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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

The Curse of Perfectionism

In Bipolar, Exercise on September 12, 2011 at 3:18 am

I have a problem. All of my life I’ve wanted to be perfect. On the surface perfectionism sounds like it is anything but problematic. Who could fault someone for trying to achieve his or her personal best? Surely this is what our parents and teachers taught us to strive for? Work hard. Do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

But, for me, I always wanted more. I’ve never wanted to blot my copybook. In fact just one stain would make me want to toss the whole thing away.

I’m not making an analogy. I’m being absolutely honest. There are days where if I write the date or the words “to do list” on the top of a blank page of my notebook and accidentally make a spelling mistake, rather than cross the offending typo out, I will rip out the page, tear it up and throw it away.

This doesn’t mean that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don’t insist that the tins in my kitchen cupboards all face forward or that my books are stacked in alphabetical order on my bookshelves.

My version of perfection is the “Oh fuck I’ve blown it, now I’d better go off the deep-end” type of perfection. Like a dieter who falls off the wagon because she has had one cookie and then proceeds to eat the entire pack – plus a giant bag of potato chips, a burger, fries and that milkshake she always denies herself – I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl.

I guess that’s why I have bipolar. It makes sense. I’m either saint or sinner, virgin or whore, lazy or incredibly busy. I can be a sloth, sleeping hours of my life away, doing no exercise for months and then transform myself into an exercise fiend, clocking at least nine hours at the gym in one week.

I can spend weeks knitting hats, blankets and scarves for family and friends furiously click-clicking away. Then a few months later, I will groan at the thought of being anywhere near a ball of yarn.

(PS This doesn’t translate to my work. I’m grateful that my bipolar has never affected my ability to earn a wage. If anything my bouts of mania propel my productivity. If I get depressed, I take myself off for a walk at lunchtime just to get away and clear my head.)

It’s outside of work that my battle to be perfect often impedes me; paralyses me.

So, it’s no surprise that after having verbal diarrhoea and uploading multiple posts within the first month of The Moody Cow, I have since been silent.

Oh dear. I didn’t write two pieces a week on a Tuesday and Thursday like I promised myself that I would. Oh the shame.

What my silence over these past few months has taught me is that doing something, anything, no matter how little, is often better than doing nothing at all. And if in my quest for perfection I muzzle myself it is an exercise in futility. Writing one sentence a week would have been far more productive than bemoaning the fact that I haven’t written anything of substance for months.

I don’t know if my quest for perfection is a “bipolar” thing or a “Marissa” thing or if it’s something that plagues us all from time-to-time. All I know is that it has sucked the life out of me for far too long and rather than be perfect I want to be productive. Progress, not perfection is my new goal.

M x

The Smile Files

In Bipolar, Dancing, Exercise, Hoopnotica, Hula-Hoops, The Smile Files on April 28, 2011 at 4:03 am

Smiling Marissa.

Left untreated bipolar is the sickness of extremes. There’s left, right or up, down and never the twain shall meet.

Try conceiving the stickiness of a scorching summer when you’re knee-deep in snow and your fingertips are so numb they feel like they’re going to fall off. It’s hard, isn’t it? The mere thought of running around in a tank top, shorts and flip-flops makes you shudder. It seems impossible that the hardened ground beneath your feet was once carpeted with grass and flowers.

That is what being depressed can feel like. When I struggle to do something as simple as brushing my teeth it seems inconceivable to me that yesterday, or last week, or last month, I was giggling with my friends in an exercise class or munching popcorn at the cinema.

So I’ve decided that the next time I feel low – and I will, I can’t pretend that it won’t happen – I’m going to be prepared. I’m going to be armed with a series of thoughts and activities that make me smile. I’m going to store away in my mind a file of happy, positive thoughts that I can cling to when I feel like shit.

Stay with me here. I’m not just being a hippy-trippy tree-hugger. And I know that I sound like the bipolar version of Julie Andrews singing My Favourite Things in The Sound of Music. But hey, Maria was on to something. When I’m facedown in my pillow thinking that I’m an insult to the human race I need something to remind me that my life isn’t that bad. Yes, I have a roof over my head, a job, a car and I am physically in good health. These are all blessings that I am thankful for. But I’m talking about the simple things, the everyday things that bring me joy – little reminders that I need to focus on when my world seems black.

That’s why I’m creating The Smile Files. It’s cheesy, I know but every couple of weeks I’m going to list something that brings me joy, something that I can pull out and appreciate when I wish I’d never been born.

It can be anything – the sound of birds singing, a beautiful sunset or dancing in my kitchen to Eighties music while singing into a wooden spoon. (Yes, I have done that many, many times.) It can be an activity, a film or a book. Whatever it is it means something to me.

These are just suggestions – a list of things that make me smile that I want to share with you. Feel free to add to it. We begin with…

Hula-Hoops

Gabriella Redding, Hoopnotica CEO

Yes, those round plastic toys that we used to play with when we were kids. Within the last year I have rediscovered the joy of hula-hoops thanks to the ladies behind Hoopnotica, an exercise firm based in Venice, California where I live.

I believe in supporting my local community so every year, whenever I’m in town, I try to attend the Abbot Kinney Festival. Named after the founder of Venice, it features the arts, crafts, businesses, food and people that make up the eclectic personality of the area.

Needless to say when I saw a group of women at a stall twirling around in hula-hoops I was intrigued. They weren’t just spinning them around their waists. They were throwing them in the air, swirling them on their arms, around their shoulders, shaking them on their hips. Their movements seemed effortless and graceful. When the CEO Gabriella Redding told me that she had lost 70lbs (5st) doing it – vain cow that I am – I was sold. I bought myself an instructional Hoopnotica DVD, a hula-hoop and went on to spend hours dancing with my new black-and-pink striped toy.

Sure I’ve got sweaty, I’ve burned calories and wowed my friends with the different tricks that I’ve learned. What I didn’t expect was to have so much fun.

I challenge anyone to step inside a hula-hoop, spin it around his or her waist and not smile. It’s impossible.

Whether you can keep it up for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, can twirl it from your right hand to your left or pick it up, watch it fall down and do the whole darn thing all over again, you are going to smile.

And it becomes something more than exercise. It becomes something joyful. For me it reminds me of being a little girl again. I put my iPod on and hoop my heart out while Madonna, Mary J Blige, Biggie Smalls or The Rolling Stones play in the background.

Hoopnotica reminds me to have fun and that the simplest things can bring me joy – even if that’s a colourful plastic tube.

M x