I did broach this topic in class today, among my cohort. It is integral enough to the reason this blog exists to speak about it here, as well.
You’ve probably read the backposts where I’ve mentioned the fact that I have a relatively serious illness. I am by no means exaggerating — when I was 23 I didn’t know that I’d make it to 30, and couldn’t see life past 30. I’m not going to be really as open about my illness here as I would be in person, because, after all, this blog is searchable, and may in the future be found by or referenced to potential employers.
Isn’t the internet great?
A couple of years have passed since the time at which I expected no longer to be here.
Because of the combination of my illness and my medication — despite being very high-functioning for someone with my condition — I’m still not as high-functioning as at least I thought I was, before medications. In particular — I majored in Creative Writing. In the middle of my writing training in University, I was put on a medication to help me think more clearly.
At the time, I was scaring myself by considering testosterone administration. If you’ve never met someone who was out to you as a transgendered man — and had been on testosterone injections for a while — you wouldn’t know the drastic effects it can have. At the time I thought I might have been a trans* man. This was influenced, however, by my having fallen pretty hard for the first trans* man I ever met who was out to me as such; and having lived in a male gender role for about a year. (This was after I found out that I wasn’t actually lesbian: the crush on the above trans* man and my own knowledge of lesbian community as not necessarily gender-variant, helped with this.)
At this point I know that things are more complex than simply masculine/feminine, male/female; I identify as gender-fluid, and have no set gender presentation. I’m probably more comfortable with my body being female than male, and I’m just lucky that my setup already provides for that. It just took me a while to figure out why it was that I would identify with trans* women…even though I was coming from the other direction. Did that mean I was a cis woman? Not necessarily, but possibly close.
My gender identity…takes place somewhere other than within the known bounds of binary gender. I can translate it into binary Western terms, but that really obscures the issue more than clarifying it. (If you want to know why I’m so spiritual, it’s because spirituality afforded me a way of thinking about my gender identity which did not break me into small pieces and scatter me across the landscape.)
After starting the drug to help clarify my thoughts on this, however (which have only really become clear within the last 4 years), I found that it was suddenly much more difficult for me to write than it had been.
I’m not entirely certain why this happened — was I thinking too much? Was I too attentive to grammar and structure and what I did and did not know? The medication targets neurochemicals and their receptors, so far as I know (that still doesn’t tell me much, as I don’t know what particular neurochemicals do) — but my brain somehow no longer worked in the same way. I had to learn a new way of thinking, with what felt like a new brain.
So I can write now, clearly, in nonfiction. I still have a bit of a phobia around fiction, however. I wasn’t the healthiest person when I undertook it in the first place — I did not then and still do not have a clear and firm dividing line between “fantasy” and “reality” (I’m not sure I even want to use those terms), and I don’t want to go back to that place again. This, however, leaves me having paddled out to the middle of the lake in my canoe, having lost my initial destination, and unsure of which shore I should paddle to. I don’t think I can stay out here forever.
I’m not really an anti-psychiatry person. I’ve known someone who ascribed to that philosophy, but she wasn’t a great role model. She was also an artist, and told me to go off of my medication and stop listening to my doctor (because of her personal principles, which don’t apply to me). It’s not that I don’t want to go off of medications; it’s just that I know that things were in a state of entropy before then; I was in decay before then; and I know that I am not a person who is now proud of who I was then. I don’t want to go back wholly to the person I was before, because the person I was before was obviously disabled. But I could write.
I’m not sure it’s fair to say that it’s all I could do, but it was certainly the only constant. You’ve seen over the last few months, how many different places my mind has jumped to in search of a shore to land on. It’s hard to focus on now, but that’s what I have to do. And focusing on the now is difficult. Art is difficult. It’s challenging. And I find myself wondering whether I should invest time training in Art, as an auxiliary to writing, or try and change medications or reduce medications and see if my ability comes back.
My life somewhat fell apart in college. By the time I graduated, I was a wreck. If I had to do it over again now, I might take a decade to do what I did then in 5 years.
The salient point is that I took the brain I knew, majored in something I knew it was skilled at, and then was put on medication to assist with other areas of my functioning — which inhibited the portion of my brain which had to perform well for me to take up the role of my major. What I majored in is now something at which I feel handicapped, though on the bright side, I have more of a will and reason to live now.
If I did want to cut back on medications — which would only be the psych meds (I’m pretty happy with my birth control, which has mitigated a good amount of my own gender dysphoria) — there are a number of things which would help. I’d need to eat better (more whole and fresh plant-based foods, more protein, more healthy fats, less sugar and carbs, no uncooked cow’s milk), sleep better (a regular 8-9 hours a night), exercise (at least 3x/week), and meditate (every day). Any one of these things alone helps immensely. Doing them all together might give me the boost I’d need to cut the medication I’ve been speaking of, by half. I might be able to cut the other by 1/3, which would eliminate the necessity of the fourth medication (which is there to counteract drowsiness caused by the two other non-hormonal medications).
In turn this would mean that I’d no longer have to worry about weight gain caused by my medications, or the increased risk of high blood sugar and diabetes. Plus, I’d probably feel great. But I’d still have to hold down a job — unless I went on Disability, which I know is an impoverished life — and right now I don’t know exactly what job would suit me. I just know, at this point, that public service is not a good path for me.
The good part is that I no longer have to worry about exorbitant health care costs. It’s still expensive — maybe too expensive for me to go an entrepreneurial route — but I don’t have to worry about being locked out of access to needed medical care. Before the ACA, I had to hold onto my insurance at all costs because once I dropped it, I might never have affordable access to it again — from any provider other than Medicare, at least, and I’m not sure if I would have qualified for Medicare…
Water under the bridge, right?
I’m looking at Art because it’s one of the other fields I’ve really enjoyed, other than writing. Both of these fields have been related to storytelling, or at their very core, expression. Of course, Art is more difficult now; and I’m not sure if this is because I’m into hardcore practice now, or if it’s because of more medication issues. My friend who told me about how people advertising Psych drug trials would target art schools…well, what can I say about that?
I have a hard time doing something and not being as good at it as I want to be — but that’s a perfectionist tendency. To a certain extent it can be a motivator, but taken to an extreme it will lead to avoiding practicing the very thing I want to do, when practice is the only way of building skill. In that way, it can be self-defeating.
And I also should remember that I’ve avoided practicing Art for this long because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to be employed in it…which is the reason my skill levels are where they are now. There are jobs out there. But they require that one put in the hours to become really good at what they do, and it’s hard to do that without either loving the process, or having faith that skill is built through work, and that the more one practices, the more clarified one’s vision — and translation of that vision — becomes.