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September 21, 2012

Dysfunctional Families: Everybody lined up for the parade?
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:31 AM *

Today is Dysfunctional Families Day, September 21.

It’s the day we put those members of our community first who were always given last place in their families’ consideration. It’s the day we celebrate the presence in our community of the people who were unwelcome in their homes. We rejoice in the people who were resented, believe the people who were dismissed, and listen to the people who were perpetually shushed.

And the people whose parents resented them for being takers, and burdens, and nuisances? The people who were told that they were worthless and useless, failures and good-for-nothings? Today we get to thank them for the great gift that they have given all of us on Making Light over the last four years. Who else could have created the resources that these threads have become, not just for one another, but for otherwise-troubled folks? If that’s failure, I don’t ever want to be a success.

And those threads really are a treasure. Even I, who am not rightfully one of the community, have gained a great deal from them. They make me a better parent, a better daughter (now I can parse my mother’s stories from her childhood), a better friend and colleague, a better moderator. I’ve heard the same from many people who don’t post in the threads (that I know of—I don’t track which pseudonyms map to which regular commenters.)

Those people—you people, as it were—are a joy to this community every day, but today we get an excuse to say it. Thank you for your presence here. Thank you for your courage and your openness, your generosity and your wisdom. We are immeasurably richer for you being here.

If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.

Continued from here. Continued here.

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: Everybody lined up for the parade?:
#1 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 04:59 AM:

And while I don't have a lot to contribute, I'm still here reading and witnessing.

#2 ::: AnonCowardSevenBillion ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 05:21 AM:

For those of us who may be new, or who are returning after absence, could we get a comment on moderation policy for this thread?

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 05:52 AM:

AnonCowardSevenBillion @2:
For those of us who may be new, or who are returning after absence, could we get a comment on moderation policy for this thread?

Welcome back, AC7E+09. Sure thing.

The moderation policy is pretty much the same as elswhere on Making Light, with a couple of significant exceptions:

1. Respect the people's choices of pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people's minds. (I can think of two, Syd, slightly disguised, and Bricklayer.)

2. If you're not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don't do the "they're the only family you have" thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee's mother may very well be their nemesis.

3. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid "hlepiness" (those comments which look helpful, but really aren't). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down. It's my job to make it as safe as possible to do that here.

#4 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 07:19 AM:

radiosongs @FishHooks!499 & abi @FishHooks!500: Oh bother. Looks like I stepped in it again. Obviously I wasn't paying attention to the date. Sorry 'bout that.

#5 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 07:26 AM:

GlendaP @4:

Not at all. I appreciate your stepping forward and being welcoming, even if in this case it wasn't perfectly factually accurate.

Please don't be put off of doing such things in the future.

#6 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:01 AM:

Responding to AnotherQuietOne @473 on the previous thread - congratulations on a successful completion of the music director search; I remember that as being highly stressful for you and I'm glad it came out well.

#7 ::: Crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:22 AM:

It's been (counts briefly on fingers) just over 18 years since I last saw my father. Slightly longer ago than I've seen my mother.

Both of whom are alive, neither of whom I never want to see, or have any kind of connection with, ever again.

There are.... whole months, now, where I don't find my breath taken away by having witnessed some thoughtless, privilege-dripping stupidity that throws me back spontaneously into some similar event in my past. Time, distance, and a spouse who is supportive in the extreme have all helped make it so. Growing older, if not growing up, at least now I feel I have some chance at contentment largely unmarred by the poison of some of those earliest dynamics in my so-called family.

Not to forget - I also credit science fiction fans, SCA, gaming buddies and even members of the pagan community (although I don't label myself as one such) for their general openness to the awkward, nerdy teenager that I was. My mother may have sneered at you (not in your hearing, of course - it was always after I'd gotten off the phone with someone, "They're always talking like they have something to prove!" was her response to what I always thought of as an invitation to be playful with our minds... and she was the one working on an advanced degree in psychology?? Yeesh.), but you guys were my sanity saver, before I could finally escape the family system.

The internet being what it is, I do encounter a certain amount of electronic presence of my parents. I don't encourage contact, and they've generally respected that. They're getting of an age and condition that let me know they won't be around forever. Frankly, the most worrisome thing for me is not losing them - that happened long, long before I cut off contact - but of saying anything that another family member can pass along which allows them to focus more on how I've failed them, rather than on the business they have at hand. So far, I've managed to walk that tightrope okay - "How sad for you, keep looking after yourself, your local doctor is your best network source" etc. Subtext, "Keep me out of it; I will not play nice if you drag me into this drama."

I realized recently, one of the themes of interaction with my parents, toward the end of the period of direct contact, was their concern at how I viewed them. My father even said bluntly, at one point, "I have a right to manage my image" around me, his daughter. Given how I am, more and more, opening up my own past in different public fora, I reckon sometime there will be another attempt at communication, or even confrontation. Or so I ruminated not long ago.

During that rumination, I said to the shade of my parents in the past, "Is contact with me really that important? Or is it just the image that you care about? Are you well-served by worrying about my opinion of you, and if so, what would YOU do to change that?"

This, like many other little moments, are like lancing a boil on the psyche. It's a slow job - abi has the right of it, with the image of fish hooks she promoted from another commenter on a recent top post. (Please forgive me for spacing on who that was, exactly.)

I feel for everyone here who is still stuck in a difficult family situation - dependent financially, educationally, for mobility... socially. I am still witnessing, and feel great relief that I can, at least here, find some fellow souls to be both comforter (I hope!) and sometimes (like now) comfort-ee.

Crazy(wow, that came out in a mostly hot-flash... hello, catharsis!)Soph

PS gentle teasing, here - this is me, NOT apologizing for wall-o'-text. *mischievous grin*

#8 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:28 AM:

Oh, and one more thing - I just missed, by this much (squeezes some air between thumb and forefinger), getting to have one of my regular psychiatric consults today. I was sorry about that; it would have been a fitting activity for Dysfunctional Families Day!

Crazy(and with a sense of humor most folks find weird)Soph

PS okay, uhm, backend question time? I can do the angled bracket for "less than" preceded by a dash, but if I do the greater than, everything disappears after it! This is a test ->

#9 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:08 AM:

We're into our annual debate here, as to how to handle this year's holiday contact with my parents. Last year was an unfortunate, unmitigated disaster, involving, but not limited to lectures from my Randian uncle, my mother making me and my husband responsible for feeding everyone (nine people) for a week, in her house, on no notice, various medical emergencies, and various toxic reactions to said emergencies.

If we go down to their place, we're likely to get all the food-involved work dumped on us again (albeit we'd be expecting it this time). We're also away from our local resources that make it easier for me to cope with my parents with some equinamity. But it also means that I don't have to spend energy trying to entertain my parents (and keep them from dissecting my parenting of my kids), or keep them away from the people I know here. The last time my parents visited, my father managed to damage my son's band director's opinion of me so badly that he still won't say more than two words to me, even though I'm the assistant uniform mistress.

I think, that 90% of the evidence says suck it up and go to their place. Except, except - we have a new choir director here. One who believes in encouraging individual musicians, and trusts me as a soloist. If I stay through the holidays, I'm pretty much guaranteed to get to sing something for the first Christmas ever (excepting that one time the soloist didn't show, and I had to wing something a capella on no notice). I don't know why singing at Christmas has become such a bugaboo for me, especially since I'm being handed fairly regular solo work now, but I've been wanting to sing something at the Christmas Eve service for the better part of a decade now, and I don't want to miss my chance because I'm three states away.

Good grief that all sounds whiny. Mostly I'm just frustrated, because what I know I want to do seems, once again, to need to be balanced against what will keep my parents off of everybody's backs.

#10 ::: whoami ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:14 AM:

It's been my observation that family is a truly extraordinary thing. We're expected to reside in its bosom as a place of warmth and caring, but what if warmth is not what you get?

My father believed in "tough love" long before that phrase gained currency. I can understand why, knowing something about his upbringing, and more knowing his father. Still, it wasn't easy seeking constantly to gain his approval and never, ever, being sure that I had it. What I did have was the certainty that I would never, under any circumstances, receive his praise. He told me so. He didn't believe that praise was good for children, or young people. It swelled their heads, made them vain. On the other hand, I could see him praising my youngest sibling; that youth could never set a foot wrong.

I don't know if I had to deal with a fish hook or with a very large nail driven directly into my heart.

#11 ::: Daedelean ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:27 AM:

Newbie here. I've been spending the past several years looking at these threads and thinking «nooo, I don't really qualify. I mean, yes, my family is utterly dysfunctional, and yes, I'm a stunted, neurotic mess who is completely unable to function normally in human society in any way, but I can't prove conclusively that those two points are connected.» But, I'm gonna try it.
To start at the beginning, I'm 28, prone to depressions, and recently diagnosed with Aspergers. Vicious social anxiety means I spend almost all my time alone in my apartment. Before last fall, I'd never had a job, I've always had a very small number of friends, and I've never had a romantic relationship.

I had a big breaking point this summer. Me and my parents and siblings and siblingspawn all went down to someplace much much hotter than where we live to attend my brother's graduation from med school. Well, everyone wanted to go out and roam around the beautiful city in the beautiful weather, and dragged me along, and I try to be nice and don't like to say no. But it was so melt-my-brain hot that I'd get nauseus every time I set foot outside my hotel room. So it wasn't long before the entire trip was more of a prison sentence than a vacation for me, and I was reduced to counting the hours before we went home. And then the trip home was ghastly; stifling heat, cumulative delays, and no chance to get any food along the way due to a series of mishaps, so by the time we arrive in my home town I haven't eaten in 13 hours and am on the verge of collapse and want nothing more than to get back to my apartment immediately. At this point my sister announced that I was going to her place to help her carry her luggage. She didn't ask me to help, she just declared it. Now, my sister lives way off on the other side of town, an hour out of my way. And she said this in a tone of voice suggesting that she was doing me a huge favor by letting me ride with her rather than pay the trivial cost of taking the train to my place, which would take much less time and involve much less walking. And I say that that's a huge detour for me, and at least she could ask. And she explodes, and starts yelling that I'm so insensitive and inconsiderate and never carry my weight and many other things to the effect that I'm a horrible spoiled brat and always have been. And I just stand there quietly listening, the result of a lifetime's experience that ever talking back just invites more confrontation, and wait until she's done. And then I go to her place and carry her luggage and spend an hour more getting home to my apartment. And when I get home, I collapse in my bed and I say to myself, «And that's what they really think of me. That's it, I'm severing all contact with this ludicrous excuse for a family.» Only I used a lot of cursewords as well. That was in July, and I have not regretted the decision or changed my mind for a moment since.

I have four siblings, and I'm the youngest. And it has been the recurring theme for as long as I can remember that they are all convinced that as the youngest, I always got the best of everything, and lead a charmed and enchanted existence, and now twenty years later they still feel that I owe them. And while they're generally polite enough not to declare it openly, it is my impression that they continue to treat me as something inbetween a mildly retarded ten year old, and an unsightly stain on the carpet.

Shortly after that day, for reasons which the doctors still have not been able to explain or fix, I got a headache, with a side order of persistent dizzyness and nausea, which lasted a month and a half before it subsided enough for me to be able to function at all, and which still hasn't gone away a month after that.

Since the trip I've been thinking about writing it up and joining in the discussion here. Looking at it now, I'm not sure about it. I'm not very good at talking about myself.

#12 ::: Crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:39 AM:

Daedelean @ #11 - Talking about one's self is a hard thing. We're in an atmosphere where self-reflection is immediately understood as being selfish, much of the time.

Sharing your story is a skill, acquired with practice. That's part of what this particular thread is so very good for - take your time, string together what you can, test what you feel like sharing (or aren't quite ready to share, perfectly valid as well)... the witnesses are not judges, but fellows in this journey.

Crazy(and hoping she's over this cold soon - or there will be MUCH more posting from her!)Soph

#13 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:40 AM:

Daedelian: I love how your sister's luggage is "your weight" to carry.

Congratulations on saying "ENOUGH!"

#14 ::: Cassy B. may have been gnomed? ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:53 AM:

I wrote a long explanation of how to post a < to Crazysoph and it vanished into the ether.

Basically, the "less than" sign is read as a start-cue for HTML (italics, bold, etc) and everything after that is scanned for HTML code and discarded if it doesn't match the computer's expectations. To post the symbol, type (without spaces) & l t ; (that's ampersand, miniscule l, miniscule t, semicolon) and it will print the symbol instead. Think "less than" for the "lt" part.

The "greater than" bracket doesn't set off HTML triggers and can be typed normally from your keyboard.

Hope this helps!


#15 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 09:57 AM:

#11 ::: Daedelean:

I think you've done a very good job of talking about yourself.

And I second Lila's congratulations.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 10:07 AM:

CassyB @14:

Somehow, three spaces in a row crept into your message, and it did indeed get gnomed. Since you've covered the ground again in this comment, is it OK if I leave it in the mod queue?

#17 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 10:19 AM:

Abi @16, please do leave it for the gnomes; there's no need to have it up twice and I'm sure they'll find the left-brackets crunchy on toast. <smile>

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 10:20 AM:

CrazySoph @7:

I've met you. I've spent a day with you. Your parents are wrong about you. Flat out, full stop, just wrong.

Cynthia W @9:

Apologies if this is hlepy, but could you find an excuse to do the Obligatory Family Gathering at Thanksgiving, and have Christmas to yourselves (with singing)?

It's just a dream of a magic solution, I suppose. Like most hlepiness, it's a desire to fix things that might just have to be borne.

whoami @10:

Ouch! Even worse than a damaging principle is one that gets inconsistently applied. Much sympathy, and it's a pleasure to have you here in the conversation.

Daedelean @11:

Your sister really brings new meaning to the phrase "emotional baggage"! I'm sure it took a lot of courage and energy to make the break you did.

I am not a doctor of any kind, but did you discuss your family situation (or even refer to it at a high level) with the doctors investigating your health? Because there's no way that stress would have improved the situation, if you know what I mean.

In any case, welcome. I agree with Lila and Nancy—you do fine talking about yourself.

#19 ::: SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 10:22 AM:

I have also been reading these threads for years. While I know that my family was abusive, particularly my father, he and my mother are still alive. There are still the occasional, carefully-scripted, skillfully manipulative attempts to re-enter my life that make me have the occasional panic-attack. So, I was too frightened for the longest time, of entering any thread that might be traced back, because any complaint - especially those to persons outside the family dynamic - seems guaranteed to wave the red flag before the bull.

This year, however, I have bucked up my courage to talk about it anyway. I expect I will only manage dribs and drabs of disconnected recollections; for the most part, that is what I have of my own memory. However, if the fact is that I can go through all that and still build myself a life worth living, if somewhat bent at the edges, perhaps the mere idea it can be possible will be worth confronting my fears. Or maybe just confronting them regardless of if I am a good example or a horrible warning is worthy. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

The last time I was physically beaten by my father, I was 14. I don't recall my infraction, but I was told to lean against a dresser as my dad stripped his wide, leather belt out of his jeans. He hit me so hard with it, that after the first 15-20 lashings, I couldn't keep my hands out of the way and stay in position to take more.

He grabbed me around the front of the throat, and thus holding me upright, continued lashing. I don't know how many more lashes he gave me. I just remember my vision going tunneled, and being unable to hold up my own weight. As I sagged toward my knees, my vision going down to small circles in blackness, I felt him throw me down on my stomach, across my bed.

Then he just stood there, as I hazily tried to figure out why. The scariest part was I couldn't move, and I couldn't figure out why he was just standing there, looking at me (behind me! where I couldn't see him!) for so long, breathing hard. I was very relieved when he finally just left.

But it makes me very frightened, to this day, to recall that the most scary part was him NOT leaving like that.

#20 ::: trying ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 11:12 AM:

Me, I'm considering a divorce at the moment. Just trying like hell not to let my daughters be damaged by growing up with a father who is exacting, unhappy, and incapable of being pleased.

#21 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 11:42 AM:

Cassie B. here's my -> THANK YOU <- to you for your explanation! (And my apologies for having involved the gnomes - nothing edible immediately to hand, but how about a sip of a rather interesting Duvel Tripel Hop? It's pretty powerful, so I can miss some, easily)

abi.... thank you, also. I treasure that day in Amsterdam, the Making Light meet-up, and the opportunity to cycle with you. I find it an interesting tell, your kind response re my comment above generates within me a HUGE "Oh my god, really??" and a feeling of having one's first drink after crawling in the hot sun. One wouldn't have that feeling without some reason for it, I begin to wonder. Even after all this time... scars still bind, bones still predict coming rainfall.

Anyway, having not had the gumption for previous DFDs, I'm a little worried I'll be too enthusiastically contributing to this one!

Crazy(and yet somehow all right with that, now)Soph

#22 ::: crow ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 11:47 AM:

It was not usually physical violence, in my family. It was emotional. It did not help that my parents came from different cultures, Mom a recent immigrant, Dad the child of immigrants, and some parts of them were mutually incomprehensible to each. It did not help that they had several unsuccessful pregnancies before me. It did not help that I was not born male. Because I wasn't a boy, I was automatically not good enough. And because I was the only one, I had to *be* good enough.

I tried for 40 years to be 'good enough', and it never worked. Nothing was enough, not degrees, not awards. The bar was always set higher, and my chromosomes did not change.

Dad was an alcoholic, and manic-depressive. It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He could be calm, kind, friendly and charming when he was sober -- but you always had to watch what you said around him, because he'd use it to berate you when he was drunk. On a bender, he'd yell and scream and blame us for whatever he didn't like in his life. We were required to listen; we couldn't leave. Mom would be so upset that she'd have an asthma attack, and he'd have to be the one to give her the shot of epinephrine; he wouldn't let me 'because I'd screw it up'. I moved out after an especially bad session, the third that week, when I'd stayed awake the entire night thinking about whether it would be worthwhile to put a knife in him, and what would happen to Mom if I did. I left instead, moved to stay with friends for a while until I got a job.

He was never completely sober, to my own knowledge, for 30 years. Some days he only had four beers. It was worse after he retired, after his first heart attack. He bought beer and cheap wine by the case, and went through it steadily.

Mom died, at 77, of the longterm aftereffects of cancer (the surgeries were successful but she was weaker afterward), diabetes and I have to say stress. A year or so later he remarried; he married someone I went to school with, 40 years younger, who was mentally ill (though this was not known at the time). I wasn't invited to the wedding.

What happened next was 'folie a deux', one person's crazy ideas feeding another's. They stole from me and from the larger group of relatives, both money and things like woodworking equipment and jewelry, excused each other's thefts, and lied about it all. He believed that anything he'd ever paid for he owned, and tried to take back whatever he wanted of mine and my mother's things; "gifts" didn't exist unless they were gifts to him. He tried to bully me to get me to do whatever he wanted, and, when that didn't always work, badmouthed me to the rest of the relatives, some of whom had seen him so seldom that they believed him; I am still dealing with the fallout of that. I was still terrified of him, even in his 80s; he had kept loaded guns at every window for years, so going up to see him or her unannounced was not a good idea even if I'd been welcome.

After he died, at 88, she spent everything he had saved and went deeply into debt within three years, to the point where credit card companies were suing her, and then killed herself. The house and all its contents, including my mother's things and mine that I had been unable to get back because of her greed, were sold to pay her debts.

I have reached a point where the relatives who didn't tell me what was going on when they could have, and the ones who believed him and treat me badly as a result, are not worth the time it takes to deal with them. I keep up with a very few who spoke up for me, never lied to me and have proven themselves to be friends and not just relatives.

I apologize for the length of this; it was about twice as long and I edited it to this size.

#23 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 12:05 PM:

Crazysoph @21, You are most unreservedly welcome. I only wish there were other ways I could be helpful rather than hlepy.

Crow @22, Please don't feel you must apologize either for your pain or the context that helps us understand it.

#24 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 12:33 PM:

SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed @19:

Welcome to this conversation. Tell your story in whatever way works for you, to whatever extent you feel is right at the time. It's yours to tell or not as you choose; your parents have no right to silence you.

It must take a tremendous amount of strength to leave that kind of situation, and stay out of it despite your parents' attempts to suck you back in. It takes even more to go on and build "a life worth living, if somewhat bent at the edges". I really admire what you've achieved, coming from that background.

On a purely technical note, could I ask you to choose a different spoofed email address? Maybe change that underscore to a period. Our (view all by) functionality is putting you with the spammers. If you do fix it, I'll go back and make this comment tie in.

trying @20:

That's a hard situation. I know there are people in this community whose parents have made the decision both ways, as well as some who have themselves had to choose. If it would help to discuss things further, we may be able to help clarify your choice.

crow @22:

What a terrible trail of destruction and loss. Thank you for spending the time to explain it to us; as Cassy B says, it needed the length for clarity.

Also, welcome.

#25 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 12:38 PM:

crazysoph @21:

It was indeed a good day. I keep planning to go to that last bead store, the one you went to on your own.

As for your participation on this thread (and anyone's): there are remarkably few rules about how much or energetically one should participate. But if it helps alleviate your concern, trust me to tactfully mention it if anyone crosses the line. And if I haven't, then don't worry.

#26 ::: AnonCowardSevenBillion ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 12:38 PM:


I hear you, and I sympathize.

I am... not my mother's favorite child. I don't want to go into all of it again, but she's let me know that in a way I'm unlikely to forget.

May us all find peace, through our own means.

#27 ::: Daedelean ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 12:46 PM:

Thank you all.

abi @ 18: yes, I told them, and to me it seemed an obvious connection, but none of them seemed to be interested. I'm just happy that the headache eventually subsided enough for me to do other things.

#28 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Not long after my comment in last year's thread, my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Nothing at all, of course, is the same. One doesn't know when the terminus will be reached. So I live on a knife edge, where everyone's boundaries are a) vastly different and b) faithfully observed, and I hate it. (And I am occasionally consumed with something akin to guilt; I know my weary frustration didn't cause my father's illness, but I sometimes think I might not have complained if I'd known everything was so shortly going to change.) I'd take the old doesn't-know-when-to-give-it-a-rest dad back in a heartbeat if he'd be well again.

[Disappointingly, I can't remember the e-mail I used last year with this handle. If a mod can remind me of it, I'll change it.]

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 01:02 PM:

Not Today @28:

Out of the frying pan, huh? Sterkte, they say here at times like this. Strength.

Also, I went back and changed your previous comments to the email address you used here. It was easier.

#30 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 01:14 PM:

I'm here, reading and witnessing. I haven't had a lot to say in these threads, but I'm here.

#31 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 01:29 PM:

Here goes...

I want to start by telling everyone here how grateful I am for their stories, for their truths, for their support - I found last year's post on Tuesday and have blazed through the vast majority of it and will probably soak up as much as possible of the other threads as well because there is just. so. much. and it's exactly what I need right now. I tried to edit this down and I am pretty ashamed of how long and rambling and self-absorbed it is but I also know that I need to push through those feelings, and I needed to lay this all out, and I know that in these thousands (!) of words there hopefully is something that will click with someone else, the way all your little details have clicked with me.

My father's background is a mystery to me in many ways. I know the basic details of his life, and that his father died when he was in high school or shortly thereafter, and I know that his mother died right after I was born. I know that he had a lot of girlfriends and had adventures at college. I don't know much else.

My mother's parents came over from Poland after WWII. My (Catholic) grandmother was in a labor camp, with all the horrors that entailed; my grandfather was a pilot in North Africa who "came back a different man". The man that came back was not nice. My mother has told me since I can remember about her bad parents, who hit her, who never once said they loved her, whose home she left the day she turned eighteen. I do not know when or how they reentered her life, but there are photos of me in my grandmother's arms not long after my birth, so that is the absolute latest. Until my grandfather died, my mother never spoke once fondly of him. Afterwards, she was sad in an accepting way - in the way I'd imagine I will feel when she dies - the feeling of sadness that someone who should have loved you never became the person who could. My grandmother is still living, and my mother speaks horribly of her. In some ways I think it was this that made me break contact: watching her care for someone she so clearly loathed, someone who made her life miserable every single time they spoke, someone she visited or called nearly daily despite her stated wish for that person to get on with dying already. I am 22 and just the past year or so really started realizing that my parents can not only die, but get old, get sick, and the thought of caring for my mother sent these horrifying little shrieks of pain through me. If I listened closely enough they sounded like runawayrunawayrunawayrunawayrunaway.

My mother did not want children. This is another thing she has told me since I can remember. She did not want children then and she hates children now (more than she hates people in general); my younger brother & I are the only children she's ever been able to tolerate aside from my father's nephew's children. This is one of those things that seems harmless until I put it together with how frequently she also told me what an easy child I was. How quiet I was. How I never once in my entire toddlerhood threw a tantrum - never even ASKED for any treats - in a store. How she could trust me so much, because she knew I'd never do anything bad. I am very certain that if I was not an "easy" child I would not have been welcomed in that home.

I was a kid so bookish the "ish" shouldn't even be there - I started reading at the age of two and never stopped. I would beg to be allowed to read during family meals; I read during car rides and bus rides and I hid books under my desk in class to read because I'd already have finished the assigned book that everyone else was still slogging through chapter two of. Of course I got phenomenal grades. Of course my mother loved me. I was so sweet and so smart and so good. I was nebulously sad, but not in a way that I think was really aware of anything to be sad about. Other kids didn't really like me, but I was never friendless; we were slightly less well-off than my classmates, but I came up in a stunningly wealthy area, so I certainly didn't lack for anything. Thinking back I can see now that sometimes my mother said awful things, things that crushed me, but at the time I just knew that I was sensitive and kind of a crybaby and my mother was trying to toughen me up for the real world. Things I remember:

- Beginning with my kindergarten photo on the front steps, and on and on until I stopped letting people take pictures: "Come on, a REAL smile. Not that grimace. No, that's worse! Why can't you just look happy?"
- When she was upset with me for something I'd done wrong: "Stop making those puppy eyes at me" (as I tried to make myself as small as possible and look as sad as possible so she'd know I was really sorry and she'd stop yelling - this is not a normal thing right? a kid would not just instinctively do this without some reason to?)
- After the very slight handful of times she'd slapped my wrist lightly or such, and I'd cry that it hurt: "Please, that's nothing. My father used to hit me with a belt. That wasn't a hit. You're lucky I don't really hit you."
- More than once, though I can't remember the exact circumstances: "Fine, if I'm so bad, go ahead and call child services. See how you like a new family. Your brother would get a different family, too, so you'd tear us all apart from each other."

But I never really knew anything was wrong until I turned twelve. When I was twelve I got very depressed. I read a book about a girl who cut herself and it seemed like a pretty good idea so I made a few awkward scratches on my forearms with dull kitchen knives. My parents saw them and initiated a horrible cycle that lasted, with variants, for the next few years: they berated me and they shamed me and they validated all the thoughts I had about being a weak, pathetic failure of a human being who didn't even HAVE anything to be sad about anyway. They did all of this in an attempt to help me and it does not fucking excuse it. After the first time they found out we sat down in my parents' bathroom, closed the door, and talked and talked until they were content that we were done talking, regardless of how much I cried or asked to end the conversation or apologized. I switched to cutting my ankles (with a safety razor, fucking christ) and they found out and we had another awful talk. I switched to cutting my breasts so no one would see, even in the locker rooms. I had a livejournal where I wrote about cutting myself and planning to kill myself and how I had a weird confused crush on my best female friend and the revelation that you could, in fact, like boys AND girls, that you didn't have to pick one. My parents read through the diary. They called me into the bathroom for another talk, this time bringing in the other major theme of my relationship with them - my mother's vicious homophobia.

There were the beautiful, messed-up kids online who were my best friends; we all took turns saving each other's lives, and we were all half in love with all of each other, and they were the ones who told me about therapy and depression and mental illness and that therapy helped and that it was okay to ask to go. Ask your parents, they said. Your parents love you. Your parents will want to get you help if you're honest with them.

So on the third or fourth round of talks I started asking for therapy. I was told that therapy was for weak people, that it made people self-indulgent, that I had no reason to talk to strangers about family business. Why couldn't I just talk to them? Why weren't they enough? Why did I insist on lying to them and hiding things and being such a sneaky, untrustworthy, miserable excuse for a daughter? Didn't I realize how hard it was on them? How sad and scared I was making my mother? (I realize now that I was a fucking fantastic daughter, that even with staggering suicidal depression I still got As and had friends and wrote beautifully and did extracurriculars and never once lashed out at anyone, just turned it all in on myself - )

What else did they tell me? Well - an amendment here - it's not that they told me this so much as my mother told me and my father stood by, if he bothered to be in the room for it. I don't want to make it sound like he was utterly absent, but he certainly didn't feel comfortable with emotions. He had anger issues that I was aware of even as a very young child - no physical violence, just a lot of stamping feet and slamming doors and the constant, explosive "JESUS!" that I think, even if only subconsciously, he used because he was Jewish and he did not care and he knew my Catholic mother did. It terrifies me that I do this now with my partner, that I feel the need to make every movement and sentence as big and dramatic as possible to express the intensity of my anger or frustration. I know that trying to stop is not enough, that each time it happens I hurt her, that just as my mother's abuse doesn't excuse shit, neither does mine. As a child, though, I knew that my father had admitted to having issues with anger, and this was enough - after all, he said he was sorry. He didn't do it a lot. He was trying really hard not to get angry at us, and that was what mattered, and it would be cruel to him to care about the times he failed, since he already felt really bad about it.


I continued on being teenaged and suicidal and struggling to survive. I was finally, briefly, allowed to see a therapist, but she wasn't all that great, and my parents clearly expected this to be The Thing That Fixed Me. Every time I came home, I was grilled about what we had discussed, had I talked about my parents, was I making progress, was it working yet? I stopped after a few months because it wasn't the thing I wanted. It wasn't a safe place.

One summer night when I was sixteen my mother told me to go to sleep, to get off the computer - this was a frequent occurrence, I was a night owl and even as a kid would hide in the bathroom to read for hours past bedtime - she told me this and went to bed and I did not. She woke up later and in furious whispers informed me that she was grounding me from the computer indefinitely. I could not make her understand that I was talking to real people, to people who loved me, to people who cared about me and understood what it was like to want to die from the second you woke up and to have to deal with the utter inanity of your parents yelling at you for being late for school, for sleeping in, as if any of it even MATTERED - there were people out there who made me feel that i mattered, who mattered to me, and they were my lifeline. My mother did not care.

This is the part of the story I told myself for a long time to justify why I did what I did the next day. What I have not allowed myself to realize until now is that there was a much quieter voice in my head telling me that this was it, that my relationship with my mother was honestly and truly shattered, and I just could not handle that fucking voice and it needed to shut up.

The next day I went to the store and bought a bottle of extra-strength acetaminophen. And then - this is the part that fucking kills me, that is making the tears come up in my throat for the first time in writing this - I went to work. And I worked my entire shift as a hostess at a restaurant. Because I was on the schedule that day, and I didn't want to let anyone down before I died. And I finished up my shift and I locked myself in the employee bathroom and I took all of the acetaminophen except for the ones I gagged on and spit out that rolled under the lockers. I said goodbye to my manager and my mother drove me home. The acetaminophen started to make me woozy and I told my mother that I thought I was coming down with something. I went home and I got in the shower and I nearly passed out and I realized that after pages and pages of suicide notes, I had not bothered to write a final one.

It scared the shit out of me. I wanted to live I wanted to fucking live my body was not mine anymore and I wanted it back I did not want to fall asleep I did not want to die in my sleep I did not want to die. I got out of the shower and found my dad and told him that I needed to go to the hospital.

They took it as an excuse to read my journal again. I've blacked out most of what happened around then, especially the week I was in inpatient therapy at the hospital, but I remember them coming in and telling me they read my journal and the horrible shame and violation of it, right on the heels of nearly dying, and I will never stop being knocked over by it. (This was actually the THIRD time they'd read my journal that I know of: the second time they confronted me about having been sexually assaulted/harassed and locked me in that fucking bathroom again until I talked to them about it.)

After that I remained firmly in the land of suicidal ideation but I knew it was ideation only, I did not have the guts, I was doomed to live. I spent all of being 17 wishing that I would get cancer and smoking cigarettes I made other people buy me. I cut myself a lot more and made sure it would not get back to my parents. I drank sometimes and not in a fun experimental way. I knew that I wanted out. I had dreams about living alone somewhere in a big city, far from my parents, far from anyone, and having a quiet apartment alone where I could cut myself whenever I wanted and no one would make me feel bad about it.

Every time I tried to tell them this is wrong, you are saying things that hurt me, it is important for me to go to therapy, this is a real problem, I was told: this is not a problem. You are too sensitive. You need to get over it. You're very lucky that you have parents as good and nice as us. You're very lucky to have a roof over your head, to have food, to have an allowance. And I was materially comfortable and it didn't make it fucking okay.

What else? Oh: my mother found out I was cutting my breasts and said "what if you want to get married someday?" Oh: my father tried to guilt me for the fact that after my suicide attempt, he "had to be careful" around my feelings, as if this was a great burden on him that I had placed there purposefully.

Oh: I was told I was stupid or lazy for not knowing how to: load a dishwasher, dust every nook and cranny of an ornate antique dresser, clean the grime from those places where a faucet is flush against a bathroom sink, budget my money, wake up on time regularly, all of it without ever being shown how in a more than cursory fashion. Because of my ignorance about money, I was encouraged (forced) to take out a loan for college, even though they had the money and I had a scholarship as well, so "I could learn how to budget". This is actually and really a horrible way to teach your kid about finances, right?

Oh: my mother told me not to talk about being queer at school, "in case it causes trouble for your brother". Oh: she told me that she'd called the school and specifically barred me from any of the LGBT support groups or clubs. (I took this for granted until, a few years later, I told a friend and she looked at me with her eyes wide and said, "Was she even legally allowed to DO that?" It breaks my heart to think that there was support right there, that all I had to do was walk in, and that I believed my mother that I was not allowed to.)

Oh: I went to college and drank for literally the entire semester and dropped out and moved back home and went to culinary school and didn't drink and moved to the city and got a job in a kitchen and lost my job because it was horrible and I missed too many days. I had just started the lease on an apartment with two other people. I could not move back. Without even realizing the weight of it I thought to myself "if I move back in with them I'll die", it was just a given, a fact of the universe. That place would kill me. I would not be able to move out again.

My parents immediately told me how much I'd failed, how my only option was to come back to them, how they would not help me if I did not. I called them in hysterical tears when my bank account overdrafted and the fees accumulated. My father listened to my sobs and told me, "We'll need to think about how we're going to handle this," and hung up on my. One of my roommates loaned me the money. I don't know that I ever properly thanked her.

I did bad things I do not want to talk about to pay the rent. I was proud of myself. I felt that my mother would be proud of me if I could tell her, that I was following in her footsteps, that I was a tough survivor and I would do whatever the fuck I had to do to live and that doing bad things to pay the rent was a virtue because it meant I was not a baby anymore, I was not a whiny little brat who needed other people for things, I could do for my own fucking self in the world.

I got a job and I scraped by and the job was great at first and they loved me and clearly wanted me to stay forever. I stopped doing the bad things. I met a boy and he turned my world around and put some things right where they should've been all along. I did mushrooms and the God switch in my brain got flipped on and I realized that I did, in some small way, love myself, and that I was going to be okay. I thought I was ready to forgive, to grow up, to move past things. I thought that enough time had passed. I called my parents and I tried to mend things. I thought that if I was willing to apologize for what I'd done, they surely would too. They would own how much they had hurt me, and we could all move forward.

I spent another year believing that. Then I finally saw a therapist and started telling about my family and realized how fucking exhausting it was, being friends with my mom. There was no in-between with her: she wanted to talk to me every day, she wanted me and her and my dad and brother to all live in a "family complex" somewhere, "like one of those cults", a joke that she insists was a joke and I know was not really. Have I mentioned that she never had one friend aside from her sister, whom she found reasons to hate after she died? Have I mentioned the horrible refrain of "family is all that matters, no one will ever love you like your family, you can't trust anyone outside the family"? I wanted so much to be like the other girls I saw walking around the city, talking to their moms on their cell phones while they ran errands. Girls who called their mom their best friend. Girls who missed their mom when they were at college. I was not that girl and I tried so fucking hard to be and it just wouldn't go. It kept getting stuck.

My partner, my at-the-time boyfriend who my mother adored, who was invited to every family function, who she knew I would marry one day and who I think she secretly gloated over simply because he was a boy - that lovely partner came out to me(/herself) as trans. And I knew that there was a reason to get the fuck out. I knew that all the love and cookies and rainbows would disappear, that holidays would be a battlefield if I was allowed at all, that I deserved a family where I could attend events with my partner, that I deserved a family who would continue to love my partner as they had until then. I knew that I could not let one ounce of my mother's poison touch this woman that I loved. And I started making my last efforts.

It has dragged on since February of this year but I have finally made it clear that this is it, that they are not getting any more chances unless they own what they've done, that I have boundaries and limits now and that they can get inside them or stay the fuck out for good. They have been even more horrible than I could've expected. I don't even want to get into the litany of what they've said in these last few emails because I won't know where to stop. I think the thing that finally, finally clinched it for me was the email my dad sent that ended with "You will ALWAYS be my daughter". I heard it and it came through so screamingly clear, and it was in his angry voice, it was the same voice he used when he yelled "jesus" when I was a kid and slammed doors and stomped his feet. It was a threat.

This is stupidly, absurdly long enough already - I can't even get into the whole messy ball of my feelings now - I want to write more in the future but this is more than enough for now. I have told all of this to people before but I have never laid it all, all, all out in one place like this, and the horrifying part is that this is just what I REMEMBER. I went back and read my old journals a few months ago to see what I could find about my parents that I'd forgotten. I had forgotten that my mother had threatened to strip-search me for self-inflicted wounds. How could I have forgotten that? Wasn't that bad enough that it should've stuck? What else is lost in my mind because I thought it was normal, too low-level to bother carrying as a scar? What else did I block out because it hurt too much?

But it feels good to at least spread this out, to let it really stretch its wings, show its size. This is the map of what happened to me. This is its color and breadth. It is a place that I lived and it was not a good place and now that I am really, truly looking at all of it I can see that and it is astounding to finally be certain of it.

#32 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 01:52 PM:

Abi@18 - only hlepy in that it seemed like such a good idea that we tried it last year. It would have worked, I think, except that my parents decided last minute that they didn't want to be alone at Christmas and arrived at our doorstep for a nine-day stay that turned into a three week nightmare (the aforementioned medical stuff). I think a lot of the strain since then has been Dad's emotionally allergic reaction to having to depend on me for care then. He's doubled down on patronizing politics (Apparently I'm sweet and naive, and I'll learn better when I get a dose of reality - I'm in my middle forties.), and increased the amount of stuff I'm expected to do without acknowledgment. The phone call telling me I wasn't going to be inheriting anything, and btw, could I be their executor?, was especially nice.

Sigh. I have two brothers, but both of them have long-established that they spend holidays with their in-laws. I don't blame them. I'd rather spend holidays with their in-laws too.

#33 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 01:59 PM:

I feel bad for the gnome who has to deal with my novel of a post :(

#34 ::: Cassy B. reports gnoming for radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 02:02 PM:

@32 above, radiosongs mentions a gnoming in the body but not the header; figured it'd get released from the Tower a little quicker if I gave it a push....

#35 ::: Statistical Outlier ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 02:43 PM:

I seem to be the inverse.

Looking back at my childhood and my family, now that we're all adults, any abuse I felt was really a short-fused reaction by parents too poor and too overwhelmed to use the kindest, gentlest, most appropriate approach. An expedient end to strife was the general order of business. While my geekiness and overall weirdness were mostly accepted and kinda supported, I still felt like an outsider in my own family. (Still do, for that matter. However, what used to get me teased, harassed and told to stop/shut up/etc. is now appreciated.) The worst thing my family, parents and siblings, did was make me be shy about expressing myself. It stunted my social development by a decade or more.

I didn't find out about truly abusive relationships until I got out into the world. I made friends all just as geeky and out-of-step as me. Some of them were toxic, and, not willing to put up with the bullshit, I ended them. However, I always felt bad for doing so. It was like I was throwing someone out of the life raft and back into drowning deep. I also knew I had to if I wanted to survive them. I also became the sensible friend and reliable support for the ones who turned out to be abuse survivors (up to and including sitting on a suicide watch). It was tough, but it made me realize just how lucky I'd been.

My personal exposure to mental and emotional abuse is limited to self-organized groups who, over time, have turned into a family-by-choice. These are the ones who say "outsiders are welcome" but they really aren't. For a very long time, I believed they were doing as advertised. Over the last three years, I've slowly learned a family-by-choice I belonged to were as bad as the family of the friend I stood suicide watch for. They made me angry, depressed and profoundly apathetic. I was supposed to be grateful for being handed all kinds nastiness. It was like being hazed.

So I'm leaving that "family." I knew it was time when my blood family skipped suggesting that I quit the group, and went straight to the "Please do me a favor." Because while my real family is supportive of each other, we really, really, REALLY hate asking for favors and, sometimes, help.

I may not be all the way out of the group, but just the thought of "there's an end to this" has been like flipping a switch. I'm happy again.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 02:58 PM:

radiosongs @31:

Thank you for putting all of the time and effort into writing that. It was a powerful read, and bits of it are definitely going in my storehouse of things to listen for for when my daughter hits adolescence.

One thing that really impresses me is how you've developed a model of unconditional love and acceptance in relationships despite your parents' example.

I look forward to hearing more from you -- more details of this wider landscape -- when you next find yourself driven to write. And I'm glad that the previous threads have been of use to you. There's a lot of wisdom in them.

Statistical Outlier @35:

You have a good point -- families-of-choice can be as deeply dysfunctional as families-of-blood. I'm glad that your blood family has helped you decide to get out of that pit.

#37 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 03:02 PM:

radiosongs @ 31 - thank you for sharing your story. I feel as if I am holding something gently in my hands for you - I don't know what it is - a wish, a prayer, or if I am just helping you hold up your story because it feels like so much for one person to carry. Rest assured that we are listening.

#38 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 03:27 PM:

I suspect that the problem I have with my family is much like many people's: there is so much good in my parents and my brothers that I have a hard time processing how very bad they were about some things.

Also, I suspect, typical, is that the mechanisms I developed to cope with this in childhood are now an added problem.

#39 ::: SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 04:09 PM:

abi @ 24:

Thank you so much for the encouragement. It was surprisingly hard to even write that much. I will be taking this is small steps, I think.

In regards to the technical issue, does this email fix it? If not, please assign/tell me one that does. I don't want to be in with Those People of the Canned Meat sorts, but I didn't see that problem until you pointed it out to me.

#40 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 05:00 PM:

Reading. Witnessing.

Congratulations, all, on surviving, on learning and growing despite it all.

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 05:07 PM:

John M Burt @38:

On both counts, I suspect you're absolutely right. Of course, knowing it and dealing with it are not quite simultaneous, alas.

SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed @39:

That works perfectly. I've changed the other comment to match it, and now the (view all by) is right.

Thanks. And take your time with writing. We all have our own pace for these things.

#42 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 05:25 PM:

radiosongs @31, I hear you so much. My mother once told me my preferred hairstyle made me look like the village idiot. I was so used to that kind of stuff I didn't even think much about it until I repeated it to someone and saw the look of shock on her face.

I can't in all honesty tell you it gets better. I'm 60 and it still hurts & would still happen if I allowed contact. You do get better at dealing with it.

Part of your depression is almost certainly biochemical in nature. They can treat that now and I hope you're getting that help. I feel I can say this to you because it's something I have & I can recognize it in the things you say. Don't be afraid of the meds. They are far from perfect but they can help SO much. If you like, I can give you my email address so you can to talk to me directly abut this. I've been writing about depression in its biochemical aspects all over the web for years & years. If not, that's ok too, but I had to make the offer.

#43 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 06:14 PM:

abi @36: Thank you so very much for that - for being a mother who is trying; for seeing the strength in my relationship with my partner, which is one of the few things in this world I am unabashedly proud of; and for not minding that I will probably write another novel or two in this space in the near future :)

oliviacw @37: A couple years back when I really started to try and heal, one of the images that came to me was that of myself reaching back along my own timeline, each version of me holding a smaller version of myself within my palms, cradling that younger, more fragile person and caring for her. I like the idea that all of us witnessing each other's stories are cradling each other's tiny selves, carrying each other along when we can't hold ourselves at the moment.

Mary Kay @42: I am not in treatment at the moment, but after I get married next month (!!!) I will have real insurance again, and I intend to dive straight back in. I really appreciate your words and your experience, and I would like to take you up on your offer, but I am inexplicably skittish about one-on-one contact with people - I can't really dissect all the reasons for it - I'm just more comfortable in a group space like this right now. Again, though, thank you so much.

#44 ::: crow ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 06:39 PM:

cassy b @ 23, abi @24, thank you. This was very hard to write.

#45 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:24 PM:

radiosongs @ 31
You are a wonderful and amazing person. I hope your efforts continue to pay off. Please, please, please keep sharing so you can heal that much faster.

Every time this thread comes around, the more and more I feel like you've created a PTSD therapy group for the victims of abuse. Keep up the good work.

#46 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:25 PM:

My show of support just got gnomed. Interesting.

#47 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:43 PM:

Nothing much to say except that I'm reading and witnessing. Welcome the newcomers (whoami, Daedelean, SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed, trying, crow, radiosongs, and Statistical Outlier - hope I didn't miss anybody). You have some very powerful stories and I am sorry these things happened to you, but pleased that you found your way here.

#48 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2012, 08:56 PM:

Is there a thing where you're too depressed to accomplish anything much, but you don't FEEL sad? Because that's what seems to have been going on with me. I'm feeling okay. I get up in the morning and all that. I'm not yelling at anyone. But I cannot get a single fucking thing done.

Also John M. Burt's post at 38 really resonated with me, as I have been spending the summer processing the death of my father (who was a great guy. and a terrible person. and a great guy. repeat ad lib.)*. Part of what I can't do is fill out papers that have to do with accepting my inheritance. Jesus, does that ever sound Freudian. And I hate Freud.

*If I told you all the good things my father had done, you wouldn't believe any of the bad things, and vice versa.

#49 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 09:27 AM:

"Is there a thing where you're too depressed to accomplish anything much, but you don't FEEL sad?"

Yes. I'm convinced that misery and inertia are almost independent from each other.

#50 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 09:49 AM:

I’m putting this up partly because I want to talk about it but also because it might help someone else. A while ago I had been doing a journalling thing where I wrote out copies of lists. List #1 was lies my parents taught me, and everyone who read it thought it was pure poison. Then one day I figured out the list of prerequisites for list #1, and those were engineered plague. Just as with list #1, I immediately *knew* were true or very very close to it once they were on the page. My therapist went pale when he read them and said to put that list aside, forget about it, because nothing good could come of contemplating it. He doesn't usually do that.

Why? Well, for list #1 if you squinted very hard and were generous, you could see my mother the abuser as Loving But Horribly Misguided. (My therapist doesn't characterize her; this is me looking for narrative sense.) But the prerequisites -- well, those were Supervillain Cultivating Perfect Abusee. If someone had built fiction out of this either my disbelief would unsuspend right quick or I would be totally freaked out. I also couldn't reconcile it with the lesser but real body of evidence that my mom also loved me and wanted her best for me, in her tortured way. I'd already been having trouble with that, but the contrast was not as harsh with Loving But Terribly Misguided. You can see how questions about which intentions motivated which action to what degree and how much did she know she was doing this are/were magnetic, endless, and fruitless, and why my therapist was trying to keep me from wasting yet more time on them.

(While writing this I got sucked back into the fruitless questions for a bit. My honest best guess is that her conscious mind, driven by guilt and love and revenge, never fully grasped what the subconscious mind was arranging so deftly, driven by revenge and need to hurt and be hurt. It's the only thing I've thought of that makes sense of both the exquisitely crafted trap, *and* of her terrifyingly bad but sincere efforts to be a good mother. The "good mother" part is a gigantic lie to soothe her demons, but she *believes* that she ought to be a good mother and that she is one. She's also terrified that she is not...which tells me that her conscious level has a tiny glimpse of just how evil her subconscious level is.)

I did put it aside but could not let it go — too hideous. Eventually I made myself sit down with both lists again, and got some insights or conclusions. One was that what I had been put through was unacceptable regardless of cause, intention, and so on. Another was that this should have been caught, even making allowances for time period. (It never was spotted by anyone who could do anything, nor by many who couldn’t.) Those are not new conclusions, but they need the reinforcement. And then in annoyance I thought, if this had happened thanks to, say, alcoholism, one it might have gotten spotted, and two I might not be going down mental rabbit holes so often about it. (What-iffing is something else I try not to waste too much time on either, but can't resist entirely.)

I ended up asking myself, can a person be addicted to abusing? The next time or two that I talked with my mother, I noticed that if she was deprived of her regular targets to abuse, she’d abuse herself before going without. This was perfectly normal behaviour for her; I just hadn’t seen it in that light before. How could that *not* count as addicted to abuse? Most people, if they're getting negative reactions for insulting or belittling others, do not start insulting or belittling *themselves* as a substitute. So I went ahead with the "abuse addiction" train of thought, and you know, it's a damn good Occam's razor for this.

Counting my mom’s abusiveness as an addiction makes sense of her complex and unpredictable behaviour with one simple rule: my mother genuinely loves me (to the extent that she can, under all the mental health problems), but most of the time, the need to abuse wins. When some other motivation wins, abuse is still going to be a close second. That abuse could be direct, or it could be by neglecting me for someone else's needs, wants, preconceptions, or convenience. It also makes those horrible rabbit-hole questions about motivation mostly collapse: there's only two intentions that matter, Love and Need, and it’s easy to call a winner. The basic choice she always had was, either she could maintain or increase her ability to abuse me, or she could put my well-being above the cravings. I do think that she often restrained herself from doing as many horrible things as she really wanted to, but that's very far from stopping abusing, isn't it?

It’s peaceful, this view of the situation. I was never more important to her than her addiction and never will be, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t even have to try, because the problem is 100% hers. It was always her job to stop, and if she couldn't do it on her own, it was the job of all the other adults to notice and stop her, not me to provide doses and compensate for it. It makes simple reliable sense, and while it still hurts, it's more in the "old scar or broken bone" kind of way, instead of the "open festing wound" way. "Open festering wound" would be trying to analyze the internal conflicts between Loving Misguided Mom and Creepy Supervillain Mom. So, you know, a world where my mom is a hopeless abuse addict coping with terrible psychological damage, and probably a personality disorder or two (favourite candidates are narcissism and borderline) is a much better and more comforting place than a world where my mom is right. It also functions a lot better, and other people's behaviour makes more sense.

Hopefully this abuse addiction idea will help other wonderful readers get some more peace about your sources of pain?

#51 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 11:04 AM:

Is there a thing where you're too depressed to accomplish anything much, but you don't FEEL sad?

Yes. Sometimes the depression gets so deep you don't really feel much of anything. I don't feel sad all the time, but I'm pretty inert.

#52 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 11:49 AM:

I was thinking more about what I call "laughing depression", where low intensity pleasure are pursued and enjoyed, but it's almost impossible to get anything useful done. This is rather common in fandom.

#50 ::: Moonlit Night:

That's both chilling and plausible. I'm impressed that you did the work to get that deep.

#53 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 11:54 AM:

"I ended up asking myself, can a person be addicted to abusing?"

That... is a disturbing concept, because it sounds quite true.

#54 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 12:02 PM:

Since last year, my mother has died (on January 20th, 2012, just days after she got a new bunny to replace her bunny that had just died, to be a new friend for the bunny that didn't die). I am next-of-kin, so I had to fly down from Canada to deal with it, with the husband, and stay with the grandparents (my mother's parents) while doing so.

I miss my mother terribly, yet I am very conflicted--our relationship was better, the last year or two, than it used to be, but she is...was...still an abuser. Her parents are, too. It still does not seem real.

My boss at work (who is the HR/accounting person, since my actual boss died at the end of last year and work never brought in a new boss) said, when I asked for the 18th of September off (as that was my mother's birthday), "It's still affecting you that much?" in the tone of voice that means "It shouldn't be doing so--you should be over this by now--work is more important than anything else you might have going on in your life." This is not the first time this boss has said such things. Yes, I've been out a lot this year--there are days I simply cannot face the world. The way to start a discussion of how things should be different is not with "It's still affecting you that much?" in that tone.

We spent three weeks with the grandparents, myself and the husband cleaning out my mother's apartment. In doing so, my martial arts trophies, all the pictures I'd wanted to keep, and much else was lost. And my aunt (my mother's half-sister-by-blood) took everything that wasn't nailed down (including the bed and living room tables, that were might by right of having paid for them), "So that you don't have to worry about moving them up to Canada."

Over all, this has been a hell of a year. I don't know how it's all going to turn out. It is...I don't even have words.

#55 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 12:43 PM:

OtterB @6 - Thank you. It was stressful. Although in fairness it got a lot less stressful once I was able to disentangle the external work from my internal baggage about OH SHIT PEOPLE WILL SEE ME IF I F**K THIS UP (among other large boxes of crap.)

#56 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 01:23 PM:

That last one of mine was more of a wall of text than I expected. Apparently I don't do short. The downside of having written #50 is that I accidentally ripped off a fresh layer of emotional skin. You see, I started trying to remember situations where my well-being won. I think I am going to stop doing that, now that I have thought through what the example I came up with really means.

The first year, when I started getting asthma attacks, my mother would come to fetch me when the school called her, and took me to the doctor about it several times, which meant she was taking this seriously. But the attacks weren't happening in the doctor's office, so our family doctor didn't think I really had a problem. My mother certainly believed *something* was wrong -- schools don't send you home repeatedly for medical reasons for nothing -- but to this day she disapproves of the basic premises for asthma and allergies, so perhaps she didn't press him about it. She was probably also worried about the cost of prescriptions. So I spent a year or two or three panting and clinging to walls because I didn't have asthma meds of any kind. I also did not have an exemption from gym class.

I looked it up last night (asthma treatments for children in the late 80s early 90s) -- the inhalers the doctor wouldn't give me were standard treatment, had been around for at least a decade. And at the time they weren't prescribed, I was getting proper asthma attacks, not just fits of wheezing softly. I often couldn't sleep lying down for asthma. Once I finally got medicine, I was worried about going through it too quickly by using them when I needed to -- they were precious and needed to be saved.

But it hit me last night that I often couldn't breathe and my parents did not insist that the doctor treat me. They let him say it wasn't real or would go away, even when this whole child-not-breathing thing kept happening over and over, often enough that the school stopped sending me home, or even to the nurse, and I learned how to wait out an attack quietly without bothering anyone, and to get to my next class without help. It was at least a year, and I think more like 2-4 years before anything useful like medicine happened. And it took until today for me to realize that this was not like forgetting to pick up more cough drops. This was serious neglect and incompetence, wasn't it?

I really truly could have gotten seriously ill or died from something, just because my parents didn't believe in the diseases I tended to get. I have a few serious allergies, not detected back then, so it's just good luck that I never ended up in anaphylactic shock with no epipen, no inhalers, and no antihistamines. (My mother thinks antihistamines are for wimps.) I certainly spent far more time suffering from asthma, allergies, skin conditions, and random colds than necessary, because of the degree of stress I was always under from emotional abuse, and because my parents kept ignoring avenues of treatment that I later found out were the ones that worked for me.

I already knew that my emotional safety didn't matter to them as much as their own, but I had really believed that they wouldn't risk my physical safety despite everything else they did wrong. That belief just got smashed to pieces. It's even more disturbing that they would have tried, they would have looked like they were doing something, but I was still in real danger from neglect and incompetence.

#57 ::: Statistical Outlier ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 02:00 PM:

Win @ #48

Yes. In fact I've been feeling that way for the last 3-4 years. I'm normally a very active, engaged with the world person. Recently, I hit bottom - as in, didn't want to get out of bed, and when I did, it was only to attend necessities and get another book. It felt like a functional fuge state. If someone broke my inertia, I would respond, but the followthrough just wasn't there. Until I decided to cut ties with my abusive group-as-family. Then it was like flipping a switch. I got more accomplished in two days than I had in the previous two weeks. It was like I'd cut loose a boat anchor that was slowly dragging me down into mucky water.

What I did, and have done at various times when I get to feeling this way, is take an inventory of my life. What do I do and does it make me happy? If it doesn't automatically make me want to smile, I then ask myself "am I getting out of it as much as I put into it?" and "Do I really need to do this, or can I get along without it? and why?" "Is the reward I'm promised worth the aggravation I'm dealing with now?"

For myself, and in regards to the abusive group, the answers were: no, I spend more time cussing than smiling; no; no, I've actually stayed beyond the point of usefull returnsfor me as an idividual; I've moved beyond needing or even wanting the group; no, that ship just sailed (thank you, Sister Sledge).

I'm a goal oriented person with a strong indepent streak, so what works for me may be hlepy for you.

#58 ::: Blindsided on a Tuesday ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 02:02 PM:

I have trichtillomania. I pull my hair out. it's an OCD, or an ICD, or a body-altering dysmorphia or whatever the hell - it's my life, and it sucks. I don't care what they call it. They can't make up their minds anyway: the diagnosis changes.

If anyone reading this is like me, I'm sorry for that punch to the gut. I spend most of my time terrified that the people around me will figure it out, so I hate it when it's talked about or written about or comes up in a television show . I dread the moment when a friend looks at me and goes "wait-"; I wear wigs now and imagine everyone examining my hairline, noticing how my eyebrows are inked in, seeing the gaps in my eyelashes. So I'm sorry - I know, trust me - I know.

Anyway, I've been doing this since I was ten and it got really bad right away. Hats, scarves - before they were cool - that was the order of the day for me. I was a fifteen year old girl trying to master the comb-over and failing. I haven't gone swimming in years. High school was a treat. Prom? you don't want to know.

Mom thought it was a manifestation of stress from The Divorce. Maybe it was. I don't know. But I can't forgive her for not taking me to a doctor. I read about it, online, late - emptying my cache right away afterwards just in case anyone uses my computer later - and some people get cured. If there's intervention right away, when they are young. Behavioral therapy, medication. And poof! it stops. My God, the relief.

If you're old, like me, forget it. No hope. Or the long terrible stretch of therapy, numbing medication, and "management". (I hate that word, "management". Like they don't even try to make it sound compassionate - here, go manage your disgusting habit.) I have all this rage and it's aimed directly at me and for some reason I can't totally explain, also at my mother.

Two things - when I was a teenager, frozen with shame as she confronted me with a handful of hair - my hair - gathered up from my bedroom floor and said "Why don't you just stop this?" like it's a choice I make every day (and it is, but - but -)

Second thing. The casual mention, fifteen years on, that my father used to do the same thing. The sense of healing, of comfort - that's why! - followed almost instantly by the anger - why didn't you tell me this earlier? How hard would it have been to tell me this when I was depressed and suicidal, a freak alone in my bedroom, convinced I was pathetic and stupid and too weak to Just Stop? To tell me that I'm not alone, that maybe it isn't my fault, that maybe I was born with some switch in my head thrown on or off that lead to all this misery?

I go to therapy, I tell my therapist, he's all business. "We can do behavioural therapy or we can do medication but let's try a combination of both." And he says, "Let's be realistic and set achievable goals." And I say "Can we spend a couple sessions while I talk about my mother?"

And he looks at me and says, "Will that be helpful to you?"

And to tell the truth, I don't know. I don't know where this rage is coming from. I think I want to blame some one other than me, for once. And it's not fair and I feel that, and I feel guilty and terrible and trapped. It isn't her fault. But it isn't mine either.

#59 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 02:48 PM:

radiosongs @43 that's ok. I understand entirely. Good luck to you.

#60 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 03:29 PM:

Nancy @ 52

I can see it from two angles.

First, that's where I tend to baseline, when I'm not taking medications and I'm also not having a sharp downward depressive spike. I describe it to therapists as having a mood set-point that is slightly below everyone else's - it's just very mellow and a little slowed down, a little serious. It's not that I'm not content, or don't laugh more than anyone I've met, it's just that I'm not ever really happy. I've learned to manage it, so stuff does get done for the most part, but it takes doing.

The other, though - you know, when I hit my deepest depressions, I tend to bury myself in shallow pursuits, because it's a stabilizing technique. I read lots of books, I play endless casual video games, I watch dumb TV shows - anything that doesn't require me to be really engaged or capable of thinking, but which distracts me from thinking really toxic things. I've learned to avoid stimulus gaps when I'm deeply depressed. And from the outside, you know, I've been practicing that act for years, and I just look a little flighty and unserious. And because I'm depressed, I'm solidly grounded, so my highs are somewhere near everyone else's normal; I don't look like I'm nervously giddy near hysteria, because my presentation is muted by the depression.

Which is just to say, I don't think it's possible to know what's in other people's heads without having them tell you.

Finny @ 54

So, at the risk of being hlepy (you are your own adult, YMMV, etc), my personal rule of thumb is that if depression is interfering with my ability to get things done, I go to my doctor to get help. It's the "days [you] simply cannot face the world" that concern me, I think.

I say this, having just gone in to my own doctor two days ago, after a week and a half of near-constant panic attacks, related to my own mother's death. So I guess what I would say is, you know, just because some grieving is normal in these kinds of situations, it doesn't mean that help isn't available if it gets too much.

#61 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 03:55 PM:

Moonlit Night @56

I hear you. I started developing allergy / asthma symptoms in my early teens, but they were initially mild enough that nobody believed there was anything wrong... so I learned to cope, and internalized the assumption that I was just making things up to get attention, and it was only last year at the age of 38 that I finally begged a physician to at least consider the possibility that there might be something wrong beyond "fat, lazy and out of shape."

It's amazing how much of a difference air flow makes. I'm still wrestling with some residual resentment over the whole thing - both the unwillingness of authority figures to believe my accounting of my own experience, and also my own willingness to disbelieve my own experience because it was inconvenient to those around me.

This is a recurring pattern of dysfunction. It continually surprises me when other people assume I'm a full human being and that my experiences are as real as theirs.

#62 ::: Hey Nonny Nonymous ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 05:37 PM:

Thanks to Abi for recharging the discussion with a new thread.

I for one wonder how much I can really say here. I am afraid that someone who knows who I am or who my family is can see the details match and I won't be anonymous.

#63 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 06:12 PM:

Blindsided on a Tuesday @58: Oh, honey. I hear this. I have dermatillomania, and I hear the shame and the futility of trying to do anything else but and the horrible fear of being seen and recognized and the furious anger that something was wrong, something was visibly wrong, and nothing was done.

I think it's more pernicious than many of my other OCD behaviors, because with those, I can accept that there must be a reasonable level: it's healthy to wash your hands, up to a certain point. It's safe to make sure you have your keys/the door is locked, up to a point. But picking is something that I feel like I have to eradicate entirely before I'll feel any "better", because after all, the tapes in my brain tell me that I should be able to "just stop", that stopping shouldn't have to be a process or a struggle, that not being able to do it quickly and easily and feel relief at being done makes me somehow... less.

I wish I had an answer to this. I wish I had anything besides plain old sympathy.

#64 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 06:33 PM:

KayTei @ 60:

Oh, that makes perfect sense. I'm already on Trazadone (or Trazodone? I never can remember the spelling), and have been for years. I've also got a lot of bad history with psych meds--such as being misdiagnosed as bipolar and being put on an overdose of Abilify, combined with Seroquel and the Lamictal that made me hallucinate in the first place--so I'm rather leery of trying anything else instead of or in addition to the Traz. At least the Traz keeps me from having the meltdowns and shutdowns I'm prone to, being autistic and all. So I don't know quite what to do, except keep on keeping on.

