Faye is a very proud mother of three grown children. It is a testament to their strong relationship that they all live together in her eldest son’s home which she described as nice and peaceful. Faye has a background in psychiatric nursing. She taught and wrote behaviour programs to children in school. Unfortunately, she was medically retired after a serious car accident resulted in a spinal injury. Faye has two dogs that she adores. She takes great comfort in their unconditional love – after all, dog is God spelt backwards! Faye likes to play on-line games and is an antique doll collector. She used to do cross-stitch, but after a flood destroyed her supplies, she now does it digitally – a great way to explore her creativity without further acquiring. Here is her story of lived experience.
I grew up with chaos inside me. My life has been marked by trauma, including sexual abuse and health issues. I had a complicated and challenging upbringing.
I think my hoarding behaviours started when I was quite young. When I was going to university, I had piles of clothing that I called soft sculptures, but it wasn’t an issue. Perhaps having roommates curbed my acquiring habits. Things really started to change after a flood in my house and everything in the basement was lost, including things that I cherished from my maternal grandparents. After that I started to hold on to things a bit more. When I suffered a heart attack and a stroke, me and my children moved in with my parents while I recovered. I put what I had in storage, and I remember by Dad saying I should just toss everything. He saw my belongings as junk.
Me and my children then moved into subsidized housing and although I accumulated things, I had storage, so I didn’t realize that I had a problem. One day I was talking with a neighbor who attended the hoarding support group and she suggested I might want to join her. That started my journey of self-awareness of my hoarding issues. I need the group. It’s vital. Although there are degrees of hoarding in which people feel they can function, I feel that it is a space where people understand. I particularly like in-person meetings as you can learn so much more when you see people’s body language. Often it is just a nugget of information that I pick up, but it leads me to reflection and understanding.
I have a full house. I’m tired and it piles up. I purchase the same item multiple times because I either can’t find it, or I don’t remember having it in the first place. Impulse is bad for me. There is a constant tug of war in my brain. It’s a fragile dance that I do. I think I’m strong enough and then I find out I’m not. It is very much one day at a time. Hoarding to me feels like an addiction. It’s a high to get something but then there is the buyer’s remorse which opens the door to beat myself up – the negative thoughts flood in.
This is a mental health issue that could happen to anyone. It has no boundaries. If it does hit, it is good to have compassionate people on your side. I judge myself harder than any other person could. Nothing anyone can say I haven’t said to myself; being belittled or chastised by others doesn’t help. It takes a lot of trust to let someone in my world.
I don’t want my kids to deal with this after I’m dead. My hope for the future is that I can get it down to a reasonable number of bins so at least it will be organized into manageable categories. I will tackle this in small steps, otherwise it’s too overwhelming. Hoarding disorder is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’m realistic. I can’t predict the future, but I am working on this one bin at a time.