Nakedness

I cannot help comparing myself to the group. After seventeen years on hormones, I have beautifully shaped small breasts, but I notice on my age group the breast sags enough to hold a pencil underneath. Mine look improbably youthful, though small breasts sag less. My aureoles are small, and the nipples quite flat, flatter even than the men’s. Even if someone only looked at my breasts, they would see I am a trans woman. But then one notices the whole person, and I don’t feel that is some excluding mark here: we are a diverse group, and I am accepted.

These lady-gardens may be better pruned and groomed than mine. I could at least epilate around my navel, there are a lot less hairs there than there used to be, but there are still a few, and I am self-conscious. I go without my wig. One is not supposed to stare, but sadly I do.

We are an educated and mostly spiritually aware lot. I sit in the sun discussing morality and The Trolley Problem. Having compared my body to others’, mostly I lose my self-consciousness and enjoy the company. One has an all-over tan, he does this a lot, but most of us have white bits.

There is a ten yard long, oval swimming pool, slightly more than waist-deep. In the heat, we bob around in it, chatting. I kneel up on the bottom, swaying as the water moves. We can make it into a whirl-pool by all walking round clockwise, pushing the water ahead of us. Once the water is in motion, we float in it, swirling round, fast enough to bang my head on the steps and bumping into each other like soft dodgem cars.

The other exercise is to be held as we float. The water does most of the work, but two to five people stand around us, supporting us behind the head, back, and legs. If only one person supports, we can use a float under the ankles. I feel my trust in the people and the water, open one eye slightly and see the roof-beams move slowly past. It is delicious. I notice a slight tension in my abdominal muscles and want to relax completely.

I think of Carol, who did shoulder massage years ago, and observed I was not relaxed. Rather, I was co-operating, moving my shoulder or arm along with her but simulating surrender rather than making it. She put her arms around my neck as though to break it, and I was not unduly bothered, trusting her- but I could not relax. Now, I am mostly relaxed but for that abdominal muscle.

In this exercise, which is loving and delightful, I am working: I notice my sensations and thoughts and analyse them. I am analysing all the time. Always I am in the words, in my head. I ask to be supported in the small of my back, and relax more. Deliberately I turn my attention to the feeling of the water moving around me, splashing over my legs as I am held higher or lower, wanting to feel it directly rather than analysed and mediated through words. That is, I am working all the time. How should I be, in the world? How may I be like that?

Then I enjoy supporting. I want to give the person the most delightful experience. I feel five supporters on one person floating are too many: six people are probably enough to have two enjoying floating. We feel no need to discuss what we are doing. Next day D supports me, with a float under my ankles: I feel she does it beautifully, varying my sensations.

We have group sharing sessions, lolling in the pool. Things are coming up for me. It is not just a pleasant weekend under canvas, I am noticing how I am with other people. Other people are so strange! As I get to know myself better, getting beyond conventional understandings I picked up of how a person should be to see how I really am, I see them better. The person next to me shared, and I wanted the group share to go the other way round the circle, so I would not be next. I was silent for some time, wanting to honour and voice my negativity, balancing it but not denying it. I said, “I am Abigail. I could run away cursing and screaming. Instead I choose to throw myself into the Love”- and fell forward under the water. We were open and relaxed; and possibly this helped others be even more open as they shared. People said things I will remember, increasing my wish for their good.

We had to get dressed to walk up to the ridge, looking out to sea and on the other side over the valley inland. Walking through mature woodland was lovely, looking downhill from the path through the luminous dark. I talked of that suicide, and one said, “From another point of view it is the greatest gift anyone can give themselves, to stop their suffering. And, if you were my client I would tell you to think what you strive towards rather than flee- you say ‘I will not do that'”. I want to survive. Is there more from life than that?

We were camping inland, but I wanted to see the sea since I was so close to it. Picked up from the station, I asked to go to the beach first before the site. We paddled, and watched people swim in the sea.

A suicide

“She found a place in the woods, and chose to end her life in a gentle way with an overdose. It was a conscious death.” So, someone found her body, perhaps someone jogging or walking the dog.

