Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Perfect Schedule Does Not Exist

Yesterday in session with Leonard, I admitted my anxiety was up about doing a schedule, and I hadn't done one that week, so he suggested we do one right there in his office. Meh. I was up against the usual suspects--fear of choosing the wrong activity, at the wrong time, in the wrong quantity, and that failure to do everything would mean I was a defective human being. That's a lot to carry into schedule making!

Leonard argued that the *perfect right way to be* is only theoretical--it's not reality. There are things I really want to get done, and they are different things than what the OCD wants. I spent last week floundering around on the computer, getting stuck in one task and feeling like I must finish it, and then suddenly the day was over. So I got my notebook out in my therapist's office, and felt a surge of anticipatory anxiety, tightness in my chest and heat in my face. Actually picking things to do was not as bad as anticipating it(and the perfectionistic voice was squawking, "Why didn't you do the schedule sooner, since obviously if you'd just started it, you would be ok?" which is direct opposition to the previous squawking about "If you start a schedule, and do it wrong, you are doomed."

My OCD mind has a very limited understanding of time, or of how things get done, or how to be pragmatic. I imagine a perfect reality that I could obtain if I just tried harder, but in fact my life is happening right here, right now. Leonard suggested this is the true perfection--staying in the moment long enough to actually do what I value doing, and that aiming for perfection is a "young" strategy, a child's way of fixing pain, "Make it go away forever by doing everything just right." I remember being almost heart broken in my 20's when I would get a task done, and then there was another one to do, and it was such a disappointment to find I wasn't completely done.

To make things even more complicated, Leonard said I might discover my schedule needs to change based on what is happening at the time! He advocated for compassion with myself--that whatever I get done is more than I would've when completely entangled with OCD, and that the OC perfection voice will be loud, and I can just let it be, and go on with my day. The existential voice of doom wants to fix all of this, research the best tasks to do, or best organizers or read more books on OCD, but this is a danger signal--repairs, fix-its, or "figuring out" often lead to more OCD. Sometimes it feels like working without a net--up on the high wire, choosing things with wild abandon, but I do know my usual way of approaching my day leads to being trapped underground with no light to see my life.


  1. I definitely from time to time have that feeling of being "up on the high wire without a net." In doing things that I am sure others do without thought (things I used to do without thought, too!), I sometimes feel like I am fumbling around with reckless abandon if I don't do it compulsively or if the compulsions no longer seem to serve the function of making me feel sure and grounded. There are days during which, no matter what I do, compulsive or not, I can't seem to gain any sense of certainty out of anything.

    I am also familiar with that squawking OCD voice that seems to constantly be changing its tune. One moment it is telling me to do something, and then the next, it is saying I shouldn't have done that compulsive thing it just told me to do. OCD is backhanded, sneaky, and mean, and I suppose the only way to win is to not play it's game. But it certainly isn't easy!

  2. You can do it! You can do it! And it doesn't have to be perfect! :) Sorry, I can't yell as loud as OCD does, but I'll be your cheering section. :)

  3. Fellow Sufferer--Yes, not playing the game is key! But boy is it tempting to play. . .but I am learning that I will never win if I engage with the OCD, and that if I "live my life without a net" I have a much better chance of enjoying it.

    Shana--thank you so much for your encouragement! I love that you are in my cheering section!