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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This Time It's Personal

Right around the time I was leaving my OCPD ex, and voraciously reading everything I could on OCPD and hoarding, I came upon an interesting website called My Mother In Law Is Still Sitting Between Us. In it the author chronicled her boyfriend's efforts to clean out the hoarding house of his mother, who'd recently passed away.

Besides the train-wreck fascination of the pictures, the writing! Snappy, funny, insightful, and never mean-spirited or nasty. I fell in serious girl crush. And after finding that the author lived next door, so to speak, I got in touch with her. Once I convinced Sid I was not a crazy stalker-person, we did meet, and became good friends. I lured her into joining my writers critique group. Her voice and ideas were good for our group, and getting out of the house and talking about writing was good for her.  I frequently commented on her blog, and she was a frequent commenter here.

Her boyfriend is also OCPD, and the unhappy relationship dynamics that so many experience, that *I* experienced, were also part of her experience. He was a drinker/she was a drinker, even after it began to create serious health problems for her. She cut back.

Still, the relationship was eating her up on the inside, especially when, over two years into the clean-up process of the hoarding house, there was no end in sight. And of course, he could neither give it up nor hire someone to help. I tried to support Sid, as best I could, without pushing or telling her what to do.

It frustrated me to watch her spirit get eroded over time, drip, drip, drip, but still, it wasn't MY job to save her. She did have a supportive family. And Sid was the stubborn kind of person who needed to do things in her own way, in her own time. So mostly, I was the listening ear who understood, and who told her what a great person she was.

One of my online friends has pointed many to an excellent book called, "When the Body Says No," about the damaging health effects that accumulated stress may have on a person. See, sometimes if WE don't learn to say no, the body says it for us, by getting sick.  Or we swallow our feelings with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping...

Sid was the kind of caregiving person who poured herself out for others.  She took pride in being STRONG, not asking for help, but giving it to others. She blogged and worked part time and was active in Children of Hoarders. She co-founded a local group called SoCalLady Bloggers. On October 8 she appeared as part of this streaming video chat on hoarding on Huffington Post.

Her ex was not and is not a bad person. In his own way, Greg, too, is heartbroken. He was the reason she was found, still clinging to life, after she missed a scheduled meeting with him and he would not let it go. I am very grateful that her parents and I got to say goodbye to her when she was still technically breathing, rather than after lying dead in her apartment for days. But his own overwhelming anxieties did not allow him to SEE how sick she was, or to help her in any meaningful way.  As she described here when she was going to visit her parents, very sick, and he got hung up on the cheapest train fare.

After another hospitalization this summer following that train trip, during which the b-f was anxious, bossy, "knew" more about what she needed to do than the doctors, and demanded attention and energy she simply didn't have left in her to give him, she realized that though she still loved him deeply, if she stayed with him, it would literally kill her. She'd already been making emotional plans to leave; her parents helped her out financially, and she moved into her own place a month ago.

Sid was SO happy in her new place. She could eat, walk, work on the computer, and breathe, without being criticized. She was so proud, showing off her new place - which had been IMMEDIATELY unpacked, no boxes hanging around for her! She showed me her cool rooftop patio and talked about having a party up there, excited, because her ex never wanted to have people over. She still loved him, and they were friendly, trying to work out the sale of their house amicably. She was taking her meds and NOT drinking and working hard to regain the weight she'd lost during the summer, but she was still so frail...

The damage to her body was too great, her remaining physical resources too low. She had a heart attack just a week ago due to the chemical imbalance in her body, and then another, in the hospital. No alcohol found in her system.

Last Monday I sat with her parents and her ex, in the hospital. Both before and after they turned off the respirator.  Today is her "Celebration of Life."

She was beautiful and vibrant and funny and 43 years old.

I am angry and heartbroken. This did NOT have to happen. For all of you still with a disordered partner - I am not telling or urging you to leave.  Only you can make that call, if or when it is right for you. But please, please, PLEASE, do not pour yourself out entirely for your partner and other people, until there is not enough left for your own body or soul. It may be the hardest thing you will ever have to do, but learn to put yourself FIRST.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 9 - A Two Month Leisure Reclamation Program

Metaphor is "in the moment."
This post continues with A Two Month Leisure Reclamation Program from Chapter Nine.

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.


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.

If work has taken over your life, are you willing to try an experiment? For a limited period of time, can you spend less time working and more time living? To achieve that goal, I suggest you make the following changes for two months. <snip>

1.  Separate your work from your home life. Don't take work home with you. Or, if your job requires you to do all or part of your work at home, confine it to one room, preferably one that you can close off and leave behind.