I found out she was dead by facebook, which was a shock: various people I knew were paying tribute to her good qualities. I had met J, but did not know her well; I have a vague memory of one conversation in which she seemed to not understand transgender or what it might mean for me. In interlocking social groups, some people I respect and care about were her friends, doing the tributes. Bored on the train, I returned to facebook and learned she had killed herself, and felt such anger at her- how dare she! What a vile thing to do!

I am not currently suicidal, at least not at the planning stage as I was in December, so I decided to use her death to inoculate myself. That anger and disgust- I consciously chose to remember it, so I could recall it when at the planning stage, or even the execution stage, and possibly save my own life.

Angry, I am thinking what a stupid self-indulgent thing to do and self-indulgent is one of my strongest words of condemnation: selfishly putting my own enjoyment before others’ good. Ah. There’s a touch of envy in there. Envy surprises me. Perhaps I am more attracted to death than I would wish.

Emotions can roil, changing quickly, and apparently contradict. Sadness, contempt and pity I understand. Desire: I want something positive out of this, and creating something to talk myself out of self-slaughter might be it.

Sadness. She was a year or two older than me. I don’t know if she was still with that man. I see the sadness of her friends.

Anger with the fucking wisdom-bollocks. There she was, “spiritual but not religious,” consciously choosing death. Such “spirituality” can mean believing onesself capable of handling raw painful emotion, or, even worse, beyond it. She just stops existing: she exists in the memory of friends, and has influenced others’ lives, but she stops growing. She finishes.

It’s not something you would want unless you are sick. Or it’s something I might want for rubbish reasons, like to avoid seeing an unpleasant truth about myself: as a friend said, “It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Life has been going on reasonably comfortably, there’s some change which will take adjustment, and you kill yourself rather than adjusting.

Jesus said build your house on rock not sand, and that came to have new meaning for me this week: I had loved the verse

hard upon the solid rock
suburban semis stand
Come and see my shining palace
built upon the sand

because I had been told the “rock” was some tawdry ridiculous Christian dogma. Believe as we believe, follow our rules, and your house is on the rock. No- Jesus meant face reality, accept and do not deny reality, and then your house is on the rock. Jesus is right, and the dogmatists wrong. This small epiphany delights me.

“Suffering from clinical depression” said her friend. “Clinical” sounds defensive. No, really, she was really ill, not just feeling a bit down! We use “depression” to mean so many things. I can accept she was ill. “Suicide while the balance of her mind was disturbed”- these are old words, once meaning the difference between burial in the churchyard and burial at a crossroads, being acceptable in the community (because ill) and being irredeemably wicked, sent to the seventh circle of Hell. And also sick, where we imagine ourselves to be sane: she is different, across a line, we would not have that problem, surely.

The medical model, people doing things because of illness, is reassuring, both forgiving the suicide and making those who remain feel safe. Jesus said, face reality.

Suicide is not something you can choose without being sick- either depressed, unable to face reality or your own feelings about it, or possibly facing Alzheimer’s or some hideously painful, drawn-out end. I don’t feel paraplegia justifies it, and tend to feel I would clutch at life, wanting to endure my last twitching, rather than end it early for cancer or MS. I want to survive.

And I get suicidal sometimes. Being suicidal is the sign one is incapable of such a judgment- I cannot commit it without the balance of my mind being disturbed. I hope I will tell myself that, next time.

Mental health

Normally, the word “Kafkaesque” is too strong for my life. I have not turned into an insect, or been arrested on charges I don’t know, but which could be capital. I am not in the position of the mother who knows the social worker will take her child if she does not give the right answer, but has no idea how to believe what she must say.

Today has not been completely wasted.

Water has been coming into my flat for years, but only when the rain was particularly heavy and the wind in the right direction. Since March it has been coming in most rainy days. I told the letting agent in March, and eventually when I saw him and the landord outside, I invited them in to see the damp patches on the ceiling, the crack which drips along its entire length and the bucket under the light fitting with several pints of water in it. We went up on the flat roof, and saw the guttering on the upper storey was broken.

A few days later I saw a man with a blow-torch applying more sealant to the flat roof. Never accuse the landlord of not spending money. Water is still dripping in, though. Trickling, sometimes, down the light fitting. I called the agent again, and the secretary would see what was happening. She sent a man round.

