I’ve been feeling pretty nutty since that trip to California. Right before that trip the rapist in my comedy scene sent this “you go girl” message to a lady comic who complained about the sexism in our scene on facebook. I kind of freaked out about it. I hate that guy so much. I hate how much of the last couple of years of my life have gone to trying to figure out how to contain his opportunities for hurting women. I hate hate hate the lingering guilt I have over not being able to contain him in the first place.

So I have withdrawn from the comedy scene. And I’ve withdrawn a lot from other detransitioned women.  And I’ve been fighting with my family.

I was at work on wednesday and it was really, really busy. I got totally overwhelmed with bitterness. Dark, crackly, angry bitterness. Angry at my family, angry at everyone I ever met in comedy, angry at everyone who encouraged my transition, angry at the people I knew in California, angry at EVERYONE. Anger at everyone who ever took advantage of me.

(Literally tables were asking me for stuff and I was making eye contact with them and loudly sighing. “When’s our food coming?” Eye contact, deep breath in, longgggggggg breath out. Man oh man.)

But the anger comes from fear. Fear I’m never moving forward. Fear I’ll never really recover from my bad choices. In retrospect those choices look like I was thrashing around like a fish on the ground, having an energetic death calmly observed by the people who pulled it out of the water it needs.

This morning I re-read “Embarcadero,” that essay I wrote about learning that my ego was the reason I was completely miserable and that chasing transition was always going to help keep me miserable. Man, I’ve written some good stuff. I really like my own writing.

I was thinking about my current unhappiness. UNHAPPINESS. The problem I am ALWAYS trying to solve! What are you supposed to do with it?

  1. Accept you are unhappy because you are alive and that is what being alive in a cruel world is about
  2. Go get a massage or some other somatic care-taking ritual that will get your endorphins pumping
  3. Go help someone else so you can remember misery is something we’re all sharing and you’ve got lots of blessings to be grateful for
  4. Organize a group effort to fix some aspect of the world
  5. Give it up to God

When I was working at the trans clinic, every day I’d just hear the worst life situations, usually from people who had no control over the volume of their voices.

Once I was talking to a client who needed a letter from one of the nurses saying that they didn’t have scabies. Because the client wasn’t being allowed to sleep at a shelter they normally used because the shelter staff thought they had scabies. This client was just going on and on, words rushing out, barely taking breaths, the pitch of their voice high and shill, giving me all the details. Using the time with me to argue their case as if I were the shelter staff-about all the showers they take, about how careful they are. I was doing my mostly checked out, automatic sympathizing thing, doing a lot of “ooof that’s hard,” and “oh of course you’re upset.” We finally scheduled an appointment for them. Then at the very end the client says, “Oh yeah, and the nurse needs to look at my burn.”

I said, “oh there’s a burn wound you’re getting treated for?”

They say, “Oh yeah, I was sleeping outside and I got set on fire. Ok, well see you tuesday!”

Ugh, this stupid, ugly world. When I moved back to Ohio a lot of the time I’d find myself thinking to myself, “well you didn’t get set on fire today, so you gotta give it up to God for that.”

Another time I got a call from the at-home caretaker for one of our clients who would have these pretty intense and involved paranoid delusions. This was a client I’d had a fair amount of conversations with about the FBI tracking them. They’d call up and I don’t know, it had just become normal to talk them down. I was doing a lot of work a receptionist should not have been doing, mostly because I wasn’t trained to do any of it. So the caretaker calls and she wants to talk to the clinic’s doctor, because the client is agitated and having a paranoid break. I had gotten yelled at by the clinic’s management about transferring calls to the doctors and nurses from people talking crazy, and it had been made clear that was my job, to deal with the crazy talkers, because the doctors and nurses had better things to do. So I ask the caretaker to put the client on the phone, and I talk to the client for awhile about how they’re being followed, and mind-controlled, and it seems after like 15 or 20 minutes they’re a lot less agitated.

The clinic’s nurse, who had initially refused to talk to the caretaker, saw that I was still on the same call 20 minutes later and agreed to talk to the caretaker. While the nurse was on the phone with the caretaker the client pulled a knife on the caretaker. The clinic’s nurse called 911. No one got hurt.

It really shook me. It shook me because I thought I was in control of that situation, and in retrospect I wasn’t at all. It shook me up because I was doing what the clinic’s management wanted me to do, and then it was clear to me it was not a responsible reaction to the situation. I thought, what if they had stabbed that caretaker while I was on that phone call? It was pretty normal for clients on these phone calls to threaten suicide, because I couldn’t get them an appointment this week, or I was telling them they had to get labs done before we’d call in a prescription for them. I thought, one of these calls someone’s really going to kill themselves.

