Meditation Monday and Hafiz

Last night I went to a meditation at the Interdependence Project on the Sufi poet Hafiz. Hafiz writes about love- the love of God, of life, and of the Self.

It was a a great way to come back home and kick off the new year. Doing a full half hour guided mediation was surprisingly hard. I kept wondering if the class leader was watching me, judging me, noticing how I kept wanting to uncross my legs as they tingled on the mat. I observed my fear of judgment, I felt how attached I was to my ego, even in this sacred, quiet moment.

As we read the poems, one struck me after I struggled with so much self judgment - and then with frustration that I still fall to feeling negative:
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.

Instead of rejecting can I use my fear, and loneliness, my anxiety and judgment to seasoning me? Can we spin negative thoughts to bring us closer to God and to ourselves?

Hafiz offers us a poignant picture of what that can do in his poems. He has so many more, I recommend the translation by Danial Ladinsky in "The Gift".

I'll turn to this poem when the cuts of lonely emotion cut deep, to make my eyes soft and voice tender as I accept vulnerability, and my need.

Masks of Myself - Family and OCPD

For me, heading home for the holidays means seeing people that aren't a constant part of day to day life. This can bring about all kinds of anxiety as I feel judged by all of them, trying to alternatively impress and please all kinds of aunts, uncles, cousins and even distant friends.

Do I have put on a golden child mask for everyone? It feels so safe behind that persona.

Either way, its impossible. I cannot be all things to all people. They are just too different. Even if I could mold myself to be so "together" and smart to one uncle, am I not being cute and sweet enough? The negotiation of perfection breaks down. I have to face that I can't switch masks that fast.

And even if I could - why?

Acting as if my life is perfect is just that - acting. It's not real. Its a persona, a character, a mask. And all that does is keep my true self hidden.

How can I feel accepted and loved by my family if I don't let them see the true me- without the mask of perfection?

It feel a lot easier to just try to let go of maintaining all these masks. It gets lonely behind there. I have to trust my family will still love me, imperfection and all.


Bad Dreams - Moods and OCPD

Last night I had bad dreams. Terrible, awful nightmares that I'm sure have to do with my anxiety and anger I tend to repress. I woke up feeling so sad, scared and just in a funk. I couldn't shake it.

I kept telling myself it wasn't real, that I was making all this negative emotion out of nothing. But it felt real, and thats what mattered.

So I made a choice. I took the power back. As I got ready, I play music every morning. Suddenly a great song came on- cheesy but great.

Ace of Base I think. "The Rhythm of the Night". Pulsing dance with a great vocal.

I started to sing along. I felt dumb at first. Very dumb, and almost a fake.Then, I told myself this is what I needed. I felt angry and sad still, but I just sang along anyway. Sometimes you have to act happy before you feel happy. The more loudly I sang, the sillier I was, the more I smiled.

The dream lost its power. The mood funk was moved away by a funky beats.

It's hard to tell yourself to think positive when irrational bad moods strike. Sometimes a wild action can set aside negativity, and push a smile into place.


Photoshop Perfect - Honesty and OCPD

Photoshopping or retouching images is so common, every magazine cover is assumed to be the glossy, perfected depiction of the models and actresses. Everyone knows Photoshop works wonders on wrinkles, hiding age and acne, to show a perfect image.

Am I photoshopping my self? Hiding the imperfections with little white lies? So what lies underneath the gloss?

Honesty can be hard when the standards of self-perfection are so high. I know I lie to others, telling them what I want to hear. I also have trouble being honest with myself, about just how much of my anxiety is "real" and what is a distraction from my feelings and relationships.

Well, going into the Holidays I want to really be honest- mean what I say and say what I mean.

It's about being true to my feelings in action- not saying and doing what I "should" and then trying to skirt around it later. I have to speak up, and let my needs, failures, and emotions me known

I've thought about it and realized- How can I be accepted if the person I being isn't my true self? The more I lie, or shift the truth to make situations easier, the less true to myself I am. No one knows the real me, just the "perfect" acting one.

I have to be me, no matter what the immediate consequences. Because in the long term the lie of "perfect" will leave everyone, including myself, disappointed. And no matter how much I retouch, deep down I know its not the real image. No one can lie forever.

Being true in word and action is hard. It's hard to face that parts of me aren't near perfect, or even good. But If I can learn to show my true self honestly, maybe a more honest acceptance of my flawed self can grow.

Photoshopping is too hard to do forever. So starting today, no retouching allowed.


Emotional Blinders - OCPD and Feelings

Ever feel like you aren't connecting emotionally to the world, except to the emotion of internal anxiety? Maybe you have emotional blinders on too.

For a long time, I used obsessive thinking to distance myself from people and from my own emotions. When all I could focus on was my rules and own perfection, my view narrowed to block out those around me.

I think of it like emotional blinders, like on a horse that can't get distracted from its path as it pulls as carriage. All I can see is the immediate consequence in front of me, and I fixate on controlling one certain outcome.

The problem is when the emotional blinders go on, I miss everything that is going on around me. I can't see how people are reacting to me, and I don't let their emotions inside. The blinders are so good, I don't even know what I'm missing.

Sometimes I miss how worried my boyfriend is that I only eat certain items on my plate. I miss my mom checking her watch anxiously as I keep putting on make up. I miss my coworkers friendly interest as I can only fixate on that one report I didn't get done.

But I miss the positives too. I miss the joy my boyfriend gets eating my cooking. I miss my moms happy smiles as she kills time playing with my dog. And I miss how happy just walking can make me, without obsessing on my destination.

I miss the emotional journey, because the blinders keep my looking straight ahead: I can only see my destination.


Painting Perfection - Art Therapy and OCPD

Last night I did art therapy for the first time. As someone who does visual art for a living and for fun, I felt a little bit of pressure. Is there a "right " way to produce therapy art? Did it have to be perfect, salable, up to my standards?

I was worried the therapist would think : "She's a artist? Really?" The pressure threatened to take away any therapeutic power the art might have.

So I spoke on it.

