Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lying in Bed Like my Grandmother: overwhelmed by messiness

I have been thinking about my grandmother who, today, lives in an assisted living facility with my grandfather, and doesn't walk anymore. They say it's that she doesn't want to walk because she gave up on life. I saw her give up life a long time ago. In fact, the way that I remember my grandmother in my childhood is that she was always in bed. I would go into her bedroom, and jump on her bed and yell, "Nanny, get up!! Get up!!! Come downstairs!! Come play with me!!" and she would growl at me in her way that eventually became an endearing grandmotherly thing, and tell me to get the hell out of her bedroom. Adults used to encourage me to try to drag her out of bed. This was in the 1980's. I remember my grandmother this way all my life. In her bed.

I recently was reminded by a family tree someone did that both of my grandmother's parents died when she was a child. She has never driven a car. She worked outside the home as a teenager, but after getting married and having seven kids, she never worked outside the home again. She was always very dependent on my grandfather. They have a really close-knit relationship.

But there is something about my grandmother. Something that has always drawn me to think of her as depressed. She does, actually take antidepressants. My dad told me once years ago that she had been in a psych ward. And in 1999, when I was psychotic, she said to me, "Jenny, go see a psychiatrist." Which I wish I had done.

I lived with my grandparents for a year and half, and that was the period when my psychosis took hold. Nobody knew that. Probably nobody I'm related to in Maryland even knows that now, all these years later. None of them really talk to me anymore. But that year, the year I was going to the community college, and in the honors program there, and had applied and got admitted to Smith College's Ada Comstock Scholars Program, that year, living with my grandparents, taking trains into see a specialist in Washington D.C. on Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, and desperately injecting myself with alternative medications to try to get better from that, better from something, better..... That year, that was the end of my rational life, for a long time.

And now that I think about my grandmother, I wonder what she saw in me that year that made her know I needed a psychiatrist. I wonder if it was something she could relate to. My bedroom was always a mess at her house. She would tell me to keep the door closed and to clean it up. I had a really hard time organizing myself as I've always had, all my life. I don't like living like a slob, but I have a really hard time trying to not live that way.

That is part of the reason I'm thinking of my grandmother right now. She who is lying in a bed in an ALF in Maryland, with her husband nearby in another room. He told my dad recently that he was worried she wouldn't live much longer. See, on Saturdays, I act like my grandmother. I lie in bed. I have plenty of reasons I could give you for this. And, hey, I don't lie in bed 365 days a year, like I did a few years ago. So I can say that. I can tell you I still have chronic physical conditions, like Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Sjogren's Syndrome. And the truth is, I don't really know how much those conditions are affecting me right now. My rheumatologist recently had me take antibiotics for two months and a high dosage of prescription strength Vitamin D because all my joints were hurting and my bloodwork showed an ineffective immune system.

But when it comes right down to it, I don't know why I spend the weekend in bed. I get up to go to the library. Usually, I do that on Sundays. I go to one at my former community college which is open then, and I go then because I didn't, usually, go on Saturday. I have been spending Saturdays in bed for many months. I go all through the week days, to work, to school, and I function. I am getting an A+ in both of my classes, the same grades I got last semester in both of my classes. I am doing well with school, so that's not a problem. But it takes everything. It takes all my willpower, and all my concentration, and all my energy to just get by.

I don't know what the problem is. My doctor increased my Prozac because of my OCD symptoms, not because of depression, because I didn't say I had any depression problem. But maybe I do, and I just don't recognize it. It's somehow related, this lack of ability to organize myself, and this lack of motivation to clean my apartment, and this getting overwhelmed so easily by my own mess. It's related to my mental health. How, exactly, that it is related is hard to explain. But it is related. So I get overwhelmed, and I give up, and I lie in bed.

