When I couldn’t sleep, when I really couldn’t sleep, when I was wound up from worry or fear, I would get angry, first, and then I would cry. And then I would feel better. And then I would fall asleep. By the time I feel asleep, I would usually only get a couple of hours, but they were good hours, deep hours, really restful hours, and I would feel ok when my alarm went off. Sure, a little sad I couldn’t sleep for longer, as I was really enjoying the sleep I was in, but I at least felt like I got a little rest. My eyes wouldn’t ache from the lack of rest, nor would I get that headache behind my temples and eyes I frequently associate with lack of sleep. If I had a night where the neighbors were too loud, or my cat wouldn’t leave me alone, or my thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone, if by 3 or 4 or 5 a.m. I could just give up, dissolve into tears, and then pass out, it was a good night.
I still get those nights: like tonight. I wanted to get to bed early, because I have been having trouble sleeping for weeks, and I thought if maybe I gave myself like, 11 hours before having to get up, maybe that would let me relax and not worry about not falling asleep. So, I worried, naturally, that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I read, and got sleepy, but as I felt myself starting to drift off, I felt that falling feeling, and woke myself up. I do this repeatedly. Then I start thinking about all the things I have to be afraid of in my life: what if the testosterone is fucking up my liver? When is the cancer going to come back? I am losing my will to write, I am wasting my life, I am a huge disappointment. I’m losing my vocabulary and passion for learning at an alarming rate. What is wrong with my brain? What if my cat falls out of one of our open (but screened in) windows in the middle of the night? My chest feels tight, what if something is wrong with my heart? I can’t save my mother, my root canal is probably infected and wrecking my jaw bone, I think there’s one of those creepy centipedes on my bedroom wall…
And after about an hour or two of this, this loop of self doubt and fear and anger, that’s when I just get so tired and mad I cry. It’s an angry, quiet cry, one that is satisfying, but not one that would wake up K. And then I forget, for just a moment or so, all the things to be upset about, and I fall asleep.
But I don’t seem to be able to cry anymore. I try to force it, I get really upset, I dredge up all the worst shit, the worst outcomes and least possible scenarios, and then, nothing. I just lay there, looking at the ceiling. So I take out the ear plugs, and walk into the living room and turn on the computer and I don’t feel the same fear I used to, I mean, it’s still there but now it’s coupled with this new “I don’t give a fuck” sensation. At first, it felt good, like I was growing emotionally or something: like I’m not crying like a little bitch, so this must be a better, more mature self loathing. This is progress. No. I think maybe this is depression. I’m sure the testosterone is having a lot to do with why I can’t seem to cry anymore. It feels very much like I just can’t get over the falls, as it were, emotionally, enough to bawl. I feel just as upset, but now I get angry at my sadness. But I’m also just tired of being angry, so I don’t feel like taking the rage out on anything–it just dissipates. But then the thoughts resurface, the emotions well up, and I start the whole ugly process all over again.
My sex drive seems to be residing in the pre-t range, and after some recent professional setbacks, well, I just feel like I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of writing things that aren’t good enough, I’m tired of working for recognition that doesn’t materialize. When I was younger, in school, I did good things, I was always on the top of the hill, as it were, winning awards and doing well and being recognized for it. I had a community and a purpose and was learning interesting things. I’m in a slump, obviously. And I think, this must be what depression feels like. It’s a bit different from anxiety: it’s not nearly as manic and physically painful, and so in that way it’s kind of relaxing. But it ain’t great, either. The idea of having depression is just another problem to worry about. It’s like I’ve been stepping in dog shit for twenty years, when suddenly I notice I occasionally step in cat shit instead.
K and I had a chat about this mess tonight, and she had some helpful things to say. As most troubles are, this issue is about perspective: I can’t keep judging myself based on a scale I no longer participate in or believe in, that is, I don’t actually believe there is anything wrong with working in a grocery store, reading for pleasure, and paying my bills on time. Actually, that sounds like a pretty good life to me. But to outsiders, I must look like a pretty big disappointment: hot shot grad school leads to the destruction of my self esteem and retail labor. Nice job, dumbass. But I do believe I am a disappointment, to myself. All I wanted to do was be a fucking English teacher. It’s not like I wanted the moon. I just wanted to not get cancer when I was 29. I just wanted to be born in the right body. I don’t think I was aiming too high. But I did get cancer when I was 29, I am transgender, and no, my chosen occupation didn’t want me. And all that shit hurt. It still hurts. It keeps me up at night.
I want very much to learn how to give myself a break. I want to look at the clock on the computer and see it is 1:04 and be ok with that. I want to stop judging myself and stop creating these self fulfilling sleepless nights. I want to unclinch my jaw and believe my body is healthy. I want to take a cue from my cat and my girlfriend and sleep for more than four hours at a time. I want to learn how to let go. I want to be able to watch my breathing for more than an inhale before I forget it and retreat back into my brain.
I want to blame all this on the testosterone, but I know better than that. I think the testosterone is exacerbating trouble that has been brewing under the surface for a long time. And in that way, presumably among other ways, it is healing me. Testosterone is forcing me to look at things I have been ignoring for a long time. A sleepless night won’t kill me. And look, I actually wrote something, too. Guess I’ll go back to bed and think about global warming.
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli