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: 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.

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.