Monday, December 30, 2013

Argh! So she CALLS ME AT WORK to insult me!

Guess who just hit the short list of folks that 'Lisabeth will not accept calls from on her mobile or office phone'?  

That would be correct.  My hoarding mother... Actually, I think she is the only person on that particular list.

She called my cell this evening with a question.  Then she asks if I am still at work.  I affirm that, indeed, I am.  The shrieking of a traumatized child in the background should clue her in I am not at home.  She makes the usual 'you are there late' comments- and I let her know I am working on a curriculum for a group in another state on Sexual Assault/Child Sexual Assault/Adverse Childhood Experiences/Being a Challenging Client.  She wanted to know why I was doing it... Because I was ASKED to.  Why me?  <SMDH>  Because it is my area of expertise.  Been doing this work in one way or another for the past 25 years.  She again asked 'but of all the people they could have asked... why YOU?  Or did you contact them and offer?"  Oh.  I get it.  

I am proud of myself.  I kept my voice silky smooth and with no annoyed inflection (a staff member was nearby and commented on it) I stated: "That would be because some folks consider me an expert in my field due to many things, my education, my experience, my tenure, my breadth of service in working with folks impacted by trauma, and my keen understanding of trauma from a variety of vantage points.  I cannot continue this conversation, I need to go.  Buh bye!"

She was still sputtering when I hung up. 

Seriously?  And I know that was really obnoxious of me... but ... it felt GOOD.   

Good night everyone.  Thank you for reading, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another cat leaves the hoard. RIP Ralphie...

Yesterday was a fun day.  Had friends in from out of town, and I swear we spent our day shopping and eating our way across the mid state.  Eating mainly.  But anyway... as we were leaving the latest round of restaurants, I got a text from my hoarding mother's neighbor.  Apparently one of her cats died that day.  Ralphie, a cat that she found in a snowstorm 4 or 5 years ago.  The neighbor said he had a kidney issue and was blocked completely... but to not let my mother know she had told me.  I apprised her that I had company in, and I would call my mother tomorrow (today).

Today I have been lazy, and did not leave the apartment for any reason.  Tomorrow I will go into the office, and it will be a long day, most likely.  I decided to just get it over with and call her today instead of tomorrow.  When I spoke to her last a couple of days ago she was on her 'psychic' kick again, morosely intoning things like "I feel like something is about to happen.  I just HATE feeling like that!  I do not know what, but SOMETHING is bad is about to happen!"

Okay.  Right.  Talk to you later... So I brace for this call.  And I know that I must seem to be the most unsympathetic person ever, but this is not a normal relationship or interaction.  Ever.  

So I call.  And she immediately comments on me 'not doing anything for a couple of days when all [I] do is run..."  I reminded her that I had guests in... again, choosing to ignore the fact that I know she writes anything I tell her on her wall calendar... things like vacation dates, people visiting, etc.  She complains about the weather, goes on about the neighbors social activities, and talks about how it is so much effort to wash her hair.  YUK.  I think I might escape this call when she intones the morose soothsayer voice and says- "Well, you know how I had a bad feeling something was going to happen?  Well it did."  I was watching my stopwatch on my iPad to see how long she would make the dramatic pause... 32 seconds.  "Ralphie is DEAD."  

She went into the story, and her stories have a formulaic quality... all of them.  She weaves so many tangents and details in to any story that it is difficult to follow.

  • She tries to build drama to finish with a climatic ending 
  • She focuses on what she thought, and her incorrect medical assumption
  • She gave the cat a cat laxative (he cannot pee!) and sat and watched him all night instead of calling the emergency vet
  • Finally at 8 am she starts calling vet offices
  • She talks about all those who failed her by not answering their phone at veterinary offices or the emergency vet- and she did not leave a message at any of them
  • She knew her vet was in until 3pm, and the cat is straining so hard to pee that he is drooling and the inner lid is showing and since she got the voice mail she called the humane society who told her to do the # 9 thing to get a human
  • She did, and took the cat over at 1pm
The long story short is he was completely blocked, in monstrous pain, and his bowel was blocked off.  She was presented with several options, and the vet was not optimistic about any of them based on presentation.  My mother elected to euthanize Ralphie.  She held him, and stayed with him until the end.  My heart does hurt for him, and for her.  Each time I have had to do that, I have had a friend with me to support me after.  She did not.  

