Two Years On Testosterone

3 months on testosterone vs 2 years

I can’t believe the last time I gave a testosterone update I had only been on it for 3 months. At the time it felt like I had enough changes to talk about it but looking back it felt like hardly anything changed. I didn’t really start to see real changes at 6 months and then had more changes after getting to the end of the first year. I kept meaning to write a 1 year update but I didn’t want to do it right away, and then I just forgot.

So here I am, procrastinating several other more important pieces of writing, to bring you an update on my two years on testosterone.

After my first year on testosterone was about to turn into a second one I felt like my changes had slowed down, that was until maybe two days after I hit that milestone that I noticed while rummaging my underwear drawer for a tight enough binder, and then with the prize in one hand closed my side mirror door to look at my naked chest, and I noticed something different about my shoulders. They were longer. One of my issues was that I still felt my shoulders were too narrow to be masculine – not anymore. 

Of course that was not my only change. I like looking at my top naked half because it was the first part to masculinize, if you just ignore the facial changes for a minute. What was curvy for most of my life was just a straight line. Ok, there’s a little hip but you have to look really closely to notice it. My hips were the first part of me that gave me dysphoria – like I used to beat them with my fists when I was 16 – but on testosterone they shrunk, or rather muscle covers them up better, and I hardly notice them anymore. Also, many cis gay men are a bit curvy and even have hips, and knowing that makes me ok with it.

Getting a masculine torso took a long time to develop, maybe a full year, so what helped me be ok with the gradual change was a full length binder that helped tone my abs. I have muscle there without doing any form of cardio workout.

Let’s go up the body now. I’ve always had a pretty thick neck and I now have a prominent Adam’s apple. My voice wasn’t the type to just go lower each month. It took many months for it to go down an octave. Now, it’s deep enough to be happy with, though sometimes it sounds a bit higher than I’d like. My face continues to masculinse. First it went wider than longer, and then hair began to gradually grow on it. I can grow a decent beard now, though nothing too thick. I rather just have a bit of facial hair. 

My shoulders have thick patches of hair on them too. I’m not so hairy on my back but it goes down my arms a bit. My stomach is completely covered, and so is my ass. Though it’s not too thick. The hair on my legs is so thick I call it fur and occasionally have to remove it. When it’s wet no towel will dry it and it’s hell to moisturise. 

My legs were curvy for a long time too. No matter how skinny they got they just looked slender. I slowly built muscle on them from fat redistribution. It hurt growing in. I was in pain for a few weeks, same as when I got abs from binding. I used to have to take breaks from binding fully. I’d just lift the material off my abdomen which would then relieve the pain. It took a few years but my legs are now fully masculine. They’re just straight tree trunks. My thighs are thick because I worked out before going on testosterone and sometimes during it. But my lower legs are just tight with muscle, but nothing bulky. To say I like it would be an understatement. I like looking at them a lot. 

The hair on my head is thick and thinning pretty quickly. I’m balding at the same rate my dad was, so it is what it is. I’d rather not get hair treatments and just age gracefully.

My changes to my feet at first worried me. I thought they had swelled up along with my shins, but now they look pretty normal. Still flat as a tack but have grown bigger because of the extra muscle there now. I have muscle on my hands too and parts a female born trans guy would never think muscle would be on the body. 

Acne is still a problem but I have a good care regime. Tea tree face wash and anti-oil moisturiser, in case you were curious. Sometimes I just get pimples because of the testosterone and no amount of skin care will help that, so I just put up with it. 

As for surgery, I can’t even afford top surgery unless I get it in Thailand and I don’t really travel. I’ve never been overseas before and it’s not exactly the best time to be doing air travel. I also feel like I don’t need it. For a long time I was disgusted by my breasts but now I don’t hate them. I’m a bisexual guy attracted to breasts with breasts – what’s there to hate? I could also go down as having the hairiest breasts in the world. I’m breaking world records here. I used to hate that fact but that’s because we’re raised to see masculine figures as flat chested and feminine as being slender and hairless. And I just don’t care for that anymore. 

People have probably heard about me being near suicidal because of my chest dysphoria and desperation for surgery but here’s the thing: I never felt much dysphoria about it before I got familiar with the ‘woke’ trans community. I just learned all the lingo and listened to people and suddenly I’m having all these extra problems with my body. So, I’m trying to unlearn that and get back to where I was mentally before I even knew about what it was like in the community. I still had issues with my body but not to the extent they were in the last couple of years. I never worried about being flat chested. I never worried about being too flat in the crotch area. Sometimes I do like wearing a prosthetic shoved down my pants, but sometimes it’s so noticeable it gives me even more anxiety. 

I enjoy my changes on testosterone, even if I didn’t want all the changes originally. The hip shrinkage is welcome. I don’t like being too muscular. I like being skinny, though not rake thin. I’m not. I still have a little tum tum which due to IBS likes to expand into a pregnant stomach. Yes, I call it a tum tum and don’t care if that makes me sound like a child. 

There aren’t only positive changes to testosterone. Like any form of medication you take there are side effects, and altering your natural hormone balance is always risky. I don’t recommend it for people who aren’t 100% sure that’s what they really need. On the pill I developed PMDD (severe pms) and that made me forever regret taking it. I was able to make the PMDD vanish on testosterone once I lost my period, but not everyone has that option. Also, it could come back when I menstruate again. I don’t like thinking about that but you’ve got to prepare for these things. 

I’ve had complications on testosterone too. I’ve had two hormonal imbalances which gave me symptoms of mental illness. And because I have bipolar my doctor was always concerned testosterone would make me manic. And that has happened a few times. Nothing serious I would need to be hospitalised for, but it still made me feel out of control. I’m currently coming out of one hormone imbalance which is so intense I can’t even take my testosterone injection until after an extra three weeks. Initially there was some tiredness, exhaustion really, as my levels dropped, but I got past that, and now I have my normal boom/bust energy levels that comes with my chronic illness. 

Taking testosterone and just living as a trans male has given me a lot more confidence but also increased my anxiety. I put my band photography on hold because I can’t use gendered restrooms and I can’t wear my binder all night because it will start hurting my chest and ribs after a certain amount of hours. But at the moment there’s no more live music to see. There are some but with strict social distancing rules applied, which I’m unable to follow while focused on my photography. I realised that when I photographed a Black Lives Matter protest. I’m not too good at multitasking. 

So, that’s just something I need to work on. And hopefully erasing some of this dysphoria that came from being in the trans community will help that. Don’t think I’m blaming them. It’s common in support communities to pick up symptoms that other people have. It happened when I was a part of the online autism community. So, I don’t blame them, but I still think they’re bossy. You know, they try to get you to change your language and omit words that they find offensive but might not necessarily be. And I have copied that and I don’t like being that way. 

I always like to think that people come into your life to help you, but then you have to move on once you’ve grown enough to no longer need that help, otherwise you start picking up on traits and behaviours that those people need help with themselves, and they’re not open to the same schooling they gave you. I feel support communities are the same way, but instead you pick up on traits and behaviours of people who already went through what you did, and the longer you stay the more likely your own progress will stagnate. 

And ending on that serious note I’ll bring this post to an end. At the moment I’m not sure if I’ll continue to take testosterone. I’ll have to wait and see how I feel in 2 weeks, and after talking it over with my doctor. I’m experiencing worrisome symptoms like chest pain, particularly around my heart. My doctor said testosterone can put stress on your heart and at the moment I can’t even get angry otherwise I feel a tightening. I’ve also been experiencing a severe electric burning in patches of my body anytime I get overheated, like when I walk 10 minutes to the shops. I’m told these are called heat hives and twice now they’ve almost brought me to a meltdown, which as an autistic person is something I put a lot of effort in to avoid happening, particularly in a supermarket. 

So, it’s uncertain scary times ahead. I’m now having to put myself in a mentality to accept going off testosterone and seeing myself as what I look like months later seems to help that. 

I’ve also been thinking about what being transgender means to me and how I want people to respond to that. I’ve never been one to dictate how people should see me, because I hate it when people try to control me in any way. But I will expand more on this point in my next blog post. 

Did You Know May 15 is PDA Day?

Well it is. Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome (PDA) is a type of autism where being given orders causes you extreme anxiety and as a result you resist anything that can be interpreted as a demand, even a damn suggestion or if someone says something you didn’t expect. 

I’m sick of going through year by year with hardly anyone giving a toss about this day, mainly because the media won’t do any stories on it. Sure, they’ll do their autism fluff pieces of Autism Awareness Day. Autism Awareness Day. Like what the fuck is that even meant to be about now? People are aware of autism, what they’re not aware about is the PDA type. Those are the types of stories the media needs to tell.

You know there’s not even an official form of treatment for PDA and probably no research into medical treatments because people hardly know about it or they’re just too busy trying to cure autism or creating treatments for autism and thinking it’s going to work on PDA. I got news for you – it won’t. The only type of treatment for PDA is not triggering PDA anxiety by rewording your demands and negotiating with PDAs when you accidentally do trigger them. A lot of people just trigger the anxiety anyway, despite being told time and time again by me to not do that. I even have a whole thread stickied on Twitter telling people who are interested in following me that, and Twitter is the one place I get triggered ALL THE TIME! I just have to ignore people, mute conversations or their accounts, and even block.

People seem to like me and I don’t even know why. Sometimes I’m a complete asshole to them but they remain so I don’t know what they like about me. I don’t like anything about me. I can’t feel anything for them. I can’t feel anything for anyone. I feel no connection to a single human on this Earth. I can like people and even love them, but there’s still no connection. If people knew what kinds of thoughts I had about them they wouldn’t stick around.

When people give me a demand I feel instantly attacked and controlled by them. When they suggest something to me I act just like you do when you feel threatened. When they say something I didn’t expect especially if it’s not in my world view then I have the urge to argue with them.

As a result I have no friends and though I want to make one or two I just don’t want to have those feelings about them. I can’t live with people so I pay double rent which then makes me feel financially unstable.

I know I’ll probably piss off the Neurodiversity community but I don’t care. PDA is not a difference, it’s more like an anti-social personality disorder. There is nothing positive about having to isolate yourself from people because they make you so angry. There’s nothing positive about resorting to social manipulation because you want to stop your anxiety. And it’s not gaslighting. You never put the other person down, but make it like you put yourself down, and sometimes you don’t even realise you’re doing it. Oh sure, you can pretend there’s positives to it like oh, we’re good at role playing. Who the fuck cares? The positives do not outweigh the negatives.

