Help me come clean about the extent of my problems.
February 15, 2018 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I am struggling way, way more than I ever let on. There may be help available for my issues (oh god I hope so), but I can't bring myself to admit the truth to anyone.

I feel like I am on the brink of my house of (filthy) cards toppling down around me.

I have ADD (inattentive) for which I take ritalin. I've done a lot over the past year (divorce from an abusive ex, just closed on a home, co-parenting two kids, new job, wrote a book and working on a second, started working out, lost 1/3 my body weight in 8 months, etc).

I am pretty badly depressed the past 5-6 months. I'm always about two thoughts away from breaking down in tears, so I have to watch not to let my thoughts wander. This is so exhausting, I can't even tell you. I go to therapy and I've spent the last few sessions weeping through most of it. I haven't told my therapist how bad I have gotten though... I can't.

Well let's get specific.

- I have two garbage bags full of dirty dishes I hid in the back of a storage closet two months ago when I was expecting company. It's still there. I can't seem to make myself clean them. I'm afraid of them.

- My clothes are everywhere. Not a square inch of floor in my room that's free of clutter.

- I haven't cooked anything for two months. I eat out all the time. This is bullshit. I spent the last twelve years eating out maybe once every two months. I love cooking. Or used to. Now I don't have one clean dish.

- I shower on average 2-3 times a week. Closer to the 2.

- I owe my ex some receipts before tax time. He's been asking for two months. My papers, needless to say, are an absolute mess, all stuffed into my desk drawers, and I can't get started putting them in order to find what I need.

- I'm moving to the new house in a week and I haven't started packing. My friends keep offering to help me pack. I am too ashamed to say "I can't even get the apartment in shape enough to start packing."

Sometimes I feel like I hold it together for other people so well that I have hid from myself how bad things are. How did I get this way?All I ever do when I'm by myself is lie in bed either reading or spacing out.

Here is the positive. I'm really quite put together from the outside. I do okay at work, a missed deadline here and there but mostly good. I have a social life, lots of friends inviting me to lots of events, and I myself have people over at home quite often (my bedroom door stays closed). I'm a good parent, no really I'm fucking awesome at being present with the kids, connecting, playing, and even keeping on top of homework & lunches & school parties & gymnastics lessons. The kids are happy and healthy. But I'm so ashamed of the example I'm setting these days ito my self care and chores. This cannot be good. And I'm so so so ashamed every time my kids enter my room and see how my clothes are everywhere. God. I'm crying now thinking about it. Stupid.

Anyway. How do I even start when I'm so far gone?
posted by MiraK to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of financial resources do you have? Is this something you can throw money at? Hire a cleaning service, make sure they understand coming in what they're going to face, and then go hide somewhere while they deal with the dishes? Hire movers? Hire an organizer?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:55 AM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

This sounds super overwhelming. Don't be ashamed! This stuff is all hard, especially when it snowballs.

Can you afford to pay someone to clean up the dishes and clothes, pack for your move, organize your papers, and stock your new pantry with cooking basics so cooking will be easier? If not, would you be willing to ask a friend? I know you feel embarrassed, but I personally would be honored to help a friend with something like that.

The other stuff sounds like it can be worked through in therapy. I think you need to either (a) tell your therapist the extent of this situation (if it helps, that's what you're paying 'em for!) or (b) find a new therapist that you're more comfortable with. My internet-armchair, non-professional thought is that it sounds like you have some anxiety mixed in with your depression. Make sure you're up front about that, if you think it's true for you, so your therapist can better help you.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:58 AM on February 15, 2018

Also, re: talking about embarrassing stuff with your therapist, I've found that it really helps me to think of my therapist as "service provider." Like obviously she's still a person, with normal human imperfections, but I try to think of it like this...

I give her money so I can tell her awkward shit about my life.

Just like

My employer gives me money so they can tell me to do some tedious tasks.


I give my hairdresser money so she will do something about my split ends.

Thinking about therapy in somewhat transactional terms has made it easier for me to share the embarrassing stuff. YMMV of course.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2018 [14 favorites]

Best answer: First, throw that bag of dishes away. You didn't need em, so fuck em.
New dishes new place, if you can. Added bonus, they'll be fun to eat from, so you're tricking yourself into cooking. ADDepression brain is a child, sometimes we gotta do the sneaky thing.
Next, throw away literally anything that feels similar to that bag of dishes. I am not down with the Kondo method stuff...but! you're moving and, as a fellow traveller through the horrors of depression plus ADD, sometimes you just gotta do the thing to get other shit done. Once you've done that, start literally throwing everything into bags and boxes with a buddy. Their boxes will be better organized than yours, cool. Label the boxes with a room designation at minimum. Buddy's boxes can be of type or whatever, but let them know you are too mentally exhausted to guide their packing help. They'll get it.
At the new house, don't expect yourself to be more organized than you really are. Fuck hanging shit up, get stacking bins or shelves or something you can just shove clothes into, low effort. We fail when we ask ourselves to do more than we know we will, and then beat ourselves up about it. No need, and no shame in being a messy clothes everywhere person. Don't want em on the ground, but they don't have to be put away "nice"
Ask for help sorting through your papers. Your friends are down to help you move, so one of them may be the quick reading one to help you figure out what papers to pack and where the important ones are.
Shower when you can. Remembering that bathing as a sign of mental health can sometimes get me to just super grudgingly try to do it. Like, you can always stop the shower, at any time, and no matter how much you washed up it'll make you feel a little bit better.

