Category Archives: Children of Hoarders

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, I Own a Home. WTF?, Witchy

Drainage

altar

When my mom died and I had to clean up her house, her kitchen sink was clogged. We didn’t get to it right away because, frankly, a sink full of gross water was not a priority in that house. It took a few weeks to drain fully.

Later, as I was sorting through all her old papers, I came across a move out list from when we moved in 1989. This was the house we lived in when she fell apart. It was the worst of all her toxic waste (literally) and her hoarding. She fucked that place up. Once the toilet was broken for I don’t know how long. But we couldn’t call a plumber because of the state of the house. In the move out papers I found that she’d clogged that kitchen sink, too. And then I remembered her telling me that an old landlord of her in the 70’s had charged her for a broken garbage disposal when she moved out.

The woman had serious problems with draining, with letting shit GO. And this is metaphorical as well as literal. She was a hoarder with clogged sinks and grudges that were 30 years old. I feel like the clogged sinks were a desperate cry from the Universe to JUST LET IT GO, WOMAN.

When we first came to view this house, I could tell the woman who owned it at the time was a hoarder. She was clean, but her hallway shower was storage and that’s never a good sign in my experience. I don’t know how I find all the hoarders in the world, but I do, somehow.

Anyway, she put these stupid metal hair catchers in the bathroom sinks and they are forever getting clogged. She couldn’t let things drain, either.

I haven’t done anything about them in almost four years for a few reasons including not really knowing what to do (cause they were STUCK in there), being super busy in other, more important, areas, and, simply, being lazy tired. But today I yanked them out with jewelry tools because that is how I roll and I replaced them with cute little plastic cups from Daiso. I am so ready to let shit drain now. DRAIN AWAY, SHIT. BEGONE. (Certified witchy spell right there.)

I pulled a random goddess card for my altar last night and it was Ostara. Fertility. At first I almost burned it and ran away BECAUSE THIS UTERUS IS CLOSED FOR BUSINESS OKAY (despite the fact that it would have to be the son of god or some shit bc the vagina isn’t exactly a party zone either right now) but then I read the card and it can also apply to the fertility of art, creativity. I read that as: the goddess who motivates you. So, yes, I am choosing to tap into Ostara’s energy of motivation and creativity. I did a deep cleaning of the living room yesterday, pulling all the furniture out and doing battle with the sentient dust bunnies who have been trying to set up civilizations back there. I feel so much clearer in my head without al that dust. I feel so much lighter in my core now that my drains drain. Household cleaning is the same as soul-cleaning and I too often let it go because it feels too overwhelming, despite the fact that I know damn well how much better I’ll feel once I’ve just sucked it up and done it already.

These past few months have been filled with a lot – a lot – of psychological work, much of which has been the Universe’s way of forcing me to do the work of psychologically untangling myself from my mother. I spend so much time and energy worrying about whether I’m turning into her and apparently the Universe has decided it’s time to stop that bullshit and figure it out once and for all. So I’ve been tested by being put in triggering situations that mirror my own traumas and I’ve worked it out each time. When I used to knit more often, sometimes I’d have to untangle yarn. Sometimes I’d have to untangle a whole skein of yarn. I’d declare THE YARN NEVER WINS and it never did. I untangled it every time (except one time, but that was some of that fancy yarn with fringy stuff and so that doesn’t count). That’s what this felt like. I’d struggle with it, and then suddenly, I’d find the key knot and I’d feel it loosen and come undone. And just like that I was me and she was she. And – surprise! – turns out I’m not my mom.

It’s fitting that I’d finally get around to making my drains drain after all that. It was like closure on this chapter of the psyche work I’ve done recently (KNOCK WOOD, UNIVERSE, PLEASE NO MORE PSYCHE WORK FOR AWHILE OKAY). I untangled myself from the shit, and now I’m washing the shit away. Furthermore, I’ve worked to redo my drains in such a way that they won’t clog again. The little cups I’ve got in them are easier to clean, and semi-disposable. In the mean time I’m looking for a more permanent solution, but the point is that things are flowing away again. Just as they should be.

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, Depression/Anxiety, Onwards, Spirituality, The Zebra

It’s like that Greek myth where Pandora cracked open Zeus’ brain and all the crazy came out, leaving him refreshed and way less assholey.

The sunbeams were crazy awesome tonight.  Like the sun was grasping desperately before being dragged down into the underworld against his will. Or something less demonic. Whichever.  Adjusted in #snapseed

I’m in the midst of cracking shit open right now. The cauldron of my psyche is boiling and shit’s bubbling up to the surface that I never knew or consciously realized. I feel like I’ve been in that dark forest that a hero is supposed to head into to fight the monsters and I’m finally finding my way to the caves where the monsters live instead of just hiding in the darkness, too overwhelmed with all the new sensations to move.

