Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Progression of Hoarding/Mental Illness

Wow.  Has it been almost 3 weeks since I last posted?  Time flies when you are having fun!  

I have some more conversational gems from my mother who hoards.  I was dining with a friend the other evening, and she always asks about my mother.  She made a very astute observation that had not really occurred to me... I am too close to the situation.  After laughing about the latest dash of crazy conversation...

"You realize that your mother is getting worse, right?  It used to be that when we talked that some of her conversations were a bit more normal.  Lately, none have been, and they are escalating."

That really hit me, and thinking about it, I immediately told her she was correct.  And she is.  Now... what to do about it?  Unfortunately the hell that COH's are caught in is there is nothing I (or we) can do.  You cannot help someone that will not help themselves, especially if they do not meet certain criteria (completing ADL's, do not come to the attention of the County Codes Office, and such).  Yet we are damned by society, the neighbors, et al for being uncaring children for 'letting' his or her parent live in squalor.   So- now onto the most recent...
My mother has an 19 year old import that has been typical of its brand, extremely reliable.  It is garage kept, and although it is hoardy, she is one of the hoarders that is very concerned about outward appearances and she keeps it up and it is in very good condition with only 70K miles on it.  She has burned her bridges at:

  • The dealership in which she purchased it new in 1994
  • The more local brand dealership that opened in town a few years ago... she refuses to go there since they hired (and subsequently FIRED) a person she does not like
  • The local individually owned repair facilities that can be trusted, folks that were friends of my father's... Not only burnt those bridges, but dropped the crazy equivalent of the A-bomb on them
She went to competing import dealer and had her service, had a CV boot replaced (to be expected) and since she RIDES THE BRAKES, her brake pads needed replaced due to wear.  During her visit, they got a speck of grease on the floor mat, and on the aluminum wheel.  Not optimal, but they cleaned it up immediately and completely.  This is after she created a huge scene because a man was in the waiting room coughing, and ended up playing the martyr card by having a dealership person place a chair in the entryway of the dealership between the doors, where she was cold, and where she could drag her cross of woe to each and every person that entered or exited the dealership.  Two days later when I called to check in:

"I am so mad I could just KILL!"

Now what?

"...[going over in minute detail the trials and tribulations of her last visit to the dealership]... so I decided to look at my car, and I FOUND IT! No one can do anything right..."


"Left off one of my valve stem caps! IT IS GONE!  DIRT WILL GET IN THERE!  I went to Advance, and THEY DO NOT MAKE THAT TYPE ANYMORE!  I had to buy 4!  They are aluminum, but I DO NOT LIKE THEM AS WELL!  ...[more ranting]... I called the service manager and I BLEW UP!"
{I will spare you the agony, but she basically sandbagged everything she perceived they did wrong, anything they did make an error on [despite correcting it] and informed him that she would not be back, and she would tell EVERYONE SHE ENCOUNTERS AND EVERYONE SHE KNOWS!}

Seriously?  Over an 19 year valve stem cover that they could have replaced the next time you were in?  Did you think that maybe they did put it on, and it wasn't tightened like it needed to be, or that it possibly stripped?  Or they are human and it got forgotten or dropped the thing?

"...[total disregard of above statement] Tell me how I can look and tell if they replaced my brake pads and CV boot thing, can I stick my head under the car and see?"

The conversation went to hell from there.  I will spare you.  You get the idea.  Pretty soon she is going to be out of dealerships and repair places.  As it is no one will do handyman or repair services on her home, and doctors offices are starting to wait list her.  
The second one still boggles my mind as to how everything is all about her.  There is a stretch of highway in rural Appalachia that she travels to access her RA/Lupus Specialist.  They had a massive gas line explosion that destroyed a section of highway and five homes.  The only life lost was that of someone's family dog that was at home at the time of the blast- which is sad, but it could have been much worse, like the blast in Allentown PA a couple of years ago.  

"Just think- that is CREEPY.  That was a close call."

Huh?  What?  HOW?

"If that would have happened 2 days later, and my doctor's appointment would be been done in its normal time, I WOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT THERE IN THAT AREA AT THAT TIME!  I could have burned to death!"

Seriously?  I am getting off the phone now.

Sandy Hook... an event of unbelievable sadness, tragedy  and horror.  I know I was one of many who shed many tears over the lives stolen, and the heroics of the school personnel that tried to protect their students.

"First the [pop culture irrelevance] and then [another trivial matter that received lots of press] and now this.  They are running this Sandy Hook thing into the ground.  I am simply sick of hearing about it..."

I had to hang up.  The ugliness that threatened to explode out of my throat was massive.  I have no words.  Selfish.  Narcissistic.  SICK.
Other conversations have been really difficult.  They consist of:
  • Screwed up, judgmental assumptions based on her skewed perceptions, and nothing remotely do with fact...
    • "I guess they decorate for Christmas because they have grandchildren."
    • "I cannot understand all the decorating for Christmas.  It is not like they ever have visitors or even have kids... [clucking over their poor choice]"
    • "I think the neighbors must be running a rooming house with all the cars that are in and out of there."
    • "There are people next door working.  The windows are all open again, I bet that place STINKS.  The basement was full of water (in the 70's).  Why doesn't someone condemn that house?"
    • "Those people must have more money than they know what to do with.  YOU WOULD NOT BEEELLLLIIIIIEEEVVVVVEEEEEE the pile of garbage they put out each week!  A lot of it is NIIIICCCEEEE stuff!  Not tore up or anything!  Why don't they donate it?  People are in need you know!"
  • A whole lotta projecting, gaslighting  and guilt mongering occurs as well:
    • "...[speaking of an elderly, reclusive widow] You NEVER see her, and you never see anyone there but the yard service.  They never had kids, and no one comes to visit..."
    • "...and those kids never once came over to help their stepmother care for their [abusive, bigoted and a hoarder] dad when he was dying at home with dementia..."
    • "...[speaking of a woman recently widowed at the end of the street] She put up all kinds of decorations for Christmas.  She never did that when he was alive.  Who was she trying to impress?  And all that junk in the back yard (which honestly, when I saw it in 2010 looked fine... Mom's house was the worst looking one on the street) why doesn't someone make them clean that up?"
    • "Now I have to get an MRI on my hip!  TELL ME THE TRUTH! What are they looking for that a bone scan wouldn't show?  I swear, that bast@#& at the physical therapy place, my hip wasn't in bad shape [despite advanced osteopenia and osteoporosis] until he made me do those things.  I WANT HIM FIRED!  I WANT SOMEONE TO BEAT HIS HANDS WITH A HAMMER UNTIL HE NEVER TOUCHES ANYONE AGAIN!"
Yeah.  Sorry this is a long one.  My friend is right.  It is getting steadily worse.  I think I am in for a wild, maddening, and sad ride.  I still maintain my commitment to check in on her from afar, but her recent behavior continues to challenge that.  

