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, May 29, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 8 - A Slave to "The Rules"

This post continues with A Slave to "The Rules" from Chapter Eight.

This series looks 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.

A second important way in which obsessives can become too rigid about their orderliness is by deferring excessively to outside authorities or strictures. Rules and regulations, written procedures, all help to organize and smooth out complex human interactions. But when such guidelines take on a life of their own and become more important than the reasons for instituting them, they can be more destructive than helpful.
<snip> Seven-year-old Adam's underlying respect for most rules is so intense that his parents often have to urge him not to dwell upon them so singlemindedly. They recently gave me this account of a Sunday afternoon outing with him.
"First he insisted that we leave early so we wouldn't be late for the play we were going to see. While waiting for it to start, we spotted some friends and the moved up to empty seats behind us in order to chat. In fact, they stayed there when the show started, and Adam was so worried that the assigned seatholders would arrive and 'catch' our friends where they weren't supposed to be. We had to keep reassuring him that nothing catastrophic would happen.

After the show, we all strolled to the merry-go-round, and the moment he was on a horse, Adam began scanning for the ticket-taker. He was visibly tense when the ride started and he hadn't yet handed over his ticket. Again, we had to tell him to relax - that even if the man somehow overlooked the ticket, the world wouldn't end."
Adam may someday have to fight the urge to join the ranks of the overzealous rule-enforcers. We've all encountered such people: the bureaucrat who insists that "procedures" be followed even when they're clearly ludicrous, or the hospital admissions clerk who demands answers to dozens of trivial questions before allowing the suffering patient access to medical aid. <snip>
Even with parents encouraging him to "loosen up," poor little Adam seems to be unhealthily attached to "the rules." I have heard stories from some with OCPD that they remember, loving, relaxed households; one father told how his young daughter was almost hysterical because she had colored outside the lines, even though he told her it was okay.

Adam's and other stories are what make me believe that OCPD and most mental illness are born, not made. Of course, if the tendency/root of the illness is already there, a dysfunctional household is likely to make it worse. And yes, there is PTSD and C-PTSD, but we know that bad parenting can't create schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or autism; nor can excellent parenting cure those conditions. We know that many obsessives also had an obsessive parent - is obsession born of genetics, chemical imbalance (since in some cases it can be helped by medication), parenting modeling/training, or all of the above?

Rules are a system we humans use to get along with one another - they are not, in and of themselves, sacred. Take traffic rules. As a pedestrian, I usually wait for the walk signal, but what if there's no traffic, I have pushed the button and waited, ten minutes have gone by, and the light still hasn't changed? Should I give up on crossing the street there, or <gasp!> break the law? What if the speed limit is XX, but in the passenger seat is your bee-stung child, in anaphylactic shock and you're only blocks from the emergency room?

Speaking of emergency rooms... the fact is that many women suffer a complicated miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy,  and need an emergency abortion to save their lives. The bills that have been drafted recently in the USA that would allow hospitals to refuse that care to women "on moral grounds," are a clear example of the Rules Gone Wrong. In this case, the rule/belief that any kind of surgical abortion, ever, in any circumstances, is wrong because it would take the life of a fetus, could result in death to both the fetus and the mother. How is this "protecting life"?

Rules or guidelines, in and of themselves, aren't terrible. Tying oneself up in knot to follow The Rules or The Law, with no perception that sometimes judgment and flexibility is required, is a terrible way to live.

Do you have a story about an obsessive person following 
The Rules even when it made little to no sense?
Your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 8 - Caught in A Rut

This post continues with Caught in a Rut from Chapter Eight.

This series looks 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.

