“Sometimes when a child wants attention from its parents, it’ll act up.”

I went back after the bombshell about my trust issues and told the counsellor about issues I had in childhood where I’d deliberately make myself unwell. I’d have a fight with my parents then as they’d have to forcibly medicate me. I couldn’t tell her when it started or why. I wondered if maybe that was a part of the reason.

She suggested that it could have been a cry for attention. As often happens, I initially fervently denied her analysis of the situation –
“Oh no. I didn’t want attention, I never wanted that. I generally wanted to be left alone. I hated attention, hated being bothered by other people. I still do!”
“Just because you learned to avoid people doesn’t mean that you never wanted attention, though,” she notes, “it sounds like you learned to depend on yourself because you felt like you couldn’t trust anyone else.”
“Well of course I’m the person I can always depend on,” I agreed, “I’ve always been a solitary little thing, I’m quite happy in my own company. When I have days off, I don’t seek out other people. I’ll be really happy if I’m left at home on my own all day. I’ll just sing to myself for hours. That doesn’t sound like someone dying for attention, does it?”
“Perhaps not. But you mentioned that your mother suffered quite badly from depression when you were young. And as you probably know from your own experience, it’s hard to really express love and affection when just existing is taking all your energy. There’s just nothing left.”
“So you can’t reach out and bond so well?”
“Exactly. So if you felt like you weren’t getting enough from your mum-”
“And my dad worked long hours, 6 days a week. Mum was depressed, highly strung. Not very affectionate. I don’t think anyone in my family was overly affectionate, I wonder if that’s why I struggle. It wasn’t really modelled.”
“It could definitely be a factor, couldn’t it?”
“You know, they never really said things like ‘I love you’ or that they were proud of me. I tried hard and honestly… other kids did really simple things that I could’ve done easily. And got really highly praised for it. I didn’t get praised like that, no matter how well I did. No one seemed impressed by anything I did even if it was better than other peoples’ work.”

Looking back on it I’m amused by how childlike and stroppy that sounds. But I really felt it. It didn’t matter what I did, no one noticed or paid attention. I didn’t feel loved, I didn’t feel like anyone was proud of me. So maybe I really was subconsciously crying out for attention even if consciously I was convinced that I hated attention.

And maybe that’s why, in spite of my crippling anxiety, when I saw a singer on stage in front of thousands of people – performing and loving life – all I wanted was to do that. I wanted to BE her, I wanted to do what she was doing. That’s why I started singing. I told my counsellor about it, about the way I light up whenever someone comments on my videos, whenever someone tells me I’m amazing. Tells me they love me. Tells me they’re my fan, that they subscribed, that they’ll support me from now on. I feed on it, I live for that positive regard. But I don’t think I deserve it and don’t trust people to give me it so I just tried to convince myself I didn’t even want it in the first place.

My mind plays all kinds of games with me, I’m realising.

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