The world works in mysterious ways

download

I haven’t written here for some time.  My last post here was about deciding to begin to walk the South West coastal path, I have not made a lot of progress on that, in fact lets not beat around the bush here, I have not made any progress whatsoever!

My lack of writing , specifically about my coastal path adventures, stands as evidence as to how much life can suddenly change. At my last time of writing , on the back of my gender confirmation surgery going wrong, I was in the worst mental health place I had been for a while. My anxiety was so high that going outside was a challenge that took me two days to work up to and a week to recover from. I needed solitude, finding people to be just too much to cope with. I  couldn’t handle people being close to this body of mine which had returned to feeling like it was wrapped in barbwire and if I moved too suddenly or someone moved against me I would be cut to ribbons.

I desperately needed to balance looking after myself with also gently pushing myself to not sink into depths of isolation. I decided that challenging myself to a regular walk would help to accomplish this aim and would likely also help me to have a feeling of achievement.

Then, out of the blue, I met a woman who was to completely change how I felt in every way possible and would suddenly catapult me forwards in life, meaning that finding the time to do a coastal walk would turn out to be impossible!

Thanks to this wonderful woman, I have had a complete sexual paradigm shift. Despite my body still not working in the way that I hope it will one day in the not too distant future, I no longer feel the dysphoria I felt just a couple of months ago, My body feels freer than I ever thought it was possible to feel, especially considering its current “unfinished” state. This wonderful woman and I are no longer in a relationship, but the healing and growth that she ignited continues to blossom and I will be forever grateful for her.

My point in this post, as well as noting my lack of coastal walks, is to reflect on the wonderfully mysterious way that life works. Had I not had the awful surgery experience, I would likely have not been open to this sexual and relational epiphany that’s happened. Its hard when times are tough to not label things as good and bad but developments like this are proof that things are not good or bad, they simply just are. Trusting this means in the midst of a difficult experience, such as the one I had for the first half of this year,  the faith and knowledge that it will open up again and make sense , helps me to keep on travelling on.

When my new and exciting sexual world stops spinning so fast, I still plan to find the time to do these coastal walks, its just that now I shall do them with a rather large spring in my step and a incredibly wide smile on my face.

 

Advertisements

Walking The UK Coastline-Challenging Anxiety One Walk At A Time

 

1050053.jpg

My love of walking started at a very early age. As a young child, I would challenge myself to walk further and further from my house each time, revelling in the excitement of discovering new streets or play-parks and feel a huge sense of achievement on being able to then navigate my way back home.

As an adult these adventures continued, though on a much wider scale of course, I loved travelling to new parts of the UK and discovering unfamiliar places.  However, these adventures became very tainted as they were fuelled with drink and drugs and became more about running away from myself than about immersing myself in somewhere new. Eventually, my ability to travel was taken from me by a thick, dark cloud of depression and anxiety.

Since I began my road to recovery in 2010, my passion for walking and adventure has returned with a childlike innocence and excitement. Being set free from the dark prison of anxiety, I feel like I am seeing places through the eyes of my childhood self all over again, the thrill of stepping foot in an unknown town and navigating my way around, the overwhelming joy of turning a corner and having every single one of my senses come alive in response to breath-taking sights and scenery. Even more joyful is re vising the places I travelled to during my “geographical’s”, (a term we use in our recovery fellowship to describe moving to new locations to try to solve our issues rather than facing them). Being able to revisit these places with fresh eyes and a fresh mindset, reflecting on the past and how far I’ve come, is a delight in of itself. Now, walking has become a huge part of how I stay mentally well.

However, of late I have had a lot of emotional blows, meaning that my mental health has taken a bit of a downturn. More surprising and rather alarming to me, is that my anxiety has returned.  Due to this. over the last few months I have been finding it increasingly hard to motivate myself to get outside and I am constantly finding excuses to stay indoors and isolate. I need to work hard to address this now before it escalates out of control.

For this reason, I am setting myself a mission to encourage myself to get outside and to challenge the anxiety. This mission is to walk the entire coastal path of mainland UK. I am not setting a deadline for this, or a schedule, timeline or mileage goal. I am just going to walk it in sections over time until its done and document it on the way in film and in writing.

