The Significance of Purging Material and Mental Clutter

Compulsive decluttering or just a simple distraction to stave off anxiety? Whatever the case, I’m right on track again! Just as with any other time I get exhausted, sick, or overwhelmed, I resort to decluttering my house. This time, it was somewhat benign, as the stuff I got rid of was outgrown clothing and Halloween decorations stashed in the basement.

But, first, a little backstory- yesterday, I drove all the gas out of my car to meet somebody who was sleeping off a hangover. I caught a cold while walking around yesterday, breathing in pollen at the park. And, of course, I’m run-down, tired and angry. It’s Mother’s Day again, and I haven’t spoken to my mother in 10 years. In her mind, throwing out assorted ink pens is more important than a person’s livelihood. There is much I don’t want to discuss my family, but we have differing perspectives on certain issues.

This is the second time in a month that I’ve been sick with a cold or allergies. And I’m dreading going to work this week because when one of the team members in the quality department goes on vacation, I have to fill in. In fact, before my co-worker left for her vacation, she ambushed me to ask me to work this past Saturday. When I said I wasn’t able, she took another jab, guilt-tripped me, and now I’m saddled into working next Saturday!

I get depressed when I’m sick, and I start ruminating. Today I was thinking about how little regard my family has given me and my kids. It usually doesn’t bother me, until I get around “normal” people, enjoying time with extended family members. Maybe I am being unrealistic. Perhaps what I see in an hour of time with others isn’t enough time to truly define how other families function.

When I decided to declutter, I started off with my daughter’s box of clothes from the basement. I told her that I wanted to only keep a few bulky winter garments downstairs. Whatever else that can’t fit upstairs, she has to choose what to donate. Many of the clothes seemed fine, but she had minor complaints about each item she didn’t want.

My son’s box was easy to empty because he outgrew several pairs of shorts. What else was there to go through but the Halloween box? I dumped it out and looked over the plastic mice and bats. I remembered the ugly, heavy-duty extension cords I bought only two years ago to use for lights. For all the work I did putting up the lights, it didn’t look as good as my neighbor’s lighting.

Halloween Clutter

There was some shiny, purple garland that was starting to fall apart. When I saw the gaudy, felt decorations, I was reminded about primary-school artwork. All of these items, I thought I was justified when purchasing because they didn’t contain witches or vampires- nothing more than smiling pumpkins and kitty-cats. I just know that this Halloween, my son will be angry that I got rid of the decorations. He likes to dress up and hand out candy on our decorated porch.

After decluttering, I marveled at how clean and organized the basement looked. I have to obtain the strength to not buy more stuff next year to appease anybody else’s values. I need to take a closer look at what I will do to cope when I have no possessions to donate. Maybe I can get out in nature- away from clutter and needless spending.

 

 

Life Hacks For Staying Productive During Depression

Life Hacks for Staying Productive During Depression

“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.” –Dwayne Johnson

Can you recall a time in your life when you were so crippled by depression that you weren’t able to focus on anything but your mental health? There was a time when I was so depressed and unable to do even the simplest of tasks. Sadly, this occurred right after the birth of my children, who are two years apart in age. It seemed as though everything was working against me. Some things I can distinctly remember are:

When Your Family Isn’t Equipped To Help

My mother, stepfather, and sister, lived an hour away from me. They were all pretty absorbed in their own problems. I remember feeling like a wallflower, an invisible entity when I was in their presence. My sister was a single mother at the time. She’d have my stepdad and my mom babysit for her while she pulled side jobs. She had many financial difficulties and often borrowed money from the family. They bickered about the money she owed them and complained about having to babysit so much.

I felt guilty for asking for help with money, but I did seek their advice when I was dealing with my abusive husband. They always told me to get away from him, but nothing more than hollow words to appease their own conscience. It took me years before I attained the wisdom to leave my husband.

I especially desired emotional support. I was too far away from the family members that were able to help us. The church and a domestic violence support group offered me the social support and knowledge I needed to take care of my kids on my own.

I Lacked Self-Worth

After my pregnancies, it was hard for me to lose weight. Here I was, in my early 30’s, mentally and emotionally exhausted from depression and anxiety. The constant chipping away of my soul continued for 4 years. My ex-husband took great delight in berating me when I weighed 160 lbs. He told me my stomach stuck out more than my chest, and he could get anybody he wanted, but nobody would want me ever!

I Lacked Mobility

When you are poor, it’s hard to keep up a car. There’s the car payment, the insurance, the car repairs, and of course, e-check. In Ohio, if you have an older car, you can forget about passing the e-check. In fact, I had to get a waiver because I paid money to correct the deficiencies, but it still failed. Luckily, the county I currently live in doesn’t require e-check! But the car I lease now would pass the emissions test.

When you have young kids, many people run the other way when they see you’re in need. After trying to unsuccessfully find a place to stay, I wanted to see if the kids and I could be part of the transitional housing for the homeless. There were several churches that participated in this project. The only catch was you had to move your family each week to another church “host”. I didn’t think that was a great idea for my family, given the fact we had been through so much already. Eventually, we were approved for an income-based apartment. Many people endearingly refer to these homes as the “projects.” It was the best option for us at the time, despite the fact that there was a lot of shady activities going on in the complex.