I told the therapist that I was worried I was going all perfectionist on the project. She said to just "play" and that I would be limited in time and materials. I have to use string and ink, something I had never done. And I couldn't spend hours perfecting and redoing everything. I have to be raw, as imperfect as that is.

And you know what? It felt good. No one judging my art, not even myself. The result was acutally amazing. Maybe not the prettiest work. I don't think I could sell at Art Basel. But it felt real. And it gave me a sign post to a place in my psyche that I could never see if I stay caught up in judgments.

You don't need a therapist to do art therapy. Take a pen, a brush, some markerts and get messy. The key is to let go of expectations. Play. Time yourself, dont take too long. Then, sit back. Flip the page around.

Then ask -
What does it feel like to you?
What do you like and dislike about it?
Does it remind you of part of your life?
Is this a representation part of yourself? What part?

We can all benefit from letting the inner artist loose, free from the expecation to produce perfection.


Doubting Our Worth -Dialectacal Behavior Therapy skills and OCPD

I am in a group that learns Dialectacal Behavior Therapy skills, and the other girls there always offer insights into my own life as they share how their week went.

One girl is trying to work as a massage therapist, but lacks the self esteem to approach people and offer her services. She kept remarking how she is too nervous, and has to clench her fists and psych herself up to even mention that she has this great service to offer them. Part of her problem was the fee: She didn't see herself as worth the $150 a hour for massage. But this is a totally normal fee, and she is certified. She always ended up back off, or discounting - the massage equivalent of desperation.

She said no matter how friendly she tries to be, its like people see her anxiety coming though. It puts them off, and she is left with no massage business.

My rational mind wanted to tell her "Well just get some courage, a makeover, and go at it! You are way to sniveling and apologetic even now, no wonder they are put off!"

Of course its not my place to say this, but inside I judged her. Then I stepped back, and saw myself in such a similar place.

I always don't want to "impose" on people, I feel I'm not "worth" others time and effort, and I can be a totally pushover when planning events at work or with friends. Do I come across as spineless and nervous?

Sometimes we need to see ourselves in others to realize some things. I wanted to thank the girl after class, and say how similar I felt sometimes. But... I didn't want to impose.

Maybe next class, armed with the self-knowalge that I need to step up into my own confidence, I'll say "Hello" without my teeth clenched in anxiety.


Traveling with OCPD

I know I'm not the only one who traveled this weekend. But my flight time was more substantial than most : 15 hours on a plane. Yes, thats like a whole day in a tiny seat. And I thought my cubicle was bad.

Going anywhere, especially when the time in transit is long and grueling, can be an endurance test for anyone with OCPD. Just sitting in a seat for hours is torture for me. It gives my anxious mind far too much time to ruminate on what I should be doing.

Plus, whenever I go to the bathroom, get tea, eat something or fix my make-up (all of which I do pretty constantly) I feel like everyone in the seat around me is watching. So how do I create a private space of solace when traveling?

I try to keep both my mental and physical space positive. I bought an art magazine and set it facing me in the seat back so I could look at the illustrated cover. I use lotion to keep smelling fresh. I have music that is soothing picked out. And, most importantly, I try to balance the planning impulses.

I always try to use my time traveling effectively, to the point of a fault. Ok, I think, first two hours eating and movie, then a nap, then a hour of doing some work, then I'll fix my make up for arrival... etc.
Planning is fine, but I don't let it tip into anger if I oversleep or am not able to work. It's not worth it to worry about too much while stuck in transit. Plus, if I focus on what I didn't or couldn't get done on my planned checklist, I actually become less effective due to all my stress. Dealing with the destination will be hard enough, so I give myself a "pass" to relax if I need to, just for the plane ride.

It's not so different that at home or at work really. Find a calmness, accept a tentative plan, and don't let negativity seep in, no matter how many hours are spent in stale air plane air.


Challenge to Move- Changing the OCPD Mindset

There are experiences that move my mind in a new directions,shifting something that can't quite get pinned down. I can't help but want to hold onto the feeling, praying the welcome change sticks tightly into the hole in the dam holding back my onslaught of fear and anxiety.

It started with pasta. Now, body image and food are really big for me, and I've been "no carb" for far too long. I convinced myself pasta was off limits, bad, and that it meant failure. To fight this, I wanted push myself, with the help of friends, simply to eat it. Last night I ate linguine with shrimp for the first time in two years. All day I knew I was going to the chic pasta restaurant, and I kept pushing down the thoughts of obsession. It was a fight, but I did it. I made it to the meal. Once there, my friends were so interesting, the conversation so lively, the decor so beautiful and finally, the truffled shrimp pasta so delicious that my anxiety was drowned out by the experience of life.

I forgot why I was so nervous, so fearful, ... of life.

I know I can't turn off the rules, the worry, the rituals. Not in one night. But I can change the perspective slowly. What was a challenge, should be a treat. And it was a treat. The challenge comes in making all my scary moments like that great pasta dinner.

I have to realize- why do I have all these rules and standards of perfection? All they do is make living and loving that much harder, if not impossible. After all, I don't think I'm alive to sit alone, safe and surrounded by controlled perfection. I'm alive to make connections and feel emotion, good or bad.

It sounds easy and simple, but after 23 years of anxiety, rules and a big dosage of self-loathing, my brain is conditions to descend into that dark corner of control.

Well, I've seen what its light in the sunlight of a life free of rules. That sunny emotion is always fading behind clouds of fear, and it's right now it's hard work to make it stay. But now I know- I don't want to slip back into the shadows


Links to Explore!

It's time once again for a round up of the best links relating to OCPD, anxiety and skills for coping!


Maia writes about when obsession with appearance take a turn into absurdity. Cosmetic Pathology posted at You've Been Blogged!.

Carol Soloman talks about night eating, which is a way a lot of people cope with stress. I know I have tons of food issues....read about how she copes at Night Eating And Anxiety posted at Night Eating

And, best for last, a great site called Brainmenu . I love how this site uses mindfulness to work though anxiety! One of the best post is An experience of mindful awareness.


