The Random "Self Help" Thread

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The Random "Self Help" Thread

Postby PrfktTear » Tue Jan 26, 2016 1:01 pm

OKay gents, I was typing this response on the Club Third Earth thread, but decided to to make a separate thread as to not derail the entire thread. Beedo mentioned caring for a parent which kinda triggered this response.

My mom's gonna be 66 this year. She is a divorcee and lives by herself, so I do have to look in on her frequently. She's getting to that point when she's becoming a concern for me though. She had a pacemaker placed about 7 years ago and is she is diabetic. Plus she is not very good on her feet due to her having polio. She is prone to falling, she fell down the stairs at home about 20 years ago and broke her femur.

She's on medication that makes her very tired all the time so she isn't really capable of doing normal everyday stuff like house cleaning, cooking, etc. She works about 20 hours a week watching children at a daycare and does at least does try to maintain somewhat of a social life. She goes to weekly WeightWatchers with her girlfriends and then they go out for dinner afterwards and usually sees her sisters about once a month.

On top of all this she is a hoarder. She is I guess what you call a "high functioning" hoarder. I'm not sure if she's aware of it being an issue, I think she just doesn't see it or she is in denial. Any time I try to bring it up to her she always tries to change the subject or turn it around on me. Her family is aware, they tried to help her clean up 20 years ago when she fell down the stairs but none have checked up on her or stopped by the house, so since that episode it's gotten even worse. And it is pretty bad, her entire house is full of junk. There are entire rooms that you simply cannot access either because they are full of junk or because the door is blocked. There are little "goat paths" to get inside the house, to the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. It makes any "normal" cleaning pretty tough, even to sweep a floor or vacuum. She doesn't sleep in a bed, because her bedroom is full of stuff, she sleeps in a reclining chair in the living room.

When I visit she sits in an adjacent chair which is full of stuff as well. She doesn't seem to have a problem throwing stuff away, like she has a "system" for going through newspapers, magazines, and ads and stuff, which I help her by taking to the town trash station. Yet she'll keep empty tissue boxes, toilet paper & paper towel rolls, the Styrofoam trays that meat comes packaged on from the groceries store. She also buys stuff with the intention of giving it to people, but usually it gets buried and she never does. Also I haven't had the heart to tell her, but I'm fairly certain that when she gives gifts to people they just throw it out, because it came from her and then know where it came from.

Anyhoo, sorry to unload guys. That's a big part of what I'm dealing with and contributes to a lot of my daily stress/anxiety. It sucks to see my mom living like that because I know she is unhappy, but if she isn't willing to do anything about it then there's not much I can do. I've offered to help her so many times. I have offered to be her "boots on the ground" since she isn't capable of doing much physical work at at time.

What concerns me is that it's driving a wedge in between us and although we were always close, I feel the last 5-6 years we've slowly drifted apart. Least but not last, and on a more selfish note, I fear becoming burdened with her mess. I am an only child and as I mentioned she is divorced, so forbid something happen to her, I am going to be left with having to deal with this all by myself.
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Re: The Random "Self Help" Thread

Postby dayraven » Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:44 pm

first off my man, thank you for having the courage to ask for some kind of help. that's a huge deal, and the first step to solving any problem. well done.

have you asked her questions about her state of happiness? not comfort, it's very easy for a hoarder to become complacent and comfortable in routines, and in their mire (BTW, i have hoarders in my wife's family, so i completely understand the frustrations your dealing with) feel free to bring it up that you don't feel as close to her as you used to, and that you miss that closeness. maybe she'd be willing to see a professional, and that's the best advice i can offer. a hoarder won't part with their stuff, because it's a replacement for a relationship they feel robbed of, and there's no logic or rationing with that kind of emotional pain. you work through it, or you don't. if you work through it, the stuff becomes stuff again, and it's easy to make better choices about your life.

but if you need some ammunition, here's some food for thought: my wife's grandmother is now in a nursing home, has been for the last year or so, after taking a spill and being unable to get back up. she is a severe hoarder and can't negotiate her own home anymore, so the home that she's owned for 35 years, that her husband bought with the idea of having a family home for the rest of her life, it's equity is now worthless to her, and she's paying for a nursing facility because the home is an unqualified disaster. now, this story gets worse... the youngest of her daughters (one of my wife's aunts) lives in grandma's house with her son and alcoholic husband. she too is a hoarder, and has absolutely thwarted every attempt the family has made to clean up the house so grandma could continue to live there. the aunt has de facto inherited the house, because no one else wants anything to do with it. it has no real estate value anymore, because the hoard is rotting the home, and it's badly infested (and with your mom keeping meat packaging, the odds are stellar that she is too). my wife and her mother can't visit the home anymore to see the aunt or her family because both of them are mandatory reporters due to the nature of their employment, meaning they have a legal obligation to report unsafe living conditions. they would have had to report to DFS the conditions of the home, and both the aunt's child and grandma would have been forced out of the house. they told the aunt this the last time that they were there, that opting not to report the conditions of the home put them at occupational risk should those conditions come to light to their employers. didn't phase the aunt at all. a few years ago, as grandma became less physically able, she stopped using the restroom, but wouldn't wear diapers because she was prideful. the aunt's husband, on house arrest for multiple DUIs, became her home nurse, cleaning up a 90 year old woman, who he isn't really related to, and as might be expected, that wrecked his attempts at sobriety. he didn't work outside the home, his wife did, so he was stuck as a nursemaid, and the stress got him. he called my mother in law one afternoon and begged for help, and these two people not only don't like each other, but he's actually stolen a laptop from my mother in law to keep himself in liquor money. he was THAT desperate.

