Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A bit of levity. A very small bit...

It is in the low teens here in the northeast United States.  Wind chills are bringing the ambient temperatures down to near zero.

I spoke with my mother briefly.  She exclaimed, "They say were are getting snow on Friday!  That is UNREAL!  It is too cold to snow!"

Wait- WHAT?

"It is too cold to snow!  Everyone knows that!"

Um.  Explain to me how it snows in the Arctic. 

"[Mumbles incoherently]Ah... there is not enough moisture in the air.."

That is interesting when meteorologists tend to agree that there is nowhere on this planet that is too cold to snow.

[Abruptly changing subject]"Is it true that all doctors are going to ask if you have a gun at any medical visit?  I heard that from two different people!"


"It does not matter."

Uh huh.  Stop listening to idiots, and stop watching [a certain channel] News please. 

So- I attempted to take a moment to explain to her how this rumor came about and that it is totally bogus.

She was not convinced.

The final gem for today was...

"How much do you think 'Opey' makes in retirement? He was a cop, he was in the military, and he worked somewhere else.  He is 85 and has oldtimers!  His wife does not work, but they are always are short on money..."

[Cutting her off] Mom, it is none of anyone's business what their income is, how they spend their money, etc.

"I KNOW that Lisabeth!"  <Pouty sigh>  "So a cop's retirement should be pretty good right?  And they have Medicare and his VA benefits..."

I am not having this conversation.  WHO CARES?  

<dial tone>

Wow.  Yeah.  I am weaning her back to once a week calls before I lose what little common sense and compassion I may possess.

So- I have to ask... is it too cold to snow where you are?  <grin>

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

OH. MY. GOD. This might be what pushes her over...

So- this might be it.  Mom heard back from her MRI.  She has a torn tendon on her hip and is being referred to an orthopedic surgeon at the end of February.

She has been walking with a cane since July, has had two rounds of PT, and she blames the one physical therapist for the tear.  She has extreme osteoporosis and osteopenia.   I am not sure she yet understands what this means.

  1. Likelihood of surgery
  2. Necessity of going to a rehab since she lives alone and the house is unlivable
  3. Needing to be able to navigate the house in a walker, or similar
She has a couple of goat paths through the hoard that are maybe 12 inches across.  THERE. IS. NO. WAY.  We won't get into the mold, the dust, and the crud.

I am not going home.  Whatever happens with this will be what has to happen.  She will have to figure out the cats, etc.  If she comes to the attention of Adult Protective Services, so be it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bang, bang, BANG. That is my head on the desk. A humorous call...

[Abruptly changing direction mid rant] ..."how do you use that thing and do it?"

Huh?  What?  I have no idea what you are speaking about.

"How do you shave the hair off of your lip?  Do you go up and down, across...?"

We have had this discussion 15 thousand times.  I am lucky that I do not have dark hair on my lip (at least yet).  That is YOU.  Hormone changes.  Mid-seventies.  That whole thing.

"... [inane description in agonizing detail of the hair on her upper lip and the inconvenience of it all] I do not know WHY this is happening. I let it grow out and showed it to my doctor.  Know what he said?"

Besides Ewww?

"He just laughed!  He didn't address it!  Not the hair on my lip or on my chin!  He just told me to use my favorite hair removal method!  I am not waxing!  It HUUUURTS!"

<Banging head> You can get it done professionally you know...

"I DID!  At the beauty school before it went out of business!"

That is not what I was talking about.

"You mean electrolysis? I see that place when I drive."

[Explaining the process and that in hormone/aging it can have limited results...]

"I am NOT doing that!  Why am I bothered with this?  I do not see other women that have hair like this on their lip and chin..."

That is because they choose to deal with it!  The women who choose to remove it (and some do not) make it part of their personal hygiene routine, often daily or as often as needed!

"Do they put anything on it?"

On what?  

"Their lip!  To keep it from getting hard!"


"You know, your upper lip gets hard after you shave it."

Um- NO.  I do not.  Mine does not.  So you have a lip erection?  WHAT gets hard?

"[Ignoring my question entirely] So you do not put any cream or lotion on your lip when you shave?"

DEAR GOD!  NO!  I do not have to shave or do hair removal there!  That is YOU!  We are separate and completely unique people!  We are not remotely physically alike!  Remember?  The DNA contribution from my father?  The fact that he was a large part Native American?  The fact that I have essentially 0 body hair except for the top of my head and my eyebrows?

"So how do these other women do not have all the ...[I will save you the minute and gross detail] on their lip and chin?"

Because those that do, and those that choose to remove it, make it part of their normal beauty routine.  They know if they need to deal with it weekly, daily, less frequently, etc.  If you stay on it, especially using an electric trimmer, you should never see it.

