A reliable indicator of mental health improvement for me has always been the ability to see dirt. In the depths of major depression, I couldn’t give a rat’s behind if housekeeping chores get done. Well, imagine what effect that has over the course of two years. My husband does the best he can but he’s got an overflowing to-do list, taking up the slack created by my chronic illness and pain.
Most days, I’m able to rinse dishes and put them in the dishwasher. That’s a far cry from cleaning the kitchen, but it’s definitely better than depositing plates, bowls, and cutlery so that a full sink greets my husband when he comes home from work. This occurs only with extreme pain episodes or when I can’t get out from under the heavy, wet blanket of fatigue. If my neurotransmitters start finding an effective balance, not only do I see dirty dishes but, suddenly, I see crumbs around the toaster, barbecue sauce splat on the stovetop, bread products straying from their box.
It is as though details come into focus and I am truly surprised by what I see. When I look around my bedroom, my clothes are crowding me. There are items at the end of the bed that I only wore once; I plan to wear them again… and maybe again. Mixed in are old clothes I wouldn’t want to wear even if they fit; these were in a donation pile, awaiting a bag. My husband doesn’t understand my system and they’ve been intermingled with the wear-agains. The hamper stands at the ready and I throw dirty clothes at it. The last clothing receptacle area is just outside the threshold of our en suite. Don’t ask why I shed clothes there before showering instead of using the hamper six feet away. I don’t know. Depression think is a shape-shifting animal all its own.
Now, though, upon seeing what I’ve adopted as a way of operating, I initially feel so bad for my partner. He’s not once pressured me, not about cleaning, not regarding groceries, meal planning, or cooking. I do what I can before my mid back cramps painfully, some days doing more than others. Next, it is clear that I must take care of all of this, starting now! Following years of trying to do more than I can actually handle and having my body react strongly, I put on the brakes. Being overwhelmed by chores needing attention leads to physical and mental shutdown. I remind myself to do a little bit most days. That’s all. And breathe.
I did find myself singing the past couple days as I puttered about the house. It’s almost like an out of body experience. The singing startles me. I smile at myself, knowing that serenading my dog with “You’ve got a friend” (James Taylor acoustic version) certainly backs up the sight of dirt.