Hoarders 5.8 – Dee, Jan

A&E, Monday Nights, 9EST

This was a tough one. I almost had to stop, guys, and I questioned keeping this show on the site, honestly. I want to reiterate that I believe 100% in what the doctors and the organizers are doing. They want people to understand the disorder and they want to get help to people who need it. But the editors and production staff? Note that most people are not comfortable (read: a sobbing mess like I was) with watching an animal die.

So there’s your warning, readers. This one is tough in places, and I do note in the write up where sensitive folks might want to turn back. Poor Jan’s story has some of the worst images I’ve seen. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I want to put that out there in case any of you are as well. Fortunately, it has one of the most productive turnarounds.

 

Jan, Canyon, TX

We see a shotgun shack nestled up against the rail line’s fence as a train rumbles past; we’re south of Amarillo in a small town with few resources. Jan lives here. She has pretty nails and a sad face as she tells us that she makes jewelry and plays on the Internet.

She doesn’t leave her bedroom much. As the camera pulls out, we see why. It’s a tiny place, maybe less than 800 square feet, and every room is caked with feces and garbage. “I’m not very good at taking care of myself.” The front of the stove is unrecognizable due to the amount of feces and cat spray that is caked on the appliance. A long-haired Tuxedo cat perches on the edge of a counter, darting away as the camera comes near.

“My kitchen is the worst room. It’s just a mountain of cat crap.” Jan’s lip trembles as she tells the camera about her house. She’s clearly ashamed and seems to have tunneled into herself for years in order to just survive the day-to-day of living in squalor. She doesn’t want to talk about her bathroom.

Jan has no running water, yet she continues to use the commode. When the camera panned across the small space, I had to pause the screen, trying to figure out what I was seeing. Rising out of the toilet is a huge, black, bulbous…thing. It’s a foot and change higher than the toilet seat. Jan is still defecating in the toilet. This was the first time I had to stop and walk away. Not just because I’m disgusted by it, but… How sick and broken does a person have to be to walk into a room with their eyes closed and use the toilet, pretending that they’re not doing what they’re doing? (This is how Jan has managed to continue this behavior.)

I know people want to be grossed out and entertained by this show, believe me. But how can you see this, see the woman who looks as fragile as spun glass and not realize that something is wrong with her? How can we shovel popcorn in our mouths and just wait for the next freak show? That’s not what this show is about – it’s about recognizing that many people just can’t do for themselves, that they need others to step in and help. How they got there, and how they can change their behaviors.

But those people need to have the tools to help, of course.

Georgia is Jan’s quiet daughter. Pam, Jan’s sister, finally explained to her that she was raising “the stinky kid.” Georgia would leave the house and douse herself in perfume and air freshener, hoping that no one would realize what she was living in. Finally able to leave, she has been in college for some time.

Jan is staying with her now, as the city was called and her home was deemed uninhabitable. And this is when we realize that her home isn’t the building we’ve seen from the outside, but that it’s a duplex. I would imagine that the other side isn’t currently being rented out. How could it be?

Jan, while never a shining example of housekeeping, did function normally until her father died in the early 90s. She took steps to get counseling and medication for her depression, and as soon as she started making positive strides, her husband informed her that he’d impregnated another woman, was in love, and would be divorcing Jan immediately in order to marry the other woman. She had a nervous breakdown, during which her mother suffered a stroke and died.

When Georgia was able to leave the small house (where up to 20 cats lived at one point, we’re told) this seemed to push Jan even further. She gave up. She felt she had no worth, and so why bother? Georgia still feels guilt for leaving her mother in that mess, but what choice did she have as a child?

Jan can barely speak as her face crumbles, her voice breaks, and she tells us how ashamed of herself she is.

Dr. Zasio arrives with a smile and a hand on her arm. When they open the home, however, Dr. Zasio says slowly, “Oh…dear,” as she sees the caked feces everywhere. She immediately puts on a face mask. (Ammonia is incredibly unhealthy, not to mention the danger of fecal matter.)

