Sunday, September 22, 2013

It is never easy, or straightforward, but it just IS. Or, alternate title... That is the best I can explain the unexplained!

Over the time periods represented by the past 79 blogs - I have noticed a continuing precipitous decline in my hoarding mother's grasp on reality, but it is, sadly... not near enough to be actionable.  Since I had a major health issue and major emergency surgery almost 2 months ago, I have been only calling/speaking with her every 3-4 days and getting off the phone if she devolves into paranoia, negativity, or attempts to earnestly invade a boundary I have set.

The things that I have quickly gotten off the phone for include... 

  1. Asking if I have every used Vaniqua (a prescription used for hiristulism [sp]?)as she is quite bothered by hair on her upper and lower lip.  She went to another doctor without dealing with it for weeks... and then complained to the pharmacist.  Despite me advising her it is not an issue, at least yet, she will drop into the self centered world of gross, and it always leads to a discussion of pubic hair... another subject I refuse to discuss with her.
  2. Attempting to discuss her 'crusty, scaly moles' on unsavory places on her anatomy...
  3. Continence pants, bodily functions in gross detail, including lack thereof...
  4. The condition of her fungus infested toenails... And her lack of personal hygiene and denial of that as well.
  5. Asserting that her hated neighbor 'has been in her house and put a turd in her basement'.
  6. Discussing the Castle Doctrine, her conversations with the Sheriff and the State Police that she takes as a green light to shoot someone...  And other violent ideations and expressions.
  7. Criticism of, and jealousy of her neighbors and anyone she interacts with, especially if they *GASP* spend money for pleasure.
  8. Her delusion that she is Snow White.  (Not exactly, but that she has a special gift with animals...)
  9. Inappropriate, confrontational and MEAN behavior in public.  
  10. Medical and pseudo-scientific beliefs that border on the magical, overly causative/simplistic, or spontaneous regeneration.
Her ability to go to the absolute worst case scenario is a sight to behold, and her ability to invalidate and minimize anyone else's experiences is also worthy of at least a published case study.  And the upshot is ... she never seems to change topics or modes of craziness.  She has so self isolated that her world is wee-little-tiny.  

Last week I purchased another car.  My lovely, reliable car that was almost 8 years old and had over 170K without a single problem was approaching the stage where I could continue to drive it, but it was going to cost me... and having no payment would come at a large trade off.  Pay me now, or pay me later!  So it goes.  I traded last week, and am happy with that trade.  My newer car does not have Bluetooth as my old one did, but I am having that installed ASAP... But... where this is relevant... I can use the no handheld phone law in my state to extend the times between conversations to keep me healthy, happy, and working to continue to heal from the events 2 months ago.  Last week I returned to work 'full time'.  It has taken a bit out of me, but I have had some revelations and rediscoveries during this time.
  • By nature of how life-threatening what happened to me was, and how invasive the surgery was... I had weeks at home when I really was not in the shape to do much.  I realized that if something ever happened to me that disabled me/prevented me from working- I would have to do SOMETHING.  Anything.  I could not let my world retract like I have seen in many others, my hoarding mother included.  I would need social interaction and intellectual stimulation on some level, even if I was capable of little else.
  • I am still really only intellectually processing what has happened and the changes that may or may not be permanent.  And knowing myself like I do, I know that I do not want to discuss the particulars of some of it.  Partially because it is personal and something not discussed in polite company, and partially because I want to get through the next few months of assessment and some additional treatment before we determine what will likely be permanent in the nerve damage.  I am still in the place I was post diagnosis of the massive tumor and pre-op, where I expect nothing but a positive outcome, and if, IF... it is not, I will deal with what I have and I will kick its ass.  That is how I cope.  Expect the best, prepare for the worst, and take what I get.
  • That I focus on what people do, rather than focusing on their 'failures' and 'did not dos'.  I again, could not look in the mirror if I lived in the museum of petty grudges and minor misunderstandings...
  • That even well into my 40's... I still would rather have quality over quantity, and that includes life.  When it looked impossible that I would come out of this without an ovarian cancer diagnosis, my stance was, "Who truly wants to live forever?"  Not in a fatalistic ennui sort of way, and not to attempt to be 'heroic'.  Simply said... do I want to die?  NO!  But if I do... The only regrets I would have is leaving my aging kitties, the grief of my friends, and leaving my agency in a difficult position.  That is pretty much it.  I have taken most challenges and risks presented me, loved hard, often, traveled extensively and in places that many would not choose to go... Jumped at chances for formal education and lifelong learning... Excelled at a career that has been as challenging as it is fulfilling.  I have attempted to make the world a better place, and arguably, one could say that my impact has been negligible   BUT- even if I made one person's life just a little bit better, even if I moved the cause of social change/social justice and ending oppression every so slightly forward...  I have no reservations about my choices.  And something is only a regret if you do not take the lesson from it and use if for positive change.
I think that final point, is the thing that is a chasm that will forever separate me from my hoarding mother.  I look at life as an adventure, something I should actively contribute to... not for any karmic or religious reason, not to avoid consequences, but that it is the right thing to do.  My hoarding mother, and many, many, MANY who hoard look at life as opportunity lost.  Everything must have some sort of identifiable gain, and they are stuck in making the same choices over and over.  The saddest thing of all?  They know it will not bring a different outcome.  They are waiting for the 'X' factor... whether that be family, children, wonderful strangers... to come fill up the hole they cannot fill in their own lives.  

