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Run the Dishwasher Twice

5th December 2020
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“Run the dishwasher twice” might sound like strange mental health advice, but this beautiful lesson came from an answer from Katie Scott on Quora to the question “Has a therapist ever told you something completely unexpected?”

“When I was at one of my lowest (mental) points in life, I couldn’t get out of bed some days. I had no energy or motivation and was barely getting by.

I had therapy once per week, and on this particular week I didn’t have much to ‘bring’ to the session. He asked how my week was and I really had nothing to say.

‘What are you struggling with?’ he asked.

I gestured around me and said ‘I dunno man. Life.’

Not satisfied with my answer, he said ‘No, what exactly are you worried about right now? What feels overwhelming? When you go home after this session, what issue will be staring at you?’

I knew the answer, but it was so ridiculous that I didn’t want to say it.
I wanted to have something more substantial.
Something more profound.

But I didn’t.

So I told him, ‘Honestly? The dishes. It’s stupid, I know, but the more I look at them the more I CAN’T do them because I’ll have to scrub them before I put them in the dishwasher, because the dishwasher sucks, and I just can’t stand and scrub the dishes.’

I felt like an idiot even saying it.

What kind of grown ass woman is undone by a stack of dishes? There are people out there with *actual* problems, and I’m whining to my therapist about dishes?

But he nodded in understanding and then said:

‘Run the dishwasher twice.’

I began to tell him that you’re not supposed to, but he stopped me.

‘Why the hell aren’t you supposed to? If you don’t want to scrub the dishes and your dishwasher sucks, run it twice. Run it three times, who cares?! Rules do not exist.’

It blew my mind in a way that I don’t think I can properly express.

That day, I went home and tossed my smelly dishes haphazardly into the dishwasher and ran it three times.

I felt like I had conquered a dragon.

The next day, I took a shower lying down.

A few days later. I folded my laundry and put them wherever the fuck they fit.

There were no longer arbitrary rules I had to follow, and it gave me the freedom to make accomplishments again.

Now that I’m in a healthier place, I rinse off my dishes and put them in the dishwasher properly. I shower standing up. I sort my laundry.

But at a time when living was a struggle instead of a blessing, I learned an incredibly important lesson:

There are no rules.

Run the dishwasher twice.”

Why is this important?

Anyone who has been in a mental or emotional place where even just the most basic, mundane tasks seem overwhelming understands the wisdom in this lesson. I remember when I was at my lowest point a few years ago, that just putting clothes away or tidying anything in my own bedroom just seemed like a step too far. So it got untidy. And I mean REALLY messy (not just a little bit). So much so, that you couldn’t get to the bed, there was no clear pathway, as everything was just dumped on the floor.

And that was all I could do. No more. When I started my journey back from that dark and cold place, I made a commitment to myself to sort it. As my self respect started to flicker back into life, I wanted to make life better, and just a little bit beautiful again. I started with my bedroom as a representation of this fledgling hope that I could do it.

But the bedroom itself was too big a task, so I just started with making my bed. And then I sorted my dressing table. Eventually the things on the floor got sorted and cleared away and it became a nice place to sleep and to be again.

Now, my bedroom is my sanctuary and is beautiful and serene and very much represents my mindset and my life. Honestly, it’s a thing of absolute beauty and brings me so much joy. Probably more so because it wasn’t so long ago that you would have thought I had given up on life if you saw it before (and I nearly had).


The Rules Just Don’t Matter

The point is, I understand when things are just too much. If it’s just too overwhelming to keep it all together, all of the time. Rules are just not important. I promise you. It’s ok to do what you can. It’s ok not to do the washing, or the recycling, or, or, or…

So if you just CAN’T do IT (whatever it is) today, Mc D’s it is for dinner.

If the thought of the kids fighting in the back of the car will bring you to tears, give them the iPads, or the chocolate milk, or whatever helps give you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

It really doesn’t matter. The rules don’t count when your back is up against it. It’s ok just to get through. And if all you did today was hold it together, know that I AM PROUD OF YOU SWEETHEART.

This is just a chapter, not your whole life. It can get so very much better and I’m here to help.


How Can I Move On?

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Photo by Ian on Unsplash