Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Dear Michael - 9 Years After

Sometimes I feel like I didn't really know you. I think most of that comes from the fact that we were so far apart in age. Eight years doesn't seem like a long time but you spent much of my younger life not living at home, which made it even stranger when you came back into my life during my high school years. I had always known that I had another brother, but you were always like a dream I couldn't really remember and the harder I tried, the more you faded. 

Then, as suddenly as you had left when I was a child, you came back. You were living at home, and hiding in the basement. I wonder sometimes - was it shame? Regret? What kept you down there? When did it start? I offhandedly wonder what Mom and Dad could have done differently in your life that would have helped you, and yet also struggle with the idea that we make our own fate - so how much of it was your own fault?

Strangely, there are also times where I feel like I knew you better than anyone on this planet did. You wanted me to see you, so badly, over and over. I did - but I was young. As the years have passed I think I have come to see you even more, in retrospect, in memories. I remember long nights with you, sometimes talking - sometimes not. I was never sure what to say to you in those late night/early morning moments when you would let your brain wander. I could see it - when you'd leave me - focused and yet unfocused, still kicking ass at Tempest, thinking about everything and nothing. Was it the drugs? Or did you just do that sometimes? I know I do, so it's not hard to understand. 

Some days I think of you a lot, other days less - and some not at all. I feel no shame in admitting that, I have had to make my own life for years now - and that takes a lot of work. Some people are on an easier path than others, some of us have to forge our own path in the jungle with a machete. I used to think some people were just lucky, but most of them just make it look easy. 

You would be 38 now, and we would be making fun of the oldest for being 40 - I'm sure of it. Would we text everyday? Probably. I like to imagine that you would have found or made yourself a stable living, maybe not married but at least in your own apartment - with a Nintendo Switch and a PS4 and we would play games together. I think you would love playing Uno with us late at night, laughing and cursing along with us. Then I realize that was never your fate, as much as I don't really believe in it. You were tormented, as they say. You had so much inside of you all the time, raging seas that would never calm. Did the drugs make it better, or just let you escape for awhile?

My grief is the worst when I think about things you have missed or will miss - not necessarily when I think about you no longer existing. The pop culture and technology advancements that you would have loved - seeing Marvel movies with me the day they came out, talking about and sharing comics that we like, watching E3 streams and getting hyped about upcoming games. These are the times I think of you. When there's something I want to tell you, or get excited about with you. There are moments where it *hits* me - like the announcements for new video games (or reboots of old ones we used to play) and VR technology. I remember playing games with you and it just washes over me like a wave. "He would love this."

I think we would talk more now than we did when I was younger. It was so hard to keep up with school, my own journey, our crazy home life, and your needs - all at once. We could have deeper conversations now, I think. I don't know what you would have said to my transition, but considering how you took every other confession I ever told you, I think we would have been more than fine. You probably would have tried to fight people daily for me, which in itself shouldn't be as comforting as it is. The thought makes me smile, though, so I'll keep it. 

Apparently that was all I wanted to say, so I'll end it here. 

 Thinking of you, bro <3

Friday, May 1, 2020

A New Home and COVID Takeover

**Fair warning - this post has been queued since March - sooooo..... oops!**

FROM MARCH:
Let me start by saying that we loved our apartment here in Vegas. Yes, past tense. We loved the location, the neighborhood, the space, the staff at the complex - everything. Until... the people upstairs moved in. It became a nightmare.

So, ahead of our planned schedule - we have rented a house! It's huge, and wonderful, and I regret nothing about having to pay to term the apartment lease early. It has a backyard, and a lemon tree, and double ovens in the kitchen, and I am absolutely in love with it.

Dad came to help us move - which was amazing because it would NOT have gone as smoothly nor had been as fun without him here to help. He was here for 8 days and not only did he help us move, he also got (not one, but) TWO tattoos while he was here. He went from zero to two in the matter of one weekend. It was pretty cool to be there with him while it was being done - and he seems elated with his choices, so overall I think it was a great trip for him. Bella also loved getting minimum three walks a day, of course.