Jan shakes and says quietly, “When I realized I was going to be alone for the rest of my life I just thought, ‘Well, what the fuck?’ You know?”

Dr. Zasio asks her if she doesn’t believe she deserves anything better than this? “I suppose,” she mumbles.

“This feels like punishment to me, Jan!” She holds Jan’s shoulder, bending down to look her in the eye and try and communicate with her, but Jan realizes that the next step is to show the doctor the bathroom and she just can’t bring herself to do it.

Dr. Zasio goes on her own, and later she tells the camera, “This is one of the most horrific images I’ve seen in my life.” She gently guides Jan to the doorway, needing her to see it, to stop pretending it’s not there. “You’re punishing yourself. This is some kind of torture.” Jan can’t bring herself to open her eyes.

Before they clean up, the doctor insists that Pam and Georgia see how bad things have gotten – no one can turn a blind eye to this anymore; it would be unconscionable. Dorothy Breininger is on site at this point and guides the family in.

Pam, her soft-spoken older sister, says, “I never dreamed it was this bad. I’m sorry.” She cries, trying to reach out to Jan, who is curling in on herself in her shame. “I’m so sorry I didn’t help more.” But…what could Pam have done? This is a situation where professionals were clearly needed. And if Jan wasn’t willing to accept help, Pam could bring all the doctors and so forth in that she wanted; it wouldn’t have done any good.

Georgia starts sobbing, holding her mom. This was her home. It was never great, but it was never this.

The Get Junk crews start carting things out: soaked and damaged card tables, boxes that have been chewed on. Jan stands outside saying, “Good-bye!” with glee. Her sister and daughter are inside, however, working. She’s not participating. Dorothy acts on that quickly, telling her that she needs to participate, regardless of how ashamed she is; she must deal with things.

Dr. Zasio adds, “It’s your responsibility to take care of this situation, okay? Go back in.”

Jan, eyes wide, murmurs, “Okay.”

The biohazard team arrives to dispose of the toilet. They suit up, tape off, and put on their rebreathers. They have to chop away at the black mountain in the toilet before they’re able to break it down, bag it, tape that, and cart it out of the house.

The family is called outside so they can be addressed by a member of the team. Something has just gone wrong. [Here’s your warning from me.] “While we were doing our clean out, we noticed there was [sic] cats hiding in the bathroom. One of them was hiding behind the toilet. And it ran out, came over here–” He points to the sidewalk outside. “–laid down and died.”

The women all move to where he pointed as Jan sighs sadly, “Oh, Randy!” And my beef with the editorial staff is that they showed the poor cat lying in the street. And also as Jan held it, cradling him. For several minutes. I have a hard time enduring images where innocent victims (animals, children, the infirm, the mentally challenged) are helpless or hurt. Or in this case, still warm after dying. Maybe I’m just too sensitive. I had to leave the room to pull myself together, I’ll tell you that much.

Dorothy stands behind them wiping away tears as well. She and the biohazard team try and explain that years of ammonia and filth led to this, not the ammonia released as the toilet was removed, as Jan is trying to tell herself. She has to take responsibility for this. She stands still, holding her deceased cat, stroking his head as they try and explain this to her. It’s a lot to take in.

The Got Junk crew picks up the pace, essentially pulling everything out of the house. Nothing is staying, nothing. They find more cats hiding, corral them into a box, and call the SPCA, who immediately come out and rescue them, sending them off for health care.

The less chaotic the interior of the house is, the more Georgia seems to find her voice. She angrily tells her mom, “You made me feel like this was my fault because I didn’t clean the litter box [for my cat],” when there were other animals in the house. Georgia felt like the mess was her fault for years.

Jan blinks, shocked by this. “I didn’t mean to make you feel responsible for all of them…”

“But you did!” Georgia shouts. “You did!”

Jan is being bombarded with truth and the realization that her actions affected others, but it’s actually sinking in. She apologizes profusely to her daughter, who takes it at face value. They’re sweet, quiet women and I get the impression that they just want to find some sort of happiness. It’s nice to see people willing to work for it. Jan knows she’s made it rough on her daughter. “I’m sorry, darling. It’s been a lot to ask.”

