Back to previous post: And while we’re on the subject

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Regretsy and the Insane PayPal Clusterf*ck

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

December 5, 2011

Dysfunctional Families: You Must Be This Unhappy To Ride
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:47 PM *

One of the ongoing themes in Dysfunctional Families Day threads—one that’s certainly been present this year—is the doubt whether one’s own situation is “bad enough” to be a problem. It’s not at all surprising that people who have been repeatedly told, in words and in deeds, that their feelings don’t matter should struggle with this.

Given that, let me direct your attention to David Harmon’s incisive comment at 861 of that thread:

S: My internal voice keeps saying “it’s not that bad”, “other people have it worse”,

Actually, the presence of that “internal voice” is itself a warning sign. In a healthy environment, most people don’t need to convince themselves they’re not being abused.

As far as I am concerned, there is no minimum dysfunction requirement to participate in this community*. If you need to come talk, come talk.

* and at this point, I’m declaring DF a community rather than just an annual observance. We’ve filled a thread and are still going, 2 1/2 months after the declared day. We have persistent identities and returning members helping out new arrivals, and we’ve begun discussing our local customs with one another. I’m happy to run DF threads the way we run Open Threads† for as long as we want to have one active. If the conversation dies, I’ll start a new thread on September 21, 2012.

† Though I think I will close old ones to keep the discussion current; this is not a conversation that thrives in fragments. (update on March 20, 2012: Pursuant to that, this thread is closed. Please go to this thread for the continued discussion.)

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: You Must Be This Unhappy To Ride:
#1 ::: Allynne ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 01:58 AM:

Never posted to one of these before, but the title grabbed me. So, re: my own experiences: PTSD is the bully you can't escape.


#2 ::: Brooks ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 04:08 AM:

Irony of you posting this -- I just saw it in my RSS feed immediately after making a filtered LJ post about coming across an email from well over a decade ago, where there's a bit of family dysfunctionality that I'm still dealing with in ways that seem like they're going around exactly the same circles.

I find that I don't really have much to say about it, but wanted to say something regardless.

#3 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 04:17 AM:

Ahhhh - I feel somewhat relieved just knowing this is here.

I may vent later, at the risk of sounding like a whiny eight-year-old, about the trials of spending my Thanksgiving with my parents and all of my aunts and uncles (and none of my own generation, who were all wise enough to duck out). Which featured (as large family gatherings almost always do) most of the family reverting to treating me as if I were eight and not very well socialized.

Which was a little hard to take at the same time that my mother dumped all of the cooking on my husband and me, and my eldest uncle pontificated on how removing the social safety net altogether would "teach them not to be poor."

#4 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 04:44 AM:

I think every family has some level of dysfunction. And it's OK to acknowledge it without having to prove that your experience is as bad as someone else's. (In fact, it's a very good idea not to.)

#5 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 05:51 AM:

Trauma dick-sizing is overrated. If it hurts you, it counts, and you're allowed to feel something about it, and to process those feelings.

Thank you for these threads, Abi.

#6 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 07:32 AM:

Abi #0: Aw, shucks. <blushing> And thanks for the extension!

#7 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 07:46 AM:

I suppose I have an update! I posted somewhere in the previous thread & well, things are -- stable? but also very not. It's the kind of stable where it's like ... there's a hole in your boot, & no water is coming out, but there is a hole in your boot.

I think there's a lot to be said for my mother. However, one thing of note at this moment: I am old enough to do chores & decide to (slowly) attempt university & take responsibility for my mistakes (oh the mistakes), but not old enough to make decisions about who I see, who I date, what I wear or how I wear it or where I go or how I travel. Lovely.

One of my sisters was & is abusive in times of stress which is almost always due to her particular disorders & is currently going through the process of divorce & packing & cleaning up the messes her ex has left to her to deal with &etc, & it is finally beginning to hit home to her that yes, her life has fallen down around her ears. She is returning "soon", to stay in this house in a city she hates, "indefinitely", but no-one will say when she will arrive or when she might leave.

I cannot take care of her. I could not take care of her when she was here a month ago & I cannot take care of her now. She is twice my age & I have seen what caring for her does to my mother & I do not have half her fortitude nor do I want what it has cost her to have it so overdeveloped & extending her emotional efforts constantly. She wants me to take care of her.

I know because she has told me so directly & our parents have to be at work to pay for the food we eat & maintenance & the other things she takes for granted, & so it is usually the two of us at home during the day & I am not very mobile yet & I need to keep to my limits because I have learned what it does to me to exceed them & I cannot do this for her & she refuses to recognise that my affection & shallow emotional pool cannot be bought with chips & apologies & I don't know when she will return because no-one will tell me.

There is a hole in my boot & it is soon to be full of water & it will leak, make no mistake.

#8 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:08 AM:

Leah Miller DFT!prev#923: I always thought of that not as "dealing with" the depression, but as hiding from it. You yourself note that it doesn't really cure or even prevent, the depression, but it keeps you from being actively miserable, let alone doing something self-destructive. That's practically the definition of a "coping mechanism".

Like most such, "retreating into the Internet" can get out of hand and become a problem in its own right... but as someone's noted elsewhere on ML, the point of a crutch is that it holds you up when your legs can't. So it comes back to "moderation in all things... including moderation".

#9 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:17 AM:

In my family I have been realising what sort of subtle and not so subtle damage has been done by my grandparents. They never really meant it, but my grandmothers were both strong personalities with certain views. The end result was my mother spent years feeling she should live up to perfections of house cleaning and other things, and on my dads side he had less hassle than his little sister who was traumatised and ended up living in Australia, well away from her mother. I've seen this sort of thing as well in a childhood friend who's mother, again without any deliberate malice, pushed them onwards and laid out expectations which basically drove the child to good academic grades, a good job, and eventually a form of collapse through overwork. She is now much happier in a less stressful job and discarding some of the pressures that were programmed into her.

What effect all this had on me isn't clear, although I've always been obedient and fairly easy going, perhaps in reaction to the tension behind the scenes.

#10 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 09:21 AM:

Thank you, abi. I was concerned about the way the thread seemed to have picked up again so close to the practical maximum size, and had been thinking hard about "do I need to post this, really?" and making sure I wasn't just rambling, in order not to waste a post that someone else might need.

Cynthia, #3: Sympathies. Sounds like maybe next year, the younger generation needs to make their own Thanksgiving plans as a group -- perhaps as a joint vacation trip to somewhere a bit out of the way.

David, #6: abi isn't the only one who thinks you made a Statement Of Much Wisdom there. You're absolutely right -- people who genuinely aren't living in an abusive environment aren't going to have that little voice, because they don't need it.

The converse isn't necessarily true, because it's possible for the little voice itself to be beaten (literally or figuratively) out of existence. But its presence should definitely be taken as a Giant Red Flag.

#11 ::: Mark C. Chu-Carroll ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 10:13 AM:

What you said in this posting really resonated with me.

I don't come from a dysfunctional family. But I do have a very serious history of abuse that I continue to struggle with.

A few years ago, my high school class had its 25th reunion, and suddenly a ton of people who had abused me started getting in touch. I ended up responding with a post on my blog - in which I wrote something of exactly the form that you quoted.

I was beaten, tormented, mocked, and abused every day in school. almost 30 years later, I'm still struggling with the scars. But my profound instinct any time I talk about it is to qualify. In that blog post, part of what I said introducing it was: "I don't think that my experience was particularly unusual. I know a lot of people who had it worse."

Yes, a lot of people had it worse. But.. that doesn't mean that what I went through wasn't horrific. It was unusual. And even if it wasn't (see me qualifying again?) that doesn't change how incredibly serious, painful, and scaring it was. But I can't even talk about it without feeling like I have to make excuses.

#12 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 10:49 AM:

I agree with Chris Lawson @ 4, pretty much. Probably every family has some level of malfunction, though I tend to reserve "dysfunctional" for a considerable (albeit perhaps unspecifiable) level of seriousness.

My family was certainly dysfunctional (parents should not have remained married nearly as long as they did). It took me decades to identify and recognize this, and longer to realize that no-one was "at fault" -- all involved were reasonably-good people doing the best they could to cope with their respective situations -- and I adjusted to this, eventually, by simply not having a family.

I'm not sure this was the best response, but at least I have not yet (at the age of 83) been institutionalized, nor (I think) have I caused significant pain or difficulty for anyone else, so I'm not terribly unhappy or depressed by the results.

As my life draws to a close, however, neither am I really happy, pleased, or satisfied with it . There's nothing much I can see to do about this, save perhaps to encourage others to try to work out something better for their lives.

#13 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 10:52 AM:

Re: Syd's moving/packing situation.

This only just occurred to me, and I don't know whether it fits your situation (mostly expenditure requirements), but a few years ago I found moving/storage PODS useful.

I had a large accumulation of stuff in an art/workshop I rented for years, which was becoming unusable (roof was leaking badly, landlord didn't want to invest in repairs, I couldn't afford to make repairs either). I wasn't on a move-out deadline, so I was able to park one of these portable moving/storage units outside the door, pack away stuff in my spare time (I was working a 40 hr/week other job) — and as important for my piece of mind, inventory what I was packing away, and keep detailed lists of what went into which labeled box (I made my own stick-on labels out of MacTac peel-off adhesive paper, and the labels also included a summary of what was in the box*).

I had a friend who had recently moved his business into a larger building (and I had helped with that move) who was willing to let me store my boxes in the back corners of his new shop, so when I was done packing up the POD I had it transferred to his shop to off-load.

If that had not been an option, I would have been able to have the POD-people store the unit at their facility, for a monthly rental fee.

* Yes, I actually have been able to find things I needed to fish out of these boxes months later.

#14 ::: Waiting To Die ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 10:58 AM:

I don't see any point in going into the past, I've done that enough. To summarize, moderately psycho parents, bullied at school, extremely smart, low self esteem. I really identify with Louis C.K. In one of his sketches he said that he's waiting for his youngest daughter to turn 18 so he can kill himself. Except I know my daughter will need me beyond that, I couldn't do that to her, so I'm stuck in this fucking shit life for the duration. I always wanted a kid, my whole life. To show my parents how you're supposed to do it, maybe. And I'm a damn good dad. Damn good in just about every way. But having a kid didn't bring the happiness I thought it would. Now, I wish I'd never had my daughter, because then I wouldn't have to be alive. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. Suicide is easy until you have people that need you. So sick of this shit world and the shit people in it. That includes most of you, sorry. My therapist says my life has a recurring theme of disappointment, and I'm too negative, her suggestion was to turn it into satire, adopt like a George Carlin attitude. But I don't find anything funny any more. People are shit, I can't escape that conclusion.

The thing is, I have money, security, and a somewhat supportive family. I was never really beaten or sexually abused, just emotionally. I do feel like I should have nothing to complain about it. 99% of people have it worse than me, but I can't stop feeling sorry for myself. I just don't enjoy anything any more. I feel like a spoiled brat. Maybe its PTSD. I do tend to just sit and stare for long periods of time. I feel like the only thing that would help would be an adult partner to love me, but not the lying traitorous kind like my whore ex wife. But in my experience, that's all there is. Bitch, whine, mope.

#15 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 11:00 AM:

As Mark @11 and numerous people through the various DFD threads mention, none of the abuse I went through happened within my family, but plenty of physical and emotional stuff happened elsewhere.

I'm 90% certain I have undiagnosed cyclothymia or something similar. The first time I read about the symptoms online I got that thing where my head started spinning and I felt sick to my stomach because it was something I recognised in myself but had never been able to articulate. I've just had that spinning feeling again and I'm delurking anonymously to ask about it.

Jennifer Baughman and Leah Miller in the previous DFD thread were talking about adult ADHD and there were some, though not all, things they mention that are really familiar to me. I am hopeless at focusing on tasks and seeing them through, and I've always beat myself up about it, because I've thought it's some kind of genetic-level laziness or lack of focus. On occasion, as a kid, I would get in trouble for this.

But the thing was, in a lot of ways I was quite gifted. I doubt there's a single exam I've ever taken that I did more than a night or two's revision for. I just could not focus for any longer than that, and could only force myself to do the minimum right when I was up against the deadline.

It's become an awful, stressful lifetime habit. I was just clever enough to cruise through life on Bs and occasional As. But I know it's been holding me back, because I'm now convinced I don't push myself to do the things I love because I don't have the self-discipline.

I'm wondering now if it wasn't that I was some lazy, loser child. Maybe there was something else going on, and because I didn't have any "hyper" behaviours and was bright enough, it didn't look like I had any problems.

I know this isn't strictly on-topic for the DFD thread, but I would dearly like to know if this sounds familiar to anyone else.

#16 ::: Bluejo ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 11:05 AM:

Reading the responses on the thread made me realise how many people have the problem I call "putting down your shields".

What I mean is when you have a reflex or a habit that has genuinely protected you, that has been your shield against an abusive situation, it's very hard to put that shield down and stop doing that thing.

People were talking about freezing out emotions, about striking out in response to touch, lots of things like this. Shields.

I still have one I can't get over, which is that if someone yells at me I will become very calm and compliant and agree with anything and say anything and lie to get away, and you cannot get an honest reaction out of me. I don't even know what my honest reaction *is*, in that situation, until I feel safe again. It's a terrible autoresponse to raised voices and anger from people who aren't abusive but just upset and shouty.

I've got over the thing where my emotions wave from a distance, and I'm getting better on "don't care anyway" as a response to being hurt -- the thing where you gnaw off your leg to escape a trap as a first resort. But more than thirty years after the last time it was actually useful to freeze and lie and escape, I still have that reaction to being yelled at.


(Name and email munged precisely as much as useful.)

#17 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 11:31 AM:

Don Fitch @12: Don't forget you've got another family in fandom that thinks you're the salt of the earth.

#18 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 11:49 AM:

Don, #12: Everybody screws things up now and then. What differentiates a dysfunctional family from "normal screwing up" IMO is that there's a pattern -- it doesn't just happen now and then, it happens regularly, and/or in predictably-the-same ways. One of the most common patterns is refusing to acknowledge the screw-up -- blaming the person the shit landed on for being unhappy about it.

People are remarkably resilient when it comes to dealing with ordinary mistakes. People are often even fairly resilient about dealing with low-level chronic dysfunction. This doesn't mean that the people in the situation can't tell the difference.

#19 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 11:57 AM:

Bluejo @16 Yes, this.

I realized close to 10 years ago that I had gone into survival mode perhaps 5 years before that over some LifeStuff (not abuse). It was necessary, to begin with. I really did need to jettison all nonessential tasks and activities for a while. But that stage passed, and I was still hunkered down, waiting for the next impossible demand, and doing nothing else in the meantime.

I am still climbing out of that rut. It had grown very deep, and seems to have steep and rather crumbly sides. And I may have made a nice comfy nest at the bottom of it. But I'm pretty sure it's not where I'm supposed to be residing.

Waiting to Die @14 I don't think I can say anything that isn't unbearably perky and hlepy, but I also didn't feel I could let your post go uncommented on. So this is to say that you have been heard.

#20 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 12:01 PM:

Of the World @ #15: That sounds so familiar I could have every single word of it. Gifted kid, not hyper -- usually lost in thought, in fact -- but last minute on everything and into adulthood couldn't pull my act together to save my life.

I tried quite a few self-discipline strategies, but at best I felt like I was patching myself together with duct tape, and at worst it felt like the gears in my head were constantly slipping. Then I had a nervous breakdown that destroyed those coping mechanisms and I was ALWAYS at my worst -- I couldn't focus enough to hope to study or work, hell, I had a hard time tracking conversations, even when I was the one talking!

Fast forward to this year, where after a lot of pushing (a LOT -- my psychiatrist originally gave me a line that 'we don't diagnose adults with ADD, because they have coping mechanisms already') I finally got evaluated for ADD/ADHD, and ended up with a positive diagnosis. After a couple of weeks of medication, the lingering depression that neither my bipolar meds nor therapy would lift alleviated considerably, because I could focus again. The teeth on my mental gears caught and stayed together.

This isn't to say that everything is perfect or I don't need self-discipline strategies now -- I do, certainly -- but now that I have the right medication they actually stick. I can work again, because I can keep instructions in my mind for more than five seconds at a time.

If you have the means to get evaluated, I strongly suggest you do so. Don't let anyone give you any nonsense about being 'too old' because you're out of your teens; I'm 32, and my own mother was diagnosed at 49.

#21 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 12:25 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 13, oddly enough, I started checking into pods yesterday when I called about a potential rental unit that wouldn't be ready until three days after I have to be out of my house. A friend of my cousin's has a student who's a mover and said friend has negotiated a reasonable fee for moving me (and I guess packing whatever hasn't gotten packed by that point), so that helps.

But it occurred to me that, rather than have those movers move EVERYTHING to a storage unit, then have to deal with getting out whatever will fit in my new space (when I find it, and great ghu, is it beginning to worry me), I would ask if they could pack a pod with the minimum I could take to a new space (bed, chairs, tv, bedding, dishes, clothes, dvds/books for entertainment, etc.), then have the pod people store that for, I would hope, less than a month, while the movers took the rest of my stuff to storage.

Thinking about this while also thinking about re-homing some of the cats, and where might I stay if I find a suitable place that isn't ready for immediate move-in, and how to respond to the frakking eviction notice, and maybe I can't afford the rent on the place I called about yesterday because it would leave me too short of funds for anything else...and...and...and...

AnonCowardSevenBillion may (MAY) have some info for me both on housing for me and re-homing or fostering for the cats, but I can't sit on my hands waiting. I got so frazzled yesterday that I forgot to file my unemployment claim! Fortunately, I can do it online, but it's not the kind of thing I can afford to forget. Not that there seems to be much of anything I CAN afford to forget right now... ***slight drowning sensation***

#22 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 12:31 PM:

Thanks, abi. I was actually becoming overwhelmed with all the terrible stories, even before the thread got full. I felt guilty about not reading them all, but for a while I was too depressed to keep up.

And David Harmon's statement is true wisdom. There's always someone worse off than yourself; that doesn't mean your pain doesn't count.

#23 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 12:48 PM:

Of the World @ 15: (and yes, I intend to post under my usual identity):

That sounds very familiar to me. Especially the "because I was bright and not hyper, no one noticed anything" part. (I do not know your gender, but my reading on ADHD indicates that this is a really, really common pattern for women with ADHD.)

When I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, I talked over my history with the psychiatrist. I had always been great at school; classes and studying had always come easily. Sure, I'd procrastinate, but I was always able to get things done when I had to, even when that meant staying up all night. But after my Ph.D coursework was finished and I was faced with totally unstructured research time, I was struggling, badly.

She said it was probable that the external structure of school classes had actually enabled me to compensate for my ADHD, especially because I seem to have inattentive-type ADHD rather than hyperactive-type. (Those are, by the way, two real things. ADHD does not always look like someone bouncing off the walls.) Without external structure, I remained the intelligent person I'd always been, but I had more trouble focusing and organizing myself.

I am still floundering somewhat in the totally unstructured Ph.D research space. But ADD treatment (which includes stimulant meds for me, along with exercise and a whole lot of coping strategies) does help me.

From what you've said, it sounds like it could be worth talking to a doctor to get evaluated. This does not have to be expensive (at least not beyond the doctor visit itself). While there are long, expensive written tests for ADHD, there is also a short questionnaire can be administered and scored within one visit. Combined with history/interview, it's pretty accurate. If you opt for stimulant meds, there are inexpensive generic options (I take one of these and it works well for me).

I recommend the books "Out of the Fog" and "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!" "Driven to Distraction" is a classic, but most of the case studies involve hyperactive-type ADHD, so it did not speak as much to me.

And general hugs and encouragement. ADHD is a real true brain thing, not a moral failing. I remind myself of that a lot, and I want to remind you too.

#24 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 12:55 PM:

@13: a few years ago I found moving/storage PODS useful.

Let me second that, with a slight modification: instead of going with PODS, go with ABF U-Pack. At least for my move (from the Midwest to the East Coast this fall), ABF was much cheaper than PODS, and they gave me excellent service. (They let me postpone my moving date by a week -- with only a few days' notice.) They still might be out of your price range, and storage pods are not gentle on your furniture, but they're worth looking into.

Also, check out Moving Scam *before* you hire any moving company (PODS-esque or otherwise). Then do a search for reviews of the company online. I only called a few places and even then I had one company try to rip me off. [1]

[1] The sales agent lied to me about their refund policy, then denied that he'd done anything wrong when I called back to cancel. I got my money back, but I had to spend at least an hour on the phone.

#25 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 12:57 PM:

Syd @21: I am getting interest over on the other forum I have signal-boosted your cat-rehoming info to. Nothing utterly solid yet, but in all probability I'm going to be able to find you someone over there to take at least a pair. I hope.

#26 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 01:10 PM:

Syd @21-Sep/846: Skimmed past this comment on the way to finding my place after the weekend, and misread it as "brandied aliens."

Jennifer Baughman @21-Sep/921: I wouldn't be ashamed to see a dentist. Odds are good that whatever you've got to deal with, they've seen worse. The cost, OTOH (looks it up) ... um, is entirely blanch-worthy.

WRT wisdom teeth ... mine rather resolutely let me know where they were. I think I was twenty-ish, and was starting to get this strange discomfort at the back of my jaws....

I'm trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and thank you!

For that, I also recommend her book I could do anything! (If only I knew what it was).

Actually, I recommend anything by Barbara Sher. She's one of my Life Gurus, and she's always coming up with new stuff.


::flinch:: ;-)

Syd: Oh yeah: remember to eat. I have (after many decades) finally worked out that my most productive time (because I'm feeling strongest and most energetic) is about half an hour after a good meal.

Oh yeah, should you email me, the way to guarantee it will catch my eye is to put the phrase "Guinea pigs!" into the subject header. :-)

Following on OtterB's @924: this may be late days for your specific situation, but I've gotten good tips from the book Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell, and its sibling publications.

Bricklayer @21-Sep/928: and he didn't have to worry about accidentally cutting the kid's tail off!

forgot the name @7: Oof. The image comes to my mind reading your post is that you're staring up at a large brick wall. You can see it teetering, and you know it's going to go. But you can't tell just quite when it's going to fall on you.

{{{HUGS}}} and keep us posted.

Don Fitch @12: I adjusted to this, eventually, by simply not having a family.

My situation-of-origin sounds not-dissimilar to yours, and my solution is roughly the same. It saddens me. I would like to have a family. I crave having people around in my environment about whom I care. My guinea pigs are wonderful, and I love them, but: the conversation is limited, and it's hard to get them to help with the housework, even with bribery. :-) (Though, I have to say, the boys at least deliver superior snuggles—leastways, when they're in the mood.)

I would like to have family (I have had "found family" in the past, but they've all scattered to the winds, long since), but given that I have a hard time even coming up with people to go to the movies with a few times a year, I haven't the first idea how to go about it.

Waiting To Die @14: We're here, and listening.

Of The World @15: When you hear yourself calling you lazy, who's voice does it sound like? That smells to me suspiciously like an introjected message. In my case, an awful lot of that "laziness" comes from trying to accomplish goals imposed from outside, and having my own ambitions systematically squashed. It's taken a lot of mental housecleaning to finally dig down to goals that are really truly mine, mine, mine. Now that I've found them, I have to be careful because they'll eat my life (in a good way), but I have pigs to feed and a job to go to. It took me until last year (which is to say, 50+ years) to find these. What I can say: pay very close attention to the things that do wind your key, even (especially?) if they seem "silly" or "trivial."

Bluejo @16: The only thing I see as problematical in the "freeze, lie, and escape" response is the "lie" part. I run something similar because giving any response but the approved one in my family-of-origin was, um, fraught. I still run it in most stressful interactions, but I've decided there are definitely worse things than: responding blandly in upsetting circumstances and then going away and taking some time to think through how I want to react.

Syd @21: Breathe, dear. One trick I learned in my year-from-hell: when I start to get frantic, I check, "Am I safe right now?" Okay, breathe. "Am I safe, today?" Okay, breathe some more.

Would it help if I exerted my Google-Fu and did some cat-rehoming-research on your behalf?

#27 ::: ZS ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 02:22 PM:

Waiting @14
The thing is, I have money, security, and a somewhat supportive family. I was never really beaten or sexually abused, just emotionally. I do feel like I should have nothing to complain about [...] but I can't stop feeling sorry for myself. I just don't enjoy anything any more.

IANAD, just someone who's been around this block, or at least the next block over. When your mood does not match your circumstances, that is pretty much the definition of "affective disorder," e.g. clinical depression. That is the effect you get when your circuits for enjoying things are broken.

If that is what is happening with you, the talk therapy can only do so much while the circuitry remains broken. And biochemical circuitry has to be addressed by biochemical means. I was on meds for about a year and a half while I got myself into a better situation and learned some new tools. Am currently debating the merits of going back on them and staying there long-term. Have you considered that sort of approach?

#28 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 02:26 PM:

Caroline @23: She said it was probable that the external structure of school classes had actually enabled me to compensate for my ADHD, especially because I seem to have inattentive-type ADHD rather than hyperactive-type. (Those are, by the way, two real things. ADHD does not always look like someone bouncing off the walls.) Without external structure, I remained the intelligent person I'd always been, but I had more trouble focusing and organizing myself.

This sounds...rather crushingly familiar.

I think I'm going to bump "talk to a medical professional about ADD meds" higher up on the to-do list. (I meant to do it earlier, but lack of insurance made me wary of establishing any sort of Pre-Existing Condition that would keep me from acquiring insurance later, and then once I got any, I was too busy, and there was the wibbling that came of staying with a therapist who offered the diagnosis past the point when she was useful to me, and, anyway, digression.)

Because I would like to be able to focus on things for longer than a few minutes at time. I would desperately like the ability to focus in class without constantly talking at the professor. And more than anything else, I would like the ability to go more than a few weeks outside an academic atmosphere without sinking into depression from the lack of external structure.

I dearly love academia, I do want to go into it as a career plan... But I don't like that nervous feeling that I have to keep taking classes because the alternative is months of blank depression on account of not having Deadlines and Structure and Outside Accountability.

#29 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 02:38 PM:

I just caught up after abi posted the new thread for us "differently familied" folks. First of all, I'm the poster formerly known as Donna, and thanks to everyone for your comments and acknowledgements. I am mildly decloaking just because. If anyone related to me gets interested enough to actually find this comment, any fallout belongs to them exclusively.

I wanted to say thank you to abi for hosting us each year. I've read all the stories, and I wish we could have our own "It Gets Better" campaign. Maybe someday society will become open to the idea that some families are well worth leaving.

Syd, I want to reinforce what some intelligent soul said earlier about allowing other people to utilize their gifts. When I read your posts about your house and packing it up, I started drooling. I love organizing and I adore projects and if I had the plane fare from Seattle, you'd already be packed. (joke) Everyone has their strengths. Those muscles are fun to flex. My mild OCD has its uses, and I like to use it to help whenever I can. Just don't forget to breathe.

Thanks again to everyone for the space, the time, and the consideration. Catching up has been truly inspiring.

#30 ::: Waiting To Die ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 02:45 PM:

ZS @27
IANAD, just someone who's been around this block, or at least the next block over. When your mood does not match your circumstances, that is pretty much the definition of "affective disorder," e.g. clinical depression. That is the effect you get when your circuits for enjoying things are broken.
If that is what is happening with you, the talk therapy can only do so much while the circuitry remains broken. And biochemical circuitry has to be addressed by biochemical means. I was on meds for about a year and a half while I got myself into a better situation and learned some new tools. Am currently debating the merits of going back on them and staying there long-term. Have you considered that sort of approach?

Thanks, I've tried Celexa, Welbutrin, Zoloft, Prozac, Elavil, and a couple others. A couple worked for a short time then stopped, a couple made me much worse. I do have big mood changes from day to day, maybe bipolar. I have very poor sleep and sleep meds don't help either.

#31 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 03:05 PM:

I've come to realize that I'm a bit PTSDish about layoffs.

Whenever an "all hands meeting" is called, even what is to all appearances a routine quarterly meeting, I get the willies. I lose sleep. I wonder whether I'm wasting my time doing plans and report at work, since I feel like I'm waiting for the axe to fall.

I blame the former corporate parent, which held all hands meetings, with immensely lame rah-rah speeches, after the numerous rounds of layoffs.

I think things are pretty good at work right now, but that gnawing fear whenever an announcement is made remains.

#32 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 03:07 PM:

Of the World @15 -- another person to whom that all sounds very, very familiar. I'm not one who has been diagnosed as ADHD in any way, however. I just don't get much done. Lots of projects just sit there for months....

Bluejo @16 -- I talk about similar stuff with a lot of massage clients: how tightness in a person's body is often based on ways that person was protecting hirself, some of which may (or may not) be less relevant in current circumstances. And it may be worth experimenting to see if those tightnesses are still relevant: and if they are, they can remain there. I think that my body wanting to protect me is overall a Very Good Thing; and i like the option of testing whether that particular protection is still working as it should. Does your protection actually have the effect you want? What else might work that has fewer side effects? Genuine curiosity here, not wanting you to come up with any particular answer.

#33 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 03:13 PM:

Lee @DFT!prev927: Thank you! Those were words I needed to hear, this morning, as I continue to gather resources and generally try to figure out where I go for here, and what I'm going to need for it...

Leah Miller @DFT!prev923: Are you me? I spent the better part of an unemployed year going through the motions and burying myself in internet forums that I didn't even really post on, just getting the pseudo-juice from other people's socializing. Thank you thank you for so cogently describing both the way the "coping" mechanism works, and how it really doesn't work in the long term.

and abi, thank you for continuing this space so that we may bear witness, offer compassion, occasional solutions, and the enduring knowledge that we are not alone.

Mark C. Chu-Carroll @11: I remember that post! And no, you don't have to qualify anything -- your experience, no less than those of others, deserves to be acknowledged and respected.

Waiting To Die @14: It doesn't matter how many people "have it worse" than you -- what matters is that what you experienced is real, and is causing you real pain. You may need a new therapist, and/or a pharmacological solution. But you absolutely do not deserve to be living in a state of wanting to die. I wish you and your daughter peace.

Of The World @15: It's become an awful, stressful lifetime habit. I was just clever enough to cruise through life on Bs and occasional As. But I know it's been holding me back, because I'm now convinced I don't push myself to do the things I love because I don't have the self-discipline.

You have just described how I got through high school. And, in many ways, how I still get through things; I do what I can when I can, and then in a frenzy finish things just up against the deadline, because that's when I get the real focus on whatever I'm doing.

And this: I am hopeless at focusing on tasks and seeing them through, and I've always beat myself up about it, because I've thought it's some kind of genetic-level laziness or lack of focus. On occasion, as a kid, I would get in trouble for this.

Replace 'on occasion' with 'interminably' and that's my childhood. We are not losers. We are not stupid, and we are not lazy.

Renatus @20: And yes, yes, yes to everything you said, as well! I am hoping that when I get meds for the ADD, the chronic depression (imperfectly controlled, despite being on 3 different meds) will be ameliorated.

And, oh, yeah, it's not my voice calling me lazy. It's my father's.

It's been crippling -- I know I'm smart, I know I'm talented, and I feel paralyzed by the thought of actually succeeding at something, because then I know I need to keep producing, and that's something that I don't think I can handle.

Caroline @23: Thank you, thank you for the reminder. We have another friend who's ADD, who has a joke any time his attention wanders, "So as I was saying, Let's Go Ride Bikes!" I think I'll post that around my workstation to remind myself that it's my brain and not me. :)

Jacque @26: :D I'm finally getting better dental insurance starting in the new year, and I've found a dentist in the area that's well-reviewed. Cost... will probably be an issue, but if I get things fixed slowly, it'll be good enough for me.

Also, most of my family these days are found-family, and my husband and I are always finding new members. Including some who are internet-friends (for reasons of health and distance).

Syd @21: *big Zen hugs* Remember, one thing at a time. Do you have some central location that you can write or type things down that you need to do, and then check it every so often? (Notepad, text file, Evernote, ML?) Would it help you to do a search on your 'view all by' and concatenate the things you've mentioned here that you need to do?

Also, eat, if you can. I know it's hard, but blood sugar crashes + stress do not mix well, and you need your strength. And if you can, take an hour or two and do something that *you* enjoy -- read a book, take a warm bath with bath salts, etc. The bit of peace will do you more good in the long run than wearing yourself out.

#34 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 03:26 PM:

Thanks to all the folks who posted about adult ADD -- I did a little digging around on-line and was able to confirm something I've suspected for awhile...I have OCD.

According to the online test, it's very mild, probably doesn't need meds, but now I know that my checking that the doors are locked, the lights are out, and lining up the candies by color has a source.

#35 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 03:34 PM:

Some folks above (and in the old thread) have been discussing their inability to concentrate and discovering that there may be an actual biological imbalance w/r/t their lack of focus.

I wanted to add to that discussion by saying this: As an adult, I have struggled with the idea that being interested in something is safe. When I was young, anything I liked was dumb, stupid, disdained, bad-mouthed, etc., unless it fell within very circumscribed boundaries or could reflect awesomeness on someone else.

Besides being shaped by those very effective social controls, I also learned that if I expressed interest or enthusiasm for something, it could be taken away.

I still struggle to this day with allowing anyone to find out how much I like certain things and activities. I still don't always allow myself to do the things I love. I feel exposed if I am talking about something I truly love in a crowd of strangers.

In my crossy-wires brain, my enthusiasm and passion for these things is a weakness to be exploited. I am indeed getting better, but it's work, and something I have to think about before I can push through.

For the record, in no way whatsoever am I saying this is the case for anyone else. But I wanted to add it to the discussion.

#36 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 04:16 PM:

abi @Sep-21/Ω: This may be me being over-controlly but I wonder if it would be worth putting a very-last comment at the bottom saying "This conversation continues on <Link>." There's that pointer of yours just three comments up, but it's not wildly obvious if you don't know to look for it. (I'm thinking of folks surfing in from else-net.)

Fade Manley @28: depression on account of not having Deadlines and Structure and Outside Accountability.

Hm. This discussion has me scowling thoughtfully at my last couple of weekends. As long as I have MASSIVE ART PROJECTS THAT MUST BE DONE NOW I'm fine. But I've been too sick to do much more than sleep and think about sleeping for the last coupla weeks. I'm not in love with my job, and look forward longingly to the weekends, but even so hitting the weekend has felt a lot like falling off a cliff. Hmmmm....

Does anybody have pointers to behavioral hacks for this stuff that they like?

Jennifer Baughman @32: "So as I was saying, Let's Go Ride Bikes!"

Or, in the immortal words of Dug, "My master made this collar so I can speak to y—Squirrel!"

knitcrazybooknut @34: I suffered a somewhat milder form of the supression you describe. Fortunately, I'm an obstinate bitch about some things, so I didn't lose my compass entirely, but I nevertheless wasted decades thinking I should pursue stuff that doesn't matter to me. It's a reflex I still have to watch out for carefully.

#37 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 04:19 PM:

Wow. I.....don't even know where to start.

I guess my first thought is that there are so many people here who have things that have hit them hard. When you're there, you don't realize exactly how weird it is, how strange it is for the little things that just happen in your household that don't actually happen in "normal" households.

My mother is the only parent with whom I had a lot of contact as a child. My father passed away when I was 11, and they had been divorced since I was 5. Her husband was a trucker and really only was home a couple weekends a month. When he was home, he was constantly arguing with my mother, or rather, she was telling him how he shouldn't even be around as little as he was since it wasn't like he did anything anyway.

I'm the oldest of 4, me and my brother from my father and the two youngest from her husband. Things were ok (and by ok I mean I didn't really recognize it as anything being abnormal) until my father passed away. After that, my mother started to be malicious more often towards me and my brother, more violent and emotionally abusive.

She didn't leave bruises when we were young, and kept my brother on a leash of ADD meds even though they made him feel like he was suffocating in a sea of monotony and fog. She did more of the little controlling things. I don't remember going to anyone's house after 8th grade unless I had known them since kindergarten or I didn't tell my mother. My friends never came over after a few times because my mother would put on a face the first few times they were over, but then it was like they were family. They witnessed the things she did that I just expected, and didn't like it. My longest known friend was extremely confused all the time when we were over because after school we weren't allowed in the fridge, or even in the kitchen at all unless we were doing dishes. I'm still getting over not being allowed in the kitchen of my mother's house, and often I will forget to eat. I'm working on it, but it is hard at times.

On my 15th birthday, my baby brother was born. I love that kid more than I love most people. After that, my mother got worse. She started putting my brother in the detention home for the weekends because he talked back. She picked everything I did apart, told me that she wished it had been her who had died instead of my father since I was so horrid, told me that I had been raped by my father's brother when I was young (which I found to be false after asking people who had been there), told strangers who said I looked just like her "poor kid", called me fat, stupid, ugly and any other thing that you can think of. I tried to find someone who would make me feel better about it all, and started my horrid life of dating, which is too long to put here, but if you'd like to read it is here.

After the first guy I just did as my mother said as often as possible, still trying to deal with the random things that happen in high school that already make people feel like they aren't good enough. I never went to parties, was in honors English, the A Cappella Choir, and tried to do things to make her proud that also made me happy. At home, she would yell about the dishes, my room, how I needed to clean the grooves in the kitchen floor (with a toothbrush since it worked best) and how I wasn't doing as well in Math as I should be (when I had a C). Eventually we ended up getting in screaming matches when I couldn't take her pushing my buttons anymore, and she sent me to the detention home, claiming that I was the violent one and had hit her. One of the times when I had obviously been the one injured (parts of my hair were trailing down my back, and I was obviously disheveled) they took me to my longest friend's house, since her mom was like a mom to me. When I got there, she was surprised that the cops had brought me in the back of the cruiser. "Pam, they escorted you here. You were in the back of the cop car." Then she saw my hair and about cried. She woke my friend up, and we all sat at the table and talked about what we should do. I was broken already, and pointed out that my mother would just say I had done it myself because I had been upstairs when the cops got there (which she did, not that the cops ever were notified). She knew all the cops, and that made her pretty safe from them.

There were a lot of things that happened, and I'd be lying if I said I had the time to post even half of them. I try to not think about it, because I'm not that girl anymore. I grew up quick after my father passed away, because I had to in order to survive.

The week before my 18th birthday, she put me in the detention home again, because she found out I was leaving and moving in with my grandmother. I had taken the money from my checking account (money I had earned from my job that I never got to use, ever) and she threw a fit. My probation officer had told me earlier in the week that it was likely, and that I should try to not do anything to bother her, but that I shouldn't worry because it was safer in the detention home for me anyway. I had gone to see her because my mother had grabbed my arm so hard in one of her fits of anger that I had bruises.

The fit that sent me into the detention home for the last time was the most violent. She pulled me around the house by the hair and shirt, and my little sister called the cops after she got our baby brother out of the way. I woke up the next morning in the detention home and I couldn't move my arms because they hurt really badly. I looked and I had HUGE bruises under both arms and more fingerprints on my arms. I showed the director of the d.h. and he called children's services to come and take pictures. I was more worried about the kids than I was about them getting her away from me. I was going to be away from my mother anyway. The kids I still worry about.

I don't know. I didn't have a normal childhood. I didn't have a normal dating life. I still don't have normal eating habits. I am growing up though.
I was lucky in that I grew up with other motherly figures instead of just my mother, or I don't know if I would know how to love people, how to trust people. I would certainly not be married to someone who I love with all of my heart, who tries to understand even though it is hard, and I would certainly never be contemplating children in the (distant) future. I'm still concerned about having kids at any point because I am SO scared that I'll just do the same things to them that she did to me.

Things get better if you can escape the tower, but escaping the tower will always cost you more than you think you can live with at the time. I still worry every day that my youngest siblings will eventually have to deal with the things that my brother and I had to deal with, and I'm trying to have a connection with them, which does mean that I have to play nice with my mother, play the prodigal daughter if you will while constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop in, where her niceties will be replaced with snide remarks and violence again. I'm living on my own, so I'm pretty sure it can't get worse for me with her, but the kids I do worry about, as she often takes her anger out on people who can't fight back when she has no other outlet.

tl;dr :Life sometimes sucks, but in the end, if you fight hard, you can escape with your life, though sometimes you will have missing pieces.

#38 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 04:50 PM:

Jacque @35: My current behavioral hack is to stay enrolled in classes, which is clearly one of those Not Applicable To Most approaches. Beyond that... I'd also dearly love to hear some useful behavior hacks.

I have sometimes found that making to-do lists of extremely basic things which I want to do anyway is helpful. But that tends to be my way of pulling out of a complete tailspin; when I actually need to consult a to-do list to remember I need to eat regularly, and leave the house at least once a day, and go play a video game instead of just refreshing the internet constantly, that means I'm already in a pretty deep funk. I'd love to have some methods for getting from tolerable to good, and not just ones designed for moving me from abysmal to coping.

#39 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 05:05 PM:

Fade Manley @ 28: I dearly love academia, I do want to go into it as a career plan... But I don't like that nervous feeling that I have to keep taking classes because the alternative is months of blank depression on account of not having Deadlines and Structure and Outside Accountability.

Oh hi, are you me? [wry smile]

Except this tendency is actually why I'm looking away from academia for my career. Taking classes is fine. But doing ongoing research, by myself, with little external guidance, with few/no defined deliverables, and the extremely high likelihood that whatever I've planned will run into an impassable brick wall and I will have to back up and start all over with absolutely nothing to show for all the time and effort? Does Not Work for me. And since that seems to be the shape of academic research in my field, I do not want.

Relevant comic: Scientific Process Rage. It's funny because it's not even exaggerated. So far, everything I've done has ended up at "Oh hey, this makes sense! -- Wait, no it doesn't," "WTF is going on?" and "Results turn out to be bullshit."

On a dysfunctional families-related note: My mother has basically all of the same ADHD symptoms as I do. When I told her about my diagnosis and talked to her about ADHD, she borrowed one of my women-and-ADHD books and recognized herself very clearly. We understand each other a good deal better now.

However, she was still surprised at my diagnosis. "When you guys were in school, I always thought of you as the well-behaved, together one," she said. "Your brother was the one who got in trouble and got bad grades." I reminded her of the huge number of times I had forgotten my lunch, or a permission slip, or my signed report card, etc., and had had to call her at home or at work to come and bring it. I reminded her about how my binders and backpacks were always crammed with folded, crumpled paper and broken pencils.

And how basically every day, I did my homework but left it at home. Because I was polite and well-behaved, teachers cut me a lot of slack for this -- only once did I run into a teacher who flat-out gave me a zero whenever I forgot my homework, and my grades went to hell in that class. If I had been any kind of behavior problem, I would never have made it through school, because I wouldn't have been given any slack for my total inability to organize.

I'm not angry at my mom for not seeing this. In fact, because she has so many of the same symptoms, it would have been hard for her to see it as anything but normal. But it is a bit frustrating that I played the role of the "good kid" so well -- covered up all of my failings so well -- that she has trouble even remembering the evidence that I didn't have it under control. (On a side note, I deeply believe that this is related to my imposter-syndrome feelings. In that sense, I really was "fooling everybody.")

And as a side note, thank you, abi and everyone. This discussion nudged me into actually calling and making an appointment with a new psychiatrist today; my previous one unfortunately moved his practice elsewhere, and I've been procrastinating majorly on finding a new one. Of course, they can't get me in for a month, but that's better than procrastinating another month or two and then having to wait a month on top of that.

Making Light FTW.

#40 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 05:19 PM:

Jacque @ 26: It is, rather. I've slept, so I'm a little better now, but the cringe is still there. I suspect it'll be there for a while.

knitcrazybooknut @ 34: Er. Yes. I resemble this. Along with the discussion of inattentive-ADHD combined with gifted which sounds so, so, so strikingly familiar (I always thought it was a character defect, I don't even know how to process that it might not be) ... are you all me, or something?

The problem in my family is that they want me to be happy, for values of 'happy' that assume 'success' and by 'success' they mean 'lots of income'. My interests, such as they are, are not what are considered profitable.

I panic if someone sees my screen. I panic further if someone mentions a game I like too, because I want to be able to say 'hey, I like that too', but it's not productive and it's not something I should really be doing (that's not for girls, girls aren't serious etc etc etc) and it's hard to deal with it.

I'm supposed to like maths, I'm supposed to want to be in an STEM field or be an accountant or something like that, and there's a whole lot of supposeds going about. The things they don't know I like are the things my family doesn't like, in general. "They won't get a job. What did they waste all that time for? That's useless."

It's safer not to have interests at all. It's safer to treat gaming and writing as guilty secrets, when I feel safe enough to do them which isn't very often or consistently. Saying that I might have an interest in these two things feels like I just ripped my life open for everyone to stab with hot pokers.

#41 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 05:19 PM:

I was just thinking "I wonder if it's too late to post something in the DF thread on ML?" and here's a nice new thread. Thanks muchly, Abi.

(Now I need to think of a nice persistent pseudonym for DF stuff.)

#42 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 05:59 PM:

Stefan Jones @30: I understand entirely. This past quarter, I've made a morbid joke out of reading the rah-rah memos from upper management, then going out to the Financial Times to get, as it were, "the other side of the story". I'm pretty sure that my department's not on the chopping block -- we're six people, and mission-critical -- but that doesn't keep some uninformed cut-happy exec from whacking us in a bout of ignorance, either.

Also: SQUIRREL! (Thanks, Jacque!)

forgotthename and knitcrazybooknuts: *big zen hugs* Also, as a woman gamer myself, I have had to occasionally deal with people who need to be reminded that last time I checked, gaming required use of hands and brains, not boybits. :P (And, uh, what games *do* you like? SQUIRREL!)

#43 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 06:04 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @ 41: *big hugs in return!*

Trying to answer that feels as though I am the immovable object against an impossible force. Shit, it goes deep.

So. Er. I play Skyrim? It's good. And Glitch. What do you play?

#44 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 06:18 PM:

Tom -- you know I like you, and I hope you'll take this the right way, but when you ask what someone is getting out of doing something it really sounds as if you think they do it on purpose. Which sounds as if we'd slap our foreheads and say "Ah! Not getting anything out of this! Should stop now!"

I know you've had a lot of success reprogramming yourself, but it's something people respond differently to, in part depending on stuff like their dysfunctional family backgrounds.

So when you ask that, it's as if you went to another planet where everyone was green and had three legs, and they asked you what you got out of being white and having two legs, and allowed as how it might have been a useful adaptation on Earth but now you were off Earth and you should let go of that old stuff and grow another leg and turn green.

What do you get out of asking that question? Can you find another way of saying the same thing that sounds less as like requiring viridian tripedalism?

#45 ::: Loren ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 06:56 PM:

Thank you to the folks on the last thread for the discussion on the importance of getting transport. It made me look at my situation from a different direction. I've been punishing myself for an arrangement my parents probably don't remember.

As far as my family is concerned, I hate driving cars.

The truth is that 20 years ago I resented being allowed the begrudged use of a car for four hours on a Saturday and I was expected to fill the empty fuel tank as well, a nice touch that.

I was an unemployed student at the time and couldn't afford to borrow the family car. I have been walking and spending long hours of my life waiting for public transport ever since.

Last week I bought my first car. I have ownership of my freedom now. It was worth the 6km walk, four bus odyssey to get it. Fortunately the car turned out to be okay as I had to buy it on the spot to get home again.

Climbing into a car and driving for the first time in forever is terrifying, but I'm getting better. I'm now able to remove my fingers from the steering wheel once I reach my destination.

#46 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 07:05 PM:

You're right, Jo, and I appreciate your efforts to try to understand what I was saying. My only excuse is that I personally have found that question incredibly useful for myself, in many situations where it didn't seem as if it would be at first.

In the example you mention, there's a step taken that is very much one which I agree is useless and just plain bad: which is the step to telling someone else what to do. I am not trying to tell you to do anything. I understand that you (and others) have gotten asked a similar question by other people in the past where they were trying to tell you to do something. I hope you know that I hold you as quite competent to do a damn good job of being in the world (and that I admire you both as a writer and a person).

What I get out of asking that question is that sometimes I get an answer that helps me understand where the person I'm talking with is coming from. And it works to train myself to ask it of myself in a way that carries as little judgment as possible. I don't know if I can ask it in a better manner; do you have any suggestions? You are significantly better at many forms of word-crafting than I am. I would actually like to learn how to ask it better, and have made some personal changes in my language to try to do so. I can (and will) make more.

#47 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 07:06 PM:

Bluejo @16: that loud clunk was a penny dropping. So obvious but I hadn't seen it.

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 07:28 PM:

Jennifer, #33: I know I'm smart, I know I'm talented, and I feel paralyzed by the thought of actually succeeding at something, because then I know I need to keep producing, and that's something that I don't think I can handle.

That's an issue you can work thru. What I want to mention here is a caveat picked up from reading a couple of friends' LJs: when you do succeed at something, don't take it back to the people who've said you're stupid and lazy in the hopes that they will acknowledge having been wrong about you. If you've been cast in the role of "family scapegoat", the best you can expect is to have your success belittled and denigrated. At worst, they may actively try to sabotage you. Certainly nothing I did was ever good enough for my parents, but as I was never expecting anything else, it wasn't as much of a problem for me as it has been for my friends. They talk about going to a family event, talking about their personal triumphs, and effectively getting slapped in the face -- no matter what they succeed at, there's always something else they're not doing that's a higher priority.

knitcrazybooknut, #35: I also learned that if I expressed interest or enthusiasm for something, it could be taken away.

Ow. I suspect that's a more common controlling approach than you realize, and your current set of reflexes is exactly what I'd expect it to produce. Best of luck in breaking out of that trap.

forgot the name, #39: The problem in my family is that they want me to be happy, for values of 'happy' that assume 'success' and by 'success' they mean 'lots of income'. My interests, such as they are, are not what are considered profitable.

You are not alone. A lot of people who want to go into art or writing get this. I got a version of it too, because I didn't want to get rich, I just wanted to have enough money to be comfortable and do my hobbies. Hobbies that didn't include having children. I think if I had either gone the domestic route or the high-powered career woman route, I'd have had less trouble. But I was neither fish nor fowl, and although my life made me happy, my parents never could understand that.

#49 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 07:49 PM:

Under the general category of "You have GOT to be kidding me", I decided today would be a good day to call some of the phone numbers listed on my eviction notice as resources of legal aid/info for same, since the notice itself is deficient in such info as how to respond, and to whom.

So I called the Legal Aid Foundation of LA and spoke to a very nice woman who, based on my description of the notice I received, told me I had gotten a courtesy notice from the court that eviction papers had been filed--but that I have NOT, in fact, been served with eviction papers. She said I'd have to go to the courthouse listed on the notice (close to me, fortunately) and ask for copies of the "Summons and Complaint". When I have that, the Legal Aid person said, she can help me do what's necessary to respond.

So I go out to my car at a hair past 11:00 AM to go to the courthouse. At 11:03 AM, I'm on the phone with the Auto Club because the battery refuses to turn over. Then the service trucks arrives (11:25 AM), the guy checks the battery--no juice. He can jump-start my car, but as soon as I turn it juice to start it up again.

And he doesn't have the right size battery in his truck, so he calls one of his fellow drivers, who apparently does have the right kind of battery and will be at my house in 10 minutes or so.

Half an hour later, the other driver shows up with the new battery. The guy who responded to my service call then installs the new battery, cleans the connectors, etc., tells me to start it juice. He reasons that the battery has sat in direct sunlight in the other driver's tuck for so long that it's lost its charge, so he jump-starts my car again and we wait, car idling away, for the battery to get charged up enough for me to safely risk getting out of the driveway.

What feels like another half an hour later, service tech (a very nice and professional young man named Raul) says I should follow him to his base mechanic, and once there, the mechanic will charge the battery for me--it should take about an hour. Okay, at least it'll be done. It's already been $100 I really hadn't planned on spending right then, but I won't have to worry about the car not starting. I follow, the mechanic hooks the charger to the battery, and I sit an read for...oh, half an hour, perhaps.

At which point Raul, who left to scare up a different new battery, returns with same, installs it, and woot! Car starts right up! Turns out that replacement battery #1 was cracked at the bottom, possibly due to having been dropped. So at 2:30 PM or so, I finally head off to the courthouse.

Where I discover that the response I have to file to the eviction, even though I have not yet been officially served, will cost me $225.

The bank wants me out; they are "willing" to pay me, or are at least offering, $X. Which should be available the day I move out, to be given to me by either their liaison or the inspector, once they've determined the place meets their definition of "broom clean". But it might take another couple of days after that. But it should be ready on moving day.

So the bank, in its eagerness to have me out, files an action that's going to cost me just more than half what I have in the bank at the moment. Funds I was planning to use to, oh, I don't know, maybe use to put a deposit on a new place. Or pay an agency to re-home or foster the cats. Or, maybe, buy food and gasoline. True, I didn't have to pay it today, but the court clerk said I should file my response as soon as possible, lest the bank decide I've defaulted and go to town.

Does this strike anyone as a tad counterproductive?

I can't take this anymore. I know the world isn't fair, I know other people have it worse off, I know that I can and will survive this but goddammit, I can't deal with this crap anymore. And I don't know if the Legal Aid people I spoke to this morning are a free service or not. Wouldn't that be the icing on the cake? Wouldn't it just?

I'm sorry for ranting, but this is one reason why, when people say that something can't get worse, I always reply, "yes, it can, and I'd rather not find out how." I wonder who said it this time and I wasn't there to counteract it...

#50 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:04 PM:

forgotthename @42: Right now I'm spending most of my time on Oblivion -- I tend to run a release behind on the Elder Scrolls, so I get all the DLC, etc. at once, and all the mods are updated. *grins* Still wending my way through Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dragon Age 2. All those are on the PC; on the XBox360 I'm in the middle of a Mass Effect 1/2 replay, in prep for ME3 this spring, and From Dust, which is a gorgous little indie "god" game, and Cthulhu Saves the World, which is a hilarious FF/Mythos satire. Oh, and City of Heroes, while we wait for Star Wars The Old Republic...

Then there's the tabletop RPGs, which run the gamut from planetary romance to Dresden Files, and can only be counted on both hands... My husband and I, we're, uh, *enthusiastic* gamers. ;)

#51 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:17 PM:

Tom Whitmore #45: The problem is that your question "what are you getting out of it?", is effectively a term of art for certain schools of psychology. In particular, it assumes knowledge of transactional "games"¹ and their "internal" payoffs² (or the equivalents in other schools).

To someone who hasn't learned about (much less internalized) the underlying assumptions, it provides no insight, but instead comes across as a "gotcha" question, meant to inflict blame upon the recipient.

I don't think it's possible to generically bypass that difference in viewpoint; occasionally I've been able to work out ways to get at the same issues sideways.

¹ As per Eric Berne, Games People Play, et seq..

² Externally-phrased examples: Having one's self-criticism validated ("I was right, I am a fuckup!"), scoring "victim points"³, being "properly punished", etc.

³ Not something to say to someone's face, at least not if you want to continue with productive dialog!

#52 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:41 PM:

Syd #48: *hugs*

Ok, I did a little research on the LA Legal Aid organization - it looks like they have three affiliates that provide free legal representation, and one that does sliding scale based on income. If they don't handle the case for free themselves, here's the list of other local programs that provide the free legal representation.

Please note that I AM NOT A LAWYER, but I found this information on evictions in California.

It appears to me that, having started the eviction process, the bank may have inadvertantly shot themselves in the foot, and it may end up giving you *more* time to get things prepped. But I'm not a lawyer.

My recommendation at this point: you can't do anything more about it tonight, other than gather up your posts on ML about the situation (Instant Handy Timeline For Friendly Legal Aid Person) for when you call back tomorrow. *hugs* So try to take care of yourself, hug a kitty, do something you enjoy.

I really, really wish I could do more than offer a couple links and virtual hugs.

I am full of rage at the bank in question, because this is NOT RIGHT.

#53 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:57 PM:

Bundling a bunch of responses...

Waiting To Die #30: That does sound like bipolar -- and SSRI's (or relatives like Effexor) without mood stabilizers are Bad News for bipolars. Ask a psychiatrist about lithium or other stabilizers.

(Tip: It matters which lithium salt you use -- IIRC, lithium citrate is much easier on the stomach than the the "classic" carbonate, and Wikipedia indicates that a couple of other salts have come into use.)

Stefan Jones #31: Sounds like a normally learned response to me! If the company's new ownership is in fact saner, it might be time to hash out those learned responses with a therapist. (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy deals specifically with that sort of thing.)

Lori Coulson #34: At that mild level, OCD can be made useful. Someone who's reliably prepared for stuff is much valued in most groups and institutions, enough so that a bit of twitchiness is easily excused.

knitcrazybooknut, #35: I also learned that if I expressed interest or enthusiasm for something, it could be taken away.

Arrgghh! That is just evil! {{{{knitcrazybooknut}}}} (that's virtual hugs)

Caroline #38: It sounds to me like your mother "thought of you as the well-behaved, together one", because you were most like her -- she could excuse your failings because she could sympathize with them. It doesn't always work that way, but apparently she was/is at peace with those aspects of herself -- which saved you from being a target of projection for her own frustrations....

Jennifer Baughman #41: That actually sounds like a pretty healthy (and savvy) attitude to me!

Syd #48: Actually, Legal Aid may be able to help cover the cost of the filing, get a waiver, or otherwise assist you. Their whole point is to help people like you who are getting screwed from multiple directions at once.

#54 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 08:59 PM:

An unexpected benefit from reading these threads: they are, in many ways, helping me get better at having a master's degree. Between this and a roommate defending her dissertation next week-- and seeing what her adviser is doing, what her department is doing-- and, I guess, seeing what good research looks like, I've moved from 'dropped out of grad school' to 'left grad school' to, barely, painfully, 'graduated'.

And I'm still reading all of the posts. I'm less likely to comment, but I'm reading and paying attention.

#55 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 09:08 PM:

You know who else* wants us to compare ourselves to others who are worse off so we will stop complaining about being abused somewhat less? The one percent, who claim that all Americans are in the global one percent so shut up.
This is a lie at least twice over:
1)Americans are 5% of the world's population, so clearly only 20% of Americans, at most, are in the "global 1%".
But more importantly,
2) That doesn't make the privileged position of the American 1% any less despicable. Indeed, since the American 1% are part of the global 0.01%, a global perspective only makes them look worse.
And it's a lie when applied to one person's suffering over another's.
*Sorry for resurrecting a meme from 2009.

#56 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 10:47 PM:

@10 Lee: "But [the little voice's] presence should definitely be taken as a Giant Red Flag."

I had been realizing recently that the wonderful "you must always doubt yourself" training I got from my mother gave me a leg up on grokking the academic approach of proving things thoroughly and understanding opposing viewpoints. (It's also part of how I do empathy.) But I thought that *everyone* had a little voice, just one that was...well, littler and softer. If normal people don't HAVE a little voice, that explains a lot about things like why school is harder for them, why they argue differently, how they have self-confidence without constant and extensive fact-checking...

In general life update, family continues to amaze. My fiance's family has, since Easter, been a major problem, bigger than my birth family currently is, and that's saying something. I would love to bitch extensively about the whole thing, but I'm not sure I can file the serial numbers off sufficiently.

The summary is that the happy normal family that my fiance had is turning into a smoldering wreck on the side of the road, all because we came out as alternative lifestyle and the dad freaked out. The dad is, by objective measures, an angry rude bigot who thinks bullying is okay when it gets him what he wants, so since we haven't given in, the freaking out has not stopped. By now it is starting to tear family apart as the 2 main players get madder and insist the others take sides.

I have finally figured out a possible solution to the mess. It might be downright brilliant. I will be proposing it to the mother tomorrow. I think I will start the explanation by saying that I am hoping we can give her back her family for Christmas. Or that at least we're going to TRY. Admittedly, the metaphorical engine will still be making nasty grinding noises from time to time, but maybe it will run.

It is really bizarre having the happy normal family be the source of most current drama in my life, drama worthy of a bad novel or maybe even a soap opera. Hopefully I can make it stop?

#57 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2011, 11:37 PM:

David Harmon @50 -- I suspect that we're getting to the point where this discussion will very shortly no longer be helpful to anyone but myself, which is not the function of this thread. I may acknowledge further replies, but I'll try not to add any more. I realize that to some extent, the way I asked the question triggers that "If someone else knows what I want, s/he can take it away" feeling that some here have been talking about (and that I grew up with, so I would like to avoid causing that response in others). Even though that's not my intention, that's been my effect, and I'm truly sorry for that. Sometimes my curiosity gets me to do things that are not effective.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 01:24 AM:

Tom Whitmore @56:
I realize that to some extent, the way I asked the question triggers that "If someone else knows what I want, s/he can take it away" feeling that some here have been talking about

Perhaps for others. For me, at least, and (from what it sounds like) possibly for Jo, that's not the issue.

What I get out of your questions is a strong feeling that, if the answer is No, damn it, it's not working for me; that's why I'm in this conversation your next question will be So why don't you just change it?

We've all had conversations just like that in the past. Your questions, while well-meant, are also the opening notes in the Hlepy Sonata, and it's an earworm, that piece.

You know this yourself. You said in 45:
there's a step taken that is very much one which I agree is useless and just plain bad: which is the step to telling someone else what to do. I am not trying to tell you to do anything. I understand that you (and others) have gotten asked a similar question by other people in the past where they were trying to tell you to do something.

Unfortunately, your assurance that I hope you know that I hold you as quite competent to do a damn good job of being in the world is not a sufficient talisman against these fears.

I would actually like to learn how to ask it better, and have made some personal changes in my language to try to do so. I can (and will) make more.

It's worth remembering that the questions we ask ourselves are different than the questions that others ask us, even if the words are the same. Subtext and context that are simply not part of internal diagnostics are implicit elements of external questioning. Issues of power, agency and judgement (and fear of said issues) are an inescapable part of interpersonal interaction. Primate dynamics are just like that.

In short, I don't think you can train that kind of introspection outward. Not even to recommend that others do that said introspection.

#59 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 05:06 AM:

Syd@48: Oh sympathies. Sympathies for the car problem and "ARRGGHH" on your behalf re. the bank. This is beyond stupid.

#60 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 06:38 AM:

While I remain a work in progress (as we all do), I'm in much better shape now than I've ever been in my life, owing in no small measure to these threads. After three decades, that internal voice in #0 has finally shut up.

Among the many, many things I've taken from them are recognition, hope, encouragement, inspiration, and the realization that resignation was not my only option. Thank you for that.

#61 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 08:44 AM:

My little voice - no, that's not what it is. My sense of the shape of the world has shifted over the past few weeks. The emphasis has changed.

Result: I can't eat. I'm not supposed to eat. I shouldn't be hungry, if I am hungry it's because I'm a bad selfish failure, it doesn't mean I'm allowed to eat. Food is for important valuable people (like my brothers, and my parents), it's not for me. Feeding me is a waste of money and I musn't waste money.

Getting food into myself right now is an enormous struggle. I haven't had a proper meal in days and I'm scared.

#62 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 08:58 AM:

Moonlit Night #55: I had been realizing recently that the wonderful "you must always doubt yourself" training I got from my mother gave me a leg up on grokking the academic approach of proving things thoroughly and understanding opposing viewpoints. (It's also part of how I do empathy.) But I thought that *everyone* had a little voice, just one that was...well, littler and softer. If normal people don't HAVE a little voice, that explains a lot about things like why school is harder for them, why they argue differently, how they have self-confidence without constant and extensive fact-checking...

Well, most people do have at least some internal dialog, and many have quite a lot. To borrow a term from above, some of that dialog is "introjected" -- that is, the person has internalized what someone else said (and generally said often).¹ Some of the dialog, overlapping, is self-critical. So far, that's just part of the "machinery" of the mind.

The trouble sign is when one of those voices, especially an introjected one, is insistently hostile -- an "enemy in your head". Now, that's fairly easy to spot when the voice is overtly nasty, but some enemies are subtler than that.... The point of my comment that Abi quoted, and ISTM the reason people went "Wow""Aha!", wasn't so much about having that particular voice, but recognizing it as one of the hostile ones. (Indeed, it's the internal equivalent of one of the subtler trolls, the one who tries to dismiss your complaint and convince you that abuse is only your just due.)

I'd like to go on to talk about some of the other stuff you brought up, just because I think some of that is tied up in abuse.

Yes, scientists, programmers, and ultimately people in general, do need to learn to doubt themselves -- but normally, that comes after they've learned to believe in themselves in the first place! That is, doubt should be a check on confidence, rather than undercutting confidence before it even forms. Yes, sometimes self-doubt is important, and being good at it can be useful -- but you need the confidence too, and preferably first.² To teach a child self-doubt instead of confidence... damn right that's abusive!

And yes, people with confidence do argue differently, and if they have too little self-doubt, that can lead them into a different sort of trouble -- say, spouting off when they're ill-informed, or biting off more than they can chew. The proper goal is balance -- to trust in your abilities and expertise, but also to know their limits. Conversely, it's good to be open to learning from others, but sometimes the "others" are just wrong... then you want to learn from their errors, not adopt them for yourself!

As for "why school is a lot harder for them..." actually, that's probably mostly intelligence! (You've given plenty of clues that you're well above average intelligence.) Being intelligent isn't everything, but it does give you a lot more options in dealing with the world. Funny thing though, being smart doesn't feel "special" from the inside, so until you start learning how to guess at someone's relative intelligence, it's not obvious why they "don't get" things that seem obvious to you. Conversely, high intelligence can seem "magical"³ to someone who doesn't share it.

¹ The biggest sign that a voice is introjected is probably that it always repeats the same thing, or the same few things. Introjected messages (the good ones as well as the bad) are surprisingly stereotyped, and common to the "voices" in different people, because they generally represent what someone repeatedly said to a child. (Thus comments like "I also have 'the' voice that says...".) If a "voice" always uses the same words, it's certainly introjected, let alone if you can still "hear" whose voice it was!

² Self-referential example: I was a little proud of myself for not posting this note when I first completed it, specifically because: by now, I really should know better than to post lengthy complex comments at 2AM... but too often, I do anyway. It happens I didn't see too much I wanted to change here, but the possibilities are dire....

³ Never mind the folklorists, the true folk definition of "magic" is, "How the *@$^*)#% do they do that?" ;-)

#63 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 09:07 AM:

Abi #57: It's worth remembering that the questions we ask ourselves are different than the questions that others ask us, even if the words are the same.

Just admiring another jewel from Abi!

Froth #60: Yikes! That's not a good place to be in anytime, but if it's developed that suddenly, it's a "psychiatric excursion" -- meaning, something bad is happening to you now. If this is the first time this has happened, it's new and bad.

Please, get help ASAP -- shrink, counselor, friends, whoever you can get hold of. And feel free to tell us about what's happened lately in your life (which may well be relevant).

#64 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 09:51 AM:

Thanks to everyone who replied. I really appreciate it so much, and Abi for starting all of this.

Before yesterday, it never occurred to me I may have a problem with this. Hilariously, I have been joking about having a brief attention span for years without considering this may be something more than playing too many video games as a kid.

Like forgot the name @39 says, I don't really know where to start processing the idea that this might be a brain chemistry thing rather than a character thing. I don't know, it might not be and I might be barking up the wrong tree here. But I know I do have brain trouble sometimes, and I wonder if it's not exactly this then it's something else. I know I should at least go to a doctor about this, but I'm not keen. Part of it is because I don't know where I'd start talking to someone about this- I've found just typing all of this up difficult and even embarrassing.

But part of it also is that over the past couple of years, like a row of freaking dominoes, one by one friends and family have been diagnosed with mental illness, in some cases quite severe. Watching it happen would be blackley comic if it wasn't so horrible. I was talking about one of them, in a pretty light-hearted way, with my step-father the other day. And he asked me, and he absolutely didn't mean anything bad by it, not to go and get a mental problem myself. It was a joke, and he said it because he couldn't possibly have known I've been struggling with things lately, but it brought me up short. Because I absolutely cannot add more weight to the fragile framework of my family right now.

It's been eye-opening to hear about people using the structure of classes to cope. One of the main things I achieved last year was an evening class in drawing. As soon as it finished, I stopped drawing and have hardly done anything in a year. And I just attributed it to the Usual Personal Fault. It didn't occur to me until now it could be something else going on.

I've had an interesting morning. In the last few months, in an attempt to figure out what the hell is going on in my brain, I've been noticing that I work in short bursts. You know the 48-12 thing, which recommends working for 48 minutes then taking a 12 minute break? It's like a complete inversion of that. I'll be doing something, then next thing I know I'm daydreaming, or checking my phone, or getting a coffee, and at times I'm there thinking, what the hell happened? How did my attention slip?