Now the real crazy kicks in.  She buries all her animals in the back yard, and there must be easily 40 of them out there now.  She gets Rubbermaid boxes and does all this prep of the body.  I got this huge description of the tote bag they gave her to carry Ralphie home in.  And the kicker?  She kept the bag, and did not leave him in it.  She has alienated many of her neighbors, and several are having health issues and cannot dig a hole for her.  Of course, in her typical way of not seeing anything from any point of view but her own, that is a serious failure on their part.  One neighbor had the audacity to not be home until just an hour ago!  She called some man she used 2 or 3 years ago to dig a hole on the next street over, and he came and did it for her.  He shared that they just lost a kitty this week to the same thing, and a couple of my friends have lost cats this month to renal issues.  

She began wondering aloud if she should start feeding all her cats the kidney diet food and distilled water as a prophylaxis.  She stated that her one cat had glaucoma and a heart murmur, and "kidney and heart are related you know!"

She then rebounded from my lack of agreement on that to maligning the folks next door to her neighbor that alerted me.  2-3 years ago the one neighbor's goats pushed her fence down and got in her yard, and this couple came over and herded the goats out.  My mother was screaming, hitting the goats with a broom, ranting, and carrying on... but now in revisionist historical fashion... she has no idea why they do not return her calls and she has manufactured a whole list of things that she has tried to do that is nice that they are missing out on.  
My response this was to just tell her I have heard all this, and she got Ralphie buried, so it is all good, and if this is going to be the topic of discussion I am getting off the phone.  

WOW.  I cannot even extend my condolences to her in a way that is somewhat normal.  She just cannot do it.  She is now, allegedly, down to 4 or 5 cats.  

<Counting on fingers... Pretty sure it is 5 cats that she admits to...> This is the least amount she has had in 20 years or more.  She has 2 distinct cohorts, ones that are over 10 years old, and ones that are under 2 or 3 years old.

Hoarding.  No one wins.  No one.  Especially dependent children or pets.  

More memes

Greetings! Sharing a few memes from around the web and that have been sent to me by readers. Enjoy!

-Hoarding... It is not about the stuff... That is merely a symptom of a life threatening mental illness.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Goodnight 2013; Welcome 2014... A new year with a new perspective

I have to say 2013 has been one tough year for me personally, and for many that I care about/love.  I had lunch with a friend today who expressed a similar sentiment, and Facebook has been filled with it.  Each year has its share of heartache and triumph, but it seems this year has been full of death, illness, financial crisis, loss of relationships, and the day to day tribulations we all face.

My life has been no different as I look back over the past 12 months.  The exceptional challenge for me was the health crisis that almost cost me my life this summer, and one I am still bouncing back from... but I am here, and physically, I am doing GREAT.  (Although I need to lay off the weight gain now that I am above what my doctor demanded...the holiday season cookies are too good to me!)  Work has been a fight for absolute survival of my organization, and it seems that we often are our own largest problem.  But that is a different blog for a different source.  

So... what is the purpose of this blog entry?  I am continuing my internal inventory and review, because I do not want to get trapped in horrible patterns that I was groomed for by my hoarding mother and the enabling role of my father, (intentionally or not).  I do not want to do the same things over and over, expecting a different outcome.  I wholeheartedly agree with Albert Einstein that this is the definition of insanity.  I also do not want to slip off the balance of owning my own stuff, and learning from my experiences versus taking on responsibility that is not mine... especially for issues related to the hoard and hoarding.  I do not want to 'victim blame' myself, but yet I do not want to give myself the 'get out of jail free' card [a Monopoly game reference for those who have not played] because I have survived such abuse.  Wearing a 'V' like a badge of honor has never been my style.  

