When I went to see the movie Black Swan, I thought it was going to be a thriller set on a ballet stage. I never expected to relate so deeply to the main character, Nina (played by Natalie Portman), especially since I have absolutely no experience (or even interest) in ballet. I also did not expect to be completely freaked out by her mother (played by Barbara Hershey). The movie blindsided me and disturbed me on a very deep emotional level. I shared my reasons why here: Black Swan: Movie about Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse.
I felt physically ill watching Nina because I saw so much of myself in her before I entered into therapy. Like Nina, I was a perfectionist. Great wasn’t good enough – I needed to be perfect in everything I tried. For me, it was being the perfect student, daughter, wife, and mother. I had to be “perfect” to be safe.
My “art” was writing instead of ballet. Earning a 94 in a college-level English class in 10th grade did not make me proud: I believed that my writing was not good enough because it was not perfect. I knew I had the mechanics down, but I believed that I had nothing to write about. I was missing my own “Black Swan” – I was completely disconnected from my passionate side. I was shocked in adulthood when my 10th grade teacher told me that I was one of the best writers she ever had as a student.
I used to appear just as frigid as Nina did in the movie. I was religious and spun it to be a positive – I was “saving myself” for my husband, so it was okay for me to be frigid. In this light, my frigidity was elevated instead of looked down upon.
I also felt the need to please my mother at all costs, as Nina did in the movie, and yet I felt an underlying hatred toward her, just as Nina appears to have. Whenever I said no to my mother (such as when Nina said no to the cake), the “no” had no force behind it, and my mother knew exactly which buttons to push to make me say “yes.” Like Nina, I did not believe I had a choice – I had to do whatever my mother said.
Like Nina, I was caught in my childhood. I still slept with my favorite stuffed animal into adulthood because it helped me feel safe. I wore bows in my hair into my thirties. (Heck, to this day, my almost-40-year-old sister still wears pigtails sometimes!), and I bought sweaters with big teddy bears on them in my twenties and thirties.
I also came off as one-dimensional as the “White Swan” Nina did in the movie. People used to tease me for being this way. Nina passes it off as making sacrifices for her art, but really there isn’t much depth there … at least on the surface. Like Nina, I had a lot brewing beneath the surface and could shock you with surprising strength, such as when she bit Thomas (played by Vincent Cassell).
When I finally tapped into my own “Black Swan” (my repressed emotions from the child abuse), I felt like I was “losing it” like Nina in the movie, although I never fully lost touch with reality as she seems to. I questioned what was real and what was not. I doubted my flashbacks on a daily basis and wondered if I was just “crazy.” Nothing made sense.
Just like with the movie “Black Swan,” my life makes no sense until you view it against the backdrop of mother-daughter sexual abuse. Then, all of the pieces fit. I hated the “White Swan” Nina just as I hated myself before therapy. I was frightened of the “Black Swan” Nina just as I was frightened by the release of my repressed emotions. From this side of therapy, I can see the beauty in both and appreciate that both are part of one whole person.
Photo credit: Hekatekris