So with all of this in mind, I managed to catch myself before my attention slid away and got some things done. This is all something I need to have a really hard think about.

Renatus @20: We're around the same age, by the sound of it.

Caroline @23: Thank you for the book recommendations. Any others would be appreciated, too. I'm just looking for a good starting point at the moment. I was incredibly disorganised at school. I did more homework on the bus on the way there than I ever did at home. My bag was a complete mess of crumpled paper and stuff I forgot to give my parents. And you know what I've just looked at my current work bag and nothing has changed and now I'm sitting at my desk and feeling like I'm going to cry.

Jacque @26: I have no idea where the introjection comes from, and looking back at the post I made I'm actually surprised that word came out. I had a lot of trouble in the past with my own brain attacking me, but I'm glad to say that it's got better- or more accurately, I think it's found less overt ways to go after me. Part of the trouble is I have a hopeless memory for some things, general detail of past events of all kinds being one of them. Some of my friends amaze me with the details they remember of events from decades ago. I'm not blocking out trauma or anything, I just have a bit of a fuzzy memory. I wonder if stuff I've just kind of forgotten has still left its residue, but because the memory's gone I don't know what the origin is.

Fade Manley @37: To-do lists are the only way I get anything done, although I loathe them. I guess because I associate lists with things I really don't want to have to do. Bizarrely, I get really anxious when I see others making to-do lists that have stuff for me to do on them. That said, they are absolutely essential for me.

I get stressed out sometimes, and I know when that happens my brain-wheels are just going to be spinning and spinning and I won't be able to keep track of what the hell I'm supposed to be doing. So I list what needs to be done in what order, and then follow it. And the thing is, it's like I know I'm going to use up all my mental energy in making the damn list and getting everything on it, because I have to get the list right, because when I'm engaged in the tasks I know I'm going to be delegating my own agency to the list. Like the list is doing the emotional heavy work.

#65 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:05 AM:

David Harmon @52: So far the OCD has been useful -- I have a ritual I call "placating Murphy." When I have to plan an event I think about all the possible things that could go wrong, and what steps I may be able to take to prevent those. For the things I might not be able to prevent, I try to come up with ways to cope with the problem(s) if they manifest.

The things I tend to obsess on are pretty minor -- did I quench all the candles after the ritual, did I remember to turn off the lights at the office, did I turn the oven off, etc. Safety issues most of the time.

I've been on SF con committees for over 30 years, and now I have an idea why...

#66 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:18 AM:

Jennifer Baughman @33: The resident quip around our house for my wife's ADD is "Look, a chicken!" Endlessly modifiable, and helpful to remind us both that it was the brainchemistry, dammit!

#67 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:31 AM:

Waiting to Die @ #30: That you've gone through so many meds and had them either stop working or make things worse, that you have a lot of trouble with sleep, and that you have big mood changes from day to day makes a very strong case for bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder doesn't necessarily look like the classic 'manic depressive'; sufferers of type II (I'm one of them) may not have the good-feeling manias or hypomanias at all, but have highly unpleasant mixed states instead (which, after comparing notes with other bipolar II people, often manifests as being really really angry at everything for no reason).

Medication for bipolar disorder isn't necessarily lithium anymore. There are a number of other medications prescribed now (some are off-label anti-epilectics) that don't have the problems of lithium.

Of the World @ #63: We're around the same age, by the sound of it.

32, in my case!

Part of it is because I don't know where I'd start talking to someone about this

Print out your posts here and hand them over. Seriously. What you've written here is a perfectly good start to opening a conversation with a psychiatrist. From there, they lead the way with the evaluation questions.

Because I absolutely cannot add more weight to the fragile framework of my family right now.

I don't mean to sound like a doomsayer, but this makes an even better case for getting evaluated now, when you're doing okay, than chance the problem worsening and causing parts of your life to come crashing down around your ears. That's what happened to me, and I really, really don't recommend it to anyone.

#68 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:32 AM:

At the end of a party I attended on Saturday, five of us were hanging out and commiserating about the problem of wanting to visit the places our parents live without visiting our parents.

Well, four of us were. The fifth had no idea what it was like, because he likes his parents. As his wife put it, they're interested without being intrusive, helpful, cheerful, and generally sane.

The rest of us just kind of goggled, because it was so far from the world we live in.

That's actually what brought me back to this thread, both of which are fueling my new therapy appointment, because I'm really ready to pick apart these old family patterns and figure out what wasn't right and what I can do about it now.

#69 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:34 AM:

Of the World @63: You know the 48-12 thing, which recommends working for 48 minutes then taking a 12 minute break? It's like a complete inversion of that. I'll be doing something, then next thing I know I'm daydreaming, or checking my phone, or getting a coffee, and at times I'm there thinking, what the hell happened? How did my attention slip?

I do this too. All the damn time. I've been earnestly and seriously struggling to study for a final for several days now, and I'm lucky if I get ten minutes out of an assigned study hour actually spent on it.

At this point, I kinda expect it enough that I can haphazardly compensate, but it doesn't make me feel any better about it.

To-do lists are the only way I get anything done, although I loathe them. I guess because I associate lists with things I really don't want to have to do.

The way I trained myself to like to-do lists a bit better might work for other people who are on the "yay, video games!" side of things.

1) I got an iPhone app (Epic Win, but I'm sure there are similar ones for other OSes) which let me build a to-do list, and then gave me a character who levels up as I complete tasks. She finds different silly magical items, progresses on a journey... It's nowhere near an RPG, but it hit some of the same "Measurable progress!" buttons than video games can, which I found helpful.

2) I seeded my to-do list with things I wanted to do, or at least didn't dislike doing. "Eat breakfast" and "eat lunch" and "eat dinner" were all on the daily list. "Finish reading a book" was on a weekly repeat. "Talk with a friend" and "Spend time with the spouse," daily. Having things which I liked doing, and which made me feel better afterward, on the list meant that it was a lot easier to associate "marking things off the list" with at least neutral feelings, instead of bad ones.

I gave up using the app after a while, but it did help me pull out of certain patterns of inertia that I tend to get trapped in between semesters. So I offer up the suggestion with the usual caveats about how what works for me may not work for other people, and might be worth a try if it sounds more interesting than oppressive to you.

#70 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 12:25 PM:

Of the World @63: You know the 48-12 thing, which recommends working for 48 minutes then taking a 12 minute break? It's like a complete inversion of that. I'll be doing something, then next thing I know I'm daydreaming, or checking my phone, or getting a coffee, and at times I'm there thinking, what the hell happened? How did my attention slip?

Right now, I have a timer on my computer set up for 15 minutes. I'm working *up* to focusing on my job for 15 full minutes, then rewarding myself with a small break. I have to do this, because otherwise I bounce all over the place -- the project we're working on is intensely repetitive, intensely boring, and unfortunately necessary to complete a client contract.

I completely sympathize with your wanting to break down and cry -- I look at my own desk, with notepads, papers, broken earbuds (which I want to take home and try to fix), etc. all over the place, and I almost want to set fire to the whole thing.

Come to think of it, that describes much of my apartment. Except I can't just set it on fire because of all the books.

#71 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 12:42 PM:

Moonlit Night, #55: You've taken part of my post out of context, and I think it's leading you astray. The "little voice" that David and others are talking about is specifically the one that says things like It's not so bad. Other people have it much worse, so you shouldn't be complaining. It's not REALLY abuse because they don't hit you. You're just weak -- if you were a better person, this wouldn't bother you. etc. etc. etc. People who are not living in an abusive environment don't have that voice. If you do have a voice in the back of your head telling you things like that, it's a Bad Sign. What you're talking about is something else altogether.

Froth, #60: You're absolutely right to be scared. This is a genuine medical emergency, not unlike sudden uncontrolled bleeding. You need to talk to someone about it before it kills you. I would think that any sort of medical clinic would understand "I have suddenly lost all interest in eating, can't force myself to do it, and I haven't had a meal in two days" -- and if they're not prepared to deal with it, could provide you with a referral.

Of the World, #63: This is NOT a "mental illness" that you're talking about! Please don't put it in that frame and then use that to prevent yourself from getting the help you need. Sacrificing yourself on the altar of "family" -- and why it's generally not a good idea -- is one of the ongoing themes in these threads.

#72 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 01:08 PM:

Froth @60: Please, please listen to the advice of Lee and David Harmon, and seek medical attention immediately. Your body's trying to tell you that something is wrong.


#73 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 01:20 PM:

Renatus @66: That's some good advice, thanks. I'll see about getting in touch with my doctor. And the app that Fade Manley mentions sounds great.

Lee @70: Sorry, I should have been more mindful of others on this thread and not framed it as an illness.

#74 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 01:35 PM:

#68 Fade Manley - Ohh! - uploading Epic Win now! I use something similar on the computer (Chorewars) to motivate the kids to do stuff around the house, but it wasn't working for me. Largely because it sets up an unfair competition between me and the kids that they can't win. My parents were big on that; I try really hard to avoid it.

I'm hoping I can knock myself out of the funk I've been in since Thanksgiving. We got home from the fun week of being treated like a recalcitrant kid, and my husband was immediately sent off on two weeks of running around Canada for business. In that time I've done no cleaning, made no proper meals, and stopped exercising, writing, or practicing music. This has happened before, but it's usually only for 1-3 days, and seems essentially a small recuperative collapse. This time though, it's been going on for at least ten days, and it's beginning to worry me. Not least because my parents will be visiting us for Christmas (they invited themselves), and there's a lot of prep to be done if I want to get through that in a reasonable balance.

I'm pretty sure shaming/berating myself into getting off my duff isn't ultimately helpful, even if it's the historical method, but the normal "I'm bored, what needs doing?" mode that starts once I'm actually recovered hasn't kicked in either, and I really do need to get moving.

#75 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 01:48 PM:

Physically I think I'm fine, apart from a minor cold. It's not that I'm not hungry. I'm just having difficulty making myself eat.

I haven't managed proper meals, but I've been snatching the chances I get when The Crazy is quieter to get at least some fuel into myself. Mostly toast. I dragged myself by the scruff of the neck into the chip shop on the way home from paying my rent today - it was not at all comfortable, but I have a portion of chips to work through.

I've got generous fat reserves. I won't be starving for a while yet. I really don't want to be sectioned.

#76 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 02:05 PM:

Froth @74:

Given your vocabulary ("chip shop", "sectioned"), I gather you're in the UK.

Have you considered calling NHS24, or whatever the current iteration of it is right now? They can't section you over the phone, but they can give you a good read on what might be causing you to feel the way you do, and whether it's something to worry about.

#77 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 02:16 PM:

Froth @ #74: "I really don't want to be sectioned."

I had to Google that, being an American. Here's a nifty NHS site that explains "sectioned" and why it doesn't appear to be something one ought to fear much at all, if you are willing to *consent* to treatment when you visit a clinic, etc. The "bad parts" appear to occur if you *don't* consent.

Please go see a clinic, a doctor, a counselor.

YMMV, I'm not a doctor, I'm likely not in your country, etc. etc.

#78 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 02:27 PM:

Me@#76 = crossposted with abi @ #75, in response to Froth@#60 and #74

Froth @#60 and #74, my apologies. I just realized, after posting and reading abi@#75, that I'm doing the rather hlepy "Oh it can't be that bad!" thing, in re: "sectioned". Based only on a cursory Google search, devoid of cultural background, etc.

You and those who do not need translation of that term are in a better position to know the nuances of and recognize the fears/dangers inherent in your medical system. I do not wish to lead you or anyone else astray, so again, my apologies.

I do worry, though - what you (Froth) describe @#60 sounds distinctly like a problem - I know that I'd worry were my loved ones to exhibit similar symptoms - and I hope it turns out well. Hence my pile-on attempt to persuade you to seek medical attention.

Good luck!

#79 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 02:31 PM:

I have different experiences with the food thing. That is to say, sometimes my partner has Food Issues. She's found ways to cope -- when it was very difficult to get herself to eat, she mostly focused on protein shakes, which are boring but at least get nutrition in.

So Froth, I'm not going to join the Get Help chorus, particularly because sometimes it's neither practical nor useful to push that. Good on you for the chip shop.

How did your sense of the world shift? I mean, was there a specific cause? Did you see your family recently, or were there other things that went on?

#80 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 02:56 PM:

Of the World, #72: I didn't intend to sound like I was angry with you. I'm concerned for you, that you not let a feeling of "I can't make them worry about me on top of everything else that's happened" prevent you from pursuing your own health. This is not the situation in which to put yourself on the bottom of the priority list!

Cynthia, #73: Would your husband be amenable to having "something come up" that would prevent you from being able to have your parents visit for Christmas? Or is it more the "invited themselves" issue, rather than their actual presence, which is the problem?

#81 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 04:10 PM:

ISTM that being "sectioned" in the UK is like being 2PC'd in the US. This part:

The power to admit someone compulsorily to hospital under the Mental Health Act is applied only to people experiencing severe mental distress who are posing a danger to either themselves or to someone else, and only if they are refusing to accept help and treatment.
(emphasis added)...and this part:
7…A diagnosis of mental disorder alone would never be sufficient to justify use of compulsory power.
Psychologists of my acquaintance in the US talk about someone being "holdable," which (IANAMHP) appears to be based on similar criteria of "danger to self or others."

Involuntary commitment requires the signatures of two physicians on a "Two Physician Certificate," or 2PC. I was appalled that any two could do this, with or without any psychological training at all! Then it was explained to me that they can lose their licenses for doing it without adequate cause. Basically, in practice the person has to behave violently to be 2PC'd.

#82 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 04:38 PM:

Froth @ 74

I can understand worries about involuntary commitment (and I've made some incredibly stupid health decisions over the years, in service to a somewhat similar kind of fear).

But I feel like what you're describing is the kind of thing where the risks of not getting help are profoundly worse than even the risk of possibly getting committed would be -- which isn't even guaranteed to happen, it's just one possibility of many.

I hope you make whatever decisions you need to, to come out the other side safe and happy.

I think you deserve to be safe and happy.

#83 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 05:03 PM:

There's a long way between "I haven't properly eaten for a couple of days" and "I am at serious risk if I do not start eating immediately." I'd really like it if people would remember that and not talk as if I'm at death's door because I haven't had lunch.

I'm not going to the hospital because I don't think there's anything they could do for me. I am not willing to be admitted as an inpatient. So either I'd be given a prescription for anti-depressants, which take several weeks to work if they ever do, or they'd want to admit me so they could feed me, and I'd refuse, and be unable to promise that if they let me go I would eat, at which point I fear being forcibly admitted.

If things don't improve and it becomes a physical problem (seriously, I have good fat reserves. I ate half a meal a day for a month when I had glandular fever a couple of years ago and I survived it just fine), then I will reconsider the benefits of hospital admission or go stay with friends who can look after me for a while.

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 05:09 PM:

...which means everyone (including me) is being too hlepy.

I apologize, Froth. I had intended my comment to be a suggestion on how to gather information without finding yourself forced to act on it. But what you should do is whatever preserves your sense of agency and control.

It's just that you scared a bunch of us, is all. My sister lost her appetite for a while, and it did end up being a medical issue. It was a bad time. I'd rather that didn't happen to you.

#85 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 05:31 PM:

My own experience with food issues is complicated because, in general, I don't like food. There have been times it was easy to not eat and then ignore it because obviously nothing bad was happening-- except for me, not eating is a symptom of something else that I really should take care of. I remind myself to pay attention to when I'm downplaying something that I wouldn't ignore in someone else-- just because it isn't causing a problem doesn't mean there isn't one, and it's good to have a backlog of evidence when I start thinking, "But I haven't been under any unusual stress lately or anything," and I've been doing easy food for a week.

It's really easy for me to ignore information because it's just one data point, and then ignore the next bit because it's just one more.

#86 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 05:51 PM:

Froth #74: OK, you're not completely unable to eat, which cuts the danger factor a lot. This is still a bad place to be in for more than a few days, and you yourself said that you were scared by your situation!

Next thought is, foods with minimal prep...

Have you tried just washing and chomping some raw vegetables and/or fruit? When I get too frazzled or depressed to eat properly, I've been known to just pour a bowl of those pre-peeled baby carrots, or wash and salt a head of broccoli (come to think of it... back in a sec. ...OK, I'm back. With broccoli.) Cherry tomatoes and bell peppers are also good -- anything brightly-colored. Dipping in hummus or the like is optional. I'm talking about veggies because that's my own habit, but fruit is also good for this.

Canned food has its drawbacks, but it is easy. When I'm down to the "need foodmass, can't think" stage, I'll sometimes just rinse out a can of beans or drain a can of tuna/sardines, and grab a spoon or fork respectively. And then there's my ultimate fallback: Those bottles or cans of "protein shakes" (the name brand I know is Ensure), meant for elderly folks who can't eat properly for one reason or another. The stuff's not too expensive -- about $2/bottle in packs -- and it does keep you going.

#87 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 06:05 PM:

@#79 Lee - mostly it's just that after a year where my husband has spent >50% of his time traveling, we really want a quiet couple of weeks at home where the most exciting thing we're likely to do is go see a movie, or play A Very Scary Solstice instead of Christmas carols. We're not averse to having my parents here, except inasmuch as they're likely to want more going on than sitting around the living room. Also, political discussions -blergh! My husband's exhaustion mostly means that I'll have to pick up the slack, and my level of ennui after Thankgiving is worrying me about whether I have it in me.

Except on the subject of politics, my parents mostly don't treat me as badly as they did at Thankgiving unless there's a group dynamic going on that they get swept into. It's a weird little conflation - on an individual basis, I get on with all of my relatives, and most of them seem to consider me a thoughtful, mature person (I'm 42). In large groups, though, the image of me seems to revert to when I was a mouthy, opinionated elementary-school kid. To the point where my eldest brother once gave me a public dressing down about behaving properly at a wedding - not in response to anything I'd done, but on the presumption that if not smacked down, I'd...something? Do a striptease in the aisle?

It's infuriating to the point of making me want to avoid any family gathering above about three people - yet the big family gatherings are the only place I get to see about half of my cousins. Sigh.

#88 ::: AnonCowardSevenBillion ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 06:10 PM:

I am compelled to jump in where I likely don't belong, and note that, as a generalized statement, "... anti-depressants, which take several weeks to work if they ever do..." is highly susceptible to individual metabolism, symptoms, and underlying condition.

Way back in college, when I went on Prozac, it worked in about four days. I doubt I would have graduated at all without it; with it, I graduated a year early.

It was also the wrong drug. Prozac addressed symptoms, but didn't address the underlying condition. A better evaluation at the time might have found the underlying condition, which would have changed so many things it's not really worth speculating about how life would be different now.

This interjection has nothing to do with the comment from which the above quote was taken.

#89 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 06:30 PM:

Froth: could the fact that you have a cold, even a minor one, be contributing to your lack of interest in eating? A blocked nose can sometimes cause a diminished appetite.

No advice. Whatever is going on, I wish you the best and healthiest outcome.

#90 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 07:42 PM:

:/ I wrote a bunch wall o' text about my situation, but the gnomes must have eaten it :( Suffice it to say, reading these, I was in awe of how many were similar to my situation, how very difficult it is to figure out what is right and normal when your family just doesn't do things quite the same.

#91 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 07:58 PM:


I've found your post down in the Spam Pits (it wasn't even in the Gnomes' Queue--something in it tripped the Movable Type filters). It's restored now, and folks can find it at #37, from Shirashima,
posted on December 6, 2011 4:19 PM.

#92 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 08:09 PM:

Thank you Caroline for that comic. The conversation subthread about academia has made me glad, for the first time, that I ended my 9 year grad school career with a Masters, and not a PhD. I was planning on academia, but the job I found suits me, and I like it very much. Academia would have crushed me.

#93 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 09:09 PM:

Cynthia W. @ 87: I get the same thing with the groupthink at family gatherings. I do not understand!

Well, partly I do. I've spent a lot of time thinking about behaviors, and family gatherings for me are usually at my folks' house and my mom is usually putting on a show, which means she's stressed out trying to make everything perfect. So she's already going to say things that are hurtful and boss people around like they're 12. (I'm 40 next March.)

I also do well when it's just my parents. They are different people when the whole family is around. When everyone is there, I have the function of being the one to blame if there's a conflict. I'm too sensitive, I'm too vocal, I'm too picky. Whatevs. I am who I am. I seriously consider saying, "I'm sorry I make you uncomfortable." Like responding to someone calling you a b*tch by asking, "I'm sorry, are you feeling insecure?"

Froth, I wanted to express concern earlier as well, and let me just tell you why. (I promise it has nothing to do with food.)

I'm not very good about jumping to my own rescue and the daily tasks of taking care of myself. (Though I improve all the time.) I'm really really really good at jumping to rescue other people. I think a lot of us with dysfunctional families can only see our troubles for what they are when they are mirrored back to us. We wouldn't think of letting a friend wander around with a broken arm, but when we break our own arms (or have it outsourced), we think, "Oh, big deal. Tough it out." And, speaking for myself only, sometimes I go overboard, reacting to things that happened to me in the past, through other people. I hope that helps, and that you feel better.

#94 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:00 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @93 (that could easily be my handle) - my mother's stress under mass family conditions can rather easily explain her behavior, but it's the mass gestalt that flummoxes me. How can the same brother who trusts me to watch his 9 year old autistic son suddenly think I have no more social awareness than said son because we're at a wedding with the rest of the family? I find I tend to react to family gatherings by retreating and saying very little, specifically because the view of me is that I'm loud and pushy, but it doesn't seem to help. I've literally been reprimanded for taking over conversations in which I've said nothing whatsoever.

#95 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:23 PM:

Cynthia W: IMO, once the collective family consciousness (the hive mind, if you will) has designated you as the troublemaker, then any discomfort or self-awareness can be blamed on you. You're the scapegoat for anything that they want to lay at your feet. I have interesting, constructive, supportive conversations with my parents by themselves all the time. When the whole family is together, the hive mind takes over. I can barely get a word in edgewise; if I mention that I've been interrupted eight times, I'm dismissed for being too sensitive; if I fight my way into the conversation, I'm being combative. The family's ideas on anything from twitter to childbirth are all one mind, one Borg mind, if you will, and resistance is indeed futile. So I've stopped resisting, and it flummoxes them. I no longer participate in those discussions; I just observe, and even my observation makes them self-conscious and sometimes angry.

In their everyday lives, they don't have to see themselves. When I'm around, my presence makes them observant, and they don't like what they see. So if they can blame and shame me for being who I am, that gets them off the hook for anything they might not like in themselves.

I think I got off the garden path. But pursuant to your comment, your brother has worries about the wedding in general. If he attacks someone with his worst fears about the wedding, he doesn't have to experience those fears. He just pushes that energy off to you and you have to fix it for him. The responsibility and stress are now yours. Does that make sense?

My mom used to worry at me all the time and throw all kinds of scattered, stressed energy out into the air and in my direction. It was my job (from about third grade on) to smooth it out, to find a solution, to mellow her out and make everything okay. It's a pattern.

Does that make sense? I hope it helps. And I apologize if anything's cloudy. I just had a weird allergic reaction to something and my eyes "swole up". Nothing dangerous, promise, but I can't scan for typos. (Of course, I just had to check this forum one more time before lying down with a washcloth over my eyes. Priorities, people! *grin*)

#96 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2011, 11:24 PM:

Cynthia W #94: It sounds to me that when the family gets together, the others are reverting to their childhood roles... and expecting you to do the same.

Given you've said that these people are much more reasonable when they're not all together... perhaps you can discuss these incidents with them one-on-one, when you don't have this mass reversion in effect?

#97 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 12:04 AM:

Cynthia, #87: Can you tell your parents what you've said here? That it's been a stressful year for you due to your husband having been gone so much, and that you and he just want to have some quiet time together, and you don't mind them being there, but they should not expect to Be Entertained? And then look up some things that they might find entertaining and have those available to suggest as options if they don't just want to sit around the house with you.

#98 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 02:08 AM:

knitcrazybooknut @95 - that does make a lot of sense - in particular of my mother's behavior this Thanksgiving. She's not a great cook, and hosting always stresses her out. So my husband and I agreed to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her (nothing else was mentioned). When we showed up, she had bought no food, nor had she planned for any meals at all, despite there being eleven people to feed for five days. It took us about half a day to realize that she was expecting us to do all the shopping and cooking, and that any bad meals were thereby our fault - despite us having no warning for anything but the actual Thanksgiving dinner meal.

Dave Harmon @96 - I can and have had conversations like that. They usually feel productive, but then don't change anything within the group dynamic. Ironically, most of my family seems to think of me as a paragon of virtue on an individual level, which is part of why the switch is so flummoxing when they're all together.

Lee @97 - I had thought about telling them we were exhausted and going to be boring, but history suggests that it wouldn't do much good. Having a list of stuff they might like to do that doesn't require us, however, might actually work. Perhaps having them take the boys places so they can do the Grandparent Thing. Both they and the boys would like that.

#99 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 03:48 AM:

Froth: Reverting to what you originally said @60:

Can you make a list of easy-to-make-and-swallow foods that you actually like (or liked when you were eating more easily)? Then maybe go and buy cheap versions (if the voice is saying "Feeding me is a waste of money and I musn't waste money." then counter it by buying real basics: "See, I'm not spending much money!")

Then maybe sit down with a small portion of one of those foods?

When I'm too tired or too tense to feel hungry, or to cook, or even to chew, my fallbacks are cheap-equivalent-of-Weetabik (with a bit of demarara sugar on top for texture and flavour) and couscous with grated cheese or cream cheese, microwaved - really, with either of those all you need to do is put a sponful in your mouth and swallow. Minimises effort and the actions required for eating, which might help?

#100 ::: Hannah ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 05:27 AM:

My problem is not that bad. No, really. :p I'm 25 years old, and this year, for the first time, will be spending Christmas on the opposite coast from my family. My parents are getting a divorce -- my brother and I were informed on December 26th last year that Mom was moving out, so this will be the first holiday season that I wouldn't really be able to spend with my family anyway.

So yes, a completely different order of magnitude than what most of the commenters here are dealing with. My parents were not abusive when I was growing up. They've tried really hard over the past year to not put me (or, presumably, my brother) in any sort of awkward or painful situations, and have for the most part succeeded. I've learned a lot about how to set boundaries for what kind of emotional shenanigans I am and am not willing to deal with, and they've been good about respecting those. I have a lot of respect for my mom in leaving a relationship that was painful for her. The situation still sucks, and I wish that I had parents that I could still sort of look up to as parents, instead of just seeing them as people.

So there's my tiny little yawp. It's not that bad. I just feel like I'm still not old enough to be adult about this.

#101 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 07:54 AM:

I've realized the following in the last few weeks: that someone in my circle telling me my feelings are too intense, or that I take things too hard or too personally, can feel like an attack in itself, a realization that isn't new, but I Finally concluded that No One is allowed to tell me what to feel or not feel, and therefore, one is out of bounds to tell me that what I feel is Too Much. I want to retort: Are You Me? No? I didn't think so, so please don't assume you know what is too much.

The other side is to consider sadly that most people in my family do not Want to deal with my feelings at all. I understand this with my mind----but of course my heart says bleh to all that. Bleh to a lack of compassion, bleh to a lack of empathy, and bleh most of all to a lack of respect.

A concrete example: freaking out in my mother's kitchen when I discover that my stash of clean dry kitchen towels expressly put away for baking (because dough and food needs CLEAN DRY towels without fuzz, and because oven mitts don't exist in this kitchen and so clean folded thick cotton is the solution) and to have my mother say there are plenty of towels, when there are only four of what ought to be twenty in the drawer. Where the rest went? I can only say that my gut tells me it is another episode on teh show Gaslighting.

Then to be told I am overreacting? That just made me cry. Which is Gaslighting 101, I guess. Those towels make my work easier, and the removal of them just in time for the holiday rush of Things to DO in the Kitchen smacks of cruelty. Because I needed those extra towels to lift a particularly heavy dish out of the oven. Because I'd spent the last ten hours cooking a dish for a party hosted by my parents, as part of my Contribution to The Household. Because I knew later that they wouldn't even make sure I would have time to eat.

Later I marvelled at how my feet hurt and then I remembered I hadn't been able to sit down in the last twelve hours. I should take better care of myself. Resolved to NOT do any more baking or cooking unless I really want to deal with the towel shortage. Also, the previous episode on teh show Gaslighting? The way my work drawers that had my baking and cooking tools EMPTIED and replaced with dirty hardware tools by my mother. Who doesn't cook or bake. Who knows I do. Who yet expects me to continue on like a good daughter, even if my candy thermometer is missing and so are my other hand tools! Sigh.

Yes, I know this reads like I don't even know how to stand up for myself. I am aware that my love for baking is being turned against me. The one thing I can do well and I cannot even do it that well now because of the handicaps thrown in.
There'll be no gingerbread this year because they took my rolling pin. How perverse is that?

#102 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 08:15 AM:

Ma Larkey, that is effed up.

Shirashima, I hope that your family comes through your mother unscathed.

#103 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 08:17 AM:

ma larkey @101 - that doesn't sound like you don't know how to stand up for yourself, that sounds like someone in hostile circumstances picking their battles carefully.

Physical gaslighting (moving things around and denying having done so) is both hostile, and an alarming sign. Please take the best care of yourself that you can.

#104 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 08:37 AM:

@David Harmon in #61, and @Lee in #70:
I definitely do have those "insistently hostile voices" in my head. They've always been there, because they started out as all my relatives. (There's also the remnant of a helpless silence that was my sister.) Listening to them was probably one of the only ways to get through alive without help, and there was no help. I can recognize who or what they are sometimes, but often the voice's suggestion WAS always normal in my life, with few points of comparison, and comes across as Reality instead of Person's Opinion.

The hostile voices also often shade into the reasonable voice of self-doubt or second thoughts without any obvious seam. So most of my inner life is dosed with emotional poison, and I can't always identify which parts make sense and which are poison and what would make sense if it weren't drenched in poison. I have to spend a lot of time some days sorting that out.

These days I can recognize the poison some of the time, which is major progress. You could SEE my therapist relax and mentally chop some big chunk of time off his "how long to heal" estimate when I told him the list of things my mother taught me (all very nasty, I promise) is all lies.

I certainly was taught self-doubt instead of confidence, and it's hard to learn confidence without going overboard. I keep cutting myself off at the knees. I know I'm very intelligent, but I try not to be an ass about it by assuming I'm special. Instead I tend to treat too much of the stuff I do/know as "anybody could do it," in part because other people DO know and do it, and I see it all as learnable. However, if you asked me would anyone else do it exactly like I do, the answer to that is "no," so in time I might make it to confidence.

#105 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 08:38 AM:

Hopefully without jumping on/being too hlepy to Froth (who has made it clear this isn't the only or even prime reason for not seeing a doctor), I want to reinforce what Neutrino#81 said about Sectioning.

I am not a British psychiatrist*, but as Neutrino's link makes clear you cannot be sectioned unless you are refusing treatment and reperesent a danger to yourself or others. Sectioning requires the agreement of two doctors and either a social worker or close family member and is not entered into lightly - IMHO, you would have to be both refusing to eat and at imminent medical risk before it was considered. Whatever else you can may about our legal system, removal of patient agency based on lack of capacity is very closely regulated.

The usual route for someone funtional** to see a psychiatrist would be a GP referral***, so even if your GP initially palms you off with antidepressants that don't work for you, raising the problem with him/her is probably still a good first step. If you do decide you need help and your GP is unhelpful or not available, your local authority should have a mental health crisis team.

* although I am closely related to one
** as opposed to, for example, someone picked up by the police during a psychotic episode
*** most likely to a community mental health team, who are often not even hospital based

#106 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 08:59 AM:

Cynthia W. #98: Gotcha, but the next step in the sequence is for you to waylay offenders, still one at a time, but at an event -- or preferably, just before the actual gathering-together starts. "Hey, Mom. Do you remember that talk we had at <prior occasion>? About how I'm not a teenage scapegoat anymore?"

And for the record, I also agree with Lee and knitcrazybooknut that they are both dumping and projecting onto you. That sort of behavior will be difficult for them to change, for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't hold their feet to the fire.

Which is why the third step is, when they do it in the gathering, you look at them like they're the balky child, and say. "Mom! We talked about this, remember?"

ma larkey #101: Not just gaslighting, but active sabotage, and yes, cruelty. I guess they're taking advantage of the holiday to double-bind you?

Sigh. <remainder of note deleted for hlepyness> I was suggesting more kickback, but that requires being able and willing to "make a scene" yourself, and it sounds like you're not up for that. At which point I got nothin'. :-(

#107 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 09:24 AM:

Moonlit Night #104: (There's also the remnant of a helpless silence that was my sister.)

This had me crying in the shower. More later, as I need to go to work.

#108 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 09:38 AM:

Here's another data point for the wonder that is this annual conversation: Thanks to all of you it finally occurred to me to go google daughters of narcissistic mothers and see what I found, and ding ding ding! We have a winner!

There's something so validating about realizing that her crazy isn't actually about me and my not being right/whatever.

#109 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 09:48 AM:

Thank you for your note on it being alarming, Cynthia W @103. Yes it does mean my mother is actively making things terrible, and on the face of things in front of her guests acting as if she is all so innocent. No, I didn't have it in me to make a scene at the party, even after a guest kindly approached me as I was in the kitchen to ask me to eat as well.

What compounds the whole switching drawer contents and hiding my kitchen towel stash is of course the fact that I only have so many spoons, and losing a spoon, precious energy, just because my tools aren't where they should be, is just extra icing on the very sickening cake.

I have to remind myself again and again that my mother will never ever mother me in the way I need it. Another example of being gaslighted, which really is worse than anything, is having my medical records modified at the hospital where she works, so that I wouldn't be able to retrieve my own records. Yes it sounds like a conspiracy, no? Sadly the truth is worse than any fiction I could possibly write. When I finally did get a crucial diagnostic done out of town with the help of a friend, and got the result that told me something indeed was very wrong and my parents had been hiding things and talking to the physicians meeting me behind my back---my mother's response to learning that I had myself tested was to tell me I was an ungrateful child and was shaming her and making her appear as if she had interfered with my diagnosis and treatment. Which she did, but she will deny this forever I guess. The stupid child in me is still holding out for a miracle in which she turns around and admits to what she did.

My mother's other response to my asking for help in finding medical help? She said she refused to use her extensive networks to help me, because it would be TOO EXPENSIVE. Then she turns and buys herself a new car, a new phone and a new laptop and a new Ipad, and asks me to help her learn how to use her new gadgets.

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 11:36 AM:

ma larkey, #109: Altering your medical records is a serious violation of medical regulations. Is there anyone among the doctors you've seen who would be willing to look at the evidence and file a complaint?

The answer to "Where are the other 16 towels that are supposed to be in this drawer?" is NOT "There are plenty of towels." The fact that you know this, and can recognize that you're being gaslighted, is a good sign. Is there any way for you to keep a record of this sort of thing that your mother can't find and destroy/modify? Hard evidence, over a period of time, will be helpful to you in resisting the gaslighting, and may be vital at some point in the future if you need to turn to outside help.

I'm also seeing echoes of "anything they know I like, they can take away from me" in the way you've described this.

#111 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 02:28 PM:

Jacque, could you say more about how you found out what your ambitions are?

Also, I want to try tracking my moods and what might be influencing them. Anyone have recommendations for software?

#112 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 02:54 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @93: I seriously consider saying, "I'm sorry I make you uncomfortable."

Heh. ::evil grin:: You're responding to the actual issue without buying into the illusory one. I've seen responses like this work miracles with passive-aggressors. I would suggest one minor tweak:

"I'm sorry you're feeling uncomfortable." That dumps all of the responsibility in their lap, where it belongs.

knitcrazybooknut @95 ct Cynthia W. @94 When I'm around, my presence makes them observant, and they don't like what they see. So if they can blame and shame me for being who I am, that gets them off the hook for anything they might not like in themselves.

I think you're spot on with this analysis. Were I in your place and feeling evil, I would take this as license to do or say any damn thing I felt like, because, hey! Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb, right? :-)=

ma larkey @101: Put a lock on the baking-tools drawer? Hm, okay, maybe not. Lockbox in your room? ::sigh:: I can only imagine what kind of escalation that would lead to. Reading your story makes me want to weep. "Ya want I should wash his car, boss? Ya want I should take him for a ride?" Okay, probably not. {{{HUGS}}}

Moonlit Night @104: Listening to [the voices] was probably one of the only ways to get through alive without help, and there was no help.

HUH. This tangentially reminded me of something I haven't thought of in a while, sort of an inversion of what you're talking about here.

One of the Goddamn Tapes my mother installed was about being Self-Sufficient and Independent. I spent the first forty years of my life being effed up about this, until I finally worked out that this was a priority value of mine as well. It wasn't until I untangled my values from what she'd shoved on me that I finally got some stability in supporting myself.

Nancy Lebovitz @111: Jacque, could you say more about how you found out what your ambitions are?

Are you referring to my @26? I will answer in a separate comment, as it is likely to take a while to compose.

#113 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 04:23 PM:

WRT Gaslighting and lesser evils: abi just reminded me, in a private conversation, of the importance of objective measures and what a flaming relief it is to be able to look at one's behavior, point at a specific number (like, say, with your finger), and think, "Whew! I'm okay!"

One of the recurring themes I see, particularly in the family-group dynamic sub-thread, is that the metrics used against people are all in other people's head, so you never know how or if you might be screwing up.

The installed state of chronic anxiety does as much to control/abuse the victim as any physical threat, and is so much more energy efficient!

And a pernicious legacy of growing up in these fuzzy-threat kind of circumstances is that it never even occurs to one to look for objective measures.

#114 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 05:13 PM:

"And a pernicious legacy of growing up in these fuzzy-threat kind of circumstances is that it never even occurs to one to look for objective measures."

And at least in my case, because the threat was fuzzy, the fear is also fuzzy. One of the most useful tricks I've learnt for dealing with anxiety is to ask myself what it is I'm afraid of, and reality-check those consequences. My housemates are not likely to beat me up if I go into the communal room while they're watching the television. My landlord is not going to confiscate my keys because I lost my chequebook and will have to do a bank transfer in a couple of hours instead of giving him a cheque in ten minutes - even if he wanted to, I have to be thirty days late with the rent before he can legally evict me. And so on.
But until I explicitly verbalise what I'm afaird will happen, I don't notice that it's an excessive and unlikely consequence.

(Yes, I'm asking myself what I'm afraid will happen if I spend money on feeding myself...)

#115 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 06:07 PM:

Jacque @113 - That's exactly why one night I hung out at a family gathering without saying anything at all. I'd been accused of steamrolling conversations repeatedly, and while I was pretty sure it was unjust, I just couldn't get the possibility out of my head that they were right, and I was the one with the messed up view of what happened. So I spent a night completely silent (not even "Yes", "No", or "Thank you")

When the next morning I was dressed down again for monopolizing the conversation, it was a tremendous relief to know absolutely that I wasn't the one with the problem. Even though I was then accused of making it up when I told them I hadn't talked at all. Everyone was quite certain they remembered me saying things, even if they couldn't quite remember what or whethou

#116 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 06:09 PM:

Erp - or "when" not, or whethou. Ironically my correction in preview went far more wrong than the original thing I was correcting.

#117 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 06:20 PM:

Froth @114 -- I find that approach useful myself, when I can remember to use it. Remembering -- that's the hard part.

#118 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 06:37 PM:

ma larkey, #109: Agreed with Lee #110, and I'll also note that unlike the kitchen sabotage, tampering with medical records is a third rail that runs way outside her influence. If she's pulled that on her own daughter, I shudder to think what she's done to strangers or co-workers who "didn't respect her" or offended her prejudices.

A few other thoughts:
1) looking back, I see resolved to NOT do any more baking or cooking unless.... Obviously, it's not my place to decide, but given that your mother is actively sabotaging your efforts, I'd say you have No Obligation Whatsoever to continue contributing to your mother's parties. And if you're asked why, you can feel free to say that "around here, the tools I need for cooking don't seem to stay put", optionally with Meaningful Glance.

2) If you're stuck living with her (you haven't actually said), I suggest you carefully think about exactly what's trapping you there, and possible ways around. Frankly, the medical tampering has me spooked.

3) I note you mentioned "parents" but haven't specifically referred to your father. Is your father a separate set of problems, or "just" in thrall to your mother?

#119 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 06:45 PM:

Book recommendation: Above I used the term "in thrall". That's a reference from Scott Peck's other important book, People Of The Lie. In his more famous book (series), he considers the nature of Good and Virtue. In POTL, he discusses his experience, as a shrink, with Evil. (He proposes a diagnosis to be listed under Personality Disorders.) As he warns in the preface, it's not comfortable reading.

One of his findings is that when he sees a couple (often the parents of his patient) who are actively abusive, one of them is invariably dominant, while the other is under their psychological control -- that is, "in thrall" to the first. I don't think he actually makes an analogy to the Sith, but it's not a bad comparison.

Another author who shows a deep understanding of evil is C.S. Lewis, particularly in his "Space Trilogy" (Out of the Silent Planet, et seq.). While some of the details haven't ages well, the goings-on in his "evil corporation" ring true with respect to both modern cults, and psychological abuse.

#120 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 06:59 PM:

Froth #114: That sort of fuzzy-threat situation is a major theme in C.S. Lewis' treatment that I mentioned above. An interrelated theme is the refusal to provide actual rules for not being punished -- indeed, threatening people who try to ask about the rules.

Cynthia W. #115: Way to go!

#121 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 09:06 PM:

Cynthia, #115: Good move! If you're interested in taking the next step, get a cheap voice-operated tape recorder -- or one of those new mini-vidcams -- and have it running in your pocket all evening. Then when they say you're lying about not having said anything, pull it out and hit Replay.

David, #118: Actually, I rather doubt her mother has pulled those tricks on anyone else. It would be profoundly stupid, and much more likely to be noticed. It would be worth the risk as a control mechanism on her daughter, though -- especially if (as ma larkey suggests) she's got the doctors buffaloed. All part and parcel of the gaslighting process; if daughter complains, it's just more proof that she's hallucinating -- look, the records are right there!

#122 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 09:09 PM:

I'd started a collection of thoughts from the DFD thread, for use in the next one. The next one has come around, so here goes:

1. (Similar to topic head) "It's not as bad as —, so it can't be that bad," is not a good thing; one can have it bad enough without being that extreme story that everybody knows about. Actually, the subtle stuff can be worse, because you can miss it while it continues to do its damage.

2. It's not dysfunctional vs. normal; it's dysfunctional vs. healthy.

3. "Gaslighting" is a very useful term that often comes up in these discussions. It's the process by which someone attempts to manipulate your reality. It can be something such as ma larkey's mother moving baking supplies (and then acting as though nothing has happened) or something such as Cynthia W.'s family remembering her monopolizing conversations that she didn't even take part in. "I don't remember it that way" is a hallmark of this process.

4. It's not healthy to tell someone how they should be feeling, or that their emotions "really" are that way. See also "mansplaining."*

5. Narcissism—the idea that the world revolves around the narcissist—is really common in dysfunctional situations. "It's always about him/her" means you're dealing with a narcissist. Unfortunately, narcissists are by definition ill-equipped to see the other person's POV.

6. Forgiveness takes two sides. You can't forgive somebody who is unrepentant.**

7. It is possible for someone to love you and still damage you.

8. "They had their own problems" is an explanation, not an excuse.

9. "The Goddamned Tapes" or "The Little Voice" are those comments that keep popping up, saying you're not good enough, or smart enough, or — enough. They've been programmed into you by other people, to keep saying the things They said even when They are not there.

10. A lot of things are coping strategies to situations that are unhealthy. Think of them like a callous—when you have something rubbing at your skin, it toughens up so you won't be hurt. It also keeps you from feeling things so acutely. The parallels are deliberate. And rubbing away the callous does open you up to being hurt—but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just a scary thing.

*Not just or exclusively used by men.
**There isn't a particularly good term to use in cases of "one-sided forgiveness," where you put the other party's transgressions aside in an attempt to move on with life. Maybe there should be.

#123 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 09:47 PM:

Moonlit Night #104: Your therapist can help you sort out the poison; one of their primary functions is in fact to be an objective observer.¹

Those voices... they're attached to parts of you. Most will be attached to those self-critical faculties, that got hyperdeveloped by the abuse. Obviously, you want to resist those, and drain them of power. But that "helpless silence" from your sister... I suspect that one's a little different. See if you can draw that "voice" forward, and try to nurture it. Talk to it, and think about what it might say if it could speak. Perhaps eventually, you can help that part of you heal enough that it can.

Confidence: Yeah, it's hard to learn it without some danger. That's much of why we try to keep young children off the roof, et pluribus al. Even so, children do get hurt (or worse) while they're learning their limits. Learning confidence as an adult, you don't have the resilience of a child, nor the relative freedom from social consequences. What you do have is an adult (indeed, superior) intellect, and with that you can choose or build safe arenas to practice your confidence in. This being ML, knitting comes to mind -- the worst that can happen is you need to unravel it and start over, perhaps on a simpler project. Similarly, baking is a small hobby of mine -- even if I completely blow something, I've only wasted a bit of flour, sugar, and such.² And while I haven't tried it myself, I've heard many good reports about Toastmasters.

Intelligence... high intelligence works a lot like being particularly strong, where "training" strength corresponds to education and learning. Yes, it is unseemly to boast about it or show off out-of-context, but that doesn't mean you need to hide it. Similarly, assuming "anyone could do it" isn't necessarily kind to those who can't... or even fair to the guy who'll need to move that box you packed.³ ;-) But of course, using it to help others, that's almost always a Good Thing.

¹ I actually had a therapist who became ineffectual because he liked me too much (and was too impressed with my intelligence). That made him reluctant to contradict me when needed. :-(

² It occurs to me that creative tasks in general share this property. (Power tools and the like notwithstanding....)

³ I've managed to do that to myself! During one of my breaks from college, at 20, I put many big boxes of books and such in storage. Some of those stayed in storage until I was pushing 30, and needed to move interstate. That was when I realized I'd lost some of my youthful strength....

#124 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 10:19 PM:

I really appreciate the comments, even the one about the car wash, and the ride.

I don't know how to go about getting someone to sign something that will imply my mother did something to interfere with my records. I have told my story in detail, even to other physicians and the response seems to be disbelief, or just minimizing the thing, because it's really horrible on the face of it. One of my friends put it this way: my mother probably thinks this is done all out of love, and therefore, it's excusable. Without being too specific I will say that there are other factors that make it unlikely that anyone would "turn in" my mother, or sign a form or report that contradicts what she says to me, which is that she never interfered with my medical care.

As for my father? That's yet another bunch of problems. He's beaten me up for small infractions such as refusing to pour him a glass of water. He's abused me emotionally, physically and sexually.

I need to get away. I do have an apartment I use to barricade myself in, when I can, but this isn't really living because my mother has keys and the title to it. If this sounds really crazy, well, it is, crazier than most shit. I've talked to so many people about my situation that I've been burned before, or stonewalled by confusing advice or stalled by religious or insane admonitions to keep the peace and stay "in warm relationships" with my parents, because they're my only parents. I've asked people to help me escape, run away, take me in temporarily. I've only myself to blame if I didn't succeed the other times I tried.

Right now I am not in the best of health and cannot really move away without lots of help. Since none of my friends who know are able to assist me with that, I have to do what I can and stay put, trying to keep my interactions with my parents and folks to a minimum.

The holidays coming up are sure to be extra stressful as my expected role is to be the super duper Santa and Martha Stewart type to whip up food and clean house and wrap gifts for everyone and buy gifts and give them in my parents' names for their friends and colleagues. I am good at this kind of thing, admittedly, and under other circumstances, I'd see this as the thing to do to Keep Them Happy and off my case. But I'm no longer operating with the same spoon supply. So recently I've just been mostly in bed and in the apartment, trying to figure out how to get away. Sigh.

Thanks everyone for listening.

#125 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 10:34 PM:

ma larkey #124: Damn, your situation really sucks. Well, you have my sympathies, for whatever that's worth.

#126 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 10:35 PM:

"stalled by religious or insane admonitions to keep the peace and stay "in warm relationships" with my parents, because they're my only parents."

Remember, they're your only genetic donors. Donation of genetics does not a parent make.

I'm sorry I'm not in a position to offer direct help.* My parents had a standing offer to do short-term residential space to any of our friends who needed to get out of their homes and that did extend to "without letting your parents know where you are." I don't think anyone took advantage of that latter part but I do know of several people who needed a safe house and took it. I hope someday to be able to do the same.

*I'm assuming you're not in the Sacramento area. Are you?

#127 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2011, 11:41 PM:

About those voices in our heads, or the goddamn tapes, or whatever name you choose to call them. I generally carry around with me inside my head, a version of people who I know reasonably well. They talk to me sometimes. Mostly what they say is consistent with what I know of their personalities, and I can have practice conversations with them before actually speaking to the person in question in addition to their occasional unrequested commentary on what I'm doing. (Usually the conversation doesn't go as planned because the version of them that lives in my head isn't *actually* them, and I don't actually understand people very well.)

One of the voices in my head, when I was married, was my then-husband. Unlike most of the other voices, the version of him that lived in my head was consistently mean to me. Outside of my head, what he said was phrased as "constructive criticism" or "trying to help" or whatever; inside my head what he said was just plain mean.

After he dumped me and I had a few months free of him and with a friend who helped me enormously, I realized that I should actually have paid attention to the version of him that was in my head.

Not to what it said - but to how it said things.

Something in my subconscious was telling me that all those "nice" things he told me were actually mean.

There was in all of them a certain amount of my own negative self-talk overlaid on these other voices, and some of that was generated by the fact that people *do* sometimes look at me like I'm some kind of alien or just grew a squid out of my face or something equally bizarre. But his was the only one that was wildly out of step with our outside-my-head interactions.

It is on my personal list of things to watch out for, now.

I have no idea how many other people have their voices manifest as people they know, or whether any of this will be recognized by anybody as something they've seen themselves. But, you know, post, witness, etc. I'm still reading, even if I haven't posted for a while.

#128 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 12:59 AM:

invisible one at 127-- yes. Indeed. I repeat things back to myself sometimes, and it's strange how they have the same voice but sound so much like different people.

a general note on gaslighting. One thing I find telling is people who use phrases like 'the reality is' or similar thereto. 'The reality is' is one of my family's favourite phrases, and every time they say it I remind myself that their reality is not objective reality, no matter how they insists otherwise. They could be imbued with the rightness of all and it still wouldn't be true, because what I know to be real is a reality, too.

#129 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:37 AM:

I've finally read all the way through this and the previous thread. Thank you to all who shared. I'm amazed by the courage and wisdom you all show. Thanks also to Abi and the other moderators who keep this a safe space.

I grew up in a severely dysfunctional family. In the past when I've said that, people have sometimes challenged it. I'd usually respond by telling them that my father drank himself to death when I was 10, and then there was the violence, suicide attempts etc. That usually shuts them up. But it was actually the neglect that I think caused most of the damage to me. That, and that I was the Golden Child as long as I fulfilled my mother's middle-class fantasy. As soon as I had an idea or preference that didn't match that, she'd just look away and ignore me. That's a great way to teach a kid shame. :-/

But I idealized my mother. I couldn't understand why my school mates didn't want to spend time at my place. OK, my step father was a violent rage-oholic, so I understood they didn't want to come over when he was at home. What I didn't understand was what they meant when they said that my mother was cold. I do understand it now.

When I was in my late twenties, I couldn't hold down a full-time job for more than a couple of months, I had undiagnosed nervous breakdowns, depression, PTSD and so on. I was wreck with several broken off stints at university and no real marketable skills.

But I had done some things right. Foremost of those was choosing a university 400 km away from my family of origin. I had also been on a self-help book kick for about a decade and had found the Goddess. So I was finally ready to ask for help and accept it.

I got into counseling, and after about a year I also got anti-depressants. Like others in these threads, I discovered what it was like to not be depressed. What a revelation! I also found a meeting of Adult Children of Alcoholics, a 12-step fellowship for people who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional families.

12-step fellowships aren't for everybody but I've benefited tremendously from going to meetings and working the steps. A lot of the shares in these threads sound like what people talk about in my meetings, including trying not to be hlepy. As far as I can tell, hlepiness is a symptom of codependence.

Another caveat is that different 12-step fellowships are different. They're intended for different people. I go to ACA (ACA is not Al-Anon) and CoDA. Let's just say that my experience with other 12-step fellowships has not been positive. They work for other people, though. I use ACA for the deep hurt from childhood neglect and abuse. CoDA is great for working on practical skills, like setting boundaries or learning to pace myself.

Last year I worked the steps with a cosponsor group. One of the results of that work is that I now have much more access to my feelings and I actually feel connected to other people in a way that I haven't experienced before. It's amazing! Unfortunately the result of feeling connected and feeling my other feelings as well is that I'm scared of losing my connections with people, and I react with codependent behaviors. Like hlepiness. I'm working on that. It's mostly a problem at work because I don't want people there to know about my issues. (No feedback about not being out at work, please.)

So that's my wall of text. Hope others get something out of it. It can definitely get better! I'm living proof.

#130 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 02:20 AM:

Abi: Could you or another moderator get the gnomes to release my previous comment?

Froth: Having lived in the UK, I know what you mean about sectioning. It's unpleasant in itself and it has serious consequences down the road. Totally understand why you want to make sure it doesn't happen to you.

I have an eating disorder. Different things trigger it. One is feeling like I have no control over my life. Not eating becomes a way of asserting control. Other types of triggers result in the not-eating doing other things for me. It's not always about control.

Through trial and error I've found that talking about not-eating makes it worse for me. The more strongly people react, the more talking about it prolongs it.

I'm not saying this to shut you up. I'm sharing my experience as a straw man. The idea is that if you engage with one description, it's easier to pick apart your experience and see where it is different and where it is similar. It's a starting point. If you don't want to have that discussion in this forum, that's fine with me. Please do whatever helps you the most.

I discovered that I had this weird idea that being anorexic was somehow a badge of honor. It showed that I had character. It sounds loony but then a lot of the stuff I learned in my family of origin qualifies as loony. :-/

Something I discovered the very first time I fell down this particular rabbit hole is that it feeds on itself. I would get a kind of anorexia high from not eating. So I'd be reluctant to eat because it would end the high. From what you've written above, it sounds like your experience is different.

Through my personal experience and reading the literature I found out that as long as I make sure that I drink plenty of fluids, eating less than normal for a week or two isn't particularly harmful if it only happens once or twice a year. So I would drink sugar-free Robinson peach squash or Ribena diluted with 2/3 of hot water.

For me any intellectual thought about food made it harder to eat, so when I saw something I might actually enjoy eating, I grabbed it and started eating. If I was going to reason out the most nutritious thing to eat, I'd end up not eating anything. One Galaxy bar per day is much better than nothing at all. Sometimes that one Galaxy bar broke the dam and I started eating normally again. Other times I ramped back up slowly. The less pressure I put on myself to eat, the easier it was to quit starving myself.

I'm going to shut up now. If you want to talk here, feel free to comment. If you don't -- no sweat and no explanations necessary.

#131 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 04:09 AM:

Cynthia W. @115: "One of us is hallucinating, and I don't think it's me." Wow. ::chills:: Good on you for rendering this test. I confess, I wouldn't have the first clue where to go from there, but it's really interesting data.

David Harmon @120: An interrelated theme is the refusal to provide actual rules for not being punished -- indeed, threatening people who try to ask about the rules.

Shades of the PayPal Clusterfsck Teresa reports on elsethread, as well as our burgeoning American police state.

ma larkey: Following on what David Harmon and Lee said (and I echo David's spookedness—especially if details she's altered ever impact actual diagnosis or treatment decisions), have you taken any steps to have copies of your medical information stored in a safe location where your mother can't get at it? Purely aside from your own personal safety, it might be pointful to have a "control" set at some point down the line.

Reading your @124 lends some urgency to this notion. Were I in your place, I would get in the habit of asking for copies of test results as they are done, and send them to a separate, unrelated location. I would volunteer as keeper, but my instinct is that you need someone who can act in a professional capacity, either legally or medically, where confidentiality protections apply.

Thanks everyone for listening.

Well, keep talking. We're listening, and we like helping where we can. :)

B. Durbin @122: "I don't remember it that way" is a hallmark of this process.

*click* *click* ::THUNK::

Well, I will truly be go to hell. My mother used to pull that shit on the rest of the family ALL THE TIME. I'd always regarded it as controlling and narcissistic, but it never once crossed my mind that it could be classed as actively abusive. *Huh*

That's a really good list.

David Harmon @123: But that "helpless silence" from your sister... I suspect that one's a little different. See if you can draw that "voice" forward, and try to nurture it. Talk to it, and think about what it might say if it could speak. Perhaps eventually, you can help that part of you heal enough that it can.

Effing brilliant. Um. Wow.

Apel Mjausson @129: Recovery Patterns of Codependence

That's another really nice list; interesting companion to B. Durbin's list.

No feedback about not being out at work, please.

Sorry, can't resist: one of the characteristics of setting good boundaries is recognizing that different boundaries are appropriate for different situations. I would be worried if you compulsively confided to your work-mates the same way you did with people you know outside of work. So there. ;-)

#132 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 06:17 AM:

I just wanted to drop back into the thread once more before relurking to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who's shared their stories here, and in particular to the people who've been sharing about ADD. I've had a hell of a week since I've started reading up on this. So much of what you've all been talking about is familiar, but it's never, ever been something that I would have attributed to myself. I honestly thought my troubles were just a fault with me. I read this article about gifted children and ADD and pretty much broke down because it's the first time I've ever seen my childhood, from elementary school through to college, so perfectly described.

I had a difficult but enlightening coversation with my partner. We went through some of the symptoms, particular those relating to me forgetting to do things, getting distracted, and hyperfocusing, and it turns out a lot of them are things that have always frustrated my partner about me. We're already talking about finding ways of dealing with stuff better than we have been.

I'm going to do some reading, book an appointment with a doctor, and then see where I go from here. I feel like I'm the middle of an enormous shift in my perception of myself. I've absolutely been reassessing just about my whole childhood this week.

Jennifer Baughman: If you hadn't shared about your experience @915 in the previous thread, I wouldn't have made some connections and started looking into this. Thank you so much. I don't think I have the words to express how grateful I am to all of you.

#133 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 10:03 AM:

Jacque, #131: When I tried to talk to my parents, in later years, about some of the really nasty shit they'd pulled when I was growing up, their invariable response was, "I don't remember that". As this was long after I'd moved out on my own, I didn't take it as gaslighting but as a cop-out, like the way Reagan kept saying "I have no memory of that conversation" in the Iran-Contra hearings: a useful and unassailable lie. If they meant it -- if these things that had scarred me for years were so trivial to them that they honestly couldn't remember having said/done them -- that was even more contemptible.

Having it done to you in the middle of an ongoing situation is something completely different. My mother was good at this, but mostly in the context of an argument. She'd say something, 5 minutes later I'd quote it back to her, and she'd swear up and down that not only did she not say that, she never said anything that could be interpreted as that, and why was I making things up? To which my usual response was, "You know very well you did, why are YOU lying about it?" I think the fact that my parents were never physically abusive -- and possibly my own innate stubbornness -- allowed me to hang onto my own sanity about crap like that.

#134 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 10:11 AM:

Catching up with the thread:

me #123 re: Moonlit Night #104: Looking back, I see I come over as a little pushy about recovering that "silenced voice". Just to clarify, I'm not saying you have to do that... but if you do, I think you will find the results greatly rewarding.

#135 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 10:48 AM:

The invisible one #127: That's usually called "modeling", and it's a standard part of human psychology. As usual, it's more prominent for some people than others, and it often interacts with "dissociation", the splitting off of parts of our mind. (A classic example of mild dissociation is the "voices of conscience and temptation" -- commonly portrayed by that angel/devil pair who've gone past convention into running-joke territory.)

Jacque #131: Shades of the PayPal Clusterfsck Teresa reports on elsethread, as well as our burgeoning American police state.

Yeah. That "Red Family, Blue Family" model used family as a model for government, and governance. But remember, dysfunction isn't just about organic mental illness -- it can also represent a failure to handle stress or disaster. The world has changed drastically over the past few decades, and faster over the past few years. A lot of corporations, and arguably our government, just haven't been able to handle that.

Admittedly, there's also a good argument that our nation was born with a deep dissociative split -- our Red/Blue division traces all the way back to the original desperate alliance that brought all thirteen colonies under one banner.

Gaslighting: I got the "that never happened" bit too as a kid, aggravated by the fact that my own memories are often uncertain, and my recall slow. It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I started to realize that at least some of those cases were my mother and sisters rewriting their own memories....

#136 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 11:36 AM:

Re "I don't remember it that way", "that's not what happened", etc.

I am a writer. I have always been a writer, since 7th grade or maybe even sooner. I keep myself from writing, every day. I know this about myself.

When I actually had the gall to enter a program for an MFA in Creative Writing, the outward facing version of my parents was thrilled and proud and glad to have me doing something that reflected well on them. The private version (of my mother, specifically) was horrified. Because what if I wrote something bad about her.

She started reciting a mantra whenever someone would ask me about what I was writing. "Remember, that's Sarah's version of what happened. That's her perspective." All in a tone which made it clear that my perspective was: faulty, out of touch with reality, wacked, skewed, selfish, and final answer? CRAZY.

Right now, I'm at a turning point in my life. I started my own business as a Life Coach, and I have my own website, on which I've started blogging. For a week, I posted a blog piece a day, and it was easy, fun and totally satisfying. Talking to people and helping them figure out what to do, clarifying emotional issues, and encouraging people is what I was born to do. I love it. I need to build a client base and blogging will help me do that.

But I've reached the point in my blogging where I need to start writing about myself, my life, my experiences, my past. And that is not okay with my mother. So I am working up to it. I'm getting there. But it's a tough wall to climb.

Jacque, I think it was you who mentioned saying and doing any damn thing you wanted, if you were going to be held responsible for things you didn't do anyway. When I read that, my immediate reaction was, but then they might not let me come back anymore!

I read somewhere that when you're training a rat to push a button, random rewards work better to reinforce behavior than consistent rewards do. If the rat is kept guessing, they'll hammer on that button forever, trying to get that pellet to come out. That's me. I never know whether I will be welcomed and supported, or attacked and villified (sp?). So I keep suppressing myself, my personality, my stories. I keep trying for that pellet that will sometimes show up, and sometimes not. I keep hoping.

It's not optimism. It's slavery. I gotta quit.

Anyone want to hold me accountable? Every morning I say I'm going to write the blog post in my mind, about grief and pets and my past, today. Line in the sand. I'm writing it today, one way or another.

It's been said before, but I'll repeat: This forum, this audience, has been invaluable to me. Thank you, all of you.

#137 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 11:45 AM:

knitcrazybooknut #136: Line in the sand. I'm writing it today, one way or another.

Go for it!

#138 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:17 PM:

My mother often doesn't remember saying things she said, or hearing things she was told, even when there are witnesses in the room.

She's 79. How do I tell the difference between her usual emotional crap and the possibility that she is having problems with short-term memory? (which she denies, of course)

Because if it's just her usual emotional crap, I've pretty much learned to discount it. But if it's the other, I have a problem on my hands.

My mother also believes that simply continuing to state and restate her opinion or decision, will inevitably lead the other person to concede that she, my mother, is in fact correct. Even when she is wrong on the facts. Even when she is wrong on the advice. Even when she doesn't know what the hell she's talking about. If she says it enough times, she will Win the Conversation.

I hang up on her fairly regularly these days and she then accuses me of being childish. Since she doesn't actually listen when I talk to her rationally, and I won't let her wear me down into agreeing with her, terminating the conversation is the best path I can take.

My daughter says watching the way we fight is like having "all the fun of divorce with none of the child support." My daughter and I fight much better, primarily because we actually pay attention to what the other person is saying and neither one of us has to Always Be Right.

#139 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:18 PM:

knitcrazybooknut: It is your life, NOT HERS, if she cares so much about what you write reflecting poorly on her, she knows, at least internally, she did something hurtful.

You are denying and belittling your experience by not blogging about it. Your potential clients will respect you for showing that you have overcome adversity -- and that you can help them do the same.

So, for Goddess sake - WRITE!


#140 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:39 PM:

Morning catchup:

Shirashima @91: I went back and read your post, and it sounds like you're navigating treacherous waters as best you can. Congratulations on the work you've done to get yourself out, and I hope you can keep surviving your mother!

Cynthia W. @83, 94, etc.: That is a big annoyance, and I'm truly not sure what advice I could offer. You have my sympathies, though, and I think Lee and knitcrazybooknut both have good suggestions, and have nailed the situation.

ma larkey @101 and 109: Your mother is a piece of work. I don't think you don't know how to stand up for yourself, I think you're doing what you need to take care of yourself. And it does sound like a massive example of gaslighting, and a way to punish? control? you through something you love. It sounds like she doesn't want you to do anything well, and is actively sabotaging you so that she can run you down -- oh, you can't cook/bake all as well as that, now can you? (Well, not when you steal my tools, no!)

Also, what Lee said, with this addendum: if you are in the US, denying you access to your own medical records is a HIPAA violation, and can get the hospital in trouble. For that matter, if you're over 18, you can actively deny your parents access to your medical records, period. In fact, if you have a very trustworthy friend, you might want to give them medical power of attorney, just in case...

Do you have any actual trustworthy friends with whom you could store your baking and cooking tools, and who would actually appreciate you cooking/baking for them? If you lived near me, I'd offer, (tho my apartment is a bit of a disaster and they might get moved just out of sheer disorganization)...

Moonlit Night @104: All I can offer are hugs, sympathies, and encouragement -- you're doing what you need to, and being able to identify many of the lies for what they are is a huge step.

Cynthia W @115: Rock on! Knowing it's not you, doesn't solve the problem, but maybe is a relief?

Of The World #132: Oh, you are so welcome! Though I personally am also immensely grateful to Caroline and Leah Miller and Renatus and you; your experiences resonate so much with mine, and it helps so much to know It's Not Just Me.

My beloved husband keeps cautioning me that it's not a confirmed diagnosis, which is true, but it just fits better than pure depression, etc. It fits the behaviors that don't fall under the depression, and -- funny thing -- I had been searching for something in our email archives, and found an email from 2007 where we'd been kicking around the possibility that we were both ADD. And promptly forgot about it because it wasn't high on the radar.

knitcrazybooknut @136: I would like to see that. Your mother is not the gatekeeper of your writing. *supportive hug*

Melissa @138: Is it possible that your mother is developing hearing problems? If someone is having problems hearing and doesn't want to admit it, especially if they're stubborn and want their own way, that could be another possibility. Is it something that could be brought up with her doctor?

#141 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:42 PM:

Melissa Singer @138 - ouch. I know this one very, very well. My mother has always had excellent selective memory - if something makes her uncomfortable to know, she forgets knowing it. She also deeply distrusts my dad. So when her memory started crapping out a) it took a long time for us to be certain, and b) it then took even longer for her to believe there was a problem so she could seek any help.

Is there anyone your mother trusts, such that if they said they were concerned, she might listen? Or some particular task she values, where finding out she's getting worse at it might scare her? A combination of those two is what finally got my mother to seek help. We asked my uncle to please pay attention to her memory on her next visit, and to mention it to her if he thought it was a problem, which didn't work right away, but did get her thinking. Then my parents moved, and my mother, who has always been excellent with words and names, can't remember her new neighbors' names. That finally sent her to the neurologist for testing (no dementia, medication side-effect).

Good luck!

#142 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:53 PM:

ma larkey:

Would it be possible to construct a "baking specialist equipment kit" and put it in a banker's box or suchlike? You could then take it home with you and bring it back when you were going to be doing any baking.

If your mother has a problem with it, you can always say that space in the family kitchen was clearly too tight to keep the baking stuff together, so it seemed easier this way. And, of course, that way you can also bake at home or at friends' houses.

#143 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 01:58 PM:

135 David Harmon @135: Gaslighting: I got the "that never happened" bit too as a kid, aggravated by the fact that my own memories are often uncertain, and my recall slow.

Consider what you get if you change "aggravated" to "caused." Not to say that there was anything deliberate or conscious about it, but it's certainly to the advantage of the gaslighter that the victim becomes more maleable to the gaslighter's viewpoint.

knitcrazybooknut @136: they might not let me come back anymore! ... I keep trying for that pellet that will sometimes show up, and sometimes not. I keep hoping.

Oh yeah, consequences. I forgot about that. ;-) I guess the reason I can propose the "do anything, 'cause you'll get punished either way" solution so blithely is that I came to an accomodation with burning my bridges from an early age. And I've had to do it a few times, even as recently as a couple of years ago. But that's because I've always been very clear where I stood on the connection >< self-possession equation. I totally get that not everybody is as ready to chew off a limb as I am.

