Organization & Cleaning: Anxiety and Depression Edition

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Just want to start this one off with the fact that my pupper just got a bath, and she’s currently sitting in front of me trying to lick the “clean” off of her. Ha. 

When it comes to my depression, I’m pretty stereotypical I think. If I’m really down in the dumps, the LAST thing I want to do is clean up my house. I can barely manage to get my “bare minimum chores” done, much less any of the larger projects I have on my list. Everything just seems so daunting to undertake, even the smallest projects seem like mountains of crap to me.

So when depression strikes, I’ll spend my day avoiding any kind of major cleaning and organizing only to berate myself for “not doing enough” when I’m laying in bed unable to sleep at night. The silly part is, is that I KNOW that this is a typical symptom of depression, and I know depression is an illness just like any other. Yet, I still beat myself up at night for it.

Now my anxiety? That’s a whole different mutt. One of my biggest triggers for my anxiety & panic disorder is clutter. I can wake up in a wonderfully relaxed and happy mood, and if my kitchen counters are cluttered and there’s a mountain of dishes in the sink (I’m literally staring at my boyfriend as I type this) then my heart starts to race and I start to feel the all too familiar fingers of anxiety combing through my brain.

My anxiety is a bit strange, some therapists have suggested that it might be tied into OCD like some of my family members. However, beyond the original diagnosis of Anxiety and a Panic Disorder, I’ve never bothered to get more. It has to do with control for me, I can even pull up memories of dealing with it more than a decade ago when I first started driving. (I got my license late.. as I could walk to work.) I remember getting extraordinarily anxious in my car while sitting in traffic, heading to work. I was driving this POS Mazda at the time, which I loved, but since I had been working two jobs it had gotten dirty and cluttered. I remember setting down my coffee mug by the stick shift, glancing at the floor of the passenger seat and feeling overwhelmed and not safe. 

Now mind you, this car oddly enough brought me a sense of peace.. with the exception of when it blew up in a target parking lot, complete with black smoke. My dad drove an old beat up Mazda to work when I was a kid. It smelled like oil since he was a mechanic and well, it leaked oil. It was a manual (which I remember since us kids fought over who had to sit in the middle on the bench seat), just like mine. I had even found this wide bottomed, ceramic mug that my dad had back in the late 80’s, early 90’s at the thrift store. This stupid piece of shit car reminded me of my dad and my childhood, and in the early throws of adulthood, surrounded by poverty, I needed that feeling of calm.

So I looked down at the passenger seat floor and I could feel the panic rising. I never worried about my safety, not even when the radiator blew in the middle of the road. I didn’t even have air bags, and got in a fender bender, but I still felt safe. Yet, when I looked at all the TRASH and CLUTTER on the floor of that car, I felt like if I didn’t clean it up, something TERRIBLE would happen. I just knew it.

That feeling is still around. If my floor is dirty, or my books overflow the bookshelf (which happens more than I’d like to admit) I get overwhelmed. Instantly. The boyfriend is pretty used to this now as he’s seen me have full blown panic attacks because the kitchen table is covered in papers, or my side table is too cluttered. Once my day heads down that path, it’s very rarely recoverable.. at least not to a normal state. Back when I still worked, I would feel the urge to turn my car around and go home because I was SURE I had left the doors unlocked and that someone would break it. I would triple check that the windows were shut, except for one (because fire: cats need to get out) before I left, but feel like I had to drive back and check. Then when I’d get to work, on lunch, I’d start feeling anxious if I didn’t organize my desk, or my purse, or vacuum out the Rav4 on lunch. It’s a downhill battle that I didn’t have a chance of winning, even with the help of Ativan.

So in order to keep my anxiety under control, I make sure to stay on top of my chores. It’s not any worse than anyone else’s cleaning. I just do the dishes before bed, wipe down counters. If I see trash that needs to go out, I do it. Cat litter boxes get changed every other day. I enlist Jon to help, or make sure Noodle does her chores (although her mountain of dirty laundry in her closet never seems to get smaller hah).

