Perfectionism and chronic disease

i-used-to-be-a-perfectionist-and-then-i-got-a-chronic-disease-then-i-realized-i-had-to-give-that-shit-up-2e378While my daughter is in dance class I work at the front desk at the dance studio.  I do a lot of computer work (her website, studio management software, tuition billing, etc.) and during this time of year I help out with costumes.  We’re getting ready to start competition season and there are a whole lot of rhinestones to glue on, hairpieces to sew, straps to lengthen, trim to sew on, skirts to make and so on.  The bigger projects go home with me and sort-of take over the living room while the smaller stuff that I can do while sitting at the front desk happen there.

One of the other moms that helps with costumes was picking up one for her own daughter that a third costuming mom made.  She was showing it another mom and commenting on what a wonderful job the third costuming mom did on it – and said that’s because she’s such a perfectionist.  They were talking about how perfectionism is great when you want to make fabulous costumes but they weren’t sure they had time for perfection in everything in their lives.

I laughed and said “I used to be a perfectionist – and then I got a chronic disease.  Then I realized I had to give that shit up.”

It just came out – not sure that I really had ever thought about it in those terms before – but once I said it I realized it’s true.

I’ve talked a lot on here and in my book about the impact chronic invisible illness has on you – having to choose between things you can get done, having to adjust your own expectations for yourself,  dealing with others’ expectations of you, and dealing with it when parts of your “identity” are being affected, and so on.  But this is one I haven’t talked about before.

I’m going to have to be OK with “good enough.”  I have to let go of perfection.  I cannot do things perfectly, or even “pretty darn good” for that matter.  It’s going to have to be “good enough.”  Otherwise I’m just not going to be able to even get the minimum I need to do for work, personal, marriage, parenting, social, etc.

Even with “good enough” as the standard I’m having a really hard time doing the minimum in these areas – and in fact in some areas (such as social) I’m failing spectacularly!

And I have to let go of perfection in being sick.  Huh?  That sounds strange – but it’s true and I think it’s something that’s hard for many of us Type-A people that deal with chronic disease.  I cannot expect perfection in always having the right attitude, always making the best of the situation, always being the perfect patient, always eating the perfect way (which in fact has pretty much kept me from trying to eat more whole-foods-y, because I know I won’t be able to do it all-in perfect!), always keeping a balance between not letting it impact my life yet being honest and realistic about acknowledging my limitations and emotional impact.

Yep, there’s a lot of guilt with not being the perfect sick person.

You see people that always have a positive attitude – and if I can’t maintain that then I feel like I may make it worse because your body responds to your attitude.

You hear people talk about how their diet has drastically changed their lives – and if I feel so crappy about my day that I want to find some joy in a delicious lemon cookie with icing then I feel like I’m not doing everything possible to be as healthy as possible.

You hear people conquering their disease – yet I’m struggling to just get by day to day – forget that, hour by hour, let alone conquering!

And all that “guilt” over not being the perfect sick person just adds more stress – making me worse.  Got to let it go!

Yep – “I used to be a perfectionist – and then I got a chronic disease.  Then I realized I had to give that shit up.” pretty much sums it up for me these days…and I’m becoming more and more OK with that.

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