Recently someone contacted me about one of my posts on Facebook. They told me how deeply it touched them to hear my story and know they weren’t alone. Because this post has touched so many people, I felt it would be appropriate to share it here too:
On May 1, 2018 I began Mental Health Awareness Month by sharing a very real and raw story. This is just one example of how mental illness can affect everyday living. It’s one of the shameful things that those who suffer hide from the world. We all make mistakes in life and sometimes we need to forgive ourselves. We need to let go of judgements. This is my Facebook post about why mental illness prevents me from having a clean car:
“I’m going to share an ugly and embarrassing part of my Bipolar/anxiety and the win I had over it today.
When I’m in hypomania I am going at the speed of light. I feel like I can’t take two seconds to deter from what I’m doing. So that includes pulling trash out of my car. I have to maximize every second.
I know what you are thinking, “Jen just grab the trash every time you get out.” Nope doesn’t work for me. At least it’s something I need to continue practicing skills for.
Anyway so in my rush of life a couple things will pile up, no big deal. Then after the hypomania always comes the crash. Anxiety and depression set in. Suddenly I’m driving through fast food and binge eating in my car.
Now I’m not bringing the trash in the house because I’m ashamed of the binging and don’t want the evidence in the trash (yes I know Rich can still see it in my car…I never said it made sense.)
This is when the shame sets in. Now not only am I stuffing my face and binging but my car is becoming a place where I can’t take passengers. It becomes a huge project to clean it. So I avoid it. Why? Because my anxiety says that if something is overwhelming you should avoid that feeling.
Think of it this way. Humans originally had the emotion of fear and anxiety to protect them from dangerous things. It would engage the flight, fight, or freeze reaction. My brain has an imbalance and my anxiety sets off this primal instinct even if it’s not warranted. In some cases I do fight or flight. When it comes to things that cause me shame, I freeze. I avoid.
My car is disgusting. I’m not talking a normal amount of trash. People who saw my car would think I was hoarder. (FYI – I’m not.) I park as far away from a store as I can so I’m not next to other cars and people can’t see in. When I pull up to a drive through to binge I don’t pull all the way up to the window so the employee can’t see.
The only place for people to sit is the driver’s seat and Aria’s car seat which she is only in for the 20 second drive to daycare. We take Rich’s car for everything else. And yes, we drive across the street to daycare because the busy road has had fatal accidents and we no longer feel safe walking across.
I’ve felt disgusting. I’ve felt ashamed. I’ve felt overwhelmed. I’ve felt anxiety. I’ve felt anger at myself. None of this was enough to clean the car for 6 MONTHS!!!!
Yes the trash was piled up so high on the floor of my passenger side that I couldn’t open the door and it was spilling onto the seat. Yes I had so much trash stuffed under my seat that it was often falling under my feet while I drove. Yes my car SMELLED!
Yesterday something happened though. The shame was so bad and something triggered me to admit this to someone. Just saying it to someone who was not Rich or my therapist suddenly made it something I couldn’t avoid. I’m incredibly grateful that I could open up. I’m glad I had someone I could confide in.
Last night Rich and I made a plan that we were going to take the car for an oil change by Friday. It’s long overdue because I didn’t want to bring the car in like that.
So this evening I finally did it. I used so many of my DBT skills to overcome my anxiety and to de clutter my car and mind.
When all was said and done I had 4 lawn size garbage bags of trash. Please know this is incredibly embarrassing to admit. There are some ugly sides to this disease and I hope that someone struggling will realize they are not their disease. They aren’t even the mistakes they make because of their disease.
It may take 6 months to tackle something that is overwhelming. Just keep trying. Today I am victorious and feel on top of the world for doing something most people do everyday.
It was hard for me and I’m mentally and physically exhausted. You never know what someone’s situation is. I’m not a dirty person. I’m disorganized, yes. I’m not someone who lives in filth. Even still, I can do something out of character because of an unjustified feeling. Some people may not be able to leave their house. Others may have OCD tendencies. Some people may get angry or depressed. I avoid. I avoid things I shouldn’t and things I don’t want to.
That’s a part of living with my disease and it’s different for everyone.