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On Anxiety and Perfectionism

16 December 2012
I've written before about my struggles with Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression. It is not awesome. It is not the trial I particularly want to deal with in this life. But it is what it is, and I have to learn how to function even on the days I don't want to do anything but die.

I've been on medication for almost 5 years now, and I've been on medication that actually works for 3 years. Given a choice, I would not have to take any medications at all. No medicines for me! But when faced with the question of being medicated and a good mother, wife, and being alive or being un-medicated and not functional and/or dead, I pick medicated.

But here's the problem: It's never going to get any better. I've had Social Anxiety for 26 years and it's not getting better. Not with therapy, not with ignoring it. The medicine does help somewhat. But. I can't keep taking higher and higher doses and hoping my problem will go away. I can't keep avoiding things that are hard for me - calling people, going to the store, going to school - because if I keep this up, I'm never going to be able to leave the house. It's too hard.

When I think about it, I want to go eat all the pills in my medicine cabinet and hide under the covers in a dark, locked bedroom. Life scares me. I'm going to school in less than a month and I am abso-freakin' terrified. Logically, I know nothing is going to happen. What's the worst someone's going to do? Scowl at me? Call me a fat bitch in the Costco parking lot (happened a few weeks ago)? Throw a snowball at my head? But in my head I can't escape the "what if they think I'm an idiot. Maybe I am an idiot. I'm an idiot. I can't believe I said that. Why can't I just shut up? Everyone is looking at me. They all think I'm fat and ugly. I am fat and ugly. Why am I even alive? I can't do anything right. I can't do this. Why am I here? I want to go home. I want to die. I don't want to do this anymore. I want to die I want to die I want to die dying is so much easier than living and doing this all the time I can't handle this people are everywhere why are there so many people I bet they all hate me I wish I wasn't too scared to die I wish I could just drop dead right here."

You get the picture.

Anyway, I realize I will probably need to be on medication for the rest of my life. I actually can handle life much better when I'm drugged. It's still hell, but it's manageable hell. I just can't keep relying on the medicine, taking more and more, and waiting for myself to get better. I have to work and I have to do things that scare me. I've told Hawk this. And I think going to school is a good first step. Maybe in a year I will work on calling people. I hate phones so much.

The other thing I have realized about myself is that I am a perfectionist. This is not something I would have ever thought of before, but I read an article that described me perfectly.


  • Mistakes bring feelings of self-hatred. You don’t want to do anything because you are afraid of failure.
  • You feel tremendous pressure to earn others’ approval. You must be the best or “perfect” in your tasks.
  • Your need to do things perfectly leads to procrastination until you have time to do it “perfectly,” and you feel driven by fear or duty instead of love.

If I can't do something perfectly, I don't bother doing it. I can't play the piano perfectly, so I don't want to do it at all. I can't clean my entire house to be spotless in a day, so what's the point? I can't be the best mother ever, so why try being a good mom at all? It's too much bother if I can't do it right.

This is crap. I realize this is crap. But this is the way my brain thinks. And it has to stop. I know that I will never be perfect. But I have to stop giving up when I can't do something 100%. I stopped playing the violin back in March because I had played for 6 months and I wasn't a virtuoso yet. I mean, come on. I need to fix my expectations of myself and of my family. We are not perfect and we never will be. It's still okay to try and it's still okay to make efforts and it's okay to fail.

I wish I had realized this about myself years ago. It would have explained so much. I hate math and I now wonder if the reason I hated it and did so badly at it was because when I first started having a hard time with it, I decided that I would never be good so why bother trying? It's enough to make me wonder if I should take a math class sometime. (Ew.) I used to love to write and I came up with some amazing poems, essays and even a novel that was quite good. But I wasn't perfect or publishable on the first draft, so I haven't revised or tried to write poetry in years.

Absolutely ridiculous. But these are the days of my life. This is what I am working through right now. I am going back to school and I am going to fail at least a little bit. And I need to be okay with that - I need to try my very, absolute hardest and be okay with the effort. The growth is in the effort, not in the result.

I think that's going to be my motto for 2013.

6 comments to On Anxiety and Perfectionism:

dnatheory said...

I am definitely not an expert, but I have a very small amount of experience with these feelings. Does it help you to focus on the things you've done well? To tell yourself of all the times you've succeeded and all the trials you've mastered? Try to focus on your successes and remind yourself that you are smart, capable, strong, and capable of learning and adapting. ::hugs::

Kestrel said...

Nope, it doesn't help even a tiny bit. Isn't that stupid? I think it's stupid. Also it sucks.

Allison said...

I think that is the best motto you could possibly have for 2013. Hang in there, friend. You can do this. You can beat it. I'm here for when you need me. Seriously, if I'm not around, just text me and I will MAKE time. You are important to me and I want to see you come out of this with a surer sense of self and an embrace of your flaws. LIVE.

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

I like your motto a lot. It says a lot about your intelligence and your determination to be the best person you can be, in spite of your anxieties.

Also, I say this next things totally honestly and I mean it from the bottom of my heart: I happen to think that you are beautiful. To name just three things: I adore your short, sassy hair; you have lovely skin; and a glorious smile.

LCannon said...

You do have a great smile, Kestrel.

K La said...

Best Motto ever. Purpose of life right there.

I miss your stories and poems. My vote is you take that up again.

Krisface, you are NOT ugly. Really and truly. Your eyes, your skin, your nose; people kill for these things. You are beautiful. You need to keep hearing that until you believe it, just like everyone else already does.