I am a big fan of the UK soap Coronation Street. For my readers outside of the UK, the channel it is on describe it like this:
‘Coronation Street’ is the story of working people and the city street in which they live. The show has been seen all around the world and has remained in the top viewing ratings throughout its long lifetime.
Recently it has featured a new ‘love interest’ for a long running character called Roy. Her name is Cathy and she lives in a house that is full of junk. She is a hoarder.
I used to be a hoarder.
Hoarding is often a subject brought up by various TV shows, which usually depict the hoarder as a filthy, insane person. It is important to know that obsessive hoarding is actually considered to be part of OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder). I have OCD and although some aspects of it are stereotypical; my fear of germs being a perfect example, others do not fit the ‘neat freak’ stereotype at all. Quite a lot of people with OCD live in what others would describe, quite aptly, as squalor which goes against everything TV teaches about the condition!
So why did I start hoarding? Interesting question. My Mum has always been a borderline hoarder, in other words she’s not living in absolute squalor, but she does keep a lot of stuff she doesn’t need and can find a million reasons why she needs to. The thing is, I am not critical of this in fact I totally understand why she does it. Growing up with my Mum keeping boxes of buttons, pieces of felt and much more obviously rubbed off on me as I also started to keep things. My hoarding was a lot more problematic though as I developed attachments to various objects.
That’s where the problem lies for hoarders. We become emotionally attached to inanimate objects. Just as you most likely have a human that you love, hoarders feel the same attachment towards their inanimate object. I have always had the traits of a hoarder and have become emotionally attached to many things from cuddly toys, to crisp packets and even little pieces of paper I cut up and put in a bottle! When I was in the midst of my illness, asking me to get rid of that bottle was like saying you were going to cut off my leg and throw it in the bin!
For me, it got to a ridiculous point. I was keeping so many things, even really useless or filthy things like yoghurt pots (complete with mould… eww), clothes I hadn’t been able to fit into since I was much younger, pieces of fluff I had grown fond of, various wires, remote controls and buttons (what if I found the thing they went to?). I kept dead batteries because I would become upset if I threw them away and would have to take them back out of the bin and I refused to throw my trainers away that I had owned since I was 11 years old even though they had a hole in the size of my fist!
I can’t remember the exact moment I realised the hoarding was part of my illness. One day something just clicked in my brain and I thought ‘this needs to stop’. I’d like to say it was as simple as that, but I have been fighting a constant battle with myself for over 8 years now. I am a lot better now however, although I still have to ask people to chuck things away for me in case I go back out and retrieve them!
Ten years ago, this bottle meant the world to me. Two years ago, I laughed at it, then threw it away without a second thought. I felt free.