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?


  1. I know the feeling. I have no idea how I'm going to take care of my parents. How can I think of taking care of a father who I had cause and evidence to prosecute for child abuse?

    I keep meaning to read a book called "Taking Care of Parents Who Didn't Take Care of You." I don't think I'm ready for it yet. Maybe you'd be interested in reading it, and if you do, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. Wow! just described my life to a T. But, I'm further down the road than you. I'm an only child of a hoarding mother. She & my late father divorced years ago. I have spent my entire life trying to help my mother and have always been the parent. I am the responsible one, not her. I've never been able to go to her with a problem or ask her for her advice on an issue. Actually, I've done a pretty good job of raising myself if I do say so myself. Anyway, she's now 87 and didn't plan for her golden years. She was asked to leave her apt. because of her hoarding and with no where to go, my husband and I took her in. She has now been with us for 6 months and in that time, I've done a better job of organizing her life than she ever did in 87 years. However, we can't stand having her in our home and are desperately looking to get her into assisted living.....waiting on state paperwork to go through is tedious but necessary as we can't pay for her care. So, here I sit with her just across the room and I'm unable to get away from this woman that I really can't stand to be around. I thought, once again, that I was going to help her, but I realize that she is unappreciative of anything that we try to do to help her and instead I've made myself crazy. Oh and by the way, I thought that getting rid of her hoard would be the worst part, but that was was over in a week. Having her live with us is unbearable. Think twice about taking care of your mother. You will lose your mind, I know I have.......

  3. Omgosh, my mom does the same thing when I try to talk to her about something...she always twists it around and makes it MY problem!
    She's a hoarder, too, and it's frustrating because she's so eager for other ppl to get rid of their stuff but refuses to do the same with hers.
    Currently she's in a panic because her cousin is coming to visit on Tuesday, and she's trying to move her crap upstairs so he won't see *all* of the mess...but there's no more room upstairs. I guess she'll try to cram it all in my room!
    I, too, also have issues with setting boundaries and getting people to respect them. I refuse to date because of this. (That, and I don't want anyone to see the inside of the house I live in! Ha!)
    Thanks for writing this blog, I've enjoyed reading it. :)

  4. APS called me to come get mthr when she was weak and dying from cancer, wandering around the other side of town from her home. She was compliant, and we were able to have a doc sign her into a memory care unit. We have POA, so we are able to use her money to pay for her care. For the first time in at least 40 years, she has heat and hot water, and someone else is fixing food for her. She can interact as she likes. She still hoards - she hangs up paper towels, saves toilet paper cores as door stop *and writes "doorstop" on them!*, but I don't have to see her ever if I don't want. Perfect solution.