I want to tell you about a woman I read about recently. This woman was so obsessed with perfection that she literally made herself sick. The problem was, in her eyes, that her body was fat. Every time she looked in the mirror, she saw herself as fat. Now, that didn’t make it true, it’s just the way she saw herself. She would read magazines and want to be as thin and perfect as the models in the magazines. She wanted a perfect body. So she practically starved herself to get one.
There is such a thing as losing too much weight, however, and/or losing it in the wrong way.
Instead of simply eating a healthy diet and losing weight slowly like she should have, she just stopped eating almost altogether. She did drink water, however, and lots of it. The water only flushed out needed nutrients, though. The next thing she knew, she was in the hospital with an almost fatal blood pressure and loss of electrolytes in her body. She was down to 95 pounds. But she still thought she was fat. In the hospital, they had to give her several bags of fluids to get her blood pressure back up. She was very weak, and very sick. The problem was not in her body, though – It was in her mind. She wanted to be perfect, and almost died in the process.
Imperfection is a fact of life. It’s hard to accept our own imperfections, much less someone else’s.
This woman became obsessed with having a perfect body. You know I work out a lot, and I see men all the time who are trying to do the same thing. Instead of just accepting that they aren’t Superman, they try and try to “buff up” not for healthy reasons, but for personal reasons. Like this woman, they are unhappy with their bodies. They think that if they just work out enough, they will have “six-pack abs” and all the rest, and then their life will be perfect. That’s the wrong way to approach it, though. It’s one thing to try to improve yourself. It’s quite another thing if your motivation is to be perfect.
Sometimes it’s hard for a supporter of a loved one with bipolar disorder to accept their own limitations. They want to be the perfect supporter. But all you can do is be the best supporter you can be, and accept that you’re not going to be perfect. No one is. If you’re looking for the magic formula that tells you how to be the perfect supporter, you won’t find one. But if you can accept your own imperfections, it will be easier to accept your loved one’s imperfections. No matter how much they try or what they do, your loved one will never be the perfect bipolar survivor, either.
There’s an expression that says: “It’s ok to strive for perfection, as long as you accept that you will never arrive there.” If you accept your loved one as they are, understanding that they are trying their best to recover, things will be much easier for you. Just don’t expect them to be perfect. And don’t expect yourself to be perfect, either.
Well, I have to go!