People who don’t experience PDA cannot imagine the constant suffering we’re under for being given everyday demands even from things that aren’t demands. We don’t need positivity or self-identity before there’s any real treatment or therapy or widespread knowledge about PDA in the medical profession.

And obviously I’m not talking about everyone with PDA but this is a reality for some and they shouldn’t be drowned out by all those positive stories. 

PDA is not positive for me. It is frustrating and lonely. It is primarily the cause of my depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts. I literally could kill myself over it, because how can a person just not get along with any other person? That’s no kind of life. I hear people talk all the time by how much they hate people but they don’t know what it’s like to actually feel that. If you’ve got friends or are in a relationship you don’t hate people. Stop pretending that you do. When you’re alone and feel constantly attacked by people and no longer trust them, then you know what it’s like to hate them. 

The loneliness is worse for me because my neighbours are literally on the other side of my apartment wall. I can’t understand how they all get along with each other. Only one says hi to me and I wish we could say more. I wish I could know him more but I also know what that turns into. I can’t be close to anyone. I can’t have friends, a roommate or a relationship. All because of one thing that I was born with.

If I got rid of it then I might have a chance to have a normal life. Notice I didn’t say autism but PDA is autism so to get rid of PDA then I get rid of autism too. Oh well. There was a time where it was pretty enjoyable to have, but it lasted too long. I kind of want something different now. 

SJ

Have yourself a Merry Little OCD FREAKOUT!!!!

Christmas ended weeks ago but I’m still affected by the emotions I experienced over the weekend. Yes, the weekend. As my regular readers would know my family celebrates Christmas over two days: a smaller quieter one on the day and the bigger more official one on Boxing Day. And then the next day it’s my birthday. 

So before I get started I should probably talk about my chronic illness, ME/CFS which affects my entire system, but the most notable symptom is the shorter amount of time it takes for me to get exhausted. So, you know, looking forward to three days of being busy is going to make me somewhat concerned about what could possibly happen to my body.

Thanks to a last minute rescheduling of my WISE Employment appointment I was able to make Christmas Eve my ultimate rest day. And that’s how I chose to use it, although, I did play video games which for someone with ME is not a good way to rest. 

Actual Christmas Day came and went by quite pleasantly. I spent it with my sister and brother, whom I hadn’t celebrated Christmas with in a long time, and I hadn’t really celebrated Christmas with this side of my family, my full blooded family that I grew up with, for a very long time. And of course with my sister’s boyfriend and her cats. I was my usual kind of anxious, worrying about my hypoglycemia – did I have enough to eat? Would there be enough snacks there to keep my blood sugar level before lunch? Are the snacks not too sugary?

And of course my OCD. The presents I bought for my sister’s cats had cat mint on them and those types of smells are not good to get on my hands, so I was washing them a lot. There’s also an issue of my testosterone shots. They contain 100% ethanol and I’m allergic to the smell. The smell can cause my face to swell. Any sensible person would just stop getting the shots altogether but I had devised a way to avoid getting allergic reactions, it just took a lot of hand washing, paper towels, toilet paper, and not touching the injection site for 8 long weeks. Simple really, and I was able to stay on testosterone for over a year. 

It’s made my OCD skyrocket however. Well, I got on testosterone a few months after getting my bedroom fumigated which kicked off my extra sensitivity to chemical smells and probably gave me multiple chemical sensitivity disorder, which is a real illness and common in those with ME/CFS.

But Christmas was hardly a problem. It was Boxing Day when things began to escalate. For one, I didn’t feel comfortable having it outside given my eczema and just being used to the routine of having it indoors and having the present opening ceremony under the Christmas tree. The presents I bought equaled to about $400 too and I didn’t want to see them get ruined or stolen. 

But it was actually a chill day. There was good food, I still had some beer left over from Christmas Day, and I had a good catch-up with my nephews, who to my surprise all thanked me for the presents. They must have been coached by mum or dad after the youngest one’s outburst last year where he couldn’t stop talking about how much he didn’t like his Christmas present. It’s was a Teen Titans shirt. I thought it was pretty cool.

Only problem was the toilets which were thankfully gender neutral had no soap at their sinks, but I came prepared with hand sanitizer. The sun didn’t really feel that bad that day but I still ended up with a sunburnt nose and lips which took about a week to recover from.

It was staying over at my step mother’s place overnight that kind of made my anxiety and OCD spike, although there was a moment at Christmas drinks at my brother’s place that set me off too. He sprayed the table that had my beer on it with a chemical cleaner. Of course he removed the beer first but then put it back on the table. Those chemical smelling fingers all over my bottle. However, it was an eco-friendly cleaner but at the moment that didn’t matter.

My step mum’s house was probably the cleanest house I’ve ever been in. Everything was so perfectly and precisely placed. The bathroom seemed to keep cleaning itself. It’s a level of clean I’d love to live up too one day. But I was so anxious about getting the smell of ethanol in my clothes bag when it came time to change that I basically just sat around in my boxer shorts after a shower. I don’t usually do that. I didn’t want to sit in my shorts that got sweaty and dirty from Christmas lunch too. I probably took more showers at my step mum’s place than I ever would at home. I get a lot of skin dryness so I moisturize and re-moisturize too. 

My anxiety was already spiked when it came to sleep. I stayed on my phone to get some light because in the pitch black all kinds of creatures of the dark came out.

Then when I woke up it was my birthday. I was exhausted and as much as I was happy to finally get a chance to celebrate it with people spiritually I wasn’t there. Any level of exterion I gave at that time would get me closer to PEM – post exertional malaise, which is a kind of warning sign your body sends by slowing it right down, physically and mentally, which signals to you to stop what you’re doing and get some much needed rest until you make yourself much worse and you’ll have no choice but to go to bed for a few days, weeks, years – who knows? 

So I kept all this in mind as I was eating a birthday breakfast, which helped to keep the hypoglycaemic crash at bay, while I opened birthday presents and had to run to the bathroom to wash off a very strong scent that was on one of the presents, all the time while following orders I was too tired to resist or argue to, as I needed people to just back off a little while I had my internal freakouts. I was thankfully able to escape into City of Ember, which was playing on SBS Movies. But I had to turn it off because it was rude or something to keep watching when people were over.

I also, selfishly, wanted to be somewhere else. I was infatuated with a guy who worked at a coffee shop, who I kept failing to say anything to. I was sure the next time I saw him I’d say something a bit more substantial than ‘I’ll have the chicken and bacon sandwich.’ I was hoping the place was opened on my birthday, as a conversation starter, and to my dismay it was and I couldn’t get there. It just felt like I could finally make some friends and celebrate my birthday with them. 

Although, now I look back on it I realise how it probably wouldn’t have worked out for me either. I was obsessing and being a screenwriter things work out better in my head than they do in real life.

When I saw the birthday cake, a mountain of chocolate and cream my heart began to plummet. It was a hyperglycemic attack waiting to happen. I still ate it and sure enough I felt the effects instantly, in my eyeballs. I turned down my step mum trying to give me more sweet biscuits that I couldn’t stop eating last night. I eventually allowed her to pack some for me to take home.

I was pretty much a tired zombie at my birthday. I don’t know if anyone noticed it or they just thought I was usually like this sober. Or it was just me being hungover, which I wasn’t. I kind of felt like when I was a kid and I didn’t give people many responses. I just went along with what they decided. 

I’m not saying a had a bad time. I really appreciate what they did for me. My birthday is usually a lonely time and I spend it depressed because I don’t have friends, so I often reflect on my lack of friendship and relationships and the fact that celebrating my birthday is treated like an afterthought by others. But I had pushed myself too much and I knew it. My body was screaming it at me, that’s why it turned me back into the hyposensitive child I was who could barely process the environment and wanted to watch science fiction movies as a form of escapism.

I didn’t bring up my OCD or hyperglycemia because, well, I tend to not be believed, or it gets brushed off by someone saying ‘you’ll be fine’ which is the last thing I want to hear. I already had what I term ‘seizure hangovers’, which makes my brain feel like it’s ripping apart while I’m having actual seizures, denied as being real. It’s the main reason why I stopped drinking more than 3-4 beers and went off hard liquor forever. Plus a few other things. Usually I get the way I process the environment differently denied, which I’m not too happy about. Why would I bring up my OCD when people don’t even believe the little differences I have? I’ve realised that I can write all the awareness articles I want here, I won’t be treated any differently. Neurotypicals don’t work that way. They can’t always keep that in mind, particularly ones I don’t see often.

When I finally got home I was too exhausted to go to the coffee shop. I was a sweaty dirty mess and that’s not how I wanted to be seen. I couldn’t relax in my own home because my roommate was occupying the couch watching Netflix for the entirety of the day. When they didn’t wish me a happy birthday I was done. I lay on my bed for hours depressed and exhausted. I only got up to open my present from my mum which was lying on the floor for days, because I knew I wasn’t going to get much and I needed to open up a present on my birthday to even feel happy on the day. So I opened it up and instantly felt better.

Now I’m thinking the two day Christmas, while it sounds like any kid’s dream to have, and even like a good way to party for an adult, is too much for me. I have issues with Christmas anyway. It’s a pagan holiday appropriated from the Catholic Church. I’m a puritan at heart. The actual day is so-so. There’s no magic in it anymore. It doesn’t mean what it meant when I was a kid, and no it’s not because I haven’t been happy since I was 12. Christmas just doesn’t feel special anymore. 

It also takes the focus off my birthday which I want to celebrate properly with friends. First I’ve got to make a few. 










An Autistic Person Prepares For Christmas

My preparation for Christmas started in late November when I decided to commit to buying Christmas gifts. But really, I have been keeping an eye out for what gifts to buy all year long. I am not content to just pick up a gift that someone may sorta like or something that will be enough. It has to be something I know they like. Something I’ve heard them talk about. Something that reflects how I know them. 

For example since April I have been planning on buying three Lootcrates to give to my nephews. It almost didn’t come together because the company was under new management but it all came together in the end. I also bought them ‘back up’ presents which was probably a good idea because my youngest nephews’ crate hasn’t even been shipped out yet.

