Mind Mess: My Fight With Perfectionism

I used to be someone that scoffed at the words ‘depression’ or ‘stress’, in my opinion a person should just pull themselves together and forge on. I thought my father used depression as an excuse and my colleagues were just being lazy when they were signed off with stress.

So karma bit my ass and handed me a mental illness of my own.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

I was diagnosed over three years ago. Medication allows me to control it most of the time but there is no ‘forging on’ when it doesn’t.

I battle with my own mind on varying scales every day, I’ve dug down into my psyche in attempts to rid myself of this illness over and over again to no avail. I tell myself the silver lining of my big, black cloud is that it has made me more compassionate. I have a much better understanding of those coping with mental illnesses and I am ashamed of my previous stoic attitude.

What frustrates me is I am able to identify the events, people and choices that caused me to think this way. I know the hows the whys and the whens. There’s no underlying issue or past trauma that I haven’t already pinpointed and dealt with, there will be no sudden revelation that releases me from the vice.

I have to reprogram my brain, change my own thoughts and perception of myself. But just as it was a long, slow sink into my current state, it’ll be a long, slow climb to get back out. There are two halves of me, the half that is rational and the half that is not.

-I have so much to do at work today and I must finish it all or I am not good enough // I have set myself unachievable targets and my best effort is enough.

-My house is an absolute hovel, I need to clean every inch, starting with the paw print on this wardrobe mirror // Just clean the mirror and relax, the house is not dirty and nobody else ever thinks it is.

-My writing is terrible and boring, nobody will enjoy reading it// I write for my own enjoyment so it shouldn’t matter what others might think.

I’ve heard and read the mantras- My best is good enough, I don’t have to do everything myself, Nobody is perfect. I know these things but they don’t stop me from pushing my body to its limits; working til every muscle aches, cleaning til I fall asleep in a laundry pile, hitting total exhaustion several times a year.

The only person telling me I’m not good enough is me.

But how do I shut me up?

Mind Mess: What is common/general knowledge?

I found myself lacking in a few areas this month, which prompted me to try and confirm what material comes under the vast umbrella of the common knowledge category.

For example; I recently passed my driving test, at no point during any of my lessons did I learn how to fill my petrol tank. It isn’t a requirement for an instructor to teach you this neccessity, and to be honest I didn’t even think to ask.

Fast-forward two weeks. I’ve purchased a car, I’m at the petrol station and I realise- I’ve never done this before. I have a basic understanding, I’ve seen people use petrol pumps enough times. But, I’ve also seen and heard many people joking about watching others struggle to ‘get their own petrol cap off’ or having to ‘help this daft woman fill her own car’. (I did spend a summer working in a petrol station. You might be suprised by the amount of times we had to help push a diesel car out of the forecourt because it’s owner had filled the tank with petrol mistakenly.)

You are just sort of expected to know how to perform this task, but why?

Heres another; My boiler has broken. The plumber is asking me if I have a combi boiler, as if it’s a simple question. I have no idea? Now I feel silly. I own my house, surely I should know what type of boiler I have? When he arrives the plumber is surprised to find I have a combi-boiler and I have my immersion heater switched on. Unbeknownst to me I have been using gas to heat water at the moment it is required using the combi, as well as using gas to maintain an entire separate tank of hot water throughout set periods of the day. Thats an expensive mistake. I only need to switch the immersion on if my combi-boiler isn’t working. How else would I know that? It’s not like buying a house came with a welcome pack of ‘how things work’!

I’ve known people who weren’t aware that goosebumps can occur because your body is cold, or whether you can safely defrost bacon in a microwave, even how to write a letter.

So I ask, what is common knowledge? Who decides what fits under the proverbial umbrella? And why does anyone find it acceptable to poke fun at something another person has not yet learned.

Defining Moment: Ask A Stupid Question

It might change you.

Have you ever been the person in the room digging deep for the courage to ask a question? One you know you will feel stupid for asking but having no other choice.

I have a crystal clear memory of one of these moments, it should have been forgettable and insignificant but instead a five minute ordeal seems to have greatly contributed to my personality.

I’m standing in the office at my previous workplace, it’s open plan with work stations along each wall and a large desk in the centre for the store manager. It’s always slightly hushed in here because several different departments share the space. There are receptionists on the phones or signing visitors in at the window, different levels of management flit in and out constantly and occasionally a floor level employee will hover nervously in wait for who knows what.

I have recently been promoted, I am now on the first step of the management ladder and my superior has sent me in to copy some documents. Now here’s my dilemma. I don’t know how to work the photocopier.

SIMPLE? Right? Actually no. Not for me. At 21 years old I have never had cause to use a photocopier. I understand the concept, put the documents in the tray, push the green button and the copies come out the other side. But I need to select the amount of copies, the paper dimensions, content enlargement, and I saw a girl last week get her copies all jammed up. Every person in here uses this machine every day with ease, who can I ask that isn’t going to laugh at me? They’ll have to be soft-spoken, if I ask the wrong person the whole office is going to over hear, then they’ll all know what a fool I am. The store manager is right next to the copy machine, there are five other senior managers nearby as well as the gossipy administration team and a handful of sales floor employees. 

I made the wrong choice.  Easy to do when you’re in a store full of colleagues vying for the same promotional opportunities. I asked help from a girl of my own age and management level, we’d been working together a few years by then. She laughed loudly and talked me very slowly through my task with a false bubbly tone as if I were a child tying my shoe laces.

In my mind I thank this girl. Those few moments whilst all the workers stared at me, my face burning as I silently admonished myself, stuck with me. Its irrelevant but needs to be said that I moved on to bigger and better things.

The point is I make certain to ensure no-one ever feels any sort of negativity when approaching me for help. If you ask anyone who presently or previously worked with me for a summary of my management style the same words always surface. Approachable. Understanding. Fair.

As far as I know the girl of my story bolted up the management ladder at that particular company, only to be made redundant in a series of budget cuts during the supermarket price wars a few years back.

The smallest events can have the largest impact.

I’d be interested to hear some of yours…