The "Oh, sod it!" gene

Now that my brain has begun adjusting to European time, I'm going to begin a series of blog posts that digest and explore many of the interesting talks I heard while in Salzburg.

In one of the introductions to this year's award winners, the winner was mentioned as having said (rather tongue in cheek) that the main cause of anorexia was the lack of the "Oh, sod it!" gene. I laughed, of course, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there probably was something to that.

Long before the AN showed up in my life, I had trouble knowing when to stop. I remember studying many times in high school, as I was falling down exhausted and swilling countless cups of coffee, thinking "I need to study some more." I was aware on some level, that I knew the material pretty well, at least well enough to get an A-, but that wasn't good enough. The thought of anything less than knowing every single answer (and then some!) caused this terrible anxiety that would kick in with the mantra I need to study more.

As the clock ticked later and later on these nights, I often wished that I could let myself go to bed. I desperately wanted to stop caring about every last answer to every last question (or the placement of every last comma on term papers), but I just couldn't do it. I literally didn't have the ability to say "Oh, sod it!" and get some rest. It really didn't occur to me as a valid option.

This, of course, meant good grades and scholarly success, so it wasn't all bad. But this extreme studying was a harbinger for the eating disorder. Even as I started to recognize that self-starvation was killing me, I couldn't say "Oh, sod it!" and pick up a fork. I couldn't say I'd lost enough weight or exercised for enough hours or eaten few enough calories--I couldn't ever feel "good enough." When you combine that never-good-enough feeling with an intense, obsessive drive to achieve a goal, you have the mental disaster that can result in OCD, anorexia, and just obsessive behavior.

I still struggle with learning when to say "Oh, sod it!" and just go to bed or focus on something new. I have gotten better in honoring exhaustion-laden apathy (as in "I don't care, I just want to sleep") but my behaviors are still probably fairly extreme. I've started blogging many times, knowing full well I'm exhausted and need sleep, but feeling compelled to write anyway. Much of my struggle has lessened when I realize that I'm not ever going to naturally say "Oh, sod it!" very often unless under duress. So I need to practice this: practice accepting less than the best, practice listening to my body's cues for food and rest, practice throwing in the towel before I drop over. It's a skill, a skill like many others.

I was going to add something else to this post, but what better time to say sod it, right?

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Kim said...

Haha, I love the end to this post. As you know, I shared your academic traits (though I do wonder if I would be that intense if I was back in school again... I'm not sure I have it in me now that I realize what the "real world" is all about, i.e. perfection isn't necessary). The way I was with anorexia (pushing to the extreme, never reaching "enough") was very much how I was with school. I still have this tendency to drive myself too far, but it's not as obvious as it once was. With work, I have learned to leave projects unfinished so I can go home at 6pm, for example. I guess that's progress.

Amy said...

My mum has always said that she obviously didn't pass on her "oh sod it" gene to me, and I got my dad's "strive for perfection" one instead.
I hate doing anything half-heartedly and could never just walk away from something if I hadn't finished it to the best of my ability... this is something I am currently tackling.
Most recently: my bedroom- "oh sod it" it doesn't need to be imaculately tidy!


PS "oh sod it" i cant be bothered to check how you spell imaculately lol!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just learned a very British and more delicate way of putting "F it." Of course, I totally identified with the perfectionist stuff...

rr said...

I have this too! In fact I am taking an Irish Language class (through Community Ed) with the specific goal of NOT being the top of my class, of NOT studying much between classes.

Soon I will start volunteering around town and my goal there will be 'to be needed but not indispensable'.

I guess I am doing my best to not do my best at any cost, but its hard!

Melissa said...

I totally get this. I am still trying to challenge myself to leave the washing up overnight or stop tweaking every word I write or having a slightly less productive day than I could have had....

It is not a very comfortable way to live and often, I feel, when I'm tying myself in knots or too tired to think straight, not the most productive - so I might join you in practicing this skill.

Look forward to more European inspired talks! XX

Cathy (UK) said...

I lack the "Oh, sod it" gene/gene profile too.. I never felt I had to please others - just to satisfy my own impulse to do everything in great detail and 'get it right'.

I've learnt the hard way. I've learnt to practise 'sod it' activities and do things by time rather than completion/perfection.
So, I tell myself I will spend 'x' minutes on an activity. If I have not completed the activity in 'x' minutes then I let it go and return to it later.

The good thing is we can can learn to override our genetically-determined impulses.

I hope you're having fun in Europe :)

James Clayton said...

This is me all over. Without that and with the 'I just get so carried away!' gene, the end result is overwork, constant striving and inability to just stop.

Maybe one day they'll be able to inject the gene into us - at least so that for one night we can say 'I can stop now. I'm going to bed'. After a particularly bad case of all this last night, that's where I'm heading right now.

Oh, sod it. Sweet dreams and best wishes to you all...

Mimi said...

Such a good post!!! And so true. I've had serious "Oh, sod it!"-difficulties- everything just has to be completed, perfect, 100%. And I think you're right- with that comes great academic success and other benefits, but the anorexia thrives on it, too. I'm trying to now choose my "oh, sod it"-moments wisely. So strange having to practice leaving things a bit sloppy, but it's actually quite liberating once you get it to it. And you realise how little some of those smaller things really matter. So sod them. x

samsi77 said...


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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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