That is why I get so frustrated when my mother cannot distinguish that every event is a jumping off place to talk about herself and tell her stories for the umpty-umpth time, exactly in the same words, inflections, expressions.  Why I want to scream at her invalidation and her refusal to see me as a whole, completely different person that has different experiences, feelings, knowledge... and DNA contributions.  I am a separate person.  Not a supporting actor in her never-ending drama.  Her refusal to change the subject and resultant digging in further when I ask or tell her the subject upsets me, such as about my nerve damage/resultant BP drop that causes me to pass out when I stand quickly.  Her attempt to DARVO... Deny, Avoid, Reverse Victim and Offender?  "Lisabeth, I was just asking... you do not have to be so hateful and mean."  Then she pouts.  

Do I worry about something 'tipping' me and that would cause my descent into mental illness/hoarding?  Yes.  Do I know that since I am 44 and have not shown any signs of the mental illness, depression, schizophrenia  and the like that runs in my family that some how, some way I might have escaped that piece?   Yes.  But I did not escape unscathed.  Do I know that my very precise, organized, tidy, and minimalist life are common in those growing up in the shadow of the hoard?  Yes I do.  I know that I am close to one end of the (linear) continuum and hoarding is at the other end.  But I also recognize that my managing my space the way I do... that it is possible that two such extremes in behavior may come from a similar place.  And I am always checking myself, and I hope that those close to me would give me a reality check if I ever do start to move down the continuum.

But... with all that coming out of my head and through my fingers via my keyboard to your kind eyes... I am so much further along in my ACOH process than I was even 2 1/2 years ago.  Will I be the person I could have been if I had not been exposed to cruel, narcissistic and abusive parenting growing up?  Would I still have had to negotiate life with PTSD?  No one can know that.  But honestly, that Lisabeth who might have been, has quite bluntly, never existed.  

The Lisabeth I am now is integrated, whole, and as such I will continue to strive to heal and grow.  I am not the physically, emotionally and otherwise abused, bullied and stalked child I was.  I have never had a mother.  I do not need one now.  I am my own mother.  I have realized that my reality is what I make of it... and I choose happiness.  And so it goes.  

