Hoarders and clean freaks

This past weekend my mom came over to help me weed. I didn’t ask for help, she just saw the need.

It got me to thinking about something that I couldn’t place which was bothering me. There was an in-congruence in my thought patterns. My mom is one of the hardest workers I know. Yet she has one of the messiest houses I’ve ever seen. How conflicting the thought was in my mind. I always thought that hoarders were lazy. But are they?

My parents are the biggest hoarders of magazines and papers. They still have a phone book from the 1970’s from a different city that they lived in out of state. They have stacks and stacks of papers that litter the living room floor and all available counter spaces.

My parents kept almost all of their clothing since they got married. Their closets are full of old clothes and jackets. It comes in handy for me when I am going to a costume party.

My mom hoards food. Her cupboards are stocked full of canned goods. All of her refrigerators and freezers (they have several) are full. The refrigerators always smell like rotten food. It is very important to check the dates on items before you eat them. The freshest foods are in the grocery bags that line the dining room floor.

Thankfully for me, my mom kept every school and personal journal documenting Matt’s life in great detail. It has been very helpful for me in writing my book. I don’t think that I could be writing as powerful and moving of a story without her help.

Their hoarding always suffocated me. It was hard to clean the house. The counters were so full of stuff that there was no place to move anything in order to clean it. Then you just put the items back on the cleaned areas. I always felt like I was emptying the ocean a tablespoon at a time. It stirred within me feelings of hopelessness.

My brothers and I are not hoarders. It bothers me when things are cluttered. It fills me with despair. The strange thing is that my parents feel the opposite way. It causes my mother emotional pain to get rid of things. My mom threw out my brother’s baby blanket when he was in his 30’s. She cried and lamented about it for days even though my brother didn’t want it. She tries to get rid of things but it is very upsetting to her.

Sometimes my mom will clean out the cupboards and closets. Instead of throwing things away, she gives them to me. Recently she gave me a bag of my dad’s old worn out socks. It is a little easier for her to give things away then to throw them away even though she must know that is what I will be doing with it.

It is hard for me to understand how my mom’s feeling are tied up in useless things.

It must be very hard for my mom to see her house in the shape that it’s in. She is embarrassed to have anyone over. I wish I could understand. Yet I am glad I do not.

I feel guilty for my mom’s help around my house when she needs it more than I do. It’s overwhelming to try to help her. I would just come in and start throwing things away and she couldn’t handle that. I know, I’ve tried. I feel like my hands are tied. But I know that my brothers and I are going to end up throwing most of the stuff away or getting rid of it someday.

I need to be careful in my own life so I don’t end up on the opposite spectrum. I have a tendency to be a clean freak. Dirt and clutter stresses me out. I want everything to be clean, neat, and organized. But I try not to let it control me.

I also have relatives that are clean freaks. We once went camping with my Aunt Jan. It stormed out and we ended up huddling in my aunt’s garage freezing because we were too dirty to be allowed into her house. I also have an uncle that would host parties and follow his guests around with a vacuum cleaner. I’ve also witnessed him on his hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor while guests were over.

I don’t think people at either extreme seem happy. I tolerate uncleanliness when guests are over. But it’s also kind of funny that I picked this topic to write about as I am freaking out about cleaning my house and weeding everything this week to have a perfect house for my son’s graduation party.

But since I grew up in a house of clutter and hoarding, I realize if people really care about me then they are willing to overlook some slight imperfections.

My psych eval (25 years later) part 4

Her OCD predisposes her to ruminate and obsess about anything.

I really had a hard time coping with the things that were happening in my life. At the time of the great isolation (the years my brothers and I were homeschooled due to Matt’s violent behavior at school), I reached to God for solace. I believe this faith and hope  prevented me from ending my life. I prayed that God would heal my brother and fix my family.

I was unusually devout as a teen. But then something horrible happened. After awhile every time I prayed, horrible images would pop into my mind. My prayers contained more obscenities than my brother Matt’s spew of Tourette’s. I felt horrible guilt over this and for awhile stopped praying altogether.

Then I became angry at God. Why did you do this to my brother? Why did you do this to my family? Why did you do this to my mother, the most devout person I knew?? How could you give us so much more than we could handle? Are you even there to hear my prayers? I was miserable and the flicker of hope grew very dim.

It took awhile to get through this rough patch. I decided to start praying again despite the unwanted thoughts and images that popped into my mind while doing so. Eventually it went away. Although I think I always had some degree of faith, I can’t say that I have a lot of trust in God or anyone. I realize that one of my biggest flaws is being distrustful.

