After Life

Book Two: Purgatory

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 87

Overreacting

November 18, 2005

Man, what a difference a day can make.  I’m just now pulling out of the worst depression I have ever experienced at any time in my life.  And the key to coming out of it came at a very high price.

Yesterday morning, my good mood began to fade.  By evening, I was in a full-blown downer – yet that was just a taste of the depths I was to experience today.

Teresa is healing more and more each day.  She becomes more feminine, more beautiful, more genuine each minute, or so it feels.  Certainly I already find her far more attractive a woman than I ever imagined I could have as my own.

But this is a double-edged sword.  The more desirable she becomes to me, the more I find myself inadequate.

What bothers me most?  Her forehead.  It is so smooth, so evenly rounded, so gently giving way to the eyes and gracefully wrapping to the side of her head.  Dr. O removed every imperfection and shaped her forehead to be so completely female that she could not possibly pass as male no matter how she tried.  And this, mind you, is with less than half the swelling having gone down.

Her forehead is the one feature I argued so vehemently against her changing.  It was what I thought gave her my mother’s eyes.  And you know, it did.  And now that she has had the surgery, she no longer has my mother’s eyes.

Is that the loss to me that I had expected it to be.  Yes.  Are the new eyes also attractive to me?  Yes.  But no longer with the built-in sense of love an acceptance I felt with my mother.  Now, I live with a beautiful woman, an equal human being, who loves me – I know.

But I no longer feel that protection and emotional security those old eyes used to provide.  So, I have had to grow up, to accept that protective feeling is gone forever, and to move on.

Does it hurt?  When I dwell on it, yes.  So I am choosing now to let it go and no longer to think about the loss if I can help it.  I document it here, and then if it crosses my mind again, I will try to drive the notion away, rather than consider it.

Yet her face is so much more beautiful, so much more female.  How can I complain?

Still, it was not that loss of the look of my mother that drove me into depression.  But it was the forehead.  You see, it was always my own forehead that made me feel most like a man.  Though everyone, including Dr. O. tells me it needs nothing done to it, it still strikes me as too high, too vertical, and most disturbingly, too heavy in the brow bossing over the eyes and above the nose.

When Dr. O pulled up the skin of Teresa’s forehead, she lost all the wrinkles on her forehead, nose, upper eyelids, and the “crow’s feet” area.  The very process of reattaching the skin gave her a complete upper face-lift.  Whereas I have my wrinkles, on my forehead, my eyelids, my nose, the sides of my eyes.  She now looks 28, I look my age – 52.  I am no longer pretty.  I just look good for my age.

And beyond it goes, much more.  Last night, being now completely sensitized to the differences of the foreheads of men and women, I looked closely at the women on television on Survivor and CSI.  Each of them, and I mean every one, had foreheads just like Teresa, and there were none who had a forehead like mine.

You see, as my friend and partner, Chris, told me way back in my early transition days, “You’re very lucky – you have a face that can work as either male or female.”  Lucky indeed.

Those words came back to haunt me yesterday evening.  I could also clearly see that none of the men on television had foreheads like mine.  Still, I think, no I am convinced, that some of them came a lot closer to what I have than any of the women did, or that Teresa does now.

So I went to bed, already feeling down.  But not before I ate 500 calories more than I had been during this whole 5 week diet.  Still, it is not enough to add any weight – fortunately, for that would have further exacerbated my depression – it was just enough to maintain.

In the morning, I started out feeling better, but it didn’t last long at all.  Every time I looked over and saw Teresa’s new face – saw her looking so genetically female, I became increasingly depressed all over again.

Teresa, of course, being the insightful and attentive mate she is, tuned into my mood, though I had tried valiantly to hide it, and asked if I was depressed.  For once I had no spirit to deny it, so I simply affirmed that I was.

Trying to resolve my difficulties, she asked me a question, “What is it that has changed between here and Cocoon House that let you be happy there but makes you depressed here.  And she kept asking if it was what she had done.

