The Art of Self Destruction – A Beginner’s Guide

And there is an art to it. It takes years to perfect. The sad part is that I even have to write this. This is not a ‘how-to’. The title of this blog is 100% sarcasm. I know how toxic my lifestyle is and I know that at least 50% of it can be attributed to my illness. The other 50% is all me. My perfectionism. My demons. My pathological need to succeed at this at all costs.


This could get ‘rant-y’. I’m dealing with a lot of stuff internally and it’s making me ill so I’m getting it out here. Now. Without censor. Always fun. So…

In a discussion with one of my lecturers the other day, I learned that everything I write here is not bullshit. All the heartache, the frustration, the late nights, the missed important events, letting down family and friends… He summed it up in one sentence:

“Design is not a career. Well, it IS a career. But it’s more than that. It’s a lifestyle choice.”

I didn’t need to ask him what he meant. I knew. So I asked him… “Why does it have to be this way, when chances are we’ll never do anything of any importance? Why do we push ourselves to breaking point each and every time?” He didn’t know. I don’t know. We just knew that it ‘is’ what it is. What I do know is that it consumes you… and if, like me, you have no sense of balance and no sense of self control, you’ll throw everything at it. To your own personal detriment. I know it’s my fault. I’m absolving every other associated party. This is all on me. I am the only one responsible.

The past 8 or so weeks, I’ve been experiencing incredible anxiety. I haven’t felt anxiety like this since I was a teenager. The kind where your heart is pounding out of your chest even when you’re resting. When you can’t sleep because of the bile rising in your throat and the burning in your chest. And the guilt that if you’re sleeping, you’re not studying. And what it comes down to is this: I still care. I am this way and I’m this distressed because I STILL CARE. If I didn’t, I’d sleep 8 hours a night and have not a single worry in the world.

I feel like the biggest hypocrite because each week I tell my Vis class…
“This is NOT about getting it right and being perfect. This is a process, a progression of skill-learning and application. Perfection has no place here”. And yet I do what I do. I push and push until I break. At the same time as telling others that’s no way to be *rolls eyes*

The other thing I know is that I am by no means the only one who feels this way. As I type this I’m engaged in a text message conversation with a young fellow student who says he feels exactly the same. The exact phrase was “I know this is life but I’m not living. This isn’t living”. How sad that a young man of 20 is feeling that way. I’m over the hill so it’s a bit different but he’s just starting out. I have to share this (with his permission) because I couldn’t have said it better myself:

“It is bloody ridiculous and im just about full up with it. Cause this is, as people in my circle of friends would say, “a little bit fucked”…”

Our nights, weekends, holidays… Everything is taken up with our studies. There’s not one moment of peace in 15 weeks. They scheduled a major submission for the day after our mid-semester break, so none of us got a holiday or any respite from the stress. The lucky ones got Easter Friday to Sunday off. I didn’t and neither did most people I know.

My parents were away in Turkey for 5 weeks. At no stage in those 5 weeks did I make it to my bed. Even the one day I thought I was going to get there, I slept on the sofa because I thought “if I got to my bed, I’m never getting up again”. I’ve spent 28 nights awake this semester, with minimal sleep on the other nights. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Admittedly, some of those are because of my illness but most of them I needed to use to get the work done. So before you even start, that’s 233 hours of missed sleep.

And then next thing you know, you’re standing in the computer repair store trying to get your broken laptop fixed, crying your arse off because you can’t remember your name or what year it is to write on the repair request form. And your stomach has ulcers. You throw up daily coz your nerves are shot to hell. And you’re convinced you’re having a nervous breakdown and at any moment you could snap and throw a chair at someone or run naked through the campus tearing your hair out. I’ll say it again… there is a reason they use sleep deprivation as torture.

It’s especially depressing when this thing is curled up beside you snoring softly and only moves long enough to get even more comfortable:


Someone said to me recently that this all just makes me smart, sexy and driven. No. Just… No. Even I know this makes me a f**king idiot. I’m an intelligent person in all other respects but this. But whether it’s the Bipolar or the overwhelming perfectionist gene (thanks, parents), I’m stuck with it. My doctor tells me this is all just part of who I am. Well, shit. Can’t I be someone else? Can’t you remove my frontal lobe?? Give me a new personality?? Anything??

You might ask: “if it’s all so torturous, why do you still do it?”. Days like today, I don’t know. Most other days? I know the end result will be worth it. I’ll be doing what I want to do. I can open up dialogues through design. I can critique, I can comment, I can make society better in ways that only architects can… Maybe I can be part of the avant-garde. Maybe that golden age of architecture is gone but it won’t stop me trying. We might get told we’ll never do anything special but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

This isn’t the days of old where students just studied. Now students have to work and support themselves in addition to study, not to mention have relationships and live some sort of youthful life. I’d be so pissed off if I was one of these kids and realised at 23 I’d missed the 5 most enjoyable years of my life to get into a career that I thought was glamorous and creative and sparkly, only to find I was destined a glorified CAD monkey until I was 35.

And yet we all still do it. There’s still 150 of us hanging in there, pushing ourselves until we drop, needing the gratification and satisfaction that comes with completing the projects, beating ourselves up when we can’t get it right, putting those around us through the hell of our roller coaster ride. In spite of all our complaining, our misery, our ill health… we are still doing it.

And for those of you reading this who can get amazing marks and sleep 8 hours a night and lead a stress-free existence whilst undertaking this degree, I salute you. Oh…and I hate you 🙂



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