2.  Limit your work sessions, and when the appointed quitting time comes, stop working, even if you're not completely finished. I'm not suggesting you be irresponsible and leave crucial tasks for the next day. But too many obsessives tell themselves that everything is crucial. <snip>

3.  Don't work weekends, unless doing so is absolutely critical. If it is, be miserly in the amount of time you give up. <snip> ... there are "three great American vices": efficiency, punctuality, and the desire for achievement and success. There are "the things that make the Americans so unhappy and nervous. They steal from their inalienable right of loafing and cheat them of many a good, idle and beautiful afternoon."

4.  Whenever it's time to stop working, consciously shift our mental focus to enjoying your free time. It may help to mark the transition from work to "play" in some way, by taking several deep breaths, for instance, or doing some stretching when you finally stand up and step away from your desk at the close of your work day.  <snip>

If you begin to feel uncomfortable or guilty about "not accomplishing anything," fight those feelings. Ask: "What is so terrible about taking the time to read this book, or enjoy this conversation? Don't I deserve to enjoy life just as much as anybody else?" 

More tips to come in the next post.

One of the things I have done in my new home, the apartment, is have a separate office for writing and filing. I don't watch TV in it, and I don't read in my office (except on the internet).  Mind you, I have a regular day job, so I'm not always "up" to come home and write - and that's okay.

Even though writing is both a pleasure/dream, and a side job of sorts, I try to always balance. Spend time with family and friends, spend time lying out by the pool. Sometimes I OD, either on writing jags, or on reading jags, or social butterfly weekends.

I work really hard on being mindful, on enjoying what I am doing. We do all deserve joy, time to ourselves, time away from work.

No one will ever be lying on his/her deathbed, regretting all the time NOT spent at work or obsessing over work-related activities.

Have you ever tried a two-month reclamation project?
What do you think about the "great American vices"?
Your thoughts?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sorry I Dropped the Ball

Some of you may have noticed I haven't posted anything lately besides the Too Perfect discussions - and I've even dropped the ball on a couple of those.

May I get emotionally naked and honest with you?  (Stand clear, my Spanx may ricochet.)

Every year I have a really hard time emotionally as the anniversary of 9-11 approaches, and in the aftermath.  I think it's depression, albeit with a small "d."

via Wikipedia

It's something that hit a lot of Americans very hard, even people who aren't Americans. A lot of people died, much rage and loss and tragedy unfolded in front us, in real time on the TV screen.

But, it's been 11 years. I did not lose a loved one; I never worked in the Towers (though one summer I lived not too far from them). I decided to deconstruct it and figure out WTF is going on, that this anniversary should plunge me into a blue funk, any more than other painful anniversaries.  Even though I avoid, as much as possible, the media coverage and History Channel specials.

When 9-11-2001 happened, I was working at a job that once had been okay/good, a mommy track job, but my boss had been growing erratic and weird (alcoholic, perhaps) and it had certainly become a Hostile Work Environment. (I was fired/laid off in May 2002.) When 9-11 happened, I'd been in love with a married man for roughly a year.

Yeah, I know, that sounds horrible. Well, when I started seeing him, *I* wasn't looking for anything serious. And he'd been separated and living apart from the wife for over 7 years.  They had two kids together, so they weren't divorcing for insurance reasons, at least that was the official story. Anyway, I truly didn't feel like I was poaching, at the time I started dating this man.  She had kicked him out, and he told me, for the first 2-3 years he was devastated, and wanted to reconcile, and after that, he began to truly enjoy his freedom.

We had a lovely time together, even took a long weekend together, and yes, had amazing sex. Like, after 10 20 enough sex partners who were up to the job, as it were, sex had never been that good with anyone else, ever. (Part of me still wonders if I attached more emotional meaning to our relationship because the chemistry between us was so incredible. And I'm still not sure.)

I continued to see other men, and let Married Guy know I was seeing other guys. Realistically, I was head over snatch in love with the guy, and I'm pretty sure he knew it; I was just trying, fruitlessly, to keep some emotional distance.

BUT... during the months leading up to 9-11, it seems that wifey experienced a change of heart and wanted to reconcile, and they did have those two kids together... I tried to hang back - I wanted him to choose me because he loved me, not because I was pressuring him.

So, when 9-11 happened, he and I did a fair amount of emailing back and forth (this was before texting, 'member?). I wanted nothing so much as to feel his arms around me. But, I was super-understanding, and offered, before he even asked, that of course he needed to go be with his kids and his estranged wife.  Brave and self-sacrificing, that was me.

