Sorry I didn’t post yesterday; I had such a headache from sitting on flights all day with a mask and not hydrating properly that I barely started writing something which I’ve since voided. I also started something else but then decided it was rubbish last minute, I’m a little bit of a mess at the moment trying to lodge into being back home in this new normal which I was excluded from before having been on an island which has had a mere 21 cases since coronavirus began. So, I rebegin writing another post on a completely different topic to the last two with my cat for company and a depression playlist playing in the background.
I think me and my sister have been waiting for me to write this for quite a while. I believe the pressure has gotten to both of us, especially in the past and it has had quite negative effects on me mainly. I think the best way to start is a small introduction on why this topic is so personal, though I do believe it is quite universal. Disclaimer: my parents love us both individually and together, we are very different and though this might not paint the greatest light I know my parents love us equally even if my sister is the outstanding child and I am quite simply alive.
My sister is two years younger than me. She is sporty and excelled in many sports including swimming which she was competitive in, and cross country running which she also used to race in. She excels academically, she had all A*’s apart from one A in GCSES and got A*AB at A Levels and now studies at Edinburgh University. She is creative, she currently studies Fashion at University and she is incredible at illustrations, art and even fashion. I’ll link her Instagram for her art as I’m sure she’d appreciate the shoutout. Though I’m sure my father would disagree, she’s his little princess and they spend their evenings walking 5k’s on top of 5k runs a few times a week.
Me on the other hand, I can’t run more than 400m’s without getting light-headed. My chest makes it difficult for me to exercise and thanks to my PCOS I barely lose any weight. I got one A in my GCSES and saw an array of B’s and C’s with one D (funnily enough the one A my sister had in Latin was my D) and I got DEU in my A Levels, so definitely not academically gifted. Unlike my sister I didn’t have the privilege of looking at league tables when applying to university and instead chose wherever would have me. I can’t draw, but I am quite a good writer (if I do say so myself). Basically, my sister got all the good genes and I got several mental illnesses. If that was a category, I’d be quite a few up on my sister.
Before secondary school, I was amazing at school. I guess that’s why I never really learnt how to study, I still don’t really know how to revise. Secondary school tested me; I remember vividly coming home crying because I was stupid. I wasn’t. There was just insane pressure from my school to be the best. My sister was the opposite, her grades were insane. They rarely strayed from an A* and even then, it was just to an A. Whereas my grades were at a C/D level.
I don’t know exactly when the turning point was, but I remember actively feeling pressured into working myself to death trying to understand subjects which made no sense to live up to my sisters’ expectations. She was two years younger and her grades were ten times better than mine ever were. My parents didn’t really know that I was struggling with actually knowing how to study, to memorize things; it wasn’t that I wasn’t paying attention I just physically couldn’t remember things and my anxiety would flare up during exams and my memory would erase.
If I’d been more honest from the start maybe I would’ve been able to admit why my grades were terrible, that my mental health was deteriorating, and I had very little energy but all of it was being transferred into fighting to stay alive. I acted up a lot, in both school and at home. I thought that if I acted as if I was going nowhere and I was a lost cause, people would believe it. It didn’t work, the pressure got harder and I broke more. I used to tell my parents my grades 20 minutes before parent evenings so they wouldn’t give me two sets of lectures and instead only get mad at me after them. My teachers didn’t help, despite telling me to my face I’d never make it and I was a failure they were all too happy to sit and lie to my parents that I had a lot of wasted potential.
The thing with pressure is, after a while you give up. I was fifteen, my friends had just died and I sat my mocks for my GCSE’s. The grades were solid C and below and the worst was my Latin grade with a U; I’ve never really admitted this but that grade stung. I’d studied so hard in a subject I despised because I wanted to throw it back in my teachers face. Instead he stood grinning after telling me I got a U and that I should really consider dropping the subject as I was academically inept. That parents evening is the first time my mum stood up for me in front of my teachers, she didn’t take any of his rubbish and for the first time I could feel the pressure lifting. Life was hard that month, my academics was the least of my problems, but my teachers were making me feel as if they should be top priority.
Then came the age of teacher’s comparing me and my sister, saying we were so different. That meant she was so smart, and I was lost, I understood what they were saying. I became even more insecure about my academics and then did the worst thing I could’ve done. I gave up. I stopped studying and caring, I was working part-time, and I was shattered from dealing with my mental health. I got into fights constantly because I was throwing away my life. I was to be fair, but I deserved it, I had so many unspoken battles and that’s what mattered to me.
I didn’t know whether the pressure got to my sister, it wasn’t till a year or so ago where we spoke about it. She said she felt so pressured into living up to me and I was flabbergasted. I was a lost cause, I had nothing that she would have to live up to. Then she explained, I spoke out. I wasn’t scared of anything (I was but I don’t think she knew that), I wasn’t quiet. I had acted myself into the greatest scene of made up self-confidence there was, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted but people thought I did know. She didn’t have a clue, she’s very introverted whereas despite my anxiety I excel in social situations.
To this day I’m still shocked my sister felt there was pressure on her shoulders, I guess when you never speak about things it is very easy to not realise what is really going on. Me and my sister are polar opposites, but we are there for each other. It always makes me laugh when people say they wish their sibling relationship was like ours because we fight constantly but it never lasts longer than a few hours. If I could’ve chose a sister, I don’t think I could’ve chosen anyone better, I’ll give her one hour till she annoys me, and I retract that statement. (It’s alright because she doesn’t read my blog despite my constant support on her art account).
So, what advice can I give? It’s not always plain and simple and it’s not just how you feel. Pressure is horrific and honestly, I wish I could tell all those teachers how badly they affected me. I know how hard the job probably is but placing pressure on students without getting to the root of the problem does nothing. Only one teacher of mine noticed that it was my anxiety that was affecting my memory and the fact I didn’t know how to study, one teacher out of the masses I came across noticed I wasn’t a lost cause. Please don’t sit and struggle, don’t even give up. The pressure almost broke me, and it wasn’t worth it, my sister is incredible yes, but so am I. Also, she is studying fashion so unless she makes it, she’ll be living in my basement.
MY SISTERS ART INSTAGRAM – https://instagram.com/cayleycochrane?igshid=1d77ekejdlca1