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I told myself I would never be that person; you know, the girl who’s extremely stick-thin? The one whose ribs show beneath her shirt? The one who only eats a morsel here and there? Except my story differs extremely from the typical person who starves themselves. I don’t have any body image problems, which is the hallmark of anorexia. While I control my weight––the primary symptom, according to Mayo Clinic––I don’t really care about the number on the scale.
So, if I don’t have self-esteem issues about my physical appearance, then how in the world did I find myself here? As a counseling major, I constantly communicate with people who have either been through an eating disorder or who are going through an eating disorder. I know all the symptoms; I know how it destroys lives; I know how it has caused deaths and destruction. Although I know only negative consequences come from these disorders, I still developed one.
You’re a coward, my mind said. And then I did what I would with any client: I dug deeper. I asked myself, “What is going on in my head?” It was then that I realized I felt like I lost control of my life. I have five jobs, play in wind ensemble, edit for the student magazine, and have a puppy to take care of. Basically, I have my hands full––and I’m enjoying it. However, I can’t actually enjoy that joy because I’m so busy worrying about all the things that go wrong each day.
Words of affirmation are my love language. So, when I don’t receive encouragement or some sort of verbal support, I panic. I wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I lose sight of what drives me and dive deep into a pit of despair.
I feel unlovable and rejected when my supervisor doesn’t notice that I spent three hours blistering my hands and killing my feet as I scrubbed the floor at the coffee shop. I feel stupid when I make mistakes and people don’t offer moral support. I feel invisible when I share my book with people and they don’t even care. It often feels like I don’t exist, even though I do everything with the utmost excellence. I become angry when my coworkers receive praise for the little things they do, and I never even receive a simple “thank you.” My hard work often remains unnoticed, and I wonder how in the world I’m never good enough for other people.
I even feel so ashamed about my feelings. I should have control over them since I’ve taken classes about helping people through their problems. However, I don’t. My emotions often control me to the point that I can’t even concentrate on anything. To the point where I feel so much that I don’t feel anything anymore. HealthyPlace states that this is actually typical for people with OCPD because they become uncomfortable in situations where they don’t have control. I actually recall telling my previous therapists that I feel so powerless and depressed when I work so hard and can’t control others’ perceptions of myself. It seems like no matter how much I try to make them like me, how much extra work I do, they never learn to even appreciate me as a person.
How does this connect to Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder? One of the common diagnostic factors is the need to control everything. Basically, I think if I can will it, then it is possible. So, when something different than expected occurs, I flip out. I overanalyze every painstaking detail of the situation and wonder, how did I not prevent this? How did my plan fail? Why can’t I make things any better? Why is my life falling apart?
Second, OCPD often interferes with relationships because they think other people can’t tolerate their flaws. While this may be true for a couple of people in a person’s life, the majority actually don’t really care too much. However, for people like me, we just can’t believe that. We believe that, if we can’t tolerate our own mistakes and incompetence, then other people surely can’t. My head tells me that I should know better, and my heart says, I just want affirmation. I just want someone to say, “You’re valuable.”
In addition, OCPD often results in extreme perfectionism in regards to oneself as a person. This desire for affirmation often comes from that need for order in life. Therefore, relationships can die a painful death when someone from OCPD doesn’t feel affirmed. They’ll often door-slam people (similar to INFJs) when they realize that someone won’t encourage them, or they’ll start hating their job because their coworkers and boss don’t appreciate them. And then they spend the rest of the day in self-hatred and social-avoidance.
OCPD is also commonly comorbid with eating disorders due to overexercise––whether that comes from an obsession with weight or, in my case, the need to shed shame and other negative feelings. Although exercise is healthy, I work out to the point of exhaustion; to the point where it harms my body and doesn’t help it. Plus, overexercise just exacerbates the consequences of my choice to avoid food.
Clearly, I know how my OCPD and eating disorder affects me and about their negative consequences. Everything caught up with me three weeks ago when I had a panic attack at work. A PTSD flashback actually triggered that, but had I eaten consistently, I probably could have powered through.
After that, I decided it was time to start eating again––even if I felt nauseous. Even if I didn't feel hungry. Not eating is literally playing with fire; your mental and physical energy literally burn away until you can't even recognize yourself. That's what happened to me. Joyful Jehn suddenly became distant, isolating, cynical, and irritable. I don't wish that upon anyone else, and that's why I share this story, even if it means making myself vulnerable.