How to wait for something you really need?
February 20, 2017 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for concrete and not-so-concrete ideas about how to wait for something that is really important to you.

I'm trans and have been looking forward to getting a particular surgery for a very long time. I finally started looking into it, picked a surgeon, and scheduled the date, but the problem is the date is September 2018. That's 19 months away! To be honest, that amount of time feels practically dreadful. When I found out how long I'd have to wait I couldn't get out of bed all day.

So I'm looking for input from you all on how to make this time sound more manageable. I am pretty excited about my life in the next 19 months: I'm moving to Mexico with my wife, working on a book, taking nursing school prerequisites. It's really just the waiting that has got me down.

Anyone have any creative ideas about how to wait 19 months for something I really, really, really want?
posted by lilies.lilies to Human Relations (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you could do some CBT style adjustment of your thought processes? Like instead of thinking "omg, 19 months, that's like forever!" you could say "hey, that's less than two years to go! yay!". Maybe you could think about what you were doing two years ago and realise how fast that time has gone by. A mindfulness approach, where you try and be as present with where you are and what you are currently doing could be helpful, too.

I'd also cut yourself some slack and don't be hard on yourself if you get frustrated and antsy about the wait. That's only human nature, we're not saintly beings.

Congrats on booking the surgery!
posted by mymbleth at 9:59 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Wow, congrats on getting a date at least! I didn't have to wait nearly as long - about six months from consult to surgery - but I can empathize. I think you're doing the right things by moving forward with the rest of your life. When I got closer, I bookmarked a countdown site and it was a relief to see the days tick off. It really did go much faster than I expected. Celebrate milestones - one year, six months, etc.
posted by AFABulous at 10:04 AM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

This isn't a tremendous help, but it'll buy you a little time.

It's a big-deal surgery and you're waiting for the BEST surgeon! You can cut the wait and get a crap surgeon and who knows what you'd end up with!

So it's a little about focusing on the results - which I had to do recently. And with stakes far lower. Hopefully people will have ideas for when the big head spinning happens. But for the mid-range stuff goes, I'd focus on that.

It totally sucks, but the wait is because the doc is so good. And you have a lifetime of living with the results. It's just a part of the cost.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 10:08 AM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm in the middle of planning a work event for next month. I started planning this two years ago. When I first told everyone the date, they said "that's so far away!" Now, about five weeks out from the date, those same people are saying, "it's that time already?"

In those two years, our department organized and I got a different boss, then just last month, it organized again and I have yet another different boss (three bosses and two departments in two years--same job, same deadlines). I planned vacations, read books, and kept looking forward to other goals along the way in my personal life to not get stressed about it as much as I could. You're doing the right thing -- keeping busy with new projects, moves, and hobbies.

What helped me was: A calendar, so I see the time moving by. Also, I set smaller milestones to achieve before the said date, related to the goal. For me it was like, a year and a half out, book the venue and a year out, start designing the flyers for marketing, but for you it might be -- one year out, do X thing for my health to make recovery from the surgery go more smoothly, and six months out, buy Y thing to wear while at home recovering, and three months out, prep Z thing to freeze and eat for dinner at home afterward.

I'm a planner at heart, though, and by spending the waiting time productively -- it's making me a whole lot less stressed during this final push to the event date. I found it also helped my anxiety because I had contingencies planned for contingencies. When a vendor cancelled on me, I still had two months to find a new one, which was stressful but not STRESSFUL.
posted by PearlRose at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Are there any physical goals you want to meet before the surgery, that might have a beneficial effect on the recovery time or on the results (like changing your muscle or bodyfat composition, strengthening underlying muscle to the surgery area, hair removal... I dunno what else might make a difference)? If so, this would give you some time to work towards those goals.

Is there anything you want to try with your body as it is now, that might be different after surgery? If so, would you enjoy taking photos or video/audio recordings to create a before-and-after comparison? I used to read a fantastic blog by a trans guy who took really thorough photos and videos of how his body changed over time, wrote about the mental and emotional changes he experienced, and he recorded his voice singing and speaking the same thing every couple months to track the changes. He wrote that it made him happy to have a reference of how much he'd changed.