But no, your suggestion does not strike me as hlepy at all. Not in the slightest.

#65 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 06:42 PM:

Haven't read over everything yet, but I figure my latest breakdown is worth mentioning. Basically, I'm into this silly thing called geohashing, which involves going to random points. My mother made me promise before I left that if I was going to travel a significant distance (not defined, but knowing her, my previous trip to the end of the subway line was pushing it) and/or meet somebody while geohashing, I had to bring somebody with me.
I had an idea to go geohashing and visit a nice nearby town all in one fell swoop, and I was really excited... and then the person who was going to accompany me backed out. So, either disobey my mother and deal with the unholy amounts of guilt that follows, or give up on this trip that I was really excited about, and likely disappoint the fellow geohasher who was going to meet up with me.
Thanks, Mom.

#66 ::: Diane ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 10:23 PM:

I was thrilled the day I learned the term "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" and figured out that no, I wasn't making things up, and no, I wasn't crazy. Of course, realizing that my parent was a narcissist meant accepting a few horrible truths as a result. But it was a necessary barrier to break though and I only wish I had done it 20 years ago.

#67 ::: Apel Mjausson ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2012, 11:03 PM:

Thanks to everybody who has contributed and continues to contribute to these threads. I particularly want to thank those who contribute a lot by writing long comments about their own experience. The investment of time and effort you're making is valuable to me and greatly appreciated.

You matter. Everybody who writes in these threads matters, whether they write short comments or long ones. Hearing your truth makes a difference in my life. Thank you.

#68 ::: a figment of your imagination ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 12:46 AM:

So...I maybe don't belong here. I mean, I still live with my folks despite being well beyond the age where such things are usually considered okay. It's a long story and I don't want to get into it.

Unlike a lot of folks on this thread, I know my parents love me. I know they did their best at raising me. And I know they care what happens to me, which means I'm doing pretty good, all things considered. mom was the child of two scared sixteen year olds, who ended up divorced before my mom was a year old. That secret destroyed her inside and carried down into mine and my sister's lives. I think, as kids, we always wanted to make Mom happy, and we never could succeed.

As an adult now, I understand all the reasons for it, that Mom lived (and really, still lives, although better thanks to anti-depressants) in a world of near constant depression and there was no way us kids were going to succeed. Add to that Mom's mom, who seemed to make it a mission to beat her ex out of my mother (not literally, of course, but with her tongue), and my mom's sense of self-esteem is gone. Not surprisingly, us kids don't have that great of one either.

As for Dad...well, he's always been there, but he had his own problems growing up. He's a bright person, but he has dyslexia and in the sixties, it wasn't really known. So he's a very emotionally distant person and a workaholic to boot, to the point my sis and I both state rather emphatically that he 'wasn't there' through our childhood despite the fact that he showed up to our Little League games and was our Scout dad and such.

And as an adult, you understand, but as a kid, it's difficult. And of course, Mom was the disciplinarian. And the depression didn't help. I don't want to call it abuse, because I know she was doing her best and didn't know...but it did border on, if not outright was, emotional abuse. (And I know point blank what her mom did to her was emotional abuse, but families are stupidly complicated.)

I don't know. It's one of those things where it wasn't that bad, but it's obviously affected who I was and why I am the way I am and I'm just not sure how to process it. And I know it's really nothing compared to the junk a lot of other folks have to deal with.

But it's mine.

#69 ::: Sid ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 01:42 AM:

Moonlit Night @50:

Regarding abuse as addiction, you might find validating. (If you like it, you might want to save a copy down to your local machine lest it fall off the internet for good, because the author is no longer hosting it.)

@56, yes, that's called medical neglect. It runs in my family, too. I spent quite a bit of time wondering why I was so terrified of getting injured in any way as a young child, and eventually I realized that I had somehow twigged, even then, to the fact that my parents wouldn't necessarily see that I got care. (I say "somehow" as if it were hard to notice how inattentive, emotionally unengaged, and all-round disinterested my parents were with me.)

The most recent iteration: Last year, I learned from a passing comment about my sister's health that all the biological relatives of a certain uncle had gone for echocardiograms, because it turned out that he had had a congenital heart deformity which only turns into a problem at midlife and which is genetic. My mother failed to mention it to me; I only learned about it when I learned my sister had one, rather after the fact. I'm 40+ years old and self-sufficient; I'd thought that by now I'd have aged out of the mother-jeopardizes-my-life-through-neglect thing, but apparently not. (I got the echo and my heart is fine.)

The one upside is that all this played out in a way that my SO got to witness it, which was both very enlightening for him and validating to me. Enlightening in that he as a good, loving relationship with his mother, and really had no idea there were people in the world who behaved towards their own flesh and blood like my mother does; it was for the best that he saw it for himself. Validating in that he (and his mother!) were profoundly shocked, and expressed as much, which, yes, this wasn't all in my imagination, and no I'm not making too much of this.

#70 ::: Blindsided on a Tuesday ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:14 AM:

radiosongs @63

Yes... YES. Exactly that.

The only utility in this mess I can come up with is that it's a sort of grooming-instinct overload. Self care horribly perverted, taken to an awful extreme.

I look back to myself at ten and there was an actively absent father to miss, an abusive brother to evade, and a shattered mother to shield from everything - and Christ, no one has taken care of me since then. (It sounds to me like you might know what it feels like.)

My therapist said as much during our very first session and it was so obvious to him, it was basic groundwork for future sessions, and yet I stopped him and made him repeat it, because I didn't know what the truth sounded like until that exact moment.

#71 ::: erikagillian ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:16 AM:

I'm here and listening.

I have a background of alcoholism in my family, some gambling addiction, lots of sobriety now. Have clinical depression that's treated with drugs. My parents were good though so I'm here mostly as one who listens.

I don't know if this comes off as hlepy, if so please ignore, or Abi, if it's bad, please delete!

But I really want to say: You can't just stop! OCD behaviors, pulling hair, picking skin, cutting, not getting out of bed, being scared, being anxious. You need help for those and there is help, sometimes people, sometimes groups, sometimes drugs. But it isn't because you're a bad or weak person that you can't just stop. You can't just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, put on your big girl pants. Sometimes we need help. It's a disease. It's not your fault, you didn't cause it.

Again, if this comes off as hlepy or condescending, I'm sorry.

#72 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:19 AM:

For a figment of your imagination @ #68, and for anybody else who may have joined us since last time it was explicitly stated, one of the guiding principles here is this:

There is no minimum dysfunction requirement to participate in this community. If you need to come talk, come talk.

If it's bad, it doesn't matter that it's "not that bad"; it especially doesn't matter that "other folks have to deal with worse". This is not a competition.

#73 ::: Phyllis ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 05:08 AM:

I wasn't going to post this year, just listen and witness. But the medical neglect has hit me between the eyes. I spent most of my childhood and teens breathing through my mouth, and of course being constantly told to stop it. Kinda hard, when your nose is permamanently stopped up from undiagnosed allergies. I was also having petit mal seizures, which she dismissed as my way of attention-seeking, or looking for 'excuses' to get out of my chores.

One of my other favorite blogs has a post this week about how exhausting emotional vampires can be. It wasn't until I got away* to college that I realized how exhausted I was with constantly catering to her emotional roller-coaster**.

*Other kids say 'went away'; college was thank FSM my escape hatch.

**She recently admitted to my sister that yes, she had once had that manic-depressive thing, but she's over it now. Oy vey.

#74 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 07:40 AM:

a figment of your imagination @68, in addition to Paul A's point about "no minimum level," you may find abi's original post in the previous Dysfunctional Families thread of interest. It, and the post of Michele Sagara's that it links to, make the point that lack of intent doesn't somehow magically make the pain go away.

Parents who were doing the best they could are not the same as deliberate abuse or neglect. But pain is pain.

#75 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 09:24 AM:

I almost posted this in the clear. I'm upfront about my own dysfunction -- I try to file it under "destigmatizing mental illness," and let it out there.

But then I realized this post might talk about my kid, and my boyfriend, and other people who might not want to be linked on the internet with my dysfunction. So, a pseudonym.

I say "my dysfunction" because I pretty much AM the dysfunctional one in my family. 42 years old, not diagnosed bipolar or ADHD-inattentive until a couple of years ago, checkered postsecondary school and work career because see above, and currently dependent on my parents for support because see above.

But they DO support me, financially, willingly, and without making me move back under their roof and engage in social power struggles with them. And while there's definitely been friction -- five years ago, when I moved in here, I wasn't unpacking the boxes fast enough for my mother, and her nagging pushed me over into a blowup and I haven't let her into my living space since, though I do visit my parents, and if they come to my town we meet at a restaurant -- anyway, despite things like that, on the whole they try not to undermine me. They're supporting me financially right now so I can go back to school for a career change (AGAIN).

I can't even blame them for the lack of earlier diagnosis. They just weren't diagnosing girls ADHD in the 1970s, and even if they had been, ADHD-inattentive slips under schools' radar even now when a kid is bright enough to hit the right answers even if they've been reading (or writing) a novel below desk level instead of paying attention to the teacher. Which was me. Hell, when I got diagnosed and was able to describe the manifestations to my mother? She recognized HERSELF in it and wasn't freaked out by the idea that I might have inherited that from her. Apparently, the detailed packing lists she used to tape to the front door when we were going on a trip, and the heavily annotated wall calendar, and all that other stuff? Not a sign of her being Naturally Organized, as I always thought when I was younger and failing at Being Organized. They were hard-learned coping strategies she developed. The only dysfunction I can figure out there is that she didn't realize I could benefit from being taught those explicitly instead of being expected to absorb them somehow.

Can't blame them for not getting the bipolar diagnosed earlier either. I'm bipolar II, which manifests in me with the depression troughs being a LOT more disabling than the (hypo)manic peaks, and they engaged with the reality of the depression part since I was, what, maybe nine or ten. First the school guidance counselor (because it sure as hell first looked like depression situational from having to deal with the other little shits who were in my classes), then a private therapist, first crack at antidepressants when I was twenty... it wasn't IGNORED, though yeah, there was an admixture of "snap out of it" and "learn to cope" and... no better or worse than the attitudes of society at large, really. Which, with regard to mental illness, are... not terrifically helpful.

And I made my own batch of stupid decisions in early adulthood, probably driven by the mental illnesses -- which are real things, I have to remind myself, no less real than diabetes or paralysis from polio, and amenable to treatment and adaptive technology, no less than those things. It's easy for me to make the analogy between insulin and psych meds. It's harder to make myself believe that a purse with lots of specialized pockets and a dedicated clip for my keys (oh come on, the little voice says, it's just a purse) or an iPod Touch with all sorts of organizing apps (sure, the voice says, but you could use a pocket calendar, you're making an excuse to have a fun, expensive toy -- never mind that I have proven incapable of consistently using a pocket calendar/homework assignment notebook since seventh grade, and the iPod is shiny enough to make me want and remember to use it) -- anyway, jesus, look at these dashes that I'm trying to keep from turning into nested parentheses, ANYWAY, it is harder to believe that well-designed purses and shiny fun iPods are as much adaptive technology for me as leg braces and wheelchairs might be for someone with mobility issues. BUT THEY ARE.

It would have been nice not to feel like a failure because I couldn't master the simple logic of "use a homework assignment notebook" even when the homework itself was trivial -- the same thing that made me forget assignments made me forget to use the notebook. I believed it was a character flaw. They believed it was a character flaw. People didn't KNOW better when I was a kid. And when there was more research to support it not being a character flaw -- they didn't keep trying to make me believe I was willfully at fault for fucking up on stuff like that. As I said, they're financially supporting me again (I've been self-supporting, sometimes, and might still be if the economy hadn't imploded). And trying not to nag, and to learn how to deal with me constructively.

But years -- decades -- of believing myself a pure and simple fuckup because I couldn't keep my room clean (still can't, working on training myself with UFYH, trying to cut myself slack because the depressive troughs interfere even though I'm medicated), couldn't use an obvious thing like a homework assignment notebook (see: iPod), flunked out of MIT despite being intelligent enough to get in (um, yeah, undiagnosed and therefore unaccommodated ADHD, not so great with keeping up with the firehose, plus depressive troughs where I couldn't get myself out of bed for class, recipe for flunking out right there) -- and this stuff isn't great for hanging onto a job, either -- years of believing myself a fuckup and a failure makes me behave dysfunctionally to my family.

Especially with my brother. He's two years younger. He was always the social one, the athletic one, the B student where I was the A student, I was supposed to be brilliant and he was supposed to be normal. And where has brilliant got me? 42 and no college degree and unemployed. And where has normal got him? Master's degree, a published nonfiction book (with his undergrad mentor), a career as a teacher, and very much self-supporting. And I'm so fucking ashamed of that that I avoid him, and my sister-in-law who couldn't be sweeter, and my nieces, who get on my nerves just because they ARE such normal kids and I don't get it -- how do you raise a child who's not a geek? I raised my kid geeky from birth, and my nieces are 8 and 10 and hadn't seen Star Wars yet, despite my brother having loved it just as much as I did when we were kids -- and ESPECIALLY from extended family gatherings featuring his in-laws, because holy fuck do I not want to explain my 42-and-unemployed-self to privileged, materially successful folks who are just trying to make small talk. And this is my dysfunction, not theirs, and my mother tells me it makes my brother very sad that I won't interact with him and at least his wife and nieces more, but... when I try I feel like such a fucking failure, because I was the brilliant one and he was the normal one and I was supposed to have something to show for it. And I don't.

I see I didn't get into my kid (brain problems like mine, at least we got them diagnosed in the kid's teens and not later?) or my boyfriend (abusive family of origin plus somewhere-on-the-spectrum issues mean I spend time reassuring him he's not the evil/heartless person he sometimes perceives himself to be, because outside evidence of being liked and treating others well doesn't fix the self-perception right away) much. There, I've dealt with them in parentheses.

But yeah. Even a loving and supportive family doing its best and trying to adapt their behaviors won't magically fix everything.

So I'm the dysfunctional one.

#76 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 10:42 AM:

#73 ::: Phyllis:

Would you be willing to mention the other blog? (I realize there could be privacy concerns.)

I think mother was an emotional vampire, or at least I'd get knocked out after talking with her briefly.

Searching on "emotional vampire exhaustion" turns up a little bit, but the comments seem to include a lot of emotional vampires.

#77 ::: Hiding a little ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 11:31 AM:

trying @20 -- I want to hear more from you. This sounds a lot like my experience leaving my ex-husband.

I looked back at last year's posts, where I started on therapy after an embarrassingly public meltdown in which I insulted my ex's girlfriend. Finding the right therapist has made an enormous difference. The therapist with whom we had couples therapy did more harm than good, I think, in retrospect, and the first one I saw post-divorce was just too young for me. This woman has been extraordinarily helpful and supportive; it helps that we have similar thoughts on the power of myth, symbolism, and ritual to heal.

So I just got my annual post-divorce tattoo -- this makes three. What I learned in talking to her was that yes, what he was doing to me over the last five or so years of our marriage was spousal rape, and the tattoos are a way for me to reclaim my body and have a part of it he's never seen. (Having her say bluntly "That was rape" was a breakthrough moment. Amazingly freeing.) This is the first tattoo that will be visible at times, so it's a public reclamation of my body (though of course people won't know that's what it means). I'm supposed to go back for one last summing-up session with the therapist; she tells me she's seen great changes in self-confidence since we started. As the product of a good reticent Yankee upbringing, it's been very hard to learn to own my own accomplishments and not disparage them -- to say thank you to a compliment instead of brushing it off -- and a husband who kept telling me I was wrong and stupid and incompetent all the time didn't help any. I am still reluctant to consider getting into another relationship, but if it happens, it happens; I don't feel I need one to be complete.

Anyway, this is to encourage therapist-shopping. If the person you are working with doesn't seem to be helping or supportive -- if you keep feeling worse instead of better -- try to find someone else if it's at all possible.

#78 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 11:32 AM:

An expansion on #75: the UFYH they mention is at There's also a Twitter and an iPhone app. It's a shame-free version of Flylady, with less Jesus and more swearing. And sparkly gifs! It's helped me enormously.

#79 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 12:04 PM:

TexAnne @ 78... with less Jesus and more swearing

"But wait! There is more!"

#80 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 12:54 PM:

Texanne: yes, exactly. Mostly I've been doing the 20/10s and trying to follow the tumblr prompts, but I've downloaded the app and I intend to start using it and see how much I can manage.

I have also discovered that while I can't just SIT and listen to an audiobook and stay focused enough to follow the plot - my auditory processing is VERY weak and one of my ADA accommodations ON FILE at my school is that I have permission to knit in lecture classes, because it doesn't mean I'm not paying attention, it means I CAN pay attention - anyway, while I can't sit still and concentrate on an audiobook, if I put the iPod in my apron pocket and the earbuds in my ears while I do housework, I follow it fairly well. So that makes household chores more pleasant!

#81 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 01:04 PM:

Sid @69: Thank you for that link - I don't think I can go as far (at least yet) as to call my mom addicted to abuse, but this really illuminates the concept of being used as a coping mechanism. I don't think I'd really articulated that to myself yet: my mom used me to deal with/hide the pain caused by her family - I made a Good Family, not like the Bad Family that raised me, and I can tell because my kid says she loves me and doesn't act out like I did. If she stops loving me or acts out then I'll have to acknowledge the ways I didn't leave my Bad Family. I might be part of a Bad Family now. And the thought of that was so intolerable to her that she abused me (us) to make sure we did not ruin the fantasy for her.

At least that's one part of it, probably.

Blindsided on a Tuesday @70: Part of it is definitely a twisted concept of "self-care" for me as well - it doesn't matter how many times I read about acne and how to actually treat it, there's still some medieval notion in my head that if I can just squeeze enough or pick enough then all the infection will come out. If a spot on my skin hurts or feels inflamed at a certain moment, then I need to fix it right then, and "fixing it" always ends up meaning picking at it.

Part of it is also a strange perfectionism - scabs or wounds have raised surfaces, bumps, rough patches that I can feel with my fingertips. I know that my skin should feel smooth, so I reopen wounds, because the raw skin below - even if it's painful - feels so sleek and smooth and somehow better.

Did you also have the sense, very early on, that you had to solve all your problems alone? that if something went wrong, it would make you a burden to ask for help? Because I think that may be related - something is wrong with my body, I have to take care of it myself. I am not sure if you hit puberty early as I did, but I know that right around when weird things started happening to my body, I became very aware of how little my parents would assist me in finding solutions. When the deodorant my parents used did not work for me, or when my scalp got oilier and my hair started looking limp, it wasn't that I needed to try different products - it was that I was somehow enough of a failure to not know how to keep myself clean. Do you mind if I ask what compels you to pull at certain hairs and not others? Is it a sense of "wrongness" about those particular ones, or a "problem" with them? (You don't have to answer these questions if you're not comfortable, obviously!)

Oh - another story about not being able to ask my parents for help when I hit puberty: when I got my first period, I was at an amusement park with my mother and brother. I spent the entire day there and did not say one word to my mother; the entire time, I was quietly, hysterically certain that I had developed bladder cancer and would die very shortly. I didn't say anything because we were having a Nice Day Out, and it would be so mean to ruin that by being sick in such a disgusting way.

erikagillian @71: Not hlepy at all :) I try to tell myself all that, but every outside voice saying it back to me helps. So thank you.

protecting other's privacy @75: I just want to point out that there is a difference between malfunctioning and dysfunctional. I see a lot of weight on you, and a lot of old, deep wounds, and I see nothing to indicate that you are using those as a reason to harm anyone. The worst you've said about how you treat your family is that... you don't talk to your brother's family often enough? Okay, room for improvement if you want to do so more often, but right now, your need to be okay with yourself is more important than his need for a deeper relationship. It sounds like you're doing pretty good by your boyfriend and kid, too - you're being the support system they need.

In other words - of course you're the one who gets to name your family, to decide whether it is dysfunctional or not - but I hope you aren't using that language as a more roundabout way of calling yourself a failure.

#82 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 01:24 PM:

I spent almost all of today sitting and crying and feeling horrible and numb and tired and unmotivated and wandering around the apartment aimlessly and being unable to concentrate on even the simplest of tasks. And I made my breakdown somewhat public, in that a post with signs of it is on Facebook and part of the breakdown was in front of my roommates.
I got a lot of advice, especially from Facebook friends, but most of it was hlepy, if not downright hurtful. "Go out and do something!" But I don't have the energy for that. "You're in (insert name of Western European city here)! I wish I were in your place!" Great, make me feel even worse about wasting my opportunities. And, from my mother, "You can choose to be happy or to be sad, so be happy!" Erm. It doesn't really work that way.
My mother did try to help, but it seems like we're just playing out the same old neuroses. She expresses sympathy and gives extremely hlepy advice, I note my thoughts that something could be wrong with me. She thinks I mean physically at first. When I explain, she does offer to pay for therapist meetings, but then I feel guilty for having to have her pay for working out my mind. (And a therapist is probably not going to work when I only have 2 months left in the country...)
She says that I could go do the thing I wanted despite her previous prohibition, but I know she's just saying that because I guilt-tripped her into lightening up, and I don't want to accomplish getting some freedom by pulling the same shit she does. And besides, it was too late to go do what I wanted by then, anyway. Then she gave even more hlepy and guilt-inducing advice, reiterated her guilt-imposed belief in my independence (a belief which doubtlessly will go away with my breakdown)... recommends me eating ice cream, when I've been using food as a comforting mechanism too much as it is...
I'm feeling better now, but the issue hasn't gone away, by any means.

#83 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 01:29 PM:

radiosongs: oh. indeed. I... had overlooked that distinction. Thank you.

Because... yes, I was using it as a way to call myself a failure.

I did explain the "I cannot cope with my brother's events because of the pressure of explaining my messed-up life to strangers" thing to my mom, and she understood and explained it to him, and that took a lot of the tension off.

A consequence of my own problems and need for aid is having a bad effect on my kid: my parents' money supply is not infinite, and if their resources are going towards me, they are NOT available to fund my kid's college education to the extent that they would otherwise be. My grandparents had enough money that I was able, undergrad class of '91, to go ANYWHERE without financial aid. This will not be possible for my kid. Some of that is down to the stock market, but some of it is down to me. I'm carrying some guilt there.

I'm trying my damndest not to harm anyone, but there's still shit I can't fix.

#84 ::: Adel ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 01:36 PM:

Leaving a note here, mostly for myself as a reminder (a promise, a dare to myself) that I have something to say, something to spill and get off my chest. I didn't have the courage until reading #75, realizing that this could be a place for those of us who recognize that WE are the ones with the problems that effect others.

Time to finish the board games with the kids, then a pre-work nap, then maybe enough time to put my pain out here before going to work.

#85 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 01:41 PM:

Dash: Witnessing.

At the risk of being hlepy: are you a minor, or a legal adult? How much force does your mother's prohibition actually have on you? And, what's more, what are the odds of her finding out?

It took me a fair amount of time and effort to internalize that while my mother could express her wishes about my actions, and could even phrase those opinions in such a way as to appear to be a command, she didn't actually have the power to stop me, and, frequently, she had no real way to even check if I kept my mouth shut.

I'm not you, I can't weigh the consequences of going against her wishes. For all I know, it could be genuinely dire. And even if there's no material consequences, the emotional consequences may be more than you're willing or able to deal with.

Mostly, I'm just sorry that you feel lousy and that you didn't get to do a fun thing.

#86 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:17 PM:

Protecting others' privacy: I know the should-have-been-brilliant feeling. It's no fun. My brother just got a great job for him, related to his background and ambitions, my sister has her own life pretty much together, and I sometimes make people laugh explaining that I'm working as a paraeducator substitute until I get a job in environmental engineering or science, biology, writing in any way....

Except my brother worked at a hardware store for years before getting his job, and my sister has put fewer career-related pressures on herself I think. The path is not straight. That's okay.

#87 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:30 PM:

Diatryma: One thing I can point to, at least, is that during my most recent semester at school and then during summer break, I completed a novel. And I almost didn't mention it to my mother (because it is a queer romance novel with OMG SEX in it and what if she wanted to READ it? Sometimes I never stop being 12), but when I did, she took it as a serious thing I accomplished and asked intelligent questions about publishing, rather than dismissing it as a Not Economically Productive thing. Even if I can't sell it, I wrote a novel, and she praised me for it.

So that is a thing, and maybe if I have to talk to people I can say I'm a writer and I'm looking for a publisher for my current novel and kinda handwave about my income, because Writing Books is such a mysterious thing to so many people, and maybe I can deflect them into being impressed with that instead of looking at all the shit I didn't do and haven''t done.

#88 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:46 PM:

Witnessing... and alas, recognizing bits of my own situation in others' posts.

#89 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 02:56 PM:

#77, Hiding a little

Oh, if only I'd figured out that shopping for counsellors was ok when I needed it. (Well, that and if I'd managed to actually find and call another. Just booking the first appointment with the one took months, and it followed nearly a year after finding a different one, working up the courage to make the call, and finding out he was away at a conference.)

The one I was seeing was a very nice lady but she was not helping. I would usually leave her office feeling worse than when I went in. In the couples sessions, she didn't seem to see that my now-ex was putting all the onus for change and all the blame on our problems on me.

I didn't see it until he left and I had a couple of months to myself and started to grow a bit in a space that didn't have his toxic input. When we saw each other at a couples counselling thing after that break, I was flabbergasted that he and the counsellor seemed to think the discussion had gone well, and he offered me a ride home as if I could ever want to spend time with him again.

I didn't talk to him after that any more than was necessary to get a divorce. I don't think I talked to the counsellor all that much after that either. You could say I had the breakthrough I needed, but I think it was in spite of the counsellor and not because of her.

#90 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 03:00 PM:

Dash @ 82

I think you're talking about short-term and long-term things here.

Right now, my personal feeling, on reading your post, is that it might be very helpful to go see someone on a short-term basis, until you can get stabilized. When you transition home, you'll find a new therapist, sure. But that's not a reason you have to struggle through the next two months.

#91 ::: KayTei is hanging with her gnomies ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 03:02 PM:


Scrambled eggs, perhaps?

#92 ::: Phyllis ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 03:19 PM:

#76 Nancy Lebovitz: No issues. It was Eden Kennedy's Fussy, @

#93 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 09:29 PM:

protecting others' privacy: I just had to pull this out, because it's important that it be said many times, and you phrased it well.

"Mental illnesses are real things, no less real than diabetes or paralysis from polio, and amenable to treatment and adaptive technology."

#94 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 09:40 PM:

protecting others' privacy @ 75:

I understand on the adaptive tech issue--I'm legally blind, though I haven't always been (though I've always had severe vision issues, among other things)--and I have a Kobo (my preferred e-reader of choice). It is a fun piece of technology. But for me, it is also a piece of adaptive technology--it is so much easier to enlarge the font on it, for reading. I can't read mass markets anymore. I can read hardcovers, sometimes. But there are not enough large print books that are easy to obtain. So my Kobo is a lifeline to reading, for me.

Yet I feel so ashamed of using it, of spending the money on it, and on the books for it. (Similar to how ashamed I feel of having to use my white cane, my monocular, my clip-on magnifier....)

#95 ::: Bad Sad Dad ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 09:52 PM:

This is a the first part of an unfinished essay I've been writing to deal with some problems in my family. It's a little more polished than some of the other stuff I've seen here; my apologies if this isn't quite what's wanted for this thread. The working title is "Grandma Why." I might post the rest or another part later, but this is it for now. It has been suitably anonymized.

Grandma Why

Start with a long day, the U-Haul half-unloaded. We've already been to Esther's house, and for once Esther's parents are helping. They've worked hard to get Esther's stuff out of the house, and now they're unloading Gina and Esther's stuff at Grandma's house, which sparks the first crisis of the day: Grandma doesn't want Esther's parents inside the house.

One problem lays (mostly) in a bathroom that isn't completely fixed. There is no sink, there is no tub or shower, there is no door and the plaster has been removed from the walls. You can see the old rusty pipes inside the walls, snaking through the nest of two-by-fours. The ends are broken, and whatever rusty/crappy stuff clogged the broken pipes that line the walls is still there, the ends of the pipes broken off around it. There is no floor. Sure, the boards that hold up the floor are present, but there is no tile, no linoleum, no carpet, just diagonal, unvarnished boards three inches wide with a little empty strip, perhaps a quarter-inch wide between them. The problems with this bathroom go back many years, to the end of anything resembling income for Mary and Stu, who owned the house before Grandma purchased it. Once retired, living on social security, they were unable to fix the plumbing. As a result they stunk to high-heaven because they couldn't, or wouldn't bathe. Grandma has done a great deal to fix the house, but the bathroom isn't done yet. Really, it hasn't been started.

The other problem is Grandma herself. She doesn't like Esther. She probably doesn't like Esther's parents, and her badger-like defense of the territory she has agreed to lease to Gina and Esther for two-hundred dollars a month is a little ridiculous. Esther's parents are here to help their daughter move, and they have a very reasonable interest in seeing where Esther will be living. Nonetheless, Grandma is furious. She has a few brief, cranky words with me, “You can't let them come inside!!” and goes off to act pleasant and polite before the unwanted parents of the unwanted girlfriend of her grand-daughter, whose unwanted homosexuality is a gigantic offense against Grandma's “Perfect and Pretty Princess” neurosis.

On the other hand, it's impossible not to feel a certain sympathy for Grandma. She's worked hard to make the hell-house where she grew up in into a pleasant, functional place. In the first year after buying the house she hauled a lifetime's worth of her mother's hoardings out of the house; tons of clothes, small appliances, stored food, most of it in cans, and box after box of Gawd-Only-Knows. Then there was the literal crap; the product of several spoiled, yapping chihuahuas who shit wherever they pleased and peed in corners. In the end a dozen or more dumpsters of junk were hauled away, and after that the floors had to be removed because they contained the dried and putrid essence of three decades worth of demon-dog droppings. The floors were replaced with multiple panels of 8' x 4' plywood. I'm not sure whether the ceilings and the walls got taken down and replaced, but it's very possible.

The bathroom is the final exhibit of all the dysfunction, the one place in the house that doesn't look like it's been worked on, the one place in the house that screams, “There is unfinished business here.” There are other places in the house that aren't quite right yet, but none of them scream like the bathroom. Esther's parents are eventually allowed into the house. We explain to them that there is another bathroom which has a shower and a sink, and that Esther will be staying clean in the other bathroom. Grandma makes lemonade and Esther's parents go home happy, or at least they have been propitiated.

Somewhere in all this Grandma announces that the rent will be four-hundred dollars a month. This is a major breech of her previous commitment to Gina that the rent would be two-hundred dollars a month, and I protest. “You said two-hundred.”
“I didn't know Esther would be living here.” Grandma snaps. When you disagree with Grandma she immediately gets angry. There is no “working stuff out” with Grandma unless one is willing to endure a ton of drama and an angry dominance display.

I'm willing to endure a little bitching on her part, so I say, “C'mon Grandma. You've known Esther will be living here for months.”

“I did not!” she huffs, and that's it.

This is where I fell down on the job. As a father, I should have set the example of not taking this kind of shit from people. I should have insisted that Gina and Esther load their stuff back in the truck and go home with me. I suspect (though I am not sure) that Grandma would have caved on this matter if I'd started loading the truck and raised a fuss about how Gina couldn't live with someone who breaks her promises on the first day. I'm not sure about it, but I think so. I don't want to wallow in guilt about this, but I've given in on too many things where raising my daughter is concerned, so add this to the pile.

Instead I turned to Gina, “Is this OK with you?”

She and Esther looked at each other. “We can manage.”

And there's the real start of the abuse, signed, sealed and delivered. Thanks Dad! (For what it's worth, the actual law in our area states that a landlord must wait 60 days to raise the rent, and can only raise the rent ten percent in the first year.)

Decoding all this a year later, I think what really happened is that Grandma did not believe that Esther would be moving in. I think Grandma saw 'living with Esther” as a fantasy of Gina's; some adolescent this-is-only-a-phase-she's-not-really-a-lesbian idea of happiness, not a definite plan that would actually come to fruition. This is one of the roots of the story; Grandma has never really understood Gina at all, and all her ideas about how her grand-daughter is going to live are coming unraveled.

* * *

I said in the paragraph above that Grandma never really understood Gina at all. The simple fact of the matter is this: Grandma was sexually abused as a child. She had to bear the child of her rapist and raise her in the house where her rapist lived. I should note that the abuse was not only sexual. After Stu got out of jail Mary married him again because “Baby Susan needed a father.” Grandma married another abusive asshole immediately after graduating high-school and they moved out to the desert, leaving Esther in the tender care of Mary and Stu. The neighbors and distant family members were told that Esther was Mary's daughter.

I don't want to go too deeply into Grandma's story, but it should be obvious by now that Grandma did not have a normal childhood. She only had her ideas and dreams of what a normal childhood is like, and she has a pathological need to see someone in her family lead that “normal life.”

So what is Grandma's version of a “normal life” which every girl child should be favored with? It goes like this: “Every little girl is a princess. A pretty, pink princess who finds a prince!” My favorite explanation of Grandma's fantasy comes from a blog called “Exotic White Girls:”

Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White. The goddess “Princess” goes by many names but she is believed to be one spirit made of many parts. White parents hope beyond hope that their daughters will emulate the goddess by embodying such things as refinement, virtue, and beauty in the hopes of securing a husband and fertility. For this reason, white parents give their daughters over to Princess around the age of three to begin their training as priestesses of her order. Women of the order can be identified by their pink clothing, face paint, and sweatpants that declare in bold letters “Princess” across them.

Rituals of initiation include face painting which symbolizes true beauty. Next, comes dresses made of silk and tulle to represent the silky white skin which is most desired by Princess. Next comes a plastic crown, meant to put weight on the head and compress the head and push down the vocal chords, resulting in a high pitched voice that is meant to be alluring. Lastly, there are small tight heeled shoes the form the foot and legs as well as making the girls vulnerable and helpless, representing the position they will occupy at Princess’ altar and their future heterosexual relationship.

Each year the girls are inducted into the order via princess birthday parties. The final transition comes on the girl’s “Sweet Sixteen,” an opulent American ritual that deems a girl suitable for the viewing pleasure of men and completes the girl’s training...”

Suffice to say, Grandma's obsession with Princess Pink Dress goes well beyond the pathology described above. It's not just a bunch of stupid cultural baggage – there's some real and very ugly psychological weight behind Grandma's fucked up ideal. But it gets much worse, because Esther is not just Gay, but Hispanic, and Grandma is a racist. If you suggested, even by the slightest hint, that Grandma was not perfect where race was concerned, you'd doubtless get an earful, ranging from mentions of her long-ago Black boyfriends to anything else she could bring to the conversation – doubtless she has carefully checked all the white, liberal checkboxes - but as Darth Vader might say, if he really was James Earl Jones, “The privilege is strong in this one.”

Thus, once I had gone home and Esther's parents had left, and Gina and Esther had set up their bed and were going through boxes, that Grandma showed up in the doorway of their room and gave Esther, (who rated a special and very positive mention from the principal at her high-school graduation ceremony,) a loud, angry, and very white lecture about how, “I'm not going to let you screw up Gina's future!”

Esther started to cry. Esther who's been my daughter's girlfriend now for five years. Esther who calls me “Dad.” Esther who wrote like an adult in the seventh grade. Esther who sings like an angel. Esther who long ago became family. This horrible, racist, privileged, despicable lecture is repeated over and over again during the year that my daughter and Esther live with Grandma.

Esther cried.

I once had a lot of sympathy for my mother-in-law. She's had a very difficult life. Her pain is deep and broad like an ocean, and that's not remotely a joke. But as soon as I heard this story she stopped being a sympathetic figure. As things got worse and worse she stopped being family, and every good thing she's ever done for my children became as dust. Now I barely regard her as human. She is an ogre, screaming her rage and pain into my daughters' ears and I have nothing for her.

#96 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 09:58 PM:

And now for a massive responding-to-others post or two. I am not that good at doing that, though I feel I should -- online, you have to talk to show you're listening, and it can be hard to know what to say without being trite or hlepy. But you know, I pin these tabs in my browser, and keep checking on them until they close down, and often then save copies in my journalling folder. The world is less lonely with more places where it's not a problem that my family wasn't so happy.

Whoami @ #10: *hugs* offered. I got little enough praise that it often feels wrong -- it takes work not to brush it off or diminish it. I too was the "bad" child while my sister was the "good" one. Eventually, when the CBC had run enough segments on how praise was good for children that she felt ashamed of her deficiency, my mother tried to fix it by telling a very awkward little story about how the parents of some famous musician were as emotionally crippled as she is and therefore could not applaud their son at his concerts. This, she insisted, made her behaviour normal enough that I had to be understanding.

Radiosongs @ #31 and so on: the posts here are often long and rambling and self-absorbed, because the problems are old and complex and need some time and space. And it matters, that events are seen in the proper light to mean what they ought to mean, and for you to see the parts that had been invisible from the inside. While my story isn't much like yours in the details, I recognize the quality of the lines -- a comfortable house, parents who appeared nice to outsiders but really were tremendously emotionally abusive, and the whole apparatus of removing perfectly reachable possibilities and making things look normal to the victim even when it was all sick and wrong. I also recognize your last couple paragraphs all too well -- if this is what I do remember, what don't I? My therapist asks me sometimes, how did you get out of there alive? and I think he would ask you too. He means it both literally and as an honour -- your history should have broken you beyond mending, but here you are strong and alive and remarkably close to well, how did you do it because maybe I can help someone else by knowing. A few things are closer parallels: my mother also used to dare me to call child services, which at the time convinced me not to, since she wasn't scared of them. Later I was an even more trouble-free teen daughter than you, yet my mother is terrified that someday I will move back home and reinstitute her personal hell of teenaged me. I take consolation in having wrought that, though in retrospect I wish I had gotten into enough *real* trouble, or a good simulation, for her to know how easy she had it. And I keep on leaving the lid on the family can of worms, because I worry how much "even more horrible than I could've expected" will come out if I open it. Right now my therapist and I think keeping minimum contact while protecting myself a little better has better return on investment.

Win @ #48 and others replying: if there is depression where you aren't sad, just short on accomplishing-ness and happiness, that makes it yet more likely I have long-standing undiagnosed depression. (Best guess is that I have rarely if ever been un-depressed, because I don't remember patches where my moods were substantially better or worse just because, just patches of stress or routineness.) I tend to be nervous about medications, especially ones with a lot of side effects, or that need to be taken on a schedule, because I am going to be getting a net benefit, or reducing set A of bad things in exchange for more set B of bad things. Mary Kay @ #42, do you have any useful information on this point?

Nancy @ #52: it keeps getting deeper and deeper the more I look. I wish I could find a bottom to it -- I tried and for the effort I got retroactive willies over medical neglect, an entirely new frontier of mistreatment! Would I be wrong to conclude that the abyss disguised itself as a human, had a horrible childhood, got married, and had me?

#97 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 10:00 PM:

AnotherQuietOne @ #61: A friend and I concluded there was insufficient drama in my illnesses, and that I was getting the wrong type. I always knew the asthma and allergies were real, but the adults convinced me that I would just have to suffer. In their world, most things in life, you just had to suffer, so there was no reason health should be any different. By contrast, my friend, when he got asthma, he had to be hospitalized, which taught his mother that some ailments required medicine instead of faith. Me, at worst I needed to be picked up from school but mostly got better if left alone long enough. Whereas the time I got mono (complete with test and doctor's diagnosis) I was too sick to eat or drink for days, could barely drag myself to the bathroom, and couldn't even read, my mother was a champion. Infectious disease with fever and simple causation she could handle. The friend and I concluded that I should have had classic diseases with drama, or at least needed hospitalization for asthma and allergies.

Diane @ #66: the new reality takes a bit of getting used to, but it's way more comfortable than the old one, isn't it?

Sid @ #69: I'm going to read that link, but not all in one go. What's particularly freaking me out about the medical neglect is that I did *not* twig while little to how bad it was. Most treatment I have lately recognized as abusive, I always felt was not right but had been convinced by family was normal/fair/okay. But I never doubted that my parents would provide bodily needs like food and shelter and clothes, and I had lumped my health in there too. And they probably would have done a tolerable job on the fevers and broken bones I didn't have, but the health problems that I did have, they could not deal with.

Protecting others' privacy @ #75: thank you for agreeing with Radiosongs that you're beating yourself up with the dysfunctional label. Here at least, "dysfunctional" has a strong undertone of "and at least some of the people causing the problem don't want to notice that or change." Which for you seems emphatically not the case. You have a lot of sensitive and wounded spots, with reason, and it is going to take time and compassion for them to heal and to see the changes that result. You're impatient with yourself because dammit you didn't want to start from -30; you thought you were starting from +20! You should have THIS many victory points by now! I catch myself doing that all the time, and all I've come up with for reasoning with myself is that all that work catching up from -30 is work. I have the same problem as you socializing with in-laws, colleagues, and so on. Most audiences are not ready for the messy, personal truth of how I got where I am, but the gentle pretense required instead is tiring. I cover my starting at sudden noises with "It's not your fault; I startle easily". The reality is PTSD from abusive parents, but that is not good quick excuse material, unless I want to be known for telling the whole office about my personal problems.

#98 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2012, 11:32 PM:

Dash @82, I certainly hope you have seen this already, but just in case:

#99 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 12:16 AM:

Moonlit Night @ #97: Oh yes, the startle reflex. I've got that. And a number of other PTSD tells. And I, like you, find myself deflecting with "not your fault, I startle easily."

The thing is -- I don't have a formal diagnosis for that one. Largely because, when I was in the process of getting the bipolar and the ADHD diagnosed, we went over the possible-chronic-PTSD symptoms and likely causes (childhood bullying, chronic and severe), and decided that it wasn't at the level of an impairment so much as an annoyance, so it didn't need to go into the documentation for the ADA stuff, so, spend the time focusing on stuff that still needed active mitigation.

The thing is... it is low-level for me. I have some of the symptoms but not all -- startle reflex and physical flinching, more so than the others. And I have now read Something Somewhere about how the ones I do have aren't necessarily caused by trauma, but are a manifestation of sensory defensiveness, which I documentably DO have and have had all my life. The end result on startle/flinch is the same -- the nasty adrenaline dump happens whether my brain started OUT wired this way or GOT rewired due to trauma -- but if it's the sensory defensiveness, maybe I can let go of some anger at the bullying little shits, because while there's no question they made me miserable, maybe they didn't cause the lasting BS.

Oh. Click. I just put that together with something ELSE I read, in the New York Times, about the effect of high fever during pregnancy, and how it has a correlation to children who are on the autism spectrum, and they think the mechanism is the inflammation associated with fevers -- I think they produced results in rats that supported it.

I wonder if high fever in infancy can do it too, given the neuroplasticity of infants.

There's a bit in my baby book where my mother wrote about a fever I had, one that scared her. No febrile seizures, but even so.

If it comes down to THAT?

It's random and unfair and it doesn't make the results any different... but if I can change my narrative from "defective" (because, jesus, I feel pretty defective sometimes) to "post-illness injury" -- again, like polio, polio is not a character flaw! -- if I can tell myself THAT, it's... it's not so bad.

#100 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 12:49 AM:

Does anyone else find that their sense of time, or time as related to effort, has been altered?

I was trying to figure out how Unfuck Your Habit could ping me so rightly and so wrongly simultaneously, and I think I figured out a little bit, in that in my house 'five minutes' isn't a measure of time -- it's a measure of the effort and patience you're willing to admit to.

'Oh, it was nothing' could mean anything from ten minutes to ten days invested in the thing so easily dismissed. 'Five minutes' could mean anything from two days to two months in real-time effort.

So reading about 'just take five minutes' and 'twenty minutes off, forty minutes on' and that sort of thing bends my brain a little, because time simply doesn't mean anything like 'actual physical passing of time' anymore. It means things like 'perfection is effortless' and 'perfect patience for however long 'just five more minutes' means' and 'never, ever let them see you sweat, metaphorically or physically'. I have to browbeat myself into halfway-accepting the idea that it is okay to a) put in an effort and b) acknowledge even the tiniest fraction of that effort to anyone.

Does this resonate with anyone?

#101 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 07:25 AM:

protecting others privacy @ #99 - I remember how enormously relieved I felt, shortly after a ADHD diagnosis, when I was in a stress-y situation (in a busy store), I remembered a suggestion from a self-help book (You Mean I'm not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?), to count every bit of input I was currently receiving at that moment. By the time I got to item 12, I was feeling much less bothered - because I was suddenly able to let go of the notion that I'd "failed" and let it all get to me.

forgot the name @ #100 - A very plastic sense of time, yes, me too! Sometimes very positively so: I know when I've really hit "the zone", that lovely spot of no-time-passing concentration. Sometimes, if I can safely pick a task that won't suddenly morph into twenty different tasks, I'll "give myself five minutes" in the form of a task to do, rather than try to time it. I think an anxiety provoked by an invitation to devote "just" X number of minutes to a task is tied into a larger-frame problem I have, with long-term planning - what am I doing in the next 6 months, or five years? *clutch* goes the heart, and I suddenly can't breathe.

Crazy(and resolving that she'd better lose her notion of "just nipping in for a couple of comments")Soph

#102 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 07:46 AM:

forgot the name @ #100: I know what you mean about "five minutes" or other descriptions of duration being used to convey "degree of difficulty" instead. Especially if it's used with "it'll only take" (for easy) or "but that's going to take" (for hard).

A thing that's helped me be more realistic about duration is... you got it, the timer on my iPod! Especially after I used it to settle a discussion about makeup, beauty standards, and unrealistic expectations. No, really.

Because Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye in The Avengers, has also worked as a makeup artist. And when he was on... I think it was Ellen Degeneres' show, she asked him if he had any makeup tips for the audience. And, very breezily, he said "Eyes, brows, lips. Frames the face. Five minutes."

This annoyed some of my friends, who aren't fond of makeup, and whose perception of any time spent applying it is "time wasted" and therefore that it takes a long time. Also, because they don't do it often, it probably is a slower process than for a trained makeup artist.

I decided that I'd see if it really was five minutes. Now, I have naturally dark eyebrows that don't need makeup applied to them, so I decided to be sporting and put on a light foundation instead.

Foundation, brown eyeliner, black mascara, and a lipstain/gloss combo? Four minutes forty-seven seconds.

And I took before and after pictures (again, iPod -- see why it's such a shiny toy? it does EVERYTHING) and it really DID make a difference in how I looked. I decided it might just be a worthwhile five minutes!

Putting a timer or a stopwatch on things that you do might be interesting, to counteract that "five minutes" alternate meaning.

#103 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 08:18 AM:

I think some of the 'five minutes' thing is also that for many people, starting is the hardest part, so, "Just do five minutes, you'll be amazed," is also, "If you manage to start cleaning, you'll work for an hour and a half and the room will be actually clean." I don't think my mother did that one on purpose, but it sometimes happened that way. I tend to give myself very quick built-in time limits-- until the cake is out of the oven, until the water boils-- or clearly defined small tasks like 'catbox and sweep' or 'for heaven's sake the hutch needs tidying, let's do that.'

#104 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 08:49 AM:

Protecting other's privacy @ #99: by this point, instants into the startle for any common occurence, I know intellectually what the sound or motion is and start relaxing again. I just don't know how to remove the actual startle from the process. So I don't blame random people for triggering it so long as they are not doing it with intention to harm or annoy. They should be able to walk by my desk or touch me on the shoulder for attention without unkind consequences. People who are close to me and should know to be more careful are the ones who get my ire.

But, back to you, ask yourself again how on earth does "reacted badly to being bullied" make *you* defective? I've never yet met someone who got bullied and didn't care much; they all were strongly influenced by it even when the events were comparatively mild. Bullying is one of the nastiest little secrets of how we teach each other that abuse is expected and okay, that being a predator to other people is okay. And it happens when we are young and weak and impressionable. It's also probably one of the greatest examples of cycles of abuse perpetuating themselves: the bullied sometimes become the bullies, but most importantly the adults permit the abuse, because it happened to *them* and didn't do any harm, did it? And besides, how do you stop it, they ask? But if you ask, virtually everybody will have some story to tell about abuse endured or dished out, about which they still hurt years or decades later, under the umbrella of mere bullying, and some have stories of how it was effectively stopped. So, how does reacting as badly as every other child who's been bullied, but having gotten more bullying to react to, make you defective? Doesn't it rather make your bullies particularly hideous people (at least back then), and the then-adults particularly willing to permit abuse as long as it was of the correct form?

#105 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Moonlit Night @ #104: It's not exactly about "defective," it's about blame and where I'm putting my anger and resentment.

If it's a result of bullying, that was deliberate action by others. I was or might once have been functional, now I am broken, and they caused the damage and didn't care, and I am angry at them for it.

If it's inherited, I am defective, and I feel ashamed of that.

If it was a side effect of a fever? I am damaged, but it wasn't anyone's fault. Damage can happen, there's no focus for the anger, there's no shame in having a fever in a childhood illness, and I can calmly and rationally look at how to develop hacks to accommodate the damage.

I can still be angry at the bullies for being little shits, but it takes away some of the helpless fury that comes from thinking that if they'd just let me BE, I wouldn't get these nasty adrenaline dumps when someone comes up behind me and touches my shoulder.

It's probably some of both, really -- sensory integration issues and low-level PTSD, because I definitely have associational triggers (I have to stay far away from Hebrew folk songs, for example) but I also just flinch from unexpected noise or touch and I was always like that -- when I was four, before any bullying started, my doting grandfather could reduce me to tears just by trying to tell me a joke, because he was LOUD, and I wasn't old enough to understand how his jokes were supposed to be funny, and the combination of loud and confusing just put me into a meltdown. As I got older, I just rolled my eyes at his jokes instead of being upset by them, but the startling loud voice still felt threatening even when he was saying nice things! I had an argument with my mother about whether I could wear foam earplugs when we visited -- I could still hear him just FINE, and the 30-decibel reduction made it not HURT. She didn't get that; she thought "He isn't TRYING to upset you" should be enough, and that earplugs were rude. My dad got it, but he didn't win the argument either.

So yeah. Some of both. But if I say to myself, "damage from a fever," I free up some emotional energy for myself.

#106 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 11:41 AM:


I've also found it helpful to track how long it takes me to accomplish tasks. Right now, there are tent cards on the surfaces that I've un... cluttered; on the inside, I've written how long that took me and the date. (I have been informed that I must change the labeling on the tent cards before my daughter learns to read. Whoops.)

Right now, it's averaging between 5 and 15 minutes, which means that if I need an accomplishment shot, I have a more accurate idea of what I'm getting into ("I don't have to worry this will take an hour and a half, because last time I remember how bad it looked and it only took ten minutes, plus I just cleaned it two weeks ago, so it should be quicker this time").

#107 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 11:49 AM:

Coming in late because I was offline all weekend...

crazysoph, #7: Are you well-served by worrying about my opinion of you, and if so, what would YOU do to change that?

I think this is a question many of us could fruitfully ask our parents (those with parents still living, that is). What would THEY be willing to do to improve the relationship, instead of saying that WE have to do everything? If the answer is any variant of, "We don't need to change, it's all YOUR fault," that's pretty much an overt statement that we need to put them out of our lives and our misery.

Cynthia, #9: Is there any reason that you can't say "Sorry, neither"? Or, failing that, plan as if you were going to your parents' place and then cancel shortly beforehand (when it's too late for them to decide to come to your place instead)? Yes, I'm advocating lying to your parents about your plans. IMO you would be far better served by staying home, having Christmas with the family that loves you, and singing a solo in the Christmas Eve service.

Also, WTF is with your son's band director? He's not willing to see the person who is RIGHT THERE volunteering her own time and effort for HIS benefit? Will he talk to you about whatever your father told him and listen to your side of the story? If not, are you sure that you are not best served by putting your volunteer efforts somewhere else?

And @32, oops, I see that you've already tried something similar to that, and your parents had no hesitation in descending upon you without warning or invitation. But perhaps if they already had plans for a family gathering at their place (you mentioned at least one uncle) and you and your husband simply failed to show up? You'd have to call them or something so they'd know you weren't dead in a ditch, but that seems like much the lesser evil.

Also, is there any reason you can't take the path your brothers have chosen and simply announce that you're going to be spending Christmas with your in-laws? (And why are you, the daughter, being tasked with being the only one who has to wait on the difficult parents?) On the downside, you'd have to give up soloing for at least one more year; on the upside, once having established the change, you'd be better able to stay at home and do things you want to do, and they could just not know about it.

Daedelean, #11: Good for you for taking that first step! It's really hard to admit that your choice is between continuing to be abused and cutting your family off completely; you are not the only person to have suffered for years before something happens that clarifies your decision.

By all means, talk about what has happened to you. Isolation is one of the standard abuse tactics; dysfunctional families don't want their chosen scapegoats receiving any sort of reality check. But reality checks are one of the valuable things we do here.

Slightly Afraid, #19: Dear ghod. Was there no one to notice (because that has to have left visible symptoms) and report him for child abuse? I'm not saying that you should have done so, but most people who work with young people (teachers, etc.) are legally required to report signs of abuse to the appropriate authorities. Or did this happen before those laws were passed, and there was no one at all to care what happened to you?

I am not at all surprised that the scariest part, for you, was him not leaving. You could only wonder what else he was going to do, and "waiting for the other shoe to drop" is a classic horror-movie technique.

Not Today, #28: I know my weary frustration didn't cause my father's illness, but I sometimes think I might not have complained if I'd known everything was so shortly going to change.

What's done is done, and if-onlys will eat your life if you let them. That's not intended to be harsh; the most constructive thing you can do now, for yourself and your father both, is to let the past be past and go forward from where you are.

radiosongs, #31: There's so much bad there that I don't even know where to start talking about it. The only concrete thing I can think of to say is that it might help you to read the academic literature about psychological torture, because an awful lot of what your parents did to you seems to qualify. I'm so glad that you're out of there, and you've made the decision to start setting boundaries. It's going to be hard, but knowing that you don't deserve what they were doing to you is a huge first step.

Statistical Outlier, #35: Some of them were toxic, and, not willing to put up with the bullshit, I ended them. However, I always felt bad for doing so. It was like I was throwing someone out of the life raft and back into drowning deep. I also knew I had to if I wanted to survive them.

That's always a hard choice to have to make. BTDT, with people who had been good friends but slowly became toxic and crazy. And yes, it feels like you're throwing them under the bus JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE HAS DONE and aren't you a better person than that? And they don't even have to say it to you, you say it to yourself all on your own. But you are not a trained therapist, and there's only so much that friends can do. Letting a drowning person drag you under with them only results in two people dead instead of one.

Win, #48: If I told you all the good things my father had done, you wouldn't believe any of the bad things, and vice versa.

I suspect that many of us here would. That sort of two-faced presentation is surprisingly common.

Moonlit Night, #50: That's extremely plausible. I have to wonder if any academic research has been done on such a topic, because I'm sure your mother isn't the only case.

Interestingly, that very concept has been brought up in a thread I've been reading elseNet. Someone in the comments likened abuse to heroin, and said that sooner or later the people who do it want to stay high all the time. I can provide a link if people are interested.

Finny, #54: Unfortunately, your HR person's reaction is extremely common in our society. One thing that the traditional "year of mourning" used to do was give the bereaved person some time to process their grief and heal, during which period it was expected that they might be somewhat fragile. Nowadays you're given a few weeks, maybe a couple of months at the outside, and then you're supposed to be OVER it already and GETTING ON with your life. This is equally hard on people who loved the deceased and on those who had issues with the deceased, although for different reasons.

Shorter me: Your HR person is being unreasonable. Grief takes time to process, and everyone handles it differently. Expecting you to be "over it" in a matter of months is unrealistic.

Blindsided, #58: Is this the only therapist available to you? Because he does not sound like someone who is actually more interested in helping you than in getting paid for going thru the motions. If you have the option of firing him and finding someone else, I would suggest doing so.

a figment, #68: Saying "it wasn't that bad" and "other people had it so much worse" is one of the common traps we lay for ourselves. There is always someone who had it worse; this does not invalidate your pain. And in some ways, having parents who you know loved you but were nonetheless toxic and damaging is worse than having parents who obviously hated you, because of the cognitive dissonance. With the latter, at least you know where you stand. When you can tell that they love you but are just horribly bad at expressing it... that's paralyzing, because no matter what you do, some part of your mind will tell you that it's the wrong thing. So you end up not doing anything, just sitting there suffering. And saying to yourself, "Well, it's not that bad..."

Somebody in one of these threads said that if you keep having to tell yourself it's not that bad, then it IS that bad. That's a useful metric.

Note to self: stopping at #75. Second note to self: it is not required that you catch up with everything in the thread all at once.

#108 ::: Dysecdesis ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 11:50 AM:

I read this thread every year and never post in it. Most of the damage is long gone and the scars are pretty strong by this point. I realized several years ago that my parents can't do any better than they did, that I can't trust them when it comes down to it, and all that hurts, but it's good to have it be real. There's no more pain of hoping.

They do care about me and my siblings in their own way. They just don't know how to be happy, and they're threatened by happiness in others. They don't know how to forgive, or how to ask for forgiveness. I thank the atheistic providence I do believe in that I made friends, finally, in college, who could teach me those things. They're not easy lessons, and I forget them sometimes, especially on my more introverted days, but I am unquestionably a better person for the love and forgiveness my friends have taught me.

What I realized finally is that, though they care for me in their own way, when push comes to shove, they would rather control me than have me be happy. And I don't want to be controlled. And that is *OK*! It doesn't make me a bad person, or unfilial, or lacking in loyalty, or a threat to the decency of the realm. It just makes me, me.

They won't ever ask my forgiveness for the things they've done and said; I don't think they know how to. Doesn't matter. I can set boundaries now, and if they ignore them, I have backup to help me keep those boundaries. We won't ever have the close, loving relationship that I imagined we could come to, with my adulthood if nothing else. It makes me sad, but admitting the reality of it, letting go of those hopes, and moving on to hope for things I can achieve, with people who love me without controlling's better. Immensely better.

Fall is the time to lay away old hurts, if you can. And I do. Like quilts, laid down with love and understanding and some measure of peace. It will be well.

#109 ::: whoami ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 12:18 PM:

Thanks for your kind words, abi & AnonCoward7Billion.

I think a lot about my father, who is long gone, but not as much about my mother. She was a constant presence, it almost goes without saying, in my childhood and youth, and had to deal with her own crises. I didn't find out what the roots of them were till much later, and they're hers to tell, not mine. What I remember was an awful night when she made my sibs and I dress up. I recall my parents shouting at each other, the burden of which was that our mother was going to take us and go to the river and we were all going to jump in. I think, it's been quite a while now, that I was about nine at the time. Father was able to calm her down and no one drowned that night, nor any subsequent night, but I can remember that it was cold and damp. Not to mention frightening.

#110 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 03:01 PM:

I've been trying to post since the 21st, but for whatever reason I kept getting errors. It seems to have resolved itself now, so there'll be a big rambly post from me. But first I just want to say that I'm also dealing with some skin-picking issues. So, thanks, Blindsided on a Tuesday and radiosongs for talking about your experiences and making me feel a little less alone in that.

I do have more things to say, which will hopefully be posted shortly. But just in case, know I'm still reading and witnessing.

#111 ::: upset ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 03:28 PM:

Witnessing all, and squirming every time something hits a bit too close to home.

On other people's suggestions, previous DFD thread, that I talk to my husband as a third party not of my family as a way to work on changing certain Tapes--the idea didn't feel right at the time, and it took until reading the new thread before I could articulate why.

My initial thought was that my husband has his own issues--I've definitely brought up my experiences growing up, and the examples he comes up with are always the same two examples: once, when he was a small child, he lost a sweater and his mother gave him holy hell about it. The second example is that he'd had some car trouble as a young student, and called his parents. Their first question was not, "are you okay?" but "is the car okay?" The conclusion was that he had moved on from these incidents, and implied that I should move on from my issues as well. I was reminded of this by the comic linked upthread from the yourpetmeowmeow tumblr.

The other thing that I've been turning over my head is an exchange from yesterday. We were talking about acquiring property in an area for which I commented, half-jokingly, that his lifelong dream of owning a gun would make sense. He agreed, amended that to "lots of guns," and then tacked on "but you probably shouldn't touch them." Which brought me up short. When I started probing, a bit sharply, about why that would be, he commented that he's seen me be klutzy before, and then decided to speak metaphorically about people he'd seen at work who did some jobs poorly, causing him to extrapolate that they would not be able to handle more complex tasks.

The topic eventually changed, but I'm still irritated. It may be true (and I'm increasingly suspecting that I'm ADHD-inattentive and would go in for a diagnostic if I could remember to schedule that appointment and follow through on that thought!) but it was not the best conversation we've had.

And that's why I doubt my husband is the best person to talk to, because while he generally has a great head on his shoulders, sometimes he can be a little insensitive and/or awkward with his phrasing. Plus I suspect that he also doesn't fully believe in depression as a full-blown medical disorder, because "everyone is depressed at times."

Apologies if the foregoing is triggering to anyone--the Boy really is a wonderful person most of the time. In my current mildly depressed state, he's been shouldering most of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, and the finances without a single word of complaint. All he asks is that I let him know where I am and when to expect me home. Which I've been failing to do as we outlined recently. I'll remind myself to get back to doing that. (Shared Google Calendar has been a blessing.) I need to fix myself so I can start pulling my share of the workload....

#112 ::: upset ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 03:50 PM:

Also, some commenters here have mentioned that their own abusive/dysfunctional parents had not-great circumstances growing up. Here are mine.

My mother was the fifth of nine children, eight of which survived to adulthood. As best as I can understand it, my paternal grandfather was a wealthy merchant-type (importer? he managed to dodge the WWII draft somehow) and possibly involved in construction. Sometime before my mother was an adult, my grandfather abandoned my grandmother for a younger woman. He did not provide my grandmother with any support for the (EIGHT!!)children they had together, essentially plunging that family into abject poverty. My mother has said that when she asked him for money to pay the school tuition, her father just laughed and showed her the door.

I can't imagine that my grandmother had much time to do much parenting after that, seeing as she was busy trying to feed and clothe everyone. And perhaps my mother's over-involvement comes from wanting to be the parent SHE never had, not recognizing that children are separate personalities entirely. And that I'm not really a child anymore. It's a slightly different take on a parent living vicariously through their children, I guess.

My father mentioned something about his childhood the last time I was visiting our extended family with him, about a year ago--that he'd grown up largely self sufficient, in part due to personality and in part because his grandmother wasn't particularly fond of him. Apparently she preferred his older (tall) and younger (handsome) brothers. His own parents were probably working themselves to the bone, given that they were trying to move up from farm labor to factory labor--but my mother tells me that my father got rice milk when his brothers got actual cow's milk, so there's probably a part of the story missing from my book. Also, Dad was probably precocious, if he was setting up his own sleeping area, mosquito netting and all, by the age of four. I mention only because I remember my sister getting much more affection from his family than I did when we were children. She was cuter, and gullible, and I was too smart and serious to be much fun.

