Find a Light 

September 19, 2016. 

“Look at where you are. Look at where you started. The fact that you’re alive is a miracle, just stay alive - that would be enough.”  

- Eliza Hamilton, That Would Be Enough (Hamilton) 


I’ve never, ever been a stable person, but I hide it well. People who know me, even those who are close to me, would probably be shocked to know the depth of things that I feel and manage to keep hidden. There are names for it, but even the names don’t say enough - depression, body dysmorphia, anxiety, attachment disorder, borderline personality. To feel is a blessing and curse, to feel deeply even more so.  

Last year after my driver’s license expired I went to the DMV to get another. I did my usual hair thing, put on some makeup and was able to pull of what I thought was an almost genuine smile for the picture. It took a few days for the envelope from the DMV to show up - I was on my way to Target to look for some new clothes, and I stopped at my P.O. Box on the way. I left the envelope sitting on the passenger seat. The reason for this is that I knew that what was inside would have the potential to either make or ruin my day.  

I pulled over to get gas, my curiosity got the better of me. Or the worst of me. I opened the envelope slowly, looked at the photo and my heart sank. And sank. And sank.  

I saw a small, shadowy picture of someone who looks tired and gaunt with angular, masculine features, dark circles under their eyes, an overbite, a face that to my mind reads as male in sharp contrast with the female gender marker that I had gone to such great lengths to change over 10 years ago. Great. Every time I check into a fucking hotel or take a flight I have to show them this and have them think, What Is It.  

Mostly for me it confirmed, I am not in any way beautiful. And I don’t say this so it can be refuted, it’s just something very real that I feel and I feel it a lot. I can curate my image on Facebook or online, but in bad moments this feels like the real truth, what I see in my rearview mirror, what I see on bright, sunny days in the reflections of car windows, what I see in bad cell phone pictures taken from unforgiving angles in bad light. Someone old with bad skin, skin that has been through maybe 36 laser electrolysis treatments to get rid of the beard hair that still stubbornly refuses to completely go away. Pores, wrinkles, crevices, a growing list of imperfections that makes me feel like I’m worth less, and less, and less. Worthless.  

And this is just my face.  

I turned the car around and started driving home. The predominant thought I had was, fuck Target, fuck clothes - there’s nothing I can wear or buy that’s going to change the fact that my face is an ugly, shitty, horrible thing to look at and it’s only going to get worse. No wonder I’m alone, no wonder I can’t be with anyone, how could I ever want to let anyone get close enough to look at me. 

On the 20 mile drive home I felt mostly just numb. Or dumb. Dumb in the way of kids who believe a fantasy, who are play-acting, dumb in the way of someone who was naive and got tricked into something because they were too trusting.  

Did I transition? Did I actually think I passed as female? In my weaker moments, did I entertain the idea that I was passably attractive? Look at this face, look at these hands, look at this pathetic attempt to try to mimic something that any 17 year old girl wearing sweat pants and a flannel shirt could easily put to shame. Look at this neck, when I swallow it looks like my grandmother’s, I look 25 years older than I am. 

Did I mention I have a touch of dysmorphia. 

On the way home all I could think was, I have that vicodin left over from that root canal years ago, I could take a handful and just disappear for a day. People might wonder where I am and if I'm OK. Or maybe, they say 4000 mg of acetaminophen can fry your liver, maybe today is the day. Look at this sunlight, look at these clouds, feel that breeze through the open window, look at these rolling fields of corn, look at this world, this could be the last day if you want it to be. Maybe that’s it, maybe Today is The Day. The last one. Maybe this is part of the plan, maybe I’m supposed to self-destruct, maybe something good will come out of it, maybe this is the one idea that won't go away because it's what's meant to be.  

I got home, walked upstairs, started googling, how much vicodin to kill yourself. In those search results are always links for suicide help and the number for the suicide hotline. I haven’t called it in years and I didn’t feel like calling it then either but after 20 minutes I thought, I am in a little bit of a crisis. Understatement.  

