Household Chores

I often find keeping up with day-to-day living extremely hard. I especially have a hard time keeping up with household chores like tidying and cleaning, laundry and dishes and the like. If you’ve struggled with depression or some other mental illnesses, I’m sure it founds very familiar indeed.

Otherwise, it might sound awfully petty or lazy. After all, these are all things nobody likes to do but still needs to get done. It’s a part of life and you just have to suck it up and get it done. But feeling bad and horrid over never getting it done doesn’t help. It doesn’t give me the energy or presence of mind to do them. It just makes me feel awful and like a complete failure.

I struggle even on my good days, but when I’m in a really bad period, the simple chores become impossible. The filth just piles up. Trash, laundry, dishes, everything blends into a giant, depressing mess without head nor tail. I can’t cook proper food because of the dishes, I’ve no energy to tackle the dishes and don’t really have the energy to cook besides. I run out of clean clothes because I can’t manage to do my laundry and I don’t shower because I’ve no clean clothes to change into, so I can’t go out either. I won’t have anyone over, because everything’s a mess and I can’t summon up the energy to do anything about it. And just staring at the whole mess every day just makes my mood even worse.

Luckily, it’s been a very long time since things were quite so bad. Although I still can’t quite get rid of the mess entirely just yet. I’m slowly working on incorporating better habits and found a couple strategies that seem to help make my life easier quite a bit.

Some time ago, I attended a cognitive training group. We’d train memory, attention and the like by playing games on the computer. They stressed the importance of keeping up with these games at home, to get the best results. We didn’t have to spend a long time on it, just a few minutes if that’s all we had. If we couldn’t spend an hour, then a half or even just 10 or 5 minutes, then that was fine. Just so long as we got something done.

Working with that same principle, I found I could chop up my chores in various ways to make them more manageable. When faced with a messy room, I could chop the tidying up into categories, saying I’ll pick up the trash first and then that’s one task done. I can take a break, stop for the day or, if I feel up to it, I’ll maybe gather up the laundry or start clearing my desk. Then, little by little, I’ll manage to get my room in order. It might take days or even weeks, but it’ll slowly get done. I’d chop up the tasks into as little pieces as necessary. If it’s even just picking up one sock off the floor and putting it in the laundry bin, that’s still one sock less littering the floor.

For the dishes, since I didn’t have a dishwasher and very little kitchen-space, they tended to be a big problem. So, I’d start by just sorting and tidying up the dishes, pile the plates and bowls together, group cups and glasses, gather the cutlery together. Suddenly, it looks a lot more manageable. Then, when I feel up to it, I’ll wash the cutlery first. Then the plates, then cups and glasses etc.

Often times, I’d do the dishes, then order takeout. Dishes and cooking right after each other is a lot and so, just thinking about it would make me too tired and depressed to even get started. So instead, I’d negotiate with myself, find a comfortable place between nothing and everything and at least just get something done.

It might sound lazy or petty to feel satisfied with only doing a tiny bit at a time, but I’ve tried beating myself up over it and that got me nowhere good. When everything is darkness and you’re just barely holding on to your will to live, there’s no just “pulling yourself together”. You’ll have to make do with what you can do, and forgive the rest. That way, you might soon find that the amount that you can do will slowly increase.

Another thing I discovered just recently is just how helpful step-by-step guides can be.

Where I live now, I have to share the bathroom with 5 others and so we each have to take a turn every week to clean it. To help with that, there’s a piece of paper hung in the bathroom with a detailed step-by-step guide on how to go about it. The first step is listed as: “Fill a bucket with warm water and a bit of cleaning agent.” Then it details what to clean first with what and how. It makes the whole process so much simpler and easier. You just follow the list one step at a time and then you’re done.

Even though I know roughly how to clean a bathroom, I found it extremely helpful to have a written guide. That way, I didn’t have to keep everything in my head and risk forgetting anything. The cleaning got chopped up into easy, little steps that made it much more manageable. Sure, I had to do the whole thing in one sitting since others need to use the bathroom, but it didn’t feel like such a big task when I had a place to start and a list to follow.

I’d bet I could use a guide like that to do more things than just cleaning the bathroom. Such as tidying up my room, doing the laundry, the dishes, even keeping track of bills and finances.

I struggle with chores, sure. But I’m not lazy. I just need a good strategy. You don’t have to leap into the deep water, if there’s a ladder or you can slowly wade in from the shore. It’s okay to do things slowly, one step at a time and at your own pace. What matters is that it gets done.

Body Awareness Therapy

A little while ago, I took a class dubbed “Body Mindfulness”, which was a light exercise and meditation class employing elements from Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and mindfulness meditation. It turned out to be an exercise therapy called Body Awareness Therapy (BAT) developed sometime in the 70’s and used by physiotherapists to alleviate symptoms both in physical ailments such as chronic pain like from whiplash and mental illnesses like schizophrenia and the like.

This class caught my attention because I’ve had problems with feeling disconnected from my own body, feeling as if one or more bodyparts or in some instances my whole body isn’t really mine or fully under my control. I had an inkling that it was a problem that could be removed or alleviated by actually using my body, exercising and the like. But it’s incredibly difficult to get motivated and I detest the pains and aches and exhaustion that comes from exercising. So, a light exercise class that seems to focus on connecting body and mind by focusing one’s attention on the body and movements more than the movements themselves seemed like just the thing.

