Last time, I asked you to consider what it might feel like to switch to hormones of the sex opposite yours. I’m guessing that’s pretty hard to do. But I hope you gave it some thought and came up with a few ideas. Please feel free to share in the comments – I’m really interested what you came up with.
When we left off, my endocrinologist had increased my doses of both the estrogen and the testosterone-blocking spironolactone (spiro). I mentioned that this increase did not eliminate the dysphoria I was experiencing, but had helped me in other ways. It has helped me mentally, and has had some effects on my body physically.
One of the biggest mental benefits of HRT for me is that I feel validated in my own sense that I am meant to be female. After about a month of HRT, I realized that I was generally calmer and my thinking had become clearer. Before, I had very few emotional responses – mostly anger, ennui or very occasionally, happiness; my emotions had to be intense to break through some barrier and become something I was consciously aware of. Now, I have feelings, lots of them! I’m able to cry when I need to, and that’s an amazing thing! (We do serious damage to our boys and men by discouraging them from crying) It’s not that I’m more emotional, but I now have more ability to experience and process the emotions that have always been there (but suppressed).
I’ve noticed that since beginning HRT, I’ve experienced a serious reduction in emotions and responses which I consider negative – feelings which I don’t like when I experience them. For instance, before HRT, when threatened, I felt like I needed to “defend my territory”, whether that was physically protecting people and property, or being headstrong about my position on a disagreement. Now, I’m a lot more open and accepting of alternative viewpoints. While I will still protect the people who are important to me, property – things – aren’t as important. Before, threats to property and ideals felt like challenges which must be dealt with in quick and decisive ways. Now, I feel like I have a better sense of priorities and it’s less important to be right than to be safe. And when threatened, my response is no longer to attack (sometimes preemptively) but to instead protect. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I feel like HRT has improved my intuition, and has definitely made me more empathetic.
I still experience dysphoria, but it seems to happen less frequently. It is often less intense and passes more quickly than before. But it has also changed the dynamics of my dysphoria – I feel it in different ways and in response to different things. When before, the dysphoria could be triggered by visual cues – seeing women’s clothes which I’d like to try on, for instance – now it tends to be more internal triggers – feeling out-of-place/not-fitting-in. My body continues to be a source; having a sense that certain aspects of my body aren’t correct will frequently start or intensify my dysphoria.
I feel less depressed and less anxious. My life and my body make more sense to me now, and I feel like I am making progress in correcting the things which contributed to my depression. I feel hope. I feel happiness. Not all the time, but a lot more than I ever did before.
HRT granted me stability by helping break through the barriers which kept me from understanding who and what I am. Now that I know, I don’t spend time wondering “what in the world is wrong with me?!”. I’ve lost a lot of the noise that was always there – “what is going on? Why do I feel like this? I’m going to lose everything if this ever gets out!” I have more energy to put towards other mental tasks.
There are a variety of changes I’ve noticed. I’ve lost muscle tone (not that I was lifting weights or buff before, but I’ve lost some strength). My sweat has changed – before, if I went a while without using an antiperspirant, I’d develop some unpleasant smells. Now, I rarely use an antiperspirant, and I don’t get stinky. I’ve noticed that my sense of smell has changed, too. Bad smells seem a little more irritating, and pleasant smells more, well, pleasant. Flowers smell a lot nicer now!
It might just be wishful thinking, but I believe that my body hair is growing at a somewhat slower rate, and isn’t as thick as it used to be. Unfortunately, my facial hair continues to grow the same as before, so I tend to shave more now than I did when I still thought I was a man. I think my facial features have softened a little, but it’s hard for me to identify just how. Even when I examine pictures from before HRT and now, I can see that there’s a difference, but I can’t see what the difference is.
A few months into HRT, I began noticing a lot of tenderness in my chest; I now understand why a lot of teen girls develop poor posture and walk with their arms folded over their chest. Soon after that, I noticed some growth in that area. This development produced one of the bigger surprises of my transition. After I noticed my growth, I realized that I was now able to identify something that I’d felt before, but had never understood (or could even have described). My breasts were (and are) important to me! And not in a prurient way; they felt like an integral part of me – something which absolutely belonged. I realized that I had been feeling their absence all my life, and that since my brain had subconsciously expected them to be there (and they weren’t), it was distressed. Perhaps a good way to describe it is to compare it to Phantom Limb syndrome (where amputees experience sensations with the missing body part) – I felt something, but having never had breasts, I’d never learned to associate the feelings with that part/area. I’d been missing them, both mentally and physically, my whole life! Having the right parts there has brought immense relief!
And finally, since starting injectable estrogen, I’ve noticed that my skin has softened a lot. Places where I’m naturally hairless (bottoms of forearms, etc) feel soft and smooth. This has also provided a measure of relief because of how right it feels.
Recently, I had a few experiences which gave me clarity and reinforcement about the journey I’m on. When I switched to injectable estrogen, I was injecting every 2 weeks. Around the 10th or 11th day after an injection, I felt sad, irritated, and moody, and, (around day 12) aggressive and angry. I definitely didn’t feel like myself, and I knew I didn’t like feeling the ways I did. Upon getting a new dose of estrogen, these feelings subsided within a few hours. My estrogen levels had dropped too low around the 10th day, and testosterone became the dominant hormone in my system. With the testosterone came the feelings I’d felt before HRT. But now that I knew there was a better way to be, it felt even worse! I worked with my endocrinologist to adjust my dose, and now I don’t have those experiences. But to me, the message is clear – I’m better off with estrogen than testosterone.
HRT has been a godsend for me. It has given me hope to replace my despair. It has given me mental strength and resilience to replace my muscles and aggression. It has given me peace to replace my turmoil. It has given me calmness and stability.
With the help of HRT, I can now look in the mirror and more reliably see *myself*, looking back, smiling, finally becoming the person I’m meant to be. My body and my brain were built to run on estrogen. Now that I finally am, life makes more sense to me.
I survived testosterone poisoning, and I lived to tell (you) about it!