I am probably a horrible example of what it means to be Christian. But maybe this happens to everyone sometimes? Kind of like the impulse to punch someone for no apparent reason? I thought I was the only one that felt this way. I thought I was crazy to have those thoughts. I tended to ruminate about it instead of just letting it go.

Now I think that it’s crazy if you act on the thoughts instead of just having them. A lot of times Matt acted on those thoughts. I was afraid that someday maybe I would be like Matt too and not be able to control those impulses. But so far that hasn’t happened in my life.

I think that God did hear my prayers for a healthy family. He just didn’t answer them until later in my life.

 

My psych eval (25 years later) part 1

Alissa was referred for psychological evaluation at this time by her therapist…Alissa has a long history of outpatient treatment including an inpatient hospitalization at the end of December of 1992. Alissa has utilized a variety of medications including: Prozac, Pamelor, Anafranil, and is currently taking Wellbutrin. Alissa was referred for this evaluation due to concerns about her OCD and possible ADD.

The family system includes an autistic brother who has proved challenging for all family members. For a time period Alissa functioned as the caretaker for the brother…Alissa has had a difficult relationship with her father. The father reportedly has several indicators of a possible psychiatric disorder. Alissa’s mother will spend many hours a week working.

Alissa has had depressive and suicidal symptoms starting in the fourth grade…Throughout the meeting with Alissa it became apparent that she has had serious psychiatric symptoms for many years. Her condition is quite serious and of a chronic nature…At the time of this evaluation, she had reddened hands which she attributed to dry skin. Due to the OCD, this examiner speculates that the hand condition does reflect excessive hand washing. She stated that as a younger child she would wash her hands frequently, including before and after eating, and before and after using the bathroom.

Symptoms that Alissa currently endorsed include checking to make sure that she has turned off the lights on her car. Due to the distance involved it is a major inconvenience for her to go to the classroom building at college to the parking lot to check on her car. She did go to this extreme measure and when she got to the car realized that she had turned the lights off even though she was not consciously aware of doing so. At other times she will have to check numerous times to ascertain the exact location of her purse. At home she counts a short flight of steps constantly whether she is ascending or descending the steps. This seems to be a strongly ingrained ritual. This examiner believes that there are other examples of obsessive/compulsive thoughts and behaviors that Alissa is not acknowledging at this time…She does describe the checking behavior in terms of feeling she “has to” check.

Yes, it is true that I was very depressed at a young age. I remember people telling my mother that they have never seen such a young child so depressed before and that I needed help. But there weren’t many programs available to special needs siblings. I felt incredibly alone and disconnected from my peers. I started seeing a therapist in my late teens.

It was especially hard in grade school because my autistic brother was in the same school as me. They had a special ed room that was shared with the library. I don’t know whose dumb ass idea that was. It was never quiet in the library, although we were told to be. That probably made my brother’s behavior all the more shocking.

When I would go in for library, my brother was oftentimes flailing around as if he was possessed inside of the big ‘naughty’ box they put him in that was located between the classrooms. This caused my classmates to point, snicker, and laugh. It made me feel angry, sorrowful, and ashamed. He was MY brother. It was very painful.

I think I developed rituals to help me cope, to feel like I had an iota of control over my life. The hand washing ritual started when I was in middle school after I was almost attacked in the parking lot while I waited in the car for my mom to finish up with her support group for parents of special needs children. The support group was held in the library and sometimes the library closed before the meeting was done and I would meet my mom in the car. That hot summer night I felt like I was suffocating in the locked car while those guys tried desperately to get in. It was so hot, but I didn’t dare open a window. The car handles were dirty. I felt dirty. Hand washing made me feel clean and cleansed.

You would think that I would have issues with libraries or books. Sheesh!

I like to have clean hands, but I haven’t obsessively washed them in decades. I like things clean and I like to feel like I have control even if I don’t. My parents are hoarders. Our house was always chaotic and messy.

It’s strange how I can be obsessive without being addictive since they seem so similar. But I don’t want anything external to control me, yet sometimes the internal things still do. Sometimes I still have to check things..

To be continued…

 

My psych eval (25 years later) intro

I’m going to start a new series next week.

Alissa, why would you want to share your psych evaluation from 25 years ago? Are you crazy?? Good question fellow readers! Good question!

First of all, I don’t care what people think of me. I really don’t know if I ever cared. I gave up on that somewhere between my brother attacking everyone around me and my dad walking around the house in his underwear.

If you don’t care what people think, then why is your blog anonymous?