<snip>Obsessives are unusually prone to ruts. Their slip into some inflexible behavioral patterns may occur gradually, but can also occur with astonishing speed. One patient confessed that he went to the same barber he had chanced upon when he first arrived in town, even though he had since learned of others who were better, cheaper, and more convenient. A dental student named Norma found that if she studied for a certain amount of time for one class, she felt she had to do the same amount of time for the next class, even if it wasn't really necessary. When such rigidity combined with all-or-nothing thinking, it made things even worse. "Whenever I fall off my routine, I feel terrible, like I've messed up so badly that it's not worth studying at all," she said. "And it's likely to take me a while to get going again."
<snip> I think of the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who reportedly loved great restaurants but, no matter where he was, ordered the same dinner: soup, sole, boiled potato, asparagus vinaigrette, and creme caramel. Think of all the great veal dishes that he missed out on, the Chinese food!
Adhering too inflexibly to your routine can subject both you and the people around you to unnecessary pressure. I saw this in Eleanor, a housewife who was driven to keep her house in impeccable order, hewing to a fixed schedule of chores throughout the day. For instance, she liked to get all the laundry done by eleven each morning. She had to serve her home-cooked meals precisely on time, and if the family sat down to eat even a few minutes late, she felt vexed - even if the delay caused no particular problems. Always in a hurry, Eleanor usually worse a serious expression on her face. She resented any interruption - a call from a relative, a request from one of her children for a ride to the park - as an intrusion that could throw her whole schedule into disarray.
<snip> When circumstances or other people force the habit-bound obsessive to change his pattern, he will often feel annoyed or anxious. When I moved to a new office, a patient named Muriel made several disparaging comments about it, even though the new location was actually more convenient for her.
<snip>Another patient, an eminent attorney, was in the habit of opening his mail as soon as he got home, and paying any bills on the spot. <snip> So he doggedly wanted to stick to his routine one afternoon when he and his wife returned home - even though they had a group of friends in tow. "Martha insisted that I ignore the mail and get everyone a drink, and we almost wound up fighting about it. I finally humored her, but I felt extremely irritated."
Yes, he "humored" her. When you have an OCPD loved one, and you insist that s/he take the stick out of her/his a$$ and go with the flow, you may get grudging cooperation, as did the attorney's wife, above. But you will not get a shrug-of-the-shoulders, it's-all-good, happy attitude. S/he may be in a bad mood about life (or, perhaps, blame you) for hours, days, weeks, because s/he had to deal with something s/he was not expecting. Something that changed the Sacred Routine.

"Normal" people understand, $hit Happens. Those who are OCPD will pay lip service to this bromide, may be in total intellectual agreement that things happen out of our control all the time, that people need to be flexible, but emotionally... one minor bobble can send them into a tailspin.

I admit, when it comes to food, I too have my "safe" stand-bys, though I certainly don't order the same thing in every restaurant. I get annoyed sometimes, when an unexpected project lands in my lap at work, or elsewhere. But, after being annoyed for a minute or two, I just figure out a way to make it -  whatever "it" is - work. It never "ruins" my day, or even half of my day.

I can't imagine deciding as a student, that if I needed to study for two hours and fifteen minutes for a math test, for example, that I would have to spend exactly two hours and fifteen minutes apiece on English, social studies, and other subjects, as opposed to simply studying until I felt I knew the material.

I've heard many, many stories about other SO's who struggle with this facet of the disorder. Of the many, many areas of OCPD that were difficult, this was a biggie for me and the ex. We fought a lot about his inability to accept a change in routine - even if, like the patient dubbed Muriel, above, the change was something that was something good. I kept snapping back to normal-think, so to speak, and every time there was a tiny change in routine, like an unexpected phone call from a beloved friend or family member, and my ex got upset, it surprised me. (He would snarl obscenities on the rare occasions the phone rang in the evening - though he used a warm, radio-announcer voice when he actually answered and said hello.)

Are you caught in ruts?
Do you have any funny (or not so funny) stories to share?
Your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 8 - Doing Everything "In Order"
& Too Rigid

from Salvatore Vuono via FreeDigitalPhotos
This post continues with Doing Everything in Order & Too Rigid from Chapter Eight.

This series looks 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.

