Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Me and My New Girlfriend

So, the other night I officially broke it off with my OCPD b-f.  It was very painful for me - I cried for days, knowing I had to do it.  He was shocked, seemed hurt, and didn't get it, at all - but why should he?  Did he ever "get" it while I was trying so hard to make our relationship work?  He thought if he cut back on his drinking (which he almost managed)  all would be good.  It wasn't.

I do feel sorry for him, and may have some pangs of regret in the future, but right now, I am trying very hard not to be co-dependent and fret over what I imagine he may be feeling.  Reality is, I'm not inside his head, I don't know what he's thinking or feeling.  Maybe he feels devastated, maybe he feels relieved, maybe he feels numb.  In any event, it's not any of my business what is going on inside his head.  (Remember boundaries?!)

What next?  For years, I had a picture on my desk at work of me and a previous b-f who then became a platonic male friend.  When OCPD b-f and I became a couple, I slid a picture of us on top of the old one.

I've taken the frame home and am going to take both pictures all the way out, probably smudge the frame to remove any lingering creepy/sad vibes, and replace it with a flattering picture of my new girlfriend, all by herself (though, of course, she doesn't really like any pictures of herself.)

That was fast, you think?  Not really.  She's been waiting in the wings all along, sadly content with whatever leftover crumbs of attention or love I would throw her.

I've come to realize how badly I've treated her, and intend to make up for it in 2011.
Aaaah, Freddie, what amazing talent, if only you could have lived a bit longer.

So here are my plans so far for me and the girlfriend - my new/old Best Friend - in 2011:
  • I'll tell her she smells delicious, whether she's wearing Burt's Bees or Opium or Vick's Vapo-Rub.
  • I'll encourage her to dream, and allow her to cry.
  • I'll nudge her to make all the doctor and dentist appointments she needs to take care of herself, even when she feels scared.
  • I'll cut up fruit and fix healthy things for her meals, but I won't frown or tell her she's bad when she needs to eat comfort food.
  • If she feels like reading or writing instead of cleaning the toilet, I won't scold her.
  • If people try to manipulate or take advantage of her, I'll try to help her see it and stand up for herself.
  • I'll pour her some champagne and paint her toenails while putting on a chick flick DVD.
  • I'll let her coax me into trying new foods.
  • I'll stay in with her for hermit weekends of sleeping, reading 'n writing, and go out with her for social weekend of activities with other friends.
  • I'm going to encourage her to enjoy, without ridicule or criticism, whatever she enjoys, whether that's Richard Simmons DVD's or researching her family on
  • When weather permits, I'll swim with her, and it won't matter whether it's laps or just splashing around.
  • As for sex... I'm sure I can find something to blow her hair back.
  • I'll turn up the tunes while we clean the place - maybe even go against "the only right way" and vacuum first, then dust.  (the horror!)
  • I'll work with her to eliminate the word "should" from her vocabulary (except in a very few instances, as in, "I should feed the cat before she chews off my leg.")
  • I'll kick around in flannel nighties and fuzzy slippers with her, or glam it up with eye shadow and mascara, whatever feels like fun.
  • I'm going to really work with her to stop focusing on her figure flaws and to appreciate her strength, health, and beauty.  Only little girls and gay men love Barbie dolls, anyway.
  • I'll light candles and run her hot baths with bubbles or scented salts and settle her comfortably in the tub with a juicy book and a glass of wine, or a pleasantly sweating glass of icy cold water, for as long as she needs to soak.
  • I'll hold her in my lap and rock her when she's scared or upset, let her feel what she need to feel, without trying to talk her out of it.
  • I'll tell her when she's getting overextended and needs to slow down (no more than two volunteer activities a month, okay?!)
  • I'll take her on walks and work out with her and maybe try new things (kettlebells?) or go to new places.  Or old places I haven't visited in a while.
My girlfriend is loyal, kind, patient, smart, funny, generous, she's been through a rough time, and she deserves to be treated well.  So this year, that's exactly how I'm going to treat her.

As I'm sure you've already figured out, my new girlfriend is ME.  Somehow it was much easier for me to make a list of nice things to do for an imaginary third person, rather than say, "I'm going to do this and that for myself."  Because somehow, that sounds so selfish, feels so uncomfortable.

I'll have to work with her on that one.  (wink)

G-f's new Theme Song for 2011

What nice things are you going to do for yourself (or, your best friend/self) in 2011?
Tell me about it in the comments.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I Learned from Cat-Sitting

My neighbors were kind enough to feed and play with my cat while I was out of town a few months ago, so I am returning the favor with theirs.  Only, their cat is psycho.

Her "mom" did warn me that she liked to bite for no apparent reason.  Well, I've been around cats for years.  It's never for no reason, they always give some warning.  "Mom" is a teenager, she just doesn't fully understand kitty etiquette, I figure.

Day One - the cat is wary.  I don't approach her, just feed her and scoop her box and stay out of her way.  Day Two, she is approaching me cautiously - I let her sniff my hand, she rubs against it, purring up a storm.  Day Three, she climbs into my lap and gives me a delicate kitty-kiss, purring, I give her lots of pettings.  Obviously, the poor thing is lonely, being alone all day and all night.  She's quite a beautiful cat, black with white bib and stockings, and super-soft fur.

Day Five, she's happy, purring, rubbing against my hand, then Zowie!  Claws and teeth, with intent to draw blood (and she does.)  Day Seven, I have become waaaay more cautious in petting her, though I am still petting her - even aggressive kitties need love, right?  She's prowling around on the floor, purring, rubbing against the corners of tables and boxes, and suddenly she lunges at my hand, trying to bite, drawing deep scratches.

funny pictures-the dog jumped. i saw everything. very sad. he'd been depressed for quite a while, you know.

Okay, the cat is clearly psycho.  Since that time, there have been three more attempted bites - she's also climbed into my lap more than once and purred, purred purred her furry little brains out.  I've played with her with toys, brushed her, and given her a lot of petting - not to mention being the holy bringer of food.  About another week and a half to go, before "mom" gets home.

Well, I can handle it for 15-20 minutes, twice a day, for a couple of weeks.  But I can't feel relaxed around her any more, even when she seems to be happy.  I am now slightly tense and always wary, trying to anticipate the next attack.

And I realize, although he has been "trying" very hard (trying hard short of actually getting professional help, that is), that I feel the same way around OCPD b-f that I do around Psycho-Kitty.  Even when he is being "good," I don't relax and feel emotionally safe around him.  I can't.  Over Christmas Eve, he only made snarky hostile remarks once or twice.  The rest of the time he was really nice.  For him.  Christmas Day, he behaved beautifully.  (Aside from his OCPD-anorectic fretting about his weight, that is.)

I don't trust him.  I am all too aware, even if he seems to be on his best behavior, that the claws could come out at any time.  I can forgive his past behavior - I know it is caused by his mental illness.  I believe (mostly) he truly doesn't mean to hurt me, though sometimes I wonder if in fact he does have a sadistic streak.

But I can't forget it.  I can't pretend everything is going to be okay when I don't feel that way.  I have too many emotional scars and wounds, and just feel too bruised and raw, inside, even six months after I got my own place.  Even the little contact I have with him now is too much. 

I had to force myself to Christmas shop for him.  Usually I have so much fun picking stuff out, and wrapping it; this year it was a joyless duty.  When I hear his ringtone, the emotion that grips my heart is not happiness, but dread.  And I cannot BEAR to think of spending New Year's with him.

