Monday, November 30, 2009

"Now It's All Ruined": Perfectionism

Art therapy has been a mild letdown until today. I have artistic impulses but little artistic skill, so I was looking forward to having a roomful of chalks and pieces of felt and watercolors and told to "run with it," with little import placed upon the final product. But more often than not, I'm left feeling confused by what I've created, or I intellectualize it.

But today, I was in a sort of haze all day--which, before I started treatment, was my default state. But in the past month, I've only rarely felt foggy or out-of-it; part of that is eating correctly, part is awareness, part is unmasked anxiety vigorously surfacing through the shroud of depression. So when we were told to create the "here and now," I wanted something muted, foggy, hazy--gray felt and olive mesh over periwinkle paper, with strips of black funneling through.

When I was explaining my piece, I used those words: muted, foggy, hazy. But the therapist noticed that letters were peeking out underneath pasted-on bits of felt, and asked me to share the words if I felt comfortable. I did: "Don't Pass Me By" (the Beatles song came to mind); "There's Luck Around Every Corner" (a tune that only came to me in-session--I'm not normally a songwriter, so it's Words and Lyrics By ED-NOS, I suppose); "just say it." I'm not sure what that means--but the obscured phrase that made my face go hot was: "Now it's all ruined."

I was referring to the piece of white paper that was covering the words. I'd intended to lightly chalk it with yellow and wound up getting it dirty--ruining it. But my reaction made me see that I meant more: the days I felt were ruined by bingeing, the "diets" I felt were ruined by me sating my hunger; the afternoons with my father that would be ruined by him exploding. One of the most hurtful things anybody has ever said to me was that I ruined his birthday. (He was a jerk and said it to be hurtful, which it was.) I am petrified of things being ruined. It's why I'm so eager to sweep personal tensions under the rug--tension might ruin the day. It's why I quit my first job and why I never gave editing a bigger chance. It's why I don't wear my prettiest dresses. It's why I follow my meal plan practically to the letter and yet still play games with myself about what I can "get away" with while doing so.

It's why I restrict or binge, and find it so difficult to do neither. A day is good or a day is ruined. I haven't considered myself a perfectionist since dropping AP history in high school--perfectionists, after all, are perfect, and I wasn't. But my non-perfect academic record and long (long!) bouts of slackerdom don't mean that I don't have perfectionistic tendencies. If anything, the slackerdom indicates the opposite: I don't want to write unless what I'm writing is good. Which makes me never want to write. This blog is freeing for that reason--I'm structuring my thoughts here, yes, but I'm not trying to let loose perfect pearls of recovery wisdom that will make the reader weep with perfectly worded recognition. I'm just sharing. It's good for me.

1 comment:

  1. I completely relate to your description of slackerdom as a symptom of perfectionism. I often find myself too 'overcome by my own inertia' to begin tasks for fear that my work will not be just right. That is especially true of writing. It is so difficult for me to get started on a piece. Also, I thought I was the only person that left my prettiest dresses hanging in the closet. Why do we do that?