Tag Archives: perfectionism

It’s your fault, John.


tumblr_miweukc9Ck1rikbdbo1_1280I went out on a limb last night and actually bought my very first ever iBook to read on my iPad. I have always been very against the notion of e-books, and iPads and Kindles. The only reason I even have an iPad is because I got it ridiculously cheap, so it would have been stupid not to get it. But I promised myself I would never buy an e-book or cancel my daily delivery of the paper version of the New York Times to get the digital edition instead. I love real newspapers and real books. I love the smell of them, and I love the feel of them. I love walking into somebody’s house, and seeing books everywhere. I love being able to get a sense of that person’s personality and interests from the books on their shelves. An iPad makes all of the above impossible. E-books are so fucking unromantic!

Nonetheless, I think I am about to cancel my delivery of the New York Times (except for the Sunday edition – there is no way I am reading that on an iPad!) in favour of the digital edition. I am getting tired of having to clear up all the old newspapers every week. It’s an added chore that obsessive/perfectionistic me just does not need.

Speaking of perfectionism, the iBook I bought last night was “Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control” by Allen Malinger and Jeannette Dewyze. I decided that I can handle buying the e-book version of self-help books because, let’s face it, I don’t exactly need people to come into my house and see my embarrassingly extensive library of self-help books. I’m quite happy to hide those away on my iPad, thank you very much.

Yesterday I wrote about how I want a guarantee that working the SLAA steps and meditation will “cure” me, and that I’m afraid to start doing either of those in case they don’t. I thought that sentiment was interesting in the light of the following paragraph from “Too Perfect”:

Unfortunately, obsessives, perhaps more than any other group of patients, have a need to believe that there is a specific and clear answer to every question; an ambiguous, conflict-free solution to every problem. In therapy, obsessive patients often believe at some level that I have the answers, and that if only they give me enough accurate information I’ll eventually be able to produce a sort of prescription for happiness, detailing exactly what needs to be done – something they might follow as one would a road map. Usually they are disappointed to learn the truth: that the pathway to positive change is anything but clear, especially in the beginning.

 

Wow. That describes me to a T. I’ve had countless therapists over the years, and yet I’ve never really felt that I got anything out of therapy. I think that this was probably because I was expecting each therapist to give me a detailed roadmap to that place called “Happiness”, and I was frustrated when they couldn’t. I don’t think it’s a question of laziness, of not wanting to do the work that SLAA step work and meditation require. Rather, I’m just very uncomfortable with ambiguity and stepping into the unknown. When I was taking my seven-week long Zen meditation class, I was the happiest I’ve been in a long time because I liked turning up at a set time and having a teacher teach me about Buddhism and meditation within a specific timeframe. This was nice, and neat, and tidy. And then the class was over, and, well, I was still interested in Zen and Buddhism, but now it was no longer contained in a classroom, but this was this huge, scary field that I would now have to explore all on my own. Where to start? What to read? How to get “better” at meditation?

It’s the same thing with the SLAA steps, although I must admit that I do love the fact that there are steps. How terribly organized and efficient! I know that everybody should work through the steps at their own pace, but, oh, how I wish that there was some sort of timeline, and some sort of “prize” at the end of every step e.g. You will complete Step One in one month by doing (a), (b) and (c) and, upon graduation, you will never again be attracted to unavailable douchebags.

I’ve always wondered how I could be such a successful undergraduate student (4.0 GPA) and yet have my life falls to pieces after graduation. Given what I’ve just written, it should be no surprise at all that this happened. I was a very good school girl. I was very good at being told what to do, and knowing exactly what was going to happen once I did it. Life was structured and clear. I’m not going to say that I was happy (I still struggled with procrastination and perfectionism back then) but things were far more in control because I had a lot more time, and far fewer responsibilities, so I was able to cover up my issues more easily.