Just a Smile - Judgements and OCPD

I know I'm a perfectionist, as does anyone who watches me get ready in the morning as I go through several outfits. But I also hold people to a high standard, which they, like myself, so often fail to meet. This leads to constant surges of annoyance.

Why is the checkout lady so slow? Why is the cabbie going up 6th ave? How can my boss be so dense? Can the girl next to me chew with her mouth closed?... and so on.

I feel like the more I let other peoples imperfections make me irritated, the harder I am on myself, and the less joyful I am overall. Obviously some things will always grate on me. But can I learn to focus on the good in people, those little moments that can come out of nowhere to make me smile.

Example : A guy waiting on line next to me opens a soda and spills it all over, splashing my shoes. I can get upset and glare and complain (this is my 1st impulse) or I can see how funny it is, and try to make a joke to make light of his embarrassing situation. I choose the 2nd option. And guess what? I had to step out of line for a sec and he saved my spot with a smile. I cultivated positivity in myself and in him, all my not judging him so harshly.

So next time I'm mad at a bank teller taking forever, I"ll try to smile at her and ask how her day is going. Just to push though my irritation, to connect.

Just a smile. Even if I'm seething. Maybe it will make their day, and mine.

I know if nothing else it will make my own internal demons of judgment quiet down, at least until the next time someone takes the last parking spot. But hey, its all a practice!


Phone Phobia - Social Fears and OCPD

I have phone phobia. It’s not that phones themselves scare me. I don’t avoid blocks with pay phones, or refuse to enter a Verizon store. I love my iphone, and fill it with apps and games. But still, I call it phone phobia in my mind because that’s what it feels like. I hate to make calls.

Friends are hardest, but doctors, plumbers, job stuff… all of it provokes a deep anxiety. I have to psych myself up to hit that green button on my touch screen every time. I force myself to call, but only after I count to five, gathering my courage.

The fear is two fold : I feel that no one ever wants to talk to me, and that I will say the ‘wrong” thing.

No, I’ve never had a traumatic phone moment, or any real reason to be so insecure. But I still am. Always have been. Even calling my mom is slightly nerve wracking, but she is by far the easiest. I know she always wants (needs?) to hear from me, and that no matter what I say she will still love me. My dad is another story.

But friends? That’s tricky. I have trouble reaching out because I replay my words and actions from the last time together, obsessing over my social skills. Did I smile too much? Should I ask two days or three days before the event if they can go? Is that too desperate, and should I just text the day of? But then its impersonal…

It goes on. Until, I bite my lip, count to five, and force myself to press the “call button”

Then I pray I get voicemail.

At least if they call me back, it’s a buffer. I know they want to talk then.

I think the best way to cope with this is to push though the fear, and tell myself how irrational it is. Who cares if they don’t want to hear from me, or if I seem desperate? I should focus my esteem my own self , and know that the person on the other end of the line has no right to judge me. I can’t wrap up my self esteem in every interaction. It gives away all my power and confidence! And that is not the kind of person I want to be.

I have to stop being afraid of failing and getting wrapped up in what others think so I can live a more social life. Because if I play it safe and don’t make those calls that are scary, I won’t ever get past the dial tone to the voice at the other end.


Change of Frequency

I love to listen to music, especially at night while I curl up with some tea and my Kindle to read. Currently I'm reading "Evolve Your Brain" by Dr. Joe Dispenza - Highly recommended!

I tune into ambient online radio, and last night I found myself searching for the perfect song. I kept changing stations, getting irritated at my failure to find relaxing music. Then my headphones started to wonk out. They got tinny and thin sounding, the cheap chords beginning to fail. Frustrated, I pulled them out and started to search for my better ones, so I can get that "perfect" sound.

Rummaging though my bag angrily, I had to stop myself. I saw how ironic it was to obsesses about music and moments that should be meditative!

The headphones I was using were only giving me a certain range of pitches, a certain frequency and quality of sound. That poor range made the song sound bad, that was a fact. I sat back and thought about this.

How often do I take in my life experiences, like trying to relax with music, at a low frequency? Is my mind's chord only giving a thin range of sound? Do I only see what is wrong, or what isn't perfect? How can I hear the full song?

How can I expand my perception, my own range, to accept and include life? Being mindful, accepting the moment in all its imperfection is a start. I focused not on what what "wrong" or needed fixing, but how it was. I relaxed, and came back to my breath. Each experience, be it reading or music or simply sitting, can seems so different if we pay attention and notice all its tiny nuanced bits.

Like the low and complex noises are heard in a song once the frequency changes, my night got a bit deeper. Who knows, the song of my experience might sound totally different as I switch to brand new pair of headphones.


Expecting Perfect Reactions - Relationships and OCPD

As I wrote about in my last post, I had dental work done that left me in some pain. I live far away from my Dad, and don't really visit, so I write my Dad emails, letting him know updates on my life.

The last one mentioned how I got two teeth out, and how it hurts etc... along with news about my life.

I got a email back that didn't mention the teeth at all, didn't offer hopes of healing, or really respond to anything I wrote. It just was a update on his new wife and step-son. And their cat.

I was hurt and confused. Did he read it at all? Does he care? Am I overreacting?

Maybe. But what I took away, besides a bit of hurt feelings, is that I can't expect a "perfect" reaction from others. People take things in differently, and respond back in all kinds of ways. I can't let others disappointing reactions taint whole relationships, or get me too far down.

It's not that I am unlovable, or crazy, or that my Dad is a bad person. My OCPD mind wants to take it to an extreme, totally cutting off my Dad from my life to deal with my disappointment.

But, you know, life doesn't have to be all or nothing. People, myself included, don't fit neatly into the "perfect" or the "failure" categories. It's a lot more grey. So I feel a little hurt, in both my heart and my teeth, but accept that my Dad isn't perfect in his response. But he doesn't get lumped into the "failure" pile, far from where his imperfection can hurt me.

I'll email him again soon, and keep connected to him, despite little pinpricks of sadness that can bring.


Wisdom Teeth and my OCPD

Yesterday I got my wisdom teeth pulled (yes I kept them). I was dreading it, but the constant pain in my gums the past month let me know it was time.

