He Does The Washing Up, Angrily

It looks like it’s been so long since I last spoke to you that the e-mail client has changed their platform in the interim and I hardly know what I’m looking at.

Anyway, do you remember my intention to get 500ish Days In The Quiet Room and All Better Now launched before the end of the year? Do you remember my hope that I would release them some time around World Mental Health Day (that’s mid-October)?

Well obviously that hasn’t come to pass, and but I’m not beating myself up over it. The double-launch is rather a large and daunting project at the best of times, never mind the almost-worst of times that 2020 has put us through.

Writing two books about mental health while my own mental health is flagging? Well, I don’t think anyone will blame me if I experience a little slowdown.

Still, both books in the project are chugging along. They haven’t stopped dead, and neither have I. I am still writing, still creating, and still finding time to do absolutely nothing, even if “do nothing” has to sit at the top of my unrealistically busy to-do list (or as my third therapist has encouraged me to think of it, my “to-try” list).

Speaking of writing, I’ve recently churned out two pieces which both cover the very vibrant and vital subject of dish-washing. As I’ve said before in Good Mental Health is Like Owning a Dishwasher, keeping the kitchen clean is something that pretty much all of us have to deal with, frequently and constantly.

It is an ongoing chore that permeates our daily lives, and it’s rather bloody samey too. As such, the experiences and memories associated with it tend to get layered upon each other, and grow louder and louder as our relevant neural pathways strengthen.

When I was barely 10 I read a caption in a drama studies book that said, “He does the washing up, angrily‚Ķ” and thought little of it. I still think little of it, but I think of it every time I do the dishes. Every discussion and argument that I’ve ever had about washing up and kitchenware (and I’ve had many) plays ad infinitum in my head when I load a dishwasher, fill a sink with suds, or put something in soak that really should have been put in soak three days ago.

There’s something about it that chimes with my experience with PTSD in more significant areas, this sense of bringing all the baggage from every previous associated encounter along to the present, even though it lends nothing, achieves nothing, and is ultimately irrelevant in the current context. Conversations with my father on the poor hygiene of sink baskets don’t serve me in a kitchen where I don’t have one. Arguments with my university housemates about whether leaving suds on dishes affects the taste of the food or causes cancer are irrelevant when those housemates haven’t reached out in 15+ years and I rinse my dishes thoroughly anyway.

The repetition of very basic tasks in dishwashing makes it hard to move away from these layered thoughts and repetitions, and they might well be with us forever. Still, perhaps they can instead be used as some sort of banal light to help guide our way through other instances of established trauma.

“The abuse you suffered six years ago is as relevant to you now as the argument you and your mother had about whether dishcloths did more harm than good.”

Something to that effect.

So hey, I hope you are well, hope you have a very Happy New Year, and hope you don’t find yourself dragging too much of 2020 into 2021, a year in which I will hopefully have something tangible to publish.


P.S. This is actually just one of my new missives about dishes (Dishives?). The other can quickly be summarised as this: Sometimes it’s okay to keep the short-cuts that helped you get healthy, even after your health has been restored.

P.P.S. Remember that as a member of this community, only you will get the opportunity to pick up 500ish Days In The Quiet Room at a scarily low introductory price, and after launch only you will get a digital copy of the companion collection All Better Now? for absolutely free!