Perfectionisim – Putting the Pressure on

 

  
“The only thing perfectionisim does is create chaos, perfectly”.

One of the most difficult things to accept when I was diagnosed with PND was that I did in fact have depression. 

 I am a planner – I have planned all my  life – I  have always strived to be organised, plan my life out and follow through on all the important milestones which I had set for myself.  Good grades at school, university place, good degree, get a house, get married and have children.  These were all planned  for and I worked hard to get to where I was when I became pregnant. In my 28 years thus far there had been few bumps in that journey – All  these things I had a good element of control over.  PND was not in my plans – it was a most unwelcome guest – this was not the way it was supposed to be for me – and most frightening of all I felt I had little control or understanding of how to  even begin to fix this. 

Studies have shown that perfectionism and related personality traits can be significant risk factors for depression. Specifically, mums who have the greatest difficulty coping with making mistakes are four times more likely than their more laid-back peers to get laid low by postpartum emotional difficulties. Also at risk are mums who are by nature orderly, conscientious, and strive on a clear and regular routine. This isn’t hard to make sense of, really. Imagine how much harder it is to be a new mum with all the responsibilities that this entails, on very little sleep, if you’re a perfectionist, versus someone who takes unpredictability in  their stride.
Through work in CBT it became apparent very quickly that I was displaying a large number of perfectionist tendencies – and had been for as long as I could remember. I put myself under intense pressure to reach my goals in all areas of my life and now had transferred this into motherhood. I had come into this chapter of my life with clear (yet completely unrealistic) expectations of what motherhood was and how I would be. In many ways it was always an unattainable goal and  I was setting myself up for failure before I had even begun. No matter what I achieved even on the best of days – I would always push myself to be even better and so it would go on and on. I wasn’t good enough , I wasn’t reaching that perfect mum, wife, sister, friend, daughter that I should be.  Experiencing failure was new to me and an emotion that was increasingly difficult to wrestle with. 

The reality of living with a baby hit home and I became increasingly stressed that I couldn’t live up to these high expectation’s which I had put upon myself.  I was exhausted trying to make everything seem perfect to both myself and others – I was living on edge and struggling to relax and enjoy the things i used to. Even when my son slept – I was wide awake mind racing of all the things I had to do. As things got worse and worse I knew this wasn’t normal and eventually I went to the doctors.  My GP was sympathetic and quickly diagnosed post natal depression with late onset (my son was 8 months by this point) and we discussed my options for treatment. I reluctantly agreed to start on a low dose antidepressant and to be put on the list for counselling which would be a 3-4 month wait. I remember feeling numb sitting in the car after the appointment. How had I ended up here? What would I tell my family and friends? Did this make me a bad mother (a phrase already invading my daily thoughts ) and would I get better?

A couple of weeks later  after a series of bad days and my body adjusting to the medication we decided we simply couldn’t wait the possible 4 months for counselling and opted for private cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a quick call to our health insurance and 5 days later I had my first session. Hands down the best decision my husband and I made in respect to my treatment.  My therapist M was amazing and I instantly felt at ease within the first couple of sessions – therapy was once of the hardest yet most rewarding things that I have ever done (alongside motherhood !) and while some days I had to examine things and face up to things  I really did not want to face in that room ( about myself and others) I know that a better version of me emerged at the other end.  

 I still have many perfectionist tendencies, I have re-worded this post several times this evening for example. But that ok – It’s not about changing who I am completely, it is about reconising when these have a positive impact on my life and when they can become troublesome. It’s about learning how to manage those thoughts and about positive self talk so that you know that doing a ‘good enough’ job is more than ok. 

So as I reach the end of my second post and it is time to hit publish – maybe I will sleep on it and read over again tomorrow, or will I search to find a better image first? No…. It’s fine … It’s not perfect … But it’s ‘good enough’  and so am I. 

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