Column: Broken Walls

Rebecca Juro

I thought I’d beaten it. I thought I’d won. I thought I’d left that place behind long ago.

I was wrong.

I’ve been on injectable estrogen for about 15 months now. I started on the shots the moment I could afford them and I’ve been on them for so long now, it’s become my natural state. It’s how my body feels right to me. After all this time, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without it.

That is, until it happened.

I’d recently begun self-injecting and was advised to order estradiol with a cottonseed oil base because it’s thinner and easier to use. As a newbie at this, that made sense to me and so I ordered it that way from the mail-order compounding pharmacy I use.

The first time I injected myself with the cottonseed estradiol I got a half-dollar sized painful red welt at the injection site. Still new at this, I assumed I’d done something wrong and injured myself with bad injection technique. When I self-injected again two weeks later, I was much more careful and the same thing happened.

I called my doctor’s office and was told to stop using the cottonseed estro and instead order a new supply of the standard castor oil mix which I’d been using previously. This took longer than I’d hoped. The due date for my next shot came and went, and my emotional stability and control began to erode.

By five days after my due date, I was a mess. My emotions were all over the place. I was swinging from sadness to anger to depression and all points in between, sometimes even hour to hour. It was also the day I went to check on my mother and found her breathing like a blast furnace and foaming at the mouth.

I called 911. The EMTs and the cops came, stabilized her, and took her to the hospital. They took good care of mom in the emergency room, but she was still in an altered state and no one knew what was wrong with her.

I’d have been stressed out and scared on the best of days, but this was not the best of days for me. It took every ounce of self-control I possessed to hold myself together as I watched the doctors, nurses, and technicians working on mom. The stress was taking its toll.

Leaving my brother and sister-in-law to watch over Mom, I went outside for a cigarette. I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown. I couldn’t deal with it and I just wanted the pain to stop. All of it. Everything. I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to go away.

I was scared. Scared for mom, and scared for myself. Despite the hurricane of depression I was going through at that moment, somehow I intellectually understood that the last time I was in this place was just before I tried to drive a van off of a bridge in 1997. I knew I needed help and quickly.

I called a friend, a trans woman who has not only been through hell herself, but who gets me. I knew I could tell her anything and she’d let me lean on her as long as I needed to.

I was a wreck. At one point, I talked about taking my own life. She talked me through the worst of it and let me dump on her in a way I couldn’t have with almost anyone else. It’s not hard for me to believe that she may have saved my life. Left to my own devices, I’m not entirely sure what I would have done.

It terrifies me that after 18 years of living fulltime as a woman, losing control of my emotions due to an estrogen low can cause me to become borderline suicidal, particularly because I’ll be going through this again next month.

My gender confirmation surgery will be in the middle of July, and I can’t take any more estrogen until afterward to protect myself against its blood thinning side effects.

I came close to taking my own life this week, much closer than I’m comfortable with, and all it took was five days without estrogen. I hadn’t believed such a thing was possible for a very long time, but I know better now. What’s more, I know I’ll be facing the same situation in a few weeks.

I’m fortunate beyond measure. If and when it happens again, I know who to call. I have a shoulder to cry on, someone to lean on, someone who’s been there and knows the way out. Not everyone has that. That’s why TransLifeline exists and why it’s needed.

Even suicide hotline operators need a little help themselves sometimes.

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