Why do I have this strict ritualistic type of gift giving? I don’t really know. When I first moved to Sydney and got to know my extended family well, especially the kids, I wanted to buy them gifts they would really love. I’m like my dad in a lot of ways where I don’t show love vocally but more than what I can give people. I don’t think either one of us were very capable of knowing how to show love through words. And focusing on other people between late November and mid December really makes me less concerned about my own stress. I still make sure to take care of my mental health, but by thinking about other people more I feel less depressed. And giving gifts to people is enough to make anyone feel less depressed. If it doesn’t then you’ve lost sight of what giving is all about. 

In contrast I don’t mind what people get for me. It’s funny, I spend almost a month trying to work out the perfect gift for someone, but when it comes to receiving I don’t have any requirements. I tell people that do or complain it’s not what they wanted, that they should be happy they receive a gift at all. I’m just really lonely these days and I appreciate any gift given to me.

This year I’ve spent over $500 of Christmas gifts alone. I do feel like I may have overdone it but I also feel like these gifts are just right and buying anything cheaper wouldn’t have been satisfying enough. Plus, I bought myself a few things too. 

I’ve also been preparing for both Christmas and Christmas on Boxing Day, which is a new tradition my family have. I need to make sure I have eaten enough before I leave home, especially for the long drive to get to our picnic location on the Central Coast. I have hypoglycaemia and if I don’t eat enough or in time I can start feeling faint which eventually makes me cranky. Clothing is also important as it’s the start of summer and the temperatures can be anything from exceedingly hot to rainy to so cold you’d think it was still winter. It’s actually going to be hot, but not scorching, and Boxing Day will be cooler but not cold. I’m wearing shorts on both days. Shirts are important too. I bought a Christmassy Batman shirt but I also have two new shirts that I basically wear to promote a company on Instagram and I need photos of me in them. 

Then I have to plan what I actually do on both Christmas’s. Christmas Day lunch is going to be small and fairly chilled so I’ll probably just hang out with my sister’s cats, and maybe talk to people. I’m kidding. I actually have pretty average social skills for someone on the autism spectrum and I understand just how different neurotypicals are, even if they do remind me how much I still need to work on my social skills. 

I’m even preparing myself for the moments people say things I don’t agree with. It’s a good coping mechanism for PDA as I tend to really shutdown over being told things that feel offensive or trigger my PDA resistance. I don’t usually get into an argument but I hold it against that person for a long time. I mean, some people are just tactless and don’t really think about how people will respond to their words. The way we structure our words can make the difference in teaching someone something new or just pissing them off. Humans are emotional creatures; we love drama and seem to hyperfixate on words that trigger and emotional response. I’m not immune to that either, though at times I can avoid going off on them and responding as though I didn’t get angered about what they said. 

My plans for what I’ll do on Christmas Boxing Day are pretty straight forward. I’ll mostly hang out with my nephews and try to spend more time talking to my nieces. Then I’ll wander over to the adults, talk grown up stuff, and if I do become annoyed/exhausted by them I’ll go back to the kids. It’s so much easier being with kids as they’re not concerned about the same things adults are. They’re really carefree. Though we now have one teenager now so it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll be now. 

Besides of the usual plans of limiting the likelihood I’ll be overwhelmed I also have to check the fire dangers around the picnic spot and entire Central Coast because of the hundreds of bushfires burning in New South Wales. Some have been burning for a full three months. I’ve been monitoring fire warnings everyday, and also looking at the forecast because now they are saying rain is likely, but we haven’t had a substantial rainfall for months too. I definitely don’t want to get stuck anywhere near these fires. It’s a lot safer here in the city. Tall buildings and a few trees dotted around. No densely packed forests behind homes. It’s still hot and smoky though from toxic smoke from bushfires being blown into the city by strong winds. I may have to look into getting a face mask. The smoke causes me headaches and my face even swells up a bit.

Few other things I’ll need to prepare for: cause I’m a pre-op trans guy I still need to wear binders to keep my chest flat. Last time I was at a family event I stayed longer than I planned to and experienced problems with my binder. On the drive home it was hard to breathe. And to top it all off I was panicking so much that when I got home and put my key in the main security door of my apartment I bent the key so far back it no longer went into the keyhole. So I can’t go through that again, especially as I’m staying the night. So, I’m bringing along a binder one size too big that will hopefully make me breathe a little easier. Or I’m going commando. 

I’ve recently got back into special interests after years of not really having one, besides playing Destiny. It’s dragons. Yeah, dragons are cool. I think it was that animation The Dragon Prince that made me start loving them again. I’ve always loved them but not to the point where I want to collect every type of dragon merchandise I can. I’m not sure if I want to bring my Robo Dragon along to Christmas lunch. I mean, I do want to, I just don’t know if there will be room for her. Yes, her. She is a trans woman dragon who would like to be called Shona tyvm. She’s kind of like a therapy companion, except she doesn’t breathe or is furry and warm, but instead made of plastic scales and runs on batteries.  

I need to make sure when I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or depressed to find a quiet place to be alone. It will be hard to do that during Christmas Day but hanging out with cats is always therapeutic. On Boxing Day there will more places to get away from everything.

Then it will be my birthday and so far all I know I’m doing is driving home from the Central Coast. I might go see The Rise of Skywalker or Jojo Rabbit. Mostly, I want to be able to make my own decision on what I want to do.

But I need to be smart. I have ME/CFS which is a hell of a disease. It affects both the brain and body, giving neurological symptoms and flu-like symptoms alike. It affects my gut…well my entire system. The main symptom is extreme fatigue over just doing everyday things. I can feel when I’m about to become fatigued because it feels like part of my body is pulling back as I push forward, so I get the sensation like my whole body is tearing in two. Meanwhile, my brain can’t construct the simplest of sentences. My memory ceases to be and my speech is juttery and disjointed.

So, I may just need to go home and rest, otherwise I could collapse. This one time I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi for my birthday and my ME was so bad I had actually reached a stage called post external malaise (PEM). It’s basically the time where your symptoms get worse and if you don’t take time to rest you may end not even be able to get out of bed the next morning. My movements were slow and shaky and I struggled to breathe. I still saw the movie but I was flat. I literally had no emotion. I just wanted to get out of there before I dropped dead.

Somehow I managed to enjoy the film.

So, I might just sleep into the The New Year just so I can rebuild my energy. Keep the fireworks down, please.








Dos and Don’ts of How to Treat Your Autistic Family Member on Christmas

Christmas can be a stressful time for most people. It is especially stressful for autistic people who have higher sensory sensitivities than the average population, aka. neurotypicals, and react to things differently than they do. So, it’s important to learn to recognise their stress and help them through it. The following is a list of dos and don’ts that give you a general idea of what autistic people like/don’t like and how they react to how people treat them. It’s not true of all autistic people, but covers a general range.

Do: Check with them that are comfortable about the venue Christmas lunch/dinner will take place.

Don’t: Assume they won’t feel any stress about the day because you don’t experience it. Obviously there’s the usual stress about hosting, cooking, and organising everything but it’s the little things you don’t think about that autistic people can become stressed by. If unsure, you can always ask them. 

Do: Make them feel part of the festivities by asking if they would like to be part of any games or other such events taking place.

Don’t: Pressure them to join in on said events if they say ‘no.’

Do: Ask them if they are ok with being hugged.

Don’t: Make them feel bad about not wanting to be hugged.

Do: Be ok with them not making eye contact or using much body language.

Don’t: Make them feel uncomfortable for trying to make them make eye contact or pointing out their lack of eye contact.

Do: Tell them when things will change, especially if each year Christmas is celebrated in much the same way.

Don’t: Call them selfish or rude if any change leads them to feel anxious and start resisting the change.

Do: Encourage them join in conversation.

Don’t: Make fun of them if they say something that seems odd and definitely don’t show a lack of interest, ignore or shut down the conversation if they talk about topics you don’t want to. They may not get many opportunities to talk face to face and some may have spent most of their childhood saying little to nothing, and you don’t want to upset them so much they go back to not talking.

Do: Ask them more about their symptoms to gain a better understanding of them, if it makes them feel comfortable.

Don’t: Make fun of them for their symptoms.

Do: Let them eat early or first if they require it.

Don’t: Make a big deal about them eating early. Low blood sugar is found to contribute to meltdowns, and you want to do your best to avoid these from happening. An autistic person will feel anything from embarrassment to shame after they meltdown on Christmas over what will eventually be everyone’s reaction to it. They don’t want to be responsible for ruining Christmas and no matter what you tell them, they may blame themselves.

Do: Let them use any sensory toys or aides that help calm them down. 

Don’t: Call such devices childish. Or let anyone point out that those things are for ‘little kids.’

Do: Give them a quiet space when they are overwhelmed. Let them choose their own.

Don’t: Try to get them to leave their quiet space if they’re not ready. 

Do: Make sure to keep the noise volume down or have quiet areas they can go to to escape it.

Don’t: Encourage others to make more noise than there already is.

Do: Make them aware when other unannounced guests they may not know will arrive.

Don’t: Expect them to greet, hug or even talk to them. Let them make the decision to do that.

Do: Make them do the bare minimum to reduce their stress.

Don’t: Ask them to help out in the kitchen, which we know, is the most stressful place on Christmas Day. If they want to help out then you let them.

Do: Let them decide if they want to bring a dish for lunch/dinner.

Don’t: Insist they bring a dish for lunch/dinner. 

Do: Understand they have different neurological wiring and process the world differently to you, which leads to not being able to cope with things that may seem easy to you.

Don’t: Assume everything that makes sense to you will make sense to them, or everything that seems common knowledge to you won’t seem a mystery to them. Try to exercise some theory of mind; that each person has their own thoughts and feelings of their own. 

Do: Empathise

Don’t: Be unempathetic.

Do: Ask them if they are tired and would like to go home.

Don’t: Insist it’s time to go if they’re still having fun.

For Children: Don’t pressure them to hang around children their age if they don’t want to. Do encourage other children to play with them if they feel comfortable playing with other children. Do teach children about their autism and what they like and don’t like doing, and to not pick on them for being different.


ADHD Bootcamp Part 2: Learning to Regulate Emotions

Before I continue I’d just like to state the advice here is take it or leave. It’s completely up to you if you want to follow this advice. It’s just here as a basic guide for those to use who want learn a few coping skills. It may not work for everyone as different methods work for different people. But if you never try how would you know what does and doesn’t work for you? Some people have a defeatist attitude of thinking they will have the same struggles forever. I once believed this to be true but that’s not always the case. Our brains may be different but they’re just as plastic as those without ADHD.

