The hoarders

I went to several hoarding houses. It was always a struggle to get to the front door. I had to touch iffy things so I wouldn’t fall as I squeezed through tight passages of old toys, garbage, and practically a timeline of their whole life. I often felt like I violated them in some way. They were showing me parts of themselves I would never want a stranger to see.

What always struck me was the smell even with my mask on of rot and decay. The yard a graveyard of old cars filled with you guessed it, more junk. One place had chicken bones in front of the door the second time I visited. It creeped me out like they were doing some sort of voodoo hex to get rid of me.

As I was leaving one of the houses a woman came home. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed like I got caught snooping inside of her house. She told me she was remodeling her kitchen. Uh huh, yeah right.

The worst of the hoarding was located underneath a huge tree which had a bug infestation of some sort. The bugs crawled on me some odd mix of a gnat and flea. The woman said the DNR had been out because of the bugs and it was caused by something other than her remodeling.

I felt dirty there. The bugs made me feel creepy and crawly. I wanted to wash my clothes and jump in the shower but again I had more stops to make. Why would anyone want to live that way?

The hoarding caused great sadness in me. My parents are what I consider to be hoarders. They mainly collect paper item clutter such as long paid bills and receipts that they keep in stacks on the floors, counters, tables, and couches. They kept phone books from the 70’s from a different city.

My mom is a big collector of food. Although there are two people living in her house she shops for 10. She has multiple refrigerators and freezers full of rotting food. It causes my mother great emotional distress to get rid of things. It causes us distress that she keeps things.

At times I have to fight off an OCD tendency for cleanliness. For example, last week I washed my windows. While I saw all the imperfections, smudges, and dirt I left behind multiple birds kept flying into the windows. Maybe I have been filled so much with dirt that nothing will ever be clean enough for me. Maybe my perception is off too. Sometimes I have to tell myself that my best is good enough and I have to let the rest go.

My mom is embarrassed to have people over. People feel uncomfortable in a hoarding house especially if they are not used to it. My brother’s sister-in-law stayed there once and said it was so disgusting she was never going back.

My dad rarely showers. You have to be careful where you sit. You have to be careful what to eat. It’s best just not to go there. I mourn that. I want it to be warm, happy, and cozy like Christmas morning but we never celebrate there.

I remember what it was like living there. When the old power lines were taken down in our neighborhood, we went with our mom to collect probably a hundred of the insulators. We had to collect items like the tabs off of soda cans. We never got rid of broken items or outdated technology. My mom still has clothes in her closet from the 1980’s. I could keep going…

They never said no to anything. At one time my parents even accepted a huge unusable old rusty satellite dish. There are rooms in their house that are unusable too. Thankfully they were not much for outdoor displays of hoarding. If a shed is full, it’s time to build another shed.

It’s really hard to understand how hoarding can be satisfying especially for items viewed as junk. Hoarding suffocates me in feelings of despair. Going home is not pleasant. I wish it was. I could write for hours what it feels like to be a clean freak daughter of hoarders…

But as a census worker this was an uncomfortable situation I was already prepared for.

Gratitude week 41

  1. I updated my address and am ready to vote. I also helped my son register as a first time voter.
  2. We met with a new doctor for Arabella and we really like him. I think he is going to be able to help her.
  3. I have been struggling with my daughter’s depression and decided to take a drive by myself to clear my head. I headed up north and discovered unexpectedly that my dad was up there alone as well. I said some things I needed to say to him. He did say he was sorry for hurting me and also said he loved me. I think God guided me there and it is crucial for my healing process. I have been fluctuating between rage and forgiveness far too long to be healthy.
  4. I am done working for the census now. It’s been an expected yet not easy adjustment. I’m grateful to have extra time to get some of the back burner tasks done like washing windows and changing light bulbs.
  5. Yesterday I got out my winter clothes. I got rid of a bunch of clothes I don’t wear anymore. It felt good to get rid of things I don’t need and to get ready for winter.
  6. I’m grateful that although I live in a COVID hotbed, so far all of my family and close friends have been safe.
  7. I’m grateful our president recovered from COVID. There is so much chaos and craziness in our country right now that I couldn’t even imagine more…
  8. I’m grateful to finally be able to talk to my best friend. For some reason she didn’t receive ANY of the texts I sent to her this month. I was really starting to worry.
  9. It is absolutely gorgeous outside right now with the fall colors. I really need to try to enjoy each season because I think I am going to be stuck here for quite a while. I think I’m going to have to challenge myself with gratitude in this area especially when things get dreary, cold, and dark.
  10. Arabella’s senior pictures turned out really cute.

