Cleaning Up After Nine Months Of Neglect

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My apartment is slowly becoming less filthy. For most of this past year, and the last few months of 2008, I was living on two-thirds of my prescribed dose of anti-depressants thanks to a pharmacy screw up.

It took me far too long, but a couple of months ago I finally realized I was taking the blue pill, not the purple one. It’s like living in a large room with one lamp, then remembering there are track lights. All that time living in the dark, forgetting where my stuff was, and all I had to do was flick a switch.

Well my switch is flicked. I’ve been back on the purple pill for a month now, and I feel better than I have in a long time. Not perfect, but better. More able to see what’s going on around me. And able to make healthy decisions. Like finally changing my sheet and pillowcases.

…this is going to get a little graphic.

In 2003, when I accidentally erased three years worth of edits to my book, I went into a depression coma. I grew my first beard and I slept on the same sheet for four months. The idea of changing it never occurred to me. I never saw the growing, black stain of dirt and sweat. Even when it ripped, I never saw the hole. When the stain spread to the mattress, it just was. It looked to me as if it had always been that way, or like it was supposed to be that way.

There were other mitigating factors to the deepening depression, plus I was right at the beginning of my recovery. I don’t think I was even taking an anti-depressant at that point. But those, and other incidents of giving up, came as the result of a sudden, devastating shock.

This time it was a slow, incremental fade… as though someone were turning down a dimmer dial rather than pulling a plug. I was able to function outside, talk to people, push through what I thought were difficulties of my own making to face the people I had to face. But I couldn’t break through the barriers between passive and active. I could respond to friends and acquaintances I met randomly on the street, but didn’t have the energy or willingness to search them out.

As it got harder and harder to function, I blamed myself and leaned further into the wind so I could keep walking.

I’ve been able to maintain a diabetic friendly diet, but I’ve also regularly run out of decent food, and I haven’t kept track of my blood sugar levels for months. My laundry situation is I’ve only done two, maybe three, loads this year. I only changed the flypaper hanging from my ceiling when someone commented on how there were no spaces left for new ones.

And I went six months on one sheet, and one set of pillowcases. Occasionally I could see how dirty they were, and there’d be a minor acknowledgement as to how ridiculous it was I would be sleeping on them that night, but the idea of changing them would only make a brief appearance.

And it took months to even realize what was happening.

And I think there was a general confusion as to what was happening, even if I couldn’t specifically see what was happening. Like being unable to feel the water around my knees, but being aware of how walking was becoming significantly harder. The idea it could be the medications fault never came to me. I was using the same pharmacy, with the same pharmacists, and my prescription never changed.

So it had to be my fault. If there was any fault to be laid. Which was not something, again, which really occurred to me. What is, is… what is, has always been. The lights haven’t dimmed, because it has never been brighter than this. My sheets aren’t dirty, this is how they’ve always been.

When the levels of medication in my body started to slowly fall, the walls and horizons slowly pulled inwards. It’s like when I first put on my glasses and looked out the window of my apartment. Instead of being a mushy grey, the sign on the gas station down the street was actually white, and I could read the words. As my eyes deteriorated, my horizons narrowed and shrank. Every year, without noticing, my horizon was a foot or ten closer to me. With the glasses everything cleared. My horizons were back to where they had been.

And now I can see the thick coat of fine, grey dust covering everything in my apartment, and the sand, lint and grit covering my rugs and floor.

It’s not like I’ve ever been a decent housekeeper. I’ve always needed my surroundings to be in a certain state to be motivated into cleaning them. Generally, since starting the anti-depressant, every shirt has to be dirty before I’ll relent to a laundry day. But over the past six months, and previous to starting the medications, I would just pick as much of the mustard stain off the shirt as I could before putting it on.

In the fourteen years previous to the anti-depressant there were a few times where I went a year between doing a laundry. Because it never occurred to me to do otherwise. Or, when it did occur to me that I needed to get my stuff clean, I was unable to take the next logical step, or the steps needed to get things done were too high.

And now I’m five weeks back at the dose I was prescribed. And I’m slowly cleaning my apartment. Bookshelves, and their books, have been dusted. Tomorrow is laundry day. And I just found the chequebook I’ve been searching for most of the summer… it was on top of a pile of books, on top of my television, right in the middle of my living room.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Poverty. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Cleaning Up After Nine Months Of Neglect

  1. Richard says:

    The correct amount of the correct meds is always a good plan. Glad the lights are bright enough to see by, but not hurting your eyes.

  2. thordora says:

    Been there, and have occasional dips back into it, ones that are few enough that I don’t go on the anti-depressants. It’s such an odd detatched feeling, especially when you’re better. Night and day, almost two different people.

    Hope it continues.

  3. thordora says:

    and btw-love that picture of you.

  4. Yo is Me says:

    heyyy…. come to california. clean my apartment. i mean, expand your horizon some more 😉

    i’m glad things are working out.

  5. nothingisalone says:

    good post. i can identify with so much of it.

    glad you are feeling better.

  6. auralay says:

    Cleaning is overwhelming for me. I’m a slight packrat, and my concept of organization is of a level not yet reached by the majority of the human race.
    But it’s therapeutic.
    Dishes, laundry, sweeping, rearranging, dusting… it’s like getting rid of all the negativity. It’s a fresh start.

    I’ve found that I’m able to sleep a lot better when I don’t have laundry all over the place and when I’ve made my bed in the morning.
    When the kitchen is cleaned up, I eat healthier.
    Also, I just feel… cleaner, clearer and calmer, both physically and mentally.

    It isn’t strenuous to move about in my apartment when it’s clean. It’s not a constant nag for me when I make the effort to maintain it.

    It feels good.

    I’m glad your lights are coming back on 🙂

  7. bromac says:

    I’m glad you’re beginning to feel better. I think one of the most important gains in recovery is being able to recognize when you’re steadily sinking into a depression or revving up for mania.

    Good job on the apt cleaning….you’ll want it clean once the babe gets to crawling and reaching and such. That was my biggest motivator to becoming cleaner.

  8. karenintheory says:

    I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been for you back then. I’ve been that low myself, but it’s days like today I’m thankful for rapid cycling.

    I hope the apartment cleaning goes well and I’m glad you’re taking the right meds now.

    Take care xx

  9. Soire says:

    Cleaning calms me – so the more stressed I get, and the more I start to collapse, the cleaner my home gets.

    I’m glad you’re digging out – when the switch gets flicked, sometimes it’s too bright.

  10. MrBlueSkies says:

    I am happy to hear you’ve got the right meds and are starting to see things in a clearer, if not better, light.

  11. Clare says:

    I need to overhaul my life…clean it, de-clutter, organize, and reform my habits. I think I might need a med adjustment as well.

  12. Hey, there. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned my place. It’s a mess, I’m a mess… *rolls eyes*

    It’s really good that you’re moving along and getting some things done. Even a small accomplishment here or there can be beneficial. It’s like, yay! I did one thing!

    That’s how I’m trying to look at my world these days.

    I’ll think of you and this post and perhaps it will give me some inspiration.


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