Have you watched or heard about this reality TV show called Hoarders? It’s what it sounds like -- people who save everything until trash completely dominates their home and their life. I’ve never watched it, but I’ve caught commercials for it, and it’s really gross.
I’m not that bad, but I am a hoarder. I have three or four cases of bottled water here, enough kitty litter to get through several months, lots of cat food, and anything else I’m afraid I will run out of.
I wasn’t always a hoarder, I don’t think. But when I got desperately ill and could not go to the grocery store on my own, I started to ask people to bring essentials whenever they were coming by, so I would know I wouldn’t run out. The stack of cases of bottled water was almost as tall as I am, although I backed off to some extent when the stack fell over one day. The bags of kitty litter are extreme.
Everything is neat and in its place -- my hoarding is well hidden and moderate enough so you might not even identify it as hoarding -- but if I go to the grocery store and there’s no kitty litter, I freak out until I find some to buy, even though I have plenty of it in the house. Every corner of my house is in use to store an extra roll of paper towels (or 20), enough Lean Cuisines to feed an army, bottles and bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I have more than what I need of about everything.
As best I can tell, this habit became a neurosis because I am afraid that I will get sick and won’t be able to get to the store. It may be that I had a milder form of this before I got side-lined by illness, but it was never this bad until I had to rely on others to meet my needs. I hate asking for help more than I hate just about anything. I’d always managed to meet my own needs before. But when I got so sick that I couldn’t drive or lift a bag of kitty litter, it got extreme.
It’s not just hoarding supplies. I have to have at least a month’s worth of my EmpowHer columns in the bank at the beginning of every month -- after all, what if I got sick and couldn’t write for a couple of weeks? Although payday is on Friday, I write payroll checks on Wednesdays -- what if I wasn’t feeling well on Friday? I live my life under a cloud of “what ifs.” And it definitely comes from being sick and the fear and aloneness that comes along with that.
It’s all about creating the illusion that we have some control over our illnesses, and over our lives. But in the end, it is an illusion. Chronic illness has a mind of its own.
Edited by Jody Smith