Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Processing trauma: knowing versus feeling

I can't really point to any particular moment when I began to so vividly remember all of these things from my past. Before it would be just the occasional glimpse, a bad dream or horrible feeling. For the past weeks at least I have extremely intense dreams, often involving scenes related to traumatic things from my past. During the day I'll regularly recall traumatic and less traumatic memories from the past decades with a level of detail which I am completely not used to.

I think I'm beginning to process my traumas.

It's been over a year since I left the Netherlands and with it the primary factor in all of my traumatic events in my life. While it's not been easy getting settled in Germany, it's not been traumatic, and that's the important distinction. Whereas in the Netherlands I was fighting and surviving every day again, even before those horrible physicians and other so-called specialists got their hands on me, here in Germany there's none of that. With the mental pressure and with it the emotional blockades fading, all that's been put away for so long now comes flowing back.

I never forgot anything of what had happened to me, from the horrible sexual assaults and rape, to the physical and psychological humiliation, to the always present feeling of not belonging in this world, of not having a place. It was always there, the basic knowledge of these facts. With my media appearances I could easily recall all of it. Yet one thing was almost completely absent from this all: emotions.

Not that I wish to claim that I have been devoid of emotion in my communications the past years, but as far as my recollections go of these countless traumatic events, I never really felt the associated emotions and related that go with them. I saw the visuals and realized that it was bad, but the associated feelings were missing. Now these are back, and it's in many ways horrible.

I could never describe the full extent of all these traumas, of how it felt, how it ripped away one piece of my soul after another. To face one more humiliation by Dutch physicians after another and another. To see no exit, but only the endless road ahead of me as I trudged on, chasing one false hope after another.

The extent to which I curse having been born with this body, and to which this horrible, impossibly cruel society has reduced me to what I am today. And with it all not knowing why. Why did it have to be like this, why me, why did everyone have to go out of their way to deny me my own body? Was it me? Did I offend someone by not being part of the gender binary? Are people truly this evil? How long do I have to continue to suffer like this?

Processing traumas is not the same as giving them a place and closing the chapter. For me it means that right now I have a bit of a quiet moment after more than a decade of not having the time to just sit down and think about what has happened so far. Maybe I'll feel a little bit less upset about some things which have happened to me, and maybe I'll even be able to reduce my full-blown hatred of sexuality to a mere loathing. In the end, however, I'm just catching up with the thinking and categorizing my brain didn't have the time for until now.

There are no miracles.

Taking a shower and going to bed/waking up are still among the hardest things in my life. I cannot see or feel my own body without being assaulted with painful recollections. Not thinking about it too much is usually the best approach. Don't think about this body of mine. What is is, what it isn't, what I'll never know or understand. What those pains are. Why I have a penis when everything else about my body looks like that of a girl. Why every month the area where I'm supposed to have the entrance of my vagina starts hurting like hell and sitting, walking and lying down is painful at best.

I don't know anything and nobody wants to tell me.

Maybe it's more accurate to say that my emotions in general are returning. Yet with it also comes an amount of emotional pain and agony which appears to be without bounds. I'm becoming more mature in the span of weeks, yet at what cost?

I still want to destroy this body for being so... stupid and weird. Having such strong emotions and feelings again isn't helping with that.

In the end there's just this brick wall I cannot avoid labelled 'medical help' which is insurmountable. I won't 'process' my way past that one, just like how being locked up in a cellar and being sexually abused on a daily basis can't be 'processed' away. Active, continuing traumatic events are a direct threat to one's emotional stability. I am still suffering the same trauma. All the other traumatic events are secondary to it. Great that I can process them now, but once they become less relevant, there's still the Big One.

It's this body, or perhaps more succinctly society itself which is the most traumatic to me.

Is there a fix for that? Over a decade of trying to find one says that there isn't one.

Am I truly deadlocked on this issue?

Am I just talking in rhetorical questions?


Saturday, 17 January 2015

I would love thee, but for the hole in my heart

As a pre-teen, still stuck in primary school, I was convinced that this one girl - who was both a neighbour and classmate - simply had to be 'mine'. I don't know why I thought like that if it involved any reasoning at all. All I can remember is having agonized thoughts over what if she didn't like me, who at that time was still this hugely awkward boy. Even now, many years later I still feel ashamed for having such possessive thoughts towards another human being.

