Thursday, September 4, 2014

How it Began. (Part Two)

So, if you are reading from How it Began (Part One), you know I was in a place with outlined goals and desires. I knew how I wanted my life to idealistically be, and I even had some ideas for what should go on my "To Do" list. But let us take a moment to appreciate Hoarding and some of what blocks it is built from. 

What do you really picture when you hear "Hoarding Disorder?" I think of a crazy cat lady with piles of animal refuse in every room. I imagine homes so filled with newspapers and magazines of a bygone era that the inhabitants cannot sleep in their own beds. I picture an old man with a garage piled with canned goods from 1964, and so many records that he cannot use his oven. Nothing like my home. More like an an average episode of "Hoarders," am I right? 

The Mayo Clinic defines Hoarding Disorder as "...a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs." This is such a neat and tidy definition, isn't it? Really, I think a LOT of us can relate to feeling distress at the thought of getting rid of certain things. When it is in the terms defined above, it suddenly feels a bit closer to home though, does it not? Now, please do not get me wrong. I do not think everyone who wants to keep their family photos is a hoarder. There are certain components that seem to really define the disorder as a "problem" that should be treated. Here are the basic things professionals say to watch for:

1. Inability to throw away possessions.
2. Severe Anxiety when attempting to discard items
3. Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions.
4. Indecision about what to keep or where to put things.
5. Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions.
6. Suspicion of other people touching items.
7. Obsessive thoughts and actions, fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future, checking the trash for accidentally discarded items.
8. Functional impairments , including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards.

In the interest of transparency, I will openly admit to you all that I strongly relate to numbers 1-7 on this list. While we have always joked that I am "a collector," I must admit I do not meet the important difference between collecting and hoarding. While a collector proudly shows off their organized belongings, I felt shame. I hate shame. My house was not a filthy pit, I didn't have rats and stray dogs everywhere, or the aforementioned newspaper collection or canned goods from the 1960's. However, I knew that I had an extra-special over-the-top connection to most of my possessions. Things that I could justify keeping to any one of you. Things I knew a "normal" person would probably have passed on to someone else (or trashed) long ago. What could I do? I had tried several times to "go through" things, but it was exhausting, truly draining. I would pull one disorganized box from the garage, then spend an afternoon trying to incorporate the "very useful" contents into my already too full home. Then I would look at the mountain that was still left, my home that was still disorganized, and feel completely defeated. I did not know how to move forward, and something had to change. But what? I was unhappy with where I was at, and the limitations from feeling this way. I tried to analyze the reason for my desire to hold so tightly to things in the first place. You know what I figured out? That I still have no idea why this is my personal compulsion. I have guesses, but no spotlight, hallelujah chorus that's the reason

Okay, now that we've covered where I was at, I will bear my heart and share the major catalyst in my paradigm shift. Tomorrow...

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