How Gardening Helps Me Redefine Perfection as Someone With OCD

I cannot overstate how alienating and distressing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be. By definition, OCD is an anxiety disorder that produces intrusive thoughts that lead to excessive feelings of uneasiness and apprehension. These feelings are so intolerable, sufferers are compelled to act on certain behaviors or rituals to help mitigate their torturous thoughts.

To make matters worse, the majority of us can recognize our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are irrational and often inappropriate, but we feel powerless to stop them. We know it’s illogical but can’t seem to help ourselves. I know I certainly can’t.

Like any black and white thinker, I’m notorious for struggling with completing projects because I fear my work will be interpreted as less than perfect. My intense fear of making the “wrong decision” has often rendered me paralyzed. Everything I do needs to be “done right” or “perfect” to my standards, and I always set the bar too high for myself. Thus, I set myself up for failure.

I’m in the half of adults with OCD who had a childhood onset of the disorder. Around the age of 6 years old, I recall becoming unnaturally concerned with symmetry. Objects in my childhood home had to be lined up perfectly straight, facing the same direction or equidistant from each other. I became especially meticulous with the state of my bedroom. Any deviation from the “perfect placement” of objects caused me extreme distress.

In middle school, I would often avoid having friends over because they would “mess up” the perfect organization in my room. I was appalled at their carelessness; how they would casually pick up an object and then put it down in a different location or condition. They would sit on my perfectly made bed and rumple the covers. I couldn’t cope. To avoid the torture of seeing my perfect organization torn asunder, I would usually…

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