SWIMMING AFTER TOP SURGERY AND POST OP DEPRESSION

 
IMAGE BY  YAN PALMER

IMAGE BY YAN PALMER

 

I went into the worst depression of my life after having top surgery this past October.

It’s not something I talk about a lot.  Because admitting I was severely depressed is hard for me. Fitting the media stereotype of the struggling sad trans person is hard for me.

Admitting that everything isn’t perfect all the time is hard for me.  Admitting that there were days when it was almost impossible to get out of bed feels so defeating and embarrassing.

I’m supposed to be the transguy that is here saying “You can and will THRIVE!”

But I’m also the trans guy who is here saying just how fucking hard it is to fit into this world.

The Secret is this though.

The hard years, the hard weeks, the hard days, they don’t take away from my story.

Instead the crushing hard parts are weaving beautiful delicate silk into the story of my life, silk that shimmers when the sun hits it just right.  The hard moments, days, months and years are what show me how beautiful thriving can be. How much joy is out there in opposition to the hard parts.

The hard moments are there to show us where we need to heal. 

One of my hard moments came thundering in this past week while away in Portland.

It was the first time I went swimming shirtless. I’d been nervous and not entirely sure I’d go through with it, but it was blissful; we were at a quiet river with my family, my kids splashing around, my wife drinking a beer in the sun, her family reading books and taking naps and just being.  There was this moment when my kids were peaceful and Katherine’s hand was in mine and the sun hit my back just right, and I forgot that I was any different than any other Dad, any other husband, any other son in law.

 
transman nick north swimming in river
 

“Dadddddddd!!!!” Wilde yelled, “I’m hungry when is Dinner?”  I went over to my bag and picked up my phone to see how many hours had passed while we soaked up the magic of our little oasis.

I couldn’t not see the notification. It was a comment on a photo of me.

“You’ve been physically butchered…”

It said more than that.  Not any gentler.

It was like falling into icy water. 

All I could read was that when this person saw my body they saw a “butchered” freak.

And here I was out in the world, exposed for everyone to see.

I quietly put my shirt back on and got my kiddo a snack. 

Because that’s what parents do. 

Top Surgery saved my life, but it also tore me apart both physically and emotionally.

My results weren’t typical.  I have had a number of complications.  (None of which I believe were my surgeon’s fault; she is amazing.) I’ve spent what is now in the thousands of dollars on physical therapy, chiropractic and massage to try and get some of my range of motion and chronic pain down.  I spend so much of my life worrying about my chest. Basically ALL OF THE TIME.

I know my chest doesn’t pass as a cis* man’s. I know it doesn’t look typical. 

It’s taken me a lot of work to put myself out there knowing that I’m not the stereotypical definition of that sexy male chest you see on Ryan Reynolds.

Sidenote: Hey Ryan! You want a gym partner? I’m 114 lbs of skin and bones and my Dad game is strong, it will be a real give and take relationship!

 
Nick North Transgender Man Working Out
 

But when I look in the mirror for the first time I see someone who I recognize. 

I see me. Or at least I see the potential of me. And the people around me are kind and loving and they don’t see my scars quite as bright and loudly as the outside world.  They think this is kind and generous. They avoid staring, they say nice things, they tell me how great I look. It is kind and generous. I love them for it. And yet it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.

The whole story is somewhere between the kindness and the very blunt angry truth.

I understand that the commenter’s anger might have been for me, on my behalf; they might have thought they were showing a kind of support with their outrage. 

But words like that about anyone’s body only leave room for hurt.

I know that my path forward is somewhere in between the two extremes. It isn’t “You’ve been physically butchered,” but it isn’t quite the kindness of my loved ones telling me I’m “perfect and no one will even notice.” 

Here’s to finding out. To telling the truth gently. To more of those bright silky threads that make it all worthwhile.

And also. If ever you feel the need to tell someone they’ve been butchered?  Please keep that shit to yourself.

Hugs or high fives,

Nick


*A  cisgendered person is someone whose gender matches the gender they were assigned at birth.