As a teenager I was your typical messy girl, last night’s snack remnants all over my room and a month’s worth of outfits that didn’t make the cut that day spewed on my bed and floor.
When I became a young mom and an amputee at the same time I think the strive to prove I wasn’t a statistic drove me to take on a supermom/woman persona, and part of that was being an over zealous cleaner.
Along the way my mind became co-dependent on clean surroundings, somehow peace,relaxation, and self worth was synonymous with a corner to corner clean home.
I remember the home visit for newborns & moms through our hospital with our fourth child and me apologizing for the state of our house and the nurse laughing saying she would never know we had 3 children and a newborn, but for me it was all still too overwhelming. As I healed from a dislocated pelvis from delivery I remember my mind spiraling out of control because our home was “dirty”, we had just had a traumatic birth and I was worried about dust and a few out-of-place items.
Fast forward 5 years later when my symptoms begun, I was having to push myself to the brink to keep my house clean and in turn my mind at peace. Much like a marathon you take on not quite fully fit to compete in, I knew I had to get to the end, and my mind outranked my body and we kept going.
A few years after that my body decided it would stand up for itself and so began a full-out war between my mind and body.
By this point I already knew I had several diagnosed auto immune disorders and my iron was alarmingly low, I had every legitimate reason to have a “dirty” house but I could not accept that. I had an easier time accepting the pain, the symptoms, and the prognosis more than I could accept my level of clean having to be adjusted.
As my body rebelled, I would do simple chores like sweeping and mopping, and to look at me after you’d think I just preformed an intense hour work out. I became increasingly out of breath, partly because I had put on 50 pounds (the biggest I’ve ever been even at full term pregnancy, 110lb girl up to 160 in the matter of a few years thanks mainly to Hashimoto’s) and then on top of the weight and Hashimoto’s I was a below the knee amputee, I had Fibromyalgia, IBS and my iron was dropping by the minute.
I found myself a natropath doctor, she was wonderful, helped me lose 50lbs and learn about my illnesses, but even she knew when she had been defeated in treating me. In the course of treating me I remember one day in her office on the verge of tears…why…because my house was “dirty” I found myself on the brink of depression because of it, my hubz was with me and he looked at her and said I don’t get what she sees, it’s not even close to dirty, but in my mind because I couldn’t clean it corner to corner routinely I was a failure some how and my sanity was spiraling because of it. It caused tension between hubz and I and the kids, my frustration with them grew because I somehow expected them to take over my ideal cleaning because I couldn’t, my kids had nick named my idea of clean “mom clean” and “portuguese clean” my guess is hubz had a few choice nick names for my insanity too.
Of course looking back I’m sure it was the combination of all my health issues combined with my need for obsessive cleaning that invited depression in.
In 2016 I decided to Marie Kondo our home (long before this fad existed) hubz helped me de-clutter and downsize, my mission, to decrease the need for the cleaning I could no longer achieve.
We were 99% there when life threw us a wrench and a flood took out the bottom 2 (fully finished) floors in our home.
This was my breaking point, I had to relinquish all control and accept the chaos that was recovery and rebuilding from the flood, however don’t let me fool you, I didn’t give in without many psychological fights with myself.
I was never the same since then, I couldn’t find joy for a long time, I was mentally and physically exhausted from it all, but one good thing that came from it, eventually, is that I now no longer beat myself up as bad for not having a museum clean home.
We now keep things simple, I do a few things daily and that’s it, I don’t expect “mom clean” from others either.
The oddest thing about all of this now is how I am so sad that I spent all those years “cleaning”, I think of all the wasted days, I think about how I couldn’t see that taking care of myself and living should have been prioritized over a spotless home.
I can’t promise I am 100% mentally healthy at the moment, have I truly discovered that there is no need for such a clean home?, or have I fully accepted that OCD and chronic illness don’t mix? The fear is always there for me that I may snap one day, not being ok with a “dirty” house after all, but for now I am enjoying cleaning to live instead of living to clean.
The Spoonie Mummy did a great post here about cleaning with a chronic illness
Pop over and read it, I think it’s a great list for anyone, not just us Spoonies.