Hoarders Helped Me Realize That Trauma Triggers Habits and Is A Sign of Deeper Unchecked Issues

Hoarders Helped Me Realize That Trauma Triggers Habits and Is A Sign of Deeper Unchecked Issues
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I have been watching Hoarders: Buried Alive for the last couple days and if I have learned nothing else I have learned that White people are nasty and freaking disgusting.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

I have been watching Hoarders buried alive for the last couple days and if I have learned nothing else I have learned that 6F people are nasty and freaking disgusting. Non-black persons love to talk about how disgusting the hood is but usually inside hood homes you will find an extra level of cleanliness to make up for the decay and disgust on the outside of the home in the neighborhood. 6F folks will live in nice upper class neighborhoods but the insides of their homes look like dumpster fields

Non-black persons love to talk about how disgusting the hood is but usually inside hood homes you will find an extra level of cleanliness to make up for the decay and disgust on the outside of the home in the neighborhood. White folks will live in nice upper class neighborhoods but the insides of their homes look like dumpster fields

And these aren’t White people who happen to be poor. These are people who have been afforded privilege that the average poor person does not have access to. These people were doctors, nurses, engineers with 401(k)s and pensions. They purchased their homes and just fill it with trash.

While I understand that hoarding is an addiction and is considered a compulsive disorder, I have never seen it as bad in a black household as I have on some of the episodes. Because black folks can’t afford to be poor and nasty.

This one woman had over $60,000 worth of junk in her house that she’s purchased from flea markets in thrift stores over the last three years. I wish I had $10,000 to splurge on junk. They aren’t even properly bathing and tending to their hygiene because they don’t even have access to clean water, sinks or tubs. And they live in $300,000 homes in the suburbs. Make it make sense, Krishna. All I know is that black people aren’t afforded the privilege of being called hoarders nor are they given the opportunity to have a whole community come through and clean out their home so that they can save it. We just get kicked out and called nasty.

To be fair, White people aren’t the only group of people who can be hoarders. But in my personal experiences most hoarders of color are not “nasty”. We just don’t put shit up.

I grew up in a family that had a tendency to hoard things only back then I didn’t “know” that it was called hoarding. For as long as I can remember my household has always been a halfway house for garage sale junk and flea market rehabs that usually ended up taking up space and residency in a far corner of the living room. My step-father used to take my brother and I around the city of Los Angeles looking for “good sales” and “rehab” projects. He was the type of man who believed that “classics” should be saved and rehab projects were the staple of any real home. He use to always say that “real men fix things”. It never made sense to me because most of the projects Dad started rarely saw a finish point. The house was cluttered with thrift store finds, broken yard sale steals and flea market items but it was still neatly laid out. The clutter wasn’t the problem. I was usually more embarrassed by the half finished re-modeled bathroom with a big bucket of green water sitting next to the toilet. But I digress.

My dad wasn’t the only one who had a clutter issue. When I moved to live with my grandmother back in ’99 I was amazed at how clean it was. My grandmother was a clean freak. So much so that she wouldn’t allow anyone in or near areas of the house not designated to them (bathroom/bedrooms). I lived in her house for 4 years and I couldn’t begin to describe to you what the kitchen and dining room area looks like. I don’t think I ate a single meal out of that kitchen. I don’t think I had a single home cooked meal all 4 years throughout high school. Needless to say, my grandmother wasn't a hoarder, at least she wasn't back then. She was actually quite a minimalist. She would have much rather preferred to limit her belongings to one duffle bag or suitcase full of her favorite items and slept in a tent. Later trauma would change that. Her boyfriend/common law husband Roscoe, who up until I acknowledged the trauma caused by him, was referred to as “Grandpa”.

Roscoe was my first encounter with a person with compulsive hoarding disorder. So much to the point that being in his room was uncomfortable even more than it was for other reasons. It was like night and day walking through the rest of the house and then entering his room. Roscoe, like most men, was a person who used his disability to mooch off those around him and suck them into caring after him and doing what he should have gotten up and done himself. Roscoe would spend days sitting in nothing more than a pair or short shorts (and no underwear) confined to one small corner of his bed because the rest of his bed was full of old newspapers, dirty plates and clothes, and whatever else his lazy ass was too lazy to get up and throw away. The junk would stay on his bed for weeks until it began to spill over onto the floor. Piles of trash and old paper would pile up on one side of the room until you literally had a wall of stacked junk.

As a condition for my “allowance” I had to come into his room once a week, usually ended up being once ever 2 weeks, and clean out his entire room while he sat on the other side of the room eyeballing me and rubbing himself (another article, another day). It was one of the most uncomfortable situations a 13 year old could be in. Having to go through piles of papers, stacks of old dishes and subject myself to being gawked at by an old perverted fat Black man who was suppose to be my caregiver for a measly little $40 to buy CD’s and go to McD’s after school. 