"[Weakly] I guess."

So- shower and wash your hair each day.  Give your lip and chin a quick swipe...

"Don't get carried away.  You are weird with all your showering."

Wait.  What?  I shower at least once a day, no matter what.  And if I go to the gym, work out, am physically active, working in something dirty, etc. I will shower again.  How is that excessive?  

[Changes subject]

Argh!!!!!!!!!!  This from the woman who got her hair cut the last time I did, and did not wash her hair for 18 days.  Then went to the salon in Walmart and had them do it.  


Commiserating the CRAZY

Thank goodness for my friends, who are my family of choice, and my COH friends.  With my COH friends I have support from folks that have been there, have experienced much of the same of what I have experienced.  

We can talk in details, in levels, that we would not with others.  During those talks, we find commonalities that we thought were unique to our specific brand of childhood hell in the hoard.  We find that many hoarding parents also share these traits.  Just recently, I was part of, or witnessed, discussions of the following commonalities and significant invalidation by our hoarding parents:
Oh- and if you are a bit squeamish, especially about things that happen specifically to females, you might want to skip this one.  You have been warned:-)

  • Bra brainlessness- It seems that many of our hoarding mothers wanted us to remain pre-pubescent children forever.  The fact that we were beginning to burgeon?  Ignored flatly, or made abnormal- a form of Munchhausen by Proxy anyone?  Anyone?  (My mother dragged me from doctor to doctor when I began to develop at 8-9 years old.  I. Wanted. To. Throw. Up. And. Die...)  Most of us did not get a bra in a time frame what was helpful... some COHs had their gym teachers intervene, their grandmothers, their aunts, and finally, a bra would be purchased.  BUT... [queue the dramatic music!!!] it could not be a bra of the COH's choosing.  Oh NO!  So that leads us to our next point...
  • Underwear unconformity- (Yes unconformity is a word.  Look it up if you doubt me!) Any underwear purchased had to be of a certain type, material, make, and sometimes... from a special store.  Bras could not be cute, could not have under-wires  could not resemble anything other than a 70-year old nun in a convent would wear if she needed a training bra.  Bras were shameful.  Bras were a thing of derision and public ridicule.  And panties... no cute cotton or nylon bikinis for you, COH daughter!   They must be white.  They must be grannie-panties.  My underwear had to come from JCPenney's, and it was a yearly thing. Each year on or about my birthday, I got bras and panties.  One, maybe two apiece.  I was expected to care for my bras the way that my mother did... wearing them a week or two without laundering them.  BLECH!  Thank goodness for my grandmother, who taught me about fit.  Who taught me about under-wires and if the bra fits, they are comfortable.  Who taught me about what underwear to wear under what materials.  (Mom always asserted that they 'poked' and blamed them for her breast tumors- to this day she still wears the Cross-Your-Heart nasty white bras in the boxes).  Back to all undies- They must be too large- to grow into.  No fun teen underwear with little hearts, Garfields, etc.  Especially no black underwear.  Why... even owning black underwear could cause a dreaded YEAST infection.  (Insert looonnnngggg story of her getting a yeast infection in 1955 from black panties).  Never-mind they have cotton crotches now... And white is so forgiving of that time of the month... See the next point...
  • Menstruation mendacity- What a frigging nightmare for us.  Many of our hoarding mothers had so many screwed up beliefs around 'that time of the month'.  My first time was the day I turned 10 years old.  I tried to hide it, but my Girl Scout Leader told my mother.  Who promptly blew up on me.  She dragged me home, and gave me a Kotex belt with the huge maternity type pads... and this was 1979.  It was like wearing a diaper.  I am convinced that she scared my period, and that is why it disappeared for 2 years... (Not really, but ...)  There was no privacy.  There were blow ups and shaming about 'spills' on the sheets, on the white grannie-panties, on clothing.  Many of our COH's, my mother included, notified the school and demanded that we be excused from gym class.  They made sure the whole world knew.  No Tampax for us.  No mini-pads... and with that appetizing teaser, we find ourselves at....
  • Tampon terror- Tampons were EVIL!  They took your virginity!  They could get lost in your unnamed orifice.  They have gotten STUCK and had to be surgically removed!  (NO self respecting hoarding mother would talk to you about your anatomy so you knew you had a vulva/vagina that was separate from your pee hole... NO!)  Most of us figured out tampons from friends, experimentation, etc.  And we would sneak the tampons.  And we were ALWAYS discovered.  That started my teenage years being slut shamed by mother.
  • Sexuality shame- There was something inherently bad about being a female.  No naming/discussion of female organs, bodily processes are 'dirty', and sex is something you put up with as a wife.  No encouragement to explore your own body in your private moments... Really, none of us had that.  I guarantee if I could visit home, and was using the bathroom, showering, doing something intimate/private/personal hygiene related my mother would find a reason to barge in and criticize.  Many COH girls got this crap from their mother.  Invalidating.  Power-stealing.  And untrue.  Many of us were trained to be out of touch with our bodies, our sexuality, ourselves.  Our hoarding parents refuse to see us as separate people, so breaking from their crazy and incorrect assumptions was an act of betrayal and of rebellion.  
  • The first gynecological exam... I will spare you these details, but suffice it to say it was cruelly handled by our hoarding mothers, who I think intentionally sought out the coldest, misogynist asshole doctors they could find.  Birth control pills recommended for 'Aunt Flo' issues?  OH NO!  NEVER!  There were a few that had physical issues that could have been easily corrected that were not.  Those issues prevented healthy sexual expression until they were repaired.  And the mothers knew.  One said, "Oh... I had that, they said you had that when you were 12..." The woman was 37 before it was found and repaired. She repeatedly had sought help for painful exams and painful intercourse, and was sent to a psychiatrist on more than one occasion before the PHYSICAL cause was found and repaired.  That is beyond crazy and narcissistic.  That is just... plain... EVIL.  

