Dark side of Mental Health

I think that I’ve been abused for so long that I don’t know how to be happy or healthy.  From birth there has been violence in my life – such is the curse of being a child in a domestically violent home.  Certain messages get stuck with you for life.  I’m going through a particularly bad phase of my mental health right now.

I’m seeing dirt in my dreams, I can’t line up the unorganized patterns on my walls, I can’t get the dust and cobwebs vanquished from my home.  My house is not clean – I’m not one of those “fortunate” OCD types.  My brain keeps going and going.  I visualize every possession, every square inch of my home in my head and my mind imagines all the different creavases that dirt can hide, that bugs could hide.  I think if I actually found a bug in my home I would not sleep for days because I would need to tear everything apart and throughoughly detail the entire home.  back to the visualization.  ticking away is an ever mounting to – do list of how it needs to be done.  counting each item in my head.  graphing out each room on graph paper – to scale.  one square to each inch in my home.  if i mess up i start over.  it takes more than one sheet of graph paper to chart out a whole room.  i carefully tape each page together.  the lines have to line up.  if i mess up i start over.  pen in the windows, the doors.  measure out the arc of the door.  try to figure out how to convince my husband that we need to remove doors and get rid of them – they block escapes and take up too much room.  have to do it in pen.  pencil leaves smudges and then my hands get dirty.  can’t function if my hands get dirty.  can’t continue if my hands are dirty.  can’t touch anything until my hands get clean because i can’t make anything else dirty.  if i mess up because i used pen instead of pencil i start over.  room is graphed.  onto furniture.  lost in thought, how to measure plush furniture.  how to measure the rocking chair?  it’s not square or rectangle.  the recliners – have to measure them open and allow for that space to be in consideration.  it doesn’t line up – there’s not enough space.  graph out furniture.  carefully glue furniture onto cardstock.  cut around furniture pieces.  exactly 1/2 block border around each piece of furniture.  if i mess up i start over.  space is important – been told repeatedly when I was younger that I take up too much space.  space is essential.  I take up too much space.  my stuff takes up too much space.  how can I be comfortable?  with all this space taken up?

When I was younger I read this article about this girl – everything she owned fit into a large box plus her futon.  only keep what you find to be important, what you use, what makes you happy.  I remember that one of her items was a bottle of glittery nail polish.  At this point I was already on my way to becoming a hoarder.  FREEDOM! my very young brain shouted to me!  Freedom from too much space being taken up.  stuff was packed under my bed, in my closets, my drawers, everywhere.  none of it was particularly valuable but I had to keep it.  Freedom from the chaos around me.  I excitedly told my mom about the article I had read – she promptly stated the article was stupid and who would want to live like that.  right then and there my need for space was shot down and I was called stupid yet again.

disposing of items was particularly hard many times in my life – when I was young money was spent on alcohol and cigarettes instead of paying the monthly garbage bill.  the need to keep, to hold on to, in case we may need it was very strong in my mother.  She was married to my father – the abusive, self-centered jerk who thought little of his family.  He squandered away his paychecks on cigarettes, booze, fishing lures and magazines.  his lunch pail hosted an array of foods while the 5 of us split one package of ramen noodle soup.  thankfully we had chickens who ranged free surviving somehow because dad surely didn’t spend money on grain for them.  thankfully we had a daily supply of eggs to keep us nourished and somewhat regular trips to the food pantry when it was held at our church because money was tight.

like I said, hoarding runs strong in these bones.  my grandmother is a hoarder – there were always piles everywhere.  her sheds packed full, closets full, table, drawers, nooks and crannies full.  my other grandmother a hoarder.  They filled one home to the brim so they bought another.  When my grandfather died, they barely could get to him.  the hoarding was so bad that they removed my grandmother and condemned the home.  their plumbing didn’t work and they couldn’t bring a plumber in because of the STUFF, the garbage.  My aunt is a hoarder – her home was so full that she couldn’t get the in-home health aide that she so desparately needed.  she almost died in that apartment.  When she was in the hospital my mom had to go in and clean out.  bag after bag after bag of garbage.  it was the only choice.  she was in danger of losing her subsidized apartment.  boxes and boxes of items that never seen the light of day, reaking of cat piss and water damage.  piles on piles on piles everywhere.  empty mayonaise jars, enough pasta for a family for years.  so much stuff.  the apartment always reaked.  not only did her stuff take up so much room but she takes up so much room.  largely obese – she is my biggest fear.  if i don’t start taking care of myself and breaking my hoarding tendancies, breaking my eating compulsions, getting healthy i will be her when I’m older.

my brother gets so paralized when going through his things that when I see his stuff it looks like garbage mixed in with important stuff.  The garbage ruins the good stuff eventually turning it all to bad stuff.

my mom would take everything I would ever try to get rid of or at the very least try and usually succeed at convincing me that I needed to keep everything that I have ever wanted to get rid of.  I never could get rid of anything because she would never let me.  but she always would tell me how much SPACE I was taking up.

