Wednesday, February 05, 2014

My own personal demon

I've done a little reflecting over the last few days, just off and on, ever since the news broke about actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death. First off, no comments on that other than to say it is a horrible tragedy, and we will never know the whole story -- only that something apparently had a stronger hold on him than even the love of his family and friends and the accolades of his career and life.

And that is what has me really thinking. For years I have been fascinated with the psychology of addiction. I've vascillated back and forth myself on whether or not food addiction is truly an addiction (I believe yes, and I may delve into that here). I've wondered what it is that makes a brain turn to heavy quantities of substances -- be that prescription pain killers, street drugs, nicotine, food, whatever it is -- to numb their emotional pain or simply attempt to rise above whatever low circumstances they find themselves in.

I admit that part of me is baffled and angry. Here is someone who had something I wished I'd had the courage to pursue: a life on the stage and screen. Oh, I doubt I would have ever made it past the "Shopper #2" credit on screen (at least for many years) or gotten many callbacks, but who knows? I know now (albeit a bit late in life) that I feel very much at home in front of an audience, so I should have tried....... and here is a person who had top honors, huge respect and love from family and peers and colleagues. And it all seemed nothingness, emptiness, compared to whatever in his soul said, "You're a fraud. They can't possibly love the real you."

Was that it? I hear that voice too sometimes. It belongs to a demon named Perfection. Dan Pearce wrote about it in his superb "Disease Called Perfection" -- enough so that the first time I read it, I was crying big salty tears. I try not to listen to that voice, I try not to give it space in my head or my heart or my life, but there are days I hear its echo, I see it in my reflection when I look in the mirror:

..... You're a fraud. And they're on to you. ....
..... You're not good enough. How did you get here?  ....
..... Enjoy this. It's not going to last.  ....
..... That was a colossal error. Bet that puts the final nail in the coffin, won't it? ....
..... You can't even do something that simple, how in the world do you think you'll be able to (fill in the blank)?   ....

I battle this demon: every. single. day. It may be in a small way, just a brief fleeting thought where I can brush it off my shoulder and go on and not have it return. Other days, it clings to me, wraps itself around me like the best film and refuses to unwind. If you have never heard its voice, God bless you, because you are truly one of the blessed. If you've heard its ugly whispers, I need say nothing more. You know its rasp, its spitting hisses all too well.

For years, I tried to drown out its voice with food. Other people do it with far more dangerous vices, some with deadly consequences. Suicide either way -- slow or fast, it all depends. But I will fight with everything I have not to let the demon have me. I will scratch and claw with all my might for my sense of self, even damaged as it is, because I refuse to let Perfection win. I will reach out for help when I have to, even though I would rather chew a jumbo roll of tinfoil than admit I need help. (Yes, I am just that stubborn.)

This battle -- and how we fight it, how we win and lose -- is something I'll continue to ponder for a long time. Something I'll battle every day of my life, just as I have for life so far.

And for the family and friends of Mr. Hoffman, please know it wasn't you. Other bloggers have written it better than I, but it bears repeating. Perfection had him, and the mocking voice told him that none of this was enough, that he wasn't enough, that all of this was a sham and so was he, that only his pain was real and it would haunt him forever -- that no love was good enough to save him. Only he knows the real story and sadly, he's no longer here to tell it. All I can say is from this one soul damaged by Perfection is that it was not you, and not your fault. You did all you could. Perfection said it wasn't enough.

Perfection is a lying bastard. Never ever ever forget that.

3 comments:

Teri said...

Perfection is highly overrated and totally unattainable. Society, social networking, and the media has sold us a lie. Just battling and not giving up is perfection in my book.

Kate Kosior said...

"Enjoy this. It's not going to last" is the one that afflicts me EVERY SINGLE DAY. I went to a counselor 3 years ago and he told me that my problem was perfectionism. I asked him what he meant and he said that I have this burning desire to be perfect and when I can't be, I just let everything go to hell. It's true. I do. And I don't seem to be able to stop it, really.

Rosalina Harford said...

Oh gosh! That was such a strong post with thought provoking messages. I'm quite moved with it all, really. I've had similar thoughts, in one point and another, in my life. Being someone who has studied the machinations of the addiction process, I'm still quite baffled on how powerful and menacing that word is. I believe that perfection is another facet of addiction. One that is a product of the unrealistic expectations thrown at us by society and our own personal yearnings. I like the last ideas you've put in there. I only hope more people will get to read your thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful post.

Rosalina Harford @ Core Therapy Associates