Friday, December 28, 2012

Hoarding - Why I am Obsessed

Have you ever heard that saying "Don't throw the baby away with the bathwater?" That fear hoarders have that if other people sort through their stuff they will dispose of important things. To a hoarder everything has a function. Even if these items are getting thrashed because they are buried under trash, outside, or being stepped on. A hoarder would rather leave their "precious" hoard out in the rain than throw it away or DONATE IT to those in need. There was a time when I stressed out over buying toothpaste. So to see someone buy 15 nail guns or saws or other expensive and unnecessary things because they CANT FIND the one they already have, infuriates me. I HATE WASTE!

You Dirty Little Girl
The dirty part of hoarding causes me extreme anxiety. My phobia of filth began very early. I was four and I was playing at a neighbors house. As a child I had very little supervision and basically did whatever I wanted. This included walking around barefoot constantly. One day I overheard the my friend's wicked grandmother say, "That little girl is so dirty!" At four years old I experienced the feeling of complete and utter shame. I ran home and got in the shower. The babysitter came into the bathroom and asked me what i was doing. It was probably 4 pm and I just randomly jumped in the shower. At four this is highly suspect. I remember not answering her because I did not know what to say. I was so embarrassed. The babysitter let me be after she made sure I was safe. I NEVER forgot that day and don't think I ever will. To this day being clean is an obsession of mine. I use two soaps in the shower and scrub my body thoroughly every day and sometimes multiple times during the day. I also brush my teeth like 5 times a day.

My Mom Taught me This.
The mental illness behind hoarding fascinates, frustrates and bewilders me.First, my knowledge, experience, and obsession with all mental disorders comes from my upbringing. My Mom has always been a mental health nurse. Ironically she also suffers from a few common mental disorders herself. (Depression) My Mom was an orphan and had an absolutely disgusting upbringing. Everything from neglect to rape was experienced by my poor Mom. Despite the odds, my Mom got a college education and has been a nurse for over 20 years. Then my baby sister followed in her footsteps and is also a nurse. Anyway, my Mom, inadvertently exposed me to all that is the world of mental disorder. Then as an adult I spent a significant amount of time studying it in college. I've read countless medical books, memoirs, etc on the topics of Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Mood Disorders and Obsessive Compulsive disorder.

Peace In Our Home
Doesn't cleanliness and order make everyone calm? While growing up I remember my Mom sleeping all day because she worked at night. My child hood memories are far and few in between but I do remember my favorite thing. Coming home from school to a spotless house was bliss. Windows open, candles burning, Sade on the radio, it all warmed my soul. Probably because everything else was so very cold.

All of this resulted in me associating my peace with a clean house. That's what it all boils down to. I am not a neat freak by any means. However, once a week I like to clean my living space, house, apartment, from top to bottom. Baseboards, walls, showers, sheets, everything.

I also consider myself a minimalist. Less is more. My favorite color is white and my favorite type of decor is NONE. I throw everything away compulsively. I do not get mail, and I clean out my closet once a month. I've thrown my social security card away, my birth certificate, and the title to my car. By accident. To buy something I have already purchased in the past is to pull my teeth out. For example at one time I had an entire apartment of furnishings. All was given away when I moved in with LSBoy. He said, You won't ever need this again, I'll take care of you. Well that was my dumb fault but even today I get pissed knowing I'll one day have to buy another crock pot when mine was brand new. And to his credit if I made one phone call to him he would buy me anything I ever needed or wanted. I just won't do that, of course.

In my life I have been intimately exposed to TWO hoarders. Both very different types of hoarder. My observations, thoughts, and study on the subject have left me baffled to this day.

The Female Hoarder
My old roommate lived in a room that was stuffed from floor to ceiling with trash, food, and CAT SHIT. She locked her two cats in her room and left for days at a time. I braved the hoard and fed and watered the cats whenever she was not home. The hoard was nothing short of what you see on TV. I lived with her for a year. I tried everything to inspire her to clean up. Including spending four hours cleaning the kitchen floor with bleach, comet, and floor cleaner. I did it in layers. The grime would not go away. One day I was studying and I let her cats out to walk around. She had the most beautiful rag doll cat. I grabbed the cat and flopped her on her back (ragdoll) to pet her. Her belly was BLACK. FLEA INFESTED. I fucking panicked. Without thinking, I ran into the shower with my cell phone and her cat. I began scrubbing the cat. DRIED BLOOD poured off the poor cats skin. I was crying and hyperventilating because I could not believe anyone could be so cruel to a helpless animal. I called that bitch and she blew me off. I SCREAMED AT HER, YOU HAVE TO TAKE THIS CAT TO THE VET NOW!!!!! Days later she did and sure enough both her cats had worms too. Fleas=worms. Hate is an understatement. I used to dream of kicking her ass. Not kidding. That was my breaking point. I moved out. How could anyone be so fucking blind? So careless? So selfish?

The Male Hoarder
He was addicted to shopping. He is addicted to a "bargain." He is not dirty. He has good intentions. This individual has 3 full size storage rooms full from top to bottom with appliances, tools, cars, and trash. He has 13 vehicles of which maybe 5 run. He also has an attached garage full. His home is not able to be walked in. He has had multiple bug infestations. Unlike the first hoarder, I cared about this person a lot. I spent hours talking to him and asking him why, and if he would like to get better. I could see in his eyes that his habit caused him pain. He admitted that a clean house does make him feel good. I was way too optimistic about his prognosis. For about 3 years I spent my every spare moment helping him manage his chaotic life. This included cleaning out garages, then filling them up, moving junk from one place to another, rearranging, and then shopping for shit he had but could not find. I bought him books, I tried to be loving and non judgmental but at the end of the day, and ill quote him, "It's easier to let you go than to fix this mess." I left.

I wonder if I watch hoarders and obsess with the phenomena because I am hopeful they will come up with a cure? I am not satisfied with the classification of OCD. I am not satisfied with theories of the evolution of this disorder. I am almost starving to know how an individual could choose stuff, trash, junk, over family or friends. I can't comprehend it. That is a first for me. I understand all other disorders. I know about them from inception to treatment. Not knowing, not being sure, and just making up random theories about hoarding doesn't work for me. It's such a painful and serious problem. Somehow I have to come to peace with not knowing.


Anonymous said...

I too am perplexed by hoarders. I hate collecting rubbish. I'm obsessed with throwing things away. I get very frustrated with my partner who keeps EVERYTHING and buys new things CONSTANTLY. It causes me a great amount of anxiety and stress. Especially when we live in such close quarters. He is by no means a hoarder, but when I read about hoarders or see them on TV or meet them (I have met two serious hoarders), I can kind of understand what goes on in their heads.
I can see the process happening, and I can understand why nothing can be disposed of. I can see it because on a much smaller scale, I can see it in my partner also.
Hoarders can't have relationships with people. Only things. If you are so in love with things, there is no room for people. And when those things are gone, it's a pain greater than any pain. To lose things for which you cared so deeply is to die inside. Which is why it's better to not be attached to things. To live minimally. To appreciate what in life is free and liberated and fulfilling intrinsically.
Sorry for the rant, but your post struck a chord with me. Thanks for sharing

JD-Maybe said...

Dear Anonymous,
I am so sorry that you are living this pain. I can totally relate. And you are absolutely right. Both hoarders I knew did not appear to have the capacity to love human beings. Or even love themselves for that matter. Not that I am a guru on self love, that is for damn sure. I agree with you 100%. I hate "things."