#113 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 04:05 PM:

@Moonlit Night no. 50: I find it helpful as well. My mother did love me--when she was not servicing her alcoholism. She did love me--when she was not servicing her overriding need to secure her short-term comforts at all costs to herself or to her dependents, which I describe as narcissism although that's probably not the correct clinical term. She was also dealing with chronic pain, something I forget often because I never knew her when she wasn't limping. That doesn't excuse the alcoholism or the abuse or the physical and emotional neglect, but it does explain some of the distraction.

I used to struggle with the belief that she never loved me at all. But that came with the inextricable corollary that I was unable to elicit her love because I was simply not the type of person who is loved. If she did love me, but she was too fucked up inside her own head and weighed down with pain to let it out most of the time . . . well, at least sometimes I had a wire mother and sometimes I had a fake fur mother, and that was something.

#114 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 04:20 PM:

[posted under regular nym on purpose]

forgot the name @ 100:

Yes. I totally get what you mean about "just five minutes" not meaning five actual minutes, but meaning "It should be effortless!"

Partly I have this problem because I'm really bad at estimating time inside my own head. Partly, because I have ADHD and therefore stuff that other people do in five minutes, I sometimes take longer to do. Partly, because I've been spending the last few years doing work that really does almost always take much, much longer than any initial time estimates because I keep running into unforeseen difficulties, and I'm really burned out on it. And partly, because of what Diatryma @ 103 mentions -- also related to ADHD -- once I get started doing something, I can get hyperfocused on it and keep doing it for hours, so "just five minutes" does sometimes turn into "four hours super-cleaning everything with a toothbrush."

I do find that using a timer helps keep the anxiety down. I promise myself that when the timer rings, I will stop even if the chore isn't fully finished. (Otherwise I'm training my brain to expect that "just five/ten/whatever minutes" is a trick and I'll really be cleaning for hours, which does not encourage me to trust myself in the future when I'm having trouble getting started.)

Mostly, I find that I do get a reasonable amount done before the timer goes off. Mind you, it doesn't always feel like the effortless breeze that "just five minutes!" implies. Sometimes it's "Oh God, I still have three minutes left? It feels like I've been doing this for years" (if it's one of the chores that I really dislike). But it does help me prove to myself that five minutes really is a finite amount of time, enough to accomplish something but not enough to eat my whole day.

Sort of related to other cognitive-behavioral techniques I've learned -- figure out a way to give myself an objective reality check. In this case, the timer is the objective reality check on what's reasonable to expect myself to accomplish in five minutes.

#115 ::: unready for her closeup ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 04:37 PM:

I'd like to second Phenicious's thanks for Blindsided on a Tuesday and radiosongs' subthread about dermatillomania.

Did you also have the sense, very early on, that you had to solve all your problems alone? that if something went wrong, it would make you a burden to ask for help? Because I think that may be related - something is wrong with my body, I have to take care of it myself.

knocked a bunch of things loose in my brain, particularly.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 05:21 PM:

protecting others' privacy, #102: You're right, it really is just five minutes or less. I'm not a makeup person, but when I'm going out, I'll put on a bit of eyeliner and lipstick*. Total time invested, less than 1 minute. Total improvement in feeling attractive, considerable. I've also recently discovered some genuinely long-lasting lipsticks that don't take any longer to apply than my old ones, but won't disappear as soon as I eat anything.

upset, #112: She was cuter, and gullible, and I was too smart and serious to be much fun.

Am I reading too much into the implication that someone who was not gullible was "not much fun"? That phrasing is really making me twitch.

* For eyebrows, I'm fortunate enough to have a decent natural shape, and I get my hairdresser to dye them when she's retouching my hair. Totally worth it to not have to use eyebrow pencil.

#117 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 05:49 PM:

Blindsided on a Tuesday:

"Management" is how medical people talk about things they can treat but not cure. The idea is that the patient is going to be living with the problem for a long time--or until a serious medical breakthrough. So the things that are "managed" include diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and allergies. There may be cures for those someday, but right now, the doctors and/or pharmacists can help, but they can't operate or give you a course of medication and send you home cured.

I'm sorry the doctor phrased "we can manage this" so it came across as a put-down and not an offer of help, however limited.

#118 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 06:11 PM:

trying@20, you sound like you're in a spot like the one where I was about four years ago, when these threads got started. I'm still not completely out the other side yet, but my therapist seems to be encouraging me to think I might be close.

If you're like I was, and you're thinking (like I did) that you should be able to get through this without having to see a psychotherapist, then please permit me to urge you to rethink that. My decision to see a psychotherapist, when I was in the position you're describing, was the most fateful one in my life. In my son's life too, I would say.

status update: marital settlement agreement is converging on final draft, co-parenting plan is mostly working, the family house is vacated and workmen are making it ready for market, things are going reasonably well for me, and my son's mother isn't making anywhere near as much trouble as I feared she would make.

The situation here is that my son has two families now, one with his mother and one with me— each less dysfunctional than the previous one, the one he had when we were all together. It now seems my son is only going to be mildly damaged by the divorce, and probably much better off than he would have been if his parents had stayed together. He started first grade six weeks ago, and his new teachers say he's a good citizen in class and he's a good student. I help him stayed focused on doing his homework himself, by which I mean that I sit at the table and watch him to make sure he hasn't gotten distracted from it, and I answer calls for help when he asks. When I cook meals at home, which is several times a week now, it's a reliably pleasant and peaceful family time together. Which is a huge thing for me. Huge. When we argue, and we do, he doesn't seem to melt down any more than a normal six-year-old would.

My son is with me four days of every week, including both weekend days. This is good and bad. Good because I have more unstructured time with him than his mother does (remember in previous years how I said that I'm the one who jealously guards time *with* our son, while she is the one who jealously guards time *without* him?). Bad only in that it's tough to plan grown-up activities with friends, who are basically only free on the weekends.

Good outweighs the bad.

I don't want to make it sound like I feel like I'm making some huge sacrifice, completely throwing away my own personal life and smothering my son with my attention. I'm not. I have even been on a couple of furtive dates with people I met online. Alas, no chemistry yet, and I've gotten a few rejections too: single dads are not as attractive as the teevee shows would have you believe, I think. I'm making progress, but it's just slow.

Summary: I'm apparently not a complete fuckup, and my son is basically fine given the circumstances. I've mainly been suffering from reactive disorders, and with each month I have been separated from my son's mother, I have only gotten better and less dysfunctional. My son appears to be a pretty normal six-year-old without any of the warning signs for personality dysfunction that I know about.

I think in the last two years, I've posted more under this pseudo to the Dysfunctional Families than I have under my real name to the rest of the site, which is to say, not much. I suppose I should just switch to using the pseudonym everywhere.

#119 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 07:03 PM:

Moonlit Night @50: abuse addict

Sadly, I can verify from personal experience that there are times when the need to abuse will override the need to be kind, loving, nurturing....* To give benefit of the doubt, those were circumstances where I wasn't really equipped to decide differently. But it still ... well. See footnote.

* I've earned myself a few rounds in the Ninth Circle of Hell for the way I treated the family dog when I was a kid.

#120 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 08:16 PM:

Moonlit Night @96: Yes, I think we've got some similar history - I remember reading your list of lies your mother told you back on last year's thread and a lot of it rang a lot of bells - I am not really sure what else to say but please know that I find your comments here helpful, regardless of whether they include replies to others or not :)

And I keep on leaving the lid on the family can of worms, because I worry how much "even more horrible than I could've expected" will come out if I open it. Right now my therapist and I think keeping minimum contact while protecting myself a little better has better return on investment.

Good on you for being able to manage that - I know that cutting ties is a perfectly valid strategy for plenty of people, but I still have boatloads of admiration for those who can maintain contact without going completely mad. I will say that "more horrible than I could've expected" may have been a bad phrasing. That is - if I really stopped to think about it, I probably expected far worse things, but I was also still clinging to my belief that when the chips were really down, they'd change, to keep me in their lives. The details of what they said weren't really much worse than standard - it was just the blow of oh my god, they really don't want me around, not if it means they have to do any work. And that sucked.

Lee @107: psychological torture


There's this little part of my brain that is just fucking starving for phrases like that. Little talismans that I can carry around in my pocket: proof that it really was that bad, someone else said. Thank you thank you thank you.

Thinking about which parts, specifically, might qualify also knocked another memory loose - one of the times they'd dragged me into their bathroom for A Talk - I was online chatting with some friends in my room. My mother passed by the door and said, "Can you come help me with some laundry?" I tell the friends, back in five minutes, gotta fold some clothes, and end up stuck in there for at least an hour, maybe more. Fuck. You can't even pretend that's not a deliberate, unnecessary, nasty curveball.

Phenicious @110, unready for her closeup @115: If/when either of you are ready to talk about your experiences, I'd love to hear them.

xioaren @118: I am reading every single comment starting with last year's thread & moving forward, so seeing your update now kind of feels like reading the end of a book when I'm not done yet :) (I'm only at January!) But it's good to know that it sounds like a pretty happy end.

#121 ::: Cynthia W ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 08:26 PM:

Lee @107 - You're starting some evil thoughts in my head about last minute kiddie illnesses, or some such. Honestly, I think that's what my cousin did last Thanksgiving - he was supposed to be coming to the same family gathering, and cancelled at the last minute for an emergency in his wife's family. Hmmm. Lying hadn't occurred to me for some reason, even though I don't object to it in a good cause.

And good news on the band director front! We had our second competition of the season Saturday, and he unthawed a bit afterward - popped into the uniform room to tell us we were doing a good job. I think it was less that he thought I was awful/evil, and more that he thought I might be a tremendous time-and-emotion suck (which my father certainly can be). He's a very focused guy, and in competition season, everything is about the band. So two competitions of keeping my head down, doing my job well, and not demanding attention, seems to have at least started to repair the damage. I'll know I'm home free if he starts being willing to give me information/instructions directly, instead of going through head of uniform every time.

Moonlit Night @50 - I think it's very easy for people to get addicted to emotional states, and to associate those emotional states with particular behaviors or kinds of behavior - effectively becoming an addiction to a behavior. Which is a long way to say, yes, absolutely I think people can be addicted to abuse, and other things as well.

Bad Sad Dad @95 - Ouch. Grandma sounds like she's suffering from an even worse version of my mother's problem. Mom has beautiful, sunny, happy pictures in her head about what family relations ought to be like. And then when reality fails to match up to it, she decides it's because the other people involved are deliberately, evilly, screwing things up. Dad can't be a person with issues (which he definitely is), he has to be maliciously evil. It doesn't leave a lot of room for being human, because making mistakes can cause massive outfall. My sympathies to your daughter and her girlfriend.

#122 ::: Blindsided on a Tuesday ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 08:49 PM:

@ radiosongs. I'm not comfortable sharing more than I have, but I very much appreciate the limited discussion we've had.

And I'm grateful that writing about what I go through has helped other people. I want to deal with this by myself but I don't want to be alone - and the paradox is difficult to live with.

Vicki @117. I'm sure you are trying to be helpful but your post suggests that I am reacting out of ignorance to a basic medical term (I know what "management" means), and when I read it I felt as though I was being patronized by some one much more In The Know. Please don't do that - it makes me shy of writing anything further.

#123 ::: Delurkingtoday ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 09:21 PM:

AnotherQuietOne and Moonlit Night: I'm another one whose asthma went unnoticed. In my case I think it was because I was cast as the healthy kid by parents who were focused on the more serious problems of my brother. When I complained that I couldn't get my breath when I was running, I was told that I was lazy and out of shape. I didn't get a diagnosis until this year--well into adulthood. I've been an athlete for over a decade and I still had those tapes telling me that my discomfort was due to my bad character. My doctor seemed a bit surprised at how happy I was to hear I had a chronic illness... but it's much better than believing my parents were right about me.

What I really came to say is about something else, though. Earlier this month, my brother died.

When my mother called to tell me, I had a moment of dizzying relief: how was it possible that I got off so easily? Was I really just done with the whole exhausting mess? Could I really start going back to my mum's house without worrying about my brother stealing from me or harassing me?

This elation didn't completely last--there's still quite a legacy of damage to wade through. My mum doesn't think his death was a drug overdose (it was) and she hasn't found drugs in his room (she will). I'm sure that is going to suck. But I'm so glad these ripples will begin to die down now that he's not there in the center to make more. For the last year I've been terrified that he was working his way up to something truly awful--I just didn't expect that this was it.

Being glad my brother is dead is not a sentiment I feel good about airing in most places, but I figured you on this thread would understand. I grieved the kid he once was--but I did that a long time ago. I won't miss the abusive, manipulative, creepy addict he became.

#124 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Delurkingtoday @122:

I'm sorry for the loss of the brother you should have had, and I'm hopeful that now that the brother that you DID have is gone, things will improve for you and your family.

#125 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 10:52 PM:

Ah yes, I remember now... I promised in an earlier thread to open up about what I found when my therapist and I used to EMDR to peel back a few layers of dissociative armor plating I installed in myself when I was twelve years old, and my own parents were divorcing. So, here is that.

In my memory of childhood, prior to my parents divorce, ours was a happy and normal family. Sure, mom and dad occasionally spanked me as punishment for misbehavior, but (and I say this after four years of intensive introspection) I don't think it was worst thing either of them did.

What was the worst thing?

I'll give you a hint. See if you can guess what it was before I tell you in the next paragraph below. Hint: they divorced in 1977, and it was my *father* who retained full legal and physical custody of me in an out-of-court settlement under the California family code at the time. You probably won't guess correctly.

What my parents did wrong was this: rather than work out between themselves how they were going to settle matters relating to custody of me, they dumped the whole mess on my twelve-year-old head in the very same moment they revealed to me that my seemingly stable family would now be sundered forever.

Yes, one minute: I'm finishing up supper and my parents tell me that we should all sit down in the living room for an important family talk. The next minute: I'm simultaneously devastated by A) the news that my parents would be divorcing, and B) they expected me to choose which of them I would be living with going forward and which of them I would only see a few times a year, if ever.

Comrades, if you are thinking about divorcing the mother or father of your children, then DON'T DO IT THIS WAY.

Wait. It gets more awful.

Being overwhelmed by the news, I wasn't able to decide right away. (Imagine that.) I asked for some time to think about it, and they said I could take a few days to get used to the idea. (Not too long, though. Things to do!)

In the next few days, I questioned each of my parents separately, without the other around to hear, about what they would be doing with their lives in the event I chose one way or the other. Here's what each of them said:

- Mother: she's met a new guy, whom she planned to marry, and they were hoping to have children together. I wasn't very keen on the idea of having a step-father, much less brothers and sisters.

- Father: it would depend on whether I was with him or not. "What if I choose to live with you?" We'll stay in the house. Probably won't remarry. Definitely no brothers or sisters, because he doesn't like young children and besides, he had a vasectomy when I was two. "Okay, what if I choose to live with mother?" Oh, I'll probably ride my motorcycle into a freeway divider at 70 mph so it will be overwith very very quickly.

Yes. He really said that.

You know what? That kind of emotional extortion can be very effective at foreclosing options. I really really really didn't want to lose my father to suicide, and yes, I really believed he would do it. I asked my mother if she thought he would do it. She said she totally believed he would do it.

Now, you all know something about me that I have never shared outside my therapist's office. You know exactly how and why it came to pass that I was one of the very few kids in late 1970's and early 1980's California whose father had full custody of his kid and whose mother wasn't in prison, in a hospital or dead. Believe it: I told them I wanted to live with my father, and my mother abided by my decision.

My mother died in 1998, so there's no reconciling accounts with her now, and I haven't yet had the heart-to-heart with my half-brother about our mother, but I think he and I owe it to each other to compare notes. I'll get to that at some point. Right now, I'm up to my eyeballs in other stuff, so it will have to wait.

My father is still alive, but we're almost completely estranged. I recently managed to reopen telecommunication with him, after dealing with all this stuff in therapy, and the conversation pretty much confirmed my sense that he's a depressive and socially avoidant clusterfuck of undiagnosed personality disorders. I'm lucky he wasn't as abusive over the years I lived with him as some fathers (he was more neglectful than abusive really), but he really fucked me up when he used that extortion on me.

If there's one thing I can honestly be proud of myself about, then it's that I managed to handle my own divorce and child custody negotiation without making any errors so grievous as the ones my parents made. (I almost certainly made errors, but none so horrible as extorting my own child with a suicide threat.)

#126 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 11:14 PM:

Sid @ #69: I've been reading through that link of yours about addict parents and good grief it is uncannily accurate about my mother. It is just creepy -- descriptions of martydom-style narcissism have rung some bells, but this is going ding ding ding on almost every item page after page. We have hit serious paydirt.

The biggest wrong note is tone -- many examples of addict parent speech sound like a big angry working-class man. My mother's technique is much softer and subtler. To use terms from the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense series, she uses a lot of the Placating Satir mode, only the examples in the books are quite clumsy compared to my mother. She can switch back and forth between Placating and Blaming every phrase or two while barely changing tone or vocabulary, and you feel terrible but you can't explain *how* she is doing it. She's so good that people who are good with words and tone and are listening for abuse can't catch how she's doing it. My therapist and I joke about how when she became a housewife, the Foreign Service lost out bigtime, because she could manipulate heads of state and they'd never know what hit them.

#127 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2012, 11:56 PM:

I feel like there are so many things I need to be writing/talking/thinking about now and I just. I don't know where to start. Since I vomited up that huge long the-entire-history-of-it post I've felt just... wrung out. And also tense. A weird combination.

I'm completely cut off from them now. I've made it clear to both parents what is expected of them for our relationships to begin again, and I don't anticipate/expect/dare hope it'll happen in this lifetime. I didn't have the forethought to get my childhood possessions, my really old paper journals, my birth certificate, any of it - I have the things I thought to bring with me when I moved out at 19, and the things I've obtained since then, and that's it. I need to start figuring out what papers and identification I need copies of. I need to reach out to the handful of family still available to me, that I barely knew until now, that I'm still not sure even want me around. I need to see if it's worth trying to build anything with them in the wake of this. I need to figure out what I'm doing about my brother. I need to talk about my brother. I don't want to talk about my brother.

I want to consume. I want to stay this endless hedonist monster eating all the junk food, drinking all the wine, smoking all the pot. Sleeping through the weekends and staying up wired and cramming words into my brain after work. My partner travels for work during the week and last weekend I felt like I barely spoke to her at all, just did all the aforementioned bingeing with her and then read alone and then passed out and woke up and binged more and made her nap with me again and then she was on her flight out Sunday evening.

I know that both of us are deep in our depressions right now and we're coping together. That my silence is paired by her silence; that she doesn't need me to be on all the time. I know that I love her. I know I am excited for our future and that we will get better together. I just - right now all I can see is this giant mouth on this fat bloated body. I am this wrecked screaming void, I am a lifelong string of excuses for indulgence. I am grieving my parents. I cannot tell anyone that I am grieving my parents. They are alive and I am the ungrateful dramatic little bitch that couldn't figure out a way to put up with them, not even a little bit. We had a work dinner on Friday and I felt like an alien the whole time, sitting there with five of my seven coworkers, and three of them are siblings and then another two are a set of siblings, and I am this girl from Planet Orphan, from the land of My Parents Abused Me, and by the time you can begin to communicate where it is you live it's not worth the effort to communicate what the weather is like or what is in the news there.

I feel dead. I told my partner my body feels like a sack of meat. I am not cutting myself and I am not drinking the way I used to, not nearly, and I am going to work and being productive, and I haven't had a cigarette in a month. I am doing so okay compared to where I was and then I realize it's only because I'm stuffing myself stupid with a whole new set of unhealthy coping mechanisms. I want to be a real whole person who could: exercise, volunteer, make friends, find a hobby. I want to have gotten away clean. I want to not have all the tapes start screaming from the beginning again, who the fuck are you to leave? to think you don't owe a debt? I want to not disgust myself.

This doesn't make any sense and I wouldn't post it except I feel like, somehow, I need to record that I had regrets. I was upset about going. They'll never see how it broke my fucking heart to go, and they'll call me awful names to each other, and maybe they'll go through my stuff, and maybe they'll throw out my stuff, and they'll think I did it without a care in the world. That I wanted to go. That it was easy for me to do this. I think that's the bitter core here: I'm terrified that parts of it were easy. That I did want to go. That those facts make them right about everything else.

#128 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 12:45 AM:

On the one hand, this is a little light-heartedness in the thread. On the other... how many of us have exactly that set of tapes in our heads?

Cheryl Wheeler, "Unworthy"

#129 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 12:50 AM:

radiosongs: Witnessing.

xiaoren: I'm glad you have been able to keep your divorce as stable as possible for your kid, and it's a crying shame your father used his divorce as a tool to manipulate you.

#130 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 02:20 AM:

radiosongs: not posting here often, but witnessing. I wish you the best of luck in finding your own way out, with the grace to find the help you need, or want, or can accept.

I read all the others, too; yours struck a personal chord in me that's leading me to say something.

#131 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 08:19 AM:

Radiosongs, on your coping mechanisms and still feeling broken: one of my very best friends spent a few years... 'damaging her body by being fat' is the way she described it once, because some of the changes were permanent so far. But that was a conscious decision. She looked at her choices, and they were 'continue bulimia' or 'stop controlling diet at all' and she knew she couldn't be bulimic any more. It was the right choice. I do the same thing with an iron rule against dieting ever, because I can see where the anorexia would go.

Part of learning healthier coping strategies is to move away from the really dangerous ones to ones that cause a little less harm, then a little less harm than that. You are not cutting yourself, you are not drinking the way you used to, you are not smoking, and those are accomplishments right there.

Depression lies. You have done a really big thing, and I think it's appropriate to grieve in a really big way. It doesn't mean you're weak or broken, only that there's been a change in your life and you're reacting.

#132 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 09:55 AM:

Thanks all for the support. I'm doing reasonably better this morning; tonight will probably be weird again (as are most nights the lady is out of town) but I've got the day off work tomorrow for Yom Kippur, so I'll have the chance to do some good solitary self-care on the theme of drawing the boundary of what is mine to repent and what is not.

Diatryma @131: damaging her body by being fat Yes, that's exactly how I feel - thank you for the reminder that this particularly can be a valid/healthy choice - I'm really struggling with this lately.

#133 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 10:09 AM:

Lee @128, that gave me a wry smile. Thanks for it.

xiaoren @188, very glad to hear that your divorce is working out more smoothly and with less damage to your son than you had feared

Others - reading and witnessing.

#134 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 10:10 AM:

radiosongs: Witnessing

Posting in the clear for this, because I'd like it to be with my "view all."

The practical first, and I hope it's not hlepy:

- You can obtain a duplicate birth certificate. I don't know where you're located, and each state has different procedures, but I know that in Connecticut, you should go to the town/city hall where you were born, and there is a moderate fee. Be sure to get a certified copy (and maybe more than one) because many other agencies require it.

- You can also obtain a duplicate Social Security card. They prefer photo ID: a driver's license or state non-driver ID card is enough, but if for some reason you don't have one, they have a list of other acceptable proofs of identity here.

Those are pretty basic and necessary. With those and a driver's license, you can usually get any other IDs you need. If you need school transcripts, you contact the school directly; medical records, the doctor. Medical records may be necessary for enrolling in a college, because they'll want proof of MMR vaccination, but if you don't have access to your childhood records, you can go to any doctor and request a blood titer for immunity to measles/mumps/rubella, which schools will also accept, and if your immunity has dropped off, they can give you another MMR shot.

Now for the emotional. About your coping methods: the fact that you're coping at all is a starting place, because it means you're alive. Remember that. And you recognize that those aren't the best coping mechanisms for you: that's another point in your favor, because there are plenty of people who wouldn't, who don't recognize that they're doing themselves harm by the methods they choose. You already stopped a couple of methods (the cigarettes, the self-harm); you did it by substituting other methods, which is pretty standard human behavior. Getting past that often requires outside help. I don't know what access you have to therapy, but that's one form of outside help; another form is 12-step groups. They're not perfect for everyone, but they have the advantage of being free and of providing a place to tell your story.

You are not a bad person for getting out of a situation that was hurting you and making you hurt yourself. You are not a bad person for setting boundaries with your blood relatives and enforcing them; that's a strength. Just because they're your blood relatives doesn't give them a free pass to mistreat you, and that's some pretty heinous mistreatment you described. You are not a bad person for hurting from that abuse. You are not a bad person for being happy to get away from it. Being happy about that is NOT a reason for guilt. Getting away is a reason to celebrate.

You are not a bad person for still feeling pain, and you're not a bad person for finding ways to ease it, even if the ways you're using aren't good for you. The fact that you want to change those ways is pretty clear evidence that you're not a bad person.

You are not a bad person for not being able to heal yourself entirely on your own. Your family atmosphere was poisoning you, as surely as if you'd been breathing in chemical toxins. If you had been near a chemical plant leak, like Bhopal, and your lungs were scarred from the damage and you had asthma symptoms as a result, would you expect to be able to think those away? You've seen the asthma stories on this thread, you know that needs medical treatment. There is no shame in needing help from others to deal with your current damage any more than there would be for asthma.

Feeling shame for needing help doesn't make you a bad person either, btw. It's a pretty strong cultural message.

I admire your strength, and I hope very much that you'll find the help you need.

#135 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 10:26 AM:

I'm having surgery on Thursday, and coincidentally, my mother will be in town that weekend. I'm not seeing her.

I have to keep reminding myself that 1) I don't owe my mother a visit because she wants to give me a hug post-surgery; 2) her track record in care-taking during health scenarios is pretty lousy; 3) I get to take care of me, and dealing with my mother is a surefire way to lose a lot of energy I need to heal.

The voice that says I'm overreacting and being a bad daughter and that she loves me and therefore I need to see her is still there, but it's quieter now. I'm starting to believe that I can set boundaries to take care of myself and not take on the burden of attempting to manage anyone else's feelings. Especially hers.

#136 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 12:30 PM:

@135 Pro - I have a few scripts that I run through when I'm feeling awful and my instinct is to call my mom.

1. What do I want in this moment? (I often picture Captain Hammer, injured, running and yelling, "Mommy! Someone maternal!") Usually I want comfort and solace and sympathy.

2. What will I get if I call my mom? Over the years, things have improved, but it's still a crapshoot. I could get rational nice friendly mom or I could get hurried rushed too busy to think before speaking mom. There are many versions that are worse, too.

3. What can I do to make sure that I get what I really want? Usually this involves taking care of myself or asking my (amazing caring wow how did I score this guy) husband to take care of me.

Whatever the conclusions, asking the questions always centers me and helps me think about the reasonable results of my actions before I try them. Plus it gives me a baseline; thinking this rationally usually helps me step back from the emotional response I'm having at the time.

Taking care of yourself is so much more important than any of those voices. Congratulations for letting yourself believe what is true instead of what's been instilled in you all these years!

#137 ::: knitcrazybooknut visits the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 12:32 PM:

I'm really excited! I've never visited the gnomes before. Wow, what a beautiful cavern they've dug under the website. Lots of sparkly gems.

Unfortunately, I just ate my breakfast sandwich, so I have only imaginary graham crackers and chocolate to offer them. Munch Munch Munch.

#138 ::: SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 12:53 PM:

OtterB @ 47:

Thank you for the witnessing and reading - and as others have noted - particularly for the 'no, that isn't normal and is wrong' feedback. Most days, I know that, but sometimes it is very difficult to beat back the 'there MUST be something wrong with me, because they treated me so badly, right?' evil conviction. Intellectually, I know I'm not so inherently wrong as to deserve being beaten, but after being told (and very painfully SHOWN) for almost two decades I was on a regular basis, even decades after, there are still dying embers to be stamped on now and again.

Lee at 107:

No one noticed for two reasons, that particular time: 1) it was during the summer break (a lot of the worst beatings were, what a coincidence - NOT) and 2) my parents were both teachers and I suspect there is some degree of mutual silence implicit in much the same was a police tend to shield an abuser in their own Blue Line.

Although perhaps not everything was so easily concealed. My parents were investigated on three different occasions for child abuse reports. Normally, three reports might raise a flag, but coincidentally (or not), they kept moving to a different county shortly after each.

I can remember being threatened and informed that being taken away would be MUCH worse than the treatment I was getting at home, and I wouldn't be allowed back, before the one and only time an investigator actually ASKED me - with my parents still in the room - if I was ever beaten. I lied and said no, because even at 12, I had read the stories of sexual and physical abuse at the children's shelter enough to know that my parents might not be lying in that particular instance.

Of course, now I wonder if I could have gotten sent to an aunt or uncle's family instead, if I had spoken up for myself. Well, that's water under the bridge, now.

Back to my regular post:

For a more determinedly positive report, however, I am going to talk myself up a bit. Sometimes it helps counter some of the feelings of worthlessness that assail me after a recount of these events. I am a productive member of society. I have served jury duty. I have paid taxes. I am employed in something I think is useful to society at large, not just for paying my bills (although I am glad it does so)!

I make, and keep, very good friends, if not in huge numbers, at least enough to make my life less lonesome than otherwise. Relationships of the heart, on the other hand, are something of a minefield (or perhaps I sabotage myself), but I have gotten to the point of not putting up with being (or seeking out being treated, argh!) badly.

It's strange what you want, when you've never seen/been around a normal, loving adult pair of persons. I did eventually get wise to that part, but I'm still building the bridge to get over the issue. Maybe I will succeed. Maybe I'll just keep charring the wood.

I've decided it doesn't matter; as long as I am still getting up again, bloody of face or not, I am a success in my own eyes. I don't care anymore about how other people may judge my struggle. I have realized that most of them have never been in such dire straits, so their judgements can be ignorantly harsh, or demeaningly simplex.

That's what I truly am awed by in this thread. A safe place to say what happened, and have it said 'that was wrong.' without further salt in the wounds is a real benefit.

#139 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 03:56 PM:

radiosongs @81: to make sure we did not ruin the fantasy for her.

Ah...the fantasy. Made a passing attempt at re-establishing contact with my brother back around '90. During one visit, the subject of "dysfunctional families" came up, and he voiced his dream of having us all sitting around a Thanksgiving table again, being a Functional Family.

I had to disillusion him. "I'm sorry, but I will never ever sit down to table with that woman [my mother] again." "Why?" he asked, startled.

Whereupon I was astonished to realize that my entire fucking nightmare of a childhood was completely invisible to him. (Not completely surprising, given that he was five years ahead of me, and for various other reasons mostly not around through the bulk of my growing up.) I stammered out a few sentences of explanation, and he responded with some vague form of "Oh. Okay."

But, funny thing, ever after that, he never really seemed to have much time or interest for interacting with me.

#140 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 04:59 PM:

forgot the name @100: Does anyone else find that their sense of time, or time as related to effort, has been altered?

In the immortal words of that old commercial: "Minutes hang like hours...."

Not quite what you seem to be saying, but I find my time sense to be deeply alterable. If I'm doing something I find compelling and interesting, I set about doing "five minutes" of work, and wake up an hour later.

Conversely, if something is arduous and uninteresting, five minutes can seem like an eternity.

One thing I can say with conviction is that tasks that seem in my head like they should take "five minutes" very rarely actually do. The only way I've ever been able to get anything like a realistic grip on the time required to perform a task is to perform the task and time it. Especially if it's something I'm not really fond of doing.

I have to browbeat myself into halfway-accepting the idea that it is okay to a) put in an effort and b) acknowledge even the tiniest fraction of that effort to anyone.

I'm really a big fan of "minimal effort." Sometimes, I'm so out of it that all I can manage of a task is to move the envelope from the counter to the desk. Even if that's all I do, it's very important to acknowledge that, yes, I did move the envelope from the counter to the desk. Dammit. Not worry about whether it's in the right place on the desk. That get's another "I did something" point.

#141 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 05:15 PM:

Like quite a few people here, I had the parents who could never be pleased. I grew up thinking -- and my parents clearly thought -- that I was a problem child, particularly once I got old enough to have a mind of my own and left the cute six-year-old stage. I was extraordinarily gifted in almost everything I turned my hand to, yet that level of excellence was the bare minimum they'd accept. And if I stumbled or had a bad day or failed to be sunny and brilliant for one second, well, that just proved that I was a bad child.

Looking at my parents' backgrounds, I can now see where a lot of that came from. My father's parents played favorites; he was their golden boy, their favorite, who could do no wrong. It left him with a massive sense of entitlement that led him to later cheat on my mother with an old family friend. And then, when he was found out and she divorced him, to sue her and use the sleaziest lawyer in town to a) literally either bribe or intimidate the judge and b) ensure she didn't get a penny after her 35 years of staying at home to raise his children. And to proclaim himself the injured party (while manipulating my brother from a bright, reasonably well-behaved tween to a juvenile delinquent who in turn verbally and physically abused my mother until he moved out this year at 18).

My mother's parents were...well, her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother was schizophrenic. That's all I know; she doesn't talk about it.

Given those backgrounds, it's no wonder neither of them understood how to balance discipline with praise. It's no wonder that they controlled every detail of the life of their oldest child, to the point of abuse. It's no wonder they didn't know how to be proud of me. They really did mean well; they really did do the best they could with the tools they had. But that doesn't mean there was no fallout.

More in a few minutes; didn't want to post an entire novel.

#142 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 05:50 PM:

Moonlit Night @104: under the umbrella of mere bullying,

I wonder how long it'll be before our culture steps up and calls "bullying" what it really is: peer abuse. Then maybe it'll get the attention and resources it deserves.

And don't even get me started on the use of the word "teasing." Way to minimize, thank you!

#143 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 05:50 PM:

Some nice warm Stone Soup, perhaps?

#144 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 06:08 PM:

Cynthia W. @32: my parents decided last minute that they didn't want to be alone at Christmas and arrived at our doorstep

I'm so evil. I'd be seriously tempted to let things come to this pass, then, oops! "Dave's not here, man." But then I'm not shy about hanging up on people that annoy me, so, okay, maybe not.

#145 ::: Jacque, gnomed again ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 06:08 PM:

Still some Stone Soup available....

#146 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 06:17 PM:

Jacque, #140: That sense of mutable time is part of the human condition, I think. I remember writing a sonnet about it some 25 years ago...

What, clock! Have you stopped? Run again, I say!
It seems you looked the same an hour ago!
Impatience rises; I would be away,
And when it should be fast, the clock is slow.
Yet when I am where I desire to be,
Like quicksilver the minutes will flash past
And slip away with wanton cruelty --
For when it should be slow, the clock is fast.
If Time but went as I would have it go,
With joyous cries I'd make the heavens resound,
For boredom should be fast, enjoyment slow,
Not (as so oft) the other way around.
Which brings me to the point of this my rhyme:
A pox on the perversity of Time!

Which is not to deny that it might be worse for some people than for others, or that certain types of experience might exacerbate it.

#147 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 07:25 PM:

Cynthia W @121: Dad can't be a person with issues (which he definitely is), he has to be maliciously evil.

One of the stranger, but more productive, effects of being a Fluorospherian over the last few years is that I've gotten much better at disregarding the latter interpretation, and crediting the former, when dealing with people who cause me difficulties.

It's weird, because I'm currently in the midst of a big kerfluffle in my RL community, but even when people are clearly acting in bad faith, I have to credit that they're being right and sensible by their own lights. It's the lights that are limited, not the person, if you will.

It's made me a much quieter, more peaceful person, and probably much easier to deal with. I'm able to be firm without being punative, and able to respond to challenge with reason, not retribution.

It's very bizarre, looking at it from where I used to be, and it's not necessarily any easier than responding in a more black-and-white way. But at the very least, it seems that the spume I'm spraying into my environment enhances wellness overall, and doesn't increase toxicity. This, when you get right down to it, is probably what my chief Life Ambition has been all a long.

Props to you-all for sharing your own insights and experiences, which contribute your part in that, my own evolution.

#148 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 09:26 PM:

I'm in a strange place and while this doesn't seem exactly the right thread to post this in (since things are not actually going wrong, exactly), I'm not ready to put it out there under my regular pseudonym either (though like some others I've posted more this year under this handle than the one I was using here before.)

I also find myself wanting to put a warning on this, if there happen to be any readers who are clergy or called religious - I can't remember, offhand, among the regulars and one never can tell who's lurking: Caution, here lies a bunch of It's Complicated, and I do not wish to deplete anyone's spoons, spiritual or otherwise. tl;dr = It's okay, just... not what I planned.

The last five months have been a crazy journey through uncharted territory; I've largely not talked about the interesting parts, out of a combination of not wanting to bother people, not knowing what the hell was happening, and well, having a lot of work that needed to get done and tightening my focus on that, at least in public. But there was internal work, too, that made its presence known at inopportune moments, and which will not be silenced, and in between faking competence at things of which I know nothing, I have been flailing around in the spiritual wilderness somewhere between "Hallelujah!" and "Holy Sh-t..."

This was not something I expected at all.

Six months ago I was self-describing as atheist, with my tongue only lightly in cheek - more of a "Strongly agnostic with a side order of 'that's really not the important question anyway'". I have been... ... reminded... ... otherwise; there is that in the universe which has spoken to my soul before, back when I had the spoons to pay attention to those things, and it waited until I'd let go of it and gone on about my business, then snuck up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and whispered "You. Now."

This is... not what I planned.

And, for amusement value and because this community is a community of readers and writers, know that the Author of this particular story I seem to be living in has a -bent- sense of humor, because this happened the day my pastor left on vacation. (I did talk to her as soon as she got back. The interval gave me some time to flap around aimlessly and read lots of things on the internet.)

It's been a couple of months. I'm still trying to figure out what just happened; I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it, and how to get there from here. This is.... not what I planned.

Hallelujah. Holy f---ing sh--....

#149 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 09:31 PM:

Site's giving me errors again, so I don't think I'll be posting that big ole thing I had written up.

Instead, a smaller frustrated rant:

I keep trying to get my thoughts sorted for the next appointment with that counsellor. Part of what I want to talk to him about is that I kind of resent how my parents treat my brother differently than me. I think it's because he's been diagnosed as being somewhere on the Autism spectrum since he was little, where I only got a diagnosis a couple of years ago.

I'm expected to "take care of him" someday: make sure doctor's appointments get scheduled, probably keep him from spending his disability pension on junk food while he's got prescriptions to pay for, other stuff mom does for the both of us. I think I'm not "supposed" to need help with those things myself, in my mom's vision for the future. I'm annoyed that even though I have trouble with a lot of things, I'm the more "normal" one, I'm the "smart, or at least above average" one (because she knows how much "smart" pisses me off). So I'm just feeling like I don't get to have difficulty with all this, I'm just supposed to deal. Even though my mom would tell you I'm over-exaggerating, which I probably am! But it pisses me off how my dad clearly thinks he's stupid, whereas I'm just immature and whiny and attention-seeking. I think I tried saying this to my mom during one argument, and I got laughed off because clearly I'm just grasping for things to be angry about. Maybe I am, I don't even know. I don't know a lot of things about myself and I really hate that sometimes.

I'm feeling restless and fairly useless right now. I've been spending so much time at home avoiding things. Something my counsellor pointed out is that I'm focusing on why I can't do things, and what obstacles would prevent me from doing things, instead of what opportunities doing things would present. And I know someone else has told me that in one of the previous threads, but I don't know what to do about it.

This is the point where I'd be drinking if I thought it would make me feel better. As it is, I'm really glad it doesn't, because I can see how easily I could become an addict in this situation. I mean, I'm practically addicted to ice cubes, what the hell. And using food to distract myself, when I'm already lousy at managing my diabetes. Arrrgh.

#150 ::: unready for her closeup ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 11:16 PM:


Some disconnected observations:

1. I learned that dermatillomania existed when I was researching trichtillomania on the internet - I don't particularly have it (well, didn't then - it occurs to me now that another thing that I've been doing recently may be a manifestation of that) but my aunt has struggled with it, which I learned when my mother told teenaged-me that my aunt had noticed me compulsively hair-twirling and that it was making her concerned for me. (I am *very* sure that the hair-twirling comes from a different mental place - that's absolutely about grounding myself in a familiar texture.) (This was of course framed as "this is bad so you should stop," rather than "this is a problem, let's try to figure out a way to fix it.") I learned then that both were typically considered relatives/manifestations of OCD, but I've always had difficulty framing my particular issues as potential OCD symptoms - I have pretty noticeable executive-function-disorder-not-otherwise-specified, and someone so disorganized can't possibly be OCD, right?

But the way I feel *while* I pick at my skin, and specifically the way in which seeing that gunk come *out* of it makes me feel cleaner/purer, suggests that I should probably rethink that dismissal. "Almost medieval" is a good phrase; it catches a lot of the half-real half-superstitious all-purity-obsessed feelings that I associate with this process.

2. It's gotten a lot worse over the past year or so; the scope of the area I, uh, monitor has expanded from my face and my back and my shoulders to my chest, and I've started hair-plucking on the latter. This hasn't been a constant progression by any means but it's been enough of a progression that an old secondary partner of mine calling me up a few days ago was a cause for anxiety as well as YAY on my part because what if he noticed what I'd been doing to myself?

My working theory is that the ramp-up started because at a-bit-over-a-year-ago I was finally starting to get dates *consistently,* after a year of hermiting, something about multiple people potentially seeing me naked in the near future set off some appearance issue or other, and since I was in an anxiety-triggery work situation the purification-ritual aspects were particularly addictive.

3. I have a lot of issues with asking for things I want; whether these manifest as "you don't deserve that" or as passive-aggression depends on how my brain wants to beat me up that day. I have *so many more* issues with asking for/accepting help, because in my head (thanks, Mom!) there's a straight fucking line from that to "admitting incompetence" to having my autonomy taken away because of the "incompetence" I've just "admitted" to.

4. When I try to look back at my teenagerhood with an objective eye, I am actually pretty sure that my acne was within normal range. I mean, I definitely *had* it, and I was probably on the bad end of normal, but I'm pretty sure I fell within a standard deviation of "average." Maybe a stddev and a half. But I also remember my mother taking me to multiple dermatologists, and a whole regimen of antibiotics and creams and such (that became enormously resented, because of course *remembering to take them* was a big deal with my EFD - also, the oral antibiotics made me nauseous.)

That was always the way - some things were real problems, and met with an overabundance of effort. Some things weren't, and were dismissed.

#151 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 11:25 PM:

AnotherQuietOne @148, all best wishes to you as you wrestle with this one. I remember a conversation some years ago with a priest who was acting as a spiritual director for me. We'd been talking about the surprising ways in which God can be found acting in our lives, and something I said made him say, "You're a bit of a mystic, aren't you?" And I said, "Yes, and boy, was that a surprise!"

I am resisting the urge to unroll for you a long list of books I've really enjoyed.

But if you're interested in talking about it, I would be also. Probably off-topic for this thread, though.

#152 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 11:27 PM:

Jacque @147 - one of the mixed blessings of being in the family I'm in, and the position I'm in, is that I excel at seeing people's points of view. Mom & Dad's views of the world and how it operates are both internally consistent, but completely different. My eldest brother went with Dad's POV; my middle brother went with Mom's; I learned to translate between the two, and from either to "rest of world". Which is wonderful for negotiating between friends/colleagues/acquaintances with world-view interpretation problems, less wonderful in other ways.

For example, I so excel at seeing other people's points of view, that I could sympathize with the middle school teacher who was creeping on me - after all, he was a refugee from a country where girls who dressed like normal American teens were sluts, and women were pretty much property anyway, and he was old and set in his ways - I couldn't expect him to suddenly change his entire way of thinking just because he was in a different country at 70 and I deserved not to be molested, right?

If sanity is defined as reacting appropriately to a given situation, I come across as the sanest person on the planet, because I can adopt to almost anybody's world-view, and give them the reaction they're looking for. That this was incredibly corrosive to my sense of self-identity and integrity didn't occur to me until I was in my thirties. I'm still working on the idea that I'm allowed to have my own world-view, and that I don't have to completely adopt someone else's just because I'm interacting with them at the moment.

Right now I'm fighting with myself over trying therapy again. It's never been useful before, but that's because I do the same thing with therapists that I do with everyone. I reflect back what they want to see, and ultimately I learn more about the inside of the therapist's head than they do about mine. I'm thinking that I may have achieved sufficient self-awareness to allow for useful therapy at this point, but am simultaneously afraid that it's just wishful thinking.

#153 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 11:29 PM:

ALL: Reading and witnessing. I'm making spot responses, because I myself am coming up for air from a Situation, but I'm reading everything. Different mix this year; same magnificent beauty and strength.

radiosongs @127: If I may ask, how long have you been Out Of There? From what you say, you're doing astonishingly well. Go gently with yourself. The image I have in my mind is of someone recovering from having amputated a limb. Consider that the recovery ahead of you is of similar scale, and credit yourself with the strength, wisdom, and courage you've already demonstrated.

Lee @128: Cheryl Wheeler, "Unworthy"

Ow, ow, ow. Yeah. So very much, this. The only time I don't have this feeling is when I'm deep in the throes of my artwork. Maybe that's one reason it's so addictive.

AnotherQuietOne @148: snuck up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and whispered "You. Now."

I am laughing. A laugh of recognition. Oh ... yes.

the Author of this particular story I seem to be living in has a -bent- sense of humor

I mean. Right?

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it

Don't know if it helps any, but the question that I keep Getting Reminded to ask is: "What do you want?" Invoke the Shadow operator.

Phenicious @149: If you can, copy down the text of the errors, and report those. That might help with figuring out what the issue is.

I'm focusing on why I can't do things, and what obstacles would prevent me from doing things, instead of what opportunities doing things would present. And I know someone else has told me that in one of the previous threads, but I don't know what to do about it.

Try this one on and see if it fits: you're already being saddled with more responsibility than you feel equipped to handle. Furthermore, you're being so imposed upon in comparison to your brother because you have (through no fault of your own) been tagged as the "competent one."

Hell, if I was already carrying around a metric ton of rock that threatened to crush me, I might be looking for ways to avoid having more boulders added to my load, too. It's not "immature and whiny and attention-seeking." It's sensible. But, in addition to being expected to carry around half a mountain, you've been carefully conditioned to believe that this is a reasonable expectation.

Does that resonate at all?

#154 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2012, 11:53 PM:

Something came up in my newsfeed today that I think may be of interest to this group.

It's a paper titled "Indirect Aggression: A Pragmatic Analysis of the Quarrel of the Queens in Völsungasaga, Þiðreks Saga, and Das Nibelungenlied".

(It's behind a paywall, but I'm happy to make a copy available, via email to abi to protect everybody's anonymity if that works for her.)

It's a scholarly paper so it may put some people to sleep, and it talks about verbal aggression with examples (from a piece of medieval literature, but still examples), so it may be triggering to some people.

The sentence that made me pause, and decide to post it here:

Tactically, the benefits are significant. If, rather than stating it directly, an aggressor forces his or her opponent to deduce an insulting implicature, then the insult is doubly scathing: indeterminacy forces the recipient not only to recognize the implicature but also to decipher it, forcing the receiver to verbalize the insult independently.

Putting the Goddamn Tapes in "record" mode?

The press release that drew my attention to this paper said that modern society has "lost its talent" for this rhetorical device. The paper itself, however, said that "the indirect meaning of an utterance must be contingent upon a particular personal and cultural context, so the same implicature spoken in a different context will not have the same meaning and therefore not represent a threat to face."

My thought was that in some particular personal and cultural contexts, such as inside a single family, this type of verbal aggression seems alive and well.

Is it really overreacting to recognize and respond to such an attack? I don't think so, even if nobody outside your context recognizes it as an attack.

#155 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:57 AM:

I just got off the phone with my parents. You might recognize the style of conversation we had.

Context: I moved a state away from them for the first time back in June. They're controlling and they alternate abuse with charm and good humor, making them intermittently fun to be around. Our relationship got a lot better when I moved far enough away that I didn't have to see them in person regularly.

Their good nature has been too good to last. I've been wondering when they would blow up in my face, and tonight it happened. We were talking on the phone, me on my cell and my parents on their speaker phone. While they were telling me about some trouble they'd had recently, I was just going "Uh-hunh" and verbally nodding along.

My father started exclaiming, "Hello? HELLO! Can you hear us? Is there something wrong with your phone? What are you doing?" According to him, I wasn't answering him when he spoke to me. I assured him that I replied to everything I heard him say. We agreed it must be the fault of the phone. Our voices did sound slightly fuzzy for a moment, so something is wrong with one of our phones.

My mother came on the line, and when she said something to me I was anxious to show her I was listening. I replied immediately, adding that the phone was working just fine.

She bit my head off. She chewed me out for interrupting her, told me to stop agreeing with her before she'd finished, and shouted me down when I protested that I was just trying to show her I was listening. No go. She ran right over me, and my father backed her up all the way. Then they sat there droning on about their troubles while I stewed in rage at my end of the line.

When they paused, I said, "Can I speak now, or are you going to bite my head off?"

You guessed it: they denied either of them had done anything odd, and said that I was the one behaving strangely and rudely and interrupting them. I got more and more angry and flustered, and by the sound of things so did they, till I said, "I can't talk like this! You jump on everything I say!" My father suggested we all end the conversation because it was "frustrating to all of us." Thank God. I only wish I'd been the one to suggest it first. We all hung up, and from their tone of voice they were flouncing out as surely as if we'd all been fighting in a livejournal comment thread.

It was ugly and there will be fallout later, and I feel awful and sick right now, but I'd feel a hell of a lot more awful if I hadn't been reading DFD threads for the last year. Because you guys have helped to educate me, and now I know my enemy.

That right there? What my parents just did to me? That was gaslighting. The phone may or may not have been behaving weirdly; my parents just wanted to find fault with me because they're in a bad mood about unrelated matters. I'm the only person who will hold still long enough to listen to them complain. As such, they want to talk to me--but nothing I can possibly do or say can be good enough for them or make them feel better, so they punish me together. They're an Olympic-level gaslighting tag team. One of them messes with me while the other plays the good cop, and then they switch roles, and they win by making me out to be a bad daughter.

And I'm mad at them and my stomach hurts and there'll be almost immediate fall-out. I was supposed to see them on Sunday, so they'll be back in touch soon craving attention and trying to make me apologize to them for being a bad girl who interrupts her parents. Screw that.

I'm trying to remind myself of the good side: this is a big red flag to keep me warned away from too much time around my parents. I've spent much too much time living with them as an adult, due to money troubles. It was absolute shit, and I became miserable and depressed. We were so close that it was like an abusive m/f/f group marriage, minus the sex and plus a creepy power dynamic. You can imagine: the two adults team up to crush the third adult down into the form of a subservient child. My worst fear is that my current job will not pan out and I'll wind up living with them again.

Almost unbelievably, I also often get a lot out of their company. To paraphrase what other people have said, if I told you their good points you'd hardly believe their bad points, and if I told you their bad points their good would sink from view. However: I can get along without them just fine right now, and in fact I'd be glad to do so if they're going to be insufferable jerks as they were tonight. If they dropped out of my life I would not be noticeably poorer for it, and after all the nasty cold ache fades away, that's a good feeling. I have to tell myself that because I'm in the cold ache now.

It's been cathartic to type all this. I appreciate the chance to do it anonymously, because I am reluctant to confide in people these days. I made the mistake of talking my family problems out to an older friend, who has now decided that I'm the Poor Little Match Girl and goes around telling all our mutual friends that I'm a poor stunted creature whose evil parents crushed her spirit. No one here seems apt to do that, but I'm just as glad to be anon anyway.

#156 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:15 AM:

OtterB @151: I am resisting the urge to unroll for you a long list of books I've really enjoyed.

Please, if not for AnotherQuietOne, then for me: unroll away!

But if you're interested in talking about it, I would be also.

Me, three!

Cynthia W. @152: I'm still working on the idea that I'm allowed to have my own world-view, and that I don't have to completely adopt someone else's just because I'm interacting with them at the moment.

I'm right there with you. With me it's even more pernicious. It's not that I'm not allowed to maintain my own point of view. (Anymore, at least.) It's simply that I loose it in the process of tracking the other person's thinking.

Just very recently have I finally gotten my own values and standards—if not clear in my mind, exactly, at least settled in my gut—that when something hits me cross-wise, I can be aware of that while still maintaining my view-through-the-other's perspective.

Some of that seems to be about assigning perceptual channels effectively: view-through-other's-eyes seems to run on the verbal-visual channels, whereas maintaining my own boundaries seems to be primarily a kinesthetic thing. A "gut sense," literally. (Just noticed, on thinking about this, that the "gut sense" can be foxed during in-person interaction by maintaining rapport with the other person. Going to have to pay more attention to that.)

Just ran into one of those earlier today. Local Authority Figure did an amazing impression of a drive-by Internet troll, but I was able to call hir out about it, by paying attention to and crediting my gut reaction to the post, and then running it past the principles I've learned here on ML. (And then basically channelling abi and Teresa to compose my response.)

I'm fighting with myself over trying therapy again.

Me, too. My frustration is that I have yet to encounter a therapist that had more of a Clue than I do, and has the moxie to voice an opinion, and the wisdom for that opinion to be actually, like, insightful.

the invisible one @154: Is it really overreacting to recognize and respond to such an attack?

Definitely not, IMHO, but it does require clarity and self-confidence that is, almost by definition, deliberately supressed in situations that call for this kind of discernment.

#157 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:18 AM:

Little John @ 155

"an older friend, who has now decided that I'm the Poor Little Match Girl and goes around telling all our mutual friends that I'm a poor stunted creature whose evil parents crushed her spirit."

Are you sure this person is a friend? Because it sounds to me like this person is actively trying to take you down a peg, while positioning themselves as both normal-by-contrast and magnanimous.

Have you tried to draw explicit boundaries with the person?

#158 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:27 AM:

KayTei @ 157: no, I don't actually consider her a friend anymore. I should have made that clear. She's a tush, is what she is. I used to like her, but then she used to not be a complete tush. That's a different problem. I can't cut her out of my life, because we have a lot of mutual friends whom I still like, and a lot of hobbies in common.

Last year I set boundaries with her, really blunt stuff like "I'm not answering intrusive questions about my family." That one worked. However, I recently found out about the gossip and I'm still reeling.

#159 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 03:59 AM:

OtterB @151, Jacque @156:

Although it might be useful to point to a few resources for AnotherQuietOne, I'd rather this conversation didn't get diverted just at the moment.

That topic might work better in the Open Thread, or I could start a separate thread for it if there is enough interest (and a good starting point).

#160 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 06:36 AM:

Phenicious @149: My family worked the same way, although in my case it was "your sister has Asperger's, and you are able to function socially" ... never mind the crippling anxiety and depression that I was dealing with. And in some ways they may have been right, since I *was* able to get my shit together and transition into adulthood much more easily than her -- but that didn't make me any less angry and resentful about the internal scripts I got off of that or the lack of acknowledgement I got.

(And I think that recently both parents have started to figure some of this out, but they don't know how to address it, and I don't really know what I want out of them. So it is now an elephant in the room, which is better than not being in the room at all, I guess.)

Regards "obstacles instead of opportunities" thought patterns: In my head, it runs rather like a dialogue -
Brain goes, "OH NO AN OBSTACLE"
Self goes, "Is this a rational or irrational obstacle? (No, I am probably not going to suddenly be struck blind while driving; yes, job-searching is difficult and stressful) If rational: what can I do to improve my chances? If irrational: what can I do reduce the stress?"
Self lists a bunch of things,
Brain usually goes: "Oh no another obstacle with the thing you're using to solve first obstacle!"
Self: Rational or irrational? How can I make it easier?"
and on and on, ad nauseam.

Even with irrational problems, a lot of times it makes me feel better to walk through a solution. (After acknowledging it is totally irrational.) So I will actually sit in my car and make sure I can find the hazards and the brakes with my eyes closed, and make sure I can dial 911 on my cell without looking.
Underlying all of this is the idea that "I am competent enough to handle whatever situations life throws at me. Even when I make mistakes, I am competent enough to handle the outcome of those mistakes and not repeat them the next time." I have evidence of this competence from the past; if you also have evidence, it might be helpful to remind yourself of it.

unready @150
As might be gleanable from the above, I have OCD-esque anxiety (it tends to not impair me enough to be diagnosable, and it swaps out manifestations every few years), and it's really the "half-real, half-superstitious" thing that makes it OCD. Knowing something is irrational (or out of proportion) but still being overpoweringly affected by it, and resorting to superstitious ritual to make you feel safer/in control: bam. That's it. What you're actually afraid of, and how you make yourself feel safer, are entirely dependent on context.

@ everyone: thank you for being here, whether you're talking, or responding, or just silently reading in the background.

#161 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 07:09 AM:

abi @159, makes perfect sense that this thread should stay more on-topic than the ML norm. I'd love a separate thread. I need to head to work now but could try to come up with a starting point for one later, if that would be helpful.

#162 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 08:51 AM:

Cynthia W: Right now I'm fighting with myself over trying therapy again. It's never been useful before, but that's because I do the same thing with therapists that I do with everyone. I reflect back what they want to see...

My middle daughter says that she does exactly this with therapists. She's also extremely savvy about seeing and translating other people's POVs, and has been since she was a preschooler. In her case I think (hope!) it's more of an innate talent and less an adaptation to dysfunction. I hope. I hope.

#163 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 08:54 AM:

Jacque @156 -- The distinction you drew between the verbal and the gut is revelatory for me. That's exactly how it plays out. I KNOW that something is messed up, but I need to back up and think it through before I can put words to the feeling of wrongness.

I'm still learning how to have my own world view, and take care of my own self, and not attempt to manage other people's feelings. It's rough.

#164 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 09:49 AM:

Lila @162 - for what it's worth, I do know some people who are good at that sort of thing without having had tremendously dysfunctional families. A natural proclivity combined with heavy exposure to people with radically differing world views seems to do it - the exposure doesn't have to be toxic. The family toxicity just seems to have put a fine, involuntary polish on mine.

If you're concerned, the things I would watch for are: does she have a good sense of her own opinions on things? Is she capable of holding onto those convictions in the face of someone opposed if she wants to? (I.e. no fair if she's arguing with someone who's looking for an argument.)If she can do those things, she a lot less likely to lose herself in others.

#165 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 10:02 AM:

Good points, Cynthia. From my perspective the answers appear to be yes, and yes. I do worry about how taking therapy off the table will affect a young woman with a strong family history of depression (both sides) who is also adamantly opposed to taking psych meds.

#166 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 10:57 AM:

radiosongs #81, Jacque #139: Sounds like it's time for me to repeat my regular recommendation of "Scott Peck's other book", People of the Lie. Microsummary: "Personality Disorder, Evil Subtype". Unlike Peck, I don't think the pattern he describes accounts for all human evil, but I'm sure it did cover most of the cases he was seeing in his clinic....

#167 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 11:22 AM:

First, reading and witnessing. I admire your bravery tremendously, all of you. If I come up with anything of potential helpfulness in specifics, I'll post same; otherwise, reading and witnessing.

Second...still managing to shoot myself in the foot, only this time it's about moving. I've arranged with one of my friends at the shelter who has a car to help me pick up my cats from the vet's office on Saturday morning and take all of us, plus my luggage, to my new-to-me bedroom. Yay!

What I have been putting off is asking for help with the furnishing of the bedroom. That is, instead of immediately making phone calls to wrangle together help with retrieving stuff from storage and hauling it from one end of the county to the other, I waited a day, then put up a post on "BookFace" asking for help. Not surprised I didn't get any takers, really, but still--not apparently enough to get me off the stick and reach out on an individual basis to people who might be able to help.

So at least this morning I dropped a note to a friend who lives close by, and if I don't get a response by 10:00 I'll call. And I've revised my plans re: raiding my storage, because between the cost of the van rental (including gasoline, insurance and mileage) and the time it's likely to take to unearth enough stuff in my storage space to be useful, buying good-enough-to-get-by flat-pack stuff with a little of the award from my car accident (that I had banked with the shelter as a gesture of good faith) will probably be no more expensive. And at least I can donate the stuff when I'm ready to move into my actual own place and clear stuff out of storage.

But I am amazed by the way I'm still aiming at my foot with a large-bore firearm. I'm moving into a bedroom being rented to me by the head of HR, for frak's sake--I KNOW I don't want to look like a flake, so what am I doing?

Also, my coffee-house client (the one who paid me in canned goods) is ticked off (with cause) because I haven't done anything on his project in 10 days. Because I've been reading fanfic. Not that I've told him that, but still.


[making efforts to turn off the Tapes telling me I don't have anything to complain about]

#168 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 11:35 AM:

Rikibeth, #134: Thank you. I'm going to be applying for a passport in the near future, and I'm pretty sure that the copy of my birth certificate I have is not the one they want, so that was useful advice for me as well.

Phenicious, #149: You seem to do a pretty good job of organizing and laying out your thoughts here; perhaps you could print out your posts and give them to the counselor to read?

The casual expectation that women are supposed to give up their own lives for "family" (who in many of these cases don't feel any need to reciprocate or even acknowledge what's happening) is one of my triggers. You may think it's because you're "less damaged" than he is, but I would bet you a dinner that this kind of expectation wouldn't be loaded onto his less-damaged brother.

WRT "focusing on the reasons you can't do something", it seems fairly obvious to me that one of those reasons is your current living conditions. That's a hard obstacle to work around, because it's always there, and will jump up and smack you in ways and places that you don't expect. Which is kind of what Jacque said, but she said it better.

Cynthia, #152: I so excel at seeing other people's points of view, that I could sympathize with the middle school teacher who was creeping on me - after all, he was a refugee from a country where girls who dressed like normal American teens were sluts, and women were pretty much property anyway, and he was old and set in his ways - I couldn't expect him to suddenly change his entire way of thinking just because he was in a different country at 70 and I deserved not to be molested, right?

Maybe not, but you could damn well expect him to change his behavior. One of my mantras is, "I may not be able to control how I feel, but I am a functional adult and I can certainly control how I act." The same applies to him; he was certainly old enough to understand the difference in cultural norms, and that he needed to change the way he behaved around women, no matter what he thought or felt.

Little John, #155: I suggest that this is a good time to "come down with the stomach flu" and cancel getting together with them on Sunday.

For the future, behavioral modification can work wonders with this sort of thing. The minute they start tag-teaming you, say "I am not required to listen to you abusing me. If you can't treat me like a real person, this conversation is over." (or words to that effect) If they continue, then you hang up and turn your phone off (or shut the ringer off if it's a landline) so that they can't call back to harass you. If it starts up while you're together, you draw your boundary, and then if they continue to cross it, you leave. Not angrily, just say, "This conversation is over," and walk out. Also, do not invite your parents into your home! If they want to visit you, put them up in a hotel and get together with them in public places. Your home should be your safe space.

It will be hard, and you should be prepared for them to escalate severely in an attempt to force you back into the one-down position. But the potential payoff is well worth the effort; sooner or later they will learn that harassing you no longer gets the rewards they've come to expect.

The potential downside is that you may discover that your primary value to them is as someone who can be abused with impunity, and that if you're not giving them that any more they don't want to see you / talk to you at all. OTOH, if that proves to be the case (and most commonly it's not -- they just do it because you let them get away with it), isn't it better to know?

#169 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 11:36 AM:

Would Their Lownesses like some chocolate-covered candied ginger?

#170 ::: nonasuch ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:01 PM:

I've been thinking, lately, about the difference between the kid my parents tried to raise and the adult I turned out to be. About the messages my parents thought they were sending (and sometimes said outright) and the messages that actually stuck with me.

For the last year, I've been dating someone who's not Jewish. My mother's not happy about it. She'd never be rude to his face-- the Earth would fall into the Sun before she was rude to someone's face-- but she's made her disapproval clear. "That's not how I raised you," she told me once, earlier in the relationship. And I suppose that's true: she made a big fuss my whole childhood about how I needed more Jewish friends, because that would lead to me dating and marrying a Jewish boy someday.