Or, did I push him away? I may never know. But, eventually I met up (again) with my OCPD now-ex boyfriend, and he seemed... available. So I broke up with Married Guy, finally, and fully committed myself to OCPDman.  Our first 9-11 anniversary, together, OCPDman held me tight, told me he loved me.

But once we moved in together, it seemed the more I needed him, the farther away he pushed me, emotionally. We would watch the anniversary news recaps of 9-11, all those people in the offices and planes, knowing/fearing they were about to die, calling their husbands and wives and parents and leaving a last message of love. I wanted somebody to love, too.

I had somebody, who, on paper, I could love, and who loved me. But it sure didn't feel that way when he wouldn't hold me, when he told me he thought I was fat, stupid, sloppy.... the list went on and on.

This last month was the third 9-11 since I've moved out from OCPD ex. And right now, when that anniversary rolls around, in addition to the pain and horror of watching those towers come down, I am reliving the hurt/pain of being pushed away by not one, but two men. Men I deeply loved.

Maybe it feels different to them, but that's what it feels like to me.

My parents are dead, my siblings have their own partners, even my offspring has a partner. I got nobody.

Maybe, someday, I will once again have somebody to love. I admit, I looked up Married Guy on FaceBook and Twitter all too recently, read his wife's blog (yep, they're still together, if unhappily) and she still sounds like a bitter, blame-everybody-but-herself, probably personality-disordered bitch. I never understood his loyalty to her, before, but after almost six years of living with a a personality-disordered person, I totally "get" how that relationship can twist one up, inside, sap all one's strength and willpower.

I was SO tempted to try to contact him, to show him the way out. To Rescue him.

But, I did hold back. That is not my job, now - that was never my job. And I realize that I need to figure out how to be happy on my own. Even without somebody to Rescue. Even on emotionally challenging anniversaries like 9-11. Even if [gulp!] that means I am alone [add alone-alone-alone reverb here] for the rest of my life.

And I'm not that old, dammit!

Sundaes (Photo credit: On the White Line)
My partner, if/when I have one, needs to be the cherry on top of the sundae, not the sundae. I need to be the sundae, myself. (No nuts, please. Not figuratively, and not in real life.)

I "get it," intellectually. But oh, it is so hard to move that knowledge from head to heart.

I am getting to the point, now, where I want someone to hold, to kiss, to be with... and it would be SO easy so slot an ex into that role, rather than hold out for someone new.

I am, however, resolved to hold out for the real thing. There's a reason why all the relationships with my various exes didn't work - why go there again?  I am clinging to the memory of my aunt, who married a widowed man at age 59 and enjoyed more than 25 years together.  If she could find true love at age 59, there's hope for everyone, IMO.

And if it's not true love - for now, at least, I'd rather be alone than accept a cheap substitute.

Your thoughts?
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 9 - Becoming Less Driven

Clouds. Just because.
This post continues with Becoming Less Driven from Chapter Nine.

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.

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.

Becoming Less Driven
<snip> As a starting point, ask yourself:
  • Are those long job house really an unavoidable requirement of the job?
  • When was the last time you took a walk, going no where special? Or sat and listened to music? Or window shopped?
  • Do your co-workers (or people in comparable positions elsewhere) put in as much time as your do, and if not, how do they avoid it?
  • Could your own perfectionism be driving you, and is it really worth it?
  • Are you avoiding being home, for any reason?
  • If you've taken on extra part-time work, is it because you really need the extra money? Or is a craving for absolutely guaranteed financial security shaping your behavior?
  • If you're self-employed, must you really accept every referral or project, or are you distorting things? For instance, how true is it that if you don't accept that referral, you'll never get another one from that person or firm? Even if that did happen, would it really endanger your security?
  • As for being preoccupied with work during your "free" time, how necessary or useful is this, really? How often to you actually get a creative idea or solve a work problem when you're with your family or engaged in leisure-time activities? Isn't it more likely that "thinkaholism" is contaminating your leisure?
When I was living with my ex, I avoided home, because I was in no hurry to go home and be yelled at or nit-picked.  I suspect that, consciously or subconsciously, many workaholics choose to work because it is easier and more familiar and allows them to avoid... something they really don't want to do. Or something that will be a surprise.

In order to become less driven, we first must become totally honest with ourselves. To know when we are BSing ourselves with the lists of Things We Must Do, work that Must Be Done, and when, once in a while, a little overtime might be in order.

We need to make time for unstructured play - for just hanging out with friends and family, for trying a new craft or visiting a new museum or some other loosey-goosey activity where we don't know what's going to happen next. It's not simply important for children to enjoy free play, but for adults, too.

Do too many of the above questions strike a chord with you?
Do you cling to busyness like a security blanket?
Your thoughts?
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