Denise’s Diary: The Picture Perfect Life

As an adult, perfect was the only option—No exceptions! Yes. I did everything perfect. Including but not limited to, EVERYTHING!

Things always had to be even in my life—symmetrical. Pictures on the walls had to be straight and there had to be an even number of them. Furniture was never moved. It had its perfect spot and that is where it stayed. As I look back, I think the only thing I ever changed were diapers and my underwear. I needed things to be in their place and stable.

Knick-knacks had their certain places as well. Nobody could move them from “where they belonged.” If they did, I noticed and returned them to their proper places. My youngest daughter, Jodi (who also was diagnosed with OCD) and I would have what we called “OCD Wars.” She had places where she liked a thing to be, which may not have been where I liked it to be. For example, the glass, soap dispenser, and toothbrush holder on the bathroom vanity had an order—my order. Jodi would put them where she felt they should be and when I noticed, I immediately returned them to “where they belonged.” This went back and forth every single day, without either of us ever winning the war. Jodi admitted to me recently that she had actually ripped the towel holder out of the wall years ago because she was so angry with this ongoing “War.”

Anything I attempted to do I did to perfection. But I never felt they were done well, even when others said they were. I volunteered to be the chairman of many, many committees for our Catholic school and church. If my name was on the event, it HAD to be perfect. There was only one person I trusted to help me with these events, my good friend Terri, because she was even more of a perfectionist than I was. I knew if Terri was assisting it would be completed up to my high expectations. So it took the two of us a lot of time and energy to accomplish these standards. After each event, others would rave about how wonderful the event was and I NEVER thought it was that great. Immediately following an event I would begin planning for the next year and decide what could be changed to make it better.

Terri and I chaired many bake sales. People would donate baked goods packaged nicely and yet we would put them in new containers that looked uniform and would attach cute, homemade tags telling what was in the package and the price. Totally unnecessary, but everything was displayed perfectly and looked beautiful!

My children had to be perfect as well. I wanted them to dress in nice clothes, be involved in everything, and most important to hang around with the popular kids—Perfect! I wanted them to be accepted, liked, and popular—exactly what I never was.

I also had to dress stylishly, appear totally put together, and do everything right! WOW, I get tired myself just thinking about it!

I had a really tough time making a decision, for fear it would be the wrong one. I was constantly seeking reassurance before making any final decisions. I greatly feared that making the wrong choice would cause something bad to happen to someone. For instance, if I invited someone to visit me from another town and they were speeding and got a ticket, I thought it was my fault for inviting them. I felt like it was my obligation to pay it, because if I wouldn’t have invited them, it never would have happened.

I often sought out reassurance from others with things I was not sure about—which was pretty much everything. This gave me a feeling of security, a feeling of doing it correct, especially if someone else said it was okay. It was difficult for me, and still is at times, to not feel concrete about situations. I need to know exactly what is expected of me, so I can be sure to accomplish it. In the past, I always avoided any task or situation I was unsure of, so I would not fail. I could not fail.

Yet, with all this perfectionism hanging around me, I always felt like I could not do anything “good enough.” And most of all, I did not feel like I was good enough.



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