You are doing great. The bad thoughts control thing is temporary. Smooth the way for yourself, let yourself "fail" or be imperfect in other ways and the tension of maintaining the facade will ease a little. Not because you are pretending but because you care and want to help: you are a great parent. <3
posted by zinful at 10:11 AM on February 15, 2018 [50 favorites]

Best answer: Hey, thanks for telling us about this, that had to be tough. We're really sympathetic. I bet your friends will be too. You should confess to a couple of people. pick one of your friends, and also tell your therapist, start with whoever is easiest. It sounds like you do really well when you have specific accountability (like a work deadline, getting your kids off to school, etc) so maybe take a step to add that accountability. Email your therapist and tell them "I have something to talk to you about next session, don't let me leave until we've talked about the laundry". That's a low hurdle, you just send the note or leave the voicemail, you don't have to confess to anything right now - but now you have a deadline (end of the next session), and you do well with deadlines.

If you've got a friend who's asking how they can help, even if they think they're offering to help pack, confess. They might actually know that you need help with more things, they are probably not volunteering to just put your neatly folded clothes into a box - they're your friends, and they will help you. Pick something you're terrified of (like the dirty dishes), and tell them about it. Ask if they will just handle that for you. Or to pick up on the transactional suggestion that schroedingersgirl made, call a cleaning service and get them to do it.

Your clothes are everywhere - make it a nice encapsulated project, something you can delegate instead of letting it bother you, and something that's not too complicated. Don't let it expand into sorting, evaluating, donating, patching, etc - just declare that it's all laundry, get someone to pass everything through the wash, fold it up, and put in boxes to be moved to the new place.
posted by aimedwander at 10:11 AM on February 15, 2018 [11 favorites]

Best answer: If you have money to throw, by all means throw it. If not, taking this bullet by bullet:

-THROW THEM AWAY. Throw them away. Throw the damn dishes in the damn trash and damn them. Never use another dish. They are devil scutes; to hell with them forever. (When you pull out of this, you can get nice new dishes, but for right now, dishes are bad for you and dishes must go. Throwing them away won't do worse things to The Landfill than keeping them is doing to your psyche right now, and you should throw them away and feel wonderful about it.)

-This is fine. Wash one tiny load in the morning. Dry it at night. Put it away the next day. Take a day of rest. Begin the cycle anew. (Unless you don't have laundry at your apartment, in which case see answer immediately above.) When packing time arrives, shove all the dirty clothes in leafbags and haul them to the new place. You can wash them after the move.

-Mazel tov! You used to like to cook; now you don't; you're not cooking. Problem is where? Once in a while order good-for-you things when you're at the restaurants. (Look forward to the day when you pull out of this and once again can have fun cooking. That day is not today and until that day comes, there are restaurants. If they were all that awful, they'd be illegal. Are they illegal? No. Therefore they are fine. Cooking when you don't want to is not fine; it's terrible.)

-Keep it up. If it were a problem, somebody would've complained by now, and if anyone had complained, you'd've mentioned it. It's a good routine. People used to bathe once a year or never. You are excellent. When you pull out of this, if you want to you can get all kinds of fancy soaps and shamps and natural sponges and loofae and revel in the amazing showers you take every six minutes. Right now? This is not even a ghost of a problem.

-Tell the ex the receipts are lost and you've looked and you can't find them. Then call the least scary of the friends and say: My house is like on Hoarders. Do you still want to help. If the friend says, "yes," accept. If the friend says "no," move to the next least scary friend and repeat. Eventually you will get a "yes." Accept that "yes." When your friend gets there, start on the papers. You'll find the receipts probably immediately. Then you can send them to the ex. If you never find them, so what, the ex has already been told they're gone forever.

-shove things in bags and book it out of there. When the move is done, the overwhelm will fall off a cliff and the happy day will arrive when you've pulled out of this and can once again wash dishes and clothes, file shit, shower like a Kardashian, and cook delightful meals.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:13 AM on February 15, 2018 [77 favorites]

re: the dishes - just throw them out! They are already in garbage bags, and you have a proven ability to live without them. Don't worry about the money they cost once; it's not as important as feeling better by just removing this from your life.
posted by thelonius at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: THROW THEM AWAY. Throw them away. Throw the damn dishes in the damn trash and damn them. Never use another dish. They are devil scutes; to hell with them forever.

This this this. Damn them forever. When you want to get dishes again you can; dishes are cheap at Goodwill and can be way prettier than your currents. Take those bags to the trash and NEVER LOOK BACK. Disposable silverware, disposable plates and bowls and cups. I have done this when severely depressed and 1000% recommend it.
posted by corb at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2018 [24 favorites]

You can hire someone to do those dishes. Or you can throw them in a dumpster. Honestly, the feeling that it's all too big and all too much is bigger than what's really going on. Things don't have to be "perfect" or "neat," you just need to feel less swamped.

Look at how much you've accomplished! You've worked REALLY hard! No wonder you're tapped out. You've hired your therapist to help you, like schroedingersgirl says. You can tell the therapist that you are having trouble showering, or cleaning. You don't have to get specific if it's too hard (but don't minimize it). Depression is a sticky bitch, and getting unstuck is no joke. You can do this. You're already facing it. You can let the therapist help you.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You are not so far gone.

Everything you mention is understandable considering the year you've had. Nothing you mention is unforgivable or or shocking. I've been there myself, and reading your list of things that have you so upset made me feel very compassionate towards you, and not at all appalled.

You have a very strong voice of guilt and shame telling you you are so far gone, but this voice lies. It traps you.

My first step would be to tell my therapist, or hand him/her a note, that says, "I have a huge amount of guilt and shame about disorganization and mess in my life. How can we work in that?"

