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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 6 - Fear of Dependency &
Keeping A Distance

Foto de Tiago Nicastro e Juliana RosenImage via WikipediaThis post continues with Fear of Dependency and Keeping A Distance from Chapter Six.

This series looks 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.

Besides the fear of exposure and the fear of trusting, intimacy poses another threat.  The closer you get to someone, the more you come to need him or her.  And this in itself unnerves many obsessives.
<snip> But there's another aspect to dependency that also bothers most obsessives.  Dependency requires some sacrifice of autonomy, some loss of control over one's life.  <snip>
In other words, dependency, like trust, creates vulnerability.  Moreover, the obsessive's all-or-nothing thinking magnifies the threat perceived in any amount of dependency:  What if it were to lead to more and more dependency? <snip>
Keeping A Distance

To protect themselves from the vulnerability of intimacy, many obsessives shy away from it in a variety of ways.  For one thing, they tend to give other people as much physical space as possible.  <snip>

A few have told me they feel trapped or smothered if their mates sleep too close to them.  One patient said she wasn't totally comfortable when her husband hugged her.  <snip>  For some, the aversion to being touched is so strong it may cause them to shun physical therapists or doctors.  Obviously, anxiety about physical closeness also can seriously impair one's fulfillment in sexual relationships.

Many obsessives do participate eagerly in the mechanics of sex, but avoid an emotional connection during physical intimacy.  <snip>
The idea that we - as human beings - can be totally independent of others and still survive is a LIE. 

First off, we didn't. However indifferent, sporadic, and abusive their care of us might have been, somebody fed, clothed, and sheltered us when we were infants and small children.  There are several myths/stories of children raised with only those bare necessities - and no more - who died as a result.
"foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no ways to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which had been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments."
There is horrifying evidence now of the majority (if not all) children who languished in Romanian orphanages bearing long-term medical, mental, and emotional problems.

I just finished reading Jean Auel's The Land of the Painted Caves.  While fictional, the work is extensively researched and checked as to probable social interactions among peoples in hunter-gatherer societies, based both on archaeological finds, and on anthropological research among modern hunter-gatherer societies.  No man is an island.  Most people in a primitive culture have at least rudimentary general skills at recognizing edible foods, hunting, fishing, garment and shelter-making, but if a clan-group is to survive, all must work together.  Skills are traded; a large fish that is caught is shared with others who contribute roots and vegetables.

Modern man is even more dependent on others.  If you're reading this on a computer, I'm positive you didn't manufacture it yourself from minerals you personally mined from the earth using only your hands and your flint digging tools.  I'm almost as certain you're not generating your own electricity.

The Amish and other agricultural societies who live by choice without electricity and "modern inconveniences," are very much centered around not just the family, but the community. Barn-raisings, church functions - again, everyone helps one another.

Even if you choose to live solo in a shack, Unabomber hermit style, you're going to use money (bank accounts, or currency printed/minted by somebody else) to buy materials (hammers, nails, saws) to build said shack.  You might transport to your shack how-to books (written and printed by others) on how to catch fish, tan hides, and build latrines.

And didn't somebody, somewhere along the way, teach you to read?

So, give it up with the delusion "I can get along fine without other people."

You may choose not to have a partner, or children, or to socialize with your co-workers.  You may cut yourself off from family (often with good reason).  You may fight with your neighbors and not have any friends.  You may decide that, because you have OCPD or bipolar disorder or chronic bad breath or whatever your excuse is, it is just too damn much work to get along with others, to make small talk or to risk asking for help or admitting vulnerability.

This is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.  It is as weak to be unable to stand being with other people as it is to be unable to spend a few hours of solitude.

As healthy human beings, we must learn to be INTERdependent upon one another. To help others, to ask for help when we need it.

In the beginning, my ex was quite physically demonstrative.  He brushed my hair, for hours.  Massaged lotion into my feet.  Held hands, lots of touching and kissing, but not cloyingly so.  Later, as his OCPD tendencies worsened, the affectionate touching evaporated.  He barely touched me - except when he wanted to have sex.  He wouldn't allow me to give him a back massage - and outright refused to give me one, even when I begged because I was in pain.