I dialed the number and started talking to this young woman - she sounded like she was still in college, and she also sounded like she was reading from a form and neither of these things were exactly encouraging. I told her about my experience that day, told her that I was holding a bottle of vicodin in my hand. I told her I was trans and lived in a small town, I told her that I had been through the local behavioral health system with no luck, that I had to explain to someone with an MSW that surgery was not just “chopping it off.”  

She said, what do you need to do to get some help. I said, I thought calling you was getting some help. She said, it sounds like you need a therapist, I said, I’m trying but my insurance doesn’t cover therapy. She said, just so you know, we’re not a therapy service, we’re a crisis line. I could hear the irritation in her voice, and I said - Do you actually even want to talk to me? It felt like she didn’t, it really felt like that. I said, what do you think I should do? And she said, I don’t know, it sounds like you’ve exhausted your options.  

That was a little disappointing to hear.  

I just sat there staring at the carpet for another 30 minutes, I was kind of stunned. And also more than a little bit angry. Maybe that was her secret strategy, to piss me off so much that my hopelessness turned into a white-hot laser beam of rage directed at this nameless twenty-something who was probably volunteering so she could put it on her CV when she applied for grad school.  

After another twenty minutes I thought, I could call my friend Simon. And I did. I’m rarely honest with people about my mental health because I think that they might overreact and call 911 (if that’s overreacting.) Or else they might be overwhelmed and not know what to say. I worry that I might come across as too needy or ungrateful, I worry that after a couple of phone calls like this they might not pick up next time.  

None of those things happened. We talked for an hour or so, I said, look - this is what I’m struggling with, I deal with this and a heap of other shit every day, some days it’s better, some days it’s worse, some days it’s a lot worse than worse. Some days it just hurts to be in a room with people who have eyes, it just hurts to be looked at. We talked, or mostly I talked, and he listened. I bitched about the suicide hotline, how it was unconscionable that this girl could treat me the way she did, that I could have hung up and killed myself, that I hung up feeling worse than when I called. He listened, and he agreed, she was a shitty volunteer.  

Years ago I wrote a song called Find a Light - it’s about suicide, I don’t think there’s any mistaking that. There’s a line at the end that says, You were looking for a friend/Someone to listen/Someone to lend their ear/Someone who would really hear you, really hear you.  

I felt like Simon really heard me, and in that hour I felt my resolve soften, and I started feeling like, it’s just one picture, there are other pictures, which ones are true, I don’t know. I don’t know. At some point, since we’re both Irish and neurotic, one or the other of us made a joke, I laughed a little bit, for one second I remembered that I have the capacity to take myself less seriously. What a gift that was.  

This was a year ago - since then I have different insurance, I have a therapist, I have a great doctor and have been on and off different antidepressants trying to find something that helps. In spite of all that it’s still been a Hard Fucking Year. And not even the hardest, I lived through much worse in my twenties and thirties, much, much worse. And my life is good - I’m not ignorant of all the blessings I have, my health, my intellect, the resources to have transitioned, a talent, a gift, the luxury of travel, the ability to turn my pain into something beautiful. The small miracles that surround me every day, bird, sky, bee, cat, wind, grass, the impossibly beautiful world.  

The struggle is still real and is still there and sometimes I deal with it constructively and sometimes not. Sometimes to be really heard by one person is enough, enough to plant the seed of doubt in our sinister plans for ourselves, enough to awaken a blessed uncertainty, maybe. Maybe we do matter. Maybe.  

To all who struggle, hang in there. The tropes are all true, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but that doesn’t mean we’re not hurting and we don’t need help. On my list of favorite movies is Contact with Jodie Foster, and this is a quote from the end that always sticks with me.  

    “You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.” 

Truth. 


Some resources that made me feel less alone and actually helped:  

http://lostallhope.com/help-me 

http://www.metanoia.org/suicide/ 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hello-cruel-world/id461012299?mt=11 

Pleas share more if you know something that worked for you. 

