Heavy burdens keep close company…
(lyrics by Kelsey Sprague)
To those of you who know me, some of these things might come as a surprise. But maybe it will all make sense…
To those who don’t know me, hi! I swear I’m okay. I’m working on things. That’s what’s so great about what Ali is doing here. We need to work together in order to break all of the stigmas of mental health.
Back in September (2019), I felt like I had finally hit my bottom (little did I know that that wasn’t my bottom at all). I decided to seek out therapy for the first time. See, about 3 years ago, I went to my primary care doctor for anxiety. Sure she helped, but she just put me on Zoloft and that was it. I went to see her monthly to make sure everything was fine. And for the most part it was. My anxiety levels were lower, I wasn’t letting the little things get to me, it was all looking good. I ended up moving across the country, and ended up going cold turkey (DON’T DO THIS) from Zoloft. I then let my anxiety get in the way from me going to a doctor again. It wasn’t until September that I learned that my anxiety and depression were just symptoms of something bigger.
When I found Timi (my awesome therapist), I told her straight out that I was afraid that if I said the wrong thing to her that she would hospitalize me. She reassured me that she had no intentions of doing so unless I became a threat to myself or others. We then started talking. If you’ve never gone to therapy and you wonder what it’s like, let me paint a picture for you.
Timi’s office is warm and cozy. I sit down on this cozy couch and we start talking. It’s like talking to a friend, but a friend who doesn’t know any of the people I’m talking about. A friend who notes tiny things I say and tells me what’s going on in my brain. I feel safe and I know that whatever I tell her she won’t run and tell someone else. She is a great sounding board.
Timi brought to my attention some things that I do, and diagnosed me with OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). What does that even mean? I asked her exactly that question. Was this something I would have to explain to people? Was this something I needed to take pills for? Would I ever be normal? She sent me to some articles, and it all clicked.
OCPD is one of the most manageable personality disorders (THANKFULLY). My symptoms that I suffer from are as follows:
- Perfectionism – to the point of being a problem
- An overwhelming need to be on time, causing me to get upset when others aren’t
- An extreme attention to detail
- Not being able to delegate, because I know that people won’t do the task right
- A rigid adherence to rules and regulations
- An overwhelming need for order
Because of these things, I have also developed some “ticks” for when I’m anxious, including picking at my skin to the point of sores on my arms and scalp, twisting and counting my fingers, and pinching myself to the point of sores.
As I sat there and listened to her list the symptoms, I just started crying. It was like I finally had a name for what was going on. And it wasn’t just me being uptight. What became even harder was when we started diving deeper into how I developed this personality disorder and how it affected by relationships with people close to me.
OCPD develops in late childhood, early adolescence stemming from a few different things. One of the major theories suggest that people with OCPD may be have been raised by parents who were unavailable and either overly controlling. Also as children, they were harshly punished for not being perfect. OCPD traits develop as a sort of coping mechanism to avoid punishment. This got me. This was all something that could have been avoided.
What prompted me to seek professional help was separating from my husband. We were together for 11 years, married 5, when we decided that we had just grown apart. We weren’t the same people we were when we were 17, shocking I know. But all of sudden my world was broken. My world was turned upside down. I went from owning a home to renting a room in a house with 6 other people. I didn’t know how to be me without him. I’m working on finding me. And learning that I had this underlying personality disorder that could have caused some rifts in my relationship tore me apart. I’ve thus learned that I can’t live in the what if’s: What if I knew about my OCPD? What if I would have learned how to better communicate earlier? What if this had never happened? What if I never developed OCPD? What if, what if, what if… I was driving myself crazy.
I’ve now been seeing Timi every week for 3 months. I have learned how to properly communicate is what is bothering me instead of getting angry or anxious. I still have my depressive episodes, but I’m learning ways to help with that. I have learned to throw a muzzle on that anger voice in my head that tells me how “not good enough” I am. I’ve done some major work on myself. Therapy is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I also got extremely lucky that my first therapist was a good fit. That’s usually not the case, and that’s okay. I still get anxious and I still internalize a lot of my anger, but I’m human and I make mistakes.
If you ever thought about going to therapy, but you were worried about what people would say, let me tell you what Timi told me. She said this on our very first session and it stuck with me. She said, “It takes a strong person to realize that they need help, and an even stronger person to want to do the work to make yourself better.” I had never, ever felt strong before. But each milestone I mark with Timi, I feel stronger and more empowered. I feel like I’m finally realizing who Dani really is. And that’s an awesome feeling.
Read Dani’s writing here: http://www.evrydaychanges.blogspot.com