I'm glad that I let him have a nice Christmas with me and my family.  (They're basically his family, too, he's been very close friends with my brother-in-law and sister for 36+ years.)  Maybe it's co-dependence on my part, but even though it was hard doing it with him, realizing more and more how I truly feel, it would have been much harder to "do" the family Christmas without him there, this year.  I would have felt guilty, knowing he was sitting home alone, the rest of the family would have missed him...  And as I privately tipped off my sister and others in the family that I was probably going to make the break very, very soon, they all had an opportunity to hug him, to tell him that no matter what, he will still be family, that they will always love him. 

Sure seems like a long way down.
(Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon)

Hopefully that will mean something to him, in days to come.  Co-Dependent me, I am still very worried about how this will affect him, what will happen to him... 

But I canNOT spend  New Year's with him.  I just can't.  Every cell in my body rebels.

So, that gives me a deadline I can't avoid.  My plan is to leave work today a little early, go to his house and tell him it's over, in person.  I'm scared.  And very sad.  And a little bit excited, at the thought I will truly be free.

Did you ever have to face a breakup you knew you needed to make, for your own sake, 
but had trouble pulling the trigger? 
What helped you get through it?  Tell me about it in the Comments.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year (Part 3)

Shameful Secret #3 - Starving and Binging

So, early on, I learned that being with family meant eating all kinds of sugary, doughy, fattening treats.

For Fattening Time, Part 1, go here.
For Fattening Time, Part 2, go here.

Then my Mom died, when I was ten. I think my sister made most of the meals for the next year.  I was kind of oblivious, and my dad was usually out chasing pussy. Sorry, I know that sounds crass and vulgar - but if one is to talk honestly about my Narcissist father, crass and vulgar are a necessary part of the equation.

I don't recall spending much time with my dad after my mother died.  (I don't remember spending much time with him, period.  Before or after.)  Basically if he had a need that couldn't be expressed in any other way, he'd haul me or my sisters into it.  For instance, he'd played tennis in high school, and decided he wanted to play again.  He'd tried to teach each of my older sisters and they hated it and quit in tears, so when I was five he took me into the pro shop and had a custom racket built for my hand & size, and I got 3-4 tennis lessons with the tennis pro to teach me the basics.

And then we played together, a little, but for some reason at five I couldn't keep up with him at forty-five.  I couldn't serve with enough power.  My backhand was weak.  So, my lessons were abandoned, even though at that point I liked tennis.  He decided to take it up again with me when I was 10, but at this point, he had gout and arthritis and who-knew-what, and he couldn't keep up with me.  Again, one match and done.

I artistically blurred the upper part of Stepmom's face to protect her identity.
Not that anybody ever looked at her eyes anyway.
She had a very nice smile, too - another thing that got passed right over.
 Of course, I got the full brunt of his anger both times he - I mean I - quit, because "I" had failed him.  I didn't understand then how Narcissists worked, how they could flatter you and make you feel soooo good, and then, when they turned, make you feel soooo bad.

A year after my mother died, he married a woman who made Dolly Parton look like she was wearing a training bra.  I mean, seriously, those jugs must have been truly gruesome to haul around.

And my sister and her new baby, who'd been living with us while her Marine husband was serving his tour of duty, moved out, and it was just the three of us.  Daddy would take me grocery shopping, the one time of the week we'd spend together.  "Oooh, these brownies look good, don't they?  Wouldn't you like some brownies?"

I was a kid.  I was already hooked on sugary, fattening foods, and my dad wanted me to like them.  Of course I said yes.  He would load up the cart with junk food; brownies, donuts, chips, cake - all things he was buying "for me," in theory.  He was very, very good at playing me off my stepmother and vice versa.

My poor stepmother... She wasn't very bright, for one thing.  She was a high school drop-out, and she was African-American and worked in a laundry, and we were white - working class, true, but my father had a college degree, was highly intelligent, and held a white collar job. 

Not a lot of mixed marriages in the early 1970's.  Originally Daddy Dearest had moved Stepmom into the apartment where my mother had lived and died.  In an all-white neighborhood.  Understandably, she wasn't real comfortable with that, so we moved to a "mixed" (and very rough) neighborhood in the inner city.  We still all got a lot of crap.  I remember once bloodying another girl's nose for using the word "nigger" to refer to my stepmother. 

Things got ugly; my father and stepmother didn't like the new friends I'd made (truly, I didn't like them much either, but you either got along or you got your ass kicked.)  Dramatic fights ensued, and I ran away from home a few times, to stay with my new b-f's family.  I would come home during the day when both DD and Stepmom were at work, and gorge, because b-f's family were on welfare and I didn't feel right eating too much of their food.  One day, my dad left me a note and we worked out a deal for me to go live with my oldest sister (who was 27 and the married mother of two young kids at that time.)

She was great - if unprepared to "mother" a 13 y.o. at her age.  She and her husband gave up their bedroom so I could have my own room; I was encouraged to read whatever I wanted, drink an occasional wine cooler if I wanted, and to eat whatever I wanted.  We have the same basic body frame, and Sis was dieting, and so I became very scale-conscious and believed I must be really heavy (I wasn't) and needed to lose weight too, so I dieted right along with her.  This living arrangement worked for a year, but now I was 14, beginning to grow breasts, and getting some scary (horny) looks from my brother-in-law's friends.  I didn't know how to handle it, so I decided I wanted to go back "home" and live with my father again.

DD & StepMom had moved out of the "mixed" neighborhood into an all-black one.  Actually, nicer than the old one, except on one corner I had to pass on my way home from school everyday was a bar.  The unemployed low-lifes liked nothing better than to hang out in front and catcall at the weird white girl who didn't even belong in that neighborhood.

I hid in my room, and read and ate, mostly, but I did connect with a few of my former friends, and one day we had walked to the town square for lack of anything better to do and met some cool people handing out flyers that looked like comic books that told about Jesus.  I was intrigued, I went to the house where they all lived, a commune just like in Jesus' time where everybody shared everything and loved one another and there were no drugs and no sex (wow, no sex?! a safe place you could live where you wouldn't get hit on?!) and no fighting...  I ended up "getting saved."

So when a month after I'd moved back "home" my dad told me it "wasn't working out for him" and I needed to decide where else I wanted to live (I was 14,) because it wasn't gonna be with him, I chose the fellowship.  Which was full of love and sharing and prayers and Bible studies and almost NO FOOD.  The people living there would get jobs -  but they got moved around a lot, so they were unemployed a lot, and the rent got paid first, and utilities, and then food.  I think my dad chipped in $40 a month for my room & board, since I was too young to work.  I remember living off cinnamon toast one week, as you could then get three loaves of bread for a dollar; then the butter ran out so it was just toast with cinnamon sprinkled on it, dry.  I remember somebody somewhere donating whole wheat pancake mix, and eating two pancakes that expanded in my stomach and felt like I'd swallowed a bowling ball.  And brothers and sisters would periodically fast for the good of their souls...

Besides, being a true Christian was supposed to be about crucifying the flesh and you were supposed to offer up your hunger - if you were hungry, if you were so weak as to be aware of hunger at all! - as a sacrifice to JEEsus, after all he went through on the cross wasn't being hungry an insignificant price to pay?! 

Plus, I would walk "home" on the weekends with my laundry and sit in my dad's kitchen, reading while I washed my clothes, and as the clothes cycled, I inhaled everything I could in the refrigerator.  Oh, and I got a few dollars allowance from my dad, too, which the fellowship didn't know about.  Not enough to buy an actual school lunch, but it was enough so I could stop by the donut shop on the way to school in the morning and buy a couple of donuts to fill up (2 for 25 cents) if I was particularly hungry.

