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January 4, 2013

Dysfunctional Families: Sitting and rising
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:02 PM *

I ran across a fascinating article in my Twitter stream the other day. It’s about a simple test—how easily someone can sit down on the floor and stand up again—and how much one can predict people’s subsequent mortality from the results.

The author of the study, Dr Claudio Gil Araújo, says that the test works because it requires a variety of skills and characteristics that are generally associated with longer life. It is, in other words, a test of general health.

It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favourable influence on life expectancy.

The study was performed in Brazil; it would be interesting to see how it correlates across cultures and medical systems (for instance, joint replacements can lower someone’s score but improve their wider mobility, and thus their general health). But it actually intrigued me mostly because it bounced off of a conversation I was having with my mother the other day.

We were talking about some of the challenges that our own family has faced over the years, in the context of this community. Some of the stories I was telling about the DF threads made her uncomfortable, because they often started with situations that we ourselves had been in. But I pointed out that the difference between a functional family and a dysfunctional one is not that nothing bad ever happens to a functional one; it’s that a dysfunctional one doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with what arises. The same event can be trivial in a family with working collaboration skills and conflict resolution methods, or a gateway to hell for one without them.

Imagine that there were a simple test for familial dysfunction, as simple as the sitting-rising test for general physical health. What would such a test look like? I picture some kind of an observed problem-solving exercise: navigating to an unfamiliar location, playing a board game, making a meal. Even if everyone is on their best behavior and not actively blowing up, would it be possible to detect the absence of a healthy toolkit for working together? Would such a test be useful? Would the (ironically misplaced) fear that many good parents have that they’re doing it all wrong interfere with its creation and adoption?

What would a world where we had such a test—a reliable one—look like?

This is part of the sequence of Dysfunctional Families discussions. We have a few special rules, specific to the needs and nature of the conversations we have here.

  1. If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.
  2. On a related note, please respect the people’s choice to use a pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people’s minds.
  3. If you’re not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don’t do the “they’re the only family you have” thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee’s mother may very well be their nemesis.
  4. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid “hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but really aren’t). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a good witness. If you want to be supportive but don’t have anything specific to say, people do value knowing that they are heard.

Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: Sitting and rising:
#1 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 06:32 PM:

It might relate to how the family individually or collectively responds to a child moving out/attempting to move out/declaring independence. That's certainly been a major problem I've been dealing with, and it sounds like a theme through several of the regular contributors. How you could work that into a simple test, though, I don't know.

Relatedly, I'm breaking one of the emotional anchors/chains to home! My bedroom looks EXACTLY the same as it did when I moved out... close to eight years ago, shortly before getting married. I mean, same bedding on the bed which is in the same position, mostly the same stuff on the dresser shelves, even the same damn posters on the walls. Mom has been extremely resistant to my clearing my remaining stuff out of the house, on the excuse that we've moved a lot and it's a pain to move extra stuff around. Yes, but...

Well, over the past year or so she's gotten quite a bit better about it, and I recently found out she'd be open to my giving my bedroom set away to a friend. (not a charity, but a friend)

In a little under a month, friends (of the old, dear, wonderful variety) will be coming to pick up my bedroom set for one of their four kids. I'm in the process of stripping my remaining possessions out of the room. (still more in the basement, but - big step!) This will force a complete reorganization of the room, so it will make it much clearer to all of us (especially to both Mom and me) that I have MOVED OUT already.

*happy dance*

#2 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 06:57 PM:

I don't know for all--or even a majority--of cases, but I'd think one good test would come immediately before what is assumed to be the "real" test--Did someone in the family attempt to sit down and coach the others in "Now, what do we say when they ask about our family? What are we NOT going to tell them?"

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 07:07 PM:

I just finished reading "Red Plenty", in which the elderly Krushchev asks himself: If this (the USSR) is Paradise, why do people want to leave, and why won't we let them?

Another test: what happens when your child turns out not to be the child you pictured in your head?

Hell, what happens when some unexpected stressor strikes? I still remember the feeling of incredulity when my unplanned third pregnancy didn't make my husband head for the hills--and I regard my family of origin as reasonably functional.

#4 ::: SS ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 07:14 PM:

One test could be Christmas. The holidays put stress on most families, and they are an excellent stress test to measure how functional a family is.

A dysfunctional family always goes apeshit during a holiday. For example, no drinking alcoholic can not ruin a holiday.

Another great test would be travel. How can a family handle traveling together. That can be hard, and even a functional family will have people getting tired, hungry, cranky, and argumentative on a trip. A dysfunctional family will turn the trip into a living nightmare.

Another great test: a special occasion for one of the family members. It's a great chance for a functional family to celebrate the one member, and a perfect opportunity for a dysfunctional family to undermine the event by showing up late, or not at all, or fighting and ruining things.

These are some tests that spring to mind. I think dysfunctional families show their cracks at even the smallest stresses, just like the act of sitting can show our weaknesses or strengths.

#5 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 07:16 PM:

I've seen three tests, but alas, they are "point of failure" tests, rather than predictive tests.
How does the family react to a death of a member? How does the family react to a setback (job loss, scholarship loss, grades lower, lack of hiring, marriage dissolved, wanted children not borne, etc.)?
How does the family react to new people added to the mix (spouses, stepchildren, children, newly discovered relatives, roommates, friends)?

The last one may be the most predictive.

In the course of my current job, I've seen a lot of families dealing with recent death. Within about five or ten minutes, I can say which families are dealing well with one another, (shared laughter and/or tears, stories, gentle touching of one another, warm glances, folks clearly making allowances for one another and themselves) and which families have members very much not at ease with one another or themselves (talk about who "owes" who, glances at one another that are anything but warm, very little shared laughter and tears, although individuals may be laughing or tearing up, and nobody making allowances for grief or stress, either in themselves, or in others).

Unfortunately, seeing some of the scenes play out, the death in the family test is not necessarily only a predictive test. Or it's only predictive for patterns seen in other families, but it may break that family past mending. Or badly damage some members.

Has anyone seen a simple test that's predictive, but not damaging?

#6 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 07:56 PM:

It's been a long time since I took organizational behavior classes in graduate school, but as I recall, there are some standard problem-solving or discussion tasks that a small group might be asked to do in a lab setting for research on team functioning. You could probably do many of them with a family as well, as long as the kids were old enough to participate. An observer would look for power dynamics and communication patterns. Does everyone speak? Is anyone specifically shut out or scapegoated? Is someone particularly overbearing? Is there someone everyone defers to, and if so, does it seem to be out of habit, fear, respect, or what? If a stressor is deliberately introduced - a piece is missing from a puzzle, say, or instructions are contradictory - how do people respond? Is there more focus on how the family appears, or on accomplishing the task, or on individual well-being? Can people laugh at themselves?

#7 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 08:13 PM:

My family of origin usually did pretty well in crises -- it was everyday life where we tended to fall apart. I think that was characteristic of a family whose typical challenges included depression and ADD. But we are in some ways quite a functional family, taking the long view, anyway.

#8 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 08:35 PM:

"She's worried about you."

No. What she is, is a concern troll.

My mother has a powerful need to believe that her family is functional. In order to do that, she needs buy-in from the people around her on certain things, including but not limited to:

- That her husband is not a psychopath
- That certain things that happened are either being misremembered / exaggerated, or made up wholesale
- That the family provides more benefits to membership than drawbacks
- That anything bad came from outside the family
- That anything bad was equally bad for everyone

If all those things are true, then anyone leaving the family is at best foolishly giving up comfort and protection, and at worst cruelly and selfishly attacking those who didn't. That someone might be much better off without her or her husband can't be acknowledged without facing two facts:

- She should have left long ago
- She failed to protect someone under her care from abuse

So, there's no way I could be justified in cutting them off. She has to either be worried about me or angry at me, and if she's angry at me then she has no reason to talk to me. Every message I, or anyone connected with her, will get is that she's worried.

Worth reminding myself of that sometimes.

#9 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 10:21 PM:

Checks and balances. No one is entirely unaccountable; all have some rights.
Related to this, everyone above a certain age should know how to stick up for someone else. This seems to be very much lacking in this culture. It simply does not do for a parent to flutter their hands and say "oh, it's not right for your uncle to act that way" when said uncle is out of the room, but otherwise not do a blasted thing to stop his verbal abuse of the child. Likewise, when your man starts slapping your child around, you don't just stand there like a bump on a log – you rein him in, or you get someone who can, and then you get help for the whole family.
I could go on, but I would tie up the whole Internet. I have hinted here at the destructive effect of learning throughout one's youth that one is not worth defending. Slate's Dear Prudence column is rife with examples of spouse not stepping up to defend spouse, or parent not sticking up for child--it is a slight relief to see that I was not alone.
I add this to the important things already listed above.

#10 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2013, 11:44 PM:

the invisible one @parade/925: I wonder what an engaging children's story, and appealing "chick flicks", with healthier messages about relationships would look like?

That's a really damn good question. One place I start is trying to identify and catalog healthy relationships in media.

1. Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan
2. Miles and Ekatarin
3. ...?

xiaoren @parade/927: I, for one, look forward to your detailed update.

SS @4: Welcome! The suggestion of Christmas made me laugh out loud. My mother referred to that holiday as "The Festival of the Fights." Which was highly accurate, despite the fact that we rarely had anybody but us in the house over the holiday. My mom and dad were perfectly capable of doing High Family Drama all by their little ownselves.

Strangely, my family would have "passed" the the travel and special occassion tests with flying colors (which suggests to me that they would not be universally diagnostic).

(Technical note: it appears you put "SS" in the URL field. Note that you don't have to; it's not a "required" field, and doing it that way produces a broken web address.)

Ross @8: ::shudder:: Sounds painfully familiar. Was/is your mother also overly concerned with "what will the neighbors think?"

Okay, here's a test I would propose: are family members in power positions concerned about the well being of all family members? Or are they more concerned about how healthy the family is perceived to be from outside the family?

#11 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 12:32 AM:

Q: What would such a test look like?

Not sure, but my therapist seemed to be able to draw quite a surprisingly clear understanding of my situation just from listening to me recount the story of how my son's mother and I met, and also how we came to be involved with one another. After I finished telling him, he explained that he always starts cases like mine with that question, because it's often so illustrative of the patterns that rule throughout the relationship, which in stunningly crystal clear hindsight, was the absolutely the case in my son's family of origin.

A: What would a world where we had such a test—a reliable one—look like?

What if we had such a test, e.g. the one my therapist uses, but nobody was ever interested in performing it or reviewing the results? How depressing would THAT be, eh?

#12 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 01:06 AM:

@11 - xiaoren - Hmm. That has some promise. The tale of my parents' meeting and courtship is deeply weird, if they're being at all honest about it, which my father usually is, and my mother almost never.

As a family, we would pass almost every suggested test above, up to and including most death/illness scenarios. I suspect even someone watching daily tapes of us all together would take a while to notice where things just weren't quite right. Moments of overt dysfunction are rare. We certainly don't do coaching before examination by outsiders - we know our own roles too thoroughly to need reminding.

Where our pretense falls apart is when a family member insists on doing something that falls outside their designated role. E.g. - I'm the family glue and buffer. My job is to listen to everyone's emotional reactions, reassure them, help them talk to each other, and/or talk to the others for them - to maintain the family relationships not only between me and everyone, but along all the relationship lines. As long as I stay in this role, and the others stay in theirs, all is well. But if I try to assert a personal boundary, or insist that my own emotions need to be dealt with too...then the world caves in. The others have their own roles, equally strict.

Huh. Thinking on it, I wonder if one of the reasons we end up looking so much more functional than a lot of dysfunctional families is that everyone really does have roles. There isn't anyone who gets free rein to act however they wish and just have everyone take it. So there are checks and boundaries for all, even if the slots we've been shoved into are horribly restrictive and generally unhealthy.

#13 ::: Brad Hicks (@jbradhicks) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 02:58 AM:

I'm assuming most of you have seen at least one article about "smart toilets?" Toilets with chemical sensors that may be able to diagnose some diseases by passive chemical assay of urine or stool samples? I'm not 100% sure that the metabolites of stress hormones are detectable in urine, but if they are, then it wouldn't shock me if smart toilets won't be able to diagnose dysfunctional families early by detecting higher levels of chronic fear than are normal for the neighborhood.

#14 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 03:20 AM:

xiaoren @11: my therapist seemed to be able to draw quite a surprisingly clear understanding of my situation just from listening to me recount the story of how my son's mother and I met, and also how we came to be involved with one another.

Have you told us here that story? If you're comfortable doing so, I would be interested to hear it.

Cynthia W. @12: Yeah, the whole "family role" thing. There are bound to be ways for astute outsiders to detect that dynamic; I imagine that would be predictive.

Another characteristic of a family I'll wager is highly predictive (also probably grossly obvious): do the family expenditures include large allocations for alcohol and/or cigarettes? Any form of self-medication is probably going to be indicative of..."issues," I would expect.

#15 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 03:49 AM:

IANA professional in any field related to this topic and my opinion is colored by my experience, so grain of salt, etc. (BTW, Find All By on my DFD pseud apparently brings up one post, a drive-by about ornamental trees or some such thing. That's not me.) I think that one diagnostic test would not fit all cases. Think of the book Toxic Parents, which I recommend to people who are wavering about whether it was that bad, whether they would just be wasting a therapist's time, etc. Susan Forward begins with a self-diagnostic test that consists of about 30 questions, mostly yes/no. But it takes 8 chapters to explain the test because the ways in which parents can create lasting dysfunction in their children are multifarious.

I think that if any observational test would work, something involving microexpressions might be the best option. Film the family doing ordinary things; if the children continually respond to the parents with microexpressions of sadness or fear, then something is wrong.

#16 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 03:59 AM:

I think this is my first time posting to one of these threads. I'm the granddaughter of a dysfunctional family, raised by parents fiercely determined to be different.

My maternal relatives came up for Christmas day this year. They came in, Mom took their coats, I brought out a plate of homemade cookies, and we all sat down in the living room. Then my uncle cracked a rape joke and asked us our opinions on it.

A few days later, when driving me to the airport, my mom said, "Remind me about that, later. Whenever I'm tempted to tell myself I'm making it all up or it wasn't that bad."

Anyway, I think that a litmus test would be how well the family functions when roles change. Dysfunction is good buddies with rigidity and compliance. What happens if someone new skippers the boat, backs up the car, or hosts the dinner? Can kids tease parents the way parents tease kids?

#17 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 04:01 AM:

For a test with results that are hard to deny, Brad Hicks' idea about cortisol levels could work. Looking for high cortisol levels is obvious, but I'd also like to check for polarized levels, ie some members have very high levels while others have very low ones. The weakness of this test is that high stress levels can legitimately exist in families when they're in difficult situations (poverty, eg). Many dysfunctional families will be tempted to explain away highly polarized levels by labeling some members "over-sensitive." (As an aside, "over-sensitive" is a word that I specifically look for when assessing if somebody is abusive.)

Cynthia W: Rigid adherence to family roles is a key characteristics of dysfunctional families. Any observatory test that doesn't take that into account isn't going to work very well. For example, when looking at family interactions, try to look for who is allowed to have boundaries with whom. In mostly functional families, sooner or later everybody will set a boundary with everybody else and it's no big deal. In dysfunctional families, there is usually a strictly enforced pecking order.

In Adult Children of Alcoholics and Other Dysfunctional Families, dysfunctional families are known by their fruits: People who identify with most of the traits in the Laundry List grew up in dysfunctional families, regardless of what others say.

#18 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:39 AM:

Apel Mjausson: what you just said to Cynthia W expresses perfectly one of the problems with the family I grew up in. I, upthread, didn't quite know how to word it as a diagnostic test item instead of a rule.
I had that Toxic Parents book some years back and it mostly rang true. But at the end, the author quoted a curative "fairy tale" written by a patient which squicked me out almost as badly as some of the accounts of the dysfunctions, and I can't well express how.
If I was rewriting my earlier contribution, I would put it as, "1] Are there checks and balances? Is it certain that no one is utterly unaccountable? Does each, however young, have their right to set boundaries, for their bodies, their things, their space and their souls, recognized? 2] Is this enforced? Are there people who can and do make sure that boundaries are respected?"

#19 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:20 AM:

Oh man, that idea that everyone is allowed to have boundaries --

My family is pretty functional, but there were some years in there where it seemed as if the family functionality depended on my keeping my head down and always acquiescing to whatever someone else wanted to do. (I'm pretty sure my mother felt the same way.) My therapist told me (and my mother, incidentally) that I should feel more comfortable asserting what I wanted. And the very first time I tried it, I got told to be quiet and deal with it.

I don't blame my mother for that because when you have four teenage girls in the same house it's really impossible to make them all happy all the time, but I think it's fortunate that I gained some measure of independence before I assimilated any better the belief that nothing I wanted actually mattered.

#20 ::: RainInTheHouse ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:41 AM:

Did not grow up with a DF. But I have experienced a DF, and am still grappling with the members from one, and am here because the DF threads have started hitting close to my heart in the past years. Like some have already mentioned, I would say my test is seeing if the members of a family emphasize appearance and rules, or honesty, more. Are members allowed to have their own opinions/feelings/reactions, or will one or two individuals from the family go on a power trip to dictate what's allowed for the others to believe, think and feel? My biggest shock dealing with the ILs was how everything I did and said, with no offence intended, caused offence, including my general knowledge (not how I said it, but the content itself!). Holidays were a big strain because the emphasis was on creating the Norman Rockwell picture even if one didn't particularly feel like carolling or drinking the eggnog JUST THEN, that sort of thing. The blow-ups over the smallest things defied my belief, at first. Naive as I was, I didn't spot how this kind of atmosphere growing up would affect the spouse's attitudes regarding boundaries and responsibility. So? My test is simple: See how the family spends Christmas together. Is it relaxed, with the emphasis on genuine enjoyment, or tense because of rules and constant fear of offence and drama? Does one's personal happiness depend solely on the behavior of others' compliance, or is it recognised as largely one's own responsibility?

@#18 Stenopos YES YES YES.

#21 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:53 AM:

Cynthia W. @12: ... wow. Thank you. I think you've just helped me figure out why I'm feeling increasingly uncomfortable around my own family, including a teeth-pullingly awful Christmas, despite no real obvious-on-the-surface dysfunction. After a shitty miserable stressful year I just wanted someone, anyone, to ask me how I was and spend a few minutes listening to an honest answer... but I'm supposed to be the one who went away to the big city and is strong and independent and responsible and whom other people unburden to. So no-one ever asks, not even my mother, who's known for months I'm having an awful time and has not once contacted me to see how I am.

I'm seriously considering breaking off or scaling down contact, but I really can't decide if no contact at all is better than some, totally uncaring contact. Dilemma.

(Abi, I've changed my email address from the usual one but it is itself identifying. The address can't be extracted from the backend by readers, can it?)

#22 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 09:47 AM:

Functional fictional relationships:

Peter and Harriet Wimsey
Peter and Elizabeth Burke (White Collar)
Aral and Cordelia, Miles and Ekaterin, Simon and Alys
The Incredibles

(rant about Eowyn deleted for non-topicality)

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:02 AM:

EJ @21:
The address can't be extracted from the backend by readers, can it?

Nope. We changed that a couple of years ago.

Also, commiserations about Christmas. At least you've realized it early enough to make better plans for next year.

#24 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:44 AM:

Jacque @ 10 "...are family members in power positions concerned about the well being of all family members? Or are they more concerned about how healthy the family is perceived to be from outside the family?"

THIS. My family would pass most tests with flying colors. It has been a long, difficult struggle to begin seeing past the "picture perfect" image (and the associated "You had it easy/You don't have any right to complain" tapes). The turning point for me was reading Abi's post @DFD:Parade #457. (I have subsequently found the cargo-cult analogy valuable in explaining this to others as well. Thank you, Abi!)

@everyone: Hello! This is the first time I've summoned courage to post here, but I've been reading and witnessing from the very beginning, and am so very grateful for this space and everyone in it. These threads (and the thousands of replies that I've composed in my head, even if I lacked the strength to post them) have helped immensely in trying to understand where/why my life went off the rails. A lot of things have been unraveling in my mind lately, which is ultimately positive, I think, but nonetheless feels like drowning.

I feel a little guilty, now, for never having contributed to the group wisdom, but then I also fear that my baggage, unpacked would take up far too much space.

Baby steps, I guess.

#25 ::: eep, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:52 AM:

First post and containing a url, maybe?

I can offer fresh homemade bread, in an hour or so.

#26 ::: Cynthia W ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:58 AM:

EJ@21 - I hear you. Being the designated listener and emotional sump is a majorly stressful role, but in most families that run that way, that stress is never acknowledged nor the listener allowed to unload in the same way.

The day I finally realized my family was never going to notice or deal with my pain was the day I sat my mother down and confessed that my middle-school French teacher had been harassing and pursuing me all throughout middle school. It had taken me about eight years to work up the courage to try telling her. I needn't have bothered. Within fifteen minutes, our little chat had turned into me comforting her as she sobbed on my shoulder about what a horrible mother she had been. She then forgot the conversation within two months. Reminding her, even very gently, gets a reiteration of the "I'm a horrible mother, please reassure me!" outburst.

#27 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 11:09 AM:

Cynthia@12, and the whole discussion in general, is reminding me very much of a book by Maggie Scarf called _Intimate Worlds_ -- the primary model she uses in the book to talk about families is the Beavers Family Systems Model. There's a review of the book here which briefly explains the ideas, and for those of you with more time & further interest, a more technical paper (although it seems to be missing a couple of pages?)

#28 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 12:16 PM:

Cynthia W @25: Wow. Yeah, that's - not healthy. Also, helps me in the "I'm not the only one!" sense. Any time I try to bring up something that can remotely be construed as Mom's fault, it's suddenly all about how she was such a horrible parent and screwed me up so badly, lalalala...

As my therapist repeatedly reminds me, it's all about her.

So, hugs? (if you're open to them)

Interestingly, I'm not the emotional sump in the house; Mom never told me about her problems, but expected to hear in detail about mine - so she could "fix" them and feel better about herself. I was, however, expected to be the emotional sump in any friendship I undertook. Took me until undergrad to develop any healthy friendships that weren't toxic and draining, which I was not allowed to get rid of because Mom felt sorry for the girls in question...

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 12:19 PM:

eep @24 & 25:

I'm not sure why your post got taken. It wasn't gnomed (into moderation), but actually eaten by a grue (TypePad put it in the spam folder). Fortunately, I went fishing for it before it got too deeply buried.

Also, welcome to the community of the commentariat! I know that it's but a subset of the community that reads these threads, but both sets of people are welcome.

A lot of things have been unraveling in my mind lately, which is ultimately positive, I think, but nonetheless feels like drowning.

That's a tough stage to be at. You're moving from a local maximum (that's the blog post that crystallized why we were moving to the Netherlands, by the way), and you have to go through a trough where you have fewer certainties and spoons in order to get to a place where you have more of them.

Sterkte, they say here in the Netherlands when people are in a stressful or difficult time. Strength

I feel a little guilty, now, for never having contributed to the group wisdom, but then I also fear that my baggage, unpacked would take up far too much space.

Those zeros and ones, they're pretty compact. A person could use up a lot of them telling their story, and we'd still have space for the next one coming along.

Help as you're able, speak as you need. And even if you don't, know we're pulling for you.

#30 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 12:38 PM:

Jacque: I'd have to say yes. She always said she was "proud of how I turned out" compared to her friends' children, but it was always in comparison to other people and always centered on how good it made her look. And, since I stopped talking to either of them, the only member of the family I still stay in touch with seems to have no idea I did so (it was over two years ago, so if they were going to tell him they would have by now). So yeah, I think she's pretty concerned with how she looks more than how I feel.

For a quick test of dysfunction, I think there have been a lot of great ideas. Here's my stupid one that probably wouldn't work: propose to each family member, separately, a hypothetical situation like "you're driving somewhere together and there's a flat tire" or "the dog chews up someone's shoe" and ask them what happens next. It doesn't really matter what the answer is, what matters is how sure of it everyone is: in my family I could always tell "okay, this happened, so the next step is this person gets yelled at, and then they start crying, and then this person leaves," etc.

Sort of goes along with Cynthia W.'s assigned roles thing. What makes it dysfunction isn't that someone got yelled at, it's that the same yelling is repeated over and over in the same pattern for years.

I got to the point where I could tell when to go hide: if someone outside the immediate family comes to visit, when they leave moods will change rapidly and for the worse, so it's better not to be around.

#31 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 01:26 PM:

Jacque, #10: That last test is a good one. Certainly my parents were more concerned about what the neighbors / other relatives / the people at church / some nebulous "people" would think than about almost anything else. But I don't think any single test is going to catch every occurrence.

EJ, #21: Possible suggestion, ignore if hlepy: for the next time you're going to be expected to do Family Time, come up with plans in advance that will keep you from doing so, and which you can't easily be bullied or guilted out of. (For example, a vacation trip for which you've already bought the plane tickets.) Turn off your cellphone and don't check your e-mail. Afterwards, evaluate and see whether you feel better or worse for not having done the family thing.

Lila, #22: Functional fictional relationship: Benjamin and Rose, in the Benjamin January books. I think this one is especially good because they both have issues and triggers, and the books portray the ways in which they work around those things to love and help each other.

Cynthia, #26: ObXKCD.

#32 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Stenopos @18
Second the YES YES YES from #20

Boundaries. Big thing. They come in all shapes and sizes and cover a multitude of issues. Why do I get in trouble for trying to enforce my own boundaries? I wouldn't have to enforce my own boundaries so vehemently if parental units would issue punishments that would actually make my siblings honor the boundaries my own parents set. "Don't do that to your sister." Siblings do that. I get upset. Parental units would say "Don't do that to your sister" and then ground me for making an issue of it. Dearghods, even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.

OtterB @6 rang a bell. Communications. Do the senior members of a group give credence to words spoken by junior members? As a child, I didn't have the words to explain what I felt. How does one explain "cost/benefit analysis" at the age of 8? Because I couldn't explain in adult terms, my explanation as to why I did or didn't do something was dismissed. Completely. No one bothered to find out what the basis for my statements was. No one bothered to help me find the words. I was just...dismissed. I didn't spend three hours a night studying so I could get A's when studying one hour a night would get me B's, and I could spend those other two hours reading fun stuff. Especially since getting A's didn't get me anything. 'Scuze me, getting in to a good college is not something that's important to a middle school student. Getting a special dinner made, or having my report card posted on the fridge door, or having some kind of fuss made about a straight A report card, now that I would have studied for. But I got nothing more for the A's than the B's, so I got B's and my own reading. Since parental displeasure was more of a "why can't you do better?" than anything horrific, I kept doing it my way. But for other issues, being unable to explain caused horrific results, punishments, mixups of huge (to me, then) proportions, and ultimately to the belief that I'm a bad communicator.

Does the impressions of a child change as the child gets older, learns more things, becomes more? Again, a self related statement. In third grade, I was given a list of ten words every week, to memorize for the spelling test on Friday. Every week, I studied like crazy. And every week I missed one. In my mother's eyes, I was a bad speller. Period. It turns out that what I am is very very bad at rote memorization. But I didn't know that then. Fast forward to me at 30-something. I was commenting on how incredibly grateful I was to spell-checking software, as I was really *really* tired of my significant other constantly interrupting me to ask how to spell something. My mother went off into a peal of laughter, saying that my SO must be incredibly desperate to have to ask for help from someone who was as bad a speller as I was. I let my mother have it, explaining that it takes me longer to memorize stuff, that I've had decades of reading and learning to expand my vocabulary and ability to spell same, and told her that to hang on to a definition from third dammit grade without bothering to find out if it was still valid, was doing both of us a disservice.

I have to be careful how I do this, as like Cynthia @26, done wrong I spend time consoling my mother about how bad she was as a mother. There are a number of things I won't tell her, because it won't change the past, and I really don't need to have my mother going all self-guilty on me.

One I recently found words to describe, and I'm not sure of a test that would discover it. I've described a number of situations to a friend, whose comments were on the order of "you were expected to be perfect". That didn't ring true. I wasn't expected to be perfect. I recently realized what it was. I was expected to be not wrong. People expected to be perfect were required to do something over and over, until it was perfect. I got one chance to do something, with or without explanation or study, and had to get it not wrong. If I got it wrong, sometimes with no idea what I did wrong, I was never allowed to do it again. And if somehow I managed to find time, find the private space, to practice and get it right, the ability to do it right never overcame the "first impression" thing of doing it wrong. See above bad spelling.

I am still afraid to do things around other people, for fear that I will get something wrong, even if I have no idea ahead of time what that wrong thing will be, and those people will take away my ability to do whatever it is. I can't fix it, I can't make it better, I can't learn.

How do you test for first impressions that don't change? How do you test for not letting someone learn, because the person didn't do it "right" the first time? What really bothered me was that parental units would give time and energy to team sports players who were not good, but they couldn't do it with me.

I am in an environment now where I can see these patterns more clearly. And fix them. In my own time, and at my own speed. Says the conscious mind. The non-conscious mind is turning my stomach into a mass of knots and pain, because I'm breaking patterns. And someone will take it away from me, because I didn't get it right. Nasty vicious circle. I have the pattern identified. I will fix it. Right after I throw up.

#33 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 01:32 PM:

abi @29

Help as you're able, speak as you need. And even if you don't, know we're pulling for you.

I read that and started crying. Thank you.

#34 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 01:45 PM:

@32 Quietly Learning to be Loud

Hugs, if you're open to them. Hearing and witnessing. Sending prayers, good vibes, or whatever you find most useful.

Do you have anyone in RL (your significant other?) who you can talk things through? (or even have an extended e-mail discussion with?) Ignore if hlepy, of course. Heck, I've found that having someone outside the situation explode in peals of laughter at (i.e.) the idea that you're a BAD speller can be enormously helpful. Making your mother's claim clearly as ridiculous as it is.

Welcome to the community, in any case, and I am so glad that you're able to talk about things.

#35 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 01:50 PM:

Jacque @14, I have not told the story here. It's embarrassing and shows me being stupendously idiotic, but in my defense: I was dissociating and not mentally well. I'll tell it when I get a head of steam and some time to write my update.

#36 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 02:50 PM:

Chickadee @34

Hugs are welcome. Thank you.

One of the reasons I realized that my fear of doing stuff was my fear of being wrong-the-first-time was because I have been talking it out with my *blush* new SO. He knows the basics of my background, but sometimes I find I need to explain why I just reacted weirdly (reacting with old patterns of behavior that don't apply in his case). He also knows it helps *me* to explain and get stuff figured out.

#37 ::: Dia ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 02:50 PM:

Simple predictive test? Here's one: if a major household appliance breaks but still kinda works, do they fix it or just work with the broken one? (Assuming there's enough money to fix it, of course).
I was so amazed to discover other people lived in neat houses, with appliances that worked the way they were supposed to, like all the time...

#38 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud: "I got one chance to do something, with or without explanation or study, and had to get it not wrong. If I got it wrong, sometimes with no idea what I did wrong, I was never allowed to do it again."

I am horrified and sorry you had to go through that. Assuming that people always stay the same and never learn or grow is the worst sort of essentialism and stereotyping.

#39 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 03:47 PM:

TomB @38
Most of the time, I learned things on my own. That whole pattern was supported by the fact I was brilliant, and most of my schoolwork was beyond what my parents could work with. It was just when I had to interact with my parents, like spelling, or learning to use tools or hit a baseball, or stuff like that, that I ran into this. I knew I could learn stuff, and easily, that a lot of people found hard. I just couldn't explain to my parents that I had to do stuff more than once to get it right. Even the stuff they didn't know about.

What I came away with was the belief I could never learn a new thing around anybody I'd interact with again. I can do amazing things when no one is around. I just can't do something new in front of people. And now I need to. No, now I want to. I want to be able to do things without having to wait for everybody to go away.

It seems such a small thing. Not being able to take that first step. It's not important. I can do that another time. I'm really ok without it. Programming so deeply embedded I haven't been aware I'm doing it. Until recently. When I try to reach beyond myself and quite literally can't move. Can't speak. Just can't. And watch the opportunity walk out the door.

It seems such a small thing. And yet it holds me paralyzed.

#40 ::: Kneedeep ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 03:49 PM:

So I've been reading the DFD threads for years, wondering when I would allow myself the indulgence of posting. After all, what results in more public approval -- confidence, accomplishment, and projection of positivity, or a recital of injustices, failure, and depression. Yep, despite what she says, I sure learned a lot from my mother. Who has chosen to spend her last days rejecting and reviling me. Now that she really is days (or maybe weeks) from death, she can say and do in public (as limited as that is now) what she's said and done to me for as long as I can remember. Which isn't necessarily that much. There are entire years that are a complete blank to me, and I can't imagine they were better than what I can remember. Years of prayer, therapy, medication, and acting may have made things survivable. Or maybe I'm just a slow learner.

Fortunately, I still have a sense of humor.

#41 ::: Kneedeep is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 03:53 PM:

Probably that YouTube link. It's innocuous, honest. Meanwhile, it is tea time, so I have hot tea and some triple ginger cookies to offer.

#42 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Functional fictional relationships: It's a found family, but I'd nominate the core cast of Warehouse 13.

#43 ::: Sid ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 04:13 PM:

I have a hypothesis. Gottman found that asking how couples met was a test that had great predictive value for how long they stayed together. Partially because of what was revealed about the initial dynamic, but also just by how the couple talked about their origin story.

Parents also have an origin story of sorts, and that's the story of a child's first words. I wonder if asking a parent to tell the story of their children's first words would be equally telling.

(FWIW, my mother has insisted my entire conscious life that she doesn't remember what my first words were, which provides you with an entirely accurate holographic glimpse into my childhood.)

#44 ::: Islandian ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 04:14 PM:

Christmas and boundaries, oh yes.

I have been fat most of my life. Have had type 2 diabetes and severe arthritis in my knees for years (now I walk with a cane). I've been working for the past 8 months with a physical trainer and nutritionist to lose weight and strengthen my muscles in preparation for joint replacement surgery. Progress is slow, as I learn to replace destructive habits with healthy ones.

Christmas visit with the family. As usual, dinners are very late, with limited vegetables and no fruit. Meals are 1 1/2 to 2 hours long. None of this is good for an insulin dependent diabetic, but my requests in the past for some accomodation were refused. Bringing my own food is considered an insult. Asking if I can make myself a salad out of leftovers instead of having a grilled cheese with everyone else results in an angry "no."

This year I gave myself permission not to stress over it all and try to enjoy the holiday. Then my dad corners me alone and says, "I've been watching you eat. You like food too much. Your little knee project, forget that: you're going to fail. You're going to be a miserable old woman with bad knees. If you lose weight, you'll just gain it back again, just like me. You're going to fail."

Well, if I ever had any doubt, now I know where the discouraging voices in my head come from.

The way I'm feeling right now, I don't want to ever visit those people again.

#45 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:04 PM:

@Dia no. 37: This is definitely a sign of a personal dysfunction. My mother, who was for years a "functioning" alcoholic, would do things like leave a broken blender on the counter for weeks because "maybe it would get better." She would buy a beater car because we were "too poor" to make payments on a new or a decent used car, then pour money into it to the tune of what a car payment would have cost each month, then give up and buy a different beater car. The biggie, however, was that when the rent went up too far on the house we were in, she chose our new rental on the basis that the last tenants had been people she knew.

The facts that the place had sat empty for years after those people moved out, it had been trashed by teen partiers, the roof leaked to the point where the panels in the drop ceiling were sagging and growing God knows what, there was raw sewage running across the road whenever it rained, and we had the money to live somewhere better: irrelevant.

It was no surprise to me when she was diagnosed with alcoholic dementia years later.

#46 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:07 PM:

Dia @ 37: WOW. This. When I was a kid, nothing ever worked. We had a house with two bathrooms, one of which had a broken shower when we bought the house (I was six), and it still has a broken shower and I'm 30. Occasionally my father would get sick of broken, dirty, ruined things being around, so instead of fixing them he'd just tear them out and throw them away and we'd live without. We spent over a year with one phone in the house, plugged into a wire run out the kitchen window to the test jack, because no one wanted to bother fixing the broken phone wiring in the house.

And now that I'm an adult I can't stand things not working. I fix or replace broken things instantly. I replaced a Playstation 3 the day after I found out it was broken, and I now think it may have not actually been broken. I do this because I can't stand to be around broken things or I get depressed.

And I think I just figured out why.

#47 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Bah, gnomed. I bet I know why too; I used the name of a game console?

#48 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:16 PM:

Dia #37: Interesting... my own family was only slightly dysfunctional, but they were definitely improving things over their respective parents. And one of my Grandpas was really big on saving broken things to fix. When he died, his basement was full of boxes of broken things he was going to fix "someday". I tried using one of his reclaimed watches, on the ribbon band that he'd used to replace the long-lost watchband. I promptly found out why Grandpa was always late....

Quietly Learning To Be Loud #39: I think TomB nailed it... your family was not allowing you to grow.

Sid #43: Interesting idea. I think I'll ask my Mom....

Islandian #44: The way I'm feeling right now, I don't want to ever visit those people again.

I don't blame you, and next year, I suggest you remember that is an option. (<snark>How dare you try to be healthier than your father, much less control your own food intake!</snark>)

#49 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:29 PM:

Quietly Learning, #32: How does one explain "cost/benefit analysis" at the age of 8?

Heh. I think a lot of dysfunctional parents assume that kids can't do that sort of thing at all. Around our house, it came out in the area of housework. Normally I didn't do much to "help out around the house", but sometimes I would... and when I did, I would get a lecture about how I was Doin It Rong, and then my mother would do it over again. Look at the ROI on this -- I can either do what I want to do and get yelled at, or what they (say they) want me to do and get yelled at anyway. Which am I likely to choose? I don't think they ever figured that out.

Possibly silly question: what if you just stopped reassuring your mother when she goes all manipulative-guilt-trip on you? If she wants to moan about what a horrible mother she was, and there were definitely ways in which she was a not-very-good mother... why not let her? Will she work herself into suicidal mode if you don't stop her? Or will she perhaps figure out that this stunt doesn't work any more, and look for other ways to communicate?

Re "having to be Not Wrong the very first time", I'm with TomB -- that's a horrible thing to do to a child. I've heard of people doing it to themselves before, but I think this is the first time I've heard someone say it was imposed on them from outside. Allow me to offer you a mantra from the engineering world instead: "If you can't make a mistake, you can't make anything."

Islandian, #44: I can't think of any reason for you to spend time with people who tell you that you're going to fail at whatever you do. Your father is a piece of work.

#50 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 05:53 PM:

Welcome to the new folks and to the newly delurked.

Islandian @44, holy cow. About the only positive thing that can be said about that response from your father is that it's unambiguous. No "was there a positive intent" or "have I misinterpreted" in THAT. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to not visit people who treat you that way. Or at the very least, take your own food and let them be insulted.

#51 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 06:16 PM:

Lee @49
what if you just stopped reassuring your mother when she goes all manipulative-guilt-trip on you?

Because I don't want to deal with it.

#52 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 06:24 PM:

OtterB @ 50, based on what Islandian's father male parental unit said, I would be very surprised if any food Islandian did take was left alone--more inclined to think it would be tossed out with a lecture about overeating.

Personally, I would use this as the perfect reason not to visit again...or at least not until after the joint replacement. And if anyone asks you about your (intended) absence from family gatherings, I'd have no compunction about relating this episode. Of course, sometimes I talk big and am crap at followthrough. Please feel free to ignore if hlepy, Islandian, and have a {{{hug}}} if it would help.

#53 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 06:31 PM:

Ross #47: More likely, your initial exclamation, which matches a certain online game that farms spammers.

Quietly Learning To Be Loud #51: precisely the point... right now, you are dealing with it, spending your own energy. "Not dealing with it" would be walking away from her demands to be reassured that "she really didn't do anything wrong".

#54 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 06:51 PM:

Syd @52 I was thinking of things like meal replacement bars, single-serving tuna packs, or apples that could be kept in one's room and not in the kitchen, but you may still be right. Not going does seem like the better choice. I was trying to think of alternatives that might help if islandian didn't want to go that route.

#55 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:00 PM:

Dave @53
The point being, I don't say anything about my childhood. It won't change the past. It will only make the present more difficult to deal with. I only have to deal with the now. Now is easier than then. I can choose to be amused. I can get up and leave. I can do quite a number of things. I don't have to try to fix that which cannot be fixed, and will only generate emotionally unsatisfying interactions.

#56 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:23 PM:

Chickadee@28 - Hugs definitely welcome, and on offer in return. Thank you.

No, my mother has never tried to "fix me", thank Ghu. I have a friend who operates that way, and it drives me starkers.

Quietly Learning to be Loud@32 Ooooh - that sounds very similar to something I describe as "Life is a pop quiz." Only worse. My family, my father in particular though my brothers do it too, would suddenly pepper me with questions about a random subject, or hit me with a new task, completely out of the blue. The quizzing would continue until I had either managed to struggle through to their satisfaction, or had established that I couldn't.

In my case, I would be allowed another shot if I got things wrong - at some random future point, with no forewarning, nor any attempt to let me get more information.

Specific instance, I'm in third grade, in the car, and my father suddenly asks "Cindy, what is 8 to the third power?" I give a somewhat random answer, since I have no idea what "to the third power" means. I get it wrong, obviously, so I'm told the right answer, and my father and brothers spend the entire way to the restaurant peppering me with questions about exponential math. Without ever once defining an exponential. Just about the time I sort out how to answer base 10 and base 1 questions, we hit the restaurant and the sudden barrage is over. I don't hear about exponentials again for about two more years, when I get another out of the blue pop quiz. This time I've long since gone and asked someone outside the family, and answer the first couple of questions correctly, which ends the quiz without comment.

I invite you to ponder what me being taught to fly a plane by my father looks like.

It still sounds better than being effectively told I can't learn - that's horrific.

Merricat@27 - that looks interesting. I'll have to give it a read.

Islandian@44 - I don't blame you at all for wanting to dodge your family. At the very least until you get your joint replacement - it sounds like a very healthy impulse to me.

#57 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:30 PM:

abi @29: thanks for the "local maximum" link. That's exactly what I'm dealing with now; I got out, pretty much by making the snap decision to get out when my new housemate offered me the option and then just tuning out, refusing to question that decision until I'd moved. But now I'm bogging down. (A quote from my LJ: 'I don't know how to not be scared, or how to go forward when I am scared. I only know "uh-oh, there is a little scary, you had better not do it no matter how big the rewards could be".' Which is one of the major ways my mom controlled me.) I'm freezing up about doing anything, including letting myself go through the emotional maelstrom I've been ignoring, because... I can't not feel like I'm in the song Waist Deep in the Big Muddy every time I try to take a step. :P

Quietly Learning @32: 'I wasn't expected to be perfect. ... I was expected to be not wrong.' - THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS. It wasn't about practicing. It was about being right the first time. And it has paralyzed me too. I got fired from my first and only job because of it. (Well, also because I was a hot mess on many levels. :P) Thank you for putting it into words.

Dia @37: 'if a major household appliance breaks but still kinda works, do they fix it or just work with the broken one? (Assuming there's enough money to fix it, of course).' - oh my GOD I think you've nailed it. At least in my family's case. Oh my god.

I'm just going to cry a lot now if I can, because that? That tendency right there? I have no idea what the h*ll it has to do with dysfunction on the surface, but THAT TENDENCY RIGHT THERE ATE FIFTY-TWO MONTHS OF MY LIFE. And maybe wrecked / changed the rest of it, via the snowball effect of the life-eating on my health (I'm still struggling to acknowledge that I have a disability now, but I do; it started as complex post-traumatic stress disorder and developed complications through ongoing stress and lack of help, so that I now have symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, which I haven't figured out how to manage).

Let me explain. When I was eighteen my family moved house - I may have referred to this before, as it's kind of been the major Thing affecting my life path for the last eight years. Because of this tendency to let things go if they kinda worked, overlapping with the dysfunctional necessity to have everything appear perfect to outsiders? We, by which I mean my mom and I with intermittent "help" from the rest of the family and eventually one uncertified handyman, spent FOUR AND A THIRD YEARS repairing / remodeling that house. During that time period, I was not allowed to apply to college, try to get a job, concentrate any energy on finishing high school (from which I'd previously dropped out because our homeschool community's focus on "high-school-age kids should be able to teach themselves with minimal supervision / help" interacted really terribly with the "having to be right the first time" thing Quietly Learning mentions), or in short, do anything but live in the gutted house - because "the family" "needed" to pay only rental insurance rather than vacant-house insurance - while alternating randomly between unpredictable days of "o hai we are here now let us do all this work!" and days or weeks of "hey, we can't come over for another few days after all, sorry about that" when the fact that I'd only had food left with me sufficient for the expected length of time, and never during these years was I given money to buy more food, was NEVER EVER ADDRESSED.

Because I am f*cking amazing *screw you famdamnily*, I didn't break down until year four. They've never let me forget since then that I broke at all; they've never forgiven me; every time I've tried to get any kind of acknowledgement of the work I did, of the fact that I nearly killed myself from overwork and starvation, of the fact that if it weren't for a family friend who lived nearby and fed me in return for my babysitting her kids, I'm pretty sure I WOULD HAVE DIED... they just go on and on about how useless I was during those last twelve to fifteen months, about how THEEEEEY had to do all this work and I was etc etc etc.

Anyway, once we'd sold the house, I was expected to jump right back into being A Perfectly Normal Good Child (not that I'd ever been one before). "If you'd just buckle down and finish high school" was the new carrot. But I'd had 4.3 years of "just one more weekend! just one more month! if we all work HARD and finish this thing!", and I couldn't rush anymore.

I tried. I really did still try. Because I was that stupid and that desperate. :P But I spent the entirety of 2010 in a fugue state, including the part where I was attending college full-time while working 20 hours a week and incidentally not having transportation that wasn't my parents. I have maybe three clear memories from that year, and only one of them is good.

Since then, I've slid further and further downhill. I really hope I'm near the bottom of the abyss now; I hope I can find my way to start climbing up toward that bigger and better maximum. If it exists. If I can make it. If I haven't ruined my chances already. :P *scared*

#58 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:48 PM:

Sid@43: my mother has insisted my entire conscious life that she doesn't remember what my first words were

Uh-oh. I have three kids. I don't know what any of their first words were. I have memories of the days when they spoke in single words, and I do remember what some of those words were, but I don't remember what the very first word out of any of their mouths was. I think it was a case where various sounds they repeated got more and more word-like, and more and more definitely associated with objects, over the course of weeks and weeks, but no one word came bursting out as The First Word -- rather, it gradually became apparent that about five or ten sounds we'd been wondering about were in fact words.

#59 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 07:50 PM:

Sid @43: The idea of the origin story interests me. Ask my mother about my early years and she will tell you how I laughed when I was born. My role, until I eschewed it last year, was exactly this: Laugh, joke, keep everyone happy, or at least, make it look to outsiders like everyone is happy.

(It wasn't easy. In fact, the first thing of substance I said to my therapist was, "I can't do it any more.")

#60 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 08:18 PM:

Thank you, Abi, for rescuing the post. Also for the welcome, reassurance, and new vocabulary (it's amazing what a difference just having a word for something can make to one's ability to think about it, sometimes).

Quietly Learning To Be Loud @32: On never being allowed to get it wrong: congratulations on recognizing the pattern, and good luck in reprogramming it. I can sure relate to the conscious mind vs. gut reaction difficulties. My parents' approach was a bit different from what you describe, but the end result was the same—I am utterly incapable of risking failure in front of others. Thinking about it, an unhealthy attitude towards mistakes seems to be the defining element.

The test that came to my mind, after realizing this is:
How does each family member view/react to mistakes: A. In themselves? B. In others?

Some (bad) examples from experience:
-mistakes are terrible things which must be avoided at all costs
-mistakes may be greeted with something close to gloating as proof that, told you ur doin it rong
-mistakes are a sign of weakness/shortcomings; the smallest mistakes are cause for profuse, disproportionate apology*
-when a mistake happens, the most important thing is to establish exactly whose fault it was
-"That won't work, here, let me do it."
*and apologies are for explaining how really, it was ALL X's FAULT (where X ≠ Person Apologising)

I was never, ever taught that mistakes are an inevitable component of learning. Like trying to learn to ski without ever being shown how to handle—not just avoid, but actually handle—falling down.

@All—Witnessing. Wishing everyone the spoons they need, and then some more, just to spend without counting.

#61 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 08:25 PM:

Sid@43, I'm not sure how momentous "first words" might be, but what stories a parent tells about someone's early childhood will definitely give a lot of clues about family dynamics. There is one particular story my mother likes to tell as an example of "[Merricat]'s strong, independent personality", and every time I hear it, I wonder whether it is an example of a strong, independent personality*, or a three year old who has already decided that the adults in her life are not going to help her, so she'd better fix her problems herself.

*And this is definitely my family role, but I have no idea whether it was a role that parents decided on subconsciously, and then molded me into, or whether it's actually an inherent part of me that they saw and respected. At this point I think it's impossible to disentangle the two.

#62 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Quietly Learning, #55: Point taken. It might still be something to remember if (as with many such parents) totally-unexpected things can trigger that sort of response.

#63 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:15 PM:

eep at 60: YES!! Applause! Salutations! My own family had various mechanisms for dealing with mistakes: none of them were healthy or helpful, and none of them served me well as an adult.

I want to add, if I may, that how mistakes are handled is not simply a matter of an individual family dynamic. The way(s) a culture responds to mistakes/failure is momentous. It took me many years of training in a skill set and curriculum devised by a non-American culture to discover that some cultures see failure as a natural part of learning. If one fails at a particular task, it does not mean that one is bad, or stupid. It may mean that one has not been properly taught. It may mean that one has not had enough time to practice. It may mean that one is not ready for this teaching at this moment. It may mean one needs a different teacher.

#64 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:17 PM:

From Lee @ 31:

"EJ, #21: Possible suggestion, ignore if hlepy: for the next time you're going to be expected to do Family Time, come up with plans in advance that will keep you from doing so, and which you can't easily be bullied or guilted out of. (For example, a vacation trip for which you've already bought the plane tickets.) Turn off your cellphone and don't check your e-mail...

Afterwards, evaluate and see whether you feel better or worse for not having done the family thing."

Bingo! We have a winner!

#65 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 10:44 PM:

I remember when I was considering getting married that going camping with one's prospective spouse was suggested as exactly the sort of test that Abi is asking about. ("Was suggested," I say, because I only remember the suggestion, not the source. I am thinking that it was probably some book of relationship advice that my mother bought for me, though.)

It's an effective test because generally there will be things going wrong, and close quarters and lots of time together, and improvising.

#66 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 11:20 PM:

Brooks, 65: That reminds me of something...and praise Google and the Houston Chronicle, here it is. Washing windows to see if you really ought to marry that person.

#67 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2013, 11:36 PM:

OtterB @ 54, ah, that kind of food--yes, that might well help the situation. Especially if said nummies can be kept in a locked suitcase...

#68 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 12:18 AM:

My ex and I "passed" several things put forward by various people as tests to see if we were suited for one another. Camping, travelling, living on different continents, living together, setting up a christmas tree.

I'm still working on recovering from that relationship. (I've come a long way. Day to day, you wouldn't know it; most people think I'm happy and well-adjusted. But I'm wary of entering a new relationship, simultaneous with hoping that this time it might work.)

Of course, maybe the question was, who defined "passing" for the tests, and how was the outcome interpreted? Because we didn't fight, and to outside appearances we got along fine during these "tests". If we disagreed about something that didn't have hard facts in my area of expertise, I was wrong. Invisibly, self-evidently wrong, so I didn't argue. And I'm going to stop now before I make myself too angry. (At least I've graduated from feeling crushed to feeling angry.)

#69 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 12:19 AM:

First, I don't think that you can perform any test in a few minutes which would distinguish the degree of disfunctionality of a family. However, I can think of a couple of tests which you could perform in a few hours in a therapist's office. I'm pretty sure that I heard about the first test somewhere from my mother, who is an MFCC.

1. Puzzle: have the family work on building a really hard puzzle, like one with 1000 pieces. Have one or two pieces be missing or from another puzzle.

2. The game of Monopoly. Given that this game is long, complex, and invites cooperation, competition, betrayal, and cheating, it shows a lot about the character of the people playing it.

Like the stand up test, you could have a number of points, such as: Does everyone participate, or does someone sit it out? Is there cooperation? Does someone get frustrated and cry? Are younger members favored, incorporated, kept entertained? Do family members argue/fight about irrelevant issues while puzzling/playing? Does someone get scapegoated for failures?

#70 ::: Neon Fox ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 12:55 AM:

#61 Merricat: My adolescence involved a lot of fighting with my mom, but there's one particular story she likes to tell about this time I threatened to go somewhere on my bike because she'd promised to take me and then backed out.

Of course, she tells it differently--she was working to keep a roof over our heads and I just totally busted out with the flouncing. All the problems we had were obviously all my fault, and it still fscking kills me to know she thinks that, and this story is just another example of it.

(I'm pissed at her right now, because last weekend we went clothes shopping and she told me how horrible my taste is and that I'm "not allowed" to wear the skirt I was wearing in public any more.)

I was never beaten. I have never feared for my safety. It's not like it's even unique that she treats me like a child--she does that to everyone, including her own mother. But I am so, so tired of it.

#71 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:08 AM:

Here's one: Is everyone in the family allowed to be angry? Is everyone's anger taken seriously, dealt with, addressed?

I keep flashing on a scene from my early childhood, maybe three or four. The family was all in the kitchen, probably around dinner time. I was really angry about something. I don't remember specifically if I was getting the "Cloudy weather, cloudy weather, SUNSHINE!" treatment from my father to "jolly" me out of my "mood" or what. But somewhere in there I declared that I was going to run away.

This was richly entertaining. So much so that my mother drew a picture of me, marching along, toy wagon loaded up with the birds in the cage and the dog on a leash. Everyone admired the picture, and how comical was the whole idea of me running away. So, not only was:

1. My anger completely laughable, but also:
2. Any concept of my asserting any independance, or expressing my anger in any tangible manner was a source of high comedy.

(This, during the same period when my brother was already going off independently on Scout trips to Yellowstone and so on. Granted, he was five years older, but there wasn't even a "maybe when you're older" implication in the reaction to my threats. It was just...laughable.)

* * *

I was a real touchy, prickly pain in the ass to be around (for me, at least; I could at least simulate diplomacy to a degree) as a young adult. It was only into my early forties that I finally managed to convince myself that I was free to be angry—and by implication, free to be happy.

Thinking of that drawing still fills me with rage.

#72 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:10 AM:

Josh Berkus@69 - the two games that were most revealing of my family dynamics as a kid were Bridge and Risk. Bridge would require watching the play through several different arrangements of players, but is extremely revealing about partnership dynamics, and about how you treat the "enemy". Risk has enough ebb and flow that you get to see several ally/enemy situations in one game.

It's no coincidence that Risk was the one game that would invariably send my middle brother off into tearing, screaming rages. Nor that no one in my immediate family except my father plays bridge as an adult, even though it's the larger family's game of choice for reunions.

#73 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:20 AM:

Cynthia @72:

Oh, right, Risk! Yeah, that's a good one for the same reasons as Monopoly. We never played it at my house when I was a kid, so I didn't think of it.

I can remember one relative out of our generation who we were told always had to win at least one Monopoly game a holiday to prevent an epic sulk. You know what? He's middle-aged now, and *still* can't deal with adversity of any kind.

#74 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:37 AM:

Lee @31: thanks. That's not hlepy at all; quite the opposite. (I'm really at a loss for what to do so not going to turn away suggestions). As it happens there is a Somewhat Mandatory Family Holiday coming up in a few weeks, for which I might suddenly find myself indisposed...

#75 ::: unheroic generally ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:57 AM:

the invisible one @68: (At least I've graduated from feeling crushed to feeling angry.)

Oh. Oh.

And hugs if you want them.

Because I've been reading, witnessing (but also somewhat selfishly playing the "well, my life isn't so bad" game) - but this comment made me catch my breath.

Because yes, getting from crushed to angry is something. Something powerful. And just in case congratulations are hard to come by: I want to congratulate you for it.

#76 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:03 AM:

My mother died nearly a year ago (January 20th, last year. Then my father, through an ex-friend of my mother's, informed me that he did not care about me or my mother, he had a new family now. My parental units divorced when I was sixteen, after my father informed my mother that he did not know if he still loved her, but he wanted to stay together while he tried out other females. This was several years after he was finally let out of jail after robbing two banks.

My mother has been dead for nearly a year. She, too, was abusive (I was her husband and my father's mother, for most of my life, it seems. In all ways but sex, and I'm honestly not sure on the latter, with my father--I don't remember, though the husband says he things it was.)

I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say, here. It is all so confusing.

#77 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:27 AM:

Ross @30: So yeah, I think she's pretty concerned with how she looks more than how I feel.

When I finally went back and talked to my mother, over ten years after I'd divorced them (on the advice of a therapist that I hadn't yet learned not to listen to), I asked her: "So what did you think when I went away?"

True to form, she answered, "Well, it was embarrassing, not knowing where you were, not knowing what to tell people when they asked."

Yeah, okay. That, and the fact that she never, ever, ever asked me about what was going on with me, and why I did what I did. (Basically, I had to ram my message down her throat, and even then, she managed to hork it back up without taking any wisdom from it.) For a while that even helped: confirmed my sense that there was no getting through to her, ever.

Islandian @44: The way I'm feeling right now, I don't want to ever visit those people again.

Well, if it helps any, reading your quotes from your father made me literally nauseous. If you ever do deal with those people again, please for Ghu's sake, take backup. Preferably very large and muscular backup. Someone with a deep and fearsome scowl. Jeezus.

Lee @49: I think this is the first time I've heard someone say it was imposed on them from outside.

Heh. I had a "friend" run this one on me. She asked me over to help her decorate some gingerbread men. I'm noodling along with this weird frosting-bag thing she was using (which I'd never seen before; I grew up with those aluminum syringey things) when, blup! a glob of frosting falls on the floor. I hadn't realised it was open in the back end. She took it away from me and didn't want to let me decorate any more. It apparently never occurred to her that these things were not universally used and understood. (Oh, and then, to top it all off, I sat down to eat one of the gingerbread men when we'd finished. "Jacque! What are you doing!?" "Uh, eating a gingerbread man?" "Those are for the church bake sale!" This, of course, she had never bothered to tell me when she asked me over to help.) This is a person whose company I no longer keep.

Cynthia W. @56: I invite you to ponder what me being taught to fly a plane by my father looks like.

In your place, I would be really tempted to answer, "smoking crater," but that would perhaps be...too emphatic.

she pushes down @57: This makes me weep. And this is the kind of thing* that tells me we live in a deeply dysfunctional society. That someone has no choice but to be dependent upon people who treat them like this.... It's f*cking criminal, is what it is.

* well, one of many things.

#78 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:43 AM:

Neon Fox, #70: You're out of high school. She is NOT ALLOWED to tell you what you can and can't wear any more. (Boundary issue, major hot button for me.) Obviously, you won't wear that skirt again if you're going to be with her; that's just avoiding trouble. But if she's not there, her opinion DOES NOT COUNT. Oh, and she is also not allowed to go clothes shopping with you any more, because why court drama?

Jacque, #71: I hate to say this, but I can see both sides of this one. It is unfortunately true that a very small child expressing indignation or anger often comes across as funny to adults. (In the same way that when one of our feral rescue kittens does the hiss-snarl-spit routine, it's funny even though we know the poor thing is terrified and feel sorry for it.)

BUT. Your mother was very much in the wrong to have drawn the picture and shown it to other people, and also to have failed to acknowledge your anger. The latter, sadly, is something that happens to a lot of children because parents don't recognize them as people. But the picture? That's unforgivable.

EJ, #74: If you're going to be "indisposed", make it something nasty and contagious, like the flu or a 72-hour GI bug; otherwise you may have the family descending on you "to cheer you up". And leave the phone on until the first time they call to make sure you're really at home see if you're okay. Then tell them that you're sick and need to be sleeping, and unplug it (or turn off the ringer and let further calls go to the answering machine).

Paranoid? Who, me?

#79 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 04:20 AM:

Josh Berkus @69 & 73:

Oh, please, not Monopoly. Not a game that requires people to take after one another to win. Not all of us can handle competitive games. I, for one, simply would not participate in a test that required it.*

Better something like Pandemic, where the only way to win is to cooperate.

Jacque @71:
my mother drew a picture of me, marching along, toy wagon loaded up with the birds in the cage and the dog on a leash. Everyone admired the picture, and how comical was the whole idea of me running away.

You took the animals with you? That wasn't running away from home, was it? That was rescuing home from bad influences.

If only you could show that little girl your present life. A whole herd of piggies!


Welcome, newcomers, and the newly delurked. Your presence is a gift to us all.

* This might put me in the same box you have your relative in. That's fine; I find myself kind of identifying with him. Obviously, I don't know the backstory, but I'm rather uncomfortable with your easy expression of contempt for him and your lack of interest in why he is that way.

#80 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 06:06 AM:

re fictional families: I like Aral and Cordelia as individuals, and as a couple, but somebody left Miles with the impression that his cousin's full name was "That-Idiot-Ivan" and I don't think it was Alys. That was a crappy thing to do to Ivan, and maybe a crappy attitude to encourage in Miles as well.

As for Lord Peter and Harriet -- again, a lovely couple, but I seem to remember a really romanticized view of corporal punishment in one of the later short stories involving their kids.

#81 ::: Danish Modern ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 06:47 AM:

My problem is that I can see the interaction patterns that cause trouble for my family, but I have no idea how to contribute to fixing them. I get along with pretty much every member of my family when we're on a one-on-one basis, but when I'm interacting with several of them at the same time, my stress level goes up.

For instance, my mom really hates it when someone interrupts her when she's talking. Yes, everyone hates it, but it'll put her in a bad mood for quite some time if it happens at an inopportune moment.

And along with that, my dad seems to have some kind of processing issue, where he doesn't really act like he's heard and processed a piece of information until he repeats it out loud.

So a conversation will go down like this.

"Why do you need the keys?"
"I was heading to the store, I needed to get some..."
"So you were heading to the store? And that's why you have your coat on."
"YES! I need to get some stuff for dinner, and then I need to make another stop at the..."
"Oh, you're getting stuff for dinner, all right."
"That's it, if you're going to keep interrupting, I'M NOT GOING TO TALK TO YOU."

Then my mom storms off, and my dad gets mad at her for storming off, not understanding what he did wrong. This happens several times every day. I find my dad's reiteration habit really annoying too, but I don't think he can help it, and I don't think he realizes he's doing it.

There are several other issues. Person A will exhibit a behavior associated with severe ADD or high-functioning autism, and person B will get really really annoyed with that behavior, despite the fact that person A probably can't really help it. My dad HATES it when someone makes a schedule and doesn't stick to it. If you say "we're going to try to leave in 20 minutes" and then it takes 35 minutes to get ready, he'll be angry for the first 30 minutes of whatever trip/dinner we are on.

I can deal with the individual mild annoyances: I'm often late myself, sometimes I interrupt people (and my mom interrupts other people more often than she thinks), and I can usually figure out when something that seems deliberate is actually unconscious, so I don't take it personally.

But when these conflicts arise, that's what stresses me out, and they're near constant sometimes. Sometimes when I or my siblings point out the vicious cycle, it calms things down... but sometimes it escalates the argument, or causes one side to declare that we're always taking the others' side.

It's most frustrating because it appears so easy to fix. If, when one person did something thoughtless or annoying, the other person just ignored them for five seconds and didn't react, and then responded calmly... I don't think there'd be many arguments at all. Instead, someone says something thoughtless or annoying, the other person responds with obvious offense or annoyance that is slightly out-of-proportion, the first person gets upset at the disproportionate response... repeat. You can break the cycle at any point in that escalation, but that pretty much never happens.

#82 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 07:33 AM:

Abi, I'm catching up on the Parade thread, and just realized my "read all by" is still only bringing up the posts I made under this munged e-mail, not the ones from the older munged e-mail before I forgot it. You mentioned at the time that you couldn't fix that at the moment but would do it a bit later; I'm guessing it might have slipped your mind?


Sumana Harihareswara @Parade/865: "when home-cooked food itself is fraught, franchise and microwave-from-frozen food promises autonomy, familiarity, control, solace." - ...ooh, this would be why I don't cook. (Well, I do occasionally cook. But only when I'm very emotionally stable / confident. Most of the time it's this big scary THING to be avoided, and I hadn't figured out why, because I'm quite a competent cook. I don't burn the boiling water or anything. *grin* Of COURSE it's because home-cooked meals were the staple of my incubator's self-identity as a Good Housewife.)

#83 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 08:08 AM:

#71 Neon Fox

A relationship litmus test I am currently using is "does the person tell stories about themselves in which they acknowledge they are the villain, or otherwise in the wrong?"

And yeah, I have determined that clothes shopping with me is a privilege, not a right, and the people who get to do it need to pass a series of "will not drive me crazy" checks before they earn that privilege.

#80 @etv13

I know the story you're thinking about, and I agree.

Although, I do want to point out that corporal punishment comes up in a discussion about how it is totally appropriate for one of their kids because he is X type of person, but totally not appropriate or necessary for their second child, because he is Y type of person. And although I don't see any situations where corporal punishment is appropriate, it is really cool that Peter and Harriet recognize their children as individuals, and are not doing one-size-fits-all parenting.

#81 Danish Modern

Reminds me desperately of a section from The Screwtape Letters:

"3. When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy -- if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.

4. In civilised life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far short of a blow in the face. To keep this game up you and Glubose must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother's utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. You know the kind of thing: 'I simply ask her what time dinner will be and she flies into a temper.' Once this habit is well-established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things for the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offense is taken."

#84 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 08:29 AM:

I suggest as a test a kind of one of the challenges from Survivor: the group must navigate an obstacle course and solve a puzzle while blindfolded and guided by a family member at some distance in an elevated position. Positions such as navigator/line leader/puzzle solver are assigned by an outside source and tip the usual family roles.

#85 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 08:51 AM:

I haven't been able to come up with a test. Part of it might be that my parents were good at maintaining a physically safe comfortable home. I had no idea that believing broken appliances should just be lived with was such a common problem.

On the other hand, the one about being allowed to show anger resonates, but I'm not sure what a simple test would look like. It could be that a test for dysfunctionality can't be as simple as a test for physical health.

I've heard about a failure mode for the camping test-- person who is good at camping chooses it for potential partner who's inexperienced at camping.

After much thought and consultation with siblings, I've come to the conclusion that a lot of what was wrong with my family wasn't what was there (some degree of emotional abuse, but pretty moderate as such things go) but what was missing-- affection that wasn't there and/or didn't work. (Translation: I was so angry at my mother that her touch didn't make me feel better.)

Any ideas about quick clear tests for the presence of functionality?

#86 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 09:40 AM:

I've been kind of intermittent lurking over the holidays but finally taking a moment to catch up with this new thread in the discussion.

Very much resonating with Quietly Learning to be Loud @36 and following. The whole "You aren't allowed to do that unless you are already proficient at it" dysfunction is one that's haunted me for decades and one of the many edges I'm pushing as part of my current growth process.

Progress report! I had stopped playing flute back in high school after deciding I wasn't good enough to subject people to hearing me - that was something over twenty years ago. This fall I took it up again, played in public (well, church: they are Safe People), and not only did not die of embarrassment or horribly offend anybody, but it was fun and I think I'm going to do it again.

One of the beautiful things about these DFD threads is the opening to realize that just because my upbringing wasn't visibly, horrifically abusive doesn't mean it wasn't fundamentally dysfunctional in a few places; also, just because it was fundamentally dysfunctional in a few places doesn't mean that it didn't mostly work most of the time. It's a bit of revelation that there are intermediate stages between "perfectly functional" and "perfect disaster" and learning to acknowledge and navigate them. Neither my family of origin nor my childhood church were particularly good at this degree of nuance...

#87 ::: AnotherQuietOne has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 09:42 AM:

Hi gnomes, I don't know what flipped the switch, probably something with punctuation.

Coffee bar, anyone?

#88 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 10:59 AM:

#75, unheroic generally:

One of the reasons I rarely post is because I also have the "my life isn't so bad" reaction. I'm generally in a good place now, just some leftovers from that ex that I need to finish processing.

#79, abi:

Pandemic might be a good test - do people discuss what they can do as players with different but complementary roles and skills, as intended? Of course, I've only ever played it a few times, and with people who knew the game and its strategies much better than I do. I found that when there's an experience gap there tends to be a decision-making gap as well.

Or maybe I still automatically defer to people I perceive as having more knowledge than I do. The teacher/student dynamic is one I find comfortable, and it doesn't matter to me which side of it I'm on.

#71, Jacque: Is everyone in the family allowed to be angry? Is everyone's anger taken seriously, dealt with, addressed?

Yes. This. The ex was dismissive of my anger, and as I recall hid his own anger and didn't let me see it. He could have been on the receiving end of the same thing growing up, and so learned to hide it.