Everything I share across all my blogging and vlogging platforms, is based around the topic of recovery and self-development and this will new venture will be the same. I will walk this journey with the purpose of taking care of my mental health and to challenge the anxiety. A lot of times I will be revisiting places from the past, from times when I was very mentally unwell and when I was using drink and drugs to medicate myself.  Revisiting these places will be a valuable opportunity to reflect on the past and to use it for new growth and I will share my reflections with you when I do so.

Logistics of the walk

I am still working out how I am going to tackle the completion of this walk, other than knowing I will first start with the south west coast path and that I will be completing it’s 630 miles in sections. I like to do things in order and that part of me wants to complete the sections in the “proper” clockwise direction, starting in Minehead and finishing in Poole. The other part of me feels It would be best to start on my doorstep, completing the path in sections on either side of me. Doing it this way, it would make sense to break it into two phases, first traveling anticlockwise in sections from Dawlish to Minehead and then travelling clockwise in sections from Dawlish to Pool. Maybe I am overthinking it?! I would welcome anyone’s thoughts on this and will update about my decisions in due course.

Rules of the walk

Walking should of course be a chance to be free of rules and constrains, but for the purpose of completing this challenge I need to set out my own definitions of what completing a walk of the entire UK coastline means. I have read numerous blogs of people walking the coast and from those I have come up with the following rules for my own walk:

  1. I will walk mindfully and in tune with nature, using the opportunity for mental, emotional and spiritual growth
  2. I will walk as close to the coast as possible as long as it is safe and legal to do so, using footpaths and roads when it isn’t
  3. I will start each section I walk at the place I finished at in my previous walk
  4. I will not use public transport other than for travelling to and from my start and finish points. This means I will also walk the sections that are not so scenic or where I have to walk further away from the coast if it’s not accessible
  5. When I meet a river or estuary I won’t cheat by going around it on public transport, I will cross it using a bridge or ferry, if neither are available I will cross at the nearest and safest public crossing point
  6. I will exclude islands and peninsulas as part of the challenge but I may decide to walk them if possible

 

Remembering the whole picture

IMG_20170309_110813_903

Last week, the date of the 9th March, marked 5 years since I officially changed my name by deed poll to Finlay. I had entirely forgotten the anniversary until Facebook reminded me by posting an old picture of my very proud boyish looking face celebrating the event. Being prompted to remember brought with it a flood of memories and a huge smile. I need that, with all that has occurred lately in having a setback in my surgical journey, it was wonderful to be reminded of just how far I have come. I haven’t gone backwards at all, not in terms of the whole picture at least.

The picture of me that flashed up on my Facebook news feed, with such a knowing grin, proudly clutching my signed deed poll, symbolises far more than just an official change of name. It even symbolises more than the official start to my living my life as a man. It represents the birth of Finn but far more it represents the birth of my whole being.

Just a year prior to changing my name, I entered the rooms of Alcoholic Anonymous and started my journey of recovery after a lifetime of abuse of drugs and alcohol. I truly see myself as being born the day I put the drink and drugs down. My video diaries and writing may well be heavily focused on my being transgender and undergoing gender transition but in all actuality, I see my journey as about being sober and in being so, being finally able to find the truth of who I am. By this I mean that the discovery of my being transgender was a consequence of getting sober and the start of my gender transition was the result of finding the courage to face myself and make the changes I needed to make, thanks to the fellowship of AA.  In this way, my being transgender is a small part of a much bigger journey rather than being the journey itself.

It is for this reason that this picture symbolises far more than just the change of name. The grin I am wearing symbolises the relief in finally getting to the bottom of a lifetime of depression, anxiety, self-loathing and self-destruction. It symbolises an awakening, to myself and to life and an excitement in finally being able to live, rather than to simply survive. It symbolises hope and opportunity, possibility and adventure. It symbolises an eagerness to commit to the journey of continuing to peel off the layers to reveal the truth of who I am

It has been so wonderful to be reminded of this and the way I felt when that picture was taken and even more wonderful to be reminded that I still feel the exact same way, even with all the bumps in the road. Most importantly it has reminded me that my life is far more than just about my gender transition. It can be incredibly hard not to get lost in that one part when things are not going to plan. This has been and continues to be an incredible journey of exploration, discovery and self-development of which being trans is, in the grand scheme of things at least, just one small part of a much greater whole.

