Fibromyalgia & the Perfectionist: 3 Steps to Being a Perfectly Imperfect-Perfect You

Image from GIS

Image from GIS

The title is a tongue twister.  I dare you to say it fast 7 times. 

What happens when a perfectionist develops fibromyalgia? Well, I’ve spent the past 8 years learning the answer.

I don’t often speak or write about being a perfectionist. In fact, embracing imperfection, especially when it comes to body image and fibromyalgia, is often at the core of my blog posts, including this one.  The topic, however, has been on my mind over the past month as I transition from being a student to being gainfully employed. 😉

So, what have I learned over the past 8 years? Well, I won’t summarize it in this post.  One day , however, I’ll probably write a book about it…the subject feels that heavy.  For today, I wanted to share with you 3 steps that I’ve taken to being perfect at being imperfectly perfect.

3 Steps to Being a Perfectly Imperfect-Perfect You

  1. Chuck the Planner–Literally. Toss that thing in the trashcan…but do it perfectly.  Instead, invest in notepads and write anything you need to do for the next day/moment/whatever and stick the note somewhere you are likely to see it and, thus, remember, e.g. on your computer, mirror, refrigerator, front door, whatever. Just make sure you find the perfect spot for them.
  2. Downsize Your Goals–Thinking about hiking Mt. Everest tomorrow? Well, how about downsizing that to hiking your local trail today? What I mean is, focus your thoughts on doing what you can right now, in this very minute.  I know that my perfectionism has been both a great help and a massive hindrance to achieving goals.  Of course, I still have goals.  However, I have modified them by breaking them down (mentally) into smaller achievable steps.  Also…I now focus on enjoying the process instead of the product.
  3. Ignore Everyone–Meaning, ignore their opinions.  If there is one thing I know about being a perfectionist is that the opinion of others really mattered to me. I would choose to do something or not based upon how others would respond. Of course, this can be a good thing…but it can also be very detrimental, especially if you are creative–what is it that you haven’t painted, written, played, done etc. because you fear the response of others?   Well, right now, this very second, is the time to say enough is enough and pick up that paintbrush, pen, sheet music, etc. and do what you want to do.

Bonus Tip: Learn to listen to your thoughts, feel your feelings, heed your body, embrace your resilient spirit.  You won’t be perfect at first, and you will be judged (don’t worry…they’re not perfect either). However,  if you keep working on it, you will become a perfectly imperfect-perfect you.

Hey, this life is in this moment. How do you want to spend it?

Looking for more on letting go of perfectionism? Read this.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

FMS | It’s TIme to Move In WIth Your Inner Child

Image  from "Kids Have No Prejudice" Documentary. Click to watch on YouTube

Image from “Kids Have No Prejudice” Documentary. Click to watch on YouTube

Fibromyalgia can suck the very joy of living out of you.  Seriously.  Sometimes you feel like there Is nothing to enjoy in life. And I  would say that it is an illness that can easily have a comorbid diagnosis of depression, which is only deepened by the somewhat unpredictable nature of the onset of symptoms, especially in the first couple of years when you are just beginning to learn about it.  In other words, fibromyalgia Is no walk in the park.

So, how can you deal with this lack of joy?  Well, I say the answer lies in beginning a conversation with your inner child.  Regardless of whether or not your inner child is healthy or hurting, they deserve to be expressed (especially if they are hurting).  Nurture your inner child.  Ask her or him what she or he would like to do today.  What simple pleasure would make your inner child smile?  Try answering that question, and see where it takes you.

Until Tomorrow,

D.

Courage to Stand Still: Why Doing Nothing Might Just Be the Best Plan

Found via Google image search.

Found via Google image search.

As a recent graduate (and even in the months before, there was one question that many people wanted me to answer:  So, what are your plans?  Or the other variation: So, what are you going to do now? Or there is also this one: So, what’s next?

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me those questions act like an unintentional stranglehold. It’s as though having completed full-time studies for the past 3+ years while trying to work and dealing with my chronic illness wasn’t enough.  It’s as though stopping to take in life for moment is unacceptable.  We must know what were going to do next, achieve next, be next.

Well, heck, what about just being able to be where we are right now? How about just being who we are right now? Celebrating that and nothing else. I know it’s not the fault of those who have asked the question.  Many of us are trained to think in this manner, i.e. we are only as good as our next potential achievement.

In my opinion, these types of questions can cause anyone in transition to take on that deer caught in headlights look. Seriously.

