a shorter route and it took a while to map that in my brain before pissing all over my wounds.  Next was taking a poo, it took a couple of days of smaller enemas and suppositories before I was able to go, but the process took hours and a lot of sweat since I couldn’t really push without risking bursting my stitches.  I was so relieved when it finally happened but I was not looking forward to going through this process again on a full food diet.

Before I knew it I was on my way home, doing all I could to tolerate sitting in cars, planes, and wheelchairs.  I finally got back to my family home and set up in the bed there.  The next 6 weeks were to be for rest, recovery and thrice daily dilation, there’s no time for anything else.  A typical day would be: wake up, get breakfast, dilate, wash, sleep, eat lunch, dilate, sleep, eat dinner, dilate, sleep; that’s it.  It takes a while to set-up everything needed to dilate in the start as it’s all so new and requires massive amounts of mental fortitude to keep up progress, I had come this far so if I wanted to keep my vagina I would do the work, even though I was dilating altogether 6 hours a day.

The biggest physical challenge I had for the first few weeks (aside dilation) was using the toilet.  As pressure from constipation built I eventually had to give myself enemas and suppositories, trying not to sit on the toilet too long, in my exhaustion not being able to concentrate on anything, it was horrible but when it was finally over I felt like how Rocky did running up those Philadelphia steps:

So, that’s my story, 6 weeks of mostly bed rest then slowly reintegrating myself back into life!  Only, this is where the real struggle began.  While the majority of folks are able to cut along this path, a few weeks in I noticed a complication, a small protrusion was forming where one of my stitches had melted away quite early.  I kept dilating, assuming this was just the bottom of my vagina healing, but each day the lump got bigger.  I stayed in contact with Nuffield who recommended watchful waiting, but within the first month the bulge had covered my vaginal entrance making it impossible to dilate, and then began pushing outwards – I had prolapsed, an unfortunate added risk for those who had been circumcised.  With that prolapse I would need another surgery, so I was stuck in bed, unable to stand or even sit most of the time, almost completely isolated from the world.

In this time, the few people who were actively involved in helping support me were people I barely knew, who humbled me with their presence and helped build a sense of hope.  Something I’d read and prepared for was the sad knowledge that one of the more difficult aspects of going through a long term medical condition is that those closest to you may bow out at a certain stage.  There were folks I’d known and chased for 10 years who wouldn’t make a 10 minute journey to visit me while folks I barely knew bent over backwards for me, it was a strange time, I reminded myself to try to stay thankful for what I did have rather than what I did not.  It seemed like a good time to scorch the Earth of my old life and take responsibility for myself; I had changed and needed to focus on my recovery rather than chasing an old fantasy.

This drastic measure cleared away a life no longer relevant to me, newly fertile ground ready to sprout the strong new seeds of a better life.  I may have been down, but I was working constantly on my mental health, creating a foundation for the future regardless of how these complications turned out, I don’t know how I did it, but lying in that bed, alone, I grew stronger in myself, and I refused to give up.  For years I was so lost and insecure that I just tried too hard, and relied on others too much, I was co-dependent, I couldn’t stand being by myself.  Having my world fall apart has so far been one of the best things to happen to me, I’m more authentic than ever, I’m closer than ever to what I want from life rather than what I feel I’m supposed to be.

20180129_152424Anyway, each day the lump grew bigger and bigger until a large egg sized piece of flesh was hanging outside my body with all its various stitches and healing skin.  As much as this was an unfortunate situation I figured to myself ‘at least it’s not a penis.’  I’d gotten used to something dangling between my legs for over 30 years so I could really tolerate this 6 weeks of waiting better than the 6 weeks of waiting for the initial surgery, even though I was losing hope for my poor busted genitals.  It was still difficult, but something had changed inside me.  Suddenly I was having dreams of rooms being cleared in my mind, great dusty boxes disappearing, leaving me clear spaces to build anew.  I no longer had to think about having surgery, I no longer had to think about the next thing I had to do for transition, most of the reinforced neural pathways of dysphoria no longer served a purpose, I was filling with new potential.  I wasn’t going to lose this opportunity just because I was stuck in bed, ironic since mental illness had me in bed quite a lot of the time before surgery.  I did have a few opportunities to get outside, the fresh air and sunlight have rarely meant so much to me, I was no longer taking for granted the simplest little pleasures in life, leaning into the changes to my physical capabilities.