I could not find a concise answer to her question.  Anything I might say would either be misinterpreted or outright misunderstood.  If she were truly to understand, what I felt was needed was a series of small elements of my mood, each describing an aspect of my experience, and collectively laying one upon another until each altered the others, eventually creating the complex rhythm of my discontent.  Only then would she perhaps understand.

I explained this and began with one small tidbit, then later, added another and a third.  Each generated a prolonged interchange between us.  And though the specifics are unimportant here, suffice it to say that she began, at least, to see that it was not a simple problem with a linear solution.

What I had not expected was that the more we talked, the more depressed I became.  Eventually, I was so depleted that I could not concentrate on my work, could not focus, became dizzy, weak, and had trouble just standing upright.  So I made my way to the bedroom and lay down on the comforter.

Teresa came in several times, inquiring as to my well-being, and asking if there was anything she could do.  But my responses became increasingly protracted, diminishing from sentences to phrases, and eventually no more than mono-syllabic words and sounds.  After a time, she left me alone.

She came back to check again from time to time, but my responses were the same.  Often in the past, I have played the role of my depression, so that while I truly felt down, I have let my body language overstate the issue in an attempt to garner sympathy.

But this time, I truly had no motivation to move.  I simply lay there, curled into the fetal position, my face screwed up in emotional agony.  And there I stayed.  For hours.

What did I think about?  Mostly about what I had told Teresa earlier during our morning conversation – that I did not have a single feature to my face that could not be interpreted as either male or female depending on the presentation.

You see, Teresa, now, has features so far over to the female side that no male ever born has possessed them.  For her, when she looks in the mirror, all she can see is a female.  She looked far more male than me before surgery, now she looks far more female. 

Sure, I can wear nice clothes, put on make-up, move in a feminine manner, and (most of the time) be taken for a woman.  But I didn’t set out on this journey to be “taken” as a woman – I set out to become one.

And therein lay the true black heart of my depression.  Teresa has truly become a woman.  I am, and always will be no more than a pretender.

I did not cry.  I was too devastated for tears.  I simply hurt, fully, and completely.

I will never be a woman.  I will never have what Teresa has.  She gets to experience the dream that I always wanted for myself, and I will never taste that dream.

What I fantasized about all of my life, what I set out for and worked so hard for starting sixteen years ago is permanently denied to me.

Well could I not have surgery on my forehead to make it like hers?  Yes, but we can’t afford it now and can barely pay the bills without falling back into debt again.  With our financial history, it is likely I could never afford such a surgery until I was sixty or more.  And would I then be able to enjoy wearing tight jeans, bikinis, and miniskirts if my face were operated on?

No, my time is passed.  It too late, or if not now, by the time I would have the money it will be too late.  This life dream is over.  It is dead.  It is never to be.  And a lifetime of longing and a decade and a half of hard work amounts to nothing.  Goal not achieved.

My depression here was at its deepest.  I asked myself if it was foolish, then, to proceed with the lip surgery.  No, I reasoned, it would make me look more feminine and therefore allow me more confidence in passing.  You see, I will have to worry about passing for the rest of my days.  Teresa’s time of worrying about passing is over forever.

I became so lost in the throes of hopelessness that I slammed my fist down upon my head just above the temple with such force that I heard a snap.  I even considered the implications of suicide, as in the "Oklahoma" song, "Poor Judd is Dead.".

And I thought, Teresa will be so sad.  But she will get over it.  And as pretty as she now it, she will eventually find someone.  And she will be happy, truly happy as the woman she was meant to be.  And for the first time in my life, I neither felt bad for the sadness she would feel, nor envious of her eventual happiness, nor jealous of the mental picture of her with someone else.

Rather, I felt nothing at all.  And perhaps that was my most dangerous time.

I sought desperately in my mind for a way out of this dead end.  I knew I could not live with this pain, but I really hoped that self-destruction was not the only way to end it.

