It may not be true of everyone with a mental health disorder, but it’s true for me – my brain is chaos. There’s no denying it, ask anyone who has had a conversation with me recently. The rambling that escapes my lips and the bunny trails I have led people down have been endless and sometimes pointless. The chaos that was once contained in within my skull has fled the confines of my cranium, seeped into my external existence and is slowly taking over. Like the weeds that have have overrun my flowerbeds, and the laundry that is piling up in my bedroom, my thoughts are running a muck.
The whole house suffers when I lose control of the internal chaos. It affects every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, the kids suffer from chaos brain too, so when I lose control the chaos trickles down the ladder of command infecting everyone in the Madhouse and the war for order is all but lost. I haven’t seen the carpet in my son’s room since Easter. My daughter is hording blankets at the foot of her bed and I’m sure that Barbie and Ken have started procreating in her closet. I seem to step on more of the little, plastic effigies every day. My poor dog has to step over, around and sometimes through piles of toys, clothes, video games, books and whatever else has made its way to the those invisible storage shelves on my floor.
I don’t want people coming to the house. I make excuses, I offer lame apologies. I do not want people to see this. With really close friends, those who are sympathetic to the chaos, I will allow them through the door despite the mess. When they ask to come visit, or drop by for a chat, I tell them before they step over the threshold, “If you’re here to see me, great, c’mon in. If you’re here to see my house, I’m sorry, it’s sick. It threw up laundry all over the place.”
I know there are those of you out there thinking all that’s required is a little planning, a little organizing, a little structure and the problem’s solved. And in most cases, you’d be right, but not in this case. Trust me, I have implemented cleaning schedules, done chore charts, checklists, offered rewards, heck I’ve even tried bribing myself! (Honestly, I have no idea what happened to that one pound box of chocolates that was supposed to last all month. It must have been the cat, yeah, the cat.) All to no avail.
Admittedly, my home has never been “June Cleaver” neat, but I do like it to at least be tidy and clean, if still a little cluttered, should someone stop in to say hi. I wasn’t doing too bad keeping on top of it, it certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was at least passable. When my relationship ended earlier this spring and I slipped into a mild depression my desire to maintain my home bottomed out. I became the queen of apathy. I simply did not care. As the stuff piled up and the chaos became unmanageable I shrugged my shoulders and buried my nose in a book or the computer.
Now that I would like to get the house back on track since the chaos in my mind has receded some, I am left with the daunting task of reestablishing some sense of order to my home life. I know it only appears impossible, that in reality it is completely manageable, with time and effort, but I get depressed every time I come home. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my family’s Wraparound facilitator has tried helping me implement some structure into our lives. I am ashamed to say that these well-thought out plans have not worked, not because of plausibility, but because I did not implement the strategy. Structure will not take root if it is not planted.
My Wraparound facilitator has since sent me to CMHA to see if I can access services on the basis of my diagnosis. The intake coordinator at CMHA believes that I could benefit from several of CMHA‘s programs. However, she warned me that chances are slim that the board will approve me for service because of “how well I present”. Because I am intelligent, articulate and put together (on a good day) it is challenging for the board to see me as truly in need of assistance. Basically, because I have self-taught and self-implemented coping tools I am now being potentially excluded from assistance that would benefit my entire family.
I guess the best thing for me to do is be patient. Be patient and tackle a little bit every day. At the library where I work one of my colleagues, Peter, the e-Services Manager, has taken an interest in Surviving the Madhouse. He has recommended I set a goal (X), with a time frame (Y) and manageable steps (Z) in order to take Surviving the Madhouse to the next level. He proposes that by accomplishing Z within Y I will achieve X. In theory, and on paper, it works great. In my head though, it goes something like this – I can accomplish Z within Y, but I’m going to follow W down the rabbit hole until I see H and then I’ll get sidetracked by Q until Y becomes Y to the power of 2 and then I’ll achieve X to the power of 12, but only after stopping to have tea with F, M & U.
Peter may be on to something though, if I write it all down, like a map, and follow Z through Y I may just be able to guide my chaotic brain so I can reach the destination of X without too many detours. This strategy could easily be applied to all aspects of my life, including household duties. Definitely something to ponder over tea with C, J & K.