In this unusual time my self-isolation continues and although continuing to work from home I am amazed by how much more time I have to reflect on my life.
I have transitioned late in life. It is easy to say how I wish I had done so years ago, my life would have been so different. Is that really true? Yes it would have been different if other choices had been made. With hindsight I have made many bad choices. At the time the choices were made with the best of intentions and to me seemed the best thing to do.
However, stating the obvious I would not be the person I am now or that I was when I transitioned without the life experiences I have gone through by the choices I have made. What I do realise though is that the shame and guilt I felt as a result of hiding myself away because of the lack of acceptance or indeed lack of understanding of being transgender or how that made me feel only contributed to and exacerbated the feeling of not being normal and the feelings you have tried to express and they become internalised and buried away so that you become increasingly dysfunctional.
The result was that I tried harder to be normal, to mange better even though inside you know it is wrong, but still you go on feeling guilt, frustration and embarrassment over how you feel. You overcompensate to be the nice guy, always willing to help “see I am okay really” and ignore the damage that is being doing to your mental health denying who you are really are.
In practice you become complicit and start to believe the lie, the act you are portraying and cover your tracks to keep up appearances for the sake of damage limitation. I would be fearful that despite my best efforts others would guess my guilty secret. In truth nobody could see or feel the depth of hole into which I had buried myself, that was known only to me and the longer it went on the worse it gets until it grinds you down and you feel hopeless and there is no way out making the best of things, keeping busy so you can no longer feel, you just do.
What has surprised me is that in this period where I have time to reflect and now even though I have transitioned I find these emotions still have had a hold from habit. This time has given me ab opportunity to see them in the cold light of day giving me the chance to deal with and face them, to see the impact and make changes. I am very fortunate in that I have a close relationship with a friend who I trust and who can show me without judgment behaviours by holding up a mirror and showing me things I am unaware of and giving me the opportunity to deal with them and grow. It doesn’t happen overnight. There is no magic on /off switch. However, I no longer feel as if I am drowning or overwhelmed. I feel as if I am making progress and at worst treading water as I deal with these emotions. The fact of transitioning has taken away the shame, guilt and fear I have always experienced. Now it is time to sort out the damage to my mental health that the years of experiencing the shame and guilt have had on me.