At what level, can someone (seriously!) have every person they ever interact with 'screw them' in some way before that person realizes that it may not be everyone else?

Monday, December 10, 2012

To quote Bill Engvall... "Here's your sign." Yep... More crazy quotes from my hoarding mom.

Sometimes these little gems just tumble out during conversations with my hoarding mother.  I do my best to get her see that reality is often outside her perception... and I often FAIL.  Now- on to more batshit crazy...
...Long litany of complaints about the power going off for about an hour mid-day this week...
"I went to get the phone to report it, and it did not work!  So the phone was out too!  And this was just CRAZY.  I called the phone company from my cell phone and they did a few things, and said my line was working..."

Interrupting- Wait... did you try to call the electric and the phone company on the cordless phone?

"Why yes!  Why wouldn't I? And there was no dial tone!" 

Interrupting again- Um, the cordless phone needs electricity to work...

"That is STUPID.  I had charged it all night.  The handset was fully charged.  It was natural to assume it would work."

Um... NO.  The handset is basically a radio receiver  and it needs the base, that runs of power, to communicate with/send and receive signals.  Major oversimplification... but...

"That is what the phone person said.  I did not believe her at first ... you know how some of these young girls are... but when I picked it up it had a dial tone!"

Same conversation, litany of tribulation and woe due to hour long power outage continues...
"When I called the power company the recording said it would be 3:30pm before the power was restored!  Almost 4 hours!!!!!  What would I do if I had to go to the bathroom?"

Seriously?  The power being out does not impact the water and sewage, you are on city water, etc. so no electric pump on property... And you have a sump pump but it should not be pumping for that, just the washer in the basement...

Interrupting me, "But if the power is out the pumps at the water stations do not have any way to work!  What would happen if I flushed?  That would be HORRIBLE!  There would be POOP EVERYWHERE!"

NO THERE WOULD NOT!  Um-many water substations and processing plants use hydroelectric power, and gravity would also work in your favor a bit... [explain about generators, how water can produce its own energy, and other methods that a power outage will not impact the toilet]. 

"How was I supposed to know that?"

You had over 8 days with no power in July due to the Derecho.  Over the years, there have been lots of power loss, even when I lived at home.  It never impacted using the toilet.  Who told you this bunk?

"I thought about it - so I took a trash can, lined it with ..."

Oh dear god... I can only imagine some of the 'treats' I am going to find some day when she passes, if she has not driven me completely out of her life with her behavior.  And what is this stuff of late?  Progression of the mental illness that fuels the hoarding?  Forgetting facts that you know to warp your reality to fit your skewed perception?  

I know I keep saying it- but hoarding is a situation where NO ONE wins.  Not the hoarder, not the family, not anyone.  All I can do is find the humor... or start screaming.  Laughter is a bit easier on me than screaming... and scares less people.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

As the circle of light grows, so does the circumference of darkness around it.. 

Another friend who grew up in a hoarded home.  She is working to help those who hoard, and their families.  She and her mother were on A&E's Hoarders, Buried Alive in one of the early seasons.  She and her mother were on a Huffington Post segment earlier in the week.

Brave folks who have chosen to be public, to speak out.  They continue this battle each day.  I watched the segment, and then I did what often disturbs me most, I read the comments.

Now, as we all know, it is very easy to hide behind a screen name, and troll or be intentionally asinine.  Many of the comments were sophomoric and puerile, but some clearly show that we have a long way to go.  Blaming the daughter.  Critiquing her faith based approach.  Stating that it is the hoarder's right to live any way they want.  And so it goes...the ignorance that allows children to live in hoarded homes, to live in neglect and active abuse.  COH's struggles all too often do not end with leaving the hoard as I did- the struggles include:

  • Being so 'gaslighted' by the hoarder that many struggle for years, if not arguably, their lifetimes, to define what 'normal' is.  
  • To define what appropriate boundaries are- the hoarder works very hard to keep the child dependent and yet in an enabling mode through the abuse of power and control.
  • To figure out how to 'overwrite' the skewed and self serving, hoard perpetuating guilt, lies and manipulations of the hoarder.  
  • To overcome PTSD and the triggers.  To this day if I open a fridge and something has went over and smells, I am nauseated for hours.
  • To trust, to love, to be loved, to parent without the shadow of the hoard looming in the COH's mind.
  • To establish 'normal' homes and routines, and healthy relationships with 'stuff'.
  • To overcome doorbell dread.
This list could go on indefinitely.  Please take a moment to watch the clip, and look at the resources.  Hoarding hurts, and NO ONE wins.  COHs need compassion and support, much like those who have grown up in hell homes of addiction, domestic abuse, and similar behaviors.  Because...many of us have.  Most of us have.  All of us have.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wonder if 'Hoarding' is one of the methods?