Your friends love you and will want to help when you are ready to open up to them.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:18 AM on February 15, 2018 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Ok. So, we got this. This is all managable. Here's the steps I'd recommend in order.

1. Close your eyes and take at least20 deep breaths. This part is really important. Youve been running a really impressive, complex marathon for a year (!) and you are in the last mile. You've done way more than most people in your shoes can manage.

2 the move is your priority. If your house is "lived in" IE, less than spotless with clothes and dishes in places, well, that happens. Your friends will understand. Most of them are probably about as messy in secret.

If you want to hire a maid or service to get the house to the point where you can bring your friends in, that's ok. If you want to say "fuck it my house is a mess and they can see it anyway" that's ok too. If you want to throw away the dishes, go for it. If you want to hire pro packers and movers, that's ok. Do whatever you have to.

3. I found fighting grief was harder than just letting it flow. In the first month of my divorce, I had to"nasty ugly sob" for five minutes every 2-4 hours. I cried in the bathroom at work a lot. Also, wanting to just read or stare into space is normal and healing. You have been too busy to really grieve, so it's been building up some.

4. It's ok to lessen the social contacts some if it is more draining than energizing.

5. Your ex can wait another two or three weeks. Maybe commit to getting that done quickly... At the new house after the hurricane of moving passes.

6. Take as much time for yourself as you can. Slowing down some will let the grief catch up with you, but it will flow through and past you.

7. Be very gentle on yourself! You're doing a lot of very hard things simultaneously. You're doing better than you think... This next week will be hard, but you got this.
posted by Jacen at 10:35 AM on February 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Also, please re-read this part that you wrote:

I'm really quite put together... I do okay at work... I have a social life, lots of friends inviting me to lots of events, and I myself have people over at home quite often... I'm a good parent, no really I'm fucking awesome at being present with the kids, connecting, playing, and even keeping on top of homework & lunches & school parties & gymnastics lessons. The kids are happy and healthy.

You are a superhero. The fact that you are on top of all of these things is a serious victory deserving of Official Mefite Accolades. (I'm throwing glitter... consider them duly awarded.) The fact is, I think we all feel like we're drowning in something at least some of the time. I don't say this to minimize the real overwhelm you feel, only to offer solidarity. I think most of us have weird shameful things that stack up that we're sure would mark us as fringe outcasts if polite society only knew the truth.

Good luck! And may you feel a fabulous rush of relief and accomplishment when you just toss those bags of dishes.
posted by hessie at 10:40 AM on February 15, 2018 [23 favorites]

Dude, I hereby give you permission to throw away the bags of dishes, and to start stocking frozen meals that are close enough to real food that you don't have to feel bad.

There are some acceptably healthy, cheapish ones out there. You can cook them in the oven without dirtying any dishes. You can eat them out of the tray. It's also okay to spend some time eating off paper plates with disposable cutlery. It's a step above takeout and a touch closer to cooking for yourself in terms of habits.

Visit squalor survivors,



For a variety of judgement-free, disability-friendly approaches to getting your home/life in order and see what works for you and how many other people are or have been way deeper in this hole than you.

When I am having trouble showering, I heat up the bathroom with steam first. I find it much easier emotionally to remove my clothes in a hot room and to transition from being dry to being attacked by water in a steamy damp room.

I use a lot of baby-step self talk to get myself into the bathroom (I have literally crawled to the bathroom and basically showered curled up in a ball before. Hey, I got clean. Sometimes I also trick myself by starting the shower when I go to use the toilet and then I'm like... "Welp, might as well".)

The moving thing sounds worse than it actually is. I hereby give you permission to do a shitty job packing. Pick a room, get a clear garbage bag, put all the soft things in it. (Great way to deal with the clothes on your floor). Pick a room, grab a box, and just start throwing unbreakable shit in it. It doesn't matter. You don't have to do a good job. Just get stuff in boxes. Get your kids to do it for you. Hire someone and don't let them in the bedroom. Accept your friends offers but keep them out of the shame room. If you can still have people over, its not that bad.

Honestly, having clothes on your floor and dishes stashed away is not that bad. You aren't nearly as far gone as you think. Moving actually gives you an awesome excuse to have most of your shit stashed away in bags until you're ready to deal with it, to eat off paper plates, to buy takeout amd to generally be a mess. You got this.
posted by windykites at 10:46 AM on February 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: On showering less often than you would prefer to:

Treat this similarly to people who can't shower regularly because of physical restrictions, be it their own bodies or lack of facilities or whatever. Try dry shampoo if it works well with your hair type. Use washcloths to wipe yourself down without the full commitment of a shower - some days you might only get one part of your body done, that's okay, the next day get a different part clean. If you find it helps you can keep pants on while washing your underarms or a shirt on while washing your crotch. You can sit to wash yourself, in the dry tub on a plastic stool or on your bed on a towel. Drop the idea of lots of cascading hot water being a thing you need every day and focus on getting your bodyparts clean, however you find yourself able to do that. If part of the problem is that you normally would shave a lot of yourself in the shower and that's too much of a thing to handle every day, drop shaving for now.

On packing when your house is an unholy mess:

1-800-GOT-JUNK. These beautiful people have saved my ass twice on two different coasts. They really seriously just need to be pointed and will remove everything no questions asked. You can make a pile of things you want to keep and pack later and then say "please get rid of everything else in this house" and they'll do it. Then use the relief you feel when they're gone to sort your keep pile. Or you can get a big tarp and put everything you want gone on that tarp and they'll keep themselves to the tarp. Doesn't matter if it's mail or lamps or trash bags that clink mysteriously or toasters or computer parts or clothes or anything. They are there to remove your junk. It's magical.