Doing Everything "In Order"
Besides organizing their physical surroundings, obsessives also tend to be orderly about their activities - doing them in a methodical manner rather than haphazardly. <snip> Another might have a well-fixed morning work routine - say, insisting on first returning all phone messages before doing anything else, rather than every day trying to decide anew what activity is most urgent.
Being organized usually enhances effectiveness, allowing one to use time more efficiently.<snip>
But the obsessive's orderliness stems partly from his need for perfection, thoroughness, and control. When this is the case, one's need for order will go beyond its adaptive value to reach self-defeating proportions.
There's a scene in Anne Tyler's novel The Accidental Tourist that nicely illustrates this. The protagonist, Macon Leary, who "above all else... was an orderly man," recalls taking his young son, Ethan, to the movies.
 "I got the tickets," he hear Ethan say, "And they're opening the doors in five minutes."
"All right," Macon told him, "let's plan our strategy."
"Where we're going to sit."
"Why would we need strategy for that?"
"It's you who asked to see this movie, Ethan. I would think you'd take an interest in where you're sitting. Now, here's my plan. You go around to that line on the left. Count the little kids. I'll count the line on the right."
"Aw, Dad-"
"Do you want to sit next to some noisy little kid?"
"Well, no."
"And which do you prefer: an aisle seat?"
"I don't care."
"Aisle, Ethan? Or middle of the row? You must have some opinion."
"Not really."
"Middle of the row?"
"It doesn't make any difference."
"Ethan. It makes a great deal of difference. Aisle, you can get out quicker. So if you plan to buy a snack or go to the restroom, you'll want to sit on the aisle. On the other hand, everyone'll be squeezing past you there. So if you don't think you'll be leaving your seat, then I suggest-"
"Aw, Dad, for Christ's sake!" Ethan said.
Macon's urge to "organize" his moviegoing experience, his imperative to plan every facet, transforms it into something serious - something very like work.
The teacher or writer who feels compelled to present material in neat, perfectly logical fashion may do so at the cost of boring his or her audience; the excessive orderliness is apt to exclude any humor, spontaneity, or creativity. <snip>

Too Rigid

The greatest danger of the obsessive's passion for order, however, results when it combines with another typical trait: the tendency to resist change, to be rigid. This marriage of orderliness with rigidity was illustrated by a patient of mine named Tim. An enthusiastic jogger who ran at least four times a week, Tim always ran for the same length of time along the exact same route. At one point he told me how bored he was by his unvarying routine, but because he was comfortable with it, he really didn't consider an alternate route. "I know exactly where I'm going. And it fits the time allotment exactly," he said.

Tim offered other rationalizations, but when I suggested good solutions to each of these problems, it became clear that maintaining the order itself had become some sort of imperative. Something about his running routine had taken on a life of its own. Somehow it had come to be the "right" way, and any deviation simply felt uncomfortable, as if he were breaking some rule.
Sometimes a routine makes sense, and sometimes a routine needs to be changed. For instance, I work on the West Coast; some of my clients are on the East Coast. It makes sense to check my phone messages and return calls first thing in the morning, because it is already noon (or close to it) where many of them are.

If it was reversed - if I were to move to the East Coast, at the same time most of my clients moved to the West Coast - to cling to that phone routine because it was my routine, would be crazy (not to mention tick a fair number of people off).

My ex seemed married to routines. When I got home from work, I was to change out of my work clothes, have a drink, and only then could be begin preparing dinner. If I didn't feel like having a drink, or changing my clothes that night, it completely flummoxed him. He had a very precise order of The Way Things Should Happen in his head. Unlike some other b-f's I had, we NEVER had a quickie before dinner.

When interrupted in any project or monologue, my ex would almost always have to start over from the beginning. He could not "pick up the thread" partway in.

via jessica mullen at Flickr
I've heard of other OCPD spouses who are so rigid in their grocery shopping protocol that if an item isn't on the list, it can't be purchased. Not even if you're standing right in front of the bread, say, and remember, "oh yeah, we're almost out of bread." It has to be on the list, first, and the list can only be compiled at home. If you skip an item on the list, no going back into that aisle to pick it up, it must wait until the next trip.