I was sitting in the doctors office and was so nervous. I was chewing gum like it was my last piece in this lifetime, knowing I wouldn't get any of my beloved breath freshner for at least a week. Time ticked by as I waited for the doctor. Nerves building. I started to primp. I pulled out my mirror, started to look at make-up. Then, the doctor emerged, saw my primping and smiled.

God, now I look like a vain nutjob. Well he saw I'm on Zoloft on my chart...

I found it super hard to relax, and they had to crank the gas. But they came out!Now, post-op, I find myself obsessing about recovering without getting dry socket or other issues. I googled every combination of words to find the most information on recovery. I am stockpiling lowfat yogurt. I am reading about homeopathic remedies.

Maybe my obsession, my OCPD, can actually help me in this case! As long as I don't stress out, I think I'm just (over) prepared. It's like brushing teeth is great, but for someone with OCD, stopping before it harms your gums is key! A quick meditation, along with a painkiller for the throbbing teeth, is there to relax me if I take it too far.

I found this post on eating disorder recovery and wisdom teeth in my google quest, and it deals with obsessing about food and face swelling after getting teeth yanked. It's very positive, and full of advice on how to keep from losing weight and deal with body image while your mouth hurts. It's good to know I'm not along in coping with medical and physiological issues intersecting!


The Cloud

Yesterday I felt the cloud. I've felt it before when I "messed up" or when I couldn't get what I wanted. My workout was interrupted. I ate too much pasta. I can't check a mirror. My outfit is terrible...

All these bring on a cloud of negativity that makes my whole life look dark and grey. But I never realized just how wide the cloud spreads. It's not just that one moment of "failure" to be perfect.
My whole projected future starts to feel terribly overwhelming.

After eating mexican food last night, and feeling it wasn't "right" or "perfect" the cloud came. The whole night looked like crap. I was pissed. I didn't want to meet my boyfriend. And thinking about work the next day seemed terrible. And the rest of the weekend? One big blog of anxiety inducing tasks I would fail at.

I had to take a step back. Before dinner, I was excited for the weekend. But now? Just depressed and angry. I had to recognize my fear and anger over one "out of control" moment was tainting everything. There was nothing logical.

Realizing this didn't make my emotions switch in an instant. But it gave me power to recognize the powerful effect of my "failure cloud" on my mood, and then my behavior. I had to watch myself all night that I didn't snap, and I tried to cultivate positivity.

It took work, but when I woke up today the cloud was gone, and I was able to take control of my emotions back.


Link Exchange

I started a Blog Carnival link exchange to get some more interesting thoughts on living with OCPD. It's called Fighting Obsession , and you can read and submit here . Enjoy!

First something a bit light...

Madeleine Begun Kane presents De-Stress Or Distress? posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.

Then we have a poem for anyone dealing with phobia or fear..

Elisha Webster Emerson presents H1N1 ---A Spooky Poem posted at My Inconvenient Body.

That's is!. Want to share your own posts? Submit your blog article to the next edition of Fighting Obsession carnival using our carnival submission form . Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


The Mind as a Tool

"The human mind is like one of those kitchen gadgets featured in late-night infomercials. It beats, twists, separates, slices, dices and otherwise transforms everything that enters it. You gave someone a carrot, but before you know it, she’s turned it into a bouquet of julienned strips."
-From "Fundraising Success"

Reading about marketing always makes me think about how my own mind and decision process works. How am I taking in life's carrots?

My mind tries to control what life gives me, either through planning or anxious fear. If my mind was a kitchen appliance it would be a industrial sharpness and strength peeler. You know, the kind that take the icky skin off carrots and potatoes. Its not like the skin is toxic, but the peeler shreds off the excess of the carrot until its only the most "perfect" orange root.

Life without carrot skin is better anyway, it promises. Just look at how much more they charge for "baby" carrots! You can do better than the grimy skin! Just watch out for your fingers...

But... my mind isnt content to just be a vegetable peeler. It wants to keep peeling, past the skin, digging into the best parts of experience, still someone finding bits of skin. Others might see that the carrot is fine now- not my peeler. It can always find more imperfection to strip away.

What happens if you keep peeling the carrot?

You are left with nothing but shreds.

What a metaphor for my life experiences and how my mind wants to control them!


"This Too" - Mantra and OCPD

I am reading the book "Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha" by Tara Brach which gives some good skills and exercises to cope with anxiety and fear.

One of the chapters deals with a woman who is obsessing constantly with cravings and rules. The authors discusses how the woman used the mantra "This too" to help her observe her moments of anxiety and obsession while not judging them, which can help to cope. "This too" will pass, and "This too" is part of me. "This too" is a thought, nothing more

Whenever she found herself obsessing on food , she observed it and thought "This too"
Whenever she wanted to check the mirror, she felt the urge to look in the mirror , she thought "This too".
Whenever she felt like cleaning crazily, or that she was a failure in life, she felt it, and "saw" it in her mind and told it "This too"

Using a mantra like this to accept at some level my obsessive desires has been very therapeutic to me, and can give me a pause before a mindlessly act on my anxiety.

What would to say to describe and soothe obsessive thoughts?
"This too" will pass? "Just a blip"? "Simply static"? Whatever it is, the pause to observe can help make life so much easier!


Movie Night - OCPD and Sitting Still

How long can I sit?

This weekend it rained. Not just rained, it poured down buckets. After coming home from an art event with friends, I was soaking wet. My boyfriend and I had been hoping to head back out into the night, but my sopping hair and deluged sidewalks of the city made this seem more that a little bit discouraging.

So we had a movie night.

We fired up On Demand pay per view, and settled in to watch a romantic comedy.

Problem- OCPD doesn't really like to sit still. Movie or none, I kept looking around the living room finding this to do. Corners to clean, dog toys to put away.

Then it was making popcorn. Butter, salt, perfect amounts, perfect bowls. Then the clean up. Then some sodas, then I was chilly and just had to get a blanket from the other room...

See the problem?

I couldn't sit and watch the movie for more than 20 min without feel compelled to "perfect" the experience in some way. All my activity only served to keep me distant from my boyfriend - physically and emotionally. Plus, I missed some really good parts of the movie.

