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Nellie

Being good enough/perfect - new attitude needed

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Hi there

I’ve been struggling with what I think is OCD for many years.  The specific obsession changes frequently (except a few that have lasted months/years), but I think the overall theme is the same, it’s the idea that I have possibly made a terrible mistake in something I’ve said or done, with possibly catastrophic consequences.  I seem to think I can’t trust myself to be good enough, both in terms of being capable and being morally good, so I judge my ongoing behaviour constantly and review past behaviour to discover what might have been bad, how bad, and how I might be able to fix it now.  When I have tried to fix it, it usually goes weird because I’m confessing something to someone who didn’t think it was an issue and now thinks I’m behaving weirdly, or else I’ve just stirred up something that really would have been better left alone, so then I have something new to worry about.

I think rather than tackling specific issues I need a way to deal with them all in a particular way that I can hopefully remember to use with every issue as it crops up.  I’ve read a few OCD books and learned a huge amount from this forum but I’m not too good yet at the practice.  I think I need to willingly give up the fantasy that I can go through life behaving “perfectly”.  Although that looks stupid written down, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do forever.  I need to never let anyone down or get myself or anyone else into trouble by any of my actions or disappoint anyone etc.  But I can’t live like this.  It’s making me very sad and ill and I hate it.  I think I need to get the idea that life is full of mistakes and my role in life is not to avoid or fix them all, but just keep moving on doing a reasonably good job and not keep looking back.  It makes me anxious just to write that down though because I’m so keen to know that I’ve been good enough. 

So I think I need to do the cognitive stuff to get me to the point of willingly giving up the perfectionism.  I do see that I’m basically a good, nice person, and that when I do make mistakes I don’t necessarily need a whole load of blame for them because many things would have contributed that were not all entirely down to me, and that anyway, it is normal to make some mistakes, and I’m allowed to forgive myself for them like I’d forgive anyone else.  I’ve made a start by reminding myself of these things when I wake up, whereas previously I’d have launched straight into a deep examination of my current obsession.  So I’m not initiating ruminations myself as much as I was a few months ago.  And when new issues hit, I seem to be slightly better at not letting them get completely out of hand … although that might be because I’m so consumed by my one major current issue that I don’t have time to create new ones.

I do still ruminate though, and beat myself up, and I can see that this needs to stop, this is no way to live, and nobody would think I should be doing this.  The things that catch me out are the many things that crop up in a day that remind me of whatever I’m currently worried about.  My current issue has been with me for months and has become a monster that I seem to be able to trigger with hundreds of everyday words or concepts that just crop up in life, on the radio, in conversation or whatever.  Then the ruminations start and are away before I see them, and I’m back in the hole and digging it deeper.  This happens a number of times every day, often with panic symptoms of racing heart, feeling sick, whooshing sound in ears etc.

I guess I need to notice the rush of anxiety when it hits, and let that be a signal to remind myself of what’s happening, then let the feelings happen and not fight them, and try to have trust in the more reasonable ideas that I tell myself in the morning, and trust that the anxiety will go away and that by doing this enough times my life should get better.  Does that sound right?  I am really miserable and out of energy with all of this but then again I feel so awful that it’s giving me some motivation to change, because I’m so very fed up of it all.  I’ve had some CBT but it didn’t make a huge impact.  I think I really just need to do a lot of work myself and it will take a lot longer than the few weeks I could pay for in therapy.

Thanks for listening. 

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If you look at your first paragraph above, you talk about judging if you've done something wrong and trying to figure how how to fix it. You also mentioned confessing. Those are your compulsions. Those need to stop. As well as ruminating.

You need to get to a place where you get an intrusive thought that you made a mistake, you say Oh well, and leave it alone.

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Thanks Polar Bear. I appreciate your help.
I've been trying every day but failing, and not failing better. When I'm not obsessing over my worries I'm starting to obsess over how to tackle them. I'm getting depressed with it all, it's relentless. 
 I think I need to stop pretending I can carry on as I am. So instead I think I will pretend I had a therapist and try the proper exposure/hierarchy route by myself, with forum as support. 
So here is my plan. Start with the following, and if/when they get much easier, add new things to work on. 


1. Stop doing mental punctuation with my thoughts and mentally making out intervals between notes when I hear or imagine music. (These aren't distressing but I think I do them for similar reasons as worrying - I.e., using my time to get better at something, don't be lazy...in other words, just more ways of trying to be a good person). This is hard to stop as I do it virtually constantly at the moment and I think noticing the urge and not reacting might be a skill I need to learn.
2. Stop checking doors, taps, cooker, handbrake, etc.
3. Stop re-reading emails to get them perfect before sending and re-reading multiple times after sending, sometimes emailing again to clarify my meaning.