On finding those papers for tax time:

Get a big box or maybe a laundry basket. Put it near the desk. Open the desk drawers. Scoop up everything and put it in the box. Don't look at the papers or try to start organizing them, just shift the pile from one location to another, portable, location. Okay put that box in the keep pile. You have a friend who is good at details - maybe they like math or grammar or like to sew by hand, just someone who can find a metaphorical needle in a haystack if asked. You say to your friend "I have a very special and important job just for you, I trust you and need you on this, it will be so so so helpful" and then give them the box of your papers. Tell them about the receipts that you need to find. Say that the rest doesn't matter, you just have to find those receipts to give to your ex. Then you leave (after buying your friend a coffee). When you come back in an hour you'll be given those receipts. And you'll also most likely find your other papers organized into piles which your friend will explain to you. Maybe they'll have labeled things with sticky notes. If you have a pile of empty manila folders under the papers in the box I would bet good money that those folders will be filled and labeled upon your return. The thing about other people's disorganized messes is that when it's not your mess it's actually kind of fun to sort and organize. When it's your friend's mess? Even better.
posted by Mizu at 10:47 AM on February 15, 2018 [16 favorites]

Best answer: PS: If you can't throw the dishes away because they're Great Grandma Gert's and you love them and would grieve forever, no problem. Keep them in the bags they're already in and move them as-is. Put the bags into boxes or those plastic tub things and pour packing peanuts in first and then after they're in the boxes to minimize breakage. Make a pact with yourself right now not to criticize yourself AT ALL if anything gets broken in this move and not to start with "If I'd packed better, then blah blah blah." You did right by these possessions. They are lucky to have escaped the dumpster and each and every one of them should thank you every day.

I really want to emphasize how very well you're doing at the things that take a lot of effort and skill and actually matter very much, and how very much the things you're criticizing yourself for not doing, and criticizing as harshly as if you were committing war crimes, Do Not Matter At All.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2018 [18 favorites]

I helped a hoarder friend move (I did not know how bad it was when I agreed to help). It was fine, it was easy enough for me to carry bags and bags of garbage down to the dumpster and she handled what she could handle (putting clothes in boxes/bags, sorting what to take vs. store with a relative). Maybe packing your kids' stuff would be easier for you and a friend/hired help can tackle your room?

You have had a heckuva year. Give yourself permission to do the minimum of adulting-related bullshit and do as many fun, nourishing, relaxing things as you can manage.
posted by momus_window at 11:29 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Goddammit MeFi why are you all so nice. You all need to shut your faces, because I can't stop crying.

(I honestly thought someone was going to suggest calling CPS on me when I wrote it. I, er, may have been defensively boastful about parenting because of that but it's true so whatever.)

I will throw the fucking dishes out. God. Who knew I could do that. Thank you. I might need to get a tattoo that says "this is not a war crime." Thank you.
posted by MiraK at 11:33 AM on February 15, 2018 [90 favorites]

Also on packing: I JUST DID THIS. What you do is you first pack anything you will desperately need in the first month nicely and neatly, and then after that label boxes according to room and put them in regardless of how organized it is and label it "quick and dirty".

I moved four months ago and am just getting to my last few "quick and dirty" now.

I regret nothing.
posted by corb at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2018 [11 favorites]

Best answer: You know how you think you are a terrible person, a mess, a slacker, a disaster? You're not. You have so much going on and you are, quite reasonably, overwhelmed. Big hugs. I moved to this house 10 years ago and there are still boxes that I ignore.

Make a list. Get whatever tiny item that can be done, done, even if it's not the essential item. Look, you kept breathing and got the kids fed. See? Gold star for you. UFYH, UnFuck Your Habitat, might help. Music often helps, just not that mix cd of sad breakup songs. Turn off the news for a while. If there are friends or family who can help, call 'em. If you can hire somebody, definitely call them.

I'm my own version of a mess. If you are within a couple hours' drive from Maine, MeMail me. It would be good for me to do something productive.

It really is ok for you to be you, to be overwhelmed, to cry, to have no idea which critical task to do. More hugs.
posted by theora55 at 11:39 AM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

In reaching out to friends, would it help if you had the excuse that it's so messy because you started packing? Because we all know that the mess gets bigger before it gets packed, hah!

Put all your clothes in one pile, put all your papers in one box as suggested above, etc. Then contact your friends and put each person in charge of a category. You could even appoint one friend to take care of the dishes. I totally would not mind if my friend called me over to help pack and said "here's a bag of dishes, can you wash them."

In fact I've had times where my friend called me with "I need someone to come help me, NOW" without explaining the reason and I've hopped onto the train to go see them right then and there--I would have been relieved if it'd turned out to be "just" a pile of dishes they wanted me to wash. Friends are there to help. Seriously.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 11:41 AM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

On seeing your update: Yes, do that! Have hope! Good luck!

Also: We're conditioned to think of furniture catalogs as the standard of pristine homes, but keep in mind they're not a minimum. They're an aspiration, beyond the reach of some of us. ;)

I moved months ago and there are still cardboard boxes here and there. It's ok. There are other priorities in life.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 11:48 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Trader Joe's has a bunch of inexpensive and reasonably tasty frozen meals that aren't too bad for you (unless you are restricting sodium, some of them run high on that). I recently fell into a bad rut of ordering takeout and I reminded myself that almost anything I might do for dinner would be cheaper than Seamless, so if it's a frozen dinner, it's a frozen dinner, but it's one-quarter the cost of takeout.

You have done so much this year! You have nothing to be ashamed of! Declare "stuff bankruptcy" and just start over.
posted by praemunire at 12:04 PM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm so glad to read that you felt empowered to throw the dishes out! You can throw out or give away anything that is stressing you too much. It's TOTALLY okay, most things are replaceable.

