We spent this weekend first driving to Davis (about 500 miles north of us) on Friday, then packing her things into Timmy the Prius, then bringing everything home. She’s coming home for a year to work and go to school while saving some money so that she can go back to the University of California at Davis without having to worry about paying her rent. It was a tough weekend for her, I think, because it felt a little like a failure instead of just a temporary retreat; I understand that feeling all too well.
Anxiety and the obsession with perfection can lead us to think that anything less than the top spot on the podium – like the Olympic reference? I’m already starting on my withdrawals! – is failure. It’s all or nothing, literally. Those who have been reading my blog for a while will certainly recognize that theme since it’s been woven through nearly everything I’ve written since 2003. My treatment options since then, however, have been totally focused on my accompanying depression, which has certainly had a huge effect on my enjoyment of life, and it’s only been very recently that a new therapist started talking to me about the effect my anxiety and perfectionism on my life.
As it turns out, the perfectionism is just a coping mechanism or outlet for my extreme anxiety. Since learning this, I’ve been working at recognizing when I feel compelled to run around straightening my already-clean house up and then digging for what’s really going on; it’s been enlightening. Most of the time, it’s just me internalizing things that are totally unrelated to me or pinning motivations on other people’s actions – “they hate me” – that I have no justification for. Once I call myself out on that junk, the accompanying anxiety quickly dissipates.
We’re all adjusting to the new normal around here – the 20 year old trying to make all of her worldly possessions fit into her tiny bedroom, Mick & I breathing deeply and remembering that it’s going to take time for her to unpack everything – and it’s a great opportunity to flex my new (mental health) muscles. This, too, shall pass, and none of it is specifically directed at me. Sometimes, life is just complicated because it’s complicated, and we just need to breathe our way through it.