I think my writing style is to throw as many metaphors into as small a space as possible with the intent to dizzy my prey readers into thinking I’m a better writer than I am?

Ahem.

As a child, I definitely had perfection issues. If I created something and didn’t like it, I considered it a failure. More often, if I created something and never finished it, I considered myself a failure. But when I was around middle school-age I started noticing imperfections in others around me and I saw that they could be beautiful. Messy handwriting, a botched-then-fixed art project, an unconventionally-beautiful body shape. And the more I began to notice imperfections, the more I began to realize that perfectness is bullshit. So I let all that shit go.

Except. Just a few weeks ago I realized that for the past few years I have been clearly and consciously, and very seriously, trying to choose what my character flaw will be. Will it be my flakiness? That’s adorable and forgivable. Maybe it’ll be my various superstitions – eccentricity is quirky and cute. It could even be my anxiety. I fucking love my anxiety. It defines me and I don’t even know who I’d be without it. The anxiety has to stay. (To be clear – there is actually zero sarcasm in that last point. Which is probably super fucked up.) But I cannot allow my other flaws – my desperate need for constant approval, my inability to be there for people when they need me sometimes, the fact that I sometimes miss jokes if they are too dry – those things have got to go.

So. Um. Maybe I still have perfection issues after all?

I have a fear of failure that I have been unknowingly nurturing and nourishing in the dark recesses of my mind. Coddling it and encouraging it to grow by secretly promoting this perfect me I wanted to create. The more I focused on becoming perfect in all the ways I felt needed to be perfect, the more anxious I became. Trying to hold it all together like a 1960’s Tonight Show guest with a few too many spinning plates, running more and more frantically between them. It’s exhausting.

I imagine that perfection is a goal that my Child of a Hoarder self set for me. From one extreme, I believed I needed the other.

I am pretty open about my various traumas, but I am seeing now that there are things I am still unwilling to talk about, at least until I feel I have a more perfect understanding of them, or a more perfect control of them, or a more perfect acceptance of how imperfect they are. I’m afraid to talk about dating in case a guy might not like me and my friends realize that I’m unlikeable, I’m afraid to show my personal creative writings to friends in case they find out I’m no good at it. I’m afraid to ask too much of people in case I become a burden and they stop loving me.

But obviously this keeps me imprisoned with only myself as cellmate, and I’m not always nice to me, or reliable in the things I tell to myself. And I don’t want that life. So I am forcing myself to write about things and talk about things. Transparency keeps me sane.

Those character flaws I considered keeping grew bigger and stronger, became my jailers, pacing back and forth in front of my cell all night long (and all my days were nights). I remember at one point last summer, in my deeply religious fear of Murphy’s Law, I nearly panicked when I dropped something and commented, “Dammit, gravity!” For a moment, I was literally afraid gravity would hear me and, just to prove a point, stop working and everything would float away. I immediately caught the ridiculousness of the thought and laughed it off. Mostly. A kernel of that fear lingered.

It is because of that general thought process, I think, that my entire spirituality has been shattered. Caught between the atheistic beauty of the tangible world and the metaphysical mysteries that also ring true for me, I couldn’t orient myself. And I was afraid to publicly stand for something that might not be understood by everyone. So I turned to science because no matter what science is unfailingly there and real and right. But in the process I lost my faith. After all, if there is no bigger message in the world, than what are the gifts I have been given? Why was I granted sanity when my mom wasn’t? If there’s no ultimate purpose, then maybe I am just a spoiled child? I still don’t know any more than I did before about what my spiritual thoughts and leanings are, but at least I can now see the pieces on the floor for what they are and I can take time to put them together in new ways to see what fits for me.

But I honed the good traits until I was crazy, too. My desire to see all sides of every story is a beautiful and important trait to have, but it grew so strong that I could no longer see which side was my side. Like a tulip made of glass mirrors, each petal was broken and on the floor, reflecting every thought I might have on a subject. I had no sense of north, again with no way to orient myself. I couldn’t find me anymore, lost in a sea of concern for balance and justice that was more important than having an identity of my own.