Also, I have officially joined the local Search and Rescue team, and have been going to training classes at least twice per week (usually more) to try and get all of my requirements for the SAR Tech II test in May.

So, needless to say it has been an exciting few months!

I've been using the 5 year journal that my Mom got me for Christmas, so I'm practicing my journaling. I tend to just write about my day and what I did instead of my thoughts or anything like that, so that might be interesting to try and see where it goes.



FROM MAY:
Wow, I really thought that I had published this. OOPS!

So it's been a bit since I was supposed to post this, and COVID has taken over the planet. We're all at home, doing nothing, and creativity has left me for a few weeks. It's back a bit today, so I wrote a post this morning that I'll post on Tuesday, for Michael. It just kindof came out of me - so that was interesting.

The house is amazing, we are SO HAPPY that we're not stuck at home with people above us, and Bella loves it here, thankfully. Mostly the upstairs, but she still loves it.

Due to COVID, my SAR Tech II test is not happening tomorrow, and likely won't be until the Fall. So besides that, it's been just hanging out and playing Animal Crossing (which as taken over our lives in the best way).

I'll try to write more for here, and as always questions or suggestions of topics to cover would be welcomed with open (virtual or 6 feet apart) arms!


Friday, December 27, 2019

Roaring Twenties - Take Two!

I know everyone has been making the same jokes about the new year - like bringing back the 20s and 20/20 vision - but honestly they haven't gotten old yet so I'm jumping on that wagon.

Some check-in info before we move to definitions:
1. I kept up with the workout and eating schedule until we went to Florida for a family birthday party (I ran while we were there and twisted my ankle a bit - ugh) after which my parents came to visit and I got a cold which hasn't let go of me as of yet.
2. My parents came to visit! It was my mom's first time in Vegas and Dad's second (he helped us move our stuff into the apartment when we first moved here), and we had a lot of fun visiting the strip, and Red Rock, and we even celebrated Christmas on Sarah's birthday. Don't worry we also had birthday cake for Sarah and for Mom since her birthday happened while they were here also.
3. Orientation for RRSAR is on the 9th, and Sarah will be on a business trip, but I'm still excited about it!
4. We're trying bullet journaling this year! Hopefully it will help keep us (me) more organized, and also help me set a schedule for updating this blog as well as log ideas I have for future posts. Here's hoping!

Okay, definition time!

As 2019 comes to a close, and people make New Year's Resolutions - I think it would be appropriate to talk about dysphoria. Some people make resolutions that involve changing their body in some way. This can be anything from working out/losing weight, new hair, new piercing, new tattoo, plastic surgery, and more.

Dysphoria is defined as "a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life". It originates from Greek dusphoria, from dusphoros ‘hard to bear’. As you can tell, it is a very general term. I think we've all been 'dissatisfied with life' at some point, however in regards to transgender people, this can be an everlasting feeling that usually resonates with some specific part of their body, or their entire being. The feeling can be so strong that it can induce anxiety, fear, and cause people to go to drastic measures to hide parts of their body that they are dysphoric about.

When the dysphoria is in relation to someone's gender, it is referred to as (you guessed it) 'gender dysphoria'. In some cases, a person with gender dysphoria feels a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth as early as three or four years of age. This is not always the case, however. Some people may feel "differently" from a young age, but not really be able to identify what they are feeling until later in life. As someone who was raised with little to no information about LGBTQ+ people or issues, I can tell you that I simply did not have the vocabulary for what I was feeling because I didn't know that it existed. I had no idea what transgender was, and was raised thinking that anything 'gay' or 'queer' was negative and something to be hidden or ashamed of.

Not every person who is transgender experiences dysphoria. Some people are fully content with their bodies and simply decide that they wish to be referred to using different pronouns than those they have used since birth.

*** You do not need to experience dysphoria to be transgender ***

This is a common misconception.

