I Am That Girl Now

Monday, June 25, 2007

Holy crow

So, I was stewing about things this morning, trying to put together a summary of how I react to things and about how it all comes back to feelings of control vs. powerlessness, and on an odd whim I decided to check online to see if there are better ways to deal with this stuff than what I've already embarked upon.

Lo and behold, I came across this article on Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, where I read this:

Generally two hallmark thinking styles are pervasive for persons who suffer this condition. The primary manifestations of OCPD entail either a bent toward perfectionistic standards or righteous indignation. Along with perfectionism comes relentless anxiety about not getting things perfect. Getting things correct and avoiding at all costs the possibilities of making an error is of paramount importance. This perspective produces procrastination and indecisiveness. The second factor entails the rigid ownership of truth. This feature produces anger and conflict. Persons with OCPD generally lean toward one of these perspectives or another. In some cases both perspectives are of equal magnitude. Rituals, on the other hand, often play a relatively small part in this complex syndrome of perfectionistic mannerisms, intense anger and strict standards. Their way is the correct way and all other options are "WRONG".

Holy hell.

I'm not sure if it's as obvious outside of my head as it is inside of my head, but that's me, in a nutshell. Not to mention this:

It is not uncommon for a person with OCPD to feel deeply entrenched in the belief that they are a "Good Person." This belief can paradoxically often lead to feelings of depression and disappointment. The high standards which a "Good Person" is expected to live up to are often far beyond the capacity for any human being to consistently fulfill. A belief such as "I know that I'm a good person, but I hate myself for doing so many wrong things" is not uncommon. This self-hatred along with tremendous disappointment can easily lead to feeling of depression. Since ones humanness prevents an OCPD sufferer from living according his own high standards, a tremendous amount of self-hatred is imposed.

And this:

It is not unheard of for someone with OCPD to feel that he is flexible due to an occasional shift in his beliefs. If one listens carefully, the shift in position can be dramatic and equally dramatic is the degree to which the new truth is held as fact. The knowledge that abortion is "murder" can be converted to the fact that the freedom to chose represents every woman's "God Given" right to make decisions about her own body. Most examples of this particular cognitive shift would tend to go in the opposite direction.

And this:

This indecisiveness can have devastating effects on academic, professional and interpersonal relationships. From early adolescence, through college, perfectionism can take an otherwise straight "A" student and bring him to the brink of failure due to incomplete assignments. Having to get the term paper exactly correct makes for an almost impossible task. An extremely difficult time making decisions (always looking for the correct choice) contributes to procrastination. Frequently even starting a task seems impossible, due to a need to sort out the priorities correctly. If it takes an hour to complete the first paragraph of a report, because revision after revision never seems to get it perfect, imagine the anguish experienced when contemplating the completion of a two thousand word essay. The time it could take to complete a ten page report might be multiplied by five due to checking or rewording so that it is just so.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!!! I don't know if I've written it here or not, but my inability to get writing done anymore due to my perfectionistic bent has been worrying me, a lot, for quite some time. Seeing it described elsewhere, in the middle of a report categorizing a whole lot of other things that describe me to a T, has wigged me out.

Oh, and this disorder tends to co-exist with eating disorders. I am somehow not at all surprised.

I looked elsewhere. Found more exciting things, such as the possibility of this being an inheirited trait (it tends to occur in families) or maybe developing because of a certain kind of upbringing (again, this would tend to occur in families, so nature/nurture/takeyerpick) involving a lot of punishment and not many rewards, so the child develops these traits as a way of avoiding punishment.

So, on the one hand, I am wigged, particularly because everywhere I looked for more information on this, it indicated that it was insanely difficult to treat. That said, it appears to be insanely difficult to treat both because it involves long-term work on creating new ways of dealing with things, and because of the nature of the beast itself. I suppose that when the whole disorder comes from I'M RIGHT, YOU ARE WRONG, if the therapist or psychiatrist is perceived as being WRONG then it gives the patient every perceived right to ignore what they say.

Currently, I'm looking at the bright side. For one thing, I've known for quite a while that something in my operating system is working so inefficiently that it is bogging me down and exhausting me. I've done the vast majority of the grunt work over the past five years (oy, FIVE YEARS), digging into my brain to figure out what the hell is going wrong, and stringing together patterns. Really, I've done most of the work myself, and this is just a nice way of describing what I was flailing around, attempting to say.