From the experiences of this year, and many of the adverse experiences have come in my complicated yet partially estranged relationship with my hoarding mother.  It has been hard, no... hell.  But there are lessons learned there as well.  What I do not want to be.  Keeping a healthy balance and protecting my boundaries.  A healthy level of introspection yet being able to keep my focus on the bigger picture, keeping focused on the present and the future.  I see what staying immersed in the past does... 

Do I have lessons to learn still?  ABSOLUTELY!  I am still learning to be willing to be vulnerable, to show that vulnerability with those who care about me, and to truly be more open.  I am learning to trust a little easier.  I want to thin my thick, tough 'armadillo skin' a bit.  (And part of that has been my work as well... but... not what I want to happen to me!)

If hoarding gave me anything, it gave me the resilience and the 'toughness' to take whatever is thrown my way by life, by circumstances, or by my own choices.  I know I can, because I have.  I know I will succeed eventually, because bluntly, I have never had the luxury to fail and not find a way around it.

I have also seen what lack of self care does.  It may not cause illness, but it allows it to become something huge.  This can be 'illness' in the physical, emotional, relationship, or whatever-else realm.  I did not learn that lesson the first few times around.  After this summer, I may not get another chance if I abuse myself the way that I did.  

I look to 2014 as a new opportunity to consistently practice what I have learned in the past 44 years, but especially, the past 12 months.  

And my hoarding mother?  She regards the new year with apprehension and fear... as future 'opportunity lost'.  What a terrifying perspective, and a truly sad and sick one.

I quote this most every year, and misquote it badly... but one of my favorite movies is 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' with Geena Davis and at their holiday/New Year's celebration a toast is made that is to the effect of "May the best of your past be the worst of your future."  In the spirit of wishing you a Happy New Year that is full of the folks and experiences you value, I wish you the best in 2014 and forward.  And I wish it for me too.  And I will work hard to make it a reality.

Thank you for reading, and more 'From the Mouth of a Hoarder' will be coming in the upcoming days and weeks.  She has been on a roll...

Hoarding... No one wins... But maybe I don't have to lose, either.  Not anymore.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

Today is Christmas day for those who celebrate.  For my hoarding mother, this is her birthday as well.  She is within striking distance of 80.  Sadly, due to her choices, she sits alone.  She immediately made a snarky comment about being bored and that it is not a Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday.  I let it go without comment.  Sad, but this is a trajectory that she set herself on at least 40-something years ago with me.

So... why this little happy blurb?  For me, this particular holiday has been an exceptionally happy one.  I had a serious medical issue that threatened my life this summer, and I came through it, and am here to celebrate.  I have amazing friends that are my family, and I spent a lovely day with them today.  I spent time with a friend yesterday evening bowling, playing arcade games and Skeeball, and the like until almost midnight.  I am feeling like myself, and my weight is up to where I was pre surgery, and I am working on getting back up to run.  Life is good.  

So I call my mother today.  To wish her positive Birthday and Christmas sentiments.  Not a terrible conversation, but full of the normal hoardy weirdness.  She mentioned that the folks across the street brought her a plate of food.  She picked up a box of Russell Stover candies and gave them to them, not in a friendship way, but in a transactional way.  I did not comment, and ended the call when I arrived at home, telling her I was planning on going upstairs and taking a nap.  This would have been around 4:30pm or so.  She made some comment in regards to 'good luck with that' and I advised her it would happen, I was going up, unloading the car, and taking a nice nap.  So... that happens.  I come in and fall asleep instantly and deeply.  And at 5:10pm... GUESS WHO CALLS...

My hoarding mother.  

<groggily> Hello?

"What is wrong with you?  Why are you upset?  What is wrong?  What is going on?"

I am not upset.  Nothing is going on.  I was taking a nap.  What do you need?

"I don't 'need' anything.  You sound upset... [starts previous rapid-fire questioning]"

You woke me up from a dead, deep sleep.  Remember the final part of our conversation a bit ago?  I said I was coming in to take a nap.  You called for a reason... tell me what it is.  I am wide awake now. 

"Well, I guess I remember that but I did not think about it ... all I wanted was to tell you what just happened..."

