I’m Perfect…I’m a Failure

By:  Julie Beem

LuLu and I build gingerbread houses.  We build them for the annual competition at her virtual school.  She’s a serious competitor.  Prior to the houses we built for the last competitions, I had absolutely no gingerbread house experience.  It has been a trial by fire – and a lot of work!  But the interesting thing is that it’s been a fruitful adventure and one that showcases some of her talents.

Well, last week they announced that LuLu had placed 2nd overall in the high school division of this national contest.  We were ecstatic!  (I probably needed to preface this with the fact that last year she won the national contest.)  Since submitting the house in December, LuLu has waffled back and forth between being sure that she would win something and sure that she was a “big loser” (her words).  Therein lies the paradox.  It’s all or nothing with this kid.  She’s either the best, the champion, the king of the mountain (nah-nah-nah-nah-nah) or she’s a failure, a loser, worthless and should just die.  And she can swing back and forth at break-neck speed.  It’s exhausting to watch, so it must be even more exhausting to experience.

LuLu truly is creative.  She comes up with incredible concepts and has artistic abilities I wish I could mimic.  She also has many disabilities and challenges that hold her back.  Perhaps the biggest is her incredibly skewed view of herself.  In her mind, she’s either “God’s gift to humanity” or “pond scum worthy of annihilation.”  There is no in between.

So, it didn’t surprise me that in the middle of the parental pride moment I was feeling as she presented pictures and an explanation of her gingerbread creation, I heard her announce to the virtual gathering that she “could make fondant horse heads better than anybody.”  It also didn’t surprise me that once the microphone was turned off,  she declared that she was a “stupid baby.”  Such it is with my child.  She can’t allow herself the joy and satisfaction of a job well done without these extremes coming into play.  She can’t find the balance that allows her to be humble without slipping into humiliation.  Too much to be proud of and instead of just savoring it, she finds ways to denigrate herself.

It is a thought disorder, and part of what professionals would tell you shows that she could qualify for a personality disorder as she ages.  Frankly, I have no idea what to do about it.  It’s a very self-absorbed world view that is also all or nothing, black or white.  She can’t just accept herself as mixture of those extremes.  We talk about it…and cognitively she understands…but emotionally…well that’s where the problem is, isn’t it?

Julie has been ATN's Executive Director since 2009. She joined the organization in 2004 after finding incredible support from fellow ATNers when she was searching for answers about her own daughter's early childhood trauma and attachment disorders. Julie leads a staff of passionate professionals and acts as spokesperson for the organization. Prior to ATN, Julie was the president of a marketing and communications consultancy, The Epiphany Group, and has over two decades of experience in professional services marketing, strategic planning and communication strategies. As a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and through personal experience, Julie has garnered a great deal of experience in the areas of special education, school issues, and disabilities advocacy. A published author, Julie wrote a chapter in the EMK Press Adoption Parenting book and was the special needs blogger at Adoptionblogs.com for two years. She frequently presents workshops on attachment and trauma to local and national groups. Email Julie. Julie holds an MBA from Avila College in Kansas City and was a Certified Professional Services Marketer. Julie, and her husband Dave, are parents to four (bio, step and adoptive), including their youngest daughter, adopted from China. This daughter’s attachment difficulties and developmental trauma disorder have changed their lives significantly…in amazing ways.

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