Hi, I’m Michelle and I’m a listaholic. I make lists about lists and I list the lists I need to write. You see, list-making is actually a coping mechanism for anxiety.
I wasn’t always this way. In fact, right up until I had my first child six years ago I was fairly disorganised. The hyper-organisation only came after I struggled with crippling anxiety and panic attacks following birth trauma.
Out of control
These panic attacks led me to depression which at its worst left me feeling like I had no choice but to end my life. I felt totally out of control of everything in my life and was so petrified of everything that I became stuck, unable to leave my house or do simple tasks such as make myself some food.
I can remember the precise moment that list-making came into play. My daughter was ten-days old and I hadn’t been able to do anything for myself in days. I decided the only way to try to get back to normal was to list three things to do each day, three little goals that would ease me back into living again. The hope was that with each goal I accomplished, my confidence would grow until eventually, I would be myself again. My list back then seems so silly but seemed impossible to achieve:
Simple tasks such as making toast or going to the front door to stand outside was as daunting as if you’d ask me to jump out of a plane.
Thankfully, it did work and I gradually began to get better (with the help of therapy and support from my family and friends). But the list-making didn’t stop.
From chaos to calm
When the world seems completely chaotic, writing lists helps me to feel a semblance of control. By getting everything down on paper, my mind rests easier and I can sleep better knowing that I won’t forget a play date or a deadline. When I was writing my book it was essential to making sure I covered everything I needed to, especially given the seriousness of the subject matter, mental illness in motherhood.
List-making really does serve me now which is why it’s a coping mechanism I’m happy to live with. It also helps when I’m basically the Personal Assistant to everyone in my family (though I am known for forgetting the baby wipes and nappies on occasion!).
Do you do anything as a result of anxiety or depression that really serves you? I’d love to know in the comments.