It's no secret that we have issues. I'm a perfectionist. Tim has anxiety. And we're recovering from a lifetime of fundamental religion and ministry trauma. We're learning. A lot. There has been therapy. And we haven't arrived. As a side note, I would like to go on record and say, I don't think that's a thing - arriving. I'm going to bet my life on that one. In fact, I think I already have.
With my perfectionism, with much acknowledgement, self-work, therapy and all-around growth, I've gotten to a point where I can talk to my perfectionism. Yes, you are reading the writing of a woman who talks to herself. What I mean is, I've learned to identify it without letting it take over, similarly to how Brene Brown would encourage you to identify your shame, describe it and let it go. You can't dismiss that perfectionist or shame voice without first hearing it and recognizing where it comes from. So I can say, "I see you over there in the corner, perfectionism. I can see that you want me to keep going even though I'm exhausted and I need a break. But I'm going to go ahead and set down this project, get a drink of water, use the bathroom and lie down for a bit. The work will get done and you're going to be okay while I rest." It's almost like when people talk to their inner child. My perfectionism is a part of me. Sometimes she's right at the surface (yes, she's female) and other times, she's lurking way below. But she is present. You first have to recognize that she's not the enemy. But she is also not always helpful, healthy or appropriate to the situation. So I get to acknowledge her and then decide how loudly I want to turn up the volume on her voice. This means, she's always in the car, but only on the rare occasion do I let her drive.
Similarly, our family of four lives with anxiety. It's probably somewhat present in all of us, but specifically in my husband. Now, I don't want to use my site to talk about his stuff. He's a private person and his story belongs to him. What I do want to discuss is how living with, parenting beside and loving someone with anxiety affects our daily life. And this mainly is up to him as far as therapy, medication and self-care goes. It's very difficult for me as a care-taker to not force my loved one to take care of himself. I don't get to dictate how he handles his mental health and a lack of self-care for any of us affects all of us. So that's a tough pill to swallow. I have had many dear friends get into ultimatum-territory for this reason and if that's you, that's okay. If you haven't been to therapy and there is mental health stuff in your family dynamic, I highly recommend getting support from a professional. It doesn't need to go on forever (about 2 years for us) but it really helps identify patterns and build skill sets.
So we've had to identify what anxiety triggers exist for us. I won't name them all because again, that's private, but a good, probably common example is traveling with our children. When all the variables of our living and sleeping situation change and our routines become obsolete, that's a great time for anxiety to grab a megaphone. The goal for us isn't to remove the anxiety. Unfortunately, that guy has a seat in the vehicle alongside my perfectionism. And I can't tell you as a care-taker how long it took for me to accept that anxiety will always be around. No amount of effort on my part can shield my husband from anxiety. And even if we solve or grow out of a trigger, a new one will replace it. Because anxiety just finds a new focal point. But by identifying this trigger, when either of us gets riled up while packing the car or on a trip (I overcompensate by trying to make everything perfect so he has no reason to be anxious...cute, right? Ugh.) it gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the anxiety and have grace for it. "Hi there, anxiety. Yes, we thought you'd be paying a visit. Yes, this is stressful. No, we're not going to go home. Yes, problems will arise no matter how perfectly we plan. We see you and we're going to take the risk and know you're going to be feeling uncomfortable right now. Settle down." This helps us not taking snarky retorts and sweaty grumbling personally. It allows us to hold space for each other and ourselves without letting a few tough moments set the entire tone of the drive or the trip.
Another step to not allowing your issues to take over is this beautiful concept called boundaries. So, perfectionism is in my box. Tim can't save me or control my perfectionism. No matter how many suggestions he makes for me to slow down or relax, if I stop it's my choice. And if I don't, that's on me. I may complain of exhaustion, feel resentful when he doesn't help me at all hours of the night on a project or make myself sick requiring him to take on my duties with the kids suddenly. Sadly, that's not in his box. It's in mine, even though how loudly my perfectionism gets to speak into my choices affects him and our relationship directly. The same goes for his anxiety. I used to get really stressed when his self-care got low. He would want me to cancel my self-care stuff because he didn't have the energy to hang with the kids. And I've had to say, in an emergency, I can cancel my stuff. But if your energy is low because you haven't filled your own cup, I'm not going to not fill mine up to spare you. And that's tough. And it makes my self-care activities less gratifying because it's clearly costing him energy he doesn't have in reserves. And he might be angry or more anxious when I get home. That boundary has been tough to hold. Trust me, we've tried every other way around this boundary and this is the only way forward. His self-care is in his box.
I hope whatever your issues are, you're on a path to find workarounds, to acknowledge your stuff, speak to it, have compassion for yourself, not take it personally and set boundaries. It is so worth the work. We have many areas where we're still slugging through the muck trying to figure out how to move forward. But your relationship with yourself, a possible significant other and/or a full family dynamic is worth this work. Resentment is a bitch. And so is self-hatred. Accept your stuff - accept your self.