Our apartment is not Hoarders level bad, but it could get there easily if I allowed it to. I don’t allow it to because clutter triggers my anxiety.
This pandemic has been hell on my hoarding-related anxiety and on my depression.
I know, on an academic level, why people hoard things. I even have a very good guess as to the reasons behind my husband’s hoarding. But knowing the why doesn’t help; it doesn’t ease my anxiety, it doesn’t make me more empathetic… I think it actually makes me even more frustrated and depressed.
This is one way that having a psychology degree can be a double-edged sword. The knowledge is helpful when you’re looking at the behavior of someone you don’t know. But when it’s someone you live with and you have emotional ties to, it feels like it makes things worse.
The hoarding is a major anxiety trigger for me. It’s limited to his “office”, but sometimes, it seeps out into the rest of the apartment. My husband has this nasty habit of setting things down “for now”, but never picking them back up. I refuse to pick it up. In my mind, my justification is that I didn’t put it there, he did. I shouldn’t have to be picking up after a grown man. So then it sits.
As I type this, I’m looking at a pile of cardboard that needs to go out of the recycling. I look at it and I am seething, both at him and at myself. I’m seething at him for just piling it up and not taking some of it down with him to the dumpster when he took out the trash. I seethe at myself for being so overwhelmed by a pile of cardboard that I freeze when I think about having to haul it out by myself.
I’m resentful. I resent being the one who has to clean. I resent having to tiptoe around his anxiety because if I don’t, then he becomes passive-aggressive and tries to emotionally manipulate me and make me out to be the bad guy because I expect him to help me keep a clean house. Then I start keeping score.
I shouldn’t be keeping score, but I can’t help it. I feel like I carry more of the weight around here and do 90% of the emotional labor in this relationship. This comes from my past; I grew up in an abusive household where I was both scapegoat and maid. I had to clean the whole house while my father sat on his ass and ordered me around. I feel a lot like this now. Except I’m an adult and I don’t live in fear of my husband if I refuse to do it.
I try to clean, but I feel like it’s a losing battle. It’s also becoming very difficult for me to keep pushing on and on. I clean up, but he brings in more crap and sets it down, never to pick it up again.
I think I might be at the end of my rope. Actually, I think I’m hanging on to a thread as far as the hoarding is concerned. I’ve contemplated going into that room and just getting rid of everything that I think is garbage. I’ve even considered ratting out my husband to the landlord as a wake-up call. I’m mortified at the thought of maintenance or the landlord coming in and seeing that room.
Again, not a picture of the author’s actual garage…
I’m not even going to get into how our rented garage looks. That does look like an episode of Hoarders. I’m angry that we pay extra a month to rent a garage to house all the crap he brought home and never used. We need to clean it out, but I’m both overwhelmed at the idea of how much stuff is in there. I’m also mortified at having to open the garage door and having everyone see how bad it is.
I could go to therapy, but the issue here is that I don’t want to tolerate this hoard anymore. I’ve lived with it too long and I feel like I’m enabling him by not saying anything. I’m hanging onto that last frayed strand of rope. I’ve lived with it long enough. I don’t have the time nor the patience to live with all the physical crap. I don’t have the luxury of waiting until he admits that he has a problem and gets help for it. If this makes me sound cold, then so be it. I have to think of myself. This is wreaking havoc on my anxiety and my depression. I don’t want to end up having another nervous breakdown and spending a week in a behavioral health facility because my anxiety and depression have reached the levels of suicidal ideation again.
Don’t laugh. The last time this happened, it was because the idea of going to work triggered panic attacks and I felt like such a failure that I began thinking about suicide.
I have few ways to escape since the pandemic started. I feel trapped, both by a virus and by someone else’s physical crap and emotional issues he refuses to deal with. I’m exhausted, too. I feel like a failure because I can’t keep my house clean. Short of staging an intervention, I don’t know what else to do.
Happily-ever-after dies when his suffering takes center stage. There is no room in my home for me. I am not enough or I am too much. HE TAKES EVERYTHING OVER. There is no room for my anguish and sadness. There is no place to hide my face. There is no safe place. He has taken them all.
