Self Awareness

Having just turned 46 years old, one would think that one would have, by this point, a clear understanding of who their identity is as a person.  One would think....

When one has lived a lifetime subjugated under a tyrannical familial rule, one can suppress and nearly lose one's own sense of self identity, substituting it instead for one which is accepted, expected and for which others praise.  But... this comes at a cost.  The price is one's own soul and their very sense of being.   Living a life to others expectations brings hidden costs of anxieties and self worthlessness.  We exist to live our lives but fail to live truly.  One walks through life in the motions but feels as if they are a ghost... separated inside and with an ache that only they can see.  The facade of the person they create pleases everyone else and so no-one suspects the hurt they bear deep within their own soul.  The longer they continue to live the facade, the more it becomes who they are perceived to be and the more one believes it themselves.

Those walls and the facade created have all come crashing down as I have come to embrace who I truly am inside.  It is a person whose life would have had the ability to be much earlier on had it not been for the fear I held inside.  It was fear of a father who had the ability to subjugate us to his will through the use of anger, violence and force.  It was the fear of having seen the pain inflicted upon my mother.  It was the fear of seeing my sister challenged and her escape from the family.  My walls came down when I finally moved away from my family and could, for once, finally see what should have been and what needed to be if I were to continue living on this planet.  I would no longer feel that I were the walking dead... walking in the pre-determined footsteps laid out by family in their expectation that I would walk them happily unquestioned.

But how does one know that the life they have lived to this point was a facade of their very spirit and sense of self?  Therapy was helpful in pulling those pieces together and the conclusions drawn.  But it was more my own doing and allowing myself to assemble the pieces of the puzzle of my life which were there in front of me always and to see the finished work for what it truly was.  It was and still is more than frightening to realize that this is me.  This is my life.  This is who I really am.  I ask myself, why and think that this might happen to someone else... not to me....  It was too far fetched to be me.... wasn't it?

Time and time again I tried to deny it and find ways to refute it.  Looking for other reasons which could be the reason or cause and each time I tried to follow the logic, it shattered into a million tiny pieces.  The medical background I obtained regarding my physiology confirmed it for me and was a turning moment in my life.  Even that vital piece had been hidden from me for 45 years until I stumbled upon it.   I wanted to have this irrefutable proof and these facts and yet also, at the same time, now that I knew, I wished I never did.    The pieces are now all there.  The puzzle only assembles in one way and the finished picture stares back at me in the mirror each time I see her in the mirror looking back at me.

Everyone else sees it as well.  They see how natural and comfortable she is when she is out.  She is told that she acts, talks, emotes and behaves as a natural woman around and with others.   She doesn't realize she was ever born a man when she is able to be herself.   ....and it all feels just... right....

And then a day later, she is back in her male persona and the anxiety is back.  She finds herself crying inside and, when alone, in silent tears where no one can see.  She is doing this to preserve what her male counterpart has created.  It is the world and the life constructed and still, to his loving wife, needed.  It tears her apart inside for she knows who she is truly but must somehow, still full knowing, play an acting role as someone who is finding it more and more difficult to play.

The reasons for all of the anxiety and the panic attacks from years earlier starting in Junior High School and beyond are all vividly clear now.  They are being relived now in new ways and those moments are coming back as if they were yesterday but with an understanding now of "why".   On Saturday, I spent the day and evening out as my female self and had a wonderful day meeting up with friends, sharing dinner, shopping and some evening fun playing pool and out dancing.  On Sunday I reverted back to my male mode.