But my parents also gave me free run of whatever I wanted to read, rarely restricted my access to any sort of media, and never monitored my Internet use. So I grew up with a thousand worlds in my head, and in contact with a thousand different kinds of people, and my parents' messages didn't really sink in next to that. Which I'm grateful for, for all that it was probably a sort of benign neglect.

My mother and I don't get along, and probably never will. We have too few of the right things in common, and too many of the wrong things. I've often said that I don't blame her for the mismatch: I'm the oldest, and she simply didn't know how to cope with a kid she couldn't identify with.

That said, it's absurd that I was 22 before I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety; it should have been patently obvious ten years earlier. To this day, I don't think she really believes in the diagnosis. She once told me "Do you think I don't get anxious? I do, I just *deal* with it." And she doesn't have much skill at living outside her own head, so she has no way to understand that I *am* dealing with it, with meds and therapy, because bootstrapping myself to mental health was never going to work.

I will say that whatever help I've needed, my parents have provided, when they've been able. It's just that that's usually financial, because they're not really capable of providing emotional support that's actually supportive.

(I joke that we're the WASPiest Jews who ever lived: we don't share, we don't hug, and we decorate the house in tasteful neutrals. Or they do, anyway. I'm working on it.)

#171 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:12 PM:

Rikibeth @134: The first part isn't hlepy, just not relevant to me at the moment - I'm sure I'll come back to that once I've got the spoons to deal with paperwork though, so thanks.

And... I actually don't really have much to say to the rest of it besides "thank you", either, but I mean that. Thank you. I can tell myself this stuff all day but having other voices join in multiplies the strength of the message exponentially. The image of living next to a chemical leak is a really good one - of course you get used to that's just how life is around here, what the fuck can you do about it? Of course you don't stop until much later to link that with oh, shit, I have trouble breathing sometimes, long after the damage started.

Pro @135: Nothing really useful to say, but I'm knocking on wood that your surgery goes well.

Persephone @141: they really did do the best they could with the tools they had.

What I'm about to say might not be relevant to your particular situation, but this seems to be a pretty common thought around here, so pardon me while I just overextend this metaphor... :)

On the one hand, yeah, if all you've got is a bunch of hammers then everything does indeed look like a nail. On the other hand, when you are presented with something that is clearly and obviously a screw, a reasonable adult will... do the work to go get a screwdriver. And if they have hammers lying all over the house, and screws all over, then sure, once in awhile they'll go for the nearby hammer out of convenience, but if they really want to do the job right? They'll be careful not to do that too frequently, if at all. They'll recognize when they made a mistake by picking up the hammer. They don't sit there going WELL I ONLY HAVE A HAMMER SO WHAT DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO, GO TO THE HARDWARE STORE? UGHHHHH WHY IS THAT EVEN MY RESPONSIBILITY? IT'S NOT MY FAULT THIS NAIL IS MADE WRONG.

Which is to say - if the tools they used were obviously incorrect, and if either of them won't acknowledge that, then that's what matters. The stories of how and why they obtained their original toolboxes can be important and enlightening but that doesn't change how they handled you, who should have been their best-loved, most careful project.

Phenicious @149: I'm sorry, that sounds like a pretty crappy position to be in wrt caring for your brother (and general family dynamics surrounding) :(

Also, re: your ice cube addiction - not to be hlepy, but are you getting enough iron in your diet?

I've got more to say - will probably be back in a bit once I've figured out my plans for the day - but anyone I haven't replied to: I'm reading every word and witnessing and my heart is reaching out to all of you.

#172 ::: Vivian ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:23 PM:

As far as I can remember, I’ve always been my father’s favorite child. He hasn’t ever gotten on well with my younger brother. I had vaguely put it down to a clash of personalities. I was the sort of kid who, when hungry, would climb up on the counter and get herself some crackers to munch on. My brother, on the other hand, would track down Mom and ask her for a snack. She’d be sorting laundry, or baking rolls, or washing the dishes, and she’d say, “In a few minutes.” Usually this would be true, but sometimes it would slip her mind and an hour later my brother would track her down again and ask again. She’d apologize for forgetting and get it for him. But that entire time he was waiting, hungry, and he still wouldn’t get it himself.

So, extrapolate outward. That’s him pretty much all the time. It grates on Dad’s nerves, and I thought that was all it was.

But I think it’s gotten worse. I only see bits and pieces, a snort of derision here or a, “You’re welcome to visit us this weekend, sweetie, but your father and I had a fight about Tim so we’re not really talking.” How common is this? I don’t know. I haven’t lived at home, full time, since high school. That’s five years of context that I’m missing.

But I’m worried. Mom told me that she’s encouraging Tim to stay at college when he can and find an internship away from home when he can’t. Is this because of what Dad says to Tim, or because she’s afraid of what he might say?

Dad tells me he thinks my brother is entitled. “Not like you,” he says. “You don’t expect everything to be given to you. You appreciate it.”

And I wonder: how much of that is true? It’s taken a bit of nudging, now that I’ve got a job and am out of college, to get out of the “of course the parents will pay for it” frame of mind. My brother’s still years from that transition, but my father seems to think he owes him for the financial support in a way I was never expected to. When my brother is home, Dad wants him to…I’m not sure. Be a mind reader? Anticipate the things Dad wants him to do and do them immediately, with no protests? But Tim’s always been wrapped in his own little world. Even if Dad points him to a task, he can’t figure out how to accomplish it. When told to sweep the leaves out of the garage, he doesn’t see that he should start in one corner and work outwards.

Then Dad sees him doing it improperly, and it annoys him even more.

I guess I’m asking for insight, here, if anyone’s got some they feel like sharing. I’ve got bits and pieces, but I don’t know how much they’re impacting my brother, emotionally and psychologically. I don’t know whether I should do anything, or even if there’s anything I can do. My family’s always seemed amazingly calm and peaceful compared to my friends. We all, more or less, got along (though I am increasingly coming to realize that my peaceful interactions with everyone does not mean everyone got along with each other). We don’t yell or scream at one another. But I’m coming to wonder how much simmering resentment the silences are masking.

#173 ::: Vivian ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:28 PM:

As far as I can remember, I’ve always been my father’s favorite child. He hasn’t ever gotten on well with my younger brother. I had vaguely put it down to a clash of personalities. I was the sort of kid who, when hungry, would climb up on the counter and get herself some crackers to munch on. My brother, on the other hand, would track down Mom and ask her for a snack. She’d be sorting laundry, or baking rolls, or washing the dishes, and she’d say, “In a few minutes.” Usually this would be true, but sometimes it would slip her mind and an hour later my brother would track her down again and ask again. She’d apologize for forgetting and get it for him. But that entire time he was waiting, hungry, and he still wouldn’t get it himself.

So, extrapolate outward. That’s him pretty much all the time. It grates on Dad’s nerves, and I thought that was all it was.

But I think it’s gotten worse. I only see bits and pieces, a snort of derision here or a, “You’re welcome to visit us this weekend, sweetie, but your father and I had a fight about Tim so we’re not really talking.” How common is this? I don’t know. I haven’t lived at home, full time, since high school. That’s five years of context that I’m missing.

But I’m worried. Mom told me that she’s encouraging Tim to stay at college when he can and find an internship away from home when he can’t. Is this because of what Dad says to Tim, or because she’s afraid of what he might say?

Dad tells me he thinks my brother is entitled. “Not like you,” he says. “You don’t expect everything to be given to you. You appreciate it.”

And I wonder: how much of that is true? It’s taken a bit of nudging, now that I’ve got a job and am out of college, to get out of the “of course the parents will pay for it” frame of mind. My brother’s still years from that transition, but my father seems to think he owes him for the financial support in a way I was never expected to. When my brother is home, Dad wants him to…I’m not sure. Be a mind reader? Anticipate the things Dad wants him to do and do them immediately, with no protests? But Tim’s always been wrapped in his own little world. Even if Dad points him to a task, he can’t figure out how to accomplish it. When told to sweep the leaves out of the garage, he doesn’t see that he should start in one corner and work outwards.

Then Dad sees him doing it improperly, and it annoys him even more.

I guess I’m asking for insight, here, if anyone’s got some they feel like sharing. I’ve got bits and pieces, but I don’t know how much they’re impacting my brother, emotionally and psychologically. I don’t know whether I should do anything, or even if there’s anything I can do. My family’s always seemed amazingly calm and peaceful compared to my friends. We all, more or less, got along (though I am increasingly coming to realize that my peaceful interactions with everyone does not mean everyone got along with each other). We don’t yell or scream at one another. But I’m coming to wonder how much simmering resentment the silences are masking.

#174 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:44 PM:

radiosongs @81 said: it doesn't matter how many times I read about acne and how to actually treat it, there's still some medieval notion in my head that if I can just squeeze enough or pick enough then all the infection will come out. If a spot on my skin hurts or feels inflamed at a certain moment, then I need to fix it right then, and "fixing it" always ends up meaning picking at it.

Part of it is also a strange perfectionism - scabs or wounds have raised surfaces, bumps, rough patches that I can feel with my fingertips. I know that my skin should feel smooth, so I reopen wounds, because the raw skin below - even if it's painful - feels so sleek and smooth and somehow better.

Holy crap, this is a Thing? I have this Thing. For me it ties into nailbiting, and it was reacted-to (treated?) when I was a kid as if that's all it was. For me it's mostly not active wounds (except for scabs -- enticing, enticing scabs of itchy come-off-ness! Also peeling post-sunburn), but holy FSM if I have any ouchy mild bump anywhere I have to constantly roll my willpower to LEAVE IT ALONE, because my hindbrain is convinced if I can just get the riiiiiight angle on it I can pop it and the Ick Ick Ow will come out and everything will be lovely then.

And on my poor abused cuticles I regularly get down to blood, because the newer healing parts come in a little rough and then I must expunge. I bite/peel off my guitar-playing calluses if I go several months without playing, because they feel WRONG and ROUGH and MUST REMOVE.

And the state of my fingertips, I found, is a really good barometer for 'how is my brain weather doing lately' -- the bloodier and ripped-ier they are, the worse I've been doing, even if I think I've been doing well. It dovetails with my dissociation, because even if I'm trying to Not Bite My Fingers, I can get into doing something else and they sneak right up there and next thing I know, I'm down to the quick on four fingers.

Even my bad months are better now than a lot of my daily reality was in high school, though. For which much thanks.

Something I've been struggling with lately (aside from being incredibly pissed at myself on an ongoing basis for having really, really bad local brain-weather, such that I can go 9 straight calm hours at home with no kid or other demands on my time and STILL not manage to run a load of laundry, etc etc etc; that's not a new realization for me) is my terror of, not failure, but SUCCESS.

For years I thought I was afraid of failing (I thought I was an introvert, too, when I turn out to be an extrovert with social anxieties). And I *am* afraid of the big public pratfall, the point-and-laugh of the crowd. But I can SEE that fear, which I'm realizing means it's only a tiny tiny peeping wail in my mental catalog of boogeymen. The ones that are most dangerous are the ones that my whole life is built to avoid triggering, because if I had to see them ZOMG APOCALYPSE.

And I think one of those is fear of success. Because whenever I have a 'Yaaaay!' sort of minor win in my life, not only do I instantly start cutting myself down in my head (see also: reflexive response to compliment is self-deprecation), but I get a weird rollercoastery sort of vertiginous thrill-then-nausea. It's like part of me wants to glory in the success like a beagle with a dead fish on the beach, rubbing it all over myself and adoring its perfectness and satisfaction, and another part of me is deeply, deeply convinced that If I Ever Really Win, Horrible, HORRIBLE Things Will Happen.

What horrible things? No idea. More horrible than any I can actually see and talk about, for sure. So horrible that my Peril-Tinted Sunglasses have never even vaguely let me glimpse their outlines.

The problem is, I hate failing all the time. Even when it's fucking goddamn perfectly obvious I AM FAILING ON PURPOSE, or at least sabotaging myself constantly so I never have to worry about getting too close to success …

So it's good that I'm together enough to start being re-creeped out at the fact that there are whole regions of my life I've been pretending very hard aren't there, right?

Also, it's bad that it's nearly noon today and I haven't eaten anything … and I have no particular urge TO eat anything, though I know intellectually I ought to have such an urge. Dissociation and anhedonia are definitely on today's brain-weather isobar map, methinks. Sigh.

Still not caught up on the thread, but this is getting really long, so I'm going to post, take a breath, go stare into the fridge AGAIN, and come back to the thread later. These threads are deeply terrifying, but good for me.

#175 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 12:55 PM:

Jacque @139: This seems like as good a jumping-off point as any to actually start talking about my brother (who is most assuredly not seeing any dysfunction right now, and may never see any of it.)

My brother was such a good, sweet little kid. I miss my brother a lot. He wasn't as smart as I was and he didn't get all the girl socialization I got to be quiet and not make waves, so he was also pretty rambunctious, but on the whole he was just - pretty great. I remember him definitely having a mean streak, but if my mom hadn't encouraged it or been OK with it, then I think it would've just been a childish thing he put away. Like - I have this memory of him leaning out the window of the car when he was seven or eight, yelling at younger kids with lemonade stands that "lemonade stands are for losers". It wasn't that big a deal, and there are plenty of well-adjusted adults who said or did worse, but I remember saying "that's not nice, they're littler than you and they're gonna be hurt", and my mom laughing it off and saying "whatever, they need to grow a thicker skin then." But my brother also grew up to be the kid who beat up the kids beating up nerds, so I think he was just being silly at first. I don't think he would've become malicious if he wasn't encouraged.

My brother and I were pretty close till I hit fourth or fifth grade (he is two years younger than me.) After that we really drifted far apart when I got depressed; I don't remember much about how he changed, but by the time we were closer again, we were both in high school and he just... he did a total 180. He used to be okay in school, but he had some trouble concentrating. By high school he was obsessed with making straight As in every class (I am sure the ease with which I did this since kindergarten had some impact on him, and I feel awful about that.) He studied nonstop. He got fixated on being in shape - working out constantly, restricting his diet to only the healthiest foods he could find, refusing to spice or flavor them in any way.

When he was about seventeen or so, he confided some really scary shit - that he had developed fears that our father was spying on him, or had installed cameras in his room; that he (if I remember correctly) sometimes heard voices at night - but he very emphatically did not want to do anything, he did not want to talk to our parents, he just wanted to shut up and let it go away. And I knew that our parents were not exactly a safe space for this shit, and that I couldn't force him to talk to anyone else if he didn't want to, so I just... let it go.

He is in college now, and just as much of a compulsive overachiever - he was considering being a doctor (which he explicitly told me was to "make more money and be better than other people"), and is now either doing IP law or biomedical law - something that still involves being a dick to people for exorbitant amounts of money. Last Christmas he spent a good half-hour explaining to my partner why slavery made sense from a business perspective. He went off to some military training academy over the summer and told me that he loved it, about the officers "getting in your face and yelling and spitting on you", about brutal marches and exercises and disgusting food, and he loved it, and he had to leave early because he broke his leg through overtraining. I mean - the boy is a mess. He puts on this beautifully polished face to everyone else of being friendly and sarcastic and joking and on top of it. I have no idea how much people outside the family buy it; my uncle and his family certainly don't, but my parents seem to think he's doing just great.

He called me last winter nearly crying, freaking out, saying, I just cut my face with a box cutter. How do I hide it? Don't tell anyone. Please. Let's pretend I never called you.

When I last saw him in person I tried to tell him that I worried about him, that if he ever needed anything I would always be there, he said you mean the box cutter? and laughed and laughed and said it was so badass, I wish it left a scar, all the guys would've thought it was so cool.

I am so scared for him. I am scared that he is going to hurt himself. Or that he is going to go off to war and hurt a lot of innocent people and enjoy it. I want to be there to help him but I have no idea how when he so clearly does not want my help, thinks it is for people who are weak, not like him. He pushes me away: he told me well after doing x-mile hikes for y hours with a z-pound pack, your problems don't seem so bad. He doesn't make any effort to stay in touch with me and he has a deep, deep loyalty to our parents. He is so far in the well and I cannot leave him and I have no idea how to stay near him until he needs me, because until then, he is a nasty sociopath of a man.

One of the worst things, I think, is the creeping feeling that someday there will be a woman (or worse, a child) who will need me to believe that my brother is abusing her.

Ugh. Okay, this is enough for right now.

#176 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:02 PM:

Thanks in part to these DFD threads, I've recently made another breakthrough. A thread or two ago, I posted in anguish about whether to keep doing two activities that I truly loved, but didn't have time to pursue equally. Just having sympathetic people to bounce that situation off of helped so, so much. Thanks to those of you who responded (both on the thread and via email) at the time.

Going back to the "Help, my life is too full" thing. I almost put an asterisk here with a footnote apologizing for the relative unimportance of the whole issue, but I'm not going to. Perfectionism is a fishhook too, and talking about the ways I'm overcoming it might be useful to someone else here. This is most definitely not an "I got over this, so you should too!" but a "I'm full of joy that I overcame this, and speaking of it might give you some strategies or some hope too."

I don't know whether perfectionism usually affects people who are inherently pleasers, but that's me. I spent the first 30 years of my life painfully earnest, pathetically eager to please, terrified of making others (especially authority figures*) unhappy or angry or disappointed. I naturally complete tasks very fast and can multitask easily, so that eagerness to please manifested in filling up every second of my time with something.

Yeah, I could have a day job AND run a side business AND sing opera AND have a couple of other hobbies AND run several blogs AND keep a clean house AND have pets AND maintain a marriage. But it took intense time management of every second of every day, and that wasn't even enough. There were always ten things I hadn't done that I could have taken care of if I'd just been a little more disciplined. And suddenly I was 30 years old and had migraines and muscle issues in my arms and legs that stemmed directly and purely from stress. My own body started rebelling and that forced me to start rethinking things. If nothing else, it's hard to spend all day and night on the computer with excruciating arm pain.

Things got a bit clearer when I sat down and asked myself exactly who I was trying to impress. My mother, who has perfected the art of putting down anything I get excited about? My father, who's gotten himself a new family since the divorce and can't be bothered to acknowledge his biological children (when he's not attempting to use them to hurt my mother)? My spouse, who'd love me exactly as much if I did nothing at all? People on Facebook? The world at large? Yeah, none of those make any sense. Myself? That's a little closer. But am I really getting joy from all these things?

I think that last question was what tipped the perfectionism scales. At least one person here told me I should concentrate on the thing that gives me joy at the moment, that I could always change my mind later and focus on something else. That was exactly what I needed to hear. And right now, singing is what gives me joy, so I'm letting the business slide.

Yeah, I'm still feeling a lot of guilt over the thousands of dollars I've dumped into the business that are now not being used. And the business is registered with the state and feds, so I have to keep submitting monthly taxes and whatnot. But the magical thing is that once I gave myself permission to do what brings me joy, I've found that I can isolate the parts of the business that do do that and just do them. I'd been trying to participate on every social media site in the universe, because that's what good business owners do. Now, I'm just posting on the site I like using most. Sure, I'm not reaching as many people, but I'm having more fun and can have genuine conversations with people. Too early to know if that's effective as a business tactic, but it doesn't matter as much. And I can enjoy the singing wholeheartedly without worrying that it's taking time from my "official" hobby.

I'm still reading through the thread, and I just found this beautiful, helpful paragraph from Statistical Outlier @57:

What I did, and have done at various times when I get to feeling this way, is take an inventory of my life. What do I do and does it make me happy? If it doesn't automatically make me want to smile, I then ask myself "am I getting out of it as much as I put into it?" and "Do I really need to do this, or can I get along without it? and why?" "Is the reward I'm promised worth the aggravation I'm dealing with now?"

There are still days when I can't bring myself to do anything but stare blankly at Facebook and feel like a loser for not doing it all. But those days are slowly getting fewer and farther between.

*There was the time a few years ago when I burst into tears outside the DMV because I didn't have the right documents and the clerk (who as a gatekeeper qualified as an authority figure) was rude to me about it. Also the time in college when an advisor sat me down and, instead of approving my classes for the next semester, spent a half hour telling me about all my character defects. That one took years to work out; I don't mind criticism and will take it entirely too much to heart, but the things she told me weren't even true. Which plays into a pattern of emotional abuse from authority figures that I've finally started refusing to blame myself for.

#177 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:55 PM:

#155 ::: Little John:

I was thinking about gaslighting, and I can certainly believe it happens, but I'd also gotten the impression that my mother forgot how she was when she was angry.

And then I remembered how hard she'd make it to call her on her behavior, and this was a huge relief to me. I'm not sure exactly what my shift in thinking was, but it was amazing the way my head came up.

The specific incident was that I was a teenager and she told me that she'd forgotten her jacket and I should go get it for her. Which would have been no big deal, except that I'd had years of being blamed for making mistakes.

I said something about that (not especially hostile as I recall, just pointing out the unfairness-- I was quite willing to get the jacket), and got told off. She said that she never would have spoken to her mother like that.

This all seems mild as such things go, but I concluded that she didn't really have a sense of justice so far as she and I were concerned.

I've seen quite a bit in DFD threads about unequal treatment of siblings, but I don't think I've seen anything about parents having double standards for themselves and their children. I'm not talking about situations where children don't understand how much work parents put into the family (I certainly didn't), but situations where even with adult understanding, it's clear that parents were cutting themselves slack that they weren't giving their children.

#178 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:56 PM:

I'm another chewer/picker; that's the base reason for why I gained weight in grad school. Given a choice between keeping my fingers and teeth busy with Reese's Minis or by chewing my fingers to bits, I bought Reese's by the truckload. For me, it is as much a stimming thing as anything-- I think. It's hard to tell when I can't do a double-blind study on myself and know I pick up behaviors from the kiddos.

Radiosongs, your brother sounds like he's in a bad situation and might be making it worse on himself. I'm sorry you're both having to deal with that, even potentially. I hope having records like this will help in the future.

#179 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 01:56 PM:

Vivian, #172: Quick question: what does your father do when he's hungry? Does he go fix something for himself, or does he want your mother to wait on him? Also, might it be that your mother is encouraging Tim not to live at home because that way he has to learn to do things for himself? A lot of young people don't really internalize "if I don't do it, it won't get done" until they get out on their own. If you're an outlier in the direction of taking on adult responsibilities, Tim may be suffering by comparison even though he's no worse than the standard run of high-school/college student.

Persephone, #175: I'm so glad to hear that you're starting to get a handle on things! And I'm suddenly reminded that I owe you e-mail -- I think it must have scrolled down the priority list or something, and then I forgot and I apologize. I'll see about going back and finding it and responding.

#180 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 02:48 PM:

OtterB @161:

Thanks. I am, for various reasons, not going to be able to come up with something suitable for starting the thread myself just at the moment.

I am reading and witnessing everything, with warmth and affection. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Pro, whose surgery is tomorrow (do I have that right?). And I'm finding myself charmed, and humbled, and impressed by the conversation here. You guys are awesome.

(Also, dermatillomania! There's a word for it, and it's a thing! That's a tremendously liberating piece of information, for all that it makes my skin no more even, unscarred and smooth.)

#181 ::: Megan ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 03:12 PM:

Vivian, #172: You did ask for others' insights, or I wouldn't put forth a theory. I wonder whether your family has some parallels to mine. My father raised me and my sister with his first wife. He then raised two more children with his second. My father and my mother had very high standards that could primarily be met by academic achievement but also by a lot of housework. It left me and my sister believing that you have to do (good) work to earn love, but it also made the two of us extremely capable.

My father kept those standards with the second set, but his second wife didn't have those standards. Her kids got approval from her no matter whether they tried or persisted at anything. This combination ended up hitting both bad aspects. The kids learned that they need to perform well to get love, but they also learned they don't really have to try. The result was a lot of learned helplessness (a first attempt won't meet dad's standards, and they don't see why they should try again.) If they try something and aren't instantly good at it, they feel allowed to quit right away (their mom's influence), but they also know that they aren't loved unconditionally because they don't achieve much (my dad's influence). Somehow they got neither the feeling of being loved unconditionally nor the confidence and skills of achieving a lot.

Maybe your father had some sexism going that expected his son to be more handy without the practice that develops those skills. From there, perhaps your brother took the mismatch in parenting styles the way my younger sibs did. I hate to diagnose from afar, but your description did sound familiar (and you asked). I hope it is helpful in some way.

#182 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 03:42 PM:

#177 ::: Nancy Lebovitz :

"where children don't understand how much work parents put into the family"

I'm correcting that to "where children don't understand how much work some parents put into the family".

#183 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 04:03 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @177 - interesting. This is something I've caught flak for on the parental side, but not in the direction I would have expected. Basically, while I encourage my kids, I refuse to hold them to a standard that I can't meet. As a consequence, their rooms tend to very messy, since my housekeeping is, shall we say, variable. I've been surprised at how many people seem to think I ought to make them keep their rooms neat, even though mine isn't, and even though I don't have the skills myself to show them how to do it.

(Thanks to whoever it was above with the UFYH link. FlyLady has taught me a lot, but the constant perkiness, sweetness and light gets to me after a while. I'm enjoying UFYH, and I've even beaten the kitchen dishes back in the last couple of days.)

#184 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 04:06 PM:

A discussion of some sensory disorders (may be triggering if you can't stand reading about people hearing the sounds of chewing, breathing, slurping, etc.). From the comments:

"...disorders of sensory processing, with central hypersensitivity to (at least some) sensory stimuli, including photosensitivity, phonosensitivity (which is what misophonia is a form of, not really hyperacusis which is more about perceiving sounds as louder than they really are), motion sensitivity, etc....Migraine is the main neurological diagnosis that ties these conditions together...."

#185 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 04:16 PM:

Lee @168: ct Little John, #155: I suggest that this is a good time to "come down with the stomach flu" and cancel getting together with them on Sunday.

Take a page from my mother's* book: say you are "under the weather." Which, after all, is true, unless you're in outer space.

you draw your boundary, and then if they continue to cross it, you leave.

The one time I had a chance to run this one on my mother, it was so satisfying....

* Ghu bless her. She could perjure herself blind without once uttering an untruth.

Vivian @172: I guess I’m asking for insight

Actually, this smells to me like your brother is starved for positive, nurturing attention. (I'm hearing resonances with my dynamic with my own parents.) I'll bet an ice cream cone that Tim could figure this stuff out for himself—but he's been trained not to.

Asking Mom for a snack is less about the snack, and much more about Mom. (I see this in my guinea pigs, believe it or not. Bobby lurvs his pellets, but a pellet that is handed to him by me is MUCH tastier than the ones sitting in the dish I got it out of.)

If the only message Tim gets from Dad is, "Ur Doin It Rong," then Tim is going to have no confidence in his own perspective. Which means he's going to require instruction, because however he does it, on some level he knows it'll be Rong. Buy your dad a copy of "What Shamu Taught Me About Marriage," and nail his foot to the floor until he reads it. Here's a NY Times article as a sample.

As to the impact on your brother? I'd say (from my own experience with a similar dynamic): devastating. I would challenge your father: is it more important to him to be Right? Or does he want to be an effective father?

It seems to me that a more effective approach on your dad's part would be to engage in activities with Tim, such that he could (encouragingly) coach when Tim got stuck, but could otherwise just be nurturingly companionable. I will predict that your dad doesn't have a subroutine for this kind of interaction in his dataset. He could do worse than acquire one.

Bricklayer @174: scabs -- enticing, enticing scabs of itchy come-off-ness!

::falls over laughing at classic Elliott-ness::

You and my vet. She claims that's half the reason she went to vet school: to have an excuse to Pick At Things—and get paid for it!

I have my own crusty disgusting Thing, but I regard it as safe because it doesn't involve any form of hull breach. I don't share it in public, though, because it is kind of yukky. If you really want to know, email me privately. (wnpdhr at cnavk dot pbz) But I give this Thing major credit for allowing me to avoid other, more Socially Acceptable addictions that are actually, like, toxic.

If I Ever Really Win, Horrible, HORRIBLE Things Will Happen.

I just had a BFO about this superstition recently. It's built into our culture's dramatic structure. Notice that, in any kind of drama, the only time you ever things going well (unless it's a brief tag at the very end) are when things are about to go terribly, horribly Wrong. It's so pervasive that it's really astonishing to me that anybody's ever willing to accomplish anything at all.

* Blinding Flash of the Obvious

radiosongs @175: He is so far in the well and I cannot leave him and I have no idea how to stay near him until he needs me, because until then, he is a nasty sociopath of a man.

Wow. And I thought my brother was a dick. It's hard. What's hardest, is recognizing that it's his Stuff, and he's the only one who can deal with it. (BTDT, too.) In the meantime, I suspect the best that you can do (for yourself and him) is to work on your own Stuff, so that, should the time come, you can be the best You you can, for him. Letting go is hard. But sometimes it's the only way to help.

And should the day come when there is a woman or a child, at least you will be on the alert, and will be able to raise the alarm, if necessary.

Diatryma @178: I'm another chewer/picker

One trick I've seen ex-smokers use is to keep a cinnamon stick handy and gnaw on that. See also: chewing on toothpicks or a grass stem. If you try it and it doesn't work for you: oh well, one more stick for the compost heap, right?

Lee @179: ct Vivian: I also wonder if Mom might be trying to keep Tim out of Dad's way.

#186 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 04:16 PM:

Some raw macadamia nuts & cashews, perhaps?

#187 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 05:29 PM:

Still trying to figure out why exactly Sunday's breakdown was so much longer than my others- usually mine are over and done with in an hour or two, I don't remember ever having a breakdown that went for a whole day before...
But I'm another chewer/picker. I've learned that nail polish stops me biting my nails and lessens the amount that I'll bite my fingertip-skin, but that doesn't stop me from picking at scabs/warts/mosquito bites...
And worst of all, I do still pick my nose.
I know, it's horrible, it's childish... it's one of my mother's pet peeves... whenever she sees me do it, she'll yell at me for it, but it's often a subconscious thing so I don't realize what she's yelling at me for and I'm startled.
And if she thought the yelling would get me to stop?
Nope. Now I've just gotten a bit stealthier about it. And mostly around her, too.
The nose-picking came to light today when somebody referenced the side of the couch which I sit on as "the bogey side", as a negative, to warn me away from sitting there. I'm sure they didn't know that I was the culprit, let alone the battles I'd had with my mother and myself over it, but I felt guilty nonetheless.

#188 ::: upset ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 05:52 PM:

Erk. Reading the thread and missed responding to this. Too distracted by the makeup tips.

Lee @116: Looking back, I think I overstated the "not cute and gullible = not fun" somewhat. My uncle did not find me much fun, no, and preferred paying attention to my sister--gullible is the best translation, or maybe "easily fooled". I was a bookish kid who really just wanted to read, ALL THE TIME, so this suited me fine. My dad wasn't distant but he didn't really know what to do with children beyond making goofy faces at them.

On further thought, I don't remember anyone playing with me. It was just always expected that I would go play with my sister.

On still further thought, where my parents didn't help me out in accomplishing X, my sister wouldn't be able to do X correctly on the first few attempts, prompting my parents to either intervene or to direct me to do so.

Guess it cuts both ways.

#189 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 06:05 PM:

Cynthia, #183: I hear that about not holding your children to a standard you can't meet! Our entire house is cluttered, which meant that my partner's daughter didn't get nagged about keeping her room clean, because she would quite reasonably have said, "Why should I have to, when you guys can't?" Fortunately, most of our friends have similar issues, so we didn't get the side-eye about it from them. But more importantly IMO, a kid's messy room is trivial (unless there's a rotting-food or bug problem, which there wasn't). This is a pick-your-battles thing; we were far more interested in her keeping her grades up than in her cleaning her room. Of course, if she couldn't find something she wanted to wear or use, she also didn't get a lot of sympathy. :-) I don't understand why so many parents get so completely bent over things that are, in the long run, supremely unimportant. Well, maybe I do -- for many of them, it's a power struggle.

Jacque, #185: Notice that, in any kind of drama, the only time you ever see things going well (unless it's a brief tag at the very end) are when things are about to go terribly, horribly Wrong.

Which suggests that one possibly-useful pushback against the "I can't succeed because then Bad Things will happen" meme is to remind oneself firmly that you're not starring in a movie, and that in Real Life people do have long runs of things going well.

I have a bit of the picking/scratching thing myself, but I don't believe it goes as far as actual dermatillomania, because I don't end up with sores. It's more of a nervous tic, where if both my hands aren't busy, I tend to touch my face and/or scratch my scalp. I could probably break myself of it if someone whose opinion I valued were to ask me to do so, but until then it's not hurting me or anyone else, so why bother?

#190 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 06:09 PM:

Vivian @172, how did your mother and father give you praise when you succeeded? How did they react when you failed? Particularly with respect to mental and intellectual tasks. Did they praise you for "being smart" or for working hard? Did they scold you for "not being smart" or for not working hard enough?

I ask because your description reminds me of the work done by Carol Dweck and others into the psychology of success. It sounds a lot like your brother has what she would call a "fixed" mindset rather than a growth mindset.

#191 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 06:35 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @177 - about double standards for parental and child behavior. I think this is quite common, and results in a lot of feelings of unfairness in kids. It reminds me of a current discussion on a forum that I read. One mother posted that her child had lost his Nintendo DS, and what punishment would be appropriate? Questioning revealed that said child placed the item on the coffee table when he was done playing with it, and when he later returned it could not be found. He apparently should have put it up in a cabinet, away from toddler-sister, but other than that had done nothing particularly blameful. Several people (rather forcefully) pointed out that this probably wasn't appropriate for punishment beyond the natural consequence of not having the game toy. After all, when grownups lose keys or cell phones or whatever under similar circumstances, it's general seen as just one of those things that happen. Fortunately, the mother agreed that punishment wasn't necessary in the end. But I think it's easy to see from that example how even reasonable people can start to go down bad paths.

#192 ::: Statistical Outlier ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 07:02 PM:

AnotherQuietOne @ #148

I've been kinda-sorta in the place you are now, only I came at it from the opposite direction. I grew up in a very devout church-going family and had a crisis of religion without having a crisis of faith at the same time. Long story short, I was asked to take minutes in a church-run organization that interacted with the higher-ups in the church's hierarchy. That is the worst possible thing to do to a person aware of the presence of divinity or, to carry your metaphor to my extreme: hearing the universe speak, knowing it's talking to you, and settling down for a nice chat.

I was put into a position where I knew there was a god, or gods or something but that the church that had seen to my faith-based education and development wasn't the least bit interested in practicing what it had been preaching. The church of my childhood was nothing more than a tax-exempt business more concerned with bottom line numbers than the concerns parishioners.

In short, I was a religious orphan having rejected all forms of organized worship. It was a scary place, but I was/am lucky in my friends. I have some who are pagan and had shared part of their faith with me. It was a matter of finding my internal balance and waiting for my moral compass to stop swinging wildly and settle back on north. Once that had happened, I could find my way. Ironically, it lead me back to the church I fled from, but I attend because I feel the need to go, and not because it's expected that I go to Sunday mass every single week unless in sick enough to die or be hospitalized.

My bit of advice, and I hope it's not being hlepy, is to sit quietly and experience whatever it is that you're feeling while the Universe is talking to you. Don't try to make it make sense. Just feel and know and learn. I'd say meditate, but it's not really meditation as most people define it. It's just sitting quietly with an empty mind and paying attention. Eventually, the Universe will tell you what to do, and possibly how.

#193 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 08:11 PM:

Cynthia W. @152, I also have this ability to be a mindset and worldview chameleon. In my case, it probably stems from having parents so controlling that it became easier to adopt their mindset than to constantly struggle against it. You know how some people automatically adopt the accent of whoever they're with? Kind of like that. Until I started to be aware of it pretty recently, I'd just take on the worldview of whoever I happened to be around a lot, no matter how toxic or contrary to my own (suppressed) views it was. That's also part of why I've never tried therapy; if I got one who was a bad fit and who invalidated all my feelings and experiences, I'd go right along with that and it would set me back years in mental health progress.

Discovering that I have opinions and preferences and views of my own, and that that's okay and doesn't make me a bad person, has been one of the major changes in my life. It's okay to be a bleeding-heart liberal even though my parents are extremely conservative. It's okay to be a fat acceptance activist although everyone I know thinks dieting actually works. It's okay to take time off work to recover from an illness even though all my coworkers would just come in and cough all over everything. It's okay to take a job I like that doesn't pay as much as the high-paying and soul-killing jobs a close friend advocates. Wow, what a relief.

radiosongs @171, thank you. Someone in a previous thread said something like "If the best you can say is that [a set of parents] meant well and did the best they could with the tools they had, then...that's pretty faint praise." I was editing for length, but I should have left in what I'd originally written: "They really did do the best they could with the tools they had, but that doesn't prevent harm."

Your screwdriver analogy is right on target. In fact, I'm going to pull it out here so I can admire it for a bit:

On the one hand, yeah, if all you've got is a bunch of hammers then everything does indeed look like a nail. On the other hand, when you are presented with something that is clearly and obviously a screw, a reasonable adult will... do the work to go get a screwdriver. And if they have hammers lying all over the house, and screws all over, then sure, once in awhile they'll go for the nearby hammer out of convenience, but if they really want to do the job right? They'll be careful not to do that too frequently, if at all. They'll recognize when they made a mistake by picking up the hammer. They don't sit there going WELL I ONLY HAVE A HAMMER SO WHAT DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO, GO TO THE HARDWARE STORE? UGHHHHH WHY IS THAT EVEN MY RESPONSIBILITY? IT'S NOT MY FAULT THIS NAIL IS MADE WRONG.

Which is to say - if the tools they used were obviously incorrect, and if either of them won't acknowledge that, then that's what matters. The stories of how and why they obtained their original toolboxes can be important and enlightening but that doesn't change how they handled you, who should have been their best-loved, most careful project.

#194 ::: Hiding a little ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 08:24 PM:

Persephone @176 -- that's a very useful thing there, that "Who am I trying to impress?" by working so hard at so many things? I shall have to chew on that for a while. If I can find time.

#195 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 09:06 PM:

abi @159
I'm sorry for the unintentional derail. Howling in the midnight, questionable judgement, etc. :-(

Everybody else: discussion of "goosed by the Numinous" can decamp to open thread 177. Thank you for reading, I'm feeling isolated in all this.

#196 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 11:08 PM:

AnotherQuietOne: Not a derail, just an interesting-but-not-on-topic distraction. Here, I'll transplant the discussion. I'm really interested in hearing your story.

#197 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 11:22 PM:

radiosongs: I once worked with someone who sounds like a milder version of your brother. "Suck it up," being a particular favorite phrase of his. Every so often, Facebook suggests I should friend him. No... not so much.

That being said, I agree with the idea that the best you can do is help yourself at this point. It's a lot easier to help someone if you have a firm foundation.

#198 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2012, 11:29 PM:

First off, to those talking earlier in the thread (#77 Hiding a Little and #89, the invisible one, possibly others…sorry - long thread!) about shopping for counsellors - I hear you!

The first two (!) psychologists I went to didn't believe me when I said I was depressed, because I had social coping mechanisms and had worked up for weeks to have the energy to go talk to someone. Basically, I would have had to be curled up, sobbing, non-functional, in a corner. Gah. (also, one of them thought that as an intelligent woman my first priority should be to fit in her one-box-fits-all of powerful, moneyed career, and she thought I was "being remarkably stubborn" when I told her I wasn't interested.)

The third counsellor - the one I almost didn't go to because the first two were so trauma-inducing - was and is AMAZING. She told me that if I'd been in the sort of shape the other two would have recognized as depression, she would have sent me to a doctor to get on antidepressants (which I was on, at the time) and come back when I was able to hold a conversation - because then she could start to help me. I am forever grateful to her.

But lord, was it hard to make the appointments - and each was harder than the last.

I guess this is a post to anyone who's got a useless (or outright toxic) counsellor - I've had both types. It just adds trauma onto trauma. It really, really sucks. But if you can get to someone good (recommendations are sometimes useful!) it's so worth it.

Hope this isn't hlepy… just that I think maybe knowing that it really is important that you find the right counsellor (and that if it doesn't work, IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!!!) might have helped me at the time, and maybe it'll help someone here.

#199 ::: eastvillager ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 12:09 AM:

came late to this -- busy at work, but knew that this blog has a dysfunctional families post at some point in September.

First: Moonlit Night@50, f**king brilliant. I always felt violence was addictive, but never connected it to abuse. Thank you for connecting the dots.

Second: we hear from the abused, not from the abusers. So I thought I might copy for your edification from an email sent my brother, after he relied upon our standard excuse for letting him reply to the family to thank them for a coffeetable book that I didn't want, which is that he's the favored child, and I wasn't; he sent it to me just because my poor brother thought she might follow through and write the letter, and he wanted to give me a heads'-up:

"Sad for [eastvillager]. I’ve been through a lot in my life, she should really hear what a TRULY bad childhood is like. She’s a spoiled “child.” Her resentment at her age is just a red-flag indication she needs “help.…..I mean what did [mother] do to her but provide her with a wonderful education? And a safe home environment? She wasn’t molested, tortured or abused. Having an infraction with a parent is something you just “get over.” And if you don’t, well, the consequences are not pretty for her future. I’ ve been through SO much heartache in my life and my motto has always been,“Whatever is, get over it.”

"You? A favored child?? Come on. Get real. What a twisted outlook on your family. She doesn’t even make logic or sense; what have I or you or anyone related to [mother] have to do with her anger? I don’t get it. Boy does she need a shrink. I’m sick of her self-indulgence, selfishness, arrogance and myopic view of life. Her behaviour is truly inexcusable. How old is she? She’s going to be a miserable old woman at any age.

"I want her to send the book back so I can give it to a needy person.. It was expensive and money is tight these days. I’m going to send her a letter to that effect. I don’t want her to keep the book. I’m re-gifting it to a needful and appreciative person. You can expect a letter from me- to -her. Boy can you ever! !!

"So, yes, You can try to keep the peace at least for awhile (but it won’t’ work—calling you the “favored child” say what??? for heavens sake I am at a loss for words.) Well I don’t have to bow to her and there’s no peace I have to keep--- since she’s thrown down the gauntlet again and again and again. She’s a sick person. At some point you, too, will also have give up. She’s now shifted her unhappiness to YOU. NOW she’s blaming you??I can hardly speak when I think of her calling you a favored child. Doesn’t that make you “mad?” Unbelievable. Suggest you keep her away from Caroline for any given period of time.

"I know full well that [mother] was what she was and we all were on the receiving end at various points; but she was an incredibly talented person who did all her duties as a Mother that one could ask for and what she was able to do without having a Mother image to follow. She grew up in tough times and found herself in marriage with children when she should and could have been at The New York Times. If [eastvillager] wants a contest for bad parents, I could tell her stories that would make her hair stand on end.

"She should get some help. It’s not normal to be her age and still blaming your mother! For what???? She needs a shrink. You know who is just like her? My sister, Ann. Same scenario. Exactly.

"I have to close because I am so angry. I could go on and on and you don’t need it; you have your own problems to deal with and I understand that. Forgive my outburst.

"It goes without saying that I would like to know how YOU are doing and hope we can stay friends. I will certainly try."

It's especially funny because my brother has my back and we've had this long-standing agreement between us that the "favored child" is my defense for why he is handling all the family stuff. And the "gauntlet" is just me avoiding them like the plague and asking him to handle everything.

#200 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 12:19 AM:

First: I apparently used the same e-mail I use for my "in the clear" posts in my previous post. Abi, would it be possible to change the address on post 198 to the same as this one?

And now… I know that if you're asking the question "is my family dysfunctional enough for me to post" then it is… but I still don't want to believe it. And I'm in counselling right now dealing with all kinds of issues that are a result of things my mom said to me when I was growing up.

Mom is deeply concerned with appearances. I am told this is endemic to women who grew up in the '50s, and whose social acceptance depended on their fitting social norms, but - we clash on this. I was a nerdy, bullied, social outcast through school who had bad pimples (but thankfully never acne) and NO fashion sense. I was also physically active (cycling in particular) though clumsy enough to be no athlete. I have a lifelong issue with body image, thinking I'm fat. I've been borderline underweight for most of my life, for crying out loud! But "that shirt makes you look fat" or "you should wear that [skin-tight thing] more often, it makes you look thin."

Muscular legs = fat. Working at a highly physical job (and cycling there) so I gained a good 20 pounds of solid muscle = fat. Having a "large" size in pants = fat. Not that she ever said so outright. But she made it plenty clear.

Also, I've found out that I clung to my marks (straight A student) as a means of showing in a socially acceptable way that I'm smart, because talking about things that aren't immediately obvious to other people is showing off and being snobby. I suspect I honestly didn't have a sense for the difference between "things I know as a voracious reader and curious kid" and "things most adults know" - but I was scolded for assuming the adults around me thought the way I did and told that I was a horrible snob.

Oh, and I was an only child, and bullied fiercely in school, and my "best friend" was a parasitic leech a year younger than me in physical age who I kept in touch with for years after I started to finally develop other friendships because my mom felt sorry for her. She couldn't keep another friend (and I understand why, the way she treated people around her), so Mom encouraged me to keep the relationship going.

So now, I'm trying to learn that it's okay to be an authority on things, it's okay to know things other people don't, it's okay to have an opinion on how something should be done - and that last doesn't mean that I'm a control freak who always has to have her own way.

I am grateful that I've finally broken the habit of waiting for things to be taken out of my hands when I try to do something, as Mom's version of "help" is to take it away and do it for you, leaving you feel utterly incompetent and stupid. And her intentions were good - make sure it's done right, and a genuine desire to help. She's got worlds of sympathy, but no empathy. Could never understand how that was hurtful.

I keep feeling like I'm making her out to be a monster, and she isn't - she's a loving, caring person who genuinely wants the best for me - but she also is a person with major issues (among other things because of some rather toxic situations in her formative years) who, when you can get her to admit to a toxic pattern, says "I can't help it. You'll just have to accept me the way I am." Thanks, Mom. Now can you accept me?

I have learned to set boundaries. I don't think I've had to hang up on her many times… certainlly not recently. And she recognizes there are certain topics that are off limits, though she still pushes the "clothes that make you look fat" thing, in such a way that she clearly knows it's off limits but the rules don't apply to her, right?. *cute youngest child look* :(

I also have a wonderful, supportive husband and a network of real friends who I've been close to for - over ten years! :) And an excellent psychologist. And a job I find extremely satisfying, even if it is contract work that is utterly unstable from year to year.

I guess, thanks for listening. Thanks for not minding essays on this thread. And thanks for all the powerful stories and responses - this thread makes me cry, but it also gives me hope, as I see the healing that goes on through it. This is a truly special community.

#201 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 12:20 AM:

Ack! Apparently I've used both addresses at various points! Well, this one has fewer other posts behind it... Abi, another favour - please just change 199 to this one...

Thanks so much!

#202 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 02:47 AM:

@Moonlit Night no. 50: I've been thinking off and on about when I reached the little epiphany that "my mother loved me" and "she intentionally harmed me in order to service her overmastering addictions and personality disorders" are not mutually exclusive.

It seems so quietly obvious now. Like I had just decided it subconsciously after months of not thinking about my Issues much.

However, I have concluded that the realization clicked into place as I read your post.

So, thanks!

#203 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 03:11 AM:

Follow-up to the sexually abused child who used to live in my neighborhood and now lives a few houses down from a mandatory reporter: Just as it was when she lived on our hill, this girl redirects questions about her last name, her family's last name, where they work, etc., with the skill of a conversational aikido master. Just as it was when she lived on our hill, every time somebody calls her house, the adult at home is "sleeping." No matter the time of day.

Still praying for the kid.

#204 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 03:25 AM:

Jacque @196:

Having given it some thought, I think that conversation is going to thrive best in its own space. I'll put something together over the weekend.

AnotherQuietOne @195:

Please don't feel that you need to apologize for bringing up something interesting that you want to discuss! The fact that it would do best in its own thread, and this do best with it discussed elsewhere, doesn't mean you shouldn't tell the story!

I'm just still struggling on how to start the thread. Give me a day or two more, or a suggestion?


#205 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 03:56 AM:

Chickadee @201:


#206 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 11:19 AM:

eastvillager, #199: Well, at least now you know that you don't need to feel guilty about taking the book to a used bookstore and getting what you can for it. And if she does write you that angry letter, you can say so. "I sold it at the used bookstore so that someone who wanted it would be able to enjoy it."

I'm glad you've been able to make an alliance with your brother. That always helps.

Chickadee, #200: Congratulations on taking control of your own life and refusing to let your mother define you!

As to the "you'll have to accept me as I am" bit, that sounds a lot like Geek Social Fallacy #2, expressing in the form "if you REALLY loved me, you wouldn't ask me to change". And of course it doesn't apply in reverse -- see the discussion upthread about double standards for parents and children. 0_o But you might try mirroring it back at her when she criticizes you, and see what happens...

#207 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 11:56 AM:

Lee @206 Thank you! It's been a long road, and several of the major breakthroughs have happened just in the last couple of weeks. (did I mention excellent psychologist? :)

Interesting - the Geek Social Fallacy #2 does resonate. I will keep that in mind, though right now what is working is setting boundaries and refusing to discuss things where she's typically critical. And walking away when necessary (fat-making clothing comments). Thank you for the food for thought.

#208 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 11:58 AM:

I have some home-made peach jam - gets rave reviews. To go on fresh roast chicken-fat biscuits... *offers to gnomes*

#209 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 12:00 PM:

It's been my experience that individuals who enter a relationship with the desire to change the other person with whom they're having the relationship are brewing up a pot of disaster.

I've seen it happen several times now -- and the worst one ended up in a rather messy divorce (and almost murder).

#210 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 03:13 PM:

Good grief these threads are good for my psyche! Thank you everyone talking here.

I think I've just managed to chase out into the open one of the standing family memes about me - the one I think my father got the band director to buy into. This one goes "Cindy is very bright and talented*, but she wants all the attention, she doesn't know when to shut up, and she's prone to doing inappropriate things. Therefore, it behooves us, as her nearest and dearest to make sure we don't feed this behavior, and in public venues where she is not the intentional center-of-attention, she shall be given no attention whatsoever, and should be warned against inappropriate attention-stealing and behavior whenever possible."

I think it started because I was a very bright and opinionated young child, who was absolutely infuriated that simply having an age in the single digits meant my opinion meant nothing, and who hadn't developed an adult's set of social graces yet. But it continues on into full adulthood and even middle-age. It led to my eldest brother lecturing me, in public, in front of the rest of the family, about behaving properly at his wedding - leaving me standing there, pretty much unable to say anything, because what the hell do you say? And then ignoring me completely, even though I was his organist, and at one point, desperately needed to talk to him for five minutes to clear up a question regarding the ceremony. (I was flat ordered to not take up the bride's attention, even though she and I have been friends since we were both toddlers.)

As a consequence, my public behavior as an adult is so painfully correct that a friend, hearing about the lecture above, nearly fell out of his chair laughing at the idea of me misbehaving at a wedding. I do have some problems with appropriate amounts of speech, since growing up, I was either the complete center of attention, or I was the receptacle, and shouldn't be speaking at all. I had no practice at the give-and-take aspects of normal conversational speaking.

*Note that they don't specify talented at what - which is a problem in it's own right. I'm pretty much assumed to be good at whatever is needed at the time. E.g. When my brother asked me to be his organist, I didn't play organ - though I did play piano. It took a year's worth of lessons and intensive practicing to get through that service - which was then taken for granted because "Cindy's always been musically talented."

#211 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 03:32 PM:

Cynthia, #210: Holy crap. IMO you would have been fully justified in telling your brother that if he had so little faith in your ability to act like an adult, you would be glad to remove yourself from his presence -- and then walking out and letting him find another damn organist or do without. That was simply inexcusable.

#212 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 03:59 PM:

AnotherQuietOne, OtterB, Jacque:

I've now set up the thread that I promised to. Have fun!

#213 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 04:03 PM:

abi: W00t!

#214 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 04:15 PM:

Thanks, abi.

#215 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 04:27 PM:

Lee, #211 - I thought about it, but decided that a) I couldn't do that to my blameless SiL and, b) it would just reinforce the family picture of me as an immature brat. My husband was urging me to, however. I did develop a sudden case of "not feeling well" and skipped out on the reception after about 10 minutes.

#216 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 04:50 PM:

Cynthia W.: Did your brother notice?

#217 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 05:40 PM:

I feel particularly broken of late.

I've moved to a new city. It's better. There are so many more of my right people here. People who I can trust to pronoun me correctly, people I can hug because I'm sad and I need a hug, people who will look after me and feed me if I need them to, people who spend time together and want me to join them and aren't all twisted up socially. It's better.

But I don't feel better. It doesn't feel easier. I'm finding it really hard not to slip back into self-harm, because the pain helps so much, even if it's only for a little while, and I want it. I don't know if I'm grateful to my recently-ex partner for helping me fight it, or resentful of not making it easy for me, not giving me permission.

I've realised that every time I talk about my childhood, people make the D: face. I knew my childhood was messed up. I hadn't known it was so obviously messed up.
It was easier to like my parents before I noticed people making the D: face.

I figured something new out on the ongoing saga of trying to feed myself properly. It goes: if you violate the connection between the feeling of hunger and the action of eating often enough and for long enough, it atrophies.
I don't eat, in part, because being hungry is not connected in my brain to eating food. There's no causal link from A to B.
This is good. Well, I mean, it's terrible and one of the many things that makes the D: face justified, but it's good to have figured it out. Because that's fixable. That connection can be rebuilt. If I keep food around and make sure to eat when I notice being hungry, I can make hunger mean eating again. I may be the only person in the world who's ever needed to snack more.

#218 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 07:07 PM:

Froth: Good on you for finding more of your people.

Also, I hear you on the hunger/eating bit, although from another direction. I've been aware of my hypoglycemia since I was ten, and got pretty good at training myself to notice hunger signals before they became light-headed/cranky/irrational behavior, which they would if I let it go on too long and let my blood sugar crash.

But one of my medications -- a blessed, wonderful medication that lets me be up and around in the world instead of lying on the sofa in crippling misery -- kills the hunger signals. I don't notice a damned thing unless I'm headed into crash territory.

Breakfast is fine. It's easy enough to make a habit of "get out of bed, eat breakfast."

Dinner isn't much of a problem either, as I'm feeding the other members of my household.

But I'm not working outside the home right now. The only way I can remember to eat lunch? Is to set an alarm.

If I do that, and know that the set time for lunch splits the block of time between breakfast and dinner, it's not so hard to remember small snacks at the midpoints between lunch and the other two. I make a liter of tea in a thermal carafe, and it's nice to say "I'm having a cup of tea and a little something."

But I've had to resort to set times, because the hunger signals aren't there.

I'm glad to hear you're rebuilding the connection for yourself. I wish you success with it.

#219 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 07:20 PM:

Froth, #217: Good to hear from you. Also good to know that things are working out decently -- setbacks and glitches are normal, and you seem to be getting a handle on them.

More generally, it's really good to hear from people who have escaped the trap, or are in the process of doing so. It gives joy to everyone, and perhaps also hope to those who are still trying to find their way out.

And on that note... has anyone heard from ma larkey recently? Things were looking fairly dire in that direction, and I'm concerned.

#220 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 10:02 PM:

catching up catching up catching up

unready for her closeup @150: A lot of this sounds familiar, especially the parts about your mom's reactions - my sympathies :( I'm intrigued by your use of the word "purity", which is something I've never really considered. I think it's kind of funny that you used the phrase "purification ritual" in the same post where you talk about not thinking of yourself as OCD - that seems like a pretty classic phrase. The word "purity" is kind of off-putting to me, which is probably why I don't use it to myself (too redolent of virgins, etc.) but I think a lot about cleanliness, being emptied of bad things/dirt/illness, which is probably just a different way of saying the same thing.

Also eesh on point #3 - that sounds vicious. Not sure where you're at with your mom these days, but I hope it's somewhere safe.

Jacque @153: I've been Out Of There physically for three years now; emotionally speaking, I just this week reached the point of "okay, I do not feel obligated to ever speak to them again in my life unless I'm ready". So.

I'm still not really sure how okay I feel with the length of time in between, there. I think mostly because now that the lady has come out to me as being a lady, there's a big obvious reason to cut them off, but... I was kind of committed to this before that. In my heart. I wanted to be done with them even when there was still a chance for me to smooth things over, let things go, be the bigger better grown woman. And there's a part of me that says doing that would've killed you and there's a part of me that says I should've kept on trying, at least to find out.

Sorry that I keep rambling off in response to your comments - I don't know, you just hit a couple things that had been on the top of my brain lately. And thank you for the kind words. :)

Bricklayer @174: OH MAN WE HAVE THE SAME NAIL THINGS TOO. I actually went through a good few months of cutting my cuticles off with a box cutter :| and, ugh, peeling the top layer of dead/dry skin off my fingertips with said box cutter. My nails are doing a lot better these days - I can actually grow nails of any length for the first time since I was, like, six - but the downside of this is that I now have awesome picking tools attached to all my fingers at all times.

Also, re: your fear of success - I do not know if this is applicable to you, but there may also be a facet of "if I succeed then people will expect me to do it again, and I might not be able to". I think that's definitely part of it for me. Also that "if I succeed then terrible things can happen" - i.e. the fear of actually having something to lose.

Jacque again @185: You probably expected a lot more compassion and understanding from your brother, so I suspect his response hit you harder. No reason everyone's brothers can't be dicks equally!

I do know that I need to work on my own stuff - I am just worried that while I do that I will lose touch with a kid who will may need me an awful lot before then.

eastvillager @199: Wow. Just... wow. Glad to see you're not taking an ounce of that bullshit, though!

#221 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 10:39 PM:

Jacque, #216 - Nope. I'm pretty sure my parents didn't notice either.

#222 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2012, 11:52 PM:

Dear Froth at 217: I may be the only person in the world who's ever needed to snack more.


Absolutely you are NOT the only person whose hunger reflex is disconnected from eating. I'm really tired, so I can't go into this in any detail, but I have always been able to ignore the hunger sensation. It's there, I don't pay attention to it, it's gone, and I just keep doing whatever my attention is fixed on, and I don't eat. I did this all the time when I was young. I do it less now because I know about it, I know it isn't healthy, and I'm smarter.

But you know about it too, and you are right -- it IS fixable.

#223 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2012, 06:46 AM:

Abi @180

Thanks for the crossed fingers re: the surgery -- so far, so good, and back home in my comfy nest without my mother.

Froth @217

You're definitely not the only one to have the hunger and the eating divorced. My wife has that as a result of fat-shaming her whole life, and she's slowly reconnecting the two. It's possible.

#224 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2012, 11:24 AM:

To all the people who have laid themselves bare: thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Yesterday you helped me understand what someone was telling me, and now they're getting listened to by professionals.

#225 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2012, 11:28 AM:

Froth@217 and others: Me too. When the "you look fat" is getting too much, I will not notice hunger. In fact, I sometimes won't be able to eat.

I'm still working on connecting the hunger reflex to eating. In my case, it wasn't just the looking fat thing - it was also grad school, where if you're in the middle of something, you finish, even if it puts off lunch for hours. So I had the hunger reflex quite thoroughly damped!

It helps to have someone around who knows you, and who knows the absence of hunger/eating connection, who can tell you to eat. My husband is particularly good at picking up the early signs of sugar-crash and encouraging me to eat. And I'm slowly learning to pick up on the hunger signals before I'm beyond hungry and getting unpleasant to be around.

If you're alone, having food around so it's convenient when you notice you're hungry sounds like a very good idea. All the best!!!

#226 ::: Digger ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2012, 07:50 PM:

A perhaps awkward question (and perhaps late to the game!) but--does anyone else who blogs/writes/etc ever feel like they're waiting for their mother to die so that they can finally tell the story?

My mother is good, she tried hard, and she had a tough row to hoe, and everything she did when I was young, she did with love...and terror that if she failed, I would go to hell.

She got over being trapped in a deeply evangelical faith by a very unpleasant evangelical husband, and she's apologized to me repeatedly for it. She was trying to do the best, and she is one of those people who BELIEVES, with all caps and flailing. My mother had a medieval peasant view of religion. Satan was under all the furniture.

Despite all this goodwill, though...dude, there was some messed up stuff there. She had a hysterical fear I was masturbating and God Was Not Cool With That. She would stage midnight raids on my book collection and confront me with anything with sex or theological impropriety in it, with the end result that all offending books would get thrown away. There was other stuff that I don't even know how to wrap words around, where a whole spectrum of people were very very badly at fault, and my mother was caught in the mess and dragged me in along with her.

I don't blame her, much.

And she's very sorry now, and she's really very cool and also rather fragile, and there's not a damn thing to gain by rubbing her nose in it. If I talk about it in public on my blog with my name on it, I'd really feel like I was going "SEE HOW AWFUL YOU WERE? I DON'T THINK YOU FEEL BAD ENOUGH YET." Yes, I have the right to do so, because it's my story--but I also feel like it would be just a seriously unkind act.

But it's also not the best feeling to be thinking "When you die, I will be devastated...and then I'll finally get to tell that last story that's been sitting there under my breastbone all this time."

#227 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2012, 08:21 PM:

Digger @ 226

A few thoughts.

First is, well, that's what I use filters and tightly locked posts for.

Second, that when I did post some of my angst publicly, my mom was actually a little relieved that I was addressing it and supportive of the emotions I was expressing. I was surprised, in a good way.

Third, there are a lot of conversations I never had with my mom while she was alive, because by the time we were close enough to have them, she was dying and I wanted her to be at peace. I don't regret that decision -- I think a lot of things are less important, now that I don't have to deal with the internal struggle of feeling like I have to explain, or she needs to understand, or there's something to make just, or there's some connection between us that we need to fix by redressing past wrongs.

That part of that relationship is just over, and what's left is... really different, with its own priorities that are not about what went wrong when I was a kid.

#228 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2012, 09:40 PM:

For me it doesn't build up into self-reinforcing cycles, but I do think I understand "enticing scabs of itchy come-off-ness". Very good turn of phrase there, Bricklayer.

#229 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 12:42 AM:

Allan Beatty @228: Someone on a podcast I listen to quoted Anton Chekov today: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

I strive, in all my writing but especially when trying to help someone (or myself) understand my broken brain chemistry, for extreme specificity, especially focussing on lush sensory detail and on attaching emotionally-loaded connotation words to the sensations I experience.

I had not heard the Chekov quote before today, but the instant I heard it I knew I'd been doing it for decades.

Especially in the realm of mental health, there is a very, very big difference between "It hurts" and "Even looking at the corner where the laundry is piled makes me feel like I need very badly to vomit." Or, drilling down even farther, contrast "It scares me" with "Things I have 'left undone' stare disapprovingly at me with daggerlike eyes, something between predatory and full of revulsion for my utter shameful inadequacy."

#230 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 12:43 AM:

Allan Beatty: The phrase that always sticks in my mind with regards to scabs is from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace says "it hurts like billy-o, but it's such fun to see it come off." I don't believe I've ever seen "billy-o" anywhere else.

#231 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 12:57 AM:

B. Durbin @230: I've seen 'like billy-o' (which, from context, appears to mean A GREAT LOT) used in a variety of British children's books from that rough era; Enid Blyton for instance. Sometimes used on 'good' things (hypothetical example: "And then Jilly jumped on the trolley and it went down the hill, rocketing along like billy-o!") and sometimes on bad ("But Cook saw her, who told Nanny, and that night Jilly caught it like billy-o. Had to sleep on her stomach all night.")

My guess is that it was tween-Wars (WWI-II) British kid slang, though I have not specifically researched.

(posting under my main-site nym on purpose)

#232 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 01:35 AM:

Digger, #226 So much yes. I blogged extensively for a while, but kept falling off here and there, which seems to be partly the normal ebb and flow of such things, but also partially the weight of the things I cannot write about. In my case, it's not just one person I would need to die off, though, but pretty much the entire previous generation. Definitely at least both parents and my mother's brother. A combination of too sensitive, too weird, and it would feel like punishing people who don't deserve punishment.

The things I would most like to get out in the open and really look at are so distinctive that I don't mention them on-line at all, even anonymously with the serial-numbers filed off. Unfortunately they're also weird to such an extent, that even were I to get an awesome therapist, I doubt I'd ever bring them up. After all, my mother did once with her therapist - who promptly looked up my number and called me four states away to try to figure out if she was really that detached from reality, or if her life was really that weird. To which my rather unhelpful answer was something like "Ummmm...yes?"

Even after everyone's safely dead, I will probably only write things up as fiction. Much safer that way. Right now, not even fiction would work.

#233 ::: Cynthia W is visiting the gnome caverns ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 01:38 AM:

No URL's, so it must be a Word of Power. Hmmmm. Would homemade pumpkin muffins be an acceptable offering?

#234 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 02:23 AM:

So, stuff has been happening. And lo, it feels really fricking weird…because the proportion of GOOD stuff is so high that it is way off my personal charts.

My partner’s 2 year diploma course is being entirely covered (tuition, books, bus pass, modest amount for living expenses) by grants. The application took months of work and pushing and horrible tuition-payment-deadline-urgently-approaching uncertainty. So far he likes and is doing well in the course, and the math refresher this spring/summer is paying off. We got a fat tax refund for the last 2 years recently, and it did *not* have to get spent on tuition, and it will *not* have to get spent on rent/bills. I am making lots of progress in therapy/mental health even if it is not paying full dividends yet.

My bosses at work have been freaking me out by leaving me in the dark about my contract renewal…because they were negotiating a new one that almost doubled my pay. (More money than I’ve ever made and plenty more than most juniors in my field.) Only 6 months, but we’re in the middle of multi-year cutbacks and a hiring freeze. And no matter what happens next contract expiry, I should be able to insist on making close to that, because I will get references of solid platinum and my department is a prestigious workplace in this field. Bosses also made vague mention of more responsibility, so I have probably been unofficially promoted. And people who hear about it keep saying not only “that’s wonderful!” but “you deserve this!” or “it’s about time they treated you right!”

Our household (3 people) have been wanting to move to a bigger better place but I kept axing it because we really couldn’t afford it. But we also recently made a new friend who is very simpatico and needs to move for new year. She has a well-paid permanent job and is willing to chip in a share a couple hundred bigger than the rest of us can. Between this and my new contract, there is enough money and stability to make moving a reasonable proposition, and enough budget to get someplace *nice*. And so new friend had been looking through rental ads and spotted a few in our preferred neighbourhood including a house that I had thought was getting gutted and rebuilt. It was. 5 bedrooms and 2 baths and a usable basement and all appliances even laundry and new insulation and windows and all hardwood floors for my asthma and allergies. So we are going to call and go see the place and some others and find out if maybe they will take an enthusiastic tenant for December instead of holding out for someone immediately. (I am not sure we can afford to pay an extra month or two to nail it down while *also* paying the last 2 months of required notice for the current place. Even with recent good fortune that is pushing it.) So everybody, think wonderful housing thoughts for me so that we can get this or something very much like it.

Oh, and I bought a new easier-to-spell domain name for my professional site, and new friend also listened well about me hating my terrible cheap smartphone, and recommended a much-better-but-free phone that I could get under a new plan that is an affordable upgrade, instead of having to jump to one 4-8 times more expensive than the current one. So I think tomorrow I will go get a new shiny!

I am afraid that acknowledging the good fortune like this will jinx it. So think good thoughts for me on that too! I am trying hard to believe that we deserve this and that I can expect this kind of thing to happen. That it will not be taken away. I really really need these kinds of breaks, Universe, and all you lovely Powers out there listening — I have been through I’m not sure how many metric tons of manure already so it is definitely time that it start nourishing happy healthy beautiful trees and flowers, so that I can live and grow and do something good for the world. I would like that, a lot.

#235 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 09:37 AM:

My last comment got gnomed...would the gnomes like lemon-salt flavoured chocolate?

#236 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 11:58 AM:

Midnight @235: I guess sometimes when you have that much manure there IS a pony. <smile> Congratulations on your good fortune, and remember it's not unearned; you had to keep digging through the manure first. Keep telling yourself this as much as necessary. And allow yourself to enjoy the pony. <grin>

#237 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 11:58 AM:

Moonlight Night #234: That's wonderful!!!!

I hope you get the good place with hardwood floors - sounds awesome! And I hope that the good things continue to come! Sounds like it's about time!!!


#238 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 01:43 PM:

Bricklayer @229: Nevertheless, you have a gift for elevating simple specificity to evokative, snark-beyond-snark, transcendant poetry. So there. ;-)

#239 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 03:54 PM:

(I tried to post this about 13 hours ago and it error'd me, but it seems to be okay now)

Bit of an update. My mom sometimes comes into my room when she notices I'm awake (but still in bed) and talks to me about stuff she wants me to do that day. And often she'll say "and I know you won't like this, but..." or "You won't be happy about this, but..." and then she asks me to apply for a job or update my resume or other stuff in that vein. And yeah, she's right, I don't like it. It makes me feel like I should just give up and go back to sleep, so I do.

Yesterday morning, after she was done talking to me she went to leave my room, and stopped to read the assertiveness thing* I have pinned to my door. She just read the whole thing out loud and I felt really embarrassed for some reason. Just the way she was saying things, or something. It felt like I was being ridiculous for putting up something about having the right to feel angry and say no and stuff when I've never been denied those things. Except the whole point of having those words visible is to remind myself that I'm allowed to say no without feeling guilty, and that I'm not being a bother to anyone for accessing services like counselling. It's to keep me from denying myself those things because I'm not "important enough". It's not some passive aggressive "I should be allowed to do whatever I want with no consequences and you're violating my rights if you tell me otherwise!!!" thing. And she never said it was. I don't think she thinks that about me, it's just what some miscellaneous Tape was telling me. I'm not sure I was even reading the situation right. But in any case, that sapped the rest of my will to get up. I just rolled myself up in my sheets, went back to sleep, and didn't get up until the afternoon.

Once I managed to rouse myself and get downstairs, I received the package I've been waiting for all week. So that distracted me for the rest of the day, the combination of "ooh, new clothes!" and writing up a review of sorts for my blog. And then I realized, I'm totally in a holding pattern. All week, I'd been basically passing time until the package arrived. I'm focusing on short term things and I don't know how to set long term goals. Hopefully I can work out some goals for counselling as well as things like getting my resume looked at.

Oh, before I forget the thing that prompted this update: Before she headed off to bed last night, I told my mom that I know she's worried about me and frustrated that I'm refusing to look for jobs, but could she please wait to tell me about stuff until after I'm vertical? I explained why, and she seemed okay with that. But I'm worried she'll take this as an attempt to brush off her (valid) concerns.

Update on the update: she still came in to talk to me this morning, but at least she said less.

*Someone posted it a few threads ago, and then again more recently. The version on my door and the fridge is:
"Assertiveness begins with the belief that you and others have basic human rights, including the right to:
Be treated with respect and consideration
Say NO without feeling guilty or selfish.
Have and express directly one's own opinions and feelings, including anger.
Make mistakes.
Set ones' own priorities as to needs.
Be treated as a capable adult and not be patronized.
Be listened to and taken seriously.
Be independent.
Ask others to change behaviours that continues to violate one's rights."

#240 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 05:09 PM:

Phenicious, #239: Does your mother realize that, in general, prefacing statements your audience doesn't want to hear like that does exactly the reverse of what most people think it does? I suspect that she's trying to express empathy, but IMO it comes across like telling someone you're going to slap their face before you slap their face. "Adding insult to injury" is precisely the right description.

My father used to do that (and its cousins "I know this is none of my business, but" and "I know this is going to make you mad, but") a lot, and eventually I just started cutting him off whenever he went into the preface. I'd shout, "Then DON'T SAY IT!" over and over again as he tried to get the preface out, until he gave up trying. I don't recommend that as an approach for you, because (unlike my father) it doesn't sound like your mother is doing anything actively toxic. However, it might be worthwhile to point out to her that the prefacing thing is actually making you less receptive to what she wants to say, and breaking that habit would be one way to reduce the tension between you.

#241 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 05:23 PM:

Love versus like: some musings.
I've been reading this thread, as the spoons are available. Not possible to keep up, and not willing to post about my own struggles unless I've caught up. (Yes, I know it's silly. It's also true.)

A theme I'm seeing in the thread is the assumption that if somebody loves you, however they do it, that creates an obligation.

My first (what was I thinking???) marriage dragged on much longer than it should have. My husband said he loved me, so surely we could make it work. The clarifying epiphany that put the marriage out of its misery was: Love is all very well, but the behavior I'm seeing tells me he doesn't actually like me. And I am under no obligation to spend the rest of my life with somebody who doesn't.

Love, like divinity, is ineffable. Arguing about it is bootless. You can discover like by examining behavior, and if liking is missing, you are under no obligation to continue the relationship.

My two cents.

#242 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 06:00 PM:

Lee #240: As Abi noted last thread, "with all due respect" falls in the same category.

#243 ::: David Swanson ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2012, 06:02 PM:

I may comment here under a pseudonym at some point, but I just want to say this right now. I'm here, I'm reading and I'm listening.

I know that might not count for much, but it's all I've got to offer right now.

#244 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 02:25 AM:

Moonlit Night @234: Wow, congratulations! That's awesome, I hope things continue to go well for you and yours.

#245 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 08:52 AM:

I've been trying to read this thread and am so grateful that it's here at all. Like someone else posted upthread, I've been afraid of posting too much identifiable markers about me lest there be danger, shame, blowback in one form or another. I'm well aware that this fear stems from the very thing that I should be running from.

Currently without a job, but sitting on a possibility of moving to another place to look for work. Terrified because to me, it means claiming a hope that I can escape my abusive relatives. Terrified because I am in a calm period, this period before the holidays start and the pressure ups into ::happy functional family myth:: or else.

Mourning the loss of this friend, who has told me that my stories don't check out, or don't make sense, and therefore I should just put it all in a novel and spice it up and sell it. That hurt the most, to be told that my stories, albeit yes, quite terrible and quite unfunny and the pieces do not resemble a good narrative that can Sell Books, that hurts the most because there was that assumption that I must be creating these stories to sell. Or to promote myself. Or to win some kind of twisted contest.

I'm really tempted to try to write it all out as if it were a fiction, but that would mean I'd need a measure of safety, a good amount of distance from where I am now. If only I had that luxury, that hidey-hole where no one would know my name and I could write my story and then voila, people would believe me and help me. Yes I know that's a Hollywood cliche. No I only want this measure of space, this flight, and the ability to land on my feet. I do not even know if I can manage the leap.

I salute all of you on your brave journeys, on going through the dreck and terror with such grace. Discard the hlep now if that was hlep.

#246 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 11:57 AM:

How to write a non-wall of text to communicate how my situation is both okay (*just compartmentalized well, thanks, but really ultra-bad in its own special way) and that I have choices (*just compounded by complications too involved to explain here). I have problems so tangled in that IRL, a casual acquaintance might think I'm one of the walking normal (*not) and someone who knew me well might think I'm just being dramatic (*truthful).

To ask for help on this thread is particularly humbling (*humiliating). I'm considering a leap away from my current situation that involves abusive parents and siblings who have hit me in the past, used professional ties to intimidate me into silence, interfered with my access to medical care, and engaged in gaslighting so involved that it makes me wish sometimes that my little stories to friends were just anecdotes from a badly written serial. I've also recently ended a bad work situation where my boss harrassed and tried to intimidate me into giving back my paycheck for work already done. I have significant medical concerns that I've spoken about in previous threads and that has thrown me off course in my wanting my own space and complete autonomy. If you want a test case for how an abuse survivor can be irrational, needy, and terrified, mixed in with a good bit of helpless semi complacent dysfunctional operative functioning, this is your lucky day.

What sort of help do I need? Perhaps a room, perhaps a job lead, definitely soon. Definitely need to stay anon because of complicating factors, but this help won't come easy. I also know that there are so many people who are worse off, so who am I to even try to ask? q.v. shame on me for asking or telling at all. Sigh.

#247 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 12:39 PM:

ma larkey, #246 - ask! I know there are many here who are concerned, and would hate to be able to help and not know what's needed.

#248 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 01:22 PM:

Not hiding because posting from phone. Large new fly in ointment. When speaking to landlady-to-be, mentioned cats plural but don't recall mentioning exact number. Moved in yesterday and landlady's daughter gave me ride for groceries. During ride, told her full number of cats.

This morning, landlady told me she had thought I had 1-2 cats, said they are themselves renters, not owners, and she's afraid so many cats will breach their rental agreement.

Haven't even started job yet and have to look for place to move. I hate this.

#249 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 01:35 PM:

Moonlit Night @234, woohoo, so glad to hear about your good fortune! Doing a little happy dance for you over here.

#250 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 02:42 PM:

Syd -- you report she's afraid it will violate the renter's agreement she has, not that it does. Is it possible to negotiate at this point, and have her find out? There are frequently things in rental agreements that can be negotiated (for example, if it officially violates the agreement but you can put up some sort of extra deposit). This does sound like a place to start negotiating rather than just starting to look for another place to live. Not intending to be hlepy, but making a suggestion -- if you've already tried, please ignore.

#251 ::: Striving ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 05:45 PM:

Obviously coming late to the game, but I see value in sharing.

My mother was caring. She tried her best. She had me young, had to drop out of school to take care of me. She married a man who wasn't my father in an attempt to, I think, stabilize income and have a chance to not live with her mother and insane brother, which is a different story.

He wasn't a bad man, just a fuckup. She eventually divorced him, about the time I went to college, but I think the damage was done long before then.

I live far away now. I see them both when I fly back for holidays. He lives in a shithole dependent on the state and family charity to get by. Mom is living in poverty, working in health care. Dad's family are good people, I love them, and I even love him, even as I hate him. Compassion and rage are surprisingly hard to disentangle, even at 20 years and 2k miles distance.

I still drink too much, have been through three cycles of relationships that could have worked, but didn't, because of my issues, and am not as employed as I could be. The last time I could afford a therapist, I felt like I couldn't tell the truth.

On the one hand, things are going well - I live in a very desirable place, in a huge apartment that pays for 2/3's of itself with me being dominant. I do consulting work that gets me by from month to month. I have a brilliant girlfriend who is doing grad school on the other coast, is getting written about, invitations, etc. And the bicoastal thing seems to work. I prefer the Bay, she likes the Borroughs.

On the other, I'm approaching 40, and have no idea what I am doing. I would like to stop doing tech, but that is all I've ever done professionally. It is easy enough for me to think, get over path-dependency, you're broke and depressed, what is stopping you from, say, woodwork?

Harder to do it.

#252 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2012, 11:13 PM:

ma larkey, #246: Thank you for posting -- I've been wondering how you were doing. I'm happy to hear that you're thinking about doing something concrete to get away from your situation.

I'm very sorry to hear that someone you had thought was a friend doesn't believe you about your toxic family. This is, unfortunately, all too common an occurrence. People who have never had to deal with it aren't willing to believe that it happens outside of fiction, or at least certainly not to people they know.

Could you handle living in a homeless shelter in a new city while you look for a job? Many times, just taking the first step that gets you out of the abusive situation is like unlocking the door; suddenly everything else gets easier, just because you're not having to use up so many spoons coping with your home life.

Oh, and that "other people have it so much worse" tape that keeps running in your head? Tell it to STFU. Your situation, as you have described it, is at least in the top 5 horrible stories I've ever heard, and I have been reading these threads from the beginning. There are, frankly, not so many people who have it worse than you.

Who are you to ask for help? You're a human being who deserves a better life than you have right now, and do not need to be ashamed of asking for assistance to achieve it.

#253 ::: AnonCowardSevenBillion ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 02:37 AM:


This is a safe space to tell those stories.

I don't talk about Hawai'i, much. But any day that my mother isn't in Hawai'i is, if not an outright good day, at least not as bad a day as it could be.

I don't feel like retelling the story today. It's in this history on this nym, for those who didn't catch it three or four threads ago.

#254 ::: Variant of last time ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 04:18 AM:

Any advise on how to patiently wait out an ambiguous situation (for me at work) without pushing for answers which 1. the boss might not have and 2. the act of pushing for answers could make said boss annoyed.

I'm telling myself that just doing my work well, ignoring the ambiguity, is a sign of strength and stealthiness, not timidity. But for me ambiguous situations are a danger spot (via my childhood): I tend to want them to resolve, even if badly, rather than waiting them out.

In the past months/the summer work had an intense project, simultaneously with me getting depressed*, which I've been treating, and it's helping. However, my current state - less depressed but not undepressed, is difficult to navigate.

I can feel enough of "nondepressed me" to know I ought not to ask pointed questions tomorrow about the shift in responsibilities they've given me as the company grows. (one change is good, one is partially bad, two are ambiguous, and my bosses' motivations are ambiguous.) But current-me can easily be pointed and prickly, and non-depressed me fades out if I focus on the potential negatives of these changes. Catch-22 feedback loop there, that.

What can I do to keep "me of right now" from focusing on mistakes I made this summer (while fully depressed) or from doing things based on my fear of ambiguity that won't help "me of the future". Partially lifted depressions are like a partially lifted fog: while you know not to drive in a full fog, you might feel that "better visibility" equals visibility.

* Instead of the usual getting slow and apathetic, this time I got sad & sensitive. Good & bad for work - at least I had no problems showing up, but I entirely lost my ability to do a poker face.

#255 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 09:52 AM:

Myself @244 and 249, Oops. The first comment looked like it never posted, so I tried again. Double congrats for that level of improvement in fortune may be called for anyhow!

#256 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:00 AM:

This was going to be a cheerful, long, and rambling storypost but I just don't have the heart today, so I'll jump right to the central prompt.

I dissociate. This means that sometimes if I'm in a "less together/spooned" mental state when I am using Object, when I set Object down it completely disappears off the face of the universe (because I put it somewhere that made sense at the time, completely lost the memory of where I put it, and can't reconstruct it later). This is very upsetting to me.

What is more upsetting is having been told since early childhood that this symptom/occurrence is the direct result of my continual "carelessness" with my things. (see also my math disability, continually labeled "carelessness" or "not trying")

I honestly think that none of the grownups in my life when I was a kid had any conception of how something I had two hours ago could have completely teleported out of existence to the point of not being findable when we took every object off every surface in my room and looked under/around/inside them all. To them, it was inexplicable, and of course the Fundamental Attribution Error comes into play if you don't police your mindsets regularly: therefore, it was a character flaw on my part that I constantly lost/ruined my stuff.

It's taken decades to try to unkink that automatic self-loathing subroutine, and I still haven't totally succeeded.

Especially when my husband gets continually pissed at me when my stuff "disappears" again. Or his stuff, which sometimes also happens, given that we live in the same house and I occasionally touch his things.

The strangest part of all of this is the completely illogical reappearances (which have also happened since my childhood -- my mother's "good scissors," which I was NOT ALLOWED to touch, would disappear for several hours and then turn out to have been put on top of a shelf of books six feet off the floor).

Fast-forwarding to now. While we were moving house in February, two items of electronics that also function, for me, as assistive devices (my iPod, for keeping me company with podcasts; and my GPS, for aiding with navigational anxiety), disappeared.

They disappeared, so far as I can tell, IN THE NEW HOUSE. They were certainly not still in the OLD house when we sold it, and I think I remember that the last time I knew I was laying hands on them, they were inside the new house (and therefore not boxed with Random Things somewhere).

Last weekend, my iPod turned up. In the 'proper' pocket of my winter coat, where I always keep it. Where it WAS NOT in April, because I emptied the coat and washed it -- a month after the iPod had disappeared anyway. But there it was, hooked up on its headphones and everything, just as I always liked to keep it.

For obvious (cargo cult, I know, but sometimes it WORKS) reasons I instantly checked all the other pockets of the coat for my GPS, but that's still AWOL.

I really wish it weren't. Aside from it having been expensive to purchase, expensive to replace, and WAS A GIFT from the husband, I'd just like to HAVE it and USE it. I miss it badly. Just like a walking stick, I CAN get by without it if I must, but things are harder, and I can't always do Thing X on any given day without it.

I also wish I could stop hating myself for constantly 'losing' things. I have so many more coping strategies to mitigate the tendency now than I did when I was little, but I keep flashbacking to the mental state I was in when Mom's Special Expensive Things would disappear, and reappear much later, sometimes broken or not at all.

I can easily see how people living in the time before psychology would attribute happenings like this to the Fair Folk, hauntings, etc -- that's really what it feels like, even though I know what's going on (and can sometimes spot the edges of it happening and short-circuit the problem).

It's like my brain is gaslighting me or something. If I were sufficiently dissociative to be a multiple, that's totally what it would be (one of us pissed at the rest). As I'm not, I can just sort of glimpse the edges of how the fracture would have gone if we had.

#257 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:26 AM:

Bricklayer, I hear you. Around here we call that "the sentient black hole that inhabits the house." It always takes the item I/we are going to need next.

Even worse, it sometimes trades items, so something that disappeared months ago reappears, but it isn't the item I need, so frustration mounts. I regret to say I have not found a solution for the problem.


#258 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:28 AM:

Bricklayer @256: THAT!

(Full marching band with crashing cymbals!)


Thank you! It has a NAME! Thank you!

(Still reading and witnessing with sympathetic wince. Still not ready.)

#259 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:48 AM:

Vyrdolyak @258: In my mom's house, it was called 'the psychic mice'. As in, "Yeah, right, if you didn't take it, it must have been the psychic mice." Over the years, my mother's use of the term became less bitter and more like my grandfather's personification of all the forces of the universe into little tutelary spirits; we came to view the psychic mice as a little tribe in our walls, about as sentient as a really smart dog, with telekinesis they used for both practical (food-procuring, habitat-opening) and whimsical purposes.

Also, I adore your nym, because among other things my mom was a Democratic precinct captain during Chicago's Council Wars. No idea if you named yourself after that guy particularly, but the reference still makes me warmfuzzy. :->

#260 ::: SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:48 AM:

Bricklayer @ 256:

I have exactly the same issue, although living alone means I misplace my own objects solely. I have worked for a long time to develop a very strong habit of having spots where certain objects should live, and to make efforts to replace said object into it's special spot. I still have things disappear, seemingly of their own volition, quite often despite this habit.

Especially whenever I want to REALLY keep track of something, and I decide to "put it somewhere safe".
Why is it I can never remember where that "somewhere safe" is, later on?

Occasionally, traditional methods of remediation do actually help. For example, the lore my grandparents teased me with says that if one gets 'elf-shot' (re: confused or losing things on your own person) to turn your coat. This means turning it inside out, putting it on that way, then putting it right-side out and back on. I can't tell you how many things I have suddenly discovered in my pockets after this little manuever. Including objects I was just turning every pocket inside out LOOKING for, just beforehand.

The Little People must answer a common human problem with losing items and becoming confused when finding them again where one doesn't expect, perhaps?

So... no help at all to you, other than to say, oh yes, that happens ALL the time to me, also. It is indeed very frustrating, but I don't think it's carelessness at all. I think it's absent-mindedness from too much to do, or too much distraction or stress, far more often.

#261 ::: Bricklayer got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:49 AM:

... while blowing my nym. Simultaneity! And I know why I got gnomed, I misposted a link. "Council Wars" in my previous comment is supposed to link to wikipedia.

(and if the gnomes could renym me while they're at it I'd be nommishly grateful)

#262 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 11:17 AM:

Bricklayer @256:

If you find a purple hairbrush somewhere around, it's mine. I haven't seen it in a few days; maybe it's migrated to your house, because it doesn't appear to be in mine.

There's always a Thing whose departure from my life signals either extreme stress or the start of autumn (these are not unrelated events). Used to be my keys, but now there are TWO AND ONLY TWO places they can be—either on the carabiner hooked into one spot on my handbag or in the door. Then it was my watch, but there are THREE AND ONLY THREE places it can be. Then it was my phone, but... you get the picture.

It doesn't help that, like many Aspies, I have a slightly shaky belief in object permanence. Intellectually, I know that things don't disappear entirely from the universe, but my viscera haven't really got the message. Ironically, that doesn't make me accept "maybe it's just gone" as a realistic alternative explanation. Instead, like a convert with doubts, I find myself frantic to find the thing and prove my faith in object permanence.

Which is to say, sympathy.

#263 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 11:20 AM:

Bricklayer @261:

Done and done.

#264 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 11:25 AM:

abi at @262: It doesn't help in my case that throughout my childhood, a succession of people important to me Just Disappeared: my best friend in preschool went off to grade school somewhere else and we never saw her again, my best friend through early grade school's family got spooked about La Migra and pulled him out of school suddenly, presumably moving to some other city ... and so on. There are very few people still in my life now (aside from immediate blood family) who can actually remember with me anything that happened before I was in college.

People ... just disappear. And so do things, sometimes. It's the sort of thing that's supposed to inspire tooth-loss dreams, if you believe in that sort of thing.

#265 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 11:29 AM:

Bricklayer @256

Dissociation, YES! I don't have it around things, but around time. I have distinct memories of "coming to" as a child, kind of clicking in to shared reality and not knowing where I was or what was going on. Clearly I had been performing okay to that point, since no one was acting like anything was wrong with me (okay, now I'm wondering about that -- how the hell did no one notice that I lost DAYS?), and I knew I couldn't ask. I just had to figure it out.

This doesn't happen so much anymore, unless I'm having a serious spoon deficit, and I've learned to watch tv when it does. Somehow that's more acceptable than just turning off completely.

I don't have a good explanation for this, which freaks me out almost more than the fact of it does. I have no memory of any experience that needed dissociation.

#266 ::: Neon Fox ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 11:33 AM:

I don't know if I really "believe in" fairies, but acting as if they exist makes it a lot easier to deal with vanishing objects. Asking for the thing back, especially if you have some other small, shiny object to leave around, seems to work pretty well in my house.

That's if the most obvious explanation ("The cats got it") doesn't seem to be what happened. :)

#267 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 11:58 AM:

Pro @265: A hypothesis I have come to over time that just 'feels true' (though I have no real data to support it) is that, when I am in That Mental State, somehow short-term memories are simply not laid down (or not in the way they usually are). Like running on a short tape-loop. And when my mental state changes 'back' to 'more usual', whatever happened during the dissociative episode is either no longer there at all or only the barest highlights of what happened, I remember.

It happens a lot at conventions, interestingly; I get tired, but don't notice I'm tired because I'm hyper (and ZOMG ALL THE EGOBOO from people actually WANTING to talk to me!?!?!), so I dissociate, and have these long rambling exciting conversations (apparently) that I don't really remember the next day.

That one gets called Con Mode. It also happens at home, which is when stuff disappears. I can also provoke it/bring it on by 'needing/having' to keep myself functional and Get A Thing Done when I'm really too low on spoons to be trusted to do anything. The things get done, but I don't remember them afterwards very well (like a skip-cutty weird section of a movie, just flashes, though not all visual), and quite often Objects I was using, disappear. This is how my keys get left in the outside lock on the front door all night, for example.

The other kind of dissociative state I get (which I will describe here for completeness, and because it might rhyme with the experiences of others) we call Withdrawal. It doesn't really happen to me much anymore (for which, thanks), but especially in late puberty/early college it would come on and I couldn't get myself out of it.

It is very disturbing to observe from the outside, apparently, because what it looks like is me going completely catatonic and unresponsive. Limp muscles (mostly), eyes defocussed and still, very little or no response to being talked to. My mother (with an extensive experience of Such Things in the 70s) said it looked a lot like I was having a Really Bad Reaction to some illicit drug or other -- though the time she finally saw it and noticed it, she knew I wasn't on anything because I'd been in her presence for hours and hours socially before it happened.

From the inside, it feels like the outside world gets very very very very scary and then suddenly ceases utterly to matter. I'm still there, still conscious, still laying down memories just fine, but it's like my body has taken three giant steps forward away from the "me" that lives behind my eyes, and not only is it extremely hard for me to make the body do anything, I simultaneously can't be bothered to give two flying fucks about almost any of it.

It's very calm, and quiet, and I can still hear and be (mildly) interested in things that happen near my physical sensorium. Bystanders getting upset that I'm gone and trying to provoke a response are worrying, and sometimes I can make the body react to them ... but usually the very worry and upset-i-tude out there just pushes 'me' further back, into the Where It Is Safe And Calm.

A couple more decades of coping strategies and experience with feeling it coming on help me to derail the response before it hits catatonia, for the most part, now. I see it happening, realize I need to LOWER THE FEAR LEVEL NAO FOLX, take steps ... or else, if I'm somewhere safe and the fear is just brain weather, I go find somewhere safe and calm and soft to curl up (ideally, near other people having interesting conversations, because that lures 'me' back foregrounded) and watch TV or listen to a podcast or something until the brain-weather 'cloud' has gone over and I can be fit for interaction with normal humans again.

#268 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 12:01 PM:

There's an Incident from my hellish school days that has a blank spot in the middle. I remember everything up to the point where I was surrounded with a wall at my back. Then I remember being in an office crying and writing down what had happened. I can't, however insistently I dig at the sore spot, remember either what happened or what I wrote.
What frightens me is that it's the only blank spot of its type. I'm sure there are plenty of things I've just forgotten, in the ordinary way of memory fading. But I remember plenty of things that my family did to me and plenty of things that happened at school, and nothing else has been buried below conscious access for the bad part.

#269 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 12:04 PM:

Bricklayer @256 -- I can't tell you how many times I've wished certain objects had the Telephone Property -- that I could call them and they would chirp to let me know where they are. We use this feature of the actual cell phone frequently around here. I usually succeed at finding the bits that have hidden themselves that don't have this feature, but never quickly enough.

#270 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 12:40 PM:

Bricklayer @256: attribute happenings like this to the Fair Folk, hauntings, etc

I once followed a friend through every single room in her house, looking for the key to her storage locker. When she finally concluded that it was not in the house, she called her assistant to give her (good natured) grief about it not being where it was supposed to be. During the call, she absently pulled open the utility drawer (which I had seen her investigate), and there was the key, right where it was supposed to be.

Whereupon, I figured out what was going on: ADHD sufferers are actually incompletely evolved teleports. The force of their attention is so intense that it pushes the target item through into the next dimension. As long as they're looking for the item, that pressure is maintained. It's only when they stop looking for it that the pressure is released, and the item pops back into this dimension.

So, there ya go.

Lori Coulson @257: sentient black hole

In Jon Singer's household, it's known as the Zen Cosmic Sinkhole.

Bricklayer @259: 'the psychic mice'.

This is one of the handy things about having ferrets. When things go missing (esp. socks), you just have to check the weasel hoard.

Pro @265: I don't have a good explanation for this, which freaks me out almost more than the fact of it does.

Were this me, I would hie me to a neurologist. Fugues like this can sometimes be a manifestation of a siezure disorder.

Tom Whitmore @269: I could call them and they would chirp to let me know where they are.

What you want is a key clapper.

#271 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 12:54 PM:

@252 Lee, thank you.

Being homeless terrifies me no end, because it's been one thing to want to run away, it's quite another thing to realize that running would mean giving up known shelter, clothing, some creature comforts. To think about carrying my life on my back. To think that I am not going to be able to call on the "friends and family" if I do go away, that is even more terrifying.

Just leaning over the bathroom sink now, looking at the things I use every day. I can't carry all that with me. Just looking at the kitchen tools, the clothes, the books. Oh the books! I know this sounds lame, but my wish is to read all the books before I leave them. As if.

Also, health-wise I am not that great. Sometimes only eat once or twice a day, not because there is no food, but no energy to get up, and no inclination to eat. Struggling to grow into the notion that I can't rely on anyone but myself, that I will really have no one at all if I run off. At present I do have material support, although there are horrible emotional conditions that come along with it.

The bigger struggle is imagining that if I do run off, there is no "trying", there will only be survive or not. Casting away even the illusory comfort of being able to make a phone call to friends of relatives, or forgoing even tertiary and secondary connections when I do make the leap is going to be one of the hardest things to do. Imagining that I will be leaving the hope of renewal, or change, giving up on that illusion of a held-together family makes me want to cry. This may be a dysfyxnl set up but it's the only one I've known. There is nothing to replace it, and I do not have confidence in the public system, having only heard horror stories.

Yes, some people do make it. I just don't think I will. Much. For all my talk. Hear me waffle. Badly.

#272 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 01:01 PM:

Jacque @270 -- but then I'd lose the clicker device, and I'd have to add the fob to whatever. The joy of phone-calling is that we only lose one phone at a time.... It's not a big enough annoyance for me to spend that much $/effort.

#273 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 01:03 PM:

Jacque @270: I find my husband very useful for that. Transiently-disappeared things I am looking for, I can call him at work. Brrring, brrring, "Hi, sweetie, I feel really dumb, but I was wondering if you knew where the -- thank you."

I have to ACTUALLY call him on the phone, but usually before I can even name the object, my eye falls upon it.

#274 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 01:33 PM:

Posting in the clear on this one, as it doesn't affect others, and I don't mind making it part of my public history:

Bricklayer, THAT HAPPENS TO ME TOO. I now mostly attribute it to my long-delayed diagnosis of ADHD-inattentive, but in terms of whimsical concept, I go with the explanation put forth in a New Twilight Zone episode: carpenters, dressed in Chroma Key blue (I guess that was more common than greenscreen in the 1980s? Same principle), who "build the set" for each minute. Sometimes they leave stuff out, but remember to put it back in a later minute.

Attributing it to the Blue Carpenters helps me feel better about it.

#275 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 01:48 PM:

Rikibeth @274: Not just Blue Carpenters, but a Blue Continuity Girl (note: not always female) and an entire crew, can be inferred!

I like it.

#276 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 01:53 PM:

Which leads to Sturgeon's marvelous story "Yesterday Was Monday", which was the source for that TZ episode.

#277 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 01:55 PM:

(PDF of story here.)

#278 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 03:22 PM:

I can do that with objects, particularly when trying to get out the house (grab phone from desk, walk to front door, check pockets - phone disappeared. Retrace footsteps. No phone anywhere between desk and front door. Huh?

We're trying to reduce the general (as opposed to "leaving the house") incidence by having a place for everything. Things which have a place (or at most two or three places) do disappear less often. But there are lots of things which don't yet have a place.

Don't get me started on socks.

As for walking and talking and reacting but no memory - driving on the motorway on a very familar route and suddenly realising the road looked unfamiliar: I'd missed the MAJOR junction where I was supposed to have turned off. Obviously responding properly to immediate concerns (speed, other traffic etc.), but lack of real awareness of the world outside - disturbing.

On the other hand, in my recent 50-mile race, I know I was running for ten hours, but it really didn't feel that long and I suspect I must have been "in the zone", just reacting to the terrain, and feeling how my body was moving, and following the course markers. Probably similar mental state, but safer!

#279 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 03:47 PM:

I can make things disappear by carrying them in my left hand. (I'm right-handed.)

I have also had the experience in #273 more than once.

ma larkey, reading and witnessing and hoping an option will become available that makes escape and safety both possible.

#280 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 04:43 PM:

I also have a superpower: I can find things that other people have lost. Doesn't work on anything I have lost, unfortunately.

#281 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 07:54 PM:

I lose track of things quite easily, and sometimes when I realize it has happened again, I hunt for the lost thing obsessively. But lately I have stopped doing that. Mostly.

I have a book, called the "where book", in which I write the place I am keeping something, or if I have moved it to a new place, the place to which I have moved it. This works, as long as I remember to write in the book.

But what I wanted to tell you about is the times (two, that I can remember) when I found, in very odd ways, things that had been lost for years. The first case involves the title document to a car. We didn't know it was lost until we tried to sell the car to a friend. When we couldn't find the title, we had to order a new one from the DMV. Years later, living in a different house, divorced from the husband with whom I had shared ownership of the car, I was sitting at my desk, working on my bills, when a paper fluttered down onto the desk. There was nothing above me but the ceiling, no shelves, no bulletin board, nowhere from whence it could have fallen. It was the missing title.

The second instance was only a few weeks ago. A paper, not as important as a car title, but something I had been making use of, had disappeared in October of 2007. A few weeks ago, I was walking down the street, the same street I have walked down almost every day for years, when A piece of paper caught my eye. I picked it up. It was the lost paper. Obviously, it could not have been there for several years. From its condition, it could not have been outdoors more than a short time, less than a day, I would say. It could not have "fallen out of my pocket" or some such easy explanation, because I am wearing different clothes these days.

I have it pinned up now, where I can look at it from time to time and think, or say, "Gee, the world is really a strange place, and not necessarily what we think it is."

#282 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 08:26 PM:

Okay, so can anyone point me toward the ring my mother gave me in second grade or so?

Ma Larkey, I wish I had experience with this sort of thing so I could tell you it's safer than you think, but I don't. I'm glad you know what's stopping you, though, and I hope that someday soon you're in a healthier place.

#283 ::: Lee, slightly disguised ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 09:30 PM:

I'm divorcing this post from my normal View All By because it contains (non-critical, non-specific) financial information.

My partner and I both have the "thing X disappears, is found later in an unexpected location" issue. However, around here it mostly seems to be a function of "somebody put it down somewhere and then forgot where" or "it got covered up with other stuff that wasn't noticeable enough to move when we were looking for it" (aka we're clutter-bugs).

What's been happening more frequently over the past 5 years or so, though, is non-retention of things that we ought to remember -- a phenomenon we describe as "the buffer flushed". Today's example:

For many years, I banked with Sterling Bank and was very pleased with them. Not quite a year ago, Sterling was taken over bought out by Comerica, and my dealings with Comerica have been much less satisfactory. They've gone the Bank of America route, nickel-and-diming their customers to death with fees, often for things that should be considered basic banking services. (There should NEVER be a fee for depositing CASH into your account!)

A couple of weeks ago I hit my limit; they allowed two debit card transactions to go thru that should have declined, in order to hit me with exorbitant overdraft fees. (Then they tried to tell me, "Oh, it doesn't work that way for this kind of account." Bullshit.) So I did some shopping around, and I'm transferring my accounts to a local credit union.

There were, as I remembered, 4 accounts: personal savings, personal checking, my DBA account, and an IRA. I wasn't exactly sure of the protocol for transferring an IRA*, so I asked the credit union people and they gave me a form to take over to Comerica.

Where I found that I no longer had an IRA on their books, and there was supposed to have been a check sent to me when they closed that account.** The bank officer did some calling around, and was told that the check had been issued but had never been cashed, and I didn't recall receiving it. So I went home to see if it might be in the Giant Pile Of Financial Stuff, having been mistaken for a bank statement or something. No such luck. Back to Comerica, where the officer made some more phone calls... and lo and behold, the check had been cashed after all***, and they could send a fax of the front and back with the endorsement.

And the endorsement... was by me, to my brokerage IRA account at Edward Jones. As soon as I saw that, I remembered that I had been hesitant about putting that money back into a Comerica account (being already somewhat annoyed with them at the time) and had sent it off to Edward Jones instead. But you'd think that's the sort of thing I would remember, and it just... disappeared out of my head, and out of my partner's as well. The buffer flushed. And that's an example of the kind of stuff that's been happening to me more and more lately.

I don't like to think of this as a natural concomitant of aging, or at least not YET! But I'm afraid that's exactly what it is.

The silver lining in this cloud is that, having been forced to disarrange the Giant Pile Of Financial Stuff, I've spent the rest of the afternoon processing it, which is something I normally do about twice a year but apparently had not done for well over a year at this point. So the place where the Financial Stuff gets put is looking a lot neater.

* Partly because the last time I did this, trying to take it from Citibank to Sterling, Citi made me jump thru all sorts of hoops (that the people at Sterling said were unnecessary and unwarranted), and then lied to me about when I'd be able to actually get my money. They very nearly got a come-to-Jesus meeting in the middle of the lobby.

** Something to do with the regulations about IRAs; they couldn't just automatically transfer that account from Sterling to Comerica the way they could my other accounts. I have no reason not to believe that.

*** And if they'd come up with that the first time I was there, my afternoon would have been considerably less frazzled.

#284 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Diatryma, #282 - I can't help there, but my husband dug up his wedding ring in the garden three months after he lost it (mind you, he lost it in winter, when he never goes into the garden).

My most mysterious lost thing was a library book. It was the last book I took out of the library before we moved from our apartment to a house. We moved that apartment one carload of stuff at a time, and that book was nowhere in our stuff. Nor was it in our stuff when we moved again a year later out of state. Three years and two more moves later, it showed up sitting all innocuous among my non-fiction books, just as if it had always been there, and as if those books hadn't been taken off the shelves and hand-packed three times in the intervening years without that book being there.

#285 ::: Allan Beatty sees someone who needs re-nyming ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:00 PM:

We've had lost objects pop back into normal spacetime years later. It often happens when looking for some other more recently misplaced object.

#286 ::: Anonymous dysfunctional ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:13 PM:

Just a suggestion: maybe this lost object discussion should be in its own thread?

#287 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2012, 10:51 PM:

Pro at # 265: I have no memory of any experience that needed dissociation.

Some psychologists suggest that's what dissociation is for.

#288 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 12:22 AM:

Bricklayer: "just brain weather"

We use "bad brain" around here, but I think "brain weather" is a better term.

ma larkey: I've been worrying about you. I'm glad you're still posting. Keep us updated.

#289 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 01:14 AM:

Anonymous Dysfunctional is right; we are beginning to stray a bit.

Lost-thing comments that are also about, or trigger, or are related to dysfunction and distress can hang out here. Can any lost-thing anecdotes that are less relevant to this thread band together and start a lost-thing discussion in the Open Thread, please?

I don't think anyone's really posted where they shouldn't, but its a topic with its own gravitational pull, and I don't want it distorting the trajectory of the conversation.


#290 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 02:20 AM:

This is as much a transcript for myself as anything else.
It's seven am, local time, which makes it about bedtime in my current cycle. One flatmate has already left for work, the other will be up soon. They are accustomed to the strange hours I keep and have never complained about cookery in the night.
Right now we have a houseguest sleeping in the living room. That tips the scales into feeling like it's unreasonable of me to be making a clatter in the kitchen at this time of day. We offered him a place to sleep, not someone waking him at silly o'clock because they eat their supper out of sync with the rest of the world.
In this waking period I have eaten six slices of bread, some tuna, some cheese, and a quarter of a pear. I am aware of physical hunger and I know intellectually that I have not eaten enough for a day. It's just that those things don't seem very important. The intellectual argument is much stronger than the hunger as a prompt to action, but not strong enough when there's a houseguest. That's what I mean by the causal chain being broken. I know feeling hungry ought to matter in the decision to eat or not, but it doesn't.
I have biscuits in my bedroom. Baby steps...

#291 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 05:03 AM:

Allan Beatty @287

Indeed, that does appear to be what it is for. I simply dislike having holes for which there are indications that There Was Something Major I can't identify. (Major at least to my little-girl self.)

#292 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 09:40 AM:

B. Durbin @288: I use 'brain weather' especially to contrast with 'brain climate', as well as to convince myself that it's an environmental thing over which I have no real control -- but which I can take steps to mitigate the effects of, if I know it's coming or spot it soon enough.

Kind of the difference between getting to work wet, muddy, and miserable, or realizing when you leave your house you should stick an umbrella in your bag, because you're likely to need it later.

Sometimes I am sad/angry/upset/whatever because of proximal causes; but sometimes it's just brain weather, and recognizing the difference between the two makes a big difference in managing their effects.

#293 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 09:46 AM:

Bricklayer: "Brain weather": elegant and useful concept. Thank you.

#294 ::: blue ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 12:37 PM:

My family is a little different, in that the main focus of dysfunction isn't my parents, it's my sister-in-law. She is just sucking everyone else down the drain with her.

I should be clear that, when I was a teenager, Things Happened. They were bad, and my parents handled them very badly, and when I turned 18 I moved to the other side of the country and have never been interested in moving back.

For several years, I went to therapy and didn't talk to my parents at all, but I got to the point where my therapist thought it would be helpful to talk, so I called. We talked. They admitted to the problems. They had reasons why things went wrong, which I can see. They travelled across country so that we could do joint sessions together. We're good now, but I have no desire to move back to where they live.

My younger siblings never experienced the things that happened to me. (They had their own troubles, I'm sure.) As my mother said, when they saw how badly things had turned out with me, they knew they needed to do things differently, so they did. I don't begrudge them that. What makes me angry is that the younger ones insist that none of it ever happened, and they will not talk to my parents about it because it would absolutely destroy my parents in what should be their golden years to know that I say such things happened.

So fine. But my sister-in-law takes it further. She is a control freak, and not a nice person. When her children were born, she started with "if I don't get my way in everything you will never see your grandchildren again." It's never stated so baldly, but it's out there, and my mother is terrified. And she's determined to never make my brother choose between his wife and his family. So she won't talk to the younger ones about it, because it would get back to my brother and sister-in-law, and she would never see her grandchildren again.

But sister-in-law doesn't like me. She doesn't want me around. So she keeps making rules. I'm not allowed to talk about my friends, or have them over when I visit, because she doesn't want that kind of person around. And we can't watch TV shows that I like, because she gave Mom a list of acceptable shows. Same with food. She saw me doing crossword puzzles, and decided they are a waste of time. Likewise knitting and anything involving computer time. She tried to outlaw reading but my dad put his foot down on that one. (He's less afraid of her than Mother is, but won't cross my mom.)

Sister-in-law tells the younger sibs, who don't really know me, since I moved so far away, all kinds of lies about me. Mom won't argue, because she keeps saying that no one who knows me would believe any of it and refuses to see that they all do believe it. I am now the "bad person" of the family. The last time I was down there, sister-in-law sat between my and mom and moderated our conversation, making sure to "protect" mom from my rudeness and unkindness and just unacceptable ideas and behavior. Mom won't object, because she will never see her grandchildren again. She keeps telling me that life is to short for family feuds and to get over it. I keep telling her that life is to short to tolerate abusive treatment, and that, as far as I'm concerned, this is a replay of my teen years, when they would not stand up for me. In the meantime, the younger ones see that she appreciates the way sister-in-law protects her from me, and draw their own conclusions.

Lately, now that my kids are older, I've been sending them on a plane as unattended minors and just not bothering to go to my parents' home myself. I have a circle of supportive friends here who have helped me process this, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to go there any more. That sounds too final, and would really hurt my parents who have worked hard to salvage our relationship, so I've decided to tell them that I won't be going to their home for holidays for at least the next two years, because life is too stressful. (My doctor used to give me anti-anxiety pills to take when going there, because I got so stressed out. But I have a new doctor who won't do that, so I have a medical reason to refuse to go.)

My parents are driving across country in a few weeks to participate in Grandparents' Day at the kids' school. We are going to have to have that conversation during the visit. (Yes, we have to. They know there is a problem, but keep hoping to ignore it til it goes away.) I don't want to interfere between my kids and their extended family, with whom they seem to get on well. (Even when I wasn't talking to my parents, there were extended family members I was in touch with. I don't feel the need to push my hurt feelings onto the kids.)

This is more tangled on paper than it was in my head, but it's dysfunctional. So, there it is.

#295 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 12:40 PM:

Apologies for my part in the straying topic. My thought was that the "missing time" or "absent memory" phenomenon, in various forms, is perhaps more common than people realise, although not necessarily to Bricklayer's level of acknowledged dissociation.

Bricklayer, from my own more minor experiences, I can see how frustrating this must be to you - and yes, getting a label of carelessness for something over which you have no control must be even more upsetting and frustrating.

Syd @248: Sympathies for the additional "down" on the rollercoaster. Like Tom says, have you asked her to check their rental agreement and any negotiability? {{{{Zen hug}}}} - not given you one for a while and I think you need one. Also: I salute your strength, and achievements.

Striving @251: Well, this is certainly a place where you can at least share, and consider options. As you're doing consulting work, could you continue doing that while starting something new such as woodwork, if that's what you really like to do? Would it help to switch things mentally so you accept the consulting as what you do to pay the bills, while a woodworker is what you are?

ma larkey @ 246 & subsequent: sympathies. I'm afraid I don't have any good suggestions to offer. But I'm listening and I hope that helps a little bit. I do agree with Lee @ 252 that the "other people have it so much worse" tape is lying to you. And you do SO have a right - every right - to ask for help.

Variant of last time @ 254: The combination you outline in your first paragraph suggests that pushing for answers is likely to be useless at best and counterproductive at worst, at present. In which case waiting IS the best thing to do. Maybe write down some points so you can read them when necessary:

- "I got depressed but I've been treating that and the treatment is helping."
- "I have made a positive choice to wait while the current ambiguous situation develops, because pushing would be counterproductive."

As for the "sad & sensitive" - still working on that myself. How are you with imagery? Is there e.g. an image of a vivid sunset, or a sparkling cobweb-with-dewdrops, or a perfect rose, or something else which you can use to distract yourself if you're going into a downward spiral?(Might try that myself, as another part of my "not crying at work" armory (since "don't cry" is as much use as trying not to think about pink elephants).

#296 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 09:09 PM:

Giving up on trying to catch up "appropriately" as per my brain, because it's apparently interpreting that to mean HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT YOURSELF BEFORE YOU TALK TO EVERYONE ELSE, ugh, but: just wanted to reiterate that I am still reading every sentence, and with each word I send out a little psychic burst of love and hope and wishes for peace to each of you. Including the silent readers.

And anyone around Chicagoland who ever needs a couch to crash on/a free hot meal/a hug/anything else: I'm here. (ma larkey, I have no idea where you are, but hey look at that your name is coincidentally right next to that sentence I just wrote!)

I am going to write a minor novella about my job now because OH MY GOD, MY JOB, and also because I am pretty sure all my sudden serenity and contentment re: my parents is due to a new burst of rage and misery about said job.

So I talked in my super-long history post about how, when I moved to the city a few years back, I was quickly unemployed and doing not-fun things for money. That went on for... well, the not-fun things didn't completely become a thing of the past until about a year on, but I was only really reliant on it for my income for about five months or so. After that I got a horrible retail job, and after that I started my current job at Small Widget Distributor.

SWD is currently owned by a pair of siblings who inherited it from their father. There are other family members who float around the periphery of the business, as well as a childhood friend; I was the first serious hire that was a complete stranger to them. I started off answering phones, processing orders, low-level office stuff, and generally wrangling my boss, who is one of the siblings. I was hired to be her assistant as much as I was for the company, so at first a lot of my job was stuff like - "hey, radiosongs, will you shred my personal documents? Hey, will you write my personal correspondence? Hey, radiosongs, my husband and I are having problems, I'm going to talk about it for the next fifteen minutes!" The latter sort of thing happened a LOT, and I had no idea what boundaries were at the time or what an appropriate office environment looked like, so I pretty much rolled with the punches and had fun, since I didn't really have anything better to do.

However, in the ensuing years, Small Widget Distributor has become Actually Pretty Fucking Big Widget Distributor. My job description has grown to... um... I do everything? As in, if my boss was hit by a bus tomorrow, I could run the office pretty damn okay by myself? Because while the company got a lot bigger, we hired a whopping two extra employees, and then one of them up and quit on us, and every single time my boss asked me to do something I'd just go "okay!" At first it was because I knew that I needed that job, I mean really needed it, I mean I was still doing Bad Things to supplement the minimum wage I made there for the first six months, and I honestly believed the only way I'd ever keep a job was to be a doormat forever and ever.

After that, by the time I realized I did not, in fact, have to be a doormat, I had all the responsibility. Sure, my boss loves to tell me, "Don't do that! I don't want you to be stressed! I'll take care of it for you!" But if I do hand things off to her, things don't get done, because she has to buy concert tickets/dick around on facebook/buy shoes online/take her dog for a walk (HER DOG IS IN ThE OFFICE SO OFTEN AND HE IS SO NEEDY)/did I mentioned she also planned an extravagant wedding for 200 people? on company time? while I ran the office while she left constantly to go do whatever the fuck is involved with wedding planning? And also she bought a house? And so I can technically pass things off to her, but in the meantime, if I don't do them, I am the one who answers the phones and emails and gets to deal with furious customers. (ALSO this scenario happens like once a week:

BOSS: Customer X, who I was working with/spent $5000 on widgets/buys from us constantly, called about their order, which is already a week late, and he's really pissed. Can you call him back and tell him it'll just be another week? Maybe a week and a half.
ME: Um. Can we do anything in the way of a credit or something?
BOSS: Nope, sorry! THANKS SO MUCH RADIOSONGS, YOU'RE THE BEST /goes to spend 20 minutes on the phone with her mom)

The boss also likes to tell me that I can take days off! Totally! I need a vacation! And that I shouldn't EVER have to stay late, and she hates it, she feels so bad! - except that I've explained to her approximately six thousand times that taking time off, because of the volume of work I have, results in hysterical panic attacks upon returning to work, so it's really easier to just stay late or come in and get the shit done.

Oh also I don't think I mentioned that the widget industry is male-dominated, so I get to deal with sexist jerkbags all day who clearly think that as a filthy vagina-owner I cannot know shit about widgets. Also part of my job is providing technical assistance for said widgets, except sometimes we start selling new lines of widgets or a line that's sort of widgety but mostly thingamabobs or actually knockoffs of discontinued widgets with no technical documentation. Other Boss is supposed to be the "head tech", but asking him questions can just as easily result in "tell the customer to go fuck himself" as an actual answer. (Other Boss is a nice guy, mostly, but he has... a temper.)

And yet: they tell me CONSTANTLY how much they looooove me. I am like their little sister! They just want me to be HAPPY! They are going to TAKE CARE OF ME! Except for the part where raises are postponed a month beyond when I'm supposed to receive them for handwave-y reasons, and also when I tried to hint that maybe I wasn't satisfied with a raise I got a very icy "well it's a very generous raise", and also the time when I was informed of my new pay rate at 4:55 on a Friday when I had told my boss that I had to leave at 5 on the dot because I had travel plans.

I... ugh, okay, what I'm getting at here is that I know this is a shitty, miserable place to work and that I am drastically underpaid for the volume and intensity of work that I do. I KNOW that. I know, even, sort of maybe, that the way they treat me is - not abusive, but definitely condescending and disrespectful of my set boundaries.

But it's one thing to say, in relationships, I have to demand that people treat me with respect and value me appropriately. It's a whole other fucking ball game to say that about my professional life. I was poor. I was so poor. I can't do that again. For myself, I could scrape by still, but not if I hit an emergency; my girlfriend tries to talk about our collective finances with me and I just laugh hysterically because what do you mean we have money? what do you mean we can buy furniture/go to the movies/save for the future? It's surreal. I don't know how to believe her. I don't ever in my fucking life want her to have to deal with the shit I did. And I don't know how to prevent that without being the girl I was when they hired me here: the doormat, the slave with a smile on, tell me what you need and I'll do it twice as fast as you need it and I'll skip lunch to do it.

I want a new job but I don't know if I can handle a job where I know I might get fired. I'll never get fired here. I'll always be the star employee, everyone's favorite, I'll always know how to do everything better than my bosses even. And that's a seductive comfort to someone who is terrified of being rejected and being a failure.

I don't know. I was hoping that laying it all out like this would do the same thing as my first post, spark some little trigger of oh, hey, these people actually do suck and you're justified in leaving, but - that isn't actually the problem. With my parents, I didn't know until I looked at all of it that I was right to go. I've known that with my job for a long time. I just didn't realize how completely scared I am to try.

#297 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 09:17 PM:

radiosongs: Any chance of suggesting to them that you could use an assistant? Say, a temp (to start)? Or advertise for admin-asst experience and see what turns up? Someone that it's safe for you to delegate to.

Ideally you would convince them that your assistant is too inexperienced/silly for them to interact with zir directly, you need to keep an eye on zir every minute, etc (while telling the assistant to be really careful about taking jobs directly from the bosses, and to tell you if they try)?

Sounds like they're too pennywise/pound-foolish to even consider increasing payroll, even if it could massively increase the amount of work getting done.

#298 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2012, 11:25 PM:

Bricklayer @297: :(

I appreciate the idea, but... yeah. The employee who quit was supposed to be my assistant; she was pretty okay, but not especially great. Recently we hired another employee to potentially be my assistant. I have flat-out told my bosses repeatedly "I don't trust her to so much as send a fax properly, I find her personally grating, and you have admitted her incompetence is driving away business". My boss's ultimate response? "Yeah, but I really like her, so I'm going to find odd jobs for her to do around here!"

#299 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2012, 10:59 AM:

radiosongs: Your situation sounds very much as if you could put together a resume and go hunting for other jobs where you'd do about 3/4 of the work at possibly double the salary, because if you started this one at minimum wage, you're probably still hideously underpaid for what you do.

Yes, at another job there will always be the risk of getting fired/laid off, but at this one, there's the risk of you snapping under the stress.

Your girlfriend is a cushion against failure. That's one of the benefits of a partnership: if one of you is temporarily out of work, that doesn't leave you at flat broke nothing, that leaves you at Less Than Before, which can sometimes be okay, especially if you get unemployment benefits, and even if you're technically fired, you can often get around that with hearings, especially if the boss doesn't show up, which, in madhouses like that, they often don't, which means your story wins, I know because I DID THAT.

Leaving is scary. But taking the steps to be able to leave doesn't mean you have to leave before you have something to go to. I know, with your workload you will laugh about being able to go on interviews while still working there, but that in itself is a sign you should get out. Pretend it's a doctor's appointment. Claim travel plans, like you did before.Try to set up interviews, if you get them, for the very beginning or end of the work day.

If this is hlepy, I apologize, but I really do think you need to get out of there. You sound like you're fantastic at your job, and that could translate even out of the widget industry, and other employers would appreciate your skills and not want to fire you. Other people would see that you're a star.

I'm wishing you courage in it.

#300 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2012, 01:36 PM:

radiosongs @296: I've never been without a roof or without a meal, but I've been poor.

How are your money management skills? Being clear about your money flow can be a huge help against that "OMG I'm going to get FIRED if I ..." anxiety.

If you already do something like the following, disregard. What I do is, every month or two, download my complete bank account statements and go through them carefully to examine my spending.

I set up three categories: Necessity, Convenience, Luxury, and assign each purchase to one of those categories. Then I tally up each category. The most significant number, obviously is "Necessity."

I then make sure I have at least $OneMonth'sNecessities in my checking account at the end of each month (after all the month's spending has happened). Anything extra, I chuck into a savings account.

Optimally, I'd like to keep at least $EightMonth'sNecessities in a psychologically untouchable account. More, obviously, is better.

But I find it to be extremely reassuring to see, on paper, where I am as compared to where I would be if I suddenly lost my job. This frees up a lot of attention for contemplations on how I could optimally change my work situation.

Let me know if this is at all helpful.

#301 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2012, 10:02 PM:

I should have written more than a one-liner about missing memories.

Recently I had a chance to talk with someone that I had known well a long time ago. Based on what I observed of this person's behavior way back when (before I understood about dysfunctional families and other abusers) plus the memory gaps this person recently mentioned to me (after I have learned so much from these threads here on Making Light), it is obvious there must be a pretty big reason for the missing memories. And I also concluded that this was nothing to poke at casually. So I did not ask anything about the possible causes that came to mind.

Now if a hole in one's memory is anything like the missing objects that we were talking about, I can understand how in its own way it can be an enticing scab of itchy come-off-ness. But sometimes wounds heal better if the scab stays on for a while longer. The wounded person, of course, is the one with the right to decide when the time has come.

IANAP, YMMV, offer void where hlepy.

#302 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2012, 09:34 PM:

protecting others' privacy @299: Thank you so very, very much - just hearing one other person say back the things you try to tell yourself is really helpful. It sounds like you've been there yourself, and I hope you aren't currently!

I especially needed the reminder that my girlfriend is a cushion against failure - that is to say, that needing her help is not failure in itself. I forget that too frequently.

jacque @300: None of this is anything I'm ready for quite yet - spending money poorly is one of my biggest emotional hot buttons - I almost never had panic attacks or anxiety in any form until that tape started kicking in good. So I'm not ready to tackle financial issues yet, since I don't strictly need to. But I will definitely be coming back to this down the line, so thank you :)

#303 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2012, 11:51 PM:

radiosongs: I have in fact been there, and walked out about three weeks before that bakery-cafe was shut down for nonpayment of sales taxes. I can tell rollicking stories about it, if i spin the horror into humor, but the fact is, my hands were cracked and bleeding and I was coming home and putting blender drinks in a sport bottle so I could get drunk in the shower.

I'm not working in that field any more, but I certainly did find better jobs after.

#304 ::: protecting others' privacy has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2012, 11:53 PM:

Would the gnomes care for some of the stir-fry I made tonight? Homemade garlic sauce.

#305 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2012, 08:09 AM:

protecting others' privacy @ #303: I was coming home and putting blender drinks in a sport bottle so I could get drunk in the shower.

That... is the kind of circumstantial detail that makes for a great novel. None of us wants to live there. Glad you got out.

#306 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2012, 11:54 PM:

ma larkey, thank you for checking in. I agree that asking for help can be as hard as anything else, and is in fact sometimes harder. But you are worthy of help. I am sending along the good mojo that the best resolution presents itself in short order.

radiosongs, it sounds like you're grossly underpaid and equally grossly overworked, and more mojo (should you want it) of the life-clarity variety is heading to you, so you can make the decision that will best maximize happiness and minimize stress. Also please note that deciding not to decide right now because you and girlfriend might want to discuss The Situation At Your Work and Potential Changes Thereto is a perfectly valid decision, rather than a non-decision. If my comment has turned hlepy, I apologize and retract the hlepy bits.

To all others, reading and witnessing and if I have an intelligible response to offer, I will. Offering strength and Internet hugs as needed/desired.

Onward. Some happy/some ranting ahead...

First, I just want to say that I've completed my first week on my new job and I REALLY REALLY LIKE IT. All the people have been very nice, training is turning my brain to mush but still enjoyable, and overall I think I could really get to like it here--and would have no problem staying until I reach retirement age, should the place manage to maintain a similar vibe for the period in question.

So yay on that. :)

The housing+cats situation... Okay, I know nobody ever promised me fair. I know I have it better than several billion people on the planet, and my problems are strictly of the first-world variety.

But I have given up ten cats in the last year, five of whom I'll never see again and three of whom were killed by the humane society. I did the best I could at the time, I know that, but I will carry a certain amount of guilt around re: Runyon, Patch and Blaze for the rest of my life.

I do not see why it should be necessary, under the workings of anything even remotely resembling a beneficent $DEITY (says the agnostic-verging-on-atheist) or a rational universe (yeah, I know), for me to have to give up the rest of my cats. I do not. It isn't fair, it isn't right, they are living breathing beings and they have value and deserve to live, and dammit, I deserve to have them because I LOVE THEM.

So I am frustrated.

