Thursday, March 3, 2011

Terror Vortex!

No, I'm not talking about the political climate in my fair state (although that's horrifying on an apocalyptic level), I'm talking about TV.

Let me back the truck up. I'm sick. Sick with a hacking, phleghmy cough complicated by my asthma so I feel like total crap. Last night we bagged our karate class and stayed home. Mr. D had his monthly poker party and I had Total Control of the Remote--a rare and wonderful thing. While my sons played nicely, I switched on the ol' TV and thoroughly enjoyed watching an episode of The Middle. Then I switched it off and bundled the boys into bed with stories and wishes for sweet dreams. I flopped back onto my own bed and debated whether to reach for my book or the remote.

I chose the remote and began to flick-flick-flickity-flick through the channels. (For those of you without cable--it's mostly a wasteland out there, people. SO not worth the money. But I have a husband who wins all the bread in our house and he luffs his TV, so cable it is.) The History Channel had an interesting story about 2 men who went to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine. When a commercial break came on, I flipped around some more and made another discovery: Hoarders: Buried Alive! on TLC.

Clutter makes me nuts, but I just couldn't tear my eyes off the screen. This woman literally crawled and climbed over piles to get into and back out of her house--she had acquired so much stuff that she couldn't move freely--she was long past the point of having passageways between the piles. She lived in a sea of crap. Her daughters were shocked, professionals were enlisted and this woman kept breaking down and falling apart. Her stuff--her stuff--represented all of her failings in life, but she was physically and mentally incapable of letting it go. She was quite ill and resisted intervention.

Commercial break again and I switched back to the divers at the bottom of the sea, the only two men to land there and come back up alive. Apparently there are no currents at the depth of 3.5 miles below sea level, so the sediment they kicked up when they crashed into the bottom never settled. They never saw anything but milky white dust.

At the next commercial break I returned to the poor woman buried in stuff. I've never seen anything quite this extreme--you couldn't discern between valuable and useless, clothes, stuffed animals, boxes, magazines were piled to the ceiling and she didn't want to part with a single scrap of it.

Reader, I'm not a fan of reality TV, but I do love me a little What Not to Wear, another TLC program, so I stayed on until the end credits, waiting for the "reveal." Surely they'd find a way to help her, right? RIGHT?

After several false starts, her daughters returned to visit and the house looked good--the kitchen and living room had become a charming, livable space. Yet all she'd done is pile her stuff further against her back door and onto her driveway. The city was threatening legal action against her--eventually they'd condemn her property. Neither she nor her daughters could afford inpatient care to deal with her mental illness. While the end credits rolled, the show's producers explained that she had not improved and the city had begun legal action against her property--the mountains of stuff in her driveway and cluttering her yard--the end.

What the WHAT? That's it? Where was the happy ending? Why didn't they fix this woman's problems? A show like Horders: Buried Alive!--is it created simply for shock value? What's a viewer supposed to walk away feeling or knowing? I felt sick--both by this woman's terrible story but also the landfill that had come to define her purpose for living. I felt sick that I'd spent an hour learning about her problems, but no solution ever emerged. I already knew hoarding was bad, now I know specifically about some poor woman living near Chicago who will probably die buried in her stuff. After watching this show I was no smarter, not entertained and not enlightened. I had to purge myself of all the bad feelings, but it was already 10:00.

So I switched channels and found old episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Lifetime. Ted, Barney, Robin, Lily and Marshall helped cleanse my palate and restore my sensibilities. Two episodes later, at 11:00, I finally switched off the Terror Vortex and set the remote control on the table next to Mr. D's side of the bed.

Random television viewing--I've learned my lesson. It's not for the weak and fainthearted. I'll stick to my scheduled programming from now on and leave the channel surfing to the professionally mindless and slack-jawed.

Spill it, reader: what's the scariest thing you've experienced on your Terror Vortex?


  1. Hoarders for certain is scary. I've probably watched it 3 times and it always 'literally' makes me feel sick. Never again... I'll stick to Netflix thank you very much.


