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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’ve been trying to get more involved in my daughter’s school

But there is a big difference between our family (young, not rich but not poor, just not upper class) and the majority of the other parents (richer area- which is one huge factor in us wanting to keep her there and make sure her sister goes to that school). It also seems like our lifestyles are different- neither of us drink. At all. We went to a charity event and almost everyone there seemed to have drinks in their hands.

We are also an estimated 10 years younger than most of the other parents I have seen. I have actually been trying to research how to socialize with people of totally different lifestyles and all that and found very little but I’m at a point, I’m modeling being nonsocial to my kids- spending my “social” time talking to friends online instead of seeing people in person. My two year old wants a playmate and my older daughter is now starting to shy away from other kids (but she is also showing interest).

I’ve been trying to put myself in situations to talk to the other parents, so this year I volunteered as the homeroom parent.

So, I have my day job

My 2 side Etsy shops

My side freelancing

Making PTA meetings, school meetings with her team at school, doctors appointments and therapist appointments (she’s in speech, occupational and physical)

and now, making sure I’m able to help out with all the things the HP is supposed to help with- not too much, only a few things and I got one knocked out yesterday afternoon.

There are two coming up next month and after that, not really much until the next party so it’s not going to be time consuming. This is the year I need to sign her up for something- something to get her around other kids her age.

This is what happens when you take someone- give them a type A along with the ADHD attention span, make them a perfectionist- take away all idea of what they want to do career wise then plop them in the middle of motherhood and give them only a part time job and very little choice with what they went to school for.

You get someone like me- the career mindedness of a Type A but with very little direction and a short attention span (unless I’m writing or talking about something like tarot or astrology, or sewing)

Finding out what my outter limits are will be fun, but I’m very far from hitting it. My kids still get attention, I still get sleep (most nights) and nothing important gets neglected. I’d much rather have a full schedule and always be heading out than a laid back day filled with nothing-

I’m still looking for that magical formula for fitting in and figuring out how to socialize with people so much different from me. Just my clothing and tattoos make me stand out- add in religion and even age and I blank when I try to figure out how to start conversations. (and the fact my daughter is special needs makes it that much harder)

I was trying to get to know another mother in a similar situation but heard her talking about church playdates. It had me thinking about looking into local places around here for Pagans- found a few groups and learned we have a larger community than I thought- now it comes down to finding the time to make it to any of the gatherings. If it’s not trying to find stuff, it’s always feeling like I’m on a time crunch- even though most of the time I’m not.

 

This should be a fun year, though. I won’t be able to attend the first PTA meeting but I’m hoping I’ll be able to make all the others and I’m hoping I’ll be able to actually volunteer this year. I may also find a way to have a little “me” time without keeping myself up this late (I need to go to bed, but I’ve been off 3 days- so that means I’ve been with my girls nonstop) I’m living for this weekend (we’re taking our anniversary trip that we had to call off last month). For 3 days, it will be just me and my husband- no certain time to get out of bed and no certain time to do anything else. I cannot wait for some true relaxation.

 

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I’m turning 30 in just under a month

I try to always set New Years Resolutions. I do it mostly for fun but this January is a milestone for me. I’ll be turning 30.

I know 30 doesn’t seem old to many people, but I thought I’d be further along than I am. I feel like I’m right back at 19. I’m working back in retail (not by choice- I went in to skin care but the highest paying job I found was retail)

All my early adulthood, I wanted to be married, 2 kids, own a home and have my dream career. I’ve been married 7 years, have the two kids (technically 3) but we rent and I work a job- not a career.

At 19, I dropped out of college, got into an abusive relationship and was stuck until I finally got away from him at 21 and ended up homeless. I bounced around from couch to couch and ended up on harder drugs. I finally woke up and cleaned up, moved back with my mom and dad and got a stable job.