And then, it occurred to me: let the dream die.  Let the dream die.  Let go of the dream of being a woman.  Recognize that you never will be.  Don’t keep hoping.  Don’t keep believing it is possible.  Let it go.

Faced with that alternative or death, I was not sure which was the better choice.  This is the dream I have lived for.  So if I give it up, what do I have to live for?  Does it not lead to the same end?

But I considered that if I truly, really, and without playing mental tricks like, “I’ll give up the dream (until I’m over the depression and then I believe again because I had my mental fingers crossed when I said it) – if I TRULY, REALLY gave up the dream, than perhaps the pain of not achieving it would be lessened – lessened enough to make other positive things in my life worth staying alive for.

But how to let go of such an all-consuming dream?  What mental mechanism can one employ to give up the hope of one’s life in order to avoid losing one’s life when that goal is unalterably unattainable.

And then, the way revealed itself.  I had to stop thinking of myself as a woman.

Very simple.  And from where I was emotionally at the time, quite easy to do.

If I was not a woman, what was I?  Well, clearly I must be an effeminate man who had sex change surgery.  Did that not describe me?

Sure, I never acted feminine in my role as a male, but I always felt feminine inside.

But could I not truly be a woman inside?  Perhaps, but how would I know?  How could I possibly ever really know that?

I can know that I always felt gentle and caring and non-aggressive.  And those are feminine traits.  But I was born with a dick and sired children, and was never mistaken for a woman in all of those days.  So I must have been a man, de facto or actual.

Put them together – a man who is feminine inside.  We’ve all encountered them.  And some of us find that life as a male has become so constrained that we cannot abide the pressure anymore.  So, we change our sex.

Now, Teresa strikes me as the “genuine article,” as she and I used to call “true” transsexuals, and we included both of ourselves in that group.

But I no longer see myself as genuine.  I see myself as an effeminate man who has chosen to live my life as a woman so that I can express myself more easily without ridicule.  I could no longer play the masculine role, being an effeminate man would be untenable for me, who cares so much about what others think of me, so the only acceptable option was living as a woman, and since I was always ambivalent at best, and dissatisfied at worst with my genitalia, surgery was just one more step that would make the illusion more believable and thereby give me more freedom in expressing myself in more situations.  It also validated my changed behavior to those who knew me from before.

So, here I am, a man who was feminine inside and changed sex in order to most fully express his feminine side.  For years, I thought of myself as a woman, but that was just wishful thinking.

I fell in love with Teresa because I could sense that inside she truly was a woman.  But I am not in her league, not in her clique.

But now, it no longer matters that I am not.  It doesn’t hurt anymore.  You see, the pain was coming from seeing Teresa become fully a woman in body as well as in spirit.  But I have that Adam’s Apple (small, but there) that I would never have surgery on lest I lose my ability to sound like a woman.  Teresa, has no such thing.

I have brow bossing that, while it doesn’t fall out of female range, doesn’t fall out of male either.  But then, it no longer matters, as I am only trying to be seen as a woman, no longer trying to become one.

My age, no problem.  I am not trying to experience being a pretty young girl – not any more.  No, I just want to be able to express my feminine side in ways people find appropriate.  So it no longer matters if I look young and pretty or like somebody’s great grandmother – I can still equally express my feminine nature.

See how it works?

So I got up from the bed.  I put on my clothes – just blue jeans and a turtleneck – no make-up, and I got ready to go to the store.

When I came out, Teresa was dressed in tight blue jeans, a tank top, and looking absolutely scrumptious in her blond hair.  For a moment, there was the threat of the old pain welling up inside.  But I just reminded myself that she was a woman and I was not, and the pain subsided.  I could be attracted to her as much as I recently have been, without the bad aftertaste of feeling left out.  Because I’m not left out.  Because I’m not really a woman – I’m just choosing to live as one.

I chose not to share any of this with Teresa, as I know it would hurt her.  She would be greatly pained to think she was the cause of my changing my self image from female to male.  So I simply told her I had made some internal changes, and went about my task.

