Things were getting sorted. I have work. The referral to London had gone through and I was back with the psychologist just to sort out some emotional issues and of course being May and dropping into June the sun is shining; at least for most of the week dotting with some thick pea soup humid days. Life was back into a cycle without being mundanely cyclic. If there was a marriage between me and life right now it wouldn’t be monotonous. I really do have choice and things are still a little uncertain enough to be a little exciting.
Two weeks ago I thought it might be a good idea to give that place in London a call, the place I’ve been referred to. A false start back in twenty-fifteen when I wasn’t getting answers to why I hadn’t received anything in writing to only find out a year later someone had messed up and no referral was received.
As usual an answer phone cut in and I left a phone number and a date from the seventies. A week later I received a voice mail. “I’m returning your call, we had a message from you yesterday – ”, yesterday? If that’s your idea of a working week I want a part of it, “I can’t find your date of birth on the system so I don’t know if I’ve got it wrong, if you could call us back.” The date was correct and so a little part of me sighed that may be I would have to go through all this again.
I called back and explained the situation to the emptiness of that answer machine once again. A week later and still no return call. It was a Friday and if I was going to call them again it would have to be in the morning if I was to get any sort of cog moving in an office in central London that was part of the heel dragging NHS. To my surprise there was a person on the other end and to my not-surprise she wouldn’t be able to help but to get someone to call me back. They did.
I was hoping, although expecting it wouldn’t be the likes of June, but at least I wouldn’t be waiting the whole queue to join the gender identity club at Charing Cross. The idea had already been planted when my local psychiatrist suggest down the phone when he chased up why my referral hadn’t come through that I shouldn’t have to wait all over again, in his words, “it would be unfair” and judging by the his response it might have been a possibility.
The answer came quick, short and to the point. “We have your referral yes, the current wait will be twelve months.” I explained, as a well built-up in my face along with adrenaline and cortisol as I felt anger and upset all in one, how my original referral was March 2015, “I’m afraid there is nothing we can do.” Despite how I felt at that moment I wasn’t angry at the person at the end of the phone or their clinic at that point. As far as they were concerned they had only got the referral in April this year even though they were aware of the back story. I was stuck between wanting them to do something and yet sympathetic to their system; for some reason.
I let myself think for a moment as I clicked that hang-up button on the phone and then dashed upstairs and flicked through all my appointment letters from the local hospital until I found the one where I’d written in black ball point pen in my cleanest handwriting all around the type-face the contact details for each psychiatrist and their secretaries.
I had decided before I even entered a digit into the phone that I would ask for the psychiatrist. I don’t normally do this as I respect that they may be tied up with a patient and allow the secretary to pass a message on, but not now. It rang and rang and then she answered with some kind of rushed-off-the-tongue introduction to the department that would only mean something to other staff and certainly nothing to a patient. “Hi, can I speak to Doctor Farasat please.”
“I’m a patient.” I gave my details as abruptly as this particular person had always been to me whenever I rang; I felt like an inconvenience.
“He’s not in yet. Can I ask what it’s regarding.”
I explained what the situation was, the referral from twenty-fifteen, my call to London and the distressing news that I was back at square one in the referral process. As as quickly and abruptly as I could make the explanation came the equally short-shrift response. “There is nothing we can do about that, even though it was our fault.”
It was said in such a way as I felt that she was saying ‘what do you expect us to do?’ and I suppose what I expected even if there is nothing that could be done was at least a minimal apology. I’ve never had one like I’ve not had the copy of the original referral letter for my own records giving me the ability to take some of this into my own hands despite asking and being promised. “We can’t get them to change their waiting list.” she continued.
While there may be some or all truth in that I felt a bit fobbed-off. Even when things on paper seem that way because of rules and regulations sometimes it’s worth at least someone trying on behalf of the patient. I wouldn’t let this go, I had at least one more thing to mention.
“Doctor Farasat did mention to the gender clinic that he wouldn’t want me to have to go through the waiting list again.” there was a short but noticeable silence.
“I’ll speak to Doctor Farasat when he comes in and get him to call you.” We confirmed phone numbers and that was that.
I felt the fool really. Weeks ago when this all started coming to the foreground I had grabbed the contact address of Doctor Churchill, the head psychiatrist who had peer reviewed and approved my referral. I was going to send a letter of complaint but as things had started moving I naively thought that it would be something that could keep, may be even let the situation slide. No sooner had I put the phone down I opened the word processor and grabbed my penned addresses and wrote an A4’s worth of a complaint with signature on page two. It went first class recorded within twenty minutes and as Friday went by there was little surprise of no return call from Doctor Farasat.
Even with a letter of complaint and a plan of taking it further to the NHS if I don’t get a satisfactory reply with answers and resolution I found myself emotionally drained, distressed and undone. The good work of Doctor Neil, my original psychiatrist, who had since left and the psychologist and his team was unravelling quickly and sprawling over the floor in an unrepairable mess of knots. I was already in a state of exhaustion from the long trips for my new work and it just pushed a few anxiety buttons. I had to turn off from everything. I even went to bed early which is unheard of on a Friday.
If there is one thing that has come of this is the ability to push myself out from the view of my current situation when it comes to gender identity and where I am going. I started asking myself questions in an attempt to find an answer beyond what the local hospital are capable of doing and or not doing. Do I really need to go to this gender identity clinic. I have the psychological work already done. I have a copy of my psychologists letter to the psychiatrist of a relative summary of findings and what he felt about my gender identity issues and my genuineness.
Should I go private even if the costs are going to make a serious dent into my purse-to-be and did I really need to see anyone private? May be I need to make my own decisions about what I do next and use the professionals I need as and when they’re needed rather than trudge the Glastonburic mud of the increasingly over crowded NHS waiting system. Did I need to do anything at all? Should I be reevaluating whether I really want any of this? How much sadness do I need to burn to get happiness?
Whatever I decide to do I have to happy that today is another day. One which I woke up to enjoy. Another day that some people don’t get that choice and that there are alternatives. I just need to wait until this red raw sunburn has died down to a warm glow to make any sane decisions.
Until next time.