Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Hoarding, Buried Alive
If you haven't seen the TLC show, "Hording Buried Alive", Hoarding goes inside the homes of extreme hoarders to explore the psychology behind their compulsion to accumulate & store large quantities of nonessential things. Each episode tells the stories of hoarders struggling with behavior that has made every day existence unbearable for both them & their loved ones. With the help of expert therapists & organizers, the hoarders will attempt to unlock the key to their problems.*
This is my true storie of my mother and her boyfriend.
I'm sorry if this letter seems all over the place, but I am typing as it comes to me because this is a problem that causes me severe anxiety. I am writing because for the last 4 years I have been extremely worried for my mother and her living situation. Her boyfriend, Tony, has a severe hoarding problem. After watching your show it is clear to me to see that he hides behind his things in order to avoid the outside world and his real problems. My mom defiantly enables him. Tony was a Vietnam vet and suffers from narcolepsy. Although I do not deny that he needs sleep much more than the average person, he uses it as a constant excuse as to why he can't clean or work on the shed that was bought over a year ago to be put in the back yard in order to transfer the stuff from inside to the shed. Both my mom and Tony are unemployed. They do not have friends come over and in fact have very little friends at all, besides a few from their church. They don't leave the house often and have a very little social life.
The background is, my mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia while I was a sophomore in college. She could not raise me because of this illness, although I still remained a part of her life. When I was a freshman in college I came home to visit her over Thanksgiving break to find that her and Tony got evicted from their home. Since she did not have a phone, I had to put out a missing persons report to find her. When the police found her, I put her up in a hotel until I could figure out what to do. She took me to where she had been staying which was a vacant field near the side of the freeway where she slept under a tarp. It was the most shocking and painful experiences of my life. I decided to fight for my mom. It took a lot, but to make a long story short, we found a social worker who feel in love with our situation and have been on the up ever since. She was put into transitional housing. However, during this time she was feeling very lonely living alone and Tony and her came back into each others lives. She decided to find a place with him so she did not have to live alone. They live in a little cottage with a living room, bed room with bath, and a kitchen, and back patio area. It's modest, but after being homeless is something we have really appreciated. This is part of the problem. Because they had nothing, they feel like they should and can be able to have everything. Tony talks about this time in their life as a "vacation" since they have been through so much. It's painful for me to see my mom in such an uncomfortable living situation because of how much we went though and how hard we have fought to become healthy. This is the one thing holding her back from finally having it all, as to our standards. It took me years to have the relationship I have with my mom now because she was so sick while I was growing up. I still can't fully get close with her knowing that she is living in this place. She is so passive and rarely expresses to Tony how upset it makes her, but she vents to me. It is truly a shock to walk into their home and they do not have people over besides myself.
I have known Tony since I was a little kid. My mom has lived on and off with him for years and he has always had this problem. He starts having a hobby and goes obsessive over it. In one of his old places he got a couple of pet birds that mated and turned into him having 30ish birds living in his bedroom with him. They do not have a car so he has made a cart that attaches to his bicycle so they can ride around town and go to the store. Since he made this himself and is always working on it, he collects wheels and "parts" that he thinks he might use to fix or enhance it. He has 3 bicycles and 2 baby carriages to be used for spare parts. Their bed room is full to the brim of stuff, besides a slight path to be able to walk through to the bath room (the only cleanish room in the apartment). the living room has more furniture than can fit. He bought a tv stand, but then thought that if he bought another one and cut it up and attached a part of it to this one that it would improve it. However, he has never got around to actually doing this so now 2 huge tv stands are in the room. he has an unbelievable amount of dvds/books/vhs. they also sleep in the living room. although they have a couch that has a pull out bed, they don't have enough room to pull it out. A few years back they bought a twin mattress with the thoughts that maybe i would want to come and visit once in awhile and now they sleep on that together on the floor. Because Tony is a Vet, sometimes he has violent nightmares that cause him to punch in his sleep. My mom has been punched really hard from sleeping next to him so close. The whole place smells like smoke and mold. A few months back the landlord said they had to shut off the water for a day so Tony filled up 5 jugs of water. Now those jugs fill the kitchen "just in case they need to turn off the water again". They would like to recycle their cans, but because they don't have a car, it isn't easy to take all the cans on the bicycle. Therefore, there are piles of cans in the backyard that "need to be crushed". Tony keeps stacks of newspapers that he wants to "go back and cut out articles" that he liked, although I'm pretty sure he never will. As mentioned before, I bought them a shed from home depot that they could build in their back yard so they could move some of the stuff from the inside into the shed. However, this shed has yet to be built and now Tony has began collecting new parts for it, because for some reason the stuff that came with the kit to build it wasn't sufficient enough. He says that the ground needed to be leveled first etc etc. He uses other excuses about the shed, like the weather is too bad, it's too hot outside, I have to be at church late so i need so sleep in late etc etc. I see that these are just excuses to not face the difficulty of clearing out the house. Now I am realizing that even if this shed ever does get built, he will most likely just find new stuff to fill the emptied space. He also has a individual storage shed somewhere that he pays rent on as well.
All my mom has ever dreamed of is having a bed room. Please TLC help my mom live sanely. Please help Tony get help and tell me what I can do to help them. I am happy to provide pictures upon response, although this is something I would need to clear with my mom. She knows that I am writing you, although Tony does not. I think he is in denial of this and whenever I say anything he gets mad and says "nothing is ever good enough" for me. I don't want to come off like that to him because he's a good guy who truly loves my mom, but he needs serious help so my mom can live a healthy life for the first time in my life. Thank you and I very much look forward to hearing from you."
Here are real pictures of their apartment:
After watching the show I was finally able to realize that Hoarding is a serious illness. Unfortunatly, our case did not get picked out for the show, but they offered some helpful advise.
If you, or someone you know, has a Hoarding problem please go to this website for helpful tips: http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/hoarding-buried-alive/articles/more-about-hoarding.html