Currently I am seeing my therapist three times a week. Three times is a lot. I explained to her that I feel a substantial amount of shame over seeing a mental health professional this frequently. “It is like my seeing you three times a week says that I cannot handle my anxiety and depression on my own, that I have some big bad issues I seriously need help with.” She looked at me pointedly and said “Well you can’t handle your anxiety and depression on your own.” I shifted my weight uncomfortably in my seat. I wanted to scowl. Clearly, the truth is that no, I cannot handle my anxiety and my depression on my own. This is a conclusion, however, that I cannot stand to accept. I have a strong aversion to any statement of this sort, one that implies a major lack of perfection and stability on my behalf. “Maybe you do have some big issues”, my therapist suggested. Again, I felt discomfort contort my mind and body. “I just can’t handle that,” I explained. “I am not able to entertain that idea. If I do have some big issues, then I need to get to work pronto to clean them up and fix them, make myself perfect. They can’t be there, those problems. They are simply unlivable.”
Where did my obsession with perfection come from? Why is it that I am so pained and tortured by the thought that I have major personal issues, that I cannot function completely independently? What planted this obsession, what nurtured it, so that it became so ingrained in my over time, as much a part of me as is my love of writing and my quest for truth? It would be so easy if I could pin this down (and all of my other unhealthy/unpleasant cognitive habits) to one specific triggering event, to one specific cause. I would love to so simplify things, but I highly doubt that will work here.
I often think of one specific year when I try to recall where things “started”, to name some point in my life that serves as a landmark where anxiety, depression, various deep personal signs of struggle all stemmed from. This landmark year is the year I was in 6th grade. I attended a small private Christian school. Here, I was bullied severely. My parents tell me that, although I cannot recall it, I would come home and cry every day. I was so upset that I could not focus on my homework, I could not concentrate on anything. Insecurity and self-loathing brewed within me. My class was small. We students only had so many people to pick from when selecting friends, enemies, and so forth. We created a social structure in which positions where assigned and thereafter rigid and unchanging. After someone was picked as a “target” as I was, it became nearly impossible to manipulate the system. At some point, I assume, one person decided to start calling me fat and stupid and other lovely creative insults. Every day after that was “history”, as the cliché goes.
I was tormented daily by the majority of my classmates by day, I was tormented daily by my older sister at home after school, and I frequently witnessed my dad’s psychotic fits of rage in our home by night. Unhealthy and painful situations with my sister and dad, even those directed specifically towards me, were not new in my 6th grade year. They had been going on for quite some time. (I cannot remember a time in my childhood that my dad did not have frequent psychotic screaming fits). Put those together, however, with my experience in school, and it is clear as to why in my mind my year in 6th grade was the “trigger year”.
How much of my having unhealthy cognitive habits, etc. really come from this year?
I am quite a complex person, and I have only just begun to peel away at part of my story here… More of this to come.