I suppose I should have felt guilty, getting in that extra "food", but I never did.  And while I still have a sweet tooth, I don't much care for donuts, these days. Fancy that!

I spent the summer of '77 at the fellowship main headquarters in lower Manhattan.  They did try to serve regular, nourishing meals there, but I often missed them, having been out all day on carpet cleaning door-to-door sales assignments (If you ever watched Seinfeld, you might have seen this bit:, or talking to people on street corners at night about JEEsus.  Or up all nights cleaning the machines.  (Sisters being the "weaker" sex, we didn't do the actual carpet cleaning, just the filthy and physically demanding job of cleaning the machines, checking and oiling the nozzles on the wands, and restocking the milk crates with fresh chemicals.)

So, meals were caught in the communal kitchens here and there, a lot of PB & J on stale bagels.  (I didn't know bagels were supposed to be chewy and not rock hard until I was well into my twenties.)  A lot of my allowance in NY was spent on frozen yogurt - until the big blackout, when the guy with the ground floor convenience store started giving it away for free.

Eventually DD & SM (#1) split up.  My father had led her to believe he had a lot more money than he actually did, for one thing, and I moved back in with him for a while, though he tried to guilt-trip me into believing his divorce was all my fault, that he couldn't bear to live apart from his darling daughter any more.  This time, I didn't buy into it.

I would have liked to have gone to college, but most of the funds that were supposedly being set aside for that, from my Mom's military service and Social Security survivors' benefits... mysteriously, not there.  (There was enough left to buy me a crappy car once I was on my own.)

Plus, while my head was all wrapped up in religious mania, I hadn't taken any of the college prep courses I should have, nor SAT's or any college exams (not something DD asked Question One about or paid any attention to, ever.  In fact, my last two years of high school I had to fight not to be suspended because my immunization records weren't up to date, and DD just said, "I don't have time, you deal with it.")  And StepMom #2 was on the near horizon; ready to move in with her 16 year old daughter - and there was not enough room in that small apartment for four people.

So I moved back with with my oldest sister upon high school graduation, at 17, and into my own place at 18.  And in my own place, I was dead broke at first and lived off a lot of mac and cheese because it was filling and all I could afford.  Wasn't till I became a prospective mom that I really began educating myself about nutrition and trying to eat healthy foods and a balanced menu, to serve my child healthy foods.

I know a lot of women and men with eating "issues" have deliberately starved themselves at times, which is a path I haven't taken.  However, I do know what it's like to feel constant, painful hunger while trying to brainwash oneself into believing it's a good thing.  I also know what it feels like (too well) to eat oneself into oblivion.

I'm struggling to find balance, now, as I separate myself emotionally, not just physically, from my OCPD, anorectic b-f, who has very unhealthy attitudes about food and eating.  Who is now starving himself once again (he's 6'2" 160 lbs) as he thinks he's fat.  Who always thought I was fat, even when I wasn't (mind you, I am heavier right now than I want to be) and continually told me so, in snide remarks, nasty comments, and evil looks.  Along with dirty looks and snide comments for being a picky eater.

This year's ginger cookies - and nobody bitched
at me for messing up "his" kitchen, yeah!
 It's a real battle for me right now to not stuff myself with every "forbidden" food in the grocery store, just as a Demand Resistance thing.  I have done it, more than a little, since getting my own place.  And used the "food as narcotic" crutch, as this separation and the delving I've been doing into my heart and feelings has been hard.  I certainly learned the lesson, over the years, to eat fatty, sugary foods to cope with grief, stress, and economic uncertainty.

I'm not blaming myself or beating up on myself for going there, but I'm ready to turn it around, I think.  To start a new chapter - not on dieting, not on depriving myself of something I crave, but learning to live with a healthier attitude towards food.  What a concept!  I'm joining (if I can figure out how to officially sign up/on) an online group working through Susan Albers' Eating Mindfully and really looking forward to the insights I'm already learning.

For Fattening Time, Part 1, go here.
For Fattening Time, Part 2, go here.

Share your own thoughts in the Reactions or Comments, below.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

F%#k it, and let it go. Time to laugh.

At this time of the year, it's pretty much time to say, f%#k it and let it go.  Hours later, utilizing badly translated instructions, you've put the friggin' bicycle together - or it's not gonna happen without calling in a rocket scientist.  The movie you wanted to see was all sold out, so you had to go with your second, or even third choice.  Aunt Celeste got hammered on eggnog at your Solstice party and once again hit on that cute guy from your office because she can't quite get it through her head he's gay as an Easter basket.

Do you think Norman Rockwell painted the kind of pictures he did because he remembered those kinds of family gatherings - or because he wished he did?

DId OCPD rear its naughty head over the holidays?  Try to laugh about it, and let it go.  No matter how much planning, no matter how many lists were made, no matter if you only invited a select few people over or the whole fam damily, things probably did not go perfectly these holidays.  And that's okay.

You can focus on the things that did go beautifully, or obsess about the things that didn't - but trust me, the second choice won't be much fun.

Lighten up and have a laugh or two.

An oldie but goodie, updated for current events.

(You can just let it play as you scroll down - unless you really want to sing along, karaoke-style.)

Q - Do you think those with OCPD are going to start sticking to trains, boats and automobiles now?  Or will they brave the body scans after all, kvetching all the way?

Consider the delight with which toddlers open their gifts.

Click the link for more on How Different Age Groups Celebrate Christmas from the Oatmeal.

Another gleeful moment, brought to you
by Grandma K's ginger cookies.

It's totally your choice how to feel.  You can stress over some small detail, or say, f%#k it, and let it go.  You can look at this picture of a baby from my family, enjoying his first ginger cookie, and focus on the truly incredible mess to be cleaned up.  Or, you can see the absolute glee captured on his face.  Could this baby look any happier?

I say, let's laugh.  Let's focus on the happy moments.  Our troubles and worries don't need to be front and center all the time (or even most of the time.)  We can pick them up and fret about them any time we want.

For today, for a few hours, just say f%#k it, and let it go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Pity Me Because I'm Motherless

The very worst thing that has ever happened in my life was on the eve of my tenth birthday, when my mother died of breast cancer, screaming in pain. 

Image via Trostan at Flickr
 Mind you, I can now conceive of even worse things.  It could have been my child.  I hope and pray it never is.

And from what I'm told, my mother actually "passed" peacefully.  The severe pain occurred about thirty minutes before she died, and after that there was a lull, a peaceful period, and then she went quietly.  I had been sent to bed for the night, long before, so I was lying in bed - in her bed, actually, the one with the cross-stitched bedspread her mother had made ( my parents had twin beds, a la Ricky and Lucy,) in the farthest bedroom from the living room where her hospital bed was set up.  When I heard her scream - and I don't know how long that went on, could have been a minute or two, could have been five, seemed like forever - I was terrified.  Part of me wanted to run out there and be with her, and part of me was too scared.  I didn't want to know; maybe if I stayed in bed, it would all turn out to have been a bad dream.

I wet the bed that night. 

And in the morning, when I awoke on the morning of my tenth birthday, they never scolded me about wetting the bed - a big girl like me!  My father and grandmother - Momma's mother - told me that my mother had died.  Her hospital bed was empty, her corpse having been taken to wherever it is that they take bodies that have been donated for scientific research.  Because even in death, my mom wanted to help others.  Perhaps even her own daughters.  Maybe some day I, too, will have breast cancer, and possibly because of something they learned from looking at what the disease did to my mom, I will be able to survive while she didn't.

Okay.  Some heavy duty sh-t there.

But here's the thing - I don't want - never have wanted - pity and sympathy.  Oh, maybe a little.  But my mother's death always made me feel weird, and different, so I rarely told the story, and always tried to pretend it didn't affect me that much.  As if!

