…are made of this?

How do you keep your memories safe?

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding And The Meaning of ...

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding And The Meaning of Things (Photo credit: Earthworm)

I started watching The Hoarder Next Door on telly last night, about five minutes before Lovely Boyfriend phoned for our nightly chat. One woman was obviously incredibly emotionally attached to her hoard, getting upset to the point of tears over an old, cardboard tissue box. I mentioned this attachment to Lovely Boyfriend, stating her argument as to why she hadn’t wanted to throw it out.

Now, LB is the least hoard-y person I know (apart from books, but I can’t argue with that one, having more than my fair share of them myself!). But the woman’s argument – that they didn’t make that pattern of box anymore – resonated with him. If it were his favourite tin of tobacco, he might be tempted to retain one or two for memory’s sake.

This led me to think about my “hoard” of memories underneath my bed. I have:

  • one box full of medical stuff – notes from my therapy sessions, books on BPD, records of appointments etc.
  • one box full of stuff from my children – blobby paintings, tissue paper flowers etc.
  • one box full of my stuff – notes from Lovely Boyfriend, letters from my Nan, theatre tickets and programmes etc.
  • One box full of my old school reports, photographs etc.

Memories (Photo credit: Prathima Pingali)

When the boxes start getting too full, I go through them and clear them out. It’s easier with The Porglet’s stuff, because there are only so many blobby pictures you need, and if I can’t remember which child drew it, or I can’t decipher what it’s supposed to be…choice made. But it’s harder when it comes to “my” stuff. My memories.

Photographs of me growing up, for instance. My Mum gave me a pile more this month and they’re waiting for a scrapbook. There are dozens of them, because my Dad loves his cameras and was always taking photographs. On holiday, dancing competitions, days out…all recorded for posterity. Do I throw some of them out? I mean, how many photographs of me in a kilt do I need? How many pictures of me on holiday?

And then we have the certificates and school reports; records of my achievements over the years. Do I really need to keep my Grade 1 piano remarks? My Primary 1 school report?

photohoardThe answer is that I don’t need to keep any of it. But I want to. I like photographs of me as a young child, because I’m smiling in them. My memories of my childhood tend to be negative (sorry, folks!) because that’s the way my BPD-brain stores information. So it’s nice to have proof that I wasn’t miserable the whole time. Besides, if I put them all in a scrapbook, it takes up hardly any space at all…

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with forming emotional attachments to stuff. It’s keeping it in check, I guess, as with everything in life. My memory, however freaky it can be (remembering names from holidays of 25 years ago), will start to fail me at some point. Both my grandmothers have suffered from Alzheimer’s.

And it’s also about making sure you keep your emotional attachments to the real stuff. There’s no point filming your daughter’s first birthday party for posterity if it means you don’t actually get to take part in it. There’s no point in appointing yourself “official photographer” for a night out, if it means you’re only observing the occasion, rather than participating in it.

So – I’ll keep my photographs and certificates for now, with all their attached memories and emotions, but I’ll also make damn sure I form some real emotional attachments to life as it happens.

camera madness

camera madness (Photo credit: deepwarren)


I’ve got to stop…

…gazing into my crystal ball!

Crystal ball Fran├žais : Boule de cristal

Do you do that? Start predicting the future based on a single, solitary comment from someone? It’s not my only psychic trick, either, I also have this great mind-reading stunt where I can tell what someone’s going to say before they’ve said it….

When I went through my Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) course, these two “tricks” came up in conversation on a fairly frequent basis. And they are “tricks” in the truest sense of the word: our brains are trying to trick us into thinking we actually know what’s going to happen. We don’t.

As a scientist (of sorts), I should know better than to jump to a conclusion based on a single piece of evidence. But my brain’s good at tricking me and, every so often, I fall into the trap of believing the negative images it paints.

And when you start thinking negative thoughts, you start feeling negative and the two start feeding into each other until you have the common sense to stop the thinking. Not easy when you have BPD, but it CAN be done with a heck of a lot of mindfulness and some pre-prepared self-soothing techniques.

Sleepless in SeattleWhen I caught my mood plummeting last night, I locked up my crystal ball and switched off my ESP. I shoved a pizza in the oven with all my favourite toppings, pulled on my comfiest sweatshirt, lit some nice-smelling candles, and picked a movie to watch. And it worked. I went to bed in one hell of a lot better mood than I started the evening in!

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just (I used to hate that word because it implies the rest of the sentence is going to be easy)…”Just” stop thinking about it and do something else. That’s all you have to do.

I got incredibly grouchy with many a nurse and doctor who told me to do that during my incarceration in the loony-bin. It’s hard to take your mind off how bad you’re feeling when you’re locked in a hospital with other depressed people, magazines and books you’ve already read twice, and a choice of Emmerdale or Coronation Street on the telly.

But in your own home, in your own space, you CAN find ways to switch off the negative thinking. It takes a lot of effort, I won’t deny that, but it CAN be done. You need to surround yourself with nice things. Nice smells, nice things to eat, nice things to occupy yourself. Go for a walk (if I’d had Mad Mutt, I’d probably have walked to Timbuctoo and back). BE NICE TO YOURSELF. And throw away the crystal ball.

Relax /1

Relax /1 (Photo credit: Gianluca Neri)