Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.

You can read the start of my journey here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

OCD. What's it all mean?

It seems I've always, always struggled with paperwork. Over the years, I have found that doing nothing often alleviates the distress of not knowing what to do, so I do nothing. As a result, I've ended up with a study full of boxes of paperwork that I will eventually need to sort.

I can't get all the boxes in the frame of the camera. There's another stack to the right, and there's another layer under the bottom layer of boxes showing in the picture. The 2 stacks in the right of the picture are 3 boxes deep. The other stacks are 2 boxes deep. And they pretty much all go to the ceiling and take up half the study. I definitely have my work cut out for me, but I shall prevail!

Hubster said he often feels frozen in a pattern of checking to see, if he locked the door, has his wallet in his pocket, has his keys in hand, and has everything else he may need before he can pull away from the house. He checks multiple times before he puts his vehicle in gear.

Hopper can't handle the stress of being without her strings long enough for them to go in the wash, so I have to wash them when she's away from the house, or she's totally out of sorts. Her palms get clammy, she gets red in the face, she has a minor meltdown, and nothing helps except getting the strings back in her hands.

Scooter can't sit still, if she sees anything tipped over on it's side. She can't keep herself from stopping whatever she's doing to upright whatever it is that has fallen. She also can't get out of bed without having all of her bracelets and necklaces on for the day, even when it means we have to remove them for her shower. 

While only Hopper has officially been diagnosed with having OCD, Hubster and I realize that all 4 of us have tendencies toward it. 

Back when we tried the pharmaceutical route for Hopper, we spoke with the psychiatrist she was seeing about it. I asked him about her strings. Over the years, she's had several grocery bags of shoestrings that she's used as a way to comfort herself, and if one is lost, or if they're in the wash, we see a totally undone little girl. She can't function. She can think of absolutely nothing else but the strings, and she's a total stressed out mess emotionally until she can pull them through her fingers once again. 

The psychiatrist said that what she's experiencing is classic OCD. That she has an obsession with the strings, and that she has a compulsion to drag them through her fingers. She cannot stop thinking of the strings and the comfort it brings her to pull them through her fingers, and is compelled to get them as quickly as possible. The longer she's away from them the more stressed out she becomes. The stress continues to escalate until she gets hold of the strings and can draw strength and relief from them. It is instantaneous.

Her doctor explained that she has an almost physical need to hold the strings. It sounded much like someone being addicted to alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. The sooner the object of the addiction is used by the person addicted, the sooner their relief from the symptoms of withdrawal. 

I came across this interesting article on OCD and hoarding on Everyday Health. A series of hoarding experts tackle all sorts of questions about how OCD and hoarding are connected. I can really identify with a lot of what is discussed. So much of it is familiar to me, both from personal experience and observation of our girls and my husband. 

The most important thing is that my husband and I have acknowledged that we struggle with these tendencies, and as a result, we're becoming better able to stop the madness and change our ways. I've also noticed that the greater the stress I'm under the more difficult it is to fight the urge to hang tight to every single piece of paper that comes into the house. With the stress of the last several weeks, I haven't had the clarity of mind to do much beyond surviving.

I'm looking forward to the stress subsiding a bit, so I can get back to dehoarding the house. 

It's almost becoming an obsession....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Day In The Life...also known as: My Husband. My Hero.

The house is quiet.

For now.

It likely will only last about an hour, but I'll take it over the meltdowns that have happened daily since Hopper broke her leg. It's been a long 4 weeks since that happened.

I'm not complaining. At least I don't mean to be. I can't express how very thankful I am that she's doing so much better. And for the most part, I can handle the meltdowns. They mean she's getting back to her normal self, who absolutely hates being confined to a wheelchair and the frustration it brings. In ways, I'm thankful she's frustrated. It means she's not happy being stuck where she is, and she won't be comfortable staying in the wheelchair forever. She's got such an easy going spirit overall, that one could get the idea that she is fine with things never changing or with a lack of healing/growth on her part.

But I am honestly fatigued by the meltdowns. They wear on me. And while yesterday and today haven't been too bad, the last few weeks have been horrendous.

