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Letters From Listeners

Anxiety and Perfectionism

Experience anxiety? Yes. I think it may be related to perfectionism. I grew up in a household with a narcissistic, anxious, mother who would self-medicate with alcohol and prescription drugs. Dad would just avoid her by being a workaholic and devoting himself to the family business. I learned to cope by doing whatever it took to keep my mother on an even keel. When she would come into the family room with a basketful of clothes to be folded, she would dump them on the sofa with a heavy sigh. That was my cue. I would put aside my studies to take care of the clothes, so she wouldn't be upset later. The same thing would happen with weekend house cleaning. I would always help her first, otherwise I was worried she would be anxious. Today, I experience anxiety on the job and at home.

I never had children so, fortunately, I am not harming them. But I do have a husband who I worry I may be driving crazy. My husband is retired and has no concerns about being neat and organized. I, on the other hand, am compulsive about it. With the demands of my job, I cannot keep my house neat and orderly as when I was single. It is especially difficult with my husband being messy and disorganized. I would have to work on cleaning everyday to keep it at my level of standards. Since then, I have learned to let things go. I even confessed to a priest that I was sorry I was always angry at my husband for not being neat and organized. He said with a gleam in his eye, "Maybe your husband is your penance." Perhaps this is true. God put us together for a reason, I need to relax and not worry about the insignificant things in life.

My thoughts keep going back to my mother who went from a neat-freak to a compulsive shopper and hoarder. In the end, it was I who suffered her wrath when we cleaned out her house to put it on the market to afford her assisted living costs. This further traumatized me. 

She has been deceased for nearly three years, yet I still suffer with the anxiety of what I should have done and could have done differently. I thank the Lord for my very patient husband who reminds me that we did the right thing. I guess what it boils down to, is somehow I feel like I let her down. I am still trying to win her love and approval and I have got to stop. Most of all, I don't want to be like her.

To help with anxiety? I use prayer, and meditation, journal writing, bird watching, exercise, and art (painting). I also started listening to your show again on podcasts while I walk. Thank you for your wisdom and voice of reason. Now, I need a good cry...

God Bless You,


Tags: Adult Child-Parent, Anxiety, Family/Relationships - Adult Child/Parent, Health, Marriage, Mental Health, Perfectionism, Stress
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