A bit o' humor

How one feels about his or her mother, and the acrimony by the general public if it falls short of outright adoration

So- today I was putzing around on Facebook, and saw a meme of 2 women, presumptively mother and daughter, working side by side making a pie and laughing.  It was one of those annoying 'like fishing' attempts, and it asked you to 'like' if you loved your mother and to 'comment' if you did not.  It had nearly 150K likes, and about half that number of comments. Most of the comments were further affirmations of love and respect about their mothers, a small handful followed the directions of the meme, and stated they did not love their mother. Those folks sometimes shared a snippet of their story, and some were simply heart breaking.  Was there a few responses that were self serving and acting out?  I am sure there was.  But I have to say, for the majority of posts I saw, there was almost universal condemnation of someone NOT loving their mother, no matter what.  There were lots of shaming comments, and one poster said that anyone that did not love his or her mother should go straight to hell.  

Being raised in Appalachia, and also hearing my urban friends who were raised in large families, raised in a certain ethnic culture, etc. - I have heard the same message over and over.  No matter what your mother does, she gave you life, and you should take what she dishes out.  And in many if not all cases, bounce back for subsequent helpings of said pain and butt hurt.

I had an illuminating conversation once with my ex-husband.  He loves his mother, and they have a close relationship.  Does that relationship have issues?  Yes.  Does he always agree with what she says or does?  No.  But he knows that her intention is always to put her children and grand children's wants and needs ahead of her own.  Based on that kind of relationship, I could see where someone could really have no frame of reference for someone who has a narcissistic or exclusively self serving parent.  One who is cruel, controlling, and only sees her child as an extension of herself, something to be used and controlled.

Let me say, the world is full of ungrateful and ugly people, some of them children who are malevolent or cruel to their parents.  But when someone acknowledges that their relationship with a parent is lacking love, that should be someone's cue to listen, and to suspend judgement rather than condemn.  

Many COH's struggle with this.  At what point to you disengage to protect yourself?  Don't most healthy parents want to see you grow, find your happiness, and live independent, successful lives?  What role do you have as a COH to protect your children from the legacy of the hoard- in which the stuff is such a small part- but the manipulation and mental illness is the larger issues?

Often when a hoarding situation turns unsustainable or deadly- the first thing neighbors and emergency professionals do is condemn the children.  Where were the selfish, uncaring children that left this elderly person to live in filth and a fire hazard?  They have not seen the efforts to clean it up, that fail.  They have not seen the years of manipulation and cruelty, the physical abuse and neglect (and sometimes, sexual abuse), the narcissistic parenting, and the hoarders choosing the stuff above their family, and their own well being.  What the family needs is support, as they are going through their own hell.  Not a upbraiding from the community.

In my own situation, I maintain phone contact with my hoarding parent.  She is elderly, frail, and sadly... batshit crazy.  She has attempted to hire people (unsuccessfully thank goodness!) to vandalize property/harm people she does not like.  She has violent ideology, and a concealed carry permit.  She will not change anything, and has chosen to live in a level 4 hoard rather than have friendships, relationships with relatives, and to get along with her, you must agree with her 100% in her selfish worldview.  She refuses help, her idea of help is to merely churn the hoard.  The dust, the animal dander, the urine smell, etc. has made her house toxic, and has landed me in the ER the past 3 times I have been there.  Once with endocarditis brought on by the sinus/lung infection I got from being exposed to the house for less than 15 minutes.

I do not hate her.  I realize she came from a violent and hellish upbringing.  With that being said, she has betrayed me countless times.  Betrayed me with her cruel parenting, betrayed me with her ability to take advantage of me when I was younger, and continues to betray me with her lies, her anger, and her unwillingness to try anything differently.  I wish we had a reciprocal mother/daughter relationship.  That will never be.  I wish she did not sit alone on holidays, her birthday, mother's day.  That is not to be either.  I wish I grew up with a mother.  I have had to put all those wishes aside, many years ago.  She has to want those things, and clearly, she does not.  So here we are.  Her mental illness and her patent refusal do try to acknowledge it or to address is has worn me down to the point I am absolutely numb.  Do we tell children of addicts and alcoholics to keep coming back for more?  What about those who are victim of physical and sexual abuse?  I would submit, many COHs are children of abuse and addiction. 

But enough about me... The point of this is... Unless you grew up in the home, walked the same path as the children- do not condemn and judge.  As my mother says many times herself... the act does not make the parent.  None of us asked to be born, and although glad I am here, it was a simple matter of biology.  Not one of maternal directive.  

No title can capture this:/

My hoarding mother finally got a hearing aid.  After purchasing and returning two, and years of shopping and torturing the hell out of anyone remotely involved.  Her hearing is bad, having had surgery to remove a tumor in her mastoid bone and in doing so she has hearing in one ear.  However, for someone who uses her hearing loss passive aggressively to annoy others, and who can hear the slightest noise in in the background of whomever she is one the phone with... She does have significant hearing loss. Now on to the funny...

Whispering, "I had the CRAZIEST THING happen to me today.  It was WEIRD!"

This should be good....

"I got up and I kept hearing this rustling/crackling noise."  And lucky me, she attempted to mimic those noises for me verbally.


"I checked outside, I checked the furnace, I checked all the faucets, ..."  Add a looonnnggg litany of areas she checked, assuming the worst... A pipe burst, an animal was trapped, her hvac system was 'blowing up'.... You get the picture... And the story is getting all the more dramatic as she is going on.

I will spare you the mystery and suspense.  The noise?  The noise was emanating from her plastic pants that cover her Depends.  The swish-swish, crackle-crackle was her.  Walking.

