Tag Archives: disorder

i have (a) disorder

IMG_3528My second book is in a bit of a mess right now as I cobble together the chapters. I was looking through my introduction notes today and kept seeing reference to Huyssen. I realized I needed his book to pull together a point I was trying to make, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, I must have read this book or at least looked at it. Being a visual person, I googled it to see the book cover. Definitely familiar. In my mind, I could see the book in my university office, on a high shelf, but knew I had not seen it recently. I read a few reviews online to see if that could help me get what I needed.No, I needed the book. I looked through the titles pushed against the wall on my desk. Not there. I looked on my bookshelf to my right. Not there. Should I buy it online? Then out of the corner of my eye, I could see behind my laptop, just in front of me and within easy reach, a pile of theory books. There it was. Second book down. I have no recollection of bringing it home or putting it there. I think I have (a) disorder. At least for now it’s made its way to the top where I can see it.

 

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nbd, it’s npd

Thank you Hoarder’s Son and Children of Hoarders for your recent discussions on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Thank you, but why must the rabbit hole go ever deeper? Probably to hide away more hoarded stuff. It seems only appropriate that our HPs have collected psychological disorders along with their junk.

Without having a proper degree to diagnose my father, I can recognize obvious displays of NPD in him. Long before the hoard, the characteristic marks of this behavior were present. He has big dreams (that happen to change rather often), believes he is someone very special (divine calling, anyone?), and treated his first and second wives and his children as extensions of himself who were meant to obey his commands and whims without resistance. Question his authority and expect a fine fit of rage.

Where things get complicated for me, or for him maybe, is that my father is a pastor of a very small church. Being a pastor and doing these things for the Lord justifies almost every behavior, every dream, every whim, everything he wants. This role began about the time when the hoarding took off and I was out of the house. And pastoring fulfilled his need to have constant admiration, attention, and control. At some point I began to wonder (shudder) if he even believed what he was preaching or if he simply enjoyed being in the position of total authority in the church body.  Whatever the inspiration, he has mellowed considerably through the years — from God or from age, I do not know.

My father can be completely charming and sweet, but any generosity or overly kind word gives me a grippingly sick feeling. His sweetness is always pointed at what he cannot control, but if you ask him, he is just winning people over to the Lord. I tense up when I hear that overly sweet tone in his voice. It happened too often in my childhood that he would be in a full-on rage about some horrible sin I’d committed (blue nail polish comes to mind) and the phone would ring. Suddenly he’d be the nicest man on earth on the phone, perhaps even brag about how great I was to his interlocutor, and the minute the conversation with the unknown person was over, the rage would continue. Turn it on, turn it off. Like a switch.

I could go on and on with this analysis of my father and the ways in which he matches this behavior profile, but things get difficult when I turn the scope on myself.

I, like many people who have posted on children of hoarders (thank you, all of you), was a mini-adult, put on display at church as the model child, had perfect grades from ninth grade to the end of my B.A. degree, and every success was attributed not only to my father, but to our heavenly father. Perfect grades? Praise the Lord. Scholarship? Praise the Lord. More than once I wanted to scream, “What about praise me?” Yet still, I endeavored to please.

I was the Golden Child, the wanted child (?), the successful child. I found my rebellion through reading subversive books in a foreign language and conducting my research in a way that is entirely incomprehensible to my father. I created my space in foreign cultures and he has not once asked or attempted to understand it. His only concern has ever been if my beliefs align with his: I am so going to Hell.

Until I met D. I had no idea what I wanted in life even though I was very clearly motivated. He’s the first person to ever ask me what I wanted. I had always had some God-plan to live by. When I stumbled off of that track, and D. asked me hard questions, I came up entirely empty. How could I answer where I was going since someone or some entity had always told me where to go and what to do?

I chose a path that brought down my father’s wrath. I was 31.

And now, seven years later and in a different countries, my father is trying to use his sweet charm on me.

NPD, maybe it’s a BFD.

 

unpacked

How do you cure hoarding tendencies? Move 3 times in 12 months, one of those international, followed immediately by 2 trips during which you must live out of your smallest suitcase. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it has made me habitually re-evaluate what is important to have with me at all times. It comes down to my passport, my money, my computer/iPad, phone and some clothes and kitchen things family. Oh right, family! The ones I love are healthy and happy and so am I. That’s all that really matters.

Still, there’s all this other stuff. Baggage. It trails behind me with little wheels, sometimes a comforting pleasure, sometimes a burden. I’m packing today and trying to decide if I check a bag, how to keep it light. My brain is a chaotic mess of lists that keep slipping away. My body is ready to relax. Tonight I’ll hit the road for a research trip in which I have 5 different destinations in less than 10 days.

ImageIn honor of the voyage ahead, I finally emptied my backpack (left exactly as shown). I’ve pared down the contents several times in the past few weeks, but still, the contents are impressive. It’s my “just in case I need it” inherited hoarding disorder. 3 chapsticks, several tampons, two packages of kleenex, one pack of baby-wipes, numerous pills (sinus, pain), 10 or more pens, scraps of paper, an umbrella, plastic bags, headphones, iPad charger, sunglasses, cereal bars, breath mints, a bottle of water. I even found a flashlight and a clean pair of underwear. Those are the things I drag with me everywhere hidden in pockets. That’s not including the important passport, money, phone, books, tech…

Apparently I still have work to do in the hoarding category. But at the moment, I’m pleasantly unpacked and about to start stuffing it back together again.

And you? What’s in your bag?

cleaning doesn’t help

On one visit to my father about ten years ago, I was shocked to see half of the living room full of empty boxes. They were stacked to the ceiling in a sliding mountain and my father refused to part with them. This mountain clearly pained my step-mother who helplessly tiptoed around the cardboard wall so as not to disturb the disorder.

After some finagling, I convinced my father to let me sort the boxes, promising not to throw them out unless he approved disposal. He was keeping them, or so he said, to use for shipping sold items on Ebay. Nevermind that he hadn’t sold anything on Ebay and that all of the boxes came from items purchased.

I set to work carefully breaking down boxes and sending to the burn barrel (yes, they have a burn barrel) the boxes that were too damaged to reuse. I sorted boxes, big to small, put them inside each other as I could, condensed the pile, and moved part of it into their garage which has been unusable about as long as my father has lived in the house. To my knowledge, the pile of boxes never reappeared. But how would I know? I only visit once or twice a year and they spend hours getting the house ready for those visits.

D. sent me a link yesterday to a story on hoarding “Hoarding considered a complex mental illness,” from Topeka, Kansas. Straight to the point, I cite the last paragraph:

Fronsman-Cecil said the hardest time for a hoarder can be after his or her home is cleaned up. She remembers when her grown children did that for her for the first time a few years ago.

“After they left, I kind of had a meltdown,” she said. “There were definitely things that were gone that I would have kept.

To reiterate my post on “Separation,” how do we help our parents, then? It’s quite possible that all that work that I did with the boxes only made me feel better. My efforts could have caused an anxiety attack for my father and further disruption for my step-mother. The problem is not just laziness or unwillingness to clean and organize the home; and I am truly unequipped to make it better or to help my folks with the issue.