Finally my boyfriend grabbed my hand.
"Leave the dished, just until the credits roll"
He had never been more right.


Comfy at Home? - OCPD Perfection

Clothes are a big deal to me. I spend a lot of time on the "right" outfit. But at home, I love to get comfy. The problem for my obsessive mind can't let go. My "comfy" outfits are just as thought out, planned and perfect as what I wear to the office. I have my "rules".

OCD Rules such as:
No baggy pants with a baggy shirt
One bright item (such as a hotpink sweatshirt) per outfit
Can't be monochromatic ( Blue tank with blue sweats? No way)
If eating ,wear items that are ok to stain and spill on (I'm messy)
If around my boyfriend, wear a low cut top for extra fun

...These are real. Even writing them seems crazy. 90% of the time, no one sees me in my matched combination. No one appreciates the not too bright leggings with coordinated t-shirts. But I can't eat or relax if my outfit is "bad" even when no one will ever see it.

Sometimes, choosing my "comfy" clothes is more effort that actually getting home in the first place.


Being with Myself

"We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it's all about."--Joseph Campbell, The Power Of Myth

I put so much value on perfection in my outer actions and appearance. I am constantly putting time and effort into behavior and ritual. Life with OCPD means "getting it done right".

I am always trying to be more efficient, more effective, more perfect. So many days go by where I run from one thing to the next, cramming in all the behaviors that make my life feel in control. But there is no joy in that.

OCPD people tend to try to maximize everything, and push themselves to be the best. But what is "Best"? Maybe the best thing to do would be to simply "Be"

From a article on Reality Sandwich by Xander Stone
"Because we lack a true connection with our inner being, we are terrified of being alone, or of being at rest, and paradoxically, through our compulsive obsessions with the frenetic, technology-driven pace of life, we have alienated ourselves from ourselves."

It's too hard for me to "Simply Be" when I have a million things I am obsessed with doing or planning. Is it scary to simple be still? A little. But I am going to try to remember that the joy of being alive is not in "Doing" but in "Being".

Reasons to Not - Fear and OCPD

Yesterday I had a job interview. I was excited, but then the OCPD thoughts and the anxiety crept in:

"I should cancel,I don't need a new job. What if I mess up, and they tell my current work?
What if they tell me I'm not cut out for this?
What if I run into them on the street someday, and it's awkward?
My hair is flat, my outfit is cheesy and my nails are chipped...."

You get the idea. A million reasons to not go.

But all those justifications come down to one thing. An emotion. The intellectual mind, analytical and obsessive, comes out in me as paralyzing. If I let it.

The emotion was covered up by the obsessive thoughts. To tap into the emotion is to realize the root of my anxiety and helps to overcome it.

I was afraid of the interview. Afraid of failure, or of change. So my mind was playing with my OCPD to mask it. Once I realized I was really just afraid, it became easy to be more rational, and to accept my fear and deal with it.

I found a million reasons not to go, but one good one to push though. Fighting the fear, and winning, is always a good thing.

My comfort zone was stretched, but I got though it. For a good article on pushing though the fear, check out this Mind Publications article.


The No Control Cafe - Nightmare for OCPD

I found this on kottke.org :
In Kashiwa, Japan, there was briefly an unusual cafe where you receive whatever the person in front of you ordered...and you're ordering for the person behind you.
"The Ogori cafe was an unforgettable travel moment, and an idea that has stuck with me: It was a complete surprise in our day. It encouraged communication between total strangers or, in this case, members of the Kashiwa community and a couple of weird guys from Oregon. It forced one to "let go", just for a brief moment, of the total control we're so used to exerting through commerce. It led you to taste something new, that you might not normally have ordered. It was a delight."

A delight? How about a challenge designed by my therapist to push all my buttons. Food, social interaction, lack of control, pressure to decide, judgment from others.. wow.

I kinda want to go. I want to see how I would do! How would you cope?


Heavy Load - Burden of OCPD

This morning getting ready for work, I was rushing - just like I do every morning- all around my apartment. When you spend a day out and you walk everywhere, it can take a bit of planning to put together a bag for the day. That said, I try my best to not be so obsessive of needing a million things for any situation. I force myself to keep it light, and my shoulders and back thank me. (Want proof?)

Every day I have my "List" of tasks, and I know what I need to accomplish them. This is normal. What causes problems is when I over-plan for a crazy amount of tasks, and then feel like a failure when I can't fly around the city accomplishing them all.

Time is always moving a bit too quick for me to catch up. I can't cram it all in. Just like my overstuffed bag, my hours, and my mind, can't fit it all in. Instead of my shoulder hurting from a massive satchel, my mind hurts from my pressure of a million tasks.

Single-Tasking my Mind and OCPD

I found an article on "Single-Tasking", which is the opposite of multi-tasking. I am always trying to do a million things at once, often resulting in none of them getting done very well. Or I end up injuring myself in a frantic rush!

Well, the author Phylameana Lila Desy states that:

Multi-Tasking = Being Less Mindful

Well, duh. But to me, in my OCPD world, I'm always trying to be more effeicient, and more perfect. Plus, rituals and obsessions cause time to slip away from me. How could I ever manage without multi-tasking??

Really, I should ask myself: "How can I live without being mindful of my actions?"

I already know the answer. When I rush though and mindlessly act, I make mistakes. I cut myself off from the moment, and I disconnect from my emotions. Multi-tasking, and my focus on "efficiency" is just another way to say that I am escaping from my "being" into my "doing". Heavy I know.

The author says her mantra will be "Return to Focus" to bring herself into one task. I like this. Instead of obsessing , trying to rush, or worrying anxiously about a million things, I am going to try to "return my focus" to the moment, and the one task I am doing, in the here and now.


My Lens, Your Lens - Projecting my OCPD

At work, I share a cubicle with a very calm guy, who never seems to snack or use the bathroom. As anyone with OCPD knows, calmness doesn't come easily when I am always obsessing and going though different behaviors. I feel like I am always eating in front of him, or checking my phone, or doing a million other little things, all while he stays totally still, only his fingers clacking and clicking.