How did I ever manage to be productive when all this was going on in my life? Nothing fell into place quickly, unfortunately. It took years, but those difficult years helped me become disciplined, even when I was depressed.

Some things that worked to my benefit during my most difficult times?

Ask For A Flexible Schedule

My employer (NACS) was aware of my situation, to some extent, and allowed me to come into work after my son got on the bus in the morning, and after I took my daughter to the childcare center.

Have A Routine At Home

My kids and I followed a regular routine of when we ate dinner, played, and slept. Going to sleep on time, at the same time each day, helps your body maintain a regular rhythm.

Enjoy Low-Key Activities

When you feel the surge of anxiety or depression, it’s hard to be around large groups of people (especially, confident and happy people). While it’s not good to isolate yourself from people, many times they unwittingly cause more hurt than good. We used to go to the park when very few people were there. I took my kids to the “Book Mobile” to get videos, books, and puppets. The Book Mobile is essentially the local library contained on a bus that comes to your establishment (nursing homes, the “projects”, etc.).

Some other “low-key” ideas to get you out of the house, without throwing you into chaos when you are least likely to enjoy it, would include:

  • Walking around a quiet lake
  • Going to the movies during matinee
  • Stopping for some ice-cream
  • Fishing, boating, camping
  • Visiting a nature center

Write Lists

My ex-husband used to scoff at the fact that I was so mentally burned-out that I needed to write everything down. If I didn’t write down even the most minute task, my brain was too foggy to recall key information. Amid depression, domestic violence, unexpected “guests” showing up to “party” with my ex, and the weekly visits from the police, my mind wasn’t focused on the future. Instead, I was stuck in mere survival mode.

My family could not have moved beyond those ashes of despair, that bleak kind of existence, if it wasn’t for writing down to-do lists, tasks, resources, and even Bible verses on index cards.

Get Up And Dressed

It’s important to give your appearance some hope the better days that lie ahead. When you take a shower and get dressed, it’s easier to be ready for whatever is going on in the day. There may be an expected opportunity waiting for you- an unexpected job offer, an unexpected friend may call and want to have lunch. Taking the time to get ready is refreshing to your body and your well-being!

How To Give Dignity To Your Emotions!

How to Give Dignity to Your Emotions!

Today, I desire to be unencumbered by organizing my thoughts and structuring my paragraphs before my words settle upon this glowing screen. Sometimes writing requires capricious expression, and other times, it requires much mental effort. What I have to say doesn’t need much research. I just want to draw today. I completed a portrait of Sigmund Freud. It’s somewhat minimalistic, but to me, there is beauty in simplicity.

I also want to write today, simply to express myself- not to impress anybody, not to sell anything. And when I write today, I want to say what a special weekend! My daughter turned 14 yesterday. I am the parent of two teenaged creatures!

I’ve been pretty lucky in the parenting stage of life because my kids have remained, by and large, decent human beings, free of any major character flaws. But, I’m weary in this journey. My emotions are tossed about with conflicting feelings. On one hand, I fear the day when they are grown. Conversely, I also can’t wait for the days when they are grown.

Being a parent with mental health issues is a bit different from being a “regular” parent. No doubt, I experience the same dilemmas as other parents. But what makes my job more complex are the following factors:

When my kids have a problem, the first thing I attribute it to is myself. Did my anxiety cause them this problem? Did my depression bring them down? Did I spoil them when I felt guilty about “not measuring up” to societal standards?

One thing is for sure- I’ve been humbled by my illness, and also by the task of parenting. I am well aware of the way my mind working of my brain-

(my psychiatrist noted my thought process as “circumstantial”)-

Circumstantiality- (also circumstantial thinking, or circumstantial speech) – An inability to answer a question without giving excessive, unnecessary detail. This differs from tangential thinking, in that the person does eventually return to the original point

And as an individual with this type of thought pattern, I do tend to elaborate on insignificant details. My mind wanders in many directions, but it always returns to the original point. I’m a little disturbed that somebody that has spoken to me once can make so many assertions. I guess that’s what a college degree empowers an individual to do (not meant to sound snarky, just expressing an observation).

Today, I write because I feel the need to express myself- my hopes and dreams, and my joy and sadness. For without writing, or even drawing Sigmund Freud today, I’d be riddled with the impulse to start purging stuff in my house again. Anxiety, exhaustion, joy, sadness- it’s too many emotions permeating my mind at once.

I could spend the day trying to improve myself through studying or exercise. Or I can simply reflect on the gift of human emotions. I will honor my emotions by giving all of them the consideration they deserve and require. That’s much healthier than suppression or denial.

How OCD Nearly Destroyed My Creativity

One of the things that helped soothe my mind as a child was art. I had a special affinity for drawing people. Teachers noticed my skills and would shine the spotlight on my artwork sometimes. I became known as a good artist by my classmates. I always believed I would choose a career path that utilized my artistic talents. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I started to become disenchanted with the concept of art. In school, art was never very disciplined.

