“It’s not clutter, is my unique filing system.” Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Have you ever noticed that when we are ill we revert to doing the bare minimal which means basic survival activities. No make -up, no color coordination with our clothes. We are lucky to even shower and get dressed without passing out or exhausting all of our energy. I had been feeling so run down that I had neglected my writing not to mention my home.
Who cares if the clothes are not put up as long as they are clean and folded? That alone took an act of congress to do (ha- given present circumstances in Washington that is saying a lot!)
Recently, I went to my PCP because I was finally feeling like myself and was able to drive myself there. I proceeded to tell her about my last several month’s ordeal with all the specialists I had seen along with the myriad of tests and treatments I had had. Much to my chagrin, all she wanted to know was if I was doing anything to exercise and lose weight. Granted exercise is a way to maintain our illness in check and prevent us from deteriorating faster. However, before one can exercise one must be able to have enough physical strength to even move, shower and do basic hygiene. Here I was proud I had been out all week after several months of feeling like a recluse. I had actually dressed and groomed without any problems like a normal person would. I was even wearing with make-up once more, had a nice hair do and jewelry on. I was back!
But my triumphant attitude was quickly deflated by my physician’s lack of interest in the fact that I was looking well.
Chronically ill patients due to their illness have a lot of ups and downs and our goal should be to have a smooth course with our illness avoiding as many ups and downs. Our jobs as patients is to work with our health professionals to smooth out those bumpy roads. However, if our doctors don’t acknowledge a problem we are going to face greater challenges. So we must learn to speak up and ensure that the message is getting across about our difficulties with essential activities of daily living.
I think sometimes we as physicians miss the trees for the forest. We should really begin by asking basic questions like are you able to dress yourself in a normal fashion – never mind the falls, choking, dizzy spells and so on. What does your home life look like? Have there been any changes lately?
Over the last 6 months not only did it take me hours to do basic hygiene leaving me exhausted and often needing a break before, during and after but also neglecting non- essential house duties. As laws of thermodynamics dictate the world tends towards chaos it takes energy and constant work to keep organized and tidy in our appearance as well as our surroundings. Those of you who have kids or grand kids know this. You barely finish picking up the toys, shoes, coats etc. and before you it, as the kids go by thunderous swoop, the room is once more untidy and disheveled. Needing order once more. But what happens when there is no extra energy to do these basic cleaning activities- clutter begins.
As a neurologist I was taught to think as hoarding as a mental illness very often a sign of dementia but perhaps we need to look at degrees of untidiness as a sign that things are amiss and underlying illnesses are present or not well controlled.
I have always prided myself as a very tidy and neat individual except in my work space which has always been cluttered with all sorts of things that inspire me or interest me. However, over the last year as my health has been more precarious my neatness has fallen somewhat to the way side. At home, I have slowly begun to accumulate things that I simply had no energy to sort out on any given day. Meanwhile developing a few pile of objects in various rooms of the house. This was not because I did not care or liked the mess or did not want to clean I simply had no energy to do the basic things like take care of my daughter, going grocery shopping, cooking, paying bills, going to doctor, tending to my mothers and my own medical needs. I simply said tomorrow I will get to it and next day came I was equally exhausted and worn out and something more pressing took my limited energy. So either you like me learned to ignore it or are just too tired and sick to really notice.
Funny thing having a cluttered house during poorly controlled illness is like when you been sick for a time and can’t seem to get enough rest and spend most of the time lying in bed finding it very comforting and soothing. But as soon as our bodies are restored the first thing we want is out of bed! When our chronic illness symptoms are restored we want order back in our lives!
I knew I was back to “normal” when I realized that the things that had not bothered me for nearly a year we’re now demanding my attention. Screaming in fact. So I have decreed 2019 the year of de-cluttering!
But now I know that when the clutter begins if it does again I won’t wait a year to get help with my symptoms because this is the first sign that something is amiss! I hope you do the same. Talk to your doctor if this is occurring.
all rights reserved by Maria De Leon