Thursday, July 31, 2008

At least I have useful diseases...

Several weeks ago, Lillian mentioned in passing that in addition to postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, there is also a lesser-known disorder - postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though at the time Chris joked, "How will we be able to separate that from your typical OCD?", it's turned out to be not so much a laughing matter. Though I only have a very, very mild case of it - I don't pull the car over twelve times during a trip to make sure Gwen's carseat is still buckled, for example - it's still having a definite impact on me. Or, to be more honest, on all of us.

The form it takes is much like my (again, fairly mild) typical OCD - I like things to be tidy. (I told you I have useful diseases.) There is a phrase on that website that describes me perfectly: "Constantly trying to keep things in perfect order and organized because you somehow feel that if you can just get organized you can get relief". Unattainable dream, of course, and no matter how organized I get the relief escapes me. When things aren't tidy, I can't think straight. I feel the walls closing in on me. I get really snappy and miserable. Babies are cluttery creatures, and my least-favourite baby-related activity - nursing - requires me to sit immobile and stare around the room at all the clutter. When I have a break from nursing, I don't want to spend time resting or bonding with my daughter. I want to clean up the damn mess.

Most of the time, this works out okay - after all, it's not such a terrible thing to want the room to be tidy! But once in a while it overwhelms me. I feel resentful of Chris for contributing to the clutter instead of helping me. And I completely cannot relate to those who advise me to "relax" and "just let the housework go". Those two concepts are mutually exclusive, to me.

Now, let's be honest - I am not a great housekeeper. I never vacuum, never wash the windows, and clean the toilets only when I absolutely must. So truly, I am not talking about the white-glove treatment here. I just want to be able to see more than a square inch of space on the coffee table, you know, instead of it being littered with used bottles and magazines and books and used burp cloths. I think most people want the same thing. The difference is, until I accomplish that goal, I feel physically uncomfortable being in the room.

This is all exacerbated by the sheer number of hours I spend at home these days, mainly 'trapped' in one room. Some days the endless cycle of it all really gets me down. These tasks are never finished, and so I can never take pride in a job well done. And, you know how it goes. The more mundane your tasks actually are, the more magnified their importance becomes in your head, so that you can convince yourself your existence isn't utterly meaningless. Chris is already urging me to try and figure out a way to deal with this, because it's only going to get worse when Gwen is a toddler and starts really making messes.

And to be honest, in the days since I truly accepted that I Have A Problem, it's gotten a bit easier. I can detach from it a little, and tell myself that just because I'm not cleaning the mess right now doesn't mean I won't clean it ever. Making sure the room is tidy before I go to bed - which takes only 5-10 minutes - means not only that I start the next day on the right foot, but that throughout the time leading up to the evening clean-up, the pressure's off: I know the room will be tidy soon, I don't need to fuss with it now.

Anyway. I'm on it. I'll get through it. It's not as bad as it could be, and I'm sure it'll pass.

But in the meantime, clearly there are still Issues.


Amberism said...

I need it to be tidy, too.

I do the same thing, I tidy it all up in the evening (and I admit, during naps). When I can't take it, I leave. With Callum, I'd just go to my Grandma's house (who is extremely tidy) and nurse there. I'm more tolerant now, but I still tidy every night, and clean the kitchen. Even if its midnight, and I'm totally bagged. My best friend was dumbfounded by that, but we are who we are, you know? And I just need to wake up to a tidy living room and a clean kitchen.

And like you, I'm not necessarily clean. Its the clutter that gets to me!

I'm glad its getting better and that you know how to deal with it! It really does start to get easier... really! I swear!

Kat said...

There are some basic meditation techniques that may help you to "just relax" and "let the housework go". They basically involve the interruption of the obsessive "doing" brain patterns that make you physically upset. This is what I am learning to do now to stop my OCD manifestations before they make me too emotionally distraught.

Anonymous said...

What if you put out a basket for laundrey in the living room? Near where you use all those cloths, maybe a pretty one with a lid? That would start to help. I know I feel like the world is going to end when the daycare babies get too many recieving blankets out to chew on...

...though I think, in the case of the bottles, yes, clearly you have some things to work on.



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