  2. I stumbled on a guy who was cooking some kind of goat stew and I nearly barfed when he pulled out the giant spoon and said "oooooohhhh look, here's the face".

    The other thing that makes me SCREAM is Say Yes To The Dress. Also, those Teen Mom shows.

  3. We don't have cable, but while on vacation the hub convinced me to watch some exterminator show--cant remember the name--something like jim bob kills stuff?!? I don't know what was creepier, the bugs or this guy and his family!

    Hope that you start feeling better soon! We've had a cold from the pits of hell for a week now--we were sick sick sick!

  4. I watched that last night, too. Horrifying. The one on A&E offers aftercare funds for the people they feature and some take it and some don't. I will never understand how your mind can get so messed up that you need all that stuff around and I usually just want to smack them when they start whining about their anxiety about throwing things away, but this woman really, really needed help and she didn't get it. I once made the mistake of eating a snack while watching Hoarders (I guess that's good for the diet! ha!) Although I get impatient with the excuses, I can usually watch through to the end, but the episode that featured one guy whose house was overrun by hundreds of pet rats and the woman who lived in a house her father owned with about 50 cats were more than I could stomach.

    It was about as disgusting as any of The Real Housewives of wherever. But not quite.

  5. Hoarding is a really difficult mental health issue to resolve. Through my work (back when I did the full time thing) I've been in many a hoarding home. One time I legally removed 3 children from one. You'd think that the parents would've done whatever it took to get those kids back, but sadly they weren't able to let go of their stuff. I think the show is probably just telling it like it is. I'd imagine that sometimes it may have happy endings, but other times they probably don't make much progress. Such is the disorder. Frustrating!

  6. yeah. ug. hopefully the woman didn't have cats or kids.

    ya count yer blessings I guess.


  7. I love it when people talk/write about/discuss tv. It's a ubiquitous temptation, and almost always the path of least resistance.

    What I find creepy is that I signed up for a week trial of hulu plus so that I could watch three full seasons of desperate housewives. In a week. Without getting tired of it. Without feeling all that bad about myself. Granted, most of them were listened to at work without watching (makes little difference I discovered!). Anyway, for tendencies such as these, I'm glad I don't have channels on my video-machine!

    I didn't have a tv growing up, and I find it makes me much more independent of tv, but when allowed access, much more closeted and obsessive. SIGH!
    Thanks for this post.

  8. I like to think that maybe some people recognize themselves in that show and get help sooner rather than later.

  9. wellll...those peoples' "pets" eating them up, over on "Fatal Attractions" was pretty scary! "Bad Girls"...whut it is. Pretty bad. I can never watch the hoarding show, for the reason you cited. I like "what Not to Wear" and "How Do I Look?" (same premise)
    * : )

  10. I like to think of myself as someone who doesn't watch reality tv but that's not true. I love shows like clean house and hoarders, gold mining in AK, river monsters, and on occasion bridezillas. That show is very scary!

  11. So sorry to hear you're sick. I have to comment on Hoarders. I have some sick fascination with that show and I am a complete neat freak married to a neat freak. Sometimes the shows turn out well and the people turn their lives around, other times nothing changes and they end up losing everything valuable to them. It's amazing to me how these people will actually allow their children to be removed from the home but not their crap. As far as the rest of television, we cut the cable 3 weeks ago and haven't looked back. Not even watching the news and we're talking about canceling the newspaper. I want to fill my mind with positive thoughts and fulfill my destiny in life. I'm loving this feeling of freedom right now.

  12. There is Nothing On Television during the day. This is one reason I work.

    Martha Stewart makes me want to throw things at the TV. So does almost anything on MTV or VH1. I hate Survivor, Amazing Race, any of the fat shows (excepting Celebrity Fit Camp - don't ask) and most any contest show, unless it's one where you truly have to have a talent, like Top chef or Project Runway. And don't let me get started on the Housewives franchise...

    When things are tough, I go to PBS. Antiques Road Show is always good.

