Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I listened to some music, took a nap, and then got up about 10 pm and cleaned off my loveseat (and by that, I mean pushed the stuff on it to another location, throwing away just a couple of things that were obviously trash), changed the light bulb in my lamp to a CFL with less flickering, and sat down and read the theory/assessment sections of two books I'd bought on my Kindle. The first was Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, second edition, by David F. Tolin, Randy O. Frost, and Gail Steketee. The second was Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save and How You Can Stop by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias. I stopped before reaching the practical parts of each; that I'll save for another day. But I did mentally fill out some checklists and examined a little of my motivations in hoarding, which according to the tests show currently that I have a moderate level of hoarding with some issues that are of particular concern. For example, it would be difficult for a rescue squad to get through my house to me; the only exit is partially blocked, and there's just so much stuff on the floor. I have dishes in unexpected places, and while nothing's mouldy (well, I did find a partial bread loaf that had, and threw it away), I have fruit flies again, much to my annoyance. I could easily fall, and have tripped several times of late. So yeah, it's serious, and I definitely need to seek help for it.

I'm hoping that this therapist, who specialises in anxiety, OCD, and hoarding behaviours using cognitive behaviour therapy (the only therapy that seems to really work with hoarding, from what I can tell), can help me navigate the problem. I know part of mine has to do with indecisiveness, perfectionism, attention issues, a certain amount of disorganisation (which is ironic, I suppose, as my entire profession is built on organising other people's things, mainly books), memory issues, and oh, yeah, the big E (emotions, both in terms of what I attach to objects other people would see as worthless, and the emotions I feel if someone has to come into my apartment for any reason, that sort of thing). Here's an example. Someone has put free objects out at work (pillows, books, whatever), and I decide to take one or more because [and there's a whole inner dialogue, trust me] of various reasons I propose. 'I don't think anyone else will want it, it's like the Island of Misfit Toys. I'll take it so it doesn't seem discarded.' (You can see I identify emotionally with my own feelings of worthlessness and unwantedness, emotions that are strongly entrenched in me from my childhood.) Or, 'This will be interesting to use/read sometime'--but I have lots of things I've never used at all, and lots of books I'll supposedly get to 'someday' (hoarding books is a real problem for me--which is bad in a librarian that has access to withdrawn texts--I once actually lost a group of library books from UK that I'd been using for my thesis in my house, because some of all my books, and incurred several hundred dollars fines, as there was no cap on fines there and it was 25 cents per day for each book, which as a graduate student I could have for three months. Turns out I'd boxed them up in preparation for a move and forgotten them. Obviously I'd stalled work on my thesis, too. Fortunately I found and returned them, but I paid on those fines for awhile before they forgave the bulk of them.) Or, 'I'm probably the only one here who understands/would like this', so it's fueled by a need to feel special. That sort of thing. Most people do not think this way at any point. I can (although I get overwhelmed sometimes and don't) recycle circulars or junk mail, if I can ignore potential coupons or offers, but bills cause a real problem. Sometimes I avoid them completely. Sometimes I save things I've already paid or don't need, often in boxes, or on the kitchen table. You see how this easily fills up the house.

But at least it's manageable at the moment. It's not in the severe category, or the worst I've ever had. I don't have animals at the moment, save four goldfish (who desperately need their tank filled, Java moss cleaned out, and algae cleaned out), so that's good. When I did it was sometimes much worse, as I had a dog that had issues with urine, a cat that had chronic diarrhea, and another cat that had a skin cancer issue that caused oozing. I found a home for a dog, Basil, and eventually put the cats (Darius and Buns) down--though not when I should have). My other dog was great, although she had a few accidents right before she died, and Spock never had any issues till he got into heart failure at the age of 17. But this is one reason why I have avoided getting a cat or dog in recent years. I'm just not at the point where I can, yet, until I can recover from this, and have a little more financial stability, for that matter.

I probably shouldn't be writing this, as someone who is admitting to mental illness who is also looking for a job, but it does help, so I guess if it means not being hired, so be it. But my hoarding has little impact at work, and I compartmentalise, I guess, because I keep my behaviour at work and home pretty separate. And maybe it can help someone else to read about things from 'the inside', I guess. I think the two books I mentioned before are very good. So many books out there that claim to help you reduce clutter are by professional organisers and do not really touch on the issues people who hoard face. Many 'pack rats' simply are not hoarders, and they really can't imagine the pain and embarrassment people who hoard feel every day. Even when my house is at its best, I feel incredibly anxious having people in it, including my best friend, who is like a brother. While many people who hoard really don't understand how bad their problem is (with most mental illnesses, there is a chance of anosognosia, where the person does not recognise they have a mental illness), I'm almost hyperaware, although in the past, I really ignored just how badly things had gotten. I've come a long way already, really. Now if I can just get that awareness to fuel change.

Okay, I'm going to head to bed. Good night.

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