I am a fanatically clean person. Seriously, it’s bordering on ridiculous. From an incredibly young age I would get up early to clean the family home (not that it needed cleaning!). I actually enjoyed…yes..enjoyed..boxing up everything in my room, vacuuming and cleaning the furniture and putting everything back. During my first couple of years of uni I used cleaning as a sort of reward system for studying. I would not allow myself to clean the house until after I had finished my allotted study for the day. The torture of having to study in an ‘untidy’ house propelled me into getting my work done in a productive fashion. It’s actually amazing that I have been formally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder as opposed to something like OCD 😉
|Me…on an average cleaning day…;)|
So why am I telling you all of this?
Before I went into hospital my cleaning standards started to slide. Now don’t get me wrong, our house never turned into something out of Hoarders…but it was untidy, for my standards anyway. I cleaned everything I needed to for my baby; his bottles, his clothes, his change table, his bowls. But I gave up on things that weren’t directly related to him. What’s even stranger than the fact that I stopped cleaning was the fact that I didn’t care.
I started paying little attention to my personal grooming. Sometimes I didn’t shower or wash my hair…I lived in tracksuits and slippers unless I had to go out. Now this isn’t anything unusual for anyone who has just had a baby, but it was unusual for me. Even in the darkest most horriblest sicknesses I have always showered. God forbid I shouldn’t wash my hair every day! So this was unusual behaviour for me.
So I wasn’t cleaning, wasn’t washing my hair regularly, wasn’t eating and wasn”t sleeping. A few times a social worker came to visit me and I would tear around the house tidying before she came. I was convinced that if she saw the ‘mess’ I was living in she would take my baby away.
I think I collapsed once I was admitted to hospital. Tracksuits and slippers it was. Sometimes nurses had to remind me to shower. I was hospitalised, convinced the nurses were plotting against me, exhausted as all hell and frightened. My usual cleanliness just wasn’t a priority.
But one day I walked into the hospital kitchen for a drink. There were no glasses in cupboard. At that moment I heard the dishwasher beep and I went to go and retireve a glass from there. I walked away and then turned around. The dishwasher was irking me. So even though it wasn’t technically my job, even though they had an employee to do it, I started to unload the dishwasher. Then for good measure I reloaded it again and wiped the surfaces down. Satisfaction!
Later I went into my room. I HATED the particular bed sheets that I had that week. They looked disgusting, felt disgusting and were disgusting. Fed up, I went to get a nurse and asked if I could change my sheets. Astonished, the nurse went to the locked linin cupboard and I choose pretty new sheets. Bliss!
And so it went from there. As I healed I began to ease back into my former life. I cooked for the patients and staff. I started using my own cloth nappies and washing them at the hospital rather than using disposables. I cleaned my room every Sunday and changed my sheets. I started to feel like I was *doing* something once more. Like I had a very small purpose.
And somewhere a long the line I went from someone who was looked after in every sense of the word to a person who could look after another. I went from someone who couldn’t be trusted to be left alone with a pair of nailclippers to someone who used knives, unsupervised, daily. I showered, I even shopped for new clothes, wore makeup and the nurses commented on how different I looked. But I didn’t look different at all. I looked like me again. The way I was supposed to be.