I forget that I even have roommates. Not just tonight—it happens often. The three of us are pretty quiet and we keep to our respective rooms, given our soul-grinding grad student lives. So even though I’m feeling pretty down on this Tuesday night, the idea of knocking on their doors doesn’t occur to me at all.
I’m kind of living alone here, sitting in the living room, eating dinner. It would be nice if Gabriel, my old roommate from Portland, was here. We could play video games and drink amazing Northwestern beer. The beer in New York is shit. I miss Gabriel. The two of us were awesome living together. He’s living next to Carl now. I miss Carl too. I want to be back in Eugene, eating a burrito with Carl.
There’s my miserable bowl of rice and beans and cheese. I should just eat. Ow ow goddamn habanero sauce. Why doesn’t the bottle have one of those filter things so it’s not so easy to slop it on? Ugh, this tastes awful. I should cook more interesting things. I should find a bottle of sauce that pours easier. There’s that stupid book I have to read for class. The Executioner’s Song. How depressing. Just death and sadness. If I ever chair an English department, there’s going to be a mandatory class on bunnies and flowers. Or at least one book per course where nobody dies.
Awful dinner has been consumed, time for dishes. No! Fuck it, I’m just filling the bowl up with water, I don’t give a fuck. My roommates—the existence of whom I have just been reminded of—have left dirty dishes in the sink anyway. My bowl doesn’t matter. It’s just one addition to our stack of ceramic decay. I need to read, back to the living room. Look at this drab, undecorated living room. Nothing on the walls. Boxes of shit everywhere. Basically a storage space. I can’t believe I’ve lived here for over a year and I still haven’t decorated this room. Such a waste.
I feel different than I normally do when I get moody, or when I’ve been missing home in Oregon. I had a pretty rough time adjusting to the move to New York last year, but even so, this is worse. Last year I’d write or take a shower or meet a friend at a bar or pour a glass of whiskey and watch Eternal Sunshine. None of that sounds good. Even the unhealthy stuff doesn’t sound good. It just seems futile. I’m trying to read but this paragraph is blurring on the page. And just getting up and moving seems like so much effort, I don’t know why I’m so—
I was warned about the emotional changes the hormones might bring, and they were one of the main reasons I was reluctant to start taking them. I was scared of what they might do to my brain and, really, I still am.
In accounts of the transwomen who’ve come before me, they often talk about mood swings and depressions, about how they became more docile and less aggressive, and yikes, I mean, as crappy as I feel about my body, I don’t mind me so much. I’m not perfect, but I’ve got somewhat of a handle on my strengths and weaknesses, and I don’t want who I am to change. Do I? And those described changes sound so reductive, stereotypical, even. That can’t be the whole truth, can it?
Well, regardless, this must be why I’m feeling bad. These pills. They’re sitting on the top of my desk in the other room; I can picture them so clearly. I was so excited the first day I got them, but they seem like fucking sadness in a bottle now.
What if I feel like this forever? My dosage is going to increase before the end of the year, too. Oh my God, is this minor compared to what’s coming?
I wonder if I’m toying with a power larger than I am, chemical brain processes stronger than my own willpower. My therapist tried to reassure me when I brought this up, that yeah, there’d be emotional changes with hormones but it wouldn’t be earth shattering. “If you started running for an hour a day, for example,” she said, “or if you started a radically new job, you’d probably act and feel a little differently, taking hormones is just another thing on that level.”
I guess. Okay. I still feel like shit. I guess I’ll read that book. I’ll try to work.
I can’t read. I’ll go write, maybe. Off my to my room. No, I can’t write. That computer screen looks like a hole of hate and despair.
Okay. I’ll read, back to the living room. I can’t read. Fuck it. Okay, I’m reading.
Two hours later
God, everything is terrible. I still don’t feel like doing anything. I just want to feel better. At least Mikayla, my ex-girlfriend-now-good-friend, agreed to talk on Skype later. She’ll help me feel better. Maybe. I’ll probably just feel homesick. I miss her. I miss Oregon.
I should do the dishes. Okay. I’ll feel better if we have a clean sink. Oh gross. Look at that bowl of hardened rice and beans and cheese. I’ll wash the plates first. Why don’t my roommates ever do their dishes? I mean, one of them washed all the dishes in the sink—including mine—that one time. Actually, he’s done that a few times. Whatever. Stupid roommate. He could have at least rinsed off the teriyaki sauce on this plate. Man, I hate teriyaki sauce.
