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!