So what's the story?
The photograph above is of another example of Didi's earlier artwork, again executed using graphite and pastels, in around 1981 when she was about 11 years old. This one she drew out of her head. The drawing was too big to scan, hence the rather poor quality photograph.
Fairly early on at secondary school, Didi had begun to fake her general school work to keep her marks down because she'd found that if she kept doing well it merely added fuel to the bullies' fire. However, the teachers were (with the exception of the sports mistress, although she came good in the end) extremely supportive and would sometimes talk to Didi about the bullying and what was happening to her marks, but it was policy then back in the early eighties for teachers not to intervene - simply because it tended to make it worse if they did and they didn't have any other methods to deal with it. Didi understood this, and recognised their various attempts to help her in other ways, so she always talks of her teachers with fondness and is very grateful for their kindness. Strangely, those teachers (apart from the sports mistress) never gave Didi cause to rebel against their authority (in the way that Didi tended to with adults) because they always seemed to respect her - thus it seemed only fair to Didi that she should respect them (like many with Asperger's Sydrome, Didi had, from an early age, a strongly developed "fairness algorithm").
The art, drama and English mistresses in particular seemed to give Didi extra time and attention. The drama mistress, Mrs Prowse, kept Didi back one day after a class lesson (where, as usual, the girls were being nasty) and asked if she'd like to have private drama lessons. Didi loved drama and was fascinated by how actors could manipulate their faces and emotions seemingly at will, so she enthusiastically agreed. In reality, much of those lunchtime lessons (bliss not having to be in the playground) were spent with Mrs Prowse acting as a counselor - an amazingly wise, kind and supportive lady she was too. She did also develop Didi's acting skills alongside giving her scripts that acted to let Didi emote (Didi later realised) - something that, as the bullying continued, Didi was finding increasingly difficult to do lest it be used against her or for someone else's satisfaction.
Didi vividly remembers studying various excerpts from the book by Ann Frank and how she would suddenly burst out crying at the upset of it all. She also remembers Mrs Prowse "bullying" her to perform some of these excerpts in front of the class - perhaps she knew that it would help to increase Didi's "street-cred" because drama and acting was deemed "cool" and everyone thought Mrs Prowse was cool. She was right - Didi did get grudging respect but, in general, the bullying still persisted although perhaps not quite so continuously. Didi also got her bronze and silver medals during this time.
The English mistress, Miss Lewis, also encouraged Didi with her writing. Like many with Asperger's Syndrome, Didi loved words and was advanced for her age in her reading and lexical abilities. Didi loved to write, sometimes stories (usually strange, spooky or sci-fi ones), sometimes studying and writing about her "special interests". That teacher then introduced Didi to poetry - yet another method for self-expression and examples are also on this site.
The art mistress, Mrs Caddick, was another amazing lady and, like Mrs Prowse, she began to encourage Didi to vent her emotions via her art. In all these things Didi found great solace - and in the solutude required for their enaction.
However, sometimes that solace could become intensely lonely, just as the next moment it could be intensely liberating. From an early age, Didi had intense moods - some days she'd be on top of the world and a few days later, unaccountably depressed. This was very frightening - particularly the depression - to Didi, because of the night terrors, strange visions and deleriums and nightmares that seemed to accompany it back then. Didi was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder in around 2002 (a few years before she was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome).
So the drawing above is about Didi's depression - the mind-numbing desperation where you don't want to exist but are trapped in four walls - as well as the walls of your mind - with no way to get out. The wardrobe upon which the woman is leaning was of a type that Didi was always scared - one of those slatted-style wardrobes. Didi would imagine eyes peering out from between the slats. She had always to check the inside of any wardrobe - or "war drobe" as she called them - before daring to sleep in a room. Even then, she'd have to get up periodically to check there was still nothing nasty in there (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or "OCD" is frequently present alongside Asperger's Syndrome and this "checking" is an integral part of the "compulsive" part of that condition).
The woman in the drawing is, similarly to the drawing on the previous page, an adult (and Didi was just about 11 when she drew this) meant to symbolise how Didi saw herself - as an adult. She never really saw herself as a child at all - merely as an adult inside the confines of a child's body. Didi saw that child's body as confining because of the external attitudes it engendered amongst adults - patronising and frequently intolerant (unlike her teachers and some other wonderful adults she was lucky to befriend as a child).
In addition, Didi's mother had been a fashion model and always looked very glamorous. Didi had a secret wish to be like her and would try on her clothes and makeup - probably the only activites in which Didi engaged as a child that would be perceived to be perfectly "normal" for a young girl (Didi certainly didn't like dolls - she was scared of them)! So when Didi drew women, she would experiment with the clothing - she enjoyed designing costumes and loves clothes to this day.
However, Didi was aware of adults attempting gender conditioning on her from an early age - trying to encourage her to be "feminine" and seeming as if they valued this above intellect. Didi didn't like this - as far as she was concerned she was to be respected for her mind first, not for what she looked like. So, visually you would never know that Didi was interested in clothes and fashion - she would not dress in any way fashionable way at all, refused to wear skirts and would do the clothes and makeup trying on in secret! The skirt thing is also of note because Didi deemed them as yet another method to categorise her into a mould and one in which she was being prevented from taking part in certain activities that would be deemed "unfeminine" such as climbing trees and joining in with the boys.
The reason that is of note is that Didi did usually get on with boys - playing with her brother and his friends (unlike Didi he had many) and the fun times that she remembers as a child. The boys never seemed to mind her being who she was or try to change her the way girls did. And, they didn't bitch - if there was a problem they would fight - and this seemed quite fine to Didi who would fight back if she needed to and if they wouldn't reason. So it goes without saying that Didi would have been much better off in a co-ed school, not one full of bitchy girls. The trouble is, her brother was sent to boarding school very young (another cruel practice) and she missed him - and his friends who all suffered the same fate- terribly.
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