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  1. Find a Light

23 comments

  • Pietà

    Pietà Manchester UK

    I am sorry to hear of your helpline experience it sounds very similar to my only attempt to use one. I too wondered if pissing the punter off was a strategy. In my blackest moments I have turned to http://www.areason.org a few times. I also listen to the songs of an inspirational trans woman who when I first discover her I was filled with admiration and amazed I wasn't just consumed by envy thank you for you music

    I am sorry to hear of your helpline experience it sounds very similar to my only attempt to use one. I too wondered if pissing the punter off was a strategy. In my blackest moments I have turned to http://www.areason.org a few times. I also listen to the songs of an inspirational trans woman who when I first discover her I was filled with admiration and amazed I wasn't just consumed by envy thank you for you music

  • Julie Ncolay

    Julie Ncolay Tucson

    I love you, Namoli. Thank you for your openness and for sharing your vulnerability and pain. And the sharing of your light, too, for to give voice to both is beautiful, brave, and loving; as are you. I'm so grateful that we're friends. I hear you and I LOVE you!

    I love you, Namoli. Thank you for your openness and for sharing your vulnerability and pain. And the sharing of your light, too, for to give voice to both is beautiful, brave, and loving; as are you. I'm so grateful that we're friends. I hear you and I LOVE you!

  • Kathleen Dreier

    Kathleen Dreier Tucson

    I love you, Namoli....for your courage, human-ness, integrity, vulnerability, talent and so much more. The world will ache when you aren't in it any longer. I hope you find that ray of "it" that keeps you here for 50 more years. Your process and path is a mirror-holder for those of us willing to see it...in that it reflects our own respective demons and hardships. Much of your music has pulled me through many dark nights of my own soul and for that I will be forever grateful. You aren't alone. xo

    I love you, Namoli....for your courage, human-ness, integrity, vulnerability, talent and so much more. The world will ache when you aren't in it any longer. I hope you find that ray of "it" that keeps you here for 50 more years. Your process and path is a mirror-holder for those of us willing to see it...in that it reflects our own respective demons and hardships. Much of your music has pulled me through many dark nights of my own soul and for that I will be forever grateful. You aren't alone. xo

  • Abby

    Abby Tucson

    There's also Trans Lifeline, which hopefully would be more understanding about the struggles of being trans. http://www.translifeline.org/ US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366

    There's also Trans Lifeline, which hopefully would be more understanding about the struggles of being trans.
    http://www.translifeline.org/
    US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366

  • Marc Pedraza

    Marc Pedraza San Diego

    I'm in awe of your ability to express yourself through words. Thank you for all of the beautiful and inspiring songs.

    I'm in awe of your ability to express yourself through words. Thank you for all of the beautiful and inspiring songs.

  • Arlene

    Arlene Big Sur

    There is unconditional love in the universe and some of it IS for you

    There is unconditional love in the universe and some of it IS for you

  • michele  gordon

    michele gordon muskegon michigan

    I admire your courage, your music, and your honesty, you may not believe me but I have a list of people I pray for each day and your one of them. And its not just people on my friend's list. I've always dreamed of transitioning but lots of things are stopping me, so I really admire people that do. Of course when I look at you I don't see what you do or think what you do. I see a beautiful, courageous woman who brings joy and hope to people like me who hear her voice in her music. Much love and serenity my dear friend.

    I admire your courage, your music, and your honesty, you may not believe me but I have a list of people I pray for each day and your one of them. And its not just people on my friend's list. I've always dreamed of transitioning but lots of things are stopping me, so I really admire people that do. Of course when I look at you I don't see what you do or think what you do. I see a beautiful, courageous woman who brings joy and hope to people like me who hear her voice in her music. Much love and serenity my dear friend.

  • Sarah

    Sarah CT

    Namoli, I read and reread your blog post this morning. Without blathering on and on, I hear you. <3 You aren't alone in this universe. We are all out there wondering if we are the only ones with such pain. Some days it is hard to bear and cope. I don't have any answers, but that you are in my thoughts and I'm sending you positive energy (no, I'm not some crazy person, I just do believe in energy and intent). Peace.

    Namoli,
    I read and reread your blog post this morning. Without blathering on and on, I hear you. <3
    You aren't alone in this universe. We are all out there wondering if we are the only ones with such pain. Some days it is hard to bear and cope. I don't have any answers, but that you are in my thoughts and I'm sending you positive energy (no, I'm not some crazy person, I just do believe in energy and intent).
    Peace.

