This is the first piece of original writing I’ve felt able to do since putting up “The Bridge.” If you haven’t read it this piece will make more sense if you stop now and do so:
This article may be sprawling, it may be rambling, or it may be short and rambling. I expect rambling, regardless of the size. There won’t be any pretty pictures for this unless someone comes along and adds one. I don’t think I can find a graphic that demonstrates how I feel now or how I felt when I wrote that story that won’t trivialiase or make trite my feelings.
You see, The Bridge was my suicide note. Let me explain that a bit more: it was, in almost all ways save for the actual suicide attempt, autobiographical. I’m Heather. I’m a nurse and I’m sick. The fatigue and constant pain I allude to are real. I live with them every day and they have crippled me.
Perhaps crippled is too strong a word. I still get up and go to work a few days a week. Right now I’m missing more than I’m making. I have burnt through my leave so I will, unless my symptoms improve, be working without pay in about 24 more hours of illness. Working without pay means I can’t pay my rent or car payment. I can’t pay for my meds or groceries. Electro and transition will cease. Transition comes to a screeching halt.
The illnesses have crippled me in other ways. I love to write and have since I was a child. I’m a fiction writer who went into journalism when I took over as Editor and News Admin here at Susan’s Place and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a different experience, to be sure, and had a learning curve but I also love to learn so I took to the new position with joy at a challenge. Then I got sick.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia affect the body, mind, and spirit. I’ve always suffered from depression as I think most transgender people have but the diseases make it worse. They make my body hurt almost constantly and for those of you who don’t know, chronic pain sucks. It affects everything. Moving hurts, sitting still hurts, clothing against my skin hurts, I get angry, I get depressed but pain is manageable. I’m a proponent of better living through chemicals and don’t mind taking legal drugs when I hurt.
For me, the worst part is how the diseases affect me mentally. Fibromyalgia causes what has been dubbed, rather innocuously in my opinion, “Fibro Fog” which is, simply put, difficulty concentrating. I truly feel like I’m thinking through a fog at times.
The mental effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are, for me, far more profound. CFS causes its own fog that has robbed me of not only my love for writing but my ability to do so. Cognitive symptoms are mainly deficits in attention, memory, and reaction time. The deficits are in the range of 0.5 to 1.0 standard deviations below expected and affect my day-to-day activities. Simple and complex information processing speed and functions entailing working memory over long time periods are moderately to extensively impaired. Going back to school to further my nursing career? Not happening. I’m not mentally or physically capable.
How does that affect me? In everything that requires concentration: writing, studying, working, talking. I find myself searching for words that used to come to me in a flash. I’ve been the walking dictionary and encyclopedia for my friends and family since I was a child. Now my train of thought derails when I write, when I hold long conversations. Writing this, whilst I feel it necessary, will exhaust me. It already has and I’m at just over 600 words.
I could write thousands of words a day without breaking a sweat before I got sick.
Chronic Fatigue has robbed me not only of my love for writing but my ability. I’m fighting through the fog to get this down but this, like The Bridge, needed to get out. And this brings me back to The Bridge.
The Bridge, as I said before, was my suicide note. My illness and Gender Dysphoria have combined to put me in the darkest place I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve done everything save actually go to The Bridge. The plan? That’s mine. I know how to kill myself courtesy of being a nurse and if I ever get serious about doing it, it will happen. There won’t be a near-miss. There will be one go and it will be over and in the few seconds I have before darkness takes me there will be a heartfelt “Fuck You!” to any deity that may exist. Fuck you for Gender Dysphoria, fuck you for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, and fuck you for chipping my life away, one little piece at a time.
Here comes the rambling part because I’m going to change the topic here before I finish this. I’m wearing down more and more as I fight through the fog (and getting a headache) and will wrap this up shortly.
I’ve had real issues since my birthday in August. I turned 45. 45! How the hell did that happen? Where did the time go? I started transition at 44 and there are some things I will never be able to change, no matter how many hormones I take or how many surgeries I have. My hands will stay large and veiny. My feet are big. My rib cage is broad. I’m skinny which is a nice thing but my proportions will be off. So this is directed to the young kids and adults who may read this: if you know, without a doubt, without a shadow of doubt, that you are transgender: do something about it. Tell your parents, talk to a therapist but don’t waste time. It’s never too late to transition but it is too late for me to not regret not doing it earlier. This bit from The Bridge is how I feel every day:
“I could sing, a legacy from my father who had made a living off of his wonderful voice but I had quit voice lessons. I could draw and paint but I quit art classes. So many things I had started and then quit when depression robbed me of one pleasure after another.”
So many things I started but never finished. So many joys taken from me.
One day I may make that trip to The Bridge but not yet. Right now I fight as much as I can. I fight for reasons not to make that final drive. I hold out hope that my PCP and I will find something that helps my symptoms and I can go back to work, go back to school, write again without it exhausting me as this has, draw again, sing again.