Tip 4: Learning to Regulate Emotions

ADHD in the most simplest terms is a brain that’s completely unregulated, this involves the regulation of emotions, and I’m not going to lie, this is probably one of the most difficult ADHD symptoms to manage. Poor regulation of emotions comes with sudden mood shifts, easy to anger, too little or too much empathy, making rash decisions based on emotions rather than using logic to carefully think them through, and the inevitable explosive meltdown. My development of empathic skills is largely thanks to the ADHD community and being able to focus long enough on Ritalin to take time to listen and apply what I learned in my life. I’m autistic also so my ability to empathise has been poorly developed and not used for all situations, particularly when it was needed. I got called selfish a lot as a kid, and even in my 20s. So, people who tell you autistic people can empathise and even become overwhelmed by their empathy…they’re not lying but this isn’t the experience of every autistic.

People with ADHD can have their empathy all over the place too. In the forum we would get into some very heated disagreements, usually when people weren’t able to see how one side was experiencing an issue; basic theory of mind. It was the people 40 and over, the ones with experience, who were the ones to yet again empathise with both points of view. We kept having the same arguments like this and again it was the mature ones telling us to see both sides. I felt both embarrassed and ashamed I kept forgetting this fact so I did my best to remember it. I’m not exactly sure when it stuck but when it did I stopped getting into the usual disagreements and instead adopted a neutral position, and still do to this day.

So how does someone who’s either lacking in empathy or not using it work on it? You can learn this like I did. Focus closely on the people who argue both points of view, listen to what someone says when they empathise and try to mirror that. As always, practice makes perfect.

We with ADHD tend to overlook and not see when we should empathise. I think it’s smart to not react to someone who angers you straight away but take some time to cool down from your emotions and also take the time to try to understand where they are coming from. You won’t always achieve that and that’s ok. What matters is you keep recognising when your emotions are this high and back away from a discussion until you’re able to think more clearly.  

The emotions we feel when we’re arguing, especially if we think we’re about to prove someone wrong, feels like a drug. Every sentence we utter or type is like taking a higher and higher hit. You have to learn to pull away before this happens or the first time you become aware it’s happening. Because that can really get us into trouble. We’re not thinking clearly, just riding the high. We’re not even listening to the other person, just patting ourselves on the back as we become convinced that we sure showed them.

I used to replace this high with playing a video game. Advancing to a new level or unlocking an achievement is guaranteed to give you a similar or higher hit, as your brain is responding the same way to your playing as it does when you take drugs. These days though I try to just avoid situations that will put me into that mind, often online, as I tend to not say much offline. It seems pointless to argue face to face with people as it should online. It’s all pointless. We will stop caring about an issue we felt passionate about an hour ago. You can argue with someone until you’re blue in the face or have bleeding fingers from typing so much but rarely is someone convinced of something after an argument. They’re more likely just agreeing because they’re tired of arguing. The only way they can be convinced is when you keep calm and and restructure your words to sound less accusing and belittling. It’s always a good idea to support their opinion before you counter it too. Unless it’s completely ridiculous. In that case just say ‘I disagree’ and push forward with your argument.

That’s one way we can handle our emotions when talking to people but sometimes it doesn’t even take another person to make us angry. So, for those times you can kind of do the same thing: stop and spend some time to calm down. Talk to yourself gently. It helps to have some experience in cognitive behavioural therapy, i.e restructuring negative thoughts to more positive and rational ones. For example at times I think I hate people but then my mind will tell me I’m just angry at them. Or how about for depression? When your mind tells you people hate you or find you annoying? You can tell yourself you don’t know this as a fact and you can also look back at how they treated you in the past to know for sure.

Always take some time to cool down from your anger and then analyze it by exploring why you are angry. From here you can then respond in a more rational and calm manner.

Some people with ADHD may not even know what emotion they are feeling or why it’s happening. This is a condition psychologists call Alexithymia. I had this around 8 or 9 years ago. I would be near to meltdown and not understand why. Eventually I’d work out why I was that angry to begin with. Often it was when people visited my house unannounced. There’s those autism symptoms bleeding into my ADHD again. After this I realised finding out the source of such emotions like anxiety helped me overcome them.

I’ve had severe anxiety of various types all of my life. As I have Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome, a type of autism characterised by extreme resistance when given orders caused by the anxiety of having your environment controlled, I’ve had to work out many coping mechanisms for my anxiety.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) really helps me out here. Say you say something to me and to me it feels like you are trying to control me by basically telling me what to do or disagreeing or suggesting I do something different; a voice in my head might come in and say that’s probably not the case. You’re triggered, it tells me, be very careful in how you reply. It’s best to not engage. But this doesn’t kick in until I’ve already got myself in a flame war with someone and it can be very hard to realise this before I respond at all or to stop myself from being triggered. And we’re talking triggered in the mental health sense. A PDA trigger mixed with PTSD and whatever else is going on in my head is a very volatile thing. I still need to work out ways to control these outbursts.

Does ADHD make it harder? Sure. ADHD barely comes up given the many things causing my unregulated emotions. But ADHD contributes in some way and also helps me overcome it faster as I stop caring about whatever issue got me worked up within an hour.

A way for me to avoid getting in a red hot argument and making things worse for my mental state is to recognise that what was said made me angry, listen to the reaction in my head, and consider whether it’s really for the best to say them to someone. Most times I have to consider whether my words will have any impact on the other person. Most times I just want to educate someone but if they don’t listen it feels like a waste of time. Now is a good time to not answer right away if I even answer at all, but to just dwell on my thoughts and feelings. Eventually the anger will subside and I’ll be able to answer a lot more calmly.

A way to manage general anxiety is much the same as managing my anger: stop and think before acting. If I find myself ruminating about something and getting worried or feel I’m about to fly into a rage I’ll tell myself this isn’t helping and to do something else. Distractions are good but don’t fix the anxiety.

So what does help? Finding the source and then working out ways to fix the problem. More self-talk and problem solving and soothing CBT. If you’re beginning to panic then you can employ some deep breathing exercises. Take a full breath in, count to four and exhale over four seconds. Or cover one nostril, inhale, and breathe out of that nostril but before you do cover the other one. I learned this from Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness and it’s helped me so many times. You can also try and spin a fidget spinner in front of your face. This time using it is supposed to distract you from your thoughts. Don’t mock fidget spinners, they have been life saving for me.

Once you’ve calmed down you can better think about a way to solve your anxiety by dealing with the source of it. It can’t always be solved, but it doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world.

That’s general anxiety, as for social anxiety…you need to realise that hard to swallow pill: it’s completely delusional. People are too busy thinking of their own worries to be thinking things about you. And even if they are they’re just people, often strangers you’ll never see again. I developed the somewhat arrogant notion that I don’t envy them and I don’t respect enough about them to take anything that they seriously at all. Do I still have social anxiety? Sure. Although these days it’s not the freezing up kind. I can talk to people, join in on a conversation if it’s interesting enough, but my anxiety is more in the form of irritation than any fear. I’ve had the freezing type, the completely blank mind when it comes to having something to say to a group of people. I prefer not to be in group conversations and focus more on one on one. Sometimes we need to work out what’s best for us and not be too depressed over the fact that we can’t do something a certain way, like talking to a group of three or more.

I’m transgender so experiecne gender dysphoria in the form of anxiety and I’ve been trying a new strategy for dealing with it: saying it’s temporary. It is. The worst of my dysphoria is experienced around other people, on the street and not around the people I know. You could use this to handle anxiety too. Anxious thoughts are temporary, especially social anxiety, as they exist only when you are in a social environment. So remove yourself and it will be over. Now I’ve not tried that one for myself but it’s worth a try. 

Remember, celebrate the little victories. You can’t overcome this overnight or even over weeks. It takes years to get to a point where you feel you have developed better self-control. So, work on it a bit at a time. Note any progress you make and be proud of yourself for coming this far. Given the fact we have a neurological difference we may never completely overcome our issues with emotional regulation, but we can manage it better once we notice the signs we’re about to lose control of our emotions and then we can decide if we want to keep talking or not.

If you slip up and fall back into the same pattern of overreaction again don’t panic. That’s bound to happen when you have ADHD. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, just try again. You will have to consciously try to control your emotions, which can be mentally draining. So, remember to take some time to rest to rejuvenate yourself.

That concludes part 2. Part 3 will discuss how to develop a social filter.

ADHD Bootcamp (Part 1)

I know that the title sounds a bit daunting but don’t worry, I’m not going to get you to run outside military drills. It’s just to illustrate the strict manner in which I manage my ADHD symptoms.

I have not been connected to the ADHD community for years for the very ADHD reason of forgetting my password on the ADD Forums and not being able to get back in. Anyway, it’s been years and I don’t really feel like I need to go to those boards everyday for help with managing my symptoms and having a group I relate to. After all, I still have my Wrong Planet password somewhere.

Recently I’ve noticed the occasional post by someone with ADHD pop up on Twitter and people have been finding out what executive dysfunction is for the first time. I think it’s great that the ADHD community has connected this way on Twitter especially as it’s not easy to get back to the old style message boards once we inevitably forget our passwords.

It’s been 10 years since I was diagnosed and in those years I’ve developed a number of coping strategies to manage my ADHD. So, here I am finally sharing those strategies with you.

I’m separating each subject into ‘tips’ to help me control the amount of text I write. It’s also very clean and organised and my OCD smiles upon it. 

Tip 1: Working On Increasing Patience and Rewarding Progress

From the beginning of my diagnosis I have been working on strategies to better manage my ADHD and I have been sharing that information with other people with ADHD.There was this one person I was trying to help motivate to do a task by telling him he could reward himself with a cake or some other snack, but he ate the snack before doing the task. I thought hmm, this is going to be harder than I thought.

Impulse control test

The snack is meant to be the reward so what’s important here is to not touch it until you have accomplished something. For this test we put snack in front of us (I chose chocolate biscuits) and time how long it takes for us to eat it. If you’re the type who can’t resist a tasty snack in front of you then try to resist it for one minute, then five, 10 and so on. I was able to resist this snack for one and a half hours and it would have been longer if I was able to motivate myself to make a healthier snack. I can buy a box of chocolates and make it last for months. This was not always the case. I had to train myself to resist temptation as it were. It might be a good time to say that many of the phrases I say come from a Christian upbringing. There’s nothing religious in them, it just comes from being taught these words in childhood. Just thought I’d give you a warning.

