A Disordered Mind

I look around and all I see is clutter.  Unlikely pairings: A glass with dried remnants of good red wine atop a crumby plate that also holds a cast-off case from a long disused (broken) cell phone.  Plastic sacks of clean laundry, some of them from last winter, not yet put away.

Useful, that: the weather is already wintry here, so no need to hunt for the winter clothes.  They’re already in reach.

A microwaveable hot pack draped over a still-unopened bedbug-proof pillow case.  I am phobic about bedbugs, but I have yet to put the protective casings on my bedding, even though I travel frequently to places where there might be bugs.  I’ve had the casings for three years and counting.

It oppresses me.  Why do I let things get this way?  Every time I move into a new place, which is often, I vow that I will turn over a new leaf and keep it clean and tidy.

But I never stay long.  My disordered mind gets to feeling restless, or else some duty calls me away, and I start over…again.

After packing up to leave for new digs, I marvel at the expanse, however small, of clean, dust-free floor and counters.  Why could I not just maintain this mind-soothing order?   Such a balm to the senses, to be able to look around and distinguish individual objects rather than piles, piles, piles of things thrown down, left, tossed away, to be taken care of later, a “later” that never arrives.

I think I was born this way.  My child-room was the same way.  I guarded it fiercely from that hated intruder, my mother.  If she got into my room she threw out my treasures indiscriminately.  I might come home from school to find my room spotless, sterile, bereft of projects in progress that I might have abandoned months ago, but still….I might have finished them, someday, but now they are gone and the potential in my mind’s eye is also gone.

And she dumped out my socks drawer, along with the family of field mice that had taken up residence there.  My pets.

There was never a time when I did not hate my mother.

Perhaps it has to do with the constant acid rain of her curses, name-calling, denigration falling on my infant head.  Maybe the piles of junk started out as a bulwark against her obsession with neatness.  Up your ass with a piece of glass, “Mom.”

I survey the utter chaos in my dwelling of today, every single surface piled with stuff that either needs to be put in some logical orderly place or simply thrown out.  I am not a hoarder.  I just feel paralyzed, looking at all the stuff, and it seems to be looking back at me imploring me to do something about it.  Or at least just to take out the trash…start there.

Sometimes I get the urge to just go out and lock the door and buy a tent.  You can’t stuff much in a tent, can you?

Then there is the mail.  I am paralyzed by the sheer bulk of what appears in both my physical and my email boxes.

I have three or four email accounts that I never even look at.  There is probably something of import, certainly, positively, and possibly some three or four items that might even have some significant impact on my life (license renewal notices, things like that).  But I cannot face the task of cleaning out 999,000+ messages from my Yahoo account.

Then there is my mind.  I have packed a lot of stuff into this finite space, within this bone box.  Yes, of course I have heard the rhetoric about how we only use “x” tiny percentage of our available brain space….and I think that’s bullshit.  The rest of our brain is hard at work backstage, doing stuff that keeps the rest of us running, more or less.  Mine seems to be less, or maybe (more likely) too much.

Sometimes I think that if I could just break out of this 60+ year habit of surrounding myself with chaos, that my mind would work better, that my brain would feel more organized and content.

In fact, I am sure of it.

On the other hand, I think my abnormal unusual mind might have built a fortress around itself, beginning as a very young person, with piles of junk, to protect itself from my mother’s compulsive cleaning and straightening of everything in her environment.

Not to say that my disorderly mind was caused by my mother’s OCD.  No, I believe I was born with this mind, and to tell you the truth, when I am not suffering from the pain it causes me, I enjoy the lightness that allows my brain to fly to places where a more tethered mind could never go.  It is an artist’s brain, and I like it, when it lets go of tormenting me.

I used to make some astonishing art.  I recently saw a set of slides of my art from the ’70’s that must have been a portfolio for getting into one of the three art schools I attended.  I was bowled over by the beauty and quality of my own work.

What happened to that?  Where did it go?  I can pick up a pen or some colored pencils, even now, and make a piece of art that would look good on any gallery wall.  Yet I don’t have the urge, the drive, to do it.  It’s lying in the pile of unused talents and vocations, over there in the middle of the floor, where I have to walk around it to avoid tripping.

My music has gone to hell because of the inflammation in my hands.  I can still sing, but I am afraid to, because I might lose that too, and so I actually do lose it because I don’t use it.  Or to tell you the truth, I forget to sing.  How strange.

I forget to listen to music, except for Pandora, because I just, I just….forget.  So except when I am finally doing the dishes and really need something to distract my mind so I can keep on task (oh God….how strange….), my environment is silent except for the background noises, the furnace, the honk and wail of the railroad trains (how I hate these shrieking interruptions in my silence), the mumbling roar of the river after a big rain.

My shrink is sure I have ADD.  He pushes stimulants.  I try them.  They make me feel creepy, and they don’t help.

I know I don’t have ADD.  I have something far deeper.  I have a Disorganized, Dis-Ordered Mind.  I don’t think there’s a cure for that.


Don’t tell me about DBT, CBT, LMNOP.  I’ve done those.  They are interesting, and they help me to understand that Joe Shmoe might just be having a bad day that I was not the cause of.

But they don’t fix my disordered, disorderly brain.


Leave a comment


  1. Laura, what to say about this post! Great insight and awareness of the “what and why” of a disordered brain. None of those acronyms are going to help. I’d go with the moment to moment meaning of each day. Find something meaningful in the stuff you walk around. Find something meaningful in your thoughts. Everything else is trash! I’d put your mother in the trash, and get on with being your own good mother!