Tom Whitmore @ 250, your suggestion was not at all hlepy, and in fact I had hopes that such a tactic might work. Today after work, however, Landlady asked whether I'd been working on the cat situation. And in the course of the conversation, I said, "What does your rental agreement say about number of pets? Could I offer to pay a month's rent as a deposit against damage?" or words to that effect.

And her response was, essentially, that it really doesn't matter what the agreement says because she and her husband simply don't want more than ONE cat in the bedroom I'm renting. It isn't even that they're noticing litterbox odor, she didn't mention noise, nothing. They just don't want more than one cat here.

In the original conversation, I said "cats", plural. I do not know how she managed to drop the plural from her memory of the conversation, but in the long run it doesn't matter, does it?

Now, I've been noodling about the issue in case the agreement question went against me, mostly in the direction of "Can I arrange with an individual/organization to foster the two most sociable cats and keep the less sociable ones with me?" Haven't made any calls, but that's the direction my mind has been heading.

And now I find out that it would have to be three cats fostered. With me kicking in for their care (which is only right), and under the understanding that (a) they'd have to be indoor-only and (b) I want the little fuzzballs back when I can better afford my own place.

Or, having barely begun a job, to try to rent a different but more pet-friendly bedroom, or second-house-on-a-lot, or apartment, on a particular bus route so I can make it to work because not living here will eliminate my carpool.

There has got to be an answer to this. Somewhere. Somehow. Damned if anything is coming to mind at the moment, but I refuse to lose Garbo, Minerva, Houdini and Poppet! Do you hear that, you? ***shakes fist at heedless universe and grins viciously***

dcb @ 295, thank you. Hugs from friends are always gratefully accepted. :)

#307 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2012, 10:33 AM:

radiosongs, if it's any consolation, this is a common problem with small and/or family-run companies as they grow. It's not unusual for an early employee to finally burn out and quit, and the company find they have to hire 2 or 3 people to replace them because it had become just too big a job. Best of luck finding something better.

Syd, argh. Yay for the job, boo for the cat situation. Hoping for a quick resolution for you. You are so, so due some non-turbulent time.

#308 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2012, 11:35 AM:

blue: Ouch on your sister-in-law. I hate to think what that's doing to her kids. (We already know what it's doing to your family...)

#309 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 08:46 AM:

I realized (again) this morning that one of the things I need to untangle and change is the sense I got as a child that I'm not actually a separate, whole person.

I have no idea where to start. Has anyone worked on this themselves? What helped and what hindered?

#310 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Pro, #309: Can you be a little more specific? Do you see yourself as a part of your parents, or of your extended family? Do you see yourself as some kind of automaton, or as property? Do you feel imprisoned, controlled, unable to take action on your own behalf? Or something else altogether?

#311 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 02:07 PM:

I grew up immersed in the cultural assumption that children weren't really people. This was vexing to me, as I was pretty sure I was people, but nobody around me seemed to notice this. I eventually got used to the dissonance and learned, more or less, to cope, but it has made me weird.

Coming at it from the other side, I wonder if a first step might be interacting with trusted people who are willing to affirm your existence as a real person. (I call these "Velveteen Rabbit" moments, after the old children's story, and I always tear up. I still, decades later, am surprised when people take my humanity seriously.)

#312 ::: Internet Random #1138 ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 02:14 PM:

Minor reality check required:

Is it just me, or is the phrase 'Did you do what I asked?' unlikely to lead anywhere pleasant?

(Ugh. I'm going to have to unpack that some, which will mean thinking.)

Vague scenario - I have come back from being out (work, shop, a walk, etc), and that's the standard question. I would tend to think that a more useful approach would be to be more specific ('Did you post that letter/Remember the milk?') but suggesting that seems to be ignored.

I have no real idea what's going on with that, other than it's now an ideal way of making me seethe.

#313 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 02:41 PM:

Lee @310
Those are useful questions. It's less feeling like an extension of anyone in particular or feeling like an automaton. It's more feeling kind of ghost-like, as though I don't have much substance. Sometimes I have a hard time getting ahold of myself as a self that is real.

AnotherQuietOne @311
Oh, the Velveteen Rabbit moments are so helpful, especially when I can notice in the moment that I need one. The last bit is the hard part.

#314 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 02:52 PM:

Internet Random #1138, the generic question rubs me the wrong way, too. I think it's the implication that the person asking has a natural right to be issuing commands to the person being asked, and the question is a way of reasserting control. The more specific questions (mail the letter, get milk) imply more equality.

#315 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 03:11 PM:

This may be a little askew from the thread, but while I don't think of some parts of my childhood as the "terrible bits" (those are orders of magnitude more troubling and veer off in different directions), it's still really disconcerting to casually do something for my daughter and then realize it's something that would never have happened when I was a kid.

The more I see how I react to situations and match it up with how my parents reacted, the more straitened my childhood looks in retrospect. Even the things that weren't dysfunctional but were just part of being a middle-class kid on the wrong side of the tracks.

(I keep thinking of my mom's reactions and thinking how miserable I would have been in those circumstances. Toxic little mind-loops of might-have-beens and how-could-I-have-knowns.)

#316 ::: wildly gestating ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 03:32 PM:

I'm pregnant and terrified.

My partner is supportive, and we've been talking for a while about having kids, but when it comes down to it, I'm realizing that I had absolutely no indication from my parents that raising children had any enjoyable aspects at all.

My main attitude right now is that it's a huge responsibility and I'm willing to take it on to the best of my ability... but I don't know if I can succeed, or if I'll end up defaulting to whatever parenting behavior was modelled at me which has resulted in very few good childhood memories about my parents, as opposed to playing alone or quietly reading.

All I want is for my kid(s) not to hate me, and if possible grow up happy and confident. And I have no idea how to go about accomplishing this.

#317 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 04:22 PM:

I've been avoiding catching up on here and posting on here, not sure why exactly, maybe the same reason why I've been avoiding doing other productive things.
A few days ago, one of my roommates said something along the lines of that she never knows what to say to most of what I say, since it has nothing to do with the conversation at hand, and that she was going to start responding to it with "Okay". I interpreted this as saying that half of what I say doesn't matter (because if it did, clearly she could come up with something to say in response) and that said response would make me horribly self-conscious and make me want to clam up whenever I heard it. But I didn't say any of this at the time, because I didn't know how to say it. (Irony of ironies, I know.)
Then, a few hours later, I was talking with another friend while she kept trying to enter the conversation with her own irrelevant remarks and finally said "Nobody cares!"
I interpreted this as saying that this conversation, too, didn't matter, and for once in my life, I got assertive. Aggressive, even, though all verbally. I told her how horrible that was, that I thought what I said mattered and that this conversation mattered, and that her remarks seemed like an attack at my talking, which I did not appreciate. Not so well-worded as this, perhaps.
She fought back, claiming that she never said that half of what I say doesn't matter (well, no, but there certainly seemed to be that implication...), that her earlier remarks were focused around her response rather than my speech (which, again, I didn't see as the case), that her remark that "Nobody cares" was referring to her speech rather than ours (though it works out similarly, as her "important" speech was being ignored for our "less-important" conversation), that she was one of my closest friends on this trip (arguable), and basically saying "How dare you say that I meant to insult you." (The phrase "How dare you" was indeed used.)
This, predictably, set off one of my crying fits, and later that night, I walked into the same room as her, still crying.
Then a couple days later, she confronted me about the issue again, saying the same things- that she hadn't meant it that way and I shouldn't have said what I did. She pointed out things that I hadn't considered at the time- that somebody else was in the room (well, yes, her remark was directed towards our conversation), and that my outburst was "after-the-fact" (when I hadn't thought of anything to say beforehand, and her later remark set it off).
I tried to explain myself, telling her that I had interpreted her remarks as veiled insults, passive-aggression like that which my mother employed, and that I (and she, though I didn't mention that part) was suffering from sleep deprivation and school-related stress, which boiled over. She was entirely unsympathetic, and insisted that I should've apologized already, while clearly not going to apologize herself. She left the room saying something about how hopefully I've learned what she doesn't want to hear or something, and I entered another crying fit.
Since then, I've lacked motivation to do much besides what's absolutely necessary and sitting around on the computer (though to a lesser extent than that one day-long breakdown), and have felt generally empty and depressed. Just writing this has brought me to tears again.
I keep wondering if I really am in the wrong... I've always seen my issues as affecting me primarily, and their social impact as generally isolating rather than offending, but now I wonder...
I'm going on a trip with this same roommate and one other person this week, for five days. Even if she doesn't bring up the issue again, the tension alone is going to be tough for me to bear. Even now, when I see her enter the room, I'm on edge.

#318 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 05:00 PM:

wildly gestating @ 316

Oh, my God. It is SO much fun. Kids are amazing. And you get to teach them things and show them the world. And they're cute. And they start testing theories and trying to explain the world and it's wild.

Nobody told me. I am telling you. Amazing.

And then there are diapers and discipline and stuff. Whatever. Falls under the 5% other as needed. Er, with the caveat that the first month is basically all 5% other and sleep deprived, except also adorable and love, but mostly sleep deprived. Newborns make amazing cult leaders.

On a more practical note, I don't know who you get your healthcare through, but our doctor's office gives us instructions on the stuff they think is really important. That does a pretty good job of covering "don't screw up" and then love and trying to do the right thing fill in the rest of the blanks pretty neatly. Seriously. (I know it sounds flippant, but having a kid actually taught me that I'm more competent than I was afraid. Paradoxical but true.)

But if you're worried about it, why don't you look for local parenting classes or talk to your pediatrician or ob/gyn about where to locate support? Just explain that you don't have a strong local family support network, and you'd like to make sure you're doing everything right. They hear it all the time. Heck, all our daughter's grandparents were in the area when she was born - we were living with my mom - and we still took a zillion classes while I was pregnant, just so we'd feel confident about our choices.

Super amazing.

#319 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Dash, roommate troubles are terrible, as are mismatches of communication. As you've presented things, it seems like she is objecting to you not immediately stopping whatever you're doing to pay attention to her. It's okay to want to be paid attention, and okay to raise this as a concern if one thinks one is consistently ignored, but not okay to do so by attacking what is actually being said. "I want you to listen to me more because what you say is boring," is not the same as, "I sometimes think you're ignoring what I say all the time. Could we talk about this?" At the very least, she is communicating poorly.

Wildly gestating, here are things I like about kids (I am a kid person who works with them and has none of her own): I like picking up a small child and the way they fall asleep on me. I like showing kiddos how the world works-- how to use the table of contents, what oak leaves look like, how to make both kinds of oobleck. I like Halloween. I like helping.

Your attitude right now sounds about like mine toward my work.

#320 ::: Diatryma, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Gnomed but thinking good thoughts about those here.

#321 ::: Internet Random #1138 ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 05:13 PM:

OtterB @314:

Aha! Another facet of control-freakery, perhaps. Thank you.

It's... I can't think about what's going on as a complete piece without sinking into despair that I've let it all happen. So I have to chip off bits and show them to other people. Like that.

#322 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Dash #317:

An outsider's perspective may be useful here: I don't think you are in the wrong at all, given the evidence. It sounds like the other party was being casually cruel and manipulative.

As to encounter #1, that was a really nasty thing for her to say, and you're entirely right to equate it with a put-down like "half of what you say doesn't matter."

As to encounter #2, jeeziz. What a piece of work. Telling another person who's in an unrelated conversation, "Nobody cares!", is a raging insult. Yeah, it's an attack at your talking. I'm 100% with you in diagnosing it as such.

May I congratulate you for calling her out on her BS? I have often been in a situation similar to yours, but I haven't always succeeded in doing what you did.

Everything after that--WOW, she's like a judo artist of passive aggression. I agree with your diagnosis yet again. Refuse to accept an insult from that kind of person, and they will wriggle and flex and jab till they can tell you you're a horrible brute for daring to object to their insulting you.

Eh, my sympathies. At least her behavior has sent up a big red flag warning you to be on your guard? (Cold comfort, I know. You're the one who has to live with her.) She might as well have put on a T-shirt reading DANGER! MANIPULATIVE GUILT ARTIST! It sucks that she pulled all this crap right before your trip. I hope the other person helps to dilute her.

What I can't get over is her unironic use of "How dare you." That phrase seems to be the province of abusers, aggressors, controlling people, and overinflated egotists. I've never heard it used by a decent person making a reasonable demand. It's always essentially, "How DARE you [defy My royal command, minion]?!"

#323 ::: KayTei is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Probably for emphasis.

I can emphatically offer some emphatically delicious cupcakes...

#324 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Pro @309, on non-personhood: The closest I can rhyme to that is the fact that I really, really hate to go to movies alone, because talking with someone else about what-just-happened is one of the only ways I can convince myself, after the fact, that it DID. It's kind of a trees-fall-in-the-forest problem: if I participated in something and no one was around to notice me doing it, did it really happen?

wildly gestating @316: I can say that I put off childrearing for longer than I otherwise might because I was terrified I might mess them up the way my parents did me. I will also say that, if you keep a positive attitude (and know intimately how to spot yourself becoming Too Stressed and ways to quickly respoon yourself), an awful lot of parenting can be both amusing and profoundly life-bettering, in the same way that a stint at a monastery can be.

My daughter has brought me to more realizations of the General Awesomeness Of The World in three years than I'd had in the previous decade.

The real trick is (a) making sure you have a good social support network, and (b) not being afraid to give YOURSELF timeouts if you're not in a mindset where you can practice safe parenting.

Because I also, very regularly, get the urge to slap my kid hard enough she will PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT I SAID. There are even parts of me that crave her pain and emotional anguish afterwards.

But when those parts of me start poking up towards the surface I take steps to prevent the urges and thoughts from being actualized. No matter how upset she gets from it, being put in a safe, calm place by herself for the half-hour it takes me to put my game face on, take deep breaths, and eat (or whatever), will be infinitely better for her than whatever would happen if I kept trying to parent that way.

I also carefully scrutinize general plans-of-parenting (like a change in bedtime routine, etc) to make sure I'm parenting more like Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan than like Darth Vader. Well, than like Darth Vader managed his underlings, anyway, since he was basically an absent dad. :->

I don't usually manage to fully pull off Cordelia-style-parenting (any more than I ever manage to be a walking, talking Sesame Street episode), but as long as I'm still trying, still being mindful, and still self-interrogating my OWN behavior, I figure I have half a chance of at least not mindlessly passing on my own damage and issues for another frozen generation.

#325 ::: Bricklayer got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 09:22 PM:

So that's a thing in this thread, apparently. I feel so belongy! :->

#326 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 09:59 PM:

Internet Random, #312: OtterB makes a good point. Even if it's not being done with malice aforethought, the fact that your suggestions that this bothers you are being brushed off is troublesome. (Are said suggestions being actively brushed off with things like "Oh, you're being too sensitive", or are they simply ignored as if your concerns are too trivial to notice? Either is bad, but they're different kinds of bad.)

If you want to push back, I can think of several types of response. In increasing order of confrontationality:

1) Enumerate everything you did while you were out, without any special emphasis on "what they asked".

2) "Of course." (Said in a tone of mild surprise.)

3) "Well, DUH!" (sarcastically)

That third one shouldn't be deployed until you're ready for an all-out battle about this issue, because that's what will happen.

#327 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 10:50 PM:

it's still really disconcerting to casually do something for my daughter and then realize it's something that would never have happened when I was a kid.

I've been thinking about how I used to watch my husband casually hugging, kissing, holding, carrying, or reading to his daughters, and realizing that I had almost no memories of my father doing those things with me. Here and there, yes, but not often at all. I can only remember holding his hand when I was at an age when I had to hold my hand above my head and grab one or two of his fingers. I don't think he ever hugged me until I was going away to college.

#328 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 11:15 PM:

Brickayer @ 325

You are belongy!

Like I am apparently emphatic today! Oh dear, I hope this isn't permanent... :D

#329 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 11:50 PM:

Thanks for the input. Admittedly my account is inherently biased because it is, well, my account, but it's good to hear that I'm not the only one that thinks this is BS. Especially about the phrase "How dare you"- I knew it seemed vaguely fishy, and I'm glad to have that suspicion confirmed.

#330 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 02:05 AM:

wildly gestating @316: First, there's no such thing as perfect parenting. Every parent ever has made mistakes. Don't be discouraged by this thread; some mistakes aren't all that bad.

I know I made a million mistakes raising my daughter, but she has grown into an amazing woman. She has a couple of sensitive spots, but as far as I can tell, she doesn't hate or resent me. I think we have a pretty good adult relationship.

The main piece of advice I would give you is this: From the very beginning, far earlier than you might think necessary, pay attention to your child's wants, opinions, and ideas. Be sure to let your child see you're taking them seriously. When a parental override is necessary, there will still be tears or anger for the moment, but in the long run he or she will feel respected.

The other thing is to think twice before you issue a command. (aka "pick your battles") Stick to the essentials and let the little stuff go. For example, at three, my daughter decided she wanted to pick her own outfit each day for preschool. I decided weather appropriateness mattered, but color coordination didn't. Some mornings her choices made my eyes bleed, but I never said a word. I think that contributed to her sense of pride and self-confidence, as well as giving her practice at making decisions.

#331 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 02:47 AM:

Apparently I have lots of feelings about things my parents did in the name of child-rearing that shouldn't be emulated. I'm going to list some, because I have a panicked ball of worry where my stomach ought to be, but please understand, I don't think you're like my mother. I don't think you're going to make the same mistakes she did. I know, rationally, that the things I'm about to list are things you wouldn't do whether I said anything or not, because they're things that make people stare in horror when I mention them, and you're not someone who would do horrifying things. But I need to say it anyway, to satisfy my own irrational panic about small children and grievous errors of parenting.

Do not respond to tantrums by dropping your two-year-old on a concrete floor and locking them outside in the rain.
(Corollary: Do not tell the story of this as a humorous anecdote, with generous helpings of smug pride that it was the only tantrum your child ever threw.)

Do not respond to the repetition of behaviour X after you have commanded that X should cease, by putting your child on the bottom step, telling them you do not love children who do X, and leaving them alone there. Especially do not make a habit of this. Even if their response to being spanked is defiance.

Do not ever throw a suitcase at your child's feet, tell them they'd better decide who they want to live with because you're not having liars under your roof, and leave the house.

These are my hangups. The need to tell you these things is my brokeness coming out. It's not that I think you'd do any of that. It's that I can't breathe easy until I have said please, please do better by your child than my mother did by me, because of my own fears that I would do exactly the same if I were a parent.

#332 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 03:45 AM:

@wildly gestating, no. 316:

Bits of advice, hopefully not hlepy:

1. Your kid is going to make you laugh at least as often as un drives you nuts. Sometimes you may have to restrain inappropriate laughter. This leads me to:

2. Children are a different sort of human from adults. They have brains the size of citrus fruit. Things that your superior reasoning ability can dismiss, may loom huge to a child, and you cannot answer their fears or reluctances with reason. Also, they do not have accumulated experience to tell them things, like "Not a good idea," or "Slow down," or "Stop NOW." There will be times and days when your child is deliberately jumping on your last nerve, and a tiny, tiny minority of those times and days may be deliberate attempts to jump on your last nerve, but the vast majority of them will be attempts to figure out where the edges of acceptability and possibility are. Most of the time, un won't even be thinking about you. This leads me to . . .

3. Run far far FAR AWAY from ANY advice, no matter what the source, that presupposes that a child (or a baby, Jesus wept) is always plotting to overthrow your authority and become a tiny tyrant and control what you do. Speaking of which . . .

4. Your life for the first six months, minimum, is going to revolve around that baby's needs. Even when you have assigned the baby's care to a caregiver you trust, you are going to be thinking about the baby all the time. This is instinct. This is not spoiling the baby and anybody who tells you the baby can be turned into Donald Trump by being given "too much" comfort is full of crap. Nevertheless, it's very, very important to establish a baseline of self-care that will allow you to function and hew to it. My personal baseline involves a shower, every day, without fail. If you won't be working an outside job, you may find a need to talk to an unrelated adult in meatspace about something non-baby-related for at least a few minutes a day. Or you may find that a hot meal or a cold drink is vital. Whatever it is, do like they do on airplanes: you first, then you can take care of your child.

Speaking of baseline of self-care, I have to talk to a jackass in the morning about letting me put some damn merchandise on the shelves no matter what his store's stupid computer system says about how little of it has moved per month (when we haven't had any in stock for two months), so I should go to bed.

#333 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 07:31 AM:

wildly gestating @316, seconding much of the advice from above. For me, the greatest fun of parenting has been watching them develop into their own people, and as GlendaP said, it began happening very young. You get to watch them discover things. You get to read to them. They learn to communicate with you. It has its tough stretches, but everything worth doing does.

A good parenting class would be be helpful. It's particularly helpful to get some understanding of what you can reasonably expect, developmentally, from a child at particular ages. As suggested, your pediatrician's office can probably help. In our area, the YMCA has classes.

#334 ::: wildly gestating ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 09:23 AM:

Thanks to all for the advice and reassurance :) My initial ob-gyn is in the process of handing me off to a specialist whom I won't see until later this month, so at the moment I'm a bit afloat.

I did get a list of parenting and pre-parenting groups I could consult with, but I'm in an odd mental space of feeling like a Schroedinger's catbox until genetic testing gives the all-clear. So I don't think I'm ready to join them until after amnio results?

Froth @331: oh dear. Virtual time-displaced hugs to little!Froth. I already have an informal list of "things that my parents did to me which I absolutely do not want to find myself doing to anyone else"--

When your child is crying, do not hit the child while telling it to stop crying.

Do not limit your physical contact with your child to corporeal punishment.

And... hell, my partner already helpfully loaded the latest edition of Dr. Spock into my Kindle, but I had to stop reading only a few pages into the intro when it gave the advice to not worry too much, because almost anything that a good and loving parent does for a child will turn out okay in the end-- I don't feel as if I have any intuitive, internalized model of what a good and loving parent is like, and this would be a godawful context to find oneself DOIN IT RONG.

#335 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 09:33 AM:

So many issues to respond to, please pardon if I cannot do focused replies, and instead implode into confessions. Talk about parenting. I wish you well, you who carry children, who raise them, who protect them.

Yes, I have my moments wishing I could be a parent, or playing the would have could have game. I sometimes find myself wishing I had a different past, wishing my body wasn't what it is, which is: a body which is probably not going to be able to bear a child, or able to raise one. (If I were asked to give advice? All I can say to people who want to be good parents: don't be afraid to ask for help, and take as good care of them as you would yourselves.) Actually, am not in a position to give advice so I won't.

I find myself responding to people when they talk about their children, I want to put in my own opinions, but that would mean disclosing that I don't have children, I just became a sort of surrogate parent for my sister's children so sometimes I feel as if I've been orphaned twice. Once as a child giving up the dream of being a parent.
Wait, that's not quite true, I did play with dolls and pretended to be a mother to them for a long time, playing with rag dolls till I was thirteen? Fourteen?

Again I felt orphaned as an adult realizing my limitations and how I was (and still a little) enmeshed in my sib's life taking care of her children to the extent a real parent would. Orphaned because I had to let this set of fictional parents die, that mental construction that sort of stood in for the reality of my parents, composed of their smooth public personas and the cultural myth that educated, intelligent people make good parents always. I have to own that my growing up with my own parents busily NOT parenting in a good way was a kind of abandoment too, because safety wasn't really safety and the relationships were fraught with weight that no child should be asked to carry.

I was raped as a child. Was i ever a child? i don't know how to answer that. In second grade I was asked by my classmate how it was that I seemed like an old woman in a little girl's body.

I have such tenderness for children now, and also, terror on their behalf that is paralysing and funny at the same time. I spent years taking care of children, as a young child myself, looking after my younger sibs, and later, older, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, reading books, for my sib's children.

I am alternately grateful I don't have to carry a child and grieving that I don't have that choice. That choice was taken away from me at an early age, or so I assume, I haven't actually gone out and taken a "can bear kids" test.

The other day, I saw The Perks of Being A Wallflower. It was the second time I had attempted to see it.

That first time, I had to run out of theater at a crucial moment just before the ending. I told myself I just had to run out to the bathroom because I needed to pee, but I also knew that I was running out of there to avoid confronting my own issues. That was two weeks ago. So yesterday I told myself, go see the movie and finish it. I saw the movie alone. No one I could think of to ask to see it with me, without my feeling that I would have to suppress the need to talk my issues through with that person, if that person was a friend, and then the need to just hide and gloss over things if that person wasn't a real friend. The moments in the movie where I cried? Or just blinked past a moment of watery vision was when the story showed me how a moment of real love and trust looked like, how a parent could/should be, or how a lover could/should be.

Another thing just read recently that makes me think of stories and the way they allow you to handle, endure, live life? LIfe of Pi. All the spiritual theory about God in the book, I had to put aside, but what helped me was the way the character made a decision to tell a story, share a piece of life. It's provocative, it makes me ask, which story of mine should be told or can be told, or is preferable? the one with all the pretend stuff and the imagination, or the one with the ugly brutality? Or is there a middle ground?

I'd like to think there is one, sometimes.
Line from the movie: "We accept the love we think we deserve."

#336 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 09:49 AM:

wildly gestating @334: If you are of a geeky or likes-reading-the-fine-material bent, three quite geeky books I can recommend as having been amazing game-changers for me in terms of giving me lots of tools and knowledge I found useful, are:

-- Becoming Attached, by Robert Karen, et al. This is not an 'attachment parenting' book, because the 'attachment parenting' movement is a third- or fourth-order translation of the original data and discoveries surveyed by Karen. I intuitively found some of the practices of the 'attachment parenting' movement creepy and repugnant, and Karen's book has shown me that they are in fact not evidence-based practices. I like evidence-based parenting! Fairly dense in the writing; might be a turn-off to people who don't already read weighty academic nonfiction.

-- Mother Nature, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. An evolutionary biologist talks about the evolutionary (and cultural, for humans) history of the parent/child relationship, where the child always wants ALL THE THINGS and the mother sometimes has to defend her self-care, her resources, or her other children. Gave me permission to feel what I was feeling (instead of feeling that my feelings were wrong, if you follow me). It also told me that the numinous, "I fell in love harder than I ever have, and flights of angels sang when I first saw my baby" experience that Facebook and everywhere was telling me Was Normal, is in fact only somewhat prevalent (I think her numbers were that something in the neighborhood of 40% of gestators don't feel it in the first six months of their child's life - I Am The 40%, as they write on Tumblr). Written for a general audience, fairly approachable.

-- The Scientist In The Crib, by Alison Gopnik et al. Written by three developmental-psych researchers who are also parents, it's an incredibly fun read full of illustrative stories AND real data. They do spend a lot of time saying "We don't know for sure when ____", but even that is reassuring to me (in the face of mainstream 'parenting' books that insist they DO in fact know the GOD'S HONEST TRUTH about ____ -- but don't). Wonderful for calibrating my "Wait, can she actually handle what I am explaining to her right now?" dials.

Because of these three books, my daughter is ALREADY about eighty times saner than I was at her age, which can only be a good thing. I kind of feel like even if I screw up some of the later stuff, I've given her a good foundation.

#337 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 03:12 PM:

Syd @306: Hooray hooray for you on the new job going well :) and sending lots of good karma and hopeful thoughts your way re: the kitties. It's not fair, and it's not right, and I'm so sorry.

wildly gestating @316: I haven't got much to add to the piles of advice you're getting, but I just want to say that even asking at all is such a huge step. I know for my parents - and I'm sure for the parents of many others here - there was definitely this attitude of well no one can tell me how to raise my kid, I know best, even when all the facts were screaming NO YOU REALLY REALLY DON'T. So for you to be able to say these are the things I don't know about or am not sure about - that puts you in a pretty good place to start from in my book. :)

Also it's probably been said already, but - don't be afraid to apologize to your kid. It goes a long, long way in easing the fallout from (inevitable) mistakes.

Also, you know, congratulations!

ma larkey@335: Still sending you all kinds of affection and hope. There is a middle ground for your story, where the brutality and the beautiful places coexist and illuminate each other. You write with a wonderful slantwise clarity - the kind people get when they've been pushed down for so long that they have to learn to see things from strange angles. I have faith that someday you will be able to tell your story in the way that you want. I hope you are able to see, at least sometimes, how much love you really and honestly deserve.

#338 ::: radiosongs, gnomed! ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 03:13 PM:

Ay yi yi!

#339 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 04:16 PM:

wildly gestating @334: I already have an informal list of "things that my parents did to me which I absolutely do not want to find myself doing to anyone else"

Strong suggestion: on your list of things you don't want to find yourself doing, write notes about what you do want to do instead—and practice these responses.

The Universe's bent sense of humor being what it is, the first time your kid hits you with the same frustration your parents felt, the first words out of your mouth will likely be channeling their shades. Unless you line up desired, incompatible responses instead ahead of time.

"And then I opened my mouth, and heard my mother's voice coming out" is much less metaphorical than we would prefer.

#340 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 04:17 PM:

Jeez. Are you people giving the gnomes proper vacation leave? They seem awfully lonely these days.

#341 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 04:26 PM:

wildlygestating @316: I, too, put off reproducing for a long time because I was afraid that I wouldn't know how to be a good parent. (And then it took a long time to happen, and was complicated). But my daughter is now 19 months old, and there have been tough times but there are also amazingly fun times. Even the little moments, like when I hold her up to the mirror so she can see the bows in her hair (a HUGE grin and a shy little hand reaching up to pat the bows...and half the time to pull them out). Or when she pulls on my arm to get me to stand up and she says "jump!", because she is having SO MUCH FUN jumping that obviously I would love jumping too.

Anyway, patience (with yourself!) will take you a long way in the early days. I've also learned a lot through reading past articles and comments at AskMoxie, a blog about parenting where, like here, much of the goodness is in the comments.

#342 ::: oliviacw offers lemon curd to the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 04:27 PM:

Possibly for a linky thing in my message?

#343 ::: Allan Beaty ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 07:38 PM:

From my limited parenting experience—six months as co-parent of a 6-year-old—I can second the advice about picking your battles. The good part is, with your superior brainpower, you can often see the battle approaching before your kid does and have time to decide what to do about it.

#344 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 08:44 PM:

radiosongs, #337: Also it's probably been said already, but - don't be afraid to apologize to your kid. It goes a long, long way in easing the fallout from (inevitable) mistakes.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this. One of the things I never remember getting from my parents was a sincere apology -- occasionally a sarcastic one of the "Okay, I'm sorry, are you happy now?" type, but never one that felt as though they were genuinely acknowledging having been wrong. But then, apologies are a sign of respect, and I think my parents were solidly on the "respect only flows one way in the parent-child relationship" side of that argument. I can tell you from direct experience that respect is a two-way street, and that the only real* way to get it is to give it.

Also, picking the battles. Do not turn every little thing into a power struggle! Again from personal experience -- when you live with a steamroller, one of two things happens: either you become another steamroller (with attendant difficulties outside the parent-child relationship) or you become very flat (and end up looking for help to put yourself back together years down the road).

* Some people will argue that making everyone around you too terrified to disagree with you is the same thing as respect. They're wrong.

#345 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 01:17 AM:

Let me add to the chorus here, and add a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I explicitly tell my kids I love them on a regular basis. I would hope that my actions toward them demonstrate my love, but saying it reminds me of it as well. Reminding myself of that, and by extension of the affection I have for them, has got me through many dark winter days.

Secondly, I give myself a break when I've messed up with my kids by reminding myself that it's valuable to model genuine apologies and efforts to reform for them. They learn from everything I do, including what I do when I make mistakes.

(I do have a lot of fun being a parent. Kids are a gateway out of my own world and into another, much funnier one. My son and I had a difficult week last week because he'd pulled a muscle in his midriff and it hurt to laugh. It was a lot of work to change our pattern of interaction to avoid the usual mutual fits of giggling.)

#346 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 01:58 AM:

Am waiting around to see just how disowned I actually am.

Couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from my mom's lawyer, informing me that my power of attorney for health care has been withdrawn. I am no longer the person to ask if anybody in the household needs health decisions made. Who has it now? That would be none of my business.

My birthday is this week. If there is no card, I am well and truly disowned.

Damned if I'll call and ask. Frankly, it'd be a relief to be, at last, cut loose from all my blood kin. I feel bad about my brother, who was brain damaged at birth (barbaric obstetric practices of the 50s) and has various neurological and psychological challenges. Once Mom's dead, I'll have to find out what arrangements she's made for him, and see if she left me any room to improve them.

This is all because, two years ago, I was too tired to keep my mouth shut, and called my mother on saying something racist. She has never forgiven me, and has, no doubt, had many many arguments with an imaginary daughter (not with me in person: I might win, and we can't have that). Over the years, she has won all these arguments handily, and established to her satisfaction that I am A Bad Daughter (indeed, The Spawn Of The Devil).

And you know what? I'm fine with that. It's annoying, but the fact is, she's been having a relationship with somebody imaginary for decades. Any time I've said or done anything that conflicts with the paragon she's made up, she's treated it as a betrayal.

I'm done. This is who I am, and I'm assured by my friends that I'm a pretty decent use of protoplasm. Pity the fool who can't see that, and let her go.

#347 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 02:00 AM:

They're hungry lately, I notice. I just put up several quarts of applesauce: perhaps they would like some? It's made the house smell wonderful.

#348 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 05:13 PM:

Haven't caught up all the way yet, but wanted to respond to Bricklayer #256:

I hear, understand, and sympathize with the experience of having brain miswiring issues interpreted during childhood as glaring character flaws, and taking decades to repair the damage.

It's been a fair amount of time, but I mentioned a couple threads back that I'd gotten an ADD diagnosis. Which, in retrospect, explained certain incidents in my childhood. Chief among these centered on a sweater my mother had crocheted for me when I was 6: the yarn was so soft, and variegated royal blue to white, with shades of blue in between, and the sweater was in a tiny snowflake pattern.

I loved that sweater with an unreasoning love. It was beautiful, it was made with my mother's own hands, it was in my favorite colors, and it was proof that my mother loved me. I took it everywhere. And, being ADD-inattentive, had a bad habit of forgetting it everywhere, usually places where my parents could remind me to retrieve it.

It was starting to get too small for me one spring morning, when we had PE outside, and it was just a little too warm to wear it. So I set it aside with the other sweaters and jackets, and solemnly promised I'd remember to take it back in. Of course, I didn't. When I got back outside after school, it was gone--not in the lost and found, not in any of the trash cans around, just gone. I cried myself out looking for it, and was just dull and despairing when I got home and told my mother, and I don't remember her really reacting to it. Except she never made me anything like that again, and I knew it was my fault because I was so careless.

And so frequently, I'd get reprimanded for losing things, or putting them in strange places. "Why is the shampoo in the fridge?"

Fast forward 15 years, I'm 21 and attending my grandfather's funeral. One evening, talking to my mother, I happened to mention the sweater, and how much I had loved it, and how bad I had felt when I lost it. She got this funny look on her face and said that she'd been sure I hated it, because I was always trying to leave it somewhere.

I said no, that I'd always loved it, and if I'd hated it I would have shoved it in the closet until I outgrew it; then I got up and left on a pretext so that I didn't explode all over her. It made me almost incoherent with rage that the person I thought I'd been able to trust, who seemed to understand me, thought I was so cruel and Machiavellian at 6(!) as to "lose" something deliberately.

That was half of the straw that caused me to cut off contact with my parents; the other half was my father calling me a whore (at the same funeral) because I had the gall to accept a comforting hug from my husband (who was only common-law at the time, therefore not a "real" husband, apparently).

(As a note to all, I have the dermatillomania, too; in my case it's focused on blemishes and hangnails and dry cuticles. I've taken to carrying a small cuticle trimmer around, and making sure my hands stay well-moisturized; if I don't have the hangnails, I don't pick them.)

I'll post a "real" update when I finish catching up...

#349 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 09:33 PM:

It made me almost incoherent with rage that the person I thought I'd been able to trust, who seemed to understand me, thought I was so cruel and Machiavellian at 6(!) as to "lose" something deliberately.

Okay, you were there and heard her tone, so I am going to assume your mother did mean that you would have been cruel to do so, and that is indeed something to be incoherent with rage about. But it seems to me that a lot of six-year-olds WOULD try to lose something deliberately if they didn't like it. That would actually be pretty normal behavior and not intentionally cruel, nor Machiavellian, at all. So even if you had done that thing, it wouldn't be something that a reasonable mother would be so down on you for.

#350 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 10:38 PM:

Lee @344: Oh, I'd never even considered mutual respect as a value of a healthy parent-child relationship. And this is helping me put some things together about what I value in relationships, and who scares me and who seems accessible for a relationship, and why. I should come back to this later, but for right now, thank you.

SpawnOfTheDevil @346: You do indeed sound like a fantastic use of protoplasm - congrats on being able to see your mother for what she is, and resisting that, and being comfortable doing that. Also your name makes me giggle :)

Win @349: Jennifer, feel free to correct me if I'm misinterpreting, but I'd read this more as assumed I was so cruel and Machiavellian. The deliberate losing is certainly a thing that children actually do, and it's even a reasonable assumption for a parent to make after one or two incidents. But if that happens over and over, and the parent just keeps assuming that it's because the kid is doing it purposefully, rather than inquiring otherwise at any point or telling the kid that she doesn't have to wear the sweater, or making any efforts to actually resolve the issue - that definitely feels squicky to me. It also sounds like Jennifer's mother has a historical pattern of treating her brain quirks as character flaws or intentional decisions, which certainly wouldn't help the matter.

And it does sound like it was a very nice sweater.

#351 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 01:40 PM:

wildly gestating: Don't worry about freaking out. That is a perfectly normal response to realizing that you're going to have a kid. I agree that rehearsing positive responses is a good idea; wear those good grooves early and they'll be your default.

P.S. Congratulations! It's a wild ride but fun.

#352 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 01:56 PM:

Whelp, there goes the last sane person of the prior generation in my family. Or rather, he's apparently been this way the whole time, but I only just found out.

Back, many moons ago, when I was young, my parents and most of their siblings were moderate-to-progressive. This has gradually changed over the years, until the most conservative pair (who had pretty much stayed the same) were now the most progressive of the lot. And as is the way of such things, they're all pretty aggressive about it, making family reunions misery any time you get stuck with a preponderance of the older folk.

I had thought my mother's brother the exception to the rule. He's a quiet, non-argumentative, very pleasant guy. Seriously Christian, but at least not prone to raving about how people starving on the street is a perfectly acceptable outcome of "fairer" tax policy.

Except I just found several articles written by him on-line expounding on such things as how freely available contraception and divorce lead to the "perversion" of same-sex marriage (and not objecting when one of his commenters leapt from there to "they want it legal to mass rape all the kids!"), and how Obama is planning to put all the Christians in concentration camps.

What scares me most about the whole thing is - it's that whole generation. They all transmuted from reasonable people to hyper-conservative conspiracy mongerers somewhere in their 60's-70's. Why? How? Is it likely to happen to me and my sibs, and how can we prevent it? It's freaking me out a little, honestly.

#353 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 05:14 PM:

Cynthia W @ 352 asks, "Is it likely to happen to me and my sibs, and how can we prevent it?"

Magic 8-ball™ says, "Reply hazy. Try again."

I'd say your final paragraph presents signs of distorted "all or nothing" thinking, which raises the possibility of you maybe following the same well-trodden path your elders have followed.

I'd also point out that the major generational cohorts do have distinctive and identifiable characteristics that their members more commonly share with one another than they share with other generational cohorts. These generational cohorts come in waves and cycles, and that particular generational cohort corresponds to a wave with very different characteristics that your own. Your generational cohort will have its own identifiable weirdnesses.

You can't prevent your sibs from changing their minds. You can probably change your own mind, but don't beat yourself up too much if that proves too difficult. Wouldn't it be nice if changing our own minds was as easy as installing an operating system update?

#354 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 06:01 PM:

I'm still reading, just haven't had much to say.

Even though the topic has moved on, I'd like to add my bit to the "how not to parent" subthread. If your child reacts badly to being picked up by the ankles and held upside-down, stop doing it. Do not wait for your child to yell for the other parent to come and tell you to stop. Just put them down and don't do it again. Variant: if you have two kids, and the first one likes being swung around and tossed in the air, don't take it for granted that the second will also enjoy that.

I don't think you'd actually do those things, wildy gestating, but I felt like chiming in anyway.

In other news, my name should now link to my blog. I'm not sure how much I'll be posting there, but I've put up a couple introductory entries already.

#355 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 06:02 PM:

myself @354 Whoops, should work now.

#356 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 08:11 PM:

Spawn of the Devil at 346, your, "It's annoying, but the fact is, she's been having a relationship with somebody imaginary for decades." is a really useful insight. I can always use a reminder to pay attention to when I am having an argument with an imaginary person. Congratulations on it!

#357 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 08:29 PM:

Cynthia, #352: Two words: Fox News.

More generally, the capture of the mass media by conservative corporations, who are now using them as giant propaganda machines. Fox is America's Pravda, but none of the others are much better. Your parents' generation grew up trusting the mass media; that was where we got the truth about Vietnam and Watergate, among other things. They don't realize that this information channel has been subverted, so they are perfectly willing to believe the right-wing lies now coming from the same source.

#358 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 09:13 PM:

Little things edging around the back of my head, picking at the wounds on my brain:

Political discussions at the family dinner table when I was in high school, and not knowing how to properly articulate my opposition to the war or my concerns about US imperialism or what have you, and being berated and mocked by my father until I left the table crying. My mother and brother telling me not to be so sensitive or (I swear, once - can I really be remembering right?) them laughing as I fled.

My mother telling me that because of how I acted once I'd [hit puberty/become depressed/started separating from her], I'd turned into a different person, a person who "had ruined everything".

The time she told me she'd rather I'd been born mentally retarded than queer, because then it wouldn't have been a choice on my part.

The email I sent her last month, at the messy end of things, where I listed hurtful things she'd said to me about my queerness, including the aforementioned, and the only thing she apologized for was the "sarcastic, childish" tone she'd used.

Beginning to realize that my job was awful and soul-killing, and talking to my parents about how I wanted to bargain for a better pay rate, and how, as the main workhorse of one side of the business, I was in a pretty good position to bargain. And their continued, insistent responses that I better not push too hard, that I better be careful, and the half-spoken reasons why: because I'd lose the job, because I couldn't be worth THAT much, because I needed to learn to be quiet and accept what I was given and be grateful for it. Because who was I to ask for more?

The big spaces and gaps in my memory, my mind a pebble making giant skips across the surface. Nothing so bad ever happened to me. I know that. Not repressed-memory bad. But I still can't seem to pin down anything about my childhood. If I hadn't had a written record of middle school, big swathes of that would've just fallen out of my brain, too.

The journals. My journals. Going back to when I was ten. I didn't take them. I didn't realize I'd never be back. I should've thought ahead somehow, been more careful, put up with things a bit longer and saved it all. I still have a key to their house and I've recently been dreaming of sneaking in while they're out one day and taking them all. I know I have no right to, that if I do want them I have to be a damn grown-up and ask for them, regardless of whether that means throwing myself back into the heart of it. I am not ready and I'll never be ready and I don't know what to do.

#359 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 09:41 PM:

radiosongs: heard and witnessed.

My family was pretty functional, in the sense that we all turned out to be pretty capable, functioning adults able to relate to each other and to folks outside the family. But my mother once told me that when I was born she prayed I'd be stupid, because then I'd be easier to take care of (she was 44 when I was born).

Summa cum laude. Take that, mom.

By the way: if you have a key to the house, you have a right to enter it. If there are objects inside the house that belong to you, you have a right to take them. Just an outsider's opinion here.

#360 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 08:10 AM:

Going to look at another 2 places today -- this morning is the awesome one that got mysteriously pulled from the market last week and then went back on this week. Oh, I hope they like us and that we beat everyone to it! But we have to see it first, check how many rooms and the layout and what it's actually like. Old houses are unpredictable...

BTW the first one we liked, we did not get -- didn't jump fast enough and I think the property manager didn't like us. Hoping that goes much better today...

#361 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 11:08 AM:

radiosongs, I think it would be perfectly reasonable to take your journals.

Moonlit Night @360, good luck.

#362 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 12:03 PM:

radiosongs @358: The journals. My journals. Going back to when I was ten. I didn't take them. I didn't realize I'd never be back. I should've thought ahead somehow, been more careful, put up with things a bit longer and saved it all. I still have a key to their house and I've recently been dreaming of sneaking in while they're out one day and taking them all. I know I have no right to,

I'm not sure that I agree with that last. As mentioned above, you have a key. You could ask for them, but in your place I'd be afraid of some non-reversible retaliation.

Also: have you been specifically forbidden from entering the house uninvited?

Here's what I would do: choose a time when you know they're out. Call ahead, leave voicemail. "Hi, I'm coming over in a few minutes to pick up something I forgot to take with me." Go over. Take a friend. If your parents show up while you're there, collecting your journals, it's your friend's job to interact with the parents. (Because your friend will more likely be able to respond in a grounded, dispassionate way. Also, because even the most abusive parents are generally conditioned to be polite to non-family members.) You just focus on getting what you need. Then get the frak out of there and never look back.

#363 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 01:37 PM:

radiosongs, #358: Seconding (thirding, fourthing) about your right to have your own possessions. If it's easier for you to go in and get them while your parents are gone, then do that. It's not as if they've treated you with enough consideration that you owe them any in return. The plan Jacque has laid out is a good one. (I also suspect she is right that telling your parents you want anything is not a good idea. Journals on paper are too easy to destroy.)

#364 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 01:43 PM:

Lila @359: Take that, indeed! :)

& OtterB, Jacque, Lee re: journals: I do have a key, and I'm not explicitly barred, but knowing them, I am positive that I am not welcome in their home until I have groveled enough for them. I also can't help thinking of how violated I would feel to come home and discover that someone had entered my home and taken anything from it - regardless of whether it was mine or theirs - without previously getting my explicit consent.

There's also the fact that there are literally no occasions I can think of when they'd both be out of the house, except for major holidays with family, so I'd have to recruit a member of my extended family into letting me know when they'd be out. Then (because I am a horrible loser with literally two friends max) I would need to recruit my girlfriend into driving me over there to pick things up, which, I'm sure she'd be fine with doing that, but it also puts her possibly in the line of fire from my parents, and HOLY BALLS do I not want them ever speaking to each other again!

#365 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 01:54 PM:

Bit and pieces, because, you know,... part of my "problem" has been perfectionist thinking, as in "I will do THIS year's Dysfunctional Family Day PERFECTLY, and give everyone who writes with their need a beautifully considered answer."

Well, yes. Perfectionist, "all-or-nothing" thinking. Gah. Come so far, so far yet to go...

In the continuing series of "I didn't have it THAT bad, but...." - there is:

my mother and brother (2 years younger) having a blazing argument over how he's spending his money - Mother suspects it's spent on drugs, and he's saying nothing to correct that notion; he's asserted ownership over a number of return-deposit soft drinks bottles by tossing them out of (his bedroom) 2nd floor bedroom, into the snow. Argument carries on into the dining room, before brother storms out to collect the bottles. After I observe how this kind of thing makes studying difficult (junior year in high school), Mother tells me, "You're being too sensitive."

Yeah, right.

One of the minor victories in the family battle: my father remarried some years ago, and I'm visiting for the "family-style" dinner - his wife (a nice lady, but I keep my reserve because she deserves to not have her adult relationship riven, unless she herself declares herself a player in these games), Father, my brother... who holds forth at excruciating length on the alleged virtues of R*sh L*mb**gh. I made a good self-care call at that point - rather than attempt to "debate" (aka "get in a shouting match with") my brother, I simply turned my back to him. I sat in my chair, but my back was square against where he was, as I sat 90 degrees away from the "normal" seated position. While he held the floor with his over-driven verbosity (poor kid, it's not unlikely he's also an undiagnosed ADHD or some related problem), I simply refused to play my part at the happy-family dinner table. Eventually, I noticed my father's wife making the attempt to derail my brother, with the hostess-ly gambits like "How about another helping of...?" When my brother stopped, finally, I returned sitting normally.

Curiously, all without a single word being spoken about my extraordinary posture at the dinner table.

More, more... there's always more. Some of it is in a file I've opened up for the purpose. But I still fear the fire-hose that is the uncapping of it. Even after all these years.

I'm happy, though. Really. Safe from the previous problems, except for their echoes in my life.

Keep sharing your stories; you have my thanks, and grateful witnessing.

Crazy(and sometimes, that seems the only sane response)Soph

#366 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 02:35 PM:

radiosongs #350: "Assumed" is a better word for it, thank you! And thank you and Win #349 for the feedback that an ordinary six-year-old kid might have done something like that. In fact, you said what I was trying to say better. :) It wasn't that my mother was hurt that I'd lost it--I understand that; it was a large part of why I was so devastated by its loss. But she never asked.

I'm coming to see how huge a pattern that's been in my life. I didn't feel empowered to ask for anything I wanted (or needed), whether it was pausing for a bathroom break on a cross-state trip or continuing to play in band after a move. And yet, even after years of denial, my parents expected me to speak up and ask. (insert head-splodeyness here) Apparently it wasn't their responsibility to ask me, I had to be the supplicant.

It's a pattern I'm finding very hard to break. Giving other people their wants, that I'm great at, but feeding my wants and needs, that's hard.

#367 ::: Jennifer Baughman is Visiting the Gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Chocolate cheesecake with caramel-rum sauce, anyone?

#368 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 05:04 PM:

abi @345: It was a lot of work to change our pattern of interaction to avoid the usual mutual fits of giggling.

examines sentence Fits of giggling with a parent? Wow. With my direct experience, I didn't know this was possible, let alone know that "fun" could be usual.

#369 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 06:09 PM:

Pendrift @ #368, I can confirm that this is possible, both from my family of origin and from my family of descent. (Indeed, we had to make one of our household rules "no comedy routines at the table" because my kids are, well, awesome, but we did prefer not to have people choking on dinner due to superbly-timed punchlines.)

#370 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 11:04 PM:

"I didn't know this was possible, let alone know that "fun" could be usual."

I think this sums up the whole point of these threads rather neatly. It's to get these things out in the open so that sunlight can destroy them and 'fun as usual' can become truth.

#371 ::: chbs ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 12:39 AM:

Four years ago, my sister killed herself.

We didn't see it coming. She had a good job, supportive coworkers, and several communities of friends for support in her private life. In hindsight though, we began to see some patterns and clues. She was always a little different, socially a little awkward. Probably well onto the autism spectrum, and presented like aspergers. She was known to roam the halls at work muttering to herself to think harder, or bad [name], while working out the solution to whatever problem was in front of her.

I think it started 15 years ago in grad school. She was in a respected PhD program, with a Nobel Laureate for an advisor. Sometime in August, she mentioned that she'd had three days off that year, and that included weekends and holidays. The days weren't short either. She was losing her mind with the workload. Two of the students in her group committed suicide while she was there. At one point, she went to the student health center and was told " You're not insane, you're depressed". She decided to leave the program. We should have pushed a bit for more followup on this, but it was dropped after grad school. From reports in the news, it's not uncommon for students with mental health issues to fall through the cracks when they leave school.

She left her grad program with a Masters, performed a career pivot, and wound up doing patent law. Fast forward 10 years, she's a member of the bar, successful in her job and up for partner. She didn't get it, but got a different sort of promotion, but I wound up getting a call from her assistant asking if I knew where she was, because she wasn't responding to her cell and the assistant was worried about her. I was on the other coast, I didn't know, and I didn't realize how worried her assistant was.

So, for another year, she's back at work. Her clients love her work. And then, she makes a small mistake in a submission on Friday. By Saturday, her mind spun out of control about how it's the end of her job. Saturday night she wrote a note in her journal, got out a vial of Potassium Cyanide she had liberated from the lab in grad school, and killed herself. Monday morning, she's not at work, and my parents get a call from the police.

Apparently one of the risk factors for suicide is knowing someone who has successfully done it. I'd add untreated depression. We didn't quite get the warnings from people who saw her all the time. Aspergers tends to elevate risk for anxiety and depression. And somehow, she carried around a vial of death for 12 years, from apartment to condo, and finally found a need to use it.

We missed it. All of it.

I don't want to miss it again and get a call like my parents got. I see some of the same personality quirks in my son. He has a recent autism diagnosis, and it looks very much like aspergers to those around him. The similarity scares me. My hope is that history doesn't repeat itself, exactly anyway. It repeats themes. And instead of not quite seeing it or treating it, we're trying to do something about it in the next generation.

I hope.

#372 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 03:26 AM:

I'm realizing that I need to learn how to hold myself accountable. I've always had other people to rely on for that. But without school or other commitments, there's no hard and fast consequences for sleeping until noon every day, for example. There are plenty of reasons not to, but missing my morning medication somehow doesn't hit the same "Don't let this happen!!!" button as missing an appointment does.

I'd appreciate any advice, and I'll try my best to actually reply. If I can manage to hold myself to that, it'd be a start, at least.

#373 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 08:03 AM:

chbs @ #371, I am so sorry for your loss.

#374 ::: Superficial Tea ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 09:54 AM:

KayTei @ #60, " when I hit my deepest depressions, I tend to bury myself in shallow pursuits, because it's a stabilizing technique. I read lots of books, I play endless casual video games, I watch dumb TV shows - anything that doesn't require me to be really engaged or capable of thinking, but which distracts me from thinking really toxic things. "

That's... How I spend almost all of my time when I'm not at work. When you put it like that it makes me wonder what I'm avoiding.

#375 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 10:17 AM:

Superficial Tea @ #374

Sometimes that's what I do too when I'm not at work. In my case it's not a coping mechanism for depression, it's more that sometimes my work is extremely draining and "spoon consuming" so that I have no energy left at the end of it for deep engagement and need to recharge through low impact mental activity like watching fairly dumb tv show or casual video games, or browsing random clips on youtube and tumblr etc. If this were a constant thing I'd be seriously considering changing jobs but it's a now and then thing and I enjoy my job enough for it to be worth it overall for me.

Just speaking for myself obviously here, just wanted to point out that there can be many different underlying causes that lead to a similar pattern of behaviour

#376 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 10:31 AM:

chbs @371:

I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was quite a person.

But family history isn't destiny. You've got the opportunity to teach your son the coping mechanisms your sister didn't learn. And you'll know what to listen for when he's under stress.


Motivation is like a skeleton: you can hang a whole life on it. What you're talking about now is developing your own endoskeleton, rather than having your parents provide you with an exoskeleton. This is, in point of fact, the answer to your current troubles. And it's like a muscle you need to exercise, or a habit of mind you need to get into.

One way to do it is to use rewards. Pick something you like doing: going to get a coffee from a cafe, or something on that scale. Tell yourself you can do it if you get up by x time every morning for a week. Start with an achievable goal, and gradually increase the difficulty as you get into the habit of doing it.

#377 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 11:08 AM:

I just wrote a sympathetic e-mail to a friend, then had to write two addenda... the second one because of issues I've got from growing up.

I want to be a sympathetic listener - you know, the one who gets you a cup of tea and says "that sounds horrible, you must feel so awful." But by nature I'm a helper and a cheerleader.

So to do the sympathy thing (first addendum), I related an experience of mine that was somewhat like my friend's situation. Then (the second addendum) wrote to say that I wasn't trying to take over the conversation with my problems and make it about me.

The background here is that telling my problems to Mom, she'd always sympathize by bringing up a story about her own life that (in her mind) related to what I was talking about. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. When it didn't, and I wanted to talk about *my* experience, I got accused of trivializing her experience and making my problems out to be way bigger than they were.

So now I'm scared of bringing my own experiences into sympathy conversations, because I don't know if I'm doing the same start she did - making the person I'm talking to feel trivialized and ignored by bringing in something so obviously missing the point of their story that I can't possibly have been listening. Or even sounding like I'm one-upping them because I have a bigger, better problem than they do.


#378 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 11:33 AM:

Phenicious--I haven't been commenting much since I just haven't had the spoons (ah, election years), but I've been reading and nodding along a LOT with your posts, because I feel like I recognize a lot of myself there. 372 especially was like a small splash of cold water.

I have a real problem with this, too--as a child, I never had to hold myself accountable, because my (controlling and emotionally abusive) mother could be counted on always to hold me accountable, even for things I had never agreed to (or sometimes even known about). Not that I'm saying your parents are like my mother, but for whatever reason, I never got much practice or reinforcement to develop my skills at holding myself to what I wanted to accomplish. I'm in my mid-thirties now, and I still struggle with it.

But I have developed some coping strategies that have worked better for me than my original one (which was to beat myself up verbally whenever I failed to keep my promises/meet my goals, and then to do it again when I made them--a la "Now, you irresponsible slug, actually do this thing, unlike the million other times when you've just fckd it up." For some reason, although I totally followed the method I'd been taught with that one, it never seemed to work).

Part the first--I've accepted and embraced the fact that I need a little more structure in my life to function at optimal levels. This may or may not be true for you, but I've found it really helpful to plan things at a pretty detailed level--not just saying, "I want to do (x)," but actually carefully planning out the steps to get there. Like right now, I want to start commuting by bike and bus, rather than driving all the time. To do that, I have to get out the door about 25 minutes earlier than I have been regularly doing, so I've carefully planned out each step and work on getting each one down (ironing the night before, so I'm not rushed in the morning, planning out quick breakfasts, getting to bed earlier, etc...). For whatever reason, I'm not naturally good at breaking things into steps, so consciously working myself through this process helps me.

The second bit is probably the most important--instead of beating up on myself when I don't manage to meet my own expectations, I reward myself whenever I do. Sometimes that's as small as celebrating it as a success when I put together cheese and crackers for the next day's lunches by writing it down as one of my list of the day's good things in my journal, sometimes it's more like dinner out at a restaurant I really like on the day I biked and took the bus in to work. But I'm finding that cutting out the negative self-talk and criticism for failure, and instead putting my effort into focusing on and recognizing successes, however small, has made a HUGE difference, both in my motivation and in my general happiness level.

I'm still trying to figure out what it is I really want to do with my life, though. :/

#379 ::: alsafi is chatting with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 11:34 AM:

I have a tasty bento lunch I'm willing to share!

#380 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 12:02 PM:

chbs #371: I'm very sorry for your loss. Please don't blame yourself too much--people with depression can successfully hide it for years, especially when they're high-functioning and when distance is involved. It's wonderful that you're getting the appropriate treatment for your son; the autism spectrum is better-understood now than it was fifteen years ago, and with love and care, the old patterns can be avoided.

Phenicious #372: In my case, ADD makes it very hard for me to keep myself on track without external inputs. For things that are very important (meds, for example) I set alarms on my cellphone, which I've trained myself to never be without. I've successfully built a couple habits to do that: keys are always carabinered to my purse, I always check my purse for cellphone and tablet when I get ready to leave for any place, and if phone and tablet are *not* in my purse, they're nearby and clearly visible. I always charge them in one of two places.

Extrinsic rewards help! I've promised myself two hours to do whatever I want Sunday morning, if I make a full week of getting up at the time I need to. Make sure the reward isn't something you already do or have, so it becomes "special".

I'm being treated for sleep apnea right now, and the nurse practitioner handling my case was very clear on the need for "sleep hygiene". One interesting thing he told me was that the time you get up is the main factor that sets your body clock--therefore, if you sleep until noon, your brain won't produce the "go to sleep" chemicals until about 4 am. So I made a commitment to start getting up between 8 and 9 am every day. Starting it was made easier by having a sleep study that got me up at 6:30 am. The key to that is to pick a time, get up at that time, and then go to bed when you get tired. The first few days you may be short on sleep until your body resets; nap in the early afternoon (either no more than 20 minutes, or in increments of ~90 minutes), but not within four hours of your estimated bedtime.

For getting up, try not to use the snooze button. (That's a habit I'm still working on breaking.) Maybe put the alarm clock across the room, so you have to get up to shut it off; then, once you're up, leave the bedroom for a bit. Also, something that has really worked for me is hitting myself with sunlight or natural-spectrum light first thing in the morning--as bright as you can stand it, for several minutes. I also take a good B complex vitamin in the morning, and huge doses of vitamin D since I'm a tech vampire and don't get enough sunlight.

I can offer more, if you'd like, but I hope this is enough to get you started.

#381 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 12:17 PM:

Seconding what Jennifer Baughman @380 said about full-spectrum lights!

They not only help with getting up in the morning, they help enormously with depression. (especially if you're like me and live where in mid-winter you get up in the dark, go to work in the dark, come home in the dark...)

#382 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 12:40 PM:

An alternative to full-spectrum lights (says the SADdie) is blue light in the morning.

I really did not believe in this until last winter, when I had to go to the US in January, and couldn't bring my suitcase-sized light box with me. All I had was a little travel blue-LED light box, which I used in the mornings in my hotel room.

And, to my very great surprise, it worked. I had almost none of the dragging, drowning feeling that makes deepest winter such a pain for me. When I got home, I got some cheap blue LED lights and rigged something to go around the screen of my laptop. Now when I use my computer in the mornings, I also have blue lights on. It really helps me keep my sleep cycle in order.

#383 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 12:42 PM:

chbs @371: As others have said: I am so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this story with us. You are keeping your eyes open wider now, and they are focused on your son - that is the best anyone can do in this sort of situation.

Phenicious @372: Perhaps it might help to reframe the issue as "keeping appointments with yourself"? If you had to get up every morning to give a beloved pet medication, or to bring breakfast to a friend who was stuck in bed, you'd have more motivation, right? So - maybe try to be your own friend a bit more - it never hurts :)

#384 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 01:15 PM:

Chickadee #377: That's something I tend to do myself, though in my case it's because I feel like my sympathy would come across as false if I didn't have something to back it up. A nice compromise might be to offer the concern and sympathy first, and then mention that you had a similar experience, which you'd be willing to share if they think it would be useful.

You'll probably find that different people have different needs--one friend might want useful advice, and another might just want to vent. In my experience, asking what would help them best is the way to go; the combination of concern and respect is a powerful one.

#385 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 01:55 PM:

radiosongs, #364: I also can't help thinking of how violated I would feel to come home and discover that someone had entered my home and taken anything from it - regardless of whether it was mine or theirs - without previously getting my explicit consent.

I get that, and it does you credit. So, on to the next question: does "not welcome in their home" mean that they won't let you in, or just that they won't be happy about it?

Decision fork A: If they won't let you in at all, you may have to decide whether getting your journals back is worth violating your parents' space -- because at that point, I wouldn't trust them to give you the journals if you asked.

Decision fork B: If they will let you in, albeit unwillingly, then you change the structure of the raid outlined above.
- First, decide which parent will be less likely to actually make a scene.
- Second, you and your GF arrive at the house, unannounced, at a time when that parent is going to be the only one home. "Hi -- we were in the neighborhood, and I remembered that I'd left some stuff here that I need to have, so I came by to pick it up." You are not asking, you are stating your intent. That's much harder to refuse.
- Third, if it's more than just the journals, have a list written down so that you don't forget anything, because this is probably the only time you'll be able to get away with this move.
- Fourth, collect your things, say a cheery thank-you to your parent, and go.

chbs, #371: My condolences on your loss. And my congratulations on your awareness and determination not to repeat that pattern.

Phenicious, #372: That's not an uncommon problem. When I have nothing much scheduled for the day, I often end up sleeping until noon too. The really frustrating part is that if you had a job, you'd be able to make yourself get up and get to it, but that doesn't help you be able to find a job. BTDT, no useful advice to offer, but definitely sympathy.

#386 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 01:56 PM:

chickadee @ 377

I've found that it's the details that make such things sound like one-upmanship. So although I've been through a wide range of things, rather than share details, I offer general advice, such as:

"Well, I don't know if it would work for you, but when I found myself in a similar situation, I..."