Okay.  So tell me.

"Well if you..."

Look.  I am awake now.  Tell me or don't.  Either way I am getting moving and doing some things done since my nap is over.

"You know the people across the street?  [Excruciating description of their home location...] The man called, and they brought me over a plate!  It was enough for THREE MEALS!  It had cheesecake and [continued itemization of the food].  WHAT IS GOING ON?"

It is a conspiracy of food.  Killing you with kindness.  I do not know.  I am glad they can do that for you.  Say thank you, and move on.  Enjoy your cheesecake.  Getting off of here.  

I ended the call.  Wow.  I would like to think one of the last things I would do if someone told me they were laying down for a nap is to call them 40 minutes later.  I would hope that I would not be so self-focused that I would put what I wanted above the other person's plans or needs.

So, since that call, I am enjoying my evening with my lovely cats, watched 'A Christmas Story' and 'Badder Santa' (please don't judge) and had my favorite vegetarian hot and sour soup and veggie egg roll.  

Conversation is always a bit disheartening, but it is what it is.  Just another affirmation of how pervasive the personality aspect/narcissism is that characterizes hoarding.  I remember growing up if I wanted to nap because I was tired or sick, she would simply not allow it, and if anyone had plans that they wanted to do, like me or my father, she would delay, drag her feet, and generally make going a burden, or make us so late that it adversely impacted whatever we wanted to do.  

Holidays have always been weird for me, and I wish I knew enough about hoarding and the collateral damage to children of the hoard to explain my apprehension and weirdness with the holiday.  I am sure I have puzzled boyfriends, roommates, friends, husbands, et al with my awkwardness.  My mother made any holiday rough.  It was like walking on eggshells, and she always found a reason to be angry, to scream, to rage, to pout, and to not speak to me.  More years than I can count, I would get her a gift and she would not open it, or would toss it aside. Some still are in the corner of the bedroom she shared with my father, I guarantee.  That room is hoarded floor to ceiling.  

Contrary to the reasons my mother does not decorate, I do not decorate.  One reason is my lack of religiosity, the other is I live a minimalist lifestyle in a small, open floor plan apartment and simply do not choose to decorate.  

Despite some discomfort with holidays, etc., I have peaceful ones spent with my furry family (my two cats) and with friends.  My family of choice.  No screaming, no hard feelings, no strange patches of rage.  Just fun, food, and enjoyment of each other's company.  The gifts are secondary, and are thoughtful and fun.  In that, I consider it to be a triumph over my upbringing.  

I hope that everyone has a lovely, lovely evening.  If you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas.  Whatever path you follow, I wish you the best of holiday wishes.  

Hoarding.  No one wins.  No one...  Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Exceptionalism and Hoarding

Just letting some of my 'thinks' see the light of day on this subject before dropping back into my typical lurkdom (relatively speaking)...

Regarding the OCD/perfectionism discussions in countless blogs, articles, listservs and others...

Hoarding... What a condition of such misery, abysmal to nonexistent insight and foresight.  There are many nuances and continuums of hoarder behavior, and much of it is compounded by the hoarder's choice.  

For many of us who have hoarders that are severe (and cruel!) the aspects present may include behaviors from the following (think of a Lichert scale of intensity from 1 to 10):

-Narcissism/narcissistic parenting
-Lack of insight
-Lack of compassion/bankrupt of compassion... inability (or conscious unwillingness) to see there other perceptions, feelings, etc.  (Lack of otherization)
-Addictive manifestation of behaviors, pleasure on the hunt to acquire, shopping/ acquisition highs, and the building of the emotion as the cycle repeats
-Interpersonal abuse... With all the hallmarks of power and control.  Gas lighting... Making everyone else responsible for their feelings... Blame, shame, triangulation, manipulation, etc... Mental, physical, sexual abuse...  Neglect and active lack of nurturing...
-Forced and enforced codependency
-Silencing and stalking

Not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.  Now, if you have not fallen asleep or deleted this thinking 'brilliant inductive and deductive thinking, Captain Obvious!' then I get to my point.  Finally.