It was a great surprise to me when two internet acquaintances took my anger seriously. (In one case I was ranting in an IRC channel, in the other case I was trying to not show that I was angry in an email, but it was noticed and acknowledged.) In both cases, I remember thinking that I didn't get this from my ex, and that this was a problem, and then I didn't do anything about it.

#78, Lee: In the same way that when one of our feral rescue kittens does the hiss-snarl-spit routine, it's funny even though we know the poor thing is terrified and feel sorry for it.

I don't find a terrified kitten hiss-snarl-spit to be funny.

I'm not afraid of it as the kitten intends, but when I see a small animal show a frightened or defensive reaction, I back off, and I feel bad for scaring it. I apologize to it too, even though I know it doesn't understand the words.

But I don't find it funny.

#89 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 11:00 AM:

Jacque@77 - smoking crater didn't feel too far off. My father has a very high tolerance for failure in those he's teaching, exacerbated by his unwillingness to give his children information. He tended to do things like say "hold it level and steady" and then unstrap and turn around in his seat to rummage in the back - The first time I'd ever been up in a small plane. When the small plane in question was a V-tail Bonanza, known popularly as the "V-tail doctor killer", for its tendency to react hypersensitively to overcontrol.

Mind you, he's an excellent teacher to people not his children. My husband is mystified as to why I won't fly with my father unless there's someone else to sit co-pilot.

The broken appliance thing is interesting. My parents will fix or replace broken appliances promptly. However, for reasons I can't quite articulate, telling anybody else about a broken appliance scares me nearly to the point of hyperventilation. One point, knocking on the door to tell my boss the fridge was broken (urgent, frozen mice), it literally took me three tries to physically get my hand up to the door and knock. It hadn't occurred to me that it might be another family-induced fear. I'll have to think about that.

#90 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 11:17 AM:

1. Appliances...I was about to say no, other things, until I remembered the stove. Which is usable, if you don't count that one of the oven's modes doesn't work and that two of the burners need to be lit by hand and that this has been true for years. (Yes, I've heard of not running pilot lights. This is not that.)

2. The other things (sanding off identifying data) involve electrical installations and leaks.

3. (Further sanding)(with sandblaster) Relative with broken window in winter for several months. (There was money.)

Everyone being allowed to be angry; yeah, that. (We weren't.)

Reading, witnessing, wincing.

#91 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 11:34 AM:

@everyone in the "not allowed to change" subthread: Thank you. I hadn't realized that the bedroom furniture problem fit into the larger problem quite so neatly. I was familiar with (and dealing with) other things like my handwriting supposedly being illegible and my printing childish (which they were - when I was in elementary), and that not being a mutable, learnable thing… but I hadn't thought about keeping my bedroom EXACTLY the same as it was when I moved out as a way of keeping me as a child. (note: I was in my late twenties when I moved out, but my role was still very much that of a child, which caused no end of fights and screaming, which didn't help at all, naturally. :( For context, see post #1. It doesn't help the situation, but it helps me to be able to frame it in the context of a pattern.

@ #83, Merricat: (wrt clothes shopping) Yep, me too. I _think_ Mom's finally given up trying to buy me clothes or take me clothing shopping. It never worked out well, but she's so stuck on a) appropriate clothing (which is very different for her profession and mine, but what applies to her is universal, _especially_ to her daughter) and b) shopping as a mother-daughter bonding experience (for us? nevernevernever) that it's taken a LOT of boundary setting.

#92 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 11:47 AM:

she pushes down @Parade/@888: Congratulations on moving and therapy! and on getting away from someone who acts a lot like my mother! (you mentioned posts 50 and 56.) May you have a happy healthy life away from them! Even by the local standards, those sound like absolutely terrible parents, especially with the extra detail from #57. I don't think I can describe them adequately without sounding melodramatic -- they semi-deliberately semi-accidentally systematically starved you while also working you like a slave.

I hope I can help with some things but I've got to run for Little Christmas visit and skip the usual extra revisions, so ignore any advice that turns hlepy on you. You may want to read the link Sid posted in #69 -- I haven't finished it yet, but the description of how the abuse works is disturbingly accurate for my situation, only retuned in the maternal-guilt key instead of big-booming-father key the writer knew.

For period cramps, please do go to a doctor, but also try dong quai (chinese herb) and substantial doses (around 25g) of good dark chocolate. Around here, you get the herb at natural food stores or Chinese apothecaries, and Lindt is a well-priced and widely available good chocolate brand. (The Madagscar bar in particular is actually world-class.) I don't get cramps that horrible, but I do get ones that don't respond to stock painkillers, and these two things work on them.

I do have an idea for you, in response to #82 and Sumana Harihareswara @Parade/865. Home cooking is a big thing for my mother too, and both my sister and I have responded about the same way: we eat a lot of things she doesn't approve of because they are too weird. (Something as normal as good Italian food with enough cheese is too weird, so this is easy.) When we cook, we both tend to either cook things she never would have cooked (too ethnic, too much flavour/spice, too experimental), or to cook the few things that have good memories such as waffles, cookies, and fudge.

#93 ::: Hiding a little ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 12:48 PM:

An interesting subset of the "do broken things get fixed?" test: My ex tended to break things when he was in a rage. I always cleaned up and fixed whatever I could -- threw away the broken glasses, re-hung the torn-down drapes, etc. But what I couldn't -- what might have required two sets of hands, like replacing a door, or spending more than a few dollars, like replacing a dented sink -- never got fixed. Perhaps I was somewhat at fault in not taking initiative and calling in someone to do it myself (though that might have caused more rage over OMG YOU SPENT MONEY), but I always felt like he never made a move to fix these things because he LIKED for me to be reminded of what he could do when angry. So yeah, now that I live alone, I fix or replace things ASAP.

#94 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:33 PM:

@etv13 #80: IIRC Ivan is the one who cultivates the "town clown" image because he is something like fifth in line for the throne and he absolutely does not want it, so he acts unreliable and vacuous on purpose to avoid the attention of people who might want to put him there. The latest Vorkosigan book apparently stars Ivan in a more active role, although I haven't read it.

Back on topic, my, it's hard to find happily married couples who star in a series. Most of the ones I would hold up as examples have already been named.

#95 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 01:46 PM:

J. @ 93

Everything we know about Ivan assumes that Miles has a reliable viewpoint!

#96 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:03 PM:

Abi @79:

Monopoly and Risk are good tests specifically because they are high-stress games which encourage disfunctional behavior. A game which rewards cooperation wouldn't be as good of a test of lurking disfunctionality in the family. Think of the Monopoly game as a short-term, limited recreation of a family stress factor like "what if someone gets pregnant unexpectedly?"

Basically, the question with the Monopoly/Risk test is: is everyone still having a good time, whether they win or lose? Is it treated as "just a game", or as something else?

Regarding my relative, I know why he's that way. However, given that I use my real name here, there's a limited amount I can say in examples lest the relative in question read it. I also think that letting him win at Monopoly didn't do him any favors, in the long run. Certainly his *need* to win was never addressed.

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:20 PM:

she pushes down @82:

Not forgotten, just still drowning. I'll try to do it tonight now that a bunch of things are better in hand than they were before.

Josh Berkus @95:

One of the beauties of the sit-rise test is that it's not a stress test. It doesn't leave the person tired, or risk injuring them.

I'd prefer a test that didn't damage the family further, even for diagnostic purposes. I suspect that cooperative tasks can provide an axis of observation without doing so: things like role-switching, collaboration, and awareness of others' mental states can be assessed without getting into competitive games.

Basically, if the diagnostic test requires me to play Monopoly, I am out of there. And unless it's possible for the test to assess how everyone else deals with my absolute refusal to play competitive games, that's us sunk.

#98 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:22 PM:

Re functional relationships in fiction, and in particular Harriet Vane/Peter Wimsey.

For some reason detective fiction seems to have more than one might expect. At least off the top of my head I'd suggest M. Didius Falco and his wife (it's 10 years since I've read the books, so I'm not sure I remember her name, but I remember the character fairly clearly); Peter and Ellie Pascoe in Reginald Hill's novels (and indeed Edgar Wield and his partner, come to that); and possibly also Sharon McCone/Hy Ripinsky in Marcia Muller's novels.

(Worries that closer examination of these examples may reveal some unexpected kinks in the way I see relationships.

#99 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 02:34 PM:

Sorry, that comment was a mess. The last parenthesis should have ended with another sentence. Something along the lines of 'But if so, probably better for me to have the chance of having someone point it out to me in a place like this.'

#100 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 03:03 PM:

abi@79, Josh@95—

On a related note, let me recount one of the warning signs I ignored that my relationship with my son's mother was not likely to work out over the long run: a game of Diplomacy wherein she had an explosively negative reaction when one of the other players in the game made an agreement with me that involved betraying a previous agreement with her.

She was thoroughly incapable of separating her role in the game from her other roles in real life. Believe it: she was angry at both of us for two weeks, and refused ever to play any board games with that third person ever again.

She was winning the game up until that point, and she might have still won if she hadn't exploded and refused to continue. In hindsight, it's clear to me what she did: when she was betrayed inside the confines of the game, she retaliated by taking the conflict out of the game and raising the stakes. Very typical pattern for her.

I'm sorry I didn't recognize it at the time.

#101 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 03:29 PM:

I think one effective test is the stories that everyone tells that are characteristic of each relative. Like, my therapist was a little appalled that the only memory my brother had of me and my mom when he gave her eulogy was about how mom used to ground me from reading. But for the whole family, that really is sort of the quintessential story they tell about my mother and me.

(It probably says something that I thought I was overreacting by being hurt when everyone else in the family thinks it's a harmless story. I really need to figure out a way to reset my baselines for normal family behavior.)

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 03:42 PM:

she pushes down:

I've done the email address unification now.

#103 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Re functional fictional relationships, I'd add Eve Dallas & Roarke plus several of the secondary-character pairings in the JD Robb In Death series.

Re the Lord Peter and Harriet story under discussion, I think the corporal punishment can get a partial pass as typical for its time. And get some credit for the fact that the child in question is clearly respected as an individual and, when accused by the obnoxious houseguest of lying, is believed by his parents. But no, not 100% the role model one would wish for now.

#104 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 05:44 PM:

praisegod @#98: Helena Justina.

#105 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 07:25 PM:

One of the stories my family used as a "ha ha, this is really funny!" story was about my dad yelling at me, and me finally yelling back. My sister is six years younger than me, and was probably ten at the time. Her reaction was to hide in the boot closet, because "I thought Dad was going to kill you!" Ha ha, isn't that funny and hilarious and nutty? That's just silly, that's just the way your father is, there's nothing wrong with that, look at all the family pictures we have on the walls. Ha!

About five years ago, I stopped finding it funny, and stopped telling that story. I think someone saw my expression and read it well (emotional radar is something we have developed in spades) and I haven't heard it since. I'm sure they tell it, just not around me.

#106 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 08:13 PM:

Alex R. @ #95:

The most recent novel provides a significant amount of information about Ivan through two viewpoints that are not Miles.

praisegod barebones @ #98:

And Ellis Peters' George & Bunty Felse. The Felses are one of my favourite fictional families, and functional down to their toes, but in such a quiet down-to-earth way that I don't tend to think of them unless something reminds me.

#107 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 09:05 PM:

Paul A at 106: I love the Felses, too. I discovered Ellis Peters in the early 1980's, when Monk's Hood was on the new book shelf in one of UCLA's libraries, and Rainbow's End was on the book shelf in another. I like that there are stories that focus on each of the Felses, and I also like the community that's in Rainbow's End and some of the other stories.

Praisegod barebones @98: You're right, there are a ton of functional families/couples in detective fiction.

Re corporal punishment (and I want to be clear this is intended as a genuine question, and not a rhetorical one): Do you think that in times and places where it was pretty much uncontroversially accepted, it was less psychologically damaging?

The broken appliances thing turning up so frequently is really intiguing. I wonder why that is?

#108 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 09:26 PM:

Re the actual topic of this thread: I don't have anything specific to offer, but I am paying attention, and sympathizing.

#109 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 09:43 PM:

Well, crap. Between reading over the DFD threads from years prior to my participation and this current discussion of broken things not getting fixed, I think I need to figure something out before I go too much further down that road.

My oven has never quite worked right; it takes ages to get up to temperature and I have to set it above the temperature I want to actually get what I want. I figured out it wasn't getting hot enough after several undercooked meals and buying an oven thermometer, then I just set the temperature higher and ignored the problem.

There are other things that need fixing. That's just one fairly obvious example of something that doesn't work right that I just sort of work with. I don't know exactly where I got this from, because my parents between them could and did fix just about anything that broke.

But between this and the older discussions and me doing some thinking about relationships and whether I want to pursue another one, I wonder if the "don't complain/stop nagging" frustrating helplessness I learned from my ex was extended to not complaining about things I could actually fix. I have always had a habit of over-generalizing rules to cover things the rule-setter never intended them to cover.

#110 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 10:16 PM:

Thank you, Abi! :D

#111 ::: Denise ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 10:56 PM:

This series is one I've avoided since its inception. Not because I'm "afraid" of family dysfunction (I am a product of horrific dysfunction to levels I can't begin to go into in this space), but because I chose to avoid the triggers. Put simply, I was (am) afraid.

I think, though, this entry (which is the one that finally drew me in) is onto something huge...something that could contribute to the body of knowledge in a very unique and special way. This entry has given me very valuable ideas for incorporating my own history (for which I hold a great deal of bias) into consideration for the subject of family dysfunction as a global relevant to the overall discussion. I've employed examples from my past to illustrate how family dysfunction permeates routine daily life, from an individual, familial, parental, professional...and downright human standpoint. But I'd never contemplated its connection with my chosen area of research (sex education).

This is ... different (in a word) ... for me. My family and my history is something I've never thought of as "off limits", but a realm that I have considered to personal for me too be unbiased in the necessary framework. This entry here has ... shifted that idea. Right now, it's only an idea, but one I'm open to working with.

#112 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2013, 11:56 PM:

If I had to propose a universal test, it would involve analysis of how the familial unit handles not just crisis but generally negative emotions of others - depression, anxiety, illness. Is everyone allowed equally to express those emotions? Whose negative emotions are prioritized, dismissed, privileged? Who is allowed to be angry/stressed/cranky/sick/sad/lonely?

Also: feeling like a mess, as always. Got through the holidays but only by the skin of my teeth. Scraping by. Grateful, infinitely grateful, for all of you and what I find here every day. I am perpetually indebted.

To all the newcomers: thank you so much for joining us. I am reading every word. I wish that you did not have reason to be here, but now that you are, it is good to have you.

#113 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 12:08 AM:

radiosongs@112 The problem with that as any sort of test, is that in a family deep enough in their allowed roles, there is simply no telling who is allowed to feel sad/bad/angry, except possibly by guessing based on who never seems to feel these things. It's entirely possible to bury the negative emotions so deeply that you don't even notice their existence.

My parents will tell you what a very cheerful, upbeat child I was. My job was to make everyone else feel better, and I was very good at it, and I couldn't do that if I let myself cry or rage or feel sad. I had to work long and hard as an adult to be able to feel sad, and I still struggle hard with angry. Suicide ideation as a way of life? Sure. Actual sadness, with crying and emoting? No way.

#114 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 12:45 AM:

the invisible one @109: You might look at the manual for your oven (you can probably find it online at the manufacturer's web site) to see whether there's a way of adjusting its temperature upward.

#115 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:15 AM:

Abi @97:

Point. I suppose from that perspective the puzzle or Pandemic is a better test. I was thinking stress tests because of some of the other proposals on this thread -- you have to admit, a game of Monopoly beats having a family member pretend to be dead, or smashing a major appliance. But you're right to point out that the stand-up test specifically *isn't* a stress test (unless the subject is very, very sick).

#116 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:57 AM:

One such test that (I hope) is reasonably low-threshold.

It starts with the parent having done something invasive to the child or with the child's possessions. That "something" would be an act for which the parent would discipline the child, if that act had been committed on the parent/parent's own possessions.

(The concrete example, in a story from a friend: her mother had entered the child's bedroom, in order to clean it after another child - the mother's guest - had severely messed it up.)

The test: does the parent make an apology? A substantive one, that acknowledges to the child (in an age-appropriate way) the effect on the child's own integrity/personal space/control of the child's own possessions. An apology without expectation that the child forgives the parent? One that is free of any "justification" like "I did it for your own good"?

Some background: early in the years of coming to terms with my own history, I was having trouble choosing the "wrong" sort of people to tell it to, resulting in a fair amount of social trauma as I sifted through the people I knew, separating the fake friends and the real ones.

One of the real friends told me the background story. I was already "red-flagging" when she told how the guest's child had been allowed into the girl's room, although my friend told me this point was not a problem with her - up until the point where Guest Child made the major mess. But my friend's mother apologized for having gone into her daughter's room without permission. True, it was in order to repair the damage and clean up the room, but the mother made a point of apologizing for having set foot in her young daughter's room in the first place.

That notion - that an adult could apologize to a child, on the child's level, without invoking "for your own good" - turned into one of my "gold-standard" tools for considering situations both past and future.

Since then, when I've interacted with children, I've made it a point to keep focussed on how my actions toward the child will look to them. Respecting the person even if they're not adult.

Crazy(and now going to reread the other doubtlessly perspicacious comments, to learn from the collective wisdom here)Soph

#117 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 08:17 AM:

I'm intrigued by diagnostics in the stories that families tell. You may have to hear multiple stories, though. I have come gradually to realize that many of the stories I remember my mother telling could be said to have a theme of "you can't trust anyone, especially close family." No one story is horrible - there are several about her favorite sister that my mother told as funny, and they are, individually. It's just the overall picture that is disheartening, and it took me years to realize it even when, as a result of seeing a therapist for a while, I was looking for dysfunction. Example story, when they were in high school, the French class had a picnic where to get a food item, you had to ask for it in French. My mother's mind went blank, and when she whispered to her sister for help, her sister refused to tell her anything. So mom had bread - the only thing she could remember in French - for lunch.

#118 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 09:05 AM:

I had an interaction with my on-again off-again partner some bit ago that really drew me up short. He's got a 12-year-old daughter; due to some really vile machinations on the part of that child's mother, he gets to see her less than he should (though more than two years ago, since we went through a vicious court battle), one overnight a week and the occasional weekend. The time they spend together is always really precious to both of them. He makes dinner, or else takes her out, and inevitably by the end of the meal he's putting some of his food on her plate, telling her to eat 'just three more bites.'

This was necessary when she was six, and refused to eat wherever possible. She's not picky about kind of food, but she was certainly picky about amount. But now that she's adolescent, it's obviously beginning to irritate her. I had a sudden, chilling realisation during a meal, and after we'd dropped her off back at her mother's, I spent half an hour trying to figure out how to explain it to him. Finally we went for a walk, and I said "Okay. used to be that you really had to push to get her to eat enough. But now that she's hitting her big growth spurt, she's eating all of the time on her own, so that's not a problem. But one thing that I think you should consider, maybe, is that--she's 12, and she's female, and she's unusually beautiful. She's going to have a really hard time from here on out owning her body as it is, damn-near everyone she meets is going to be trying to take control of her, wear this eat this don't eat that don't smile smile stand straight don't make eye contact be friendlier, and I think that as her father you need to lay the groundwork for her to be able to say no to other people; you need to stop telling her to eat more. She _has_ to be able to tell you no, and right now she won't."

And he got really, really still for a moment.

And then he thanked me, said he hadn't considered that--and he hasn't pushed food on her since.

I went into that conversation shaking. Literally shaking. Because I knew I was seeing something he wouldn't, but I just kept remembering how my parents reacted to any sign of self-ownership--my mother pulling me a quarter of a mile by my hair when she found out I'd slept with my fiance, my father hitting me to the floor when at nine years old I screamed "I'm a person too! I'm worth as much as you are!" during an argument. My partner is a good man, and an excellent parent, but I still have in my head this baseline assumption that he's going to be a bad one, because mine were.

#119 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 10:36 AM:

#114, David Goldfarb:

Yes, I could. And I could have done that at any point in the 7 years I've lived with it. Don't think I'm not aware of that.

That's why the discussion of broken things going unfixed bothered me as much as it did.

As I looked around this morning at the stuff that isn't done and hasn't been done for too long, my thoughts shifted. I think I want to try to maintain that shift.

Rather than thinking I have chores to do that haven't been done and telling myself I'm a lazy lump for not doing them, I thought: I deserve better than this.

I wonder how long I'll be able to sustain that.

#120 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 11:08 AM:

I wonder if the test could look like a set of lists, and the question: mark which of these things your family does well. A lot of familial disfunction seems to have to do with lack of balance, so the test is basically that the number of marked items on each list should be similar.

So, list one:
Encouraging and enabling positive change
Keeping members from looking bad
Presenting a united front to outsiders

List two:
Supporting members no matter what
Allowing members to change
Getting help when needed

Both lists should be longer. Help is solicited.

Last week marks one of my important anniversaries: fifteen years ago, the day after New Years, I got out of bed in my freezing house, much skinnier, with no clear recollection having done so in the prior two weeks.

#121 ::: Denise ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 11:24 AM:

@Abi, I wanted to say thank you again...and share where my thoughts took me. I am very serious about the project plan, and your thoughts in this undertaking are deeply appreciated. :-)

#122 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 11:48 AM:

crazysoph, #116: that an adult could apologize to a child, on the child's level, without invoking "for your own good"

Unfortunately, several popular parenting modes in America include the assumption that a parent should NEVER, EVER apologize to a child, no matter what. This is incredibly toxic, and it's almost impossible to make the parents see that. The closest they get is the old "this hurts me more than it hurts you" bullshit.

canisfelicis, #118: Good for you for pointing that out (especially the part about mutually contradictory expectations) -- and good for him, for being able to hear it! And I absolutely hear you about expecting other parents to react badly because of your own experiences; this is something I still struggle with, the assumption that other people's parents will have the same toxic motivations that mine did.

(When my parents found out I was no longer a virgin, I got to listen to half a day of my father crying and ranting about how EIGHTEEN YEARS OF HIS LIFE HAD BEEN WASTED because I was now "damaged goods". Yes, he actually used that phrase. I never forgave him for it. When I got married, I refused to allow him to walk me down the aisle -- not solely because of that, but because I really loathe the entire ownership paradigm of that custom. Nobody was "giving me away", TYVM. Wow, where'd that soapbox come from?)

the invisible one, #119: Rather than thinking I have chores to do that haven't been done and telling myself I'm a lazy lump for not doing them, I thought: I deserve better than this.

That's an excellent reframing, and I wish you the strength to keep looking at it that way. Right now, I'm looking at the chaos on my side of the bedroom (my partner's side is bad too, but that's not my responsibility) and feeling overwhelmed; objectively, I know that if I can just handle 15 or 20 items per day and keep doing that consistently, it will only take a week or so to make a huge difference, but it's really hard to take that first step. I may try your approach.

#123 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 12:06 PM:

abi @79: You took the animals with you? That wasn't running away from home, was it? That was rescuing home from bad influences.

Hah! That puts a whole spin on my childhood fantasy of living out of a little gypsy-wagon, a la the Kansas-incarnation of the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.

If only you could show that little girl your present life. A whole herd of piggies!

Wow. You know, the difference is so diametric, I can hardly remember what it was to be that little kid, thank all the ghods of Time and Space. For one thing, it is now safe to love.

Nancy Lebovitz @85: I was so angry at my mother that her touch didn't make me feel better.

OTOH, what immediately leaps to mind for me about this is when the touch is not designed to make you feel better, but rather to get you to stop being angry.

#124 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 12:26 PM:

invisible one @119: Best of luck. I've been undergoing a slow shift in that direction myself for the past year or so, and this conversation has made me want to speed it up now.

It's startling to read this thread and consider that my lifelong willingness to put up with clutter and unfinished projects and halfway-broken-but-still-usable appliances has Implications. I've never tolerated all-the-way-broken appliances, but kluges, sure. And I've usually tried to limit the brokenness to myself (any *other* broken furniture would get fixed quickly, but my office chair was broken for five years until I got a new one last month). I think it's getting better, but it all seems more significant than it did before, and I don't think I want to be patient with myself about it anymore. :/

#125 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 12:36 PM:

1) Games, memories and reactions: I remember as a small child (maybe 5 or 6 years old?) that I wanted to play cards one evening and everyone told me they weren't interested in playing. As soon as I'd been sent to bed (I was the youngest), while I was still climbing the stairs, I heard my brother say "let's play cards!", and others agreeing to do so. I felt really hurt. When I recounted this to my mother a year or so back, her response was "Well of course! Nobody wanted to play cards with you because we had to let you win!"

Now I can see that that response is wrong on so many levels - particularly in its lack of empathy both for me-as-small-child, and as a response to me-now.

And this thread has helped me to see why I'm not keen on board/card games of the sort where one person is going to win and the others lose - particularly if it's going to take a long time, so there's not going to be the chance of multiple games and multiple winners. The fact that, as a child, everyone else was older, more experienced and better able to calculate odds, work out strategies etc. probably meant that yes, unless I was allowed to win, I pretty much always lost, and somewhere in my childhood I think I must have internalised that the only point of playing is to win, the only enjoyment in playing the game is in winning, and that if you don't win (at least a reasonable amount of the time), you're a failure. It's fascinating to look at my reaction to various competitive situations, in the light of this, and see which ones are and are not affected by it. Next: finding out whether, now I can see where the attitude has come from, I can overcome it.

2) the invisible one @119: "I thought: I deserve better than this."

a) Good luck - I may borrow that to try to help me in tidying and keeping our place tidy as well. :-)

b) That also ties into one of my recent revelations: When I was 11 or 12, I told my mother that I was being bullied at school. Not only did she tell me the old lie "but words can never hurt you", but also she told me "if you don't react, they'll stop." It's taken me until very recently to really unpack what messages she was giving me with that. Not only that she wasn't going to help me (after all, she didn't give me any suggestions for -how- to "not react", nor did she tell my teacher or anything), but she was telling me that, because I "reacted" to bullies (got visibly upset), it was my fault I was bullied; also by extension that I was the kind of person who deserved to be bullied (and who didn't deserve protection against bullying), and that I wasn't deserving of respect and consideration - by her or by the bullies or, by extension, by anyone else.

I'm sure she didn't mean me to take those messages; I'm sure she thought she was helping me to toughen up - but those are the messages I got and internalised. And it's taken me more than 30 years to start really believing that I do deserve better, that I truly am worthy of respect and basic consideration from my peers, not just from really nice people and/or people who really care about me. And she wondered why I never took on/looked to take on any leadership roles while I was at university...

#126 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:15 PM:

I am having the strange realization, on this iteration of the thread, as to how my family was functional in certain ways. Or, in the other direction... how some things that my family did well, and I was proud of as being special, exceptional traits that my friends' families didn't always share, were not in fact some unusually high standards we'd hit, but basic functionality that a lot of my friends were not getting.

My parents cared deeply about making sure their kids were ready to launch. They wanted to make sure we would be ready to live independent lives of our own choosing after leaving their care, and went to a great deal of effort to make sure we'd be prepared for that. With so many of my friends being trapped in cultural swaddling, and warned not to do all sorts of things that might damage their supposedly ever-so-delicate connection to their parents' views and lifestyles...I honestly thought it was unusual and awesome that my parents would let us make our own choices. That we were not surrounded with a shield of "But of course you will follow our religion, our politics, our career focus, our subculture, or you will be a failure as a human being, brought up constantly as a warning tale and embarrassment to the whole family."

It is sort of appalling me, in retrospect, to realize how much of what I considered normal in my community was...really fairly damaging, at least for any kid who wasn't just naturally inclined to follow their parents' lifestyle and choices and career path in every particular.

And...god. I do not want to be distracting from the important stuff going on here. Usually I just read this thread quietly, as...witnessing. Learning what not to do with my own kids. Trying to untangle my own brain. But now I'm realizing how my childhood friends were being hurt, and wishing I'd realized that a lot sooner. Even if I hadn't been able to do much about it, I could've done... I don't know. Something.

#127 ::: Fade Manley has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:15 PM:

Possibly for ellipsis abuse.

#128 ::: C-c-cycle Breaker ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:19 PM:

If folks who are recognizing the household appliance thing would be willing to provide details, I'd appreciate it. Seeing the comments is filling me with the nausea specific to discovering another Serious Blind Spot. (i.e. Did you know that not all angry people are an immediate danger to everyone and everything around them? My lizard brain still doesn't believe it, but apparently most people consider it a fact.)

My resistance to fixing things promptly is a regular conversation in our house, and previously I thought of it as a difference in personality--I'm more laid-back and want to think about a problem for a while before deciding on a course of action, my partner prefers to address a problem immediately, and weekend plumber rates be damned. It's not a serious source of conflict, but it comes up pretty regularly. Now I'm wondering if this is a deeper thing that I need to think about more. But I need a sense of the scale to get started. The scale of things I'm thinking of are along the seriousness lines of a kitchen faucet that needs to be wiggled just right to turn off and a washing machine that makes an awful noise for 10 seconds per cycle, with a time scale of a month or two. Money's not the problem, just some combination of insufficient annoyance and needing time to do enough troubleshooting to know who to call and what to tell them.

Hard to find the blind spots, when the whole point of them is that you can't see them.

(Hi, all. I posted only once, several years ago, asking for advice on breaking cycles when it comes to starting a family. I was pretty overwhelmed at the time, and still am sometimes, but all the healthy people in my life seem to agree that I'm succeeding so far.)

#129 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:20 PM:

dcb@125: I hear you. *hugs* I was fiercely bullied in school. Same deal. Except my mom was an elementary teacher who should have known better - except that the received wisdom at the time was that the victim could fix things themselves. And she trusted authority, and the authorities who told her that. And the counsellor who told me that.

So. Utterly. Toxic.

I still don't understand how, between the bullying and being told that sounding like I know stuff that others don't is "snobby," how I managed to ever take on leadership roles (I did) or become a teacher myself (though granted at university level, where you don't have to deal with that crap).

And yeah. NOT YOUR FAULT!!!!! (took a really excellent psychologist to finally convince me of that, and of the fact that I have fundamental value and worth)

Congratulations for unpacking that, and realizing that you do have worth! You are awesome!!!

#130 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 01:23 PM:

#123 ::: Jacque :::

Nancy Lebovitz @85: I was so angry at my mother that her touch didn't make me feel better.

OTOH, what immediately leaps to mind for me about this is when the touch is not designed to make you feel better, but rather to get you to stop being angry.

We're both guessing here of course, and in my case it's memories which are decades old.

However, as I recall, my mother didn't try affectionate touch when I was overtly angry at her. It feels more like she really wanted a connection I just didn't feel, and I got an impression that if I couldn't get my relationship with her right (satisfactory to her) I couldn't get a relationship with anyone right.

That's a very neutral way of putting it. I'm still very afraid of letting people get too close. I'm sort of at the point where I can tell it's my barrier rather than an intrinsic part of being around people, but have no idea if there's any specific action I should take. The current plan is more body work and qi gung and such and see what happens.

My impression of my mother is that she was trying to prove that she couldn't drive people away.

#131 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 02:18 PM:

Random Hlepy bit -- Our oven was sort of doing that 'heat up slowly, not really getting to temperature' thing for a while. Not so bad that I'd call it defective, but not to spec, and we worked around it for a while by preheating well.

Till one day when it failed in a particularly spectacular manner when the main element arced out to the metal shell. The arc slowly spiraled around the element till we killed the power at the breaker. Turning off the oven by the front panel controller didn't do anything.

Turns out that once the element was replaced, the oven heated a lot faster, held its temperature better, and generally acted like a new unit. I understand that replacing a part is not a battle that necessarily needs to be fought.

On the gripping hand, the vice grips on my office chair do not make it work like new, but they do make it work.

#132 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 02:22 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @130: have no idea if there's any specific action I should take.

Well this, of course, depends on what you want. If you want to be okay with people touching you, that's one thing. (Or a zillion things, depending on the circumstances of the touch.)

Or, if you want to know when (or if) there are times when you're okay being touched. Or if it's okay for some people to touch you but not others?

Or if you want to be okay with not wanting to be touched...?

Invoke the Shadow operator: "What do you want?" :-)

My impression of my mother is that she was trying to prove that she couldn't drive people away.

Which people will only pass if they have the patience of a saint, of course....

#133 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 02:23 PM:

Oh, corporal punishment.

This is just one of the strands that I am trying to sort out right now from my own past; where does the line get drawn? My default view my whole life has been that I was never physically abused, which I've always felt the need to qualify, along the lines of, "Well, I mean, I was spanked, but that doesn't count, does it?" My parents most definitely believed in spanking. But my perception was always that it was 'normal', or at least acceptable at the time (sixties/seventies), so I'd never really thought about it. Recently, though, I have begun picking at all these emotional scabs, and I've realized that I'm no longer sure what to think about the two extant memories that I have of corporal punishment.

(I also have no idea whether I should be issuing a trigger warning here or editing for whiney irrelevance; pretty sure it's the tapes that are telling me the latter, so I'm going to grit my teeth anyway... Um. Trigger warning?)

Memory #1 - I was angry about something, the family was in the car to go somewhere. I closed the car door a little too hard (I have no gauge as to how hard that might have been, other than that I was a small girl who was routinely picked on in school as the least athletic example of her kind). My father leaped back out of the car, hauled me out of the car and let me have it. Slamming car doors (or other overt displays of temper against inanimate objects) was not an expression that he refrained from, personally. Genetically speaking, there was never any question that I inherited my temper from him.

Memory #2 - I don't remember what I was upset about, but it was dinner time and I had left the table. I remember being curled in my room crying. I remember hearing my father's loud, furious stamping footsteps rushing down the hall, remember that he hauled me up by my arm and walloped me several times in a rage, then redeposited me where I'd been, still sobbing. I remember my mother coming in after a bit. I don't remember what she said, exactly, but my takeaway was that I'd brought it on myself, and really, I was being rather melodramatic.

I'm not sure what about these particular two occasions caused them to be saved as the only two such memories I have. In my mind, they have never stood out as remarkable in any way, just examples of something that was a feature of my existence/pitfall to be avoided. Not a daily occurrence, but not an unusual one.

My father wasn't the sole disciplinarian, just the likeliest; I think my mother was more of the "hurts me more than it hurts you" school. I remember her telling me once that "Dr.— is going to see a big, red hand print on your backside." (I think that right there pretty well illustrates how much the culture has changed.) That memory, though it involved no actual violence, has always been far more upsetting to me than the above two (although there are probably other, larger issues at stake there that will require a lot more spoons to go into).

etv13@107: I can only speak from my own case, and only in the negative (ie. I considered it normal, and lacked evidence to the contrary, rather than having any reinforcing examples), but I have a really hard time imagining in what circumstances it would not cause trauma. It's possible (likely?) that there are others my age and of similar cultural background who could say that their parents used corporal punishment, and they turned out just fine. In my case, I think the cultural acceptance actually made it worse, though. Because it was terrifying and traumatic (and also deeply shameful and infuriating) to me, and knowing (or believing) that it was acceptable—even deserved—in the eyes of the world left me all the more isolated.

#134 ::: Statistical Outlier ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 02:23 PM:

Laura Runkle @ #5

I'd say the best predictive test is a two-parter "Will one family member go a little bit out of their way while traveling (or not) to visit another family member?" and "how does one family member react when another one shows up with little or no notice?"

Both happened to me or my mostly-functional family this holiday season. In each case, the more functional group was better at it. My less-functional-family cousins (and first cousins once removed) were surprised that "we let them impose." (their words, not ours.) My words, as the party planner for the Take Down the Christmas Tree Party, was "of course we're having them. What's five more?")

They were also more resistant to the "Quick! let's take a group picture before someone else dies." ritual that's getting re-born. (Our mutual grandmother had that habit and used those words. Minus the "Quick!")

#135 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 02:44 PM:

Statistical Outlier @ 134 - this would be why no member of my immediate family growing up (I.e. parents, brothers, me) lives within a thousand miles of any other member, counting my parents as a unit). I live the closest, being about a thousand miles from my parents. My eldest brother lives about 1700 miles from them, and my middle brother put the Atlantic Ocean in between.

#136 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 03:29 PM:

the invisible one @119: Okay. I myself only found that out about the oven in my apartment quite recently -- I wanted to use the broiler to make croutons, never having used an oven broiler before, so I looked up the manual. If I had had that same problem anytime in the last couple of decades, I wouldn't have known about that solution.

#137 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 03:32 PM:

As an aside, related to the main article but not anything anyone else is talking about -- is it possible for most people to rise from sitting on the floor without using their hands? When I try it, I find that I have no way to exert upward force on my body, other than to push with a hand.

(Just tried it again: I can also manage to lever myself onto one knee, but I gather from the article that doing that also gets a deduction.)

#138 ::: john who is incognito and definitely not at work ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 03:33 PM:

Apel @ 17, Emily @ 19, RainInTheHouse @ 20: I remember a friend remarking once, when I was an undergrad and really lashing out, that I wasn't as polite as I used to be. But I'd never really been polite--more terrified that I'd get the beating of my life if I stepped out of line. Even asking a question like "why?" was verboten. "Respect mah authoritah" was taken seriously in my house. I'd posit "can the child ask the parent(s) for reasons, in any way, without prompting an explosion or a seething rage?" as a test for dysfunction.

Quietly Learning to Be Loud @ 32: You are exactly correct about being expected not to be wrong--the sort of crippling fear that there are things that Must Not Be Done, but that you'd never know what they were until you'd done one of them and guaranteed punishment.

Islandian @ 44: Your father said a horrible, poisonous thing, and I hope this isn't characteristic of his treatment of you. I couldn't blame you if you never wanted to talk to him again.

She pushes down @ 57, Cynthia W. @ 113: The earliest I can remember wanting to kill myself is in 5th grade. For 23 years I thought frequently, sometimes several times a day, about killing myself. After decades of intermittent therapy, I realized I was short-changing myself by farming out details, not giving anyone the full picture, so I went to a crisis clinic and told the therapist I wanted to lay it all out right at the start. So I did, and after twenty or thirty minutes the therapist started crying. I remember sitting there feeling incredibly awkward, trying to console her, thinking "this is not going to be helpful," so I went back once or twice--just long enough to convince her I wasn't in immediate danger of suicide--then I stopped. Of course the suicidal ideation started again. For weeks, any time I was stopped at a corner I had to fight the urge to step in front of each big truck that came along. The only thing that stopped me was feeling that I didn't have the right to do that to the truck driver, who had never done anything to me. Then one day I was downtown, minding my own business, at the corner waiting for the walk signal with an elderly woman beside me, and I heard this squeal of tires to my left and turned my head to see that a driver had run the red light and slammed on the brakes and was swerving over to the corner where I was standing. She bumped up over the curb and stopped about a foot in front of me, her hand over her mouth, an almost comically terrified look on her face, and all these people came rushing out of the building behind me to talk to the lady standing to my left. In they took her, with urgings to come rest a minute and promises of a nice hot cup of tea and--once she had gone in--some last mutterings about "this, after what happened last week," and I stood there wondering what had happened and thinking I'd like a cup of tea too. Then I heard this thunkitta-thunkitta-thunkitta sound, which was the driver backing off the curb and around the corner, and I saw that the light had changed and I had the walk signal. About halfway across the street my leg started to shake, and it got very bad very quickly, making it so hard to walk that I had to sit down as soon as I made it to the opposite corner. As I sat there staring at the sidewalk, wilfully ignoring everything around me and waiting for my leg to stop shaking, I realized that I didn't actually want to die--that what I really wanted was to stop being so goddam miserable. So I went out to dinner to celebrate not being dead, and I made another appointment with yet another therapist, and this time when the therapist said "I think you might be a good candidate for antidepressants" I took her up on it. All of which is not to say that you should be on them--I have no idea what you should do--but that I feel your pain, and that misery is not inevitable, and that you deserve better.

etv13 @ 107: I've been there--surrounded by broken appliances--and in some ways I'm still there, though I'm working on it. For me, at least, it's because seeing the broken appliances provokes feelings of disgust, anger, and/or exasperation, and immediately takes 90% of your spoons.

#139 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 03:37 PM:

eep @133: The thing I notice about your two examples is not just that they involve corporal punishment, but they they involve it given out in anger rather than in considered thought.

Insofar as I feel willing to put myself in a position of judging other people's parenting, I would consider that a considerably greater sin than corporal punishment alone. A person generally can't be fair or non-arbitrary in the heat of anger.

#140 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 04:29 PM:

David Goldfarb @137 -- I have no trouble standing without touching a hand to the ground, from a cross-legged position. I may be using some counter-momentum from my arms to do so.

All -- I continue to read here, and witness, and see folks doing an awful lot of good, hard work as they move forward. Good on you! And thank you for continuing to expand my understandings of how people work. Not to mention helping me figure out how to deal with my own button issues....

#141 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 04:35 PM:

John, who is incognito and definitely not at work @ 138 - that sounds...familiar. Thoughts of suicide were my old comforting, familiar friend for most of my life. I died, sometimes quite horribly, in my dreams up to half-a-dozen times a night, but didn't count them as nightmares. (I learned not to compare weird dream stories with people, ever.) I tried therapy a couple of times, and it always ended up with the therapist either deciding I was too sane for therapy ("Saner than I am"), or that I was too much of a mess to fix, depending on how much I told them. By the time I hit independent adulthood, I had reconnected with some of my sadness, but not with my anger at all, and I thought I had the depression at bay.

Then one night I was surfing the web and stumbled upon a depression inventory. Being me, I had to take the questionnaire. I was a touch startled, when on this perfectly ordinary day, neither good nor bad, my screen lit up in giant flashing red letters, telling me to get myself to an emergency room pronto, or failing that, call a suicide prevention hotline RIGHT NOW!!!! When I got it to stop flashing at me, and cough up my results, I'd scored 29 of a possible 30, leaving me wondering exactly what a bad day would have looked like to this test.

I went around looking for other such tests and took half-a-dozen. The results ranged from mild to severe, but all were unanimous that I was depressed. So I printed out the results of a couple of the less alarming ones, and went to my PCP, who put me on antidepressants. Which led to a miraculous day about two weeks later when I was walking down the street, and felt...strange. And then I realized I was happy. Not happy about something, or pleased by something, but just happy about being alive. It was really novel.

Cue forward twelve years, and it turns out I have a thyroid malfunction. Once that was fixed, I was able to go off the antidepressants, and I haven't had a depressive episode since, despite some serious stressors. My life is unutterably better than it has ever been, no matter that I still have issues left over from, well, the sorts of things discussed in these threads.

My family hasn't noticed the change, and I think that says most of what needs saying about our relationship.

#142 ::: Cynthia W. has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 04:37 PM:

It's really quite lovely down here. Would the gnomish ones like some homemade dutch apple pie?

#143 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 04:39 PM:

@David Goldfarb, #137

It is possible. :) I go to a church with not a lot of formal seating - four rows of pews at the back, then the rest free floor space. (very popular with the families with young children!)

When I'm sitting on the floor, I make a point of standing (as gracefully as possible) without using hands. If done wrong, it does put popping/painful pressure on the ankles, but basically just keep the weight balanced between the two feet and rise. You wind up standing on the outsides of your feet, with your legs crossed.

Clear as mud?

#144 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 05:02 PM:

@137, I don't know if it's possible for most people to get up off the floor without using their hands. I know that it was a challenge set for my grandfather by his physical therapists when Grandpa was nearly 90, and that he managed it, and then called up his kids to brag. (This is not a family dysfunction story, Grandpa was a sweetie.)

I had a sensei when I was in college who insisted that we get up off the floor without using our hands. Once I figured out the mechanics, it wasn't a huge challenge, but it was consistently challenging enough that I noticed it. It was a handy skill to have when the kids were babies, and I was getting up and down off the floor with them all the time (although it is very nearly the *poster child* for "Things Not To Do While Recovering From C-Section"). I could probably still do it in a pinch, if I had to, but I'm very much inclined to say that Grandpa deserved his bragging rights - getting up off the floor without using your hands or pushing off one knee requires good core body strength and good balance, as well as healthy joints. Doing it once may or may not be a test of a cardiovascular health, doing it repeatedly definitely is.

The stand up/sit down test has a sinister history as torture in North Korean concentration camps, where some escapees report that other prisoners were forced to keep at it until they died. Malnutrition and assorted other kinds of poor treatment were also players here, but stand up/sit down was the proximal cause.

#145 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 05:13 PM:

Chickadee @129: Thank you - and a hug for you too. Really nice to have someone who isn't my SO or otherwise close to me state that like they mean it! Also, congratulations on your taking on leadership roles and teaching. As I said towards the end of the previous DF thread, I've come a long way mentally/emotionally in the last couple of years. I -am- now in a leadership & organisation role (voluntary, not in my daily work) and by everything I'm being told, I'm doing well at it. But the first time (more than a decade ago) I was put in a role where I was in charge of volunteers, I looked after them and got the job done well - and drove myself into a crying fit in the storeroom because I found it so stressful being responsible for other people all day every day (for four weeks, in an emergency situation - I was also working hard physically - I think I had the minor breakdown after about two weeks).

Anyway, I have come to learn that I'm actually quite a good leader, without being overly driven to lead (if someone else is doing it, I'll happily back them up; if nobody is taking charge and someone needs to, then I'll do it). In the past, I'd try but be too diffident because I expected people to ignore my ideas, just because I was the one expressing them).

Re. Sitting down/standing up. Yes, legs crossed I can sit and stand again in a controlled, reasonably graceful manner. I can also just about go down into a squatting position with my feet nearly flat on the floorthen let my butt down the last couple of inches, but it's less controlled than the feet-crossed, weight-on-the-outside-of-the-feet method.

#146 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 05:38 PM:
#132 ::: Jacque Nancy Lebovitz @130: have no idea if there's any specific action I should take.

Well this, of course, depends on what you want. If you want to be okay with people touching you, that's one thing. (Or a zillion things, depending on the circumstances of the touch.)

Or, if you want to know when (or if) there are times when you're okay being touched. Or if it's okay for some people to touch you but not others?

Or if you want to be okay with not wanting to be touched...?

Invoke the Shadow operator: "What do you want?" :-)

My issues are more with emotional closeness that with that sort of physical closeness. I generally like being hugged.

However, there was a long stretch where if a saleslady called me 'honey' or 'dear', I'd feel as though my brain was short-circuiting.

What I want at present is less pain rather than having larger goals.

From the link about sitting/standing, if you want to see someone standing up without using his hands:

#147 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 06:03 PM:

David Goldfarb @ #137

Here's an example of standing up from a cross-legged position.

When I took a modern dance class in college (many years ago), we were taught how to stand up without using our hands. It involved starting in a cross-legged position on the floor, then bringing the left leg up and over the right, so that the left foot was flat on the floor to the right of the right knee. Then you reach your arms out forward, roll up on the right leg and let the left leg lift you up.

I suspect that my size would prevent me from managing the maneuver these days, but I was astonished at how easily I accomplished it at the time, once I was shown how to do it.

#148 ::: Laina has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 06:06 PM:

First time I've been gnomed. Can I offer some "not so spicy" pecans left over from Christmas?

#149 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 06:15 PM:

eep, #133: This is my personal opinion on corporal punishment. It should not be taken as prescriptive for anyone else. (Also, possible triggery language.)

1) There are times, especially with very young children (toddler age), when nothing else will work. It should be a last resort, when the child is doing something that will endanger herself or others, but I am unwilling to completely remove the option from the toolkit, especially with a child who isn't very verbal yet.

2) "Spanking" means striking with the open hand on the child's (clothed) buttocks. It should not leave any mark that takes more than 10-15 minutes to fade. If you strike a child with a closed fist or an object, if you make the child strip to be hit on bare skin, if you hit them on the face or anywhere else on the body except the buttocks, or if you leave bruises or other persistent marks, you are no longer "spanking", you are BEATING. Which is not at all the same thing, and is unacceptable under any circumstances.

3) By the time a child is old enough to go to school, sie is generally past the age where spanking is either appropriate or effective, and other measures should be sought.

4) Some children are just naturally wired in such a way that spanking doesn't work at all -- all it does is make them angrier and more determined to do whatever it was that got them spanked. If you have a child like that (and it should be easy enough to tell), DO SOMETHING ELSE.

David G., #137: When I was growing up, getting up from a cross-legged position on the floor without using your hands was considered a mark of being extremely athletic. (having just tested) I can't get up at all without using my hands, even though my legs aren't flexible enough to cross any more. For me, the procedure is: roll onto one hip, use the hand on the same side for leverage to get up on my knees, then get one foot under me and rise the rest of the way, pressing down on the bent knee for extra leverage.

Nancy, #146: I don't like being called "honey" or "dear" by random people I don't know either. In my case, though, I know exactly why -- it's the false implication of intimacy. Endearments are not a substitution for not knowing my name! "Ma'am" or "m'lady" either one is fine.

#150 ::: Tak Of The Archives ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 06:47 PM:

Some signs from my experience.

If you still have a flinch reaction when people try to touch you when you're over 40 - even people you love - there might be a problem.

If your family have met very few of your friends and lovers ...

If you'd choose to never speak to/see a friend or lover again rather than argue with them ..

If you default position when questioned is to lie, with multiple fallback positions ...

If happy families and friendly strangers give you the creeps...

If, as a child, when in trouble you couldn't go to your parents for help because then you'd be in more trouble...

(and, possibly) if you miss dead family pets more than people ...

re: stand up/sit down - I can, from a sitting start, stand up on one leg - the other extended horizontally with the toes en pointe throughout - and then sit again. I've only met three other people who can do this - one Royal Marine, one professional dancer and one skier. I don't recommend anyone try to as it can be fantastically painful if you don't have the right physiology.

I'm not very good with punctuation and sentence structure and I'm a very infequent poster here so I bet myself a cup of tea this post will be gnomed.

#151 ::: Tak Of The Archives ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 06:55 PM:

I have posted here without realising that the ML database links "posts by" according to email rather than pseudonym. It's not a huge problem but if it's at all possible and simple to do could some kind person please unlink, as I hadn't intended my real name to be discoverable in this thread?

I lost my bet by the way but I'm having a cup of tea anyhow.

#152 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 07:11 PM:

#82 & #92: I have sort of been thinking that I avoid cooking because I fear failure and I fear wasting things when I fail. But I should also remember that when I was a kid, the kitchen just never felt really comfortable for me...

There's a terrible triggering news story out today about a mom who abused her son. There's a quote from her confession where she says, "I was getting very wild" -- and I instantly remembered my dad and all the times he predicted that he would "get wild" because he felt he had been provoked in some way ... I don't know how widespread that phrasing is and I don't know what it means, really. For me it meant he would get angry. And there was no "a little angry" with my dad; he was often frustrated, and then when he was angry, he was really really angry and yelled a lot. Looking back, fifteen years after I left that house, I can begin to grasp that that's not okay, that an adult parent should not tell their kid that and regularly scare the kids with his anger. Who here has listened to that Mountain Goats song "Dance Music"? "So this is what the volume knob's for..."

This Fugitivus post is speaking to me, the bit about how if you are allowed to disagree with your parents then you get practice in setting boundaries and being assertive. When I was in high school, I went on a class trip to a journalism convention. I guess my mom must have helped me pack my clothes, and I thought about taking a bathing suit in case there was a pool, but my mom told me not to? so I didn't. And then the hotel did have a pool and I remember saying to the other girls that I couldn't go with them to swim because my mom hadn't let me take the swimsuit, and then there was just this chasm we couldn't cross, where they didn't understand why I hadn't just taken the swimsuit anyway, and I didn't understand how I could have.

#153 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 07:15 PM:

Some children are just naturally wired in such a way that spanking doesn't work at all -- all it does is make them angrier and more determined to do whatever it was that got them spanked. If you have a child like that (and it should be easy enough to tell), DO SOMETHING ELSE.

I have never met a child who was NOT like this, and I can't really fathom why they would respond otherwise. Yes, I tried swatting my toddlers' hands* when they did something dangerous (having heard over and over that sometimes it's the only thing that works), and no, it didn't work at all. Moreover, the effect on me was unpleasant enough that I'm just as glad it didn't work.

*(a) They were in diapers, and (b) if you're going to use corporal punishment at all, I don't see the point of associating it with a sexualized area if you don't have to.

#154 ::: RainInTheHouse ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 10:04 PM:

"I deserve better." These words. They came out of my mouth very, very recently, and it was a long time coming when I managed it to say it, relatively quietly, after a long explosive argument (the same one that had been going on for years). It was and it is HUGE shift to recognize it, but, in a way, more a symbolic than effective thing to say, because saying it to the person who's been giving you grief--and who continued deliberately after having been asked not to--has shown by their behavior that they disagree, even if they haven't thought of it that way. I haven't been physically abused, but I feel I'm no stranger to all the other emotional games played by people, and oddly enough, growing up in a largely functional family that did well giving me refuge from a dysfunctional society, it took me a long time to clue in. These threads have done a lot to open my eyes to what I'd been grappling with and with the SO, because of the dysfunctions I perceive in his family, and that, unlike him, I've been pretty aware in spotting them and not wanting them practiced with the kid. Alas, this difference resulted in screaming fights between us that only ended when I moved out. I still get pangs of guilt over what the separation means for the kid (and having two parental styles--I really hate that but feel I can only keep on doing my best); but frankly, I don't want her to get the life lesson that appearances and expectations and suppressed misery are more important than honesty and respect.

@#126 Fade Manley: You can't change the past, beyond your perception of it. You can only move forward with what you know now, practice with your kids and with their friends, which is not to say nothing. It is a lot.

I'm utterly thankful to these threads and continue to witness and to be educated.

#155 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 10:08 PM:

So, having watched the video I think my problem is with flexibility: I am not able to get my feet far enough underneath that I can get my weight onto them.

#156 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 10:20 PM:

eep @ 133

I started out to write a long post about my ideas of discipline, but decided that it wasn't appropriate for the thread. I'm not sure what I can say that isn't hlepy, except to give you hugs. I remember similar instances of being given too much discipline, including one occasion in which I was given my birthday spankings with a belt.

That being said, I'm don't have a strong opinion on the corporal vs. non-corporal punishment, so much as I have the idea that discipline should ideally be consistent, fair, and calmly delivered.

#157 ::: Melospiza ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 10:25 PM:

I have been wondering how families would rate themselves: define functional and dysfunctional (not so easy) with a continuum between. I picture a ruler. I would place my family around four inches, more functional than most. But my brother, I wager, would mark his childhood much higher; my father, probably lower. The test is partly the self-rating, but also how consistent it is. What's the range? My guess is, the wider the worse.

I was very fortunate. I was loved and cared for and allowed my own choices. But reading these threads has brought new awareness of the problems. Anger, hoo boy. I was once made to stay in the house on a sunny summer day for making an angry face, for looking at my father "that way." The expression of anger was not expressly forbidden, it was unthinkable. Embarrassing. Still working on that one.

I'm the one that got away. The one who didn't fit in, buy in, play the game. I moved three thousand miles from my family as soon as possible, and it was years before I understood why. (I did have the strength and resources to get away due to the functional parts.)

I have learned from reading here that I can never know what anyone else has been through. I am listening. I am crying. And sometimes it hits home so hard I have to stop and regroup. I wish you all well. Thank you.

#158 ::: RiceVermicelli ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 10:32 PM:

Lee @ #149 - I will slap a child's hand if that child is reaching for a lit burner, and one of my hands is already occupied. And then I will turn off all the burners, and we will have a talk, and children will wind up on the other side of the kitchen gate.

And that's about as far as I can go. If we had electric burners instead of gas ones, I'd need a different strategy on part two, because simply turning the burners off wouldn't stop anything from boiling over.

The spanking in that one Sayers story bugs me - it's an example of a dysfunctional thing woven into otherwise incredibly functional family life. The Hon. Peter knows what he has done wrong - he confesses in full expectation of punishment - and the consequences are so predictable to him that he was able to do a cost/benefit analysis on his actions and choose the consequence. Young Peter then has to explain *why* he has confessed in the first place (because he was caught by a third party), and it's clear that if he hadn't been caught, his parents would have expected him to not confess, thereby not putting them out. But once he confesses, the train of events is extremely predictable. After the punishment, Lord Peter and Harriet don't actually offer sympathy, but their behavior is tacitly sympathetic - Lord Peter intervenes on Hon. Peter's behalf with the officious guest who offers to let the boy sit on her lap, explanation of the punishment is offered to the neighbor who offenses were committed against, and it's all just about the least violent violence imaginable. Which does rather lead one to wonder if that officious guest has a point when she suggests that it appears that Hon. Peter is enjoying this and some kind of therapy might be in order. Is it that hard for the kid to get his father's attention? Has this become some kind of game? What the hell is actually going on in this scene? It reads a little bit like Sayers rehashing her responses to criticism of her own family life. (I know of no source of that criticism, but I'm sure she had neighbors and cousins and in-laws.) Like she means to say that corporal punishment is alright if carried out coolly and predictably, and only on children with certain personality types, and what she ends up saying is "my family's just weird."

#159 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 11:33 PM:

RiceVermicel #158: I have not read the story in question, so this may not be directly applicable, but consider the saying "a child learns what they live". The presence of discipline, and/or of violence, are major characteristics of a child's developmental environment. They will adapt to their early life, even if such adaptations don't actually match the outside world (hopefully, their later life). In some cases, these are structured into actual lessons, other times the lessons are incidental.

As you describe that incident, young Peter is demonstrating a bunch of things, which seem to be approved and encouraged by his father:

(1) That he can perform a cost/benefit analysis on his actions, and follow the result even when it means pain up front.
(2) That he recognizes when he's "busted", and is able to take the consequences instead of digging himself deeper.
(2a) That he expects those consequences to be limited and eminently survivable. (That is, basically safe environment, even if it contains a few bruises.)
(3) That he's expected to think about why he's doing things, and be able to explain why he chose some action.
(4) (You note an implication) that if he's done something wrong but knows he can get away with it, keep his mouth shut!
(5) (I infer) that the offense and punishment won't endanger the relationship with his parents, or their support.

That framework may be missing a couple of moral constraints that I'd prefer¹, but it doesn't sound too bad to me. No double binds, no deadly danger, no emotional blackmail, no bait-and-switch.

¹ Though in my own case, lying about offenses wasn't actually an issue -- being on the spectrum, I was late and weak at learning to lie, so my response was to make a virtue of necessity. Funny thing, being temperamentally honest does have its dividends.... On the other hand, I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect a normal nine-year-old to fess up to everything they've done.

#160 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2013, 11:35 PM:

I think Lord Peter's eldest son is Bredon, not Peter -- Lady Mary's son is called Peter. Not that it really matters.

I can see what people mean about appliances not getting fixed and such, but isn't there also another extreme? When I was a kid it always seemed to me that the most uptight families, with the stupidest rules and the most emphasis on "what will the neighbors think," were the kind to keep everything absolutely neat and clean and fixed up all the time.

#161 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 01:27 AM:

Tak of the Archives (who is making me think of Twirlip of the Mists, because I am as yet uncaffeinated this morning):

I've changed the email address to your nick here, despaced, at the classic So your comments are now unlinked from your Clark Kent identity.

Have a biscuit to go with the tea.

#162 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:22 AM:

Dave Harmon @ 159: Your description/conclusion captures exactly why I suggested the story romanticizes corporal punishment in a problematic way. Yes, with all the details surrounding these fictional characters, it doesn't seem so bad. And it's perfectly conceivable that there are real people in the real world to whom those or similar conditions applied. But it's all too easy to say, Well, it was not so bad when Lord Peter punished Bredon, so it's not so bad when Jane Doe punishes Johnny, so corporal punishment must be okay.

My question about whether corporal punishment was less damaging when it was less controversial was inspired partially by OtterB @103, who said the Lord Peter story can get "a partial pass" as being "typical for its time", and partly because I've wondered about it from time to time reading historical novels, especially romances. Reading about characters who took canings or other beatings pretty much for granted, I've wondered, "Can all our ancesters really have been deeply scarred by corporal punishment, or did they just figure, this is something that happens to everybody from time to time, and it's not that big a deal?"

It's a question that's pretty much impossible to answer, though, given that "corporal punishment" includes everything from a slap on the wrist to beatings that leave lifelong (physical) scars, and surely even cultures that approve moderate and infrequent spankings as harmless have never viewed that whole spectrum as uncontroversial. (I sure hope they haven't, at least.) And besides that, it's perfectly conceivable that different people react differently to essentially the same situations. Someone upthread described how troubling it was for them that their childhood room was maintained intact for years after their marriage; at Christmas dinner, my mother-in-law described with some bitterness how when she returned from her honeymoon, her room and possessions were completely gone. Similarly, I was spanked as a child, but only a handful of times, and never after I was ten or so, and based on the description eep gives at 133, it was a qualitatively different kind of experience from eep's, or the experiences of my friends at the time whose fathers whipped them with their belts. My relatively far milder experience is nonetheless something I didn't want to pass on to my daughter, and I'm happy to say we've gotten her to 14 without any corporal punishment at all.

Even if I ask myself, "Was I damaged by it?", it's a difficult question to answer. I'm a reasonably happy person, on the whole, and I love my mother, and I'm confident she loves me. But it's nonetheless an approach I avoided in bringing up my own daughter, and there's a reason for that.

#163 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:24 AM:

As you note, "corporal punishment" is not a well-formed category for our purposes. And that's not just regarding kids -- American adult culture has officially abolished whippings and such, but instead we get various abuses by police officers (and sometimes security guards) trying to "teach someone a lesson". (But almost never for folks who could actually press charges....)

My point, though, was that context matters. A formal, controlled, and limited beating in response to a confessed offence, is one thing -- a kid ''or'' adult is likely to parse that as "natural conequences of their actions", with little trauma. But yeah, the story offers a creampuff review of the idea.

The real questions involve not just degree of punishment, but justice. Vindictive punishments for petty or imagined offences are never going to be just, whether that's a caning, removal of privileges, confinement, or something else. Ditto selective enforcement, e.g.punishing the victim of a crime for daring to report it. Likewise extorting a "confession" regardless of the facts¹, entrapment, unlimited punishments, or punishing people for "crimes" they can't predict or understand... the list goes on, and a good deal of it is codified into Western law.

With respect to kids or adults, the first question is, is punishment reliably connected to violating known rules? If so, it will generally teach in the direction of, if not following the rules, at least "honoring them in the breach" by concealing the offence. Or... does "punishment" come randomly², in response to innocuous actions or "Daddy had a bad day at the office"? That teaches a darker lesson, that "violence (etc.) comes out of nowhere, there is no safe path". Similarly, confiscating possessions or privileges arbitrarily teaches insecurity and distrust of the world. And so on....

¹ And I did once get that last, from a stepfather we'd all rather forget... and who got his suitcase handed to him by Mom within a couple years of that. (We know he was abusive, and that wasn't his only fault.)

² Specifically including in response to something the kid/convict doesn't know they did, doesn't know it was (or it wasn't supposed to be) illegal, or is incapable of understanding.

#164 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:33 AM:

My experience of corporal punishment in childhood was decidedly mixed, though restrained. When I became a parent, I initially bought into spanking (though I resorted to it very rarely) but after my eldest (I think she was about 3) turned around to me with her hands on her hips and snapped "that didn't hurt!" I rethought my position, and went to time-out instead. (My immediate impulse was to hit her harder, and even in the heat of the moment I could see that was a road I didn't want to go down.)

#165 ::: Crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:51 AM:

Uh oh - hey, if you're reading this after already having been catching up, why not just get up, stretch a bit, get a cup of something refreshing and a potty break before you start again? I'm afraid I've been suffering diarrhea of the keyboard today…

Okay, here goes:

#9 Stenopos - sticking up for one's children or others; a very good notion to hang on to in developing the test.

#10 Jacque - distinction between genuine concern for well-being of others, and the appearance of concern…

#various - family roles aren't the problem: but how flexibly (or not) the family deals with them is. #16 Lys "Dysfunction is good buddies with rigidity and compliance." Yes, THIS!

#17 "over-sensitive" - yes, a nicely well-defined flag meaning, "Your feelings Don't Matter." Back to concern for others/respecting the other's agency.

Addenda to my own comment - it's not that an adult isn't allowed to know s/he is doing a thing for the child's own good. (e.g. vaccinations), but that they don't impose this onto the child when s/he is reacting against the hurt/invasion of the act itself.

#26 Cynthia - at particular moments both my parents have done that "turn-about" thing, where my pain was turned into a "I'm a terrible parent, comfort me!" thing. Even sharper than the original proverbial serpent's tooth, eh? (The nadir was confessing feeling suicidal to my mother, and getting her response of "Me too," subtext of "no big deal, we're all like that".) Extra squicky was when, after her own mother died, my mother wanted to mail me a bunch of never-sent correspondence to her own mother, detailing stuff that I presume I was to read and affirm in place of her own mother… luckily, natural inertia kept that from happening.

#76 Finney - keep staying with your feelings and your self: confusion is often the result of being caught between two imperatives, like "I have a right to exist" and "You must not betray family". Even when you're no longer in a place of dependence on those people, habits of mind and emotion die hard, and sometimes only after looking at them a long time, until you discover their true names and can finally separate them from your own self. I hope we hear from you again.

#118 canisfelicis - just admiring, greatly, what you did. I remember having similar "flashbacks", fears of approaching my (now) husband that were seriously disabling, attributable to how family would react when I needed to bring up a similar topic during my time with them. Unwiring those buttons, even just temporarily, is worthy of appreciating - effort, process and result.

#120 Sam - I'm puzzling over why two lists, but the general series of statements seems sound.

(Yet another) Proposed litmus test: do problems of health/living conditions get sorted as/when they come up, or only once the threat of external sanction - alerting the school/child protection services/etc get brought to bear?

And… Sam again - good grief! Is that a story you've shared previously with ML? Would you be willing? It sounds like… wow. Good to see you here, then!

#122 Lee - Oh my…. words fail me, if the attitude of never apologizing to a child is that widespread in the US. I had perhaps been nursing hopes that the parenting "methods" I sometimes read about were outliers and not structural preferences of the larger public.

Oh, eep…. *deep sympathetic sigh* Especially memory one - an adult applying different standards to himself vs others. We know what to call one of those, right? Memory two: punishing a child for already crying? As in "I'll give you a reason to really cry?" Thus communicating both the belief that your feelings are of no consequence, and that he has both rights and power to edit your feelings.

Heh, yes to the reminder regarding the original physical origin of the test: I was rushing ahead so fast that I didn't stop to consider the actual physical test; I do aikido, and that involves a lot of sitting (in seiza: the legs folded up underneath - although people just starting out or having knee problems are invited to either sit in tailor-fashion or on one hip) and getting back up again. Based on that, I figure I wouldn't have the highest possible positive score, but I'd be in the upper ranks of second highest.

I'm getting more and more convinced that "respects the child's agency and expressed feelings/thoughts" is another part of the DFD sitting/rising equivalent, given the number of times both here and elsewhere have mentioned being punished for "looking that way", or otherwise expressing anger at an adult after having been punished for something. (Anyone here ever read Alice Miller's Drama of the Gifted Child/Prisoners of Childhood, and/or For Your Own Good? Those were my first encounters with the notion of an adult and authority saying in my hearing that I had a RIGHT to my own feelings. And that calling them "oversensitive" was not respecting that right.) Voting, on this point, with john who is incognito at #138: can the child ask a question without any fear? And also Jacque at #71, with the question of room for the anger of a child.

Memory: as an adult, breaking down in tears in front of my mother during a discussion, where she had said, "You kids were never angry, and you never put up a fight when I called you indoors for bed in the summer, even if it was still light out." I broke down, as I realized the first thing I wanted to reply with was "That's because you never let us." She started to "shh" gently, "Don't cry, you don't have to cry," with some reference to how this was all in the past and thus my feelings were misplaced. I managed to get a hold of myself long enough to tell her, "No, you DO NOT get to tell me how to feel. I cry because I need this outlet in the here-and-now." Richly ironic, her assertion about "never angry" given how she then proceeded to short-circuit my displayed emotions. And she never seemed to pause to consider how her action then was oh so very much like the rest of my childhood with her.

I'd be less interested in tests involving games or shared tasks, partly because I've seen the skill and energy that goes into "point-counting" by those who know full well they need the help, but resolve to game the system so as to be able to point to some numerical result, as if to say, "See? You couldn't catch me!"

Corporeal punishment: I received very little of it, but grew up fearing both that and the anger of others in general. Despite the "this hurts me more… etc." card, there was no way I was every going to believe that such an act was based on anything except pure power-over. (Particularly as I'd been witness to episodes where the adult in question broke a wooden hanger while administering one "punishment" and, despite a psychology background, didn't stop to listen to herself as she wondered how the force of her striking was leaving her hands sore - the reason for moving to a wooden hanger, by the way.) I've also been on the giving end, once, but was appalled at how I could not separate my anger from the act.

As for regarding its effects as somehow ameliorated by a background where it is (or was) much more common, I'd point at countries that currently allow a high-level of physical violence in the name of "discipline". The only thing that, in my mind, a custom of accepting violence in the name of discipline does is let the extreme abusers cover their acts with the fig-leaf of that name. Considering the notion that people suffered less damage in such a situation makes me very nervous indeed.