The missing piece to missing peace

I met with my therapist this past week. At the end of our session she asked me what I needed. I told her that I wanted more enlightenment on my path towards healing and growth.

Be careful what you wish for.

The next day I had the first appointment with my daughter Arabella to see a psychiatrist. She has been struggling with depression and anxiety the past couple months.

Honestly, I didn’t really understand why she was struggling. We tried to give her a wonderfully normal childhood, something my husband and I never had.

The doctor started with me asking about my family history regarding mental health issues. I probably rattled off a dozen close relatives that struggled with anxiety and/or depression myself included. After awhile the doctor cut me off and didn’t even bother asking for my husband’s family history of mental health issues.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression since I can remember. I always thought my struggles were caused from the childhood trauma I endured. I always had this fantasy that once I made peace with my past and healed from the trauma I experienced then I would finally be free from the chains of anxiety and depression. Poof! Gone! I would finally be the carefree person I always wanted to be and not the person I am and always was.

I also have the fantasy that if I had enough faith in God I would be free from this. But I kept giving it over yet God refused to take it away. I felt guilty because every time I tried to cast it off it came back. There was some shortcoming in me. I failed to have enough faith. But maybe some things cannot be changed. Maybe I just have blue eyes. Maybe I should not expect God to change them to brown.

I’ve seen all my children struggle with anxiety. We did everything we could possibly do to give them a normal life. I’ve watched my mom suffer from debilitating anxiety, panic, and insomnia. I’ve brushed it off saying she always had so much to worry about. I’ve watching some of her siblings struggle with anxiety. Anxiety almost seemed normal.

I’ve watched my dad struggle with depression. At times I have wondered if he was going to end his life. I saw his father and his father’s siblings struggle with anxiety and/or depression. His aunt on his mother’s side. I watched my own siblings struggle. This all seemed normal too.

Over time I learned how to outrun my demons. Being an extreme runner burned off the anxiety. Always keeping busy or immersing myself in work keeps my demons at bay. But that means I can never relax or they come back. Writing soothes my soul. But it never goes away.

Trauma and difficult live circumstances makes the anxiety and depression worse. But guess what? Even if I don’t have anything to worry about I create scenarios in my mind. I have to constantly fight this battle within myself.

This week I received a new piece of enlightenment. Even if I never experienced childhood trauma, I still might have struggled with anxiety and depression. In fact, if I didn’t experience trauma then maybe I would feel worse about myself because there wouldn’t be a logical reason for it.

We live in a world that constantly makes us try to feel worse about feeling sad. You shouldn’t feel depressed because you are rich, good looking, smart, popular, etc…… I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. Her life is perfect. What does she have to feel sad about?

What if it is simply and purely genetic like my blue eyes? What if it was a pattern of behavior passed down from my ancestors centuries ago? A genetic propensity paired with modeled behavior is hard to break. I could wear colored contacts but that wouldn’t really change the color of my eyes.

Even if I tried to give my kids a wonderful life, I still might have passed this on to them. I also have come to the realization that although I can manage it I will never be free from it. That’s the kicker. I thought if I healed I would be a different person. But the truth is, I am still going to be me.

Maybe growth and healing isn’t about changing into a different person. Maybe it is the freedom to accept myself and others the way they are. Maybe that is the missing piece to missing peace.

