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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Favorite Mistake??
I Don't Think So

In Newsweek on April 17, Judith Regan wrote a piece called "My Favorite Mistake."   Regan, you might remember, was a powerful editor at Simon & Schuster.  Newsweek describes her as the biggest woman in publishing in 1986. In 2006, following her controversial decision to publish OJ Simpson's book "If I Did It," she ended up leaving HarperCollins, under something of a cloud.  Most recently she has begun a radio show, hence the publicity push.
Photo by chillihead at Flickr

I never could understand why a woman would choose to publish such a work, but then, I never understood the attraction of some women to the incarcerated, either.  Although one might reasonably argue I don't have a great track record in choosing men, I never considered, "Oooh, I want to marry one of the Menendez brothers, he's so cute and I'm sure that blasting the parents to bits with a shotgun was an accident."

So, in this short article she talks about falling in love, and what happened next.
It was in my rearview mirror that I first saw him. He was trying to steal my parking space and I flew off the handle until I took a good look at his face. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, and when he jumped out of his car and came toward me, he smiled, leaned in my window, and asked, with infinite charm, if I’d have lunch … and a baby with him. I said yes, and I did, and it was wild, passionate, and, yes, crazy.
Our son was born. A year later, placenta previa ignited my labor and our premature daughter passed away. This man turned violent: black eyes, broken windows, suicide threats, and, finally, he took off. Our son was just a toddler.
photo by Creativity103 at Flickr

For years I wanted to fix him, to get him help so he could be the father I thought my son deserved. I rented him an apartment in New York so he would visit. But he drank too much, caroused too much, and hurt us too much. After years of disappointment, I let go of him. For me, he was no longer my son’s “father.” He was just “The Inseminator.”
This was actually a healthy reaction - at last.  The trying to fix him, to get him help - all co-dependent behaviors, and all doomed to failure, because we can't fix somebody who doesn't want to be fixed.  No matter how long or how hard or earnestly we try.

So, years pass, the OJ Simpson fiasco has come and gone, and her son is getting married.  She sees the abusive ex again at the wedding, only now he's sick and attended by a nurse.
<snip>He seemed not at all the image of the irresponsible swashbuckler I’d carried with me for so long. I was filled with overwhelming regret that I had turned my back on him.

I should have answered his calls. I should have forgiven him. I should have let go of the disappointment long ago. What a horrible mistake I’d made to abandon all hope, to empty my heart of any possibility of love or compassion.
This woman is kicking herself because she finally stopped laying down like a doormat for somebody who'd treated her and her children so badly, and begging him to come take another stroll.  Wipe the dog poo off his shoes, jump up and down, it's all good.

Now I think I understand why she had so much sympathy for OJ Simpson, and felt the poor man should really be able to tell his story.   I am guessing (of course, I am not inside her head) that she felt she was doing something noble by giving OJ a book deal when nobody else would touch him with a 20 foot pole.

What I find scary is the idea that other women (and men) would read something like her article and say, "Oh, gee, maybe later I will regret not giving Igor another chance.  It's true, I did give him 32 second chances, but maybe the 33rd would have been the one that did the trick for him.  Maybe I gave up too soon."

photo by Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

No.  There is a difference between "forgiving" someone, and being a sucker.  There is a difference between abandoning false hope that we can make someone change, and holding onto a grudge.  Compassion does not mean accepting whatever sh*t the other person wants to dish out, until such time as his/her arm gets worn out scooping it on our heads.

What do you think of that article?  (Click the link to read it in full)
Do you think Regan is offering a good lesson, 
or do you think her regrets are unhealthy? 
Leave a comment and weigh in.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 2 (cont) The Cosmic Scorekeeper

from Wikimedia Commons - Now this scoreboard totally rocks!
This post continues with The Cosmic Scorekeeper, from Chapter Two.

This series will look 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.

Too Perfect, 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.
Many obsessives quell their anxiety about life's possible catastrophes in still another way.  At an unconscious level they convince themselves that terrible things will not happen to them simply because life is fair.

<snip> most obsessives hold a belief, also unconscious, in what I call the Cosmic Scorekeeper.  The Scorekeeper may dovetail with a a belief in an established religion, but I've also seen plenty of atheists with the unconscious faith that an omnipresent, omnipotent forces assesses and reconciles the score, thus ensuring that people get that they deserve.  This notion enables obsessives to believe that they can control their destiny by being good or bad.

They can guarantee themselves safe passages by making the Scorekeeper owe it to them.  They do this by piling up a track record of self-denial, sacrifice, industry, diligence, honesty, and loyalty rivaling that of a saint.  <snip>  Even enjoying themselves costs them points.

Before doing something "selfish," they may need to earn it by performing some distasteful (but noble) duty.  They might put in extra time at work, or undertake an unpleasant home-repair project.  Such sacrifices increase the debit owed them by the Scorekeeper.  With a huge positive balance, they might even be able to take a vacation or spend money on a personal indulgence without bankrupting their account.

<snip> Like many other obsessives, every time things begin to go "too well" for her, Dory braces herself for the Scorekeeper to balance them out.  Similarly, if she has some bad luck, she wonders what she did to cause it.  <snip>  The minute she finds her "misstep," she feels better because she can tell herself that she can prevent the misfortune next time by simply behaving differently.

