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.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Are ANTS Spoiling Your Picnic?

At a picnic, an ant or two... no big deal.  A swarm of ants, and we're ready to call in the Marines.

ANTS is also an acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts, as described by Dr. Daniel Amen in his NY Times bestselling book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.

Here's some typical ANTS (from Dr. Amen's book, but ones I also heard, myself, my my OCPD ex):
  • You never listen to me.
  • You don't like me.
  • This situation is not going to work out.  I know something bad will happen.
  • I should have done much better.  I'm a failure.
  • You're late because you don't care.
  • It's your fault.

Dr. Amen suggests we realize that thoughts actually impact how we feel and behave. 
  • You have a thought.
  • Your brain releases chemicals.
  • A electrical transmission goes across your brain.
  • You become aware of what you're thinking.

Notice how negative thoughts affect your body, he suggests.  
Every time you have an angry thought, an unkind thought, or a cranky thought, your body releases chemicals that make your body feel bad (and activate your deep limbic system.)  Think about the last time your were mad.  How did your body feel?  When most people are angry, their muscles become tense, their hearts beat faster, their hands start to sweat, and they may even begin to feel a little dizzy.  Your body reacts to every negative thought you have.

As adults, surely we've all noticed that when we do have an ant infestation in our home, even if we wipe up and kill every  ant, when new ants come in, they almost always follow the trail left by the other ants.  So, too, ANTS that travel across our brains leave a trail.

The key to "getting over it" begins with awareness.  Being aware we are choosing to think these thoughts - perhaps we are traveling a path that's seen ANTS scurry across it a thousand times.  Breaking the pattern isn't easy, but it's imperative for those who have OCPD to stop letting the ANTS rule.

He offers several steps to becoming an ANTeater and focusing on the positive thoughts - the ones that makes us feel good, to retrain our brains.

For those who love and live with someone with OCPD - constant negativity can be contagious, and we often have some exterminating of our own ANTS to do.

 He doesn't suggest, either, that it is realistic to only think happy thoughts, but if we were to count, how many of our thoughts would be positive, how many neutral, how many negative?  A pattern of mostly negative thoughts is going to drag us down, if it hasn't already.

There are some people I know who are not very "big" on Dr. Amen.  What I found fascinating is the photos of brain scans - those of normal people, and those with abnormal behaviors.  In a sense, it really IS in their head.  Sometimes terrible, anti-social behavior can be the result of a stroke, cyst, or other abnormality, and requires surgical intervention.

He makes the comparison to computers - if the hardware of a computer is broken or malfunctioning, it's not going to be able to run new programs.  No matter how many times you reload it or reboot the machine.  While I haven't finished the book yet, these ideas make much sense to me, and I like that he isn't pointing to one magic bullet, but to a combination of ways to address this:
  • Rule out (or diagnose) any abnormalities in the brain itself.
  • Correct said abnormalities with medication and/or surgery if necessary.
  • Psychotherapy and behavior modification (CBT) as needed.
  • Consider nutrition; adjust and balance the diet.
  • Regular physical contact - get hugs and touches from family members, bond through love-making, massage.  Human beings are meant to touch and be touched.
  • Aromatherapy (the limbic center of the brain is directly connected to the send of smell).
  • Implement regular physical exercise.
  • Work to improve positive thinking patterns, and kill the ANTS.

To me, the worst part of Automatic Negative Thoughts isn't even the negative, but the automatic.  Much like a smoker who always reaches for a cigarette when he is on the phone, doing something in a knee-jerk kind of way, without thinking about it, without being aware, is where the trouble can come in.

The people who have had most success in controlling OCPD, and for those without it, in creating a more joyful and peaceful life, are those who've learned to be mindful.

Have you read this book?  What did you like (or hate) about it?
Has this started any new ideas marching across your brain?

If you like this post, don't be shy!  +1 it, Tweet it, 
Share It on FaceBook or another site.
And by all means, please leave a comment.  You can still be anonymous, or you can set up a WordPress or Intense Debate account for future use.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 3
Not So Perfect Relationships
Cutting the Clutter

This post continues with Rising Above Perfectionism: CUTTING THE CLUTTER, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Rising Above Perfectionism

Streamline your life, from your verbal style to your physical surroundings.  <snip>  The irrational worries mentioned earlier will keep trying to assert themselves.  They are habits.  Don't let them in.  Imagine them pulling you away from the current and, just as in completing a task, slap your hand on the desk, and say "Move!" take a deep breath, relax and refocus, then get going. 
If it is excess belongings that are cluttering your life, make the effort to pare them down.  <snip>  Another hidden rationalization for hoarding items goes like this: you want to do certain things with the items someday (sew that torn dress, read that magazine, repair that car), so you're saving them until you have more time.  To get rid of them would be to admit defeat - that you'll never do those things you feel you ought to do.

