Recovering Perfectionist


Really Long Shower Thoughts / Sunday, December 31st, 2017

I don’t like not being able to do things. This year has been one where that’s something I’ve had to learn to deal with.

CN: mention of attempted suicide

At the beginning of the school year I came down with mono. Normally, I’m fairly healthy, physically. I didn’t get colds all that often, and when I did I was over them pretty quickly. Mono is an entirely different animal. I don’t remember the first three weeks of school. I went to classes. I drove for 2 hours every day. But because I had a high fever and general exhaustion, I wasn’t actually there at all. I shouldn’t have survived that much driving, but I did. I guess surviving is kinda my thing. This was also less than a month after my suicide attempt, and a summer of pain from various joint injuries from a fall in June.

Recovery is hard. Mono isn’t like the flu. You don’t get over it in a week, and even once you’re “over it” you still feel sick for a long time. I don’t do well with being sick. Being unable to do things causes my depression to worsen, and being unable to do things well gives me anxiety. Isolation is the worst situation I can be in, and when you are sick with a highly contagious illness that leaves you veritably incapacitated, that’s the only option.

I can’t honestly say whether my depression worsened or if I was still recovering from the mental shock of trying to take my own life. The threat of hospitalization was very real for a while. Even once I started to feel physically better, which wasn’t until midterms, I was hesitant to apply for production positions because I didn’t know how long I was going to be at school.

Either I’m a naturally independent person or some combination of life experience has trained me to be one, because asking for help is one of the hardest things for me to do. Last fall I moved out to the town where I go to school. Because of the combination of having no local friends, going through my first breakup (during the tech week from hell), and not getting along with my roommate, I was increasingly isolated and depressed. It wasn’t until I was out of money and forced to move that I told my parents that I needed help.

That was the point when I finally started getting real help. Part of moving home was getting my mental health under control. The spring semester was terrible. After 2 years of college, that was my first semester to not make the dean’s list. I’ll probably retake several of the classes that I did so poorly in, now that I know how to accept that I can’t actually do everything on my own.

Back to this past fall, I found that I was really struggling in a class. This was a very new experience. In the past, getting poor grades was a result of not doing the work. This time, I was doing the work, but still failing tests. After talking with my professor, eventually, I went to the accessibility office. I had always done fine before. Other people could do their work without special accommodations. Call it pride; call it internalized ableism; call it whatever you like, but I was ashamed that I was getting special treatment.

Side note: one thing I’ve come to realize about shame is that it’s ineffective. If you are guilty, you can right the wrong. If you are ashamed, you stew on it.

And that brings us back around to the main point; you can’t be perfect. This may seem like a simple concept, but for some people it’s one that elicites a scoff. In theory, we know that perfection is unachievable, but by golly are we gonna try.

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