Alternative title: Otherwise known as Anankastic Personality Disorder … Rolls right off the tongue that doesn’t it?
Back in early February I mentioned the meeting I had with my Psych Doc in which he cheerfully informed me that as well as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) I also have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). They sound the same, but believe me when I say they’re not … They are two distinct disorders that in some instances can have co-morbid relationships.
Totally not one to do things by halves me!
Psych Doc and counsellor both believe this started very early on, back when I was an impressionable little Ruebi. I grew up with emphasis being placed on the way I look, bullies and family alike would point out my perceived flaws (too fat, too thin, too short, hair too dark, brown eyes … Yada yada yada). I was not one of the pretty girls at school (and boy did I know about it!) and I was definitely left feeling like an utter monster when compared to my very pretty cousin. There was a lot of pressure to look and be a certain way … Hell, there is still a lot of pressure to look and be a certain way.
And because I wasn’t this pretty little creature that everyone wanted me to be, I started to channel this disappointment and anger and frustration into school (and college … Oh, and university). I started to place more and more pressure on myself to get good grades, particularly in the sciences (I still have nightmares about that Physics exam – geez!). I wanted to prove to everyone that I was good at something … I wanted to prove that I was worth something.
I would crave achievements and the initial high that accompanied each one I attained … But the high was short lived (usually the minute the certificate was placed into my shaking hands), and I would soon be pushing myself again. I collected academic achievements as one might do Pokemon (would my MSc be considered a Pikachu or a Bulbasaur? Would my BSc be a Charmander perhaps?).
But those grades, those achievements, never seemed to be enough. I started to look down on them with contempt. My grades weren’t as high as I wanted them to be. Regardless of the fact I worked full-time hours while studying to support myself, I didn’t sleep throughout the whole of my thesis writing (4am, strong coffee and “Young Frankenstein” for company) AND I got major exam Anxiety. The grades were just not good enough … Which my brain equated to mean that I was not good enough.
I would never be good enough … I would always be a failure … And yet I would keep trying to prove my self-worth be it through a myriad of jobs, or volunteering posts, or even items that I happened to collect (can we say hoarder? I cleared a lot of stuff out in January and am still bemused as to how I ended up with 30 – really quite minging – old bras).
The funny thing (well, it’s not technically funny) is the fact that I had no idea that I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder … I (and those around me) put it down to me being a worrier, highly strung, a stress-head, a high achiever and various other descriptions that skirted around the issue without addressing the fact that I was experiencing perfectionism to the point it was affecting my life. Instead of rationally thinking that I could resit an exam after a ‘bad’ grade I would go into a full on meltdown about how my future (in fact, my whole life) was now ruined and how I was a waste of oxygen.
I have self doubt so far up the wazoo it oozes out of every pore in my body (ok so that is a disgusting way of thinking about it but hey, OCPD isn’t all rainbow farts and glitter turds you know). I create lists upon lists upon lists to keep some semblance of order to everything, to feel I have control over things that are written there … I become consumed by completing each list, even though for every item I remove there is usually 3 or 4 more added. I rarely spend money on myself because, even though I’ve earned it, I don’t believe I’ve earned the right to treat myself to something … Hence why I’m still wearing the same pair of jeans I bought 3 years ago that are now so threadbare that they threaten to tear every time I sit down.
What I should point out here is that the perceived control I have with my OCPD is different to the one I have with my OCD.
With OCPD I pass as being meticulous, my attention to detail and drive to succeed is what is highly sought after by employers. Even “perfectionist” is seen as a great thing to be. But it’s exhausting and stressful to be constantly focused that way. To be constantly pushing yourself to be better, to be smarter, to be prettier, to be better organised … Especially when you carry around such a level of self-doubt (sometimes even self-loathing) that could drown you the moment you feel you have ballsed something up. Aspiring to be perfect is a terrible aspiration to have because being perfect is an illusion. Humans can’t be perfect, we’re flawed by nature … And yet, my brain keeps telling me I need to be perfect to be worth something to someone … Even if that someone is me.
With OCD I am completely concerned with safety … More so other people’s safety. I tell the story a lot on here but if I neglect to check my car door, hand-brake, that it’s in 1st gear and recently that my driver’s side window is closed 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, etc times then my brain tells me said car is gonna get nicked, that said car will end up running someone over and killing them. And that it will be my fault, because I was negligent, because I didn’t check it (or because I did check it but only 9 times, not 12). With OCD my levels of Anxiety spike because I have rituals I need to complete in order for the voice in my head to stop telling me I will end up killing someone by being negligent … But even when the car is considered safe, the respite is short lived because I will then move onto checking windows/ovens/doors/plug sockets. I’ve driven home from work to check the hair straighteners are off because I couldn’t think clearly without being sure … Despite the fact I hadn’t used them in about 4 days.
Our demons are as complex and unique as we are it seems …
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