Every morning I say I'm going to write the blog post in my mind, about grief and pets and my past, today.

Link-ez vous? My name+m at the commercial concern known as panix, if you prefer to maintain anonymity here.

that is not okay with my mother.

As a cautionary note, it occurs to me that you might want to jot down a list of possible negative reactions she might have to your speaking your truth, and contemplate desirable responses. As previously discussed, anxieties like that are a lot less compelling when you drag them wriggling and squeaking into the full light of consciousness. (I suggest printing out a copy of Apel Mjausson's Recovery Patterns as a cribsheet.)

Also what will be informative will be the reactions that your mother has that you don't anticipate.

Oh, here's an evil thought: Warn her before you publish your first entry that if she gives you any lip about your blog posts, you will quote her with full attribution, and then respond appropriately in the blog. And/or maybe point out that she is free to start her own blog, where she can say anydamnthing she wants.

Okay, maybe not. Like I said, chewing and limbs.

Melissa Singer @138: My mother also believes that simply continuing to state and restate her opinion or decision, will inevitably lead the other person to concede that she, my mother, is in fact correct.

Heh. Sounds like a Republican Party I met once.

My daughter says watching the way we fight is like having "all the fun of divorce with none of the child support."

This one made me laugh out loud. I like your daughter.

My daughter and I fight much better, primarily because we actually pay attention to what the other person is saying and neither one of us has to Always Be Right.

Go, you! One by one, maybe we'll eventually pull up these old, poisonous weeds.

#144 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 02:02 PM:

She says her hearing was tested at her annual physical (she goes every year; she does not take either my brother or me with her) and is fine.

She might trust my brother but he claims not to see/notice anything. I think this is because she mostly interacts with him over the phone and because she doesn't try to micromanage his life (he's married) the way she does mine (I'm not, and the daughter, and the eldest). When they are together, she primarily interacts with my niece, who is 7.

She sees her drs on her own and there's no reason for her not to; she is pretty healthy. I have been involved on a few occasions--when she had to have a repeat mammo (because she was terrified) and when she had her knee repaired. But not as a general thing.

#145 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 02:10 PM:

Lee @133: "My mother was good at this, but mostly in the context of an argument. She'd say something, 5 minutes later I'd quote it back to her, and she'd swear up and down that not only did she not say that, she never said anything that could be interpreted as that..."

Yes, I'd get that too. Or, more subtly, she'd (a) deny the tone of the words (anyone here doubt that tone of voice is important in communication?); (b) deny me the right to interpret what she said in the light of everything (or anything) else she'd said over the years. That is, if I challenged her that what she's said was hurtful, she wouldn't accept it unless I could quote her words precisely and show that, devoid of tone of voice and devoid of our history, they were objectively hurtful. Difficult. If I persisted in stating that I'd found her words hurtful then she'd be dismissive and tell me how oversensitive I was and how I was constraining her speech, that she always had to think twice before saying anything because I was so prone to taking things the wrong way and getting upset over nothing... The fact that her response was itself belittling me and my feelings never occurred to her, of course.

[I'm talking in the past tense simply because she rarely gets the oportunity to speak to me alone nowadays, and she can't pull this off in front of e.g. my husband - and doesn't try, which in itself is proof of the fact that on one level she must know what she's saying is, indeed, nasty and hurtful.]

#146 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 02:30 PM:

Of The World #132: I just read the link you posted and I'm trying not to cry (at work at the moment, have a little downtime while databases process) because that's me. Every one of those is me. And that brings back my father yelling about how I couldn't manage to do a simple task right, and why did I need to have someone standing over me to make sure I didn't miss anything, and how could I have overlooked X because it was right there plain as the nose on my face.

Melissa #144: Ouch. That's more problematic. From what you've said previously, she's no longer getting social interactions that she previously did, either. And it sounds like she's fiercely protective of her independence and her autonomy, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing at all; it's only in the subcontext of her *potential* loss of capacity that it's a problem. If this is hlepy, please feel free to ignore it, but how do you think she would respond if you actually recorded a conversation, and then played it back when she claims not to remember?

#147 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 02:55 PM:

Jennifer: doesn't happen predictably enough, alas, though the thought gave me a laugh.

#148 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 03:00 PM:

bluejo #16: "Putting the shield down:" More like putting the castle down. Where raising the portcullis is a mistake. Even though the walls need not be quite that thick and the archers do not need hair triggers on their bows.

knitcrazybooknut #95: Good to know I'm not the only one who says "swole."

This is hell on my throat; I should just cry.

#149 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 04:06 PM:

Catching up from being without Internet for a bit

Jim #91 Thanks for retrieving my wall of text from the Spam Pits. Silly pits.

Diatryma #102 We manage as best we can, it is difficult at times, because at times it is very difficult to figure out what she will or won't react to. She freaked out about the youngest kids being in my wedding until a month before the wedding, therefore not giving me enough time for my youngest sister to have an escort. She told me she wasn't staying for the reception, and I didn't know any better until she was actually there. Mostly we just work around her and hope for the best.

Of The World #132
Thank you SO much for posting that. It has been extremely helpful to me as well. I never could really figure out what happened in college that I managed to try really hard and not get anything out of it. I think I'm going to go through the link with my husband and figure out what it is that we need to do so that I can function, since I still haven't managed to find a good place for anything(as in I still have a wall of boxes in my living room), even though we moved in in June.

Lee #133 Through the years, my mother would often say things that were untrue, and she would say them so often that they became truth for her. It isn't a fun way to have to go through with things.

Jennifer #139 I try to navigate them as best I can, mostly because I've come WAY too close to drowning in the current of those waters before. I've been lucky in a lot of ways because I have a friend who was going through her own dysfunctional family issues at the same time who managed to save me, and seeing my spiral saved her.

I would write more, but I'm pretty sure that if I delay any longer I will be late for work (again) and I'm pretty sure that my boss is not in enough of a holiday spirit to excuse it, especially since it isn't a really good excuse for being late to work.

#150 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 04:10 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #136: One potentially-useful technique for handling that kind of reaction in your own mind is to pull it out into the open, look it in the eye, and say, "What's the WORST thing that can happen if they don't let me come back?" Will you lose your home, your livelihood, your health, your friends? Uncouple the immediate emotional reflex from a serious consideration of the likely outcome(s) in the real world, and you may be surprised by the answer that presents itself.

#151 ::: Fooey ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 05:31 PM:

141 Cynthia W.
Melissa Singer @138 - ouch. I know this one very, very well. My mother has always had excellent selective memory - if something makes her uncomfortable to know, she forgets knowing it.

The "NoSuchEvent Horizon" is more common then I thought.

#152 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 10:27 PM:

I have so many responses. Sorry for the wall of text. I'll try to break it up here and there!

ma larkey, just in general: I hope you're able to find a solution that works for you. Your mother is actively sabotaging you, taking away Your Best Thing and then lying about it. I wish you the best, and hope you can take good care of yourself.

The invisible one, #127: I find that there's a difference between a voice in my head that's someone else's voice (repeating bad messages, etc.) and the voice of reason. Sometimes the voice of reason sounds like a wise-cracking friend of mine who always tells the truth.

Years ago, I was led to believe that I was interpreting actions and words incorrectly because of my field of study (women's studies). All that feminism was making me paranoid. It took me some time to piece that out and get the hell out.

Lee, by way of Jacque #133: Wow, the delineation between cop-out and gaslighting is really helpful to me. I've had both, sometimes alternating between sentences, so that's really useful.

Apparently when I was in maybe fourth grade, my mom got so exasperated with me that she slapped me. She told this story at my grandfather's funeral (expected and not traumatic for me) while the family was gathered around a table, ending with, "Why did you make me do that?" I honestly didn't remember that particular incident, though her telling of it (while illuminating in its own right) did cast a reflective glimmer somewhere. Victim-blaming as cop-out.

Lori Coulson - You are absolutely right. This is my life. There's a book by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux called The Poet's Companion, and it's a great book about writing of any kind. It has a lot of amazing poetry in it as well, which I can appreciate even as a non-poet. I found a quote there, in a chapter titled, "The Family: Inspiration and Obstacle". It says: Everyone deals with the issue of exposure in their own way, and you will have to find yours. The point is, don't let anything keep you from getting it down on the page.

Jacque @143: I like the idea of burning my bridges more than the actuality, unfortunately. I have always wanted to compromise. I hate conflict, and have to really work not to turn away from it. I gotta do the Tom Stoppard quote now: We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

I love the Recovery cribsheet. I found myself on there in more than a few places. I still fight the urge to buy meals and presents for my friends, because otherwise, why would they want to stay friends with me? Whoops.

(and Lee @ 150): I did write out what I think she will say. The worst thing of all would be to send my siblings and dad after me about it. I do not want a whole family embroilment. All I want is to be who I am. Today I even experienced positive reinforcement on that front: I went to a record store and browsed, picked out some cds. When I went to the counter, I started talking to the clerk at the front and mentioned that I was feeling old being there, since I worked there about twenty years ago (yipes!). We had a nice conversation, in which she pointed out that it would only be scary if I still worked there (true). And then she gave me two of the cds for free! All I did was be myself. But that and this forum have reestablished that exactly that, only that, is what I need to do.

Oh that's a grammatical freaking pile of snakes, but I hope you know what I mean.

dcb @145: Years ago, I started asking my mom to repeat herself when she would say hurtful things. If nothing else, it gave her a double-check. Her usual response was, "Oh, you know what I mean!" No, actually, I don't, or I wouldn't have asked, lady.

Everyone who is being helped by the information about ADD/ADHD: I am so glad this is helping you. Just knowing that my dad was diagnosed with PTSD was a huge revelation for me, and such a validation of what I lived with for so long. You mean I'm not crazy/sensitive/wrong?

Shirashima @149: Did you say you have boxes? Of things to be put away? *drools* Sorry, I mean no harm, but my inner organizational freak loves those kinds of projects. I hope you're able to find a way to deal with them in a happy way. (Music playing? Your favorite tv show on?)

Everyone who encouraged me to write my blog post: It's written. It's sitting on my computer. Tonight my husband will read it. Tomorrow I'll put together some pictures for it. Probably tomorrow I will post it.

As a result, we may have a very small Christmas! We will see. And I will post a link when I decide to put it up. Hell, I'll need the moral support that day.

Thank you for all of the encouragement! It's appreciated more than you know.

#153 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 10:43 PM:

David @135: Modeling, is it? Good to know the name. I was pretty sure it wasn't unique. That mismatch in voices for only one person though, that was why I brought it up. I wish I'd seen it sooner. I was absurdly devoted to him and actually believed he was trying to help me. Maybe he even believed it too.

Although, I think I'll continue to call it "the voices in my head that argue with me". I find the weird looks people give me a lot easier to take when I have some control over *why* they're looking at me funny. Also, it's funny to see what triggers the "you're a freak!" reaction; tells me something about the person reacting to me.

#154 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 10:58 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @152:

I wish I could figure out which of the voices in my head is the voice of reason. Assuming one of them is.

Years ago, I was led to believe that I was interpreting actions and words incorrectly because of my field of study (women's studies). All that feminism was making me paranoid. It took me some time to piece that out and get the hell out.

Hm. I've been accused of reading too much into things and making a big deal out of subtle choices of phrasing. For stuff like feminine terms used as an insult and masculine terms used as a compliment. Tomboy applied to a girl is generally positive or at least neutral, unless one's mother is determined to have you grow up as "proper" lady (fortunately mine was not) while "girly" is a deadly insult to a boy.

I've had an uncle tease his grandson (6-ish?) whose mom beat him at a game - "you lost to a *girl*?" And of course when I suggested that wasn't the end of the world I got subtly scorned as a feminist, or unable to take a joke. I shut up, because that's what I do in an argument of opinion.

When I suggest that maybe women aren't actually equal yet and that our own language is hindering the last step(s), yeah. I get called paranoid too. Or "should I feel guilty about being male, then?" Um, no - but be aware of the assumptions you can make that I can't, would be a good start. Or not assuming women are illogical a priori.

Sorry. Tangent. I'll stop now.

#155 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2011, 11:38 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @152: Sometimes the voice of reason sounds like a wise-cracking friend of mine who always tells the truth.

And just to compound the confusion, the voice of [the] [gG]od[s], to those of us who occassionally hear it, often sounds just like our own voice, a la Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.

the delineation between cop-out and gaslighting is really helpful to me. I've had both, sometimes alternating between sentences, so that's really useful.

And let's not forget outright delusion, as in Cynthia W's situation.

Stoppard: .. burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

Urm. The ringing silence and deep relief that replaces pursuit by the Ravening Horde counts for a lot in my book. Contrariwise, your (and Stoppard's) book clearly has different sums in it, and I admire your courage in that respect. (I couldn't even ask for my father's chess set after he died, frex.)

*drools* ... my inner organizational freak loves those kinds of projects.

If you happen to be wandering through Boulder and feel a fit of organizing coming on, do drop me a line, will you?


HLN: Local woman finally bestirs herself to defrost refrigerator for the first time in [UNIT OF TIME REDACTED]. The ice on the roof of the freezer compartment was stuck firmly when tested. Less than ten minutes later, the roof ice fell, all in one go. "Dang!" nearby residents were heard to exclaim, "That coulda killed somebody!"

Observers now await the fate of the Ice Gall, which firmly encases Mr. Refrigerator Light.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled comment.

The invisible one @154: Sorry. Tangent. I'll stop now.

Oh, I think this is squarely on the topic of "How people get you to shut up and supress your own truth."

#156 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 12:02 AM:

I was reminded of Joanna Russ' book How To Suppress Women's Writing. The Wikipedia entry very helpfully summarizes all of the tactics covered in the book:

1. Prohibitions
2. Bad Faith
3. Denial of Agency (deny that a woman wrote it)
4. Pollution of Agency (show that their art is immodest, not actually art, or shouldn't have been written about)
5. The Double Standard of Content (one set of experiences is considered more valuable than another)
6. False Categorizing (women artists are categorized as the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, or lovers of male artists)
7. Isolation (the myth of isolated achievement: only one work, or a short series of poems are considered great)[1][2]
8. Anomalousness
9. Lack of Models
10. Responses
11. Aesthetics
So very many of these are ringing true to this discussion. Swap out the word "woman" for your term of choice and this could be a map...

How to Suppress Dysfunction
1. Thou shalt not speak of these things...

#157 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 12:54 AM:

<Wall-O-Text armchair psychoanalysys: You Have Been Warned>
Cynthia W. @115, again: I woke up this morning thinking about this and feeling srsly creeped out. Even when I went after it with my "what would have to be true for this to be the case?" sonic screwdriver, I came up dry. Then it occurred to me: take it from a group behavior to that of an individual; does it make sense then?

And I immediately flashed on a thoroughly creepy experience I had when I was sixteen. It was the summer of 1974, and I was traveling cross county from Colorado to Florida alone on the bus (story for another time). Feeling insecure, as one might expect, I tended to latch onto any even remotely friendly face.

Somewhere down south, an older woman and her young granddaughter (6-7ish?) got onto the bus, and wound up sitting next to me. The woman and I got to chatting, and it came about that she had her g'daughter along because she was hard of hearing, and her g'd served as her intepreter.

Late that night, the bus stopped at some hole-in-the-wall diner for supper. The woman and the child were both clearly weary, and the woman's mood was sliding visibly as was, presumably, her blood sugar. The kid was quiet and compliant. (Looking back, I don't recall her ever saying even a word, which made the "interpreter" story kind of puzzling. Particularly since the woman didn't seem to have any trouble carrying on a conversation with me. On a noisy bus. Ghods, this story gets weirder the more I think about it.)

Food was ordered: something for me, a sandwich for the kid. When it arrived, the woman took a piece of bread from the kid's sandwich for herself. I began to eat and the little girl began to pick apart and consume her sandwich in bits, as little kids will do.

I ate, the kid ate, conversation continued, and the woman pulled pieces off her bread, occassionally pointing at the kid and ordering her to eat. Her mood became progressively more impatient, and her commands more snappish. "Eat!" she'd yell, pointing to the debris on the kids plate. In between, she'd pick a small piece off her bread, roll it between her fingers, and throw it back on the plate. (Didn't notice at the time, but looking back, I'd bet that the woman would pull a chunk off her bread whenever the kid took a piece to eat.)

That poor kid. Her own eating actually slowed down, and she would look from the woman to me in hurt puzzlement. (Thought balloon: "If I'm not eating, what is it that I'm doing?") Running my own side of the exchange in retrospect, I strongly suspect that I was probably looking at her sternly too (although I do feel some of my own confusion leaking in there as well). After all, if The Grown-up says you aren't eating, you must not be eating, right? Nevermind that stuff you're squishing between your teeth and pushing down your throat.

That experience stuck with me, and it was only years later that I really thought it over and realized that it was an extreme case of the old "I'm cold, put your sweater on!"

I still shake my head: how dissociated do you have to be to run that kind of trip on someone? And someone you presumably love? (Although I suspect the "love" in question was more in the nature of what ma larkey is getting from her parents than anything we here would recognize as such.)

I regret not having spoken up on behalf of the kid. But writing this up, what really creeps me out is something that hadn't crossed my mind before; that I might have, at the time, bought into that old woman's delusion and compounded the kid's misery by my silent endorsement. (Although maybe my part in the play was more in the nature of the "helpless silence" of Moonlit Night's sister. One can only hope.)

What drove my suspected culpability is that, growing up in an alcoholic environment, actions and words often don't match, or are even directly contradictory. In order to stay sane (and safe), you have to make a decision: which are you going to believe? In my case, I went with the words, because challenging them was what would get me into trouble. Incongruent actions were carefully not seen. At sixteen, I was still deep in thrall to my family-of-origin, so I would have innevitably had to go along with the old woman's premise.

And that's how we get to a dynamic like Cynthia W's family. The collective agreement is that the Words and Beliefs are true. Actual behavior (especially if it contradicts the Story) becomes a fnord, and everybody is (unconsciously but willfully) blind to it. For whatever reason, The Accepted Story is that Cynthia is the Troublemaker, and no amount of actual Not Making Trouble on Cynthia's part is going to crack that consensus. (I'm now curious about how the delusion about Cynthia would look from the viewpoint of the hive member. I'm confident I will find a suitable example from my own experience. ::sigh::)

I'm sure the consensus is crackable, but it would take something that would dispell the glamour that the Hive Mind has cast on Cynthia (a group break-state, as it were), and my model of the dynamic is not clear enough to make any guesses about what that might be. You'd have to interrupt the collective trance and cause them to look afresh at Cynthia.

To the kid: where ever you are out there, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for you. I hope you've found your way to your version of this community, and have received help and support in healing and defending yourself from what I suspect was a fairly nasty situation.

#158 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 01:10 AM:

David Harmon @Sep21/893: I've heard very mixed things about NLP: Even taking it on its own claims, it represents a powerful but dangerous toolset. Such a toolset can fix things, but can just as easily break things, or do bad patch jobs to cover over dysfunction instead of repairing it.

I found what appears to be a nice little crowd-sourced NLP site. Here's their discussion of ecology.

#159 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 01:23 AM:

Jacque @157 - that was a very interesting wall o' text, and a creepy/sad story. Poor little girl.

I also feel that the consensus must be crackable somehow. There are individual dynamics in there that won't change because the individuals have too much invested (My Mom's view that she is a Good Mother). But the majority of the people involved are reasonable people with whom I get on well at the individual level. This has led to many years of banging my head on the wall, trying to make them see what they're doing, and how self-contradictory they're being. (The same person can't possibly be both the me they see individually and the me they see collectively.) A la Miles Vorkosigan, I'm convinced that if I hit that wall long enough it will eventually fall down. Individual conversations seem to be progressing, if very slowly - I can occasionally get someone to notice after the fact that the group behavior was strange. Some of the in-laws are also helpful, coming from outside the dynamic. For example, my other sister-in-law had some sharp things to say to my brother about his public dressing down at the wedding. He himself was unapologetic, but my parents decided that she might be right, at least to the extent that he shouldn't have humiliated me publicly. Maybe by the time I'm sixty or so, I'll be allowed to be an adult.

#160 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 02:50 AM:

Cynthia W. @159: I for one would be very curious what could be learned if you pulled that sharp-spoken SiL aside, plied her with her beverage of choice, and picked her brains for observations and insights.

#161 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 03:37 AM:

I have a whole 'nuther set of bleh to work through and don't know yet if I'll screw up the nerve to write about it here at some point, in the clear or under a 'nym. But I'm reading everything, and witnessing, and offer whatever comfort or solace good thoughts can bring.

This morning I came across this Emily Dickinson poem, one I hadn't read in years. The last two stanzas do it for me.

#162 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 09:23 AM:

Jacque #158: I looked at the site, and it is interesting. I took the obvious step of searching the site on the keywords "autism" and "autistic"; I only found a few messages, but those were uniformly respectful, without any hint of "we can cure them". There were even a couple that explicitly acknowledged the peculiar strengths associated with being on the spectrum, and ticked off correspondences to NLP's own concerns. That puts them way ahead of most of the "self-help programs" I've seen!

#163 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 11:00 AM:

forgot @ #128:
My mom always calls that “emotional truth” – ie, something someone FEELS to be true, regardless of objective reality / anyone else's emotional truths.

Melissa @ 144
I feel like selective forgetting is a little more, well, selective, than an organically-caused forgetting. My grandmother doesn't just forget things that are advantageous to her, ie “I never said those nasty things to you” or “no, I didn't promise to do X for you”; she forgets totally innocuous things, like what we had for dinner or the last time I called.

I do have to say, though, that losing her short-term memory has made her a considerably nicer and easier person to be around. She's too busy trying to remember what's going on to be emotionally and verbally abusive. Sort of horrible to say, but such a relief for her family.

#164 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 02:35 PM:

Moonlit Night #104: (There's also the remnant of a helpless silence that was my sister.)

@David Harmon in #107, #123, #134 about the helpless silence thing. It's been a busy day or two so I haven't gotten to reply to these as they come up. There is a good, happy reason that it's the *remnant* of a helpless silence. I'm not sure if the one in my head has spoken up, but my actual older sister did. A couple years ago or so we had a talk, and she apologized to me for all those years of not doing anything while our mother emotionally abused me and our father and aunt enabled her. We agreed there wasn't much that my sister could have done, or would have known needed doing, until it was mostly too late.

But it was enormously valuable to me for her to say it was abuse -- very real, and very serious -- because nobody with the experience to judge ever said that before. I needed that so much, for someone who had reason to KNOW say it was real and wrong. Living with my mother was the emotional equivalent of living in poisoned water, and running into poison streams sometimes, but so little clear water that I could not convince myself that anything was genuinely wrong. It had to just be me, didn't it? The things I could point to sounded too much like normal kid/teenage woes, to ask for or receive help. I've probably gone through an awful lot of gaslighting and delusion. Not only did I have my parents and aunt telling me they were right and I was wrong and nothing could be wrong about this, plenty of the time I had ME telling it to myself, because I had NO points of comparison, and seeing the truth clearly, when I had no way out, would have been unbearable. I also don't remember that much of my childhood and teen years all that clearly, which is probably some kind of trauma response. All in all, it's made reality rather squishy, my judgement hard for me to trust, and my position hard for me to argue, because there's always something I've misunderstood or misremembered.

Maybe later I will get to try and figure out what the helpless silence in my head says. You weren't being pushy. That would be a much nicer project than the one I currently have, which is to figure out what to do about my partner's stepfather.

#165 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 03:37 PM:

Moonlit Night @ 164

"It had to just be me, didn't it? The things I could point to sounded too much like normal kid/teenage woes, to ask for or receive help."

"I also don't remember that much of my childhood and teen years all that clearly, which is probably some kind of trauma response."

Yes, this. A couple of related thoughts:

Maybe a little over a year ago, I decided I needed to work through stuff so I could put it away and move on with my life. So I wrote it all down, in as much excruciating detail as I could remember, as brutally and objectively as possible, and without censoring or second-guessing myself. And I still had people I care about telling me that they understood how miserable it was, and that it wasn't normal, and that it wasn't okay. Even though the details have faded. Even though I had convinced myself that it was all stuff everyone else goes through too.

Also, now that I've had a chance to work through it, I find that... well, first off, the memories fade faster once dealt with, and second, I'm really glad that most of them are now memories of having memories of being miserable, because really, I didn't want to live in that part of my life for the rest of my life. There's still stuff I can bring up, but it's less, and it's less traumatic to relive, and that's just awesome with me.

Also, working through that stuff and acknowledging how I felt at the time was really helpful in terms of being able to move on and change the way I react to people now. So I have an increasingly awesome relationship with a few of my family members where I originally thought there wasn't much hope, and I'm a lot better able to acknowledge and understand where they were coming from at the time, and to forgive and let go of the results, even though I still think some of the stuff that went on was really not okay.

Not really intended as advice, but your story made me think of it...

#166 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 04:26 PM:

Merricat #163: That does sound like generalized memory loss, and if it's happening enough to affect her personality, that's a medical issue all right!

Not necessarily this bad, but it does remind me of a doctor's account I read, about a notably unpleasant matriarch who suddenly woke up nice. Her startled family promptly bundled her off to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with an operable brain tumor. Once the tumor was removed, she went right back to her nasty old self....

#167 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 04:30 PM:

Moonlit Night #164: There is a good, happy reason that it's the *remnant* of a helpless silence.

That is wonderful! Good for you, and your sister.

#168 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 05:39 PM:

Merricat @163: The difficulty is that I seem to see both kinds--some obviously self-serving, of the "I never said that" kind and the "you never told me that" kind (even if you said it earlier in the same conversation--I always figure she doesn't actually listen because she's too busy thinking about what she's saying/going to say or what she expects you to say rather than what you're actually saying).

But also not remembering stuff you told her a few days earlier--which still could be example two, above--except that the things involved are so trivial that there doesn't seem to be a reason for her to not remember (like plans for the weekend or the names of actor or that she'd already told me whatever bit of gossip was confiding).

But she's never lost her keys or left a pot on the stove too long or forgotten where she was going or anything like that.

#169 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 05:40 PM:

Merricat @163: The difficulty is that I seem to see both kinds--some obviously self-serving, of the "I never said that" kind and the "you never told me that" kind (even if you said it earlier in the same conversation--I always figure she doesn't actually listen because she's too busy thinking about what she's saying/going to say or what she expects you to say rather than what you're actually saying).

But also not remembering stuff you told her a few days earlier--which still could be example two, above--except that the things involved are so trivial that there doesn't seem to be a reason for her to not remember (like plans for the weekend or the names of actor or that she'd already told me whatever bit of gossip was confiding).

But she's never lost her keys or left a pot on the stove too long or forgotten where she was going or anything like that.

(apologies if this posts twice--my browser appears to have had a seizure)

#170 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 07:04 PM:

Merricat @ #163, at the risk of being hlepy, memory loss that appears over a short time scale is sometimes due to Vitamin B12 deficiency (usually related to a failure to absorb the vitamin properly rather than a lack in the diet). If you do end up going the medical route, ask about having B12 levels tested. This happened to my father and the B12 injections made a startling difference.

The other thing that can cause rather sudden cognitive decline is a urinary tract infection that is leading to sepsis. Sometimes cognitive decline is the ONLY obvious symptom. I saw this happen several times to patients of mine in the hospital and inpatient rehab; it's particularly common in older women.

#171 ::: Stenopos ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2011, 09:04 PM:

Large sympathies and virtual purrs/headrubs for all of you currently dealing with worse problems than mine. I have a couple of older cousins that have been acting weird, making me feel uncomfortable when I am at their homes (echoing my childhood), but this is not expected to get to that level of seriousness. I have strategies [I think.]
And thank you for looking out for each other.

#172 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 01:04 AM:

I have a dysfunctional family problem that I would love to get some good advice on. Names are fake.

Background summary: about 6 months ago my partner of ~15 years (call him Zak) and I came out as polyamorous to his family. Most of them were confused but not hostile. His stepfather (call him Fred) was outraged, hurled vicious insults, and declared the lot of us persona non grata.

Since then, Fred and Zak have been tossing nastiness back and forth, while everyone else flails helplessly because this is a happy family where nobody ever tells Fred to shove it when he’s being a bully. Once in a long while, Zak’s mother and sisters try to arrange a visit when or where Fred won’t be there. We used to be pressed to visit every weekend. Both Fred and Zak insisted everyone else must pick sides, and nobody wants to pick, or to tell them we're all family so this fight is over and you will both act like civilized adults.

A friend with better understanding of dysfunctional families thinks that Fred is at best a surly prick who will sabotage any efforts to have us be family again, and that the rest of the family is likely too enmeshed/spineless to resist such sabotage or change Fred's behaviour. Fred never liked me, and it’s mutual, but I’ve always been polite anyway. I think Fred sees this as his best chance to make me go away and doesn’t care who he has to hurt to make it happen. He's even made Zak's mom do the dirty work: she pretended there was no Thanksgiving this year, presumably because Fred didn't want us there and didn't care enough that she would. (We checked later with extended family. Reaction: of course there was Thanksgiving; where were we?)

Zak and I are not quite ready to give up and only see the others occasionally with an elephant in the room — and no major holidays — or to stop seeing them entirely. My and Zak’s goals are (1) enjoy seeing the mother, sisters, and extended family, including at major family occasions, and (2) not interact with Fred more than necessary.

My solution would be to settle for mutual civilized ignoring. That would be Fred and us being polite to and about each other, but not talking much or provoking each other, and not getting pressured to be better friends. Many family events have 10+ people, so this doesn't even have to be very contrived.

See part 2 in a later comment.

#173 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 01:11 AM:

I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with me. I can function in a work or academic environment but not in a social environment (I crawl into a book, or a blog, or a bar to escape from life). Part of it was definitely upbringing but I think some of it has to be genetic. My sisters say I'm mildly Aspergers and definitely bipolar. I say I have no interest in having a mental health file on record. My oldest sister has spent most of her life in and out of therapy and on psych meds. She's the only one in the family (I know of) with a history of sexual abuse (family 'friend'). Verbal/emotional abuse was epic from parents and between siblings, and some people would consider the abuse physical, but it always stopped short of injury, so I hesitate to describe the physical component as abusive.

I would still describe us as close and loving. That probably doesn't make sense to most people. I think codependent is the word normally used.

I have witnessed each of the 7 of us kids in the throes of the kind of violent shrieking/bellowing rage that I remember Dad displaying given certain forms of provocation, sometimes minor. I have heard each of us say things calculated to wound to the quick, or merely annoy, and receive response in kind. And yet we seek each other out, and talk for hours on the phone, and spend vacations together. If you've played Taboo, or similar games, you understand the rush of playing with someone who understands you better than almost anyone else in the world. They GET you. Sometimes that means they know where to stick the knives.

#174 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 01:41 AM:

Melissa @ 169 -- So you may be seeing something in the super early stages, but not actually up to the problem stage yet? Frustrating, because if she got it checked out there might be something she could do to stop/slow it down -- but if she's refusing to get checked, there's not much you can do until it gets more obvious.

Lila @ 170 -- I'll pass the info about B12 along to the folks who check in with her doctors ... but she's in her 90s, and she's been progressively losing memory for at least 3 years (any decline before that was hard for us to see, because she had her husband to cue/cover for her), so I think that at this point, it's just how the cookie crumbles.

#175 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 02:17 AM:

See part 1 in comment #172, otherwise you’re missing context. I need a sanity check on a couple ideas, and am looking for more ideas, book recommendations, etc.

We need to bring the family to a point where we can be around Fred when necessary, without behaving badly ourselves. Ideally, we want the family to not tolerate bad behaviour from Fred or Zak. However, I’m not sure how fixable a problem this is — will the family care at least as much about spending time with Zak as they do about keeping Fred happy? We don’t know because there’s never been a situation where Fred was this angry but couldn't make his opponent back down.

Also, I’d really like for Zak and me to win, not just cut our losses. This includes some making Fred lose, such as him being civil to others, and enduring our presence. If it becomes clear that cutting our losses is the best win, we'll reassess.

Idea for making us persona grata again: Fred has been nagged into offering an apology for the vicious insults made months ago. We can ask for it to be in person, to me, not to Zak through the internet. Then, after Fred apologized to me, I could ask that both he and Zak apologize to Zak’s mother for putting their anger before her happiness. Then Zak’s family and I could say the fight was over, visiting shall resume, and both Fred and Zak will behave in a civilized fashion or else. (But “or else” what?)
it closes the previous fight as a tie, with equal consequences for the participants. Fred and everyone else is thrown a bone by Zak admitting he behaved badly. Zak feels that he wins through my being the hero who resolves this mess. Expectations and/or rules for better behaviour can be set and enforced by the whole family. Also, if Fred won’t apologize or promise to do better in future, he looks terrible, while Zak WILL apologize and look good.
Cons: the difficulty of getting Fred into the same room as everyone else, and the difficulty of getting him to apologize. May not actually change anyone’s mind; just declares a cease-fire.

Idea for confounding Fred’s bad behaviour later: Zak reports that nobody has ever tried being steadfastly unpushable, especially not in a polite and cheerful way that makes Fred look ridiculous or freaks him out. It’s time someone did.

  • Being nice and polite and cheerful to everyone so there is nothing to complain of in our behaviour, even if it drives Fred into a blinding rage.
  • Responding to insults: be uninsultable by either dumping the insult back in his lap, or if wits fail, totally ignoring it. It helps that he hasn’t flung one yet that actually hurt my feelings. Say he says “you’re a whore” or similar — I could say “why thank you Fred, that’s so nice of you to say that men find me so attractive that they will pay me just to be in my company!” If he said I’m too high-maintenance, I could reply with “Well, the best is always higher maintenance, and I’m sure you want Zak to have the best.”
  • Do not get angry: no matter what the provocation, ignore Fred behaving badly. Or else have some way point out the behaviour while dismissing it, such as “Fred, I’m sure you can’t possibly mean that. If you did, that would be a vicious insult.” Then ignore Fred and interact with other people.
  • Being friendly: Fred doesn’t talk to me, not even hello and goodbye, and I don’t talk to him. One of Zak’s sisters has decided the problem is me being unfriendly. So I could start being friendly, and pushing Fred into cheerful conversations he really doesn’t want to have, instead of being silent and scared of him as usual. “Fred, it is so nice to see you! Are you feeling better after your heart attack? It must have been awful. Tell me all about it.”
  • Noticing bad behaviour Fred doesn’t want noticed, such as when he yells at his wife. “Fred, is there anything I can do to help? I hate to hear you yelling like that at Sophie!”
  • Responding to the actual problems instead of the illusory ones might also fit in with this tactic.

Pros: Done properly this will freak Fred out and make him angry, but without giving him any objective cause to throw us out. Nobody can really complain about insistent politeness, cheerfulness, and unresponsiveness to baiting without either looking stupid or having to address some of the real problems underlying it.
Cons: Could be hard to pull off, especially for Zak who is more hot-tempered. Could be misinterpreted by Fred as submitting to him. Will make us need to vent about Fred’s behaviour, and we must not do it to family.

Will these ideas work? Is there anything else we should try? Or is it not worth the trouble?

#176 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 04:10 AM:

Moonlit Night @ 175

Sorry, this is longer than my usual wont. I plead context.

I can only speak from my own experience, but in my case any engagement with my inlaws just gave them more excuses to hold my behavior against me. When I realized there was no way to win, and the situation was rapidly spiraling downward, I disengaged, hard, for at least four years (I don't remember exactly how long it was), until they started to reach out to us. At the point where they were willing to engage in a positive way, there was something to work with. But before that, for as long as they were determined to find fault, I was driving myself crazy trying to find tactics, which always failed.

I didn't give up, exactly. I just modeled the kind of behavior I wanted to see from them. I wouldn't even exchange barbs -- I tried to be helpful and kind (but quiet), and just let it roll off my back as much as possible, leaving if it got too egregious, then staying away long enough to make the point that I didn't need to put up with abuse and wasn't dependent on them for my social needs.

That created a setting where I could have conversations one-on-one with people I thought might be sympathetic, where they weren't stuck in a group dynamic. In your case, those are the conversations where it's safer to express honestly how hurt you are by your FIL's contempt and by feeling like you're the reason your FIL isn't on good terms with his son/your husband, and how you wish the whole family could get together without this sort of animosity, because family is so important to you and your husband, which is what I'm hearing you say. In my case, I talked carefully about how I felt like I was in a double-bind because I wasn't Jewish and didn't know my way around Jewish rituals, and I didn't think I could ever act Jewish enough for them unless I converted, but based on their actions to that point I didn't really believe that if I converted they wouldn't just move the goalpost, so I didn't think I could convert without giving the impression that I was willing to sacrifice my autonomy and well-being for their happiness (and establishing a destructive pattern for future interactions) but I didn't want to ruin my husband's relationship with his parents either... That kind of thing.

I tried to keep my side of it on the high ground, avoiding insults and imprecations, and keeping my comments as neutral and brief and reserved as possible, so I didn't come off as a martyr or as trying to force people to take sides. I generally tried to present it more as asking for advice, as I tried to find a path that would let me mend relationships without hurting myself or anyone else in the process, or even better, I let my allies come to me and start the conversation (generally by expressing their concern about how I was holding up). In fact, I made it a point to be explicit that I wasn't asking people to take sides, but that my end goal really was to do what I reasonably could to make it better without hurting my husband or myself, because I was really unhappy about the status quo.

My experience, with this and other hostile situations, is that if I can maintain a really light touch and an honest, caring, reasonable tone, other people will fight the heavy battles for me, and more effectively than I could on my own -- because I didn't have any social credit with my inlaws, so I had no way to make them want to change, but my sibs-in-law and my husband and other family and family friends did. The hard part for me is hiding my temper, and staying out of my own way, long enough for real change to take place without self-sabotaging myself.

I don't know enough about your situation to know if that's a tactic that appeals, or would even work, but it's the only thing I found that was even remotely effective, and it did get us to where I needed to be, which is to have the appearance of family friendliness and to not have to deal with open hostility. It also got my husband out of the middle of a power-play that was tearing him apart emotionally, which was very important to me.

#177 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 04:22 AM:

Oh yeah, to the folks researching autism: See WrongPlanet's Youtube Channel. (I love the "Wrong Planet" title. Story of my freakin' life!)

Moonlit Night @175: Idea for making us persona grata again

If family members other than Fred are up for being family and civilized, I'd say, accept apologies, but give Fred a way to retreat gracefully. Conspire with the rest of the family to move forward henceforth with dignity and kindness, and simply fail to accept/react Fred's abuse. If you make it into any kind of power struggle, that's Fred's game, and he will win, whether or not he "loses."

I think your "Idea for confounding Fred’s bad behaviour" is brilliant. Two resources to mind:

What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers

And The Dog Whisperer. (You have to scroll down past the unrelated "featured video" to get to the episode links.) In particular, I think Cesar's idea of "assertive dominance" is the attitude to bring to bear in the situation.

I'd conspire secretly with all the family members who are not Fred and Zak, separately and together, and maybe have some meetings to coordinate and practice desired responses.

Or is it not worth the trouble?

Oh, I think it's entirely worth the trouble, for the sociological experiment, if nothing else. Good luck! Keep us posted.

#178 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 10:22 AM:

hedges: #173: My sisters say I'm mildly Aspergers and definitely bipolar. I say I have no interest in having a mental health file on record.

Bluntly: Having a mental health record is one thing (and frankly, it's not the worst thing in the world, as the record can also be used defensively). Far more important is recognizing your own issues and taking appropriate measures to deal with them.

Dealing with Asperger's can be done largely on your own, as it's a matter of learning strategies and compensations, plus choosing appropriate environments for yourself. Bipolar disorder is another story, as the only credible treatment is drug therapy (mood stabilizers such as lithium), which absolutely requires medical supervision. Also, BPD can get worse over time, so trying to "tough it out" is really not a good idea.

#179 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 10:38 AM:

Moonlit Night: My big concern here is that you apparently are hoping to "sweep the field", convincing everyone else that you're in the right, (or at least in Fred's case, that you're beyond attack). Given stuff like "[o]ne of Zak’s sisters has decided the problem is me being unfriendly" (that is, they're blaming you)... well, I'm not buying that as an option. Even if you may prevail eventually, that's not going to happen quickly or easily.

I'm not going to advise an tactics, because that's smack on my own weak points, but I'd say that KayTei has a solid point that you probably need to disengage. While doing so, you're still free to "lobby" other members of the family... but consider, any time you try to confront Fred among the family, you are challenging a family patriarch (who's also a bully) on their own ground, and that's a poor position both tactically and strategically.

#180 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 04:41 PM:

Am in the middle, I think, of the EMDR. It is a very weird thing, to see behaviors changing that I'm not remotely focusing on. Still finding myself fragile, but it's still a useful sort of fragile. And finding connections between things that, three months ago, I wouldn't have thought connected.

Hedges @ 173: I say I have no interest in having a mental health file on record.


David Harmon @ 178: Bluntly: Having a mental health record is one thing (and frankly, it's not the worst thing in the world, as the record can also be used defensively).

I used to be terrified of that, having a bone-deep knowledge that just having seen a therapist would be used against me. That was a long time ago, and in vastly different situations than my life now. I also think anyone who *would* use it against you is... not a good person.

I believe it can be a valid fear, though, depending on circumstances; the people you live with (have to live with, for lack of other resources), the people you work with/for (and are stuck in that job, for whatever reason)...

A brief catching on the older thread, from where I dropped off the face of the earth two months ago:

Jacque @ 622: Thank you! (The current high bid of $25 (!) for one of my bookmarks over on the magick4terri auction is certainly not hurting that image of myself-as-artist. *grin* (also *severe boggle*))

dcb @ 625: thank you!

#181 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 06:10 PM:

Jacque @155

Oh, I think this is squarely on the topic of "How people get you to shut up and supress your own truth."

I just wish I could figure out how to say something like that without people reacting to me like I'm a raving lunatic feminist who takes everything too seriously.

Of course, if I could figure that out, then I'd be ahead of everybody who's worked their whole lives for women's rights and minority rights against a tide of people who don't think it's a serious issue...

It says more about their worldview than it says about my sanity. Must remember that. It's just one of those things that I wish I could change about the world, and feel like I'm drowning every time I take one step into that particular pit.

#182 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2011, 08:00 PM:

David, #179: but consider, any time you try to confront Fred among the family, you are challenging a family patriarch (who's also a bully) on their own ground, and that's a poor position both tactically and strategically

I just want to underline this, because it seems critically important to me. I don't have much else to say in this part of the discussion, because I've never had to try to deal with this sort of dynamic with the goal of staying connected; I cut my ties and walked away.

#183 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 04:12 AM:

Melissa Singer@138 "My mother also believes that simply continuing to state and restate her opinion or decision, will inevitably lead the other person to concede that she, my mother, is in fact correct."
The academic version of this is called "Proof by Vigorous Assertion". There are a bunch of similarly valuable mathematical techniques, such as vigorous handwaving, references to nonexistent or unlocatable journals, etc.

Somebody on memory loss in older people (sorry; lost track of who started the discussion and who was following up.) My grandmother started losing memory in her later years - the problem got a lot better when her heart medication levels were adjusted properly and she was getting better blood flow.

#184 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 06:56 AM:

On the mental health record thing ...I know multiple people who've been involuntarily committed; I know the most about the experiences of my brother-in-law and of a former employee (who I visited in the psych ward several times). I have no intention of going anywhere near that situation, they'd lose the key. Also, my parents were self-employed and broke most of my life and I am hyper-sensitive about debt and about health insurance availability, the pre-existing condition thing would trap me in my current job (of 13 years), which is bearable now largely because of the fact that the cage door is mostly open, I could leave anytime. I don't have a mortgage either, for that reason. I recently applied for re-admission to school, as a backup plan on the off-chance I quit or am let go.

The article Of the World linked to about gifted/ADD really resonated. I carried a 40 pound backpack because I would otherwise forget what I needed and I couldn't get between classes fast enough if I stopped at my locker. Rare use of the locker in high school resulted in my procuring a Master lock-key (they forgot to file off the numbers) to the locker cages so I could access my locker after-hours when I invariably forgot something. When my high school instituted "sweep" (something like in-school-single period detention) for tardiness I booked an A-hour (no sweep) because I was swept about half the time, otherwise. I almost always did my homework (when I could make myself do it) only after everyone else went to bed (I averaged about 4 hours a night in high school and college). I did things like doing all of the book reports for a quarter in one night, or reading the entire American history textbook the night before the final. I could predict my grade in any class at the beginning of the semester, based solely on subtracting half the percentage allocated for routine homework, I once walked home from school at the lunch hour because I didn't realize it wasn't the end of the day. My father once lost a truck, to the point of reporting it stolen to the police and insurance, before the tire shop called to ask if he was planning to ever pick it up. It took me 3 or 4 times as long to complete a composition as it did friends. I hyper-focus on tests, tasks, or texts (sometimes to the point where I won't notice food placed in front of me or someone speaking to me while reading). If I'm not hyper-focused I'm easily distracted. I might look something up in a reference book in the middle of a project and later find that I've spent the last hour chasing tangents sparked by something I happened on in the book.

Anyway, my most immediate familial problem is the consensus decision of the family not to attend my niece's upcoming wedding, and the expectation that I will not attend either. I was raised very religious (observances 3 times a week, etc) and although I am no longer observant, my family and I have a cease-fire on the issue. I don't respond to attempts to
bring me back into the fold, and don't attack their faith or require them to confront my disbelief and they don't cut me off or continuously probe my religious/moral status. My niece (8 years younger) has had similar status and had kept quiet her cohabitation with her fiancee, but in announcing her wedding also included a number of photos of her activities in contravention of all known standards of common decency (details won't translate, but suffice it to say it was an obvious fusillade across the bow). I'm planning to go, and as far as I know I am the only one who is (she has 6 siblings, a brother-in-law, two parents, 3 grand-parents, a great-grandmother, 22 aunts and uncles, numerous cousins and great-aunts/uncles, etc). I'm 33 years old but terrified that when I attend it will put me at odds with the rest of the family, most of whom are on the list of the few people I actually enjoy spending time with.

#185 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 07:25 AM:

Hedges @ 184

I'm sorry to hear all that, but I'm glad you're planning to attend your niece's wedding. That kind of support can be very important, and it may give other family members cover to also attend, or to provide covert support to the couple in other ways. Also, why should you miss out on something you care about, with people you care about, just because of someone else's opinions?

#186 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 08:00 AM:

On the subject of selective memory, and rewriting memory. I know my mother used to leave me home alone with a book at 5 or 6, at my request, rather than dragging me about with my younger siblings. She cannot be persuaded that this ever happened, let alone that it was routine. I remember once being forced to eat cabbage (you took a reasonable portion, or it was served for you, and ate what was put on your plate) and vomiting it on the kitchen floor due to having convinced myself that it was repulsive, and being whipped with a belt for it at age 3 or 4. Everyone else who was there swears it never happened. I tell them it was a lot more memorable for me than for them. I remember my younger sister sitting at the dinner table until breakfast the next day, steadfastly refusing to eat something served for dinner. I remember figuring out how to release the side of my crib and throw myself out, which no one else remembers (I had to be two, because they moved me out of that room when my younger sister was born). Conversely they tell me I could open child-proofed doorknobs, which I don't remember. I remember going with the family to put my 16 y.o. sister on a bus to my grandmother's because no one would tell me exactly why she was going away and usually they explained everything (I was 4). I remember one of my sisters being weaned by being sent to stay with my older brother for a week. I remember my 15 years older brother bouncing a full-size NERF football off my face repeatedly to teach me to catch it (I was somewhere in the 3-5 age range). He took me to see the Jungle Book afterward.

#187 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 08:27 AM:

When I was 5 I was attending a private Montessori school on a need-based scholarship and they did a hearing screening (which I attempted to game) which resulted in my parents getting told to take me to a doctor to have my hearing checked. The doctor determined I needed tubes in my ears to drain fluid. My parents raised the subject with me. I remember asking my parents A)How much it would cost, and B)what the possibility of permanent damage was if it was not done. The answers were A)a lot by our standards, and B)not much. I didn't get tubes. I also didn't realize until much later how very odd that episode was. I had (at an even earlier age) internalized my mother's answer to everything (we can't afford that), and never asked for anything. I remember being upset with my younger sisters for asking my parents for things, and for taking things (if they cost money) offered them by family friends.

On that same doctor's visit, the pediatrician required me to undress. I refused, quite vehemently. I didn't see any reason checking my ears required me to disrobe. She refused to explain to my satisfaction. She became suspicious (I realized later) that my atypically willful refusal to remove my pants was a symptom of sexual abuse. She stuck her hand in my pants to feel my genitals. I was aghast, jerked my head around to glare at her, smacked her, and told my mother what she'd done. I then proceeded to compound the situation by telling her that no one was allowed to touch me 'there' except my mother (who had left that exception in place because my idea of washing was to sit in the tub).

#188 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 11:34 AM:

dcb @145: she'd (a) deny the tone of the words (anyone here doubt that tone of voice is important in communication?)

My mother. And in the next breath, complain about mine. A therapist I saw years ago (who gave bad advice that I was then fool enough to follow—more than once! ::sigh::) talked me into trying to have a conversation with my mother, ten or twelve years after I'd divorced my parents. For the first time in my life, I actually said to her what I'd been thinking for thirty five years. "You know," she said, "I don't care for being lectured to in an unfriendly tone of voice." !?!?? "Then why did you do it to me all through my childhood?" "I never did that." Later, "Would it help if I said I was sorry?" L'esprit de l'escalier: "Only if I believed you understood what my issue is and I believed you were truly sorry."

The only thing that conversation accomplished was to confirm my feeling that she was never going to hear me, no matter how big a club I used.

The invisible one @181: I just wish I could figure out how to say something like that without people reacting to me like I'm a raving lunatic feminist who takes everything too seriously.

I wish I had an answer for you. But you know, we've got some awfully smart people hanging around here. Try posing this question in the Open Thread and see if you can get some pointers!

hedges @187: She stuck her hand in my pants to feel my genitals. I was aghast, jerked my head around to glare at her, smacked her, and told my mother what she'd done.

**boggle!** Good on you! IMHO, that was the right response. "Hm. Must be sexual abuse. Let's do some more, just to make sure!" Wow.

#189 ::: Variant of Last Thread ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 02:57 PM:

I'm jumping in for a moment, while in a meeting, to thank our hosts for this place to exist.

What the general workplace and society doesn't often give us is credit for doing what is very hard for us, and is very easy for most people to do.

I'm not going to complain at work to a specific someone for a dis, a slight, quite annoying to me. Many people wouldn't take it as a slight. I do.

My boss knows I'm highly sensitive to the topic and did it during the meeting *anyways*. She has metaphorical skin like a dinosaurs, mine is thin as paper. She doesn't care how hard it is for me to take what I just had to take. No one else will give me credit, but I'm going to give myself credit. I appreciate that there's a place I can say this.

#190 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 07:44 PM:

A friend of mine pointed out that I seem to get anxious before I fall into serious self-hatred. He's probably right, though I'll be doing more checking to see whether the pattern is there.

At this point, I'm wondering whether I've been using anxiety to motivate myself to take action, with some natural consequences related to self-mistrust.

Or the causality might be circular-- my mistrust of my natural motivation leads to mild self-hatred leads to using anxiety as a prod leads to serious self-hatred.

Anyway, it seems to me that when I try to improve these matters, it's very easy for me to fall into "oh my god, there's something wrong with me, I have to fix myself immediately!", which is part of the pattern which creates the problem.

Any advice? Please let me know whether what you're suggesting is something you've worked with, or something that sounds reasonable but you haven't worked with. (These distinctions may not cover the range of possibilities, they probably don't.) The latter can still be valuable, I just want to know what the background is behind what you're saying.

#191 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 07:54 PM:

Nancy, 190: When I was teetering on the brink of a major crash last year (unemployment + impostor syndrome + jobhunts-eat-your-soul), I kept a grip on reality by reminding myself that my friends, who are awesome, are too smart to hang out with complete losers. Therefore, I was not a complete loser.

*waves to sanity-saving friends*

#192 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 08:52 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @190 -- what's been helpful for me is to explicitly separate the analysis of what's going on from what actions I'll try to take to correct it, when I'm working on myself. There's a time for just figuring out what I'm doing, what I gain and lose by doing things that way. I often do this with a therapist's help (being involved in the local Hakomi community has given me a lot of folks to learn from/with). I've trained myself (chosen to believe?) that I always have a reason that (at least at one time) looked positive to me for what I'm doing; and then maybe I'll be able to look at whether that's still positive, or whether it's time to thank the internal part of me that had that reason and offer it something else to get what it wants. Sometimes what looked positive to me at another time might not look positive to anyone else. Sometimes it was the best choice of a bad lot. It's still contributed to me being able to get this far. Sometimes it's doing something very well that I admire that I just haven't recognized yet, like helping me protect my personal integrity. I offer this because you asked, and do not represent that this approach will work for any other person (though I have seen it work for some).

#193 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 10:31 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #190: I'm not really sure how to deal with your (possible cycle), but it resonates with something else, DFT-relevant, that I've recently had to deal with:

My mother uses anxiety to motivate herself (anxiety runs strongly on her side of the family). The problem was that for a long time, she was also trying to use anxiety to motivate me! Unfortunately, I find anxiety more paralyzing than motivational....

Happily, she's actually pretty sane and self-aware, so once I figured it out, I was able to simply explain the problem to her, then start calling her on it (and cutting her off) whenever she tried it. She's gotten a lot better about that....

#194 ::: icebear ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 10:36 PM:

Not sure if i've posted at this site before, but I've lurked with affection for some time. This isn't the name that I'd ordinarily use, for sure.

I kind of feel like the question raised in this thread is a central one to the way I experience my family -- that there's something there, but it's Not As Bad As The Other Guy, but it's something, but not Something, but but but...

My folks are, in general, kind folks who care about me and support my best interest... the problem, which in a way turns into something of a reversal, is that there are these rounding errors around the corners where they care about and support an icebear that answers the same phone as I do and even shares many of the same interests and priorities, and they support and defend this icebear from all enemies including and perhaps especially this odd entity that answers her phone.

So, for instance, icebear-prime is attracted to men and hence wants to marry a nice, ambitious man. icebear-actual is indeed attracted to men, but also (and perhaps more so, in totality) to women. As regards marriage, ze sees such a thing as a distant yet desirable goal, but is ambiguous about items "nice" (by what definition?) "ambitious" (same), "man" (per above)... and also "a".

Or, say, icebear-prime is a conventionally-ambitious person who wants to climb the corporate ladder but is in danger of being handicapped by her complete lack of fashion sense -- whereas icebear-actual is actually starting to fancy zirself quite dapper, now that ze has gotten around to exploring zir tastes, and would like to have an interesting and profitable career but not at the expense of having to dress in drag for the rest of it.

I kind of feel torn, because on the one hand what I would want seems like a lot -- gay would be one problematic thing, bi is two things, and gender-variant and poly on top of that, aren't I just a terribly special snowflake? But on the other hand, these things are what I appear to be, so to a degree what I'm asking for acceptance of is me and that seems like a profoundly reasonable request.

(probably to be continued)

#195 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 11:10 PM:

Wednesday I get to ask my therapist about my ideas. That should be really useful, too.

@KayTei #176: We have been somewhat disengaged over the past few months, and it doesn't seem to be helping -- because Zak's family mostly does big family events with everyone there, disengaging could be read as "we accept that we're not family anymore." Our fallback position is to talk to the others and say that Fred and us have irreconcilable differences but we still want to see everyone else, would they please come visit with us away from Fred? People other than Fred have been visiting us occasionally, but I don't think they like it as a solution.

I definitely am trying to keep us on the calm and polite moral high ground, though it is very difficult with Zak always wanting to be confrontational and even violent. We've agreed that since his methods are not working, maybe making things worse, that I had better take over and try something else. Having things look and feel civil should let the rest of the family relax and see that we are the same people and that we are trying to keep the family together.

@Jacque #177: Regardless of how the double apology goes, I think it won't make things worse for us. If Fred apologizes, we have something to hold him to. If he doesn't but Zak does, we have a valuable demonstration of character. I would count Fred saying he'll behave better in future as a sincere apology, even if he can't stand to say he did wrong in the past. I'm also willing to let the family history record this as "they were equally in the wrong splitting up the family like this," even though it is only a half-truth. Right now Fred will keep winning by doing nothing. I do hope to conspire secretly, but I think Zak making that apology to Sophie and the others will really help make that possible. He's been pushing the others away by insisting they believe nasty things about their father. The nasty things are unfortunately true, but this is still not the way to win them over.

Thank you for saying my idea is brilliant. Zak thinks this approach will somehow backfire. I can't see how it would backfire any worse than being openly hostile, which is what Zak keeps trying. At the least we could generate proof that we have been polite and friendly and are getting treated badly, which gives us a lot more leverage for the fallback plan of "we'd love to see you but Fred is making visits unbearable, so come see us without him." My gut feeling is that Fred will be both confounded and infuriated if he can't make us go away or respond with hostility when he wants. That's why "get up and leave" should be a last resort -- it's rewarding Fred for bad behaviour, while punishing the people we want to see and get help from.

If this does work, though, I think I had better not talk to Fred alone. Zak says solo threats and intimidation are one of Fred's specialties, so I think any such request gets the reply that "whatever you have to say to me can be said right here in front of the others. Go ahead, please." I can't think of a more graceful yet firm out right now.

I will have to go looking for those items, and probably also _The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense_.

@David Harmon #179 and @Lee #182: The blaming me only started very recently, and I think it's mostly a response to the demands to take sides. It'd be lovely to convince everyone Fred is the problem, but I don't see that happening easily or quickly. I do hope it might happen eventually, but I expect it to need a LOT of evidence. I think any further disengagement will be more fruitful if, in the eyes of the family, we have genuinely tried to resolve the fight and get along. Making friendly conversation, and refusing to be provoked into hostility, won't annoy him if he isn't already hostile to us, right? And it sure shouldn't read as a hostile act to anyone else, not when they're insisting that Fred is kind and fair and likes us.

#196 ::: icebear ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2011, 11:48 PM:


I'm having a hard time explaining this all in anything resembling a linear fashion, despite having tried many times.

I'm not out about most of the labels I mentioned earlier -- not even out as straight, really, I've been in a two-year relationship with a man that I refer to as a "friend" because he's also bi (this has already proved problematic in hypothetical form) and not the marrying type (by mutual consensus) and would fail epically and explosively an evaluation for marriage potential by my parents which would commence instantly upon my confessing to the existence of the thing.

There's almost a degree of extrapolation -- if I've been asking for twenty years with no result for an end of discussing/evaluating/clucking over my mild-to-moderate acne (in the peak of the problem, not the physical manifestation but the actual problem, I was greeted at the gate flying home from college by "Oh your poor face!" and then discussion in detail of how bad it looked and what I should do about it, before things like "Hello"), and if I get a dirty look over the Thanksgiving turkey concerning what sort of shoes I wear to work, it almost seems like bringing up anything actually controversial will result in an explosion beyond compare.

#197 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:34 AM:

189 variant of the last thread - good for you for making it through the meeting.

Someone unthread talked about putting really basic steps on a checklist ( get up, shower, do dishes) and sometimes adding things you have already done so you can check something off and get some momentum. I totally use lists to keep myself from getting dead in the water. I also have a "good job, you deserve a treat" mental category for doing things I find hard regardless of how easy others find them. Sometimes chocolate, or watching trash TV, or whatever. I still have a glass bowl i got years ago as a treat to myself for going to the doctors for a vaccination. At the risk of being hlepy, maybe you deserve a treat?

#198 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:49 AM:

icebear, #194: Some of that sounds awfully familiar. They love you and support you and want what's best for you... on their terms and by their definitions. And if you don't want those things or fit those definitions, then you are Broken and must be Fixed at all costs.

This is one of the hardest kinds of emotional abuse to acknowledge, because you know that they really do love you and want you to be happy. What's hard to see is that this only holds if you're happy the way they think you should be happy. I spent 20-odd years in a life that suited me very well, but it didn't count because I was Doin It Rong. The fact that I was happy... just didn't register, to the point of them occasionally telling me that they knew I wasn't happy, because how could I possibly be happy without changing X?

and @196: That's a much more severe version of it than I had. (Although I still remember the time when my father, on being shown my new car, couldn't think of anything to say beyond, "Now maybe you can keep it CLEAN for a change." But that was... not an aberration exactly, but an extreme example.)

Your options at this point depend a lot on how much you're willing to give up in order to be the person you know yourself to be. If you have to live up to their idea of who you are in order to be welcome in their lives, and maintaining a relationship with them is important to you, then you're in a variant of the Golden Handcuffs situation.

#199 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 02:37 AM:

The list thing works for me, to an extent, to get things done. My Mom taught me that one. Also, if I wrote a long list and had trouble picking which thing to do next, to set up some form of random assignment (bucket, etc). I rarely do that anymore. I also find myself writing lists when everything gets overwhelming. If I can't sleep due to anxiety about everything I have pending, I can relieve my anxiety by writing a comprehensive list. Then things that I haven't done stop popping into my head to keep me awake.

Another coping strategy, for my forgetfulness, was to always make one trip with empty hands, before leaving a place. I got that one from Dad.

On the self-praise, self-reward thing... It's really difficult to fool myself into thinking I've accomplished something. My instinctive feelings when I've completed something are to figure out how to do it better next time, and/or what else I should have finished by that time. I don't really remember praise from anybody in my family. If they tried it would have felt undeserved, forced, and insincere. I have a really hard time praising others, too, which is a problem as an engineering supervisor.

The attitude my family instilled:
"What you have done is what you ought to have done, good-for-nothing slave". In fact, given that you did this and tht you are so bright, you obviously were capable of more. Why are you so... Lazy, disorganized, stupid (unwise not unintelligent), etc.

#200 ::: icebear ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 04:31 AM:

Lee @198


The airport incident was extreme, in that among the incidents involved in that particular theme (there's a relatively discrete list) it was the high-water mark, and it seems likely to remain such. It's also not necessarily typical of the body of what went on and goes on.

I think I have a tendency to cite things like this (and the all-topic winner incident, competing out of category "personal safety" and weighing in at four people dragged out of bed at unsociable hours) when I'm trying to give an initial overview of what "the thing" is precisely because they're atypically contained and explicit -- in both cases, the key events from my perspective occurred over the span of perhaps fifteen minutes and involve particular words and actions that don't require context to establish that they are significantly outside the norm.

A more typical example of the "acne" theme would be, say, on arriving for a holiday and after greetings and logistics are concluded suddenly stopping to peeeeeeeeeer intensely at my face, pause, express happiness that my face has cleared up and then concluding "but you still need to wear makeup".

I think the body of my experience is in incidents like that -- happening over and over, to the point that a standard form develops, and perhaps most clearly wrong in the face of fairly explicit objection (down to the "When you do this it hurts me, here is a fairly personal description of how I feel when it happens, please do not do it again" level, many times).

It's like, in the face of the above incident, am I going to make a big relationship thing with my mother over what kind of reduces to a compliment over a development that I actually did cause and do like? It seems kind of disproportionate -- but not more so than making a big relationship thing with me over the need to make an observation (for the N+1th time) on that one particular topic when we could talk about any number of subjects that I haven't somehow developed a complex about. Or so I would think.

Also, the Golden Handcuffs thing is very apt -- part of why this has been a thing for me lately is that I've been thinking of holiday arrangements. When visiting extended family, I share a hotel and a rental car with my parents and they foot the bill for the trip. This has been something that I couldn't afford for the past few years and probably constitutes a significant expense now; also, significant blow-ups, while not unknown, are uncommon. It's not far from my mind, though, that if one did occur there'd be no way to extricate myself tactfully and that traveling on my own would probably avert many of the minor incidents, but... is that really something that I want to pay that much for?

It becomes a complicated question, and one that becomes problematic to explain in itself because... "If it's so bad (that I vaguely entertain the notion that I might someday end up calling a cab from the lawn), why don't you leave? Or at least object?" but also "If it's so good (that I don't want to give up going, or cause hurt feelings when things are going well), why do you complain?" So... a problem. Definitely a problem.

#201 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 05:17 AM:


I started this comment days ago, trying to figure out how to word it well, and not sound too hlepy. At this point I'm just going to post it, hopefully I've made it come out OK.

I am not a mental health professional, though I do possess that most dangerous combination: an undergraduate psychology degree and deep fascination with human nature.

You mentioned that you're worried about a mental health diagnosis, especially one of bipolar. Then you went on to describe a number of symptoms associated with ADD, and few that I associate with bipolar.

BPD and severe ADD can have similar manifestations. I've known a few people who thought they had BPD until they got onto ADD meds. The main distinguishing factors seem to be the frequency of mood shifts and whether or not the swing usually coincides with a positive or negative event. If you're manic for twelve hours, then depressed for a day or two, it may be ADD. If you're manic for days and then depressed for weeks, it's more likely to be BPD. Similarly, if you're manic after finding out about a new job opportunity and then depressed after you find out you didn't get it, that's more like ADD, while if you're depressed or manic with absolutely no initiating event whatsoever, that's more likely to be bipolar.

Again, I am not a doctor, I can neither diagnose nor prescribe, take all of this with several large grains of salt. This is just what I've learned from doing a bunch of reading on ADD, and from talking with psychologists and psychiatrists.

Sometimes ADD can look like bipolar to outsiders, because they don't see the initiating event happen, or the initiating event is something tiny, like reading a good story or seeing a sad commercial on TV. Also, many people do not know the difference between the kind of mood swings that often accompany severe ADD and the more well-known symptoms of bipolar: they just see someone who is up and down a lot and say "you're probably bipolar," not knowing what a mental kick-in-the-teeth that is. I was lucky. I had all this explained to me in my late teens, so my ups and downs had been attributed to normal kid stuff. Since then I've always been able to step back from highs and lows and say "oh, it's the ADD again. I don't have to worry too much."

ADD as a diagnosis doesn't seem to interfere too severely with getting health insurance, either: I recently had to purchase private insurance when I was freelancing, and the quote I got with ADD wasn't significantly higher than the quote a friend of mine in similar health without ADD got. (Not to say that it was cheap in general, but the ADD didn't seem to influence it much.)

It may be possible for you to find a mental health professional who specializes exclusively in ADD and ADHD diagnosis and treatment. ADD meds can be something of a revelation. I'm not certain I would have graduated college without them... I can recall very distinctly times when I would struggle with something for hours then finally "give in" and take my prescription and bam - brain goes on, I get the thing done with a level of organization and efficiency theretofore unknown in my life. Not everyone has that "huh... it just works" reaction to medication, but I did.

I'm not on meds consistently now, largely because of the ADD. I moved across the country and my old psychiatrist retired, and I've just not gotten organized enough to find a new one and get re-diagnosed, or whatever rigamarole I'd have to go through. My ADD isn't too terribly severe, and I can (and do) use coffee and apples to regulate my focus. Still, with the diagnosis comes the knowledge that there are things out there I can do if life ever gets really overwhelming.

I'm not saying your fear of problems resulting from a psych diagnosis is unjustified or foolish. I just wanted to point out that what your family might think is "definitely bipolar" may merely be ADD, a diagnosis that really isn't so bad at all, from where I'm standing.

#202 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 05:40 AM:

In reference to Leah Miller @201: My partner's thought for years that I'm bipolar, exactly for the reasons you've written. And while I know I have up and down moods, sometimes quite intense, bipolar's never quite sat right with me as an explanation. In large part because the ups and downs have been so short in duration.

At the end of last week, I emailed a mental health specialist with a list of my symptoms, essentially an edited list of what I've been posting here. She emailed back to say it certainly sounds like adult ADD, and advised me on the next steps to take in getting referred to someone who may be able to help.

All in all, I've moved from shock and bewilderment into something that feels a lot like relief, and maybe optimism. I'm absolutely set on at least getting an assessment of some kind, because after reading up on everything and after the advice people have been giving on this thread, it would mean a lot just to know, even if only for myself, if this is the root of what's been going on.

#203 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 05:41 AM:

Icebear @200

How much do they listen and change?

Because, like, my mom has this weird persistent belief that I am cold at night and should have a down comforter. She tries to give me one at least once a year, and has sometimes become quite upset that I do not want it.

But in general, she listens to me. She tries to understand my actual hopes and desires. She just has this weird fixation on feather-based bedding.

