I learnt about this in Uni – “Image Management“. It’s happening more and more because of Social Media but I think has been around since life began – people shaping and carefully scripting the way others see them.
I do this A LOT.
24/7 in fact.
I have done since I was a little girl.
I manage how others see me. I do all my crying and hurting in private. I have learnt since I was 5 years old how to cry and have my heart break without making a sound. I couldn’t cry then because I had a new little brother and my parents told me not to be noisy because he needed to sleep. Suddenly everything – EVERYTHING – was about Jason. I was forgotten about completely. I couldn’t cry because suddenly my tears meant nothing to my parents. I meant nothing to my parents.
And it hurt so badly.
My heart…was broken so badly by this new knowledge.
I was so small and so confused – what did this new baby mean? Why was I being pushed aside – pushed away?
I heard my parents one night you know – planning to send me away. Literally getting rid of me. My Dad pleading a pretty good case to my Mom of “new family” and “starting over” – and sending me away to the Philippines. He didn’t want me shadowing his “new beginning”
Can you imagine hearing that at 5 years old?!?
I’ll tell you, it broke me in ways that will never heal.
It is a HUGE part of why I am the way I am today.
So I decided then – all those years ago – to hide away who I was. To hide the hurt and to instead be the happiest, bubbliest, LOVELIEST girl there ever was.
I helped my Mom with the chores, worked hard to keep the house clean, fumbled about learning new skills at school so I could learn faster, be better and shine at everything I did.
And I have been that way ever since.
I went to high school and made sure I saved all my pocket money so I would always have the best albums on my ‘boombox’ and the best tapes in my cassette player. Where my brother eventually grew up and decided his “image management” would come in the form of the most expensive brands at all times…mine came in the form of gifts.
I gave expensive, thoughtful gifts to everyone around me. I ‘bought’ and managed the people around me.
“You’re so kind, Janet! Thank you!”
Well you’re welcome – please like me.
And on and on.
The thing about doing the same things for a long time is – you get pretty bloody good at them. I’m SO good at it now that I can be suicidal for YEARS and no one will know. Sometimes not even me. That’s how messed up this whole image management thing is – Even I get fooled by it.
I post all the time on social media about how happy I am.
Just at the gym – smashing it 🙂
At work – shining bright!
Enjoying cleaning the house like the Home Goddess I am
I’m miserable ALL the time.
The times where I’ve cried for 3 days straight and don’t know why – that never gets posted.
In the last 2 years; because of my intensive work with “George” my psych, he’s encouraged me to have compassion upon myself. He’s encouraged me to live a TRUTHFUL life – warts and all.
“The people who love you – love you for who you are inside – it’s okay to let them in, Janet”
So I very gently, very carefully let you guys in.
“Hard day today” I post with trembling fingers – worrying the entire time what you’ll think of me. Will you think I’m weak? Will you think I don’t have what it takes? Will you judge me?
Will you think less of me?
Will you stop liking me?
And apart from a few – you’ve all been nothing but loving, supportive and encouraging.
This has changed my world. My life.
It’s okay to not be okay.
I sure didn’t!
But still, years of image management and being the “bright, bubbly girl” kick into gear so those honest, raw, real posts are few and far between – and are always “balanced” by plenty of posts of me bouncing back, me “kicking depression to the curb, ya’ll – go me!”
So that no one really knows what it’s like to be me.
Except for this blog – where you get the uncensored version. And it’s not fun to read, is it?
I can image how hard it is for you to read it because it’s bloody hard for me to write it. This is the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life because you’re seeing me as I am – broken, so damaged, so warped and twisted…so weird. So alone and so incredibly frightened.
I’m still that 5-year-old girl wondering what is so wrong with me that my OWN PARENTS didn’t want me anymore.
My birth Father left me before he even SAW me.
When my parents got to know me – they wanted to send me away.
So I must be worthless.
I must be absolute sh*t, really – because from a very young age – I didn’t have anyone around who saw any value in me. My parents were neglectful and emotionally battered me by comparing me 24/7 to my little brother – who is in their eyes absolutely perfect. Jay never got told off, he was always cherished and celebrated. He didn’t have chores but got paid the same pocket money as I did every week – but I had to garden, clean, mop, sweep and earn every cent. I got bullied at school for being a black kid, I struggled in classes with teachers who favoured ‘the white kids’…my life from a young age has been a constant battle of not being liked. Not being nurtured or accepted – always being on the outs.
I’d have a really, really lonely day at school – so filled with hurt that my little heart almost fell apart from it and I’d walk home – because again, my parents “forgot” to pick me up from school – and stand in the background while my parents coo’ed and fussed over my brother. That didn’t change from the day he was born to this very day – Jason is all. I am nothing. There’s no middle ground for my parents. No middle ground for me, either – no compassion or room to grow. I can’t in the shadow of my all-star younger sibling.
Jay is successful. He is tall, confident, self-assured, earns 6 figures a year (can you imagine?) and can take my parents to fancy places whenever he chooses. His gifts come with labels like “Marc Jacobs”, “Chanel”, “Gucci”, or expensive “all expenses paid” holidays overseas for my parents. Jay drives a Porche (sp?) and is currently HAVING AN ARCHITECT DESIGN HIS NEW HOME.