Until my sister gave me a copy of Hope Edelman's Motherless Daughters, I thought I was the sole weirdo.  I didn't understand that what I felt is something that is common to all unmothered daughters (and often sons, too) who have lost a mother to death.  To abandonment.  To mental illness, where maybe the body is present, but the mind and soul have gone on walkabout, as the Aussies would say.  We don't have a real mother, a Leave-It-To-Beaver mother (like we imagine everyone else does,) but this weird, scary situation.

And what we need, all of us, isn't pityIsn't someone saying, oh, you poor, poor thing!  (My Grandma used to say it about me, and every time she did, I got this mental image of myself with a big hump on my back like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Not that I am bagging on people with hunched backs, okay?!)

What we need, and crave, is understanding how this has affected our lives, the ways it has skewed out thinking, the partners we have chosen (or avoided!)

As I pick apart this relationship with my OCPD b-f, I am seeing more and more how he fulfilled many of my (subconscious) needs.

B-f, too, lost his mother right around his birthday; in fact, that (plus some scarily accurate dreams about him) was the catalyst that spurred me to get back in touch with him, after I got this news through the grapevine.  While I was certainly sympathetic, and could relate on many levels to the pain he was suffering, I think there was on the subconscious level an awareness/hope that now I had somebody to talk to, someone who could truly relate.  (One of my previous closest romantic and then friendship relationships was with someone whose father had kidnapped him and his sister from their possibly BPD mother at a young age, so he'd also experienced mother loss at a young age.)  

I thought b-f  would understand how crazy it felt to lose a mom on or near one's birthday, the whole steeling oneself against well-meant salutations every year that sometimes brought me to the verge of tears.  I could save him (and thus, I could save myself.)

Then, too, b-f was much like my NPD father in many of his behaviors, right down to being an alcoholic with vodka as his poison of choice.  So now I could re-enact that relationship, too, and this time, he would give a flying fart about me, unlike Daddy Dearest!  With his OCPD behaviors in sleep mode, during the courtship, until we moved in together... no wonder I thought I'd hit the jackpot with b-f.  It was like my reward for all the years of being alone, for putting my offspring first... now it was my turn to be nurtured and understood.

And then the happy love hormones wore off and I was left with an angry (seeming, anyway,) hostile b-f who neither understood me and the deep emotional scars from losing my mother, nor seemed inclined to be any more loving to me than my own father had been.  More like pouring salt in my emotional wounds, and using my emotional weaknesses against me.  Criticizing everything I did, said, ate, and didn't say, do, or eat.

Boy, did I miss the boat on that one!  (Speaking of missing the boat, this was supposed to be a book review!)

So, now that I have gotten myself semi-out of the relationship, I'm fighting to understand why I got into it into the first place, and why I am having such trouble extricating myself.  To that end, I'm rereading this book and listening again to Warming the Stone Child, because while I felt like I had learned some invaluable lessons from them, lo these twenty years ago, obviously I need  a refresher.

So I'm going through Motherless Daughters again, and it is helping me.  Once again.  All the lessons I'd already learned but managed to forget. 

To those of you readers who had an - lets say, uneven - upbringing, to those who are now struggling to deal with a mother with OCPD or another PD, or a partner with one, let me say, I think this book would be an invaluable resource for you.

From Chapter One, The Seasons of Grieving:
A daughter who loses a mother does pass through stages of denial, anger, confusion and reorientation, but these responses cycle back on themselves as each new developmental task awakens her need for the parent.  Say a girl of thirteen loses her mother to a heart attack.  In the midst of the initial shock and numbness, she grieves to the best of her ability at that time.  But five years later, at her high school graduation, she may find herself painfully missing her mother and grieving all over again.  Years after this episode she may be back in the mourner's role again, when she plans her wedding, or gives birth to her first child, or gets diagnosed with a serious illness, or reaches the age at which her mother died.  At each milestone a daughter comes up against new challenges she's frightened to face without a mother's support, but when she reaches out for her, the mother isn't there.  The daughter's feelings of loss and abandonment return, and the cycle begins again.
Yep, time for me to do more emotional homework.  Another grief cycle needs me to work through it.

Losing a mother may be due to actual, physical death,  But it can also be due to a mother who is not emotionally there for you - whether she's boogied off with her newest boyfriend, or whether she is physically present in the home, but gone, emotionally.  (As in, gone due to OCPD, BP, NPD, BPD, depression, or other mental illness.)

From the chapter Cause and Effect:
An abandoned daughter is left feeling angry, resentful, and sad.  She also has the emotional injury of having been given up, put aside, left, or lost.  The question "why did she leave?" always includes the appendix "me." 
Every time I read that, I feel a sharp pang in my heart.  Even though I know my mom would have stayed if she could.

 From the chapter Daddy's Little Girl:
... Jane says she fears relying on a partner, yet longs for a relationship with someone who will care for her.  "I attract every wimp and his brother, " she says.  "But I was never mothered, and I never had children.  I feel like saying to some men, 'You want to be mothered?  F-ck you! I don't want to be anybody's mother.'  I find all these men who want mommies, but I want them to be my father.  I want somebody who'll come home and take care of me."
Jane's sentiments here are very close to my own.  I didn't know about OCPD then, but I knew I was tired of taking care of myself, of not having someone to fuss over me.  When b-f fussed over me, it felt, oh, so soothing.

Until it didn't.

This song from Tori Amos always makes me cry, thinking of what I wanted/hoped for, and didn't have, a safe, loving relationship with a parent until I was mature and ready to move on.

From the chapter Looking for Love:
... found that those who recalled their parents as cold or inconsistent caregivers were more likely to worry about being abandoned or unloved, exhibit an obsessive and overly dependent love style, and suffer from low self worth and social confidence than those who perceived their mothers and father as warm and responsive during their childhoods.  As adults, the daughters with distant parents often formed relationships characterized by jealousy, fear of abandonment, and an obsessive preoccupation with finding and maintaining intimate bonds.
Now, to counterbalance all this sad, pathetic crap, there are also passages from Clarissa Pinkola Estes and others about the incredible strengths of an unmothered child, about how we can be very intuitive and observant, and strong, in our own way.  So, no pity required.  Just love and patience, please.

You've already gone online and ordered this book, haven't you?  If you've already read it, share your feedback, below in the Comments.  Or, if you're just beginning to read it, share your feedback as you work your way through it.  Or, click a Reaction and let me know how/if this moved you.

Peace and blessings to you on your journey.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year (Part 2)

Shameful Secret #2 - Horrible eating habits from childhood

This one’s not so secret. Pretty much anyone who didn’t grow up in some hippie we-grow-our-own-wheat-germ-and-rutabaga commune learned some crappy eating habits along the way.

The "Pepsi Generation" was always depicted like this:

Fun, fit, extremely attractive, playing volleyball on the beach...

Not like this: 
Image via

Although I tried extremely hard as a mother not to pass my own poor eating habits onto my own child, still there were more boxed, frozen, ready-to-zap meals than I would have liked. A lot of fast food and hot dogs grabbed at the ballfield. Because when you’re a single, working mom, juggling your job and traffic to get the kid picked up from after-school-care and to the field for practice or games and then back home and two hours or more of homework and into the shower for him if you can fit it in, and you’ve also got to try to get him in bed for almost enough sleep (so the circus can begin again, in the morning)...

The sit-down family dinners, nutritionally balanced and beautifully presented, while they did occur occasionally, were pretty much an unattainable fantasy most days of the week.  I served him everything, including foods I disliked, and encouraged him to enjoy many foods. One of my food rules was something green served with every dinner: salad, broccoli, green beans. Even peas.  (the horror, the horror!)