At 22, I met my husband. We fell in love fast and were married in 3 months. Our oldest daughter came along a month after we eloped. (we celebrated our 7th anniversary last August, so I definitely do not regret marrying that fast nor that young- he was 10 days past 20 when we eloped and he also has no regrets). At 23, I lost the job I had and went to school- the plan was to take the six month course, graduate then the baby was due shortly after graduation, then I was going to take 6 weeks to recover and start searching for a job. Instead, she came half way through the course and I had to take maternity leave. I went back and graduated almost on time (stacked up hours before and after she was born- it was a 600 hour course) while she was still in the NICU. She had to transfer to a different NICU in a different state right after I graduated so I went on to live in the NICU room (and Ronald McDonald House) with her while my husband and parents visited occasionally but all three worked. During that time, I started loom knitting and making earrings to deal with boredom from being alone while she slept and with the hats, Bethcessories was born but not well thought out. It was just put on Etsy and forgotten. After she came home, we took her out grocery shopping one time, she got sick and ended up in the PICU and on the vent. It was that moment (along with some bad experiences with a few home care nurses) that made me realize I’d be unable to work and put her in daycare and at that time, we were unable to find jobs that would allow us to work around each other’s schedules.

During that time, I found I was unable to get into the local colleges but was able to get the financial aid restriction lifted at the college I left but I’ve had the major issue of- do I want to go into debt for a job that doesn’t pay well but I am passionate about or do I want something I don’t really like much but makes more money?

The logic vs emotion disagreement has had me torn apart and is why I’ve successfully been re accepted 4 times, had almost everything planned out perfectly but then one tiny thing always falls through.

The very last New Year’s Resolution I kept was back on January 2, 2010- I promised myself I’d stay away from all drugs and as of right now, I’m going on 8 years clean. It’s something I’d be proud of- if it was a challenge, but it was my way of dealing with the trauma of what happened to me in those two years and lasted such a short time, it was very much against everything I have ever stood for and due to my nature, I know I’ll never be tempted to go back. It feels like it threw off my life path and since then, I’ve lived in regret and even shame that it happened. I know it’s me holding myself back from my goals but it feels like that one year threw me off so bad.

 

Most of what I have wanted to do ended up being dead end or low paying.

My cousin got a Bachelors in what I was originally wanting to get into (interior design), spent a year out of college (my senior year of high school) and couldn’t find a single job- back when the economy was better so I changed my mind.

I started off in communications (journalism) then switched to marketing before I dropped out.

My first job was writing for the local newspaper in a teen section they had weekly. I loved going to the meetings, doing the interviews and writing the articles. I had a friend who did it professionally (a huge dream) but it was lower paying. I went to beauty school to get into make up artistry (it’s always been a dream to either write for a fashion magazine or work behind the scenes at a runway show, now I’m too old to get into that. I’d be in my mid 30s by the time I graduated and I’m sure most places want an early 20 something fresh out of school to intern and I only studied skin, most make up artists need to be able to do hair as well, I believe)

I’ve read so many blogs and articles on so many different websites that seem to reinforce the fact that women are pretty much useless both career or otherwise after they hit the mid 20s, that what you make in your 20s is the highest you’ll make and if you’re not lined up to move up in your career by the time you’re 30, you’re screwed so it does kind of give me the mind set of “why bother?” I wouldn’t say I wasted my 20s. I loved staying at home with my oldest, I wanted kids young and the biological clock is a real thing but now I’m out of that stage (I very happily signed to be sterilized after my third c section) and as my youngest gets older, I’m thinking more seriously about career (the plan- first kids and focus on education then focus on building career while kids are older and in school. I didn’t want to have to freeze a career for 6 weeks to go on maternity leave- it happened when I was in a salon and it killed the career I was starting to build but I also wasn’t a proper fit in that particular salon)

People always tell me to not plan so rigidly- that life always throws curves into plans, but trying to have a plan is one of the best ways my ADHD mind is able to focus.

I had another plan to have my main work ready to send to try to get traditionally published by the time I was 30. Thanks to my OCD perfectionist personality, I literally spent 4 years editing the same 3 pages and am no closer to finishing it than I was when I finished the rough draft (the story is fully written from front to back- but I want this one traditionally published so I want it perfect). Once again, I had friends who have been published telling me I needed to stop being so hard on my work, stop overthinking and to not have such high standards for myself. My new goal is to have it ready by 35. I actually have several others started (thanks to Nanowrimo- a fun challenge I do every November)

I’m not sure why I’m writing this, I have severe anxiety over turning 30 and I guess I need to just get it out.