Sunday, 19 January 2014

Housework - the forgotten symptom....

My house I've realised reveals a lot about my mental health. When I'm up and when I'm down.... it's like a barometer of my emotional life. I remember a cartoon from my childhood with a dog called 'What-a-mess'. I loved that dog: I think I am that dog!

Most of the time my public face is usually fairly presentable, which is why anyone who looked inside my mind or my home (at times) would probably be surprised to see the extent of my inner 'What-a-Mess'. Someone asked me today, 'do you think that you have a problem with people thinking that you're competent and confident?' Now, I know he doesn't mean, that people find me so overwhelmingly competent and confident that they can't relate to me. I think he meant that people have a hard time accepting that I could be suffering from complex mental health issues. Maybe if I were more like What-a-Mess, ie people able to see the extent of my 'disarray' then there would be less questioning of the fact of my struggles and perhaps more acceptance when I need 'space' from people and the world around me.

The thing is, when people have entered my home (which has happened on just four occasions in the past year) it is obvious that all is not well in the 'State of Denmark'. In fact, I am rather ashamed of my 'bolthole'. I realise that using all my energy to manage my 'public face' leaves me relatively little energy to take care of my most important environment.

I am realising more and more that this reflects the biggest struggle I have as I move forward towards full recovery - a lack of self validation. My home reflects the value I place on myself. All my energy seems to be directed at maintaining my competent image to the world outside. Would I be better served letting out my inner 'What-a-Mess' to the world outside, or is the answer about finding more balance in my life, between my public and private lives?

Balance is always preferable to living at extremes of different spectrums. I don't have to choose between being What-a-Mess and Aggie and Kim, I just have to be able to invest in my home so that it is somewhere that does not generate negative emotions like 'shame'. My aim is to improve the environment to which I retreat from the world to recharge my batteries. To do so means that I should be trying to have enough energy left in each week to allow me to take care of myself: cooking, personal hygiene, housework, relaxation etc. In practical terms, I need to see my physical environment as being part of the nurturing relationships that are helping my emotional life.

I need my home to be a retreat, a nest, a safe place, when my mind and emotions are very much 'What-a-Mess'!