How Perfectionism caused my OCD

I know I haven’t been an active blogger recently and there has been a big reason why. And I am going to share it, as I feel like it’s something other people have faced or are facing. This has been one of the hardest posts I have written and rewritten; please be nice and sorry for my absence!

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Perfectionism.

The ability to not accept a standard less than perfection.

A personality trait that is often characterized by a person’s strive for flawlessness. Along with the setting of high performance standards and often accompanied by highly critical self-evaluations.

The ultimate problem with perfection is that no matter how hard you try, 9 times out of 10 It is completely unobtainable. True, you can be the best at something, but that does not equate to perfection. So, having any issue with perfectionism ultimately creates the paradox of striving to be perfect but in doing so you become imperfect.

I was diagnosed with Perfectionism and OCD in my final year of university. At first, I did not take it that seriously; until I developed anxiety like symptoms and subsequently developed habits to try and counter them.

“Perfection is the enemy of the good”
– Voltaire

The Lead Up

Before all this happened, I did have trouble with my self-esteem and confidence, as a consequence for being horrendously ill with a plethora of infections. I don’t want to delve into the heavy details on it now as it’s a good few months of my life I wish to forget, but the illnesses lead to some pretty nasty scars that I still have two years on. Over the summer of 2016 when this happened, I also struggled with trying to make myself less of the ill mess that I was and back to some form of attractiveness – something that is so stupid now I reflect on it. One of my main forms of income was with a Brand Ambassador company, I won’t mention the name, that were meticulous about appearance. The uniform included red lipstick, perfect hair, manicured nails and at least 2-inch heels. I was informed that as I did not upkeep my blonde hair regularly, I would have trouble finding gigs with them when I had roots showing, so I dyed my hair brunette. The jobs were not fantastic, it was mainly standing outside stores handing out flyers and encouraging customers to come into the store. But it paid very well for what it was, and quite frankly that summer I needed the money.

This was not the first not good enough feedback I got that summer. I was constantly reminded of this every time I caught my reflection. This took a negative turn on my opinion of myself, especially my appearance. When I had my blonde hair I had more confidence with myself and who I was, after being so very sick; so embracing the brunette change did not happen easily. Along with this change I convinced myself I needed to lose a lot of weight as I started to see myself as a fat dumpy girl with boring brown hair. No one would want that. I did start to miss days of eating and when I did eat it was once a day. I replaced food with coffee, anxiety for exhaustion day in day out. I started to sleep for only a few hours and night and wake up every day at 5am full of anxious energy. It was not good. I hit my lowest weight and dress size that summer, being 114lbs (52kg).

You can imagine my self-esteem and self-confidence was shattered. 

 

Returning to Uni

I had to make the decision of going back to university to complete my degree, or abandon it completely. At this point, I was already £40,000 in debt to student loans, most of my peers had graduated and I had no faith in myself.  I would be going back completely fresh. It sounds awesome now I look back at it, but unfortunately back then, I saw it that I was a failure in comparison to my peers. I would be the laughing stock for taking extra time to get that little piece of paper. I would be alone.

Registering to continue my studies meant I had to go with all the new first years to the main hall to manually register my courses and attendance. Something that I was definitely not ready for. I remember being so anxious that I ran up and down the stairs in the Arts Centre twelve times before going and registering. But I did it and I was going back to study.

Luckily, due to my involvement in clubs and societies, I did know a few people still knocking about at university, and actually made friends. I started to worry about having anxiety when I started to stop making myself run upstairs twelve times or clapping each hand twelve times. I caught myself doing it when in lectures when I missed something or during archery practise when I forgot part of my form. It was not the greatest of moments for me.

This vice was not sufficient for my written work. I found myself rewriting paragraphs in essay’s multiple times, and this perfection notion grew and grew until I just deleted the whole essay and started from scratch. Over and over. This would add hours onto my library sessions taking them to the small hours of the morning. I was overworking myself to the point I made myself have a sit-down talk to my personal tutor. I told him about the rewriting and the anxiety and I was referred to a university counsellor and was made to see a doctor.

“Imperfection and perfection go so hand in hand, and our dark and our light are so intertwined, that by trying to push the darkness or the so-called negative aspects of our life to the side… we are preventing ourselves from the fullness of life.”
– Jeff Bridges

Counselling

People say that talking is the best therapy, and I concur with this, just not with my first counsellor. The doctor I initially saw before Counsellor No.1 offered me medication for anxiety, in which I refused as I didn’t want to be taking any more pills. The doctor diagnosed me with a perfectionism-based OCD and referred me to No.1. Before this, I have had no interaction of experience with counselling, but was definitely not ready for the first few sessions. The very first thing the counsellor said to me, after knowing had issues with perfectionism and my image, was “You can never be perfect”. That was that. I disregarded everything he said afterwards as he clearly did not understand. He also asked weird questions about my family that had no relevance to the matter at hand which gave me good reason to just stop the counselling right there.
Instead I saw a counsellor from the university who got me to talk about situations that made me anxious and just confront them without using my vices and see what happened. Seemed completely insane to me. How can I just walk into a building I’ve never been to before without counting to 12 in my head? The craziest of notions, but I started doing that and also taking elevators to avoid the whole running up and down stairs issue. After a while it got a bit better, until I had an incident with my roommate. (Another topic that I will write about in a different blog post). I rewrote the 14000 words 12 times. But that has been the last thing I’ve rewritten 12 times.

Counselling didn’t help with the concept of my body image now that was something I needed to fix on my own accord and not by over or under eating. (Again thats something I will cover more on in a different post.)

 

The Positives

Not everything about the perfectionism was doom and gloom and here’s a quick summary of the best bits:

  • I got some of my best marks
  • Archery PBs were constantly broken
  • I cared less about my appearance *
  • Cleaning and organisation are arguably on point
  • Anxiety changed to confidence through perseverance
  • I moved country!
  • I can work in guest services everyday and not flounder

*I say this as a positive, but I did go up to 178lbs… so maybe too less caring.

 

 And now?

Well it’s now been almost 2 years that I was told of my perfectionism and OCD, and well some things are better. I don’t do the stair thing nearly as much and can happily go into new buildings without hesitation. Of course some days are worse than others. That is just how the cookie crumbles for me.

 

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Wow that was really hard to write as I have not told many people about this or the diagnosis and said it was anxiety as that seems to be more prevalent and accepted in society. Having perfectionism is a positive curse for me as it has led me to flourish and achieve my dreams while counting to twelve alot….

Please feel free to comment, like share or even ask me anything about this. I’m putting myself out there so you don’t have to.

 

Links to my sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brionymollyphoto/

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3 thoughts on “How Perfectionism caused my OCD

  1. So proud of your achievements. You forgot to say the councillor asked if your parents were divorced/ in a happy relationship. Sorry we should’ve got divorced and that would have put you more easily in a box and saved them time! Only kidding, you’ve come a long way my beautiful, intelligent daughter. Love you xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It takes a lot of currage to wright so detail about such a personal thing, Briony! And you have just done that! So good! I am sure this will be good for many people to read about. Both them who strugle with the same, but also those who dont know so much about this.

    Liked by 1 person

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