Everyone notes that Jan is now “wildly committed” to the process. After getting most of the rooms shoveled free, Dr. Zasio loads her up in a van and takes her off to an undisclosed location while Dorothy engineers some magic back at the house. Dorothy has a crew come in behind the Got Junk crew to do a biohazard scrub down – ceiling to floor, everything sanitized – with a second team behind them to repaint and decorate the house.

All in all, five tons of garbage are toted out of this tiny little building. Five tons. I’m telling you, that apartment couldn’t have been larger than 800 square feet. It’s like a clown car of garbage, I don’t know how there could have been that much inside.

Jan, meanwhile, is at a salon getting her hair properly cleaned, cut, and styled. Dr. Zasio wants her to remember that she has worth, that she’s worthy of something as simple as being clean. With freshly done makeup and a new hairdo, they drive her back to the house where she’s shocked to see new (albeit simple) furniture, curtains, and a few rugs. The bathroom has a new toilet, pretty candles and tchotchkes. She’s overcome, crying harder the farther into her house she goes, completely grateful and humbled by the effort put into “little ol’ me.”

She openly weeps, saying “It’s so pretty!” She’s finally decided that she’s worthy of something decent. “I can live again, I can be a person again.”

(Pardon me, a few rainclouds broke out over my face…)

Aftercare: She is working with both an organizer and a therapist. Some of the cats that were taken from her home have been adopted out to forever homes.

 

Dee, New Mexico

Dee has stuff. Collections. Things. She’s not a grief hoarder by any means. She loves a bargain. Piles of clothes and lamp bases and garage sale finds are piled everywhere in her small adobe home. She calls it her “secret life.”

Her daughter Thalia hasn’t been allowed in the home for the ten years her mother has lived there. Once, Thalia was nine months pregnant and in need of the bathroom. Dee wouldn’t let her in.

There are no pathways. One has to climb over piles and mounds and exposed bits of furniture and bags of clothing to get anywhere. The house is completely unlivable. She showers elsewhere, she tells us, almost with defiance.

Thalia is preparing to move away, and once she’s gone, her mother will have no support system. She’s told her mother to get her house in order, or she’ll be forced to call APS. Dee scoffs at this, not believing her daughter would do it. After seeing the anger and frustration on Thalia’s face, I sure do.

Cindy is Dee’s sister in Texas. Dee reached out for help once, and since Cindy couldn’t physically come, sent a woman to help Dee with organizing and cleaning. To which Dee refused her help. Dee acknowledges her daughter’s “Anger Issues” from growing up with a mom who hoards, but “Eh, what are you going to do?” seems to be her attitude. (Dee struck me as someone who is spoiling for a fight.)

Thalia says point blank that the reason she never called the city when growing up was the knowledge that her mother would choose hoarding over her. Now, as an adult with children of her own, this is no longer as emotional a decision as it could have been in the past.

It seems that Dee had a massive settlement ($150,000) from a botched eye surgery a few years back, which fueled her hoarding to new extremes. She blew through it in less than three years to add to her hoard. Now she has nothing; nothing but her stuff. She admits to screwing up, almost with a smile, like, “Oopsie doodles!”

I’m having a hard time figuring Dee out.

Dr. Melva Green arrives and they’re like oil and water. Dee closes herself off physically, answering the doctor in short, clipped sentences. “This is really advanced,” the doctor says. “She’s gotten lost in it.”

She tells Dee that it’s not safe to be in here (as Dee slips down a mountain of things). The family is brought in (they shove the door open and peer in – there’s not really room for them to stand inside). Thalia begins crying; it’s worse than even she’d imagined.

Geralin Thomas, the smiling, no-nonsense-taking organizer arrives. One thing I like about Geralin is that she looks like a sweet, “ladies who lunch” kind of woman, but boy, she takes no guff. She’s not hateful, she’s not mean, she just knows how to quickly assess situations and get in there. Her plan is to drag everything out of the house, lay it out, and force Dee to see just how much stuff she has.

