I have been collecting news stories about hoarding for about a year now. It only just occurred to me that my Flipboard Magazine might be of most interest to readers about hoarding. If you are curious, please visit and feel free to follow: http://flipboard.com/@ahubbell/hoarding-7gl9r0jsy
I primarily curate stories from the news, but there are occasional research articles or other items that catch my interest via the COH (children of hoarders) group. I post without comment.
Sometimes it pays off to be a COH, grand-daughter of self-affirmed packrats, and from a family of collectors. Today I was advising a student about types of assessment he can expect will studying in Switzerland, and as I pulled out a file from a history course I took in 2001, I caught sight of printouts from my research that year in France. Low and behold, I had kept all of the hard-copies from programs I attended and that happen to be relevant to a paper I’m writing right now. I was convinced that I would never be able to verify the historical point I was trying to make in the paper, and suddenly references are in front of me dated 15 October 2001. Thank you to whichever ancestor who also taught me how to file things.
My guilty pleasure is watching Real Housewives of Anywhere, no matter how trashy or how silly the show is. I do not watch television to edify myself.
And so this morning I was thinking about ashy feet and how nice Kandi Burruss‘s skin is, and how she’s my favorite housewife of Atlanta. She’s short, smart, and ambitious. But I thought, “I can’t understand how she defends her mother.” She broke down in tears a week or so ago when confronted by her best friend and boyfriend. She defended her mother saying how she knew her mom would always be there for her. Obviously I can only speculate based on the show, but I thought, “But she’s not there for you, Kandi. She’s ripping you away from the people you love.” (Yes, I have really deep thoughts in the shower.)
Then it sort of struck me: I always have said that if I got into trouble, my father would be there for me. And yet, I have no evidence that he would be there for me. He has not been there for me. He even made up excuses not to attend my high school functions. He does not support me emotionally and has not supported me financially since I turned 18. Right before we moved to Australia, I asked him if he would be willing to send me things like over the counter medicine if I needed them, and I offered to pay him through PayPal. He blatantly said he thought that was not a good idea. Why would I think he would be there for me?
Do any of you have a Hoarding Parent who is truly there for you when you need something? I am thankful I have never honestly needed something from either of my parents, though it would be comforting to have emotional encouragement from either mom or dad without me asking or admitting I need it.
Posted in hoarding identity, hoarding roots, memory hoarding, weight of things
Tagged COH, hoarding, hoarding parent, HP, Kandi Burruss, need, parent, support, things
While not able to fall asleep last night, my mind raced through details trying to calm itself. I wondered if my upcoming counseling appointment is perhaps weighing more heavily on me than I thought. There is a fairly large sense of guilt looming over me for not being able to manage things by myself. Objectively I see counseling as an intelligent activity: there are experts to help with that. But personally, it falls in the same sort of shameful indulgence as having a cleaner come do my house. I just can’t permit it though I do not judge those who do. In fact, I envy them.
So I wondered why I feel such shame in asking for help. I should be able to manage my own house and my own emotions. But the reality is sometimes otherwise. It’s just hard to stay on top of it all.
And then I wondered if perhaps my parents shamed me for asking for help at some point. My mom and dad went to a counsellor named Sheldon, I think, when I was ten or twelve and they were beginning to separate. My brother and I saw him once. He asked us what we thought was wrong or what we thought might help them. My clear childlike answer was “Money.” They were financially wrecked and we bore the aftermath of that for years. I expect they set the example for me: they dug themselves out of that mess without declaring bankruptcy.
I will ask for help sometimes. I have been known to ask a bus driver for help finding my stop. I will occasionally ask for advice from someone I deeply trust or about something that seems inconsequential like, “what types of birthday presents are appropriate for 4 year olds?” At work I have no trouble asking questions about policy and formality. But if I am stuck in any situation I perceive I have put myself into and there is anything remotely shameful about it (i.e. I’m lost), I feel it is my own responsibility to bail myself out or suffer the consequences. Asking for help is hard. Very very hard. And when I do ask for help, if I sense I won’t get it, I quickly retract my request. “Fine, I’ll handle it.” I will whinge but I will get it straightened out eventually. That’s not very efficient, but it has required me to be resourceful.
Back to the situation at hand, though, I wonder if other COH (Children of Hoarders) have this same problem. How hard is it for you to ask for help? Did our parents, especially the narcissistic ones, teach us not to ask? I’d rather chew off my own arm than ask my father (HP) help me get out of any situation. He would probably be only too happy to help me — well maybe, he might also knock me over the head for it — but I would never hear the end of it. “Look what I did for you!”
D. is in the U.S. for the week and I am holding down the fort with S. here at home. Suddenly my head-space feels very noisy. It echoes, and not only due to the sinusy cold we’ve passed to each other (with love, of course). I’m aware that my lists are getting louder.