My uncle, on the other hand, has very little ability to understand why anyone would ever want anything that was not "the best thing." Even if you explain that you have a specific use in mind for the item and your choice does that as well or better than "the best thing" while costing half as much and weighing less, he still doesn't really get it. (And is sometimes hurt if you reject the (genuine) effort and time he put into figuring out which was the best thing by ignoring his advice and going with your pick.)

Is your family otherwise receptive to your input and new information (but obnoxiously fixated on acne and fashion)? Or do they generally ignore you in order to keep "helping" you to achieve what they think you should want?

(I'm rather suspecting the latter, from what you've said. But I can also imagine a family that is listening but rather tone-deaf, and has misunderstood what signals you've given.)

#204 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 07:03 AM:

She tries to understand my actual hopes and desires. She just has this weird fixation on feather-based bedding.

Thank you. I think that's the first real laugh I've gotten out of this thread.

#205 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 08:55 AM:

Moonlit Night #195: OK, it sounds like you're both more realistic, and further along in this process, than I'd thought. (I'd actually gotten nervous back at your first mention of "a plan... it might be downright brilliant" I think we all know about "brilliant plans". ;-) ) Still no specific tactics from me, for the same reason as before.

hedges: Leah Miller #201 has many good points and is much clearer on "how to tell them apart" than I am, so I'm hereby deferring my advice to hers. I note that both ADD and bipolar have had turns as a "fad diagnosis", so individual layfolk may easily have fixed on either as a "hammer". If possible, it would be a good idea to seek a professional but off-the-record diagnosis, explicitly mentioning the possible confusion Leah cites.

Icebear: I'm pretty much with Lee #198 here, with the addendum that they haven't/don't want to recognize that you've actually grown up by now.

Given that explicit objections and explanations aren't working, then yeah, this is controlling behavior. Dealing with it is likely to require fighting for your own space, and standing up to retaliation. My basic suggestions: (1) wait until after the "season" to start any confrontation, (2) explicitly call them on the controlling behavior, with examples, (3) then call them again on trying to "wave away" your complaints, possibly citing prior examples of wave-aways.

You won't necessarily get a full "win" here, but once you've faced them down, you'll have more room to to stand firm against future incidents. Naturally, you'll need to stick to your guns long enough to convince them that this isn't just a "flash of rebelliousness"....

I gather that you are living on your own, with your own career, and it's entirely fair to underline that. Also fair is answering "but we love you!" with "would that be me, or just what you want me to be?", and "...what's best for you" with "I can choose what's best for me, and have been."

Devin #203: The persistence sounds suspiciously like "I'm cold, put on a sweater". Have you tried giving her a (different) down comforter or suchlike? ;-)

#206 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 09:34 AM:

Leah Miller @201 -- Also, it's entirely possible to have BOTH bipolar and ADD, which makes for a very difficult and uncomfortable pairing.

#207 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 09:55 AM:

Moonlit Night @ 172, 175, et al:

I wish you much luck and happiness in getting this to work. I applaud your efforts, because while I did not cut off all ties with my family, I did not have any problem walking (running, skipping, dancing) away from them either.

My one concern with your plan concerns your responses to Frank's direct insults. The base plan you've laid out for your responses is one that brings a smile to my geeky heart, but from my own experiences, the more mundane family members will not look at your semantic responses as neutral, but as condescending, and more importantly, as aggressive retaliation. "Too clever for the room."

Say he says “you’re a whore” or similar — I could say “why thank you Fred, that’s so nice of you to say that men find me so attractive that they will pay me just to be in my company!”

You may want to consider -- as has been said in other context upthread -- either not responding to it at all with some response like, "I'm sorry you feel that way," or "I don't know why you'd think that," which would be parrying the comment with no reaction and no emotion. Or if you do want to confront it, doing it in terms of calling him on what what he says means, either directly, "Why would you say that, Frank? Do you really think I'd sleep with anyone that paid me?" or by redirecting it toward the family, "Well, you really must not think much of Zak (or maybe, "think you've done a good job of raising Zak") if you think he'd date a prostitute."

#208 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 10:46 AM:

icebear @196: In the context of sharing experience: When my daughter was 8.5, I took her to DisneyWorld for a week. When we came home and went to see my mother, the day after the trip, her _first words_ to my daughter were, "you lost weight!"

Not "Hello" or "welcome back" or "did you have a nice time?" or "nice tan."


"You lost weight."

Luckily, by 8.5, my daughter had twigged to my mother's unhealthy obsession with everyone's weight (yes, I helped) and responded with something like "nice to see you too, grandma." At 15.5, she observed to me (just the other day), "grandma only likes thin people but she's always offering me food and getting upset when I don't want it." (my daughter has learned to eat when she is hungry not not eat when she is not--at this, she is better than her mother.)

My father's mother was the past master of the "you'd only be so pretty if" school: if you didn't have acne, if you wore makeup, if you lost weight, if you got some sun, if you wore your hair differently, etc.

So, yeah, btdt.

#209 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:02 AM:

I've lost the ability to stay completely caught up with this thread, but I need to post to it this morning.

I had my first big lose-control, huge-sobs-you-can't-breathe-through breakdown in ... geez, months at minimum. Which is sort of progress in itself, that I can hold it off that well, but, um.

tl;dr: Seeking witness, not 'solutions' -- I know my husband and I need couples counseling. It's not likely to happen before March at minimum (and probably not even then), but I do at least KNOW the right answer here. :-> I want to write stuff down so I can look at it, and let it stand here publicly because it may rhyme with other people's pain.

Background: our chronic conflict-resolution method is (a) try not to say anything about a problem and resolve it on your own until (b) it becomes so painful and huge that you can't hold it in anymore so you (c) burst a huge pain-bubble at the other person and scream and yell until (d) you've let loose enough pressure that you can hide it again. Return to (a) and iterate.

I do know this isn't healthy, I just can't seem to break us out of it. We do do it LESS than we used to, which is progress of a sort; there are now entire domains of problem we can actually talk to each other and resolve early enough that nobody has to get resentful or contemptuous.

That said, I have spent a lot of emotional effort and cognitive juice, over the past 15 years or so, in figuring out ways to try to communicate my needs to him. I know talking to him when I'm ALREADY broken-down, crying, and upset comes off to him like an attack, so I don't do it anymore.

However, there are classes of thing that, when neglected, make him completely incapable of empathy or sympathy towards me (namely, piled-up not-done chores like laundry, dishes, etc). From my POV, my brain weather is what is getting in the way, and if he would learn to help modify his inputs slightly so that my outputs can be less broken and more productive, it would solve the problem.

From his point of view, it should already be done by now, why in the hell am I attacking him and making it his fault I haven't done the dishes?


This morning it became clear to me that there is an overload in his attack sensor, because me literally saying "I need you to modify the way you interact with me. I need there to be positive social activity going on at the same time as the chores. If I commit to doing chores WITH you three nights a week, will you commit to being positively social WITH me while we do it?", in those words, was perceived by him as an attack.

I've changed myself as far as I can, and he's not changing at all. He's not even seeing why change is necessary, or useful.

He is not A Horrible Malicious Abusive Person. I honestly think if he could SEE the problem he'd be interested in helping me solve it. He just doesn't understand that letting his internal "Brick sucks" statements turn into external "YOU SUCK" statements while my own brain is yelling "YOU SUCK YOU SUCK YOU HORRIBLE SUCKING WASTE OF SKIN WHO PUTS THIS SAINT THROUGH HELL EVERY WAKING MINUTE" at me, is causing me to hide inside my coping strategies and dive into my own bellybutton instead of being cheerfully productive.

That said, how do you help someone see that "Your behaviors are abusing me emotionally" is not the same statement as "You are an EVUL ABUZZER!!!11!"?

It's kind of like negotiating the difference between "that thing you said was really racist" and "you are a racist," to quote the incomparable Jay Smooth.

[btw, how do I know he's not a callous inhuman bastard? Because when his final QUIT ATTACKING ME, JEEZPANTS, I WANT TO GO TO WORK statement caused me to collapse on the floor sobbing, then hide in the kitchen so our toddler wouldn't have to see me that broken, he followed me, pulled me gently up off the floor, and hugged me until I could breathe again.

I know this is not the behavior of a chronic abuser because if I'd done it in front of my mother she'd have crossed her arms and said, "Quit being so hystrionic, it's not like putting on an act like that is going to change my mind." As it is, my brain said it for him, but he didn't say anything even vaguely similar, he just held me.

It's like he really, really wants to be supportive at the same time as every action he takes is chipping away at my spoon supply and actively making it harder for me to hold myself together and heal.]

#210 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:13 AM:

Bricklayer @209:

Reading, witnessing. Hugs.

#211 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:26 AM:

Bricklayer @209. Witnessing and wishing a clear path forward for you.

#212 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:35 AM:

Bricklayer - [[hugs]]

Relationships are hard. So very, very hard. [[more hugs]]

On a more positive note - I'm cleaning my room. We've lived here 6 years, and I have never done this before. A big part of it is the purging - the letting go of things and trusting that I will be able to get more, that I can take care of myself, that I can earn money, that I don't need to hold on to everything, that I can buy myself bog-standard notebooks when I need them, that I won't run out of interesting things to read and don't need to have every book I've ever read just in case I run out of stuff to read.

It's amazingly freeing, and a sign of the fact that I am probably psychologically healthier than I have ever been before.

#213 ::: Erinacea ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:43 AM:

Bricklayer @209:

I hear you. A lot of that sounds very familiar.

At the risk of offering unwanted 'solutions': if (one of) the reasons couples counselling may be difficult for you is that your husband is unwilling to go, it may still be useful for you to go on your own. If that's not helpful, please ignore it - it's just something I wish I'd thought of earlier.

#214 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:04 PM:

Erinacea @213: One of the things I can't do when I'm in a brain-weather trough (as now) is, um, shop for a new therapist ... Sort of a Catch-22 thing.

#215 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:17 PM:

wanders by, swaps identifying information out where it didn't look like it should be, wanders off

#216 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:44 PM:

icebear, #200: It's possible to break that sort of bad habit from the outside, but to do so requires that you have independent transportation. When you arrive at your parents' house, the moment your mother starts in about your complexion, you say something to the effect of, "STOP! My skin is no longer a topic of discussion, period. This is not negotiable." When she protests, you repeat that once. The second time, you turn around, get back in the car, and leave. She doesn't get to see you if she insists on bringing up that topic. It will take multiple attempts, and in between times you'll have the rest of the family calling you up asking why you're being SO UNREASONABLE* -- and the minute they bring up the topic, they get the same warning, and then you hang up (and unplug the phone for a few hours, to discourage them from immediately calling back over and over again to harass you about it). But the thing is, if they genuinely love you and want to see you, they'll figure it out after a while.

The potential downside is that you may discover that they care more about being able to exclaim over your skin than they do about you -- that, in point of fact, this is your Assigned Role** in the family. OTOH, if that is the case, isn't it better to know while you still have a lot of your life left?

* This is a standard response to any attempt to change a long-standing pattern of interaction. They will move heaven and earth to drag you back into the pattern, and the only way to force a change is to stand firm.

** Assigned Roles are nasty -- much harder to change than simple patterns of interaction. I have one friend elseNet who has discovered that her Assigned Role was to be fat, poor, and miserable so that the rest of her family could feel superior. In the past couple of years, she's turned her life around (identified some major food sensitivities that were causing her weight issues, dug herself out from under a load of debt, and bought a house), and suddenly the hostility has gotten really overt -- to the point that she's strongly considering divorcing them all, because family gatherings have become all about putting her down.

#217 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:44 PM:

abi @215: Thanks. Smoothly done, O Moderator of Ninja-Like Skills and Silent Efficency. :->

Clarifying note: in my tl;dr above, when I said "I want witness, not solutions" I guess I really meant "I'm going to be a little oversensitive about hlepiness, but I welcome talking about issues raised by what I'm about to say."

I wouldn't have put it here if I wanted to utterly cut off outside input, and I promise not to bite anyone's head off for accidental hleping. :->

#218 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:55 PM:

Variant of Last Thread @189: No one else will give me credit, but I'm going to give myself credit.

It took me a very long time to learn to give myself credit (or refrain from from taking it away when I caught myself giving it), and even longer to rank the credit I give myself as being as or more meaninful than credit/criticism coming from the outside.

Good on you! Keep up the good work!

Nancy Lebovitz @190: At this point, I'm wondering whether I've been using anxiety to motivate myself

I sure do. BTW, I'm still thinking on your query from the last thread about finding my ambition. It's turning out to be not straightforward to put into words, but it's an important question, so I'm working on it.

Any advice?

This is going to sound flip, but it's not: go eat a good serving of dark leafy greens. Try to get in the habit of eating a serving every day. I've found that this makes a disprotionate difference in my mood, energy level, and general functioning. This is something I have to relearn several times a year. ::sigh::

Also, when you set to improve matters, are you taking any time to appreciate the stuff you're doing right?

Oh yeah: journalling. I find morning pages to be particularly helpful.

icebear @194: what I'm asking for acceptance of is me and that seems like a profoundly reasonable request.

It's not unreasonable. Keep after it.

Moonlit Night @195: It sounds to me like your instincts are good on this dynamic, and the idea of keeping interactions with Fred public is very smart. Witnesses, if nothing else.

I can give you the short version of Shamu in one sentence: Fail to respond (at all) to behaviors you want to supress. Watch for and reward behaviors you want to cultivate. Reward is in the eye of the trainee. Well, okay, two sentences. :-)

Cesar Millan's approach is less straightforward, but seems to boil down to: interrupt the undesired behavior, and then direct towards the desired behavior. So when Fred starts to be verbally abusive, yell, "Look! The Flying Victory of Somothrace!" and while he's trying to figure out what the hell you're talking about, you go, "So, Fred, tell me that great story about you back in the '80s again," or whatever input brings out behavior you like. (Good to have a specific idea beforehand of what you want him to be doing.)

But like I said, I think you are adequately clueful about the dynamic. Your challenge seems to be primarily in figuring out how to press the group dynamic into service of your goals.

icebear @196: It sounds to me like your family is responding to the package and not to the package's inhabitant. I concur with your analysis that coming out to them in any kind of depth is like to be ... fraught.

Lee @198: This is one of the hardest kinds of emotional abuse to acknowledge, because you know that they really do love you and want you to be happy.

I would quibble with the second half of this: the times I've encountered this pattern, it seems to shake out to: they love their idea of me, which IMHO is the worst kind of abuse, because it denies the actual me. David Harmon's @205 covers this nicely. No argument with the "hardest to acknowledge" part, though. Everything else you said is dead on.

And what David Harmon @205 said about controlling behavior as well. "You don't match my mental picture of what I want you to be. Here, let me help you with that...."

hedges @199: "Whatever you do, it's by definition (because it's, you know, you) not good enough, so just don't bother trying to feel good about yourself." Yup. Wore that t-shirt out decades ago. When I finally started catching myself feeling good about things I did, I made a special effort to hold those good feelings and validate them. Felt forced and artificial in the beginning, but it's slowly starting to streamline into habit.

icebear @200: It sounds like you're struggling with a lot of mixed feelings about this. That can be very tough, and the only solution for it is to work out clearly what my feelings and my desires are, however conflicted they may be. Which you are doing here, so keep at it!

The question you wrote that really lept out at me was this: is that really something that I want to pay that much for?

Leah Miller @201: apples ?

#219 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 12:56 PM:

Bricklayer, #209: I understand the fine line between "your behavior is emotionally abusive" and "you're a BAD PERSON" and how difficult is is to articulate. Would it help to reframe this as "your behavior is exacerbating the problem"? Perhaps not using the Magic Word would make it easier for him to see that he's contributing to the whole mess. If that's hlepy, feel free to ignore.

#220 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:08 PM:

I remember a model for giving behavioral feedback that I learned in training for a crisis intervention center: "When you do x, I feel y."


"When you don't talk for an extended period, I feel lonely."

"When you talk to me when I'm busy, I feel distracted."

Note that "When you act like yourself I feel that you're being a jackass" is NOT in the model!

I offer this for any value that can be gleaned from it, with no representations as to its fitness for any particular purpose.

In the same spirit, I offer something that impressed me when it was used by some married friends of mine. They would sometimes begin a sentence with "This is a question, not a criticism." So if the rest was "why are all these bowls and utensils out on the kitchen table?" the answer could be "because I was putting them away and got distracted" or "because I'm going to bake a cake as soon as I get done with this laundry."

This requires the absolute commitment NEVER to deliver a criticism after saying that, and to accept the answer without becoming angry...also to try hard to ignore any feelings of being criticized and answer the question without subtext, defense, or apology. Those are hard, but I've found the phrase helpful.

#221 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:15 PM:

Lee @219: That is the heart of the problem. He hears "your behavior is making me less able to cope and do the things you're mad I haven't done" as an attack.

The thing that keeps making me feel weepy is that the last 2-3 days have been BETTER than the preceding 2 weeks, notably so, in regards to my neurotransmitter climate. I've been waking up on my own (instead of dragging out of bed late) before the alarm goes off, I've actually gotten a small amount of chores done, I've managed to do several other do-regularly things as a matter of course instead of having to hide in the bathroom and make myself not have to cry, first.

I think I am seeing a pattern in our well-worn ingrained behaviors that I'd not seen before: in my deepest deepest trough, he actually laid off (or, at least, bottled it up harder so he didn't say anything to me at all, positive or negative). Then, when I had a mildly-productive day, on the NEXT DAY he lost control of his bottling and vented argh-argh-argh-the-house-is-a-pit-and-I'm-the-only-one-who-does-chores angst in my direction.

Interesting, if consistent. Also explains why I have so many 'double-dip recessions' in my history, perchance.

#222 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:19 PM:

Bricklayer @209 & @217: {{{HUGS}}}

statement caused me to collapse on the floor sobbing, then hide in the kitchen so our toddler wouldn't have to see me that broken, he followed me, pulled me gently up off the floor, and hugged me until I could breathe again.

That's definitely keeper behavior. :-)

What happens when you pull it back to the Shadow operator: "What do you want?"

Can you list other behaviors of his that match what you want? Do you let him know when he does stuff that's good for you?

Doing so (IME) is good for its own sake, but it might also adjust the relationship baseline to make him feel less defensive, and also identify for the both of you a more desirable direction to move in.

And good on you for tl;dr-ing to us! :-)

#223 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:19 PM:

An ohnosecond after pressing 'post', I realized I had a postscript:

One valuable thing several years of therapy taught me is how to take a step back, look at a Just-Accomplished thing, and say, "Good boy, that was awesome, what you just did," even when there is still a teetering pile of crap I don't feel capable of shoveling yet.

I think part of the problem is that in my dear spouse's internal wiring, the teetering pile completely negates any attaboy provided by the just-accomplished thing, turning any small progress that is not complete and utter subjugation of the problem into abject failure, in his head.

I wish I weren't as broken as I am, but lemme tell you, learning strong dissociative skills in early childhood DOES have some later use, at least. :->

#224 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:25 PM:

Jacque @222: The heart of the problem relates to your questions. When I ask HIM what he wants, the answer is always some productivity task (usually keeping up with the dishes/laundry/cooking/etc). What he complains about me doing are always third-order symptoms relating to the same underlying problem: he detests deeply seeing me 'waste time' while I hide with coping strategies that are more useful at respooning myself than, say, hiding in the bedroom crying might be. But just as Obama's not being judged on the massive recession we didn't get, I get judged for spending 'all night watching crap TV while he does chores downstairs by himself'.

I have occasionally dragged him into doing positive, social things with me, like going to a boardgame afternoon, but the whole time he complains that we're 'wasting' time we could have been 'accomplishing things'.

I think he needs to learn what feeds him, so he can DO IT ONCE IN A WHILE DAMMIT and not be constantly running exhausted, upset, and lonely. But he feels most self-care or relationship-maintenance attempts as, instead, lost time.

Just because he's a helluva lot less broken (and more functional in the Real World) than I am doesn't mean he ain't broken a'tall. And just because his parents are still married and pleased with each other doesn't mean his family-of-origin didn't have dysfunctions -- for example, and this gobsmacked me when I heard it, he has never in his life seen his parents either (a) fight or (b) kiss each other. Not once. Never. Either one. WTF? No wonder he has trouble figuring out how to negotiate relationship snags, he's never had a marriage modeled for him as anything but a perfectly oiled black-box system with no visible inputs or outputs ...

#225 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:48 PM:

Neutrino (220): My family uses the similar statement, "This is a comment not a criticism." It works for us, and I've used it successfully with friends. How well it would work in an already fraught situation, I don't know.

#226 ::: Surrogate ID ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:52 PM:

Bricklayer @ #221

My wife of 16 years was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, with a side of depression. This served mostly to put a label on physical and emotional problems we've been dealing with for going on two decades. That said, this
I think I am seeing a pattern in our well-worn ingrained behaviors that I'd not seen before: in my deepest deepest trough, he actually laid off (or, at least, bottled it up harder so he didn't say anything to me at all, positive or negative). Then, when I had a mildly-productive day, on the NEXT DAY he lost control
hit a definite resonance with me. If a peek from the other side is any help at all, it took me a long time to realize just how much these were "gradual slope" problems, and I spent a lot of time treating it much more as an "on/off" problem. [If she couldn't get out of bed, that was evidence she was not feeling well, and I left her alone. When she got up, "after," I gave her a day to recoup, flu-like, and assumed she was "all-better."
Now, we needed to catch up. I thought I was being good. I couldn't see, had no idea, she was still dealing with all sorts of internal problems and would need days (weeks) to get back to some form of normal.

Eventually we talked about it and things got better. Hope and hugs that yours do too.

#227 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 01:59 PM:

Bricklayer @224: Actually, I was thinking of the "What do you want" question more for you, but you're right, it's a question for both of you.

Actually, from your description, it sounds like his "high-functioning" is perhaps not as high as all that. I mean, if he's sorting for mismatches instead of matches (chores that aren't done instead of chores that are), that's going to be an issue, within himself as well as between him and you.

Also, when he fusses at you for wasting time replenishing spoons, ask him if it's a waste of time to take the car in for an oil change or to stop by the station to fill it with gas. After all, the car's not driving you to your destination, in those cases....

From your description of his behavior, I'm betting that the "perfectly oiled black-box system" of his parents' marriage isn't as perfect as all that. While it's possible that they have strategies for negotiating mismatches and disagreements that he never saw, it's also possible to achieve this effect by never talking and failing to acknowledge problems. And the latter will tend to produce the effect in observers that you describe in your husband: "It's not perfect. What am I doing WRONG!?"

#228 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 02:11 PM:


Eeeek this story sounds familiar, except that I'm HIM.

I'll say two things about my and my wife's relationship, at risk of being hlepy; if you want me to expand because it is actually helpful, please just say so.

One, having stuff not done is extremely spoon-eating for both of us. Which stuff varies some, but unless the house is functionally tidy and not heavily visually cluttered, both of us will be more easily frazzled. I can't do enough in the time I'm at home to keep the house spoon-neutral.

Two, taking care of a toddler is demanding, and tiring, and it's been hard for both of us to adapt. This seems from all I hear from parents with older children to be normal and unavoidable, and I need to remember that.

#229 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 02:54 PM:

SamChevre, #228: having stuff not done is extremely spoon-eating for both of us. Which stuff varies some, but unless the house is functionally tidy and not heavily visually cluttered, both of us will be more easily frazzled

I think that's an issue around here as well; although my partner and I both have a much higher level of cope for clutter than many people do, the fact that we have 2 packrats AND 2 home-based businesses in 1 ordinary-sized house is pushing things even for us. And I know one of my issues is that even if I clean up every single bit of my own clutter, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference, visually speaking, because of all the other clutter that I don't dare touch.

I try to cope with this by the Ten Things method -- sort and put away or discard 10 things in a given area, and then go do something else -- but there are days when even that seems overwhelming. And the whole "no matter what I do, it doesn't seem to make any difference" thing is really, really hard to deal with, and paralyzing.

#230 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 03:33 PM:

Bricklayer: Witnessing. Hugging.

All I can say is that I'm familiar with the dynamic, and it's hard to break out of. You know what you need, and you know what you're capable of right now. It sounds like he's significantly underestimating the amount of time it takes you to pull through a bad bout of brainweather, and your comment that he views self-care as "lost time" suggests that he doesn't understand how long something like that can take, or how fragile one can be while the spoons replenish.

Ignore if hlepy, but might it help to demonstrate to him that the arguments are also "lost time", and worse, "lost time" that triggers more "lost time"?

For that matter, what does he want the time for? Is that something that you, or he, can identify?

#231 ::: Variant of last thread ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 04:35 PM:

Mea @197, Jacque @218

Thanks so much. One of those long-leftovers from my having a dysfunctional childhood is worrying that I'm saying something that makes sense to me but not to others.

Beyond crediting myself and validating myself, I'm also going to write right now that said thick-skinned boss was gaslighting me. But the content of this will have to wait until I can handle writing it. But there, I said it. (goes to get a cookie- equivalent)

#232 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 04:45 PM:

Jacque @218

The apples thing is weird. I read something when I was very young about apples increasing focus, in some kids' science magazine. I know I've heard the same thing from different sources at different times in my life, but I can't track down a clear citation for it right now.

Nevertheless, when I can't focus and it's too late for coffee, or I'm otherwise unable to coffee, an apple provides a brief focus boost. The odd thing is I know a number of other people who have read the same things and report similar results, but I feel silly for not being able to actually find something to cite.

As a side note, when I first was getting meds for ADD, my doctor actually asked if I had tried coffee to control it, because some people with milder ADD can control it with caffeine alone. I can't... partially because I have a thing where a large number of drugs rapidly lose efficacy when I take them regularly. It does help some, though, and I'd pretty much be unable to do anything at all if I didn't have coffee, at the very least.

#233 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 05:15 PM:

David Harmon @205

It's not exactly "I'm cold, put on a sweater." It's a close relative: "This sweater is so cozy! You should have one too!" She's found something that makes her life better, and she wants to export her happiness. Mostly she gets that other people want different things from her, this is just a weird blind spot (which is why I used it as an example of a generally-functional relationship with a weird blind spot).


Witnessed. Impressed by your clear view of the situation. About to stop speaking in sentence fragments.

It does sound like your fellow's under a lot of pressure himself right now, and like he doesn't have the same awareness and agency in coping that you do. You say you're "broken," but in the process of dealing with that you've obviously had to learn yourself and how to care for yourself (count that among your victories, hey?) You've also pointed out several ways you think he could be taking better care of himself.

It wouldn't surprise me if he has some basic self-care habits, but little consciousness of what they do for him and thus no ability to do more of that stuff when life is rough. I feel for the guy (it's been one of my failure modes as well) and solo therapy might be good for him too.

#234 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 05:31 PM:

Bricklayer: On a different tangent, might it be possible to occasionally hire a housekeeper for a day? I have a housekeeper visit once a month, and while she certainly can't undo my clutter, she does help keep things from decaying ad infinitum.

#235 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 06:31 PM:

Bricklayer: One thing my wife does sometimes, is to tell me "I need to tell you something, but I'm afraid it will upset you." Generally, the extra bit of self-awareness I get from that helps me realize that she's not attacking me, even if she is criticizing me (by pointing out something I've been doing that's hurting her, for example), and so I'm able to keep my defensiveness in check. YMMV, of course.

Also, thank you for pointing out the harm done by thinking "things are getting better, why aren't they perfect yet?" I'm sometimes guilty of that.

#236 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 08:41 PM:

For the record, while it appears that I'm not quite ready after all to resume posting on the other threads at Making Light under my real name, I am still reading the comments on these threads.

I wish I had something helpful and comforting to say to those of you struggling through your own situations. I'm at a loss for useful words.

One of the items on my psychotherapy agenda is to find out where my human heart went, and see if I can get get it reinstalled where it belongs. Still working on that, so if it seems like I'm self-absorbed and not very empathetic to the concerns of everyone else here, please don't think that. I just don't see how I can say anything helpful, so I concentrate on trying not to say anything hurtful. Baby steps.

A brief status update on my situation: I have now had three sessions with the divorce mediator, and my son's mother and I have agreed to a shared responsibility co-parenting plan that has him four days a week with me and three days a week with her. We are still cohabiting, but she has finally encountered the reality in which she will be the one to move out of the family house and find a new place to live. Moreover, she didn't take it too badly.

When she realized that her support payments would not be enough to pay even half of the fair market rent, and that any settlement that would allow her to go on living in the house indefinitely would absolutely be contingent on that, the look on her face made me think she was going to throw an engine rod. She yelled a bit across the conference room table, but it didn't faze me. After that, she wouldn't speak to me for three days, but that turned out not to be a problem.

On the plus side, I am learning not to be so terrified of the process, and finding that the more I unclench, keep an easy posture and stay focused on maintaining a calm and collected composure, the less trouble my son's mother makes for me in doing so. Regular sessions with the psychotherapist are definitely helping.

At the moment, I'm feeling like we might just come out the other side of this— all three of us: me, my son and his mother— better off than when we are all living under one roof.

Still got a long way to go yet, though. Still a bit sad that I won't be able to spare my son completely from having to endure his mother's emotional violence and verbal abuse. It looks like she's adamant about requiring me to share responsibility for him pretty close to evenly. Alas, the poor kid. I'm trying to get to the point where I can accept this aspect of my reality without resisting it, but it's not easy, and I don't know how to get there.

#237 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 09:25 PM:

Moonlit Night @ 195

Yes, I hear that. I was in a very different situation, in some ways, because it was made very clear to me up front that I was not family, and would never be family unless I converted. Different starting point, different stakes.

David @ 234

Yes, us too. It makes a huge difference, having someone who can come in and catch us up once a month. It's not quite a perfect fix, but given my various periodic limitations, I really appreciate having someone else who can do the really physical parts and deal with any chemicals.

#238 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 09:45 PM:

Variant of the last thread at 231 - enjoy your cookie!!

Abi at 231 - thank you for being so good about creating a safe space for people to talk. I created a google account to talk on a past years thread about my family and it was the first time I ever posted anywhere. I was upset around the time of my sister's last hospitalization, and not sure what to do. My sister struggled her entire adult life with schizophrenia or bipolar or whatever the diagnosis was for very severe mental illness that repeatedly threw her for a loop. The diognosis changed over time. For ten years she was stable, and one of the new classes of medications Is why. In her last hospitalization, she was given a fatal overdose of the drug that had given her a good quality of life. Since her death, I haven't posted problems to dysfunctional family day (and there is a long post right there that I'm not ready to write about how family dynamics changed).
In real life, I was and still am very open about talking about
my sister. On the way to the airport the van driver and a
passenger got into a "all the people on welfare are cheats"
discussion, and I had to jump in and say that no, my sister
needed her ssi, had to keep amazing records to qualify for her benefits, and that the govt support she received meant she could work and live as a productive member of society.
In other words, I don't feel the need to have a different persona/handle for this thread than for my other comments on making light. I love that people can do that, and that this is a safe space that i needed to start talking online but part of what I feel I need to do is witness, and not hide. So no need to scrub my data!

#239 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 09:51 PM:

For a moment today I thought the world had come to an end.

My mother apologized for yelling at me during our several recent arguments about money (she wants to give me some, which I'm not opposed to, but it has to be on her terms, which I am opposed to).

I accepted her apology but did not apologize in turn. There was a moment of silence there.

Now I have to figure out how conciliatory I want to be.

#240 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 09:51 PM:

Me again.

I figured out why I couldn't eat. I'm not going to go into all the details, because that would take several thousand words and many more spoons than I can spare, but the short version is that my family of origin has some serious dysfunctions where I am concerned. My role in the family is to be the least important one, the easy child, the one who is helpful and useful and doesn't have needs. Especially the one who doesn't have needs. If I need things I haven't been told I can need, that gets me in trouble, and one of the things I have not been allowed to need is food. I spent a good deal of my childhood hungry and almost always got told off if I mentioned this.
That's why food specifically, but that's not why I couldn't eat.
Things came to a crisis point: accept those rules and the picture of myself (worthless except for the help I can provide to important people and doubly worthless for having needs of my own) and keep the family unit stable, or reject the rules and the world-image and my family along with it. I don't mean break off contact with them or confront them. I mean that rejecting those rules means letting the brokenness of my childhood stop being a distressing theoretical and become the reality I live in.

I figured that out, and then I went and made some toast. I've been eating, maybe not well, but up to my usual standards since. It's taken me a couple of days to gather the spoons to post this.

They fucked me up, my mum and dad. They didn't mean to, but they did.

#241 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 10:10 PM:

#240 ::: Froth ::: They fucked me up, my mum and dad. They didn't mean to, but they did.

Mine too. Oh gods, mine too. And I don't know which was worse, the bits where they didn't mean to, or the bits where they did.

#242 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 10:20 PM:

David Harmon in #205: I was saying "brilliant" because I am trying to learn that maybe I don't always suck. ;) Also, a plan that Fred can't complain about without providing some evidence that he dislikes us and wants us gone possesses at least *some* insight, right?

pedantic peasant in #207: For myself, I don't care that much about losing contact with Zak's family -- no fault of theirs, just my own history making family an uncomfortable thing -- but Zak does, and of course I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure he keeps them since that's what he wants. Most of them are nice people, even if they don't understand me.

You've got an excellent point and I don't know which style will work out better -- it really depends on what everyone else finds less offensive while still thwarting Fred. They've got a good sense of humour mostly, so something cheerful and too absurd/ridiculous to seem serious may go over better with everyone but Fred than a direct rebuttal. I guess the best thing is to test mild versions of each and see what works. Either way, having a wider range of safe parries will be very helpful for not sounding like robots, and we can vary the mix of safe to challenging according to how things go. Maybe "how nice of you to say so" would make another good all-purpose response.

May I also suggest, "Fred, are you trying to tell me that you think sex workers aren't worthy of respect?" in a tone of earnest surprise. Or at least the best approximation I can manage.

Jacque in #218: Thanks for the vote of confidence; I need it. Us being there is a punishment in itself, by now, I think, but I'm not sure what we could do as a reward, except to leave Fred alone for a while, since what he wants is for us to go away or start being monogamous and controllable by him, none of which is acceptable. Similar problem for interrupts and prompts -- when I'm there, his best behaviour is to be quietly surly. He's a very good cook for both savouries and dessert, but he often yells at his wife Sophie when cooking, which I do not wish to encourage. Similarly, he's friendlier when he's tipsy to drunk, but Sophie clearly doesn't like him getting drunk. We're running low on desirable behaviours here. Though buying him a bottle of something he likes is an excellent olive branch to extend...and we happen to know a port enthusiast to advise us. Maybe for now we should try buying him a nice port for Christmas, and giving him some breaks from the enforced friendliness, so long as he doesn't use them to be nasty.

#243 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 10:23 PM:

Froth #240: Good for you for figuring it out, and accepting that the abuse you suffered is real, and broken, and bad.

And dear God, is that BAD!! I don't care if they "meant" to "fuck you up", because clearly they didn't care if they did or not.

And I'll tell you something else: After being put through that, you don't owe them squat. Not contact, not love nor respect nor obedience, not "keeping the family unit stable". Anything they get from you is pure charity, granted despite their having utterly forfeited any right to deserve it.

I wish you all strength and luck in overcoming the pain and soul-bindings your parents have saddled you with.

#244 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 10:26 PM:

Froth, #240: Toast is good. (Did it make you think about "Sredni Vashtar"? It always does for me.) Figuring out what had you stuck is even better. Good luck moving forward, now that you've taken the first step.

Also, see what I mentioned @216 about Assigned Roles.

#245 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 10:39 PM:

Moonlit Night #242: True, and I don't meant to discourage you from trying to sort things out! But be careful, and remember that an experienced bully is likely to be much more experienced at manipulation than you probably are, and don't assume you've seen everything he's got to throw at you.

That said... you and Zak have your own resources -- intelligence (which may well be greater than Fred's), and caring (which surely is). You probably have the moral high ground as well, but ultimately, it's not you or I that will judge that, it's the rest of your (Zak's) family. And you have courage!

Those things may well be enough to deal with this -- you've clearly thought this through carefully, and I wish you the best of luck.

#246 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:03 PM:

#224 et al ::: Bricklayer :::
None of the following means you ought to let him treat you badly. But I see myself in some of your partner's behaviour, so I'm hoping to provide some useful insight into how he ticks.

In my life, I'm the one who wants the chores done, and the one who rarely has the energy to GET them done, unless life has been very relaxed, or I have company. Having more than a small amount of dirty stuff, clutter, and unfixed things in the house reliably makes me fretful, easily irritated, even prone to exploding semi-randomly. I was brought up with OCD-level tidiness as the standard, and while mine is not quite as high, it is way higher than my partner's. So I spend a LOT of time feeling overwhelmed by mess and wanting to scream. It is soothing to be somewhere tidy enough, or do an achievable chunk of cleaning. (It's not *fun*, but it is rewarding, at least until it denerates again.)

So, some part of his wanting the place tidy might BE self-care, however badly expressed. You can test this by getting a contained space (e.g. his desk, a room) thoroughly tidy, and watch. Does he relax when he's in the tidy space? Does he start spending extra time in the tidy place? Does he stop doing so, or even avoid that room once it gets cluttered again? Or visibly give up on keeping it neat until the mess level makes him explode? (Speaking of which, once I'm done this comment, I SHALL Do Something about this living room!)

I also recognize that must-work-all-the-time feeling. Some of it comes from the overwhelmedness of I-have-to-do-it-all-and-nobody-will-ever-help, and some from the relief of accomplishing something, even temporarily. I'm almost certain that whatever's on his to-do list, that it's pages and pages long and he doesn't see how to make it happen, maybe even not with help, and that's there's more stuff he's not putting on it because it's already hopeless. I have been there, at length. Internally he might feel that he should pay for pleasure by doing something productive first, too.

More practical suggestions:
- Suggest that you'll both do something productive to an agreed time or progress marker. Then you're going to have a good meal and do something fun and restorative.
- You mentioned wanting social time. Can you talk a mutual friend into coming to visit while you tidy? They don't need to help, unless they want to, aside from keeping you both on task, except for agreed-upon break time. But this does make it more fun, and if one of you is anything like my partner, can provide valuable focus. (I love Zak dearly, but he can look at a pile of mess on the floor and act as if it was a natural outgrowth of the planks.)
- If there are some goods or services you can afford that will reduce the mess level or chore time, seriously consider getting them. Dishwasher, shelving, bins for sorting things... If you two can make it easier and faster to keep the place clean it will happen more and if he's like me, it will help him relax.

#247 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 13, 2011, 11:14 PM:

Bricklayer @209 etc.: Reading, witnessing, having flashbacks to oh-so-many moments of my marriage. Hugs.

Anyway. Christmas. Bleargh. While I know I'm in a much better place than I have ever been in my life right now, something about this season makes all of my old demons rush back to point mocking fingers at me. The carols, the brittle cheer, the pitying looks and sincere, well-meant invitations to spend Christmas eve with friends acquaintances when they discover I'm probably spending it on my own or with strangers who find themselves stranded in town with no family or friends, the pressure to enjoy the year-end holidays: they make me want to kick something hard then curl up into a ball and hide under the covers.

Because even though I know I have some of the most amazing friends in the world, and people who love me, and whom I love with all my heart, there's nothing quite like this time of year when it comes to making me feel like I'll never find anyone to be the source of strength and solace and love that I am told I am for others. They'll make you think you can count on them, then they'll go away, whispers that little voice. Christmas makes me feel so unsafe.

I can't attempt to not love people; it's too painful to hold it in, in any case. And I've gotten back much more than I've put in, when I can be rationally emotional about it. Shared moments of tenderness and vulnerability are made all the more intense and precious by their fugacity.

Right now, though, great big heart feels more like great big hurt than anything else.

#248 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 12:10 AM:

Aha moment after posting above: I just realized that I still tend to think of people in my life as placeholders because I still feel I'm highly expendable myself.

#249 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 12:45 AM:


I hope it's not hlepy, but I've sent you an email. Respond, or not, when and if you like.

(I don't always remember to check my own email, so I won't assume you necessarily check yours <smile>.)

#250 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 12:49 AM:

Froth, I don't have you exact food issues, but I sometimes think that my food issues are fighting to stay food issues. The latest wrinkle is pretending to be body issues... which has backfired spectacularly because I read the fat acceptance blogs, I have been unhealthily underweight, I still think of myself as unhealthy because I am underweight, and so, "I should drink less chocolate milk," becomes, "Wait, this is not the me I want in charge. Gimme the Quik."

I'm glad you've figured out more of your food issues. They're pernicious things, as with anything that attacks judgement first.

#251 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 05:41 AM:

moonlit night @242 Maybe "how nice of you to say so" would make another good all-purpose response.

I'm a fan of the advice columnist Carolyn Hax, and for a range of over-the-top remarks she recommends an all-purpose response of "Wow."

#252 ::: Erinacea ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 07:56 AM:

Bricklayer @214

Yes, I can see that would make things tricky. I hope things become less Catch-22-ish for you soon.

In the mean time, I've found that it helps a tremendous amount to have a neutral third party to whom I can talk without worrying about being disloyal or making the situation worse by feeding insecurities about social interaction. I think this thread might help with that for a lot of us.

I'm finding I'm spending less time in the cycle between 'this is a terrible situation, help!' and 'but maybe I'm just being unreasonable' and more time thinking 'My reactions are reasonable. I have a reasonable request. What is the best time/way to make that request?'

As long as I don't spend too much time worrying about the 'perfect' words or moment to say something, I think that's pretty positive. I've only managed it with small things so far, but I think we're making a bit of progress.

It feels very much like heavy lifting, sometimes, though.

#253 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 08:51 AM:

Moonlit Night #246: (... but he can look at a pile of mess on the floor and act as if it was a natural outgrowth of the planks.)

I'm afraid I resemble that remark! ;-~ I'm still working on not referring my own clean-laundry basket to the collision-avoidance system.

Diatryma #250: my food issues are fighting to stay food issues.

When you stop letting various issues maul you, and start hunting them down, they'll often try to hide under false flags. That just means you're winning....

I drink Ovaltine rather than Quik myself, because it tosses in some free vitamins and such -- a dozen-odd 10% RDAs per glass. Not as many flavors, though -- just chocolate and/or malt (that's 3 flavors). As I write, my morning coffee is an Ovaltine mocha. Yum!

#254 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 11:58 AM:

My all-purpose "I can't believe you said that, but I'm not going to stoop to responding in kind" reply is "Charming."

#255 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 02:18 PM:

Devin @#203: She tries to understand my actual hopes and desires. She just has this weird fixation on feather-based bedding.

So, this may be hlepy, and if so feel free to ignore it.

Have you considered taking the comforter and then donating it to a shelter or Goodwill or whatnot? I presume that once you had one she'd stop trying to give you another, or at least you could say, "But the one you already gave me is fine!"

#256 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 02:18 PM:

Froth @240: Oh. Oh, that just hurts. How can a child not be "allowed to need" food? I'm so glad that you've figured out what the problem is, and that you're actively taking steps to take care of yourself.

Please, continue to do what you need to build up your spoons. And know that your needs *are* valid, they *are* important, and anyone that tells you otherwise is lying.

Pendrift: You are not expendable. And it's ok to struggle during the holidays; it's the time of year that relentlessly hammers out the idea that every family should be shiny and happy, and for those of us who don't have shiny happy families, or who don't feel particularly shiny or happy themselves, it can be really rough. I hope you can find enough peace to make it through.

#257 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 03:01 PM:

Leah Miller @232: The apples thing is weird. I read something when I was very young about apples increasing focus

Huh. Who knew? There's all sorts of weird little molecules lurking around that do who knows what?

Here's an ADD/ADHD question: Does focus = Flow? That's the equivalency I've been making in my mind, but it occurs to me that I may be off with that.

some people with milder ADD can control it with caffeine alone.

The mechanism is pretty wild, too: apparently caffeine (and other stimulants) strengthen the signals from inhibitory neurons—so stimulants enhance one's ability to shut irrelevant stuff out.

I can't... partially because I have a thing where a large number of drugs rapidly lose efficacy when I take them regularly.

Does it help any to rotate stimulants? E.g., coffee one day, tea the next, cocoa the third?

I've finally made the connection to the half-hour post-meal blood-sugar boost and my sudden "out of the blue" "impulse" to Do Stuff. Unfortunately, the Stuff I have the impulse to Do is nearly always artworkly kinds of things. I still haven't found a reliable way to motivate myself to do necessary stuff like housework or, um, work work.

Devin @233: It's a close relative: "This sweater is so cozy! You should have one too!"

I'm terrible with this one, especially before I've tried a new thing and established whether or not it actually has the amazing effect I hope it will. ::sigh::

xiaoren @236: if it seems like I'm self-absorbed and not very empathetic to the concerns of everyone else here, please don't think that. I just don't see how I can say anything helpful, so I concentrate on trying not to say anything hurtful. Baby steps.

Oxygen mask, dear. Get yourself breathing before you worry about helping anybody else breathe. As to where your human heart has gone: checked your blood cortisol levels lately? ;-)

Froth @240: I figured that out, and then I went and made some toast.

Yay for clarity! Yeah, I got stuck with being The Good Child, too. Still finding straps on me from that role. Keep after it! You're making progress!

Moonlit Night @242: "Fred, are you trying to tell me that you think sex workers aren't worthy of respect?" in a tone of earnest surprise. Or at least the best approximation I can manage.

Be gentle, dear. That might make his head explode. Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing, necessarily. :-)=

I'm not sure what we could do as a reward

This is a place where careful observation is helpful. I will predict that there are two classes of things Fred would find rewarding: times where he "wins," in which case he gets to have an ego-puff, and times when something sincerely makes him feel good (good about himself? good about his place in the group?). Tickling either one will result in "rewarding" him, though I would predict that the latter would be more effective in adjusting his long-term attitude towards you.

Pendrift @248: I still feel I'm highly expendable myself.

You're Not. Just sayin' (E.g., I notice when I don't see your byline for a while.)

David Harmon @253: referring my own clean-laundry basket to the collision-avoidance system


WRT Qwik: I roll my own: 1/3 c powdered milk (because I'm too lazy/eratic to keep fresh milk on hand), 2 TBSP cocoa powder, 2 TBSP sugar, dash of salt, splash of vanilla, 1 c hot water. ::lick:: >*smack!*<

#258 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 03:06 PM:

Jacque @ 257... There's all sorts of weird little molecules lurking around that do who knows what?

Some, if taken on a daily basis, repel the Doctor.

#259 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 03:23 PM:

Serge: what if I don't WANT to repel the Doctor? What do I do to get that blue box showing up on my lawn?

Jacque @257: I hear you on the too lazy/erratic to keep fresh milk around. I had to carefully examine our milk consumption patterns and say "why yes, unit pricing says that milk is cheaper if I buy it by the gallon, but it's not cheaper to buy a gallon of milk only to throw out 2/3 of it, and furthermore have the added inconvenience of THINKING I have milk in the house when actually I don't, because the milk is no good." I now buy milk in quarts, and we tend to use it before it goes bad, and I'm not wasting any!

I also wind up buying those single-serving containers of whole milk for baking - we prefer 1% for regular use, but guess what? Most recipes that say "milk" really mean "whole milk," and you can get some funny results using a lower-fat version. Not always -- but often enough that I'm wary now. If there's a bit left from the single-serve container, I don't mind splashing it into mac & cheese or a cup of tea. (I didn't regularly drink my tea with milk until recently. Then I started writing characters for whom it was normal. Sometimes they wouldn't let me write until I'd made a cup. Now it's a habit.)

#260 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 03:50 PM:

Some, if taken on a daily basis, repel the Doctor.

But...but...bowties are cool!

#261 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 05:07 PM:

Rikibeth @259: what if I don't WANT to repel the Doctor? What do I do to get that blue box showing up on my lawn?

Causing a catastrophic rift in your local time/space continuum is usually fairly reliable.

Most recipes that say "milk" really mean "whole milk,"

Right and Proper fudge requires whole milk. IMnpHO, of course.

#262 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 06:18 PM:

So that whole thing I mentioned earlier, describing a situation where I was looking down a very long, black tunnel and the approaching light is in fact a train coming towards me?

That train is getting very close. There's not a lot I can really say without giving away identifying information, but I will say this: my most unstable, violent family member was making incredible progress. Their visits were so much more tolerable in the last few years (no physical fighting! no having to get bandaids! no having to duck fists! only a few storming-outs and incredible tantrums! Awesome!).

Both of these improvements were due to her significant other of almost a decade, who is no longer a significant other.

She is staying here indefinitely, for what I can guess is at least for Christmas, and at least a month. She is beginning to come out of the shock of her significant other leaving her. Because he has left, she does not have him to stabilise her moods.

The train is approaching. I am scared. Choo-choo.

#263 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 07:11 PM:

forgot the name, that "indefintely" has an ominous ring to it. My fervent hopes that you have an alternative place you can send your family member, or, failing that, that you have somewhere safe YOU can go and the means to get there. You have my good wishes.

#264 ::: vee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 07:28 PM:

Having spent the entire day at work reading this slightly alarmed by how much I recognize as being a part of my life growing up. Not that I could name you any specific examples at the moment, and I don't particularly care to go digging them up right now.

Clearly not as brave as many of you posting, so all I will say is: love and light to you all, whether the travails are behind you, or ahead.

#265 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 08:19 PM:

vee @264 Clearly not as brave as many of you posting

Take from it what benefits you. You may notice that people often say "I read this last year but wasn't ready to post." If the time comes you want to say more, there will be people around to listen.

#266 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2011, 11:55 PM:

forgot the name, #262: I hesitate to mention this, but it might be useful as an absolute last resort... the criterion for involuntary admission to a mental-care facility is being out of control, unwilling to accept treatment, and a danger to oneself or others. If you are being physically abused by your "visiting" family member, you are under no legal obligation to sit there and endure it. And provided that you yourself are of legal age, it doesn't require anyone else's consent to file a complaint.

#267 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 01:31 AM:

Hedges @184

Via familial history, I know what it means to a person who's made a break with their family to have even one relative step forward and offer support.

My mother was raised Christadelphian, although she wound up leaving the religion at around the time she left school (her parents moved away to a different town, she boarded with a friend of the family). By the time she married my father (who at that time was a minister in the Churches of Christ) she'd been out of the congregation for about a decade, and she'd been through some experiences which made it very unlikely that she'd head back to Christadelphian worship ever. However, because she was marrying a minister of the Churches of Christ, her marriage had to be a church ceremony (in a Churches of Christ chapel).

Her parents, citing a few biblical passages regarding preachers of false faiths, refused to attend her wedding ceremony (which she'd been expecting, but which still hurt). Most of her paternal relatives (the Christadelphian side of the family) refused to attend her wedding (again, she'd been expecting it, but it still hurt). One group of her paternal relatives (who knew my father's family because they were family friends of my mother's family) decided to attend my father's wedding, but not hers (which rankled for years).

She still has a soft spot for her eldest maternal uncle, who'd married an Italian Catholic woman, and who went to the trouble of speaking with his parish priest to see whether he could get a dispensation to participate in a Protestant marriage in order to give her away at the altar. Fortunately, he didn't have to go to those extremes, since her younger sister's husband (an atheist) was willing to do it instead. In addition, her mother (my maternal grandmother) was a member of a large family which had a religious spread across everything from the aforementioned Catholics, through twice-annual Anglicans, Salvation Army, and even Mormons, so I suspect her maternal relatives provided enough ballast to prevent the left side of the chapel from looking empty. But even so, she still retains fond memories of her uncle, and of her brother-in-law, for going to the trouble they did.

#268 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 01:40 AM:

Bricklayer and the others,

I have no idea whether this is helpful or hlepy, so take it as you see fit, or ignore it if it doesn't speak to you in any useful way, but here are some bits of my past experience.

My ex, who I mentioned in the previous thread, would also criticize me for breaking down and crying whenever there was a discussion of a problem of any sort. The exact reasons weren't the same as yours, nor, I'm sure, the exact situations. He also would sometimes comfort me, in which times I thought he was so kind and loving. In couples counseling it emerged that he needed to be the rescuer, the savior, the white knight. And when things were going well, I was too independent for him to rescue. It got to the point where we really only knew how to interact through crisis, but nothing ever got solved in those interactions. (Or perhaps I should say: I only knew how to get his attention through crisis, since suggesting fun things to do together didn't work.) It was not healthy. I'm glad it's in the past.

So that's one thing. Your description just triggered that memory; not sure if your situation is at all similar.

Another is the need to be always doing something. This is something I do. I've identified two reasons for why I do this so far, and there may be more that I haven't discovered yet. I'm sure other people have other reasons. One is that my personality type (I've been re-reading stuff on that lately; haven't looked at it since last time I got a test in career counseling years ago) is one of the ones who just doesn't switch off their brain, ever, but relaxes by learning something, or creating something, or whatever - and I do that. The other is that in those times when I don't have any projects on the go, I get depressed and find myself unable to do any of the things I find fun. It's happened a few times. I'm trying to make sure it doesn't happen again by keeping busy with projects. I find myself unable to comprehend a partner who just wants to shut their brain off for a while and calls that fun. The least brain-intensive thing I do for sedentary fun is probably reading novels, and too many of those and I start to slip into the no-project depression.

#269 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 01:47 AM:

Hi all, back for venting pre-Chrimble anxiety and angst. I'm not sure whether I'm wanting help, venting space, or just witnessing, but any of these will do.

Christmas time is Not A Good Time Of Year for me. For one thing, it's tied in with a lot of anxiety about things which happened to my mother (executive summary: nasty trauma associated with Christmas/New Year timeframe, lots of anniversary stress, all exacerbated by self-imposed expectations of being a "perfect mother" and "perfect wife" in dealing with the whole Christmas social battery) which means for me seeing the decorations go up in the shops is a signal to start the emotional and mental battening down process in preparation for a lot of psychological heavy weather. For seconds, I have a history of ten years working retail (and thus ten years of Christmas exhaustion) - this muddles together into a whole mixture of "must avoid shops for crowds" and "must be hyper-polite to staff at shops because crowds are Not Their Fault" and a good solid dose of "must not snap at people about the whole summer/winter contrast thing" (living in the southern hemisphere is so much fun). For thirds, I'm starting to find a lot of my social anxiety issues and agoraphobic issues are getting worse (or at least heterodyning each other) as I get older (to the point where I'm pretty much a shut-in most of the time lately), and they're being exacerbated by money problems (low income for the past three or four years, to the point where I'm now having trouble justifying spending money on myself at all, even though there are a lot of things the money needs to be spent on, such as replacing worn-out clothing).

Anyway, at least one little issue which has been coming up in my head more and more lately is a certain degree of anxiety about whether I'm still welcome in my family. My parents and I speak very rarely (approximately once or twice a year) and generally I'm the one who makes contact. Part of the reason the habit grew up, I suspect, is because for eight years my partner and I lived on the other side of the country, and we all got out of the habit of communicating regularly as a result (we're none of us good with making phone calls, so we each wait for the other party to call). However, we're now living on the same side of the country, all in the same city, but there's still these long periods of what can best be described as "radio silence". It isn't helped by the fact that my younger brother is living in the same house as our parents (and has his two daughters visiting every second weekend as part of their access arrangements) and that this appears to be a stable long-term arrangement.

I just feel as though I'm really intruding when I phone my parents - I can almost picture the expression my mother has when she puts down the phone (it's her "extended family: can't live with them, not legal to kill them all with fire" one) after the occasional phone call from me. I should note I have absolutely no evidence she wears this expression. But I can believe it to be possible, particularly since Mum is very good at smiling politeness while on the phone to unexpected callers, and then ripping and tearing afterwards.

I know it's a silly thing to worry about, but this year for some reason it's a very real anxiety.

#270 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 12:56 PM:

Jacque @257

@Jacque -

I'm not sure I'd equate focus and flow. I don't have a strict definition for flow, so I'll just describe the two opposite mental states.

For me, Focus is the ability to get one thing done. To think about one thing for a long period of time, and keep thinking about it, and remember that I'm supposed to be thinking about it. The opposite of focus is free-association.

I'll try to describe the different modes of thought.

Free: A - AB - AC - BC - BD - DD - DF

Work on blog post - think of a joke I want to make about pigeon dating sim - research pigeon dating sim - read a first person account of a playthrough of pigeon dating sim - start a new blog post with pigeon dating sim as the central focus - get hungry - make sandwich - realize dishes are dirty - decide to do dishes - find interesting radio comedy to listen to while I do dishes - do dishes - start a blog post about radio comedy - get tired and go to sleep without finishing any particular blog entry.


Focused: A - AB - A - AC - A - AD - D - AD - A

Write an essay - incorporate childhood anecdote in my essay - work on the essay - do brief research on history of essay topic - Work on the essay - remember appropriate quote, verify - look up a few other quotes from the same author to see if anything else might be appropriate - work on essay.

Hopefully you can see how both states of mind would be useful for different tasks. If it's not vitally important that A gets done, I very much prefer the "free" state of mind. Living the majority of my life in the "free" state of mind has given me a broader base of interests and general knowledge than most people I know. If "A" needs to get done, however, a boost of "focused" helps.

Ideally, I'd get into a state where I'm closer to the "free" state of mind, only I actually get all those half-started blog posts into a publishable state before I go on to the next topic. I've had days like that before, "I love it when a plan comes together" days. That's actually one of the reasons why the concept of heterodyining struck such a deep chord with me... to me, it's that fugue state between Focused and Free, where you're having ALL THE IDEAS but also getting a decent portion of them IN before moving on to the next one.

Or to put it another way... if I were Focused all the time, I would have finished several novels by now. However, those novels would not contain anywhere near the sheer volume of hugely different and varied ideas that the things I write now do. I might not even be as inspired to write as I am.

If I were heterodyning all the time... but no, better not to think that way. Nobody can be heterodying all the time.

#271 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 01:10 PM:

Ack, addendum to my previous post: the "first person account of playthrough of pigeon dating sim" link should have a warning on it. It's a Japanese parody dating sim that pokes fun at all the most negative aspects of dating sims in Japan... which means it's also weirdly out-of-nowhere violent and insane at times. I don't want anyone thinking they're getting a nice funny dating sim story and getting blindsided by weird creepy violence.

#272 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 04:41 PM:

Leah Miller @270: Interesting. Your "free" I've heard referred to elsewhere as "pottering about."

That used to be an effective way for me to get housework done, but anymore, I've got this constant background drumbeat of MUST DO ARTWORK that's really quite painful to resist. Once I start working on an art piece, it's hard to stop short of my hands won't move anymore. It's like I'm Focused in the Vinge sense of the term.

#273 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 05:10 PM:

Leah Miller @ 232: That's really interesting about apples and ADD. Is it apple-specific? Like, just boosting the blood sugar with some other snack doesn't have the same effect?

I'm thinking about what I've learned about my own body and brain, which is that if I can't even focus on something interesting long enough to string two thoughts together, or I find myself getting confused and overwhelmed by very simple questions, then I've probably neglected to eat. Eating pretty much anything with carbs will magically make my brain work again.

If apples have a focusing effect beyond that, then I'll start eating apples at those low-blood-sugar moments! Need all the extra help I can get.

About caffeine: Oddly enough, I never found caffeine gave me much of a focus boost -- until I started taking prescription stimulants! When I drank caffeine pre-meds, I'd feel physically jittery and be unable to sleep. But caffeine didn't improve my mental alertness or my ability to focus, and it didn't improve my mood. Once I started taking stimulants, though, coffee started giving me a small but noticeable boost in cheerfulness and ability to focus.

My suspicion is that caffeine, by itself, didn't affect the ADD parts of my brain enough to notice (although it did affect other adrenergically-stimulated body systems, like heart rate). Once the stimulant meds had already boosted my executive functions up past noticeable threshold, though, caffeine's relatively small increase in stimulation became noticeable.

Frustrating -- because in other ways I'm very sensitive to caffeine. A couple of Diet Cokes with dinner and I'm likely to be awake all night. But it just doesn't hit the ADD symptoms enough by itself.

Of course, YMMV. If there is one thing I've learned from having weird brain things, it is that brain chemistry is a complicated nonlinear system where the weirdest things are coupled -- and that it varies a lot from person to person.

#274 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 05:57 PM:

Jacque #257, Leah Miller #270: I'll add that "Flow" in the sense popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is quite another thing, closer to a moving satori (in fact, IIRC he references satori in his discussion).

#275 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 06:21 PM:

Caroline@273: I believe I have heard that a hallmark of people for whom caffeine helps with ADD symptoms is that they are in fact less affected by caffeine in the ordinary way. Dunno if there's any proper data on that, and it might not be true for everyone even so.

#276 ::: Flora ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2011, 08:20 PM:

Megpie@ 269
I feel very similar about 'not belonging' to the family, and for similar reasons. I can count on one hand the times my parents have called me since I left home (20 years ago).

#277 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2011, 01:18 AM:

Froth #240
I can understand that SO much. I was the oldest, and therefore I couldn't want things because I had to make sure the kids had what they needed. /rant before it gets too long. Long story short; You're doing well. You've figured out the issue. You're working on fixing it. That is better than some people. ::hug::

#278 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2011, 11:34 AM:

forgot the name: Good wishes. May your sister be able to accept therapy before anything explodes. (There must be a form of counseling for when you've just had a loved one walk out of your life.)

#279 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2011, 01:08 PM:

Caroline #273 Brain chemistry is one of those weird things most definitely. My brother (ADHD) is very much helped by caffeine in doing his day to day things, AND it calms him down so he isn't bouncing off the walls. I can fall asleep in the middle of a mug of coffee, and the caffeine makes it so that I am at least stable most days. My best friend gets kept up with any sort of caffeine, to the point that she won't have anything more than water after a certain point because she wants to sleep. I always wanted to look into that.....but then I get distracted by cookie making or painting or general internet shenanigans.

#280 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 01:23 AM:

5 people shot, 3 dead in murder-suicide at work Friday. Wasn't me. I had the day off.

#281 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 01:37 AM:

I didn't know any of them. It's a big company.

Thanks, BTW, to David Harmon, glinda, KayTei, Jacque, Leah Miller, Pro, MegPie71, etc. for your responses.

I'm not quite ready for dialogue but I am reading the responses (well I'm reading the whole thread, but I did want you to know I wasn't ignoring you). I read the 'view all by' (at least the most recent bits) for most of you, too, to give context to the comments.

Actually, thanks to all of the commenters, for putting your comments out where we can read them.

#282 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 08:36 AM:

hedges: so sorry to hear about what happened at work. glad you weren't there.

(not an attempt to be hlepy: you may find that you need any kind of grief/stress counseling offered by your employer. Even if you didn't know the people and weren't there. survivor guilt can hit anyone.)

#283 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 11:06 AM:

hedges: from my own experience I will add to what Melissa says: and if the first counselor you try isn't helpful, try a different one.

#284 ::: Delurkingtoday ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 07:37 PM:

My cousin is an alcoholic, suffering from cirrhosis; she's had a tough year and is very vulnerable. Earlier this year she stayed with my mum for a while and while she was there, my brother sexually assaulted her.

I have to visit my mum for Christmas and my brother will be there. And we'll all be calling my aunt for progress reports on my cousin's health, and sending our well-wishes and stuff, and my brother will be sitting there at the table with the rest of us.

How do I get through the holidays without decking him? Any thoughts?

#285 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 07:45 PM:


1) Do they (your mother, your aunt) know that your brother assaulted your cousin?
2) Do you want to go?
3) If the answer to #2 is No -- do you have to go?

#286 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 07:58 PM:

284, 285:

4) Can you go to your aunt's instead?

#287 ::: Delurkingtoday ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 08:57 PM:

I think I have to go for my mum's sake. I love her, and she needs support if she is ever going to get my brother out of her house. She knows about the assault and hates that it happened, but my brother followed it up with a big apology so she hasn't really done anything.

I don't know if my aunt knows. I can't get to her place right away as she's in another country, but I love the idea of visiting her & my cousin--I could help out, and it would also help me get rid of the feeling that I'm tacitly approving of my brother by not boycotting Christmas.

Thanks, both of you.

#288 ::: Ellemay ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 09:59 PM:

Back here again, mostly because Christmas is just around the corner. And the exciting new levels of dysfunction on top of normal Christmas ones are scaring me.

My father and his mother are coming up for Christmas, and staying at the house. I'm very, very uncertain about the whole situation.

Since my father left, he's visited twice. Both times he's stayed at the house (in the spare room). It has been very, very awkward, especially since he treats the trips like nothing has changed, except that it's a holiday for him, so he doesn't need to contribute in any way (as in cleaning, dishes, taking my brother to sport, etc). He acts like it's his house, but he's a guest, at the same time.

My grandmother is unlikely to be much of a problem stresswise. Whether or not my parents are having problems, she is supportive of us grandkids seperately. Besides, she calls more often than my father does.

I'm not really sure I want my father at the house. However, if he does not stay at the house, I don't know how much I'd see him, and me even mentioning this would be such a big to-do. My extended family Always Stays With Family if they go to see each other. Not offering hospitality is a big no-no, and the cause of long-term grudges.

I'm also not sure if I'll make it through the visit without screaming at him.

At this point, I would quite like parents trying to buy my affections, as unhealthy as that would be. Or, at least from Dad, acknowledgement that I exist beyond the occasional mostly pointless facebook comment or him telling me that he loves me. It is at least 50% of what he has said to me since he's left and at this point it's empty and meaningless. I don't care that he is telling me he loves me, he is not showing it in any way, shape or form.

Additionally, the Christmas Present Situation. Considering he forgot my sister's birthday this year (remembered Mum's though), I'm not too optimistic. Of course, I'm pretty sure what my sister and I are getting him comes on the list of "passive-aggressive presents" - a photo frame with pictures of us three kids in it. Because he didn't take any with him. And also a bottle of wine. I'm partly worried that it will come off as super passive agressive, but another part of me really doesn't care. And from outside my head, where I'm definitely overthinking it, it might look less judgy?

Dealing with my mother, day to day, has become slightly easier again. Partly, I'm sure, from continued exposure so I'm not thinking about it quite so much, but partly because I got a new car last week and the transport situation has eased a bit. My father left 6 days after I'd been in a car accident that wrote off my car. We dropped from 3 cars between 4 drivers to 1 car between 3 drivers. While we all use a lot of public transport, not having to deal quite so often with my mother's longsuffering sighs as she nobly gives up the car to either my sister or myself is less stressful.

I really don't know. I still desperately want to move out. It's still unlikely to happen until February at the earliest, though having a car again is one big step back in the direction of moving out. My mother is coping financially at the moment, to the point where I can tell myself it might not all fall to pieces the moment I leave and stop putting in money. My father is now paying child support fortnightly for my brother, as well as half the mortgage, and a few bills.

I just want out. I may actually be able to let myself do it in the near future.

#289 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2011, 11:31 PM:

To everyone posting or reading this thread: the Christmas season is often exceptionally stressful when you already have family problems. My thoughts and wishes go out to you, that you make it through this time with as little stress and drama as possible, and that by next year you may be in a better position from which to deal with it.

#290 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 03:28 AM:

At risk of sounding hlepy, (and if I do, please accept my apology right up front), I discovered in my early twenties that I could, in fact, make other holiday plans if they were unimpeachable with my family members who would otherwise object or try to guilt me into attending family functions.

So I'd simply announce that I was volunteering to help cook and serve Christmas dinner at a local shelter, for example -- and I'd invite anyone who wanted to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to come and join me. It put a cork in the "you're so selfish!" kinds of recriminations, got me off the hook, and I spent a number of quite fabulous holidays amongst relative strangers.

It's a sort of two-pronged approach to the tricky, sticky, fraught time of year that the winter holidays can often be. I was actually doing something positive and helpful that helped ME feel better about myself and my world, and it helped me learn that there were ways of disrupting dysfunctional cycles that didn't mean head-on confrontation.

#291 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 09:34 AM:

The way I get through this season is to remind myself my family is just my family. They may behave worse than usual, but it's unlikely they'll behave better, alas.

So I don't start any discussions, but when they get out of line (and in my family that line is pretty amazingly liberal and easygoing), I put an end to it.

Broken record of communication: That topic is off limits for today. (Lather, rinse, repeat, ad nauseum if need be.) Pretty soon, somebody says, "Shut up before she tells you that topic is off limits, would you?"

Works with my stubborn Scots-Irish bunch. Well, most of the time.

#292 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 10:47 AM:

MacAllister @ 290:


Thank you.

#293 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 11:27 AM:

I'm not sure if this belongs here or on an open thread, but it's emotionally raw at the moment and about dysfunctional families in a public sort of way.

Jimmy Kimmel earns his lump of coal.

I watched about half of the video. Jimmy Kimmel, a talk show host, encouraged parents to give their children awful Christmas presents, and send in videos of their childrens' reactions.

