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Melissa Ann's story

I knew that I needed to come back here and post when I got up the nerve and was able to put aside my shame long enough to be able to write, as I needed to express to you all how this has helped me and give something back to another who was in my position coming to this site. This might be long, well here goes.

The way I was living and what my home was like, I always kept thinking to myself, I cannot be the only one in the world living like this, there must be someone else, even just one person, or at least I prayed there was. Everyone I knew, friends, family, anyone, when you went into their homes, they opened the door and let you right in and everything was all nice inside and it somehow proved to me what a horrible person I was because my home wasn't like that and what was wrong with me that I couldn't get with it and fix things.

I was very depressed, a single mother, and working full time, the combination of the depression with everything else after my divorce, things fell apart literally. It felt like no matter how much I cleaned, it only made a dent, and it just went right back to what it was like before I cleaned within a day, like I was cleaning for nothing, it was useless. Even though we don't live in squalor now, I'm still ashamed for some reason to write what it was like, but I am going to because reading what others lived like saved me, which I'll explain later.

I am not sure what degree of squalor we lived in, but I typically had no dishes done and often had to wash each one as I needed to eat. At dinner, I would wash enough plates and utensils and cups as needed for that meal. Or we ate fast food if I couldn't even manage that which was often. Laundry, well the house was full of it every room, I ended up treating that as I did dishes. Washing clothes we all needed for the day in the morning before we left, only enough to wear one day at a time. You would think that it would have been easier just to wash a great big load so I wouldn't need to do this every single day, but somehow, this was all I could handle. It doesn't make sense to me now looking back, but at the time it was the only way I could cope and deal with things. One little thing at a time. The living room you couldn't see the floor, it was just full of toys, clothing, trash like empty bags and containers, and dishes, papers, whatever, we'd fall over just to turn the tv on and no matter how much shame I felt about it I lacked so much will or energy to even get up, I was exhausted all of the time and the mess everywhere was so overwhelming I barely knew where to even begin to try to fix it. Every room was like the living room. And my bedroom was the worst, I just never even tried there, it was hopeless to me. And there are some things about my home what it was like, the details, I just can't even write about, I just can't.

I searched about on the internet with all these different subjects trying to find out if any others were having the problems I had, but I kept coming to sites that showed police and children's services news articles of children being taken from homes because of the squalor they were living in. I became so afraid if I wasn't afraid enough already. I lived with every curtain and blind closed to my home, never any sunlight, because I was afraid someone would see inside. If there was a knock on the door I would literally have a full blown anxiety attack. I would sweat and shake and cry and my heart would beat fast and I would hyperventilate thinking who is here, why is someone here, oh my god I cannot answer the door or they'll see. I lived like this for 2 years and I still don't know how we managed and I don't know if the guilt will ever leave me or if it will always haunt me that I made my family live like that. It was terrible for us all and I'll never be sorrier, but I can't undo what was done but take care of the now.

I'm sure most people would have thought I was simply lazy, after all there are lots of single mothers working 50 hours a week and they don't live like that, so what's my excuse. I believe it was depression which can truly debilitate, clinical depression and laziness are very different things.

Anyways, I found this site, and read the stories, and looked at all the pictures, some worse than my house even was, and it was like one thousand tons was lifted off my shoulders all at once, I can hardly describe correctly what finding this site did for me. To know that I was not alone, and others were or had been going through what I was going through. While it did not fix my problem for me, it lifted my heart to not be alone anymore. My intense loneliness from living with my 'secret' was not so crushing anymore. After reading everything here for days I became very motivated to do something about it for the first time.

First I started seeing a psychiatrist. The first one was not helpful. His solution was to berate me for allowing my kids to live like that as if I didn't already have enough pain and guilt over that for 100 people and to send someone into my home and teach me how to clean. It was clear that he did not understand depression. I know how to clean, that was not the problem, the problem was finding the motivation inside myself to get up and DO it and not sit on the floor after 5 minutes of trying overwhelmed and tired and crying. So I went to another and he started me on medication. I can't say it's helped me 100% like some magic pill I had hoped for, but it's taken the edge off and for now that's what I need. The medication just took enough of that edge off so I could get up and try without quitting. My divorce was hard and it really messed me up, and I needed some help/meds, it took me a while to get to where I could admit I needed that kind of help, I only wish now I had done it sooner and saved everyone a lot of grief. To anyone else very depressed, please don't be afraid to get help. Even if it takes a while to find the right person to help you, the sooner the better.