I thought, I can’t even afford therapy for my current trauma, I can’t afford the recovery from hearing someone kill themselves.

The timeline of all the terrible stuff that happened at that job gets blurred. I remember after the phone call with the client pulling the knife thinking ok I gotta make a plan to get out of here, this job is a dangerous situation. I think soon after that we had a meeting where the management told us for the next three months we’d be drastically reducing the number of appointments we could offer people. Most of my job was having clients freak out on me for not being able to get them an appointment in a reasonable time period. It was after that meeting that I went back to my computer and filled out a FAFSA to see if I could return to school in Ohio.

I was so scared of the management of that clinic. No matter how hard I worked they always found something that was eye-rollingly stupid of me to not know. For example, I don’t know about the process of heroin withdrawal. I don’t know how dangerous it is to be in withdrawal from heroin, I don’t know the health implications, I didn’t know where the methadone clinics in the city were. It wasn’t a thing anyone at the clinic ever mentioned to me or trained me in.  I remember getting a call from an ER nurse saying she had to talk to the clinic’s doctor because one of our clients had showed up at her ER in withdrawal. I had to interrupt the doctor making her notes after an appointment, and the doctor just started yelling at me about how this wasn’t worth interrupting her because of all the methadone clinics in the city and how no one ever died from withdrawal, and I realized

  1. She was really yelling at the ER nurse, but like, through me. Rather than getting on the phone with the ER nurse she was just using me as a stand-in, probably because actually talking to another medical professional the way she talked to me would make her look really bad.
  2. This was not a series of calls someone without medical training should make.

The job was traumatic for so many reasons. I think just seeing all the bad outcomes was very traumatic. Definitely being yelled at and bullied at work was not pleasant. I think it was traumatic to witness the management working and figuring out that these people have self-defined as saviors and that self-definition is in the way of them thinking clearly about their work. Because if they were thinking clearly, they wouldn’t have been pressuring support staff with no medical or mental health training to make decisions outside of our realm of knowledge. At some point operating in a state of emergency is not ethical.

That job is always gonna follow me. It made me so suspicious of “good people.” That’s maybe what the whole experience of transition did for me- make me really skeptical and suspicious of people who need to be “good people.” People who pride themselves on going to war every day. People like that end up creating a war to go to every day. Who wants to go to a doctor who’s fighting a war?

Not me. I’ve been to my psychiatrist since but I haven’t been to see a primary care doctor since that clinic. I don’t want to be in that power dynamic. Doctors really creep me out now.

Sometimes to get out of unhappiness you need to go be useful to someone else. But if you base your whole life on being useful to other people, that can turn into its own sick thing.

I don’t ever want to work in a situation like that clinic again. I especially don’t want to be like the doctors and management of that clinic.  Is that even possible? Those people ended up doing what they do because of a bunch of good intentions and trying to feel ok about themselves.

I see my psychiatrist this week. I think I’m going to ask to up my prozac. I know I’m thinking about real stuff, and stressful stuff, and I just have a lot of bad experiences that really haven’t gotten unpacked, but I need a little more serotonin to keep it level. Until I come across my dream therapist who is just like, aces at PTSD and disassociation. I’ll meet her soon I bet.




4 thoughts on “Helpers”

  1. I really like your own writing, too!

    Sometimes I am really in favor of bitterness, of owning the truth that someone did you wrong and hurt you, and still you are standing, and no one can fool you into believing that it was all somehow your own fault. That’s not always a good way to go, but it can be.


  2. The pizza-giving part of that Embarcadero blog had me in tears the first time I read it last summer, and again yesterday when I read it for the second time. I had been thinking about it recently, actually, so was glad when you brought it up as I’d forgotten the title or where to find it on your blog.

    Those situations that remind us of all those compassionate connections to each other always seem miraculous in some way, like designed to show us what we need to know at the moment we need to know it. I think they are very different, though, from actively curating your life around being charitable or helping others. I feel a little magical every time I happen across a critter that needs to be moved out of the road, for example, but if I volunteered at a charity event or soup kitchen, I think that as much as I’d be touched by the experience I’d also be fatigued. Like compassion can be nurtured in ourselves but not forced into our lives. Few things that are forced ever bring about happiness.

    It’s a weird thing, but my sister-in-law, who is all about the Christian Charity, is also staunchly opposed to the phrase “Remember there are others worse off than you.” At times I’ve found that hypocritical of her, but at the same time I think it’s comforting to know she’s not into that “I’ll save myself by saving others,” because there may just be an even bigger load of ego there.

    Liked by 1 person

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