In my head it goes like this, “Shave legs, laundry, dishes, make lunch” or “bread, cheese, containers” (that’s my shopping list), over and over and over until I get the tasks done. I have no idea for how long I’ve been making these lists in my head but somehow they keep me on task. Otherwise I trapse up and down the stairs 20 times forgetting why I had to go into my bedroom or what I was supposed to bring up from the kitchen. My work lists tend to be written on paper, paper I never have to look at, but I need the act of writing to keep me focused.
My head is noisy today, but I wonder if other Children of Hoarders do the same to keep out of the rut of churning.
I went through a psychiatric evaluation during graduate school at my primary care physician’s request. He was certain I was depressed; I said I was not. Now that I’m in a much happier place, I wonder about my ability to assess. That aside, the psychiatrist spent a good amount of time trying to assess if I had OCD. I like my belongings to be kept a certain way, even when they’re messy. The psychiatrist concluded I had been through a lot but that I was not depressed or riddled with other psychiatric illnesses. She did say we could continue treatment if I would like to deal with my anxiety. I declined.
Last night I commented to D. that I’m really having trouble with my desire to have things in a certain place, but it’s all confined to our sleeping space. I have been getting up 2 to 3 times from bed each night to readjust the curtains. There’s a logic to the madness: I don’t want the sun to come in through the gaps. But still, I should be able to rest without worrying if there’s a wee little crack of light coming in at 4:30 a.m.
This has had me thinking about my HP and his odd but apparently characteristic fear of germs and contamination. At the worst point in my life with him, he would stand by the dish drainer and inspect each dish washed, handing me back each item with an invisible speck. More than once he demanded I rewash every dish because I had left them too long in the drying rack. He believed we would get dysentery if the dishes were not immediately dried. The house, when my brother and I lived with him, was immaculate. Any sight of lint on the carpet was cause for yelling. We spent endless hours cleaning the house during our summer vacations. Bathroom grout was scrubbed with a toothbrush until it glistened, floors were always perfectly vacuumed, preferably with the lines showing the path, drawers were neatly ordered. Our own rooms, as I previously blogged, were somewhat more liberally organized but still regularly inspected. I still make my daughter’s bed with “hospital corners” while my own is pleasantly rumply with a duvet that doesn’t require tucking.
My concern is that I’m starting to grip a little tightly to the patterns and now S. also wants things a certain way. She breaks down into tears when her socks won’t pull up just right from toe to heel. Am I passing on a neurotic behavior, or is it engrained in the genes?
Still the silence hangs in the air. My father continues to play Scrabble with me but has not texted a syllable outside of the game. I can’t articulate why it bothers me. It shouldn’t. But it’s like a constant reminder of our entire relationship, “I’m here with you, but not here for you.” I stubbornly play on but have stopped the light banter about the words played. He chooses not to speak. I don’t want to ask him why. I don’t want to know. He waits for me to ask.
The last time I remember him not talking to me, I was in University. I had emailed him requesting examples of women ministers in the Bible for a project I was working on. It took me two months to realize he wasn’t talking to me (if that doesn’t say something…. wow). I had to ask what was wrong before he would open the floodgates and unleash the feelings I really wish he had kept to himself. He was angry that I might be considering being a minister. This time, I’m not asking. I do not want to know.
That doesn’t stop me from paranoid thoughts, though. Have they discovered this blog? If so, they are probably angry. Are they stupidly upset about our holiday plans? Who knows; they haven’t said. Not angry enough to not play Scrabble. Just manipulative enough to stop talking. Talking. As if there has been talking actually happening up to this point.
I’m frustrated that I can see I’m a fool and still feel upset about the lack of talk. Banter. Not real voices and not real topics. Just banter. That’s all that’s gone.
If you, dear reader, are a COH, I would love to hear about your HP’s manipulation tactics. Have you received the silent treatment? Did you notice?
It is with much sadness that I write this thank you note to Sidney Patrick (of milbetweenus.com) who passed away unexpectedly last week. She was an amazing supporter of this blog (with many snarky and hilarious comments), and as far as I can tell, of so many people in the COH community who need support. She was amazing on the HuffPo Live show on hoarding, bringing the emphasis to the victims while the show itself seemed to have been programmed to haul the hoarder back into the light. I posted then on her blog that I was proud: I’m proud to have even minimally interacted with such a bright, strong person. Sidney, you’re inspiring. And I thank you.
Although I’m committed to the goals of the Children of Hoarders support group, I sometimes look away for long periods of time. Reading the experiences of others makes me feel somehow guilty for publicly complaining about my situation when others have had it so severely worse. Then the feeling that I am entirely ungrateful for my upbringing suddenly popped into my head about two days ago. Am I only looking for yet another way to talk about the ways in which my parents failed to nurture me? Can they ever do anything right? It’s like a revolving door and I can’t step out.
