Getting to the Heart of Things: Am I Just Making It Up?

My therapist and I have recently been embarking on a long and poopy journey deep into the recesses of my brain to try to tease out some of the reasons my particular set of neuroses decided to express themselves through my body. Unsurprisingly, I find this a frustrating and unpleasant experience, as thinking at great length about the relationship between my emotions and my body makes me want to stick my tongue out and go “phooey. I just don’t like my body and that’s it.” But I am curious about what made it all circulate around my body. How did I go from needing control and perfection to needing control over food in particular and perfection in the form of an abnormally skinny body?

So we’ve been talking about blurry, early childhood memories, or tenuous connections between what I know I feel and how those feelings express themselves in behaviors, or my early family relationships and lessons. A lot of it feels like looking through darkly tinted glasses: I can make out shapes, but I’m not entirely certain what I’m looking at. I’ll be sure there’s a connection between my feelings of uncertainty early in childhood and my eventual eating disorder, but teasing out that relationship and the catalysts later in life seems impossible. Any given issue, like my need for control, has about 15 different large elements that could have been an important “cause”. We’ll spend an hour delving into a particular relationship or incident, and by the end of the time there will be something like a narrative that offers an explanation.

It’s helpful in that knowing where something comes from helps me tailor my self care and my coping mechanisms. I’m a control freak because I grew up around some volatile people? I’ve surrounded myself with very stable folks who will listen when I tell them I’m scared they’ll get angry with me if I do x action. I seek reassurance that their feelings are stable. Understanding what needs are going unfulfilled helps me to meet those needs.

But on the other hand, I feel like I’m making things up. With so many possible explanations, all of which can be turned into neat narratives, how do I know which one is right? Even more worrisome is the fact that memory is so very fallible. There are many examples of people suddenly remembering things that never happened during therapy sessions, and even if it’s nothing quite that sinister, it’s easy to reinterpret or misremember the past (especially early life) to match your current interpretations. Is it really helpful to try to delve back so far? How much accuracy can I have when I’m partially relying on secondhand information from my parents about my early life, supplemented with fuzzy, emotional memories.

Here’s something that a very literal, black and white, absolute thinker like myself has trouble with: there is no correct answer to the how of my personality. A life cannot be reduced to a couple of simple equations that can be solved if you plug in the correct self care. There is no correct narrative about my life. I do not make sense and I never will. These are not judgmental statements. Ambiguity and randomness are facts of life. We just don’t like to admit that they apply to ourselves, especially when they end up creating pain in our lives.

So is there really any point in trying to make sense of all the billions of small factors that combined to give the world my current self?

I think there is. Each narrative contains some elements of the truth. This week I may focus on some of the difficulties my parents had when I was a child and the ways that it impacted my sense of stability. Next week I may focus on my natural tendency towards order and how it expressed itself as far back as I can remember. The week after I might think about the difficult relationship I had with my brother as a kid. Each of these things contributed something to the way I am right now. When I find answers, I like to hold on tight to them. This is how it is. I don’t get to do that with these kinds of answers. Each one is just a partial, flawed answer. I have to be gentle with them, or they will fall apart. Each time I try to grab onto one too hard and say “this is who I am, this is why I am,” it stops making sense.

The multitude of narratives also helps protect against all the bits that I don’t remember quite correctly. I have to fit competing narratives together, which means parts that don’t make sense get challenged. Any time I become completely convinced that one thing explains all of me, I have to remember how easy it is to tweak my memories to fit.

Of course trusting myself to figure it out in a reasonable manner is even harder as someone with anxiety and depression: I don’t trust my abilities and my brain. This is a hard task to begin with, but for those of us in therapy who really need to undertake it, it’s even harder. It’s easy to imagine that we’re lying to ourselves to make life easier or explain our behaviors away. I once again appreciate the importance of having a therapist I trust. I once again appreciate that this long term work of building a life that balances out my difficulties is impossible when I’m in crisis. I once again appreciate that nuance is necessary even if I hate it.

Posts like this leave me unsettled because there’s no conclusion. I do think that speaking openly about what therapy is like and how it can be difficult is important. I also want to recognize that therapy changes over time. I have been in therapy for almost 5 years straight now, and while ideally therapy is not unending, I have been working on distinct and distinctly important things throughout that time. This feels like it’s close to the end, and that’s exciting, even as I realize that there’s a strong possibility I’ll never be done with the work of accepting that I will never make sense of myself. So no, I’m not just making up stories to make myself feel better. There is some element of self creation in the narratives I choose to talk about, but the overlapping narratives give me some insight into the truth, as far as it exists. That may be the best I can do.

