I drove at pace along the dual carriageway from work to the hospital trying to get there before the queue of mid-afternoon Friday traffic began blocking the roads as it always does on late appointment days. Thankfully, being the half-term break, there was little to stop me getting in on time and in fact I arrived ten minutes early.
In my previous session with the psychologist he asked me to phone the secretary of the psychiatrist to ask if he intended to refer my case to, we shall for privacy’s sake, call him, Dr Churchill. He is the last in line of professional opinion at the local hospital, a head consultant psychiatrist when it comes to matters at the Mental Health Unit and for this care path the Gatekeeper. It would be my case that is referred rather than me personally meeting him. I have an appointment coming up in due course with the psychiatrist but José, the psychologist, thought if I were to ask before hand it may help speed things up given my last appointment was delayed. I was slightly hesitant before I dialed because I hoped that the secretary wouldn’t feel I was being pushy and putting my nose into office logistics. The secretary was Cary, the one who sat behind the desk at the waiting room and so I was already nearly two years familiar with her. She assured me that the question would be put to the psychiatrist and she would ask him to e-mail any response over to José in time for my Friday afternoon appointment, and that day was today.
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of my up and coming session with the psychiatrist. I think I kind of expected the psychiatrist to say that he would let me know about any referral after my next session, may be we would need a further talk before any progression would be made. That would be fine by me in many respects. This is no longer a desperate goal but a path that I am walking along at a pace that is right for me. If I ever feel it’s too slow then I always have the option to call and pester which I do quite well when need be.
I took a slow walk along the car park and made my way to reception. There was no rush given how early I would be and the last thing I wanted would be waiting for an age in the reception waiting room, besides, for a change, it wasn’t raining. I may have had a tea too many before leaving work though. “Hello.” I said to Cary behind the desk. There is never any need to confirm details, Cary knows me well enough now and confirmation of my arrival is just a hello and a smile. There was only one person in the waiting room so I quietly added, “Have you a toilet I can use.”
“Sure.” she said.
I’d never been behind the door at the back of the waiting room and I have always been curious what was behind it. May be it was part of a secure unit that only in-patience get access to. What was behind it, oddly enough, was another waiting room for another section of the hospital but the lights dim and unused at this time of day. We walked through the door. Before showing me the loo she handed me a slip. She said the psychiatrist had been in touch with José as requested, “You can take this to out-patients for your test though I think they’ll be finished for the day but you can come up any time next week it’s no problem.”
The slip had a clear plastic pocket on the face, lots of green boxes with mostly surprisingly legible hand written notes within and a signature from the psychiatrist. It was a blood test form. “Toilets are just through there on the right.” she said as she headed back through the mysterious door and back to her desk. I wandered into the next quiet corridor lit only by a slither of day light and a glow from some exit signs above contemplating how I suddenly went from psycho-analysis to a medical blood test. Half of me knew this was something to expect and yet the other half was quite confused and I must admit a little surprised. For the next few minutes I examined it in… well… private. Two things stood out amongst the scribbles both of which contained the word, ‘Testosterone’.
I’ve always been curious about what my Testosterone levels may be, whether it actually mattered or would be part of the cause of my gender dysphoria I don’t know, but I’ve never actually asked to have them tested and while quantities of Androstanolone racing through my veins probably have little to do with being transgendered it has suddenly become quite interesting. In fact I kinda felt like I’d hit is small goal without asking. That little slip felt like a gift wrapped in soft paper and topped with a delicate bow. Later that weekend I looked up some of the other mysterious test acronyms that I’d never had on a blood test before. They translated to those that to some extent are more weighted to the female including Estrogen and Prolactin. That’s not to say levels are not relevant to men, but they’ll be lower for one sex and higher for the other; what they’ll be for me time will only tell. How relevant that will be is yet another story but medically it’ll probably just be a standard baseline test they’re doing in preparation for a further referral.