Have a great week everyone.  Thank you for reading!  I should have more 'FTMOAH' soon!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Another episode of 'From the Mouth of a Hoarder"

My plan of only calling/speaking with my hoarding mother once every 3-4 days is working well overall, and our conversations have been relatively short since I am still recovering from emergency surgery six weeks ago.  She gets negative?  Gotta go.  Gets intrusive?  Gotta go.  Gets off-the-hook batshit crazy?  Same result.  I knew that at some point she would push back or rebound a bit when I was not paying attention, and this conversation yesterday was that day.

I am transitioning back into work, and for me, this week has been a steadily improving one.  I attended a meeting in a nearby large town that is about 80 miles away, and I called her when I was about a half hour out.  

She asked what I was doing, and I told her I was driving back from the 2 day membership meeting, and had a good meeting, a good time seeing friends and colleagues, and shopping.  (Of course I did not share with her that the new pants I bought was a size 00, and that I had the lovely BP drop that has been happening and passed out with a mirror in my hand that broke.  Luckily I was not cut.  I also did not mention the shock of folks when they saw me.  I did not want to hear it from her... I think she is secretly convinced I have cancer somewhere... She has often criticized any type of invasive surgery because 'when the air hits the cancer it runs and hides everywhere'.  It is cancer, Mother, not ollie-ollie-oxen-free...)  My visit was culminated by seeing and having a lovely lunch with my former elderly neighbors who had moved to that city about 2-3 years ago.  I was coming home, and had an appointment to meet the sales manager and a sales person to discuss a deal on a (newer) car for me.  

She started rapid fire asking questions about me working, and making statements.  When I apprised her that:

  1. I was doing extremely well, and I had been fine on this trip...
  2. The surgeon had released me to do this...
  3. I was released to start working out/running, as my endurance/energy will allow and to only lift weights at 60-70% until three months out...
She demanded to know if it was three months from surgery or three months from my appointment.  I informed her that any benchmark like that is from surgery, and 3 months from the appointment was CRAZY.  She immediately took offense.  Whoops.

She started awkwardly trying to find a way to get her opinion in regarding the car I am considering.  
  • First she wanted to know 'how much something like that would cost' and I told her to not worry about it.  She gets so angry at prying people, but she will be intrusive in a heartbeat.  She would love to know how much I earn, what my rent is, and now, what my car payment will be.
  • She asked if it was a large car like I have now, and no, it is not.  It is a smaller car, but is all-wheel drive.  
  • She started to make some comment about how much I am in the car and how dangerous small cars are.  I cut her off and let her know that it is much smaller than the Acura TL I drive now.  However, it is comparable to the size of her Accord.
Egad... perish the thought that after almost 6 years of driving this car and putting 170,000 miles on it I would consider trading before I have to spend quite a bit in tires, alignment, services, inspection, and any repairs it might need.  That I would make a cost/benefit analysis and make a logical decision rather than be forced into a decision by default when I have no choice later.  The estimated costs of those items will almost exceed the actual cash value of the car, and that is if nothing is wrong.  And since it is almost 8 years old and has not had any repairs needed, it is coming.  And it will be expensive.  An alternator perhaps?  Or maybe struts or a CV joint?  Oh I know... the manifold cracks...   Older/high mileage car problems.  The reason I am considering revising my plan to drive it for another year or two and take it to 250,000 or 300,000 miles is when my ex-husband asked if I was limiting what I do and where I go because of the age and mileage... I had to answer in the affirmative.  Especially in light of my recent medical crisis, life is too damn short to live it constrained by things that do not have to be limits.  I wanted to drive to NOLA, but changed my mind and flew.  I have friends that live a few states away that want me to visit. I keep demurring.  If I do not follow through on this car, I will keep looking.  

The biggest thing is, I refuse to JADE.  That is justify, argue, deny, or explain.  I am middle aged, have bought many, many cars in my life, and am not doing this impulsively.  I can afford this car, and it has less than 50,000 miles and has that in a warranty left.  Yes, it is a luxury brand, and for the first time in many years I will buy something outside of the Honda line.  

