How perfectionism and anxiety made me sick, and what I want to know sooner

“Perfectionism is a state of exhaustion that always knows everything and pretends to have everything together. I’m always in a happier mess than an anxious stress case trying to hide my shortcomings and mistakes. I want to be. “~ Lori Deschen

“That’s not the way you do it!” I closed the door as I went out and made sure my husband understood what he was an idiot. He made the terrifying mistake of baking potatoes for Thanksgiving instead of stuffing.

While I was studying, he was cooking trying to make sure I looked like a holiday. We lived away from our family, so the exam was approaching. I was on the verge of losing it most of the time — and he was walking on the eggshell. Or roasted potatoes.

I was a freshman in law school. All students know that one of those people will not be there next year when you look to your left and then to your right-they will drop out or fail. I was afraid to fail.

Every morning I had a severe headache that I couldn’t touch with painkillers. My shoulders sat around my ears forever (try it, you’ll see what I mean). I was insomniac, very frustrated and often panicked.

A friendly barista made a triple vanilla latte every morning at 7:00, but by 10:00 I wasn’t feeling well. I bought Red Bull for each case to survive the rest of the day and switched to red wine in the evening. My digestive system was suffering, to say the least.

I was struggling very hard trying to do it well. And I got C for tort in the medium term. And I sobbed for three days.

I know this must sound ridiculous. Most of me thought so. I was such a “queen of drama” and defeated myself for not being able to overcome it.

But at that time it was devastating. My self-esteem was essentially tied to my achievements, so I felt like a huge failure.

I didn’t tell anyone. I was too embarrassed. What do they think of someone who caused the upset?

I knew that I seemed to be highly functional from the outside, and that was something. I had friends and went out for dinner, went to the gym, and walked on the beach. But internally it was confusing.

My husband advised me to go to the doctor. He was able to see how hard I was for myself and how it affected me. As I was telling her physical symptoms, she asked me if I was under great stress. I replied, “No, it’s not. As always.”

I didn’t know what to say to her. She was physical because I lived much of my life this way and was embarrassed because I felt out of control because I didn’t know it was anxious.

And … some of me knew that yelling it would break the illusion of having it all together.

So I left with a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. It wasn’t fun, but now it makes me laugh. My gut was definitely irritable, but that irritability was nothing compared to what was happening in my head. It was part of the problem, but certainly not the whole problem.

It wasn’t long ago that I realized I had been suffering from anxiety for a long time before I even knew what it was. Like many of us, I have learned that emotions must be “positive” to be accepted. So I packed in all the “negative” emotions we shouldn’t have, such as fear, anger, jealousy, and sadness.

I am a very sensitive person, so I have a lot of big and deep feelings. There are many things to push down, suppress, reject, or plan. I was good at this and looked down on the person who expressed my feelings.

I thought they must be in need. Actually, I was scared of my feelings. And I didn’t know I had a need.

Instead of showing my feelings and needs, I used perfectionism to make it look like everything was in place. Perfectionism made me feel like an uneasy mess. But it admits the problem, so I couldn’t admit it.

It makes it difficult to ask for help. It also gets tired. As Lori Deschen said in the opening quote, “I always want to be a happier mess than an anxious stress case trying to hide my flaws and mistakes.”

Life is difficult enough without emphasizing what we look like to others. It’s not worth it. When I allow myself to be completely human, I can laugh at myself, talk about my hardships, and manifest myself in my shortcomings. It makes life very easy.

Here are five things I’ve always wanted to know:

1. Integrity cannot be achieved because it cannot be quantified.

What is perfect anyway? Do we really know? I don’t.

It’s something I’ve kept setting myself and any criteria I thought I should meet. But after achieving something, I was already looking for:

Where do you end up? Instead, that’s the problem.

2. No one looks back on their lives and wish they had a worse relationship.

This seems obvious, but it’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know if I can completely unleash my value from my achievements, or if I can find an amazing balance of feeling fulfilled but not striving. Maybe? You can hope.

I know it doesn’t matter when I’m on the deathbed. My people are important. And I don’t want my efforts or perfectionist tendencies to get in the way of those important relationships.

3. Anxiety feels very real and it’s just a sensation.

If you have experienced anxiety, you will know how terrible it feels. For me, it’s a racing heart, a handshake, a flushing face, and a horror.

It is important to remember to breathe. And to keep breathing. I will pass.

Anxiety is fear, and fear cannot hurt you.

4. Anxiety is the actual stress response. It’s physiological and not shameful.

If I knew this, I wouldn’t have been so embarrassed about my anxiety. Anxiety said my brain believed that there was a dangerous situation in my body. that’s it.

The fear of running out is that the saber-toothed tiger is rarely running towards you (because our caveman ancestors had to worry), but my brain makes a difference. I did not know. And where is that big stigma? To be clear, I don’t think there should be any stigma about mental health, but I am keenly aware of it.

It was helpful to remember that there was no real danger as there were no tigers.

5. Imagine the worst in every situation is not as useful as you might think.

Going straight to the worst scenario was useful at the time. At one level, I believed that if I could prepare for the worst, I could prepare for it. But it can also create a lot of unnecessary anxiety about the unlikely (very unlikely) possibilities.

for example:

“If I get a C, I’m not going to achieve it throughout the first year. I’ll be kicked out. It would be a disaster. It also means I’m failing. People. May sympathize with me. They will definitely think of me differently. “

Here are some useful ideas:

“If I get a C, that means … I got a C. There’s nothing more. Perhaps I can learn another way. Perhaps I ask for additional help You can, or maybe you could remember that you’re doing your best. That’s enough. “

It was a journey to be able to unravel the causes of anxiety, learn to manage it differently, and give yourself a lot of compassion. I hope something makes a difference here wherever you are.

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