There are some things in this world that get under my skin when taken at face value. Hoarding is one of them. If you haven’t picked up on Sarah’s affinity for TV shows that look at transforming people’s lives, in this case, Hoarders, just know it’s one one of her guilty pleasures. I’m cool with it, but it takes a lot of mental fortitude for me to sit through an entire episode. I understand that a lot of what goes on is based on an effort to change behavior, but deep down I just want to see these houses burned to the ground.
If you’re not familiar with the show, hop over to A&E’s site and take a look: http://www.aetv.com/hoarders/. The gist: people collect so much stuff that their homes become cluttered so much so that their health and well-being is at stake, and the process of cleaning/purging is super-difficult because of a psychological attachment to their stuff.
It’s easy to overlook the message of hope.
The visual imagery of homes filled with crap (often literally) that the show Hoarders captures sticks in my mind. But… you know what rarely sticks in my mind? The visuals of those same houses, drastically cleaned up at the end of each show. Why is this? Well, aside from the fact that I usually don’t watch most episodes to the very end, I think it’s because seeing the mess, problems, and junk that has overtaken a home is something that bothers me enough to go into another room and think “ugh, this isn’t something I want to see.” (ironically, my desk is currently a mess)
There’s a deeper issue. I’m not looking at the big picture. I’m ignoring the fact that there’s real hope for these people. My immediate reaction is to burn a hoarded house to the ground, as it’s seemingly beyond repair. This is not recognizing the message of hope. #fail
So? What’s this have to do with this blog?
Glad you asked. It’s merely a parallel analogy to how a lot of people in our society view people with disability, or some sort of health-related issue that makes them different than what is perceived to be “normal.” Thing is, life isn’t predictable. Everyone can feel the affects of age if they hang around this world long enough, and no one is immune to illness or injury. When something drastic happens in life, it’s easy to lose hope and think there’s nothing to do but give up. The last thing that will help is to figuratively burn a house (life) to the ground.
There’s a therapeutic component.
Sarah and I are both trained as physical rehab therapists. We might not have the knowledge that psychologists on Hoarders do, but we do know how to help people who have experienced the detrimental affects of what is often labeled as disability. Life can’t easily be “restarted” as I often wish it could (really). That said, there’s a tremendous amount of hope for positive change that can be imparted to people who wrestle with life because of disability. It might require baby steps, and it might not be obvious to the world for years, but it can be transformative for individuals and families.
This is one reason we direly want to see universal design become a common theme throughout our society. We see lives that will really benefit from successful community integration (or reintegration). If the communities we live in are accommodating or “welcoming” to as many people as possible, which is what universal design is about, everyone will benefit. I’m not just saying this out of advocacy either; according to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability, about 15% of the world’s population has a disability, and the prevalence is growing due to population aging and the global increase in chronic health conditions.
Don’t overlook hope.
As mentioned above, life isn’t predictable, and some people simply have to access and/or use things differently than others do. This is okay. This is real life.
I’ll write more about this in other posts. There’s a lot to talk about from the therapeutic recreation side of things… and it’s pretty cool… but for now, don’t overlook hope. You can have it, and you can give it. Feel free to argue that claim with me below if you disagree. :)
(photo credit: tallkev via creative commons / flickr)