now clearly, your mom isn't in THAT bad a shape, but there are elements of that story that are absolutely in her crosshairs in the not impossibly distant future if she doesn't make some lifestyle changes. so there's room there to appeal to her, if she wants to have a home that people come to, if she wants a home at all, and maybe she doesn't, maybe she wants to just have a small apartment but as she's aging and health concerns come on, she's got to have a plan. communicating with the word around her, especially you, is the best tool she can cultivate to have the future she'd like, the kind of comfort that actually makes her happy, rather than a comfort that masks her pain.
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Re: The Random "Self Help" Thread

Postby PrfktTear » Sat Jan 30, 2016 9:33 am

Thanks for reading. Sometimes it feels good to vent in a constructive manner and get feedback from third parties. I've only ever really talked about this with one friend of mine and while in some ways he gave me good feedback it's still something weighing on me, so any time I can get it off my chest it feels good.

I've found having frank, honest, and open discussions with my mother is difficult. I think she feels on the defensive and that I'm on the attack. People in my family don't express their feelings very well, they just bury them.

The topic of mental illness is a sore subject in my family, especially with my mother. I struggle with depression, years ago I went to her about it seeking advice from a parent. She relayed to me this story about how "when she was my age" she had gone to see a doctor about depression and the doctor wanted to prescribe her Valium, but she didn't want to go on the stuff so she just decided to live with it. There's very much an old school mentality and stigma about mental illness here. While one could argue that as a whole our culture is over-prescribed, but taking medication of a mental illness is no different than a diabetic taking insulin.

"A hoarder won't part with their stuff, because it's a replacement for a relationship they feel robbed of, and there's no logic or rationing with that kind of emotional pain.

I agree. The hoarding really began when my father left and then it just got worse after her sisters tried to help 20 years ago, and then just spiraled out of control when my grandmother passed away in 2002.

That story is heartbreaking, I feel for your family. I fear something similar happening. She has no equity and her only asset is her house and it's most definitely losing real estate value. The house is in a bad state of disrepair. It needs a new roof, new plumbing, most likely a new furnace within 5-10 years, the electrical work is a complete mess, plus it needs major cosmetic work as well.

Not to mention the yard is in a state of disrepair, much more than I can handle on my own. My dad left in 1994 and I always did what I could to keep the lawn mowed and bushes & shrubs trimmed but that in itself is a full time job and through my teens & twenties I didn't have time nor inclination to care for that stuff beyond pushing a mower or picking up a rake.

The worst is the infestation. Thats where I draw the line. It's a very old home with cobblestone foundation, so it's not uncommon to have some unwanted visitors, but the hoard is like giving them room, board, and three square meals a day. I've trapped and killed dozens upon dozens of mice there over the years.

One thing you mentioned about your wife and her mother not being able to visit before because they are mandatory reporters. I often worry for my own self that I will be looked at poorly by my own family for not reporting and even what legal ramifications there might be, (Not sure if they would consider it elder abuse.)

It's amazing how people are in such denial and place so much importance on their possessions that they are willing to let it get in the way of relationships with their loved ones.
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Re: The Random "Self Help" Thread

Postby dayraven » Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:03 pm

the best advice i can offer you moving forward is, "how much does it mean to you?" there's absolutely an element at work that you can't expect perfect compliance from another person, they're going to do, ultimately, what they want to do and not a damned thing more than that. what you can ask yourself is, how much energy are you willing to expend trying to get whatever is a fair compromise between what you want and what she's willing to give you.

for example, you mentioned that she experienced two big losses that ramped up the hoarding behavior, and that's perfectly in keeping with hoarding mentality... that's a psychological issue. from your end, you want better for her than the life she's currently leading, but she doesn't. how much time and energy is it worth to you to try to convince her to change her behavior? i know it seems heartless to condemn your own mother to live like she is, but she's also a grown ass adult who has let this happen to herself. if she doesn't want better, it won't happen, despite your best efforts or earnest concern. that she doesn't like addressing feelings is a huge stumbling block, and from your end, you have to embrace, at some level, that is may well be insurmountable, and that you might lose her trust and alienate her in pushing her to want something other than what she's living in now.

that said, and i hope this carries some weight with you, YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON AND A GOOD SON FOR TRYING! it's tempting to feel like starfruit if she doesn't respond positively to your attempts to persuade her, but you are pursing her best interests, and for the right reasons, so you're not in the wrong, even if you fail. failure is always an option, don't be afraid of that. if you sit down and are honest with her, and she shuns you for that, that's her failing as your mother, not yours as her son. the only course of action that would leave me with questions as to your character would be if you didn't broach the subject at all and just let the status quo remain so. it is worth the confrontation, because in the end, what you're giving her back is a better quality of life, better health, and more time to appreciate the people who've invested in her personally, and in whom she has invested.

as a i said though, she's an autonomous adult, and failure is always an option. if she is so checked out that she ignores your entreaty, well, she failed. not you, she failed. it doesn't mean you don't love her, it doesn't mean you don't care, but it does mean she's accepted the ramifications of her actions, because you've laid out for her what those may well be, including emotional and physical distance from you, expensive health care options later when this mess makes her truly sick (which it's likely already doing), the very real possibility that she could lose the home, and may even be forced to pay for it's demolition, and that she could end up with nothing in her waning years, living in a government run facility and wondering why you don't visit. just as she is entitled to make her choices on how to lead her life, so too are you entitled to make your choices. if you confront her with your heart and she rebuffs you for it, you're free to be as hurt by that as you are. she can't expect boundless love and backing breaking sacrifice from someone whom she does not regard.
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