So there I was, feeling utterly blue and lonesome, on the verge of serious depression, and I began to worry that I was in no mental state to undergo gender confirmation surgery, no matter how many shrinks had signed me off.
Which, to put it mildly, was a problem. To come this far and not finish the job was simply not an option. I had to pull myself together.
I hit the phones and set up a slew of transition-related appointments. They began with the big one: my pre-op consultation with Mr Christopher Inglefield, the surgeon who last year provided me with a major facial reconstruction. Having entrusted Mr Inglefield with one end of my body, I’m now letting him have a bash at the other.
To be ready for that, I need a ton of electrolysis down below. I’ll spare you the details for now, but think intimate, embarrassing and agonising. Nevertheless, I booked my first three genital electro sessions, more vocal coaching, and additional blasts of the endless laser barrage.
My transition duly kick-started, I got to work on my social life, pestering friends until I had a diary that was as packed as present social circumstances will allow, with lunches, dinners and just getting together for what one dear friend called ‘an old bint catch-up’.
Things have improved to the point where I am writing this in a state of bleary-eyed exhaustion, having only got home at 1am from dinner with my closest male friend. But I still feel chipper enough to be looking forward to lunch with more old chums on Sunday.
There were two moments, though, that really made a difference, and both were entirely unexpected. The first came when I was working on my novel: a thriller set in wartime America.
An editor once gave me a brilliant piece of advice: ‘If your hero is faced with a choice between option A, and option B, always write option C.’ Well, I had the A and B of my tale, but I was sorely in need of C – that final twist that takes everyone by surprise.
And then, one Sunday afternoon, I was writing a very minor scene when the equally insignificant character that my heroine was talking to suddenly came alive. As that happened, I suddenly realised that this character was no bit-part player. She was option C.
The whole book miraculously resolved itself in my head, like a literary Rubik’s cube. And that is as good a feeling as any author can have.
The second moment related to my realisation, or admission, that one major cause of my emotional crash was the grief of bereavement. In all the turmoil, loss and abandonment of the past few years, my father was my rock, my one unfailing source of love, reassurance and a really good hug. Now he’s gone, my emotions are like a house built on sand, unstable and prone to collapse.
Anyway… my parents spent more than 20 years living apart before reuniting about 12 years ago. Each acquired a personal household’s worth of stuff, none of which they ever threw away, on top of their marital possessions. Plus, they were both only children and thus inherited all of their parents’ goods and chattels.
Their house is therefore crammed with centuries’ worth of accumulated junk, and it all has to be sorted out. I went round there one evening to help my sister Harriet with this Herculean task.
Our target area was the wardrobe in the spare bedroom. ‘That can’t take long,’ you might think. Ha! You didn’t know my parents.
We dug up one amazing find after another: family photographs, ancient and modern; my father’s old sketchbooks; one cardboard box filled with decades’ worth of diaries and another containing my mother’s long-lost jewellery; pre-Columbian pottery from Peru; the charter, signed by the Queen, that made Mum a baroness; notes written by us to Dad that he had lovingly tucked away.
As we scavenged and sorted, we talked about the memories and emotions our findings evoked and it was a shared healing process that made me feel better than I had done in weeks. So now my tide is turning. I’m getting back on track.
Read Diana's column every Thursday at 11am. Catch up on the last two columns here:
My transgender diary: ‘The lengths I need to go to prove to people I am a woman’
My transgender diary: 'A plague of depression has probably infected more people than the virus'