Upon reflection, that work proved to help me with avoiding my problems. It might have been easier for me to work on other people's problems, rather than my own.
Following the death of my grandmother, the maternal side of my family seemed to drift apart. I was arguing with my mother like we had never done before. My cousin I was raised with and who I call my brother had been living in another city for a few years. I was coming home to an empty house and I was also feeling guilty about my grandfather who was alone until he passed away in April 2007.
My grandfather was a sophisticated man who spoke seven languages, was raised in Latvia and had royalty in his family history. He was the chief librarian of a community college in Gatineau and my grandparents had the knowledge of several university degrees between them for how well-read they were.
My grandparents were married when they were both 40-years-old and my grandfather, no doubt, got more than he bargained for. It wasn't long before my grandmother had her adult children from her previous marriage living with them, along with her grandchildren.
I was seven-years-old when my mother and I moved in with my grandparents. My mother's older brother and my cousin, who was three-years-old at the time, were already living there.
My grandparents had an island on the Ottawa River at Petawawa, Ontario and they built the house on it themselves. I spent my summers there with my grandparents and my cousin until I was 15-years-old. And so the four of us felt to me like the family nucleus.
I know my family credits my grandfather with affording us all an idyllic lifestyle and so it pains me to believe we didn't do right by him after my grandmother died.
I don't recall a single visit with him after she passed away when he didn't cry; he was so overwhelmed with grief that he was nearly inconsolable even years later. As a result, and I'm ashamed to admit this, my visits with my grandfather were not nearly as frequent as they ought to have been. And in my opinion, that was the proverbial white elephant in the family, we were all guilty of neglecting him but pretended it wasn't so.
My self esteem at that point became very dependent on external measures. I needed to be able to point to things I was doing right, because the perfectionist in me was self-critical for failing with my ex-husband, for avoiding my grandfather and for increasing tension with my mother. Add grief into the mix and this was the beginning of the perfect swirling storm.
On top of the difficulties of domestic violence work itself, the caseload is also very demanding. In my time, between 2002 and 2005, it was not unusual to have a caseload of 30 files and sometimes more.
It's a struggling role for a perfectionist and over-achiever like me because it's impossible to feel like you can do everything possible on each and every file, every time. There are just too many files.
Regardless, I took my role of making a file court-ready very seriously. I felt my fellow patrol officers, the file victims and the crown attorney all depended on me for a meaningful prosecution and so I had better get it right. Perfectly right in fact.
"The thing about perfectionists is that they don't ever experience satisfaction," said Paul Hewitt, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and one of the leading researchers on perfectionism. "Nothing is ever good enough."
Hewitt has identified three types of perfectionists: Self-oriented perfectionists who expect perfection of themselves; Other-oriented perfectionists who demand perfection from other people; and Socially-prescribed perfectionists who think others expect perfection from them.
“According to the prevailing definition, perfectionists are people who not only hold unrealistically high standards but also judge themselves or others as always falling short,” says Hewitt.
Hewitt disagrees with researchers who suggest that being a perfectionist is not all bad, that there can be some benefit to always striving for more. Hewitt suggests being a perfectionist can actually make someone vulnerable to depression if triggered because perfectionists tend to experience greater personal dissatisfaction despite their accomplishments. Even though they might do a first-class job, they still manage to find fault in their work.
Without question, I'm one of Hewitt's socially-prescribed perfectionists, or at least at that time I was. What you thought of my job performance mattered to me a lot. It helped me feel better about myself. And if you didn't see me as perfectly good, then that could only mean I was a failure.
The trouble with throwing yourself into your work and expecting validation, in my opinion now, is you inevitably put more into the job than the good the job might return back. It doesn't matter the work you do, or how well you do it... it's still not the real you. And it never will be. Without proper balance, your work might only serve to be somewhere to loose the real you.
Two things happened next in this story. One was I made some bad relationship decisions and second, a bully staff-sergeant transferred into the PAS. He was absolutely the right person to exploit me and I was vulnerable to his harassment.
I hope you'll check in with me for the next installment of this continuing story.
(Join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, About.me, Google+ LinkedIn and Tumblr.)