Well, this plan quickly deteriorates as Dee fixates on things, needing to touch everything, not allowing anyone to handle her stuff. Because they’re precious. Even though she hasn’t seen most of these items since she bought them and tossed them into the mix. Geralin asks her ,“Okay, then, what’s most meaningful to you?”

“Okay, well, like any – you know – ethnic art. Anything boxed.” She snaps at Dr. Green standing next to her for having her foot on Dee’s “things.” Mind, there is nowhere to stand, there is no visible floor. Dee is also standing on stuff. Her anxiety and anger is boiling over and Dr. Green is doing everything to keep her cool as Dee bitches at her to stop “stepping on my stuff.”

Geralin snaps, “And it’s stuff that you have not – have not – taken care of! None of this is being honored, none of this is being cherished!” Dee doesn’t bother listening, and Geralin feels strongly that this is a colossal waste of time.

Dr. Green asks, “So you want your things in boxes, not your grandchildren over?”

“…yeah.”

“You’re clear about that?” Dr. Green asks. “Okay about that?”

Dee dives back in to her “things,” touching and sorting. Meanwhile, it starts raining outside. They’ve been boxing stuff up in cardboard and now have to drag it all back in. The boxes stack to the ceiling in the one place they’d managed to clear.

Dr. Green brings Dee to the kitchen to work with the family, yet she wants to keep everything. Every possible dish, glass, lid, box, paper, all of it. Cindy, frustrated, says, “So I came here to watch you touch each dish?”

“It’s helping…” Dee says as she goes back to her things. “It’s just makes me feel uncomfortable [to have the family make decisions].”

A family meeting is quickly called; Thalia and Cindy tell her that she has to allow them to make decisions about obviously broken/torn/ruined items at the very least. Dee stands there, lips pursed, angry. Thalia begins to cry, saying, “You have to help yourself or I’m not going to stay here!”

Dee shuts down, completely unwilling to communicate. By the last day it hits her that this is it, this is her chance. But she doesn’t quite get what the chance is for. She treats the crew like her personal movers, wanting them to position furniture just so as she marches around with different paintings. She stomps out to her shed – also packed – and demands an armoire brought in. She wants multiple armoires in her living room to put all of her things in – “that was the intention.”

No, it wasn’t. Geralin refuses to bring more in, angry at the lack of understanding of what her services actually are. I don’t blame her. The crew instead focuses on the kitchen where they paint the cabinetry and walls and dress it up for her as she continues to rearrange tchochkes in the other rooms, looking for ways to have her “armoires.”

Geralin tells the camera, “This is not going well.”

They finally take her to the kitchen, hoping the cleared and cleaned space will inspire her. She smiles at it (and it’s very cute, retro blue and yellow, bright and shiny).

“Looks great!” Dee says, then she really looks at it. “I thought I was going to have curtains?”

Woman… This is a hard one for me, guys, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. These people have busted their butts for days for her, and she’s finding ways to be upset about it. She clearly has a long way to go to even admit to herself that there’s something wrong.

Aftercare: She’s working with a therapist and organizer, but still is working to make more room in her house to bring in armoires and other furniture.

I guess they can’t all be success stories, hm?

So how do you feel about some of the subtle changes this season with the music and the cliffhangers? I won’t lie, I find it cheap. I think it detracts from the seriously good work the crews do. And I really do not want to see a dead animal. I can’t deal with that sort of image, personally. Thoughts?

 

And please make a point to check our Friend of the Blog Matt Paxton’s website, featuring FREE podcasts. You can find the link on the sidebar to the right.  Just look for his grinning face. Thanks!

Please like & share:
  • boy, I’m glad I missed this episode. I would’ve been angry for hours at Dee and having to watch a cat die, nope, wouldn’t have worked for me at all.

