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.


  1. Your mother is incredibly fortunate (not that she will ever realise it) that you are prepared to have any contact with her. It seems that she only sees you as someone she can harp at and vent her madness upon. You have had a very poor deal as mothers go and you have made a decent life for yourself. Would you consider calling her less often?

  2. Nelly:

    Thank you for your kind words. Your suggestion is something I consider often. I have found that when I do, she is off-hook-nasty and everything else that seems neutral (for her) is actually passive-aggressive and a backhanded swipe.

    I allow her to prey on the fact that I fear for her physical safety and know that she has alienated EVERYONE (her doing completely) so I do try to check in on her 5 times a week, especially while we are unclear to her hip issue (which again, I have no frame of reference for what is true, and what is not).

    Time to address this behavior with her and let her know that continuation of it will result in once-a-week check ins, if that. I am so frustrated at spinning my wheels with her!

    Hope you have a great day!

  3. Once a week sounds manageable. I was lucky enough to have a fairly good mother who cared about me and her other children. I would have found 5 days a week contact a lot. But then I did have other siblings. You are in a difficult situation.

  4. Yeah. I really would like once a week. Today she was on quasi-decent behavior (for her) but started picking at a different area of something work related. I told her I was at my destination and ended the call. She did not get to finish:-)

    I think that is what she is going to get each time she does this. Sorry! Gotta go!

    Let's see how this works...