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Frozen Perfectionist

I am what is known as a “frozen perfectionist.” I was diagnosed with OCD as an adult, after discussing my childhood with a therapist after losing a child (the symptoms got too bad to ignore). I finally found out why I obsess over nearly everything but some of the symptoms didn’t add up. I started researching self help and found the term frozen perfectionist- when a perfectionist gets so afraid of failure, they can’t move forward. When I found that, it summed where I was in life. I wanted to go back to school, was too afraid of what could happen. I had a rough draft of a novel- I was too afraid to go any further. I had tons of dreams but I was so afraid of failing, I was stuck working in a dead end job afraid of going after anything better.

The book that changed me was “Stop Self Sabotage.” It made me stop and really start looking at my own issues. When I was 18 and a college freshman, I had confidence. I knew I had my life in front of me and since I was out of my parents’ rule, I had freedom. I messed up and starting skipping classes. That led to me being put out on academic suspension and I was talked into dropping out instead of going back the next semester. That summer, I started dating an old friend from high school who literally beat the confidence out of me. It took me two years to get away from him but in that time, I was shattered. I wasn’t “allowed” to open the business I wanted to open (even though my plan impressed the woman at the SBA so much I would have gotten the loan immediately). I wasn’t “allowed” to go back to school- if he was unable to graduate, I wouldn’t be able to either- he was “insanely intelligent” and I wasn’t- so if he couldn’t do it, I couldn’t. I dealt with tear downs along with those subtle insults for 2 years until I finally got him to kick me out of the house (after he cheated) and took advantage to finally break up with him fully. By that time, I was 21 and a wreck. It compounded on my own perfectionist traits.

What exactly is “Frozen Perfectionism?”

A frozen perfectionist is someone born with the perfectionist traits who goes untreated for too long and finds themselves frozen in fear- fear of failing and fear of moving forward for whatever reason. It could be considered a side effect of OCD/OCD perfectionism. This has become a nonresearched opinion due to not finding my original sources. The term that is now coming up is perfection paralysis- but it’s the same concept.

What is OCD Perfectionism?

OCD and perfectionism do not always go hand in hand BUT they do in a lot of cases. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is not the quirk of needing everything organized or being really neat. That is a quirk, OCD is an Anxiety Disorder that causes random and truly meaningless (and often totally out there) thoughts- they become obsessions then that leads to a most of the time unrelated compulsion to do something and that will “prevent” the obsession from happening. (As in- fear of your child dying, it becomes a near- phobic obsession that you cannot shake. In order to prevent your child from dying, your anxiety tells you you have to count every step you take. Counting quickly eases the anxiety but now you’re stuck in the trap of having to count every single step you take at all times- otherwise your child will die.

That is the reality of OCD- it’s not a funny little joke, it’s a really severe Anxiety disorder that needs treatment (NOT medication)

Perfectionism also involves a lot of anxiety. It’s an obsession with everything being perfect. It’s the obsessive need to be the best- at everything and anything that does not come naturally is to be given up.

The kid sitting in the front of the class who studies all the time, finishes his test earlier than the rest of the class and still gets straight As is likely not a perfectionist. The kid in the back who writes a few words, erases, writes a tiny bit more and frantically tries to make his writing absolutely perfect while failing tests due to incomplete responses is more likely to be a perfectionist.

Perfectionism can go far enough to be an actual mental disorder- when the desire becomes obsession and anxiety takes over with every failure. That’s where perfectionist paralysis comes in. It’s when the fear of failing is so strong, you freeze in order to protect yourself. You’re unable to complete projects (like my novel) because you’re so afraid of failing, you get stuck.

 

How I am Trying to Battle OCD Perfectionism Without Professional Help

I was diagnosed at 26, after losing a baby. My OCD had got so bad, I was afraid of carrying my living child up or down the stairs. I started grief therapy to handle losing Cassie and started talking to her about my childhood. After mentioning some quirks I have held my whole life, she told me Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I started studying deeper into it and found it to describe my whole life.

She also told me to run from anyone who tried to medicate me because it needs treatment but not medication. She also gave me the advice that helped me more than anything else-

When your brain is stressing- ask yourself, is this a worry a “normal” person would feel or is it the OCD/Anxiety?

