The Mighty Logo

My House Is a Mess Because I'm in Pain, and That's OK

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Reality check: my house isn’t featured in those design magazines.

And unfortunately, I don’t think it ever will be. I would love for it to be one of those kinds of homes, though. You know… clean. I’m sure we would all love a home like that, right? Bright. Inviting. Spacious. Maybe I’ll have a home like that one day. But for now…

My house is a mess.

I can tell you right now that if you were to come over, you will find dishes in the sink, jackets thrown over the sofa and cat toys everywhere. Even if I had been expecting you, my house would be in the same state. You may think I’m just lazy. When you see me, you see a healthy looking 20-something stay-at-home-mama. You may even think that I’m incredibly lazy because it’s not as if my child is a toddler who needs constant care. My son is 12 years old. He walks to and from school by himself. He prepares his own breakfast and heats his own lunch for school. But something you don’t see…? Something you don’t realize is that…

I struggle. Every. Single. Day.

You can’t tell by looking at me that I have had seven diagnoses since September 2015: one dermatological condition, four spinal conditions, anxiety and clinical depression.

You wouldn’t know that:

– I was one semester away from graduating from my registered massage therapy program before I had to go on this medical leave

– I have seen six specialists to try and find the correct diagnoses

– I have a “little pharmacy” in my bathroom for the collection of medications that I have to take and that I get a blood test every month to make sure that my medications aren’t affecting my liver

We’ve all been there are some point – quick to judge until we realize that there are conditions that are not visible to the naked eye. Just because someone doesn’t look like they’re struggling or suffering, doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

So why is my house a mess?

The simplified version: my back hurts.

The not so simplified version: the conditions that I was diagnosed with causes me great back pain. So much back pain that I have to lay down multiple times a day to get the pressure off my spine. I was advised by my doctor to not get a job where I stand all the time. In all honesty, that advise kinda sucks. It’s not as if my back only hurts if I stand for long periods. My back also hurts when I sit for too long. So pretty much… laying down is the only pain-free position for my back.

Let’s go a bit in-depth, shall we?

The least worrisome of my spinal diagnoses are degenerative disc disease and scoliosis. I mean, we’re all going to get DDD at some point in our lives and my degeneration is still on the mild side. I have an s-curve scoliosis – that means that it affects my entire spine.

My last two diagnoses are a bit more complicated and they’re the ones that affect me the most. I was diagnosed with bilateral spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.

Spondylolysis is a defect in a part of your vertebrae. In my case, I have a fracture on either side of one of my vertebrae. How did it happen? Beats me! *shrugs* It’s usually caused by high-impact sports. I don’t do sports.

Spondylolisthesis is when one of your vertebras slip forward in relation to the others. There are four grades – a grade per percentage affected (grade 1 = 0 to 25 percent, grade 2 = 26 to 50 percent etc.). The higher the grade, the higher chance it will start affecting your nerves (…because it’s getting squished). I have a grade 2… it’s getting there.

The combination of those four conditions makes me feel like I’ve got a load of bricks on my shoulders no matter where I go.

The pressure on my spine is intense. I can only walk one-third of a kilometer before I feel it. It hurts to bend my back… so maybe you can see where I’m going here. What requires bending when taking care of a home? Silly question, I know. But honestly, my spinal conditions affect a lot of things in my life.

– I can’t lift anything heavy… it’s added weight to the bricks I’m already carrying

– It hurts to do the laundry. Switching the clothes from washer to dryer… ugh.

– It hurts to load and unload the dishwasher. Repetitive bending? No, thanks.

– Vacuuming puts a lot of pressure on your low back, even if you don’t realize it. I do. It hurts. So I can only vacuum a little bit at a time. One section a day.

– I can’t walk or stand for too long. Necessary things like grocery shopping, I need to brace myself for. No, really. You see me pushing a cart? It’s probably because I’m using it as a walker.

Actually, speaking of bracing. I have a back brace. I also have a knee brace because the whole ordeal is starting to have some effect on my knees. Lucky me.

So that’s why my house is a mess.

It used to bother me. It took a while for me to accept that I can’t function the way I used to. It’s either I clean my house like a mad woman and then be out of commission for days or… I clean what I can – when I can – so that I am still “useful.”

So what’s with the sweats?

I’m a homebody. I love to stay home. I go out if I have to… you know… grocery shopping and the like. But if I have a choice… I’ll be at home. There is no need to “dress to impress.” I live in my sweats because it’s comfortable. Imagine being in pain and uncomfortable. Not pretty. No thanks. I’ll pass.

Truth: I love my sweats.

So please don’t judge me. Don’t judge my messy house. It’s messy because I don’t want to be down for the count. It’s messy so I have the capacity to take care of everything else. It’s messy not because I’m lazy, but because I’m in pain.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: February 8, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home