Please note: I am not a medical person of any kind. I am not an expert on PTSD. What I’m writing here is a combination of what I’ve learned from my counselor and my own research. It is strictly for my readers to understand what I’m talking about when I mention PTSD, not to be a research paper on the subject. If I have any details wrong, feel free to contact me. If you’re looking for certified advice about PTSD, please seek a professional.

When I first started going to my counselor, she said that it sounded like I had dysthymic disorder and possibly some post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As our sessions have continued, she has concluded that I actually have more PTSD than she originally thought. In fact, after a while, it started to seem like every session she was telling me, “That’s a PTSD thing.”

So what does it mean?

There are different levels of PTSD, but mine is based on continued trauma throughout my childhood. Though this is not necessarily as much trauma as, say, a prisoner of war, the results are essentially the same.

The thing about this kind of trauma is that it’s different from instantaneous trauma. I do not belittle the trauma or the post-traumatic stress of someone who was in the Oklahama City Bombing or the Twin Towers on 9/11. Instantaneous trauma and prolonged trauma are still trauma. I only say that it is different. Instantaneous trauma leaves people trying to reason out a moment. Prolonged trauma leaves people trying to reason out a lifetime. And honestly, I know a good deal less about instantaneous trauma, so everything that follows will be about PTSD from prolonged trauma.

Also, I should mention, that my parents’ hoarding wasn’t the only trauma of my growing-up years. If they had hoards but were always otherwise ideal parents, I probably wouldn’t have the issues I have today. But there was emotional abuse, mostly regarding the condition of the house and the state of finances being “our fault” – that is, the fault of the children. There was also a level of fear to the point that I had plans in place in case my father ever actually hit us. So “stuff” itself was not the traumatic aspect of this.

So, a few of the results of PTSD are these:
~Having trouble doing certain tasks due to a stigma about it from the trauma. (eg. someone in a labor camp later being unable to perform the task that they did in that camp)
~Conversely, having a task or habit developed in trauma that continues long after. (eg. someone in an abusive relationship whose abuser always insisted on doing a task a certain way, and after they’re free they still do that task that way due to an irrational fear that something bad will happen if they don’t)
~Expressly striving to avoid repeating the circumstances of the trauma. (eg. a child of a hoarder keeping an illogically immaculate minimalist house)

For me, this translates as this:
~I am illogically defensive and feel like I always have to give an answer or have a reason.
~I get trapped by what I call a threshold of mess – I try to keep my house clean, but when something reaches a certain point (eg. too many dishes, too much laundry, etc.) I suddenly feel anxious and overwhelmed about the prospect of getting it cleaned up.
~Even when the rest of my house is cleaned up, I always have one major pile of clutter. Somehow, without that, I start to feel anxious.
~Even though I always have some mess and disorganization that I struggle with, I have certain things that I absolutely have to keep clean or I feel like my house is just going down the tubes into the mass of destruction that my parents’ house is. Among those is the sink faucet. I absolutely can not stand having any toothpaste spit on the sink faucet. I almost religiously rinse it off when I’m washing my hands.

There are other effects, and they will show up regularly throughout my blog posts. I’m still learning about some effects myself. And I’m working hard to root these things out. Maybe some day I’ll be able to come back here and change this page to say that I’m not struggling with any of this anymore!

But that day . . . is not today.