Gave up a dear friend, she was toxic to our relationship, but I loved her like WHOA. When my mother passed away in 2007…Michele would have known how to be present. She would have known what to say and when to be silent. She would have reminded me of things I had said. She would be encouraging. But I couldn’t reach out to her. When all doors where closed and all paths were blocked… I turned to Jesus… the first place I should have gone.
Work becomes more important. I am valued here. I am celebrated for my vision, my word, my inappropriate humor. I am secretly trying to think of ways to work overtime and contribute more to after hours events.
I explain my desires, my needs. I dive deep, despite the risk, and ask for him to play the role of Daddy and let me be the little girl who needs to be safe and protected. He shames me. He has starved me out. I fall deep into self loathing and hatred. Trust has been severed. Heart has turned stone. I have shut down any trust I ever had. I never speak of my sorrows or pain to him anymore. Initially he’ll try to help…. But then…. In the next couple weeks, when we’re arguing, he uses it against me — ultimate betrayal.
He is constantly nudging me and giving me looks to act appropriately.
I can’t be me…when he’s around. I celebrate with joy when he leaves the house.
I run around foolishly and make a huge mess.
I confront him. Air out my grievances. He doesn’t remember any of it. I am in a puddle of hormonal rage and anxiety. I AM NOT CRAZY! God speaks to me clearly and tells me to commit to doing a 40 day fast. During the fast, he shows me his favor. He shows me my strength. I emerge as a warrior. If I can fast for 40 days, I can fucking do anything. My faith is stronger than ever. Jesus will never fail me. I need to commit to only relying on him for all my needs. Mortal men are the most pitiful of creatures. Why was I so blind?
He leaves me a note by my nightstand. It’s this long paragraph of lovely words I’ve heard before; Something about him recommitting to us, to me, and becoming the man he needs to be for me.
((( Pause for rolling of the eyes )))
The time and energy for him to write that letter, he could have just taken action. He is all talk. TALK TALK TALK TALK!
If he wants to be the man for me… then bring me coffee in bed, don’t let me worry about putting gas in my car or its maintenance needs. Remove money as a concern for me. Obtain employment that can carry the family and cover us with health insurance so I don’t have to … be the man of the house. Be the spiritual leader that we need. Be the captain of the ship. Be honest about who you are what you need. Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t be so chicken shit. Run interference for me so I can be the wife, mom, and Christian that our family and community craves.
((It’s not too much to ask.))
Emergency room visits, doctors that are worthless, procedures and surgeries that do more harm for his crippling debilitating disease. Come to terms with the fact that I will his caretaker. Make plans for WHAT IFs. Keep accurate medical records. Organize it all. Learning to be knowledgeable about his health conditions. Understand his lack of memory is not his fault. Pain is all consuming. Find a support group. Learn to ask for help. Cry more. Learn to be ok with anger but try not to let it consume your soul. Ask Steve the hard questions. Write down his eulogy. Face the facts. Time is not on our side.
He comes in this morning and interrupts my workout. I take my headphones off and he informs me that he can hear me laughing all the way on the other side of the house… it’s a 2800 sqft house. So what? I can’t listen to my podcast and laugh in my house now? HE FUCKING TAKES EVERYTHING FROM ME!!!!!!!!
I asked him about having another baby. Nope. He took that away from me too.
I mentioned Viagra and invoked world war three!
His only autonomy in our relationship is the ability to say no. No to my advances. No to all my solutions.
It’s the only real strength and control he has. He builds constant brick walls in conversation.
When he looks down on me and berates my music choices because there is swearing… that does not make me want to be better or do better. It just makes me feel as if I’m in a play and I have no idea what my lines are, what role I’m supposed to be play.. He just makes me feel like a total fuck up.
A rift, a fault line separates us. We are on divergent paths. I don’t know where to go from here. I have read all the books, signed all the contracts, invoked all the spells, prayed and fasted, repented for my wicked ways only to cover my face and cry, “ABSALOM, ABSALOM!”
He was my fuck-buddy. The sex, oh man, the sex, the sex was the kind of sex I didn’t even know I craved until it smacked me in the face. Then it became like oxygen – or, at least, crack.
More than the amazing sex, this man was someone I could talk, really talk to about the things I have no other place to share. Things that I didn’t know I really wanted to dialogue about. Dirty things, yes – yummy, dirty things. But also spiritual, political, intellectual things.
