I attended the most fascinating workshop this week. This FREE event, a workshop entitled “Too Much Stuff” was sponsored by our county task force on hoarding. Throughout the day we were encouraged to tweet #pdxstuff to call awareness to hoarding disorder.
I wanted to attend this all day seminar after recently having direct experience in my work with a hoarding resident who was at risk of eviction. My goal for attending was to leave with a better understanding of brain functioning in people living with hoarding behaviors.
I certainly walked away with what I intended and so much more. I had some surprising personal insights that shed light on behaviors I witnessed with my ex, “M”. I was reminded of our last conversation before she told me to leave. It really wasn’t a conversation; more like “M’s” inner monologue leaking outward because I made a feeling statement about something that was bothering me. In the usual off topic ranting, what I heard from the babble was “M” didn’t like seeing my things around the house. I remember being hurt and confused. Simply put, I lived in the house. That’s why my things were there. Additionally, as in countless times of the past I attempted a real conversation about something that was bothering me and in the usual way, I was left bewildered by the behaviors of “M” with no real resolve to the original concern. I understand now why I let so much fall to the wayside, but what I didn’t understand until I sat in that workshop was how much the fear of hoarding played a role in “M”‘s behavior throughout our relationship and was ultimately the catalyst for the demand that I move out.
By “M”‘s own admission, her family of origin has hoarding behaviors. So much so that it led to decisions “M” would make in her own life. It was the subject of many conversations. I heard story upon story of hoarding tendencies that thread through the family lines. Me, person of stuff–not even close to the true definition of hoarding, had sufficient belongings that “M” was well aware of when I moved in. We had a room we called “the office”. Essentially, it was an unused space with furnishings and a bunch of, well…clutter; “M”‘s things. That clutter was different from mine though because it was hers (the illusion of having control)! Really, it was “M”‘s ironing room and a place to dump paperwork. I moved in with craft supplies, taking over said “office”. Multiple times I listened to “M”‘s complaints of the “cluttered” office. Multiple times I asked to help me create space for my things so it didn’t look that way. That never happened.
From the general obsessive behavior and the need for perfection to the constant concerns that the house had too much stuff (it didn’t), I learned in this workshop that “M” displayed nearly every characteristic of a person with hoarding tendencies. However, what I determined was that the deep seeded fear of hoarding is what kept “M” from the actual act of it, almost! Lest I mentioned the shed full of rocks in boxes that weren’t mine! It was truly a mind blowing day for me. I found myself saying “wow” under my breath on numerous occasions as I had “ah-ha” moments. Do you ever have those? Suddenly something makes sense, it “clicks” and things all come together in your mind like a wave of instant awareness. I have had so many of those surrounding my past relationship.
Although the demand for me to move out was on the heals of an issue “M” saw as borderline hoarding on my part, that demand truly had nothing to do with my belongings and had everything to do with the boundaries I set for myself in how I allowed her family members, specifically her adult daughter to treat me. That is where the truth lies.
I moved, getting rid of nearly all those belongings “M” complained about. I let them go with relative ease by the way, because I do not have a hoarding issue. I now have a lot more knowledge of this widespread issue and I had some amazing insights that helped remind me I was not the problem in that relationship, as “M” would have wanted me and likely everyone else to believe. That workshop was another reminder that “M” really did (likely still does) have some serious mental health concerns that were not being addressed.
Since I blog mostly about food, let me not forget: we were on our own for lunch and because it is safest for me to eat my own food, I brought an amazing salad that was simple yet hearty and filling.
The workshop was walking distance from the house I shared with “M”, who no longer lives there either. I was compelled to go by because I was in the neighborhood and hadn’t been by that place since I left. I was curious. It looks the same. I had no twinge of missing it or the neighborhood as I wandered by. In fact, I found myself being grateful for right where I am and so glad that part of my life is in the past. All this from one workshop! My love of learning, professionally and personally will never end.