The date for my second surgery was February 28th, my birthday.  The first thing that hit me at the hospital was the smell, being there wasn’t so bad but I’d really rather not, at least I had a lovely view of the snowy Downs.  The energy was a bit strange this time, it didn’t feel right, I wasn’t nervous, just aware of it.  Everything was much the same as the first surgery, the idea of having surgery at all was a lifelong fear of mine up until a few months ago, but for this second surgery in two months I just let go..

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Ready to go again..!

Part III coming soon!

Thanks for reading,

Amy Xx

 

 

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transgender

GRS – 3 Surgeries and One Beautiful Nightmare (Part 1/3)

[Content warnings for graphic depictions of bodily functions, surgery, suicide, mental illness, swearing]

This isn’t an in-depth look into GRS, just a story of recovery, if you’d like me to discuss any part more thoroughly please leave a comment here or send a direct message on Twitter @unexpectedamy.


This blog is the story of transition from the first days of accepting my gender identity, to now having completed medical transition.  This entry is a continuation from my post two years ago ‘Wait, I was transitioning?‘.  In this Part I will attempt to summarize the year leading up to my first surgery, and my experience up until the procedure itself.  In Part II I will show how my complications, subsequent operation, and decaying personal situation led to a positive redefinition of my life. In Part III I will discuss how the complications were ‘resolved’ and how I began to get my life back one year later after six and a half months almost totally bedbound.

In late 2016 I was finally given the go ahead for GRS by Mr. Thomas at Nuffield Health, problem was I needed a significant amount of hair removal on my genitals to ensure I wouldn’t have the long term complications of a vaginal canal filled with thick, agitating pubic hairs.  I got on top of things as quickly as possible, which is still painstakingly slow, booking appointments for laser hair removal and, once I moved up the waiting list, electrolysis.

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I anticipated it would take at least a year to have made sufficient progress, at least 6 laser sessions 4-6 weeks apart followed by weekly electrolysis appointments where hairs are removed one by one.  The laser part was fine; luckily I was getting zapped by the same technician who had already been helping to remove my facial hair, as well as the wonderful fluff from my butt-crack.  It wasn’t particularly painful, nor was it awkward since we were able to find the humour in this seemingly absurd situation.

Coming into 2017 I had begun working on my mental health in earnest, the past couple of years had been a brutal aberration, watching the life I struggled to build crumble to my feet with the added difficulties of transitioning in earnest.  A few months of solitude and a lot of meditation planted the seeds for how I feel today, however 2017 was one of the more challenging years of my life.  At this point I was still torturing myself trying to be a people-pleaser, ironically doing so with a sense of entitlement for support leading up to the impending doom of surgery.  During this time I put far too much pressure on my relationships and managed to alienate pretty much my entire historical friendship group.  I accepted my responsibility, but with little time or energy to grieve I had to push forward, determined to make this surgery happen sooner rather than later.

After 6 laser sessions I spent the latter half of the year only really leaving home for the weekly agony of electrolysis sessions.  The notion of electrolysis always scared me after hearing all the horror stories and I’m afraid I can’t lighten the load there.  I was laid on a table, naked from the waist down, my legs in stirrups as a lady sat in-between them with a hypodermic needle and a set of tweezers.  One hour sessions would have been the ideal, however since she was the only electrolycist in Northern Ireland who would perform this procedure, I was only able to get 15 and 30 minute appointments.

