Post-Op Depression

So I read about it on Maddox’s blog, and have seen murmurings of it elsewhere, but lately I have been feeling some blues, and I suppose it is the not-much-talked-about, post-op depression.

I feel it most intensely when I look down at my chest when K and I are changing the bandages.  I see this disfigured body, that was previously healthy and whole and unwounded.  It was perfect, no scars, no wrinkles.  And now it is a goddamn crime scene.

I mourn for the unharmed body I had before, and I am scared sometimes of the unknown of how I will navigate the world with this new body.

I don’t think I made the wrong decision, that’s not what this sadness is about.  It feels like it is about saying goodbye to the life that my old body would have opened to me, for better or worse.  I don’t have any idea, really, of what that life would have looked like, but I know it is gone.  We all make choices, one path over the other.  This choice being so corporeal and countercultural in nature, affects me in a much deeper way than the choice of going to grad school or moving to the East coast has affected me.  (Additionally, this was a drastic bodily change that occurred in the blink of an eye: one minute I had breasts, then I closed my eyes, and when I opened them my breasts, which took years to develop, were gone.  I am sure part of this sadness I am experiencing is symptomatic of shock.)

I am saying hello to a new me, and I don’t know for sure who this person is that I am becoming.  I look at my flat chest, and I love it, and I am afraid of it, and it stirs up, I think, a lot of old pain, pain I had buried because I didn’t think I could ever have the life I secretly wanted, the life of a man.  This new chest says to me, “you can have it, you can have that life you always pined for,” and that scares the hell outta me because I don’t know what having “the life of a man” means entirely to me.

I want to work on realizing each of these manifestations are all me: my history as a female, my future as a trans guy or a trans person.  My present as a healing body in-between the sexes, it is all me.  My sadness stems from not understanding yet how to integrate the disparate parts of myself into one whole unit.  But I also recognize unity in identity may be a futile endeavor.  We are all made up of lots of parts, some congruent, some contradictory, but all inherent aspects of our nature, our identities, and these pieces don’t usually fit into one tight package.

I look down at my bruised and swollen chest and I want to cry.  I want to apologize.  I feel my body is paying a price for the incongruences my mind could no longer abide.  I don’t want sympathy or pat answers.  Please don’t try to cheer me in the comments section. 🙂  Please do tell me stories of your own post-op emotional trials, or successes. 🙂

I like this sadness, this crying, this sorrow and sympathy I have for my body.  This is part of my process and it feels good to be scared and happy and know these emotions are right for me right now.  I know this is the precipice of some new part of my life, and I can’t stand at the edge of a cliff and put my foot out and not feel exhilaration and terror–the inherent ingredients of belief.  Right now I have to believe in my understanding of myself, in my decision making skills, in my intelligence and intuition.  I believe I made the right choice, and I believe the turmoil I am experiencing is natural and necessary.  I want the whole array of human emotions.  I want a full and fulfilled life.  I am struggling with that old insoluble truth that, to be reborn, first I have to die.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

35 thoughts on “Post-Op Depression

  1. I have no post-op experiences to share, but I’m expecting a similar feeling to pop up when I start on hormones (I’ve been warned), and while I know you don’t want sympathy, I’m going to break the rules slightly and give you digital hugs instead. If you’re uncomfortable with the potential sympathy that might be lurking in them, consider them a congratulatory gift for expressing yourself (and such a difficult subject) so well.

    So there 😉

    -JC

  2. Interestingly, I go through a similar version of your current range of emotions periodically- although it’s framed in a very different way. I torture myself in the past unreal conditional. I go through all of the what if I/he/they had…
    I’m sure having the physical version of that has to be more dramatic, but I bet I could give you a run for your money on the worthiness of our depression-isms 🙂
    But seriously now, don’t torture yourself. I could spend the rest of my life formulating absurd questions that are realistically irrelevant to my existence. What if I had been kinder and stayed with b/f number one? What if b/f number 2 had been kinder and I had stayed with him? What if my grandfather wasn’t such a jack-ass and died already so I could claim an inheritance and finally buy an apartment in Paris? What if I had blue eyes? What if I’d had a different childhood, would my manner be less brusque? Would I be less cold?
    I always end up with a phrase my late mother-in-law would repeat to me when I was in one of these moods: Avec un “si” nous pourrions mettre Paris en bouteille. (With an “if” you could put Paris in a bottle).
    But Paris is a city, it doesn’t fit in a bottle. I am not a 6 foot tall blue eyed guy who enjoys sailing whilst in the Hamptons wearing white linen. I’m the result of my life. You’re the result of your life- and in that, we are just like everyone else even if we face different variations of extremes that are uncommon to the majority of people.
    Don’t worry, you shan’t get any patting from me 😉
    Lesson number 1: Embrace sadness, then put a time limit on it, don’t let it linger.
    How’s that?