Worse is that it pains me to still occasionally have such thoughts, although it's then usually accompanied with a kind of longing towards a life filled with warmth and shared joys. I'm not naive enough to think that any such things can be found in a relationship with another person. Yet despite this knowledge it still hurts me to see couples, especially when it are two girls holding hands. It's hard to escape the hold the mind's whispered promises hold over one's conscious mind.

As a scientific person I'm quite aware of how the whole bio- and neurochemistry around physical attraction and procreation works. Even before we are born, each and everyone of us is in theory primed and ready to be manipulated by our own genes and mind. From the physical sex we are attracted to, to what we seek in a partner to procreate with, to the mechanisms which make us claim, defend and lash out at a mate. Not to mention the mechanisms which physically alter our brains to ensure that we are imprinted on our offspring and become happy to sacrifice ourselves for them, far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable.

Free choice is largely an illusion. Our subconscious mind is most adapt at manipulating the conscious mind without it being aware of it. Genes, bio- and neurochemistry all conspire against us. And our reward? Liberal applications of neurotransmitters which make us feel really fuzzy, warm and good about ourselves. We are little different from those rats in experiments which get trained to press a lever to get a pleasing jolt to the reward center in their brain.

Many are seemingly quite okay with this situation, happy to be in essence a slave of their own genes and mind. They feel happy, so why resist? It's not like it's harming anyone, after all.

Where this clashes with the consciousness is where one desires more out of life than to simply be a slave. It's not dissimilar in this regard compared to the dark chapter in humanity's history of widespread slavery. As slavery stood to be abolished in the new-formed USA, especially slave-owners defended their actions by saying that they had sacrificed everything to keep these slaves safe, well-fed and happy but that now they were so ungrateful as to rebel. On the other side, slaves were divided on the 'freedom' thing as well. While being a slave isn't perfect, it offers a kind of stability, certainty and safety, especially if one's owner isn't the bad type. Many slaves later returned to their former owners as free people, to work for an honest wage as a result.

The slaves who protested were the ones who protested generally not because of unfair treatment, but simply because of the unfairness and injustice of being forced into and kept in slavery. They, as well as many free people alongside them, could not imagine being stripped of one's humanity like that and kept like a dog, or less than that. A mere piece of property, a puppet to dance to the owners' strings. This is ultimately the one thing which at least in my view makes a person a human being: this drive for freedom and justice.

So how does that rhyme with this supposed oppression by one's own body and mind? Isn't that who we are after all? Why would one protest against one's own flesh? Why fight the urge to go out, possess and mate to fulfil our mind's desires? Why gorge on that delicious, unhealthy food whenever you can, even though you know you're quite literally killing yourself? Are you merely a programmed puppet or your own person?

Where does the border between 'self' and the lizard/monkey brain foisted upon us by evolution truly lie?

Who and what are we, really?

I have seen, gone through, experienced and thought deeply about many issues in what most would call only a brief part of my life. I have seen the very edges of hope and despair as well as the heights of joy and utmost relief. Through it all I have had to confront those very questions over and over as in everything these same questions just got flung back into my face. I was a boy, then a man, then a girl and now a woman. I have loved, lost, been hurt and beaten more times than I could count.

What I value most at this point is simply freedom and justice. Freedom from society. Freedom from what my own mind keeps whispering into my consciousness. Freedom from being a puppet for everyone and everything. I simply want to be my own person.

I think I know who I am at this point. Maybe I also know what I am. I do not know what this body of mine is, and likely will never know the answer. I do not think that this body of mine has a part in any future of mine, as it will only hold me back from freeing myself.