So yes, resist temptation. Try it out and see how you go. You can increase your patience level like one increases in muscle strength by exercising that muscle. It can go further than resisting a snack. If you allow yourself to be impatient, just sort of feel your impatience but with no thoughts of urgency attached to it you can also work on becoming  a much more patient person. But there are other things we can do but I’ll talk about them in other sections. 

Let’s talk for a short time on rewarding accomplishments. People with ADHD struggle to achieve long term goals because we have a need for a quick reward. It’s one of the reasons I love unlocking achievements when I play video games. So, rewarding yourself with a favourite snack can help motivate you to do a task you otherwise had no motivation to do, as long as you don’t eat it first. As for achieving long term goals you can break it up into steps and reward yourself after completing each step. It doesn’t even have to be with food either but with social media or Netflix. Yes, I am the type to avoid using these just so I can stay focused on a task. To help me write screen plays for example I disconnect from the internet. 

Tip 2: Organise Your Day With A To-Do List

Developing structure and routine seems like pulling teeth to anyone with ADHD, except weirdos like myself who thrive off of it. Without routine my day would be completely unstructured and I wouldn’t be able to do much more than yell at people on Twitter. Psychologists also say that people with ADHD need structure to stay organised. A simple to-do list app on your mobile with audible reminders is enough, though when I tried this I always failed to get those tasks done. I went back to writing everything down on paper, and when I say everything I mean everything. It wasn’t enough to write down important tasks in order of when to do them and what time, as you see in the next image I had to write down when to get out of bed and what I did as part of my ‘morning routine.’ This involved things like feeding my cat and dog and making my bed. As I was still on ADHD medication I wanted to fill my day doing nothing but productive work. I just didn’t want to waste those 10 precious hours I was on it. So, I would write down things to do like researching or writing, exercise or shopping and of course write down when I had an appointment to keep.
Eventually I was able to shorten my to-do lists so they only involved remembering to do what tasks I wanted to do that day. Now, I don’t need a list at all unless it’s to do things I really put off and require me to be organised, such as screenwriting.

Also, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do every task you wrote down. Just celebrate what you could do and try again tomorrow. You’ve still got ADHD so executive dysfunction is going to get in the way a lot. 

An actual to-do list I would write these days

Tip3: Eliminating Distractions

When I really need to focus on something and I just can’t it helps to remove anything that could be distracting me. After I was diagnosed I had real difficulty with just having objects on my desk that I’d fidget with. I would have to disconnect my internet connection for those times I found myself going back there. I used to have to turn off the music I’ve been listening to but now music actually helps me concentrate. And I’ve not been too proud to not use a fidget spinner. I’m someone who can’t even concentrate on what I’m watching on Netflix unless I have use of my hands. Usually I eat a small bowl of snacks but nothing works than spinning a fidget spinner out of my eye’s view. There were times when writing or studying where I had to twist my body from side to side or bounce my leg to stay focused.

My biggest distraction is the phone. I do spend a fair bit of time on my phone. I don’t just post a bunch of cat memes on Twitter though I do use it to keep connected with my LGBT+ community, autistic people and keep updated with news and connect with my fellow socilaist/liberal activists. I also post cat memes.

I literally have had to just leave my phone in another room. Usually I just keep it on the charger all day. Though I do admit I can even slip and be on it when I should be focusing on other things. I like to take long breaks from social media though, usually at night when I watch TV. It’s not easy at all to sit still and watch a screen for a few hours when you’ve got ADHD.

I’m going to talk more about ADHD symptoms and how social media make them worse in a later section. 

To be continued in next post.

From Pentecostalism To Wokeism: Unlearning Cultish Dogma

 Since before I took my first steps I knew the inside of a church. You could say I was born into The Church. In fact, my mum was pregnant with me when she was baptised – a point I often raised to resist another attempt for her to take me to be baptised. Before I could properly recite my ABCs or count to 100 I knew there was a God, Heaven and Hell and a Devil. I was was continuously told if I didn’t obey God, my parents and live to the way the Bible said I was going to Hell where there was a lifetime of misery and gnashing of the teeth. The gnashing of the teeth part was important because they never left that part out. Who wants to grind their teeth for all eternity anyway? Weeks of grinding do enough damage to them. It all seemed normal to me though. I never once felt pressured or manipulated in any way because it just felt like this was the way the world worked. I had nothing else to compare it to. Anything outside Church doctrine was kept away from me.
My early years in The Church were pleasant. I would play with other children on church grounds and I cared more about the lunch menu in the cafeteria than the sermons being spoken.

That all changed when I was ten when my mum took me to the side and told me to take church more seriously. She thrust a book of devotions in my hand that I was now to read once a night. This together with a Kid’s Adventure Bible and some carefully chosen books from Koorong, the Christian Bookstore in North Ryde, was to introduce me to themes in the Bible and mould me into the ideal obedient Christian. And I took it all in. What I read I took seriously and tried to apply it in my life. I got the nickname ‘good little Christian’ by my also Christian sister.
I gave my full attention to my youth pastor Paul Green as he taught us another lesson from the Bible and how we should apply those lessons in our lives. He warned us about hanging out with the wrong sort of people and it was probably the first time I got an idea of what ‘toxic’ meant. Those people were said to have influenced us to do sinful things. Paul told us that the people we hang out with we begin to talk like and he taught us to be wary of this. He even told us to control our very thinking so our own thoughts would not cause us to sin. Paul was more than a youth pastor to me, he was also a father figure and a mentor. All my career prospects were centered around work he was already doing. He was a wedding photographer and studying film. I took in everything he said and did my best to put it into practice, not only to please him but also because of the end goal, which was to make it into Heaven. This was the first time I learned to ‘shake off’ unwanted thoughts, something that would help my OCPD that would surface in later years.
When I was 14 and the older youth grew up and stopped coming to youth meetings to pursue more mature roles in the church Paul became very frustrated with the apathy of the next generation of youth. He gave up on us and I felt heartbroken. What did I do to disappoint him? I did everything he said and faced mockery even from my Christian peers for being such a good little lapdog. The blow was even heavier for me because my mum had just given up on homeschooling me so I felt useless, directionless and without a future. It just seemed like all the adults gave up on me. What never crossed my mind back then was this could have been another manipulation tactic for Paul to make us do what he wanted.

Eventually I became a communist while I was still attending church. I was told that I couldn’t be communist if I was a Christian. It was made to sound like Christianity was in my bloodline. ‘Remember your roots’ I was told. Being a communist introduced me to a pre-social media world of activism and made we wrestle with my faith a lot, by the time I turned 20 I was sure I’d rather be a communist but took the socialist label as I got involved with The Socialist Alliance. It was a lonely time for me. I felt like the only socialist in my small town and that I was surrounded by right-wing Christians. In reality I had been brought up with massive walls around me to make it seem like there were only right-wing Christians in my town. It was in the cities where I found my people, in resistance bookshops and annual Marxist meetings in universities. The cities were a utopia for me.

When it came time for me to move to Sydney I discovered another Pentecostal church while I was looking up astronomy. It was through an E-book about the End Times and I’m a stickler for a good doomsday story. I was yet again thrust into another world of cultish dogma, this one much worse than the Hillsong affiliated one I spent the last 11 years in. They were a doomsday cult known as The Church of God. They also had some of the most strict rules to follow, a mixture of Judaism and Christianity with a touch of white supremacy. They believed that the real chosen people who were made up of the Lost Tribe of Judah ended up in Germany, Scandinavia and eventually the United States. Basically saying the real chosen people are white Americans. They had me reject Sunday as the Lord’s Day as it was really a cover to worship the pagan Sun god, Baal. Catholicism was also demonic and was responsible for all the pagan symbolism, and thus demonic influence, in society. Pastor and self-proclaimed apostle and Witness from the Book of Revelation (I wish I was making this up) Ronald Weinland was a physicist first so that made me gain his trust as he didn’t believe the 6 day theory of creation. But hoo boy did he believe some other stuff. Not even when Christ failed to turn up for his own second coming on May 27, 2012 (and the other dates following) or when Apostle Ron spent two years in jail for taking $50,000 from his own church, which he said was to survive when western society had fallen, as prophesied by him, did I think to question the validity of his words. I even sent him a letter while he was in prison.

How the hell did I fall for this yet again? I think if I was never raised to believe in God, particularly not around charismatic silver-tongued evangelicals, would I have fallen for such a ruse. And to this day I still find myself debating Christian and atheists alike by regurgitating some of the apostle’s great wisdom, which to be quite honest, is probably a stone cold lie. Then again you’re an atheist who doesn’t believe in any of this, do you?

My disillusionment towards Christianity came slowly. We’re talking over decades, slowly. When I was first confronted with information that was contradictory to the Bible I instantly rejected it. I was often met with a lot of surprise and derision about my faith, but I held steadfast. It takes more than mocking me to undo twenty years worth of conditioning by various Pentecostal churches. Discovering it on my own with an open mind is what made the difference. Often I would only be allowing myself to be exposed to such contradictory information to humor myself, but by the time I got to the end I was convinced. Mostly, it came from archaeologists finding ancient scrolls that didn’t match up to passages in the Bible.

Between the ages of 23-26 both religion and politics took a backseat as I got more involved in my band photography and the emo and Australian rock scene. I still called myself a socialist although I was more a socialist democrat. But after Tony Abbott won the Australian election and he started to attack people on disability I felt that fire burn in me again. Around this time I noticed a lot of feminist chatter on my feed. I never cared too much for feminism as I tried to do everything I could do to ignore the fact that I was born as a girl, and it took a male teaching me about how toxic masculinity results in violence to women that finally made me listen. I’m not proud of the fact that it took man to get me to pay attention to women’s issues but that’s the way it went down.

Due to it’s growing toxicity particularly after Donald Trump won the US election, I stayed away from Twitter for many years. That was until I realised I was transgender and wanted to connect to other transgender males. I was surprised to see a lot of them had more left-aligned politics than right or being apolitical. So, I felt I was in good company in more ways than one.

It was only a few years ago when I heard people on Twitter talk about being ‘woke.’

