Sometimes, I feel like the hardest part of healing is adapting to more socially acceptable behaviors and changing your mindset to reflect the new behaviors.
Being born into and growing up in filth and chaos you learn that hygiene isn’t really important and it doesn’t take the most fancy clothes or food to keep you happy. It teaches you that violence is the answer, anger is key, and if you don’t feel ok numb it out. It teaches you that what other people think of you matters but you can’t let it show.
Despite my moms drug addiction she had a major issue with germs and dirt, which now when I think about it it is kind of an oxymoron. She was constantly cleaning our house or tending to her rose bushes. We knew how to make our beds and clean our rooms by the time we were in toddler beds and were required to do so every morning. We showered daily and wore nice, unstained clothes and shoes that were without holes. Our hair was done and we went to school like any other kid.
Even though these things seem normal and good, she intensified them. She took them to the extreme. Our house wasn’t really spotless, in fact it wasn’t even clean. She was cleaning a lot, but only the pathway from the front to the basement, where company came through. Our beds were made and the counters wiped, so the appearance of cleanliness was there but I can’t tell you the number of times I saw a mouse or a rat jump out of the cupboard. What little food we did have was 1/2 eaten by those rodents. Our daily showers were because she refused to touch us if we were filthy and were administered by her; often times resulting in raw skin, especially around the feet, ears, and hands. This lasted until I was 6 or so, and then we really didn’t shower unless we were going somewhere important. Or our laundry room, where the piles grew and grew but were never washed had a small trail to the washer and dryer where those unstained clothes were washed and we only wore those to school. Everything else we wore was taken from those big piles. Everything my mom wore was taken from those piles…and never washed. So many times my brothers and I would scour for food in unclean places. When my mom did cook, it made us really sick. Our life wasn’t clean but she made sure that the outside world thought it was.
Healing means that I have to take my moms external appearance, the thing that society wants, and put it into action. But it’s not comfortable. 10 years ago I was taken out of that mess and still today it feels more comfortable to wear clothes that haven’t been washed in weeks. I hate to shower so take them as little as possible. When I’m dysregulated or not feeling well, I still prefer the dirty floor to my bed. My immediate reaction to pretty much anything, including good things, is still anger and more time than not my thoughts are still really dark. I still feel like hurting things and people, especially when I’m angry. And most of the time, I’d prefer leftovers or fast food over home cooked food.
So much of my internal world remains the same as it did 10 years ago but externally I’m able to function as society wishes. The things I do now don’t come naturally and I’m constantly having to remind myself to do them. They are becoming easier as I immerse myself into a cleaner/healthier environment with more healthy people, and as I practice them my heart begins to open. I’ve learned what it feels like to have a healthy relationship and my heart has opened enough to allow a select few people in. So even though learning to function like society is the hardest thing I’ve done, it’s also the best because it has opened me up to greater people and things and has allowed me to discover the good parts of myself. I’m not ideal, but I’m getting there.