Hugs & Human Interaction Wanted

After a more than two-month roller coaster ride following facial feminization surgery, my physical woes seem to resolving, but my heart is in need of attention.  Many people support me and my journey, but I am still lonely.  I need hugs.

Physically, I am improving.  I have finally taken my last antibiotic.  My infection seems to be cleared.  My eye issue has resolved to the point where I can drive and work.  I can even see my jawline healing and revealing the promise of curves where there was once squareness.  In another four months, I should see the final fruits of the initial surgery.  My face will continue to heal and feminize until then.

However, over the last couple of months, my mood has been declining.  At one point, my wife was worried enough to tell me that my energy was similar to that just before I came out as questioning.  She is worried about me, and I have been in my head a lot trying to figure it out.

I have not been down because of the setbacks with my surgery.  Yes, it was disappointing to have to have a second surgery, but ultimately it was needed.  What was more disappointing to me how few visitors I had while I was in the hospital.  While I was extremely thankful my wife and children visited me each day in the hospital (which was about an hour drive from home causing its own strain on the family), I was sorely lacking human interaction.  Only one person other than my wife and kids visited me during my six-day hospital stay.  The hugs from my children were the only real comforting touch I had each day.

Once home, a few friends and family stepped up and offered food and company after I asked for help online, but most of support has come from Facebook messages and comments.  That’s nice and all, but it is not the same as sitting down and spending time with someone.  The best part of every day continue to be the snuggles, hugs, and kisses I receive from my children.  I love them without limits.  However, that’s about all the love and affection I get in any given day.

My wife has been supportive as she can be, but hugs and kisses are not something we share a lot of anymore.  Our relationship has changed so much.  When once we shared “I love you”s and kisses, those are now primarily reserved for the kids.  Parting sweet words have devolved to waves goodbye and talks of what’s next on the family calendar.

She occasionally tells me that she loves me, but it comes off hollow.  What part of me does she actually love?  Does she just say that to appease me in a time of personal sadness?  Is there still love in her heart, but she does not want to act on it?  She hides so many of her problems from me, I cannot help.  When I offer, she tells me I can’t because I am the source of the problem.  We have been going at this for over three years.  The near daily anger rages have been replaced by silent pain, invisible illness that is shielded from most friends and family.

When I married her, I always wanted us to have an honest, open relationship, where we would share everything and help each other in times of need.  Instead, there have been massive secrets kept (and revealed) over the years, some of which we both still keep for fear of a fight or hurt feelings.  Over the last three years, I have worked hard to be a better person, to love myself more, and find my happiness in the shadow of a giant gray marriage cloud.  I have worked harder at this than anything else in my life, and I know in my heart of hearts that I am more improved than I was when I met my wife.  That is not enough for her, though, because I now come in a female package.  Once again, coming to the realization that I will never be enough for her breaks my heart on a continuous basis.  She wants a divorce and says that I am the reason she cries herself to sleep most nights.  She is still living in the hurt and holding on to the pain from three years ago.  There are times I feel she stays out of an obligation to the children and to a pre-transition promise she made to my mother before she died to always take care of me.  How am I supposed to overcome those obstacles?  I could make myself into a multi-million dollar success story, an advocate for those in need, and be super mom to my children, and it still would never be enough for her to get past the fact that she married me.

I sometimes forget that I am in a losing situation.  Family trips to the fair or the science museum, joint appearances at school events, dinners out with extended family allow me to buy into the dream that we could still be a happy, functioning family.  That illusion is a trap.  It keeps me from moving forward with my life.  It keeps me from making long-term decisions about my future.  I continually need to re-learn that no matter how good things may feel in the moment or how much she helps me with my medical issues, there is a dark side to this life we lead.

The least simple thing I am re-learning?  That no matter how available I make myself, no matter how much I change for the better, no matter how good of a mother I am or caring and loving I can be, I still cause my wife as much pain as I did when I came out to her over three years ago.  That saddens me to no end, especially when I framed in the terms of the children.  When we work together, we are a loving family.  Despite being poor, we give our children as much as we can so that they do not suffer.  On the surface, we are doing well.  We are maintaining.  We are still together.  The truth is, we are scared.  We do not know what comes next.

