Therapy today: Perfection vs oblivion


My therapist called me a hermit crab today. She’s also called me a clam in the past. [Insert joke about being shellfish here]. I deflected by talking about when I accidentally brought a hermit crab back from the Caribbean. Plucky little thing survived the flight home, but probably not the English winter when I set it free in the garden.

I keep withdrawing in my sessions. I retreat into my shell and J has to pick and pick to get me to speak. I’ve written about it before, because it keeps happening. Today it felt different though. I felt like it was deliberate, like I was sabotaging myself.

My habit when my thoughts are very dark is to hide away and keep them to myself. I know I’ve started doing this in therapy. I don’t want to tell J that I still hate myself and I still have a constant dialogue between the tiny part of me that wants to succeed and the louder one that wants to self-destruct.

Walking home it dawned on me that this argument is between perfection and oblivion. In fact it’s not an argument, it is a war. I get so conflicted because I’ve spent so many years striving to perform perfection, that since my breakdown I see oblivion as the only alternative. It’s like because I’ve failed at being perfect, once and for all, I might as well channel all my energy into the opposite. I’ve given up on being a high achiever, so I should probably give up completely.

I’m also drawn to oblivion because I feel as though I was forced into being perfect. Whether that’s true is another matter, although I’ve read it is quite common for children to respond this way when they are sexually abused. I know that at age 11 acting like I was absolutely OK was my strategy for fixing what I thought I had broken.

I feel like my exhausting quest for perfection was in some way inflicted on me, and that means I see suicide as the perfect revenge. It sounds childish because it is childish. It’s a childish rebellion that sits with me; the desire to self-harm, get drunk or kill myself.

After so many years pushing myself, I also see my self-destruction as a relief. Now that the pressure to perform is off, nobody expects anything from me. I’ve got room to be a failure. And you know what? I’m really fucking brilliant at it.

Photo credit: Michael R Perry, Creative Commons.



9 Comments Add yours

  1. When I was around 23, I was in outpatient group therapy. One of the counselors passes out symbols pressed into clay that symbolize you. She chose the Nautilus shell for me. Its the spiral one. She said it was because I was strong, (they’ve survive the dino era) and can withhold extreme pressure. They also grow and expand, building the chambers, and are a symbol for rebirth. I can’t remember everything she told me that day, I had forgotten until reading this. All I know is her description brought me to tears, and also made me feel vulnerable that she could see through me like that.
    I was also a perfectionist. I excelled at school and my chores, was extremely thoughtful, making cards and gifts for others. I think we do this to make people love us, at least for me, I could get positive attention this way. I could feel just a little good about myself when I did something good and others saw it. I am still a perfectionist. But i also do things my way now. And i allow myself to make mistakes. I am human after all. And what is a mistake besides a chance to learn and do it more perfect? lol
    I also feel that after so long at trying to be what society and my family deem “normal,” “sane” “Productive” that I want to embrace this pain and hurt. I’m tired of hiding behind my smile and laugh. I’m tired of bending over backwards for everyone else and no one (them nor I) take care of me. I am allowing myself right now, to be sad, to be angry, to cry, to yell. I am allowed to feel and work through this however I want. While I could continue to pretend I’m okay, why? Why pretend I’m okay? To save them the pain and misery of knowing how I really feel? How I really am?
    I’m tired of trying to be what everyone else thinks I should be. I wanna be me, and after wearing so many masks for so long, I’m not sure who I am, but through this journey, I know I’ll find out, wish is why I keep pushing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to know I have a hermit crab friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved that! Brought back a good memory. How she described it, even though I can’t remember it all. She may have been the first person to recognize my awesomeness and strength. It meant a lot to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s funny how these things stay with us. I remember a therapist at the hospital telling me he thought of me on his drive into work that morning. It meant so much that he would take me out into his life, not just dump all thoughts of me as he left work in the evening. These small moments of someone reaching out can be really powerful can’t they.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My prescribing nurse, saw me once, when I left counseling, when I first started. She’s like well there’s the strongest woman i know. I replied with, “Well then you must not know very many people” I got laughs, but I imagined that she had more clients that were much worse off than me. Either way, it sat with me, her and many others have seen my strength, but I feel so weak most of the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another problem survivors have is scared to succeed. I have this too.
    Theres a quote… something like “what if I fall? …. but darling, what if you FLYYYYYYY? ”
    I like to look at my recovery as shoving it in their faces, those who never believed in me, will see me succeed so I can show them they can’t hurt me anymore. I will shove it in their faces that I will not be broken. I will not be stopped. I will keep fighting because I’m a fucking warrior.
    My facebook cover photo says “I’ve been fighting since I was a child. I’m not a survivor, I’m a fucking warrior.”
    Thats you too, you know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the thought of not just being a warrior, but being a FUCKING warrior! Reminded me of a post I read the other day in which someone had written a letter to herself. There was a whole list of funny and poignant tips she gave herself, but the best one was ‘Be someone you’d fuck’. Made me laugh out loud. But perhaps more relevant for gays!


  4. unmindfulness says:

    Ou dear I understand you completely. I do the exact same thing, I have very high expectations on myself and then I just sabotage it all. If I don’t get what I expect from me then I just screw it all up… I hope you find a way through it to self love and respect. Sending you want thoughts! XO Nina


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