The man and his son went with me up on the flat roof, where we saw water flowing from the break in the gutter onto some gravel on the flat roof. The son poked around on the gravel for a bit, and the father said the roof should slope a bit, rather than forming puddles like that. It may still be under guarantee. He thought the gutter should be fixed, but could not just come and do any job needing done- he had to provide a report, then a quote, for everything. Next door has water flowing down an inner wall. He left down the metal stairs and I just stood for a bit, thinking I should probably go down again but not really seeing the point.

Today I cycled to Scotstoun to see someone who works for the local mental health services. I had been referred by the woman trying to get me back in employment, then a woman, Ines, had phoned me, and told me I could have a “follow-up” appointment. She had quizzed me in great detail about my suicidal ideation, and I told her those metal steps were my chosen place for the drop, and how I had considered the precise nature of the rope and the knot I would need. I found the detailed quizzing wearing. Today, Bharti was surprised to hear I was suicidal in December, she thought it was in 2009. No, that was when I left the office at lunchtime intending to take my sleeping pills. The thoughts of hanging were around the start of this year. Even as I said it, I was unsure of the point of explaining.

I got the impression that she did not think she could do anything for me, perhaps because of funding, or the particular service she offered, and wanted to create a file record to justify that decision. “You’ve not got any goals,” she said, near the end of the 45 minutes. I reminded her that I had said my goal was to get back to work, as Esther’s minions were liable to take away all my income. I would like my rational self, which tells me to apply for work, and my emotional self which can’t bear to, to be talking to each other and working together. I would like to be able to talk about these things without crying. Near the end I was blurting all sorts of stuff about why I could not trust or respect my GP practice- the first mistake I can forgive, the second carelessness is more troublesome. Was that a mark down against me?

But the day was not completely wasted, because I cycled thirty miles in sunshine, and spent some time in mature woodland with these bluebells.

Hanging

When committing suicide by hanging, I would want the right quality bit of rope: I would want the knot to slip easily as I dropped, then hold tightly as I thrashed. I would not want to “dance til noon”. The metal steps out the back would be a good place, as it would give me a longish drop to get the knot good and tight: the shock might make me unconscious instantaneously. When I got the rope, I would consider the appropriate knot.

I am not suicidal at the moment, but I gave this some thought in December. Then when I might see an NHS psychotherapist and was assessed whether my depression was severe enough, she quizzed me in detail about my suicidal ideation- or fantasy. I did not think about being found, either the shame of it or the shock for the finder. Yes I made acts preparative to suicide, in 2003 and 2009. She found my depression moderate, which might have been severe enough, but my anxiety only mild to healthy, which was not enough. I wonder if my anxiety would manifest more if I were living with someone else. Clare, you are not bringing in any money, and the house is a tip again. And I would go quakey and start to greet.

Feelings manifest themselves consciously when they need to, when the conscious mind is making demands. So I thought I wanted to go to the Quaker meeting, and then manifested anxiety symptoms. No, I do not want to see those people. And my inner rationalist looked on, perplexed but persuaded by the manifestation.

-Who are you angry with?
-The whole fucking world.
-Are there people you warm to?
-Yes, actually, including some who do not warm to me.

I am seen as someone to fear, which perplexes and bamboozles me, because I see myself as gentle, and have been at great pains to establish to my own satisfaction that I would not get physically violent. And because I find my own force of character difficult to understand, whether I constrain it or let it run free. It terrifies me how badly I can come across when I mean well.

I want to be able to sit in silence with these people and chat over coffee after. I want that to continue, and if that seemed reasonably stable I would want them to give me a task which I would find worthwhile. Quaker Voices printed my writing, but it has shut down.

-What does being Quaker give you?
Pain. But also contact with stimulating highly intelligent spiritual empathetic witty people. This is a connection I don’t want to lose, but if my becoming distressed is a Wrong that I commit, which could justify my exclusion, then I might be excluded at any time for something I cannot control. When we fall out, we fall out really badly and can be self-righteously vindictive.

I will try to come across as loving and positive, and hopeful, and not let rage and terror too much get in the way.

-Are there enough warm souls to carry you forward?
-No.

