A Weekend's Revelation

As I've been working through the path to recovery and healing, I've spent a good deal of time looking backwards to see and name what actually happened to me as a child, to feel the pain, shame, embarassment, and insignificance those events brought to me, to identify that what I've become was really the only path I had available as a child, and then to learn to love and nurture me with God's help in the ways my parents couldn't or didn't.

Part of doing this has been reading posts shared by other Children of Hoarders on the forum at yahoo!groups. Many of the experiences I've been reading about involve a lifetime of trying to get the hoarding parent to change. There have been threatened interventions. There have been surprise attack cleanouts.

And I realized that these were somewhat foreign to me.

I was deeply embarassed by what my childhood home was. I allowed very few people to come to my home. I was part of clean-ups due to threatened eviction and to sell the house so that the homeowner's association wouldn't be a part of our life anymore. But at the time, I didn't realize what these clean-ups were really about. I didn't realize the truth about why we were forced to do these clean-ups. The truth is relatively new still.

But I chose to walk away at age 18. Not because of the mess (I didn't really have an issue with it on that level ever--it was disgusting but it was what I knew). I left because I couldn't tolerate the emotional abuse and neglect. I could no longer parent my mother. I left because I was emotionally dead and knew that life, air, hope was far away from my mother.


This past weekend we went to the Grotto in Portland, OR. The garden is breathtaking, and although I'm not Catholic, the symbolism of the garden, the Stations of the Cross, the Sorrows of Mary and Joseph weren't lost on me. Neither was the peace and presence of God. As we explored the grounds, I hung back from the kids and DH meditating and pondering many things. It was there in the garden where I felt a voice speaking to me:

"It's different for you. You left because of the emotional issues and not the mess."
I had not returned to my mother's home in the last 15 years but twice, once to work in her yard (but only went into the home once for 2 minutes) and once to pick something up. I knew what it would look like. And although I knew from childhood that my house was different than most, and although I didn't want to have friends over (and wouldn't have been allowed to), I didn't have this gut-wrenching desire to change the house. It was her house and her mess. When I left, anything I really wanted I took with me. I drew a 3000 mile line between me, and her home and her mess.

When I returned last fall, the house was absolutely at its worst. It disgusted me. It embarassed me. It was a monument to my past--a bungalow filled with poopy diapers, mold, and mildew--symbolizing everything that was wrong with my childhood.

How I managed to keep a decent house all these years is beyond me. Clearly, I didn't learn organization at home. When I saw last fall an episode on "Hoarders" where the teenage daughter kept an immaculate room in the midst of a house filled with chaos, I wondered why I hadn't tried that?

Because it didn't really bother me that much, I guess. I had promised myself that I would not become my mother, but I was more concerned about becoming her broken emotional self than I was about recreating her mess in my own home. And thankfully, although I drove my ex-husband crazy when we first had our own place by leaving things haphazardly here and there, somewhere along the line, I got "it". Somehow I learned that some things were clearly trash and must go away. I learned that having a regular place to put something when not in use made sense, and although I still left my shoes wherever I kicked them off for years (Sorry, RMH), I had somehow learned organization and housekeeping. (It would take years for me to learn to cook more than "from the box", something I am still working to master!)

But I swore that my children would have a different life than I had. Not because of stuff, but because of unearned wrath and being yelled at, because of the anxiety of never knowing which mother I would encounter--screaming angry mother, or happy-go-lucky mom. Even now, a phone call from her gets my anxiety levels up from the fear of being yelled at.

Anyone who questions if hoarding is really a mental health issue should take the journey through my childhood. My mother was alternately loving (with back-handed comments) and verbally abusive. Occasionally, her rage became physical but that was quite rare. But her verbal attacks could damage far worse than the back-handed slap across the face. And I wasn't the only one who would bear the brunt of her rage.

The point is: I didn't leave home and never look back because of the hoarding, I left because of the emotional abuse, the stuff that "Hoarders" doesn't really show well. When I see episodes with small children in the family house still, I cringe knowing that whatever glimpse we see is lacking what they are really experiencing in the home. Don't remove the children just because the house is unclean or hazardous. Remove them because of the unhealthy emotional environment they are growing up in!

Before I ramble too much, I'll bring this to an end. The stuff is a physical, tangible symptom of a much more dangerous, destructive problem. I didn't walk away from my mom's home because it was messy. I left because she was emotionally slaughtering me. I'll share more on this later. (Right now, I have a date with a beautiful 13yo daughter who I'm trying to restore a healthy relationship with--turns out I became more like my mother than I wanted--but I know that it's not too late!)



Unknown said…
Not only are you NotBound but you are FREE. Love you :0)

Popular posts from this blog

My birthday...but a wish for you

Five Reasons Why I Didn't Take My Life

Did I Miss It?