As far as the issue of my body further trying to manipulate me into thinking or behaving a certain way goes, it can take a very long hike off a very short pier there. I don't have to obey my genes. They're not my master. All that is important is my 'self'. The ego freed from the body's manipulations, free to dream and act without inhibitions or distractions.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Drudging through the certainty of uncertainty

Yesterday I had the first job interview as I keep searching for a new job after my current contract ends next month. Supposedly there are a lot of tech companies in Karlsruhe, but so far the results are pretty thin. There's still every possibility that I'll be opting for a job which will take me somewhere else in Germany or even to another (European) country. Yesterday's job interview was all right, I guess. Sticking point was mostly that I never had a formal education and thus no papers to hand over as 'proof' of my abilities. This is likely to be the point which will decide whether I'll be offered the job or not. Times like these it's just plain annoying that formal education never worked for me due to my giftedness and that because I'm an autodidact I learned everything on my own instead.

There was also the issue that the headhunter who had brought me into contact with this company had referred to me in his emails to the company using male pronouns, for some reason. Whether or not this was intentional, it led to an uncomfortable scene during the interview and together with the uncertainty about the certifications, it left me in a rather depressed mood by the time I got back home. Being intersex sucks. Being gifted sucks. Still having to find some job which I can at least somewhat like is beyond cruel. It reinforces for me that I should get to the point where I can just work for myself again.

At any rate I still slept okay last night, though the dream I had was quite interesting. Last time I had a processing dream regarding the period I shared this apartment with this one girl was early last year when I stayed at this student's place. That dream was a complete nightmare, which awoke me with pounding heart and unable to shake off the feeling of dread and of being hunted. This dream was a lot milder in comparison. In it I had a girlfriend. Just a nice, pleasant, awesome girl I felt totally at ease with. Yet throughout the dream I kept having flashbacks because of certain events and actions which led me to having to shake them off and realize that my girlfriend wasn't like that other person. It made me realize just how deep the feeling of panic and being hunted goes.

Not too shocking when I recall just how horrible that time was, I guess. Like taking a shower and glimpsing over my shoulder every few moments in sheer terror because I expected her to stand there again, staring at me. Or the friendly facade when in public and the constant bullying and abuse when alone together. I'd honestly rather kill myself than go through that ever again. I have gone through a lot of horrible things the past years, but that one is definitely in the top 5 of things I'll elect to chew on a cyanide capsule for in order to prevent experiencing it again. Having a dream like I had last night is a positive sign in that regard, I hope. Maybe I'll some day be able to accept that I can start my first relationship and even sharing the same house with that person without it feeling like I just invited a vampire to enter my abode.

I also woke up last night at one point because of the pain in my lower abdomen and lower back. It's usually around this time of the month that both pains get pretty severe. While I started taking the pill again a few weeks ago thanks to my GP, the symptoms didn't vanish, although they got considerably more mild compared to the last months when I didn't take the pill. Especially the severe cramps on my right side and in my lower right abdomen are far less pronounced. The lower back pain is there, but not crippling. I also hadn't had my right leg go all numb yet this month unlike with previous months.

I'm pretty sure I'll still have to go to my gynaecologist to inquire whether he may know of some other examination to figure out what this pain is about. Another major symptom which is also slightly less severe, but still most definitely there and agonizing at times is located in the area where the entrance of the vagina would be/is. Around the time of my 'menstruation', to refer to it like that, said area becomes very painful and sore. Sitting becomes painful or uncomfortable and going to the toilet ranges from discomfort to nearly passing out from waves of agony. Back in the Netherlands I went to the ER for this issue at one point, but the doctor examining me just prodded me, had me screaming out in pain and told me to just go eat some ibuprofen.

If it's in fact the vagina entrance, as found before during the exploratory surgery in 2011, which is being irritated or inflamed because of some kind of flow that's part of the menstruation cycle, then it's quite risky. Beyond the usual risk of scarring, there's the risk of sepsis and other possibly lethal complications, similar to the risks associated with the use of tampons when they are left in too long. This is why I have been pushing to have that vaginal reconstructive surgery for years now, to get answers on what's going on and solve any lingering issues in that area. Unfortunately it's unlikely that I'll get medical help in the next ten years either.

Finally there's the whole 'living in Germany' part. I have said before that I do not dislike this country or the people in it, and I still hold hope for the medical system here. If there's an issue which makes my life harder than it should be it's probably still the language. While my German language skills have improved to the point where I can talk with most people here in German for most conversations, I'm painfully aware of my limited German vocabulary and limited control of German grammar. At least this is something which is relatively easy to solve and I find German to become a more pleasant language the easier it gets to use it for me. That said, I still loathe legal German, but I doubt I'm alone in that one.