Surely enough, there are many who already have answer, who are ready for the question because they’ve had enough training to know that they “should” have a plan for the next step.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Actually, kudos to them for having a plan.

For me, what I’ve learned over the past several years is that planning (and over-planning) about the future is sometimes not the answer.  Yes, have plans, have goals, have ideas about the future. However, stand still for a moment and be with the present.

Living in the now, without focusing on what is come next, can be very useful. It can help you to appreciate where you have been, who you have become, why you are, how you came to be.  No, I’m not trying to get existential on you.  It’s just the reality that we really ought to take a time out just for ourselves.

Have the courage to say “I don’t know.” when asked about the future, even if you do have plans; or use my personal favourite: I’m not there yet, but once I am, I’ll let you know.

Happy Wednesday!

Until tomorrow,

D.

Is Your Family Narcissistic? 12 Ways to Know (PsychologyToday.com)

Read: “The Narcissistic Family Tree” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Does your family…

  1. Keep Secrets (Never air your dirty laundry.)
  2. Focus on Image. (What would other people think?)
  3. Give You Negative Messages.  (You’ll never be good enough.)
  4. Lack of Parental Hierarchy.  (You are made to parent, become the emotional support for your parents, etc.)
  5. Lack of Emotional Tune-In. (Parents have told you that they don’t need you or don’t care what happens to you, etc.)
  6. Lack of Effective Communication.  (Triangulation/Gossping, see last post).
  7. Have Unclear Boundaries. (Personal space invaded. Perhaps even identity stolen, literally and figuratively.)
  8. Have One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. (Leaving children with no other source of support)
  9. Discourage Siblings From Being Close. (Does it feel like your siblings are in a constant competition with you or between themselves?)
  10. Negate/Displace Feelings. (What feelings? Who has them? Why are they necessary? J/k…but this is what it’s like).
  11. Give You “Not Good Enough” Messages. (Whether spoken or unspoken, you learned that there was/is/will be a way to match the ideal that your parent already is.)
  12. Thrive on Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. (Was emotional, physical, sexual abuse a regular part of your life…but no one seemed to know it…even your own siblings?)

Triangulation: Don’t be a flying monkey…

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Somehow I missed the fact that April was National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in the US–do they even have such a thing in Italy? I ought to find out.

As I prepare to return the US next week, especially to my family’s home, I have been reflecting on family and communication.  To be specific, I have been trying to strategize a method to deal with pervasive triangulation.

What is triangulation? Simply put, it is a method of communication that is passive-aggressive, such that information is rarely stated directly between the two (or more) people involved . In a real life family situation, it would sound something like this:

Sister: “So, I heard from Mom that you took her car without asking. Didn’t you know that she would be upset?”

Brother: “Well, I heard from Dad that Mom told him that you didn’t do well on your last exam and that you’re just a failure waiting to happen.”

In other words, information that should be stated directly from “Mom” and “Dad” to the “Sister” and “Brother” is instead being communicated just between the siblings. Neither Mom nor Dad state their (negative) feelings to their children, rather they have the children do it for them, which in turn tends to create disharmony between the siblings.

This method of communication is standard in families where narcissistic tendencies feature actively in either (or both) parent.  Triangulation serves to control communication, foster distrust between siblings, continue drama and undermine self-esteem.  The idea that parents can be trusted to maintain privacy is annihilated, and a lesson is learned that information is a useful weapon.

I’ve experienced three decades of this type of communication…enough to know that there is only one person who benefits from it: the parent(s) with narcissistic traits/tendencies/personalities.

Approximately 10 years ago, I decided not to get involved in it anymore.  When family members approached me to listened to “what so and so did,” I declined the conversation and redirected the person to speak directly with that person instead of me. I have no interest in being a flying monkey for anyone.

What pray tell is a flying monkey?  Well, let’s do it this way:

You know you’re a flying monkey if…

  • You listen to gossip about others and then spread it (usually from a family member about another family member).
  • You take up arguments on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You bully others on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You feel a sense of belonging when you gossip/argue/bully others for someone.
  • You take an intense interest in keeping tabs (spying) on the doings of others for someone, and then spend time gossiping about the “failings” of the people upon whom you have spied.
  • You are invasive. When visiting other people’s homes, you will go through their belongings and then report back to someone about it, particularly focusing on what the home lacked.
  • You are inauthentic in your dealings with other people. You seek out information from them to share it with someone else…and you are more than likely to use it against them.

I could go on with this list, but let’s leave it here for now.