I'm putting this here as a marker of my intention, as if you all in the forum were my therapist. Hoping that will make it more substantial than just a vague aim that only I know about.
Thanks.
 

Edited by Nellie

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Hi Nellie,

Is there any way you could get access to a therapist? I think it would greatly benefit you. I have been where you are a few weeks ago I made the decision that enough was enough, I needed to deal with these thoughts of never being allowed to make a mistake. I had a bit of a blip last week where I entered back into rumination and felt horrible. 

No one is perfect, no one will ever be perfect and therefore there's no point trying. Polar Bear is 100% right and I've found his advice to be extremely helpful. I've made mistakes in the past which recently I felt the need to run and confess. Now when the thought enters my head I just say oh whatever! It REALLY works, even a few minutes ago I had an intrusive thought telling me I was a bad person. If I engaged with that thought and tried to solve it I would have wasted my day away, (as I had done last week), instead I just say SO WHAT! and I can honestly say my intrusive thoughts have reduced dramatically.

Good luck!

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Thanks. I'm not seeing a therapist at the moment. I would absolutely love to see one If they were good but last year's experience was not great. Could have been my fault not theirs of course but either way I'm not motivated to spend hundreds of pounds doing the same thing again just yet. 
In the meantime thanks for the encouragement. Great to hear you're got so far with the mistakes thing - that's good inspiration for me. The idea of saying "so what" to the mistakes I've made  feels far away for me just now, too unachievable.  Can I ask, did you go straight to dealing with it, or do you work up to it in small steps?
Feeling a bit hopeful though. Had some small successes not checking email and taps yesterday (as well as a number of failures but that's ok) and will try going out without checking cooker and front door today. A bit anxious thinking about it so hopefully if I manage it I will be learning something.  Hope I can get to the big mistakes eventually but expecting it to take months at least.
X

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I seen 2 other therapists before I seen my current therapist who I just didn’t click with. They were more like counsellors and therefore weren’t sufficiently trained in OCD and CBT which was a big problem! If you research correctly you can find some people who can really help.

To be honest if you told me a couple of weeks ago where I’d be now in how good I’m doing, I would have told you that it wasn’t possible. I still get quite a few of these intrusive thoughts and some days they’re worse than others but it’s just not getting stuck on the loop or compulsions, just letting the thought come and saying ‘so what’ to the thoughts. The intrusive thoughts are (for the most part) becoming less and less each day 🙂

Going over and over mistakes day in day out has been an issue for me and I figured it was better to forgive myself, learn from my mistakes and move on because punishing yourself in your head will do absolutely nothing and get you nowhere and to be honest turned me into a grumpy and not so nice person to be around. Instead, it’s better to focus on what I can do in the PRESENT of today, rather than lying around the house, punishing myself.

 

It’s hard I know, but it’s really worth it 🙂

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I can identify with this a crazy amount nellie. I have very similar issues. Like me, you seem to think something like "if I am not in this box marked PERFECT then there's only one other box I can be in which is marked AWFUL". Although we know in theory that there is a grey area, a spectrum, we don't FEEL it. And imperfection feels so threatening to us because if we're not prefect then we must be abhorrent right? There's only two options in our minds. 

I don't have any words of wisdom right now as I am struggling too but just wanted to say you're not alone. Stay strong xx 

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Thanks greentop. I have not been able to do the "so what" thing yet. You said about forgiving yourself and I think that's maybe important. Sometimes I can do that, sometimes not. It's not sticking, if you see what I mean. But again, maybe I need practice at forgiving myself for the less troublesome issues and that might help me work up towards forgiving myself for bigger things?


Thank you gingerbreadgirl. I've seen some of your posts and identify hugely with you too. With the perfectionism thing, I've noticed it doesn't matter what good stuff I've done, because when I think of one of the bad things, I start to imagine what people would say, how disappointed they'd be, just appalled by me, I see their faces.... and that is horrifying. I feel it's not an option to have that be a possibility so I have to find a way out: hence, compulsions, and they not only make the worry worse but sometimes make the situation itself worse. What a mess! 


Feeling very wobbly today after obsession-related bad dreams and lost sleep. On the up-side I did ok yesterday with locks and emails (not checking, or hardly at all), and am thinking of adding new items to my hierarchy in a few days: not rehearsing upcoming conversations in my head and not replaying old conversations - again, I currently spend much of my days doing these and I don't think they're helping me.


