I walk into class late. I get reprimanded for it. I immediately start to have a shame attack.
Being late triggers shame for me. I have been late all my life. To school. To work. To hangouts with friends. I have trouble waking up to my alarm. I have trouble waking up early. I have trouble falling asleep early enough so I can wake up early enough without feeling tired.
And all my life I have been shamed by my family for being late. For getting up late. For going to bed late. So I have learned to shame myself when I am late. No one even needs to tell me anything, but if I am running late I feel so much shame.
This shame has been amplified ever since I’ve started to discover my gender identity. I am mourning myself. I’m morning my gender. And when you mourn you go through the stages of grief. And each stage might last however long it lasts. For the last few months I have been stuck in the depression/ anger cycle of grief.
How this depression manifests is that I get insomnia. I end up staying up until 3 or 4am every night, which leads me to wake up at noon. It causes me to have trouble waking up early, even when I set an alarm. And of course because of my shame, when I do wake up “late” I immediately feel bad about it. I think about how I should have gone to bed earlier. I should have stopped binge watching youtube videos. I should have stopped reading all those tumblr posts. I should have set more alarms. I should have done more yoga or more exercise so I’d be more balanced.
I have a whole list of shoulds. And what I have learned is that shoulds are never compassionate. It is impossible for me to change my behavior when I continue to shame myself with shoulds. I’ve been reading a lot of Bene Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame. And I agree with her conclusion that shame NEVER changes behaviors. In fact it almost has the opposite effect.
And so when I am late, if I am reprimanded this triggers even more shame. What’s worse is the shame spreads beyond just the incident of being late, to my entire being. When I am shamed for being late, I feel shame for getting up late. Since I know I get up late because I am depressed. I feel shame for being depressed. Since I know I get up late because of my insomnia, I feel shame for my insomnia. Since I know my habit of staying up late is partly a result of researching coming out stories and experiences of gay and transgender people in an effort to understand myself. I feel shame for being gay and for being transgender. Since I know I can’t change either of these parts of myself. I feel shame for who I am as a person.
And how do you explain this to people? How do you walk into a room and say: I’m sorry I’m late. It’s because I am trans and I am ashamed of who I am. Please don’t yell at me because that’s gonna trigger me. That’s not something you can just slip into conversation. And then I’m afraid that even if I explain myself I won’t be listened to. I won’t be heard. And I won’t be understood. And all I want is to be understood.