Get in line!

I am very, very bad at multitasking. My brain is just not designed for it. I can’t talk on the phone with the TV on, I can’t listen to music while studying, I can’t read in Starbucks when everyone around me is talking. The reason I am forever making lists is that I can’t stand having multiple demands on my attention – I need to get them into an orderly queue, at least on paper, or my brain feels like it’s going to explode. This can easily be related to my eating disorder as well. My relapses have always happened during times when I’ve felt very overwhelmed, because slipping back into restriction narrowed my thoughts down to a single calming focal point: numbers.

When I am cooking, I wash things up as I go because I can’t stand leaving things unfinished, to the extent that I would rather leave my breakfast to go cold than leave the saucepan unwashed while I eat. I always eat quickly so I can wash my bowl and spoon up. I hate not having a clothes dryer here, because knowing that my clothes have been left to dry in the other room for two days plays on my mind – I want them folded up in my room already! Uncertainty and loose ends are NOT MY FRIENDS. So you can imagine how stressed out I am by my current situation.

At the moment I am trying to: find a new house, preferably by mid-November; sort out my financial situation; find a part time job; sort out voluntary work to make me more employable; find suitable colleges to apply to for next year; think about Christmas presents (I am broke and have six other family members so forward planning is essential); and keep up with my counselling coursework. I know it could be worse, but I desperately want to get that lot sorted out, because having them all clamouring for my attention is driving me batshit crazy. My mind was racing to the verge of panic earlier, I had to sit down on a bench and play with the sudoku application on my phone to avoid a public meltdown. Yes I know that’s an amusing mental image, but it wasn’t much fun for me.

In a way, it makes me feel good to know that I’m hanging on and coping with all of this stress without reverting to behaviours. I haven’t hurt myself once and I’ve only lost the grand total of 4lbs since I got here, 1.5 of which I’ve gained back. So on that front I’m doing brilliantly. It’s just such a culture shock, having to deal with such practical and adult problems. I really threw myself in at the deep end this time. In a way, it was easier when I went to York, because I was living in college, I just had to pay rent and my bills were sorted out for me, my money came from the student loans company, I had a nice schedule of classes to keep me busy, societies and events were thrown at me to pick and choose from at leisure. And at that point in my life, even that was too scary and overwhelming for me. Two years on in Newcastle, my accommodation, finances, routine and social life are all entirely dependent on me sorting them out.

And of course, my various problems like to get in the way of my every move. For example, finding a new house. I am terrified of the phone. Seriously, I can phone my boyfriend and that’s about it. It can take me weeks to find the guts to phone my GP surgery, so phone hopping with various estate agents is incredibly draining, and leaves me in the state I ended up in earlier – sitting on a bench, playing sudokus and trying not to hyperventilate. Ditto meeting new people. I went to a viewing earlier and was dreading having to chat to the guy showing me around. I found it difficult to hold it together enough to ask sensible questions and not appear like someone who you’d never ever want renting your house. It’s not like I can take days off to recover either – I have to find somewhere new to live by a month today. Then I have to cope with feeling horribly uncomfortable in my current house until I move out. And those are just the accommodation hassles, there’s still the financal, job searching and day to day stuff to deal with.

If anyone has a quick way of curing lifelong OCD/anxiety which doesn’t involve religion, quackery or medication*, please let me know. Until then, you will find me sitting on a bench somewhere in Gateshead, doing sudokus or staring at a conker I’ve just pulled out of my coat pocket because I’m practising my mindfulness exercises.

*Nothing against people who do find religion or medication helpful**, they are just not helpful to me. Quackery, however, is unhelpful to everyone.

**I know I’ve said it a thousand times already, but someone always asks me – I can’t take medication because it makes me physically ill and manic/suicidal well beyond the time span of normal side effects, not because of any personal preferences!


3 responses to “Get in line!

  1. I have to wash up before I eat too (ha! we DO have something in common 😉 ). I’m tolerant of mess, but washing up is a different story. It gnaws at me. I blame working in a cafe, where if the washing was left undone then we’d run out of cups and THE WORLD WOULD END…it’s conditioned some sort of allergic reaction to dirty dishes where I have to compulsively wash them, even if they’re not mine.

    This sounds bit daft, but right before making phone calls I always think my voice won’t work. I don’t know what it is about phones and phone calls. If I can avoid them I will.

    It sounds like quite a list there! It’s a shame we can’t freeze-frame certain aspects of life while we figure out other bits. You may be in the deep end, but you are doing brilliantly. Really. I wish I had some more useful Grown Up advice, but I’m kind of figuring it out too.

    I hope the overwhelmedness disperses soon. xx

  2. Katie, are you sure you haven’t stolen my mind to write this?! Seriously though, I could have written this post myself. I identify with EVERYTHING in it – especially the phrase:

    “My relapses have always happened during times when I’ve felt very overwhelmed, because slipping back into restriction narrowed my thoughts down to a single calming focal point: numbers.”


    And, my brain reacts exactly the same as yours with regard to medication…

    I have accepted that this is the way I am. I’ve tried hard to change things but a ‘leopard cannot change its spots’. Doing endless sudoku puzzles may restrict my social life but it’s a far safer means of controlling my anxiety and focusing my mind than restricting and counting calories…

  3. Same thing with me on ‘the wash up before eat up’ thing and the control freak sense of “I am overwhelmed! I wish everything was in decent order! I must make lists and write everything down”.

    With your past and medical history the amount of hassle and stress you’re being subjected to right now is extreme and you are totally justified in feeling completely overwhelmed. I guess the only thing is to remember that you’ve been through a lot, that you are trying to make things easier and that in spite of all the ordeals you still crack on. Meditation has helped me lately, though I think I could do with more. You time is what you need – no compromise. 😉

    Just take care of yourself and remember the mindfulness and just how much of a great person you are when overwhelming circumstances are getting on top of you. 🙂 x

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