This post talks about how anxiety and depression can impact our lives in unexpected and often not talked about ways. If you’d rather not know about the very personal impact of these things on me, or feel it may be triggering for you, please come back to the blog another day or feel free to explore the archives. Thank you and take care of you! <3
Today what is on my mind is my mind, literally. Weekend before last, I came across an article, “17 Honest Photos of the ‘Embarrassing’ Sides of Depression We Don’t Talk About“, and it kind of shook me to my core. It was like holding up a mirror to the life I’d been living for the last 2.5 years. I was not prepared for that. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that. I really had no idea how common this was or what it looked or felt like for others. Isn’t that always the way, though? We think we’re so weird or wrong that we can’t imagine our experience being common/normal.
Basically, when I moved into my current place it was right after some serious trauma and everything just sort of stopped for me, mentally. Moving back to the town I grew up in and experienced the worst trauma of my life (physically and emotionally abusive relationship from ages 14-19), I was frozen in time in a sense. So I never truly unpacked except necessities. I left boxes out on the patio, at first under a canopy but later that got shredded by the elements, as did my boxes, and finally the neighborhood rodent society took refuge.
My small studio in-law unit remained as it was when I moved in, half unpacked, some things very much randomly plunked, and my life continued around these obstacles without acknowledging them. This was fine at first, I kept the place reasonably tidy, which was easier with everything in boxes. But soon those boxes became bigger obstacles, items spilled out, or the boxes deteriorated. At first I was holding out for my landlord to affix my large bookcase to the wall before I filled it, living in earthquake country, but that never happened.
It felt like one thing after another kept me from settling into my lil’ shack (no hate, I love it, honestly) and while my life continued on with new people and jobs and troubles and so forth, my ability to keep it tidy fell away completely. I started to tell my then boyfriend not to come over anymore, that I was too ashamed of the mess but unable to tackle/manage it on my own. He never understood, but at least had compassion for my situation. The thing is though, I never attributed this combination of feeling overwhelmed and yet unable to do anything with my mess of a house to my anxiety and depression. The mess also never was as bad as it is now, or has been the last year.
A year ago my long term boyfriend and I broke up. I was in the midst of rearranging and organizing some things I’d been putting off when it happened. He’d even bought me a new gorgeous set of dishes with butterflies on them. I said I didn’t want to take them out of the box until my house was tidy again. Those dishes are still in their original box. They are too beautiful to live in my space as it is now. I long for the day where I can have a friend over and cook for them using these lovely dishes on the table.
It is very difficult to explain the feelings involved in all of this, but I can tell you that everything in that article rang true for me. The worse my “mess” got, the more overwhelmed I felt, the more I felt unable to deal with it…on top of the usual injury/pain issues I have (spine, knee, one foot), depression is exhausting and it hurts, too. I felt trapped in a semi-catatonic state almost. I just felt helpless and stuck in a really terrible and shame filled way.
I thought I was coping and appeared fine, and I did. No one was the wiser until anyone mentioned coming over to my place and my stomach would knot instantly. I would fluff it off as being inaccessible (it sort of is), too small for company (not a lie), or whatever else was going on in my life at the time. I told my 3 closest friends, but one lives many states away, the other two live very much in a messy state as well, though are always willing to help out. But I can’t accept help, nor ask for it. The thought of someone having to sift through my mess makes me feel ill.
I grew up in this state of mess, sometimes worse, but the realization of this came a couple of months ago. I had lost my job and thought to myself that while I have the time to job hunt I could also make time for getting my place together. My sights were not set high, I am okay with my usual bit of clutter, but I had a moment where I looked around and I was surrounded by recycling and I realized that this combined with many clothes hampers full of clean clothes looked an awful lot like my childhood squalor-filled home. It sucked the wind from my sails entirely.
Then sometime in November I had a few days of what professionals might call mania but it just felt like finally having the energy and focus to tackle something (ANYTHING!) and actually got rid of a lot of stuff. Like 12 garbage bags full! It was recycling guilt that kept the cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes piling higher on my kitchen table. But then disposing of everything was difficult. My landlord’s home only has one very small trash bin and one regular sized recycle bin. So, I went into stealth mode! Ha-ha!
