Mental health and 1000 origami cranes

I have been in survival mode since the moment I got on a plane at JFK to Prague airport eleven years ago. I didn’t want to go back to my passport country. That was the moment when one of the core issues of my depression has begun. One year before this moment I packed my stuff without any intention to ever return at age thirteen.

As puberty hit and I went to high school in my passport country two other core issues emerged independent of each other, being a transgender woman and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and yet intertwined with first issue. I’ve suffered from ASD mostly through Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and problems with executive functioning. The less apparent was my inability to use language like every one around me, translating from one language to another is almost insolvable problem, I can’t do it. What’s worse my brain doesn’t use word when thinking so translating ideas into words most of the time a daunting task. I couldn’t speak how I felt because I had no words for what I was feeling.

This led to a suicidal depression I’ve had to live through during high school because whenever I tried to express myself and couldn’t use Czech I tried to use English. Answer from people supposedly close to me: ‘Speak Czech.’ And I could not. So my solution was to keep everything inside and wait it out.

Fast forward to the end of college, I’ve started to deal with gender dysphoria by going to a doctor who prescribed me hormones but it took me a year between initial contact and this moment. The reason why it took me this long is, again, my inability to use language, especially Czech and feared silencing again and it took me 6 months before making initial contact to translate everything they might ask me from English to Czech. Since going on estrogen my life has been less miserable until January 2014.

This time ASD came by to tell me that I can’t really be adult like everyone else. Autistic burnout, this is the term used on forum for autistic people, happened to me and changed my life upside down. This is also a time when I started my Real Life Test so there was a lot which was going on in my life. Burnout on autistic spectrum means something different compared to “normal” burnout. It means that you were stretching yourself more than you should’ve and your spoon bank went bankrupt. You can no longer borrow spoons from the next day, and you have to slow down considerably and start changing how you live your life.

A lot of times it means changing one’s working environment, for some it might mean homelessness because they can’t afford to pay rent for others even death, for me it meant that I can hardly go back to school due to sensory issues. Sometimes I have problems to go to groceries and buy food for myself due to the noise which normal people consider, well, normal. Around September another part of my depression emerged, being in Czech republic for eleven years and wanting to go away.

I haven’t realized how much this part of depression affected me until I got out for ten or so days and felt a little bit spoonless but more productive, less anxious, and overall happier. From the fifth day on I’ve cried myself to sleep because I knew I had to return and didn’t want to but I also didn’t want to risk going off hormones. So my feelings were mixed.

Today, the day I’m writing this, I have made last crane for senbazuru. It’s strange feeling because for past ten months I couldn’t focus on anything, may be some times on a book, and now I made over 500 origami cranes in four days. I probably would call this miracle. I also have planed one trip out of Czech republic for next month, and commission for SRS will be January next year, and then I’m moving home.

I don’t know where home is, and that’s OK at the moment.

I’ve been also falling back in love with coding which I was taught to hate by my teachers at university and people around me, mostly accountants and tax advisors who openly hated programmers. Unfortunately one of those people is my mother who was never in my support circle and sadly she’s one of my anxiety triggers so I have decided to leave her outside of what is important to me. This makes me angry and sad at the same time.

Honesty

I’m not always honest and I hate it. I lie, quite often because I rather lie and be safe than say the truth and get hurt. I also include not telling the truth in it, and releasing smoke screen. It should be other way around. I don’t tell truth to be safe.

And yet I am pissed when someone lies to me. It makes me angry when cashier lies to me about price. I don’t know what to do. Am I supposed to yell at her? Or call her out?

Instead I get angry and never return. In the end it hurts me. I could have paid using card instead of cash. I could have done this and that.

For me there is a lesson in it be more honest and speak up. Putting up smoke screens and staying silent won’t help anyone.

Hard Decision

Since I taught myself how to code in college I’ve been asking myself if this is what I really want. At the beginning there was my desire to make video games, and every one around me told me to learn how to code. When I finally learned how to code I also had in my head my mother’s voice which scolded me every single time I played video game on computer, not on handhelds. Weird, indeed.

I’ve struggled through college where I majored in ‘I wish I knew’, we were taught how to code, some circuitry, control engineering and lot of math and physics, and after that I dropped out of graduate school where I was majoring in computer science. I realize that graduate school was my huge mistake because going to graduate school without a goal is stupid, stupid, stupid idea, but local culture demanded that there is no other way. So here I am, out of school and recovering from autistic burnout.

I don’t want go into gaming industry, especially as a transgender woman. I also contemplated a lot about leaving tech industry altogether because I can’t remain silent about stuff. If I see something as broken I want to be part of the solution, or if I find something cool that can be done I want to tell people about it, be it on my blog or at the conference.

What was happening in last two or three months, GamerGate etc., made me think a lot whether or not I want to be part of tech world. After a lot of hard thinking I can leave, but it’ll mean that the hate groups won, and I can’t let them take over the industry which is everywhere these days and which I still love. So I decided that I’ll stay in tech industry and I’ll be vocal. If death threats and sexual harassment are the price to pay for being successful woman in tech world then I’ll accept this price, but I’ll fight those abusers because such behavior is NOT acceptable.

At the moment I have one Scala project which needs to be finished, and I have a lot of work in front of me when it comes to getting up to date in front-end web development.

Home

Home is, for most people, a place, a city, a state, or a country where they grew up. But for people who grew up in more than one country calling a particular place home can be difficult. I’m not saying that feeling being at home is unattainable, but sometimes it can be difficult to reach.

From my experience I can tell that when I’m in Czech republic I feel as if the place I can call home is on the other side of Atlantic ocean. But at the same time I know that when I last visited place where I lived, it did not felt like home. Too much has changed since I lived there.

