My fear and anxiety around SRS. Why did it happen, how did I cope, and what are my thoughts now?

I’ve talked about my fear on the morning of SRS in my post of that day. I’ve mentioned it in passing elsewhere, and at length in some of my posts on /r/asktransgender. I am not one who ever experienced a crippling fear or anxiety like that before, and after talking with some people who have asked me to expand upon it I’m going to do my best to talk through it in this post. My goal is to help others feel that it’s something that can happen, and if it does that it doesn’t need to control their life or decisions during what is a crazy time in a persons life. As with most of my stuff… I hope that it helps at least one other person, if it does then I’ll have achieved my goal. Maybe it’ll even help more than just one person as unfortunately being trans comes with less of a manual than just about anything else I’ve ever done in life. Marathons, career, college, relationships, etc and just about everything has information out there that generally applies to you. Unfortunately this is so unique to every person that there isn’t an easy one size fits all approach to SRS. But by sharing our own experiences with one another and building a community we can help those in the future have a little easier time than we ourselves perhaps did. But I’ll get off my soap box now… So why was I scared, apprehensive, and anxious going into SRS?

First and foremost, keep in mind that I had an extremely accelerated timeline of events here. I started HRT Jan 2015, and until about April of 2016 I was pretty uncertain of if I wanted SRS at all. When I started transitioning I told my therapist and partners that I wanted to get FFS, BA, then maybe SRS in that order. I was not entirely sure if I’d want SRS for most of my time transitioning. So what changed? Well, to be blunt about it: sex. Specifically sex with men. I’ve identified as bi for my whole adult life. But never was open to dating men due to stigmas and social things around it. But after having gone full time and feeling comfortable as myself, I came to the point where I said I wanted to explore that and owed it to myself to do. So I started dating men around Feb of 2016. Through those dates I’d feel like a chick and it felt wonderful. Until things would turn sexual. Then I turned into a total cluster fuck internally (although still would have sex usually) because I then would feel as though I was just a really good imitation of a chick or a way for them to explore their bi side without feeling like they were “gay.” These feelings made me realize around April 2016 that would always hold true as long as I had male anatomy. So I had started looking into it pretty heavily, and fairly quickly decided on Suporn. On May 8th 2016 I sent the initial email to Sophie asking for details and getting things put together. On June 1st I was booked for August 16th 2017. On June 13th I emailed about an opening on August 16th 2016, and secured that date. In the span of about 3 months I went from unsure of SRS to a date booked 64 days out.

This started a crazy period of getting letters, money, flights, work arrangements, passport updated (it was still under old legal name at that point), and all the other logistics in place. Add in that one week I was out of town for an work conference along with other work trips, and it became even more stressful and compressed time scales. As one can expect the anxiety and stress at this point was high. Add in that I had one person moving out of my house so the half of my poly quad that didn’t live with me could move in and I felt I was barely hanging on to my sanity. By the time the week of the flight came I hadn’t had time to relax or really give to myself for 2-3 months. So I was unsure if I was rushing into this. I had family going “are you sure?” “You know you can’t undo this right?” And all of those kinds of things that didn’t help. Thank god I had my partners who helped carry me through that period. The day we left I was super on edge about it. Super anxious about my first trans-oceanic flight, getting there, what I was about to do, and still having not really spent time with my own thoughts, feelings, and emotions around it. I rushed into this, as I commonly do. However, this was one time I should not have rushed in my life. Then we had a delay in Chicago that caused us to miss our connecting in Tokyo which meant I’d miss the day after landing hospital pre-op checks. I tried calling the clinic staff but had issues getting to them (likely in large part due to me being an idiot and screwing up trying to call internationally). This added to the stress. Also, my partner that was going with had gotten a new gf (we were poly) and due to timing created some issues between us that came to a head in Tokyo the morning after we landed there. This all lead to me being extremely stressed and not really giving myself time to analyze why I wanted SRS. Or if I was rushing into it. Or if it was the right thing to do. I just closed my eyes to doubt and plowed forward for almost 3 months hoping it was the right thing to do.