 


Roscoe wasn’t a hoarder by trauma. He was simply a nasty man who was too lazy to care or pick up after himself. But his type aren’t the rule, they are the exception.


Over the years I noticed several other members of my family who battle with hoarding including my mother (although she will never admit to it). I always believed that it was a hereditary thing so when I started to notice signs of the beginning stages of hoarding in myself I freaked out. Growing up in those kinds of environments made me determined that I was not going to “be like that” unfortunately it wasn’t until much later that I realized hoarding was a secondary effect of a much larger problem I was facing: Depression

Although I wasn’t buried alive I could have been. I have been on a hoarders binge for the past few days. I got all the way up to season three when I realize that I felt the show on a deeper level but I couldn’t figure out what the connection was. And then it hit me. I grew up in a family full of hoarders and I like those before me was on the verge of becoming a hoarder and my trigger was depression as a result of issues I deal with concerning anxiety, abandonment and borderline personality disorder. All of which I was officially diagnosed with at the age of 25. Like most, my depression was triggered by a series of traumatic events that took place over the course of my youth. Most of which were left unresolved and shoved in the back of the closet. Out of sight out of mind. It never occurred to me that although I thought I was doing a good job hiding my issues, my issues began to reveal themselves and manifest in form of habits and peculiar behavior.

My house is always clean and well put together. If you walk into my house you will see fresh, open rooms with absolute no clutter in sight. Everything has it’s place and I’ll raise hell if something is not returned to its proper place. My home shows no signs of belonging to a person who struggles with depression induced low level hoarding. That is until you get to my closet. When I was married my husband’s only complaint was how messy I kept my closet. He could always tell what kind of mood I was in or where I was during a “phase” by how chaotic the closet was. In the 8 years that lived under the same roof we never shared a closet. Partially because there was never any room, moreso because usually what went into the closet rarely made it back out. On occasion, I would crawl into the mess and just sit for a while crying until I had nothing left in me to cry about and when I emerged from the closet I felt lighter as if the mess that has amassed inside somehow absorbed all of the depression out of me for a moment allowing me to function as a “normal" person would. No one outside of my husband knew about my secret and for years it stayed that way. 

Like the people on the show, there were many times that my ex-husband attempted to declutter and clean up my mess. Once he told me that the new rule of the house was I had to throw out a handful of old items anytime I brought new stuff home. I mean it sounded good coming out of his mouth and I’m sure he thought it was going to be a solid plan, but that idea faded about as fast as he said it. When that didn’t work he opted to simply go in himself and deem himself responsible for keeping my closet organized which you can imagine was like having a second job because it never stayed organized for long. My philosophy was since he put so much effort into organizing my mess I didn’t want to “destroy it”. Instead, I just bought more stuff and threw that stuff on top of the organized stuff. 

Makes perfect sense to me.

I was sick. I was depressed. I was unhappy. I hated myself and at the core of it, I simply didn’t care because I didn’t want to be here anyway. Clean up for what? Straighten up for who? As far as I was concerned as long as I kept it contained to the closet it was no one’s business. What I was missing was that no secret stays a secret for long and eventually what started in the bedroom closet would soon begin to make its way throughout the rest of house until I would have laundry baskets full of clean clothes sitting around the house, unfolded and not put away. There were times and there have been times where the same basket of clothes would be sitting for weeks until I washed again, dumped the old clean clothes on the floor somewhere to make room for the new load of clean clothes to sit in there for weeks until I washed again.

And I still bought more.

Literally any one can be a hoarder and anything can be hoarded. Some people go a tad bit to the extreme with it (hence the reason we have shows like Hoarders) but hoarding is something that can creep up on anyone and can be triggered by any kind of traumatic event. It’s a coping mechanism for most and used as a way to “make up for” something lost. Much like this show, most begin hoarding in small quantities over time and don’t realize until years later when they can barely move in their own homes that they have a serious problem.

Yes, there are some people who are simply nasty and too lazy (like Roscoe) to perform tasks to ensure their living spaces are livable, however; the majority of people who suffer from true compulsive hoarding disorder are those who are suffering from a much deeper, unaddressed psychological and/or emotional issue that they are too afraid address. 

My only advice to those who may have someone close to them that displays early warning signs of compulsive hoarding is to be understanding of the fact that this disorder is not “them”. There is something beneath the surface that is slowing killing them and requires care and attention. Usually the only thing that will snap them out of it is experiencing another traumatic or triggering event like running the risk of losing their family, homes, jobs, etc. Mine came in the form of leaving my marriage. The reality of “starting over” shocked me right out of my depressive state because it forced me to wake up and be present. I had to be awake, aware and on my feet. 

To those who may be suffering in silence, seek help immediately. Hoarding doesn’t make you a horrible person. It simply means that something horrible has happened to you that you have not yet recovered from or had the chance to address. You owe it to yourself (first) to find identify the problem and work towards the process of healing so that you can move on and live your life to the fullest as it was intended to be. You are not your sickness. You are not your depression.

 

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