It’s okay, she’s just taking a nap.
Faced with a number of stresses that have been buffeting me lately, I have felt all desire to express myself as trans fade and die. It reminds me a little of a field of wildflowers that gets trampled and all that is left is mud.
In conversation with my therapist (the main one), we got right to it. “You’re going into hiding.” We talked about emotional shutdown in the face of stress or traumatic life circumstances. New job, new place, impending separation, coming out, financial uncertainty…all of it seems pretty heavy. And never one for light-weight questions, she asked, “what about your separation is upsetting you?” As if we can distil these things down to a sentence. I did.
Going into Emotional Hiding
“Loss of security.” From there, the leap back to emotional shutdown is not such a big one after all. In the book the 5 Personality Patterns, the author describes the five principal ways that people deal with stress, a function of when in our lives we were first confronted with overwhelming stresses—ones that our little selves couldn’t cope with. It’s a great book given to me by a great friend who used it not just to understand herself, but also to understand others. I lamented to another friend who I passed it on to (a stipulation of the original gift—which is a bit strange coming from an author), however, that I have never been able to analyse anybody in that way and that I couldn’t see myself processing the book so effectively as to diagnose others. I digress.
My dominant personality pattern is known as the “leaving pattern” which is characterized by a very thin relationship with one’s own physical body. How apt. The good side is that we are often spiritual people. I promise to visit good will on all of you!” People who cope by “leaving” withdraw from the physical to a safer place. I am thinking that for the first time in my life I have been actually coming into my body, my real physical body, and that I have never felt better. Pity it took so long, but there was the rest of life.
Everybody has a secondary pattern as well, and mine was/is aggressive—an application of the philosophy that the best defence is a good offense. Just ask my wife. I am not proud of this, and I have done a pretty good job of dropping this part of me as I have grown. It is still there, and in particular, around these areas of greater sensitivity. But, the “running away” one is there still, and has always been there. Just ask my wife, especially about our early relationship.
And a measure of how messed up this is…when she came to get me emotionally, or gave me the space, I felt disrespect for her for it. This played out with Mistress too, only this time I was conscious about it, could warn her about it, was able to spot it when it happened, and was able to talk about it right after. Nip it in the bud. Therapy, people.
Gaslighting in a new form
Can gaslighting refer not just to what someone tries to do to your head, but also to what they pretend to do to their own? I ask this because it sure feels like my wife was gaslighting me the other day when she said, “oh, that gender stuff doesn’t bother me.” Yeah right. This is after a frosty four months of non-communication and missives that were blunt and clear and transphobic. I appreciated how she said at one point some time ago, “I’m not transphobic, and I don’t want you to hate me for this.” So, on the one hand, she could be working really hard to show understanding. Right?
Except if that were the case, she would also be feeling more forgiving, friendlier, etc. But that is most definitely not the case. Instead, we have a hardening of position. What it means practically to separate is going to be a voyage of discovery. I think that her denial of our rupture being due to her inability to accept a trans husband, comes from another place, one that is not of such kind motive. In short, I see it as an untruth, and that untruth is one that has been delivered deliberately, manipulatively, and in a way to make me think that reality is different than it is. That is what gaslighting is, even if such is a novel approach to same.
Being Numb is a Form of Self-Protection
The net effect of all of this, however, is that I am emotionally dead. A bit like a zombie. I feel nothing. I am alone in my house and I can’t even imagine putting on a pair of knickers or a skirt or anything else. Instead I wander around like a recluse wearing sweat pants and stuffing my face with chocolate! And I don’t feel in my body anymore. That was what I was saying to my therapist, that how I feel in my body has always come very easily and quickly to me…and that is one of the most awesome parts of having this body, is that it is very responsive—in the sense that if eat something, if I drink something, if I work out, I feel the effects immediately. This is a function of being slim, where there are no real energy reserves. I described being in synch, what it feels like when my body is in harmony, as one of feeling lithe. That movements are smooth and graceful, intentional and purposeful. And when I go out of whack, I feel lumbering and ungainly.
…And seeing friends.
But I also know something else. How I have felt about coming out has been the most joyful feeling of my life. And I am not going to give it up. I know where this path of hiding takes me, because I’ve lived it forever. I don’t know where being out, or even transitioning in part or in full, would take me, but I know it is a happier place, because it represents all of me, not just the shadows. I also fully understand what is going on, and can thank therapy at least in part for that.
So, while my wife might take a perverse joy in freezing me up in this way, or has contributed through gaslighting me, or instead, my own contemplation of the unknown abyss that lies around me has made me bury and hide the part of me that will get me out of this mess—I will take formal steps to move forward. Sometimes just going through the motions will restart the engine.
That’s why I’m going to the spa tomorrow and treating myself to a day of pampering and beauty…and you know what? I want the pain. You have to suffer to be beautiful. That’s what I said to the woman who applied the hot wax to my privates when I had a “Hollywood”. But this truth holds for the emotional landscape.