I often struggled with actually showing up for class, but once I was there, my experience was very positive. The exercises did indeed help not only with loosening up on some muscle-tension, but helped making me feel more connected to my body as well.

The exercises were very simple and fairly easy to do at home. Most of them only required a yogamat and enough room on the floor to stretch out. We’d start the class by taking note of how we’re feeling in the moment, our mood, various bodily sensations we might be feeling at the moment. I’d often feel a tension in my neck and shoulders, maybe some strain in my thighs, ankles and feet from the kneeling position. Sometimes I’d feel mostly happy and content, other times I’d not want to talk at all, and whether it was good or bad feelings and sensations, they were all valid and perfectly acceptable. There was always a relaxed atmosphere in the room, no one ever asked any more than you were willing to share and you were free to participate as much or as little as you were able.

Next, we’d do a lying down or sitting meditation exercise where we’d slowly move our attention first to breathing, then to various body parts one at a time. I’d often find my thoughts wander and might have fallen asleep once or twice during this exercise. It wasn’t uncommon to hear someone else snoring softly somewhere either. The point, I think, was to gently coax your mind and attention to focus on your body, let go of wandering thoughts without judgement and just be in the moment. The mindfulness part of the therapy.

Next, we’d do various standing exercises. The main focus was to visualize this center-line going through our bodies and slowly move it and our bodies back and forth, side to side, up and down, twisting around. If you’ve ever taken a lesson in drawing the human body, you might be familiar with the helping line often drawn straight down through the center of the face and follows the spine all the way down the body. That’s what I’d visualize – just more like a rigid thread or rod going through my body that I can move around and my body sort of just follows.

Then we’d do various exercises lying down, often times with a big sausage-pillow, filled with something like sand to give them weight and firmness. We’d use the weight, hugging it on top of our chests, use the firmness to lay our back or legs on it and relax into a stretch over it. Some of my favorite exercises were just lying down and moving the arms. One started lying on our backs, eyes closed, with the arms laying straight down our sides. Then we’d slowly, very slowly lift them up and sloooowly raise them up and then down to rest above our heads. It was always something of a surprise to note just how heavy my arms are. Sometimes we’d open our eyes when it felt like our arms were at their highest point above, to give some visual feedback on our physical sensations.

Another one we’d lie on our sides with one arm straight up into the air. Then we’d slowly swing it around in the shoulder-socket, first in tiny circles, then slowly widen the circles until the circle stretched as wide around as possible, practically dragging the hand on the floor at the front and back. Those exercises could really loosen up some muscles in the shoulders and back.

Finally, we’d finish up the class by repeating the starting exercise, noting how we’re feeling in the moment compared to at the beginning of the class. More often than not, I’d feel a definite improvement, if not in my mood, then in how my body felt overall. Sometimes, I’d note a tension in new muscles, sometimes I’d have more or less of a headache. More often than not, I’d feel much more relaxed and at ease compared to the beginning of the class.

It’s a bit of a challenge to actually keep up with the exercises, but I’m happy to say that I feel much more connected to my body these days and haven’t had any episodes of being unable to recognize it as my own. It doesn’t do much for the face in the mirror, but I don’t spend much time staring into mirrors anyways.

Diagnosis, yay or nay?

Let’s talk diagnoses for a second. Unlike with physical illnesses, mental illnesses often carry a stigma and a sense of judgement. This can, for some, make certain diagnoses very hard to accept and creates conflict, which gets in the way of healing.

For many, being told you have a mental illness, such as schizotypal disorder, is like being told you’re a crazy person. Just hearing “schizo” might lead the mind to images of raving mad, paranoid lunatics babbling about some absurd conspiracy, or going on about voices only they can hear, telling them to do horrible things. It can be incredibly hard to see something like that in yourself or a loved one. Reality tends to look a lot different than in the movies. And sometimes reality described by one person can look very different for another. Maybe you went and read a quick description of the disorder and thought: “That doesn’t sound like me (or whoever), at all!” It can be a bit hard to interpret general descriptions into individual cases.

Most of us have an idea of what it means to be mentally ill. But when faced with it in reality, it becomes something different entirely and suddenly, we don’t know how to deal with it. Perhaps you’ve heard others say: “But you look/sound perfectly normal to me,” or “everybody gets a little X sometimes, doesn’t mean they’re sick,” or any such similar comment, which leaves you feeling misunderstood and dismissed. Maybe just imagining such reactions prevents you from talking about it at all. It’s such a difficult thing to come to terms with. If it’s not totally obvious, it’s far too easy to simply ignore.

Now then, the unthinkable’s happened: You’ve come home with/to a brand new mental illness. How do you take it? How should you take it?

There are several ways to view diagnoses, and depending on the perspective, the tone and feel of the word can change quite a bit. It can be a helpful tool, or a curse. If for one reason or another, you truly can’t accept your diagnosis, you don’t necessarily have to force yourself to. Just like with any medical diagnosis, there’s always the option of getting a second opinion from another professional, if you suspect the diagnosis doesn’t quite fit your problem. It is possible to receive a wrong diagnosis and if that is the case, it’s best to find the real problem as soon as possible.