Seeing she was not getting anywhere, she started on hated neighbor and asserted that he keeps coming out on the porch to 'glare' any time she is outside.  She also asserted that his dog must have died and she has determined this since she has not seen it in over a month, and that all kinds of people are walking their dogs out the street.  

In the next breath she tells me how it is so weird, she does not see ANYONE ... it is so dead.  HUH?

She then starts chattering about... get your barf bags ready... a crusty huge mole on her breast that is coming off.  I quickly advised her to change the subject or the call was OVER.  

She started lamenting she needs a med-mal attorney to sue a physical therapist for malpractice... and she does not want anyone around her home area.  Do they still make books like 'Best Doctors, Worst Doctors' that she saw 20 years ago... and do they do that for attorneys?  Um... yeah.  It is called Yelp or Google.  She blustered and changed the subject.

The final straw was...
"I am going to ask you a question."
I am breathless with anticipation....
"Do you have hair on your upper and lower lip?"
DEAR. FREAKING. GOD!  We are not having this same inane conversation that we have already had 50 million times!
"Well, I am just ASKING! Does anyone you know have that?"
I am sure someone does, however most folks have boundaries and do not discuss this stuff.  They wax it, get electrolysis, laser hair removal, or shave it daily when they shower...
"OH!  I could not shave it every day! That would make the hair stiff like a man's beard... What I do..."

Gotta go.  BYE.  

Recently she also opined when I mentioned getting estimates for someone to come in and clean once a month that I should have one of my friends come over and do it... that I do enough for them.  

How would she know?  And I quickly told her friendship is not transactional.  It is reciprocal, but she has no concept of that.  Many friends offered to vacuum, to take out the trash when I could not do it for myself, and I let a few folks and was grateful.  But, I do not invite folks over based on what I want them to do for me.  This is not about my being unable to do certain things any longer.  This is about, both long-term and short-term, the quality of my time and my life.  I keep a pretty spic and span, minimalist place.  I would like a deep dusting, baseboard clean, and the 'hard turn' that many cleaning companies do, because I do not enjoy those activities, and they have to be done.  I am willing to pay someone to do them, and if I cannot, then I will do all of them without editorial comment or delay.  She has spent many conversations criticizing the lovely couple across the street who have a beautiful home and have a lot of pride in their home, car and their own personal appearance.  My mother also criticizes a 'wonderful stranger' she has groomed because she also is very particular and diligent in her housekeeping.  

Her disdain of those who dress and treat their spaces with the respect in which they wish to be treated is definitely a common 'hoarder think' trait... to my mother, that is some sort of character flaw, and a definite form of snobbery... that you would put everything back as soon as you are done!  That you have nice things, sometimes expensive things that are loved, used, and have a place in your life and in your home.  That like things are grouped centrally and in places that make sense rather than having multiple little 'stations' with all kinds of things.  That you are 'too good' or 'too busy' to be bothered with certain house chores and hire it done.

It is not the first time I have thought about this, but it hit me again.  She has such poor insight that she will not see any other perspective but her own that has been twisted by mental illness and paranoia.  She has effectively isolated herself with her hoard, physically, emotionally, and in every other way possible.  The hoard has become her moat and her dragon.  She also does not see folks as individuals, but merely as extensions of her will and what she wants them to do.  Everyone is something to be controlled, to be manipulated.  She also has little concept of happiness, of seeking peace, and of actually living life, rather than just existing in it.  Life is a series of disappointments to her.  I am sure that my life, my thoughts and things that I hold as values are as foreign to her.  She has a constant internal dialogue or tape that seems to be running 24/7, and it seldom changes.  She seems to be aware that people such as doctors and others are pulling away from her, but she does not know why, other than the blame game she plays.  And she sits in the hoard, day in, day out, and watches crappy daytime television, old reruns, and does nothing stimulating that empowers her to learn something new or even have a new experience.  It must be like being stuck in an alternate reality loop... or being in the movie 'Groundhog Day' with Bill Murray.  