Feminism Does Not Mean Strength, Success, or Power

Last night I decided to watch The Mask We Live In as it had just arrived on Netflix, and after finishing it I couldn’t help but go back and rewatch Miss Representation. It’s still a pretty good movie, that introduces a lot of basic concepts about feminism and media in a really accessible way. But I found that as I was watching it I started to get really anxious.

It was a kind of anxiety that I hadn’t felt so acutely in quite some time. “You’re missing your window of opportunity,” is what it said. “What will you become?” it asked. “Why doesn’t anyone look up to you?” it taunted. It was very talkative anxiety. I remembered the feeling that I used to have as a kid that my life could be the kind of thing that someone would talk about with a tone of awe. In Miss Representation, Condoleeza Rice talks about her friend Sally Ride and says that if Sally had waited to see a female astronaut before she decided to become one, Ride never would have gone to space. I wanted to be that story for someone. THAT was what a feminist looked like in my young eyes.

In a lot of the talk about feminism, I heard often about accomplishments. I heard about the wage gap. I heard about women not being in positions of power. I heard about the ways that women are held back by bias or harassment or lack of representation. I heard that women needed to be more active and powerful in politics and large corporations, that we needed more women like Marie Curie or Sheryl Sandberg or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Women who fought for their right to a space at the table in the field that they loved. I heard about the importance of highly visible role models, and the way that feminism will never advance if we don’t have women in positions of power. I rarely heard about average people, my mom or her friends. I more often heard stories of individual, exceptional women.

And so I learned that feminism meant being successful. Successful enough that your name is still known today. Successful enough that you have power over other people, often power in a traditionally capitalistic sense of the word if not in the governmental sense. Successful enough that other people could see you and want to be you. So successful that you are in fact exceptional.

This belief has been incredibly damaging in my life, and so I want to identify it, identify what’s wrong with it and try to understand how we can do better.

Definitionally, not everyone can be exceptional. I firmly believe that everyone can be a feminist. The actions, thoughts, and attitudes of feminism are difficult, but they are things that everyone can strive for. But more than that, it takes away the societal responsibility for improving circumstances and says that some super women have to fix things.

More than that, it creates a nice, impossible standard for young women. It might be a very different kind of impossible standard than traditional beauty standards or expectations of submissiveness and passivity, but it is just as difficult to attain. I have found throughout my life that I hold myself to expectations of perfection in a conviction that that is the only way to make a difference and give my life meaning and purpose. Now partially that’s my own issue, but I see some direct parallels with a feminism that doesn’t allow for nuance. If the way to be a feminist is to somehow, through sheer will or awesomeness, break through barriers that no one else has ever been able to break, you’re going to have some high expectations for yourself. It’s easy to assume that individual effort and ability are what counts when it comes to being successful, but let’s not forget that there are so many other factors at play (family support, random chance or luck, connections, timing, all the wide variety of axes of privilege and oppression, etc.).

When we hold up individual women as responsible for the great strides of the past, we imply that individual women should become great enough, all on their own, to make great strides into the future. Of course the truth is that making the world a more just and equitable place takes all kinds, and changing the world requires lots of people working together and supporting each other. It takes luck and privilege and a lot of circumstances aligning in the right ways, just as much as it does the hard work and talent of the people involved. It’s damaging to any individual who wants to make a difference if they assume they have to do it on their own, or that they should ignore their own needs, circumstances, and preferences in order to live up to some idealized vision of the Feminist Woman.

I want to think about other kinds of feminist inspiration we can have for each other. Inspiration that doesn’t create a damaging picture of how much any individual should be capable of by themselves. Let’s try this on for size:

I have a friend who has serious social anxiety and agoraphobia. The other day she contacted me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to go to coffee over Facebook. This is bravery. This is creating connections that sustain us. This is using the technology available to make the world work for us.

Every time I have an open, honest conversation with my partner about consent, preferences, and sexuality, I am prioritizing my own needs and sexual health. That is feminism. I’m an inspiring bitch.

When I see a female friend get honestly angry with someone else and express their boundaries in a clear fashion, I am seeing feminism at work.

When my friends demand their proper pronouns, or someone politely asks about pronouns, I am witnessing change.

These are not grand narratives. They are everyday moments that are often uncomfortable and don’t have huge payouts. But every time you question your sexist relative, speak honestly of your own experience, engage in self care, or ask for what you want, you are being inspiring to me. Sure, we also need the big changemakers, the people who bulldoze barriers in a powerful way. But we need all the rest of us doing a thousand small things every day to make those changes stick. That’s just as inspiring to me.

