holy crap, hoarder!

I’m on a kick of improving the things that I’m dissatisfied with in my life. So many things out of our direct control can cause stress and pain. But right now my life is in a really good place… except for the problems I’ve created. Sure, I have job stress and my anxiety, but most of my stress comes from situations I could change, but don’t.

What are these situations? I buy stuff without the funds to actually do so. And these things that deepen my debt don’t have a place to be stored in my house. My house is so full of stuff that I can’t use and enjoy my space and items. The inability to use 1/3 of my house is a weight on my mind even when I’m away from it. I play musical counter space to be able to cook things. I cleaned out my clothes closet using the KonMari Method just to fill it back up again with clothing I couldn’t afford. Not that I can reach my closet. And while my health is very good in general, I make an incurable problem worse by being very obese. This is not a commentary on anybody’s weight except my own. I have a connective tissue disorder that causes joint pain, among other things, and makes it easier to injure myself. If I wasn’t carrying around 180 pounds of extra weight, I might get less injuries. 180 pounds. That is the equivalent weight of carrying a person. And I do it all day long. No wonder my ankles can roll just by walking.

So those are the three areas where I’d like to make improvement. Super-mega-clutter, overspending, and health. The first two are actually one problem: Hoarding Disorder (HD). Until this week, I didn’t realize that 1) I was a hoarder nor 2) my “overspending to the point of deep debt and no storage” is called “excessive acquisition.” Today I want to focus on hoarding, because this is a pretty weird revelation for me.

When I wrote my “i am a hoarder” post earlier this week, I really only semi believed that I was a hoarder. I knew I was past “hoarding tendencies,” but I didn’t think I was diagnosable, as in qualifying as having a capital-D Disorder. But the more I looked into it, the more I saw that this wasn’t true. The American Psychiatric Association writes that the “specific symptoms for a hoarding diagnosis include:

  • Lasting problems with throwing out or giving away possessions, regardless of their actual value.
  • The problems are due to a perceived need to save the items and to distress linked to parting with them.
  • Items fill, block and clutter active living spaces so they cannot be used, or use is hampered by the large amount of items (if living spaces are clear it is due to help from others).” (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/hoarding-disorder/what-is-hoarding-disorder)

I match all of those. I also answer “yes” to a lot of their assessment questions. But since I’m not at a point where I want to go back to a therapist, I kept on researching. Apparently HD used to be considered a subset of OCD, but that’s no longer true. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases now classifies it as its own disorder. Ugh, I bet I already fall under one or two entries in that book. I don’t want to fall under another. My brain is an overachiever.

So anyway, a paper published in Psychiatry Research led me to two reliable assessment tests, the Clutter Image Rating (CIR) and the Saving Inventory-Revised (SI-R). On the CIR, most of my rooms score a 3 or 4 which is right on the threshold from “you’ve got a really messy house” to “holy crap, hoarder!”

On the SI-R, which utilizes a questionnaire focused on behavior and urges, I score much higher. The cutoff score, above which indicates hoarding, for the entire SI-R is 41. I’m a 71. I’m above the cutoff for all of the categories: Clutter, Difficulty Discarding, and Excessive Acquisition. Compared to the average score of those with HD, I have a near-but-slightly-above average score in Clutter, below average score in Difficulty Discarding (yay!), and way way way above average score in Excessive Acquisition (arg my bank account).

When I was certain that I wasn’t delusional and my clutter was, yes, just as bad as I’d feared it was, I tried to casually mention to my husband that I wanted to make progress on cleaning up the house and it had led me to looking into hoarding… and that I qualified as an actual hoarder. To both my relief and horror, he exclaimed “I know you’re a hoarder! I’ve told you this before.”

“Yes, but I thought you were joking.”

Nope, he wasn’t joking. Poor guy. As I read about hoarding, I see that my husband is stuck in the same situation as that of other hoarders’ families. He alternates between being frustrated at the lack of usable space and almost giving up, just living in the space he can make for himself. I think he would just throw everything out if I would let him, but of course I won’t.

That’s going to change, though, right? I’ll find a way to clear this stuff out. Making changes. Reaching goals. Not being suffocated by the stuff I own. Be prepared to see this blog develop a focus on making hoarding and health progress while I keep going forward on my writing and drawing.

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