Shame is pervasive there is no doubt in my mind of that fact. Once one is subjected to it enough, it becomes a part of one’s self in a way and insinuates itself into just about all parts of one’s life. I’ve just read this post by fellow blogger Penni and it has sparked something in my thinking.
In unpacking all the ways I don’t measure up to the so-called Gold, Silver or Bronze standard of how to negotiate life, I mean shit, at times I can’t even manage the participation standard, let alone the gold, silver or bronze ideals.
You know you’re supposed to grow up, get married have kids, work hard, be successful in your job, be a role model to your kids and so on, and so forth. I’ve managed to make a pretty good fuck up of a lot of that.
I’ve grown up, yeah, in a state of denial of my true self for the most of it.
I’ve got married, twice, failed twice.
I’ve got kids, but I feel so much that I have just failed them time and again. I feel I have never been able to provide for them like I should, to ensure they have the material things they need. I certainly feel intensely I have failed to be a good role model to them.
In terms of employment, well yeah, here I sit, pretty much unemployed, again, about to turn 47 years old and no evident career history, no evident career path even.
The shame of all this is pervasive. It has me in tears much of the time, it is so deeply entrenched within me, that it seems impossible to shift it, to reframe it, to change it.
I think this just might be common for many autistics around my age. There just wasn’t enough known about autism when I was a child. I think my upbringing played a huge part too. Both my parents were very authoritarian. I had to hide away my true self in order to survive. Life was very much because I said so, and if you don’t here’s a beating to make you do it.
On just about a daily basis, and often multiple times a day I heard the line “you should be ashamed of yourself” It was used for so many things. Mistakes, behaviour, failures, whatever it was I had apparently done that was not acceptable, or not to the required standard.
And so that shame really did become internalised and pervasive.
I think it manifests itself in virtually every area of life. It slithers its insidious nastiness through every conversation, interaction, activity, thought process and feeling that you have.
Not good enough, not smart enough, wrong, mean, unkind, useless and so on and so forth. It’s an action of an evil of the worst kind.
I suspect that there must be an intense connection between this and my seemingly weak grasp on my own mental health. I am absolutely positive that this shame factor was a massive part of the almost absolute repression of my gender identity was for 45 years. Absolutely no doubt at all of that fact. The rough, tough, violent lessons learned as a young child were served with lashings of shame at even beginning to explore that aspect of identity as a young child.
The impact of all this is unavoidable. It is almost impossible to shift it. Wherever I go, whenever I talk, write, do a thing, it is laced with shame. It means it impacts my life pervasively.
It works itself through everything.
Find a job you could apply for – no you’re not good enough, they wouldn’t want you, you’re a failure remember.
Actually, apply for the job – shamefully frozen at interview stage, can’t begin to extol you’re worth as you are overwhelmed by the shameful messages you are hearing invading your conscious.
Interaction socially – oh you didn’t say that did you, they’ll all be laughing at you now, that look that was a look of disgust at you.
And so it goes on.
Regular readers will know, I’m in the process of transition. In grasping hold of my true self, affirming the truth of who I am, I have encountered a difficult cost. I have lost my relationship with my wife. I have had to move out of the family home, and find a new home. This is a huge cost, but a cost that must be paid. The reality of this cost is like an onion skin, each time you think you’ve come to terms with it a new layer of cost becomes evident.
It hurts. A lot. This last week I have had to come to terms with relinquishing being the prime carer for my disabled daughter. I have had to realise that I can’t do that effectively from a different residence. I am thankful one of my other daughters is able to fill some of that void. But the reality is, I can’t do it, I can’t do it financially, I can’t do be there for her all the time she needs me to be. The carers pension I relied on to do it is no longer available to me, and I am required to now find employment. Well if I don’t I will have no ability to be meet any of my financial obligations.
It hurts. It hurts like hell. I’m in the midst of that pain, and insidious shame that again slithers through telling me I am again a failure, useless, not worth it.
The shame factor of this is magnified when I begin to imagine the task of re-entering the workforce.
I should be employable, I should be highly employable:
2 Bachelor Degrees and a Diploma. Intelligent, highly literate, numerate and so forth. And yet. I find it extremely difficult to negotiate this whole thing.
And then there is the intersectional side of it all. Here I am as a medically transitioning transgender autistic woman in her mid to late forties. There’s a fair bit going on in that statement.
Then there’s the shame factor that goes with the reality of a spotty, sporadic work history, no long term jobs held ever. The barriers to successfully negotiating the social and communication aspects of finding work.
The task of even re-imagining my Resumè into a current and appropriate format is seemingly insurmountable.
The task of working out what are the jobs I can apply for, what the stated requirements and so forth actually mean and what they don’t actually mean is a confusing maze I can’t seem to find a way through.
I can do lots of things, but actually finding a way of matching my skills to an actual job seems an impossible task and sends me into the swirling abyss of shame.
I feel my mental health failing. I feel my ability to function becoming more and more tenuous as shutdown appears to loom with a sense of inevitability.
I want to work, I want to commit to an employer and do my very best for them. I want to meaningfully contribute towards the greater good for society. It’s just that the obstacles seem to be insurmountable and immovable.
Shame is a great debilitating force. This couple with the lack of services supporting those autistics deemed to be “high functioning” is a compounding factor.
I don’t know where to turn. The tunnel seems interminably dark. The light at the end of it has been snuffed out and there seems no possibility of it being reignited.
I need help, and I am sure I am not the only one.