I started reading self help books about OCD and ran across Stop Self Sabotage. I ignored the advice that you need to be under a professional’s care to do exposure therapy, and so far, I’ve kicked a phobia of driving and am working on the fear I have of failing. I started cold pitching to different sites and magazines and in a few cases, I have even pitched and applied to places I knew would reject me so I could start to get used to being rejected before my book is ready to be published.

I also have started asking trusted sources if a thought is normal or I try to put myself in a normal person’s shoes.

Those have been helping me personally and I’m going longer and longer periods of time without the OCD acting up. I have read OCD is one mental illness that can totally clear up on it’s own, so I’m hoping with time I can fully kick it for good.

My Tips For Dealing With OCD On Your Own

  1. Step back and think- when you have an obsessive thought, try to determine if it’s a legitimate thought or if it’s anxiety
  2. Remember, above all, OCD is an ANXIETY disorder
  3. The compulsions are NOT going to help- when you learn your obsessions, identify them and avoid the compulsions. They ease anxiety, BUT it hurts your recovery.
  4. The best way to recover from OCD is to avoid compulsions and ride out the anxiety. Once you see that the bad won’t happen, it slowly eats away at the obsession until there is nothing left.
  5. It’s hard, and you may need a therapist but riding out the anxiety (through exposure therapy) is the best way to recover

Look at Perfectionism as a form of OCD- it’s an obsessive need to be perfect. Slowly expose yourself to failing and being seen as imperfect. Me blogging is part of my self therapy. Not being seen as perfect helps as exposure therapy and over time, perfectionism can be overcome.

*Side note- I started this post months ago and have been working on adding to it and finalizing it but since then, I lost all sources I found that mentioned “frozen perfectionist” so I can’t link to a proper definition. I believe the term that keeps popping up now is “Perfection Paralysis“*

Also- with any anxiety or mental health problem, you do need to have a diagnosis to deal with things like Obsessive Compulsive. Perfectionism is not a mental disorder in and of itself, but it can turn into one.

 

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When I was talking to a behavior therapist about my OCD she gave me one large piece of advice and over the past few years, I’ve been taking it

She told me to deal with my anxiety and my OCD obsessions and worries/fears and phobias, I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I needed to start doing what makes me uncomfortable so I could see it isn’t as bad as my half black and white and half grey mind told me it was. That way, I could see the grey that I know is there instead of thinking in extremes. I consider OCD a black and white disorder where you know life is grey, you know there is no black and white but your brain tries to make you think it is.

I have read tons of blogs, sites, magazine articles and books about OCD. I have read about mindfulness, meditation and I try to practice mindfulness meditation daily. I also am learning how to talk myself down from the anxiety induced thoughts- embrace them then disprove them.

One of my biggest anxieties is how I look- the weight I have gained over the years and the difficulties I have with finding good workouts and the perfect diet. At my biggest, I was a size 20 and 220lbs. I am now down to 170 and a size 14/16 and am working on trying to get to an 8/10 by the end of the year. I’m finally out of plus size and 20lbs away from my goal of 150 (I was muscular when I was a teen- heavier but not too bad overweight. I was in shape and everyone thought I was about 20lbs lighter because I had more muscle). At my smallest, I was a size 5 and 125lbs- what my BMI said was ideal, but told I needed to eat (concerned friends- NOT people trolling me) and was told how sick I looked- I achieved my ideal BMI for 5’5” BUT lost a lot of muscle and couldn’t hold the weight because I barely ate at that particular time.

I have promised myself I will never look at 200lbs again. It adds about 10 years to my appearance and unlike some women, I cannot pull off being overweight. I look messy and much older.

Thanks to the insecurities and issues I have with my weight, I hardly have any pictures of myself without something covering my face partially or blocking me somehow. I hide behind my kids and I hide behind other things. I do not use beauty filters and when I post videos, I will not edit them- that way it’ll push me even more. I have been doing this for a while. I am able to hand select pictures and I don’t have to use picttures at all but yesterday, I started Vlogging on Youtube. I had always thought it sounded fun, but mixing talking in front of a camera (my speech impediment prevents me from even using the intercom at work) and showing my face, it pushed me past my comfort zone. I have posted one as an introduction to who I am and the other is about growing up and living now with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I was made fun of a lot growing up because of how I talk. I have a speech impediment and had to go through years of speech therapy. Now, it sounds like more of an accent than an impediment and I do not sound like a West Virginian.