Is there any legal stuff you can take care of in the meantime?

And congratulations!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2017

Yeah, I was in this same situation with my wait for bottom surgery and it was awful. I really wish I could offer you some magical advice that would make the wait easier. I think it's real easy for people who haven't been there to say "Oh, the time will fly by!" — but honestly, it's a lot less like waiting for a big meeting and a lot more like waiting to get out of prison or something. It's a fucking ordeal, and there's nothing wrong with feeling like it's an ordeal and asking for lots of support in getting through it.

Keeping a countdown, like AFABulous suggested, really helped. I kept my countdown someplace where all my friends could see it — every morning I set my Twitter display name to "T-minus X months X weeks X days" — and I loudly celebrated every milestone I could think of. I gave myself permission to vent and gripe as much as I needed to. I told a LOT of dick jokes. I let myself use the wait as an excuse for whatever self-care I needed, however ridiculous it sounded. "Yes, I need another bowl of ice cream, because I am trying to make it to August." There were days when my goal for the day was literally "make it through the day without losing hope." I've never been in AA but I've been around a lot of 12-steppers and a lot of their one-day-at-a-time talk ended up being stuff I'd bring out and remind myself of. I was really, really grateful to have other trans friends who had been through the same wait and understood how bad it was and didn't think I was being overdramatic.

The other thing is, don't put the rest of your transition on hold. It's easy to hyperfocus on surgery as The Thing That Will Make You Feel Better and neglect to do other, smaller things that make you feel better about your presentation or your body. While I was waiting for surgery I learned how to contra dance in the "lady's" role, did a bunch of voice training, tried out different ways of wearing my hair, learned to do makeup better and then decided I didn't like wearing makeup at all, got some tattoos that I love, started writing poetry about some of my feelings about gender, and moved to a city where the trans community was bigger and the baseline cis attitude towards trans people was more accepting. None of those things made the wait EASY or FUN. But it would have been a lot harder and less fun if I'd neglected to do them.

(In the same vein, if you're sexually active now, don't forget to keep enjoying the sex you're having and keep exploring ways to make it feel good and right and affirming, even if you'll be having sex differently in two years. If there's other stopgap stuff you do to keep your relationship with your body healthy, like shaving or packing or tucking or binding or whatever, keep doing that stuff. I think it's real easy to do the equivalent of that thing where you're like "Fuck it, I'm moving someplace way nicer in a while anyway, I don't need to water the flowers in front of this shithole anymore." And like, no, you don't NEED to, but if you currently find the flowers to be a pleasant distraction then maybe keep watering them anyway?)

On a practical note: are you on your surgeon's cancellation list? Get on their cancellation list, and get all your paperwork together now, so that if they call and offer you an appointment in a month you'll be ready. I know several people who've shaved a lot of time off their wait to see Bowers by doing this — in one case it saved her almost a year. Not sure if that's who you're waiting for, but the principle applies regardless.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

That 19 months is going to pass anyway, but you, because of your initiative and planning and research, have a change you really want, done by a great surgeon, in 19 months. So much better than 19 months passing and not having that!
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2017

I came here to also offer getting on the cancellation list as nebulawindphone did, I know a number of folks who had great success with that.

Obviously if significant travel is involved you'll need to decide if you can afford doing that last minute. As I know at least one person that was a significant extra financial burden for.
posted by French Fry at 1:15 PM on February 20, 2017

Hi all,

Thanks so much for your input. I found all of your suggestions very helpful; it's very hard for me to mark a best answer. I'm having surgery with Dr. Suporn in Thailand, who is so highly in demand that he does not have a cancellation list. But I'm planning on checking his calendar pretty regularly to see if there's a chance I can get in sooner.

posted by lilies.lilies at 9:15 AM on February 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Oh damn, I didn't even realize Suporn's list was that long these days. Congratulations and good luck!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:37 AM on February 23, 2017

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