By Varian Pierce
In my 5+ years as a member of MHASF’s Peer Response Team (PRT), working with people with hoarding and collecting behaviors, I've had so many amazing experiences that I couldn't possibly count them all. There are some, however, that have left a permanent imprint on my memory and my heart.
At my second conference in 2014, I was alone at the PRT table. A young woman walked up and we began to talk. She was from somewhere in the middle of the country, and her presence at the conference was sponsored by her employer.
She was impressed by and excited about all the great things going on at the conference, as well as the community we here at MHASF have created around the issue of having TOO MUCH STUFF. We spoke of her professional interest in the subject of what is called "hoarding disorder," and after a while, our conversation took a more personal turn.
Attending the conference had opened her eyes to her own behavior and she had realized that she, too, had a problem with TOO MUCH STUFF. This is a huge realization for anyone to make. She confided in me about her excessive collecting behavior and its damaging impact on her life. I was the first person to whom she had ever "come out" about her cluttering behavior. The dam holding back the pain burst inside her. As a peer, I’d been there done that. She began to cry. I came around the table to give her a comforting hug; a hug that said not
only, "I care about you," but also, "you are not alone."
When her tears had mostly receded and our hug ended, we began to talk again, but this time as equals united in the pain of our mutual lived experience of a very misunderstood and stigmatized condition. We felt the bond shared by those who had endured the slings and arrows hurled by people who simply don't understand. WE don't understand our clutter behavior. How could we explain it to others?
We talked a bit more and exchanged contact information. We emailed a few times, then at some point, lost contact. People often dip their toes into the possibility of recovery, then retreat to process it all for a while. I hope she's doing well and finding the support she needs and deserves. I also hope to see her again at one of our future conferences, perhaps even this one.
Our conferences on hoarding and cluttering are one of the high points of each year, not just for me, but also for many others from many places. It's an opportunity to become reacquainted with old friends and make new ones. At MHASF we have created something that has never existed before - a community of isolated individuals, a community of "hoarders." The Road of Recovery is
getting a lot more foot traffic these days, thanks to our vital work here at MHASF. I'm grateful to be a part of it
Come #JoinUs at the conference, increase your knowledge, share your experience and join us on our journey.