Sunday, September 9, 2012

And then I stuck a pen in my eye

I just had one of those crazy-making conversations with my mother. You know, the kind where she pushes all of your buttons the way that only your mother can, making you so crazy that you would stick a pen in your eye if it would only help you get off the phone faster?

I did manage to narrowly avoid stabbing myself with any blunt instruments (or sharp ones, for that matter), solely by virtue of the fact that I managed to actually hang up the phone a mere 15 minutes into the discussion. This was shortly after working our way through her recurring conversational themes:

1. When I get my life together, I will... (choose any random ongoing desire and insert here).
2. Because God says that I am right about... (insert conservative political position/religious belief here)
3. Your father... (insert overly dramatic sigh and explanation of how he has so wretchedly and evilly wronged her in the past)
4. The last people I hired to help me... (insert story about how personal organizer/roofer/contractor/dog walker has wronged her as well)
5. I'm organizing the house and I don't know why I can't just get it finished this time.

These five topics, in one permutation or another, sprinkle every. single. conversation. Seriously. Every single conversation that I have with my mother. She is the only person I know who returns repeatedly and frequently to the same themes in her conversations, very often even using the exact same verbiage over and over (when I get my life together...).

This verbal stuckness very much reflects the stuckness that she has in life. She has such chronic good intentions about getting the house cleaned and organized, but is utterly unable to do so. She also has the classic hoarder lack of insight as to why this might be. She also has a markedly inflexible belief system, which ranges from life-dominating religious dogma to consistently viewing herself as a victim.

I understand that, as a hoarder, her brain works differently from the way that mine does. She is so mired in her belongings in part because of this lack of insight and inability to process information in a way that leads to making good decisions. The rest of the script, though, continues to baffle me. Every time we talk on the phone, no matter what we're talking about, most of her five themes play a prominent role in the conversation. I have no idea if this is an issue common to hoarders, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Does anyone else have a similar, I-can't-let-go-of-my-script experience when conversing with a hoarder? Because seriously, if I have to sit through one more of these conversations, I might actually stick a pen in my eye.


  1. Thank you, thank you for this post.

    "Every time we talk on the phone, no matter what we're talking about, most of her five themes play a prominent role in the conversation".

    My HP does the exact same thing. She has 3 very dramatic scripts that always play out. Two involve lawyers, one involves trees. The other scripts have traces of victimization, tragedy, loss, death, insert-sad-topic-here.

    Of course, we haven't talked in weeks because I can't get out of the way of my own anger.

  2. I experience the same. My Mom is a broken record about the highlights of her thrift store shopping trips. The deals, the people she's gotten to know there, the antics of other shoppers, the items she picked up with me in mind but are so off-base I don't know what she was thinking. It's predictable and exhausting.

    Kudos to all of us for still having 2 functioning eyeballs. :)

  3. Number them, and call them out as she repeats her scripts. "And that's number four, Mom." "And here's number three!"

    It won't help anything, but it might keep you occupied enough to save your eyes...

  4. Wow. Our moms are clones. I'm so sorry.

    I feel terrible about it but I finally flat out told my mom that she doesn't get to complain to me if she's not willing to do anything about the problem other than complain. I swear, my mother could win the jackpot and she'd still be whining about everything she doesn't have (let's see...could she feel like she doesn't have anything because the hoard is sucking up all of her time/money/energy?!) It came out much more nasty than that, but it sure got her off the phone fast. And she's one of these "1000 goodbyes" kinds of people.

  5. umm yes. although the script topics do change periodically.
    currently we are having the same conversation over and over about
    -football (where I tell her I don't care about football and she proceeds to give me all her opinions on the subject anyway)
    -whether or not so and so is racist and how racism is so awful (yes but why do we have to keep repeating this conversation?)
    -whether other people she works with need to be on medication and/or are all out to get her

  6. I just found your blog after google searching something about "hoarder's child confrontation." I am amazed - I had no idea that the conversation theme was also a part of the package. It feels as though nearly every conversation with my mother includes some form of "Woe is me" or "I'm trying to declutter x room in the house" or "One of these days..."
    I really do try not to say anything, painful as it is to listen. Today I talked back and it blew up big time and was so painful. Somehow, in a twisted way, it helps to know that there is a pattern of behavior that other children of hoarders also have gone through ....