There are people who believe that someone is not TRULY transgender unless they experience dysphoria (among other things but I'm not trying to write a novel here). I cannot express how incorrect, dangerous, and hurtful this concept is. Every human is different, and we cannot dictate nor mandate how someone feels or should feel. Concepts like "in order to be transgender you must x, y, and z" breed a dangerous society for those who are not cisgender (a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their sex assigned at birth). It makes people feel like they are not transgender enough or that they are not valid simply because they do not fit into arbitrary check boxes. 

Transgender people are already in danger, just by existing. Between October 2018 and September 2019 there were a recorded 331 murders of trans and gender-diverse people, according to a report compiled by Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide.

Please do your best to be a good ally, and correct people who seem to be of a mindset that being transgender involves some sort of checklist, it can save a life.

Happy New Year everyone, stay warm and stay safe! I'll be back in 2020!

Friday, December 6, 2019

New Days and New Routines - Let's Play Catch Up!

A few things to report on! 😀 Sorry, no LGBTQ+ Definitions today. Next time!💙

We went to see a dietitian recently, and they got us on a new routine of eating and working out that has been great - so I'm really hoping I can stick with it.

Hopefully exercising will help with all the other health issues I have going on also. We shall see...

I am such a lemon.

*          *          *

We went to San Diego a few weeks ago and it was AMAZING. We went to the zoo for two days, the safari park, and the aquarium! After going to the SD Zoo, the Bronx Zoo is kind of sad.

The hotel was cute, though - it had a delicious breakfast restaurant attached, and the weather was so nice. Slightly chilly, a bit rainy the first day - absolute perfection.

*          *          *

Now the holidays are coming, my parents are coming to visit (it will be my Mom's first time in Vegas to see us), and I'm actually pretty excited. Is it weird to say that I don't know how to feel about that?

I miss them, of course I do - how could I not? The distance has been great, I think, for all of us - but there are definitely days where I miss being able to just stop by and see them. I'm surprise my Mom hasn't gone crazy being retired and home most of the time with my Dad around more, but they seem to be doing pretty well. Which is nice. I remember... well, I remember when things were not so put together.

We got a lot of Christmas shopping done on Black Friday (yes, we went out) - and even had a friend visit for that Thanksgiving weekend from Arizona - so we had a nice "friendsgiving". It was honestly a really great weekend and I had so much fun - I haven't seen him in awhile and it was nice to catch up and get to hang out even if it was mostly just watching Disney movies and eating. Worth it.

We're also going to Florida for a family party this month, it's gonna be a LONG weekend considering we're taking a red-eye flight to get out there - but it should be a good time. I'm excited to get out of the house for a bit since I know the beginning of next year will likely be spent a lot inside.

*          *          *

Speaking of getting out of the house! I applied (and was invited to orientation night) to a local Search and Rescue team, so if all goes well I might start volunteering for that in the new year (I can't believe it's going to be 2020 - wow) which is pretty exciting. I've wanted to try Search and Rescue for awhile now, and I'm hoping it will be a good experience.

Lots of things happening, and I will try to get back on here soon with more LGBTQ+ definitions and analysis soon!

*          *          *

PS- I've been eating and drinking water more, so... the brain weasels have been quieter. I'm hoping that this workout routine of 5 days a week will help even more. Off to drink more water!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

There are many kinds of therapy.

I have not done a shot of Testosterone in 5 weeks. The medication has been on back order, apparently, and to say that my system is going haywire is an understatement.

I was told today that my prescription should be ready tomorrow. I have been flip-flopping between absolutely livid and creepily calm about it for over two weeks now. I know that there isn't anything to really be done about it, but long story short I was told it was available at another CVS and then it wasn't, twice.

Sorry it's been awhile, I would say that I am doing better - but my hormone changes have made that hard to track for a few weeks. I've been thinking about using a bullet journal to keep track of that a bit better, but that's still just a barely formed thought that needs more research.

I presented my workshop for Altice while we were in NY for a friend's wedding, which they recorded as a webinar, and it was the first one I had done in while so it was a lot of fun and I really hope the people who tuned in considered it worth their time.

