Hoarding Lies, Pt. Three

Hoarding is a mental illness marked by a lack of insight. That means that the person who suffers with it can't see clearly what is going on in their life and accumulating in their home. This leads me to another lie that binds the family of a hoarder, even years after leaving the home:

This mess just isn't that bad.
Borrowed from "Sew Paint Create"

Oh, I could get really mean and angry about this. This is one of the things that was almost a mantra with my mother before she accepted help two years ago. Her lack of insight into her problem was paired with habituation until three to five foot piles of "stuff" throughout the house seemed "normal".


It's quite easy for you and me to see this, even as children, and know that this is NOT normal, but this is much like the distortion experienced by those suffering with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or anorexia nervosa. What the brain believes is true is, in fact, not true. So why does this lie affect the family members of a hoarder so deeply?

When I was little, I believed everything my mother told me. I believed that there was a Santa, a Tooth Fairy, and an Easter Bunny. So when she made excuses or distorted the severity of the mess, I had little ability to know anything else. As a small child, it matters little that the truth and the lie you are told to believe aren't the same, but by my teenage years these lies were obvious. The continuation that things weren't "that" bad set a roadblock between me and my mother. I knew that things had gotten worse, not better, and that none of it was normal, healthy, or acceptable.

But as is the case with anyone who is avoiding truth, I was faced with the choice of embracing the lie as truth and dancing around the issue, or picking fights with my mom. Of course, I was an only child and found it easier to embrace the lie as truth, and hide reality from any outsiders who might perceive the situation the way it really was--horrible.

When I left home, I took with me the knowledge that the mess was bad. But that knowledge did little to help me in the big world I was entering. It had skewed even MY view of things. At first, there were frustrations about shoes left neatly stuffed in the corner by the couch. "Why do you leave your shoes there?" came the irritated questioning. In my head, this was so silly! Why did it matter if I left my shoes, a single pair, next to the couch? I knew where they were, and could easily find them when I needed them again. This was simply not an issue.

As my experience with the neater, orderly world grew, I adopted the desire for perfect organization. I desired uncluttered counters, neatly placed books, and pristine beds. When things were out of place, as they frequently were, I experienced anxiety. And again, my view of reality was distorted and marred by the lie from childhood: "This mess just isn't that bad."

Which was it?

I'm still working on a daily basis to know where I stand in the grand scheme of things. My anxiety is fading, and I'm allowing my children, who've never seen the hoard, to determine my level of needing to clean.

The lie will always be with me to some extent. But today, I'm calling it for what it is, and acknowledging that my own view isn't necessarily "truth". Being able to embrace and know that I may not know the "truth" makes all the difference. Sometimes the truth that sets us free is simply that we are not made to grasp truth. We are human, fallible, and short-sighted. We make mistakes, we make things more important than they are while we make others more important.

The truth that sets us free is that human truth is subjective. I know this, what about you?

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