Mental Illness In a Small Space

Safe Harbor:

I am not a medical professional. I cannot nor will I not diagnose you with anything other than what can be cured with affectionate snuggling, kind words, and hugs.

What I do have is a lot of things I know that work for me.

Our situations will be not the same, so what works for me may not work for you.

The trick to all of this is accepting that you’re human, you’re allowed to exist, and to please be patient with yourself.

Welcome to Seattle

Land of the small apartment. These fall into roughly three categories:

  • Micro Suites: A studio(ish) under 250 sq. ft. These can get super tiny but are typically furnished for you, utilities are included, and I hope you don’t mind sharing a common kitchen or washing your hands in your kitchenette. Think of them as hotel suites without the housekeeping or towel refresh. Or dorm rooms depending on how tiny you go.
  • Studios: 250 sq ft and I’ve seen them go up to 700 sq ft if they’re using an open floorplan. You can do a lot with a studio as they usually have their own kitchen and bathroom. Some have high ceilings allowing the use of loft beds, others are like mine where 400 sq. ft of space is plenty of room for one person if they’re smart about it.
  • Junior One Bedrooms: These may have the bedroom area marked off by a half-wall, so listers and property managers can say it’s a one-bedroom, but let’s be honest here. It’s not. It’s a studio with a half-wall.

So what do all three of these categories have in common here in Seattle?

They’re all really bloody expensive and prices can soar the closer to downtown Seattle proper you go. I mean, I pay $1350 (utilities included) for my 400 sq ft here in Wallingford and that’s more than I paid back in Cincinnati for a 3 bed, 2 bath apartment.

Now out-going people who aren’t homebodies (aka: not me) can survive in Micro Suites. They’re a popular option and they go pretty quickly.

I like to cook in my own kitchen. Sometimes naked if I’m feeling frisky. Which is usually frowned upon in shared spaces.

I like to stay home to save money otherwise spent going out.

I also work from home, so Micro Suites were right out for me. A coworking space here in Seattle can get costly over the year, so I opted for a studio.

Since I couldn’t afford the Jr. one bedrooms with my credit card bills, loan payments, and car payment.

That and a small space can get really claustrophobic for me, especially when I have a bad day.

The Bad Days and the Bad in General

Pictured is a bad day. It wasn’t one of the days where it takes everything in my power to not go to bed during the middle of a work shift.

I keep the lights off because of my raging headaches. It’s messy, it smells funky, and something has probably gone off because the mere idea of cleaning up after myself sends me into panic attacks that require medication or threatening myself to go to the nearest dispensary to pick up edibles.

Which are cheaper than meds if we’re honest here.

Depression in a small space is a constant fight. Some days are okay, some days are terrible, and some days, I call in the heavy artillery in the form of hired help that doesn’t judge the state of my place. They just help me deal with the mess in a manner that does not require my input. I can hide at a teashop nearby or in the comfortable cocoon of my headphones and music and just point to places things need to go.

And then they go away.

Anxiety coupled with ADD, on the other hand, makes small space life interesting. It’s calming to be able to almost see every corner of my apartment from one spot. I fill my space with textures that delight me and calm me down so when my hands want to take on yet another project that I’m never going to finish, I can pet them until I ground myself and remind myself that I’m allowed to feel.

I’m allowed to feel strongly.

But I also have to acknowledge that the feelings are temporary. They are not facts. They will indeed pass, even if it feels like a damn kidney stone.

The Good Days and the Good in General

Below is a good day. My apartment is usually spotless and outside of the monthly cleaning visit, I can usually keep it that way. Domestic activities are soothing activities for the most part and my space brings me a lot of joy.

It beats the Depression back a few feet. The fog will always be there, but for the most part, my space stands pretty firm.

I take advantage of those good days by reminding myself that I’m giving myself needed space to myself to recover from Ohio. That I need to be patient with myself and if all else fails, I will pet one of my chairs until I feel not so “mannequin covered in feathers in the wind”.

Lessons I’ve learned

  1. Embrace my space as mine. I’m here for as long as I need to be and since I’m allowed to put holes in my walls, I can add my own personality here.
  2. Be patient. Some days are good, some great, others awful. I just have to be patient on those days until they’re over.
  3. Feelings are temporary. They will pass even if it feels like one of my terrible period cramps.
  4. Feelings are not facts. I’m allowed to feel, but I need to also let it go because it will not serve me to stew on it.
  5. Being grateful. Not everyone can just pick up and leave their home state on what equates to a whim. I need to remind myself that I had that opportunity and I need to remain thankful for it.
  6. Reminding myself that help exists. I just have to ask for it. Which is the hardest part most of the time.
  7. I’m not alone. I have amazing neighbors, a fantastic landlord who is savvy to my mental issues, and friends who sit on my wavelength and somehow always know when I need them to text me as a pick-me-up.

This is how I survive in 400 sq ft here in Seattle.

I hope this can help you survive wherever you are.