Some OCDcon friends and I just held our Second Annual Exposure Therapy Holiday Gift Exchange. The goal is to gift the individual something that will make their OCD angry, but is still lighthearted and coming from a place of love. Good friends give you reassurance, great friends give you exposures.
We all update a list with our current OCD themes, so the secret snowman has some guidance. I wrote that one of my struggles was still perfectionism. It’s deeply ingrained in my thoughts and behaviors, so even though I’m in recovery from OCD, I often still catch myself trying to be perfect.
Well, did my Secret Snowman have a gift in mind for me? I was gifted a Wreck This Journal! Now, if you’ve never heard of this journal, it’s meant to be chaotic fun. Each page is an instruction of how to literally wreck the journal: for example, rub this page in dirt, cover this page with sticky foods, and send this page through the wash.
Yet, despite how messy it sounds, this has not stopped artists from making lovely versions of the completed journal. All you have to do is search YouTube for “Wreck this Journal,” and you will find people showing off impeccably detailed renditions of how they “wrecked” their journals, turning them quite frankly into artwork.
Of course, when I opened the gift, these high-skilled examples are immediately where my thoughts turned. I felt immense pressure to do a good job of using the journal. I would have to complete every page, or I shouldn’t bother doing any at all. How should I approach this? Should I go in order, to give the project more structure? Should I do one page a day? It would have to look professional, but how would I do that when I’m a terrible visual artist. I’ve never been crafty or good at coloring. My work wouldn’t be good enough.
My thoughts were spinning, and then it hit me: I was completely missing the point. Though some have gone that direction, I don’t think the intention of this journal was to make something aesthetically beautiful. I have suspicions that the intentions were to have a little fun. So, I decided to try to have some fun.
I started sporadically opening to different pages, and following the instructions rapidly. Tear out this page and put it through the wash. Hesitantly, I ripped out the page, my first time ever ripping a book intentionally, and I put it with my laundry. Poke holes in the page with pencils. I poked where they instructed, and a few extra spots. Cover the page with fingerprints and handprints. I started with a few colors that looked nice together, putting down one print at a time, but quickly I began to choose colors at random and slide my fingers across the page. And you know what? It was liberating. Imperfection can be liberating.
I continued. I ran outside to rub a page in the dirt. I slid the book across my apartment hallway, despite the fact that a neighbor might have heard or seen me and wondered what I was doing. I crumpled up a page, and as a bonus, encouraged my cat to play with it. Suddenly, I was having fun, and I was using the gift in a much more Exposure Therapy way.
Dare I say, the gift I received was perfect?
P.S. Here’s some video footage of me wrecking the journal that I sent to the others in the gift exchange.
Haha this is great! Exposures are really like any other kind of hard work – when you can make it fun it’s a lot easier.
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There can be a fine line between the perfectionism found in OCD and the same traits that are linked to OCPD. This contributed to some confusion regarding aspects of my own OCD diagnosis. I still struggle with the distinction sometimes…is it OCD or OCPD?
As far as perfectionism generally, I still struggle with it even while in recovery from OCD. I have concluded that it is problematic only if it significantly impairs my day-to-day living and ability to enjoy life.
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