Hello, so this is a bit of a personal introduction as a ground for what I am going to write today. This post is going to be based off fact from other articles, however I am also going to incorporate some of my own personal experiences from this. Before we get on to that, what has brought me to decide to write this post, is basically that I was meant to be “going out” tonight, however one of my friends who I was sat next to yesterday tested positive for covid, and while I have tested negative today, I thought that it is best not to take any chances (which is sad as I really wanted to go out, but on the outside chance that I do have covid, nightclubs are literally the breeding grounds for it). But basically, I was sitting here trying my best to focus on uni work, and I just couldn’t focus very well, but never mind I have all night now! But I somehow began googling stuff to do with growing up with a hoarder and was rather interested in some of their articles.
Now this is something that I have experienced myself, however it is very rare that I talk about this, because it is not something which any of my friends have experienced while topics concerning childhood is something that I try to avoid generally with people because I don’t want to feel like I am burdening anyone with my problems, while I don’t really have anyone in my family who I can really talk to about this experiences. So having kept pretty much silent for a long period of time, here I am instead writing this post where the world can see it!
For a start, it is important to recognise that hoarding is a mental disorder, and it can be related to other mental health problems. Often, hoarding stems from trauma, which often would occur during childhood, but could occur at any time throughout a hoarder’s life. This way, it is important not to shift the blame onto hoarders, especially considering that it is a condition that people who suffer from it tend not to recognise, therefore accepting help and taking action is extremely difficult. Nonetheless, it can have a heavy impact on the people who are close to the hoarder, and I would say especially those who have grown up with someone who is one. Furthermore, I feel that it is an aspect of childhood trauma which is not really spoken about very much, therefore I do want to write this post to raise more awareness of what it is like to grow up with a parent, in this case, who suffers from HD.
So firstly, I would say that generally when someone is growing up in a house which would be considered being in possession of a hoarder, they are often unaware of the severity of this, seeing this as “normal” because this is what they have grown up in. This is certainly the case with me, thinking that my home was just “messy”, even though there were substantial amounts of junk, which whenever myself or the parent who did not have HD attempted to throw away, it caused significant amounts of tension within the household, and there were even themes when items which had been placed in the bin were taken out again. This was as well as the dinner table, which was basically filled with stuff (honestly, I cannot remember what exactly), then even if I attempted to tidy it as a child, there would still be crumbs etc stuck between the table cover, while the table mats were quite literally decades old.
It was not until I was around 13 or 14 when I realised that there was some genuine problem, however I know that many, if not most cases, people do not really come to terms with this until they are young or even older adults. Then at around 14 was the time when the condition of the home worsened, which there was a good reason for (although I am not going to state it here because it is not referring directly to my life, and I am trying to keep this as confidential as I can). This was around the time when I moved out, with the parent who was not a hoarder, and even though them and myself had drawn attention to this which led to the case where it was advised that we do move out or there could be other procedures which may have been taken. And while moving out of that environment was certainly good for my physical and mental health, it certainly did leave a pang of guilt, at the fact that the problem had not been addressed directly by us in a sensitive and considerate manner (you can call me a monster if you like, because there have certainly been times where I have thought very lowly of myself).
As a young child, I just accepted what the home was like. The molding toy fish all along the bath which no one was allowed to throw away were probably perceived as “fine”, even though A) most people would have thought them to have been gross, and B) I had always dreaded one actually falling into the bath. What’s more, it was presumed that I should have a bath once a week, and if I wanted one more often, it would be rather hard seeing that it was always insisted that the water was left in the bath, to be used to flush the toilet, leaving the bath feeling pretty slimy afterwards, as you can imagine. There were a couple of times during primary school and early secondary school where my “hygiene” was picked up on, and while this felt pretty humiliating and unconsciously it probably contributed to my low self-esteem, I did not really reason there that there was anything wrong (side note, I can promise you that I bath/shower far more often than once a week now). Another problem which was rife in my household was uncleanliness when it came to food. Each year, there were more and more rotting apples picked from the tree, which had accumulated in a box (and then also bags) inside the kitchen. Which some, as you can guess, would have contained worms and the liking. The fridge was never cold enough, meaning that much of the food inside there would probably not have been completely safe to eat, meanwhile the vegetable box was never cleaned out, due to being filled too highly with vegetables, some rotting. This led to me being fed food which would have been beyond safe to eat due to being moldy and often undercooked (leading me to frequently not eat all of it, thus binging on chocolate bars instead and being called a pig as a result). Nonetheless, this was never properly picked up on, to the point where it was expected that I was living in unclean conditions, while there were no parents of friends or extended family who were really there for me to help with the multitude of this problem, or even to address it. Leaving me feeling incredibly isolated, and angry as a young teenager. Now as an adult, I think it is fair to say that this has still had an impact on my self-esteem, as even though I fucking wash (just reiterating this again), being the kid with greasy hair and unclean clothing somewhat unconsciously leaves me feeling inferior to my peers, as if there is something wrong with me, and “ugly”.
I know that I have already discussed some of the ways in how it has impacted itself, but of course different people respond in different ways to this experience. One of the main ways in which it can impact a child is by feeling as if their own wellbeing is less important than the possessions which the parent chooses to keep hold of. It is quite common for children to feel that they do not fit in with their home, due to the clutter being in the way of the child being able to live as they like, which would heighten conflict between the parent and the child. This reduces the chance that the child reaches their potential. This was certainly somewhat experienced by me, feeling as though my home was not really a home and I did not have as much nice space as my peers would have had. While the obvious point was that there was not really a clear space to complete homework etc, although fortunately I was able to sit at the table to do it. Yet I am aware that those who have experienced more severe cases may not have had this luxury. Another way in which I was fortunate was that I did have my own bedroom, which as a teenager, I did keep rather tidy. This can also impact one’s life into adulthood.
Am I now a “Neat Freak”
As adults, as a result of the experience of growing up with a hoarder, it can lead to the feeling of needing to be in control. The obvious one would be keeping the home as clean and tidy as possible, and not liking any kind of clutter. Nonetheless, this most certainly is not me, as I am probably one of the messiest people. However, this is certainly not to the stage where my living environment is unclean, or where I am at all reluctant to throw something away which is no longer of use to me. Nonetheless, there have certainly been times when I have felt the need to be in control, and for me personally, I would say that the most prominent way would probably been through working, such as achieving certain grades, or simply strictly allocating a certain number of hours each day to being “productive”. However, since going to university, this has been something which I have worked on and have let loose of quite significantly. However, there can be many ways in which the need for control can manifest in someone later in life, and while it is important to acknowledge the difficulties of having grown up in this environment, it is equally important to place checks on oneself, to ensure that the impacts of the behavior as a result are mitigated, especially when it comes to bringing up children at a later point in life.