Crazy(and readers get a continuous drip feed of why)Soph

#166 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 09:14 AM:

#136, David Goldfarb:

I think I took your comment more as one of looking in the manual, not as one of a specific thing that can be done to ovens. I actually suspect the bottom element isn't working correctly, because it says it's up to temperature (from the thermocouple at the top) before the oven thermometer needle (closer to the bottom) so much as twitches.

To many and various: I'm glad "I deserve better" has helped in some way. I'm trying to hold on to it. My place isn't a complete disaster and I know it doesn't have to be spotless, but there are several things that make me embarrassed to invite somebody over. I also remind myself that I don't have to fix everything at once, because that would be both overwhelming and more than I can afford right now.

Regarding standing up without using hands: I can do that at least 4 different ways (one of which I learned from the descriptions here, but which does not include the one-legged one). But as David Goldfarb pointed out in #155, all of them require the flexibility to get your feet under your centre of gravity while seated, and not everybody can do that even if they're otherwise perfectly strong and healthy. Cross-legged/standing on the outside of the ankles is my usual one.

#167 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 09:17 AM:

Dunno if I'll have time to properly finish this note before I need to go catch the bus, but....

I wanted to note that I also wasn't allowed to show anger -- in my case, I got the "tone argument" any time I got angry. This continues, but I'm deferring to it less these days.

Also, the punishment thing actually is one view on a larger structure, which is how people or a culture go about "social control" -- arranging that some things are done, and others aren't (much). There's multiple levels:

Control: Some behavior needs to be physically blocked -- e.g., taking away the scissors from a toddler, or the car keys from a drunk. It matters what behaviors you target, and how competent you are at control. It does not matter if the subject recognizes their actions. this shades into:

Conditioning: Where the subject is not necessarily expected to initially both know the rule, and respect it, it is sometimes necessary to instill the rule into them. This is not exotic, it's a primary operation for mammalian development. Again, targeting and competence matter, and short-sightedness can backfire.

Interpersonal conflict: Every society has it -- the acceptable methods and techniques vary. This includes renegotiating power relations as people, or their circumstances, change.

#168 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 09:18 AM:

Gnomes in a rush

#169 ::: john, who is incognito ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 10:27 AM:

Cynthia W @ 141: I'm glad they found the cause and that it's treatable.

CrazySoph @ 165: "Respects the child's agency"--I think this may be the elephant I had by the ear.

#170 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 10:29 AM:

Brooks Moses @ 139: The anger (rage, really) is certainly a big part of the issue I have with the way it was handled. The message seemed to be, it's ok for your father to get angry, but if you get angry, he'll get angrier. And that idea embedded within me of a pecking order of anger occasionally played out with the family pets in ways that I am horrified and ashamed of to this day.

Win @ 153: (b) if you're going to use corporal punishment at all, I don't see the point of associating it with a sexualized area if you don't have to.
Thank you for saying this out loud. I hadn't even managed to whisper it in my head, but yes. I was raised with a tremendous amount of (more or less religiously based) body-shame, and the spanking crossed more wires in an already messed-up system.

Crazysoph @ 165: Intellectually, I've started to be able to see the issues that these two memories underscore, but the emotional grasp has been much slower to follow, and it makes such a difference to see someone else articulate them. Thank you.

Re: the broken appliance subthread, in my case, money is definitely an overwhelming issue, but I can see beyond that to where there are other issues in play as well. Money was not an issue (insomuch as it was there), growing up, but there was always a strong "waste not, want not" mentality (understandable since all adult parties involved had some experience of the Depression). Also, I have a lot of trouble with procrastination in general, so appliances, in my case, seem like just one more instance.

I've had a mental bookmark on the concept of Loss Aversion for a while now, because I think having a better understanding of it would also help me to better understand some of my own hang-ups. I'm wondering now if it doesn't tie in to the more widely observed impulse toward Not Getting Rid Of This Just Yet.

#171 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 12:27 PM:


Unfortunately, several popular parenting modes in America include the assumption that a parent should NEVER, EVER apologize to a child, no matter what.

Seriously? What are they to do when they've been wrong? What are they to do if they hurt the kid accidentally - stand on them, or knock them over? I can imagine adults who *don't* apologise to children, but it's difficult for me to imagine the mindset that would lead to that being given as advice.

(Thank you everyone who's posted - I always try to read these threads; to witness, and to help me be conscious of my own behaviour.)

#172 ::: Hope-in-disguise ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 01:26 PM:

Witnessing, and:

on the "adults apologizing to children" thing, I have a second-hand anecdote. My father, the parent I'm actively grateful for, works with the teens at our congregation (Unitarian Universalist). He was chaperoning at a leadership school event, and when he caught some (high-school age) boys coming back after curfew he yelled at them. The next day, he apologized for his tone, because he was excessively forceful, even though he was justified in telling them off, and one of the boys practically cried, because it was the first time an adult had ever apologized to him. A, like, 16-year-old boy, being raised in one of the most liberal and tolerant faiths in America. When my dad told the story, *he* practically cried.

So it's a thing.

I don't, often, bring my concerns to my mother because I remember her always turning them around to "you are making me feel bad so you should feel bad" (in addition to being in recovery, she's depressed). I've gradually been trying to articulate better and stand up for myself, but it's hard, because when I try to set tiny mild boundaries, she acts like I'm saying I don't want her around. Which, well, I don't, I don't like her as a person, but I can never say that, because I don't actually hate her and she doesn't grasp that difference.

#173 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 02:35 PM:

I just woke up from a nightmare. The details... may or may not be relevant, but I don't want to talk about them. :-( The point is, [1] I can't get out of that headspace, and therefore [2] there's a part of me that's convinced I'm going to kill my housemates because at bottom I'm (this part of me believes I am) a psychotic incurable serial killer just waiting for something to set me off, and I can never change that.

I know this comes directly from my upbringing. I know my gestator repeatedly hammered it into my head - that I was untrustworthy, violent, deceitful, incapable of self-control or goodness. I know this is (to be, possibly, somewhat melodramatic) a thought-bomb programmed to go off if I escaped and remind me that the only people who can TRULY love me / put up with me are my jailers. [I'm using re-labeling to try to break some of the societal conditioning around words like "family", "mother", etc. :P]

None of that knowledge makes me any less convinced that they were right; that if I don't kill myself first, I'm going to murder my housemates in gory detail because (I can't stop believing) I'm an uncontrollable psychotic beast and the veneer of abuse-installed self-hatred, now starting to fade, is all that keeps me in check. :P

[I know I need professional help. There are being roadblocks. *argh* I should mention, I'm not at immediate risk of suicide; I'm at the level where my brain is repeatedly telling me to do it but I don't actively want to. :P I've survived worse.]

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone else has had an experience like this? Especially those of you who've cut off or drastically reduced contact with your dysfunctional family members. Do you have wiring in your brain that activates two or three weeks after you get out and screams at you to go back / kill yourself / other noises like that?

#174 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 03:06 PM:

How about the Secrets And Lies Test?

Every child keeps "special secrets," because they're fun (secret clubhouses, secret handshakes, secret codes, secret diaries...) but when family members habitually lie or keep things back from each other, something has gone Very Wrong somewhere, either with the person doing the lying, or with the person they're withholding information from.

It took me 20 years to learn that obsessively and fearfully keeping information from my father was not normal.

@Stenopos, comment #9: Or worse--a father who doesn't understand the difference between fear and respect, combined with a peacekeeping mother who doesn't quite understand that your father isn't just practicing "tough love," but is actually making you feel like shit every time you fail to fit the Procrustean bed.

I'd also like for this weird idea that domestic abuse only involves beating or sexually assaulting your family members to die. I have this sneaking suspicion that "dysfunction" is a wee bit too mild of a word to describe my personal experience, but "emotional abuse" tends to set other people off, especially my mother.

@Apel Mjausson, comment #17: Dear gods, I'm recognizing so much of those.

#1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14 are spot-on, even now.

#2, 8, 9 sound exactly like me in high school and college.

@Quietly Learning, comment #36: Similar issue: I'm academically gifted (actually, extremely gifted, according to the IQ test I was given as a kid. The one with the name that starts with W, can't be bothered to look it up atm). My father, not being familiar with such things, somehow got it in his mind that this meant I had to be perfect, all the time, and that learning was always effortless for me. This was pretty much the root cause of all my problems, as my brother got a lot more slack (he's on the cusp between "Normal-High" and "Gifted", and also isn't the first-born).

For me, it manifests less in paranoia, and more in a bizarre form of impatience. If I can't do something at least halfway-decently the first time, I either panic or give up.

@Dia, comment #37: You forgot option 3: Replacing the item altogether, even if it's actually cheaper to fix it or the slightly-broken item has sentimental value that makes it worth fixing. My parents drive me CRAZY with this one. I also hate the fact that they've started using disposable everything, for no good reason, even when we're eating at their house and there's plenty of space in the dishwasher and time to run it.

@Ross, comment #46: Yikes! I'm afraid I'm on the track to becoming your dad--not because I don't care, but because I don't know how to fix things and am terrified of asking my parents what to do (because they'll yell at me) or my friends (because they'll look at me like I'm an idiot or just grew another head). My shower knob has been broken for 7 months (I've been using the guest room shower) and I don't know whether I should have it fixed myself, or tell the landlord to do it.

@Vrdolyak, comment #90: My father was allowed to be angry, but somehow the rest of us weren't.

...Yeah, time to actually make that psychiatrist appointment instead of saying "I should make an appointment with a psychiatrist."

#175 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 03:29 PM:

The_L: If it's not hlepy to say so, I'd say the shower knob is a 'call the landlord' fix. Very possibly you won't be out any money.

she pushes down: Yikes! Hugs if you're open to them, and sympathy either way. I didn't have that kind of thought bomb, just my standard 'I am doing a new thing WHAT AM I THINKING???' the afternoon/evening before I moved out.

From the sound of that remodel from hell, you're exactly where you need to be, which is far away from your genetic donors. Hang in there; I hope the roadblocks to the professional help clear up soon.

Everyone: I'm still here and still reading, but finding I don't have a whole lot to say about the prevailing topics this time around. (Broken stuff in my parents' house generally only stays that way for lack of funds or, in the case of the slowly-dying gas stove in high school, because a full-on kitchen remodel was coming soon enough. We were all allowed to be angry, though from about high school on I got 'stop crying, we're not trying to upset you, you do this every time we try to have a discussion.' Corporal punishment... I know I was spanked a few times as a small child, but I don't remember it. My parents have occasionally said they thought maybe they should have done it more often, which has never sat well with me but doesn't feed into the overall semi-toxicity.)

#176 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 03:31 PM:

The_L @174: As far as I can tell, it's never wrong to ask the landlord to do it -- and, in particular, for anything that requires hiring someone, you definitely should get them to do it. (I do occasional small fixes around here, but that's only as a favor and because it's less hassle than dealing with a workman.)

Your situation isn't a case of this, but a friend of mine recently bought a rental property and had to tear out the entire corner of the building that housed the bathroom and rebuild it, because the previous renter hadn't told the previous landlord that the tile wall of her shower was falling apart -- and water was leaking through it into the wall and rotting it away. Anything that runs a risk of getting worse or causing further damage should definitely be relayed to the landlord asap!

#177 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:12 PM:

The_L, 174: Yeah... You're not becoming him, unless you torture animals for fun. Anyway, his response to a shower knob would be to rip it out of the wall, declare that since we had ruined it we wouldn't HAVE a shower any more, and scream about how flimsy and worthless the shower knob had been (and by extension, how stupid and worthless whoever had made the decision to buy it was).

A couple little bits: I tried doing the unsupported-sitting-and-standing a couple nights ago, was able to do it (pleasant surprise, as I have always been told I'm disgustingly unhealthy and probably going to die any day now), then tried to do it again at work only to fail completely. I think pants are a factor, I'm not that flexible in some pants and standing up like that requires some flexibility. Also my friend points out that unless you know ahead of time that the goal is to not support yourself, you may get a lower score even when you were able to. Kinda like I always hold on to handrails even when I don't need to, because why not, that's why there's a rail there.

Also, I started reading Toxic Parents, mentioned by J. waaay back up there. It's an interesting book but it seems to have the same problem a lot of those things have for me: I don't need to be convinced that it really was abuse; I knew my father is a monster, even if everyone else couldn't see it or didn't want to believe it. I want a kind of therapy that's less focused on "here's why it wasn't your fault" and more focused on "here's how you stop having nightmares, and how you stop flinching when things move fast around you or make noise, and how you get to be okay with sitting in a position that exposes your feet / neck / other-easily-attackable-areas."

I guess what I'm saying is I think I can deal with the depression now, I have drugs for that, but can I maybe get help with the PTSD now please?

#178 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:12 PM:

eep @170: that idea embedded within me of a pecking order of anger occasionally played out with the family pets in ways that I am horrified and ashamed of to this day.

Very sadly, you are not alone.

she pushes down @173: Do you have wiring in your brain that activates two or three weeks after you get out

Thankfully, nothing as dramatic as what you describe, but I have a recurring dream. I'm living with my parents (or, more precisely, my mother), and wishing I could afford to move out. Then, after a while, I remember that I had lived away from home for a while. Then, I remember that I currently have my own place, if I could just get away and get back to it. Then I wake up, look around, and realize that I am in my own home. It often takes me up to ten minutes of review to reassure myself that I never did move back, even for a little while, after I moved away from my parents' house back in '77. This usually comes up when I'm feeling financially insecure. The frequency of this dream has been falling off steadily, but I still get them once in a while, and I've been out of that house for over thirty years.

The_L @174: How about the Secrets And Lies Test?

ZOMG, that was my mother's big red blinking "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!" Any time she caught any hint that you had a secret, and you weren't sharing it with her, she would go after you like a hungry ferret chasing a prairie dog. I mean, it was compulsive. And she would flip it around so that, if you declined to share your secret with her, it meant that you must "have problems." ::shudder::

And in this environment, the one time I made the mistake of alluding to my "special secret" ... I knew as it was coming out of my mouth that I was already in trouble, and it precipitated one of the most painful and humiliating periods in my childhood.

"emotional abuse" tends to set other people off, especially my mother.

Sounds like your mother could do with some education.

I don't know whether I should have it fixed myself, or tell the landlord to do it.

Tell the landlord. That's their job.

#179 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:17 PM:

The thing about the shower is, it happened when my boyfriend was over, and I sort of...accidentally pulled the knob out of the wall. >.>; It didn't cause water to go spraying everywhere or anything, and I was able to pop the knob back on and turn the shower off, but I'm afraid to use that shower again because I'm afraid I'll pop the knob off again, and panic, AGAIN. (Did I write that sentence? Am I really the sort of person who panics about panicking? Good heavens.)

Landlord knows said shower is reverse-rigged ("H" side runs ice-cold, "C" side runs scalding-hot, and there is no in-between temp, so you have to keep twisting knob all the way left, then all the way right, every few seconds) and hasn't done anything about it for the 1.5 yr I've lived in said condo, because there is another bathroom and another shower, and the other shower works perfectly fine.

Landlord is otherwise awesome about getting things done, the condo is awesome (he remodeled the bathrooms himself before I started renting it, and I suspect he's the one who mis-wired the shower), and basically I feel sort of confused about this, like the police officer who comes across a traffic accident that occurred right on the bounds of zir* jurisdiction.

* I hope no one's offended by made-up gender-neutral pronouns, but singular "their" has always bothered me.

#180 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:22 PM:

she pushes down: My experience is milder and more benign, but if it's any comfort, I have been divorced since 2006, and I will still have dreams where I'm married to my ex/living in that house. Sometimes I even have dreams where I'm living in my childhood house. The mind has patterns, and will bring them up even after circumstances change.

The dream where I was cooking in my childhood kitchen, making dinner for my current household, wasn't upsetting, but it was pretty weird.

#181 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:27 PM:

@Jacque, comment #178: It's not that she doesn't understand the concept of emotional abuse. I know she does; she was emotionally (and at one point, physically) abused by her ex (and I was told, time and time again, that the second an SO hits you, DTMFA because zie will hit you again, even if zie says "I won't do that anymore" and means it). It's more that she's been poisoned by the idea that good intentions somehow erase the harm that was done, or else that she honestly doesn't believe that I have been really damaged at all.

Every time I've indicated that anything was wrong with me beyond clinical depression and ADHD (both formally diagnosed) or that I was interested in doing anything non-mainstream, she's acted as if I was doing it solely for the reaction, trying to rock the boat, and if there's one thing Mom despises, it's people rocking the boat. She just wants everybody to calm down and get along and be nicey-nice, and be the Cleavers or something.

She does this NOW. I am 27 and well beyond the "do things to make your parents uncomfortable" phase, but she seems to honestly think I'm trying to freak her out or upset her or something.

"Why do you play Dungeons&Dragons, Laura?" "Why are you dating somebody who isn't Catholic?" "Why are you hanging out with Pagans, Laura?" "Why are you trying to be weird?" FFS, woman, I'm not in high school anymore.

#182 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:35 PM:

The_L: If no water sprayed anywhere, it may have just been the decorative plastic knob piece, not like a functional chunk of knob, so if it comes off again and you don't want to deal with the landlord, just epoxy it back on. Upside-down of course so the label is correct this time. :)

And actually, unpacking how I know that, there was a period of time as a child where our shower knob was a pair of pliers clamped on to the stem because, wait for it... my father got angry and yanked the knob out of the wall.

This is a weird thread for me now.

#183 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:43 PM:

The_L @181: "Why do you play Dungeons&Dragons, L?" "Why are you dating somebody who isn't Catholic?" "Why are you hanging out with Pagans, L?" "Why are you trying to be weird?" FFS, woman, I'm not in high school anymore.

In your place, I would be seriously tempted to answer each one of these questions with a completely deadpan, "Just to freak you out, mom." I wonder if, after the fifth or sixth repetition, she might start to twig that maybe, just possibly, there's more going on here than she's giving credit for.

She sounds like she's definitely of the "But what will the neighbors think!?" school. (Forgetting, as is so common with people who feel this way, that their school is not the only school.)

#184 ::: Jacque waves for the mods ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 04:45 PM:

The_L: I wonder if pseudonyming is in order for the last paragraph of @181?

#185 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 05:05 PM:

@#184: Jacques, I'm honestly not concerned. The odds of anybody who knows me well enough to identify me coming to this particular corner of the Internet and reading this far down the comment thread are slim to none. Laura is a fairly common name, and my parents are the sort who avoid non-essential internet-surfing in general because Downloading Things (which appears to be a very broad term, moreso than is implied by general usage) gives you viruses or somesuch*. My brother installed Chrome on my mother's computer months ago, and I had to tell her what it is last time I was over (and I'm still not sure how well she understands).

That, and frankly, I'm sick of being paranoid on the Internet. I use the same pseudonym and email address on most blogs, and nobody I know IRL reads any of them, so why bother going beyond basic common-sense "don't give out your address/unusual name/credit-card info" stuff?

Literally the only time anybody I know has ever stumbled upon anything I've ever written on the Internet was when I was 17 and my parents found out I was flirting with strangers on forums (in hindsight, they were right about this being a very dumb idea). They knew this because I was living with them, we had dial-up Internet with a password, and the only computer in the house was in the master bedroom--they couldn't not know what I was up to in cyberspace without trying very, very hard.

I only give my LiveJournal to people I trust, and that's a different pseudonym than the one I use everywhere else. I've been keeping my IRL social circle and my online social circles separate for so long it's second nature.

* I know there's a legitimate risk of spyware, Trojans, etc. from bad websites and corrupted files, but my father's knowledge of pretty much everything computer- and virus-related has been out of date since roughly 1995. Beyond basic setup, he's not exactly handy. Mom's strictly end-user, and has internalized "I'm not good with computers" to the point that I've had to teach her really basic things about Word and MSPaint over and over because she's afraid to figure anything out for herself.

#186 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 05:13 PM:

she pushes down @ #173: if you seriously believe that you are likely to kill either someone else or yourself, please call 911 or whatever the equivalent number is in your place of residence.

Roadblocks be damned. No roadblock could conceivably be more important than your LIFE.

#187 ::: Lila apologizes for inappropriate tone ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 05:19 PM:

Upon rereading that sounds angry instead of panicky, which was how I felt when writing it (panicky, not angry).

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the tone.

I am worried and didn't mean to sound harsh.

#188 ::: The_L got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 05:35 PM:

Hm. First time for everything, I suppose. I'm guessing a teal deer was involved, or else that I let myself get too emotionally involved in a post again. (Whoops.)

So, to sum up the gnomed comment, in less icky language:

I'm not really concerned about anyone "finding me" on the Internet anymore, because it's extremely unlikely such a thing would actually happen. Nobody I know IRL who'd react badly has enough shared interests with me that it's even remotely likely.

Also, my first name is pretty darn common, so it's also unlikely that a random Internet person is going to track me down based on that alone. :)

#189 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 05:48 PM:

The_L: Cool. Just checking.

#190 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 06:10 PM:

#187 The_L

Gnoming is usually less contextual ick and more "uh-oh, something in here is something that spambots like to do" (too many URLs, weird spacing, certain keywords.)

@ she pushes down, re: nightmares

I haven't had the experience you describe, but I have had the experience of some hamster wheel in my brain going "suicidesuicidesuicide" and the rest of me going "oh, for eff's sake, really?"

In a previous DFD thread, someone said that for them suicidal thoughts were their brain speaking in symbols, trying to communicate the fact that they were in pain. That was an extremely helpful idea for me, and perhaps it will be for you, too? Maybe your dreams, and other scary-violent thoughts are in the same category -- they are not real, they are not you. They are your brain trying to talk about something it doesn't have the language for.

#191 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 06:31 PM:

Thank you, everybody who answered my last comment. I'm feeling rather better now.

Lila, sorry about the panic. It's always good to have this stuff in multiple places, so I will promise y'all (as I've promised my LJ flist) that I will call for help if there's an immediate risk of my hurting anyone, including myself.

In this case, the risk wasn't immediate; it was (happily) a situation where posting provided a safe overflow outlet for the noise that was filling my head, and kept my hands busy until the "you could hurt yourself with THAT! or that! or that!" suggestions stopped being importunate. :P It was... passive rather than active suicidal ideation, is that the right term?

(I'm fairly sure it is a bad part of my brain that thinks the way to continue that paragraph is with "and there was never any real risk to my housemates anyway", implication being that their safety is more important than mine. o_O There was and is less risk to them, though; my fear of hurting them was based in a kind of Jekyll-Hyde ideation, whereas only the Jekyll personality actually exists - I know that for 100% sure. The Hyde exists only in my incubator's imagination, and in the view of myself she planted in my head. I just couldn't get my brain to stop repeating the memory of being a Hyde-type character from my dream. :P)

#192 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 06:32 PM:

Ross #177: more focused on "here's how you stop having nightmares, and how you stop flinching ...

The school I'm familiar with is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. There will be "homework" -- exercises to practice and bring into daily life. There are also some more specific methods used in treating PTSD and the like (and yeah, sounds like you qualify), but I have no personal experience with those.

#193 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 06:33 PM:

The gnomes seem to have stumbled over “stumbled upon”. (Speaking of “being paranoid on the Internet.”)

If the spammers ever start using William Carlos Williams parodies, we might have to shut down the site.

#194 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 06:36 PM:

And Merricat @190: yes, exactly, the hamster wheel. In situations like that, it fills my brain with its chattering and makes me fear that I might do what it says, but it doesn't have any actual leverage.

(Aaand now I'm going to be picturing the Hamster of Suicidal Thoughts, rather like the Black Rabbit of Inlé, running in its little wheel and yammering at me while I placidly ignore it. *files in Helpful Mental Images folder* XD)

#195 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:00 PM:

Deliberately not nymed; it's a generic story with no names.

Had a rather disturbing conversation yesterday, with the (very nice, fifty-something) director of my handbell choir. He mentioned (on the occasion of my birthday) that "it's a good thing my father isn't here; he believed in birthday spankings." He went on to relate what he obviously felt was a funny story about his 18-year-old niece telling his father "no birthday spankings any more" and his father, being "stubborn", giving her birthday spankings anyway. I pointed out that this was abusive; the niece had set a boundary and her uncle had deliberately violated it. He couldn't see what I was concerned about; he just thought it was a funny story. "She should have known better; he probably wouldn't have spanked her if she hadn't said anything." (Blame the victim much...?)

He's a nice guy. He's generous and kind. And he honestly couldn't understand why I might not think his story was funny.


#196 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:03 PM:

Re: story -- Her grandfather, not her uncle. Sorry for any confusion.

#197 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:16 PM:

Ew. My grandfather did "birthday spankings," but stopped when we were, like, 8. Who even does that to kids anymore, let alone to a grown woman?

#198 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Checking in with a quick observation (haven't caught up in the thread) that occurred to me while going through some of the last of my late grandma's stuff with my cousin (who is doing the lion's share of the muck-out-the-house work, God bless him).

In a FUNCTIONAL family, the go-through-the-stuff, decide-what-is-personal, what-can-be-sold process can be HEALING! It can reaffirm all the family norms and memories and family stories, as each object brings a story to the surface (like the craptastic crayons-on-fabric-and-iron-it piece of 'art' I made her when I was 4 AND SHE KEPT IT ON THE WALL THIS WHOLE TIME), and younger family members who weren't present for the event can get it all told to them in the right order.

Wow. That's what it's supposed to look like, I think. And I really, really wish ANY of the generation before mine were less wrapped up in their STUPID EGO-SOAKED DYSFUNCTIONAL BULLSHIT, so they could have been there and answered some stuff I'm not old enough to know.

Dammit. :-/

#199 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 09:03 PM:

(still not caught up)

Another source of diagnosticness, though I'm not sure how to set up the test, is a class of problems I've come to call "All Right-Thinking People".

There are a lot of household tasks that, over time, a family or individual optimizes (or 'optimizes') a solution that seems to them to be self-evidently, experimentally-proven to be Right. In a moral sense. As in, "All Right-Thinking People do it this way, because obvs. it IS THE WAY".

Laundry, for example. The way my MiL does laundry drives me UP A WALL: she takes an entire household's-worth of laundry and microsorts it into tiny, tiny loads (considerably smaller than what I consider the minimum-size load it is at all practical to do in that washing machine), then does 20-35 loads over the course of two entire days.

This would only be a little bit annoying, except for the fact that she did it IN MY HOUSE with OUR LAUNDRY in the month-after-kid-born period when they were helping out, so I constantly felt like *I* was 'forcing' her to spend two entire days doing fucked-up busywork instead of being done in TWO LOADS, which is all it takes me to do the same week of clothes.

It's an All Right-Thinking People problem, because she is certain her way is optimal and I am certain mine is.

Doing dishes by hand is another such fraught region, as is loading (and prepping the dishes for) the dishwasher.

It amazes me constantly that my partner and I are STILL stubbing our mental toes on newly-observed All Right-Thinking People problems, when we have been LIVING TOGETHER for MORE THAN HALF MY LIFE.


And in a dysfunctional family, neither participant is going to be willing to budge one inch because MY WAY IS GOOD AND I HAVE FOUGHT AND DIED on that hill to MAKE it my way, GET AWAY FROM ME YOU GENOCIDAL PERSON.

Making subsets of the family do laundry or wash dishes in unfamiliar surroundings (with undocumented locations of necessary ingredients, etc) would probably produce more fractures among dysfunctional families.

This would be why going on long vacations together in, say, rented bungalows, can lead to horrendous legend-making weeks of horribleness, methinks.

#200 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 09:17 PM:

abi @97, in re noncompetitive games: I bet Apples to Apples would work a treat, simply because of its entirely Rorschach-test nature. Especially if the experimenters have doped the decks to be, say, heavy in cards of the "My ___" (my bedroom, my mother, my family, my love life) format.

Watching both (a) what cards what family members use to try to 'play to the judge'/influence their chance of winning by addressing THAT judge's sense of word-meanings and (b) how the judges react to being GIVEN those particular cards as 'a joke' or 'because it's so you', would definitely be therapeutically useful, methinks. You could also stack the green-cards deck, of course. Fully stacked decks would improve replicability. :->

It is still mildly competitive, I suppose, but FAR less so than Monopoly, especially if, say, once someone has 'won' two tricks/rounds, they drop out of the game until everyone's had two? I dunno, some house rule to preclude 'a winner', maybe.

#201 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 10:14 PM:

Ross @177: Offered in hopes it's not hlepy: The term for the kind of therapy you're wanting (or at least one common version of it) is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy -- it has the focus of "how do we reprogram your brain so that you get the behavior you want rather than the behavior you've got now." There are therapists who do that, and that's the general keyword to look for to find them.

Also there's some really weird stuff with rapid-eye-motion and such that's recently being figured out as useful for PTSD. ( has a description.) It sounds sort of like a Stephensonian "we hit your brain with this perceptual pattern and hey presto we get root access" sort of woo-woo, but my therapist says it really works. Admittedly, he can also be a little woo at times, so I dunno -- but I toss it out there in case it's a useful thought.

#202 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 10:25 PM:

Ross @182 and The_L: FWIW, I would advise against epoxying the knob back on -- usually they're held on with a little set screw, which is because they occasionally need to come off for maintenance or whatever. If you epoxy it on, the plumber who eventually has to repair the mis-plumbing will curse you.

Also this sounds like a case of a mildly dysfunctional landlord, which complicates things a bit. A shower that only "works" if you are continually moving the knob around is a prime example of the sort of broken thing that a person ought to get fixed rather than making other people live with, and "there's another shower" is no excuse.

#203 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 10:46 PM:

Tolstoy was right. It would be hard to come up with a single test, but there are recurring themes, aren't there?

I am mostly listening, and cheering folks on quietly from the sidelines. But i but follow this thread with such interest because I recognize echoes from my childhood:
- a parental unit gets to have temper tantrums when ever.
- the peacemaker parental unit - Interpreting for the grumpy one "well, what your [other parental unit] really meant was... And [other parental unit] is worried about you"
- childhood memories of the dread and fear palpable through the entire house as an adult's temper tantrum rages - that is what I remember, both in general and about corporal punishment in our house. It was done in anger. In a way that was totally normal in that time and place (open hand on clothed behind) but it was almost always part of an adult anger reaction and usually aimed at the famliy scapegoat (which I was not). But the pervasive dread of having to deal with a raging out of control spouse still routinely asks me why I am afraid of making the spouse angry. Ask anyone outside our relationship, and they would ID me as the opinionated one, so it isnt that i am a shrinking violet..but my spouse still has to say "it is OK, I'm not angry" regularly....and my parents have absolutely no clue of the lasting effects of their behaviors. Well, perhaps they occasionally wonder why none of their children have reproduced.

Oh, the dread I felt. One night I went to the kitchen after a fight and there was a big old knife thrust into the cutting board. Bam! Slammed into solid wood. I used to tell that story as a joke.

Jokes to diffuse tension - that is something that has been obliquely mentioned but not much discussed. Hard to distinguish, but there is a huge difference between good humored joking and jokes used as a tool to manage stress (and people)

My adult relationship with my parents is different.
There is no room for an adult discussion with my own parents of my childhood. I will never have a "clear the air" conversation, and that has long lasting effects.

We do trivia and mindless chatter very well. And I suspect they wonder why I am so very, very dull.

#204 ::: Mea has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 10:50 PM:

Punctuation remains my downfall

#205 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 11:06 PM:

eep @113 spoke on corporal punishment and queasy feelings.

Being punished or spoken harshly to for crying ('making a spectacle of yourself', 'working yourself up over nothing,' 'trying to [emotionally manipulate]' the parent) is something that happened to me a good bit -- not daily or even weekly, but enough that it seemed regular. I personally remember some of the later occurrences when I was trying my VERY DAMNEDEST (with what later became my dissociative skills) to quit crying, take a deep breath, and generally control myself, and being physically unable to.

Something I constantly have to fight in my own parenting (especially when I'm On My Last Nerve of patience, spoon-low, and therefore reacting on instinct) lissome portion of my hindbrain assuring me, that when kidlet is in one of her 'not listening'/'laughing at early warnings of impending privilege loss' phases, the ONLY THING that will get her attention is physical pain.

Mild physical pain. That won't leave any marks. Not with objects, just my hands. It'll be swift, easy, and certain to straighten her right up and make her quit faffing about.

This voice murmurs most convincingly in my inner ear … and I've been spending so much time strung out towards my last nerve lately that it's getting really REALLY hard to recognize it as a Tempter and not, y'know, MY OWN VOICE.


I've been trying to talk about that for months, and haven't managed till now. So, um. There it is.

Posting before I can take it back again.

#206 ::: Bricklayer needs a nym rescue ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 11:13 PM:

... again. Argh. That'll teach me to hastily post something emotional. :->

#207 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 11:56 PM:

Ross @182, Brooks Moses @201: the rapid eye movement thing is usually abbreviated EMDR, if you're looking for someone who does it. It sounds a bit woo-woo, but it's amazingly effective. My psychologist has used it on both my husband and myself.

It not only reduces the traumatic stress reaction to memories, it helps to loosen up your brain and shake loose the deeper ones that you're trying to hide from, so you can deal with them, but in a calm place because it's helping to release the emotions at the same time.

#208 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2013, 11:59 PM:

Brooks @201: What is woo about EMDR is that no one has a good theory on why it works, and it feels absolutely trippy that it does work. But it is overwhelmingly scientifically validated that using any of a variety of forms of alternating physical bilateral stimulation (moving eyes back and forth, tapping alternating extremities, listening to sounds in differentiated earbuds) while processing traumatic memories decreases symptoms of PTSD.

(So-so and iffy theories on why it works abound, but none of them convince me yet.)

#209 ::: Brooks Moses asks the gnomes for help ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:25 AM:

(On the theory that asking for them by name will get quicker help for Bricklayer's mishap at 205. And also I shall offer some local-dairy brown-sugar-and-banana ice cream, as I had half of it for dessert just now.)

Also, Bricklayer, that's a hard thing to admit. Good on you for being able to put it in a place you can talk about, and hugs offered if wanted.

Thanks to Chickadee @207 and Lis @208 for the extra detail on EMDR; it's pretty fascinating stuff. I wonder if it's related to how a swinging watch can be used for hypnosis, given that that's also back-and-forth stimulation.

#210 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:42 AM:

I think one thing to look for is coherence between the public and the private lives. Functional families are going to act pretty much the same towards each other when other people are watching as when none are. If there's some form of flinching when someone happens upon the scene and could conceivably have heard or seen something they "shouldn't", that would be a sign.

On that note, a quick test (of the physical variety) on small children is seeing how they respond to a suddenly raised hand. A flinch is a bad sign. A high-five would be a very good one.

#211 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 01:28 AM:

From my own experience with PTSD, I'd say that reprocessing the experience while changing something about how the reprocessing is happening (so that it's not just the tapes running again and again the same way) is probably what does good. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it worked just as well to do other things during the reprocessing than what they describe. I could of course be wrong, but that's how it strikes me.

#212 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 01:31 AM:

Bricklayer @200 -- there's a hidden diagnostic in that Apples to Apples game: if one family member is much more accurate than the others in their guesswork, consistently, that says a lot about who's good at actually observing the family dynamic. Now, a certain amount does depend on the luck of the draw in the red cards, but that may be eliminated by the stacking you mentioned.

#213 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 01:49 AM:

Bricklayer @199: such fraught region, as is loading (and prepping the dishes for) the dishwasher.

Last time my favorite house-guest stayed with me, I came home one afternoon after work. "I loaded the dishwasher," he said. "I hope it's all right. I didn't know how you usually do it, so I just kinda guessed." He was looking distinctly nervous. "I hope it's all right."

Freakin' Jesus. Somebody who's a guest cleans your kitchen and loads your dishwasher for you, and is afraid they did it Rong!? I didn't know what to say. This person was obviously the victim of some pretty dysfunctional conditioning. When somebody cleans your kitchen for you, unasked, and you come home to find a clean kitchen and a dishwasher load of clean dishes, my only possible response is, like, "Thank you!"

Some people's children, is all I can say. (And, yes, I went to some effort to reassure my guest that I was just fine with what he'd done. Don't know how successful I was.)

This is not to say that I am unfamiliar with the "but it's a quarter-degree off true" *twitch* *twitch*. BTDT, worn out the t-shirt. But, crikey. Priorities? Perspective?

Mea @203: Tolstoy was right. It would be hard to come up with a single test, but there are recurring themes, aren't there?

Well, I'm not convinced that Tolstoy was right. Given that, when things are going well, people aren't so motivated to compare notes, so his comparison may be largely sampling bias.

But the sit/stand test is elegant in that it tests a number of capabilities simultaneously. Perhaps one step in figuring out a test would be to identify the systems that work in a functional family, versus the ones that are broken in dysfunctional families. We've identified:

1. Respect for boundaries
2. Respect for individual experience
3. Respect for feelings
4. Recognition of individual priorities
5. Reliable personal safety
6. Attention to the impact of one's behavior on those around one
7. ...?

Bricklayer: Yeah, that Tempter. I spent much of my childhood a slave to it. I've mostly got myself into a place in adulthood where I can push it back, but it does take strength, I can very easily see where the strength required would be Too Much when one is already played out. Even now I get angry and snappish if my guinea pigs are demanding Service and I'm out of spoons. It's a hard one.

B. Durbin @210: I think one thing to look for is coherence between the public and the private lives.

DING! Yeah. Speaking as spawn of an alcoholic family, this one really resonates.

#214 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 01:50 AM:

Bricklayer@200, Tom Whitmore@212 - There's another more obscure game called Scruples, which works by posing moral dilemma situations, and then asking the other players to predict which direction the player currently on the hot seat will react. It might have similar informational value, in terms of not just how the players answer the moral questions, but how well the other players can predict their reactions.

Of course, it should be noted that the first edition of Scruples was recalled and replaced with a second edition with much less fraught questions after the manufacturer was threatened with a lawsuit by several divorcing couples. So the potential for tension and conflict is a lot higher than with the relatively benign Apples to Apples.

On the other hand, it seems like they might show different things. I do well, but not overwhelmingly well in Apples to Apples with my family. I kick all their butts at Scruples, to the point where nobody will play it anymore.

#215 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 01:50 AM:

Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce? Or the guinea pigs might offer some of their dinner salad.

#216 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 02:12 AM:

I wonder if 1000 Blank White Cards would serve the diagnostic purposes we're casting about for.

For those who've never encountered it, 1000 Blank White Cards is essentially Calvinball: The Card Game. You make up the cards as you go along and it's not so much a game you win as stop playing when you run out of cards (or game-playing spoons, whichever comes first).

At the very lest, I imagine it'd reveal quite a bit about what the players find funny.

#217 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 02:13 AM:

Dave @158:

I always assumed that, since Sayers ignored Lord Peter's children (and step-children) for the majority of the books and just trotted them out for a couple of scenes, their relationship with Lord Peter was very hackneyed because Sayers just didn't have a grip on them as characters. I remember my first thought was "hey, where did these kids come from?"

I also assumed that the 1930's upper-class British social norms for corporal punishment were very different from 2000's America.

#218 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 04:33 AM:

My mother would pick at me (memories not available) until I cried, tell me off for crying, and then keep going even though I'd stopped crying. I'd stopped because I'd run out, not because I was afraid of her.

Oddly, this is not filed under especially awful memories. It's more like "what was wrong with her?"

My sister and I would comfort each other. The time when we were both in bad enough emotional shape that we couldn't do that is filed under bad memories.

#219 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 06:49 AM:

@Bricklayer, comment #200: I've never played the original Apples to Apples, but I discovered Cards Against Humanity (same basic idea, but all the answers are horrible--this game is easily Googled and has a free PDF version on its website to browse if you're morbidly curious)* at a New Year's party.

My first thought was, "This game is so twisted, but so much fun! I want to share it with my brother. He'll get a kick out of it."

My second thought was, "Oh gods, if my parents find out that I even know this game exists..."

* Examples of potentially-horrible question cards (I'm leaving out the ones that are automatically horrible or X-rated regardless of context): "What is Batman's guilty pleasure?" "What ended my last relationship?" "What will there be a lot of in heaven?"

Examples of potentially-horrible answer cards (same disclaimer as the question cards): "Michael Jackson," "Licking things to claim them as your own," "Exactly what you'd expect," "My grandmother."

@Brooks Moses, comment #202: That's the thing, I'm honestly not sure if landlord is dysfunctional or not. He's also said he's planning on replacing the carpet as soon as I move out (because it was OK when I moved in, but a bit worn). I'm hoping it's because he only expected me to live here a year or 2, and figures he'll do both projects at once. There's enough corroborating evidence that the previous tenant only leased for a year or two as well, and he probably did other remodeling projects before THAT tenant.

Mea, #203: You've been watching my parents, haven't you? I constantly apologize to my boyfriend, and he has to constantly tell me that I don't have to apologize. At which point....I apologize for apologizing.

Nancy, #218: Oh gods, that's....ugh. The fact that that isn't even filed under "awful" speaks volumes all by itself. Major e-hugs. :(

#220 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 08:38 AM:

Hey The_L, do you live in Pittsburgh? Because if you do I think we went to the same New Year's party. :)

#221 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 08:48 AM:

Because it's scary, and admitting here that I'm doing it will help validate to me that I'm brave for trying it:

Today I start a park district yoga class in which I will attempt to be taken seriously as a dude.

#222 ::: Bricklayer got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 08:49 AM:

Very short comment, probably punctuation. The gnomes can have some of my daughter's leftover breakfast dino-shaped chicken "Fun Nuggets" if they want. :->

#223 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 08:57 AM:

Carrie S.: No, sorry. I've never been to Pittsburgh (but I have been to Philadelphia and found it quite nice).

#224 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:02 AM:

Cynthia W. #214: I instinctively refused to play that one with my family. Even years ago, I could spot that as a bad idea.

#225 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:10 AM:

The_L: Huh. Some other person with a common name beginning with L who found out about that game on NYE, then. Coincidence is fun.

We had a little too much fun with CAH, basically making a party game out of reading the cards. By the end, the answer to everything was either "balls" or "the Mormon Tabernacle Choir".

#226 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:11 AM:

Bricklayer #199: It sounds like your Mil is failing to adapt to more relaxed circumstances. That sort of microsorting might help preserve fancier clothes, but baby stuff?

Josh Berkus #217: Oh, I'm sure it's a set-piece. But by the same token, this is the author trying to "show, don't tell" something of Lord Peter's character (and possibly their own), and interesting in that regard.

#227 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:23 AM:

Bricklayer @221, and for that matter, @205. You are doing hard things, and I applaud you. Go, you!

#228 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:42 AM:

Carrie S. @225: During an overnight marathon that introduced me to Apples to Apples, the assembled opined that all green cards can be sorted into two piles: the ones automatically won by "Festering Wounds" and the ones automatically won by "Charging Rhinos".

Crunchy? FW. Delicate? A judgement call, but probably CW. Tasty? FW. And so on.

We also play card-mancy -- at the end of the game you look at the green cards before you and attempt to come up with a character they all fit. Once, I was clearly Superman. And once, I was clearly some newly-marketed soft drink ...

#229 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:46 AM:

Dave Harmon @226: She does it by color. I, on the other hand, sort by 'how it can go into the dryer' -- so I have a lot of ordinary perma-press-medium (further subdivided, if volume requires, by how easy they are to sort and fold if mixed together), the jeans-and-towels load on hot, and the do-not-dryer stuff, which is rarely a whole load, so it goes (thanks, Jacque!!) into zippered delicates bags to be fished out more easily upon the transition to the dryer.

I was raised that washers are most energy- and water-efficient on their biggest or second-biggest load size, so I try to make all my loads that size (and either club together loads to reach it, or wait until enough has accumulated).

Then you get into the religious arguments about what Should Be Hung (on hangers, in closets) and What Should Be Folded (in drawers). Not to mention how to fold it. And how to bundle (or not!) the socks. Seriously, I have been party to or witness to near-screaming fights on the whys and wherefores of all these things.

#230 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 10:39 AM:

Bricklayer: Good luck with the class!

#231 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 11:20 AM:

EMDR: Yeah, I had heard about that, and what everyone here says kinda matches my feelings: it anecdotally works but no one knows why, and it seems like it shouldn't ought to.

I definitely have something to talk about with my therapist next week though: switching things to focus on PTSD instead of depression. Done with depression now I think. I can handle that myself.

Apparently the other major PTSD treatment is "exposure therapy." Does that mean what I think it does? Because I don't really want to be exposed to more of the things I have nightmares about.

Speaking of, last night was a great one: I was at my childhood house, and it was on fire. My parents were happy to sit and watch it burn down, and I was trying to put it out and yelling what is WRONG with you, the HOUSE is on FIRE, and they just kept laughing at me and telling me I was putting it out wrong. Everything was going okay despite this, until someone took away my fire extinguisher, then I started losing control of it and decided to run to my room to save one thing before the house burned down, only I couldn't decide which thing, and I woke up hyperventilating and terrified.

Sorry, that was kind of rambling.

#232 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 11:47 AM:

I personally tried EMDR with a therapist, and it didn't do any particular good for me. This is an anecdote and not intended to reflect any other person's experience. It certainly seems to work for a lot of other people. And it's a relatively low-cost method to try (no recurring cost for prescriptions, for example).

#233 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Josh@217: Lord Peter isn't married until the last novel, and there are no stepchildren. So no, they're not being ignored.

#234 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:20 PM:

Russ, #171: What do these adults do if it turns out they were in the wrong? Nothing, because they can never be in the wrong. The least-toxic response is to continue on as though whatever it was never happened; the most toxic is to blame the child for it. ("Well, you wouldn't have been knocked down if you weren't underfoot all the time!") The parent is NEVER WRONG.

James Dobson's popular parenting books are one of the places where this advice gets handed out. There's another one (or it might be Dobson again) that I remember seeing, where there's a huge emphasis on "who is the Alpha in your family" and any degree of consideration for the child's feelings is labeled "letting your child be the Alpha". (It's not phrased exactly like that, or I could look it up -- but there's some equivalent catchphrase that I cannot bring to mind.)

The_L, #174: "Emotional abuse doesn't exist" is largely the province of people whose families were not abusive, and who are therefore unable to grasp the difference between something that happens OCCASIONALLY in pretty much all families and a recurring, toxic pattern of behavior. And it's nearly impossible to convince them otherwise.

Jacque, #178: I never damaged a pet, but I sometimes wonder what a competent professional would have said about the way I occasionally treated my stuffed animals.

With my parents, the "secrets are unacceptable" thing was another boundary issue. If you had a secret, it must be something Bad or Shameful, because "if there's nothing wrong with it, why can't you just TELL us?" The idea that there might be anything about my life that was none of their business was just not on the table. And then they would make up the most amazing flights of fantasy about what the secret actually was -- and BELIEVE them, convince themselves that this was actually true, because if it wasn't that, why wouldn't I SAY what it was. This is at least partially an authoritarian issue -- but I consider the authoritarian family model to be abusive by definition.

The_L, #181: My parents had that "it's all about US" thing too. They never could accept that they were not the center of my universe, that I might do things for reasons that had nothing to do with them. And yes, it's maddening.

Cassy, #195: Furthermore, a grandfather spanking an 18-year-old woman has some very creepy sexual overtones.

You might also want to point out to your handbell director that if his father or anyone else were to attempt to give you a "birthday spanking", that would be ASSAULT and you would not hesitate to file charges. Just in case he gets Ideas.

My father attempted to spank me (for disciplinary reasons) once or twice when I was a teenager. Fortunately, by that time I was physically stronger than he was, and I fought dirty. He was not allowed to lay hands on me like that.

Bricklayer, #199: Your laundry story reminds me of an old Cathy strip. Cathy is getting ready to do her laundry (at the laundromat), and her mother is hleping. "No, no, you're doing it all wrong! Whites go with whites, darks go with darks, brights go with brights, delicates go with delicates..." and eventually she's got 8 or 9 piles of laundry. "See?" Cathy's response: "I see that it's going to take me $21.75 to do my laundry." (And this was back in the 70s or 80s, when $20 wasn't the price of an impulse item.)

My mother would definitely have done the laundry like your MiL. My approach is closer to yours, although I do know I have to be careful not to wash any of our tie-dyed stuff in the same load with white or light-colored things that I don't want stains on. But that's a practical issue, not an All-Right-Thinking-People one.

Somewhere in a story I read an opinion to the effect that the All-Right-Thinking-People mode is effectively a child's view of the world. Like the 6-year-old who is certain that her family's grapefruit spoons are REAL grapefruit spoons, and the ones used by the family next door (in a different pattern) are not. I wish I could remember where I saw that, because it hit me very strongly at the time.

Jacque, #213: Not to mention that it's hard to load a dishwasher in a way that will actually harm anything in it. Not impossible, but very difficult.

Your guest probably had a mother like mine. Whenever I tried to do anything to "help around the house", I got a lecture about how I had Done It Rong, followed by my mother doing it over. Then they wondered why I almost never tried to help around the house.

Bricklayer, #221: Good luck!

#235 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:37 PM:

re "real grapefruit spoons" there's a bit in The Screwtape Letters about when you're a child, you go do someone else's house and their fish knives are different, and to you "they're not proper fish knives at all!" (Who has fish knives?)

#236 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 12:40 PM:

I mentioned Cynthia W's comment at #214 to a friend, and he mentioned a super old board game called Group Therapy. One description of the rules:

"Each player moves along a track and draws the appropriate "Therapist" card, performing the stated actions on the card, such as:

- Hold each member of the group in a way which shows how you feel about him.
- Pick a way in which you are phony and exaggerate it.
- Describe a significant way in which you use your friends.

After a player responds to a drawn card, everyone votes to determine if the player was "with it" (acted honestly) or "copped out" (was not open with the group). The player's piece is moved according to the results of the group vote.

This game was featured on an episode of "All In The Family" and has a definite late-sixties/early-seventies feel to it."

Honestly, that sounds like a recipe for disaster in all but the most functional of groups.

In attempting to find out more information about Group Therapy, I also stumbled across this board game, which I include not because it would be a good diagnostic, but because it keeps making me giggle.

Bricklayer @221: Huzzah for difficult things! I am sending good thoughts your way.

#237 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 02:01 PM:

Merricat @236, ugh on the Group Therapy game. I am, in general, a fan of being open with other people, but that one would make me opt for a policy of maintaining civil relationships by NOT telling people what I really think. Some unspoken thoughts are best left that way.

#238 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 02:36 PM:

@Bricklayer: I had a sock incident with the boyfriend already. My family bundles socks by stretching one sock around the other. (Since I tend to wear out socks at an astonishing rate before the elastic has a chance to give out, this works fine for me.) Once, he and I decided to do our laundry together; I offered to fold. All was well until I got to the socks. Not only is he a loose-socks-in-the-drawer kind of guy, but apparently diabetic socks aren't supposed to be folded like that at all for Important Reasons.

@Lee: That would explain a lot. She's been, reliably, pretty much the only person who can calm Dad down when he starts one of his shouting matches, but until that one time where I clocked him at 2 hours (when there's a clock on the wall behind him, you don't dare leave the room or look too far from his face, and there's literally no other stimuli to focus on, you WATCH THAT CLOCK) I don't think she ever believed there was a problem.

Now that I'm moved out, of course, it's easy to avoid triggering Dad, and things are peaceful. But independent-minded children and short-tempered authoritarians with high, narrow standards simply do not mix will at all, much less for a quarter-century.

Also, in re: the dishwasher, it depends. A lot of things that say "Top Rack Dishwasher Safe" are labeled that way because they will warp or melt if you wash them on the bottom rack. I've damaged several plastic items that way, and have become a crazy person when it comes to bento boxes and Tupperware.

#239 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 02:42 PM:

Lee @ 149: "Spanking" means striking with the open hand on the child's (clothed) buttocks. It should not leave any mark that takes more than 10-15 minutes to fade. If you strike a child with a closed fist or an object, if you make the child strip to be hit on bare skin, if you hit them on the face or anywhere else on the body except the buttocks, or if you leave bruises or other persistent marks, you are no longer "spanking", you are BEATING. Which is not at all the same thing, and is unacceptable under any circumstances.

[emphasis mine]

This struck a deep, unexpected nerve, which set off a chain reaction that is still going, somewhat, in my head. My first reaction was surprise at being suddenly confronted with the distinction. That there was a distinction. Followed by a gut repulsion, discomfort. Followed by my mind shrinking away from it altogether for quite a while. Followed by the gut realization that what those two instances of corporal punishment that I could actually remember had in common was that they were particularly spontaneous moments of anger, delivered on the spot, with me "as is".

Which is not to say that there is a direct cause/effect relationship between the punishment style and my lack of memory, exactly. It's complicated, and involves stuff in which I'm pretty sure family dysfunction played a role mostly (only?) in terms of collateral damage (but a lot of it). And at some point, I am going to have to try to find the spoons, to try to find the words, if only so that it isn't just going around and around in my head. My head is both a minefield and a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. But I think that this was one of the missing pieces showing up.

#240 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 03:19 PM:

Lee at 234: Somewhere in a story I read an opinion to the effect that the All-Right-Thinking-People mode is effectively a child's view of the world. Like the 6-year-old who is certain that her family's grapefruit spoons are REAL grapefruit spoons, and the ones used by the family next door (in a different pattern) are not. I wish I could remember where I saw that, because it hit me very strongly at the time.

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, letter #24:

"It is not, in fact, very different from the conviction she would have felt at the age of ten that the kind of fish knives used in her father's house were the proper or normal or "real" kind, while those of the neighboring families were "not real fish knives" at all."

#241 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 03:36 PM:

eep@239, I had a very similar reaction, but in my case it wasn’t unexpected.

On many occasions, I’ve been prompted to sit down and figure out what I think is really going on with that distinction, and I’m going to be polite and keep my more piquant opinions about it to myself.

Instead, I will simply say that I’m unpersuaded that the distinction should be admissible.

#242 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 04:17 PM:

Bricklayer @221: Today I start a park district yoga class in which I will attempt to be taken seriously as a dude.

::GRIN:: This is a Good Thing.

Ross @231: last night was a great one

Yowie! Boy, your subconscious doesn't bother with "subtle" or "oblique," does it?

Lee @234: laundry ... approach

All my laundry goes in a lump into the washer, one load per week. The only thing that doesn't go into the dryer are my cotton slacks, because they'll shrink. Laundry very early on in life got filed under Life Is Too Damn Short.

Merricat @236: this board game ... keeps making me giggle.

Wow! You don't even have to buy an extra module to have Psychosis!

eep @239: My head is both a minefield and a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces.

If you don't already have a practice, I recommend journalling as one approach to deal with this. My experience is that there's something about writing stuff down that drains it out of my brain. Additionally, the act of putting it on paper, however incoherently, both slows stuff down and lays stuff out in a way that can make it much easier to spot patterns and make connections.

#243 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 04:21 PM:

Lila, #235 and Lizzy, #240: That's it! Thank you. I knew it wasn't actually grapefruit spoons, but I couldn't think what it was.

The_L, #238: I think "top rack dishwasher safe" also assumes that you use the heat-dry cycle. We never use anything but air-dry, so I'd forgotten about that.

#244 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 04:24 PM:

@Lee, comment #242: Ah. My father is a dish perfectionist, and my mother is of the opinion that there's not much point of using a dishwasher if you have to dry things later by hand anyway (and those spots left from air-drying Will Not Do to Dad), so we've always used that cycle.

#245 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 04:44 PM:

Jacque: Yeah, not so much. The night before last I was a policeman / detective type and I was chasing, then being chased by, and then having to fight this giant (like 8 ft tall) man who had murdered my mother. Only no matter what I did to him, up to and including shooting him, affected him at all; he just laughed off all my attempts to defend myself or apprehend him.

I've actually had a nightmare every night for over a week now. They stopped for a while when I started taking my new antidepressants. I think maybe tonight I'll take an anti-anxiety pill before I go to bed.

#246 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 07:20 PM:

Wish to say THANK YOU. In general. And in specific, Abi for starting these threads. And everybody here who shares thoughts, behaviors, coping, supporting, everything.

Besides having my new SO to bounce things on/off, having to create coherent sentences to write here to explain what's in my head has helped tremendously. Yes, I realize coherent sentences aren't necessary here, but for me, making my thoughts coherent lets me look at them better.

As to why the thank you, I just completed a job successfully, with someone else in the room, and dealt with the voices in my head without coming out with a stomach tied in knots.

Job: put eight legs on a table top. This means screwing plates into the table top, then screwing the legs into the plates.

Process: Ok, what does "not wrong" look like? Not wrong means finishing it all in one go. Well, that's not going to happen. Arthritis, bad knees, all sorts of reasons, means I need to take breaks. Do I continue anyway? Yes. The person currently in the room really doesn't care. And has displayed that truth a number of times before. I'm learning to take him at face value.

Ok. Next step. What does "not wrong" look like? It looks like "not haphazard". Ok, get tape measure out, measure spacing. That works.

Next step. What does "not wrong" look like? It looks like getting all the screws that hold the plates down to not be crooked. Visibly crooked. Hmmm. SO has this cool hand drill to make pilot holes. I've used it before.

Next step. What does "not wrong" look like? It looks like making all the pilot holes line up so the last screw actually has a hole that lines up with the plate (i.e., the plate didn't move while drilling holes). Simple. The first screw is always ok. Drill one hole, screw in one screw. Drill second hole, screw in second screw. Repeat. Last hole is drilled correctly because it is drilled only after the plate has been screwed down. I sorta allowed myself a shortcut and drilled the third and fourth holes on each plate at the same time. Two screws in? That plate was not going to move.

I now have a 4x8 table with eight legs.

Sticking a label on a problem gives it a handle. Handle can be used to hold it up, hold it down, turn it around (Harry Belafonte song comes to mind), and generally manipulate it rather than let it manipulate me. Oh HUZZAH! Putting a label on it, and discussing its parameters hasn't made it harmless, but it has less of a hold now.

There's a difference in my mind between "right the first time" and "not wrong", but I'm having a hard time getting words to describe it. Let's try this. "Right the first time" is hammering in a nail, nail straight, with no hassles. "Not wrong" is hammering in a nail, nail straight, eventually, but only after missing a few times, with some of those misses being "missed hitting the nail" but not "missing hitting anything". Apparently hitting my thumb was ok, as "everybody did that at some point." The definition of "not wrong" in this case is getting the nail in straight. Having to find out after is one of the many reasons I despise being held responsible for information I have not been given.

#247 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 07:36 PM:

About the sock thing - the boy completely ignores my "ball matching pairs together, who cares about elastic" method, in favor of his "lay two together" method. I use his method when I match his socks. He will not use mine, as obviously I am RONG and wearing the elastic out. I have not picked the great big blown up over nothing ragey fight, and instead, asked him not to do anything to my socks, I will do it, thankyouverymuch. (If he showed any other inclinations to ignoring or overwriting me, I would worry. In almost 10 years, this is the only one.)

I also wanted to say that I am hearing everyone, and cheering us all on.

And thank you to the person who gave me the question, "What will I wish I had done?" That is more motivational for me than several self-help books!

#248 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 07:38 PM:

@Josh Berkus no. 117: Win @no. 233 is correct. Lord Peter has no children until late in the series, although he is a good uncle. The children are first mentioned in a short story in which Lord Peter is (IIRC) sitting on the front steps of his city home late at night, still in shock from seeing Harriet in danger of dying from a labor gone wrong, and getting ready to go back in and take another look at his son--and then a haunted policeman staggers by.

I got a lot of comfort out of the Wimsey/Vane series as a confused young adult because they both had a lot of Stuff to deal with and they failed to deal with their Stuff pretty spectacularly now and then, but they got to a healthy place in the end.

#249 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 07:43 PM:

tamiki @42: "found family" - those can be as valid as any other. (Or as dysfunctional...) My .signature on Usenet, for decades now, has had a Romanovksy & Phillips quote in it, "It's not the pot that grows the flower / it's not the clock that slows the hour / The definition's plain for anyone to see / Love is all it takes to make a family". Er, um, which might be sort of hlepy and/or triggering, now that I look at it in the light of this thread, if so PLEASE take it as a 'sufficient but not necessary' sort of thing.


#250 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 07:45 PM:

Ross @245, ignore if hlepy, but my husband gets very vivid dreams (he describes them as hallucinations; hard to separate from reality and they stick a long time rather than being forgotten quickly) if he takes pseudoephredrine for hayfever or a stuffy nose.

Even a very low dose.

It's an "off-label" side effect; pharmacists know about it but it's not on the packaging.

So if you're taking Sudafed or Claritin D or anything like that, that might be contributing to the nightmares.

#251 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 07:54 PM:

Tolkien put it a bit differently than Tolstoy did:

"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway."

(From The Hobbit, where the party's weeks in Rivendell is glossed over in a few lines.

#252 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 08:30 PM:

Cassy B.: Yeah, I get that too with Sudafed (hope I don't get gnomed for that), I call them math dreams: I dream about patterns and relationships and tilings and generally mathy things, and wake up exhausted because I haven't actually been sleeping. I'm not taking anything like that now, I'm only on an SSRI.

I used to get nightmares like this every night, to the point that I didn't realize that everyone's dreams weren't like that (kind of a recurring theme, I didn't figure out I was lactose intolerant until I realized that not everyone gets sick after every meal). They stopped for a while when I started taking SSRIs, then gradually went back as that kind stopped working, then I tried a new kind that stopped them again, until recently when they've come back. Except I've only been on this drug a couple months and it's working in every other respect.

#253 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 08:37 PM:

@Allan, comment #251: This same sort of thing is also mentioned by Tolkien's bosom buddy, C.S. Lewis, in his last and worst Narnia book. Eustace complains that "there's always so much going on in Narnia," and is told that he (the reader proxy) only feels that way because he wasn't around for the centuries of Peaceful King after Peaceful King.

The canon explanation is, of course, that there's not much reason to go summoning heroic boys and girls from another world when you don't need them, but the real reason is the one Tolkien and Tolstoy gave.

#254 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:02 PM:

Quietly Learning to Be Loud @246 There's a difference in my mind between "right the first time" and "not wrong", but I'm having a hard time getting words to describe it.

This reminds me that I meant to suggest a book that people might find interesting. (As always, disregard if it's hlepy or makes you feel like it's yet another thing you are doing Rong.)

The book is The Practicing Mind, by Sterner. His main point is that in learning anything (his examples are mainly sports and music, but it generalizes), blaming or berating yourself for making mistakes doesn't move you forward any. What produces progress is taking a dispassionate look at where you are, where you want to be, and the difference between the two, and then making small steps that move you in the direction of improvement.

#255 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:46 PM:

OtterB @ #254, ooh! A chance to pull out my favorite quotation about learning!

"Commonly, students' ability to see their errors and technical failings
increases faster than their ability to correct them. Then the instructor
faces the problem of discouraged students who believe they are actually
getting worse through training rather than better....An analogy that may
help the intermediate student is that of 'carving a cube into a sphere'.
Training is the process of chopping off corners. Initially, the corners are
lage and easy to see--as is progress. Later, each corner cut off reveals
three new corners, albeit smaller ones. This process is endless, and while
an advanced student may appear to others of lesser experience to be a
perfect sphere, the individual is often painfully aware of the many corners
that still need polishing."
--Elmar T. Schmeisser, "The University Dojo" in
_Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching_, Carol A. Wiley, ed.

#256 ::: Lila done got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:47 PM:

For a long quotation? Relevant, I promise!

#257 ::: Danish Modern ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:48 PM:

When I was reading the discussion of literal sitting and rising here, I wondered "is rising without hands particularly difficult?" I went into my living room and attempted it a few times, and it was as easy as I'd remembered. (Note: I'm fairly young, and in my youth had gymnastics training).

Then I watched the video of the actual test, and realized I was using either one or both knees, in an unconscious way. There's got to be something metaphorical in that, hidden supports that make you feel healthier than you actually are.

On the subject of family function tests and anger... as is often the case, I'm here to represent that the dysfunction can occur at the other extreme.

When I was a kid, I was criticized for "keeping my feelings in," because I'd get frustrated and go to my room instead of screaming and yelling. It was easier to grab a book and forget things than to go through an hour long argument that I knew would result in absolutely nothing ever changing.

This was complicated by other things. My brother learned quickly that if I was having a problem, and getting attention as a result of that problem, all he had to do to draw all attention away from me was to have a bigger problem. Fall on the floor and scream temper tantrums wouldn't just result in attention, they'd result in almost exclusively positive attention from my mother.

And that, in turn, would lead to a fight between my mother and father... my father arguing that it wasn't right not to punish my brother for his destructive tantrums, and my mother unreservedly defending my brother and her own actions.

My dad was wrong too, of course, in the opposite direction. But this didn't lead to compromise, just more fights.

Later on, four or five times in my life, I'd make a conscious decision to have a screaming tantrum because I knew that reacting that way was more likely to result in some kind of positive attention paid to a problem than any other way of dealing with things.

I wanted to edit this to be more coherent, but I really don't have the spoons to do that now, so I'll just post what I have now.

#258 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 09:49 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud @246: VERY nice set of newly identified distinctions!

#259 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 10:45 PM:

David Delaney: I'm well aware that found families are just as good or bad as any other. But since most of this thread revolves around people's biological families, I wanted to say that I find the W13 characters to be an excellent example of a functional family, even though they weren't brought together by birth.

More general note of thanks to the thread: So this evening my fiancee and I ended up having a bit of a money conversation. This was one of the sort where... well, there isn't much to be had at the moment, and we need to come up with more to take care of some Very Important Things in a few months. Various tax refunds will help but a one-time influx won't solve everything.

And one of those Goddamn Tapes - I don't have many, but damn are they insidious when they're there - started up in my head. "We don't have any money because I don't have a [full-time] job, this is ALL MY FAULT, I could have made it better months ago."

My fiancee doesn't hold me to this expectation; that was all my parents, down to the part-time job I had before I moved Not Being Enough. (This is to the point that Mom has said, the last couple phone calls, that she's sure my fiancee doesn't like carrying all the financial weight... never mind that she and I have actually discussed this, as couples do, and she's said she doesn't mind at all.) But the tape started playing.

Rather than freak out in the middle of the conversation over the role the tape was telling me to play, I acknowledged it for what it was, did my best to ignore it and told her I was hearing it, even though I know she was only making factual observations. (And I pointed out that that's why I can't ask my parents for help on this one; their answer would amount to 'well, you made your bed, lie in it.')

I don't know if I would have been able to do that without these threads. Thanks, guys.

#260 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2013, 10:54 PM:

The_L @219

A good, or mostly-good, landlord will also try to stay out of your life as much as possible. It's a business relationship, not a domestic one. I know if I were a landlord, I would NEVER tell a tenant that I wanted to replace the carpet during their tenancy, unless I encountered some kind of difficult-to-imagine carpet emergency.

My landlord told me the same thing, about the carpet, when I moved in. Three years later, I'm thinking about saying "Hey, how about you replace the carpet at a mutually-agreeable time?"

(Weirdly, I'm also having a similar-but-not-identical shower knob issue, which is also on my talk-to-landlord list.)

#261 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 12:11 AM:

Catching up. Reading, witnessing.

Re: Functional relationships in television fiction: Wash and Zoe. When they did disagree, they argued well -- the point, not the person, the issue at hand, not extraneous stuff. (It took me YEARS to learn that not disagreeing is also a symptom of dysfunction.) Neither was perfect, both had moments of pettiness, but they dealt with it. (Joss has not yet been forgiven.) Also -- Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. Again with the both have issues, but they handle them like functional adults.

Re: Diagnostic tells: I never came up with a good single tool when I was in public mental health, but I had several in my toolbox. When I was practicing, well over 90% of my clients were not in my office voluntarily (usually court-ordered, a few were released from 72 hour observation holds to county out-patient supervision) so the chance of a client's family being dysfunctional was high. The issue was never whether the family environment was dysfunctional, but what flavor of dysfunction.

My most accurate predictor was to have the child speak about anything and watch the parent (via a reflection, so I looked like I was watching the child). I always knew I'd have greater than average problems with compliance if I observed this sequence: click of parent's tongue against roof of mouth, roll eyes, sigh. That specific expression signifies contempt, and contempt in a relationship is never helpful. When I saw that, I knew I'd have to schedule the child for one-on-one and my phone checks for when that parent was not present, otherwise we'd all be wasting our time.

Another was to have one of the child-parent pair say something, then ten minutes later, have the other re-phrase what was said. How the words change told me a lot about perception and processing.

A lot of my clients were sub- or aliterate, so I got really good with contemporary pop music for those years. I'd ask clients (and family) to summarize their feelings with songs that they identified with before and after sessions and as a journaling exercise. (This would be much, much harder now, since radio is much less a part of anybody's life.) I usually had a roster of current songs that were my red flags.

As an aside, I still use that as a means of monitoring my own mental health. It's a good checksum for me -- when my earworms are mostly my favorite angry songs, I know I'm pushing towards anxiety and using vicarious anger as a stimulant. If my earworms are more positive, I know I'm doing okay. (Note that, given my music preferences, an outsider will not notice the difference. They all sound pretty crunchy.)

