I have read and reread this blog and in my mind it is not perfect…You see my name is Lilly and I am a perfectionist.
I live every day with the demons of GAD, every thought I have escalates out of control. I will walk into a room and be totally convinced I am the fattest, ugliest most stupid person in the whole room and every single person is talking about me.
Every conversation I have with my Peers starts with “What have I done wrong?” and “Are you sacking me?”. It is exhausting, debilitating and has over the years destroyed every shred of self-esteem and confidence I have struggled to find. It stops me socialising and having the most basic of relationships with friends or family. I have a huge, massive wall that is impossible for anybody to penetrate.
There is a defining moment in my life; at 18 months I was adopted, when I was 9 years old my parents told me “I am special, I was chosen and very much loved and wanted”, what I heard was “Your parents didn’t want you so they gave you away” and so my perfectionism was born. I had to please every person in my life to avoid rejection, just in case I was “given away” or gotten rid of again. The double edged sword was proving to the person who rejected that baby that they had made a mistake, that I was smart and had achieved amazing things without them.
The consequence of this driving force is that I have an overriding need to push the very limits in everything I do. I have gotten out of bed at 4.30 in the morning and commuted into London to work on a report only to struggle to “get it perfect” and still miss my deadline, resulting in me having a panic attack in the middle of an open office.
I have taken on senior management roles, absolutely flying through the interview process and then only to find I have been crippled by self doubt, where I would totally close down to the point of exhaustion and deep, deep depression and then have the feeling of failure, ultimately leading to the total conviction that I am stupid. Logical? No. Do I have evidence that backs this up? In my illogical mind, plenty.
My last crisis
My last crisis two years ago was the turning point for me. I was in a demanding job, customer facing and in my own personal hell, studying for my degree that I had to have to prove I wasn’t stupid, along with countless other courses and exams, working ridiculous hours to keep my head above water, barely able to function let alone deal with clients or manage staff and all the conflicts that people management inevitably brings. Predictably the perfectionism and the wall I built to protect myself fell… spectacularly.
I made the best decision in my adult life. The job was destroying me. I was contemplating walking out of the office, no mobile, no laptop, no money and just disappearing from the face of the earth. I truly felt I was going mad and I was going to end up being sectioned, I had to do something to stop my complete and utter collapse. I left my job, took a substantial pay cut and took hold of my life and gave myself a break. No more studying, no more exams. It wastime to break the chains of rejection and choose to move on.
I found a job in a small family company, no responsibilities, fixed contract, I had therapy, took my meds and started the recovery process. I have been on a journey of reflection, learning who I am, reconnecting with my mind, I gave myself the gift of love and acceptance, time to heal.
Old anxieties return, but I’ve made progress
My contract ended this year and I started a new job, my old anxieties surfaced, I reverted to type and have found myself enrolled on a Masters course via distance learning. The difference is I recognised the signs, every review I had I asked when I would be sacked and I was awake half the night worrying and analysing every conversation.
Checking my emails every five minutes so that I wouldn’t miss anything and able to reply instantly to “prove” I was on the ball and in control, I felt I had to justify my abilities and if I missed an email people would think I wasn’t capable. I recognised this would make me very Ill and I asked for help. Six weeks ago my journey was given labels, GAD with obsessive tendencies.
GAD is not something that is “one size fits all” but the results are the same. It is an endless cycle of self doubt, anxiety and isolation. It takes away your ability to enjoy the moment, your energy is spent on the thoughts and rituals of perfectionism and “keeping up appearances”.
Why am I sharing?
I am sure my situation is not unique. I want to tell people about my experiences, even those who have no concept of mental illness. To tell people who do battle every day that there is someone who is not afraid to talk about their deepest fears and talk about the taboo subjects.
Self reflection is part of my journey that is still ongoing. I am sure I will have bad days, but doesn’t everybody? I have further challenges to face with my studies, dealing with the workload and learning to be able to submit work on time and not worry if it is perfect, but today I feel strong, I can do this. I want to openly talk about living with GAD, and say to you that you are not alone.
My name is Lilly and I am more than a statistic or a label, I am prepared to stand up and be counted. The more people that read this and understand the better.