Being kept physically and emotionally at a distance, and then used as a periodic sexual outlet does not build closeness.

Your thoughts?
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

OCPD - As Seen on TV!

Bree Van de KampImage via WikipediaUntil a few years ago, I never heard of the term OCPD. 

Sadly, just because people don't know about a mental disorder - or, perhaps, call it by a different name, doesn't mean there aren't a whole bunch of people out there affected by it.

Once I started paying attention, I realized it had been out there, in the general population and portrayed on television, in movies, and in books and plays, for years.

Felix Unger, a fictional clean freak in a play by Neil Simon (later a movie and TV series), was probably OCPD.

Bree Van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives - perfectionist, controlled and controlling... OCPD, even if not officially diagnosed so by the show's writers.
After her mother was killed in a hit and run, Bree cleaned her blood off the road outside the house. She said that once everything was spotless, she felt much better. 

Just read a couple "heartwarming" books by best-selling author Debbie Macomber featuring characters with symptoms of OCPD.  As is one of the most famous poster-children of all, Ebeneezer Scrooge, in a story by Charles Dickens that's been recreated in numerous stage plays and movies.

Scrooge chose the pursuit of money over love, family, friendship... but in one night of ghostly visitations, he realized his mistake and turned his life around 180 degrees.  Macomber's characters, too - once faced with True Love, seemingly cured!

That can happen in novels.  In plays.  In movies.  One big epiphany, the stingy/controlling/perfectionistic person sees the light, and everything is different, from that moment onward.

Real life don't work that way.

In real life, a lifetime's habits, brain patterns, and the distorted thinking that are part of OCPD have never been miraculously cured in one night.  Think of changing the path of even a small creek - it will take long, hard work, to divert the path of the creek into a new direction.

It can be done.  It has been done.  It is being done - and I salute the brave, strong, courageous men and women who've decided to battle their OCPD.  But just like a creek that's been diverted, there's always the strong inclination to revert to the older, more accustomed channel.  It takes constant work to keep the water flowing in the new pattern.

Not meaning to discourage anyone praying for a miracle cure.  Prayer can't hurt.  But while you're waiting for said miracle, the smart money is on rolling up the sleeves and doing the work.

Where have you seen OCPD, in fictional works?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 6 - Fear of Being Found Out
Fear of Trusting

Swedish Guards via Wikimedia
This post continues with Fear of Being Found Out and Fear of Trusting from Chapter Six.

This series looks 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.

Guarded Against Intimacy
<snip> Human beings are social creatures, valuing and seeking a sense of connection with others throughout their lives.  <snip>  Without question, the experience of intimacy can open the way to feelings of unparalleled spiritual fulfillment.  But intimacy has other consequences that many obsessives find frightening.

For one thing, the closer you are to someone, the more likely he or she is to see all aspects of your personality - both the "good" traits and those you feel are unattractive or even shameful.  Marvin, a successful banker, had little trouble meeting people and quickly winning their admiration.  Yet he kept friends, acquaintances, and even lovers at a carefully controlled distance.  "I'm afraid to let them really get to know me," he admitted in therapy one day.  "I feel like a phony - that people will find out how inadequate I am underneath it all, and they'll be disgusted and reject me."
<snip> With her [his girlfriend], Marvin felt compelled to stay one step ahead of exposure.  "I have to be the first to jump, to leave, to push them away," he disclosed.


For many obsessives, another obstacle to intimacy is their difficulty with trusting.  They fear that other people will let them down.

<snip> If there is a single unifying theme of obsessiveness, it is the desire to eliminate feelings of vulnerability and risk, and to gain instead a sense of safety and security.

<snip> Sometimes this wariness persists after many tears in a close relationship. such as marriage, even when the spouse has demonstrated trustworthiness.  After twenty years of marriage, for example, Kyle and his wife were still arguing over his failure to express his love for her.  "She's filled with twenty years of resentment and anger," he told me.  "She says intimate communication with me is impossible, that I'm not willing to express my love of expose other feelings to her."

