Perceived Perfectionism

Friday, December 2, 2011

I have had a couple of people ask me lately how I am doing with the Postpartum Depression and although it caused a bit of a stir last time I talked about it because of some of the wording that was used, I wanted to post an update for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that it is still a part of my life. It's in a different form, and much less part of my life now, but regardless, it's still a part. The second reason being that I got such an amazing response when I started to talk about PPD from lots of new moms that were going through the same thing, that I wanted to share my story with the aftermath of the PPD.

I want to start out by saying that finally, eight months after Jackson Douglas was born, I am PPD free. Having said that, don't get all excited thinking that I am back to normal, because I'm still a little crazy in the head. :) I may now be PPD free, but I am still struggling with Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) and maybe even a little Postpartum OCD tossed in the mix, because hey, why not?

Anxiety is a part of every one's lives. It is a normal response to things that happen in our lives and more often than not, it can actually be helpful. It can help you concentrate and focus on tasks or help you avoid dangerous situations. At work, I do best when I am under pressure. Give me a deadline, and I'll meet it. Give me all the time in the world, and I'll eventually get there. Before Emma and Jackson came along, I would say that I had a "healthy" level of anxiety. Enough to get me to focus, but that was it. Now, with the PPA, although it tends to come and go, it affects me in a very different way.

I stopped going to therapy several months ago when I was doing a lot better with the PPD, so you will have to take all of whats to come with a grain of salt because its pretty much all through self-diagnosis. So, in other words, I could be totally wrong. :)

One of the questions that I tend to ask myself a lot is if I actually have PPA, or if my "healthy" level of anxiety that I had before just got a dose of Emeril and "kicked it up a notch". BAM! In my mind, its PPA because it tends to revolve around the babies. For example, on the weekends, I usually feel very anxious about timing my errands with the babies schedule. Having a schedule both helps, and hurts the anxiety. It keeps the babies happy, but tends to freak me out if the routine needs to be interrupted. I stress about ļ¬nding the time to get a haircut (which I haven't done in months), paint my toenails, take two hours to go buy clothes for myself. And if I finally do, I feel so incredibly guilty about taking "me" time, that I usually just stop and rush home.

I have started a couple of months ago to have random irrational fears. The biggest irrational fear that I have is now driving over bridges by myself, with both Emma and Jackson in the car. It been building for a little while now, so much so, that I have to take a different route to my parents house to avoid going over a bridge when I'm in the car with the babies. I'm afraid that something is going to happen to the bridge or there will be an accident that causes our car to go over the side and I don't know how I will save both of my babies because I am by myself. There's more to it than that, but I'll just leave it there for now.

Another example of the irrational fear that I have is at parties. Even if we are in a room full of just family members, I get really anxious when I can't see or hear either both of my babies. What if someone that was holding my Squishy, just ran off with him. That usually then sends me into a spiral where all I can think about is what I would do if that happened. Lately, this has been more focused on Squishy for some reason. Maybe it's because he has become so attached to Mama that he is always by my side or attached to my hip at home. I have this irrational fear that something or someone is going to take him away from me.

Now, this is where I go a little crazy with the self diagnosing. So get out the popcorn. :)

I mentioned a while back that I was reading the book, When Panic Attacks. It's still sitting on my nightstand half read, so maybe one day when the kids are in college I'll actually have time to finish it. It didn't take long for some of the information in the book to really hit home and help me connect the dots. I pretty much fell off my chair when I got to the section that talked about Perceived Perfectionism. Basically the thought that "People will not love and accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being."

I know. It's getting deep in here. Hang in there. I promise it's coming around. :)

I can directly tie my PPA, to my need for Perceived Perfectionism, with a little PPOCD thrown into the mix. One of the things that causes me a high level of anxiety, despite fully knowing that it's ridiculous, is getting ready to take the kids to any type of party/gathering. I'm not talking about the usual chaos that ensues when you have a two and half year old and eight month old anytime you try to leave the house. I'm talking about my NEED to have it look like I have the perfect little family with nicely dressed, recently bathed babies. Usually we head out after nap time, and leaving the house is crazy enough. However, I can not force myself to leave the house after nap time (even when we are late) without having given both babies a bath right after nap time. In my head, I think, you big dummy, just give the kids a bath BEFORE nap time, because that's one less thing that you have to do when trying to leave the house because its crazy enough. Nope. No can do. The thought of giving them a bath then putting them down for a nap drives me crazy because kids get sweaty when they sleep. Their hair gets messed up. What if I take my babies to a party with messy hair?!?! The world might actually end. Obviously, thats an exagerations and my brain knows that's not true, but that's not what my body tells me.

By the way, if you are still reading this far into this crazy post, then you deserve an award. :)

Because of this need for Perceived Perfection, my PPA jumps up a level, even when I know it's ridiculous in my head. This tends to be a vicious cycle. It causes me to set unrealistic goals. Then, it gives me anxiety while trying to reach that unrealistic goal and failing (which was inevitable). The constant pressure to work for this perceived perfection is exhausting.
 
So, despite the fact that you probably think I am a lunatic now (yikes), I'm actually doing okay with it all. There are just certain things (like the bath time thing) that I have accepted and just deal with now because its just what I need to do at this point. If it makes me feel less anxious if I am 20 minutes late because I had to give both babies a bath, then so be it. With other things, I'm working on trying to change from the perfectionistic attitude and realize that perfectionism is unattainable. Whenever I come across a self-defeating thought, I take a step back, challenge it and try to recognize the behaviors that are fueling it. I'm also trying to experiment with my standards for success. Here's a good example...cleaning. That's another area that tends to give me HIGH levels of anxiety because what if someone came into my house and it was dirty!!! GAH! Well, instead of cleaning like a crazy person all the time, I'll try to clean like 90%, 80% or on some days, not at all. The world doesn't end when my mom comes over and there is dog hair on the floor. Although sometimes my body tends to make me feel that way.

I'm also trying to avoid all-or-none thinking. Like, if Jackson can't have a bath before we leave for a party but Emma can, we might as well not go! Umm...no you big dope. If I only have time for one bath, that's what we will do and I'll pick the dirtiest child. Which on some days, is a close race. :)

I know in my brain that this need for perceived perfectionism is not a helpful or necessary influence in my life, I just have to convince the rest of me that its true. It doesn't affect me everyday. Sometimes, I can ignore it. Sometimes, it drives me crazy. Sometimes, it rules the day.

Despite Mommy being a little crazy in the head, we still manage to have some fun. Like with pretend Birthday parties (which Squishy is clearly thrilled about) and pretend trips to the airport with Pink Bear in our new Dora backpack so we can go visit Gigi.


Here's to a weekend full of Christmas fun! Including a trip to the "Tree Farm" as Emma calls it to go find our perfect Christmas tree that will be decorated to perfection. Ha! Just Kidding. Sort of. :) Gah.

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