Our healing continues.  So does our growth.  And as part of that growth, we know that we are not responsible for our parents' illness and their refusal to seek help.  We also will not stay silent.

And just in case you were... oh never mind.  Here is the link...  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The definition of insanity...

Is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.  Welcome to another episode of 'my phone calls with my hoarding mother'.

As you may know from experience with a hoarding relative, know from reading my blog, or know from talking to other COHs, our hoarders tend to repeat themselves.  They will tell the same stories over and over, with the same vernacular, the same details, even the same inflection.  It is like listening to a tape recorder of crazy!  Try to head a story off by saying something like; "Yeah I remember that.  I was there." Or- "You have told me that story before" and you get it anyway, but the long defensive version.  My favorite was when I tried to intervene in a horrendous story of a small child running into a fire after her dolly (the reaction, not the story- the story makes me want to puke) she actually started speaking faster to get it out before I hung up on her.

So- Mom and I have several subjects that I will not give her an audience for, such as:

  • Her personal grooming of her public hair (or questions of mine!)
  • Her discussion of her fungus infested toenails and skin eruptions (taking a bath more than once every 2 weeks or so might help a bit)
  • Any discussion of her poop, pee, phlegm (that she pronounces 'flame' ), or any other liquid that comes from an orifice... or the orifices of her cats, her neighbors, folks 14 times removed that are not pooping, etc.
  • Gun rights, politics, or something she heard on Fox News
  • Violent or vigilante types of ideation and paranoia 
  • When she is endlessly speculating and making assumptions about folks that she does not know well or at all- she is using it as a precursor to judge them
  • When she is judging, bigoted, or just plain cruel
  • When she takes indirect or direct swipes at me and attempts to guilt me or martyr herself

Now- the other thing we have been going around and around with is her discussions of certain things that she will ask for my knowledge, resources, etc. that are within my expertise/experience and then do nothing, or talk to a 'Wonderful Stranger' and do the opposite, then blame me when it often plays out as a I predicted.  I honestly consider it nothing but verbal masturbation.  The list of those topics consist of:
  • Medical questions about her, the cats, about folks she knows.  My response is 'ask your doctor' or 'ask the neighbor' or 'ask your vet'.
  • Endless questions about Internet service, the Dish Network (she pronounces it DEEESH) and what she needs for her laptop that has not been out of the box since purchased in Feb or March of 2006- I am not discussing this anymore after YEARS of this conversation at insane detail.
  • Talking about churning the hoard.
  • Anything about her car.
  • Anything about home maintenance or repair.
What does that leave us?  Not much.  I know this seems heartless, but I have had these conversations in both categories not hundreds of times, not thousands of times, but hundreds of thousands of times- without exaggerating, the count could honestly be in the millions.  She does not have dementia, it is all intentional.   I am constantly redirecting, setting boundaries, or leaving the conversation.  Yesterday when driving home from a shopping trip I called her.  In 23 minutes we hit all the topics in both categories.  Nothing was positive.  Also, yesterday was my first true day off since 1/2/2013 and working 13, 15, 18 hour days.  I think the last pay cycle if I recorded all of when I actually worked, I would have had over 200 hours for that 14 day period.  Then commuting 30-45 minutes each way on top of it.  Not sleeping at all to speak of, working through the night, hardly eating.  I have lost 1/2lb to 1lb a day for the past several days.  It has been a particularly horrible week, and when she commented that I 'sounded funny' I attempted to say that it had been a hell of a week... but was cut off on the next thing that we are not talking about.  I decided to see if I could get a normal 'maternal' mother-to-adult-child response by continuing to try to tell her, she would cut it off each time.  The final piece of crazy?  