To me, Kyle acknowledged that he hasn't been a very trusting person, and his characteristic suspiciousness had intensified when he had been hurt several times after honestly disclosing his feelings.  "People have betrayed me by repeating confidences; they've embarrassed me," he stated.  But when I asked him how often his wife in all their years of marriage had betrayed his confidences, he confessed that he couldn't remember a single occasion.  I asked if she'd ever done anything to make him seriously doubt her love, and he again had to admit that the answer was no.  Nonetheless, he still felt threatened by the idea of "opening up" to her.
That last paragraph says it all.  Of all the dreadful things that occurred - and didn't occur - in my relationship with my ex, the sense that he didn't trust me, would never, ever trust me, no matter what, was one of the most damaging.

As time goes on, people in a relationship either get closer, or draw farther apart.  With certain relationships, such as co-workers or friendships, a little distance is okay, probably preferable.  Not so in a love relationship.

I felt like Kyle's wife - if not now, after all this time when I have never let you down, when will you trust me?  After 21 years?  31?  (Of course the answer was "Never.") 

He did tell me he loved me.  And I believe he did, as much as he could anyone, yet, as the truism goes, actions speak louder than words.  He showed me, a dozen times a day or more, that he didn't trust me, and never would.  Choice?  Habit too deeply ingrained over so many years?  Actually unable to trust because of the OCPD?

When someone is in physical danger - the house is on fire, they're drowning - there are (sometimes) ways to knock them out and rescue them, even against their will.  Not so with mental disorders.

He pushed me out the door, emotionally, long before I actually packed my bags and left.  I do not regret that I did leave, nor that I ended our relationship as lovers, just about a year ago.  Yet, I am deeply sorry that I had to leave him behind, in a mental jail of his own (and his disease's) making.

Your thoughts?
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 6 - Too Guarded

Castillo Turegano via Wikimedia
Theoretically, the door will open eventually.
Or the walls will crumble of old age.
This post continues with Too Guarded from Chapter Six.

This series looks 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.

Too Guarded
It shouldn't be surprising that many obsessives tend to be too "guarded."  If nothing else, obsessives are alert to everything that might go wrong in life.  Unconsciously they yearn to protect themselves against all potential risk - an understandable desire.  But, more than other people, obsessives seem blind to the costs of too much "protection."  And there are always costs.
Some degree of frugality is laudable, for example, but guarding your money also costs the time and energy wasted in comparison-shopping for even small items.  It costs the pleasures forgone because they're "too frivolous," the generosity unexpressed because you "can't afford" to share.
Similarly, self-reliance is a good trait.  But some obsessives are so uncomfortable with the idea of being dependent on anyone else that they guard their autonomy too fiercely.  They may be unable to delegate work, for example, and must then spend the time and effort doing what someone else could do adequately.  
Even more pernicious are the consequences of being overly guarded emotionally.  This tendency can make it almost impossible to have mutually satisfying relationships.  The need to hold yourself back from others can make you feel chronically constrained and tense; even worse, you may come to feel alone in the universe, unconnected, a stranger almost everywhere you go.  The sense that no one truly knows you, or cares about you, is a sad and painful burden.
Because  he couldn't trust me, couldn't open up with me, my ex was like one big festering wound of distorted thoughts, suspicions, and poisons.  It wasn't until after we'd been living together nearly three years he confessed he was certain when I went to get my hair done that I was hooking up with an ex-boyfriend, because no way a hairdresser would open up for an 8:00 am appointment.  (I did usually brunch with a girlfriend afterwards, which he knew - occasionally I even put her on the phone to say hi to him.)

Sometimes I wonder, if he'd trusted me with his fears right from my first hair appointment, if things would have been different.  Lancing the wound to let all the poison out.

But of course, he didn't trust me with anything.  He couldn't share chores, because I might do small thing differently.  By the end, I was living with an angry, surly stranger.  He did occasionally have times when he would tell me he loved me, would make love to me with his body.  But he would never share his deeper thoughts or feelings, and did everything he could to keep me from sharing mine.

When he cried, he wouldn't even let me put my arms around him to offer comfort.  When you get rejected, over and over and over again, you eventually stop trying to storm that castle.  There's a song a friend of mine wrote, "(In My) Trembling Hands," about a woman, not young, not unscarred by life, shakily offering herself, soul and heart, to a new love.  It perfectly encapsulates how I felt.  "I'm a gift for you," goes the chorus.

