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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

If I knew then what I know now...

It wasn't until I'd been living with my boyfriend for over five years that I found out about OCPD.  (While he's not officially diagnosed, he fits the criteria to a T.)

In many ways, it was a relief to know he had an actual disorder.  That he wasn't just "being an asshole," that my judgment wasn't so dreadful in starting a relationship with him.  Then, I felt frustrated.  Seems like I've met a lot of control freaks in life, heard about large numbers of men trying to control their partners - or vice versa, and yet, nobody is TALKING about it.  Information on the condition, and on techniques to deal with it, is so small and scattered in so many places, it feels that like that fairy tale story where the heroine has to separate the rice from the dirt in a huge, co-mingled pile.

It's the shame factor, I think.  When I was very young, my mother had breast cancer, and back then, people didn't talk openly about cancer the way they do now.  If someone had cancer, people might whisper about it, or, if it was mentioned out loud, it was "The Big C."  It was like cancer was catching or something.  If you talked about it, somebody in your family might get it!

Mental health problems share the same stigma, though more and more, people are beginning to realize that they're not self-created or inflicted or "faked" any more than being hard of hearing or nearsighted.  Some people need glasses, and some people need medication and/or cognitive behavior therapy to cope with being bi-polar or depressed or OCPD.  Some mental issues are illness; that is, something that can eventually be cured, like post-traumatic stress syndrome, and some mental issues are disorders - a condition which will need attention for the rest of one's life.

Now there are pink ribbons for breast cancer on everything from mascara to M & M's, and dinner time TV ads for prostate cancer and incontinence, and drug ads for depression and bi-polar disorder, but OCPD is still a bastard stepchild when it comes to getting a fair share of attention.  I've heard that some mental health professionals don't even believe it exists.  (I challenge them to live for a week in the household of somebody with OCPD and then say that!)  Too many people have never even heard of OCPD, or confuse it with OCD - which is a totally different beastie. 

Since I've found out about OCPD, I've met, online and in person, some smart, kind, beautiful people, who either have OCPD, or live (or have lived) with someone who does.   We've traded stories, and it's interesting to me how similar the stories of OCPD behaviors are, whether we're talking about a Pakistani immigrant in NYC, a woman in the UK or Wisconsin, or a Danish or Australian man.  The symptoms are the same, regardless of gender, culture, religious background.

So, I'm hoping to shine a spotlight on Perfectionist Personality Disorder, aka, OCPD.  It is "Perfectly Awful" both for those who have it, who are eaten up with anxiety and fear on the inside, despite an outwardly aggressive and controlling exterior, and awful for those who live with and love them.  We exist, we are not "crazy," and I hope that with enough voices yelling loudly enough, that someday soon we'll be heard.  And helped.

What's your OCPD/Perfectionist Personality experience?  Leave me a comment, below.