Re: corporal punishment: --
No, I'm not going to talk about it. I don't need frothy, sputtering fury right now, and neither does anyone else. I'll leave it here with this: when I was in clinical practice, I was practicing within sight of Dobson's vileness factory. They were *not* making my job any easier, and that job pretty much sucked from day one.

Had a triggery moment this morning whilst taking the fur-baby to Fort Collins*: Our local public radio station has a segment called Words that Speak to Me. People call in with their favorite quotes, catchphrases, et cetera. (I'd been reading this thread over breakfast.) A woman's phrase was "Quit whining. Pull up your pants. Get back in line." Apparently, this was used in her natal family when punishment was administered en masse. (Ten children.) The caller was gushing over what a great life philosophy this was, that life is nothing but a long series of spankings and how useful this bit of wisdom was for her. I seriously do not want to know how badly her family functioned. With that one, the tapes are apparently made of adamantium. Had I not been driving, I would have been writing to CoPR and banging my head on the desk. As it was, furbaby and I both said a lot of nasty words.

Bricklayer: Oh, good for you! /offers fistbump, high five, encouragement. If this is hlepy, please disregard, but if yoga is anything like a pilates class, everyone else will be entirely focused on their own process, and for me, being ignored in a group made being a heckuva lot easier to continue being until I was comfortable enough with the non-standard shape of my own skin and psyche.

The_L: Do we share a father? Because you're not alone. Down to watching the clock during a lecture.

Ross: Exposure therapy involves limited exposure with support and tools to similar, not identical, stimuli. It's very much like treatment for a severe phobia. I can give you examples, if you want. For PTSD, it depends a lot on what the initial stimuli were. In PTSD, we often avoid incidents where we might be exposed to similar stimuli, and thus we don't learn how to manage the intrusive reaction, which means we avoid more, and learn less, and get overwhelmed and triggery faster. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I have two overly broad metaphors for PTSD -- fault lines and manual transmissions. My bet on EMDR is that it works because it serves as a timing device for the gears in the two halves of the brain. We know from fMRIs that in PTSD, the opposite parts of the brain that should fire in sync don't, quite. A PTSD brain is trying to shift into both third gear and reverse at the same time. That probably means that there's a gap in communications somewhere, like the gears have slipped. EMDR's flashing lights probably creates bilateral parity in both halves of the brain which serves as a timing light or a metronome, which assists the corpus callosum in resynchronizing.

With PTSD, the goal is to have frequent, almost imperceptible little earthquakes while living the life you want to live, rather than living around Richter scale 8 and 9s that come without warning. You're always going to live on a fault line, but you can build shock absorbers and flexible structures, and better it be a quietly, mildly active one than a New Madrid or a San Andreas.

Quietly Learning: Good for you! A stable 4'x8' table is indeed an accomplishment (and one I envy), and making it with another in the room is nervewracking for me, too. This may be hlepy, but for me, I broke the Right First Time tape with a book called Wreck This Journal. The book is intended to be mistreated, which gave me permission to practice being imperfect. I'm still chipping away at the Not Wrong with Observer tape. My current means of that is documenting a big project in progress. And yes, it's scary. I'm worried I won't have the spoons.

I think growing up in the authoritarian-perfectionist environment creates a lot of independence, because there's no choice -- nobody around is reliable enough to show a vulnerability. That independence is a gift, but it comes with toxic potato salad on the side, in the form of too-strong defenses against vulnerability. I note that I am much more productive when I work from home, and when my partner is not here, because then nobody sees me being distractable, nor my chaotic systems processing. When I take a load of laundry to the washer, and stop to fill the kettle on the way, and stop three steps later to write another paragraph of an analysis, then get the clothes in the washer and the teabag in the cup and three formulae written, then a seam pressed or a buttonhole made, I must look utterly flighty (oo -- that's one of my father's words there) but the process works for me. My math processor is slower than my words processor, but faster than my spatial processor, so keeping them synchronized requires working on their cycles.

*Furbaby is fine, given she's ancient for a cat. She is also now in an experimental stem-cell study. This is excellent news, except for the eight drives we will have to make, and the fact that she gets carsick.

#262 ::: CZEdwards has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 12:19 AM:

Sorry. (Spaces? wording? wordiness?)

Offers... gluten-free cherry cheesecake tarts, or subcutaneous fluids.

[Two things: Spacing, and the word "pilates." -- JDM]

#263 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 02:26 AM:

#261 ::: CZEdwards

Good points about contempt and rephrasing. A while ago, there was someone in fandom who ripped off a number of people including me, then disappeared. The only indicator I came up with (aside from the consignment payments getting later and later) was that he'd tell anecdotes about me that weren't entirely accurate, sometimes about things which had happened twenty minutes ago, and wouldn't take corrections.

Here's a behavior I've seen as an adult-- parents who are apparently incapable of believing that their children aren't a bother (possibly even a pleasure) to other adults.

#264 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 02:32 AM:

I've been fascinated with the EMDR thing because I have always done that as long as I can remember, to get nightmares, bad thoughts etc out of my head. I can't now remember when or how I worked it out, but it was very useful when I was a child with recurrent nightmares, and when I was an adolescent trying to get the recurring thought about some horrendously embarrassing faux pas to stop going round. I always thought it was my own personal thing till I read about EMDR in the last couple of years. As a parent, I have used eye movement to banish the thought of where my teenagers could be when they are not home at 4 am, and to get the thoughts of work not done to abate at the 2 am waking hour. I am a very lucky woman and have no real trauma to dispel, but I feel the technique would work for me if I did.

#265 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 03:56 AM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud @246: Congratulations on the table job! On both the doing and the tackling of "Stuff" while doing.

Bricklayer @229; The_L @238; Nancy C. Mittens @247: Socks. Well, as you (Nancy C. Mittens) say, at least its a work-with incompatibility.

J. @248: " they both had a lot of Stuff to deal with and they failed to deal with their Stuff pretty spectacularly now and then, but they got to a healthy place in the end." Absolutely. Very comforting. And thanks for the reminder: I need to stop dwelling on what I might have done in my adult life without the Stuff, and congratulate myself for having dealt with a lot of it in the last couple of years, and the progress made, and look to what I can do moving forward.

OtterB @254; Lila @255: Another problem can be working out what the problem is. I've always been rubbish at tennis (swing racket, miss. Repeat ad nauseam), Wasn't until a friend tried to introduce me to squash, while at university, that he noticed I'm incapable of following the ball with my eyes when it's coming towards me from a distance. Short distances I can do (table tennis) but not longer. So, an eye problem rather than a coordination problem. Nobody considered this when I was a child.*

Similarly lack of progress with piano: nobody had realised I couldn't actually read music (count up/down very fast from E/C then along very fast on the piano keys isn't how it's done, apparently!)

Laundry @various: darks, pales. Simple, and we both agree on it. And recently I've started using a timer so the machine starts before we get up and finishes in time for me to hang the clothes out before settling down to work, which is psychologically more satisfying for me than starting work 10 mins earlier then taking 10 mins later to hang out the washing.

Games @various: Never heard of Apples to Apples before. I have heard of Scruples, but remember thinking it sounded like a dangerous (as in, high potential for fraught atmosphere and unpleasantness) game to play. I've also never heard of either 1000 Blank White Cards or Calvinball.

* Also, going to school a year early meant (I now realise) that I was always trying (and failing) to keep up with the hand/eye/body coordination of people a year older than me - which is a substantial gap when you're 4/5/6/7/8 years old. No wonder I was (relatively) poor at jump-rope etc. - to the point where it wasn't at all enjoyable.

#266 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 04:55 AM:

One more thing on the PTSD front: I've been going to a therapist who does Somatic Experiencing-- a system which involves taking the patient a little way into and out of the traumatized state. The goal is to learn the path, not to recover memories or do anything dramatic.

They have a principle of "do not retraumatize the patient".

Another piece of the theory is that what causes PTSD is not being able to do normal physical movements (running, punching, etc.) during a high-stress situation, and/or not being able to do the normal animal method of dealing with stress (going away and shaking for a while) so that the movements get "stuck".

I've been going to therapist who does Somatic Experiencing and cranial-sacral and zero balancing-- she's taking it very slowly and cautiously. I've made some progress but haven't solved anything major.

In an Unspoken Voice is the major book on the subject.

#267 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 07:33 AM:

Re: vivid dreams, SSRIs (and semi-SSRIs such as Effexor) can also cause vivid, bizarre dreams. AIUI, these also have a strong emotional content, but which emotion varies from person to person, and makes the difference between "entertaining" vs. "unacceptable side effect".

#268 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 07:56 AM:

@CZEdwards, #261:

Red-flag songs? Oh wow, that strikes a chord. For a while there, I would self-diagnose my depression by how listenable Korn was. Based on past experience, I'd say that most of the songs from Follow the Leader and Issues that didn't make it onto the radio ("Dirty," "Dead Bodies Everywhere," "Wish You Could Be Me," and "Hey Daddy" are standing out right now in my head) are major red flags for pretty much anybody. If you're not already in a dark, scary place, listening to those songs can actually put you there. Brr.

I find myself not listening to NIN as much as I used to, and I'm not sure if it's for the same reason or not. It's not the dark subject matter, though, because Nightwish, Metallica, and Maiden aren't setting me off like that.

And...yeah, watching the clock. Was it one of those wooden-framed ones from the 70's? I formed an unhealthy bond with that clock.

"I think growing up in the authoritarian-perfectionist environment creates a lot of independence, because there's no choice -- nobody around is reliable enough to show a vulnerability."

Or, if you were already independent to start with, it makes you cower in the corner, waiting for someone to show you the Right Way to do everything so you're not doing it all Rong and getting screamed at again. That's the way it happened with me, at least. Still trying to break out of that.

@dcb, #265: Oh gods. I spent my entire life assuming I was simply Not In Shape Enough to do anything athletic, but if you had that much trouble from being accelerated only one year...

Reading the piano was easy as anything for me, and the recorder was also easy to pick up, but then I got an electric guitar. I still want to be able to play it, but there are 2 things that drive me nuts:

1. The fingering isn't as obvious compared to the other 2 instruments,
2. I keep forgetting that higher notes are farther up the neck, not down. This is mainly because on woodwinds, pressing more stuff down at once makes a lower sound, while pushing down more guitar frets does the opposite.

I still can't play guitar from a standard musical staff either, only from tabs, and that drives me nuts too, because there's music I have for the other instruments that I'd like to try on guitar, and re-writing it on tabs is a PITA.

#269 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 08:40 AM:

The_L @268: (re. athletic games) Oh! And I nearly didn't post that as being too minor. Very glad to have a point of resonance with you (that's one of the things I've found really useful about these DF threads: "wait, it wasn't just me?" / "Oh, there's a reason for that?" etc. etc.)

And I clearly remember my classmates (age 10-11) treating me as if I'd CHEATED because (being in a lower age group) I got better points than they did for the same length of jump/speed of run etc. when there was an athletics scheme with different levels of attainment. Bet none of them can run 50 miles, now!

I'd love to try the piano again - I'm envious of people who can play - but I still can't read music, and between work, running and running-related volunteering, don't have the time to add anything new.

#270 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 09:30 AM:

I was accelerated a lot more: started school just before my 4th birthday, skipped 2 grades, then finally, when I was starting high school, people noticed that my social development was pitifully far behind and you can't fight Piaget forever. So I was put back 2 years. The net effect, chronologically, is that I finished school in the same amount of time as everybody else. I'll let you guess what the other effects tended to be.

It's one reason I became a teacher, actually. Remembering the bad effects of being shuffled around, by schools who had no way of really handling me, made me want to be back in that system where I can identify other people who are going through the mess I did, and try to fix things before they get as bad as they did with me.

#271 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 10:30 AM:

Oh that resonates! Same school start age (November birthday, started school when not quite four). Didn't skip any further grades, but wasn't allowed to move from Infant to Junior school until I'd actually turned seven, so started a term late, with all the attendant difficulties for someone with poor peer-to-peer social skills (not to mention never learning my times tables, 'cos those were taught in that first term). Amazing how little the potential social and emotional development issues are considered when starting an intelligent child at school early or moving them forward a year/grade...

I very much admire your decision to go into teaching. I've discovered I'm not bad at teaching on a one-to-one basis and I'm okay giving papers/lectures so long as I don't start to listen to that little voice saying "who are you to be lecturing anyone on this stuff? Who's going to listen to you?

#272 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 10:35 AM:

By the way, Calvinball is a fictional game from the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, in which there are no rules and Calvin always wins. :)

#273 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 10:53 AM:

DCB, I actually ended up not in the system at all, which worked out better. The sheer amount of paperwork nowadays in U.S. public schools is enough to drive you batty. I'm teaching at a community college, where the hours are better, the students are somewhat more mature, and I'm still able to make a difference without feeling I've got to save everyone.

#274 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 11:34 AM:

CZEdwards, #261: I spent most of my junior-high years obsessively listening to Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am A Rock". These days I can monitor my internal state by paying attention to what I fantasize about. When the fantasies turn dark and angry (i.e. killing someone who tries to carjack me), I need to break the cycle -- reading a book I enjoy is one good way of doing so, because it will put me into a different headspace.

dcb, #265: Calvinball is from the comic strip "Calvin & Hobbes". Apart from the fact that it's a physical game, think of it as being like Fizzbin.

I can read music, but I can't sight-play piano music. What I've always had to do is work thru it slowly, a measure or two at a time, until I got it into mental and muscle memory. IOW, I read the music to learn the piece, but then I play by rote memory. The upside of this is that I don't need the music in order to play; the downside is that I can't play anything outside my current repertoire.

#275 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 12:14 PM:

Bricklayer @ 221: Go, you!

Jacque @ 242: Thank you for the idea. So far my documentation (aside of what I've shared here) consists of a huge collection of bookmarks (bootstraps=lots of reading). It's probably past time I started putting some of my own thoughts down.

Quietly Learning To Be Loud @ 246: Huzzah, indeed! :D

Lila @ 255: Thank you for this awesome quote! I think I will save that one to refer to from time to time.

CZEdwards @ 261: re:triggery moment this morning... *shudder* I was in a situation for a while that required regular social interaction with someone who was an active evangelist of the "anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger" philosophy. It was... difficult.

#276 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 12:32 PM:

The_L @273: yes, don't blame you. Same over here, I understand...

#277 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 12:37 PM:

Lee@274: Sorry, never heard of Fizzbin - but that's okay, I'm getting quite an education looking up these things! Re. piano, that's how my playing was at age 6-7 - I was fine playing by ear/muscle memory, until I went wrong/lost my place, then I had to stop and laboriously count up the staves and then across on the keys - so of course my playing was erratic. It wasn't actually that I didn't practice (which is what everyone else assumed), even though reading was always more fun than practicing. But when I had practiced, but still lost my way, I'd be told off for not practicing, which was unfair and demotivating...

#278 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 01:00 PM:

dcb @265, and The_L -- I had that same problem with being a year younger than my school cohort (I skipped first grade). I didn't find sports enjoyable either, and internalized the idea that I am a small person. Mostly that doesn't seem true these days, but sometimes I still think that when I'm not paying attention.

#279 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 01:22 PM:

Tom Whitmore @278: Interesting (and frustrating) how that picture of yourself, based on how you were reflected in the eyes of others, growing up, sticks even when it was never/is no longer true. For me, it wasn't helped by the fact that I -am- small (5 ft 2, under 50 kg), and always was small for my age - and then there's that "unable to follow the ball" thing.

#280 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 01:45 PM:

DCB: How tall? OK, seriously, were we separated at birth?

#281 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 02:27 PM:

First off, I'm not sure if this is under the same e-mail address as my other posts, so if it isn't, that'll have to be fixed.
Anyhow, a lot has been hitting home for me in this thread. The broken appliances subthread, particularly spending extra time and money to get new things rather than keeping the old. The problems with being small/young in school, as somebody who didn't skip a grade but was one of the youngest kids in my grade due to cut-off dates, and who used to be small even given that as well. And the Doing It Rong thing. Just... all of that.
But that's not my main focus right now.
I had a crying fit this morning, the first major one since being on an anti-depressant, caused by, of all things, my mother nagging me to contact my therapist-to-be. (Which I agree is needed, but I think can wait until I can see her in person in a few days. She vehemently disagreed and accused me of "want[ing] to be sad" for not putting in the effort.) I laid in bed hiding under sheets and pillows from the world for over an hour.
This much my mother knows. She agreed to let that issue go, which is missing the point. It's not that particular issue that bothers me, it's the insults, the passive-aggressive accusations of not wanting to fulfill my potential, the yelling... all that needs to stop, regardless of what the nagging-point-of-the-day is. But that won't happen any time soon.
What my mother doesn't know is that, while laying in bed, I experienced the "hamster wheel" of negative thoughts mentioned above for the first time. Thoughts regarding suicide- ways, reasons, what would happen afterwards. Non-lethal self-harm. Vague thoughts of hurting my mother, much less concrete than the above.
As some others who have experienced the hamster wheel attested, it's not that I wanted to do this, it's just all I could think about for that hour.
The hamster wheel's more or less stopped, and I'm not in danger of physically hurting myself or others. What I'm in danger of is crying all day, and not doing what I have to do because of lack of spoons, and possibly ruining a big family event because I can't stop myself from crying.
Just a few more days until I'm out of this house, with my mother several states away... I just hope I can pull myself together until then.

#282 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 02:40 PM:

Reading, witnessing, still trying to pull spoons together.

W/R/T the issues with sports, etc:

There's been some research that shows that there are marked differences in coordination and physical capabilities of children within a single grade level--in general, kids at the upper end of the age cutoff for a given grade performed better than kids at the lower end. (The study that sticks in my mind is one that showed that kids at the upper end of the age bracket were significantly more likely to be chosen for hockey teams, but I believe it's since been generalized.)

I was always big for my age, but clumsy. "Being clumsy" was something I internalized, and was actively punished bullied for, both inside and outside of my family. I'm pretty sure it contributed to my active hatred for physical activity of any sort. Why get sweaty, out-of-breath, aching, and suffer all the harassment when I could be inside reading a good book? :P

This, of course, is not such a great attitude now that I can see the edge of 40 over the horizon and I'm in the worst physical shape of my life... sighs

#283 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 02:47 PM:

dcb, #277: Oops, sorry! Fizzbin is a game invented by Captain Kirk in the ClassicTrek episode "A Piece of the Action", the whole idea of which was to confuse the shit out of the aliens who were pointing machine guns at him. Yes, actual "1930s Chicago gangster" machine guns -- that was part of the plot. There's a commercial game called Fluxx which I am absolutely certain was inspired by it.

#284 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 03:05 PM:

Reading these comments has helped me, so I went back to the previous post and started reading that thread as well...then I got to radiosongs's story and it was like a punch in the gut.

There are so many similarities (age of first book, post-WWII immigrant dad, feeling like I wasn't tough enough and ought to just...NO, NOT GOING THERE), but at the same time, part of me is perversely grateful ("You see how bad it could have gotten? You didn't have it really bad..." Stupid mind-tapes STOP IT). It brought a flood of memories back...

In college, mom telling me not to wear the black hat I'd bought at That Store With The Black Clothes And Loud Music because "it makes you look like some kinda bulld--e." (I shudder to think what my parents would do if either of them discovered I was bi.)

Elementary school, Dad pointing out a single B on my report card: "Just LOOK at this! This is GARBAGE! You aren't even TRYING! Why did you do this? What are you DOING in school?!"

Butterfly kisses in Daddy's lap at age 3, thinking I'd always feel that safe and happy around him.

College again, my parents wanting to know why I kept hiding things from them and lying to them.

My mother, over and over again for years, telling me not to call myself an idiot, asking me why on earth I would call myself that, and me afraid to tell her that she'd married the reason.

My father, a few weeks after I finally moved out, telling me, only half-joking, "If it gets too rough, you can always come back here!"

My heart pounding the night I moved out--a Saturday--and sat on my brand-new bed. All my clothes and most of my furniture were there; I just needed a few small appliances and other little touches that I'd already planned to get from my parents house the next day. My mother was on the phone. "Would you like to come back and spend the night with us?" One more night of feeling trapped. One more Sunday of going to church solely because they wanted me to. The dog was here. I was here. I was out. I was safe. I was finally home.

"No thanks. I think I'll be fine. And besides, I do have to get used to it sooner or later, right?"

#285 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 04:38 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @ #282: boy, can I relate. I skipped from 3rd to 4th grade over Christmas break (missed learning to multiply, didn't catch up till 8th grade, I pass over the spectacle of flash cards with my dad--him yelling, me crying). The only sport I was any good at was dodgeball so I did chorus instead. Pretty much a couch potato with a book...

Until I turned 40 and started taekwondo.

I got my black belt at 45.

#286 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 05:09 PM:

The_L@ 280: Nope, don't think so!

Dash : 281: Sympathies and a BIG Zen {{{{{HUG}}}}} 'cos you obviously need one. Try repeating a mantra: "just a few more days..."?

Jennifer Baughman @282: yes, I'm pretty sure I remember reading about that as well. Re. "in the worst physical shape" ignore if hlepy (and apologies if so) but have you considered a "couch to five K" (C25K) programme - designed to get people from couch potato to running 5K (3.1 miles)? In the UK (mostly - also Australia, Denmark,Iceland and a few others - one in the US, in Livonia, Michigan) there's this great not-for-profit called parkrun which organises free,timed 5K runs in parks all over the place, every Saturday morning. Great fun, for all ages/abilities, and fantastic motivation. /end proselytising!

Lee @283: Fluxx, I've played! I must somehow have missed that ST episode, or watched it too long ago to remember.

#287 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 05:10 PM:

Not sure what I did wrong. I have some stollen?

#288 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 05:39 PM:


#289 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 05:40 PM:

Dash @281

From personal experience, the hardest days to live thru are those last few before...whatever. One of my favorite things to tell myself when facing that awful "wait period":

It's going to be fine. But getting from here to there is going to suck. (first sentence encouragement, second is acknowledgement)

Many hugs, if they're appropriate.

#290 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 05:51 PM:

CZEdwards: Yes, please, I'm curious. I have heard that stuff like Call of Duty can be used for combat-related PTSD, but what do you do for things like mine?

#291 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 06:04 PM:

Lila@285 - *high fives* Me too! Terrible athlete in school - slowest runner, shortest jumper, no 3D vision, so there goes all the ball sports. I was okay at gymnastics, only because I could turn a cartwheel and somersault.

Senior year I changed school systems and discovered I wasn't nearly as bad at sports as I had thought. My classmates active sabotage (E.g. shoving me out of the way so they could get a ball.) had been having a much larger effect than I thought. It still didn't really take. I thought of myself as stronger than I had, but still not as "athletic".

The magic day came when a neighbor didn't want to try out the local dojo by herself, so she twisted my arm and brought me for company. Within a month, she had dropped out, and I was going four nights a week. I got my black belt at 40.

Dash@281 - sympathies. Counting the days is always a hard, hard time. Hugs on offer if you want them.

#292 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 06:14 PM:

I'll second the vivid dream effects of Effexor--it was like suddenly dreaming in HD. My dreams have always been bizarre (or perhaps I have always remembered the bizarre bits well!) and they didn't get any stranger, but they kicked up a huge notch in detail. I could walk along a sidewalk and stare at the cracks and see all the little stones in the concrete and broken bits of safety glass from old car accidents and things I never even KNEW my brain had observed about cracked sidewalks.

What I did not know, until I was sleeping with someone else, was that I was apparently having frequent whimpering nightmares and talking in my sleep a great deal. I don't remember most of the nightmares--if I thought anything, I suppose I thought that they were simply interesting things happening in the plot, but from the outside, apparently it sounded very unpleasant. When I went off the drugs, it settled down again.

Unrelated, on the "adults admitting they were wrong" front, I recall being moderately stunned at--eight? nine? something like that--when I disagreed with my father about (heh) a point of Star Trek trivia. We made a one dollar bet. That evening, after he had looked it up (and I had forgotten the whole thing) he came in, admitted that he was wrong, and paid me my dollar.

As my stepfather would flatly lie about easily checkable things, to my face, over and over again rather than admit any possibility that he might be wrong (and I mean STUPID things, like the Crusades and whether or not ammonites were extinct) I remember being vaguely surprised that an adult who was wrong would admit it. Publicly and everything!

(In case anyone's curious, it was whether it was Spock or McCoy in the shuttlecraft during "The Immunity Syndrome.")

#293 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 10:18 PM:

My parents apologized to me when I was an adult for spanking us when we were children. My parents were big on spanking; they usually didn't use a hand and made us wait until they "calmed down" which I believe instead was when their anger had gotten white hot. They said, in their apology, that when they thought it was working as discipline it wasn't wrong but when they knew it was not working and was hurting us and they didn't stop it was wrong. They did stop spanking later with my much younger siblings. My mother still speaks of the time a lamp was broken and none of us would admit to breaking it. They lined us up and started spanking asking each of us if we did it before spanking the next person. My younger sister and I knew it wasn't either of us because we had been engaged in a forbidden activity at that time. I finally confessed and got a huge spanking and had to apologize to my siblings and parents. I just couldn't take the emotional pressure. The next day the house cleaner admitted she had broken it. My mother had never believed that someone would confess to something they hadn't done and take an unearned punishment. It just took them decades after that to change their practices.

The apology from older them to adult me, made a huge change in how I see myself as a parent. I can admit when I am wrong/make mistakes/don't know the answers and I can ask for forgiveness without worrying about losing esteem.

#294 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2013, 11:54 PM:

she pushes down @173: While my mother never did try to convince me that I was really a serial killer, she did routinely call me a psychopath for some years. I wasn't empathetic enough to her (or obedient and submissive enough), so clearly I had to have a psychological problem. She was qualified to diagnose it, she felt, because they had been discussing psychopathy on CBC Radio lately. However, since the only person I ever wanted to be violent to back then was her, that particular lie didn't sink in so well as many others. I don't have thought-bombs so much as thought-sucks -- lies that are more subtle and harder to disprove, and so they somewhat randomly suck away my energy. There's enough triggers that while spending time with family makes it worse, that it goes off a lot more often than that, and fairly often I don't even know why.

My nightmares, oh-so-mysteriously, almost always revolve around being trapped, often involving my parents or their home. Nowadays there's more variety in setting but guaranteed the plot will get stuck or go in circles, and I can't break out of that no matter what or how many things I try in-dream. When I'm smart, I'll wake up for a while, long enough to break the thought loop, so at least I'll get a new plotline. Most to all of my life has involved being trapped in one or more major aspects, and I can't see how to change that without the world co-operating more than was its wont. And because I know from experience that efforts for certain kinds of improvements tend to fail, no matter how hard or sincere, they are very hard to make.

Merricat @190: I don't have a suicide hamster wheel, but I certainly have several for running myself down. I also have something that I don't know what to call, which I don't like and don't know where it comes from. Sometimes (usually when waiting to cross the street) some little bit of my brain goes, "I wonder what it feels like to get hit by a car?!" and then the rest of my brain goes, "it would HURT; are you crazy? Do you want to get killed or end up crippled?" and the crazy bit shuts up and goes away. It has a variation for high places. My feet never twitch in the direction of the hazard when this happens, and I never think/thought about suicide otherwise (not even when things were worst and it was a logical solution), so I have seen this as "WTF" rather than "eek suicidal thoughts". My therapist agreed these were not suicidal thoughts. So that's good, but buggered if I know what else it means.

#295 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 12:56 AM:

I'm reading and witnessing. Thanks to everybody for showing up.

Today I had a facial acupuncture session. Right now I'm trying to figure out if I've got an accupuncture hangover, PTSD has been triggered or I'm just a bit emotionally bruised. Acupuncture hangover, slightly PTSD flavored, is my current hypothesis. Whatever it is, I'm not enjoying it.

I'm doing this on a tablet that shall remain nameless so as not to attract gnomish attention. But I wanted to mention it because it's hard to scroll back and forth for IDs and comment numbers.

Frequent nightmares can be a symptom of PTSD. So can depression. Having said that, Sudafed can also give me nightmares. Drinking at least 500 ml water after taking a pill helps some, including me. Strangely enough the time release tablets also trigger fewer nightmares for me. But I'm very happy to report that I was recently able to get off Sudafed. I have no idea why I no longer need them, but I'm very happy.

Exposure therapy for PTSD:
"Approximately 14 percent of patients with PTSD discontinue psychotherapy. The highest drop-out rates (up to 50 percent) occur with exposure therapy, indicating that many patients have difficulty with re-experiencing the trauma."

There are other types of cognitive-behavioral therapy that have higher success rates. If they're available, why not try one of them instead?

That paper is from 2003, so a bit old. A lot of research has been done on homecoming vets over the last decade. I fervently wish there weren't this many suitable test subjects, but we all benefit from deeper understanding and more successful treatment options, as well as self-care options. There are even free apps created or endorsed by DOD for monitoring and coaching PTSD patients.

Thanks to Abi for starting this fantastic forum for us!

#296 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 01:06 AM:

#294, Moonlit Night: some little bit of my brain goes, "I wonder what it feels like to get hit by a car?!"

I don't know what it's called either, but I post here to say you're not alone. For me it happens more often when I'm driving, and I wonder what would happen if my car went through that guardrail, or into that overpass support pillar, or lose control on that slush just on the edge of the lane...

Maybe it's my brain being alert to the ways in which things can go wrong and making sure they don't happen. But if so, it picks a damn weird way to go about doing so, to the point where describing it anywhere but here would make people worry that I'm suicidal, and I am definitely not.

#297 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 02:03 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz@266 - the idea of having normal reaction/movement hampered being related to PTSD is a really interesting one. I hadn't heard anything like that before, but while I have instances of tapes, traumas and things to deal with, I never showed particular signs of PTSD until the aftermath of a medical emergency involving unanesthetized surgery. The memories that cling center around trying *not to move* because there's a guy inside me with a scalpel, and being held down by a nurse who's physically lying across my chest with her full body weight.

Do you have any reading discussing this aspect, by any chance? Because I hadn't run into it before, but it plainly seems to jive well with personal experience.

#298 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 02:39 AM:

Ross @ 290: With the caveat that I am not your therapist, I no longer practice and I don't know your specifics beyond what you've posted...

In cases of long-exposure PTSD (which is where I'd peg yours) exposure therapy would work on where you are now, and what triggers avoidance now. I'll use my own issues so there's no worry about confidentiality. My father brought home a nasty case of PTSD from Vietnam, but he was mostly functional within it as long as he stayed in the military. He was physically and emotionally abusive at home, but in the 80s, the Baggage was expected to keep quiet. (Abusive culture, though that has improved.) Being a mil-brat meant being raised in an authoritarian culture, and my father relished that power. We lived off base whenever possible. The civilian cops came to our house a few times when things got really bad. It was the 80s, so nobody went away except the cops, and after they left, there would be escalation. I distinctly got the message that cops aren't helpful, and became convinced that authoritarian power structures are inherently corrupt.

Fast-forward several years: In college, I lived in a festering hole of an apartment. The local cops seemed completely blind to the obvious meth labs in the neighborhood (I suspect they were on the take -- this is Maricopa County we're talking about, under Sheriff Joe...) and emergency calls for anything short of giant fire-breathing lizard went on the cops' round-tuit list, but I got pulled over or stopped while walking no less than twice a week for the entire thirty months I lived there. The stops were obvious profiling (when I got a car, it was a beater that I immediately plastered with stickers and paint because why not?; when walking, because I was a Goth in a bad part of a mostly Mormon town -- therefore, A Perpetrator). Thus, again, I got the message that cops weren't helpful.

Fast forward again: Despite working with a lot of cops professionally over the years, I can't trust them. It's the prejudice I work hardest to break, but I'm not there yet. They panic me, and they make me furious, and when citizen-me interacts with them, I can turn into the most spitting, snarling anti-fascist sovereign citizen-successionist you can imagine. My Dr. Jekyll is Bernie Sanders, but my Ms. Hyde is Ron Paul.

For me, exposure therapy meant having good interactions with the people inside the blue suits, and watching positive, complex depictions of cops in film and television. (Gwen Cooper of Torchwood has been a great help. Also, Hot Fuzz, and now both Sherlock and Elementary. Never underestimate the power of good eye candy.) It meant participating in our town council, and in civil liberties work to address my very real, rational concerns about abusive power structures, and then reprocessing my earlier interactions through my new lenses with my therapist. It meant talking to off-duty and retired cops about what happened in the past, and getting their perspective about how policing has changed, how the system failed and how I, as a citizen, and we as a culture, can implement better systems.

Which is taking the long way around to say that it took practice and pushing my own boundaries in safe situations. I will probably never again be comfortable with putting a sticker on my car, and I think my involvement with protests is limited to support staff, but those are little earthquakes that I'm okay with. (Though the rebellious anarcho-socialist punk who still lives in my psyche would prefer otherwise, it's housed in the body of a middle-aged GenX slacker bougeoise academic whose joints ache at the notion of sleeping on frozen concrete.) Under no circumstances did I talk to my father, anyone in his chain of command (who were complicit in silencing any reports), or the local police.

In cognitive behavioral work, it's always about the triggers now, and the dysfunctional reactions to them now. It will always be individualized -- indeed, Call of Duty does work for current gen veterans, because it's a safe, semi-immersive experience that allows them to assert control. For long-exposure familial triggers, I start with identifying what I'm avoiding (mine have been ragey people, loud voices, masculine sweat, the smell of Jack Daniels, and tube socks, among others) then determine how they affect me, reframe them when possible, or accept that I'm okay with a defined boundary. With enraged people, it's almost automatic for me now to assume it's not personal, and I don't have to engage or escalate and that I *can* call for official backup. (That last was an enormous breakthrough.) I picked someone who isn't fond of JD, and I can accept tube socks as an unfortunate fashion statement. I can accept that any of those might speed my pulse, but I know they're not deliberate attacks on me. The process of getting there is like getting to Carnegie Hall -- practice, practice, practice. I've realized that scents are the hardest for me to reframe -- scent being so tightly bound to the limbic system -- so for me, those are hard boundaries.. Boundaries are healthy, and there can be enormous beauty and creativity within tightly managed parameters -- think sonnets and sestinas.

Please realize that tomorrow means I've been working on this for twenty years, and I've gotten good with my personal toolset, but I've lost a lot of beginner's mind since I moved to research. It took me about a year to construct my first set of tools, and my first set was crude -- I isolated myself, I overloaded academically and developed some workaholic practices as avoidance strategies while I put the necessary emotional and physical distance between myself and my natal family. My personal tools have evolved, but they remain hugely data-driven; for years, I kept a notepad to document every shift of mood and the circumstances. I talk to myself and I have elaborate mental decision trees. I still isolate myself when I'm overwhelmed, and when I find myself faced with circumstances I can't control, I assert control over my physical environment (I either clean it if the circumstances are chaotic, or I make a deliberate mess if they're too controlled). When the anxiety gets bad, I usually end up in a hypergraphic episode. Many of my tools are now automated, but they still take energy because they're after-market rather than factory installed, so they're more prone to fail when I get worn down.

On the other hand, my personal eureka was realizing that the fires that burn in me are worth stoking because they're mine, that my personal storms bring blessed rain, that my earthquakes expose seams of diamond. Realizing that my boundaries are not limitations, but expressions of my autonomy.

#299 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:01 AM:

The_L @ 268: You're not forgotten -- I'm thinking about "Right Way / Doin It Rong" and independence / vulnerability / autonomy. You've got something there. Really. Something radical, actually. Right now, what I've got is, "It's not cowering to maintain a defensive position -- it's sense," and "Refusing to participate in one's own torment is an eminently reasonable assertion of will."

On the clock -- yep, 70's, with that really heavy over-stained wood that looked semi-fake. Bad font, too -- a bold sans serif. I don't know how that clock got broken in a move. /whistles innocently.

Lee @ 274: I missed much of Simon & Garfunkel; I'd never actually read the lyrics for "I Am a Rock." Ow. That one is a gut punch.

#300 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:58 AM:

Still reading, listening, witnessing. And right now, sharing.

I outed myself a couple of days ago for a number of reasons. (The piece is linked to in my profile name here, for those interested; it seems tangentially relevant at best to the ongoing discussion.)

I'm talking about it because without these threads and this community, I wouldn't have found myself in a place where it was possible for me to do that. Thank you, everyone. Everything you say here makes a tremendous difference, and I salute your courage and your strength, without which I may not have found some for myself as well.

#301 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 04:15 AM:

CZEdwards @298:

Thank you for that post, and for all of your contributions to this conversation. I've been finding them deeply inspirational.

And congratulations on twenty years' good work.

#302 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 05:58 AM:

@Moonlit Night, #294: Nightmares about being trapped? Reminds me of the time I was in a New Age shop, a few months before moving out, looking for a nice tarot deck. As a sort of "test," the store owner offered to do a sample reading. I agreed.

One of the cards was the eight of swords. (The illustration here is Ryder-Waite, and the tarot I was considering was the Gilded Tarot, but the basic scene is the same in both decks.)

I bought the deck.

In re: "I Am A Rock": I remember reading somewhere that the song was supposed to be S&G's parody of the idea of American isolationism. The intended message was that people--and even countries--aren't meant to Just Be Alone Forever, and that it makes you a hard and bitter person. I don't think they supported the war, either, but...well, that's there.

#303 ::: The_L got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 06:04 AM:

A link to the meaning of a tarot card. I apologize to the gnomes, and bring MUFFINS! :D Everybody likes muffins.

#305 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 07:18 AM:

Moonlit Night @294 The "I COULD do this" thing is an impulse I've heard about from other people, also, although mainly in regards to electronics + high places/bodies of water. (In London with a tour group, crossing the Thames on foot, we had a discussion about how we were all kind of thinking, "What if I dropped my camera into the river" at that moment..) There's clearly some hardwired human thing going on, but damned if I know what it is.

#306 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 09:30 AM:

@CZEdwards #298

"On the other hand, my personal eureka was realizing that the fires that burn in me are worth stoking because they're mine, that my personal storms bring blessed rain, that my earthquakes expose seams of diamond. Realizing that my boundaries are not limitations, but expressions of my autonomy."

This is beautiful - poetry. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

#307 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 11:31 AM:

Merricat #305: I got those kinds of detailed ideations when Very Pregnant. I'd be walking down wintry steps with a firm grip on the handrail, carefully, and suddenly I'd have this ... not a vision, because it wasn't just visual, it was kinesthetic, too? Flash hallucination? Something.

Anyway, suddenly I'd get this vivid impression of my feet going out from under me and bumping down the steps on my lower back, trying to stand up on the icy sidewalk below, falling again ... started and over all in a heartbeat, but very upsetting. Especially because I got them several times a day.

When not pregnant I only tend to get those kinds of obsessive ideations about conversations (usually emotional conversations where I feel I didn't do well or handle things well), and generally after the fact.

#308 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 12:25 PM:

CZEdwards@298, damn— that was fascinating and inspiring reading. Thank you for posting that.

#309 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 12:55 PM:

A few people have mentioned hamster wheeling. I'd like to share my experience, if it's remotely helpful. Not particularly related in circumstance, but I'm hoping maybe my tools will be helpful. Ignore if hlepy, YMMV, etc.

I've hamsterwheeled about everything from being inadequate to outright self-hatred, or even just not being able to sleep from being stressed. On the playful advice of my husband, I started to personify my hamster. Between the two of us, we came up with an appearance (short coat, colour indeterminate), a wardrobe (smoking jacket - no, neither of us smokes, it's a style thing), favourite furniture (comfy recliner, squeaky exercise wheel (squeaka! squeaka!), etc.), favourite foods (to tempt him off the wheel), and even static images (the hamster sitting in the recliner, wearing the smoking jacket, with a nice cup of tea or piece of fine, dark chocolate, listening to awesome symphonic music).

It works best if you have someone to bounce ideas off of - so you can get silly with your SO, for example - but I've done a fair bit of hamster coaxing solo.

Part of the effectiveness is it gets me focussed either on the sheer silliness or the "awwwww!" factor, rather than on the more negative things that are trying to circulate. It breaks the negative thought cycle.

You can even visualize tucking the hamster into his cozy little bed, which in turn sometimes even helps me to sleep more quickly from the shared cozy vibes!

Like I said, put out here as another tool for the toolbox. Hope it helps!

#310 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 01:04 PM:

Moonlit Night @294, the invisible one @296: I've had that "I wonder what it would feel like... " experience, too. What cured me of thinking about acting on it was, well, acting on it once.

I was looking at an electric mixer that was running, and wondered what it would feel like to stick my finger into the turning blades.

It hurt. A bit of scraping up of the finger, but no serious damage. But it hurt enough that I didn't want to do it again.

And I don't think I've ever told anybody about this before now. I went off and bandaged it, and nobody noticed. I was in my teens when I did this.

#311 ::: topaz ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 01:13 PM:

"I am Rock"

My mental mantra (can a whole song be a mantra?) from the time I first heard it (junior high?) with reappearances during bad situations at work (lousy management).

"...and a rock feels no pain, and an island NEVER cries..."

The above especially in confrontation with one of the parental units.

(Note: Current situation is such that I have been able to reclaim a few spoons. Still reading and witnessing. And yay for everyone whose situations have improved, with hugs and sympathy for those whose lives have not.)

#312 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 01:30 PM:

Tom Whitmore: Your description of trying to act on the hamster wheel put me in mind of the ricochet effect from mental influence in Firestarter. In some ways, now that I think of it, that could be a good metaphor for trauma in general - you get hung up on the problem and it can interfere with your ability to deal with everyday life.

(General you there, of course.)

#313 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 02:16 PM:

CZEdwards@298; Thank you for sharing that. It was extremely enlightening.

Hamster thoughts. These are I presume related to/the same as to what I've always considered as the whirlpool of despair (because it keeps going round and round and always ending up at the same place, but with added depression at each iteration).

Chickadee @309: Not that I've ever visualised it as a hamster before, but that visualisation might still work, if I find the thoughts spiralling downwards, just to knock me out of the whirlpool. After all, when something has me gagging and dry-heaving I visualise looking at and smelling a rose (yellow, beautifully scented, fresh, just fully open) and that works most of the time.

All: thank you for sharing.

#314 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 02:29 PM:

It's been a busy e-mail morning, with me writing to three people (SO and two good friends), and them, despite being at work, answering. Therapy-type e-mails. Very helpful.

Upshot: I'm going to find a new psychologist. The one I've had has been extremely useful (see post #1 on this thread, which was prompted by the last session with him), but - as the one friend says, you shouldn't be sick with anxiety before every session, and come out feeling like shit.

Put another way, there are lots of people who haven't emotionally moved out of home, and he should have been able to communicate that to me without leaving me feel like a freak.

Little inner voice says "But he didn't say you were a freak, that was the judgement voice inside of you that says Ur Doin It Rong." To which I say: and who was it who made me aware of the judgment voice? And has since then been ignoring the effect of it on how I react to what he says in therapy?

I had a frigging migraine before my last session because my anxiety was so high. And I felt so shitty afterward that I didn't even manage to make myself do the recommended journalling.

He's done me a LOT of good, but it is definitely time to move on... and I'm really, really scared because looking for a psychologist was a really traumatic experience the first time ("What are you doing in my office? You're not depressed!") and I don't want to do it again. But now that I know the issues, I know I really need to deal with them.

#315 ::: john, who is incognito ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:13 PM:

Moonlilt Night @ 294: I also have something that I don't know what to call, which I don't like and don't know where it comes from. Sometimes (usually when waiting to cross the street) some little bit of my brain goes, "I wonder what it feels like to get hit by a car?!" and then the rest of my brain goes, "it would HURT; are you crazy? Do you want to get killed or end up crippled?" and the crazy bit shuts up and goes away.; also Merricat @ 305, Bricklayer @ 307, tom Whitmore @ 310--

Edgar Allan Poe called it the Imp of the Perverse.

CZEdwards @ 298: Beautifully stated, and there's a lot of wisdom there. Thank you for sharing that.

Chickadee @ 314: Good luck. I wish you courage.

#316 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:18 PM:

One takeaway from the 'we have no money' discussion on Wednesday with my fiancee was something I could do to help ease it: Start looking into freelancing like I've been meaning to, sometime in the next week.

The thing that's helping break the pattern is that I've been meaning to do it for a while now, but I kept getting derailed by other stuff, and my fiancee's giving me a gentle deadline to help me get off my arse and do it. We both know that without that, I'm likely to put it off and Not Do It.

I took my first poke at requirements today; it looks like I could dive in pretty easily. But I think, for portfolio purposes, I need to do some of my current no-pay proofreading gig with Track Changes on (it involves re-submitting things to a blog queue, so it's not traditional proofing-symbols work).

Overcoming old patterns and actually doing stuff for the win!

#317 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:22 PM:

Pendrift @300: Thank you also. I followed your link and read your post. Congratulations on your courage and best wishes for good reactions from most of your friends (I'd like to say "all" but human nature being what it is, I fear that would be too much to hope for). "To thine own self be true..."

#318 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:24 PM:

For a quote? I can offer liquorice tea.

#319 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 03:48 PM:

Chickadee -- I've had several therapists over the years. Getting the second was much easier for me than the first. May that be true for you as well.

And I agree that it sounds like a very good time to change therapists!

#320 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Lee #274: I missed "I am a Rock" myself; however, if I had come across it as a teenager, it would have been one of those songs. As it was, my personal imagery was a desperate attempt to be a virtual block of ice. (Ice, instead of stone, because I still held out a tiny bit of hope that at some point in the future it might be safe for me to thaw.)

dcb #286: Actually, not hlepy at all--it's something I'm going to be starting once I've got the sleep apnea under better control. I hope that, because it's my choice, that I can stick to it better...

CZEdwards #298: That was amazingly informative, and I'm bookmarking it for future reference. Thank you!

#321 ::: Jennifer Baughman is Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 04:04 PM:

I suspect, in retrospect, it was an expression of gratitude. Alas, I have nothing to offer the Gnomes except my appreciation; my oven is broken.

#322 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 05:23 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @320: Great! (really glad I wasn't being hlepy). I hope that you not only stick to it, but come to enjoy it. I do! Running has given me a non-work focus, and I'm fitter now, at 45, than I've ever been in my life. (If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer or point you in the right direction for answers.)

And best of luck in getting the sleep apnoea controlled.

#323 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 06:14 PM:

Chickadee @ 314: This may be hlepy, so feel free to disregard. It's perfectly reasonable to move on after 1-4 years with a therapist because getting a fresh perspective is useful. Your therapist should expect this, and a really good one will give you several referrals. After all, they know their colleagues, and have an idea of who is a good fit with whom.

There are several therapist checklists available online, and most of them are good. I always build one for myself before looking for a new therapist. Things I know won't work (I won't work well with older men, and faith-centered therapy doesn't work for me; I do best with someone who has a quirky sense of humor and doesn't see either irony or sarcasm as defensiveness) go on the list for the initial visit. I'm also looking for clear policies on missed appointments, meds, payment, insurance and progress. And if you have goals in mind (even if they're nebulous, like "better managing anxiety" or "more effective communication") write 'em down and bring them with you. Some therapists are better tacticians than others, some are better strategists. If you have a craft or activity that helps put you in a calm space (like knitting or walking) it's okay to look for someone who is comfortable having sessions in the park or while you're looking at a row instead of at zir. (Personal suggestion on that -- really simple, repetitive patterns.)

#324 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 06:47 PM:

I also get the "I COULD do that" with high places, and with buses and trucks. And I'm not at all depressed, nor have suicidal ideation. Whatever that is, it's something else. (Something easily checked with a, "That would really hurt"...but that checks it only that time, it doesn't stop it piping up again later.) The Imp of the Perverse seems like a good way to put it.

#325 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 07:03 PM:

@CZEdwards, #323: I like your checklist idea.

Part of my problem is that I've only been seeing this therapist since September. So I'm quite sure he's not thinking I'm ready to move on. But... the last appointment really sucked. Like, lack of respect for me in a way I've never seen from him before. No details (for now, anyway), but he revealed his huge invisible backpack of male privilege in a big way.

I'm considering asking him for a referral, since I do still have major issues to be worked out, but I'm also thinking of looking independently, or even asking my previous therapist (who was very proud of me when I progressed enough to move on to someone else) for a suggestion.

Very good to know it's normal to move on after 1-4 years, though. Thank you.

@319, Tom Whitmore: Thanks! (for both!)

@315, john, who is incognito: Thank you!

#326 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 07:05 PM:

May I offer leftover delicious Christmas goodies? (frozen, for freshness. :)

#327 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2013, 09:18 PM:

John #315: There is something eternally comforting that no matter what strange thing we find in our brains, it has already been used in literature, and it was probably given a beautiful name.

#328 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 12:36 AM:

Chickadee @ 325: Four months? That's still "getting acquainted" territory. Feel free to move on, especially if you're uncomfortable. After all, there is no point in wasting your time, his time, and your money when your therapist is an exacerbating issue. Asking your previous therapist is a very good idea.

One of my tools for finding a new one is to look for someone who specifically mentions working with an community in their CV. (Your insurance company probably has a list; alternately, so does Psychology Today's website, and that one is searchable by region and specialty.) They're more likely to be aware of their own privilege and take it into account.

There are times when therapy will hurt, but it should not injure.

Thank you all for kind words. (And as a proof that my mute button on my tapes is still faulty -- my first reaction to praise was to interpret it as "Okay, you've said your piece, please go away." Programming, it is Teh Suck sometimes.)

#329 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 12:44 AM:

Chicakdee @325: Agreeing with CZEdwards here, with one possible suggestion (ignore if not useful, or if it feels hlepy): if you feel safe doing so, tell the therapist about your reaction. That can lead either to a recommendation for another therapist who is less likely to induce that reaction, or a change in the therapist. This is not a course to take if you feel unsafe with the therapist! And it has the long term possibility of leading the therapist to do better even if he can't change for you. Don't know if you have the spoons to be generous in that way; and this really is about you doing better first.

#330 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 03:00 PM:

Re: Music as barometer for mental state: NIN, The Fragile album was something of a revelation to me when I first heard it, because oh, wow, somebody gets it. I find myself not listening to as much music at all anymore, combination of not wanting to annoy SO with very different musical taste and also my brain seems to be wired not to handle too much sensory input well (ie. having music on = loss of processing power elsewhere). These days, the most reliable 'tell' of a particularly bad head episode for me is wanting to reread the first six pages or so of Neil Gaiman's short story, "Keepsakes and Treasures" out of Fragile Things. The part where Mr. Smith shares a bit of his history.

I do still listen to music as an outlet sometimes, though, mostly in the car, and this is a thing that I've found useful: I actually have a mix CD that I made that's sort of my "anger management" CD (sounds awfully hokey, I know, but works for me).* It starts with the ragey-est song I want to hear if I'm having one of those days (NIN, 'Burn'), but then gradually dials it back from there to just plain raucous/heavy but more positive types of things, and so gradually to lighter-mood stuff. By the time I get to Propellerheads/Shirley Bassey doing 'History Repeating', I find that I'm almost always in a (relatively) better headspace.

*ymmv, songs given as examples only, void where hlepy

RE: Imp of the Perverse: A psychology term that I've just encountered in the last few months of reading is intrusive thoughts, and I've since applied it to my "you could jump off this cliff right now" type thoughts, as well as other unwelcome thoughts more related to the engines that drive my OCD issues ("a bug might have crawled on this", "this thing has touched the thing the bug might have crawled on", ad infinitum).

Imp of the Perverse is so much more poetic, though.

CZEdwards: Count me among those who find your posts helpful and inspiring. Also sympathies and understanding on the tapes.

Pendrift: Thank you for sharing the post link. I read and appreciated it, and I hope the response you get is overwhelmingly positive.

#331 ::: eep, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 03:07 PM:

No links. Several musicians and an author were mentioned?

I have some chocolate to offer.

#332 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 03:26 PM:

Quietly Learning To Be Loud @#246

Last year, I learned about "microactions" as a time management tool to tackle things that seem too big. It's a bit like a generalization of how you tackled the table (although you had lots of other good skills going on in there too.)
I found as a bit of explanation.
The time management/life balance stuff I got this from had an anecdote along these lines:
Time Management Coach (TMC) was helping person to start exercising (at walk round the block level), meeting weekly.
TMC proposed a micro-action similar to "twice this week, get dressed to walk round the block, step outside, then you can go back in."
Person arrives at the session and is asked how it went; person concedes that having got dressed for exercise, they did the walk around the block.

It's not rare, original, or rocket science, but I sometimes find that this is a useful tool. If I've been putting off X, I can persuade myself that, for example, just locating the missing piece of paper for X will be a step forward. And I might or might do all of X, but at least I find the missing paper.

Offered for what it might contribute. (No nym.)

#333 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 04:03 PM:

On the question of heights, I've been informed that the impulse to jump can be a form of vertigo - both I and my grandfather experience(d) it, though I never heard about his experiences until after his death when I mentioned my own experiences.

I have that problem with bridges, boats and railings (even when I'm in a car, so yes, doors get meticulously locked, just in case), though high-up windows can be okay as long as they're in my peripheral vision.

As far as I can tell, my brain has decided that an easy way to resolve the problem of dizziness created by heights is to get to the bottom of the drop as fast as possible, so the problem goes away. Or at least, that's how I explain it to myself while backing away slowly from whatever the trigger is this time...

#334 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 05:57 PM:

@CZEdwards, #328, Tom Whitmore, #329

Thank you again. I've written a short, polite note to my therapist thanking him for his help in the progress I've made, ending the professional relationship, and carefully not mentioning the latest thing. It felt like it would come across as self-diagnosis, and he already has "I know better than you, as you practice self-deception." (which he's caught me on, granted, but this is unrelated) He wouldn't listen, and it wouldn't help, sadly. :( Especially when he told me my symptoms were my imagination (not in so many words) and had to be caused by something much more common and familiar to him...

I'll also, on the advice of a friend, be seeking help at a clinic that specializes in the particular problem this psychologist doesn't believe exists. She found it for me. :) (good friend)

Thank you again, for listening, for good advice, and for helping me to follow the not-so-subtle signals my gut and hindbrain were giving me.

#335 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 06:10 PM:

Good for you, Chickadee, and good luck with your next therapist.

#336 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 06:48 PM:

Chickadee, those sound like good steps to take, and I'm glad you're moving forward.

#337 ::: eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2013, 08:13 PM:

I used to have something similar to the "I wonder what it would be like to..." but for me it was more I would be about to do something, so I would think ahead to it (visualise ahead, if that's not normal thinking ahead) and there would be involuntary injury no matter what. For example, when I was a child and had to go check the eggs or let out the chooks or whatever, I could not think about closing the door with slamming my hand or fingers in it (and sometimes cutting them clean off). Then I would get stuck on a loop trying to get past the door without hurting myself on it. I would generally end up being able to do it, but it took a lot of looping and visualising in slow motion.

It doesn't happen so much these days. Probably because I stopped thinking ahead, which possibly isn't the best solution.

#338 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 02:45 AM:

Thanks, Nancy Lebowitz #266, and others who talked about somatic experiencing. I've surprised myself by making an appointment to see a somatic experiencing therapist next week.

Up until now I had been trying to find somebody who did EMDR. But none of the ones I looked at online or spoke to seemed to be a good fit. But this one seems promising. Although I will need to tell her that her name was my father's drug of choice. Just to get it out of my system. :-)

Wow, CZEdwards #298, that was incredibly helpful. My step father was a customs officer, so there are a lot of parallels.

The only really major PTSD episode I've had in recent years was triggered by being pulled over by a highway patrolman for a late registration. I was shaking like a leaf during the whole encounter and then hid out in my bedroom for three days.

The officer was friendly and courteous but he wore a tan uniform. The color is somewhat similar to my step father's customs coverall. Even thinking back on the episode makes me feel shaky.

This was the first time ever I had an encounter with a law enforcement officer with me being on the wrong side of the law. I was in my mid-forties. That's my strategy for dealing with authority figures -- don't ever be wrong, don't do anything wrong, don't see anything wrong. Goody Twoshoes has nothing on me.

#339 ::: So open, except about this ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 10:39 AM:

(My previous DFD post.)

I am more broken up about Aaron Swartz's death than I was about my father's.

#340 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 12:33 PM:

CZEdwards @38 mentioned a nasal spray version. I'm terrified of needles and have been telling people I'd rather just have the flu than get the shot. If there's a nasal spray available, though, I'd take it in a heartbeat. Can anyone give details on how well it works and/or where to get it?

#341 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 12:34 PM:

Posted on the wrong thread! So sorry.

#342 ::: BrokenPottery ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2013, 11:40 PM:


Okay now I feel better.

We received an email today from my wife's estranged brother (untreated mental illness and abusive behaviour) that having converted from Sundance to Mormonism around six months ago that he had my wife's father posthumously baptized as a Mormon on Thursday. My wife's father was a passionate Anglican minister who spent his life shuffling around small rural towns, driving up to 12 hours each Sunday to do service in several scattered communities so that these people could take communion more than once every couple months when the circuit minister came through. While he was kind and accepting of other denominations and non-Christians (which he believed Mormons were) his spirituality was very firm.

We aren't Christians ourselves but the idea of doing something to him that is so fundamentally opposed to what he believed that I can't articulate how offensive this is. He was a difficult man whose spiritual vocation put his family's needs a distant second priority but his beliefs deserve better respect than this.

#343 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 01:00 AM:

Hi, all. Still reading and witnessing, finding useful information and general encouragement from all y'all's posts, offering good mojo and Internet hugs and such-like, as needed/wished for by the commentariat.

The job is still going well. I've passed my 3-month probation period and officially moved downstairs into the admin area (where I was hired in the first place, but "everyone spends their first three months in sales" so, yeah). Doing mostly accounts payable with some contract review/proofing/editing for the head of business development. The latter I'd been doing already, but at least now I just have to go around to the next section of desks instead of "hiking" up and down (or in this case, down and up) the stairs to do it.

I still like the place. I like the people in my new section. I like the head of business development.

[begin venting]

The boom, it has been lowered on my housing situation. My landlady emailed me this evening (well, sometime during the day, since I was out and about before she was upstairs this morning) and basically, though politely, let me have it for not having already come up with a Solution to the Three Too Many Cats Problem (TM). Which has to be solved one way or another before her husband gets back from his extended business trip at the end of the month, and which would be even better if solved by the time her visitor from [native country] arrives in a week or 10 days.

And she hasn't mentioned "our situation" to anyone at work because she didn't want it to reflect negatively on me--Wait, what? Did I mention my landlady is the head of HR where I work? And by the way, she included in her email, the cat odor is sometimes overwhelming--really? I included a comment in my reply to the effect that if she'd just SAID that, I'd have bought an air purifier.

Not that it solves the Too Many Cats problem, but it would have helped that part of it.

Yes, I've been procrastinating. Have looked up many studio apartments that might be suitable, price-wise and location-wise (for the commute to work) and claim to be pet-friendly--but have not actually contacted them, because I'm frankly afraid my credit report is a disaster and will disqualify me.

General observation: I went to the official "get your once-a-year credit report here" site, filled out the preliminary info, clicked to go to Credit Agency #1, and found myself faced with a bunch of "prove you are who you say you are" questions relating to my credit history. And I "failed" because most of the questions did NOT match my reality. Went to the next one, was able to get my credit report, and discovered that the credit score--which is what I was most interested in, and what I'd think most folks are also interested in--wasn't on the blankety-blank report. But I could get it for only $7.95.

It isn't the money, it's the idea that a credit report doesn't include a vital piece of credit information. Of course, I did just assume it would be there, and we know why it's bad to assume...


Last weekend I had a long phone call with one of my longest-term friends, and gave her the lowdown on my housing fun. And she reminded me of one of her friends (whom I also know, but it's been a while since we've spoken) and the fact that said friend has a do-it-yourself cat sanctuary--and my friend said she'd check with Other Friend to see if there might be space for 3 of mine. Unfortunately, if my friend has made the call, she hasn't heard back yet. And I've wasted my waiting period by the aforementioned procrastination.

So as of now, this evening, I have sent off 4 emails re: cat-friendly rooms for rent on the List that Craig built (in case its real name is spammy). At least 2 of them sound ideal, being in one case a converted garage and in the other a mobile home, and unless they gave bad data about their locations, they should be public-transit-friendly as well. Not looking forward to paying $200-$400 more a month, between increased rent and a monthly bus pass, but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes.

There's also the possibility of boarding 3 of teh kittehs, and it might work in the short term if I can find a place willing to give me a decent deal for, say, a month, while I keep looking for a place to live. Because quite frankly, my landlady's comment about not mentioning our situation at work feels a lot like the kind of thing my aunt used to say when she wanted somebody on her side and you weren't jumping fast enough.

In point of fact, I probably wore out my welcome here when my actual number of cats came to light, but I no longer feel comfortable with the idea of staying, even if I could work out a cheap boarding alternative for the cats and still save money with the rent I'm paying here.

So once again I'm imposing on y'all for good mojo and crossed fingers that I find the right solution posthaste.

[end venting]

#344 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised, has gone a-gnoming. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 01:03 AM:

No idea why. Guessing accidental Word of Power or a punctuation snafu. Would have been at/near #342.


#345 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 07:12 AM:

@BrokenPottery, #342: I've never understood the whole posthumous-baptism thing at all. If somebody wanted to become a Mormon, they could do it during their lives. It's not like the LDS are baptizing people who are over 200 years old and didn't have an LDS church to go to.

@Syd, #343: Ugh. Working with the people you live with just makes things harder!

#346 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 07:35 AM:

BrokenPottery @342: Sympathies. Don't know if it helps at all, but I'd consider it invalid, rather like a marriage in which one party never said "I do."* So, it didn't happen, for your wife's father, whatever her brother and the Mormon Church might say. (However, still icky.)

Syd @343: Sympathies on the continued you-and-cats accommodation problem. Have you considered whether veterinarians in the target geographical areas might be prepared to put up a card saying that you and cats are looking for somewhere? After all, they can confirm with -your- vet that you're not an axe-murderer in disguise, so if someone is looking for a lodger but nervous about advertising that they have a room available... [Our vets tend to have notice boards displaying ads for pet sitting, asking for homes for cats, pictures of missing dogs and so on, so they might be prepare to put up a card like this, but I've no idea whether the same holds true in the USA].

Also, congratulations that the job itself is going well.

#347 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 08:22 AM:

BrokenPottery @342, This may not help, but a Mormon acquaintance has told me that the posthumous baptism is only an opportunity for the deceased soul; they don't have to accept it.

#348 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 08:42 AM:

Syd, good living-arrangement-mojo aimed your direction.

#349 ::: justkeepsmiling ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 11:21 AM:

Not sure if this is appropriate here, since my issues aren't necessarily family-related, but more general mental health, but anyway, here goes.

I'm only just now facing up to how seriously crippling my anxiety issues have been for the last ten years. There's a task at work that I've been sitting on for months, and I just can't bring myself to do it because its become such a locus of anxiety that just thinking about it made my hands shake and my throat tie itself in knots.

At the end of last week I took two and a half days off with what I thought was a stomach bug. I was throwing up a couple times a day. Over the weekend I got better. By Sunday afternoon I was feeling good, but then I got a call on my cell phone about a work emergency. By the end of the call, the nausea was back in full force. Guess that wasn't a virus.

I've lost a job I loved because of my anxiety issues before. I spent years unemployed feeling like a failure after that and only managed to start climbing out of that black hole two years ago. Please don't let me fall into that again.

I've made an appointment with a counselor for Thursday. God, I hope it helps.

#350 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 01:36 PM:

Chickadee: Not a hamster, but....

#351 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 02:20 PM:

justkeepsmiling @ 349

In the hope that it's not hlepy; that sort of persistent, performance-damaging anxiety with a side of black hole is sometimes helped by some of the SSRI's. (Things I'd do differently if I had my life to live over; start taking drugs sooner. My coping mechanisms, thank God, are pretty well developed and I'm still much more functional with some chemical help.) If you have the opportunity to talk to a medical professional (even a nurse practitioner), that use is well established and labeled enough that it's worth mentioning.

#352 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Henry Troup @332

I love the microactions site. I am so guilty of not doing something because there's always something that needs doing first. This attitude wasn't helped by family and spouse all saying, "No wait, before you can do that, you have to do this." I remember the shocking look I got when I said, "Dammit, no. I'm in the mood to do this and I'm going to do this because I want to do this and I really don't care what everybody else thinks I should do first." And I did. Once.

Unrelated to anything else here, but I am moved to share it. Another website that has tools of understanding that might be useful to some is this:
for highly sensitive people. I'm one. It was very enlightening to me to realize that yes, in fact I do feel things more intensely than others. And absolutely could not explain it, until someone pointed me to this website. I still can't explain it to most people, but it helps me understand my own reactions and why others are baffled by them.

Finding out I'm not alone is my coping mechanism. Being here, sharing here, is most definitely a coping and healing thing.

#353 ::: justkeepsmiling ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 03:24 PM:


Not hlepy at all. In my previous go-around with anxiety I did spend a few months on a relatively low dose fluoxetine (the generic name for Prozac). The only real effect on my anxiety that I could discern was that the physical symptoms (shaking hands, headaches, nausea) of my anxiety got worse over the time I was taking it. Not sure if that was because of the drugs or because my anxiety was just getting worse.

Definitely something I'll want to discuss with the counselor.

#354 ::: justkeepsmiling got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 03:25 PM:

I have half of a turkey burger with avocado and tomato salsa left over from lunch if the gnomes want it.

#355 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 04:01 PM:

@Jacque #350

I'm so going to get gnomed for this, but - AWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

#356 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 06:33 PM:

Moonlit Night, #294: I occasionally have the "what would it be like to...?" thing myself, usually about heights but sometimes about other things (like "what if that oncoming car crossed into my lane and hit me head-on?"). It doesn't happen often enough for me to be worried about it, but I'm right there with you on the WTF factor.

Also, all of my anxiety dreams seem to involve elements of "I'm trying to get something done and I can't because stuff keeps getting in the way". People I ask for help ignore me, transportation can't be found, major interruptions occur, stuff like that. I don't think of them as nightmares because there's rarely if ever any real unpleasant emotional content, but it's such a repeating pattern that it must mean something -- I just don't know what.

CZEdwards, #299: For a lot of miserable, outcast geeks of my generation (male and female both), Mr. Spock was the ultimate role model -- nothing could hurt him because he had no emotions. "I Am A Rock" slotted right into the same mindset.

Merricat, #305: Heh. This is why my camera has a lanyard on it! I have been known to be fumble-fingered at the worst possible times, so when I'm going to be shooting a lot of photos, I make sure I can't drop it completely.

BrokenPottery, #342: I'd be livid too. The "posthumous baptism" thing is one of the aspects of Mormonism which are truly abhorrent to me. It's a boundary thing, and a coercive-magic thing, and several other things all wound together in a way that sets off every alarm I've got. It's WRONG, and the fact that they view it as not just okay but an essential part of their religion... [REDACTED] does not make me respect it, or them, very much.

Syd, justkeepsmiling, Chickadee, and anyone else I've missed -- good luck!

#357 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2013, 07:55 PM:

Quietly Learning, #352: I get caught up in that loop of "I can't do that until I've done this other thing first" too. It's especially annoying when the thing that's blocking me is just a "should", like the one I'm looking at right now. I have a bunch of new pictures to post to my Flickr account, but the back of my brain keeps telling me that I really should finish posting the videos from the last set on YouTube before I tackle any more photos. This can too easily get into a paralyzing self-reinforcing cycle.

So, when I finish this post, I'm going to process the new set of photos and put them up on Flickr, because that's what I feel like doing NOW. The YouTube stuff can wait until tomorrow or whenever.

#358 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 12:43 PM:

Wow, that's a lot more people than I expected attesting to the Imp of the Perverse. Somehow a bunch of people saying it happens to them is more reassuring than one therapist saying it happens to other people.

#359 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 12:55 PM:

When I'm driving and there are k-rails or jersey barriers (you know, those concrete temporary walls) just outside of my lane, my Imp of the Perverse keeps telling me that, without any input from me, the car is going to suddenly swerve into them. Even though my history of unintended automotive swerves is, well, approximately nil.

#360 ::: unready for her closeup ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 03:39 PM:

re: The Imp of the Perverse

I get that on subway platforms a lot.

I was doing a prelim interview with a therapist a few months ago, and she seemed... a little freaked out that it's stopped bothering me. Maybe it should bother me more.

But I've been suicidal, and it doesn't feel like suicidality, and I'm reliant on public transit so if I *let* it bother me then I honestly think the being bothered would be worse than the thoughts themselves.

So yeah, it happens to other people, too.

#361 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 04:48 PM:

BrokenPottery, #342: This is why I'm going to have in my will a clause aimed at the Mormon contingent of my family expressly forbidding them to posthumously baptize me. (I'm pretty sure they'll ignore it, but it's the principle of the thing.) It's, as Lee said, coercive magic (what a great description!) with the express intent to force a conversion. And it's cowardly, because the person being "year-and-day baptized" can't object. My thought is that they have their chance to make their case to me while I'm alive, and if they fail, that's their problem.