I figured since today has been a pretty good day despite some outside factors (I jogged, the dog came with me, I had a protein shake for lunch, I started the process of booking appointments with a PCP and a nutritionist, and I finalized some plans for our San Diego trip next month), I would make a post and use this experience to talk about HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).

Let's start with the basics.

Every human body produces hormones.
Typically, the human body produces both Estrogen and Testosterone.
When sex hormones levels rise, during puberty, differences start to become obvious between typical male and female humans.
If the body is producing more Estrogen than Testosterone, that person will develop female secondary sex characteristics, and therefore male secondary sex characteristics if the body produces more Testosterone than Estrogen.

Let's make a small list of these characteristics.

Female secondary sex characteristics may include (but are not limited to):
Growth of breast tissue
Growth of body hair, prominently pubic hair and underarm hair
Widening of hips
Body fat distribution increases around the breasts, hips, thighs and buttocks

Male secondary sex characteristics may include (but are not limited to):
Growth of body hair in the following regions: pubic, underarm, abdominal, and chest
Growth of facial hair
Adam's apple increases in size and voice deepens
Increase in muscle mass and strength
Increase in secretions of oil and sweat

When someone utilizes Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), they are using hormones to adjust their bodies in some way. There are plenty of cisgender people that utilize HRT, for a number of reasons.

When transgender people utilize HRT, it is usually to aid in their process of transition. For example, someone who was assigned female at birth (like myself), they may start taking hormones so that they can present more like a cisgender male. Depending on when someone starts HRT, it can essentially cause them to go through puberty again.

Everyone's dosage of hormones is different, there is no standard prescription of hormones that someone starts and sticks with throughout their entire life. Yes, you read that right. Most people who are transgender utilize HRT for their entire lives, or until they decide to stop - based on their own reasoning. Different people produce different amounts of hormones naturally in their bodies, and the point of HRT for someone who is transgender is to override the amount of the hormone that their body naturally produces using the hormone that they wish to be dominant.
Again, an example.
I was born female, therefore my body naturally produces a certain amount of Estrogen. I inject just enough Testosterone, on a cycled basis, to override the Estrogen levels in my body, which causes my body to develop and maintain male secondary sex characteristics.

That is the basis of HRT.

My dose, as it stands, will change after I get a full hysterectomy - as my body will produce less Estrogen after my ovaries are removed, and then my Testosterone does can also decrease as I will not need as much to override the Estrogen that my body will be producing at that time.

There is of course more that I could go into on this subject, but that is the basics.

I hope that this helped explain a bit more about HRT, and as always, feel free to email me (akircheim@gmail.com) with questions or other topics you think I should cover.


Thanks for tuning in, and hopefully I will be back again sooner than last time! 💓


Monday, June 10, 2019

Self-Reflection and NY Trip

Let's get right to the point: I've played it off well in these posts (I think) but I've been struggling with down spirals of depression for some months now. 

I don't know the exact root of the issue. 

It could be because of any of the following reasons:
-I feel stuck at home most days (working remotely has serious pros, but this is major con) 
-I don't eat enough (something I came clean about yesterday to Sarah about)
               I really do not eat enough. I know this. Sometimes I just skip meals because it seems like too much to just go and make food. Which is hard for me to admit because I can clean the entire apartment for upwards of four or more hours without eating or drinking and that is relaxing but somehow making and eating a sandwich seems like a mountain I just cannot climb, so I skip it. This is something that I am working on, and it's going to get better.
-I don't drink enough water (let me go get some... there we go)
-I'm sure that I have some form of ADD and an auditory processing disorder and between making people repeat themselves and (sometimes) debilitating executive dysfunction I feel like I'm a failure and can't just do something - no matter what it is.
-I have pent-up stress and the best action is to work out but my motivation has tanked lately.