I moved into this home – i broke down crying when we walked in.  we had rented a large moving truck to make the move up.  we moved into the “family” house.  I was told that it would be ready for us to take it over.  We walked into a dusty, dirty, cat pee smelling home full of STUFF.  everyone’s stuff.  every room full of STUFF.  i sat on the toilet with the door locked crying for a long, long time.  it had been a long drive and we were going on very little sleep.  outside was a giant truck full of too much stuff that needed to fit inside a house with too much stuff that had a shed already full of too much stuff.  Can i get rid of this?  no, can i get rid of that? no.  what about these 3 coffee makers?  they are still good, you can use them.  But I have a coffee pot that I love.  that might break someday and then you will need a new one and these ones work just fine.

almost two years to the date later and the home still has items that were left behind.

back to the graphs – many hours later and the graphs are finished.  a trash bag is full of the errors.  I lay the graphed room on the table and put the furniture in place where they currently are.  I try to move them around, make it fit better to give me more space.  as hard as I try to make it work it doesn’t fit better.  there is just too much stuff.  try to get the husband to help and he says he’ll help me with it later.  i say it’s always later, why not now.  it doesn’t get done.  it doesn’t fit.  I don’t have enough SPACE to breathe, to move, to be happy.  the walls are closing in on my, there are too many nooks and crannies and my brain is hurting thinking about all the dirt that is hiding everywhere.

Okay – I just need to get rid of some stuff.  how about some books.  pull them all down off the shelves.  carefully dust each one.  clean each shelf.  wash hands to clean hands.  sit back down.  carefully flip through each page of each book.  i tend to stash things places.  i don’t want to unwittingly give/ throw away something important.  set book down, repeat.  start piles.  one pile for keep, one pile for giveaway.  keep gets taller and taller and barely anything gets put in the giveaway.  i might read it again someday.  i might need to reference it.  i may start training others again.  my daughter may want it someday.  i can’t part with that yet, i haven’t read it.  i can’t believe that i spent so much money on books when we are in debt.  i can’t part with it because then I’ve truely wasted our money.

office supplies – try to purge and wind up c reating a wish list of supplies “needed”.

craft supplies – look at all the unused craft supplies and start berating myself for not crafting more.  also convince myself that I need to keep all the crafting supplies because I’m going to start crafting again and then my daughter will want to craft too and I will just be wasting money if I get rid of it.  vow to self to craft.

scrapbooking supplies – become instantly overwhelmed at the amount of supplies and start to berate myself for having so few pages completed.  vow to self to scrapbook.  nevermind the fact that scrapbook is much like the graphing.  mess up, start over.  over and over and over again.  in the time it took my to scrap one page someone else could have 20 completed.

need I go on?

last summer I tried a medication for the OCD.  it worked like a breathe of fresh air (only not unpleasant) but I quickly stopped it because of the immense sweating.  in that short time however my possessions lost their hold on me and I started purging.  out went my wedding dress, books, extras and more.  I was always so embarassed to have people come over because everyone always said, you have a lot of stuff.  ouch.  even my mom uttered those words multiple times even though so much remained that was once hers.

if you have been following this blog you know that I am leading up to a yard sale.  I’ve been sorting and pricing and stashing in the shed.  I just realized that I’m ready to part with more.  why is this so important?  I can’t think straight.  all i can think about is the stuff.  I’m learning that once I free the stuff from my home I no longer worry about it.  I feel lighter, freer.  It hurts me to look at all of the stuff.  patterned items especially.  too much visual stimulation.  Most of the scrapbooking supplies are leaving with this sale – never to return to my home.  as is the sewing machine and much of the crafting supplies.

I realized that I’ve built up these fantasy selves – I’ve never particularly liked myself so always dreamed I would cultivate all these skills and would be AMAZING and people would love me and want to be around me.  I realized I don’t need those skills to be loved.  I do have a select few people who do want to be around me.  I don’t need those things to create an identify for myself.  so what if I’m not a scrapbooker, or a crafter, or a writer, or a journalist, or a fantastic cook, or an amazing housekeeper.  I don’t need to be and I can let those things go.  I also hate dust and hate to dust.  why keep a whole bunch of stuff that requires me to dust them?  it’s so much easier to dust 3 or 4 pieces or a flat empty surface than to dust hundreds of items.  Am I ever going to be fluent in 20 different languages?  no.  fluent in spanish? no.  enjoy the occasional french movie? of course – oui:) the nature adventure books?  I don’t even like being outside.  out you go.  haha.  can I drop these expectations of myself and just allow myself to be as I am?  I’m definately going to try.

back to the obsessively clean part – my house is not obsessively clean unfortunately.  I wish it were.  By the time I’ve mentally mapped out my home, then graphed out my home and then dusted my bookshelf and flipped all the pages I’m exhausted.  or maybe i tackled the game shelf and counted all the pieces to all of the games.

Long message short – I take up too much space, my stuff takes up too much space, i will never live up to the expectations that i’ve given to myself.

fix? – get rid of all the stuff that does not truly reflect me  – but the rather fantasy version of me, practice self-acceptance and create a space that makes me feel at home.

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