    This show, at least for me, has helped me get over some of my pack-rat tendencies. I like stuff, always have, but I don’t have the room to keep everything I want. Especially having kids, I’ve had to really tamp down on buying them stuff. For Christmas this year, they got clothes because honestly they have enough toys and crap to fill a store and I refused to buy anything else. They weren’t happy, but it made me happy not to have to stress over where we were going to put things and also that they had new clothes to last them through the school year. I’ve already seen the beginnings of “collecting” in my two older kids and I’ve ruthlessly tamped it down, forcing them to watch hoarders with me to show them where that kind of behavior leads. I hope that this show does the same for others.

    • Dee was definitely a case of “needs a LOT more time to have anything break through.” Dr. Zasio said on the A&E boards that Jan became fully aware of her responsibility for her animals and knows that she shouldn’t ever have a pet again. So that, at least, is a positive. But still. I don’t need the image.

      I have those issues, too, with three kids of my own, and find the tips and methodology used by the organizers to be incredibly helpful. (Let’s here it for Matt’s podcasts!) I hope the show does all of that (helping people with their own “collecting”) as well as force others into more empathetic thinking. One thing I’ve learned: this really can happen to anyone, given the right circumstances. (Or…wrong circumstance, you know what I mean.)

  • I gave up cable TV about a year ago, so I rely on these recaps for my “Hoarders” fix, now that I don’t watch them anymore.

    I have to say, this is the *hardest* one I’ve read, and I don’t know that I could have watched Jan’s story all the way through.

    That being said, please keep updating this show. You do an awesome job, and it’s the highlight of my week.

    • I’m so glad the recaps are of use to you! That’s great to hear. And I’ll be blunt: this particular episode was gut wrenching in more ways than one. I didn’t feel any disgust for Jan as a person, more for the conditions that she felt she deserved to live in. That’s just heartbreaking to me, that someone has such low self-worth. Getting her hair done professionally was HUGE for her. Her whole countenance changed to one of trepidatious happiness. Poor, poor woman. She has family that truly loves her (and Dorothy took her under her wing, as well.)

      I had a tiny chat with Dorothy on FB today, and if it wasn’t for how much she and the other doctors and organizers cared for their clients, it would be a totally different show. That being said, I’ll keep on writing as long as those good folks are working towards their goal of helping these people. <3

  • Jackie

    I’m sorry, I know it’s a mental illness, but Dee’s attitude REALLY pissed me off. Someone that selfish, self-centered, and with an entitlement complex larger than Everest has NO business having children. Full stop. How sad for her daughter. I just wanted to take Dee by the shoulders and shake that hideous wig off her head, so some sense could find its way in there. Jan, I just wanted to hug. After she took a shower.

    • I know how you feel, I really do. I think – I’m just an armchair psychiatrist here – that she was so negative and antagonistic as her defense mechanism to keep people from pushing her into being in a position that was uncomfortable for her. We’ve seen this with other episodes; it’s never easy for me to watch, either. I just want to thump sense into them! It doesn’t quite work that way, ha.

      We got a pretty good glimpse at the frustration that Thalia had for her mother, but she turned into a college-educated loving mother in her own right, so that’s a positive at least. (And yeah, me too with Jan. The poor dear!)

  • Jackie

    I’ve seen those hoarders with negative, antagonistic attitudes before, but I sense a fundamental difference between them and Dee. Usually, there’s progress made in reaching them and getting them to acknowledge their problems. Dee, by contrast, seems proud of her hoarded items-not the messiness of the house, but the stuff she’s acquired. Add that to the fact that she would rather have stuff than relationships with her grandchildren, and I just can’t muster up sympathy for her.

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to go have punch and pie with Dee. Her treatment of Geralin’s team alone tested my patience (I can’t imagine how they all didn’t walk off, truthfully.)

      I got the sense that there was a LOT they didn’t tell us about Dee – Thalia said at one point that she knows she’s pushed her mother away for years (we can all understand why) so I wondered if a lot of Dee’s reactions were due to no one being in her life, and then suddenly they’re ALL in her life telling her what to do.

      I’ve tried to come at this show from a place of understanding (with a very few rare exceptions) so I try to give the benefit of the doubt. But yeah – I’m not interested in learning too much about Miss Dee; she’s too bitter for me.

