Friday, March 4, 2011

I'm About to be A Lab Rat!

I will soon be a taking on a six-month-long, part-time job as a lab rat, but in a nice, and I hope, helpful way.

Along with many other Adult Children of Hoarders, I will be taking part in a study headed up by Dr. Suzanne Chabaud, whom you may know from the "Hoarders" television series.  She is the nice, calm Southern lady who calls it like she sees it. It takes old-school Southern manners to hold out her hand to help and, simultaneously, not to hesitate a moment to point out how awful a house smells, with the same sincere smile on her face and the same willingness to help. 

Her team will be studying the effects of growing up in a hoarded home. 

I have to admit that I am just a little bit nervous.  Although I know that the study will be completely anonymous, with participants' identities scrupulously protected, I nonetheless expect that answering the surveys and  talking through the interviews will stir up a lot of emotions I thought I had repressed or otherwise dealt with in some other way.  I know that there are some things in my life which are still terrible sore spots, but I also know that I have forgiven a lot, and that I love my mother and my other hoarding relatives and only want to see the best for them, especially my mother, in the long run.

A few things I am concerned about: 

-- although I grew up in a hoarded home, I was not verbally or physically abused, although my parents were very controlling people.  I know that our house was mostly about a 5 or 6 on the hoarding scale, and it was a "clean hoard" (no garbage, feces, etc), while other people grew up in much filthier homes and in very abusive situations, and I don't want to sound like a whiner.

-- there is that nagging sense of betrayal of the hoarding parent, just as with Adult Children of Alcoholics when they reveal their secrets.  The strict anonymity of the study will help me get past this, I am sure.

-- I want to tell my mother's story and, as I have all my life, try to ferret out why she holds on to so many things that only evoke negative memories.  It is as though she has a "Museum of Failure," jam-packed with Things That Might Have Been.  This aspect of her hoarding causes me the most pain -- listening to her re-live bitter family feuds when she touches certain objects that remind her of certain places in time, or sitting patiently as she tells, in excruciating detail for the umpteenth time, about incidents in which she was taken advantage of by certain of her relatives.  Why would she want to be reminded of them, and re-tell the same stories time after time with the same hurt, as fresh as when it was new, forty or fifty years later? Why does she want to hold on so tightly to the "Library of Hurt Feelings of the Past?"  Unlike some hoarders, she rarely picks up an object to tell a happy story about it.

-- I am also wondering if I will be able to discuss plans for the future.   Specifically, even though I love my mother and hope she lives to a very healthy old age, when she finally does pass on, I will need to be able to get rid of everything except photos, a few real heirlooms and other objects with positive family memories, and a few items of furniture ... and to get rid of these things without guilt.  

-- but my biggest concern?  I am afraid that the interviews will not give me enough time to tell the whole story.  I hope that is not the case.  

The researchers are also interested in identifying what strengths, if any, we feel we may have gained from growing up in such environments, and in fairness, they are also seeking information about any good points or character strengths our hoarding loved ones may possess. 

This is going to be interesting, and I will keep you all posted on any parts of the study I am allowed to blog about.

Have a great weekend!  Here in the South, the trees are budding, small animals are coming out of hibernation and the birds are singing.  Time to let some fresh air into our own lives as well.  Has anyone started their spring cleaning yet?