I have to admit it. I find this show to be absolutely fascinating. Only because I think the human brain in a fascinating instrument, and this show illustrates that.
I must also admit that every time the show opens and I see the home of the hoarder, I am usually horrified and confused. It just seems baffling to me that there are people who see nothing wrong with living amidst piles of what most people can quickly and easily identify as trash, or people who don’t understand the problem with having 30+ cats, or the people who aren’t ready to burn their house to ashes due to roach and rat infestation. That to me shows how mentally deep the problem is, and as the psychologists on the show say, hoarding is not the problem, it’s a symptom of a problem.
I’ve noticed that in many of these cases the problem that has led to the hoarding has been unprocessed grief. That makes total sense to me. My grief over my dad has manifested in possibly unhealthy ways, so I can relate to those people. And why should it be stigmatized? I found myself thinking about physical versus mental pain. Hands down, the worst physical pain I have ever endured was natural childbirth. Sweet Jesus. THAT.HURT. But you know what? No one ridiculed me while I screamed, and no one judged me for asking for pain meds (I had an epidural with my son, and I didn’t like it and didn’t have one with either of my two girls).
I also remember when I chopped off the tip of my ring finger on my right hand in 2008. People could actually see the wound, so they understood my suffering and did not mock me for it. In terms of mental pain, people don’t often understand what they can’t see. In terms of the people hoarding, no one can look at their brain and figure out what wires may have crisscrossed, so to speak, and caused the dysfunction. There is no textbook method of processing grief, loss, failure, etc. And whereas individuals can readily identify the source of their physical pain, sometimes it’s difficult to understand even your own mental processes. The depressed person might not even fully understand why he or she can’t just “snap out of it”. The person hearing voices might not even fully realize where those voices are coming from, and why they can’t control it. Imagine the frustration of the kid who is eager to learn but simply cannot pay attention in school and is labeled problematic when, in all essence, he actually has a measurable problem. I assume the hoarding person doesn’t completely understand why they hoard. For others, and myself included, when I’ve looked at the show, I’ve seen the people struggling and thought to myself, “just throw it away already!” In the cases of parents who are on the cusp of losing their children because of the condition of their home, I admit to having been especially judgmental–as I sit in my relatively neat (as neat as it can be with me being exhausted, spending several days outside of the house each week at my Mom’s, and having four people with varying levels of tidiness and sense of personal responsibility to get after), I wonder why, with such pressing urgency in their face, can’t they just clean it up? That lets me know that it is a mental problem. I have no doubt that those parents love their children. They have a problem and need help.
That is my spiel for right now I guess. The people on this program are often so ashamed. The shame is because they know people will judge them. Yet people don’t judge others when they see a cast on their broken leg or a Band-aid covering a bloody open wound. In my humble opinion that is what makes mental illness doubly hard. Christianity hasn’t had the best track record in terms of dealing with mental illness. As I’ve stated before, yes we want to encourage our mentally ill brethren to pray and remind them of the love and hope they have in Christ Jesus, but we also want to direct them to other resources they may need. This world is a tough place, and we see depression in particular going up in groups of people where it shouldn’t be. That is sad, sad to see so many people not enjoying the time God has given them here simply due to the influences and pressures exerted upon them by other people. I just feel as Christians, the salt of the earth, we should provide the refuge from the world that people so desperately need right now. There are so many people out there who have no hope, who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Christians have a remarkable gift that we need to be sharing with other people, not holding our noses up at them. Let’s get out there and help. In all things, in all ways, we are to show the love of Christ. Our most vibrant reflection of ourselves and our maturity as Christians shows in how we treat the most vulnerable. Each day we should strive to show less self and more Christ to the world.