May 7, 2010
Todd and Me
As you may have surmised from my previous posts, Todd and I have quite an extensive history. We have known each other for about six years now. In fact, our wedding date, July 3, is the 6 year anniversary of the first day we held hands. We were at a Fourth of July celebration at a local park, and yes, there were fireworks. 🙂 I was 17, and he was 18.
Many things have transpired during those six years. We dated on and off, we were friends, he lived in Costa Rica for two years as a missionary for our church, I graduated from college, he worked, I worked, he got his own apartment, I drifted here and there and struggled with my mysterious illness… We broke up, got back together, broke up, got back together… There were good times, bad times, peaceful times, frightening times. My personality and inclinations changed from one moment to the next. He continued to grow and change as well, but at a more normal pace. He was more consistent, I fluctuated unpredictably. One moment I would be giddy with joy, the next I would be in the blackest depression. One day I would be bouncing off the walls, the next I would be wracked with panic and despair. One day I would be clinging to him, the next pushing him away with all my might. One day praising and adoring him, the next cursing and threatening him. Life with me was a rollercoaster. Our relationship (when we had one) was a soap opera, a sitcom, a Liftetime movie, a romantic comedy, and a horror film all rolled into one.
Towards the end of August 2009, in a moment of desperation and intense disassociation, I did something that made Todd vanish from my life forever… or so I thought. After I realized what I had done, the pain and remorse I felt was so horrific that my emotions shut off completely. The morning after Todd and I said goodbye, I went into a hypomanic phase. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. My social anxiety vanished. I became the most social, outgoing, spontaneous, talkative person you ever met. I was constantly in motion, never stopping to think or barely breathe. I got into all sorts of trouble. It was as if I had no fear, no inhibition. I went wherever the wind took me, not stopping to consider the possible consequences of my actions. Most of the things I did were self-destructive – alcohol abuse, cutting, victimization, etc. I won’t go into details of all the things that happened to me during that time, but most of them were quite traumatic and resulted in three suicide attempts. During this time, Todd had no idea what was going on. In addition to our resolve not to have any kind of contact with each other, he entered Boot Camp in November 2009 where he was practically unreachable, and went directly from there into Air Force training.
He eventually heard what was happening from my mother, who had always been like a second mom to him. I knew that they were emailing back and forth, and I was ok with that. To be perfectly honest, I thought about him a lot, and missed him tremendously. As I began to recover, I came to realize how much I really did love him and miss him. I looked back at our relationship in a completely new light, made possible by my new understanding of what I was dealing with – Borderline Personality Disorder. Everything started to make sense. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t necessarily my fault either. It was this nasty mental illness that ruined everything. It wasn’t that we were essentially toxic, or wrong for each other. I had always been so confused about why it never seemed to work between us even though our love for each other felt so real and deep. It was so frustrating, and I always felt so torn between the love in my heart and these fears and insecurities that tortured me nearly every waking moment. Now, I understand them. I can see what was happening. I can also see how patient he was with me. He never gave up on me. I was always the one pushing him away. He always welcomed me back with open arms, with forgiveness, with unconditional love and acceptance.
And yet, for these last few months, I didn’t feel ready to talk to him yet. I was afraid. I was afraid of messing things up again. I was afraid of the BPD monster trying to sabotage our relationship again and push him away. I was afraid of the cycle repeating itself. I was afraid because I’m not fully recovered yet. I was afraid because I haven’t reached my “ideal” yet. I was afraid because I’m not “perfect” yet. Afraid. Fearful. Hesitant. Hiding. Waiting. Stuck…. Well, I expound about this in my April 27 post “Turning Point” so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say, I mustered up the nerve to talk to him again. And it went full speed ahead from there!… Uh… Obviously… 😉
I have a confession. Todd has proposed to me before in our relationship. Having been together for so long, it was bound to happen at some point, right? The last time he proposed to me, about a year and half ago, I said yes… And suffered a major panic attack afterwards, one of the worst I have ever had. And why? Well, for a couple reasons. First of all, I still didn’t understand what I was going through at the time and was very ill. Second, at that point in my life (and only until very recently) I still clung very tightly to the notion that before I could truly be HAPPY, I had to be PERFECT.
Throughout my life, I have never let myself experience happiness until I had reached a certain perceived level of perfection or accomplishment. Not skinny enough? Sorry, can’t be happy. Not in control of my emotions? Sorry, can’t be happy. Don’t have my life all figured out? Sorry, you can’t be happy. These are the kinds of things I told myself. These thought patterns have been part of who I am since I was a very young child and have affected the entire course of my life. I keep myself down, I keep myself in a rut, because I don’t let good things happen until I have achieved my ideal, if ever that may happen.
Problem is, my “ideal” is unrealistic and unattainable. My idea of perfection is, well, PERFECTION. And perfection is, simply put, IMPOSSIBLE. So as long I do not allow myself to be happy until perfection is attained, I will never, ever be happy. Until I relinquish my quest for perfection, I will continue to keep myself down. Unless I somehow lower the unrealistic expectations I have of myself, I will never allow myself to realize my dreams and experience any measure of happiness in life. I will never let myself be in love, get married, have children, have a successful writing career, be creative… the list goes on…
I won’t let myself experience life to the fullest.
Perfectionism is a deadly disease.
Once I let Todd back into my life, and opened my heart and mind to being loved and accepted without reservation, without condition (which took a lot of effort and strength and self-acceptance on my part)… I felt something starting to shift in my brain. This may sound strange, but it was almost a physical feeling, like my brain was actually beginning to make new connections. Things started to click….
I AM NEVER GOING TO BE PERFECT.
I AM ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS OF SOME SORT.
I AM ALWAYS GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT FAIRY TALE ENDING, ONLY A NEW BEGINNING OF A NEW ADVENTURE.
I’m always going to have flaws and imperfections. I’m never going to feel happy all of the time. There will always be struggles, whether it be with myself, in my marriage, with my family, whatever… I’m never going to be perfect…
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT.
THERE IS JUST ME.
I AM ME.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT?
I AM OK WITH THAT.
For the first time in my life, I’m ok with being imperfect.
Sure, I want to improve. Who doesn’t? But I’m ok with who I am now. For the first time, I’m not beating myself up because I have a few extra pounds around my waist, or because I have scars on my arms, or because I woke up with a few pimples on my chin. I’m not torturing myself because I wasn’t totally happy yesterday, or because I felt guilty for no reason, or because I got irritated at someone. I’m not perfect. And you know what? I don’t want to be.
I’M PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.
Besides, if I were perfect, everyone would hate me. And that would suck. 😉
This new mindset will still take some getting used to. I still catch myself slipping back into the perfectionist, extreme, black-and-white way of thinking. I will probably still struggle with it for a while, and it will take time. But I know what it feels like now to accept and love myself. And I need to hang on to that when it gets hard.
So here I am. More comfortable with myself than I ever have been, and loving it. I never thought I would get to this point. It seemed to happen over-night, but when I look back, I see all the tiny steps I took to get to this point… Finding a good therapist I connected with, opening myself up and talking, expressing myself through this blog and through writing poetry, connecting with others, getting back out in the world socially, welcoming love back into my life… And even smaller, baby steps that made those larger steps even easier… Getting out of bed in the morning, exercising, eating right, drinking water, taking showers, taking my medication, listening to music… The small, simple things DO matter. Tiny step by tiny step until one day you realize you’re where you want to be… or at least that you’ve come very, very far.
And, really, there never is an end to the journey. You will be on it forever. Always learning. Always growing. Always finding new ways to love yourself and to love other people too. Life really is a beautiful, wondrous adventure…