For another thing, it's confirmed what I've been suspecting the past few months: what I need, more than anything else in the world, is to learn to let go. Hauling around the extra mental rocks (I'm now adding "perfectionism" and "truth-owning" to my mental list of heavy mental rocks) is exhausting, and is making it so I just don't have the energy for anything else-- like writing, in particular. I'm just hoping that if I can manage to let go enough, and learn to accept risk, that'll be half or more of the problem solved, right there.


  • doesn't it wig you out knowing you have OCPD ??? Or do you just think you have it? Phew, just reading your posts tires me out some days! I hope you get yourself sorted and do learn to just let go and take a few risks, it makes life interesting.

    By Blogger Chris H, at 5:57 PM  

  • Hi Meg,

    I can relate to practically every one of your posts, I always feel like you just said what I've been trying to or what I've been thinking, but better. This post hit home big time, that description is me to a T as well. I blog two different places but sometimes I go through long stretches with no posts because I delete what I write and log off, it just isn't perfect enough. Anyway, love your posts and your thoughts, you've helped me think through things quite a bit.

    By Blogger Erin, at 8:04 PM  

  • Personally, I can see the appeal of having a "I'm right, you're wrong" attitude because I'm usually the opposite way in that I try to consider everyone's viewpoints as valid and understand why they feel the way they do. It's totally exhausting and sometimes I think it'd be better just to say, "Yeah, that jerk's totally wrong" instead of trying to see things their way.

    By Blogger PastaQueen, at 10:58 AM  

  • I joke about having OCD, but it's not funny. That first paragraph describes me to a T. Now that I don't have 30 page English/Lit papers to write (well, I haven't for about 15 years, but that's not my point), the righteous indignation is becoming more of an issue for me than anything. Without Lexapro in my brain, I am *feeling* the anger and conflict more and more. And it is a sad, sorry way to live, let me tell you.

    Meg, if you know all this about yourself and are working to heal it, then you will. I'm so glad I get to watch and can learn from your exploration, because I only have time to lose weight right now and not fix my OCPD. Thanks for posting such awesomeness.

    By Blogger Laura N, at 3:43 PM  

  • It's hard work sorting out your own head, but it's really worth it...

    By Anonymous LC, at 11:44 PM  

  • That’s me- to a T.

    I didn’t realize I was swinging back and forth between “martyrdom and failure” (my description of me- no judgment of anyone else) until recently, too. It’s hard for me to write that because I think of myself as a good person; and good people don’t project their feelings onto other people.

    But I do.

    I think I started this pattern in childhood where it was not okay to express disappointment in other people which lead to a permanent state of exasperation with them. But feelings have to go somewhere so I expressed them to other, sympathetic people like my sister, being sure to lay every injustice out on the table in explicit detail so she’d know just how wronged I was. But even still, a lot of the stuff that happened to me as a kid would make anyone self-righteously angry. And the natural consequence of simmering on the inside and smiling on the outside is that you’re rewarded for your perfect behavior, perfect grades, perfect little peacemaker ways so that you learn that your perfection is what makes you a good person, likable. But you’re not perfect, no one is, and as you get older and the stakes get higher it’s harder to appear perfect so you start to feel more like a failure.

    By Blogger madelaine, at 7:31 PM  

  • I never thought of righteous anger as being the flip side of perfectionism - but I can see how the two do fit together. I've been trying to work on my control/anger issues - your post has given me more to think about.

    Thanks, and good luck to us both!

    By Blogger Salma Gundi, at 6:21 AM  

  • I am not selling anything but have OCPD in my own family. To help my nearest and dearest get to grips with this sad truth I have written a little book. My sister was so thrilled with it, she suggested I post it on the internet, so I've tucked it away on my family history website. I used to be a psychotherapist. If you want to read it you can see it and download it for free. I am 70 this year and only want to help people. I think OCPD is not widely enough known about or understood. If you remove the asterisks and close up the gaps you will be able to read the book. I have no commercial interest and the book isn't for sale! Try it here, with the usual ht etc and ww etc stuff at the front. It's: lendingtheway DOT com FORWARD SLASH tightrope
    Hope it helps.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:28 AM  

  • Laura N. Your post really hit home with me. I have considered Lexapro but I hate drugs. Please tell me how you think it helps you.

    By Blogger shugger, at 2:57 PM  

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