Since I have so many roommates, we have to make appointments to do our laundry. Mine is 1400 on Thursdays. Before then, I need to put away all my clothes that are already clean so that I actually have empty laundry baskets to take downstairs. This might seem like the easiest task on earth, but for someone with depression, it is a gargantuan effort. I would rather sit at my computer and fill out applications all day, because it is, again, a rote experience that requires no thought. You would think that laundry would be the same way… but here’s the thing. When something is a mess and you’ve made it, depression makes you feel an emotional connection to it, which is deep and abiding guilt.
You think to yourself, why couldn’t I be the type person who just puts things away a little at a time so it doesn’t build up like this? Why can’t I be the type person who gets shit handled? Why am I letting my emotions about something clearly unemotional get in the way? Why am I hiding from my responsibilities? Why am I like this at all?
Then, anxiety takes over and reminds you that you’re failing at being an adult, and it’s just laundry. So now, this completely unemotional task has rendered you into a puddle on the floor, because it’s not about the laundry anymore. It’s about every failing in your life all at once. It is overwhelming to an enormous degree, which is why I can walk into someone else’s house who really needs help and buzzsaw through it, because I have no emotional connection to their absolute disaster area…. only mine. Perhaps depressed people need a house exchange, one in which everyone gets to clean a house without any emotional charge. I will absolutely clean your house from top to bottom with Virgo “anal Annie” accuracy without payment if you’ll just come to my house and do the same thing…. although you’ll have an easy time of it. I just rent one room.
Ironically, this very thing is how Dana went from a person I knew to the face I loved more than any other in a best friend sort of way. My heart had recently been put through a blender, and in my depression, anxiety, and grief, I finally had to ask for help. I was so downtrodden that I couldn’t see my way up, and for me to ask anyone for help is a gargantuan task in and of itself.
She came to my apartment, and because she was there, I also got geared up about the project, and we were ruthless. By the time we were finished, you could eat off the floor. As a thank you, I decided that I’d never put myself in a position where I had to ask for that kind of help again. I have never been so tidy in my life. To say that I was overzealous was an understatement. I was partially happier with all my stuff in order, and partially deathly afraid of falling into that kind of spiral again.
And, well, here we are…. and not for the first time since that apartment, because for some reason, my vehemence did not transfer to other living spaces. Depression and anxiety have resurfaced over and over, and unfortunately for me, not the kind of anxiety that kept me from making a mess in the first place.
Medically, I cannot blame all of this on lack of will. I have ADHD (well, ADD, but the DSM doesn’t differentiate anymore). That means in addition to my sometimes ruthless efficiency, I also have a tendency to work in piles of my own “organization system.” Sometimes, a clean space makes me happy. Sometimes, it doesn’t, because I don’t have everything I need right where I can see it. This won’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t have ADHD, but piles of crap everywhere are a hallmark symptom…. because to anyone who walks in my room, they wonder how I can live like this. I, however, can find generally anything within a few minutes…. with a few exceptions, for two reasons. The first is that I have monocular vision.
This means that my field of view changes often from one eye to the other, because my eyes don’t track together. Something that was right in front of me one minute will disappear the next.
The second is that because I don’t have specific habits for things like my keys, wallet, phone, tablet, etc., I don’t create location memories easily…. but only for some things. I can find things that have been hidden from sight for months, but ask me where I put my wallet yesterday, and I have no friggin’ clue. I think I have short term memory loss…. and short term memory loss.
I could blame this on a whole host of things, but it’s been that way since I was a child. So, apparently it is not anything I have done to cause this, just an intrinsic part of my personality. I have tried so hard to overcome this by trying to create habits, but it is especially hard for someone with ADHD to do so, because being consistent is not one of our strong points.
I am hoping that as the emotional trauma of my teenage years fades, I will get better about putting my things away in the same place every day. Why are those two things connected? Because apparently, emotional trauma and ADHD present with the same set of symptoms. I am not saying that my ADHD isn’t real, only that it was made exponentially worse, like compound interest in reverse.
I used to take Adderall to try and combat all this, but what I found was that it suppressed my appetite too much AND was over-correcting the problem. I’d go into hyper-focus and whatever I was doing when the medication kicked in, I’d be doing it until it wore off. This was especially problematic at work, because I could not multitask because I couldn’t change focus easily or quickly.
In addition to that fun problem, I lost a lot of weight very quickly because I’d go into a restaurant or a grocery store and practically tear up that I couldn’t find anything that looked good. I wasn’t taking in nutrients, I was losing muscle mass, and the mental block against food was literally making me ill. At first, it was weight I needed to lose, and then it was too much. After the fat was gone, my body began eating my muscles.
It was a great day when I put it together that the Adderall had to stop, but it was harder than I thought it would be because I was not addicted to the substance itself, but the compliments on how great I looked. People couldn’t see from the outside how much the drug wrestled my insides. They only saw “skinny,” which translates to “societally acceptable.” I thought that if I stopped the drug, I’d instantly gain the weight back, which, having a Cordon Bleu-trained chef as a best friend made entirely possible. It was how I gained all the weight in the first place. At 5’4 and 170, I looked like a teapot, and was not eager to go back there again.
What I didn’t know then that I know now is that my stomach had shrunk so small that I couldn’t handle eating more than a few bites at a time, even without the medication…. and when I’d get phenomenally upset about something, I’d stop eating, anyway. When that has happened (and sometimes, still does), I buy cases of shakes and packets of Carnation™ Instant Breakfast, because I don’t have a block on drinking…. just eating. I also make sure to put fat in my coffee of some kind. Then, the tables will turn when I get hungry enough, and I will stuff my face like a child given $200 at McDonald’s…. but it’s never enough to make me gain weight, because the lack of calories over the past few weeks of depression isn’t cured with one meal.
Being married helped, and not in the way you might think. It’s that it’s easy to resort to my own devices when you don’t have anyone to eat with. I eat normally when I’m with other people, because I am drawn out of my own head, failing to sit and think about everything I’ve ever done wrong in my entire life… and at this point, there are some doozies. I dry heave just thinking about them…. but I also think if you reach 40 and you haven’t any regrets, you’re probably closer to Jesus than I am.
I bet Jesus folded HIS laundry.