Moonlit Night, #294: Add another voice to the "yeah, this happens to me" crowd. Pretty much any time I could (consciously or by accident) end up on the wrong side of a disaster, my brain gives me vivid images of how it might happen. Haven't driven off an overpass yet, no matter how often my brain gibbers at me that it could happen.

#362 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 05:41 PM:

And in other news, my sister and two-year-old niece will be moving down to live with me for awhile, so she can get back on her feet. (I offered her the option when she started having job and money problems, so it's not a situation of her inviting herself.) Still, I'm feeling...ambivalent. We have a good long-distance relationship now, but I'm more than a little worried about having the two of us in the same apartment. Plus Husband, three cats, and a toddler.

#363 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 06:37 PM:

Another data point for the Imp of the Perverse

For me the big thing is standing at the top of waterfalls, all the water rushing by makes me want to jump and go with it. At one point it was bad enough that I refused to get out of the car if we stopped near the top of a waterfall.

It's kind of weird how Im mostly fine with heights, I get it a bit and I'm fine watching waterfalls from the bottom but yeah.. it used to terrify me getting that urge to jump.

#364 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 06:38 PM:

Syd @343

And she hasn't mentioned "our situation" to anyone at work because she didn't want it to reflect negatively on me--Wait, what? Did I mention my landlady is the head of HR where I work?

Wow. This sounds like a threat. I don't want to scare you, but devote all efforts to finding a place for the cats / another place to live.

Still witnessing.

#365 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 08:07 PM:

Entertaining tidbits of dysfunctionality coming right up -- laugh where you can laugh, right?

When we move at the end of the month, we're ditching the house line but will port the number to my cellphone. This change distresses my mother. She tried to insist we should get a landline, because how could anyone find us if we weren't in the phonebook? I boggled for a bit before explaining a little about how to Google for contact data. She was affronted. It has to be for the boggling and/or disobedience, because I refrained from telling her that most people today (1) would not start with a dead-tree phonebook, and (2) would not be stopped by not finding a listing there, but would pursure other avenues, even if it meant asking the nice people at the library who know how to use computers for help. (I'm mostly very grateful that my mother doesn't touch computers, but I do expect her to ask people that do for the occasional favour.) Maybe I should have asked her if she would like to cover the $20-40 or so per month for the landline so that we could have it for her convenience?

We've also been getting pushback from both mothers on how could we want somewhere better to live. Current apartment was a great starter home and priced accordingly, but it's 800 sq. ft. tops chopped up into small rooms, with no entry hall, no laundry, a bad kitchen, and just one tiny bathroom. Both mothers have been told repeatedly that we wanted and needed better and more space and decided to pay for it. Most recent example was from partner's mother when she was very kindly dropping off boxes. For context, this lady has been living in a sardine-can-sized suburban tract home for decades, most of that time with 2-4 kids. I could not have done that without going insane, moving somewhere bigger, or murdering at least one child. So shouldn't she be sympathetic about wanting more space? And a better kitchen, and our own laundry, and a real front hall, and more bathrooms? Instead she asked for the nth time, with such a big apartment, how could we really need to move to a bigger place? We've tried the polite answers already. What else can we say? Can't they be pleased for us, or do they need us to have worse living conditions so they can put up with the inadequacies in their own homes? If so I do not wish to co-operate.

Neither mother has actually seen the new place yet, just heard that it is big (2000 sq. ft. plus part of the basement). I think both the maternal jaws are going to fall off when they do see it and realize how much bigger and better laid out it is than either of theirs. It'll be interesting to see the reactions. It's no model home -- the finishes are 1980s and worn at the edges -- but it has excellent bones. The floorplan is very smart, everything is roomy, none of the finishes are too ugly to live with, and the rent was a bargain price especially for its neighbourhood. I'm just hoping the landlord might let me start painting in the spring. I *so* want to pick my own colours for once.

#366 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 08:58 PM:

Moonlit Night, #365: Is your current space equal to or larger than the one your partner's mother lives in? If so, I think what you're seeing is a failure of imagination. AKA "They have more space than *I* do, and fewer people in it! What's the problem?" If it really is about needing you to be miserable so they can feel better about their own misery... I'm with you about not playing that game.

Also, I don't get your mother's objection about the phone. You're still going to be reachable at the same number, so it's not like she has to remember a new one; and anyone else who would have a legitimate reason to call you (doctors, schools, job applications, etc.), you'll have already given your number to. Is she worried about emergency services not being able to find you if you have to dial 9-1-1?

#367 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2013, 11:13 PM:

Lee, @ #366: our current space is not much smaller than partner's mother's house, which might be 1200 sq. ft. including the finished basement. So I agree it's probably the failure of imagination. It genuinely is a small house, especially for its era (1970s or 1980s, not a postwar bungalow). Everything is squished tight. The entry is a stair landing with no storage at all and no weather protection -- both criminal oversights with all the snow, rain, and -30C cold we get every year. (My family had a back hall triple the size with oodles of coathooks and bootracks and still tripped over eachother routinely while suiting up.) Bedrooms are barely above the 75 sq. ft. code minimum. The rest matches.

For context, my family's house is not unusually big. It was 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 study when they bought it, and made it to 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a home office over 2 renos. But all the rooms were medium-sized for their purposes except the kitchen and dining room (too small). The whole house never felt cramped, only specific areas when busy. It might be 1500-2000 sq. ft., probably on the lower end, or the extra used up in hallways.

As for my mother and the phone, there may not *be* a logical reason for her distress. It would be hard to get a real answer without making her unhappy and embarrassed, because honestly I suspect the real answers are something like "my daughter isn't obeying/isn't acting normal by rules I was taught" or "why is the world changing too much?".

#368 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 02:42 AM:

A very parenthetical post, prompted in part by Mea @203:
- a parental unit gets to have temper tantrums when ever.

My mom tends to swear and yell a lot when she's angry.(She's careful to not do this around other people*, which might set off some of the dysfunction alarms) My dad and my brother and I, having been in the blast radius of her f-bombs for so long, are pretty fed up with it. We feel like she's overreacting, that she doesn't need to be so loudly upset over every little thing. I realize we're policing her emotions, but I don't know what to do besides shut down while she runs around screaming.

Thinking about how my own anger is received: On several occasions, my mother has printed out a stack of job ads and left them by my laptop for me to find. One time, I got angry, because something about job ads turns the volume way up on the "You're not good enough for this" tapes. So I took a pencil and just scribbled over every page, which sounds stupid in retrospect. Later, when I admitted what I'd done (my parents wanted me to go drop off resumes) my dad said it was "childish", and "disrespectful" to my mom since she'd done the work of looking up and printing the ads. I mean, I see that what I did was rude. But it grates on me that he gets to insult me because I expressed anger the wrong way. What, was I supposed to punch something instead?

So that definitely feels like there's (inconsistent) rules about getting angry. It's hard to lay all this out in a coherent narrative, and I know I've left something out. Still, I want to and share this stuff, in case it helps someone. I feel selfish for not saying more about everyone else's posts, though. Perfectionism ahoy: "you're not participating enough! no, you're oversharing!". Blech.

*It's very much "what will people think?", I think. The same mentality that says a shirt is Ruined by a single tiny stain: "What will people think when they see you wearing that?"

#369 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 07:53 AM:

My dad and my brother and I, having been in the blast radius of her f-bombs for so long, are pretty fed up with it. We feel like she's overreacting, that she doesn't need to be so loudly upset over every little thing. I realize we're policing her emotions, but I don't know what to do besides shut down while she runs around screaming.

Phenicious @ #368

I wouldn't call it policing her emotions - she can still have them, after all. What you don't like is having to be the trashcan for those emotions.

Is it an option to simply pack up whatever you're doing and move bodily out of her space every time she lets a volley go? Or, failing that, making a mute statement by turning away and refusing to re-engage until she's at least stopped with the f-bombing? I can imagine such a thing would be very confrontational for her, but that might be the moment to distinguish for her between your respect for her emotions and your respect for your own mental well-being, in what she exposes you to. After all, you do get to ask respect for when someone else exposes you to unpleasantness.

(It occurs to me - could also be interesting if one asked, "What do I do if someone on the bus/at the dr.'s office/etc is f-ing and blinding right by me?" Then if there's a disconnect between that advice and what the family expect you to do if it's your mother, pointing out that difference.)

I apologize if this is hlepy - I just remember a time during a family moment when something was happening that I did NOT want to engage with, so I silently sat with my body clearly oriented away from the center of attention. I was shaking inside, expecting to be called on it, but realize now that in order to have been able to call me on it, those in charge would have had to taken the initiative in acknowledging something was amiss. What ended up happening was they shut down the center-of-attention instead, at which point I silently "rejoined" the event.

Crazy(and perhaps over thinking?)Soph

#370 ::: Joan of Arkham ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 09:10 PM:

So it's not exactly dysfunctional families, but maybe...dysfunctional friends? Okay if it's off-topic/modded away.

I know this guy who's kind of a mutual friend/mutual ex-friend of a bunch of people I know. (I say "ex-friend" because he's slowly been alienating everyone he knows with his behavior.) Everyone who knows him well describes him as "Yeah, well, he's extremely judgmental and kind of an asshole, but if he's your friend, he'll do anything for you." The "if he's your friend" seems to carry with it some extra weight of "if he respects you," which is apparently a rare occurrence.

I guess the thing that worries me is I'm not sure if his behavior is legitimately "people are complex, and have many shades of grey - they aren't black and white" or if it's "emotional abusers are mean to you, then nice to you, so you don't leave."

The most recent thing that I've heard about (he stopped communicating with me directly because I post things he dislikes on social media) is that when he comes to visit Mutual Friends (who are, apparently, kind of his last extant friends), he complained that they didn't have the kind of soda he preferred [brand name] in their fridge [they buy off-brand, to save money]. (When they told me about this, I said "Sheesh, he should bring his own soda.") But Mutual Friends are pretty non-confrontational, so they went out and bought his soda [when they found it on sale, so in bulk] and kept it in the fridge. The next Friday, and all subsequent Fridays, he shows up with his own soda, and *refuses* to drink any of the soda that they bought for him. (Mutual Friend thinks it's maybe because he doesn't like cans, but prefers to drink out of bottles? I don't even know.)

So...kind of jerky behavior, but maybe not world-ending. I don't know.

He also said, to a guy he had met not 5 minutes previously (in an outing with a mutual friend of theirs), "What are you, stupid?" when the guy mentioned he had purchased a new smartphone. (The phone was of a brand that This Guy disapproves of.)

And yet, when Mutual Friends moved house, he gave them a bunch of his old furniture that he wasn't using so they wouldn't have to buy all new things immediately. And his mom loaned them her truck (she's apparently exactly the same as him -- judgmental as hell, but does things like loan near-strangers her truck to help them out).

So this some kind of pattern of behavior I should be recognizing? I know I'm a 3rd party in all this, so maybe I shouldn't even be asking, feels really off to me somehow. I don't know.

p.s. Oh, also, he commutes (driving a car on the interstate) while watching TV on his smartphone. This kind of makes me hate him. So I might not be objective here?

#371 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 09:23 PM:

Joan of Arkham #370: Possibly just an asshole, but adding in that last bit makes me wonder about... well, not exactly impulse control, but some sort of problem with judgement (in the executive-function sense) in general. The real question is an individual one: Whether it's worth putting up with him.

And yeah, that last bit would also make me... well, not hate him, but definitely wary of him, in the sense of "is it really safe to hang around with this guy?"

#372 ::: Joan of Arkham ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 09:30 PM:

Yeah, Mutual Friends don't want to stop hanging out with him because they're kind of his last/only friends. He does have a girlfriend, and it sounds like they get along well, so that's good at least, but...yeah.

#373 ::: Joan of Arkham ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 09:40 PM:

Oh, apropos of nothing: are Peabody/Emerson a functional couple? They seem pretty functional to me (egalitarian, ass-kicking, etc.) but I'm not sure. TVTrope link: (may be pre-emptively gnomed...)

#374 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 10:36 PM:

Phenicious @ 368

Ah, "ruined", or as my wife and I sometimes say, "the r word". Major trigger word for her.

#375 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 10:38 PM:

Just catching up; got very busy over the holidays although reading here as often as I can.

The subthread about about perfectionism and micro-actions has been resonating for me as I baby-step my way through the grad school application process. Today's baby step was "Drop the envelopes containing the reference letter forms into the mail, so the people who very kindly agreed to write references will have what they need some time before the very last possible minute."

Of course, I also have to face the reality that my undergraduate transcript is even worse than I remember, and have a moment of panic and despair that NOBODY is EVER going to EVER let me do ANYTHING academic EVER again because CRAP and FAILURE and NEVER DID ANYTHING RIGHT and goddamn tapes, just shut up already.

Note to self, write short narrative explaining to the best of recollection where all those D's came from and why we will make better mistakes the next time around. (Because we have had close to 20 additional years of experience learning how to cope with deadlines, perhaps? And also at the moment we are perhaps /not/ having an unrecognized depressive episode? And maybe we have come to the slow realization that one is not expected to solve all problems unassisted and that one might potentially get help if one asks nicely?)

Argh. How did I get this far when I was this forked up?

#376 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2013, 11:19 PM:

Joan of Arkham, #370: I dunno -- to me, that sounds a little bit like he's trying to buy friendship and loyalty by doing extravagant favors for people, which is not a healthy mode of interaction. And also yes, the "intermittent reward" thing may very well apply. All I know is, he wouldn't be my friend for very long, if the behavior you've described is typical. Life is too short to waste on assholes.

Oh, and the last bit? I'm sure you know better than to ever get into a car with him at the wheel, but is there any way you can report it to the cops? He's going to kill someone, and it probably won't be just himself.

#377 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 12:28 AM:

All right, I am Taking A Step. I have written a letter to my mother in which I say that I do not want to have any contact with her for a while. I have addressed the envelope. Tomorrow I will be placing two stamps on it and putting it in the mail.

Yes, I am terrified. But I am doing this to save my own life. I cannot be honest about my life while she is looking over my shoulder, even when it's just in my own mind. I have to separate myself from her judgement or I will never be truly who I am.

It's only been 41 years. Perhaps it is indeed time to become the person I was meant to be.

I welcome any response, encouragement, hlep, disparagement, anything someone wants to say. If nothing else, it will clarify in my own mind what my responses will be if I get those sentiments from anyone in my own life. And if you've gone through this as well, I would love to know what worked best for you.

Thank you, and witnessing, and so happy for those who are Taking Steps. You are inspirational. Watching you move forward has helped me time and time again.

And always, Abi, thank you for seeing the need and letting us be here.

#378 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 12:47 AM:

knitcrazybooknut, best of luck! The step may work out in unexpected ways, and that's okay.

#379 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 01:05 AM:

knitcrazybooknut, I honestly think that a bit of distance and time is a good thing in many circumstances. Perhaps Lee can give you some tips on making your decision stick.

There's some people who are poison. And there's some people who are "merely" toxic. Either way, it's a good thing to have them away from you so you can find out what life is like when you're not having your energy leached* away from you.

*"Leeched" works too, as in vampires.

#380 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 03:33 AM:

Joan of Arkham @373: I think Peabody and Emerson are a functional couple. But while I think Amelia is an excellent mother to the adult Ramses (and an excellent mother-in-law as well), she had some serious shortcomings as a mother to the child Ramses. The way she was delighted to leave him for months on end,* for example, and the way she fell for the cousin who was blaming him for the cousin's own transgressions. Fortunately, Emerson was always a doting father.

Okay, this is the third time in this thread that I've said, in essence, "Great couple, not so hot parents." Is that a pattern in these kinds of stories, or just some weird quirk of mine?

*When I was six, my dad was sent overseas for 13 months, half in Vietnam and half in Japan. When he was in Japan, my mom went to live with him there for two months. My husband thinks it's awful that she left me with my grandparents, but actually they were pretty cool grandparents, and I didn't mind. So maybe Ramses felt that way, too.

#381 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 03:45 AM:

Joan of Arkham @370: I'm not sure if his behavior is legitimately "people are complex, and have many shades of grey - they aren't black and white" or if it's "emotional abusers are mean to you, then nice to you, so you don't leave."

One is moved to wonder if, functionally, there is a difference. For me, it's a spoons thing. I have a friend—well, I've demoted hir to "acquaintance" because, despite considerable respect and affection for hir, every single time I try to deal with hir, s/he takes me to task for some slight or mistep s/he perceives I've made. The challenges are not without point, but the method for doing so pretty consistently leaves me feeling reprimanded and, you know? Sometimes life is just too damn short.

I tried for a while to just stay out of range, and let the connection be light and on an ad hoc basis. But then a few months ago, I made a blunder. I screwed up. But every time I was actually on the brink of apologizing, s/he'd take another swipe at me, and I'd have to spend another half day climbing down off my mad-on. "Okay, fine," I thought to myself. "This person may be smart, and interesting, and all shades of nifty, but is clearly not safe for me to deal with at all." So, sadly, I've put hir on my "to be avoided" list. And s/he never did get hir apology, because to do so would have meant coming back into range, and that was demonstrably a bad idea.

knitcrazybooknut @377: You go, (I presume) Girl!

#382 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 05:40 AM:

Joan of Arkham @370: I'm not sure if his behavior is legitimately "people are complex, and have many shades of grey - they aren't black and white" or if it's "emotional abusers are mean to you, then nice to you, so you don't leave."

I think it might be more towards people are complex. It sounds as if this guy is extremely self centered so his scale of what's a big thing and what's not might be very different from what you percieve.

I.e. drinking off brand soda is a major inconvenience for him because he doesn't like the taste while giving away furniture he doesn't use isn't a big thing because he's not using it so what's the big deal?

I've known people like that. So as a guess, milage may vary I obviously don't know full details etc etc I wouldn't say he's being calculatedly abusive but I can imagine it being very confusing and hard and spoon draining to deal with. Intent and outcome isn't the same thing after all.

#383 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 05:50 AM:

knitcrazybooknut @377: Good for you! I hope you get the space you need.

AnotherQuietOne @375: Currently also stress-bunnying my way through grad school apps and the "oh god how do I explain THIS to a school?" thing. Much support and empathy for you.

#384 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 07:19 AM:

Jacque #381:

Joan of Arkham @370: I'm not sure if his behavior is legitimately "people are complex, and have many shades of grey - they aren't black and white" or if it's "emotional abusers are mean to you, then nice to you, so you don't leave."
One is moved to wonder if, functionally, there is a difference.

Indeed... remembering evolutionary logic, that sort of nice/mean alternation doesn't have to be (and often isn't) a premeditated strategy. It can just be the visible effects of emotional instability or a cognitive bug... but the "why" doesn't actually matter, because assholedom is phenomenological.

despite considerable respect and affection for hir, every single time I try to deal with hir, s/he takes me to task for some slight or mistep s/he perceives I've made. The challenges are not without point, but the method for doing so pretty consistently leaves me feeling reprimanded and, you know?

Alas, you have well-described my mother. Unfortunately, I'm in a poor situation to cut off contact, but over recent years I've started simply discounting her judgement in such matters. Occasionally to her face, when she pisses me off enough. (Unlike with serious abusers, that does seem to make an impression on her.)

#385 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 07:59 AM:

knitcrazybooknut: Here, have a metaphorical flak jacket. When you get flak, just imagine it bouncing off our approval!

Merricat and AnotherQuietOne: I'm job hunting. I feel your pain.

#386 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 08:36 AM:

knitcrazybooknut @377, wishing you good results from your step.

And good wishes to those job hunting or grad-school-applying.

#387 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 10:08 AM:

re: grad school applying: Good luck!!!

If anyone wants some general good advice that I got when applying I am happy to share. Not sure if it's science specific (to do with supervisors, and I'm not sure how that works outside of science), but I don't want to go all hlepy on people. :P

#388 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Phenicious @ 368: I realize we're policing her emotions, but I don't know what to do besides shut down while she runs around screaming.

Speaking as a person who used to have the kinds of temper tantrums you describe your mom having -- if you're policing anything, it's her venting of her emotions in a way that affects you. You have a right not to be blasted with yelling and profanity when your mom is angry. She has the right to feel angry, but she doesn't have the right to explode on other people.

I had a lot of trouble mentally separating those two rights when I was the one having the tantrums, because I had no idea how it was possible to feel anger without exploding. I just had no model for that at all (thanks to my own parents, who repressed their anger until they couldn't take it anymore and then blew up). When my partner first asked me to stop blowing up like that, I felt like "What, so I'm not allowed to ever be angry?" But "being angry" and "verbally exploding with yelling and swearing" are actually two different things.

My point being, it's not actually okay for your mom to do that, and it is actually okay for you to want her not to do that.

#389 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 01:16 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #377: Good for you! And seconding the mental flak-jacket idea. Also (cf. #379), if your mother becomes difficult, don't hesitate to ask for suggestions. What works for one person may not work for another, but I do have rather a lot of practice.

#390 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 01:35 PM:

Re: anxiety dreams along with rage-exploding parents:

One of my recurring anxiety dreams is being yelled at by an authority figure, usually over a mistake or misunderstanding. They accuse me and judge me, usually in highly personal terms, with vicious sarcasm. They do not threaten me; the threat is simply their power over me.

I didn't realize, until this thread made me think about it, that these dreams are just playing out real-life scenes from my childhood, with my mother.

Recently, I was talking with my mom. She told me that when she talked to her therapist about how she'll mentally beat herself up sometimes, her therapist said "Would you speak to [Anon4Now] that way?" My mom said "No, I wouldn't and I haven't." Her therapist said "Then don't speak to yourself that way. Speak to yourself as you'd speak to [Anon4Now]."

Hearing that from my mom made me really uncomfortable, and at first I wasn't sure why. I mean, for years now, over a decade, it's been quite true that she wouldn't and doesn't talk to me that way. But then I remembered that she did talk to me that way sometimes. There were times when it happened regularly. It hurt and it's affected me into my adult life. It's just … really awkward to hear it assumed that, of course, my mother has always been perfectly compassionate in her words to me.

#391 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 02:44 PM:

I was just thinking about a song that was very heal-y and true-feeling and word-complex (in that listening to it and thinking about why it made me cry made me realize some things relevant to these threads) ... and then I suddenly realized I should post it in case it's useful to anyone else.

The song is Small Mended Corners, by Talis Kimberley (that link is lyrics; video of performance by composer). It's about being broken, and functional, and accepting a past self one no longer can defend. Or, in the words of the song,

There are women I've been who you would not admire;
Yes, I have been that thief, and I have been that liar.
But I had to be them before I could be me ...
They were doing their best to fight fire with fire.

That. Yes.

I've been known to sing it, though I shift a few key words and pronouns to make it more personal (with Talis' blessing).

#392 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 02:56 PM:

Phenicious @368: I realize we're policing her emotions, but I don't know what to do besides shut down while she runs around screaming.

Echoing Anon4Now: There's an important difference between policing emotions (which, I think we all agree, is ill-advised at best), and policing behavior.

"I respect your anger, and your right to your anger. But screaming is unacceptible. If you must scream, please do it somewhere else. If you can express your anger in a manner [that doesn't injure me], I'm happy to be [your sounding board / offer advice and/or sympathy / etc.]"

Anon4Now @390: It's just … really awkward to hear it assumed that, of course, my mother has always been perfectly compassionate in her words to me.

Ahem. "Awkward" is not the word that leaps to my mind. The one time, 10+ years after I'd moved out, I tried (on the advice of a previously-mentioned therapist whose judgment was consistently...not great) to bring up my issues about how I was treated to my mother.

A ways into my rant (and I can't remember if it was before or after she'd tried the "So it was all me? Are you sure you don't bear some responsibility?") she stopped me. "You know, I don't really care for being lectured to in an unfriendly tone of voice."

"...!" I mean, "!?" When I got my breath back, I asked, "So why did you do that to me?"

"I don't ever remember doing that to you."

Um, no. And, of course, since her reality was the Reality.... It was at that point that I finally and fully realized that there was simply no getting through to her.

The good news is that it pretty much confirmed the conclusion I reached at the age of eight that the only solution was to Get Out.

I just wish I'd had the spoons/perspective to think about what I wanted to do beyond getting out. I'm still fighting against that limitation.

I still fume when I think about that conversation.

#393 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 03:03 PM:

Thanks for the flak jacket and support. I went to the post office and mailed the letter. Shaking a little. Trying to stay calm.

Yesterday my therapist was asking if I wanted to send the letter. And I nearly came unglued with the answer: I *have* to! I don't feel like I had any other choice. Continuing the way things were was killing me. But it doesn't change the second-guessing guilt-fest. Just trying to breathe and continue to function.

On Saturday I'm writing a blog post about fear. Got plenty of source material.

Re: The Imp of the Perverse: I have felt that way for years. Things play out in my mind - what if that car drifts over? What if I lean too far over this edge? I have a recurring vision involving a car hitting me in the leg as I'm crossing a street. But so far, all is safe and well.

And Anon4Now, I have had that same experience. It's breathtaking to hear a complete denial of your life story in one breezy sentence.

Lee, if you have time and inclination, feel free to send me any specific tips that were helpful for you. I don't honestly know what will happen, so I'm preparing for everything. My email is my username at gmail.

#394 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Joan of Arkham #370: Husband ran into a similar situation yesterday; he was spending time with an acquaintance, D (who is rapidly sliding into "difficult" territory herself, but that's another story) who has one of those "but he doesn't have any other friends!" friends. An example of the behavior of Friendless: he'd left something at D's house, and called on a Sunday night to see if he could get it back. D told him she'd get it to him Monday; instead, he barged over at 11 pm, made himself at home, and somehow started installing a spyware package on her computer (and when called on it, said, "But what if I need to get remote access to your computer?").

I have some sympathy for those without friends; I've been in that position simply from being New Girl, or Smart Girl, or Weird Girl. OTOH, there's some people who have richly earned their friendlessness, and they should remain friendless until they learn how to interact with people in a civilized manner. The person you're describing, based on your description, is someone I'd put in the second bucket. He's intolerant and judgemental, rude, ungracious, and generally demonstrates the attributes of someone who thinks he's the Center of the Universe.

knitcrazybooknut #377: You go! *cheers you on* I didn't even send a letter, I just let my silence speak for me. You deserve to be honest with yourself, and see yourself with clear eyes for once. My advice is to take action up-front to make it more difficult for her to get to you: block her phone number (or send it to a black hole mailbox), email address, and IM screen names, and remove/block her from any social media sites you may share with her. That leaves snail mail, and I advise either throwing them out unopened or returning them to sender with no comment. That last can be hard, and it's ok if it seems overwhelming; you might want to see if you have someone trustworthy who can get your mail for you for awhile and remove any unwanted contact attempts. I suggest doing it all up-front so that the processes are in place when she starts flailing against the new boundaries you've set, and you don't have to spend any energy on it once they're set up. Which saves yourself for you.

#395 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 04:34 PM:

@Jacque #392

Yikes. At least my mom, when I on a number of occasions quoted to her word for word the horrible things she had recently said to me, reacted in shock and horror and "I said that? I'm SO sorry! I can't believe I said that to you!"

Before that, of course, it was all "Chickadee gets these bizarre ideas in her head about what we've said to her. We've never said anything like that. Do you know where she might have gotten them from?"

#396 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 05:01 PM:

I used to say, "What did you say?" Her response? "Oh, you know what I mean!"

#397 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 05:10 PM:

Chickadee #394:

Whereas my mother would always say "I don't remember that."

I eventually concluded that Teh Crazy, for appropriate definitions, was not limited to my father's side of the family.

#398 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 05:18 PM:

My mother used to say, "You must have dreamed that."

#399 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 05:30 PM:

I think my mom is aware of what she did back then. I get this impression because of times we've been talking about our relationship (which is very good now), and I've told her she was a good mom (which is largely true), and she's said "Well … I used to yell a lot." (From her tone, facial expression, and body language when she says this, I can tell she's not trying to dismiss or minimize with this phrasing. It's one of those situations where I know she knows I know what she means, as it were.)

But I think both of us are afraid to bring it up because it's messy and complicated and scary and guilt-inducing. That's also why I think she didn't go there in response to her therapist's question. It was obvious that it was a leading question, and that the therapist was assuming the answer would be no, and she just didn't want to get into it all.

Her rage attacks were mostly caused by mental illness. When she finally sought treatment and got on the right medication, that was when they stopped. I have very similar mental illness, and had very similar rage attacks, and it wasn't until I also got on the right medication that I stopped.

I mean, I've been there. I've felt like I had to give voice to the words my own mind was screaming at me over and over again, or else I might literally physically fly apart. I know how overwhelmingly powerful those emotions can be, and how difficult it is to think rationally enough to stop yourself from yelling. I have too much sympathy to be really angry at her for it, even though I know it wasn't okay.

And once we had the proper help controlling our brain chemistries, both of us chose not to continue that behavior. I can't imagine my mother as she is now ever saying the things I hear in my dreams.

I guess there is a difference though: I explicitly apologized to my partner for having done it. My mom hasn't explicitly apologized to me, or really even explicitly acknowledged it.

Maybe I do need to talk about this with her.

#400 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 06:49 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #393: I don't really have any useful overall tips, because everybody's situation is different. What I'm offering is analysis and suggestions based on whatever response your mother actually makes. You're already in a different place because you've actually written to your mother and told her you need to break off contact. I never had to do that -- I just severely curtailed both actual contact and the content of conversations when I did see her, so that there wasn't anything concrete for her to complain about.

Also, what Jennifer said about pre-blocking the main contact routes so that she can't do an end-run around your limits. I'm assuming she lives far enough away that she's not just going to turn up on your doorstep? (This, again, is something I never had to do; my parents would whine about not seeing me often enough, or leave long whiny messages on my answering machine*, but they weren't ill-mannered enough -- by their own standards -- to show up at my place without calling ahead first.)

And @396: Ah yes, the mind-reading thing. I occasionally tried saying, "No, I don't -- please tell me what you mean," but that generally got some variation on, "Well, Lee, you just can't DO like you DO," in response, and there was no budging her beyond that.

Jennifer, #394: He did WHAT?!!! Someone who tried to install ANYTHING on my computer without authorization would be ejected with extreme prejudice and never allowed to darken my door again! Yes, I am both ferociously territorial and paranoid about computer security.

* To which I never responded until several days had elapsed, even if I had been planning to call them, on the basis of not wanting them to think that shit would work.

#401 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 06:57 PM:

Lee @400: I'm assuming she lives far enough away that she's not just going to turn up on your doorstep?

Friend of mine's mother did that (from halfway across the continent, no less), after friend had divorced her some ten years prior. Spouse stepped up to eject parents from the property with, as Lee puts it, extreme prejudice. It evidently took friend most of the evening to get her heartrate back under control.

(Big, burly spouses that brook no bullsh*t are wonderful things, sometimes.)

#402 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 07:14 PM:


I did something similar in the summer of 2005 - I told my parents that I wouldn't be calling as often (1-2 times per week) because I needed some space and some time to think and figure some stuff out. They didn't push it much, and I didn't answer the phone sometimes, and eventually I got myself sorted out enough to resume regular contact.

Good on you for taking care of yourself!

#403 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 09:11 PM:

My fiancee got picked to help coordinate a Big Massive Thing at work. She texted her dad to let her parents know what's up.

That's the first overture of contact she or they have made since they brought her back from her Christmas visit. I stayed out of the way and they didn't end up coming into the building anyway (ironically because it was too clean for her 'but I'm not company-ready' excuse to work...), but her mother made a catty comment along the lines of 'well we think you're having an ~INAPPROPRIATE LIFESTYLE~ and that's why you don't want us to come in.'

(Never mind that I'd hidden all traces of my presence she couldn't reasonably explain as hers, except for a thing of decongestants. As a side note, I really don't like feeling like I can't live in my own gorram space. But anyway.)

She's conflicted. She sent the text because she wants them to be the one to make the first phone call for a change, she's not sure what exactly she did that upset her mother so much, she's not sure how much she can salvage of that relationship but she wants to keep one with her father (in some ways, really build that relationship for the first time)... it's a big giant mess, really.

And I wish I could do more to help, but I can't, and it sucks.

Venting done now.

knitcrazybooknut: Congratulations on taking that step, and good luck!

Joan of Arkham: I've used this space to rant about toxic former-friends before. That guy sounds like a real piece of work. Good luck in dealing with him.

#404 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 09:20 PM:

Unfortunately, we're only an hour from the House of Origin. It's possible that she might just show up, though not likely. She stays away from places where I have power as a general rule. If she shows up, my awesome husband will handle it. If I'm alone, I have no problem asking her to leave and walking inside and locking the doors. She's never been physically abusive, and it would be way out of her comfort zone to approach when unasked. Instead, phone or messages relayed through other family members are likely. But I am really good at changing the subject, and I plan to use "You're putting me in an awkward position" and "Let's talk about something else" and "Gotta go" to their fullest advantages.

She's just going to call me crazy and circle the wagons. So, not really different than any other day. Just more focused and I get to have my own life. Totally worth it. Just learning to cope. I'm used to fixing everything for everyone else at my own expense. Not the other way around. It's a big adjustment.

Thanks so much to everyone for even the briefest words of support. You made today's work day a lot easier as I struggled to function and did my emotional flailing. Thank you all.

#405 ::: God of the just, I'll never win a peace prize ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2013, 09:27 PM:

I recall being told as a young child that the Virgin Mary would cry if I stuck my fingers in electrical sockets. The going theory between me and my parents is that my (wack) grandmother told me this. It' of the more benign and humorous legacies. :-)

#406 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 06:28 AM:

tamiki @403: she's not sure what exactly she did that upset her mother so much,

May I somewhat cattily speculate that it all boils down to "not being who she's supposed to be" (in her mother's estimation, of course).

she's not sure how much she can salvage of that relationship but she wants to keep one with her father (in some ways, really build that relationship for the first time)

Sadly, I realized too late that that was my situation. Of course, it took my father dying for me to feel safe enough to start thinking about it, but I realized some while after he died that, really, it was my mother I had issues with. My dad was someone I would actually have liked to get to know. (It saddens me that I never got the opportunity to collaborate with him. I think we could have done some amazing stuff.)

peace @405: WTF? Like getting zapped wouldn't be enough of a disincentive...?

Well, now for the good news. Back @DFD: parade/683, I reported on the Catherine Wheel of Evolution that my HOA has been experiencing over the last six months. It's been...interesting. Most interesting is that some of the initial Heroes of the Revolution turned around and became the comic opera villains, and the Evil Overlord simultaneously came around to the creed that the Heroes were originally preaching.

Very interesting (not least in the sense of the Chinese curse).

Well, tonight our work culminated, and we have officially launched ourselves on a New Path. (Whether we ride off into the sunset, or sail off a cliff remains to be seen.)

The thing that's neatest to me is that we seem to have forged a new core group, and I spent an hour or so after our (triumphal) board meeting at one neighbor's apartment, sipping (not-, in my case) champaigne and celebrating our achievement/victory.

We still have Personalities to contend with, and the whole business could still blow itself to sh*t. But I'm feeling optimistic. Not least because in the end we achieved a surprising degree of consensus about the approach we wanted to take.

And the best thing of all? This is perhaps the fourth time in my life when I've found myself sitting in a group in which I actually felt like I truly belonged; had actually earned my right to be there.

And now: it's o-dark:thirty, and I need to be up and doing in three and a half hours. But: we slayed the dragon! (Well, this dragon.)

#407 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 07:43 AM:

Telling the tarot story reminded me that I hadn't done a tarot reading in ages. So last night, I got out the deck and did a Celtic Cross spread.

This seems superstitious, and for some people it probably is. I prefer to think of it this way: Each card is true of everybody, and the particular cards you are dealt can help you talk out aspects of your current situation (aloud or in your head) and sort out what to do next. The cards aren't Sending You Messages From The Beyond--they're just reminding you of normal human shortcomings and how to get past them.

Before the reading, I felt like utter garbage. After, it was like I suddenly had lots of extra "spoons" to use. I feel energized now and ready to do some of the things I've been putting off. :)

#408 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 11:45 AM:

Jacque: You can speculate that by all means; it probably does have a lot to do with the whole situation (see mentioned-on-last-thread 'they were expecting [her first name] when they adopted her and got [her middle name]').

She did say that over Christmas, her father said he's realised he doesn't actually know most of the people in his life, including his daughter, and he wants to try to fix that. She's just not sure how much he's still tied to her mother in terms of 'if you tell us this thing we are morally opposed to we WILL NOT TALK TO YOU AGAIN EVER.'

(Somewhat like Lee's 'I can do what Mom wants and get yelled at or do what I want and get yelled at': If she tells them everything, they'll fuss about her ~Lifestyle Choices~. If she diplomatically leaves out the parts they'll fuss about, she's accused of being secretive. Irony: Her mother's the one who taught her the fine art of not telling the whole family absolutely everything in order to Keep The Peace.)

She does at least think that if she emails her father and explains why she hasn't called, he won't share the whole thing with her mother (namely the fact that she doesn't know what's there to preserve with her mother).

She and her father also strongly suspect her mother's depressed - but she won't get medical help for it because no one's going to understand what's going on in her head. (But my fiancee, who arguably has much thornier problems to sort out, Absolutely Must Get Meds, of course.) On the other hand, the woman was also avoiding going to a doctor for purely physical medical problems because said doctor is not white...

Aaaaanyway, long story short, I am tentatively in favor of my fiancee trying to build a relationship with her father, as much as she can with her mother in the picture.

#409 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 11:50 AM:

The_L: I didn't want this to get tangled up in my last comment, but cool discovery! Hopefully you can keep using that as a way to re-spoon.

A few years back my aunt did tarot readings for me and a few of my cousins (also my mom, but I remember less of hers) at the family's New Year's party. Two of my cousins didn't have a Major Arcana card in sight, while I and the cousin I'm closest to were swimming in them. (I even managed to land Death in the 'best possible outcome' slot; I know it's about major change and not actually dying, and at the time I wanted to move away and live with my fiancee, but it was nowhere near possible.)

When the first two cousins weren't in the room, my aunt commented that meant they were grappling with much, much smaller questions than my other cousin and I were.

#410 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 02:27 PM:

tamiki, #408: Ah. Now here we get into another one of my observations: What They Don't Know Can't Hurt Me. They can yell at me for being "secretive"* as much as they like, and it's the same fight over and over again and essentially meaningless. Whereas if I actually tell them things, then it turns into the Death of a Thousand Cuts. I'd much rather have the harmless, repetitive argument that I can walk away from with my composure intact and my blood pressure normal.

* My parents expressed it as, "Lee, you never TELL us anything about your life!" Same principle, different words. They also had the meme (which apparently your partner's mother shares) that if I was unwilling to tell them about something, it must mean that it was Wrong and Shameful. But that only raised their blood pressure, not mine.

#411 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 02:34 PM:

@tamiki: A large part of my problem lately has been that I've been procrastinating like mad, then feeling so guilty about how long I've put things off that I don't feel up to doing them. The cards I ended up drawing were just the wake-up call I needed--especially since one of them was the Chariot. :)

I also like the term "re-spoon." Like re-spawning in a video game, except you don't have to die first.

Best of luck to your fiancee, btw. My parents would have disowned me years ago for being bi, except that I haven't had the courage to get emotionally involved with other women, so they haven't had a reason to know. I'm guessing your fiancee's parents are the same closed-minded sort, in which case, well, she'll probably need the luck. :(

#412 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 03:41 PM:

The_L @407: The cards aren't Sending You Messages From The Beyond--they're just reminding you of normal human shortcomings and how to get past them.

My model is slightly different: the cards are Sending You Messages From Yourself. Or, more specifically, from your unconscious.

The imagery and symbolism in each card, and each card's placement in the spread, [e|in]voke Jungian associations (much in the way that inkblots do, only at a "higher" level). The resonances that these associations produce (in oneself, and in the perception of a talented reader) can pull into consciousness information, attitudes, and desires that can otherwise be really difficult to get at, and enable connections that one otherwise would never have thought of.

I am particularly fond of Morgan's Tarot because (a) it doesn't take study to evoke interesting and informative responses and (b) it's so blessedly and profoundly weird and silly that one can hardly not have interesting and useful responses to it.

Although I can't entirely dismiss Messages From Beyond; I've seen some really spooky single-card readings.

Lee @410: But that only raised their blood pressure, not mine.

Wow. That's a really useful insight. I wish to Ghod I'd had this idea in my head when I was a kid; would have saved me no end of grief.

(Or, maybe not. My mother was totally wiggy about capital-s Secrets—if she detected that you were holding anything back from her, she was utterly relentless in digging it out. She could have taught the Spanish Inquisition some things about interrogation.)

#413 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 04:32 PM:

Lee: That's pretty much the line she's been holding - and her mother definitely subscribes to that meme. (When she doesn't know All The Details, it's "What am I supposed to tell people when they ask what you're doing?" When she finds out something she doesn't like, it's "You're embarrassing me!" My fiancee's response to the former is generally 'well, you know I have X job and I'm living in Y...' The latter comes up less often.)

The_L: Thanks. Sadly, this isn't a new rodeo overall, just the part where she's wondering if she can keep contact with one of the two of them. (They knew I was in the picture, once upon a time, but we think they think I'm long gone.)

#414 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 05:23 PM:

Jacque, #412: Yeah, that tactic doesn't work so well when you're still (1) a minor and (2) living with them. But it became a lifesaver once I was out on my own.

tamiki, #413: The other thing to remember in that situation is that other people aren't going to care about much more than "she's doing X and living in Y" -- that's basically what they want to hear when they ask that sort of question.

I fought a similar battle when I was in college, still living at my parents' house, and declining (politely) to go to church with them. That conversation, every few months, would go like this:

My mother: "Lee, your father and I would REALLY like to go to church this Sunday. Will you go with us?"
Me: "No, I don't think so. You know Sunday is my only day to sleep in."
MM: *heavy sigh* "Well, I guess we just won't go, then."
Me: "So go already! Nobody's forcing you to stay at home just because I do!"
MM: "But Lee, everyone we see there, the first thing they're going to ask is 'where's Lee?', and what are we supposed to tell them?" *
Me: "Just tell them the truth -- I didn't choose to come. How hard is that?"
MM: *heavy sigh, walk away, and they wouldn't go*

After enough rounds of that, one does begin to wonder about the sincerity of their desire to go, and whether I wasn't just a handy excuse to blow it off.

Oh, and then there was the time that I did agree to go, and presented myself dressed in one of the nice 3-piece pantsuits I'd been wearing for job interviews. You'd have thought I was wearing pasties and a G-string! That one also ended with nobody going, because I wouldn't change into a dress and they refused to go unless I did. They never quite figured out that this was a no-lose situation for me -- either I got to wear what *I* thought was appropriate, or I didn't get dragged to their church.

* I doubt very much that this would actually have been the case -- most of those people didn't even know I existed, because it was a church my parents only started attending after I had pretty much stopped. But the real kicker here was the heart-rending tone of the last phrase -- much the same one she'd have used to ask how she was supposed to tell a beloved friend that their only child was dead. You'd have thought the world was coming to an end.

#415 ::: wildly gestating ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 07:28 PM:

Still pregnant; told the family when visiting over the holidays.

My mother is already making plans for an extended visit this spring/summer. On the one hand, we're really going to need the newborn-wrangling help. (Twins ack.) On the other, she's an inveterate bulldozer-- I think over the several days we spent with my family, I got to exchange about 2.5 sentences with my dad, as a total summation of partial sentences which she bulldozed straight through with completely irrelevant conversational topics.

And she seems to have completely unrealistic expectations about the local ease of transportation (lots of large roads with heavy traffic, which she does not handle well) and cost of living (a 1-bedroom apartment around here can easily rent for as much as a 3-bedroom house where they live now). We could try to accommodate her at our place, except that she hates cats and has said that of course we'll have to send our pair to the shelter where (she cheerfully predicted) they'll probably be killed because no one will want to adopt them.

(She got thisclose to absolutely stating, "If you don't get rid of the cats, I won't come visit you and the babies." I believe I have won that game of chicken.)

So... I have no idea what I'm even asking. Just venting, I guess.

#416 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 09:25 PM:

The_L @284: I don't know what the word is for how I feel that my story affected you, but... whatever it is I'm feeling the hell out of it. Glad to have you here.

I'm also having a morose little laugh at your mind-tapes telling you I had it "worse" in any way - I think about having talked about it and it just feels whiny and overdramatic and unnecessary. So many fucking words! About nothing that should even matter to me! etc., etc., forever. Maybe it'll be of some help in shutting the tapes up to inform them that if you told your story, I'd almost certainly respond exactly the way you did to mine.

And some general comments because I haven't the spoons to go back & dig up numbers, but damnit, I am going to talk to people, and y'all deserve social spoons more than most people in my life right now:

SUPER BIG HAPPY FEELINGS for everyone with awesome life events! I specifically meant to freak out in a good way for she pushes down, way back in the last thread, on being Out Of There, which I have started to capitalize in my mind the way Jacque writes it because it feels very apt. It is a Big Deal and it is awesome! I believe there are other awesome things in this thread (and I see above that aaaah baaaabies aaaah, congrats ms. wildly gestating :D) but again, no spoons to go back & be specific at the moment. I want to re-read the current thread a bit more carefully in the near future though (writing it so I will do it.)

On the thread of keeping secrets vs. being honest/"why don't you TELL us things" - I feel like this is the crux of why I've had to cut contact with my parents. I have reached the point where I find it equally intolerable to be disrespected or to lie about who I am. At least with them. And when I said "hey, these things are both really painful and difficult for me, can we please figure out another way", all I got back was "well why should we have to change, you're the one with the problem, you're the one who's wrong and bad here".

I've recently, briefly been in contact with my parents to try and resolve the matter of whether they would be paying my student loans. (I strongly doubted it, but they had in fact promised me that they would do so many times in more peaceful times, so I figured it was worth a shot. Also I knew damn well they had the money to pay the loans [and in fact had the money that I never NEEDED the loans, but that's another post.])

Anyway, after stonewalling and disregarding my questions for a month and a half, my dad informed me he was going to call me about the matter. This call resulted, among other things, in this:

DAD: - you couldn't even bring yourself to contact us for MONTHS, not to say happy BIRTHDAY or happy MOTHER'S day or to tell us you were getting MARRIED -
ME: ... Dad, what is my spouse's name?
DAD: Well how should I know? You never told me who you got married to.
ME: Uh, okay, so the partner I had that you knew before I got married, what was their name?
DAD: Well all I know is what I see on Facebook, and it says [wife's birth name], so.

Which... kind of just crystallized how totally impossible it is, with them, to escape that bind. "You haven't TOLD me anything" - except for the part where I told you that boyfriend was now girlfriend, and no longer [wife's birth name] but [wife's real name], and only EVER referred to her by that name again to you, and corrected you every time you used her birth name, often in a voice involving extra decibels and/or tears. Telling them things very frequently results in them hearing just as little as if I hadn't told them, but more pain all around. There's no way for me to be myself honestly with them.

I'm not sure where I was going with this, really.

#417 ::: radiosongs has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 09:28 PM:

Haven't the faintest notion of what it was, but I'm mixing up G&Ts with plenty of lime, if that tantalizes their palates...

#418 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 10:39 PM:

@wildly gestating no. 415: After the ultimatum about your cats(!!!) I have to wonder--would your mother's visit be helpful or hlepy?

#419 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 10:52 PM:

wildly gestating, #415: Re the cats -- your house, your rules. Do be careful if she comes, though, that they don't "accidentally" get shut out of the house -- or simply disappear. People with no empathy do things like that; so do bulldozers when you refuse to recognize the rightness of their position. Because of course once it's a fait accompli, you'll come around. I can almost hear her making plans to do it right now.

radiosongs, #416: well why should we have to change, you're the one with the problem, you're the one who's wrong and bad here

Which is pretty much exactly what my parents said every time I suggested family counseling. They would be happy to send ME to get the mental-health treatment *I* obviously needed, but there was nothing wrong with them. (Note that I never tried to claim I was blameless -- but I wasn't going to let them do so either.) Unfortunately, it more or less means you're at an impasse. Unless and until they're willing to at least consider the possibility that they may be contributing to the problem... you're hosed.

#420 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2013, 11:41 PM:

wildly gestating @415: She got thisclose to absolutely stating, "If you don't get rid of the cats, I won't come visit you and the babies."

"Promise?" }:-)=

I believe I have won that game of chicken.

If not, you could always make mention of the three new cats you "just decided to adopt."

So... I have no idea what I'm even asking. Just venting, I guess.

"So is it just me, or is my mother cruel, overbearing, and insensitive?"

"That would be: yes." :-)

radiosongs @416: There's no way for me to be myself honestly with them.

I had a very weird experience about ten or twenty years after I'd moved out. There was a word, in the native language of my fictional universe, that I could no longer remember the definition of. Why it was weird is because, back when I was living with my parents, this word was much on my mind, and it had an incredibly strong, almost proprioceptive meaning for me. I finally worked out that the meaning of the word is, essentially, "Being Who I Am, at the most basic and fundamental level."

It was so strong during my teen years because that was the one thing I craved most to be, and the one that was absolutely impossible, as long as I was in my parents' (well, my mother's) orbit. Then, after I got out and finally started taking title to my life and discarding the armor plating that had gotten me through my childhood, I was now becoming more and more myself, until I almost couldn't find the referent for that word anymore. Like trying to remember what water is after you've turned back into a fish and have finally found your way to the ocean.

J. @418: would your mother's visit be helpful or hlepy?

Or even actively poisonous? Lee: ::shudder:: I wouldn't let a person who espoused that attitude into my home, no matter how desperately I needed the help. (But then, I'm probably a lot better at burning bridges than is really optimal.)

#421 ::: Oh, Kay... ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 12:03 AM:

Still witnessing, though I haven't had a lot to spare recently. Doing the therapy thing, the moving thing, the house sale thing, the house hunt thing, the full time job thing, the toddler thing, the estate thing and the self-care and health-fckupery things.

Mostly, I am just tired. A little, I am trying not to wish I was somebody completely different, with a different set of problems and experiences. Someone with a little more mainstream set of life-experiences, whose lived age matches their chronological age.

Lots of thoughts that aren't wordable right now. It's just much harder to think about all this now, than it was when Mom was alive and resolving it wasn't just about me, but also about our relationship. It's harder than I would have expected to mend a relationship when there's only one person providing dynamic; even harder, I think, than when the dynamic she was proving was not what I needed (but there was still a chance at something about that changing). Then, when it did change, toward the end, it felt all wrong, like choosing a shortcut over not finishing at all, but still missing all the important stuff the shortcut skipped past.

#422 ::: Oh, Kay... ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 12:05 AM:

Huh. I seem to have forgotten the e-mail I was using last time. Sorry about that.

#423 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 01:27 AM:

Wildly gestating@415 - that's bringing back memories. My mother came for an extended visit when sprog #1 was born. Mom does help - in exactly the ways she wishes to and views as helpful, with no reference to whether those things are actually helpful, or bear any resemblance to what you've asked for help doing.

A scene from 2 days after I got out of the hospital comes to mind. My first mom-and-baby group meeting for new mothers, the facilitating nurse is in the room when I walk into the room carrying a baby bag and set it down, she say "Hi", I say "Hi" and walk out again. Come back in about 2 minutes later carrying a car seat. Walk out again. Come back in carrying the baby and sit down. By this time her eyebrows are halfway up her forehead. "Why did you make three trips?"

"Well, I had an emergency C, and I'm not supposed to carry more than ten pounds."

"Where was the baby?"

"Oh, my mom was watching him in the car."

"Why didn't your mother just carry the things in, instead of making you walk back and forth?"

"She didn't want to get out of the car."

"How much does that baby weigh?"

"Ten pounds two."

"Why are you working so hard to be here? You could come next week, when it would be easier for you."

"Well, I needed some time away from my mother..."

#424 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 01:44 AM:

The talk of babies actually reminded me of One Of Those Baby Stories that says a lot about my parents. It's not my first words; it's my first night home from the hospital.

I was Mom's second kid and Dad's first (he eventually legally adopted my sister, but she was a teenager by then). They came home, Mom went to get me ready for bed, and Dad went "Wait, were you just going to leave her in her room by herself all night?"

Mom says she just Looked at him and said "Well, that was my plan."

He kept wigging out, so they ended up putting me in an open drawer in their bedroom dresser for the night, ~just in case.~ Mom says Dad and I slept through the night just fine - and after all that fuss, she was waking up at every little noise.

Mom's also the only one who tells this story. It's the earliest story about my dad (though to be fair, most of the older ones he tells himself) I can think of that really highlights his tendency to Know What's Best In This Situation.

(Long story short for those of you who missed the last thread: My parents weren't nearly as horrible as some other commenters'. But the living situation was rather toxic by the time I got out of it, and we're doing better at a distance. My dad, in thread parlance, is extremely hlepy; Mom and I call him a helper, meaning he rarely lends assistance.)

#425 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 02:12 AM:

Lots to chew on in the thread since i was last here. Thanks to everybody who is reading and writing.

tamiki #403: That sounds like a very difficult situation for you. It sounds to me as if your partner is asking quite a lot of you. In my mind, it's each partner's responsibility to set boundaries with their parents. That's not always possible in the moment, but it's usually possible to prevent re-occurrences of inappropriate behavior. I may have misunderstood but what you describe sounds a bit as if both you and your partner still take on child-like roles in relationship with her parents. They have no right to judge either of you.

knitcrazybooknut #404: I wrote a similar letter back in the mid-nineties. It's one of the best things i ever did. it's so much easier to get rid of the tapes when they don't get refreshed all the time. Later on she tried to stalk me on another continent. Luckily she failed. I don't expect to ever see her again. Even after all those years I feel a little gleeful writing that. :-)

Lee #414: The story about your non-church-going parents cracked me up. When the behavior and the words don't match, it's the behavior that tells the truth.

wildly gestating #415: All the best for your pregnancy and the twins.

Jacques #420: I love how you put that about the fish. It resonates with me.

So, about me, I've seen a somatic experiencing therapist today. I haven't made up my mind yet and I told her that but overall my impression is favorable. She had things to say and tools to play with that I hadn't heard before.

Next week I start my new job, so I need to concentrate on that. But hopefully I can start on this new journey the week after that or so. I'm noticing that I'm actually feeling a bit excited about the prospect. Yay!

#426 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 02:53 AM:

I have one and only one story about my babyhood from my mother. It's the one about how she was "too tired" to think of a name for me, so after I was born she told my siblings to look around at school for a name they liked. They picked the name of a then-popular actress.

That was me all over: the tired afterthought of the family, given whatever was lying around.

And that was the one story she could be bothered to tell.

#427 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 10:16 AM:

Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. By my calculations, my mom would have received the letter yesterday (or will today). Last night the phone rang at 8 pm, and I just about had a heart attack.

So today I turned the ringer off. (We never answer the phone without screening it through the machine anyway.)

Today I plan to take care of myself. Hydration, walking around in our woods/swampland (frozen over), fire in the woodstove, bonfire outside, and lots of petting cats and knitting.

I continue to spend brainspace in their world: seeing her face when she reads the letter, listening to her imagined reactions, trying to figure out what she will do. But I have to concentrate on me. It was really helpful when I was young to run through those patterns all the time - it helped me survive. But now it's time to let go of that behavior and learn to take care of myself.

Boy is it not easy!

#428 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 12:48 PM:

Still reading and witnessing.
I'm now at school, several states away from my parents, and have not had another crying fit since the one I posted about. (Probably not a coincidence.) My mother has acknowledged my desire to be the one calling her rather than vice versa, and is acting according to it, though with "joking" digs about how she can't call her BABY whenever she wants.
We added another animal to the house, in a decision that was partially mine and partially my mother's, with my father agreeing. I find it interesting how, after making this decision, we verbally worked out who can blame who if it turns out to be a bad decision. To wit: Dad can't blame Mom, Mom can't blame me. Mom and I noted we'd probably just blame ourselves, though this wasn't part of the agreement per se. I haven't fully unpacked the meaning behind this yet, but it seems significant.
Additionally, I was recently accepted into a summer program where I will be teaching abroad. Assuming I can get funding to attend (and my school has several funds designated for this sort of thing- have I mentioned I love my school?), this takes the time spent with my mother over the summer from about three months to about three weeks, then a gap, then about three weeks again. A very good thing, seeing as winter break seems to have proven that one month is a bit much, let alone three. I am excited for the program for other reasons as well, of course.

#429 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 12:48 PM:

Still witnessing. Cheering for those making progress and wishing comfort and safety for those having difficulties. So many things I've wanted to respond to more specifically. Between a regular bout of chronic pain/sickness followed by particularly bad brain weather, all the spoons* are gone before I even see them. :/

At least wanted to express gratitude to all who are posting.

*Spoons!—How many spoons can it possibly take you to just type a few words response?! Says the mob of critics in my head. The same critics that make even the shortest post a fight to the death over each and every word. Sometimes it feels less like tapes and more like a live, sold-out stadium performance. *headdesk*

#430 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 01:05 PM:

Dash, I just wanted to pop in and say I'm so happy for you that you'll be teaching abroad this summer. How great for you, and for your future students.

#431 ::: mistergeeky ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 04:21 PM:

After years of dormancy, my family is erupting in a volcano of dysfunction. A few weeks ago, my father was diagnosed (relatively out of the blue) with terminal cancer. He's now in hospice with days to live.

My mother has been slowing losing herself to alzheimers for several years. She's aware, but barely.

My sister is batshit crazy. We've never gotten along and frankly, it's a miracle that we didn't come to blows over the last few weeks. When she professes to have eternal hatred for me and my guts, I absolutely believe her.

Additional background - I'm an atheist. My family was psycho-semitic when I was growing up. They re-found their Judaism - reformed - I never did.

More additional background, because my father is a hoarder and the house is uninhabitable, I expect shiva to take place at my sister's home which is nearby. I live about an hour away.

I wouldn't say I moved here to be more distant, but I've not been close to them for years physically or otherwise. My chosen family (families, I guess) are far more important to me.

And to make my stress complete - I start a new job a week from Monday.

So - I expect in the next week he'll die and we'll get through the funeral. I may feel different later, but I think i've essentially done my mourning already so anything I'll be doing will be more for my mother than anything else. Certainly I don't expect to find any healing at my sister-hosted shiva house.

So that leaves me trying to balance wanting to be there for my mom (to the degree that she'd even be aware which is unclear), avoiding having to be with my sister (to the degree possible), avoiding religious ritual that makes me uncomfortable, getting new job off to the best start possible, and maintaining my sanity (yeahright).

In one sense I wish I hadn't felt less alone reading everyone else's posts here - but well, the validation is nice and frankly, y'all have WAYYYYY too much experience dealing with stuff like this not to ask: any good suggestions on how best to handle this?

#432 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 05:18 PM:

mistergeeky @431: any good suggestions on how best to handle this?

Take a trusted friend with you to shiva, and charge them with keeping you grounded and present in your personal power.

#433 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 06:30 PM:

I'm currently at my family's annual family gathering. I asked my Mom about my first word... It seems it was at my first birthday party, when they turned on the lights, and I said "Light!". (And as you might expect, became obsessed with turning the light switch on and off :-) ). Amusing, given my favorite blog, from which I got the question....

(And it's been a theme in my life in other ways....)

#434 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 08:38 PM:

mistergeeky, #431: Seconding Jacque's suggestion of taking someone you trust along when you go to shiva. Having an outsider present does two things: (1) it frequently (though not always) constrains the family game-players to "company manners", and (2) it provides a witness and reality check for you, both at the time and later.

Beyond that... this is going to be an extremely stressful week or two for you. Put up whatever emotional shields you need -- withdraw completely, if that's what works best, until you have a bit more leisure to deal with the emotions directly. Decide in advance (if you can) what boundaries you want to hold, and maintain them. And don't forget to take proper physical care of yourself -- food and drink, rest, sunlight, solitude (if you're an introvert), and "brain candy" (aka things that give you pleasure; in my case, a lot of it would be comfort reading). Once you're past the physical chaos and have some of your life back into balance, then you can work with the emotional stuff.

#435 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2013, 09:54 PM:

I'm told my first word was "No".

None of the tests for dysfunctionality people suggested upthread seem like they'd work on my family. We're all so good at playing by the rules that things don't explode. Because there are lines one does not cross, otherwise Mum will get angry, and then the world ends, pretty much. You don't get caught lying twice when the first time you get a suitcase thrown at you and told to choose who you want to live with because she's not having liars in her house. You don't throw a second tantrum when the first got you dropped onto concrete and locked out in the rain. Similarly, you don't push Older Brother at all, because he doesn't have a "tetchy" setting, he has trying to stab you with the nearest implement instead.

But it's all very streamlined, now. It's all very tidy. I know how to walk within the lines that mean the world doesn't end. So none of the simple tests would work, and I end up wondering if anything is really wrong at all. After all, it's not like they did anything bad.

#436 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 02:59 AM:

I've been writing a gratitude a day this year, usually just before I go to sleep. It makes my dreams sweeter. Tomorrow's gratitude, though, is going to be my mother.

Our relationship is fraught; I suspect she's circling the dementia drain; and you die the way you lived.

However, it's her birthday, and I am indeed grateful that she was my mom. She taught me so many useful things, either by precept or by horrible counterexample.

"No matter what, there are always going to be people who just don't like you, and there's nothing you can do to make them like you. Just let 'em go."
"If you're uncomfortable, listen to your feelings. Cross the street, leave the party, get away from whoever's creeping you out. It's better to feel or look silly than to find out that your feelings were right."
"Don't be a sheep."
"It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one." (And this is true. Equally impossible, turns out.)

By counterexample:
Be kind. Don't tolerate abuse, even a little bit. Not everything is somebody's fault. Finding someone to blame does not advance solving a problem. What other people think of me is none of my business. If somebody has a problem with me, and they don't tell me about it, that problem is not going to get solved. We're all in this together. Pretending to be perfect is exhausting and pointless. Everybody's vulnerable. There's no such thing as safe. Everybody's the star of their own movie. Turns out it's *not* all about you.

I like who I am, and I can't imagine a path to get here that didn't go through her. So there you are.

#437 ::: Worried in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 04:25 AM:

I'm unsure if my family is 'dysfunctional' in the way this thread's about but here goes -- hope people here can help me out!

I'm 32 and still living with my parents, and the first big problem in our house it my autistic sister -- she's 24 but her mind is little better than that of a six-year old! (fortunately she gets daycare five days a week courtesy of the council...) The second problem is that my dad is workshy and decided about 20 years ago that he didn't need to look for a job because we could rely on my sister's disability benefits. To make matters worse, he had a brain haemorrhage this time last year -- for the whole of the last year before, both my mother and myself had been begging him to go to the doctor (the warning sign is that he was sleepy during most of the day), but he refused to go. Ironically, I believe the reason he refused to go to a doctor is because there's a history of diabetes on his side of the family and he feared that he could lose his driving licence if diagnosed with this (of course, the brain haemorrhage not only cost him that, but also gave him epilepsy and awful problems with his memory!)

I have almost no social life because I'm scared of what questions my mother would ask me if I said I was going out. Back in April I wanted to go to a dancing class (with a view to finding a girlfriend) but my mother talked me out of it, not just saying I shouldn't as I'd never be any good, but also coming up with ridiculous talk about someone sticking a knife in me etc. My mother even gets my dad to get my money for me out of the bank, as she's so worried about my being attacked at the ATM -- why does she have to be so absurdly over-protective?

This has made me an internet addict because cyberspace was the one place where my (computer-illiterate) mother couldn't monitor me. I long to leave home so I can live my own life free of my mother's interference. I could also do something about my weight, as I'd have complete control over what I ate and could exercise without worrying about my mother taunting me over my unfitness. I'd also have the option of eventually moving to another part of the country to get a job paying more than the £20k/year I currently get as a computer programmer. I feel that having a PhD in Physics I ought to be able to get a lot more than this, but North East England isn't the best place to get a decent job (we live in eastern County Durham, that's Billy Elliot country to you non-British readers).

I'm worried about what leaving home would do to my mother (already desperately lonely -- I play board games with her every evening, and pretend to enjoy it), and I know that I probably couldn't plan to get my own place in secret (as she reads my bank statements and if I put down a deposit to rent a flat, she'd be sure to notice the missing money). I'm also concerned about how they'd manage with no driver in the house.

I have just over £100k in the bank (some earned at work, but mostly inherited from my grandparents) and shortly after Dad had the brain haemorrhage I thought that I'd de-guilt myself by buying my parents a house. I first printed out details of about 5 houses in the nearest town (so they would have amenities close by and wouldn't need me as a driver) which I could afford and which looked reasonable as family homes. Not only did she turn them all down (on the grounds that the third bedroom -- that would be my bedroom -- was too small), but she told me off for wasting printer ink (which she pays for as most of my printing is for my sister). My response was to look up every house in that town (there were 60 in total) that had 3 or more bedrooms and was no more than £100k, then print a simple table listing prices and bedroom sizes (to save paper and ink). I assumed that there's be at least half a dozen that she might be more interested in, but again she rejected the lot out of hand. And now I'm periodically subjected to her ranting about how "the only way I'll ever get out of this dump is in a pine box..."

I wonder if she had justifiable reasons for these rejections, or whether it was that she guessed (perhaps because I only offered houses in town, and not in the surrounding villages) that I had zero intention of actually living with them in a house which I bought them? Once I looked a flat with a view to moving there myself (it turned out to be unsuitable) and my mother found out because she looked inside my bag and found my identity documents. I said that if I got my own place she wouldn't need three double bedrooms, but she still persisted in saying that she wouldn't accept a house without such bedrooms. She also said that if I want to go I should go as she'd be about £50/week better off, but the way in which she said it gave me the impression that she's terrified of my leaving home.

In my most paranoid moments I suspect that my mother doesn't want me to ever get my own place, because she wants me in place to be my sister's carer once she can no longer do that herself. I'm often thinking (although I obviously couldn't say it in front of her) "I didn't go to uni to end up as a ****ing carer!!!"

Any views or suggestions on how I can get out of my predicament?

#438 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 05:04 AM:

Worried @437: "Dysfunctional" is a very personal judgement. It certainly sounds like you're dissatisfied with your situation, and your mother is resisting any attempt to change that situation. A mother who interferes with their grown child's privacy and autonomy the way you describe is certainly not typical.

My first impulse is to talk about work, because £20k/year (about $32k in US dollars, ignoring incomparability of benefits between the two countries) for a programmer with a doctorate sounds unreasonably low to me (in Los Angeles, where the cost of living is of course also higher), but I suspect that establishing your independence is probably the real key. A first step might be to get a post office box or other private arrangement for your mail, so your mother doesn't have access to it.

I suspect that planning some relatively small change, and successfully implementing it, would make a huge difference. Whether it's figuring out a reasonable way to exercise (maybe walking? if you don't tell Mom that it's for exercise?), or finding some social activity (dancing sounds like a good idea, if you could get past your Mother's put-downs and worries), or maybe just leaving town for a few days to go on vacation, or to a conference. Just taking the first step to establish a little autonomy would probably make subsequent steps easier.

Reading back over this, I'm afraid it might be hlepy, but you did ask for suggestions, so I'll post it, with the caveat to disregard if not appropriate, and an apology if I'm glibly telling you things you already know and ignoring the obstacles.

At any rate, you have my sympathy and good wishes!

#439 ::: BrokenPottery ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 05:13 AM:


This isn't a competition or an exclusive club so don't worry about whether you have 'the right kind' of dysfunction to worry about. As Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." and I think the same applies to dysfunctional families.

I can't offer much help or advice but I can witness that your situation sounds really lousy. It seems like this way your family operates has built up over decades so little steps to start out helping you find who you are and what you want outside your family are probably a good place to start. The dance classes strike me as a small enough thing that you could 'win' the argument or just survive the fallout by doing it anyway.

Strength and Luck!

#440 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 08:02 AM:

Worried: the fact that your mother simultaneously believes you live in a place where it's too dangerous to go to the bank, and refuses to consider the possibility of moving, suggests to me that not all is right. Just my opinion.

I wish you the best of luck. Does the NHS have social workers that could meet with your family to plan for your sister's long-term care? (And for that matter, to plan what you would do if your mother became ill or got injured?)

#441 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 09:34 AM:

Worried @437: There are websites out there with advice and checklists for women planning to leave an abusive husband (the kind who would hunt them down afterwards for daring to leave). Because a lot of your mother's controlling behaviors are similar, perhaps those same lists and websites could help you in thinking straight and putting a plan into effect? They suggest getting, for example, (a) a post-office box for mail so (b) you can get a second bank account whose statements go there, to (c) start putting together a 'running fund' of money the controller doesn't know about. And so on. I haven't read them in depth, I just know of their existence.

#442 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 10:29 AM:

To "Worried in NE England" -- thank you for writing and sharing your predicament! You are welcome here.

