“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend." - Sarah Ban Breathnach

Monday, August 3, 2009


I am afraid to clean house.

There is actually a rational explanation behind my irrational fear of housework. During the first year of CFS, when the doctors couldn't tell me what was wrong or what to do to fix it, I did what we typically do -- I pushed myself to try to keep up with my "normal" life. As a result, I was in a constant, 24/7 zombie mode. The fatigue and brain fog were so severe that I couldn't maintain a decent conversation with anyone. I spent hours on the computer, my only respite. My family thought I was addicted. They would come in and interrupt me, trying to interact. They would say something to me, and I'd have to stop, look them in the eye, and still ask them to repeat themselves three or four times before what they were saying made any kind of sense to me. I would still be on the computer when my husband came home from work at 9 pm. I would be desperate to get some sleep, but I was so tired, I couldn't even find the energy to get up and walk upstairs to bed. It was bad. It was ugly. My family suffered.

Then I discovered I had CFS! And pacing! And I started to live within my "energy envelope". Sort of. I'm still working on that. But, anyway, the brain fog began to clear for moments at a time. I could actually talk to my children. And parent them again. It was difficult, because they had become quite feral and did not take kindly to the retaming process. Nonetheless, I found the strength and energy to stick with it, and we are becoming a normal family again. I actually played a board game with my children the other day. It was amazing.

So, my great fear is that if I start doing housework again, I will no longer have energy left for my family! I need to keep an energy reserve for those unexpected moments that require me to parent. I don't want to be unavailable to them again because I was wiping the kitchen counters, or scrubbing the toilets, or sweeping my front porch.

Still. I want to be able to bless my family by creating a more peaceful, inviting home for them ... and me. I'm in the middle of reevaluating how I spend my time. I am coming to realize that too much time on the computer is as harmful as overdoing it physically. I need to start "switching" activities, and maybe I can add a few minutes -- 5 to 10 at a time, maybe -- of housework to my day.

I am going to face my fears and start FlyLady( this month. I discovered FlyLady when I was pregnant with my youngest son. Her program helped me dig out of disarray after months of morning sickness that left me unable to do anything. I realize things are different this time, so I'll have to modify it and keep it within my abilities. But I think I can do this.

AND keep my cleaning lady. ;)


Renee said...

I know what you mean about worrying that a certain acitivity like cleaning with make you crash or take away energy for your family...we hired a housekeeper 2x a month and we keep it organized inbetween, BUT we have an empty nest. If I fold a load of clothes then I cannot help with supper...if I help with supper, that is it for the day...finding balance and knowing what we can do and can't is so hard and still CFS is sooooooo fickle and unrelenting in its ability to respond to the littlest change. I would only suggest that you go really slow with what you add and how often, etc. and from what your wrote you already know that.
By the way, houseworkaphobia??....lots of healthy people have that too :-)
Good luck.

alyson said...

I can relate to your story and to your houseworkaphobia. Housework has an irritating way of causing me to crash. I, too, am afraid of doing too much. Oddly enough, I actually enjoy certain types of housework (though my mother who "retired" from domestic duties as soon as I left the nest does not understand where this enjoyment of cooking and cleaning comes from). Unfortunately, I usually do not have enough energy to do these things. Like Renee, we also hired a cleaning service. They come twice a month...though we're thinking of having them come every week if we can manage it in our budget.

Dusty Bogwrangler said...

Oh I know this well too! And I find living in a mess makes me tired and depressed. So clean up and be damned, leave it and be damned. I hired help in my previous home. That was quite exhausting in itself.

I can't remember how old your children are, but is there any way of making cleaning a family activity, since it's the family that makes the mess in the first place? It's something you can all do together.

I was like you until I got a diagnosis and discovered resting and pacing. The lights were on but nobody was home. I also relate to the joy in getting some of it back. Recovery is a lot of hard work, my goodnes it's worth it though isn't it.

All the best.

Shelli said...

Jo -- actually, the kids are plenty old enough, and they do help out. In fact, they have been the only ones cleaning while my main job has been keeping up with the laundry (I can sit while I do it). Out of guilt, I let them get away with doing a terrible job -- not good for anyone, really. And the house is always a mess and an embarrassment. So, I thought with FlyLady, I can start adding a little bit to the housework myself, while pacing and testing, and then I can feel a little bit better about myself while blessing my family. That's the theory at least! And I did pretty well yesterday. So we'll see how this holds up.

Unknown said...

I've heard of flylady -- or you could just hire someone to clean for you! I agree with Jo - the house being a mess makes me worse, but so does the cleaning -- houseworkaphobia you call it :) It's a conundrum to say the least. Anyway, let me know how flylady works out!