Gratitude week 31

  1. I’m back after a short break! I’m grateful I didn’t fall off the side of the planet too. But isn’t the Earth round? Who knows anymore…
  2. Summer! I can’t get enough of it. Seriously, why do I still live in the frozen tundra??!?
  3. I’m grateful to have a wonderful spouse to enjoy 23 years of marriage with.
  4. I just started the census job yesterday. It feels good to be out working again. I’m trying to put in 40 hours a week. I’m hoping I can still find some extra time in the day to blog.
  5. I am grateful most of the people I’ve talked to have been nice for the census job. I have a new appreciation of people who go door to door unannounced, even more so now during the pandemic.
  6. I’m grateful that my husband and I were able to get away for a couple days of sailing for our anniversary.
  7. I’m grateful that my loved one ended up being released from the psych ward the end of last week. This person has some previously undiagnosed medical issues that may have been contributing to the depression they were experiencing. Not to mention this whole time period in general has been stressful. I am hopeful they are starting on their healing journey.
  8. It’s my moms birthday this week. I’m hoping I can talk her into a visit and maybe sailing.
  9. My daughter is visiting this weekend so I am looking forward to seeing her and can’t wait until she moves back home.
  10. It’s been over a year and a half since I worked so I am grateful to be contributing to the family income. Plus I have been feeling nervous/anxious/excited about working again even temporarily. A little excitement at my age never hurt anyone.

The ultimatum, part 9

I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to his birthday. He did it, Paul went without drinking for almost 2 months. He said it was a piece of cake.

He said he would try to quit drinking until his birthday.

But then it was his birthday. I was worried. Now what would happen?

That night we had a few friends over. They had pizza and he drank a bottle of wine. I felt a sense of loss. I didn’t belong. I felt like an outsider. I had been dairy free for over a month by that time. As they ate pizza and laughed, I brooded in the corner.

I felt triggered by Paul drinking again. I felt angry and hurt like I did on the night of our anniversary when he drank too much. Paul was in a jovial mood. He drank another bottle of wine out by the campfire while I sat inside.

He wanted me to sing while he played guitar. When he pushed close, I pulled away. He was gone and I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore.

What was going to happen going forward?

Slowly and steadily he started drinking more but nowhere as close to as much as before.

We got hit pretty hard in the next couple months with bad news about my dad. It will be a long time before I am ready to talk about that. I can tell you this, my dad struggles with addiction. My mom ignored it. She buried her head in the sand. I have to wonder maybe things would’ve turned out differently if she gave him an ultimatum.

I think I did the right thing. I never wanted Paul to stop drinking. I just wanted him to be in control of it instead of it controlling him.

I found myself triggered by so many things, not just Paul drinking. What happened with my dad threw me into a deep depression. I wish I could say that trauma only happens from your parents in childhood. Sometimes it tends to be a lifelong roller coaster ride.

Paul thought he was going to lose me this time. He was so stressed out that he started to drink more which stressed me out more.

Because of the ultimatum, he knew it was a problem he needed to address. In January, he stopped drinking for a few weeks in a time of prayer and self-reflection. Then he came up with a new plan.

The ultimatum, part 7

Paul said he was willing to try to stop drinking until his birthday almost two months later. He wanted to see if he could even do it. It was a step in the right direction.

What did that mean though? Could I still have a few drinks with my friends around him? I was willing to give it up too. His close friends asked if he wanted them to stop drinking around him. Some friends just stopped drinking with him when he stopped. I think everyone was a bit uncomfortable doing this new dance at first.

Paul said he didn’t want everyone to change the way they lived their lives. But they did. I really didn’t realize how much we influence other people with how we live our lives. When he quit drinking quite a few of his friends cut back too.

It changed the dynamics of our relationship big time. I was angry and we argued a lot at first. But after the initial anger wore off, I noticed another change.

His drinking gave me a lot of power and control. I didn’t realize it until it was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him to stop or at the very least cut back. I nagged and nagged him to stop which didn’t work. It only made things worse.

Every time Paul and I got in an argument I would never look at my own negative behavior. I would throw back in his face that I would talk to him about my issues when he stopped drinking. I held the trump card of remember when you screwed up _____ with your drinking. It gave me a get out of jail free card that I used in almost every argument that wasn’t in my favor.

