In an early episode of Season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I am JUST now getting around to binge watching Grey’s and yes, I have become an addict…who isn’t?) McDreamy tells a patient’s wife to be patient with her husband’s recovery from brain surgery, recovery takes time. I connected with this episode as I happened to watch it only a few days’ post Laine’s hysterectomy when I was exhausted, easily irritated and even a bit cranky. It reminded me I need to be patient, this too shall pass. The nights wont always be short with very little sleep, the days long with too much to accomplish and too few hours to complete the tasks. The recovery period is temporary…or is it?
The surgical recovery period is listed at 2-6 weeks. Only a blink of time in the big picture. With each passing day his body will regain its strength. Each night the pain will subside a bit more and allow for longer periods of sleep. Eventually he will be able to return to normal daily life, the routine of work, kids, life; the surgical recovery will be behind us. Recovery however, has only just began…
This entire past year, has been recovery. Recovery from the first 52 years of his life. Recovery from living a life as someone he was trying to be instead of who he is. And I have to remember that recovery takes time.
Research studies have looked into the effects of recovery on a partner or spouse, (and yes, I skimmed a few via Google,) most of them refer to cancer, open heart surgery, major rehabilitative conditions. But recovery is recovery and no matter the condition, the spouse is silently in the background as the caretaker and the effects are the same. Let me insert right here, that I am not telling you this for sympathy. I am not writing this to make you feel sorry for me, or to put myself as the center of attention. I am writing this because people from all over the world read this blog and someone, somewhere is in my shoes. If I can let that one person know that they aren’t alone, then I have done my due diligence today.
As spouses, fiancées, significant others, we are within the core of our partner’s transition, their recovery. We are there to pick them up on the bad days. To kiss their wounds when someone mis-genders them at the wrong time and place and to assure them we truly see THEM, even if someone else doesn’t. We are the ones standing silently, teeth gritting when an unaccepting parent consistently feels the need to tear down our partner’s confidence with a reminder of their birth given name and/or gender. We are the ones getting looked at like a crazy person when we say “HE needs more ice water” because the hospital has him listed as FEMALE on all the surgical paperwork because he is admitted for a traditionally female procedure, even though his legal documents and insurance list MALE. As the partner, we are the ones who attempt to educate the ignorant medical staff on some level as to why testosterone is on his medication list. As the partners, we scoop them up and take them home with us post surgery and we tend to their needs, both physical and emotional. The physical needs dissipating much faster than the emotional ever will.
We have been there for the hormonal crashes and fluxes since the first shot we helped them inject. We have sat through doctor’s appointments, taking mental notes and trying to recall the questions which have arose in casual conversation at home. We have watched them break down and doubt themselves, their decisions, this process. We have stood back and waited for them to come to their senses and realize we are here to support them, not to fight against them. We are the good guy, and even when they try to push us away we will be right here beside them. We want to protect them; we want them to be happy. We want to make this “recovery” as easy as possible for them. We just want to love them and be sure they know just how much.
As a partner of someone who is recovering, we get tired. Some days it is exhausting. Some days we don’t know HOW to fix them. Some days we can’t piece them back together, fact is some days we are barely holding ourselves together. And because of this, some days we feel like failures. We are supposed to be the stable one holding them together through this recovery. We don’t have the time or space to fall apart ourselves. People ask all the time how transition is going, and when they do, they mean for him. How is he handling the hormones? How is he handling the changes? When is his next surgery? I can’t think of a handful of times where someone has said “How are you holding up?” And I don’t expect them to. If they did ask I think I would feel awkward, and I don’t think I would say very much more than “I’m good.” Because that is what I am supposed to be. The few times I have reached out because I just needed a moment to breathe, to put my walls down…it was reciprocated with “be patient,” “give him credit,” and “he is dealing with a lot of emotions right now.” As if I don’t do these things every moment of every single day. I give him more credit that anyone can probably even imagine. I am so proud of him it is immeasurable. Yet there are days even he doubts this, and that is a part of this recovery that I can’t protect him from.
I can shield him from the outside world as much as possible, but I can’t shut off his inner thoughts. His inner doubts. I can correct the nurses’ pronoun usage until I exhaust myself, but I can’t erase the dysphoria caused by a traditionally female medical procedure. I can’t fast forward the physical recovery and speed up the internal healing process which leads to external reminders of the anatomy he was born with every time he has to stick the maxi pad in his boxers. This will eventually pass, but the emotional recovery will continue…52 years to recover from. Recovery takes time, and I have to be patient. One day at a time. I’m good and I will continue to be. Even on those days I am extremely tired…