Once again, look at your personal history and ask yourself how likely you are to have a lot more spare time in the foreseeable future.  If the answer is"not very likely," then why are you saving these items?  Is it to avoid facing the fact that you can't do everything that "should" be done - that you're not perfect?  Wouldn't it be better to face that fact than to continue living with a useless pile of clutter?

It would be better... but hoarders can't do it.  Most non-hoarders will look at a scrap of paper with a mystery phone number written on it, shrug, and toss it, with perhaps a momentary twinge of loss/annoyance.

From Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost & Gail Stekete
Even losses that were not emotional were troubling, particularly the loss of a potential opportunity. I got a sense of this one day as we excavated in Irene's TV room. She came across a piece of paper with a telephone number written on it. Judging from its depth in the pile and the fact that it was yellowing, it had been there for quite some time, possibly years. Clearly, she had written it in haste on whatever she could find. As was the case for most of the information in the pile from which it came, she had not taken the time to identify it or put it in a phone or address book — it was just a number on a piece of paper. When she picked it up, she exclaimed, "Oh, a phone number! I'll put it here on the pile where I can see it and deal with it later."

"Why do you think it is worth keeping that number?" I asked. She said, "Well, I made an effort to write it down, so clearly it was important to me. And it will just take a minute to call and find out what it is. I don't want to do it now, though, because it will interrupt us." She hadn't made the call in all the years the paper had sat in the pile. Whether making the call would have helped her make a decision about keeping the number is uncertain. Perhaps the idea of a potential opportunity that the number provided was better than the reality provided by making the call.
Irene would churn - sort through the same stacks of paper, newspaper clipping, etc., over and over again.  To a lesser extent, I know I do this myself.  For whatever stupid reason, it bugs the hell out of me to "do" file folder labels, so I'll wait until I have at least a dozen or so to do, then prepare them, slap them on the file folders, and only then do I put everything neatly away.

I can relate to the "getting stuck," not wanting to admit I will never finish that cross-stitch project or read that magazine which contains some really good articles.  But I can - and do - get over it.  I may have a cluttered desk, but most of my home is not cluttered.  I keep things I need & use (food, clothes, shampoo, etc.), things that make me money (computer, software, reference material), and work on keeping the things I love (books!) to a reasonable level.

People who share moderate amounts of "stuckness" have recommended FlyLady as a helpful resource.

My ex still has jeans he wore in high school, with busted zippers, in a size he'll never wear again.  A large collection of scarves, gloves, and hats (we live in SoCal, and never went skiing.  Surely one, or even two sets, would have been plenty.)  The videotape collection, previously mentioned.  A non-working street motorcycle last registered in 1978.  So much stuff that did not make his or our life any richer, that he spent twenty times as much time churning over as it would have taken him to put them up on Craigslist, and goodbye!

I would be very interested to hear of anyone who has had long-term success in treating a hoarder.  It seems like all the success stories I have heard relate to those whose tendency to hoard is nipped by a partner in the beginning stages, not reversed in someone who already had piled up too much "I could find a use for that!" stuff.

If you have any links, please share, below.
Or, if you have stories of how YOU have battled hoarding tendencies. 

P.S. check out MIL Still Between Us, Tetanus Burger (both with wonderful pictures.) 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You've Got To Fight Dirty To Take On OCPD

Feeling weak and powerless isn't just about body size and strength.
A pattern I've noticed among those who love a partner with OCPD, when they finally have that light bulb moment, is first, a tremendous feeling of relief.  Wow, that's what this is!  It's not me - and it's not really him/her either.  It's a mental disorder.

Then there's hope, which is sometimes deflated when those who've been battling for a while tell them how hard this is.  And a certain discounting of how hard it might be.  Surely that's an exaggeration.  Or, maybe it was like that for them, but it won't be like that for us.  I know my partner really loves me.

There's also a dismissal of certain tactics, because they seem... mean.  Setting firm boundaries.  Refusing to accept bad treatment, even for a moment.  Refusing to JADEShouldn't we ease into this?  I know s/he can be reasonable at times.  I don't know if I can hold my ground.

