Up until very recently, I had no idea I had so much stress in my life. I mean, I knew there was some. But, not this much. I’m hoping by identifying it now, I’ll be able to work through each stressor.
The first one I’ll write about is a long tried and true stressor. It’s gender dysphoria, of course. It’s long been a cause of my social anxiety. And parts of it are to blame for my PTSD. But, I’m realizing certain aspects of this particular stressor are rearing their ugly head where I thought I had already defeated them in battle. I started fighting the social anxiety connected with my gender dysphoria more than a couple of years ago. I used, and still use Twitter as the jumping off point in this fight. Later, I would enlist Facebook to complement Twitter. Both had been very sharp weapons in this fight. The internet in general is a very effective tool for communicating anonymously. I, and millions of others have used (and abused) the privilege anonymity provides. But, what I thought would be a good jumping off point, is now handing me a dilemma.
What I thought I was doing, by meeting new people at Ignite, was really just meeting people I knew supported me by our interaction on Twitter. Once this revelation came to me, I suddenly lost some confidence. And now that I’m diving more into the community swimming pool that is Boulder more often, I’m finding that I’m still stuck on the pool deck not sure which changing room to use. Last year, I wrote about being suddenly introduced to a complete stranger by a good friend as Becca. That threw me for an unexpected loop. I’ve also been faced with this dilemma at a friend’s house. And just earlier this month, I was invited to a birthday party. Only to chicken out and sit outside the entire time because although I could see just about all the people in attendance. I could only recognize five or six people.
All of these situations happened in Boulder, a wonderful place where I love spending time and would love to live. I have many friends in Boulder. I love the vibe there. And the potential opportunities for what I want to do with my life, are greater there, than almost anywhere. I see the need to socialize. To network. But, I feel like the sitting on the sidelines I did this past year, waiting for the VA to approve my hormones, really set me back. I don’t pass. I know that. I see it every day in the mirror. And my roommate even *he’d* me before Christmas. If I had walked into that birthday party, one of my friends present would have yelled “Becca” at the top of his lungs. Once that happens, there’s some ‘splaining to do. Where do I find the strength to out myself as transgender to perfect strangers before I know what their reaction will be? I’ll have to explain why the guy standing in front of them has a name always associated with a woman EVERY TIME I MEET SOMEONE NEW. A couple of weeks ago, I met someone new in a coffee shop in Boulder. My friend asked how I wanted to be introduced. I was feeling confident and told him Becca would be fine. The conversation went well. The woman I met is very nice. And I’ll be working with her on a project. But, I still didn’t think she caught what name was being used. So, when I wrote an email to her saying how nice it was too meet her, I felt like I had to explain why this email was coming from Becca when she clearly met a guy. She even *he’d* me. When I started looking into transition, I didn’t want to be the token transperson everywhere I went. I wanted to just blend in and live my life. But, with every day that passes, it looks like that opportunity may be passing me by. And I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do about it.
That last paragraph would have been an excellent stopping point in talking about gender dysphoria as my stressor. But, I wanted to add something for the people who say “Why don’t you just go full time and present female?” I think there still might be some post traumatic stress involved here. I can’t bring myself to do what some friends have done. I still fear that if I present as female, I’ll be inviting an attack every time I leave the house. I’ve had this circular conversation with many close friends. I have only bad experiences to draw on. I need positive experiences to balance out those bad ones. I’m just not sure I know how. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to hack both my life and a situation. This fear might be too ingrained to fight right now.
It wasn’t until I started working from home did I realize how stressful home has been over the last several months. My roommate has been working on something quite personal for some time. I love my roommate. He’s one of my best friends. And I support how he’s working through something extremely difficult. But, it can’t be denied that the house is a stressful place to be right now. It was affecting my work. And by the end of a truly horrible week, I laid in bed on a Saturday morning unable to move. I needed the rest. But, I also needed to work out a better situation for myself. I couldn’t believe how much stress I had bottled up inside. Some of it was the stress I put on myself about my own job performance. I take pride in my work. And knowing I was failing at doing something I was confident I could do, was causing more stress. But, an interesting thing happened while I was laying there. I remembered that I had been in a similar situation years before.
My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. And until I was about 15 or 16, my mom was married to a guy we’ll call Dick. Mostly because that was his name. Looking back, it’s easy to see my mom and Dick weren’t made for each other. Every night started and ended just like the other. Dick would stop for a few drinks before driving home from work. He would be an ass to my mom at the dinner table. And my sister and I would flee to our bedrooms when the yelling and dish throwing started. Home is supposed to be a place where a kid can feel safe. I don’t think I had that. We did have some good times as a family. Don’t get me wrong. But, the bad most definitely outweighed the good. We all need that one place where we can feel safe and secure. I didn’t feel safe or even welcome at school. I didn’t have many friends. So, once I got a job, I used that or the swimming pool as my safe place. I made friends at work and often hung out after my shift ended. The last thing I wanted to do was go home.
So, what does this revelation mean for me today? Is the idea that I need to find a safe place a solution? I think so. At least so far. For me, leaving the house and going somewhere to work has always felt like an escape. Something I looked forward too. I enjoyed the interaction with coworkers. I do miss that daily interaction. But, there’s no way I’m going back to pizza. And the commute was absolutely killing me. No. When it comes to socializing, I’ll have to reach out to friends on a more daily basis. I’ll invite friends out to dinner. I’ll invite people over to the house. I’ll try to put myself out there. Somehow. But, also I need a place where I can work. Thankfully, I think I’ve found that place. There’s a relatively new modern library just down the street from my house. I really love it here. There’s even a fireplace. In fact, I’m writing this from my favorite comfy chair at said library right now. I work remote. So, as long as there is an internet connection, I can work. So, I’ll even try working from Pantera Bread from time to time. But, this library does rock.
The third stressor is something I can only write about in vague terminology since it has to do with my job. But, more than anything, it really has to do with my self confidence. Or more specifically, my lack thereof. When approached with this opportunity, I looked at what needed to be done, and thought it was a great opportunity to learn something new and I knew I could do it. I still know I can do it. But, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been stumbling blocks. Some of the stumbling has come from outside stressors (working from home) or from trying to learn how to do something the way my boss wants me to do it. But, I’m a fast study. And I’m catching on. There are certain aspects of this job I’m really looking forward too. I have lots of ideas about where I want to take certain projects and learn new things. But, there is one task I’ve fallen behind on. And it weighs on me. Intellectually, I know I can do it. It shouldn’t be this hard. What I think has me stuck is my desire for perfection against my lack of self confidence. I don’t think I can cure my self confidence problem overnight. But, I also know my confidence level is much higher than it was most of my life. What I need to get away from is this constant need to be perfect at all times. I just need to submit my work in a timely manner. And if my boss doesn’t like it, he’ll tell me. I know he will. And whether he likes it or doesn’t, I’ll have a better idea of what he expects from me.
Thanks for bearing with me as I worked these problems out. Sometimes writing is the best way of doing that. In my next post, I’m going to write about finding some things I can do in my free time. I need a hobby. Or 15.