Teresa was confused.  She had become so worried about me that she developed an anxiety headache that is still bothering her right now, many hours later.  Not good for her healing.

She could not understand what changed my mood.  She was skeptical, and did not want to let me drive away alone.  But I insisted.

You see, I wanted to see if I could express the fullness of my feminine self without ridicule, even if dressed very casually and with no make-up.  If that worked, well then regardless of whether or not people saw me as a woman, I had succeeded as living life without pretense, inside or out.

Could I possibly act as I truly feel, without thinking of myself as a woman but presenting myself as one, and not be stared at/  I had to know.

So I drove to the store and with hopefulness and great calm, I casually strolled inside.  I know I didn’t look my best – but that was the point of the experiment, wasn’t it?  And what did I discover?

I found that I could not be sure if I was “soft-clocked,” or not, just as normal.  But this time, it didn’t hurt.  Because no one who I suspected might have pegged me as a transsexual gave any overt sign of disdain or disgust.

I know for a fact that most saw me just as another woman in the store, and I even got help from a girl at the pharmacy counter to look for cranberry extract pills (which neither of us could find).

Perhaps the female clerk read me.  I’m not sure.  But after that moment, unlike previous times when I would freeze up at such a reaction, this time I remained my calm interactive self, and, that uncomfortable moment passed, the conversation resumed in a pleasant interchange.

Clearly, then, I can get by under the worst of circumstances.  And, with the lip surgery, it should be even easier and more absolute.

And, I no longer mind having to “dress-up” to be completely unreadable.  That was a problem for me when I though myself to be a woman on the inside.  What woman would want to have to do herself up just to pass as what she knows herself to be?  It hurt whenever I did it.  It made me feel phony, incomplete.

But I am not a fake anymore.  I am a man.  I dress like a woman.  What can be more real than that?  And if I have to dress up to not be discovered to be a man in drag, then should that pain me?  Not at all.  It is just work I do to make it easier to live as a man who dresses as a woman.

I’ve also discovered that after checking myself out in the mirror all day long for years, especially in the last few weeks, the mirror no longer holds anything of interest for me.  I don’t care how much I don’t look like a woman.  Because I already know I am not one.  So, I’ll check out my appearance before going out, but I don’t feel the need to stare at my image and try to see the woman in the mirror.

I’m content to see the true me – the man in the mirror – and just to verify that I can mask that sufficiently when I go out.

So in this way, I have let go of the pain of not ever being able to achieve my lifelong dream, by giving up the dream itself.  No dream, no goal.  No goal, no failure.

And now, instead of hurting inside every time I look over and see how beautiful and genuine Teresa has become and continues to enhance, now I just see the beautiful female mate of an effeminate man in drag who is grateful to be loved by such a wonderful woman as her.

In the end, that is what Teresa’s surgery cost me – my fantasies.  But they hurt me long before she had her FFS, and though it hurt to wrest them from my psyche, now that they are gone for good, I will never feel that pain again.

 

  It is a few hours later.  I am settling into this new self-perspective far easier than I thought.  I realize now, that all the fears I had before surgery have actually come to pass.  So I wasn’t misguided in my concerns expressed in the very first entry of the new journey revolving around FFS.

But what I hadn’t counted on was that there would be benefits such as discovering the fullness of my feminine self.  Though I no longer think of myself as a woman, I recognize that I am actually a far more feminine person that I had thought myself to be before this all started.

And I also have a wonderfully attractive mate.  Hadn’t counted on that either.  But here it is.  She likes to wear really feminine clothes and looks great in them.  That is definitely a boon.

Teresa has inquired several times as to what it was that I did inside myself to make such a dramatic change.  But I have refused to share it.  This, to some degree, disturbs her, as I have never withheld anything from her before in our entire relationship.  Yet I know that she would feel so responsible for this change within myself, would see it within herself as such a terrible loss, that she would think I would feel the same.

