Perhaps one of the most terrifying things is to take a first step. Especially when times are dark and the pathway forward can seem confusing…at best. Growing up the younger sibling of a severely mentally unstable brother, there was always immense pressure to be “normal” and “perfect.” What my mother felt was a compliment became my ball and chain: “You’re my angel child – I don’t know what I’d do without you.” The pressure to live up to angelic standards???? It’s almost bone-crushing at times.
But if you met me in person, you would say I’m friendly, I’m upbeat, I’m positive, I’m a can-do, go-getter, team-minded person. You would never know that inside? Sometimes inside I’m crying. There’s a little voice inside screaming “see me, see me.” The little broken voice asks, “is it ok if I’m not perfect?” “Is it ok if I have problems too?” You wouldn’t know I might fall asleep crying over absolutely nothing because my heart is trying to pound its way out of my chest and for the life of me I just can’t seem to stop fixating over a conversation from nearly 15 years ago…I have to justify taking melatonin at night to help me fall asleep because I’m tired of years of tossing and turning for hours before finally falling asleep. Because I feel like admitting that something might be wrong is the equivalent of defeat. It means I’m broken….it means I’m not perfect.
Perfectionism and anxiety…they aren’t very good friends. Anxiety says you’re going to start feel nauseous, heart racing, stomach churning, mind whirling out of absolutely nowhere while you’re driving down a familiar street. Anxiety says you’re going to fixate on this worry in your mind and no matter what you do to try to shut your brain up it’s just going to stay running 100 miles an hour. Anxiety says that little health problem you thought you had under control…it’s the worst possible diseases your little imaginative brain can imagine. Perfectionism says keep that quiet. Perfectionism says look your best. Perfectionism says smile, fake it till you make it and no one needs to know those dark little thoughts in the back of your head.
Needless to say, I find it very difficult to speak out. To speak up and say, this is hard for me. I’m not 100% okay. The last time I tried to ask for help, I was paired with a “therapist” who told me the best coping mechanism for anxiety is to simply “tell yourself to stop thinking about what makes you anxious.” What about the times where I can mentally acknowledge that I am fine? I am safe. Life is okay. There is nothing wrong. But my body goes into anxiety mode anyways? My heart races. My stomach churns. My muscles clench. How do I “stop thinking about it” then? I felt burned, spurned, cast aside and dismissed. I felt like a hermit crab retreating back into my shell swearing I would never venture back outside again. But here I am, about a year later, struggling with anxiety and saying to myself, well maybe…maybe tonight I’m not 100%. Maybe there are other ways to start to process my mental state. Maybe sharing my story in a place where others can read…maybe that will help them too. Maybe they’ve experienced similar things. Maybe they struggle too. Maybe they won’t feel alone if they hear my story. Maybe they need to hear what I’ve needed to hear all my life.
So here it goes…
Hi. I’m not perfect. I’m not 100% today. And that’s okay too.
This is my first step.