Tag Archives: perfectionism

eating disorders, depression and perfectionism

by now you must have cottoned on to the fact that i really like therese borchard’s beyond blue: surviving depression and anxiety and making the most of bad genes.

one of the things she talks about in that book is her run-ins with eating disorders. in the chapter BMI (body mass issues) – depression in my thighs she mentions a number of writers in the field. for example cherry boone o’neill and her book starving for attention

in my early years i equated my worth as a person with the level of my performance and i felt that the love and approval of other people would be conditioned upon my perfection. therefore, i expended every effort to be the best i could possibly be in any given area of endeavour, only to repeatedly fall short of my goals and risk losing value in the eyes of others. trying even harder, only to miss the mark again, resulted in compounded guilt and self hatred.

therese then draws the connection between eating disorders and depression, citing dr. raymond depaulo from johns hopkins who observes that young women with eating disorders also tend to suffer from depression. it’s interesting to hear therese compare the two experiences:

i asked a veteran nurse which illness – an eating disorder or a mood disorder – is harder to overcome.

“an eating disorder, hands down,” he said. “because you have to eat to stay alive, and so it’s always there. you are always confronting your behaviour.” butter, flour, and friends are always at the table sprouting horns.

depression has bullied me much more than an eating disorder, and i’d take anorexia or bulimia any day over the intense suicidal thoughts i experienced for eighteen months later in life. but before giving birth and whacking out my brain chemistry, i did get to enjoy several years symptom-free of depression. there were many days i didn’t even think about my mood! but to this day the eating disorder is still there. at every meal.

in the next chapter, she talks about the perfectionism that we mentioned earlier.

like practically every other depressive i know, perfectionism can cripple my efforts to live freely and happily, not to mention plague me with writer’s block. left unattended, perfectionism will build a prison around me so that every shot at expressing myself is thwarted by the fear of not getting it right.

one of the people who helps her with that is her editor. she reminds her of something that goes for all of us, whether we’re depressed, deal with eating disorders, are writers, or whatever else. she constantly reminds her to

to write from wherever i am, not from where i want to be, because the journey – full of backward steps – is what makes material real and most helpful.

finally, she quotes anna quindlen:

perfection is static, even boring. your unvarnished self is what is wanted.

a little exercise: from dread to like

i was going to send this as an email to someone but why not post it here?

the question is – how do you turn something dreadful into something you like? actually, the words used were “purgatory” and “heaven” 🙂

i have a few exercises for this, and one of them has something to do with how we feel when we’re not 100% good at something. so here we go.

somewhere i read this: “the fact that we do not know how to be or do everything perfectly is not a good reason to lose confidence in ourselves.”

this can be turned into a little exercise:

list a few things that you don’t do perfectly, e.g.

  • paperwork
  • play with kids
  • exercise regularly
  • look after bad back
  • perform well at presentations

then ask yourself – what’s fun about these things?

what’s fun about doing paperwork?
e.g. i like paper! like, the actual paper. makes me think of books and writing and drawing.

what’s fun about playing with the kids?
e.g. i like finger puppets.

what’s fun about exercising regularly?
e.g. the cute guys at the gym

what’s fun about looking after my bad back?
e.g. lying on the floor with the TV on.

what’s fun about presentations?
e.g. i like powerpoint.

it’s a good idea to come up with at least 5 fun points for each activity you feel you’re not perfect at.

(p.s. it was much more fun to write this than to finish round 1 of my taxes. i soo dislike doing that this time around. so i’m going to take my own medicine. what’s fun about doing the taxes? 1 – i get to go on the web site of one of my favourite financial institutions; 2 – when i’m done, i can phone my husband and GLOAT; 3 – i get to walk my talk – one of my biggest motivators; 4 – i get to have a better overview over my finances – something i always enjoy; 5 – i enjoy looking at the neatness of spreadsheets. ok, i’m off now!)

(p.s. some time later – i actually did it and it worked!!!)

this post was listed in the carnival of motivation and inspiration

share your story

journallinghave you experienced recovery and healing in your life? goodtherapy, a great new resource for people who believe in affirmative therapy, therapy that is non-pathologizing, empowering, collaborative is starting a healing story collection. if you have something to share, go here.

the first contribution you’ll find starts like this:

once upon a time there was a wonderful little girl, sensitive, intelligent, gifted. she was so sensitive that it was easy for her to see words that weren’t spoken. words that other people did not speak swirled through the air but ended up inside of her.

when she was not very old, and couldn’t even describe it with words, she noticed that there was a shadow on her father.

when she grew old enough to express the feelings (though only in her own quiet little mind), these were her words: “i am not sure that my father loves me. sometimes he seems to love me. but i’m not sure that he really loves me. he is so far away. his eyes are heavy and sometimes when he looks at me it’s as if he doesn’t even see me, or he sees me from a long distance. i think his smile looks so watered down because it has to travel so far to come from him to me.”

for the rest, read on at little lil – a story about trying to be perfect