True recovery from my eating disorder meant saying no thanks to “All work, no play.”
Our world celebrates work, constant activity, and being productive. We tend to ignore and even look down upon renewal, recovery, and play. I used to feel unbearably guilty if I were not working.
While occasionally relaxing or having fun, I would think to myself, “I should be doing something productive.” The guilt was often so unbearable that I would stop whatever I was doing that seemed unproductive and would get back to work. Of course, when I worked in this way, I was stressed out, lacked passion, and was actually less productive.
I had heard person after person and book after book say that I needed more recovery time in my life, but I did not buy it. (I bought the books, but I did not believe the ideas.) I thought this whole concept of giving yourself a break and taking time to play was just an excuse to be lazy. And laziness meant I would be unsuccessful. And I wanted to be successful. No, I wanted to be perfect. Giving myself time to enjoy life would not be productive.
I remember when it all started. I remember when I became obsessed with work — Texas State History class, seventh grade, back row seat. My classmates and I were required to memorize the state capitols. We were quizzed each week, and the voice of perfectionism in my head told me that I could not miss one question. (In therapy, I later named this voice, Ms. Perfectionist.) While I did not miss one question, Ms. Perfectionist did not miss this opportunity to get a real hold on my life. Workaholism began. I could no longer just be, but I had to do, do, and always do more.
Jenni Schaefer is a singer/songwriter, speaker, and the author of Life Without ED: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too (McGraw-Hill).