Obsessives tend to judge other people's lives by the same standard of fairness.  They feel no compassion when they hear of mishaps befalling those they consider unworthy or "bad," and they resent it when honors or other good fortune come to someone "undeserving."

<snip>  They expect the Scorekeeper to compensate them for good intentions and for effort regardless of results.  And if they work at something such as school, therapy, or staying healthy, and their efforts don't succeed, they may feel cheated and resentful.

If, as it so common, the obsessive has been a decent, conscientious, honest person and has consistently denied himself many pleasure in life, he will have earned IOU's by the thousands.  And yet the chances are his life still contains plenty of rough spots:   He has to work hard; he gets ill several times a year; less deserving people all around him are becoming more famous or rich; his financial investments haven't always panned out; not everyone likes him or appreciates what a good person he is; and he often feels unhappy or depressed.

Hoo-boy!  This is sooooo my ex-b-f - and scarier yet, it's so me.

Ex-b-f was wedded to a picture of himself as martyr.  He would frequently decline social invitations, because he was too busy (this was a man with no kids, no day job), and would remark bitterly about people going off to have a good time, but that he had Responsibilities.  Thing is, you can only turn down invites from your friends and family so many times, before they stop inviting you.

One of the things that comes with my job, is there are periodic company parties and social events, some of which families and Significant Others are invited to attend.  This is both fun and stressful.  I adore the people I work with, they're great, but at the same time, these are people I work with.  I don't want to do the lampshade on the head kind of dealie.  And no one is forced to attend said parties - but if you want others to feel you're part of the team you do have to go, most of the time.

Ex understood the dynamics of this, but half the time for events to which we were both invited,   he would cancel at the last minute, because he was feeling terrible and having chest pains.  Then pull a guilt-inducing martyr number on me, "You go on ahead," <wincing, clutching his chest> "have a good time.  I know you need to go party with your friends.  I'll probably be here when you get back."  Accompanied by a brave, brave smile.  So I would go, and have a miserable time, worried about him the whole evening.

Likewise, if it was any kind of event to which he was not invited, work-related or otherwise, he would do his best to work the martyr angle and make me feel bad about going.  Like my monthly dinners with my sister.

What I know now, that I didn't know then, is that severe anxiety can cause chest pain that mimics a heart attack.  So, probably what was happening with him was he fretted himself into an anxiety attack, which made him genuinely feel terrible.  Even so, in retrospect, I notice that whenever our company was doing something he deemed a lot of fun, like last year when we went go-cart racing... somehow he never cancelled on those events.  Of course, one should never dismiss chest pain, on should always consult a health care professional... but he wasn't willing to do that.

I wonder if he was more afraid of finding out he was seriously ill, as he believed, or finding out he was not?

I know that he felt he was racking up points by sacrifice and hard work (much of it churning, and many more good intentions than actually carrying through with things, but in his mind, he was working like a slave all the time.)

I have a hard time getting away from that mentality, too.  To paraphrase the Bible in a way sure to offend, "I believe!  Help me to unbelieve!" (to unbelieve in said Great Cosmic Scorekeeper.)  I know that I don't believe life is fair - that the people of Japan deserved the tsunami, or that those of Haiti brought the earthquake on themselves by practicing voodoo.

I was raised in a German heritage family - you worked first, played afterwards.  If there was time.  My maternal grandmother (oddly, she was the only one who wasn't German, but Irish/Danish) was a strict stickler for manners, for keeping a house spotless, for children always playing quietly, and a whole bunch of other things, more than the others.  She was also always finding fault with the eldest born girls - my mother, my oldest sister, and my oldest cousin.  I wonder now, in retrospect, if perhaps she was OCPD.  Not like the other grandma or aunts who always seemed so happy to see us.  

As I've blogged before, it's hard getting away from a pleasure must be earned mentality, and into mindfulness.  I want to be mindful, and to enjoy the daily joys that surround me, instead of having a niggardly soul, afraid at any moment they will be snatched away because I didn't "pay" for them in some way.  I noticed recently when I went to a book-signing event and all the little pieces went my way, part of me enjoyed it very much, and part of me was nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I do have spiritual beliefs of the "what goes around, comes around," karma variety.  I don't want to be a mean, nasty person, because I don't want to live with one, and to look at one each day in the mirror.  I do think it is important to treat others with dignity and respect, just because it is.  Not simply because what goes around, comes around and I'm carrying fear of being punished, but because when I act badly towards someone, I feel badly about it.  When I am generous, open, kind, I feel better about myself.

That said, I think I'm more likely to err in the direction of being too kind/nice co-dependent, than in the mean, nasty and disrespectful direction.

I'm still very much a work in progress on this issue.

How about you? 
What feelings/thoughts did this stir up - either about you, or a loved one?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

7 Reasons Why Relationships Are Like Pizza

  1. Hot fresh pizza is one of the greatest things on earth.
  2. Cold pizza is most appealing when you're drunk or hungover.
  3. No matter how many pizzas you've had, the next one will never be exactly the same.
  4. The first slice is usually the best.
  5. Some people put really strange things on their pizza.
  6. If a pizza comes loaded with a bunch of stuff you don't like, you can spend eternity trying to pick the crap off, and you'll never get all of it.
  7. Even if you love pizza, you need a balance of other things in your diet.

Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love

Why Relationships Are Not Like Pizza
  1. You can find pizza just about anywhere.
  2. Pizza doesn't care if you ignore it for weeks at a time.
  3. Pizza goes well with any kind of alcohol.
  4. Pizza is usually pretty cheap.
  5. You can pick pizza up at the grocery store, and put it in your freezer until you're in the mood for it.
  6. Pizza doesn't get jealous if  you're splitting your plate with spaghetti or lasagna.
  7. If you've had a bad pizza, you don't obsess for eons over why it was bad, and whether the next one will be terrible, too.

How about you?  Have good (or bad) pizza stories?
Got more points I missed?  Share 'em in the comments.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Naked and Timeless

Sandro Botticelli's Venus
There are certain things I'm used to wearing every day.  Bra, panties, something or other on top of said undergarments.  And a watch.

But I only have one watch.  I don't want more than one watch.  I have a nice plain, silver-colored Timex watch with a round face and numbers.  Not Roman numerals, not kitty faces or little sparking gemstones or some other BS. 

I love my watch.

But last week, the battery died, and I took off my watch because the 1:10 it displayed was too confusing to me.

I felt naked.

I repeatedly checked the white mark on my wrist, but no matter how many times I looked, three blond hairs and a freckle did not offer me significant information.

I figured it would be no big deal - there's a jeweler right in the building where I work.  Take the watch down, get the battery replaced, no problem.

Except, when I got to the jewelers, they had a note on the door: "Taking an extended weekend - be in on Thursday."

I could have gone elsewhere, but that seemed silly.  I could wait a day, right?  So I went back during my lunch on Thursday and... they didn't have the right replacement battery in stock.  "We should have it by Saturday," the guy tells me.  And they're closed on Mondays.

So, I got my watch back on Tuesday. Naked no more.

I can be clueless about a lot of things, but obviously, the universe was trying to teach me a lesson about being mindful and in the moment.  So, that's what I worked on last weekend.

Instead of living by the clock, I lived by me.

I slept as late as I needed.  Did my yoga when I felt ready to stretch.  Ate when I felt hungry.  Worked on my writing and blogs when the spirit moved me.  Read (lots!) and did chores and played with the cat as it felt right to me, not when it was "the right time."

Walked a bag of books and some old sweaters around the corner to donate to Goodwill.  Unleashed a Sex Bomb in the tub.  All in all, I was able to savor and enjoy everything I did.

I can't always do this - this weekend I have an "event" to attend, and I need to make sure I am there on time.  Work, I also need to be there within shooting distance of the time they expect me, though there is no big deal if I am either a little late or a little early, most days.

I'm so glad my watch stopped.

Have you ever taken a weekend (or longer) "off the clock"?
What did you do - or not do - that made it special?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 2 (cont) Control Over Life's Impersonal Events

This post continues with Control Over Life's Impersonal Events, from Chapter Two.

This series will look 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.

Too Perfect, 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 may not all be covered in these excerpts.
Besides self-control and control over others, the third component of the Myth of Control says that if one is sufficiently cautious and vigilant, it is possible to guard against such impersonal dangers as illness, accidents, economic upheavals, and so on.

Being sufficiently cautious and vigilant may mean staying abreast of events that could have personal ramifications - from the weather to political issues to the latest medical news.  Obsessives believe that knowledge imparts a protective power.  A related form of "vigilance" is the obsessive's tendency to worry, as if internal fretting over anything that might go wrong can actually prevent it from happening.

When obsessives can't tell how an event might affect them and also can't avoid or prevent it, they may adopt a self-protective pessimism.  Before an annual evaluation at work, they might predict to a colleague that their review will be poor.  They might complain that they haven't had time to get all their projects in good shape, and that the boss doesn't like them and will be sure to ambush them over some minor detail.  In this way they set themselves up to "win" even if their evaluation does turn out badly.  Prediction of a mishap runs a close
 second to preventing it; it provides at least an illusion of control.


I've heard of many with OCPD who are talk show radio or cable new junkies (both conservative and liberal.)   Unsurprisingly, this simply makes them more fearful, more paranoid, more angrily convinced that those terrible bad guys are trying to screw up the town/state/country/world, or that we are heading towards The Apocalypse.

I would strongly urge all those with OCPD, and all those who love somebody with OCPD, to limit the barrage of news and talk radio to no more than 1-2 hours per day, just as you (ideally) limit the consumption of soda pop.  It's simply not something healthy to soak your brain in.

Something we as human beings need to accept, is that there is no safe place on this planet to live.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, severe blizzards, drought...  Everywhere has some natural hazard, one that we can only prepare for to a certain extent.  For example, I live in "earthquake country," and keep water, sturdy shoes, and a change of clothes in my office at work.  In case of an earthquake (provided I'm not squashed like a bug by the building collapsing entirely) I won't have to scramble out of a damaged building in skirt and pantyhose.  If I lived in a place with winter snow, I'd keep a shovel and bag of cat litter in the trunk, in case I got stuck (probably a blanket or two, also.)

I could obsess over "The Big One," but why?  There is no evidence that "running the tape" in one's head about the worst possible outcome, should some horrible event happen, makes anyone less traumatized or better prepared if/when it does occur.  It means that rather than being in the moment, now, rather than enjoying a sunny day or beautiful display of flowers or a friendly kitty greeting me, my head would be all wrapped up in doom and gloom about something that might never happen in my lifetime.

I admit, I had to rehearse over and over in my head breaking up with my boyfriend; what I would say, what he would say, how I would feel, what would happen to him next.  And maybe in a case like that, it's something we have to do.  To emotionally, even literally break up several times, to prepare to do it for real.

But I have to say, nothing went the way I rehearsed it, nor did I feel the way I thought I would feel.  I am not currently eaten up by guilt, nor has he rolled himself into a ball and died as I feared he might.  As of last Friday, he is still playing weatherman, obsessively checking the temperature outside and inside 10-15 times a day, and opening doors and turning on fans and so on to maintain the temperature inside at 70 degrees - the Only Right Temperature.

Frankly, I don't care what the temperature is.  If I feel cold, I will put on a sweater or turn the heat up, whether it's 70 degrees, or even 73 degrees!  If I am hot, I will drink a cold drink and peel off some clothes.  I don't need permission from a thermostat to feel what I feel, or to take measures to make myself more comfortable.

Your thoughts?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Setting the Curtains on Fire

You can buy these curtains here - but why?

What would you do if somebody in your family walked up to a window, flicked his Bic, and set the curtains on fire?

(If they were these curtains, you might say thank you.)

Seriously, you'd probably yell, scream at them, dash around like mad putting out the fire.  Afterwards, there would be more screaming and yelling, because you'd want to make damn sure they didn't pull a stunt like that again.

The problem in living or working with somebody with OCPD, is there tend to be a lot of occasions that are "curtains on fire" emergencies to them, that aren't emergencies at all, to somebody with a healthy, working filter.

Stuff like, oh putting a stirring spoon on a spoon rest.   "Don't do that!  You're getting it all dirty, and then it'll have to be washed."

Uh, yeah.  That's kind of the point of a spoon rest - but I was never allowed to use mine.  Stirring utensils were to go in an empty can, or on the counter.

Funny, it doesn't look evil.
Or putting a fork tines up in the dish drainer.  Tragedy!  (I was taught this was more sanitary, but...)

People who don't have OCPD can usually differentiate between the big things and the little things.  We don't sweat the small stuff.

People who have OCPD don't know what small stuff isEverything is potentially dangerous.  You see, that fork, you could prick yourself with it when you go to take it out of the dish drainer and put it away, and then, then you could get blood poisoning and die.  Or become permanently disabled, and then your partner will have to take care of you, because you just didn't think, did you?

One friend I know battling his OCPD signs himself  "Only Contemplates Potential Disasters."

It goes to the Myth of Control, as mentioned in Too Perfect - that by being super-aware, super-alert, by mentally carrying out each scenario to the worst possible extreme, that all disaster can be avoided.

It can't.

The reality is that we are all going to die someday, no matter what precautions we take.  Maybe it will be of natural causes in our nineties, maybe it will be an earthquake followed by a tsunami, in which case the way the chopsticks were placed in a Japanese dish drainer probably didn't make a whole lot of difference.

For "nons" - the more you give in, the more forks you arrange the way the OCPDr wants, the more of the world s/he thinks s/he has to control, the more anxious s/he becomes.  If you stop catering to these fears, eventually s/he will learn that even though you are terribly obtuse and don't realize the danger you're putting everyone in, the sky does not fall when you do it your way, after all.

For those who have (or suspect they may have) OCPD - you don't have to live like you do.  Living like your co-workers, your partner, your children - will set the curtains on fire at any moment, if you are not on guard, ready to spring to action and try to teach them differently is not only eating you up inside, it's alienating the very people you are trying so hard to protect.

Get help - it might take a while, you might have to go through several therapists, but there are professionals who can help you cope with the fears and anxieties that are making your life so hard.

People who are smart enough to realize they need help and get it are smart, strong, admirable people.  Don't rule out anything : medication, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, meditation, support groups, prayer.  Treat yourself like a beloved child who has cancer - is there anything you wouldn't do, to save your child's life?  Is there any article you wouldn't read, any drug you wouldn't try, any rock you'd fail to turn over?

Sadly, though my ex b-f swore he loved me more dearly than his own life, getting help was something he wasn't willing to do.  His fear was bigger than his love.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Want To Be On A Death Panel

Photo by artist Richard Heeks
Because after all, we're all going to die anyway.

I know, that thought makes most of us uncomfortable.  We don't know, after all, what's on The Other Side, and that's kinda scary.  Some people believe in Heaven (and Hell), some people who believe in reincarnation, some people believe in nirvana, some people believe in being gods on other planets or any number of intriguing possibilities.  And some believe that one is just gone, the consciousness dissolved into nothingness.

But despite any number of fascinating stories from people who were clinically pronounced dead and "came back"  (but were they really, truly dead?) we don't know.

What we do know, for a fact, is we're not getting out of this place alive.

Many of us live like there's an actual, physical Reaper, and if we keep running/busy/active enough, we'll be able to avoid death.  Like he's a bill collector or something.  ("Pull down the shades, turn off the light and the TV, we'll pretend we're not home.")

