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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A-Z: Xcess - That Invisible Dividing Line from Quirky to Crazy

How do we tell when somebody has crossed the line from quirky to crazy? That's part of the problem, because many symptoms of mental illness actually look quite admirable - in smaller doses.

The key is Xcess and Xtreme. (Getting a bit creative with the spelling here, so what.) Take someone who is bipolar. During a more low key manic cycle, she may be animated, creative, fun to be around. Then perhaps a little down and sad. During an extreme cycle, she may want the entire family to join her in painting the kitchen - at 2:00 a.m. Or be unable to drag herself out of bed for days at a time.

Cleanliness, admirable. Sterilizing kitchens and bathrooms like a hazmat team, not so much.

Being an ardent recycler and repurposer, great. Having an endless collection of boxes, pen lids, and food containers... hoarder.

From  My Mother In law is Still Siting Between Us... Randomness (7/29/10). All pictures used by permission.

Pen lids
Hundreds and hundreds of crosswords, cut out, dated (aren't they already?), and meticulously labeled. She had a note on each, about whether or not she had checked the answers, and a list of the numbers (6 across, 17 down) which she hadn't yet checked. Some of these date back to '89.
Crossword puzzles
Empty See's candy boxes - apparently, one can never have too many.
Burned out light bulbs, with notes as to the date each burned out, and the fixture.
What's so bad about keeping some useless junk? Nothing, if it stops at a small stash of empty boxes or burned out light bulbs.  But too often, it crosses the line to this:
The Kitchen

Inside the fridge

Yeah. Horrifying, isn't it? The tragic thing, for adult children of hoarders, is that even when their parents "maintain" a home in conditions like this (or worse), there are legally no options to force them to get the help they so clearly need. It's a matter of having to wait until they die, and the Augean Stables. Only there's usually not a handy river nearby.

Other areas where a line gets crossed:

Having a close personal relationship with God/Jesus/Allah, perhaps even believing that He speaks to you... harmless, perhaps even helpful. Hearing the Voice of God/Jesus/Allah telling you to kill your children/congresspeople... dangerous.

With OCPD, in moderation, there are many wonderful qualities. They're usually very tidy and timely, give great attention to detail, and truly care very deeply about people they love.  There's a great blog written by an OCPD'r I know on the subject, The Gift of OCPD.

We would have many fewer inventions and modern conveniences that we take for granted, were it not for people with Aspergers, OCPD, and many other mental illnesses. Peter Roget (Roget's Thesaurus) probably had OCPD. Steve Jobs may have had it. When OCPD symptoms become extreme, however, they are devastating to both those who have the condition, and those who live with and love them.

The line is where the "quirks" become either harmful or dangerous, to oneself or others. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for the person with the mental illness, or someone who has lived with him/her for a long time and perhaps become desensitized to odd behavior, to determine when the line has been crossed. Or what to do if it has.

My A-Z theme is Issues related to Mental Health or Mental Illness.

Have you ever had quirks that went to extremes?
If so, how did you recognize it, and what did you do?
Have you ever lived with someone who seemed to go "too far"?