Once I took art classes at college, it was very different. I hated using charcoal pencils, pastels, and paints. My artwork no longer represented my creativity, but rather, it reflected “mental clutter” and oppressive memories. I started purging my pencil and charcoal sketches that I had devoted so much time and energy. I did not want these remnants of my past, for whatever reasons.

In my early thirties, I began favoring a more minimalistic home environment, much to my family’s dismay. I was unable to have any kind of clutter. This meant I could not pursue my art anymore, though I tried to keep my interest in art alive by doing art with my kids. I would buy art supplies, make arts and crafts, then throw the supplies and designs away. It also meant that my husband and I would have arguments over what he wanted to save and what I wanted to discard or donate. He wanted the basement to remain undisturbed. He did, in fact, want to hoard too many things, but the truth is told, he had a point. My thoughts were impeding on the liberties of others in my home.

OCD or A Bipolar Trying To Control External Stimuli?

It’s odd that I started to favor a minimalistic theme in my life. I loved to see art, I loved to be surrounded by cozy objects in other people’s homes- just not my own. My mind became cluttered with stimuli if I allowed any empty space in my house. My kids said our house looked like we just moved in. I tend to agree with them! The mission to maintain a clutter-free house consumed me- OCD Decluttering! Absolute madness, yet disregarded by many that do not see the damage caused by this disorder.

Assigning Values To OCD Stress & Triggers

I don’t know what has caused my OCD symptoms to lessen. Perhaps the passage of time, or maybe I have become more mindful of the destructive ways of OCD. When I have become overwhelmed, I have purged “things”…clothes, paper, the pantry, anything I could get my hands on! I try to minimize things that trigger OCD. For instance, I try to avoid doing too many things I dislike in one day. I won’t grocery shop and drive excessively on the same day if I can help it. Maybe somebody should try to assign numbers to indicate varying degrees of stress for daily activities. I know there are such systems for monumental stressful life events (such as jail, divorce, job loss, etc.). For people suffering from anxiety or OCD, this would be ideal.

Reconciling OCD, Rekindling My Creativity

My OCD symptoms have diminished in the last few years… I haven’t thought too much lately how far I have come with my anxiety and OCD because I have been distracted by other issues. Visiting an art museum has helped me to become inspired by art once again.

In my previous post, I wrote about being happy when I am out in nature. Nature is beauty in its simplest form, no clutter or embellishments. Art is the creation of man (and woman). It is not necessarily simple, yet I find it beautiful and edifying. I have become less focused on intrusive, unimportant worries about clutter, and more concerned about what is involved in the making of the things that are in my surroundings. Processes, engagement, activity: things that are relational help make the visual beauty in a way that has depth. This is beyond what was once shallow. Everything that is material or visual is not superficial to me any longer.

A woman takes a drag of her cigarette.

What’s the Harm in Soft Addictions?

As much as I would like to fool myself and claim to have no true connections to technology, I am guilty of spending countless hours of wasted time on the internet and on my phone. Every few hours- at the minimum, I must “check in” to my email, research something on Google, or read the juiciest Hollywood gossip. In a way, this habit reminds of when I was a smoker. Every 1 ½ to 3 hours, I submitted myself to just one more drag off a cheap Dorel cigarette. With great anticipation, I called on my “posse” of smoking friends and co-workers to join me outside for a break. It was soothing as we smoked and talked. Then, within a few moments, guilt overwhelmed me. I wanted to get a grip on my habit. Maybe if I just reduced the number of cigarettes I smoked, I could fool myself, have a little pleasure without becoming totally immersed in nicotine addiction. This never worked for me. After several failed attempts, I finally quit for my family.

Now I have the same guilt about what I believe is technology addiction. I’m addicted to the internet, my email, and my smartphone. If I’m out with my family, I have got to document for the world to see at some point, so I use my phone to capture the moment. Something in my mind felt awkward about this new socially-acceptable behavior. When did “having fun” become such a novelty? Granted, I only have one social media account for which I use to keep up with my children’s online presence. It has been a year since I posted a photo.

I became disenamoured with Facebook a few years ago when I started seeing a predictable pattern in the posts of my friends. Sure, it seemed nice to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in over twenty years, and it was entertaining to see their photos, read their quips, and “like” their strongly-worded opinions. It felt like high school again, in the virtual world. The “popular” kids at one table, the misfits somewhere else, and the people that didn’t really subscribe to any particular subset or clique. Regardless of my feelings, it seemed easy for me to become addicted to Facebook. After a few years, I consciously chose to ignore the “fear of missing out” syndrome and I finally deactivated and deleted my Facebook data.

When I needed help in conquering past issues, I prayed. I failed several times even as I was in the midst of fighting my issues. Often, it was years before I saw anything positive as a result of fighting a battle for my mind. I have battled emotional eating, caffeine addiction, smoking, and drinking. Of those habits, I have overcome two. The caffeine use has increased, possibly to replace the need to smoke, drink or eat. A few years ago, I dropped nearly twenty pounds, only to pack it on again. Somehow I can’t discipline myself to drink more water, which would help curb my appetite.

Quite possibly, I can’t connect to the real world, as a result of technology, or perhaps, because I can’t connect to the real world, I turn to my laptop and phone.