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Why It Seems Like I'm a Mother Who 'Has It All Together'

People are often surprised when I tell them I have mental health issues. I’ve heard so many times that I seem to “have it all together,” or others “wish they could accomplish as much as I do.” When I hear those types of things, I don’t feel the joy one would usually feel from a compliment. Because the things I want to do versus the things I usually do are vastly different.

My house is almost always clean. As you can assume with two 5-year-old boys, plus a 12-year-old brother and my disabled mother living here, having a clean house isn’t exactly the easiest. If I don’t constantly stay on top of things then the mess quickly builds. So I clean, and I clean and I organize and throw away. When I think I’m done in one room I always see just one more thing that can be done. Some people assume I really just like cleaning. To be honest, I don’t. What I enjoy is the peace it brings to my chaotic mind when every single thing has a “place.” I clean my house before I leave because I know coming home to a messy place will cause my anxiety to skyrocket. I sweep the floors five times a day because I know if I notice the things on there, I can’t just walk right past it. I will be compelled to clean, clean and then clean again. You see, I’m not just someone who likes to have a clean house, I’m someone who has to have a clean house for my own happiness, and to quiet the nagging voice inside my head that just won’t stop zeroing in on whatever is “wrong.” People assume I am competent but what they don’t understand is I am a puppet with my anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) pulling the strings. Always putting on a show just to wait for the encore of quiet.

I volunteer at my children’s school. I know it’s for a good cause, and I tell myself that’s why I’m doing this — for the children. But in reality, I’m doing it for my children, yes, but also for the child inside of me who never had anyone show up. Who never had anyone to watch her spell out letters at the spelling bee. The child who sat alone at the meals for mom she’d prepared with her entire girl scout group. The little girl whose father tried to pawn their bikes for beer money. The child who always looked for someone in the crowd, but never found anyone there. I don’t do it just because I want to do it. Though trust me, I do enjoy helping. I do it because I have to do it. There is still that child inside of me screaming out, “Don’t let them feel abandoned as you did.” Don’t let them think no one cares. I’m motivated by my love for my kids, but I’m also motivated by the love I never received. And it keeps me going even when I’m tired, even when I shouldn’t, even when I need to just rest. Because I am so desperate for my children to have the happiness I didn’t, I don’t know when to quit; nothing is ever enough.

So yeah, my house is clean. My children have me at every single event. My children have a clean house to play in, a mom who always loves them and supports them. My children have it all. I have it all, and with that comes my diagnosis: borderline personality disorder (BPD), OCD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other unspecified trauma. So, even though I may look to the outside world that I have it all together…? I am really just hanging on, one day at a time.

Sometimes that’s all you can do — take things day by day. Maybe, one day, I won’t look around and see all I need to do, but rather what I’ve already done.

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash