A few weeks ago, I was in at a reception with a small group of women. The conversation moved to organization and hoarding issues.
Somewhat jokingly, and somewhat seriously, I said, “Hello, my name is Melinda, and I’m a hoarder.”
One of the other ladies looked at me and asked me a question something to the effect of “Is hoarding part of your self identity?”
That stopped me. I had to think about that for a minute before I answered. I said that while I struggle with it, I didn’t think it was part of my identity. But I have been thinking about that question ever since.
In most 12 step programs, you have to acknowledge this issue. “I am Bob, and I am an alcoholic”; “I am Andrew, and I am an addict”; “I am Susan, and I am co-dependent”. It is very important to accept and acknowledge the issue. That is a step to recovery in those programs.
I am Melinda, and I am a hoarder. But is that part of my self-identity? If my identity is that of a hoarder, then I fear that to try to no longer be a hoarder will be to destroy a part of my self. And that feeling, however non-valid it might be, might lead me to subconsciously sabotage my own efforts to improve my life.
As I pondered the question of whether or not hoarding was part of my self-identity, I had a thought. I am a survivor. And hoarding was one of the tools I used to help me survive. It is not a good tool. In many ways, it hurts far more than it helps. But at some point in my life, it helped me to survive something. Now I am trying to learn how to survive without hoarding. It is hard to do. I take 3 steps backwards for every 1 step forward. But I am finding myself throwing things away that I kept 5 years ago, a year ago, even a month ago. But one thing that survivors can do is to grow, change, learn to survive even better.
I hoard. But am I a Hoarder? How much of my self-identity is wrapped up in the piles of stuff surrounding me? How can I acknowledge the problem, yet keep my self-identity away from the things that surround me?
After thinking about this for awhile, I came up with a new way of introducing myself. A way that acknowledges the problem, yet helps me separate my personal identity from my piles of trash that I am slowly letting go of.
Hello. My name is Melinda. I struggle with hoarding disorder. I am a survivor.