I stopped for a moment and just sat in the drivers seat. The radio was blaring something, I can’t remember what, it was something I liked with the volume blocking out any bad thoughts. I took a long breath and held that thought for a moment. The pressure from work was really taking it’s toll. I had taken the drive carefully and relaxed. I was sick of rushing to appointments just for them at work. Trying to get there on time and using my lunch hour and as little of their time as possible. No more. There comes a time when I just have to stop and take a breath – for me. I felt that I had brought my anxiety down and switched off the radio. I looked at the time; just a few minutes.
The cold was cutting walking through the car park. The icy edge of the breeze seems to seep in and out of my dull grey skinny jeans without effort. The mental health unit was as quiet as usual. Just an empty ambulance in the short sloping driveway. I pulled me hair tie out, pulled my hair back again and retied it in a ponytail.
In the porch was a wooden interior door. Every time I push I get the wrong one. Always the locked of the two. Today the door opened first time. The electric generated warmth hitting me like thick pea soup. Talking to the receptionist was Dr Neil bending over the desk looking at some paperwork in an otherwise empty room. He looked over as I entered bang on time. “Ah, here we are. Don’t sit down, come straight in.” he said in his usual happy way.
I took a seat. “How are you? Have you heard anything yet?” We didn’t need to build up to what we were talking about or an introduction. He knew what I was waiting for and I knew what he was talking about. “I’ve not heard anything. Only the letter for this appointment.”
“You should have heard something by now.” he sounded and looked disappointed.
“I don’t want to rush this along –” I said reiterating my need to take this whole thing at my pace with time to analyse and reason. “ – but I just feel like I’m on hold.”
“You shouldn’t be on hold.” he said with an offering of momentum in aspiration. “It was the end of last summer wasn’t it?”
I didn’t realise it had been that long since I was told my case would go to a board to be decided on whether to refer me on to a gender identity clinic and if they will fund it. While this wait has started to become tiring and at times getting to me, despite the need to keep it steady, it’s not the most major stress in my life right now. If anything it’s the over-salt in the meal making the stress more agitated and inflamed. “I’ll look into it and find out what is happening. You’ll hear from me soon.” he said putting a hopeful end to the disappointment and moved on.
“So how are you?” he said, “You look tired.” he continued with a concern moving into his expression. He read me like a good can’t-put-it-down book.
“I am tired. I’m not sleeping well. Work is getting to me. A bit of everything.” it had built up over the last few weeks. I began to well-up and my face started to fill.
We discussed how things had been recently, despite being on top of almost everything and keeping my newly found spirit alive, there had been a lapse. A moment within a week where the lone support had started to become fatigued. He remained serious and professional, his usual light hearted wit put aside, “Do I need to worry about you?”
“No.” I said briefly, pausing for a moment to rethink my answer, “– No. I recognised it happening. It was last week, Thursday. May be Wednesday. I felt myself falling and recognised it. I allowed it to happen and just sat through it. Waited for it to lift.” I reassured him, “Saturday. I felt it lifting on the weekend.”
We discussed my feelings. I was unaware of whether the blinds were open or closed. If anyone was walking past outside or whether the sun was piercing through the cold winter clouds or even if the surrounding hills of the valley were attracting the snow of January. My vision was narrow and focused only on my problems and how I’d been feeling recently.
I told him about how work was making me feel. The unnecessary idiocy of a select few managers and the competitiveness that overruled the mental health of staff. A work place shrouded in an attractive shiny gold leafing with a dark hollow inside.
“So you feel like one of the traders on the trading floor.” he got it. Right away. “A fish out of water.”
It was good that he spotted my fatigue and difficulty. “So I don’t need to worry about you at the moment?” He checked again. “You sure you’re ok.”
I nodded, “Yes. I’m fine. I’m coping.”
“That’s good. So I don’t need to prescribe anything.” He made a couple of notes.
I drove back to work with a mind, at least, at peace and a little reservoir of tears held in reserve under my eyes. A few days later a letter arrive on the door mat. It reminded me of the week before. I’d opened the front door after a hard working day. The letter looked official with my name and address through a window and the word ‘confidential’ in the top corner in blue. A thought came straight to my head, half in jest and half serious, ‘It’s here. At last. My operation. They want me.’ I knew it was just a letter from a service provider of some kind but for a few seconds I felt some genuine joy at the prospect of the whole thing finally arriving and getting done. It wasn’t and the letter was placed on the table while the thought settled,drifted away and reality returned.
The letter this week was from the mental health unit. The next appointment with Dr Neil. Another three months with a hope attached that some news will come sooner. Later that week I took a jog up to the top of the estate by the waste ground one cold evening. A brush of wild grass bordered with trees. Forests in the distance to the north hanging on the edge of the start of the valley where the weather clings and ferments. The seal of hope given by a blanket of pin sharp stars above only blurred by the steam of my breath as I stop at the fence for a moment to take it in. I am fine. Just fine.
Until next time