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Days fold into months and months into ten complete years, encapsulating personal history in the domain of memory.  The fool, the jester, and the amateur prankster celebrate the day as one for springing the nonsensical on unsuspecting loved ones and colleagues, but for me, the day frames the defining moment of personal horror.

Ten years ago, 1 April 2002, began as so many other days then, with me getting my daughter ready for and to school, with me needy, with so much work to do, with the inner tension of knowing I would do no work, like every other day for over a year.  Perhaps she pranked me, perhaps I pranked her; we were wont to do such things.

In private moments, when alone, my life reduced to a shell of a former self, stripped of professional ability, of professional interest, into a narrow world where I could only stare at my computer, connecting to people who kept me afloat.

In 2002 the day fell on Monday, usual day of the week for a one-hour iVillage chat, gathering place for about ten of us, friends all.  For four years, increasing gender pressure pushed me, ate like acid through the stability of my personal life as walls fell inside, leaving me increasingly incapable – of suppressing my true gender any longer, of coping with the counter forces, and because it took all of me to cope, eviscerated me during private time, and work time equalled private time.

The professional aspect I summarise:  insurance agent who purchased a second agency in 2000 equalling a fateful mistake, because tripled work coincided with the years of meltdown and inability to work.  And… it would get far worse, 1 April 2002 stands as not quite the midpoint.

The Vagina Monologues were at the height of popularity and success, and it served as the theme for our chat.  Ten women talking the Monologues, and me, a feminist, how could I know it would trigger the equivalent of my first inner nuclear detonation?

I’m not certain at what point in the hour the comment posted in the chat room, but someone brought up one segment from the Monologues, on holding a mirror to one’s vagina.

I’ll never be able to do that, my subconscious lamented, for the first time feeling all hope sucked away from my spirit.  Hope equates to ability to cope, absent it, we turn to jello and quiver, helpless.  My keyboard fell silent; I stared at the screen.

I’ll never be able to do that.

Chat ended, who knows what else I did subsequent, but those seven words hung over me like a mountain on a fraying string.  Through the day, the words repeated, an earworm without music, my own voice in self-haunt.

I’ll never be able to do that.

My office occupied 425 square feet in the basement of our home, my sanctuary, my coffin.  Sometimes I sought refuge there, by day, but by night, sometimes… no more I’ll say; move on.

I’ll never be able to do that.

Through the evening, I remained.  Somewhere around eight o’clock, imaginary personal seismograph needles, if such paper from then existed to show, skittered out wild, jagged, and tight strokes, sketching a pendulous etching signalling a major fault line distress somewhere, and the somewhere was in me.

I’ll never be able to do that.

My body moved as the needles, the whole of me – arms and hands, legs and feet, torso, head, all of me vibrated like a 5’10” tuning fork well struck.  If you never experienced such, believe me, it scares the piss out of you.  Now I’m colour deprived, appearing as some cousin to Morticia from the Addams family, even in best of times.  Put me in the sun for fifteen minutes, call me done, burned, extra crispy.  Yet, on April Fool’s Day in 2002, I managed whiter.  Some unseen colour vampire sucked the pigmentation out of me.

I’ll never be able to do that.

I’ll skip the subsequent details; they get into personal doings involving someone who wouldn’t want a public mention since we no longer connect.  Suffice for me to share how within a day I broke down into a crying mass of jellified protoplasm, saying aloud for the first time ‘I was born with the wrong body’.

There are other markers of horror; when one falls into dysfunction where live or die are possible alternatives in the equation, there has to be, and they colour calendric dots through the remainder of the 2002 year and the next.  You know the ultimate outcome – I’m still here, survived and rebuilt my life, dealt with serious consequences, still plough onward, learning, teaching, growing as a person, stronger than ever before.

In contrast, on that day ten years ago, it all seemed so hopeless.  Don’t ever let our young lose hope, change this world.

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