Eating is the worst for me. When I want a snack, I feel like he must notice be unwrap my Luna bar. He must think I'm a pig, I think. He must think I'm compulsive and twitchy. He's watching, noticing...Everything I notice about myself.

A friend pointed out to me what I'm projecting what I notice onto him. It's me who watches what other people eat, judging them. It's my own obsession that would make me note how often my co-workers use the bathroom. Everyone has different emotional triggers they notice. For a shop-a-holic, they might notice what I wear each day, and couldn't care less about how many Luna bars I eat.

Projecting what matters to me onto others and thinking they MUST feel the same can cause a lot of suffering that isn't necessary at all. We all look at the world though our own lens. I made the mistake of thinking my cubicle mates lens was the same as my own.


Channeling the Anxiety River

The first time I read the description for OCPD, I felt like it was a profile of a driven CEO, self-regulating and exacting toward perfection. But that only works if the obsessive thoughts are channeled into something, like a business, a artwork, or on a body, without taking over the rational mind.

I'm working on channeling my anxiety into something that works for me. I want to obsesses, but if I obsess only on my body or clothes, it leaves me vain. The key to channeling perfectionism is to disperse it, and watch myself for those tipping points where it takes over.

My anxiety and obsession is like a big rushing river. Its totally out of control, and can wash over everything in its path if I goes untouched. It's constantly fed by drops of emotional rain, filling and swelling. The current seems to have a mind of its own.

I can change the river, even if its strong, though effort. It may take force to push back the current of anxiety and negativity, but if I do, I can harness the power of my true self, and allow the world around the river to thrive.

I can build a dam for my self, though being mindful and aware of my internal world. But even the best dam can be overtaken after a big rainfall, and my emotions can run high as floodwater after a stressful day.

I can take my perfection rituals, try to spread them around and play with it, controlling the impulse rather that letting it control you. If I want to focus, maybe I choose to write, or fix a tedious software problem. But I choose. I try to watch myself, keeping some distance between my true self and the part of me that can easily spiral into total fixation.

It's self-discipline, and self awareness. I often feel like a tiny child with a finger in the wall of a dam, ready to burst, taking my rational control out in one sweeping flood of panicked emotion. And I remember, even the best dam needs a patch of fresh cement once and awhile


Memory and OCPD

How looking back on what mattered help me in the present?

There have been a lot of days where my mind can't let go of one thing. Maybe its getting a certain tea for later, or cleaning that dusty corner, or perfecting a decoration on my wall. It could be something productive, like finishing a paper perfectly. The thoughts around that obsession start from when I get up until either it gets resolved, or I fall asleep again.

But when I look back on my days, I don't remember the tea I got, or the purse I just had to have, or how perfect that dusty corner was. The obsessions that, in the moment, seems all consuming, fade with memory.

How it is possible that the emotion around something others may see as inconsequential is raw and deep to me, right then? As focused on that obsession as I may be, still it pales in the larger scheme of my life. The purse I was so sure I just must have didn't matter as much as the movie I took it too. The dusty corner that just had to be clean didn't matter to the people I had over. And worry I felt all day around the meal wasn't what I remembered about the candlelight dinner a year later.

I want to keep that perspective in those moments when I am driven to obsessive behavior. Will I really remember this little detail that I am so fixated on in this moment a year later? How about a week? Or even tomorrow?

Memories are made of moments, full of actions, people and experiences. Feelings of anxiety can only really exist in the present, and time is always moving forward. It helps to remember that today's obsession might be only a pale shadow tomorrow.


Unsend, Unfriend, Undo - OCPD and Regret

Clicking is too easy. A simple click on a "Send" button or a "Friend" request can send me into a spiral of second guessing and regret. In a online sphere of connection, my social anxiety and controlling OCPD can make it hard to brush off mistakes.

An ex who is now my "friend"? Should I respond to his message? Or not? Too late once the button is clicked....

How many times have I wanted to take back a email because it wasn't "right"? And its not just Facebook stalking and late night bravery toward former flames.

Applying for jobs online is equally fraught. I can't even say how many times I've sent a resume and cover letter, only to discover seconds later it contained a small mistake. But everyone does these little things. It's my mental reaction that makes it unbearable.

I feel so anxious and can't stop wishing and searching for a way to "take it back". I become a failure in my own mind. Time and technology has pulled the situation out of my control. Again and again I play out scenarios and outcomes, searching for a way to justify or make right. But in the end, only time makes my cycle of regret face.

Sometimes, there is no undo.


NY Times- Understanding the Anxious Mind

There was an AMAZING article in the NY Times Magazine this weekend called "Understanding the Anxious Mind". Its enlightening and inspiring so I'm re-posting a good part:

We meet a doctor, Kagan, who studied babies for ones that were anxious ,then checked back in as they were teens:

"Kagan suspected...that the most edgy infants were more likely to grow up to be inhibited, shy and anxious. No high-reactors among the first 18. They gazed calmly at things that were unfamiliar.

But the 19th baby was different. She was distressed by novelty — new sounds, new voices, new toys, new smells — and showed it by flailing her legs, arching her back and crying. Here was what Kagan was looking for but was not sure he would find: a baby who essentially fell apart when exposed to anything new."

Baby 19 grew up true to her temperament. This past summer, Kagan showed me a video of her from 2004, when she was 15."
From a freaked out baby to a teenager that sounds all too familiar:
“When I don’t quite know what to do and it’s really frustrating and I feel really uncomfortable, especially if other people around me know what they’re doing. I’m always thinking, Should I go here? Should I go there? Am I in someone’s way? ... I worry about things like getting projects done... I think, Will I get it done? How am I going to do it?"