Bugster and Bubster had their wedding over the weekend, and I'm not sure, if it's a lack of sleep on the girls' part, (Let me break in here by saying the quiet was so quiet that I couldn't keep my eyes open, and we all took a much needed nap! Now...back to your regularly scheduled post...), or what, but the meltdowns have been plentiful. Saturday, the day of the wedding, Hopper probably had at least a dozen meltdowns throughout the day before the wedding. She had a couple more when we were at the park to break the pinata and then again at the ceremony.

Her meltdowns can be a bit contagious. And although Scooter hasn't has as many meltdowns as Hopper, Hopper's have triggered them. Sadly, Hubster and I are not immune. We normally have the patience to deal with a meltdown here or a meltdown there, but we've had no space between them in which to recover, and we've snapped a few times.

Hubby had his parents come over for a visit on Sunday while I was out with my sister and mom for a few hours. He wanted to give me a break, and he thought maybe it would be easier on me to have them over while I was gone, and I was all for both the break and not being here when they were seeing the house and all it hoards. However, it was a bit much for him to handle alone, and he said that he exploded out of pure frustration at Hopper. He didn't hit her. He didn't call her names. But he did yell at her. And he's got a big voice. It's not something that happens with any frequency. We try very hard not to yell at the girls, but we're human, and sometimes, when we've had no break from the stress, when there is no relief in sight, we've been known to yell. And while neither of us want to yell at the girls, we'd rather it come out as something loud rather than something hard like a fist.

And so, when I was away from the house, and Hubster was here alone with the girls, their moods, and their grandparents, he snapped. And his dad, in all his infinite wisdom, encouraged Hubster that maybe we needed to do it more often. After all, it caused her to stop her meltdown.

:::insert extra large eye roll here::::

Hubster put the girls to bed and then talked with his parents, who have never once showed an ounce of understanding for what goes on with the girls, either for us as parents or for our beautiful daughters. And how he didn't totally explode at his parents is beyond me. Instead, he asked a hypothetical question. He asked, "What would you have done, if I was out of control, and yelling didn't snap me out of it? Would you hit me? What if you couldn't or wouldn't hit me for whatever reason? What would you do then?"

His dad didn't have any answers.

He explained that every single day, grown people throw fits. That sometimes, "when Judy hurts my sensitive little feelings, I give her the silent treatment". That other times when an adult is going through a rough divorce, they end up murdering their entire families. And while these are only examples of fits that people throw, that adults with a normal mental capacity still have the ability to pull themselves into check and realize what they're doing. They can typically reason with themselves and stop throwing their fits.

However, the girls aren't typical. They feel the emotions that they feel when they feel them. They don't stuff them. The love, anger, sadness, happiness and joy they feel are more real than what most people feel, simply because they have no way of faking it. So when they're feeling overwhelmed, scared, sad and angry, it comes out in the form of a meltdown. And all we can do is allow them to feel it, even when they sometimes feel those deep emotions when it's not convenient to us.

So his mom asked, if we'd considered taking her to a psychiatrist. Had we considered drugs?

::::insert monumentally HUGE eye roll here::::

I know. Maybe I should give her the benefit of the doubt. She seriously could have just been brain storming and trying to help find a solution. So Hubster explained again that we had gone the route of the psychiatrist. That he'd put her on medication, and that when the medication didn't seem to be quite enough according to the psychiatrist that he upped the dose, and then she started getting physical. It was infrequent at first. She would only have full-blown meltdowns once a month. We figured it had to do with her hormones, but it wasn't long before she was having meltdowns more than once a week. By the time we realized the meds were the culprit in her uncontrolled rages, Hopper was getting physical with me 3 and 4 days out of the week, and each day consisted of 3 to 4 altercations with her trying to beat me up. She was on the medicine for 2 full years before we realized that it was the cause of the problems. So yeah. We tried a psychiatrist. And we tried drugs. 

Yeah. They didn't work.

It was obvious at the wedding the night before that they both felt that the girls are not disciplined, and if we only (fill in the blank) that they'd behave better in public. The thing is, they're two of the most well behaved kids you'd ever meet. I'm fairly certain the inlaws came to our house thinking the same thing when they visited our home when Hubster was taking care of the girls while I was gone. I think they may have left with a totally different understanding of their son's family and the life we live. 