Regardless of diagnosis, the important thing is that you receive the help you need. The aim is a better quality of life, not judgement. If that means adopting a certain label or accepting a certain diagnosis, perhaps it is better to focus on the opportunities offered rather than the constraints. The point of diagnosis is to identify the problem and establish a common ground for communication so the proper treatment can be found.

Just remember one thing: You are not your diagnosis! This way of thinking can, in some cases, be more harmful than good. There is a risk of becoming complacent in your illness.  It could be used as an excuse not to move beyond your comfort zone and thus prevent you from improving your life. i.e. “This is just who I am, so I don’t need to/can’t change”. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to push yourself beyond your capabilities. Always know your limits.

So how do I view diagnoses, and how did I react to being diagnosed with Schizotypal Disorder?

To be honest, it was a relief. I felt validated somehow. Suddenly, I had proof that yeah, there actually was something wrong with me. And most importantly: there was a way to fix it, that there were people who could help me get me better. With the diagnosis came the treatment plan and others who lived with similar problems to mine. I was no longer quite so alone.

I like to see diagnoses as simply labels. Like on foods. When I say lasagna, we all know what I’m talking about. There’s the special pasta-sheets, the tomato sauce, bechamel sauce and cheese baked together into delicious, Italian goodness. In the same manner, Schizotypal disorder is simply a label with which to identify my personal set of mental problems. Like with lasagna, the specific ingredients that make up the individual case might vary, but there are enough similarities to justify the common label. Both lasagna bolognese and lasagna al forno fit under the label lasagna, even though they have inredients that set them apart.

(Edit: It occurred to me that lasagna is actually a terrible comparison and probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Feel free to completely disregard the entire paragraph above. I apologize for the confusion, and the possible lasagna-craving.)

If I wanted, I could name each ingredient or symptom individually; but in most cases, simply using the label is more convenient. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough for me.

In between writing and editing this entry, I had an interesting conversation that made me rethink this whole topic. I found out someone I know could possibly have a schizoid personality disorder and my reaction upon hearing that was: That guy? Nooo, really? But he has a girlfriend and everything? I mean, isn’t someone with a schizoid personality disorder like a total misanthrope who wants nothing to do with other people at all? And that’s when I realized, I’ve still got so much to learn!

Labels aren’t just labels, they usually come with a certain understanding or preconception, maybe you’ll have some experience with a label, sometimes you don’t. But the thing to remember is: First judgement doesn’t have to be the final judgement. Taking an immediate dislike to a diagnosis is perfectly understandable. We judge things all the time. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. I’ve had very negative first impressions of plenty of things I’ve ended up changing my mind on. Acceptance comes with understanding. The best thing we can do, is keep learning.

Perhaps I’ll write a bit about schizoid and other personality disorders as well once I know a little more about them.


TL;DR version:

Mental illness is hard to understand and unfair judgement sucks.

Reality is different from movies. Also, reality is sometimes different from reality.

If you don’t like the name, maybe just change it. The important thing is, you receive the help you need.

Your opinion and feelings do matter.

It’s okay to get something wrong, you can always change your mind. Seriously.


Hello, dear reader and welcome.

This is a blog dedicated to discussing mental health in general and Schizotypal Disorder, or Schizotypal Personality Disorder in particular.

Searching the net, there’s plenty of pages to tell you what Schizotypal Disorder is in a general and clinical sense. It is, shortly and rather crudely put, a mild form of schizophrenia. It has a list of symptoms shared with schizophrenia, however the so-called “psychotic symptoms” are very limited or non-existent. But what does all that mean, really? How is it diagnosed, how can you treat it and what is it like to live with it? What on earth do they mean by symptoms such as “ruminations” and “magical thinking” and what-not? Researching the diagnosis and symptoms, I found some of these terms very difficult to understand and found it a little hard to recognize in my own daily life. Assuming I wasn’t the only one, I decided to try and write a blog about it. Both to help organize my thoughts and hopefully make a difference for others.

Mental illness can be a very touchy subject, very hard to understand and accept, both for those living with it and their relations. Many who suffer from these illnesses find themselves feeling misunderstood, isolated and alone. It’s as if there’s something more shameful about having a broken mind than a broken body, simply because the damage is harder to see with the naked eye.

Over the last several years, acceptance of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety has slowly spread as more and more are diagnosed with them, and more people speak up about what it’s truly like to live with these and other psychiatric diagnoses and how treatment helped them better their lives.  But I think there’s still a ways to go, before the stigma of mental illness is truly gone.

By writing about my own experiences living with Schizotypal Disorder, it is my hope to help shed more light on this and similar disorders. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, know someone who has, or are simply curious about the subject, I hope you’ll find something helpful in my writings.

I’ve never made a website or written a blog before, so please bear with me as I learn. Comments and suggestions for the site are welcome and greatly appreciated. If you wish to share your own experiences, you’re also more than welcome to do so in the comments.