Purging and Mental Health

My 31-year-old son has a collection of clutter to the point where one of our rooms is unusable. It’s called being a hoarder. I decided to look up the term. According to the mayoclinic.org, hoarding is a disorder. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there’s no space
  • Persistent difficulty throwing out or parting with your things, regardless of actual value
  • Feeling a need to save these items, and being upset by the thought of discarding them
  • Building up of clutter to the point where rooms become unusable
  • Having a tendency toward indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing

Years ago, our garage included a home gym. Now, circular, cast-iron barbells litter the floor on all sides of the weight bench centered below a 7-foot weight rack. I haven’t counted the weights. There are probably close to thirty of them, of various size, from five-and-a-half pounds to forty-five. Some lay haphazardly on the foam mats beneath the bench, some on the concrete amid dead leaves, bits of rope, PVC, a weight bar, a circular saw, timber, a sledgehammer, empty cardboard boxes, and sawdust. A collapsible elliptical machine leans against the wall. A freestanding heavy bag lays on its side on top of a toppled bike. There is a Honda Grom with a large plastic storage container strapped to the back. Something is wrong with the motor. There is another mini-motorbike shipped in pieces from China, put together at one point, now in pieces again. Lots of destroyed and broken things. There is more, much more. Plus, regular garage stuff. Sawdust covers all of it. Our son Drew thinks he is building a house. The clutter is beyond clutter. It’s excessive. We don’t have the space. We would like to park a car in the garage. The mess belongs to Drew, but I take responsibility for allowing it to happen. He lives with us, well, not exactly with us. He sleeps in his car most of the time, by choice. He has schizophrenia, and his thinking suffers.

The hoarding was motivation for the Less Is Now 30-day challenge. Day One—get rid of one thing, Day Two—get rid of two things, and so on. That equals 175 things to sell, donate, recycle, or trash during Week Four. My husband and I usually avoid the garage like the COVID. But during Week Four of the challenge, I turned my focus to the garage. One day I trashed or recycled 45 items. Lots of cardboard boxes and packaging pieces. Another day 72. Add those numbers to some other household items, and I’m currently 22 items short, but today is the last day of my fourth week. I still have time. Plus 29 for tomorrow and 30 for the next for a grand total of 453 items to be purged. I’m almost there. The challenge has been a challenge, made easier by a hoard. Progress is progress.

The Mayo Clinic also claims that many people with hoarding disorder also experience other mental health disorders, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

I think we could add schizophrenia to the list. However, my son also has the OCD label. We’ve gone through ten plus years of a rocky, uphill battle. Do you give up on people who are ill? I’m trying really hard not to. I wouldn’t give up if the illness were physical.

Back on the Mayo Clinic website, they say schizophrenia involves a range of problems with thinking (cognition), behavior and emotions. Signs and symptoms may vary, but usually involve delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech, and reflect an impaired ability to function. Symptoms may include:

  • Delusions. These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, you think that you’re being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; you have exceptional ability or fame; another person is in love with you; or a major catastrophe is about to occur. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia.
  • Hallucinations. These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
  • Disorganized thinking (speech). Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Rarely, speech may include putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood, sometimes known as word salad.
  • Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior. This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn’t focused on a goal, so it’s hard to do tasks. Behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
  • Negative symptoms. This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone). Also, the person may lose interest in everyday activities, socially withdraw or lack the ability to experience pleasure.

All of it applies to my son. The hoarding is sort of down the list of problems we have at our house…or that my son has in his car. What happened to my little boy who made straight A’s and became a cellist with a full ride to college? I’ve learned I can’t reason with schizophrenia. There are people close to me who wish I wouldn’t be so open about Drew’s mental illness. But for me, secrets are heavy, and people keep them when they don’t want others to know the truth. Maybe it’s guilt. Maybe shame. Maybe grief. Secrecy perpetuates the stigma of those seeking help. I’m not ashamed, but I do mourn for the person he was before. Still I cling to hope. Hope for Drew to take responsibility for his symptoms and treatment. Hope for better medicine…a Team Drew…better days…a cure?

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

96 thoughts on “Purging and Mental Health

  1. Oh, this happened when he was a young adult? A very good friend of my son’s was also a victim of this. For him, it was because of the overuse of marijuana – I learned at that time that this drug was a trigger for schizophrenia. I’m not going to tell you that the boy got away with it – that would be lying to you. I know he has almost a normal life now, he has found a “suitable” job – he fixes computers and gets to see his old friends again – but he still has some very hard times. He’s on medication, of course.

