I’ll give you debilitating neurosis

August 10, 2009 at 8:59 pm 6 comments

Take the old line, “If you look up [blank] in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Sarah, har har har,” but replace the dictionary with Google, the picture with my blog, and fill in the blank with “debilitating neurosis.” No, really.

I suppose it was never really a secret that I’m not merely a perfectionist, but a neurotic perfectionist, a perfectionist to a pathological degree. I didn’t always know a name for it, or rather for the degree of my condition, but it’s always been out there in the open, plain as day to everyone. Experts would agree.

Meticulous, conscientious, attentive, persnickety, particular, anal…I’ve heard them all. But in fact, once I was able to put a real, all-encompassing name to it, so much of my irrational behavior made sense. As much sense as irrational behavior can make, anyway. I could be explained! And I could begin to overcome it when some of those weird behaviors became a hindrance to moving forward, progressing, learning. Moving forward became more important than accomplishing, than arriving. I learned to laugh at myself, to be brave and advance. It was liberating!

What else can you do but learn to laugh at your psychological quirks? As the character John Nash, in the film A Beautiful Mind put it, “There’s no point in being nuts if you can’t have a little fun.” Is it wrong that I knew exactly what he meant?

I mean there’s something funny in the fact that — as a neurotic perfectionist — you’re always haunted by the secret, transcendental knowledge that if everything isn’t just so, if you make the wrong decision, if that to-do list isn’t completed (and if everything you did isn’t on that list and crossed off), if you can’t make everyone happy, then you have FAILED and do you know what failure means? THE UNIVERSE WILL EXPLODE.

It’s not easy to be wholly rational with the fate of the universe resting on your shoulders. It also means that neurotic perfectionists are some of the most illogical, imperfect people I know, and I find the whole situation deliciously ironic, like my life is one big satire. The Neurotic’s Guide to the Galaxy.

(And on the cover in big, friendly letters are the words, DON’T FAIL.)

But then someone discovered this blog by searching for “debilitating neurosis,” and I found that I was equally amused and distressed by it. To intensify matters, I performed the search myself to see how many pages deep the searcher got before getting to my blog. And you know what? Little Joys was the first hit. First for me, first for the five other people that I forced to try it, and probably first for that original searcher, wherever he or she might be.


Perhaps my life really is one big satire, and I’m just an irrational character in an illogical universe: an exceptionally imperfect pathological perfectionist locked in an eternal battle with her neurosis. If it wasn’t so strange, I’d say it couldn’t be true. I just never imagined that Google would agree so wholeheartedly.


Entry filed under: Head & Heart. Tags: , , , .

Peanut Butter Balls Cannot live on bread alone — but with butter…

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. onewandering  |  August 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I wuvs you, you neurotic perfectionist (and amazingly talented baker extraordinaire that I will continue to tell everyone about until one day I’m able to order up your goodies via teleporter).

  • 2. Sarah  |  September 10, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I for sure discovered this page by googling “debilitating neurosis”

  • 3. tom  |  October 12, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    you aren’t alone… my life is a mess because i can’t be happy with anything the way it is.

  • 4. Sarah  |  October 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks, Tom. I guess my only consolation is the hope that the people who search for debilitating neurosis are debilitatingly neurotic themselves. I don’t know why that works, but it does.

  • 5. Drancycanny  |  December 11, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Oh my god enjoyed reading this article. I added your rss to my blogreader.

  • 6. This about sums it up « Little Joys  |  December 15, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    […] But there it was. And here it is, reminding me that while I have no trouble dreaming big, I do, apparently, have trouble accomplishing anything. Is it wrong to feel like my life is one big waste so far? Is it awful to feel that it’s going nowhere and I can’t get it to go anywhere – why? — because I seem to be unable to accomplish anything in the first place? Deep down I know why, and I think you do, too. […]


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