For me, career expectations were also a significant cause of my identity disturbance. I am a naturally shy, creative person – very much into art and nature. I love painting, drawing, sculpting and creating things and this creativity seems to be something many BPD people have. I guess you need to be sensitive to create because you need to be aware of so much more, to see things with different eyes and then be able to express.
Although my family appreciated my hobbies, I was always told that they should only be just that. I desperately wanted to go to art college. I wanted to study art, to write, to become an artist. But that wasn’t the sensible thing to do. I was always told it was impossible. Artistic people had no merit. They would be dole bludgers, failures, drug addicts and serve no practical purpose to society. Art degrees were considered worthless. It would not be possible to earn a living that way. You can’t do that unless you are special and I wasn’t. I wasn’t special at all – these were just my cute little hobbies. Passion, desire, identity didn’t come into the equation.
It was never about what I wanted to be nor who I felt I was, but what it was most appropriate to be.
As a very young child, I wanted to be everything I saw on TV. Like most children I was impressionable. My ideal career choice as a four-year girl old was to be a sheriff or US Marshall in the wild west and wear a white Stetson and shoot bad guys. And I totally wanted the best horse with the prettiest tail and longest mane. I was also quite sure that all women were whores. I had learned a lot about pornography by that age.
By the time I was six I wanted to be an astronaut, and looking back I think identity disturbance started to emerge around eight years old. Because between the ages of eight and ten I didn’t even want to be a person. My dream was to become a wild, white stallion and I would shove net curtains down the back of my jeans, tie them around my head and prance, neigh through the village, the paddocks and the nearby woodlands.
I realise now that I was trying to escape from everything expected of me. Because aspiring to be a horse, is entirely unrealistic. I didn’t want to work with horses, I wanted to be one, and I practised daily. I became the weird kid in the village.
Career-wise, it was all about what was right, respectable and sensible. It was essential to be respectable and to have a respectable job. Artist, labourer, maid or hospitality was just what common folk do. But we were only run of the mill common folk! We lived in public housing! Working outdoors appealed to me, working with animals appealed to me. I would have been more than happy doing that and continuing to develop my hobbies but … that’s dirty work; unladylike; inappropriate; common.
It was deemed acceptable to work in kennels, groom horses, or be a dish pig as part-time work while growing up. I did my fair share of shovelling manure, and I didn’t mind in the least. My hobbies extended to more traditionally masculine ones. I’m pretty good at steering a tugboat and a barge. I joined a railway society and was the only female member of a crew dismantling and rebuilding a railway. I used to sleep on the floor of the machine shop with rats and reptiles. I was happy and content. But working as a labourer? No way. Wanting to follow an artistic path? No way.
Office work was deemed the sensible and respectable choice. Wearing a suit was considered to be appropriate. Being a secretary was something of a high order to in which to aspire to. Or as a female, a nurse would be acceptable too. Not a doctor, that was more a male thing. Female doctors couldn’t possibly do a good job because they were women and women raised children. A female doctor would always be distracted because she was first and foremost a mother – not a doctor. A nurse, however, well somehow that’s a different thing.
I tried to rebel. I knew that I didn’t want to work in an office; I had done a couple of years voluntary work in a hospital at weekends, making beds and feeding elderly patients. I knew that neither of those occupations was a fit for me. So I went to join the army and was accepted pending physical. They told me I would be able to work in administration; or become an army nurse. I asked if I could join the infantry. The recruitment officer laughed. I did not pursue that option any further. I became an office worker. I have hated it all my life.
So those inherent parts of me were quashed and only now, are they beginning to re-emerge. Perhaps I should go back to hanging out in paddocks, with dogs at my heels, maybe milk a few cows then go home to a bloke who has cooked me a well-deserved meal; then he can drink beer and watch footy or ballet or whatever floats his boat while I art my little heart away!
We’ll see what happens – I am still a work in progress.
And trying to think all this through is exhausting me.