Surgery Day 12

I spent most of the day on my own yesterday. I had a bit a swelling and spent lots of time laying in the bed reading. It is better today.

The wound dressing change on the arm still made me a bit anxious. I was able to watch enough that I now know I will not be able to do this alone one handed even if I could handle it psychologically. It takes a lot of coordination to get the xeroform on just right. There’s no way I can do it one handed.

I also can’t tear fabric tape one handed or use scissors to cut gauze squares to place around the catheter stoma. My friend is going to leave a bunch of precut ones before leaving today. But will I really be able to switch between the leg bag and overnight bag one handed? Guess I’ll find out.

So for now the two things tethering me down and forcing my dependency on other folks are the catheter and the arm. I really don’t like feeling burdensome to others. I can’t wait until I alone am bearing the responsibility for my aftercare. I hope it helps lift a bit of this fog of what may partially be post anesthesia depression.

Surgery Day 10.

I’m told by others that you start feeling a bit more sorted day 14. Then, baring any complications it’s countdown week to catheter removal. The anti bladder spasm med has been very effective so far. No constant feeling of pressure like the last time.

All the antibiotics wipe me out but are a necessary evil. The only complaint is I’m starting to dribble a bit but I’m told this is normal as long as the catheter is still working.

I feel like I’m in a strange space of radio silence waiting to see if things spring back to life. I’m like the astronaut I. The capsule re-entering the atmosphere. Alone. Turbulent. Vulnerable. I’m either going to disintegrate or splashdown successfully. It’s nerve wracking and makes it hard to concentrate on much of anything else.

I miss feeling untethered. Tubes, bags, splints and wound dressing changes. But so far I’ve been very fortunate. Buddy is warm and pink and all the incisions look great.

Surgery Day 9

Trigger warning – wounds, dysphoria

After the change of the arm dressing yesterday I felt completely emotionally drained. Luckily a friend went in with me and kept talking me through it. It wasn’t painful physically but just looking at the site – it seemed I could see to the bone – flooded me with all kinds of emotions I had never processed before. I cried. I have barely cried since starting T. I hyperventilated. I broke into a cold sweat. I almost tossed my cookies.

Seeing myself torn open like that reminded me I am animal – trapped in a physical body I have battled for over a half century. Will I ever really be able to love it – with all the battle scars reminding me of the ordeal it has been to get to this bloody swollen mess? If I happen to get through the next few weeks with few complications will I finally find some peace?

Each surgery prior I did – a little less vigilance needed in public, feeling a little more comfortable in bathrooms, etc. How much dysphoria will be left? Will I be able to stay present and not disconnect as a way to manage pain?

Surgery day 8

First shower. Headed up to Marin to pick up some medical
supplies. Thankful for good friends who have helped me through so much of this ordeal. Pain now mainly arm. Still trying to wrap my head around all the emotions.

Surgery day 7

Trigger warning: meta and phallo complications, top surgery, dysphoria, pain, suicidal ideation

Home means sleeping uninterrupted. It also means all antibiotics are going into my stomach. It’s impacting my appetite and general feeling of nausea. I have to push through it seven more days. It would be awful to get an infection so late in the game.

I know it’s going to take weeks before the nerves start waking up so right now there’s no pain in – ok I didn’t think I’d be naming it but for the sake of eased communication lets do something conventional like “Buddy”. I’ve read quite a few other guys experiences and I am just now beginning to appreciate what they were saying about trying to become more aware of – and bond with their new buddy. Right now it’s just a chore – something I have to think about often. I can only see it. Is it propped up to reduce swelling? What if I turn over and lay on it and cut off blood flow? Is it turning blue or cold? The list of patrol questions go on and on.

I fight hard to not have all the negative stuff folks have written and said about phalloplasty run through my head now as my insensate phase – as I call it – is so vulnerable for me. And I have it easy because my surgeon could do everything in one phase. He did incredible work. I see a phallus with a glans. Some guys have multiple surgical phases to just get to the point I am now. They are amazingly resilient.

I mistakenly watched the Buck Angel documentary on Netflix the night before surgery. Please don’t get me wrong. He’s done great work for the FTM community and we each are entitled to form our own opinions and do what’s best for our unique mental and physical experience of dysphoria. But I have made a different choice and perhaps have a bit more faith in medicine. I need to remember that now and not get hung up on second guessing myself – especially as any complications come my way.

Perhaps some of my vulnerability is rooted in the fact that I “backed into” phallo – I had hoped meta with scrotoplasty and urethral lengthening would’ve been enough. I’ll never know. A failed fistula repair and retraction led me to this decision. If I hadn’t had those complications could I have been ok with meta? I’ll never know.

All I knew was I was still not comfortable in the locker room and stuck in line in bathrooms where urinals outnumber stalls. I still felt disconnected when I looked in the mirror. Yes I had balls and the v was gone. But I was still extremely dysphoric.

As large bits of dysphoria have resolved with each phase of my transition, for me the stuff that is left becomes sharper and I find I have less capacity to deal with it. I can barely remember what it was like before hysto and top surgery. All I know is I could never ever go back and live that way again. Why did I linger in such a disconnected fog for over 40 years of my life? How did I manage to stick around – and why do I still think of checking out as an emergency exit strategy when I hit unexpected turbulence?

Enough self reflection for today. I am going to go back to sleep and try to make these next few weeks of recovery pass by as quickly as possible. Yes I know I should try to stay present in the moment but sleep is a healthy escape for now.

Surgery day 6

Last night I was having a bit of nerve pain in the arm. The nurse wanted me to try the oral pain pill just to see if it helped and to make sure no reaction. Ugh. Nausea and dizziness for about 7 hours. I’m just going to have to make due with otc acetaminophen. All drains except suprapubic came out this morning. Just a bit of tugging sensation. Even the staples didn’t hurt. Worst part was seeing my arm. It looks almost to the bone in one part. They tell me it will fill in and the split thickness graft looks great. Changing the dressing daily one handed is gonna be an adventure. If I pass all the hurdles this morning like walking I may get to go home.

Surgery day 5

Lots of action this morning. Finally used a bedpan first time. Religious experience. Felt better. Got up to chair. A little woozy at first but going ok. Wonder how long it’ll last. Doc says at this rate once they get drains out I may go home tomorrow.

The new guy is doing well. Good blood flow. No sensation. Kind of freaky but I’m dealing.