If you watch hoarding shows, take a look at how many of those people have some disability besides hoarding. More and more each day, as I “unhoard” I realize how my hoarding made my disabilities so much worse. Each day I become a little closer to being able to deal with life in general. Each day I feel a little bit less disabled.
The shows usually mention some trauma that started the hoarding, but it goes beyond that. In my case I’ve been a hoarder practically from birth. I knew nothing else. I was never a healthy child, never fit in, usually picked last for anything physical. No matter that there was a reason, the main message was “Not good enough”.
Sometimes the trigger is the death of someone or the end of a relationship. But when as the result of physical trauma we physically can’t take care of ourselves it adds to the burden of guilt. I kept seeing other disabled people who seemed to have a much better take on their life. The blind friend who dumped sharp knives into the dishpan with the rest of the dishes and never cut herself. The deaf boyfriend who had been around the world, to places I could only imagine. A wheelchair bound friend whose house was always neat. All seemed to cope better than I did.
What we don’t see is the times they fell down, the helping friends and family, the caregiver in the background. Not all of us have a support system of any kind. When I asked people how they managed to cope so well, most of them were shocked. They didn’t see themselves as particularly successful or accomplished. Now add in a disability that keeps you self-isolated, a terrible fear that you must keep hidden at all costs. Any disability isolates you to some extent as it is. We are just beginning to understand. One reason I am so open about my hoarding is that I hope that in a small way we can come to understand and help each other.
I try to do my best not to be ashamed of my cluttered apartment as I know I am on the road to recovery. I focus on my achievements more than my disasters. I know my brain will happily conjure up every stupid thing, every mistake, every misunderstanding the moment I relax my guard. There is no danger of my forgetting. That relentless “reminding” my self conscious does has a life time of practice. I was taught if you blew your own horn, even a little, you were selfish, uncaring and egotistical. Every time I thought I might actually be good at something I felt guilty. When if finally started to emerge that there were physical reasons for my failures, I even felt guilty about that.
Other people’s perceptions didn’t help. “Get over it.” “You’re just buying into being sick.” “You’re just lazy.” All of these comments probably sound familiar to you. People who would never tell a person with a broken leg to just knock the cast off and run a mile feel they somehow have the right to judge someone with a less obvious condition. Well, they don’t. Some are just being jerks. Some are well meaning. You can’t stop them from commenting, but you can just “not buy into” THEIR judgments. Each and every person has something they aren’t good at. Each and every person has something they wish to keep hidden.
The point is, you are not alone. This is a recognized condition that is only now being discovered and studied. Those of us who have it need to give each other support and understanding and hopefully help others to find a way to accept themselves. Please feel free to comment. I’m not a therapist, just a hoarder in recovery. But maybe together we can find a way to deal with our disabilities and give encouragement to each other.