I started crying last Wednesday in the middle of my shift at work. I was feeling incredibly sad, but mostly confused; I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was crying about.
In the end, I figured it was probably something so inconsequential my brain didn’t even register it. However, my endocrine system apparently felt like it would be the one thing that should determine my overall mood.
It is so ridiculous. I’ve been getting used to it over the last year, but with my endocrinologist doubling up my estrogen prescription last week, I imagine it’ll be getting even worse.
Anyway, I mention it because it’s related to what I wanted to talk about today: how empowering vulnerability can be.
In my post about parts of being a woman that I love, I mentioned how much I enjoy being more emotional now. Sure, I do end up with ludicrous moments like the one above every now and then, but I feel it’s completely worth it.
When I was growing up, I was somewhat pressured into suppressing my emotions. It wasn’t something obvious, like my parents yelling at me if I ever cried, but it was more effective for its subtleness. There was a general sense of disapproval, but because it wasn’t so obvious, I didn’t oppose it too well, and it insidiously became more internalised. As I grew older, I also became more disconnected from my feelings.
If I felt upset I tried to hide it, or lie to myself. In general, I tried not to care about anyone but myself, so that I wouldn’t feel too much for anyone, and would in turn not have to deal with many feelings at all.
You can imagine how well this turned out.
I ended up becoming this horribly sad and clingy person, desperate to latch on to other people because my forced isolation left me desperate for human contact and affection. It was pretty ugly.
I distanced myself from people, tried not to care, to be dettached… and it continually failed miserably. In fact, the feelings were worse for my attempts.
I’ve mentioned my first relationship once or twice in my blog. It’s not something I like to go into detail about, out of respect for the privacy of the other party. It’s also something I’m not sure could be described as a ‘relationship’ anyway.
To go over the basics, when I was 17 or so, I started talking to someone. They seemed interested in me, and we stayed up most nights chatting or in Skype calls.
However, it got ugly before too long, I felt like I could finally express my emotions and acknowledge them, but ONLY with that person. Letting everything out felt great, but it was far too much, and that poor person was horrified and backed away as soon quickly as they could.
Obviously they distanced themselves and we stopped talking. The result was initially painful. I felt hurt and betrayed, and all the rest. In the long term, it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I came out to the world at large through a facebook post last May, but before that I came out to the people closest to me in person. In fact, around this time last year I was right in the middle of coming out to people. Some had known for a few months, while others wouldn’t know for a month or two.
It was a fairly terrifying time. However, it was the culmination of a goal I’d set for myself all those years ago: to be as earnest with others as possible. This meant being open about my ideas and feelings, but also being as honest as I could about who I was.
Coming out is a charicature of the way that usually goes. The fear of rejection is multiplied tenfold, and you are way, way more vulnerable. At its core though, it’s essentially the exact same thing, just on a larger scale.
You’re opening up about something without knowing for sure how other people will react to it. Sure, it’s a bigger deal when you’re telling them you aren’t the man you’ve pretended to be for years, than it is when you’re confessing a love for Taylor Swift’s music, but it boils down to the same thing.
It’s easier to blend in, hide the things others might disapprove of, and pretend to be ‘normal’, whatever that’s supposed to mean.
You become the equivalent of a saltine cracker. Sure, they’re nice, but they’re also… bland. Most people like them, but it’s not the favourite food of anyone I know.
Being more open makes it more likely people will reject you, but it will also make it possible for them to like you more than they would otherwise.
The openness isn’t only an external thing. This is where we come back to the hormones. Just like coming out to friends was similar to being open about how much I enjoy singing Shake It Off, the hormones just exaggerate something I’d already been working towards: being honest about how I felt.
This has meant I don’t allow myself to ignore how I feel, and I force myself to deal with anything that’s bothering me. I also try not to judge myself. I’m not going to embrace being a bitter, jealous jerk, but pretending I don’t have a propensity towards jealousy would be a mistake.
It’s been pretty difficult. ou don’t realise how much you lie to yourself until you try to address your feelings. Take the issue last Wednesday.
I said in the beginning of the post it felt like I was crying over nothing, but once I sat down and non-judgementally thought about it, I realised it was partly from stress due to heavy workload, and frustration because I felt like I was demoted at work without being told anything. The second thing is a little bad, but not enough to warrant breaking into tears in the middle of my workday, so I thought about it further.
I realised I was frustrated because I didn’t feel appreciated at work. That allowed me to identify other little things at work that were also making me feel ignored and unappreciated. I also saw that the feelings form work were conflating with personal issues, mainly how distant I feel from most of my closest friends.
So I wasn’t really crying over nothing, I was crying because I don’t feel appreciated at work, because I miss my friends, and because work has become a negative place for me to be in.
The hormones help by making it really difficult to ignore my feelings and forcing myself to deal with them. However, even before HRT I tried my best to do the same. Even though it was easier to temporarily ignore my feelings and supress them when I had a male hormonal level, eventually all those ignored emotions and problems would build up and I’d fall apart.
It’s much healthier to have your attention drawn to little things so you can realise larger problems before they build up into a massive, overwhelming cloud of stress and sadness.
The power I refer to in the post title is the strength and certainty that comes from knowing yourself.
I know I’m petty, and jealous, and vindictive. Knowing that gives me power, and allows me opportunity to change that. If I can admit to feeling needy, I can work on addressing the underlying reasons I feel needy, and doing something more fulfilling than longing for someone else’s attention.
Finally, there’s the power that comes from being happy, and knowing you are responsible for that. I might not be all sunshine smiley all the time, but my overall happiness and emotional health has consistently gotten better since I resolved to do this.
I cannot recommend it enough.