Category Archives: Digging Out from Under

Someone Got It!

New hygenist at the dentist. Talked about the PTSD and the hoarding/dehoarding. She asked me, “What’s your degree in, or did you get one?”

She understood the reason I never did, without my telling her specifically. I’m sure my family thinks I’m just too lazy or maybe too intimidated. That’s not it. Same thing as the dehoarding or finishing almost anything: makes me too visible and I want to panic.

I was gobsmacked. People get this who know me. But most people don’t draw the line between why I became a hoarder and why I didn’t get a 4 year or more degree.

Either I’m telling the stories better, or she’s just really bright about people.

Not sure which!

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Week from Hell

DH had to go away for work this past week (he’s home now). Between him being gone, which always leans on the PTSD and deciding that what I’d do while he was gone was deep clean/clear the house, it was a stress fest.

I leaned, hard on my friends this past week (Thanks for being there!) and got very little sleep. I did however, get the bathroom much cleaner and removed 80% of the large laundry pile in our bedroom (which I discovered, joyfully, was as big as it was because it had 2 layers of book boxes on the bottom, covered with a layer ‘o stuff to go into the attic, and “frosted” with clothes. If the pile had been laundry all the way down? It would have held enough clothing for a family of 6 or so!)

You can read the details of what I did at the other site: here, if you’re interested.

The most “profitable” thing I learned with this were the following: the PTSD managment I can do most of the time is more fragile than I thought. However, I managed to realize this and stop myself, mostly, from doing anything too stupid because of it. I didn’t entirely manage it, but much better than I have in the past. Also, I realized what I was doing, vastly different than previously, when I had no idea why I was being emotionally buffeted around like a leaf in the wind. I knew what was happening.

That didn’t help me manage it to the degree I’d like, but as I said, it was better than in years past.

I also learned I just can’t tackle the house in a large way without consequences. My body still remembers the trauma(s) related to the housekeeping, vividly. So I was going to bed sleep as late as 4 a.m. I had GREAT plans for the 5 days.!

I managed to actually really dig in and tackle the house 2 days: Monday and Wednesday. Both nights were nearly sleepless. The days following I was almost braindead until late afternoon when I was suddenly *awake!*.

I spent one night listening to graduation speeches trying to make myself feel better. One night listening to music. Tried playing games/reading, etc. It worked as well as it did, but mostly it didn’t.

I can do without going from a sound sleep to sitting bolt upright in bed, crying, shaking and palms sweating, thank you very much. But I guess I get to do that or be sleepless in whatever form, for a while yet.

What I’m hoping seems odd, and that is that if I keep going, eventually, I’ll remember wtf the trauma(s) are. When I remember, it’s significantly easier to cope. Battling wraiths in the dark is much harder than seeing whatever it is, and realizing it’s a movie you’ve been playing for decades. It’s just as “real” because it’s definitely present Now! in your body, but easier to manage. You can understand why event x or y leaned on it; why a smell triggered it, etc. This is one of the hardest things about having been traumatized so many ways, so young. I have two reactions to things which trigger my PTSD, I either have a full flashback and remember wtf happened, or like the knitting and cleaning, I realize there’s a trigger but don’t remember what the event(s) are.

Defining the Job

I finally came up with a set of concrete goals for the house work. I’ve put it on the 7 levels site. You can find it here.

It was interesting to finally figure this out. The sliding scale of how much is enough has been an issue of mine for some time. It is possible to go way over the line from hoarding to OCD and the definition will also help (I think.) to keep me from doing that.

And, because of the need to find that “enough is enough” and not too much, I think the set definition will also help keep the PTSD anxiety at bay.

Another step,

HURRAH!!!

Blog Changes!~

I removed the counting data from 2017, it’s gone. Much of the other blog posts from here will probably be summarized, deleted, and perhaps copied — soon.

IF YOU WANT A SPECIFIC BLOG POST TO STAY PUT, EITHER LET ME KNOW OR MAKE A COPY FOR YOURSELF!

What I intend to do is summarize what I did, on the history page. The posts I intend to keep are those which are the concrete and most popular: cooking Madagascar pink rice, figuring out how many bookshelves you might need, ways to stay cool, the cookbook parade posts, etc.