.... Crickets chirping...

"Do all things sound like that?"

What things?

"Those plastic Depends covers."

I don't know ... I have never experienced anyone wearing those yet.

"What does water sound like?  Does it snap and crackle?"

I have no idea what you are talking about...

Whispered, "You know, when you go do your thing...  You know..."

You mean pee?  Um...No.  Cannot say I have.  Been consuming too much of Rice Crispies?  Snap, Crackle and Pop.

"Yes... [starts to go into horrific detail of her peeing]..."

Lalalalalalala,   Not talking about this!  Ask your doctor!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Been a bit too introspective- more crazy quotes

It simply is not a phone call with my hoarding mother unless we have statements that make my head spin... or me nearly pass out from trying to suppress laughter.  

The most recent include, but are not limited to:

....talking about a neighbor whose step-kids are a little shell shocked regarding their step-mom moving on and finding a relationship...  "And I said since they did not come help with their dad all those years then they do not get a say!"

Wait... what?  What does that have anything to do with anything?  He was an abusive SOB!  They do not 'owe' him or her anything... what?

.... talking about same neighbor's relatives that live next door... "Maybe I am just strange, but I cannot see them being gone all the time like they are... <sniffs disdainfully>"

Seriously?  They travel a few days every other month, and 2-4 weeks in the summer... they both have worked all their lives, and now have the time and resources to travel, to visit their children who live out of state, to experience their RV and their timeshares, and what is wrong with enjoying their retirement?  They both survived cancer, and I think they know what is important to them...

"Well.  They certainly like spending their pennies..."


....talking about the neighbor she loathes... "... And he has a beard now.  Trying to change his appearance!  Well ... HE IS NOT FOOLING ANYONE!!!"

Um... he is a hunter, always has been and always will be.  Many hunters grow beards at this time of year (deer season).

"Well. He. Has. Never. Before!"

Mom, he has.  From the point he was about 18 until in his 30's he did, and I assume that has not changed...

"He is simply doing it to change his appearance so law enforcement will not recognize him!  He is driving without a license, I know it!"

Okay... has he changed his hair color?  Length?  Anything else?  No?  Think that with hair to his waist and being skinny and 6 foot 7 or 8 inches tall that he would be a bit hard pressed to change his appearance radically?


"Do you take [a certain medication]?"


"Why not?"

Because I do not have [X condition].

"Well I do! And..."

< Interrupting her> WE ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON!  I am a different physical person!  You know, the contribution from my father!



"I was scared to DEATH today.  I thought my car was blowing up."

I do not think that is an issue with an 18 year garage kept Honda with 60K on it...

"I heard this vibration and [goes on to describe in pedantic detail how she stopped, started several times, pulled over, checked all the hoardy crap in the car, got out and looked... all in dramatic tone]."

Can we please speed this story up a bit?  Was it your cane or your water bottle or something?  (She just started using a cane).

...dead silence....


"It was my cane.  How did you know?"

If a car is blowing the engine, that is not the noise it makes.  And cars very seldom explode ...

"Yes they do!  I know they do!  I don't know how this stuff works, but I know it can explode!"


"So I have to be in the water at physical therapy! I do not have a bathing suit, and no one sells shorts in the winter!  They told me to wear shorts but all mine are flowy and light colored!"

So buy dark capri sweats, a dark sports bra and a dark t-shirt.

"They will get all soggy and bog down! That is dangerous!"

Buy the yoga gear and get it to actually fit you in a synthetic material.  

"Why should I buy something just for this? And they say it will only be a woman with me in there... but I am sure there will be others and I will not be stared at.  Besides... she said I had to bring my own towel and what all.  For what I am paying they should provide it all!"

They are not a hotel.  It is like a gym where you bring your own personal hygiene stuff.  And isn't Medicare paying the bulk of this?

"You are impossible.  And furthermore it is COLD out. I do not go out right after I shower and I will freeze to death or catch pneumonia!  I could DIE!"

I go out every day after a shower, usually within 20 minutes of one.  I have not died ... yet.  [This is the woman that will go almost 2 weeks between showers and washing her hair].


There were many, many gems after Election Night 2012.  I simply cannot blog them because they are absolutely FOUL.  

I again timed a call to her and did not say anything but "Hello" and "At work, gotta go."  For 20 minutes I kept a mental tally.  I was looking for positive or neutral items verses negative or judgmental items.

She did not require ANY participation from me.  The count was 57 to 0.  Guess what category the 57 was?  <Sigh>

I will start another quotes list soon.  The hardest thing for folks to get about hoarding is it is not the stuff.  The stuff is a symptom of the rigidity and the narcissism, and the extreme mental illness of the person that hoards.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Thanksgiving is NOT full of...

It is once again the Thanksgiving season in the United States.  Regardless of your beliefs regarding the 'Thanksgiving story'- whether you ascribe to the account the history books promulgate, or you feel that story is a fairy story to hide the ugliness of what really happened... Thanksgiving is a time for family to come together for a magical meal.  Or at least that is what Hallmark Greeting Cards would like us to believe.  For many of us, Thanksgiving is a source of stress, of unhappiness, or of sadness.  Chock full of it.

Being the adult child of a hoarder, I have few happy memories of holidays in general.  Each holiday was marred by my hoarding mother being angry at someone (usually me) and not speaking or participating, or flying into a rage at some point during the event.  If I had this discussion she would point to all the 'things' that I was purchased.  Materially, I had everything most kids my age wanted- except emotional stability at home... a home free of passive aggressive and narcissistic parenting... the gift of being able to make mistakes... not being emotionally, mentally and physically abused... being able to have friendships that included having friends over... the ability to have normal relationships with other family members... the list goes on.

