Friday, May 08, 2009

The Dreaded Pit

On a daily (if not hourly) basis, I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I have a mini-anxiety attack. I feel like I'm going to keel over or have some sort of a breakdown.

No, I'm not pregnant or infected with the swine flu (can we stop talking about that, by the way?), nor do I have agoraphobia.

I have a disease that I think is much worse.

Korean perfectionism.

Every evening, as soon as I get home after my hour-long crawl from work, I walk in the door, change clothes, pour myself a glass of water, and plop down in front of my laptop. Not for blogging (although that does happen, too) or for Facebooking, but for work.

Yes, I usually get home anywhere between 8:00 p.m. (rarely) and 2:00 a.m. No matter what time it is, I schlep my laptop home and turn it on as soon as I'm inside the house.

Workaholic? Admittedly.

More than that, I have a burning, intense fear of doing something incompletely, forgetting to do something, or doing one iota of something wrong. That dread and fear are more powerful motivators than I will ever be able to express.

Why, then, is this Korean perfectionism?

Because if I was American (born and raised), people would tell me that I have OCD. Perhaps that I need some good ol' r & r or maybe a little therapy. I would be encouraged to find help and a way to relax so I could be "normal."

In Korean society, such OCD is considered a good thing. No one ever told me that being a crazy perfectionist is bad. I wasn't ever discouraged from working until 4:00 in the morning when I was putting together my illustration portfolio in high school. No one said a word when my fellow students and I stayed up all night long our senior year for various student council activities.

Because my high school was predominantly Asian (and among the 83.6% that were Asians, there were a lot of Koreans), no one said anything about our terrible working/studying habits. My entire childhood left me with the (wrong) idea that endless hours and constant stress are okay, even something to strive towards.

This has bled into my career, of course. I work for hours on end, sacrificing my personal life and allowing it to influence every facet of me.

I stress myself out more than I need to, but I have no idea how to prevent that stress from creeping up on me and pouncing at the most inopportune times. I am certain that I would life a longer life if I just knew how to cope. But I don't.

I am feeling the sort of despair that I haven't felt in a long time, such a long time that I'm completely clueless as to how I should deal with it.

For now, I try to laugh at funny things, see my family and friends when possible, and continue working, always trying to keep things lighter, sillier.

One funny thing did come about because of the swine flu- Wikipedia's article about it included the line "This virus sucks really bad":

I see that they have since replaced the "Diagnosis" with a more ... shall we say, professional opinion.

Still, it made me laugh.

If I can keep finding little moments of laughter, I'm sure I'll forget all (or mostly) about the pain.