But it would be a terrible thing for her because she really is a woman.  I just play one on TV.  So it is not, for me, the traumatic thing she would think it would be.  It turned out to be nothing more than a moment of realization, and then everything became easier to handle.

I suppose I now have the same life experience as someone who is openly gay.  Not everyone they encounter will know, but whether they do or not, one feels solid in oneself, and does not compromise one’s internal integrity.

I was miserable for years believing I could actually become a woman and feeling under constant pressure to achieve that.  Now that I know I cannot achieve it, the pressure is off.  So rather than being a downer, it is actually quite liberating.

Sure I miss the fantasy, but I can no longer live in fantasy.  Recent events have forever barred me from that ignorant bliss.  Still and all, reality, though not as glamorous, is certainly acceptable.  And the lack of pain by no longer trying to realize what cannot be, well, that is actually quite refreshing.

Oh, I wish it were true that I was a woman.  I wish it were true that I could become one.  But I am grateful that I no longer labor under that misconception and see things for what they are.

Now, I realize that sometimes situations change.  Sometimes circumstances alter.  And when they do, one must again adjust the inner compass to point again toward “true.”  So, it is altogether possible that after my lip surgery, or after other surgeries that I will find occasion to reevaluate.

I may someday come to see my insides as female once again and to believe in my heart that is real.

But I will not hope for that.  I will not expect that.  I will not believe in that.  And I will not work toward that.  In short, I will no longer perpetuate the fantasy.  Only should it someday become reality on its own will I acknowledge it as such.  In the meantime, I will do my best to blend into the company of women, fully understanding I am not one of them.  Being in that world, but not of it.

 

  A little later….  I think I understand the psychology of this a little better now.  If I had kept aspiring to that which I cannot achieve, I would have doomed myself to a lifetime of suffering.  But by lowing the standards, I can see myself as succeeding beyond expectations.

Falling short of being a woman is painful.  Being one of the most beautiful and successful effeminate men in drag in the world is a rush.

Now, instead of having every shortcoming remind me I have fallen short of the mark, every female attribute, every feminine quality moves me farther from where I started and closer to the mark.

So, by redefining the reference value, then the very same state defines as positive rather than negative.

Teresa has been in agony today from terrible shooting pains as the nerves in her face and head come back on line.  This has been her worst day ever.  In my heart I know that the stress I put her under with my depression raised her blood pressure and caused the pains, or at least caused there to be so many and made them so intense.

She may or may not believe this, but she certainly hasn’t put the theory forward.  Because she was still feeling unloved since I would not share what I had done inside myself to change my disposition, I promised her I would share it with her in a few weeks.

I explained that it was nothing bad about her or our relationship, and it actually took the pain away.  But that if I told her now, she’d just feel bad about it, responsible for it.  I want there to be a few weeks of her seeing how I am pain free, how my attentions are even more on her, and completely without reservation.  And once she sees the value of the change, she will be more readily able to accept it without remorse, or at least to minimize her potential guilt over it.

She accepts this.  And since I have begun to once more pay attention to her, to caress her as she sits at her computer desk, and since my mood has inexplicably (to her) improved, the frequency and depth of her headaches have decreased.  In the future, I will try to avoid generating an emotional atmosphere that engenders such fits of hurt, both emotional and physical, within her.

 

  Still later….

Teresa made it known that she suspected how I had arranged my insides, and asked if I would tell her.  I said I would, under one condition – that she would promise not to feel guilty or responsible for it.  She replied that I should know she is capable of controlling how she felt about things, and so, as she promised to not feel guilty I could be assured she would not.

So I told her.

Her response was that she had surmised that was what I had done.  She still accepts me, she still loves me, and needed to be reassured I still loved her.  Of course I do.

I gave her an analogy:  Imagine a child of royal blood with a birthmark that identifies him.  The regime is overthrown and the child is spirited away and raised by a family of slaves for safety.  When he comes of age, he discovers he has the same birthmark as the long missing Prince.

