Tag: social media

There’s No Need To Panic!

It’s been a while, for no reason other than I haven’t really had much to talk about. When I started this blog it was with the intention of helping people by sharing my story, and also to remind people they aren’t alone. I figured it wouldn’t be any harm to share a few of my coping mechanisms for things that happen in my head.

The three things mentally that I have to deal with are dysphoria, anxiety and panic attacks, although the latter hasn’t really happened for longer than I can remember with one recent exception which I’ll go into later.

1: Dysphoria. This is something that I deal with almost every day, and something I still haven’t fully got to grips with yet. It’s basically when I wake up in the morning, may face or body doesn’t even slightly resemble whats in my head and I feel like killing myself. Step one: go back to sleep. Step two: start again. Sometimes even 10 minutes back in bed (sacrificing my breakfast and eating later on/at work) can help start the thought processes again and make me feel less horrific. I’ve mentioned before about girls days and boy days, and 95% of the time I am on girls days now. Boy days tend to happen when I have to shave and my face reacts badly to the razor, for any number of reasons, leaving me with a shadow that I can’t cover up. On those days, it’s jeans, a hoodie, no effort at all and generally trying to hide from people. Days like this usually mean my skin will be bad the day after too, so at least I can prepare myself for having a bad day the day after. When I start to take hormones my face should start to clear up and the above will become less of an issue, although for now I don’t quite have a solution – other than going back to sleep.

2: Anxiety. For me, this is something that’s linked in to what I choose to wear. If I’m having a particularly good day and I’ve gone for the big heels, lots of leg and something to maximise what I have discovered to be my excellent ass, I’m usually relatively unstoppable, and I’ll do the shallow thing of an Instagram post knowing that the comments are often incredibly encouraging, something which helps keep the anxiety at bay (see photo below of a recent Ann Summers purchase that I never, ever thought I would have the guts to post publicly). Now, I can only assume that most other girls have the problem of ‘OH MY GOD ALL MY CLOTHES ARE SHIT AND I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR’ because since dressing as one, I get that too. Three almost identical black pencil skirts and I spend 20 minutes deciding which one is normal, right? This is where the anxiety starts to set in, the feeling of ‘none of my clothes look good’ starts to remind me that I still very much have a male body, something I don’t particularly want to be reminded of. When this happens, I have a nap again (there’s a theme here, right?) and that tends to help.

When I’m dressed up like a sassy bitch, fucking nothing can stop me. Getting there can be a challenge but when I’m ready and I’m out, I’m happy. I don’t care if people stare at me or look me up and down or if an old guy in the queue at the post office tuts at me and shakes his head. It’s not my fault I look better than them. A street cleaner in my home town approached me the other day and said he’d seen me about and had talked about me to his mates before and wanted to tell me that I was brave, ‘had balls’ (for lack of a better expression) and that I shouldn’t give a shit what other people think. He was right about the last bit, I don’t. People in the street very rarely shout abuse at me or say things that make me uneasy. They stare, they tut, they may not understand but they aren’t looking for a fight if they say anything. Hopefully that last bit is encouraging to anyone wanting to come out… be yourself, it’s not as bad out here as you may think. I can count on one hand (at the time of writing) the things people have said:

  • on the way to work ‘there’s something hanging out from under your skirt’ L O L how original
  • walking through town ‘have you got a mangina’ (I fucking DIED laughing at this, he was about 12
  • leaving a pub ‘fuck off you girl’ FROM A GIRL like, fuck off, bitch, I’ll slap the make up off ya face *walks off like the sassy bitch that I am and buys cheesy chips at the kebab shop*
  • leaving the toilets in a pub ‘have you got a fanny or a cock.’ Who remembers Dick and Dom In Da Bungalow? Dom said it. Or maybe it was Dick. Who cares? He apologised after. I just laughed and walked off.

If someone does shout crap at you, ALWAYS keep walking. They don’t care enough to follow it up. And if they tried to, you can run faster than them. Don’t feed the trolls, real or on the internet. Honestly, people on the whole want to say nice things, I have run out of body parts to count the compliments on.