I decided to go to graduate school because I desperately wanted to lead that nice, structured, schoolgirl life again, but, by that point, I was nearly twenty-seven, and I knew deep-down that wasn’t what I truly wanted, so the whole thing was a disaster. I procrastinated all the way through my Master’s, and only graduated by the skin of my teeth.

And what do I want? I want to be me. Just me. I don’t think that this rigid person, obsessed with structure and perfection, is really me. I want to be free – free to relax and enjoy life. And I want to write and sing, not because I “should” or because I want “glory” and “success” but because I enjoy these things so much, and they’re fun. Yes, “fun!”. That word that so many people in my family have absolutely no understanding of, thanks to you Mr. John Knox, you fucking cunt.

I’m crying right now but I’m also kinda happy because reading that paragraph above from “Too Perfect” was a bit of an eye-opener. It showed me once and for all that I am just going to have to deal with the ambiguity of meditation and SLAA (and, um, life in general) and just accept that there’s no ready-made, fast, “cure” for what ails me.

Past Perfect


It has been a very hard week. After some more obsessive, hypochondriac googling, I have undiagnosed myself with ADD, and I have decided that I probably have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) instead. The last time I saw her, my psychiatrist hinted that this might be the case. Procrastination can be caused by ADD, but I think mine is more likely a result of OCPD. I probably also have a bit of comorbid depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder (BPD) thrown into the mix.

Can I just apologize in advance for my obsessive navel-gazing about my mental health? If I was a first-time reader of this blog, I would fucking hate it. There is nothing I dislike more than self-absorbed people waffling on about their mental health issues on a blog or forum. “Get a grip!”, I feel like yelling. “Stop being so fucking self-obsessed!”. But, hey, I guess what we hate most in others is just a projection of what we hate in ourselves.

In my defence, I think I’ve been spending so much time trying to diagnose myself online because I desperately just want to know what the fuck is wrong with me. My psychiatrist has only really committed herself to saying a “mood disorder” which could be anything really. She has also made vague noises about OCPD and BPD, which is great because who wants to think that they have a personality disorder?! That just makes me feel like there is something innately and irredeemably fucked-up about me because, ultimately, how the fuck do you change your personality?!

Maybe you’re wondering why it should matter what the diagnosis is. After all, I’m on an antidepressant (Prozac), and that can help target any number of mental health issues regardless of the official diagnosis. Sure, Prozac might not “cure” me of a personality disorder, but it should help with the comorbid anxiety and depression. I think the reason a diagnosis matters to me is because I’m tired of struggling on alone. I want to find a support group for my specific issue, and a therapist who has training in helping people like me (whatever “me” is). It hasn’t been enough to just go to therapy and talk about my issues. I feel like I need a game plan. I’m drowning, and I just don’t know what the hell to do to save myself.

When it comes to the crunch, all of my suffering comes down to perfectionism. It is ruining my life. There is no doubt about it. I know it is, and yet I am powerless to stop it. That probably sounds overly-dramatic, but I am honestly not kidding. Over the last couple of days, I’ve found myself starting absent-mindedly at the wooden beams supporting the roof on the patio. It occurred to me that I could hang a rope from there and kill myself. Oh, don’t worry, I won’t actually do it but, yes, I do think about suicide because I have reached breaking point. I am so, so, so tired of being me and trying to be perfect.

My perfectionism touches every single aspect of my life, no matter how important or banal. As an example of the banal, let me tell you what happened when I walked into my SLAA women’s meeting today. Nearly everybody was wearing cute summer clothes and sandals. I had been too depressed and disorganized to do any washing, so I turn up wearing the only things that were clean – jeans, a turtleneck and trainers (“sneakers” to you Americans). So what? No big deal, right? Yeah, of course not. But except that this happens:

OhmygodwhyamItoomuchofalosertodothewashing?

Whatkindoflosercantgetittogetherenoughtodothewashing?

WhydontIhavenanycleanclothes?Whatthefuckiswrongwithme?