  3. Feeling let down after you accomplish something you’ve planned for so long is quite common. For me it took the form of “ok, now what?”

    Remind yourself what led you to the decision (and how you would feel if your breasts were back – remember the nightmares I told you about?).

    It gets better… then you tank for a bit… then it gets better again. The tanking phases gets smaller – I promise.

    • Thanks Tam. Yeah, I know it won’t always be like this–it doesn’t help that is is going to rain for days here and I am stuck in the house with nothing but t.v. watching and my cat to entertain me. I have a few writing projects, but there is just a little stir crazy setting in–

  4. One of the most beautifully written, poignant posts I have read. It’s really helpful and enlightening to read a post that talks about the feelings post surgery. I have spent so many years wanting and waiting for surgery I have never given a moments thought to the adjustment afterwards. Many trans women I know have told me that post breast surgery can have the same feelings as it really is the most dramatic change.
    Anyway thank you for continuing to share such a powerful personal journey.

  5. Surgery is still long time away for me but I have thought that yeah, I’ll probably be upset when the time comes. To me it’s rational to get upset about something that’s been a part of you for so long. I picture myself getting a bit hysterical a couple of days afterwards and telling myself to calm down, being snappy, shouting at people around me to piss off. Then again, I’m like that most of the time anyway!

    Thanks for sharing your feelings on such a personal subject. It was an enjoyable post.

    • I’m glad you found something worth reading in it. 😉

      And it’s funny how we react in situations we have never been in before, it’s nice to be surprised by ourselves. Scary, but nice too. 😉

      -E

  6. Eli,

    This post is very touching. Be kind to your emotions, body, and exploration. Identifying as transgender is something that’s trying at times. You will grow and change as you continue down this journey. I continuously remind myself of this quote: “Transition is like a dark cave. As you step forward and find acceptance it becomes lit and clear to make your way through.” If you every want to talk please feel free to email me.

    -A

  7. This is not unlike how I felt after giving birth to my children..we have this being inside us to care and protect, then Bam, I had to share this being.. and yes, I actually loved the way I looked pregnant (good genes so I never got body fat, just belly fat)..anyway, my point is It is normal to feel these things, embrace and accept them and I feel confident they will appear less & less.
    You have a fire in your belly Eli I respect & admire!

  8. I keep coming back thinking I can wrangle my thoughts in response to this stunning post into something comprehensible. I keep getting stuck. All I know is, if you are this clear on how you are feeling, especially with all the thought and care you put into your decisions, you are going to get to an amazing place. –N

  9. If it sounds like it, smells like it, feels like it, it must be post-op depression. It’s your brain catching up to your body, and now it’s hurting too. Just talk to K a lot, write it out, and it’ll pass. Sending you a hug from your older sibling, cause you need to know EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT. Your new mantra.

  10. Grief. It’s a bitch but it really does peel the layers back and expose you. In your case this is perfectly normal reaction – you are exposing your true self as well as grieving the loss of familiarity. Take your time, it will come and go as you are ready for it. Grief is necessary for you to heal and to honour (and say goodbye) to your old self. Be kind, grief is a gift to yourself.

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  14. I’m really glad that you shared this post. I’m 2 weeks post-op and have been trying to put a finger on why I’m emotional at times. Why I’m not always so excited or happy about my chest. Your words might as well be mine and I’m glad you put them out there into the universe so someone like me could relate. Thanks!

    • Hey Buddy! I’m so sorry to hear you’re feeling blue. But I’m glad my post has helped you feel a little better. Trust me: it will pass, just as the aches and pains pass. I’m four years post-op now, and feeling great. You will too. And it surely didn’t take me years to get out of that funk. Please feel free to contact me anytime, and I’ll try to be better about responding more timely than I did here. 🙂

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