Today was the day I had planned to clean my apartment. For a week, I planned it. Today would be the day. I didn't do it last weekend, so I had to do it today. It's in  very, very, very bad shape right now. I must do it very soon. I worry that the landlord will evict me if they hear from the pest control guy who comes to spray for bugs that my apartment is a disaster. And it is a disaster. I was driving behind a truck that said "1-800-JUNK We will haul your junk!" yesterday, and I thought about calling them to see if they would just come and pick up garbage and take it out of my apartment. I was joking to myself about this. Like, yeah, that's what would happen if I had a house, I'd have to call a truck. My mom has called trucks to her house to haul junk. I learned how to be a slob from my mom. She was like this. But I am now worse than she is. I am now a sloth, lying in bed all Saturday, because Monday through Friday takes every bit of energy I have to go to class, go to libraries, study, get good grades on projects, go to work, do my job, not get too stressed out, go to therapy with my new therapist, go to the psychiatrist, and do all of those things. And then it is Saturday, and it is time to tackle the mess, and I just stop.

I get too tired, and too overwhelmed, and I just lie there. My new therapist said if you're tired from physical illnesses, it's okay to lie down all day. But the thing is, I don't want to be lying down all day. I want to be accomplishing bare necesseties of life that I need to do to get by here. I am talking about a colossal mess. I am talking about flies throughout my house being drawn by food lying around and beverages lying around and getting spilled and I'm not cleaning any of it up. I am talking about not being able to walk through all the clothing on the floor of my bedroom. My bedroom which I carefully decorated myself so it would be nice, and pretty. My bedroom, like the rest of my apartment is a disaster. My dishes haven't been washed in I-don't-know-how-many weeks! It is not normal to live like this. That is the thought that comes to mind. This is NOT normal. This is NOT okay. This is going to get me EVICTED from my home. I have to FIX this and fix it now.

And then, I don't. I just give up. Like my grandmother who gave up on life years ago, retreating to her bedroom every day, and lying down. I lie down. I don't want to do this. I don't want to live this way. I want to take a class this summer, and I don't know how I'm going to be able to do it, because it would involve getting up early in the morning two more days a week, and I'm not sure I can even hack that. Because of having withdrawn from a lot of classes due to my illness when I was younger, I cannot withdraw from any class anymore, or else I am ineligible for any financial aid for school, which means I will never graduate if I drop a class. But I don't want to be in my 40's  when I do graduate, so I want to take a six-week summer class, to get some more credits done and keep my momentum up. This won't be possible with the state my apartment is in right now. I have to clean it up! I have to function!

If it was just laziness, that would not be so hard to fix, but it isn't that. It's related to my mental health in ways that are hard to explain, but it isn't that I'm lazy. I'm getting really good grades in school, and I go to my job. I am doing well with those things. I show up, I do my work, I work hard, I give it my all. But then when it comes to my home, I collapse at home. I am tired, and I am overwhelmed, and I cannot handle the mess by myself. I need some kind of assistance, but there isn't any. I don't really want assistance, but I don't know what to do. If there was assistance, I would say no thank you for it, because the mess is too humiliating to let anybody see it.

I have to find a way to get this place cleaned, and to not end up like my grandmother. I have to have hope that I really can get through college, that I really can work, that I really can someday work full-time, that I can live. I have nothing without hope. I must have hope.

Tomorrow, I must clean. It's Easter (today, actually, it's 3 AM), but I must clean because it must be done. I have no choice.

My friend doesn't understand why I can't go to the movies. Nobody in my life really understands me. I can handle so much, and then my limit is reached. I must find a way to incorporate cleaning my home into the limit of what I can handle. I must find the wherewithall within me to do it. I must go on.

This summer, I am also planning on trying to get off Risperdal Consta, so that I can try to lose weight and not be so obese anymore. I am very overweight, and it is the meds that made me this way. I have been talking to my doctor about this for a long time, and he said over the summer, when I'm not in classes (even if I take a class it will be brief), he would be willing to see how I do without the Risperdal. I am nervous about this, and I think that I probably should be nervous about it. My doctor says he's not as keen on me going off the drug as I am. But he's willing to let me try to do it. So that is also in the works.

