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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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I haven’t fully quit smoking yet but today I have only smoked 6 so far.

My quit date (for myself and not to deal with the smoking ban) is next month.

To take my mind off cigarettes, I

Swept upstairs and the stairs

Vacuumed and shampooed all carpet

Cleaned the litter box (due to allergies, I typically leave it to my husband)

Cleaned the stove and burners

Cleaned my coffee pot

Made roll dough for pepperoni rolls soon

Bought and planted a couple flowers with the kids

Made a much more detailed dinner than I usually do

Now, I’m resting and wiped out but it did keep cigarettes off my mind and I didnt even crave. All those chores are nothing, but I usually dont do that much in one day. I figure if I can cut back enough, I should have no issues going cold Turkey.

I am working on compiling a list of things to do instead-

Sew something

Loom knit something

A few minutes of meditation

Deep breathing

Play in the kitchen

Clean something

Organize something

Write a blog entry or work on one of my short stories

What else could I add?

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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.