If they want the details of your similar situation, they'll ask.* But they probably don't care - they only care about the advice and whether it can help them now. And they care about you caring about them enough to help them focus on/talk about their problems.

The other thing is, you don't necessarily need to fix them. You just need to listen, actively. "Wow, that sounds really tough/unpleasant/difficult." is important, as is "well, I just want to reinforce that I'm here for you, if there's anything I can do, even if it's just to listen." Other useful statements include "Yeah, I hear/feel that," and "Ouch. Are you okay?" and "Wow, I'm really sorry** to hear you're going through something like that."

*I feed out details about my own situation very slowly, if they do ask, starting at a high level and watching their reaction closely to decide how much detail seems relevant and welcome. If they start to close up, I find a way to get the discussion turned back to their situation, pronto.

**The patch on the last one, if they object to your "apologizing for something you can't control" is: "I know, I just really care about you and I wish things were easier for you right now."

#387 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 04:29 PM:

chickadee @377: As one who has been on the receiving end of such sympathy, I find I react better if the matching experience is mentioned later in the conversation, after my listener has clearly engaged with my issue.

#388 ::: obsidian ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 04:48 PM:

(because i need to tell someone, and i'm not sure if i want to burden those people around me with this just yet. details have been obscured deliberately.)

when i was young, my father died during the month of october. i mostly thought that i had gotten over it; it's not the best month in my calendar, but it has candy-corn and goblins and dressing up and all of those things, and so i muddled through. then i had a child, and i had several horrible months where i realized that i was expecting my spouse to leave me because, well, children don't have two parents; they only have one, and since i wasn't going anywhere, and spouse was healthy, clearly spouse was just going to up and leave -- like everyone eventually up and leaves. there were some horrible nightmares, and long long long talks with spouse and that fear went away. and then october hit, and i freaked out.

this october, my child is the same age that i was when my father died. i am hoping and praying that this october is the worst one because if it isn't, i'm not going to survive the next one. i just came up from the single blackest depressive episode that i have ever been through, and it was partially work-triggered, and partially october, and partially just all around awful and hellish, and the worst part is that i don't really want to tell all of my super-amazing and supportive family and friends just how horrible and bleak it was because i don't want to worry them.

i suspect spouse knows mostly as he stayed with me and made sure that i had support and care, but i find it really really hard to say "so, those two days when i was closed up and hiding in my bed and couldn't move; that was a good thing because it kept me from jumping off the nearest bridge." (i am no longer remotely inclined to go jump off the nearest bridge, but chbs, i understand how 'did minor thing wrong at work' spirals out, and i am so sorry for your loss.)

#389 ::: obsidian feeds the gnomes cookies and milk ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 04:50 PM:

Gnomed for lack of capitals.

#390 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 05:55 PM:

Has anyone here worked with Daniel Stacy Baron's (There's No Such Thing As a Negative Emotion) material?

The material (radical self-acceptance focusing on emotion) looks really good, but there are some cultish elements (repeated claims that no other religion theraputic system has gotten things as right as he has).

#391 ::: Superficial Tea ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 06:17 PM:

Still working my way down the thread, but I've now seen several behaviours of mine claimed by others as symptoms rather than minor quirks that everyone has.

A few years back my father awkwardly wondered if us moving when I was 5 may have been a bad idea. Before that apparently I was the life and soul of the party with all the neighbourhood kids looking to me as their leader. After I became bookish and introverted.

I originally started reading this thread, really, to roll around in the raw emotion like a dog in fox shit, but now I'm wondering why I need to do that if my life is so great.

I notice my initial post has been responded to, and I'll get to that when I get down to that in my reading. I wasn't going to talk about me but "no trauma too small" and all that.

One thing this thread - all that rolling around - has brought up is an incident from my childhood that doesn't seem so banal any more. I think I might try talking to my dad about it (I have a reasonable relationship with him these days, perhaps because I only see him a few times a year).

#392 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 06:48 PM:

obsidian #388: I'm sorry your father died when you were so young, and that it's hurt you so badly. It seems clear that your spouse understands, even if they don't say so outright, and that they love you and your child very much. And you're stronger than you realize; you got through the worst episode of depression you've ever experienced, with only your spouse for help! That's amazing, even if it doesn't seem so right now.

*gentle hugs, if you want them*

We're here, and we're not going to abandon you. And if you need a more private shoulder to cry on, my email address is first initial lastname 42 at the house of google mail. I'm here, and I'm listening, to you, and to everyone.

#393 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 09:11 PM:

Jennifer Baughman #384, KayTei #386, GlendaP #387: Thank you. That helps. Makes a lot of sense, too. I am saving them to a reference file. :)

KayTei: Thank you for the detailed suggestions.

GlendaP: Yeah, that makes the difference. With Mom, it sometimes feels like she's just waiting for you to stop talking so she can bring up her experience - about her, then, not about you. Something to watch for in my own interactions.

Also: I wonder if the gnomes are getting too much delicious food - hence so many comments in this thread getting gnomed. I mean, really - cookies and milk? bento?chocolate cheesecake with caramel-rum sauce? How could they resist?

#394 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 09:50 PM:

obsidian, #388: Sending GoodThoughts and strength in your direction. You say you're having a hard time telling the people who love and support you that you have a problem; is it feasible, and do you think it would help, for you to talk to a therapist? From your description, this is exactly the kind of thing they're useful for. Also, if you don't want to worry your family and friends, please trust me that telling them you're getting help is one of the best ways to reassure them.

Nancy, #390: Based on the title alone, I'd brush that one off as snake-oil; it sounds as though he's positing a one-size-fits-all solution, and there ain't no such animal. Does the word "denial" appear anywhere, in the context of "people who disagree with his assertions"? If so, run far, far away.

#395 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 11:02 PM:

Lee #394: Nancy, #390: Does the word "denial" appear anywhere, in the context of "people who disagree with his assertions"? If so, run far, far away.

Denial? Paragraph 3


#396 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 11:36 AM:

Tracie @ #395:

"I can't think why fancy religions should have such a bad effect on one's grammar." --Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night.

#397 ::: Froth ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 12:01 PM:

Superficial Tea:

Your description of this thread bothers me quite a lot.
I'm glad you're well enough that you don't need to talk about this, but all I can see in your last post is smug superiority that you're okay, and I'm still rolling in shit.
I don't know if you meant to stop the conversation, but I'm having real trouble talking right now, because someone reading thinks it's just wallowing. Worthless, futile, evidence that I am not good enough, because talking is just a waste of time and I should be over it already.

#398 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 01:11 PM:

Froth #397, some of us think that neither you nor anyone else posting in this thread is wallowing. Reporting present pain or acknowledging past trauma isn't wallowing. Seeking coping strategies, or even just venting in order to perhaps reclaim a spoon or two, isn't wallowing.

I'm glad for Superficial Tea that he or she was not badly scarred by whatever incidents happened to her/him in his/her childhood. I do not take that to mean that badly scarred children... and adults... do not exist.

I think I can speak for many of the lurkers in this thread, in that we get worried when people stop posting. And relieved when they start again.

Still here. Still witnessing.

#399 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 01:16 PM:

Froth, I read Superficial Tea as saying that s/he was wallowing, not that the other participants were. And finding some indication in the commonalities that hir life might not be as great as it seemed.

I'm reluctant to speak for someone else but didn't want to leave you feeling disrespected when I don't think that was what was intended.

#400 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 01:35 PM:

#394 ::: Lee:

#395 ::: Tracie:

Thanks for the clues. It looks like a system which at best has some limited applicability.

Any recommendations of books/systems seem sensible and don't give off cult vibes?

#401 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 02:29 PM:

Froth @397:

I read Superficial Tea's post as being about their reaction to the thread, rather than the thread itself. In other words, they came to the thread to dig around in their emotional life, but have decided, on balance, to let things lie. I had presumed, for instance, that the "raw emotion" that they were going to roll around in was their own reactions to what was said.

I know that I sometimes go read edgy things (the Clarissa cartoons, Robin McKinley's Deerskin) to see what bubbles up from my ongoing effort to live with childhood sexual abuse. Because it's hard, but in the hard stuff I get handed the next thing that I'm ready to deal with.

I know a lot of people use these threads like that, and I simply read Superficial Tea's comment as a decision to step away from that exercise, either at this time or more permanently.

I know it's hard, when you've been so thoroughly trained to treat your own experiences and struggles as dismissable—as deserving dismissal—not to read that message in ambiguous comments. But please believe me that this is not what this thread is. This is the place where your experiences are interesting and important, and what you bring to the table is valid. You matter. Please continue to talk to the community here.

(If, of course, you want to. I don't want to go so far in the other direction that you feel compelled, coerced, or pressured.)

#402 ::: Superficial Tea ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 03:30 PM:

Froth @ 397, Oh dear, I didn't mean it like that AT ALL. I was talking about my own reason for originally choosing to read. The lack of real emotional displays in my own life is what I think drew me to this thread where people are sharing and showing real, powerful emotions. My apologies if I came off like an asshole, I phrased it very poorly.

#403 ::: Dysecdesis ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 04:31 PM:

Obsidian, I don't know if this is going to be helpful or not, but there is such a thing as anniversary reactions (even to events that happened many years ago). For years after I was assaulted, the weather and seasonal changes of that time of year would bring on a several week episode of pretty black depressions and breakdowns, suicidal ideation, the whole lot. It's improved as the wound has gotten better scar tissue.

If my experience is any guide, reaching out (even just to one of your supportive family), or talking to a therapist, will probably help. It's hard to think of it now when you're just coming off the deep end, I certainly never did. But next year, in August or so, you might be able to, when you have some ground under you and a little more space to handle the thought. And that way you're a little more prepared for the trough about to appear under you.

Also, if it helps at all (and maybe you don't want the help - if so, please ignore!) - I found the healing to be more logarithmic than scalar. For the first few years I could barely crawl, then I was walking, and then it began to improve in leaps and bounds. But god, those first few years can suck beyond belief.

#404 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 08:41 PM:

Chickadee @ 393

Yeah, whoops. Thing I learned the hard way, can you tell? :D

#405 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 01:04 AM:

Just found this by way of a link (I think at UfYH).

Radiosongs and others in the dermatillomania discussion: THANK YOU. I didn't know it had a name, I didn't know I wasn't the only one, I didn't know why I'm still *doing* this 20 years after satisfying my curiosity about what was in there, I didn't know why I could say 'I'm going to just stop it' and... not. Just knowing what it is and that I'm not alone helps more than I can say.

It, like many other things, has been better (as far as I can tell) since I moved out of my parents' house in June. My mother thinks I'm depressed, and I strongly disagree; I was very unhappy with the state of my life before I moved and prone to the occasional fits of angst about it, but depressed? Not so much. My fiancee is bipolar and says she doesn't read my behavior as depressed and never has, and her lows are crushing enough that she'd know.

Yes, there were times I felt like I was a total failure and letting everyone down. But who *wouldn't* feel like that when every important conversation you have with your parents is 'why don't you have a full-time job yet, we put so much money into your college education and all you're doing is working part-time retail, why don't you at least go to grad school, why don't you just move in with your fiancee if you want to.' Well, excuse me for graduating three months before the economy went down the toilet, I'm sure. (As for grad school, I don't want to and my degree's not in a field where I need it; as for the move, it took us this long to be in a place where we could swing it financially.)

I'll grant some social anxiety; I've also always been the kind of person who needs to know I can do something before I do it. I have a massive freak-out about Doing A New Thing (I had a horrible one the night before I moved), and then I Do The New Thing, and it's fine. I know this now, intellectually, but that doesn't change the emotional reality.

Dad doesn't get that. It should be fine, so why isn't it? He also has no idea how much helplessness I've learned from him; if I helped with something, he'd tell me I was Doing It Wrong and leave me wondering why I bothered. And he *never* wants to drive the three minutes from the house to the grocery by himself.

Mom tries to get it, but I think the problem she's seeing isn't one that's ever been there. She's also not the easiest person to connect with on an emotional level (I think she learned a lot of that from her father).

Right now I feel like they only want to hear from me if I have a job, which I don't. We're getting by on one income; I have been keeping an eye out and I did just apply for something that would be amazing if it worked out, but I don't have to rush on their account and I don't know how to tell them that in a way they'll understand. I'v tried telling them before how I'm reading the signals they're sending and they say 'well, of course we don't mean that.' But you don't have to mean a thing to say it.

I lost some sympathy on the financial front when they had a chance to back out of a pricey vacation and didn't. It eroded a little more when I realised just how much they were going out for dinner instead of eating at home (I think some of Mom's depression theory came from the fact that I stopped going with them and started buying my own food), and a little more when they chose to adopt dogs (especially the puppies, when they barely have the time or energy *and* it turns out Mom's allergic to these two).

The final straw was in our last screaming match this past spring: "You don't know how much we've had to stretch things just to go to a couple concerts."

Everyone needs something fun, I'll grant, but *you don't have to go to the concerts.*

That screaming match was worse than its predecessors anyway. Dad called me an ungrateful bitch (he did apologise later, but... I'm not sure I've fully forgiven him yet), accused me of not listening to him because he doesn't have a college degree, accused me of listening to my fiancee way too *much* (she also doesn't have a degree and he knows that), said I'm the one with more potential to land a good job (when I could move in the first place because my fiancee... got a full-time job... before I did...), and then actually said that he thought getting knocked up would do me good.

My parents are good people at their core. I don't know when things got like this. But they did, and the distance from them is doing me good. (So much good, in fact, that when I went back for my grandfather's funeral in August, my cousin could tell I was leagues happier than I had been before I left.)

#406 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 06:15 AM:

tamiki @405:

Welcome to Making Light!

UFYH is pretty damn awesome, isn't it? I'd never heard of it until this thread, but now I go over there whenever I need an excuse to fall in love with humanity again. It's in the same emotional habitat for me as PostSecret and Project Unbreakable—but without the need for trigger warnings that those two have.

It sounds to me like you've taken a big step toward emotional wholeness by moving away from your parents. Whether or not they're inherently good people (a complex question), your account of life with them shows that the relationship was toxic.

It's possible that as the dust settles, things you were never safe to deal with about the relationship will come up. Please feel free to bring them here, if you think it would help; there are people in this community who have been through very similar things, and may have some advice.

Also, if you have the spoons for it, I'm sure Phenicious would appreciate any insights you have about the time before you moved out. I suspect there are a lot of overlaps between her situation and yours back then.

I'm not compelling you to dig into it, mind. It's just a suggestion, to be taken up if it strikes you right and left aside otherwise.

#407 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 07:14 AM:

tamiki #405: Also, in your first few paragraphs you nicely illustrate the difference between "sensible unhappiness at unpleasant situation" and "depression".

#408 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 01:17 AM:

Abi and Dave: Thanks for the welcome. (Dave in particular, thank you; I believed my fiancee's assessment, but it's always good to hear it from someone else.)

A little more, because I feel like I can dig into things a bit tonight.

Mom *is* depressed, or at least on antidepressants; how much of that is pain management I'm not sure. She's also seasonal-affective (that diagnosis surprised me not at all; she turns on every light in the house in the winter) and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about two years ago. She's had asthma and bad allergies (particularly to cats) longer than I've been alive; the current dogs are the first ones she's had problems with. The pattern of late has been: She goes to work (she's a teacher), comes home, sleeps, doesn't want to cook dinner, comes back from dinner, is in bed for the night before 10. (Sometimes they cook anyway, sometimes they order pizza.)

Dad... well, his stash of stories that he constantly retells seems to run out in about 1982. That's a year after he started dating Mom, and the fact that he's constantly talking about his high school days pisses her off sometimes - what about his wife? What about my sister that he loved so much he made a point of adopting? What about the daughter he went to so much trouble to have in the first place?

(Mom had a molar pregnancy the year before I was born. She was trying to finish her bachelor's degree (and did!), working in a restaurant, trying to get proper information out of her doctor and terrified she'd come down with cancer just like *her* mother. They call it 'the year that disappeared.')

I don't know how much my sister knows about the current state of affairs. We've never been particularly close, in large part because there's a huge age gap between us, and I don't know what my parents have told her about it all. She also grew up in about as different of a world as you can get; Mom's first marriage was never particularly happy and they didn't have much at all.

I don't remember the financial situation being all that tight until I finished college. They took out a good chunk of loans on my behalf and have been badgering me to pick up the payments almost since they started making them, and I'm ruining their retirement plans and acting like I don't care about their budget problems that are All My Fault, Not Theirs, What Do You Mean They Could Budget Better and... well, see the concerts comment from last time.

I also don't remember the emotional situation being this toxic until the last few years. I wasn't happy, they weren't happy, they blamed it all on me, I blame it on all of us more or less equally. I didn't look for a full-time job as hard as I might have because my fiancee and I were eyeing the feasibility of a move even then, and I didn't want to be tied down to the point I felt I couldn't go when the time came.

(This move has been four years in the making. My fiancee spent most of those four years functionally homeless and unemployed; she only had a roof over her head thanks to the good grace of some friends, and a couple of those situations *also* got toxic. The way my home life was going - as in I only called it 'home' out of convenience starting in about 2010 - I didn't feel at all comfortable trying to bring her there.

We took flak from a former college friend of mine who was in a transatlantic relationship and said we should have it so much easier because we were in the same country. Never mind that we were both broke, while (a) she had a full-time job and (b) her parents and his were happy and financially able to ship them across the ocean to see each other for weeks on end! She took our decision to wait for the right time as a sign we didn't actually care about the relationship. I later found out she was getting married when another friend posted to LJ that she'd made travel arrangements to go to England for the wedding. Four years of relative closeness and she didn't even hit me up for presents.)

Anyway, back to the parental toxicity: Mom had the whole family go to a therapy session last winter, in what she later said was an attempt to get me to go back on my own for Srs Business Counseling (see: she thinks I'm depressed; I went back once but didn't click with the guy). What I took away from that session was that Dad in particular doesn't see how much he contributes to the problem. He flails worse than I do when confronted with Something He Hasn't Done Before. When something's going wrong, he curses at it and has a way of making me feel like I'm Supposed To Fix It. I started calling him a Helper a couple years ago, meaning something like 'hlepy' seems to in these parts - he doesn't actually contribute solutions and usually makes it worse.

Mom is better at seeing the problems and how we all contribute, but not good at talking about it. Or maybe some of it's that I don't know how to talk to them about important stuff without reverting to my 16-year-old coping mechanisms; she and I can talk about Dad just fine, but when my personal life's under the microscope I lock down. They don't see where I'm coming from and I don't know how to tell them.

(Another note: Dad maintains he can't get an answer out of me unless he shouts at me. I maintain he hasn't actually tried *not* shouting in so long he can't say that for sure.)

The screaming matches I mentioned last time happened once every three months or so, and regularly ended with me in tears. Usual response: "Don't do that, you do this every time instead of actually talking about it." Or maybe you guys are pushing so many of my buttons about the situation that I can't process it? Just a thought.

We can talk about trivial stuff just fine - Top Gear, a funny thing I saw online, that kind of thing. It's the big stuff I don't know how to handle; I'm only just learning how to shut down the conversation with 'I'm working on it.'

I think I realised I should start taking Dad's opinions with a grain of salt when I told him about my relationship (parents know I'm in it and have met her, but not so much the part where we're planning to get married eventually). He stopped at 'she's bipolar and currently untreated' (she has a Complicated history with meds, and also: functionally homeless, which meant not having someone around who could watch how she was reacting to them) and said 'well, all bipolar people are manipulative.'

First: She's never heard that anywhere else, and neither have I. Second: As far as I can tell he was basing that on a grand total of TWO prior examples, both of whom were very different and both of whom have/had other problems on top of that. (My uncle's first wife had three or four drug addictions going; one of Mom's old friends - that's some more Complicated - has some other mental stuff going on and chronic pain issues. I don't know the full details of her mental state, but I do know it's unlikely anything she does can be fully pinned down to *just* the bipolar.)

My fiancee, screwed-up brainpan and all, is the best thing that's ever happened to me. She's taught me more about Sucking It Up And Dealing than my parents took the time to teach. She got it through my head that 'my family is Loud and Stubborn and Always Has To Be Right' isn't always a virtue. She hasn't saved my life quite as literally as I've saved hers, but I would not be the person I am today without her.

I think I'm stronger for it.

#409 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 03:47 AM:

tamiki @405 I've also always been the kind of person who needs to know I can do something before I do it. I have a massive freak-out about Doing A New Thing (I had a horrible one the night before I moved), and then I Do The New Thing, and it's fine. I know this now, intellectually, but that doesn't change the emotional reality.

Can I join the welcome wagon? Hi! What you're describing there is really really familiar. It's good to hear someone else has similar problems. It's tricky when my mom takes the evidence that I can "get over the hump" for some things, and tries to apply that to fears that are quite firmly ingrained. Not quite "oh, just get over it" but it feels close to it.

abi @406: I agree about UFYH! It's pretty good for motivation and re-framing stuff as do-able, at least for me. Also, I keep forgetting to mention this but I'm not a she, I'm a they.

#410 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 08:21 AM:

Tamiki, I hope you're able to leave soon. It sounds like adding a fair amount of distance to that relationship will help a lot. I avoided a similar situation a few years ago, when I graduated; I could have saved a lot of rent money by moving home, but I knew I couldn't handle living there any more-- and my family *works* for the most part. I could see the shape of the not-okay I would have had, partly parent-related, partly not. I've seen it happen with myself and my siblings. Our parents are much better able to handle our personal economies when we aren't in the same house. There's also the generational thing, where the generation just graduating has a completely different reality from that of our parents, and it is just about impossible to make them see that when they could instead see failings in us.

Good luck with the move, the jobstuff, and getting away from the home situation. I think that taking care of the last will make a big difference.

#411 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 12:26 PM:

Phenicious @409: OH MY GOD YES DAD DOES THAT ALL THE TIME. Mom's more patient about it, but Dad sometimes goes past 'well, you know you'll be fine, so do it' to 'well, it doesn't scare me, so what are *you* worried about?' And then my head asplode. Just because it doesn't bother him doesn't make me any less wigged out, nor does the fact that I know I'll be all right once I do it.

(I get particularly wiggy about having to call someone I don't know, even if I know I'm likely to get an automated phone tree. There are addresses I've put off changing because I can only call to do so; I really need to get on that.)

Diatryma @410: I actually did achieve escape velocity in June, and things have been much better since then. We haven't talked much, but I had to go back in August for my grandfather's funeral and things were much better when I was visiting than when I was living there.

(Oddly, Dad was the more sensible one in terms of travel arrangements. When Mom called to say I needed to make them - mind, this was all of two weeks after we'd signed a lease, and neither of us brought any furniture into the equation - I told her we couldn't afford a ticket out and she said 'well, if you don't have a job, of course you can't.' I seriously had to hold my tongue on that one and mainly did because her father was dying. When I called Dad to hash things out, I said we'd just signed a lease and got a crapton of furniture, and he was much more understanding about it.)*

I also have to pull this bit out:

Our parents are much better able to handle our personal economies when we aren't in the same house. There's also the generational thing, where the generation just graduating has a completely different reality from that of our parents, and it is just about impossible to make them see that when they could instead see failings in us.

YES YES YES, on both of those points. I had long felt that things would be much better when I wasn't in the same house, and so far, that's proven true.

The generational thing's been an ongoing source of contention. Mom's done a little online job-hunting, but she's coming at it from an entirely different position than I am - full-time job, experience in her field, getting on too old for anyone to want to hire her. Dad likes to think his pile-up of not-so-great jobs between the time his father told him the college money was gone (it wasn't, but he didn't find that out for a long time) and when he got a full-time job before I was born are Exactly The Same Thing I'm dealing with, when - NO IT ISN'T. It's an entirely different world out there these days. Sure, he was doing some of that job-hunting in the late '70s recession, but that wasn't nearly as bad as this one.

It took me nearly a full year after I graduated to find any job at all and I had no luck landing anything better than part-time retail - yes, in part because the job hunt wigs me out a lot so I don't push it as hard as I might, but also because the economy sucks right now.

I do think it's worth noting that while I still have bouts of 'aaaaaaaah WHY ARE PHONES' here, I haven't felt nearly as bad bout life, the universe and everything since I moved.

*We were house-sitting for one of my fiancee's friends during June and July, hence the gap there. That was about a perfect arrangement, as it gave me a chance to get here and gave both of us a reason to look for an apartment Now rather than her trying to juggle the hunt on her own and doing it After The Next Thing.

#412 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 01:19 PM:

Diatryma, #410: There's also the generational thing, where the generation just graduating has a completely different reality from that of our parents, and it is just about impossible to make them see that when they could instead see failings in us.

QFT -- and believe me, that problem is not limited to your generation, although it may be worse now than it was in my day.

#413 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 01:31 PM:

As many of you know, I retired at the end of last year. My mother is living with us, which causes some stress (but brings lots of enjoyable activities too).

The other day she said, "Aren't you bored, don't you want to find a part time job?"

I finally have the time to do projects I've wanted to do for years, I've even gotten some of them done, and it was my heart's desire to be able to STAY home, and only go out when there was something I either wanted or needed to do... So I'm less than enthusiastic about her suggestion.

She's a people person. Me, not so much. I wish she'd go volunteer or find a part time job, I'd be more than willing to drive her to/from said activity...


#414 ::: Lori Coulson has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 01:32 PM:

Have some cinnamon doughnuts?

#415 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 02:08 PM:

Phenicious @409:

I do apologize; I'm not sure where I got the notion into my head. I will remember going forward.

#416 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 02:19 PM:

tamiki @408: I grew up with a bipolar aunt, and have some tendencies in that direction myself though I'm not diagnosed. It's easy for me to see how someone could come to the judgment that "all bipolar people are manipulative" even though that's not at all the case: it's easy for many bipolar folks to say something that's coming out of the current mood, and have it not be what they feel a few days later. This gets interpreted as "manipulative" even though it isn't. And it's difficult to explain to people who haven't dealt with the problem. You have my sympathy around trying to explain it (and also around learning to interpret a bipolar person well, a challenge which can be incredibly worth the work). Getting away from your father's judgments about the issue should help.
@411: I've got a milder form of that telephone phobia -- it's incredibly much easier to call someone once I've talked to them. My father used to say "Nothing should ever be done for the first time." He wasn't entirely joking.

And I join in the welcome chorus!

#417 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 03:18 PM:

Lori Coulson @413,

Ignore if hlepy, but I've never seen nor heard of a hospital that didn't beg for volunteers on bended knees, to run gift stores etc. Retirees welcome. Might be worth looking into with your local hospital(s), if your mom is a "people person". It worked for my mother when she retired; kept her from driving everyone around her nuts....

#418 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 03:44 PM:

Tom @416: I'm very good at reading my fiancee now. There's 'actually happy, more or less,' 'riding a high,' 'crashing from said high,' 'depressive swing,' and 'panic attack.' Because we were long-distance for so long, I'm actually better at picking it out of text than in person, but I'm getting there with the in-person.

What peeved me the most about Dad's snap judgment is that even between the cases he knows, there were two very different kinds of bipolar. My uncle's first wife drank a lot, which triggered her manic phases; she was up for a week and then slept it off for another week. (She also wasn't diagnosed until after they divorced, but from what I can tell it didn't entirely surprise anyone who'd known her.) Mom's friend has more consistent manic phases which aren't drug-fueled but *are* possibly exacerbated by everything else she has going on.

My fiancee has more depressive phases than anything else; she's terrified of the highs, partly because she can't make herself shut up when she's caught in one.

Just from that I can tell no two cases are exactly alike, and any manipulation Dad's seen could be because of another factor. It's frustrating that he doesn't see that, and I've only just started accepting in the last year or so that it isn't my job to *make* him see the things he doesn't (or can't, or won't).

(The good news is my occasional fits of 'can't cope, off to Mordor' rarely overlap with my fiancee's worst moments. While she has told me a couple times she didn't have the spoons to pick up my pieces, we can usually catch each other just fine.)

#419 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 04:25 PM:

tamiki @418: "Any manipulation Dad's seen could be because of another factor." Like he tends to see people as manipulative, possibly from being manipulative himself? Please pardon me for stating this if it's just too obvious....

#420 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 05:25 PM:

Tom @419: I've never read his behavior as manipulative (I'll grant that I may still be too close to the situation to see it, but I've never had that sense).

Him looking for it in other people makes a certain amount of sense; I know he had a bad relationship with his younger sister for a *long* time, part of which was her accusing him of stealing things from their mother's house. (I believe it later turned out she'd done it.) But I also don't know if that's what's going on.

What I was trying to say was: If he has encountered manipulative behavior from the bipolar people I referenced, there's enough other factors in their personalities/mental circumstances that any of those other things could have produced the behavior.

#421 ::: Irene ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 05:49 PM:

The following is dysfunction that I'm at one degree of removal from, but it's still driving me nuts.

My husband Joe has one sister, Jane, a year older than he his, both in their late forties. They grew up borderline between stable working class and really poor: he ended up with a college education, a professional job, and a stable, pleasant life. She's had a hard time -- two marriages, two divorces, the first abusive and the second nasty, unpleasant, and conflicty but not AFAIK actually violent, spotty work history, always broke. She has three daughters, the youngest of whom, Lynn, is now twenty. For seven or so years while the girls were teenagers, Jane, the girls, and her second husband lived with her parents. She and the three girls now all live in the same area as her parents; Joe and I live five hours or so away. That's the background.

A couple of months ago, Jane called my husband, and told him that Lynn told her that her grandfather Dave, my husband's father, had repeatedly molested Lynn while they lived together. Jane then told my husband that Dave had molested her as well when she was a young teenager. Jane hasn't told Lynn that she was molested as well, and made Joe promise not to tell her either.

Joe, obviously, was upset by this -- he wasn't aware of anything happening to Jane back when they were kids, and feels guilty for not having prevented or stopped it, and furious with his father. He tried to connect Jane and Lynn with a counselor so they'd have someone to talk to about it, and told Jane that whatever she needed to do, he'd support her -- if she thought it made sense to prosecute, at least for the assaults on Lynn, he'd be right with her.

And then nothing. Jane hasn't told Lynn that she was molested as well; neither has talked to the the counselor Joe found; neither has talked to Dave about it (although Joe and Jane have separately talked to their mother about it, who was also unaware of anything untoward happening at either time.) Jane, Lynn, and Dave are all still showing up at family events and being social; the other two daughters don't seem to know that anything's wrong.

It's driving Joe out of his mind. At this point he doesn't know who to believe about what happened (or, I suppose, whether to believe Jane and Lynn -- he hasn't talked to Dave about it). Jane and Lynn are both really, really erratic and unreliable generally; if it's plausible that anyone would make up a story like that, it would be plausible from either of them. And he really, really doesn't know what to do to help make things better. Dave's wife, my MIL, is in the same position -- doesn't categorically disbelieve it, but doesn't know what to believe.

None of this is directly my issue, but I just spent the weekend with Joe (and our kids, including our teenage daughter) visiting Jane for a big family event for Lynn's older sister, and chatting pleasantly with all of them, including Dave, while I'm freaking out internally about participating in keeping something horrible like this swept under the family rug. I don't think there's anything I should be doing directly -- all the decisions about doing anything active, or confronting Dave, are Jane's or Lynn's to make -- but it's really disturbing.

I don't know that there's any particular advice I'm looking for, although if anyone had anything helpful to say I'm listening. It's just been driving me nuts keeping it bottled up, and I know there's no chance that anyone with enough knowledge to identify the story is going to be reading here, so it's safe to tell it.

#422 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 06:20 PM:

tamiki @420: got that, and thank you.

#423 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 06:24 PM:

Ouch, that all sounds really painful, whatever the truth of the matter.

"Jane and Lynn are both really, really erratic and unreliable generally; if it's plausible that anyone would make up a story like that, it would be plausible from either of them."

The flip side of that coin is that perhaps they are really erratic and unreliable in part because they were abused. That's not necessarily the case, of course, but I think it might be worth considering.

#424 ::: Irene ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 06:28 PM:

Yup, we've done the math on that. Jane's always been a mess, and I've always kind of wondered why -- same family as Joe, by no means stupid, but her life has been all about the bad decisions. I'd attributed it to the abusive first marriage, which was when she was very young, but it would make perfect sense for it to be fallout from an earlier trauma. If I had to bet one way or the other on whether it happened, I'd say it probably did, but not strongly enough to feel sure about it.

#425 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 09:22 PM:

Lori, #413: That sounds an awful lot like a "put on your sweater, I'm cold" to me! And if Cassy's suggestion @417 isn't feasible, another category of place that's chronically in need of volunteers is libraries. I can SO see your mom telling stories to the little kids!

#426 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 12:56 AM:

Irene: Yikes! I both wish I had some advice to offer and am profoundly glad I've never been in a position where I'd gain that knowledge. Good luck in figuring out how to move forward.

#427 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 01:41 AM:

I mentioned last night that my sister grew up in a different world; I wonder if some of what happened between me and my parents is that I was supposed to be the one who Got It Right The First Time.

My sister had a much different childhood than I did. Mom married her first husband because he knocked her up, she was 18 and she thought she had to. (She said she considered abortion long enough to know it wasn't for her; I don't know if she considered adoption or, if she did, why she chose not to.) She divorced him because he cared more about his band than his wife and daughter; she got an annulment because it turned out he was tripping during the ceremony. He died when my sister was 10, and she witnessed Mom having a relationship implode on her before Dad came into the picture.

(I should say 'before Dad came into the picture again'; his older brothers knew Mom's first husband, so they'd met before.)

She's by no means stupid, but she's not an academic. She dropped out of college at least once in what the world considers the traditional Going To College period; she did finally finish her degree two years ago.

I don't know how much her childhood shaped her, but I'm sure it did. I know Dad brought a measure of stability into the picture that she'd never really known before then.

I also know I went to college right out of high school and graduated in four years, and maybe because of that my parents weren't expecting the semi-shiftless move-back-home period that my sister had. Maybe because of that they figured I would also be the one to Get A Good Job Right Away.

But I moved back home, and I didn't look over the summer because I didn't want to get hired and then say 'by the way I'm going to Hawaii soon' (graduation present; we had A Talk while we were there, though, and also a horrible day where Dad thought I Wasn't Doing Vacation Right and wouldn't let me go be angry about it for a few minutes - instead he kept following me and rehashing the same point again and I GOT IT THE FIRST TIME), and then the economy completely tanked, and then all I could find was part-time retail, and then I didn't have the spoons for a second part-time job or a way to explain that to them, and my fiancee and I were trying to feel out moving feasibility, and I was too burnt-out on school to want to do grad school, and I stopped feeling at home.

One of the songs I've tied to that time I've actually known since it came out 20 years ago, but I sure as hell didn't understand it when I was six. It's also not explicitly about any one kind of situational unhappiness, but no matter why you find yourself living there? It is not a fun place to live. There was a stretch of several months where I couldn't listen to it without crying any more than I could make myself skip it; since I moved out, that's happened far, far less. (I don't skip it, but I'm not reliably crying two lines in, either.)

I felt stuck for a long time. Now, with no job at all, I feel so much *less* stuck than I did with part-time income... and my parents' house to go back to after work.

#428 ::: eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 03:46 AM:

Today was a good day at training. I was comfortable with people, I did some stuff with another woman rather than just my teacher/friend. But then another person had to rearrange my opponent's grip as she was doing it wrong, and that involved touching my hand and arm. I almost freaked out and bolted there and then. The thought that I'd be able to do some stuff with other people at training that day (not just my teacher/friend) became laughable. I didn't bolt. I even was relaxed for the remainder of class.

It's just... this was a good day for me. How I am ever going to get better if even on a good day I can't handle being touched? It's not just about getting better at the martial arts. I guess it's about getting better at being human.

(This just feels like a spurt of trivial self pity. Then I decided that's okay. I'm allowed to feel that sometimes.)

#429 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 04:24 AM:

@Eleanor no. 428: I am almost certainly "on the spectrum," although I don't have the money to get an official diagnosis. I used to hate being touched because I had undiagnosed (and long-untreated) PTSD. I worked that away and found out that there are still times and situations when not even my children can touch me.

It helps me to think of it like this: Some people think cilantro tastes like soap. Some people do not enjoy chocolate. The Asperger's spectrum is not the only spectrum of human variation, and believing that I should be ashamed because I can't grok human expressions much of the time and still hate being touched out of the blue is as unnecessary as believing that I should feel ashamed for not being able to stand the taste of Nutrasweet. The shame emotion still pops up, but I can look at it as a thing that happens without my volition and then goes away, like burping.

#430 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 08:13 PM:

Back in my first comment (405), I mentioned that in the last screaming match my dad and I had, he said he thought getting pregnant would actually do me some good.

There are a number of reasons that bugged me, not least of which was that that would currently require infidelity at best, and rape at worst. It's a little by way of being physically impossible.

He apparently pushed to have a kid with Mom because he's of the 'pass on my genetic legacy' school of thought. Even though he's long held that I should do the same, I've never really wanted to. Fortunately, Mom's school of thought is 'if you don't want to have kids, then don't.'

There's the fact that it's not just me - even though if it were, I still don't really want to deal with all a baby takes out of you - and my fiancee Does Not Want Kids. Her mental issues aside, she's never felt particularly maternal. We've agreed that if it ever were to happen, we'd be adopting a kid who's old enough to understand not everyone's going to like the fact that the kid has two moms.

What I said in response to the comment at the time was that I think I'd be a crap mother and don't want to subject an unsuspecting kid to that. Dad said 'you never know.'

I don't? Why not?

"Maybe you'd be the father."

I almost started screaming again. Gender issues in general are something I'm only peripherally aware of, and I try to Do It Right (not always easy; I've only just gotten it through my head that a trans friend who I haven't seen in person since she actively started presenting female isn't [Male Name] anymore), but... THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS. If I were to have or adopt a kid, I would be that kid's mother.

Not a big moment in the overall dysfunction, but it made me very, very glad I don't have to sort *that* out with them. My parents understand gender less than I do.

(Though in reading this over in the preview, the fact that he missed the point entirely struck me. You don't have to be a mother to be a bad parent, and if that's what you're concerned about, having a kid might still look like a horrible idea.)

#431 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 09:13 PM:

I'm sorry to barge in so late. I normally just watch and read this thread (and take considerable comfort in it), but I've just started to get my life together and I am not ready to have it pulled apart again. So this is me reaching out.

After a few blissful months of no contact with my parents I received a package from them. The package, which came by post today, contained the following items: the first magazine I was published in, 3 copies of my convocation program, and a note I wrote to them regarding the whereabouts of the truck, written in 1999.

Only I can read this code. The magazine and the convocation represent things my parents think they have done for me (publication, graduation). The note, signed "I love you" represents not only that I was sometimes permitted access to transportation (imagine!) but a time when I was a Nice Girl.

I wish I could take out the part of my brain that know what this collection of crap means. This is a language I no longer wish to understand.

#432 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 09:53 PM:

Due warning: I've had a bit of a rough day and am rather short of patience at the moment. This is going to color my approach to problem-solving, so please take everything below with as much salt as seems advisable.

tamiki, #430: IMO that calls for pulling out the tactical nukes. The next time your father brings up the issue of children, tell him flat-out that you refuse to pay any attention to a man who thinks you should be raped. Because whether he realizes it or not, that is what he said... and I also wonder whether or not the "all she needs is a good fuck" meme was in there somewhere as well. In fact, this would be a good all-purpose argument for breaking contact completely if that's what you want to do.

Bam, #431: I presume that you have your own copies of the magazine and the convocation program, and I'm guessing from your second paragraph that the note no longer means anything to you. If so, my advice here is tactical nukes as well. Tear the magazine and the programs to shreds, remove the closing line from the note and tear the rest into several pieces, and send the lot back to them. "Your claim is false."

#433 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 12:09 AM:

@tamiki no. 430: "You should get pregnant for your own good" is, IME, code for "you are not behaving like a proper womanly woman and if you just fulfilled what I consider to be your correct function you would become the woman I want you to be." So not as monstrous as wishing rape on a person, but still extremely demeaning and insulting--it's something said of unruly mares or bitches, that pregnancy would settle them down. Frankly I would cut ties.

@Bam no. 431: In my opinion, it would be easier on you in the long run if you didn't respond at all. Let their passive aggressive attempts to find a tender spot fall into the black hole of your inattention. Keep what you want to keep and mulch the rest. Getting a rise out of you is probably what they want.

#434 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 01:33 AM:

Lee and J - I'm pretty sure Dad wasn't knowingly wishing rape on me, and I rather doubt 'all she needs is a good fuck' played into it. He seemed to be coming at it from the 'this will Teach You Responsibility' angle.

Which... gee, if I'm that irresponsible, maybe you shouldn't have left me in charge of the dogs when you went on vacation.

I like to think I'm reasonably responsible. I was in charge of my own day-to-day life in college and didn't fall down on the job. I rarely called off work, and when I did it was because I was too sick to stand or, once, because my car was literally frozen shut (as in, encased in ice). I lock up for a bit if I have to call someone to get something done, but I do take care of it. I was current on my student loans (the ones in my name) until I moved, and then I filed for deferment/forbearance.

I don't know if I'm going to cut ties completely or not. Parents are Complicated. I do know that this comment (and the rest of that evening in general) contributed to my uneasiness when, during another argument (not as vicious but still no fun) the week before I left, Mom said 'I don't want you to feel like you can never come back.'

I don't necessarily feel like I can't go back, but I sure as hell don't want to.

#435 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Lee and Cassy B. thanks -- she really likes animals so I'm thinking the no-kill cat shelter and/or dog pound. She's an RN, and has had it up to here with hospitals (considering what the for-profit one she was working at was like, I'd have murdered the CEO and the board...).

It takes most of my spoons to deal with her problems, so getting her out of the house a couple of days a week would be nice.

#436 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 11:22 AM:

Lori Coulson@435, the animal shelter sounds perfect; that's another place that's (in my experience) always desperate for volunteers. And as a nurse, the necessity to clean up the occasional accident is unlikely to squick her out.

I sincerely wish for you the necessary spoons to convince her to try it.

#437 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 12:11 PM:

tamiki, #434: If he didn't realize it, perhaps it would be salutary to point it out. "Y'know, Dad, I'm not going to cheat on my girlfriend, so do you realize that the only way I'm going to get pregnant is by being raped? Is that really what you want?" Follow up by asking exactly how he thought it was going to happen in the first place. Make him acknowledge the hidden assumptions, whatever they are. At best, once he realizes them, he'll abandon them; at worst, you'll know what you're dealing with.

Also, if he thinks you're that irresponsible, why the HELL is he thinking of giving you charge of a CHILD, never mind the family pets?! This is a good judo argument, the kind that turns the opponent's position back on them. "If you think I'm too irresponsible to run my own life, then I'm clearly too irresponsible to be a parent. You don't take that sort of gamble with a human life, if you have any morals at all."

#438 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 04:09 PM:

J and Lee, thank you. I deeply desire to rise up roaring at them, but that package was designed to provoke. Henceforth all packages received will be returned unopened (boomerang nuke rather than tactical nuke, perhaps.)

#439 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 04:24 PM:

To quote my sister,* SOME SON OF A BITCH JUST HIT OUR CAR.

It's still driveable, and it was parked at the time; we're fine. My fiancee went to go to work this morning and found that someone (who, from the look of the damage, had parked next to us in a Not A Space) had bumped into the car and about taken the back bumper off. They didn't bother leaving any information, either.

After a bit of 'oh god oh god oh god,' I got through making an insurance claim and helping put in the police report just fine. (Our best lead is that it may or may not have been someone driving a U-Haul; we're attempting to follow up with U-Haul itself to see if anyone brings one back with corresponding damage.) We also stopped in at our management company, since we'd parked in the lot we pay for instead of just using street parking; we don't know if they can help us narrow it down or not.

I think it says something that, as best as I can tell, I got more wigged out and panicky at the thought of calling my parents (I'm still in the process of changing my residency, so the car is still under their policy for now - given that, I thought it better if they heard about it from me as soon as possible) than I was about following up on the claim information. Of course, by the time I followed up on the claim info I was just plain tired, but still.

(Bad news: The deductible's higher than I thought it was. Good news: Since the car still drives just fine, or at least as well as it did before this, we don't have to get it fixed right away; we just have to get the estimate done soon.)

*So I've heard, anyway; if I was alive at the time it happened I wasn't old enough to remember it.

#440 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 04:26 PM:

Bam @438:

Here's the soundtrack to this little exchange. Although I hope your parents get a clue less intrusively than Mr Presley does.

#441 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 05:21 PM:

abi: I appear to have had something pretty solidly gnomed round about #427. Do they require more snacks?

Update on the car situation: Just talked to Dad for about half an hour. Relatively painless; he wanted to make sure we were okay and I had the info about the claim (which I do) and then gave me a few updates and talked about the debate for a while. (We mostly agree on politics, so that wasn't the minefield it is for some.)

I'm going with 'much better now that I don't live there anymore.'

#442 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 05:37 PM:

tamiki @441:

There's nothing left in moderation at all for this thread. I can dig in the spam bucket, where the nameless robot gnomes send things that don't even get as far as the filters.

But not for a few hours, because it's bedtime for me right now. And when I short myself on sleep, I'm (even more) prone to depression.

#443 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 05:41 PM:

abi: Argh! By all means sleep first, but it is possible it got lost in the spam filter (I linked to a Youtube video).

#444 ::: Bam ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 08:34 PM:

Abi @440 Thank you for that! A catchy, topical tune is is exactly the kind of thing I need to keep spirits up.

#445 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2012, 10:29 PM:

Lee @ 437

Well, plenty of people get artificially inseminated these days. I'm not sure there must be hidden assumptions, though there certainly may be.

#446 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2012, 01:43 AM:

tamiki @443:

Woohoo! Found it! Comment 427 is now up.

Apologies for missing it before.

#447 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2012, 09:56 AM:

huzzah! Thanks, abi, and no worries; it happens sometimes.

#448 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2012, 08:28 AM:

I just watched this video about the Marshmallow Study Revisited, and thoughts about being a child surrounded by gaslighting makes me shiver in recognition. In the revisited study, children were offered a marshmallow then promised two marshmallows later if they could wait. However, the study found that if the children were promised other things previously and disappointed later, the chances of their eating the single marshmallow earlier increased significantly. It seems a no-brainer now that I consider it, but wow, did growing up with ever changing goal posts and pressures to pretend things were hunky dory make me a Scarfer of Sweets?

If there is any basis for impulsivity, the study seems to hint, it is affected by the exposure of the child to unreliable circumstances, adults not following through, or otherwise not being able to deliver on what is promised.

(Here's hoping the gnomes do not want marshmallows...)

#449 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2012, 12:08 PM:

ma larkey, thank you for pointing that out.

I moved around A LOT as a kid, as my family moved. Different schools in different cities in different states. I've known for years that this stunted my social skills (why make friends if you just leave them?). Then, I realized a few years ago how much the effects had stunted my ability to plan and take control of my own life (what's the point of making plans if some giant change is probably in the wings?). And of course there is child-of-Asian-immigrants stuff in there, and Cold War nihilism. But I think I also learned helplessness from being forced to move over and over, as a child.

Your observation there:

If there is any basis for impulsivity, the study seems to hint, it is affected by the exposure of the child to unreliable circumstances, adults not following through, or otherwise not being able to deliver on what is promised.

helps me put together not just how upheavals would harm the delayed-gratification skills of Those Other Kids, Poor Things, but my past self. So, it didn't just hurt my long-term planning skills (where shall I live? what career shall I pursue?), but the minute-by-minute discipline of doing important, hard, fulfilling things instead of frittering. When life seems short you eat dessert first.

I'm a success at my job, I'm courageous and honest, but GOD I have to fight that impulsivity pretty hard. And I feel sorrow and pity for my past self, that kid who got moved around so much. I don't think my parents had much choice about all this, the economy being the way it was, but I think I can feel bad about what happened, acknowledge that it sucked and hurt me, without deciding my parents were monsters.

#450 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2012, 09:57 PM:

Irene @421, I have input on your situation (there was a similar situation in my extended family), but not the spoons to write it at the moment. Just wanted to let you know I'm witnessing and will get back to you.

#451 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2012, 09:37 AM:

ma larkey @448: the study found that if the children were promised other things previously and disappointed later

:: sits down hard ::



Sumana Harihareswara @449: GOD I have to fight that impulsivity pretty hard.

I've largely given up the fight. There are a few things on which I can mental-judo myself into non-impulsivity. But self-discipline? Nearly non-existent, these days.

#452 ::: Pro ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2012, 08:06 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @449

I'm a military brat myself, and while I knew the frequent moves had an effect on my memory (as in my early years are pretty much gone), it never occurred to me that the instability and unreliability of those years would have the effect of not inhibiting impulsivity.

I have now and again wondered if I have ADD, because I do have a hard time not resisting impulses, but I don't have any of the other parts. This is ... illuminating.

#453 ::: C Bea ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2012, 09:14 PM:

I read this(448)about the marshmallow study & went to University of Rochester's page about it. I clicked open stuff I do not like, Kindergarten to 7th grade 12 different, not schools but school districts. 7th grade was in itself a horror 3 states in before the winter break.

My mother tells that we moved 15 times between Thanksgiving & Christmas in 25 years. She thinks it makes a great family tale of being in the military.

I see the lack of place/home in all four of the children. If I get feeling brave, I'll remark on the 3 to 4 times a week to the Military Chapel attendance. That ended when she could go to the same church as Jack Kemp.

#454 ::: fromthefog ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2012, 11:50 PM:

I found this site from a friend of mine after she helped me in the first step of my move away from my family. I've been reading for about a week now, and so many things make so much sense and put my behaviours and other things about my past into perspective for me. For that, I want to thank everyone here.

I want to talk about my own relationships at some stage, but I don't have the words right now. For years I tried to describe the drip-drip-drip of everything that happened, and all anyone saw, it seemed, was a harmless dripping tap, and not that the dripping had been ongoing for years and that any action repeated with such consistency, over such long periods, results in pain. It seemed to take months and months for even my therapist to see the picture I was painting around (because I don't know how to paint the picture itself), even as I was finally building up to the fact that the problem wasn't that I'm a bratty teenager who never grew up (I'm in my mid 20's)- the problem is the overall dynamic. I don't know how to describe it but I'm finally at the place where I can say not only is it not typical, but many things that happened were unhealthy, and perhaps even just plain wrong. And even if it wasn't any of that, even if it is all completely on me, the situation became one I could no longer tolerate. I've come to the painful realisation that sometimes self-preservation is more important than happy families, and to think that doesn't make me a monster.

So. Thank you all. I'll continue to lurk, and perhaps say more when I find a way to put it all into words, if I ever do.

#455 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 12:04 AM:

fromthefog: Hang in there, good luck completing your move, and talk when you can. I wasn't expecting to find words for everything as quickly as I did, that's for sure, but whenever you have them, I've found this to be an extremely welcoming group.

#456 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 12:26 AM:

Update on the car situation: We got the estimate done today, so now it's down to when we can get it fixed. No word so far on whether the U-Haul lead's going to go anywhere. We're hoping the management company might be able to help.

I haven't talked to Dad again since the night all that went down, but he was actually quite reasonable then. My fiancee thinks I was right in thinking we'd all be better off and better able to communicate once I moved out.

This has also opened up a little bit of her family's odd-function. Her parents are very religious-conservative and don't know I'm in the picture... or that my car is, so she's locked her Twitter until we get everything sorted out. (They have an occasional habit of looking up her online spaces and then saying she's Doing Them Wrong.)

I'm also... conflicted about the fact that she's going to visit them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the one hand, it makes her mother happy to have her there, they don't know she has a good reason to build her own holidays and at least she has the weight of 'this visit has to end on X day, I have to go back to work' on her side. (Visits when she was unemployed often went like so: they buy the ticket out with an idea she'll stay for a week, but don't buy the return ticket until a couple days before she leaves, which has distended to two or three weeks before.)

On the other, she's certainly old enough to have a holiday on her own by now. And I want to start building *our* holidays. (Not to mention, my fiancee is really not fond of the forcible cheeriness that is December; I'm inclined to think doing our own thing would be better on her brain.) I suspect there's an equal chance that if she said no to visiting them they'd come *here,* which would be a whole nother kind of train wreck.

For the record, she and I have talked about this. She sees it as trying to keep bridges open with her parents (this is rebuilding after a spectacular torching of said bridges some time ago; as I've said before, parents are Complicated), and I don't hold that against her at all. I'm just a little conflicted.

#457 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 03:47 AM:

fromthefog @454:

Welcome to the conversation. We're glad to have you, to whatever extent you're ready and able to talk.

One thing I wanted to say a word about: I've come to the painful realisation that sometimes self-preservation is more important than happy families, and to think that doesn't make me a monster.

You're absolutely correct in that. In point of fact, it's thinking that happy families is more important than self-preservation that is monstrous. It's also self-defeating. You can't build a sound wall with crumbling bricks; you can't make a happy family out of people who are being damaged by being in it.

The fact of the matter is that happiness in families is like forgiveness after being hurt. It's not an action you can take, or a first step to a particular goal. It's a symptom of the desired outcome.

To insist that the family Must Be Happy is cargo-cult thinking: "if we all plaster smiles on our face then all of our problems will go away."

And it's true that if you put a smile on, you can sometimes improve a bad day; it's true that, in a healthy relationship, you can live with some quite severe irritants, because they don't damage your emotional capital. But if you don't have that emotional capital, and if your bad day isn't just the kind of temporary lowness that we all experience from time to time, then smiling will not make it better. Pretending to be happy will not solve anything; it just adds to the damage. You have to deal with the problems.

When we moved to the Netherlands, five years ago, everyone in the family except my (then) three year old daughter went through a massive emotional trough. My son, then six, was having a particularly tough time of things: new town, new school, new language, all the food tasting wrong. And he lost a tooth, as kids do at that age. Along with the money I put under his pillow, I put a note "from the Tooth Fairy". It said that she'd noticed that he was having a very difficult time, that she was impressed by how brave he was being, and that she knew that he'd find his feet.

My mother in law raked me over the coals for this; it's the only really serious fight we've ever had. She was concerned that it would make too much of his depression and his struggles to cope. I said I knew my kid, and that he would benefit from the encouragement. I saw him read it. I saw, in his face, that it was the right thing to do.

When he got old enough to doubt the Tooth Fairy, he mentioned the note. I explained that it was from me, actually, and that I had wanted to tell him in every way I could that it was OK to struggle, and that I knew he'd manage to get out of it. By then, he had been to counseling, was fluent in Dutch, and had settled into his new school. He was struggling a little with bullying but otherwise OK.

When I ask him now, "Are you happy with your life?", he answers "yes," with enthusiasm.

There's a deep engine of joy that runs our household. I picture it like the great spinning thing in "Firefly". It stopped, that year, but you don't start it up by shouting, "spin, damn you!", and you don't get it going by pretending it's spinning already. You get it going by making all of the parts of it work.

(I don't say any of this to boast about my parenting; I've made plenty of mistakes as well. But it's useful, sometimes, to look at the functional to confirm that the dysfunctional is really, fundamentally different.)

#458 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Something I learned from a very sensible parenting group I'm in, that is also applicable to DFD issues: The Airplane Rule.

You know how in the safety briefing on airplanes, they talk about the oxygen masks and say, "If you are travelling with a child①, please put on your own mask first, and then assist the child."

It's true for a lot of other things. The Airplane Rule relates to why I give MYSELF timeouts when I'm running out of patience and parenting-spoons; it is far better for my child to bung her in her crib (or behind her babygate in her room, nowadays) for half an hour while I go cry/shower/eat/read/stim and get my game face back than it would be for me to keep parenting in that state.

I'm still really, really bad at self-care. Though at least now I'm self-aware enough to look back at a pattern and say, "Wow, I didn't eat lunch till after 2PM for several days in a row now. I bet I'm in a patch of bad brain weather. Ok, time to take my bad-brain-weather coping-strategy steps."

Since my reflex is to jump to the care of others and self-abnegate, sometimes I have to repeat to myself, "Airplane rule. Airplane rule ..."

① Or, as they said on a recent Southwest flight I was on, "If you are travelling with a child, or someone acting like one ..." I greatly approve of the flippancy they salt through all their briefings and announcements, it makes people pay attention. Similarly, the one after landing that went, "For your own safety and the safety of the people you will fall on, please remain in your seats until the plane has come to a complete halt and the Captain has turned off the seatbelt sign."

#459 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 10:35 AM:

My father is, in fact, dying.

He says he's not in pain, but it's pretty hard to believe that he's not suffering. The cancer is encroaching on his lungs and squeezing his heart and there's fluid in both those places that can't be got rid of, and it's just a question of which organ gives out first. He's at home in hospice care, which is better than being in the hospital, and we're all tending to him and making him as comfortable as possible.

We were called home five days ago with the notice that the doctor had predicted he would last another 48 to 72 hours. The hospice team estimates he may have several weeks. My sibling and I have both agreed that there is a small part of each of us that wants his, and our mother's, suffering to be bloody well over already; and then a large part of each of us, the remainder in fact, that realizes this is essentially wishing our father would just die if that's what he's going to do and put everyone out of their misery, and we are heartily disgusted with ourselves for it.

#460 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 10:40 AM:

Bricklayer @458 - I have also been on planes where they said "In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, once you've stopped screaming, grab the oxygen mask that will be hanging from the ceiling ..."


#461 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 10:56 AM:

abi: There's a deep engine of joy that runs our household.

I just wanted to say that I burst into tears when I read that sentence.

Not Today @ #459: having lived through the deaths of both my parents, neither of whom was in a great deal of pain, I can confidently say that it's likely that both your parents are also having those "can it just be OVER already!" thoughts.

#462 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 11:08 AM:

Not Today @460: The flights I was recently on also included this gem: "In the event that our flight becomes a cruise, there is a life vest under your seat cushion. Thank you for paying attention. Place the vest ..."

The giggles do let the stewards know who's actually listening. :->

#463 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 11:10 AM:

Lila @461:
I just wanted to say that I burst into tears when I read that sentence.

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make anyone unhappy.

#464 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 11:57 AM:

fromthefog, #454: Note that Chinese water torture* is nothing more than "a harmlessly dripping tap". Picking or scratching at an area of skin repeatedly over a long enough period of time can result in wounds, even though under normal circumstances those are harmless behaviors. It's not always monstrous individual actions that constitute abuse -- it can be a long-term pattern of things that occur now and then even in non-abusive relationships, and those patterns are often very hard for other people to see.

Congratulations on having realized for yourself that what was happening in your family was not the normal give-and-take of a healthy relationship, and on getting yourself out of there. May your journey now take an upward turn.

tamiki, #456: I think it's a little late to do anything about the Obligatory Family Visit this year, so your time is probably better spent thinking about ideas for next year, which can be discussed far enough in advance to be settled before the issue becomes acute. My first thought would be to make Thanksgiving into the "family visit" holiday and reserve Christmas for yourselves -- and perhaps to plan to go somewhere else, so that her family won't descend on you at home.

abi, #457: it's true that, in a healthy relationship, you can live with some quite severe irritants, because they don't damage your emotional capital. But if you don't have that emotional capital, and if your bad day isn't just the kind of temporary lowness that we all experience from time to time, then smiling will not make it better

This is a variation on Spoon Theory, or what I refer to as "having a limited amount of Cope". Example from my own life: when I was in the Job From Hell, all my supply of Cope was being used up at the office. So when I got home, little things -- a rude telemarketer, dinner that got scorched -- would send me into screaming hysterics because I had nothing left to deal with it. Even when I could see that I was overreacting, I couldn't stop -- because that would have required emotional capital that I just didn't have. Any ongoing source of stress can produce the same kind of results, but stress in your home environment is the worst.

Lately I've been watching a friend who finally got moved out of her parents' house recover her own Cope reserves. She gets upset sometimes because it's not All Better yet, but I can point out that while Thing X may have upset her, she's no longer having a complete meltdown over it the way she would have when she was living with them. Healing takes time.

Not Today, #459: I disagree. You are wishing for your father's suffering to be ended; there's nothing disgusting about that. Wanting him to drag on and on in that state just so that he would still be ALIVE would be both selfish and disgusting. Can you talk to him about whether he's ready to go? That might help.

* There's some disagreement about how much of what "everybody knows" about Chinese water torture is true. Nonetheless, it's still a useful metaphor for that constant drip-drip-drip.

#465 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 12:32 PM:

Lee @464 - I'm sorry, I know you mean well, but I find your problem-solving efforts to be hlepy rather than helpful. I meant to say so in response to @107 as well, and never did, so I apologize also for the degree to which I am responsible for the fact that you have now hurt me twice.

Thanks for trying. But while there are no doubt many who benefit from suggestions, but I'm in a place where the best thing for me is sympathy.

#466 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 12:39 PM:

tamiki @456: It's really weird, learning to navigate the holidays with two sets of Complicated families, isn't it? I'm in a similar place, I think, with regards to the conflicted feelings - you have my sympathies. In my case, it's that my partner will be going home for the holidays, but will not be wearing her wedding ring, and has not come out to anyone but her parents, so she'll be presenting as male the entire time. I understand that this will be one of her last sets of holidays as a boy, and therefore one of her last holidays with her extended family. I understand that her family is so rigidly traditional as to be furious that we got married "so soon" (two years in! after knowing each other a DECADE beforehand!) and that given how stressful things will be already for her, she wouldn't want to rock the boat anymore.

But this is my first set of holidays away from my family, and I want to spend them with my wife, and it feels shitty that I won't, and like you I am worried that she will be miserable. And I am really, really angry that apparently no one in her family is enough of a grown-up to just say "congratulations, I'm glad you're happy" and then shut up about it.

abi @457: When I ask him now, "Are you happy with your life?"

The very notion of a parent ASKING their child if they're happy just blew my mind open. Not asking in the sense of, you know, So is everything good? Yes? Everything's good? GREAT but in the sense of actually wanting to know. Oh. Wow.

To tangent off the general subject of This Is a Happy Family - I am particularly remembering, now, how it was right before I started cutting off contact with them. It wasn't quite as pronounced when it was just me and my parents, but when my brother was home too, it felt like an endless volley of these little snipes, all of them disguised as jokes. There was so much aggression just boiling under the surface, but all of us were so careful to disguise everything as humor. The one time I did say something along the lines of, our family is really just a free-for-all battle or something like that - laughing as I said it of course! - everyone jumped in to say no, what do you mean! We like each other so much! How could you say that!

I had wondered how I went from being such a serious, shy, uptight kid to being such a compulsively funny grown-up. I forgot that I started being funny, at first, as a coping mechanism - see? I'm LAUGHING! I don't care! I'm saying something mean to you or something mean about myself, but it's a JOKE! My feelings aren't serious, why would you take them seriously?

I forgot that having serious feelings wasn't safe in my house.

Not Today @459: Please don't beat yourself up about feeling that way. It is very, very common and it is perfectly reasonable. You love this person and you want this person to not suffer. There's nothing wrong with that. Now, I wouldn't recommend that you run out and tell your dad all the things you're feeling, but... hey, if it's in your head and it's only being spoken to people who agree, then no harm, no foul.

#467 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 12:41 PM:

Oops - just saw your new comment, Not Today - my sincere apologies if anything I said falls under the banner of hlepy as well :(

#468 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 01:13 PM:

Not Today: I lived through that kind of period with both my parents (they treated it very differently). You have my sympathy, and my wishes for an outcome that is good for you.