I also still get a lot of comments about it now. A lot of times it’s “I love your accent” but it can never sound sincere to me. It reminds me of being mocked all through school. I have had people refer to me as “sexy exotic” (cue laughing after saying it). I also had a kid say he liked me “except the way I walked and talked” back in middle school. I still get asked on a weekly basis where I’m from and almost disbelieved when I say I’m from here. I try to not let it get to me but after being laughed at and mocked, it’s hard. For the first time, I actually have used an intercom system in the store I work at and I did my first video. I know I’ll never get fully over the anxiety of being heard aloud, but maybe as I get older I’ll be able to handle it better.

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EDS, post 30 can your body bounce back?

I know your metabolism takes a slight hit at 30, larger hit at 35 and every 5 years or so keeps shrinking. I’m still heavier than I was pre-kids and reality is hitting me. I knew I no longer had my pre-baby body, but will I be able to go back?

I accepted the fact that pregnancy made my hips more of a problem area than they already were. I only wore a larger size (11-13 in high school) for that reason, but had an hourglass figure. When I dropped to a 14, I tried on some 17s and couldn’t get them past my hips. That was when I read that juniors and adult sizes are made different (1,3,5, etc are juniors. 2,4,6, etc are adult). Juniors are made narrow in the hips where adult jeans are made wider in the hips.

I do know that with Ehlers Danlos, collagen is affected and where it makes your skin stretchy, it seems it may be harder to just bounce back. My scars fade but they still look strange when they heal. I don’t know much else about EDS but I do have an appointment, not only with a genetic specialist, but a specialist who lives with EDS herself. But that’s in a little bit. Right now, I’ve been researching trying to find foods that can help, workouts good enough to help lose weight and tone up but also safe for Osteo and loose joints and anything else that could help me with shrinking back down.

In the past 2 years, I’m down from 220 to about 170. I’m down from a size 20 to a size 14-16. I still have 40lbs left and hoping to get down to a 6ish or 8, maybe and I have 5 years in my mind to do it. If I can get down to my goal, fix what I need to fix diet wise and perfect my ingredient reading I should be able to maintain despite my Hashimotos. I’m seeing that even thyroid isn’t as much of an excuse as people use it. I dropped 20lbs in 4 months on a good dose of thyroid medication and cutting 1 ingredient out. I’m almost 1 month back to the normal (gluten free) lifestyle and finally feeling back to how I was feeling. I just had my thyroid levels tested again and they were perfect.

Right now, I’m trying to buy less processed foods. I have quit drinking Mello Yello (but I did switch to Diet coke for the time being), I’m eating 1 grain meal a day (if that) and the rest are cooked or salad. I do need to cut condiments and I still am drinking my Starbucks double shots (1 a day), I also started to notice my sugar drops when I eat potatoes so I’m switching to sweet potatoes.

The problem is when you have multiple diagnosis’s with several recomendations for diets. Where I have obvious issues with gluten, gluten free is needed (unless I want to spend all day cramping and in the bathroom), I had the diabetic low glycemic diet recommended to me for the reactive hypoglycemia. Cutting everything that was recommended to me feels restrictive. It also makes my OCD mind feel like I’ll be depriving myself and feels like it’s a black/white situation instead of- eat this way and you’ll feel great, eat that way and feel like crap.

I’m working on disassociating food with pleasure or anything related to emotions and trying to associate it with fueling my body and nothing more. Mindfulness helps that. Taking time to savor what I eat and pay attention to it is what I’m working on. Salad tastes great, so does fruit. Sugar and snacks that are heavily processed taste like chemicals but are an addiction- I’ve read all about sugar addiction and cold turkey is the way to go with kicking it. I’ve been thinking about trying a 1 month sugar free diet to try to break it. Just not sure if I have the will power currently. I will start it at the beginning of a month this year, though. Just have to build up and do further research into it to go in armed instead of half assing it.

In my picture, I was 18. I was constantly working out but didn’t know half of what I know now. I was also healthy.