So I don't beat myself up about how I parented my son, foodwise.  In retrospect, I probably could have done some areas better, but all things considered, I did a bang-up job, with the funds, time and knowledge I had then.

But my own childhood... unlike many supertasters, I had no problem ingesting vast amounts of sugar and fat in the form of milk, cheese, ice cream. I was a skinny little thing, then, and I know my mom and grandparents worried about my picky eating habits, so if I would eat anything, I’d get more of it.

As we know now, malnutrition isn't just about being hungry.  You can be obese, you can be full, and still be malnourished, if you're not getting the foods the body needs.

I ate things that make my teeth hurt now to even contemplate. Angel food cake with Mom’s homemade caramel icing was a favorite birthday cake. (I’d like one slice, now, but the thought of a second makes me shudder.) I’d come home from school for lunch and Mom would make me pancakes, dripping with butter and laden lavishly with brown sugar. I remember she even made me a sugar sandwich, once: Wonder bread, thickly spread with butter, and then heavily crusted with white sugar (my stomach heaves just to think of it now.)
Image via

Then there were Grandma K’s yummy round Danish pancakes, aebelskivers. Those I ate with a little butter and dusted with powdered sugar.

But my favorite was Grandma K’s ginger cookies. While there were many types of cookies offered everywhere as we visited family during the holidays: little round balls covered with powdered sugar and filled with jelly, peanut butter cookies with fork marks across the tops, chocolate chip, meringue drop cookies, and many others, ginger cookies were not only for the holidays, but for every visit to Grandma K’s.

There wasn’t much to do at Grandma K’s, and the toys she had were on the sparse side, plus I was the youngest grandchild by about 5-6 years, so I had no one to play with while the grown-up sat and talked, talked and sat. I did love sitting in the kitchen, out of the way on the “grandchild” stepstool with the fold-down seat, watching my Mom, her younger sister, and my Grandma bustling around, either making our family dinners, or cleaning up after them.  Usually with a ginger cookie in my hand.

I love this family picture - the women, the aprons,
the old fashioned sink and wallpaper.

Some people eat something similar to our cookies, as ginger snaps, and sometimes Grandma would make hers small and crunchy, too, but my favorite was bigger, chewy cookies, which is how I make mine. Mom occasionally made them to her mother’s recipe, too, and when I got to be about 6-7 years old she let me “help” her make them.

Ginger cookies are irrevocably tied to childhood, family, and holidays in my mind, and though I don’t have them year round, I must bake at least one batch over the Christmas holidays.

This created much friction between me and OCPD b-f.  Because mostly, I wasn't allowed in the kitchen we ostensibly shared.  It was hisHis, and I was such a slob, if I used the kitchen I might get flour on the counter.  Besides, I was in the way.

Moreover, he didn't like ginger cookies, and he didn't understand why I felt compelled to bake them, even when I explained.  He didn't much care for sweets of any kind, and he openly despised me for having occasional food cravings, even around the holidays.  (Even though he's an alcoholic with terrible eating habits, himself.)  It got worse when I began to gain back much of the weight I'd lost in our first year of living together.

Being told I couldn't/shouldn't want to eat something only made me want to eat it more.

Now, I know I have many Food Issues.  Besides the pickiness, I know (in my head) that food isn't love, that eating something sugary or fattening is only temporarily satisfying.  That I can (and have) used food as a narcotic, eaten myself into a food coma much too often, and that I truly need to develop a healthier, more intuitive and less "bad vs. good" relationship with food.

I don't want to go the "all-or-nothing" route, as some do, pretty much swear off sugar or bread or mac 'n cheese or whatever.  Yes, I do need to eat much less of it, but no, I am not ready to give it up for the rest of my life.  Really and truly, if it was a choice between being shot in the head, and never letting chocolate cross my lips again, I would take the bullet.

I've been reading some wonderful books and sites on eating healthy.  Katie's Health for the Whole Self has been especially helpful, especially this article on figuring out of it's your physical self or your emotions calling you to the fridge.  Going into 2011, one of my presents to me will be learning to be better to myself, which includes learning how to eat in a way that's healthier for my body and soul.

The one thing that holds me back, is that I am afraid of fully breaking the connection between eating and emotions.  Can I do it for some foods, and not others, or that is like being "a little bit pregnant"?  You see, I still want to eat ginger cookies at Christmas, and I still want them to take me back, through smell and taste, to that chair in my grandma's kitchen, watching Mom dry dishes.

(To read Part 1, click here.)
(To read Part 3, click here.)

Got ideas?   Suggestions?  Similar stories? 
Share 'em here in the Comments, or leave a REACTION.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year (Part 1)

All my life food has been a source of pleasure and shame. Going back to my earliest memories. And it’s especially hard this time of the year, because so much of any holiday gathering - whether it’s family or friends or both - is centered around food.

Food is incredibly hard. You can throw away your cigarettes, you can pour your booze down the kitchen sink, you can even learn to stop biting your nails (which I have done. Mostly.) All those addictions are really, really difficult to overcome - and kudos to any of you readers who’ve overcome them!

But you can’t say, "Okay, now I’m going to work out all my food issues, and then I’m never going to eat again."

I have so many food issues, and I’ve realized, as I come out of the fog, detox from the distorted thinking I picked up while living with OCPD b-f, that I can’t shove it out of the way, as if it’s a side issue. My shameful, distorted relationship with food is part of my distorted thinking about everything.

Food Shame #1 - Picky Eater

While many of the "typical" food shames come from learned behaviors (and I have those too,) my biggest shame and best kept secret is that I am a super picky eater. (I have rarely discussed and never written about  this issue, so please be patient with me!) 

I was going over to a dear friend’s for dinner this week, and when she mentioned she planned to make chili, I could not suppress my gag reflex. She was surprised, not having noticed over the years (because we usually go out to eat) how very limited a range there are of things I will eat. Well, one learns to hide and disguise it, over the years.  And she was kind enough to be open to the idea of going out to eat, instead.

From the time I was an infant in a high chair, spitting back bananas at my grandmother (what baby doesn’t like bananas? me) I have long exasperated my family, and myself, because there are so very, very many foods I don’t like, or cannot bring myself to eat.

Am I a Super Taster? According to one online quiz I am, though I’ve never taken the blue dye or chemical paper test, but I fit many of the criterion. I can’t stand:
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Coffee
  • Tea (hot, green, iced or any kind)
  • Grapefruit Juice
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Dark red wines
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Chili peppers or hot foods - what others experience as mildly spicy, generally leaves my entire mouth feeling burned, and my tongue unable to taste anything for days.
  • tonic water
  • olives
  • beer, sauerkraut (as a native Cheesehead of German descent, I might as well have been an alien from Jupiter among my ‘peops.’)
On the other hand, I can eat:
  • raw spinach
  • broccoli (and love it!)
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated drinks (though not plain/bitter carbonated water, like Perrier or Evian)
  • Dairy foods, ice cream, butter, eggnog, all of which I love (too much)... though I can't stand fatty meats
If you’re not a supertaster, you might think it sounds cool: SuperMan, Supergirl, Supertaster. It’s not. You might think that being a picky eater is something your parents encouraged by coddling you, by catering to you and fixing you special meals. It’s not.

I have many painful memories of being a small child, sitting at the table and watching my family digging into chili, with obvious pleasure, and I hated it, and the kidney beans made me want to puke. Or my personal TriFecta of Foul, tuna fish casserole, which contains cream of mushroom soup, and hence, mushrooms (disgusting!), tuna fish (smells like cat food, nausea inducing) and peas (we have now reached full Vomit Launch Stage.)