  • Joan Allen

    Joan Allen Omaha

    Namolii, As I read your blog I was so touched by your honesty. It must be so difficult to go through these things, but by sharing, you help so many even though you don't think so. I appreciate your honesty. I've heard your music &amp; it is wonderful. I hope you find happiness &amp; love and peace my friend. I could so relate with your story even though my struggles are of a different nature. Hugs, joan

    Namolii,
    As I read your blog I was so touched by your honesty. It must be so difficult to go through these things, but by sharing, you help so many even though you don't think so. I appreciate your honesty. I've heard your music & it is wonderful. I hope you find happiness & love and peace my friend. I could so relate with your story even though my struggles are of a different nature. Hugs, joan

  • Jim

    Jim Tucson,AZ

    Thank you Namoli. Thank you for your honesty. I find that honesty is the hardest thing in life. It took me 40 years of addiction to finally bring me to a place that helped heal me. I still struggle. Three and half years ago, I was at the lowest point of my life. I had hit the very bottom. Then, I went into therapy and I joined Desert Voices. The first year was the hardest, but now my life is so rich with joy. I see the miracles everyday. Still trying to find myself but I know I'm on the right road. I am grateful for having found my Desert Voices Family. One very important lesson that I've learned...... "I thank the darkness for leading me to the light"

    Thank you Namoli. Thank you for your honesty. I find that honesty is the hardest thing in life. It took me 40 years of addiction to finally bring me to a place that helped heal me. I still struggle. Three and half years ago, I was at the lowest point of my life. I had hit the very bottom. Then, I went into therapy and I joined Desert Voices. The first year was the hardest, but now my life is so rich with joy. I see the miracles everyday. Still trying to find myself but I know I'm on the right road. I am grateful for having found my Desert Voices Family.
    One very important lesson that I've learned...... "I thank the darkness for leading me to the light"

  • Mike Blevins

    Mike Blevins Decorah, IA

    Oh. Namoli--what a valued treasure you are--and what unmatchable gifts you are sharing---I have always felt your transition is a work of wonder--I have always found you to be pulse-quickening attractive, mesmerizing , amazing---your struggle is one I relate to--in addition to lifelong anxiety and thirty years now of medication, and untold number of suicidal ideations--I am transitioning into An Older Man,Who Was Never Secure in His Manhood EVen When Young... sometimes my body seems like the enemy, sometimes like a sentimental old friend, only occasionally something to be proud of. Your beauty is real, and sexy in my opinion. I know you didn't want or need affirmation of that, but I simply welcome the opportunity to tell you what I have always thought--and am glad for others to hear it. Your soul/ spirit is profoundly feminine in the strongest ;) sense of the word. Your vocational gifts--well, they are simply superlative and have lifted and moved me in so many ways, so many times, Your testimony is something I will always draw strength from and will never forget. Keep on keepin on. We were indeed Born to Rise.--in ever changing form. Love, Michael

    Oh. Namoli--what a valued treasure you are--and what unmatchable gifts you are sharing---I have always felt your transition is a work of wonder--I have always found you to be pulse-quickening attractive, mesmerizing , amazing---your struggle is one I relate to--in addition to lifelong anxiety and thirty years now of medication, and untold number of suicidal ideations--I am transitioning into An Older Man,Who Was Never Secure in His Manhood EVen When Young... sometimes my body seems like the enemy, sometimes like a sentimental old friend, only occasionally something to be proud of. Your beauty is real, and sexy in my opinion. I know you didn't want or need affirmation of that, but I simply welcome the opportunity to tell you what I have always thought--and am glad for others to hear it. Your soul/ spirit is profoundly feminine in the strongest wink sense of the word. Your vocational gifts--well, they are simply superlative and have lifted and moved me in so many ways, so many times, Your testimony is something I will always draw strength from and will never forget. Keep on keepin on. We were indeed Born to Rise.--in ever changing form. Love, Michael

  • Holly

    Holly Pa

    Dear You, Thank you for being real. Thank you for calling Simon. Thank you for being a voice even when you might not mean to be. Thank you for the picture of us on my office wall that shows 2 souls taking a moment from the darkness to smile at the light (even if the light is only a camera flash). You are beautiful to me.

