Paralytic Perfectionism

Hello all! This is the first time in months I’ve posted anything, and I am nervous. Why am I nervous?

Because I hate to pick things back up.

I do. I always have. I love starting fresh, with a clean slate of paper, and working on it. I love starting things- new jobs, new hobbies, new projects, bring ’em on.  But I have ADHD. I’ve discussed ADHD before on my blog and today’s post is about the most insidious and frustrating outgrowth of my ADHD, Paralytic Perfectionism.

The clean slate of paper. You start with the clean slate, you pick up your pen, and you start to write. The first couple sentences come easy- after all, you have a good idea, right?

Right?

Wait, you’re four or five sentences in and you’re losing your idea. That’s okay, you say, I’ll find it with some good old trial and error. So you try, you make a mistake. No big deal, right?

Right?

No. It is a big deal. How can you possibly write the entirety of the essay if you can’t get the thesis statement right? How can you continue? After all, the body of the text has to flow naturally from the starting point, and if you’ve made an error at the starting point, you’ve failed. You haven’t erred, no, you’ve failed. It will never be as good as you want it to be, you’ll never be as good as you want to be, why can’t you just not make mistakes, why can’t you just do it right the first time???

Paralytic Perfectionism.

If you make a mistake, it’s not okay, because it means so much more than the misplaced word or incoherent sentence. It means you’re not good enough. Now this train of thought may rightly seem crazy to some people, but if you suffer from ADHD, it can consume you. So you step away from the project, thinking you may return. And then it moulders in a drawer, in an unopened computer file. Now and again you’re reminded of it, and the thought of the mistake, the unfinished project, lances into you. You’re reminded of all the other things you’ve left undone, all the other things you have to do. You spiral.

So you stop trying new things. The beautiful tabula rasa becomes a taunt. You can’t do it. You can’t do it. Paralysis. Don’t move, don’t talk, don’t think. The only way to avoid these hundreds of cascading little failures is to lock yourself away, to stop. To sit. To regret.

Until you don’t. Until one day you remember that no one cares so much about your little mistakes. Until you remember that no mistake made could possibly weigh on you as much as the ghosts of all those abandoned projects, forsaken correspondences, those tupperware containers filled with rotting mysteries at the back of the fridge. And in a frenzy of activity lasting a few days you manage to do a month’s worth of writing, calling, cleaning. Soon enough, you’ve cleared things up, and the tabula rasa, the blank slate, is restored.

Until you mess it up again. The cycle continues. But each time it gets a little shorter, your recovery a little better, you get a tiny bit more comfortable with making mistakes. You still rue that you didn’t learn how to gracefully accept shortcomings as a kid, you may blame someone for not teaching you, but now you realise that you’re an adult with ADHD. You know why you feel like this. There’s a reason for your pain. A reason that can be dealt with.

So you come back to the blog you’ve neglected for months. And you tell yourself you can write a few posts, at least, before you drift away again. You tell yourself that this work matters, because it does. You leave the door open to do better.

And that’s all you can do.

—-
I live in Tucson Arizona now, and I’m hoping to be more regular about this blog. If you like what I write, please reach out and let me know! Ask me any question that comes to mind, and if you really like this post please feel free to share it on whatever social media you deem appropriate.

I’m still me, so regularity may be a pipe dream, but I can promise a content storm for the next little while!

3 thoughts on “Paralytic Perfectionism

  1. So good to “see” you again. Been wondering what’s going on with and for you. Keep at it, you wonderful woman. Much love and hugs, Lynn

    Like

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