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When Depression Makes You Seem Like a 'Messy' Person

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It’s been 20 years since my struggles with depression began and in that time, I’ve experienced my fair share of invisible symptoms. Those invisible symptoms are part of why the severity of my depression was so easy to hide for the better part of my life.

The interesting thing about the invisible symptom I’m going to talk about here is that it’s also a visible symptom that simply goes unnoticed or is written off as “lazy.”

For the better part of three years, I have not slept in my own bed. The only times I’ve slept on a bed in that time were when I went on trips. Otherwise, I rotated between different sofas in the house.

I’ve always been what you would consider a “messy” person. I try on eight different outfits before deciding on one, and all of the clothes end up on my bed or on the floor. I leave empty or half-empty soda bottles all around the house. Sometimes I leave half-empty coffee cups for weeks on end until they smell. My laundry hamper is always overflowing or close to overflowing. In fact, I’ve barely done any laundry in the last three years. Sometimes I just buy new socks or underwear instead of digging through the war zone that becomes my bedroom. I leave the windows open and never dust when the windowsill inevitably gets covered in dust, dirt and dead bugs. There are probably dozens of other messy habits I have that I could write about.

But the thing is, I’m not a messy person.

When I cook or bake, I clean up as I go as much as I can. Before the holidays, I reorganized all of the pantries and cupboards in the kitchen. I organize my bookshelf more than I actually do laundry. Even the apps on my phone are organized — by color, of course. I love organizing things and displaying them.

The problem is that I seem to only be able to do it when a depressive episode has ended.

It’s been three years since I’ve had enough energy and motivation to clean my entire room. I filled up bags upon bags of clothes to donate. I’m almost done my laundry. I’ve been sleeping in my own bed for nearly a month. Every night, before I go to sleep, I tidy up everything I might have thrown on the floor throughout the day. I’ve been almost obsessively vacuuming.

This happens frequently, just ask my mother.

I’m not as messy of a person as most people who know me think I am. One of the biggest clues that I’m slipping into a depressive episode is when I can’t be bothered to move the clothing pile on my bed after a week and I end up sleeping in it. Or when the soda bottles start accumulating all over my desk. The easiest way to think about it is when I’m slipping into a bad depression again, the areas around me start to look like what my brain feels like. Cluttered. Disorganized. Dark. Grimy. Dusty.

The state of my room has always been a point of contention between my mom and I. It’s even been used in arguments between friends and ex-boyfriends who use it as some kind of negative trait they can hurt me with. And it does. It does hurt.

Most people see my mess, my clutter, and assume they know why it’s the way it is. But in reality, I think my mess has always been a scream for help that nobody ever noticed.

Getty Images photo via Khaled ElAdawy

Originally published: March 16, 2018
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