What will be either cut/pasted into a new page or summarized in a long thread is the emotional stuff. OR, I’ll move it a new website. That hasn’t been determined yet. I have seven years’ of writing to go through.

The cleaning posts will probably be moved to the other blog I have here, which right now is almost entirely empty. It’s sevenlevelssite.wordpress.com. Right now it’s just a framework with very little in it.

So, the cleaning posts will move to 7 levels, the emotional posts will move to a new website, probably. What will stay here are pointers to both of those as well as the more practical and popular posts which have been here.

Comments? Questions? Objections? All are welcome. Not sure I’ll change my plans — but I’ll listen!!!

Modifications

  1. One of the “truths” I’ve gotten to which I wrote about is that I not only need to do maintenance cleaning (dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc.) but deep cleaning (cleaning cabinets, appliances, windows, etc.) to get the house clean.
  2. I’ve also noticed that the only way to keep areas where items are always in use decluttered is to put more away than you use, like the chart, here.
  3. These days, whatever I’m doing, I look at the pieces with the idea that maybe I should get rid of some of it?
  4. Today I decided that if I ever expect to declutter this house, I have to make the culling and removal of the items stored in boxes as much a part of my cleaning routines as the others.

So, what did I do? I swapped out the summer and winter scarves and robes today. In the process, I pulled 2 hats out for culling, 1 purse I’d forgotten was in there for resale. Then I opened a box and found FIVE chunks of old business records from 1990-1992 to put into the paper recycling.

The swap is part of the regular seasonal shift. Also included: washing the shower curtains, refreshing the Never Wet on them (We have a lot of iron in our water. Without the Never Wet, the curtains turn ruddy brown.) Cleaning and storage of the heavy winter blankets/flannel sheets. Swapping winter clothes for lighter ones.

Just for grins the other day, at Target (?) I looked at shower curtains/liners. Curtains were about $25, liners $5. We have 2 cloth liners, one black, one white. Works fine!

Our plan today is to take both cars to the dump and get rid of the bags of leaves as well as another large chunk of stuff.

DH put the knobs on the new bathroom cabinet. More progress!

I put things away into the new cabinet. Found the missing back stock of deodorant and shampoo, got the emergency supplies (first aid and eye wash) organized and in one place again. (Did that first.) So, although the bathroom project isn’t finished, there’s a bit less chaos now than there was this morning!

 

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley

 

Spring Cleaning — and Not

It’s spring so I did my annual search — looking for spring cleaning lists. I’m always trying to find things I may have forgotten.

Of course, there always are things I haven’t done, but many I do get done without a reminder. Fridge shelves get pulled, about 1 a week. We have bins on the doors and I just started doing these, again. Did the bottom bin last week. The next bin up the door will get cleaned this week. I’ll just keep going: bottom to top on the door bins, then top to bottom on the shelves, then do it again… Means the fridge is never ever completely clean top to bottom, but it also means that it never is a disaster everywhere either!  The only big problem with this is that the overall fridge doesn’t get wiped down. I do behind the bins and shelves I’m removing, but not otherwise. I guess I should add a week of just doing the rest of the door or large cavity after I get the shelves done? The freezer, on the other hand, only gets cleaned about once a year.

Another aspect people recommend as part of spring cleaning are pieces I clean as a part of the walls, windows, doors, floors, and ceilings: that is, things attached to those places. When the curtains become part of the window and you wash the window, you also put the curtains through the dryer to remove dust and clean the hardware at the same time. Again, my goal isn’t to have an immaculate house, but a house which doesn’t need marathon cleaning.

So I try and deep clean a few items every week so I don’t have to deep clean a lot of things at once. True of everything from bedding to yard work. (Works better for the bedding than the yard work, can’t pick up leaves midwinter, no matter how much you may want to!)

When I do this regularly, the house gets cleaner. Actually, it works too well and leans on the PTSD, so it gets done in fits & starts, like everything else. That said, it used to be that I only really decluttered and did maintenance cleaning in fits and starts.  These days, I regularly cull and declutter a bit and do maintenance cleaning almost all the time. I deep clean a little more regularly than I ever have. So progress, just slow.

More nibbling!

broom-cartoon

5/24: Started the reorganization required by the bathroom construction. That isn’t complete, and won’t be, until the constuction is entirely finished. Also started the cull/clean/reorganization of the pantry.