ImaloserImaloserImaloserImaloserImaloser

Iwantbeautifulsummerclothesandsandals

IwantIwantIwantIwantIwant

ImustbebeautifulImustbetheprettiestImusthavethenicestclothesthenicestsandals

ImustImustImustImustbethemostbeautiful

Imustbeperfect

Whatkindofaloserwastestimethinkingaboutclothesandshoes?!

IamsofuckingshallowImpatheticImstupid

My head is filled with such nonsense all day long. I cannot take it anymore.

As I read more about Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder this week, I learned that people with this disorder often have trouble with relationships. Nah….you don’t say!!! I made life unbearable for MM because I expected perfection from him, too. There were times when I would come home from work, and he wouldn’t have done the dishes, so I would just smash them all on the kitchen floor in a temper because I couldn’t stand the chaos of it all. Oh, I am my mother’s daughter. This is how I grew up. There were no smashed dishes but there were impossible standards of cleanliness to meet, and all hell would break loose if I failed. I was also supposed to be beautiful and smart, and I was. I was. I was. I was. I still am. But it was/is never enough.

I can’t believe that I would put another person through the same hell that my mother put me through. MM wasn’t innocent by any stretch of the imagination (he has his own demons) but there can be no doubt that I was incredibly emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive, and that I broke his spirit. I needed him, and yet I hated him for being too weak to leave me, and I made him pay – for my father’s sins, I guess, of being too weak to protect both himself and me from my mother’s tirades.

Now that he is gone I sometimes miss him dreadfully, which is ironic given that I spent the last half of our relationship plotting my escape. He is understandably angry about some of the things I did in the marriage, but I, in turn, feel angry and betrayed because I-did-not-do-any-of-them-on-purpose! I don’t want a “Get Out of Jail Free” card because I know what I did wrong. I’m not making excuses. But, still, nearly ten months after the break-up, he calls me “a monster”, “evil” and blames me for his drinking, and his abusive treatment of me, which apparently only ever happened because he was “provoked” by me.

I don’t think it’s fair that he blames me for everything but, despite feeling this, I can’t help but obsessively analyze my personality to find evidence that maybe (God forbid!) I am a really bad person, after all. That was what he told me for a large part of the relationship. And I believed and accepted it because, well, I was very, very mean to him, and who else but a bad person would be mean?!

Despite this, I wish he was here to give me a cuddle and tell me that everything will be alright. I wish I had somebody in my life, I wish I had a family. I feel so desperately alone, and, although reaching out to my SLAA sponsor and friends/acquaintances helps, it’s not the same thing. I want somebody there who really cares about me; who would stay with me through thick and thin.

I am so sad that I don’t have that.

Craving


Centre_of_wheel_of_lifeI’ve been back home from my trip for six days now, and it was hard at first to get settled back into my life here. I don’t live in the worst place in the world (far from it actually) but I do wish that this place was more cosmopolitan, and “worldly”. There’s nothing wrong with Americans (well, nothing much wrong, heh) but it gets tiresome when you hardly ever meet anybody else from a foreign country. I also miss having decent conversations with people about real, meaningful things. I have found that Americans (well, at least the ones here in this state) prefer to keep things on a nice and civil superficial level all the time. Perhaps the fault is mine (am I just too intense?) but why do people never talk about their thoughts and feelings? Why is it so hard to get to know an American? Sometimes I wonder if there is even anything to get to know. I am aware, by the way, that this is a huge generalization, so there’s no need to berate me in the comments section. Yes, I know there are cool Americans out there! But I do think that my general impression is correct.

