Perfection can be a storm. You may find yourself suddenly in the middle of it’s grip. It happened to me.
How Did I Get Here?
On December 26th, 2018: my heart was failing, my blood was diluted, my face had no color, and my eyes had no hint of emotion. My organs were struggling to function, and my body had shut down some nonessential functions in order to stay alive.
And my emotions were gone, I was numb to everything. My personality no longer existed. My body was I was hijacked by an eating disorder and the pursuit of perfection. And the whole time all I could think was,
How did I get here?
That’s how I had always identified myself. For years, I had always played three seasons and spent the summers playing on club teams. I was hoping to get recruited to a top school. On the field, I expected nothing short of perfection from myself and others expected this level of elite performance from me as well.
That was another part of my identity. In school, I took honors and AP classes, trying my hardest, but in my mind, I always fell short. I expected perfect grades.
This was part of my identity that others expected of me, and the part I hated. On teams, I was expected to lead, to go above and beyond, and to always set an example. I was expected to have answers and completely trust that I was not in control at youth group. And at home, I was expected to set an example for my brother.
It was all so exhausting.
This was not only part of my identity, but part of my biology. In eighth grade, the doctors told me I had an autoimmune disease. Although I am thankful that what I have is not terminal, it is, however, chronic.
It was the part of me I hated, the part I tried so hard to hide. A diagnosis that created a deep-seated hatred of my body. I do not mean I hate how my body looks. What I mean is I hate how my body does not work, and how in my mind, it’s all the things I’m not.
My body is the source of pain, the source of so many sleepless nights and tear-filled days, the source of all my absences and missed games, and the source of all my I can’ts.
The lies of Perfection:
I craved it, I wanted every aspect of my life to be perfect. Perfection offered a sense of control. I thought iff I was ‘perfect’, I could control how other people viewed me. And that if I had ‘perfect” grades I could get a “perfect’ job. If I had the ‘perfect’ body, people would not see how broken my body really was.
Perfection creates a storm
My unrealistic expectations combined with my low self-esteem and overachieving tendencies were dangerous. The hunger for control, and constant feeling that I would never be enough created a ‘perfect storm’ for an eating disorder to settle in.
A combination of biological, psychological, and social factors erupted. An eating disorder not only promised perfection, but it promised control. For months I believed the lie that I could balance my life and my eating disorder, but slowly the ‘balance’ shifted. My grades began to slip. I stopped hanging out with friends and I could barely make it through practices and games. I was living in a constant state of anxiety and every corner of my mind was controlled by my eating disorder.
What the Perfection Storm Stole From Me:
I lost interest in everything. School, friends, family, movies, sports, church, the world around me just seemed so dull. My goals, friends, and family seemed to matter less and less. All that seemed to matter was the control perfection offered. My life became a series of lies and manipulations. Comparison was my companion. My self-esteem no longer existed.
My battle with perfection did not only ruin aspects of my life, but it affected my friends and my family.
My friends had to watch as I walked away hand in hand with my new best friend: my eating disorder. And my siblings had to watch me fade away completely consumed by it. My parents had to watch me destroy myself; I had to become helpless before I allowed them to help me.
The more I listened to the disorder, the more I lost who I was until my mind became an entanglement of thoughts and desires that were not my own.
I lost the ability to think for myself. My voice was replaced by obsessive thoughts of perfection and control. And the more I listened to the lies of perfection, the louder and louder they got. Eventually, these thoughts were so loud they were screams. I was fighting a civil war in my mind and there was no winner.
I Will Not Host a Perfection Storm
But I have learned that you cannot live with an eating disorder.
Because life with an eating disorder, if you can even call it life, is waking up everyday and choosing to give up control to the monster that inhibits your mind.
It is submitting to fear and anxiety, not allowing yourself to feel joy or love. ‘Life’ with an eating disorder simply does not exist. You cannot live every day in a body ruled by a parasite that believes perfection exists. Because no part about my eating disorder was perfect. Perfect is not being trapped in a deteriorating body.
In January of 2019, I left the hospital. I wish I could say I walked away from my battle with perfection, but the truth is I’m crawling away broken and weak. Life with an eating disorder is not perfect and neither is recovery.
Recovery is a battle, an everyday choice to listen to my own voice and ignore the lies of perfection.
It is learning how to live again after you realize perfection as the world defines it does not exist.