Cw: eating disorders, self injury
This morning, I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, trying to find a position in which I couldn’t feel the wet suck of my shoulder joints being tugged apart. It’s been getting worse for a while now. Three dislocations in the last six weeks.
I should get help.
Other people say, “bad joints? Just wait until you get to my age!” I have suffered with these dislocations for the past decade. Or, “I didn’t think you could be too flexible!” At night, Sunshine can’t tell what part of me he is holding- my elbows bend backwards.
But I know there is no point in me getting help. Because I got help ten years ago, and I did my physio and practiced my exercises and I built up muscle around my shoulder joints until they no longer threatened to fall apart.
When I started going over on my ankles in the shower, I gave up wearing boots. When my knees threatened to buckle at pedestrian crossings, I bought resistance bands and started building up the strength in them, just as I had for my shoulders. I bought wrist supports so that I could do pressups without hurting myself.
I was a good patient. I helped myself.
So what changed?
A year and a half ago, I stopped going to karate because I was getting anxiety attacks nearly every session. When I stopped going to karate, I felt I no longer deserved to eat. My caloric intake at most meals was multiples of 6- the calorie content of a single unsalted peanut.
I faced down an eating disorder relapse with just one thought in my mind- I cannot afford to get sick right now.
If I got sick, I might not be considered to be “managing my mental health appropriately”. And if I wasn’t “managing my mental health appropriately”, I would likely have any referral to surgery refused.
Too dysphoric to get treatment.
But I needed to get better. So I got therapy. I got therapy and told them not to contact my GP. I learned which behaviours were helping me and which ones were hurting me. As I had with physio, I did my exercises. I relearnt how to eat, how to cope.
Everything became about coping. Not getting better. Just coping. Getting back to karate was never an option.
Coping means cutting off more and more of yourself to survive. Becoming less yourself until there’s nothing left to cut away. I used to wonder what I would do once I reached breaking point. Now I know. You break. Into smaller and smaller pieces.
I learned to eat again. I was at a healthy weight, and I lost a stone I still haven’t got back, but I didn’t lose another, and that was a victory.
But there was less of me left for the next time I got ill. I never went back to exercising, and my muscles wasted away, no longer holding my shoulders together.
Xmas was difficult- the scar on my arm still hasn’t faded. Sunshine’s family insist on muddling me with another trans person in the family. We look nothing alike- but we both have c*nts, so we both get called “she” and each other’s names.
“C*nt!” I shout through my tears. “That’s all they see. I have a c*nt, so I’m a c*nt to them.”
I hadn’t noticed the blood staining my sleeve yet, from where I ran out of places to run and my fight-or-flight mechanism turned inwards.
As I lay on the floor, ribs aching from binding, packer sitting uncomfortably in my boxers, I remembered how much of myself I have cut away so that these people treat me with a minimal level of respect. And now they’ve failed to do so. I cracked a rib last year- I threw up in a binder. I did that, and a thousand other stupid painful things, to get dehumanised at a fucking Boxing Day buffet.
They will never talk about it. They do not want to hear how I feel. It is not a subject for polite conversation.
When people show you they’re not willing to listen to how much they hurt you, you start to look for ways to get the point across that they can’t ignore as easily.
It’s not just that I’m too tired to do my exercises- I am. There hasn’t been a day in two months where I’ve woken up and not felt ill. But even the condescending, disbelieving sympathy I get for having bad joints is better than the tight-lipped disgust I face when I admit I’m unhappy.
When I first started mixing with other trans people, it surprised me just how many were disabled. It no longer surprises me. Because part of being trans means almost deliberately neglecting your physical health- for three reasons. One- to sustain your mental health; to get enough rest and keep yourself happy. Two- because your medical appointments are every four fuckening weeks and you just feel like a burden going “oh also my arms keep falling out” like it’s no big deal, because at this point it has become no big deal to you.
Three- because the fear that surgery will be cancelled is real. It happened to two people I know by name. I have to pretend that everything is fine because if I don’t, things will get an awful lot worse.
What I have chronicled here is a long, slow, inevitable descent. One that could have been halted at any point if I had felt able to get help.
So, promise me: if you’re sick, and you can get help- get help. Some of us can’t.