This is a ‘second’ transition – a transition to living a normal life – and this is not talked about or at least not mentioned to the degree that it should be. In some ways this was expected but perhaps none of us that have gone through SRS really understood the full ramifications of. That is post-op depression. For some it’s huge. For me it’s a slight sidelight hardly worth mentioning, but yet, very important to mention…
We have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy planning, researching, questioning ourselves and preparing for transition – taking almost every second of our day and occupying our dreams at night. Suddenly all that planning etc. is over, done, accomplished – even the dreams stop. And here we are – marvelously and finally our true selves, whole at last – but all that action is gone, finished, leaving us somewhat devoid and that sends some into a depression or just feeling down.
I use the word ‘we’ as I’m mostly talking about others in the sisterhood (I use ‘sisterhood’ to mean all those that I went through SRS with plus many others that are post-op).
I’m quite active in a number of areas, so for me I was able to simply ease into a relaxed life. The greatest effect for me was being physically handicapped and unable to do a lot of the outdoor activities I enjoy (hiking, climbing, swimming, kayaking etc.). But I’m also creative, love learning and do a lot with computers. So I have many ways that I find rewarding and fulfilling. I also had spent a lot of time pre-op getting my psychological self in order.
In addition to this sudden lack of intense activity, there is a low level pain that is pretty constant for 4 to 6 months as down there is swollen and still healing. I can see the progress, but it is very slow, measured by the week – not the day. This has a couple of effects for me. First it either prevents me from doing activities I love or at best it makes me think twice if I should do something or not. But the thought is constantly present.
When I was researching SRS, as I was initially looking into the possibility that I wanted to go that far. I read about the maintenance that is required and was taken back by how much there was. Dilation for the rest of your life is a big one especially when you understand what and how and how often it must be done. Add to that the normal but new (for us) activities a woman has to routinely do: cleanliness, pads/liners, checking yourself/making sure all is ok and how to use the restroom – how to sit, clean, even how to urinate.
All these take additional time that before we never had to even think about. And now, the time to do all these duties constrains our ability to get into the things that bring us joy and keep us (anyone actually) happy and away from depression.
At times we feel so good, but then something else happens and back we go. The pain will sometimes abate, only later to come back in a different form. Just when we think things are getting better something else starts in. This is a long journey – it’s takes a year to recover from an operation this massively huge. But relapsing after feeling so good can be very difficult to take mentally.
So we have this seven pronged threat:
- Intensive mental activity leading up to surgery
- Physical handicap keeping us pent up and unable to do activities we enjoy
- Constant low grade pain
- Things taking so much longer to heal than expected
- The new duties
- Maintenance required with our new parts and the lack of time to do enjoyable activities that keep us out of depression
- Relapses after things were going so good
In a way, it’s equivalent to soldiers coming back from a war. It’s suddenly over but perhaps too suddenly. Everything keeps going around in our heads. It’s hard to let all of that go and settle down. It happens just too fast. And the ‘way of life’ is completely different. Whereas there was so much to do before, now there is a lot to do, but it is totally different.
For my sisters: this is much larger than you think or possibly can imagine. This is more than a change of your physical sex. It’s more than just living as the opposite gender. It’s also more than how society views you or more importantly, your own insecurities and fears. In addition to all of that, this is a profound life style change – right down to how you ‘wipe’ yourself in the restroom!
My advice for those that are contemplating SRS: Do your due diligence in researching this. Join online groups and social media that are targeted for pre-op’s. Once you settle on a surgeon – ask that clinic what pre-op and post-op social media they have and get invited to those (these are almost always private). Once connected – read back one year to get a good clear idea of what you are going to face. You will read about complications, about troubles and issues, but also about marvelous achievements and proud moments. A word of caution: everyone is different both in what they experience and the timing for various healings to take place. Take it all with a grain of salt as they say. But at least you will have a better idea of the full spectrum of possibilities and outcomes.
A bit of a soapbox moment: I saw so many sisters that carried high sexual expectations once they completed surgery. It bears mentioning that around 50% of women (gender) born female (birth sex) ever have an orgasm. A transsexual after completing SRS is no different and has the same statistics! We are all sensate (feelings and able to have an orgasm) – but the big ‘O’ is more than just being sensate. It requires a heavy mental aspect as well. What it requires is an opening up, being in tune with your body and being calm mentally and letting go. All of which are completely opposite of what is required of a man and is therefore even more difficult for a transsexual. My soapbox is this – do NOT go into this for sexual reasons. You really should only be doing this because you have a deep down need to have your life be congruent, to be whole, to embody the essence of who you are. Let the rest come – it will.
For most males (birth sex) under the ‘influence’ of testosterone, they have an almost daily urge. For me this was confusing and at odds to the woman (gender) that I am. Those urges caused a conflict in me as the male influence of testosterone had it’s way. This is part of what I called the testosterone poisoning. Getting on HRT and now completing SRS solved this and got that poison out of my system along with all of it’s effects. Mind you, if you are a cis male (meaning your birth sex and gender match), testosterone is perfect and wonderful and I appreciate that in others. However, for me, a transsexual, that was an awful burden that caused great disphoria and conflict. Of course for some this is a concern – will they still have sexual urges after HRT and SRS? And for a lot of sisters going through SRS this translated to worries about size/depth (again think testosterone – how many males do you know that are concerned with ‘size’ …) and orgasmic potential (especially after being able to, on demand). Granted, for those that are young and have or will have a male partner, these things are important – I’m not saying otherwise. I’m saying these should not be the top priority nor the reason for coming this far.
You are changing into a female (you are already a woman). Your body is now going to act and respond as one. This includes the much more subtle urges, the relaxed sexual tension (compared to before) and a completely different way that we orgasm. Many worry (I did) about how will we be satisfied if perhaps we can not orgasm or as often and ‘easily’ as we could before. When you come out of the ‘testosterone fog’ and into femaleness, the urges change too. In other words, you are now a female and your urges and abilities will match a female’s as well – do not fret over this, let it happen. Let me put this yet another way: your new body and self will match … perfectly!
And for those that have had surgery: This is HUGE! You had a major surgery – it does things to your body that take a long long time to heal. You might feel ok at the moment – but is it not finished. We need to take this one day and one thing at a time. Conquer it and it alone, then focus on the next. Don’t get overwhelmed – it’s so easy to do. This is going to take up to a year – all the adjustments, all the issues that come up – both physical and mental. So many times, the clinic has told us – recovery is 90% mental and it’s very true. I remember the first time I saw blood on my dilator – omg I went crazy worried. I reread the ‘manual’ the clinic sent me a dozen times. Did what they said – and no problem. But the mental anguish was difficult. Of course now I just put pressure on the spot (always a granulation) and it’s gone and done – not a biggie. And that is how most of recovery has to be dealt with. One day at a time, one thing at a time and put-in the time!
For some, this is a difficult period and an unexpected complication. I have a feeling that this may have been the reason two people I know of that committed suicide. So this is serious. If this is you – please, there is so much help out here – reach out – please …. There are a lot of us that have been through this – we made it, it’s more than possible – it’s just more hard work.
With so much Aloha