Many of my colleagues work as computer programmers and work from home, including my coworker in Yorkshire. My nonprofit and several other open-source-y firms are hiring. Those are the ones I know of; of course there are other jobs (opensourcey and not) at other firms, ranging from consultancies to large corporations, but I'm just mentioning the places I know of. I don't know whether you would actually be able to switch jobs without having to endure your mother's and father's change aversion, but (if you could work from home) it would be rather a smaller change than some others. (AND, if you got a new job you could have a reasonable opportunity to have them direct-deposit your wage to an internet-only bank account, ING or something, so that your mother would never see the records.)

#443 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 12:20 PM:

Worried @437::

Do whatever necessary to get yourself out of there, at present you're basically a slave.

The other above suggestions are good, and your situation reads like that of an abused wife. You may want to consider getting counseling, if only to help you make a getaway.

In this day and age it is difficult to disappear, but it can be done. At least you're in a country with a health care system that will help your parents and sister, whatever their need.

And, Worried? Everyone here is pulling for you, and if there is some way any of us can help, we will.

#444 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 12:57 PM:

Worried, I think you should compare your situation to Froth's a bit above your post. Your life doesn't seem terrible... because you never touch the electrified bars. It would be dysfunctional for a parent to pull a dresser in front of your closed bedroom door every night even though you don't get up to go to the bathroom; there might be a fire and then you'd be dead. What you describe is Not Okay in my book. Opening mail, sabotaging your efforts on behalf of the family to get the family to a better situation, setting you up to be her when she's gone, these are not good behaviors.

It also sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what to do, generally, to make things better. I hope the minor things work out.

#445 ::: Diatryma, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 12:58 PM:

I bow to the gnomes and ask humbly for release.

#446 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 01:02 PM:

Worried, #437: What they all said. Yes, this is clearly a dysfunctional situation. You are 32 years old. There is no way that your mother should still be monitoring your bank statements, whether or not you're living at home! She should also not be looking at you as unpaid labor to take care of your sister; there's a word for that, and it's not a nice one.

You have advantages that many of the people here do not. You have a job, and money in the bank, and independent transportation, and reasonable health (as in, you're not unable to work due to health issues). Furthermore, you don't have to worry about "abandoning" your parents and your sister, because you live in a country with a real health care system. I second the suggestion of getting yourself a post-office box to give you a mailing address with some privacy. Then find yourself a flat and get out. You deserve a life, and your mother is never going to let you have one if you stay with her. Once she's not looking over your shoulder and interfering with you all the time, you can take the time you need to figure out what you really want from your life, and how to go about getting it.

I wouldn't normally be so blunt about saying all this, but from the sound of your own post you already know this is what you need to do; all I'm trying to do is reinforce that.

#447 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Probably for a Word of Power.

#448 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 02:55 PM:

Worried: The part I'm latching onto the most is one that no one else has really touched on yet (though I second the suggestions re: extricating yourself from the situation).

You said you're already thinking that you didn't go to uni to be a carer. I'm here to say you're absolutely right that you don't have to just because she's your sister. It's perfectly reasonable to care about someone in dire medical straits and be unable to do the daily work of caring for them. You're also, as Lee put it, in a country with a real health care system; it's entirely possible the NHS has people for that.

I think my grandfather would have been a lot happier if my grandmother had looked into in-house hospice care months before she actually did. He didn't want to die in a hospital and I don't blame him in the slightest for that, but... my grandmother was not at all prepared to do everything he needed done, up to and including 'give the poor man a little space.'

It's okay to say 'I can't handle being her carer.' In fact, I think you'd both be happier for it. Your sister deserves to have someone who has the spoons to care for her doing the job, not someone who feels pressured into it because Family.

(Ignore if hlepy, of course. Good luck getting out of there.)

#449 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 02:56 PM:

Dash: Great to hear that distance is helping - and that you have more distance ready to go for the summer.

eep @429: Doing my best to send you extra spoons!

mistergeeky @431. Sympathies - that's a difficut situation. You might find the Rabbi supportive regarding what YOU do or don't want to do (although that may depend on the Rabbi). I'd agree with others that if you have a friend who could go with you and support YOU (in whatever way necessary, which might include dragging you out the house or inventing an excuse to get you out of there), that might help. Also, the first time, see who else is providing support for your mother: do you actually NEED to be there for that, or are others filling that role.

Froth: Sympathies again. Not sure what else to say

Worried in NE England @437: Yup, dysfunctional family. I think your analysis of the situation, particularly wrt your mother expecting you to stay at home and take on the carer role for your sister is spot on. Since you are clear that don't want to do that, you need to sort out your exit strategy sooner rather than later. I'll second Lee @446 - you have income, and savings. Start doing what you know needs to be done - scary though that is. And return here for reinforcement & support as required. Good luck!

#450 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 03:27 PM:

Ok, really minor compared to what everybody else here has going on, but I just need to dump this out of my head.

In a previous relationship, I learned a lot of bad mental habits. I've only recently figured out what some of them are, don't know how to fix them yet. Anyhow, the one that's worrying me the most right now is that I sit and wait for the other party to do something.

I learned this habit because in the previous relationship, I would suggest doing some fun activity together, and would be refused, every time. If the other person suggested doing some activity together, I would jump at it because it meant doing something together. Then I'd suggest something, and get refused. Then I'd tailor my suggestion to something he'd shown interest in before, and get refused. If I decided to do something on my own (say, go for a walk after dinner) then he would join me BUT do so because he didn't want me to be out alone because it might be dangerous AND he'd let me know he wasn't doing this because he wanted to be with me, but because he didn't want me to be attacked. (This was a safe neighbourhood by the way. I could have gone by myself with no problems, and did when he was away.) And so I wouldn't do stuff on my own because he'd gripe about how he didn't want to do whatever.

After that relationship ended, I re-discovered that I could go do fun things on my own, whatever and whenever I wanted. It was good being single.

Then I had another relationship, and ended up in the same pattern. (Not quite as complete in his refusals, but by then I'd already learned to give up after only one or two refusals and didn't persist, and we ended up doing nothing.)

After that relationship ended, I re-re-discovered that I could go do fun things on my own, whatever and whenever I wanted. I also figured out the above, and named it learned helplessness based on past discussions here.

And the problem, of course, is that this learned helplessness only manifests itself in a relationship, so I can only work on fixing it while in a relationship, and I don't know how to work on it yet. I just got into a new relationship, and I can already see signs of it showing up.


Need new patterns. Need to figure out how to make new patterns. Need to figure out some way of telling the new interest that doesn't make him think I have too much baggage and run away, because I'll probably need some kind of help or support from him to fix this.

#451 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 03:31 PM:

First of all, sympathies and listening, witnessing ears to those who are having tough times. I am here and I do sympathize.

After sending the letter to my mom, I haven't heard one peep out of anyone in my family. Two possibilities:

1. She's disowned and written me off.
2. She's honoring my request for time away.

I mentioned these to my husband, and jokingly said, "Either way, I win!" But truly, even the possibility that she is being respectful enough to honor my request is really mind-blowing. I am not counting on it, but I'm hopeful, and it's already making me feel stronger and more worthy, just having asked for something that I seem to have gotten.

Right now, I'm starting to feel like a kid on summer vacation with all the possibilities in the world in front of me. I really can do whatever I want. It's a heady, scary, amazing feeling. And SO worth the trauma drama from last week. I feel like I've gone through a tunnel and now I can see. For the last two days I've been physically ill in various ways, just getting the icky energy out of myself. But I've hydrated, taken it easy, and started to think about what I want. Not easy, but worth it.

Thank you to everyone who posted and bolstered me up when I was struggling. I really appreciate your help and encouragement.

#452 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 03:36 PM:

the invisible one @450 -- if the new relationship isn't someone who's willing to work on this issue with you, is he really someone you want to spend a lot of time with? Asking for help working on it is the best way to find out. The long-term relationship that I was in that ended up damaging me the most was one in which the other person tended to say, when I asked for help on a personal issue, "Well, that's your problem. You get to change to fix it; oh, and by the way, change to fix this problem of mine as well."

It took me several years to learn just how bad that was for me.

#453 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 03:41 PM:

#452, Tom Whitmore:

you're right of course. I'm just worrying about introducing it in such a way as it doesn't sound too horrible, and really it's super early in the relationship and there's a lot we don't know about each other yet.

But yeah: "Well, that's your problem. You get to change to fix it; oh, and by the way, change to fix this problem of mine as well." ---that was the pattern in the first of the two relationships I mentioned. Thank you for reminding me I need to watch out for that one as well.

#454 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 03:49 PM:

Worried, I'd also like to address a pattern I've seen in responses to you. When we say that you have a lot of resources, whether in comparison to others or as an absolute statement, it should not be taken to mean (or meant, period) that leaving or changing your family's dynamics SHOULD be easy for you to do.

You have resources, and we point them out so you do not feel bereft of them. We do not point them out so you feel pressured to live up to them. There is no SHOULD, even in escaping a dysfunctional situation. There is only CAN.

You CAN do this. You have resources that make it a CAN.

But there is no SHOULD, and there definitely isn't a SHOULD BE ABLE TO.

#455 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 04:29 PM:

the invisible one #453: How about this?

"I'd like to ask for your help with something. I know we're still learning about each other, and I want to see if I can break this pattern now. Can we figure something out?'

If there's a method that you think might work, you could suggest it. Otherwise, you could ask for other person's help in fashioning a script or code word. If you've got an inside joke, you could use that to lighten the mood.

And I'll agree 100% that seeing how this person reacts to your request for help on this small thing will tell you a lot about their future behavior.

When I first met my husband, I had been single and dating for about three years. We had been emailing for six months. When we met, we just clicked - spent the day together, into the late night, and slept together that night. In the morning I was really tense and could not figure out why. As we were eating, I looked at him and said, "I'm really uncomfortable, and I think I just figured out why. I know that you're leaving today, and based on past experience, I don't think I'm ever going to see you again. And that's okay, but I needed to figure out why I was tense, and say it out loud." After that I relaxed. His reaction was basically, "Oh, honey!" and he called me two hours after he started driving home that night just to say hello. So asking for help, saying how you feel, and being clear and honest can actually work.

#456 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 04:47 PM:

First of all, thanks for the replies so far, but I now wonder if I've been exaggerating how bad my own situation is! My mother is definitely driven by fear, not by malice (and who can blame her for being an ultra-pessimist, given the life of hell she's had?)

Lila @440: I don't think it's where I live that my mother regards as too dangerous, but rather where I work (Gateshead -- for the non-Brits that's just south of the river from Newcastle-upon-Tyne). I still think she's being outrageously overprotective (I think she may well also be suffering from depression -- the reason why she's often irrational). And yes, we do have a social worker who normally visits on Wednesday afternoons (when she isn't on holiday, which is a lot).

Elliot Mason @441: I can't think of my mother as being malicious in the way that that an abusive partner would be. When I take her for groceries, she always insists on paying for my diesel (and always far more than the actual shopping mileage would warrant). In addition, while she used to have me take for shopping twice a week, now she only asks me on Saturdays (and not at all at the moment due to the snow and ice -- she's worried I'd wreck my car and not be able to go to work). The shopping she used to get me to take for on Friday evenings she now goes for by bus with Dad (who now has a free bus pass) -- usually this is on Thursdays (the day which Dad used to take her shopping by car before he had his brain haemorrhage). She still likes me to take her once a week primarily in order to buy things too heavy to be conveniently brought back on the bus (such as canned food and non-diluted drinks).

My dad has also caused a lot of the problems -- my mother gets him to do most of the housework (so she can concentrate on doing stuff for my sister) and he's always making a mess of things. When he was in hospital I was up until after half-past midnight on two consecutive Saturdays in order to tidy up mess he'd left in the cupboards (in the first case, it was grossly overloaded with canned food). He's also damaged most of the stuff in the kitchen, which gets my mother down even more. One problem is that there's a dinner table in the middle of the kitchen (which it was never designed for) so that I could put my desktop computer and a bunch of other stuff in the area intended to be the dining area (as my bedroom is too small to accommodate it).

Sumana Harihareswara @442: Thanks for the info, but I still think Yorkshire's a bit far to commute (also I think I'd want to move out before changing jobs, plus IIRC I have a 3-month notice period in my current job).

Lori Coulson @443: "Slave" just seems wrong given that my dad makes my meals for me, and I always get loads of presents (not just at birthdays and Xmas). However some of these presents are things I don't want (and clutter my room) but I don't get rid of them for fear of being seen as "ungrateful" -- especially when a) I don't get my mother any decent presents (because I can't think of anything I could buy that would improve her life significantly) and b) she doesn't have a lot of money to spend. I also only pay £80 a week to live at home (most of which goes to the council in rent and council tax) and my mother refuses to take more even if offered. I'd spend a lot more on rent alone if I had my own place, let alone electricity, gas, food etc...

Also, I changed my pseudonym as per your suggestion.

Lee @446: I think my mother thinks she's doing me a favour by checking my bank accounts are in order -- one other thing notable to do with money is that she insists I use a pre-pay card for any online purchases, because she fears internet criminals emptying my bank account. As far as her "denying me a life" goes, I'm sure that she doesn't believe she's restricting me at all, rather than I'm restricting myself thru my paranoia about being asked questions (this paranoia was probably built up through hearing her yelling at my dad so much), or because I don't want to spend money (she no doubt thinks I'm a miser, but I interpreted the minimal amount of money she takes from me per week as a signal that she wants me to save, not spend).

As for my suspicion that my mother wants me to be sister's carer, she's never said so outright, but she did say that if she won the lottery she'd buy a house with a annexe where I could live (and with myself getting the main house and my sister living in the annexe once they died). She's also said that she'd let me have all the rest of the winnings too providing I promised to look after my sister.

#457 ::: Codemonkey in NE England has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 04:52 PM:

Dunno why I was gnomed, as my post included no URLs...

[Three spaces in a row makes us take a second look. -- JDM]

#458 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 04:54 PM:

#455, knitcrazybooknut:

That made me cry and I don't know why. I need to process this. Excuse me while I go knead some bread for a while before answering.

#459 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 05:06 PM:

The invisible one, #457: I really didn't mean to make you cry, but I totally respect your feelings. I hope you are able to process it in a way that works for you. If it helps, we've been married now for eleven years, and while it has been a Lot of Work, our communication is clear and respectful and hilarious, all in our trademarked way. You can ask for what you need. You're already being careful about just starting things out with this person, which is great. But start out by being yourself in an honest, clear way. Starting out by pretending everything is perfect never once worked out for me. And pretending I was perfect resulted in laughably ridiculous conclusions, and rightfully so.

#460 ::: justkeepsmiling ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 05:14 PM:

@the invisible one:

(Ignore if hlepy) I think there's definitely a positive way to present this. Maybe something like this:

"In my last couple relationships my partners just didn't seem interested in doing anything that I suggested, even if it was something that they had previously shown interest in. And I'm so happy that you're not like that. But as a result, I sort of fell into a habit of just sitting around and waiting for them to decide what we were going to do. And I don't want to fall into that pattern again, because I want to do all sorts of fun, cool, awesome things with you. Can you help me with that?"

Because there's really something in this for your partner: all the cool things you're going to take them to do if you can break this cycle. So I wouldn't present this as some sort of onerous favor you're asking, or as some major tragedy that you both need to grieve, but rather as an opportunity for both of you.

@Worried in NE England:

I just wanted to respond to your first line, because one of the things that reading these threads over the years has taught me is that a dualistic definition which divides families into "functional" and "dysfunctional" piles is not all that useful. Dysfunction is as dysfunction does, and there's no reason that a family that is completely functional in situatione can't be completely dysfunctional in a different situation.

You don't need a formal diagnosis that brands your family as now and forever dysfunctional in order to act. You just need to see that your family is currently in a situation where it is not functioning in a way that is conducive to the happiness of its members, and that maybe changing the situation will change the functioning of your family to one which is more conducive to happiness.

#461 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 05:15 PM:

the invisible one @450/453: you say you're already seeing signs of it showing up with this person. When you see a sign, can you ask about it? Not about fixing it, but just asking what's going on. Hard to do, I know (at least for me!), when it's a big trigger; but I did manage to do it a few times with my current sweetie, and it made a big difference in figuring out what was actually happening. Short version -- we managed to find issues where neither of us wanted to continue doing certain things, and enlisted the help of the other to point them out. Some others have been more difficult, but the practice helped.

#462 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 05:23 PM:

(And I was slipped by a bunch of others with more direct examples. Sigh. Shows I should refresh before posting!) (And kneading bread is one of my favorite ways of working internal stuff through -- and it has such nice results!)

#463 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:04 PM:

Codemonkey @456: My recommendation to look into toolkits meant for women in abusive relationships was not intended as a judgement of your mother's motives … sorry, reading over it again I totally see how it came off like that.

Um. Let's see. A good solidly built flat-head screwdriver is useful for many things: one of them is driving slot-head screws. But it can also be put through an eye-bolt to help provide leverage for screwing it in, or even open paint-can lids. Your mother doesn't have to be a screw for a screwdriver to be a useful thing for you to own … ?

I can't tell if that's any better, but I wanted to be sure I didn't leave it lying there, as it were. :-> Whether or not you USE any of the resources, reading through things intended for other people possibly trapped in situations where someone is surveilling their finances, attempting to say who they can spend time with, where they live, etc, might be useful for you.

Sometimes pain rhymes, even if it's not precisely the same.

Which is one of the beautiful things about these threads, really.

(I don't meaaaan to be posting under two nyms in this thread, but my comp blew my nym when I posted @441, and I didn't notice till now -- mods, do as you will, including leaving these two posts under my main-site nym if you like, since there's nothing 'contraband' in them)

#464 ::: Elliott Mason got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:05 PM:

... while talking about, among other things, nym-blowing. But not only nym-blowing. :->

#465 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:07 PM:

@radiosongs: Ok. I've read your story, you want mine, so here it is. (Warning: this post may get very, very long.) ETA: It did get very, very long. Having to split it in two so the site doesn't fuss at me.

I was raised Catholic by an extremely authoritarian father and a don't-rock-the-boat, can't-we-all-just-get-along, what-on-earth-will-the-neighbors-think mother. They didn't like the local public schools (this was Alabama, and Mom, as a public school teacher, knew that the local school system was a complete joke), so decided to send me to private school, preferably a Catholic one. There was exactly one private school in the entire county that would accept a student who wasn't quite 4 years old (and no Catholic schools at all, much to my father's chagrin). It was run by the local Church of God, and was every bit as fundieriffic as you're probably guessing. We went to Mass every single Sunday, and my brother and I went to CCD/PSR every single Sunday that it was held from kindergarten through our respective high-school graduations.

The upshot of this was that 90% of the time I was around non-relatives during my formative years, they were Extremely Religious People of some variety. Not that there's anything wrong with Extremely Religious People, but I grew up in an echo chamber. Everyone was some variety of Christian*; everyone was politically conservative; and the two were basically treated as being one and the same. (If anyone wants to hear about the specifically-religious aspects of my dysfunctional upbringing, I can bring them up in another comment, but I'll probably be writing a novel here as it is. Anyone who grew up in my situation and later left Christianity can fill in the blanks reasonably well given the non-religious aspects.)

On top of all this, my father was a military officer, who was let go after 20 years of service because his particular job (teaching the use of certain equipment that dated back to his youth fighting in Vietnam) was obsolete. He got various jobs in the private sector, before finally landing a government job (I'm keeping the details sketchy here, to help protect his anonymity). So we moved several times while I was growing up, and there were times when Dad had to take a job out of state during the school year, and we basically had to live without him until end-of-term because moving mid-year is apparently worse than only communicating with your own father by phone for six months.

* As far as I knew. I had a second cousin who was sort of the black sheep of the family. I was an adult before I put the pieces of information I had together and realized that she was not a Christian, but some sort of Native-American-reconstructionist Pagan. The fact that, as a lesbian, she was pretty much shunned by much of the family, meant she didn't bother with family reunions much, so I didn't see much of her. The family acted as if she didn't spend much time with her kin because "everybody knows she's crazy," not because they were treating her with less respect than the others.

#466 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:10 PM:

Part 2--and I'll need to split this into yet a third comment!

The household dynamics were--really weird. Mom felt that there were things that it would be unfair to hide from us. She'd had a child from a previous (abusive) marriage who'd died a few months after she married Dad.** When we found the photos, Mom told us who "that other baby Mommy's holding in the picture" was. Dad never told us anything about his life before meeting Mom, and basically tried to shelter us from anything bad in the world for YEARS. This meant that there were points in our lives when Mom allowed us to watch (pre-vetted) R-rated films like Braveheart, but Dad wouldn't let us watch the Simpsons because he didn't want us to pick up any bad habits from Bart.

Dad also was extremely perfectionist when it came to me, the first-born. I'm still not sure what his reasons were. Maybe he thought that, as an extremely gifted child, I was capable of more than I actually was; maybe he wanted me to be a son and was disappointed that I wasn't; maybe it was the combination of me having ADHD and him being raised in an age where "acting out" was something his nun-teachers beat out of him with rulers. But I was never given any benefit of the doubt. Any time I stepped out of line or made the kinds of stupid, impulsive decisions that all young children make, I was put through the wringer. I remember being told that a B on my report card was "garbage." His favorite thing to say when I or my brother stepped out of line was "How stupid are you?"

Mom apparently didn't realize what my father was yelling at me when he got upset, or the effect it had on me, because as a teen and adult, I've called myself stupid dozens of times, and she swears she has no idea where I got it from. I know exactly where, Mom, and I don't know why you blinded yourself to it.

I had to be perfect in every way. Dad tried to "toughen me up" the way he'd been raised as a boy, thus unwittingly training me to be ashamed of my emotions, constantly self-loathing throughout my teens, and so terrified of mistakes that I often wouldn't try new things for fear of falling short. My brother was given a little more slack, but it took months before Mom was able to convince Dad that it was okay for my brother to be left-handed.

I was spanked. Spanking was normal in the area where I grew up, even then, in the 80's and 90's. But as I grew older, I noticed differences. My brother stopped being spanked in elementary school in favor of other, more age-appropriate forms of punishment (like taking away a favorite toy or game for a while, or grounding). Not me! I was spanked well into my teens, and when a bare hand didn't hurt anymore, my parents started using a belt. I was last spanked at age 16, and I hated it most of all because I suspected that my classmates probably weren't being spanked anymore, and would think I was some kind of freak if I even brought up the subject. Mom says it's because when I was a very young child, no other punishment worked; they'd tried time-out, taking away privileges, etc. and nothing had seemed to faze me. But they didn't even try other methods at all after I was maybe 2.


** Please don't read anything into this. I've been told that Dad loved my half-sib and that they basically had a normal parent-child relationship. Half-sib had severe health problems from birth, and died due to a combination of those health problems, and living in a rural area where the nearest hospital that could do anything for a severely-disabled child was in the next county--which eventually proved to be too far.

#467 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:11 PM:

Codemonkey #456: you may not be a "slave" in the classic form, but you're certainly a prisoner of your mother's fears (and I'd say of her mental illness). There's more than one way to control a person, and you are being heavily constrained by someone else's demands. I agree with prior commenters that this is a seriously dysfunctional situation.and that you have every right to break out of it.

#468 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:11 PM:

Codemonkey #456: you may not be a "slave" in the classic form, but you're certainly a prisoner of your mother's fears (and I'd say of her mental illness). There's more than one way to control a person, and you are being heavily constrained by someone else's demands. I agree with prior commenters that this is a seriously dysfunctional situation.and that you have every right to break out of it.

#469 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:12 PM:

Part 3! And I apparently need a Part 4! Joy!

I was never good enough for Dad. I was late to develop bladder control; I was spanked every time I "had an accident," and Dad acted as if I'd done it on purpose just to make him angry. I had trouble focusing in elementary school; once I was diagnosed, Dad seemed to assume that medication and a year of psychological counseling would "fix" me and cause me to develop ADHD management skills all on my own with no other help. I was diagnosed with clinical depression as a teen--same damn thing. I clearly remember being told to "get over it," as if I could just flip the Be Happy switch in my brain and not feel numb and empty anymore.

I was never good enough for Mom, either. I wasn't "ladylike" enough; I couldn't keep my legs together when I was sitting down, or I wouldn't wear the cute skirts and dresses she made "because I can't climb in them," or I didn't seem to like playing with Barbies when she tried to get me to play with them. (I still hate Barbie to this day.) When I wanted to experiment with different, wild clothing or hairstyles in high school, I was told that I shouldn't "want to be weird," and needed to keep a "good-girl" image so that I could get into a good college. She was terrified of what other people would think of me, and still is. The only compromise I remember ever being able to make with her was buying cheap, wash-out blue hair dye, because that way I'd wash it all out Saturday night and wouldn't have blue hair at Mass. She refused to ever buy us chewing gum, or temporary tattoos, because she didn't like gum-chewing or real tattoos.

As you may expect from this combination of factors, I didn't have any real friends growing up. I was invited to birthday parties, but only by the kids whose parents made them invite the whole class. (The only sleepover I was ever part of was one of these parties.) I was accelerated for so much of my school years that I was always well behind my classmates in terms of emotional development and hobbies. I was also a late bloomer, which made the differences between me and my classmates that much greater. By the time I developed an interest in boys, I was too firmly-entrenched in their minds as "the kid" for any of them to return my interest. (This was senior year, by the way. Imagine going to prom alone both years, feeling invisible, and then being told by your father that you'd have a boyfriend if you just played hard to get. By that point, I'd gotten used to the fact that Dad just wouldn't fucking listen.)

#470 ::: The_L got gnomed, probably for multi-posts ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:16 PM:

Part 4! I'm sorry, guys, I really didn't mean to make this a quadruple-post, but apparently the literary floodgates have opened. Part 3 has been nommed by the gnomes--I'll leave it up to the mods whether or not to cut me off. :P I basically left a novel in your comment thread.

In high school, I had that particularly dangerous form of depression where you'd commit suicide but are too scared you won't even be able to do that right, so you don't try. I had a crush on a young man who probably still doesn't know, and I pedestalized him and obsessed over him as My Only Hope (which of course only made the situation worse, because it meant I was also afraid to talk to him). This was also the first school I'd been to that had non-Christian students (atheists plus members of every major religion you can think of), or openly-liberal students, or students who listened to Stuff My Parents Wouldn't Approve Of. It was major culture shock, and I was basically treated like something in between Carrie White and Ned Flanders because that's basically what I acted like.

In 2002, I graduated from high school, and around that time I also discovered that there were places you could go to talk to people on the Internet and just hang out. I was so desperate for normal social interaction that I spent very unhealthy amounts of time on forums, and developed several very unhealthy emotional attachments with other teens in other states. I also discovered hard rock and heavy metal, which helped to drown out the nastier mental tapes that were still constantly playing. I also got my first job at a fast-food restaurant, and used the money to buy things like CDs, black lipstick (which never went on until I was out of the house), and cheap earrings and pins. Typical teenager stuff, but it felt so good to finally wear and listen to things that my parents hadn't picked out for me. I also started watching anime, which drove my father crazy because "adults don't watch cartoons, quit acting like a baby." I started spending insane amounts of money on manga (you know those really skinny bookcases from That Swedish Furniture Store With The 4-Letter Name? I had enough manga at one point to completely fill one of those). I continued my childhood habit of reading any book I could get my hands on, just to escape.

I lost my virginity, and endured a 2-hour lecture from my father.

I started thinking through my political views, and realized that I was pretty damn liberal. I was extremely careful to hide this from my father until I moved out.

I dated several young men, some more sane than others. The one thing they all agreed on was that I needed to get away from my parents.

I discovered that I was bisexual, and was terrified of what would happen if my parents found out. (My father has said, in my hearing, that if any child of his was gay, he would never speak to them again.)

I graduated from college, and was rewarded with a 2-week trip to Italy with my parents. (Remember that government job? Yeah, Dad went from comfortably middle-class, to loaded. This, of course, went to his head and made him even more insufferable. Mom calls him Becker, because other than political views, he's pretty much identical to the TV doctor.)

I discovered Wicca, realized that I felt more comfortable among even the flakiest Pagan-types than I did around most Christians, and converted. I still had to go to Mass every Sunday as a condition of staying in my parents' house, and resolved that as soon as I had a job I could live off of, I was getting OUT of there ASAP.

I'm finally out, and am dating a very nice fellow whom my parents don't know is Jewish. (I've half-joked that I'm not sure which will cause the bigger shitstorm from my father--finding out that he isn't Catholic, or that I'm not Catholic.) He's a wonderful guy, and helps me keep my spoons together, but I've finally accepted that I do in fact need an actual psychiatrist and shouldn't burden him with all my neuroses. I still need to get off my ass and find a good one, and make an appointment.

#471 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:36 PM:

#458, knitcrazybooknut: when I said I didn't know why, I meant that literally. Just about every strong emotion makes me cry, and I wasn't sure which one it was.

I think it was "OMG there are actually people out there who can understand?!?!" this time, in reference to your husband who sounds like an amazing guy. And since I started crying again while typing that, I'm now certain that's what it was.

#459, justkeepsmiling: that sounds like it has potential. I will need to think about how to approach the subject. But I think sooner rather than later would be best.

#460, Tom Whitmore: when I said I could already see signs of it showing up in this new relationship, I didn't mean anything the new interest did. Everybody has every right to decline to do something. It was in my reaction that I saw the signs.

I will probably also have to explain how I start crying for emotions not normally associated with crying. And then my throat closes and I can't talk. And then I get frustrated, and I-don't-know-what-to-do-frustration is one of the things that makes me cry. (sigh)

#472 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Diatryma, #454: Yes, absolutely. We are trying to point out that sie has options not available to some of the people who post here, who are trapped in their bad situations with no feasible way out. It's still not likely to be easy, but at least it's possible.

Codemonkey, #456: It doesn't have to be based in malice to be abusive in effect. If somebody steps on your toes in a crowded room, it doesn't matter whether they intended to hurt you or not, your toes are still hurting! And if they don't notice they've stepped on your toes, or worse yet try to convince you that their stepping on your toes was really in your best interest... that's not healthy.

Overprotectiveness and control/boundary issues are one of the most common forms of emotional abuse; I speak from long and bitter experience here. In fact, the bank-statement thing jumped out at me like that because when I was in college, my mother regularly went thru my checkbook and interrogated me about anything she didn't immediately understand.* Convincing herself that she's doing you a favor thereby fits right into the same pattern.

The cheap rent and lots-of-gifts thing is a variation on another common control pattern, sometimes called "golden handcuffs". You could have your freedom, but you'd have to give up all these financial advantages to do it; and that keeps you willing to accept the intangible costs, which are high.

Is there enough money in your paycheck that you could move into your own place and still be able to help your parents financially? That might be an option worth researching.

* Example: One day it was raining, and I went to the bookstore and left my umbrella in the cubby with my books, and when I came out it was gone. It was a standard school-colors umbrella, and this was before the school had figured out that people would pay outrageous prices for such a thing, and I did not want to tell my parents that someone had snitched my umbrella.** So I bought a new one for $6, and wrote a check to the bookstore to pay for it, which I annotated as "supplies". My mother threw an absolute screaming shitfit, and DEMANDED to know EXACTLY what those "supplies" were that I had paid $6 for. But she couldn't beat or starve me to force me to tell her, and I wouldn't. And she never did let it drop -- decades down the road, any time we got into a fight she was likely to bring up, "And you wrote that check for $6 and you never would TELL me what it was for!"***

** Because I was commuting from home, carrying my books in a bookbag, and I absolutely did not want to hear, every school day for the next 3 years, "Now don't you walk off and leave your books anywhere -- remember what happened to your umbrella!"

*** Years later, in retrospect, it occurred to me that she might very well have thought I'd bought condoms. But she couldn't SAY that, because if it turned out to have been something else, then she would have Given Me Ideas. But it just HAD to have been something terrible, because if it wasn't, then why wouldn't I just TELL her what it was. "None of your business" was a concept that simply wasn't on the table at all. Boundary issues -- do I need to define what that means?

#473 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 07:20 PM:

Codemonkey at #456:

"First of all, thanks for the replies so far, but I now wonder if I've been exaggerating how bad my own situation is! My mother is definitely driven by fear, not by malice (and who can blame her for being an ultra-pessimist, given the life of hell she's had?)"

I would venture to say that a lot of dysfunctional behavior stems from fear. "I'm scared that you will leave me, so let me make it impossible for you to leave". "I'm scared that society will hurt you if you're different, so let me make sure you never show that you're different." Under the right circumstances, that fear, and the behavior done to soothe it, can turn abusive. But if that's not a label that you're comfortable with, then we don't have to use it.

What I want to say is that EVEN IF your mother has had a hard life, and EVEN IF all of her behavior is because she loves you and she's scared, and EVEN IF you understand why she does what she does and feel compassion for her ... that doesn't give her the right to keep you in a situation you find suboptimal.

I live with a severely autistic man; sometimes he gets upset and starts screaming. I understand why he screams, and I understand that there's not much he can do to stop himself from screaming once he's that upset, but if he hurts my ears I'm going to leave the room. I feel a great deal of compassion for him, and I'm *still* going to leave the room, because I like not having headaches.

It sounds like there are a bunch of things you're unhappy about, and you're having trouble fixing them. But you deserve to have them fixed, and I hope you're able to figure out a way around your mother's fears.

#474 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Codemonkey, you wrote: Thanks for the info, but I still think Yorkshire's a bit far to commute (also I think I'd want to move out before changing jobs, plus IIRC I have a 3-month notice period in my current job).

I think you misread me; my colleague in Yorkshire isn't commuting anywhere. He works from home. As do I, and as does about a third of my department. :-) But I understand the rest of your sentence. When you feel ready to look for a new job, I hope you'll let us know so we can tell you of interesting openings.

#475 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2013, 08:08 PM:

Worried/codemonkey, I think you are in the classic position of "put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others." Your parents matter, and your sister matters, but so do you. A situation that is draining the life out of you is not sustainable even if you wanted it to be, and clearly you don't want it to be anyway. Everyone will be better off if you can work out some arrangement that lets you have a life without requiring you to reach the breaking point first. I realize that's what you have tried in several ways, and if I come across as sounding like "just try harder," I apologize. My intent is to confirm that you are in a tangled and difficult situation, and that seeking professional support - a counselor of some kind - may be helpful in getting you loose.

It does sound like your mother may be depressed, which would certainly be understandable under the circumstances, but it's not something you can fix.

I offer this as a reality check on parental expectations. I am the parent of two children, one 20 and currently in college, and one almost 19 with disabilities that will require some type of long term support. We expect our older daughter to remain in contact with our younger daughter after my husband and I are gone, and if there's a serious problem we would expect her to step in, but we do not expect her to provide the day-to-day support, live with her sister, or give up her own life to be her sister's caregiver.

#476 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:03 AM:

Hello All.
It's been a month since I leapt away from where I was, and I've been astonished time and again, by the various kindnesses from people of this thread, and their friends. I'm still struggling with despair. Right now I am in a safe place, with a host who tolerates, no, welcomes me and has taken pains to try to make me comfortable. The thing is, I can't be. Really comfortable. It feels as if I shall never be completely at home ever again, unless I try to run straight back to where I came from.

I remind myself of these things: when I ran away, and landed in a strange place, and found myself alone in a hotel room, I texted, called, emailed relatives, asking for help. I felt orphaned all over again when even people I thought were friends all admonished me to return to where I came from, apologize, make peace. I still feel so orphaned, by an entire culture, which stresses the primacy of the herd, "the family', above the individual. And the individualist thing I did? Absolute crime, in a way.

I wake up feeling raw and ugly and barely recognize myself. Ok, sometimes I laugh, sometimes there is hot tea and cake, and sometimes I have these little hopes that things will get better and I will get the hang of trying to take care of myself.

It's been over thirty days, I still feel as if I should be booking a ticket. To return. I know this is irrational, but it's there. that longing for what is familiar even if that familiar situation has its own perils.

#477 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:10 AM:

the_invisible_one @471: I have been in a relationship with someone who has a similar thing of crying at strong emotions, and getting frustrated, and much of what you describe. (It's not just you!) My sympathies; from the outside it seems like a quite unpleasant frustration crops up mostly at times when it's most annoying!

One of the things I found very helpful was knowing, "ok, so what should I do when that happens?" And then I could do that, rather than worrying about how to handle the situation. If you have an idea of what would be useful for your partner to do when you get frustrated -- wait patiently, change the subject, give you a hug, fetch a tissue, ...? -- that might be useful to include in the explanation when you're telling them about it.

#478 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:16 AM:

We are packing to move in less than a week, so of course the apartment looks like it exploded. And it only looks somewhat worse than normal. This tells me I've been putting up with more mess than is good for me, for a long time, and I have to put more money and effort into making sure the new place stays acceptably tidy and see if it relieves stress. Like going somewhere quiet and dark when you have a headache.

It will be easier there than here. The new place is big, and roomie and I both want a tidier place. We already agreed to ride herd on my mess-generating partner until he develops better habits. We're not aiming for shining magazine neat-freak clean, just usable home clean. Clean is having seats, tables and counters that are mostly clear and ready to use, and floors that are not sprouting piles of stuff. Clean is our possessions having shelves, cabinets, or containers to live in, instead of being strewn over most of the horizontal surfaces. Clean is tidying the common areas reasonably soon after using them. Clean is using your own personal workspace for long projects with lots of fiddly bits, instead of leaving them all over the dining room table for weeks.

Moving prep also showed me another wonderful thing my mother did to me: she taught me that ordinary, inexpensive household goods and supplies are too precious for me to buy or replace them properly. It happens a bit erratically, but it even applies to tiny things, like paperclips. I packed stationery today, and purged some as I went, and I found used file folders with frayed edges and labelled thrice over, that I had been hanging onto because common stationery items used to be rare and precious supplies handed out grudgingly. Roomie and I agreed that we wanted proper glasses for juice etc., so yesterday we went and bought them. I've been not letting myself buy decent glassware for over 10 years, because I had glasses that didn't leak and surely nice matched ones would be very expensive. We now have 22 place settings of small and large beverage glasses, for $35 (one nice set of 12, and one big-parties set of 10). I've been depriving myself of something I wanted and would have enjoyed daily for a decade, over what would never have been more than $50 of outlay, thanks to my mother's depression-era hangup.

I also dislike my china. Yesterday we bought some basic white stuff to fill out the table for big parties, but didn't find a pattern to replace the daily-use set. I don't like my daily use set. So, soon, I am going to go out and see if I can find a new set that I actually *like* and insist on buying it for myself for my birthday this week. And my anniversary, and my moving day. Because I use the china every day, so why should I not have china that I actually like, just because the current stuff hasn't broken yet? I can give it away to someone who needs it.

#479 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:21 AM:

ma larkey: First, it's good to hear from you. Second, this reaction is typical of people escaping your kind of a situation. You're basically moving into a completely different situation from what you've ever experienced and it's going to be majorly scary.

Third, thirty days is nothing. In psychological terms, it's barely a breathing space. At this point, you shouldn't be wondering that your reaction is "still" a certain way, because your brain has barely had time to realize that your situation is different.

Again, I'm glad to hear that you've gotten out. Really, really glad. I hope things just get better from here on out.

#480 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:59 AM:

ma larkey: Good to hear from you! I've been thinking of you over the last month, even though I wasn't able to help with the escape.

I didn't leave nearly as bad a situation as you did, but I still spent a good couple weeks to a month going 'I don't have to go back! :D' before the novelty wore off. While it wasn't the same, I think the reaction comes from a similar place - the one where you're (general 'you') so used to things being one way that the fact they suddenly are not throws you for a loop at first.

I'll take B. Durbin's word for it that the reaction is typical; as I said, I can hardly consider myself an expert.

Hang in there, and congratulations on getting out of there.

#481 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 02:33 AM:

Worried in NE England @437: I'm unsure if my family is 'dysfunctional' in the way this thread's about

Your third paragraph suggests to me that the answer is "Yes." FWIW.

Any views or suggestions on how I can get out of my predicament?

The hard part is that it's a decision you are going to have to make. And it sounds like your mother has you very thoroughly trained not to make your own decisions. And that she's the master of the double-bind. (Damned if you do, damned if you don't.)

In your place, I would throw your mother onto the mercy of her own agency. She is presumably a legal adult? Deciding and executing her own fate is something (in the words of my mother in her less helpful moments) she won't learn any younger. But then, as previously discussed, I'm pretty mercenary when it comes to self-determination.

& 456: Just because a relationship isn't malicious doesn't mean it's not dysfunctional. Everyone's the hero of their own story; that's not the same as saying that their story is good for everyone around them.

Also, if it seems to you that you've overstated the situation in your initial comment, remember that one of the functions of discussing a things with friends is that it helps you clarify in your own mind what's actually going on, and what you actually want to do about it. This is not a bad thing, especially if considered analysis paints a different picture than your initial take on the situation.

You lay out a number of points in you mother's favor based on what you think her positive intent might be. This is a good thing, crediting her with positive intent.

But intent don't feed the bulldog. If what she does is damaging to you, then the effects of her behavior need to be addressed. And, yes, it is your responsibility as a grown adult with agency to both protect yourself, and to do things in a way to cause minimal damage to the people you care about. It may not be a simple proposition to do so, but that doesn't mean doing so isn't worthwhile.

the invisible one: There's a fable about a guy walking home down a street: there's a big hole in the sidewalk, and he falls in. He's knocked out, and when he wakes up, he's initially confused about where he is and what's happened to him. He eventually works out that he's in a hole, and he eventually manages to climb out of it.

The next night, he's walking home again. It's dark out, and his mind is on his day at work and, *WHUMP*, he falls in the hole again. He blinks, gets up, remembers the hole from last night, and climbs out.

The night after that, he's walking home. It's been a hard day, work is much on his mind. He suddenly stops when he feels the pavement crumble under his foot. After a panicky moment of pinwheeling arms, he manages to step back; he was about to fall into the hole, but he was able to save himself just in time.

The forth night, he's still preoccupied from work, but he's keeping an eye out; he manages to see the hole a half-block away. This time, he walks around it, and saunters on home, whistling.

The fifth night, he goes home down a different street.

Seems to me you're at about the third night...?

#482 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 03:00 AM:

ma larkey: moving, at the best of times, is hard on one. It's ranked right up with death in the family as a stresser. Which is just to say, even if yours had been an ordinary move, it would still be just hell on wheels.

Codemonkey: what others have said about getting a PO box. It's not as big a step as some, but it could be a very helpful step in both near and far future. If you decide it isn't useful, you don't have to keep it, so it's comparatively low-risk. But it would give you a measure of independence fairly quickly, and perhaps the space you need to work out the next step within your comfort zone.

the invisible one: when I've been under a lot of pressure and stress for a long time, and it lets up, I will cry seeing my dog wiggle his ears. Crying is part of getting on, and on balance, achy sinuses and all, tons better than needing to and not. If that makes sense. And is useful.

#483 ::: Tamlyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 03:51 AM:

ma larkey: it's good to hear from you. I've been worried for you - I'm glad you got out.

#484 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 08:38 AM:

ma larkey: And I'll join the chorus of "It's good to hear from you". Stay strong. You have my sympathies!

Moonlit Night #478: I have a lot of that same difficulty buying useful stuff for myself. I associate it with "damage of poverty", but I can easily see how it could be caused or aggravated by other sorts of deprivation.

(Place-marking: My own family wasn't destitute, but, well, divorced teacher raising three kids. I suspect in my case, the effects were aggravated by both my mother's issues, and me being on the autistic spectrum.)

#485 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 10:39 AM:

ma larkey: so glad to hear from you. Like everybody else, I've been worrying about you, and hoping you were doing ok. As far as your reaction goes, may I direct your attention back to a previous DFD intro post about Rapunzel's escape from her tower? What you were saying here looked similar to something I'd read before...

#477, Brooks Moses: Good suggestion, thank you. Because people's natural "wanting to help" action for somebody crying is not helpful to me, I have to give them something different instead.

#481, Jacque: Oh. Yes, that sounds about right, only I didn't get myself out of the hole the first time, I "woke up" from being knocked unconscious after I had been pulled out of the hole. (Yeah, he dumped me. It was a couple of months before I realized that was the best thing he'd ever done for me.) Here's hoping I keep my balance and don't fall in this time; the ground is kind of unstable.

#482, pericat: I've been told similar things before. Maybe at the time I wasn't at a point for "getting on", being still unconscious in the hole that Jacque mentioned, but when the counsellor tried to get me to "stay with" the emotion to go through and out the other side, it pretty much knocked me flat for the rest of the day because there didn't seem to be another side. Soooo.... Maybe it works for some people, but I'm not so keen on crying myself out, and tend to go for the change of subject until I'm calm enough to try to process whatever it was without crying too much.

#486 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 10:43 AM:

ma larkey: witnessing.

Give yourself time. You did what you needed to do, what you had to do to save yourself from an intolerable situation. You're safe now, in a way you have never been. Confusion is natural. You don't have to do anything. Let yourself rest and learn what it means to be in this different place.

Congratulations on getting out.

#487 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:01 PM:

ma larkey, #476: You seem to recognize this, but what you're feeling is a version of "better the devil you know than the devil you don't", and perfectly natural under the circumstances. Give yourself time to adjust to being free! At this point, my suggestion would be to think about it as little as possible for at least a year, concentrating on moving forward with your new life instead. Then stop and take stock of your feelings.

I am so sorry to hear that people you thought were your friends told you (effectively) to douse yourself in gasoline and walk back into the burning house from which you'd escaped. Anyone who said that sort of thing deserves not to have any contact with you at all for at least a year, while you're sorting out your new life.

#488 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 01:44 PM:

ma larkey @476: add me to the chorus of those who are really glad to hear from you and to hear that yes, you did get out.

It's hard to go against your culture and your family and all your friends telling you to stick with your lot in life. But you have a right to a better life than that. To paraphrase words used upthread of here: "You deserve better than that." Hang in there!

Codemonkey in NE England: Apologies if I was part of an unintentional pile-on of hlepiness! I'll happily accept that your mother's actions are for good reasons and/or driven by fear - that doesn't mean they're not having negative effects on you. How about writing down for yourself, what you'd like to do/where you'd like to go with your life if considerations of what your parents and sister need from you didn't come into the equation, then look at which of those you can do, that would benefit you and make your life happier, without making you feel bad about the effects on your family?

The_L @ 465 et sequelae: Reading and witnessing. Congrats with where you've got to, and good luck with taking the next step. One of the simple things that these threads have done for me is make me realise that I'm not the only adult who is still unpacking stuff loaded onto/into them during childhood by one or more parents/family members. Which means it's not just me being weak that I can't just "get over it", "stop letting it upset me" etc. etc. Which realiseation has helped me to work through and past some of the baggage...

#489 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 02:28 PM:

The_L: [Parts 1, 2, 3, 4]

Pleeeeeaaaaasssseee don't worry about your comments being too long. 1. It sometimes takes time to tell a story right, 2. we're interested. And 3. MOAR for us to read!

#490 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 03:11 PM:

Lee @472: "And you wrote that check for $6 and you never would TELL me what it was for!"

I would find the temptation to use that reaction to yank her chain whenever I was feeling mean to be ... nearly overpowering. ::rubs knuckles and makes evil shifty-eyes::

ma larkey @476: Yaaaayyyy!!! Go, you!

Sadly, the feeling orphaned thing is probably at least somewhat innevitable, given the culture you're coming from. To offer an analogy, when I take one of my guinea pigs out of her herd (because, say, the other pigs are picking on her), she often becomes extremely anxious and wants nothing more than to return to her herd. Because it's built into her genome. She will always want to go back, even after she's gotten (relatively) used to living by herself. Even if the only thing she'll get if she does go back is more abuse.

Thing is, even if you didn't have this cultural layer to deal with, Breaking Away will still take a long time to get used to. I fought against my parents' abuse for years after I moved out (sometimes casting innocent passersby, like neighbors, in the role of abusers), even though I had cut myself completely off from them. It takes a lot of work to rewrite your internal configuration, even under the simplest of circumstances.

For comparison, I've heard that people who have lost a spouse should budget one month to grieve for every year of the relationship. So if one has been married, say, twenty-five years, one should be prepared to be grieving for a bit more than two years.

Keep in mind that your whole body is conditioned to live in the circumstances you left behind. Getting used to new circumstances is a similar physical investment to, say, taking on a new sport. You wouldn't expect to earn a black belt from a standing start in only a month, would you?

So: to the degree that you can, be patient with yourself. And continue to do what you've been doing, which is keeping us abreast of what's happening with you. Even if we can't help directly, at the very least, we can cheer you on.

— —

WRT crying in response to emotion: I've noticed that certain emotions will make me cry "illogically" if they are very simply strong (very strong happiness, for example), or if there's an overwhelming sense of recognition. Or an unexpected feeling of "rightness" about something will make me cry. All sorts of reasons. I think of it as "emotional bleeding." That is, the tears serve to bleed off pressure of an emotion. In those cases, it can be helpful to alert companions that the crying is not something that needs to be "comforted," or any response other than just being patient and waiting until my "pressure" comes back down to normal.

This may or may not be helpful or even relevant, but I'm a big fan of recreational crying. There are times when I just feel "overwrought," and so I settle down to have me a good cry, just 'cause. Also, knowing I can go fall apart at home in private whenever I'm of a mind to helps me keep my composure in the moment. I tell the tears welling up in my eyes, "Yes, good, but not right now, thank you." FWIW.

#491 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 03:32 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England:

I understand your reluctance to put your family, whom you're clearly quite fond of, in the same category as some of the more damaging ones we've talked about here.

But what we mean by dysfunctional is, quite simply, not functional. Some dysfunctional families are violent, or angry, or abusive. But others simply don't have the tools to deal with conflicting needs and desires, or to identify and move beyond local maxima. If they're not working as a growing, mutually sustaining and supporting unit, they can still be dysfunctional.

Your mother strikes me as someone who's at a local maximum—feeling like none of the possible changes that could occur in her life lead to improvements. So she clings to stability, and enforces it all around her: no moving, no moving out, no changing.

That's not malicious behavior; it's just insecurity. Sad rather than bad or mad, if you will. So of course you're bouncing off of the advice from people with more contentious relationships with their parents. You don't have to cut your folks off the way that Lee did, or flee your culture of origin like ma larkey has.

But it sounds to me like you still being damaged by the situation you're in, and the prospects for your future. That's something that could be improved in your life. Without necessarily getting into the same kinds of drastic action that some of the people in this community have had to take, maybe you can use this time and space to solve these problems?

#492 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 07:23 PM:

If someone pulled that $6 check business on me, I would be sorely tempted to get out six bucks, hand it to them, and say, "Here. Now never mention it to me again. And if six bucks isn't enough to make you stop talking about it, why was it enough to make you START talking about it?"

I am not necessarily actually recommending this as a course of action. Most likely you'd just be out six bucks.

#493 ::: God of the just, I'll never win a peace prize ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Wildly Gestating @405, ARGH. Maybe it would be best (easiest?) for you to send her (email and maybe also printout/snailmail?) lists of local hotels/extended stay places, with the addendum of "Since we obviously aren't getting rid of the cats, here are places you can stay! We appreciate your help, etc etc etc."

And when she does come, notify local shelters in advance in case she tries to dump them behind your back. (I know this is super paranoid.)

#494 ::: God of the just, I'll never win a peace prize ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Derp, #415, not 405. (Not self-referential here...)

#495 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 09:46 PM:

Win, #492: Heh. I like that thought; unfortunately, it wasn't really about the amount of money, and doing that wouldn't have solved the problem.

See, here's what happened in a little more detail: I didn't have a job or other source of income when I was in college, and so my parents gave me an "allowance" at the beginning of each semester, to cover things like school supplies and meals on campus (since I wasn't living on campus and therefore didn't have a meal card).

The problem came in because they felt that this allowance was THEIR money, and that they were owed a down-to-the-penny accounting of what I spent it on; whereas I felt that once they put it in my bank account, it was MY money and unless I proved myself unable to manage it responsibly, they were only owed a general accounting. Not a situation that could be brought to any sort of reconciliation. If I'd thought it thru a bit more thoroughly, I'd have simply paid cash for the umbrella and avoided the whole issue.

Added to this were boundary issues -- they could never quite get it thru their heads that I was an individual, separate from them -- and control issues, so that any disagreement I had with them became a power struggle. I "won" that one, because I never did tell her what I'd spent that money on, and obviously it got under her skin because she couldn't let it drop.

It's occurred to me, since I've been thinking about the incident again, what might have happened if I'd finally told her, decades after the fact. And I expect the reaction would have been flat-out disbelief -- because if THAT was all it was, why couldn't I have just TOLD her to begin with, so it HAD to be something else, and why was I LYING to her about it? And then we'd be arguing about her fantasy instead of reality.

Nope. The only "win" I could possibly get out of that situation was the one I got -- she went to her grave not knowing.

#496 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2013, 10:31 PM:

ma larkey: adding signal boost that the feelings you're describing are a natural, though unfairly hard after-effect of escaping an abusive situation. Wishing you strength to weather the storm and come out safe on the other side.

All: still witnessing and hoping the best for everyone.

I'm still wittering away at the rat's nest between my ears. Lately that has seemed like one step forward and two back, but I think I've maybe found a lever for some small forward progress elsewhere, at least...

Hanne Blank has invited anyone interested to join her in a 100 days project to try out a new body practice. When I first read her post, I thought it sounded like a great idea, but didn't even consider trying to attempt it. I've had lifelong difficulties with inhabiting/owning my body. I dissociate in the shower. Just changing clothes can take much longer than it should because of the disproportionate effort of will involved (knowing intellectually that it should be a simple thing does not help). Fitness is not even close to being in the picture. But, while "room for improvement" doesn't even begin to cover my (lack of) positive body practices, trying to address even the smallest of these issues is a bugbear that I'm just not up for a direct confrontation with right now.

For one thing, there are even bigger contributing factors in the vicious cycle of "I'd just as soon not wake up at all tomorrow, so why make today any worse than it already is?". To pick a problem not entirely at random, my living space has become an extension of my body issues. I don't own my space, literally or figuratively. I'm living, not with my parents, exactly, but in a space that belongs to them, and which is more-or-less under their noses. I hate myself every day for falling into this trap (I had actually managed to move into a space of my own, for which I was solely responsible, before allowing myself to be talked into this arrangement). I need to get out. I *need* to find a space where I can feel safe to be myself, before I will be able to take more proactive steps toward healing. There are a lot of obstacles to getting out, but one is sheer encumbrance. I went from a model of Objects As Expression of Caring when I was a child, to Objects as Expression of Self when I got old enough to understand that a Self was a thing that other people seemed to have where I did not. It's been probably a decade or so now since I managed to recognize the problem, and de-condition myself from the Objects As Self mindset. I have damped down the influx of Stuff Which Must Be Stored nearly to the point of paranoia. But I still have made almost no progress in the area of reducing the Stuff Already Accumulated.*

Anyhow, after thinking about the 100 days idea some more, and reading more about it in an encouraging follow-up post, I think I've come up with a compromise, and I'm gonna try to stick to it: I will do at least one actual physical thing every other day to improve, as opposed to just maintain, my actual physical living space.

So, for example, throwing away yesterday's junk mail doesn't count, but throwing away a ten year old computer box that I've been saving "just in case" does. Doing laundry doesn't count, unless it's a pile of stuff I never wear, to be sold/donated. The most important part is that it has to be in the physical space; doing anything on the computer doesn't count, even if it's a Thing That Needs Doing. If it's something like researching ways to clean something, it ONLY counts if said Thing is then cleaned. Not exactly the original intent, but it is a new body practice, in a way.

I'm writing this here as fulfillment of rule#2 (write it down), but also in case anybody else finds the 100 days concept to be a useful coping strategy. I'm actually sorta looking forward to trying this, so I'm hoping that's a good sign.

*Noting pre-emptively here that Unf*ck Your Habitat, while a great idea and an awesome thing for anyone that it does help, does not work for me personally, almost to the point of being triggery.

#497 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:02 AM:

eep @496: thank you for the links, i think they were just what i needed right now.

#498 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 01:10 AM:

eep: Thank you very much for the pointer. I've been beating my head against that wall in one form or another for about fifteen years. I commented on Hanne's post that I'm going to try (again) to do my yoga every day for 100 days.

I cheer you on for doing your physical space work! That sounds like an entirely appropriate effort. (Oh, and btw, your situation wrt your parents and living space rather precisely describes a recurring nightmare I have. You have my deepest sympathies.)

#499 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:29 AM:

justkeepsmiling @460:

My first line was because I thought "dysfunctional" in the context of these threads meant families afflicted by mental illness, domestic violence or substance abuse, while my family has been ruined mainly by disabilities (my sister's autism, and those resulting from my dad's brain haemorrhage).

Lee @472:

My mother often insists that I can't afford to live independently, and has thrown exaggerated estimates of my living costs at me (including £80/week for food). During my lunch hour at work once I went to a nearby supermarket and costed a week's groceries (they came to about £50, and I was ignoring special offers to err on the side of caution). I showed her this costing when I got home and she said "That's only for food and drink! When you add cleaning stuff on you can TREBLE that!" I was too stunned to say anything back, thinking "£100/week just for cleaning stuff -- that's NUTS!"

Although I myself am reasonably confident that I could keep within my means living independently, I don't think I'd have much left over with which to help my family, I think the biggest issue with my mother isn't money anyway -- it's loneliness! Because of how my dad has been over the past year (it's reminiscent of dementia in some ways) I'm now the only person in the house with whom my mother is capable of having a half-decent conversation!

And about the stuff she bought me over the years: I'm also concerned this could be a significant logistical headache when it came to the actual act of moving. (I have about 7 bookshelves' worth of books alone -- they were nice to have before I had internet access, but now I don't think it's worth keeping so many.) I'm also wondering about more generic issues to do with picking a flat (will one bedroom be enough or should I go for 2? Furnished or unfurnished?)

OtterB @475:

and if I come across as sounding like "just try harder," I apologize.

That reminds me of how sometimes my mother has sometimes complained about my commute to work (25 miles each way -- she gets especially fretful during cold snaps like the one we're currently having). She often says "Why can't you get a job nearer home"? Of course, it's never "why can't you move nearer work?" -- and if I did move to be nearer work (which I definitely want to, both to be nearer interesting things to do, and to reduce my commuting costs) she worry myself sick about not being able to access my home easily in an emergencv! Does she not understand that half-decent jobs are hard to come by in any part of NE England, without restricting myself just to central or eastern County Durham? It took me over a year to get the job I'm currently in (I work for a games developer, which may explain why my pay is a bit on the low side) -- at least if I did want to change jobs in the future it should be easier with 5 years' C++ and Python experience under my belt.

dcb @488:

What would I do if I had my own place and no more responsibilities to my family? I think it would be something like

1. In the first week or two away from my parents, acclimatize myself to independent living (work out when to make meals, wash clothes and buy groceries, learn how to iron).
2. Sell or (failing that) give away excess possessions to de-clutter. Don't know yet whether eBay or a car boot sale would be my better alternative here.
3. Do something about my unfitness! Hopefully leaving my parents' home, plus step 2 above, would give me enough space to buy some exercise gear -- I can't have it at the moment as my roughly 7' x 9" bedroom can't accommodate it. This would also help me lose weight (I'm about 200 lb at the moment, and would like to get down to about 170.)
4. Try learning some new skills (perhaps the dancing I mentioned contemplating earlier, or maybe try learning a non-European language?)
5. FIND A GIRLFRIEND! It's frightening that I'm still a virgin at my age...

#500 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 06:30 AM:

Hurray, ma larkey, you got out! CONGRATULATIONS! :D And oh, I know that feeling you describe. I've been here for about a month also, and even though I've already gone through so many stages of cutting them off / breaking free, I'm still... very unpredictable in how I feel each day. I'm only barely starting to grieve (in anything but the "denial" phase I've been in for so long) some of the things I've lost, like esoteric family in-jokes and my baby pictures - I don't have one single photograph of myself, I think. I'm starting in a very small way to learn self-care, to realize that I can ask for what I need and put my health or sanity first. I'm nowhere near good at any of this yet; I'm just beginning to realize on a visceral level that the world I grew up in was not normal. To learn what a healthy living space feels like.


I haven't been to a therapist yet, but I'm so much closer; it's just the MLK holiday hours that have gotten in the way of returning calls and getting an appointment scheduled. It is now definitely settled that my housemate's therapist will see me pro bono. :D

I'm not taking the best care of myself yet, or anywhere near it, but I'm in a space where I can start to learn that caring for myself is okay, that (reasonable) people won't HATE ME FOREVER if I can't put them above everything else.

There's a fine line sometimes between depression and grief, but I seem to be stumbling very slowly into finding that I can grieve - for bits of my lost childhood, for the facts I keep stumbling across that would fit into unfinished conversations I can never have, for all the ways in which the edges of my old life are still ragged and I can't necessarily clean them up. I can grieve without falling straight into black depression, and this is new. :-)

And for some reason I don't even understand and don't feel like analyzing at the moment, I'm finding my housemate's very large "Calvin & Hobbes" collection extremely soothing. I keep hugging each book as I finish it.

#501 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:57 AM:

Codemonkey in NE, in my snap judgementy completely non qualified and not professional opinion (and from having helped a friend in actually pretty similar situation)

The no 1 thing you need to do is move out. A small furnished one bedroom flat on a 6 month lease or something like that would be perfect. Just somewhere to move out to and be where you can start establishing boundaries and having a place to be that's *yours* separate from the you as son of your parents you. It's all about boundaries.

You can still travel back to your parents and play board games and talk and have dinner multiple times a week. Don't need to move all your stuff and clutter over, just take the minimum that you need and see how it goes.

You mentioned you have considerable savings so you have a really nice backup cushion if things turn out to be more expensive than expected etc. I get that you wouldn't want to touch that just for living expenses and it's not sustainable going forward doing that but I think you really need to move out for 6 months just to start to be able to be your own independent person.

I know I'm stating things fairly bluntly here and I maybe should be tip toe-ing a bit more so please feel free to ignore this post altogether and you don't need to make any excuses or explanations of why this wouldn't work or is too hard or too big a step or something. That's all fine you're the only one who knows what's feasible for you and what you can do in your exact situation.

One more thing though, it's not frightening being a virgin at any age. It doesn't get talked about much but there's a ton of people who don't have regular sex, haven't ever had any with another person etc. and that's all fine and not abnormal. Wanting to change things is also fine but really it's not frightening and it's not a judgement on anyone on who they are as a person. It really really isn't.

Also having a girlfriend wouldn't fix anything for you so to speak. You need to do the work yourself to become the person you want to be. No one else can fix you for you. Additionally you don't need a significant other to have deep emotional connections and friendships with people. Not saying you shouldn't look to partnering up eventually if that's how things go but people can have happy lives in all sorts of configurations, you (or anyone else, myself included) are not broken by not being partnered up.

However partner dancing as a hobby is awesome fun and would probably help with both your fitness and the meeting people and potentially connecting with someone at the level where you want to be boyfriend/girlfriend. So I'd totally upvote that plan.

But yeah, if possible at all, move out into a small furnished, one bedroom flat for 6 months to start to figure out what it's like being in charge of your own household and put some emotional boundaries in place re: your parents. If you find it doesn't work at all you can move back after those 6 months and all you'll have lost is some money.

#502 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:07 AM:

Congratulations Ma Larkey!

Codemonkey @499: you can't provide all your mother's society and shouldn't have to. She needs friends. While you might be able to bring prospective friends to her, it's up to your mother and the universe whether they actually click.

For the first while after you left, you'd probably be living like a student, so start with the cost-of-living estimates published by the universities and colleges local to your intended area. Then increase it for start-up costs and disaster allowance. Read up on the local rental law -- what are your rights and responsibilities as a tenant? The landlord's? Are there different kinds of tenancies with different legal coverage?

7 bookshelves, I can tell you from recent experience, is probably about 40 boxes when packed in manageable sizes. Book boxes can't be much bigger than a foot cubed, or you will be sorry you tried to lift them. Stuff seems bigger/more plentiful when it's time to move.

What does "furnished" include over there and what's the price difference? Is it just the furniture, or does it include the extra trappings, like all the parts of a functioning kitchen? (dinnerware, glasses, mugs/teacups, flatware, S/M/L pots, a 10" frying pan, 1 big baking pan, 2 smaller baking pans, several chef's knives, at least 1-2 steak knives, some stirring implements, lifters and scrapers, salt and pepper shakers, dishwashing equipment...) Furnished might also have liability problems -- what happens if an included item gets damaged or breaks? Will the landlord insist it's your fault, your cost?

If you know you like using different spaces for different purposes, think about the 2 bedroom flats. Myself, I would be thinking "neighbourhoods x y z, 1-2 bedrooms, price $x-y, these features". It sounds like you have enough experience with money that you'll be okay running a small household on a realistic budget, once past the set-up phase. I suggest getting help from friends who've been on their own a while with those initial shopping trips for house stuff.

Oh, and if you're buying a bed anyway, buy one big enough for 2 people. ;)

#503 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:37 AM:

@Codemonkey: Your mom's lying abominably about cleaning stuff--not only are conventional cleaning products not nearly that expensive, but you can keep your home clean with nothing more than a vacuum, a mop, a scrub brush, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. The only expensive thing on that list is the vacuum, and you can get a decent bagless model here in the US for about $150. (I mention bagless models because finding and buying compatible bags for an old-fashioned bag vacuum is quite the hassle, and is nowadays an unnecessary expense.)

If you can pare down the books a wee bit, that might help immensely. Perhaps donate titles you no longer read to a library or second-hand bookstore. I've had to do this regularly myself, because I accumulate books at an astonishing rate. I've sold things on eBay, but donations to Goodwill and the like can also be a good way to de-clutter.

As for apartments, you don't really need a 2nd bedroom unless you have a roommate (see below) or you tend to have a lot of overnight guests. My 2nd bedroom has become That Place Where I Store Dolls And Books. So I'm basically seconding Sica's plan of a simple studio or 1-bedroom apartment.

Furnished apartments tend to have a higher rent per month, and I think you're generally held liable if something happens to the furniture. On the other hand, furniture is fairly expensive unless you go for the cheap fiberboard stuff or buy used, and the logistics of moving furniture become an issue. To give you an idea, I furnished my apartment in 2011 for about $10,000, and most of that came from the "outlet" section of the furniture store where the discounted, discontinued models are. I also got a TV, printer, and couches donated from my parents, and of course that $10k also counts pots and pans, an ironing board, and such.

If you feel OK with having a roommate, sometimes classified ads (dead-tree or Craigslist, it doesn't matter) will have lists of places where folks are searching for a roommate. It's cheaper than living on your own because you're splitting the rent, but some roommates are better than others.

And don't be ashamed of your virginity; any woman worth having a relationship with won't care whether you're a virgin or not. It may take a while to find a compatible young lady, but the more time you spend doing activities outside the home (going to the gym, taking dance lessons, going to conventions), the more likely you are to find her! :)

tl;dr: It's not living independently that's the real expense, it's the up-front costs. Once you have what you need, the biggest monthly expense tends to be rent.

#504 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:55 AM:

So, I think I've heard people in this community say that it can be really hard to pick up the phone to make the initial appointment with a doctor or a psychologist or a dentist. I have experienced that. I found out about ZocDoc, which covers major US cities right now, and is basically an online appointment-making site for medical stuff -- like OpenTable for doctors. I used to work with a guy who now works there, which is how I stumbled across it.

I like that I don't have to make a call to talk to a stressed-out receptionist, it checks whether the doctor takes my health insurance, I don't have to spell my unusual name aloud, I can use it at 2am on a Sunday instead of waiting till the offices are open, I can see what the times are, I can even just look within my local area for people who have an appointment TODAY. It got me over my inertia and got me to a doctor this fall and my life is better now. I figure that, just like SeamlessWeb and OpenTable and at-the-pump credit-card gasoline payment and Amazon, this is one of those things that makes life easier for people who are anxious about asking other people for help, or who have speech or aural processing disorders. So I know this might seem like shilling but it's been a help to me and I thought others (in the USA) might want to know about it.

#505 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 10:00 AM:

I wouldn't get too hung up on furnished vs unfurnished. Where I live 90% of flats are rented furnished so I'd be shooting myself in the foot by insisting on unfurnished. It's also easier to just jump in and try out living on your own with a furnished one because you don't need to deal with the up front cost and logistics of getting furniture together. I.e. it's easier to go after 4 months, no I actually don't like living here I'll move someplace else rather than renew the lease. The actual act of moving is way easier as well because you don't have to move any sofas, beds or white goods.

At the same time going unfurnished if that's possible is a good step towards buying eventually since you'll stat building up the required furniture and you have more control over things.

As for the liable for furniture when damages outside "reasonable wear and tear" can be deducted from your deposit when you movie out but it shouldn't go beyond the deposit so it's capped. I guess unless you go and unreasonably completely destroy the flat in a full on vandalism sort of way but I'd think that's pretty unlikely.

(I'm on my 7th year now of living in rented, furnished, one bedroom flats in the UK)

#506 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 10:08 AM:


I also encourage the moving out. I lived at home until I was... 27? 28? Just before I got married, in any case, and decided that darn it, I needed a chance to live entirely on my own before I moved in permanently with another person.

Mom was NOT happy about this.