I was only willing to watch about half of the video.

The thing is, my family was pretty dysfunctional, but parental behavior like that simply wasn't conceivable. My father teased me more than he should have, but he didn't set things up and then follow through and push the way some of those parents did.

And I knew my culture (mainstream American) was a great deal nastier than it presents itself as being.... and I haven't been following television, except indirectly.... but what kind of way is that to treat children? What's wrong with the youtube commenters who think the children are wrong for showing anger and disappointment?

I realize a good many of you grew up with much worse, and I hope it's at least of a little use for me to say that it's possible to see Jimmy Kimmel's little joke as not just a bad way to behave, but a shockingly bad way to behave.

#294 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 12:38 PM:

Megpie @ 269

I just wanted to note that my sister has kept all the letters I've ever sent her, which would probably still fit in a single manilla envelope, and they all contain sentiments to the effect of "Now you can't say I never write." I'm even worse about calling people on the phone, and those conversations, too, included some extremely awkward acknowledgements for a long time (it was, and still is, a thing I'm extremely self-conscious about).

But I do still love my sister quite a lot, and it's a point of continuing working-out with us that I try very hard to do a better job of staying in touch with her, and she tries not to resent it.

The whole situation is made slightly weirder by the fact that she's now halfway across the country in a contemplative monastery, even if she is the extern, and so marginally more reachable than the cloistered nuns. By contrast, the situation improved vastly when we were living in the same house again for about a year.

#295 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 06:09 PM:

For all those who are contemplating your family gatherings, I want to offer my sympathy, support, empathy, and camaraderie. Early December was chock full of bad energy and double plus ungood revelations for me, so I have whittled down the actual family interaction time to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Xmas day. My amazing husband and I will be going to a beach somewhere either before or after so I can spend some time doing what I want to do on the holiday.

In the spirit of giving and hopefully helping, I want to offer something I may have said before, but it makes me happy whenever I use this technique. A friend of mine is a former IRS employee. He says that the best response to anything that you think is off the charts wrong is: "You may be right." If you can't trust yourself to speak, just nodding and smiling may serve the same purpose.

I plan to knit during the visit. I purposely did not finish my dad's present, so that I have that excuse to knit madly the whole time.

You are worthwhile. You are amazing, strong survivors. You can do whatever you decide is perfect for you.

Go Team! (Whoops.) Take care of yourselves.

#296 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 07:13 PM:

I meant to post on here earlier, but work intervened.

Since my father sent me a death threat a little over two months ago, I haven't heard from either of my parents. I've started taking Prozac, which is inexpensive enough to not set off my financial anxiety and seems to work. I managed to get myself a nice early christmas present, and made a good friend at work who's gone through a lot of the same kinds of things. So I'm doing a lot better now.

This time of year is fairly hard for me, with everyone talking about seeing their families, and while I don't regret my choice, it's hard. My girlfriend has tried to include me in her family some but it's not the same, and after some kind of triggering passive-aggressiveness around Thanksgiving I don't really want to go back. So I'll spend this christmas alone again.

I really don't want to discourage anyone who is thinking about cutting off their families! It's hard to do and there are bad parts, but I don't think I could have ever been happy if I had made the other choice. Mostly it's just hard around this time of year. It would be nice if the world didn't assume that I have a family, or that I associate them with good things, is all.

#297 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 07:19 PM:

My birth family is quite distributed at this point (and my partner has no siblings and a mother on the other side of the continent), so I'm lucky in not having to make family plans. Best wishes to all who are making plans-with-difficulties.

#298 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 09:08 PM:

Fortunately I don't expect my family to misbehave in any unusual or unexpected ways this Christmas. Having them here will be slightly stressful, but not a major problem.

The only significant thing is only vaguely family-related, being that my pre-planned Christmas duet (planned out with multiple people almost a full year ago), was taken away at the last moment in favor of having another pair do a different version of the same song. Which would be fine, but I was helping the replacement pair rehearse on Sunday, and unless there's a serious Christmas miracle, it's going to be awful - wrong notes, wrong rhythm, cracking on the high notes, language problems - you name it, it was going wrong. And I've been trying to sing this particular song for Christmas for more than a decade now, and it's never actually happened. It's become a standing joke with my husband and parents "It's not Christmas until someone mangles 'Oh, Holy Night'."

I know they will tease me about it, and if the performing pair pull of a miracle and do well, I can cope with that. But if it really is bad, I'm going to have a hard time maintaining equanimity. (I was in tears after last year's attempt ended up with our baritone, asthmatic choir director singing (and playing) it himself. It wasn't pretty.) Unfortunately letting them know it's a sensitive subject that they should let alone, leads straight to them trying to fix things for me, usually leading to really awkward problems with the choir for a few weeks.

Plus - really universe? I'm a trained soprano with plenty of range, is it that impossible for me to sing "Oh, Holy Night" for Christmas once in my life? Or failing that, it is really necessary for me to listen to horrible mangled versions every year instead?

#299 ::: Hiding a little ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 09:26 PM:

I am looking forward to my second peaceful, if lonely, Christmas in a row. Holidays with my ex-husband had been deteriorating for years, with our last Christmas ending in him throwing out all the presents my daughter and I bought him and getting raging drunk. Our first Christmas after I left, he called and texted me, my daughter, and her girlfriend dozens of times each, getting increasingly drunker and more abusive as the hours went on. Last year was blissful -- no contact whatsoever. A holiday with no forced drama. It's a bit lonely not having anyone to share Christmas breakfast and open stockings together -- but wonderful not to be on eggshells with trepidation all day long, just waiting for the explosion.

#300 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2011, 11:20 PM:

Cynthia, #298: Okay, that's just weird. What is the choir's problem with letting you sing this song, that you've been trying for over a decade and they keep yanking it out from under you? This is well beyond accident or happenstance, and into the realm of enemy action! Especially when you had it arranged a year in advance, and they do it at the last minute like this. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

(Note: I'm sensitized to this sort of thing, as the result of having been selected to sing Yum-Yum for my 6th-grade class production of The Mikado... and then having been DE-selected after Somebody Else's Mommy (whose daughter hadn't even auditioned for the part!) threw a temper tantrum. It makes me look on that kind of behavior with an exceedingly jaundiced eye.)

I've been re-reading some of the Benjamin January mysteries by Barbara Hambly, and would like to recommend them to all and sundry as meditations on the value of chosen-family. Most of the people in Ben's life who he can trust absolutely are his friends. His sisters will stand by him if/when they can. His mother... not so much. But over and over again, you see Ben's friends risk their lives to save his, and vice versa. Plus, they're good mysteries.

#301 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 01:16 AM:

Lee @300 - it's not quite that bad. For the first several years of my quest, we kept moving every 2-3 years, so I never had enough time at a church to get a Christmas solo - except for one year, when the designated soloist didn't show, and I got tossed up front to do something a capella on 15 minutes notice. The last four years I've been at this church. The first year I was too new. The second year, the retiring choir director took the solo. The third year, I thought I was going to get my shot, but got pre-empted by the organist/choir director, whose mother decided at the last minute to come to Christmas Eve service, thereby causing him to decide to take over so he could impress her. I'm not sure what the heck is going on this year, though. It's certainly weird behavior to switch things up this late.

#302 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 02:57 AM:

A little shaky today. Things are moving along well, and the housebuying stress is staaaaarting to resolve, but ...

My dad is a home inspector. He's kind of a huge muscular fish in the local pond, and thinks (with this as with all other fields he's ever dabbled in) that he's God's Gift.

We carefully didn't tell him the address of the house(s) we were considering buying, because we don't want him to stick his nose in. He's good about volunteering to do work, but then when it gets done, a lot of times it isn't done as WE would have it, but as HE thinks is best -- which is why our current house has no water pressure, because when he replaced the (stolen just before closing) water piping in our basement, he did it with 3/4" pipe, instead of the 1/2" that was there previously (and still existed throughout the house) -- because it's "the industry standard now in all new construction" and therefore self-evidently better.

He also thinks that when we get the back porch ripped off our new house (because the footings are rotted and it's unsafe), instead of finding a contractor willing to conserve and replace the original 1909 swinging latched Florida-porch windows, we should "get some nice new vinyl ones. Or, if you really want wood, hire a carpenter to make 'em new, they're much better." Um. Yeah. Not what we were going for, there.

This house is significantly original in its fabric, and I want to keep it that way as much as I can, thanks.

So we bought a single radiator, because there wasn't one (just capped pipes) in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and there's no point in firing up the system with new boilers etc only to depressurize it and install an extra radiator a couple months later.

It got delivered today. The guy from the radiator supply left it in our garage. I brought the best hand truck we have -- which I fully admit is pretty inadequate to the task, but it's what we've got.

However, when the delivery happened, I was amidst signing roof paperwork, which required my personal presence, and then I had to go to the bank with the roof guy for a cashier's check to do the deposit. Fine.

My dad and my sister volunteered to see if they could get the radiator upstairs (because of course Murphy ensured the missing radiator was missing from the TOP floor of the house!) while I was doing this.

I got home to find it inadequately bungeed to my inadequate hand truck, ENDWISE (so it's extra-hard to tilt), and Dad trying to get it up the back-porch steps, which are taller than the wheels of the hand truck and have a bit of an overhang for drip purposes.

Every time I attempted to apply muscle, he interfered, trying to take the 'heavier' end: his stated rationale was, "I already have a hernia." Every suggestion I had for improving the biomechanics of the situation was brushed off and followed by physical manhandling of the chunk of iron that actively made things worse.

I desperately needed lunch, and not to have Dad around. But you can't leave a cast iron radiator outside; they rust. So I said, "Fine, let's get it back in the garage." He would NOT stop hleping (and it was genuine in-person hleping). He kept basically hauling the radiator OFF THE HAND TRUCK.

The radiator is now flat on the floor in my garage, ON TOP OF the hand truck, which Dad dragged across the floor under the full weight of the radiator for about four feet. I fully expect the hand truck's finish to be removed on the floor side, and my husband thinks (he opined this to me at 9:30 at night when we'd already gotten the kid down, and it hadn't occurred to me before then) that the hand truck itself will be irretrievably bent and useless.

Dad HAS skills. He just also has taste and judgement that strongly conflict with mine. He wants to help. He ends up hleping, every time, while THINKING it was brilliantly successful. I really wish the world were different and he'd listen to what I *SAY* I want him to do and not to the tape recording in his head telling him he's made of awesome. Even if our tool is ruined because specifically of what he did and the choices he made, he will never believe he is at fault.

And now the husband is also opining to me that he thinks the roofing paperwork is strongly discongruent with the written proposal they gave us, possibly fraudulently so. I don't personally think so, but I've been in such an altered state all day I don't have at my brain's memorized fingertips the specific datapoints he wishes to query, so I can't reassure him in a way he finds convincing.

Tomorrow I have the toddler with me, all day, but I have to get up to the new house anyway to (a) right the radiator, at minimum, and (b) retrieve the receipts and contracts from the kitchen drawer where I put them before fleeing to lunch today. Yesterday. Monday, whatever. It's technically Tuesday already, but I haven't slept -- kid's got an ear-owwie, so has been up and down like a yo-yo.

I have to play phone tag and line up contractors to come in and estimate, while kid-wrangling, in the morning. I am terrified of doing out-calls, but we really need the work to be at least started in the first week of January, to make other timing and money work out nicely.

And somehow I also have to go up north to do stuff, with no backup to watch the kid while I do it ... hopefully she'll sit in a corner of the garage and read a book while I horse around a piece of metal that weighs almost twice what I do. :-/

Have I mentioned we're getting on a plane next Monday to be out of town for an entire week? Yeah, haven't done anything to prep for that. Or caught up with the laundry. Or the dishes. Or the cooking. Because I've been spending all the time between morning commute and afternoon commute AT THE NEW HOUSE, in 50degF air, with exactly one chair and very little to do and no internet or phone, three days a week, and toddler-minding the rest.

Kind of frazzled. This Too Shall Pass, and I know by April we'll be in a much better place, but right now I'm very, very unsettled.

#303 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 04:15 AM:

I get the deal with your Dad, he still sees himself in charge even though it's your adult life.

Unsolicited help can be very irritating, especially if it's not actually helpful (sorry then for what follows), but you may want to keep in mind that you don't know what the results would have been without his involvement in certain projects. If you are comparing to how you wish things had gone, rather than how badly things might have gone, you may be underrating his efforts. The thing which jumped out at me was the 3/4" pipe. Other things being equal, larger pipe should improve, not reduce, water pressure at the spigot beyond the section of larger pipe (and I understand why that may be counterintuitive). He may well have messed up the water pressure, but it probably wasn't the pipe size that did it.

#304 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 05:42 AM:

Ellemay:Congrats on the new car! Read a few of your back comments. Forgive my hlepiness, hope some of this is useful, ignore the bits that aren't.

1)Not sure if you have this option in Oz (or if the check deposit was a one-off example) but in the U.S. one can deposit checks by mail.

2)Is it possible to 'trade' chores with your brother to get something out of the chores he isn't doing/liking? Perhaps there is something you're doing which he would actually like to do--at least as a novelty, but which would save you grief? Cook? Laundry? It's important for him to learn to do things he doesn't like, of course, but now might not be the best time to push that.

3)Is your brother able to arrange his own transport by bus or bike or carpool with friends? It sounds like you might be ferrying him about, which an able-bodied 14 y.o. can probably manage on his own.

4)I wouldn't worry about the picture frame seeming passive-aggressive, unless something is said or done when he receives it that might convey that tone. Some of the pictures in it being from after he left might further improve your odds.

5)Given your description of your prior relationship with your father, if you can wangle a day out and about with him alone during his visit (ask him to ride along on errands because you'd like him to see/ride in your new car?), without forcing the agenda, maybe some of the communication which hasn't happened in his absence may come more naturally. It tends to work for me and my brothers and father (not chatty about emotions or situations involving people).

#305 ::: hedges ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 05:54 AM:


RE:Small wheels, big steps -- using a block of wood or bricks to turn each tall step into two or more short ones might help.

#306 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 09:39 AM:

Hedges @305: If I'd been in my right mind (and not a combination of low-blood-sugar-tired and shoved into a defensive corner, AGAIN, by someone who installed a lot of my buttons), I'd've walked 2 blocks to Crafty Beaver and gotten a 2x4 (cut into several equal pieces) to make a ramp out of the garage to the sidewalk, and up off the sidewalk to the SIDE door, inside which are the stairs up to the main floor and further upwards to where the radiator goes ... and those stairs are shallower than the ones Dad was trying to get it up.

Also I would've quit right there and turned the radiator so its inertia wasn't fighting me. And if he weren't there, my sister could probably have helped me (using the, y'know, mechanical advantage that is why we HAVE handcarts, which Dad was entirely ignoring in favor of a series of deadlifts) get it up into the house, at minimum, if not necessarily all the way upstairs.

Hedges @303: I Am Not A Plumber. However, when we had an inspector in the house for other reasons, he was puzzled that the pipe changed gauge, and asked how our pressure was. When I said it was crappy, he said that was probably why (and we've never been able to afford to pay anyone to redo it). Doing anything with water in the basement means the upstairs faucets actively suck air into themselves, noisily, and even on full-tilt our sprinkler shoots water half as far as our neighbors' do (with the same, very basic, sprinkler design).

#307 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 11:28 AM:

Ross @296: This time of year is fairly hard for me, with everyone talking about seeing their families, and while I don't regret my choice, it's hard.

Ah, the eternal Solstice Awkwardness. It's been so long since I've had anything "special" going on at Christmastime that it's a mild irritant to have to field the repetitive "so what are you doing for the holidays."

In my more dyspeptic moments, I could contemplate getting a t-shirt that says, "I'm not Christian, my parents died twenty years ago, and I'd been divorced from them for ten years by then anyway." But that would probably beg more questions than it would answer....

Bricklayer @302: I dearly wish I could aim my dad at your dad. I mind the time he, my mother, and I moved the 400lb I-beam from the front driveway around to the back addition, using nothing but a rented pallet-jack and a stack of woodblocks (and a strategically-placed tush). Only muscle involved was placing the woodblocks under the I-beam. All the rest was physics. He also spoke Contractor, so he could probably have wrangled your dad into being actually useful and liking it.

Remember: Everyone needs weasel help.

It sounds like you would have had it well in hand had you not been "assisted."


#308 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 01:59 PM:

Jacque @307 Ah, the eternal Solstice Awkwardness. It's been so long since I've had anything "special" going on at Christmastime that it's a mild irritant to have to field the repetitive "so what are you doing for the holidays."

Okay, I'm guilty of that one. But it doesn't mean I think you're an antisocial slug if you're not having Big! Family! Celebrations! It just means I'm standing next to you at a holiday party and that seemed like a conversation starter, something I don't do particularly well. :-) "Looking forward to some quiet time" works as an answer.

#309 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 02:29 PM:

I'm in the no-family situation this year, by choice, and when people ask I tell them that I'm not going anywhere! and no one's coming to visit me! and it's AWESOME!

And then they generally express envy that I'm going to get peace and quiet and they're going to deal with whatever crazy they have in store for themselves.

#310 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 03:47 PM:

309: And then they generally express envy that I'm going to get peace and quiet and they're going to deal with whatever crazy they have in store for themselves.

I'm always kinda conflicted when I hear that. And I hear it a lot.

On the one hand, I want to say "so don't go! These people bring you nothing but hassle, just get out!" But I get that that's not really an option, and even where it is it's not an option most people are willing to take. And even if they are they probably aren't yet. So I mostly end up making sympathetic noises, while feeling personally relieved that I'm out.

#311 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 08:30 PM:

Ross, #310: A possible response would be along the lines of, "Yeah, it took me a long time to get to the point of making the break, [and there are still some things I kinda regret about it,] but I'm glad I did." (phrase in brackets is optional)

This sort-of-hints at "I've been there, and this is how I solved the problem" without being all in-your-face about it, or putting them on the defensive because they haven't done so.

#312 ::: Annie Mouse ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 10:10 PM:

After finding an essay about ADD and gifted children through this thread (or an earlier iteration of it), I realized I might be suffering from some version of ADHD/ADD. I've arranged to be tested, and today I told my mother about it.

Her response, slightly paraphrased: "Well, if it makes you feel better, I guess it can't do any harm. But I don't really see what good it will do. After all, at your age it's too late for you to do anything with your life."

#313 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 10:30 PM:

Annie Mouse: that is just breathtakingly, pointlessly horrid. And also, incidentally, not true.

#314 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2011, 11:34 PM:

Annie Mouse, #312: What a piece of work. You're never too old to do something with your life, as witness:

- Harlan Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65, and became a multimillionaire.
- Grandma Moses started painting at age 75.
- Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin at age 47. Which was a lot older then, relatively speaking, than it is now -- partly because of penicillin and related antibiotics!
- Spencer Koppel started the Geek 2 Geek online dating service at age 62.
- Robert Frost published his first poetry book at age 39.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books were published when she was in her 50s.
- Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote The Cat in the Hat at age 53.
- Viggo Mortensen's first breakout hit role was in The Lord of the Rings. He was 43.

There's nothing wrong or useless about wanting to make your life better.

#315 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 12:28 AM:

Annie Mouse, #312: My jaw dropped open at your mother's comment. She's wrong, of course, but what she's really trying to do is deflect any attention from the fact that she could have seen this and helped you before it was "too late". (Those are sarcastic air quotes, by the way.) She is being angry in your direction so that she won't have to look at her own culpability. ARGH.

Sorry, I degenerated into growls for a minute. I think you've got a great idea in getting checked out. More information will help you. I hope you can see your mother's comment for what it is.

At the risk of sounding "Me too", I offer my story for comparison's sake. When I approached my mom and mentioned that I would be seeing a counselor for the first time (hoping that she might help me financially), her response was, "Well I hope you're not going to want me to talk to them. My friend X's daughter went to therapy and she wanted her mom to come with her!!" (Anger and denial pushing away any admittance of problems, FTW.)

At the time, I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship, and my whole family had helped me move out of the apartment in a day. But heaven forbid that we need help with emotional issues.

Annie, I hope you can find the support you might need elsewhere. Take care of yourself.

#316 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 12:32 AM:

Annie, that is a pretty messed-up response.

#317 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 01:05 AM:

knitcrazybooknut, #315: That sounds familiar! When I told my mother I had made an appointment with a psychiatrist for my depression, the very first thing she said was "I hope I didn't do anything too bad to you!"

It was months later before I really figured out that yes, actually, she had. I initially had no idea why she would say that.

#318 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 03:10 AM:

Annie @ 312

First off, I agree with everyone so far -- it sounds like your mother's response was really unkind, unnecessary, and inaccurate.

For what it's worth, my mother has been discouraging me from adding "labels" for years -- So I was never tested for learning disabilities (even though there's strong evidence for something math-related) and I never received any accommodations or evaluations related to my TBI, even when I was struggling in school. And I don't know how I feel about that -- there are more pros and cons than might be readily apparent, and I've not really fallen behind my peers, so it's hard to say how much room for improvement really exists.

So when my mom says "I don't know why you'd bother to do that, because I can't imagine what it would change now, but you should do it if you feel like you really need to" it makes sense to me, and I don't feel emotionally unsupported. I'm ambivalent about it myself, when I'm already coping at an acceptable level. Even so, I find that her (comparatively mild!) disagreement makes it harder for me to overcome my ambivalence to take action, and I'm appalled that your mother cast it in terms of "too late to do anything with your life." That's just completely over the line.

Whatever your mother thinks, I think you're brave for taking this step, and I envy you that clarity and impetus. I hope you'll let us know how it turns out.

#319 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 07:56 AM:

Nancy @ 293: It got worse. So much worse.

I don't have a link, but his next 'funny' was having parents blindfold their kids, and then kiss them. On video. For 'fun' and 'funny'. A lot of the kisses weren't just pecks on the lips, either, though that's bad enough.

It's awful.

#320 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 08:02 AM:

OK, my last comment there is inaccurate. Not Jimmy Kimmel, but further to it by a group of parents independent of him. The story.

#321 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 10:28 AM:

When I dropped out of college at 18 (mid-sophomore year) with depression and sought treatment, my parents told me that they didn't want to hear that any of my problems were their fault.

I said okay, and I never told them it was their fault.

But seriously, I was 18, and had been depressed for 2-3 years. Depression, being chemical, was probably not their fault (except perhaps in the genetic sense, because my father's mother was, also, though we didn't know that until she was dying, decades later) . . . but it going untreated for so long _was_.

Not to mention the undiagnosed ASD, and possibly ADD (which this and the last thread have me thinking about).

I am also a +1 on it's never too late. Because _your life can be better_, regardless of what you "do" with it. I happen to think that living happier _is_ doing something with your life.

#322 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 12:32 PM:

Annie Mouse #312: Adding to prior comments, I suspect some "role enforcement" there... that is, she's decided you're not going to get anywhere, that's how she's going to relate to you, she sees no reason why anything should change.

So... when you try to step out of that role, she tries to chivvy you back into it with nastiness like that -- because if you do make something of your own life, she might have to recognize you as a separate person with your own goals. And yeah, that maybe she didn't provide the help that she ought to have, while raising you....

KayTei: Your mom sounds like she's inflicting her own ambivalence on you, piling it on your own. You have no obligation to accept it.

#323 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 12:40 PM:

Melissa Singer #321: Just to note: depression isn't purely chemical! Long before "endogenous" depression was recognized, depression was known as a response to abuse, trauma, and bereavement. The difference is that most (not all) people eventually recover from that.

The new understanding was simply that some people were getting hit with depression without an apparent cause (and not recovering on their own), and that turned out to be linked to apparent flaws in their neurochemistry and/or neurology. But given that brain development doesn't stop at birth, such flaws can also be caused by childhood abuse, neglect, etc.

The classic animal model for depression is "learned helplessness", which term sums up how it's inflicted....

#324 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 01:20 PM:

KayTei, #318: Caveat: I'm not there, and I can't hear tone of voice and don't know the context of your previous interactions. But that reads a lot nastier to me than you're describing it. In particular, "you should do it if you feel like you really need to" has strong echoes of both pat-on-the-head and denial of agency -- "Mama knows best, but you have my permission to go ahead with this meaningless piece of nonsense if you must." Was there any significant vocal emphasis on either "really" or "need"? That would clinch it.

Also, seconding David @322 to both KayTei and Annie.

#325 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 01:51 PM:

David @323: They were pretty good parents while I was growing up, actually--attentive, loving, supportive. A little too much of the "why isn't this 95 a grade of 100," but not traumatically so. No physical abuse, plenty of hugging, decent emotional support until adolescence (which confused the heck out of them; they were better with my brother than with me).

and yet, I am messed up.

In some ways the dysfunctional dynamic seems to have been triggered by my depression, which seems ass-backwards to me. More realistically, it arose in part because neither my brother nor I were continuing in the roles laid out for us within our immediate family as well as the larger family. (with varying degrees of success; I have always been "the weird one" at family gatherings and probably always will be, though the rest of the family has gotten progressively weirder over time) Even so, his path was and is more traditional than mine.

#326 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 03:00 PM:

Annie Mouse @312: "After all, at your age it's too late for you to do anything with your life."

::picks chin up off floor and dusts it off.::

So you died, and didn't tell us? How inconsiderate of you! Sheesh. Barbara Sher even wrote a book about that.

knitcrazybooknut @315: She is being angry in your direction so that she won't have to look at her own culpability. ARGH.

And/or deflecting attention from whatever she failed to do with her life—and presumably still hasn't.

#327 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 04:50 PM:

Melissa Singer #325: Hmm. You seem to have responded to the comment I deleted before posting. Perhaps I should have overwritten the buffer a few times. ;-)

Seriously, I didn't mean to assert that your depression necessarily wasn't endogenous.¹ But yeah, "dysfunction" can also consist of poor response to stressful events... say, the illness of a family member.

¹ My own depression (onset at the same age as yours) was assumed to be endogenous (partly because of the family history), but later discoveries have made it (and the family history) rather ambiguous in retrospect. Briefly, I ran into a lot of walls that year, and... well, "learned helplessness" seems apt.

#328 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2011, 09:08 PM:

David Harmon: or I'm telepathic?


#329 ::: Hiding (again) for now ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2011, 12:28 PM:

Retreating back under my old DFD handle for a bit because while I didn't ask for it, it seems I'm getting some clarity for Christmas. There are worse things to be had.

However, said clarity comes in the form of the realization that how much I love someone has very little to do with how tenable a relationship with hir is. And that at this point, the right thing—the only thing—I can do, for the sake of everyone involved, is walk away, and watch in fascination as an intricate pattern of cracks covers my heart in interesting ways.

My heart's not broken; it just feels like it is. It probably will feel that way for a while. And it won't be the same as it was before.

Telling hir about it is going to be a barrel of laughs. Dammit.

#330 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2011, 12:29 PM:

Annie @312:

Adding my voice to the chorus telling you that your mother's response was unkind, uncharitable, unwarranted and unhelpful. *hugs* I don't think it's ever too late to make your life better. I know how hard it is to take that step.

KayTei @318: Lee and David Harmon are wise. :)

Learned helplessness -- this, so much, is how I grew up. I couldn't avoid the abuse, and fighting made it worse, so all I could do was endure it. It didn't help that I was made to feel like it was my own fault, and because of that, it would never change. I still have that reaction, more than I want to admit.

When I was...14, I think, I had an opportunity to tell someone. Looking back, it's probable I would have even been believed. My sister (who herself was abusing me) had called social services after my father blacked both her eyes for some reason. And there in the living room, under the gaze of both my parents and my sister and the social workers...I don't remember exactly what I said, I think it was something about my father being "harsh but fair", while inside the little voice was screaming for me to tell the truth, that I was terrified of my father's wrath if I didn't say the right thing. That I wanted to die, because that was the only escape I saw from the contempt of my father and the petty abuse of my sister and just everything.

Learned Helplessness explains why I didn't say anything. And maybe why it's so hard for me to even see that there's a way out of a bad situation.

Right now, I'm trying to deal with mood swings that are much worse than usual, despite being on two antidepressants. Rationally speaking, it's probably reaction to the perceived demands of the holidays, and a certain amount of financial stress. Yesterday was very, very bad, but I managed to cope. is better.

Today I have some hope that what was learned can be unlearned.

#331 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2011, 12:53 PM:

Hiding (again) for now @329: the right thing—the only thing—I can do, for the sake of everyone involved, is walk away

I'm pondering a similar decision. Not of the cracks-in-the-heart scale, but sad-making, nonetheless.

No matter how much I like and admire the person, when I come away from an encounter every damn time feeling angry and defensive, it leaves me pondering the shortness of life, and the fruitlessness of spending in on relationships that, like, hurt.

#332 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2011, 02:14 PM:

Hiding (again), #329: "Love conquers all" is one of those aphorisms that, no matter how worthwhile they might be under normal circumstances, simply cannot be applied in the context of a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. (The other really bad one is "It's never just one person's fault.") And yes, it's very hard to realize that no matter what you do, it will never be enough, and your only sane option is to walk away. I wish you the strength you need to do what must be done.

#333 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 09:24 AM:

Along with the whole "holidays mean family, and assumptions that you'll be WITH family, and inability to get away from extended family" set of issues, I've noticed that these days we have another thing that exacerbates this: the whole Christmas-music-starts-at-Halloween thing. While not all of it does, at least some of it is all like "There's no place like home for the holidays", "I'll be home for Christmas", "I'm dreaming of a (white) Christmas just like the ones I used to know", etc. And it's in the background at least half the places you go. (At work the other day, in the bathroom, I was subjected to a soft-rock version of Jingle Bell Rock, which was just WRONG.)

The good part, at this point, is that three days from now? It _stops_ completely. You may still be having to deal with family, but the background music urging you to normality or at least its appearance for the holidays? Stops dead after Christmas Day...

--Dave, yeah, this sounds hlepy even to me, but the more small bright spots the merrier

PS: Not yet ready to post my own post on these threads. I can't say why yet, but I'm waiting for one particular person to die. And, let me hastily add, I do NOT mean that in any sort of bad way, either. (Yes, that's not impossible...) When I do, it'll _probably_ be under my own name, like everything else I've ever netted.

#334 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 10:46 AM:

I wasn't going to post but now I feel I have to use this place to vent---
my mother just walked in where I've been hiding out, to berate me and criticize me and tell me I am trash and everything i touch turns to trash. She means, of course, to tell me she resents my trying to hide from her. How dare I want to hide from her when I owe everything to her?

This is why I hate hate hate the holidays. it just underlines everything that can go wrong and everything that went wrong and so forth.

#335 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 12:30 PM:

ma larkey @334: *hugs*

She's lying. And I wish I could do more than just offer support via words.

She is lying. You are not trash, you are strong and talented and worthwhile, and you have a right to not be treated like trash.

#336 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 01:56 PM:

ma larkey, what Jennifer said. You are NOT trash. the risk of being hlepy, I'd say that her abuse of you negates any debt you may have to her.

#337 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 02:59 PM:

So I'm coming closer and closer to the realization that I possibly can't do this on my own. I've been looking at the pile of stuff in my living room and I am so very very overwhelmed. I would post pictures but it really is very embarrassing. I want nothing more than to put up our Christmas tree, but I don't really want people to help me with the pile of stuff because it is just so personal and upsetting for whatever reason. There is a box that I opened and immediately closed because it was from the time that I have the hardest time dealing with. I finally just stuck the tree in a corner behind our kitchen table because it was clean. I'm just..... I'm stopping now. I need to breathe and focus and get ready for work again. All nighter working on Christmas stuff, and managed to forget several important gifts (like the 2 for our Christmas exchange and something for my baby brother) not to mention something stupid for my mother's husband and brother's girlfriend.

#338 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 03:07 PM:

Ma larkey, I'm sorry that your mother is so very horrid towards you. I hope that she realizes how amazing and strong you are before its too late, if it isn't already too late. I'm pretty sure we all see your strength and awesomeness, so if your mother doesn't see that, its her own dang fault. I wish I could offer more support than just on here. From what it sounds like, you REALLY need to get away from your mother as soon as possible. ::hugs::

#339 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 04:56 PM:

David @ 323, Lee @ 324 and Jennifer @ 330

Oh, that's interesting. And I appreciate the supportiveness of your responses. I really don't read it the same way; I see it as an honest expression of her ambivalence and concern for me, and if I felt strongly about it, it wouldn't hold me back. I'm still feeling my way around the issue, and I haven't decided where my benefit really is. But I think it helps that she and I have discussed my educational history before now; I understand why things didn't happen, and it's very humanly complex but fundamentally well-intentioned.

That said, it's not the first time I've been informed that my sense of "normal" isn't. Hm. I'll go away and think about this a bit.

#340 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 05:45 PM:

ma larkey @334: How miserable must she be to come at you with sh*t like that? {{{{HUGS}}}}

#341 ::: Hiding (again) for now ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 06:22 PM:

Jacque @331, Lee @332: Thank you.

There. Done. Boy, that hurt. But it would have hurt me more not to do it. And I wanted to do it while I still think of hir with no bitterness or rancor or regret.

Also, quibble: it should be broken lungs, not broken heart, not when breathing is this painful. I'll be ok in a bit, though. Hugs, good thoughts, etc. to all of you going through rough patches as well.

#342 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2011, 10:34 PM:

I'm too wiped out at the moment to do individual replies, but please, everyone who sends kindness and witness, I am grateful for it.
I still have gifts to wrap, even if I am so not feeling like doing so at all. Yes, I know I need to get away, but for now, the best I can do is to "hide away", whether that means pretending in my head that my family of origin isn't quite so bad, or it means I should just lock the doors between me and them and wait out the holidays, remains to be seen.

I don't want to be dramatically ungrateful for anything I have, so it would seem to be terrible not to try to play the role expected to me, to wrap gifts, to cook something, to play along. But I do feel worn out. Little acid comments just eat away, and I just want to lie down and wait for January.

#343 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 12:15 AM:

Hiding: Condolences. It really sucks. But, you know, sticking around to be hurt helps ... whom, again?

ma larkey I wish you plentiful spoons. Thinking back to when I had to "stick it out," "play the role." It was not ... a happy time.

Both a yez: Come play with us here more. We appreciate you! :-)

#344 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 03:53 AM:

Annie Mouse #312 - Life never stops while you're still conscious and breathing, self-understanding and happiness are always good things, and it is never "too late" until you are. ("Late", that is).

ma larkey #334 - Your mother is incorrect. She is also being nasty, and she's displaying very poor manners.

and #342 - I'm not surprised you're feeling worn out. Maintaining any performance requires work, after all. It's why we pay actors.

(Also, you may need to figure out what your family's current definition of "dramatically ungrateful" consists of. If it means "not actively performing cringing gratitude at all times", then a reality check may be in order.)

#345 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 06:46 AM:

I think I've found something big.

I was in a chi gung class with a mirror. I'd previously noticed that I'd lower my head, following my hands down, in the first move of tai chi, and thought it might be an odd habit that's worth cleaning up, but this time, I noticed that I was lowering my head on more moves.

It occurred to me that head-lowering isn't necessarily neutral-- I think it's a submissive gesture which is tied into my perfectionism. I'm expecting to be told I'm doing something wrong before I get started.

Uncurling my head and upper body does a lot to break up self-hatred.

#346 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 09:48 AM:

I owe the community an apology.

My kids have made it abundantly clear to me this Christmas that they find my company toxic.

I hope none of that toxicity leaked out here and that I haven't made anything worse for any of y'all.

#347 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 10:18 AM:

Lila, sounds from this and your comment on the other thread like you're having a tough time. Wishing it better. I don't know the age of your kids, but there are sometimes stages that are much less about you than about their need to separate. I, at least, didn't notice any toxicity here.

#348 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 10:43 AM:

Lila, I don't think you're toxic at all. From where I sit, you are a supportive, kind, and essential member of this community.

#349 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 10:48 AM:

Thanks guys. (My kids are adults.) I think maybe I'm better online than IRL.

#350 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:30 AM:

Lila, I don't find you toxic. Also, IIRC, you went through something very traumatic not that long ago, and that's probably influenced how you interact with the world. It's possible that your kids can't cope with that change in your interaction, and that's influencing THEIR reaction to YOU.

Whatever the cause, I wish you only the best.

#351 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:55 AM:

Rikibeth, it's possible. The kid who's having the most trouble with me was also involved in that incident (as was my husband). It didn't drive a wedge between me and him (at least I hope not), but it definitely made things worse between me and her. I don't know how she views it, but from my POV I let her down very badly indeed that day.

#352 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:58 AM:

My theory is that sometimes we're toxic to other people not for any fault of ours or theirs, but simply because personalities and circumstances cause us to bounce badly off of one another.

As parents, if our kids end up in that situation with us, the functional thing to do is to take the hit and step back. It's another way of putting your children's good above your own. That's a functional thing to do. It may be possible, doing that, to rebuild something else later. Dysfunction would be forcing the relationship to continue.

(Will I manage to do this if my kids and I end up in those circumstances? I have no idea. As with all of my principles, I'm conscious that my practice may not measure up.)

#353 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 12:18 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz at 345: sounds like a good catch for you. A suggestion: pay some attention to your breathing as you practice. Notice if you hold your breath, and when. Breathing and extension of one's spine are strongly connected. If you strengthen and improve one, you may find that you have strengthened and improved the other, and my experience tells me that by doing either/both you will enliven both body and spirit.

Of course, if this is not helpful, ignore it.

#354 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:01 PM:

Lila, I think there's a useful difference between 'toxic' and 'bad person'. It's useful both for people trying to leave those who are unhealthy-- you can say, "I'm not coming to your house for Christmas this year," without meaning, to yourself at least, "You are a terrible horrible no-good very bad relative."-- and for the people who are left, because it does suck to have people leave, no matter the reason.

Lila, your comments don't make me look up and your name and think, oh, it's *her*. Stay healthy, and help your kids do the same.

#355 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:05 PM:

Megpie71, #344: Actually, it sounds more like "dramatically ungrateful" means "daring not to be perfectly happy and content at all times". Just as corrosive.

Lila, no advice to offer, but sympathies. (And, on a different topic, would you like to try for a meetup at GAFilk again this year? If so, e-mail me.)

#356 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:30 PM:

abi, yeah, that's pretty much what I'm trying to do. I can't not be unhappy and sometimes tearful, but I can send the rest of 'em out to shop and eat lunch while I stay here and cook. Also wangled an invitation from my sister to put the kid up for a few days if she'd rather be there than here.

Lee & Diatryma, thanks. Re GaFilk, not this year, alas. That's the weekend my great-niece is moving in with us. But thanks for asking.

#357 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 04:00 PM:

Lila @351: I don't know how she views it, but from my POV I let her down very badly indeed that day.

I'm going to risk hlepping here by relating my experience from the other side of that transaction: The last time I saw my father, he asked me if I had noticed any favoritism of my brother over me. At the time, I reflexively said "no," but later got to thinking about it and, by damn, yes there surely was.

But it only took that much of an acknowledgement from him for me to, eventually, let go of all of my anger and resentment towards him, and I now actually regret never having had a chance to get to know him as an adult. Unfortunately, he died two months after that conversation.

You didn't say whether or not you have spoken explicitly of your feelings about that day to her. But if you have you may, over time, discover that there is more healing going on in her wrt you than is apparent just now.

#358 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 06:16 PM:

Jacque: I did speak explicitly to her shortly after the event, got a muted and noncommittal response, and dropped the subject. For obvious reasons, I'm reluctant to bring it up now.

But I know what you mean. My own mother let me down pretty badly after a rough event in my childhood, and it only took a very mild oblique almost-acknowledgement many decades later for me to be able to let it go. After all, I didn't come with a manual.

#359 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:34 PM:

Apropos of this subject, some updated kvetching in a more appropriate venue.

I spoke to my mother-in-law this afternoon and in context of arranging holiday logistics and sundry I also attempted to make it pointedly clear that I did not appreciate her having told all her friends that I was having medical problems and inviting their commentary thereupon. Y'all know I was stressing out; the last thing I needed or wanted was a bunch of people in my day-to-day life getting up in my personal business. When the internet stresses me out, I can turn it off; well-meaning but hleppy relatives that won't butt out are a lot harder to deal with.

Today she tried to tell me that olive oil wasn't fat so I should be able to eat that.


The woman is not so much stupid as living in a very different reality to the one I live in. Not parallel, not perpendicular.... skew. Geometrically skew. Does not intersect AT ALL. I mean, in what universe is oil not fat? She's probably thinking of saturated fats versus unsaturated fats, and yes olive oil is much healthier than lard if you're worrying about your cholesterol, but if you're trying to avoid having your gallstones pinch you in the liver after every meal then fat is fat and best left alone. Trying to explain this to her is useless; she's made up her mind so don't confuse her with facts, with a side helping of momma knows best. Oy.

If I don't end up with my mug shot in the local paper over the next few days I will consider things to have gone well. (NB - I am not anticipating any mugshot-inducing situations, but allow for the exaggerated possibility of things getting entirely out of hand.)

#360 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 09:55 PM:

I got a call from my mother asking me to go to their house because no one filled or put up stockings for the children of my siblings, and no one wrapped gifts for them. Because it's supposedly my job to do that every year,
Well this year I am taking a break, because I have these very bad headaches and heartache too. While it hurts to picture these kids wondering what happened to Santa, well, I think it's the responsibility of oh, I don't know, six other adults (the parents and grandparents) to arrange this sort of thing now.

Once, I tried to leave my parents' home and my parents and sibs all held me down and beat me up. I had bruises on my arms, shoulders, sides. I didn't report it, because it was so humiliating to be shoved and punched and made to go to "my room" because I'd suddenly announced I'd had enough of their abuse and I wanted to leave for a few days. That was two years ago. I still think about that day.

#361 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:26 PM:

Ma Larkey, your family is terrible. Part of being an adult is taking up the slack for other adults when they can't do things.

#362 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 01:23 AM:

TWO YEARS ago?!?!!?!? WTF?

This is me hoping and praying you can escape from your abusive slavemasters before too much longer.

#363 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 02:23 AM:

Lila @358: I did speak explicitly to her shortly after the event, got a muted and noncommittal response, and dropped the subject.

I'm speaking entirely out of church here, because the most traumatic experience I've ever had was bouncing my head off the karate studio floor (and that was my own stupid doing). That said, my memory of that evening is spotty at best. It's possible that "muted and noncommital response" was "This brain is currently busy. Please call back later." Dropping the subject was likely wise; she may simply not have had the attention available for what you had to say right then. My understanding is that, after major traumatic events, it can take a while for one's psyche to sync back up to consensus reality again.

For obvious reasons, I'm reluctant to bring it up now.

Um, expressing my ignorance and cluelessness here but: not obvious to me? Please disregard this question if it's intrusive.

But I know what you mean. My own mother let me down pretty badly after a rough event in my childhood, and it only took a very mild oblique almost-acknowledgement many decades later for me to be able to let it go.

In contrast to my father, my mother, when confronted, steadfastly refused even to acknowledge that there had ever been a problem between her and me, nevermind that she had any kind of culpability.

Your wisdom in waiting for her to come to you may be just the ticket, especially if, when the time comes, you acknowledge her perspective, and express the regret you clearly feel.

After all, I didn't come with a manual.

I know; who the hell thought up this system, anyway, right? :-)

ma larkey @360: You know, there's a word for the expectations they have of you: slave. Last I looked, that's against the law.

I still think about that day.

May I suggest you start documenting specifics? (Like, maybe, you know, here?) My understanding is that, should legal action (like, maybe, assault charges, maybe?) become appropriate, systematic documentation can make or break a case.

May I also suggest, against the day when you really have had too much, that you make a plan.

#364 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 02:54 AM:

Jacque, I read your suggestions and my first reaction is to say; I tried. I made a plan, I talked to friends and family that I thought I could trust. In the end, none of my confidants can or will take me in, no one will hold the bag for me or drive the getaway car. I understand completely where they are coming from, too, these people closer to me who know how terrible it is, or perhaps, don't want to really know how terrible it is, so it becomes a matter of them saying "hush, don't complain, it's not so bad, they are essential because they are your only family, and no one else will take you in."

I've been thinking of putting all of these things on a blog somewhere so there is a record of my voice at least, even in some borrowed corner of the web.

I do want to get away. The question is now do I exchange this for a hell I don't know. The way clear isn't clear at all to me. I see myself walking off with a packed bag, but where to, and with whose help, I do not know.

#365 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 03:13 AM:

ma larkey @364: :-(

Do, please, write.

#366 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 04:07 AM:

Right now my mother is trying to bust down the door of the apartment insisting I go with her. I don't want to. It's the first sign of defiance I have allowed myself. There is only a deadbolt between me and her right now. I am weeping and I hate myself. If I go with them I am certainly not going to be able to bear it.

I called my aunt to ask her to intervene, now she won't come to the phone to intercede for me.

#367 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 04:34 AM:

She finally went away when the neighbor across the way opened their door to ask her what was going on. She brought my little nephews with her to emotionally blackmail me into going to their dinner. I said no, the deadbolt held. She owns the title to this apartment, and I am living at her mercy, so maybe I am the ingrate. But still. Who thinks its rational to force someone to dinner when they don't want any of it?

She just called me to say I have forfeited everything. I don't quite know what that means but I hope I weather this one.

#368 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 05:02 AM:

Sterkte, ma larkey, as they say here. And electronic hugs, if you're in the market for them.

#369 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 09:24 AM:

ma larkey: where are you? If you'd like to contact me, I can be reached under this name at gmail. I have friends in various places across the country. Many have spare rooms, or a network of other friends. Most of them have a great deal of compassion for folks in situations like yours, and, what's more, a knowledge of how to navigate social support structures. If I know where, geographically, you are, I can at the very least ASK.

Wishing you strength to see you through this.

#370 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:16 AM:

ma larkey: Hearing not just events, but your fearful tone, I suspect this situation is coming to a head. In particular, your having shown "defiance" with other family present, is likely to send your mother over the edge, and if other family fall in line, things could easily get way out of hand. I hate to be this pessimistic, but given that *you* are already reminded of past violence, I'd say it's time to move, now.

Please, pack what you can, and go to the police station¹ as soon as the coast seems to be clear. Calling them [911 or local equivalent] first may help -- at least they can probably tell you where the closest/best place to physically go Tell them at least some of what you've told us, especially that you've previously been beaten up for trying to leave, and that you are not feeling safe with your family gathered together. This will get a police report on the record, which itself may help forestall violence, or at least eliminate "he said/she said" if it comes to that.

The question is now do I exchange this for a hell I don't know.

The rest of the world is not a hell. Part of the distortions of an abusive family is making the victims think that "this is just what the world is like"... but it's not. And bluntly, spending Christmas in a homeless shelter (or an abused-women shelter) is not half as bad as spending it in a hospital, or worse.

¹ A church might also do -- they'll be pretty busy just now, but at least it's a place to hide among other people while you figure out what to do. After services, the priest may also be able to help out.

#371 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:20 AM:

ma larkey: Please let us know you're okay. I want to offer virtual hugs, empathetic tears, and strength for anything you need to do. Sometimes the friends don't come out of the woodwork until we make a decision. I'm sorry that your people didn't come through for you last time. It's been my experience that virtual strangers can often treat us better than people we know (sadly).

Is there a shelter in your area? A crisis line? You have a clear picture of what is going on in your mother's house. Yes, leaving could get worse, but I promise that it could also get oh so much better.

I hope you can do whatever you feel is right for you. Take good care of yourself.

#372 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:25 AM:

I'm very moved by your responses, grateful for your empathy, hugs, directions. Yes, I have a bag packed just in case and I think I can move if I really have to---it's the emotional lash out that scares me more than the threat of physical harm right now. My mother went back home and I at least have a strong door between her and her temper.

I'll try to keep you posted.

#373 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:28 AM:

ma larkey: Addendum seeing Rikibeth's post: E-mail Rikibeth your cell phone #, get in touch with her ASAP. Real-time advice is better than having to check the blog.

It will likely be helpful to show the police or shelter staff your previous posts ("view all by) here -- already they're a decent listing of past abuse. If you can't remember the URL, google for "Making Light".

#374 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:30 AM:

PS: I'm happy to move your heart, but just now, I'd rather have you move your butt!

#375 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:03 AM:

Ma Larkey: You're in my thoughts today. I hope you stay safe and things get better, one way or another.

If there's anything I/we can do, let us know.

#376 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:19 AM:

yes, I was panicking a while ago, but a friend talked me out of crisis mode. I have a rather long to do list, and am overwhelmed, but not too far gone to not be able to laugh at the spectacle of me putting this stuff on this thread. At the risk of being facetious, there 're far greater problems out there and people with more serious situations, so no need to panic quite yet, I think, at least, for me.

i'm in contact with at least two friends now on this thread, so please do not worry too much.

#377 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:20 AM:

ma larkey: I can't add to the helpful advice given here except to second the suggestion that you contact Rikibeth right now. Please keep us posted, and may you stay safe.

#378 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:31 AM:

I may not be the best person to contact with a phone number, as my own phone is not set up to make/receive the specific sort of call required. I'm sure that there's someone else on the thread suitably equipped, though. abi has offered to act as coordinator/go-between before; I know it's a family day for her, but I suspect she'd be useful anyway.

#379 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:35 AM:

Rikibeth: I'm not sure what you mean by "the specific sort of call required". I have an iPhone, but not the contacts you mentioned. Also, I'm not very mobile even within Central Virginia.

#380 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:36 AM:

ma larkey: it doesn't matter how bad someone else has it: you are *at risk of being beaten by your own relatives and you do not have a safe place to sleep*. Please get out. Or at least call the police or your local shelter. Do not give these people time to plan horrible things to do to you.

#381 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:58 AM:

I'm trying not to reveal any identifying details, David. It's not a function of my device, but of my calling plan. That's why I suggested abi as a go-between. Also, it turns out that my contacts are not of use in this case. It looks like there's at least an emergency plan getting set up, though, which eases my mind.

#382 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 12:11 PM:

Rikibet #381: OK, then.... Wishing ma larkin the best of luck!

#383 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 12:25 PM:

ma larkey, seconding Lila, just because other people have it worse doesn't mean you have to put up with it. The situation is bad *for you.* That's what counts. Don't derail yourself from taking care of your own safety by comparing your situation to others. The best gift to yourself today would be placing your own need for a safe haven above everything else. May the day bring you peace!

#384 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 12:25 PM:

Lila @ 358: I just wanted to chime in on the delay in processing traumatic events; children in particular are known for this. Some of my son's behavioral and psychological health issues earlier this year are almost certainly due to the trauma suffered in his early childhood, combined with other concerns. His therapist and doctor will address those once he is stronger mentally and emotionally, so there's hope for your children. I won't be hlepy, so I'll just wish you good luck with them, and add my agreement that you don't seem toxic at all on ML.

ma larkey @360 et passim: I'm glad you've got a plan and a friend or two. If you ever need a sudden place to crash, depending on where you are, you can contact me at my embedded email. Best of luck to you too..

#385 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 12:41 PM:

I am almost always online, even on family days, and can be reached at abi at the domain of this blog, as well as the domain of the sunpig and the evilrooster.

#386 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 01:53 PM:

ma larkey, #376: It is NOT "panicking" to freak out when you have someone trying to BREAK DOWN YOUR DOOR to drag you back to a place where you have PREVIOUSLY BEEN BEATEN AND HELD PRISONER.

Do not let the Goddamn Tapes tell you that you're "overreacting" or "it's not so bad, other people have it worse" or any of that rot. It's bad enough, and (as David notes) likely to escalate now that you've actually "won" an encounter -- as in, your mother didn't get her way. She's going to feel that she needs to get the upper hand back very quickly, and I wouldn't bet on that not being by physical force. If you're in contact with people who are willing to help, take the help; you are safest with several hundred miles between you and her.

#387 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 01:58 PM:

I really really wish I could fly out of here and find refuge, but for now I am just crashing, physically tired and out of sorts. I would need extra help that just isn't there right now. But I am trying to reach out to friends who can at least listen.

(for now, sleeping in a locked room)

#388 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 03:10 PM:

ma larkey #387: <groan> I hope you've at least called the police.... I really am worried about escalation here: besides physically attacking you, they may well try to cut off your connections to the outside world (e.g. taking away computer or phone), so try to make whatever preparations you can.

#389 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 07:25 PM:

Now I am wrestling with the shame of having put all this drama on this thread, and perhaps for not enough good reason. But ok, there are things I can't convey, either for reasons of security, or plain inability to condense a life into a post---please stop worrying, and trust that I am trying to do what I can to build a safe plan for extricating myself from this situation. I am in contact with friends. And this going to sound oh so Goddam Tapelike and like a victim out of a bad Lifetime movie, but I've been through the wash before and know how it goes, and just trust me when I say it's not defcon levels yet. I'll just have to beg your patience and tolerance for what might seem like a "she cried wolf" situation if I don't get to move out and later claim it's blown over, no need to call the police. Yes, sometimes it's better to flee, sometimes staying put is the option, too.

#390 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 08:05 PM:

Ma larkey, I'm glad you're taking some steps to keep yourself safe. Please, remember that you have many options and that your situation will try to tell you you have none. The holidays will be over soon enough.

#391 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 08:48 PM:

ma larkey #389: It is your choice, and it's certainly not a matter of you crying wolf.

If anything, it might well be me panicking... I have in the past seen over the net, people's lives in danger. Those weren't from external dangers like yours, but even so, I'm sensitized to that feeling, because sometimes they lived, and... sometimes they didn't.

I'm sorry if I seemed to be trying to "take over" your situation -- ultimately, it is yours to deal with. But even so, please let us know if and/or when we can help somehow.

#392 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 09:10 PM:

ma larkey -- one problem here is that, indeed, we're not there to see the whole situation. And the situations we get to hear about are the ones where all this has gone out of control, which frequently include reports that people in the middle of it thought everything was under control. The catastrophes that make the news have a great deal in common with what you report. And that leads me (and others here) to worry, and to be glad that you're at least thinking about escape routes and ways out.

We don't want to hear about you on the news. They probably wouldn't know your name here to let us know we should be concerned.

Good thoughts sent in your direction, and every wish that you be completely right about this not being something that requires police intervention or an immediate, serious reaction.

#393 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:03 PM:

Status Update: Tomorrow evening, my son and his mother return from spending the holiday away, over hill and dale in a faraway part of the country where her side of the family all live. I've been spending the past couple days in solitude at home trying to keep myself distracted with composing the first draft of my next unpublishable science-fiction novel. I feel very lonely, especially at night right before going to sleep.

Dear ma larkey, I'm sure you know all this, but let's see if the magic of putting it into words can do a trick: when your mother says, "You're trash!" it's because she can't see anything good about you, and the reason she can't see that is she's delusional. One of her delusions is that she doesn't perceive a clear division between her own personality and yours, and another delusion is that she can't see anything good about herself. Absolutely none of that is your fault. You're not trash, and you don't have to share in any of her delusions. Moreover, not one of us is trash, and nobody is required to share in anybody else's delusions. That's a Law of Nature. (Alas, that probably didn't help, did it? I meant well.)

Dear Lila, damn I feel bad with you. Just damn.

#394 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:58 PM:

"Now I am wrestling with the shame of having put all this drama on this thread, and perhaps for not enough good reason."

ma larkey: A couple of weeks ago, we smelled a funny smell, hustled the kids out, and called the fire department. Big engines and much drama with a gas detector later, they couldn't find a leak, and one of the firefighters helpfully pointed out that they had gotten a similar call where the source of the smell turned out to be some weird tree odor that had suddenly gotten strong. As near as we can tell, ours may have been nothing more than dust-toasting electronics.

Yeah, we feel a little over-alarmist. If we'd stayed to verify, we would probably have noticed the difference in smell between gas and whatever it was.

BUT... I have no regrets about calling. It's the sort of situation where it's better to worry too much than it is to worry too little.

And all of this is to say, as the thread title states, you don't have to have "a good enough reason" to worry. They've used physical restraint; they've used gaslighting; they've used violence. Any one of those three by themselves is a good enough reason; taken together and we all want you to be away from that situation. Please keep us updated.

#395 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 12:07 AM:

ma larkey: Would it be possible at least to contact abi in the clear so that she knows who you are and where you're located? That way we would have at least some means of aiming resources in your direction if things (ghods forbid) do go abruptly sideways?

At least in the "plan for the worst: hope for the best" sense? And it would give you a trigger that you know you can pull, should you decide you need to.

#396 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 12:16 AM:

xiaoren @393: I feel very lonely, especially at night right before going to sleep.

Then we can feel lonely together, eh? :-) Here's a trick I use: snuggling down in bed, waiting to sleep, I bring my awareness to the sensation of my bedclothes holding me close, kinda the Universe cuddling me.

#397 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 02:23 AM:

B. Durbin @394 -- with the big gas explosion that happened on the SF peninsula Sept of last year (which had involved people calling in for several days, and the local gas company finding nothing!), I'd do what you did about gas smells (and still worry a bit if nothing was found). (link is to a text story, but not for those who get freaked by fire anyway....)

#398 ::: AnonCowardSevenBillion ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 03:16 AM:

My mother is not in Hawaii. This alone makes it a good Christmas.

#399 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 07:58 AM:

I'm astounded at the kindness on this thread, and yes, the good sense in allowing for the worst case preparation while going to the best case ones too.
Radio silence from my folks, so I don't know what is going on, but I do know at least that I'll be clearing things with Abi to let her know how I'm doing. I asked a friend to help me do that. So at least ML will know if I do or dont end up a dire news item.

I did get some money ready, only a bit, but enough to get me some distance if it gets bad. A bag ready.

The two differing takes on this are that some of my local "team" say to stay put, make concilatory moves, play nice. The other says to just go underground and work furiously for distance then trust in the kindnesses of even strangers to help clarify things. Which aren't really mutually exclusive approaches.

At any rate, I won't be an unmarked story, I intend to write out things and share them even as a fiction, if need be. For now, voice is all I have, and this thread has allowed me to hear it and find a measure of it in the way you have listened to me.

Thank you.

#400 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 10:57 AM:

With regard to things like possible gas leaks and personal safety questions ... this is one of the general topics where I've found that all those stupid corporate management-training tools toss up a useful bone, specifically risk analysis. To oversimplify to the point of no doubt misremembering the essentials, it can involve assessing risk exposure on the basis of three axes: likelihood of occurrence, point of detection, and impact if not mitigated. So, for example, the odor elements added to natural gas are specifically to move up the point of detection, given that the impact if not mitigated is deadly. Ignoring apparent detection vastly increases the risk exposure.

It seems to me that a similar analysis could be done for evaluating responses to personal danger. Low impact events present little risk. Events for which there is an in-built advance detection (with the possibility of mitigation) present little risk. But if you find yourself in a situation where a moderate-to-high impact event has a high likelihood of occurrence and will occur (if it does) with very little advance detectability, then mitigating measures need to be implemented now, not on occurrence. Conversely, if the event has non-trivial impact but will have sufficient advance detectability for response, then simply having a mitigation plan already designed is sufficient to reduce risk.

Just some random natterings: use if relevant.

#401 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 01:06 PM:

ma larkey @399: Glad to hear it. Should you care to invoke it, I suspect you have a small army at your back. This in itself may subtley change the dynamic between you and your family.

One could still contemplate washing cars and giving rides, though. }:-)=

Heather Rose Jones @400: Very interesting and useful random natterings, thank you! Puts into words some anxieties I've been feeling on ma larkey's behalf, for a start.

#402 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 03:12 PM:

ma larkey, #399: some of my local "team" say to stay put, make conciliatory moves, play nice

AKA "you don't want to completely break with them, family is too important, they're the only family you've got" and other such aphorisms? These are things commonly said by people who simply don't understand the concept of "toxic family" and never will. They can't imagine that anything could be so bad that leaving forever would be justified. And that's perfectly true, for them, because THEIR FAMILIES AREN'T LIKE THAT.

It's been said before, most notably by Xopher: it's sometimes hard for people who have an unreasonable family to understand what it's like to have a reasonable one -- but it's nearly impossible for someone from a reasonable family to understand what it's like to have an unreasonable one.

Do not let the representations from people who don't (can't) get it hold you back from doing what your situation demands. B. Durbin has it right: They've used physical restraint; they've used gaslighting; they've used violence. Any one of those three by themselves is a good enough reason; taken together and we all want you to be away from that situation. Your well-meaning friends, in trying to preserve your family relationship, are increasing the risk that you will become a statistic.

If you want to try to maintain contact with your family, you can do it just as easily from a distance that means you're no longer in physical danger. By which I mean, a distance that takes more than a few hours to drive.

#403 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 03:33 PM:

Heather @401 -- seconding Jacque in saying that you've done a nice analysis there in a way that helps me think (i.e., I *knew* the parts of that, but I hadn't put them together in such an elegant, succinct way, so now I can just run that set of ideas in the future when I'm looking at that sort of problem).

#404 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 04:06 PM:

Ma Larkey -- come to us, we can find a room for you, that you can stay inside of whenever you want. This is a serious offer; we've done this before. It's quite likely that we are a long way from your family.

And don't apologize for putting all this "drama" out here; it's what this thread is for.

Abi, or whoever is monitoring, you can give Ma Larkey my e-mail if she wants it, can't you?

#405 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 04:08 PM:

abi, how can I contact you? I want to give you our phone numbers.

#406 ::: Mr. Older ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 04:11 PM:

In case it makes a difference, Ma Larkey, there are only the two of us here these days, and we are BOTH making this offer most sincerely.

#407 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 04:24 PM:

I am reachable as abi at nielsenhayden dot com, or abi at sunpig dot com, and will transmit any information that anyone has given me permission to do.

But I also want to ensure that ma larkey's own agency is preserved here, and that her judgment of what I understand to be a very complicated situation is respected.

Also, this community rocks.

#408 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 08:55 PM:

I hope that the situations for Ma Larkey and others get real better real fast. Yes, this community rocks.
Which is why I want to talk about my own problem. It isn't an emergency but it has bothered me for a long time and should be done-something-about, and I think I am not the only one facing it.
Basically, my parents (old) are being a nuisance about my (middle-aged) weight. This in addition to Mom's thinking I am autistic, based on some books she read by someone who never knew me. They sort of take turns and it has been going on for 25 years or so. Not bad enough that they abused me (physically and sometimes emotionally) when I was young; they are properly contrite now, after much confrontation. But when I was looking for work, they told me I'd never succeed if I didn't get thin. Noow that I am retired on disability, they claim to be concerned about my health. I have let them know I don't want to hear that but it doesn't seem to stick. I spend some years thinking the lesson has sunk in and then it flares up again. I now have a lot of logical arguments stashed away to show that being fat isn't my fault and isn't something I can fix (or else I would have.) But I can't always dig them out in time, when either parent starts with that stuff.
One parent agreed to see a counselor with me way back when, and we hashed it out until said parent promised to knock that stuff off--but broke the promise 10 years later. I said cut that out and it worked--until 10 years after that. I had been going thru hard times at work and feared I would be dependent on them (they have financially helped out from time to time) but I don't see why I should have to swallow insults with my meat. I don't dish that stuff out to anyone so I shouldn't have to take it.
Now the other parent has--right on Christmas too--taken over the job of nagging me about what I can't help. Out of all the ways they have used this body I live in against me for 50 years, that takes the cake.
Other than that they are pretty good people, and not dumb--I don't do love, but I have some loyalty to them and have often enjoyed visits both in my town and theirs. They say they think I am smart and so on, but then they turn around and treat me like a moron.
So now I am trying to decide whether I should gather up the arguments I have collected showing that fat is not a sin even if it's a problem so get off my back--or just say that this subject is off limits from here on out. The dynamic, if that is what it is, of act like it's all over for a long while and then it flares up again, goes way back to when I was helpless and whatever one parent did to me was just fine with the other one. (They never quarreled with each other.)
I have no siblings; there was a stepbrother who left his sanity in Vietnam. My cousins are/were distant. Grandfolks are all long, long dead and I never knew them in the first place. I have a couple of good, supportive friends but am other wise the original "cat that walks by itself". Such counselors as I have been able to see are sympathetic but no actual help. I get the impression they get more information from me than I from them, and I don't want to pay someone for that when they should be paying ME.
Anyone got any ideas? I mean, after Ma Larkey and the rest are safe?

#409 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 09:23 PM:

Angiportus #408: Initial thought: Getting habitual abusers to knock it off for 10 years at a time is not a bad record on your part! If you can do that again, time is likely to take care of this problem, with perhaps one more go-round.

I'm not sure the particular method matters so much, as just making it clear that you're not helpless or vulnerable anymore, and you won't put up with this crap.

#410 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 09:55 PM:

With the caveat that I'm not working from personal experience here -

I think you're likely to get better results with a consistent "That subject is off limits," perhaps prefaced with "We're going to have to disagree on that," and reinforced, when necessary, by politely ending the conversation (getting off the phone, leaving the room, etc.) I think you're unlikely to persuade them, and trying leaves the door open for the subject to keep coming up, and coming up, and coming up. Treat it sort of like a fundamental political disagreement with people you otherwise want to be in contact with: mark off the boundaries of no man's land and then don't go there, and don't follow if they go there.

Since you've done the much harder task of getting them to recognize and acknowledge when they were wrong in the past, they may be sufficiently open to change for this level of behavioral modification to work.

#411 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 10:11 PM:

Seconding both David H. and OtterB here. You'll never convince them that they're wrong by using facts and logic, because logic doesn't enter into this. Your best bet is to keep using the tactic which has already been shown to work: declare the topic off-limits and make it stick. Think of it as needing to renew a vaccine every 10 years or so. And yeah, a 10-year cycle is pretty damn good; some of my friends have to go thru this process every 2 or 3 years.

Oh, and speaking from personal experience -- do expect to have to repeat the process again, no matter where you are in the cycle, whenever the first parent dies. When my mother died, all sorts of issues that I had thought were long dead and buried cropped up again over the course of the next year, and had to be Severely Dealt With.

#412 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 11:55 PM:

Angiportus, I don't know if this is helpful at all, but it occurs to me that a lot of people don't feel that they're parenting unless they're pointing out faults, or, in their minds, giving constructive criticism. It sounds like they've taken their own worries and decided that you need to worry about it too. But that's not your issue, it's theirs. You can leave it on their plate and refuse to accept their ridiculousness.

I really agree that behavior modification is your true option. I have been forced into that corner as well, and I find that leaving the room, having a knitting project available, taking a walk elsewhere, or just plain leaving work really well. I absolutely agree with the previous posters, and especially like OtterB's suggestion of intro: "We disagree" coupled with laying down the law: Not okay to talk about this. I think that's plenty of warning, and at least you can re-prep for this recycled conversation and maybe keep your cliff notes for ten years from now.

Holidays are stressors, and I'll go so far as to opine that they are stressors for everyone, regardless of the functionality of their familial unit. I prepped myself with a knitting project, different conversational topics, and multi-faceted fake smiles. Shocked and startled to find I didn't need them. I only had to pull out the grown-up voice once, when after four hours, food was still at least an hour away, with no sustenance in sight. I asked firmly, and was fed. Kind of weird, honestly.

#413 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 01:18 AM:

knitcrazybooknut, 412: a lot of people don't feel that they're parenting unless they're pointing out faults

This. My parents did this as well: after I did anything well, they would tell me everything they could think of wrong with it, or me, so I wouldn't actually get a chance to be proud of anything. They would even say "I actually think you did that really well, but I don't want to tell you that because you'll get arrogant, so you can do a lot better and here's everything you did wrong." They had me trained well enough that I only really absorbed the second part ever. They would also contradict anyone who would compliment me, telling them they didn't want to say nice things to me because then I'd stop trying.

They were half right: I stopped trying at about age nine, on anything that I was only doing to get approval (so, school, my appearance, pretty much anything other than reading SF and writing code).

Now I'm very messed up about that. I don't really have any way of knowing how good or bad I am at anything. I'm afraid to think I'm good at anything; I've found it's safest to just assume everyone else is better. And I know that I'll get told I'm bad at things whether I am or not. I would really like to know if I'm good at, say, programming, or game design, or writing, but I have no way of knowing. No one will tell me and even if they did I probably wouldn't believe them no matter what they said.

#414 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 04:10 AM:

Angiportus @408: Anyone got any ideas?

I'm Nthing the "off limits" strategy. See the third paragraph of Throwmearope's @291. It will require glacial patience. You might never get them to understand, or even comply, but you might eventually get them conditioned. The key phrase, of course, is "broken record." If you put just that much thought and emotional investment into the response, you'll eventually wear them down. And it'll save you a lot of mental bookkeeping.

