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Reclaimation

I have said in the past that depression is an insidious thing in that it does, by its very nature, make it awfully difficult to do anything about. It's a self-perpetuating condition in a lot of ways although obviously it's more complicated than that. Having said that, if you can get enough of a wedge in the gap that you can address some of the underlying causes, then your ability to continue to do things to cope with it increase enormously, or at least that seems to be what's happening with me. A new prescription for medication has made a real difference and acting on a blood test that showed me to be low on both vitamin B12 and vitamin D may well have helped quite a bit. I'm now cycling three days a week with every indication that I will be able to step this up in the near future. I've lost nearly 5kg (only another 20-25kg to go!) and cycling is already much easier. I'm finding socialisation much easier although it's still easy for me to become overstimulated and exhausted and a few relationships have become closer and more rewarding. I'm actually happy and feeling like I have agency. This is all extremely promising.

I had an almost-on-a-whim purchase recently. A friend was selling his very nice mountain bike and I'd regretfully decided that I couldn't justify spending $750 on a bike. Visiting him to check out his garage sale, we started talking again and the looking at bikes I'd done in the interim had made me realise just how good a buy this was. So I'm now the proud owner of a fastidiously modified and maintained Felt mountain bike. This will allow me much more rewarding trail rides and provide the impetus to do exactly that.

Flat hunting is becoming more prominent now that I have the mental space for it. I attended an auction yesterday and although the property was out of my reach, it always had a bit of a "too good to be true" aspect to it and in the end was so far beyond my limit that I wasn't even disappointed. There are other potential candidates and I will continue to hunt.

I didn't get the job I wanted. I'm a little dubious about why exactly I was turned down and it's very easy for me to be paranoid about this but others around me are agreed that it seems dodgy. I shall follow this up gently while also consciously going through the emotional process of letting go of that particular hope.

So a period of growth and change. 2014 was not my best year but 2015 could be really good. Onwards.

I'm back

It's been a while since I posted. Future me will be annoyed because although others read this and that fact is one of the things that makes this valuable, the primary reader of this journal is future me.

So where to begin?

I have a cat again. She was born on the 3rd of September and I picked her up on the 31st of October. She is wilful and talkative and a locus of chaos and beautiful and I love her. I spent some time trying to come up with a breathtakingly cool name for her before realising that she didn't need a clever name, just one that can easily be said with love. So I went with my first impulse which was Penelope. She will never be called that but is simply and always Penny. Also Pennycat, pretty one, scampercat, fluffmonster and when I'm feeling silly, Pfenig Hlepan Wollenbrek ForÞsdottir. (subject to me checking whether that's even remotely correct) She has an elegant sufficiency of fluff, beautiful markings and all the wonderful absurdity that any good kitten has. She is also probably the single best thing that happened to me in 2014.

A couple of weeks ago I got my second tattoo. It's an E H Shepherd illustration from Winnie the Pooh of Christopher Robin leaning back against Pooh pulling on his boots. The story behind it is that Pooh goes to visit Christopher Robin and finds him putting on his boots. He is excited because Big Boots mean Adventures. Christopher Robin had trouble getting his boots on and had to lean back quite hard on Pooh to manage it which made Pooh happy because he was already having a Useful Day. It turned out that Christopher Robin was preparing to head out to discover the North Pole. So it's a reminder that when setting out on a grand voyage of discovery, sometimes you need to lean quite hard on your friends. An acknowledgement and a reminder to pay it forwards. It's also a pretty thing and it makes me happy.

Mental health...lots there.

I started one lot of medication and found that while it took the edge off my anxiety, it also makes me tired and even less likely to be motivated to get things done than I used to be. It also didn't make me any more keen on socialising and if anything made that worse. So yesterday I got a new prescription and I'll see how that goes. Hermiting and disengagement remains an issue and I wound up deciding not to drink alcohol at all for the forseeable future as that was getting to the point of being distinctly unhealthy. I am resolved to try to get out of the house more. I really really ought to create things. It's become clear that body issue are a major part of my mental issues and this is not a single issue thing but rather a series of things that interrelate in a complex way that involve gender identity, sexuality, fitness, cultural expectations and myriad other things I haven't yet properly sorted through. I'm getting a clearer picture now though and starting to make plans to deal with this.

