I fainted for the first time in my life last summer. I was working out, without fail, at 5:30 every single morning. Some days I felt as if my legs were crying for help, but I got up anyway.
I probably should have rested, at some point. The morning I fainted, I skipped out on my morning protein shake–I was running late for a class, and lateness tends to make me spiral. I like to be early, earliness suggests perfection, a mastery of time. Those who are perpetually late could never touch me. When I’m late, I feel like people are staring at me, like I’m stopping time to draw attention to myself. I hate attention with a passion, and so I must master time.
Anyway. I missed breakfast. Though a shake is hardly breakfast, it usually held me down long enough until lunch. Or dinner.
Our class took a special trip to the underbelly of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, where we got to ask the curators questions about creating an exhibit. What goes into curating art, what defines art, the big stuff. I was mostly there–you know, sometimes, when you’re there as in aware of everything happening around you, and the people around you, and that you’re a person inhabiting a space? I was mostly doing that. Sometimes, I can’t do that at all.
We were staring at old paintings, and I was slipping. My mind races, I can’t focus on anything, I zone out. I blinked, blinked again. I thought, if I could just hold on for five more minutes, then we can get out of here and I can breathe, just five more minutes, keep it together–
And then everything went black.
When I woke up, it was like in the movies where everything slowly comes into focus. People were hovering over me, I couldn’t feel my body. I tried to move my head, but it was too heavy. I was in shock: I didn’t think this would happen to me. I thought I was fine.
The nurse was shocked that I fainted, since my vitals were fine. Everything was fine, except it wasn’t.
I’ve had panic attacks, anxiety attacks where I have to hide in the bathroom and try to quiet my mind for just a few minutes. I’ve had the shakes, where my hands are moving so bad I have to hide them under the table so as not to draw attention to myself. My mind has taken over my body before, but never like this.
This was a full betrayal, my body shutting down and sending a warning sign complete with some dizziness and heavy embarrassment. I was pushing myself too hard, and instead of making myself better, I was only making myself worse.
I spent all of last year trying to become the perfect fucking person. Perfect body, perfect mind, perfect daughter, perfect sister. I was seeking an achievement that doesn’t exist. I would stay up until one, two in the morning working on something for a class, or for my family, and then waking right up at five in the morning to push my body harder than my mind was already working. To me, that was self-love. Punishing myself to be someone I’m not.
I can get obsessive. If it’s not right, I’ll work on it until it is. If it isn’t, then I’ll do whatever it takes until I feel peace. (I rarely feel peace.) I was in overdrive, trying to obsess over every piece and part of myself until I fell apart.
“Rest,” my mom told me after I fainted and was laying in bed. “Sleep, hydrate, take your medicine.”
It’s easy to obsess and seek perfection while forgetting to actually take care of yourself. I do it all the time. But we need to rest to see another day. Take a minute. Take an hour, take a day.
It’s easy, in this capitalist society that prizes overworking, constant productivity and striving for perfection to forget to rest. Resting doesn’t pay the bills, resting doesn’t finish that paper due on Monday that you haven’t started yet.
Whatever. Rest anyway.
You only get one body, one mind, and one time to inhabit it. Take some time with it, before it takes whatever time you have away from you. Don’t let your body become your enemy.
Also? Perfection is bullshit. (Which is easier to say than to understand, but please try to.)