Chasing Perfection and Having Parkinson’s 

Chasing perfection started early in my BP (before Parkinson’s) years. My parents had very high expectations of me. Straight A's? Don’t they have A+? First to Eagle Scout in my age group? Couldn’t you get more merit badges? I’m sure you get the picture.

Withdrawing from activities

Chasing perfection and never feeling anything I did was good enough followed me into adulthood. It led to some questionable behavior. I found myself not doing things because I somehow thought I knew I would not be good enough.

I was reasonably adept at golf but when I realized I wasn’t going to become the next Tiger, I quit. I didn’t think my social skills were adequate so I avoided social interactions. I put up walls and barriers so no one could see what I believed was my flawed imperfect persona. Looking back, I seemed to have invented my own version of the emperor with no clothes.

I sought out activities that were explicitly "loner" in nature. Towards the end of my working life, I was frustrated by having too many direct reports at work and adopted an after-work hobby of wood working. Finally, I was doing something that only I was involved with. I could secretly judge my inability to achieve perfection.

Starting from rank novice to making furniture someone might buy was a steep learning curve. I made a lot of what I called "curb furniture" but perfection was always just around the corner and progress towards perfection seemed visible.

Enter Parkinson’s

My life went upside down. Examples: Power tools, and Parkinson’s tremor meant no woodworking. Hiking and camping? Increasing balance issues and resultant fall risk curtailed those activities .

My early years AD (after diagnosis) were not fun or rewarding. My world was shrinking and the list of things I could no longer do rapidly became larger than the list of things I could do.

Unless I could invent negative perfectionism (a truly mythical state), my expectations of self seemed incompatible with Parkinson’s. Always seeking to be perfect is not healthy in general, let alone having an incurable progressive disease.

Perfection is unrealistic

My frustration level became so high with being unable to reconcile my tendency towards perfection or expectations of perfection and the concept of having a progressively worsening disease that I finally accepted I needed help.

I did extensive research on Parkinson’s and how others dealt with the mental aspect. I shared my problem with others and realized I was not alone, and I started mental health therapy.

As a result, I finally have accepted that, for me, perfect is not a realistic goal nor is it ever attainable. I recognized and accepted my seeking perfection and being unable to achieve it caused negative thinking and my negative thoughts were very damaging to my self-image.

My coping skills

I found coping skills that helped stop negative thoughts in the bud. I started and continue the practice of setting incremental achievable goals instead of expecting, but failing, to hit it out of the park on the first swing. Think of it as living day to day or even moment to moment.

I began to lean on my care partner more and more as my symptoms have progressed. Two is definitely better than one! I re-examined lost activities and what I liked about doing them. Then I looked for and engaged in new activities that were promising in terms of delivering the best elements of my lost activities.

I had been avoiding exercise because I felt I could never be good enough, but I started exercising even though I had to start at the bottom. Why did I start and why have I increased the amount of exercise? Because Parkinson’s progression is only slowed by exercise.

I began sharing my feelings about the impact of Parkinson’s. First through a small support group, then with family, and then by writing about my life with Parkinson’s. Lowering my walls and sharing my vulnerability has been quite cathartic.

A catalyst for positive change

Parkinson’s is causing and has caused a lot of difficult changes in my life. However, it has also been a catalyst for positive change in my life and my relationships.

Yes, I do occasionally slip back into feeling like I should be perfect and being stressed because I’m not. Staying positive, thinking global, planning incremental, and doable goals, and fighting Parkinson’s is a lot of work.

The alternative is just no longer acceptable.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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