One of these will be exercise. Last week I went on a three day bike ride along a rail trail from Mansfield to Tallarook. It was a lovely ride and I did it in the company of several wonderful queer women who were mutually supportive and encouraging. This was a fortunate thing as it turned out that I had rather badly over-reached myself. On the dirt rail trails, my limit was about 30km before I essentially completely drained my body's reserves of energy and just had to stop. Given that we rode 60km on the first day and 40km on the third day, this presented difficulties. By the end of those days I had stopped thinking clearly by the time we got to where we needed to be, literally staggered thoughtlessly in circles, collapsed in the nearest convenient spot and cried, not because I was upset but just as a sheer physical reaction. Two days later I broke out in hives and I suspect I essentially crashed my immune system. If I had done this ride in early 2012, I would have romped through it easily. So my fitness is gone and I now weigh over 90kg. I've declared that I need to do something about this numerous times. Maybe I can make it stick this time. It really really hurt this time and I'm finding a host of reasons to hate what I've done to this body.

There are other things that I'll address another time but they involve work and a home and the process of reexamining those as well. Life is in flux. This is probably good.

The elephant in the drawing room

In my last post I wrote of hormonal imbalance and the difficulties that I'm facing with it. I spent the past couple of days with a friend who, with surpassing delicacy and tact, got me to confront the idea that I'm actually suffering from depression. This is not something that I really wanted to admit to myself but it all makes an unpleasant sort of sense.

I'm not that fussed about the social stigma. I have that across a few axes these days anyway and I know too many people who live with mental illness in one form or another to subscribe too heavily to that sort of rubbish. It does, however, kind of fall into the category of conditions which are managed rather than cured, often with pharmacological solutions that come with unwelcome side-effects. I'm not especially keen on this. It's also looking all too much like the bumpy ride I had into transition - denial, uncontrollable emotional turmoil, crisis, epiphany, coming out and I foresee a matching period of life upset, adjustment, therapy and a degree of further marginalisation. (ok, maybe the stigma does bother me a little - people can be stupid)

This, as with the hormone imbalance, is all speculation. I've had no blood tests, no consultations, nothing. I'm guessing. It's entirely possible that there's a little of situation, hormonal AND depressive aspects to what's going on and that this will only be resolved though careful investigation and a fair bit of trial and error. In the meantime, I'm going to be fragile, scatterbrained, a little reclusive and wary of doing a lot of things.

So I've made appointments to see appropriate people and am trying as hard as I reasonably can to do what cognitive work I can off my own bat. I suspect that it's all to easy for this to turn into all sorts of bullshit destructive downwardly spiralling badness and I very much want to avoid having my life fall apart yet again, potentially in all sorts of irretrievably horrible ways. I'm not sure I'm actually frightened by this but I'm apprehensive. I have no idea what my capacity to deal with this is, given that it's something that erodes that very capacity. I've taken time off work simply because each day there had become an exercise in endurance. I'm going back to work on Monday and I'm not looking forward to it.

So I'm contemplating a workplace change, about to start looking at buying property and coming to the realisation that I may be dealing with some kind of mental illness. I suppose I did say that my life needed shaking up. I should be more careful what I wish for.

Reboot

It might be time to shake things up properly again.

To be honest, the very thing that's prompting this might be a very good reason why now is not the time to do it. I've been getting more and more hormonally out of whack pretty much since surgery, which is something I hadn't realised until I had a really good think about when this all started. I've had flat and off key patches which haven't really coincided with situational stuff and they've been getting worse until I'm now at the point of randomly fighting off context free tears and adrenal surges, especially at work. So I effectively got progressively escalating PMS that's been going on for months now. So this is the perfect time not to make life changing decisions because they may not be the most balanced ones. But I'm going to lay some groundwork and start thinking about it in earnest.

It mostly involves work. Even taking wobbly endocrine systems into account, work feeds me depressing stories every day and I'm increasingly starting to feel like I'm complicit in some appallingly bad management of people who need help far more than they need a sheriff's officer turning up on their doorstep. So the plan is to take some leave. I have a consultation on the 29th to get a referral to a trans friendly endocrinologist so hopefully this will resolve ongoing issues but in the meantime, if I take the time to re-evaluate how I want to live, talk with some good friends, assess alternatives and just have some relatively undemanding time then my life just might start shaking itself out in the way I've been waiting for it to do. It seems that I have to be the one who does the shaking. This is also very much about getting back to the process of moving out of my comfort zones. I'm not doing that anymore and it's a productive, empowering, transforming thing that I really ought to have as an ongoing part of my life.