You would think that as someone who wants to go into the counseling field I would gone to someone already. I'm not sure exactly what is stopping me. I make so many excuses instead of just doing it (there's that executive dysfunction again), and I think that once we get another car I will feel more inclined to do something about it because I may not feel as stuck as I do now at home every day. 

We shall see.


          *          *          *

One thing that seriously helped me was visiting NY for the past month. I was there from May 7th to June 4th and let me tell you, it was a great reset button. It helped me just chill and self-reflect a bit. I missed Sarah terribly but I was helping some of my best friends with their newborn (my Godson) and it was nice to help and feel needed. It was nice to always have something to do that wasn't the same shit I have been doing for a year, and to have someone else in the house with me all day - and as someone who enjoys doting on other people, it was nice to be able to do things for them and feel like I made a difference in their day. Instead of sitting here feeling useless (even though I don't stop doing shit here, it was just different when it was other people), and lonely.

Now, I have some immediate goals:
-Don't skip a meal for the rest of the month
-Workout at least 2x a week
-Complete my 3 Marvel 5k runs (by August 1st) for the Disney Summer 5k event that I signed up for
-Administer my shot on time for the next 3 shots (I was a few days late this time and I felt it)

We can do this, fam. I know it. We got this.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How did I get here?

My life has turned into something that I did not envision.

I'm living as who I truly want to be, even though 'who I want to be' changes from time to time (and I'm fully okay with that).
I'm separated from the exhausting drama that used to be a daily part of my life in New York.
I have an amazing wife that I love more every time I reflect on our relationship, even when I'm sure I couldn't possibly feel any more love for her. It's the only time that being proven wrong feels uplifting.

While growing up, I never saw myself living past 25. I was sure that it would end, somehow. Either by my own hand or otherwise. I just... couldn't imagine it. Not my wedding, not my spouse, not raising kids, buying a house...nothing.

Now I'm just thankful every single day of my life for what I have. Although there are times that I still struggle with envisioning my future.

Some days, I'm convinced I just got lucky.

Other days, I think about all of the shit that I went through to get here, and I realize that I worked my ass off - and I deserve this.

Today, it doesn't matter how I got here - I'm just overwhelmed with my current happiness.

I'm flying back to NY later this week to be at one of my best friends' baby shower and help paint the kid's room, and I couldn't be more excited.

In this moment, life is pretty damn good. I know that won't be the case at some point - so I wrote this to be able to look back on when I need it.

          *          *          *

"Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism... It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile." -Bernard Beckett

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year, Same Old

It's been awhile since we've stayed up late enough to see the ball drop in NYC. This year, we made it! Pay no attention to the fact that we are on PST now and it happened at 9pm our time... or the fact that we don't have cable anymore so we didn't even really get to see it happen... but I'm still gonna take that as a win. Needless to say, I was asleep by 11pm local time that night - same as every other night.

No less than 3 people expressed how they "wished they had done that" instead of whatever they did on New Year's Eve after I told them how our night went, and I hope they remember that next year when the night comes. Just stay home and get some damn sleep, we all bust our asses every other day of the year. New Year's Eve is the best reason to just chill and get some extra hours rest. Spoken like a true old man... maybe it's because no matter what day it is, I'm up at 5:30am to feed the dog and let her out. She doesn't know when it's New Year's Day, or a weekend - so maybe I'm just used to it now.

New Year's Day was quiet, I got to play Minecraft and listen to The Adventure Zone - which was glorious. Then we had dinner and watched Brooklyn 99. As far as great days go, it was up there. 

Now the holidays are over, every commercial or ad is for fitness gear or classes, and it's back to normal. Whatever that means. 

It's actually cold here, which a few friends were surprised to hear. It's fantastic. We still haven't turned the heat on, and I don't think we will. We're living in sweatpants and hoodies and snuggling under blankets and it's absolutely everything I have ever wanted - just me, the love of my life, and our dog - 3,000 miles away from family drama. I miss our friends, though. More lately, it seems. Maybe the "moving across the country" high is settling down and I'm really feeling it now. Or maybe it's seasonal. 