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

What happens when you have anxiety AND depression. You turn into a hot mess is what happens. Your depression makes sure you lack the motivation to get your chores done. Your anxiety ramps up because you have too much to do. From there it’s just an endless cycle, all the way up until you have a good day, and clean up and tackle the the projects you need to.

It’s definitely tough. Even tougher now that the kid is a preteen. Clutter seems to just follow her around. (A lot of you can relate the the hair ties, clothes and shoes everywhere!) Yet in her pre-teen hormonal angst, she’s a lot less likely to clean up versus a toddler offered a cookie if they pick up their toys. Alas, she even knows the look on my face, right before I lose my cool, and quickly picks up her crap and shuttles it into her room. Haha.

I was just reminded of my anxiety-depression conundrum while I was tackling some cleaning and organizing earlier today. I’m coming off of a down swing with the depression, so I had some projects to take care of (I’m looking at you linen closet (wait, am I finally an adult because I have a linen closet??)) and it just felt nice to clean out parts of the house. So I figured I’d write about it, because we all know that talking about it, educates people. Dealing with anxiety and depression is easier than it used to be, but there’s still a lot of stigma attached to it, so the more information that’s out there, the better.

Plus, I’m really happy to have a lot of “good days” as of late.

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Music is the way out.

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One thing I am extra proud of in my family is the amount of different music I expose my daughter too.  Today I just started listening to the new Against Me! album and I’m definitely digging it.  The first thing that pops into my mind is that I can’t wait to get home and let Noodle listen to it and hope that as she gets older the message gets through to her head.  I’m excited that she likes a broad spread of music, from anywhere from The Distillers (She loves that there is a chick punk rocker) to As I Lay Dying to The Fray to Break of Reality.  It may make her the odd kid as she’s growing up, but I would much rather her be a well rounded kid than a sheltered one.  

So I’m still in the hole (and by hole, I mean hospital) and of course, we’ve gone over the 24 hour mark, so I’m antsy as hell.  I’m ready to get up and run a marathon (or at least a few laps around the nurses station.  The one benefit of being stuck here is that I am getting an obnoxious amount of writing and knitting done.  Not to mention the amount of music I’m discovering is ridiculous.  At some point I’m going to have to block out the irritating aide and just slip in my headphones when she’s talking.   Hell, I think In This Moment will block her out just fine.  

Music and writing are my ways of safeguarding my sanity… not to mention reining in my temper as well.  If I manage to do some writing and get some tunes going in my head, I’m a much more tolerant person.  I could be listening to the most brutal metal I can find and as long as that’s playing I can keep my cool and calm.  It’s a nice coping technique I picked up in a coffee house when I was a teen.  The perk I see though, is that my Buddha not only experiences the music I play, but she gets to learn that there are different ways of coping with your bad days beyond just “being happy” or “smile!”.  If I can instill anything, whether it be music, writing, art, SOMETHING, I will feel like I did a good job as a parent.   Hell, I gladly bought her a new sparkle pink glitter journal just for that reason.  If writing helps her sort out her feelings more than talking does, than I’m okay with that.  

Growing up, going through the death of my mother, and of course though the turbulent teenage years, everyone told me that I needed to “talk through it”.  That if I could just open up to people I would be able to be “happier”.  No matter what was going on, I was force-fed this bullshit lie that I must talk, that I must interact and pour myself out to other people via verbal word.  So I tried, and I failed… and I learned to wrap up all of my feelings inside of my head since obviously people expected me to be happy.  It wasn’t until I got mad one night in my pre-teen years, that I sat down to write in my journal and I just let it all out.  All of it.  I wrote whatever I wanted to, instead of what I thought I should be writing about.  I wrote about everything.  That night, I discovered that that was the way I cope.  Up until about a couple years ago, I still didn’t know how to open up to people well… hell, sometimes I still prefer to keep my words in my mouth and flowing through my fingers.  Writing in journals/blogs/letters gave me an outlet to reach people through.  I had a hard time telling someone how I feel, I could just write them a note.  It helped, it still helps, I just wish someone had told me that was okay earlier.  

Speaking of though, I’m going to go write in my journal… the literal one.