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December 2015

Holidays – A Longer Post

Before I start this post, I just want to mention that I love seeing the statistics for my blog. Not because I’m doing all this for the fame and glory and what have you but I just think it’s cool. I had a job a number of years ago where all I did was run statistics and reports all day every day and I kinda still like numbers and stuff like that. Which is funny, because I SUCKED at math in school while I was growing up.

But this is all beside the point. As I logged in tonight to start writing, I noticed that someone read my blog from Canada?! I mean, I guess I kinda figure that the people who are reading this are my friends and family; even though I do post the link to my professional FaceBook page. But Canada?! Shout out to whoever is reading from Canada!

I do know I have a reader in Ireland, I know it’s my cousin, but still. It’s cool to see. 🙂 PS: Sorry for outing you cousin!

Anyway, so lets get back to me. Because, why else would we be here? I’m awesome, duh? I once had a coworker say something to the affect of “I wish we all had Patrick’s confidence”. Because I’d always say, “oh, well it’s because I’m just awesome like that” or I’d say similar things. It was and is always said in a joking, lighthearted manner. But what I don’t think he, or anyone knew or knows is that I use that over exaggeration of self-confidence to mask my insecurities. I’m riddled with self-doubt and so insecure about my own abilities and self-worth as an employee, or advocate, or writer, or public figure. Why would anyone want to know my story? Or listen to me talk? Or read my book or blog posts?

I’m getting better about that. I know that I have a purpose. I have a purpose for what I’m doing. For why I’m doing this.

So, I just finished watching Tyler Oakley’s “Snervous”; which was the documentary he created following him around while he was on tour. (I promise I’m not obsessed with him, it just happens that these past two days I’ve consumed his media and message.) I cried almost the entire time. He, along with my friend Ryan Sallans, are both role models to me. They’re both doing this work, in different ways, but they’re reaching thousands, millions of people with their message and I hope that I can someday be that… well known. Again, not because of the notariety, but because I feel like my message is one that people can relate to, can understand. People can take me out of my story and put themselves in it, because they’ve experienced the exact same thing. Or maybe they’re just starting their journey and my words will help them in their journey. I know I drive this point home a lot, but it’s because it’s important to me, and I’m just getting started.

But, enough about all that. The reason I cried through Tyler’s movie was because I was already feeling emotional. My emotions were already piqued. I rode with my parent’s to my dad’s side of the family’s Christmas gathering. I was already feeling a little anxious because I haven’t overtly come out to any of them; though I suspect my Aunt and cousins know. I’ve been really, really struggling with how to tell my grandparents that I’m Trans*. I know they worry about me, I know they know I’ve been through a lot in my life and they know I struggle with anxiety and depression but how do you tell two 80 something year old people who have lived in and still live in rural Iowa that you were born in the wrong body. That your insides don’t match your outsides.

So on top of this anxiety that I was feeling by going down there, I decided I would take advantage of the drive time to work on my book. While I was waiting for my parents to come pick me up at my apartment, I was scrolling through FaceBook’s “memories” feature and there were a number of memories or posts about my niece Piper. I knew I had to write about her eventually, but I didn’t want to write it. It’s still somewhat raw. But I’m standing in my building’s vestibule and scrolling through these posts and I read one from her last Christmas and I just knew that it was time. I needed to write it now, or soon. So I did, in the backseat of my dad’s truck, I started working on her chapter on my iPad…

… and then I had a panic attack. It wasn’t the worst attack I’ve had, but I couldn’t breathe, I was starting to cry. I was thankful I was in the backseat because I could hide that I was crying. I don’t know why but I still have this weird… I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like to cry in public, unless I just can’t hold it in. There have been a few times that I haven’t been able to hold it in, but I generally try to keep my composure until I’m alone.

So I stopped writing, and texted a person in my support system. My best friend Zach. And I put on my music that helps calm me down. He basically was like “duh, shouldn’t you have taken a break from writing, because you’re already on heightened alert from the holidays?” Those weren’t his exact words, but what I got from them. And he’s right. But! It made me realize something. I’ve forgotten to take care of myself mentally and emotionally since I started all this work, by “this work” I’m talking about the work of telling my story so often and writing my book. Sure, some of it I’ve told so often it’s lost it’s ability to sting. But there are some stories that I’m writing in my book that I don’t talk about very often. And it made me realize that I really need to be cautious about self-care. And I need to maybe see my therapist more than every other week while I’m writing my book. Because it’s bringing up some heavy, tough stuff.

So, when I see my therapist this week I’m going to ask if we can up the number of visits.

In reflection, though, there’s something I want you all to know: and that is that holidays fucking suck sometimes. We are inundated with happy media representations of the perfect family and the perfect holiday. Presents and family and food and all that jazz. But we don’t talk enough about how hard they can be sometimes. If someone in your family has died, or you’re estranged from your family, or any number of scenarios. Holidays can freaking suck.

One of my cousins last night told my mom that she needed a mom. My aunt died a few years back. The memory post on FaceBook about my niece. It’s OK to feel like shit sometimes, on the holidays. We’re humans. We’re not meant to be happy go lucky, perfect specimens like we see in the media. But it’s also important to acknowledge that they suck, and why. And reach out. You’re not alone. People don’t want to hear about your dead relative that you’re missing this holiday season. They may try to shut you down and change the subject if you’re sharing a memory. Or they don’t want to hear about how you feel scared or feel like you can’t be your true, authentic self around your family for fear of rejection.