And yet when I said I could not be my whole self, that my distress was unwelcome, he denied it. Perhaps he does not know. I want our naked humanity to come out. There was some backslapping about the story-telling event, when lots of us gathered to hear a story-teller from Bedford. I felt that was a missed opportunity, that we should come together to see each other, to know and be known, not to be entertained, but the friendly togetherness and light small-talk was adjudged a success.

I value the silence. I find it hard work, to be present with my whole self, to accept my whole self, to know my whole self- sometimes I approach that, sometimes I don’t.

In December, I gave the matter of how I would hang myself some thought. I do not want to be maimed. I do not want to survive it. I want it to be as quick and painless as possible. I note that I am using the present tense, even though I do not want to do it, now.

Jade Eatough

Jade Eatough was living as a woman in a men’s prison when she hanged herself. In 2005, he sexually assaulted a 19 year old woman. He had his arms around her but she shouted and swung her arms, and he ran off. Two hours later he held a knife to the throat of a fifteen year old girl, marched her to waste ground and raped her. In mitigation, his barrister said he had been damaged as a child by physical and sexual abuse. The offence was so ordinary that it was reported in the local paper, the Accrington Observer, but not more widely. Her suicide on 19 August was reported in the Sun and the Mirror.

She had started hormone therapy, but not had surgery. She was in a men’s prison as she had no gender recognition certificate. She was not on suicide watch.

I also found the UKStar, which seems bizarrely autotranslated: “She was vital as a lady” rather than “she was living as a woman”. “A prison service orator” rather than “spokesperson”. “She was detected passed during a slight dungeon check”. UK prisons are unpleasant, but we don’t use dungeons any more.

Jessica Winfield, also a trans woman in prison for rape, was moved into segregation, and the Sun reported that this was for making sexual advances to female prisoners. The Independent reported that she was segregated for some other reason, quoting “a source close to the situation”. Prisoners are segregated for their own protection. Prisoners may be tried for offences committed while in prison, and the prison governor can impose additional days which extend the date of release. The governor can also impose cautions, solitary confinement, loss of earnings and loss of access to the canteen. Segregation is not a punishment.

Winfield had had genital surgery, and a Gender Recognition Certificate, but when I read about her first she was referred to by her former name, Martin Ponting. I repeat the name in case you come across it elsewhere: she is Jessica. She changed her name ten years ago, but was only transferred to a women’s prison in March.

Female inmates might reasonably object to a rapist in their general population. Winfield needed protection, and the Sun reported that she was punished for wrongdoing. How civilised a country is can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable people. The crimes are monstrous, but the punishment should be the loss of liberty, not violence and the fear of violence in gaol. Jade Eatough did not deserve to die.

Their transitions show how desperate a trans woman can be. They transition in a male prison, as only at the end of the process can they be sent to a women’s prison. They might hope to be unobtrusive in male role, but they have the courage or single-mindedness to transition. They do it for the same reason we all do, that it will make their lives better: that life marked out as a weirdo and victim in prison is preferable to life as a man.

There are about eighty trans folk in prison in England and Wales. Their punishment should be no more painful or onerous than any other person in prison. There were five trans deaths in prison between 2008 and 2016. That is a higher risk of death than anyone else faces.

Suicide

The Samaritan woman wondered if I had thought of killing myself. I have taught myself not to, and this is how.

I wanted to die, and looked longingly at buses- could I fall under one? I started thinking more seriously of it. I decided I must not hurt anyone else. It would hurt my father to know I had killed myself, so it must appear like an accident. But crashing head on, on a fast road, might kill the other driver and their passengers.

-It would be murder, she assented.

And it must be relatively quick. I could not think of a way which satisfied these three requirements, so I did not.

People regret, sometimes immediately. A procurator fiscal told me of a man who had hanged himself with sisal, then tried to loosen the knot, scratching desperately at his neck, but could not. A coroner’s assistant told me of people throwing themselves off the cliffs at the South coast, and landing on a ledge a short way down. Perhaps they broke an ankle, could not climb back up, and died of exposure. Those who survive jumping from bridges- their first thought is often to the effect What have I done!

I contemplated how I loathed killing spiders. I would if I had to, because of my arachnophobe friend, but find them fascinating and beautiful. How much more beautiful is my hand! I might hate myself and want to escape, but how could I kill something as beautiful as this organism?