All became math in my head, if I was only getting half the time then it was going to take twice as long! I was told that even at her best, it would take 2 YEARS to make sufficient progress.  Each week became like a new devastation as I lay there either staring at the ceiling in agony, counting the hairs on my reddened ball sack and wondering if it could EVER be hairless where I need it to be.  Matters complicated still as I saw Mr. Thomas again who assured me I didn’t have much to go while my electrolycist assured me I was still those 2 years away.  My life became a tailspin of waiting for appointments and staring at my scrotum, a most hated part of my body not willing to go down without a real slug-fest.

I toughed it through as life fell apart around me, getting to a point where I had to start taking anti-depressants as I simply couldn’t get through the days anymore, I was a mess. I had so little serotonin in my body that I had a wild reaction to the pills, spending most of the first week vomiting, dizzy, and confined to bed.  While the physical symptoms were awful, my perspective changed almost immediately, life became more tolerable, this was just the beginning of my healing in earnest.  In August I finally hit 2 years on HRT, here’s a timelapse with a photo taken every week for those first two years:

Finally I agreed with Mr. Thomas’ team that he would do a ‘follicle scrape’ where he, uh, scrapes the follicles of the hair bearing areas during surgery to reduce the chances of hair growing back.  This could again lead to complications, loss of sensation, scarring etc, but the surgeon wanted to push ahead and gave me a date for the operation, January 3rd 2018.  My electrolycist was very concerned about this but I asked around and came to the conclusion that the surgeon knows his own procedure best.

Now that I had a date, a kind of panic set in, I had to find somewhere to stay during recovery, I had to find someone who could help support me because I wasn’t allowed to go through all this on my own.  Since my intensity and lack of mental alacrity had cost me my nearest and dearest I was forced to accept going back to my family home. I had to make peace with this, though my family accept me as being trans there are much deeper wounds that made going back less then ideal.

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Treat yourself before surgery! Get your hair done, go for a massage, take a holiday, do whatever feels good 🙂

6 weeks before surgery I also had to quit smoking. I was at rock bottom so this felt almost impossible, I tried to stop 12 weeks before to give myself breathing room, each day a new self-inflicted torture as I failed and failed.  Come 6 weeks however and I stopped dead, suffering through, it felt pretty amazing after about a week.  It took a lot of time and attempts just to find that one day I could hold the line and muster my forces for the counter attack, I had no choice.

At the same time I had to discontinue my HRT regimen to prevent complications like blood loss/clots.  This created another set of challenges as my temperament started to change, I got random erections for the first time in years that were incredibly painful due to over stretched skin, my body hair started to grow back, I dissociated and derealised as my brain chemistry and hormone balance was once again thrown into disarray.

So, my balls were still hairy, I was recovering in the last place I wanted to, I was going through the ringer quitting smoking, I’d lost most of my old friends, I had quite a bit of other personal stuff going on like trying to find a house-mate, but I felt the tide was turning in my life.  I was making slow progress (progress nonetheless) with my counsellor, and something clicked when I realised how relieved I was to have almost my entire life from before and during transition ripped away, I was a different person and I no longer wanted that old life that drained me so much more than it buoyed me.

Throughout 2017, at the inference of a short-term therapist, I came to the assumption that I had Borderline Personality Disorder. I had certainly been heavily symptomatic of the condition for a few years, but in those 6 weeks leading up to surgery it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my chest.  I began researching and working ardently on my mental health since I no longer had to worry about when surgery would be. I even made a short video series (posted below) leading up to surgery to distract myself and use up some of the energy and momentum that was building.  The dialectic opposition to this was accepting that I hoped to die on the operating table, becoming increasingly suicidal as the days counted down.

In preparation for surgery, Nuffield Health give out a big booklet containing information on what to bring, what to expect, and how to maintain results long term.  There was also sorting out travel and accommodation for my escort, small fry but with the pressure of trying to make sure everything is in place for those last few days of mental preparation.  In the week leading up to surgery I wasn’t scared per se, throughout my transition I’d had bigger problems in my life than transition itself and this was no different.