    Dear You,
    Thank you for being real. Thank you for calling Simon. Thank you for being a voice even when you might not mean to be. Thank you for the picture of us on my office wall that shows 2 souls taking a moment from the darkness to smile at the light (even if the light is only a camera flash).
    You are beautiful to me.

  • Siri

    Siri

    Thank you for sharing this. Your honesty was incredibly moving and refreshing -- I have always viewed you as an incredibly beautiful and talented person. Your light shines &amp; you're a valuable member of this community!

    Thank you for sharing this. Your honesty was incredibly moving and refreshing -- I have always viewed you as an incredibly beautiful and talented person. Your light shines & you're a valuable member of this community!

  • Eva-Genevieve

    Eva-Genevieve Naperville, Illinois

    Thank you for this post. I hear you. I struggle with many of the same things and hearing you helps. Just wanted you to know that you aren't alone in them, not in spirit anyway. Hugs!

    Thank you for this post. I hear you. I struggle with many of the same things and hearing you helps. Just wanted you to know that you aren't alone in them, not in spirit anyway.

    Hugs!

  • mayagwen

    mayagwen

    You manage to say the things I don't dare say even to myself. Then you release them to the world. You are a light that burns. Thank you.

    You manage to say the things I don't dare say even to myself. Then you release them to the world. You are a light that burns. Thank you.

  • Amelia

    Amelia Ithaca, NY

    When I met you ten+ years ago at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, your poise and beauty amazed me. How funny/notfunny that what is on our insides does not always match what people on the outside see. I haven't seen you in many years, but girlfriend, I hear you. Time is not kind to our bodies that we were already struggling to love. Add aging to all our other mind and body issues and dang. It's a mountain of work to keep up with ourselves. Keep climbing that mountain, Namoli. Hope our paths cross again someday. -Amelia

    When I met you ten+ years ago at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, your poise and beauty amazed me. How funny/notfunny that what is on our insides does not always match what people on the outside see. I haven't seen you in many years, but girlfriend, I hear you. Time is not kind to our bodies that we were already struggling to love. Add aging to all our other mind and body issues and dang. It's a mountain of work to keep up with ourselves. Keep climbing that mountain, Namoli. Hope our paths cross again someday. -Amelia

  • tammy allen

    tammy allen tucson, AZ

    This song SAVED my life. https://youtu.be/QgJttYPKczQ You Are Loved by Victoria WIlliams I've hit the edge of the end many times. I almost died once. I can't imagine what you've been through. I've had my own version of a lifetime of abuse and pain. I'm on the otherside -- the good side now. The darkness slips in and out and I can only hold on and know that I am loved. You are loved, by so many, including me. Tammy

    This song SAVED my life.
    https://youtu.be/QgJttYPKczQ
    You Are Loved by Victoria WIlliams
    I've hit the edge of the end many times. I almost died once.
    I can't imagine what you've been through. I've had my own version of a lifetime of abuse and pain. I'm on the otherside -- the good side now. The darkness slips in and out and I can only hold on and know that I am loved. You are loved, by so many, including me. Tammy

  • Pat Daddona

    Pat Daddona Newington, CT

    Namoli, Daylight can be harsh and unforgiving or illuminating and lighten our load. Photos are just a point in time yet may capture the things that remind us of our flaws. You have such a beautiful spirit. Your songs are full of that. And the way you hold yourself, dress and look is attractive and worthy. I feel so grateful to have met you and heard your music live. So glad you are finding joy again. You deserve every happiness.

    Namoli,
    Daylight can be harsh and unforgiving or illuminating and lighten our load. Photos are just a point in time yet may capture the things that remind us of our flaws. You have such a beautiful spirit. Your songs are full of that. And the way you hold yourself, dress and look is attractive and worthy. I feel so grateful to have met you and heard your music live. So glad you are finding joy again. You deserve every happiness.

  • Shyrl

    Shyrl Tucson, Az

    You've expressed beautifully what so many struggle to. I would love to share your song on my support page, but would like to include the lyrics. Is there somewhere I can find them? I've looked and can't seem to locate this particular songs lyrics. My son lost his battle with depression last year and I share stories, resources and things to reach out to try to help others make it through another day. Thank you!