I felt a great sense of relief after this, but then soon found depression taking over entirely once again, just in time for the loneliest holiday season of my entire life. I truly felt like I was on a deserted island for about a week solid. It got rough. I was not my best self nor even a decent friend to myself. I reached out but no one seemed to be around or maybe didn’t know how to be supportive, who knows. Then after the new year I kicked my job hunt into into the highest gear ever and ended up in a whirlwind of non-stop interviews for nearly a month solid. I lost my voice several times.
I know this isn’t the best version of myself. I know I deserve to live in a space that I’m proud of and can look after on my own. I have lived in many other places with roommates and partners and have never had it get like this. I keep telling myself that I just need one big reset and then I can start fresh and keep it up. I even paid a woman last year to do just that, but after 3 hours and $300 she’d really only hung up most of my clothes and gathered things into bags (which honestly made a lot of things worse).
Shame is such a powerful and terrible thing to live with. People have told me that they always thought I was fancy or well-off, dates have called me intimidating, and all of this leaves me so confused. If they knew where and what I came from, if they knew the way I live now, they’d never think those things of me. Coping is a serious endeavor and for survivors of long-term abuse, to those who live with PTSD their entire lives, you cope without realizing. You present yourself in ways to appease and please others automatically. You keep secrets from everyone without trying, without even knowing sometimes. It takes a lot of fucking self work to acknowledge and process and work through and maintain. I have been on this path for over twenty years and was doing pretty fucking great, actually, until I moved back to my hometown.
After reading that article I didn’t leave the house for 3 days. I was in shock. I felt as though the curtains of my shame had been ripped away, exposed to the world. Then I went back to work at my new job and tried to be okay with everything until I couldn’t. Last week I reached out to a company that assists hoarders with removal and organization. This was so difficult for me to do. To open myself even mentally to the outside world like that, but I trusted that this was an org that specialized in this unique service and understood the needs for both me and my place. I know I’m not a hoarder, but thought the basics would align in what I needed in the end. Unfortunately no one ever got back to me and that’s probably fine. I am certain I couldn’t afford it anyway.
I will be reaching out to my healthcare provider once my coverage has begun. I have decided that I should explore the option of antidepressants. My previous thoughts and feelings on the subject have changed and while I am very much averse to ongoing unnecessary medication, this feels too important to not at least try. It is terrifying, I’ve never even had therapy for my various mental health concerns, but I also don’t believe I need the traditional talk therapy setting now. I have done the work and research in that realm for the last 20+ years and feel very capable and supported emotionally. But if there’s a chance that I could feel as I did those few days in November, where I had the energy and focus needed to get my house together, for longer than just a few days, I need to find out. If I can improve my quality of life at home I know it will allow me to excel in my career and personal life, too. I deserve the chance, at the very least.
Once I get a few paychecks, my first coming tomorrow, I can pay someone to haul away the damaged stuff on the patio at least. You’d be surprised how much such a thing costs, as I was when I first called 1800gotjunk to take the stuff away in November, only for them to take 1/3rd of it for $200 (they wanted $750 for all of it, but I was out of work and the $200 maxed my only credit card). It would be nice to use the outdoor table and chairs when the weather warms up again. I would love to have my bffs over for card games, or my dance partner for rehearsals and you know, just dinner.
I am trying to see my new job as a new leaf, a new start sort of, in the sense that I’ll be making a bit more than my last job and a helluva lot more than unemployment was providing, so I can pay for things I’ve put off (like puggo’s overdue vet exams and vaccinations) and hire help for my mess…hopefully. I don’t even know what would have happened if my unemployment had continued on as it did two years ago. I was already close to the brink, as it were, after only three months.
If you’re reading this and you relate, please say so. If you’re reading this and you know how I can get the support I need to get my place together, please say so. If you don’t have these issues or know what orgs can assist, but you have deep sympathy for this situation, please say so. So much of our lives is spent afraid of saying something. It feels so lonely not knowing that so many others in the world are in the same situation. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I will say that despite all of this, I do have a life full of love from great friends who are patient with me and kind, always. I have not spoken so openly about this before now, but that was the shame hanging over me. It’s still there, but beginning to feel just a little less heavy. I’m quite certain that the cause of the state of my childhood home being in such disarray is the same reason I’m living like this now. I know my bio-mom was always mentally ill. It’s one (of many) reasons why I didn’t think I wanted to reproduce. I never thought I would return to my hometown nor the state of the living conditions I grew up in. I hope I can move past this period of my life and onto brighter days and nights, cozy and warm, snuggled up with my puggo, in peace.
Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
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