This is pretty much what I was trying to do this past week or so – looking for some magic wand which could instantly erase all the evidences of hard and painful years behind me, evidences that silently scream into my face every time I wake up and face my apartment consciously looking around me. Things piled up one on the top of the other, useful but not used, covered with layers of dust… corners of rooms that it has always been too strenuous to reach, clothes and objects that don’t belong to this decade, pieces of started projects that never lived up to their potential…
Why now? Why did all this get piled up like that in the first place? Why was it so hard (and still is) to tackle it all this time? And… was it any good?
Well… it’s been ages that I’m planning to do it, observing the situation, starting, giving up, lacking belief in my abilities to succeed in doing it… so basically the instant I felt even semi-relief from my cramps and pains (which are still not completely gone!!) I jumped at whatever got into my way as if my dear life depended on it. Why so ferociously – it’s just the stupid cleaning! – you’ll ask yourself. Simply because when you live for too long with PD you master some “fascinating” skills which are not all necessarily positive or productive. You can even get close to winning an Oscar for becoming the Master Procrastinator. It has nothing to do with laziness, it’s simply survival instinct at work – at first you avoid anything that triggers attacks, first places, then people, then physical effort, even to the point that you feel “safe” only if you don’t move at all. Living only in your own head becomes a very powerful “save yourself” tactic, and as life goes on you end up seeing nothing wrong about, it becomes your second nature.
So I simply knew that if I just dared to think twice about this seriously MASSIVE endeavor, I might have easily run away before I even started. Also, what I noticed is that lately I give my attention to efforts for as long as they last in one day, while when something needs to be broken down into smaller increments and requires sticking to it during longer periods of time, I can massively mess things up. Therefore I just jumped at whatever needed my attention in the living room as this was where I was sitting when I got this wonderful cleaning urge.
As for the motivation, I tried and I’m still trying to use the 15 minute tactic – whenever you say you don’t have time to do something, or that it’s too hard, or that you’re not good enough to do it, convince yourself to stick to it for at least 15 minutes per day. From my experience, you usually feel ashamed with yourself if you can’t dedicate such a small amount of time as 15 minutes to something productive, so you’ll probably end up sticking to it. What happens then is that you honestly feel amazed when you see how much you can actually do in this seemingly very short time span and also more importantly, if you stay involved in something for at least 15 minutes, you’ll very probably decide to continue doing it for at least a bit longer. Inertia is a true wonder, we just need to make it work in our favor.
Why did all this get piled up like that in the first place?
Panic disorder is just a diagnose, but it’s a miracle how many serious consequences two stupid words can bring along. It arrives uninvited into your life and turns much of your world into dust, like a hurricane. It freezes you, halts you, ties you with an invisible leash to some tiny place or some small point in time and you can’t move. You don’t have strength, you don’t have willpower, you don’t even notice that something needs to be done. Life around you goes into blur and vanishes, leaving only you and your panic behind. When you get better (why there are these periods when you get better I still don’t know – does that happen on its own or was it me that I did something well?), it feels like waking up from a very long coma. You’re suddenly in the present moment, but everything around you is still sleeping back in the moment and the state you abandoned it in. It’s already a huge pile on its own, but the story doesn’t end there. Now you feel stronger to finally do something, but you have no idea where to start. You feel awkward because the life and people went ahead without you, you don’t even know how to behave in a changed environment, let alone how to make up for all the time you lost. You pick up one thing, look at it, it needs to be put into some place, given a meaning, but it’s as if you lost all ability to do it. So you put it back down again. In the meantime, you live, which means that you buy new things, consume, use whatever you need, and all those new things end up on the top of those unresolved issues from the past. Piles get bigger and you get more desperate. So you hide – in TV shows, books, on the internet, even outside to the extent that you’re able to do it. You try to live some different life, have an illusion that your life isn’t as problematic as it really is so that it could be easier to just endure it. And what happens? The same thing that happens with all unresolved issues – they pile up to the point when one day everything tumbles down onto your head and you end up paying for all those peaceful moments you enjoyed while trying to forget that you have problems in the first place. You approach a pile of something because you need some insignificant item in the middle of it. You pull it out, trying to maintain the balance of the “structure”, but you fail. And everything falls down and spreads in all directions, forcing you to watch memories you’d rather forget, reminding you of the “failure” you are because you turned into what you are today. If someone sees you desperately crying beside some silly objects that just need to be gathered back, you know what they will think. And they have no idea how much struggle and pain are hiding in the middle of that destroyed pile.
