Mental illness can begin to create vicious cycles for those who suffer it. Depending on your triggers you can end up in a perpetual state of anxiety or depression, or both.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the washing up, the growing laundry pile, the state of the kitchen floor, somehow, you have to break the cycle. This is not easy. It is never easy to face, what I think we can reasonably term, fears. By no means are you afraid of the washing up, you don’t think it will cause you harm, but the biological response is similar; sweating, tension and accelerated heart-rate. A routine chore, like washing up, is causing you to stress.
The process will be slow. It will have false starts and perhaps false positives too. The thing with washing (dishes or clothes) is that there is always more of it. You finally face and overcome the stress, complete the task and almost immediately it is back.
It gets bounded about a lot but really and truly the most effective way to break the cycle is to break it down.
Personally, I came across the advice to new mums of doing a load of laundry everyday. Now, you probably are not going through outfits at the rate of a 3-month-old, but the principle applies. Whilst I was at the height of my depression (I refuse to term it depths as ironically I think it sounds too negative) I was effectively acting out the rule out of sight, out of mind. I would put laundry in suitcases, inside moving boxes, anywhere that I didn’t have to look at it.
The result, of course, is a huge amount of laundry in all methods of storage apart from where clothes usually live, such as a wardrobe or a chest of drawers. Following the advice to new mums, to deal with the laundry load, I decided to do a wash a day in the effort to get on top of things.
In addition to finally getting the laundry done, and ensuring that it never gets this out of control again, this has the benefit of instilling a feeling of accomplishment. To those who have not suffered the incapacitation that can accompany mental illness this may sound unbelievable, but if like me you have been filled with dread every time your mind turns to your growing collection of laundry hiding places, you will know how elusive this feeling can be. As soon as you receive even the slightest sense of accomplishment you feel more able to complete another small task. This in turn encourages you to do more, and suddenly you have a day that you can feel positive about, and therefore feel positive about yourself.
A Step Further
With the motivation from accomplishing this routine task, I started having a full-on Spring Clean kind of tidy-up. This is when trouble can set in, and it has for me in the past. The initial high spirits from completing that first laundry load usually only last for a finite time, a few hours perhaps. You can therefore end up with more mess than you started with, without the energy to do anything about it, and end up back in the presence of Self-loathing once again.
This is the cycle all suffers of mental illness are trying to move beyond. So when I started to clean out, this time, I was armed with clean bin bags (rubbish bin liners). If anyone is concerned about the environmental impact of this, fear not, once the bin bags have been used to help you fulfil your laundry task, they can then be used in your rubbish bin.
So This is the Idea
I wanted to eliminate laundry as a trigger of a downward thought spiral. I wanted to push through the pile of laundry I had, be left with an empty laundry basket (pretend it was just the laundry basket that was full) and start over, this time keeping the amount under control. I wanted to the results to be visible.
Hence the bin bags.
I sorted through the laundry (whites, delicates, jumpers, darks, bedding and so on) and put each type into its own (or multiple – I have lots of non-descript dark clothing) bin bag. This broke down the process even further. It stopped me connecting the notion of doing laundry to the masses concealed in the various suitcases, boxes and so forth. Instead, I just had to focus on a single bag at a time. It takes a load, sometimes two, to empty a bag and it prolonged the feeling of accomplishment from completing the overall task.
Before I started suffering with depression, laundry was just a task and it didn’t need any additional consideration. Now it does. But I know that I am not alone with this and I hope this method will help you regain control and end your vicious laundry cycle too.