A friend of mine wrote a Facebook post some weeks back that has stuck with me. She said that she keeps having to start over. Or is it getting to start over? And which way should she think of it?
I don't know. I do know that I'm grateful each morning that I get to start over. That I get another chance to be a mother, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a business owner, a friend, an advocate. I get to try once again to pick myself up off the mat, dust myself off and charge into battle.
Holy shit is it disheartening to have to start over. And over, and over and over. Especially when you KNOW that you will just have to start over again. This is one of the frustrations of mental illness and one of the hardest things to explain to others. My friends out there with chronic diseases know what I mean. You can make a general outline of how you'd like the day to go, you can set up a to do list, but so much of your life is completely out of your hands.
There are things I can do to manage my illness - eat well, exercise, talk therapy, meditation, scheduling, community and medication are all tools in my arsenal. At the moment I am using all of them to some degree except for medication. Still - there are things that can pop up and take over your day.
Let me give you an example:
I can't deal with clutter. It raises my anxiety levels which make me feel powerless which leads to anger and rage and eventually depression. It's a fun little cycle that I run in full or in miniature at least once a week. I run it because our house is tiny, we have a toddler, I have limited energy and clutter does not bother Adam in the least. He honestly doesn't notice it.
If it would be possible to have nothing at all on any flat surface in our house I think I would lay down and die of joy. If everything could just have a place to live and then go live there, well, I don't even know how I would react to that kind of happiness. Right now there just isn't a home for everything. So every day I fight the clutter war - how much can I deal with looking at vs how much energy and time do I have to expend on picking up?
This morning I woke up feeling closed in. There is too much stuff everywhere (which is true) and I can't make room for myself here (which is not, but feels like it is). The things in the house become judgements. They become symbols. The couch in the office means that having room for his parents three times a year is more important to Adam than my having a place to work. The absolute jumble in the kitchen means that I don't have the wherewithal to take care of my family or myself. The crap scattered across the living room means that we are trashy people who don't love our son enough to give him a clean home.
Are these things true? Of course not. Tomorrow they will sound even more ridiculous to me than they sound right now as I type this. Hopefully the day after that this feeling will have faded even more. Today though they feel absolutely true and they hurt. The idea behind the thought may not be real, the thought may be false, but the pain is real and true and deep.
What triggered all of this? The recycling bin is full. That's it. That's all it takes. The miracle in all this is that I was able to pinpoint one thing that was my trigger today. I can't begin to explain what it's like to actually know what's making me crazy for once!
Thankfully today it made me angry. It made me motivated. So today I'll clean and throw away and reorganize and plan and obsess and get frustrated and probably throw something and yes, my entire afternoon will now be about this. If I'm lucky I'll get half of what was planned for today actually completed. And that's okay. This is how my days work sometimes - things go off the rails. I said 'thankfully' above because it could have gone another way - blame and shame and guilt and then fatigue and tears and me on the couch or in bed and not being able to get up.
It isn't every day. It isn't every week. It's less and less and I'm getting better and better at managing my triggers and creating the type of life that has wiggle room for when the bad days do occur. I'm getting better and better at recognizing the lying thoughts and letting them move through my mind without dwelling on them. I'm getting better and better at asking for help and setting myself up for success. I'm getting better and better. Every morning I get to start over. Some mornings you just have to start over.
ps - it's not just me - check out this article on clutter and depression and anxiety