When people think of a personality disorder I think they think of a moody woman that isn’t stable. That’s what I thought anyway.
That’s only a small portion of them though. A personality disorder is really just an observation that the person isn’t “meeting societal norms.”
They are different, literally. Sometimes this amounts to good qualities, sometimes bad.
So I have one of those. It’s called obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and it is NOT the same as OCD. OCD is generally something that is created later in life, I’ve had mine since I was born. In fact, a lot of people in my family do whether they want to get help for it or not. Also people with OCD recognize their behavior is off whereas people with OCPD generally do not. I didn’t, until I met Jesse. Jesse helped me a lot with this. I am glad he helped me work through it.
I was pretty upset when I was told by my doctor I had that. Who the fuck wants a personality disorder!?! But Jesse simply said it was more of a superpower than anything else.
So here’s what it is (via iocdf.org)
- Rigid adherence to rules and regulations.
- An overwhelming need for order.
- Unwillingness to yield or give responsibilities to others.
- A sense of righteousness about the way things “should be done.”
There’s a lot more to it than this, but this is a basic outline to what it is. Listening to the rules doesn’t sound too bad, but it is when you obsess over them and create your own. It’s bad when thats all you think about. Or you work a 20 hour day to meet the requirements of how things should be done and refuse help.
So for me, my sense of righteousness is an obsession with morality and honesty, hence my blogs on killing myself and sleeping with Jesse’s friend… and now my medical diagnoses. To me righteousness means being as candid as possible because that is how people progress. Think about it, anything that has ever changed was because of someone speaking up, not being silent. Because of someone telling the truth even when no one wanted to hear it or agreed. Doing the objectively right thing is something I always obsess over also. Popular and right are not the same. I have learned though that sometimes an objective right is hard to spot.
I do not like, but have had to, let others help me. I prefer to do tasks my way. Catch me on a bad day and I might be upset about how someone folded a towel. Do it perfectly or don’t do it. I don’t delegate many tasks out because I do not trust that it will be done correctly. I only delegate tasks if the person has “proven” to me that they don’t cut corners. So far this leaves my daughter Chloe and my friend Stephanie. Not a long list of trust going on.
Things must be in order. Chaos is horrible. I prefer things to be consistent and pretty much predictable. I want to stick to a schedule. That schedule is usually intense also. When I only had one child, part of our morning routine was to learn words in Mandarin and Spanish. So ridiculous. Who has time for that. Not me.
For the most part, I also like to follow rules. I love rules. This is probably why I love law. There is a caveat to this though, rules do not trump morality for me. At my Catholic law school we are told over and over a law that is not just is no law at all. This is a simplified version of what Thomas Aquinas said and I fully agree. Laws must be just. If they are not just, they should not be laws. So morality trumps listening to every rule, unless it is a just rule.
It is also an obsession with perfectionism and control. Two things I have clearly failed at.
Keeping Jesse alive? Fail.
Keeping Jesse sober? Also fail, but win, but fail, but also win, win, win, win, fail. Oh that’s right, *reminder to self* I do NOT have control over that.
I have applied my principles of morality/perfectionism/etc. to everything in life and it’s very clear if you look at things I’ve done.
- Commute to and from my home to my undergrad college (University of Florida) which was an 8 hour round trip twice a week with a small child and pregnant. I did this for 2 years to earn my bachelors.
- After all 4 C-sections (From age 19-31) I have been back on the move, either to work, school, or soccer practice within 4 days of surgery.
- Going to law school with 3 little kids and a husband in an active nasty addiction. Spend countless hours running a house, taking 18 credit hours, and figuring out how to get Jesse sober (more to come on this). All of this and I would still occasionally make the highest score on exams out of all 97ish students.
- Continuing law school 2 weeks after Jesse died, giving birth in the middle of the semester to a fatherless child, and only failing one class.
You get the idea. Sometimes people say to me “Wow that is so impressive, how do you do it?” and I just want to reply “Thanks! It’s personality disorder.” But I also don’t want to scare them so I remain quiet.
My personality doesn’t allow for rest, to me that is imperfect. That’s another reason I am in therapy because being a workaholic doesn’t help anyone (but it also doesn’t kill anyone so stop blaming me for Jesse’s death lol). This standard I only apply to myself, not others. I am actually understanding of others to a fault. This is why I was able to love and live with a bipolar addict for 13 years. He had so much good in there.
Jesse and therapy helped make me a little more balanced, but also it’s inherent. Which means no matter how hard I try those things in my personality just kind of stick even though I try to water them down.
So what does this have to do with grief?
Grief has “rules” to get better. These rules give some sort of control over grieving. Sounds good to me.