But, whatever, I digress. The main point I wanted to make in this post is that my trip out of town led to one of my all-too-familiar bouts of feeling dissatisfied with my life and myself. Ever since I arrived in this city in 2004, I’ve been plotting my escape. I’ve always wanted to move to New York City, but, well, for various reasons (some grounded in reality, some fear-based), I never did. But instead of throwing myself heart-and-soul into life in this city, I’ve sort of stayed on the sidelines, thinking to myself “This place is not for me”. You know what? I’m right, it’s not. I will never feel at home here; I can spend nine days in NYC and feel more connected and at home there than I ever have to this place in the nine years I’ve spent here. I should leave this city, no doubt about it. But, nonetheless, I could have definitely enjoyed my time here more than I did. It has always felt like a limbo, somewhere I just happened to be until something better came along.

I feel that this could be a metaphor for my life. I have an complete inability to live in the moment. Even when I’m doing something enjoyable (like this – blogging), I’m worrying about what I need to get done afterwards. Happiness is, for me, something that will only happen in the future when circumstances have aligned so that everything in my life is perfect: perfect creativity; perfect spirituality; perfect relationship; perfect body; perfect house; perfect city…and on..and on. This craving for perfection is ruining my life.

I haven’t meditated since before going on my trip, but I plan to meditate for thirty minutes right after this blog post. I’m kinda hoping that meditation/buddhism will help me learn how to enjoy the moment. But  having this thought just leads to a whole different kind of worry. You’re not supposed to get into meditation/Buddhism with the idea that you’ll get something out of it, are you?! (Lazy Buddhist, thoughts?) Isn’t this just a form of Spiritual Materialism?! According to the Wikipedia entry on Spiritual Materialism, it is:

Spiritual materialism is the belief that a certain temporary state of mind is a refuge from suffering. An example would be using meditation practices to create a peaceful state of mind, or using drugs or alcohol to remain in a numbed out or a blissful state. According to Trungpa, these states are temporary and merely heighten the suffering when they cease. So attempting to maintain a particular emotional state of mind as a refuge from suffering, or constantly pursuing particular emotional states of mind like being in love, will actually lead to more long term suffering.

Now, as a Sex and Love Addict, I totally agree that craving the high of being in love just leads to more suffering, but is it really so bad for me to come to meditation/Buddhism with the  desire that I will eventually manage to calm down my crazy thoughts? True, this desire is egotistical in that I want to make my life better, but I would also like to be a better person so that everybody around me benefits, too. I fail to see how anybody could end up following a Buddhist path without having had some desire to change themselves for the better. Maybe I’m wrong-headed but why would I plonk myself down on my arse for thirty-minutes to an hour each day for no fucking reason? Hell yeah I want to get something out of it!

Sheesh. Apparently I have a craving to stop the craving. :-/

You’re So Vain (Part 2)


It’s one of those days, folks – a day when I haven’t got a single intelligent thing to say. But I’ve promised myself I’ll write every day in this blog even if this means that I just write crap. This was a personal goal of mine, but, hell, even Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits says it’s a good idea. I’m sitting at the airport now, waiting for my flight back home, and I really didn’t feel like writing anything but then “You’re So Vain” started playing, and that seemed like too much of a coincidence to ignore.

I’m depressed to be heading back. It seems like nothing in my life is going well. Professionally, personally, emotionally and spiritually I feel adrift. I work up feeling depressed, and then felt better later, but the depression hit me again later as I was having lunch with my friend in a café. I’m not sure if the Prozac is working, but, well, I’ve only been on it for a week, so I guess I should give it more of a chance.

I bought a pair of expensive jeans today, and I was depressed looking at myself in the mirror in the store. Yeah, I know, first world problems, right? But, well, I never claimed that I wasn’t superficial with a head filled only with vapid thoughts. I’m attractive, but I think I could be a lot more toned. I seem to have put on weight over the last few weeks. Then again, it’s really hard for me to know whether I look good or not, as I probably have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Any time I think I look good, people say I look unhealthily thin. After seeing myself in the mirror, I decided that I would start training for another marathon again to get more toned, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I’m so fucking busy – I’ll be starting work on the SLAA steps next week, and meeting with my sponsor weekly; attending the Zen center at least once a week; going to at least one SLAA meeting once a week; meditating daily; looking after my ten pets; singing in my band; blogging daily and, oh yeah, working forty hours per week. Do I really have time to train for a marathon as well?

