Taking Out The Trash…

By Vanessa Stapleton – President Armor Up West Virginia

Every Wednesday evening, I pull the trash can around the house to the street for pickup. Last Wednesday, I sat on my porch watching all my neighbors pull their trash down to the street to be picked up. As I watched each neighbor slowly drag their trash to the street, I went to pull my trash down as well. Actually, I went to tell my teenager to pull the trash to the street, but you get the idea. I sat back on my front porch looking at the trash cans lined down the street.

I thought of all the times I had forgotten to pull my trashcan to the street. We are a large family. If you forget one week, it accumulates fast. I found myself trying everything to keep the neighbors from seeing and smelling the pileup. I even went and bought another huge trash can. I was in shock at how much trash accumulated by missing a week of pickup.

As I thought about this, I thought of my mental health. I thought of all the years, I didn’t take out my trash mentally. I thought of all the times I suppressed my emotions instead of feeling them. I thought of all the times I let other people pile their trash on me without ever getting rid of it. I thought to myself if I had taken out my mental trash years ago, I wouldn’t be fighting the anxiety that I fight today. I pictured my pile of mental trash. It was a huge pile overflowing into every other part of my life. I should’ve taken that trash out long ago.

When I started therapy, my mind was literally like an episode of hoarders. It was years and years of not taking out the trash. My trash had overflowed into those closest to me. It was years of not sorting my thoughts to decide what to keep, what to heal from, and what to dispose of. My mind was as cluttered as those homes on hoarders that require intervention. I had to start sorting through the junk. My mind had bags of junk piled up. One bag at a time, my therapist helped me go through and sort each thing. I began to heal and dispose of each bag of “trash.” Every week, I would sort through another bag. It was a process. I had to remind myself to trust the process and not try to rush it.

People want an immediate healing from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. We want it gone. The problem is that we have a lot of trash that hasn’t been taken out in years. Unlike on TV, a big garbage truck doesn’t come and empty all that out in a day. This isn’t television. It is reality. Our lack of mental health care isn’t fixed in under an hour. We have to sort through the years of pile up deciding what is worth keeping, what is worth healing, and what is worth letting go. Then we have to move those things to the appropriate places in the brain. It is a tedious job. It takes work. It is also worth every second. The relief gained in the process is worth every second of work. The peace that comes is worth every moment of sorting out the mental trash.

I have been sorting through my mental trash in trauma therapy. My mind is no longer an episode of hoarders. I have to be careful that I remember to take my mental trash out. Everything that comes at me all week needs sorted and discarded. I don’t want it to become a mess that I am trying to hide from those closest to me. I have to be diligent. I have to sort through things as they come to me. I have to process, feel, and sort as things happen so they don’t pile up again. It only takes a week for the garbage to pile up. That’s it. In one week, you can find yourself overwhelmed and trying to hide the mess. I have to stay on top of my mental well-being just as I have to drag that big trash can to the street every week.

No more hoarding for me. No more suppressed emotions and feelings. No more holding on to the junk that only causes destructive thoughts. No more unhealed trauma. I am committed to maintaining my mental health. Every Wednesday, I will look down my street and ask myself if I have any mental trash I neglected to deal with. I will sort and process things as they come to prevent the chaotic build up. I will continue to unload what may be overlooked with my trauma therapist. Together, we will work until the trash has all been sorted. My mental health requires the same effort that I put into making sure my home is free of trash. I can no longer ignore it.

If you, someone you love or someone you know needs help, call:

Safe Call Now:  24 Hour Confidential Hotline:  206-459-3020

For more information on the First Responders program:  Click here

Or call Shannon Clairemont at 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008