    • Thank you! I do find meaning in most things, if they come under my scrutiny. In fact, I even have magnifying glasses to better see tiny things! As far as trash, I just took the whole back of my car full of recyclables and trash to the trash center (I don’t live in a town). There’s a lot more, and I do hoard packing materials (for pottery) so I can’t throw out certain boxes and bubble wrap, that sort of thing. But really I have more trouble with the days whizzing by, than otherwise. Too much stuff to do, not enough time. Much better than lying around being bored, eh? As far as the Murder, I have noted that she is really declining since my father’s death, and therefore I will not need to bother about her, since she is “taking care” of herself. I believe she has non-small cell cancer of the lungs–I am a very good diagnostician–but it has not been properly diagnosed yet. We shall see.

  2. I identify with this so much. My messiness and disorganization is something I’ve always been ashamed of, but shame doesn’t fix it. In fact, I think it makes it worse. My bedroom is a nightmare, and that’s where I spend 95% of my time, locking myself and my mess away so no one has to see it. No solutions here, either. But I understand.

    • Oh Jane, you have had a boatful of troubles! There is a difference between mental illness and cruelty, I believe. I am mentally ill, but the idea of purposely hurting anyone or anything, causes me physical pain. Yes, there are anti social people among us who get pleasure from pulling the wings off butterflies. Are they mentally ill, or is there a separate thing called callous cruelty? I am so sorry you have had such a hard time. And to have your husband have a stroke, a cruel blow. I tend to envy anyone who has a loving spouse, not having one myself; but then to have them struck down….Oh my dear, it is almost too much! I wish you peace.

    • Sigh. I’m sorry that you have to deal with the Mess Monster, but I’m sure there is a good reason for it. Shame does seem to make it worse. I don’t know how to fix this, or IF I should fix it…I think it’s some kind of coping tool.

  3. I know you probably didn’t mean to be funny, but you are funny Laura! Who is jo smo? LMAO, and I loved when you said CBT DBT and LMNOP hahahaha! You cracked us up here! Great post though…lol about the field mice, I’d be terrified! XX

    • Joe Shmoe is an expression meaning “just anybody.” Aww, little cute field mice with their soft, soft fur! I think they’re adorable. I don’t understand why people are afraid of them. Glad you enjoyed the “letter soup!”

  4. wow. i know about that feeling of paralysis when you see so much a hand to be done. it just is a pressure that won’t let you even get up to do one task. and if you do one task, it is like it takes forever and ever.

    but on the other hand the clutter actually makes it harder for us to do it. when we are in an organized place, we have more energy to get up and do things. it’s kind of an ironic game we are forced to play.

    and ADD is a tentative dx at best, being mostly subjective. and no matter what reason your brain keeps you from being orderly and thinking well and being tidy, that is what needs treated–by whatever therapeutic means available, to maintain it a fucntional level.

    im sorry you are dealing with this. i know how hard it is. even if i only skip one day of taking care of my house, it makes it so much harder to do it the next day.

  5. Sadly, I have the same disorder. I would like a Rosie the Robot.

  6. Love and light. Be well where ever you are, what ever you are. You are you, a beautiful soul and a person.

    Take care

  7. I believe you have the brain of a visual thinker. It can be overwhelming. I may ask for a helper sometime in the future to help me go through our piles and unpacked boxes.

    • You’d think a visual thinker would find one’s environment very important….?

      • Touche… Cleaning up and organizing IS overwhelming. I have the same issue, but at a lesser degress, and live with men (actually a man and a boy) who get mad when I put things away because when they cannot see it, it isn’t there, AND I can never remember where I put it. Frustrating.

        • Hmm. That’s my problem. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist (lacking object permanence, supposed to be acquired by about 6 months of age, and my dog has it). That leads to such shocking clutter that I can’t see the needle because the haystack is not homogeneous like hay. It is composed of many interesting things that are not what I was looking for in the first place, but manage to distract me (they all must be looked at and thought about) until bedtime, and the original looked-for item is still unfound, and sometimes even forgotten about! Then I end up thinking, how important is any of this stuff? I can go away and not have one single thought about any of it for weeks, months, or years…but let me get into my dwelling full of stuff and you may as well think I’m in Smaug’s lair….mine….It’s all mine, Precious! To mix a metaphor 🙂

          • Although I love object relations theory, perhaps being a visual thinker is not evidence of developmental delay, but is just a different way of thinking. All three of us (my son, my husband & I) are visual and analytical (proud geeks). When it comes to PEOPLE, we know that the object of our love is and will be there for us. Physical objects and the way our minds solve problems in the physical world are different altogether. Then, too, some of us are simply creative and messy.

  8. I get the paralysed thing and I go through bouts a day or two of madness then nothing for weeks on end because the bout barely made a dent and I haven’t the energy to try that again xx

  9. PsiFiGal

     /  November 26, 2014

    This is a really great post Laura. I found my self saying “I do that too!” quite a bit. I think that I got better as I grew older, or maybe it’s that after years of not being able to find anything I finally had a tipping point that got me to get more organized. I’m not super neat, I still have piles of clothes in my bedroom from time to time. After I had new floors put in I still haven’t finished putting everything back where they belong, and my stack of papers that I have to deal with sits next to my chair making me feel guilty for putting off what must be done.

    I’m sorry you had a mother like that, those of us who are fortunate to have had relatively stable relationships with our parents don’t know how lucky we have it. This time of year I am reminded to be thankful for things like that. I’m glad that you had a better relationship with your father.

    Hapy Thanksgiving!


    • Hmmm, sounds like me when I was younger and knew how file cabinets work. I have a perfectly good one that used to be my father’s but my papers somehow refuse to make it into the pristine file folders he also left me, and instead are threatening to destroy the lovely writing desk he also left me. Of course there is the pile of papers on his office desk that I have not yet looked at. Sigh.

  10. Thanks Laura. Diwali was on 23 October. I am happy to know about Hanukah.


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