• Hello, My Name Is Valerie, and I Am a Recovering Perfectionist

    Yes, that is me. Perfectionist in recovery. I had to start working on it because it was ruining my life. Sometimes I have to say "good enough is good enough" and move on, no matter how much it pains me. So, I make the tough decisions when the dividend is not worth the incredible amount of angst and toil that I go through to get it. When I first returned to college after quite the hiatus, I would get upset over missing a question or two on a quiz. This perfectionist tendency makes the stress almost unbearable. However, I persisted in being upset if I didn't do a perfect job, which means 100% of the points. After my second term, I realized that a mid-A works as well as a high, or perfect, A. Did it still bother me when I did less than perfection? Yes, but the feeling was diminishing. For some courses, you know, the really hard ones, I felt great pleasure when I made an A. Then the summer semester started, and God decided that I needed to rid myself of this very unhealthy obsession with perfection.

    First, I discovered that I had atrial fibrillation, which was scary. I knew I felt bad, so I went out to look for a new doctor since it had been such a long time since I'd been to one. I was afraid that the doctor would think I was a hypochondriac. Well, not only was I not imagining that I was ill, I was ill. The rapidity that she removed me from the room into a cardiologist's room was frankly scary. Since that time, I discovered that my thyroid was out of whack, then that I had hypothyroidism, to having nodules on my thyroid, to finding out that I had Graves' Disease. This was the beginning of the summer semester where I had unwisely decided to take not two, but three courses at the same time. And not the normal intense 8-week courses, either. I thought it sounded great to take three over an expanse of 15 weeks so that they'd be less intense. Biology 101, Philosophy 201, and Math 201 (Statistics). Well, on a good semester, that's hard. Tie in the health issues, and we are talking major stress levels. I was in for a wild ride.

    Then there was the mold that we found in our daughters' room that had grown right up the inside of the wall due to the apartment complex not fixing the leak (read flooding) every time it rained hard. So, we made the decision to move, and as quickly as possible. So, in an already stressful place, and in less than two weeks, we found a new place to move, packed up our belongings, and moved. Due to my heavy workload in school and work, I could really only spare two weeks to do all this, and my husband and kids were left do the bulk of the packing, moving, unpacking, and getting things settled. That was in August. It is now October. The house is mostly settled. There are some odds and ends that I need to take care of. My family has done a wonderful job. Me, I've had to ignore the mess as much as I can. It adds more stress to my life.

    In the midst of all of that, my grades suffered a bit. I was able to secure extensions in two of the three courses, but when it was time to turn in everything, I had double the load. To say that I was drowning in schoolwork was an understatement. The last two weeks of class, I just ran out of time to write a paper for philosophy. I was away for a work retreat that Monday, and wouldn't get back home until Wednesday. I was already frazzled and exhausted. I tried to write the paper, but the end of the course was Friday, and I just didn't get it done. I had to make a decision. Do I stay up for two nights in a row to finish a paper that wouldn't be very good anyway, or do I just not turn one in, and make either a B or a C? It was an agonizing choice. My perfectionist side said, "NO! You can't NOT turn in an assignment!" but the I'm so tired, and my health is already in decline side of me said, "Is it worth it to make an A? How long would it take to recuperate from an all-nighter when working, and the new term starts the following Monday?" I have to say that I made the right choice. I decided to go for the health aspect of the decision, and I wrote an apology email to my professor. I made a B in the course. Does it still bother me? Absolutely! I'd be lying if it didn't. However, I am slowly coming to terms with it. It was a rough summer. Too much was going on. My last school break was in March. I just finished the first term of Fall last night. That has been 31 weeks straight of school with only two weekends between terms. That's a lot. That's too much, especially in regards to the Summer term that I am still trying to get over.

    So, my first term of Fall was less intense with two courses instead of three really long courses. It was easier to handle two courses, even though they were very hard. In one course, Introduction to Graphic Design, there was an extra credit project I could choose to do. I was pretty booked up with my programming class, so I decided that if I finished all my work in both classes, and I still had time, I'd do the extra credit project worth 50 points. I finally finished my programming assignment last night around 10 o'clock. Everything was done, and I had enough time to work on the extra credit project. Guess what I did? Did I do what I would have done in March to make sure I made the highest A? Or did I learn something through this summer's refining summer? As I said, I'm a recovering perfectionist. Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are....

