For once I took my own advice! I took some time to rest following the emotional outpouring of my latest posts.
Beyond taking time to absorb the catharsis and recover from the anxiety and emotion of sharing something so personal online, the post had achieved what I hoped, a line drawn under that period of my life.
Of course, I haven’t forgotten, but I am no longer haunted by the events of those two years. I now feel able to purely look forward and embrace the new experiences that motherhood will bring. That was why I wrote that post in the first place, so I could welcome my baby without the experience being tainted by the negativity and, frankly, toxicity of that dark period.
Mental Health Hangover
However, I do have one last hangover from my mental illness. I just can’t think of a better way to describe it. It’s just one enduring element that I haven’t yet resolved. Recently though, I have been working on addressing my obsessive behaviour before baby arrives, as it was getting particularly extreme with nesting habits and to me represents the final phase of recovery.
As ever, by starting to write about it, I have been able to unpack this particular episode, and no surprise it’s rooted in the events of three years ago.
I have had obsessive episodes since starting school, but this one in particular is derived from an overwhelming notion of contamination. Now that I have actively thought about how my anxiety is manifesting (in obsessive cleaning rituals), the connection between my behaviour and the past seems obvious. Survivors of abuse, assault and rape, frequently refer to feeling dirty, a natural consequence of the violating trauma experienced.
In the back of my mind I know that the object of my obsessive focus it is not dirty, that placing something on a surface does not immediately contaminate everything else in contact with that surface, for instance, chairs that are positioned on the floor, as chairs usually are, however, my brain doesn’t get satisfaction from cleaning the floor, the chairs must be scrubbed too along with any other floors I might have encountered whilst gathering cleaning products, and sometimes, the products themselves. At this point, as you can imagine, the cycle of percieved ‘contamination’ is agrresive and interfering with daily life. It also affects marital harmony, for as patient and understanding as Samuel is, by the umpteenth cleaning cycle, even he is beginning to get frustrated. I mean, I am frustrated too, it would be wonderful to be able to pick something up and put it down somewhere else without concern for what had previously been situated there. It’s one of the reasons we still have unpacked boxes from moving a year ago – it just takes so long for me to perform this cleaning ritual on each item.
This is why it is a hangover, I don’t view my house in the same terms as the items I’m moving into it. For instance, the dog goes out for a walk, plays in the garden, lays on the floor, the sofa, on her dog bed, and I simply mop the floor and wash her blanket. If she has found something especially delicious and nasty (she is very fond of a dead seagull) then she is bathed and paws washed off. Thus, the dog, the house and the humans in it, get muddy, dusty, dirty and are cleaned in the usual, typical and healthy way. No environment is completely sterile and not expected to be. This is the normal practice of hygiene, it’s dirty and it gets cleaned as part of generic housework.
However, because my recovery only really began following the move, whilst our current house holds no bad memories or associations, the flat we rented was full of my toxic baggage. Whilst, it was filled with the happiness of newly-weds, it was also where I gradually shed the negativity of the previous year and finally finished my degree. Therefore, whilst the house we now inhabit is regarded by my compulsion as clean, the things being moved in from the flat, are not. They are contaminated by the past and therefore the ritualised cleaning has developed, not so much for the items themselves, but for my mental recovery.
Yet this is not a healthy recovery, it is merely replacing one kind of mental illness with another. Having identified (to myself) the source of and outlining the nature of my obsessive behaviour I hope to review the steps I am taking to address it.