    Good luck my beautiful friend – you’re doing your best, and that’s all your son needs – his mommy by his side.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. My son was diagnosed after his sophomore year of college and had some personal battles beginning a few years before that, but nothing that we recognized as severe. Unfortunately, my husband and I have mental health issues on both sides of the family. It’s no one’s fault. Just the luck of the draw. My son was in a better place mentally before we moved in 2016, and then we started over with finding help. His medication lost effectiveness. He is currently untreated and doesn’t really understand how much he needs help. I’m tired.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Hello Crystal, I have a question that “ Can we solve mental problems and diseases by focusing on hope based imagination.

    You see everyone draws something whether he is an artist or not. We can guide people having mental issues to draw sketches to express their thoughts. Let them provide an open and healthy space to do what they want. Guide them in between to be positive, support them. Maybe after a few weeks or months, you can see a positive change in them.

    Motivate them to use their imagination to find solutions to their problems, make more sketches/ colourful drawings, write 4 liner poems, make their own dance step etc.

    Are you understanding me? What do you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Lokesh, I appreciate you for reading and brainstorming with me. Communication is one of our biggest problems. Much of it is misinterpreted. I will keep trying to motivate in creative ways and keep praying for some type of intervention to help our family.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m so sorry that your family has to carry this Crystal ❤️😢 So so hard. And secrets make us feel like we have to carry it alone. Make sure you share them with someone close, who will love, care and respond with understanding.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. He was seeing the same psychiatrist for the past four years and on the same medication for over five years, which eventually lost effectiveness. He had an involuntary hospitalization in September, and they didn’t offer anything different because he was already on an extended release injection. I’m not sure involuntary treatment is the answer. The hospital released him to a group home, which lasted less than a month. Then we tried a new doctor, and he refused treatment. It’s one reason he sleeps in his car. We told him if he were to stay at home, he would need to follow up with a doctor. He has a few options other than homelessness. I like your idea of a program. I’m going to look into local services. Thanks for reading and taking time to leave your thoughts, Neil.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Wow, how well I know all the above symptoms! There are a lot of people that are very close to me, including family and close friends, that are experiencing the same above story, or worse! I think Drew probably came by this honestly from his grandpa, Tommy, who I call a “pack rat.” Actually, it’s a guy thing. Of course on the other end of the spectrum, there are minimalists which are bare and boring. I think there’s a little bit of hoarding in all of us, some more than others. There must be 1000 collected golf balls down our basement, which I accidentally bumped the table, and now they’re on the floor. 😱 There are hundreds of coins laying everywhere trying to find a little home. There are bins of old collector’s magazines stacked to the ceiling out in our storage building. Plus, mountains of football, baseball and other cards of all kinds to be sorted. There are bicycles in the garage with motorcycles and wagons and bicycles in the storage building and there’s even a bicycle in the basement, yikes! I call all of this “organized messes” or “organizational overload.”
    I live in a home of 5 generations, so, old, new and used items are flying out the door! I had to ask for help though!
    Somewhere along the line, our mind houses projects that never get started or finished or never come to fruition Guilty! 2020 was a year of purge for me also. Yay! I think at some point, we all go through schizophrenia, depression, mental anguish, anxiety, disappointment, heartache and grief. I know I have and so has Tommy, but speaking words of affirmation (Mark 11:23-24) to myself and others is the key to life, which relates to the book that I’m reading aloud every night, “How To Live and Not Die” by Norvel Hays. Life can throw all of us a curve ball every once in a while, but there’s a home run in the end…..Hebrews 12:1
    “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 KJV
    Love you to Houston and back to The Oklahoma Centennial Farm 💕
    DanaNanaNinaMom

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love you, Nana! I just went to Chase Oaks online, and the sermon was part of series called “When Life Gives You Lemons.” Over the summer was a series called “How to Hit a Curveball.” Thanks for the perspective and words of affirmation. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How overwhelming this must be for you. I’m glad he is safe at home where you can see him daily and not worry about where he is. I can sort of relate with having my 27 year old living here with us, who suffers from PTSD, anxiety, depression and ADHD. Some of the behaviors your son exhibits I see in my kid sometimes. Most of the time they function pretty well (especially if they are taking their meds), but there are some challenging days that often catch me by surprise. On those days I feel like I’m walking on eggshells, unsure of what to say or how to say it-afraid of somehow making things worse. Yet I find comfort knowing they are here with us though I really want them to live on their own and flourish. Most of the time I think this is a possibility. I don’t know how soon that day will come so I try every day to be supportive and patient. My heart goes out to you, Crystal.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Rhonda. I’m familiar with walking on eggshells, not knowing what to say, and my best efforts going wrong. I think the purge brought out some impatience, because I had to deal with it. Prayers for you and your family, too. Sending love.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you. It’s your son so it must be a hard battle between understanding and putting your foot down. I can only hope that things get better for you. I fear my step daughter might be showing signs of bipolar (her mother has it) and I’m not sure how to handle it. I’m so upbeat, outgoing and organized and she is non of those things. Makes it hard to relate and also hard to live with. I try my best to sympathize but at times I just want to lose it on her and tell her to stop being lazy. Sending you positive vibes!!!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Jill! If it makes you feel better, at times I totally lose it. I’m pretty sure I need a job to get myself out of the house. I like what Tony Robbins says, “I’m done with suffering. I’m going to live every day to the fullest and find juice in every moment, including the ones I don’t like, BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST TOO SHORT TO SUFFER.”