  13. sigh. I love shows like that. Hoarders, the 1000 lb man, Trauma: LIfe in the ER...all that stuff. Probably because I DON"T have cable, so when I get to chekc it out, I luff it. Maybe Mr. D and I can watch together some night. :)

    I hope you don't think of me as one of those brainless folks who will flip back and forth between those shows! :)

  14. I can't stand looking at clutter either. I even think their house on The Middle is too cluttered and distracting. I always find myself looking at things in the background when I watch that.

  15. Daughter sometimes watched Hoarders. I've given up on watching it with her. We'll watch "Say Yes to the Dress" because she enjoys the design aspect. Lately CNN has been on my terror vortex because they keep landing in Madison! Apocalyptic, indeed.

  16. YIPES! I have watched the hoarder show where they actually help them. It is very sad - something is so broken inside of them. I once saw a hip replacement but have to admit - I kind of like (ahem, LOVE) that stuff... Don't hate me!

  17. Hope you are feeling better! I'm fascinated by hoarders.

  18. I watched an episode of Hoarders this week too-it is horrifying.
    The one lady had a light on in the living room on the far wall and they couldn't even get to it, the room was entirely full. The daughter came in and said, how do you turn it off? and the parents laughed a little chuckle and said, we don't.
    My mom is actually a good friend of a hoarder and she has paths in her house. My mom and some coworkers came by and dug out (literally) the dining room over the course of three weeks (8 hrs one day!) and within 2 months, it was a disaster again. She shops nonstop, mostly on credit cards, and just won't get rid of anything. Her mom died a few yrs back and she kept EVERYTHING. Not one thing has ever left that house of her moms. Insane....

  19. I've seen Hoarders once and it left me feeling profoundly depressed. I don't own that many possessions, but I resent the time I have to spend managing what I do own. I don't have much patience for people who can't keep excessive stuff out of their lives.

  20. Soooo... the tv show is aking money off people's weirdness and they won't pay for her to see a professional?

    We got our TV nearly a year ago now. We hardly plug it in, but when we all had the tummy bug a few weeks ago we did, and watched the Lord of the Rings again... now, it's unplugged once more sitting there hidden under a 'tree of life' tapestry, which is prettier than a tv anyway to look at :)

  21. First off, hi. I'm able to get into Blogger for this hour (not last hour, but yes, the hour before that).

    I suppose there's something realistic about the HOARDER episode, in reminding everyone that the solution isn't quick, pat, or easy--that what this woman lives with is complex and ugly and perhaps not solvable.

    Did you buy that? Tryin' here.

    I'm just sorry you didn't stumble across MANTRACKER last night; it became my husband's and my not-so-secret Hour of Dumb each night until they switched up the schedule. Look for it, next time you're sick!

  22. i think that "Hoarders" is meant to be realistic. in that there is no easy solution to a hoarding person--they hoard, it's a disease, you can clean it up but they will hoard again. i just finished reading a memoir written by a hoarder's daughter (the hoarder lives in Mpls) and that really illustrated in a powerful way how frustrating this is for family and how simple the solution appears to be--just get rid of stuff--and how impossible that is for the hoarder. a very sad state of affairs

  23. ps I love "what not to wear" and "say yes to the dress." they're great fun! but i hardly ever get to watch them beause i do not control the remote in my house, not even remotely.

  24. Scary TV? Any crime show featuring bizarre, senseless crimes. Scary, scary, scary. I mean, really, the Russian nanny is entoumbed alive in the storage bin beneath the bed in the master bedroom? Human trafficking? Sex crimes? Torture? Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to that kind of violence?

    Then there's the evening news out of Orlando...

  25. I'm not even sure what channel it was on, or the name of the show, but about a year ago I saw this program about interventions. Mom was disabled in some way, dad was taking care of her, grown son was an alcoholic and also suffered from diabetes and dad would go over to his place every now and then to see if he was still alive. Horrible!

  26. Hoarders may be the scariest show I've seen. I can't watch it. It's too upsetting. People find mold and life-threatening filfth buried under their crap. I can't imagine the smells.

    I have to stop typing about it.

  27. Your post was fun to read. I hope you get feeling better soon. I'm glad I stopped by today.


Spill it, reader.