OCPDrs carry it to extremes, but many people are so worried about what could happen in the future, what terrible thing is lurking around the corner, about protecting against every possible calamity, they fail to enjoy any of the wonderful things that are all around them, every minute of every day.  They're too busy finding green baby galoshes - because it might rain, sometime, in Southern California, and the baby's feet might get wet, and then he might get sick, and then he might die.

They're not so much Pro-Life, as they are Anti-Death.

We have to accept that we are going to die, and we have to accept that people we love are going to die.  That pain and loss are part of the admission price to this crazy Carnival called Life.  We can deny it, we can act like martyrs, and refuse to enjoy the Carnival - as if not enjoying life will entitle us to get more of it.  Hunh?

We can fight to be Cleopatra (Queen of Denial), and live like we have all the time in the world, but we don't.  We need to think about what's on our personal Bucket Lists, our dreams, and work on making them happen.  Is your dream to see the Grand Canyon?  Eat a hot dog on Coney Island?  Watch a taping of The Price Is Right?

Like Captain Picard would say on Star Trek: TNG, "Make it so."

And as far as the death panel thing, yep, there's a whooooole bunch of people I'd pull the plug on.  I don't believe, if one is extremely ill and/or 90+ years old, or in a persistent vegetative state, that it benefits anyone to take extreme measures to keep that person "alive."  (Okay, maybe the hospitals which are making a buck benefit from the care of said "person.") 

I believe that the soul has departed long before, but let's say, just for the point of argument, that it hasn't.  Let's say that the soul and spirit is still in that poor battered shell of a human body, unable to move, wipe itself, or communicate.

Could there be any worse torture than to be trapped there helplessly for weeks, months, years, not able to get out or let people know you're still in there?  To have to watch and listen to hours on end of daytime television programming?  (Whether your preference is Fox or MSN, you know they're gonna have it tuned to the other channel.)  To perhaps be in constant pain, either severe or low-grade, but nobody does anything about it because they don't know about it, and they think there is no pain?

I truly wouldn't wish such a fate on my worst enemy, and I have promised to come back and haunt anyone who does that to me.  (And not in a nice, Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost way.)  If we want to be kind and loving, we should let the person go, allow him or her to move on to...  whatever happens next.  Unless, of course, we know for a fact that the person we are "saving" would want us to fight for every breath.  I know some people in that horrible situation, knowing it's not a kind choice, but it's what their loved one wanted, so they are reluctantly carrying out those wishes.  (I'm so sorry!)

We've come a long way, in terms of preserving the physical bodies of those who would have died, 150, even 50 years ago, but that isn't always a good thing.  As a society, I think we need to reconsider what we often do to people in the last months of their lives, all in the name of "saving" them.  Saving them for what?  More torture? 

Just because we can hook somebody up to any number of modern gizmos and keep the heart beating and the lungs artificially pumped full of air and run a tube down somebody's throat to drip nutrients, doesn't mean we should.  Is an all-out battle to "buy" someone an extra two months of extreme pain, in a hospital, away from the comfort of family and pets and loved ones, always worth it?  (One friend recounted to me at her father's death, she counted - and then recounted, because she was sure she must have made a mistake - 187 tubes and wires running into his body.  187!!)

Newsweek had an interesting article recently on The Myth of Aging Gracefully.  Because of denial, we think we'll be one of the ones who's hardy, running marathons and making love into our nineties, and then drop instantly dead of a convenient heart attack or stroke, but it doesn't always work that way.
There is a 50–50 chance that anyone who survives to blow out 85 candles will endure years of significant mental or physical disability. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease doubles in every five-year period over 65. Furthermore, two thirds of Americans older than 85 are women, who usually become poorer as they age. Many won’t die at home, with the best care money can buy, as Sargent Shriver did in January, but in a Medicaid-funded nursing facility after their life savings have been exhausted.
What about living with gusto and passion?  What about accepting that death comes one to a customer, sooner or later, and making peace with that concept?  Telling loved ones every time you talk to them, that you love them, and treating them with love and kindness now

Image via Karen's Whimsy
For myself, I have my own Advance Medical Directive all filled out - copies with my sisters, doctor, and one in the glove compartment of my car.  Not to mention my threat to haunt people.  Your choices may be different from mine, but if you don't already have your AMD filled out, do it now.  No more excuses, no more waiting, no more "I'll do it when I have time," as if you know for sure you''ll have that time.

Cleopatra, Queen of Denial, didn't come to a very nice end, after all.

What are your thoughts on life, and death? 
What are you doing to live your life fully now?
Click a Reactions button, or leave a comment, below.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapt 2 (cont) Control Over Others

Fun kinds of games by MaryTClark on Flickr
This post continues with Control Over Others, Control Through Irreproachability, and Control Games, from Chapter Two.

This series will look 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.

Too Perfect, 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 may not all be covered in these excerpts.
The second aspect of the Myth of Control is the need to control others.  <snip>  Most direct are those who rigidly insist that their employees, children, and spouses do things their way, never considering how such a dictatorial attitudes  makes other people feel.  Like anyone else, these obsessives usually want others to view them as kind and nonjudgmental, and are usually surprised when they are not seen that way.  They just can't bring themselves to do what it takes to win that reputation; they can't step back and let the people around them act in their own individual styles.