Fast forward to now, I am in my early forties.  I am divorced, and did not have children.  I live far away from my town of birth, and those who are related to me.  Am I sad?  Lonely?  Unhappy?

NO.  Quite the opposite actually.  I have my feline companions who fill my life with laughter, unconditional love, and all the things cats have to offer.  I have the most amazing friends that are my family, and I will be spending Thanksgiving day with one group, and the next day with the folks that I consider my family.  I am off this week, and so far the past 4 days have been full of respite, and quiet enjoyment of my home.  

Why do I bring this up then?  <Sigh>

Because I called her today, to check in.  Her life is full- and it is not of the better things in life.  Besides the obvious hoard, her life is full of unhappiness, loneliness (her cats are just another item to be hoarded and controlled it seems), rumination and a testament to opportunity lost (or more specifically... taken from her).  Her envy of others, her inability to understand the reciprocity of friendships, her constant judgements and inability to see past her own skewed perspective fill her thoughts, her days, her conversations.  Her head, her heart, her house is full of unfulfilled desires, promises, and the hoard.

I will not travel the several hours to my mother's home to share a Thanksgiving meal.  I will spend it with my friends, resting at home with my cats, doing the things I want to do, or conversely... not doing what I wish NOT to. My apartment is furnished in a contemporary yet minimalist fashion, but is not stark or barren.  It is functional, and everything is actively needed, used, loved and has a place when not in use.  I am comfortable with guests any time, and am comfortable with myself, my life, my choices.  

Is my life full of good things?  Yes.  Do I have my challenges and struggles?  Undoubtably yes.  Is my life empty of the most things that made my first 18 years so traumatic, and my first 30 years such a struggle?  Thankfully, YES.  I am able to look at where I have been to ensure that I do not return or continue to do the same things over and over expecting a different outcome.  I honored and have let go of the hurt of a child who wants a mother, who wants connections to those she is related to by birth.  

I have much to be thankful for... and much that is not in my life any longer to also be thankful for.  I hope that someday that my mother will find that kind of comfort in her life.  I keep hoping, but I do not have any allusions.  The only life I can impact is my own.  And I work at that daily.

Happy Thanksgiving to all that celebrate it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


There is a acronym in the drug and alcohol realm of social services.  DARVO...  It stands for:

Reversal of Victim and Offender

It is also very, very apt/applicable to people who hoard.  Like my mother.  

The past several days to past few weeks have been full of her focusing on everyone else... more so than usual.  

She cannot get someone to come give her an estimate on storm damaged trees from the Derecho in late June/early July of this year.  Obviously these folks do not want to work.  It could not be that in a small rural community that she has effectively burned every bridge with any contractor or handyman in the area...

Any time she attempts to order carry out food from ANYWHERE she is not successful because they-
A) speak to fast just so she cannot understand them
B) ignore her totally
C) misunderstand her intentionally
D) give her the incorrect thing
E) it is simply inedible due to some small detail
Her way of dealing with it?  Lashing out verbally and leaving without ordering or taking her ordered item.  That will show them!  Losing her order for a Happy Meal at McD's will be more devastating than the ordeal of dealing with her in the first place...

Watching all the neighbors.  Speculating on where they are going, what they are doing, the trash they set out, making accusations the one neighbor is stuffing leaves and mud in her driveway drain or eave-spouting... <Sigh>

Asking extremely probing and, quite bluntly, intrusive questions regarding my friends (none of whom she has ever met).  "Does she get paid well?"  "How much does a position like that pay?"  "How much did their new house cost?"  Someone mentioned in her earshot at the doctor's office something about fertility treatments and adoption, and she knows some of my friends have done both options.  "How much did it cost to adopt 'Jerome'?"  "How much did 'Nicole' spend to have 'Gertrude'?"  

I finally had enough.  Sandy, the super storm that hit the eastern seaboard was enroute, and at that point I had been unable to get her to do one bit of emergency or safety planning.  I advised her, "You know what?  I think you have enough of your own business to focus on, getting ready for this storm, rather than mulling over everyone else's business and personal decisions.  How about we talk about your plans for the next few days?"

Her response?  A pouty pause- then she immediately started clucking about a neighbor who has a husband with dementia.

As I quickly ended the call, it hit me again, and not for the first, the fifteenth, the umpteenth time... like hoarding, this gossiping and judgmental monologue filled with stories of HOW SHE DID BETTER WITH FAR WORSE is a way of setting up a barrier.  Like the hoard itself with only little 'goat paths' for her to traverse.  Like the narcissism that ensured she pushed me away, and that no one can be close.  Like the abusive use of power and control... all of these are symptoms of the larger issue.  

The issue is within her.  She simply refuses to look at her way of interacting, her choices... so she DARVOs. On all things, to all people.

I say again.  Hoarding SUCKS.  No one wins.  Not even the hoarder.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Yet another resource


Again, not specifically focused on COH's and hoarding, but many hoarders are narcissists and engage in that behavior with their children, grand children, et al.

Another resource

In my navigations around the net, I found a resource that was of interest.  Not a COH site, but very, very applicable.

It is 

Check it out!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A moment of levity... sort-of

So I am a sucker for punishment.  In the light of the approaching storm, I decided to call my hoarding mother to attempt some sort of safety planning with her.  Attempt is the key word.  

I did not get a word in edgewise, and surprisingly enough, after the Derecho that hit in late June (see corresponding blog) you would think she would be on red alert.  Not-so-much.

