The comment had so much good advice that I think it deserves a post of its own. Here it is (posted with permission from the original author):
Advice to a Fifteen Year Old Child of a Hoarder
I could have very well written that post some 39 years ago when I was 15. Augh! How is that EVEN possible that much time has slipped away! I probably did write something like that in the form of a journal entry when I was 15. Although, at that time there was nobody to read it (or so I thought). At that age, I thought that NOBODY could have possibly understood.
It is so good that you are reaching out at this age to others, though! Life is so short and I SO wish I had been able to speak out earlier on in my life and started shedding light on a subject that kept me TRULY in the dark for far too long.
You are at a GREAT advantage of having the Internet to talk to such a wide group of people and to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Seriously, I used to think I was a mutant – a secretive hoard dweller who lived a duel life. I was always the guardian of THE SECRET and, man, was that DRAINING! I mean, it’s hard enough to just BE a teenager and deal with all of the crap those years throw your way, let alone having to essentially BE the adult in your interactions with your mom. Sigh.. and there was always that nagging fear that, somehow genetically destined to become my mother. As much as I loved my mom, I truly did not want to BECOME her, you know?
I hear your “wise beyond your years” voice clearly in your message. I can tell that, although you are suffering, ashamed and frustrated beyond belief, you have a good head on your shoulders. As such, I feel that I can talk straight to you and not sugar coat the facts too much. Please, if you get NOTHING else from my words, please read, re-read and try to TRULY “get” this first morsel of hard-earned wisdom:
1. In life, the ONLY person you ever have any control over is yourself.
You can choose to let your mom’s condition define you and always live in the shadow of her mountain of crap or you can become the absolute happiest and healthiest person YOU can be in spite of it all... You cannot change your mom. You can’t. That is up to her and ONLY her. You have a bit longer to live there and I know that environment is pretty awful. There IS a wonderful, clutter-free life possible out there waiting for you.
2. Your mom isn’t doing this to make your life miserable.
Folks are still debating about the details of this, but I think we can all safely say that NOBODY (in their right mind, that is) would choose to live like this. She’s sick. I know it’s hard, but please remember that.
3. It sucks to be a child of a hoarder.
Life isn’t fair sometimes. It simply SUCKS to be a COH. You are the daughter. She is the mom. Yet, part of you has never truly gotten to be a kid for very long I suspect? You never get the benefit of being “taken care of” in every sense of the word. Life is full of such secrecy, shame and a whole bunch of other emotional landmines when you’re a COH. Later on, society is gonna tell you it’s your duty to take care of your mom. That sucks too! HOW can you take care of someone who doesn’t acknowledge there is even a problem? HOW can you clear their homes when they fill it up as quickly as you clean it up? HOW can you reason with someone who is NOT reasonable? HOW can you make sense of the senseless? Man, it just sucks — pure and NOT so simply! Sad chuckle. I guess that doesn’t make you feel better, but it SURE does feel good to say out loud that it sucks. Try it. Write it! Say it out to a friend. Move OUT of the shadows and put some light on that truth, hon.
4. You are MORE than a COH.
So, I’ve given you all of this “it sucks” stuff and you probably are well aware of that already. The good news, though, is that you TRULY have the possibility for a great life ahead of you. You can move beyond your childhood home. For now, it may only be in your mind. That’s what I did. I wrote and drew during those late teen years and got in touch with all of the emotions I was experiencing. I SO wish I had other folks to talk to at that time. I studied like hell, got a college degree and found a niche for myself beyond my childhood home. Now, people come to my home and say I should charge for the sanctuary they experience here. I mean, how COOL is that?! I am JUST NOW beginning to reach out to others via my writing, though, after SOOOOOOOOO many years of hiding. I can’t tell you how happy I get when someone says that something I have written brings them joy or a bit of “ah-ha”. That is BEYOND COOL.
Perhaps I’m delusional (a distinct possibility), but I do believe that fellow COH are some of the most articulate and truly smart people I have met. Many COH seem to truly “get” that it is the “small things in life” and the people that we love that bring the greatest joy. Things do NOT replace people. That is NO minor truth, you know? Yes, our empathy meters tend to run on the high side sometimes. However, when I look at how so many people bump about life like emotional zombies, I think that might not be such a bad thing…
Find your passion and grow it! Don’t hide in the shadows, afraid of what someone else will think. You are WORTHY of being seen, loved and appreciated.
5.True friends won’t judge you.
I know this whole secret seems like the HUGEST, darkest, ugliest thing in the world that you are keeping from friends. And, my journal from when I was a teenager reminds me that at your age, EVERYTHING seems (and IS) intense. Trust me, EVERYONE has secrets. Everyone has a family member (or in my case, the whole tree) who is a tad nuts. If someone is a true friend, they won’t judge you. Oh, they MAY roll their eyes and they might keep their distance (at first as their brains try to wrap around the idea), but true friends won’t dump you because your mom is a hoarder. More people are getting familiar with the concept of hoarding, in great part to the whole current trend of reality tv. It’s not like she collects body parts in her freezer, right? She doesn’t have small children caged in your basement?
That’s NOT to diminish what you are going through, though. No, not at all. It IS a bad situation – without a doubt. But you do have to keep it all into perspective. I know that’s hard. There ARE worse things than being a hoarder. It does sound like you have a reasonable relationship with your mom and that’s a good thing. You have something positive to hang on to and to build on.
Most of us COH are JUST NOW (or very recently) stepping out of the shadows and finding light on this matter. You are SO ahead of the rest of us by asking for advice at 15.
Sending you a cyber hug and a wee song from Lady Gaga that speaks to my heart. Maybe you might find a bit of solace in it too. The video kinda sucks for this song, but I do so love the lyrics.
Don’t give up - Virginia
Virginia, thank you for sharing your thoughts!