In 2003, I had had enough. I decided to take painkillers, and thought they would kill me more easily, and I would become unconscious more quickly, if I washed them down with whisky. I went into the living room to get the whisky and found my bathwater dripping through the ceiling. I could not bear that. I called the landlord, who called a plumber to fix it, and when he had gone the feelings had gone away. That was my proof of the existence of God for years after. I told a friend who said, “Your guardian angel knows how you tick”.

-Yes, she said, guardian angels, God looking after us
-sometimes the synchronicities work really well.

In 2009, I was sitting in the office and decided I would kill myself. I had got sleeping pills from my GP, but they were too strong, making me feel tired all the time by day. I kept them in case I decided on suicide. I left the office at 1pm, and went home. I would lie in the bath with a mug of hot chocolate and take my pills. I got home, sat in my living room, and realised I did not want to kill myself, I just had to leave that situation there and then, immediately, without any plan of what to do next.

Since then I have realised how fiercely I want to survive. I could not kill myself. It colours my view of assisted dying. Suicide is stupid. A friend said every time the subject came up, “It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Perhaps he too had had to talk himself out of it.

berthe-morisot-girl-with-greyhound

I hate myself

Googling “I hate myself”, with quotes, produces 902,000 responses. Images are dark with text like “I lie I cut I’m a terrible person I’m lonely” and “Everyone is better prettier skinnier funnier than me”. I am unsure what to make of “I hate myself but that’s OK”.

We kill ourselves because we hate ourselves. I wonder how common it is? Trigger warning, below, for sexual violence- the actual text is minimised and there is a further warning.

I loathe the first entry on Google. Figure out what you CAN change and do it!

If you don’t like something about yourself that you can actually change, start to do that today. Maybe you don’t like your weight you can start eating properly, and getting exercise TODAY! Has he any idea how difficult people find dieting, and what comfort people get from eating? Possibly they could find better comfort in exercise, the runner’s high, but they need to know the mechanism. It is not so simple. The next suggestion, find out what friends and family value about you, is better.

How common is self-loathing? According to Psychology for Everyday Life, most of us. It tells us to challenge our Inner Critic.

Liz Jones hated herself and found herself inadequate despite being a successful writer who went to receptions at the House of Commons. “My male side has retreated, meaning people don’t respect me.” Useful information for trans women. When she had just started primary school, some older boys

trigger warning for sexual violence: highlight to reveal text

pushed her into the boy’s loos, stripped her and repeatedly kicked her.

Would that-

I feel that hating myself performs a useful function. It holds me in restraint. This could be useful for any number of people- first my parents, then bosses, anyone but me.

I felt decades ago that I was at war with myself, that I pulled in different directions.

I wonder if saying “I hate myself” is a superficial, emotional reaction for some people. You get upset, you feel you have made a mistake, you hate yourself. Then there is the deep, settled, constant loathing.

Hello.

It sits under consciousness, manifesting as anxiety and depression, sometimes surfacing as the inner critic- manifesting that control for the behoof of others-

I want to see it and recognise it.

I hate myself. I hate my reactions, my responses, my weakness, my hiding and running away, my failures.

Perhaps it comes from not being loved as a baby.

Hello, back.

Yes. It has been so difficult, terrifying, enraging. All that feeling which is so hard to admit, which is shit me.

I want to pay that respect. It has served a function. It has been so strong. All that pent up rage. I wonder if I can loosen it: talk to it, calmly and reasonably: make friends with it, because it is part of me.

Blake the mission of virgil- inferno

Sonnet: to a friend contemplating suicide

 If you should think of dying, think of me.
There'd be some corner in another mind
That was forever sadness. There would be
A rich potential lost. In you I find
The laughter learnt of friends, and gentleness
and think, your heart, all goodness shed away
without which England always will be less
its love, its brilliance, choosing Night o'er day.
I know your hurt, the inescapable part
of that fey softness where your beauty lies,
The vulnerable you is my sunshine.
If you despise the grandeur of your heart
so what was made God's image cruelly dies
'twould shadow all your sweetness with your crime.

It has a clear debt to Rupert Brooke.

Euthanasia

I have always been against euthanasia. I have been happy with assisting suicide being criminal. Might I change my mind?