Hubster wondered, if maybe, somewhere, they might get that we know how to handle the girls, that we might actually know what we're doing after all these years. After all, Hopper is weeks away from being 21. Only time will tell, if they took anything out of the conversation.

When Hubster told me everything that happened, I told him that he'd never been sexier to me. He shows me on a daily basis what we mean to him. We never lack for love. Ever. But for him to go so far as to explain things to his parents regardless of any sort of backlash, it speaks volumes about what he feels for us. 

I just hope that his parents finally see it. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

In a word? Terrifying.

I started writing this a week ago, but I've been busy enough that I haven't had the opportunity to finish it up. I'm leaving it like I'd written it last week rather than edit the timing of everything. I have too many other issues to deal with right now....

It's been a week since Hopper broke her femur.

It feels like it's been a year.

It appears as though she'll be in the inpatient rehab unit for 2 weeks, unless she really gets that she can not put weight on that leg at all for 8 weeks. She's making progress, but it's still going to take awhile.

Had a scare the other night. I've lost all track of time, but if I recall correctly, it was Friday night...

It was my turn to stay with Hopper at the hospital, and I could tell she was 'off' when I came in the room. She just did not feel well. It was more than just the pain. She let the phlebotomist take her blood without freaking out. She had absolutely no appetite. And she barely answered me, when I asked her a question.

Hopper. was. just. not. Hopper.

Just before 9 pm, the nurse came in to get vitals. I remember not thinking too much of it. I mean vitals are taken all the time, and there's rarely a problem. I always ask what the results are, but they're usually so close to normal that I stick it in the back of my mind as normal and just sort of forget about it. But Friday night was a totally different situation.

The nurse asked, if she could assess Hopper's condition and do her vitals. Sure. That's not a problem. But I heard Hopper cough. It was just a single cough. Sort of like she was clearing her throat. And she's done this sort of coughing or lets loose a bit of a yelp right before she gets sick to her stomach since she was little. So I knew to be prepared. She coughed again a second time, and I had the basin ready for her to use. Sure enough, the third cough was the charm, and she was getting sick to her stomach.

I've seen her get sick many, many times over the years. It has always unnerved me, because of how she responds. She often has a vacant look in her eyes, and she doesn't seem responsive at all for several seconds, but this time was worse. Much worse. Instead of just a vacant look come across her face, she went catatonic.  I was mere inches from her face yelling her name, and I could tell she couldn't hear me. She couldn't see me. She couldn't. well. anything. She even stopped breathing.

Knowing that it's always a possibility to for someone to choke on their own vomit and die as a result, I threw her forward into a sitting position as forcefully as I could. I still yelled her name as loud as I could, and she still wasn't responding. All of the sudden, her eyeballs started jumping up and down and then slowly rolled to the back of her head. I just kept screaming her name. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun it was over. Hopper came back, looked at me as if to say, "what", and made eye contact. I did everything I could to make her maintain that contact, so she wouldn't slip away again.

It scared me to death. Well, actually, it scared me enough I wet myself. And that was a first. In the roughly 5 dozen times the girls have been hospitalized, I'd never wet my pants before last Friday night. And I've been scared to what I thought was death, but I've apparently never been *that* scared before.

In my periphery, I could see movement, but my eyes were glued to Hopper's face. Once she came to, I looked up and realized that the nurse had called the crash team, and my screams along with the button she pushed brought RNs out of the woodwork. The room was crawling with nurses, and I'm so very thankful they responded so quickly. Instead of being scared seeing the crash cart sitting there just ...waiting, I was thankful it was there in case it was needed. By God's Grace, it wasn't, but still...

I scrambled to call Hubster to let him know he needed to get back to the hospital ASAP!, but I couldn't seem to reach him. He must have been out of earshot of the phones, so I called Bugster. She only lives a few miles away, and I knew someone needed to stay with Scooter, so I asked her, if she could go let her dad know he needed to come up right away. I didn't know what to tell them was wrong with her, because the professionals didn't even know. Besides, I didn't want either one of them to drive in a panic, so all I could say was for Hubster to get up here. 