In Which I Address My Eating Disorder With Anger

I haven’t spent a lot of my time in talking about my eating disorder lamenting how much I regret having the mental illnesses I do or wishing that I didn’t. I try to be honest about how shitty they can feel, but I’ve never been the kind of person who honestly hates their mental illness. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it forever.

A lot of people that I know are angry at their disorders. They’re angry that it’s taken things away from them or gotten in the way of their lives. I never had that kind of anger towards it. I never felt like it was getting in the way of anything. I never wrote open letters of hatred telling my eating disorder how shitty it was. I try to be open about what the experience of having my eating disorder is, but I so rarely conceive of it as anything separately from me that I can’t feel like that towards it.

But for some reason that changed today. I happened to read an article by someone I knew in college. She writes for a site that I love and that I would feel honored to write for. I looked back over what she’s done, and she’s accomplishing so much. I felt a flash of jealousy, because I want to be that person that people look up in a few years and feel awe over how much they’ve done.

I took a moment to remind myself of what I’ve been doing recently, things that I’m proud of. I’ve been published on a number of sites, I’m working somewhere I love, I’m working to build a fund to help people with eating disorders. These were all things that have happened in the last year when I was finally hit with the realization that if I want something to get done I can just do it. I don’t have to wait for permission, I can simply call the people I want to work with and get it done.

And I wonder how much sooner I could have had that realization if I wasn’t so busy telling myself that I deserved nothing.

I have always been motivated by accomplishment. But somehow being obsessed with accomplishing kept me from actually working on getting things done, or realizing my own ability to do things. And now I’m just a little bit angry. I’m just the teensiest bit pissed off that my brain’s particular constellation of oddness managed to convince me that I wasn’t allowed to send an email or show up to an organization and just say “here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it. Will you help me?”

I’m sure that I have grown in my ability to conceive of projects and understand how to accomplish things in the real world as well as in my mental health in the last few years. That’s what happens when you start working instead of living in college world. But I had the critical thinking skills to figure out most of it. I conceived of some of these projects three or four years ago and simply thought that I wasn’t old enough, wasn’t connected enough to make it happen.

I was. And I am angry that I convinced myself I didn’t deserve it or couldn’t do it. If anyone else in the world had told me that I would have put in any amount of hours to prove them wrong.

I wonder if this is a step towards a healthier mindset. Or if it’s just that the eating disorder had never taken anything away from me that I cared about before. Either way, it’s something to fight back against.

That leaves me in a weird position. For the last couple of years I’ve been trying not to fight. Instead I have been trying to find ways to embrace the particular oddities of my mind. I’ve been trying not to make my mind a battlefield, because I do that pretty naturally anyway. So it’s odd to suddenly have a realization that I have violated my own boundaries and hurt my own values in such a blatant way.  I’m not sure what to do with the information, or whether I will start to take on that “fighting” mentality that some people do. But at the very least, I’m thoroughly upset and will make my jerkbrain take a time out for keeping me from being as awesome as I could have been.

 

Between Stress and Boredom

For most of my life I thought that there were two possibilities for how life could be. I thought it could be stressful or it could be boring.

During school or work or activities I was stress out. I had too much to do, I couldn’t do it well enough. There was never a nice mid level of stuff to do, it was always an excess, always tinged with anxiety of whether I was working hard enough or accomplishing well enough.

Sometimes I could turn my brain off. All the way off. I would zone out for hours or days at a time, reading or being with my friends, but more often than not becoming painfully, incessantly, anxiety-provokingly bored. It was so much worse than the stress because I couldn’t even reassure myself that I was working hard and getting things done, earning my keep. It was just me and my mind, never a good combination.

Imagine my surprise to look at my life today and realize that there is a third option. I can relax. I can play. I can balance.

Today, I woke up and wrote for a few hours. I read a book just for fun during lunch, finished some work, and went climbing. I cleaned my house, then visited my favorite coffee shop to read and finish building a Dungeons and Dragons character. Not once today have I been bored. I have plans to see people tonight, healthy social plans all week, and enough work to keep me happily occupied during the week. But not once today did I feel stressed out, behind, overwhelmed, or anxious.

There were some parts of the day in which I didn’t really do much of anything. I read a book, I played with my cat, I played a game. I never thought that it would require practice to play or relax, but over the last few years I have intentionally spent time alone, doing nothing of import, simply because I wanted to, or even just because my therapist told me to try it. I’ve spent time forcing myself not to get up and go get something done, forced myself to question the thoughts that say I’m bad if I don’t accomplish, forced myself to practice different breathing, light candles, rub my cat on my face, or do anything else it takes to soothe the anxious feelings that used to appear when I tried to enjoy myself.

And I practiced playing. I tried video games, I got a cat, I took up Dungeons and Dragons and played more board games, I started writing fiction again, I bought fidget toys, and I started to force myself to read more often (something I have always loved). Some things didn’t stick: I tried mosaicing and collaging and drawing, and each was mildly interesting for a bit, but didn’t hold my interest. I taught myself how to listen to podcasts, something I’d wanted to do for ages. I started listening to music again.

It took time. Sometimes these things were not enjoyable for me. This might sound ridiculous, as they’re all for fun things, but I would often have intrusive thoughts that told me I should be doing something important or useful rather than doing something for fun, and if the activity didn’t require full concentration then I would simply have recurrent, intrusive thoughts about how much I didn’t like myself. When I wasn’t working, there was space for my depression and anxiety to creep in at the edges.

So it took practice to simply do fun things over and over and over until they stopped feeling wrong, confusing, or anxiety provoking.

I learned how to play. I learned how to relax. These aren’t skills that everyone just picks up, and it does a disservice to everyone not to make those skills available to learn. It’s an amazing realization to figure out that those things are not only acceptable to do, but also important and healthy.

What that’s meant for me is that there is space between boredom and stress. I don’t have to be running all the time every day in order to keep my mind occupied. I don’t have to distrust my mind so much that I can’t just be alone with it. There is a way to do things that are engaging, fun, interesting, and challenging without introducing stress into the picture.

Of course it’s harder to put that together in a job, and it takes a lot of time and work and luck to end up in a position where you feel like you’re having fun or working on something you like most of the time, but the fact that there are any times where I can do that is a source of so much hope for me. I hope it can be for other people too, that other people can recognize that there’s nothing wrong with them because they are stressed out or bored all the time. It takes practice. It is possible.

You Can’t Turn Off An Eating Disordered Brain

Massive trigger warning for eating disorders

For about the past nine months I’ve been feeling pretty good when it comes to my body and my food intake. I still have a few hangups, mostly surrounding times when I should eat, but overall I was getting a decent number of calories and feeling fairly energized. I had stopped thinking about what my body looked like every day, and I had even stopped adding up the totals of what I had eaten each day to try to decide if I was allowed another item (or if I needed to go work out).

It was a massive relief to not have those scripts playing in my head anymore. But recently, somewhat out of nowhere, they’ve started to play again.

I have a lot more tools available to me now. I have more friends to ask for help, a better idea of what I want out of my life and why an eating disorder isn’t compatible with that, a fuzzy kitten to distract me, and a variety of strategies about what makes me feel good in the moment, but none of these things have managed to turn off the voices or the accompanying anxiety. They are enormously helpful when I need to choose a better behavior than restriction, purging, or overexercise, but no matter how often I try to ignore the bad suggestions my brain keeps giving me, it comes back louder.

This is what a lot of people refer to when they say that you never really recover from an eating disorder. The disordered brain will linger on and on and on. And while outsiders might suggest distracting yourself or challenging the thoughts, what they don’t understand is how incessant it is. When you wake up in the morning you wonder about what you’ll eat that day and think about whether yesterday was a “good” day (ran a calorie deficit). You go to put on clothes and are left with the quandary of what fits and what doesn’t, what you can convince your brain is acceptable. You go outside and now it’s the comparison game, who’s smaller than you are, who will see you as acceptable, does everyone see how big you are or do they care?

It goes on endlessly. You cannot turn it off (or at least no one has figured out the magic switch yet except constantly choosing a different behavior and working to focus on something else).

What no one tells you about jerkbrains, whether they’re eating disordered or OCD or depressed or anxious is that they will exhaust you. They don’t tell you that the worst part isn’t the full on meltdowns, but the normal days where you thought you were ok but instead have to spend half of your energy fighting with yourself.

It’s discouraging. While it is realistic to know that someone with a disorder that is highly linked to genetics will probably always have to be on the lookout against a recurrence of symptoms, it makes life feel like a neverending Sisyphean endeavor, even moreso than it might for someone who just has to get out of bed and drag themselves to the office each morning.

Even writing this feels like a repeat of things that I’ve said far too many times. It certainly puts more importance into the question of whether genetics are destiny. But pushing against all of the woe and angst and “determinism means it just doesn’t matter!” is the fact that I know I have changed. The eating disordered brain remains, but there is something in there or in me that can adjust. I make different choices, and the lows come further and further apart. I hate inspiration porn, especially when it comes to mental health, so I have to admit that I have no idea if there’s a relapse in my future or what it means for the quality of my life that self hatred is an essential ingredient of every day. But I am also done with wallowing in the unhappiness, so I also have to say that I have hope. There is the possibility of joy.

What It’s Like: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This is the fourth post in a series. See posts 1, 2, and 3.

To reiterate: none of these posts are meant to be a conclusive picture of everyone who has the diagnosis. All of these are simply my experiences of a given diagnosis. GAD is a wide ranging diagnosis that takes lots of forms. If your experience of it is different from mine, I’d love to hear from you!

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is like having a broken alarm system. This is probably an overused metaphor, but whatever. Imagine you have a home alarm system that’s supposed to let you know whenever you’re in danger. It’s a magical alarm system that doesn’t just alert you to intruders, but also tells you if there’s a natural disaster or some sort of accident in your house waiting to happen. It’s suuuuper helpful. This is what normal anxiety is like. Normal people get afraid or worried or anxious when they have reason to believe that something is going to harm them. Sometimes this is in a very obvious way like if your car goes out of control, sometimes it’s in a more long term sense, like when you’re anxious about a test or a job interview (which has the potential to affect your future in positive or negative ways).

For most people, the strength of the alarm corresponds to the severity of the potential harm. If a bomb is about to fall on your house, your alarm system will be FREAKING OUT. If there’s about to be a thunderstorm, your house might beep at you a little and get you to look out the window. Same with emotions: we get very anxious about big things (like the bar exam or being very close to a large and dangerous animal) and kinda anxious about smaller things (a small quiz or slack rope walking a few feet about the ground). This isn’t across the board true, and certainly some people have one or two irrational fears, but for the most part anxiety follows a pretty predictable set of patterns.

Now imagine you have a house that has an alarm system that goes off whenever something is going to hurt you, but also will randomly go off at things like the neighbor’s cat or a kid on a bike, and when you try to turn it off it just keeps starting right back up again. Sometimes when it should give you a little nudge, like for a thunderstorm, it gives you the blaring DANGER DANGER of a bomb above your house.

Some of you might say “well just start ignoring the alarm.” But the alarm does still go off at all the right times too. You’re left with a near constant confusion about whether you’re in danger or not, trying to figure out how you can differentiate what’s a real threat and what’s not. It starts to wear on you, the noise and the uncertainty. You think you’re going crazy because you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, when it’s reasonable to jump out of bed and pull out a baseball bat or when it’s reasonable to just wait it out.

This is a lot like what GAD is for me. It isn’t that I’m afraid of everything, or that I’m timid, or that I can’t talk to people. It’s that anxiety and uncertainty will hit me at the most unexpected times, sometimes for no discernible reason. A very big part of it is my anxiety just happens BIGGER than almost anyone else I’ve ever met. Catastrophizing is basically my middle name. Once in fifth grade I got a B on a test. I started freaking out and crying, leaving my teacher and my parents somewhat uncertain about how to reassure me that it was totally fine. In my mind I could see exactly how my future would go: the B would mean I wasn’t put in the honors classes in junior high, which meant that when I went to apply for high schools (because I went to a private school, high school required entrance exams and applications) I would be laughed out, and I would end up in the worst school ever which meant I wouldn’t get into a college, which meant that I would never have a good job and be miserable forever.

My brain is very, very good at consequences. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m a rule follower, and part of this is being acutely aware of the long term consequences of my actions. The problem comes when I start drawing out long, ridiculous chains of events that COULD happen and would probably ruin my life. It’s often paralyzing. If I think something’s gone wrong I generally have one of two reactions: I either have a huge adrenaline rush and start accomplishing absolutely everything I possibly can as a kind of ritual to prevent badness, or I freeze up and can’t do anything.

But I also get anxious over the stupidest things. I’m fine with heights and needles and blood, spiders, snakes, death, disease, germs…most of the things a normal person might be a little worried by. But having a day at work with nothing to do? Cue a panic attack because I will get fired and it will be the end of my life as I know it. It’s a very physical kind of a disorder for me. I have some seriously impressive knots in my shoulders and neck (I got a massage last week and the masseuse told me everything felt fine, except my shoulders and neck which felt like “you’ve been hit by a bus”), I get the pounding heart fluttery breath feeling, the tight throat, my whole posture curls into itself. It actually just happened about 20 seconds ago because someone wanted to put off hanging out until after dinner instead of ASAP after work and my brain just started chasing itself in circles chanting “they don’t like you, they never want to see you again” and then laughing like some sort of evil torture expert. It will likely take a few hours before I can work my way back into a basic state of normal heart rate, normal breathing, and relatively calm muscles.

Possibly the worst part is that if I’m bored and my brain has nothing else to do, it tends to just manufacture anxieties. This has led to the additional anxiety I have about getting bored, because getting bored leads to being anxious. I have a lot of recursive anxieties about being anxious.

Any other experiences of anxiety out there?

What It’s Like: OCPD

This is the second post in a series. Find the first here.

HUGE DISCLAIMER: I am not formally diagnosed with OCPD. There are absolutely some problems and pitfalls with self diagnosis, but in this case I identify strongly enough with the diagnosis that I feel comfortable talking about it. At the very least, the label serves to collect a variety of my symptoms in an understandable fashion. Many of these symptoms don’t quite get picked up by any of my other diagnoses, which is why I’m taking this space to talk about them.

OCPD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. This is not the same as OCD, which involves recurrent, intrusive thoughts that can only be dismissed with a compulsive behavior. OCPD is a personality disorder with a high focus on perfection, achievement, and control.

Sometimes my brain gets stuck. It’s almost always on something that I am stressed about, something that needs to get done. Most mornings I wake up with a blank slate that I need to fill with accomplishments in order to feel that I’ve earned my right to be alive for the day. Most days I can manage it reasonably, but sometimes I get caught. I’ll spend hours rewriting the same to do list in greater and greater detail, specifying exact time frames for each task and rearranging the order to make sure it’s just perfect because otherwise there’s no way I’ll get it all done, and thus no way for me to be ok.

Schedules, lists, and plans are the only things that feel truly safe to me, the only things that put the world into some semblance of order so that I can be in control. This means that when plans change suddenly (when someone cancels at the last minute, when someone suggests plans at the last minute, when I simply have to adjust what I was thinking I would do) I get incredibly anxious. Even if the new plan suits me better than the old one, I’ll still resist it because it’s just not the way things were supposed to be.

I often can’t enjoy fun or relaxing activities because my brain will continue to run the script of what I should be doing or what I could be doing that would be more productive. When I was younger, this often manifested in being kept awake for hours at a time stressing out over what I needed to do the next day and trying to figure out how I’d have the time to do it, only to be left exhausted and unable to do most of the things that needed to get done.

I’m also a huge rule follower. I like things to have an order to them. Even when rules are pointless or annoying, I still love to follow them because it feels safe and it makes sense. This often comes with a moral tinge to it: in high school, I would get irrationally angry at my boyfriend for walking on the grass instead of the sidewalk or at other students who slept during class because they weren’t doing what they were supposed to. Mostly this gets aimed at myself in unreasonably high expectations and a need to prove that I am good by doing everything just perfectly. I am terrified of making mistakes and catastrophize whenever I do.

On the more mundane side of the spectrum, I’m extremely stubborn and can be highly inflexible (this is what I decided to do, so I’m flipping going to do it and if you don’t like it I don’t like you), and I have a lot of anxiety about money, to the point that it took me until last year to realize that I could spend money on things simply because I wanted them. Despite having a hefty savings, I was still convinced that there would be some unknown disaster in the future and that I couldn’t spend my money on good things now without dooming myself to an unknown destruction in the future.

I just like to know that I get to control what I’m doing and when I’m going to do it, because I have an irrational worry that I’m never going to be doing enough. I always feel as if I should be working harder, longer, and better. I’m afraid of authority, because authority has the power to take away that control. My thoughts about all of this are constantly intrusive, leading to bizarre paranoid fantasies that I will get fired for no reason or that getting a single B on a test will lead to living on the streets. While at a normal extent these tendencies make sense and are often encouraged, at the level that I have them they interfere with my sleep, with relaxation, with relationships. They make me cranky and difficult to be around. They make me controlling and hypersensitive to change.

There are ways to mitigate it, by questioning things that feel clearly like facts, and by organizing my life in such a way that there are clear distinctions between work and play. I also get to exercise my compulsiveness by organizing things. Alphabetizing books is like heaven to me (in grade school I would stay in from recess to shelve books in the library because it was more fun).

Does anyone else have experience with OCPD? It’s not a very common disorder and I’d love to hear other experiences.