<snip> they strive to make people think well of them, always.  The main objective underlying this strategy is to leave no room for criticism.  In early childhood, we learn which behaviors and abilities are labeled "good" by parents, teachers, and others.  Many obsessives master these skills, developing a brilliant facility for identifying those attitudes and behaviors considered virtues in each new social situation and them adopting them absolutely.  Thoughts or images incompatible with this image of perfection are suppressed or rejected.

<snip>  Robert did experience anxiety during this period, especially when he found himself a bit less universally admired, but he also found that the sky didn't fall when he allowed himself to be more genuine and less perfect.  As he gradually stopped hating himself for his phoniness, he became better able to let people get close.  When somebody liked him, he knew it wasn't because of some role he was playing.  He trusted that person's positive response more.  <snip>

Like other aspects of the control myth, trying to control other people's feelings by being wonderful has major drawbacks.  For one thing, it's impossible.  You simply can't embody everyone's idea of virtue.  Anyone who tries is bound to incur someone's disapproval sooner or later.  And when the obsessive can't prevent someone from being angry with him, rejecting him, or doubting his abilities or character, he may find it impossible to let it go.  Often he'll ruminate about the incident, unable to relax, until he devises a way to "fix" it.

Subtly manipulative control games are another way in which obsessives strive to assert their power over others.  Such power plays whisper: "I've got the upper hand here.  I decide whether or not we will interact.  And if we do, I decide the beginning, ending, and content of those interactions."  Note that I say whisper; you very well may not recognize that you're the object of such tactics.  In fact, the obsessive himself usually is not conscious that he's doing it.  Part of the nature of these ploys is that each has an alternate, perfectly reasonable explanation.  When your colleague shows up several minutes late for a meeting, it may well be that a last-minute phone call unavoidably delayed her.  But when this happens repeatedly, you have to wonder if her slight tardiness doesn't spring from an unconscious need to demonstrate that she, and not other people, decides when she's got to be somewhere.

<snip> The tactic of making another person wait can assume a variety of guises.  It may involve prolonging a decision.  Perhaps you need to know what your spouse if planning for Friday evening, so you can decide whether you're free to attend a professional meeting.  But your spouse just can't seem to come to a decision, leaving you stymied.

<snip>  All these interpersonal control tactics do accomplish their aim to a degree.  However, their net result is often painful and destructive because ultimately they obstruct the sense of connection and intimacy that all humans need and crave.


This is where we tend to have the most battles; when Perfectionists try to control us.  My ex would often scold, "I have to show you how to do everything," because I did few things "right" in his eyes, from the way I opened the gate to the driveway, to the way I washed my hands and carried in bags from the grocery store.  Let alone the Shower Rules.

At first, I would do it his way, or JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend and Explain.  The best way to deal is to not JADE;) as those of you who've tried those techniques know, they don't work.  Those with OCPD will simply argue you into the ground until you give up out of exhaustion, and whether you do one or three things his way, he won't do the next thing your way.  He will find 15 more things you're not doing his way.

I've tried to be perfect and irreproachable, myself: the top student in class, the most attractive woman in the room, the best at whatever I turned my hand to.  Like that really worked out!  And so, I've found that despite being a "failure" more often than not, I do pretty well, and most, if not all, people truly like imperfect, unglamorous me.  I'm "over" trying to kill myself to be The Best at something, but will put in as much effort as I think the task deserves.

I've come to realize I have other, more covert Perfectionists in my life, who are, indeed, trying to live in a way that leaves no room for criticism, and whose criticism and control games can be subtle.

ME: I'm going to do X.

Other Person:  Well, that's one way to do it.

Not a criticism, exactly, just a hint of disapproval and suggestion that OP has a (much) better way.  In the past, I'd always bite, and ask, "Oh, what do you suggest, ye wonderful wise person?"   or perhaps, even get into an argument about it.  Now, I'm learning to either ignore the comment, or say cheerfully, "Yep, that's the way it suits me, right now."  Or ask for a suggestion, if I'm interested - but I'm not manipulated into it any more.

On the lateness issue - I have a friend who's always an hour late to anything.  And he used to whine to me about how people didn't understand, how they always took it as a mark of disrespect, blah-blah.  Well, we are still (more distant) friends, and when we plan to meet, anywhere, I always bring a book along and plan to wait for an hour (sometimes it's even less) but now turn a deaf ear to his complaints of busyness and inability to control his lateness.  Like other people aren't busy, too?

It is disrespectful and insulting.  Our friendship has become more distant, in part because I have come to recognize his manipulations and excuses for what they are.  I don't have time and emotional energy for that BS any more.  One very good thing that has come about, as I rediscover myself after being with an OCPDr, is I am recognizing unhealthy dynamics in many of my other relationships, and am working to change them as well.

I, too, have tried to be a "too perfect" friend and confidant, and I realize I need to be my own best friend.  If people think I'm not as "nice" anymore... oh well!