He now must ask himself – am I truly the lost Prince or am I just a slave that shares the same birthmark?

If he comes out to people and declares, “I am the missing son of the royal family,” there will be those who believe him and those who don’t.  But if he says, “I am a slave who has the same birthmark as the royal child,” there would be few who would argue with him.

If I say, “I am a woman, trapped in a man’s body, who had a sex change and is now a real woman,” some will believe and some will argue.  But if I say, “I am a feminine man who had a sex change and looks like a woman,” few will argue.

The only dissenting voices will be from other sex-changers who must disagree in order to legitimize themselves.  The only dissenting voices in the Prince’s story would come from supporters of the royal family who have a vested interest in their return to power.

Teresa pointed out that I might have a backlash in sales of my transgender products since so many have looked to me as a role model of success to which they can aspire.  I replied that I did not live for them.

She also noted that there is a story that matches my analogy – the story of Moses.  I revealed to her that I had though of that earlier, and, just like Moses, I have lead many through the wilderness to the promised land, but have been forbidden to enter it myself.

My love understands that this is reality right now.  That by acknowledging only that I am a feminine man who changed sex and looks like a woman, I no longer have to fear meeting other women as friends.  Before I worried they would find something in me that was not womanly, something that would invalidate my contention that I was one of them.  But now, if some such thing is found, it is does not throw out my contention.  Rather, I only hold forth that I am a man, feminine, sex-changed, and looking like a woman.  If I don’t cut muster as a real woman, well I never said I was.  And in fact, if they can only find a few things that set me apart, well my then, how much I have accomplished – how well I have succeeded – far more than anyone would expect from a man.

As with the philosopher, David Hume, I believe that reality – truth – is what works.  If it ceases to work, it really wasn’t truth after all, and a new “truth” takes its place, at least for a time.  Perhaps in the future, the truth that I am a man will no longer meet the strict requirements of being truth, and I will enter a new reality in which I fully accept myself as a woman in women’s clothing.

Only the unfolding of time will ultimately reveal what truths may pass through our reality.

I just read the previous sentence to Teresa, telling her I really liked it.  She replied that the phrase would infer that Truth and Time are interrelated.  This I acknowledged.  She then put forth that it would stand to reason then, that if one accelerated to the speed of light, there would be no truth.  I responded that, rather, if one accelerated to the speed of truth, there would be no light.  To which she replied, “Now you’re just being cryptic.”

With these words, book two, Purgatory, is now longer than book one, Hell.  I had not anticipated such would be the case.  Usually the middle portion of a trilogy has little value of its own and serves as nothing more than the glue holding the first and third parts together.

Clearly, this is not the case here.  This center section is a journey all its own – a true “book” in every sense of the word.  And there is likely much more to tell between now and surgery in eighteen days.

I made one other comment to Teresa, based on her Truth vs. Time concept.  I told her that the only thing that separated my two realities was pain.  Believing myself to be a woman causes pain, right now, whereas believing myself to be a feminine man does not.  If the pain were to vanish, I would readily adopt the alternative belief in an instant.

And surgery to my lip may be enough to accomplish that feat.  What if that slight alteration does alter the way all my other features appear to me so that I truly see myself as female?  Then I would have no trouble adopting that view and wholeheartedly buying into it.

So Teresa asked, for someone who as a young boy fantasized of both having a beautiful girl to love, who loved him, and who dreamed of also being a girl physically, losing the ambivalent male parts and gaining the female parts, to have a girl close at hand, yourself, and also to have one to hold, was it not like having my cake and eating it too?

I told her I would respond with a single word, a quote from Dustin Hoffman as “Tootsie,” who said (in a Southern accent), “Heaven!”

And should I ever come back to the belief in myself as a real woman, it would be even more heavenly.

And then Teresa discovered the cat piss on the linoleum next to the DVDs, and it was all hands on deck.

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