What if the perfectionism, OCD-similar behaviors that do not align with a true diagnosis of said, etc. are actually behaviors on another continuum?

I would call this one 'inappropriate beliefs of exceptionalism'.  For this post, IBOE for short.  Or is it an overarching psycho-pathology that many of these previously listed behaviors are borne of...???

They (the hoarder) are delicate/misunderstood/traumatized/special.  

You are not, and your adverse childhood (and those as an adult) experiences are discounted, denied, invalidated... 

You are victim blamed, and the hoarder is adept at the wonderful stranger manipulation to get others to join in.

Their belongings/'treasures' (blech) are special.  So much more than relationships, living a life that is not focused on opportunity lost, lived in the museum of overblown slights and the castle of disappointments due to always taking the 'nuclear/scorched earth option' to interpersonal relationships.  We have been trained our whole lives that the hoarder, the hoarder's belongings, EVERYTHING except us, rationality, being proactive or getting out of the way to be a part of a solution is precious.

Now think of the concept of 'exceptionalism' as  it is applied.  The strange form of elitism based on many dysfunctional and oppressive constructs that your 'ways' are superior, and everyone should primarily accommodate you, and an expectation of mind reading seems to be a prerequisite skill.

Hoarding.  No one wins.  No one.

From the Mouth of a Hoarder... Alternate title- Clownshit crazy near the holidays

Greetings!  Yes... It is that time again.  Time for more verbal clutter from the mouth of a hoarder.  

Um... Enjoy?

And here we go...
"Think the shelter women would use a wok?  I have one that is like new and I keep all the boxes for things so I can store them back in their box!"

Of course you do.

"I also have an electric skillet that I got that is too big now that it is just me..."

Wait.  Woah.  Are you talking about the electric skillet that you had when Dad was alive, and that dreadful teflon covered mess of an electric wok that you bought in the early eighties?

"Well, I guess it would be that long maybe [Dad has been gone since Spring of 1989...] but I paid a lot for them and they are just like new!"

Okay.  As the director of a shelter, I would accept them and make over them like they were the best thing since sliced bread... but they would go in the front door, and out the back door to the dumpster.  They are 30-35 years old, and the wiring is that old, electronic safety changes, and from an ethical standpoint... the whole 'it is better than what they have now, nothing'... is not an appropriate outlook.  Look at this stuff dispassionately.  It is just stuff, not a puppy.

"Okay... well... I guess I need to rethink this.  Should I donate them to the Salvation Army?"

Um... same considerations, plus they support discrimination and inequality for LGBTQQIAA folks.

"What about the church that has a rummage sale?"

<Banging head on steering wheel...>
"Does a toaster oven bake or does it just heat up?"

What?  What is your definition of the difference?  Never mind.  I would not attempt to bake a homemade pie from scratch in one, if that is what you are asking.  

"Well, I bought one and have not used it yet.."

Okay, here is a thought.  Most of these 'time/effort saving appliances are simply... NOT.  They end up as clutter and you could use the oven or stove top just as easily.
"Did I tell you the neighbor's property sold?  I cannot imagine who would want that long, skinny lot with the foundation of the burnt house still there.  A woman bought it! <reads name> Wonder if she is old or young?  I cannot imagine building a house on that lot!  And the former neighbors could have sold that 2 years ago to someone, and they refused!..."

"Well, HE was in here last night on the porch!  [Describes in excruciating detail of her little 'traps' she sets so she can tell a door was opened.]
"{Whispering conspiratorially} Did you see the news from here today?"



Do you mean Hector?  [The guy I dated through junior high and 1/2 of high school, and some college who was a high ranking director at a local governmental human service agency, who was forced to resign.]

"Yes!  How did you know about this?  Oh- I suppose you talked to him and did not feel the need to share this!  Who had it in for him!  Wonder what happened?  I was talking to Dr. Wednesday [who went to high school with both of us] and she said that she thought he was the fall guy for something that happened a few weeks ago and..."

Look.  I am aware of it.  I have touched base with him and his wife.  It is their business, and I will not speculate or carry gossip or anything that could be interpreted salaciously.  It is over, and I wish him and his family the best.

