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?

Lit: My literary life timeline 1993-2013

Everyone has their own list of literature they’ve read that stayed with them for a multitude of different reasons. I’ve rooted around my memories and compiled my own. I limited myself to a maximum  of one per year so this is by no means exhaustive!

1993 (5yo): Biff, Chip & Kipper series- The Apple- Roderick Hunt is the first book I remember reading out loud whilst first learning as a child.

1994 (6yo): George’s Marvellous Medicine- Roald Dahl I was so proud of myself for pronouncing and understanding the humungerous words. ‘Gobblefunk’ (the language Dahl invented) fascinated me, though not so much my mother when I began using it colloquially.

1995 (7yo): The Twits- Roald Dahl after spending one entire Sunday morning typing out almost half of this story word-for-word on our nice new 3gb desktop computer, my parents decided to explain the term ‘plagarism’ to me. They had very much enjoyed the several hours of peace my little project had allowed them but in fact this was already someone elses work.

1996 (8yo): Watership Down- Richard Adams the first book i brought to school for ‘silent reading hour’. I wonder if that’s still a weekly classroom activity.

1997 (9yo): Bill’s New Frock – Anne Finne alarmingly, on finishing this story about a boy who wakes up one day to find everyone thinks he is a girl, our teacher asked the class if anyone felt they would prefer to have been born the opposite gender. My tomboy friend immediately raised her hand, only to have that moment never be forgotten and affect the rest of her school life.

1998 (10 yo): Goosebumps- Piano Lessons Can Be Murder- R.L. Stine thus began my first book collection.

1999 (11yo): Beowulf- Robert Nye My own creative writing description of a fight between Beowulf and Grendel came top of the class. Also the moment I discovered I’d been prounouncing ‘anxiety’ incorrectly!

2000 (12yo): To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee Material for my first English essay, and my first real introduction to the meaning of racism.

2002 (14yo): The Jogger- Roger McGough Being only familiar with his works for children I was horrified after reading this poem. Even now I can’t find the words to fully convey my emotional response to it.

2004 (15yo): An Inspector Calls- J.B.Priestley I still love this play now. An oral assessment of it made up 20% of my final A grade English GCSE. It also inspired the original idea behind my first novel (currently a WIP).

2005 (17yo): IT- Stephen King my longest read until that point and, I expect, a permanent installation in my top ten favourite books.

2006 (still 17yo): Song Of Susannah- The Dark Tower Series-Stephen King I cried. 

2007 (18yo): Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows standing in line at the midnight release, trying to block out the various shouts of “Harry dies” and “They all die” or “Nobody dies”, from people leaving the store with their books held open at the final page.

2011 (23yrs): Dracula- Bram Stoker my first ebook. Downloaded onto the kindle paper view from the free -book section.

2013 (25yrs): Mad About The Boy – Bridget Jones Diaries-Helen Fielding exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Including my own hilarious memory made whilst reading it during a commute to London.

 

Special mentions

Because I didn’t want to expand but I just can’t help myself:

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Intensity – Dean Koontz

Irene/Alex/Camille – Pierre Lemaitre

The Wind In The Willows- Kenneth Grahame

 

Anyone who would like to ping back and write their own literary timeline please do. I’d be very interested to see any similarities, especially in school syllabus materials.

Thank you for reading. Feedback always welcomed.

Mind Mess: Learning to let someone else care for you.

 

 

 

 

 

My whole life I’ve cared for other people. I’m not saying that’s uncommon, millions of others do the same every day, all of us for different reasons but all with the same result. Losing yourself.

At the age of seven I was grilling frozen pizzas to feed my younger brother lunch. I quite easily could’ve nagged my father into waking up and getting us something to eat. Instead I chose to provide it myself.

I’d pad bare footed out to the freezer in our shed, haul myself up the side of the chest freezer so I could reach the bottom and grab pizzas or potato waffles. I taught myself how to cook them by reading the instructions on the back of the boxes and decided grilling was less scary than the oven. I’d be less likely to burn myself with the grill.

My brother has a small brain defect and so I’ve been caring for him in various amounts til this day. Whether it’s explaining adult responsibilities to him over a monthly phone call now or trying to cook him lunch every Saturday in 1995.

At sixteen I incorporated myself into a new family as their sons live-in girlfriend; The father was always away with the Royal Marines and mostly lived on camp, the mother worked 72 hours a week because that was all she cared about, the much older brother was a recluse living at his computer and the younger sister was never home. As a result, there was never anything to eat, the house was a constant mess, the dog was never walked and my boyfriend and his sister never attended school.

I could walk away from that easily. But instead I made them go to school, cooked dinner several times a week (with food I paid for with part-time wages) and helped with the laundry. I even got between the parents when I woke up over hearing a particularly vicious argument and stayed til they were calm and wouldn’t wake their own kids. The enfollowing thirteen year relationship wasn’t any different.

Now, at twenty-eight years old, I have taken in my seventh lodger.

Only the fourth out of the seven I’ve charged any rent.

The first I took in so he had somewhere to live in his home town so he could find a job and save enough money to start out. The second I took in when his mother suddenly moved away. The third was that someone’s annoying girlfriend, who I let stay for months even after they’d broken up. The fourth had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and needed somewhere to live cheap and save til it was born. The fifth and sixth needed to save a deposit on their own place and escape the one they were living in. The seventh is partly for me to have some company and extra income, and partly for her to learn how to live almost independently.

The eighth is the one that breaks the chain I’ve been living in. The eighth person I choose to live with is purely for my own happiness. ‘My own happiness’ being a phrase that potrays selfishness.

Love, real all-consuming, nerve tingling love, for me, is the process of someone teaching you how to be happy. Continuously happy, with yourself, your life and your choices.

Whether you ever find complete contentment is irrelevant. It’s the feeling of making progress towards it together, the tiny realisations along the way that make your own outlook on life a little brighter.

 

Number eight teaches me how to be happy in all the ways. The only negativity I encounter comes from my own mind distorting my happiness into a feeling of selfishness. I haven’t learned how to drown that voice out for myself yet, but Jacob quiets it for me.

It’s nice to be the one taken care of.