3: Panic attacks. Luckily, these don’t really happen anymore *touches wood* and it’s been some time since one has. I never knew exactly what used to cause them and to be honest I don’t know exactly why they’ve stopped. I used to struggle to identify when one was happening which would often mean I’d left it too late to get out of. So I guess the first bit of advice is learning to understand your body and changes in it that feel uncomfortable. Things like elevated breathing or heart rate, increased senses of anxiety or awareness of yourself/your surroundings and things like being increasingly uncomfortable towards a normal task can all be indicators (from my experience, at least) of an impending panic attack.

I have had one near miss since learning to recognise when I was about to have one and I was lucky enough to get over it, mainly because I recognised when it was about to happen. Calming down is much easier said than done (reeeally slow breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is good, as well as stretching excessively and clicking your fingers in turn a few times) but can be really effective if you ‘do it early enough.’ If you’re past this and your body is filling with adrenaline, I find that closing off my senses then doing something fast and active is good. Luckily for me I’m a drummer, and drumming is a stunning what of buying off excess adrenaline. When I started to feel panic recently I found an isolated spot (I was at work but the shop was shut so again, lucky), put Glitches by ETID on my iPhone and proceeded to drum along in the air with my eyes shut. The movements are fast and precise and require your entire upper body to perform them. Panic attacks often induce increased breathing, leading to excess oxygen in the blood and this kind of activity is a great way to use the O2 up. Closing my eyes allowed a memory of the the band performing the song to fill my mental space, a memory that is positive and treasured to me and one that can flush out panic and its associated emotions. By the time I made it to the end of the song, I was in the clear.

In Laymans Terms, I isolated all my senses by ‘playing along’ to this track. Any one can do this – it might not work but anything is worth a try, I guess – isolate yourself, find a song you associate with positivity, crank it, and move/dance/jump/pretend to play drums until the song is over, with your eyes shut. It’s not for everyone, but if it works for one other person besides myself then this blog post has succeeded. DISCLAIMER – this might not work, it might make your own panic attacks worse. I am giving advice that works for me and it is not gospel for all. I haven’t directly told you to try this and I’m not responsible if it doesn’t work. Alright? Alright!

The final line of that song is ‘No Need To Panic,’ something I didn’t even realise until after picking it as my go-to song if ever I get close to panicking. Strange, that.

That’s it for this post, so as always, thanks for reading. For those of you following this blog because of my gender related battles, I have no updates as yet. The clinic I have been referred to are working slower than ever due to excessive numbers of people being referred. This is good and bad – it shows that the need is there and that more people are feeling comfortable enough to come out or get help, but it also means the waiting lists are getting longer. It’s a good thing our UK government care about the NHS, mental health and gender related illness.

That last bit was sarcasm.

For anyone interested, I have currently been listening to:

  • Don Broco – Priorities
  • Converge – The Dusk In Us
  • QOTSA – Villains
  • Aeges – Weightless
  • ’68 – Two Parts Viper

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Long Live The Stag and Hounds. 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I couldn’t let that go by without posting something, so here’s a post.
I had a gig last night with my band, Ghost Of The Avalanche, and it was a bitter sweet show because it was the last ever gig we will play at a venue in Bristol called The Stag and Hounds, as its closing down at the end of the month. We pulled out all the stops, got some friends on stage with us and did everything we could to give the place a proper send off in true Ghost Of The Avalanche fashion and needless to say (I think it was) it was a success.

Live music for me (and loads of people I know) is a way of escaping battles in your head. It is a safe place, a place of acceptance, a place you can let go, enjoy yourself and know you won’t be judged. I’ve met dozens of people at shows who’ve said they’ve struggled all week because of whatever is going on upstairs but the couple of hours they have watched bands playing at whatever gig I’m talking to them at has totally erased all those thoughts from their head. I know that feeling well myself, and getting home after a show knowing you’ve had a few hours of ‘down time’ is a feeling like no other.

The Stag and Hounds closing down is a fucking phenomenal blow to the UK underground music scene. The bands were ALWAYS good, the beer and food is decent and cheap, the staff, sound engineers and infamous promoters are all legendary and every punter in there (at least when I’ve been there) is there for the same reason, a love of live music. Seeing it close is hard, knowing it’s one less place that people like me have to go to as a place of safety, acceptance and escape.

Last night we played a song called ‘The Park’ which is about me dealing with anxiety. I introduced it with a speech; telling everyone in the crowd to look after themselves, be open with each other, talk to your friends about your battles, that it is okay to not be okay and to look after themselves and one another.