  • dru

    As far as changes to the shows format, the black and white lead-ins annoy me most. It’s recycled footage we’ll see later, like they’re padding and trying to save production budget same time. Less to deal with in post; just throw on a b&w filter, replay with cheesy music, and there’s a few bargain minutes added to the show’s runtime.

    I don’t need to be “hooked” by what I’m going to see in ten minutes’ time [and two days later]. Having it revealed as the show unfolds is part of the reason I watch in the first place!

    As for this episode specifically, I found it very interesting that they juxtaposed these two ladies and their stories. Very different stories, very different hoards.

    Dee was so textbook hoarder in many ways, including using the stuff to distance herself from everyone and everything during her life, and during the process. The stuff was paramount, and all she could or would think about. She got a lot out of touching things, and celebrating within her own little world that she had all this stuff; it calmed her, it was a weapon and a tool against others, it had pride of place even if none of it was honored [and how much did I love Geralin for challenging her in that moment? LOTS]. In her case, I actually wasn’t much surprised that very little was accomplished, and even less seemingly gotten through to her about her situation. She wanted the organizers there to assist her in, hmmm, enshrining and taking the hoard to another level, not to help her start to get a handle on things.

    My takeaway about Jan was much different. I read her more as someone truly broken who desperately needed an intervention, to find a way to help her outright heal, more than she was a true hoarder. Obviously hoarding falls along a continuum of anxiety and behavioral disorders, so it can’t be discounted that Jan has hoarding tendencies. But it felt to me like she stopped cleaning and stopped caring because she didn’t care about herself or her life, not because she cared more about stuff [even if that stuff had no intrinsic value to an observer]. She became paralyzed in that mire, and had no impetus to get herself out.

    I’m still very glad the Hoarders team showed up and helped her. She very clearly needed it. But I have hope she won’t fall back into hoarding tendencies so long as she’s getting therapy and reminders she’s a worthy, good lady who deserves “to live like a person” because she was never a full-on hoarder to begin with. Hoarding was a manifestation of her longterm depression, not the other way around.

    /my armchair .02

    • I keep telling anyone at the show or A&E that the feedback from thoughtful viewers is that we don’t like the “dramatization” elements they’ve added this season. Hopefully they’re listening. (Because I’m saying it every.single.episode.)

      I wasn’t surprised by Dee’s outcome, although I was pretty agog at her treating the crew like personal movers. Geralin was great for telling her “NO.” I would have added a few expletives myself, but that’s why I’m not in Geralin’s job. :)

      Jan just absolutely broke my heart. (It’s much easier to sympathize with someone that will actually accept help. Which is why we’re all bristling at Dee. Well, part of why.)

      I have hope for Jan – Dorothy takes her people under her wing (Matt does, too) and follows up with him long after the fact. It’s really touching. Bring your armchair two cents any time. :)

  • Cate

    Jan’s story was so hard to watch. The toilet was boggling. I, too, had to walk away for a little bit, and as I walked into my kitchen to put the kettle on for tea, I realized . . . someone out there needed to see this. Someone needed to see that there are other people in the same situation; someone needs to understand they’re not beyond help.

    That’s how I parsed the Jan story (although I could have done without the violin slide as her sister came into the bathroom). I really do think that there’s someone out there who needed to see the worst – their own worst in someone else’s house – and the transformation to healing.

    • You’re absolutely right about someone needing to see that, as heartbreaking as THAT thought is. I don’t want there to be more Jans out there, but that’s unrealistic, isn’t it? That’s what is so important about this show, even though there are people who watch it for the “rubbernecking.” Someone sees them self every week, and they see that something CAN be done. Change is possible. Healing is possible.

      At this point I’m doing everything I can to tune out the musical cues. I think the lessons in the show are far too important, and will just grit my teeth until the production staff comes back to its senses. They won Emmys in the past for a reason.

  • Jackie

    Someone in the TWOP forums mentioned that Dee looks like Verne Troyer in a bad wig. I lost it when I read that.

    ARRMOIIREE!