But it still didn't fix it. The amount of mess here was overwhelming and a job I could not do alone, but I could not let anyone in here either. What a dilemma. Nobody had been in my home for 2 years, and I wasn't about to let anyone in and see what I was living in. I remember sobbing to my mother, and she tried so hard to let me let her in, she promised not to be judgemental, but I was too ashamed and would not let her.

The dumpster was a lifesaver, and I hope people will try this. I ordered a huge dumpster from my garbage company and had them drop it right to my back door. I told them I was alone doing a lot of work myself and needed it until I was done. My mother paid for it, otherwise it would have taken a while to save up, so I'm very grateful I had her financial help in that regard.

I just started in each room one by one and went back and forth to the dumpster and threw it all away. I didn't even care what I was throwing away, I knew that I needed to start over completely, I only kept what was vital to live. After about 3 days I filled the dumpster, and had them dump it and return it and I kept working. (I was off work during this period on vacation) Halfway through I let my mother come in and help. I cleared the basement, and the 6 rooms in the house of every single thing except what was necessary to live. My living room furniture was so gross from abuse and eating in the living room all the time I dumped that all too, ripped out the living room rug and some other house furniture. Then my home was almost empty except for clothing, dishes, toiletries, just a few toys, and beds and a kitchen table, and just enough odds and ends needed to function.

I financed new LR furniture, bought new dishes, and installed a new LR rug with help from my mom (so much cheaper to buy when you install yourself). I felt like for me in my situation, I needed to start fresh, get rid of the things that were abused and trashed because even having them there would bring me back to where I was. This was all exhausting labor and I was in pain every night when I went to bed, and used up all of my money, but when it was done, and my home was free from clutter and piles of junk and everything was clean and in it's place, I had to sit down and cry I was so happy.

But then came the dread of what if I cannot keep this up and it all falls apart again. I think getting rid of so much stuff, I hoarded so much, was key, because the less stuff I own, the less of a mess can be made because you don't have enough stuff to make a real mess with. And I do not ever want to live like that again, I don't ever want to have a panic attack when there is a knock at my door, I don't want my kids to live in squalor, and I need peace in my life and a nice home to come home to, the 2 years of my life I lived like that were the darkest in my life and I pray I won't ever have to be in that dark place again.

I have a laundry basket in my bedroom, my kids room, and the bathroom. And we put the clothes in the baskets and nowhere else. The minute a basket reaches the top the laundry is washed, I can not allow it to overflow or it all starts to go downhill, I can't let myself even slip at all. I have a clean up routine I need to do every morning and at night, about 15 to 20 minutes each time. If I truly do this routine, the house stays very nice and organized, if I say I'm too tired and will do it later even once, things start to slide downhill, I have learned I can't even miss once, it's that important for someone who has been in a squalor situation I believe. My routines only take 30-40 minutes a day. It is worth it, it took me 7 days of 8 to 9 hours a day of back breaking labor to clean up what I let happen over a couple of years of letting the mess grow. I try not to forget that.

One of the best moments was when it had been clean for the first week and there was a knock at my door. My little one apparently played with the phone and accidentally called 911. A policeman was there at the door checking to make sure there was no emergency. I aplogized and he said he needed to use the phone to call it into dispatch and let them know all was well. It was a very important moment for me to open the door wide and say sure come in and lead him to the living room to use the phone, knowing there wasn't anything wrong with my home. Being able to let him in with no fear in me, and imagining if this had happened before the big clean up which made me all emotional again.

It's been about 2 months now it's been clean and I've been doing a good job at keeping it up. I still have a fear lurking in my heart of what if I don't have the energy again, and things start to slide and it all comes back and ends up like it was, I can even see it in my head happening so easily like it did before. I will try my best to not let it happen.

I sometimes wish I had taken pictures like the site so I could remember, but I guess I didn't need to, because I don't think I'll ever forget, the images of what it was like is kind of burned into my brain. And if I do forget later, maybe it will be for the best. But the pictures I saw on the website was what inspired me, the knowing I wasn't alone, and reading others stories of struggle and grief and people changing and fixing the way they lived helped me more than I can express, thank you so very much for being there for me even if you didn't know it. I know there are other silent people in pain over their powerlessness over their situations like I was reading, and I felt obligated to put my story here too for them, as were the stories here for me when I needed them.

Melissa Ann [Sadly, the maid doesn't live here any more]