Saturday, March 22, 2008

something's lost, but something's gained in living ev'ry day

[I started writing this post a few months ago, and just got around to finishing it today. interestingly enough, the sentiment about gains/losses it ties a lot into thoughts I've been having about babies, and the thoughts about the changes I've seen in libido have stuck with me, too- both thoughts which I've started exploring in other half-finished posts.]

As stated so succinctly by Dolly Parton (though I guess Joni Mitchell said it first), life is all about the give and take. Certainly transitioning has brought immeasurable improvement to my life, but not all of the changes have been exactly 100% positive.

So, here are some things that I feel are different for me now as opposed to 2 years ago- things that I can't prove have been directly caused by my transition (or, more specifically, by using testosterone) but that I nonetheless feel are caused in large part by my transition. This is all largely qualitative, subjective, anecdotal information- I haven't charted anything, haven't so much as tried to keep track of grumpy days and less grumpy days. I will say that about 6 months ago I started injecting my T on an 8 day cycle instead of the 7 day/weekly cycle I'd been using...I'd been one day late a few times in a row and noticed that I seemed to be less irritable, so I kept up the pattern. Who knows if it's really better than a 7 day pattern or not? I will say that my acne is better on the 7 and 8 day cycles than it was on the 14 day cycle- that is a definite!

1) Attention span
I don't have the attention span that I used to. It's harder for me to focus on something, and harder to follow through on a task. This could be due to post-college drop off in flexing my brain, of course! But it feels different than that. I'm much more likely to just bounce up and get a snack every 20 minutes when I'm trying to do something, or to start a project and then start thinking about something else and start a totally new project without resolving the first one. [or start writing blog entries and get distracted and let them sit for 4 months!]

2) Irritability
Oh man. This is a pretty big one. I've got a much shorter temper than I used to have. I used to be able to let most things roll off my back, and I still let a lot of things go, but it's much harder, and I can't let it all go.

It's a weird feeling, too- I'll start to get irritable or defensive about something and I can feel myself tightening up and closing off and getting irritable, but it's very hard for me to just defuse it and let it go, though sometimes deep breathing helps. Even when I literally say out loud to myself "Eli, you're being irrational, you're being defensive, just let it go!" it's hard for me to get back to normal without snapping a bit, which usually immediately defuses my feelings, but often makes me feel bad.

On the other hand, it has helped me be more forthright about my needs- if anything, I was a little TOO meek before, and liable not to speak up on my own behalf. I don't always like the way I go about doing it (words spoken irritably are not the most effective, or the kindest way to do things), there's no question that I am speaking up for myself more now.

3) Patience

This ties in pretty closely to the previous point. Not only am I more liable to get irritated/defensive about things, I have less patience than I used to. I noticed it first in very specific situations: restaurants, where the bill or the food wasn't coming fast enough. Particularly when it seemed to me that there was no real REASON that it wasn't coming. Whew! I get impatient much more quickly these days. I was a pretty intensely patient person to begin with, though, so I'm not TOO worried about it. I'm still more patient than the average bear, I think. But I can tell a difference.

4) Sex drive!

Yes, it has increased, but not a huge amount. As I've mentioned before, I still think about sex just as frequently as I did before. It's just much more insistent than it ever was before. I think my Dad said something once (and maybe he was quoting someone) about how women think about needing sex like needing chocolate: you want it, you like it, sometimes you absolutely crave it. Men think about needing sex like needing food: you prefer really good to mediocre, you prefer to have it frequently, but the bottom line is that it's necessary for survival.

It occurs to me to wonder if this might have something to do with what I mentioned above about my attention span. I'm much more likely to let thinking about sex distract me from a task or project than I was before, maybe because of a double whammy of more insistent libido and less focused attention span?

5) Verbal ability

This is the one I'm least sure of, and most scared of. I can't say for certain, but it feels like my verbal fluency has decreased. Again, who knows how much of it is my brain languishing post-college, but even if you look at my blog posts, I feel like there's a difference in my ability to be articulate between two years ago and now. I'm just not quite as fluent...I have a bit of a harder time expressing myself. And that includes my feelings, too, which I've found in a few so-cliche-could-it-really-be-true? moments when having conversations with my partner about 'processing.'

I feel like my spelling has gotten worse, and it just feels harder than it used to for me to string sentences together into a coherent whole. I wish I could back that up, but I can't. And maybe it's all in my head! Just wish I'd had some kind of increase in spatial reasoning or something to make up for it!

6) Reaction in upsetting situations

I used to be prone to tears when faced with stress. Now, I will still feel stomach-clenching distress, but I no longer have that sense of tears threatening to break lose. I'm more likely to get angry than watery eyed. This is both good and bad- I feel much more in control than I used to. I hated the feeling of tears threatening when I was upset, particularly in public. It made me feel so weak, and like everyone who witnessed those tears was thinking me weak as well. Reflectively, I think that's too bad, and clearly part of this notion that we have in society that tears are only okay when you're (legitimately) sad, not when you're just upset or freaked out. Especially for dudes! And really, tears are a great reliever of stress and adrenalin and whathave you, and now I sometimes wish that I could just cry and get it out. And it's not so good because, while being angry may make me feel less weak, ultimately it's not a preferable reaction- I don't think clearly, I'm much more likely to say something I'll regret, or do something that doesn't improve the situation.

Anyway. Now, when I do tear up (and it's often in sort of funny moments, like when reading about an underdog sports team), there's a momentary flash of heat and wetness in my eyes, but it very rarely blossoms into actual tears. I cried one solitary tear when I went to see that movie "The Savages" even though the sad and upsetting emotions it raised in me were pretty intense.

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