I can't express how much I wanted to like the foods my family liked.  How much I wanted to be like everyone else, how much it hurt - and still hurts - to be so different. All the nights sitting alone at the table after everyone else had left the kitchen and gone into the living room to watch TV, because I was not allowed to leave the table until I had eaten at least two spoonfuls of something I found utterly disgusting, and I just couldn’t get it down.

Eventually, my parents and the rest of my family (my maternal grandmother took a little longer, but she was a stubborn old broad) gave up on trying to force me to like new foods. They were still offered periodically, but no longer forced; on tuna casserole and chili nights I was allowed to have a bowl of cold cereal.

Since childhood, I have learned to try - and even enjoy - many more foods. Chicken. Turkey. Steak and Hamburger. Pizza.

But there are still many, many other foods that others eat with relish (don’t like relish or pickles, either) that I can’t stand. With some items, it’s smell and taste. I have a difficult time in movie theaters, because I find the smell of popcorn sickening.  Peas, my nemesis... I understand, theoretically, how healthy they are, I’ve gotten the lecture from my oldest sister more times than I can count about how fresh peas and frozen peas are not as "mushy" as the canned peas Momma used to make... and the smell of peas, in any form, still makes me gag.

Sushi: its smell, appearance, and just general concept.   Why?  To me, the neglected fish-tank stink wafting through a sushi restaurant is so horrific I don't understand how anyone doesn't lose their appetite. I concede that if I was stranded on a desert island, I might be reduced to eating raw fish, and even grateful to have it... but only if I had already killed and eaten my fellow castaways. 

With other items, it’s mouth-feel. The spongy, rubbery or dry weirdness of mushrooms. The sliminess of big chunks of cooked onion.  I avoid coconut, because I don’t like the feel of the flakes or splinters or whatever the hell those nasty stringy things are, in my mouth, and I wonder if that is part of my aversion to bananas - they either have those weird stringy things, or are mushy and slimy.  I don’t like salsa, both because biting down on big chunks of raw onion (in anything!) is too much flavor, and because I don’t like big, chunky anything as food. Not chunks of tomatoes in pasta sauce, not chunky peanut butter, not trail mix or granola bars. Why not just eat a handful of cat litter?

(Oddly enough, I don't have problems with mouth-feel in... areas in my sex life where others often do experience distaste, shall we say, with mouth-feel or sliminess or anything else.  Weird.)

Back on point - if it has nuts or coconut in it, the candy, cake, or ice cream is ruined for me. The hint of coffee flavoring in tiramisu, toffee, or ice cream... you might as well pour goat piss over it, because I can’t eat it.  Go ahead, try to sneak it in, others have tried... I always taste it, I always gag.  It looks so pretty, and then it hits my tongue.

With yet other foods, it’s visual impact. Lobster, crab, fish with eyes staring at me... How can anyone eat that?!   I lose all interest in eating something that, in smaller scale, I would crush with a shoe if I found it crawling across my kitchen floor.  Grotesque Mexican food, that looks like it’s already been eaten, and didn’t agree with the first person who chowed it down.

Did I mention, that, when given my personal preference, none of my food on my plate touches another? And I will usually eat all of one thing on my plate, before starting on another, because I don’t like the tastes becoming co-mingled in my mouth.  (With a few exceptions, like a hot fudge sundae.)  I like peanut butter, and I love chocolate, but I can't stand them mixed together.  Sounds like Asperger's Syndrome, except I'm not, according to other tests.  And I love non-food smells - scented candles, incense, cologne - none of them bother me, unlike OCPD b-f.

As you can imagine, my food "thing" makes dining with friends a challenge and embarrassing. I’ve learned how to choke down a few mouthfuls if I must, and push the rest of the food around on my plate (which works fine in a restaurant, not so well in a private home.) To swallow somebody’s aunt’s homemade iced tea in gulps that I try not to taste, and refuse a refill. Sipping a glass of merlot that tastes to me like shoe leather, and again, no refills!

But still, I’ve periodically had to "out" myself, if not fully, when choice of a restaurant is up for discussion, and steer away from sushi, Thai, Indian. I can do French if I must, though the sauces and creams can be a bit much (and why must everyone add mushrooms to everything? See above about goat piss.) If I drink enough margaritas and eat enough chips (which are fine the way they are, though occasionally I will dip them into the salsa for the juice - though that’s usually way too hot for me) I can usually pick my way around a Mexican restaurant menu now, getting them to hold the salsa.  And avocado.  (And then I try hard not to look at the slop on anybody's plate.)  I can do beef or chicken with broccoli at a Chinese restaurant, though everything else on the menu is pretty much a no-go for me.  Why must they put nuts or mushrooms into everything?!

Eating with friends is always a minefield, and a source of potential humiliation. Luckily for me, at work my immediate supervisor is definitely a supertaster, too, so he broke the picky-eating ground before me. At company lunches, they are so used to teasing him about his food quirks, that I usually pass under the radar.

I hate the idea of being the obnoxious, fussy eater in any group. You know, the one who wants to know if the food on the menu is organic and locally grown, and if the whatever is fresh, and after keeping the server there going through the entire menu for twenty minutes, will sigh and order a chef's salad?  I don’t even have the excuse of allergies (though I’ve gone along with the idea when other have suggested allergies might be my problem.)

If I only had a dollar for each time somebody has suggested to me, "If you just try this, you'll like it."

Mikey might like it when he tries it, but I almost never do.  I hate where I've read online to someone advising a parent of a child who’s picky about their food, "just stop catering to them and they’ll get over it.  Make them eat it."  Has that ever, ever worked?  For anyone?

I can’t count how many times I have tried something, and gagged, or felt sick to my stomach for hours afterwards (see food poisoning for the time I tried crab cakes.) I continue to try new things from time to time, as well as some of the old things that I figure are worth another try, with great hopes... that usually are  dashed.  I don't usually try new things when out in company, however, because I don't want my friends and co-workers to see me fighting back revulsion or nausea.  Or worse, as in the crab cake incident, me actually spewing all over the street, sick on the restroom floor trying to make it to a sink or toilet...  that was pretty humiliating.

One Good Thing
My pickiness or supertaster qualities or whatever they are, did help me keep my sense of ME semi-intact when everything else was getting distorted around OCPD b-f.  Because he kept cooking things and insisting I would like them, should like them. It infuriated him that I didn’t.  Because in his world view, everyone does like... whatever he likes.  I would drink a lot of wine or margaritas and manage to choke down whatever it was, but I couldn't pretend I had found a new food favorite when I was fighting to keep it from coming back up.  Especially in the beginning, I really, really wanted to please b-f and like the foods he liked. And though in a few cases I was able to eat, even learned to enjoy foods (soft tacos, mild sauce, no salsa) that he wanted me to try, for the most part, I couldn’t.

That says a lot to me. If I was simply "being difficult" and Demand Resistant, I wouldn’t have been able to expand my food repertoire by any new dishes.

I honestly tried, wanted to please him, and I still didn’t like the foods he wanted me to like. So when he told me I was just being difficult, at least there, I knew he was 100% wrong. And that small piece was something that helped me hold onto who I was/am, even while the rest of my vision was getting distorted by OCPD-think.

I’ve thought about hypnotherapy, or counseling specifically about my food issues. Possibly that would get me past the "smash that roach" reflex whenever I see a cooked lobster, or my other visual "ick" factors. Possibly even get me past the mouth-feel issues, but I don’t believe I can be hypnotized or therapized past what my nose and taste buds are telling me in terms of spicy, bitter, etc.  And, with my limited budget, my sparse funds need to be directed in other areas.