X
 

Edited by Nellie

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Nellie, I honestly want to high-five you for this because you express yourself really well; so many could relate to what you're saying. I know I can and I think there's many who could. You clearly recognise the issue and you're doing your best. It's taken a long time for me to realise that we can't be perfect, but I got there eventually; it's something we can keep mulling over and I often ruminate over whether or not I'm going enough. So I do understand. You should be proud of yourself for how you're currently doing because you're aware and you're keeping up the good fight. 

:hug: Keep it up.

C x

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Wow thanks so much Cub for such an encouraging, supportive message. Very much appreciated.  Xxx
 

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There is something we call Get Right Ocd, 50% of those with OCD have this. It's based on perfectionism.

Edited by Handy

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59 minutes ago, Handy said:

There is something we call Get Right Ocd, 50% of those with OCD have this. It's based on perfectionism.

Again, I question where you get your information. There was a study some years ago that reported 50% of all sufferers will have Contamination OCD at some point. The other 50% was divided up among the many other themes.

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2 minutes ago, PolarBear said:

Again, I question where you get your information. There was a study some years ago that reported 50% of all sufferers will have Contamination OCD at some point. The other 50% was divided up among the many other themes.

I find this really interesting pb. You've got to wonder whether 50% really do have contamination ocd, or whether it's just that those people are the ones most likely to receive a correct diagnosis. 

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Yeah, not sure. It did say that 50% of the study participants would have Contamination OCD, at some point. The last three words are key.

In my view, Handy's statement is way off. I've helped hundreds, maybe even a thousand sufferers to date. Only a handful (maybe 10?) had Perfectionism OCD.

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I have this problem as well. If it is about what I produce or what I own. I think that we have to accept that we as humans can't get this (control) where everything is perfect. For one with this problem the world becomes cruel, let's say your house burn down or you involved in a accident then everything changes. Life happened. We are trying to get control so we can feel certain.

And when you have started it always spirals, and you have to break down at some point because even the smallest ill-fortune can blow it all.

What you have to do is to be very aware when thise thoughts shows up, maybe it just gives you some relief after a stressful day to have things in a certain way but it always grows.

 

Just some thoughts about wanting control, what perfectionism is all about.

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Hi. I'm on Day 7 of trying to tackle things with a hierarchy, so logging how my week has gone.


With my current low-level hierarchy items I am making progress :  surprisingly good with not checking emails; surprisingly anxious with not checking taps. And a lot of fails with the cooker!


I've also noticed that I have hundreds  of compulsions!  I had no idea!  At first this realisation was horrifying.  Now I see it as hopeful.  I can try working on them.  It's like seeing a path that might lead out of the darkness, or a new set of steps along that path. (So if the main path is "stopping compulsions", then spotting new ones to stop is like a new step on my path being lit up for me to take.)  New ones I've recently noticed:

 

  • Asking myself whether I'm using my time wisely at this moment, whether there's something else I should be doing.  I ask myself what various other people might say about it:  how well am I doing in their eyes?
  • (Actually, that's the same for decision-making too :  if I decide X, what would Z have to say about that, especially if the outcome is Y?)
  • Didn't think it before but I seem to have a few related to magical thinking. E.g. when a deadline changed I thought it somehow didn't apply to me and I made sure I met the original deadline just in case.
  • Practicing coping. I mentally rehearse a feared situation and how I might respond in order to be more ready when it happens.
  • Scanning for problems. I think I do this as a way to work out what to do at any time, because I have a core fear that I don't know what I'm doing (don't know how to do "life"). So I assume there's bound to be something going wrong; to be a good person I now need to find it and fix it. That must be a "good" way to spend my time.

 

I've realised I am basically anxious almost all the time, minimum 95%, probably more. So I'm constantly trying to reduce it by looking for a problem and fixing it. So this is like the lowest possible level of hierarchy: no actual trigger, just need to sit with the anxiety. Even this is challenging, but not terrifying. No wonder I can't yet handle the anxiety of "I've ruined various people's lives" though when literally no trigger is so hard!

 

Ok that's it for now. Thanks for your support. It's definitely helping. :)


X

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Cool that you have found so many compulsions. The first one is one I have had too. 

You can't be perfect and life is in its core uncertain.

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Thank you OCDhavenobrain.  Yes, it's a big lesson to learn, I think. And it's going to take some time to properly sink in.

Also, how nice to have people I can say this stuff to and they get it!!  A lovely thing after so many years :)

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