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Companionship, EDs, and Perfectionism

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

This pandemic has really been messing with my mental health.

I had been a perfectionist for as long as I could remember, and the “never enough” culture of academia fueled my desire to be flawless. But after a lacklustre comprehensive exam performance, I fell off my pedestal and began experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety over the need to control everything so that I didn’t have another less-than-stellar performance.

To cope with these uncomfortable emotions and perfect yet one more aspect of my life, I controlled my food and exercise to the point of developing an eating disorder.

Now one year recovered from my ED (thank you to my therapist, dietician and patient husband), I’m in such a better place.

I no longer need to be perfect – good enough is more than perfect for me.

But I would be lying if I said I was rid of my underlying mental health problems, and this pandemic is making that even more evident.

The lack of control I’ve been experiencing since February is terribly triggering. Having to leave the lab, defend virtually and not be able to attend graduation was devastating. I constantly panic over not knowing when this will be over, or when we can get back to “normal like” – whatever that will look like.

With my husband, also a Ph.D. student, at the lab doing essential research, I’ve been stuck at home, by myself, with my uncomfortable thoughts.

I’ve been craving companionship, something to care for, and something to support my mental health, both during this trying time and for years to come - but my seven plants just weren’t cutting it.

So on May 9, I convinced my husband to adopt a fur baby.

Harper, our 10-month-old bundle of joy, was found in a Walmart parking lot in April 2020. As soon as I saw her picture on the Southern Arizona Cat Rescue site, I knew she was meant to be loved by us.

She’s been by my side ever since we brought her home – sitting on the chair next to mine while I eat, curling up on the couch beside me when I watch TV, nestling under my arm in bed every night and laying on my laptop while I work.

Though she’s only been with us for four days, Harper has given me unconditional love and allowed me to live in the moment, as opposed to in my head with my fears and worries.

She’s shown me that it’s ok to take a break (or two or ten) from work, and that we all need to relax a little more right now.

So whether you have a little human, plant or pet in your life, I hope they support your mental health and bring you as much joy and love as little Harper brings to me – especially now when we need it the most.


Thank you to Brittany for today’s PhD Pet Post! You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @BrittanyUhlorn


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