If you truly want to help your partner with OCPD, you've got to realize that succumbing to pity when s/he is "under the influence" of OCPD behavior, telling yourself that s/he can't help her/himself doesn't work.  Yes, understand it's not deliberate, and yes, feel sorry for the person with OCPD, but you need to get fightin' mad at OCPD, the disorder.

A person with OCPD can't help the compulsions, the anxiety, the way s/he feels inside.  But s/he can learn to stop the behaviors - if s/he really wants to.  Bad habits can be broken, and good habits can be formed.

For myself, what helped was imagining that OCPD was an evil crack-whore third wheel to our relationship.  If it had been me and the b-f, we could have worked things out just fine, but OCPD-the-crack-whore didn't want us to work things out.  She wanted my b-f to herself, so she could run things her way, and get her next fix, though like all junkies, the more fixes she got, the more she wanted, and the shorter time it would be till her next fix.

OCPD, like a true alcoholic or junkie, will do anything, say anything (and probably mean it) to get that next fix.  The only effective way to fight is to not get sucked into that rabbit-hole of distorted thinking, to maintain our own clarity, and be willing to do whatever we have to do to defend the boundaries and yes, to be "mean" if we have to.

There are two songs that come to mind" Alice Cooper's No More Mr. Nice Guy, and this one, that you not have heard:
The title cut, Fight Dirty, from Charlie in 1979

lyrics by Terry Thomas
I've been a nice guy too long, I must make myself strong
Gotta make myself harder than nails
I've been learning real quickly, there's no-one gonna trick me
If the try, well they surely will fail

Gonna learn to fight dirty, ain't no-one gonna hurt me
I'll soon know every trick of the trade

When I think of the times I've been cheated
And the times that I've been badly treated - it makes me mad
Tried to keep all my options wide open
All I get are those promises broken - it makes me mad
And it makes me so sad that I've got to change

I've been cornered and now I will fight back
Gonna push, gonna watch all those smiles crack - I'll make them mad
I will show all those people no favours
I have finished with my best behaviour - I'll make them mad
But it makes me so sad that I've got to change

I've been a nice guy too long, now I know I've been wrong
I've been used and I've just realised
All that haze has been lifted, I'm no longer restricted
Oh, the nice guy you knew has just died
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover is another book highly recommended by many male partners of OCPD wives and girlfriends.  (See the GoodReads bookshelves on the right for recommendations for books already read and on the to-be-read list.)

Begging bullies, "Please don't kick sand in my face," never worked for anyone, and it doesn't work with OCPD, either.  But just like building up the body, you can (and must) build up your relationship muscles, and refuse to let OCPD beat you up anymore.  Your mental/emotional muscles will take time and energy to develop, and if you're like a lot of partners, at the end of your rope, you might feel like you don't have it in you.  The pay-off is being better emotionally developed, with better boundaries, is not wasted effort, but will pay off in every aspect of your life.

Will it save your relationship?

In all honesty, probably not.  It didn't save mine, and I know very few people who have managed a long-term "successful" relationship with an OCPD partner. It's still your best shot.

After all, how's what you've been doing working out for you?

Sometimes I wonder, if I'd known about OCPD earlier on, if I'd begun enforcing boundaries and practicing not JADEing before I was physically and emotionally spent, might it have made a difference?  Possibly.  I have to say, the year I spent with my (now) ex after learning about OCPD and "fighting dirty" was substantially better for both of us.

But the behaviors didn't disappear, and I reached a point where I wasn't willing to live with the hoarding, the OCPD, and he wasn't willing to get professional help.  I needed and realized I deserved, to have a home where I felt emotionally safe, not on constant guard for the next attack.  My only regret is his choice to refuse help, not mine to leave.

I truly hope your story has a different ending.

Please share your feedback, and any experience with "Fighting Dirty", 
in the comments, below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 3 - Rising Above Perfectionism
Confronting Your Inner Saboteurs & Getting Your Work Done

from Dru Bloomfield at Flickr 
Is it better to run the "perfect" race, or to finish a great one?

This post continues with Rising Above Perfectionism: CONFRONTING YOUR INNER SABOTEURS & GETTING YOUR WORK DONE, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Rising Above Perfectionism

Whether you're writing a paper, painting a living room, or preparing a dinner for guests, if you're a perfectionist you tend to be haunted by such unconscious assumptions as: 
  • "I couldn't stand it if my work wasn't as good as X's."
  • "It's got to be great!"
  • "It would be intolerable for them to see me make a mistake."

