Tuesday, September 28, 2010



Again, Fellow OCD Sufferer has some thoughts that have me thinking, in response to my Anxiety in Disguise post. She talked about the difficulty of response prevention, and the fear of endless rumination and unease. That is the irony of the compulsions we use in OCD to damp down the anxiety--they become odious and cause their own suffering, while stealthily encouraging us to think that we couldn't function without our rituals.

And my life history colludes with this version of reality, because from a young age I used perfectionism as a way to make things right with the world, and allow the possibility I could exist on this planet. I barely registered in my parents' world. I was the invisible girl who still felt she took up too much space. When I delay writing something, because I fear going over it in my mind repeatedly, I am fearing the triggering of this compulsion, and OCD is more than glad to praise me for this. But what is even scarier, is contemplating writing something and sending it out into the world without going over it, and living with the fear that I've done it wrong, that I am inadequate and will be haunted by this distress forever.

And yet, I still get an initial moment of hopefulness when I start my compulsive avoidance, by doing extra research for a post--"maybe this time I will find exactly the right thing." It's like a high, and full of expectation, which quickly crashes to the ground when the searching drags on, my body gets tired, and my mood falls into depression, and yet OCD still claims that it's not worth taking the chance to actually do the writing and purposely let it be imperfect.

Right now I am learning that OCD is on the side of whatever painful things I believe about myself. I do not want to collude with that perniciousness. It comes down to avoidance. OCD would have me avoid so many things, because of a fear of making mistakes, that I would end up avoiding my whole life, and I did this for many years. When I do Exposures, I have the chance to actually live my life. This isn't to say there's no pain in my life, but that there is a possibility of joy as well.


  1. I relate to so much of what you wrote. As I start to break down the worst of my latest relapse and start living a more normal life again, I am facing a lot of changes that have occurred in the meantime (I started writing a post about it the other day but never finished it...maybe this will inspire me to continue on). I'm returning to a different life both in the very obvious sense - job, relationship, circumstance changes - but also a bigger broader change - I now know that I have OCD!

    Though my parents gave me plenty of support and encouragement (and actually often pleaded for me to be less perfectionistic and just get things done), I feel like, like you, I have lived with an OCD perfectionist approach to life since I was pretty young. And now, as I come out of my relapse with my newfound knowledge I feel like I don't know what I want v. what the OCD wants - what I am choosing to do v. what I do because I feel like "I have to" because of OCD.

    I've talked about this with my therapist some. In a lot of ways, I think that I never had a chance to figure out what was "my way" or "my preference" or what "worked for me" (the area of school work comes to mind but it applies to all sorts of areas of my life), because I always had OCD dictated. I've lived that way for so long that I often think that what I now recognize as the OCD way to do things was what I always thought was the only "right" way to do those things, at least for me (same didn't apply to everyone else of course, just me; everyone else was good enough, but not me).

    Anyways, I am excited, overwhelmed, and confused about this possibility all at the same time. Am I overestimating the reach of OCD? The potential to make my life better? Can I really learn to make my own decisions rather than doing things the way I feel "they have to be" done.

  2. Thanks for your post. I spent my childhood feeling like I was always in the doorway looking in on my family. Even though I was loved, circumstances led me to feel unloved, unworthy, and overlooked, from age 4.

    But, I can say, that I am slowly and steadily uncovering my true essence. It has been buried under so many layers of crap that have accumulated over the years. I am learning about myself, and learning to accept myself, and have compassion for myself. I have been forgiving my parents (also a process in layers) for several years. I have the best relationship I have ever had with both of them. But, honestly, they still have the same limitations and so it is not without pain, disappointment, and reliving some of the same old dynamic. I do feel I have been given a second chance at life.

    If I didn't have my OCD "breakdown" and my alcoholic "bottom", I would probably be living a very unhappy life today, and not even know the possibility for something better exists.

    I had a really hard day today. For me it has been a slow process with a lot of back sliding. But, overall, it has been an upward trajectory. My progress is best measured in yearly chunks, otherwise, it can be very discouraging.

    Stay with it. You are doing very well. I get a lot from your posts. Thanks.

  3. Fellow Sufferer--It is possible to learn what your preference and likes are! The OCD may tell you otherwise, but it's worth the risk to explore what you want, rather than being mesmerized by the "just right" demands of the OCD.

    Kinder Brain--I had to stop charting my progress on a "micro" level--I relate the the overall trend being in "years." But the changes are real, and like you I feel I have a second chance at living. I like how you put forgiving your parents as a process in layers--that's how it is for me too.

  4. I understand this, it hurts to read it. That constant search for the 'magic formula' - what A LIE. Maybe we should do a post where the spelling and grammar are intentionally wrong. Wow, just thinking about it is making my face twitch. www.anxietyland.blogspot.com

  5. Has anyone ever said anything to you about perfectionism and OCPD? I seem to suffer from a lot of perfectionism as well - and here you address it as a form of OCD or "extension" of OCD. I am starting to wonder for myself if perhaps it is not OCD but OCPD instead. Have you ever wondered this yourself? I am working with my therapist on this at the moment. Just wondering what your thoughts are?

  6. Blue Morpho--I'm glad to see you here! Yeah, I get the twitch too, thinking about intentional "wrongness" but the possibility of actually ever getting things perfect is nil, so I am hanging in there.

    Anon--My understanding, through my therapist and my support group, is that OCPD is distinguished from OCD is that in OCD the perfectionism causes distress, and one does compulsions to undo the anxiety, whereas with OCPD, although having perfection messed with causes irritation, it's lacking an anxiety component, and is more of a preference. There are a few people in my support group that have both OCD and OCPD, so it's not a clear-cut thing sometimes.

  7. Just an anonymous post into the ether. I have Pure-O. I avoid situations in which I may fail in the eyes of others, especially from which feedback is delayed. I have avoided studying for finals for weeks. I have avoided almost everything for two and a half days.

    Going to try and get started tonight. Here's hoping I can break through. Bless you anonymous brothers.

  8. Anon ~ welcome. I hope you were able to take steps to study for finals. I know that vicious cycle of feeling such fear of failure that I avoid the very thing that would help me not to fail.