Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hadn't thought about it

But when I got up to go to the bathroom and went to wash my hands, there was air in the pipe and for a moment it ran brown, due to the water heater having been changed. It was also decidedly cold. I hope I won't be taking a cold shower in the morning. The temperature in the apartment is also pretty cool; I've had the windows all open and it's only 67 degrees outside.

I stopped by Kroger on the way home from PT earlier, to look for hazelnut oil for a friend, and took back the two 13-gallon bags of Kroger plastic bags. I'll put a bunch of reusable ones in the car for further trips.

It feels good to have a house that is somewhat orderly. For all that I tend to hoard, I actually get quite distressed by clutter. Some people never realise they have a problem; I do, immensely. Oh, don't get me wrong, often I don't realise 'just how bad' it's gotten, or I can be noseblind or somewhat blind to the clutter, too, as many people who hoard tend to underestimate their clutter. But it's a part of my life that's about control--I should have control over it, but I let my possessions control me. I'm not a materialistic person per se--they're not expensive or flashy by any means. But each item tends to have an emotional component assigned to it that most people wouldn't begin to do.

Ironically, hoarding is sometimes about trying to maintain a certain amount of control of one's environment, when one feels other things are not within one's control. Like the neat freak or someone with OCD or an anxiety disorder, compulsive hoarding and acquiring (for that's an important component that's often overlooked) is a means to keep others at bay. I know, for example, with myself, that it is an extension partly of my social phobia. If my house is 'out of control' and unpleasant, others will not set foot in it. It becomes my area alone, a sort of nest, when I don't need to worry about others interfering. That is one reason, I think, that hoarders get so terribly upset (sometimes to the point of crisis) if someone goes in and removes their clutter or things without their permission. Please, never do that to someone. One, it causes deep and lasting damage (I still remember having my dad throw out everything that wasn't in its place, and a few things that were, when I was a kid, and it was devastating, and only contributed to later problems). Two, it doesn't address the problem, or only addresses it temporarily. It does not change the behaviour, and often one finds the hoarder will then collect more things than ever before in an effort to seek that control that was taken away from them.

I think one of my problems is that, as a military brat, my things were regularly given away or thrown out without my consultation whenever we moved. I have very few things from my childhood, and things that were precious to me were tossed or given away without any real consent. I remember, for example, that the dress I graduated kindergarten in, which I had outgrown, was given to a neighbourhood girl that I didn't like at all, who'd been mean to me, and I resented it. Yes, I couldn't wear it, but it wasn't my decision to give it away, and if consulted, I would have chosen someone else.

For someone who has blocked out much of their childhood experiences, those still ring with emotion. My things were like friends. When I was young, living in Louisiana, we were uncharacteristically stationed at one base for six years. From age 6-12, I actually had some stability. Then I moved, losing my friends, and began a three-state journey with three junior high schools in that short of a time. It was a terrible time to have that upheaval, and I didn't really make many friends. I derived comfort from my things. Even as a small child, I'd been messy to the point of problems with my parents, who could not understand why I would not clean my room. In one way, it was a bit of rebellion. I was such an utterly good child. I was almost no trouble at all, because I put so much pressure on myself of being the 'good girl', the responsible one, the studious one. I was chatty when I was young, but shy with strangers as I got older. Looking back at it now, most of my childhood I was depressed and anxious, feeling unwanted and unloved, for the most part. Not having strong peer relationships (I usually had one friend or so at a time, at least until we (or they) were stationed again), I made relationships with books, in particular, and with generally useless objects, like pretty rocks, or stuffed animals.

When I went off to college, our tiny dorm room prevented me from being messy, except maybe under my bed, which lifted and hinged for storage. When I moved into an apartment with the man who would later be my ex-husband, we had a walk-in closet that we referred jokingly to as my 'hoard'. The apartment was cluttered, but he was a neat freak. So, things stayed in check. Then I divorced, moved out on my own, acquired over a very short time four more animals (I'd had one cat--then another because he was inconsolable at losing his sister, my ex-husband's cat), then a dog, a cat, and a dog.) That made things worse, as you can imagine. At one point I really did have paths through my tiny apartment, and things got pretty bad. Things are actually not nearly as bad in terms of clutter as they have been, and I've had several self-imposed purges and one eviction (not for hoarding, but being unable to pay for a larger apartment after having my work hours cut) to deal with since that. But the underlying behaviour has never changed. I'll be okay for about six months, and then it will start to creep in again. And I'm tired of it. I'm feeling buried under my things, both physically and emotionally, and that is why I sought out my therapist, who has specialised in anxiety disorders and uses cognitive behaviour therapy.

I probably shouldn't really be writing about such things, or posting pictures. I'm trying to find a job, after all, and a quick Google search will bring people here. But maybe I can help people understand what's going on a bit. I know people are fascinated with so-called reality shows and the like. I don't watch those. They may be uncomfortable in the extreme, because I recognise that I have the same problem, and I would never want my life so put on display like some sort of freak show.

I read in one of my books that as mental illness goes, hoarding may actually be much more common than other disorders. There are a lot of us quietly suffering, mostly in silence, in our own homes, in our own mess, afraid to let anyone in. And hoarding can have lasting effects on children growing up in that environment and on spouses of those who hoard. But a lot of us are on our own, with a limited support system. I'm lucky to have a friend who not only is very, very loving and who has helped nudge me to therapy, but who has experience with multiple cases of hoarding in his own family and so yes, on one level he gets it. But sometimes I say something that just floors him, because I don't think like other people, at least about possessions. And for all his experience in some ways, he's not a hoarder himself. He and my other friends tend to just think they could help by cleaning things up for me or helping me purge things. But it won't. This is going to be a slow process. My therapist said that in most cases he's encountered, people work on their hoarding problem for awhile but eventually fall away; perhaps parting with things becomes more painful than the motivation to change. I don't want to follow this road; of course, in about nine months I lose my health care benefit (and my job loss is six months away). So, at a time when my anxiety level is increasing, I'm possibly going to lose that chance at therapy. I've got to work as much as possible in the meantime, I think, if I'm going to reap the benefits of therapy. That's the idea, anyway.

I've rambled on for almost an hour. I think it's time to shut the windows, get ready for bed, retreat to the bedroom, and maybe do some reading before I fall asleep. Good night.

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