I can’t.

I am feeling so close to just having a complete nervous breakdown. The stress feels like water swirling around me, dragging me under. It manifests in the following: pure exhaustion, short temper and irritability, hopelessness, nausea, headaches, and dizziness.

My main stressor is my house. I’m just not a person who can relax in a mess. The days I work (M is at home with my mom from like 12:30 until 9pm) my house is utterly destroyed. Not just toys and clothes, that would be fine. Cat puke dried into the carpet, cat poop dried onto floors, an overwhelming stench of litter when you enter, food encrusted onto piles of dishes in the sink, crumbs on every surface, including the furniture, spilled liquids (sticky ones) on floors and dripping down cupboards, jelly and whatever else dried onto the counter, mud and dirt on the floor, etc and so on. If I work two days in a row, multiply it by two. So on my days off, I either: a) spend the day scrubbing and feeling my frustration overwhelm me, or b) leave the house with M for the entire day. I often resort to the latter, resulting in a lot of gas money being spent since we live close to nothing and no one. But I hate being at home. I can’t relax, not for a second, until the floors are scrubbed and swept, the dishes are done, the poop/puke/litter is gone, everything is tidied up, and the house no longer smells like garbage or kitty litter. In fact, it’s hard for me to relax even then, because do I ever get to wash the windows? Scrub the iron build up off the bath tub and toilet (we have hard water)? Wash off the kitchen cupboards? Clean under the furniture or in closets? No. Never. And due to my neurotic, type A-ish personality, or maybe genetics (I have an aunt who refuses to live for a second in a messed up environment), I really hate being anywhere with mess or clutter.

I would like to live in a hotel room. Or a sparsely furnished apartment. Yes, I’m that crazy. I would like bare, polished surfaces, clean matching and very widely spaced furniture. I would like shiny new appliances and even, unchipped and unscratched floors. I can’t think of anything more refreshing in the morning than waking up to a house that is so sterile my only complaint could be the pointy little dinosaur figurines scattered on the floor or stuffed animals strewn about. This will be one of my favorite things about travel nursing! I want a nanny (who cleans up after my kid), a cleaner to clean my house at home twice a week while I’m gone, and of course only as much “stuff” as will fit in my small car.

My job is also exhausting. Being an ICU nurse means you are “on” every second. By “on” I mean, you are being nice, knowledgeable, professional, compassionate, and empathetic as you diligently keep vital signs within their parameters using machines and medications, tell the pharmacy how to do their job, tell the residents (doctors) how to do their job, tell the nurse managers that you are doing it exactly as they want you to say you are doing it regardless of how you’re actually doing it, cleaning up all manner of bodily fluids and excrement, while in general being interrogated, yelled at, swung at, or blamed by patients and family members. Do you think we get a half hour lunch break (the half hour we are not paid for)? Yes, we’re supposed to. But due to the nature of a critically ill patient, the nurse “watching” my patient for me is in actuality not able to do anything for my patient while I’m gone, other than let me know if they coded or not while I was gone, because they are too busy with their own patients. So it’s sort of a laugh to ask someone to watch your patient for you. In order to leave the unit for even ten minutes you have to be 99% confident that nothing will go to hell in a handbasket while you’re gone, and 100% caught up on tasks, as well as reasonably confident that your patient isn’t sitting in poop, won’t extubate themselves or try to crawl out of bed, and that no new family members will come in demanding updates while you’re gone.

Let’s just say I don’t get more than a ten-minute break, standing in a small side room where I can visualize the unit monitors and hear them as I gobble down whatever I had on hand to pop in the microwave. Management hopes I’ll tell you that I get a 30 minute break off the unit, but they also know that shit would fall apart if I did that and so there’s an unspoken agreement that I actually should not do that at all.

Even though I usually rock these long, difficult days at work, when I get home I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack looking at the disaster zone my house became. The next day I feel like doing anything but scrubbing floors and counters for hours but that’s what I have to do. It’s no wonder I’m reaching a breaking point. Add M’s “bad” days, where she’s being a giant pain in the ass and ideally I’d have all the patience in the world as a perfect mother should, I have a completely empty tank instead and snap at her, storm out of the room, or am generally not very in control of my anger. To top it all off, I find fast food wrappers and other unapproved foods that make M wild and crazy all over the house, and M is up at 9pm when I get home and then up again at 4am for the day (due to suspicious food items, perhaps?) and I just can’t. I put healthy foods in the fridge and I have to basically hound and harrangue my mom to give them to her instead of junk.

This is all to say that I’m at the end of my rope. Psychologically I’m on empty. I would like to enjoy being home and spend quality time with my daughter, instead I clean. Maybe that’s just the way it is, being a parent, and maybe it sounds like it’s not a huge big deal at all, and maybe it isn’t. But I’m feeling frayed, stretched, and pulled apart. I want to be a better, more patient mom than I am, and I want to feel less out of control, less desperate to just sleep, and more motivated to do the things that bring me joy. I’m at a loss right now.

The next three days at work won’t necessarily be hell. But I’m pretty sure the few days after it will be. The behavior fall out from M, the accumulated mess, and my utter exhaustion will compound to create a perfect storm, and I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to get through another storm.

*In brighter news, we had a playdate today with the mom who is going to be watching M twice a week while I work. It went so well! Our parenting styles and preferences are so in sync, and M is already so comfortable with them, that I feel really great about it. She will be taking M with her Monday, which I know will be a huge relief to both my mom and I. I’m so grateful that this opportunity has come along! Maybe it will be the change that will allow me to crawl out of this hole.

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4 Comments »

  1. I am just a reader here on your blog and I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I’m worried about you. Is your sister at all able to help you sort some of this stuff out? Is it possible to coach your mother to do some of the basic clean-up to spare you that stress? Are there some mother’s helpers in your area that could come after school for a few hours to help your mother care for M while she tidied up? It is GREAT that you have reached out and gotten help with school pick-up and with that some child care. Perhaps full-time child-care would take more stress away… tho with your hours I can certainly see the challenge. Is there childcare at your workplace? You have a big load on your shoulders. Please please please find someone in your area to help you create a solid plan to help you feel less overwhelmed. As a reader I’m feeling pretty helpless…. and quite concerned. Take good care.

  2. *hugs you*. It will pass, the suffocating feelings. I always felt the same way in my old house. We had so much stuff crammed into it there was never a way to get it clean. Even when I tidied it all up it was still a mess. I ended up renting a truck and hauling away everything I didn’t need…extra furniture was donated, clothes were donated, baby stuff was given away and garbage went to the dump. It’s been so freeing, having all the clutter gone.

    As for the dishes and cat issues… Sounds familiar too. The two I live with and love to death will step over a puddle of hair ball puke until it’s dried into the flooring.

    Here’s to a new day. Xx. I hope tomorrow starts out in a way that heals a tiny part of the rift inside.

  3. Try Flylady.net. 15 minutes of de cluttering/cleaning at a time. All day cleaning marathons are exhausting, annoying and take time away from what brings you joy.

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