You may be entirely unaware you're saying such things to yourself; they may sound completely foreign.  But from their silent place within such enduring, submerged beliefs govern many people's more visible behaviors and conscious concerns.

If you're such a person, what you need to know right now is: 
  • You are choosing to think these thoughts.
  • They are obliterating your chances at happiness.
  • You can start making significant changes right this minute, even with little or no "insight" into your obsessiveness.
For example, let's say you're writing a report or a paper.  Maybe you've always thought that a good written report includes every possible angle on the subject, answers every conceivable question, and reflects as much research as humanly possible.

Well, that's wrong.  And it's just that kind of thinking that will prevent you from reaching your creative and productive potential.

In most situations, the best report is the one that's done as well as possible within the given time limits.

If getting work done in a timely manner invariably proves to be difficult or painful, you've got to recognize that your way (perfection) isn't working.  So try this: every time one of those irrational beliefs ("It's got to be done flawlessly!") starts pushing in on you, push back.  Tell yourself, "No, it's got to be completed!" and keep moving.  Focus on how good it feels to make progress on the task.  Refuse to judge whether or not you are doing a terrific piece of work.  The beauty of finishing on time (or even ahead of schedule) is that you can go back and fine-tune later.  Think in terms of movement.

Give serious attention not just to doing the work, but scheduling it realistically.  Perfectionists tend to schedule their time as if they will perform ideally and can anticipate perfect conditions.  They assume, for example, that nothing will interrupt them, that fatigue won't hamper their efficiency, that they'll be able to move along at top speed.  <snip>  Accept that your project won't be, cannot be, as "perfect" as it could be if you had no deadline and no other responsibilities.  <snip>

Photo by horizontal.integration at Flickr
Imagine yourself swimming down a river, with the current, toward a goal.  You have to arrive there before dark, or it will be too late.  Whenever you get sidetracked by details or fine points, envision yourself losing the current and drifting slowly out of the main river into smaller streams.  They are seductive and interesting, but you lose momentum when you investigate them.  Get back into the main river and move into the central current again!

Do the finest piece of work you can, given the limitations of deadlines and the legitimate requirements of your health, family, social life, and leisure pursuits.  Remember that all of these dimensions are crucial to your enjoyment of life.

For me, too, part of me wants every page I write, every report I complete, to not just be good, or even excellent, but the best thing anyone has ever seen.

My ego needs to take a chill pill.  In the first place, that's simply not an achievable goal.  Even if somehow, I magically accomplished such a feat, and my work was perfect in my own eyes, the people doing the judging are subjective.  Always.  Even trained Olympic judges have differing opinions.

photo by RHColo_General at Flickr
There are long lists on the internet of books that were panned by critics and later adored by the general public.  Likewise movies, and art, and music... The one thing that is assured about any endeavor, is that everyone will have a different opinion about it.

You are choosing to think these thoughts.

The need/compulsion to be "the best ever" in every single endeavor is a thought that is chosen.

There is no Gold Medal awarded for the perfect grocery list.  Unless we are moving to the jungles for six months and forgot malaria medicine, leaving something off the list... not a tragedy.  Just stop by the store again later that day, or even later that week.

I would much rather have had the garage half-cleaned out than put off till it could be done "perfectly."  (In other words, postponed forever.)  When people at work need a report, getting it done on time is significantly more important than getting it done perfectly.  Maybe some numbers would change slightly, but when you need those figures for a budget, delay costs much more money than a slight variance.

I've heard of people with ironing baskets with baby clothes at the bottom of them - and the "babies" are now applying to college.  Yet they aren't willing to donate or store the baby clothes until they iron them... because?  This is distorted thinking, folks.

Forward movement, keep swimming, git'r done - whatever slogan works for you, apply it.  For most projects in life, a horseshoes & hand grenades (close enough is good enough) approach, rather than treating everything as if it's brain surgery, works best.  In tests, reports, cross-stitch, manuscripts - what's most effective is the broad strokes, first, then going back to fine-tune and add details, later.

That may not be the way you want to work.  It probably doesn't come naturally; it may take considerable effort to change your approach.  But it is the way to get things done.

