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, November 23, 2010

That Nasty, Four Letter Word, Beginning With F

It's FEAR, of course - what were you thinking?

I've been thinking a lot about fear, lately.  I've been trying to find my way out of the fog of cloudy, distorted thinking that comes from living with someone with OCPD - and from growing up in a dysfunctional family (didn't we all?)

FOG is also used as an acronym by Dr. Susan Forward for the state of Fear, Obligation, and Guilt that confuses and blinds us in relationships.

I don't like to think about fear.  Fear is very uncomfortable, it makes my heart pound and my mouth go dry, and not in a good, OMG-I-just-saw-Johnny Depp-and-he-winked-at-me way.  Fear may be a natural, instinctive reaction that saved our lives back when we were tiny mammals being viewed as hors d'oeuvres by snakes and other hungry critters, but we don't need to be afraid of snakes any longer. 

Or spiders - I mean, seriously, why am I afraid of spiders, when I am a billion times as big as most of them, and even a bite by one of the rare poisonous ones would probably only make me sick?  Yet, let me see an itsy bitsy spider that I know is harmless in the bathroom, and I am in Freakout City.  (You'll notice, I am not posting a picture of a spider here.  Not now, not never.)

Fear, of course, comes into BIG play in relationships.  When I'm single, I fear I'll never have another relationship; when I'm in a bad relationship, I fear I'll never get to be happily single again.  When I'm in one that seems to be good, I'm afraid it's going to end, or I'm going to do something to muck it up.

Here's Sarah M, singing poignantly (as she always does) about Fear.  (If I were her, I'd be afraid when I climbed on the ladder and hit that high note, that my voice would get stuck there.)

Her lyrics indicate fear of not being about to give "enough," and losing the relationship for that very reason.  (Been there, felt that.)

But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose
Here in this lonely place
Tangled up in our embrace
There’s nothing I’d like
Better than to fall
But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose
I have nothing to give
We have so much to lose...

Of course, when you live with somebody with OCPD, that fear - of not having enough, giving enough, being enough - is constantly reinforced, because they are constantly telling you these things.

I've learned from those with OCPD, that they don't behave the way they do because they don't care - just the opposite.  Remember, OCPD is about catastrophic thinking - averting all the bad things that could possibly happen.  They care so much, they are so afraid of losing us, losing the relationship, that they try to control every single little thing in it.  Like if the forks are sticking up the wrong way in the dish drainer we could prick a finger and get a blood infection and die.

Is that any sillier, really, than me being terrified of an itsy bitsy spider in my bathtub? 

The problem for all of us is sorting out which fears make sense and require action, and which don't.  If I lose my credit card, I need to be concerned with and take action to prevent identity theft or fraud.  If I put junk mail addressed to "Resident" into the recycle bin without shredding it, I don't.  (For those worried about me, I'm not talking about the mail addressed to "Perfectly Awful or Resident" - if it has my name on it, I shred it!)

I need to avoid internalizing the endless fears my OCPD BoyFriend is drowning in, or accepting the fear/blame that the reason our relationship became rocky is because I mucked it up, somehow.  That's one of the biggest markers of foggy thinking - that when things got bad, it was all my fault.  Did I make mistakes?  Of course, but when somebody has a mental illness or disorder, I have to remember, I didn't Cause it, I can't Cure it, and I can't Control it.

Another problem with Fear is it lives in the shadows, where it grows bigger and scarier all the time.  I have to drag it out into the light, really look at it. 

First, I have to figure out that I am, in fact, afraid.  Once I know that, and drag Booga-Booga-the-Big-Hairy-Scary-Thing into the light, and identify what I am fearful about, next I can sort out which fears are actually mine, and which are fears I've imported like a virus, from BoyFriend or other people.  Then I can move on to deciding which fears are important, and which are "spider" fears that are just plain silly.

I need to remember the wisdom of Mercer Mayer, to face my fears, instead of running busily around trying to pretend I'm not scared, not scared at all!  Breathe with them a while, and maybe even tuck them into bed with me. 

I'm moving more out of the fog, out of frantic, mindless thinking, into mindfulness, a little more every day.  Realizing that when in a miserable relationship, the scariest monster isn't changing the status quo, it's letting things remain the same.