But he would have had to open the door to accept that gift.  And I might have been a Trojan horse.  So, he stayed inside, bitter and barricaded, and finally, I decided that the gift of my love was too precious to keep offering to someone who would never be brave enough to open the door.  He chose fear over love.

They say it's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, and that's absolutely true.  I think he loved me despite his best efforts to protect himself, but because he stayed too guarded, afraid to love and lose, he lost me anyway.

Please don't make that mistake.
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hurt People... Hurt People

I came across this video on Single Dad Laughing.

Get tissues - you'll need 'em.

This 14 year-old kid's pain is so raw it not only made me cry, I felt a huge, aching hole in my middle.

In the aftermath of this video, which Jonah eventually posted on his FaceBook page went viral (over 7 million hits), what's been going on?

First off, Jonah is doing okay.  He's still in contact with his friends who moved on to high school he's made a lot of new friends at middle school.  His parents now know that he is gay, and love him anyway.  He's made a couple more videos that show a happy, goofy, normal kid.

And some other videos have surfaced, made prior to the "What's Goin On" video, some that show him making fun of kids with learning disabilities, and others, and there have been accusations that the whole video was a fake.

I watched it again.  Cried some more.  The range of emotions displayed by this kid, as he made this video... well, if it's fake, this 14 year old kid is a better actor than Meryl Streep.  I believe, as he recorded it, Jonah was truly scared and hurting.

Does that rule out the possibility of him being (for the most part) okay now?  Or that he might have not just been bullied, but been a bully himself in the past? Of course not.  People - especially teenagers - can be anywhere on a whole roller-coaster of emotions.  If we're 500 feet high now, and ground level two seconds later, doesn't mean we've gotten off the roller-coaster.

When we think of bullies, emotional abusers, victims, bystanders and the (rare but not unknown) heroes in the abstract, we tend to put them into neat little boxes.  Everybody has to fit into one category, and there can be no cross-over.

Yet... that's not the way life works.  In real life, there is cross-over.

One of my friends is fond of saying, "Hurt people... hurt people."  That is, oftentimes people who are themselves hurting or bullied will find someone else to pick on.  There's a long-standing cultural meme where the boss yells at the employee, who comes home and yells at her  spouse, who yells at the kid, who kicks the dog.

One of the things that makes an abuser so hard to leave is that those of us in such a relationship often witness their pain.  We know they are genuinely hurting.  We imagine, if we could only find the key, say the right thing, do the right thing, then they wouldn't feel so hurt, and they wouldn't feel the need to hurt us.  We make excuses for them, because even if everybody else says, "He's an abusive a$$hole - why don't you LEAVE?" we are the only ones who "get" that small, hurting part inside them.  Which is part of why they are so desperate to keep and control us.

Yet that doesn't work.  Repeat after me, "I cannot control others.  I can only control my own actions."  (And those only imperfectly, but that's another post.)

First, we must make certain we are not perpetuating the chain of emotional violence.  Regardless of who is mistreating us, we don't have the right to call people names, or seek to make them feel bad about themselves.  Get help, if necessary, but STOP being a bully.

Second - don't passively enable bullying as a bystander.

Third - don't put up with physical or emotional abuse.  Whether that's walking into another room, going away for the night, or leaving for good, make it clear that we won't put up with it.

This can be difficult if you are a minor.  And emotional abuse is not, "Johnny, if you don't clean your room, you'll be grounded," when the floor is ankle deep in dirty clothing and empty soft drink bottles.  Yet, even if the floor is that bad, "Johnny, you're a disgusting pig and I wish I'd never had you," is unjustified.  If you're a minor, talk to a counselor at school and work out strategies for how to cope with a parent who may be emotionally abusive.

If you're an adult, and not disabled, take back the power.  Yes, you may have bills and kids and 1001 excuses, but you don't have to stay and put up with such behavior.  You may choose to stay, at this time, or for many more weeks/months/years. but if so, know it is your choice.

Only you know if/when it is right to leave.  But know this: verbal and emotional abuse is never okay.  Not from a kid who might also be a victim of bullying; not from a boss, not from a parent, not from a partner.  There is no excuse for physical or emotional abuse.

