Staying up until 5:00 AM the night before you have to do anything is rarely a good idea.
My mom is an amazing woman. She has taught me everything from how to write a thank you note to how to be assertive. Yet contrary to popular belief, she is not perfect. Before anyone comes over, Mom becomes a lean, mean cleaning machine. She stresses over the tiniest little details, and won’t stop until the house looks like it could be on the cover of Southern Living.
I aspire to be half of the kick-ass woman my mom is. However, I too, become a cleaning tornado before someone comes over. I had invited the guy I’m seeing, Grant, for dinner and he accepted. I was very excited, but my house was a complete disaster, and there was no way I could have him over before it became presentable.
I’m not exactly the queen of chill. “This is supposed to be fun, you stupid idiot!” I kept telling myself. I am, however, the queen of lists–another habit I picked up from Mom. I wrote down about three thousand things I needed to do to get the house ready. Around 10:30 at night, I began.
My moods have been all over the place. I’m used to living in the darkness of depression, but mania is a whole different animal. My mania manifests itself as anger and self-destructive behaviors. I’m not often manic, but when I am, I go completely bonkers.
I started by sweeping the floors. “Shit,” I thought, about halfway through. “I’m supposed to go top to bottom. Now all the crumbs on the counter will be on my clean floors and I’ll have to sweep them again.” (Another lesson from Mom.)
Pretty much all of the music in my library is incredibly depressing, and I kept screaming, “Oh, piss off!” at the singers lamenting their broken hearts or whatever. I finally settled on Marina and the Diamonds’ album Electra Heart.
I’ll spare you the boring details of how I picked up trash, swept under all the furniture, and Febreezed the heck out of my house. Suffice it to say, I was raging. I always have fresh cut flowers on my dining room table, and the ones I bought a week or so ago had wilted, so I threw them out and washed my vase. “It would be so sweet if he brought me flowers,” I thought. About .00002 seconds later, my brain countered, “Of course he’s not going to bring you flowers, idiot!”
That was it. I was beyond angry. Not at myself, but at Grant. For not bringing me flowers. In the future. Makes perfect sense, right? Does anything?
By this time, I realized that I’d forgotten to take my meds. It was about 1:00 in the morning. I choked them down successfully; they’re huge and sometimes they make me throw up.
Around 2:00 AM, I tried to go to sleep. I was unsuccessful. “There’s a cup in the sink. Did you blow the candles out? Did you turn the oven off? Ugh, so-and-so was so irritating at work tonight!” My mind would not stop racing.
You know what I love to do when I can’t sleep? Go to Walmart. Honestly, I hate Walmart. People’s IQ drops by at least 15 points as soon as they enter the parking lot and they forget how to drive and what stop signs are for. They employees are rude at best, and if I actually need something, I can never find it.
I bought a package of glue-on nails and went home. Around 5:00 in the morning, I finally fell asleep. 9:30 AM came way too soon.
The next step was to get cooking. Grant is an excellent cook and very particular about his food. He has an extremely complex smoothie order that has at least 9 ingredients.
I, on the other hand, enjoy Denny’s Diner and when I drive through Dunkin Donuts, most of the employees recognize my voice and say, “Hey, Katherine!” I feel guilty for spending money on food because part of me thinks I “don’t deserve it.” You know the old adage, “You are what you eat.” Well, sometimes I feel like I want to be nothing, and other times I feel like I am garbage. Hence, the fast food habit and long stretches of starvation.
However, sometimes I am a surf and turf dinner complete with the most luxurious chocolate cake you can imagine!
I may or may not have searched Pinterest for “recipes to impress.” Ultimately, I settled on Mom’s corn pudding recipe (or as she puts it, “death on a plate), spinach and goat cheese Hasselback chicken, and kale salad. I’d never made any of it before, but the chicken recipe had been sitting on my food board for about a year, and I’d made Hasselback potatoes once before when I was cooking the free samples at work, so I knew how to do it.
For some reason, I actually feel better about eating when I prepare the food myself. I guess it’s because I’ve put all the time, effort, and money into making it, and I don’t want to waste it.
The lack of sleep and excessive amounts of coffee I consequently consumed were not doing me any favors. I was still raging, thinking about the flowers. I’m laughing as I write this because it’s such a little, inconsequential thing. If I wanted flowers, I could’ve gotten them myself! I don’t need anyone to bring me flowers. “But it would be nice,” whined the high-maintenance girl inside me. “It would be romantic,” she squalled.
“Shut up. I beg you,” I said to myself.
Off I went to the grocery store. I picked up all the fixings, and a bouquet of blue hydrangeas. I went through my favorite cashier’s line, and told him all about my dinner plans, talking faster than ever. He could barely understand me and I kept having to repeat myself. I told him that the flowers were for me because I always have them in the house. He didn’t really care, but this particular cashier is one of the few people at our store who has been there since before I was hired, and I consider him a friend. And friends are there for you to spew word-vomit all over them, right?
