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Depression and Chasing Perfection

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Perfection. A strange, unattainable wasteland I can’t seem to escape from. Hold yourself together. Be everything to everyone. Be the glue. Be the calm. The caregiver. The rock. Do it all. Be it all. What an unnerving cycle I have gotten myself into.

From an early age I felt, different. Emotions felt… problematic. Life felt… overwhelming. Anxious. Intense. Magical. Dark. Heavy. I always seemed to be questioning motives, intentions. Always second guessing. Always unsure. Until those breaks when the weight of the depression would free up and I could do anything. Be anything. All that cycling I later learned to be called Bipolar, which like most labels to me felt like a death sentence. A cage.

As a means of control of a life I felt I had no control over, I found myself being what I thought I was supposed to be. It was easier to be OK. To be put together. Depression always seemed to get in the way. It pushed people away. It ended relationships. It got me spiraling lower and lower until I could hardly breathe beneath its weight. So I trained myself to hold it together until it was safe to fall apart. I trained myself to listen and observe instead of participate. I trained myself to wear the mask of perfection. All the while I was losing my grip. Losing myself.

My skin still bears the weight of the scars from the emotions I didn’t have the words to explain. My heart still carries the load of a life I was too anxious, too depressed, too afraid to lead. What I have learned in my quest to silence my illness is that really I was just silencing myself. I was silencing my art. My dreams. My beauty. My future.

I spent so many long years of my life silent. Afraid to admit I was struggling. Afraid people would feel sorry for me, look down on me, be afraid of me. I pushed so many relationships away because I didn’t want to burden anyone with the real me. I wasted so much time worrying about what everyone else would think of my mental status instead of seeing myself for the beautiful, creative person I am.

Every day I am learning to love myself through my brokenness. And I am learning to see myself as whole even in my most fragile and vulnerable state. I am learning to have grace when I’m off-the-rails angry, to find peace when my heart is enveloped in sadness and to safely navigate the highs through creative exploration.

Every day for me is a blessing and an opportunity to try again. To handle the next situation better. To forgive myself for not being whatever it is I think I’m supposed to be. To not take on the heaviness of unrealistic expectations by thinking I have to have it all together. To stop comparing myself to where other people at my age or on my career path are at. I am on a different journey and it isn’t my job to judge myself or measure myself by standards based on anything other than what I want for myself in this life.

I don’t always know what version of myself I will wake up with in the morning, and that can be scary. Still, every day I try to remind myself I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be me.

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Originally published: January 11, 2017
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