I wasn’t skinny, but I was a good 30lbs smaller than I am now.

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I introduced the EDS, This is about my life with OCD

As far back as I can remember, I struggled with everything needing to be perfect. My first memory related, was when I was in early elementary school. I had to have my work perfect. By perfect, I mean it had to look absolutely perfect- if I looped a “B,” I had to erase but if I left an eraser mark, it didn’t count and I would have to copy everything onto a new paper until there were no marks and no messy letters. To this day, people complement my handwriting. The ones I’m friends with, I’ll joke about why my handwriting is so neat, other times I’ll just thank them and move on.

Another strong memory I have from when I was in elementary school is being afraid of thinking anything profane on Sunday, after church while I still smelled like the church building. I was afraid if I let any impure thought slip, I would get struck by lightning. Needless to say, I slipped once and nothing happened. When nothing happened, I started to realize it was unfounded so that obsession slowly faded.

I also had a strong fear that if I slept with my feet uncovered, I would get drug into a Hell like dimension by a demon.I read a while back, that is actually a common fear.

When I was in later elementary school, the people I associated with outside of school were middle aged, most of whom had weight problems and were trying to lose weight. What started as me getting hooked on Diet Coke and diet specialty foods, walking and reading weight loss tips in women’s magazines turned into an obsession. Pretty soon, I had a set workout routine I HAD to follow or else, in my mind, I would gain 20lbs over night. It went from a short 5 minute workout to taking over an hour to do. It also grew from having to walk a few times a day to having to walk 12 miles, BUT the 12 miles had to be by myself, if I walked with anyone else, the calories were not burned and my count had to freeze. It also didn’t count without music, so if my walkman died in the middle of a lap, I had to redo the lap. It went from me getting anxious to punishing myself if I failed a day. I would restrict my calories as much as possible until I started having near fainting spells in 9th grade. I found out I had low blood sugar and have been dealing with that ever since. In college, I realized I had a problem by the time my obsession morphed into binging then puking. The disordered relationship I had with food (diagnosed as ED-NOS and later told sounded like OCD instead of an actual eating disorder) only ended when I had my first daughter. I made myself quit and deal with the anxiety because I didn’t want my daughter to grow up seeing her mom starve herself.

When I was little, I was told to not touch the stove- it would be hot. Needless to say, I burnt my hand but another time, I touched it and it was cold. I started testing to see whether it would be hot or cold each time I passed and before long, it was a compulsion. That compulsion/impulse happened every time I walked past an oven from the time I was around 7 or 8 until recently. Even when I was walking through an oven display at a place like Lowes (that’s always fun- tapping every stove I walk past in Lowes)

All those, along with having to bite my nails down until they are perfect, having to delete the whole sentence if I notice a typo and getting a headache when I read the misuse of “they’re, there and their,” were things I always considered quirks. That is, until it got really bad. I started getting obsessive thoughts- intrusive thoughts I could not get out of my mind. My oldest was born 3 months early, 1lb 11.5ozs and 13 inches long. She was very sick, long NICU stay and came home on oxygen. When she was 15 months, I got pregnant with her little sister. This baby didn’t live (she had a condition called Anencephaly) and that was when the OCD symptoms got bad. I got to the point I was afraid of carrying my daughter around because I’d get the image of her oxygen mask (cannula) falling off or dropping her down the stairs.

I started grief counseling through a program we had for my older daughter, mentioned the stories from when I was growing up and she told me I had OCD.

I started studying OCD and it fit perfect- it was like the puzzle pieces fell into place and it gave me such relief. She gave me a piece of advice I still use- to sit back when I have thoughts and ask myself “is this how a normal person would react?”

It has helped me through a lot, but I have had to go to normal people from time to time because, let’s be real, when you have a disorder like OCD- you do not know what normal is.

I have been reading a lot about the condition and I have been doing my best to ignore compulsions, ride out the anxiety and see that nothing horrible is happening. It gets annoying when OCD becomes my focus of obsession and when ignoring compulsions becomes a compulsion itself, but I am getting better with it.

I’ll post more on other types of OCD I have personally dealt with later, but since my diagnosis and starting to learn how to handle it, I have been trying to spread awareness of the real condition- not what everyone likes to joke about.