We're different in that my parents have a healthy social life of their own, and there are no disabilities to worry about, but - have you ever heard of entanglement? Where the parent and child have a really, really close relationship - like the mother and (in my case daughter) are "best friends" except it's not a healthy friendship, it's way more controlling than that? I googled it - the more common term is enmeshment.

It's not healthy for either of you, and - as impossible as it will seem for the first while after you move out - your relationship with your mother will be infinitely better after you break the enmeshment. Speaking from my own experience.

Also from my own experience, she will keep trying to re-establish the old relationship. It's been over seven years, and she still often does not respect my boundaries.

Also: regarding girlfriend: deal with the enmeshment before you try to get a girlfriend, unless you get someone truly amazing. I was freaking lucky with my husband - he helped me to develop as an individual, and pushed me to get counselling when I didn't have the courage. But I suspect that most people would deal better with someone who's not quite so tied to home. Best thing that ever happened to our marriage: being forced to move to another city, in another province, for two years right after we got married. Mom flipped (some of the worst memories of my life are in the month before we moved), but the distance forced a re-evaluation of the relationship. Also call display. Critically important, call display.

As always, ignore if hlepy. Just - your situation sounded so much like mine in some ways that I really wanted to share my own experience in case it helps.

All the best!

#507 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 10:26 AM:

Also, regarding getting rid of stuff: by all means, cull! Culling is good! But you don't have to get rid of it all at once. In fact if your mom is anything like mine, she'll consider the culling to be a rejection of her. :( *sigh*

Once you've established a healthier relationship, culling comes easier. See post #1 on this thread for my experience in the matter. :)

#508 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 10:59 AM:

Codemonkey: You definitely wouldn't have to spend a hundred pounds a week on cleaning supplies. It's possible your mother is basing that estimate in part on having to buy cleaning supplies for four people; the less people you have, the less quickly you go through stuff.

My experience based on my fiancee and I is that we have to re-up on the disposable stuff (the pads of floor-dusting, Erasers of Magic, dish soap, etc.) every couple months-ish, depending on what said disposables are. (Paper towels go fastest, but it took us seven months to kill off a bottle of dish soap.) We have yet to go through even half of the garbage bags we got, for instance. We also have all-hardwood floors, so we skipped a vacuum altogether.

And you only have to buy stuff like brooms once.

It's a big output right away, and sometimes a slightly raised output once a month or so (again, depending on how fast you go through things), but definitely not a hundred pounds a week.

she pushes down: I find Calvin and Hobbes soothing pretty much all the time; have since it was in the papers. Good luck with the therapy appointment!

#509 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 11:01 AM:

@Sumana: I've used ZocDoc in the past. My problem isn't social anxiety; it's laziness. I keep saying I'll get around to things, and then just not getting around to them.

In this case, the fact that I've had really bad experiences with psychiatrists in the past* was a contributing factor to the old "I don't need their help" mindset, but I'm past that.


* I was 15-17, and assumed that because I was a minor, the psychiatrist would tell my parents about any disturbing trends he was noticing, or make general statements like "Her emotional state is definitely improving!" but that that sort of thing was all he was telling them--like how regular pediatricians don't report on small talk, they just tell your folks what, if anything, is wrong with your health and how to fix it. Later on, I found out that he was telling my parents everything I said, including things I was afraid for my parents to hear, and I felt deeply betrayed by this.

#510 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 12:44 PM:

Codemonkey: Seconding pretty much everything that's been said above.

There are a lot of ways that a family can be dysfunctional that don't involve anything most of society recognizes as such. If your family is interfering with your ability to become an independent, functional adult, then it's dysfunctional.

Moving is one very good way to cull out stuff you don't need (or want) any more. :-) Unless you have furniture of your own that you really want to keep, I'd go with furnished at least on the first move. Book boxes do need to be small; the U-Haul small box that they recommend for heavy items such as books is 16" x 12" x 12" -- or you can do what a lot of people here do, and ask the local pub to let you haul off some of their discarded boxes. Cases of bottled beer are pretty heavy, and the boxes designed to hold them are sturdy.

If you want to invest in exercise equipment, that would be a good reason to consider a 2-bedroom flat; you could also put your computer in the second bedroom and create a small "home office" area.

Unless your job requires you to wear clothing that needs ironing, I strongly recommend phasing such things out of your wardrobe instead; easy-care clothing is now the norm for most social occasions. Hang onto a couple of good shirts for special events, and let the laundry press them for you.

Selling on eBay isn't as easy as you might think. First off, until you have a reasonably high feedback level, you won't get many takers; secondly, you're responsible for packing and shipping, and that's a significant effort; thirdly, people who buy used goods on eBay are generally looking for bargains, and at that point you might just as well have a yard sale, because you won't get much more for your stuff anyhow. But also, consider donating things to your local thrift shop, or the library for books.

Also, those thrift shops (and other people's yard sales) are an excellent source for things you may find yourself missing in the way of household goods or furniture, until you can spare enough money to buy yourself better stuff.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a virgin at any age, especially when you've been forced to live like a child for so long. BUT... seriously, do not expect either losing your virginity or finding a girlfriend (and no, those are not the same thing) to magically cure any of your issues. There is a type of woman who is drawn to "fixer-uppers", but that would just be asking to recreate your current situation all over again. Instead, I recommend working on getting the rest of your life sorted out; be the sort of person who's a good partner, and it's much easier to find one! That includes having hobbies and interests of your own, and dancing is a very good idea -- but don't pick hobbies with an eye to meeting women, pick them because they're something YOU want to do, whether with or without a partner.

Listen to Chickadee @506, for she has much wisdom. I also had to deal with the enmeshment issue, and I don't think my parents (especially my father) ever did really learn where I stopped and they started. But you can't let that control your life.

Oh, and about beds large enough for two people... when I moved into my first unfurnished apartment, I bought a double bed because I knew I was going to be entertaining lovers. My parents fussed and fussed and fussed about why did I "need" a bed that size, and wasn't it a waste of money when I could have taken all the linens from my old twin bed, and and and. I'm sure they knew why I was wanting a larger bed, but (again) they couldn't SAY it because that might Give Me Ideas, and I wasn't about to say anything that would start that fight, so we just went around and around over the side issues instead. And I had already figured out that I didn't need more than 2 sets of sheets and pillowcases -- one to be on the bed and the other in the laundry -- so it wasn't that expensive either, aside from the mattress and box spring.

The_L, #509: You were absolutely right to feel betrayed over that! What your doctor did was completely unethical, and possibly (depending on the laws in your state) illegal as well; it was a breach of patient confidentiality. It's probably much too late now to report him for it, though.

#511 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 12:46 PM:

Either for a suspicious-looking link, or an inadvertent Word of Power.

#512 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:04 PM:

The amazing catch-up post (part I)!

Lee #400: That was pretty much how I reacted! I'm thinking that someone of sufficient age to be living independently has had ample time to learn simple things like mine != yours, and act accordingly.

Dash #428: That's awesome news about the summer program! Not only do you get to go somewhere different and share your awesome self and knowledge, but you limit your time-near-mother, which is also good! (I noticed the mention of her referring to "her BABY" -- might it be useful to comment (as lightheartedly as you can) in response to such 'jokes' that you're not a baby anymore, you're all grown up, and she needs to cut the umbilical already? Discard if hlepy.)

eep #429: I know that feeling. I'm just now getting the spoons back to start participating here more, which makes me feel better overall. Don't feel guilty, though--especially since, if you're anything like me, your inner critics are stealing spoons from you in the first place. :P Write what you can, take care of yourself. I hope you recover from the chronic illness flareup!

mistergeeky #431: That's a terrible situation to be in, and I hope you can find some peace for yourself in the midst of it all. One thing I would suggest--don't be alone in your sister's presence, especially if you have concerns about your safety. Lee and Jacque, as usual, have excellent advice.

Froth #435: So your first word was "No"? That's not uncommon, and there's nothing wrong with you because of it.

You don't get caught lying twice when the first time you get a suitcase thrown at you and told to choose who you want to live with because she's not having liars in her house. You don't throw a second tantrum when the first got you dropped onto concrete and locked out in the rain. Similarly, you don't push Older Brother at all, because he doesn't have a "tetchy" setting, he has trying to stab you with the nearest implement instead.

This sort of thing is bad. It's cruel and abusive and wrongwrongwrong! Mum getting angry should not mean the world ends. Older Brother shouldn't get to threaten you if he gets pissed off. These are not normal things.

Codemonkey in NE England #437 and #456: Adding my voice to the chorus of welcome and agreement: you're in a dysfunctional situation, and since you have the means to get out, for your own mental and physical health, you should.

What I want to address is that your mother seems to be making you responsible for her happiness. There's also something strange in requiring a disabled older man to (allegedly) take risks that aren't suitable for a healthy young man--if it's "too dangerous" for you to go out, why isn't it for him? My suspicion is that the "danger" is in your freedom. After all, if she lets you go out someplace, what's to keep you from coming back?

Her loneliness isn't your respnsibility--in fact, from your description, it sounds like just another link in the chains she's trying to keep you wrapped in. Regardless of her intentions, her actions are harming you. For that matter, they're harming her--in the current situation, she doesn't have to get help for herself because you're there, and she assumes that you'll pick up the slack.

It doesn't help that you're crowded into a space that's far too small, and it sounds like that's a major component of your unhappiness and your mother's depression. I think the best first step for you is to go ahead and get yourself a flat, even if it's nearby. You need your privacy, and you need room for yourself, and moving will give your parents more room. It won't be easy, but, like the other wise voices here, it's pretty clear that you already know the answer, you just need a little encouragement. Which is ok, because it is a hard thing to do.

(Or, what everyone else said.)

#513 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:14 PM:

Codemonkey @499: Do something about my unfitness! Hopefully leaving my parents' home, plus step 2 above, would give me enough space to buy some exercise gear -- I can't have it at the moment as my roughly 7' x 9" bedroom can't accommodate it.

Actually, if you do a bit of searching around, it's amazing what you can do in a tiny space. I find I can do entirely adequate exercise in the 6x3 foot space at the foot of my bed. Yoga and kettlebell both fit quite nicely, though it's nice to have a space that's 1.1 times your height square, for those times when you need to lie down and spread out. The equipment I use sums up to less than an eighth of a cubic foot in size.

The_L @503: ::ears perk up in interest:: What do you use the lemon juice for?

Also, Codemonkey, if you're renting, a vacuum can sometimes be borrowed from a landlord or building super. That's what I did for years until I bought my own condo.

The additional hazard of a 2nd bedroom is that it's very easy if one is (a) a packrat and (b) a little lazy about tidying up, for that room to become a storage room. I got a 2 br condo with the idea that #2 would be my art studio / workout room / guest room. Unfortunately, it tends to become a 13sqft Fibber McGee's closet.

The_L: furniture is fairly expensive

On the other hand, a lot of good (or even merely adequate) stuff can be got second-hand. Thrifties, garage sales, The List That Craig Wrote, moving neighbors, and so on. I think, over the span of my adult life, I've paid maybe $1900 for furniture, and $1.5K of that was a set of fancy floor-to-ceiling custom bookshelves. $300 was when I finally decided to be a Grown Up and buy a chest of drawers for my underwear, socks, and other stuff which I hardly ever even look at. And I was well into my forties before I laid out that expense.

You say you have a job: put out the word to coworkers that you're looking to furnish a small place and want basics. I'd be willing to bet you could get most of a full kit for nothing or very little.

WRT beds: I actually slept on the floor (on a good plush carpet) for ten years before I finally broke down and bought a futon (big enough to accomodate two). New futons are surprisingly expensive for what they are. But you DON'T want to get a used bed; at least, not if you live in the US. Bed bugs are evidently on the rise, and they just luuuuuv to hitch a ride in an old matress.

#514 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:15 PM:

Tuna sandwich, perhaps?

#515 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:40 PM:

The amazing catch-up post, part 2!

knitcrazybooknut #451: That's fantastic! I'm very happy for you--enjoy your new freedom!

The_L #465-469: I'm also listening; don't worry about writing a book, we like books here.

the invisible one #471: Zen hugs? You know, it's not weird for strong emotions to trigger crying. I cry sometimes when I'm overwhelmed by a feeling, even if it's happiness. Or sadness, or anger, etc. and so forth. And sometimes, I get overwhelmed by the intensity of the feeling, which makes me less able to register what it is. It's like being flash-blinded--you know you saw something bright, but all you're aware of at first is the brightness. It takes time, after that, for me to calm down and sort the details out.

ma larkey #476: Welcome back! I was hoping you'd be able to get out safely, and I'm happy to hear back from you! I am so sorry to hear that you couldn't rely on people you thought you could, and that they couldn't support you when you needed it. You are not in the wrong here--you had, and have, every right to live a life free of abuse and exploitation.

When I was 19, I walked out of my parents' home; I fled back to Texas, where I had friends who were willing to put me up until I got on my feet. It hurt. It was terrifying. There were times I cried myself to sleep and times I wanted to crawl back home and beg forgiveness. There were times I thought I was a horrible ungrateful daughter, and there were times I didn't recognize myself in the mirror.

And please, let me assure you: it got better. I got better. I'm still screwed up in so many ways, but I'm not the shattered child that ran away anymore. I'm a work in progress, and (on the days I have spoons) I'm okay with that. (See the work in progress bit. :P)

I've been reading your posts since you hopped on here several years ago, and I've been hoping you'd find your way out of the situation; your courage and grace have been an inspiration, and I cannot think that those will fail you now. It will get better. You'll find your way; you'll make mistakes, but you will get the hang of taking care of yourself. Especially if you practice. (Which gets you the twin benefits of practicing something and enjoying the results!)

#516 ::: Jennifer Baughman is Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 02:41 PM:

But I have Girl Scout cookies?

#517 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 03:53 PM:

I don't feel courageous, or graceful, or feel that I deserve any kind of congratulations. While I'm grateful that I have support at the moment, I am besieged by fear, and the knowing that I do not know how to do for myself fully.
I'm feeling sick, I'm also feeling incredible waves of self-loathing.

Perhaps this is not the place to be negative but I am. Just now.

(Maybe because I slept badly and haven't showered and need food.)

#518 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:08 PM:

ma larkey @517, Perhaps this is not the place to be negative but I am. Just now.

This is the place to be however you are.

Take small steps in self-care. Needing food, in particular, makes everything else more difficult than it has to be. (Needing sleep does that too, but sleep can be harder to come by.)

You have a crowd of well-wishers here. Hang in there.

#519 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:12 PM:

@Lee: I thought HIPAA only applied to people over 18? I was still a minor at the time.

@Jacque: I didn't mention used furniture because my parents have this ridiculous hatred of all the Used Stuff sources you mentioned. I bought a used Ethan Allen desk for

As for the lemon juice, it works well with the vinegar if you need something more acidic, and it also has mild antibacterial properties. It's not as good as Lysol, but if you have strong reactions to bleach, lemon juice is the next best thing. Plus, you get that wonderful citrus scent!

Baking soda is good as a scouring powder and fabric softener (just pour a wee bit in with the detergent), and if you pour some down the drain and add vinegar, you basically get homemade Drano.

Vinegar is the most useful cleaner on the list, though. If you leave it on ANY stain, it will fade to near-invisibility without damaging dyes on carpets or messing with people like me who can't handle most chemical cleaners well.

#520 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:16 PM:

...Silly less-than signs. That paragraph should say, "I bought a used Ethan Allen desk for less than $150 from a coworker, but aside from that and the items my parents gave me, I have no previously-owned furniture at all. It was just easier not to argue so I could Get Out faster."

#521 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:23 PM:

Codemonkey: for reasons of financial and academic collapse I ended up living for 2 years back with my aged parents in a terraced house that should have been demolished in the slum clearances of 50 years before. Eventually I got myself together enough to move back to the city where I wanted to be and get a job, but the after-effects of doing little but make conversation with aged parents, read £1 Victorian novels and watch Countdown for so long were severe: I had spent too long in an intolerable situation promising myself that I'd sort things out eventually, and had got into habits of procrastination and apathy that are still with me, a bit.

Be not solitary, be not idle, as the great man said. Be not solitary: while you're sorting yourself out it'll be useful to have some friend or relative whom you can confide in; someone who can actually see your current situation for himself/herself and be frank with you about it. You're almost certainly brilliant at compartmentalizing your life and presenting more-or-less coherent and totally different façades to those you know from work/home/University, but you need at least one person to be honest with, face-to-face. Be not idle: your situation is sapping your energy and you need to get yourself out of it by means of lots and lots of small actions that will require energy and will also seem to be taking too bloody long (and perhaps you'll realise this and have great difficulty getting started as a result). You need to have a plan (don't spend too much time working on the plan lest that become an end in itself) and then do it. Good luck.

#522 ::: mistergeeky ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:51 PM:

By way of an update:

Problem...sorta solved?

My father died yesterday. SInce my sister is no longer talking to me, I found out via my uncle (dad's younger brother). My sister made it clear to him that I would not be welcome at her house for the shiva-ing. My uncle was utterly disgusted by her attitude - made worse perhaps because his wife had been tossed out of her sister's place during a similar time with _her_ father's death.

So he and I will go out for dinner one night. Similar requests came from an aunt and some cousins. Works for me.

#523 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 04:59 PM:

The_L @519: lemon juice ... has mild antibacterial properties.

Well, I'll be! Good to know. Thanks for the tip!

Vinegar is the most useful cleaner on the list,

Don't I know it! Laundering dirty guinea pig towels without a good soaking in vinegar first is worse than useless.

& @520:I have no previously-owned furniture at all. It was just easier not to argue so I could Get Out faster."

Ah. Yes. Priorities. Indeed. How do your parents feel about antiques? </snark>

#524 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 05:03 PM:

mistergeeky @522: So he and I will go out for dinner one night. Similar requests came from an aunt and some cousins. Works for me.

It's sad that this is the state of affairs, but it sounds like everyone will be all around better served by this solution.

#525 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 05:03 PM:

mistergeeky @522: So he and I will go out for dinner one night. Similar requests came from an aunt and some cousins. Works for me.

It's sad that this is the state of affairs, but it sounds like everyone will be all around better served by this solution.

#526 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 05:28 PM:

ma larkey @ 517

I don't feel courageous, or graceful, or feel that I deserve any kind of congratulations.... I am besieged by fear...I'm also feeling incredible waves of self-loathing.

It gets better.

My reaction: OmyGhodThatSoundsFamiliar.

Note the end of my #120. That came 4 months after leaving a home and community that were awesome in many ways, abusive in some, and fit me so badly I was finally unable to stand any more.

And your feeling unworthy of affirmation, and terrified, and helpless, and incompetent, and alone? That sounds familiar. I remember feeling that way.

It gets better. Do what self-care you can (I definitely recommend eating); it gets better.

#527 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 05:36 PM:

Codemonkey: Not even £5 a week, never mind £100 (!!!), once you've got the vacuum cleaner. A dustpan and brush is cheap, so are a few dusters or microfibre cloths, washing up sponges/brush etc. Dishwashing soap lasts a long time.

Furnishing a flat shouldn't cost a huge amount either, particularly if you're prepared to go to charity furniture shops, accept gifts from friends etc. (We have some perfectly functional bookcases from skips, office furniture that various places were throwing out make up 95% of the furniture in my home office, and most of the hard furnishings are hand-me-downs). If you're self-furnishing, get a new bed (or at least a new mattress), and you want any other soft furnishings to be from friends/people you know (or IKEA), but hard furnishings - charity shops.

As for the books - how long are your "seven shelves"? We used one flat box (the sort fruit arrives in at Supermarkests) per two standard (e.g. Ikea Billy 60 cm wide) shelves of paperbacks - but if you're talking text books/reference books, then it's one or two boxes per shelf or the same length. And you wouldn't need to necessarily move them all out straight away - in fact it might reassure your mother if you didn't.

Regarding the unfitness, ignore if hlepy, but have you considered (don't laugh) running? You can do it from home, with a mimimum of gear (a pair of running shoes is advisable, but honestly you don't need expensive ones at this stage), and you start with just a few minutes on a run/walk basis (C25K - couch to 5K - programmes are widely available; and this post is going to be gnomed for mentioning them, I fear). Those will take you from zero to being able to run 5K (3.1 miles). Once you can run-walk that distance (even before you can run the whole way), you can start going to your local parkrun - there's one at Exhibition Park - hope that's close enough for you to get to, 9.00 am every Saturday morning. There you will find lots of friendly people of all ages and varying fitness levels - a good way of getting to know people.

mistergeeky @522: Well, as you say, it's a solution - and it's great that other members of the family want to meet up with you. Sympathies.

ma larkey @517: If you can't be negative here, where can you be negative? Re. food etc., maybe try to impose convention rules on yourself: at least one shower, two propermeals and six hours of sleep per day, IIRC?

#528 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 06:28 PM:

mistergeeky @522 -- I'm sorry for your loss, appalled by your sister's behavior, and glad that at least some of the family is standing by you.

#529 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 07:13 PM:

mistergeeky #522: My condolences on your loss, and I'm sad to hear that you had to learn through backdoor channels. I'm glad, though, that others in your family know that it's Not You that's the problematic element, and that you won't be alone in your grief.

ma larkey #517: Sleeping badly and not eating are the two most reliable ways I know to make my mood crater, even when I'm not under a lot of emotional stress. If you can manage it, I second Jacque's suggestion of "convention rules". Meanwhile, negative or not, your feelings are real and valid.

#530 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 07:21 PM:

mistergeeky, my condolences on your loss.

#531 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:14 PM:

Much as I'd like to take credit for dcb's convention rules, mine date from before the shower was added to the daily dose.

#532 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:32 PM:

mistergeeky: Sympathies on your loss. On the other hand, good that your uncle came through, and it sounds like the rest of your family is a lot saner....

#533 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed... ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 08:33 PM:

not much to eat just now, but baking tomorrow.

#534 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:44 PM:

ma larkey @ 517:

You will do for yourself. You are doing for yourself. You are doing fine, and you will do fine.

If you would like internet hugs or hand-squeezings, I have some to offer. (If not, that is 100% fine, too.)

I can also recommend this song from zefrank. I've found it really unreasonably comforting sometimes. Main lyrics: "Hey, you're okay. You'll be fine. Just breathe."

And it is okay to feel how you feel, and talk about it here, even if that's negative right now.

(Please do eat, though. It doesn't matter what; any food is better than no food.)

#535 ::: Anon4Now is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2013, 09:45 PM:

Tension Tamer tea?

#536 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:41 AM:

#509 ::: The_L

"My problem isn't social anxiety; it's laziness."

Please ignore if hlepy, but I strongly recommend not framing it that way.

Part of it is that "lazy" is a status word, like "excuse" or "impudent". It starts by assuming that you're in the wrong according to some authority, and that you have no legitimate reason.

Another part of it was that my father would assert that I was just lazy, and tell me to agree with him. It didn't take many repetitions, like two or three... I didn't care enough to argue, and I'm not sure what all the issues were at my end.

I never actually agreed with him.

I do think that a lot of procrastination is panic, or at least that's how some of it feels at my end.

Sometimes, it's necessary to make an effort to get yourself to do something, but that doesn't mean insults like "lazy" are a good tool.

#537 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 08:49 AM:

Jacque: They probably feel like it's more cost-effective to buy something that's less expensive than a like-new antique piece, and doesn't require restoration like the more battered antique-store finds. But then, Dad's one of thoes types who likes to think of himself as handy, but does most of his home-improvement projects "tomorrow."

That said, Dad has been using the same desk for 40 years now. It's a bit battered, but it's in decent usable shape. But that's different, because it was new when he bought it, and to him, that's what matters.

Nancy: Sorry, it's just that "sometimes I let my ADHD run away with me, and I get distracted/procrastinate for literally weeks from doing something that takes five minutes, tops" feels like an excuse. But then, I was taught from an early age that explaining why I did or didn't do something is really "making excuses." Saying that I was being lazy that day seems more responsible by comparison, somehow.

I need to set a time to make phone reminders for myself. (Yes, I have to schedule a set time just to make reminders/alerts for things that aren't routine, or I don't even do that. My ADHD really is that bad.)

I am basically the sort of person UFYH was designed for.

#538 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 09:02 AM:

Another obstacle to leaving home that has propped up recently is that our home broadband has gone on the blink (and will need to sorted out before I could move out, as no-one else has the technical expertise to do it). If I'd move out before Xmas I wouldn't have left an internet connection in place at my parents' home, but my sister got an iPad as her main present (my mother was struggling to think of anything else, and I didn't dare try to stop her for fear of either appearing jealous, or giving away the fact that I want out).

It's problematic because I'm connecting my router via an extension lead (which would be sure to raise a red flag with tech support people), but moving it nearer the phone socket would be difficult due to lack of a mains power outlet near the phone socket.

David Harmon @467: You may not be a "slave" in the classic form, but you're certainly a prisoner of your mother's fears (and I'd say of her mental illness).

What is your basis for believing my mother is mentally ill? I sometimes wonder if my problem with my mother is that she's actually testing my sense of initiative (which is currently seriously lacking). It almost reminds me of those war games used by the 19th century Prussian General Staff, where you had to disobey orders to win.

Jennifer Baughman @512: There's also something strange in requiring a disabled older man to (allegedly) take risks that aren't suitable for a healthy young man--if it's "too dangerous" for you to go out, why isn't it for him?

The more charitable explanation would be that she think's its safer to use the ATM near home than the one near work (which I'd probably prefer as I'd likely be using it during my lunch break), while the less charitable one would be she views my dad as somewhat expendable (she hates him for not having a job since the early '90s, and she is now being worn down by his severe short-term memory problems).

It doesn't help that you're crowded into a space that's far too small, and it sounds like that's a major component of your unhappiness and your mother's depression.

Perhaps that also explains why she shot down my offer to buy the family a house on the grounds that the offered houses were "too small". (Note that in the UK, the house price bubble hasn't truly burst as it has in the US or Ireland, but is instead slowly deflating Japanese-style -- and many of the newspapers are full of propaganda about how house prices will shortly rocket again.) My nearest town though is a New Town, so big houses would probably be hard to find even if I had double my actual budget. Perhaps I critically blundered by mentioning a selfish reason (not wanting them to depend on me to drive them to grocery shops) for wanting to move them into town rather than one of the surrounding villages, rather than an unselfish one (more opportunities for my mother to socialize)?

Another thing worth mentioning is that my mother seems to spend almost all her time in her bedroom, because if my dad starts moaning at her if she goes downstairs (because he's annoyed that she can see he's just sleeping or watching TV instead of doing the housework).

Steve with a book @521: I'm shocked that living with your parents recently for 2 years had such a radical effect on you, when (unless for some bizarre reason you haven't mentioned it) they're not seriously afflicted by disabilities (in themselves, or in people they care for) comparable to those of my father and sister!

#539 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:04 PM:

Codemonkey: Your father and sister are disabled, but that doesn't excuse the way your mother has been treating you. Now, I don't know the woman, so I have no way of knowing if she's mentally ill or not, but there is definitely something dysfunctional in your relationship with your mother.

(ignore the following if you find it to be too hlepy)

I do know that some people like to be the martyr, and aren't happy unless there is something for them to complain about. (They're extra-happy if they can twist it into "Look what I go through to be a good parent/sibling/friend/lover for you!! I make sacrifices because I care for you so much!!") My dad has a combination of that, a powerful authoritarian streak, and being stubborn as a mule. If everything's going well and there's nothing really worth complaining about, he will find something. If that sounds like your mother, then you need to Get Out. It is literally impossible to be "Good Enough" for such a person.

I can't link to it right now (at work), but a blog called the Pervocracy once made a post called "Why does he/she stay with that jerk?" Google it; the list of rationalizations applies just as well to staying in a toxic family situation as it does to staying in an abusive romantic relationships. If anything on the list sounds like you, then you may need to Get Out.

Remember, it's good to care for your mother and help her out, but you can't help other people if you aren't taking care of yourself. You have to make your welfare a high priority, and if your emotional health is suffering because of your living situation, then you should Get Out in order to preserve your sanity.

If your family has trouble with their Internet connection again after you've Gotten Out, you can always fix it during a visit. You do not need to live with your parents in order to be helpful to them, if that's what you're worrying about. They're not going to need you around 24/7/365 "just in case." If you're only moving to the nearest large town, then you're only a few km away--far enough that they're not asking for you to do things every day, but near enough that on the rare occasions when Only You Can Help, they can still rely on you.

Moving across town from my parents really helped me a lot; most of the dysfunctional dynamic in our family only really manifests when we're in close quarters all the time. (This isn't true of everyone; it was true for me and my parents.)

#540 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:17 PM:

@ Code Monkey in NE England:

I'm seeing warning flags in your posts. I don't know how many are cultural differences, so this may not be useful to you.

It sounds like your father is in need of occupational therapy to help him with daily living skills. The reason he may not be doing housework is because he doesn't feel confident in his ability to do so, and if your mother is critical of his performance, that gives him a disincentive to even try, which has become habit. Apathy is a strong indicator of depression, and depression and memory problems are almost universally co-morbid. Treating depression may help his memory, and occupational therapy may help lift his depression (because relearning the ability to independently accomplish tasks gives a huge morale boost.)

At the same time, it sounds like both of your parents are in need of a respite care giver. It is really easy for a primary care giver to get overwhelmed, then resentful and contemptuous when dealing with a chronic condition. Can you make an appointment with your parents' GP and mention these tensions?

You might want to look at carersUK dot org. You're not alone.

As far as "testing initiative" -- seriously, that's a Designed to Fail situation -- if you "pass" by disobeying, you've committed the sin of disobedience. If you fail by following the rules, you've proven you lack initiative. There's no way to win there.

Collectively, you're all looking at enormous changes in the near future, no matter what -- aging does that. Each individual component probably feels overwhelming; combined, they're like climbing the Alps using your eyelids for motive power. Change is frightening; the situation you're in may be misery-inducing, but at least it's familiar and doesn't require expenditures of energy. The changes are coming, however -- you can plan for them and do the work in advance, or get hit with them at the worst possible time, when they'll cost exponentially more, and be orders of magnitude more emotionally taxing.

An advantage of moving out -- you will have respite, and thus more energy to help manage the coming changes. But make the decision to do it, and stick to that schedule -- because if you're always waiting for this crisis to pass, there will always be another crisis on the horizon.

#541 ::: CZEdwards is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:20 PM:

probably for mentioning a type of therapy.

I bring creamed butternut squash and toasted pine nuts.

#542 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 12:33 PM:

Codemonkey #538: What is your basis for believing my mother is mentally ill?

Like several other commenters, I read your description of her behavior and immediately parsed it as depression and/or anxiety disorder. Both of those are mental illnesses, and either (let alone both) can be disabling in their own right. There might be something else in there too (behind the controlling aspects of her behavior), but at that point I would be speculating, and I'm not on the scene. In contrast, depression and anxiety are primal enough that they actually can be spotted through descriptions (allowing for some blurring between them).

#543 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 02:09 PM:

In re: the list of rationalizations I mentioned in comment #539, I was able to copy the URL directly from my history, without triggering my work Internet filter by actually going there.

Here is the blog post in question. Be warned that it contains descriptions of abuse, and is thus potentially triggering. It also contains rude language, and is part of a blog about sex and relationships, so you may not want to read it at work.

#544 ::: The_L got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 02:10 PM:

Probably the blog URL in the previous comment. It's a post about reasons some people rationalize staying in a dysfunctional, or even downright abusive, relationship. Both I and the blog post have given Trigger Warnings, just to be safe.

#545 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 02:48 PM:

Codemonkey, adding on to Dave Harmon @542. Saying that it sounds to some of us as if your mother is suffering from depression or anxiety is not intended as an accusation of her. It's intended as a factual description of a possible piece of the puzzle and thus one of the possible keys to improving the situation. Depression in particular is not an uncommon reaction to the stress of being the caregiver of persons with significant disabilities. It sounds, as someone else said earlier, as though she's stuck in a local maximum where she believes any change will be for the worse, and therefore she reasonably resists any possibility of change. You, on the other hand, don't want to make things worse for her but need the situation to change for your own well-being. Impasse. If we are correct about mental issues (and we are, of course, guessing at all of this from a remove) then treatment and/or additional support from a caregivers group might well improve her coping reserves, and in turn reduce the drain on you, enough that the two of you could work together on solutions instead of being deadlocked.

It comes back to the fact that malice or even fault aren't required for damage. I don't know if you've read back through the old DFD threads, but the one about Fishhooks had a link and a lot of discussion of this. Some of the parents of folks here were clearly at fault. Some were clearly not. Some fall in a gray zone. But even unintentional hurt is hurt.

#546 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 03:33 PM:

CZEdwards, #540: The reason he may not be doing housework is because he doesn't feel confident in his ability to do so, and if your mother is critical of his performance, that gives him a disincentive to even try, which has become habit.

SO much this. When your options are do nothing and be bitched at for Not Helping, or try and be bitched at for Doin It Rong, you quickly learn that there's no percentage in trying.

if you're always waiting for this crisis to pass, there will always be another crisis on the horizon

This, too. I used to have a friend who fell perpetually from crisis to crisis, who was always talking about "next week / next month / after X, when things get back to normal". Eventually I figured out that for her, living in a state of constant crisis was normal. Note that this person is no longer a friend.

#547 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 04:49 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England@538: my parents were infirm and my mother was either slightly depressed or just inherently a bit miserable (have never been sure what side of that particular fence I'm on either). Like your mother, mine was prone to histrionics about how the house was 'a dump' (to be fair, it was). Laying down house rules in a petty way and using her prescriptive right to try to pick fights with her husband over things that had happened twenty or thirty years before were her only outlet. She had no friends, but lots of relatives and avoided contact with all of them. Presumably there was a 'story' behind her behaviour, but my siblings and I never found it out. Anyway they're both dead now. I had a reasonably good childhood but the house took on a sick atmosphere in later years, and moving back there when I was isolated and broke didn't work out well, though poor planning had left me with little choice.

#548 ::: Codemonkey in NE England has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 05:29 PM:

My broadband is working somewhat more reliably now that I've changed microfilters (I changed routers recently, and thought the microfilter which came with the new router would make it faster. In fact it caused to lose the connection frequently -- sometimes every couple of minutes!)

On the downside, one of my Scrabble tiles seems to have gone missing after having a couple of games with my mother, and she goes absolutely crazy when anything goes missing!!

The_L @503: And don't be ashamed of your virginity; any woman worth having a relationship with won't care whether you're a virgin or not.

I'm not "ashamed" at all, just feeling an inordinate craving for skin-to-skin contact...

Chickadee @507: In fact if your mom is anything like mine, she'll consider the culling to be a rejection of her.

My mother stopped me once when I thought about getting rid of half of my carved wooden animal collection. (I wasn't against keeping these carvings -- I just wanted to make them look less cluttered.)

Jacque @513: In late 2011 I tried just running on the spot in by bedrom (this meant I could also watch a DVD at the same time) but after dad was taken ill my mother advised me to stop (saying I didn't need to do it as I had a lot of housework to do in dad's absence). Later on, when my mother started badgering me about my weight, I started again, but stopped shortly afterwards because she was taunting me about how "you'll never lose weight doing that". I think she was comparing me with my far fitter sister (who actually has a fair amount of exercise equipment in her bedroom -- she started several years back).

dcb @527: As for the books - how long are your "seven shelves"?

By "bookshelf" I'm referring to a piece of a furniture, not a single row of books. Most of my bookshelves are about 60 cm have three of four rows of books on them, so I estimate that if all my books were laid out end to end as a single row, they'd stretch roughly 14 metres. (Incidentally, are their enough non-UK/US readers that it would be worth using metric at all times from now on here?)

The_L @539: I do know that some people like to be the martyr, and aren't happy unless there is something for them to complain about.

That certainly sounds like my mother. (Can I say "mam" here? It's the usual Northern English form, comparable to Southern English "mum" or North American "mom"...)

CZEdwards @540: At the same time, it sounds like both of your parents are in need of a respite care giver.

AFAIK my mam has been offered a form of respite care where my sister would go away to a centre, but my sister herself refused to go (and as she's over 18, my mam can't force her to go).

Lee @546: When your options are do nothing and be bitched at for Not Helping, or try and be bitched at for Doin It Rong, you quickly learn that there's no percentage in trying.

I'd definitely suggest that this kind of thing is the reason why I don't do as much to help around the house as I should, but there was another wrinkle with my dad -- even if he had done the housework right, he'd still be bitched at for Not Getting a Job. In fact sometimes she accuses him of bringing the brain haemorrhage on himself (by not going to the doctor in time to prevent it) precisely because he wanted a disability that would give him an excuse not to look for work. :(

Steve with a Book @547: She had no friends, but lots of relatives and avoided contact with all of them.

In my mam's case, her parents are now dead (and for about 5 years before they died, she was having to deliver their shopping and make their meals -- they lived in a bungalow about 100 m up the street from our house. Perhaps that's influenced her thinking re me and my sister?) Her brother broke off contact himself, and before that he often upset her by bragging about going on regular holidays (all within the UK though). And dad's side of the family had very little to do with us -- perhaps it's because they still resent my dad for marrying a non-Catholic (and I've noticed a tinge of anti-Catholic bigotry in my mam, which is sort of understandable given the circumstance).

#549 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Oops, actually I wasn't gnomed for that last comment, just forgot to change my name for the post!

#550 ::: CZEdwards ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 06:49 PM:

Codemonkey: Respite care need not be residential -- in the US (which is the system I know) it generally is not residential. Here, it's usually an aide who comes for 4-8 hours from once a month to three times a week, depending on circumstances.

The more I read, the more concerned I'm becoming. If you'd been my client, I'd be close to the line that triggered me to call a social worker for a welfare assessment. I would certainly be recommending a voluntary contact with social services. Multiple special needs plus minimal assistance and a spare social support structure -- that's a situation with a high potential for elder and vulnerable individual abuse, and one where each individual is in a more precarious position.

#551 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 07:06 PM:

The_L @539, responding to Codemonkey:

My mother gets most of her household tech support from my brother, who lives seven time zones away from her. There's someone local who comes in to do the occasional physical/hands-on fix/tweak.

Codemonkey directly @548: some of what skin-to-skin contact gives can be had in non-sexual contexts, including massage (giving or receiving), friendly hugs (it sounds as though your family aren't big on that, even if you wanted to get them there), and even petting an animal. Not only are sexual desire and the desire for skin-to-skin contact different things, but, at least for some people, it is possible to satisfy either of those desires without satisfying the other.

#552 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 08:17 PM:

Vicki: Not only are sexual desire and the desire for skin-to-skin contact different things, but, at least for some people, it is possible to satisfy either of those desires without satisfying the other.

Boy, was I late in figuring this out. If I'd understood this distinction, I probably could have been much more choiceful about losing my virginity. Basically, the only education I had on the matter, I got from TV, which equated sex and love, and set me up for seven kinds of frustration, up to and beyond when I discovered SF fandom. What I wanted was love and, more importantly, connection. Too many (most?) times, sex satisfied neither.

#553 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 09:49 PM:

Codemonkey, I was also going to mention massage as a nonsexual source of skin-to-skin contact. And getting a professional massage on a regular basis might keep you from making reckless relationship decisions out of that touch-hunger.

Also, you keep talking about your mother "stopping" you, and "badgering," and "taunting". What would happen if you did what you wanted anyway? It sounds as if she's got you very well trained to acquiesce to her demands in order to avoid conflict.


My gut is still saying "you need to move out, and yesterday," but as an intermediate step, what about you training HER not to act like that? You would need, at the minimum, a lock on the inside of your bedroom door. A simple slide latch would do. (And, yes, I don't doubt she'd object to that. Install it in the dead of night if you have to.) Whenever she tries to verbally interfere with what you want to do, say "I'm not going to discuss this with you any more," go into your room, and LOCK HER OUT. Expect a loud tantrum. Invest in foam earplugs and over-the-ear headphones if it helps.

This is exactly like putting a toddler in time-out. You have to teach her that you won't engage with her when she acts like that.

Lock her out if you want to exercise in your room, too.

What would happen if you'd gotten rid of the wooden carvings over her objections? Or signed up for the dance class? What would happen if you went to the ATM near work on your lunch hour? You have the car when you're at work, right? Would she physically block you from leaving the house if you wanted to go to the dance class?

You are an adult. She is not treating you as one. I don't think she will ever treat you as one unless you insist on it, whether by moving out or by enforcing very clear boundaries in her house. And I don't think you'll be able to get that for yourself without enduring a lot of conflict and drama from her.

You are not, in fact, responsible for providing all of your mother's social contact. Letting her depend on you for that is good for neither of you.

You are not the only avenue of care for your sister or your father. You live in a country with an actual social safety net. As you said, you did not go to university to become a carer. And even if you did choose to take a carer's allowance instead of working at your current job, your father and your sister might well become too much for you to handle alone. This happened to a friend of mine who was caring for her father as he progressed through dementia -- when it got to the point where he was threatening the night sitter with a knife, the system finally had to acknowledge that he needed more care than she could provide. Now she's trying to work out what she can do, as it's been several years since she worked at an outside job, and while she's an award-winning writer, her royalties still don't add up to a living wage. You're a lot younger than she is. Don't let your job skills stagnate when there are other people better trained than you *available* to provide care.

Your admirable sense of responsibility towards your family is keeping you from looking after your own needs.

I hope you can extricate yourself SOON.

#554 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:23 PM:

The_L @ 537:

"sometimes I let my ADHD run away with me, and I get distracted/procrastinate for literally weeks from doing something that takes five minutes, tops" feels like an excuse. ... Saying that I was being lazy that day seems more responsible by comparison, somehow.

I often feel this way, and I don't think that's a bad thing, within reasonable limits. All of us are irresponsible from time to time and it's a mature thing to admit it and say you ought to do better. Even more mature is to actually do better in future.

Codemonkey @ 538:

Caring for two disabled people would be rough on anyone's mental health, even for someone in robust mental health to start with and with a good support system, which takes more than one person. You are most of your mom's support system, right? So at minimum, she is under more strain than is safe or healthy, and is transferring enough of that strain to you (even if unintentionally) that it's taking a toll on you. One bad enough that you are considering taking drastic steps to make it stop, to preserve your own health. Tell me, if you sat down and talked with her about this (somewhere private, just you two), would she agree she was doing the things you say she does, or at least engage in calm and reasoned discussion about it? Would she sincerely apologize for any of them? Would she take steps to make the bad stuff stop? Would at least some of them work? If you can confidently expect those results, then you really ought to go have that talk.

But most of what you've said about your mother suggests that those aren't the results you'd get from trying to have that talk. The behaviour you describe from her is not what a person in good mental health would be doing to her loved ones that often or for that length of time. So while I don't know if your mom is mentally ill, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a professional said she was, especially with depression or anxiety or both. I can also say from experience, and with great sincerity, that it is very difficult to recognize how draining a bad emotional environment is until you leave it and acclimate to a substantially better one. Have you had a chance to experience a substantially different home environment for more than a short period of time?

#555 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:27 PM:

Oh, man, that ZocDoc link ...

I have not yet made an appt (have to verify for certain-sure what my specific insurance plan for psych services is), but I think I could DO that, whereas the idea of playing phone tag is horrifically, paralyzingly draining. Thank you, thank you, for posting the link.

In other news, I am very pleased to now be part of a YMCA family membership, so I can go use REAL EQUIPMENT to work out. And they have a childcare room, so I can even go work out on days I have kid! Letting her play an hour while I spend half an hour exerbiking and half an hour decompressing will be very, very valuable (and that's even before we enroll her in Organized Activities, which she's going to eat up like honey on a spoon).

Good things.

#556 ::: Variant of Last Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2013, 11:45 PM:

I've been thinking about the top of the thread - the d-test. In my family a key tell/test was:
"what happens if the start of an important but not entirely time sensitive event* is affected by an unexpected event**?"

It took some months after the start of my long-term relationship before I believed that my dear-one was just fine with delaying the start of a drive... no discussions or apologies needed.

This helped me realize why I'd avoid telling people that I was going to be late. In childhood, the sooner said the sooner a dysfunctional conversation started. In adulthood, now, the sooner said the better planning everyone else can do.

* like a drive, which ought to start by 3pm to avoid traffic, but could easily also start at 7pm, after traffic.

** major homework assignment is suddenly remembered. Sibling's high-school romance ends, unexpectedly. One of two parental units is called by a local friend who needs help. Student at sibling's high-school dies in car accident.

#557 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 01:37 AM:

The alt text especially seemed relevant to this group.

#558 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 07:03 AM:

CZEdwards @540: I don't know how many are cultural differences, so this may not be useful to you.

One cultural factor which my mam has often brought up was that "in my day, children lived with their parents until they got married, unless they either joined the armed forces or got a job with accommodation provided (such as working in a hotel)". I think she's also unfavorably comparing me with my cousin who lives in a village about 3 km from ours. While my mam was almost absurdly generous to me as I was growing up, his parents (his dad is my mam's brother, who I mentioned earlier) were miserly. And yet he still shows far more affection towards his dad (his mother is now dead) than I do towards my mam. He is actually buying a house (even though he lived with his parents until his late 20s to save a big deposit, I still don't understand how he could buy a house with his minimum-wage job), but still comes around to his dad's house to help him out. I think my mam feels somewhat cheated, in that I haven't returned the favour she gave me by buying me so many presents.

Incidentally, my cousin has no more of a social life than I do. He had a girlfriend for a short while but the relationship ended due to his apathy, and he doesn't even socialize in cyberspace as I do, as he doesn't have any internet access at his house. My mam is puzzled wondering why he moved out in the first place!

Following on on the housing issue, I'll tell you that when my mam was caring for her parents (and therefore wasn't in a position to move house herself) she said she wanted me to save enough money to buy a house outright, so that she'd never have to worry about my failing to pay rent or a mortgage. Other than social housing* she thinks renting is for suckers (in fact I'd wager that the thing she hates my dad for most is failure to make her a homeowner), but I wouldn't want to take on a mortgage at the moment as UK house prices are still high, but are in decline and may well crash if interest rates rise due to (for example) the UK losing its AAA credit rating. Many UK homebuyers are apparently already in arrears on their mortgages (and here in the North-East that may be especially the case as the area has borne the brunt of recent public spending cuts), but the banks won't foreclose for fear of sparking a firesale which will drive them into bankruptcy.

* Our current house is social housing, but which I almost certainly wouldn't be able to get such a property for myself, as so much of it has been sold off under Right to Buy (in our own street, our house is one of only two or three which hasn't been bought) that it's pretty much just for teenage mothers these days!

You might want to look at carersUK dot org. You're not alone.

I'm not sure how much help they'd be. There's a carers' support group in the nearest town, but I'm unsure if my mam would be willing to spend over £5 a time in bus fare to go there...

CZEdwards @550: Respite care need not be residential

How are you defining "respite care"? If you're talking about my sister going away somewhere during the day, then such is already in place as she's out from about 09:00 to about 15:00 Monday to Friday. What you're describing (an additional person coming to the house to help with caring duties) hardly sounds practical given how small our house is (perhaps it's used in the US as houses tend to be much larger there). The only other possibility I could think of is an arrangement where I could take my mam on holiday and a carer would come to the house and live there with my sister until we got back -- is this what you're thinking of?

Vicki @551: friendly hugs (it sounds as though your family aren't big on that, even if you wanted to get them there)

Actually, I've had a few hugs from my mam lately because of how pleased she is to see me back home safely when the weather is bad (we're having a cold snap at the moment in Britain, with quite a bit of snow and ice on the roads).

Rickibeth @553: What would happen if you did what you wanted anyway? It sounds as if she's got you very well trained to acquiesce to her demands in order to avoid conflict.

Pretty much -- she has weaponized her helplessness very effectively. She knows that I don't want to give her anything else to worry about, when she already worries so much about her daughter (and to a lesser extent her husband).

A simple slide latch would do. (And, yes, I don't doubt she'd object to that. Install it in the dead of night if you have to.)

Since my mam at least has the decency not to barge in my room when I'm in there, I'm not sure this would actually solve any real issue (and installing it during the night probably wouldn't work anyway, as she has so many sleepless nights). Snooping around in my room when I'm not there is another matter -- that's how she found out that I was getting my own money out of the bank. She went inside my money tin while I was at work and noticed the bank card was missing.

Lock her out if you want to exercise in your room, too.

The issue is that's she'd hear my embarrassing efforts at exercise -- I'm not aware of any good exercises that can be done in complete silence.

You are not, in fact, responsible for providing all of your mother's social contact. Letting her depend on you for that is good for neither of you.

If not me, then who? The conclusion that I need my own place is being hammered home increasingly heavily, but what can I do to minimize the risk that leaving home will push my mam all the way to breaking point? (She's said a couple of times that the only thing that's stopping her from committing suicide -- and perhaps even killing my dad first in revenge for ruining her life -- is "what would happen to my daughter when I'm gone?")

Moonlit Night @554: Have you had a chance to experience a substantially different home environment for more than a short period of time?

No, but in 2006 when I ended my PhD I had the chance to go to an international conference in Seattle. My mam commented on how beamingly happy I looked when I got back, and I'm sure that it wasn't just getting to see a new country (well two actually -- we flew to Vancouver and crossed into the US overland), but also the fact that I'd been away from my family for a week. And that's despite the fact that the family situation wasn't anything like as dire then as it is now -- my dad was still driving then (and not like in 2011, when his driving skills had so deteriorated that my mam wouldn't trust him to go further than the nearest towns for shopping), and the house was a lot less decrepit too. In that respect (especially in the kitchen, which is now plagued with dirt, clutter and damaged equipment) the rot really set in when my mam had to see to my (by then housebound) grandparents every morning, leaving my dad alone to do the chores in the kitchen.

#559 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 08:31 AM:

Codemonkey: your mother has threatened murder/suicide and yet you are offended when someone says she sounds as if she might be mentally ill?

Others have offered concrete suggestions which may or may not be useful. I'm offering a reality check. If you said something like that at your workplace, they'd call the police. And rightfully so.

#560 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 08:38 AM:

Lila @559:

Firstly, I assumed she just said that in anger and didn't mean it seriously, and also noted that she said she wouldn't do it for fear of what would happen to my sister.

Secondly, I wasn't "offended" by David Harmon's suggestion that she may be mentally ill -- I just wanted him to identify the evidence.

#561 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 08:59 AM:

Codemonkey: but then you also used it as evidence that your leaving the house was likely to "push her all the way to the breaking point".

#562 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:01 AM:


#563 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:02 AM:


Okay, so your mam doesn't barge into your room while you're there. But if she hears you exercising, she berates you when you come back out of your room? That's where the tactic of saying "I'm not going to have this discussion with you" and going back into your room and ignoring her tantrum comes in. She's got you trained. Train HER instead.

Her snooping in your room when you're out is a different unacceptable thing. And in your money tin? I'd start keeping my money on me at all times, in a money belt if necessary.

If not me, then who?

How about your mam's brother? If I'm reading you correctly, your cousin who lives only 3km from you still lives near his father, yes? Also, you could still come by for an hour or two in the evenings, if you felt obligated, but you would have your own place to go back to, where you could exercise, keep your money without interference, etc.

Also, and I stress this, your mother is an adult as well, even if she is currently refusing to act like one. Perhaps if you weren't there all the time, that ₤5 bus ride to the support group would start looking more attractive. You say she takes the bus to do the shopping, except for the heaviest items -- perhaps she could arrange it so she did the shopping after the meeting, thus combining a bus trip? This might not be geographically feasible, but you get the idea. She needs to have other social contacts besides you. And it sounds like she won't find them unless you're not there.

On a related note, what I think people are talking about when they say "respite care" is someone to come in perhaps once a week or even once a month and supervise your sister (and father) for several hours during the daytime, so your mam can get out of the house and do something unrelated to their care. US social services can sometimes provide this for a person who's providing care to disabled family members. Considering that my friend was offered a night sitter for her father, when his dementia progressed to the point where he was leaving the house at night and banging on neighbors' doors, it wouldn't surprise me if they could offer a periodic day sitter.

The conclusion that I need my own place is being hammered home increasingly heavily, but what can I do to minimize the risk that leaving home will push my mam all the way to breaking point? (She's said a couple of times that the only thing that's stopping her from committing suicide -- and perhaps even killing my dad first in revenge for ruining her life -- is "what would happen to my daughter when I'm gone?")

Threats like those sound like you need to get experts involved, ESPECIALLY if you're genuinely worried she'll carry through with them. If you're afraid others won't take you seriously -- record them if you have to. Does your phone have a voice memo function? Can you set up your computer to unobtrusively record your conversation with her? This is beyond an untrained person's level of response.

I realize it may feel like a betrayal to do so. After all, you're family. But things are already well out of hand. A mother manifesting the signs of depression, severe anxiety, frequent insomnia, and suicidal ideation? A father partially disabled by a brain hemorrhage? An autistic sister who cannot live independently (never mind the fact that she refuses to go into a home, your mother is her full time care provider right now)? More than one person should handle.

I hope you won't let their unreasonable expectations keep you from seeking help.

#564 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:16 AM:

I apologize for being confrontational. It won't happen again, at least not on this thread.

#565 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:20 AM:



You've admitted, out loud, to other people, that there's a problem.

It feels safer to keep telling yourself that nothing's really a problem.

But we're confirming that there is, in fact, a problem.

None of us are going to call social services for you. Or the police. Even if we did know your actual name and address, that would be overstepping.

We're offering opinions and suggestions. What you do with them is up to you.

But I can say this: you've got us worried.

Believe me on this: any steps you DO take to make yourself safer and happier, we'll encourage and cheer you on. If you want to ask for more concrete help, but don't feel like divulging all your personal details in public, ask abi to coordinate a confidential way to get the offers to you. She's done it before.

You're hearing a lot of GET OUT NOW, because we're worried, but we'll still be here if it takes you a while to take steps. One person here, who's only recently gotten out of their situation, took two years from the time of her initial post to get to safety -- and her initial post had several of us so worried that we offered couch space THAT NIGHT, if she'd accept it. And that, I believe, was on a Christmas Eve. It wasn't that simple -- it's rarely that simple -- but this is a group who've lived with all sorts of levels of pain and mess, and we hate seeing others go through it.

We're not angry with you.

We're worried.

#566 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:39 AM:

Codemonkey, #558: If not me, then who? The conclusion that I need my own place is being hammered home increasingly heavily, but what can I do to minimize the risk that leaving home will push my mam all the way to breaking point? (She's said a couple of times that the only thing that's stopping her from committing suicide -- and perhaps even killing my dad first in revenge for ruining her life -- is "what would happen to my daughter when I'm gone?")

THAT is a bright-red warning flag for emotional abuse. It's on the list The_L provided back up at #543. IMO it's also prima facie cause to have your mother evaluated for mental illness, including but not limited to depression. Direct or indirect threats to commit suicide if someone leaves are one of the bog-standard control mechanisms used by abusers.

#567 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 11:50 AM:


If I sounded harsh with you earlier, it's because I'm worried sick over your situation, and I apologize for upsetting you.

Respite care is care given in the home of the patient. It allows the caregiver to leave the home for a few hours, so they can run errands, or just have time to relax, go to movie, etc.

The respite worker does not live at the patient's house -- the most room they'll take up is a chair, when they sit down and talk to the patient, or read to them. They are there to give the patient some social contact outside of the family as well.

Respite care, especially in cases of dementia, can involve a home health aide who is there at night, so the rest of the family can sleep without wondering if they'll wake up to find their loved one has gone out for a walk.

I am certain that the UK has respite care available. In your shoes, I'd be contacting my mother's physician to advise him that his patient is discussing committing suicide.

ANY discussion of suicide MUST be taken seriously. Whether she actually means it, or if she's using it to control your behaviour, this is NOT healthy for either of you.

#568 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 11:51 AM:

Not to detract from the ongoing conversation, which is important but I feel I can't add anything which others haven't already...
Variant of Last Time's post #556 rang true for me. The important but not fully time-sensitive event? Driving-based vacations. The thing that gets in the way? My father's working late and then needing to sleep/do chores that my mother and I did the night before. (It's never me causing the problem, notably, as I've learned to do my sharein a timely fashion.) My mother then gets very angry with him- how DARE he work so late rather than getting ready the night before? (Not exact wording, but that's the general idea.)
This happens pretty much every time a road trip is involved, which is at least twice a year to take me to and from college. It happens before flights, too, but then it's a bit more understandable, since we might actually "be late" in a fashion which MATTERS. (Although it hasn't happened yet...)
I knew it wasn't a healthy pattern, but that post just confirmed it for me.

#569 ::: Lori Coulson has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 11:52 AM:

No idea how I screwed up the post, but have some banana bread?

#570 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 01:08 PM:


I don't know how relevant this is, but when my mother's husband had dementia, the Finchley council (suburban London) paid for respite care, specifically for someone to come for a couple of weeks or so, once or twice a year, so she could travel.

They also, by the end, had other paid carers, because he needed 24-hour care, but I'm not sure how that was paid for. The alternative would have been for him to go into a nursing home, which my mother flatly refused.

I realize that different councils cover different things, and an elderly man with fronto-temporal lobe dementia may well be classified differently than your sister.

#571 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 01:13 PM:

Codemonkey: You asked "what the hell have I done?" I think the answer is (a) set out your situation and have people confirm that it's not good; (b) have people encourage you to take action to change your situation - for your own sake, and actually for your mother's sake as well.

The problem is that taking action is often neither easy nor comfortable, but a quote from Lois McMaster Bujold comes to mind: "His mother had often said, When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action. She had emphasized the corollary of this axiom even more vehemently: when you desired a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it."

Dash @568: Yes, it's amzing how hearing other people's stories can help you see what's going on in your own life..

#572 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 04:14 PM:

Dash, #568: Not quite the same thing, but my family definitely had a Thing about driving to any sort of special event, including across town to visit my grandmother. My mother would harry everyone frantically to get ready, and then when we were, she'd keep remembering things she had to do or check on before we left, getting more and more bad-tempered the while. It could take as much as 45 minutes from the time my father and I were ready to leave until we could actually get her out the door, and by then we'd all be frazzled and short-tempered.

I have to watch out for falling into that sort of pattern myself sometimes. But at least I recognize it when it's starting to happen, and can consciously step back from it.

#573 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 04:29 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England #562: WHAT THE HELL HAVE I DONE?

That sounds worrisome... has something drastic just happened in real life?

#574 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 05:54 PM:

Rikibeth @563: But things are already well out of hand. A mother manifesting the signs of depression, severe anxiety, frequent insomnia, and suicidal ideation? A father partially disabled by a brain hemorrhage? An autistic sister who cannot live independently (never mind the fact that she refuses to go into a home, your mother is her full time care provider right now)? More than one person should handle.

Once I have my own place (and I wonder if that would do something about my own insomnia too), how would I go about "calling in the cavalry" so to speak?

We currently don't even get any support from neighbours -- since ours is the only house in the block which hasn't been bought, the neighbours probably resent us for lowering the value of their property (at least, that's what mam told me tonight). The only help we've been offered in the past year from any neighbours was an offer by a couple to do some of my mam's laundry back when dad was in hospital. Mam felt unable to accept the offer, as the couple in question were both in their 80s.

Lee @566: THAT is a bright-red warning flag for emotional abuse.

This emotional abuse was directed against my dad, not against me (and sometimes I feel that if my mam treats my dad badly, then my dad brought it on himself thru his unwillingness to get a job). Both examples of suicidal talk happened when my mam was with my dad, with me in a different room (and I just happened to overhear).

And the one about how she wouldn't go quietly but kill him first in revenge was at least two years ago, so perhaps I showed severely bad form bringing it up now (hence the "what the hell have I done" exclamation a few posts back).

On a positive note, at least the missing Scrabble tile turned up :) It looks as though for some strange reason that dad found it and then claimed it was there all along - why would he do this?

Now just got to track down what's causing my broadband to be unreliable. I've moved the router to be near the phone socket, but I'm still getting a few dropped connections. Could anyone recommend a good guide to dealing with problems on ADSL internet connections?

#575 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 06:31 PM:

Codemonkey @574: This emotional abuse was directed against my dad, not against me

What you describe your mother saying to you is emotional abuse. The fact that it's coming from isolation/stress/fear/anxiety/depression/pessimism rather than anger/malice doesn't make it any less abusive. Even overly generous gifting is abusive when it's used to create a sense of obligation.

#576 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 06:40 PM:


Once I have my own place (and I wonder if that would do something about my own insomnia too), how would I go about "calling in the cavalry" so to speak?

I'm an American and have no experience with the NHS beyond what I read in my friend's LJ (or what I looked up for fanfic, which had more to do with the parking facilites at the Royal London Hospital, which turn out to be nonexistent), but I would say that the social worker who comes on Wednesdays is a good contact point. And don't wait until you're out of there. Alert her (privately, by phone or email if she has email) that you intend to move out and need to get alternative support systems in place. Emphasize to her that your mam is very anxious and it will be much better for you to tell her that you're moving out once the support is already there, rather than the other way around. You are probably not the first person they've ever encountered who's been in your sort of situation. Enlist their help.

And as for that parenthetical: I'd say "I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts it'd help," except for the part where doughnuts now cost slightly more than a dollar where I am, making the expression archaic. I think doughnuts might have been five cents when the expression was new -- $20 to a doughnut? Sounds strange. But you get my drift.

since ours is the only house in the block which hasn't been bought, the neighbours probably resent us for lowering the value of their property (at least, that's what mam told me tonight).

Take that with a grain, no, a whole shaker of salt. You've already given plenty of examples of how your mother likes to make the worst of things. I would bet that your mother has rebuffed other kindnesses over the years until, at this point, the neighbors have learned not to offer. I don't know if there's a way to turn that around, but I suspect that the resentment is far more on your mother's side.

And the one about how she wouldn't go quietly but kill him first in revenge was at least two years ago, so perhaps I showed severely bad form bringing it up now

I wouldn't exactly worry about "bad form" here. Even with it being two years ago, it strikes me as another example of the overall hostility you've described her showing towards your father. Yet another reason to get outsiders involved -- people harboring hostility and resentment don't make good carers.

On a positive note, at least the missing Scrabble tile turned up :) It looks as though for some strange reason that dad found it and then claimed it was there all along - why would he do this?

I Am Not A Doctor, but sounds like dementia/cognitive impairment from the brain hemorrhage to me. My friend's father did this sort of thing all the time, and would get very shirty if you disagreed with him, too. Fits in with the way he creates havoc attempting to do kitchen chores, and so on. At one point, my friend's father served her black tea with slices of banana in it, and claimed that they always had it that way. When she disagreed, he said "Of course we do! Just ask the girls!" When she pointed out that there were no girls, he went off in a huff. Claiming the Scrabble tile was there all along? Yup.

One of the links above, about emotional abuse, was from a blog called the Pervocracy. I'm going to link to another entry from there, called The Missing Stair. Note: the article talks about rape, and having a known rapist in one's social group, but the concept of person-as-missing-stair is broader than that, as it goes on to explain.

There is also a truly wonderful advice blog called Captain Awkward, and one of the gems that has come out of it is The House of Evil Bees, using an extended horror-movie metaphor to describe what it's like living in an abusive situation. Also, velociraptors.

I think, even if you're not living in the House of Evil Bees, you have a lot of missing stairs AND a bad case of velociraptors.

#577 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 07:33 PM:

Rikibeth: I'd say "I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts it'd help,"

I recall from a picture that they were 10¢ during the Depression. "Steak against a hamburger" still works.

Codemonkey: Amen to Rikibeth's comment that yes, she's being abusive to you. That she's also being abusive to your stroke-damaged father doesn't make it better.

Also, inspired by that "outburst" and your "retraction" of it: Yes, you can and should try to get support in place for both your father and mother before you make your move... but damn right she's going to freak out when you do, because she'll be frantic about losing a victim/codependent.¹ Bluntly, at this point, even if your mother does try or succeed at committing suicide, it is Her Problem and her choice. She does not have a right hold you hostage with your familial love.

¹ "Codependency" was a fad in the self-help section a few years back, but the basic idea is still good. It basically refers to a form of Folie à deux where the illness involved is a dependency/abuse complex.

#578 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2013, 09:58 PM:

Gnomed, possibly for non-English characters. Grilled-cheese sandwich with homemade bread?

#579 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 12:04 AM:

#576, Rikibeth: I just spent a few hours reading those links, and a couple they linked to in turn. Thank you for posting them. This has been an afternoon and evening stuffed full of insights and recognition, even if the ex never tried anything physical, or even threatened to.

Of all the insights, one quote on one of the pages made me stop and read it over a couple of times.

he was very effectively undermining my confidence in my instincts and the way I interpreted my personal experiences. All the while encouraging me to trust my instincts and better develop them– except that he always determined when I was right about what I was feeling and when I was wrong…


I still have trouble trusting my instincts sometimes. Not only that, but all that encouragement at any self-improvement thing I tried came with undermining behaviour packaged in. I've always had trouble with encouragement and compliments, and this didn't help.

And yet, I still sometimes find myself falling back into excusing his behaviour, exactly as described in several of those linked posts.

Still hanging on to "I deserve better than this." Some days easier than others - but also, I realized this past week that the day I posted that was the first time I'd ever said that to myself with a straight face and not a hint of sarcasm.

#580 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 12:06 AM:

Codemonkey, it seems to me that we've thrown a lot at you. You're in a situation that doesn't work long-term for anyone involved, getting out means a great deal of change and trouble, and it's easier to tell yourself and others that it's not really that bad and you must be exaggerating.

You don't have to do everything all at once.

Perhaps, to start, you could tell the social worker that you're planning to go on a week-long vacation in a month. Get everything set up, then see how it goes. At the end of your week-- and you can include weekends in there-- you can reevaluate how you feel, whether you want to get a post office box, whether you want to go home, and then actually go home and see how your family's doing.

A vacation is much shorter than moving out and it is harder to frame as a rejection of your family, no matter who's trying to say it is. At the end, you may have a better idea what you want to return to, and, like a boiling frog, the differences between that and what you have now may be more obvious.

#581 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 08:49 AM:

Thanks for the gaslighting link. And I'm glad that people said nice things about it because when I first tried to go there, the site wasn't working.

Anyway, my father had a mild case of "don't upset your mother". I despised him for it-- if he couldn't see how much she was upsetting me or didn't care about it, I wasn't going to help him not be bothered.

In theory, I could have been kinder, but it certainly wasn't anything I wanted then.

Some time later, when he had a heart attack, I wasn't taken to the hospital to see him because his vital signs jumped in a bad way when my name was mentioned. This was quite painful to me, but I can't say it was unreasonable. I was left feeling pretty isolated, though. I don't know what handling the matter better would have looked like.

For a long time, I've felt that I was weak for not standing up to my parents more, but there was some material in one of the gaslighting links which makes me think I might not have been mistaken to just put my shields up. Apparently, arguing with someone who doesn't fight fair can leave you less sure of what's true.

One thing I do respect about my mother is that she never claimed we were a happy family. From what I've seen, claiming to be a happy family amplifies the effects of dysfunction to an amazing extent. (She didn't claim we were an unhappy family either-- we were just us.)

#582 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 08:51 AM:

I've been gnomed, probably for having a link.

Would the gnomes be interested in some ground turkey with pesto?

#583 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 08:56 AM:

GlendaP @575: Even overly generous gifting is abusive when it's used to create a sense of obligation.

One thing I'm wondering is whether she actually is trying to create a sense of obligation, or whether it's all in my own head, with me not being able to recognize genuine altruism when I see it.

I have Asperger's syndrome (and I suspect that my dad may have it too, even though he hasn't been formally diagnosed) -- maybe that's why my mam talked me out of going to that dance class? I had serious co-ordination issues as a child, although I don't find it a problem now.

Am I a bad person because I can't imagine myself ever wanting children, for fear of getting a child like my sister?

Rickibeth @576: I would say that the social worker who comes on Wednesdays is a good contact point.

I got her number out of the phone book, but unfortunately she seems to have gone on another one of her foreign holidays.

#584 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 09:04 AM:

Codemonkey: argh, bureaucracy. Much sympathy. Can you call the agency and get a supervisor? This frequent-holidays thing sounds like a significant problem, and like they ought to have someone covering her workload. If they don't, that's another thing to raise a fuss about with them.

#585 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 09:10 AM:

Actually, Codemonkey, dance class is often recommended for people who have co-ordination issues. (Even for people whose co-ordination has been damaged by, e.g., Parkinson's Disease.)

#586 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 09:47 AM:

Also, Codemonkey: your mother may not consciously be trying to create a sense of obligation, but that is not what altruism looks like. At all.

What Lila said about the dance classes, seconded. I don't have Asperger's, but I have some sensory processing issues, and I definitely had delays in developing gross motor skills -- and one of the things that helped me catch up were the ballet and modern dance classes I took in high school. And if I told my mother I was signing up for a social dance class, she would be THRILLED, not trying to dissuade me.

And no. You are not a bad person for not wanting children. For any reason at all. But looking at your family and saying "there's a strong risk any child I had would have X disability, and I am not prepared to parent a child with that, therefore I will not have children" is what I would call being a responsible adult.

