So, what does the late King of Pop have to do with psychology and/or my blog. OK, it’s kind of a long story but I will keep it to the basics. Two nights ago I inexplicably dreamt about Michael Jackson, which makes no sense when I probably hadn’t thought much about him in years, and I am mostly having anxiety dreams about my impeding final exams at uni. I don’t know how he got into my psyche, but the following day I found a ‘celebrity autopsy’ type show about him on Channel 5. I have often found myself predicting things like what song will come on the radio next, and wonder if there is any weird science behind this, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole just now…
I think for me it started with the Bad album. But it came out when I was 6 years old, so I don’t know when I first heard it. Once I was hooked, I went back through pop history to find Thriller, and back earlier to the Jackson 5. I enjoyed the music, I was dazzled by the dance moves, but the thing that completely captured me was his personal life. Here was the greatest celebrity of our time, openly talking about the childhood abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. (If you aren’t familiar with me, then the main thing to know is I too am a child abuse survivor. But then I guess “elective orphan”, yeah, the clue is in the title!)
During my time at school, I spent much of my early teens arguing with stupid kids (just my opinion *cue evil laugh) about his various controversies. I’m glad that I watched that autopsy show, because although it was very sad, the medical professionals put a few rumours to bed once and for all. They confirmed that he did have Vitiligo. Boom! I always said he wasn’t lying about his skin colour. He literally had no choice. My ‘father’ had Vitiligo too, so I know exactly how white and patchy it can make you. I also know that it is often triggered by stress, and onset commonly occurs during your teens. What I didn’t know until watching the autopsy show was that Michael had a couple of other medical conditions, Lupus and Osteoarthritis. Both of those really suck, and must have contributed to his chronic drug use.
Anyway, to bring this back to my usual style of blogging, how does he relate to my experience of life as an elective orphan? Well, like I mentioned already, I really identified with his position as a victim of his father. Possibly because his entire family was so famous, he never fully separated himself from them. Perhaps it was more that he didn’t want to loose the rest of his family just because of one bad egg. Only he could really know the answer to that one. But it bothered me a great deal that he always had to be afraid, he could never be rid of his father. And I really do wonder how much that contributed to his stress, which in turn may have contributed to his medical conditions, pain, drug abuse, and ultimately his early demise. I know that’s a big ol’ assumption to make, and I didn’t intend to ‘do a Freud’ by analysing someone I’ve never even met with. It just seems very likely to me, that is all.
I got away from my ‘father’ when I was sixteen. That was the best decision I ever made. I can’t say I am without stress or illness today, nobody can really. But I do believe I am much more mentally/emotionally stable than I would be with my own personal dragon breathing hate-flames down the back of my neck. And somehow I have lasted this long (33 years and counting) without developing Vitiligo myself. Even though it tends to be a genetic problem, with stress as the trigger. I guess I appreciate my ability to tan more than most people!
The other thing that I got from Michael was an interest in cosmetic surgery. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how many surgeries he put himself though, probably just trying to escape his past. He mentioned being bullied about his nose. Well it doesn’t take a neuropsychologist to figure out what happened there! I wonder if he ever was diagnosed with body dysmorphia? I only went through one cosmetic surgery myself, at age 21 (but that’s another story which you can find here). I always knew I would have surgery since my early teens, and Michael was a key inspiration in that. Not that I ever wanted to look like him, I just wanted to change myself because I had insecurities that my ‘parents’ were at least partly to blame for. Still, we do all have to grow up and take responsibility for ourselves. But if I had Michael Jackson’s money, and the whole world watching me, I might not have had the perspective to stop myself after one procedure.
I feel better for sharing. That show opened up an old can of worms for me. I really should be revising for my exams, so back to the books for me now.
Are there any Michael Jackson fans reading this? Leave me a comment with your favourite MJ song. Mine where always Leave Me Alone and Will You Be There.
p.s. here is the link to the show on Channel 5. Sorry but I think it only works in the UK 😦