Now I could no longer avoid talking about some of my issues. Not only that but without drinking he now had the upper hand. He was working through his issues. That meant I had to work through some of mine too. I started seeing a therapist to work through my anxiety and depression.

In some ways I envied Paul. I wanted to leave my issues on a shelf, to not drink of that bottle and then they would be gone. But I’ve learned so much since then. Battling addiction is more than just leaving the bottle on the shelf. It’s the longing to reach for it like the embrace of an old friend in sadness and celebration.

I had to face the fact that my anxiety and depression also scared him. He’s had to reach into the darkness to pull me out many times. I can’t seem to escape the trauma I’ve experienced. At times it still threatens to drown me.

We both had to work on our issues. We were both broken people in need of a fix. It wasn’t just about him and his drinking. It was how we learned to cope with our trauma at our very core. It was exploring every crack and crevice that was tearing down our foundation.

We spent those two months rebuilding our relationship. We got along better than ever before. Then after that things went a little haywire.

Trips to the dump

I thought of my grandpa the other day as a baby bee brushed against my fingers.

Things fell apart the summer I turned 13. My grandpa fell trying to get out of bed in the morning and spent the summer in the hospital trying to walk again. It was the year after my brother Matt spent the summer in the hospital. My grandpa wasn’t the same after that. He was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. Before he came home a wheelchair ramp was added and the bathroom was remodeled to accommodate a wheelchair. He never walked again.

Maybe that was the year things got harder for me. My grandma was one of Matt’s biggest caregivers and now she needed to take care of my grandpa. That put a lot of pressure on me and I stopped my social life before it really even started to help take care of my brother.

But before grandpa got sick, we had some good times together. He used to take me fishing. I must have talked his ear off because he told me I was scaring the fish away with my incessant chatter. Many years later I found out this wasn’t true.

We also had our occasional Saturday morning trips to the dump. Grandpa would back his truck into our driveway to pick up our garbage which wasn’t a lot since we had a burning barrel and a compost pile. My parents are hoarders, so only true garbage was thrown away like used cat litter. Although sometimes that was used in the winter on the ice. Everything had a use or purpose even when it didn’t. Some rooms of the house and even the garage were dedicated junk piles. It was one of the zillion reasons I didn’t have friends over often. Apparently most people seem to find hoarding off-putting.

But anyway, the trips to the dump with my grandpa were wonderful. He was friends with the dump man who was also a hoarder. I swear the guy would go through everyone’s garbage to find treasures to take home. There were bags of garbage everywhere, some were burning in a big pit.

The dump was sandy and smoky. It wasn’t a good place to be on a windy day. But when there wasn’t wind, there were bees. The dump man said I didn’t need to be afraid of the bees. He told me to put out my finger and the little bees would land on it. I did and they tickled my finger. Since then I’ve never been afraid of bees or wasps and they have never hurt me. Of all the things I am afraid of, I’m not generally afraid of animals. My dad was afraid of spiders so he never used them to terrify me. Win, win I guess.

My grandpa and I made several trips to the dump because we were looking for the perfect bike. The dump man started setting aside the bikes for us that others threw away. Then one day we found the perfect piece of junk. Grandpa lovingly painted it purple, my favorite color. He put on a new chain, new tires, and a new sparkly purple banana seat.

One day I outgrew the little one speed bike. My last birthday before grandpa got sick, he took me to the store to buy a bike kit so he could put a ten speed together for me. It meant a lot because he bought it new and also because he took me to the store to buy it. That was the first and last time I remember my grandpa going inside a public place. He refused to leave the house after he was wheelchair bound. We had to fight with him to go to the doctor when he needed to go. He didn’t even go to my wedding. He would even panic if grandma was gone for more than an hour or two.

So when I saw the little bee buzz by the other day, I put out my finger to say hello. It instantly took me back to the trips to the dump. How crazy to have the trips to the dump be one of my fondest childhood memories. I am thankful for that though. My younger brothers barely remember the good times with grandpa before he was in a wheelchair.

 

 

In health

Yesterday I had my first Craniosacral therapy appointment after the start of the pandemic followed by an appointment with my therapist. Afterwards, I felt great. I finally feel like I am making some headway with my healing process.