Her topic today was her latest visit to a doctor.  She would not be steered in any sort of other direction.  This doctor graduated high school with me over 25 years ago, and my mother is obsessed with figuring out:

  1. Where she lives, and what type of house... Although she knows she is partnered, apparently in her mind gay=living at home.  WTH?
  2. How much the vehicles she sees her drive cost.  A MB wagon, a 4 wheel drive SUV, and pick up truck.  "She has more cars than a dealership!" 
  3. Obsessing on the amount of patients she has, what the EOB says the visit is paid, and so she figures out her income from there... with no understanding that A- she is partnered to a very successful woman herself B- she got her medical degree later in life and is really just getting started and C- that a medical practice on your own like that is extremely expensive in the terms of overhead, malpractice and liability insurance, etc.
  4. The doctor's weight, why she dresses the way she does, and the fact that she is a lesbian. 
For mother, it is as if it rains cash on this doctor.  

In the midst of this one-sided oration... she says loudly and grandly, "I think you should have become [this type of doctor] instead of what you are doing. Think of all the money you could have made and would be making!"  She then clucks her tongue to herself...

Because money is everything apparently.  It trumps happiness, real relationships and connecting with people, and loving what I do.

I quickly advised her, "Because to me, that is one of the worst f*$%ing job in the world, that is why I did not go into med school after taking (and doing very, very well on) the MCAT exam.  I realized at that point in my life that is precisely what I did NOT want to do... it is what I had been almost programmed to do."

Dead silence for a bit... and finally, a weak and horrified sounding "Oh".  

Yeah.  'Oh'.  The 'Oh' was not that I pushed back or cursed in doing so, the 'Oh' was my priorities are clearly so screwed up that I would pick social services over a profession that could make a lot of money and buy a lot of THINGS.

Two seconds later... "So how much money DO you think she makes?"

Wait.  What?  OH DEAR GOD!

I got off the phone without discussing the impending storm.  Because this doctor's income, assets, and my poor vocational decisions are obviously so much more imminent...

Stay safe everyone.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

A moment of frustration...

For some reason my mother has been on a REALLY negative rip lately.  More so than usual.  Maybe it is me, as my patience with it is growing short, and it has been one hell of a week.  Working an insane amount at work trying to meet grant deadlines, etc... Received several bits of bad news about friends in one horrible day.  Lost someone I admire and respect, and that day found out that one friend had 2 pets pass, and another friend lost her dog, another friend was just diagnosed with cancer, and yet another had emergency surgery and had most of his foot amputated.  

Could I tell her any of this?  No.  Because it ALWAYS about her.  She has no frame of reference for friendship.  I think I only exist to her as some strange extension of her, and my friends are not real.  Now granted, she has never met any of them, save the gentleman that lost his foot, but narcissism SUCKS. If I did share any of this, she will ask 200 inappropriate, morbid, and upsetting questions.

I think many mothers would be able to hear the heaviness in their daughter's voice that something is up.  But her?  Nope.  She is obsessed with the mundane details that she observes about her neighbors... fixating on things like the whether the neighbor's son is attending college, the other neighbor's level or lack thereof of lawn care.  She has worked herself into a dither about the one neighbor's house having the windows open... is convinced that they have a sewage blockage and it can impact her... Her amazing jumps to crazy conclusions based on the smallest of observations are something to hear.

I cringe when my car's Bluetooth asks, "Do you want to call MOM?"  I continue my commitment to check in on her.  But.  It.  Is.  Soul.  SUCKING.  Work will get better, it will be late December before things slow down any, but I know that is only 2 short months away.  My situation with her?  No end in sight.  

This would be funny if not so freaking sad.  The other day I was going to dinner with a friend, and got violently ill as I walked in the restaurant, and it resolved once we left.  Her response... I bet you had a heart attack!  You are 43... your dad died at ...  

Blah blah blah.  I keep realizing that I can only change my reaction.  She is not going to change, except to continue to deteriorate.  Most of the time I am very numb.  I am not sure why she got to me this week.

For those of you who are in the path of Sandy, I wish you safety and minimal disruption of your life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today Children of Hoarders lost a powerful advocate

I sit at my keyboard, and I am crying my heart out.  I just learned of the passing of someone special, Sidney Patrick.  Her blog will be continued by Greg, and you can check it out here:  

She was just interviewed a few short weeks ago for the Huffington Post on hoarding.  You can see the video clip here: 

She was one of two friends that guest hosted my blog when I got this started, and has encouraged me to just stop thinking about it and DO IT already!

You are missed.  I will miss your emails, your comments on social media, the funny and irreverent text messages...

Rest in peace.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hoarders, hoarders everywhere!

I should have seen it as an omen when I was reading and saw Dear Prudence had someone writing her who was a COH.  She did call it what is was, and offered the resources of the show Hoarders. Warmed my little COH heart.

Then I went out for sushi.  I am part of a loose network of folks that are sushi-afficinados, and roughly 25 of us descended on a nice little local place.  I had a work issue that I was providing some support to staff, so I was about 15 minutes late (and I let them know).

When I got there, the only seat available was near a gentleman I will call 'Ben'.  To give a bit of background, Ben has been unemployed since being termed at an electronics store for being 'overqualified'.  He continues to be 'overqualified' and is in his mid 40's, and has always lived with his hoarding mother.  Last time I saw him, he was complaining bitterly about the township forcing a clean-out of the trailer he and his mother share.  This time he brought his mother with him.  

