I’ve been crumbling a lot lately. I’ve been finding myself on the floor, hands covered in cat pee as I try to clean it up, sobbing and feeling as though I can’t breathe. Because it feels like there’s a crushing weight on me.
It’s possible that I’m falling apart because I have a mental illness. It’s possible that I’m just unbalanced.
Or maybe it’s because there is a crushing weight on me.
People think that I wake up at 5am because I’m a morning person. I fucking hate mornings. I’m a trial to have to be around in the morning. I wake up early so that I can get myself caffeinated before having to deal with anyone else – because dealing with literally anyone is the worst part of my day. Because when I see people, most of the time I see labels strapped to their chest. Lists full of things they need or want me to do for them.
I have this hope, this dream that if I wake up early enough I might even get to get some work done – because the only time I’m going to get to achieve that is before anyone else wakes up and begins unloading their jobs onto me.
Sometimes I don’t even get that. Some mornings I wake up and I go to fill the coffee pot with water and I step in a puddle of cat piss left behind by my husband’s cat. She’s 14 years old and suffers severe dermatitis whenever she’s bitten by a flea. She doesn’t HAVE fleas but after the dermatitis starts it requires diligent care to be solved. It can be fixed within a week. She’s been covered in oozing sores for months on end. I do what I can to treat her but I don’t really have time and she isn’t my cat. But I do it because no one else will.
My foot is covered in cat piss. I haven’t had coffee yet. I have no choice but to clean my foot. Then mop up the pee. Then clean the floor around it and check that she hasn’t pissed or shit anywhere else. Because there’s usually not just one puddle. I’ve now spent 20 minutes dealing with someone else’s mess. My mind immediately calculates how much precious time I have left. It’s already dwindling fast.
But I make that coffee….after I wipe down the counter from someone else’s lunch – crumbs everywhere. We keep getting ants and I keep telling people that they can’t do this but they do. So I clean up the mess and I put out some ant poison. Another 30 minutes pass. I’ve managed a few sips of coffee. People are starting to wake up. I want to cry. I tell myself I’ve wasted my morning already. Through no fault of my own I see myself as a failure. My flatmate and husband take their showers. I wait patiently through it all to be able to use the toilet last, to not disturb anyone. Despite being loud I feel a constant need to diminish myself.
When I get in there someone’s left the bath mat on the floor again. I’ve told them you can’t do that, the cats will piss on them. But it’s become easier just to pick it up for them. Every time I say something about it, I feel like a nag and I feel a little piece of me crumble away. It’s easier to just be compliant. So I do. Another minute or two of my day. And the toilet paper is gone….oh I guess I should restock it so that no one needs a roll tossed through the door while pooping. Another few minutes gone.
My flatmate and my husband have left for work so I sit down to get a little bit done and I try to concentrate but my son talks to me over and over again and breaks my concentration. I’m starting to get angry at him because I thought I’d finally found space to work. I’m stressed. I’ve clocked so few hours this week. I don’t have enough time and I can’t concentrate.
I finally take him to school. I sit down to do work. But the animals need to be fed. All of them. So I feed them because I can’t concentrate while they complain at me for nourishment. Another half hour of my day.
Someone calls me or texts me. Do I have a few minutes? Sure. I’ll do anything for my friends.
Four hours later they leave my house. A lot of the time they just wanted my Wi-Fi. I’ve gotten nothing done while they’re here.
My husband sends me a message. Have I billed for hours? Have I managed much work today? I need to be better organised with my time. He’s at work so he can’t hear me audibly keening at that, but I do. A little more of me crumbles away.
He gets the groceries. He’d like thanks for that btw because he’s such a good boy and helps out so much and does a good job but really because if I don’t praise him for what little he does he doesn’t feel like I’ve earned his help anymore. He’d never put it in those words but that’s exactly what it is.
And then he leaves most of those groceries on the counter for me to put away because he “doesn’t know where things go” in the house he owns. That we’ve lived in for 8 years. As if I don’t know that this feigned helplessness is just another way to foist work on to women.
He leaves plastic bags all over the floor. I’ve asked him so many times not to. My cat, who suffers pica, starts to eat them and then vomits little puddles of plastic bag laced with traces of blood all over the house. Or worse, I slip on one of them and hurt myself. More time from my day. My husband wants to know why I if I wanted him to clean up after himself I didn’t just ask. I want to scream in his face. But I don’t. I diminish myself instead. It’s what I’ve been conditioned by the world to do.
I walk into the bedroom to get the dirty laundry. I still haven’t gotten to work but it’s a warm sunny day and my husband reminded me very carefully that he does not have any clean underwear and needs it done. (Okay no one is stopping you have at it, bruh). And there’s a tshirt on the floor. Only he and I know that it’s covered in his semen because he uses his tshirts to clean up his mess. It’s annoying when he leaves his dirty clothes on the floor but I mean…I do it too so I can’t be shitty about it. But this feels…like an insult…like insult on top of injury.
So I carefully pick up the cumrag and walk into the kitchen and drop it on the latest puddle of his sick cat’s piss. And then I sit down at the kitchen table, lay my head down, and cry.
I haven’t clocked any hours at all. He asks me again when I’ll bill for my hours. He asks me again when I’ll get to my job.
I think sometimes about quitting my job. He doesn’t really value my work anyway. At least once a week he reminds me that he makes so much more than I do and that his job is the one that pays the bills. I spend so much of my time killing myself looking after other people while trying to find a few moments here and there to do the job that isn’t appreciated – barely counted at all – anyway.
I tell myself that none of this will ever change. This will be my existence for the rest of my life. The thanklessness of being a woman and a mother. But if I quit my job at least that’s one less burden I’m putting on myself while already shouldering the burdens of so many others. Maybe it will make the bitter pill I’m being forced to swallow a little easier to cope with.
I go out and find the chickens let into the area that I fenced off. The area I spent hours levelling. Someone else carelessly left the gate open so that the chickens could get in. My work, the work I did for myself and for the household. Is undone.
I scream my head off into my yard, shouting profanities that scare the shit – literally – out of my chickens. I’m just…so. Done.
I silence myself immediately because I fear the mental healthcare system. I fear what they do to women who can no longer shoulder their burdens silently. I think about the joke that is respite care. The idea that maybe if we give this woman who is being crushed to death by responsibility a couple of weeks of help she’ll forget that this isn’t something that will ever end.
I don’t have any answers here. I don’t have any suggestions. Right now I just want to burn my whole house down because I can’t bring myself to stand up and clean it and I want to give up on everything – because no matter how loudly I scream and beg – nothing. Will ever. Change.
The one thing I can do – is raise my son to know that women aren’t storage units for his burdens. That’s all I have left. That one shred of hope.