Fixing myself has been hard because I’ve been broken so long I got used to the cracks. It’s been an adjustment. It’s created some problems I’ve never guessed it would. Now that I am healing I’m starting to notice the brokenness around me more. For example, I find myself more critical of my husband because I feel like I am in a healthier place than he is. Before he was always the healthier one.

Since I started seeing the therapist a year and a half ago, I’ve gone through several crises. My therapist wants me to focus on letting go of the original trauma that I hold locked inside my body and mind. She thinks that once I do this all of the other stressors will flow through. I liken it to Tetris. If you clear out the bottom rows before everything starts piling up, it will be easier for everything else to flow through.

My therapist told me that with three teenagers in my house life realistically won’t be stress free anytime soon. What she says is true. Teenagers are stressful even when they aren’t trying to be. For example, our foreign exchange student Estelle wants to join in the protesting. I told her that she couldn’t because I couldn’t guarantee that it would be peaceful. I am in charge of someone else’s child and I want to feel reasonably sure that the activities she is involved in are safe.

Then Estelle said she wanted to run a mile every hour for 24 hours to raise money instead of protesting. Her idea was that she was going to run alone on country roads by herself day and night. She was rather upset when I said no to that idea too. Then she asked if she could run laps around the house at night and I told her it would be perfectly fine.

I think Estelle will be frightened running around the house at night. I took my brother Matt for a walk today and we saw 4 deer. We saw the cutest baby fawn. My autistic brother Matt is staying with us for a couple days. My mom is going up north to visit with her sisters for a couple days. I’m proud of her for not living her life in fear.

This means that I will be helping Matt with daily living. I will be fixing his meals separate from ours since he is on a special diet. I will have to help him shower, clean up himself after going to the bathroom, floss his teeth, and give him his medication. He is quite used to getting his way so I want to see how he will handle being with my family for several days. Someday when my parents are gone I will probably take him in once a month to stay with me if this works out.

If it doesn’t work out, I will take him back home to stay with my dad. I will just run over every day to check on him. My husband thinks it’s funny that my mom trusts me more than my dad to take care of my brother. But he doesn’t understand that is always the way it was even when I was a child myself. I hope this experience is not triggering. But I am mother henning right now which isn’t entirely unsatisfying since it is the last thing my teenagers want.

I am in a good place right now and hopefully I can remain here for awhile.

What is love?

By the end of last year, my life started to crumble apart. I was dealing with some serious issues with my dad. I reached out to God. Please God, if you are there, show me that you love me. Trust hasn’t always been my strong suit. But what I was asking for didn’t seem like much.

In February, someone I am very close to attempted suicide. Do you know the pain of feeling that one morning you might wake up and your loved one is no longer there? It’s pure hell. I stopped sleeping and battled insomnia for over a month with nightmares. Maybe if I was always vigilant, maybe if I didn’t sleep, than nothing bad would happen come morning.

In March, someone I knew decided to quit battling kidney disease. He died and we weren’t allowed to go to his funeral because this new virus was sweeping the nation. Later that month, we were planning on driving down to Florida to show our 2 foreign exchange students our country. The week we were leaving Disney World closed and we had to cancel our trip.

It was not the only trip that was cancelled. My mom, daughter Arabella, and I were planning on going on a school related music trip to Europe this summer. The company cancelled the trip and kept $1900 per person to line their pockets. The money they kept for all three of us was like one person went on the trip that didn’t.

We decided that our daughter Arabella could no longer be a foreign exchange student next year not only from coronavirus. When we sold our company, we took some of the profit as private equity stock in their business. We were supposed to get enough money to live on for the next couple of years the first quarter of 2020. We were going to use this to jump start a new business. It never happened and now we don’t know if and when it will happen.

Our financial security is gone. With the virus and the economy, it is a struggle to start a new business.

The schools shut down. Prom was cancelled. The track season that just started was cancelled. The musical postponed. My college daughter’s recital and later graduation was cancelled. The gym closed. I struggled to get a good workout because winter held on to the middle of May.