Woke culture exists within the left liberal community. It’s basically being aware of socio-political issues that face the world. It originated in African American culture to describe anyone aware of social justice and racial issues and was used by groups like Black Lives Matter as a call to action. Then it was adopted by the wider left liberal community, mostly intersectional feminist, that gives a voice to marginalised communities such as people of colour, the indigenous, disabled and the LGBTQ+ community. It stands for altruism, multiculturalism and equality for all. It works to bring diverse issues to the mainstream, mainly in the TV/film industry and gaming, so it’s not overrun with stories about white cisgender straight men as it has been since its very inception. Instead, it urges people to look outside of that and to make them aware that there are other people existing in the world and they deserve to be seen just as much as white people. It stands up against government oppression of marginalised people and strongly condemns capitalism as the reason why the world is in such a dire state as it is and as the reason why mental health issues have been skyrocketing. A sick society cannot have well people. This viewpoint entices the more extreme leftists; the anarchists and socialists to join these liberal spaces.

But despite this altruism and standing up for justice the woke community’s greatest flaw is its insistence that their way is the only way to be, from the very words you’re only allowed to say, the jokes you can find funny to the thoughts you think. They can’t of course read your mind but being part of any community that forces a type of groupthink on you often results in you being unable to think for yourself. Recently I came across a random stranger on Twitter call this Newspeak. For those who haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984, it’s a very restricted number of terms society uses meant to limit freedom of thought, self expression and personal identity. In some left spaces particularly in disability there’s a control on what terms are acceptable for people to use when referring to people with a disability, such as not saying ‘people with a disability.’ It may not be as extreme as Newspeak is in the book but just try to imagine what it would be like if all of society spoke in very restricted terms agreed upon by the majority of diverse communities. Language would be restricted in such a way that people would no longer know how to think for themselves. For a writer it spells the end of creative expression.

This is similar to what ten year old me went through when Pastor Paul told me to control myself from thinking sinful things and discouraging me from hanging around wicked people; another word often used by preachers for sinners or non-believers. I did try to control my thoughts and 33 year old me still struggles to not think of all the things the church told me was the truth, the only way to live. I still believe in God despite never having been given a choice to believe in him or not. I still find myself quoting verses back to people and debating critics of the Bible even though I really shouldn’t care. It’s just automatic and so very frustrating. This is what brainwashing does to you, and woke culture is just modern day brainwashing. You’d be hard pressed not to find a political group who is not trying to brainwash you. On the right you’ve got Rupert Murdoch, Richard Spencer, Ben Shapiro and others creating propaganda to continually brainwash their followers, but you have something similar happening on the left.
There are people in the transgender community such as Kalvin Garrah, Blair White, Natalie Wyn and Buck Angel, who are cancelled. As such you can’t follow, like their posts or even agree with them or you are ‘truscum’ who because they hold certain views such as you need gender dysphoria to be transgender, are the enemy of the transgender community. ‘Truscum’ or True Trans (trans medicalists) or transexuals are no better than the ‘tucutes’ they claim are a danger to the transgender/transexual community and so have broken off from the mainstream to basically enforce rules similar to the group they broke away from. Sounds a lot like what Christian denominations are like to me.

Any critics of the left regarding cancel culture or the policing of words will have someone met with a choice of modern day Newspeak terms; ableist, cisheteronormative, (insert word here)phobic, as well as using the most liberal labeling of racist, homophobic, transphobic, and fascist that those words lose their meanings.
If you disagree with them then you are compared to the supporters of the opposition, a MAGA or Trump supporter. Once you get this label you are stuck with it. You are cancelled. Cancelling – also originating in black culture which completely lost its way once it was adopted by the wider liberal community – is now what is essentially ex-communication; an act cults do when they want to cut all ties with members who question their ways. You are basically dead to them. You no longer exist, only to be compared to people who you think are dangers to the marginalized communities you represent. One example I have of this was when transgender Youtuber Chase Ross was accused of narcissism, gaslighting and ableism by one of his closest friends who was also a transgender Youtuber.

Cancel culture nitpicks at someone’s faults or indecent behaviour they may or may not regret and basically says they have no more redeeming qualities. These people don’t even deserve jobs and the wokesters don’t care if their whole reputation is ruined, because 20 years ago that person was racist one time. It doesn’t give them the chance to change nor does it see that a person has changed and accepted them for who they are now. Even within the left community there is division over whether this is going too far, and they are met with the same derision as any enemy to the community. Of course they are.

I was cancelled once. I made a joke about elitist vegans and I upset a very popular voice in the transgender community. When I explained why I had so much animosity towards elitist vegans by talking about one of my favourite singer’s who kind of broke my heart by the things he said about meat eaters, I was then immediately accused of misgendering this trans woman I barely knew. I think I just pissed people off for not agreeing with her and them, so they made this lie up about me. Either that or their reading comprehension really needs help. Even when I tried to explain the misinterpretation to the transgender community I was instantly accused of lying. In fact they treated me like the people we mocked for their poor attempt at apology when they said ‘I’m sorry I made you feel this way.’ But now I know that means people don’t understand why people got so offended, because some of us don’t have a damn clue. No woke person will ever believe that as a sincere apology though. It took me a few weeks to realise this was the bullshitted trans community I was part of. This is what happened to people who got on the wrong side of it. Just like what happened to Chase Ross. His reputation was ruined by it. He’s still making videos but he hasn’t got the kind of support and followers he once had.

For all the media’s attempts to make a more diverse industry it’s still not enough for woke culture. If there’s one film about a white girl they freak, despite there being whole black casts of some films and TV shows. They push and push for representation of several types of people in one series, and even when that’s shown constantly on Netflix it’s still not enough. Will it ever be enough?

This ferocity of demanding more inclusion does come from a good place. It comes from fighting hard to get that representation at all, but now it’s here that fire that has been burning in activists for so long it won’t extinguish. It’s kind of like when you have PTSD and you feel terrified in safe environments. But despite what conservatives say woke people aren’t mentally ill, not in any traditional medical sense at least.

In the broader left community woke culture is looked at as a joke. People aren’t taking it seriously anymore. It’s losing members. Some people do a complete 180 and become alt-right over their treatment in the community.

Being unwoke is like being exvangelical. It’s taking the blinders off and realising that maybe there is something more past those walls people have put up for you, to ‘protect’ you they said, or was it just to block out what they didn’t agree with? It’s to reject a doctrine that has taken hold of your life and to begin to start thinking for yourself again.
Instead of becoming the extreme opposite of woke – conservative right wing – unwoke is about reverting back to your former self before you even became curious in woke culture. It’s slowly unlearning every term and reintroducing yourself to the old vocabulary, deciding for yourself what is offensive and what’s not.

I started unlearning my wokeness in one the most random ways: watching Dylan Moran do stand-up. He was saying jokes that would be considered offensive but he was still funny, and I laughed hysterically at every offensive joke. I felt this release, this great weight taken off my shoulders just to allow myself to laugh at something I’ve been told over and over not to ever say or support.

Unlearning both 23 years of Pentecostal conditioning and 5 years of woke brainwashing is difficult and long process. If you couldn’t tell much of my vocabulary comes from the Church. When I talk about fires burning it refers to the fire of The Holy Spirit, and ‘burden on the shoulders’ refers to The Pilgrims Progress. Not that’s what I’m talking  about but it’s where I picked it up from. Likewise, I still say words I picked up in woke culture. When I first joined an ADHD online community and helped a fellow member work out they had autism I was introduced the word ‘ableist’ by them. Since then the word has become mainstream and refers to anything from mocking disabilities, not catering to a disabled person’s needs, to wanting to exterminate disabled people (eugenics) to more questionable demands of only being able to say certain terms and adopting their view of neurodiversity. This is a word I’m trying to unlearn. And if you ever hear me say cisheteronormative again I want you to shoot me.

I may never be able to be an atheist because of a rigorous and successful brainwashing from an early age that likes to sneak into my mind from time to time and ask me ‘but what if it is real?’ But I can definitely become unwoke again. Although Wokeism and Pentecostalism seem to be complete opposites they use similar tactics to keep control of their members and both want all of society to bend to its will. It’s well known that in America certain religious schools have been training male students to be the next world leaders. Homeschools such as Ace Education and Generation Joshua have attempted to do that, and The Family, a non-denominational group that has influence over not just the US government since the 1940s, but the Australian one as well, including many other nations. They may not be Pentecostal but they prop up Pentecostal leaders who they let get away with unspeakable evil. I can only think that the fact that wokesters want people to adhere only to the terms they approve and tell them to stop doing basically everything else that could be mildly offensive, says they want to have this influence over society too. Or they’re simply just wanting people to stop being offensive and they haven’t even thought that far ahead. The fact that the media likes to bend to their will means this may just happen naturally.

I don’t think woke culture has ill intentions. I think it truly wants to bring out the good in people but it does this by forcing people to care, and that’s not how it happens. Goodness comes from within and we’re either raised this way or have to go through an ordeal to develop into this type of person. We’re not going to agree with what everyone says, and instead of turning on these people or blocking them out, we need to learn to accept different viewpoints. It’s actually better for activism if you get on with the job than worry about what the opposition is saying, because all the flame wars prove is that it makes them hold firmer to their views. Being petty and name calling just makes people be petty and name call back. So, it’s pointless and a waste of time, and it makes you look immature.

Stay unwoke.  Shanti peacesignemoji

– Sanjay Roy





PDA: My Serious Disorder No one Knows About

I’ve dubbed the month of May the awareness day month because it turns out every organisation you can think of has chosen May as the ideal month to raise awareness about their cause, so it’s easy for a lesser known type of autism like Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome to be overlooked in the sea of awareness days, weeks and months.

Unlike many of those causes though, PDA does deserve the most attention because it truly is about raising awareness. If I gave you the name of any of the other causes you would have a basic idea of what they’re about. Everybody by now knows about Borderline Personality disorder is about. We all know skin cancer awareness is important. But what about the little subtype of autism that was only discovered 40 years ago?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have those awareness days but us PDA’s and parents of children with PDA need to be louder so we’re not drowned out by the voices of the other campaigns, some of which that are actually in the DSM 5. It’s not just important to raise awareness of PDA, but it’s pretty much an emergency. PDA isn’t even recognised as a diagnosable condition in the UK. In Australia there are few specialists. It’s time this disorder got mainstream media attention. I say this as a sufferer of untreated PDA for 33 years and below I will describe to you just how severe my condition is, how it makes me react to things and what it’s done to my relationships with people.