    You've expressed beautifully what so many struggle to. I would love to share your song on my support page, but would like to include the lyrics. Is there somewhere I can find them? I've looked and can't seem to locate this particular songs lyrics.

    My son lost his battle with depression last year and I share stories, resources and things to reach out to try to help others make it through another day.

    Thank you!

  • Marlo Bernier

    Marlo Bernier Los Angeles

    Stunned - Floored - Gutted - Speechless and unable to breathe and grateful beyond any words for you, your powerfulness even in your powerlessness - respectfully, your friend always - Marlo

    Stunned - Floored - Gutted - Speechless and unable to breathe and grateful beyond any words for you, your powerfulness even in your powerlessness - respectfully, your friend always - Marlo

  • Arran

    Arran CT

    Namoli, I have known you for a very long time. I've known your struggles, and have gone (am going) through some of the same. What gets me through is thinking about all the people who would be devastated if I carried out my insanity. You are beautiful, inside and out, no matter what your demons tell you. Try to listen to them less and less, and believe the people who love you. They're never wrong.

    Namoli, I have known you for a very long time. I've known your struggles, and have gone (am going) through some of the same. What gets me through is thinking about all the people who would be devastated if I carried out my insanity. You are beautiful, inside and out, no matter what your demons tell you. Try to listen to them less and less, and believe the people who love you. They're never wrong.

  • tusk

    tusk Portland, OR

    Before I write you a private note, Namsy, I want to encourage your readers/listeners to read something special that shifted my paradigm around the concepts of suffering. God knows we've all been through some of the most challenging lives imaginable, often with loneliness and persecution that would kill mere mortals in heartbeat, but we, yes we, are the survivors -- purposely left to tell a story, a narration that this sad world will someday be so thirsty for -- and bearers of the most unique stories that only very few can tell. You record in music, I record in words -- and someday, somewhere our stories will help illuminate (to what life exists) what really was happening before the downfall of this great civilization. Artists are more vital than ever -- and each story, each song, each painting radically makes a difference in ways we cannot even begin to understand. I highly recommend "Your Soul's Plan" by Robert Schwartz: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born". It is one of the most important books in my life and has helped me to claim my power. Record your stories. Love the storyteller; love your soulmate in the mirror. Let's quit critizing ourselves because we are different than this "norm" that is choking the world. You are radically unique, dearest Nams; I know no one even close to your magnificence - and yes I know that can be bone-chillingly lonely, yet you are also one of the most beautiful spirits in the world.. and so vitally needed. Thanks for listening. love to you, tusk

    Before I write you a private note, Namsy, I want to encourage your readers/listeners to read something special that shifted my paradigm around the concepts of suffering. God knows we've all been through some of the most challenging lives imaginable, often with loneliness and persecution that would kill mere mortals in heartbeat, but we, yes we, are the survivors -- purposely left to tell a story, a narration that this sad world will someday be so thirsty for -- and bearers of the most unique stories that only very few can tell. You record in music, I record in words -- and someday, somewhere our stories will help illuminate (to what life exists) what really was happening before the downfall of this great civilization. Artists are more vital than ever -- and each story, each song, each painting radically makes a difference in ways we cannot even begin to understand. I highly recommend "Your Soul's Plan" by Robert Schwartz: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born". It is one of the most important books in my life and has helped me to claim my power. Record your stories. Love the storyteller; love your soulmate in the mirror. Let's quit critizing ourselves because we are different than this "norm" that is choking the world. You are radically unique, dearest Nams; I know no one even close to your magnificence - and yes I know that can be bone-chillingly lonely, yet you are also one of the most beautiful spirits in the world.. and so vitally needed. Thanks for listening. love to you, tusk

  • Laurie

    Laurie San Francisco

    i want you to know how much your music affects people around the world that you never hear from. Your music has deeply touched me and many of my friends. You are a beautiful spirit who has found your voice (a beautiful one) and lights up my world in dark times and good times. you are a gift to the world.

    i want you to know how much your music affects people around the world that you never hear from. Your music has deeply touched me and many of my friends. You are a beautiful spirit who has found your voice (a beautiful one) and lights up my world in dark times and good times. you are a gift to the world.

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