Over the last couple of years I’ve stopped talking and writing. All of these things were growing like weeds and muzzling me. Sometimes I was too afraid to speak, but sometimes I just didn’t know where to begin. Interestingly, over the last year, I’ve become physically weaker, I’m in more pain, I hardly sleep, my depression and anxiety are through the roof, I’ve been sicker, and I’ve gotten fatter. By coincidence (or divine intervention?), I got the chance to participate in an interview for an upcoming series on NPR about the ACE study. I met with the doctor here who has been working on this for close to 30 years, and we talked about how childhood emotional trauma can affect our physical selves as adults. Science has found a link. It’s there. It’s clear. But because it’s so intangible, I tend to discount it. I feel like it’s crazy to find connections like that, despite the fact that, apparently, they are there. Despite the fact that I have seen connections like that over and over in my own life and body, I still wonder if I’m making up excuses (probably, hilariously, a leftover trait of my childhood trauma. How appropriate).

I don’t know what science might have to say about Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body, but I looked up “feet” because I’ve been having various problems with mine – from internal pains to the fact that I cannot stop dropping things on them. The suggestion was that feet problems can mean that you are standing, or lingering, in grief. AND HOLY FUCKING HELL AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH.

All of this has come up in the past few weeks. And a lot of these words came out of my fingers tonight in the past tense, suggesting that I am healed from this Crazy. The truth is that I probably have more to travel on this particular trip into the dark corners of my psyche. Hell, the last few days have been a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows. But I do feel like a major shift has happened. Like I’ve got a map, or a flashlight, or like at least I know the monsters I have to fight on this journey.

I can’t ever stop talking or writing, you guys. It’s dangerous, both psychologically and physically. Now here’s hoping that pain in my foot goes away. You hear that, Psyche? I’m leaving the grief behind.

Children of Hoarders, Delving into the Psyche, Depression/Anxiety, The Zebra

Where I get emotionally naked for you.

oak leaves

For most of my life, I didn’t actively choose my life’s direction. I have often described it as allowing myself to be carried by the current of my own personal river, or by following the strong, yet subconscious, pull of my own Oak Tree. I don’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing, to just allow myself to be passive about where I went. Is it even passive? Or is it highly intuitive? Is it a result of having been raised in an abusive home? That I had to let go and just go wherever Life took me? Or that my conscious mind shut down and allowed my intuition to guide me? My inner core of self-hatred would tell you that I’m just lazy and undriven. I don’t know what the real reasoning is or whether it is a good or a bad thing – and right now in my life, I’m right on the cusp of fully believing either (or both). Although I may have some regrets and, if I had the chance to re-do some things in my life, I might find that tempting these days, ultimately I do acknowledge that every thing I’ve done had led me to where I was supposed to be.

peaceful river

But I’m a grownup now (it took me longer than most people) and I felt like I should make some decisions about where my life should go. Last year I made some major changes and intentions for what I wanted my life to be and where I want it to continue to go. And this past year has been really, really hard. I feel like I’m suddenly swimming against a very strong current in my River. And I can’t help but wonder if that means that The Universe doesn’t want me making my own choices. I resent that idea. I want to be able to choose my own life now. I want to go to school and find a career and maybe not be broke someday.

And then how much of this is a desire to JUST BE NORMAL FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE? A side-effect of growing up in a hoarder home is that I’ve always been desperate to live in a way that at least appears to be a regular middle-class lifestyle. As I write this I am realizing this is also tied directly to my intense need to always be liked by everyone. My self-worth is the same as my appearance or the appearance of my home. (This is why I need to never stop writing. Remind me, okay?) So maybe The Universe feels I need to live an unusual and quirky life, and it’s trying to steer me from the life that isn’t supposed to be mine?

Fuck if I know.

I just wish I knew what I’m supposed to do next. What my direction should be, or whether I should stop trying to pick a direction at all. When I decided to get divorced, I was heading into a long tunnel I couldn’t see all the way through, but even then I felt more sure of myself than I do now. At least a tunnel only has one way to go. These days I feel more like I’m lost in a misty forest – I can see a lot of way to go, and I can guess at some of the outcomes, but I don’t know which path is mine or if I’ve even stayed to the one path or if I’ve skipped around, confusing the issues at hand. Does anyone know where the manual to my Life is? Can I get another copy from my manufacturer? I think I’ve lost mine.

(If you can count and navigate all those metaphors, you win a cookie. But a theoretical cookie. Unless you’re local and I’ll see you soon in which case just remind me and I’ll bring you some cookies. There are these really good gluten-free ones at Costco these days.)

7 Days, Children of Hoarders, I Own a Home. WTF?

Evolution of My Living Space

7 Days Final Run: Day 5 (Season's Greetings From My Home)

I think threeish years ago I started taking birds-eye views of my living room for 7 Days shots. Tonight I took the final one. It went from a place where I felt very trapped and suffocated by all the clutter (as an adult child of a hoarder this is a really sensitive thing for me) to a place warmed by red walls and cozy and welcoming.