When I came out to my parents about being Trans*, they were slow to come around. And they’re still working on it. But they’re getting there. My mom bought me some makeup as a gift for Christmas. That meant… so much to me. If I had gotten nothing else, I would have been happy. I felt validated. I felt accepted. I still don’t go over to my parent’s house in my wig or girls clothes or makeup yet. I’m still a little scared to.

When we were driving home from my grandparent’s house I realized why I had had such a strange… feeling on my head. Like… something was missing. And I realized it was because I wasn’t wearing my wig, and haven’t worn it in days. I’m so used to having hair now, and or having something on my head, that to not have something on my head feels foreign and uncomfortable.

Holidays suck when you’ve experienced trauma. When you’ve experienced life. Every day people don’t want to think about sad things, or bad things, or what have you. So we’re kind of forced to… keep quiet. And that’s not ok. We should be able to talk about our feelings, tell our stories, and feel validated by those who we’re telling them to.

One final note as I wrap up this long post: I was talking before about not being obsessed with Tyler Oakley; but that he and my friend Ryan Sallans are role models for me. I have to mention that there is a musician whose music helps me immeasurably when I’m having a panic attack. Not long after my trigger back in March, I wrote him an email. I didn’t expect to hear from him, but I just wanted to let him know how much his music meant to me and what good it did for me…. AND HE WROTE BACK!

I was so stunned that I didn’t write him back and I’m so kicking myself now for not writing him back. I told him how I had PTSD and told him a brief snippet of my story and how when I’m having a panic attack I turn his music on and practice my breathing and grounding and it helps me get through it.

He responded in disbelief that his music could touch someone so deeply and help someone in that way. He mentioned how he shared my email with his mom and how they both ended up crying on the phone and that it meant the world to him to hear the impact he created. I highly recommend giving him a listen. He’s who I’m listening to as I write this post. His name is Joel Styzens and his album is called “Relax Your Ears”.

Peace and love be with you my lovelies.

Rivka

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So it’s been awhile…

I just finished reading Tyler Oakley’s book, “Binge”. As I started reading it I read it casually, when I felt like reading nothing else I’d pick it up. Until recently.

As I’ve been going through changes in my life, and trying to figure out my future and where to go and what to do, I began reading it with more fervor. Here’s a young man who, by happenstance really, became a public sensation for his generation and turned it into a career.

For those of you who don’t know who he is, he’s a popular YouTube creator, who is openly gay and lives his life without apology.

I’ve been infatuated with him for awhile now, at first because he reminded me of my ex, Trever. However, as my life has changed, my infatuation with him has changed too. I’ve often considered starting a YouTube channel, but the more I think about it, I don’t think it’s the platform that’s appropriate for my message. Rather, the pen (or in my case, the computer) is my best platform.

I’m in the process of starting my own public speaking company and as I was finishing his book (I promise not to give spoilers), I found myself questioning my motives for what I want to do with my company. What’s my purpose? What’s it’s purpose? What am I meant to be doing with my life?

Selfishly, it is nice to hear congratulations from people as I land a speaking gig, or something I’ve written has gotten praise or acclaim. But that’s not what I’m looking for, I’m not in this for the accolades, or the praise. Sure I joke about hoping my book makes it to the New York Times Bestseller List (which, admittedly would be cool). My true, genuine intentions are to impact change, maybe not on a political or larger stage but with one person at a time. If one person reads my words and is either inspired or encouraged, or uplifted, then I’ve done my job.

So what is next for me now. Some of you may or may not know that I am starting the process of transitioning from male to female. I came out as a Trans* female about a month or two after my surgery. I (hopefully) start hormones on January 4th. I’m starting my new company, to provide public speaking, trainings, and writings about being a Deaf Trans* person.

I’m working full time on finishing writing my book, and finishing my undergraduate degree and then pursuing graduate studies in either Jewish Studies or Rabbinic Ordination. I feel a very strong calling to either provide pastoral counseling in the field of grief and loss and to those who are at the end of life as a Rabbi, or continuing with my company and using my Masters in Jewish Education and/or Studies to speak publicly about the being a Deaf Trans* Jew (once I finish my conversion).

Tyler Oakley quoted the Britney Spears song Lucky and how he identified with it because with all the stardom and so forth he’s received, something was missing, and that missing piece was his having a life outside of work and press and so forth.

So, while I’m writing this I’m listening to “Lucky” by Britney Spears and the acoustic version of “Nothing Like You” by Dan & Shay.

Sweet dreams my lovelies, I hope you have safe and happy holidays with your family and friends, whoever they are. Holidays are a difficult time sometimes and just know that there are people out there who love you, even when you’re in your darkest, deepest hole and see no light.

All my love,

Rivka (formerly Patrick)

 

PS: For those who were/are following my weight loss journey since my surgery, I’m three months and 10 days post-op and am down 55 pounds. My pre-diabetes has reversed, my high cholesterol is looking like it might correct itself, and my sleep apnea is starting to go away. Clothes are fitting better, and I feel better about myself. Part of that comes with now living as my authentic self, which is a woman named Rivka. But the weight loss helps tremendously.

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