I’m writing this to echo what I said last night. This is me talking: I am sad that my favourite venue is closing. I am scared I won’t find the exact escape I get in those walls anywhere else but I am thankful I got to spend so much time there and now it is closing, I will hold memories in that place for as long as I have the capacity to remember them. I’ve met a fuck-ton of amazing people in that place too, some of whom have become jam-mates (if you read this, waddup Matt from DC, that was fucking good fun last night!) and best friends. I love you mad people!

If you supported my bands as I played there in any way, thank you.

Long fucking live The Stag and Hounds. 

Footage of the show can be found here: https://youtu.be/R1lELlJ8sIw

Photo credit: Simon Holiday

Bad Blood.

Today I had my first appointment at a gender identity clinic. A few people knew this and they all wanted to know how it went, so this post is is simply so I don’t have to repeat myself as well as explain a bit of what I want out of gender treatment.

So, today was like a prelim appointment before I see a specialist. I met with a volunteer at the clinic – an ex patient (lets call them J to maintain confidentiality) – and the session was a couple of hours long. It was for me ask questions and get direct answers (the internet is a dangerous place and everything I have learned from it was corrected in todays meeting) and also to give J the opportunity to explain exactly what the clinic can offer me and how everything works. These meetings essentially speed up the process when I see a doctor or a therapist as I (theoretically) will have already have had my questions and queries answered. My apologies about the excessive use of brackets, someone give me a grammar lesson!

So sometime towards the end of Summer my name will be ‘top of the list’ and I’ll be the next person to be assessed for gender dysphoria at that particular clinic (they do about two assessments a week i think). This will be done by a specialist doctor and a gender identity therapist who will hopefully officially diagnose me with the condition (although my GP has already informally diagnosed me, but then it’s pretty obvious I don’t want to solely be a guy any more, right?) and ‘suffers from gender dysphoria’ will go onto my medical record in some sort of medical record-esque way.

After this diagnosis I’ll basically then be offered a smorgasbord of treatments for me to pick and choose from with an end goal of (hopefully) my body matching what is going on in my head. I can have full surgical procedures to have bits added on or taken off (I’m not interested in surgery), HRT, laser treatment (to remove unwanted hair that HRT doesn’t take care of) and a number of other treatments. HRT and laser are my current wants; upping my production of oestrogen in an attempt to suppress production of testosterone is the normal ‘first treatment’ and will continue for the rest of my life. After that I can have anti-androgens to cease production of testosterone altogether which will render my reproductive organs more or less sexually useless as well as promoting the development of breast tissue and minimising other male characteristics like body hair, body odour and fat stores around my body.

Simply put, when I’m presented with these options, I’ll be jumping at having my beard tamed by laser treatment (it’s almost impossible to have it removed altogether) as well as taking the oestrogen boosters to minimise the ‘male drive’ in my system. If I start growing boobs while taking them then that’s a bonus in my eyes. I’ve wanted my own boobs for as long as I’ve been dressing as a girl.

That about sums up today and hopefully explains a bit more about what is happening in my head to anyone who is still trying to understand it. I have a ‘Gender Is Over’ pin badge which was on my jacket today and got masses of attention so I’ve added a picture of it along with a couple of other favourites of mine. A Google search of the slogan will direct you to their site (top result) where you can find out what it means, why it’s important and where you can buy one if you want one for yourself.

Timeline: I went to my GP saying I wanted a gender clinic referral in November 2015 and he put me in for blood tests immediately as you can’t be referred to a specialist without them. The initial test came back with a ‘prolactin spike’ (stress hormone in men and an indicator of thyroid or diabetes issues) so I was tested for all of these which took me to May 2016. I found out then I don’t have ‘bad blood’ (as my GP put it) and he processed my referral. This was accepted in June 2016 and I have been waiting since, until today (today was a volunteer meet and NOT something I had to have, I still have about four months to wait). You can do the maths; if you’re in the UK, want to see a gender clinic and your initial bloods come back okay you can expect to wait about 16 months, although this is expected to increase. I’m not getting into NHS politics.