This is where my descent into hell began.  Since Ben is a larger person (and no shame in that), he had moved to the end of the table... Where he proceeded to talk nonstop about... NOTHING.  He and his mother shared a large plate of sushi and sashimi, and then the real fun began.  Note HEAVY sarcasm.  During the next 105 minutes I witnessed the following:

  • Utensil FAIL. I know that it is perfectly acceptable to eat sushi and sashimi with your fingers... however, it is NOT acceptable to tear it apart with your fingers, dump the rice in the soy dish, and  then dig it out with your fork straight into your mouth, chin on table.  They both ate with less manners than some animals.  Also the long discussion of not being able to use chopsticks because of carpal tunnel?  <YAWN>
  • Chewing FAIL.  It is generally a good idea to close your mouth while chewing, and to NOT SPEAK while chewing.  He and momma sprayed food 'bits' onto their serving plate, their plates, their shirts, the table, and on one occasion... MY ARM.  Also, if I am seated an arms-length away from you and your breath makes my stomach turn even before consuming/masticating large quantities of sushi, I wonder how long it has been since you brushed your teeth.  
  • Conversation FAIL.  They did not stop the nonstop stream of chatter through the entire meal.  Not while chewing, swallowing, or even DRINKING. Also, little concept of conversations evolve, and subjects move quickly, and others may have something to contribute. 
  • Personal Hygiene FAIL.  Did I mention breath reminiscent of a baby dragon's freshly used potty chair?  Please do not ask me about the fingernails...  
  • Personal boundary FAIL.  During the meal they would intersperse conversation to each other, and it was about subjects not generally talked about in acquaintance company.  The job situation.  Whether her disability check was deposited.  When he paid the one credit card with a partial payment.  That he skipped the payment on another.  That they would save their cash and use a credit card to pay for their dinner.  That their card was declined to insufficient capacity for that transaction... you get the idea.  Oy vey!
  • Boundaries of others FAIL.  They shared deeply personal things about folks that were not present that I know for a fact at least one of the people would not want discussed for any reason.  Like the reason his relationship failed.
I could go on for a lot longer, but you get the picture. I was subjected to much of the behavior that I am frustrated by with my hoarding mother, and it made the meal very difficult and triggering for me.  

Oh- and the sushi I left on my plate because I lost my appetite?  They ate it, stating that it was TERRIBLE to leave such good and expensive sushi to be taken back to the kitchen to be thrown away...

It was 2 pieces of red roof roll.  Not newly weaned puppies.

Back to the regularly scheduled program...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

You can't help someone find happiness that is determined to avoid it at all costs...

I should not be surprised... and I am not.  I am, however, disappointed.  Today I called my hoarding mother to check in on her.  And for 20 minutes, input from me was not required.  I heard about:
  • Neighbors that I have never met, and she does not know.  She watches everything they do, and judges their spending, consumption, carelessness... You get the picture...  She often asks how much a certain car, etc. costs, or asks how much a profession pays.  WHO CARES?
  • Neighbors that I know who they are but little else. I have not lived at home for over 25 years.  She talks about them, their relatives, etc. in agonizing detail, and in a very critical manner.
  • A hated neighbor, and accuses him of all kinds of things, things that are most unlikely he is doing.
  • Ruminating on horrendous occurrences in the news.  I work for a nonprofit in which I see the best, and the worst, of what humanity has to offer.  I do not want to discuss this stuff, it is simply morbid.
  • Everything triggers a story.  A long story.  A dramatic story.  A story that I have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times. All with the same inflection, etc. as if it were being played by a tape.  Telling her things like "I remember that" or "you told me that" just prolong the inevitable.
  • Everything launches a discussion about her, her bodily functions, the bodily functions of her cats, the bodily functions of her neighbors and people long dead.
  • Petty grudges, the museum of unfortunate misunderstandings that became the fodder for lifelong hatred, and other happy things.
Not one topic was happy, or even neutral.  Narcissism is so tiring, yet I keep trying.  It is so sad.  If we had a healthier relationship, one that did not have the bogey of compulsive hoarding hanging over us... we could visit.  We could go on vacations.  We could experience the wondrous experiences the world has to offer together.  We could... but we won't.

Why?  Because my mother's decision to not address her mental health issues... her decision to live in denial, blame, and avoidance.  Oh- and squalor.  Her decision to view life as 'opportunity lost' and see herself as as someone who... no matter what... is the victim of any situation.  

I say it again.  Hoarding... no one wins.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Compilation of Awkward Quotes... alternate title... You cannot fix batshit crazy part deux...

Things have been too serious...

Here are a few more phone call quotes for you.  Sorry in advance for the TMI.  
...After a long, bizarre and tiresomely stereotypical description of some white woman's bubble butt that she saw at Walmart...

"I have never seen and American's butt look like that..."

Whoa.  Wait.  What?  As compared to whom?

"You know... a black person!"

<home alone SCREAM>
"Let me ask you a question... and I want an answer and none of your smart ass comments..."

Oh brother (as I am speeding along a 6 lane highway in heavy traffic drinking my iced chai latte)...

"Do you shave your cooter?"  (This is her new word for 'down there').

Wait.  WHAT?????  Why?  Why would you ask that?  

"I saw a show, The View I think it was, that some lady said that most people under the age of 35 do not have public hair..."

Interrupting her as I wipe iced chai latte off of my windshield and gauge cluster... WE ARE NOT HAVING THIS DISCUSSION!  CHANGE THE SUBJECT!!!!  

"Well- let me tell you what I do... I take the scissors and lay them sidewa..."


"Stop screaming!  I asked you a simple question!"

<dial tone>

Dear god... I hope no one called 9-1-1 as I almost bounced my car off the jersey barriers...

I have a group of folks that I text to when I have these sort of conversations.  That is a gift, and a curse.  I have a couple of wiseacres that will randomly text me and ask about my personal hygiene practices.  At the most inopportune times.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gloating gets you what?

Wow.  Another phone call with my hoarding mother.  She was bursting with happiness... but the in the way you would expect.  It was more a malevolent capering glee... You see, the neighbor that she HATES just got busted for driving during his license suspension.  Last year he picked up his second or third DUI.  