Her voice trails off. She wants to make a difference, she says, and worries about whether she will. “I can’t stop thinking about that.”
Wow... that's was (is?) me. I always beat myself up for not doing "enough" and set standards that are impossible. I can't change the world to a more perfect place, and that can drive me crazy. I wonder if I was a baby who didn't like new things?
But... its not all biology!
"...Nor does every brain state spark the same behavior: some might repress the bad feelings and act normally; others might withdraw. But while the behavior and the subjective experience associated with an emotion like anxiety might be in a person’s conscious control, physiology usually is not. This is what Kagan calls “the long shadow of temperament.”
So my temperament can cast a long shadow... but its not a sentence to a lifetime of back-arching and crying from childhood onwards. I may be predisposed to be anxious, but that doesn't mean I'm powerless.

I may do another post of other parts of the article... so stay tuned :)

Read the whole article here!


Before Bed - OCPD Rituals

Most peoples bedtime rituals include brushing teeth, washing off the face, and crawling under the covers. PJ's optional.

For me, its slightly more complicated. My nightly tasks around the house can combine to form an exhausting litany of washing, cleaning and organizing for the coming day. The "bathroom" part, the final step toward dreamland, has been shortened and un-ritualized, but only through hard work. I used to lie in bed, eyes still open if I thought "Did I use enough night cream?" "Should I floss more?" "Should I pluck my eyebrows a bit more?"

It was ridiculous, but it happened. I had to consciously relax my mind. Some night I started to force myself to skip steps, just to prove a lack of eye cream wouldn't ruin me for the next day. Slowly, the obsessions waned. Sometimes now, I fall asleep, make-up still on, in my skivvies. And my dreams come all the same.


What's Sacred to Me?

Looking honestly at priorities is very helpful to align daily life, and to overcome feelings of obsessive rules. But to simply rearrange the tasks or goals of a day can lead to more obsession, and at least for me, doesn't hit home at a deep enough level for me to feel less anxious. The book "Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism" by Andrew Harvey is amazing in general if you are interested in philanthropy and world changing idea, and I was surprised to find it contained some relevant exercises to cope with my own anxious and feelings.

It looks at a few simple things to start doing literally right now to start creating a better world by starting within the self.

Rather than asking "What are your priorities" it asks "List 10 things you consider sacred right off the top of your head. Don't think too much".

This cut past my daily to-do's and goals, and made me think about what I hold sacred to my life, what I cherish, protect and value. These are my true priorities.

If I'm honest, part of me holds Perfection as sacred, along with Efficiency and Power. Is this conducive to making the world "better", inside or out? How do these concept work out when I also hold God, Family and love to be sacred?

Many people feel they want to prioritize the "good" values and leave behind the bad, but for me looking honestly at what I hold dear has helped to move toward a balanced and less anxious life.

After all, if God and love are most sacred, the voices of self-judgment should be drowned out in the pursuit of these more noble virtues.


Always Late

This morning I was late for work. And yesterday,,,and the day before.

Today, as always I had a reason. I couldn't find a pair of shoes that i just had to wear because they were the only ones that looked good with my outfit. Nothing else mattered. Nothing except... making sure the dogs cage was clean, the clothes were in the hamper, my camera was charging... and oh yes, that my hair was perfectly dry.

The list could go on. If I really stuck to it, and tried to do it all every morning, I would never leave the house. There is always more dust to wipe and a better outfit to try on. I have to stop and evaluate... what is more important? Shoes, or the job I wear them to?


This is from a forum post I found, excepted from a book: TOO PERFECT -- When Being in Control Gets Out of Control, Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeannette De Wyze; Clarkson Potter, 1992, 208 pp.

The Myth of Control

One characteristic is a tendency to think in extremes. All or nothing. To yield to another person once may feel like humiliating total capitulation. To tell one lie, break one appointment, shed one tear… is a frightening precedent. (16)

There may be a need to control others, to rigidly insist on one’s own way. (21) They may control others by striving to make people think well of them, always, to leave no room for criticism. (22)

“Subtly manipulative control games are another way in which obsessives strive to assert their power over others. Such power plays whisper: ‘I’ve got the upper hand here. I decide whether or not we will interact. And if we do, I decide the beginning, ending, and content of those interactions.’” (25)

Self-control, “fashioned in childhood as protection, it has become life-constricting…a source of pride that they’re terrified of jeopardizing.” “That fear is one of the reasons why change is particularly difficult for obsessives….” (36)

Link to post

Date Night

I am in a relationship, and it often falls on me to plan our "date nights" where we see a movie, performance or a art event. We both have high standards, and even though I see "perfectionism" as part of the OCPD, I still feel anxiety about planning our "fun" dates.

What if the movie is bad? What if our seats are too close? What if the show is sold out, the art is lame, the performance is a dud?

This does happen of course. Some shows are just...well bad. My struggle is that I feel that it is my personal failure for choosing a terrible date, and I get angry. Not yelling or bubbling over into hateful speech. It is a simmering self-loathing, that is fed by the heat of my internal dialog.


This, needless to say, puts a damper on date night. My partner gleefully mocks the show, and continues on with our night. I end up living in regret and resentment at my "bad" choice.

I have been trying to find the lesson in even the most dismal night out, and to make sure at the end of the night, no matter what happened, that I can crack a smile about it and give my own internal critics the night off.


Perfect Meal -Food and OCPD

I can't say I love to cook. Or even that I have any skill whatsoever in the kitchen. But I do like to make my own food, or at least pick it out. It comes down, once again, to perfection and control.

I'm the girl who has the special order at a restaurant, driving the chef nuts with the "light salt, sauce on side, substitute penne for spaghetti" kind of ordering. I've tried to stop this, if for no other reason that the eye rolls of annoyance from my dining companions

At home, I like to "put together" my meals ( I won't even call it cooking!) But I still get hung up. A little more dressing, only this brand cheese, this zucchini is too bruised to eat... it goes on and on. I find myself getting up from the table, adding or subtracting this or that, searching for that perfect bite. But it never comes.

No matter how great I get at creating my meal, it will still only be... just a meal. And in the end, all the fidgeting and worrying about the taste or substance of what I'm eating only takes away from the actually experience of eating. Searching for the perfect meal only leaves me not experiencing it all all. A daze of worry makes food turn to ashes.

Washing off my plate I realized I was only filling up on anxiety, and am left the empty sensation of failing to meet my own standard of perfection.

What would it mean to taste each bite, not looking for what is wrong with it or how to fix it, but exploring and accepting it for just...what...it...is?


Random Rules

Sometimes I find myself making random rules. For example, walking down the street, I feel hungry. I know I have a few blocks to my destination, I know I have a Luna bar in my bag to eat. Do I simply pull it out for a bite? No, of course not. I've got rules to follow.

Wait, I think, three blocks. Less crowded, better neighborhood, I'll enjoy it more then.

Right as I hit the curb of the third block, I get my bite.
Why the rules? Why not just do what I want? Do I really need to prove how in control I am over my behavior all the time?

Now that I realize these rules are not just harmless mind games, but work to reinforce a negative mental system, I'll try to eat my Luna bar a bit more spontaneously.


My Own Coffee

I know caffeine and anxiety disorders aren't supposed to mix. But I mix them twice daily at my local deli, and I don't plan to stop. I live in a city, and coffee is on every street corner, all the time. But not all all coffee providers are equal, and my obsession with perfection leads me to make some odd choices.
First, I always try to make my own. Deli's around me often have a vat of coffee or iced coffee sitting in wait for customers to pour and add their own milk. This is amazing for a control freak. I will walk a extra block and drink watery coffee just so I can add exact amounts of milk and sugar.
I don't really like Starbucks or other "high end" chains. Maybe other coffee obsessives have their own ritual. (feel free to add comments) but it never ceases to astound me that when I look at little patterns I set up in my life, I see how perfectionism and control affect my behavior.

And yes, I have thrown out imperfect coffee. The $2.50 wasn't worth the anxiety.


With OSPD, sometimes the smallest imperfections can take over your thoughts. At least until you fix them.

All my life, I've never painted my fingernails. Well, that's not true. I've tried to do it myself, and even gotten a manicure at the behest of friends. But it doesn't last. Within the first hour of the painting, sometimes less, I start to see flaws. A bump, a chip, a slight discoloration. It doesn't matter. It's not perfect.

So I try to fix it. This only makes it worse, a splotchy mess ensues. Finally, when I can't even look at my flawed manicure without seeing a big "FAIL" sign, I give up. I remove it all, and go back to bare nails.

This week, I'm trying to live with the chipped polish.


Eating Disorders and OCPD

People with anorexia nervosa (restricting type) will more often have OCPD than other personality disorders. A person with anorexia values rules, which are necessary to maintain harsh food restriction. This person has no problem with suffering for the sake of perfectionism. It is common to see a person with anorexia have no need for care from others because she believes she does everything well. She therefore restricts her "intake" of people just as she restricts intake of food. Meanwhile, she will be eager to help others deal with their issues, because she can easily see "defects" in others' behaviors.

Eating disorders are often linked to personality disorders. With OCPD, the rules and focus on perfection can lead to restriction of certain foods, over exercise, or negative body image. Feeling like a failure at every little flaw on the body, or every "bad" food choice is exaggerated and can lead to obsession. Anorexic behavior is a manifestation on the controlling mindset that is apparent in every aspect of ODPD life.

A interesting writing by Dr. Albert Rothenberg, who made some connections between OCPD and anorexia looks at the modern push toward female thinness as a place to focus obsessive thoughts and behaviors. He believes that social and educational factors, along with a predisposition to obsessive compulsive illness influence the development of anorexia, and social and educational factors also contribute the development of OCD. He further states that recently, obsessive compulsive neurosis has emerged among adolescent girls in a form involving food and disorders of eating. In Western culture, anorexia nervosa and bulimia have become a predominant form of obsessive compulsive illness. According to Rothenberg, anorexia is a modern manifestation of OCD, because thinness in women has become a major and pervasive criterion for attractiveness and beauty.

It's important to note that not all OCPD sufferers have eating issues, and vice versa. I just know that seeing the links between food rules and body perfection, and how I try to control the rest of my life had been very illuminating.


This is a personal look at OCPD that actually manages to be cute and even a bit funny while informing. Enjoy!


So what is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?

No, it's not the same as OCD, like you see on "Monk" or other dramatic depictions of hand washing and light switch hitting rituals. The "Personality" part is what makes it a different disorder, and while related, the behaviors are more internalized and integrated with the sufferers inner world.

OCPD is for many characterized by rigidity of thought and behavior. This can manifest in a focus on perfection of self and others, being "right", keeping to a plan or schedule, and lack of empathy for those who are "wrong", including the sufferer themselves. But at the same time OCPD leaves the sufferer disorganized and frantic! Anxiety and self conciousness about being "Wrong" or "out of control" can be common.

Here is a list of the traits of OCPD from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition, DSM IV-TR,

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following:

  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met)
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity)
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification)
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes
  • Shows rigidity and stubbornness

Or Check out "The RIGHT Stuff: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: A Defect of Philosophy, not Anxiety"
by Steven Phillipson, Ph.D.
Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy

Here is a Google Book chapter about OCPD in "Personality Disorders" By Mario Maj

Just like any mental health issue, seek out a professional. I am not a professional. I'm just a young woman dealing with this, and trying to share some info!

Welcome to my OCPD Blog - Life as a Perfectionist

Hello and welcome. This blog is about my journey and struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. This blog will focus on stories of life with OCPD, which is kinda like OCD but more about a personality trait. For more on what that is, see this post.

I'm not a doctor, just a young woman with a blog trying to share my story with OCPD. The hope is that it will help others who live with anxiety, or anyone who has someone in their life who dealing with a personality disorder. I also struggle with eating issues, and am trying to recovery from anorexia. They go hand in hand, I think my main issue is "perfection" in general, and that goes way beyond food. But a lot of young women who get obsessive find a outlet on their bodies. More on that here.

I'm just starting out on this exploration of my self, my symptoms and my treatment. I have a long way to go.

OCPD is about obsession and compulsion. But I mostly feel it as anxiety. This blog will ask the questions: Is OCPD detrimental to relationships? Can natural treatments for OCPD work? Can the power of the mind stop obesessive and OCPD thoughts. Can obsession be a good thing?