I wasn't diagnosed as bipolar when I had my child. Had I known before then, I might have thought twice about having a child at all. I love my teenager dearly and don't regret it, but I DO regret passing that on, because it's no damn fun to deal with. At least with my kid we were able to get diagnosis and treatment sorted before sixteen, whereas I didn't get my own dealt with until *decades* past that.

#587 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 09:48 AM:

@Codemonkey: Oh, dear. The old "damned if you do, damned if you don't" bind. :( I remember that all too well.

As for understanding metric and Brit-speak: I'm a USian, but I'm also a math teacher who's learned quick-and-dirty estimates for metric conversion. I've also read several books set in Yorkshire (complete with drawls) and read over a dozen of the Redwall books (which have heavy Fonetik Aksents, including a deep country-Irish drawl), so "mam" won't bother me. Can't speak for the other users, though.

Your mom goes through your things when you're at work? That's all kinds of wrong--you're an adult now, and are entitled to privacy. Any way you can get a key lock on your door and just take the key with you? (If you Get Out, the problem resolves itself, but you may not be ready to take that step yet. You do need to start making plans, though. Finding a flat can take several months.)

Also, no one ever mentions the possibility of their own suicide--even as a joke--unless they are either deliberately emotionally abusing you, or have severe, suicidal depression. Depression is a mental illness. This is why people are suggesting that your mother may need urgent psychiatric help. I have been suicidal, and I assure you that it will not change without professionally-trained help. I have also been emotionally abused, and that won't change without Getting Out.

Please read that list I linked in #243. You've said a lot of things from that list, and that has many of us very worried. We want you to be in a better emotional state, and until you make at least one big step (find someone to provide daytime care for your dad and sister so your mom can leave the house sometimes, Get Out, or even just do the "time out" training that others have suggested), things will just keep getting worse.

You're in a rut, and it's not easy to get out, but you have to at least make baby steps toward big changes, or those changes won't happen.

#588 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 10:14 AM:

Codemonkey #583: Agreed, dance classes will help, both with coordination and awareness. And they'll be used to clumsy newbies!

Being on the spectrum makes people much more vulnerable to gaslighting and other manipulation, precisely because we tend to believe what people say instead of putting it in context of their behavior. I'm basically "half an Aspie" (formally, Non-Verbal Learning Disorder), and I didn't start recognizing my family issues until after I self-diagnosed at 39.

#589 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 10:22 AM:


Ignore if hlepy, but I wanted to share something from my experience that may help.

When I started to get help (i.e. see a psychologist), I had to learn new definitions for terms I thought I understood, and that were terribly loaded for me. I think this may be happening to you on this thread.

My first example (which does not apply to you) was alcoholism. My dad was never alcohol dependent, and he's now able to have wine with dinner, or a drink with family, and not get drunk. But he abused alcohol, and he depended on it to escape from his problems. He was an alcoholic. I had to learn that alcoholic =/ alcohol dependence.

My second example (which does apply to you) was mental illness. I don't know if you're like me, but I had this idea that "mental illness" was something like schizophrenia, or the Greyhound bus killer. Then I found out I have a mental illness - chronic depression, exacerbated by SAD. Makes you take a second look at the stigma (and unspoken associations) when you have to apply a term to yourself or someone you know well.

Depression IS a mental illness. It is a TREATABLE mental illness. Mental illness does not mean inferior, it is not a criticism, it is a medical diagnosis like any other. And mental illness should be treated, just like cancer or diabetes should be treated. Especially because all three of those can be fatal if untreated. (not in my case, but see The_L's comments about suicidal depression)

If you've at all been dealing with not wanting to accept "mental illness" because of the same baggage I had, I hope this helps. I know it's your mam who's likely depressed, but looking at your gut reaction (and your definitions) may help in your reading of comments on this thread.

#590 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 10:42 AM:

@Codemonkey: Also, congratulations on taking the first step! (attempting to contact the social worker)

#591 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 10:47 AM:

Codemonkey: It's not at all bad to not want children for whatever reason. From a medical perspective, I have an aunt and uncle who decided against it because between them they'd pass down a genetic mess; and part of why my sister and brother-in-law decided against kids is that he went to the doctor and was asked how the hell he wasn't a Down Syndrome kid. (His brother is.)

And raising kids is a hell of a lot of work even when they don't have medical issues. A lot of us on the thread have decided against it for non-medical reasons - not wanting to pass down The Family Dysfunction, in a lot of cases. In mine, I'm in no place to have a kid, if I'm not having one by now I don't want to get into the potential medical trap that is getting pregnant after 30, and I'd be really bad at handling it if I ended up with a kid who didn't share my interests. (I also just really, really don't want to deal with a baby. I'm okay with older kids, but my fiancee and I have decided even adoption is going to have to be the right kid at the right time.)

It's actually quite good, I think, to recognise there are things you'd rather not pass down, whether they're genetic or not.

#592 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 02:09 PM:

Codemonkey @ 583

I think the thing that jumps out at me from this post is the question of whether you're a bad person "if."

I don't think you're a bad person at all.

#593 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 02:52 PM:

Codemonkey, #583: One thing I'm wondering is whether she actually is trying to create a sense of obligation, or whether it's all in my own head, with me not being able to recognize genuine altruism when I see it.

Did you read the gaslighting link Nancy provided @581? If you've reached the point of doubting your own ability to recognize reality, that's a bad sign.

Am I a bad person because I can't imagine myself ever wanting children, for fear of getting a child like my sister?

ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is a perfectly rational reaction to have. Many people from difficult family backgrounds decide not to have children for fear of recreating their own problems and issues; your fear is more physical than most, but no less valid.

tamiki, #591: You've just described my reasons for not wanting children perfectly. The fear that I'd pass on my parents' dysfunctionality (since I never had a good role model for parenting), the feeling that by the time I got my own life sorted out I was too old to start (my parents were 35 when they adopted me, and that caused its own suite of problems), and the fact that I Just Don't Like Babies (and I SO do not buy that line about how it's different when it's your own!). All those things added up to "not a good idea".

#594 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 03:04 PM:

Chiming in on "it's OK to not want kids" -- I realized quite a while ago that me trying to raise kids would be a disaster -- I have limited stamina, and tend to shut down when overloaded. And of course, when a young child needs attention, they need it now....

My father also apparently had that pattern, which Mom cited as the main reason she demanded a divorce: IIRC, they'd been married some some 10-12 years, but only recently had kids....

In other family related news, I just called out my mom again on her pushing me to "clean up" my place and get organized. Among other points, I told her outright, "that's the reverse of mansplaining [...] you are trying to tell me about my experience."

#595 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 03:06 PM:

the invisible one, #579: I especially liked that link ("One abuse script with many faces"), for all that it's hard reading.

#596 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 03:26 PM:

Lots of people tell me I would have been a good father. I chose not to be one, for a lot of reasons. Personally, I think choosing not to have kids with the current size of the world's population is a sign of responsibility, not a sign of being a bad person.

#597 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 04:07 PM:

It's OK not to want kids. It's also OK to want kids but not want them to be genetically yours.

It's not a judgment on your sister, or a rejection of her, to say that you don't know that you'd be up to raising a kid with her particular set of challenges.

#598 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 05:12 PM:

I ran across this lecture on the biochemical basis of depression in the wake of Aaron Swartz. The professor discusses some of the various neurotransmitters that have been implicated in depression, what has been done with them, and some of the new research into why some people get depression and some don't.

It's nearly an hour long, but very worth it.

The biggest takeaway is that depression is a serious, common, real, biological, disease.

#599 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 05:14 PM:

It's a far far better thing to not want kids before you have them rather than after.

#600 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 07:14 PM:

Here come the big guns...

Part of my way of dealing with mother issues is simple distance. I do not (short of an emergency) go to visit more than every two weeks. Mom *says* she wants me home more often, but the rate of fighting and the strange passive-aggressive behaviours really ramped up when I was visiting weekly. Bi-weekly visits seem to be going acceptably.

Last few times, it was all "We love having you around, and we've missed having you here. Couldn't you just visit more often?"

That hasn't been working, so this time it was "Sweetheart, the best gift you could possibly give us is time. We don't know how much time we have left, so we want to spend as much time as we can with you."

My parents are both in their seventies, and fairly healthy. Currently experiencing typical winter illness, but nothing life-threatening. Either a) tell me why you think you might be dying imminently or b) that is shameless emotional manipulation. Either way, stop it.

#601 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 09:37 PM:

Chickadee @600: the theatrical advice to "always leave 'em wanting more" comes to mind.

#602 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 10:07 PM:

Codemonkey, I've not been in a similar situation but I did find myself in a house that was filthy and falling apart because I wouldn't or couldn't do anything about it. At the urging of some friends I looked at "what sort of place do I want to live in" and realised it had been wrong for me from the start. Fortunately I had the savings to rent a flat while still paying the mortgage on the old place, but the new one fit me exactly and it was BLISS.

Just getting out of my old place and my old habits made a huge difference in my life. I spent 3 months living in the new place while I cleaned out the old place and now I've sold it - so cathartic - I'm buying a smaller place that's just what I want.

Simply not being in my toxic situation was really important in enabling me to find a better, healthier life. I sincerely think that renting a flat on a 6 month contract would give you much greater clarity.

#603 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2013, 10:28 PM:

Codemonkey, something I just thought of that may or may not be applicable. Is it possible that when you first posted here, you were expecting (on some level) to be reassured that no, it isn't that bad, and no, what's happening to you is really not abuse, and that this is the source of some of the resistance you're feeling?

One known response pattern for people who are being abused (especially emotionally abused) by family is that the first time they encounter someone who takes what they are saying seriously, they suddenly switch to defending the abuser. It's as though they're accustomed to a well-worn script, and if the person they're talking to doesn't provide the expected responses, then they have to!

#604 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 05:31 AM:

I'd definitely recommend EMDR for PTSD - in the last few months, I've had things that were once triggering turn into things that I briefly notice, with a completely neutral reaction. (If Real Life(TM) had not gone horrific in November, I'd be finished with the treatment by now (what a concept, finished with therapy?!), but things are starting to settle down again.)

(Also, related to that RL thing: Everyone, please make sure your Medical Powers of Attorney and wills are up-to-date, even - or maybe even *especially* - if the only reason you'd want one is to deny your family-of-birth any say in what happens afterwards.) (We barely got my friend's drawn up and signed in time. Having those things in place made things a lot better than they could have been.)

#605 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 09:18 AM:

Rikibeth @584: Much sympathy. Can you call the agency and get a supervisor? This frequent-holidays thing sounds like a significant problem, and like they ought to have someone covering her workload.

I wonder what the problem is? I assume my mam has called up the social services agency to complain about this, as she's not the kind of person who just take this sort of treatment lying down! I'm grateful for this attribute of hers as it got me into a better secondary school, which helped get me where I am now in terms of my academic achievements. (Incidentally, doing my PhD had a very useful spin-off benefit for me -- learning how to touch-type.)

Rickibeth @586: Also, Codemonkey: your mother may not consciously be trying to create a sense of obligation, but that is not what altruism looks like. At all.

One thing that sets the alarm bells ringing for me is that I've noticed that if she sees something in the shop she wants to buy me, she sometimes seems visibly upset if I say "no thanks".

What Lila said about the dance classes, seconded. I don't have Asperger's, but I have some sensory processing issues, and I definitely had delays in developing gross motor skills -- and one of the things that helped me catch up were the ballet and modern dance classes I took in high school. And if I told my mother I was signing up for a social dance class, she would be THRILLED, not trying to dissuade me.

The weird thing about it is that during my PhD I actually did similar dance classes for a few months (lack of a permanent partner was my main reason for giving it up in the end). And then my mother was very supportive as you suggest (even though my paranoia about telling my mam what I was doing caused me to delay going for a week). She even made the same sort of "used to clumsy newbies" point that Dave Harmon made @588!

When my mother reacted in a hostile way when I suggested taking it up again last year, I felt shaken as I couldn't understand why her attitude had changed so much (although when I told her I wasn't going, she turned deeply apologetic). I assumed that having done it before would mean it would be uncontroversial...

And no. You are not a bad person for not wanting children. For any reason at all.

I was just wondering if it was wrong for someone who didn't want children to still have a desire to form a sexual relationship. Maybe that sort of attitude is promoted primarily by religious people, but don't most religious values ultimately have a worldly justification?

The_L @587: Depression is a mental illness. This is why people are suggesting that your mother may need urgent psychiatric help. I have been suicidal, and I assure you that it will not change without professionally-trained help.
Chickadee @589: Depression IS a mental illness. It is a TREATABLE mental illness. Mental illness does not mean inferior, it is not a criticism, it is a medical diagnosis like any other. And mental illness should be treated, just like cancer or diabetes should be treated. Especially because all three of those can be fatal if untreated. (not in my case, but see The_L's comments about suicidal depression)

The Christmas holidays were especially wearing, she just ranted this morning about how "she would have been better off in jail, at least in the sense of having more company".

Unless I could somehow improve my mother's life significantly -- and I'm not sure how, given that I can't afford the kind of house she'd like (she dreams about houses that are generally £300k+, which I certainly couldn't afford given £130k in the bank total and a £20k/year job. Especially not if I wanted to rent or buy a place of my own as well) and that she's utterly unwilling to abandon her daughter* -- wouldn't psychiatric treatment for depression amount to curing the symptom rather than the disease?

*Does anyone here think I'm expressing a similar character trait to my mother here, in terms of thinking "how can I make my mother's life more bearable" rather than "how can I save myself from my current misery"? I know my dad (who's a lot more selfish and easygoing) wouldn't think in those terms.

Oh, and all I actually did re the social worker was write down the office phone number -- I'd already heard my mam saying she was going on holiday.

Lee @593: Did you read the gaslighting link Nancy provided @581? If you've reached the point of doubting your own ability to recognize reality, that's a bad sign.

Actually I feel as if I've been trying to second-guess my mam and get inside her head for years now. It didn't just start after my dad's stroke.

Lee @603: Codemonkey, something I just thought of that may or may not be applicable. Is it possible that when you first posted here, you were expecting (on some level) to be reassured that no, it isn't that bad, and no, what's happening to you is really not abuse, and that this is the source of some of the resistance you're feeling?

I think you're on to something there, but there's also the overpowering sense that my mam is a Victim (of my sister's autism, of my dad's laziness and in the last year his stroke, and of our estrangement from dad's family), and that so far I've failed her.

#606 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 09:51 AM:

Codemonkey, #605: You mentioned lack of a permanent partner as an issue with dance classes. I don't know about over there, but in America contradancing and English Country dancing do not require that you show up with a partner, so that might be one avenue to check.

When my mother reacted in a hostile way when I suggested taking it up again last year, I felt shaken as I couldn't understand why her attitude had changed so much (although when I told her I wasn't going, she turned deeply apologetic).

Well, of course she was apologetic after the fact! She'd gotten her own way, after all. This is not the first time you've mentioned this particular pattern (absolute hostility until she's talked you out of doing something, then apologizing), and it's another one that's common to abusers.

I was just wondering if it was wrong for someone who didn't want children to still have a desire to form a sexual relationship.

If that were true, you'd never see two widowed people marrying. The whole "marriage is only for children" meme has pretty much been made up out of whole cloth as one of the attacks on gay marriage equality, and has no relationship to observable reality.

This is also part of that "skin hunger" thing you mentioned upthread, which is a recognized phenomenon. Humans need physical comfort; babies who aren't cuddled regularly don't thrive, even if they have adequate food and care otherwise. And while it's possible for an adult to come to terms with not having that in their life, if it's something you want, it's worth working toward finding.

#607 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 10:10 AM:

Codemonkey @605:

When I went to a Scottish country dance class in Edinburgh, the gender ratio ensured that blokes were never short a partner. Ditto the salsa dance class I attended briefly, and the social dance classes my colleagues went to.

#609 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 11:16 AM:

I spoke to my mam an hour ago about the social worker issue, and she said that social services were a lot more helpful when my sister was still a child (which in this context means 19 or under). Then our main social worker only had two weeks' holiday a year, and there was someone who covered for her during that time. Social services for mentally-disabled adults on the other hand are much more patchy apparently: my mam doesn't even know who our current social worker's boss is to get in touch with them about the "frequent long holidays" issue.

Lee @606: I know I'm veering off-topic here, but which meme do you consider more harmful? "Marriage is only for children" or "No (heterosexual) sex outside marriage"?

abi @607: The issue was that I was ending up the odd person out, which is nothing to do with gender ratio.

#610 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 11:38 AM:

Codemonkey, your last post made this flash through my mind -- could it be that your mother is one of those who actively enjoy "being the victim?"

I think it's wonderful that you want to make her life better, but sacrificing your life to do so is going too far.

Question: if all of HER problems were solved, would she still find something to complain about?

#611 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 11:47 AM:


Marriage is about companionship. "It is not good for Man to be alone." etc. EOF

#612 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 11:48 AM:

Codemonkey, re: your question to Lee.

Both attitudes are Dark Ages at best. As far as I'm concerned, having sex is the business of the two* participants as long as they are taking precautions to prevent transmission of disease. And if they don't want children, taking the necessary precautions in that area as well.

*My belief system allows polyamory, FWIW.

#613 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 12:36 PM:

Codemonkey: at this point, I would not believe a word your mother says about the social worker. CALL YOURSELF. If the holiday turns out to be true, call the supervisor. But if the NHS is anything like the US social services departments, your sister is HARDLY the only person your social worker is dealing with, and the sudden change from two weeks' holiday to lots of holidays is very suspicious. Your mother may have convinced herself that the social worker is no longer a viable source of help, and may believe she is speaking the God's honest truth, but VERIFY IT. Please.

Other people have already addressed details like the dance classes. Also the sexual relationships, but I'm going to chime in here: the religious rules on the matter were developed when reliable birth control didn't exist. It was a sensible and compassionate rule then to say that anybody engaging in sex should be prepared to support and raise children. This is no longer the case, and there is nothing wrong at all with wanting sex and companionship without wanting children. If you're intending a long-term partnership, it's best if your partner ALSO doesn't want children, or one of you will be unhappy, but -- hear me well -- there is nothing wrong with that, OR with having shorter-term partnerships. Not all relationships have to lead to marriage to be valuable. Given your lack of experience at close partner relationships, it might be really unwise to go into your first expecting marriage. Or to consider that you've failed if it doesn't lead to that. Give yourself room to learn.

Now to address this:

Unless I could somehow improve my mother's life significantly -- and I'm not sure how, given that I can't afford the kind of house she'd like (she dreams about houses that are generally £300k+, which I certainly couldn't afford given £130k in the bank total and a £20k/year job. Especially not if I wanted to rent or buy a place of my own as well) and that she's utterly unwilling to abandon her daughter* -- wouldn't psychiatric treatment for depression amount to curing the symptom rather than the disease?

Emphatically no. For one thing, some portion of her depression/anxiety may be biochemical, and medication would be a vital first step to being able to change her outlook. Even if it's not, though, what you report? Is distorted thinking, and talk therapy could help her to correct those distorted patterns. Proper treatment might make her able to see that a house in your price range would improve her life, and make her willing to seek out company through, say, a book group, or a knitting class, or ANYTHING social. Less than a mile from my house, there's a senior center that offers everything from exercise classes to gatherings for board games to bus trips to New York City to see Broadway shows. Several blocks farther along, there's a library branch, with knitting classes, book discussion groups, writers' groups, computer classes... and the ones at the library are FREE. I don't know what amenities are available near to you, but if your mother got treated for depression, she might be willing to seek out company, when right now, it's very clear that she isn't.

I don't doubt that she'll resist the idea. I don't know if you could properly mention it to the social worker or to her GP. But her (likely, by your description) depression/anxiety is not your fault and also not something you can fix by yourself. Whether you get out or whether you stay, she sounds as if she needs well-trained help rather than a well-meaning relative.

Look at it this way: if she were diabetic, would you expect to be able to fix that yourself? Perhaps, if she were in the early stages of insulin resistance / type II diabetes, you could carefully supervise her diet and keep the symptoms in check. But if she'd progressed beyond that point, and her eyesight and nerves in her feet and such were deteriorating and she was at risk for diabetic coma, she would need trained medical attention, with medications and insulin, and trying to treat it with diet alone, no matter how strict or how well-intentioned, would only let her get worse.

What you describe is severe. I hope you (or preferably her doctor or social worker) can convince her to get help.

#614 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Codemonkey, #609: which meme do you consider more harmful? "Marriage is only for children" or "No (heterosexual) sex outside marriage"?

That's not an either/or, it's a both/and. Both of those memes are extremely toxic and If I Ruled The Universe would be terminated with extreme prejudice!

Talking about how you view your mother as a victim and feel that you've failed her... well, my first response is to say, "Yes, many abusers are extremely good at presenting themselves as victims" -- but that's both too facile and not the whole story here. Your mother has had a genuinely rough life, very little of it by her own doing; your sister's autism and your father's disability aren't her fault.


- This does not mean that you are responsible for making it All Better.
- Your mother now seems to have reached the point where some of her problems genuinely are her own fault. In particular, the absolute rejection of any sort of change that might help her situation because Change Is Scary is something that she is doing, and you can't do anything about.
- Most parents who have had a hard life want their children to have a better one. They don't cling to their children and try to drag them down into the quicksand too! This is not healthy behavior.
- As someone else mentioned upthread, you now seem to be in the situation of "fasten your own mask on first before assisting anyone else". If you could make improvements to your own life, it would be easier for you to help your mother with her problems.

You seem to be caught in the trap of Yes-But thinking. "I know I need my own place, but how can I do it without changing XYZ that my mother considers unacceptable?" I suggest reframing this to Yes-So thinking: "I know I need my own place, so what steps do I need to make that happen and in what order?" Stop letting your fear of what your mother will do control you.

#615 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 01:32 PM:

Codemonkey @609, about being odd-person-out in dance classes: sadly, that is not an uncommon experience for those with Asperger's. Because you don't have the same facility at picking up social cues that a neurotypical person has, you can come across as awkward, and that leads to being last-picked, etc. Picking up social cues is a thing that can be learned, but it takes practice, just as physical coordination does. Sometimes this means resigning yourself to being odd-person-out while you learn.

I don't have Asperger's, but informal analysis (by psychiatrists, not just by me) suggest that I'm slightly along the spectrum, and I certainly took longer to learn social cues than a neurotypical person would. But I learned them. And I'm now in the interesting position of explaining some of them to my boyfriend, who is somewhat further along the spectrum than I am (again, no formal diagnosis of Asperger's, but professional opinion is Not Neurotypical). For example, he has an awkward relationship with most of his birth family, and when he's at family gatherings with his in-laws (yes, he's married, they're poly, I knitted a hat and booties for their baby when he was born, it's all good, digression over) he finds himself at a loss to answer when people ask "so, how's your family?" because often he hasn't spoken to them enough to know. I had to say "these people are making polite social noises, they do not necessarily want to know lots of detail, if you don't have details to share, you can say 'oh, they're about the same' and then ask them a question, that's all it needs." Some people seem to pick up on that by instinct. I had to learn it. It's learnable.

It's like physical coordination. It takes practice, and often it requires guidance. But it's not impossible. And practicing and improving is one of those things that will better your chances of finding a girlfriend. :)

#616 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 04:08 PM:

Codemonkey, a few follow-on thoughts:

My observation (having depression, having a spouse and parent and friends with depression) is that depression closes you off to solutions. It makes it hard to realistically evaluate options that would let you make things better.

So your mother getting treatment for depression would probably actually help her be able to cope better with the difficult situation she is in. In fact, when I found myself in a similar situation, I went to my doctor, who was extremely supportive. A hard situation would have been much harder if I hadn't been able to treat the depression, but had to try to pull myself out of a pit while depressed.

I see why you think it's treating the symptom, but I think it's more like fixing a broken leg you got while running. You can run on an untreated broken leg (in some instances), but it's miserable and slow and it will probably get even worse for not being treated. If you take the time to get it treated, you'll be back to "normal" faster, and you'll have more options than if you kept trying to run on that untreated broken leg.

Seconding the people who are saying you should follow up with social services. It sounds like your mom may just be exhausted and not able to get to the next step of figuring out how to find out if this is okay, and the longer it drags on, the more exhausted she is, and the fewer resources. This is a thing where you can do a little poking around and maybe help in a really big, positive way. (Are you familiar with spoon theory?)

Also, at the risk of being hlepy, I would look into local caregiver support services. Caregiver burnout is real and damaging and people know that - there should be resources in place to help you and your mom because everyone in that kind of situation eventually needs a little bit of help. Nobody experienced in caregiving expects your family to be able to do all this alone.

I guess the last thing I would observe is that you can't be responsible for your mother's happiness. You can support her, you can listen to her grief, you can love her... but you can't fix her. She has to be the one to do that, because real happiness (as the accurate cliché goes) comes from within.

#617 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 05:10 PM:

KayTei, #616: you can't be responsible for your mother's happiness. You can support her, you can listen to her grief, you can love her... but you can't fix her. She has to be the one to do that, because real happiness (as the accurate cliché goes) comes from within.

Adding to that... it's very common for children in dysfunctional families to either be assigned or take on by themselves the role of The Fixer. I think this is a natural extension of the way young children see themselves as the center of everything. If Mom or Dad is upset, it's because they've done something wrong, and therefore there's something they can do to make it better. Normal parents catch this and reassure the child that it's not always their fault. Dysfunctional ones sometimes either don't notice, or find it useful.

I think it was toward the end of the last thread (or maybe early in this one) that we had several people talking about how their Assigned Role in the family was to be the one who facilitates things for everyone else. I would not be surprised to find that Codemonkey has been assigned the "fixer" role at home because he is functional and his father and sister aren't.

#618 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 05:25 PM:

Rikibeth @ 615... It took me a *long* time to understand that, when people ask how you're doing, you're not really supposed to tell the truth.

#619 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Lee @614: Your mother has had a genuinely rough life, very little of it by her own doing; your sister's autism and your father's disability aren't her fault.

Why didn't you mention the fact that my father hasn't had a job for the last 20 years? If he'd been working that time (before the stroke felled him) then I expect my mother would have been a lot more sympathetic.

#620 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 06:44 PM:

About half an hour ago, as I was finishing making a purchase and was fumbling with my pockets to put away some change, a button ripped off my coat. My instant mental response was disproportionately self-punishing: that I shouldn't have done that, that I should have been more careful, a little inarticulate anger and self-resentment and despair.

It took a few minutes for me to sort of calm down and put this kind of minor accident in its place and stop thinking that I am, like, an undeserving person, or something, for having caused this accident. Now I'm reminding myself that this happens to everyone, that buttons are like that sometime, that this is easily fixed, really.

When I make mistakes I get so apologetic and downcast and I lose my momentum, and I need to break that habit. The first step in breaking a habit is recognizing it. So today I did a little of that, just now, and so that's a little victory for today.

Unrelatedly! Syd, somewhat disguised: how is the housing situation going?

#621 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 07:29 PM:


Why didn't you mention the fact that my father hasn't had a job for the last 20 years? If he'd been working that time (before the stroke felled him) then I expect my mother would have been a lot more sympathetic.

While I can't speak for Lee, I feel I should point out that this is kind of a red herring, right now. It affects her emotional attitude; it's something she should certainly discuss with a counselor; but it's not something that can change now, or that affects the practical considerations of what to do now.

I don't remember if it was upthread here, or whether it was in the previous DFD thread, but someone arrived at the coinage "problems that can only be solved with the use of a time machine are not problems that need addressing now."

#622 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2013, 10:57 PM:

By way of a unicorn chaser: I'll take him even with a side of crazy mom.

#623 ::: DirtyWater ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 12:55 AM:

(Commented here only once before. Son with ASD. Mother with borderline personality)

Two weeks ago, my wife stopped mid-sentence to ask me to blink. That's the thing with me and eye contact. I can do the typical autistic avoidance of eye contact. Or I can give a piercing stare that can give the other person the impression he or she just walked into a Lovecraft novel and is chatting with Nyarlathotep. I can't do do normal eye contact.

The piercing stare was a victory, of sorts. I was beaten into doing it. My mother was adamant at getting me to make eye contact when speaking with people, so an averted gaze would result in a slap across the face. And since eye contact causes stress, and being slapped causes stress, well you can see where that would lead. It took years for me to get good at locking in on someone else's eyes.

It was in college that I was first asked to blink when I was unnerving a girl, and slowly learned that eye contact was a pyrrhic victory for me. I was in a certain engineering school in the northeast, where you can be forgiven for never looking anyone in the eye. Where you can be forgiven for a lot of things. So long as you would please blink.

Being slapped over eye contact was just the tip of the iceberg, though. Since my mother and I were locked in a court battle with both my step father and my biological father, our household was always the scene of psychodrama. Just to add to the misery, there was her habit of watching every damned prurient drama ABC used to produce about abusive families, and make me watch them alongside. And then she would be outraged by both the plot, and my failure to show I was just as outraged. (Didn't matter if it was fiction.)

Other men coming in and out of the scene and adding more complications. And with every setback, an opportunity to take it out on me. Of course, I provided lots of provocation. My monotonous tone of voice got me slapped. My trying to keep people at arm's length got me slapped.

I wasted my 20s living solo, barely dating, because I had no preparation for how to build closer relationships with people. And I was absolutely adamant that no child of mine would come to be except in a stable household ready to raise him, having seen so many people of my mother's generation bump uglies without any care for the consequences. (Well, I saw the consequences, not the bumping of uglies, thank God for small mercies.)

I very slowly learned to cope with my quirks. I practiced and practiced so my monotone is a pleasant one. Completely disconnected from my state of mind, but those who need to know how I feel can find out through other channels. I learned to err on the right side in all the usual Aspie situations. Erring on the proper side turns your disability into a charming one, instead of an obnoxious one. It also gets you taken advantage of, but people who do that to me only get to do it once.

And it made me sufficiently presentable to women. When I met my future wife, we discovered that we had been 2 degrees of separation from each other for 10 years on account of my shyness. I gave her my virginity at 30 and I don't regret waiting. What I missed out on was doing it while having to fret about possible consequences, instead of being able to lose yourself completely in the act, with absolutely nothing in the back of your mind. I can live with that.

Of course, soon as I found my wife, my mother's abusive behaviour worsened. By the time of the wedding, we were estranged. Somehow she thought this would stop the wedding, as if anyone in their 30's would stop their chance at happiness when the clock is ticking. Estrangement was interrupted with bouts of harassment, during which I was trying to help my wife through a pregnancy that could have killed her. The baby was lost. When I told my mother, she replied "now you know what it's like to lose a child," in reference to one she also lost to unviability long before I was born.

Now we have a daughter, 3 months old. My mother would like to see her. I would like to undo the estrangement. I would also like to think about that and not have an anxiety attack landing me in hospital. I would like to think that I could trust my mother not to bring all the bad from all these years into my daughter's awareness. Most of all I'd like to provide my daughter with such a home that she won't type into the DFD thread 20 years from now. And I suspect I can't always get what I want.

#624 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 01:26 AM:

Codemonkey, #619: Rikibeth covered everything I was going to say, so I'll just second that.

DirtyWater, #623: Based on what you say here, I strongly suspect that you can have one or the other of the things you say you want. You can have your mother back in your life, or you can have a safe psychological environment for your child to grow up in -- but not both. Crazy Grandparent isn't as toxic as Crazy Parent (especially not if the parents take steps to contain the toxicity, such as not letting Crazy Grandparent have unmonitored access to the child), but it can still be stressful if only for its effects on you.

#625 ::: Fooey ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 02:44 AM:

Codemonkey: wouldn't psychiatric treatment for depression amount to curing the symptom rather than the disease?

I'll answer you as someone who's currently in treatment for depression: No.

If you won the hundred million pound lottery, and bought your mam a fabulous house, with separate flats for your sister and father, with full time care for each of them, it would not make your mother happy.

Before my treatment began, I was at the bottom of a well, and I had been trying to climb out of that well for 1000 days. My body was so tired, I just lay on the cold ground, unmoving, letting it suck the last bit of warmth out of me. I could perceive that there was light, and warmth, and air at the top of the well, but there was no way in Hell I could reach it. If someone had come along to give me every best present I had ever dreamed of, I would not have cared. I needed actual treatment to start seeing the top of that well.

Depression is a real medical illness, like cancer. You would never think that you should buy your mother a new house before starting chemo and/or surgery, in order to cure her cancer. Changing stuff on the outside won't help: it's all peripheral to what's really wrong.

Since starting my treatment, I have lost my job, lost my apartment, and lost a friend to cancer. And I'm still in a better place emotionally than I was before treatment.

Your mom needs to see a doctor. If she refuses, well, it will be very hard, but you may get to the point where you realize you can't save her, and anyway, it's not actually your job to sacrifice yourself for her.

If she were drowning, and you kept trying to give her a life ring, but she kept grabbing your neck instead, and pulling you under, what would you do? Let her drown you? Or, eventually, decide to save yourself?

#626 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:41 AM:

me@450 and everybody who replied, especially knitcrazybooknut #455 and justkeepsmiling #460 for their suggested scripts:

I talked to new interest. He not only seemed to understand and want to help, he apologized for accidentally hitting that trigger. Even used the word "trigger" to refer to such things, so: solid signs of clue. Very positive developments. (Also, a good date. I like spending time with him.)

(falls over with relief)

#627 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 01:42 PM:

Codemonkey: wouldn't psychiatric treatment for depression amount to curing the symptom rather than the disease?

Adding to others' comments about this: In situations like this, the symptom/disease dichotomy is misleading, if not outright wrong. When you've got someone who's depressed, and their life is going to pot, there's almost always a feedback loop going on. Treatment is trying to break that loop at the most accessible point, which is usually biochemistry.

There are other places the loop can be gotten at: The classic "rest cure", or interventions such as "clean-up mobs", try to hit the environmental section, and there are some kinds of therapy (notably Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) that can work on the psychological parts. The shared complication for both, is that the depressive condition defends itself, and dealing with that takes ongoing effort from both outside and inside. Biochemistry is a weak point for the feedback, because humans don't have conscious control over it, and limited resistance to its manipulation.

I suspect that such resistance as we do have (homeostasis) is why the drugs aren't as reliable as we'd like -- but these days, we have a variety of options there, and persistence pays off (especially if we can simultaneously hit the loop at another point).

#628 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 04:16 PM:

DirtyWater: I don't have advice, but CONGRATULATIONS on all you've accomplished. I hope things keep going as well, or better.

#629 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 04:57 PM:

Dave Harmon @622: I'll take him even with a side of crazy mom.

::claps hands and giggles with delight::

#630 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised, has gone a-gnoming. ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 07:18 PM:

Re: Sumana Harihareswara @620, and the rest of the Fluorosphere, too...well, color me gobsmacked--and prepare for wall 'o text.

I'm writing this from my new place.

Of the four "List That Craig Built" possibles I sent emails to two Sundays ago, I received one reply. My brief bio ("single mature female, full-time employed, mit cats, happy to pay the additional pet deposit, and am I mistaken or is your rental an RV?") was enough to get me a "You sound great, yes, it's an RV and when would you like to come see it?" So I went the following Tuesday evening after work--ONE bus, and going the other way will get me to work in plenty of time!--checked the place out, liked the landlady, and was up front about coming off nearly three years of middle-class hell, including the homeless shelter, and also was specific about how many cats I have and the fact I'd do all I could to make sure they didn't damage the RV's interior. In short, it went well enough that she let me leave a partial deposit, so that if the person coming the next evening didn't pass muster (or didn't show), then she'd take it off the market.

As I waited for the bus home, I came up with an idea that, if her handyman could do the work, would both protect the most likely targets of kitty-claw mayhem AND give me some extra clothes-hanging and other storage space. Emailed prospective landlady that night, hoping it would demonstrate that I am serious about respecting her property.

[Note: the RV is, like, vintage 1970s, man, and has sentimental value in that it (a) was given to her by her birth father, whom she located only relatively recently and (b) formerly belonged to her father's mother, whom landlady never got the chance to meet. As far as the interior and colors, think brown. Lots of brown, from the paneling and cabinetry to the vinyl trim to the curtains landlady put up for privacy's sake. But hey, The Swedish Furniture Store sells fabric...]


I got a text the next night welcoming me to my new home. 0_o just about covers my reaction.

Came over again this past Monday to talk to her handyman about my idea, and he said he thought it would work, and would have it done by the time I moved in.

Of course, then we had rain on Friday, which set him back, and it's raining today as well, and I also hired him to help me move yesterday because he has a with any luck the enclosure can be done by next Saturday. (I do NOT want him working on it while I'm gone, simply because I don't want to worry about whether he'll keep the door properly shut against kitty escapes.)

On the downside, I'm afraid the little fridge doesn't work, despite it being only a year old: it's been plugged in since last night and it isn't cool inside. Of course, I'm also not sure the interior light shut off with the door closed, and that bulb gets hot, so I've taped the button down and I'll check it after I...oh, hell, I'll check now.... Nope, not much cooler; I guess I'll have to let landlady know that, as well as about the leaky "observation" window on the little deck over the cab area. Glad I was here to see that, though.

And, of's an RV, which means storage space is at a premium. But it's hooked up to lights and water and sewer, it's got a propane stove, it's affordable--$550/month plus utilities, where I was paying $450/month inclusive, but I have the resources. And I don't have to worry about the cats getting bumptious in the middle of the night and disturbing anybody. And landlady was hoping to get someone in who'd stay for at least a year, and frankly, that sounds just dandy to me.

So, yeah. Gobsmacked. But happy. :)

#631 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 07:28 PM:

I am so happy for you, the invisible one! Congrats on taking that huge step. It's so tough to ask for what you need. But you totally did it. Good job! And I'm glad he's good to spend time with. Very important.

Syd! Great job, too! Congrats!

In case anyone's interested, I wrote a blog post on fear on my pseudononymous blog (not a word, agreed). It's scary to have it out there, but telling the truth is part of my new world. Posting the link here in case it helps.

#632 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 08:05 PM:

Totally Marvelous, Syd! and Good for you, the invisible one! Wonderful movings forward on both your fronts.

#633 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 08:05 PM:

Syd, that's wonderful! (And about damn time too!)

#634 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 08:20 PM:

Syd at 630: I love this news. So happy for you. No, it's not perfect: no place is. But it sounds like it's going to work. Congratulations!!

#635 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 08:53 PM:

This is going to be a long comment. First, some background so that things make sense (or as much sense as they're ever going to).

When I was eight or nine, my father's self-employed concrete business went down the drain for thr fourth or fifth time. In order to compensate for the lost income, he robbed two banks in two separate cities. He went to prison for this for two years.

Some years later, when I was sixteen, my parents decided to divorce. So that he did not have to pay child support, my father fudged his taxes, not for the first time.

Last January, my mother died. This caused Issues. This past December, the husband and myself had to borrow several thousand dollars from my mother's parents to tide us over until my bank stopped being stupid. We agreed to pay my grandparents back when we came to visit them this March, and to mail up the rest of my belongings that are down there waiting for us (as we are in Canada and they are in the States).

Last Sunday, on the one year anniversary of my mother's death, I received, out of the blue, the following e-mail from my aunt:

"My mother has brought it to our attention that you two have been given (and I use the term GIVEN and not LOANED only because we all know it will never be repaid) a substantial amount of money over the last few months. Our parents are not wealthy people. They live on a fixed income, have no investments and very little savings which is being depleted quickly by you guys. Gerard, you are a nice guy. Stefi learned from the best how to be conniving, lying and deceitful person. My brother, mother, Tim and myself are outraged that you have been doing this. Taking advantage of a thoughtful, kind hearted loving man (OUR FATHER) is despicable! It is a truly low life and shitty thing to do. All that crap you are having shipped to their house is going to stop. They have their only guest room filled with all your junk. You need to send Grandma and Grandpa the money to ship all of it up to you. You should have all the receipts for everything that lists all contents in emails when you made the purchases or they are on the packing slips in the boxes. You had better make plans soon to get our parents the money soon to ship ALL of it up to you. If this is not done in a timely manner, we will be disposing of everything in that room and that does not entail sending it to you. QUIT FUCKING WITH OUR PARENTS!"

Some further information: my grandmother, in the past, has had major issues with my mother and myself. Things seemed to have changed after my mother's death. Now I'm not so sure, and am very shook up. The husband called my grandfather after I got the e-mail. My grandfather has no idea of the e-mail and says to ignore it. I am scared to go down there, and scared to lose all my stuff again (which happened once before after I cut my mother off for a year after moving to Canada and getting married; I thing everything that happened would take a book to write). I do not know what to do, think, or feel. Right now the plan is to go down in March, get whatever of my stuff is still there, and cut off all contact. I will be an orphan again (as after my mother died my father contacted through a fourth party and said "I don't care. I have a new family now. ").

#636 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:17 PM:

Syd, congratulations!

#637 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:49 PM:

DirtyWater @623, how feasible does it seem to plan one short, fairly structured visit with your mother? I'm thinking of something like meeting for lunch, but I don't think you said if you are close geographically or not. Neutral ground might be better if possible, although with an infant there's advantages to being at home instead of having to schlep all the gear. On the other hand, if you are out somewhere or at her place, and she won't respect the boundaries you try to set, you can leave.

Syd @630 Cheers and cheers and more cheers.

#638 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:50 PM:

Syd, that's such great news!

#639 ::: OtterB is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:51 PM:

gnomed, not sure why. How about some cocoa roasted almonds?

#640 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:52 PM:

Re: depression and symptoms

A counterpoint: Depression is an interaction between neurochemistry and environment. Either part of the interaction can be attacked.

I have a heavy family history of depression, and a tendency towards (usually intermittent and subclinical) depression myself. I also have ADD. I went in to a psychiatrist, once, to see about treatment for depression. He took my history, leaned back, said "Hmm." Continued, "The incidence of depression in the adult male population is about 4%. The incidence in the adult male population with untreated ADD is about 25%. Want to try that first?"

Now, Adderall is sometimes used off-label to treat depression. I'm not sure whether it has an actual antidepressant effect (it might well) but it my case I suspect that it doesn't so much make me feel better as it does a) help me take care of my shit and b) help me feel like I can take care of my shit. (Though of course the distinction between the latter and a "proper" antidepressant is pretty thin.)

I also find that getting things done really helps. I actually save easy shit (paying bills, often, but note that my bills are small and I'm not in financial distress, so this just means writing checks and stuffing envelopes) to do when I feel bad, because okay, the world sucks and I'm useless, but hey, rent is paid!

#641 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2013, 09:54 PM:

Finny, that sounds incredibly stressful. I'm glad that the person whose money and house they are is on the same page you are.

#642 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 12:20 AM:

"and part of why my sister and brother-in-law decided against kids is that he went to the doctor and was asked how the hell he wasn't a Down Syndrome kid. (His brother is.)"

Point of order: Downs' Syndrome is a transcription error, rather than genetic. Your odds of having a second Downs' child are exactly the same as having a first one. (The sort of random info I picked up from friends with Downs' relatives.) Doesn't mean there weren't other genetic bombs, but Downs' isn't one.

Finny: While it's not the usual thing to reply to that sort of nasty email (because it usually only escalates), it might be a good idea to have The Husband (as the less-involved party) lay out your agreed schedule. Even better, if your grandfather could be a co-sender on the schedule, and say that this was agreed to at a prior time, that might at least keep them cool enough for you to get your things in March. And—absolutely neutral in tone. "This is the plan; this has always been the plan."

And I hope the bank stops yanking you around. (Or better—has already stopped yanking you around.)

#643 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 01:18 AM:

B. Durbin: Fair enough. I just know that was in fact part of the decision, alongside other medical bombs. (I also think by the time they were considering kids, my sister was getting into the danger zone anyway.)

Syd: Congratulations!

Finny: ...yikes. It's possible the thing to do here is keep to your March visit plans (including paying them back, if you're still able) and cut off contact after that with the toxic parties. Don't take my word for it, though; I don't have experience in that sort of toxicity. I'm glad you do at least have an ally in your grandfather, though.

#644 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 01:31 AM:

More general update: So my fiancee's aunt called her earlier.

The call in itself isn't as bad as it might sound from that alone. This aunt knows I'm in the picture, is supportive and isn't one to pass on information to my fiancee's parents that my fiancee isn't telling them herself. (We have an open invitation to visit, should we ever make our way to her home state.)

Actually, my fiancee's parents are the reason her aunt called - seems they haven't talked to her since before Thanksgiving. They had a little mutual 'but what did I even DO?', since my fiancee hasn't heard a peep from her parents in a month.

Her going theory: Her father's forgetful by nature and prone to burying himself in work when things get ugly, and her mother... is ignoring the factors in her situation she could solve herself, as well as possibly some things she Doesn't Like. It's possible the aunt got cut off because my fiancee was talking to her about the issues with her parents; her mother is very 'you don't talk about family problems outside of the family,' which apparently doesn't extend to aunts and uncles.

(Codemonkey: While I'm on the topic, I see some similarities between my fiancee's mom and yours. Her mom has a lot less in the way of dire medical situations on her plate, but she comes up with plenty of reasons not to seek out social contact that isn't her husband. Or proper medical attention that isn't [big-name hospital a couple states away]. She also lets things she could easily compensate for dictate whether she tries to make friends who are in the area she is now.

We suspect she's badly depressed and ignoring it. My fiancee's tried pointing this out, and said her mother's response was 'but a therapist won't understand me.' And yet my fiancee, who arguably has a lot more baggage attached to her brainpan, is supposed to get therapy and meds Yesterday in order to Do Daughter Right.)

#645 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 03:43 AM:

the invisible one @626: Very well done and great to hear he responded like that. Good luck for the continuation of the relationship in this vein.

Syd @ 630: That's great news! I hope you and the kitties will be happy in your new home - it does sound like a good solution. Hopefully your landlady will be sensible about the fridge. And if you and the kitties are okay... well, that's just fantastic.

Note: how long is that bus ride? Is the journey a possible later candidate for cycling, if you can get a free bike from somewhere? [I don't know how expensive your buses are so whether or not that's a "save it if I can" expense or an "okay" expense].

Finny @635: Sympathies; if acceptable, a zen {{{{HUG}}}}. Agree with the others that it would be most helpful if husband and your grandfather could simultaneously send notes confirming the agreed dates etc. (for paying off the LOAN, as agreed, and for picking up stuff, as agreed) - maybe an exchange of emails with toxic person copied in?

#646 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 09:08 AM:

My impression is that I gave up on my parents when I was very young-- I didn't want to please them or have a connection with them.

I have no memory of when it happened.

I've literally never read about anyone else doing this, and I've read a fair amount about abuse.

Does anyone know of anything on the subject?

#647 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 10:54 AM:

Syd - congrats! I'm happy for you. A bit of stability and having the cats with you is a good place to be.

#648 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 01:42 PM:

the invisible one: Even used the word "trigger"

Yay! Yes, that does sound like a Positive Indicator.

Syd @630: Yaaaayyyy! Good news!

Regarding the fridge: did you double check the thermostat? Some have a setting of "off" which leaves the light functioning, but with no cooling. (I use this function when I'm defrosting.) If the RV was uninhabited for a long time, I could see the cooling function being turned off to save electricity.

Also: being an RV, I hope it has adequate ventilation so your kitties don't get too hot during the summer?

Finny @635: Wow. This person sounds like a Piece of Work. Were it not for their threats to remove your stuff I would, in your place, simply refuse to respond to these jackholes since, really, it's none of their business.

That said, providing evidence of the pre-arrangement between you-all and your grandparents is probably the safer thing to do.  Plus a footnote cordially inviting your aunt to FOAD. 

#649 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 01:49 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @646: My impression is that I gave up on my parents when I was very young

By the time my mother Well And Truly Blew It when I was eight, I already knew in my bones that confiding to my mom was a Bad Idea.

Family lore has it that my mother was in the hospital for a couple of weeks after I was born, and I cried incessantly. Then, one day, my mom called home, and while she and my dad were talking, she heard happy babbling in the background. "What's that?" "Oh, that's Jacque." I think that really was was: "Jacque has already worked out, at the age of single-digits-weeks-old, that these people are entirely unreliable, and therefore she has only herself to rely on for comfort and safety."

#650 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 01:58 PM:

The mention of dance classes reminded me of when I attended my university's ballroom-dance society many years ago, sufficiently many years ago that IIRC the music was provided by an actual record player that played actual vinyl. The bossy middle-aged lady in charge, a professional teacher brought in from outside, managed to make the mingling of sexes about as embarrassing as it could be: the pairing-off for dancing was heralded by her shouting (I shudder to recall this) 'Guys, grab a girl!', which was bad enough to hear if you were an awkward hairy male suffering from hormones and subcutaneous pus and must have been much worse if you were female. I hope things have improved since then. I stopped going; what I should have done was search out a dance environment that was saner. I hear that Le Roc is fun. Should have tried it.

My point being, I think, that when you're tentatively trying to branch out socially, you might end up in a grim dead-end. If so, don't reinforce failure: back up and try a different route as soon as possible. There are lots of options.

#651 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 04:49 PM:

And ADD strikes again. Apparently I managed to neglect a few-hundred-dollar balance on my student account long enough that I got an email today saying that because I hadn't paid it, I hadn't been registered for last semester, so I'd be dropped from my program and would have to pay back the tuition from last semester in order to be reinstated.

I paid it online today and e-mailed the relevant person with a copy of the payment confirmation. I haven't received a reply acknowledging it.

The department secretary is already helping me out with this, so hopefully she'll be able to get me un-dropped if I've been dropped. But I'm scared. No way can I afford to pay a semester's full-freight tuition. If it comes to that, then I'm done. And my partner will be furious. And I'll deserve it.

…Okay, on second look, I'd thought one semester's tuition was over $20,000. That was only true during the first 3 years of my Ph.D. It looks like it's $3,100 now. Which is an amount I could patch together through loans from parents if I had to. Which means even if the worst happens despite the department secretary's help, and they drop me and I have to pay up to get reinstated, then that's actually within the realm of possibility.

But still. I am trying not to hate myself too badly for this, but it's hard.

Billing is confusing at the best of times. It usually takes my department some time to get my tuition remission put through, so I get a lot of e-mails saying I have an account balance during that time, so I've learned to just scroll past them because it's being taken care of. Apparently I got too comfortable with that, because I missed the small portion of the bill I was still responsible for. I'm also pretty well overwhelmed with mostly-useless e-mail from the university anyway. I don't keep up with it very well. The rare e-mails that actually require action easily get lost among the rest of the crap labeled "IMPORTANT" that actually isn't.

But those are just excuses. I should be dealing with this. It's the bare minimum for being a responsible adult. And I just didn't do it. I'm flaky and useless and irresponsible.

Short version: I suck at dealing with e-mail and keeping track of finances, and I've gotten myself into a royal fix this time.

#652 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2013, 05:24 PM:

#651 ::: Anon4Now

Congrats on following through to limit the damage and to find out that the damage isn't as bad as you first thought. This is a lot better than just freezing.

Ignore the following if it isn't applicable, but I found that I was expecting myself to just get things right. Actually, I'm allowed to set up procedures to make it easier to get things right instead of making keeping track of things perfectly into a test of personal worth.

Letting myself have procedures isn't a general solution to the problem of self-hatred, but I hope it at least erodes it around the edges.

#653 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 08:25 AM:

Rikibeth @613: Proper treatment might make her able to see that a house in your price range would improve her life, and make her willing to seek out company through, say, a book group, or a knitting class, or ANYTHING social. Less than a mile from my house, there's a senior center that offers everything from exercise classes to gatherings for board games to bus trips to New York City to see Broadway shows. Several blocks farther along, there's a library branch, with knitting classes, book discussion groups, writers' groups, computer classes... and the ones at the library are FREE. I don't know what amenities are available near to you, but if your mother got treated for depression, she might be willing to seek out company, when right now, it's very clear that she isn't.

She hasn't actually been out with me in the car this year yet, only on the bus once a week to the shops while I'm at work! Perhaps it's because of our recent cold snap but it's still got me worried! I'm wondering whether the fact that it's been one year since Dad's brain haemorrhage has something to do with it -- the day it happened I was planning to take her out to a local retail park (that's "strip mall" in US-speak IIRC), but she decided not to go. If we had gone that day then my dad would probably have died! My sister certainly wouldn't have understood what was happening (I sounded the alarm to my mam when he started talking gibberish), or known how to call an ambulance.

I'm sure I mentioned the local community centre to her, and she said there was nothing going on there that interested her. This may be down to the clinical depression that many people here seem to suggest she has, or it may be a real problem (as former colliery villages like the one I live in have been a bit neglected by the local authority in favour of Peterlee (the main town), as they have no real raison d'être now that the mines have closed). That was one of my rationales for wanting to move her into Peterlee (as well as so she could be within walking distance of shops). Why do you think my mam doesn't want to move there (as one of the things she said when rejecting my house suggestions is "why only Peterlee?"). As Durham City is way too expensive (no doubt because it's a UNESCO site), Hartlepool would be the next nearest town alternative, but that would mean coming under a different local authority (which could have implications regarding my sisters's daycare and social services arrangements), which is why I didn't look at it initially.

In particular, the absolute rejection of any sort of change that might help her situation because Change Is Scary is something that she is doing, and you can't do anything about.

Another reason why I was shocked when she rejected my house suggestions was because our housing association wants to convert its properties to use more efficient combo boilers. Because the work requires that all carpets in the house be removed, because our house is extremely cluttered -- for example, my sister's room has (in addition to the standard bed and wardrobes) three pieces of exercise equipment, a load of boxes full clothes stacked on top of each other on the floor, plus over 1,000 CDs and DVDs -- and because the new boiler would be going inside a cupboard that's currently packed full of stuff, having the boiler changed would be an utter nightmare. The work would actually have taken place last summer (and I was looking into renting some storage space somwhere to get some of the stuff out of the way for the duration) had my mother not been able to convince a council inspector (who fortunately had an autistic son himself) that it would be utterly impractical to do the work. That didn't make the issue go away though - what happens when the existing boiler gives up the ghost?

On the issue of my broadband problems, I posted a request for help on my ISP's forum yesterday (although I'm not getting so many dropouts now, it's still extremely slow) -- hoping I can get a response some time this week!

Once that's sorted I can think about looking for a place of my own. How do I decide though whether I should stay close by (so that I could better support my family if need be), or move closer to work (which is what I'd really prefer for myself)? The former possibility would probably mean renting a house, as flats are uncommon in former colliery villages.

#654 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 09:09 AM:

A friend of mine invited me onto SuperBetter to be their ally, and I've accepted. I was on it once, long ago (when it was newer), and never managed to get past my I-suck voices and my I-don't-understand-this-interface fear far enough to, well, do anything on it.

But now I've made a new account to 'Ally' my friend, and I figure I might as well work on my own Epic Win too. So if you have the spare time and spoons, and want to be my 'Ally' on the site, here's the link.

And if you have any advice on how to maximize utility of SuperBetter, I'm interested ... and it may be useful for other people on here, too. For one thing, I'm having a helluva time thinking towards an Epic Win (other than 'become employed again', which has several things outside my control in its way) that is appropriately 'big'. Quests, not so much of a problem; things like 'go to the gym with the kid', 'do the shopping', 'make four necessary phone calls' are definitely that sort of thing.

I'm not sure whether 'make an appt with a new therapist AND GO' is an Epic Win, given that it could be over in a week ... or it could, y'know, take the last several years like it has. :-/

#655 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 11:07 AM:

@invisible one: Sounds like a keeper to me! :)

@Syd: Congrats on finding a nice RV! So happy for you.

@Devin: I have ADHD myself. However, it turns out that in my case, the depression was partially hormonal, so taking birth-control pills brought the Evil Mental Tapes down to a low whisper that's much easier to ignore. Best of luck to you in getting yours treated, since I'm pretty sure birth-control pills are less feasible for you. :)

@Anon4Now: I feel your pain WRT forgetting to do things. I STILL need to call that damn psychiatrist! And college tuition is confusing even under the best of circumstances. You can make it through this, with the help of friends and loved ones if necessary.

@Codemonkey: "How do I decide though whether I should stay close by (so that I could better support my family if need be), or move closer to work (which is what I'd really prefer for myself)?" Move closer to work. Don't try to rationalize the possibility away, don't let your mother guilt-trip you into not considering it, just do it. Your family will still be within a reasonable driving distance, and on the other hand, you won't be constantly subjected to what your mother is doing to you. Trust me; moving to the other end of the county (about 20 miles on interstate, so about a 40-min drive) worked wonders for me.

#656 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 11:11 AM:

In re: Codemonkey's mother, and depression in general, I would like to sort of make it more clear to non-depressed folks what's going on inside our heads.

Mental tapes have been mentioned before in this thread, and...well. Imagine that your mental tape is constantly saying, "You're stupid, and incompetent, and ugly, and obnoxious, and no one really likes you. They're just pretending to like you so they don't hurt your feelings. You're worthless. Nobody would care if you dropped dead tomorrow." And this isn't just happening when you're at your worst--your brain is telling you these things ALL THE TIME. When you accomplish something meaningful, the mental tapes are there telling you it was all just dumb luck and you're not really clever or talented at all. When you make mistakes, the mental tapes are there telling you that you shouldn't have expected any different, a loser like you, this is all you're good for is fucking up.

It really does not go away unless you're receiving frequent therapy or taking some sort of medication. Everything else in the world could be going right, and your depression is still there, filling you with despair and self-loathing. Worst of all, depression keeps you from wanting to talk about your depression--which is why, when people commit suicide, the response is often surprise. "He had everything going for him." "She seemed so happy." Depression tells you to hide your depression so you're not getting other people down. I was suicidal in high school. I doubt my own brother is aware of this, and his bedroom was right there next to mine.

#657 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 07:07 PM:

DirtyWater #623: Congratulations on making your own happy life! That's no small accomplishment!

Based on your description, if I were in your shoes, there is no way I would allow your mother unsupervised contact with your daughter. That said, there is one thing you might be able to try: you said your mother wants to see your daughter, so you might be able to use that opportunity to lay out boundaries. "Mother, before we can allow you to see our daughter, you [must/must not] do [X]," where [X] consists of whatever behaviors you want to encourage or discourage. If she won't commit to modifying her behavior, she doesn't get access to her grandchild. Unfortunately, if she won't change her behavior, the chance that you can undo the estrangement without harm to yourself and your family is very small.

the invisible one #626: That's great to hear--sounds like he's a keeper!

Syd #630: Hurrah! *happydances for you*

Finny #635: That's a horrible situation. While you and your grandfather might be on the same page, it's possible that your grandmother isn't; alternatively, it could be that your aunt is acting on her own. If you don't want to take B. Durbin's and dcb's very good advice, an alternative might be to wait a few days, then follow-up with him directly, and ask him to make it clear to meddling aunt that she is in error and that a schedule has already been set.

Codemonkey, et al: Upthread you said that you didn't want to be a carer--you were very explicit about that. However, what I'm seeing from your other posts is that you currently are being pigeoned into a carer-type role, only it's your mam you're caring for. Lee #215 does a very good job of pointing out that, whatever difficulties your mam has faced in her life, you aren't responsible for fixing all of them.

I am also Nthing the comments regarding depression. I have it, too, currently being treated for it, and life with the treatment is so much better than life without it, even when other things are going wrong.

The_L #656: This. Entirely this.

#658 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 09:14 PM:

My fiancee and I just got back from our first vacation together in years (that wasn't one of us visiting the other's Current Place of Residence), and the first one where we came home to the same place at the end.

Mostly, it was great, and we want to do it again sometime. Not in the middle of a winter storm, though. And not when the poor car needs a little more fixing than we already gave it Sunday.

And not with her father finally responding to her text about her good job news. He responded in the same medium, otherwise I think we'd both be annoyed that he texted her, but...

Well, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, her parents (both of them after all) seem to be having tremendous difficulty with her lifestyle. Her lifestyle.

She's still working out how to respond to it, and currently leaning toward something with a generous helping of 'really???' (Much of their argument is based in religion, and she's struggled with it quite a bit to get to this point.) Whatever it comes down to, I'm just glad I'm here for her to lean on in person.

#659 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2013, 11:56 PM:

Codemonkey, I have sometimes found myself in a position similar to yours, decisionwise. Of two choices, one is a change, and one is either a commitment to the status quo or just putting off the decision.

I made a Rule some time ago that when I notice this, I choose the change. A choice that boils down to, "I'll choose tomorrow," doesn't stop any of the stress.

If you stay at home, you will probably find yourself thinking about leaving, then staying, then thinking about leaving, then staying, and every time it'll be the same cycle of guilt and worry. If you leave, you will not have to decide whether to stay or go.

This comes from a place where having to make a decision is more stressful than either choice's outcome could be, and if you are in that kind of place, the advice may be useful. If your stakes are way, way, way higher, then you have to decide whether that's a symptom of something wrong.

#660 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 01:20 AM:

The_L @656 -- You mean other people's tapes say something different from that? I've just mostly managed to learn to reply to them telling them I disagree, when I'm doing well. I've heard reports about different tapes, but I'm not sure I believe in them. Really believe, that is.

#661 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 01:48 AM:

Update time I guess:

1.I've finally got another counselling appointment, though the one I was seeing before is gone for the next year. I'm gonna be talking to a new person later this week and I'm looking forward to it.

2. I think I've been pretty much let go from my restaurant job. I haven't had a shift since new year's eve, which was a train wreck. Basically I woke up feeling sick, then it got worse, but by the afternoon I was feeling better. So I went to work, and after an hour and a half I was feeling light headed and had to sit down on the floor. I tried to get back to work but had to sit down again. Just as I was about to ask if I should go home, my boss told me to go. I was completely fine by the next day, though. I know at least partly why I felt so bad, so I'm not worried about that. The problem is I bailed out two hours into my shift, leaving them without a dishwasher on New Years Freaking Eve. Way to convince them you're worth keeping. I've been back once to collect my paycheck, which I'm willing to bet is my last one from them. Even if things had gone differently, business really slows down after the holidays. *shrug*

3. Found out I'm pretty close to doing some diabetes-related injury to myself if I don't get my blood sugars under control. That's really scary and also feels like a stab in the perfectionism. I was pretty much telling myself, "this wouldn't be happening if you just DID your insulin on time/tested your blood sugar more/measured everything you ate etc etc" on my way home from the eye doctor today. My mom's trying to remind me to test every 2 hours which is necessary but also annoying. It just sucks because I feel like I can't do everything I'm "supposed" to be doing, I always end up neglecting something.

4. Related to 3, I'm trying to get on an insulin pump. I'm still skeptical that I'll be able to do everything but I'm willing to at least look into it. Also still freaked out by the idea of having a tiny plastic needle under my skin, and the prospect of trying to sleep while wearing a pager (I can hardly get to sleep as it is!). But if I can somehow not die in a big fiery explosion visible from space, this could be an improvement over my current situation.

5. My brother's applying for college, through a program for people with developmental disabilities. He has to write a letter about why he wants to go to college, talk about things he's learned from volunteering, basically convince them he's worth sponsoring. I hope he gets in, because I think it'd be good for him to get some more workplace-applicable skills. I'm still trying to pick a program, which is frustrating but I haven't given up yet. The saga continues.

(side note: I don't remember if this is the right email, hmm)

#662 ::: The_L braces for gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 06:40 AM:

@Tom: I'm told most people's tapes say different things all the time! Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing? It really is hard to believe it's true when you're living with Depression Tapes.

On a similar note, I don't know if anyone here is a fan of the new My Little Pony cartoons (I'll keep it down to this one paragraph, I swear), but the episodes about the Crystal Empire are a perfect metaphor for depression. (If you're curious to see what I'm talking about, you can find the episodes pretty easily on YouTube.) The monster Sombra, who threatens the safety of the Empire, is depression. When Sombra's around, the crystal ponies are all sad and apathetic, and can't remember life without Sombra. When outsiders (the main cast, of course) come in to help, they cheer up the CE denizens and make the Empire a happier place, if only temporarily. It takes medication (the Crystal Heart) and professional help (Princess Cadence) to finally clear things up for good.

@Phenicious: "It just sucks because I feel like I can't do everything I'm "supposed" to be doing, I always end up neglecting something." Been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt and symbolically burned it. I'm told that normal people actually manage to vacuum their homes and scrub the bathrooms on a regular basis! I manage to do these things approximately once a month, on average.

Today, after work, I'm going to call my psychiatrist. I am making a phone reminder right now. This time, it is actually HAPPENING, come hell or high water.

#663 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 07:25 AM:

The_L #662: @Phenicious: "It just sucks because I feel like I can't do everything I'm "supposed" to be doing, I always end up neglecting something." Been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt and symbolically burned it.

I like that phrase! I think I've finally gotten to the point of "burning the shirt": I've told Mom several times that her nagging is Not Helping, and strongly implied that it's actually counterproductive. (Which it is, but I can't say so, because that would not only be blaming her for my issues, but would also be granting her power over me.) Her most recent response was "I give up!", we'll see if she sticks to that.

Also, I hire a housekeeper to come in and do basic cleaning each month. We actually skipped last month due to holiday running-about, but it's about time to call her again. Last year I actually unilaterally bumped her price up from $65 to $75, because she hadn't asked for a raise in the 4+ years, she'd been working for me, and you know what's been happening with cost-of-living in those years....

#664 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 07:26 AM:

Coffee with cardamom?

#665 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 08:21 AM:

The_L @662 I'm told that normal people actually manage to...

I offer you a sentiment that I picked up from a list for parents of kids with special needs: "Normal" is just a setting on the dryer.

Phenicious @661, ignore if not helpful or not applicable, but do you have an iPod touch or a smart phone? There are time management apps that you can use to give yourself medication reminders. It might be less annoying to be pinged nonjudgmentally by a machine that you told to do so than by a parent when you're struggling with control and boundary issues anyway. Good luck with the counseling appointment.

#666 ::: Daedelean ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 08:40 AM:

Hello again. Reading and witnessing.
The_L: «Depression tells you to hide your depression so you're not getting other people down.»
Yup. My tapes also go on to say that if you do tell anyone, they'll think you're weak and pathetic and laugh at you. It probably doesn't help that where I live, «Suck it up and quit whining, you pansy» is recognized as being deeply ingrained in the national culture.
Also, yay ponies \o/

Earlier in the thread, not gonna dig through right now, I saw people talk about the difficulties of finding a romantic partner for aspies and others... Definitely count me in that category. And I see people talking about learning to understand social interactions and learning to make themselves presentable. And I try to compare this to my experience, and quickly get demotivated. Because everyone tells me I'm great.
Now, clearly I can't be all that great, because I have only a very few friends and have never had a girlfriend and never get invited to parties, and every once in a while I'll discover that someone I thought was a friend at some point decided that they hate my guts and never want to speak to me ever again, generally for no reason I can understand. And I ask other people what happened or what I did wrong, and they say «nothing, you're great.»
It's difficult to try to improve yourself when you don't know what it is you need to improve in the first place, and everyone around you refuses to tell you. I'm sure they think they're being polite and encouraging, but it comes across as very nearly malicious: I see what your problems are, and I see you stumbling over them your entire life, but even though I'm your friend/close relative, if you ask I will deny them, and ensure they continue troubling you.
So, in my attempts to get somewhere in life, I'm walking blind, getting smacked in the face by lampposts every third step I take. You don't have to do that very long before you lose all motivation and give up on trying at all for a very long time.

#667 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 09:29 AM:

@Phenecious: Hugs, if you're open to them. Really sucks about the job. I hope the counsellor works out, though!

Ignore if hlepy, but Jim C. Hines has posted a lot about his diabetes, including his experiences with his insulin pump. (I linked to the "diabetes" tag on his LJ) It may be un-scarying for you to read about someone else's experience with the pump. He's also really friendly in e-mail, if you have specific questions about it.

#668 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 09:30 AM:

Probably for a link to LJ.

I have frozen-when-fresh potato/oatmeal/Cream of Wheat bread. Remarkable stuff - just about overflowed the loaf pans, rising.

#669 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 09:49 AM:

An addendum to the last comment (that included the be-gnomed link): Reading through Jim C. HInes' entries on depression (check the "Depression" LJ tag) made me cry my eyes out - and then finally get treatment for my depression.

I'd been getting talk therapy, but highly resistant to drugs. Convinced that taking medication for depression meant I was weak, worthless, unable to hack life. None of that is true, but it's what the depression tells you.

What Jim said really helped me to reframe things - and my life is infinitely better now with drugs to keep the chemical imbalance under control.

So, if anyone wants another voice in the "I've been there, here's my experience," check out Jim C. HInes' blog.

#670 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2013, 10:08 AM:

Bricklayer @654, in one of those moments of synchronicity, a late night conversation with an old friend this weekend introduced me to SuperBetter--she told me it was seriously awesome. I think I may need to check it out.

I know when I needed to call a therapist to make an appointment, finally doing so totally felt like an Epic Win, in a life where wins of any type had become awfully thin on the ground.

There's no minimum level of dysfunction for needing and deserving support. To my mind, it correlates to say there is no minimum level of win for an Epic Win, and if you're having trouble getting motivated on your own, you should definitely use the tools you have to hand to shore up your motivation. "It's not Epic enough" is the depression talking, doing that thing it does, where it tries to protect itself.

#671 ::: The_L :::