What a sad place eh?  Hoarding... No one wins.  NO ONE.  I have some more work to do personally, some more introspection as I move forward.  I have had a brutal reminder of how precious life is, and how you are as happy as you choose to be.  I want to make my life count... 

Have a great week, and hopefully I will be a little more consistent as I get back into my life.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some memes shared with me by other adult children of hoarders...

Occasionally I receive memes, pictures, and the like from adult COHs like me.  Some via email, some via other venues... and some are relevant, some irreverent humor, and some directly relate to the hoarder him or herself.  

Sharing several tonight...

(Sorry... It was too uplifting for a bit too long... My twisted sense of humor had to pop in somewhere!)

Okay.  More than enough for now.  I have some others... and some humorous ones, but another time.  Oh... and I have some nice, creepy, CLOWNS.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More of the 'From the Mouth of a Hoarder' for your amusement. (FTMOAH)

Spoke to my hoarding mother the other day.  We continue to be on the 'short call every third day or so' plan, which is working well ... for me.  Especially as I continue to recover from my surgery a little over a month ago.  

Anyway, I called to check in.  And... Shocker... I got a whole lot of crazy.  She was complaining about the neighbor who she hates who lives in the turn, and was going on and on about all the things he has stolen from her, like her iris plants, that he prominently displays in his yard to taunt her.  She then gets into conspiratorial whispering mode, like the state of the free world is at stake, and that is what -sort of- pulls me back from the mindless spacing I was doing at that moment.  Unlucky me...  

"You remember where I had my iris plants and that SOB took them?  Well, I just woke up thinking about that flower bed and I went out to it and the dirt had been disturbed.  And when I dug down a bit, there were hard oval bulbs, and they were bigger, and grayish brown.  Could they be... you know... that stuff?"

What stuff?

[Now, she has been on the psychic kick again, telling me about old coworkers, school mates, distant relatives that she thinks of out of the blue... Then... PRESTO!  She sees their obituary in the paper.]

"You know... he was always messing in it as a kid..."

You mean marijuana?  Are you asking if I thought if he planted pot in your flower beds?  

"It is not in the flower beds.  I noticed the dirt in the YARD was disturbed near the gas light when I went out to the flower beds, and... well.  Is it?  I know nothing about that kind of sh*t.  What does it look like?  Does it grow from bulbs?  You know all about this stuff since you have worked with those drug people.  The sheriff has been busting people all over the place around here, and I would not put it past him to do this then call the police so I am arrested...."

Seriously???  Okay.  Marijuana comes from seed, and what you are describing does not sound like it, but I do not know for sure as I have not seen the seeds personally, just the plants or the product for consumption.  And, with the small amount of seed, I doubt very much they would be flying the helicopter with the heat identification software to bust you.  In your state, if I remember correctly from years ago working in juvenile detention... growing penalty is based on the aggregate weight, and this would be a misdemeanor, and of course you would test clean, so it is unlikely that the penalty would be imposed, which at most is $1,000 fine or 90-6 months, usually sentence suspended.  Again, if memory serves.

"I would not put it past him!  He is sneaky!  He is escalating!  I told you that he..."

Okay... at my doctor's appointment.  Gotta go.

Wow.  Egad... 

Was it even plant bulbs?  Or with her lack of smell, and severe cataracts... was it poo from some cat or animal that she is feeding on the porch that was buried?  Her yard is all wild, just weeds and bare dirt...  It would be the perfect cat box.  

And- she is apparently pissy for some reason.  

