Wash the Dishes

It took me an hour to clean up the kitchen. It took me an hour, so it must have been some big mess, yeah? No...No. The kitchen was generally tidy to start, and the stack of dishes, short. It *should* have taken me 10 minutes. It took me an hour.

I could not focus on tidying the kitchen. 

I could not focus because lately, I've been depressed and anxious.

One of the many delightful ways that depression and anxiety show up for me is the rapidly explosive fireworks spiral of thoughts-turned-potential-crises that ultimately lead me to land on THIS shiny winner of a thought -- That I am the World's Shittiest Person.

Here's a fun, and fuck it, TMI example train(wreck) of thought that knots its way through my brain when I'm deep in the depression/anxiety loop (note: this is an abridged snippet of the real thing):

Molly. Wash the dishes. And wipe down the counter. Oh, and sort through the mail. And go to the bank, that check from your client finally arrived. Oh -don't forget, you have to renew your LLC filing soon. And on the topic of work, you have those proposals to respond to, don't forget. Don't get overwhelmed, remember you chose this career path. And fold the laundry. And we need milk. And Cloud needs a vet appointment. Don't you care about your cat? You're not acting like it, or it would have been done already. Selfish. And there's that email you never answered, how long has it been now? You're a shitty planner, you should have responded to that note, already. And you need new clothes. Yeah, you need to add shopping to your already busy list because you've gotten so fat and you've gained so much weight, and what a slug you've become and you did this to yourself you know you did.  And Christmas is coming, you better think of thoughtful gifts and buy and send cards because otherwise everyone will hate you and why are you so inconsiderate, Molly, remember all that TV you watched when you could have been productive, you do this to yourself, Molly. Oh, are you frustrated now? Grow up. You gonna whine about it and cry? Molly. Focus. And, you still haven't made that appointment with your doctor to figure out what's wrong and I'll tell you what's wrong its because you're so unhealthy and so fucked up, and it's never going to happen for you can't have a kid or be a good parent or be a good partner or live in peace and be free from anxiety and good things aren't yours to have because as it turns out youareahorriblepersonwhocannotdoanythingrightandohmygodohmygodohmygodyousuckatlife.....

You know, delightful thought trains like that. Yay brain.

Slow Spiral. Picking-up-speed Spiral. Rapid-barrel-headfirst-into-oblivion Spiral.

Epic proportions Catastrophe.

When I feel depressed and anxious, every thought in my brain becomes a priority of urgent measures. And my inability to respond to them all at once somehow leads me straight to the belief that I am a terrible person. And then nothing is a priority. And then I am a puddle on the floor, awash in shame.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I began the slow spiral. But. BUT! I did not take it all the way to the end-shame-game. Not this time. After 45 minutes of the slow and strange and draining spin and subsequent wandering away from the kitchen to tackle random other "priorities", I was finally able to rest my mind and my efforts on one simple task.

Wash the dishes.

And, It became like a form of meditation for me, standing in front of the kitchen sink, hands drenched in soapy water.

Wash the dishes.

A brief meditation because, as I said, the dish stack was short. But, it was long enough to ease the tension in the line, to dissipate the spiral.

Wash the dishes. 

Over and over, I was able to steer my mind to just that one thought. 

Wash the dishes.

To create some space and quiet around that one thought, to soften the shouts of a thousand other thoughts.

Wash the dishes.

Thinking about that single mundane action was enough to steady my breathing, to gently pull my shoulders away from my ears, to feel my feet on the ground, and to re-enter my full body vs cramming myself tightly into the over-crowded space between my ears. 

I did that. I created my own place for calm, and in those moments I chose not to believe that I am terrible, because I know that's just the depression echo chamber and it's not valid. I'ts not fact. It's not me.

And, I've decided that "wash the dishes" is now going to be the mental bell I ring when I sense I'm heading into a spiral, to serve as a reminder to myself that I am not a terrible nothing, that depression and anxiety do not get the final say in defining me.

It's not profound and it doesn't need to be.  Just...wash the dishes.