Everything Is Ruined Now
The following article discusses mental health and eating disorders.
Black and white. That’s how I’ve lived my life. If something doesn’t go my way, it can never be the same again. Everything is either perfect or ruined.
I’ve been a perfectionist since I was a child. I didn’t play sports because I wasn’t immediately good at them, and I wasn’t willing to practice. I scraped past my math classes because I knew there was no point in getting any better. Some might call this lazy. But for me, it was saving my pride. I was only willing to work on something I was already proficient in.
As I grew older, the number of things that could go wrong grew. When things became too overwhelming, I learned to rely on lists. But if the list wasn’t completed, it was abandoned. I remember nights of staying up until 1 AM. I should have been doing homework, but the idea seemed pointless because it was so late. I distracted myself with movies, or music, or zoning out completely. Anxiety-ridden, I took to procrastination as my only way of getting anything done.
Things didn’t get any better.
The peak of my perfectionism happened nine years ago when I developed an eating disorder. I had to stick to a certain number of calories, or I was a failure. The same went for exercise. If I didn’t run, or if I didn’t do enough physical activity, the entire day was a waste. In turn, I changed. I changed physically, and I changed mentally. Having an eating disorder is losing all control and fully submitting to black and white.
And then things got worse.
My parents went through a divorce; an event I had no control over. So, I relied deeper on my eating disorder, which was the only thing I thought I could control. I decided how much I ate and how much I didn’t eat. I decided if I stuck to my routine, everything would be fine. I decided no opinion, but my own mattered. Nothing else mattered. Not even life. Because it wasn’t me deciding.
It took years of therapy for me to choose recovery. It took several failures, a handful of interventions, and one patient partner to make me want to try. But as much as I am thankful for my recovery process, I still find myself staying in the black and white. Mistakes get blown out of proportion, and I end up dwelling. There are days when I beat myself up, even though I understand I don’t deserve it. Black and white thinking will never go away. The difference is, I don’t let it define me anymore.
For those of you like me, who feel trapped in their own perfectionism, I can’t tell you it will stop. But I can tell you that perfect doesn’t have to be everything. Sometimes, accepting how we think can make those thoughts less suffocating. I still choose to give in to my black and white mindset. But I know it will pass. In moments of panic, my world feels small and full of nothing but negative. But it is only a temporary world. I have ways of getting myself out now.
Not everyone can escape. I count myself lucky. While I can’t change the way I think, I can choose to believe that not all extremes are true. There are colors out there. There is life outside of black and white. And maybe, I’m not screwing everything up.