I'm a child of people with mental illness, and I have depressive episodes. I have lived in your house, and helped clean your house for other people, many many times in my life. I have thrown away bags of dishes, clothing, questionable's FINE and it's better than being paralyzed by the fear of what's in the bags.

The very best thing is that you are moving! So you have a whole new, fresh, clean place to move into in an organized fashion. Does your lease/ownership of this place overlap with the new place at all? I would just move empty furnishings and hangers to the new place, throw all the clothes in a bag, and have friends help you move IN on the other side. Sort out the receipt scenario after you move, just put all the receipts in a ziploc or a folder and set yourself down in your nice empty floor to sort through them. You can leave this place behind you and leave some of that trapped and embarrassed feeling behind you, too.

I'm proud of you for recognizing and acknowledging the problem and making strides to have a more pleasant living space for you and your kids! As an adult child who has had to bring this up with my parents, I know yours will be proud of you!
posted by assenav at 12:04 PM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: First of all, let's just take a second to appreciate this list:

I've done a lot over the past year (divorce from an abusive ex, just closed on a home, co-parenting two kids, new job, wrote a book and working on a second, started working out, lost 1/3 my body weight in 8 months, etc).

Like, most people consider it a really significant accomplishment if they do one of these things in a year. Later, much later, when you're clear of all this, you might want to circle back and have a chat with your therapist about why the drive and ambition that you can summon to do these amazing things seems to desert you when it's time to do something to make yourself happy and comfortable. I suspect that it will turn out that some voice inside you doesn't think you deserve to be happy and comfortable, but that's just a guess (I have a good friend who slept on a mattress on the floor for years, until one day another friend just bluntly said 'why the fuck don't you have a bed?' and he was so surprised that he just blurted out 'because I hate myself').

Glad to hear you're throwing out the dishes! Eat off paper plates for a while, it'll be fine. Climate change is gonna kill us way before the amount of plates in a landfill become a problem.

Here's what I think you should do about your therapy: concentrate all of your courage on saying this in the first minute of your next appointment: "Before we start today, I want to let you know that things have actually been harder for me lately than I've been letting on. I'm having an incredibly hard time keeping my living space the way I want to, and my shame around this has prevented me from talking to you about it. I really need you to guide me through a more honest conversation about where I'm at, because I can't have it on my own."

Good luck! You can do this. Most of these things amount to objects being in a suboptimal location. You have hurt nobody, committed no wrong, and are in every way a much better and more together person than the actual president of the united states.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:09 PM on February 15, 2018 [24 favorites]

Yep, all of the above. Nearly everyone I know has bags of random stuff they stash in car trunks, garages, closets, etc before people come over. Thus, your friends love you and live the same way and don’t care! Choose a couple and ask for help; they probably know how overwhelmed you must be. Toss all the crap you can easily/cheaply replace later when you want/need it. It’s not abnormal and it’s not a big thing at’re doing fine. Hire someone or let your friends be friends and help out, get moved, and you can sift through as gradually as desired. Last house I bought I put only the essentials inside and the rest in the garage. I’d bring a box or two in and deal with it as time allowed. After a while, it was easy to realize hey I never unpacked that and i haven’t needed the bucket I’m gonna chuck it. Keep on keepin’ on and gradually tackle your priorities, and don’t worry about the rest. No one is keeping score.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

"divorce from an abusive ex, just closed on a home, co-parenting two kids, new job, wrote a book and working on a second, started working out, lost 1/3 my body weight in 8 months, etc"

You did all those things in the past year, *and* you're a good and present parent? You are a ROCK STAR!!!

fuck those dishes in the garbage bag. fuck that clutter. You have already accomplished several miracles all at once here. I am officially impressed from afar ... I can't manage to do my writing *and* lose weight, and I don't even have any kids or exes to deal with.

If you happen to be in the DC area, PM me and I will come help you. You're going to be okay!!
posted by mccxxiii at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2018 [13 favorites]

"divorce from an abusive ex, just closed on a home, co-parenting two kids, new job, wrote a book and working on a second, started working out, lost 1/3 my body weight in 8 months, etc"

You did all those things in the past year, *and* you're a good and present parent? You are a ROCK STAR!!!

Came in to say exactly that. You are in the home stretch! Give yourself permission to do what you need to do and you will be golden. You know the quote 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle'? Literally everyone has some version of this, it just looks different. You are so going to do this - you're already doing it! - and we are all rooting for you. ROCK ON.
posted by widdershins at 1:52 PM on February 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Just wanted to retouch on this: "lost 1/3 my body weight in 8 months"

For this to be true and you not to be ill or endangering your health, you would have had had to previously be at a weight that society would criticize. If it's been a while since you've been at a societally acceptable weight, accept that that degree of weight loss can be disorienting, that it may not work out the way it works out in the Jenny Craig ads. You may also have been feeling that "now that I am at [x] weight, I can really get [y part of] my life started again!" and then find yourself unable to move forward, because that's not actually how it works, and judge yourself for that. I guess what I'm saying is, be alert to these possibilities and be compassionate towards yourself if they appear. Losing that much weight is not quite in the category of "divorce from abusive ex," but the ramifications can run through your whole life.
posted by praemunire at 2:58 PM on February 15, 2018 [8 favorites]

Can you print this out and show it to your therapist? I have found that helpful for subjects I find hard to talk about. Send an email if you think you might lose your nerve and not give it to her.

It sounds like you're having a rough time. I've helped friends with stuff like this, and I've had to ask for help. I don't think it's nearly as unusual as you think.