Even after I managed to stop blaming myself for everything that's gone wrong in my life, there is still enough to get upset about and it doesn't change my traumas, even if it dulls some of the pain a little. I still suffer from suicidal depressions and I still don't believe that I'll ever feel happy again in my life. I have nightmares of slaving for some faceless company with little time left for myself until I'm old and worn out, then to die alone and unhappy with none of my dreams fulfilled. I am feeling ever more distant from my body as I have to dissociate from it to shut out the pain of having been born with a body that's so controversial. I still loathe living in an apartment where there are so many sounds which trigger my traumas, break down my emotional defences or just outright disgust me between the constant and irregular ticking of the heating system, hearing every step and some discussions not to mention every drop spilled in the toilet from upstairs.

No, happy I am not. The best I can aim for at this point is 'stable'. Stable enough to still fight on for a better existence. A better life which doesn't fill me with the sensation of utter futility and despair. Even thinking about everything that I still have to do to make my life even a little better, even if it's just moving to a better place, I feel more tempted to just give up on the spot than to undertake it. Yet I have to. Even if it hurts. Even if it makes me feel suicidal. Even if it makes me feel like life is pure torture. Because dying is so incredibly hard.

That's my motivation to keep trying to live on, even through all this confusion, hatred, pain, sadness and bitterness. Dying is just too hard right now.


Saturday, 10 January 2015

The turbulent waters where religion meets reality

I was exposed to religion as a child, but never forced into anything. My mother was the only one from a religious background, but even as a child she had been more interested in the social and humanist aspects of it all. Growing up, I learned about the world's religions and most importantly I learned to form my own opinion, with my mother making it above all clear to always treat others how you'd want to be treated yourself. I still feel grateful about having had a youth like this, especially considering my later experiences in life.

I'm not religious at all, or even mildly spiritual. I fall firmly into the 'agnostic' camp, with the acknowledgement that there is insufficient evidence to decide either way on the existence of gods. This made it interesting for me to end up living in the Netherlands' Bible Belt for a few years. It was there that I first had to deal with religious people directly, in the sense that all three family doctor offices in the city I ended up visiting were staffed by Christian doctors.

As far as these family doctors go, I can be pretty brief. The first office I started off with in 2005 had one of their doctors denounce me for thinking that I could be intersex and another doctor monologued me for about an hour in 2011, trying to convince me to stop trying to pretend to be intersex, stop looking for medical help and try to live a 'normal' life. Also in 2011 I tried two other offices, with the first doctor refusing to take me on as a patient during the first appointment on basis of my intersex condition making her feel uncomfortable. The second office's doctor sent the police after me when I kept reminding them about promises they had made [1].

Honestly, I don't like religion and I dislike it strongly when people let religion influence the way they treat and view others. I can see no benefit to religion existing. All I have seen is that it makes people less humane and more prejudiced. That I had to flee the Netherlands to find refuge in Germany is something I feel I can also at least partially blame on religion as the Netherlands is a highly religious country, with conservative Christian morals determining much of the intolerant attitude towards those who are different. Germany fortunately isn't so eager to embrace 'Christian values' after last century's experiences with the NSDAP. For me personally this translates into an environment where people are in general tolerant, non-judgemental and accepting, even welcoming differences.

After the recent events in Paris - only a few hours away from where I live - I find myself more than a little perturbed by the aggressive, violent responses aimed at whoever dares to associate in some way with the Islamic faith. Although the 'Je suis Charlie' response in some way is the best response imaginable, the attempts to hijack this movement and turn it into something negative and oppressive is astounding and more than a little frightening.

The thing which most disturbs me about this is that people are apparently so willing to denounce others for things they think. Not things they have done, but the mere thoughts and opinions they have. The way I have learned it, just thinking a certain way doesn't make you a bad person as you can still realize the flaws in one's reasoning and change it. It's only when you intend to act upon such opinions that you cross the line. Many Muslims, Christians and Jews hold very outdated, offensive views on how to treat others, yet only a few decide to act upon this. Not every religious person has the same opinions. No religion is a single, coherent thing, instead with each split into many variations until ultimately one arrives at singular minds.