Your thoughts?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

There Is No "Trying It On For Size"

Milton H. Greene [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Like a lot of women, I have no f@#king clue what size I wear, most of the time.  It's not my fault that I don't know.  Some clothing manufacturers vanity size their clothes - so that a size 12, like Marilyn wore, is today equivalent to a size 8.  Other don't do vanity sizing.  Still others size their clothing slightly smaller than industry norm.

I have had times in my life where a size 8 hung on me like a sack, while a size 14 was way too tight to wear.

Guys, now do you get why clothing shopping can be so stressful for women?

We learn what colors and styles suit us, mostly, and a general guess as to our current size for most clothing makers.  Still, women often need to do a lot of trying things on when shopping.

Let me meander over to the point.  One of the things I noticed about OCPD ex-b-f, was his absolute misery whenever I wanted to "try something on for size" around the house.  For instance, there was a spot on the wall that needed a picture, only we weren't which picture should go there.  My way of handling this would have been to hang the primary candidate, live with it for a few weeks, and see if it "felt" right to us.

His way was to think about it for 2-3 years, and only then could we hang the picture I wanted to put up (one that he brought into the relationship, btw, not one of my own.)   He would go absolutely spastic whenever I wanted to decorate for the holidays - and I love decorating for the holidays, all of the holidays, not just Christmas, but Valentines' Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween...

This seems to be a pattern for many with OCPD, similar to something that autistics experience.  Nothing is supposed to changeEver.  If you've read earlier comments on this blog, you'll know that one reader has an OCPD husband who will rake the lawn down to dirt, because he can't stand it when there's a single leaf on the grass, even for one day.  I had a friend tell me about a similar "trying it on" experience.  She'd wanted a clock in her living room, and they were throwing one away at her work, so she brought it home and hung it in her living room.  She wasn't sure that she liked it, but hey, the price was right.  So she wanted to hang it and see if she liked it after a few days, or didn't.

Her (suspected Asperger's) boyfriend absolutely freaked out, could not sit still, couldn't focus on conversation with her, but sat drumming his fingers against his knee (stimming) because of this one change she'd done in her living room.  She had to take the clock down and rehang the picture she'd had up on that hook, so that he could calm down and get back to normal.  (Normal for him, that is.)

The other night I was on a chat session that included both people with OCPD and "nons."  I asked them about the "trying it on" experiment, and it was interesting as one of the OCPDrs tried to explain to me, that he needs to know a comparative value.  How can one know if the picture on the wall is good or not - you need something to compare it to (uh, a blank wall?) and who's to say, and how can one say, if this is a quantitively good or bad "fit"?

Another young man had posted that following being placed on medications (not just for OCPD, but for ADHD, and other conditions) he was able, for the first time in years, to go into a store and try on clothing, and buy pants that fit.  He had always felt too self-conscious and "weird" to try on pants before, so he would just guess at the size, and if he got them home and they didn't fit, he would throw them in the closet.  (Taking them back to the store would have been too embarrassing.)

Photo by dailyfood at Flickr
The idea that decisions about minor things don't have to be made, once, for all time <imagine a long reverb effect on the "for all time-time-time," please> seems to be beyond the grasp of many with OCPD.  It's not a case of this time they can choose the salmon at the restaurant, next time something different; they feel they must choose something good every single time, or... what, exactly?  We don't know, but it must be terrible.

This behavior is one of the things that drives Significant Others up the wall, and yet, it seems so petty when we speak or write about it.  So they don't want to order anything different when you go out to eat, so what?  So they don't like moving around the furniture, or putting up holiday decorations, what's the big deal?

One at a time, these things are all minor and no big deal, but all together, because the person with OCPD will often apply them to many, many areas in their life, it is a big deal.

What are your thoughts or experiences with this behavior?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapter 2 (cont) Control Over Feelings - Selectively Unemotional

This post continues with Control Over Feelings & Selectively Unemotional, from Chapter Two.

This series will look 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.

Too Perfect, 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 may not all be covered in these excerpts.
For many obsessives, control over their emotions is a crucial component of self-control.  By their nature, emotions sometimes defy control, and this unruliness disturbs the obsessive.  Also, through their extremist lenses, many obsessives unconsciously fear that any show of emotion could lead to their humiliating themselves, devastating someone else, being rejected, or even losing all self-control.  For these and other reasons, many obsessives will repress, minimize, disown, or otherwise try to avoid strong emotions altogether.

<snip>   When their feelings are starting to surface in therapy sessions, many obsessive patients like Colette will deliver an intellectual analysis of them, change the subject, joke, of focus on something trivial - anything to avoid actually feeling and exploring this perturbing part of themselves.

Selectively Unemotional

Although a few obsessives have difficulty showing any strong emotions (and thus may appear machinelike), most choke off only certain ones.   Some, for instance, have no trouble showing affection, but can't display anger easily.  With others, the opposite is true.  <snip> 

The Downside of Emotional Control

To survive, work effectively, and relate to other harmoniously, we obviously must modulate some of our emotions.  However, as James's experience illustrates, wholesale repression of feelings can be self-damaging.  Even in moments of leisure or intimacy, many obsessives have difficulty shifting gears and letting go of their need to be in control.  Some may repress their feelings to effectively that they do not know what their feelings are; they come to believe they were born without the normal emotional range present in others.  This causes them pain, as they sense themselves to be defective in some core way.

