When I was about 7 years old, I decided to move bedrooms. One day, I just packed my stuff and moved from my pink-walled, pink-curtained, little-girl room into the guest bedroom. And I’ve been here ever since. At the time, it was chaos. I was a messy child. And then one day something clicked and I went from one extreme to another. In senior primary school, I was one of the tidiest, organised and most pedantic children you’d probably ever come across. My school books were in alphabetical order in my bag. And basically everything I owned was organised in rainbow colour, or alphabetically. Everything had a special place, whether that was in my desk at school or my room at home. I would spend ages cleaning my room every day and even sometimes let it get super messy for a day so I could have the pleasure of cleaning it up. If something was out of place, I would feel a physical discomfort. Everything had to be exactly where it was supposed to be, at all times.
Thankfully, as I grew older, my perfectionistic tendencies decreased. The sight of a messy room no longer causes me physical discomfort. (More just a nagging urge to clean frantically). However, I am more picky about other things now. Like no bright colours being an absolute necessity. (To such an extent that photos of my bedroom have been mistaken for a hospital room. How charming).
However, one thing has remained. In times of chaos and stress, when I feel like my life is out of my control, I cling to the areas I can control. Keeping my room tidy. Controlling my food. My sock drawer. And whilst I’ll admit that this hasn’t always been the healthiest thing for me, it has helped me to make peace and release control in the areas where I simply don’t have any.
For me, every time I can go for a few days in a messy room, or miss a 90 on a test and not have an existential crisis, it’s a small win. I’m learning to make peace with the part of my personality that values control, order and tidiness whilst still allowing myself room to be a little messy and have some room for imperfection. To allow for the fact that things do not always to go to plan. And learning that that doesn’t mean I’ve failed or that everything is ruined. It’s a process. I’ve also realised that my anxiety is best kept under control when I feel in control. So, I’m learning what that looks like and how to help myself. It’s physical for me. Writing everything down. Making lists and plans and calendars and timetables and spreadsheets. And it might sound a bit much, but it works (most of the time). That’s all I guess.