What did my doctor tell me when I first went on estrogen? Right, he said, “So you remember when you went through puberty,” in that tone of a question that sounds more like a statement. I said yeah, and then he said: “You’re basically going to do that a second time. It took about three years before, it’ll take about three years now.”
Second puberty. Maybe that’s it. Maybe feeling this way is just a temporary change. Maybe it’ll blow over after my body’s used to estrogen. I hope so. Maybe it’ll be just like when I was a teenager. Actually, I felt like this a lot when I was a teenager. Hey! Of course! That’s it! I feel like I’m fifteen again! I’ve gone through this before!
This is all actually oddly familiar. And yeah, puberty sucked, but at least I know what I’m in for. That’s so relieving, somehow. I’m feeling better. I’m going to wash all these dishes right fucking now and go back to reading The Executioner’s Song. God, that’s a genius book, even if it is sad as hell.
h4.One hour later
Time to Skype with Mikayla. Hi Mikayla! Oh man, it’s good to talk to her. Ah, she’s drunk. I should be drunk too. Hold on Mikayla, I’m getting the whiskey.
One hour later
I’m drunk. And sleepy. Dunno how the days after this will go, but for now, everything’s okay. Bedtime.
One day later
Ah, life is good. Relaxing at a bar, having a nice post-class beer. I don’t really like Yuengling, but whatever. There’s Madison. I’ll tell her about my emotional episode last night, she should think it’s funny.
One explanation later
Madison’s smiling across from the booth and lifting her glass of cider. “Welcome to being a woman,” she says.
A few days later
I think I’m going to go online and search for more transwoman accounts of hormone therapy again. Ah. Feelings of calmness, many say. Crying more often, but that being nice, therapeutic, even. Someone says, “the highs are higher and the lows are lower.”
Someone says they dealt with severe depression for a few months but then pulled out of it. Some people say they don’t feel they’ve changed much emotionally at all. Many say they feel less angry. One person says they actually got angrier. And there’s someone talking about the mood swings again. Another person talking about becoming more emotional. Well, that’s… varied. Should have looked for this kind of stuff last Tuesday, I guess.
Another few days later
Ugh, I feel terrible again. I don’t want to do anything. The walls look blank and hopeless again.
I’ll go exercise. That doesn’t sound so bad.
Four weeks later
The mood swings have continued, with a low point once a week or so. They haven’t been as bad as the first one. Exercise is proving to be, at times, a pleasant alleviation of such blues. I am definitely feeling less angry overall, though I wasn’t a terribly angry person pre-transition.
I’m sitting at my desk now, looking at the same pill bottles—though now twice re-filled—and I keep thinking about what Madison said. She’s not the only female friend of mine to echo such a sentiment. “Let me know in a couple months when you start crying at movies,” a friend of mine said when I told her I had just started hormones. “Have fun going crazy,” another said, bitterly.
The hormone dosage is going to increase in a month. I wonder if I’m going to start feeling crazier when it does. I’ve been resistant to the idea that my feeling moodier is a permanent effect of the hormones, or that it has anything to do with “being a woman.” I’ve been chalking it up to this “second puberty,” not only because it’s what my doctor told me, but because it’s what I’d like to believe.
There’s also my therapist. “Estrogen is a calming hormone,” she told me, when I mentioned I had been less angry, “and many people do report mood swings as they get adjusted.” But it depends a lot, she said, on what you’re already bringing to the table, emotionally.
I’m trying to think of what I’m bringing to the table, emotionally. Fear that the hormones won’t actually help my gender dysphoria. Exhaustion and excitement (no sarcasm intended) that comes with grad school work. Loneliness in transitioning thousands of miles from most of the people I love, concentrated as they are in the Pacific Northwest and the middle of Canada. Freedom, also, in doing so around the friends I’ve made on the East Coast, many of whom I’ve gotten close with in a short period of time.
Fears about anti-trans violence, about finishing my thesis, about passing as female, about student loans, finding jobs. Faith, sometimes, that I’ll manage to navigate all these things just fine. Both faith and fears based partially in reason, partially not. Oscillation.
I bring more minor things to the table too, I suppose, like a nostalgia for Northwestern beer and a round of Super Smash Brothers with Gabriel. Tonight, still, a pint of Deschutes Black Butte Porter sounds truly amazing, though I’d take a Ninkasi without any complaining.