Seeing so much anger directed at Muslims in general recently, makes me question just how civil and educated the average person behind this anger actually is. It's no surprise that at least here in Germany the most anti-Muslim support comes from people in areas where the fewest Muslims live. One also has to question in how far it can all even be put on just 'religion', with a pronounced anti-homosexuality and anti-transgender attitude in the US and Russia as well as certain European countries. What is religion after all but just another fantasy conjured up by the mind? What's the essential difference between believing in magical sky fairies and believing that homosexuality and transsexualism are somehow 'unnatural'? Both forego logic and reason, instead opting to assume dogma as the truth in the overwhelming absence of evidence.

I believe it is that which humankind struggles the most with: not religion or sexual/gender preferences, but the acceptance of logic and reason. The human mind is quite the opposite, after all, preferring quick assumptions and snap judgements over careful reviewing of the available facts before arriving at a reasonable conclusion. This flaw invites the acceptance of dogma, which should be seen as poison to critical thought.

As critical thought dies, so does logic and reason, and with it any chance of a humane outcome.


[1] http://mayaposch.blogspot.de/2011/05/taking-nightmare-notch-further.html

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Giftedness and intersex: society, you done f'd up

As the year 2014 ended and the new year began with a number of disappointments it seems to have triggered me to relapse into myself for a while, revisiting many memories and events of the past. Somewhere in there I should be able to find my self, probably. Nothing made sense any more and I didn't know where to go or what to do any more. Meanwhile one terrible flashback after another plagued me during the day. During my sleep nightmares and confusing dreams haunted me as I desperately tried to find the answers to my questions.

It's in many ways reminiscent of how I lived after I got raped as my first sexual experience. This happened now over eight years ago. First it took me a while to acknowledge what had happened. After that I could admit that it was a horrible experience. Then I blamed myself for had happened. I continued that for a while. What made me refocus my loathing and hatred against myself was a series of conversations with this woman at whose place I lived for a month. She told me about her own story of sexual abuse and rape. She told me so many details and how she felt throughout it all, but most importantly after it was finally over.

You know when they say that sometimes things just 'click' inside your mind? Acceptance is one of those things. What this woman taught me was that I didn't choose any of the things which had happened. That at no point did I invite the guy to do any of these things to me, but that it was him who forced himself on me. It sounds simple, but it's so very hard to reach that point. Not in the least because of the intense hatred and rage you then feel towards this b*st*rd who did such a horrific thing to you. Such hatred is good, for a while. Nurse it as it is your strength while you heal the worst of your emotional scars.

I never chose to be born smart, being gifted and all that. I didn't choose to go through an education system in a society incapable of dealing with someone with my way of learning and general intellect. I didn't choose to be bullied by classmates. I didn't choose to have this education system crush my spirit and make me feel worthless. I hate it for what it did to me. I hate these classmates. I hate everything about it so much. I didn't do any of it. They forced it all on me. I loathe every one of those involved for being such miserable, ignorant souls. Yet I no longer loathe myself.

I never chose to be born intersex. I didn't choose to get one incorrect diagnosis after another. I didn't lie to myself, others did. I didn't choose to be physically and psychologically abused by physicians and psychologists. I didn't choose to be brainwashed into believing that I had to be transgender or some other insane diagnosis when I knew very well that it was nonsense. I didn't develop traumatic disorders because I wanted to have them. I went to the limits of my capabilities and beyond to resolve the fundamental questions about who and what I am. I did right. I stayed true to myself. I can only loathe those who hurt me for being ignorant fools. In a way I hate them for what they did to me, whether it was knowingly or out of sheer ignorance.

Yet even with society bullying, abusing and raping me again and again like this, I'll never blame myself again. I don't deserve that.

Society screwed up. Society cannot deal with someone who is gifted, intersex, or both. I can deal perfectly fine with both. The problem in my life is society, not myself.

It's a simple conclusion, but it takes a while to make it all click.

Society should be more than just ashamed of itself. It should loathe itself for the sick, twisted nightmare of a rotting, puss-filled carcass it is. At this point there's no redeemable quality in it whatsoever.