The other side of anxiety is clean. It’s shiny and spotless. It looks like an ad for Town & Country. Pristine countertops. Shiny floors. Everything neatly put away.
I don’t walk into anyone’s house and think, “Oh wow, it’s so dirty in here!” In fact, I don’t notice the mess. When I come to your house all I see is you, my beautiful, kind, loving, and supportive friends. When you come to my house and don’t feel comfortable, I internally cringe and hate myself for not being able to put down the rag and bucket of Mrs. Meyers infused water. I kick myself for wiping down all the surface and windows. I berate myself for putting the kids’ toys away and for shining the floors.
“It smells like a hospital in here!”
Yes, it does thanks to Purell Spray. I can’t stop. But it kills me that it makes people think these things, whether it’s self-conscious or uncomfortable.
You see, this is the other face of anxiety. This is why I don’t judge a mom whose home isn’t in tip-top shape, because while her anxiety manifests itself in piles of dishes, mine is the opposite. When I feel my worst, I clean obsessively. Someone bullied my child? Bleach my bathrooms and scrub them so hard the grout starts to come out. Just feeling unbearably sad and anxious about everything and nothing all at the same time? Deep clean my entire house top to bottom.
It also manifests itself in the way I dress. I can feel other moms staring at me when I show up to the park in a sundress, curled hair, makeup, and jewelry. I probably look like I belong anywhere else but at the park running after my children. But this is how I cope. This is how I survive the hardest days.
When I had my son, I went to a wedding two weeks later and it helped me heal because someone made me look like a queen. When I showed up to the park, each and every time with both children in tow, I wore my dresses and my makeup. I fixed my hair and applied my lipstick. I did this because it was what I needed to do to feel in control of something when my emotions were slipping through my fingers like quicksand.
I still find the time to take my children to library classes, playdates, and more. I still find time to attend every birthday party I am invited to and then some. I volunteer and I visit. I invite and I host. I have always been this way and it won’t change any time soon.
I do try to let go sometimes. I encourage my daughter to smear paint, color, craft and more. I let her run around outside barefoot eating a popsicle that inevitably ends up all over her little toes. She comes in and out of the house, smearing the walls, tables and floors.
She goes to bed clean and happy after an extra long shower. I kiss her goodnight and then I go downstairs and hand wash the walls, the tables, and the floors. I wash away the feeling that I am not a good enough mom or a good enough wife or any other role that I hold because no matter how many times my husband tells me how great I am or my mother tells me how proud she is of me, those feelings swim around in my head.
So I pick up that bucket and that rag and I scrub it all away.