There are a lot of things in my life I feel like I cannot control. Some are my struggle with weight-loss, my children’s behavior, and certainly not the fact that my twins died just a day after they were born.
When I was a young girl, my room was SO messy. Disgusting, actually. It drove my mom crazy that I wouldn’t keep it clean. She was the kind of person that couldn’t go to bed until the dishes were cleaned, dried, and put away. I loved playing in my room anyway, and of course, insisted that I could find whatever she needed (along with possibly a banana peel or perhaps an apple core).
I was in college when I first started getting anxious about my belongings. My parents were going through a divorce and I wasn’t handling it well emotionally. I lived in an apartment with 3 other girls, and suddenly I noticed the anger I was feeling when I noticed someone hadn’t taken their turn to wash dishes, or there were crumbs all over the counter.
Related: Getting Anxiety In Check
Since then, it has spiraled. I have never been formally diagnosed with any sort of compulsive disorder, but I also haven’t seen anyone specifically in order to check on that diagnosis. Right after my husband and I got married, his father died from lung cancer. We were also battling infertility and I began to obsessively clean our house, arguing with my husband about where things should go and finding their “proper” spot.
Fast forward to now, and these struggles present themselves in a variety of ways. I had to sit my family down and explain to them that I wish it weren’t like this. That I am always working on it. That it was never my intention to be following behind my family all day, picking up after them, huffing and sighing to let them know how annoyed I am.
I tried to explain to them the feeling that took over me when I walked into the house and saw things all over the kitchen counter. That I knew it sounded strange, but it actually made me physically ill.
Grief and loss present themselves in so many different ways. For me, anxiety and obsessions with cleaning are the biggest things I need to work on. And no matter how hard I work at it, when something big presents itself, I find myself re-organizing the Tupperware cupboard for the 10th time, or walking around the house with a garbage bag, throwing away anything I can get my hands on.
Related: A Woman Shaped By Grief
Being honest and open about this with my friends and family has helped a lot–I know what my triggers are and I catch myself before I get worked up. I know that I have other, healthy ways to deal with my stress and anxiety (taking a bath, walking or running, being creative) and I can choose those. I also know that if a good house cleaning makes me feel better, there are worse things. But I have people looking out for me, in the end, to make sure I’m not taking it too far.
What are some of the ways that your grief has pushed your struggles into more serious zones? Let us know in the comments.
Christy Wopat is a 4th grade teacher and writer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and who hilarious, energetic children, and without her boy/girl twins, Sophie and Aiden, who lived for a very short time in 2009. She is honored to share her words in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding infant loss and grief.