Price of Perfection
I repeat the same quotes for my speech over and over again for hours, trying to get rid of the feeling that I’m not prepared. After running through my historical speech a few times I was ready and should have felt fine, but instead I spent four hours running it over and over and over again. Even after four hours spent practicing I didn’t feel ready, it still wasn’t good enough, wasn’t perfect. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has taken natural perfectionism and spiraled it out of control.
My quest for perfection started out innocently enough as a desire to get good grades to set myself up well for the future. However, the more good grades I received, the more I grew afraid of losing them, which became my fear of being a failure who wouldn’t get anywhere in life. My fear of failure continued to grow, and good grades weren’t good enough anymore, they had to be perfect.
Currently, my standard are an A+ in every class (an AP class can be an A, I’m not completely outrageous), which is getting increasingly difficult to achieve. I feel that if I don’t meet these standards, that I’ll completely fail out of high school. While I’m aware that my fear isn’t realistic, when OCD kicks in it becomes my truth and I can’t see the flaws in my thinking. In my distorted quest for perfection, I have lost an overwhelming amount in other areas of my life.
Sleep is vital to our health productivity, but thanks to my OCD I get as little sleep as I can get away with. My OCD says that any more time spent sleeping should be spent on homework. I feel that if I get a good night’s rest that I will fail a class because I didn’t study enough. Last year I was getting 4 hours of sleep during the week on a good night, and this year I am sinking back into the same schedule. Four hours is not even close to enough, and I feel completely exhausted and like I’m being weighed down most of the time. I am so tired that my eyes will often go out of focus for a few seconds, which is absolutely terrifying when I’m driving, especially when it happens over and over again. My sleep deprived mind has gone into survival mode, and I don’t remember most conversations I have with people unless it is about school.
Even with barely sleeping, I almost never spend any time with friends outside of school. OCD tells me that I need all of the time for homework, so I tend to back out of most plans with friends. I feel extremely guilty doing this, and often try to avoid saying the real reason that I’m not going to something. If I do end up going, I feel like a horrible person who is going to fail out of school unless I get even less sleep to compensate for the time lost. So, even when I do go I rarely have any fun since my brain is freaking out on me about all the homework time I’m losing. In addition, when I am with friends at school I am often zoned out, my thoughts spiraling out of control. At this point, it’s a miracle I still have friends. My OCD takes me away from them most of the time, and I have to fight in order to have quality time with them, which my OCD ends up making me pay for later.
Despite having pretty much perfect grades, I’m not proud of them. To me, getting good grades is an expectation, something that must be done to achieve the bare minimum, which isn’t anything to be proud of. When I do really well on a test, my OCD takes out the pride by making sure to point out all of the little things I could have done better or pointing out something else I did that day imperfectly. If I do badly on something (and by badly I mean not perfect) my OCD tells me that I have to offset it by doing more than perfect next time. Since some teachers don’t give extra credit and over 100% isn’t possible, I end up overdoing all of the work for that class instead. I spend ridiculous amounts of time checking over my work and doing all of the not required homework, as a way to offset my previous “failure”.
OCD is taking my happiness away. It is impossible to be perfect, and my OCD makes sure to remind me of that. Whenever I start to feel happy my brain decides to tell me about all of the ways I could mess up whatever I’m happy about, and that the only way to be happy is to be perfect. Naturally, I’m not perfect and then I get attacked by thoughts of what a failure I am. It has gotten to the point where if I want a chance to feel happy then I have to do basically everything perfect, and once I mess something up the happiness is gone. Over the years my happiness levels have gone down, and now I go most days without feeling any joy. My OCD is so loud and overpowering that I miss that natural beauty in life, the small things that could bring a smile to my face.
People often tell me that they are so jealous of my grades, that they really wish they could be as smart as me. I am not any smarter than them, I just work extremely hard, almost inhumanly hard. People have told me that I am so lucky, that my life is so great. Yes, on the outside, my life looks awesome. However, on the inside, I am falling apart. Those people could have as good of grades as me, but they’d have to give up things in exchange. Are perfect grades really worth your sleep, friends, pride, and happiness?
The near perfection I have achieved is coming at a huge price, one that I don’t want to pay anymore. I want my life back from OCD. I want to sleep and feel rested, to spend time with my friends and make new ones, to feel proud of my accomplishments, and to feel joy. I know that my OCD is not going to give me those things back easily, but I’m ready to fight. I am one of the most stubborn and persevering people you will ever meet, and I will give OCD the fight of my life.