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Have you been bullied? Or bullied others, in the past?
Please share, below.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 - Are You Demand-Resistant?
& Overcoming Demand-Resistance

This post continues with Are You Demand-Resistant? and Overcoming Demand-Resistance from Chapter Five.

This series looks 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.
 Are You Demand-Resistant?

Many people are consciously aware of and frustrated by the results of their demand-resistance - their chronic lateness, for example, or the trouble they have with expressing emotion. <snip>

Demand-resistance is a chronic and automatic negative inner response to the perception of pressure, expections, or demands (from within or without).  <snip>

<snip> Observe your uneasy feeling when somebody asks you to have something by a given date.  Notice your reluctance when it's time to begin the work.  Watch yourself procrastinate.  And ask yourself, What's making this so hard?  Why am I hesitating?

Ask yourself why you feel annoyed about having to carry out a legitimate request, why it's so difficult to do the things on your list, why going to Spanish class feels a little more burdensome each night.  If you don't have a plausible answer to such questions, demand-resistance may be a problem for you.  Even if you can come up with plausible reasons for balking, they don't necessarily rule out demand-resistance as the true culprit.  Remember that this phenomenon is deeply unconscious, and you might well be rationalizing your behavior, so scrutinize your reasons carefully.  I can't tell you how many times people have told me they avoid sex because they're just too tired in the evening, or they postpone projects because it isn't a good time to start them, or they are having trouble getting through tasks because the head of the department is obnoxious - only to discover later that even when the same conditions persist, they are able to change their attitudes and behavior.

Overcoming Demand-Resistance

The most important step in overcoming demand-resistance is recognizing the demand-resistance consciously as it is happening.  Oddly, I find that many people are able to make changes as soon as they are able to recognize what's occurring.  One patient, for example, told me, "It's just too much trouble, too overwhelming, to write the thank you notes for my wedding gifts.  It feels impossible!"  But as soon as she said this, she laughed and said, "But it's not impossible!  It's not all that terrible.  It's crazy to tell myself that."  She then went home and wrote the notes.

I wish it were always that easy to spot and discard a demand-resistant behavior.  It isn't.  (that particular patient just happened to be "ready.")  But something else that should help you is to start paying attention to the number of times you think, feel, or say "I should" or "I have to" rather than "I want."  If you are demand-resistant, this way of thinking is a self-protective habit that has grown out of proportion, causing you needless pain and undermining your sense of autonomy.<snip>

To change the pattern, you'll need to reconnect with the "I want" aspect of everything you do.  Catch yourself thinking "I should" or "I have to," and challenge those thoughts.  Stop telling yourself "I have to" unless you're certain that's the case.  Don't let the ownership of your life slip away.  Realize that even when you are pressured to do something, the decision to comply or not is entirely yours.

<snip> Little by little, an increased awareness of the "I want" part of the things you do - neglected for so long - will help you too feel a more solid sense of who you are.  Work won't feel as burdensome.  You'll no longer feel like an unwilling victim.  You'll bring more energy and creativity to your activities.  Keep asking yourself, "What do I want?" about even the simplest things.  I don't guarantee a clear answer every time, but it's amazing how often one will materialize if you practice.


One of the things my ex had a real problem with was saying, "I want."  We had many fights because I would use that language, and then he would scold me for being selfish, etc.  Finally I explained to him, "Look, this is what grown-ups do.  We both put it all out there on the table.  I say, I want A.  You say, well I want B.  Then we work together to see that each of us gets what we want, but we can't even get there if we both don't start with 'I want.'"

What I understand better now, is he was so wrapped up in demand-resistance and being a martyr, he often didn't know what he 'wanted.'  And why should my selfish 'wants' trump what was The Right Thing To Do?

I'm not sure if a partner is able to help someone who is unaware battle demand-resistance.  Boundaries and other tools can help with things like the Crazy Rules, but the person who is constantly converting desires and urges into work - because Work is Good, Fun is Selfish has to find a way to battle that him or herself.

Since I've learned about this, I've become more aware of my own demand-resistance.
Realizing that all work and no play is a sign of MENTAL DISORDER
has helped me make room for play with less, if not no, guilt.Can you catch yourself in the moment reverting to demand-resistance?

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