I know my limited diet would bug a lot of people, but I am fine with that part of it, except for the shame factor. I still struggle to accept this is who I am, biologically, that I am unlikely to be able to reprogram my taste buds, and that this is okay, even if I’m not like most people.

And it’s not like I am wasting away, alas!

(To read Part 2, click here.)
(To read Part 3, click here.)

Do you have food shame issues tied to being ridiculed for liking or not liking certain foods?
Tell me about it in the Comments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

War of the Words - about Xmas

So, being a writer and a word geek, it won't surprise you to know that among the blogs I follow is The Hot Word on

I have a feeling the author of the piece knew full well s/he was setting a lit match to the lighter fluid of those passionate about religion, and defensive of their personal beliefs.
Learn the sacred, 1,000-year-old meaning of the “X”

Here's a holiday surprise that only the dictionary can provide. Do you find the word “Xmas,” as an abbreviation for Christmas, offensive? Many people do.
You won’t find Xmas in church songbooks or even on many greeting cards. Xmas is popularly associated with a trend towards materialism, and sometimes the target of people who decry the emergence of general “holiday” observance instead of particular cultural and religious ritual.

But the history of the word “Xmas” is actually more respectable — and fascinating — than you might suspect.

The great article goes on with a few more points about the history of "Xmas" and "Xpians" (Christians) going back centuries.  All true, easily verifiable, historical  stuff.

Now of course, the comments begin raging.

Some are polite, respectful, appreciative:  "Thanks for the information, this was something I did not know."

Some are dismissive: "That might be what it meant originally, but that's not what it means to me and my family now, so we're going to keep on spelling out Christmas."  As long as I don't have to teach my kids that Noah brought the dinosaurs on his Ark, I'm good with that.
So is this mouse? bear?  being disrespectful...
To Christmas?  To Santa?  To Discos?

Then there are those who are, apparently, Christian mindreaders: "when people use Xmas instead of Christmas I know they're not being respectful."  This is very much a PD (Personality Disorder) trait - assuming you know what someone else is thinking and that it's negative or harmful to you.

There are those who seem to be baiting the sincere but underinformed.  "As interesting as this is it still doesn’t get to the fact that the actual holiday that is celebrated has nothing to do with Christ or his birth. This day is all about Usurping a traditional seasonal day of another culture, for shame for shame."

And so, the back-and-forth sniping begins:  "You sir are an idiot! Christ is the only reason for Christmas!"

The pagans and history buffs attempt to educate (or is it put down?) the determinedly ignorant Christians, while a few Christians and non-Christians alike try gently to make peace:  "Please stop spreading hate. The holiday of Christmas is accepted by almost everyone nowadays as a double holiday, both Christian and pagan, both Christ and Santa Claus, both the manger and the tree. That’s the way it’s been for a long time now and it’s the way it’s likely to stay for many years to come, like it or leave it."

What stuck me about this word-fight is that most of the OCPDrs I have come to know and love seem to fall squarely into either the fervently religious or fervently atheistic camps.  Not a lot of agnostics.  Which makes sense, as part of this disorder is black-or-white splitting.  Shades of gray, shades of "maybe this is partly right, maybe that is partly right" doesn't fit into an OCPD worldview. 

Do Your Cookies Look Like This?  Mine Neither.
Image via SimplyClassicGiftBaskets
Do we have to have Order?  Isn't uncertainty and the unexpected what makes the season delightful?  Doesn't something go wrong, every single year, no matter how well you plan?  Maybe the tree (if you have a tree) is lopsided this year, or bald on one side.  Maybe you burn some of your cookies, or get stuck in an airport and end up in an interesting conversation with a stranger you'd never have met.  Maybe you can find the humor in being gifted with three copies of the same book that you had no interest in reading anyway.  Maybe the cat eats some curling ribbon and pukes.

IMO, another part of the beauty and joy of the Xmas season is celebrating the wonder of the possibly Divine, in whatever manner that brings peace and joy to you.  Repeating beloved family traditions, whether those consist of attending a midnight Mass, lighting a menorah, or sipping eggnog late one night watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Or trying something totally new, with or without family and friends, just to see if you like it.

This year, b-f and I attended Merry Tuba Christmas, which we'd never done before - what a hoot that was!  (Great music, too - but the lady with the poinsettia hairclip is what makes this video special.)
(They did a couple Happy Tuba Hanukkah songs, too.)

Image via Karen's Whimsy

You may "believe in Jesus" and find the nativity story 100% credible, or not (frankly, I do not believe for one moment that any mother would put her precious newborn baby into an animals' feeding trough.)  Still, the miracle of birth, every human birth, is something both mystical and magical, something that connects the entire human race.  Some of us have children, some not, but we all had mothers, and all were newborn babies once. 

We don't have to know everything.  We don't have to explain everything, or prove (or disprove) everything.  We don't have to have Rules, or even rules, for everything.

Disclaimer:  I've been, at different times in the past, a fervent atheist and an evangelical, born-again Christian.  I've now taken a different path, and celebrate the season in a way which is meaningful to me.  I take no offense and am delighted if someone wishes me Seasons' Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, or Allah's Grace on Ramadan.  I feel it's unnecessary, and yes, rude, to deliver a religious lecture simply because someone dares to wish me well, in a manner that feels natural for them.  Warm wishes are warm wishes, IMO.  (And I wish YOU, dear reader, whichever of the above that you observe.)

Does an "inappropriate" greeting or the use of 'Xmas' make your blood boil? 
Do you get upset over minor things during the holiday season, and if so, how do you talk yourself back down? 
Leave a Comment and let me know.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That Light Bulb Moment

How did you feel when you heard about, or read about, OCPD?  When you saw a description of the behaviors online and thought somebody had been spying in your windows?  (And hoped they hadn't caught you the other day, singing loudly and off-key to Duran Duran as you vacuumed.  But hey, he was out on errands and you were making the most of it, because you couldn't have done any of it while he was home.)

When I first heard about OCPD, I was sooooo relieved.  So that's what this is!  B-f's not mean, cruel, or a secret agent from Jackass-istan, come to test the sanity of American women. 

He has a mental illness (some prefer to call it a disorder.)  That means he's not doing it on purpose, he doesn't know any better.  Mental illness can be treated.

It was what my friend H calls (well, sings) the "aaaa-aaah" moment, when the clouds part and a pure ray of sunshine streams down.

It was confirmation that I wasn't going crazy after all, something I had secretly begun to fear.

It was hope, it was relief, it was... not over.  Not even close.

Because as I read on, I learned how very, very resistant to treatment those with OCPD could be.  Which left me momentarily discouraged, but then, I thought, well, I just have to wait for the right time.  (Read the rest of this paragraph in your best, internal five-year-old voice.)  I will wait for the right time and catch B-f in the right mood and I will bring up OCPD and the articles that support it.  He will recognize that this is him, and I know he wants our relationship to work, so he will come to therapy with me, or get it on his own, and I will help him, and all will be right with the world.

Are you shaking your head and laughing at me? 

Yep, it didn't work out that way.  I kept reading.  I must have found online about twenty or thirty different stories where some loving partner had tried The Big Reveal.  The "news" was gobbled up as enthusiastically as a shit sandwich.

I read other stories where the "non" discovered that their spouse had already been clinically diagnosed years before with OCPD.  "That diagnosis was wrong," or "I might have had some traits, then, but don't have it now" were frequent arguments.  "Maybe I do have OCPD, but at least I'm functional - you're the one who's a mess."