I can’t believe I’m about to quote a Radiohead lyric from 1992 (clearly, I never outgrew my emo phase), but “I want a perfect body; I want a perfect soul”. Marathon running and honing my body probably shouldn’t be a priority in my life right now. I should probably be focusing on my recovery. But I just can’t stand the idea of growing older, and not being attractive anymore.

I want to be a Buddha, but, well, a really fucking hot Buddha.

 

Powerless


Well, hello, little blog. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t mean to stay away for so long, but it’s so hard for me to untangle the twisted knots of perfectionism and procrastination in my life to get anything done. And when I don’t do what I set out to do, I beat myself up, which, naturally, just makes my perfectionism and procrastination worse…and this leads to more self-hatred and self-judgement. It’s a vicious cycle I can’t seem to break.

The only reason I’m here this morning is sheer guilt. Yesterday I complained again to my therapist about how I desperately want to write and be more creative, but that I’m paralyzed with fear. She made me agree to go home and write, and then text her that I’d done so. I had every intention of doing so, but, instead, I went home, lay down for a “few moments” and fell asleep for hours. The writing never got done. I felt so guilty that I sent my therapist a text in which I lied that I’d written for an hour. This morning she sent me a text which asked perkily, “Yay! How did it go?”.  Blogging this morning makes me feel less guilty for lying.

Part of the reason I blog so infrequently is because I feel that so very little ever changes in my life, and writing makes that painfully clear. All I’ve ever done is write and complain about being depressed, anxious and paralyzed by perfectionism and procrastination. I’ve started to bore myself. This time, however, you might be pleased to learn that I have made some changes to my life. First of all, I’ve started to attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting every Saturday morning. In fact, I will have to log off here in the next fifteen minutes to get ready. I haven’t started to work the steps yet, but I do have a sponsor, and it is helpful to be able to reach out to somebody who has very similar issues to my own.

I’ve also started to attend beginner Zen meditation classes because I know that I need to meditate to silence all the negative, anxious, obsessive thoughts that run through my head 24/7. Sadly, it’s been hard for me to actually sit down and meditate because my perfectionism comes into play. If I can’t meditate for at least thirty minutes, I say “Ach, fuck it!” and I don’t do anything at all. Story of my life right there. Let me make myself accountable to you all right now, then. When I get home from the meeting, I will mediate immediately for as long or as short a period as I want to.

The above steps I’ve taken to get better aren’t really anything new for me really. Hell, I’ve been trying to heal myself since my late teens,  but I’ve never gotten anywhere. I always fall back into the same old patterns. But this time, I feel something is different. I feel like I’ve reached my rock bottom. I am so incredibly fucking miserable that I just can’t take it anymore. I can’t continue to live a life which has had every last ounce of joy sucked out of it because I am constantly trying to attain perfection and hating myself when I naturally fail. I can’t continue to feel so desperately lonely and to crave connection and yet to attach myself to unavailable men because I am terrified of intimacy.

I am so fucking tired of it all.

I have realized that I cannot fix myself. I can’t believe how fucking “twelve-steppy” I am about to sound, but I have finally realized that I am completely powerless to change on my own. I have been praying to a Higher Power* to help me and, hell, sometimes I actually feel hopeful. In the past, the fact that I only “sometimes” felt connected to a Higher Power was my excuse to just give up. I think I expected the hand of God to come down and touch me on the shoulder or something and to hear a loud, booming voice say “Child, you are healed. Go forth!” Of course, that never happened, so I would just tell myself “See, this doesn’t work!”. It never occurred to me that if you want to be on a spiritual path, you, um, have to work at it. You can’t just sit back on your laurels and expect faith to come to you.