Do you have inner saboteurs?  
Do you get so hung up on the details you can't finish things?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Family Dysfunction 101

As I return from a delightful, if not entirely stress-free, vaca with family, I've come across this great video on another friend's site.  Her post on Self-Help Saturday: Family Dysfunction is pretty much OTN (On The Nose) as to what goes on in OCPD households.  So, I'm reposting here.

No, we don't plan to do things wrong.  The pressure to do everything perfectly, even as a child, to hide our faults, flaws and mistakes, leads to unhealthy dynamics. not healthy ones.

What's especially crazymaking is if there is sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse going on, and as children (or spouses) we are expected to present a facade of normalcy to the outside world.  And then others tell us how lucky we are to have such a great dad/mother or partner.  We begin to question whether something is wrong with us, that the person who hurts us so, can be so nice to other people.

Family is supposed to be the place where we are physically and emotionally safe.  Where we can make mistakes and spill milk and still be loved and valued.

Maybe there is some gentle teasing going on.  Some would say that any teasing whatsoever is cruel and destructive.  IMO it's okay to giggle if somebody farts loudly or locks the keys in the car.  As long as it is gentle and good-natured, and no one person in the family is always picked on, and the teasing immediately ceases if the teasee appears hurt.  Which is a very fine line, I know.

Did your FOO (Family Of Origin) ace Dysfunction 101?  
What kind(s) of secrets were you expected to hide from the world?
Do you agree or disagree that gentle teasing can be okay?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 - Rising Above Perfectionism
Perfectly Human & Overcoming the Fear of Embarrassment

This post continues with Rising Above Perfection: PERFECTLY HUMAN & OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF EMBARRASSMENT, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Rising Above Perfectionism

The ultimate irony - and tragedy of perfectionism is that it simply doesn't work.  It's supposed to earn you rave reviews and exempt you from criticism.  Instead it damages both your work and your relationships, and puts you under an unrelenting pressure.  If you've concluded that your perfectionism is hurting you, you can make changes.


Part of the Perfectionist's Credo is the notion that other people won't like you as well if you make a mistake, or you don't know things, or you allow your faults to show through.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Your need to be right all the time often repels friends and associates.

Nobody will ever feel empathy for you, love you, or enjoy being close to you simply because you are right or because you hardly ever make mistakes.  <snip>

And the next time you're wrong about something, just admit it.  Don't explain why you made the mistake.  Don't show how anyone would have made that mistake under the circumstances.  Don't insist that your answer actually was correct but was misunderstood.

Just confess, "I was wrong about that."  Then start counting the people who shrink away from you. I'm exaggerating, of course.  But when you start letting your fallibility show, when you let go of your need to know everything and to show how smart you are, you'll feel a burden being lifted.  You'll feel more relaxed.  It will be easier to smile.  You'll be free!  And these changes will occur the very first time you suppress your perfectionistic need to be infallible.


If you find yourself shrinking from certain activities because you dread being embarrassed, ask yourself two questions: Are your social fears and inhibitions preventing you from reaching your full potential or enjoying life?  And are you willing to endure a certain amount of anxiety to overcome the problem?

<snip> For example, if you dread giving oral presentations, start by asking questions as an audience member.  Don't wait until you have something brilliant to say.  Say anything.  <snip>

Follow the same gradual approach in other frightening situations.  Take classes that force you to perform in front of others.  Join walking groups,  Give parties.  Tell yourself that it won't be awful if your nervousness shows, or if you make a silly blunder.  When these things do happen, and they will, refuse to allow yourself to feel humiliated.  Concentrate on the fact that these missteps make you more attractive, not less so.  You come through as a genuine, vulnerable human being.  People can connect with you.


I wanted to show the karaoke clip from My Best Friend's wedding, but all the ones that had been posted online have been removed, per Sony.  If you've seen it, forgive me for the short explanation.

Julianne (portrayed by Julia Roberts) has decided to recapture the love of her best friend, who's engaged to marry Kimmy (Cameron Diaz).  She finds out that Kimmy, who has a terrible singing voice, also has a horrible fear of singing in public and exposing this.  So Julianne maneuvers the group to a karaoke place and pressures Kimmy to get onstage and sing, figuring that either a terrible performance, or an emotional meltdown will destroy Michael's (Dermot Mulroney) respect and admiration for this girl.

Kimmy is, in fact, woefully bad.  Bring-on-the-howling-dogs bad.  But Julianne's plan backfires, because Michael (Dermot Mulroney) finds Kimberly's courage and willingness to look bad in front of a crowded room just one more reason to love her.