They sent her to the ICU to be monitored overnight, because they weren't sure what had caused her catatonic state. Hubster arrived right before we headed downstairs. It appeared a bit like a seizure but not quite. Once in the ICU, her heart and breathing were monitored. The vomiting continued from time to time, and for some reason I asked, if the heart monitor recorded what had happened when she was getting sick to her stomach. The nurse assured me that it did, but it wasn't set to record. I told her it would have been interesting to see what happened when she got sick. She fiddled around with the machine, but I totally forgot about even saying anything until the next day.

Poor Hopper seemed so miserable that I asked, if they could give her something for her nausea. An hour or so after she took it, she seemed almost normal. She was animated once again, and her personality was back. We were so relieved, but none of us slept really well that night. A few hours after Hopper appeared to be stabilized, Hubster went home to get some sleep. After 3 nights at the hospital with no sleep, he needed it desperately. The last thing we needed was for 2 of our family to end up in need of medical care, so I was glad to see him go home and rest.

Early the next afternoon, Hopper was moved back to the rehab unit. They figured that she'd had a vasovagal (or vagal) response. In her case, the vagus nerve, which runs through the abdomen is overstimulated when she vomits and causes her to lose consciousness. However, it's a bit more serious with her than a simple faint.

Several hours after she was moved back into her room on the rehab unit, she was feeling nauseous again. I could tell by the way she was acting that she was headed in the same direction as she'd been the day before. I asked, if she could be given something for the nausea, because I didn't know, if I could handle a repeat performance, and I didn't know, if she could, either.

The nurse said she knew the doctor had written for an anti-nausea medicine, but she called the doctor to see, if she could give it by IV, so it would work faster. The doctor said yes, and she left to order it from the pharmacy. A few minutes later, she came back in the room and showed us that she had the syringe. Then she told us that she couldn't give it to her.

The doctor had stopped her after she'd picked up the medicine from the pharmacy and told her to come into his office to look at something. He had a printout from the heart monitor from where the nurse turned on the recording down in ICU after I'd mentioned it the night before. During one of her very mild instances of vomiting, her heart had stopped for approximately 4 to 5 seconds.

The nurse miscalculated and said it was approximately 30 seconds that it had stopped, but the doctor said it didn't matter, if it was 4 second or 30 seconds. A stop or pause of any length is a serious matter. I shudder to think of how long her heart stopped up in the room when things first went south. There is a cardiac risk with the IV version of the anti-nausea medication, so the doctor didn't want to chance things and went with the oral version instead. We're so grateful he was looking out for her and so thankful that I wondered aloud what the monitor would have shown during one of her episodes. 

At one point, the idea of a pacemaker was on the table. We asked for a cardiology consult, because her heart rate was so high during some instances (it went as high as 170 bpm when she was scared at one point and she had a high of 146/101 for her blood pressure during a different moment of stress!), but the cardiologist figured it would settle down once she got home. He said that her sinus rhythm is totally normal-just very fast (tachycardic)  and you should never slow it down with beta blockers, if the rhythm itself is normal. Beta blockers have the potential of making a vagal response much worse, because they slow the heart rate down, and that would be the only reason she would have needed a keep her heart beating, if the beta blockers slowed her heart too much. Thankfully, she doesn't need either at this time. 

However, we do need to prevent her from vomiting as much as possible, to prevent her heart from stopping when she gets sick again. So we will have a prescription of anti-nausea medication at home to use anytime she gets a stomach bug. We'll gladly take that option over watching her go through that again. 

She's home now. She's doing remarkably well, and we're very grateful for the amazing nurses and doctors we had through this ordeal. She's struggling with the concept of not bearing weight on her left leg/foot, but she's slowly getting the hang of what it means. The hardest part of all of it for her is the fact that she's stuck in a wheelchair and can't get around like she wants. The hardest part for us is that we don't have a wheelchair ramp outside to get her back and forth through the doorway. It's going to be a long 8 weeks without one. We may have to figure something out, or I fear we'll all go insane stuck inside for so long!

Right now, we're eternally grateful for the sports channels on television! They keep her somewhat occupied. 

Did I mention this is going to be a long 8 weeks?