 

 

 

Perspective is everything

After being pulled back to my writing after a short hiatus, I have just re read my last few blog entries with a pang of sadness. My last post was a hugely positive post about hospitals and how for me they are a place of hope and to be honest, right now I feel very differently. My recent hospital experiences have been anything but positive and to be frank, have at times bordered on being traumatic.

The last 6 weeks have been incredibly difficult, both emotionally and physically. I unfortunately did not have the surgery I was expecting to have and in fact have had to return to hospital a second time after it was apparent that something had gone awry after the first surgery. This means it has turned out to not be the final surgery in my surgical transition after all and this has been and continues to be, overwhelmingly  difficult to come to terms with. This hasn’t been helped by poor hospital care and lack of communication from my consultant as to what exactly has gone wrong and how its been corrected. I am fully aware that this journey is a difficult one with bumps in the road and set backs on route but strength to deal with that comes, partly at least, by being able to trust those whose hands you are in the care of. To top it all off my best friend suddenly died, he was found in his bed, appearing to have died in his sleep and we still have no answers as to why.

All this has left me rather lacking in the ability to feel very positive about anything at all and reading my last post now is a strange experience considering how different I feel. I want to get back to that place but I am just not there yet. However, on re reading that post, it strikes me that its less about my views on hospitals but is more accurately about perspective and in fact a fair few of my writing pieces are. This is a fact that has just struck me but does not surprise me at all.

The reason for this is because I have undergone a huge change in perspective which happened to me quite suddenly beginning in the August of 2010.  I personally see it as an awakening, and as someone who leads a spiritual life I do in fact see it as a spiritual awaking. The trouble is that this conjures up a lot of eye brow raising for people who don’t have the same leanings so I stick with the term change in perspective because they really are, at least as I see them, one and the same. This perspective change was such a shift in how I viewed myself, the world and my response to it, that despite it being 6 years now since this happened, it still astounds me daily just how different I am. This is then why it’s not surprising that most of my writing is centred around this concept, even if it’s not explicit.

Re reading my last blog entries and being reminded of the importance of this perspective change, has made me realise that it is not positivity I need to concentrate on, or worry about, or try to conjure up. Positivity or negativity is the outcome of perspective and this fact has just this second dawned on me.

To attempt to explain, I am someone who talks a lot about positive thinking, but I always qualify it by saying that positive thinking isn’t about sticking a false smile on your face and pretending everything is OK when it isn’t. I always say that positive thinking is about acknowledging the difficulty you are facing, allowing yourself to feel it, whilst at the same time focusing on what you can do about it, even if all you can do at the time is accept that the difficulty is there. In this way, you are presenting yourself with a choice, to fall solidly on the side of the difficulty, allow yourself to sink into the negative feelings of life being bad and it all being hopeless, or to fall on the side of, as in the example above, having to just accept the difficulty is how it is at this moment. Accepting in this way is active not passive and so presents a more positive approach. This choice of two options is perspective, you are giving yourself a different option from which to choose and in doing so, by deciding your perspective, this then has the potential to lead to the outcome of either negativity of positivity.

I believe you can always choose your perspective, but of course you first need to be aware of different views, to then have different perspectives to choose from. My initial perspective change was one I still cannot fully explain, it came to me as a result of engaging with a 12-step recovery program. I have a feeling it was in connecting to a deeper, unconscious aspect to myself, (which again for fear of alienating some readers I am going to attribute to finding a spiritual connection to a Higher Power) that paved the way. The perspective changes since have then snowballed due to actively working on my self – development and self-awareness and purposely seeking out different ways of relating to my emotions, to people and to the world.

Life is one of many ups and downs, happiness and hardship come and go and we cannot choose which one we get at any time. However, we can choose how we respond to each of these when they arrive which in turn then determines how we feel. The fact is that now I can choose my perspective and do so often, which is what has helped me to deal with difficulty, respond to events rather than react and to keep a largely positive way of living. With everything that has happened recently I think I forgot this fact, or maybe I chose to forget as I felt a bit sorry for myself and wanted a bit of wallowing time. I am not going to berate myself about that as it has been such a tough time and so is not surprising. Either way, it is time to stop worrying about my lack of positivity and instead concentrate on where my perspective lies.