I find the periodicity intriguing. I definitely sense a pattern there. I'd be curious if there are any co-factors you've noticed.

I really like knitcrazybooknut's insight about "stuff" ownership. It's their "stuff," not yours. Let them stew in it.

Ross @413: I'm afraid to think I'm good at anything; I've found it's safest to just assume everyone else is better.

Wore that t-shirt out a looooonnnng time ago. About ten years ago, I caught myself (consciously, finally) thinking, "Hey, I did that pretty well!" but then hastily backed up and thought, "Oh, but my brother/mother/boss/whoever wouldn't be particularly impressed."

But then I thought to myself, "Hey! Whether or not anybody else is impressed with what I did there, dammit, I'm impressed. And you know what? I'm going to claim that, and bedamned what [whoever] would think about it (especially since they aren't actually around to give an opinion anythefuckway)."

And you know what? After some years of being conscientous about hearing my own sincere positive opinion of things that I've done, I'm actually starting to get that sort of response from the people around me, too. I think, to some extent, you hear from your environment what you're trained or prepared to hear.

#415 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 07:00 AM:

#413 ::: Ross:

I wasn't on the receiving end of that sort of explicit policy, but I've been thinking that a lot of what I'm up against is not having a "that's good, I can relax" response.

I'm not talking about giving up on improving whatever, it's that improvement is about the future, but I need to not attack myself about the present and past.

And it does seem like self-attack rather than wanting things to be better for me.

Also, I've noticed that I go into self-hating rage when I read anything of the "you can have a great life, go for it!" variety, and I have no idea what's going on with that.

I did manage to pry a little content loose from that raving self-hatred (this is actually a huge achievement-- it's taken years), and it was that everything has to perfect (perfect being a sort of upper-middle class smooth with no effort) or I'm no good. I realize that this makes no sense as a standard, but that doesn't seem to prevent the emotional storms.

#416 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 07:44 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @415 I've noticed that I go into self-hating rage when I read anything of the "you can have a great life, go for it!" variety, and I have no idea what's going on with that.

I have found that I have issues around phrases like "If you'd only try harder..." The idea you quoted is supposed to be positive and forward-looking but to me it also carries a double whammy of, "So it's all your own fault if you don't have a great life" and "If you'd done it right in the first place, you wouldn't be in this mess." Pernicious, that second one, as it also tends to block satisfaction at doing the hard work to get OUT of that mess.

#417 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 08:15 AM:

OtterB, what's your emotional reaction like to that sort of cheer-leading?

Mine seems to be remarkably extreme. I think a piece of it is "You can't expect me to do anything, I'm too busy hating myself."

And maybe a piece of "You think you can help! You aren't helping, you're making me worse. Go away!"

Possibly some hair-triggering around, "We just want you to be happy. Now do what we say."

#418 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 09:51 AM:

Thanks, all. I was beginning to suspect that maybe Logic would not help in this case, with people so unwilling to use it. It has flared up when there are financial worries anywhere in the family, or now when dad is starting to circle the drain. Surviving parent gets the other's money; if both croak at once, it all is divided between me and stepbrother.
I will do as you suggest.

#419 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 11:33 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz, I often don't like them, but I don't have as strong a reaction as you do. I think we've got related but different triggers. In the two parts of "You have stupid feelings. Have different ones," my hot button is "You are stupid," and it sounds to me like yours is, "Here is what you should feel." That's going to make a lot of the self-help genre useless to you, since a lot of it is perky, confident advice about how You Should Be.

Also, shooting in the dark here but your latest comment made me wonder, could "We just want you to be happy" trigger a reaction in you of retaining your control and agency by opting to be anything but happy?

#420 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 12:12 PM:

I'm way behind in commenting for various reasons, but I have been reading and I want to say that Of The World, I'm really glad you've looked into evaluation. Please let us know how that goes?

Others in the conversation: I'm glad my little additions provided some solace. This crap is hard to deal with, especially when paired with mental tapes repeating 'if you'd just try harder'...

RE bipolar disorder and ADD/ADHD -- I know that apparently not long ago thinking was that a person had either one or the other, but that's since changed, which is good for me because I am living proof that they can co-exist quite well in one scatterbrained package. I can see in theory how there'd be confusion between the two, but when I look at the absolutely crushing depressions and frightening mixed states and really bizarre impulsive behaviors I suffered through, well... there's really no mistaking one from the other.

I am very, very glad I got diagnosed with bipolar before I got the ADD taken care of, however. I would have been a walking disaster with mixed states AND the ability to hold a thought for a reasonable amount of time.

ma larkey: sending good thoughts to you of safety and peace. I'm so sorry you're going through all of that.

#421 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 12:17 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #412: a lot of people don't feel that they're parenting unless they're pointing out faults
Nancy, #417: Possibly some hair-triggering around, "We just want you to be happy. Now do what we say."

Those two things, taken together and reinforcing each other, sound a lot like my parents -- and I'm sure I'm not the only one. In particular, it would explain the Captive Lecture Time pattern: "Oh, look, we have Lee in the car where she can't walk away! It's the perfect chance to tell her everything that's wrong with her! Maybe THIS time she'll listen to us and change, and then she'll be happy!"

#422 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 12:48 PM:

Ross: that wasn't nearly as big an issue in my family as in yours, but I love, love, loved the National PTA Licensing Exam. Yes, voices in my head, I passed the damn licensing exam on the first try and now I am officially competent. Refreshing.

#423 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 01:37 PM:

Lee, I absolutely believe the Captive Lecture Time Series was created to make people crazy. Oh wait. I mean, to Fix Our Children.

Oh wait.

You wrote: "Oh, look, we have Lee in the car where she can't walk away! It's the perfect chance to tell her everything that's wrong with her! Maybe THIS time she'll listen to us and change, and then she'll be happy!"

It's entirely possible that your parents truly want you to be happy, and that's why they think they need to shove change down your throat. But I don't think all parents want their kids to be happy. I further think that a lot of parents don't even consider what they want; they just Do Things. Some Things are what their parents did, and so they're at least following "tradition". Some Things are what they believe make a good parent, so they can feel good about themselves. Some Things are just whatever they feel like doing at the time, following some inner course around a track again and again, not seeing the impact on anyone around them, just Doing Things.

You didn't ask for advice in those situations, so possible hlep warning, but here's what I've introduced into my Captive Lecture Times: nothing. I listen. I do not accept. In my head, there's a person next to me throwing energy at me. I am the proverbial wall, and it bounces off and sits back in their lap. It is not mine, so I do not pick it up. Saying, "I understand" (or my favorite: "You may be right") at decent intervals isn't usually too hard. I mean, the whole thing is really hard, because I want to engage phasers and torpedos and argue argue argue!! But clearly that has not worked. This other thing does. It took a few times, but now it's pretty clear that I'm not going to fix the energy. So unless there's a stressor, I don't get that crap handed to me very often anymore.

Of course, by stressor, I mean, anything. But oh well. It's their choices, and I get to live my life the way I want to. Next year I'm pulling a liberation on my holidays. Next year will not be the same, and I'm excited and looking forward to the changes.

#424 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 03:05 PM:

Sorry for two posts in a row, but I was wondering: Would anyone find it helpful to have a list of books/movies/tv show episodes that have been helpful for others in the past? I'm not an addict (except maybe of knitting), but in the past, I found myself watching recovery movies dozens of times, and finding them truly helpful in moving towards helping myself. I just watched the final episode of Daria (Boxing Daria) and was moved (yet again) by the depiction of a difficult person surrounded by people who help her be herself.

I know that many people have suggested books, and I don't know if anyone's compiled those titles. Comments? It wouldn't take much to inspire me to go back through the old threads and create a master list. Apologies if this has been asked and answered in the past.

#425 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 03:28 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @424: It wouldn't take much to inspire me to go back through the old threads and create a master list.

Oh, we're all about teh master lists. Speaking entirely for myself, go for it!

#426 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 03:37 PM:

Lee @421: Captive Lecture Time pattern: "Oh, look, we have Lee in the car where she can't walk away! It's the perfect chance to tell her everything that's wrong with her! Maybe THIS time she'll listen to us and change, and then she'll be happy!"


My parents had me sufficiently conditioned that they didn't have to capture me in the car to do this. My mother would come into my room, glance at the TV, and say, "When you get to a break, come on out. We want to talk to you." Innevitably, this would be in the middle of something I wanted to watch, and there would be two or three things afterwards I wanted to watch. The "get to a break" somehow implied to me that I'd come out, they'd say their say, they'd be done, and I could go back into my room. But as often as not, The Lecture would go on and on and on and on, while the evening drained away, with me surreptitiously glancing at the clock every fifteen minutes, thinking "Well, I could catch the last half of [show] if they let me go soon."

And then it was time to go to bed (if I had school the next day), and I was released. I didn't dare object or argue.

I have no recollection of what they said, except for spending some evenings staring at the floor, in tears. The general gist was, of course, Ur Doin It Rong.

Oh yes, and you remember when Reflective Listening first was all the rage? How it's supposed to facilitate communication by verifying that you've actually communicated what you meant? Somehow, the demand, "Now what did I just say to you?" followed by a frozen silence didn't really, I intuit, comply with the intended use of the developers....

#427 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 07:31 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, #423: I didn't ask for help because that was all over, for me, a long time ago. The Captive Lecture Time thing pretty much ended when I moved out on my own -- because if they tried it when I came over to visit, I left! Oddly enough, they never tried coming into my room for that; in there with the door closed was safe. But every so often there would be an interaction of the type:

"Lee, why don't you come out and be part of the FAMILY for a change?"
*brings book out to the family room to read*
*Captive Lecture Time starts*
*takes book back to room to read in peace*

So far as I could tell, they never did manage to connect "all we ever say to Lee is criticism" with "Lee doesn't want to spend time with us". Not even after I moved out.

#428 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 07:48 PM:

ma larkey: Just a reminder that we all love you here, and want you to be safe. Crazy things happen over the holidays especially and we're all rooting for you to do what you feel is best, as long as you are safe. No idea where you are in the world, but if you need a friend in Cleveland ever, I'm sure we could host you here for a day or so. We have a couch that is free for usage. Day by day is sometimes a very good way to go about things. Of course, you are right in that it is always best to go with what you know, and as much as we care here, we don't know all the specifics. Go with your gut, and the moment your gut tells you to run, do so, and don't regret it. Sometimes the gut gets it WAY before the head does.

#429 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 08:59 PM:

Jacque #426: My mom used to do Captive Lecture Time in the car. Happily, my Mom wasn't actually abusive, just a bit self-centered¹, so I only had to threaten once to get out and take a bus home. (That was after I was an adult....)

Car rides when I was a kid had a different issue: "What do you mean we never told you, we discussed it in the car!" My hearing loss wasn't diagnosed until 9 or 10, and us kids sat in the back, not to mention me reading. Somehow it never registered with her that I hadn't actually participated in the "discussion". :-(

¹ She's gotten better over the years.

#430 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 12:35 AM:

When I arrived at their house last December, while my mother was still in the first happy rush of having me "home", I informed her calmly that I would not be visiting for Christmas in 2011, so that she would have a year to get used to the idea. Not trying to force me to visit for Christmas has been one of the principles she holds herself to, which gives me a huge advantage over most people - I'm not saying anyone else should do things my way, just explaining the context of the Christmas I just had. My mother flatters herself that she didn't raise childred, she raised adults, and the expectation that we would do as she did and stop returning for the holidays was part of that.
She expected that I'd get married, or at least find myself a man, and want to spend Christmas with his parents or just with him. She doesn't understand choosing to spend Christmas on my own. But she's always made a point, since I left for university, of mentioning that I have the option of not returning for the holidays, and so I exercised it without much concern that she would try to guilt me into changing my mind.
To her credit, she didn't. She did spend a few phone calls fretting about how I was going to be lonely and cold, but I fended that off by talking about central heating and changing the subject as soon as possible.

So. I spent Christmas on my own, in the flat I rent half of. It was wonderful. It would have been nice to have congenial company, but it was orders of magnitude better than visiting my family. I wasn't lonely or sad or afraid or hungry or threatened or needing to hide. I didn't have to spend a week being misgendered. I didn't have to spend a week pretending my partners don't exist. I didn't have to sneak down to the kitchen and try to find food that wouldn't be missed that I could cook without waking people.

I cooked and bought enough food for about four people and gave myself permission to have nothing left over at all if that was how much I wanted to eat. And I ate until it hurt and kept snacking on sweets all evening even though I was full, just because I could.
And I'm quite surprised to discover that I can't eat the world. When I can eat as much as I please, I don't gorge myself into a coma. I don't even eat enough for several people. I kind of thought I would.

I seem to need attention and touch and compliments several times a day at the moment. I think I'm trying to make up for lost time.

#431 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 12:53 AM:

Froth@430, that sounds like a freaking wonderful way to spend Christmas. I can't help but admire your decision.

#432 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 02:39 AM:

Froth, #430: That's delightful to hear, and I'm happy that you were able to give yourself a pleasant Christmas. There are worse things than being alone and a bit lonely.

#433 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 08:54 AM:

Just writing to let you all know I am safe, and just hunkering down in the apartment. I've received only one message from my mother since the door incident--to tell me about her anxieties about money. My immediate guilty reaction was to feel like the deadweight she's accused me of being in the past. I'm aware intellectually how wrong that is, and yet emotionally I am just raw. Then I reminded myself that I wouldn't be in this state if I had been well. Being ill is part of this whole ordeal. I'm trying my best. I'm grateful for this thread.

#434 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 09:33 AM:

ma larkey, thanks for checking in. It's good to hear that things are going reasonably smoothly.

#435 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 12:15 PM:

@Tom Whitmore: Shortly after we moved in to our house, That Gas Company came through our neighborhood with the über-detectors and actually found a couple of small leaks, which they then plugged. So I'm less nervous about the gas lines than many people in California, since ours have actually been checked in recent times.

@ma larkey: I hope you feel better soon. Illness is (yet another) one too many things.

#436 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 04:52 PM:

Froth: to another solo celebrant: ¡Salud!

ma larkey @433: Heh. I'll bet your mother is puzzled. "Hey wait! She's not playing The Game. Wait, what?" Go, you!

B. Durbin @435: I actually once correctly tagged a gas leak; our meters are down under my window. I'm glad they're not leaking now. You know, I wish there was a Scratch-and-Sniff "This Is What Gas Smells Like" card. I can't count the number of times I've smelled "something weird." "Is that gas? I can't tell." Be nice to have a reliable referent.

#437 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 05:14 PM:

This goes out to applicable family members: Damn Your Eyes, because this song can apply to so much more than a two-person romantic relationship.

Love anyway.

#438 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 05:37 PM:

ma larkey #433: Good to hear from you. Let's hope things settle out OK.

#439 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 07:18 PM:

Froth @430: cool beans for discovering something new in your relationship with food!

#440 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 07:53 PM:

Jacque, #436: Gas leaks don't smell "funny", they smell nasty -- like rotten eggs, or liver of sulfur, or brimstone (pick your simile). Among the things they don't smell like are chicken bones which have been in the garbage can a day too long -- that's nasty too, but it's a dumpster kind of nasty, and quite different.

#441 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 09:43 PM:

You can find someone with a stove with gas burners, if you're ever really curious, and take a good sniff of the air near the stovetop just as you start to turn the burner on. To me, it smells like the armpit of a rotten egg.

#442 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 09:45 PM:

The smell was added to gas after the New London, Texas, school explosion in 1937. It's designed to be obvious.

But anyone who heats or cooks with gas should have a working explosive gas detector in their home (they're cheap, and often combine a carbon monoxide detector, which everyone should also have).

#443 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 10:09 PM:

James @ 442
"... a working explosive gas detector..."

... Those exist? That would have been so useful when we were trying to convince PG&E that their inability to find the furnace leak didn't mean we were hysterical kids...

We have to pick up a carbon monoxide detector anyway. I've mentioned it to my husband; is there anything particular we should be looking for, as far as quality?

#444 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 10:28 PM:

Both Kidde and First Alert, as well as several other manufacturers, make home explosive gas detectors. They range from $40 on up. As long as the unit is UL listed and has battery backups, read the reviews and make your choice based on where and how you want to install it.

#445 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 12:13 AM:

James @ 444

Thank you. That's good to know.

#446 ::: Kaesa ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 02:49 PM:

Um. I commented in the last thread, once, and because I am terrible at even internet-socializing in New Places. This is a very long post about My Own Issues, which are partly about recovering from a dysfunctional family, partly venting, and partly diagnostic is-something-wrong-with-me? stuff.

tl;dr summary of the following: The people in my life who I have little choice in associating with want me to Try Harder and Stop Being Lazy. I am trying as hard as I can, I have hardly any energy, emotionally or physically, I am not happy, and eventually my head is going to explode. Also, my memory is awful, does this sound familiar to anyone?

I would kind of like to ask for help/thoughts on a problem I'm having at work, because my family is wildly dysfunctional and I have no real experiences of normal. My boss has been lecturing me on the importance of Paying Attention and Having A Good Memory and Trying Harder. He thinks I do this intentionally. I have explained that I don't, but he doesn't buy it. No, I just have to Try Harder and Stop Being Lazy.

The thing is, I have always had a terrible, terrible memory and have managed to come up with workarounds for most things, and mnemonics for things I have to memorize, but there are some situations where you just cannot work around needing to remember non-mnemonic information, as when you are working in a small office and your supervisor expects you to be able to list off everything you worked on two days ago, or the day that something was filed, or the fee for something you last did six months ago, without consulting notes or records. I feel like there are people who can remember those things, but they are pretty rare. He also hates that I cannot name the ten streets in order surrounding the office in all directions, despite the fact that this is something I've never once needed to know working here, and my job is pretty much typing things and answering phones.

Ideas are fairly easy for me -- stories or songs are the easiest, and just click automatically -- but I have serious trouble remembering names or dates, and I am incredibly bad with faces. In elementary school, I was Bad At Math because I couldn't memorize times tables, and then between fifth and twelfth grade I was suddenly Good At Math because I'd finally memorized those and math was now about ideas and narrative. (Well, to me it was about narrative; I assume most people don't think that way, but that was how I learned it.) This is just one example. I think my point is, I don't think I'm actually stupid, but I think there is something wrong with how I learn or process information, because most people do not have this issue.

(Possibly-relevant DFD sidenote: memories of experiences come to me primarily as scenes, but there are traumatic experiences I had in my childhood which I only recall as words and fear. My parents have always been deeply awful and unhelpful about my bad memory, and insisted I was either lazy or lying about not remembering. When I was explaining why I had to move out to my dad, I told him that my mother used to hit me, and that to avoid being hit by my mother I used to beat my head against the wall and call myself stupid -- my childish reasoning was that if I punished myself as she would have, she wouldn't have to do it and we could all just get it over with. His reaction was to laugh at me and say "No WONDER you're so messed up, you used to hit your head against the wall when you were little!" I know he was just uncomfortable with what I was telling him, and his reaction to this is generally to acknowledge some minor detail and laugh it off, but I will probably never forgive him for that.)

The other thing I'm stressing out about is my birthday, which is Saturday. In the past three years, my parents have not given me anything or acknowledged my birthday twice (they pretty much just forgot one year), and last year I had been in the midst of being Disowned, which was lovely, because I got to spend my birthday with two of my best friends and no interfering family.

This year, they seem to think I want them around. I don't. I went to Christmas with them because I am humoring them, but my birthday is my birthday, it is not the Day of Commemorating Mommy's Favorite Shiny Toy/Punching Bag. I do not want things from them, or dinner with them, or anything. I have my own plans. I would just like for them to STOP BOTHERING ME ABOUT IT, and though I have explained this to my father several times, he refuses to absorb it. He's also shocked that my therapist wants to put me on medication for anxiety and depression. "Why does she want to do that?" "Well, I would imagine it's because I'm anxious and depressed all the time." "You are? Why would you be anxious and depressed? I hope it wasn't anything I did."

Christmas was stressful but not so bad. My grandmother, who is one of the few people who will acknowledge the abuse happened and who has been my financial support, called me enthusiastically the other day to tell me how wonderful Christmas was and "I would never have known anything bad had happened!" if she had been an unknowledgable observer. She seemed taken aback when I said I didn't really enjoy it. All she seems to want is that we just act like everything's fine, and isn't this great, and why am I not happy now that the cardboard Functional Family set is in place? Clearly I just want to be unhappy, and I should Try Harder and Stop Being Lazy.

(Despite all the above, life is really improving for me lately; I think possibly the general mostly-okayness of my non-family non-work life is making me realize how bad family and work have gotten. Which makes me worry, because what if the happier I get outside of those spheres, the unhappier I get inside of them?)

#447 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 03:15 PM:

Jacque@436: our gas company has at least once sent us a Scratch'n'Sniff card for the famous smell (mercaptan), so they do exist. E.g., (this is just the first one I grabbed off teh Google; I don't live in Ohio).

#448 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 03:21 PM:

Kaesa, it sounds like you're doing a great job of processing and figuring out what is and isn't okay for you. I completely relate to your Christmas experience, and my mom is also of the "if everything looks fine, then it IS" school. One of the main reasons I hate getting pictures taken to this day.

You say you're worried "because what if the happier I get outside of those spheres, the unhappier I get inside of them?"

I have good news for you. The unhappier you get in work and family, the more you'll be able to make changes to them, and make those situations happier. That can mean leaving those situations entirely, or just modifying your behavior (such as telling your boss that you're not going to devote any more time to memorizing ten streets out, since clearly that's not your strong suit, and you'd rather concentrate on giving excellent customer service, or something applicable to your actual job. (just my knee jerk reaction, ymmv)).

You sound really strong, and you sound like you're gaining your voice and your agency, and learning more about whatever memory disorder/anxiety/depression you may have will only make you stronger.

As a former Human Resources person, my question is this: What does your job description say that you need to be doing in your job? Obviously, if there is no job description, you're at the mercy of whatever your boss says you need to be doing, which is lame. But if there is a job description, I would review it, and ask to meet with your boss and review it with him. Unfortunately, most times they do have a line item that says "Other duties as assigned." I would ask him to list those duties, since he clearly isn't satisfied with your performance at the random memory searches he's asking you to complete instantaneously.

My suggestion of meeting with your boss assumes that you're emotionally ready to handle something like that. So please don't take it as a directive, but as something to think about. If you have a Human Resources department and you're comfortable talking with them, you might discuss it confidentially with one of them and get suggestions. But again, if you're not comfortable doing that, don't do it. I've dealt with these kinds of situations before, and sometimes calm, uninterrupted communication can help. Sometimes bosses are just Big Jerks, and nothing will help. But knowing what your options are and learning what you can do in these situations will always help.

Again, please ignore if hlepy. But I have been on both sides of these communication issues. Sometimes they're fixable. Sometimes not. I hope you get the birthday that you really want to have. Take care.

#449 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 03:32 PM:

Kaesa, regarding the bad memory at work: Get a notebook (or if you want to be fancy, a Dayrunner) and write down each activity as you complete it. If it's just a notebook, put the day's date at the top of the page. You can also use this to make "to do" lists, and you'll have it to show your boss what you've worked on.

The "ten streets nearest the building" -- Enlarge* and print out a Google map of the area, look at it whenever you have the chance. Eventually, it will stick in your memory.

Faces/names, oh hell -- this is my worst problem, I remember faces, but names not so much.

I have fibromyalgia, and it plays merry hob with my short term memory -- to the point that I write down everything I've done with regard to bill paying and ordering my prescription medication. Sigh...

*Large enough that you can actually read the names of the streets.

#450 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 03:58 PM:

Oh, captive lecture time in the car. I remember that with all the fondness of poison ivy. Reason number ten billion and six why I'm glad I'm an adult living on my own.

Special points must be awarded to the lecturer, for whom the unshakeable worldview was It's All About Me (her). Reframing every aspect of my life in terms of Yes, But What About Me, I'm The Real Victim Here always made for lots of added enjoyment to discussions about my weight, grades, friends, romantic relationships, attitude, etc. (Though she was also always comically able to convince herself of the weirdest things--at different points, I recall pinned in the car discussions about her newfound certainty that I was gay, on drugs, in a cult, etc. Those conversations would almost have been entertaining, if only they had been much shorter.).

#451 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 04:03 PM:

Kaesa, your memory sounds an awful lot like mine. I'm extremely good with remembering concepts, but I can not remember dates to save my life. I have always marveled at people who can say what they were doing two weeks ago without consulting a calendar or other memory-keeper. The notebook of "What I did today" was a job-saver when I had jobs that required such things. Now I have Google-calendar which helps clue me in to "what I did/what I am doing." If my boss asked me to remember what I did two days ago without consulting a record, I would have no idea.

My memories are images and scenes that don't always connect in a coherent narrative thread. I have never had life-issues that arose from this sort of memory, but I have often worried that I am non-typical.

Does your job provide any sort of mental health services, or do you live in a country that has a reasonable medical plan for its citizenry? Can you speak with your personal physician (if you have one) or go to a local clinic if you don't and describe your symptoms to them or would that require more energy than you currently have to spare? Given that you are experiencing issues that are interfering with your quality of life, I would think you have an argument for some sort of check-up with a professional, but I don't know your situation enough to know if that can be done.

As a complete aside to that, you may simply have a different learning style than many people. I am primarily a kinetic/visual learner. If I do something physically and reinforce that with a visual cue, I can remember/learn it. I am horrible with auditory-only-delivered information. Perhaps you could find a learning/memory-keeping style that works for you?

#452 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 05:39 PM:

Kaesa @ 446

From what you're saying, that sounds like it may be more about the people around you, rather than about you, yourself. Just to reaffirm what I think you're already saying.

Specifically, because it seems like what you're most worried might be "wrong" with you -- I'd like to just note that your boss is pretty much doing it exactly backwards from what I've experienced as a professional. I've always had bosses who request and appreciate detailed work status lists and records-- because it means that nothing gets overlooked, by either of us, and we don't waste time going "hm, and there was another thing I know I wanted to go over with you... man, I don't remember it, I'll send you an e-mail if it's important." (Not to mention that it means anyone who has to sub for you if you're out sick can do so with a minimum of difficulty.) Especially in a detail-oriented job with a lot of dates or other constantly-changing details to track, it is downright foolhardy to rely on your memory alone, no matter how good you think it is. Sure there are memory tricks you can use to improve retention, if you care, but why would you commit something that's constantly changing to long-term memory, when you can write it down and have it immediately and accurately available?

Is finding a different job an option for you? Because he sounds a lot like a boss I had once, where the best option was to get another job as quickly as possible, and not to use him as a reference if I could avoid it.

In the meantime, at the risk of being hlepy, I'd keep my head down, document everything (and have the documentation immediately to fingertip, in case he does ask), and when he criticized me, I'd nod and calmly say "Yes, I'm working on that," without any additional explanations or apologies. If he tries to engage you on a strategy discussion ("What are you doing to improve that?"), then I'd be prepared to calmly and confidently discuss the strategies I'm using to try to improve, and listen to his responses to see whether there's a constructive way I can better tailor my activities (or my descriptions of my activities) to more closely match what he's requesting. If you can get him to engage in problem-solving and coaching you, that's a really positive direction.

But bosses who insist you think and learn and process the exact way they do (and expect you to either come "pre-assembled" or figure out how to "fix" yourself on your own, without support)... in my experience, you just can't change them, and if your styles aren't naturally aligned, I've generally found it means I'm out of luck over the long term and should find a better fit.

#453 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 05:44 PM:

Kaesa, I second everything KayTei's said here. Unless you're working on different projects for billing purposes, there's no reason to recall by memory what you've done-- and if you are, you're supposed to have records so you can back up what you say. Memories lie. Notes don't.

#454 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 06:20 PM:

Kaesa, I second what Diatryma (@453) said; I have a bad memory for dates, meeting times, etc., and what helped me most was getting a PDA. I've since moved on from Handspring to Blackberry, but I still religiously note all meetings in my calendar function, even personal items. I set alarms, take notes, and so on.

Even for professional items like dosages, I look things up -- I do have some routine items memorized -- because that's what textbooks and formularies are for.

I hope this helps; if not, feel free to disregard for better suggestions!

#455 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 06:30 PM:

Kaesa #446: I am also very bad with faces (to the point of mild prosopagnosia), and not great at remembering details (especially if I heard them rather than reading them). I'll note also that most people's short-term memory goes to hell when they're under stress.

supervisor expects you to be able to list off everything you worked on two days ago, or the day that something was filed, or the fee for something you last did six months ago, without consulting notes or records,. I feel like there are people who can remember those things, but they are pretty rare.

Agreed on that last sentence. Your boss is at least a jerk, and possibly abusive. One touchstone for the latter: Note that bolded bit -- does he simply not consider that you might need to consult your notes, or does he actually yell at you when you try to do so? If the latter, then he's definitely abusive, and you should start looking for another boss. If you can't get him to stop insulting you, that's abusive too, same response. Note that it's much easier to get a new job when you already have one, but of course you need to be discreet about the job hunt....

On the other hand, if he just wants information Right Now and is otherwise tolerable, you just need to get and maintain an External Brain Pack -- a small notebook or electronic equivalent, depending whether your writing or thumbing is faster. Either way, carry it (and pencil/stylus) with you at all times....

Your parents sound like a piece of work; I wish you all the best in keeping loose of them. It sounds like you may have partly recreated your home environment in your workplace; this is not uncommon for survivors of abuse. Try to be aware of how you're responding to the jerky boss, and be wary of anything that seems to be "replaying" your childhood. This is also something to watch out for in your next job....

#456 ::: Kaesa ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 07:38 PM:

Clarification: I work for an attorney who's a solo practitioner. My boss has no supervisor, there are no benefits, and unless a client visits or there's a deposition, there is never anyone in the office except the two of us. There is also not a job description. I actually have no objection to the tasks he's assigned me to do, but having to remember everything I have ever done for him is a disaster.

On record-keeping: I generally keep records of my tasks (even the little ones) but he finds this objectionable, so I've had to move my records from pen-and-paper to the less obtrusive Gmail task list, because otherwise he gets huffy about my wasting time keeping track. The trouble is, this means I can't consult my task list/notebook/whatever, and he says I shouldn't have to, I should just remember. (The other day he asked me "Why do you erase these things from your memory?" I asked him about this phrasing and yes, he does think my forgetfulness is fully intentional.)

He, of course, keeps detailed records of every task he does for billing purposes.

knitcrazybooknut at 448: Thank you. You're confirming my suspicion that maybe he is just a Big Jerk. He has actually treated me better than I expected to be treated by an employer, but my mother was always telling me she'd fire me if she was paying me, so I think my expectations are a little off.

KayTei at 452: I am starting to think the situation I'm in is one where I just need to get another job. I am hoping to look for a job this coming year, when birthday drama is over and I have the emotional energy to be rejected a lot. As it is my first real job, I'm kind of terrified about how I'm going to give references, but I need to leave sometime and it is either getting worse or I am getting better at seeing it for what it is. (He also doesn't really have boundaries, and until a few weeks ago he used to call me into his office to have political debates with me, even though I had told him repeatedly that I had work to do, that surprise debates make me seriously anxious and upset, and that it was distracting me from my actual job. I ended up giving him the silent treatment last time -- I had a lot of things to do and limited time to do them, and now he doesn't call me in specifically for debates, but if I'm in his office I'm apparently still fair game.)

Lori Coulson at 449, Diatryma at 453 and Ginger at 454: All these suggestions that I use memory aids, memory aids are normal and people use them often, suggests that my boss is just really off-base and it's very strange to object as much as he does to memory aids.

David Harmon at 455: Ngh. I had this all written up, then reloaded the page, and your suggestion that he's possibly being abusive sounds more valid than I would like it to be. As I have done in the past, I think I have been using "it could be worse," as a synonym for "it's okay." I really don't want to think of this as another abusive situation, because I accepted the job mostly in order to get out of my parents' house. He is less abusive than them, which does not mean not-abusive. I did the External Brain Pack thing the first few weeks of the job, but he got very upset with me for it and pronounced it "goofy." About half the time he'll accept "I don't know, let me find out," for an answer, but the other half of the time it's something he thinks I should just know, because the last time I did it was only six months ago and honestly, am I stupid? He's generally not horrible most of the time, but I would like to remove myself from the job sooner rather than later.

#457 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 08:05 PM:

Kaesa: It sounds like he has a fantasy notion (possibly derived from fiction) of what The Perfect Administrative Assistant ought to be, which is pretty seriously offbase from what real people are really like.

Out of curiosity, has he been in solo practice for long? Are you perchance the first assistant he's had?

#458 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 08:10 PM:

Happy birthday, Kaesa.

#459 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 08:29 PM:

Kaesa, I'd agree with the others that memory aids are normal and your boss is the one with issues on the subject. He sounds from this brief description like he borders on abusive, but if he's nice in other ways then it may be more helpful to think of it as a mismatch of styles. Sometimes people who have strengths in an area (say, memory) don't realize that everybody can't do what they do. In any case, it tells you something about what you are looking for in your next job/boss and how they operate.

If this is hlepy, please disregard. I have no idea if it would be financially feasible or not, but you might get some benefit from a psychological evaluation that looks at attention, memory, processing, etc. It sounds like it's likely to demonstrate for you that you are not lazy, but that some tasks are more difficult for you than for most - and it may be able to pinpoint the things that are a problem and/or suggest coping strategies. (I'm in the process of arranging for a psychoeducational evaluation for my daughter, so this is on my mind.)

#460 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 08:45 PM:

Happy birthday!

Speaking as a lawyer, and someone who worked with lawyers before becoming one, a lot of lawyers are jerks. One reason is stress, but another is that there are not good structural incentives to make the jerks change. If you are surviving a job working for a sole practitioner, you are doing really good. So when you have energy to find a better job you should be able to do better.

And a lawyer getting pissy that you are taking notes to track assignments? He is the problem NOT you!

#461 ::: Kaesa ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 09:22 PM:

David Goldfarb at 457: He has worked at this firm since the seventies, when he was still studying to be a lawyer and he basically had my job. When he finished law school, his then-boss made him a partner. His old partner is now semi-retired, and I think it's been that way since the nineties. So if he has that fantasy, he is pretty persistent about it. Which is not to say he doesn't have that; I get the impression he has unrealistic expectations of most things/people and is just disappointed often.

OtterB at 459: I think it's a combination of him having no idea that not everyone can do what he can do, his general opinion that I am naive and backwards in all things (like, for example, I don't share his tastes in food, and that's Un-American), and in being really, really oblivious to how he comes off when he's communicating. His default tone is impatient/annoyed to my ears, but I've learned to disregard this and pay attention only to the actual words most of the time because I notice when he finishes what sounds like a very angry phone call from the other room, he often says "oh, that John Smith, he's so much fun to talk to!" and tells me about the nice conversation he just had.

Next time I see my therapist, I definitely plan on bringing up the memory issue, because it does worry me a little and if there's a workaround I'm not already employing or at least a reason I don't remember things, I would love to know.

Mea at 460: Ahaha. My abusive mother is also a lawyer, and half the time I complain about my boss, I worry I'm turning into her, because all she talks about is her parade of evil bosses. (I promise, I do have hobbies.) I will keep that in mind. I have no idea why it bothers him so much. I mean, he wants the work done, right?

Vicki at 458, Mea at 460: Thank you! I think I have convinced the parents to stay at bay for now, and have big plans. Well, small plans, a lot of Doctor Who DVDs, a visitor, and and all the ingredients for triple berry pie.

#462 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 10:05 PM:

Kaesa #456/#461: So, this guy is in his 50s or 60s and has been operating this way for at 30 or 40 years? I'd say bail out of there ASAP, you're unlikely to get him to change. Given the additional stuff you've said, he's certainly abusive whether or not he thinks he is, or intends to be. (And I wonder if "that John Smith" would enjoyed that conversation as much as your boss did....)

Adding to what Mea said, a lot of old-school law practices (and law schools, for that matter) involved "competitiveness" that bordered on hazing, and which screwed with a lot of lawyers' personalities.¹ Also, raw memory was a massive advantage in the days when everything had to be looked up in books, so that tied into the competitiveness....

I'm sure there's still some of that, but it's eased up a bit in recent decades. For your next job, you might want to look for younger lawyers (assuming you stay in the field) and check the personalities of prospective bosses before signing on.

And yes, using memory aids is entirely normal. Insisting that you as his assistant can't, is not.

¹ This is reflected in a lot of old lawyer jokes... as in the classic "why didn't the sharks eat the lawyer? Professional courtesy." It occurs to me that I haven't heard that one told in decades....

#463 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 10:26 PM:

Kaesa, #446: your supervisor expects you to be able to list off everything you worked on two days ago, or the day that something was filed, or the fee for something you last did six months ago, without consulting notes or records

I wouldn't be able to do that without checking either, and my memory is pretty damn good! Well, I might be able to list the main items that I was working on 2 days ago, but certainly not on a given day 2 weeks ago. If this is a regular issue, I do have a suggestion for dealing with it: keep a log of everything you do, and the time you spend on it, all day, every day.

Also, the "ten streets out" thing? Unless there is some work-related reason for you to have that information at your fingertips, it's IRRELEVANT. And if there is a work-related reason... hell, print out the Google Map for the area around your office and have it in your desk.

Of course, the next question is, does he really want an answer to whatever he's asked, or does he just want an excuse to berate you for not having a perfect memory? Or is having the excuse an "icing on the cake" thing? IOW, is he getting pleasure out of making you feel bad? If the answer to that is yes, then the best move you can make is to start looking for another job, because bosses who are like that only get worse.

Re your birthday, I'm with you 100%. It's YOUR special day, and you should absolutely get to spend it the way you want. Can you make some plans with your friends, and then tell your parents that you already have plans for the day and won't have time to get together with them? It's a little on the short-notice side for this year, but thinking further ahead for next year will make it easier.

Personal example: the year my mother died was the first year I went to Chambanacon, which happens over Thanksgiving weekend. I was okay with spending Thanksgiving Day with my recently-widowed father, but no way was I going to be sucked into that emotional maelstrom all weekend long -- and that's what would have been expected of me if I'd been physically available. So I made plans to be out of town. More generally, it's always easier to say, "I can't do what you want because I have conflicting plans [for which I've already paid]," than, "I'm not going to do what you want because I don't want to."

... and @456: Oh, dear. That does indeed sound like a combination of abusive and "everyone else should be just like me". In that situation, I would have defaulted to saying that my memory buffer is small and rapidly overwritten, but that's because I'm used to using computer-related metaphors. If he's convinced that you're doing it on purpose, there is nothing you can do which will change his mind, and your only effective options are either to live with it or to look elsewhere.

Also, Happy Birthday!

#464 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 11:56 PM:

Kaesa @ 456

"...because otherwise he gets huffy about my wasting time keeping track."

Seriously? What a nut. He should know better.

Crazy bosses are crazy, though. My favorite experience ever (in hindsight) was my crazy boss who resented the three seconds it took me to tuck my hair behind my ears when I was flustered, because that was three seconds of his time that he was paying for and that I was wasting. We parted ways cordially, but in a state of complete mutual dissatisfaction with each other. It's a great story, now that he's well in the past. Everyone goes through it at least once or twice, I think. Also, it doesn't mean your career is over, even though you say it's your first professional job -- just in case that's something you're worrying about.

And seriously! Happy birthday! I'm glad you've made plans you'll enjoy!

#465 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:25 AM:


If it's any help, my first employer thought I was a very poor employee. My current employer thinks I'm better than satisfactory.

So even if your first job doesn't work out to be your dream job, I'm living proof things can work out okay anyway.

#466 ::: Kaesa ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:51 AM:

David Harmon at 462: Yeah, when I posted I was quasi-looking for advice on upgrading my memory, which, now that everyone has pointed out memory aids are permissible in other places, isn't really the main problem. I will try to be more picky about the next job I accept.

Lee at 463: No work related reason, he just thinks it's ridiculous that I don't know the street names and it's evidence that I never pay attention to what I'm doing. I don't think he gets any pleasure out of it. My therapist's theory is that he's trying to justify his low rate of pay to himself, but I don't know that I buy that either. I think he's mostly just puzzled that I'm a human being with abilities different from his own, and why don't I just try harder and do what he did?

I have plans with friends for my actual birthday! My parents finally let up on trying to cut into those plans or my preparation for them. Now they want to have dinner with me next week to Celebrate My Birthday, which is definitely not as bad as monopolizing my actual birthday, but I suspect there will be some sulking if I continue to not birthday with them for the rest of my life. I think what bothers me is not really the actual get-togethers (those are just kind of boring, because we don't really get to have conversations, my mother just holds court). The annoying thing is the feedback interrogations that I sometimes get from my father or grandmother, where they try to get me to admit that really there's nothing wrong and everything will be as it was. My grandmother is less pushy about it, and financially helped me get out of their house and get therapy, but I'm really sick of them waiting for me to say "I think it's great that you guys enable my mother because you're terrified of her! I'm sure glad she never hit you like she did me, because I'm the only one who deserved it."

KayTei at 464: Oh yes, that sounds like him. Today he read to me from a memo he'd written about my many flaws. There was a minor task that would not have taken me very long to do, but was one of those "eh, do it when you need to" tasks. If I had not gotten it when I was distracted with actually urgent things, I would probably have done it right away, but for some reason I picked the stuff with looming deadlines that he was yelling at me to finish, and it was lost in the shuffle. Anyway, he graciously took it upon himself to complete this task, then type up a one-page memo to me about my ridiculous priorities and time-wasting ways. That's kind of what made me snap today. Fortunately we got a call from someone important before I started crying with crazy incoherent rage, because A ONE-PAGE MEMO ABOUT TIME WASTING. SINGLE-SPACED. And he didn't even leave it for me after he wrote it -- he saved it for two months!

Nancy C. Mittens at 465: YAY. I am pretty sure this career path won't lead to my dream job, as I am still trying to figure out what my dream job is (people keep saying "librarian," so I'm hoping to volunteer at the library in the coming year to test that theory a little), but I'm glad it turned out well for you, and I'm hopeful that my next employer is less... um. ... I don't know what a good descriptor would be. Less crazymaking, we'll go with that.

At any rate, I will most likely vanish from this thread for my birthday, but I will probably be back. (And hopefully, you know, also on Making Light Original Flavor, although I'm not very good at poetry) Thank you for all your help, everyone.

#467 ::: Kaesa ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:53 AM:

Also, I am terrible at proofreading today. Wow. Sorry about that.

#468 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 03:30 AM:

Kaesea @ 466

Oh, ick. You definitely need to get a different job.

As a bit of an aside: Would your last employer take you back for a few months, while you find something less toxic? Then you can list them as your current employer, too, which will give you some more options in framing your resume and selecting your recommendations.

#469 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 03:39 AM:

A ONE-PAGE MEMO ABOUT TIME WASTING. SINGLE-SPACED. And he didn't even leave it for me after he wrote it -- he saved it for two months!

My bemused expression, let me show you it. That is definitely not reasonable behaviour.

#470 ::: Only slightly obscured ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 04:49 AM:

I've read all of both threads, after a while. And I wonder the same thing everyone wonders, you know? Is it enough? And this year it's not even because of my family, it's because someone I was ready to try and build a life with has... elected to follow a course of action that could not have set up and unleashed all the demons my family instilled in me better if they were doing it on purpose. They're not. I'm not sure I find that comforting.

Hell, my family's been great this year. Helpful, cheerful, social. I think all I really need from them these days is to live far away from them and be social mostly on my terms -- I learned this year what my boundary is, after all (nine days).

But this... I don't even know what to call them. Soon-to-be-former-partner? They're making a terrible decision. Probably the worst of their life. Staying with a manipulative, abusive partner of their own, largely for the children, and a little because they think it can be back the way it was. And they won't listen to me saying "You can never go back," let alone anything about the partner's abuse or manipulation. They need me to be able to deal with her, but somehow I'm still not enough to make them leave. Despite saying they were going to. Twice. Despite her overdramatized suicide attempt as an attempt to manipulate them.

And I'm just not enough. I'm left thinking, "Oh hey, maybe my parents were right when they implied I could never do well enough. When I could never make a correct decision. When none of my input mattered." And these are the Goddamn Tapes I've dealt with for years, but this time they've gotten off their chains and are eating me alive. Holidays are hard, and I'm particularly miserable with them this year; I'm living with my ex, which is a stable but uncomfortable situation, and my birthday is crammed in with the holidays which means people generally either forget or are too busy to do much. Or, in my current life, too far away -- I moved across the country for the ex when he wasn't an ex, two and a half years ago, and I've never found a job, so I don't get out and haven't found any local friends of my own. They're all far away, most over a thousand miles.

So there I am. I'm stuck. I don't know how to get out.

#471 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 10:09 AM:

Only slightly obscured, a bit of advice that I hate* but which may be useful: you cannot save anyone. It is not your job to live someone else's life. In a situation like this, I think all you can do is step back and protect yourself. It doesn't matter whether the situation was done on purpose-- if your friend got really, really upset and hands and arms waving everywhere and broke your nose, intent wouldn't fix it.

As for getting out of the house... oh, I hear you. It's easy for me to become housebound, so I've made my routine around social events. Monday, knitting, Saturday, knitting, and eventually I ended up with social roommates. I hope you find a job, either where you are or elsewhere, and head to a better place.

My jobsearching advice is that jobsearching makes you hate yourself. That may be contributing to your situation. Jobsearching, like depression, lies.

*I hate it because a roommate I should have been friends with used it in conversation as a way of absolving herself from helping her friends through tough times. I think she meant it in the way I do, with a side of realism vs fictional healing, but I think I wanted the conversation to have the subtext of 'please save me, I'm alone'.

#472 ::: Hiding (again) for now ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:56 PM:

Diatryma @471: you cannot save anyone. It is not your job to live someone else's life. In a situation like this, I think all you can do is step back and protect yourself. It doesn't matter whether the situation was done on purpose- if your friend got really, really upset and hands and arms waving everywhere and broke your nose, intent wouldn't fix it.

Oh so much this. The reason I walked away was because ze was with another partner and I came to realize over the past few months that ze treated said partner in a shockingly bad way. Not deliberately, and mostly to protect hirself, but as stated above, intent doesn't count for much when the end result is severely damaging. Their dynamic is all about how to make sure the other person didn't pull a fast one on them; no cooperation or teamwork, but mistrust and maneuvering for the upper hand.

The tipping point came because, instead of facing their problems squarely, they're now pulling the equivalent of having a kid to save the relationship. We know how well that usually works. And my presence is one of the reasons ze wasn't doing it: whenever ze had problems, it was much easier to turn to me; ze had little incentive to reverse the trend on their side. (Ze and I actually had a pretty healthy relationship, because we communicated effectively and respected each other's boundaries.)

When we parted, I told hir that I loved hir. That I refused to stay in a toxic situation for my own sake, and that I refused to sanction that bad behavior by remaining in the relationship*. There is no way I will go back into a relationship with hir if that nasty little dynamic doesn't stop. I hope it makes hir think long and hard about consideration, honesty, trust, respect, and making amends.

*"there is some shit I will not eat"

#473 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 03:08 PM:

*deep breath*

Huge amounts of personal-history already here, to be acknowledged, and grateful for. Thank you, all, so very much, for sharing despite your pain and struggle.

So, I "must" be *this* unhappy to ride... that was driven home to me, when I was in my early teens, how very much my pain was always to be more about my mother than myself.

In a certain period, my younger (by 2 years) brother had gone progressively more off-the-rails. Not much of a surprise, if viewed through the lens of family-systems therapy: poor guy was the one being "given permission" to save my parents' relationship by instigating crisis after crisis, even after their putative divorce.

The nadir of a particular winter had been he and my mother having a near slug-down-drag-out fight. What had it been over? Well, my mother had already had problems with my brother pilfering her purse - for drugs, the story went. And then, in winter, she had caught my brother stockpiling the soft drinks bottles (on which there were state deposits - something like 25 cents per bottle, which added up quickly) in his bedroom on the second floor. She forbad him to exit the house carrying them.

Fine, he thought, and he tossed them out the bedroom window - she wondered what she was hearing (kerr-THUNK! kerr-THUNK! *clink!*) - and then, she confronted him *again* as he tried to exit the house to claim his booty.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I had nursed the fond hope of studying for the next day at high school. I grabbed what courage I had, considered my best option - my parents always maintained that they held study in high esteem, so I said to my mother, "Please, whatever else the problem is, can you please also keep in mind that I'm trying to study here?"

She wheeled on me: "The trouble with you, my child, is that YOU are *too sensitive*."

In a flash, I understood her, although not perhaps the way she'd thought I should. I had clearly come to her with a problem, invoking a value that both parents time and time again had trumpeted as one of their core values and.... it was as chaff in the wind to her real agenda. The one of her convenience and service to her ego and none other.

Right now, I am going to apologize, this sounds over-dramatized (I will admit, I'm not completely sober,... combination of end-of-year? or not wanting to string together a contribution without? who knows?) But the sense of desolation I felt, not just at being told that I was the problem (of being too sensitive, I mean,... wow, just wow), but that suddenly another rock-solid value had suddenly dissolved like so much sugar in the dish water...

I had not left the family home to live apart until years after that, but... if the parents, in their gaping, flailing protestations of ignorance, ever want a moment when one of the last nails went into the coffin, well... this is one of them.

I'm happy now. No thanks to them. Fandom raised me. My darling husband and his own family (may they all rest in peace) gave me huge insights on how different it could be. And, for all their affirmations of how they love me, well... fine. But then, in the past when they've something like how "fashionable" or "elegant" I was, and... I just wanted to puke. I'm not here for their approval, or for fulfilling their notions of any value they profess to hold dear. They devoured the seed-corn in my childhood. I'm done with them.

Crazy(and realizing suddenly how painful that spot remains, even if she's not made a practice of visiting it often)Soph

#474 ::: Missing Lynx ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 05:07 PM:

crazysoph @473 I'm not here for their approval, or for fulfilling their notions of any value they profess to hold dear. They devoured the seed-corn in my childhood. I'm done with them.

Knowing when one is done is in many ways a great goodness, though it may come wrapped in sadness and all sorts of other emotions. It unlocks the cage in all sorts of ways, I find.

It's remarkable how small those cages look once one is outside of them, too.

#475 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 08:50 PM:


We haven't talked much in years, but I hear you, and you have my sympathy.

#476 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 09:27 PM:

*waves at crazysoph in a friendly and supportive fashion*

#477 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 11:55 PM:

@Kaesa: Happy Birthday!

Good luck on any job search you undertake, and I also agree that job searching is a difficult thing emotionally.

#478 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 06:09 AM:

Froth @430: Great to hear that you and food are on better terms. Isn't it weird how giving yourself permission to eat without restraint translates so often into "Hey, I don't really need to eat as much as I thought I did"?

Kaesa @446: Among the known symptoms of chronic, long-term depression are such things as a lack of energy (emotional, physical and otherwise), a lack of happiness, and memory issues. These are also symptoms of thyroid disorders. (I have both of these).

I'd suggest speaking with a doctor (General Practicioner, family physician) you can trust about these issues, and at least asking them to run a thyroid function test for you, if not a general health check overall (anaemia can also lead to problems with energy levels and memory function). If they rule out anything physiological causing the problems, then you can consider moving on to psychological causes.

Incidentally, the kinds of things your boss is asking for as "proof" of having a good memory aren't (to my mind, at least) realistic or acceptable. I have a good memory myself, but one of the points about the office systems such as filing and similar is that they're supposed to be an adjunct to memory anyway. You aren't supposed to need to remember exactly where each and every piece of paperwork is located - instead, you go to the filing cabinet, pull out the file for the client, week or month, and search out the paperwork you need. It's why they keep filing cabinets in the first place. You also shouldn't need to remember a list of everything you did each and every day, because that's what an office routine is for.

As for knowing street names, unless you're supposed to do deliveries, why would you need to know this? That's what street directories are for. Memorising them "because you can" is basically showing off, and using up valuable headspace for something silly. Keep it for the words to the "manah-manah" song instead!

To me, it sounds as though your boss is being unreasonable, and bullying you about this because they can, because they know it's an issue you feel insecure about. This isn't as rare as you'd think, unfortunately. (Sadly, bullying behaviour doesn't disappear when a person leaves school - it just gets submerged until there's another socially acceptable outlet available). No matter What their reasons (both the reason they give and the actual reason they're doing it) it's still unacceptable to bully staff. I strongly second both KayTei and Diatryma here - document everything they're asking for, document how often they're asking for it, and start checking the "situations vacant" listings on a regular basis.

Kaesa @456 - Okay, that's solidified it: your boss is an arsehole. Get out, find a different job, and don't expect a positive reference from him, because he's not ever going to understand that the reason you left is because he's an arsehole.

#479 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 09:00 AM:

Kaesa: Happy Birthday!

#480 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 09:02 AM:

Kaesa - seconding all the recommendations. I am widely regarded by previous employers as having a phenomenal memory, but I would have a hard time coming up with the stuff your boss demands on cue. A new job definitely sounds in order.

Over here, the parental visit was going pretty well, with Mom & Dad being fairly understanding of our desires for a quiet holiday. Unfortunately, that all fell apart when Dad had a colon bleed. And then another one about 24 hours after the hospital let him go from the first one. Not his fault at all, but our vacation has suddenly devolved into ambulances, emergency rooms, and running back and forth to the hospital, plus trying to manage my mother, who has decompensated drastically.

Mom's gone from being a little vague (bad memory, possible early Alzheimer's combined with cancer drugs) to not remembering practically sentence by sentence. Worse, she's remembering things that didn't happen, and then acting on those false memories. She's capable of making decisions, but you have to be very careful that she's working from the right data set. She's also being very touchy about being re-oriented, and is likely to smack me down, and/or get patronizing when I try.

Dad is bouncing back and forth between needing me to manage the Mom/hospital interface, and otherwise handle things, and trying to protect me and/or Mom. For instance by not actually telling anyone at the hospital that her memory is faulty, and to please have me there when discussing things medical, because she won't remember. This leads to fun things like trying to get hold of the gastroenterologist in an emergency when neither Mom nor Dad remembers his name, and nobody ever told me what it was.

This morning is a colonoscopy/cautery, if it goes well, Dad may get out in about 2 days (he's lost about 36% of his original blood volume over the last four days - he's a wee bit anemic), and then we start the negotiations about how to get them home (Dad is convinced he can drive the whole way, Mom is convinced he should fly, and that she can drive the car back down herself. I'm convinced a) is a bad idea and b) is a worse one.)

#481 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 09:47 AM:

Cynthia W #480: Yowch! Isn't that always the way, when you think you've got things in hand, the universe drops something New and Yucky on your head.

Agreed with your trip-home verdict. Check with the hospital as to whether *both* parents can fly in their respective conditions (I take it you've by now informed the hospital about your mom's memory problems?). If so, you may be able to hire someone to drive their car back for them. If not, you might be able to put them on a train, which might even be able to take their car (check with the local railroad's website).

#482 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 10:11 AM:

Cynthia @480, tough times. Wishing for the best for all.

#483 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 10:23 AM:

Kaesa and Megpie, add Vitamin D deficiency to the list of things that can cause lack of energy, and I'm talking having to stop and rest halfway up a single flight of stairs.

Kaesa: yep, your boss is an asshole. Those abusive emails are the touchstone that remind you you're not making it up or exaggerating.

Cynthia @ #480, yeowch! Good luck with all that. Even in a thoroughly functional family, being a grownup with respect to parents needing care is HARD.

#484 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 12:39 PM:

Kaesa: Some secondary thoughts based on a discussion with my partner. How many assistants has your boss gone thru up to now? Is it possible that he just happened to luck out with one whose quirks were entirely compatible with his own, and who stayed with him for a long time, and to whom you are now being unfavorably compared for being NOT an outlier? Because otherwise, I'd think he'd be chewing them up and spitting them out at a rate of every year or so. (And wouldn't it be nice if companies had to provide resumes to applicants? If you could see that "this position has been open 6 times in the last 10 years", it would be a huge warning flag!)

Cynthia, #480: That sucks, and I agree with your risk assessment on the travel. Is there anyone in the family who could be spared to drive your parents home and then fly back?

#485 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 02:32 PM:

Ross @ 413, when it comes to feeling like I must certainly be worse than everyone else at certain skills, I have had very similar issues to you, especially around technical skills. You really are not alone! Impostor syndrome is part of the constellation of problems that affects a lot of us.

I have thoughts on your comment "I would really like to know if I'm good at, say, programming, or game design, or writing, but I have no way of knowing. No one will tell me and even if they did I probably wouldn't believe them no matter what they said." but I don't want to be hlepy. So please say something here, or email me (I am easy to find online, as I'm the only Sumana Harihareswara IIUC) if you'd like some suggestions on how to calibrate your sense of your own skill.

#486 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 03:12 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @ 485, don't worry about being too hlepy, at least to me; I'm interested in hearing your thoughts and suggestions. :)

#487 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 04:27 PM:

crazysoph @473: I hear you!

#488 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 05:13 PM:

Kaesa -- if you like working with lawyers, you might want to see if the Social Security Administration has a hearing office in your area.

This would be the Office of Hearings and Appeals, and Legal Clerks used to start at GS-4 position. This can lead to being promoted to Hearing Clerk (GS-6) and later, Hearing Assistant(GS 7-9).

There are several agenices that have hearing offices -- so if Social Security doesn't float your boat, check at USAJobs for the others.

#489 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 12:27 AM:

Dave Harmon (481) & Lee (484) - Unfortunately we're in a freight-heavy/passenger-poor train area (my husband's job involves shipping Very Large Things around periodically, so he's very familiar with train service around here), so no go on that idea, though it would have worked well in other places I think. The only person who might possibly be spared to escort my parents is me; I'm currently trying to see if I can kick loose long enough to do so.

Mixed results on the colonoscopy. Good: the bleeding has stopped. Bad: they were unable to find which diverticulum was the culprit for cauterization. Ugly: this is exactly where we were the last time they released him, when he landed back in the ER in less that 24 hours. He seems fine now, except for the aftermath of all the bleeding (Hemoglobin went from 14.0 to 9.1, after a transfusion he's back up to 10.2). They'll probably release him tomorrow, barring complications, whereupon I'll have about 48 hours to come up with the time to drive them down or some other plan before they'll just take off on their own.

Dad's a doctor, he should know better. But this is the same man who went back to work full-time 1 week to the day post triple-bypass.

#490 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 02:47 AM:

Ross, so, since you asked!

I wrote some about impostor syndrome in "Epistemology and impostor syndrome" and "On competence, confidence, pernicious socialization, recursion, and tricking yourself" and some people have said they found those tips helpful.

I took a class with CodeLesson and did some exercises with CodingBat, both of which gave me fairly quick, detailed feedback telling me that I am adequate at the tasks I was given. The CodeLesson instructor does not know me and has no reason to lie, and the CodingBat backend is a computer that just runs unit tests and tells me whether my solution has passed or failed them. So that overcomes my usual suspicion of praise.

What would it mean to be good at writing, or game design, or programming? Would it mean that, for example, someone read your words and understood what you meant, and believed you and found your arguments persuasive? That's already happened in this thread. And what would it mean for someone else to be good at those things? Sometimes I find that question makes me (a) clarify and stake my goalposts (so I notice when the impostor syndrome moves them) and (b) soften and show the generosity to myself that I would show to anyone else.

I also have to keep myself from comparing myself solely to the best professionals in the world. Yes, I am not as good a programmer as some other people I know. But I am better than some other beginners, and I am far better than the 6.5 billion people who don't have any programming skills, and I'm an expert compared to most people I run into.

On the caring-to-combative community spectrum, what style of community helps you thrive? Code review from competent developers usually provides a clear signal of your code's quality and of what needs improvement. If you're interested, I can help you find a project that suits you so you can submit a patch and calibrate your understanding of your skill level that way.

#491 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 07:30 AM:

Cynthia W. #489: Dad's a doctor, he should know better. But this is the same man who went back to work full-time 1 week to the day post triple-bypass.

ISTR this is one reason doctors "hate" treating other doctors. Is he also the sort who says "crutches are for wimps" even when it is his own broken leg? Too bad about the trains....

#492 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 08:51 AM:

Dave Harmon @491 - Close. He'll disdain the use of crutches for himself, even as he encourages the patient to use them. The only time it's remotely possible to get him to behave is to remind him that he would never advise a patient to do so-and-so. His patients are mostly chronically disabled (neurologist), and he often has to persuade them to make sensible life-changes or mobility decisions for safety purposes, but he won't apply the same reasoning to himself.

For his children he splits the difference. We got sensible medical advice, but little by way of attention or sympathy when sick or injured. Possibly because the patients he sees every day were so much worse off than we were.

#493 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 09:18 AM:

One thing I hate about the holiday season is the inevitable political disagreements and questioning of my competence and the favouritism and ... everything.

I've done a good job this year of not being trashed every night 20th Dec-Jan 10th, but tonight I decided I might as well give in. It's odd how it makes so many things so much easier -- I care so much less about their opinions or what they say or listening to them o their consequences when I'm trashed -- and so many things so much harder.

Thing is, I love them. The only reason I haven't successfully killed myself is because my mother matters to me and having yet another immediate family member die on her would crush her. She matters to me that much when I'm in states of high emotion, and I'm usually emotional when I'm trying to kill myself. It's a lot more fun when I'm not emotional, like a scientific experiment. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

And they love me. And yet I feel like we clash in ways I can't even quantify. "You Must Be This Unhappy to Ride" -- well, I'm unhappy. But is it because of them, or because what I want out of life is not what they want out of life? Or is it just that I'm so at peace with (in love with?) the idea of death, so passively encouraging of it, that I don't have the desire or ambition to prove myself in the right ways?

Sometimes waking up (and just that, waking up, even if I have to cough because vomit-stink when I've just got up is a hell-no of the first order) is a sign of trust in the world. It's an ambition. It's a desire. Prove to me that you're worth it. Prove it. Sometimes it does.

There's no way to really quantify this kind of apathy, I think. Perhaps it isn't their fault, or mine. Perhaps it's no-one's fault at all.

Less rhetorical question for the thread: what's the difference between a family that is dysfunctional and a family that tolerates one another? Is the fact of having to tolerate which makes it dysfunctional? Or the enforcement of rules of what kinds of personhood are acceptable?

Another less rhetorical question: how do you go about moving out? What's the process of thought? I'm hoping to leave in the next few years, but it feels like such a long-term process that I'm sure there's something I'm missing in how to get that long process started in the first place.

How do I think about moving out in the context of currently living with a dysfunctional family?

#494 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 02:30 PM:

Okay, I'm not sure how much sense I'm making as I try to answer someone... I'll leave it floating here, and see if someone can carry the baton further after I drop it...

forgot the name @ #493
Less rhetorical question for the thread: what's the difference between a family that is dysfunctional and a family that tolerates one another? Is the fact of having to tolerate which makes it dysfunctional? Or the enforcement of rules of what kinds of personhood are acceptable?

FWIW, I would put "tolerance" and "dysfunction" on two difference axes, and not as closely related as one leading to the other. It's been my experience that dysfunction does not lead to tolerance, it leads to repression (perhaps that was where the "tolerance" was coming from - being forced to tolerate, where tolerance is a synonym for "endure"?)

I'm not quite sure what question you're trying to pose there, I guess. When tolerance becomes a demand from the other party, it stops being tolerance in my mind. Tolerance is a choice you get to make for yourself, and not have imposed - of course, sometimes we make those choices less consciously than others. When the situation becomes painful, we start to reconsider what choices we've made up to that point.

("Choice" of course being one of those sore-point words: I certainly being brought to the boil by someone asserting that I was choosing to be unhappy, or choosing to remain in a situation that was hurting me, etc. But the concept "choice" is still a key, even if the word has been abused - and if one hasn't had the agency, than one's detractors are simply mistaken to tell someone that they've made a choice.)

Crazy(and sorry she's rambling when she meant to be helpful - but bordering on hlepy, she fears)Soph

#495 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 05:29 PM:

crazysoph, 494: No, not hlepy! Trying to clarify some things in my head, and being unclear while I was at it; I apologise.

(perhaps that was where the "tolerance" was coming from - being forced to tolerate, where tolerance is a synonym for "endure"?)

Yes. I always think of tolerance with a very wary eye, because too often tolerance is, well, enduring with many petty remarks and much griefing. Or perhaps not really tolerating at all, but saying they are ("how dare you be offended, I'm tolerating you out of the goodness of my heart!") which lines up with gaslighting in an interesting way. Huh.

So, I suppose my actual question -- forced to endure, mark of dysfunction/on the axis of dysfunction? Or something else? I don't really know how functional families work. Does tolerance actually mean tolerance there?

#496 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 07:52 PM:

I think there's certainly a place for tolerance in functional families. I think it gets back to earlier discussions about accepting someone as they really are and not as you would like them to be. Tolerance is a functional outcome when you have clear-eyed recognition that someone has characteristics you don't especially like, but that are nevertheless a part of them, and in balance you would rather have them as they are, bag and baggage, than not. You might tolerate chronic lateness, or a habit of telling bad jokes and forgetting the punchline, or a vegetarian might tolerate a partner's carnivorous habit. I think it will generally have an aura of affection to go along with resignation. In my opinion, if it slides into condescension or contempt, or if the supposed tolerance includes repeated jabs and passive-aggressive moves, then it's not true tolerance and moves into the realm of dysfunction. Also, tolerance of abusive behavior is not functional.

#497 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 08:16 PM:

forgot the name, #493: Another less rhetorical question: how do you go about moving out? What's the process of thought?

Well... I can tell you about how I did it, but I had some advantages which you may not; I was in good health, had a job, had a car, was not physically or financially dependent on my parents. Any of those factors being absent makes the process much more difficult.

That said, it was mostly a matter of finding an apartment in my price range that didn't have any major downchecks. I looked at probably a dozen places (located via the newspaper classified ads -- today I'd do my searching online) before I found one I considered acceptable. Then I signed the contract, with the thought that I could move in "gradually" over a couple of weeks' time, hauling a carload of stuff over from my parents' house every evening after work. Furniture was going to be handled in several ways. I'd already bought a new bed-frame, mattress and box spring and had them delivered to the apartment; I was going to move the bedroom furniture that I considered mine with the help of some friends, and the rest of the place would be furnished from the classified ads and thrift shops a bit at a time.

So much for that idea. The morning after I'd had the bed delivered, my mother started one of those fights* that ended up with me trying to leave for work and her screaming, "If you walk out that door now, don't even bother coming home tonight, because the locks will have been changed!"** Fine. I went back to my room (and locked the door), called the office and said I had a family emergency and wouldn't be there until after lunch, and started packing work clothes. By this time it had sunk in that I had somewhere else to go, and my mother was pounding on the door crying and begging me to "let her come in and apologize". Yeah, right. I continued packing until I had a full suitcase, enough clothing to keep me going for most of a week and a few of my favorite books, and then I went out and put it in the car and left.

That was the last time I ever stayed under my parents' roof. I did in fact use the "gradual" moving plan I'd worked out, but I did so from the position of living in my apartment, and I never, never spent another night in the same house with them. The apartment was rather sparsely furnished for the first couple of months, but I didn't mind that. And I still have my old bedroom dresser, which has now been with me thru almost 40 years and 6 moves (counting a couple that happened while I was still living with my parents).

* Short version: she called me a whore and a liar, and I threw a glass of orange juice at her.

** This sort of thing happened a couple of times a year. It was always bluff, but that didn't make it any easier to stand.

#498 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 08:20 PM:

Shorter me, above: if you have the means and the resources to live independently, it's primarily a matter of deciding you're going to leave and then doing so. If you don't... someone else is going to have to answer that, because I've never been trapped in that position.

#499 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 09:18 PM:

Lee, I have none of those advantages. So I think I'm actually asking two questions --
1) what happens once you have enough advantages to maintain leaving for some time
2) and what happens in getting those advantages.

You've answered the first, but I think you might be able to help with the second, if you're willing?

I mean, things like: how do I get around controlling parents enough to learn to drive enough to be independent enough to get some kind of access to transport that doesn't rely on a very shaky pool of energy?

How does getting a job to get savings go with parents who push you to do this or that for your "future" but want to keep you financially dependent now and indefinitely and maintain that there are only a few jobs worth doing all of which require university degrees and more time under their control? Are there jobs most easily able to keep secret? Are there jobs that can be done without too much reliance on my family being heavy sleepers? (My mother is not a heavy sleeper. She can hear gnats farting. Sneaking off to work late shifts will not work for long.)

I managed to get a bank account last year, which I don't think they can take control of, but I'm trying to figure out how to get money to put in it for future purposes.