  • Jane

    I found your website while googling for info on this episode of Hoarders. I’m interested in the episode because I live in Canyon, the town Jan lives in. I don’t know her, though, and didn’t know about Hoarders being in our town until our local news did an article on it this weekend.

    We may be a “small town with few resources”, but we are just 10 minutes away from Amarillo, a city of almost 200,000 people. If her sister or daughter could not drive her there for counseling, medical care, or a support group, there is a reasonably-priced shuttle service that she could have called. There is also a 4-doctor general medical clinic in Canyon along with a 24/7 Urgent Care. I just don’t want people to think that Jan’s situation couldn’t happen where they live just because they have more resources. There were resources for Jan, her deep depression just prevented her from utilizing them.

    FYI, there is a local discussion about the episode on the Facebook page of Pronews7, an Amarillo TV station. One poster said her friend lived next door to Jan in the duplex. So the other side of the duplex has been lived in during the time Jan was there.

    • Hi Jane, welcome!

      I certainly meant no disrespect to Canyon, I hope you know. (I’m old school Texan: we don’t hate our own.) I wanted to point out that for someone like Jan, who was very poor and living on the edge of a small town as she did – resources are limited to her. She wouldn’t have access to the same things she would in, say, Houston. Or Chicago. I think that’s reasonable, and it’s not meant to serve as a put down, more of an explanation for people who don’t know what the situation is that she was living in. I live in DFW, and even some of the smaller communities that surround the Metroplex have people who find they don’t have access to the many resources to be found in Dallas – they’re not living in Dallas County, so they don’t get the benefit of services.

      I actually love that you have brought up all of the resources that ARE available, because I do have people that message me wanting help for themselves. Now I have a place to point them to, if they’re in your neck of the woods.

      There is no question that this happens to people regardless of where they’re living. That’s just geography. What’s happening with someone like Jan is a result of something broken deep inside of herself.

      …and I’m shocked that someone lived in the other half of that duplex!! I just cannot imagine how the smell didn’t seep through. Thanks for that. (And if it helps, I’ll made an addendum to the post with the information you’ve given me.)

  • Jane

    Hi, Laura!

    Oh, I see now! I didn’t realize that it appeared that her home was isolated rather than (or maybe in addition to) the town being isolated. On the contrary, the railroad tracks run through town, and she would be within easy walking distance of downtown and the two busiest streets and therefore close to the grocery store, a coffee shop, fast food, and the public library, among other things. Her street looked desolate because there were no trees or shrubs, but that’s typical of cheap rent houses here. Trees/shrubs/grass/flowers must be bought and planted, and are expensive to water, and the grass turns brown in the winter anyway. We’re a college town, and there are many clusters of tiny, cheaply-built rentals mixed in with nicer, owner-occupied homes. In the footage, her neighborhood does look like what some people might call a slum or housing project, but her neighbors are probably college students or single-income families with minimum wage jobs. Housing costs are considerably higher here than in the Metroplex.

    I’ve never lived in a large city, so I’m curious what resources a person would have that would not be available in a city of 200,000. We have a mental hospital (for short stays, not long-term like a state hospital), a mental health/mental retardation agency (its name has changed from MHMR, don’t know if those were standard agencies across the state), and many medical and social work professionals.

    • See, and there’s me not ever venturing on 27 through that stretch before. :D The editing made it seems as if she was definitely on the edge of town (probably done for atmosphere – she was on the edge of humanity, etc.) I’m shocked to hear that housing costs are higher there! They never make it easy on people trying to get a leg up, do they?

      Well, take Parkland, for instance. (The infamous Parkland where JFK was sent. Best ER in the state, but laws, you want to be transferred out after they stitch you up.) Say someone was having a psychotic breakdown. Or suicidal thoughts. You’re immediately taken to a private room where you get truly excellent psychiatric care, medication, therapy, and this is a county hospital, so most people can’t pay it back. They keep you there for a minimum of 72 hours. From there, you’re given a list of doctors (including those on a sliding scale) and prescriptions with follow ups.

      Mostly it’s the quality of care – bigger hospitals mean more money, which means newer, more advanced treatments.