I run a nonprofit that intervenes directly with trauma and interpersonal violence.  I have worked in the field for over 24 years.  She asked a question, "So when someone calls and X is happening..." and proceeds to ask a rather basic question.  I answered her that it depends, and before I could draw a breath to give her the rest of the thought she exploded telling me the obvious and intimating that I, and my staff, are not serving these folks competently.  Now- I do not need validation from her.  I have NEVER had acknowledgement of my achievements, and I damn straight do not need from her now... or EVER.  I know that I am a subcontracted trainer for a number of statewide and national groups.  I know that I am sought to train at conferences, to work with troubled organizations, etc.  Now- I also know there are many folks more skilled than I, but also a lot that are not as experienced in the same way I am... yet.  I icily informed her it was NOT my first day on the job, and finished my sentence.  She still was peeved, and I again stated it was not my staff's first day on the job as well, and the common treatment modalities and interventions they would use.  With that I got a weak, "Oh".  When she attempted to start another volley... I ended the call.  

So apparently, [according to her daily jabs at me]  I am a failure as a daughter because I left home and will not give up my life, my health, my career to return home to the hoard and to be her slave.  I have allegedly never got over my father's death (um... who still has his boots in the hallway after 24 years?).  I am a failure because I am not looking to remarry and am happy single.  I am a horrible pet parent because I <gasp> leave my cats out in my apartment when I am not there and let them sleep with me at night.  I am a failure because I value social change and justice and also am dedicated to nonviolence.  I am a failure because I am a feminist.  I am a failure because I chose to do what makes me happy rather than what would make me a lot of money (and although I am not rich, I do alright).  Now- she is starting into uncharted territory for us, apparently her new tactic to get under my skin is how she is going to let me know of the failure I am to clients, and in my job.  

I will not JADE with her again.  [JADE is an acronym for Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain/make excuses] She is getting close to shoving me off of the edge.  The edge of my commitment to remain in contact with her.  I will not make a decision while I am this tired and worn down from work... (You know... the never make an important decision when you are mad, sad, tired or hungry thing).  But I will carefully re-evaluate this.  I will not allow anyone to upset my balance and invalidate what I have accomplished.  And no healthy parent would ever place an adult child in that position.  

Good night all.  Wish me luck at work, and with her.  May no one else ever have to deal with this.  Hoarding hurts.  No one wins.

Friday, January 4, 2013

OMG- Speaking of 'Gifts'

I was speaking with another COH yesterday.  He has been dealing with his 90+ father who has dementia, is fighting them at each turn, and can be as mean as a snake.

'Eddie' was at his father's home doing a forced clean out so his father can use his motorized scooter and can actually bathe.  (The HP has MRSA, and has infected his son twice, and his toddler grandson!!!)  Anyway, I digress.  

There is a lot of passive aggressive stuff there, but 'Eddie' was there over Christmas.  His father always gives everyone else 'hoardy' gifts, but never gives him anything... which he is FINE with.  His half brother 'Herman' had flown in from the Midwest to help with the hoard clean out.  

Want to guess what his Christmas gift was?  A hale and healthy middle aged man who had to FLY to get to his hoarding father's home?

Give up?

A Zap Cane.  


That's right.  A Zap Cane. 

It is a piece of crap cane with a flashlight in the handle, and a taser at the end.  

My advice to 'Eddie' was the following... If his brother had missed his chance to have his prostrate examined, all he would have to do is take that little number to the airport.  I guarantee that the TSA would give him an 'exam' for free.  And possibly 3 hots and a cot.

It is not a competition, but I think fellow COH's 'Eddie' and 'Herman' win the bad/bizarre gift completion for COH's... if there was such a thing.

And the entire time 'Eddie' was speaking of this, I had horrified visions of my hoarding mother discovering that such a thing exists.  She will buy 4 million of them.  (That is a slight exaggeration.  She will buy at least 6.  I guarantee it.) She wants a taser currently and has been ruminating about it, and is looking for the 'perfect' cane to replace the 42 year old one she is using now.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE... do not let her ever know this item exists.  She is already a menace with a concealed carry for a handgun, and if she had this thing, she would tase anyone that annoyed her.  And she is always annoyed.  And I am not bailing her butt out or will not post bail if it happens.