I ran home and put the groceries away, and then went to my parents’ house to let the dogs out. I screamed along to some bizarre song on the rock station that I kind of knew, my head buzzing with thoughts of numbers and clocks. “If he comes over at 7:30, that’ll give me time to make the corn pudding first because it only takes 15 minutes to prepare, and while it’s in the oven, I can prep the chicken– oh crap! I forgot to get rubber gloves so I don’t have to touch the chicken!”
After another trip to the grocery store, I set out to cook the best dinner in the history of food. I am the master of spices. So, I don’t know how on earth I could’ve forgotten to put any spices on the chicken. The recipe called for paprika, red pepper flakes, and a few other things. I didn’t even put salt on it.
When Grant arrived, I was absolutely livid. I felt like eating the entire dish of corn pudding, which serves about 8 people and then screaming at the top of my lungs.
We ate dinner, and then went out for milkshakes. As soon as I took the first bite of chicken, I realized I’d forgotten the spices, a fact which I then blurted out. “No, it’s really good. Nice and juicy,” Grant said.
Don’t even get me started on the corn pudding. The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 3 tablespoons of flour. I accidentally reversed it. On top of that, my oven isn’t the greatest, so despite me cooking the dish for the longest amount of time the recipe called for, it came out all soupy. Still, Grant loved it. He annihilated his plate, and offered to help me with the dishes.
As the good hostess I was taught to be, I told him not to help with the dishes. I was mad that he offered, which makes absolutely no sense.
What I’m starting to realize is that I actually like to be mad. When I’m angry at someone else, it prevents me from having to look at myself and deal with all the things I don’t like and can’t stop thinking about.
After dinner, Grant decided he wanted a milkshake. We drove through Steak-n-Shake and I got a kid’s cookie dough milkshake. I really like riding in his car. He drives a convertible, and he’s a very good driver (unlike myself). We listen to music, I sing, and he holds my hand.
He has a pretty normal sleep schedule. He’s usually in bed by 11:00, and feels bad if he sleeps past 9:00, I, on the other hand, am a night owl. For instance, the current time is 12:45 AM. He knows I have trouble sleeping, so he started telling me things that help him sleep.
That was it. I perceived this as him bossing me around. He told me that I should turn my A/C way down (below 70) and I shouldn’t write before bed. I was furious. Who is he to tell me when I can and can’t write? Writing is my best skill, my favorite hobby, and the only thing I’ve stuck with for a long period of time.
I grunted at him, as if to say, “Yeah, okay, sure.”
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said. He asked again. “Nothing!” I snarled. He looked at me, and I knew he was going to ask me a third time. “I don’t like it when you tell me what to do,” I finally muttered.
He started to apologize. “I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” he said gently. “I’m not going to tell you how to live. I just want you to sleep. I want you to eat and I don’t want you to hurt yourself. That’s it.”
I was determined to be mad. We talked for a little while longer, and then he left.
I actually did sleep pretty well last night. I’d turned the A/C down a bit in preparation for Grant to come over because he’s always hot and my house is always very warm. I didn’t wake up even once, and when I got out of bed, I didn’t feel like a complete zombie.
Yet I was still mad. I immediately started texting all my friends, “All I wanted was flowers! I’m going back to women!”
This afternoon, my friend from AA, “Caroline,” came over. She needed to do some work on her laptop, and then we planned to go to lunch. She ended up falling asleep on my couch. I woke her up after about half an hour to see if she still wanted lunch. “Ten more minutes,” she mumbled.
I left her there on the couch and went upstairs to fix my hair. When I came back, she was deeply asleep on my couch, looking like an angelic little girl, free from the turmoil of addiction and the chaos of life. We decided to get Chinese food when she woke up.
All day long, I seethed. I raged. I ranted. I paced. I went over to see my dad and vented to him. He reminded me that men and women communicate differently, and pointed out that Grant was trying to help me and that it’s actually a good thing that he cares whether or not I sleep.
Eventually, I realized that I was making mountains out of molehills. Grant is not a mind-reader (thank goodness!) and he had no way of knowing that I wanted flowers. It also wasn’t his fault that I stayed up late cleaning, or that I was stressed out about making sure the food was done on time.
I talked to him tonight and explained that my mania sometimes results in anger, that I was mad at him since before he even got to my house, and that I was just stressed in general. I apologized for going off on him.
He apologized to me too and said that he wasn’t trying to boss me around, that he really was just trying to help because he’s concerned about how little I’ve been sleeping. He even thanked me for explaining about the mania and anger.
Interestingly, after the conversation, I felt better and was no longer angry. AA teaches that anger is a luxury alcoholics cannot afford, and I’ve always dismissed this idea as nonsense. However, I’m starting to see that it may be true.
Today is the first day of the fall semester. Today I will put my anger behind me and focus on my love of learning.