Wikipedia has this to say about it: Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality disposition characterized by an individual striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.
Perfectionism being my problem was the last thing on my mind when I went to my doctor last month. I had been having a particularly severe bout with depression over the past few months, caused by my social anxiety getting increasingly worse due to the impending loss of the cornerstone of my support network as she prepared to leave for university. Very quickly approaching full blown crisis mode, I decided it was time to take action and went to my family doctor for advice.
I already knew I had social anxiety disorder and suffered from bouts with depression when I scheduled the appointment to get a referral to a mental health specialist. I’d been dealing with depression since I had hit puberty, and it felt like I’d been dealing with social anxiety just as long, if not longer. I mainly wanted help with my social anxiety as I was fairly certain this was the root of my depression and if I could control it I would feel better over all.
My doctor recommended a woman who had just started her practice back up after being retired for a year. She only saw patients part time, and she had treated my doctor’s daughter and she was very happy with her. I left with a promise to be contacted by the recommended therapist, we’ll call her Amy, and a prescription for the generic form of Lexapro, Escitalopram. I was told that Escitalopram while an anti-depressant, was also an anti-anxiety medication. Since I wasn’t sure what effect it would have on me, I waited to take it until that Saturday, which ended up being the same day that I could get an appointment to see Amy. We’ll get to the medication in another post.
Upon meeting Amy I could tell we were going to get along. My prior therapist, who had nothing to do with my issues with social anxiety, was a gruff older gentleman who at one point told me I needed to “Drink more”, which I’m pretty sure was an attempt to tell me to chill out about my life. I could easily imagine him pulling out a bottle of scotch in between sessions, wetting his whistle to prepare himself for the next crazy he had an appointment with. My anxiety flared up whenever I had to go visit him. Amy, however, had one of those smiles that made her feel like an old friend. She exuded an energy that made me guess that retirement had been a little to dull for her.
Over the next three weeks, we’d talk about social anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy, reprogramming the brain, and, at our most recent meeting, perfectionism. After our session ended, I walked out in disbelief and went on to ask everyone who knew I was in therapy if they thought I was a perfectionist, and each person answered with a resounding “Yes!”. The more I thought about it, the more my social anxiety and depression made sense. I was a perfectionist and I was never good enough for myself, ripping apart every thing I should feel proud of by picking out every flaw, focusing only on everything I should have done differently.
The word should has quickly become the enemy as I try to program my brain to stop using it so casually. This is one of many things I have to do to fix my malfunctioning mind. If you feel like it, you can join me on my journey to Getting Away With Life.