The guinea pig, the first to hit dreaded puberty, the one that is supposed to set a good example. Don’t mess up because your little sisters are watching you. You must always be perfect, kind, a role model for others, or else you are a failure.
My brain has been screaming these words and phrases at me for years. Even when I tried to convince myself otherwise, I never felt like I could be enough for my role as the oldest daughter. Expectations always felt like too much and when I finally thought I had reached them, something would remind me that I was not perfect enough in my eyes. The expectations that I created for myself were crushing.
At the age of four, I started to grow awareness of my body and my identity within the family dynamics. I knew I had responsibilities and I experienced this unwavering pressure on myself that weighed down on me in ways that held me back socially and emotionally.
The need to protect and defend my younger siblings is a normal feeling for any eldest child. Yet, the repercussions of it are not talked about enough. Perfection stems from not feeling like enough and wanting to prove yourself to the world. It is a mask that I hide under because my insecurities are too ugly to see the light of day.
Control is what makes me feel sane. All the Prozac and Zoloft in the world will not solve my need for control in this life. I was the definition of “bossy older sister” growing up, and in many ways I still am. Not on purpose, it just feels right to know what is going on. Schedules were my best friend and spontaneity was my darkest enemy. I couldn't get through a day without planning each moment all the way through.
I was the problem child in the way that I was expensive beyond my means. Therapy appointments galore, I quickly learned how to fake having a normal brain. “She seems just fine to me, just likes to have things done a certain way. Perfectly normal!” I did not see the effects of this mindset I had developed until the age of 14 when I was hospitalized for anorexia and knew that yes, even I had gone too far this time.
I took my emotions out on my body because I was internally screaming for help, yet I looked and acted normal. Now I know better, I am aware that everybody struggles and feels helpless sometimes. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and it does not take away from the strength inside you.