Saturday, September 10, 2011

OCD A to Z: X is for X-ing it Out

X Out

Until the 4th grade, I went to a school that didn't have letter grades. When I got my first test paper back with 2 x's, I knew instinctively that this was bad, and I should only have check marks, only right answers. My perfectionism started early. An x meant I had done something wrong, and I could feel fear in my chest, and a flush of shame in my face. I had decided that being perfect was the key to being ok, to being loved, to being acceptable. This is a potent belief that influenced my life thoroughly, and when mixed with OCD, extremely painful.

OCD offered a supposed solution, a method for being perfect, if only I analyzed and ruminated enough about every thought I had, every action I took. There are times when I want to x out OCD, draw a big black x through it, banish it, deface it. I'm old enough to remember learning to type on an electric typewriter, and the satisfaction of pressing down the x key and obliterating a whole line of type. My perfectionism is sneaky and I find myself desiring to perfectly eradicate my OCD symptoms, and this slowed me down for a long time, since anything I did wasn't enough in my mind, and any progress I made, I dismissed as inadequate. But over time, through the love of my husband and my friends and the help of my therapist, I have learned compassion for myself, for the girl I was, the girl who could never make a mistake or else she was worthless and doomed. If you struggle with this kind of self-loathing, know that it is possible to learn kindness for your own self. A child doesn't know there is hope or that perfection is impossible, but as adults, we can step outside that suffocating room of condemnation, and move toward freedom.


  1. The timing of this post is perfect for me. Right now I am spending half of my time "living" at my parent's house - holding vigil at my Mom's bedside. Tonight my dad had too much to drink (he's a functional alcoholic) and his criticism of me began. Tonight it was about how I should be taking better care of my that something "bad" doesn't happen. It is all MY FAULT. I'm feeling very angry, and my tendency is to be either mad at him or myself. "Should I have done a better job at taking care of my dog?" etc etc and the rumination begins. Over time I've learned to be more forgiving of myself, but when the "threat" of my father's approval/love comes - it is amazing how those old wounds open up really quickly. So frustrating. Thanks for the reminder. :o)
    P.S. I was wondering what you were going to do for "X". ;o)

  2. I wholeheartedly agree, though, even as an adult I often find myself believing that making something 'perfect' will make things better, even though I know better. I think as time goes on I will get better at not immediately jumping to the conclusion perfect equals better, acceptable. It's really only since I started treatment for OCD that it finally donned on me that seeking perfection was the problem not the lack thereof. I always knew that I was making myself crazy trying to do things "right," but it wasn't until I stumbled upon this whole world of OCD business that I finally started to internalize that not only was not seeking perfection a much healthier way of life but also one that wouldn't make me any less "okay" or "acceptable."

  3. Your post really resonated with me. I have had some setbacks and really have been struggling these past few weeks (more than the usual every day struggle) and this post hit me, I have been reminding myself all day today to be kind to myself and its ok to not be perfect. I had a much better day today..thanks for your post.