Sometimes I get the impression people think I have a perfect life. In fact my husband got mad at someone on Facebook a while back because they dared to suggest I had some pretty good things going for me. I guess that’s partly my fault, because I try not to focus on the negatives that get me down, which means I don’t talk about them much.
I drafted most of this post on my phone at 1:30am because … There’s another man in my life. Lately he’s taken me away from the bed I share with my husband for more nights than I can count. His name is Leo, and he’s 32 months old. It’s been very hard to get a decent night’s sleep when you have to share a toddler-sized bed with one most nights of a week. Or even if you do manage to sneak back into your own, you find yourself awake with thoughts until you write them out, or you’re at risk of being woken again to repeat the settling process.
He doesn’t yet understand that the clinginess he has for me, fearful of my leaving and not knowing when I’ll be back, is part of the reason I need my own time out away from him. Whether it’s to do something as simple as write in my room or have an uninterrupted bath, a little longer so I have a chance to see a movie, or do a grocery shop without worrying about tantrums, or something more extravagant like taking a vacation without the children. As parents, we love our kids, but sometimes we need time to ourselves to recharge. I think sometimes I need more than most parents, and I worry every time I admit to having that luxury. Then I think more parents would take it if they could. I just don’t especially want to be that source of jealousy.
I think too much of the “See how awesome I am, like me! Like me!” I do can be alienating at times, too, especially when I suppress talking about my struggles. But it’s hard, when you yourself view your own struggles as petty compared to the struggles of others. Those that some might chalk up to the undeniable privilege I have from being white, or living without poverty. Or even just normal, everyday struggles of a parent. I don’t want to be seen as a rich, white, whiner. Even my own therapist doesn’t think I have capital D Depression, probably because I only go to see her when I’ve let everything spiral too far out of control and I just need somewhere to vent and have nowhere else to turn. That, and I always manage to show her the logic behind what I’m feeling. “It’s because I’m grieving for my Mum.” “I’m worried about people leaving me.” That sort of thing.
A lot of what I talk about comes down to my own insecurities, and wanting to be liked but not wanting to offend. What I omit, and what I highlight, are all part of that. Yet I worry that sometimes, if I’m only talking about the amazing things going on in my life, aside from the jealousy I regularly get from the travel I do, it can make it harder for people to relate to me. Is it easier to connect with someone who seems to be struggling with similar issues that you are yourself, than it is to connect with people who are achieving similarly instead?
I’ve been accused of bragging before, usually over things I’ve been overly excited about doing or experiencing in my life, because everyone else was taught to be more humble than I am. I just want people to share in the excitement and be as happy for me as I am. Until the insecurities come creeping in… no one else thinks you’re as awesome as you think you are. That’s why no one else is excited. Well, crap. Thanks for taking me down a notch, me.
Sometimes I talk myself up in public just because I’m afraid of the horrible things I tell myself in private. I don’t measure up. I should be doing better. I can always be doing better.
I am someone who sometimes relies too much on external validation to be happy, but it’s regularly in a state of flux. Sometimes I don’t need it at all. Sometimes I need it more than ever. In those times, I hate myself, because I want to constantly be the person who is happy with what she’s doing without the attention of others.
I can be both my biggest cheerleader and harshest critic, but it’s the cheerleader I tend to represent myself as in public. I play up my successes because I don’t want people to see how badly I might be hurting inside. Why? I’m afraid they don’t care enough to listen. We’re taught that moments of poor mental health is shameful and shouldn’t be talked about. If we dare to mention that we may have had the occasional suicidal thought, we’re just starving for attention rather than crying for help. No, we should be able to do everything on our own, right?
Wrong. We need to stop feeding people that lie.
People might look at my life and think it is perfect, and they wish they could be in my position. But I am not perfect. I am human. Perfection is impossible to achieve.