Why a Starfish?

Although Mental Health Awareness Month has past, it is important to stay in touch with our mental health on a daily basis. Throughout the month I reflected on my current mental state and how I could continue to improve my mental health throughout the year. I decided to choose one thing to focus on and reflect about on a daily basis. I noticed how hard I am on myself, how I expect myself to be perfect. I am diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety, and with that, comes my compulsive need for perfection. 

I'm human, and humans by nature, are imperfect. I know this, yet every time I make even the smallest mistake, I'm devastated and feel like an absolute failure. My small mistakes turn into much larger ones when I begin to spiral. I can get so far into my head that I  lose touch with reality and make decisions solely based on anxious impulses. On my worst of days, I will feel as if I will never recover from even the most insignificant of my mistakes. 

The bottom line is I have always strived for perfection, yet always fell short because perfection, by definition, is impossible to attain. There is no further proof of the impossibility of perfection than the world around us; flowers do not grow featuring perfectly identical petals, markings on animals are not perfectly symmetrical, and even a so-called "flawless" diamond features slight impurities. I know true perfection is impossible but it still does stop me from getting down on myself for even the slightest mistake sometimes.

On one of my darkest days when I truly felt trapped in the increasing severity of my OCD and the repeated mistakes I was making I began to think of a starfish. I remembered that if a starfish lost an arm, the arm would regenerate. In some species of starfish, the lost arm will even grow a second starfish. I will never forget the words that went through my head; "If a sea creature could recover from losing an arm, then I have what it takes to move forward and control my OCD. I can be resilient.” Starfish are a phenomenal representation of resilience and the capacity to recover from difficulties with toughness. Resilience will allow a person to excel in every aspect of life.  From that day forward I have used the starfish as my own personal symbol. 

My advice is to treat everyday as if it were still Mental Health Awareness Month. Take care of yourself, forgive yourself, and cut yourself a break. Remember the starfish. If a starfish loses an arm, it will grow back. So that means even you have the power to move forward. Remind yourself; "Resilience paves the pathway to success."