Okay, this is Hollywood.  And I'm not suggesting that all the bad singers out there (you know who you are!) start crowding karaoke bars.  (Please don't!)  But I can testify that similar things have happened in my own life.  Whenever I have gone out on a limb in some way, I get more admiration and approval than if I'd just hung back and taken the safe route.  

Take writing.  Besides this blog, I've completed a couple of novels, and am working on another one.  I sent umpteen queries (70+) and pages before getting an agent.  (And I've gotten dozens more rejections via said agent, but still.)  I plan to be, I expect to be, a published writer in the not too distant future.  But even if that never happens, I know I'm a lot further along that goal than somebody who writes and secretes her writing in a box on the closet shelf, even if she's twenty times better a writer than I am.  Because I was willing to take that chance.

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
~Wayne Gretzky

I'm also trying to tone down my own tendency towards Know-It-All-Ism.  Yes, I'm a fairly intelligent woman, and I've learned a lot at the School of Hard Knocks.  There's still more that I don't know, than I do.  Maybe I can win some respect, and admiration for being a Know-It-All, but love?  Close connection with other flawed human beings?  Not happening.

Nobody will ever feel empathy for you, love you, or enjoy being close to you simply because you are right or because you hardly ever make mistakes.  That phrase should be embroidered on a pillow or perhaps tattooed on my forehead, backwards, so I can see it every morning when I look in the mirror.

So many times I watched my OCPD ex launch into Know-It-All mode and begin lecturing our friends and family, seeing their eyes glaze over, seeing him ignore all their efforts to change the subjects.    My heart would ache, because I could see how very badly he wanted the admiration and approval of others - and how what he was doing had the exact opposite effect.  I felt horribly embarrassed and sad for him.  (Which, of course, is textbook co-dependence on my part - I should not have "imported" embarrassment or sadness on behalf of another person.  I'm workin' on it.)

There's only one Mr. Know-It-All people really appreciate.

Let me recommend, if you're a perfectionist yourself, another way of fighting your lions.

Have you ever gone out on a limb, and been glad you did?  
Please share, in the comments, below.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest Post - The Sentence

photo by gnuckx at Flickr

The Sentence by "Thusie"

'Tis not good for man to be alone, yet to be myself is not allowed
So, here I stand on my own, isolated in a crowd
A secret hidden deep inside, too terrible to be known
With no one ever to confide, I face these demons all alone.

Perhaps, I could just say a word, but no one understands.
My voice too jumbled to be heard, like a stranger in foreign lands.
My worries, struggles, can't be seen, buried so deep inside
The mystery of who I’ve been, cut off, access denied.

Alone, an island, forgotten lost, far out in the sea.
My soul pays an untold cost, my heart cries out an unheard plea.
My very life a prison cell, of pain and agony.
And who guards this living hell? Oh God, it's only me!


The poem, above, was written by someone grappling with the question as to whether he is truly helping his OCPD partner by staying with her, or whether he should leave.  Has he, by helping her disguise this condition and put on a good front for family, neighbors, and others, been doing more enabling than supporting?  Will his leaving, if he does leave, provide that "cosmic two-by-four" as some with OCPD have called it, forcing her to wake up and see that she needs more help than he can provide?  

Or, if he leaves, will her condition continue to deteriorate?

I don't want to, for one moment, minimize how hard many with OCPD struggle against the condition, and how brave those people are.

For those who see the overly perfectionistic behaviors as a benefit, a superiority, and don't realize the deep pain they may be bringing to those they love - it's not as a simple as denial.  They truly don't "get" that they have a mental disorder.  It's possible that this is due to the very wiring in their brains that makes them different from a "normal" person (whatever that is) in the first place.

However, when you have stayed with someone for years, hoping to help them, and rather than improving, they are clearly getting worse, it is agonizing.  As beautifully expressed in this poem.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 3 -
Not So Perfect Relationships

This post continues with Not So Perfect Relationships - Pickiness, from Chapter Three.

This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.


<snip> there is another variation of perfectionism: an exaggerated inclination to be upset over the flaws in other people or things.  <snip>

While most people would prefer an ideal spouse to an imperfect one, they generally accept that much of life is imperfect, and they don't invest too much time or energy in fretting over minor flaws in their mates.  If you're a critical obsessive, however, you're a true expert at finding fault with anything, and you can't help feeling upset over the shortcomings you find.

