Monday, October 22, 2012


This will come as a shock to no one who grew up in a hoarded home, but I did not grow up in a household where people knew how to set or respect healthy boundaries. When issues arose, the options were to ignore them (doesn't that make it go away?), pretend you don't have any needs (What? No, really, that doesn't bother me at all. Really), or just bottle it up inside until you explode for no apparent reason. (That last one is even more awesome if you end up screaming at someone for an infraction completely unrelated to what you're actually mad about.)

As an adult, I'm still working on the whole setting healthy boundaries deal, at least with my mother. With other people, I'm fine, given that when you discuss an issue with most people they're willing to work things out to both people's satisfaction. (Or, in the case of compromise, to both people's mild dissatisfaction. But at least it gets worked out.)

But when you try to work things out with someone who's profoundly dysfunctional, setting boundaries  doesn't go so well. If I bring something up with my mother, it gets turned around into being my problem and my fault. To preserve what relationship we have left, I've kind of thrown in the towel on calling my mom on her crap. Doing otherwise makes me too crazy.

Until recently, that is. At the moment, I've had just about up to here (picture my hand waving somewhere about six feet above my head) with dealing with my mother's passive aggression/hoarding/hypochondria/dysfunction. The thing is, she's getting older and I know that her care will, at some point, become my responsibility.

Which brings me back to the boundaries thing. At previous stages in life, I'd worked out how much distance I could keep from my mother to maintain my own sanity. As she gets older, I have to figure out anew how to set boundaries with a woman who neither understands nor respects them. How is it possible to take care of someone who's lost her mind without losing mine?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

And then I stuck a pen in my eye. Again.

I might need to talk to my mother less. I've been trying to talk to her once a week or so, which sounds lovely except for it generally makes me feel (at best) really annoyed or (at worst) homicidal. Usually, this has something to do with my desperate struggle to filter what I'm actually thinking so that it doesn't come out of my mouth, as that typically would not be particularly constructive. Her profound lack of insight into herself and the way she relates to other people also make me have a sudden urge toward violence. So far, I have successfully avoided actually doing anything of the sort, but the following three conversations have made me come pretty close. 

Conversation #1: 
Mom: I've decided that I should start trying to work on some of my issues in therapy.
Me (internal monologue): Wait, you've been in therapy for FIVE YEARS! What the hell have you been talking about all that time?
Me (actually talking, and taking a deep breath while wishing desperately for a vodka and tonic): Well, that sounds like a fine idea.

Conversation #2:
Mom: My therapist wants me to tell her how I'm the same and different from other people in our family. I don't really know, so I was hoping you could help me with that.
Me (internal monologue): Well, for starters, the rest of us have enough insight to be able to complete that assignment all by ourselves. Secondly, none of us are crazy. Or hoarders.
Me (aloud): Ummm....

Conversation #3:
Mom (giant sigh): I'm trying to get rid of some things. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I've been collecting adorable baby things for a few years now and have a couple of boxes of them. But now that you're divorced, I don't know if I'll ever even have any grandkids.... (another big sigh)
Me (internal monologue, while trying to figure out if it's possible to actually reach through the phone and slap someone): What the fuck? Did you actually just say that out loud? And when did my leaving my damaging and incredibly unhappy marriage become all about you? 
Me (out loud, through gritted teeth): Yeah, you should just get rid of those.

If I had any of these conversations with someone else, I could filter what I was thinking into something reasonably socially appropriate and actually have an honest dialogue with them. With my mom, though, it somehow always gets twisted on its head so what she says becomes my problem. ("I didn't mean that at all! Why are you so sensitive?") This negates any pesky possibility of a healthy dialogue (read: mature, adult relationship) while also providing a wealth of opportunities for me to exercise my willpower by not actually sticking a pen in my eye. See? There really is a bright side to everything.