So I will look and thing and talk and write and then once I've dealt with the body beating me about the emotional head and shoulders I can get serious about actually rejigging the parts of my life with which I'm dissatisfied. I have the ability to do this. I am surrounded by some of the most amazing people I can conceive of who support me and want me to achieve things. I've demonstrated to myself that when I have a purpose and lever myself out of ruts, I can actually make things happen. It's time to stop believing that I can't actually do anything significant or worthwhile because I realise that's actually what I do think now that I see it all set down in words.

I've given myself time to move on from surgery and now I'm going nothing. I should stop doing nothing.

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Still hurting

Two years ago I watched my derby league head off to The Great Southern Slam and was annoyed that I didn't really have the resources to join them. I consoled myself with the idea that I'd be bouting at the next one. TGSS happens every two years so I'm watching Facebook posts from my league all thrilled about TGSS 2014 and remembering how much I had looked forward to it. I thought I was getting over this. I think in some ways I am but sometimes derby can still produce ugly broken-hearted sobbing and every time I'm shocked at the strength of those feelings.

So let's drag it all out and spread it on the table for another look. I suspect I need to do that to at least put this into context. I lost derby at the point when I was most invested in it. Nearly two years ago I posted this. That was my first and only scrimmage and in that evening I fell in love with derby properly. I loved the sport, I loved the people I did it with and I loved the things I could do with my body. Packing for the very next training session I felt something *wrong* in my knee and that was it. I clung to the hope that I could spend money, endure surgery and rehab and return but eventually I got to see the surgeon and found out that there simply wasn't a good surgical option for me. I'd damaged my knee permanently. Not especially badly but if I mistreated it, it would get worse and I knew that I'd hate myself in ten years time. So I made a sensible adult decision.

I very much did not want to make a sensible adult decision.

I had to stop NSOing. So I went to afterparties. I cried at every single one and eventually stopped going to those as well. I miss the sport. I miss the people. I miss the body that could skate and skate and skate for more than two hours and want to keep going at the end of it. I want to stand on the jammer line again and have a pack in front of me. I want to be part of that league, a skater with all the others, just like all the others.

Derby was many things to me. It made me feel strong and graceful and deft. It made me love my body. It put me in the midst of a group that gave me a degree of love and acceptance and validation that stunned me. I fell in love with it and with them and then had to walk away from it completely because I could not bear to watch it all happen without me. I've likened it to being around someone with whom I'd broken up but with whom I was still desperately in love and it seems that remains the case. Most of the time I put it out of my mind and kid myself that I'm getting over it. There are very few things that I've lost that I mourn so badly and so completely. So I still cry for it sometimes. I cry in ugly gulping sobs that shake my body and startle me.

I want it back.

What love looks like.

Well that didn't work. Nearly three weeks ago I ended the relationship that I thought I was pleased with the last time I posted here. I won't go into details because it wouldn't just be my laundry that I'd be airing but it actually wasn't working on several levels. It was not a bad experience though. I've learned more about myself, about what I want in a relationship, what I *need* in a relationship and what relationships can look like. I have many lovely people in my life and I'm not feeling a lack of love, even if I'm not sleeping with anyone.

Sleeping with people is tricky too these days...I've learnt that as well. In some ways my body is a tricky awkward thing now and it doesn't quite work like anyone else's. This will be a thing that needs thought, patience and understanding.

So where from here? Nowhere in particular right now, actually. There are people I have crushed on, people I could very easily crush on and even one or two who are pressing some buttons right now but I'm not chasing anyone. There's a part of me that is inclined to let my relationships with people be whatever they are. There are myriad different ways to engage with people: intellectual, emotional, romantic, sexual, sensual, tactile (yes those last three are all different) and they don't have to operate at the same level. Clever communicative people can work this stuff out and I've had some fascinating and provoking conversations of late about this sort of thing. So I shall just enjoy people's company and see where that leads.
Someone mentioned pumpkin on mushroom caps and I had a food muse cascade and made all the things.




The mushrooms were simple but worked really well. A smear of pesto on the inside of a portobello mushroom cap, then stuffed with a mixture of steamed pumpkin and crushed hazelnuts. Top with a spray of olive oil, paprika and salt and grill. Win.

