Monday, December 17, 2007

Right People, Right Time

Today is for Lynne
It dawned on me well before I found faith, that as my transition
progressed, the Right Person came into my life at the Right Time.

My first therapist, Julie, selected because she actually answered her
phone (I was so scared to even leave a voice mail that morning!), was,
unbeknownst to me, one of the best regarded therapists. She had
developed an opening in her practice just that week. I engaged her.
She was full again.

My "big" sister, Teri (now Michelle), who I met at that very first
support group dinner. She guided me through my first fulltime
experience at a gathering in Port Angeles, Washington called Esprit
Gala. She was so much my role model. Odd then, that I became her
inspiration a couple of years later. Her transition had been
uncertain for many years. Teri hadn't attended one of those dinner
for about a year.

It was Teri who suggested I see Patti, an electrologist. Patti would
become friend, surrogate therapist, sister and yes zap those pesky
facial hairs. She had served the trans community for more than a
decade and knew as much or more than anyone. It was Patti who
recommended my surgeon. Patti no longer does much electrolysis
...deferring to arthritic hands. She remains a dear friend.

Heather, my second therapist, got both the worst and the best of
that process. I'd known her for just a couple of months - getting
the resolve to face my parents - when my world collapsed. She
patiently, but persistently pushed me to more in-depth assistance
after That Night.

One other special woman - isn't it interesting they are all women
- was Lynne. Four years ago on this date, I entered the doors to the
suicide recovery program. It had been recommended twice that I be
hospitalized 24/7. It was something, that for me, meant utter defeat
and thus I resisted, even though I knew I needed the help.

So following Heather's encouragement - and her promise to keep up
with me - I went to the center where I met Lynne, one of the principal
therapists on staff. For two hours, I cried, I explained, I related,
I surrendered. At the end Lynne said "I don't think you need
hospitalization." I had actually timed my visit so that I could be
admitted and not miss much work (I'd done a lot of stuff ahead of
time in anticipation) or hockey games (my one remaining shred of
personal value) even if I did mean that I might miss Christmas with
my family. I was confused, but glad by her decision.

I would enroll in daytime classes for six hours a day. Believe it
or not, but I actually would go into work early, go to therapy,
then return to work for another hour or so during this time - which
turned into nearly six weeks. Lynne would teach a couple of the
classes along with daily "check-in" twice a week. There were others
as well. Diana, with the quirky sense of humor but incredibly
patient heart. Tom, a bit of an odd duck that had an air of
optimism about him. Ken, the teddy bear and uncle. And Loree,
the quiet, probing, yet exceptionally insightful art therapist.

Lynne had enrolled me in Art Therapy. I groaned. "I can't draw
stick figures!" I'm as artistic as a dirt clod. And it was in Loree's
class that much of my situation became more clear. I don't dismiss
art therapy any more. And I still have those art projects.

While the program itself didn't provide my ultimate resolution
- that would come only after breaking down and finally telling my
parents - it did provide me with the needed time, and a better
understanding of how I had gotten so incredibly desperate.
And Lynne's guidance proved pivotal in all of that.

I've mentioned the night - the eve before Thanksgiving 2003
- that I hurt myself. Believe it or not, that was NOT - at least
in my mind - my most dire moment. That actually came the morning
of Christmas Eve day. Things had really gotten tense and the only
thing that kept me safe was repeating "Not Today...Not Today".
I just couldn't exit on this day and forever stain the Season
for my daughters. Not Today, please Not Today. When I
acknowledged my feelings at check in, I figured that was it.
When Lynne came in - she didn't do check in that day - and pulled
me into her class, which was not on my schedule, I figured it was
to keep an eye on me until......until a bed was ready.

Lynne admitted later that it was total coincidence that day,
though she was worried about my state of mind. As I exited the
program - now having unburdened my secret with my parents - I was
very thankful for Lynne's care. What she does - what Loree and
Diana and Ken and Tom, all of whom are still there - is incredibly
challenging. Success is measured frequently in keeping someone
alive just one more day, getting them one more therapy session
covered by insurance. As a nation, we do a horrible job in
caring for those with emotional struggles.

I've kept in touch with Lynne ever since, today I sent an email.
I have great admiration for the work that she does. My time at
he clinic wasn't "depressing" as it was "disheartening".
Disheartening to see so many people in such difficult places.
I sometimes wonder what happened to them. Lynne once mentioned
that all were still with us, but that's all she could acknowledge.
For six weeks they were my friends, my classmates, my support system.

I know now that Lynne and all the others were brought into my life
at the right time for a reason and with a guided purpose. To quote
the lyrics of a song sung by Transcendence Gospel Choir, "I'm alive
today because God kept me." I am thankful.

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