"... [The barrage of questions start] And I hope he does not lose everything... that would be AWFUL!"

Hector and his wife are down to earth folks, and they are not real invested in material craziness.  Losing everything sucks, but is not the end of the world.

"...[More questions that I will not answer on his wife's vocation, pay levels, where they live, etc.] So who was the person who had it in for him?"

I am not discussing this any further.  Hector and his family deserve privacy.  Would you like to discuss something else?  No?  Okay.  Buh-bye!  <dial tone>
"...[Droning on about her deaf cat and his latest attempts to jump in the toilet... my theory is he is attempting to para suicide to avoid the misery of that hoarded house and the dysfunction perpetuated by her...] Do you remember when your first cat jumped in the toilet [in 1974!]... What a mess!  You remember that?"

No.  I remember you telling about it many, many times over the years, but do not remember it.  

"[Sputtering] But you were right there!  How can you not remember that?"

I do not have consistent memory of most things, if any, before age 8 or 9, and stuff does not really 'fill in' for me until age 10 or so.

"That is SOOOOO STRANGE!  Why I can remember most everything... But then again, you have had a few 'clonks to the head'..."

This has been an issue since long before my fractured skull and concussions, which did not happen until later teen years.  It is not strange at all, all things considered... it is actually quite typical...

"So I am so sick of the KMart Ad with those men shaking their worms when everyone raised so much hell about that little Cyrus girl shaking her butt..."

To those reading this, I wish you a Happy Holiday Season, whatever you choose to celebrate, in whatever way is meaningful to you.  If you do not celebrate, I wish you a wonderful week.  Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Another episode of... You guessed it! From the Mouth of a Hoarder!

I have been a bit negligent in my posting of late!  

I have continued to limit calls in duration, and frequency to preserve what tenuous grip on sanity I have left at this point...

But- without further delay... more FTMOAH!  Enjoy!
...[Droning on about the peeing behavior of one of her cats...] "So, if I put peroxide on it, it will bubble right?  If it is blood?"  

What?  If you drop peroxide in the cat box on the pee, it will foam because of all the other things in there....


You could just take the cat to the vet if you suspect a urinary infection, crystals or blockage.  That is nothing to delay medical evaluation...
"Those people in the 'barn house' have more money than they know what to do with.  They have decorations up already.  I guess they do have 2 little kids, maybe 2 and 4."

It is the first week of December, many folks decorate after Thanksgiving and having kids most likely is not a huge factor.  Many folks decorate whether they have children or not.  

"Well that is just POINTLESS.  I..."

"I went down to the pantry and found a whole large box of those little reusable containers like deli ham and the like come in.  Apparently I bought some, needed some, and used what I had already or bought more.  I wonder if I could use them to.... [insert inane re-purposing scheme here]."
"Do you still like your car?"

You mean the one I bought less than 3 months ago?  Yes, I like it fine.

"Better than your old one?"

They are different.  There are things I like about each.  But I really like this one so far.  

"Did you think about any other type of car?"

I considered a TL, a TSX, this, an ES 350 and a iS 250 hardtop convertible, but I was sensible and got the sedan iS instead.

"A convertible!  Your dad always thought he had to have a truck and a convertible!  I swear... you were almost born on wheels... [interrupting before I hear the story of my birth for the 5,467,309,834th time]."

I love convertibles, and especially hardtop convertibles.  Soft-tops are fun, but I do not want one as a daily driver.

"The tops are so hard to put up and down..."

Not anymore.  Some are so fast and easy if you are at a traffic light and feel a rain drop you can have the top up with a push of a button, before the light changes.

"Well, the soft ones maybe.  In the 50's I had a hardtop convertible and it was so pretty, and none of that top up and down mess.  They just called it a convertible, the tops did not come off." [The link to her awkward description- ]

<headdesk>  Okay, anyway.  Some day I will have a convertible because I like the top down.  Maybe the next car.

"So how much does a car like yours cost?"

Have a great one everyone.  Thank you for reading.