In April, one of our foreign exchange students decided to go home. It was during that time that I started taking an antibiotic prescribed by the wellness clinic which says a lot since they mainly treat with herbs and supplements. Ten days after the last dose, my body crashed. I was sick running to the bathroom 20 to 30 times a day, day and night for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. I pleaded with God to let me die. After being poked and prodded by several doctors and a colonoscopy later, I was diagnosed with colitis and sent on my way.

After the flare up, I was left with a hollow shell of a body. I am weak. I had to give up running. I am still sick. I can’t eat. I watch as my family members eat my favorite foods. In the last week alone I lost almost 10 pounds.

Meanwhile my daughter Arabella is packing back on all of the weight she worked so hard to lose. She went from an honor student pre-coronavirus to barely passing. I’m not sure she is going to pass all of her classes. I can’t blame her for feeling depressed since everything she was looking forward to is now gone.

Then I heard the news that the family business my great-grandparents built over 100 years ago burned to the ground. Although no longer owned by my family, a lot of my good childhood memories are tied to the building and my family that worked in it who are also gone. It was painful to see something they lovingly built destroyed.

There are things that happened this past year that I can’t even talk about yet. Somethings I will probably never share. It’s not even June yet. I’m not even sure if there is a God anymore. But if there is, right now I feel pretty certain that he doesn’t give two hoots about me. Or is God just taking the things I have away to show me what I already have been given?

What is love? Is it giving or taking away? Or is a mixture of both necessary for growth like sunshine and rain?

Okay, okay enough complaining for today. Tomorrow gratitude…

In sickness and in health

I wonder if wedding vows still espouse the traditional in sickness and in health. It’s been awhile since I went to a wedding, my own being almost 23 years ago. When I think of someone getting married, I think about young and healthy couples who probably don’t think that their love could battle health issues that might mess up their future dreams.

And the two shall become one. But what happens if one is sick? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately since I haven’t been well.

Currently I am drinking 15 liquid elixir shots and popping 21 pills a day of supplements. I’m getting sick of it. I still don’t feel well. I am now trying to eat two small meals a day. My stomach hurts if I get too hungry and it pretty much always hurts after I eat. It’s a delicate dance.

Over the weekend I ate only bone broth. It is disgusting. I watched as my family ate pizza, hamburgers, birthday cake, chips with nacho cheese, and ice cream. It was hard to watch especially since my bone broth didn’t make me feel much better. I got very weak. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the kitchen up after they feasted which is a chore that mainly I do. Thankfully I didn’t have to.

Sometimes they feel bad for me. I get barraged everyday by well meaning loved ones with an are you feeling better yet. Sometimes they feel guilty for eating my favorite foods which I cannot have in front of me. Sometimes they care more about themselves.

Yesterday my husband went for a run and was apologetic to me. I didn’t enjoy running, I’m only doing it for my health. I feel horrible they are apologizing to me for doing the things they normally do. It makes me feel bad. But their normal behaviors are tormenting me because I can’t do it anymore. I think it is wrong for me to be upset about that. But it does upset me.

Oh, and another thing since I’m being totally honest here. It is hard to live with three teenagers in the house. The other day my daughter Arabella was eating cookie dough for breakfast at noon. My husband confronted her telling her she needed to eat something healthy. It was the right thing for him to do. Since then she has been angry at us and is once again slipping behind on her homework. I can foresee a lot of problems and confrontation with her in the near future.

Stress tends to make me feel worse. I have zero tolerance for stress right now which sucks because I see no end to that in sight.

Other than not feeling healthy, my mental health has been a struggle too. I used to cope with anxiety by running and keeping busy. Now I sit around and worry. I’m depressed because I don’t feel like I am accomplishing much. My husband gets irritated sometimes that he has to pull more of the weight since I’ve been sick. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It’s not like I’m trying to deliberately get out of doing my fair share. I’ve never been much of a slacker. No one in this house understands what it feels like.

I’ve been depressed because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. Now I think I understand why in sickness and in health are a part of the wedding vows. Will I still be loved if I am no longer the person I used to be?

For better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…If you stay with someone long enough, you pretty much see it all.