Living With My OCPD Mom
I always knew there was something different about my Mom. She never seemed very emotional. She wasn’t particularly loving. I can only remember once holding her hand. There were no hugs or kisses. She was pretty standoffish.
Mom was a rules person. She had a rule for everything. And these rules were set in stone. She very rarely bended on her rules. There were rules about swimming. I couldn’t go to the pool until it was 80 degrees. The radio says it’s 79 degrees? Can’t go. That’s the rule. Can’t walk on the grass after it rains, can’t get off the porch after supper, must wear a hat if there’s a breeze or windy.
Some rules seemed to have a lot to do with age. She had a rule about my hair – pigtails until I was eight, pony tail until I was twelve. I would get in major trouble if I let my hair down. I couldn’t get a bike until I turned nine, not a day before.
If something happened in her life then thereafter it was a rule. She was a teen during WW2. During that time the U.S. was rationing rubber so my Mom wasn’t allowed to drive because they didn’t want to put wear and tear on the tires. Fast forward twenty years and now it’s a rule that a teen shouldn’t drive. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was out of college.
One time I went to the doctor when I was nine and had a barium test for stomach aches. The test came back normal, nothing wrong at the time. So from then on, in her mind, no matter whether I presented as sick or not, the rule was there was nothing wrong. Four years later I almost died from appendicitis because my Mom wouldn’t believe I had anything wrong and wouldn’t take me to the doctor until I complained over and over.
To my Mom, as long as I followed her rules she was happy. To me and my friends she was overly strict. I could never understand why I couldn’t do the things my friends did. Or why I had to be so different from them. It made me feel like I wasn’t as good as others.
Neighbors and relatives would just accept her strange ideas and then go on living their lives. But I could’t do that. I was her child. I couldn’t ignore her strict rules. I had to obey her. She was my Mom.
It wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I finally realized what was going on with my Mom. My Aunt and I discussed her symptoms and I searched for information. She fits almost all of the characteristics of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).
Most people know what OCD is. That is the disorder where people compulsively do things over and over, checking and rechecking. OCPD is not the same disorder. OCPD people are more concerned with rules, perfectionism, always being in control. They aren’t happy unless everything is done their way.
People with OCPD have a chronic, maladaptive pattern of dealing with other people and life challenges. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states there are certain criteria that needs to be met to diagnose a person with this disorder.
The first is a preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost. This was my Mom to a tee.
To someone with OCPD rules are like the Ten Commandments. They are set in stone. Once a rule is decided upon it cannot be broken. And they can never understand why other’s don’t follow their rules. When there was conflict about things at school that didn’t agree with her rules then the school was always wrong. She was always right. They need to follow the ‘rules’.
People with OCPD always have to be in control. It drives them crazy if people don’t do what they say or want.
Mom was also a list person which is one of the characteristics mentioned above. She made a list for everything. There were lists all over the house. Some of her lists she wrote in shorthand so others couldn’t read them. I always thought it was funny when I took shorthand in school and was able to read her lists. She wasn’t too happy about that.
Other characteristics are Perfectionism and not being able to let others do things. She wasn’t as overboard about this as some people with OCPD but she did have her idiosyncrasies. I never learned to clean the house, scrub a floor, clean a toilet, do laundry, etc. because she would rather do it herself so it was done right. My poor roommates in college had to teach me all that.
People with OCPD can be rigid and stubborn in respect to morals, ethics, values, etc. They will always do exaclty as the are told. My Mom would follow the doctors orders no matter what, even if it made her worse or wasn’t working. She’d follow a recipe to a tee. No experimenting with spices, etc. The recipe, to her, was like a rule. You follow it. Period.
She was a very moral person. Not religious. But she always tried to do what she thought was right. She thought it was terrible that I would buy things cheap and re-sell them on Ebay. I tried to explain the concept of buying wholesale and selling retail. That’s what the stores do. But to her self-ruled moral thinking I was cheating people.
One thing I never realized about her until she was elderly was that she was a hoarder, another OCPD characteristic. I knew she was picky about throwing things away such as butter tubs, etc. But I never realized how bad it was until I had to help her move to a nursing home. She had drawers full of boxes and instructions from things she’d bought years ago. She seemed to have saved everything. Since her house was always neat I guess I never realized it before. Once, going through her stuff, I found a decorative cardboard cookie container. When I tried to throw it away she had a fit. She was going to take it to church for their yard sale. I told her no one is going to buy a cardboard container that had cookies in them from the grocery store. She insisted it was worth something and put it back in the cabinet. Typical OCPD thinking.
Hoarding doesn’t pertain just to things. OCPD’s also hoard money. They are very miserly. They won’t let go of money. My Mom was a good example of this. What she had left after she died was only willed to me to receive after I turned 65 years old. So she had it set to be in control of her money until way after she died!
There are boards online for people that live with OCPD family members. They mention their relatives giving them backhanded compliments, getting eye rolls, saying things that hurt only never even realizing it. That was my Mom. It made me feel worthless sometimes. But now I realize it was a mental disorder she had and had nothing to do with me.
I wish I would have realized all this when I was young and living with her. Instead of feeling like she was just mean and unfeeling I would have understood that she was just sick. I would have understood that it was her disorder that kept her from showing caring feelings. Knowing wouldn’t have changed her but maybe it would have changed me and my feelings about myself.
I write this only to let others get a look at what this disorder is like. If you have a relative, especially a parent, that exhibits these characteristics, please realize that how that person acts has nothing to do with you. They have a disorder. You don’t. Do not define who you are by their mental problem.
I loved my Mom and I know she loved me. Even though it was hard to live with her I did pick up some good things from her upbringing. I am a trustworthy and responsible person and to my Mom I am thankful for that.