But first, I must clean. Tomorrow, I will not spend the day in bed.


  1. Have you tried to use the flylady. It is away to get out of a mess and keep out of a mess.

  2. I am the exact same way with my apt. I don't know why it's so hard to look after it but sometimes it is just impossible. It is a mental health problem that people don't understand. I get really down about it and embarrassed. You are carrying quite a load on your shoulders with all that school and I hope your proud of yourself for that.

  3. You could try using paper plates, styrofoam bowls and plastic cups and plastic utensils. It will all cost a little money, but its great to be able to throw them out after use.

  4. I really understand Jen. I'm the same. Saturdays are a write off unless my mom comes over and helps me clean. I'm 42!! I just have no energy left at the end of the week. I hope you got your cleaning done. Even half a day is a start. Hugs xx

  5. i could so relate to this post, and if you saw my apartment you would understand why. it's such a small place, but full of dirty laundry, dishes, garbage, empty diet coke bottles.... i am so embarrassed but i can't seem to get on top of it. the only time it ever gets "clean" (and not by much) is if an out of town friend is coming over. and then i need lots of notice to get it ready. here in toronto you can get some help with cleaning if your psychiatrist signs you up for it, but i'm embarrassed to tell her how bad it's become. it's a catch-22. i second the vote for flylady. my sister uses her system and it seems to work a little for her.

  6. I understand. I do. I've btdt. My DH is very OCD when it comes to cleaning. So in our house it is usually the opposite. Without him...I would be in trouble.

    Flylady can be overwhelming and wonderful all in one. Start slow.
    ONE THING at a time.

    "Today...I will do the dishes".
    And then...when you do that. Lay down. Or do whatever.

    And then the next time "I will empty the garbages and put new bags in..."

    And then....

    And then....


    Expecting yourself to do the entire thing all at once is setting yourself up to fail.

    It did not get that way overnight and you can't expect yourself to clean overnight w/o being overwhelmed.

    One step in front of the other. ONe hour at a time.


  7. Once you get the place cleaned, the best thing might be to carry certain things in the front of your mind and know that you are telling yourself these things to help and not to criticize. For instance, you might tell yourself always that you must immediatley put things where they belong while you still handle them and before you can set them down just anyplace: dishes in sink, clothes in hamper, trash in trash can. It's really just a few extra steps to put things where they really go. It could become habit after a while and then things might be easier and more comfortable in your home. Maybe have compassion for yourself for the mess you must have lived in when you were growing up with your mother. Know that you deserve something better and just keep trying to get it, new habit by new habit. Best of luck.

  8. OK, you need to clean, but don't be acutely & exquisitely attuned to just your negatives. You have so much more going on for you than just a clean apartment ...uhm, when it is clean ;o. You juggle a lot of things & mostly, you do it quite well. Most people are not as tyrannically regimented with their homes as we think when we go over & see all the lovely neatness. That is usually for show. I have seen some horrid places, & the people were not dealing with mental illness... or if they were, they sure weren't admitting it. ~Mary

  9. Jen, you are absolutely right about the inability to clean being a mental health issue. I'm the same way. I used to shame myself terribly for it and not let anyone in my house. But something has changed in the last six months: I made a friend. I lend her my car, since she couldn't afford to fix her truck, and she in turn has been washing my dishes, cleaning windows and screens, and most miraculously, she cleaned ALL of my kitty litter boxes. She visits once or twice a week and after I've gone out shopping or visiting my brother and she's done some housework we get together and just drink our coffee and talk. Is there any way for you to pay a friend or family member to do part of your housework for you? You have no idea what a relief that would be for you to have someone you trust, who knows you to help you.

    If you don't get outside help, I know you can clean up your apartment because you have done it before, but you can't be doing it every week, only once in a while when things start to get out of hand. But Jen DON'T shame yourself. This is not your fault. You are doing a phenomenal job at work and school and with your advocacy work. Don't ever forget that. You work hard. You are not lazy and you have every right to take at least one day off a week!

    Love, Kate : )


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