And like the example from The Accidental Tourist, my ex would often plan the fun right out of an activity. Planning isn't a bad thing; routines aren't a bad thing; they are good, helpful, useful tools. But they should be employed on behalf of a goal; they should not become the goal.

Have you ever had the fun planned out of an activity?
Been unable to deviate from The Plan or The List?
Your thoughts?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lessons of the Roller Rink

Blue disco quad roller skates
Blue disco quad roller skates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I was in middle school, one of the few entertainment options for people my age was going to THE local roller rink. (Yes, there was only one.)

I will spare you the details of the boy I always hoped would Pick ME for the Couples Only skates (he's mostly foggy in my mind anyway) and move to my main point:

We almost always skated widdershins (counter-clockwise). It makes sense, in order to avoid carnage on the floor (which there would have been) that there was ONE official direction in which to skate. Most people are right-handed; beginner skaters could then clutch the safety bar along the wall with their right hands.

Most of us were also on rental skates, owned by the rink, since most parents didn't want to pony up for skates used perhaps a dozen times before their kids grew out of them.

However, several times a night they would turn on the light for all skaters to reverse direction.  So now we were going clockwise, instead of counter-clockwise.

It felt weird. It felt unnatural. Our bodies were accustomed to doing our cross-overs of right foot over left at the turns (mine were, anyway). Our vision wasn't used to watching out for out-of-control skaters coming at us from different directions.

More than that, the skates themselves were used to going in a different direction. The wheels bore a subtle wear pattern that made us want to circle left, like NASCAR, rather than circle right.

There were a lot more spills and accidents when everybody was going clockwise - more, even, than there were when the setting was for backwards skating only.

(If you're curious, I did, eventually, master learn to mostly stay upright when backwards skating. Nothing like these peeps, though. Though I did entertain fantasies of skating this well, which I would easily accomplish while in the company of the sweaty-handed boy from the grade above me.)

Any excuse to show Patrick Swayze performing is a good one, IMO.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that when a pattern/habit is being changed, maybe there's more than one component. There's the mind, of course, with its patterns, and then perhaps one is having to work against an actual physical component that inclines a person to naturally lean left, as it were.   I remember sometimes having to really work against the skates that wanted me to go in that direction (which was directly into the wall). My mind would feel like it was totally in the groove, but my skates were saying, "Bitch, we don't care how and where you want to turn."

Sometimes I managed it. Sometimes I faceplanted.

I think, for those struggling with mental illness, or even long-ingrained habit, maybe we should cut ourselves a little slack when we fail, not get into blaming ourselves.  (Not that we should stop trying to end a bad habit, or start a new one.)

But maybe it's not ALL our mind or lack of willpower or negative attitude that causes us to fail.  Maybe sometimes it's a pair of funky skates.

Your thoughts?

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chapter 8 - Orderliness & Rigidity

This post continues with Orderliness & Rigidity from Chapter Eight.

This series looks 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.

Cover of "The Odd Couple"
Cover of The Odd Couple
Orderliness and Rigidity
Remember Felix Unger of The Odd Couple? He was the archetypal obsessive type - so perfectionistic that "I cooked myself out of a marriage," he complains in Neil Simon's stage play. "Nothing was ever right.... The minute she walked out of the kitchen I would recook everything." He was so tightfisted with money that he literally made his wife keep track of every penny; so safety-conscious he wore a seat belt at drive in movies. But, more than anything else, Felix obviously - and comically - illustrated what it's like to be too orderly. His passion for cleanliness and organization drive his wife to seek divorce and his roommate to commit mayhem.
<Felix's orderliness is an extreme example of a commendable trait found in many obsessives. Like Felix, some obsessives have a need for orderliness so great it puts both them and others under undue stress. Furthermore, once they've established a certain order, whether in their surroundings, actions, or thoughts, they are loath to change it. They become rigid, and this rigidity can be very self-damaging.

Neat Freaks

<snip> "I'm like a cat," one patient told me. "I spend most of my time on maintenance - grooming myself, keeping my things neat and clean and in good repair. There's not much time left over for living."