I can, during university semester, try to pass off a workday at a job as being "lots of university homework" or "being with uni friends", but are there jobs that would accept "a couple of days a week", and how do I get hired for them with no experience since I was never allowed to work outside their company and most of my duties fell under 'office dogsbody' and I have no high school qualification?

I really want to get out and try to find some kind of ability to prove myself competent to *myself*, not to them. But the process of getting to a point where I can get out looks so ... insurmountable. What to think about first? How to think about it?

#500 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 09:56 PM:

forgot the name at #499 and earlier:

I have some ideas and suggestions. First off, I have a lot of fellow feeling with you. Let me begin with an admission: I'm 30, and currently celebrating my first anniversary of moving out of my parents' house for the last time. Due to some bad decisions on my part, and the manipulative behavior of my parents, I lived with them long after I began to hate living with them. Getting out was hands-down the hardest, most complex thing I've ever done, and I'm not out of the woods yet. So take my suggestions with a grain of salt, because I'm still struggling with the same problems.

Short version of what I'm about to say: you get out a little bit at a time. There are a ton of details, and you find ways to deal with them all. It's work, but the hardest part for me was admitting there was a problem in the first place. You're past that step, obviously.

One thing I can state is total BS: there are a lot of jobs worth doing, and not all of them require a university degree. Even in this lousy economy and job market, that's still true. If there's anyone telling you that only a very few jobs are viable, well, that's their personal opinion and bias talking. It does not have to be yours.

You may find there are only a few jobs that you'd WANT to do for the rest of your life, but you can also take a job that's just-bearable for the time being in order to get by, then search for a better job when you have the savings and inclination. No situation is permanent.

Good going on having a bank account. I don't know your school (and it sounds like you're in a different country--I grew up in New England, where the system may be different) but one option that helped me was to apply for a work-study grant, where the school pays you to perform some job on campus. The jobs available may be menial, but still: money=savings=power.

If there's an employment office or a financial aid office at your university, go there and ask them what your options are. There's no shame in that (though I'm talking to my own younger self here, rather than to you--I was very upset, and it all worked out OK, because the school officers had heard stories like mine before and were able to help me and be tactful about it).

Learning to drive is going to be an excellent first step in finding your independence. It made me feel a ton better, goodness knows. Again, I don't know what things are like in your area, but round here there are driving schools whose purpose is to "teach to the test"--give you lessons specifically geared to the licensing exam. That way you can take the test in the driving school's own car, if you wish.

More thoughts later when I get home. I wish you the best. It isn't easy.

#501 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 12:29 AM:

Forgot the name, I cannot help you with moving out, but I can offer another data point: I was told that there were no biology-oriented jobs that could be gotten without a PhD. Granted, this was in college, but people tell you what they want to hear, not what is true. They are sometimes trying to justify their own choices to everyone-- afterall, if there's another good choice, they could have made a better one. My particular boy makes more than I do, I think, doing preweigh at Proctor and Gamble with maybe a GED. Jobs are weird.

#502 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 12:31 AM:

forgot the name: I'll echo Little John at 500 here, but amplified. Since you're in university, use the system to help you get out.

(Before I start getting specific, I should say that I truly wish that I had been able to ask for help when I was in college. Our family pathology involves being very self-sufficient and never asking for help. It's all right for others, but never for ourselves. So any urgency in my suggestions, a) I'll try to tone down, and b) is only due to my looking back at so many things I could have done more easily with help, instead of my patented Hard Way. Wishes, horses, yaddah yaddah. So please pardon any bossypants action hereto.)

1. Work Study Program. Find out which office handles this and definitely talk to them. If your folks are paying your tuition, and you want that to continue for the moment, this might be a bit weird. Even if you can't do a work-study job, usually these offices will have postings for odd jobs for students - babysitting, typing, yardwork, etc. Some campus offices need administrative support during the school year. Some professors need help with a project. I did a lot of work through my college once I figured this out.

And addressing your concerns about your family's schedule, I would say that working at your university would be easiest to cover with your class schedule. If possible, take classes that are far from each other during the day. If you take an 8 am class, an 11 am class, and a 3 pm class, there are hours in between, and you could conceivably work during those hours and cover the time between as "studying".

2. Counseling. Most universities will have some sort of counseling programs where you can get free or discounted counseling sessions. This can help you get your mind free as your body starts walking out the door. (Just trust your own instincts, and if anything feels wonky to you, do what feels right.)

3. Direct Deposit. Forgive me if this is something you know about, but this is a technical detail that can help you create a nest egg unknown to your family. You can have your paycheck deposited directly into your bank account from your employer. Employers prefer this (I used to do payroll), and all you need is a blank check when you sign up to work somewhere. This is a free service. Some employers will even have your paystubs available online instead of printed, so you don't have to worry about them seeing a pay statement.

4. The Outside World. Whenever I was lost (out of an abusive relationship, between roommates, struggling with my identity), I had a few rules: Call everyone I knew at least once a week to build my relationship network. Read all the classified ads and all of our local newspapers each week or so. Go to lots of events. Pick some activity (knitting, reading, sewing, volleyball, whatever) that you really enjoy, and see what groups are doing those things in your area. Join them. Go to free presentations. Being a student makes that a lot easier, because a lot of cheap movies and free presentations and concerts are happening. Talk to professors, friends, advisors - anyone you trust who seems sympathetic. (I asked a professor about crappy relationships, and she directed me to a fellow student who practically adopted me for the next few years. I am so grateful for that connection, and it was worth the difficulty I had talking to the professor.)

I'm throwing out a lot of suggestions, but I don't want you to be overwhelmed. Just pick one thing that sounds good and start there.

Staying abreast of what's going on can help you in the long run, as you'll be more aware of roommate issues, housing availability, furniture purges, etc. Strengthen any network you have now, so that if something goes bad, you've got help backing you up.

5. If you do a lot of studying on your computer, you can do work over the computer as well. I have edited various things for people through email, and I've done transcription that way as well.

6. In answer to your question, yes, there are jobs designed to be only 2 days a week or hours here and there scattered throughout the week. University is a perfect place for that, since they know they're working with a student population. Some jobs are temporary; I know that I worked for two weeks taking pictures of incoming students and laminating their id cards back in the day. Very exciting, but it paid my rent. Speaking of rent, I would recommend that you look around and figure out how much it would cost to support yourself if you needed to do so. Figure on utilities, rent, food, transportation, and just ballpark it. It may be a more manageable figure than you thought it would.

forgot the name, I hope this helps. I feel like I'm writing to my past self - get help! - but I did eventually learn that it's okay to ask for help. I was in a very bad situation once, and called everyone I knew to help me move out of the apartment in a day. My whole family showed up, along with about 20 friends. I was truly blessed and amazed. And I will never forget the relief of being free.

Please feel free to ask more specific questions, especially if you get closer to job interview time. (7 years HR experience, so I can help there, too). My email is my name at gmail, so pretty darn simple. Take care.

#503 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 07:31 AM:

Lately, I've been struggling with the fact that I'm not just trapped in my parents disfunction but that I've become the cause of my own family's disfunction. I love them but my existence is the cause of their suffering but I'm too selfish to let them go or remove myself from their lives because they are the only thing that gives me hope or a reason to live.

I oscillate between wanting to make things so bad they aren't left with a choice but to leave me, trying to pretend like our lives aren't collapsing like slowmotion footage of an earthquake, and apologizing for the unforgivable. The worst part is that I can't talk to anybody about it and that simply acknowledging it to a scattered bunch of internet strangers took a staggering emotional toll because pressing the preview button somehow makes it real and I can't take it back.

#504 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 07:36 AM:

forgot the name: What knitcrazybooknut said about counseling and work-study. Also, if you're doing well in one or more classes, there's always a need for tutors, and that's work that can easily be done in odd hours between classes and that looks just like studying. A side benefit is that tutoring someone else improves your own understanding of the subject and will tend to improve your grades (so it not only looks like studying, it works like it too).

My first in-school job was working as a reader for blind and print-handicapped students. (E.g. someone with cerebral palsy who can't hold a pencil or turn pages, though they can see just fine.) One of my clients became my roommate the following year.

#505 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 08:19 AM:

Broken Pottery @503, I obviously don't know the details but can nonetheless pretty much guarantee that you are NOT singlehandedly the cause of your family's dysfunction, and that being made to feel that way is most likely a symptom of the dysfunction. When you can get to that point, it seems like talking to someone would be helpful. Anonymous help line, maybe, if you're not ready to make it personal. Meanwhile, we're listening.

#506 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 09:04 AM:


From what I've observed, you need money and a support network to become independent. The more you have of one, the less you need of the other. (For example: you can pay a driving school to give you lessons behind your parents' back, or -- if you have friends with cars -- you can practice driving with them.)

If I were in your shoes, I'd work on building both of those first.

Work-study is a great idea. Tutoring, babysitting, and other under-the-table jobs are all good. Amazon has a program called Mechanical Turk where you earn (tiny) amounts of money for doing things -- it's not worth it if you can get a real job, but if you've got NO other options it's a way to build some money, slowly.

Is there any way you can get a job in a way that is non-threatening to your parents? For instance, a paid internship in your field of study. Or, if they want you to study medicine, training as an EMT to build experience. Or maybe telling them it's a volunteer job, so they still assume financial dependence.

(For that matter, if you've done a bit of applying and haven't been able to get a job, volunteering is a great way to build contacts and a resume.)

What will the consequences be if you get a paying job without their blessing?

#507 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 09:44 AM:

Broken Pottery, if you started out trapped in the dysfunction, you cannot be the cause of it. You did not start the problem. The coping strategies and behaviors you've learned from it might be exacerbating it now, but you're aware of it and can work to escape it.

#508 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 01:55 PM:

Broken Pottery: Keep in mind the concept of the scapegoat, where all of the sins are externalized so that the people who actually sinning don't have to acknowledge that they are fault. They're using you as the scapegoat.

#509 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 03:23 PM:

forgot the name: Wow, that situation is so many kinds of wrong I can't even begin to count them.

It would help if we knew what country you live in. I looked back thru your View All By, and it's hard to tell; "uni" is British usage, but then you talk about your sister who lives in a different state. Are you in Australia?

(Also, a note to the moderators: there seem to be 2 different people posting under this name, one of whom is much older than the other -- those posts are in the earliest part of the VAB. I don't know if there's anything which can be done to disambiguate them at this point, though.)

Having a bank account that your parents can't steal from is a good start. (Do they know you have it? If not, how are you keeping them from finding your bank statements? Also, are you sure they can't access it? You might want to call the bank and double-check that.)

The next thing you need is to get some money into it. Other people have made excellent suggestions about ways to do that. Once you have a little money, I would suggest looking into getting yourself a post-office box. They're not horribly expensive -- I have one for my business, and it costs me $56/year. The advantage to this is that it gives you a contact address that isn't your parents' house -- one that you can use, for example, on job applications.

Also, pay attention to the people who are saying "work on developing outside connections". Your family is trying to trap you in a web of isolation and dependence; you need to build your own counter-web of friends and networking contacts. Job-hunting is indeed a soul-stealing pain in the neck, but a lot of people find jobs thru their friends, and it's easier that way than by cold-calling.

When I was in high school and college, we lived way on the outside of town where there was no bus service except for people working 8-to-5. My parents tried to control my activities by refusing to let me drive, and then refusing to drive me anywhere they didn't approve of. What saved me was my network of friends, who were willing to drive 15 miles out of their way to pick me up and drop me off -- enough of them that I didn't wear out my welcome with anyone by asking for that favor too often. That's just one example of how having your own web of contacts can help you.

#510 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 03:26 PM:

Thank you for the kind and supportive words - in the light of day the world seems less awful.

It seems that recognizing the dysfunction and how it created the harmful coping strategies and behaviours is abrogating my personal responsibility for my unacceptable behaviour. I molested my step-daughter which goes beyond dysfunctional to morally repugnant and criminal. It seems a world apart from the co-dependency, chemical dependency, or self-loathing that are frequent coping techniques for those surviving dysfunction

#511 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 03:43 PM:

Broken Pottery @510: That is indeed a very difficult situation to recover from. Not necessarily impossible, but difficult. And it doesn't sound as if your family is being any help in your recovery. Do you have outside resources?

#512 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 05:15 PM:

forgot the name @ 499 ::: "Are there jobs most easily able to keep secret? Are there jobs that can be done without too much reliance on my family being heavy sleepers? [...] I'm trying to figure out how to get money to put in it for future purposes."

At the risk of plugging, I should mention the company that employs a friend of mine in an engineering capacity. It's called CloudCrowd, and you can find them on the web at the obvious domain name.

Their basic mode of operation is they're a "mechanical turk," which means they make money by taking on work projects that are A) easily parallelized and B) not easily automated— for example writing and editing marketing copy— then farming them out in small chunks to people they correspond with over social networks, e.g. Facebook. It's not sexy, probably won't convey anything useful on a résumé, but they pay cash [not a lot] and you set your own hours. You have a bank account, and they pay through Paypal.

I know. It sounds like a "Work At Home" scam, and I wouldn't mention it here if I wasn't a close friend of one of the senior engineers at the company. He assures me that they are completely legitimate, and I feel safe vouching for my friend that he's A) too ethical to be involved in a crooked operation, and B) too smart to be suckered into it without knowing what he was doing.

#513 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 08:02 PM:

@ Broken Pottery #510

I feel for you. But when I try to type something, it comes off as hlepy. Which is a big no-no on this thread.

Counseling, counseling, counseling. Then learn to forgive yourself. (Very hard, but not impossible to do.) You are ahead of a lot of people who can't even acknowledge they made poor choices.

See, slipping into hlepy again. But I will listen.

#514 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 10:24 PM:

I've been reading posts here and despair is settling in, because I can see how much further I would need to go to change my situation, and also, how a million little things should go before I even change it. I feel so isolated. The advice here seems good, but it isn't useful in my immediate situation. There are so many complicating factors for me that I am beginning to think that I cannot leave. It's true there are no guarantees, but it seems to be the terriblest choice to leave.
This is not an invitation for hlepiness. While part of me would dearly love a parachute and a plan, ready made, to fall into my lap, I know this is just wishful thinking.

I'm not being threatened by overt force, but held in place by a helplessness that is more than learned. I think.

#515 ::: she pushes down on my head so I won't grow ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 11:55 PM:

Looking for... witnessing, I guess? *new word*


Facts (I tell myself they are facts and not Me Being Oversensitive and also Looking For Reasons To Hate My Parents Because I Am Still Holding Grudges from Sixth Grade / Preschool / Whatever):

* It is not proper to insist someone have their computer fixed for a minor malfunction that is not bothering them, then after taking it into the shop, inform them that they must pay for it themselves: $60 they can't afford. And when they protest, "inform" them that "you don't want to limp along that way for the whole semester!" (Not me - Mom to sister, today.)

* It is not proper, when somebody informs you that spilling Lysol on their keyboard was *an accident* - especially if you were not present when they spilled it - to say "No no no! There had to be something you should have done that you didn't do to make SURE it didn't happen. What was it?" End quote. (Dad to sister, today, in very "am I talking stupid enough for you to understand me, [insert disparaging intellectual epithet here]?" voice.)

* Going further back a few years - "It must have been (sister) that did the work, because it went wrong" (direct quote from Dad) is emotional abuse. So is, g##d###, everything I can ever remember Dad saying to / about this sister that wasn't directly computer-teaching-related (they're both geeks).

* "Well, he didn't mean it," "Well, I'm sure he won't do it again, he's not *that kind of person,*" and "You need to learn not to hold grudges so long anyway" are not proper responses to "I get scared when Dad yells, because of the times he slapped my face / tried to strangle me when I was twelve." (It was a bad year - I was finally "too big to be spanked", and not staying in line. I was held back in homeschool for "conduct and deportment" the same year, but I never made a connection there before.)

* I have learned from this thread: Gaslighting is a thing. It is denying someone else's (accurate) memories in order to impose your own reality and/or drive them to insanity. Fact: It can also be done unintentionally, simply by being a person who's so obsessed with How Things Ought To Be that you gaslight yourself and by extension your kids (this is my mom). Fact: When a co-dependent person gaslights herself into being a "good little wifey-poo" (quote) to an abusive lawyer - the lawyer part being important because he knows exactly how far he can go - the results are Not Good.

(Someday I plan to write a fantasy story about how "Eye of the Beholder" is a very strong, dangerous magic and some people are more susceptible to it than others. It will be disguised!autobiographical. o_O)

* If you are going to abuse children but allow them some freedom, it is very important that they "know" Child Protective Services are EVIL, their mortal enemy, will take them away if given the slightest excuse, care nothing about their welfare but only about making quotas, will give them to bad cruel parents who will not let them attend church, etc. This should be as deeply ingrained as possible.

#516 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 01:24 AM:

@515 - she pushes down: Read and witnessed. These seem like accurate observations to me. The last is so very, very true. My husband, raised in a loving, functional family, is astonished at the things I and some of my friends put up with as kids, because he would have been on the phone to social services in a heartbeat if one of his parents had done that to *him*. That our parents would condition us to remove that as a thinkable option was a revelation to him.

We had another round of bleeding. (Dad's up to almost half his total blood volume out the door by now. Thank god for transfusions.) This time, though, they found the bleeder, cauterized it, and clamped it for good measure. So we're reasonably secure that he's unlikely to bleed again. If I can sit on my parents until Friday afternoon, I can drive them home and fly back up Sunday. Right now both parents are behaving like small, bewildered children in need of supportive parenting, and I'm doing my best to be a better parent to them than they sometimes were to me. I'm not sure how successful I'm being, though.

Oh, and I just crawled in the door at 1am local after the surgery to find my 13-year-old up with a sore throat and fever, needing and wanting Mommy, and wondering where I was (the run to the ER happened right after bedtime). He's tucked in with a Tylenol and some cuddling now, but wow did that cause the guilts.

#517 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 05:43 AM:


Counselling is what I desperately want but at the moment can't safely access. In its infinite wisdom the government of my country has eliminated doctor-patient confidentiality as a protected form of communication. Thus if I speak to a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist they can be subpoenaed to testify that I admitted guilt so the prosecutor can slam me with a maximum sentence rather than the probable outcome of them offering me a plea agreement that while extreme from my perspective is at least within the realm of reason and means I only spend a year in prison (assuming 1/3rd time served for good behaviour which is standard). So I keep waiting for that hammer to fall which they are dragging the process out as much as possible so that CPS can keep racheting up the pressure on my wife in their ongoing attempt to coerce her into lying for them (which again lets them go for that career enhancing maximum sentence). Which leaves me stewing in my own head hamsterwheeling over the worst possibilities. In my attempt to not drive myself into a depressive fit and kill myself at least having a community of people who are mostly not going to treat me as some sort of non-human to talk at (if anonymized, proxied, and browser wiped) helps me not remain trapped inside my own head too much.

#518 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 06:27 AM:

Broken Pottery @517:

What is the status of your stepdaughter? Is she in counseling?

#519 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 06:34 AM:

ma larkey @514:

You know, a lot of the things that got discussed regarding housecleaning in the Open Thread are relevant to your situation.

It seems huge and hopeless right now, because there are so many things in the way. But if you can do small, incremental things like tucking money away, or dealing with the impediments you discussed with me in private, one at a time, and count them as progress toward escape, it might help.

(This might be hlepy. If so, I apologize.)

#520 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 09:08 AM:

Broken Pottery, it's hard to know what to say that isn't judgmental or hlepy. From your @517, CPS is already involved. I also wondered, with abi, whether your stepdaughter was receiving the help she should.

You have recognized that you have gone beyond dysfunction, and that foundation in truth instead of rationalizing is ground to stand on.

#521 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 09:36 AM:

Broken Pottery, I will be both judgemental *and* helpy!

A lot of the parents in this thread and others in the series are doing their best to shield their kids from dysfunction. That is part of a parent's job, keeping the kids from being really really hurt. When kids are involved, it stops being about you and starts being about them. It sounds like you know this, which is part of why you are eating yourself up with guilt.

What will help your stepdaughter most in this situation? Not 'what steps can you take so she forgives you', because that is not her job, but what will shield her from further harm and give her the best opportunity to recover? It's pretty likely that this will make you more vulnerable, but if anyone else had molested her, would you want that person to avoid counseling for fear of jail time?

The dysfunction has been there a long time, as you said, so you're also a victim here, but at least in this situation, you are the victim with more options. And you're the adult. Passing the dysfunction on to another generation won't help.

#522 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 07:40 PM:

I know it's been a while, but some here had expressed interest in my blog post (discussed up above somewhere). I hope it's okay for me to link to it here:

It's about grieving and pets and family. Yep, still nervous about posting it.

#523 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 07:41 PM:

Aaaand just realized it's not a link. Try, try again:


#524 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 09:04 PM:

knitcrazybooknut: Thank you, that was lovely. I never had real pets growing up--my mother also did not like animals, so we had turtles and fish and eventually my brother had gerbils--but/and my first cat taught me many of the same things you learned from Fidgit.

#525 ::: Broken Pottery ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 09:18 PM:

@abi & OtterB
My daughter is receiving counselling though, for obvious reasons, I am not privy to the details.

I wish I knew the answers to those questions because it would at least save endless hours in the dark trying to figure out what to do. Part of the problem is that I also have responsibilities to my son and my wife that I need to balance against. I don't think that my going to prison is something that is going to benefit her but that is out of both of our hands and all I can do is try to minimize how long I spend in there so that I don't abandon my family and I am available if she chooses to have me involved in her life later.

#526 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 11:42 PM:

@ Broken Pottery: I think that the best thing to do then is to start researching all the help options for your family right now and make sure they know how to access the information. As an example, if you are the one paying the bills, make sure your wife has all of the information needed to keep them current—and if there would be a financial hit to the family if you're not there, see what resources would be available to her and get them set up as much as you can ahead of time.

@ she pushes down: I once met Dave Pelzer, author and subject of A Child Called It*, and he is effusive about how much CPS helped him. I think it's good to know from an inside source how they look—that inside source being the subject of a nasty abuse situation.

*He is an extremely funny guy. As in "cracking up a room full of people who came because of his latest book about abuse" funny. He can also sign a cart full of books while talking. Not exactly what I was expecting, which is probably a good point to take note of.

#527 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 11:46 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara, 490:

Thank you! Sorry it took me so long to respond to this; I've been thinking about it a lot, trying to phrase what I want to say.

Both CodingLesson and CodingBat look cool. I've done a couple challenges at SPOJ. I never really sought out stuff like that, I guess because I'm pretty confident about my technical coding skills. And realizing that has helped me figure out what I actually want, because clearly "feedback that I can write code" isn't it. I think the thing I want is to take part in a community.

I can write code, but I can't finish a project, and I am afraid to join another project, and even if I could finish a project it wouldn't be something anyone else was interested in. I can write, but nobody cares what I write, or gets it, and it's a lot of work for something that will just get ignored, so I don't do it very often.

I went to Lone Star Ruby Conference a couple times, and gave a presentation there once, and it was terrifying. I don't know how to interact with people in a community like that. I don't know what to say to people. I guess that's what I mean when I say I want feedback: I do most of my work alone; I can't compare my skills to anyone else's. The only other programmers I look at are people like _why or Knuth or people like that, famous authors. So I find myself lacking because I'm not a famous author who wrote something that shaped the industry, because everyone else I learn from is.

#528 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 11:47 PM:

Er, the gnomes ate a comment I just made.

#529 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 06:02 PM:

forgot the name, I came back to find that knitcrazybooknut at #502 has made all the points I had in mind, and more.

The one I want to emphasize is friendship. That's helped me a lot, at my most difficult times. Friends have taught me basic life skills like living cheaply, encouraged me to do things like getting a good cell phone and a PO box, given me rides, hosted me for the night when I just needed to get the hell out of Dodge, and let me tell them my troubles.

It helps a lot to know there are people who are on your side and who would take your part if you were opposed to your parents. Of course, not all friends are capable of being the best allies in the world, but the ones who can stand by you are very valuable indeed.

At the least, if you ever need an alibi to cover the time you spend at work/job-hunting/other life-skill training, then "I was visiting a friend" can give you that alibi, where "friend"="friend who's willing to cover for you."

#530 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:14 AM:

Broken Pottery @526:
My daughter is receiving counselling

Thank you for saying so (and for your part in making that happen). This is an area where I, personally, am on very thin ice, as are a number of people in this conversation.

More practically, I think B Durbin's recommendations are good ones. Reducing the number of things to worry about really will ratchet the tension down, and the process of doing so will give you something productive to do rather than fret.

(I may be being hlepy. If so, I apologize.)

#531 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 07:00 AM:

Thank you, all!

A lot to digest, and off and overall I've been feeling like ma larkery says at 514, which is why it's taken me so long to respond.

It's all so intimidating, and very overwhelming if I try to think about it in any depth. I am an extremely isolated person both by choice and circumstance, with very poor speech skills, and so much of this is about talking to people, and this is all very ... yeah, overwhelming.

I'm not ungrateful! But this is all rather terrifying.

#532 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 05:43 PM:

Ross, thanks for your response. I'm glad you took your time and discovered more about what you're really looking for.

I also find myself comparing myself to people waaaay better and more influential than me. It gets me down. But -- as you must know, from how you are talking -- it's unfair to be binary about it, to say that the most renowned person in the field rules and everyone else sucks. I know that my empathy for people who are struggling or insecure or shy makes me a better teacher than many people who are more famous or more technically skilled than me. And that makes me a valuable member of a community. (And I'm sure you've learned from people who aren't famous -- how many times have you Googled an error message and found someone's blog post or mailing list post? Most of them aren't famous. Does that help?)

And every little bit helps. When I look at my record of contributions to my project's wiki I know that it's a lot of little bits, and that there's a long tail, you know? I've been blogging for about ten years, and usually no one blog entry makes a huge difference in the world. But I started out with one reader and now maybe I have fifty? A hundred?

When you say things like "nobody cares" or "no one else is interested in," do you already know that they are false, or would you like to be talked out of them?

The Dreamwidth community is probably the most welcoming programming community there is. If you submit even a tiny one-line patch, it will get reviewed, and if your patch is accepted, the code tour blog post will summarize your contribution and thank you, and thousands of people read those code tours. And then you'll have helped hundreds of thousands of readers and writers. And you don't have to give your legal name if you don't want. And it's all online and asynchronous so you can think of what to say. And none of them are famous.

I'm curious about what your tactics were when you attended tech conferences, and what experience you had. Did you try to avoid getting into conversations? Did you find that, in conversations, your mind went blank, or you felt like you had too many options and didn't know which to pick? Were you anxious, or resentful, or spaced-out? I can help give you some ideas for how to make any future conference experiences more useful and pleasant.

And have you ever taught anyone? That's balm to the soul.

#533 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 07:39 PM:

forgot the name @531 - Don't worry, we were all terrified at some time in our lives. Everybody has their own struggles.

I know I threw a lot in your direction, and like I said, I was advising me 15 years back! (Apparently I have a lot to say to my younger self.) But here's one more thing that will hopefully make it easier:

Pick one thing you want to focus on. Just one thing.

Write it down in a declarative statement. I'm going to talk to X.

Pick your deadline. And do it.

Once you've done it, congratulate yourself! Give yourself a gold star.

If you just think about doing that one thing, and give yourself a success, then you'll be doing great. Then you can set another goal.

Also, it's okay to admit you're not good at talking to people, and that you are working on your communication skills. Those two admissions make it easier for people to cut you some slack.

Small steps are great. It's not easy to reach out. But there's awesome stuff in the world of other people. Just take it slow and easy.

I hope that helps the overwhelmingness. Take care!

#534 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 09:07 PM:

A thought about fear: A transsexual I once met told me "After the first time [a guy] goes out on the street in women's clothing, nothing else can ever scare him again".

Not meant to be taken literally, and it's certainly not advice... but something to think about, nevertheless.

#535 ::: Kaesa ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:14 PM:

Checking in, because y'all were awesomely helpful. This is going to be another long comment, because apparently I write novels.

General Update: Things are going slightly better personality-conflict-wise with my boss, mostly I think because, having talked here and to friends and to my therapist, I am now firmly in the camp of He's Probably Wrong About This, Don't Panic. Also, there just isn't that much work to do right now, so less for him to complain about.

My therapist, who apparently used to do tests of memory issues, has noticed my weird memory and thinks I don't actually have a bad memory, but I may have issues with attention, and she wants to discuss that in next week's session. My first instinct was to go "but I'm trying as hard as I can, woe!" but blah.

My birthday was awesome! I have now seen every episode of Doctor Who. Except the two they just re-found. But I've seen reconstructions! So my geek cred has increased slightly. (...I can generally remember the basic plot of most of the serials and can name the companions in order, so I guess I do have an okay memory for things that are totally useless.)

Parents still bothering me about presents/birthday celebration with them. Now that my actual birthday is over, I don't really mind as much.

Also, my uncle -- characterized by abusive mother as a soulless evil violent sociopath, so I hardly know him because I was never allowed to interact with him, but he and my aunt really came through for me last year when I was disowned for the entire holiday season -- has offered to give me some backstory about my family as he has seen it, rather than the greeting card version my grandmother gives me or the Persecuted On All Sides Daughter my mother insists is true. I am debating whether I want to take him up on this, and how much I want to know, because there are certain suspicions I'm not sure I want to confirm, and I have more gaslighting issues than Girl Genius (oh come on, it used to be a print comic, the pun still works, right?), so I'm not sure I want to know how much more I've been lied to. How many rocks do I really want to turn over? Part of me also still doesn't trust him, because after hearing how eeeevil he supposedly is all the time from my mother, it's very hard to shake my irrational fears of betrayal.

KayTei@468: He's my first real employer, so I can't ask my last one to take me back. I'm just going to have to do the jobsearch as is. (As in, the first one who paid me. Actually there was a brief time when I was also doing a part-time data entry job for my mother's firm, but then she disowned me and started threatening to have me fired if I didn't pick up her phone calls, so I quit, because really, she made the decision very easy.)

Megpie71@478: One of my New Years' non-resolutions is to get medical insurance and medical care. (I live in the US, and am fat, thus uninsurable and have some issues with doctors despite being very fortunate in my good health. Still, I should take care of myself.) My mother has had issues with her thyroid, so I will definitely ask them to test my thyroid function. I know I also have issues with anemia.

(Also, funny you should mention Manah Manah; it is what I play in my head when I am reading/hearing something absurdly offensive and I cannot even deal with it. As my boss enjoys being offensive for some reason, I hear it a lot. Another good brainwash is Mashed Potato Time.)

Lila@483: I don't really have that much energy deficiency (I live in a third-floor apartment and can generally make it all the way up the stairs) but I'll add it to my list of possible issues to check for.

Lee@484: Oh jeez, his last secretary/paralegal/law clerk (this is my job title, yes, with all the slashes) lasted two years, and she was the daughter of a family friend. He speaks fondly of a lot of them, but I get the feeling he goes through them fairly frequently? (I want to say one every 2-3 years?) Especially since he does not pay much. I actually quit several months into the job, because he told me I had to think about if I could really do the job, and I decided I couldn't. He had someone else doing my job for two days when he was on vacation, then fired her and called me up from several states away at eight PM one night and asked me to please take my job back, because she had apparently failed to show up both days.

Lori Coulson@488: I actually went into the legal industry hoping to work for the EPA eventually, so I will definitely be checking out USAJobs again and see if they have any interesting openings that suit my skills.

she pushes down@515: Your parents are awful and awfully familiar, although my dad was the good stay at home husband to the lawyer who knew how far she could go, and went further because my dad doesn't know his rights. Also, your parents' indoctrination against CPS is something I sort of experienced; if I got too argumentative (or even just if she was bored) my mother would bring up that I was lucky I wasn't in a foster home where I was raped or had cigarettes put out on my back, and I ought to be grateful. She also thought it was appropriate to joke about reporting people she didn't like to CPS as punishment for upsetting her. Some people. I'm sorry you and your sister have to deal with this kind of monstrous parenting.

Disguised!autobiographical fantasy is, err... I don't start off doing it intentionally, but I've become a better writer now that I actually notice when I'm doing it. I can generally tell when I started writing something because it metaphorically deals with issues I was having at the time I had the idea. (This actually became kind of embarrassing when I realized I was writing a story with themes of body acceptance and escaping from violent controlling abusers, without actually having accepted my body and while living with a violent controlling abuser. Apparently being able to be oneself and like oneself is only for people who have magical adventures.)

#536 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 11:36 PM:

Kaesa, You wrote: I realized I was writing a story with themes of body acceptance and escaping from violent controlling abusers, without actually having accepted my body and while living with a violent controlling abuser. Apparently being able to be oneself and like oneself is only for people who have magical adventures.

This is still legitimate fantasy writing. It's also called visualization. I can't tell you how many zillions of getting out of the crappy family books I've read, along with vindication books and leaving abusive relationship books. They help you figure out your way out. Remember that reading something like that can help someone else down the line.

#537 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:15 AM:

Kaesa, on Manahmanah: I read that bit to my roommate and she laughed. This is why you are awesome, because of the mental image of someone (who isn't necessarily you in my head, if that makse sense) with a terrible TV boss yelling at them and then the sound draws down and the Muppets come up.

This is going to be trouble the next time I have a really threatful subjob. It's already hard enough not to laugh when I'm holding the time-out door shut against ridiculous kindergarten threats. Kindergarten threats with Muppets? Oh no.

#538 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 01:19 AM:

Knowing doctor who can be very useful in the right job. Although I've usually bonded with coworkers over star trek.

Looking at us jobs is useful, but if you want to target a job at the EPA then talk to people. Information interview. Are you in the same city as an EPA office? How about a more local environmental protection agency - every state has at least one, and California has gazillions of different agencies. And there are multiple ways to get work, including positions for students and fellowships that don't show up in us jobs.

Hope that this is helpful and not just hlepy.

#539 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:39 AM:

Kaesa #535: Regarding the uncle:
1) First, I'd certainly give benefit of the doubt to the folks who "came through" for you.

2) Given that you're well on your way to freedom already, I'd think learning "how much more I've been lied to" can only help -- certainly it will save you a lot of figuring things out by yourself.

3) If you don't actually trust the uncle... well, consider that even comparing two opposed sets of lies can be remarkably informative!

#540 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 02:13 PM:

I have a request.

Like several other recent posters, I'm looking for a job. I've been reduced to working for my parents, which is driving me up the wall. Sometime I'll post about our own dysfunction, but the time for that is not now. We actually get along well these days, and I'd like that to continue. The problem is that I hate having to work for them, and want to stop as soon as I can find a job elsewhere. Do you have any job-hunting suggestions? Then please lay them on me. If you've been holding back from outright advice-giving, well, you can advise me. I don't mind if it's hlepy. If nothing else, it will validate me and make me feel as though my struggle matters.

Some details: I live in a college town on the East Coast, I have a bachelor's degree in history, and I am female ("Little John" is a pun on one of my other nicknames). I'm currently taking a certification program to qualify for Respectable Work, but that's still some months away, and in the meantime I'd like to work part-time, at least.

I want to be a baker, either pastry or artisan bread baking, and work as a barista as well. Not very ambitious, you might think, but, still, it's my pet project. But it's been impossible for me to even DO these jobs, despite there being a lot of local bakeries. None of them will hire me. I can't even get a job at one of these places in order to find out whether I really do like the work.

So I'm wondering what I should do. Go to culinary school and get a certification as a pasty chef? I don't want to invest money in more education till I've actually worked for a while.

Someone suggested I should ask the owners of the bakeries whether they would sit down with me and talk about what makes a good employee and how I can make myself hireable. I hate that idea--it seems too much like begging for a job, and I'm feeling humiliated enough as it is. But maybe it's a good idea.

What would you do, if you were me? Go to a big supermarket and apply to work in their bakery? Decide you were a one-woman catering firm and work out of your home? Bring a sleeping bag and occupy the front lawn at the artisan bakery till they hired me? (NB for the worried: kidding, I'm not really going to do that last one. End of NB.) Move to the big city? Something else entirely that I'm overlooking here?

Also, if you have any suggestions for jobs that I can do out of my home/over the internet, I'm interested. Of course I'd most like to be a baker, but I'm also currently looking for any bearable job at all to get me through a rough time. Mechanical Turk came up earlier; that might be an option. I'm reasonably good at editing, proofing, and transcription, FWIW.

Abi, I hope I'm not out of line posting this question. It's only tangentially about me and my family, yet there's been so much good discussion about building a life for oneself that I felt moved to ask the thread about my own problems.

#541 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:01 PM:

Little John #540: I should ask the owners of the bakeries ... about what makes a good employee

I understand that this is uncomfortable, but trust me... it's not begging, it's sensible market research. Also, you described covering the local bakeries... if you have any indie coffee shops locally, you should certainly check with those too, as they usually also offer some baked goods! Failing that... supermarkets or Starbucks will at least offer a paycheck of your own.

Question: Have you been rejected at places with "now hiring" signs? If you've just been walking into local storefronts, they may merely have all the staff they need. You might also ask them what time of year they commonly are looking for help, as there's often seasonal turnover (students).

Doing home catering or, otherwise running your own business, is... non-trivial. Some folks do pretty well at it (especially if it's a sideline rather than rent money), but it does mean "running a business" on top of whatever you're actually offering, and that's a fair bit of stress right there. You might do better to look up who's already doing catering in your area, and see if some of them would like to buy baked goods.

Incidentally, lots of folks don't much like working for their parents -- I sure wouldn't! Even without actual dysfunction, it's way too easy for family dynamics to bleed across into workplace dynamics, let alone if there's also non-family workers involved.

#542 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:13 PM:

David Harmon @ 541: ah, I should have clarified. Yeah, I've only been to apply for jobs at places that have specifically said they are hiring.

That's a nifty idea about talking to people who are already doing catering. I might try that.

#543 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:39 PM:

@Little John #540

Instead of asking them what makes a good employee, ask if you can talk to them about their career. Tell them you want to go to Culinary School. Would they do the same career choice again? What are pitfalls and the high points of the job? Are there skill sets that make the job easier? Etc.

First, you get info about the field. Second, you are not asking them for a job, just life advice.

In my field, I get at least a couple of people a year who "interview" me about my job. Since my employees have to have some training, it's never led me to hire anybody, but we have fun conversations.

In your case, it might lead to a job offer as well.


#544 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:42 PM:

Little John, are there any Panera restaurants in your area? They often need bakers,* and will train you in that and as a barista. My partner worked for them for several years when she needed extra cash.

If not, Starbucks would at least get you into the coffee end of the business, and give you money to put towards a culinary degree.

*Nota bene: the bakers working hours are dreadful 10pm to 6am...

#545 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:51 PM:

Little John @ #540, if you lived in my hometown I'd send you to check out our famous vegetarian restaurant, which outsources some of its baking but also has a few in-house bakers. So, a less specialized niche, lower pressure than a bakery, less drudge-y than a store bakery, with a much funkier, more laid-back bunch of co-workers.

Anything like that in your area?

#546 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:58 PM:

Little John, you might check out Shmoop, oDesk, the random gigs that come up on MetaFilter Jobs (many of which are very suitable for remote workers), and eLance.

#547 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 04:17 PM:

Kaesa @535: Apply for ANY Federal job for which you have the requisite skills. Once you get a Federal job and make it through probation and the background check, you keep monitoring the EPA jobs and applying for those.

It is much easier to get a job with the Federal government if you're already working for them. If you've gotten through the security clearance process it's one more thing the agency won't have to pay for...which makes you much more attractive than the applicants who haven't.

#548 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 05:50 PM:

Little John, re catering out of your home or selling baked goods, check out your local regulations. It's possible the requirements for selling food products may be prohibitive for a home kitchen.

And agree with others that "informational interviewing" is not the same as begging for a job if you don't make it the same. My previous job was with an organization that did career counseling and this was a really frequent recommendation. You're looking for information on how to break into the field: what credentials are necessary, what's nice to have, what's a waste of your time and/or money to acquire.

My college-age daughter's been looking for part-time jobs and finding that a lot of places want previous retail experience, so anything involving the public and/or food, even the dreaded "would you like fries with that?" would probably be helpful foot-in-the-door experience.

#549 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 06:32 PM:

A couple friends of mine have applied at Panera repeatedly, but been shot down by a third-shift-experience policy. They currently see shift work elsewhere as a foot in the door at Panera, since they can now say they have overnight experience.

#550 ::: bakergirl ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 10:01 PM:

I felt the need to address that question about training to be a barista or pastry person. I know a little about the food industry, trained for it, went to school for it, worked a little.
Most large-ish chain coffee shops have commissaries, and so I would ask smaller operations if they outsource certain items. However, food codes may be strict, so making your food biz home based can only be a "hobby". If you want it to be a formal one, you'd have to build a proper kitchen with a separate entrance from your home, and go with local codes etc. If you are considering a pastry career, school is good, but not recommended unless you are completely ready to either go into debt for it, or lose a big chunk of change in training that may or may not lead to good placement later. Try the CIA way and try to get 6 months working in a real kitchen, not a cafe or fast food operation. Working for caterers can be helpful, even if it at least shows you how strenuous the work can be. Imagine standing for 18 hours on busy days, or maybe 12 hours, depending on where you work. Bakers can be up 2am to 10am then be expected to return in the afternoon sometimes to decorate stuff, it depends. Even baristas are on their feet a lot, so be prepared and work up your stamina. The AIB or American Institute of Baking has a good site and many short courses, look it up. Asking questions is free, you don't have to seem like you are begging for a job, the more info the better. Also beware of schools with high tuition and no placement or alumni support, that's the kicker.
Hope this helps.

#551 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 10:59 PM:

Further to Little John: it is true that health inspection/licensing of a home kitchen is a huge prodigious deal. However, there is such a thing as a co-op kitchen; constructed to meet local codes, inspected, etc., and available for use by start-up "home" businesses. Our local 'virtual farmer's market' is looking at starting one. There may be one near you.

#552 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2012, 10:01 AM:

Little John: You live in a college town; does the food service hire? I know that people don't speak well of college food service, but often the folks running it also do catering (Marriot used to do that at my college.) It's still food experience and helpful for long-term, and it can be useful to figure out the timing with mass quantities.

#553 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 10:10 PM:

Something from my childhood... I know it was bad, but I'm not sure of the details of what was wrong with it.

When my room was a mess, my mother would knock my stuff on the floor. She would take reasonable care-- I don't remember her ever breaking anything, and I remember her putting a bowl of crayons on the floor rather than scattering them.

She never taught me anything about how to clean or how to organize cleaning.

I'm beginning to think a lot of my problems have a root in my believing that things should just automatically be perfect.

In addition to what was wrong, does anyone have memories of competent teaching about cleaning and tidying?

#554 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:17 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @553: In addition to what was wrong, does anyone have memories of competent teaching about cleaning and tidying?

I remember my mother showing me how to make a bed properly, and explaining how to wipe the table first and then put the chairs up and then sweep under, and showing me how to clean windows properly. Or going over what order to wash the dishes in (glassware to silverware to plates to pots). My father taught me how to load a dishwasher, and how to iron.

The memories don't stand out very well because they seemed an ordinary part of growing up, at the time; your parents teach you how to ride a bike, and tie a shoelace, and dry dishes, and pick up after the dog, and sort and fold laundry, and cook dinner, and...well. It didn't seem exceptional to me at the time. Though only mildly peculiar bit I recall was that chores were divided up somewhat by grade, so every summer there'd be a spate of learning how to do whatever new chores we would be expected to help with from that point.

I'm not sure if I'm answering your question usefully, though, so please ignore if I've misunderstood.

#555 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 12:05 AM:

Little John, #529: At the least, if you ever need an alibi to cover the time you spend at work/job-hunting/other life-skill training, then "I was visiting a friend" can give you that alibi, where "friend"="friend who's willing to cover for you."

Seconding this with great fervor. While I didn't need that in quite the same way, I do recall one particular occasion... My parents were dead-set against me going to the local mall by myself, even though the mall ran a shuttle bus that went right past our house, fare $.25/trip. This was when I was in high school, and they were both working, and one afternoon I just decided to GO, to get something I wanted and to prove to myself once and for all that all the Horrible Things they were so afraid of happening if they weren't with me were so much hot air. So I did, and they were, and I asked a friend to say she'd been with me if my parents decided to check up. I wouldn't even have had to do that if I hadn't bought something.

David, #534: That sounds like a specific instance of the general aphorism "The first step is the hardest." And sometimes it's hard for an unexpected reason; since the first time I got up on stage at OVFF for a one-shot, I've never had any problem with stage-fright at things like local Open Mike Nights. The people at OVFF are my idols and my peers -- the ones in the club are just a random audience, and that's much less scary!

Lori, #547: Good point!

Nancy, #553: On the one hand, I do have vague memories of my mother telling me how to do some things -- one of them was ironing, which is ironic because now one of my purchase criteria for clothing is "doesn't require ironing"!

On the other hand, I also remember a lot of fights over my having tried to do something helpful ("You never help around the house!") only to get a 20-minute lecture on how I had DUN IT RONG and now she had to do it all over again. Needless to say, I quickly learned that I could either do what she said she wanted and get yelled at, or do what I wanted and get yelled at, so there was no percentage in putting myself out for her sake. Most of what I know about taking care of myself is self-taught, or learned by observing friends.

#556 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 12:51 AM:

Nancy—my dad showed me how to fold a fitted sheet. That's the only "teaching" I remember, but that's probably because I was old enough to remember the specific event.

Mind you, I'm doing it right and I still can't get it square. Oh well.

#557 ::: Tiger Spot ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 01:48 AM:

Nancy @553:

I remember having a book that described how to clean a room (start by making your bed, put everything on the floor / out of place on the bed, put away all the stuff, clean clockwise from the doorway starting at the top and working down). I learned laundry because I was going off to a summer program and would have to use the laundromat there, so Mom explained how to do that beforehand and had me do a practice load or two at home, but I was still a bit confused by the different machine style when it actually came time to do it at the program. Everything else I must have gotten in little bits mostly earlier than I remember. I know I watched cleaning happen a lot, so there was certainly observational learning even if things weren't explicitly explained.

I don't think Mom or Dad ever repeated a cleaning task I'd done, although sometimes I was informed that although I had picked up some stuff in my room, it did not count as "picked up" yet and I had better finish it off. I don't remember having much in the way of regular chores other than setting and clearing the table. I liked cleaning mirrors, so I'd do that while Mom was cleaning other parts of the bathrooms.

#558 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 04:32 AM:

Renatus @ 420: I'm behind on everything myself. It was a busy holiday time, and interesting too now I've started keeping an eye on the way I react to things. I've always found Christmas time to be exhausting, with everything going on and all the things needing doing and all the travelling. I have to say, getting disciplined about keeping a checklist app with alarms on my phone has been a complete revelation. In the fortnight before Christmas, my partner and I managed to get things planned out and in order. That kind of structure made the whole thing easier to deal with.

I haven't been quite as good at getting organised during the post-Christmas-overload period, but it feels really good to have a place to start. I've been reading through "Out of the Fog" and "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!" after Caroline recommended them @ 23. They've both been useful, in particular the bits about inattentive symptoms. I haven't found the later parts, regarding coping techniques and the like, quite as useful. At the moment, it's a bit like they're helping me to understand the problem, but not able to advise me what the best thing to do about it is. They're good on telling me why I drift off into the fog all the time, but no so good on telling me how to drag myself back out of it.

Which is why the next step is talking to a doctor about all of this. I've got the name of a specialist who's fairly local who should be able to assess me, and I've got an appointment booked tomorrow morning with a GP who should hopefully be able to refer me. I'm a little nervous about it, because tomorrow will be the first time I'll be talking to someone face-to-face who isn't my partner about all of this, but also glad I've got the start of a plan.

#559 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 01:35 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @553: Training in housework was a fairly integral part of my upbringing; I didn't get allowance, but I got paid a very nominal fee for housework. I also probably didn't get much explicit instruction because I learn well by observation; having seen it done right once, I can usually reproduce the process fairly accurately. I do recall occassional communications failures, generally deriving from (a) my (carefully conditioned) inability to ask questions and (b) the blindness to particular clutter discussed upthread. I was in charge of cleaning the bathrooms. I remember my dad telling me to "clean the base of the toilet, too." I would say, "Okay," but my process would be unchanged, because I didn't know what he meant, and I wasn't equipped to ask for clarification.

When my room was a mess, my mother would knock my stuff on the floor.

This, however, reminds me rather unpleasantly of some of my attempts to train the family dog. I remember vividly one time in particular, trying to train him to "stay." "Bilbo, sit. Stay!" Walk away, then yell at him when he gets up to follow after I've walked a few paces. Iterate. The look on his poor face, "But what do you want!?"

It was by no means stupidity on his part. I taught him to jump through a hoop on command by standing in a doorway with him on one side, blocking passage with a hula hoop, and holding a treat out on the opposite side. "Bilbo, jump through the hoop!" I think it took two or three tries, and he had it down cold.

Poor dog. I've got so much karma to make up, the way I treated him....

As an adult, I've actually found the book Speed Cleaning to be quite helpful. I don't recall that it has really basic "how to" information, but it's a goldmine of tricks for streamlining the process.

#560 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:05 PM:

I remember one time coming home from my first part-time job (at a movie theatre, and I was closing, so it was pretty late on a school night) to find that my mother had piled all the junk from my floor onto my bed. I wrote a note about how awful it was to come home exhausted (as exhausted as I'd ever been up to that time) and have to deal with that instead of just falling into bed.

And of course I caught hell the next day for being "nasty." Maybe the note was over the top; I don't remember.

#561 ::: Anonymous Me ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:17 PM:

To Nancy @553

It was a huge moment in my life when I realized that I actually needed to learn how to cook/clean/manage the house, and that those things were skills, not *gifts*, and the fact that I'd never been doing a great job at these tasks didn't mean I was doomed to a life of the same. I did a lot of reading, and watching, and tried intentional self education on things domestic and boy howdy did it help with a lot of housekeeping issues and larger things by extension.

It doesn't help that my Mom also thinks/thought I should just magically know this stuff - but some demonstration of competence in these areas has helped tremendously with getting her off my back.

#562 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 02:32 PM:

Anonymous Me @561: RTFM was a huge conceptual breakthrough for me, in many realms of life. Today, this is one of the major reasons I lurves me some InterT00bz.

#563 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:01 PM:

Nancy @ 553 and Anonymous Me @ 561--My mother was/is much the same. I have vivid memories of her, furious, tearing through my room (or my brother's and my room, back when we shared a bedroom) with a garbage sack, throwing away anything that was on the floor, while I/we scrunched up on the bed pleading with her not to, or trying to cry as quietly as possible so she wouldn't "give us something to cry about."

She generally only cleaned when she was upset already, and is very much of the "you should just magically know how to do this" school, so any attempt on my part to ask for direction was treated as malingering. As I've gotten older and moved out--and because my lovely partner actually enjoys cleaning--I've come to see that my mother is actually a terrible housekeeper. She was probably taking her frustration at not really knowing what she was doing out on me, and I at least have the resources to learn to do better.

Sadly, overcoming the lack of training has been the easiest part for me. The only time I'm naturally motivated to clean is as self-punishment, and I still have a real problem doing dishes (or almost any other cleaning task) unless I'm completely alone in the house.

#564 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:28 PM:

I freely admit to often piling my daughter's crap on her bed so that I can get to the window in the bedroom to open it or raise the blinds, and then leaving the crap piled there. Because she does actually know how to clean and has been repeatedly (and regularly) asked to make sure that there is a path to that window.

I've also removed her clothing from an area where she is not supposed to leave it (because it's where I hang wet clothes to dry--hand wash or machine wash and line dry/dry flat stuff) and either thrown it on the bed or disappeared it for a couple of days. The latter tends to be more effective in terms of the length of time that passes before she repeats the offense. If she's home while I'm standing around with a pile of dripping stuff, I make her come and get her things, but if she's not, I move her things. Sometimes some of them get a little damp as a result.

#565 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 03:55 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @553: My parents demonstrated methods of cleaning before allowing or requiring us to do those tasks, and my maternal grandmother often volunteered to help clean our rooms when they got overwhelmingly messy. As far as my parents were concerned, as long as they had a path to the bed, they didn't much mind how messy it got, although they did make us clean up when it got too bad. My gram taught us to get started in one spot, make piles of things to help the process (clean clothing to put away/dirty clothing to take downstairs, toys to put away, books to put away), and then to reduce each pile. She also taught us how to put on flat sheets (hospital corners, anyone?), how to do general folding, and making the bed. All of them showed us how to do the laundry, clean dishes, set the table (and these tasks became ours as we reached the appropriate ages).

I noticed years ago that my partner (now my Ex) had a lot of trouble teaching our son; she'd get angry at him for doing things wrong. She also got mad at me for not doing things the way she wanted; it was only after reading multiple accounts here that I realized she was exhibiting dysfunctional behavior. I've also noticed that when I teach him something, like cooking, he'll repeatedly ask me if he's doing it right, and I'll have to reassure him that it's fine. When we do make a mistake, I show him how to recover from it ("We'll just add some more flour to the dough") or else we start over, with no yelling about waste. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them. Sometimes those mistakes are delicious.

#566 ::: Anon Amos ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 04:07 PM:

Just need to vent:

Coworker: We should have more! useful! up-to-date! stuff here!
Me: What stuff, specifically?
Coworker: Useful stuff!
Me: But we have all that useful stuff over there already.
Coworker: But we should have it here, too! It would be easier for staff!
Me: Are you volunteering to create it, update it, and maintain it?
Coworker: No, that's your job!
Me: But I'm already doing that for this stuff over there.
Coworker: But we should have it here, too!
Me: I haven't heard anything from the boss about putting that stuff here.
Coworker: I like to be proactive.
Me: But why duplicate the work?
Coworker gets mad and stomps off in a huff.

#567 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 04:18 PM:

Of the World @ 558: I'm glad the books are helping you figure out the whys! I also did not find them super helpful in teaching me how to unfog myself, so that's not just you. I very much support your decision to go and talk to doctor-type people.

Me, I went to my doctor's appointment early this week and got the stimulant meds I've been off of for two months.

Suddenly, I've actually been able to sit down and tackle the reading I've been avoiding for three weeks -- the first three chapters of a book called Spectral Methods for Uncertainty Quantification. (I spoke to one of the authors of that book about a month ago about my growing concerns about being unable to quantify the uncertainty in the results of my cardiac-cell model. He sounded quite willing to work with me to analyze the model, and told me to start by reading those three chapters.)

After slogging through Chapter 1, I realized that I had better first work through Appendix A, "Essential Elements of Probability Theory and Random Processes." Upon starting to work through that, I realized that it assumed knowledge of notation and vocabulary that I don't have. So yesterday I went and found an even more basic textbook called Basic Probability Theory. This helped me because it started with the stuff about probability I already know (drawing colored balls from an urn, flipping a coin, that sort of thing), so I was able to link my existing knowledge to the language, concepts, and notation used in probability theory. After working through the first few bits of that book, I was ready to come back to the appendix of Spectral Methods. I've made it to the discussion of L2 space today before needing to take a break.

This kind of work takes extremely sustained attention for me. I am very slow at understanding abstract maths presented without concrete or graphical examples. I have to go line by line, explaining each definition and equation in words to myself, and working through derivations explicitly.

I am still amazed that the stimulant meds enable my brain to focus long enough to do this. Having been off them for a while, I realize what a huge difference they actually make in my ability to focus and be productive. My Ph.D work progress had slowed to near zero during those two months. Now I am up and moving again.

#568 ::: Anon Amos ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 04:26 PM:

Oh yeah, my #566 was prompted by Ginger's #565. Her ex is kinda how our whole organization "functions."

#569 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 04:43 PM:

Cleaning (posted under real name intentionally):

My parents did teach me how to clean. I specifically remember being taught by both parents, at ages appropriate for each chore, how to make a bed (including how to do hospital corners), sweep, mop, clean bathroom surfaces, vacuum carpets, wash dishes, use the washer and dryer, fold laundry, rake and mow the lawn. They did not criticize me for not cleaning "right" or re-do things I'd cleaned. They also stuck to the attitude that as long as my room was not an actual health hazard, it was up to me how clean or not to keep it. (It was generally beyond disastrous. It was probably a fire hazard, in that there wasn't a clear path anywhere, but not a biohazard.)

However, they were not very good at setting regular expectations about who would do what chores when. There were a few attempts at chore charts, but mostly it was unpredictable who would get asked to do something or when. My mother also carried a tremendous load of guilt for not being a "good housewife" who kept the house neat and tidy at all times. Therefore, negotiating who was supposed to do a chore, and whether being asked to do a chore meant "drop everything and do it right this second" or "get around to it sometime today," was rather a constant source of tension.

#570 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 07:45 PM:

I wasn't taught to clean, or if I was, I don't remember it. I remember Mom telling me to sweep the floor once, so I did so, the way I had always seen it in cartoons-- frantic, dust-flying sweeping, more dramatic than useful. She yelled at me, I don't think I managed to convey that I thought that *was* sweeping.

I wasn't taught anything about doing my hair, either, and I sort of put the two into the same category of 'things parents often assume their kids will magically pick up'. I didn't. But I'm not sure I was equipped to-- it wasn't until I had my own apartment that I realized the floor got dirty sometimes, and it wasn't until I had a vacuum I so much loved that I realized vacuums accomplish anything.

#571 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 07:58 PM:

I am still amazed that the stimulant meds enable my brain to focus long enough to do this. Having been off them for a while, I realize what a huge difference they actually make in my ability to focus and be productive. My Ph.D work progress had slowed to near zero during those two months.

As I explained to my then-boyfriend during grad school, "off of Adderall I can be productive. I'm just master's-level productive, not Ph.D.-level productive."

(Please note that in my field, there is a very clear distinction between the two.)

#572 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2012, 10:36 PM:

LMM @ 571, off Adderall, my productivity is … well, over the past month, without it, I've managed to do marginally functional amounts of housecleaning and errand-running, watch Doctor Who series 6, and read three mystery novels. I'm not sure they award any degrees for that level of productivity.

This is also because I'm burned out on the whole Ph.D. project right now, so any minor ability I might have had to willpower myself into focusing on it is totally gone. Also, too, depression. So just lately, my non-Adderall productivity is hovering around zero.

I like to explain it this way: Adderall gives me the option to buckle down and work. It doesn't force me to do so; I can (and do) still procrastinate if I want to. But when I decide to sit down and get something done, Adderall allows my brain to actually cooperate with that plan.

Without Adderall, I tell myself I've got to buckle down -- and within ten minutes of starting work, my brain feels fried and numb from trying to concentrate so hard, and nothing makes any sense anyway.

It is frustrating.

#573 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 08:02 AM:

I've been struggling with fear and fatigue. Partly because I know I am in a "lull" of sorts, and am afraid immediately after I manage to do something comfortable or good for me. It's a matter of reminding myself that I should take care of myself even if I feel unworthy or undeserving, that I should take even small steps to make things bearable.

Cleaning and self esteem go hand in hand, and I have to remind myself constantly that cleaning as I go is worth it.

One of the things I wasn't taught as a kid? How to brush my teeth properly. Oh, regular brushing was expected, but the proper technique was never really demonstrated. I remember a dentist coming to school and distributing these disclosing tablets that would show where plaque clung to the teeth AFTER a brushing. While I learned the correct way to hold and sweep the bristles of the brush from gums to teeth edge, this was quickly challenged by my parents---both of whom brushed in a different way. It became a matter of "Who are you going to believe---me (the parent) or that guy (other authority figure)?"

Gaslighting didn't help, with my reality being challenged, so it took another decade or so for proper brushing technique to sink in---now I can say that I have gone for years (two years, for a time) without a single cavity.

#574 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 12:05 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara 532: Sorry again for taking so long; I suck.

When you say things like "nobody cares" or "no one else is interested in," do you already know that they are false, or would you like to be talked out of them?

You're welcome to try. :) The stuff I am fascinated by are things like parsers, weird languages, interactive fiction, Roguelikes, virtual machines, things like that. Mostly weird languages. And that's the problem at conventions: everyone there seems to be interested in how to make Rails websites that do, to me, incredibly boring, solved things. And I'm sure they feel the same way about stuff like Roguelike games: boring, old, and mined out of interesting stuff.

I knew a few people at the conference that I went to, so I talked to them some, but general shyness got in the way. So mostly I just hung out with the people I came with, and wondered why anyone was interested in asset pipelines or Javascript testing libraries. I did really enjoy being around a lot of other programmers, because I don't get that anywhere else, but I was also kind of bored and frustrated because we seemed to have no interests in common.

I really like the idea of contributing to Dreamwidth. I use it a lot, and it seems like a good community. I think I'd really enjoy teaching people too, but I have no idea how to do that; I don't know anyone who wants to learn anything I know.

#575 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 02:04 PM:

ma larkey @573: I ... am afraid immediately after I manage to do something comfortable or good for me.

You too? I've actually made a reasonable pass at being caught up with my chores the last week or so, and the feeling is ... weird. On the one hand, it's very gratifying and liberating. "Yay! Chores done! Play now!" But on the other hand, there's this weird background anxiety that wells up, like Something Is Wrong. And it's even more anxiety-provoking that I can't put my finger on what the problem is.

I can't tell if I use undone housework as a mask for a general background anxiety. "I'm afraid. Oh, the kitchen's a mess, that must be it."

Very weird.

And those dental disclosing tablets? Yeah, I remember those. "Brush your teeth. Now chew these. No, don't swallow; spit. Okay, now look in the mirror." Except that they didn't say what I was looking in the mirror for, and as previously mentioned, I was not allowed to Question, so I just figured that, as with so many things in life, I Didn't Get It.

Flossing was the thing that got me yelled at. My parents' dentist didn't advocate it particularly. (He was very old school.) I picked it up later, don't remember when or why. And would get scolded by the hygienist because I Was Doin It Rong. But nobody ever showed me. I finally worked it out on my own later (Loop the floss around your tooth under the gum-line. Then pull up using the floss to scrape up along the interstitial side of that tooth. Repeat until the side of the tooth isn't slippery anymore.)

Ross @574: weird languages ... I don't know anyone who wants to learn anything I know.

Helloooo.... have you actually read the subtitle at the top of this page? ;-)

So, like, which wierd languages? And what, specifically, do you like about them?

#576 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 02:50 PM:

Jacque, #575: It may be simpler than you think. Remember the story about the guy who'd worked in the sewer all his life, and how the smell "got good to him"? You're accustomed to living with a relatively high level of household chaos, and not having that around is probably going to feel very strange for a while -- even though you enjoy it at the same time. Give yourself a chance to get used to it and see if the feeling of "something's wrong here" lessens.

#577 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 03:13 PM:

So I'm kinda having a little bit of a melt down currently. Holidays were hectic, and that is normal and something that I know how to deal with, but we came home and Brian has started to really not like how things are going with the apartment. He doesn't know where he can help because I'm kinda neurotic about I need to go through all of my stuff, but I can never make the time to do it because other things come up. I just.... I feel like I can't do things right.

On top of that, we are currently negative in funds, have our car insurance due tomorrow, our phones got shut off because we're 2 months behind on them, our electric due is the 19th or it will be shut off, and I feel like I'm failing because the only reason we're in this situation is that I got a job as a telemarketer so my funds are not as stable as they were when I worked at the Circle K and I just.... don't know how to fix anything. I feel like it is all my fault that nothing can be done to fix our issues. And while I've been looking for a job, the only ones available are jobs that I'm not qualified for because I've spent my entire job history doing jobs that deal with people and not production.

In other news, anyone know of any jobs in NorthEastern Ohio? I'm one strike away from being fired because I spent a week being sick and am therefore not productive enough for my job on the phone.

#578 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 03:21 PM:

Jacque @ 575: Specifically weird programming languages. Other than some poorly-remembered Latin from high school I only know one human language.

But if that doesn't discourage you, then what I've mostly used recently are Lua and Inform 7. I'm also trying sort of halfheartedly to learn Haskell, and work through Seven Languages in Seven Weeks.

#579 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 03:55 PM:

Shirashima @577:

Oh, I know how you feel. My apartment's a mess, and I'm just barely able to stay on top of where it is now (which is less of a mess than it once was). We are also negative in funds, have a PAYDAY LOAN due, which we're scrambling to try to cover, and were just barely able to scrape by on the utilities with the help of some friends. And husband's check was short because he had to take Monday off to get his ears suctioned and tubes put in.

I can't focus for more than two minutes on anything right now, unless I really work at it, and it's a strain. My beloved husband's job went from "pretty good, despite a couple jerks" to "when did my supervisor take the Jekyll/Hyde formula?" and he's actively looking for another job, and we're hoping *he* won't get let go until he's got another one, because his prior bout of unemployment was part of what got our finances into a mess in the first place.

I remembered to call the neurologist yesterday about ADD evals for me and the husband, and they said "primary care referral first". So today I managed to remember to call my doc, who's fortunately pretty wonderful, but still, it says something that I'm considering the remembering of that the highlight of my week.

I'm ready to give up. I'm supposed to be smart, but when I look at the same thing five times because I can't remember what I decided to do thirty seconds ago, I get immensely frustrated and that makes the problem worse. I have a short story and a novel or two brewing, a Changeling: the Lost game I'm GMing, a game application I'm writing up, and I can't get more than three words down on any of them because my brain literally won't let me.

I know being an adult isn't supposed to be easy, but it also isn't supposed to be this hard, is it?

And right now I'm cat-waxing while I try to organize my thoughts to work on my yearly review. Which sucks, because even if I were the department superstar (I'm not, the novelty wore off long ago and it wouldn't get me anything anyway), it wouldn't be rewarded in any way, and after the layoffs of the past four years, we're all high-performers anyway.

And the only reason I haven't spent a lot of time curled up in bed and crying is because the newshiny of the Star Wars MMO hasn't worn off, and I'm spending a lot of time whacking virtual antagonists with a virtual lightsaber. But that's not accomplishing anything, really.

#580 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 04:11 PM:

Ross 574: The stuff I am fascinated by are things like...weird languages...

The weirdest language I've ever encountered is the Wierd language. I learned Forth long ago, a language made obsolete by the fact that computers got so fast, and compiler optimization so good, that imposing the strange process of stack-based thought on humans became a silly exercise at best. It sure was fun while it lasted though!

More interested in human-to-human interfaces myself, but there's a certain fascination to those odd little corners where software developers are more playing with boundaries than making practical tools...and later, when you see the practical tools come out of the strange playthings, it's doubly satisfying!

#581 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 04:19 PM:

Lee @576: Give yourself a chance to get used to it and see if the feeling of "something's wrong here" lessens.

That's what I'm hoping for. Between the cleaning, and trying to consistently go to bed / get up on time, I've suffering a whole lotta "Tain't nachrul!" My Universe feels decidedly stretched out of shape at the moment.

Shirashima @577: {{{HUGS}}} As previously mentioned, I went through something similar in '07. Not fun. And having financial stress aggravates all the other stresses, as well.

I feel like I can't do things right.

I've held myself in durance vile for far too much of my life over that one. I commend to you a catchphrase I got from a friend: "Anything worth doing is worth doing half-assed."

What kind of work do you feel best qualified for?

Ross @578: weird programming languages

What's weird about them and why do you like that?

#582 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 04:46 PM:

Been gnomulated; unsure as to why.

#583 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 04:47 PM:

Been gnomulated; unsure as to why.

#584 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 05:35 PM:

Ross at #574:

parsers, weird languages, interactive fiction, Roguelikes, virtual machines

You sound like my husband, and like several of his friends. I can assure you that there are at least thousands of people interested in those things (such as the people who write them!). Where I work, there's a mailing list dedicated to improving our parser, in case you want to lurk.

Where do you currently read and converse online about these topics? Well, the bloggers and commenters in there with you count as people who are interested in the same topics as you. :-) You're not alone.

And that's the problem at conventions: everyone there seems to be interested in how to make Rails websites that do, to me, incredibly boring, solved things. And I'm sure they feel the same way about stuff like Roguelike games: boring, old, and mined out of interesting stuff.

There are tricks to enjoying and getting what one wants out of conventions and conferences. Especially since three are about a zillion conventions happening these days and most of them wouldn't suit you (or me or any given person). It starts with the event itself; if you find that you're going to events where the people don't care about the same things as you, you can stop that and start going to events where they do., Google, Lanyrd, and flexibility with keywords help you find likeminded people. And then once you're there, of course there is social awkwardness to contend with, which is why I asked the questions I did in #532, to help devise tricks and exercises to cope with that better. When people are talking with you about something you're interested in, is conversation then easy? If not, what specifically bothers you?

