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Clutter, Panic Attacks, and the Jesus Prayer

I drag down the hall, mind still huddled under covers, body reluctantly vertical. Fumble with coffee pot, count scoops of ground morning comfort, then lean against the counter as perked drops fill the carafe. Slowly, eyes focus on the counter.

It is obscured by the flotsam and jetsam of Sunday School papers, memory verses, book fair flyers, bills, report cards, newspapers, Legos, Barbie clothes, pens and pencils of every color, empty cereal boxes (this would make a great book cover, Mom!), and the things I’m collecting to donate.

Shoes, backpacks, shopping bags, cars, dog fur, and grass clippings litter the floor.

It sinks in to my barely-conscious self that once again, in mere days, we have strewn random clutter to every corner of the house and have lived over and around and in it rather than cleaning it.

Once again I berate myself for failing to teach my children to tidy up after themselves and for letting a Saturday go by without our usual major house-cleanup. I resolve to get it all picked up and take a vanload of non-essentials to Goodwill today.

But I had a rough weekend and don’t feel much better today. So many pee-soaked outfits, escalating sibling bickering, and incessant mother-nagging pushed me over the edge and I hid in the basement for a few hours on Saturday. I second-guess my decision to stop taking an anti-depressant – surely it took the edge off moments like this.

I can’t deal with it. The familiar prickle starts its death-grip around my spine – anxiety spiraling upward into panic. It’s too much. Too messy. Where to start? I don’t have time. Tears stockpile behind my eyes, ready to spill when summoned. Vocal chords tense and my voice’s pitch rises, muscles tighten and strain to contain the clamor of my spirit sinking into overwhelmed.

I look at the clock. It isn’t even 7am yet. I want the day to be over.

I pour my coffee and brush past the baskets of unfolded clean laundry as I burrow into the corner of the couch and wrap myself around the mug, trying to clear my head and push the panic back past the edges of my consciousness.

I breathe and pray that simple prayer I learned recently. It settles my spirit. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Have mercy on me.

As I sip, I begin to remember how God loves broken messy people who are recovering from depression and battle panic and get easily overwhelmed over little things like cluttered houses. As I ignore the mess and force myself to focus on the prayer, my head clears and body relaxes. I decide to tackle just a few things today and live with the rest another day. Better that than boil over and explode angry ugly all over my family.

Does clutter stress you out or exacerbate depression, or are you unaffected by your environment?


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