Having been suicidal, I know that it is no solution to any problem. I feel that any life is better than death. And, I know what it is to Want something ridiculous or disgusting in others’ view- my transition- and from that can empathise with bodily integrity identity disorder- those people who want parts of themselves amputated.

I would want not just anybody to be able to assist someone to kill themselves. I would want this restricted, so there was a clear evidence trail: so my scheme would need particular licensed, medically qualified killers, a psychiatric assessment, and an independent witness of the person’s desire.

I loathe the idea that someone might kill herself now, because in a year she will have no quality of life, and will be unable to kill herself. If you can get yourself to a high building and over the parapet, you can kill yourself- though in a selfish way, hurting the people who have to find you, and scrape you up. Incidentally, there are some very very bad places to throw yourself from the cliffs at Beachy Head: you might land on a ledge, broken but conscious, then die of exposure because no-one could find you. A coroner’s assistant told me this. And a man who hanged himself with a sisal rope had scratch marks at his neck: he had changed his mind, but been unable to loosen the knot.

Having been suicidal, I can report that there is a ghastly unreality about one’s fantasies. I imagine myself relaxed and content, slipping off, whereas the threat to life brings forth primordial brain structures, raging at the dying of the light.

Suicide is utterly horrible, the declaration of final hopelessness. My friend said “It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. But not in these cases: someone terminally ill whose illness will slowly strip away mental and physical function and cause increasing pain-

A year ago I would have been unequivocally against euthanasia. It is an easy way out for the medical profession, too: they strive for effective palliative care, because that is their only option. I want them to work very hard on palliative care. They still will, many of them. Any mercy killing is an admission of failure for them.

Over the last few months I have been coming round, and this morning sitting down to think it through, here, I have come round to supporting euthanasia for the terminally ill. I am not quite there for everyone who wants it: not for depression, not for someone paralysed from the neck down as I dare to hope such a person, forced to live, might find some meaning in life.

Uses of Memory

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Rossetti_girlhood.jpgThe train left the platform, slid into the tunnel, and stopped. The lights went off. There is only the ghostly light of laptop and smartphone screens. Irritating. Philip and I have said all we have to say to each other, or all we can say, and we are silent. As the minutes tick on, I realise I will have to go straight to Kings Cross rather than get out further South and walk the streets. I had wanted to walk through the British Museum, its glass-roofed central court captivated me. Still does.

-Why have we stopped?
-Probably a suicide, jumped in front of a train.
And I feel such resentment. Selfish bitch. What are tall buildings for?

Smart-phones? Surely not, not in a tunnel, though people could be looking at old texts and photos. Oh yes, it was a year or two before they came out. Not smartphones, just lap-tops. And- did we decide suicide was the likely explanation, or hear about it after? And did we make conversation, or have That Conversation which breached our friendship finally, then? I am quite clear that I had wanted to walk through the museum, though from what I understand about memory that could be an addition coming into my mind later. Like in the song.

If I can unconsciously reconstruct a memory, and remember it differently from how it was- spoken testimony is among the least reliable of evidence- then, can I make it different, on purpose? I have met fantasists and liars, creating mythical worlds in their history or other lives, but this would be consciously for the purpose of contemplating reality and myself rather than deceiving anyone.

-I felt such resentment.
-I felt such sympathy, and prayed for her. I am sure she was female, whether or not we realised it was suicide at the time, or heard it later, or indeed there was some other explanation.
-(Oh no, she’s going to say it-) “Probably a bit of both”. Depending on which is most acceptable to hold in consciousness, what is swirling about underneath.

Someone asked about coming of age, and I thought of that Menarche ceremony. Then I thought of how F had worked so hard to prevent me taking part among the adult women that I had gone off and sat by our camp fire. Resentment. And- can I concentrate on other parts of that memory? The Resentment swam into my mind, seemed the most important part of it. I heard of an NLP technique- view an unpleasant memory as a small monochrome image, but good memories full of detail and colour. I have no mind’s eye, but the principle holds- remember other parts, give them prominence. That walk in the sunshine with S, perhaps, or the discussion with the other queers about exclusion- all the acceptance I had-

Can I change my frightened hiding, my rejection of the world, into joyous acceptance? Can I by vibrating see opportunities and possibilities, and grasp them? Or will that happen through healing if I just let it and do not try to force it?