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My son November 26, 2013

Posted by Tina Simmons in Uncategorized.
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I have a son who is an adult who lives with us. I love him to pieces, but it’s pretty hard for me and C to deal with it on a daily basis. You see, my son has what several doctors call bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, but we shorten it to schizophrenia. It’s actually a mild case (!), but it is something that is very difficult for him to manage.

In a lot of ways his illness is entangled with my gender dysphoria, but more for temporal and coping reasons. There was a two week period seven years ago that started with me finally coming out to my wife (who knew already but was shocked that I finally was accepting myself) and ending with the discovery of our son cutting himself, which, in turn, led to us discovering the intensity of his mental condition. When I came out I was convinced that our marriage was over. Instead, because of my son’s condition, it became the “not as big a deal” issue. It’s probably true that because of our son’s mental state we are still together. This is as close to a devil’s bargain as I can imagine, and if I could trade my marriage for his mental health I’d do it in a shot.

Sometimes my son and I discuss being transgender versus being schizophrenic, and the way that society treats people like us. Him they try to medicate to make him passive, but the medications destroy his will to do anything but sleep, and he ended up getting fat (BTW, more people with mental illness die because of health issues, which doesn’t surprise me). I’ve come to realize that the medications aren’t for his benefit as much as they are to keep him quiet. He still saw the visions and heard the voices, it’s just that he was too doped up to react. We both felt like lost lost our son, and he was miserable. And there were side-effects to the meds, too. To this day, our son gets muscle spasms in his eyes where he cannot keep them shut. It’s hard for him to get a good night’s sleep.

When our son decided to go off his meds, there was such a hue and cry from his doctors. We thought long and hard about this, but we decided that it wasn’t worth it. His creative juices started to flow, along with extremes of anger and happiness. Sometimes we do feel like we are trapped in hell, but it’s not like the other option was heaven. It’s a roller-coaster. The good thing is that he is not a harm to himself (cutting is long in his past, and he is not a violent person).

I’ve been asked if there was a pill that would make the gender feelings go away would I take it? My answer is no, because I’d lose a big part of who I am. My son has had to deal with this in real life, and his answer is the same.

In a lot of ways, accepting his schizophrenia has echoes of accepting my transcoder feelings (I say “echoes” because it is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination). We love him for who he is, not trying to make him into something that he is not. He has come out very publicly – as a part of the work he does, he has been interviewed by several web sites and has publicly stated that he is a schizophrenic. I admire his honesty, his bravery and his self-acceptance. In these I’m trying to become more like him, which has led me down the path of deciding if transition is for me.

A tale of two needs March 12, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in Uncategorized.
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I feel as if sometimes I am caught between the pull of two opposing needs.

On the one hand, I am married to a wonderful woman, and have two great children.  I love them so much, and the last thing I would ever want to do is to cause them any pain.

On the other hand, I have a strong need to assert my female identity.  Accepting my trans-ness was important for me to become more honest about who I am and to others in my life, but that was only a first step.  The issue of what does it mean to me and how I need to express it has come to the forefront for me.

To be totally honest, it’s not as if this is something new.  It has always been inside of me.  It’s just that now that I’m not hiding it from people I care about I want them to know exactly how I feel about this.

And there’s the rub.  To let them know how I feel can cause them pain.  And causing them pain causes me pain.  And so I tend to go back to my comfort zone and repress my expression of my female side, which causes it to build inside of me like a dam holding back a river – without an adequate mechanism to relieve the pressure the dam will burst.

Put another way, these needs are so strong in me that I feel as if I’m being pulled in two opposite directions, and I am afraid that the pull is going to rip me in two.  And sometimes it is very hard for me to bear, and it makes me very depressed, and worsens the depression I’ve been keeping inside of me for years.

So my solution has been to get help.  I recently started to see a psychologist who I spent a lot of time vetting out.  I had her name in my speed-dialer for at least six months, ready to make the call when I thought I needed it.  I finally needed it.  While she doesn’t have gender training, she has a very good background in handling depressing, family matters, women’s issues, and even gay and lesbian issues.  I found a lot of quotes from her in newspapers, and I read a couple of journal articles that she co-authored.  I had a feeling that she knew her stuff, had a good background in working with people, and would be very sympathetic to my plight.

And so far, it’s been good.  I’ve had two visits so far, but it’s somewhat early in the process.  Both have been basically me telling her my story, sharing with her some of my blog postings, and suggesting some books she could read to learn about gender issues.  I helped her order a copy of My Husband Betty as I thought that is a pretty good introduction to trans-people like myself.

Again, I have a long way to go to resolving my struggle balancing these two strong needs in my life.  I really cannot tell the outcome.  Walking the middle-path that I am walking is very uncharted territory for me, and there are very few role models for me to follow.  But I’m going to deal with it, and I have faith that I will eventually find that peace for me.