I fear it is just a matter of time.  Yeesh.  Who thinks up this crap?!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

There is NO SUCH THING as a 'gift' from a Hoarder...

Just came in from a lovely dinner with friends, and on my way in I called my mother.  What a mistake that was.  During the 20 minute call where she cursed, mocked and physically threatened the ER doctor that would not give her antibiotics (she has an upper respiratory thing happening and has Lupus, is prone to thrush, so she found some in the hoard and is taking that) she switched gears on me.

"Do you still have that coat?"

What coat?

"The coat I bought you."

[Racking my brain... What coat?  She stopped sending me crap-packages a while ago for the most part.  This kind of landmine triggered me to two arguments in the recent past where she asked me where two items were... an electric broom and a small table.  That. I. Had. My. 1st. Year. Of. College... In 1987!  The electric broom was easily 25 years old and belonged to her aunt who started to throw it away... and the table was a crappy metal and formica table that my dorm fridge sat on... The electric broom burnt up, and the table is IN THE HOARD... anyway I digress, sorry!]  

Do you mean the brown leather coat that I got in 2003 or so that is quite large?  [Which is a story unto itself how she decided to do this and how she tortured the HELL out of me in the process.]

"Yes!  I need a warm coat... mine only comes to the bottom of my underpants and..."

Mom, that coat is a blazer style leather jacket, and it is not that long...

"[Interrupting]... Yes it is!  I bought that new!  FOR YOU!  It was $400 at the leather store and it comes down to almost to the knees!  THAT WAS AN EXPENSIVE COAT!!!!!"

[Now- it may have been priced at $400, but she paid $99 for it on clearance- she left the tags on it.] That coat IS NOT THAT LONG, and it is a blazer style coat and has a deep 'V' in the front with just 2 buttons, and it is a short coat.  And I wore it a lot when I was heavier, and it is way too large...

"[Cutting me off]... I am not picky like you are, and I do not want my stuff tight!"

I do not have it anymore...

I will spare you the 20 questions, the demands for details regarding the disposition of the coat, etc.  I have lost a large amount of weight, and am 75lbs lighter than I was when I got the coat, and it was large then (I would estimate that it was a 22-24W).  My mother is smaller than I am, and I wear a misses size 10-12 now.  The coat would NOT work.

Now- I think in so-called 'normal land' if someone gave you a coat, then it is yours... to do with as you please.  Not to call in the chip 10 years later...  And let's say, again in 'normal land' (if such a place exists) a mother gave someone a coat, thought about it, thought it would fit them, the person might still have it and is not using it... would simply ask... "Do still have that brown leather coat?" No. "No?  Okay!  Just checking.  I thought it would fit me if you did, and you have lost so much weight and kept it off, I know that it would not begin to fit now."  And on to the next subject!

This topic is not over for my mother.  She will ruminate and continue to ask questions, make accusations, and generally be indignant that I do not still have it, and if I did, that I should have gotten close to $400 dollars for it! (And the unspoken at this point... that I should have given her the $$$.)

Because things, in her world, are more important than people.  Things are what last, familial relationships obviously do not.  This is why I do not and will not accept anything else from her that is a 'gift'.  She does not understand the concept... it is, and remains in her eyes, a possession of the hoard.  I guess that means I am merely an extension of the hoard as well, or do not exist as a separate person.  

Happy New Year.  I wish a happy, healthy, prosperous and HOARD FREE 2013 for each and every one of you.

Sharing a Link to a Hoarding Research Study

Here is a link to a study. 

I just learned of it not too long ago, and I am not sure if it is current at the moment, but I am definitely advocating for those who are COHs to participate so we can achieve several things: 

  1. That the impact on hoarding on families and children... both adult children and children under the age of consent is acknowledged by professional communities and professionals such as therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, psychologists, et al.

  2. That the stuff is but a symptom of the underlying issue(s).  For many hoarders, their illness includes elements of addiction, the abuse of power and control, narcissism/other personality disorders, abuse- emotional, mental and sometimes... physical and sexual.  (It appears that the DSM 5 and the work of Dr. Suzanne Chabaud and her team are making some headway here presently!)

  3. To better learn and identify short-term and long-term physical and psychological impact on COHs.

  4. To develop new treatment and intervention modalities that recognize the current treatments are not effective and often victimize the children yet another time.

  5. To assist communities in identifying and intervening in hoarding situations, especially when underage children are present.

Now... do I expect this to happen with participating in one lone survey?  NO.  But, for those of us who are far enough in our journey, who are healthy enough and supported enough by our friends and families of choice, to do this safely... being active is a way to help.

Will you join me?