The day before travelling I had to begin a low-residue diet since I would have to get an enema to clear any bowel obstruction, as well as dealing with the fact I wouldn’t be able to take a poo for at least 5 days after the operation, so I was eating stuff like plain eggs on dry toast, growing ever hungry.  Finally the time had come, I packed up my bags having prepared so much as I could, and made the journey to Brighton with my escort.  Once we got to the hospital I signed a bunch of forms and was shown to my room.  Throughout the rest of the day nurses came in taking information and doing little tests like blood pressure and sizing my legs for Flowtron boots, before beginning my fast in earnest that evening.

My escort left and I was on my own, learning I would be the second surgery of the next day.  This was the night I would say some goodbyes to processes I abhorred but would never get to do again, so I masturbated, peed standing up, spun my dick like a helicopter, and made this video:

Trying to sleep I wasn’t anxious, I just had a dull feeling, but I wanted to get this done, the main reason I struggled was because of the uncomfortable bed, the smells and noises of the hospital, and recognition that I’d be woken up at 6am for a phosphate enema.  Otherwise I just tried to keep to a close approximation of my regular schedule.

I was awakened by a lovely nurse just before 6am to let me know I had 15 minutes before we got this show on the road, any hopes of a nice lie-in dashed.  She came back with her gloves and her big enema kit, at this point you’re either in or out, yet I’ve never known anyone to bail this late into the game.  So, pants down, lie on my side, a lubey finger on my anus, then insertion and filling, lovely (definitely not lovely).  I was to hold the enema in for as long as possible, I lasted about 20 minutes then proceeded to shit my life out as though my internal organs were all trying to escape at once.  This picture explains how it felt more than words ever can, this is what true emptiness looks like:

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Ok, step one done, awesome, but still at least 4 hours to wait.  Even though I was able to snooze a little, the revolving door started: nurses came in to turn on all the machines that beep and whirr, I got my surgical dress, the anaesthetist came in to do his checks, doctors came in for checks, the cleaning ladies came to do their work.  Mr. Thomas came in and very briefly got me to sign some forms without a chance to ask many questions, it’s hard to know what to say to someone who is about to chop you up without the fear of jinxing him anyway.  Mr. Thomas is not a man to have a conversation with, he’s here to do his business and until it’s done you are just meat to him, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, perhaps a detached surgeon makes more sense than an invested one.

When all this was done I was a bag of nerves but I surprisingly wasn’t that scared, for as much as I was hoping up until now that I would die today, I made the decision I wanted to live, and I haven’t felt suicidal since.  I tried to occupy myself by dancing to music and watching TV, there’s nothing to do but wait, let the body do what it’s going to.  Of course, a 10am surgery doesn’t happen at 10am, so it was maybe 11:30am by the time it got as real as it can get.  I was having a little dance and in comes the attractive surgical team with their dark blue scrubs, telling me to hop into the bed.  I don’t know how I expected to be taken to theatre, but they fiddled with some of the controls on the bed as I took one last look at some pictures of puppies I’d saved and began to wheel me off.  I was alone, vulnerable, and terror began to creep in as I tried to not make obvious jokes while I looked up to the moving lights.

Finally I was ported through the surgical ward into the anaesthetist’s room. It was incredibly white and sterile, with a view to the next room where the surgery would take place.  There was all kinds of beeping, lots of chatter between the consults as they professionally got to work whilst attempting to have a casual conversation with me.  I had been practising my meditation, just trying to breathe, asking at one point if it was ok for me to just lie there.  I closed my eyes, focusing on my breath and puppies. I felt a jab in my left hand, a needle connected to something beyond my vision.  The anaesthetist did his thing and the nice nurses reminded me to ‘go to my happy place.’ I was fascinated to have the chance to experience what falling asleep to anaesthetic was like but honestly I was fully awake one moment, then I was gone…

If you would like to continue reading to Part II, please click here!

Lots of love,

Amy Xx

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