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, December 12, 2010

That Light Bulb Moment

How did you feel when you heard about, or read about, OCPD?  When you saw a description of the behaviors online and thought somebody had been spying in your windows?  (And hoped they hadn't caught you the other day, singing loudly and off-key to Duran Duran as you vacuumed.  But hey, he was out on errands and you were making the most of it, because you couldn't have done any of it while he was home.)

When I first heard about OCPD, I was sooooo relieved.  So that's what this is!  B-f's not mean, cruel, or a secret agent from Jackass-istan, come to test the sanity of American women. 

He has a mental illness (some prefer to call it a disorder.)  That means he's not doing it on purpose, he doesn't know any better.  Mental illness can be treated.

It was what my friend H calls (well, sings) the "aaaa-aaah" moment, when the clouds part and a pure ray of sunshine streams down.

It was confirmation that I wasn't going crazy after all, something I had secretly begun to fear.

It was hope, it was relief, it was... not over.  Not even close.

Because as I read on, I learned how very, very resistant to treatment those with OCPD could be.  Which left me momentarily discouraged, but then, I thought, well, I just have to wait for the right time.  (Read the rest of this paragraph in your best, internal five-year-old voice.)  I will wait for the right time and catch B-f in the right mood and I will bring up OCPD and the articles that support it.  He will recognize that this is him, and I know he wants our relationship to work, so he will come to therapy with me, or get it on his own, and I will help him, and all will be right with the world.

Are you shaking your head and laughing at me? 

Yep, it didn't work out that way.  I kept reading.  I must have found online about twenty or thirty different stories where some loving partner had tried The Big Reveal.  The "news" was gobbled up as enthusiastically as a shit sandwich.

I read other stories where the "non" discovered that their spouse had already been clinically diagnosed years before with OCPD.  "That diagnosis was wrong," or "I might have had some traits, then, but don't have it now" were frequent arguments.  "Maybe I do have OCPD, but at least I'm functional - you're the one who's a mess."

My head began to hurt.  Mind you, there are some wonderful, wonderful people who find out, either through their own research, or through mental health professionals (sadly, usually after their partner has left, or is packed and walking out the door) that they have OCPD, and they are doing whatever it takes to get better.  Therapy.  In some cases, medication.  Reading and research and trying out different techniques, to either tame their lions or to quiet what others call the monkey chatter in their brains.  Meditation.  They are true, brave warriors, and I think they are awesome.

Even after all my research, for a long time, I clung to the idea that I could help b-f.  Now that I knew he was mentally ill, I could be more patient, more loving, and it would finally be enough, and at least I could coax him into therapy with me.  At least I could do that.  And then they would diagnose and fix him.
photo by tkksummers

Yep, I was living on co-dependent, Fantasy Island all right.  (Which btw, speaking of fantasy, I've toured it.  And it's tiny inside.  Tattoo could probably stand living there, but everyone else would get claustrophobic.)

From the time I first learned about OCPD, to the time I told b-f I was moving out if he didn't agree to seeing a therapist, took about a year and a half.  During that time, sometimes I would cruise the support boards and literature, and sometimes I would stay away because it was so depressing.  I wanted more than anything, to find somebody, anybody who had tried my approach, the soft sell and gentle persuasion method, and found success, but I found nobody.

When I finally stopped lurking and started posting, the advice I got annoyed the hell out of me.  Make changes in myself?  Do these people not understand how tired I am?  How very, very difficult my OCPDr is?  And it sounded crazy, "Push back.  Defend your turf.  Don't JADE."

I remembered a bowling tip my sister had given me.  When your ball has been swerving to the right, start your approach on the boards half a step more to your right.  The right, not the left?  That advice sounded totally counterintuitive, but weirdly, it works.  So I figured, maybe even though the advice I was getting about OCPD sounded backwards, it was worth a try.

In fact, better boundaries didn't change him - or change him much.  They changed meMy thinking got clearer.  I felt less caught up and swirled by emotion when he'd have a meltdown or do his Silent but Stomping routine.  And his behaviors did get worse; he felt me slipping away, and he tried to regain control the way he always had before.  But even though his behaviors got worse, I felt better.  Less affected by them.  Stronger.  More calm.  More in control of my own life and thoughts and emotions.

I could wish this story had a happy ending.  It does - or it will - for me.  Probably not for him.  I was not, after all, able to beg, threaten, or manipulate him into therapy, and have given up on trying.  I am focusing on myself, and every day is better than the one before.  Even though I know I still have a lot of work to do on me, I feel happy, peaceful, and creative.

While I made a conscious (and possibly, wrong) decision to avoid breaking up with b-f once we were into this whole Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year's cycle, I am not absolutely tied to that, either.  I can see that he is trying, as much as an untreated OCPDr can, to be sensitive to my feelings, to hold back criticism, to stop babbling and actually listen, and while some of it may be hoovering, it's more than that.

It's still too little, too late.  Every day, I feel less and less in love with him, more and more in love with me.  And while I feel sad for him, I'm so thankful to be "living juicy" again.

When was your "light bulb" moment?  Did you also go through a period of excitement, followed by letdown?
Post a comment (you can be anonymous) and tell me a bit of your light bulb story - and what happened next.