<snip> Sarah sadly admitted that her perfectionism had undermined several relationships:  <snip> With her ex-husband, Edward, she morosely acknowledged," I was constantly on his back - criticizing his opinions, his appearance, the way he handled money, his interactions with our son.  He finally started to keep things from me just to avoid my disapproval.

Ultimately, Edward grew resentful toward Sarah because he had come to feel so inhibited around her.  His resentment then spilled into other aspects of their relationship.  He lost interest in their sexual relationship and began spending less time with her.  <snip>  She became even more citical, perpetuating the problem.

Their five-year-old son, Jonathan, also felt belittled by Sarah's pickiness.  <snip> When she praised an art project, or his performance at a Little League game, she couldn't help throwing in a hint as to how he might do better next time.  When she watched him interact at a social event, her attention was always seduced by the things he didn't do well.

Upon reflection, Sarah could readily recognize the destructive impact of her constant fault-finding, but she felt powerless to change.  She'd always been picky, to her this trait seemed an immovable pillar of her being, and she even took some pride in it.  She saw herself as more discerning than most people.  <snip>

If, like Sarah, you constantly focus on the negative, this tendency is likely to sabotage not only your relationships but also your general enjoyment of life.  The speck on the glass not only catches your attention but also robs you of the pleasure of drinking from it.  <snip> The thing you hear loudest is the static most people ignore.


I think as much or more than any other facet of OCPD, that pickiness can destroy a relationship.  And as the author points out, many who have this trait take pride in it.  They are more observant, they care more, they pay attention to things other people miss.

If you think some trait makes you superior to others, why would you try to overcome it?  You won't.    Though he would occasionally apologize for being too picky, my ex conveyed that he was doing so as a sop to my feelings, not because he truly believed there was anything wrong with his behavior.  He, too, was proud of his "discernment."

Part of trust is feeling like you can expose your weaknesses to your partner, your friend, your parent, and that person still "has your back."  I couldn't trust him, because he was untrustworthy.  In the beginning, I shared with him some of my most intimate fears, doubts, and shame.  Later, I realized it was not emotionally safe to disclose any fears, weaknesses or doubts to him, because they would - not might be, would - later be used as weapons against me.

When you are constantly criticized, though you know it's a facet of this disorder, and you "shouldn't" take it personally, it's pretty much impossible to block it all out.  It's like standing in the pouring rain - even if you're wearing boots, a raincoat, and holding an umbrella, if it rains hard enough and you stand in it long enough, some of the wet is going to get through.

Most people like to spend time with... people who make them feel good.  Being called an assortment of derogatory names on a daily basis, being constantly criticized for not being "good enough" by someone who is supposed to be on your side, is a love-killer.  Generally not a sexual turn-on, either.

With my ex, I think partly he used sex to try to make up for the other ways he'd hurt me, but in the last few years... too much hurt, too many insults to be kissed away.  In the end, I really didn't want him touching me, at all.

I shudder at the stories I've heard of children who were nitpicked by one or both of their OCPD parents.  Never good enough.  It's the kind of pain that haunts forever.

Have you had to battle pickiness, your own or someone else's?
Please, share how you overcame it, or learned to stop most of it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Family Frenzy on the 4th

For most Americans, the 4th of July is not simply a celebration of American's declaration of independence from England, but a major family holiday, with all the joys - and traumas - that represents.

Picnics, and barbecues, and family gatherings.  Family having a great time together, family dysfunctions on parade.  Pool time, beach time, lake time, and Solarcaine time. 

And, of course, the fireworks. 

I would encourage my readers, who are celebrating (or not) this holiday, not to put huge amounts of pressure on yourselves to create the "perfect" family holiday.  Comparisons to childhood memories, whether those memories are happy or painful, are inevitable, but the only person insisting that we have to make this one better is us.

Actually, we don't have to make this event "the best one yet."  Actually, it's okay if we muck up the potato salad or don't make it to the beach.  Or even if we miss the fireworks [gasp].

Life will go on.  Be kind to yourself, be grateful for the freedom and family and friends you have, and try to take life's little uncertainties and disappointments with a grain of salt.  If you love or live with an OCPDr, and s/he is in freakout mode due to the extra stress over the holiday, try to understand it is because of her/his anxiety, and don't take it personally.  It's not about you.

Breathe in, breathe out.  This too shall pass.

Belated Happy Canada Day, and early Happy Independence Day.