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Author Judy Batalion To Speak About Hoarding Disorder's Impact On Three Generations

May 30, 2018 1:35 p.m.

Author Judy Batalion To Speak About Hoarding Disorder's Impact On Three Generations


Judy Batalion, author, “WHITE WALLS: A Memoir about Motherhood, Daughterhood and the Mess in Between”

Related Story: Author Judy Batalion To Speak About Hoarding Disorder's Impact On Three Generations


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>> This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. There are many kinds of mental illness. The kind my guest Judy Batalion knows best is hoarding. She grew up in a house where her mother recorded dozens of books, videotapes, clothing, so much that rooms were unrecognizable and shame kept friends away. Judy took an extreme opposite approach in her own adult life until she had a child of her own. Then she began to learned lessons from her mother and developed an understanding of her mother's on Orthodox and troubled approach to life. Joining me is Judy Batalion, Arthur of white walls. A memoir about motherhood, daughter hood and the mess in between. Welcome to the program.
>> Thank you for having me.
>> As the hoarding developed as a child, were you aware something was wrong?
>> I was always aware something was off. I did not know until a few years ago that this was hoarding. I knew my mother -- I knew my house was not other children's homes. I had fantasies as a child of having a clean house. A white walled house, a sparkling kitchen, that's what I dreamed of. I knew my house was not normal. Hoarding with my mother expressed other mental illnesses. She suffered from anxiety and depression. I knew there was something wrong in the emotional landscape of my home.
>> You say there seems to be a combination of factors that caused your mother's behavior. Maybe part genetic but also on right traumatic events. Can you tell us about that?
>> Hoarding and other disorders are broad to be on by genetics on how we were raised and how we were taught to behave. A triggering event that may have happened, in the case of my mother she was hoarding for a long time. When her mother died around the same time I left for college and her best friend passed away from cancer, this was triggering in the number of items she was buying and storing. Going back further, my mother was born in 1945 on my Jewish grandparents escape from Poland. She was born -- I would say she was a refugee before knowing what home was. She felt something cracked in her court from an early age. She lived in many places. She grew up with trauma around her in her formative years. I think this sums the hoarding . That's her way of creating a safe space for herself.
>> Let's talk about the life you created after leaving home. You took a totally opposite approach to possessions with a lot of white walls. Did you feel you freed yourself of your mother's problems?
>> I became a milliner -- Minna list. I wanted nothing. I wanted high ceilings and big windows and no South -- stuff. I was trying to free myself from the curse of my family. My grandmother was also a hoarder. I'm not sure I felt completely free but I did feel I had done everything I could to move away into the opposite.
>> Your white walls, white furniture life began to change when you became pregnant with your daughter. What kinds of issues did that race for you?
>> I found out I was pregnant weeks after buying my first white sofa which I always dreamed of. I knew that sofa would not be white for much longer. Even as a pregnant woman there was so much stuff that had to be purchased for this upcoming baby. Strollers and breast funds and humidifiers and so many other things. There was so much equipment with having a tiny baby. To someone who had spent most of my life trying to get rid of things that even purchase them in the first place, I found this onslaught very daunting and overwhelming. I did not want this stuff in my house. I was worried I was going to drown in my child as I drowned in my mother. That was scary for me. When I gave birth, I tried to stay clean. I try to clean up. That was important for me. I had to maintain order around the chaos. I remember one night my husband was rocking my daughter to sleep while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing milk stains off the floor. I thought, what am I doing? Here I am trying to be clean but I'm blocking myself from my daughter in the same way that I felt my mother's stuff blocked me from her.
>> What else becoming a mother teach you about your own mother?
>> Becoming a mother taught me to empathize with my mother more. My daughter came back from school with a collection of all the stuff she made at preschool. Art projects, part of me was don't bring this into the apartment. The bigger part of me was of course, this is my daughter's stuff and I could not throw it away. I did not want to throw it away. It was the first time I understood my mother's desire to hold on to things. This brought her happiness and joy. Also a feeling of connection with people around her. I finally understood that part of her behavior and of her tendency.
>> You are speaking today at the Jewish family services of San Diego annual luncheon and it's in support of mental health awareness. Considering your history and what you've learned, do you think the stigma of mental illness is changing?
>> I do think it's changing. I think more and more people feel comfortable speaking about it. I think there are now names for disorders in the public awareness that there were not before. I did not know my mother was a hoarder until if you years ago. I thought we lived in a chaotic, disruptive home. I did not understand the diagnosis for it until I saw hoarding homes on reality television. There are problems with some of these TV shows that can be exploitative and simplistic, they really helped me to see, my mother's house is like that. It did help bring these issues into the open.
>> I've been speaking with Judy Batalion author of white walls. A memoir about motherhood, daughter hood and the mess in between. Thank you for being here.
>> Thank you for having me.