I'm having a bit of time out from working on my memoir, as I'm burnt out out with it at the moment. The main reason my book projects take so long, is that I need lots of breaks after intense sessions of working on them.
In my last blog post, I wrote about brats. I had a therapy session with a clinicial psychologist today and I mentioned how I observed the brat to be a role played in a dynamic where one didn't get enough healthy attention as a child. It can be a situation where a sibling needed more attention. My psychologist said it can go two ways. The brat or the perfect child.
I was the perfect child. I see this as a role. I'll try explain a little more.
two sides of the same coin
The brat and the perfect child are two sides of the same coin. Often in the same family. Can even be the same person.
Both didn't get enough healthy attention as a child, for whatever reason. The perfect child feels the weight of expectations, even perceived expectations. Motivated by attention in the form of approval. The brat seeks attention anyway they can, typically by acting out.
These patterns can go into adulthood. I was the perfect child, most of the time. Then, went through a brat stage in midlife. My medical conditions exaggerated it.
I try to avoid talking about my family, as they don't really like it, even though they're anonymous. However, I think this is a dynamic that affects many families and I don't want to blame my family. It's just how it was.
One of my siblings needed extra support growing up with developmental delays that were picked up. I was quiet (to the point of mutism) but my difficulties were dismissed as shyness. My other sibling was bratty. She figured out from a early age how to get what she wanted from others.
My parents tried hard with what they knew to provide for us. We wore mostly second-hand clothes and there was a vegetable garden in the back yard. I remember when there were no carpets installed yet.
We had a house, as my Dad built it himself. It took a long time though, to have basics like curtains, let alone nice things.
I'm very insightful and observe I have a pattern of attracting either extreme of emotionally smothering/needy or emotionally unavailable men (even though I haven't actually dated that much). Emotionally needy is still emotionally unavailable.
I do think there is something in attachment theory, which is when relationships with parents/caregivers later affect emotional bonds in relationships later. Sometimes, this is a situation, because one child is ill or has disabilities. It can create resentment from the siblings who felt they missed on an emotional level (even if they understand the situation intellectually).
One of my siblings (the 'brat', renowned for snark) said she had a wound from emotionally unavailable parents. I have the same wound. It was the circumstances - our parents needing to work around the clock to make sure we were fed, their own issues etc.
The 'brat' sibling is now a teacher and she is fond of her 'brat' kids, as she was one herself. She enjoys her trademark snark humour with them.
One of my friends used to be my high school teacher. She remembers what I was like before my breakdowns, before I developed significant disabilties from a mood disorder and trauma. She said 'You were the perfect student. Polite, did your work. Every teacher's dream student.'
I was called a nerd by other students, yet they still had some kind of awe of me, like put me on a pedastal. Then totally shocked when I couldn't do some things, like mental arithmetic. So, I had expectations from teachers and students to keep performing.
I was raised in a religious enviroment, which involved a lot of suppression. I tried hard to be 'good.' It's constantly performing. I was a people-pleaser. It wasn't healthy.
But then everything turned 'bad,' and got worse as time went on. A rollercoaster of extreme highs and lows. From my perspective, whatever is extremely suppressed, is going to come out, one way or another.
Clincians call it bipolar disorder. I think, in part, it's a subconscious opposite reaction, to balance out what has been suppressed. Yes, it's the difference in severe mood episodes is like the complete opposite. Like having an opposite personality, even though I don't have a personality disorder. Most amusing for me, is that others read me as 'sexy' in elevated moods, when I see myself as 'asexual', pretty much.
It wasn't healthy for me to try to be 'perfect'. Heck, I didn't even swear. (Made up for it since when I did a vlog, Bipolar Courage).
I developed perfectionism which was hard to let go of. My Dad is a perfectionist. Which has it's benefits, as the walls and doors are all straight when he built the house. But I also felt the weight of disapproval, which was worse, when I developed severe mental health issues.
When I had piano lessons (after I'd begged for them), I kept going back to the beginning to start again, whenever I made a mistake. Teachers had to train that out of me, to just bluff and keep going. I would score lower than my ability in piano exams, as I'd get so anxious.
When I did a piano exam as an adult and got 'distinction', my teacher was thrilled but I plunged into depression. It was the perfectionism from practising over and over. My medical records actually note that I had severe depression at that time. Yet, I still performed in that half hour, that I'd rehearsed for, for months.
My blog posts have typos etc. I fix them when notice but it can take me a long time to do things, so many times, I've just left them. My blog posts are minimally edited, more stream-of-consciousness style.
I'm up to the finalising stages of my second memoir and that stage is pretty tedious, as it involves trying to make things perfect. I want to do the best job I can with my books, but perfectionism actually makes me feel anxious and unhappy, sometimes even depressed.