Example convention: I infer that you're in Texas, and WorldCon is there next year (but I know Texas is big and that might not really be near you). I find it very highly likely that WorldCon will have (a) people who comment on Making Light and (b) people who love interactive fiction and Roguelikes.

I don't believe you suck. And if you do not know anyone who wants to learn something that you know, that is merely because of the size of your social circle, and not a reflection on your value or skill.

#585 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 05:41 PM:

By the way, Ross, if you'd be interested in teaching online, you might be interested in starting a P2PUniversity course or running a CodeLesson course (you mentioned an interest in wacky languages; is Go among them?).

#586 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 12:26 AM:

"I'm supposed to be smart, but when I look at the same thing five times because I can't remember what I decided to do thirty seconds ago, I get immensely frustrated and that makes the problem worse."

Please don't beat yourself up with the "I'm supposed to be smart" stick. You are smart. You are also under a high degree of stress, appear to be dealing with medical issues, and are suffering from the Finances. I've been there, and I'll just bet you're under-fed because of the Finances, too. All of these things make it difficult to function no matter how smart or talented you are.

As for your MMO, it's accomplishing one thing. It's keeping you from repeating the Doom cycle until you flip. Decompression time is useful time, so don't feel badly about it.

#587 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 05:04 AM:

Shirashima @ 577

Oh dear. This feels long, and hlepy, and YMMV, but... I really have been in a very similar place, for years. I would desperately try to keep up on housework, and it would continually slip, and I would beat myself up for not being a good enough adult, and try harder, and lose more time to combatting an increasingly chaotic environment, and in the meantime I was always overtired and felt terrible. It was complicated by the fact that I find mess energy-sapping, so being surrounded by clutter makes me tired and then I don't want to do any work.

Then I took some time off for maternity leave. After all that experience of full-time housework (and won't I just love going back to work on Tuesday!), even with the baby, rooms are finally surface-clean all through the house. (I have a long string of future projects in hidden spaces, which I plan to tackle one at a time, as I have energy beyond what I need for maintenance.)

I realized several things in the process:

1. I am so much more interesting and important than whether my house is perfectly tidy or not.

2. I now know that if I were willing to spend all my time cleaning, the house could be perfectly clean; I have other things I'd rather focus on, so now I can be comfortable with my chosen compromises, because I know they are the result of conscious choice rather than inability.

3. Playing catch-up can mean a lot of extra work. As in, at least one full-time job's worth of extra work, over several months. It's worth acknowledging the scope of the job, because I think it makes it easier to handle the frustration of slow improvement over time.

4. Housekeeping is just never going to be my first priority in a crisis. And having seen (and lived with) several other adults in crisis mode, it's extremely common that keeping a clean house becomes their lowest priority when they're in crisis-management mode. Limiting one's obligations to the truly essential is a reasonable way to try to keep oneself sane in difficult situations.

5. It's much easier to keep a clean house when I'm caught up and everyone is contributing equally. I can heartily recommend formally tracking what people are actually doing as a reality check; my experience in shared households is that nobody ever sees anyone else's contributions, so each person always feels like they are the only one chipping in.

6. It is not only permissible but necessary to take breaks and do self-care activities (including making sure I'm getting enough fun and social time), even if everything is not done yet. This is true, even if the people around me lack my amazing self-discipline, and are consequently unable to break themselves away to do important things like playing computer games and reading books.

7. Strangely, I think the hardest thing for me to realize was that I don't need to accept the burden of anyone else's methods. That it's okay for me to insist on finding and implementing the schedules, methods, and systems that work for me and that most reasonably respect my other priorities, while supporting my efforts to carry my own weight. That's not a compromise on anyone else's part, it's just a reasonable component of being adults working independently on a joint project.

#588 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 08:29 AM:

Ross@574: You could always try the International Roguelike Development Conference, although the fact that it's usually held in Europe might make it a bit awkward to get there . . .

#589 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 10:43 AM:

On housecleaning generally:

It is a lot easier to clean up someone else's house than your own, probably because there is NO emotional charge to other people's mess. My sister and her friends take turns gathering at each other's house, barn-raising style, to do housecleaning and small repairs (with pot luck dinners). I throw this out because it might be a useful (and low-cost) strategy on a small scale for someone else. Ignore if hlepy.

#590 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 01:02 PM:

I adore books with Helpful Household Cleaning Tips, and have a small collection of them. The book with the best approach (IMO) is Outwitting Housework. Unlike many other household tipsters, this author (Nancy Rosenberg) assumes immediately that you do not adore spending time cleaning, and that in fact you have many better things to do. But she covers a lot of the basics in a clear, concise way that I enjoyed.

One example of a time-saving trick that I've used a zillion times since reading her book: If something drips on the floor and you need to wipe it up, take a few extra moments and wipe up a large space around the actual drip. This combines cleaning part of the floor with cleaning up the immediate mess, an action you'd need to take anyway.

In terms of learning these things from my family, I was shown a number of techniques to use, but it was always AFTER I had done a disappointing job at something, not before. So the learning process was all under duress, or at least a little stress. I could number the things my folks expected me to magically just know into the twenties, easily, including not putting metal in a microwave. Plus my aversion to conflict made it really tough for me to ask question or ask for help.

#591 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 09:48 AM:

Starting from around #553, on the topic of housework.


It was a daily refrain, from both parents, that us kids were "lazy" and "selfish"; "messy", "disorganized" and "inconsiderate" were frequent visitors as well. But, apart from the chillingly aggressive tactic of "enforcing" cleaning standards by attacking the child's possessions as Nancy mentions in #553 (which really deserves its own, well-thought out comment), there's a whole... system, I guess, of attitudes and habits gathered up in the housework knot.

Every time I did something "wrong" in the housework method, often it was not only my fault, but I was actually accused of thinking of ways to make housework harder for my mother. Like the number of dishtowels we used to wipe the dishes dry. (Leaving them to air-dry was an "invitation to accidently breaking something" - no, not the passive-aggressive enforcement mentioned above, but genuine accidents in a busy and not-well organized kitchen.) We were allowed only one or two, and told how we were failing every time we ended up with not all the dishes dried but two sopping rags. Because we didn't leave the dishes to dry *just* *so*, before taking them from the rack to wipe.

(I guess this is turning less into the general comment I thought I was trying for, and more into that response to Nancy...)

I started to try and unwire that button in my late 20's. It took a lot of work, and for a long time, I didn't want to do dishes with anyone in the house (hello to alsafi in #563), because I would be reduced to tears every time. But eventually I worked through it - luckily, one of the household tasks I did learn (in home economics class at school, mind, and not from the parents) was the dishes-doing method that made sure your cleanest water was for the glassware and "silverware", and that the dirtiest things like pots and pans came last.

(Side trip to my mother's decision, when we were not initiating dish-cleaning tasks to her satisfaction, to dump every unclean dish into a garbage bag, in the basement. With the threat to eventually throw them out. You can guess how much that motivated us... not.)

What did I learn, unwiring that button? That as an adult, doing the accumulated dishes for 2 adults left me tired - and that was with a grown-up's body! What idiocy was it, then, to have kept insisting on two kids, from age 8 to 12-13ish, to wash up for 4 people (and sometimes more), in one go, no breaks and with only minimal infrastructure.

That was a few hours spent sobbing after the task was completed. But that was a very good catharsis.

Another was the day I made the breakthrough with the dishtowels - I'll use as many as I damn well please! Up until then, I'd followed my mother's example without much reflection, and had been storing dishtowels with the other household textiles in a closet on a different floor. No more of that! Time to get every dishtowel into a cupboard in the kitchen. One too wet? Time for another. End of story. One, or two, or even ten - a washing machine made quick work of that.

So it went. But the thing that made the scales fall from my eyes? Well, visits to each parent - divorced, living separately. I offered to clean some at my mother's, and suddenly saw how much dust was everywhere. Dust kittens between the window pane and the crocheted lace curtains. Later, at my father's, with his second wife, and... he refers in passing to "getting some help" with keeping the house clean, by hiring a woman from Mexico to come twice a week.

It didn't hit me all at once, but... I had a while to digest this and then, I was furious, for a long time. I'd internalized the whole "you're a bad person if you don't even want to do chores", and here they were, each of my parents... words just didn't describe what they seemed to me, then.

I'm getting more moderate in my middle age, thank goodness. Refraining from contact helps. A lovely husband who sometimes does too much housework (I have managed to get him to lower his standards. A little.) More reflection, and even celebrating where I have had help. (School, frequently. Girl Scouts, sometimes - I'd learned about hospital corners from an old copy of a GS handbook!) Household tips manuals are sometimes good, but still kick me in the old anxieties. So I have to dose them out at intervals.

Crazy(and rather too chatty - ah, yes, that might possibly be an old tape, please excuse its intrusion!)Soph

PS oh, and one... victory? I had some repeated fights with my mother in my mid-teens, because at a certain point, I found the cleaning of ashtrays absolutely filthy and disgusting. And I resented it more and more because I was not a smoker (and had no desire to start). I'm not sure why she finally stopped trying to pressure me into doing the ashtrays as well the rest of the dishes (at that point it was either she alone, or her and whatever housemate she'd found for extra funds, who smoked), but I remember having to spend some time quaking in my shoes, saying over and over things like, "No. I do not smoke, they are not my mess; it's not fair that I clean them, and no, I'm not negotiating this point. I'm not taking extra chores to "make up" for it either; I do not do ashtrays."

#592 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2012, 01:39 PM:

crazysoph, #591: I can't help but notice that once your parents no longer had live-in servants (you and your sib) to do housework, one of them more or less stopped doing it, and the other one hired servants. This says a lot about their reasons for having children in the first place.

#593 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 04:21 PM:

Jennifer Baughman #579 Yeah I keep meaning to talk to a doctor about my ADD issue things, but with insurance the way it is, and everything else going on, I keep forgetting to do that too. Life is insane sometimes. And I kinda feel right now like I have a hoarders living room. I can't get to the other side of the room :( Really need to get on that.

Jacque #581 Thanks for the hugs, because sometimes it is helpful. I am qualified to work with people in the general public, like a cashier or other sales thing, although I could possibly do office work. Most of the jobs that I've found have been production type jobs that I've never done. Asthma also makes most of those jobs difficult.

KayTei #587 Part of me wishes that I could just take off time from work, which I never did when we moved, which is probably what I should have done in order to unpack stuff. Imagine a room that is 14' x 14'10" where the Far side of the room has BOXES FLOOR TO CEILING, and the middle of the room is full of clothing and papers and other random stuff (mostly wedding presents and wedding decorations(really need to get stuff packed up)). That is in fact a great list of things to think about.

In general, I feel slightly better now. I am just trying to get through it, and not let myself be as bothered by it. I'm trying pretty hard to not hate on myself about it because there are a LOT of things going on, and I'm managing pretty well I think, apart from the whole can't-move-through-the-living-room thing. Maybe I am just making it up as I go, but still. Eh. BREATHING IS IMPORTANT. Relaxing, also important.

#594 ::: Shirashima ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 04:28 PM:

crazysoph #591 Actually one of the reasons I still have issues remembering to eat is because in my mother's house, we were not allowed in the kitchen unless we were doing dishes, and so we ate whenever my mother remembered to make food (which normally meant that around 10:30 at night we'd go to McDonald's for food or something). She would consistently say (normally after we complained about having to do the dishes since they had stacked up from having 6 people in the house using dishes for an entire week without them being cleaned) "Why do you think I had kids? Means I don't have to do chores." Now the only kids left in her house are 13 and 7, and the 13 year old is doing dishes (sometimes) while the 7 year old is still too young, so her house is the messiest it has been since I remember. Sometimes, mothers are insane.

#595 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 05:18 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @ 584:

Unfortunately there isn't really any place online that I do read about that stuff. Lambda the Ultimate, when I can follow the discussions, which isn't easy since everyone there is much smarter than me. Reddit about five years ago (I still like it now, but not for the same reasons; most of the cool programming-talk has gone elsewhere). Mostly I read books. And not new books, which is frustrating and how I know that I'm one of the last few people who cares about things I care about: my favorite books on programming were all written between 1970 and 1985.

I just like knowing about the foundations of things. I like learning old ways of doing things and building things from scratch. Everyone else seems to like whatever the newest, shiniest thing is.

I really like the idea of running a class, although not so much the idea of applying to do so and getting rejected for it. I would like to teach people how to program, I think. It's one of those "understand the foundations" sort of things, I get to think about all this stuff that I understand really well, and explain it to other people.

Thank you for not believing I suck. :)

Jacque @ 581: I'm not really sure... They're weird because I like stuff no one uses any more or that was never very popular to begin with. I think I like it just because I like knowing about how things are made.

E. Liddell @ 588: Yeah, Europe is a long way away. :) I've thought about joining one of the seven-day-Roguelike competitions or something, but I would probably convince myself that whatever I was making sucked before I finished it. :)

#596 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2012, 08:23 PM:

Shirashima @ 593

I completely empathize with the unpacking situation. I was moving house about every 1-3 years for a while, and it really does take more time to do a good job of unpacking than any boss I've ever had is generally willing to give. (The reluctance of some former managers to approve any leave is a good part of the reason I had so much accumulated time to spend when I finally had a more-or-less protected and socially-endorsed leave opportunity to spend it on.)

#597 ::: Variant of last thread ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 02:51 AM:

This week at the workplace we're having our annual reviews. I gather that for most people it isn't a fun process. For me, having to act as if today/this week is like any other week for working with my boss is nerve-wracking.

At some point my boss will transform into "person reviewing and critiquing the past year of my work." I fear criticism (and my high-alert reaction to it) having had too much of it as a kid.

While a critique isn't criticism, deep inside thinking of the former brings up emotions of the latter. This is giving me a jolt of fear just seeing my boss. Mixed with some Impostor Syndrome, this makes the wait before the review very, very distracting (and of course just before the review is a time to be on one's best behavior, not distracted).

#598 ::: she pushes down on my head so I won't grow ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2012, 09:09 PM:

...I'm not quite sure why I'm posting here right now. To sort out my head, I guess, as much as anything.

I've just taken out my first student loan (a thing looked upon with Shock by my family, for the very good reason that my parents have managed to carry and add to my dad's law-school loans for a solid twenty years, and are probably past the point where all possible future earnings cannot pay off their debt). I've also transferred to Big State College to study what I want to study, as opposed to Community College where I was working toward a two-year degree I didn't specially care about, but which could (in theory) have been completed without debt.

I'm trying to decide what to do with said loan money. I want a car, first, because I am stuck and trapped and in my frelling mid-twenties with no transportation, and the other day I got a thorough tongue-lashing for waiting for my ride where I said I'd be instead of where my mum had dropped me off, with my mum's cell phone (mine had died, she gave me hers) which she did not attempt to call. o_O

But I also want an apartment of my own with a lock. I could probably afford one for most of a year, or at least till next semester, if I didn't have a car - but I know I can't handle the level of scrambling-about that carless living requires around here (public transit in this town is more useless than lutefisk, and bicycles are only good when it's not icy). I've done that before; granted, my new thyroid and Vitamin D supplements help, but I still have health issues (directly caused by self-sacrificing "my family needs me more than I need to take care of myself" thinking, thank you very) that make it impossible for me to live alone without a car and handle college hours, especially if I'm trying to work as well.

And I also really, really want help for my ADD. It's never been officially diagnosed, let alone treated, but I'm 99% sure that's what it is, and... well, when I talk to people about my field and about what career path I'm most likely for, they tell me "you're probably looking at a Master's and then a Ph.D.", which I get the impression I can't handle if I'm only keeping my mostly-A average in college through being absurdly smart rather than actually studying. But I can't - literally can't, transit issues again - get to our GP for a consult / referral on either that or any of my therapy-wanting issues, even if I made the appointment myself and paid for it and all. (I am still on family's insurance till November or till I move out, whichever comes first.) I've asked and been put off multiple times. the order of things I think I should try is "car, move out, start working on ADD / messed-up-emotions-stuff that screws up attempts at having job, job", but I made the mistake of asking about help car-hunting - I've done all the research, theoretically I could have done most of the shopping / buying behind everyone's backs with the help of a friend IRL (I want to buy a cheap-ish used car flat-out rather than financing), but I doubt I could hide the whole thing. And friend and Mom are on the outs for many reasons related to Mom's controllingness (some to do with me; friend's been helping me out for a while), and I wanted to avoid a recurrence of the "you love her better than me" Whiny-Ex Blues. o_O Stupid. :P Now I've spent all my energy / attention for tonight researching "can you even legally buy a car with student loans?" (answer: yes, if you already paid tuition/fees/books and if you'll drive it to school) and ignoring "shouldn't you get a job first?" and related topics (including a nice dose of gaslighting), instead of getting ready for my three classes tomorrow - one quiz, one late-registration reputed to be difficult anyway which will need all the catching-up I can do, and one with a cranky teacher who expects us to know the material already.

#599 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 01:21 AM:

I'm kind of proud of this: I figured out a context in which I can write about some of the stuff I've been thinking about that I figured nobody else in the world cares about: here. Then I actually posted this so that other people could read it and tell me how wrong I am!

#600 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2012, 09:13 PM:

@598 she pushes down, I hope you're feeling better today. If it helps, I think you've got a great plan. I know it's always tempting and comfortable to try to get help from the parentals, but most times it's wishful thinking that keeps us coming back. Remembering this might keep you from repeating in the future? You're strong and optimistic, so you keep trying. But sometimes it's stronger to let go.

Personally, I think a lot more things will be possible for you if you moved out. It's tough to take that leap, but a world opens up.

#601 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 06:13 AM:

she pushes down @598. Being a student at Big State College is likely to give you access to college counseling resources that might be helpful in working this through

#602 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 10:34 AM:

She Pushes Down -- Check and see if the campus you're attending has Zip Car.

This would be a lot cheaper than buying -- but would provide you with wheels as needed.

That said, new car dealers are seeking people willing to lease -- I guess the depression is hitting them hard.

#603 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 11:11 AM:

Ross @ #599:

I have now read your post, and I don't have anything profound to say in response, but I thought you would appreciate knowing that I consider the time taken to read it well-spent.

#604 ::: Paul A. has been gnomed (for the first time!) ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 11:12 AM:

So that's what the gnomes look like.

Somehow, I expected them to be taller.

#605 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 12:37 PM:

Variant @597: Quiz: How Dysfunctional Is Your Workplace?

Ross @599: So what is the solution? ;-)

#606 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 04:24 PM:

Paul A. @ 603: Thank you! I do appreciate it.

Jacque @ 605: The solution to what, the Entscheidungsproblem? There's not one. Maybe a Diophantine problem has a solution, maybe it doesn't, maybe we'll never know. :)

The blacklist / whitelist problem? I have no idea, but I've always thought that people are a lot smarter than they are given credit for and generally act like they're treated, so if you treat people like adults and explain that if they copy everything cool for free then it'll result is less cool stuff, they'll get it and pay for things.

On the other hand, you have, well, everyone in this thread. One of the recurring themes of abuse is abusers treating capable adults like incompetent children, but the people in this thread that were treated that way don't seem to be acting that way: we're all a lot more able to make decisions for ourselves than we've been given credit for.

#607 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 05:12 PM:

Ross @ 595 (etc.): Out of curiosity, have you written any IF? I play some (kinda got out of the habit during grad school), and I'd be interested to see anything you've written. (Can't guarantee any feedback, as I'm in writing mode at the moment, but I'd be curious to look if I get some free time.

#608 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 05:22 PM:

LMM @ 607: It's funny you should mention that. Last year, around the time the last thread started, I was learning to write IF. I never actually finished anything, but my therapist and I had this idea that it would be good therapy: a way to write about awful memories while not reliving them (because my brain would be in writing-code-mode, rather than having-feelings-mode).

I really enjoyed the experience and I think there's something to the idea of using it that way, but it would have been better if I had known Inform better. I have the Aaron Reed book, I just need time and motivation to finish working through it.

#609 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 05:48 PM:

Ross @ 608: I really enjoyed the experience and I think there's something to the idea of using it that way, but it would have been better if I had known Inform better. I have the Aaron Reed book, I just need time and motivation to finish working through it.

[hlepy] I may not recommend submitting the IF-as-therapy work, but if you started now, you'd have plenty of time to submit something for the IF Comp. It's not much motivation, I'll admit, but if you're looking to try it anyway, it might get you to start. (I'll even volunteer to beta-test. :) ) [/hlepy]

(Feel free to ignore if this doesn't help, but just putting it out there.)

#610 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 06:54 PM:

@607&608: "IF," Gracie?

#611 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 07:10 PM:

I'm guessing Interactive Fiction.

And I can see where, for the right kind of person, it would work to "get the stuff out there", without triggering the "reliving" part of it - as Ross says, "writing-code mode" rather than "having-feelings mode" or "telling-stories mode".

Having said that, with my life history, I am *not* willing to beta-test, because I bet very strongly that *playing* that particular IF would be triggering...

Still reading, still witnessing. It's difficult to handle all the locks that the world and the people in it have put in the way of so many people; but it's important to say "yes, you exist, and so do these issues" - so I do.

#612 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 08:30 PM:

Ross @599: That was an interesting piece, thank you for writing it. I knew the outlines already, but I'd never really thought about the connection between whitelists, blacklists, and the Entscheidungsproblem that way before.

#613 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 10:15 PM:

Jeremy Leader @ 612: Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.

LMM, Mycroft W: Yeah, I'd be way too afraid to show it to anyone, much less enter it in a competition, much less one with really cool people in it.

I wrote the beginnings of a couple of them. Trying to reproduce places and events I remember as much as I could, but with different endings / escape routes / etc.

One idea I had was a game where everything has two descriptions. In one set of descriptions, you're an adventurer exploring a cave. Then something happens and you switch to being a little kid, and start seeing the "real world" descriptions of everything. Everything switches back for the end, and the player is left thinking "so I slayed the dragon and escaped, which means that I..."

I know the general idea has been done a bunch of times before, and it needed a lot more Inform-fu than I had anyway.

#614 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2012, 10:17 PM:

Also: I'm really strongly considering joining the hacker space in my city. I'm going down there this weekend to look it over. I'm not sure there are any other programmers there, but there will be people who are closer to my interests than I have now... Maybe I can meet some friends.

#615 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 12:27 AM:

@she pushes down: Mostly want you to know that I'm listening. I don't have any solutions for you aside from deep breaths. It helps.

#616 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 02:49 PM:

I do want to thank people who are still here and still listening, and I'm still here and still listening, even when I'm feeling too overwhelmed to talk, or to offer advice.

Ross, that was a very worthwhile article, and I'd love to see more from you!

This week is better than last week; appointments have been made for the ADD thing (next Thursday) and other things like finances are looking up.

she pushes down #598: is it possible that you might be able to get into a dorm situation at Big State College? Some BSCs also have 'adult student housing' that you might be able to get into -- they're usually full-fledged apartments.

#617 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 03:12 PM:

I'm still here too. Divorce case still in the mediation phase. Application for refinancing the family home in my name only in process at the bank. Son's mother planning to move out at the end of March, assuming we reach a settlement, which is far from certain to happen. Lots of disputes remain unresolved.

I am negotiating with someone who wants a raft of unreasonable concessions, makes no counter-offers whatsoever, then gets mad at me for being inflexible. I think now I might finally understand the attraction some men have for BDSM play, even if I don't share it... it's easier to enjoy the comedy of the situation when the only thing at stake is whether or not you're going to have a smileyface in the next few minutes. It's much less enjoyable when your life savings, your future income, and the fate of your child is on the line.

#618 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2012, 02:36 AM:

Variant of last thread @597

I got the annual reviews a couple of months ago. Posted about them here before they happened, in the previous thread.

As Jacque @605 asked, how dysfunctional is your workplace? Do you have a generally decent relationship with your boss the rest of the year? Even in a job where you have an excellent relationship with the boss, review time is still stressful. (And I just looked for your handle upthread; is it the thick-skinned boss who hurt you in a meeting who's reviewing you? If so, I'm sorry. I had a boss once who seemed to think I didn't know anything, and review time was even less fun than usual.)

The time I was "let go" from a job wasn't anywhere near an annual review. I don't know how many companies do layoffs and annual reviews close to one another.

My current employer's review process had me reviewing myself as well as the boss reviewing me. On the one hand it's hard to review myself, but on the other hand, the boss got the exact same set of questions to use as a guideline in the review, so I know what topics are under consideration. Last year my self-review prompted my boss to ask why I gave myself such negative comments. I suppose it's not a great habit, but mocking myself is part of my defenses: if I say it first, it doesn't hurt quite so much if other people give me negative comments.

I'm not sure if I can offer anything other than best wishes without straying into annoying platitude territory.

#619 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2012, 04:24 AM:

Invisible One @ 618

My workplace does the same thing, where I and my boss both provide written comments for my annual review. In my case, I have the option to provide my comments after my boss has given theirs, and I take advantage of this. My bosses have all -- with one notable exception -- given me far more glowing reviews than I would give myself, so it works out in my favor. Also, seeing what they've written can help me figure out what else I want to say.

#620 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2012, 12:30 PM:

she pushes down @515: If you are going to abuse children but allow them some freedom, it is very important that they "know" Child Protective Services are EVIL

You know, in that circumstance, I would be very tempted to arrange to write an "extra credit" report "for school" about CPS. You know, research the law, interview caseworkers, just so you had a "thorough understanding" of the process as an "assignment" "for school." If sib wanted to come along, well, sib could get "extra credit" for the "report" too. Just, you know, hypothetically.

Mycroft W @611: And I can see where, for the right kind of person, it would work to "get the stuff out there", without triggering the "reliving" part of it - as Ross says, "writing-code mode" rather than "having-feelings mode" or "telling-stories mode".

Ah! Analagous to the NLP three-step dissociation, used in trauma work and phobia cures. (Basically, visualize watching a black and white movie of the incident in question. Then, step back and watch yourself in the seat of the movie theater, watching the movie of the incident.) This sucks most of the emotion and kinesthetics out of the experience. Further reduction can be achieved by making the screen really small, and slowing down or stopping the movie.

Yeah, I would find it tricky to do fictionalization of triggery content, as fiction kinda requires emotional immersion.

The invisible one @618: In comment to: Variant thick-skinnedheaded boss

FTFY. :-)

#621 ::: she pushes down on my head so I won't grow ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2012, 03:27 PM:

Thanks, everyone who replied to me. :-)

knitcrazybooknut @600: "it's always tempting and comfortable to try to get help from the parentals, but most times it's wishful thinking that keeps us coming back." *nods* Most of the time when I come back here to re-read / catch up, it's because I need that reminder. Thanks. :-)

OtterB @601: Yes, they do have counseling. I've been there once, a couple years ago. I might go again, but I have to cut the time out of my on-campus homework time (my mom strongly disapproves of any psych-thingy that has not been vetted by her and adjudged perfect - not that she actually vets 'em - and my schedule is controlled by the total of "who gets out of class last"), so I haven't done it yet; I'm barely keeping up with my deadlines as is. :P But it's a possible option.

Lori Coulson @602: Sadly, no ZipCar. It sounds a fascinating thing, but the only campus that has it is at the other end of the state.

Jennifer Baughman @616: The dorms have kind of confusing listings about their prices. I keep meaning to go and ask them about it, but I haven't yet. Also, I... would prefer a place where nobody but me could ever come in unless I said (or unless they were landlord-related and notified me), because I'm not allowed to have a lock on my door here for all the usual suspicious-controlling-parent reasons. :P I'm looking at efficiency apartments near campus - they're not official "adult student housing", but they do serve the same purpose of supplementing the dorms.

(Also, after some poking of the financial aid people, research etc, I have figured out that I might be able to move out in February or March and still afford a fairly cheap used car. My friend I mentioned in @598 is going to help me go shopping for one.)

Jacque @620: Not really applicable to my circumstances, thanks anyway. (I only have one underage sib left, and he's... a bit Asperger's or something; they won't have him checked out, because my mom has a horror of "labeling" re: mental disorders, but my point is that he pretty much goes along with whatever anyone says and can't quite take care of himself. He's not a major abuse target, and he is a bit under the thumb of sister-who-drinks-the-koolaid, so I don't think it'd average out to the good to mess with things re: him. Sib who's dad's major abuse target is only a couple years younger than me, and has just started college (late, for dysfunctional-family reasons), but because of various things, has even less options than I do.)

#622 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2012, 08:00 PM:

Hey Ross, thanks for writing and sharing that piece! How was the hackerspace?

You mentioned that you'd like for me to try to dissuade you from your "Everyone else seems to..." generalizations, so here's another go. I know that there are other people with all of your interests. My partner regularly reads (or writes) blog posts about interactive fiction and old video games, and the "programming" subreddit seems like it has a lot of posts about Haskell and other obscure programming languages, and any given subpopulation on Freenode, OFTC, or some other Internet Relay Chat server is always talking about any given thing. There are hundreds of people making interactive fiction and, as you know, some of them submit to the yearly competition and blog and tweet and so on. Are you on the mailing lists of the languages you like? Do you read IndieGames and did you read GameSetWatch? You are not alone! Don't deny my spouse's existence. :-)

(The one and only piece of interactive fiction I've ever written: "Brrrasaurus!" It's tiny and inelegant and I wrote it to learn the very basics of Inform.)

More generally: from what you've been saying in this conversation, it sounds like everyone either falls into the "doesn't care about things I like, so it's boring to read or talk with them" category or "knows way more than I do about things I like, so I feel stupid talking with or reading them" category. Is that a fair assessment? If there are exceptions, what is it about your perception of them that puts them in that sweet spot, and how could you change your perceptions to put more people in that sweet spot?

#623 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 12:14 PM:

I know this isn't really what this thread is about but I don't do the online forum thing very much and I don't have anyone else to talk to about it, so I'm going to write it here because I don't have anywhere else to go with it.

I haven't had a very good few days. I said before that I think I might have cyclothymia or something similar because every few months or so I go through a down mood. People who know me know it happens, but I've never been able to tell them exactly how intense it can be because on the surface I appear pretty together.

Ever since I was a teenager, I've had intense bouts of suicidal ideation. I've never got further than planning, and I wouldn't ever go that far, but I have days like today where I just go through all the different methods in my head. Until about ten years ago, I was a self-harmer, and that actually helped. I don't think I actually am suicidal. I think the ideation is just a handy way of hurting myself. I don't self-harm anymore, but that's because I don't want my partner knowing, not because I don't want to.

I think this down mood has been brewing for a while. My trip to the doctors about ADD wasn't a complete success for me. It was, in that I'm getting referred to a specialist. But my doctor, who was really nice about it, a really pleasant guy, just doesn't think I have ADD, though he was happy to refer me on. I got the impression he was skeptical about ADD as a whole.

I know he'd be mortified if he thought I'd taken it as badly as I have, but it wasn't pleasant at all. It took everything I had to book an appointment, and I tried to explain I'm not the kind of person who goes to the doctor ever, that this wasn't some stupid idea I got in my head. But it was horrible. I feel like I went in, trying to explain that I've felt like I'm lazy and hopeless all my life, but now there's a possibility it's not my fault- and he's implied, without meaning to, that actually I was right first time and I am actually lazy and hopeless.

I was upset at first, and then I was practical about it- the important thing is I'll get to see a specialist soon. And I still think that's a good thing. But it knocked me a bit, and I think it's triggered this unhappiness.

I should stress that there's no chance I'm going to go through with any of these suicidal plans. It's just a periodical thing I've gone through for years. If I wasn't feeling down I could laugh it off as my brain being mean to me. But it's not something that I can talk about to friends or family or my partner, and I needed to write it down somewhere, so I thought I'd put it here.

#624 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 12:50 PM:

Of The World @623: I'm listening. Hope that helps a little.

Great that you've got the referral to the specialist. Hang onto that. Keep your notes ready for talking to someone who hopefully is not so skeptical.

#625 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 01:42 PM:

of the world . . .

there are days when I look at the subway tracks and think how easy it would be to throw myself down there.

or take the knife I'm using on the chicken and cut my wrist instead.

I don't even have to be depressed to do it.

it doesn't happen anywhere near as often as it used to.

and I've never harmed myself or gone any further than the thinking.

but that worm lives in my brain, still.

I'm glad it's mostly quiet now.

so, yeah, I hear you.

About the ADD: that's what specialists are for. Because GPs don't know everything and they aren't always right.

#626 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 01:45 PM:

Of The World @623: Glad you felt you could come here to speak your reality. Keep in mind that, even if you are not evaluated as having ADD, there may still be something you're having issues with. Have you been evaluated for depression?

Have you tracked the cycling of your moods? I've discovered the hard way that I need to be really diligent about, for example, my vitamin D intake during the winter. I don't have SAD, as far as I can tell, but I do have down periods on a roughly monthly cycle. (Two weeks good, two weeks depressed or otherwise bad mood.)

I have major issues with self-castigation about "laziness." I've been trying to be more gentle with myself lately; if the pigs are fed and clean, most of the dishes are done, and I have clean clothes to wear to work, I label myself "done," and, "good enough, dammit." This seems to be helping a bit.

As to the suicidal ideation, you might be interested in the discussion of that topic in the previous DFD thread. See the mid-late #200s. Some folks had some interesting things to say about the function those thoughts serve for them.

#627 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 02:02 PM:

Of The World @623:

It often seems weird to me that a person has to have the patience of a saint, the focus of an obsessive and the firm sanity of Mary Poppins in order to get a diagnosis for any kind of neurological atypicality.

One good thing about a referral to a specialist is that it gets you away from that skeptical doctor. Hopefully you'll get more help from someone who knows more about the subject matter.

Meanwhile, courage, keep talking, and we're listening.

#628 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 02:43 PM:

Of the world @623: I'm glad the doctor, despite his own prejudices, listened to what you need right now. That's actually a good sign for future dealings with him! He knows this is an area where he can have a guess, but doesn't really know. And having a doctor who can admit ignorance, no matter how obliquely, is a Good Thing.

#629 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 04:05 PM:

Of the World @ 623: Unfortunately, there are some doctors who are really skeptical of ADD as a thing. And it is incredibly demoralizing and frustrating to expend so much energy on getting yourself to make an appointment and get to that appointment … only to not be taken seriously. I'm so sorry that happened to you.

However, I am glad you did get a referral to a specialist. I hope she or he is a bit more knowledgeable. There are standardized, clinically validated questionnaire-tests that exist for adult ADD, asking about the frequency of certain behaviors or occurrences in your life. I've taken two so far. I hope your specialist is willing to use those kinds of screening tools.

I feel you so much on the dark moods. I used to have pretty much similar ideation to what you describe. It was so common and familiar that I didn't think of it as a problem -- just part of the ongoing background chatter of my mind, maybe even soothing in a perverse way. But when I first talked to a psychiatrist, she got very concerned when I told her. Not because she thought I was going to imminently act on those thoughts -- she believed me when I said I wasn't. She was concerned because the fact that my brain was popping up those thoughts so much was a big red flag that I had severe depression. Since getting treatment, I really don't have those thoughts anymore -- if I do, it's a sign for me that things are falling apart in a bad way and I need to get help now.

ADD can occur at the same time as depression (and anxiety), and they can feed into each other. I hope your specialist will listen to everything that's been going on with you and put together some ways to help.

#630 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 04:53 PM:

dcb, abi, and Melissa Singer: it helps a lot just to know people are listening. Thanks so much to everyone for being here. It's odd, I started to feel better straight after posting. It felt good just to get it out of my head. I'm really grateful for this entire thread. If not for all of you here, I wouldn't have started on the way to getting some help, something I've avoided in the past. Obviously, there are other things apart from the possible attention deficit thing going on with me, and I hope that the next stop on the road will be a bit more useful.

Tom Whitmore: I have to say, the doctor was very good. He did listen, and he didn't have a problem at all with referring me forward, and he admitted it wasn't something he was familiar with. He had no way of knowing how tough it was for me to go to the appointment. I suppose the problem was that he wasn't really the doctor I needed at that point.

Jacque: I'm 100% certain there is something going on in my head I'm having trouble with, I suppose the problem is that up until recently I didn't have a clue what to do about it. I think the current process will help. I'm certainly going to take another look at the previous thread, when I feel up to it.

Caroline: "soothing in a perverse way." Yes, this is exactly how I would describe it. Horrible and unpleasant to be in the middle of it, but also like a pressure valve just helping to ease things off.

#631 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 05:49 PM:

Of the World: I'm still here and reading, too. I'm glad you got that referral, and so very irritated on your behalf at the GP. I'm glad he was good otherwise, but his judgmental skepticism about an illness outside of his specialty is something he should have kept to himself. (In my experience, non-specialist doctors are always pigheaded about problems it takes specialists to diagnose...!)

I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for you re: self-harm and ideations. Just... yeah, been there, and it's horrible, and it's horrible that they help, but... but I can also attest that with proper treatment, they go away and only come back if something is going amiss (and it's so much easier to figure out what and deal with it now that I've got a steady baseline).

Getting treatment is a hard and scary road to walk, but it's worth it. I'm so glad we've helped you start that journey, and know that I'm keeping you in my thoughts. (Sorry if this is a little stilted, I've got a cold and should have been to bed an hour ago, but I wanted to cheer you on before I turned in for the night!)

#632 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 10:32 AM:

This is kind of abstract, but one of the things I've been looking in my life at is why shame (even rather hypothetical shame) can be so paralyzing. Thoughts?

I seem to have a pattern of reacting as though I believe that if I've fucked up, the best thing for me is to give up. Any advice of the "well, you just have to push through your fears" variety is probably going to be considered hlepy. Personal accounts of getting past this problem or anything that helps me understand what's going on might be useful.


I read that as saying "it's ok to believe that people who love you won't damage you", and then the text mysteriously changed when I searched for it. Nice to get the occasional clue from my subconscious about what's going on. It may even have something to do with what I said above--self-love feels like a hazard.

#633 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 10:35 AM:

Of The World: I've had those pop-ups too (it used to be the box cutter at a retail job, and I timed my daily stress level by how often it popped up; every half hour was a good day, at the height of the Christmas season it went to about every 90 seconds. Then later it was a lane swerve) and admitting to that was one of the things that got me fast-tracked for treatment. I also did get diagnosed with ADD (a year after they sorted out the bipolar) and I figured I'd mention something which I hadn't expected - after I got THAT diagnosis, rather than the great relief of "it's NOT just a character flaw" of the bipolar diagnosis, I had a month-long bout of mourning for "what if I'd been diagnosed earlier? What might I have managed NOT to fail at, if I'd had the right treatment and support?"

So... if you do get an ADD diagnosis, be prepared for mourning as well as relief as a possible reaction. Not saying it WILL happen to you, just that it happened to me, so that if it does, you're not alone.

#634 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 10:44 AM:

Nancy Lebowitz @632: I think shame is paralyzing because it's self-inflicted, and self-referential stuff is always hard to work around (look at logical fallacies and fractal geometries, all of which are based on self-reference). Shame involves hindsight, "I should have known better," and a necessary doubting of one's own ability to guess right. So it gets strongly in the way of guessing again.

I don't have an answer for how to get around this particular "why". All I can try to do is accept that I'm going to fuck up sometimes, and work to fix it when I do, and try not to let the fuckups take on too much power. I'm not as good at this as I'd like to be.

#635 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 11:55 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @632: why shame (even rather hypothetical shame) can be so paralyzing. Thoughts?

That's a really interesting question. Searching inside, I get a confirmation of the feel of that idea, but can't find any verbal articulation of why that would be so.

I have to say, you have a remarkable knack for coming up with really good, penetrating questions that don't admit of an obvious or clear answer. :-)

if I've fucked up, the best thing for me is to give up.

How about this? If I've fucked up, I've already wasted enough of [valuable person—e.g., not me]'s time, so I should probably just be good and fade into the background, so as not to waste more of their valuable time by attempting to make good on what I was trying to do. (Which effort was probably motivated by my over-inflated ego, anyway.)

My, that's really creepy when stated explicitly like that.

self-love feels like a hazard.

A parallel weirdness I experience is that, when I notice something is going well in my life, I paradoxically experience anxiety. "But what happens if it goes away / blows up?"

It took me a long time, and a lot of practice, to get to the point of crediting my own good opinion of my conduct with any validity at all. Being conditioned to believe I was "less than" had the collateral effect of conditioning me to believe if I felt good about something I had done, I was being egotistical rather than objective (see comment #113).

Tom Whitmore @634: All I can try to do is accept that I'm going to fuck up sometimes, and work to fix it when I do, and try not to let the fuckups take on too much power.

I didn't really start making satisfactory progress on my artwork until I explicitly budgeted for fucking up, and giving myself permission to abandon efforts that had gone off the rails, e.g., quit wasting time trying to "recover." Just write it off and move on.

I have to remind myself of this resolve on a fairly regular basis. Especially (ironically) when things have been going pretty well for a while.

#636 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 12:29 PM:

Of The World @623: *hugs* Congratulations on taking the step toward getting the help you need -- it's a big, scary step, and I hope that it works out for you.

I... I've had suicidal ideations, too. And, like Melissa @625, they just happen sometimes. More often when I'm depressed, but there have been times when I've been just driving down the road and wondered what would happen if I drove into that bridge support. Or emptied the bottle of anti-depressants. Or just stepped off the top of the parking garage. Etc. and so forth.

I've never admitted it before; it never seemed... relevant? Important? I never acted on the impulses, after all...

Nancy @632: If it's not prying, can I ask if you were held to high standards as a child, expected to not make mistakes even when trying new things, and were mistakes treated as though they were moral failures? I have a similar aversion to failure, and tendency to just quit when I make a mistake, and that's what I've managed to trace it back to; especially the idea that mistakes = being a bad person.

I'm still trying to get over it, to be honest, but I'm better about it than I used to be. Having someone around you treat your mistakes as learning experiences is a great help; for me it's my amazing supervisor at work. I've also discovered that failing in a hobby, something not critical, and figuring it out and moving on helps. Maybe something crafty, if you like that sort of thing -- beginning knitting or crochet is pretty forgiving of mistakes, I think?

Roleplaying gaming has also been good for teaching me that mistakes aren't the end of the world -- yeah, ok, you rolled a '1', but the story goes on, and it's fun to come back from behind. Or to come to the aid of your buddy who just crashed and burned.

So, ultimately, what has been working for me is gaining the experience that mistakes aren't, in fact, the end of the world, and that I can pick myself up and move on.

I hope that helps!

#637 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 03:13 AM:

Jacque@635 "I didn't really start making satisfactory progress on my artwork until I explicitly budgeted for fucking up, and giving myself permission to abandon efforts that had gone off the rails, e.g., quit wasting time trying to "recover." Just write it off and move on."

A friend of mine was trying to teach me how to juggle. I wasn't very good at it -- I'd manage a couple of passes, and then miss.

He said, "Hey look, you're juggling!"

I said, "No, I'm not, I'm dropping things!"

He said, "Juggling IS dropping things."

It doesn't help in all areas of shame, but when it comes to learning new skills, sometimes I just look at the mess I've made, say out loud, "Juggling IS dropping things" and go on.

#638 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 08:42 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @632. I think part of it is the difference between "I fucked up" and "I am a fuck-up." The former doesn't feel good, but it carries the implication that I can do better. "I fucked up, and I am a total fuck-up, and this was the best I could do and it wasn't good enough" - that is a recipe for despair, and thus paralysis.

Looking at it from another angle, I wonder if the problem is not really with shame being paralyzing as with having the shame reaction too sensitive. Sort of like an immune system overreaction: the immune system is supposed to rally to fight invaders. You're in trouble if it doesn't. But if it rallies in the same way to fight some innocuous pollen, that's a problem. Similarly, there are things to which shame is an appropriate reaction, and for some of those things (e.g. those you recognize as causing significant harm to others), an initial paralysis - STOP THIS! - may be appropriate. But when you hit that level of shame over, I don't know, school grades, or failing to keep your house in the family-prescribed state of cleanliness, then it's an overreaction. In which case the hlepy advice of pushing through your fears might have a grain of truth in it, because it's actually suggesting that you desensitize yourself from the overreaction.

#639 ::: The invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 10:04 AM:

I enjoy playing pool. I'm terrible at it, but I enjoy it because I joke about playing "econo-pool" (for places where you pay by the game, not by the hour) and joke about being just as good when playing right-handed, left-handed, and one-handed because they're all equally bad. I give myself a sarcastic cheer and laugh when I completely mess up a shot.

Turning yourself into the butt of jokes may not be the healthiest possible response, but I found that by making those jokes myself I cared less about being bad at something that ultimately wasn't all that important, plus then nobody else would tell me I was terrible, or if they did I'd smile and make it part of the joke.

Kind of like Merricat's friend: Juggling IS dropping things. Especially when you have no experience at it. I've gone golfing about 3 times (almost always a work event) and because I don't care about it I make it a point to enjoy screwing up. I make jokes about how I couldn't have done that if I tried (hitting a tree) or how I'm trying to set a new record (for taking 7 or 8 hits on a single hole at the pitch & putt). I'm sure it's annoying to the co-workers who actually work at getting good at golf but if I tried to get a good score I'd just make myself miserable. So pick up 3 balls, throw them all in the air, and catch one. It doesn't matter, you're not juggling knives.

It isn't really appropriate at work, but using that in recreation where I'm really not committed to getting good at it seems to have desensitized me to the paralysis to some extent. (I do care about photography, and I'm trying to get to the point where I can show my photos to other photographers. Likewise writing: I'm always nervous sharing things I do that I actually care about.)

Mistakes happen, and at work I've been training myself to hold the mindset that everything I and my co-workers do should have a second pair of eyes to find those mistakes. I review my colleagues' work, they review mine, and there are always things caught. I keep telling myself that this is a great thing, even when I get my work back with a bunch of red pen on it. Even so, I'm constantly worried about missing things, so I spend a lot of time exhaustively cross-checking stuff to make sure it's correct, and when I do send my notes I make a point of explicitly listing the things I'm not sure about so they can be resolved properly. Somehow I've gained the reputation for being a good person to do or review things that need lots of nitpicky checking. Can't imagine why...

#640 ::: Variations ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 12:59 PM:

Of the World @623,

Years ago I was increasingly depressed in my first job out of college. In school I'd squeaked by with passing grades*, and now I found myself unable to get 8 hours of work done in 8 hours, so I was working late, tired, and barely getting anything else done.

And then I heard about ADD, and the descriptions resonated**. So I went to a doctor. The key part of that conversation went something like:

"So, do you always feel like you have what you read about?"
"You were reading about ADD, and you think you may have it? That's not realistic."
"No, I..."
"Wait a few months until the depression clears, and then come back."

*That* was depressing, on top of the depression, because the depression wasn't helping my ability to work, and for the first time I'd felt hope that I could name my problem, and gain some power over it.

Luckily just days or weeks later I met a nurse who listened to me, and she knew a doctor who specialized in women with ADD. I soon saw him, was diagnosed, and got a helpful prescription. The day I started the latter, for the first time ever I went to a meeting where I surfed the meeting, rather than drowning in trying to keep up with it.

That was 17 years ago. I now can predict and define what 8 hours of work looks like for me and then get it done. I can keep my house in equilibrium, often, even clean, sometimes.

There are doctors who don't listen, and who don't know what they don't know, and I remember how stressful it was.

* for which I had to study more hours than most of my peers did, where they got A's, and I barely got B's.
** this was in an era where adults with ADD were just being acknowledged, including the AD-nonH-D daydreamy type.

#641 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 01:02 PM:

I suggested that advice to push through my fear as hlepy for me because of the risk it will activate the "You piece of shit! Other people push through their fear! What's wrong with you? Obviously, some innate defect! Just give up. See! You don't even try. Just more proof."

I suppose it could be viewed as a hostile internal environment problem. At this stage, working on lowering anxiety seems to work better.

To put it another way, I described that sort of advice as hlepy because I have reason to think so for my case. Next time, I'd rather if you ask why I consider the usual (and possibly frequently useful) thing to not be what I want.

#642 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 01:55 PM:

That core dump wasn't pretty, but it did give me a clue that part of having a background level of fear which makes it hard to do things is the risk of internal attack for not meeting various standards.

For purposes of this discussion, I don't think it matters whether the standards are reasonable or not.

#643 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 02:30 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @641, my apologies. I said it the way I did in hopes that, if there was something useful overlapping the hlepy, that you might be able to access the useful without bogging down in the hlepy. But I should not have come that close to an identified no-fly zone.

#644 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2012, 03:52 PM:

Nancy @632. What is the first image that pops into your mind at the word shame? My first image is of being a small child, yelled at for doing something wrong, knowing it would be useless to try to defend myself against the accusation, and dreading the threat of punishment that might follow. One particular incident is when parent was asking which child had broken the window. I had not, I couldn't rat out a sibling because in my humble childish opinion the parent was screaming about an old crack that none of us were responsible for, and punishment to all if no none stepped forward was being threatened. Yet I didn't just feel anger, I felt shame because even if I hadn't cracked that window it was precisely the kind of thing I might have done. THAT is why shame feels paralyzingly to me,because I become that small child trapped in a situation I can't control.

#645 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 10:48 AM:

Of The World @623: one of the myriad ways in which AD(h)D interacts with depression is poor mood regulation. Which is something not every doctor, or even every psychiatrist, is going to be able to connect. But, given that AD(h)D is helped by applying stimulants that work mostly on the frontal cortex, it's not a huge surprise, then, that not only things like planning but also emotional regulation and exercising that lovely mental frame known as "perspective" are severely affected.

Crazy(and probably posting a number of comments in succession, with apologies for the apparent spamming in advance)Soph

#646 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 04:03 PM:

Merricat @637: "Juggling IS dropping things"

Ha! Avner the Eccentric (Whom you may remember as The Jewel in The Jewel of the Nile) was Juggling Guest of Honor at Minicon in '81. He did a juggling workshop. The first juggling move he taught us was one called "The Drop."

#647 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 04:14 PM:

Oh, wait; this one's better.

#648 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 10:23 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @622: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! I'm a little ashamed of it, I feel like Cory Doctorow said what I wanted to say first, and better, with The Coming War on General-Purpose Computation.

I did finally go to the hackerspace once I got over being sick, but I haven't gone back yet. It was fun but lots of new people, and thus scary.

I read the programming Reddit, and have for a while, but a lot of stuff like that is full of people yelling at each other, more than people actually making neat things. I'm on the Lua mailing list, but I kinda stopped reading it after a while. Well, after I wrote a blg post and got some kind of dismissive feedback on it that discouraged me from writing more posts.

Sorry, this sounds really pathetic. Since I started trying to become mentally healthy, I haven't been able to make things in my free time. I kind of stopped writing code except at work. It's why I stopped going to therapy and taking antidepressants last year, and I'm not really happy about it. I'm not depressed any more but I still have the social anxiety and I am still interested in stuff but don't really have the motivation to do anything, and I would feel bad about it, except actually I feel pretty content. I don't really hate my life and I spend a lot less time afraid.

Sorry, that was long and incoherent.

#649 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 01:22 AM:

Ross @648:

It's possible that your creativity is resting while you grow into your new, less unhappy and frightened self. Mine vanishes unexpectedly, too, and then comes creeping back when I least anticipate it.

#650 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 02:02 AM:

Ross @ 648

Seconding abi @ 649. At the risk of being hlepy, a lot of my intensely creative stuff that I really still like (as opposed to my fluffy, often derivative knock-offs) was written at times when I was intensely depressed. Fix the depression, and it becomes necessary to beguile a new muse. Though, I'll just tell you, my second muse, Exhaustion, turned out to be a less-attractive choice than she initially appeared, too. We're still friends, we just decided it can't ever really be "that way" with us.

I like where I am now, though. Enough to be thinking about where to re-channel my energy, now that a small handful of multi-year energy-drains have been put to bed. Thinking about starting small and optimistic, then see what works, and go from there. (Assuming the muse community hasn't been warned about me by now, I'm not too worried... I'm told I have a very nice personality.)

Which is just to say -- absolutely keep working on it, if it's important to you, but don't let being creative become another thing you beat yourself up over either. It's why I had a hard and fast rule against selling or showing my finished pieces, for a long time. It was a thing I was doing for myself, not for other people, and that way I could be a lot more experimental and less self-critical.

But also, if you need to be focused on other things, it isn't giving up to say "no, there are other things that need to be my first priority, and this can be an important (often sanity-preserving) outlet but it can't be my main focus right now." In my experience, things often tend to be most fallow and frustrating just before they evolve significantly. I feel like that's also part of the creative cycle for me.

#651 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 08:20 AM:

Tom Whitmore: I've finally worked out why your advice, way back (previous DFD: Tangled Emotions, comment #583, October 05 2011: "the only thing I can suggest that might work on that (crying) is figuring out what it got you in the first place, and look for a way to get that which doesn't use crying." ) was hlepy to me - why I reacted so strongly (and negatively) to it.

For me, (and from discussions I've had, for many other people) crying in response to anger/frustration/stressful situation is best described as a "learned helplessness" response, not a reaction which used to "get me something". This means that, to me, saying "look for a way to get that which doesn't use crying" is like saying the laboratory rat should find another response to random, inescapable, electric shocks over the whole cage floor other than to sit in a corner shivering...

Now, if someone finally finds/works out/learns other ways of responding to the situation, ways that -are- effective (i.e. things that work to make people listen to their opinion/consider their feelings, not ignore them or dismiss them as irrelevant), they might stop crying in response to those situations, because they will not longer be helpless. But the crying itself isn't trying to achieve anything except acting as a relief valve for unbearable hurt/tension/unhappiness.

Nancy Lebovitz @ 632: Ignore any of the following if it's hlepy/not right for you. I'm wondering whether "shame (even rather hypothetical shame)" is somewhat akin to a learned helplessness response? (see my comment to Tom Whitmore). That would fit with its being so paralyzing. For myself, I've just recently worked out where I think my learned helplessness response of crying came from, and that has made me somewhat angry (that I was conditioned to such a response by, among others, my mother), as well as determined to find effective ways of responding to people so I can un-learn the helplessness. I have a related "I might be wrong and then they'll laugh at me" (so it's better not to say anything in front of my peers) problem, learned from school situations - which I also need to work on - your problem seems to me to be not dissimilar (although I may be totally wrong about that). Perhaps you might be able to work out who, or what situations, implanted this unhelpful shame response in you? If you can do that, it might help you to see this as something that was externally imposed, which you can then fight against/look for a way around. I also note that the list of basic assertive rights which I have on my wall includes the right to make mistakes...As I said, ignore any/all of this if not helpful to you.

#652 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 11:57 AM:

dcb, #651: But the crying itself isn't trying to achieve anything except acting as a relief valve for unbearable hurt/tension/unhappiness.

Quite. And I will also point out that the "advice" to which you reacted so negatively is especially fraught when proffered to a woman, because of the stereotype that women cry in order to manipulate men and get their way. (In reality, it generally works the opposite way -- a woman who can't keep from crying is immediately dismissed as incompetent and not worth paying attention to.)

#653 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 12:21 PM:

dcb @651 -- thank you for continuing to think about it; I appreciate very much that you thought my words worthy of the effort. I'd say that you've now identified something positive you get from the crying: "a relief valve for unbearable hurt/tension/unhappiness." I certainly see that such a relief valve is useful and necessary. I hope I'm not being hlepy by making this explicit.

#654 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 01:09 PM:

Tom Whitmore @653: I think you mean well, but you missed the point a bit. "get something positive from the crying" - only in the sense that it might stop me getting a stress-induced gastric ulcer! Would you say that the rat "gets something positive" from its learned helplessness response? Seriously, try reading Lee @652. Crying per se. is NOT HELPFUL to the original problem (problem: how do I make people listen to me and take what I say me seriously? How do I encourage myself to speak up when I'm scared people won't listen, that they will laugh at me or dismiss me?) - in fact, it's the opposite of helpful - it has the opposite effect to the effect I want. Which is why your advice is so hlepy. It's a viewpoint thing perhaps, but telling me that I'm crying "to get something" when it's a learned helplessness response which is getting in the way of my getting what I'm trying to get really is red rag to a bull. The crying is not positive, in any way that matters to the problem. Rather, it's an additional obstacle which I need to overcome.

To put it another way: the goal is not "not be stressed" or "have a relief valve" it's "effectively articulate what I need to say to the people I need to say it to, in such a way that they actually listen". Crying in response to the stress of that situation is an obstacle in reaching that goal.

In terms of the rat example: the rat has learned that it cannot escape electric shocks, so it stops trying, just sits and shakes. Then it's put into a cage in which it can escape from the shocks - it just needs to jump over a low wall. But the learned helplessness stops it from jumping over the wall - it continues to sit and shake and be subjected to the electric shock. You're saying the rat is "getting something positive" from sitting these shaking. I'm pointing out that no, what the rat really would like is not to be shocked. But the response it has learned previously (don't try to escape, 'cos it's no use) is hindering it from escaping from the shock.

#655 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 01:20 PM:

Tom Whitmore #653: Tom, remember what I said before about "terms of art" in transactional psychology? Let me add now, that it's not their responsibility to learn your lingo -- and "teaching all present" can come across uncomfortably like proselytizing.

#656 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 01:28 PM:

Ross @ 648:

For myself, I've noticed that working on becoming mentally/emotionally healthier takes up a certain amount of the same kind of energy I use for creative projects. This is probably because I use most of the same analytical and intuitive circuitry to work on the project of getting better as I use for other projects. I observe my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, troubleshoot and find workarounds, debug my mind's source code (habits of thought, deep-down assumptions, the Goddamned Tapes [I think that's Lee's phrase]). For me, this is a project.

However, as my mind heals and my brain chemistry gets back in balance, it takes less of my energy to sustain that state. Then I can put that energy back towards interesting and rewarding outside projects.

I have no idea if this is the mechanism at work for you; brains are individual, and you're the one who knows the most about your own experiences. But it's what your post brought up for me.

(P.S. I did not find your post at all incoherent and definitely not too long.)

#657 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 01:37 PM:

Not attempting to proselytize. And I have nothing more to add at this point, other than that I do understand that you're frustrated and angry, dcb (and I've been in a similar place, around crying and learned helplessness, when I was young: not the same as adult, I also recognize). If you wish to talk more, I can be found pretty easily through the website linked to my name.

#658 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 05:13 PM:

Tom: If, as you say, you've been in a similar place, then I really cannot understand how you would consider a learned helplessness response, continuing into other situations, to be a positive thing. At all. No, in case I've not made that clear, I've not "identified something positive [I] get from the crying". On the contrary, I've identified that the crying is an unhelpful learned helplessness response. I've further recognised that I'm unlikely to be able to get away from that response until I find a positive, effective method of responding to the stressful situations. I see that as something very different.

Please do not reply by explaining how my way of seeing things really is the same as what you said. Please accept that, to me, it's very different.

#659 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 08:28 PM:

Ross, no prob -- I don't think your post was long or incoherent. And I'm glad that you are generally happy and content! It tangentially reminds me of something Fugitivus wrote about recovery and boundaries and the flavors of tough times and of good times:

Those seemed like the most depressing thoughts ever to have on such a nice morning. I didn’t want to deal with them then, and in an amazing display of good health, I didn’t. I got up, I showered, I got dressed, and I went to buy myself some treats and trinkets. Time enough for everything, I thought. No need to panic about any one thing.

I'm not saying that the rest of her memoir is applicable to you -- I'm more resonating with the line, "Time enough for everything." I personally need to remember that.

If you decide that you'd like to teach, there is an eager audience of Wikipedia template-makers who want to learn Lua this year. I'm MediaWiki's community manager, and could help set up a course for you to teach over chat. But if you'd rather relax and take care of other parts of yourself then of course that's cool too.

#660 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 08:28 PM:

Just got gnomed what with multihyperlinking and all. *signal*

#661 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2012, 10:32 PM:

Caroline @ 656

That's a really interesting post. Thank you.

#662 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2012, 04:29 PM:

Caroline @656: That was my thought too. Once again, the "spoons" analogy comes into play. You've only got so many, and some of them can be used for two tasks that seem otherwise unrelated.

#663 ::: MilesToGo ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2012, 12:53 PM:

In an attempt to dissociate current problems from older ones, I have altered the nym.

* * *

Fistful of sorrow,
abide within me
no more.

Wither with fall’s leaves;
like dust, to four winds

Stripped of such armor,
thou shy and skittish
nude heart

Offer a gentle
caress, the kiss of
new hope.

#664 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 05:06 AM:

MilesToGo @663: That's lovely, and full of - tentative hope? First rays of possibility?

I hope your journey onward is a positive one.

#665 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 09:37 AM:

I'm not caught up on this thread (alas), but I saw a webcomic panel today that just begged to be posted here, because of the family dynamic it depicts. It can be read without context; the comic as a whole is in 'books' that are each from the Rashomon-like POV of a different member of a group of college friends, each starting in that character's far backstory and bringing the general story forward several plot points by the end of the 'book,' at which point they change viewpoints again.

Jamie's 'book' starts here; the entire saga begins here. Note: Jamie's story includes sexual abuse, and the emotions are depicted with extreme graphic violence, though no dangly bits are on screen for that part.

The entire saga is very light-not-heat, getting right under the skin of even characters the first few viewpoints encourage you to see as 'the bad guys', and all the characters, over time, are trending towards happiness and sanity from their various starting points. Also, many of them are LGBTQ.

#666 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 10:22 AM:

I think I've remembered the email I was using (for coherent 'view-all-by'). Either way, re-hi. :->

We've moved, substantially, though a large percentage of our stuff is stacked in the garage here and a small but extremely upsetting percentage is scattered loosely around the old house, needing to be collated, cleaned, and packed before bringing it over.

That's not the relevant part. The thing I'm posting about today is the priorities mismatch -- my husband seems to feel that if every waking second of our days is not spent packing up every speck of our belongings at the old house and bringing it on-site here, it's a failure. I view the last two minivan-loads of low-hanging, neatly-boxed fruit he brought over and put into the garage as being perfectly in my way for what *I* think needs to be done first: accessing and streamlining the here-but-not-unpacked stuff, so needed items can be FOUND. There are things I'm certain was in the first load of boxes, that I kind of need on a daily basis, that are now at least four layers of boxes buried against the walls of the garage.

I was along on the last car-loading expedition, and I kept requesting changes in priority (so that the empty, disassembled shelving could be brought up to facilitate my maneuvering, reloading, and organization -- and so I could touch each box as few times as possible, instead of moving them across the garage and back five times), and he kept ignoring me in favor of Moving! Mass! Quantities! And! Emptying! The! House!

Of course we each feel our own personally-logicked standards are the only reasonable opinion that could be held, and the other is being obstructionary, counter-productive, and annoying. But at least we both agree that's what we're doing. :-> Sometimes.

I'm about to go to a convention for the days of this weekend (overnighting at home), and some of me is terrified and feels like crying, because I know when I come back he's going to have piled MORE stuff in front of the things I wanted freed last week. Piled on THAT is the guilt because most of the remaining not-packed is not-packed 'because of me,' and is certainly complex and problematic 'because of me' and my packrattery, and he is very strongly disinterested in packing it 'for me'. However, he's gotten most of the low-hanging fruit out of the house already, so all that remains is the stuff that starts fights ...

Argh. I need to unlax and rewind at the con as best I can, and come back to it next week fresh (while his internal Voices of Suck keep yelling at him that he's a horrible failure because the old house wasn't already broom-clean yesterday).

Genuine success, that I hope to build upon and not counter-product into oblivion: Our current layout of furniture in the new living spaces is well-thought-out and relaxing. Part of why my priorities are as they are is because I do NOT NOT NOT want to feel pressured to bucket-dump boxloads of our stuff into the center of our nice new organized living spaces. I want to line it up in our two non-living spaces (basement and garage) in random-access, easy-to-see, organized, not-destructive-to-the-stuff ways so the various categories can be collated out of it and spread around into the rooms where they will be used.

tl;dr: The move went VERY WELL, and the toddler has handled it all about sixty times better than I dreamed she would, and if it weren't for the fact that we have money worries and huge teetering piles of boxes in the garage we could be perfectly content right now. To quote the Ketchup Marketing Board, "These are the good days." :->

Heck, I've even come down far enough off the moving-stress that I can read for pleasure again, for which many hosannas. I still can't face looking at a knitting needle, but I'm sleeping solidly (bar kid-wakings) and actually having vivid dreams with plot in them, which is another sign of not-totally-exhausted for me.

#667 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 10:45 AM:

MilesToGo @663, I like that sense of opening up

Bricklayer @666, congrats on the successful mostly-move. I also congratulate you on your understanding of the ways in which you and your partner are having priority conflicts that mean you want to approach the task differently, but not that either of you is stupid/obstructive/etc. It sounds like he wasn't open to the metadiscussion of priorities on the last trip; is he open to it when you're not actively loading Stuff?

And is there an external deadline on clearing out the old house? (End of the month?)

Good luck with it. Boxes and moving seem to be a 90-90 rule proposition. (The first 90% of the work takes 90% of the time. The last 10% takes the other 90% of the time.)

#668 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 10:54 AM:

OtterB @667: The external deadline on clearing the house is 'we can't photograph it until it's empty enough to not look like a tip,' with the knowledge that internal photos will help make the sales listing more attractive so we can, y'know, sell it as fast as possible. See also money worries; it is highly unlikely we will be able to get even enough out of it to pay off the pre-move-in improvements we did at the new place and all our current credit card debt, much less even half of what we spent to pay off its mortgage six months ago. There are many, many properties within a 5-block radius of the old house on the market, some in markedly better shape, none listing over $30K. The three-story income property immediately next door to our old house sold some time ago for $25K -- it needed extensive work, but still, that's the current market reality we'll be dealing with.

We'll sell our old house for the price of a very nice car, which hurts, but at least will mean we don't have to pay to heat it and keep it in property taxes anymore (and it will be Someone Else's Problem).

These are distinctly first-world problems, as it were; I know how much harder a lot of people have it, in regards to the housing market.

They can bloody well move me out of this house FEET FIRST; I intend to still be living here when our toddler goes to college, at which point it will have been a wonderful financial choice to do all this when we are doing it.

Also, the new house is WAY less 'broken' than the old house, and is a trade up in all dimensions ... even if my brain keeps comparing it to my aunt-in-law's "new house" of a few years ago, which gobsmacked me on first walkthrough-tour with her, because there was literally nothing actually WRONG with it -- just interior-decorating or choice-of-use-for-space quibbles. I'd never actually been involved with a completely unbroken house before, and it foregrounded a massive class divide for me that I'd not been aware of before.

There are apparently property purchasers in the market who expect not to have to so much as paint the walls when they move into a newly-bought space; I go into it expecting to need to test all the outlets (replacing the ones that don't work or are loose in their receptacles), figure out which sinks need new faucets or drains, and look for leaks on the ceilings to see where the roof needs work.

Well, this house's roof won't need work: we just replaced it. Ouch. :-> Plus side, 30-year warranty! AND RADIATORS! Sweet, sweet radiators, how I adore thee ...

#669 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 12:13 PM:

Bricklayer, ignore if hlepy or doesn't fit your reality, but since the external deadline is "have things not show so we can photograph", could you box and stage in some obscure corner of the old place but not move the boxes to the new until you've done some processing of the immediately-needed boxes already at the new?

I agree that radiators are wonderful things.

#670 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 12:48 PM:

Bricklayer: Would it be practical for your husband to pack the stuff but leave it in one room at the old house (having first cleared and photographed that room) so that the other rooms can be photographed but at the same time the new garage doesn't get more-layers deep?

#671 ::: MilesToGo ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 01:02 PM:

In the current crisis, the only rational options were to forgive or to file for divorce.

Actually, it remains to be seen whether forgiving is rational in these circumstances. I'm attempting to ignore such reservations.

Even if forgiving proves rational, it still may not be an available option; the heart can be notoriously unresponsive to the head. So, writing doggerel seemed a better means than writing reasons, where the end goal was to crystallize emotional intent.

(I fool myself. Look closely and you'll see the head rationalize actions the heart has already taken. The heart even subverted the head, the former enlisting the latter to make the meter consistent.)

#672 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 01:20 PM:

MilesToGo @671:

You call that doggerel? I know doggerel, and that was not doggerel. It's actually quite wonderful. The first stanza reminds me of "Hard Times", one of my favorite songs from the Depression. And then it gets better from there.

(I have no wisdom to offer on your troubles, but I'm listening, and I care.)

#673 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 01:24 PM:

MilesToGo @671: Rationality is a great tool and a dangerous master. Not everything can be decided rationally, and it's very rational to remember that.

Sounds as if you've already realized that, on some levels.

Listening, as well.

#674 ::: MilesToGo ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2012, 01:51 PM:


I am in an emotional place in which I doubt my skills/talents/abilities, and as such, denigrate my own accomp