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The story behind Suedonym's photos

In her own words

How did I get to where I was?

Well, I recently came to the realization that I've probably been mildly depressed most of my life, punctuated with periods of deeper depression. I've functioned well enough that most people didn't know anything was wrong, but I've never felt capable of handling life's responsibilities. My mother had an aneurysm and, since she also had emphysema and heart trouble, her recovery was quite difficult. I moved in with her to help her around the house, and so I could live cheaply to go back to school. She had always been a packrat, and never kept a clean house, so typical maintenance things were never done, plus we had to jam all my belongings into a house that was already full to the gills. A year later, she died from heart failure.

I had quit my job to go back to school, so suddenly I had a mortgage to take over and no job. Then 9/11 struck, and my downward spiral continued. I don't think I ever washed another dish after my mom's funeral. Maybe just one item at a time if I needed something. Then I started using disposables. As the clutter piled up, the depression got worse, which followed by worsening mess as I cared less and less. I started thinking I just wanted to die. But I was afraid to die, because I'd be so humiliated (even in death) for anyone to find me there. I really didn't think about the future at all. I only got through my days, got a new job, paid only the bills I needed to just to get by... my credit is ruined... I've almost been foreclosed on just for not sending the payment... I just lost complete control of my life.

One day (actually, it was Sunday, February 20th), while I was thinking, "what if I died?" I remembered there were cleaning sites on the net, and maybe they could help me figure out what to do. I just wanted to clean up enough so that if I died, no one else would have to deal with this burden I'd created. I remembered the name Flylady. But when I went to the site, it discouraged me even more, because the things she said to do were just not POSSIBLE with the state of mess I had. I kept clicking through links to other places. I happened upon the word squalor. I hadn't ever used that word before, but I knew it fit. Someone mentioned a woman named Kimmy, and how she overcame squalor. But the link they posted was outdated. Somehow, I knew this was the key. I had to find where this info was.

So, I googled and googled various keywords until finally, I found Squalor Survivors. From the moment I saw that front page, I knew someone understood me. I sat here at my desk at work and cried silently. I cried as I looked through Kimmy's pictures. I cried as I looked through Patkortcam's. I read every word on the main site. I went to the forum, and I read and read and read. For the first time in I don't know how long, I had hope. I had hope that not only could I clean up enough that I wouldn't be a burden if I died, but I could actually live in a decent, clean place, and even make it pleasant. I posted that day, February 22, and the warmth and encouragement and empathy just flowed from the screen to my heart.

I had started making small steps that Sunday. Each time I dragged my tired, depressed body off the couch, I picked up a couple things, either to throw away, or find homes for. By the end of the week, I could see that I had more floor space, and didn't have to step over things to get to the main areas of my house. I posted that I planned to work on the front room that weekend, so that I wouldn't have to panic when I hear a knock at the door. I decided to take pictures before I started, because I wanted to really SEE the difference. I actually ended up cleaning my living room instead. I'd lost an important paper in that room, which had to be acted upon immediately, so I started sorting papers there, and just decided (after I found it) to keep going where I was. I almost completely decluttered that room within a few hours. It was a lightbulb moment. I really didn't know it could be done. I really and truly thought the mess I'd created was impossible to get out of. It felt good to have one room which was trash-free. And it felt great to come here and present my success, and get so many well-wishes and congratulations from everyone.

I continued like this, cleaning little by little during the week, and tackling one project on the weekend. I think I officially came out of squalor-dom on Friday, May 6th, the day I let the A/C repairman in my house. I'd done some last-minute panic cleaning that morning for about 2 hours, and found messes I just hadn't been seeing. So, lest see... that makes 10 weeks and 4 days from the day I joined Squalor Survivors. 74 days from complete despair to desire to live. 2 and a half months from wanting to die to buying myself fresh flowers because they make me happy.

[lilies in a vase, a reward for cleaning]

I don't think I am at maintenance level yet. I still have a lot of cleaning to do, in areas that were covered with junk for so long, such as baseboards, walls, cabinets, etc. But I am getting there. I think I will probably consider it maintenance level within a month.

I've left out some details here and there, but it's just hard to tell it all in sequence. Like, I started seeing a counselor about a month and a half ago, and started on anti-depressants 4 weeks ago. But I think I have covered most of the process, and there are some other details in my journal.

What has kept me going?... the motivation here has been invaluable. I LOVE seeing other people's pictures. I LOVE reading about what others are accomplishing. I LOVE reading that someone let someone in her house for the first time in so long, just like me. I LOVE getting positive feedback from other people who really know what I am going through. When my counselor tells me she is proud of me, it doesn't really mean much to me. When YOU ALL say it, it warms my heart. Another thing that keeps me moving ahead is the desire to live a more normal life. I want to date. I want to have friends over. I want to decorate. One of the factors I realize I left out of the story is that I want my mom to be proud of me. I remember how sad my mom was when my brother was depressed. She cried for him. It broke her heart. I want my mother to look down on me from Heaven and be happy for me, not mourn for me.

Yes, I work full-time, but I have no children, and no other major responsibilities. So, my mess wasn't the result of lack of time or any real obstacles. My main problem was the depression that weighed me down and completely clouded my view of life. Since I do work full time, and don't really like doing a lot of housework during the week, I have chosen to focus on small things during the week, and big tasks on the weekends. That works for me.

Thanks so much for the compliments. Nothing means more to me than knowing I could help someone overcome something that has kept me from living fully for so long. I don't think I could do this professionally. I could do this for someone I cared about, but it's been a very personal journey for me, and I don't know if I could put this much effort into something I wasn't emotionally invested in.

I don't mind answering any questions. If there is anything at all I didn't address here, or anything you are curious about, please feel free to ask.

This lovely group saved my life. I'm happy to give back anything I can.


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