Lots of good suggestions above. I especially think if you can throw money at this, do it. And when you get into your new space hire a cleaner to come in regularly. I did that a couple of years ago and it's made a huge difference in my life.
posted by bunderful at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yep, all of the above. Nearly everyone I know has bags of random stuff they stash in car trunks, garages, closets, etc before people come over.

I have a car trunk full of paper. It has been full of paper since August 2016, when I moved into my house. It was the last thing I had to drag out of my old apartment, I was so angry at the time because I had no help doing it and then I got criticized for how I did it, and I just never took the paper out of the car. This paper all needs to be shredded—it's all just credit-card solicitations and old bills and whatever else that has personal info on it. The shredder is also in the trunk. I recently successfully brought my car in to be inspected and repaired (only 5 months after my plates expired!), and when they had to keep it for a few extra days, they did a quick courtesy detail on it—even with all the paper in the trunk. No one said a word, no one cared, and the weight in the trunk makes great ballast when the roads are slippery. I'll take care of it eventually and be able to use my trunk again someday, but really, this is not a life priority. I think that that's the case for much of what you're facing too.

Like you, I've had so much going on in the past year (really the past 5 years, but it's only intensified in the past year), and I'm only just getting to a place, after a recent disaster (burglary) of my own, where I'm putting my house together in some of the ways I planned to almost 2 years ago now. For me, and maybe you feel this way too, it's been hard to have the will to "play house" when it felt like emotionally, in a lot of ways, the whole house has been coming down around me. But this. is. all. fine. You really don't have to have it all together all the time. There are things that matter and things that don't, and most things don't matter as much as you think.

You can entirely fail at a lot of things like this in life—"fail" in the sense that you're not meeting your own or even government-mandated standards. e.g., in the case of my license plates—and be just fine. When I moved out of my old apartment, I had all these ideas about things I wanted to clean or fix to make sure I got back my whole security deposit, e.g., the bright-red candle wax someone let melt onto the hardwood floor, the giant hole someone put in a panel of a closet door, all the smudges on the walls, etc. Ultimately, I had no help at the end and I was out of time, so I left most of it undone—and it was fine. We got dinged for part of the security deposit, but we still got most of it back, even with the wax on the floor, the hole in the door, the dirt everywhere, etc. Landlords have budgets for this, especially if you've been in the apartment for a good amount of time. They hire people to clean. They've surely seen worse. And even if they are unhappy with the state you leave it in, it really doesn't matter. You aren't here on earth to make your soon-to-be-ex-landlord happy. You're doing the things that actually matter.

Also, I've cleaned a house that was actually in a bad state, only after 40 years of a relative tracking in dirt, refusing to clean, hoarding broken tools and scrap metal and yogurt containers for plants and even a jar of uranium ore, among many, many other things. It was still doable! I hired people to help when I could, I brought stuff to thrift stores, I had scrappers come and pick up so much of the tools and metal, and I just worked incrementally. I had friends come and keep me company, even on days when they didn't feel like doing any work themselves. It felt really really good once I was done with it, like a major life accomplishment. I think you will likely also feel good when you're done—but even if you don't feel a big endorphin rush or anything, you'll be done! You don't have to feel any particular way about it—being done will be good in and of itself.

You can do this!
posted by limeonaire at 4:56 PM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, I'm 5ft tall and used to weigh 150lbs, now I weigh about 102. Mostly just ptsd changing my eating patterns from potato chips and french fries (for about two years I rarely ate anything I cooked) into "Food tastes like nothing, so might as well eat a banana/egg/salad." It's like a superpower but I don't think I'll miss it when it's gone. I want to like food again. I miss cooking for ME. I know this sounds weird but body image isn't really one of my issues. I didn't hate how I looked fat.

<3 Thanks again everyone.
posted by MiraK at 4:58 PM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Anything you haven't worn or used in over a year is potential trash. If you don't have a solid reason to keep it, throw it out. ("Solid reason" can include "but I love that sweater!" even if you know very well you haven't fit that sweater for six years and probably never will again. The idea is to give yourself permission to get rid of things that aren't improving your life, not force yourself to part with cherished memories.)

Like others have said - if the dishes haven't been part of your daily life for months, they're obviously not needed. If none of them have sentimental value, and they don't include "the only pot I've got that makes that one food," toss them all without guilt. (If they do, feel free to pull out a couple items to keep - favorite coffee mug, the spaghetti strainer, whatever - and toss the rest.)

Tax time is more than a month from now. You will need to find those receipts; you don't need to do it in the middle of moving. Throw all the contents of drawers that might have the receipts into a box or two, label them "TAX STUFF," and sort it out later.

If you've got the money to rebuild a wardrobe, feel free to toss any clothes that don't make you happy. If you've got two work outfits and one for leisure, that's plenty for a fresh start. Anything that you only wear because it's on the top of the stack can go.

If friends are willing to help, USE THEM! They are less likely to see "omg horrible hoarder mess disaster" and more likely to see "wow this is a lot of interesting stuff. Oh, and it's a mess, but still, interesting." They don't feel the guilt of "ugh I should put that away but I'm just too tired and also there are forty other small things I should be doing;" they just get the feeling of "here are all my possessions, strewn across the room for your perusal." (I am prone to the "just stack everything on top of everything else" style of housecleaning. I wrestle with shame over it. Friends apparently do not find it shameful. I am always surprised.)