The polenta was cooked normally then had a generous amount of dijon mustard and honey stirred through it before being poured into a plastic container and put into the fridge to set into a rectangular block while I got on with messing about with pumpkin and hazelnuts. Smeared with a little sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds and a little salt before going into the oven on the same tray as the mushrooms. They developed a bit of a skin to the outside of them which was pretty much perfect for me. There was some really good texture to these.

A red capsicum got my usual charring trick before being arranged on the plate with rocket and feta and then getting a dressing of olive oil and an amazing raspberry infused vinegar that I was given a while back.

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Blue cheese and mushroom risotto

Well that was interesting. There's no photo of this, nor should there be. This was one of the single least photogenic and more long-winded things I've ever made but I don't think that'll put me off having another go.

I made stock the other day. It probably doesn't matter too much what sort of vegetables go into the stock but for the record, this one had a lot of pumpkin, celery and fennel through it as well as quite a bit of spring onion so although the flavour was fairly delicate, it still had a definite character. I have no idea how much liquid risotto takes so I always always underestimate it. I put a bit over a litre of the stock into a saucepan and wrapped a couple of hundred grams of almond meal in a cloth with some freshly grated nutmeg, tied that closed and put that in the pan with the stock over a gentle heat, mooshing it about with a wooden spoon every so often.

Into my cast iron pot went some olive oil, two leeks, four cloves of garlic more grated nutmeg and some ground sage because I spotted it in the cupboard and it seemed like a good idea. I cooked that down until it was soft and swimming a bit in its own juices and added four portobello caps chopped small, a generous pout of balsalmic vinegar and a fairly random amount of brown rice. By that time the stock was nicely creamy so I removed the clothful of meal, squeezed it out and put it aside (in a jug in this case) and started ladling the stock in. One ladleful at a time stirred through and allowed to cook in until to no longer runs freely across the bottom of the pot if I clear a space with the wooden spoon. Yes, this takes a while, especially with brown rice but I wasn't in a hurry. By the time I was close to emptying the saucepan it was clear that I was going to need that much again so I put about another litre of stock in and returned the cloth to the pan as well. More ladling, more stirring. Near the end I just crumbled the wedge of blue cheese in, added the rest of the stock, stirred it into a gooey mess and let it sit on a very low heat for a while. I like this one a lot. The cheese was a bit over the top but I didn't mind that myself. Less would have been more balanced.

I ate the lot.

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Broccoli soup.

No photo for this one although it wasn't the most photogenic thing I've ever made anyway.

Someone made mention of broccoli soup and with the weather just turning cool I sort of seized on it as a cosy idea. That may also explain the frankly ridiculous amount of dairy in this. Vegans should look away now.

This is what started my love of simmering spring onions in butter. Again, not sizzling, just a good sized slice off the long side of a block of butter in the bottom of my enormous Soup Pot of the Apocalypse™, barely melted and greedily absorbing the flavour of whatever you put in it. In this case, that was a good sized bunch of spring onions, garlic, thyme, marjoram, nutmeg and black pepper. Don't be too shy with the nutmeg. I let that go for quite a while. Them I gradually stirred in a litre (yes, I wound up just using the whole litre!) of milk a bit at a time so that it never wound up actually cold in the pot. As that simmered for a bit, a positively cheesy smell started to come up out of it. I mean that in a good way. From there it was just diced Pontiac potatoes and a chopped up head of broccoli simmered for ages and eventually made smooth with a stick blender.

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Random mango and coconut curry

Sometimes this mood hits me. Like a lot of things I cook, there's a basic mental template and then I dance around it according to how I feel. This is the coconut cream enriched curry template.



So, as usual, spices warmed into oil. In this case it was cardamom, cumin, turmuric, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, fresh coriander, garlic and chilli with an onion sauteed in it, I added a package of frozen spinach, some cauliflower, steamed pumpkin and a mango because they were in the supermarket and shouted at me - that's what inspired me to cook this in the first place. I stirred through a can of coconut cream and let it simmer for a while. Coconut cream has a way of absorbing and transferring flavours into other foods so letting it go for a while is a good thing. I served it over basmati rice and put more uncooked coriander and flaked almonds that I toasted while the rest was simmering on top.

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