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Life is indeed not fair. But you choose to do something about it.
    The decluttering. Being open about Drew’s illness. Daring to hold on to hope. That’s YOU being proactive.

    Thank you for sharing the unvarnished truth. Prayers for the Byers family continue.🙏

    Liked by 5 people

  8. I’ve known a few people who I thought *might* have schizophrenia but never known a person who was diagnosed as such. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for your son and for you to watch as the symptoms manifest in him. Hoping it doesn’t overwhelm you too much on a daily basis.

    On a different note, thanks for the information about the Less Is Now 30-day challenge. I like the sound of it. Tomorrow is March 1 and I’m ready to do some spring cleaning so I’ll be following this approach to decluttering.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My true hope (besides help for my son) is that people will have a little extra compassion and understanding about mental health/illness. Thanks for inspiring my purge, Dwight. As far as I know, at least six other people took the challenge due to the ripple effect. It has definitely made a difference.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I wonder, are you a member of a support group, Crystal? My son in law has schizophrenia. He went through some very difficult years and his parents were–at various times–at their wits end. But he met my daughter on line when he was in a current of clarity but not in treatment; he wouldn’t take his medications–he didn’t like the way they made him feel, though he did use heroin to cope with hill illness. Meeting my daughter and the possibilities that she represented gave him the ambition to manage his illness. This support groups helped him and his parents a great deal in the process: Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA).
    My son in law is doing very well. He and my daughter recently moved from California to Chattanooga where he works as a radiology technician. They are very happy. My other daughter and her fiancé have moved to Chattanooga as well.
    Don’t give up. There is hope for son.
    –Pam

    Liked by 3 people

    1. SARDAA is new to me. It looks like there is a group in my area. Thank you for this resource and for the extra hope, Pam. Right before the shut down last year, I tried to go to a NAMI support group near me and then didn’t make it. It’s hard to reach out even when I know it’s necessary. I appreciate you for the encouragement.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. My heart goes out to you Crystal. I pray with you for better days, for treatment and hopefully for a cure.
    I admire your openness with sharing, your words that secrecy perpetuating the stigma for seeking help, I feel rings true. A very close friend of mine has a daughter with Bipolar. She does not like to share much with others about it, although she does share a bit with me and I pray and listen to her whenever she needs it. And to an extent I understand her reservation to share but at the same time I do feel she carries that heavy secret in her heart.
    I am praying for your family Crystal. May the Lord strengthen you and give you all that you need to be what Drew needs of you.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Beautiful words. Of course you still hope, mama. Of course you mourn the person he once was. I’d worry if you didn’t. I hope and pray for you and your husband and for Drew. Miracles happen every day. Holding you in love and light. 💕🌟