I imagine some people wouldn’t even know themselves if they stopped being flying monkeys or stopped using triangulation, etc. And not knowing yourself can be a very scary experience.  Still, if you are either instigator of triangulation or complicit by acting as a flying monkey and perpetuating this type of communication, please work to find another way.

It is possible to speak directly to someone about your feelings.  You don’t have to use others to do your bidding.  At least, know that you are choosing to triangulate, especially using your children or other family members, you are engaging in an emotionally abusive act.  Children, particularly, need to learn how to express their feelings in a direct way.  This type of communication breeds secret-keeping, low self-esteem, and a compromised ability to trust self and others.

It is possible to allow other people to do their own dirty work.  It’s not your job to speak on someone’s behalf (unless that person is a child and is somehow unable to speak).  It is never your job to engage in aggression for someone else.  Why should you? Why would you want to?

Just to wrap this up (finally), please, take a moment to consider your method of communication today. Do you triangulate? Or are you on the receiving end of it? Or do you foster it?

Until tomorrow,

D.

Vlog | Mother’s Day in Garbatella & Travel Tips

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Join me for a quick look at Mother’s Day in Garbatella, where I attended the weekend market, tried to play soccer, experience a bit of nostalgia, and give my tips on where to stay (and why) while visiting Rome.

How to be a ghost without really trying… (+ FibroArt Monday)

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn via CC Flickr

 

Happy Monday! 🙂 (Hope your day& mine is pain-free)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my tendency towards silence.  Actually, let’s back that up, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am as I am and how to change some core self-beliefs.  Seriously, ask yourself right now, Why am I me?

Some of us tell ourselves that we are too busy to think about such nonsense.  Some of us know that it would be better for us to think about it, but are afraid of what we might learn.  Some of us have asked the question, but have no answers. Some of us chuck ourselves into therapy, but with no intention finding answers, etc., etc.

You get the idea. It’s not an easy question either to consider or answer. Still, this is a question that I believe that we should try to answer throughout our lives.  This brings me back to my original statement about being silent.

Just over a week ago, I moved into the place where I’ll be staying until I leave Rome on the 21st.  My landlord is an amazing science fiction author, who reminds me of a cross between Bukowski and a much slimmer Santa Claus. Yesterday, he said to me, “So, is everything okay with you? I’ve not seen you for the past 10 days.”  Mind you, I’ve been at home.  Still, he was right. He hadn’t seen me.  I had made sure of that.  It wasn’t because I wanted to avoid him, but because disappearinghidingremaining unseen is second nature to me.  I erase my presence, even when actively in the lives of others, which may be related to my object permanence issues.  That, however, started way before the memories I can access.

What I do know is that growing up, my silence and lack of presence was something that was valued in my household. I did not stir the proverbial pot.   When I did try to express myself, I was often shutdown and compared with others who I understood had undesirable qualities.

In other words, I was encouraged not to share my thoughts, express my feelings, interact with the world around me, have friends, and generally be a socially-adapted member of society.  I’m lucky that I decided to become a therapist because I learned many of the interpersonal skills that I ought to have when I was younger.

Yet still, I have yet to unlearn that core household rule, which has become an unsettling self-belief: I must erase my presence.

And why must I erase my presence? The answer is rather simple, because the statement comes from my childhood thought: I should not speak or my family will hate me even more and I will have no home.

So, how do you undo the belief that being “present” in the lives of others means that you will lose whatever place you have?  Well, I have no definitive answer, but I’ll let you in on what I am doing.  😉

What I am doing is actively giving myself permission to:

  • Exist – I have the right to take up space on this planet, even if it means that others may be discomforted by that.
  • Speak – I have the right to speak my personal truth, even if it dispells the myths of others.
  • Love – I have the right to love and be loved just because I exist. My loving or being loved is not synonymous with my forfeiting my identity and goals in life.
  • Dream – I have the right to create goals for myself separate from the desires of others. I can dream as big or as small as I want to about my life.
  • Feel – I have the right to my physical and emotional experiences, even if they counter the needs of other people.  If I think the sun is freaking hot today, then it’s hot. If I am sad, then I am sad. It’s that simple. No one can dictate my feelings to me.
  • Be – I have the right to be whatever I am and whatever I am not.  It is my choice.

I could go on for a bit longer with the list, but there you have it. This is my first step.

Perhaps this may be helpful for someone else, especially if you grew up in a highly narcissistic family environment, or what I might call a house of non-self mirrors.

Take a look at yourself today. Smile at who you are, love who you are, acknowledge you are here and no matter what you have the right to be.

Until next time,

D.