This whole situation, in terms of my surgical transition journey, requires an active seeking out of different perspectives so that I have some to choose between. I think its likely that I had become so blinkered by my excitement at being so close to the finish line that I’d forgotten other less favourable outcomes were possible. And of course, although I wouldn’t want to choose the less favourable outcomes, accepting their existence is vital in approaching this surgery as it is an incredibly complex surgery with multiple potential risks and problems.

Initially in my surgery journey I was focusing on one stage at a time, I purposefully didn’t look ahead to the final surgical result as I knew that was too much of a leap ahead being that this surgery can take a few years to complete and would ultimately make the journey feel too daunting. I think this is a useful perspective to return to after all these recent complications with my surgery. My perspective choices now are that I can either look at it that my surgical journey was almost finished and I’m now a few steps backwards and needing extra surgery before my final stage, which is unbearably painful. Or I can choose to hold in mind that of course the ultimate goal is to be finished but right now I’m working towards a correction of the currently presenting issue so that the final surgery can be completed in a manner that will ensure good long term functioning. By choosing the second of these perspectives, It means I can find a way to see this recent surgery, and the extra unexpected one I will now need in a couple of months’ time, as positive ones as they are step forward in correcting the issues I currently have.

Even today I am seeing the benefits of remembering the value and power in choosing ones’ perspective, I have felt more at peace with all that has happened and have also surprisingly found things I feel positive about. I know that all this doesn’t mean I am now suddenly going to be OK, I have had a succession of high stress events, my mental and physical health have suffered, I will have to make a lot of changes to my plans and dreams for this year and its going to take some time to recover from all this but that’s where the balance I spoke about earlier comes into play. I am not trying to pretend everything is OK, I am not trying to force the positivity, I instead am working to accept that this is where I am right now and then look at small ways I can begin to choose a different perspective in order to be able to allow the positivity to return in its own good time

#JuJoJan Daily Prompt – Jan 13th – ‘Hospital’

This blog entry takes part in Linda’s Just Jot It Jan

jjj-2017

Todays prompt is highly appropriate for me as I am currently sat in hospital, wearing my rather fetching open backed gown, accessorised with compression stockings and super sexy paper pants. Today, as long as all goes well, will be the final stage in my gender affirmation surgery journey.

I find myself to be very emotionally reflective , which isn’t surprising really as today marks the possible completion of a journey that at one time I thought I could not find the courage to face. It seems unbelievable that almost five years has passed since I came out publically as transgender and began living as the man I knew myself to be.

Perspective is a funny thing, time moved so painfully slow in early days of my transition, the wait for assessments and access to treatment was a hugely long and tedious haul. At times I felt I couldn’t breathe, the focus it took to remain patient and mentally well was exhausting and overwhelming. However, once given the go ahead for hormones and then surgery, time began spilling through my fingers like grains of sand and I now look back on my second puberty and my growth into manhood with nostalgia.

The same skewed perspective exists for me in attending hospitals. For most people, the hospital is a place of fear and dread, but for me the very opposite is true. Whilst I am of course nervous about the procedure itself and not looking forward to yet another recovery of which this will be my fourth, the outcome for me is one I am very excited for.

With every hospital admittance, another aspect of my true self is revealed and a new sense of freedom is born. For me, hospitals are a time portal into a new, brighter and more comfortable world. Its just a little painful walking through the door.

dsc_0030

 

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – Jan 8th – ‘Mongrel’

This post takes part in Linda’s Just Jot It Jan

jjj-2017

The word Mongrel immediately brings to mind the song by Baha Men, ‘who let the dogs out’, especially the line, “come back you flea infested mongrel”. That’s the association with the word ‘mongrel’ I suppose isn’t it? As something impure, unclean, tainted or ‘less than’. I can remember as a child having discussion about a dog and being told it was a mongrel. I remember feeling that to me, a mongrel sounded far better than a pure breed. A mongrel felt ‘on my level’, authentic, relatable.

Looking at the dictionary definition, mongrel is defined as “a dog of no definable type or breed”,any animal resulting from the crossing of different breeds or types” or “a person of mixed descent” [offensive term]

Why does crossing breeds or having no definable breed have such negative connotations? Is this just my perception of the word mongrel or is its negativity a common assumption? Maybe my perceptions of the word speak more about myself and my moral standpoint than the word itself.