Tonight- I realized it has been 3 or 4 days since my last call, but I have had a rough few days with dealing with issues from the nerve damage wrought by my tumor (pain, pressure, insomnia  and the like), and as I keep saying, this recovery is not linear.  Plus, this is the week that I am allowed (after throwing somewhat of a a fit with my oncologist/surgeon) to start working offsite.  Up to this point it was supposed to be less than 10-15 hours from home (um... I did exceed that sadly) and starting today I could go to meetings outside my residential program and office, and I am to keep my attendance onsite minimal at best.  I have not been anywhere yet, and I go back on the 10th for a follow up, and I will learn if I can resume some onsite after that appointment, and if I am still on track for 'normal full time' (or under 40 hours) until the end of September.  I also will be getting referrals to a neurologist and the core center to attempt to help with some of the damage caused by the tumor. 

Sorry, I digressed.  I attempted to call her, and the phone rang maybe 7 times, and I am positive she picked up sightly and hung up.  Giving the benefit of the doubt, I called again, and it rang the full amount before the answering machine (that she keeps shut off) asked for the access code.  Oh well... 

I am sure she is pissed/being passive-aggressive that I was not overly concerned about the conspiracy to have her jailed on drug charges, and she has been complaining of a multitude of physical concerns, including a tooth ache, thrush (due to her immune suppression medication/lupus/antibiotics for the tooth) and etc. 

I think I also annoyed her when she told one of her confrontation stories.  She shared a story that the nurse practitioner would not give her the anti-fungal oral medication in the sufficient dose and duration she needs to head off thrush, and instead of asking to see the doctor, asking the nurse to check the file for the letter that her lupus doc sent, or anything that would be remotely helpful, she walked out.  She has refused answer the calls from that office, despite being at the phone and seeing the caller ID as it rings, and they have called multiple times each day, and sent letters.  She did call her lupus specialist and got the prescription she needed, but again, as in any situation where someone does not act in a manner that she wants, she took the nuclear option and simply could not give anyone the benefit of the doubt, or get out of her own way.  

I am so happy to start transitioning back into work, although I am not as hale and chipper as I hoped I would be at this point.  As I keep saying, this recovery has not been linear, and although the net gain each week is significant, and apparently- very ahead of where most folks are at this point, I still have a long way to go.   


I know she is not equipped to act like one would expect a mother to act, and I do not expect it... but it is bittersweet when folks that are not related are more supportive.  And to be fair, I will not allow her to start her morbid poking and questioning, but a simple motherly 'how are you feeling' and asking about next steps or progress would be... maternal. I have amazing support from others, and I am so grateful.  I continue to focus on the positive, and the tremendous luck that I had escaping so many dire things.  I escaped cancer, a colostomy, having that THING burst in me at removal.  I escaped having it rupture in me before surgery... which would have resulted in my death, either from bleeding (it was an almost 10-11 lb tumor on the Fallopian, and apparently it is a miracle that the tube did not rupture like an ectopic pregnancy)... and if I managed by some miracle to survive that, the septic infection from the fluid in the tumor would have gotten me.  

I have continuing weight loss (I am down to 118 lbs) and the bone pain is lessening, but I still have low blood pressure continuing, most likely related the nerve damage and not surgery blood loss, is causing me to pass out once in a while.  I have some other issues that I will spare you, and although I know I will heal and recover significantly from them... it is simply unknown if I will be 'normal' in function that way again.  I am slowly coming to terms with frankenbelly, and I honestly do call my tummy that affectionately.  A battle has been waged there, and it shows.  It is now a part of who I am, it is not all encompassing.  I am so thrilled to be here, to be returning to my career and life, and to be cancer free.  This struggle, although brief, is coming to an end.

My struggle as a COH, however, does continue.  And I will keep working at that as hard as I am working to recover from this.  It is a large part of what I am... it does not make up the whole of me.  Even if I were to end my relationship/estrange from my hoarding mother, she would take the nuclear path, and stalk and cause me all kinds of pain.  And some day, no matter what, one of us will die first.  And if it is her, I will still have some level of 'stuff' to deal with, even if at the absolute least it is simply moving on from having an estranged, ill, and toxic parent die... 

Hoarding.  No one wins.  No one.

Have a great week, or what remains of it!  Thanks for your patience, support, and again... Thanks for reading.