Why was it so hard (and still is) to tackle it all this time?
Damn good question, but a very difficult one as well. For a long time I couldn’t really verbalize it, then the answer just materialized itself as I was watching a documentary on hoarding. What’s behind hoarding? In many cases, there are layers and layers of pain, covered hundreds of times all over again. Covering it unfortunately never makes it go away, just like a dirty wound will never heal if you put a band-aid on it and try to forget it. People don’t like pain and they do their best to avoid it. It’s not socially acceptable to show all your pain and its intensity to the whole world, so you suffer inside. Unfortunately your suffering soon enough can be read like an open book in the environment around you. You start reading neglect and personal failures in almost everything you set you eyes onto. It hurts badly to face this not living up to your and everybody else’s expectations, so you prefer to avoid that, too. With time suffering and bad memories accumulate, and you don’t know what to do anymore. At best, you feel strong enough to move several items, but even if you manage you risk to have all your world coming back to you with full force, tumbling down on you, threatening to bury you underneath. Or even if this doesn’t happen, moving just several items seems like taking out several branches from some very dense wood, who on Earth can see any difference? Constant digging through this wood is seriously like turning a knife inside a bad wound and you have to be very brave to accept this. Accept that it has to hurt like hell, but that it’s a road to hell and back again, eventually you’ll feel a lot better.
So I started. There was a lot of dust in some areas and I felt ashamed, guilty, sad, unfit… I found a card from a dear elderly friend saying that she was very much looking forward to seeing me again. Needless to say, I never went to see her again, and unfortunately she passed away. More shame and guilt. Somewhere further down the path in a totally unexpected place, a couple of photos and a printed e-mail from my only true love, guy who left me and made me suffer very much. I used to blame him for inflicting such an unjust pain on me, but with time I realized how much I was actually to be blamed for what happened. More shame, more guilt, facing the painful facts… And a dilemma – whether or not should I preserve things related to him, even though it’s been a little bit more than 10 years that we split up. In normal circumstances I don’t think I would think twice about keeping it. But when you live the way I do, the perspectives of being with somebody ever again are somewhere around zero, so keeping something that is the only tangible memory of what love is doesn’t seem that much crazy any more. I would have usually stopped with cleaning by now, unable to manage that much negativity related to who I am, but surprisingly this time I went on. I faced childhood memories, things that I foolishly bought with “good reason” and never even unpacked, photos in frames from the students’ exhibition, presents I have no idea what to do with, books I never read… I ended up stressed like hell, still knowing that all this anxiety was more than necessary. I’ve been feeling lately that I won’t be able to truly dedicate myself to things I love – photography, writing, reading, drawing… unless I clear up my space and create some sort of inspirational and creative friendly environment. There is so much more to do to get there. I just pray for the strength.
And… was it any good?
I can’t deny that I did something – a nice portion of the living room now looks cleaner and nicer, but it still feels like a drop in the sea. It took me 7 years to get here, the road was long and needs to be taken in full in reverse. No one alone can truly change what’s been lying still for 7 years in 7 days, unless you decide to fully dispose of everything you have. On the other hand, I think that 7 days in a row are the longest time in these last 7 years that I managed to stick to cleaning, so I guess that there is something positive about it after all. My muscles ache, my body rebels against this suddenly imposed massive efforts to move heavy objects in awkward positions and I literally feel as if I was run over by a truck… but I had to start somehow. There is no easy way to do hard things, I just hope I won’t fall apart and stop. Consistency is the key… but I’m worried that I’ll have to turn into an eternal Cinderella for how much work I have. 🙂 It also leaves me very little time for everything else, blogging included. And I miss it a lot, I grew really fond of it. 🙂 And I have some nice photos to share… I’ll give my best to find time!