My husband simply isn’t that person for me. I won’t give you all the details. It really doesn’t matter and it’s not much different from a million other stories. For me, though, it is. This is my story.
Leaving my lover is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do; it hurts. But I know that it’s necessary to say goodbye. Goodbye to the crazy drama. Goodbye to the possibility of wrecking my marriage. Goodbye to the fear that my children would hate me if it all came crumbling down.
And goodbye to filling that hole – the one that craves passion, excitement, and a really good fuck – in my life.
Why does he think his needs are more important than mine?
Now, I need to help him feel more comfortable.
Constantly complying. I am not a part of the equation. I have been SPEAKING for years, repeating myself constantly. I don’t ask anymore. I don’t ask for things. I don’t ask for affection. I am living in limbo. Boundless. Floating.
I am invisible.
I need to be released from this responsibility that I’ve been carrying for too long.
For the last eight years we’ve drifted apart, each of our roles were extremely different from the others.
I was primary care taker of the baby, he just worked to not be in pain. He was in and out of doctor’s offices, and in bed most of the time he was home.
He was cold to me. He couldn’t help it. I know.
To me, he had it easy: just relax, lay in bed, watch TV, take medicine, have another useless steroid injection.
I had grand expectations that he would complete me, complete my life and it would be this grand ball with dances and tea parties. Our roles are still tragically different, neither supporting one another, neither of us need each other. We are in different places, both have different goals.
We are in the same room, breathe the same air but we’re worlds apart.
The lack of trust and respect – it’s killing us. I cannot trust that he’ll be there. That he’s ALL IN. We’ve been having some good months lately… but soon, that chronic pain will take him and paralyze him again.
And… so here’s the state of our union. I’ve become accustomed to not including him in my day. He’s had so many limitations, so many special needs. He’s never been able to engage, so I forget that he’s there sometimes.
Somewhere between the chronic pain, taking days off for doctor appointments, disappointments, missed opportunities, we disappeared. I stopped trying to make the structure we live in a home. He was too busy or too sick to care. He didn’t want me. I got used to that.
I became hard, and cold. I worked so hard to leave my father’s house only to end up exactly where I started. I try. He tries. We both feel the unbecoming of us though. It was a slow fade to black.
I’ve veered on a divergent path and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care if he follows or goes in the opposite direction.
I have a son. He’ll be four in a few weeks – a sweet, smart, active little boy with a big heart. However, his father and I split up over a year ago, largely because I wanted more kids. While we had agreed upon it previously, he later decided that one was enough. He loves our son, of that I have no doubt, but he refused to have another child.
I’d had enough.
The breakup was nasty but I agreed to shared custody. Leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done – not leaving him, but sleeping under a different roof than my son. However, our custody arrangement is such that I see my son pretty much every day, and most nights. At least it’s bearable.
My son keeps asking me to bring home a baby for him (which is just so darn cute), but I wish it were that simple. I want another child. My biological clock is ticking louder every day. In a few months I turn 40. Somehow that number has always seemed the age I should be finished having kids.
For the past nine months (irony, anyone?), I’ve been actively searching for Mr. Right. Someone intelligent, attractive, single, honest, interesting, gentle, kind and creative, who likes kids and wants to settle down – and who hasn’t had a vasectomy. There isn’t anyone like that in my regular life so I’ve tried four different internet dating sites. So far I’ve met 18 local men and, well, short version: no luck.
So I have a choice.
I can take the risk and wait, or I can cut out the middleman (pun intended) and just do it myself with the help of a local fertility clinic.
I can afford the procedures and they’ve accepted me as a client. I’m lucky to have a job that will pay me almost my full salary for a full year of maternity leave, and a great health plan that covers most costs. I make enough money to be able to support another child. What more do I need, right? Case closed! Decision made! Sign me up and show me the stirrups!
Then the doubts set in.
If I get pregnant this fall, my son would be five by the time the baby was born. Is it fair to him? Will I have the energy to do all the things he needs me to do for him? Will I be able to get him to school on time – help him with his homework? Will he resent sharing his bedroom? Will he resent sharing me? Will his father think that he can steal our son away from me because I have another child? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Is it fair to deprive a child from knowing his father? Will the baby wonder? Will this baby resent that my firstborn son gets to spend time with his father but he or she can’t?