For some reason I can’t talk about this stuff with the real people in my life. Who wants to talk to people in person about their darkest days anyway? What a drag! I don’t want people in my life to see the shattered pieces of me. I think I managed to glue the pieces back together in a way that most people cannot see the cracks unless they look closely enough. I keep my demons locked in a back corner closet of my mind. It is only through writing that I can release them..

Alissa, you are pretty good at dodging the real question of why you want to share a part of yourself that could be damning.

I think that this piece of the puzzle offers the most hope. I was a real mess 25 years ago. How did I cope? How did I survive the constant stress? I spent a lot of time in fight or flight mode. I think that the mind shatters a little to survive. But what happens when you work your way through it?

We are going to take a little trip down memory lane right after I endured a great time of trial in my life. Then we are going to skip ahead to see how I am doing now. I think it is going to offer hope for others who are struggling.

Whatever you are going through won’t last forever, even though it might feel like it at the time.

Journal 5, part 2

5/2/1991

I’m only going to eat one meal a day or else I will be sick. When I was younger this worked all of the time until I felt better..

It is true that sometimes the needs of the ‘normal’ kids get swept under the rug when there is a special needs child in the house.

I know now that I have been a lifelong sufferer of GERD. I didn’t know this as a child. All I knew was that I had stomachaches all of the time. When it was really bad sometimes eating made me feel sick. I felt like I had a fire in my chest. Eventually the acid crept into my throat, gave me frequent canker sores in my mouth, and wore down the enamel on my teeth as a child. My parents threatened to take me to the doctor if I didn’t eat, but they never did.

My brother Matt also has GERD which was made worse by his gagging from Tourette’s. He frequently threw up his breakfasts. There was a time that the valve completely closed between his stomach and intestines. He couldn’t keep down any food and had to have the valve surgically opened again. In the meantime, he dipped below 90 lbs and he almost died.

Whose needs were more important??

Not only did Matt suffer from GERD, he also has autism. He engaged in a lot of self-stimulating repetitive behaviors such as rocking and flapping his hands together. At one time he had to wear a helmet on his head because when he became agitated he would hit his head with his fist. He was hypersensitive to touch. He would scream when he had to have his teeth brushed. He had to be sedated to go to the dentist for cleanings. He would only tolerate having 1/4 of his teeth cleaned at a time and eventually his teeth rotted. He has difficulty communicating and understanding emotions.

He suffers from Tourette’s. He would gag when eating and constantly make sticky saliva sounds with his mouth. His body would twitch and he repeatedly blinked his eyes.

He suffers from schizophrenia. He hears voices that tell him to hurt little girls. Sometimes the voices terrified him. He had nightmares. He would talk to the voices and laugh at the evil things they would tell him to do.

He is intellectually impaired. He cannot read, write, or do simple math.

He has issues with anxiety.

Matt made anything that my brothers and I struggled with minor in comparison.

There was a 3 year period when Matt was not allowed to go to school because of his violence. After that time period, he had very limited exposure to the outside world up until he was placed on an anti-psychotic medicine that eliminated the voices and the violence towards self and others.

My mother did not want my brother institutionalized in a place for the violently mentally ill so she pulled him out of most situations where he could hurt others. That did not stop him from being violent towards me at home. He grabbed a knife and threatened to cut my eyes out. He punched, scratched, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair on a regular basis. Who protected me?? Who reported his violence against me? No one.

I want to say that I handled it like a trooper, but I did not.

I withdrew into myself. I became very depressed. Although childhood goes by fast, it seems to take forever when you are being abused. I wanted out. I cried myself to sleep at night. I woke up crying in the morning after being awoken by nightmares.

I held my body tight like I was always bracing for impact. I cowered like a dog that was beat too much. My shoulders were held tightly up to my ears. I suffered from insomnia. I fell asleep easily but was typically awake from 2 to 4 AM. In the middle of the night, I suffered from muscle pains. I had to wrap pillows and blankets around my legs. I think my muscles were finally trying to relax in the middle of the night and it hurt.

I suffered from anxiety and worry. I was angry. I developed structure, rituals, and routines to feel like I had some control over my environment. For awhile, I was a compulsive hand washer. I washed my hands so often that they cracked and bled.

With everything going on at home, I couldn’t concentrate at school. My grades were horrible. I was put on a high dose of ADD medicine. It helped me focus, but made my skin crawl. I scratched my skin until it bled, especially on my scalp. I scratched until I pulled out scabs with big clumps of hair.

I was exhausted most of the time.

I was a mess.