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Oh, Crystal, I’m so very sorry you and your family have to live through this. We’ve had two instances of schizophrenia in our extended family. It is so terribly difficult and heartbreaking. It does seem that medication and treatments help for some time and then something changes somehow. As someone else mentioned, I hope there is a support group in your area. Also, I think your thoughts in one comment about getting a job and getting on with your own life are very healthy thoughts, as is being open about Drew’s situation. Bless you, Crystal.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. My mother-in-law is a hoarder and her sister was as well. My husband and I both had to help them both move from their homes. It was not fun and so much stress. With my husband’s aunt we just helped her pack up most items to a large crate to ship back to Europe when she lived here. We took about ten truck loads from her one house to donate to different thrift stores around the city because it was just too much stuff to put on one store. She had another home here filled as well but she lost the key and had sold it as is to the new owners…we were relieved because we were already exhausted clearing out one home.
    When we moved our mother-in-law it was so much worst. She would have panic attacks when we went to throw away broken glasses and dishes. We had to drive to another alley to throw the broken garbage part of the hoard away because when we left she would walk up and down the alleys picking out of the garbage cans stuff she believed was hers and some of it was but it was broken.
    I still have photos of the hoard because I believed that if I showed her how you couldn’t walk into a room because it was filled to the ceiling and how there were sheets covering everything that she would see it for what it was, but she never did. Her and her siblings grew are from Italy and growing up during world war two caused them to be this way I believe. The Germans too over their home at one time.
    Nothing wrong with sharing this, the more we all talk about it, the more people will understand how hard it is and have compassion for mental illnesses and understand them better. Thank you for sharing. Not a lot of people talk about this, but there are many out there who suffer from it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story here. There is no shame in seeking help. Unfortunately, like your mother-in-law and my son, many people don’t recognize the need for help, and others are left trying to make them understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I think it’s really refreshing that you’re so open about issues that people can find very hard to talk about and address. I think I would identify as a hoarder based on what you describe here. Always felt I had a problem of this nature but haven’t quite found the word for it until now maybe.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I appreciate you for saying that. I never want to come off judgmental. I’m just sharing my experience, and others somehow seem to relate. I love my son more than words can say, even when he’s frustrating. I believe there’s help for anyone who realizes help is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. The international group of humankind looking for resolutions is dedicated and relentless. I love your acceptance and willingness to share about your and your son’s reality. Take care of you and all you love.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. 🤷‍♀️ Sometimes I remind myself I don’t have to believe everything I think. I sort of like acknowledging my feelings whatever they are and then, if needed, letting them go.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. This is so raw and honest. I bet your spirit is exhausted…secrets are so crushing, I’m really glad you shared. I wish I had a magical answer. Praying for answers and hope❤

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I’ve stopped questioning the randomness of the trials and tribulations that life seems to throw at us, it’s impossible to figure it all out, I’ve found it more productive to life that wisdom poem: change what I can, accept what I can’t and pray for the strength to know the difference. I continue to hold you and your family in prayer, all my best to you, C

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Hang in there Crystal! Your courage to write about this is profound. You have been dedicated to make a difference. I have witnessed a family member who continues to deal with the rollercoaster ride of bipolar depression so I understand some of the trauma you face. God’s peace and grace!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Many decades ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I believe there is a partial answer now. I hold that iron-sulfur proteins are dysregulated in schizophrenia. Taking iron carbonyl, which is a very safe form of iron, can address difficulties in iron sulfur proteins. Carbonyl iron must be taken once at bedtime to minimize interactions of iron with foods and drinks. Approximately 600 milligrams of carbonyl iron must be taken a day Iron carbonyl treats psychosis. 200 micrograms of Se-methylselenocysteine taken once a day can address cognitive difficulties. Carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine work quickly and you should know within a week, two weeks at most, whether the treatment is effective. On carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine your son would still be disabled but there are steps that can be taken from there. A difficulty with carbonyl iron is that carbonyl iron is sold in 45 milligram tablets so a lot of tablets have to be taken. Feosol carbonyl iron is the brand I take. Carbonyl iron is a very safe form of iron.

    Approximately 600 milligrams of iron from carbonyl iron is taken once a day at bedtime. at least 6-7 hours away from the last cup of coffee of the day given coffee is drunk. There are way too many interactions of iron with drinks, for example, coffee, and supplements for iron to be taken more than once a day. Changes in iron levels in the gastrointestinal tract due to drinks, and/or supplements can be huge difficulties so iron from carbonyl iron must be taken so there are minimal interactions of iron in the gastrointestinal tract with drinks, for and/or supplements. Iron from carbonyl iron is slowly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract which is highly beneficial. Carbonyl iron is a very safe form of iron. Anemia panels must be obtained to insure that iron levels are not high. Anemia panels can be ordered on line where no prescription is required certainly not in Texas.


    200 micrograms of selenium from Se-methylselenocysteine Se-methylselenocysteine is taken once a day.

    I have two WordPress websites.The relevant site is Neurological illnesses, the Transsulfuration Pathway and Epigenetics. It should be emphasized to your son if carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine are effective that there are steps that can be taken from there. This is a safe, quick treatment that could make a huge difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is such great information. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me and link your sources. Much appreciated. I’m open to alternatives. The tricky part is convincing my son, but I’m holding hope. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine address about a third of the problem. From the viewpoint of society carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine are a great advance but in terms of good lives lead carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine leave a lot to be desired.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I sound fairly pessimistic about the overall usefulness of carbonyl iron and Se-methylselenocysteine but very helpful steps can be taken from there. I would be very interested in whether your son has pain in the back neck and back head region. You could ask him.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Well done to you for making a change. Have you read about addiction (including hoarding of items) being caused by loss of connection? I would recommend having a look at polyvagal theory – it may help your son

    Like

  21. This is a very touching story. Thank you for sharing. There were a lot of takeaways from your story- it is one I will use as a reference to educator others. All the best to your son and like you, I am hopeful there will be a cure.

    Like

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