      I have a sister that has autism and is non-verbal. The number of therapies she has available to her here (as opposed to where the other half of my family lives – scattered in small towns here, or some in Utah) are more than triple than in other places. Not to mention that the therapists she works with are some of the better ones in their fields.

      This isn’t to say that you can’t find excellent care in small towns, the argument could be made that because it’s a smaller, more intimate community, your doctor would know more about you, leading to better care.

      It just follows that a bigger pool with more fish in it means you have better luck catching one, that’s all. (And a variety of them.)

      I’m so glad you felt inspired to come comment! This is exactly the sort of discussion I love, so you know.

  • Jane

    I drove past what I am pretty sure are the duplexes this evening after dropping my daughter off at dance class. When the episode aired, I thought they were ones I had driven past before. (I take different side streets on my way home, just for variety). The duplexes were clean outside, no trash or weeds, etc. Behind the duplexes is the railroad track, then Highway 60, then another part of town. Across the street from the duplexes are small, but nicely-maintained single family homes. It is walking distance from the things I mentioned earlier, plus the University (WTAMU). That is good because we have a lot of foreign students who don’t have cars. A small town out here is much more “walk-friendly” than the larger towns.

    I think housing here is more expensive because houses are built individually, not produced in multiples like the huge neighborhoods in DFW, and materials aren’t purchased in as large quantities. Also, we may not have as much unskilled labor. We have relatives in Plano who built a 4500 sf house for what it cost us to build a 3000 sf house here. Rent stays high because there’s a lot of demand. When I see a “for rent” sign in Canyon, it’s not there very long.

    I see what you are saying about the quality of medical care in a larger city, and I do agree. With more to choose from, it’s more likely you’ll find the right one.

    My brother lives in Amarillo and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He doesn’t believe he is mentally ill so counseling has not been successful and he refuses to take meds. He has been in and out of the local mental hospital (after going thru the hospital’s ER) and was comitted to the state hospital in Wichita Falls once (because he had gotten to an unhealthily low weight and therefore was ‘a danger to himself’). He will only talk with me on the phone because he thinks that the people who are “out to get” him could harm me if we are seen together. So I am not really involved with his care (on the occasions that he is required to accept care), so I’m not actually familiar with the mental health care here.

    I have really enjoyed this conversation too. I think most of us around here have friends or family in the Metroplex, but not many of them have people here to give them an idea what it’s like.

    • One thing I think this show does so well is show how any of us could face mental illness. (To me, it’s no different than any other affliction, and I wish it wasn’t such a dirty word.) When the people on the show are unwilling to accept there’s anything wrong, we see that the therapies go no where. Compliance and acceptance are the key, for sure. I sympathize with you on your brother’s care (and all of the problems that stem from our wacky system of health care here in the states). It’s such a tricky thing, trying to help someone accept that there’s a problem.

      There’s only so much we can do, but the one thing this show has taught me is to empathize and keep an open mind. That alone makes the show one of my favorites. (Not to mention all of the interesting people I’m meeting along the way!)

  • Jane

    Well put. I admire anyone who does recognize they have a problem. We each depend on our brain to tell us what is real, and when something causes our brain to be wrong, it must be very difficult to believe someone else when they tell us that what our own brain is telling us is wrong. Hope that makes sense. That’s how I see my brother’s situation. I think it would be very scary to take meds that would change your own brain. I don’t blame him for resisting. He doesn’t trust most people anyway, he feels that he himself and his thoughts and feelings are all he can trust. So of course he is going to resist brain-altering drugs.

  • Karen

    I just re-watched this episode and was thinking the same thing of the poor warm dead cat. I suppose there is not much difference between this and showing us the decayed corpses of many cats found in other homes. This woman was hoarding for a long time. There must have been other tiny bodies in the home.
    I think this whole episode is the most frustrating for me to watch. I have seen them all, but I still don’t understand how it gets this bad.
    And I have noticed, as in any other addiction documentaries that the person is always self-defining as a victim of many other people. Some have even dared to blame the dead relative whose home they shared.