I am a person who does not like to follow the herd, although that’s not always been entirely true. As a child I felt pushed away from the herd as I didn’t fit, therefore I was  angry and resentful of the herd, I so desperately wanted to fit but I simply could not, no matter how hard I tried. Maybe this is where my initial sense of relation with the word mongrel comes from; I could empathise with the dogs labelled as such. In growing up, I have learnt to embrace living outside the herd and now to me, having no definable type and being a cross of different types is something I embrace.

My gender is male and my body has been changed to reflect that, but my biology will always show the female history, I will be forever a mix; I cannot ever be a pure breed. The closest I can get to being a “definable type” is in being transgender but I don’t relate to that ‘type’. I use it for ease in explaining my situation but I choose to define myself differently, I am a man with a trans history. Transition is the state of moving from one thing to something else and as such, gender wise I have never moved, I have always been male. Physically I have moved my body has changed from looking female to now, approaching my final surgery, looking completely male. Once this surgery is complete I will, for want of a better word, be “post transition” .Therefore to me, I am a man with a trans history.

However you look at it I am a mix, a crossing of types. I am a man but on digging below the surface you will see that I have no truly definable type, I am a mongrel through and through. Writing this makes me smile; I have always related and felt love for mongrels, now I understand why. Who wants to follow the herd anyway? What is so special about being of one definable type? I actually think that’s very limiting and to be frank, rather dull!

Here’s’ to all the mongrels out there, WOOF!

 

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – Jan 3rd – ‘Warning’

This post takes part in Linda’s Just Jot It Jan 

jjj-2017

I, and others that know me, used to joke that I should come with a warning label. I thought this was an amusing and lovingly assigned description of my character but in truth it was because I was a complete pain in the neck and at the end of my drinking days there was nothing amusing about me at all.

Today I am unrecognisable as that person, when people describe me now; ‘warning’ is the last label I would be assigned. People remark on my calm nature, yes I can be very excitable and hyper, the new born child in me is very evident, but I am a person in control of myself and a person you can trust yourself to be safe around. I still find this an astonishing change in just six short years of mental health and addiction recovery.

In order to develop this calmer nature, I have had to create a robust and sensitive early warning system, an inner lighthouse to alert me when a storm is arriving or when the sea may threaten to thrash me towards the jagged rocks of mental illness. I have had to become acutely aware of the various things that threaten my wellness and very good at noticing the early warning signs and to this affect, the inner lighthouse will change from shades of yellow through to amber and red depending on the threat of the situation

The last month or so I have been inundated with warning signs, my inner lighthouse had been brightly lit  as a solid amber, but due to Christmas obligations, I haven’t had much choice other than to just ride the waves as safely as I can with mindfulness. However, today the lighthouse switched on to full red warning alert as I attended my medical assessment for my sickness benefit.

Attending these assessments, as anyone who’s had them will attest, is never easy, but then add being transgender into the mix and the whole thing turns into a cringe making, anger inducing mess. I sat there bewildered as the assessor first got confused that I was a man about to change to living as a woman. After correcting him and after he had picked his jaw back up from the desk he then remarked that I made for, “a very convincing transition” and that he, “had seen other people who were not as convincing and I must be very pleased”, He went on to then ask me if I would like to be referred to as he.

Wow, warning light on full flashing red mode, sirens, bells, whistles, the whole shebang.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to sob, I wanted to just fall on the floor in a heap, curl up into the foetal position and let my whole body convulse with reckless emotional abandon, but I can’t cry, I just don’t, it doesn’t come out and I am not one to indulge in dramatic emotional displays, at least I am not today but six years ago I may well have done.  I’ve had enough at the moment, Christmas has been incredibly tough being my first one single after a really messy breakup, add to the mix having to sit with a total stranger and explain my entire mental health history, my entire addiction history and then intimate details of my dysphoria and gender transition, all crammed into less than 40mins, to someone that had the tact and sensitivity of an array of hedgehogs.

However, the painfully crafted warning system served me well, one of the skills I have learnt in recovery is knowing which battles to pick and this one just wasn’t worth it. I spend a lot of my time educating people and this chap needed it but today had to be about first things first, my mental health, and so I  took a deep breath, answered as politely as I could and just got through it.

Thank goodness for my inner lighthouse and its warning signs, for lighting the way so that I can choose the path of least resistance and just make sure I kept myself safe. Now though,i t’s time to drop anchor, hunker down for a while and wait for the storm to pass.