When Mental Illness Makes It Hard to Handle the Unexpected


I’ve had a very rough morning. Today is the day I do my laundry. I need to do laundry once a week, because I don’t have a lot of clothes. This probably makes me a traitor to women everywhere, but I hate shopping, and rarely do it. I’m also very clumsy, and keep tearing and spilling bleach on my clothes. I’ve also had many fluctuations in weight over the years, leaving me with a limited number of clothes that fit me currently. Basically, doing laundry once a week is not negotiable if I want to have clean clothes to wear.

I live in an apartment building where there are laundry facilities in the building. A laundry card is required. This morning, I could not for the life of me find my laundry card. I currently have clutter and garbage strewn around my apartment. In addition to anxiety and depression, I have a set of symptoms which strongly suggests dyspraxia, and/ or non-verbal learning disability. I fail at keeping things neat and organized at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. Handling my responsibilities for my job takes every spoon I have, and then some. There are many things that just feel too complicated to handle. Putting things away where they belong often feels too complicated, as does going all the way to the garbage to throw things away, picking garbage up off the floor when I accidentally drop it on the floor next to the garbage, or emptying the garbage when it’s full.

I schedule one cleaning session into my time each week. This serves the purpose of getting my apartment to a “normal” person level of messy, as opposed to an “I need an intervention” level of messy. That is the absolute best I am able to do. I’ve had people suggest hiring a cleaning service. This is not an acceptable option for me. Aside from the expense, there is also the fact that I am an extremely private person who cannot stand the prospect of anyone touching my things. I don’t even own anything particularly odd or anything incriminating. I still can’t stand the idea of anyone seeing or touching my things.

I’ve gone off on something of tangent here. Let’s return to this morning.

I could not for the life of me find my laundry card, and doing laundry absolutely needed to be done. Being the mature, well-adjusted person I am, I screamed in frustration, and vented by throwing a few items to add to the clutter. I then broke down crying. That’s a thing with me. All too often, day-to-day annoyances frequently cause me to break down. When I’m working, I keep this in check. I’ve been trained to act and respond in particular ways at work, and when I’m working, I’m able to give off the appearance of taking things in stride. I’ve had multiple people praise my work, and call me a “trooper,” for the way I handle difficult situations. If only they could see this other side of me. I honestly did not mean to rhyme there, but it happened, so let’s go with it.

I manage to put on a good face for work, however, I am not able to do this in all aspects of my life. Today, I broke down because of a missing laundry card. Two days ago, I broke down because Amazon screwed up an order of mine. I have broken down many times on the platforms of New York City subway stations, and in the trains themselves, generally because of trains being delayed. I create plans and routines to make life more manageable for me. When trains are delayed, it throws all of those plans and routines off kilter. This leads to me feeling like everything is falling apart around me, and I’m drowning.

I’ve had many well-meaning people tell me some variation of, “Unexpected things happen. That’s life.” That’s supposed to give me perspective, but instead, it just makes me feel despair. I am well aware that unexpected things happen, and that’s life. I’d love to be one of those people who can roll with the punches, go with the flow, and all those clichés. Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work that way. I hear, “Unexpected things happen. That’s life,” and my brain twists that into, “You’re fundamentally wrong as a human being and don’t deserve to be alive.”

Lately, I have been having a particularly difficult time. Due to a complicated set of circumstances, I have not seen my therapist in about a month. We have been having bitter cold winter weather where I live. This makes getting dressed more complicated, which uses up more spoons. Then I step outside, and it’s excruciatingly uncomfortable in spite of how bundled up I am. Moreover, one of my coping mechanisms is taking a walk in a green space. Right now, that is not a viable option. I’ve also had some abnormally high blood pressure readings, and I tested as having slightly elevated cholesterol. Two years ago, I unexpectedly lost my mother to heart disease, and I was told then that it tends to run in families. For that reason, the issue brings up a whole lot of complicated emotions for me.

All my life, I have lived with neurological and mental health challenges. Other people talk about missing the person they were before. For me, there was no before. I have struggled all my life. The way these struggles affect me changes over time, but the struggles are always there. Not a day goes by when I don’t at some point feel like it’s all too much, like I don’t have it in me to do another day, like I don’t have it in me to keep on “doing life.”

In spite of all that, I survive. Day after day, I find ways to make it through. I take time to take care of me when I can, and I make sure to make time for little things that make life livable. I need to make time to surround myself with beautiful scenery. In need to find reasons to laugh, and make others laugh. I need to listen to good music. I need to have good conversations. I need to lose myself in fictional worlds. I make time for things like that, and then I keep on going. Multiple times a day, I feel like I can’t do it anymore, but then I do. I never seem to accomplish as much as other people do, and I need to forgive myself for that.

I am fighting with all that I have to survive each day, and that can take a lot out of a person. All the same, I am surviving. I lost both my parents less than two years apart (April 2014, and February 2016) and I even managed to survive that, and to keep going with my life. I need to give myself a little credit for that.

Incidentally, I also misplaced one of my gloves this morning. I eventually found the glove, but never found that laundry card. However, after much hassle, I eventually obtained a new laundry card, and got my laundry done. I’m still reeling from the events of this morning, but I watched a funny YouTube clip a friend emailed to me, and it brought a smile to my face. My struggles are still here, but so am I.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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Getty image via Srdjanns74


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