  • One Step at a Time

    Sometimes life is like the pushing a boulder up a mountain. Especially when there is mental illness involved. Especially when there is more than one person in the family with mental illness. Especially when someone in the household decides to do major moving around of furniture from one room to another. Especially when you catch some kind of bug that just drains all energy you might have had. So, I'm sitting in what is supposed to be my sanctuary from the rest of the household. All around me are books and junk left over from the partial moving around of our rec room. I have no doubt that it will eventually be a haven for me, but at this moment it's getting on my every nerve as I try to cope with it. Last night I got maybe three hours of sleep, and I'm tired and irritable. As in, I shouldn't be allowed to talk to people, especially my daughter who suffers from mental illness. So, yet again, I have gotten gruff and hurtful with her because I was wanting some "me" time to decompress after a disturbing experience this morning. Well, it wasn't her fault, she wasn't even there. She's wanting to get out of the house and maybe spend time with people, whether they are friends or not. Me? I want to go hide in my cave. I want to stay as far away from people as possible. Not a good combination, really. It's frustrating that I can't keep my mouth in check when I feel this way. It's devastating that I sometimes do more harm than good in relation to dealing with my daughter.

    Sorry to any people I see or deal with today. Just tell me to go to the corner, where it is quiet and not chaotic.

  • Reflections on Having Special Needs Adult Children, or Rambling Anyway

    Sometimes, in my daydreams, I fantasize about having children that are productive members of society: college graduates, productive job, living their own life in their own place. I'm ashamed to tell you this. By now I should have expunged those dreams from my mind and my vocabulary. I should be relishing the fact that I get to commune with my children for a little while longer. I should realize that the older two need me right now, especially my daughter. I long for a peaceful home that doesn't have drama everyday. Sometimes the drama gets very old. I know that my husband would like to walk out of the situation. It can be so hard for him to bear. Honestly, I feel that way sometimes. Lots of things keep both of us here. Mostly each other, and our youngest child. I look at the situation, and I feel like I'm in a no-win situation that will never end. The thought of being in it much longer sends disappointment shuddering through my being.

    The drama. Oh my, the drama. Every little thing is magnified exponentially. The mentally ill can be so preoccupied with themselves in a most unhealthy way. It drains the listener so much that it can be difficult to be sympathetic, and sometimes can cause the listener to want to avoid the mentally ill person. I understand that more than I care to admit. It makes it hard for the mentally ill subject to find and keep friends. However, I so admire and appreciate those friends of Arianna's that come back day after day to be there for her. They are so good at helping her put things into perspective, and focus on more meaningful dialogue. I so appreciate those friends! I wish I could be more like them. Of course, those friends aren't living with her day in and day out, and definitely aren't responsible for her care and well-being. Of course, I'm supposed to be responsible for her, but her friends don't have to be, but they choose to. I applaud them. I applaud anyone who takes the time to know someone who suffers from mental illness, because they can see the special part of that person, and they appreciate it. And in the meantime, they can take a little of the burden off of the family that lives with it 24-7.

    This isn't to say that I don't love my daughter. I do, with all of my heart. I appreciate her gifts, and her abilities. She can be delightful to be around. And my hope is that one day she will be all that all the time. But in the meantime, I need to learn ways of dealing with my inner turmoil, and not let it affect my relationship with a daughter who, although she suffers from a mental illness that drains everyone in her family, has some mighty gifts. I just need to maybe focus on those instead of the other things.

    There is so much that I do wrong as a mother and wife. I handle stress badly. Yet I allow stress into my life willingly, it seems. Being the sufferer of my own mental illness, specifically ADHD, I always have to have things busy. Even my relaxation has to be busy. I must be actively listening to something, actively watching something, actively doing something, or I go stir crazy. I cannot just sit and do nothing. So I cram all types of things into my life, and add more and more until I'm so stress with all the stuff crammed into my life. So many people tell me that they are amazed at how patient I am. They especially told me these things when my oldest two were young. I was always amazed that they would believe that. Still am, really. Whatever I felt like inside, something totally different was showing on the outside. I was never patient. And this wasn't a mask I put on. How do you put on a mask of patience? I never could. Another thing people tell me all the time is "I don't know how you do it." To me, that is just not helpful because so often I don't think I'm "doing" it very well. I "do it" by doing it poorly 90% of the time.

    As you go about your day to day activities, take a minute or two and reflect on how you deal with those mentally ill people in your sphere of influence. Do you try to run away like I would want to? Do you look more like the friends who see the best in the person, and deal with the rest willingly? How do you feel about your responses to those people? What can you do to be there for the parents of the mentally ill? Leave your comments below. I'd like to hear from you.

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