I remember those first months (and first years) of having a baby. It’s exhausting. Not enough sleep, constantly on call, never a moment of privacy – and that’s what it was like when the father was there to help out.
What happens if I’m on my own? No one is going to make me a sandwich. No one is going to vacuum for me or unload the dishwasher. No one will change a diaper once in a while to give me a break. No will bounce a teething infant for an hour or two in the middle of the night so I can sleep. No one will pick up groceries from time to time.
I will have no one to rely on but myself.
I don’t have family around, and all of my friends are leaving town one by one – it’s their careers, I always knew they’d be going sometime. Could I hire a doula for the first few months? A nanny? How much would that cost? Can I afford it? How do I find one? Would she expect to live here in my tiny house? Where would I put her?
What would it really mean to have a child on my own? Can I do it alone? The only single moms I know had a hell of a time, and they had friends and family around to help. What if I have twins? How the hell would I handle that on my own? My mother was a twin.
Recently, Sunshine and I went to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex to visit a friend of ours. Normally, when we go visit our friend, we stay at our friend’s house. This time, when we texted our friend that we were getting near, he texted back an address and told us to meet him there. We got there, and it was a hotel. See, our friend’s house was on the market, staged and ready for an open house early the next morning and he didn’t want us to have to feel rushed to leave, so he put us up in a hotel.
Now, our friend is one of those “go big or go home” kind of people. Well, maybe “live life out loud” or “live life at high speed” or something would be more like it, but whatever–the point is, our friend believes in living life to the fullest. And because he knows that we live in a tiny house on wheels, he couldn’t just get us a hotel room. He had to go and get us a suite, with a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom that on its own was bigger than our whole living room, kitchen and dining area combined. The living room and bedroom each had one entire wall made up of windows overlooking the city to the south, and to a city girl like me, the view was stunning.
Sunshine, our dog Mollie, and our friend took off to do whatever it is they do when they hang out–probably fossil hunting or some other grand adventure. I went shopping, as my ass has grown too big for my pants or my pants have shrunken too small for my backside, and there are just so many good stores in the DFW metroplex.
I got done shopping (in a surprisingly short amount of time) and returned to the hotel. After taking my purchases out of their bags and packing them in my luggage, I surveyed the living room area of our suite. There was this cute little armchair right in front of the window, but it was facing the wrong way, so I turned it around and plopped my ass down facing that wall of windows, and I watched the world go by from my perch on the eighth floor of this hotel.
There has always been something so soothing to me about watching the world from high up in a building in the middle of a large city. Maybe it’s because I can watch the city go by without being affected by the hustle and bustle and mad rush and overwhelming NOISE of it all. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a large city and somehow wound up in a swamp and miss the hell out of city life. Maybe it’s a little of both with some unknown factors thrown in for good measure.
Whatever the reason, I sat there in that room and watched the world go by out that window and listened to the sound of the air whooshing through the vents of the air-conditioning system and the faint sound of the water in the fountain eight stories below me splashing on the concrete.
I sat there in that silence and watched the world go by, and felt such a deep peace.
That may not sound like much out of the ordinary to some of you, but to an addict like me, to sit alone and just watch the world out a window and enjoy the silence–well, that’s a miracle.
There were many years when I couldn’t be alone. There were many years when I couldn’t stand silence. There were many years when I always had somewhere to go and something to do and somebody to be.
I was able to sit there in that chair and watch the world go by and be content with just sitting still. I was happy to know that, unlike all of those people in all of those cars rushing by below me–I had nowhere to be, no pressures, no deadlines, no expectations to meet. I had only to sit and reflect in the silence.
I was able to sit there in the silence, with nothing to distract me from myself, and not want to crawl out of my skin.
After my addiction, failed marriages, prison time, and all of the other horrors that go along with addiction, it’s a miracle it is for me to be able to sit in silence and watch the world go by. It’s a miracle for me to sit high up in a hotel and watch humanity pass by without worrying that life is passing me by.
So my dose of happy this Monday is being able to enjoy the silence, to be comfortable in my own skin. I hope each and every one of you can find a few moments this week to enjoy some silence, and just be.