7 Days: Day 6 (Peek Into My Chaos)
December 2010

I’ve moved a few times in my life and I’ve always kind of enjoyed it. A new place holds a kind of excitement. But moving to this place back in September has been actually surprisingly difficult for me. Maybe because I hadn’t moved for like 14 years, or maybe because I actually own this place and that alone was a huge step. Or maybe because any of the 467 other things that were happening this fall heightened my anxiety. I don’t know. But people would ask me how my new house was and even though I knew I was happy to be here, I also had incredibly amounts of anxiety about it. In the last month or so I’ve finally started to feel like I’m settling in, and seeing this living room makes me really, really happy.

7 Days: Day 2 Looking Down on My New Space
March 2011

Now if only these &*%$! &%!!@#&% &@$%!& !!@!! @$#!&! ants will die I can see myself being happy here for a long time. If they won’t die, I’ll just have to move to Canada.

7 Days: Day 4 (Chocolate)
December 2011

PS. those extra shots in the collage up top there were after I’d taken about 50 shots I didn’t love so I was getting a little loopy. And by “loopy” I mean “hilarious”.

original

Children of Hoarders, The Zebra

I have no idea what to title this one. It’s got everything. Pictures of the new place, hoarding trauma, procrastination, cleaning tips. I need a cookie.

We’re getting settled in our place. I mean. I haven’t even begun to unpack the kitchen yet because shelf liner paper. And I can’t even unpack the office yet until the new desk I ordered gets here (my last desk literally fell apart when they picked it up to load it on the truck). But the living room looks mostly like a living room and my new bed came today and IT’S JUST SO LOVELY.

New bed. Love.

And I’m supposed to be studying the neurons of the visual system, but instead I’m thinking about how the hell am I going to keep the house as sparkly as it is right now after the Merry Maids were here last week? The answer is I probably won’t. But I’m going to try. Because clean = sane for me.

One of the things I want to write about here at this blog is being the child of a hoarder. And I’d like to write a big introductory post before I start adding in little details, but Life Is Messy and these little details are what’s on my mind right now.

Way back in the dark ages in like 1991 my mom wanted to try to keep the house clean. I don’t remember which era of the house this was. Maybe she was hoping to start from scratch, or maybe it was after my friend’s mom came in and cleaned up for us and bought us fancy peach towels with seashells on them that we weren’t allowed to use. Anyway, my mom found this book about an index card cleaning system. It’s what Flylady is based on, actually. And my mom got as far as buying index cards and a card file box.

Anyway, a couple of years ago when we were cleaning out my mom’s house, we found the book. And I donated it to a thrift store or something. Because like hell I had time for that shit right then. And now that my new place is all sparkly and lovely, I was thinking that maybe it would be nice to find a copy of that book and see if the system might work for me (because another “perk” of being the child of a hoarder is that you don’t know you are supposed to clean certain things like the top of your refrigerator). Only, I realized that I felt very sneaky about this. I felt like I had to keep it a secret that I was thinking about looking for a copy of this book. Because I made the grave error of getting rid of it once and now I’ll have to admit that I’m the wrongiest wronger to ever have wronged. Because hoarders keep things, in part, so that they can always be fully stocked. Some hoarders enjoy sharing the things they’ve kept, and that is part of why they hoard things – to feel useful. (Others don’t want to share the things they hoard. At. All.) But, in my experience, hoarders tend to be very I-told-you-so when you get rid of something and then later need it again. (I’ve also developed a sense that I have to be sneaky about throwing things away because I’ve been yelled at so many times in my life after one hoarder or another picked through my trash and got mad at what I got rid of.)

But the thing is this: YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND THE STUFF YOU NEED. Sure, you might have to buy it all over again, but for most things in life that’s not going to be much of a big deal. And spending the extra $10 to get a new copy of this book is well worth the sanity that not hoarding affords me. I live in a little home. I don’t have space for Stuff I Might Need Someday. I keep the things I definitely need, the things I love, and, if I still have room, the things that are too valuable to replace but will realistically probably be used someday. The rest I can replace.

So the point is that I’m going to look into buying (or borrowing from the library) another copy of this book to keep my sparkly home sparkly. And if it doesn’t work for me after all, that’s okay, too. The other point is that identifying the issues I carry with me from my life with hoarders helps me to isolate it, and remind myself why I’m safe now. The other other point is that I need to go study the neural basis of visual perception now.

See? Sparkly:
Kitty.