That was a long time ago.

I survived.

I am strong now.

I am healing.

I feel ready to fight my demons.

 

The incident at the public library

Once, for a very short time in my life, I was a compulsive hand washer. It started after a frightening incident in the library parking lot that happened when I was 13 with my grade school best friend, Jody.

I met Jody in kindergarten. When I was really young my parents had me stay with Jody for a week when they took my brother Matt to the hospital. At the time, Jody’s parents were going through a divorce. I remember sitting on the steps with Jody at age 6 listening to her parents fight. Things may have been thrown, I don’t recall for sure. Just a lot of noise, a lot of yelling. I had my grandparents pick me up before the week was through.

I don’t know why Jody’s mom didn’t like her dad anymore. He was a fun guy. He loved to laugh and would buy us soda at the bar. One night the roads were way too icy to take Jody and I to dance class, so we went to the bar instead. He told me not to tell my mom as she would probably worry. I also went up north with Jody, her dad, and his girlfriend for the weekend. He had to stop halfway there because he was tired and needed a drink at the bar. Lots of quarters for soda that night. I think we may have even put some songs in the jukebox. When Jody turned 10 she had her birthday party at you guessed it, the bar! Jody was a lot of fun too.

When my mom told me that I could bring a friend with me to the library that night, I chose Jody. Once a month, my mom attended a support group for mothers of the disabled at the library. Most of the time the meetings ended after the library closed which is what happened that night. It was a warm summer night, so we waited for my mom in the car. We were talking when 3 older boys showed up at the car on bikes. They saw us and tried to get in the car. We locked the doors, but it was hot. We had to roll the windows down a little as the heat was stifling. The boys tried to pry their fingers in through the crack in the windows. They banged on the glass. That kept trying the car handles over and over, rattling on them, trying to get in. They taunted us, put their penises against the glass, and held condoms against the windows. I found the incident very frightening. 

It was after this happened that I washed my hands over and over. I washed them until they were cracked and bleeding. For months I refused to touch the car handles that those boys touched to try to attack us. Everything they touched felt unclean to me. I wouldn’t touch those handles even if it meant that I had to sit in the middle of the back seat. So I washed and washed until the memory and terror of that night faded. At least I had control over something. 

 

 

The 1st (planned) overnight sail

Last year for my husband’s birthday, we planned our first overnight sail on our sailboat. Technically, it wasn’t our first overnight sail. But we won’t talk about that. If you want to read about everything that could go wrong without sinking the boat, feel free to read the accidental overnight sail post. It was pretty funny, but not at the time. 

As I mentioned briefly previously, I got my first ear cartilage piercing for my 40th birthday. I am a very ritualistic and rule oriented person, at times borderline OCD. My world consists of order, rules, rules, rituals, and more rules. My rules. My structure. I am an extreme person. That is just the way I am. So, I got my ear pierced for my birthday. It required cleaning 3 times a day for 12 weeks. Ok, I got that, no problem. My husband’s birthday was exactly 12 weeks to the day after I got the cartilage piercing. It would be perfect to change the earring right before we left for the overnight sail, or so I thought. I had a hoop earring that I wanted to try. 

Removing the back of the earring stud required a lot of yanking. My ear was “ear itated” before I got the earring out. Then it started to swell and bleed. I tried to get the hoop in which was impossible. I could barely get it into my regular ear piercings. Hmmmm, now this is where I really went wrong. I put a nickel earring stud into the ear cartilage piercing and left for the overnight sail. 

It was a perfect early fall day for a sail. It was warm and windy, but not too windy. We sailed several hours to get to the resort. Once we got there, it was during the week and the pool was closed for the season. There was not much to do. By the time we got there, my ear doubled in size. I thought that maybe my piercing was infected. I was so stressed that I couldn’t eat. Worried. This is the point when my acid reflux acted up again as an adult but I didn’t know at the time what it was. 

The next day we headed back home. I called the ear piercing place and they said I was probably allergic to the nickel earring. I found that strange because I didn’t have problems with nickel in my regular ear piercings. They suggested putting the piercing stud back in. This was problematic because I was on open water and didn’t have any other earrings with me. The minute I got home, hours later, I put my piercing stud back in and haven’t taken it out since. I am almost afraid to. I felt bad that my seemingly great idea turned my husband’s birthday into a big mess of anxiety. I have only stayed overnight on the sailboat once since then. It was for our anniversary when the big unexpected storm hit. 

Why does everything have to be so eventful in my life?? Well, it sure gives me things to write about and at times things to laugh about.