And here in Prague or the other city where I lived it doesn’t feel like being home. I don’t really speak the local language, I understand the meaning of the words, but I lack the intuitive ability to use them. I feel lost here behind a perfect mask unable to take it off. It’s a weird state of mind even for me to completely understand it.

From what I have learned from other adult third culture kids, ATCKs, home are people, not a place. I agree with this definition, unfortunately there are many parents who don’t understand this. My father understood this to a some extent, but my mother did not. So there will not be a place for me called home for a while. That’s because I’m the middle of a transition, I don’t mean the gender one now, and I don’t know where I’ll be in six months.

Need to get out 2

When I wrote the first post about needing to get out I didn’t know what to expect or where I would be couple of months later. It has been a month, may be a month and a half, and I still don’t know where I’ll be in next 4 or 5 months. Between this and previous post I studied more in depth what I wanted to do as a career, but I’m still stuck in Czech republic.

As I researched possibilities of transitioning in another country, I came to a conclusion that it may be riskier to leave. I still want to leave, but I feel I need to do more research. There is a possibility to live in one EU country, and officially work in another. The other possibility makes me sick. I’d have to stay in Czech republic until the operation, and then I could leave with female gender marker on all my ids.

I realize that staying where I am is the easiest way, but I’m not sure about my willingness to pay the price. The alternative in front of isn’t an ideal solution, but doable. I have only one problem with it, it doesn’t feel right because I’ll be traveling between host and passport countries. I wish there was a better solution, but I don’t see at the moment.

Rant: Quiet zones in the trains

I travel a lot or at least I thought I used to travel a lot. At the moment there are three companies in Czech republic which operate long-distance train lines. One of them offers quiet zone in whole coach but the tickets are or at least used to be expensive and service isn’t so good.

The one I use often offers one coupé probably in every coach but I am not sure because I use most often the one for only four people. This coupé is located at the front of the coach. The carrier uses quite awful user interface in their reservation system. Which is a reason why a lot of times I happen to sit in this coupé with people who didn’t read the quiet zone notice.

I know that it is my fault not standing up for myself when some of these people use cell phones. Who am I kidding? I am trying to be as polite as possible even though these people decided not to be as polite as I am.

I know that I sometimes stim because I am on autistic spectrum and it helps me cope and it can some people weird out. Sometimes I have to travel with people who abuse their headphones or use their phones or, what is the worst, they talk. I once politely asked a guy to respect quiet zone. And for the rest of my trip I had to hear his complains in front of stewardess about being in quiet zone.

The third company doesn’t offer quiet zone. Just one expensive and one even more expensive zone in their trains.

I still like to travel but I hate the people from time to time.

Need to get out

Exhausted is another feeling I have these days. I lived in this country for past 11 years and I’m tired because of it. I wish I could go away without having to think about transition problems.

Gender transition is the only reason I am still here. But I am not sure that this is good enough reason to stay. The more I think about it the more I am inclined to move away even if I have to organize my life differently.

If I leave in the middle of transition I might have to travel back to my present location every month or two. That’s not something I have problem with. In fact I am OK with it because I like to travel when I have a reason.

The other solution might be to switch between the systems. This may be a hustle because every country in European union has its own guidelines how gender transition works. Some countries don’t even have a framework for transgender people which means no treatment for people like me.

I don’t know where I am going to be in next couple of months but one thing I know for sure: I don’t want to live in Czech republic anymore. I almost got out once and I know I can do it again.

Beating anxiety one step at the time

I have struggled with anxiety since I came back from US. That happened 11 years ago. My main fear was that my bullies will not forget who to bully. And some of them did not. Except they started to call me different names. Jaromir Jagr was their favorite. I hate that guy and he can’t do a thing about it.

I did nothing about it. Well, I was 14 at the time. My mother was never my go-to person when I needed emotional support and she still isn’t. In fact I don’t have such person. I didn’t have to work around my anxieties a lot. I just had to be careful when I walked after school to my grandma’s place.

During high school it got slightly worse but not much. I was more aware of my patterns when I walked around the town. It was triggered by a comment from a guy I don’t even know: “I see [me] to walk here for the third time today.” So I was aware of my patterns and that made me uncomfortable. Nothing I couldn’t manage and nothing which would run my life.

I admit that I felt trapped not just in a gender role but also in a country where I didn’t wanted to live. I didn’t wanted to talk in Czech language. I hated that language since sixth or seventh grade. May be earlier. And I was without a person I could completely trust.

During my time at university I did my best to stay strong even though at times it was hard. I didn’t know when neighbors next door in dorm would throw a party. My roommates had bad habits of abusing their headphones or not using them at all.

After moving off campus I realized that I have problems when someone in four or five meter radius abuses their headphones. And same goes for cigarettes. But I feel as if I got sidetracked at the moment.

In January I experienced my first and so far last panic attack I know of. It was inside a streetcar. At a stop the number of people inside the streetcar almost doubled. I felt like I was back living at Strahov and going to school in a morning bus. These buses were usually overloaded with people so much that bus driver sometimes couldn’t close the doors.

My sensory issues from those times and those caused by the people in the streetcar produced my panic attack. And since then I tried to avoid public transportation altogether. And I decided to travel everywhere on foot almost everywhere. From time to time I took a streetcar in the town where my mother lives. But I had to get off early most of the times.

Today was different. I decided to stand up for myself. I took the streetcar from my mom’s place to a train station. I felt anxiety but it wasn’t that kind of anxiety which makes you to get out of situation as soon as possible. I will try to push myself in next couple of days more. But I’m wise enough not to overdo it.