When Jay talks, he flicks his expensive watch around on his wrist – so you have no choice but to acknowledge it “Oh this?” he feigns surprise “Yeah it’s the latest Cartier timepiece – the same one on a huge billboard in Melbourne – when I was there over the weekend shopping, I took a selfie wearing the same watch that was on the poster behind me – so cool”
Is it, though, Jay?
Because although I don’t give Mom and Dad expensive gifts, I looked after Mom when she had that cancer removed from her back. I sat and talked with Dad for hours over the long months he had depression. I visit Mom every single week and Alun and I often visit when she’s not home to clean the apartment for her so she doesn’t have to worry. Mom calls every now and then “sweetheart – can I have some money?” and I drop everything to make sure she has more than enough.
I don’t see you there at any of these occasions, Jay.
Where are you when it counts???
OMG now I’m crying. Great.
I’m losing track of what I wanted to say to you and it was important enough that I’m up even before the sun is just to tell you.
Bear with me, here – I’m almost done.
I want the people around me to think well of me and what I’ve figured out in my lifetime of image management is that people are more likely to want to be around you if you’re fun and exciting. So that’s the person I try to be.
Since 2009 though, my image management ‘talents’ have been severely broken. I literally broke the part of my brain responsible for managing emotions and Doctors were concerned I’d go forward in life as a completely ‘un-inhibited’ nutcase.
“You’ll say things you didn’t mean to and you’ll take some heavy risks because you won’t have the part that gives you logic and reasoning anymore, Janet” They said.
“Your brain controls your emotions and brings them down to a stable level – but the way you hit your head on that pole means that you damaged that centre and from now on, you’ll feel emotions in intense ways and not be able to bring them down to a safe level – you’ll have to take medication to help you and you’ll have to change your life accordingly”
Just change my life, eh?
Just like that?!?
*shakes head sadly*
So now I’m unfortunately more open and honest because I can’t manage how you see me as much as I used to. I still give it a damn good try and I’m still constantly managing how you see me – posting only the happiest pictures, posting mainly my happy moments, my successes, my thankfulness – my ‘GAINS’…but more and more – the real me is showing through and I hate it, you guys. I feel so vulnerable before you all.
More and more, my posts say “I can’t go on”, “I’m really struggling”, “I’m having a really tough day/few weeks”
And OMG it frightens the living sh*t out of me.
When will YOU send me away?
When will I overhear what my OWN PARENTS were planning to do with me – but with your words in place of theirs “…need a new beginning…best if we send her away”
When will you leave me?
You have no idea how scary that is for me.
Because I know I’m not good enough.
I’m NOT a fun person anymore. Since I’ve aged, I’ve found I’m actually really boring. I love bookstores. I’m passionate about gardening, colouring in and watching movies. I love sleeping. Unfortunately I love eating. Haha. These are things I’m enjoying more and more on my own and the anxiety I ‘caught’ in 2009 is growing stronger and bigger in my life all the time. I used to LOVE being the centre of attention and if there was a party happening ANYWHERE in this city – I wanted to be in it – running it like a boss.
Now I want to run AWAY from things like that.
Today, I’m meeting (God willing) my friend Dianti “I just want to hug you” she texted me yesterday. Oh Dianti – you have no idea how much I’d love that. I’ll do everything I can to be there.
Tomorrow, (God willing) I’m meeting my darling friend Sue for afternoon tea. I love that these are one-on-one meetings because that’s all I can handle these days.
I can’t even handle 5 people all at once anymore – it’s too hard to manage. It’s too hard to try to control my words, my actions and my image so I just end up frightened and exhausted by it all.
My friend Christabel asked me something the other day. I don’t think she knows it but her questions are really profound and powerful.
“How long have you been suicidal – REALLY?” she asked.
I think that’s a power Christabel has – to cut through all the BS and get straight to the point.
“Months” I admitted, crying anew at how much this admission was going to cost me.
“Why didn’t you say something?” she asked. Again – on point and so honest and raw it was like being hit in the face with a cold fish.
The answer: I don’t know.
I honestly don’t.
I’m so constantly busy “managing my image” that I forget to ACTUALLY look at myself. I am so busy appearing healthy, happy, successful in my job (pfft) and in my LIFE that I actually get carried away by my own BS and start to believe I’ve conquered the demons in my life and that I am ok – when really, I’m not.
I don’t recognise that I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in months. I don’t acknowledge that I cry more than I smile. I don’t accept that I’m actually really, really scared all the time, worried all the time, grieving ALL THE TIME – for what, I don’t know.
I’m constantly fighting to look ‘normal’. So much so – I’m forgetting who I truly am.
Who am I in this world?!?
Is there anything good about me?
Why am I here?
Is there any value in me?!? At all?!?
What’s your purpose for me, Father God?
So yeah – I wanted to write that today so that you’ll know (and hopefully understand a little more) why I don’t ask for help. I want to hide my pain. I want to hide my struggle. I want to lie and smile brightly and answer “Yep. Doing great!” when you ask how I am because I don’t want you to want to send me away the way my parents did.