Now- I do not personally like or dislike this person.  I have little opinion one way or the other.  I do hear about all the things that my mother has blamed him for which include:

  • Posing a dead cat in a snowbank off and on over the course of a day
  • Stuffing leaves and twigs in the rain downspout
  • Entering without breaking into her hoarded garage (see the Derecho Post for why that is unlikely)
And so it goes..  

It saddens me that her life is so small, so bereft of the little and larger happiness that allows most of us to focus on the positive, on others besides ourselves.  The negativity, the rumination, and the violent fantasizing make me sad.  And tired.  And angry.  But mostly sad... for her.   

I think about her inability to let go of any perceived slight or petty misunderstanding ... and her inability to let go of things that she hoards her house, her garage, her life with.

How empty, and how sad.  I wish better for her.  I wish her to be happy.  I wish for a mother that I could visit, that would visit me, and that I could have a typical (whatever THAT is) conversation.  But it is not to be.  I have never had that.  

Hoarding.  No one wins.  No one.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Out of the mouth of a hoarder... or alternate title... you cannot fix batshit crazy.

Sometimes I just have to accept that folks that are close to me are going to say things that I cannot wrap my mind around... things that make me cringe that they actually THINK or believe, but they actually say, then go on the attack when they are gently questioned or other information to the contrary is offered. This post might be updated from time to time, and will continue to be direct quotes.

As a therapist friend of mine once said... sometimes folks are batshit crazy.

And the quotes are: 

"Why is it you only see blond haired white women with ... [whispered] black men?"
... Okay ... how many interracial couples have you experienced in your lifetime?
"Nicole Brown Simpson on the TV and a couple I saw at Walmart."

"Why do the channels have nothing but the crap in Egypt? I could care less what happens over there. Does not matter to me."
... after a prolonged discussion of oppression, misuse of power, civil rights...
"I don't care about any of that... I am missing my TV shows or have to keep changing channels."

"I cannot believe the Post Office nor the Library have tax forms available. I intend to complain. It used to be that they had shelves and shelves of them."
Pointed out that most folks e-file, have someone e-file for them, or download the forms themselves.
"Well- I am sure that I am not in a minority that does not use a computer or the internet crap."
Um- you are.
"I am sure all old people do not use the computer."

"Why do [checkout people and fast food workers] talk to me? I want to order, pay and get out."
2 hours later...
"I am so mad I could KILL. I went into Walmart and the checkout person did not say a word to me!!!! I am calling the manager... I have the receipt. Who does that jerk think she is?"

"I am putting [a certain frozen item] in the chest freezer. It keeps it so much colder."
Isn't the temperature the same as the upright freezer?
"Yes, but when I open the door the cold air does not come out at all and it all leaves the upright one."

Phone call that wakes me up during a Sunday afternoon nap... after working a 78 hour work week....
"Do you have the gloves I talked about sending you"
(Keep in mind, these are gloves that have been at her house since approximately 1991)
NO- I told you that earlier today- like 2 hours ago.
"What did I send you in the last three packages?"
Christ I do not know... but the gloves were not in them and are not a priority...
"How do you KNOW I did not already send them to you..."
Because I live a minimalist existence and know each and every item in my house, and where it is located.
"I thought I would get your voice mail"
UM- I am ON-CALL 24/7 and have been for the last 6 FRIGGING YEARS!

Referring to a family friend...
"It would not hurt the kids to come by and take care of their father..."
Um- he is an abusive SOB to his current wife, their mother, and any other wife he has had, and he has been a puke to the kids. He should kiss their feet they even speak to him...
"Well, he has given them a lot of money over the years."
Like THAT makes up for the childhood they lost ....

Panicked phone call- said with high drama "What color was your bike?"
You mean my childhood ones? I had a blue one, a purple one, and a red one...
Painful oral description of my 32 year old 10 speed...
Yep- that's it.
"Oh- I was afraid that someone broke into the building and switched out the bicycle."
Why would someone do that?
"You know how people are."

After informing that I am on my way out of town to catch a flight for a consulting job...
"What about your cats?"
It is just overnight. They will be fine.
"What if you do not come back?"
Pittsburgh IS like the Bermuda Triangle. Seriously?? Someone would miss me on Monday when I did not show up to spread sunshine and light to my staff.

Upon advising this person I had bought a winter hat...
"You know what I do?"
"I buy a $2 toboggan and put plastic wrap under it and tinfoil on top of it to keep my head warm. I would never pay $20 on sale for a HAT."
So- does that keep your thoughts away from the aliens?
Like M.Night Shyamalan's movie Signs?
"You are not funny. I try to give you a helpful tip and see how you are. You are a SMART ASS!"


"Aren't most or all people from New York Catholic?"
Um... NO. And just FYI- NYC and the state of New York are not interchangeable...

"Did you go to school with any that were... um... (stage whisper) that way?"
What way?
OH JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"How did (a lesbian from my graduating class in High School) know that she was that persuasion?"
It is NOT a persuasion. It is an orientation. How did you know you are heterosexual?
"Why... I was raised that way!"
WOW. Seriously?

"I have had the weirdest thing happen to me today..."
**crickets chirping**
"Are you going to ask me what?"
"Anyway... I am hearing choral music. Inside the house, outside the house, in the car, even in the bathroom."
Are you taking your meds?
"No... why do you ask?"

"I am going to ask you a question and I want an answer!"
"You are over 40..."
"Do you have vaginal dryness? Mine drives me CRAZY!"
Oh... that is what did it...
"What? Anyway.. (launches into long monologue of her issue and strategies to correct it... and I hang up on her...)"

There have been many more, but in the interest of keeping this blog under 1,100 words (which is about 300 words too many) I will stop here. Only one more kvetch...

Repeated phrases that drive me batshit crazy... because they are uttered at least 5 times a conversation...
"Stop and think..."
"That's UNREAL."