Early in my transition, my wife pulled away from me physically because she is no longer attracted to me.  We have not had sex in 2 1/2 years.  We sleep in the same bed, but a body pillow separates us.  Hugs are rare.  Kisses even rarer.  I can’t remember the last time we walked hand-in-hand together.  There are no more date nights, trips to the movies, or anniversaries.  We have no reason to hire a babysitter so that the two of us can go out together.  I miss these basic loving interactions.  I feel incomplete without them.

There have been two women that have shown some interest in me since I went full-time.  To have someone interested in me was both uplifting and awkward—especially since I am still married.  When the first woman showed interest, I put up huge emotional walls that were nearly impossible for her to scale because I was not really ready for any kind of relationship.  Combined with her own stresses that complicated her life, there was just too much drama, and we were not meant to be more than friends.  The second woman broke down my walls a little more.  We even went on at least one date, but ultimately, that did not really work out for various reasons.  I am not even sure I am ready to consider dating anyone other than my wife.  Maybe it would be good for me.  Maybe it would divide us even more.  I really don’t know.

What I do know is that I am incredibly lonely, and it is leading to an emotional state bordering on depression.  My sex drive has actually increased a little bit recently as I become more comfortable with being the authentic me, but I do not have an outlet for that other than myself—and I am still dysphoric enough to not really want to play with myself that much.  My wife is not an option.  Dating is not really an option.  I really don’t have an option.

For me, though, sex is just a minor piece to the bigger desire.  It is simply boils down to basic human interaction.  I need hugs and kisses from people older than 7 years old.  I need to be wanted and loved, to be supported in more ways than a Facebook comment can communicate.  I need friends who will visit me in the hospital or at home.  I need to be held and told things are going to be OK.  I want someone to be interested in me for more than just my courage, my parenting skills, or my ability to work.  I really want to have someone interested in me for me and who wants to spend time with me.  I need a partner who will encourage me and share intimate embraces and touch on a daily basis.

I have worked so hard to love and value myself again.  I have embraced my journey and my identity.  But I am still a hopeless romantic, and without someone to love and to love me back, I feel empty.  I am lonely.

Support comes in many forms.  I am thankful for those that keep me in their thoughts and encourage me to be the authentic me.  I am thankful for those that understand that we are poor and provide financial support.  Emotional support is the most difficult to come by, especially when it is not easily available at home.  Combined with stress, this has all put me into am emotional funk.

There is a healing power in touch that I am sorely lacking.  Few people other than my children touch me these days.  That touch need not be sexual, it just needs to be meaningful and from the heart—willfully given and full of love, empathy, and feeling.

Hugs wanted.  Love needed.

 

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A Rare, Post-FFS Infection!

One week ago, I wrote about my facial feminization surgery (FFS). I thought after almost 5 weeks, I was on the road to recovery. This week showed me that the road was anything but straight, as I write from my hospital room.

In the last post, I mentioned that I was having more swelling on one side of my jaw than the other. Last week, that swelling suddenly became large, firm, and sometimes painful. I contacted my surgeon’s office, and they suggested I come in for an urgent appointment the next day. Maybe just a possible fluid build-up, they conjectured. The team would drain it, and I could move on.

Unfortunately, when they looked at it last Friday, they determined that there wasn’t really fluid there. Something else was wrong. They suggested I come back at my next scheduled follow-up appointment on Wednesday so that the surgeon himself could take a look. So, for five days, I continued life. I pushed through worked. I spent time with the kids. I started taking ibuprofen to help with the swelling and bouts of stinging pain that would occasional strike me. There was clearly problem. My jaw line began to turn red. My neck puffed up.

