The day I learned obsession with order is itself disorder.

Legends of JRPI suffer from a personality disorder called “OCPD“: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. It is not the same as OCD, though they share characteristics. I don’t have rituals like repeated hand-washing.

Instead, I’m obsessed with order and perfection everywhere. Not using your turn signal makes me furious — no exaggeration. I have strong preferences for particular glassware and utensils. Placement of pictures. Whether colleagues IM or email, and on which topics. Which direction I face at restaurant table…on and on and on.

Anything out of place is like nails on a chalkboard. Imagine that piercing screech coming from every bit clutter or misused grammar and you’ll have a good idea what it’s like in my mind. It’s hell.

Discovering I had OCPD was one of the greatest days of my life. 

I’ve been like this for as long as I remember, but I never knew why. I had no name for constant perfectionism. In my view, I simply had high standards…standards that the lazy, moronic and incompetent people of the world refused to understand. It was their fault, not mine.

Anyone who failed to meet my standards was inferior by definition. Don’t value what I value? Inferior ethics. Don’t like what I like? Inferior tastes. It’s that simple: I’m striving for perfection while you’re just meandering from one failure to the next.

I’m failing too, but at least I’m trying.

Discovering OCPD was a revelation as startling as…I don’t know. I wanted to write, “realizing you’re gay,” but I don’t actually know, having never faced that. I can tell you it was the most startling revelation of my life, redefining my whole personality. Once thinking I was normalcy itself, and gradually realizing the reverse.

My obsession with order was being called a disorder…a negative connotation for my righteous behavior. Everything I thought was good and proper was called into question.

It’s no surprise that many afflicted with OCPD reject the very idea; the disorder itself is characterized by a feeling of always being right. If my views are right and proper, how could it be a personality disorder? It challenges the perspective of those who consider their position unassailable. If I support good grammar, safe driving, an organized household and a trimmed yard, how can it be “wrong?” (Supporting good behavior isn’t wrong; obsessing with it is.)

OCPD support forums are full partners whose significant other has OCPD, but is undiagnosed…because s/he refuses to accept that anything might be wrong.

I had the opposite reaction. I have given up on friends who couldn’t accept my view, experienced friction in my marriage, and battled confusion over why others don’t see the world the “right” way when it’s SO EFFING SIMPLE. The more I understood about OCPD, the more certain I became.

Megan, for her part, was skeptical for about twenty-eight seconds: The time it took to read bullet points and concrete examples.

Oh my god, that’s you.

It was.

Our marriage has improved dramatically. I frequently remind myself about OCPD, that the black and white world I see is full of grays and blues and reds for others. Megan points out behaviors that I previously thought were natural.

We adapt to each other. I suppress my OCPD; things don’t actually bother me less, but I remind myself that it’s healthy and normal for others to be unconcerned…and so I don’t fuss aloud (as much). Megan meets me halfway by accommodating my insanity when it’s not too much trouble, and reminding me when it is too much trouble.

My revelation improved life in other ways: My hobbies, habits, projects all point to OCPD. Knowing the cause helps me embrace perfectionism when it’s useful, reject it when it’s problematic.

The reason I blog every day by 6 PM is to force me to submit an “unfinished” (imperfect) article just to meet a deadline, something quite difficult with OCPD. The rhythm of it aids my sense of order.

The blog is therapy. Thanks for participating!

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  • Ryan

    It’ll help you as a writer too! Only submitting or sharing perfect work means never sharing at all, or at least rarely enough to seriously stunt the development of your talents.

  • Al Pinehack

    I recently had a friend casually mention to me how ocd I am, I realized that throughout my lifemany people have said the thing to me often. I always brushed it off as a joke since I don’t particularly care about germs and don’t really have too many quirks. But the more I thought about what he said I realized that I am obsessed with order. I googled obsessed with order and was brought to this page which almost entirely defined my recent journey. Thanks for sharing.

  • Al Pinehack

    The ironic thing about it is that trying to correct is in itself a symptom.

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