I happened to be out for a walk and popped in to a local resort hotel to use the bathroom.  A wedding reception was going on in the main ballroom as I stepped into the men's room.  As has been the case all my life, I passed by the urinals and took a stall.  Clarity came over me as I realized why I did this and never felt comfortable with the urinals.  It was all too clear but I had shrugged it off as shyness.  Several young men from the wedding party entered the bathroom and I listened intently to the nature of the conversation they had with each other.  Having been in women's rooms and having had the opportunity to listen to and chat with the women there, I realized how comfortable I was there and how wrong things were for me in the men's room here.  I immediately had a panic attack and came close in the silence of the walls surrounding me, to tears.  I was immediately back in high school and in the same situation in the bathrooms then as I was now.  Only I had the perspective of years and wisdom and perspective to put it all together now.  I knew why I had had these decades of tortuous anxiety and what was wrong.  Everything was wrong.  It wasn't just this event.  It was a lifetime of events and this was yet another reminder.... another trigger.  I was in the wrong place and playing a person who I never was.  It was a conclusion I had failed too.... no..... never wanted to admit to myself back then.  It was a conclusion that the evidence of a lifetime gave clarity to now.

I am now self aware of who I am and this is not a game.  This is a fight for my own life.  It is a fight to try to assume the identity I am but it is a fight to not do so as well.  For doing so will put me at ease from this pain I feel every moment of every day and in my dreams at night.  But in allowing myself to be, I will destroy those who mean the most to me.

I never thought I would say this but I don't know how to live this life anymore.  I wished I could have had the knowledge, the wisdom and the sight to see this all much earlier.  I can not tell you how much pain I have harbored deep inside me all these years. It is the support of my wonderful spouse who makes it possible for me to realize who I am and without her, I would likely not be where I am today.  I do pray for the strength and for her help to be able to find my path of contentment in this life.


  1. I understand your dilemma for sometimes I cannot even get a part of a day and certainly not a great deal of time, to open my shell as Sammi. I fear walking into the ladies room for my voice or some manner I have will haunt me, exposing me to ridicule - and I will retreat and hide. I understand the feelings that haunt you because they haunt me. I don't even like going out to see my friends as 'someone I am not' so more often than not I retreat, afraid. I'm the outsider even though I can see that I am not. It's very painful.

    One thing I will tell you though is that you have an incredible gift for openness and creativity and though I don't sense shame from you I sense hurt that you feel that actions done to you by others define who you are and that is not the case!! If when my mom made a lot of disparaging remarks about trans people I could have just jammed myself away and cried but I didn't. I just tried to express that they were people too, just not the same as their more limited perspective could endure. And it is true that your friends define you like no one else can, because you don't choose your family but you do choose your friends.

    Not to say all choices are good ones but that's true of anything. I have had bad experiences with people I thought were friends and supportive. When their actions changed who I was inside that was part of what made me step back again.

    Christen you have never made me step back and never once made me feel a shame or integral displeasure - you have always been a true guiding light and your woman within is truly special. She is important in your life because she shows you who are inside. She is truly you.

    You have brought smiles and joy to me that I can never truly thank you or repay you for. But just maybe if my words can bring you comfort and some peace, then a small piece of the joy you have brought to me will be paid back to you.

  2. It's very interesting the world that we create around ourselves, to hide in, to protect ourselves. Yet at that same time our world suffocates us. We learn to breath with short desperate breaths. then one day we recognize that our breathing isn't enough to sustain our bodies and we learn to breath deeper overcoming one fear with each new breath.

    The one thing that I do know, in my quest for more life giving aspirations, it is that I really know nothing and only have wisps of me at that place and time. All will never be truly known, at least not until I have taken my last breath.

  3. Christen honey, I am so sorry to hear you are dealing with this turmoil inside your soul. I wish I could just say something to make your pain go away.
    Please know you are loved and supported and many of us are aware of what pains you have, and your decisions to do what you do. Huggs always, Karen J

  4. christen,
    this was a very interesting post to read through and i have to say i've had a lot of the same thoughts you discussed here. i really find it amazing that a group of people who are struggling for acceptance sometimes have difficulty accepting those that are following their own path. we're all individuals with our own set of needs, wants and desires.

    i applaud your decisions and needs to fulfill both yours and joanne's needs. i've said a number of times in other conversations that life is really a series of choices and consequences of those choices. when you're able to see the consequence of a choice (or a non-choice) and make the decision, you should be able to live with the results.

    in the end, you need to do what is best for you and your family. no one else's opinion matters because they do not have to live your do.


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