José popped his head around the corner wall of the waiting room, “Hi.”, he said in his usual gentle way, “Come on in.” It was the middle room of the triplets today. I’d not been in the middle room for a while, may be I should have by now, named them after the three tunnels from the Great Escape or more humorously like Eddie Izzards version, Charlie, Barlie and Farlie. Barlie wasn’t quite the usual rubber stamp of the other two rooms that it had been. Someone had moved one of the chairs so we were no long sat along side the window together, only the one chair, but it didn’t matter as these little things become irrelevant once the session starts. The comfort comes from someone listening without judgement and with highly skilled methods to work through problems.
We looked at how my well-being had been transformed since the beginning, what I had been up to since our last session and how well I have handled things day-to-day and we even touched on the subject of welling-up, which sometimes I do at odd moments that seem to make no sense. But as José said, why not accept these moments for what they are and how it’s okay to have these moments. I also mentioned how the sight of these blood tests had made me feel in the last half an hour, even if from an interest and intellectual view it was a good thing. May be nothing will come of them, may be they’ll just confirm that my body is at least red blooded male rather than then melted chocolate fueled person that I am inside.
Our session came towards an end, “How would you feel about our sessions stopping?” José asked kindly. For possibly the first time I felt quite confident to say that I could move forward on my own.
“I feel I have the tools to deal with situations and to accept who I am. I feel balanced at the moment and I can move forward at my own pace.” I added.
“I like that you said you have the tools. You are certainly much better than when you first started with us where you were questioning every part of who you are.”
“I know.” I said, “It’s like I can go into a cafe and actually enjoy a coffee rather than sit there and question myself and tell myself how I will never be like, say, that woman who just walked past me in the cafe.”
Just saying those words gave me reflection on how much I had progressed in my mental well-being since I’d started. Our conversation came to a cool down, he mentioned Carl Jung, a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist, which we’d not spoken about since I first started. He even said that he has kept a couple of sessions in the bank should I ever need them rather than booking something in now. My case would be marked as closed with respect to his work with me but I can at any time book an appointment without having to be re-referred, although there will always be a little wait to get inside his diary at a reasonable time, but it won’t be the months of a GP or psychiatrist referral.
As I left the building I took a quick detour to outpatients, just on the off-chance that I might get my blood test done. Hell, why not. If I could it would mean one less trip, less painstaking time to make up at work and a greater chance that the results would be back in time for my May appointment with the psychiatrist.
The sliding doors of the Outpatients block opened tiredly as if the end of the week was just as tiring for them as it is for everyone on a winding-down Friday afternoon at the hospital. The corridors deserted and only the main reception with a couple of staff behind the desk set in a large rectangle hole in the wall and a member of staff alongside me picking up records. “Is it possible to have a blood test done?” I queried in hopeful tones and a brief wave of my blood test slip.
“Yes, just down the corridor, the open door on the left.” she said. I couldn’t believe my luck. I made my way down the corridor and found an open door, from which light shone into the deserted dusk seating area, and knocked. “Is this blood tests?” I said to a tall man in those green functional trousers and top with a bit of a tattoo showing from under the short sleeves.
“Yeah, just take a seat over there and I’ll be with you in a minute.”
I took a seat. The large waiting area was unusually quiet. When I’d been here in the past it was luck to get a seat and I’d need one as usually I’d be waiting long over any appointment time. Late in the afternoon, just a hair after half past four and the area was empty. The small confectionery counter on the corridor corner was shut, I didn’t even know until now that it had roller shutters, that’s how shut it was.
The nurse continued to finish tidying just beyond the door for a moment while I sat in the waiting area with the only thing running through my mind was how many vials of blood it would take for what would be around ten or twelve blood tests. I don’t think I gave a second thought to the reason-box that almost clearly stated “…for gender dysmorphophobia.” It’s the first time I’ve read it described that way, but I didn’t really care. Soon enough I was on the chair and four vials shorter of blood in my veins.
I headed back to the car carrying my pull-over and my trophy cotton wool paper-taped to my arm.
Until next time. x