On Tuesday, I went to see my primary care physician on a previously scheduled visit to talk about routine lab results. She was very concerned about my jaw and neck, and she preemptively prescribed me two antibiotics as a just in case. The next day, I finally was able to see my surgeon. He took one look at me and decided we needed to aspirate the infection. A few minutes and a few needles later, and he had pulled a vial of pus out of my face. I felt a little better from the immediate release of tension, but plenty of firmness still remained. He sent that culture to the lab for testing. In the meantime, he wanted me to start the antibiotics my PCP prescribed and return two days later to evaluate progress.

On Friday, I went to work an opening 4-hour shift at work, and then I headed to San Francisco with my family to the follow-up appointment. The infection had shifted slightly towards my throat and was certainly no smaller than it had been two days prior. He aspirated again, and then sat quietly for a couple of minutes in the procedure room. He then came to the conclusion that I needed to be admitted, and that we would need to go back into surgery to clean out the infection. After discussing it with my wife, we agreed to walk across the street to the hospital for direct and immediate admission to start broad spectrum IV antibiotics and to prepare for surgery the next morning.

On Saturday, the surgery lasted about 30-45 minutes, paling in comparison to the nearly 7 1/2-hour initial surgery. Within hours, I was out of recovery and back in my room, now equipped with a drain attached to my face Then, it became a waiting game. We waited for the results of the cultures from last Wednesday to come back. We waited to see what kind of output the drain would produce. The whole thing was supposed to take a day or two. It did not. The labs took forever to determine that I was being afflicted by two different bacteria, and they needed to determine the best antibiotic to combat those bacteria narrowly.

Further, a strange complication arose: I was experiencing double vision. How was that possible, since the infection and surgery only concentrated on my jaw and neck? So now I had consultations with ophthalmology, complete with eye tests. They initially concluded the issue was a congenital palsy, indicating that this was something I always had and that surgery may have just triggered it. I thought they were nuts, as I have had excellent vision all of my life. The simpler answer, as we know from Occam’s Razor is usually the correct answer, was that something happened during surgery, as the vision problems did not start until after I came back from surgery.

There was talk of me going home with the drain in my face. There was talk of me going home with the vision problem and returning in a few weeks to the ophthalmologist’s clinic to treat my new eye condition. I complained. Luckily for me, the drain situation took care of itself. Output reduced to the point where it was determined it could come out before I left the hospital. On the crazy eye issue, my surgical team asked the ophthalmology department to see me again with an attending physician to see if a better explanation and treatment could be found.

All in all, between the surgery, recovery, drain issues, and eye issues (let alone my poor, bloated right arm from several days of continuous IV), I am still in the hospital after five full days. Barring a sudden change for the worse, I should be going home tomorrow without a drain, with the proper antibiotics, and a recovering eyeball.

This infection came out of nowhere. Most post-op infections occur in the first week or two. Mine waited 4 1/2 weeks to manifest. Quite rare. I am happy we took the steps to properly treat it, but pressing the pause button on my life has been very difficult. I lost work. I lost time with the kids (although, they did visit me everyday in the hospital). I was not able to contribute to the family’s greater good from my hospital bed. That took an emotional toll on me this week, as it did on the family. My son has been sick. My wife has been stressed running the house solo and worrying about me. It has been tough on everyone.

Those that do not understand why I had FFS in the first place may think that I made a bad decision, especially since it led to this infection. Those people do not get why I had the initial surgery in the first place. This week, it was easy to ask myself, “Why am I here right now?” Those thoughts made me cry. What makes it right is remembering why I had the initial surgery: to address my dysphoria, to make right what I felt was wrong. FFS is more than a cosmetic procedure. It is life affirming. Unfortunately for me, I had to deal with a severe infection that landed me a second surgery and what looks to be six days in the hospital. However, that does not mean I regret going through this process because ultimately, I had to do it. It was a need, not a want. It was a good decision.

I look forward to going home and finalizing my recovery from both surgeries. I relish jumping back in to my mom role and kissing the kids good night, watching TV with my wife, petting my cat who has not seen me in a week. Work has been stressful, but I need to be there, too. It is time to un-pause, press play once again, and move forward with life with my improved, non-infected feminized face.

Although, I will miss the awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge outside my hospital room window—even if my blurred vision makes it look like it has four towers instead of two. Recovery continues.