You've been through a lot. You've managed to keep together the parts that are really important. Let people help with the rest, so you can get on with setting up the new life you want to have.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:11 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, you don't have to have taken a shower for your friends to come over or help you. I used to refuse to see anyone or leave the house if I hadn't managed to get to taking a shower that day, but there are some days I just don't feel like spending an hour getting ready, and with all the ongoing skin issues I've had, it can be a serious chore just to do all the things I feel like I need to do to really get ready. The realization that most people don't know or care if you've showered, as long as you change clothes, touch up makeup if needed (if you wear it), and do some bare-minimum things to be presentable—and that many people don't take a shower every single day—has been somewhat liberating. I prefer to shower daily, but the reality is that I'm not always up for it, given everything going on in my life, and that's OK, even if I feel embarrassed to admit it.
posted by limeonaire at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2018

Oh, and if you haven't thrown away the dishes yet *really throwing them* can be liberating. Harmless breaking of stuff can be fun and or cathartic
posted by Jacen at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2018

I just want to point out that it sounds like your subconscious has actually been doing a great job triaging your problems. This part, where you collapse when faced with some additional small-seeming things to do because you're out of energy and willpower? That's because you've been using all of that energy and willpower in WAY more important places. And your body / brain, without your conscious input, is allocating your finite energy toward your children, your job, your social connections with others... That's pretty good so far as triage priorities go.

Also, losing all interest in food is absolutely 100% a stress reaction and entirely fair in light of what you've been dealing with. But it's also a measure of how severe what you've been dealing with is, even if you're not consciously aware of it your body is on high alert and has been for some time. So lean on the people around you and try to be kind/gentle/understanding to yourself.
posted by Lady Li at 6:26 PM on February 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh I forgot to add: reach out to other survivors. I will always come help move a fellow DV survivor. In fact if you’re within 200 miles memail me.
posted by corb at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh, honey. You are doing so, so much better than so, so many people I know right now. New house! New job! New body! You Wrote A GD Book! These are dark, dark days and it can be really hard to see the light, but baby, you're walking into it!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:00 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

On the clothes - look for a wash and fold laundromat near you. Get a laundry bag (or a trash bag). Pack it up, drop it off, pick it up. Boom. Clean laundry. Clean bedroom floor.
posted by bunderful at 9:03 PM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I just want to add about the showering thing - 2 to 3 times a week is, like, totally adequate. I know it's ingrained in American culture that every-single-day showers are mandatory, but unless you're doing heavy exercise or getting actually muddy or something, 2 or 3 days between showers is fiiiiiine. Just slap on some deodorant! You are doing AMAZING!
posted by Cimrmanova at 2:29 AM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sometimes it can be helpful to just designate certain days as shower days. That way you don't have to think about it, or worry about when you showered last, or wonder if you need to do it today or if you could just do it tomorrow. For instance, you could make Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday be showering days.

It takes a bit of work to establish this as routine, but in my experience, it is less work than trying to bully yourself into the shower every couple of days. And if you miss a designated shower day, no worries. You can just take one on the next shower day.
posted by colfax at 3:12 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wow, your question resonated with me a lot. I especially relate to the disconnection that you're experiencing between who you think (or know) you are on the one hand, and how others see you on the other. Sometimes it all feels like a giant facade, right? Like you're living a double life, and that no one realizes what kind of a person you really are. (Sorry, maybe projecting a bit here.)

You write that "I'm really quite put together from the outside". Well, consider that what others see from the outside is not a fiction. It's really you. What you have accomplished and are accomplishing is real, and you should be very proud of accomplishing it given the circumstances. People around you rightly see you as strong person and their judgment about you wouldn't change if they knew you were struggling in some respects. They may be too... they are too.

I'd like to echo that it's helpful try to add some external accountability to your personal life - just spending lots of time with others and less time at home alone really helps in that respect. And opening up about this to people you trust will not only bring you much-needed helping hands, but might also deepen your connection to them.

Finally, might this have something to do with living alone after having been married? Because for me it's definitely related to running a single household after a LTR, never having lived alone before.
posted by Desertshore at 6:46 AM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to echo what some people have said about hiring someone to help you move. I had never did this before but on my last move I decided to get movers to pack all my stuff for me. It was a HUGE stress relief. They were able to do in a half day what would have taken me days. If you are already using a reputable moving company to move they should be arrange for packing service.
posted by Justin Case at 7:09 AM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I hope it doesn't feel like prying, but I just read your previous question about that abusive ex, and holy fuck, no wonder chores are hard for you right now. I don't feel qualified to speak more on the topic, but please know that as very sympathetic and solidaritous as I felt just from reading this question, that's been increased an order of magnitude by seeing just a tiny slice of historical context on what keeping house probably means to your soul right now. I'm so glad you're throwing away the damned dishes, and please, feel free to smash them on their way out if that helps.
posted by teremala at 7:59 AM on February 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

You have my permission to never find those receipts for this particular ex.
posted by hollyholly at 10:05 AM on February 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

One of the kindest things I ever did for myself was give myself permission to throw away perfectly good/useful items in service of not hoarding it any longer. I have so much emotional attachment to literally every physical object I encounter in my house that I am basically a hostage to memory and good intentions. It is so pathological between my mother and I that when I would come across an item and my first thought is "Why am I keeping this, it's junk, I don't want it anymore" and put it in the trash, she would rescue it and bring it back to me, to question why I was getting rid of a perfectly useful item instead of keeping or donating it. So I quit throwing things away, even actual garbage. I'm still unburying my house from before she got sick and died in 2012.
And the truth is that there is already more stuff that I have actual-real-keepsake/heirloom attachment to than I could ever display and enjoy in a dozen lifetimes, so for the love of all that's good in this world, I let myself throw things away. It's slow going, and so very painful, but while that yardstick from the hardware store my grandfather worked at that isn't there anymore is neat, and doesn't take up much space, I'm going to keep his Masonic sword instead and throw that yardstick away. And maybe next year I'll throw that sword away because it's broken and disintegrating, but I can't do it today and it's all teeny tiny baby steps.
You're doing amazing. Throw things away. Put them on the curb with a sign that says "FREE", the day before trash day. It's okay.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:05 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is all great advice.