I'm a proud person, but not too proud to admit that I miss people. Or that I do still wonder if we'll end up back on the East Coast. It crosses my mind, if I'm honest. And I'm always honest

We love it here, it's really growing on us - but I understand what people say now about staying close to people you know, or family, especially now that one of my best and closest friends is pregnant. How far away do I really want to be from that? Then again, short of moving back over there, anywhere we live will be a plane ride. It's just... it's sad. 

I don't want to end this on a down note, so I will say this: don't stress over resolutions or goals that will be unfulfilled if they take longer than 365 days. Just be good to yourself, whatever that means for you. More baths and face masks, a mini vacation if you can't afford to go on an expensive one, paying for someone else to clean your house every once in awhile, buying that new mattress, learning a new skill or hobby... do things because they make you happy not because you have to complete a checklist this year. 

Screw what everyone else thinks or does, just do what makes you happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Holidays, Reflections, and Life Lessons

The holidays are usually a time for people to see family, reconnect, and show each other how well you know the others based on your gift-giving skills. At least, that's pretty much what it was always about for me. Also church. A lot of time in church.

To be honest, I'm pretty excited to just spend the holidays alone with Sarah. Usually on Christmas day we would go to three or four houses, and it was absolutely exhausting. This will be a nice year to just hang out and recharge.

For me, the holidays are usually about reflection.

So, as I was reflecting on... I don't remember exactly.... but I also happened to be cutting carrots. I was moving just a bit too fast, and next thing I knew there was blood on the cutting board and a bit of the tip of my finger was gone. It really could have been much, much worse if the knife were actually sharp (but it's currently as dull as ditchwater).

Nevertheless - I cleaned up, wrapped my finger, and went back to cutting without pause as one single thought crossed my mind, as if in the distance of my brain... a thought that I have been living by for years and was not even fully conscious of until that very moment. One single phrase that I have since realized has been probably one of the most important lessons I have ever learned...

"Get back on the horse."

When I was young, my parents sent me to summer camp. A day camp out east on Long Island where the taxes are less and the properties are large. A horse camp - the definition of my summer. I would count the days until it would start, and knew that pretty much as soon as it was over I had to get my ass in gear and finish my summer reading before school started again.

I attended this camp for over a decade: first as a camper, then as a Counselor in Training, and eventually as a Lifeguard. Despite all of my other available activities, the hour that I could ride a horse was the best hour of the day. Not swimming, not arts and crafts, not archery, not even playing cards under Shady Lane as a CIT and skipping other daily responsibilities. None of that mattered when I was riding - it was just me and the horse.

A shared understanding between me and this majestic beast.

An unspeakable bond.

That would sometimes end up with me slamming into the mud from upwards of 5 feet off the ground.

There were many rules at camp, none of which rang more true than 'You're not a real rider until you've fallen off at least three times'. This rule was immediately followed by, 'every time you fall off, you must bring brownies for your entire riding group'.

Needless to say, I made quite a few batches of brownies over the years.

Of all the things that summer camp taught me (too many to count), the most valuable lesson of all was 'get back on the horse'. You fell off, you got back on. That was it. If you let the horse win in that moment, the chances of you getting back on, ever, dropped dramatically. We had kids fall off in their first week and quit camp - never to be seen again. There were those that had bad falls and waited a few days but ultimately recovered and reclaimed their saddle, but many were lost within the first few weeks, their tears falling all the way to their parents' cars and probably continued as we watched them drive away in a cloud of dirt.

"Get back on the horse" was my mantra from a very young age, and I didn't realize as it crept into my subconscious and became one of the strongest reactions in my arsenal. Looking back now (don't worry I'm not currently chopping vegetables), I realize how many times I've used this lesson. I can remember times in the past where I have told myself to 'get back on the horse' and it's like a second wind rising up against something that I refuse to let beat me, or hold me down.

So if you're struggling with something, or it feels like the universe if fighting against you - don't just sit back and take it.

Get back on the fucking horse.