My father had clear hoarding tendencies while I was growing up. I’ve also written about my paternal Grandfather, collector of treasures, my maternal Grandmother, survivor of the Depression who throws nothing useful out, and my own tendencies to cling to objects that remind me of past travels, experiences or people. But my father’s hoarding, as far as I know, has only shut off two rooms and a garage. The family can still sit on the couch, I presume. I say that, but I am not certain. Maybe they clean for days ahead of our visits to clear those coveted surfaces for us. While some children are literally trapped in horrid living conditions, my main area of suffering was from neglect. Things were and are always more important than I am, if not in word at least in deed.
A few days ago, I finally wrote to my father to tell him of our holiday travel plans and to ask if we could come by the house for a day or two. We cannot invite them to our home because it is rented to friends. However, we are renting a vacation home and I am very late at asking if they want to visit us there. Late and hesitant. I could sense the tone in their response that they (step-mother and HP) were upset they had not been made a priority. My father couldn’t even be bothered to answer me himself and has stopped talking to me during our constant Scrabble games online. I shouldn’t expect them to feel any other way: their visits are never easy for us, but I haven’t seen them in a year and a half.
Rambling back to the point: I wonder if I am ungrateful. Look at me: I’ve got problems, but I’ve turned out ok. Did they really do me wrong? The more I read other people’s stories of abuse, however, I feel more and more resentful.
And they are not even doing something to me now.
Lately, I feel resentful because my husband’s parents are equally far from us and yet they have maintained a constant relationship with our daughter. She knows who they are, she visually recognizes them, she talks with them on Skype almost weekly. My own parents (both the HP and my mother) cannot bother to write an email much less learn how to Skype or pick up a telephone to talk to me or S. She asked me who Grandpa S. was the other day and I could only get her to remember by talking about his dog. His dog who is the clear #2 priority in his life.
The unclarity in my head at the moment is probably very legible here. I feel guilty for not inviting them, for feeling ungrateful. I wasn’t really that abused, just a little abused and very neglected. And I feel anger. Real anger and frustration that they expect me to be chasing after their attention when I know I will never compare to stuff.
Being less worthy than stuff was discussed in depth on the HuffPost Live webcast “Hoarding’s Harsh Reality” last week. I am grateful to those who are willing to share publicly and to Sidney for being an advocate for the victims of hoarding. We need one, especially those of us who can’t even decide how we really feel.
Posted in hoarding identity, hoarding roots
Tagged advocate, anger, children of hoarders, COH, frustration, grandfather, grandmother, guilt, hoarding, priority, stuff, things, victim
As I was catching up on my pile of unread blog posts from others affected by hoarding, a word popped out of one of Sidney’s posts at www.milbetweenus.com that set a sharp pang through my heart. She said Greg had been churning.
Churning – I’m not sure how those who don’t experience it personally or see it first-hand understand it. For me, it’s painful. For the majority of my life, it was just a normal unconscious activity. Now when I see it happening, it sends me into a sinking sense of despair. Churning feels like sitting in a boat that’s quickly filling with water and you only have a bucket to try to bail out. Churning is like a dog chasing its tail: so funny to watch, so frustrating for the dog.
I sat at my desk yesterday working in a flurry. I jumped from one task to the next, to the next, accidentally got lost in a Google search for something completely unrelated, started browsing Pinterest, jerked myself back to a grant application, stumbled upon papers to mark, marked two, remembered an assignment I hadn’t posted, went to post it but instead changed the layout to my course website. In the tangled mess of activity, perhaps in spite of it, I managed to finish the grant application, the marking, the lesson planning… I found my way out the other side. I don’t know how.
Why is churning painful? I recognize it now as a response to extreme stress. I get totally lost in the activity and I have to sit back and think about what is causing this before I can get out of it. I know it’s an inherited behavior that indelibly links me to my dysfunctional father. I cannot stop the activity from starting: I can only disentangle myself by realizing it is occurring.
What stimulates churning for me is not always clear. The first time I fully realized I was doing it was only in July when we first arrived in Australia and didn’t yet have a home. I felt I was sinking and grasping onto illogical pieces of debris to pull myself up from the drowning waters. I wanted to keep disposable containers, tin foil, used tape, even though I knew I didn’t need those things. I was uprooted and lost: I wanted to create stability. I churned.
Yesterday I churned for numerous reasons combined: we’re buying a house, I’m resigning permanently from my former position to remain in this one, D. is going to be away for a week, I have numerous looming deadlines at work… Not to mention the normal stressors of sleep deprivation and a child’s temper tantrums. Oh, and PMS. I’m a downright mess. Except I’m fine. Even better than fine, I’m really good. I just churn as a coping mechanism. Familiar repetitive behaviors anyone?
Posted in hoarding identity
Tagged Australia, churning, COH, debris, drowning, dysfunctional, father, grasping, hoarding, organization, pile, stuff