It’s the little things that bring meaning to life.
I will never forget that morning. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I couldn’t believe I lived through that. What happened? Why did I chicken out? It felt like there was nothing left of me.…
It was just before 9 a.m. I decided to pick up the phone and make the call that changed my life. I called my doctor and got an emergency appointment. The receptionist said there was an open spot at 11 a.m. I got myself cleaned up and stepped outside.
It was March 2009, the sun was shining and was surprisingly warm. March in Vancouver is never really cold. I’ve never seen it below 5C. Growing up in Winnipeg I could appreciate even a – 5C in March. I made my way to the doctor with my head pounding. He called me in, as we sat down I nearly cried. I couldn’t do it anymore. I handed him the huge bottle of pills I was going to take the night before.
The sedatives and alcohol had knocked me out before I could take the other drugs, which was weird to me, as I’d spent years covering up my internalized transphobia and trying to suppress memories of my childhood with sedatives and alcohol night after night. But the pills were catching up to me. They weren’t relaxing me anymore. I lived in a constant state of fear, panic. terror. I could hardly leave my East Vancouver apartment. I told him I couldn’t do it anymore.
He was very compassionate. He left the room for a moment. When he came back he gave me an envelope and told me to be at detox for 2 p.m. My heart jumped into my throat. The only thoughts that ran through my mind were “Am I ready to do this? Is this really it? Couldn’t I get high just one more time?” And then I thought “No. Enough is enough.” And off to detox I went.
I spent 10 days there being weaned off of Clonazepam and Ativan. The withdrawals were terrible. They warned me that though the dangerous part of withdrawal would be over within a couple of weeks I would deal with long-term effects for two to five years. I was ready to take it on. I would be strong.
I was discharged and one week later I entered Pacifica Treatment Centre, where I would spend the next two months. The staff were welcoming and some were queer and open about themselves. I saw staff members who were in recovery themselves. I saw it was possible to learn to accept myself. The staff treated me with respect; placed me on the men’s floor and made sure I knew they would not tolerate homophobia or transphobia. If I had any problems I could come to them and they would address the issue. They promised to do all they could to make sure I felt safe and respected.
Pacifica isn’t LGBT specific but they are open and are well-educated on the issues surrounding our communities. I was completely out to all the people in Pacifica and made many friends. I shared my story. I educated others on my transition and it helped break the stereoptypes that some believed. I began to realize that being a transman isn’t something I have to be ashamed of. It was one of the core issues I needed to come to terms with and I certainly began to.
I spent the rest of 2009 trying to adjust to my new life without drugs. During that time, I entered a relationship with a person who became emotionally and physically abusive. I left that person in December of 2009 and managed to stay clean and sober. The next year brought a new set of challenges. The relationship not only traumatized me but also triggered some old traumas. Memories of my childhood came flooding to the surface. I didn’t know how to cope. I was tired. I didn’t want to use drugs again. I couldn’t leave my apartment so I lost my job.
My doctor put me on antidepressants and tried increasing them but it didn’t work. I just grew more depressed and tired. The anxiety was growing and I was unable to achieve adequate sleep. Springtime came and I celebrated one year clean on March 20, 2010. I reflected on my life and saw hardly any positives. My transition was only half done and I couldn’t afford the rest, I had gained weight, I was still having major side effects from the damage the years of drugs had done. And I felt like I was done.
I decided to end my life. I would cherish the time I had left with family and friends here in Vancouver. I was going to go back home to Winnipeg to see some old friends, see the rest of 2010 through and take myself out in January 2011.
But something happened. My closest cousin became pregnant for the second time. There was this little life growing inside her and I could see the amount of love my family was expressing for her and the child that was on his way. My great-grandmother (who is still alive at 91) sat down and told me about when I was born and how happy she was about my birth.
My parents are not part of my life so I never heard much of that before – about how I was appreciated – unless my grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt would tell me. Then my great-grandmother told me how she loves me no matter what and how she only thinks of me as Ryan now. She said nothing will ever change the fact that I am her oldest great-grandchild and I’m special to her.
I started to understand how much people believe in me and love me for who I am, and embrace my life and transition even though I haven’t. My aunt told me her favourite picture of me was taken when I was about 10 years old. I was wearing dark jeans, a dirty T-shirt, I had just cut all my hair off and was sitting on a blue BMX. She told me how proud she is of me for transitioning and following my own path.
On my trip to Winnipeg I met with Outwords staff to discuss a 2011 transguy calendar that had been released by T-Bodies Productions in Vancouver. They decided to give me a shot as a freelancer. It may not sound like something huge to other people but for me it was a dream come true.
Ever since I picked up a magazine when I was eight and read the first column I ever saw I had wanted to write for a magazine. I remember walking to school thinking “It would be so cool if I could do that someday!” As a child, my dreams were often all I had so I have held on to them tightly. So when Outwords suggested I send them something I had to contain my joy!
When I was on a Greyhound bus back to Vancouver I realized that my cousin’s coming baby had really woken me up to life again. I remember thinking “What if something ever happened to him…or anyone else I care about?” I thought back to a few people I knew who had committed suicide. The questions, pain and anguish are feelings I never would want anyone to feel. It would rip the very fabric of my being if anyone in my family ever did it. I wanted to see my cousin’s baby grow up and I’d also been given the chance to make a dream a reality. I decided I wasn’t going to end my life.
My trip to Winnipeg was supposed to be my ‘Goodbye’ but it in fact turned out to be the catalyst for the start of a brand new life. When I got back to Vancouver I sat down and wrote an article about the transguy calendar, Manomorphosis, which I had also posed for. It was published in November 2010. I have a copy of that issue framed on my wall next to a picture of my cousin’s baby, Caleb, who was born November 2, 2010. November was the most motivating month of my life. After a year hiatus, I even decided to enter the recording studio again on November 5.
My hope is that other folks out there struggling with addictions and mental health will see that it is possible to gain health. I used to ask myself “How can I get back on my feet when I was never really standing in the first place?” and now I have learned that I have the opportunity to create a whole new life for myself.
I still have struggles at times. There are days I want to stay in bed but I make myself get up. I know there is a world out there that awaits me. I still have dreams. In 2009 I chose to enter recovery. In 2010 I chose to stay alive. It’s 2011 and I’m choosing to live.
Republished with permission from the author.
Originally published in Outwords – April 2011 (article can be found online at http://www.outwords.ca/content/darkness-2-daylight).
Credit: Ryan Furber (article was originally published by author under Ryan Jarman)