I've always felt this pressure from myself to constantly perform. To be the perfect sister, and daughter, and friend, and colleague. I never felt these expectations come from anyone but myself, which makes the process all the more isolating and painful.
The problem with striving to be the "perfect ____" is that I often fall short. And then, I downplay a lot of my struggles so that I will not appear vulnerable in my relationships. Because I don't want others to see me as weak. I need to be there for my friends and family, and I need to be professional at work. I can't let my weaknesses show because that just might downgrade the way others perceive me, and my inner perfectionist voice won't allow for that.
As a result, I don't share a lot of what I'm going through with anyone in my life (except my therapist). When people ask me how I'm doing, my automatic response is: "I'm good! How are you?". Some other key, go-to phrases of mine are:
- My weekend was great... very relaxing!
- My night was good. I watched Netflix and took it easy.
- I'm doing okay today, thanks for asking. How are you?
Nowhere in any of those responses do I give off any indication that things are not good. And things are not freaking good. I have good moments, and I don't want to minimize those. But if we take a look at what the last couple of months have looked like, I am dealing with an extreme battle with my very serious illness.
But I feel almost unable to open up and let people in. It's not because I'm in denial - I am very aware of what's going on. I see how controlling my anorexia has become recently and I know my health is not great. Yet still, I don't open up. I don't expose myself for fear of being vulnerable in front of others.
I judge myself for remaining stuck in this illness, and I worry that others will judge me too. At what point will my friends and family stop asking how I am because my response has for so long involved some mention of my eating disorder? Truth be told, I don't know if anyone would put a halt to our relationship if I opened up. But, I FEAR that they will. I fear that they will become tired of the same old struggles of mine and they will move on. Maybe that stems from a fear of abandonment, but that's a subject for another blog.
So, I keep things to myself. Because I want to appear perfectly put together because I put pressure on myself to do so. Nobody will like me if I appear weak. People will become tired of my story.
But then, as it was pointed out this week in group therapy, I am not engaging myself authentically in my relationships. I am "hiding" this huge part of who I am in an effort to save face. In doing so, I am feeding into the notions of self-hatred that I embody because I am not being completely open and honest about who I am to the core. I can't deny that the eating disorder is part of me, and has been part of me for ten years. I hope one day it no longer exists, but currently, I can't deny that it is still there. So really, I am doing a disservice to myself because I am not being, in essence, myself.
It's quite the vicious circle. Self-hatred leads me to hide who I am which makes me feel more ashamed of who I am (because I have to hide it). I don't know if that circle resonates with any of you, but it pretty much sums up the way I am living my life right now.
I can't guarantee that from now on, I will be open and honest about everything. Mental health is accompanied by a stigma, and there is a big part of me that still likes to cover up when things get difficult. I do this to preserve my relationships... but I'm starting to think that my relationships might be safeguarded even more if I were able to be my authentic self. At least, I would then allow myself to break free from hiding who I am.
I don't know. It's a lot to digest. I'm still wrapping my head around this.
If you have any insight into this whole vulnerability thing, I would truly like to hear from you (either in the comment section or by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org).
As always, thanks for reading. Wishing you all a great week.