My head began to hurt.  Mind you, there are some wonderful, wonderful people who find out, either through their own research, or through mental health professionals (sadly, usually after their partner has left, or is packed and walking out the door) that they have OCPD, and they are doing whatever it takes to get better.  Therapy.  In some cases, medication.  Reading and research and trying out different techniques, to either tame their lions or to quiet what others call the monkey chatter in their brains.  Meditation.  They are true, brave warriors, and I think they are awesome.

Even after all my research, for a long time, I clung to the idea that I could help b-f.  Now that I knew he was mentally ill, I could be more patient, more loving, and it would finally be enough, and at least I could coax him into therapy with me.  At least I could do that.  And then they would diagnose and fix him.
photo by tkksummers

Yep, I was living on co-dependent, Fantasy Island all right.  (Which btw, speaking of fantasy, I've toured it.  And it's tiny inside.  Tattoo could probably stand living there, but everyone else would get claustrophobic.)

From the time I first learned about OCPD, to the time I told b-f I was moving out if he didn't agree to seeing a therapist, took about a year and a half.  During that time, sometimes I would cruise the support boards and literature, and sometimes I would stay away because it was so depressing.  I wanted more than anything, to find somebody, anybody who had tried my approach, the soft sell and gentle persuasion method, and found success, but I found nobody.

When I finally stopped lurking and started posting, the advice I got annoyed the hell out of me.  Make changes in myself?  Do these people not understand how tired I am?  How very, very difficult my OCPDr is?  And it sounded crazy, "Push back.  Defend your turf.  Don't JADE."

I remembered a bowling tip my sister had given me.  When your ball has been swerving to the right, start your approach on the boards half a step more to your right.  The right, not the left?  That advice sounded totally counterintuitive, but weirdly, it works.  So I figured, maybe even though the advice I was getting about OCPD sounded backwards, it was worth a try.

In fact, better boundaries didn't change him - or change him much.  They changed meMy thinking got clearer.  I felt less caught up and swirled by emotion when he'd have a meltdown or do his Silent but Stomping routine.  And his behaviors did get worse; he felt me slipping away, and he tried to regain control the way he always had before.  But even though his behaviors got worse, I felt better.  Less affected by them.  Stronger.  More calm.  More in control of my own life and thoughts and emotions.

I could wish this story had a happy ending.  It does - or it will - for me.  Probably not for him.  I was not, after all, able to beg, threaten, or manipulate him into therapy, and have given up on trying.  I am focusing on myself, and every day is better than the one before.  Even though I know I still have a lot of work to do on me, I feel happy, peaceful, and creative.

While I made a conscious (and possibly, wrong) decision to avoid breaking up with b-f once we were into this whole Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's cycle, I am not absolutely tied to that, either.  I can see that he is trying, as much as an untreated OCPDr can, to be sensitive to my feelings, to hold back criticism, to stop babbling and actually listen, and while some of it may be hoovering, it's more than that.

It's still too little, too late.  Every day, I feel less and less in love with him, more and more in love with me.  And while I feel sad for him, I'm so thankful to be "living juicy" again.

When was your "light bulb" moment?  Did you also go through a period of excitement, followed by letdown?
Post a comment (you can be anonymous) and tell me a bit of your light bulb story - and what happened next.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Judge, Jury, and... Executioner?

I spent a day this week doing my civic duty as part of the American justice system - a potential juror.

As sold by

Dead boring, most of it, of course, and they even made me take my teensey, fold-up embroidery scissors back to the car - who knows what nefarious harm could have been carried out with those?!! 

But there were interesting bits.  The twenty-something bailiff was great eye-candy, if you appreciate handsome, well-muscled young men in police uniforms  (and really, who doesn't?)

Judgey-Wudgey was also very appealing, and except for the silver swan's wings at his temples, looked remarkably like this guy.

(This head-banging music has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but I kind of liked it.)

The potential jurors - there were about 40 of us - were a real mixed bag.  White, Hispanic, Asian, African-American, young, old, students and professional people and stay-at-home moms.  At the beginning in the juror assembly room, there was a minister, but he put in for a postponement of his service.  Something about being real busy this time of year.

Anyway, it occurred to me that the trial by jury system is a lot like what happens on some of the chat and support boards I belong to.  We never know, really, who will be reading our posts.  It could be, however unlikely, that the person who posts as "Married-Father-of-Three-Kids" is actually a single, 77-year-old woman, posting for kicks.  (Although any poseur who joins a mental disorder support board for the entertainment value is truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.)  Our "jurors" are definitely a mixed bag of personalities.  Some of the "verdicts" that get passed back, when we make our case by posting, are dead on the money, and some of them are...  OJ Simpson verdicts.

Lemon Genoise cake from
foonus' photostream on Flickr
All of us, even identical twins, have a unique viewpoint on life and every time we make a statement, write a sentence, or post something online, we do it with our own particular flavor.  (Oooh, lemony!)  Some people "taste" more appealing than others.  So we may better like what one person has to say than another.   And some people, frankly, seem a bit half-baked.

Much of the verdict, too, depends on what "evidence" is presented.  I've seen a lot of chat-boarders present an incomplete "case," and then be very disappointed, even crushed by how others responded.  "But you didn't have all the facts!"  they wail.  Well, d'uh, whose fault is that?

Or, they'll opinion-shop.  If they get a bunch of feedback on one site they don't like, they'll look for another.  Present their case in a different way.  Eventually, if they hold back certain facts and emphasize others, they'll probably get somebody who gives them the "verdict" they want.  But is that truly helpful?

One of the hardest things in life is to be honest with ourselves.  Honesty can be painful.  We may pass a store window and wonder who that fat old woman is, in that blouse that looks just like the one we...  oh.  We may write a blog that simply sang to us as we typed in each word, and then realize later, that, in fact, it was far from our best work.

Or we may describe a situation that's occurred with someone we love, expecting validation and "atta-boys!" and hear, instead, that others think we could or should have handled it differently.  What?!  That hurts!!

And yet, do we really want people to tell us soothing lies?  Isn't one of the biggest problems in our lives, when we live with or love someone with a PD, the cognitive distortion, the Alice-in-Wonderland sense of not being sure what's real, and what isn't real?   How helpful is an "Amen chorus" when we're trying to find our way out of the fog?

Maybe we don't want to post every dirty detail of our lives on the Internet (and even if we did want to, not a good plan, Stan.  There is such a thing as TMI.)  But, if we want true feedback, not just soothing noises, we've got to be honest with ourselves, and in what we post.

When we do get feedback - whether we like the "verdict" or not, we still have choices.  (Remember Boundaries?)  We don't have to accept every opinion someone posts on a chat board as the Ultimate Truth, but can let it wait outside, breathe, think about whether it's really applicable to us.  We can appeal it - posting more facts, clarifications, explanations.  We can ignore the feedback.  Or, we can act as executioner.

I'm using executioner here in its second definition, as the person who executes an act, will, judgment, etc.   Not this guy.  So if somebody says we were JADEing, for example, and gives us examples of how not to JADE, next time we can work on that.  Or on our boundaries.  Pretty much, many problems occur because we've allowed someone to invade our boundaries, or because we invaded theirs, in an attempt to "help" them, in our nice, co-dependent way.

Although... it might be an interesting idea, to think of the executioner as that part of our psyche whose job it is to kill off bad habits, harmful thought patterns, and other emotional evildoers.  Just chop their naughty heads right off.

Besides, he's kind of cute.  In a court Bailiff kind of way.

Have you ever gotten a bad verdict?  How did you deal with it?