When we landed in Thailand we had issues getting to the Clinic staff, as I missed the part where they told me the area to meet and didn’t realize there was more than one. So we left customs and went to the area there and nobody from the Clinic was there. I thought it was the only one. So now I’m in Thailand with no idea what to do because I was stressed and didn’t read the instructions well enough. FYI – there are multiple meeting spots and multiple areas where people wait for arrivals with signs. If you fly in on an international flight, you’ll exit near area 9/10. The clinic waits between doors 4-5. This is just past halfway down the airport. So when you get out make a right, go a ways down until you see 4/5, and they will have the sign there. After we got to the hotel we tried to find food. And that’s when we ventured out and had some pretty hard culture shock. My gf had been out of the country as a kid, but neither of us had been to Thailand as adults. And are used to the US cities, infrastructure, etc. This kind of messed with me too as I’m looking around the streets and going “wtf… this is the best place to get SRS?!?!? WTF did I do?” I wasn’t prepared for that either. We couldn’t figure out how to order at the Red Chair right by the hotel, so we got pizza instead. This was SRS -3 (i.e. Saturday night, SRS was Tuesday). Sunday was another shock at breakfast buffet where it was not what we’re used to in the US at hotels. It was good, just we had to figure out what we were eating or what we wanted to eat. Then off to the hospital that hospital for pre-checks. After getting back it was my last night of freedom and we had met some people at breakfast who invited us to dinner. So we ate with them at the hotel.

SRS -1 we walked around together extensively in the morning/early afternoon before going to get checked into the hospital. Things really hit me when we landed of “omg I’m about to do this…” but checking into the hospital was when my anxiety shot up. Oh, and at this point I was off HRT for almost 2 weeks so my body was out of whack. The pre-checks were scary as well as it was the “yup this is happening” and seeing the hospital it’s not what I was expecting. The night before SRS is when things got really bad though. I was getting really scared. And I didn’t want to go to sleep because I just was enjoying my time with my gf and just being out of bed. I had nothing left to do but wait, so I was just trying to live in that moment. Then a nurse came in and told me to go to bed about 10 PM. This sent me into an anxiety spiral I didn’t come out of until after waking up from SRS. Through this period I was afraid I was making the wrong choice. I was afraid of waking up and regretting it because I’d only really spent 4 months feeling I wanted to do it. I was scared of surgery having never had any. I was scared of anesthesia or any of the other things that could go wrong. I was scared of what if Suporn had an off day and made a mistake. I was scared of the unknown. I was scared of the what if’s. I was anxious and feared I’d wake up and regret it. Because I didn’t know who I’d wake up as. I’d go to sleep as this person who knew herself pretty well overall. Knew her body. Knew myself. I’d wake up from surgery, which I’d never done before, as this person I thought I always wanted to be. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I would wake up and go “oh shit what the fuck did I just do…” I had no way to know for sure. Finally after a ton of crying and cuddling/consoling with my partner, I went to sleep around midnight.

The morning of went pretty quick at first as they wake you up at like 530 to shower and shave you. Then you wait. We did a skype call with the other half of the quad in the states for about half an hour. Then they came and asked “are you ready?” Well fuck no I’m not ready. How the fuck do you get ready for something like this? That’s what I thought and felt. So I said bye to my gf and left to get on the gurney. They said she can come with. Sweet. The whole way down I was in tears. I was shaking. I was ice cold. My skin was as white as the sheets I was on. I kept telling her how scared I was and how uncertain I was. How afraid I was. We get to the pre-op area and they have me get on a different gurney. At that point they made my gf leave. I wasn’t ready for this, and we almost didn’t get to say we loved one another. One of the last things I asked her was, “am I doing the right thing?” I knew she couldn’t definitively tell me either way, but she knew what I needed and told me “yes, you’re doing the right thing.” When I got to the OR the operating table looked like it was right out of a lethal injection room table. Arms splayed out and everything. From the moment I left my room until I went under I had such uncontrollable anxiety and fear and wanted nothing more than to say, “I can’t do this” and cancel. The nurse working to put my IV in couldn’t find my vein and kept poking me. This just added to the thought of, “oh fuck… I’m going to get butchered and regret this for life…” The head nurse saw me freaking out and came over in between my right arm and chest. She just rubbed my right shoulder and interlocked my right hand with her own. IIRC my heart rate was 130ish (+/-10) when my resting is high 50’s usually. I vividly remember looking at the clock at 8:23 AM going “I’m going to cancel this… I can’t do this. I can’t take the chance I’ll regret this. I can’t keep going…” But I just willed that down. I just refused to let myself say it. About this point the head nurse started just talking with me. And that distracted me enough until Suporn and the anesthesiologist came in. They took some pics and then the anesthesiologist explained what would happen when I woke up, and a minute later said “you’re going to sleep now.” My eyelids got heavy, and I closed them. The next thing is I woke up to hearing my name and that it was over and went well. Then came the realization I had just gotten SRS and was good with that, and I didn’t regret it. Then came the excruciating pain. This is covered more in depth elsewhere so I won’t rehash it here.

Since this post is already 2200 words (i.e. long), I’m going to end it here. I’ll post another post in a day or two talking about what I could’ve done different/better to avoid almost canceling in the OR. Until then, thanks for reading!

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