In their wish to seem normal (to themselves and others) these people may fake whatever feelings they think are appropriate in various situations.  Or they may unconsciously compensate for their perceived defect in an altogether different way, by idealizing it.  Like Star Trek's Mr. Spock, people who take this path disdian feelings and evidence of weakness.  They sneer at emotional people and admire intellect and reason.  They thus convert the pain fo feeling defective into pride in being "strong."

Of course, such defensive tactics in obsessives usually are doomed to failure, because in spite of their best efforts, rage, terror, sadness, infatuation, and other emotions will eventually break through.  Like anyone else, the obsessive person will experience these emotions because, fortunately, there is no completely effective anesthesia against feeling.  Emotions are crucial components of who we are.  And it through expressing our emotions that we are able to make our needs known and achieve true communication with others.  If you can't show that you're touched, hurt, scared, angry, or sad, people can't connect with you, let alone feel empathy for you or love you.  In the emotional arena as in others, too much self-control is self-defeating.


I've blogged before about the AngryMan aspect of ex b-f.  While he was able to display a full range of emotion during the courting stage, once we moved in together, it seemed like the only emotion he felt safe showing was anger.  He would be cold and logical and emotionless much of the time, occasionally be in a good mood, but mostly, angry.  As if that emotion was safe - unlike fear, anxiety, loneliness - to express those would have made him too vulnerable.

I am reminded of the distraction aspect too - "cuttlefish!" when they throw up a cloud of ink to distract you from something getting too close to the bone.  The Great and Powerful Oz is... just a small scared man behind a curtain, using smoke and mirrors and distraction to keep people from seeing he's just a man.

When somebody is breathing fire at you, it's pretty much impossible to feel an emotional connection.

We all do crazy things to try to earn love, sometimes.  Maybe we'll let somebody put a dog collar around our necks and lead us around by a chain.  Maybe we'll be patient and sympathetic and allow ourselves to be emotionally abused, in the hopes that once they get it "out of their system" they'll be able to open up and share their real emotions with us.  Maybe we'll put up a front of being strong and invulnerable and unemotional, in the hopes that people will love the shell we've built, even if they don't love the person underneath.

Such a waste of time.  By pretending not to have emotions, all perfectionists do is push people away.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sick of It

I've been battling a cold this past week or so.  I think I have it licked, but you never know.

This is sick in a good way, by kamshots at Flickr
I don't get sick often, but when I do, I tend to get really sick.  In fact, the last time I got sick was over Memorial Day weekend, almost a year ago.  Which spurred the anxiety that caused my ex b-f to blow up, which caused me to reach my "Get Help or I'm outta here" point.

I understand better now, that with OCPD (which as one friend half-jokes, stands for Only Contemplates Potential Disasters) a cold is never just a cold.  It's always a Possibly Fatal Infection, for everyone in the household.

Mind you, I suspect that me getting sicker than "normal" the last few times I got sick - colds progressing to sinus infections or bronchitis - probably had a great deal to do with living with a cigarette smoker, even though he religiously used ashtrays designed to trap much of the smoke.  Not good for the lungs, and on a few occasions, I brought up the idea that him stopping smoking would be good for both of us.  He agreed, even said a few times he wished he could, but that he knew he was too deeply addicted to even try to stop.  Well, we all know, if you think you can't do something, you can't, end of story.  I know the stress of living with him wore down my stamina and immune system, too. 

But I never dreamed of scolding him for me getting sick, as he would me. 

I've now heard stories from other partners of untreated OCPDrs that they can behave extremely badly when illness or injury occurs to someone they love (not every person with OCPD does this, but many do.)  Broken arms, appendicitis, or a head cold, all could (potentially) lead to The Worst Possible Outcome, which means since their head is already speeding ahead to imaging this, the Perfectionist Personality may totally lose whatever emotional equilibrium they have, and be on their worst behavior.

In a normal relationship, being hurt or under the weather generally elicits sympathy from a partner.  In some cases, the Perfectionist Personality will resist or actually refuse to drive their partner to the emergency room, or help with a temporary bandage for a cut.  They may even berate their partners for being so careless and inconsiderate to get sick or injured in the first place.

We may be able to cope to a certain extent, with an OCPD loved one when we feel well.  Setting boundaries, not taking things personally, remembering not to JADE...  But when we're hurt or feeling crappy, the OCPD  lack of expressed empathy, and fussing over their own worries can be especially hard to take. 

Sound effects, too!  Available via Amazon
My ex-boyfriend actually would be quite solicitous of me when I was sick, make me homemade chicken soup (which I loathed.) I know he was expressing his love and concern the best way he could.  The problem was, he couldn't express it in the way I needed.  Even when I specifically said, I would like to eat or drink this, I would like to do X, I would like to nap now - or not nap now, he couldn't hear it.  He expected me to be sick the way he had it scripted in his mind.

What a sad, torturous messy way to think, to live.  I am so glad I can just get sick now.  If I truly need help, I can ask family or friends to make a Kleenex or ginger ale run for me, as necessary.  Without getting bitched at because I wouldn't have gotten sick if I'd been more careful, or being micromanaged as to what I should eat or drink or when I should nap.

What were your experiences with OCPD sickness & health?  
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