But first, an introduction. What is PDA? PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance syndrome and it is best described as a profile of autism. It’s on the autistic spectrum but the symptoms specifically centre around anxiety and it is believed this is more hard wired than a chemical imbalance.

The symptoms include all the core symptoms of autism, except social skills are not as impaired. They’re around average though a PDA child with have very superficial social understanding. The core symptom of PDA though is that they will have a severe anxiety response from being told what to do. For me this is very hard to admit because I don’t want over sensitive emotions to be tied to my brain structure. I want to have some control of how I react to things. The reaction can either be passive or aggressive. When it’s passive the person can be avoidant, even pretend they didn’t hear you. Or they can be distracting. When pushed a more aggressive behaviour can come out. We can switch suddenly from one mood to another. Say I was calm and someone said I had to do something that completely threw me off my routine. I could try to make all the excuses in the world but this person persisted, so now I’ve becoming angry. Not just angry but raging; shouting, accusing, slamming doors, swearing. Their response is often one of ‘you’re being ridiculous.’ At some point my mood changes from angry to paranoid, conjuring up many theories about why this person is this way. Usually, I’m stuck on thinking they want to control me, and then moves onto they can’t control a corpse.

Control is a theme you’ll hear a lot in PDA. If it’s not feeling controlled by other people it’s trying to have complete control of your environment which often involves controlling other people. I’ll talk more about that later on in this post.

Trigger warning: mild description of suicidal thoughts follows. Also keep in mind that my mood and language kind of changes throughout this text. I appear more arrogant and angry and then become depressed and then finally hopeful, but I think it’s important to not edit this out because it gives you an overall window into my uncensored PDA mind. It can be a terribly dark place with paranoias and twisted delusions. Not twisted as in sick but twisted as in coming up with some of the most wildest theories.

I get to a certain point where I think it’s better to die than follow peoples’ orders. This is really pronounced when they’re a bossy person and just think they can get me to do whatever they want, or if it their demand involves something I’m often anxious about, like money. The thoughts start off mild, normally I visualise me self-harming. They’d come at me likes flashes in my mind. Then they’d be actual planning. The visions get more vivid and longer, like scenes playing out on a cinema screen. I begin to say it’s any day now I’ll do it, if things get worse I’ll do it for sure. But I never do and I eventually calm down.

The demands that make me anxious are not just orders someone gives me, if they even made a suggestion I will trigger with anxiety. If you corrected me I would struggle to resist the urge to bite your head off. It takes time for me to allow myself to accept new information and adopt it into my worldview. Being in the diversity ‘woke’ community makes this hard as there’s a lot what I call word policing going on.

I really want to give people an opportunity to understand what my thought process is like when I have these anxiety triggers. It feels like an attack that I need to defend myself against through passive avoidance or more aggressive confrontation. I don’t ever get violent. I do fear I will one day become violent but at the moment it’s shouting, swearing and accusing. What I mean by accusing is I will come out with reasons why someone was ‘controlling’ me and it’s always very paranoid and delusional. I had once convinced myself that one person I lived with was a narcissist and that their ‘demands’ were attempts to gaslight me. I now don’t think that was happening but when I did my paranoia was severe. The anger and hate I felt towards that person in those moments was strong and it could have led me to make choices I would regret.

Often to save myself from getting to that point I will exercise another feature of PDA: social manipulation. Unlike the manipulation in narcissism it’s not direct, it’s not out of malice and it’s involuntary. It’s done to reduce anxiety and in my mind, to restore balance. I used to try and control it but it always found a way of sneaking out.

One example is if I wanted someone to do something that would help lessen my anxiety I might try and make them feel sorry for me and reveal to them ways they could fix that. I also do this my remaining neutral in an argument. One thing I’m very good at is making people agree with me by staying calm as I both agree and disagree with them, and inform them of my own opinion, which is usually backed up by fact anyway.

But I was also once known for my ability to to win flame wars. My friends would always comment at the creativity behind my insults and I could rant away for hours on end. But it both left me physically and emotionally drained. I ended up feeling like shit, a horrible troll, and I would always get to a point where I would stop caring about the issue and I felt I had wasted hours on something that was hardly worth it, so I stopped.

Getting into an argument with me is completely pointless because when you trigger my PDA all emotions connected to the subject will vaporise. I’ll feel not a trace of empathy for the person I’m talking to as well. Normally, I sense people’s emotions through their words, even through text. I am a story writer and we practice hard to stir emotions through our words. But when my PDA anxiety is triggered I’m like a psychopath. I feel nothing for you, even if I respect you. One of my idols found himself in this unfortunate position, and well he’s not my idol anymore. There will also be no emotion in my words. I’ll talk in the most factual manner, robot-like, in words so stilted you’d think I was a character from an Isaac Asimov book or more commonly, Data from Star Trek. Sheldon Cooper? Yeah, we’ll go with that one.

I know I probably sound like an asshole but that’s just for protection. This is what this cursed disorder does to me, and why I will never proudly identify as it. I’ll identify as autistic but never PDA, because I hate what PDA turns me into.

So if anything anyone says could trigger my anxiety what exactly how do I actually get along with people? I don’t have any any close friends. The last one I gave up on because she didn’t take my PTSD seriously. I didn’t even try to guess how she triggered my PDA because well not taking a serious mental health disorder like PTSD seriously is just the worst form of ableism. But at this point I have little patience with people. I’m guarded enough because I’m transgender but I also know how annoyed I get at people. So, for the moment I’ve isolated myself from people. Maybe I will learn to get along with people, trust them again. For now I am a recluse.

When my depression hits I shut people out and to those few I do tell I’m depressed when they offer to be a sympathetic ear, you know, on social media, they ask you to DM them anytime or DM you themselves, I lock them out. I ignore every DM, text message, phone call. I don’t want to talk about it. To me even suggesting ways I can help myself or even telling me that I am not what the depression is telling me, is just another attempt to control me. That’s pretty messed up right? In my most vulnerable state the few who could help me get better get completely ignored by me. And everytime I’m depressed I could commit suicide. The thoughts are always that strong. I always have a plan but it’s painful and messy and if it doesn’t work then I have to live with it and people treating me like I’m made out of glass. The main reason for holding it off is people. No, not that people will miss me which they probably will but that I’ll leave them financially worse off. Even in death I have anxiety over money.
Depression in someone with PDA in my experience at least makes me regret my social manipulation. Why did I have to say those things at all? Tried to trick them into doing what I wanted. I feel like an awful human being who is doesn’t deserve to have friends or people being nice to me, which serves me well as I have such a hard time getting along with anyone. I deserve this. I deserve to be treated like I’m actual human garbage because I feel like I am. Peoples’ silence towards me just re-affirms these feelings.
My depression also makes me completely numb towards people. I can’t feel anything for them, it’s almost psychopathic. When they anger or embarass me or trigger me in any way my thoughts can sometimes turn to violence. It never lasts longer than a few seconds, just flashes of the person I think I really am. A monster. It’s often strangers who throw me judgemental looks. The verbally abusive ones. Or just the ones that look untrustful.

By now you can probably see why I think raising PDA awareness is an emergency. It’s because I have lived this way all my life with absolutely no treatment or support. My family don’t know how to respond to me without triggering my anxiety. In fact, they unknowingly make it worse. And people who make it worse are not worth being around. It makes me angry and suicidal, and there are parts of my personality that are so hardwired and so unchangeable that I live in complete misery with knowing I will never be rid of them.

There a lot of PDA adults who are more of the proud kind, who embrace their PDA. But to me my PDA is a rattlesnake and I’m desperately on the lookout for a mongoose in the form of a type CBT therapy or even a pill and I don’t take medication after all the severe side effects I’ve got from taking them. So, if I want to take medication to treat it then I really must want to be rid of this disorder. I don’t care if it’s just the way my brain is. I don’t want to embrace being an over sensitive manipulative asshole just because every possible thing people say makes me anxious. That I get so angry at people I feel like hurting them. Or become instantly suicidal. What’s there to be proud of?

Oh. I just realised the mongoose would kill the snake. I…

So, I got  a bit worked up about that. I apologize. Don’t tell me not to apologize. People do that all the time and to be quite honest it’s another trigger. I don’t want people telling me what words I can use. This is just one person’s experience of PDA, others may be different. Those who have learned to embrace it may have a good reason for it. They may not have my exact manifestation of symptoms which combine with symptoms of PTSD, bipolar, OCPD and ADHD. It’s a terrible mixture of ingredients to have. It doesn’t make a very succulent meal. It tastes like stale rye bread, covered in Sriracha sauce.

I..I just really hate the taste of rye bread.

If you really want to help people with PDA feel less anxiety and not go through all I’ve explained then all you have to do is rephrase your demands. Say ‘Would you like to’ instead of ‘I think you should.’ No more brash answers. It’s not hard to show politeness to someone by answering them with a carefully worded reply. PDA’s are hypersensitive to criticism and being told ‘no’ is like a slap in the face. And yes, it’s as exhausting to live like this as it is having to be around someone like this.

There are some strengths to PDA. I actually respond to people how I’d like them to respond to me because I have so much anxiety about triggering people the same way I’d be triggered. Apparently we’re creative. That’s probably from the excuses we create and the social manipulation. We’d make good leaders, especially if we want to treat people how we would want to be treated. And because I hate confrontation so much I have this ability to stand between two arguing parties and get them to see each other’s side of the argument more clearly.

Other positive traits of PDA is we have a kind of radar for narcissists. Remember we feel profound anxiety over being controlled by people who probably aren’t trying to do that, so when someone is doing that deliberately it’s screaming at us. I have no problem at revealing this to those people too. Yeah, nice guilt trip there, is what I often say.

My hope in the following years is to have more media coverage on PDA and more doctors diagnosing it. I don’t want to have to go to Bondi to get diagnosed when I could just as easily go somewhere in Sydney’s Inner West.

For now it’s early days in PDA awareness and the raging suicidal anti-social pariah will carry on. I hope any medical professionals reading this will realise how dangerous it is to keep sweeping PDA to the side, and say we just won’t add it to the DSM yet. It is autism but it is not. It requires different treatments that will hopefully be created in the next few years.

For now the only voices for PDA will be self-advocacy.

My First 3 Months on Testosterone

3monthsonTgraphic

Trigger warning: thoughts of self harm and suicide.

