It Usually Starts with a Dirty Dish

I have anxiety. GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I struggle with this daily. I hate to use the word suffer, but rather use the word struggle. Yes, it is a daily struggle. Well-meaning people will tell me that if I just tried hard enough, I could overcome it. But anxiety is like an internal war, battling with my inner voice that constantly tells me I’m good-for-nothing, stupid, fat and lazy. The fat part is true. I mean, fat is fat and I don’t fool anyone. But I am far from stupid, and my anxiety keeps me from completing tasks, which looks like lazy. Simple tasks, like doing the dishes, overwhelm me and I start to shut down. Anxiety is like slogging through quicksand. It’s extremely difficult to pull myself out of it while it is sucking at my energy, my self-esteem, and my motivation.

Anxiety makes me enervated, keeping me from being able to do, well, just about anything. I can have brief periods of positive energy. Usually that only happens when everything in my life is going smoothly — circumstances, life, financial, etc. But when I get a negative balance in my checking account,and payday isn’t until another week and a half, that can send me over the edge. If everything is going smoothly with my adult kids and my 90-year-old mom, I can skate on good vibrations. But the precarious perch upon which I emotionally sit can knock me off balance with just one simple thing.

Case in point: I know that I am sinking into another quicksand of anxiety when I see the dishes start to pile up. It always starts with one dirty dish. I finish a meal, and just leave my dirty dishes on the counter, telling myself “I will put them in the dishwasher later,” my procrastinator brain lies.

And then, the next dirty dish, and discarded containers of fast food because I just. can’t. deal. with prepping a meal. I can measure the depth of my anxiety by the depth of dishes and detritus on my kitchen countertops, the unwashed laundry, unmade bed, un-scooped cat litter box. It overwhelms, and my anxiety ramps up. So far, (knock wood) no panic attacks. Just mounds of dirty dishes and laundry, and everything.

I sink back into my recliner with my comfort food, my TV remote, my computer and try to pretend none of it is there. I can’t even read, because my ex-husband’s voice is in my head, yelling at me that I have no business reading when there are “things” that need to be done. Ten years divorced and his ugly words hurtle against my brain again and again.

Until it comes the time that my roommate is spraying the kitchen with air freshener because it smells. Until I don’t have any forks or spoons or knives to eat with, no clean plates, no more money for food delivery. This is the face of my anxiety and probably depression. And I do the dishes. Sometimes it takes me several hours, because the overwhelming anxiety causes me to stop and rest for awhile. Because, my brain screams at me, “WHAT IF IT’S NOT PERFECT???”

Today, my kitchen counters are full. My motivation is low and I am feeling overwhelmed. But soon I am going to have to force myself to clean it up. I just have to.

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