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, July 10, 2012

Too Perfect Tuesday - Chap 9 - The Hidden Workaholic

This post continues with The Hidden Workaholic from Chapter Nine.

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.

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.
The Hidden Workaholic
Many obsessives are also "driven" in their spare time. They often feel compelled to use all their time productively. They're usually armed with lists of "things to do." and they're much more apt to fret about the items left undone that to savor the accomplishments of those they've checked off. They shudder at the thought of wasting time. Even in their "free" time, they feel they should be working on chores, projects, or other productive or educational tasks.

"I never relax," Therese told me unhappily. "There's always something to do. I either have to clean the house, pay bills, or something. And if I do take time off, I start to feel like I'm neglecting something. I feel lazy, and in my mind that's reprehensible."

<snip> Although Therese worked only a "normal forty-hour" week, I would call her a "hidden workaholic." A similar drive to be productive at all times can even be found in those who are not formally employed. Claire, for instance, is a forty-eight-year-old homemaker who seems to be in constant motion. Every day she devotes many hours to housekeeping and maintenance, and she continues to practice such vanishing arts as baking pies, drying laundry on an outdoors clothesline, and raising herbs and flowers, which she then dries and mounts. As her three children grew up, Claire became more and more involved with community service organizations, and such volunteer work now consumes at least part of every day. While Claire will occasionally take a break to chat with one of her neighbors, she inevitably excuses herself to get back to her "messy house" or her long list of chores. Her brisk pace continues into each evening until she runs out of hours and reluctantly leaves tasks for the next day. She makes it sound as if she's always behind, and isn't quite measuring up to her own strict standards.
One thing that happens not infrequently with disordered people is they project their own traits/feelings/flaws onto their partners. Therefore, I found myself frequently being accused of "not being able to relax, always having to be doing something."

Now, it's true that I do have a busy life. I work full time, and in my time off, I have to do all the normal chores that people do: housework, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Writing is also important to me; I usually spend a couple of hours every day writing or blogging something.

To relax, I like to read, or work on craft projects, or hang out with friends. My ex liked to watch movies; he wanted me to watch with him, but if I wanted to craft during the movie (especially one that didn't interest me much) he pointed to it as a sign that I "didn't know how to relax." (Mind you, during movies, he always sat stiffly apart from me - no snuggling or holding hands - and usually chain smoked. Ugh.)

English: Liquid hand soap in a pump dispenser,...
English: Liquid hand soap in a pump dispenser, next to a larger refill-sized bottle of the same soap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
He had no day job, so he was the super-housekeeper, like Claire. (All I did was the grocery shopping, the vacuuming, the dusting, cleaning the bathroom, the catbox, and the dinner dishes - or in his words, I did nothing around the house.) Much of what he did was churning - for example, it was very important - to him - to keep the liquid hand soap dispensers filled, so he was constantly checking their level, and carefully bringing them up to full. He would spend hours on food prep - not the actual slicing of vegetables, say, but planning the meal, getting out the pots and pans and cooking utensils, arranging them on the counter just so. At first, I found this touching, it seemed to me that he was knocking himself out to make our dinners perfect, for me, until my therapist gently pointed out that this was something he did because he was disordered, and he couldn't help himself.

I have come to see that busy-ness is a way of hiding from and controlling life. Any time there is something unpleasant or emotionally challenging to be done (clearing out some of the hoard in the garage, say), being busy doing something else is a great excuse not to tackle it.

He always complained of being horrendously busy - too busy to spend time with friends, to spend a weekend morning lounging in bed and making love, too busy to play music. All too often when I would suggest doing something fun, I would get the dirty look and the "Obviously, you don't understand how much there is to do around this place," or the "I don't have time to goof off like some people do."

Yet I was the one who didn't know how to relax? Right.

Do you know a hidden workaholic?
Have you seen someone who makes out as if s/he
is totally burdened by housework or gardening?
Your thoughts?
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