Wednesday marked my first three months on testosterone and although it’s only early days I felt I should catch everyone up on what’s been happening. So, here is a blow by blow account on everything I have gone through from coming out to the pre-T days to medical transitioning to now.

Unlike others the first time I heard about the word transgender it wasn’t a light bulb moment for me. It was around 4-6 years ago when the world was hearing about Kaitlyn Jenner for the first time. I had suppressed the transgender side of myself (my real self) so much just to appease everyone around me that the only reaction I had to finding out why I wanted to be a boy for all of my childhood and teen years was ‘oh, that must have been me as a kid.’
I can even go back several years to when I was 12 and a girl at my church said to me ‘you’ll probably get a sex change.’ I was taken aback and completely dismissed the idea.
Those were the two times it was revealed to me why I liked dressing like a boy, having masculine interests and secretly wishing I could be a boy.

It’s December 2016 and for the last couple of years liberal social media has exploded with stories of transgender people. I’m still in denial but still go out of my way to defend trans people to the growing list of haters. Part of me thinks wow, I can’t believe there was this much hatred towards something that made me so happy as a child. I used to spend countless hours dreaming up vivid film-like stories about a young male protagonist, often when I was stressed out and the plot often centered on my own issues or preoccupations. Another part of me was happy I had put it all behind me. Or had I? I passionately defended trans people, often brining up my own childhood to show some level of relatability. The transphobics treated me like someone who was trans and therefore ‘mentally ill.’
I’m not exactly sure when it happened but I started to wonder whether I still was transgender. After all I was still making up film length stories in my mind about a male protagonist who was now around my age and the plot still centered around an issue I was having or trying to work out about myself.

While I still hadn’t worked out whether I was or not I had my first confrontation with a TERF: a Transgender Exclusionary Radical Feminist. She was just another angry person on Twitter. I looked at her cover photo perplexed: why did she think that men were trying to take over women’s bathrooms? I knew about the bathroom bill, I didn’t really have an opinion on it at the time. I never thought trans people posed any danger. But here was a cover image that said men were trying to take privacy away from women. It didn’t make sense to me so I asked about it on Facebook. Turns out a long term friend was also one of these TERFs. We had a bit of a back and forth argument, growing more aggressive as it went on. I brought up my childhood, again referring it to as something I was in the past and certainly am not now. She said that the patriarchal society made me that way, because of how women were seen as weak. I said I never realized anything about society or social rules because I’m autistic and was completely preoccupied with my world in my mind, but how silly of me to think that I could convince her of anything. This was all in front of my friends in family who were slowly working out that I was transgender before I was even 100% about it. Then a very old friend joined in and the argument became very heated, too heated for my friend to continue in. They DM’d me, said the conversation was too triggering. They told me they would hook me up with resources and scientific studies and told me they were non-binary.
From that moment on I was officially out as transgender. I tried using he/him pronouns but at times still couldn’t see myself as male, not nearly as strong as a did in childhood so went with they/them instead and called myself non-binary. But that was creating far more gender dysphoria than I anticipated so I went back to being a binary trans male with he/him pronouns. This was all over a couple of weeks. I felt very uncertain about everything but I had connected to the trans community and things like starting hormones and top surgery had not even entered my mind.

During this time it was the most successful time for me as a band photographer. I was applying to take photos of my favourite bands and every time doubted I’d get approved, but I did. I was on cloud nine. I was living the dream. I was unstoppable until the anxiety started to seep in. I started to hate being around people, crowds, and I started to lose confidence in my photography. I had made a mistake by buying a heavier but high quality lens, and I wasn’t as quick as I used to be when taking photos. I felt uncomfortable in the photo pit (front of the barrier) with my fellow photographers. I felt they weren’t as courteous as they were 7-8 years ago. We used to work together. We’d only take photos from one side of stage for a few seconds and switch positions with the other photographer to give them a chance to take photos from that side. We were constantly moving around and making sure everyone was able to have a turn. Now there is pushing, cold stares and a photographer spend a full minute in one position which when you only have 15 minutes to shoot 3 songs can feel like an eternity.
The horrible thing was the worst of my social anxiety happened in front of my favourite singer Cam Boucher of Sorority Noise. I was so excited to them live and when I was there I just felt everyone staring at me, even Cam. It felt Cam didn’t want me there. I know this wasn’t the case but this is the nature of social anxiety. I was so nervous and rushed that night to make sure I got down the front to take good photos that after I left the bathroom my belt was left unbuckled. A guy noticed this before me and just smirked at me. I still didn’t notice until the curtains went down on the stage. I wanted to punch that asshole. Anyone could have politely pointed it out to me but not these days, when even the punk scene has become cruel.

This would affect me more than I thought.
The next gig for me to shoot was Pennywise. This night was a disaster. I had enormous anxiety which I tried to calm by having one beer. The Bronx was supporting and I was happy to finally get a chance to photograph them because when they headline shows they don’t allow photographers. But as I started to take photos of them my confidence fell apart. I hadn’t photographed an energetic punk band in a long time and I wasn’t prepared. Pennywise may have been easier to photograph but at that point I gave up. My anxiety was so intense I couldn’t get back into the photo pit. I remember there was a section of under the stage exposed and I just wanted to crawl inside it. I went to the back of the room to have an internal breakdown in peace but there wasn’t anywhere there weren’t people. The concert hall was at max capacity. I’m usually excited to photograph a sold out show but now I was suffocating.
And that was the end of my career as a band photographer. I could get into any gig I wanted but I couldn’t function inside them. I contacted my editor and told them I couldn’t take photos of Pennywise and asked to take time off for my mental health.

It took a long time for me to realise my social anxiety was caused by my gender dysphoria.

In my on and off 12 years of being a band photographer I had totally lost confidence in myself. I decided to focus more on looking for work, my screenplay and transitioning. I went to a few gigs in the new year. My social anxiety was still huge at Jen Cloher that I couldn’t use the men’s bathroom, and it was Transgender Day of Visibility, and all I wanted to do was disappear. At Thursday a girl gave me an odd look when I used the ladies’ bathroom. I stopped using public bathrooms and stopped going to gigs.

I kept deciding to go on hormones and putting it off. After an extreme reaction to the latest anti-depressant I further delayed starting hormones. But my gender dysphoria was at a catastrophic level. I wanted to cut off my breasts myself and stab other areas I didn’t want repeatedly. I was constantly having suicidal thoughts. As I began to go to lengths to get on hormones the gender dysphoria dissipated, I was also obsessively preoccupied with trying to get rid of bed bugs.

Getting approved took only a matter of weeks and that was only because I kept putting off the date to start. When I finally bit that bullet I started on a daily gel. Previous to this I was trying to get the smell of pesticides out of my room, my clothes and towel and overcome a swelling face because of this. But the alcohol in the gel had the same effect on me. I tried to stay on the gel for over a month but my OCD over getting a face rash from the gel led me to stop drying my face and hands on my towel entirely and I started using a face washer and dried my hands on paper towels. I decided to go on injections even though I was still scared about how much they would hurt. It actually wasn’t that bad. It did hurt for a few days after I got the injections but I ease this pain my wearing loose underwear and jeans. Yes, it’s a butt injection.

tgel

When I had the changes start on the gel I thought it wasn’t as slow as people said. First thing I noticed was my face begun to change within a few days and my hairline went back. I actually thought my face was getting swollen again. Within a few weeks my hair got coarser and drier and I had to move onto a shampoo that kept it soft. My skin started to get thicker. I remember looking at my side and wondering WTF was happening to my skin. I’ve always been hairy but that didn’t stop more hair growing on my shoulders and back. I also experienced a bit of bottom growth which is the clitoris becoming phallic. It can grow up to 3 inches. It’s pretty nice. After a month my voice started to drop.

The day after I got my first injection my biceps, which I thought had grown well on the gel, blew up. I had been working out before I started testosterone and the changes between them growing not on testosterone, on testosterone gel and testosterone injections was noticeable. My stomach began to shrink a bit, more muscles grew over my body – some areas I didn’t even think muscles could grow – light hairs covered my torso and spread to other areas of my face, I had more bottom growth and my voice got deeper.

But the most noticeable changes were the changes to mood and energy. When I got that first shot I was kinda loopy for a bit and then tired and agitated. Over the next couple of days I became a lot more impulsive. I have ADHD and over the years I have trained myself to get some control over them but with the increase in energy my decision making no longer seemed to be up to me. I got very ranty and aggressive on social media. Eventually I did calm down due to exhaustion, and I was still having depressive episodes. They seemed as normal as they usually were. It just felt strange getting one as I thought they’d stop on testosterone. I did make a lot of stupid decisions such as almost getting on two TV shows without thinking about how this would affect my social anxiety and fear of change. Eventually the 18 day period I got from my injection decided that for me, and I pulled out due to my fear of having to use public gendered restrooms.

I’m in my third month of taking testosterone and things seem to be going pretty smoothly. The changes have slowed down a bit, although I still think my face is changing and every few weeks and my bottom growth looks bigger. My voice will continue to drop, and my acne will stick around until about February. My torso will continue to straighten out and my hips will shrink.

It’s been hard for me to talk about my transition to people in my life, even though they are supportive. My mood problems get especially hard to deal with because of that fact. Earlier in my transition I said I didn’t think I needed a gender therapist to talk thing through with, that I could be strong enough to medical transition but I was so wrong. Having someone to talk about my physical and emotional changes to has helped me so much. It’s worth every cent I pay. I might feel poorer after I pay my therapist but it’s so worth it. I really wish I could find the strength to feel validated for my gender within myself but it’s a harsh world out there especially to trans people, and we need to be told every now and then that we’re brave and that we are who we say we are. My family is supportive but they don’t know all the language to use and what to avoid to say so us trans people don’t feel triggered and become dysphoric. The words people say and how they say them can really affect someone emotionally, make them think, make them re-evaluate themselves and may affect what decisions they make in the future, so choose your words wisely. This is basically what I think of every time I try to respond or confront people.

The next steps for me are to overcome my fear of using public bathrooms, either gender. I’ll have to do this soon as I want to start seeing live bands again and get back into my photography. I also need to decide whether I want to learn to stand to pee using a prosthetic. I spent $200 on one but I so far have failed to pee standing up. I tell myself I could probably stand naked with a full bladder for 3 hours and no pee will come out. The only time it has is when I had two beers.

So, here’s to being on testosterone for one more month..two, five, eight, a year, life.