January 16, 2014

And Now It’s Time for a Breakdown

Tuesday was not a good day.

Tuesday was supposed to be a great day. The second Tuesday of every month is the one day that I most get to be my Self. I get off work early, go home to change, and head out to Ann Arbor to spend the entire evening with my support structure. First is my gender therapy appointment with Nancy, which I have every Tuesday but which gets scheduled later in the day on the second Tuesday so that I don’t have to come straight from work (i.e. in Him mode). Then I have a two-hour window to relax, usually in a Starbucks with a venti vanilla blonde roast and some writing I’m working on. Finally, the second Tuesday is the evening of my group therapy with Cecelia, the best gender therapist in the state.

This Tuesday, however, began bittersweet. Nancy is in the kind of position with the university gender services program that is not fixed or contracted, but instead renewed on a semester-to-semester basis. And unfortunately, I learned that her future is uncertain with the program — budgets and such– which means my time with her may be short. She is planning to start a private practice in another city if she leaves the university, but I’m not sure if I can follow her. Right now, the program subsidies the cost of therapy; one of the reasons I’m working through the program is that I could not afford the cost of weekly sessions with an outside therapist (upwards of $400 a month). So in my session this week I couldn’t get out of the back of my head that this may be one of my last sessions with her. It distracted me the entire hour.

When I finished therapy, I found an e-mail waiting in my inbox from my mother, updating me on some medical tests my father recently had concerning some fluid around his lung. What they thought might be a simple infection has turned into something more mysterious, as tests of fluid they drained came back “inconclusive.” While the c-word didn’t come out, doctors are beginning to use words like “biopsy” and “PT scan” to discuss his next options. My father is elderly and already suffering from some chronic conditions which would complicate any major health issue even more. He’s old, and he’s getting sick, and he’s 1,000 miles away.

So I was already feeling down by the time I made it to my group therapy session. Normally, group is one of the highlights of my month. It is the only social group were I can be me, not Him, and where I hear my real name spoken out loud. I always leave group in a good mood, and the next month never comes fast enough for me.

This session went well. Everybody contributed; we shared some laughs and we lamented our problems. But at the end of the session Cecelia, with a heavy heart, told us that she had to disband the group therapy sessions and that this was going to be our last meeting with her. This time the big c-word DID come up; Cecelia has a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer and she’s about to undergo both surgeries and radiation therapy. She is already in her seventies, so though it remained unsaid I could tell that we were all thinking about how this would probably end sooner rather than later. She was saying goodbye to us.

I don’t want to sound selfish. Nancy may lose her position; my father and Cecelia may lose their lives. In contrast, my concerns feel trivial. But for me, this was a triple-whammy, not to mention a potentially complete and total breakdown of the real-world support structure I had put together over the last year. I am not out to most of my family or friends; I am not living full-time as myself, and even saying that I am living part-time is charitable. Once a week I get to let everything out with Nancy; once a month I got to be myself with the group.

Now the group is gone. Now every “next week” with Nancy is potentially a last week. And on top of that, if things turn for the worse with my father, I’m five states away. 

It’s not the end of my world. But that one night has truly shaken up both my tentatively constructed support structure and my confidence in the choices I have made and continue to make. Sometimes it’s good to be shaken out of one’s comfort zone; but sometimes, it just sucks.


  • Ali, I don’t even know why I decided to leave a reply. I don’t know what to say that would help in the light of your losses and the uncertainty that jumped up so unexpectedly in your life. Just saying that we are here for you seems so trite, and the oft-repeated “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t offer any REAL comfort. All I can say, I guess, is that I hurt for you. And being so utterly unable to help a friend…that, too “just sucks.” ((hugging you in my heart))


  • Ali, very sorry to hear of th challenges that have sudenly come your way. Best wishes to you and your family.

    As is frequently the case, challenges can lead to opportunities. I’m willing to bet that you aren’t the only one stressed about the loss of the group sessions. Though you may not have a leader or have others qualified to lead the sessions, perhaps the group could continue to meet and offer support to each other. I imagine that a huge part of the benefits derived are related to the opportunity to simply be yourself in a supportive environment.

    Best of luck!

    • The idea of continuing the group socially is one I’ve thought about, and in fact many of us exchanged contact info Tuesday night. We will have to see what comes of it. We’re a pretty diverse group geographically, though.

  • Ali:
    I feel some of your pain — I’ve been there. High school sweetheart and wife of 33 years came down with chronic disease 2 years after marriage and suffered off and on for the remainder of her life – with me by her side. She never knew Rhonda, so my support for her also included hiding Rhonda’s existence. Her death from brain cancer that went undetected for the better part of a year because of the drugs used to treat her chronic condition, came after 2 months of almost hopeless hospitalization. My point here is that indeed these things can test your soul and your inner strength.

    I happen to believe, after reading your blogs for awhile, that you are in a better position to deal with all that you’ve detailed because you’ve chosen to live life as Ali, and you’ve taken positive steps to do so. THAT, my friend, took real strength. Now you need to tap that strength and be the woman who can take charge and deal with life (often referred to taking the bull by the tail and facing the situation).

    I think that turning your counseling group into a social group may well work out for you. It was unclear to me whether the group was exclusive CD/TG/TS, or whether a mixed bag. Regardless, they all know Ali and accept you/her, as you do them. If you can’t draw strength from a group that accepts the new you, I don’t know where else you’ll find it.

    That said, consider setting up your own “Meetup.com” group for CD/TG/TS to meet together in a safe setting and mutually learn to socialize, share fashion and beauty tips, practice the craft of womanhood, etc. We have one here in Northern Virginia just outside DC and it is wonderful. The organizer (it could be any member of the group) opens her and her partner’s home to the group on random set dates for a Saturday evening gathering. It is exhilarating to say the least. I offer you that as a possible goal. You’d be absolutely amazed at the mutual support and fellowship that comes from this type of group. Only CD/TG/TS and their spouse or significant other are welcome. No male admirers area allowed — there are restaurants and bars for that. This is meant to be totally “safe” for us gals.

    Here endith my epistle. Sorry to carry on so, but you sounded like you needed some distracting advice.

    Best regards,

    • Thank you for sharing your story, and for the supportive comments. Distracting advice is EXACTLY what I need recently. 😉 The social circle reuniting of the group is definitely something I’ve considered, but we’ll see how far it gets.

Leave a Reply to Ali Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *