Obsessive–compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a general pattern of concern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one’s environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness to experience, and efficiency. Workaholism and miserliness are also seen often in those with this personality disorder. Rituals are performed to the point of excluding leisure activities and friendships. Persons affected with this disorder may find it hard to relax, always feeling that time is running out for their activities, and that more effort is needed to achieve their goals. They may plan their activities down to the minute—a manifestation of the compulsive tendency to keep control over their environment and to dislike unpredictable things as things they cannot control.
-Wikipedia page, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
Know thy self. Know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.
If you can name it, you can fix it. I did a little bit more digging (with the help of my therapist) into my inner demons of every day life to understand the root of my anxieties. I talked about my need to organize my time into blocks of time- scheduled to the last minute, to feel totally comfortable and in control. Laundry at 7 am- 8:40 am, folding laundry, 8:40 am to 9:10am, go for a run, 9:20- 9:50am, shower, 9:50 am – 10:10 am, brunch 10:10 am- 10:40am… and so and so forth. Everything is great and I’m happy with myself when it goes according to plan, but when one of the plans collapse, that’s when the panic sets in. My day is ruined, like one domino of a plan falling on top of another, my anxiety takes over. I think to myself, another failed day- what a bad person I am. When I was still working, if I missed a workout at 5:30am, I felt crushed for the rest of the day. If I didn’t get to work at the usual 7 – 7:30am slot, something inside my head berated me. My perfectionism also affected my work. The nature of the work wasn’t very clear cut, and I struggled with unclear directions because I thought I was going to do it incorrectly. Also, after the task was completed, I checked it double and triple checked because I was nervous that I had overlooked something. I took much longer than others to complete a task because of this reason. When I fell behind on work, I worked nights and weekends to make up for what I felt I missed. I decreased the amount of leisure activities to almost none. I quit yoga and running, which were the only times I could relax. One symptom after another, OCPS was spot on for how I operated. And I was glad I had a name for the affliction because it became an entity I could finally grapple with.
My anxieties and obsessions are my default- so natural that I sometimes don’t notice that I am, in fact, anxious. When I feel calm, I feel anxious because something is missing – that’s not how I’m “supposed” to feel. There has to be something wrong with me, or something I have to fix, to perfect. My nickname in middle school, started by my English teacher, was “Miss. Perfect.” When I was complimented on my artwork by my peers, instead of a thank you, I said, “but I made a mistake when I was drawing the nose.” or something that I felt like was making the whole thing imperfect. It’s like anorexia, but instead of obsessing over how your body looks, it’s obsessing over the tasks you’ve done, and products that you’ve created. I don’t know why I do this, and it’s certainly not an easy way to live. But the anxiety becomes so overwhelming, it takes out all the joy out of activities you are supposed to enjoy. I used to play the violin, and create art. But over the years, the pursuit of becoming technically perfect and making something out of myself through the pursuits, I became anxious and depressed over making music or art. Now, I can’t get myself to play the violin, draw, paint or sculpt because I’m afraid that it won’t be perfect. That it won’t be as good as it was when I used to do it more often. Which is sad. When I picked the crocheting for the first time, the first few moments of doing something was fun, but then I got ambitious, and the anxiety again took place of enjoyment.
I feel at most ease with something to do, and relaxing is usually takes a lot of work. It is also the reason why it’s hard for me to be happy and feel content in the present. Running was fun for me because I was getting close to the goal of running a marathon one day. It had a purpose. My days are filled with sky high goals that I must achieve at specific times, for a specific duration, one after another. This has been the case since I was in elementary school when I had school and 5 different tutors back to back after school (which not uncommon where I was in Korea, where kids are brought up to be very competitive from a very young age.) So I have to be preoccupied with something at all times, but ironically, it is very hard to start to do something for the fear of not doing it perfectly. My mom also saw these symptoms since when I was a child. I would sit at my desk to do homework, but instead, I was worrying and not actually getting started on what I had to do because I was thinking of how to start something.
A disorder doesn’t become a disorder until it starts negatively impacting your every day life. It’s a spectrum disease, and one can mildly have some of the symptoms, but does not necessary mean one’s behavior “earns” the label. Everyone feels a little bit obsessive over a project they’re into, or feel anxious because something they’ve worked on is not complete, or isn’t up to their standards. For me, I somehow coped with various self-helps books over the years to overcome the social anxiety aspect of OCPD, but I hit a wall when it came to work. The OCPD brought on more anxiety I could handle and it all came collapsing like an avalanche in the form of severe depression.
One of the nurse/therapists I worked with at the hospital gave me a nugget of wisdom when it came to dealing with addictions and disorders. You have to dig until you it the very core, the pit of the problem, then you can start working on your problem. I’m not sure if I’m there yet, but I think I’m close.