Sophie Paulette Jupillat, 21, from Orlando, USA, whose artistic disciplines include music and non-fiction writing, for this issue of the ASLI magazine Sophie chose to tackle the subject of Narcissism and Paranoid Personality Disorder in reference to the Mother Daughter relationship and the therapy process in her submission. Sophie is one of our most talented ASLI Artists and youngest, who was featured in our blog in May for our campaign “Celebration of Women“, we fell in love with her music and whilst we have been editing this issue of ASLI we have been listening to her beautiful compositions, which has made our work even more pleasurable.
As a Rollins College alumna who graduated with honors in her major in English, and two minors in Music and Creative Writing, Sophie is currently a certified tutor working freelance and will be pursuing her Masters in Comparative Literature in the near future. Sophie’s writings and music have been published in magazines such as Cahoodaloodaling, The Halcyon, Festival Writer, and Scriblerus.
Growing up Sophie tells us she was surrounded with books, art, and music of all genres, which she feels led to her unquenchable passion for writing and composition. Sophie was exposed to all sorts of traditional and contemporary French literature and poetry such as Voltaire, Diderot, Balzac, Hugo, Moliere, Queneau, Apollinaire, Prévert; and also French rock and roll and pop music, like Véronique Sanson, France Gall, Michel Berger, Michel Sardou. She was also exposed to eclectic American/British literature like Dickens, Faulkner, Hemingway, Cheever, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Brian Jacques; poetry such as Dickinson, Cummings, Plath, Frost; as for American or British music, Sophie listened to ABBA, the Rolling Stones, Supertramp, Sting, k.d. lang, Madonna, the Beatles. For pre-contemporary music, she listened to Baroque and Romantic masters.
Sophie learned to play piano when she was seven, and she learned the classics from Liszt, Offenbach, Mozart, and Chopin. When Sophie turned 13, she gravitated towards composing classical music with a jazz twist. Over time, Sophie started writing less piano music, and more orchestral works. As for writing, Sophie started at 11 years of age, and at first wrote science-fiction and then gothic/surreal fiction inspired from her diverse background. She also wrote traditional, free, and narrative poems.
We at ASLI wanted to find out more about Sophie so here is our interview with her:
What motivated you to deal with your chosen submission subject?
What motivated me was the sad truth behind my current estrangement with my parents: my mother’s undiagnosed mental disorders, my father’s enabling behavior, and the horrors I went through for most of my life because of that toxic combination. It has been a rough road of personal emotional recovery, and now that enough time has passed that I can begin to analyze what happened and why, I feel I can give voice to my experience clearly and resolutely. I chose to compose my choral piece “Dirge for a Mother Daughter Bond” as an elegiac/epic piece, and I chose to write my nonfiction piece “Redoutable” as a hybrid memoir built around my therapy records and poetry to echo the chaos of my life at the time.
What is your process when creating?
It is very disorganized most of the time; often my music and writing pursue me! Sometimes, a tune floats into my head fully formed, with orchestral instruments and all, and I later go to my keyboard and transcribe what I can. Other times, I just mess around on the keyboard and find a melody that I like, and then spend months polishing it up. For my writing, usually an idea springs into my head, or some dialogue between characters, or a line of description and I write an outline of what I think the story or poem will be. It can take one day or months and months to finish, depending on the work.
Who are you influenced by within your artistic discipline?
I was classically trained as a pianist and have combined that with my love of jazz to create myself a genre. I am influenced by big band (like Benny Goodman and Gershwin) and great film composers (like Mancini and John Williams). But also by classical music and soft rock from the 70’s, on occasion, Gregorian chants inspire me as well. For my writing, I am influenced by classical French (like Hugo, Gautier, or Balzac), English, and Gothic literature of all kinds, as well as science fiction and mystery. This is my first true foray into nonfiction, although I enjoy reading memoirs by Nabokov, Hemingway, and Maya Angelou to name a few. Whether in music or art, and whatever the genre, I love writing about the human condition, the reason for living, and the beauty of nature.
Who inspires you in general?
Honestly, there isn’t one person that generally inspires me. I am influenced by many people and events and my own experiences. However, my one and ultimate inspiration has always come from the Earth and the wide array of people she provides a home to. The whole world is full of inspiration if one looks in just the right way.
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for…?
I am passionate about equality, for everybody. I am passionate about equal income, about women’s rights, about animal’s rights, about the education and care of children, particularly adopted ones. I volunteer at children’s summer camps, and art camps and language workshops.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
As for art literally saving lives, it can help people who are going through rough times to create, instead of spiraling out of control and destroying themselves. “Art Creates Change” means exactly what it says. Art has the potential to touch the human psyche in a deep and life-influencing way; it can inspire one to do so much. It can also raise issues that otherwise we wouldn’t have been aware about. Art is an international language that can be understood by all, one on one, without the biases of the media, or politics coming in between. Some of the core issues of our society have been denounced by art, and some of our civilizations’ greatest successes were celebrated in art!
Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in anyway and do you think your message within them could help create change in the world?
Art definitely saved my life during my teenage years of emotional abuse. When I was stuck in the gilded cage that was my home, with my own adoptive parents telling me I was a terrible person, with foolish delusions and a passion for art “that was unhealthy,” I threw myself into my writing and music like never before. Being able to write creatively and play music was a secret garden in my world of chaos and destruction. My parents felt that my creating art would weaken my mentally vulnerable brain, and so they tried to stop me from creating. But I composed music and wrote when they left the house, or when they were asleep. Through my art, my esteem and happiness flared, flared through those precious moments of creation. The concept of failure, of worthlessness, of submissiveness, of depression, disappeared. Only when I created did I feel like myself, untethered and at peace with the world around me. Art truly saved my life and was my only salvation. I think the energy and feelings I put in my art can help create change in the world, one step at a time, in the hearts of my fellow man, by speaking of shared and different experiences, and of a longing for beauty.
What are your present and future goals for your art?
My goal is to keep perfecting my art and touching people’s lives. I am working on several music publishing opportunities, as well as working on longer fiction pieces. It is my hope one day to be a published novelist and poet, as well as a film composer.
The following questions are about mental health:
Can you tell us about your own experiences with mental illness?
For the longest time I thought I had a mental problem because my parents told me so. When I tried making friends online and talked about my family with them, my parents flipped out and insisted I was engaging in destructive behavior. They claimed I was exaggerating things about my home life and that I was a compulsive liar. They dragged me to a therapist, where my mom worked very hard convincing my therapist that I was bipolar, anti-social, or dissociative. What she didn’t tell the therapist, true to her own undiagnosed mental illnesses, was her emotional abuse of me, and her manipulation of my father so I couldn’t ask him for help, and her own hysteria. Slowly, things clicked in my brain and I realized that when I wasn’t around her, I was myself, happy and hopeful. On her good days, I felt like I had my normal mom back, and it felt fantastic. But when she let her irrational anger and paranoia get the best of her, she tore into me worse than any bully at school. Now, I realize that she had narcissism and paranoid personality disorder, and she neatly conned everyone she could saying that the problem lay with me. Her self-preservation about her illnesses overpowered everything else. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder during my last few months in that household.
How does your artistic /creative expression help you with your mental health?
Being able to create and make art helped me keep my sanity when my parents screamed at me about how messed up I was. Even now, it is therapeutic, and it helps me express emotions I hadn’t been able to express at home – back then, I couldn’t express any emotion, positive or negative, without being interrogated and sneered at or criticized. So my art sets me free from my negative memories and helps me find peace with my current situation.
Have you ever experienced being stigmatised or marginalised due to your mental health or have you seen this happen to someone else?
I haven’t seen someone else be marginalized for their mental health directly, but I have experienced stigmatisation by my own family for mental issues I didn’t have. My mother in particular told me how disgusted she was I was going to therapy when she had never had to even though she’d been through worse “stuff” than me. She also said I was weak for letting my “mental illnesses” take control of me and destroy the family. Even though I hadn’t been diagnosed bipolar disorder, my mom made sweeping generalizations that “bipolar people like me” did this or did that, and had no discipline whatsoever. She claimed that people of my generation were too mollycoddled, and that what we went to therapy for, in her day, would have been cured by a good slapping. She contradicted herself all the time, at times claiming therapy would help me, and other times claiming that therapy was no use because I wasn’t honest with myself. The last few weeks on my home, my parents threatened to Baker Act me multiple times, claiming that though I was of legal age, the fact that I had mental issues depleted those rights; I was potentially dangerous and one phone call to my therapist would “put a stop to my irrational impulses”.
Have you ever received treatment for mental health and if so, what was it, did it help and was it private or state funded?
I have received individual and group therapy, and they were private. I was never diagnosed with anything more than anxiety. The therapy I received was helpful on a short term level, but the therapy gradually became tainted by my mother’s influence; I dreaded going, because I knew that whatever advice the therapist gave my mom, she would throw it back in my face and make a horrible scene out of it later at home.
Do you think society and culture is accepting of people with mental illness?
No, though our society has made progress on many things, our society is not accepting of people with mental illnesses at all. We are a step farther from thinking like the societies of old – that people with mental illnesses are possessed by demons. People with mental issues get superficial help, and in the workplace they definitely are stigmatised. I believe a lot of the violence that happens around the world and in the US could be prevented if those committing it had received adequate help beforehand. Instead, they fly under the radar.
