My perfectionism had driven me to be cold, distant, isolated and alone. I wanted everything in its place. I wanted our home to be the most beautiful place possible. I wanted a new kitchen island. I wanted new bathroom cabinets. I wanted a new sofa. If only our fireplace was prettier. I wanted to be a perfect mother with high energy, loads of great activities and always focused on the kids. I wanted to be the best wife, cooking healthy gourmet meals with grace. I wanted to be an amazing perfect friend, hosting parties like it was nothing and listening with my full attention when a friend spoke. I wanted dinners out with couples where we laughed and drank and woke up feeling lovely the next day. I wanted to be included in everything and being excluded added to my desire to be more perfect.
I couldn’t invite friends over without having my home professionally cleaned. I was afraid to be vulnerable and open with anyone. So I stayed closed.
I closed off from my family, my mom, my friends, my neighbors and even my husband in some ways. I went through the motions of life, but felt nothing but isolated, alone and drab. I wouldn’t call it depression in any way. But I was constantly striving for better, prettier, newer, cleaner and more perfect in every aspect of my life… my kids, my kids’ clothes, my home, my car, my clothes, my body, the food we ate, my work, our laundry and more.
When something happened to our car (my father-in-law shut the garage on it as we were backing out and it popped off the top thing covering the antenna), I couldn’t stand looking at it. I wanted it fixed immediately. I wanted everything fixed now and couldn’t see the beauty in what we had, only all of the flaws that were so obvious all around me, then I quickly became overwhelmed and burdened with the thoughts of fixing it all perfectly.
My to-do list grew and grew. My frustration grew too. My joy did not. My peace did not. I was exhausted in the most heavy way possible. I was irritable. I didn’t have energy to exercise, one of the things I probably needed most. My mind felt so heavy, so burdened with all of these superficial things, but they felt serious to me.
My 21-month-old sweet boy was still waking 4, 5, 6 times at night. To others, it was funny or unfortunate. To me, it was tragic. Night time was my worst fear. And I was so so so tired.
And then it happened. I was driving home from childcare with my children at the end of a long work day with lots of deadlines and my mind wandering. Suddenly my face and fingers went numb. My heart began racing and I had chest pain. I felt dizzy, light-headed and had tunnel vision. My body started shaking and I was filled with fear. I was confident that death was near but had no idea what was happening. I drove to the Emergency Room which was very close by. I was afraid I would crash the car on the way if I passed out because my body felt like it was done.
I told the receptionist that I was sure I was having a heart attack and began sobbing. My children were with. I texted my husband to come right away. They quickly brought me into a triage room. The nurse took the boys to get crayons and coloring books plus a snack. My fear lessened and I was able to calm down by the time they returned. I didn’t want to scare them, but was so full of fear myself that I didn’t know how to help them.
Friends. I didn’t have a heart attack that day. I had an awakening. I couldn’t keep on like this. I had to find peace for myself. For my boys. For my husband. For my family. I had to start getting sleep at night. I had to let go of many things that simply didn’t matter.
I am a recovering perfectionist. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. Every time I catch myself striving for something impossible or insignificant, I take a step back and remind myself that I’m still growing, learning to let go and finding peace. It will take time and has. My “awakening” happened in March of this year and I still struggle some days.
The unfolded piles of laundry in our laundry room, the sofa cushions on the floor being used as a wrestling mat, the sand on our mudroom floor, the scuffs on our family room walls, the spider webs on our front porch, the constant cycle of dishes in our sink and so much more are all things I desire to control and fix, as if I can ever make them go away. These things are life. Laundry is never-ending if you are alive. Accepting that is not easy.
But I am alive. You are alive. We ARE ALIVE! Living. Breathing. Enjoying. Suffering. This is life. And frankly, my problems are nothing compared to what many deal with. Being alive means we have the privilege of doing laundry, of chasing kids, of comforting our sick babies in the night… it doesn’t always feel like a privilege though, does it?
My hardest day was the day I finally woke up.
p.s. As you can imagine, sharing this is not easy. I’m not looking for any advice or pity. I’m a writer and sharing is not only my career, but it is my calling. Please share stories, thoughts and love if you have anything to give. I’d be grateful for your kind words in the comments section.