So I looked up the rules to recovery. The things I needed to do if I had any chance of not rotting away to nothing, and literally did as many as I possibly could. Even if it met it hurt (note: they all hurt). Because for months I woke up every morning questioning why I am still here. I wanted to just stay in bed and not leave it. Not go take care of the kids. Alone. Again. And again. And again for eternity.
Every one had their normal life but mine was fucked. No one saw Jesse enough besides us to hurt 24/7. They could pretend. We couldn’t.
I should have caught on early that I was trying to “win at grief,’ but of course I didn’t. I almost didn’t even publish my website because I knew I’d have spelling errors. I literally just had to say “Fuck it. That’s stupid Rochelle. Just publish it.” You aren’t a perfect person get over yourself.
I am about to do another list, which is a major red flag of OCPD, see the trend here? I am obsessed with list.
How do you objectively “win at grief”? Well first I had to read everything I could get my hands on from self help books to Japanese poetry on death, every article I could find, speak to every widow I could talk to and here’s my list my OCPD came up with:
- You need support: This doesn’t mean for a day, it means for months with a reassurance of forever. Support is being able to say “Damn this hurts” and people tell you “yes it does I am sorry.” Not diminish or try to make the pain prettier. It also means that the griever needs to also be able to recognize that support looks different from everyone. One of my attorney friends supported me by helping me fill out my BAR application, but she probably wouldn’t have done so hot watching all of my kids and a newborn. My mom isn’t even a widow yet, so she had no advice, but she could help with Wren really well. People can help, it just needs to be in a way that makes sense to them too.
- Get a good therapist: This one is hard. I luckily had already found mine. But consistent therapy helps figure out what is going on, what has happened, and what may happen. Having a plan and knowing what you are doing is normal is extremely important. My therapist and I are currently discussing how everything could crash at any given moment and what would lead up to it.
- Read everything: All of my severed relationships only surprised others, they did NOT surprise me. Any grief book essentially tells you how predicatable all of it is. So with that information you should work to be aware and prevent. If no one wants to meet you half way then cut ties.
- Make yourself do things: I hated this one. My therapist told me I had to do this. I barely would even shower, but he wanted me to go get my nails done? Ugh. No. Luckily I had an awesome friend that didn’t really ask my opinion she just booked a massage for me. I had to go and it helped.
- Protect your energy: Advice from the same friend. If it’s depleting your mental health get rid of it. There’s no more time to waste. If you feel uncomfortable, sad, angry do your best to pinpoint the cause and eliminate it. Cleanse yourself of bad habits and damaging people.
- Talk/Write: I see so many widows say “oh my God, so this is weird but…. Is that normal??” I’ve never seen a “no thats not normal” answer. Its kind of like when you see a funny video and you thought you were the only one who did that but it turns out everyone did. So speak up. While we are all unique we are also incredibly the same. Don’t be afraid. Just say it.
- Let yourself feel things: Be angry. Be sad. Positive vibes only aren’t real and they suck. Sometimes you have to have other emotions. Just don’t take them out on others.
- Organize your life: All those silly things we hear over and over again like exercise and eat right? Do them. Make a schedule. Plan out family game nights and stick to them (however much of your family isn’t dead, invite them over).
- Improve everything around you: I’ve always liked doing yard work but now I find “projects” to do outside. Mulch an area, garden, clean the garage out. Inside my house is the same. I do not have a brand new house so there is always something to work on. Improve people around you by helping them if you are able to.
- Do things you wouldn’t do: I pretty much said fuck it and just came up with more “chores” for myself. One of these was publishing a blog. Another one was making Wren a TikTok and IG account where I focus on her life, travels, outfits. It’s like another hobby and distraction for myself. Also, I figured since I couldn’t give her a dad I may as well give her somewhat of a privileged life. I am trying to so that with all the kids, within reason.
- Do what you want: Widows are judged no matter what they do. So just go do it. If it makes you happy screw everyone else. You already went through the worst thing.
By giving all these “tips” I am in no way trying to be a grief coach. I’m simply writing out what has helped me thus far. This is the list that my compulsive personality came up with and if I do all these things I might be perfect at grief. (Obviously not true, my mind just thinks I have control over everything).
Grief isn’t linear. So while I am doing better as I write this I could also relapse and be right back at square one. Grief just blows. But since I’ve been doing a little better I figured I’d take the opportunity to talk about my OCPD and how it impacts my grieving.
And I figured I’d mention the OCPD because if I have to start getting into the reality of addiction, unhealthy family dynamics, abuse, suppression of traumas and all other things that aren’t too great, I should probably explain my problems first.
Which I don’t mind doing.