How do you feel your Government in your country helps people with mental illness and could they do more?
I feel like our government could do more. Many people just do not get the help that they need, and that treatments are superficial. I feel the treatment process in the US in particular, is medication heavy, and though it helps, I believe mentally ill people need support, people to talk to, therapists who aren’t being paid strictly by the hour and then release patients at exactly one hour no matter how bad the problem . I think our country needs more mental health clinics and centers in general, more awareness campaigns, and more personalized treatments/therapy. It feels like mentally ill people are considered as walking textbook diagnoses instead of humans with complex disorders and personalities – which though it may make them flawed, doesn’t make them monsters!
Have you ever had any creative therapies as part of your treatment, did it help?
I used creative therapy on my own, and my therapist let me do it. I just kept on writing, playing and composing music, and drawing. It helped me not be so stressed all the time, although the stress I endured every time my mom told me to stop creating and do something else was counterproductive.
Do you think artistic / creative expression can be used to help people with mental health problems?
Yes, I definitely think it would be a healthy outlet to express all ranges of emotion and to feel better as an individual. I truly believe in the therapeutic power of art.
Do you think artistic / creative expression could help raise awareness and communicate how mental illness affects people?
Yes, I believe this is true as well. I think that being exposed to art that mentally ill people do would both show the world that they are just like every human being – full of hopes, fears and dreams, and yet with worries and terrors that we can’t conceive. It would show how they see the world and would help the ignorant person realize that mentally ill people are no different from us – mental illnesses are no more terrible than any other physical health problem.
What made you want to get involved with ASLI’s MENTAL ILLNESS, HEALTH AND RECOVERY CAMPAIGN?
As always, ASLI explores multiple facets of an issue, and mental illness has so many angles to be discussed. I love the philanthropy, the humanity and compassion with which ASLI set out on this mission to have artists around the world participate in order to share their stories, their experience. The impact is twofold: letting people who have been through so much express themselves and also spreading awareness about a poorly explored issue in our world. I have never heard of any other organization that expended so many resources for such an issue, and been so open to all sorts of stories and experiences. Either calls for artists are only for mentally ill people, or only deal with a specific illness. ASLI does it all.
Do you believe in more rights for mentally ill people in the work place and for equal opportunities?
Absolutely. If people can come in to work having cancer, hepatitis, and all sorts of physical ailments, then why can’t people with mental illnesses? There are treatments for most of these illnesses and with proper care and management, a person can function perfectly normally, go to work, and have a family. I don’t even think enough efforts are expended in finding sure treatments for mentally ill people, probably because of limited funding and resources due to a sort of national shame about the issue.
We at ASLI want to de-stigmatize diagnosis labels within mental illness so that people treat others and their own mental health label as that of a diabetic or any other chronic “physical” illness, as we know the brain is physical and this would further improve stigma and marginalizing mental illness. How do you feel about diagnosis labels?
I feel they are helpful with drawing a rough sketch of a person’s mental illness, but one must be wary of what we mean with such terms, and the liberalness with which we use them. Some illnesses aren’t so easily labeled either, so as long as the mentally affected person and the people caring for them know what they mean when using a label, it is ok. I myself am wary about using diagnosis labels on my mother as she refused to go to therapy; but her symptoms, which I’ve had years to observe, definitely point to narcissism and paranoia. However, as she hasn’t been officially diagnosed, it is an estimate. I think a label is bad only in the instance that a person using it means it as an insult or a concrete diagnosis without prior knowledge.
Everyone within ASLI is affected in some way by mental illness, with our MD having several chronic mental illnesses and other members either caring for or dealing with mental health issues. Would this make you think twice about working with ASLI? And does this make ASLI “less professional” in your opinion and if so why?
Absolutely not. The fact that ASLI lets people work for the organization and do such great things is definitely a plus! It’s an honor to work with ASLI. I think by showing how open and creative ASLI’s members can be, it is proof that the world and the workplace should give mentally ill people the same opportunities as anybody else.
Are there any artists/creatives/performers which you admire, who suffer from mental illness that you feel use their work to discuss or highlight mental health?
A lot of the writers and musicians I admire have been famous for their illnesses and their brilliance. Hemingway, Schubert, Beethoven, Sylvia Plath, Tolstoy, Maupassant, Rimbaud, Verlaine, to name a few. I feel they didn’t explicitly use their work to discuss mental health, but I believe that the state of their mental health helped them create all the more passionately and universally, which is why we still empathize and enjoy their works today.
Finally is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself or your experiences?
Just that I am fortunate to be where I am today and am proud to be an ASLI Artist.
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