Music: today was about 6 ours of traveling (I don’t drive so buses, trains and one of my best mates cars, Celine, were the rides of the day) so I listened to loads of music. For anyone who cares:

  • Russian Circles – Empros
  • Mastodon – Crack The Skye
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
  • Every Time I Die – Low Teens
  • Baroness – Blue
  • MUTation – The Frankenstein Effect
  • Andrew Bird – Are You Serious

I also spent waaayy to much money in Topshop and New Look while I was waiting for a connection but I got a fucking stunning dress and some other little bits so I really don’t care.

Until next time 🙂

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Body Positivity.

I haven’t written anything on here for a while because I genuinely haven’t had anything to talk about, but sitting on my bed this morning deciding what to wear (today is a girl day and I went for crushed velvet leggings and one of me Gender is Over tops) I realised that there is bit of my story that I didn’t mention (I’m referencing blog three, by the way). It’s also something I’m glad I forgot to originally include because it’s given me the opportunity to expand on it.

During my late teens/early twenties when I was really starting to discover my interest in being gender neutral/fluid I was also part of a scene, just like anyone else alternative at that age. I’ve always been into heavy music and have always ‘worn the uniform’ of skinny jeans and black band t-shirts and there became a phase when MySpace was at its highest point of taking selfies for your MySpace profile, and they had to be taken at arms length or in the mirror with your emo-fringe hairsprayed across your face and as much of a pout as possible to show of your lip piercings if you had any. I fell right into this and took millions of photos just like everyone else to put on my own MySpace profile.

Now, this wasn’t exactly a thing I really enjoyed about my scene  – I did it because it was the fashion and I wanted to fit in, just like every one else – because I wasn’t ever happy with my appearance. This was when I started to buy girls clothes and creating a female wardrobe (the one I mentioned in blog three and never told anyone about) and I also used to take these MySpace-photos again when I was dressed as a girl but obviously never uploading them. It was something I never understood why I enjoyed doing but I did it none the less. When the selfie-taking phase died off and Facebook became a thing, I also stopped taking selfies and embraced the next social media trend along with everyone else. I didn’t however stop doing this when I was in ‘girl mode’ because it was a way I really felt I got to be myself.

Nowadays, I have a selfie stick and my Instagram feed has become more peppered with photos of me when I’m feeling particularly confident on a girl day, along with photos of guitars and other crap I enjoy. Although I have come out as GN/GF I still don’t totally dress how I would like to, certainly not publicly anyway.

I’m not trying to fool anyone when I’m dressed as a girl, I know I’m still biologically male – and I’m okay with that – and I’m not really bothered about being identified as one even though I’m dressed as a girl, although it is funny when friends of mine apologise for calling me ‘dude’ or something similar (seriously, I don’t care. Call me what you want!). Anyway, I’m still not totally happy with my appearance and the reason I am waiting for HRT is simply so I can attempt to get rid of my fucking facial hair without having to layer on make up, something which I hate doing, to help me pass as a girl when I want to, which is my ultimate goal.

When I get to this point I will ‘ramp up’ how I dress in public as I still don’t feel comfortable wearing some of the things I want to while my face is still unmistakably male. Although having just taken a break and made a cup of tea and read back that last sentence I feel like now I’ve just admitted to wanting to dress even more feminine that I might actually have the guts to do it, haha. See attached photo of me feeling particularly feminine a couple of weeks ago and yes, this is pretty much the ootd when I’m at home by myself…!

I’ll leave it at that for now, I’ll be posting again in a few days as I have my first appointment at a gender identity clinic very soon and I’m looking forward to writing about what happens there. It may be useful for anyone who’s thinking about getting help for similar issues to my own but doesn’t know how the system works in the UK.

If you are struggling with anything in your head I urge you to speak to your GP and ask for help. If they won’t help you, don’t take no for any answer and make another appointment. Chase up any referrals you get offered. I wouldn’t be going to the gender identity clinic myself if I hadn’t gone to my GP originally and the other people I know who are receiving help for various mental health issues wouldn’t be getting that help without seeing their own GPs either. I know it’s scary, but the help is there and it can only be accessed if YOU make the first step. So please, if you’re struggling, open your mouth.

Questions on this post – or any previous ones – are welcome and encouraged.

To the bloke who I was talking to in the pub last night about referencing your daughter in my third blog – if you read this, it was good to see you and I hope your hangover isn’t as bad as mine!IMG_2586