Anxious & breakdowns
I've had anxiety since childhood, starting with social anxiety then generalised anxiety. Then depression. I'm now diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I've also had autism spectrum features since childhood.
Underneath the perfectionism, was that I didn't feel 'good enough.' My parents don't have upper high school or tertiary education, so it's not like they were cracking the whip for academic acheivement. It was quite by accident that I was being award first or second in most of my classes at school. So then, I put my worth at that time into academic achievement.
I was one of three girls invited to do a second year analytical chemistry paper in my first year. Then, in my third year, I had a breakdown, which was related to trauma flashbacks. I felt like a failure, as I didn't finish my degree with my peers. I eventually finished but my heart wasn't in it and I couldn't retrain and retrieve information like I used to.
Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is, the 'perfect child' may be carrying high levels of anxiety and trying their best, even if their best isn't 'good enough' for others. I worked and worked (literally, at school then a part-time job) to try to earn approval. Working hard was a family ethic.
In university holidays, I didn't have a holiday. I was working. I worked serving customers in retail stores and at a fast food place. It was so stressful for me, dealing with people all the time, that I would lose a lot of weight, so that my ribs were sticking out. It was especially hard for my father, who worked hard his entire life, to understand why I had no energy (burnout and depression). He saw it as 'being lazy'.
It's still quite hard for my parents to understand now, but they try not to judge now. I live with my parents in middle-age, after divorce. There aren't a lot of options for people with disabilities.
I've refused offers from men I barely knew, to move in with them, as I know what the transaction would be, all for them. Sex, caring for their elderly parents, caring for their children. Being a nanny and housekeeper. I would lose the little independent income I have, hence I avoid dating.
I've never actually been the same, since my first breakdown at university, age 20. I couldn't fake a smile anymore, when I was severely depressed. I can't cope with stress. Things got worse, and I can no longer work full time.
At one stage, things were so bad, I wasn't even able to manage the simple multitasking to cook a scrambled egg. My cognition was severely impaired. I wasn't able to drive at all.
Inner brat & struggles
I guess I found my inner 'brat' later. Yes, I can enjoy winding people up. Humour is a coping mechanism for pain. I think the elevated moods with bipolar can be too.
It can backfire though. I guess I put my family through hell, as I went though hell myself when I was severely unwell. Yes, I acted out. It's not really deliberate. Please note, that if you think you're life is hell because of someone else's behaviours, think of how much hell they are going through, just trying to stay alive.
The reason I had my first solo art exhibition was to set myself a 'ridiculous goal' when I was strugging with my mental health. Rock bottom. Unable to work, unable to drive, unable to do basic tasks. It was therapeutic to make a mess, rather than try to make things perfect.
I'd only done art to school certificate level (age 15 years) and I got a B (whereas I'd gotten As in my other subjects, including science). I'd painted on and off, doing a few adult classes. They were all focussed on making things 'perfect', which wasn't healthy for me.
I got the release I needed with art was when I did things my way. Broke the rules. Improvised. Similar to how I found more freedom ditching classical music and learning to improvise. Although, I'm still avoidant playing piano these days (related to trauma).
The painting in this blog post was done during my second solo art exhibition, to process the rollercoaster of emotions of doing an exhibition. I called it 'More than Good Enough' as I don't need to try to prove anything to anyone. I have no plans to do further exhibitions.
I didn't put prices on art at the first exhibition (deep down, I was surprised anyone agreed to exhibit my art but some kind people in community mentored me on how to make this happen). I did the second exhibition as a follow up, to show how I'd developed. Plus this time, I put prices. Several people told me I priced too low. I sold art at both exhibitions. Most art I'd done previously had just ended up going to the dump.
bullying vs criticism
This is very vulnerable for me, but the main comments that triggered suicidal ideation for me, during a massive cyberbullying incident, over crappy identity politics, was saying my art is ugly and my book is crap. The book they obviously hadn't even read.
One person, obsessed with me, whom I'd never spoken to, smeared my book, saying it had typos, jumped around with timeline etc. It took courage to publish that book. The obvious reason she did that, is she was mad at me because I no longer call myself autistic. Yet, people like her, claiming to be autistic, is one of the reasons I refuse to call myself autistic, as an identity. The hypocrisy of those who preach 'inclusivity' yet are in an exclusive clique puts me off.
My books are my art too. I understand that not everyone likes my art and my writing but it's mean-spirited to just say it to join in an pile-on. My psychologist said it's bullying. It is.
Putting one's art and writing out there, for criticism, is like putting one's soul out there. It's one thing to disagree with one's ideas. It's another to join into mob bullying to tear someone down over opinions, with personal attacks.
Please be more mindful and compassionate. People over politics.
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