Monday, 9 March 2015

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder - my experience

Back in 2012, alongside my Borderline Personality Disorder, I was also diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). I remember being a belittled 19 year old thinking that the psychologist at the time was entirely insufficient at her job title for diagnosing me with OCD - as that is all I perceived it to be on paper. I certainly never viewed myself as having OCD and still do not, although have minor traits as many of us do. But the part I was missing was the 'P', the personality and internal rituals and beliefs that I had perceived as normal but which actually was the indication that these beliefs affected my life in far more ways than I had even previously acknowledged.

I was inspired to write this post from my day at University today. I received an assignment back in class which was worth 40% of the module for said class. I achieved a first class (71, to be precise) for this assignment. This assignment thus marked the 5th first class grade I have received since beginning the second year of my degree, out of 7 possible assignments (for non-UK students, a first class honours degree is the highest degree possible to attain on a University course). Yet, despite slaving away hours and hours at this particular piece of work (which I actually enjoyed writing, don't get me wrong), receiving a first class grade didn't excite me or make me feel a sense of achievement. It made me wonder what I could have done more, what I wasn't doing, what my tutor was criticising about the essay, what was wrong. I got home and looked over said essay some more and didn't even feel like I deserved the grade at all. I felt like the standard of work I produced and the grade that was set alongside it didn't seem to match up. The anxiety that overtook me upon the waiting on receiving the assignment back and afterwards felt unbearable. 

I remember receiving my first first class grade in my first year at University - and it was for my first ever 2000 word essay. I remember feeling a sense of excitement then, and of pride. But it never lasted for long as I constantly sought ways in which I could top that feeling, and the only way to top that feeling was to perform better. My highest grade to date has been 73 in an exam taken last year and now, if nothing tops that, I won't be satisfied.

This may seem entirely illogical and irrational, and it is! Yet is such a huge factor into the diagnosis of OCPD. Despite not meeting all of the criteria for the diagnosis, I certainly am aware that this perfectionism is one that isn't healthy but one that instead dominates my very existence. My pre-occupations with details, rules, lists, order, and organization is borderline excessive and has been since I was a very small child. My perfectionism often actually interferes with the completion of the tasks at hand. My devotion to work and need to be constantly busy never exactly go hand in hand with my BPD, especially during my lower periods, but I have a tendency to want to work constantly. My reluctant to delegate tasks to others is especially prominent at my retail job, but also most other aspects of my life. If I cannot have complete control over a task, then often I don't want to undertake it in the first place.

A few weeks ago, I received a grade of 63 + 68 for one assignment, which was a creative writing module. Upon receiving the assignment, I cried, threw it in the bin and preceded to drink a bottle of wine with my friend. I felt absolutely worthless and useless, being imperfect, having someone else who I respected view me as imperfect. I have such an obsession with those around me viewing me as imperfect that even grades of 71 are not enough to make me feel as if I'm worth something. I sat there in class and could only see every negative comment and ruminated on those instead. 

I have no idea what it will take for someone to make me feel like I'm worth something to this world, more than the restricted life I set myself. My boyfriend of almost 6 years tells me he loves me and that I'm worth everything each and every day and something inside of me is too stubborn to even try and believe it. It's not even my fear of being imperfect for myself, it's what other's think of me and what other's think I am capable of. OCPD is a disorder that is beginning to become even more prevalent now than when I was first diagnosed, and I'm really going to make an aim in therapy to work on this crippling perfectionism in time for the even further stress of the third year of my degree. I know realistically this has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and will never be diminished entirely, but I really need to learn more effective, healthy coping mechanisms on how to deal with this imperfection that is such a huge part of my life.

I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts in the comments if you or a loved one experiences OCPD or if you have been recently diagnosed.