Like my sponsor said yesterday, your relationship with your Higher Power is just like any other relationship. You need to work at it!

* I’m not sure how I define my Higher Power. I certainly don’t believe in an old dude with a long, white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere. I suppose I think of being in touch with a Higher Power as being “at one” with the universe and everything and everybody in it.

Breaking Promises


Hello, little blog. It’s been a while – a month to be exact. I got a little tired of walking to the lake at lunchtime to blog frantically for the last fifteen minutes of my lunch break. It wasn’t terribly relaxing.

Not much to report as usual. Same old dead-end job; broke; tired, depressed; self-hating and self-defeating. The cherry on the top of my shit cake is that our landlords, and their evil property management company, are absolute cunts (I mean, seriously, that word was invented for them), and they’re trying to get rid of us…for what? For standing up for our rights really. It’s all a bit stressful. Of course,  I suppose I could just roll over and let them shaft me up the arse, but, nah, I don’t think so. I’ll be seeing them down the JP Court, thank you very much.

The one bright light in my tunnel of doom is that I am in a new musical project. I met a musician on Craigslist (is there anything you can’t find on that website?!) and we’re getting along very well, both musically and personally. Well, he could be a bit more emotive, and say what he means more often, but, well, you can’t have everything.

My only concern about this project is that I have neglected my “own music”. I was supposed to be coming home at night and practising piano, and making my music. To be honest, though, I prefer working with somebody who challenges me and tells me what to do. It’s not that I don’t have ideas; oh, I have plenty of ideas, and that’s the problem. I have a hard time focusing on just one idea, and I get terrified and overwhelmed by them all, and then I don’t do anything. It’s a relief to let somebody else steer me a little.

I feel guilty that I don’t have enough gumption or “get up and go” to make music on my own, but maybe that’s just the kind of person I am, creatively. Maybe I just need structure. My life kind of fell to pieces after university because I wasn’t used to not having a place to be, an essay to write, a book to read etc. In my last year, when everybody was freaking out about our final exams, I was a little oasis of calm. I must be the only person who actually enjoyed finals. And I’ll tell you why – it was the fucking papers we had to write throughout the year that terrified me because, technically speaking, there was no fucking end to the amount of research I could do. And that’s what happened. I would research a paper for weeks, and weeks, and weeks until I had so much fucking information I didn’t know what to do with it. In comparison, two weeks of finals, which had so much ridiculous significance for my overall grade, were nothing. A three hour exam in which I have to write something about Goethe? Pfft. Bring it on. I loved the fucking time limit. I loved being limited.

It’s the same thing when it comes to writing. I have so many ideas, but I just don’t know where to get started. I just wish somebody would fucking hire me, and tell me what subject to write about. Sigh.

 

 

Needlework


I’m back at my cliff, still throwing things off. No wait – that’s Björk. My reality is far less romantic. I’m back at my altar, munching on a tuna sandwich and trying desperately to squeeze in some writing before I have to head back to the office.

It’s at times like these that I am filled with admiration for all those long-dead female writers who had to snatch whatever precious moments they could to fit in some writing. Five minutes here, before putting the kids to bed; ten minutes there before getting the dinner on the table; twenty minutes before the men of the household interrupt your embroidery session, and you have to stash your beautiful words underneath your needlework.

Snatching time here and there to write – create – has long been the preserve of women. Virginia Woolf wanted a room of her own, but I find, perversely enough, that it’s easier to create when I’m limited. My room scares me because there are too many possibilities so I get anxious and end up doing nothing.

I don’t kid myself that these 10-minute blogging sessions are great literature. But I’ve surprised myself by just how meaningful they are – at least to me. First of all, I’m not as dull as I thought it would be and, secondly, they keep me connected to writing and, through my readers, to the wider world beyond.

It’s fucking priceless, that’s what it is. It’s helping me become less of a perfectionist.