I have another suggestion regarding the receipts: call whomever issued you the receipts and ask them to email, mail, or fax your ex a copy of whatever it is that he needs. Email him that he should expect them from the company/medical office/online retailer or whatever and if he has any further needs, he should follow up with them. You are done with this particular nagging task. Cross it off your list.

Clothes. After a moth infestation that led to the ruin of some of my most beautiful and expensive clothes that I'd been pampering for decades, I decided then and there to simplify my closet. I threw away whatever was hopelessly ruined and donated everything else that wasn't pretty much wash and wear. My life is so much easier now, I can't even express it! I own an iron, but I haven't used it over ten years. You are a grown-up. You can do whatever you want. If you never want to fold a single item of clothing again as long as you live, you can do that! Hang up your nice things that need hanging, but shove everything else (underwear, socks, tee shirts, etc) into hanging organizers in your closet. Grab what to wear as needed. Dressers are for the birds. That's not you, so leave them behind for the donation people.

In fact, donate all of the furniture you don't absolutely need or want --- even your bed. The fact that your former ex used to sleep in it with you might be bringing you down. Start fresh in your new home! Sleep on an air mattress for a week or so and order a new bed with beautiful new sheets and bedding, exactly to your taste. If you have a huge rectangular dining room table and chairs, but only need a small round table now for you and the kids, get rid of it and buy a new one. Purging old furniture with bittersweet memories attached can be quite therapeutic. Remind your self that someone else will get good use out of it and you'll get to look and smile at new stuff that you purchased yourself, for your new home, every day.

Cooking and eating. These are things which brought you pleasure and you miss, so ease back into it slowly. On your day off, find something that looks tasty and easy to make online, buy the ingredients, cook it, and eat. Savor every bite! If you don't want to shop and deal with the hassle of measuring out ingredients, get a trial membership to Blue Apron or a similar meal delivery service. It's better than eating takeout and will allow you to break up the monotony of what you've already been eating. Especially cook and eat stuff that you love, but your ex hated; things that you've not had in a long time because it was easier to get something s/he liked. Make the food all about you and what you love for a while. Your kids will deal. This is also therapeutic and will help bring back your passion for cooking and eating delicious things.

Showering every day is not necessary; it's actually better for your skin and hair's natural oils if you don't. Wash your pits and your goodies, your face, neck, ears, and behind your knees and nooks and crannies (underboob, feet, etc) with a wash cloth and soap every morning or whenever you get sweaty/stinky. Use deodorant, if that's your jam. Done. If, one day, you feel so inclined to take a full shower or a nice relaxing bath -- do it, but there's no pressure because you know you're already clean from the last time.

Papers. Buy a few sturdy storage bins and throw everything in them without sorting. Save the sorting for later. When you move, DO NOT bring those bins in the house. Leave them in the garage, next to a stack of garbage bags, a chair and a shredder. Whenever you want to listen to a podcast, or music, or watch Netflix on your device for fifteen minutes or more, go to the garage and sit down with those papers. Grab a handful at a time and be brutal. Anything that is not absolutely important or necessary, throw it away in the garbage bag. Put the stuff that needs to be shredded (bank and credit statements, etc) in a separate bag. When you're done with your show or music, stop. If you don't want to shred your documents yourself, there are mobile shredding services that will come to you.

This right here:

I have ADD (inattentive) for which I take ritalin. I've done a lot over the past year (divorce from an abusive ex, just closed on a home, co-parenting two kids, new job, wrote a book and working on a second, started working out, lost 1/3 my body weight in 8 months, etc) AND taking spectacular care of your kids makes you a freaking Super Hero! I'm not kidding. Can you just take a few moments every morning before you get out of bed and think about how magnificent your are? I am in awe. You not only survived during a very difficult, tumultuous time, but you thrived and you made your children thrive too. Whenever you start to feel depression or negative thoughts creeping in, remind yourself of this. You are an amazing human being! Big internet hugs if you want them!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:10 PM on February 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm late to the party, but wanted to chime in on asking friends for help and showering. About 11 years ago, I was working 80-90 hours a week, and my live-in boyfriend was unemployed and lazy as hell. After I kicked him out, I was completely overwhelmed by all the mess he'd left. We're talking a mountain of moldy, rotting dishes, a couple large colonies of maggots, cigarette ash covering every surface, and, to top it all off, a huge puddle of semi-dried urine under my kitchen table, with coffee grounds thrown on it to mask the smell.

I've got about 9 kinds of anxiety and got seriously overwhelmed with all of it. I asked a good friend if I could pay her to help me deal with it. I couldn't bring myself to give her specifics, so I just told her it was really, really bad.

She didn't bat an eye when she came in. We worked together for about 8 hours to get everything under control. She didn't say a word.

On showering: I took a shower three weeks ago to go to a doctor's appointment. I'll take one this week to go to another doctor's appointment. I can't shower by myself due to physical disability. And I have a really hard time asking for help from the friends I live with because of psychological disability. You can get a huge variety of dry shampoos, no-rinse cleansing cloths, powders, lotions, sprays, anything you can think of to get yourself lean without having to get in the shower.

Oh, one last thing - I moved in here just over four years ago. More than half my boxes are piled up in the laundry room, still packed up.In the last place I lived, I unpacked my last box after living there more than three years.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 9:30 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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