I received a beautifully brave and courageous Dear KOM email, and am honored to be able to respond. First, a disclaimer that I am not a licensed therapist, and am in no way attempting to provide medical/clinical diagnosis/treatments (and I made our brave contributor aware of this privately). The sole intent of Dear KOM is to be a sounding board, and to share openly in this loving community.
With that out of the way, here goes...
Have any suggestions on how to free oneself from a hoarding compulsion? I checked out some prayers online and found some helpful ideas from 3rd Step Prayer and other possibilities. I hope to approach from a spiritual perspective. My goal is to keep what I call "chipping away" at the problem every day in my house of clutter and poor housekeeping. I have mental health issues and it has been discussed in a group I attend by the facilitator that many people with these issues have to tendency to collect or struggle with hoarding. I know it is a source of much humor and the subject of the reality show. I need to do something for safety reasons and to help me feel better about myself. Thanks for being a sounding board and hope to hear from you some time.
Dear Beautiful Soul,
First, let me express my gratitude to you for sharing yourself with this loving community. Second, I think your bravery in "outing" yourself is beautiful.
I do think there is great value in holistically approaching any illness, be it mental or physical. Science has proven the mind/body connection over and over. That being said, a holistic approach does include medical treatment (again, physical or psychological), and I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend that you seek the advice of medical professionals simultaneously.
A very brief background on Hoarding Disorder, for anyone unsure or interested:
Hoarding was previously categorized as as subset of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), but the recent DSM V (basically the bible for diagnosing mental illnesses) re-categorized it into its own diagnosis:
Now, on to the spiritual and that mind/body connection I touched on. What I know of anxiety (first-hand) and what I know of hoarding (second-hand) is that neither will go away on their own, neither will improve in a vacuum and neither will (probably) ever be 100% gone. I don't say this to scare you, but rather to approach this a bit differently. Once we accept something about ourselves, it can change the way we view it.
I'd encourage you to designate a few minutes (10-15) per day to sit quietly and practice some acceptance. Nothing more - simply sink into the thoughts that this is a part of you, BUT it does not define you.
Once you've been doing that for a week or so (however long it takes to not be so 'forced'), keep that block of time and choose a very small (I'm talking 12"x12") and start going through the things in that space. Spend time with them. Remember the memories attached to them. Perhaps have a journal nearby and write about the memories associated with each item. Once you've experienced the memories, and maybe even have written about them, choose to keep or discard the item.
I would STRONGLY recommend going through this part of the process with a professional, or at the very least, with a trusted loved one, who will let you have the final decision about keeping/discarding each item. You will almost certainly experience discomfort - mental and physical - while you're going through this process, and I'm including links below to some exercises that may help.
Try to remember your core value of why you're doing this - you deserve safety and you deserve a peaceful living space - when the discomfort comes up. Allow yourself to step away from the process if it becomes too painful, committing to returning as soon as you've calmed down.
Accept that stops and starts are a part of this process, and even if it's 2 steps forward and 1 step back, you've still made 1 step forward. We generally accomplish more when we recognize our progress than when we berate ourselves.
I wish you nothing but love and luck. Please keep us posted on your journey.
Dear KOM is an opportunity for all of you to write to me with any questions, comments, curiosities, stories, etc. ANYTHING you want to share! Every Saturday, I will choose 1 Dear KOM email and respond to or share it here!
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