If you have arrived at this web site you have probably just been diagnosed with OCD. But you’ve also just made a “connection” that brings hope. There is life after OCD! There is recovery and the possibilities are endless for a productive change to take place in your life! Being diagnosed was my first giant breakthrough!
You are not mentally ill, but you have an illness that has a name: OCD! This first step is important because you may no longer feel that your life is on a downhill spiral … everything you hold important will abruptly end with the shame of discovery … your life is worthless … close friends or a spouse will not love you unless you abruptly change.
Your biological family may have labeled you “lazy” and unwilling to help yourself. They may have stopped visiting. They seemingly can’t understand why you won’t change and clean up the warehouse you live in, or undo the maze you have created for yourself with stuff piled everywhere. They have no concept of the paralyzing fear that grips you when you try to take action that you are a prisoner in your own home, that you can’t find the keys to unlock the jail you find yourself in! It never occurs to them that you may be too ashamed to bring in a “locksmith” to rescue you from your self-made dungeon.
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Neighbors have no idea how you live. Friends wonder why you always meet them at malls or coffee shops. Perhaps like me, you give others the impression that your work schedule is so busy you prefer to entertain at a restaurant so that you can have a nice quiet meal and catch up on news. In my case, I would simply say, “I had no energy left to cook and would just like to focus all my attention on visiting and enjoying your company.” This worked like a charm in helping me avoid confronting my hoarding problem!
That is the situation I found myself in three and a half years ago. My husband was out of town. I was out of excuses and answers for my dilemma, and exhausted from hiding my shameful situation. I felt like death would be a welcome release! I was depressed, unable to problem solve, and my doctor simply was not clueing in on my problem although I had given him enough information. (He blamed my excessive work habits.) I began to realize my work was a wonderful excuse for my clutter maze, spider webs and all. If I couldn’t get help through the regular channels, I decided I would have to begin searching seriously for an answer. I was beyond excuses. I no longer wanted to be untruthful about my lifestyle. I wanted a life beyond piles. I wanted a life that would fulfill me as a person. I wanted to be fixed! I wanted answers and I longed to be like normal people. I began researching that day. I stopped my primal scream, washed my face, and looked for help. I started making phone calls, and got “a hit” from a woman who knew all about OCD that same day. I now had a name for my disorder. I called all the information numbers she gave me and found a doctor who dealt only with OCD clients. I was on my way. There were no instant cures, or a wand to wave over my mess that would make it disappear. I took small steps, saw my doctor twice a week, and worked on the assignments he suggested. It took months of work, but my husband started to see changes; I began to laugh again. I began to work on small areas in the house and slowly reclaimed the house … room by room! My biggest success came with keeping these same areas clean and uncluttered.
It was during this search that I discovered a self-help support group. I was delighted. I was not alone, and there were other delightful souls that struggled with the same problem. It wasn’t the usual chat group; they expected commitment, setting boundaries that made recovery a reality. They gave information that was liberating and also sobering. I learned that OCD could get worse with age. That was a “wakeup moment” for me. I read and devoured all the information that came across my desk. I wanted to escape the horrible bondage I found myself in. I wanted my new life to be free from stuff. I read, learned and started to act on the suggestions of others that had recovery behind them. That became my lifeline. If they could do it so could I. I was determined. I clung to my newfound strategies like a junkyard dog with a bone. I got tunnel vision, and focused on the new journey to freedom. (I smile now thinking about it.) I became obsessive about the journey, if only for a season. Then a “bomb” hit my newfound strategies. My husband wanted to move! I love the city, my job and I was falling in love with my house again. I dug my heals in, feeling he would get it out of his system and we would get back to life the way it was. Wrong!
Looking for a new home was depressing; I hated every minute of it. I had panic moments. Not only did we have to move but our house would have to go on the market. Then my husband made his biggest mistake. He said we would have to get rid of most of our stuff. I told him politely that our looking days were over! I went into a tailspin and didn’t talk. I stopped working on the house but I did keep up the reclaimed areas. If he even thought about moving I could sense it. I got plain short-tempered and edgy. I suggested perhaps he should think about a life on his own. I stopped feeling warm and loving towards him. He backed off and stopped clucking about moving. I slowly got back into full-time decluttering and writing faithfully to my support list. It was an intense program for me and I was determined to join the winners on the list!
The cozier our house became, the more hubby became helpful. He didn’t make demands on tossing. He just asked to help. He waited for me to give directions, and would pitch in. We began to drag more and more stuff to the various thrift stores. When organizations phoned looking for donations we filled our front stoop with stuff. I was on a roll, and re-establishing my love relationship with my husband. I began to see him in a new light. He took me to every doctor’s appointment to encourage me. He never asked questions. He started to clue in to my needs. The day I saw my doctor was always difficult. I was exhausted, but I hung in. The doctor slowly started putting my appointments to once a week, and then every other week. I knew I was getting better. I was beginning to problem solve, seeing change. The group became my lifeline, they encouraged, made suggestions when I asked for help, and influenced me to press onward.
It was during this stage that I again revisited my husband’s request. I started looking on the Internet for houses. We talked about it. We had a meeting of the minds,and started to look earnestly for a new place. My spouse also knew it would be stressful for me. He told me we would buy first and then put our house on the market. It made sense. It took the stress from me and we found a house with possibilities that we put an offer on; in a week we owned it. It was then that we started working in earnest to clear the house. I started my second stage of the New Journey. I dubbed it, “The Geographical Cure!” It started with me quitting my job and going into retirement. My employer was not happy but I could never have worked and cleared the house at the same time. It started to come together. The main floor was well on the way; we kept at it. We also cleared the attic, and finally hit the basement. I found disgusting things like mold, and areas that my old dog used as a “bathroom.” I began to see how OCD had affected my life and made it a dark secret of pure disgusting circumstances! I want everyone that reads this to know you are not alone. There is a future for healthy change.
We finally got floors uncovered, and discovered floorboards. We repainted, and made the house shine and inviting. I fell in love with it all over again and really didn’t want to move, but the new house was waiting for us.
We rented a storage locker which made the old house look bigger with less in it. (That was our estate agents suggestion.) We began to shift our belongings slowly, but with much fun, we moved our treasures into the new house. Within a couple of weeks the old place sold for a good price. It was a major victory and celebration for us. We found a mover who took all the big stuff for us and finally a day before closure we moved into the new place with our other old Yorkie and Siamese Cat. Was it worth it? Yes! Yes! Yes! We bought a different house that needed a lot of work but it has a wonderful open concept. We bought a place with lots of possibilities: I now have a country house in a large village. I have arrived to the place that people can drop in; we are always company ready. It may be a bit dusty because of renovations but there is no clutter on the floors. We hope to have all work completed in another four years. Meanwhile, I putter. This winter I hope to unpack the remaining boxes, hang pictures and keep what I need and give the rest away. My ongoing motto is, “Keep The Best And Toss The Rest!”
What have I learned? If others could do it, so can I! And if I can do it, so can you! I have arrived, but am always very aware how easy it is to backslide. I constantly keep on my guard up to not lose my ground. I often reflect on where I have come from because it keeps me focused and honest. I still remain active on the self-help list. It is my reality check to share regularly and also to help someone else to attain liberty in his or her “OCD Journey.” You should be encouraged today. If I can do this at retirement age, so can you. It’s time to shake yourself off, find the tools you need to begin your journey and just start: one small victory at a time and build on those achievements. Then one day, you too will have arrived. I wish you success as you claim what you have lost! Just remember, “Use Your Best and Toss the Rest!”