That patient felt oppressed by the burden of maintaining an impeccable world. Others - the Felix Ungers of the world - may enjoy cleaning and straightening, but drive others to distraction with their insistence on orderliness. Such people can't resist tidying up while the party is still in progress, or chastising children for the "mess" created by their play.

<snip> Rita also was not overly concerned about the neatness of her surroundings, but she was meticulous in the extreme about the organization of her computer files. When she began to write a book, she told herself that she needed to be able to find any given quote from among her voluminous material quickly, so she spent several months developing a complex system for cross-indexing all her interview notes. The result would have dazzled any data processing specialist, but Rita later admitted that she rarely used the cross-referencing features, and that all the time spent developing the files contributed to her delivering the manuscript almost a year behind schedule.

Straightening, classifying, and otherwise organizing things are favorite activities for many obsessives. Such task clearly have intrinsic value; it's easier to find and use possessions or pieces of information if they're arranged in good order. But those activities also may impart a symbolic reassurance that one can order life in its greater aspects - that the unexpected catastrophe can be avoided.

A domesticated cat grooming.
A domesticated cat grooming.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I lived with "Felix Unger" - who was also a hoarder in process. Meticulous about his person - which I found very attractive, since many men can be slobs. He did remind me of a cat, the way he would fuss about his grooming sometimes, the way he would avoid dirt and wipe his mouth many times with his napkin while eating a meal. I found it cute and endearing, at first. Later, when he wanted to always spread out towels before lovemaking, and when he found fault with my appearance... not so endearing.

I have heard of OCPD hosts who will obsessively begin clearing plates the minute someone sets a fork down. No sitting around the table, chatting, perhaps allowing guests time/space to decide if they want a second helping or another glass of wine. And yes, normal kid clutter totally freaks them out, which is why mixing un- or under-treated OCPD and young children is a very, very bad idea. (They don't do real well with teenagers, either, even when the teens are not mouthy and rebellious.)

The story of Rita, the story of a lot of OCPD'rs, including my ex, was to obsessively arrange and futz over one small piece of something (aka, churning) and in the meantime, this big mess over HERE... ignored.

When you spend all your time fussing over X, you run out of time to attend to Y. Deliberate? Or a case of broken filters? One of the current descriptions of OCPD is not being able to see the forest for the trees, or sometimes not even being able to see the trees for the leaves. Or is it a way of procrastinating, to get out of doing something one really doesn't want to do, as I will write and comment on blogs rather than do my filing?

High quality ostrich feather duster
High quality ostrich feather duster
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The re-doing of stuff - a joke in The Odd Couple, a reality in many OCPD households, creates a vicious circle.  I would dust, say, and ex would find fault with my dusting and re-dust. The more he bitched and redid things that I did, the less inclined I was to put any real effort into doing them, since I knew he was just going to do it over again anyway. And of course, because I did a poor job, he would be upset and feel the need to redo whatever it was.

Do you have an experience with Orderliness on Steroids, 
your own or another's?
How do you get past it?
Other thoughts?

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Most Amazing People Are "Crazy" - Like The Bloggess

So in the middle of the A-Z, one of the reasons I didn't get enough visiting/commenting done on the A-Z was I took a night off to go to The Bloggess's book signing.

Screen Shot 2012-04-25 at 4.39.52 PM

Yep, that Bloggess. Jenny Lawson. NY Times motherfuckin' #1 author Jenny Lawson.

Who took over 10 years to pull this book together. Who suffers from.... mental illness.

Yep, mental illness. Anxiety disorders, OCD, and depression. And brilliance so hysterically funny it has come near to causing more than one childish accident as I almost wet myself laughing.

Like a lot of people, her gift has come at a price.

 Please know, if you "have Issues"... you don't have to give up. 

Please know that you're not alone.

Please know that even after years of pain/struggle, you may have something magnificent in you.

It may not be a NY Times bestseller.

But it will be something beautiful, and glorious; something only you can give to the world. Or even just give to your family or roommate.

You are worthy. You are amazing. You are crazy - perhaps. So what?

You're in excellent company.

Your thoughts?

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