It's the third day of school and my to-do list is already longer than I can handle. In the past, while I was sick, I would make a to-do list only to get overwhelmed and give up before I even got started. Believe it or not, this is a sign of perfectionism. Typically we think of perfectionists as those who work on a project until it is perfect and they begin losing their minds. I knew my work would never be perfect, however, so I would avoid it because I figured I would fail anyway. That fear of failure kept me from trying.
Now that I am in a much healthier place, I obviously want to do better in school than I have in the past; but what happens when my to-list keeps me up all night thinking about the tasks I need to complete the following day? This morning, for example, I was up at 5:30am (I don't have class until 10:00) because I couldn't turn my brain off.
Worst of all, once I do begin checking things off my list or turn an assignment in, something new comes up. The idea of a "never ending to-do list" is already making me crazy on the third day of school. Yikes.
I think this comes from the idea that until my to-list is complete - and it won't be for sixteen weeks when the semester is over - I won't be good enough. Good enough for what, you might ask, but I can't really come up with an answer except I will not be meeting those perfectionist demands. It always feels good to get 2 or 3 things done on my to-list, but once I begin looking at the 10 other things that need to be done, I start to let my anxiety get the best of me.
This is the first semester I have taken a full load since leaving treatment about 11 months ago. Maybe I'm freaking out a little because I am now being forced to put more effort into school than recovery, which is a scary thought. I'm on the verge of a big change and half of my brain is telling me to run and hide, while the other half is telling me I need to study until I am perfect. No wonder I'm feeling so exhausted this morning.
As I reread the words above, I realize how irrational my thoughts are in this moment, but that doesn't make them any easier to deal with. Years ago when I first attempted school, I was faced with these same changes and I chose to run because in that moment it eased my anxiety. Luckily now, I have a few more healthy coping mechanisms that will help me through this - I just need to use them.
I'm not sure what to do about my to-do list right now. Maybe breaking it down into 2 or 3 tasks per day, rather than being overwhelmed by the entire list, would be helpful. I know once the semester gets going and I find my routine this will all get easier. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to deal with anxiety is to sit with it until it passes. Being on the verge of change can be triggering, but like I mentioned before, I now have the option to face my fears or run from them.
I think I've done enough running.