#469 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 01:17 PM:

self @465 - It would be more precisely correct to say that what I need now (and from this thread of all things) is to have my feelings validated, rather than to hear that I shouldn't be feeling them.

Thank you all for your support.

#470 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 02:50 PM:

Not Today @ 459

I just wanted to say that I've been through that. It's awful and conflicted, because it's so hard when your parent is suffering, and yet you don't want to lose all those possible futures with them either.

And I can say truthfully that I'm glad my parents aren't suffering. I still wish I'd had more time with them when they could be healthy and happy and engaged. It's awkward after they die, too. Am I allowed to be happy that I've entered an entirely different realm of financial independence? When am I allowed to get excited about the possibility of future adventures that wouldn't have been possible if she were still alive and sick?

It helps me to remember that I couldn't have made my parents better or helped them to live any longer - I did everything in my power and it wasn't enough, and at the end, the best thing I could give them was a passage that was peaceful, respectful, and loving. It also helps me to remember that my parents would have wanted me to enjoy my adventures. I'm still sad, relieved, excited, regretful and I still love them... it is what it is.

I hope you find your own balance of peace.

#471 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 02:54 PM:

Not Today @459: I'm so sorry. Impending and inevitable loss is a hard thing to cope with, and those conflicted feelings happen and they suck. I haven't been close to it with my grandparents -- that fell to my parents -- but I've been much more present with two of my friends, both lingering, both much too young.

For me, it helped with the guilt from the "just die already" feelings to tell myself "Of course I want them to live... but not like this."

Wishing you strength to get through it.

#472 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 03:20 PM:

Not Today @459: My sympathies. I hope your father's situation goes as smoothly as is possible.

Lee @464: I know there's nothing to be done about it this time around except count my blessings she only has so many vacation days and we're not long-distance anymore. I think I mainly needed to write down somewhere that I'm in this weird conflicted place over it.

The idea of going somewhere else ourselves is a good one, though I don't know how feasible it'll end up being. We can likely look into it, though.

radiosongs @466: Yikes! You guys have my sympathies as well. I hope her visit home goes as well as it can, given all its associated baggage.

But this is my first set of holidays away from my family, and I want to spend them with my wife, and it feels shitty that I won't

That. That exactly. I think it might be different if I were visiting my parents as well, but we won't have the money (my fiancee mostly is because her parents pay for the travel), I can't ask my parents to get me tickets (maybe if they hadn't done for my grandfather's funeral, but even then I'd balk), and... well, they want me to build my own life, too.

I completely understand the need for bridge maintenance, but part of me's just like 'but but but my girl.'

#473 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 05:46 PM:

Not Today, #465: My apologies, and thank you for telling me. I'll bear that in mind for the future. And @469: Ouch. Yes, I did that, without even noticing that I was doing it, and I should know better. I'm very sorry.

radiosongs, #466: That sucks. Hearing and witnessing.

#474 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 06:42 PM:

Lee @ 473: Thank you so much. I do appreciate the kindness, and I also appreciate your willingness to let me reshape it just a bit. :-) (Also, my blood sugar is higher now than it was this morning, which can't possibly hurt.)

#475 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 09:57 PM:

abi @ #463, not unhappy, just emotional.

Not Today: I hope my comment didn't sound as if I were telling you not to feel what you feel; that was not my intent, and if that's how it came across, I apologize.

#476 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 11:03 PM:

This is not exactly about dysfunctional families, but I guess it sort of is. My workplace seems to think it functions as a family, at least. And I need somewhere to talk about it, before I have a crying meltdown (it would be a screaming meltdown, but I do not think I know how to scream anymore; I cannot even make noise when I cry, for fear of disturbing others) at work and get in trouble for it.

This is complicated.

My boss died at the end of last year (during the week between Christmas and New Year's, when my company is generally closed). My team was gathered together the first day we were back and informed. We were allowed to go home with no penalty that day, and we were allowed to leave work at noon two days later for her memorial service. (Two weeks after that, my mother's favourite bunny died. Three days later she got a new bunny. That Friday she was dead. I still...I don't know.)


My place of work never hired another person to be the boss of my department. So my team's boss is now the Human Resources person (who is also the accounting person). She knows nothing about what my department does. (I work for a school and library book wholesaler in Canada.) If I have any sort of work-related issue, I am supposed to go to her. I am scared of her, and always have been--she makes fun of me for not being as capable as other people ("frail" and "fragile" she calls me, and make fun of me for needing a whole day off for eye doctor appointments--when said appointments are so traumatizing for me that I have PTSD because of them, just as examples). We think I am autistic, but I do not yet have a diagnosis because I have to wait until the centre for such things has an opening.

The only other person above the HR person is the head of the company, who I am also scared of. She treats me as if I am an idiot.

The company is not a physically safe place to work--there are stacks of books all over the place, and I have to go around and over them all the time.

I do not feel safe other than physically, either--I am scared of the HR person and of the head boss, and I have no one to go to at work about these issues--there is nothing I can do. I do not know what to do.

#477 ::: Not Today ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2012, 11:24 PM:

Finny @476 - I would guess there is some sort of regulatory agency having to do with workplace safety and other matters of employees' rights, someone to whom your HR boss and big-boss are at least overseen by as a matter of law. (I wouldn't necessarily guess that except that you specify that you are in Canada.) Is there a whistle that can be blown?

#478 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 12:12 AM:

For anyone who's been saving a neuron or two for "How That Turned Out," my apologies. I had a precipitous drop in spoon availability, from which I am only now slowly recovering.

There *was* a card, with even a check, though an order of magnitude smaller than previous years. (When I told my partner that I was tempted to leave it uncashed, she murmured that in her opinion there had been entirely enough nose-spiting already.) So yeah, whatever. I guess we'll have Exchange of Cards and perhaps nominal gifts. No calls, which is fine, because talking to my family depletes my spoonage alarmingly.

radiosongs @ 350: Also your name makes me giggle :)
Backstory is available via View All By. The earliest ones tell my story; the later are mostly And What Have We Gleaned From This?

Diatryma @356: I can always use a reminder to pay attention to when I am having an argument with an imaginary person. Congratulations on it!
There have been many, many ponies hidden in this pile of fertilizer.

#479 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 12:14 AM:

radiosongs @358: I should've thought ahead somehow, been more careful, put up with things a bit longer and saved it all.
Oh, hon. There, there, there, there, there. One of the ponies I rescued from the fertilizer is: Any advice that includes use of a time machine may be safely disregarded.

On the other hand, I do find it useful to ask myself with some regularity, "What am I going to wish I'd done?" It's why I grow food in my back yard now. I looked around me in 2007, as the economy was plummeting, and food was the thing I knew I was going to wish I were growing.

#480 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 03:14 AM:

Not Today, #474: After some further consideration, I think what happened was that I let one of my standard tools get out of hand. "Reframing" is a tactic I find very useful for dealing with my own issues; if I can find a different/better/less-toxic way of thinking about something, I can often find a better way of dealing with it. But I should not have phrased my comment the way I did.

Finny, #476: I am always deeply suspicious of companies that try to invoke the "family" meme, because IME so many of them are doing it the same way an abusive family does -- to guilt the employees into accepting things about the environment that would otherwise raise Big Red Warning Flags. Like, for example, the fact that one of the two top-level people thinks it's okay to verbally abuse employees about medical issues. But you're supposed to take it and not complain, because FAMILY.

Is it completely unfeasible for you to look for another job?

#481 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 08:02 AM:

SpawnOfTheDevil @ #479: Any advice that includes use of a time machine may be safely disregarded.

Oh, MAN. That is going in my quotes file RIGHT NOW.

Finny @ #476: I'm at a total loss as far as any helpful advice, but I'm hearing and witnessing (and shuddering).

#482 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 09:11 AM:

Not Today, sympathies and supportive thoughts headed your way for your father and for the rest of your family. I think the conflicted feelings are common under the circumstances.

SpawnOfTheDevil, I'm with Lila that Any advice that includes use of a time machine may be safely disregarded. is very much a keeper of a quote.

#483 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 09:34 AM:

Finny @476, it doesn't sound like this company is a good place for you to work and with the company head and the HR official contributing to that, then it's hard to see it improving. I suggest you begin planning an exit strategy: update your resume, think about what other kinds of jobs you might like, etc. You don't have to do this in panic mode, but you may find it makes the bad days more manageable to know that you are working on getting out.

#484 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 01:07 PM:

Finny @476: Seconding the exit-strategy suggestion, and seeing if there's someone you can report at least the physically unsafe conditions to (does Canada have something equivalent to OSHA?).

Also, it just plain sounds like the current structure is putting too much work on too few people. Having the HR person be the accounting person and supervising a department they don't know is way too much. (Not excusing their treatment of you in the slightest.) If anything, that kind of job-piling at the top of the chain is another good reason to start on an exit strategy; who knows how long it might be before they move it down?

Hopefully this doesn't come off as hlepy. Good luck getting it all sorted out, and hopefully it won't get worse before it gets better.

#485 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2012, 04:43 PM:

Hello again. It occurs to me that one of the blogs I follow may be helpful to folks in this thread. It's a tumblr called "Calming Manatee". This is going to sound a little goofy, but the author writes "in-character" as a manatee (and sometimes out of character as "the human typist") who believes in the reader, and really wants you to believe in yourself. It sounds corny, I know! It requires a little suspension of disbelief.

The posts fall into basically two categories. There are image posts (with text captions for folks who can't see/load the images), and a sort of advice column where people write in (anonymous and not) asking for input or reassurance. The images are essentially motivational posters with a quote, like “I just wanted to remind you, that I am really proud of you for facing your fears. I know it was tough, but you never let anything stop you. You are amazing.”. Another one of my favourites: “Accepting help doesn’t make you weak. Lots of people love you, and want to make things easier for you.”.

Your Mileage May Vary, of course; I personally find it a little too earnest sometimes. But then again, other times earnest is just what you need. So if anyone wants to take a look at that, it's at

#486 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 12:03 PM:

Not Today #459: You have my sympathies for your impending loss, and I wish you peace and strength. I had similar thoughts and conflicted feelings when my grandmother died of pancreatic cancer; you're not alone in that at all. Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard, especially when it's a slow decline. Hugs if you want them.

#487 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 03:07 PM:

Not Today @ 459: My sympathies. My mother passed away from cancer nearly 3 years ago, and her last few weeks were much as you describe. I think in our case it was a little bit easier because her mind had... gone adrift, and while she was awake and aware, she wasn't really... there... any more. I could mourn the loss of the essentials of her mind already while hoping that the physical process of dying went as easily as possible on her. I did regret that I never had the chance for those final conversations, but I had said enough before, I think. Be gentle with yourself and your sibling - these conflicts are entirely normal and nothing to be disgusted about.

#488 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 04:37 PM:

So. The trip went miserably, although it's not all that one person's fault, but that's not why I'm writing, really. I'd been postponing reading and writing here for a week or two, not sure why exactly, but I guess I was waiting for a reason to write, to have something to write other than "Nothing's changed".
Well, today I saw the movie version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I got that reason to write.
I never cry at movies, but I cried at that one, because it hit so many of my buttons. Not a perfect portrayal, and not entirely comparable to my life story (spoilers: V jnf arire zbyrfgrq nf n xvq, be fnj zlfrys nf erfcbafvoyr sbe nabgure'f qrngu, be nalguvat dhvgr fb boivbhf.), but... really what got to me was the breakdown near the end, some of the lines of thinking portrayed within it. (Trying to keep this from getting too spoilery, since it's important.) Seeing treatment as potentially too expensive. Thinking everything is my fault. Telling myself to stop crying... it was all there.
I think I really do need to seek out a therapist, but I don't know where to start... perhaps literally "where". I'm on one continent for a month and a bit, then go back home for another month and a bit, then school for three months or so, then home for three months or so... My mother seems to think the school counselor will be enough to help, or at least be a good first step, but that means waiting over two months to get any counseling, and even then... honestly, I'm not sure how helpful the school counselor can be.
I should be writing a paper's outline that's due tomorrow instead of writing this. Shows how bad I've gotten about motivation, I guess. I do manage to do everything... eventually, and it's certainly not my best work. Going back to school kind of scares me, especially with my perfectionism- I'm not even making all As here, how badly will I do when I have to go back, where everything's more demanding?
I've noticed some OCD tendencies of mine, too. Specifically hand-washing. I'm very picky about my hands being clean, and will immediately act to clean them when I feel they're dirty. When near a sink, that means washing them two, three, four times over. When not, it's time for a big glob of hand sanitizer, which dries my hands out and makes everything I touch taste icky for a while, but I can't stop. I can't stop biting my nails either, they're really stubbly now.
This is getting all rambly, but I'm crying now just thinking about that movie and how messed-up my mind is and I need to tell somebody how I feel and it certainly isn't the people I saw the movie with, so I guess you guys get the privilege of reading all this crap. Ha!

#489 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 04:38 PM:

SpawnOfTheDevil @ #479: "Any advice that includes use of a time machine may be safely disregarded."

Oh! That's... really useful. I've been going through a "what if" period, realising how much some of my early experiences stunted me in some areas (self esteem, and lots of limitations in my professional life and other areas, leading from that). I'm seeing some of the things I'm achieving now, in a voluntary capacity, and wondering how much more I could have achieved, both voluntary and professionally, without this -baggage- of "nobody in my peer group is going to listen to my ideas, just because I'm the one making the suggestion, so there's no point in making the suggestion." and "They'll say no, because I'm the one asking, so I might as well save myself the embarrassment of sking." And "No point in trying for X (great training position to further my career) because they'll reject me for the job and if I get it they'll just think I'm useless because of my low self-confidence" - and many variations on this theme.

So I think I need to remind myself that it's also "Any advice to self that includes use of a time machine may be safely disregarded."

And after all, if I'd taken those long-ago potential opportunities, I wouldn't have my wonderful husband and my lovely cat etc. etc. and I'd possibly be poorer in other (non-financial) ways as well.

#490 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 08:20 PM:

dcb @489: In re use of a time machine, someone once stumped me really hard with an apparently-common-in-their-circle party game/icebreaker: If you could send a short, text-only message (call it a tweet for convenience, though not delivered that way) to your high-school self, what would you say?

The interest of the problem to my friend was twofold: what to say concisely to try to remove past pain, and how to get your past self to believe it and implement it. I don't even have to worry about that second one, because I'm so stuck on the first.

To me, it was more complicated: what small thing COULD I change that would make much difference in how I turned out? So many things were complexly woven of brain chemistry, social setting, familial crudded-up dysfunction ... and my own high-school self's lack of the self-awareness and coping tools I have now.

I literally don't know what I could tell her that would help at all. "It gets better" is both misleading and completely unhelpful. I'm not certain I WANT to have twigged to the gender thing that early, before I had the mental tools to help me deal with the fallout and changes; though that's an option. Urge myself to find fandom earlier? Possible, and possibly helpful; similarly, the SCA could have been a supportive place for college-age me.

I just don't know how I could have gotten to a sane, functional adulthood any faster than I did, because the morass I started with was so complicated.

For some of my friends, the question is much simpler: "Tell my dad to get tested for cancer right away", "Don't go to College A, go to interesting-but-smaller College B, which won't be abusive", "You're better than Guy X, dropkick him quickly", etc.

#491 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 09:08 PM:

Bricklayer @ #490: "Thirty years' experience has shown that yes, he really loves you, unlikely as it may seem. You can breathe now."

#492 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 09:10 PM:

Because I'm reading old threads as well as keeping up with this one:

cayce, if you're still checking in: Hey, we made our respective breaks for it the same weekend! ::high-fives:: Yours was a lot more drama-ful than mine, though. Glad you made it out in one piece; I hope your brother can do the same.

#493 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 10:30 PM:

Dash, I hope you get the help you need. You're not alone.

#494 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2012, 11:40 PM:

I want to respond to everyone who responded to me earlier. I can't, now. Too worked up. Today I fell over backwards over one of the many stacks of books on the floor. HR (also my boss, since my boss died) had the response of "Be extra careful; there is nothing we can do about the books." And, when I brought up writing an incident report (because, while I'm just very sore and stiff right now, I don't know if it will stay that way, get better, or get worse, and I'm trying to protect myself and the company), I was told "That isn't needed unless you're bleeding; I've had people want to do so for stubbed toe; a verbal report is enough." I'm afraid it's not, but I can't make her do one. So I've gotten one of the two witnesses to my fall to write out what she saw. Hopefully that will help, should I need written proof.

Off to bed now; I'm tired and sore and stiff.

#495 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 12:31 AM:

Finny @494: Yikes! Take care of yourself. (If you do get a chance to talk to any official safety-type people, I think it'd be worth bringing this up.)

Dash @488: Hugs if you're open to them, and hang in there.

Bricklayer @490: "Let the poor guy down gently; your dad's kind of an ass; so are some of the first people you'll meet at college; this game will change your life."

(The game in question is an LJ RPG that sprang into being the summer before I started college. It's (a) how I met my fiancee and (b) STILL GOING STRONG, but not on LJ. As for college, I enjoyed a moment of schadenfreude a couple weeks ago when it turned out College Friend Who Didn't Invite Me To Her Wedding... may not be able to get a visit visa for winter holiday purposes.)

#496 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 01:17 AM:


"You are not crazy. Look up self-care for depression and social anxiety, and be tender with yourself."

#497 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 02:21 AM:

Bricklayer, #490: "Stop worrying about getting your parents' approval; it'll never happen. And relocate at least 3 hours away during your 20s."

#498 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 02:31 AM:

Bricklayer @490
Oooooh! That's a good one. Lessee:

You're right. Autonomy is crucial. You might consider being kinder, though.
Strange as it may seem, everybody is not being stupid on purpose just to annoy you.

#499 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 04:54 AM:

I like this suggestion of Bricklayer's at 490.

"Be true to yourself. Corollary: there *will* be resistance. That is not proof of doing it wrong. Learn to distinguish between resistance and genuine reasons to stop pursuing a given course."

Not quite sure if that's boiled down to Tweet-sized proportions, but it'll do.

Crazy(and still witnessing, if not "doing DFD" "perfectly, *wink*)Soph

#500 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 05:20 AM:

I know mine: "You're not actually cut out for a career in science or engineering. Go into classics."

(Although, having started on classics when I was in my thirties, I don't know if trying to do it at eighteen would have worked out.)

#501 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 06:26 AM:

Bricklayer #490: "Your LD is called Aspergers; it disrupts your social perception and makes you vulnerable to sensory overload."

The thing is, it would help if that was sent specifically to me at the beginning of HS, if not a little earlier.

#502 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 08:07 AM:

Bricklayer @490: mine would be "Being bullied is NOT your fault. Seriously. You deserve to not be bullied." That would have been useful.

#503 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 08:10 AM:

Possibly for a capital letter without a full stop preceeding it? I can offer Lebkuchen.

#504 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 10:57 AM:

490: "When he says you sound like his bipolar brother George, LISTEN and get evaluated. While you're at it, check out ADHD too."

#505 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 11:20 AM:

Addendum to me @495: "Also, SCHOLARSHIPS. Look into them, you'll save yourself a lot of grief later."

#506 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 11:36 AM:

I'm not sure what I needed to hear. My problems were vaguely depressive, and I can't say that there were single bad decisions.

It's possible that the right thing was to do school work instead of drifting down to a C average and getting into the University of Delaware. I might have done much better in a small liberal arts college.

I don't know if there's anything I could have said which would have motivated me to do the work.

#507 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 11:52 AM:

Bricklayer @ 489

Perhaps indicatively (and unhelpfully to my younger self, who was obsessed with the same thing), my response was "Get out." Having my folks tested for cancer early didn't even occur to me, because it is an order of magnitude less important to my sanity and health. (My mom's death has me back on anxiety/depression meds, so scale up from there.)

#508 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 12:19 PM:

Re: Bricklayer @ 490:

I think mine would be something like "You are a beautiful, thoughtful, compassionate, fascinating, lovable, and COMPLETE person all by yourself, without him."

If I got a second one, "When someone cries as much about a relationship as you are, it means something really toxic is going on underneath, even though it doesn't seem that way."

#509 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 06:38 PM:

Bricklayer @490: "You're not lazy and stupid, you have ADD. You'll never get his approval, but that's his problem. And you *will* find someone who loves you."

#510 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 07:28 PM:

So, the update...

For about the past six months, I've been increasingly exhausted, physically and emotionally. Both my job and my marriage have suffered for it--my production at work has deteriorated, I've been late and/or absent way too much, and even on good days I barely have enough energy for work, let alone marriage, and nothing at all left for myself. Husband is unemployed and chronically depressed, and our oldest cat has kidney disease, so anything that threatens the income is a BAD THING. Add to the mix the freelance project from hell, multiple car problems, etc., and I've been walking along the precipice of self-destruction.

My crusty old neurologist, at my most recent visit, said, "You look like hell; tired all the time, even on the ADD meds? You probably have a sleep problem, go see this colleague of mine." Sleep doc said, "Holy crap, you've got a problem! Let's get you a sleep study."

Got the results today; no apnea, but also no REM sleep, and my tiredness has gotten worse; doc says, "Let's consider narcolepsy," and prescribes a new med which I start tomorrow. I'm at the point where I'm not even sure if I can hope it'll work; I feel staggering and stupid, my memory and cognition are in tatters, and I don't go a day without bursting into tears for some reason or another.

Everything I wanted out of this year lies in shattered pieces. Far from getting to a better emotional place, I've backslid. I couldn't get the money together to go back to school, I'm still stuck in a dead-end job (and I don't have the spoons to build new skills right now), my creative pursuits long since escaped, and Husband and I fight at least twice a week because his needs aren't being met, and one of his triggers is being ignored/abandoned, and another is financial instability.

Each day it feels like my heart collapses a little more; each day I wonder if I've passed the event horizon and become an emotional black hole, always taking, never giving. I haven't even wanted to post here, because I feel like I've failed at life, and I don't want to suck up resources that someone else could put to better use.

#511 ::: Variant of Last Time ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 07:32 PM:

Riffing on Lee's 464 "having a limited amount of Cope," how about a cope catch-22? I almost have enough cope to handle work, except that it gets drained by one person. If I just had a little more cope, I could deal with that person with a little cope to spare. (I've been treating my depression & SAD & GAD: those I cope with.)

Said person is one of my two co-managers, GC & BC (good cop, bad cop). GC has given me a new, wide-open project - the sort that in earlier jobs I could only dream of, I should run with it.

BC is giving me the silent treatment, moved offices around and moved me out of their micromanaged projects, which also I should love. An office to myself! Except that BC moved my former office-mates much closer to BC (lots of drop bys to them, not me). Except that BC reminds me of my dysfunctional parent from childhood, where silence was scary and differential treatment was cruel. And some of said micromanagment is on projects I used to run. But then how can I take on Big New Project without dropping old projects, so is my only problem that I'd like control of what I drop? Or that I don't like that it's BC doing it? Gah).

Minus-1 cope is me now in a closed office, eye-drops getting the red of tears out. Plus-1 cope is just out of my grasp, but could be so very close. Minus-1 cope is me slow and distracted and wanting to send out resumes, even though did I mention dream-project?

Does it make sense to feel worse at -1 cope than -10 cope? I could resign myself to the latter, same as I don't worry I can't do a marathon. To miss by -1, ouch?

#512 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 08:56 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @510, you might want to post in the open thread, since IIRC it's been discussed in the past that Teresa has narcolepsy.

Variant of Last Time @511, ignore if hlepy, but can you discuss with GC manager? That you're excited about Dream Project but anxious about the projects you're dropping?

Wishing a sufficiency of cope to you both, and to us all.

#513 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 10:45 PM:

Jennifer Baughman at 510:

Internet hugs for you if you want them, and it sounds like life is hard for you right now, and you have my sympathies.

You have not failed at life. You are not sucking up resources someone else can better use.

#514 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 11:21 PM:

Jennifer, #510: Ouch. I hope your new treatment does you some good -- it's amazing how much better things look when you're not running on the ragged edge of exhaustion all the time.

If finances weren't a problem, I'd suggest that you come out to Austin Celtic next weekend and spend some time listening to good music and enjoying the weather; however, if money is that tight, even the admission fee might be more than you feel you can afford.

#515 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 12:34 AM:

Not Today, you have my deepest sympathies. My family went through pretty much exactly what you're going through almost exactly a year ago. I went to a play the night before my dad died (at my parents' request that I use their tickets) and spent most of the time avoiding everybody who might ask about my dad, though I did have to talk with the director and the drama director to let them know that no, sending home a plate of the wonderful nibbles wasn't going to do any good because my dad hadn't eaten that week.

I only recently figured out that a number of things are making me unreasonably* depressed because of that approaching anniversary. It's a weird kind of pain, because I'd fairly well managed to get through this, I thought. Guess not.

*"Unreasonable" from my normal mental health baseline. I'm a generally cheerful kind of person, so having any night where the Insomnia Demon doesn't let me get to sleep until I've tormented myself into a negative thought loop that ends in tears is odd and unusual.

#516 ::: Will Cooper ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 04:49 AM:

I've been reading these threads for just over a year now. Reading and witnessing and feeling and learning. This is the first time I've felt compelled to comment.

Jennifer - you deserve compassion from others and yourself. You haven't taken any additional resources by telling people in this thread how your life feels. And you might have helped someone else feel less alone.

I hope things improve for you, as soon as may be.

#517 ::: fromthefog ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 06:01 AM:

Sorry for not responding to people directly, have a limited ability to cope right now. Am reading, and witnessing- and thank you for those who responded to me earlier, it was much appreciated (and some of it really hit home for me), but I just didn't have the coping mechanisms to come back.

Am in a good place physically. Staying with a friend, finding a job (have an interview tomorrow), getting on with life. Feel some of the weight of my family (my anxiety/ mental health problems) lifting from my head. Then they come reel me in again, or at least try to. Some financial stuff happened that they have and I need to deal with. Can be put off. Some more financial stuff happened I need to deal with, and they want a response. I offer a response, and they reply with "come to see us and we can talk about what happened".

I read that (as neutrally written as it was- there is nothing objectively problematic about what they wrote) and I fell to pieces. The thought of seeing them right now is more than I can bear. Yes, a couple of weeks ago I was living with them, every day, but I also had this enormous burden on my shoulders every single day, making my mental and probably also physical health suffer. That's finally been lifted, and they want to draw me back in. (Complicating factors is I would be reliant on their transport to get me there and back- trapped, essentially) Every time we have the discussion of "what went wrong", it ends with me giving in to save myself, apologising for what a terrible horrible person I've been all my life, and keeping quiet for a few days in the hopes it all settles down. They berate me until I fall apart. I'm not prepared to do that anymore. But I think at some stage I'd like a relationship with them, so shouting profanities and telling them all the things they've done wrong isn't going to help either- at the moment I feel like I'd have the strength to apply defiance to the problem like so much petrol and set it ablaze. Which would be better than giving in- I would be standing up for myself. But it wouldn't be productive in the long run, and I actually don't want to do that. I do love them. So, now is not the time to go and see them. Besides, I'm having trouble putting this all into words for a friendly audience- hell, I've not even actively said to my therapist "these are the problems I was having" (he's inferred from many, many indications I've subconsciously given him over the time I've seen him). I have no idea how to explain "what went wrong" to an audience who are predisposed to think that I'm a pathological liar and that everything that goes wrong is my fault.

It took me quite a bit of time, a panic attack, a call to a crisis hotline and emailing my therapist to be able to get the courage to say "no" to them. (And even then, I had to translate some of the stuff the person on the end of the crisis hotline said because it was clear that she didn't think my issues were all that serious and I was blowing it out of proportion). It's been about five hours and I'm still in the anxiety cycle- although if it's a wave, I now have a mouthful of sand and am trying to work out how to get up.

Trying to work out what I said to them that triggered that response. I think I know what it was- I said a couple of things (even though I've attempted to make my emails painfully neutral and tell them very, very little) that probably made them realise that this wasn't a teenage temper tantrum and I actually planned to make this stick.

Need to find a balance between keeping a relationship of some description going- even at arm's length (I might be up for a phone call soon. Maybe)- and telling them things that cause this kind of reaction in them, and therefore cause me to panic. It makes me very sad I feel the need to be this way, but that is how it is for now.

#518 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 06:54 AM:

fromthefog @517 As always, disregard if it doesn't fit. You mention that a few weeks ago you were living with them, and you are concerned about keeping a long term relationship while maintaining your independence. And I wanted to suggest that the time pressure may feel more urgent than it is - that going a week or a month with limited communication, even none, is not the same as cutting them off completely. And it may in fact give you better long term outcomes to take a little break.

Can you manage to make the meeting about the financial stuff on neutral ground? A coffee shop or something?

#519 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 08:25 AM:

Jennifer Baughman @ #510, disregard this if hlepy.

My sister has had narcolepsy for decades. The difference between her life before meds and her life after meds is staggering. May it be the same for you.

fromthefog @ #517, your description suggests a possible solution (OtterB got there before me, I see): if/when you feel ready to meet with them, arrange to meet in a neutral location where you're NOT dependent on them for transportation. If they're not willing to do that, why then it must not be that urgent. (Again, ignore if hlepy!)

#520 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 09:26 AM:

Had a very illustrative fight last night with the husband. From my POV, the fight happened because (a) his sleep is being interrupted, and he deals badly with that, (b) he needed to eat when he got home and didn't for hours, (c) I've been having a week of particularly bad brain weather, so he can go to work and come home and the house looks unchanged.

From his POV, the fight happened because he ALWAYS tells me to DOOO things on the days HE PAYS for the kid to be NOT HERE, and I ALLLLWAYS prioritize OTHER THINGS far far ahead of the MINIMAL HOUSEWORK that is all he EXPECTS me to ACCOMPLISH.

On top of that, things have been crazy around here since about July with an every 2-3 weeks whole-weekend-or-longer obligation (more than half of them conventions I went to, or similar; some being his-parents-in-town or his-parents-pay-our-plane-fare-to-be-elsewhere). I've not had space to breathe, really, since the end of August, so the house is in a worse state than it was in, say, May, but not enormously worse.

However, to quote him from last night's fight, "I don't see why you should get to keep going to stuff THAT I PAY FOR and leave me with the kid all weekend when you're not getting your homework done." In the tone you might threaten to take away a highschool kid's right to go to prom/etc.

He thinks I am (or 'need to') buy my away-from-kid time by getting the house stable. He is STILL resenting the time that I went out of town and 'left him' with the kid having used up the last of the milk that morning, or the time the laundry was asymmetrically behind and she didn't happen to have any clean underwear. He brings these up as massive, horrific sins on my part that I should be visibly ashamed about -- when, to me, they're basic stuff to be worked around in the everyday course of parenting.

He also has categorically not yet accepted that my bad days are brain weather I cannot control, and akin to a diabetic's blood sugar (only I'm completely not on meds, yet, so imagine a diabetic trying to manage completely with diet inputs and dealing with periodic crashes) -- to him, they look like character flaws, like faffing about because Thing A is more fun than housework, so I'm going to do Thing A.

Fundamental Attribution Error at work, but I can't make him see it. If I try, I'm "making excuses," "telling [him] it's [his] fault", or "being manipulative."


At least I was in a safe enough spot last night to be able to turn around, try to talk through the fight, repeatedly say "We're not going to fix the problems in our marriage by refusing to communicate, please don't give me the silent treatment for hours AGAIN like you did tonight -- speak up, so we can TALK about it before it swells up into a huge horrible resentment cliff in your mind!" and similar.

Man, we need a relationship counselor. Not that he will agree that we have time or money for any such thing, of course.

#521 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 10:33 AM:

Jennifer @510: Hugs if you're open to them. You're not wasting our time.

fromthefog @517: Seconding OtterB and Lila on the 'try to meet in a neutral place' thing; the discussion may break out of the usual patterns if you're not back in the house, depending on how much they want to Be Seen treating their kid like that, and it'll be easier for you to get away if/when it gets nasty. (It might even be worth bringing a neutral party along with you.)

That said, it sounds like you need time to get your brain back to a place you can handle having that conversation before you suggest it, so take as much time as you can (given that it's a financial situation) before suggesting it.

As with Otter and Lila, ignore me if I'm being hlepy. Congratulations on getting out, and good luck with your interview!

Bricklayer @520: Ouch! At least you got enough mental distance from the fight to pinpoint the causes and try to turn it into a discussion. I hope you can get counseling soon, and that the brain weather clears enough that you can start respooning and get back on the housekeeping horse (it's a really annoying horse, isn't it?).

#522 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 11:09 AM:

As always, ignore if hlepy:

Jennifer Baughman @510: Sympathies, and a {{{{hug}}}} if you want it. Good luck for the new medication woking for you. I know how I get when I'm short on sleep - I've taken to telling my husband that yes, I'm ratty, and overreacting to small things, but it's because I'm tired so please discount what I say. And that's just ordinary over-tired, not actual sleep disorder, so I can only try to imagine what it's like for you at the moment.

fromthefog @517: IF you decide to meet to discuss finances (or even if you decide on a phone call, I'd suggest not only a neutral location BUT you need someone you can trust there with you and two "safe" codes (sign or single word) worked out in advance. One for friend to say to family that you're not here to talk about that (whatever "that" is), please return to the essential financial stuff. The second for "get me out of here now" - with friend to say a preprepared sentence and drag you away pronto.

#523 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 11:40 AM:

fromthefog @ 517

Seconding OtterB on the time thing. The best thing I did for my relationship with my inlaws is to methodically avoid them for three years after I married their son. When we finally met back up, there had been enough downtime for everyone to recover emotionally and break out of their automatic loops. People also had the excuse that they had "changed" over the last three years. It made it much easier to start over than if we'd turned around a day after a fight and said "let's pretend none of this ever happened."

#524 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 11:59 AM:

Jennifer Baughman @ 510: Heard and witnessed.

First of all, you have NOT failed at life. And you still and always will have the right to speak -- here especially! This group has renewable resources; there's enough for anyone who needs some.

This is not your fault. There is something going on with your body/brain, and that's not something you can will your way out of.

However, you're not helpless. You are taking advantage of your access to medical help and working with your doctors to figure out a solution. So you're doing a really good and productive thing -- you're taking active, practical steps to make things better. That's the opposite of failing at life!

If you'd like internet hugs, or good healing thoughts, I offer both.

(This is coming from someone who's also struggled with extreme tiredness. It completely sucks. When your brain is constantly screaming for sleep, it's impossible to do much of anything. Sleep is such a basic, primal need that you really can't just ignore it and get on with things, not for very long. I basically could not manage anything but sitting on the couch watching TV for months -- after sleeping 12 hours a night and taking 2-4 hour naps every afternoon. So, lots of sympathy here.)

#525 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 12:11 PM:

fromthefog, #517: I'm going to join the chorus suggesting that you have any future meetings with them on neutral ground, and furthermore that you have a third party along as a witness -- your friend, or (if your parents get snippy about "revealing financial details outside the family") a lawyer -- who can be explained as being "to make sure I understand everything about this". Also, if/when you meet with them, wear office clothes; this is something that works on the subliminal level.

It's much harder for most abusers to pull off their tricks in front of a third party, especially if much of their previous success has been by virtue of convincing others that you're a liar. If they say or do anything that gives credibility to your account of their behavior, they've lost the game -- so all they can do is act like civilized adults, which is what you want.

I would strongly advise not going to any family-holiday events for at least a couple of years, until both you and they become fully adjusted to your newfound independence. This will help your goal of maintaining a relationship over the long term.

Bricklayer, #520: You're right, you guys do need a relationship counselor. Furthermore, you're going to have to be careful to look for one who (1) understands that "brain weather" is a Real Thing and (2) doesn't automatically assume that of course the stay-at-home spouse should be doing the housework no matter what. I would suggest starting with the Kink Aware Professionals List, because they're used to people who don't fit the mundane norms.

#526 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 12:36 PM:

Bricklayer @520:

Boy that hits my triggers -- when he starts this housework rant, ask him if he married you so he could have a live-in maid or because he loves you?

In your shoes, I'd have been out the door within 24 hours after the first housework rant. As long as the child is fed, clean and knows zie is loved, the rest doesn't matter.

You should also have your doctor check for the symptoms of fibromyalgia -- if you have it, that could explain some of the "bad brain weather" you've been having.

#527 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 01:34 PM:

Lori Coulson @526: His riposte is that he's out of the house earning all the money that supports us for over 40h/wk, and that I have three 'whole days' (for some definition of 'whole'; basically from 8:15AM to 4:30ish) with nothing particular scheduled, in which I can take care of basic household maintainance and-whatever-else-I-want.

He is right in the sense that if I put 2-4 hours on each of those three days towards housework, the house would be acceptably non-slovenly; however, even in my staggeringly productive weeks, where I do manage that level, he still finds things to snip at me about.

Also, in order to get even as much done for the house as I am doing, right now, I am de-prioritizing other things like (a) my own medical and dental care (b) finding my kid a dentist for her first visit (c) trying to enroll my kid in public preschool up here to remove a massive financial burden from our household (d) seeking therapy to get to a better mental place where I have more spoons, and frequently (e) eating and basic hygiene.

I mean it on (e); because of the level of hostility he throws when 'things aren't done', the number of days where my first meal is eaten at 3PM is significant. I literally put housework FIRST in my mental ecosystem of stuff-to-spend-spoons-on ... and sometimes I still don't have enough spoons to get anywhere on it.

It doesn't help that (tying two threads together, here) I'm also massively sleep-deprived right now, because the kid's been going through a 'wake up several times a night three days a week' phase, and I'm on overnight duty.

Part of why I AM on overnight duty is that, on this level of sleep-dep, I'm still almost barely functional; on one middle-night wakeup he's bitchy and unbearable for days.

I'm pretty sure I don't have fibro. I know people with fibro, and my symptoms don't rhyme very hard. It is, so far as I can determine, chronic depression with a cyclical component, and when I am depressed I also dissociate, hard, to avoid having to live in a world where I am terrified almost all the time.

I have SO MANY MORE coping strategies for dealing with it now than I used to, it's amazing. Which doesn't mean I don't find it frustrating that in the past week I have taken 3+hr naps in the middle of the day more days than not ...

There are a lot of ways in which our contribution to the household is asymmetric, and I think he has massive unexamined privilege (that I am letting him get away with, at the moment, because every time I bring it up he hammers on the BUT WE LIVE IN A PIT YOU HORRIBLE NON-DOING-ANYTHING PERSON behaviors) that manifests as massive resentment anytime he has to 'waste' any of his precious weekends in kidcare, because he works all week AND takes a college class, and gets home to have like an hour to eat and watch the kid eat before we have to start her bedroom routine (which takes quite a while). He gets so, so frustrated living that weekly routine that anytime he can't spend the whole weekend 'being productive' he gets incredibly resentful and angry.

He is especially resentful of my 'days off' -- meaning, the days Beka is in daycare. I think he imagines what HE would/could accomplish given that many hours at home with just the dogs and no distractions, and then compares what I DID get done to his Platonic imagining.

I'm so proud of myself, though -- I actually pulled out "Any complaint that requires use of a time machine to fix IS INVALID" in the middle of our fight! I'm so pleased I remembered it. :-> He was hammering on and on about crap that already happened, and I went there, and he actually blinked for a minute. YAY DFD THREADS!

#528 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 01:38 PM:

Lee @525: Thanks for the KAP link; unfortunately, they don't seem to have anyone in Illinois in most of their categories.

They do have a lawyer, though, which is good; John and I have been intending to set up wills and talk to a lawyer about Family Law stuff for, well, since before the kid was born. Um.

Especially because, should we both buy it, we agree that my father should be BANNED from access to my child in an alone-in-a-room sense ... and since he's the closest kin to either of us both genetically and in a geographical sense, we're kind of worried that a default 'they left no will' custody settlement would end up with her under his guardianship.

#529 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 02:13 PM:

Bricklayer @527: A thought I just had (ignore if it's hlepy) - if full-on counseling is off the table for whatever reason, would it be possible to have a mutual friend mediate? One that you trust to be fairly neutral, of course, but it sounds like you need to get a third party in on these arguments ASAP, before it hurts you all (including the kid).

#530 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 05:15 PM:

Something many people here might find useful: a discussion of compromised consent.

This connects to something I've heard described as "phony politeness" -- where, for example, your boss asks you "Will you do X, please?" and you know it's actually a command, and you aren't supposed to say anything but "yes".* And I can definitely see how someone who's been subjected to a lot of that can lose their ability to realize that it's okay for them to say "no".

* Personally, I read that formation as the boss acknowledging that you're a real person who is entitled to the forms of respect even in a command situation. But I can also see how people would interpret it as "pretending to be polite".

#531 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 05:33 PM:

Jennifer Baughman @510:
I haven't even wanted to post here, because I feel like I've failed at life, and I don't want to suck up resources that someone else could put to better use.

In my mental register of who's who in this subcommunity, your name has had a star beside it since the Tangled Emotions thread. Just sayin'.

Bricklayer @527:

Speaking of just saying, let me observe that preschool-aged children are really exhausting. They're as mobile and as curious as toddlers, but faster and with higher reach. And, on top of that, they want to interact a lot, and...not at an adult level.

It gets better. When my kids got a little past that stage, I remember looking back and realizing how very hard it was raising them through that stage.

(It is also rewarding, and fun, and magical, and marvelous. But it's an age that soaks up adult energy like a sponge. If you're feeling tired all of the time, that's perfectly natural.)

#532 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 06:45 PM:

Thank you, everyone, for the hugs, the kind words, and the support. Hugs are gratefully and appreciatively accepted, and returned to all who need/want them! (I love hugs, I try not to let a day go by without hugging Husband at least three times and each of the cats that accept it at least once.) Yesterday was a bad one. OtterB, Lila, you weren't hlepy at all; I was planning to ping Teresa in the next couple days and see if she had any advice.

abi #531: *cries* Oh... ohhhh. If everyone's reassurances are an ice cream sundae, abi, your comment is the hot fudge. I'm crying because I just realized how much I still expect to be the out-person, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Thank you; those were the right words at the right time.

Lee, Project from Hell has actually paid out some, so the festival is a fantastic idea--I love Celtic music, and art, and Husband is mixed Norse/Irish ("We got it coming and going," he likes to joke), and will dig on the whiskey tasting.

Day 1 of new meds has me tired-but-functional; I'm not at my best, or even at my average, but I'm aware of the problems and able to work around them--part of that is probably that I have a cold on top of everything else, and I'm out of ADD meds (the pharmacy didn't have enough to refill). Still, tired-but-functional and moderately emotionally-normal is such a huge improvement from yesterday, it's amazing! I even survived the town hall meeting at work without opening up the floodgates of snark.

Bricklayer #520: *hugs*

Two things strike me as particularly problematic: one, that your husband thinks he has the right to tell you what to do, and to levy consequences if those things aren't done. That's not partnership, that's authoritarian. And two, his failure to understand or accept that your bad days are brain-weather that you can't always just fix.

I've actually been in a similar place recently, w/r/t the second point. Husband has been having a very difficult time dealing with my chronic exhaustion. He's stuck at home all day, unemployed, and doesn't drive, which leaves him lonely and desperate for attention and intimacy when I get home. So when he hears "Sorry, love, I'm exhausted," day in and day out, it starts to feel like I'm brushing him off. It's taken a fair amount of time for him to really process that it's a physical thing and not any reflection of my love for him.

It also took me some time to recognize part of the dynamic and to try to explain it in a way he understood, without blame. The short of it is, we tend to fight right before my bedtime, which sends me to bed drained and unhappy, and leaves me short of resources the next day. Meanwhile, he's slept in and blown off most of the bad mood, and then the cycle begins again because I'm out of resources before I get home.

We've gotten to a point where he understands that I'm doing the best I can and is working on his reactions, because his overreacting isn't good for either of us.

What worries me is that it's been quite some time since you first commented in a similar vein, and your husband still doesn't get that your brain-weather is a physical thing, that it's variable, and that his hostile reactions make your condition markedly worse (which has the opposite effect of what he desires). So please ignore if hlepy, but do you know why he's so resistant to accepting that?

#533 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Bricklayer: hearing and witnessing.

I have brain weather too. And a not-precisely-spouse who works outside the home when I do not. (I say not-precisely because it's not a sexual relationship, and we have no formalized legal ties, but there are elements both of permanence and romance to it. It's Complicated.) I don't have a toddler, only a half-time joint-custody teenager, nor is my not-spouse the sole financial provider, as I get support from my parents. But we have some of the same conflicts over housework and who does it.

I think, in my case, it helps that I got a genuine diagnosis some time after we started living together, so my not-spouse was able to see that my bad brain weather wasn't just malingering. When we began living together, I was employed full-time, but I still had some brain weather, and it got worse during periods of unemployment.

I'm doing somewhat better these days. I have medication that works, and I'm getting myself on a schedule, and by trial and error I've learned what not-spouse's priorities are for the housekeeping tasks: basically, if I can make sure not-spouse gets dinner at an appropriate time, not let the dishes get out of hand, and keep my mail-and-magazines clutter from extending beyond my small table, then it's okay to let the rest slide until I have the cope reserves to handle it.

I know what you mean about forgetting to prioritize my own eating. Luckily, not-spouse GETS how bad that is for me, and will hector me in a way that feels supportive rather than accusing about remembering to eat. I can't really figure out how to represent the tone of voice. What matters is, the interaction feels affectionate. So, with repetitions, I've learned that Breakfast Must Be Eaten. If I tie breakfast to my morning medication, I eat it, and I eat it on time. I've learned that I can't prioritize anything before breakfast.

I cannot imagine trying to handle even the small amount that I do if I also had a small child to care for. Even the three days a week of child care wouldn't do it, because I would be so exhausted from the days I DID have full child care duties that I'd need to stay in bed or on the sofa and recharge. Child care and my brain climate are NOT friends.

Also, as I KNOW you know, a small child makes clutter all out of proportion to their size. I could spend all those days off putting away Kid Mess, and within an hour of the kid's return it would all be back to Mess again. That's not really conducive to good brain weather.

I am troubled by the way things sound between you and your husband. It really does sound like he's seeing himself as a parent more than a partner and it's frustrating both of you.

I hope that he'll arrive at an understanding about your brain weather. In your place, I would prioritize my own medical care under Airplane Rules: even a GP can often diagnose depression, and prescribe medications if you're looking to go that way. And if there are ways to moderate your brain weather cycles, that will help everything else.

#534 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2012, 11:10 PM:


As the primary breadwinner in my family, who also expects to chip in my fair share on chores, may I just say that I could not agree less with your husband's attitude. On nights when my husband is up all night caring for my daughter, of course he takes a long nap the next day. Your body needs two hours of sleep to make up for each lost hour, on average. If you're doing midnight shift, and you're only taking three hour naps the next day, you are probably chronically short of sleep. (This is something your doctor can probably explain to your husband, if you need an authority to back you up.)

Believe me that I am trying really hard to suppress the hlepiest rant ever. You are not a 24-hour robotic babysitter and maid-service. You are a person with needs of your own. You get to satisfy those needs, in whatever way you as an adult deem most appropriate.

#535 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:37 AM:

Reporting in:

1. Reading/witnessing. Absorbing great spoonage from you all.

2. Just crested the RL Struggle that's been boiling since August with not one but two not-small triumphs to notch on my gun-belt. Stamina and effectiveness due in very large part to ML's influence, the DFD community in particular.

Thank you all.

#536 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2012, 12:57 PM:

Bricklayer, and anyone else who is having "bad brain weather" this is what it feels like from inside a body with fibromyalgia:

On my worst days it feels like a bad case of the flu -- constant body aches all the way through the muscle to the bone. Result -- little to no sleep, or sleep of the "foxhole" variety, where the slightest disturbance wakes you.

"Fibro-fog" is when the sleep shortage gets critical. Short-term memory fails completely, long-term memory isn't guaranteed, and reaction time goes to hell in a handbasket. Plus it tends to make me short-tempered.

Oh -- and any change in air pressure will set the aches dancing in fury.

Untreated, depending on how mentally strong you are, depression and/or frustration with the situation can set in at about the 3 month point. This is often made worse by your primary care physician* stating "It's all in your head."

What worked for me was warm water exercise and 3 Cyclobenzaprine (10mg) tabs every evening after dinner. I also take Ibuprofen during the day if I start hurting.

The thing I hate most about Fibro is that it has cost me my memory. I not only write reminders to myself about what has to be done, I make a note in my day planner when I've done said activity, and have been known to go back and check to see if I've done whatever it was.

"If you don't write it down, it didn't happen." Tom Clancy

*I went an found another doctor.

#537 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 02:40 PM:

Still around, still reading, just haven't felt like anything cranking through my brain was worth sharing. Wish I had the energy to be more supportive/helpful/responsive to everyone here - I am still so grateful for this space and for every one of you and I wish I were capable of contributing more productively. Working on it - health insurance changes soon for the much better - things are looking up from here and I can see it.

Long week, though, or long few months, or years, or what have you. And it's the tiniest things that get to you.

The lady & I got married yesterday - nothing fancy, just the two of us in jeans and hoodies at the courthouse, big dopey smiles after and the best meal of my life, lots of nice messages on Facebook from old friends and extended family, exactly what I wanted. Quiet and absolutely not stressful and only having to interact with the one person I really wanted to spend the day with.

I am not friends with my parents on Facebook, but of course word got back to them, and I woke up this morning to a text from my father just saying: "really?"

He and my mother both texted me on my birthday, too. I had previously told them only to contact me by email, and their last emails to me ended with the agreement that when I was ready to speak with them on the phone, I'd call. I know that I should not encourage this bullshit. I know that texting him back would do nothing but damage. But I am furious and I have so many things to say to him, like were you expecting an invitation? or well since you can't even remember my wife's name, I figured or that's an interesting way of spelling congratulations. I just. I mean - what a jackass. And yet also, how irritated I am at myself, for letting such a minor piece of jackassery interfere with a good morning on a good day of my life.

#538 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 02:52 PM:

radiosongs (537): Congratulations! May you have a long and happy life together.

#539 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 03:01 PM:

Best wishes to you both!

#540 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 03:27 PM:

radiosongs @ 537

Congrats! That sounds charming! Best wishes for a joy-filled future!

#541 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2012, 07:16 PM:

radiosongs: Congratulations! (I'm sorry your parents were jerks about it, though.)

#542 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:09 AM:

Also, everyone who's in the path of Frankenstorm, be safe and check in when you can. (I'll hold myself to this.)

#543 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 12:14 PM:

Congratulations, radiosongs!

#544 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 02:19 PM:

radiosongs @537:

My parents told me, long ago, that it's a foolish parent who takes against their child's life partner. It's basically just a way to lose the relationship with the kid.

Also, congratulations! I hope the two of you are deeply happy together for many, many years.

#545 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 05:24 PM:

radiosongs @537:Congratulations to you both! That does sound like a great way to make sure you spend the big day in good company. Sympathies for the idiocy of your progenitor's response.

#546 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 06:47 PM:

Thank you all for the kind words! :)

#547 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 07:53 PM:

I'm a bit late but congratulations, radiosongs!

#548 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2012, 09:26 PM:

Brief job update:

Dropped off a resume at a bakery on Sunday, and did a trial shift there on Thursday. It was for a dishwasher position, but involved a good amount of food prep as well. I thought I was doing okay, but then I found out that I was going WAY slower than they expected. Apparently zesting (and cleaning, since they were dirty) 30 lemons should take ~20 minutes if that. It took me about an hour. And portioning cookies from a HUGE bowl of dough (2.5 large baking sheets' worth) usually takes 25 minutes, I was told, and I don't even know how long I took to do it. Needless to say I didn't get the position. But at least I'm going to get paid for those 5 hours, which I wasn't expecting.

My mom says I should take this as a cue to practice and get better/faster, but at what? Every single task I could possibly be expected to do in that job, and a few extra things just in case? My bad attitude is really showing because that doesn't seem worth it to me. So I should struggle for however long it takes to get to the baseline "acceptable" speed, just so I have a better chance of not being rejected? That I view practice that way is probably why I didn't do very well in gym class. Saying "Trying hurts, I quit." guarantees that it'll never hurt less. I acknowledge that this approach is childish and selfish and self-defeating. I know that being faster/more organized in general has benefits outside of just this job. It just feels like I'm a failure for not already being good enough.

My dad is still being unhelpful. He never misses an opportunity to tell me I'm going to end up living on the street or "sitting alone in this house with no furniture because you've got nowhere else to go" etc. Or sneering at me for letting my laundry pile up and "dicking around on your laptop", same old tape. And my counsellor appointment got pushed back from tomorrow to next week, but I'll live.

I'm trying to not be so angry. Wishing you all well.

#549 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 07:30 AM:

Phenicious, that bakery is pulling a very common trick: "entry-level" jobs now often require 2-3 years of experience. In other words, it's not just you.

#550 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 08:41 AM:

radiosongs, congratulations and good luck -- I'm also permapartnered, and I hope the negativity of that one moment for you does eventually dissolve and not get in the way of your memories of such a great day.

I am in New York City and can hear the stormicane's winds. My permapartner did a bunch of prep so I think we're going to be okay; we very well may lose power & connectivity for a while, but I hope we do not.

#551 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 09:13 AM:

Phenicious @527

Kudos for dropping off the resume and doing the trial shift! Job-seeking can be exhausting and overwhelming, so give yourself all due praise for making those steps. And yay that you got paid! I hope you are able to use the money in a way that feels good, whether it's buying a treat, buying something you need, or saving it.

I think you're right that attempting to practice for specific tasks that *might* be asked of you is probably not a viable long-term strategy. If there's something that you'll be asked to do 90% of the time, that might be a thing worth practicing. Or, if you have another trial shift set up, it might be worth asking ahead of time "what tasks do you typically have people on trial shifts do?" and getting a couple of days to brush up on things. Kind of like studying for a test.

And you are not a failure. Remember: juggling *is* dropping things.

radiosongs @537 Mazel tov! May many wonderful things be in store for you.

Unrelated to the things I replied to:

I'm frustrated with my sister. I'm in the process of switching from careers with humanities/interpersonal focus to careers with computer/technology/science focus ... which is her thing, and she's not dealing with the idea of me being in her thing terribly well. When it comes up, she either withdraws from the conversation or gets nasty and contemptuous. And I can choose not to bring up the subject to her (although I'd really like to, because she *could* be an awesomely supportive resource if she were in the mood) but it's kind of awkward to not be able to discuss this with our parents, either, because if she's within earshot I don't trust her to act in a way that's not hurtful.

#552 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 11:53 AM:

Phenicious @548: I'm trying to not be so angry.

Your situation sounds an awful lot like mine, back in the years before I moved out. (Hleppiness warning!) Based on that, I recommend strongly that you allow yourself to be angry; it's your god-given right to feel how you feel, after all. And the function of anger is to alert you that something is wrong. It is NOT a character flaw. Denying anger just shoves it under the rug, where it festers and erodes your health and ability to cope.

Therefore I would also endorse being mindful about how you express and experience it. Find a secure way to record and express your anger. (Such as here.)

Also, the thing I didn't do back in the day, which I wish I had, was to spend lots of time thinking up ways to proactively change my situation under my terms, which is what nature designed the anger to fuel.

#553 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 12:54 PM:

radiosongs: mazel tov!

#554 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 02:19 PM:

Phenicious @ 548

I was thinking about this, a bit. I've spent the last several weeks being annoyed at myself because I'm getting so little done and spending so much time "dicking around on the Internet," which, in my world, is code for "decompressing because omigod stress!" Well, this weekend I got epic amounts of work done, but I pushed myself over into the collapse I've been staving off for several weeks now. So I'm spending the day at home, sick and recovering.

I feel like there is something to be said for a reasonable balance of effort. But also, if you're burning out, have you tried taking a day of rest recently? One thing I know is important for me to stay in good health and mental health (but I'm terrible at enforcing it, lately) is that I need at least 18 consecutive hours each week where I'm not obligated to do anything I don't want to do, which means no forcing myself to do anything that doesn't flow naturally. (Yes, well, the baby is obviously excepted, but also fun and adorable. It balances out more than I would have thought, pre-baby.)

#555 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 09:27 PM:

Day one of hurricane: We're fine, actually. There's pretty nasty flooding at the shoreline but we're a good ways inland. We've mostly had wind today, and a bit of rain.

When I look at the day-to-day forecasts? Eh, nothing I haven't been through before. It's a matter of looking at the smaller picture, in that case.

Hope anyone else affected is staying safe.

#556 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2012, 11:44 PM:

radiosongs, #537: Congratulations! May this be the turning point upon which your life becomes a happy one overall.

I suspect that your parents are similar to the parents of a friend of mine, who (when she was still living with them) would invariably produce some variety of soul-killing drama whenever she had something good happen to her at school or work. If asked, they would both swear up and down that they wanted nothing more than for her to be happy -- but their actions told a different story, to wit that she wasn't allowed to be happy about anything not directly related to them. Your parents doing something that they know perfectly well would damage your joy about this would fit right into the same kind of pattern.

Phenicious, #548: IIRC, you're not at all sure that you even want to continue in the food-service field -- that this was a big chunk of the fight you were having with your parents when you first started posting here. If that's the case, then it is absolutely reasonable to be reluctant to practice things which will improve your chances of getting a job in that field. It's not childish at all to balk at pursuing a goal you don't want to achieve!

#557 ::: Adrienne L. Travis ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2012, 06:05 AM:

So I almost never post here ("here" on the DFD threads or "here" on Making Light in general), although I lurk a lot. But especially in light of people maybe being storm-refugees, I decided to say something I've wanted to say for a long time:

Anyone who needs a place to stay, and can get to me, is welcome to come stay with me for a short-to-medium length of time (say, up to a couple months). My apartment is tiny, and currently an utter disaster, but it is always open as a safe haven to people fleeing from abuse or families or storms or other vagaries of Life. I live in Minneapolis. I can also arrange for at least short-term refuge in the Saint Louis area, as it's my hometown and I own property there.

I am 100% serious about this. It is very important to me to be a place that people can go if their situations are dangerous or unstable. I will house you and feed you to the best of my ability, and if you can help out with groceries and/or housework that is gravy but I won't expect it.

There are regulars at Making Light who can vouch for me as not-an-axe-murderer, including Fade and Elliott (although Elliott may not actually remember my legal name.)

Abi is welcome to give this email address to anyone who asks for it.

#558 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2012, 09:18 AM:

Adrienne L. Travis, that is megagenerous of you and I applaud you for it.

(Stormicane has mostly passed and my household is fine.)

#559 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2012, 12:17 PM:

Jennifer Baughmann: HUGS!!! I know it's not the same, but I've suffered through major depression (of the sleep all day and all night and still feel tired variety), and it SUCKS to not be able to do anything. Hoping your meds make a big difference!

radiosongs: CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Nothing happier than getting married to your life partner. :) And don't let your parents ruin your joy!

Unrelated to other people's postings: it's amazing how much harm a parent can do unintentionally. Counselling is continuing to go well (though stressing the finances a bit, in combination with the depression meds), but the things that are coming up and the connections being made... I knew going in that I had entanglement - Mom tried to make me her mirror image and an extension of her. Nothing like someone else taking credit for everything you do well and blame for everything you do wrong.

After yesterday's appointment, I was doing the psychologist-appointed journalling, and realized that part of why I'm "not allowed" to get angry with my husband for any reason is that I'm afraid that if I do he'll leave. Permanently.

My parents are still together after close to 40 years, but this fear came from watching their interactions.

She'll never admit it, but my mom does not respect my dad. She considers him clumsy, lazy, and incompetent. It comes out in how she treats him. As she's getting older, her standards are coming out of the clouds into the possible/reasonable/healthy, but they're still ridiculously high - like most humans couldn't achieve. So of course he resents a lot of what she says - she doesn't intend her attitude to come through, but it does.

And when Mom saw that I was serious with then-boyfriend-now-spouse, she gave me repeated lectures on How Not To Destroy Your Marriage. A lot of them revolved around how snobby I am (I'm not, according to everyone else I know) and how I could never respect someone who doesn't have the same level of education as I do (bullshit) (though for the record he and I do have the same level of education) and how I could drive him away if I don't treat him with respect.

Mirroring of her own fears? Certainly NOT applicable to my marriage. But toxic as hell. And it scared me horribly as I realized that it's been going on in the back of my brain since she told me that, seven or so years ago.

Telling someone with a very fragile self-esteem (and a deep desire to make everyone around them happy) that they're a horrible snob and treat other people badly because of their lack of education is bad enough. Telling them that they'll destroy the thing they value most in life because of it… yikes.

And I really hate what this says about my mother. I don't know how much of it comes from her having been accused of snobbishness for the simple fact of being a highly intelligent, educated woman of her generation (she's 70) in a farming town where you were expected to get married, have kids, and take care of the garden, and how much of it was from having a snippy, critical, condescending set of sisters who might have finished high school, and how much was from her sisters-in-law taking every excuse to verbally and emotionallly hurt her… but I hate that it's being passed on to me.

Oh, and did I mention that my dad was an alcoholic? (recovered now, and much happier now that Mom's not the primary breadwinner - they're both retired) And that Mom let him drive swerving-drunk because she thought that to do otherwise would result in him leaving and her being a single mother? My reaction now is "better a living single mother than a dead married one, and what about my life that you put at risk over and over and over?" She stuck with him at that point I think as much out of fear of social ostracism as for any sort of genuine love.

What the hell was *she* doing giving me marriage advice?!?!?

Thanks for listening. Some things just need to come out. Some things need to come out multiple times, in different contexts, for proper healing. And this hurts. A lot.

#560 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2012, 12:19 PM:

Perhaps for a super-long entry? Or did I mange to use a Word of Power?

Not much to offer right now, but I do have some yeasted braided banana bread (amazing recipe, should anyone want it) to offer to the hard-working gnomes.

#561 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Chickadee @559: someone with a very fragile self-esteem (and a deep desire to make everyone around them happy) {{{{HUGS!!!}}}} for you - you need them too! Venting is healthy - keep venting; you need to do it. We're here to listen.

Pardon me if the rest of this post becomes more about me, because I see echoes of my own insecurities in what you've written. It's only in the last two or three years that I've realised consciously just how low my self-esteem is (despite three degrees, a happy marriage and a reasonably successful career) and been working on improving it - and with it, my self-confidence and ability to stand up for myself. I too have had the irrational fear that if I express anger to my husband, or say he's done something wrong, he'll leave. In my case, I know it's all related to both my relationship with my mother and bullying at school (which she enabled, by telling me the old lie "if you don't react, they'll stop" - thereby effectively putting the blame on me for being bullied, and discouraging me from reaching out to another adult for assistance for several more months). I'm still working on being more self-assertive. I've been mourning what I might have done in my career, had I had a better sense of my own self worth, been more assertive.

On a positive note, my husband is fantastically supportive, as is my stepmother (and my father was too). I've discovered a new passion (ultra-running) and while I'm not the fastest, I've been modestly successful and I'm pleased with what I've discovered I can do. And the volunteering posts I took on 15-18 months ago have greatly enriched my life: I put a lot in, and get a huge amount out; I'm appreciated and I help to make people happy with what I do! Ironically, I'm very grateful to someone who caused me large problems in this area some 15 months ago, because that experience taught me a lot and has enabled me to grow (I think the person involved would hate to know that, but that's okay; he probably never will).

#562 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2012, 06:49 AM:

The woman who supplied half of my genetic material is at it again. No I am not going to use the M word, she doesn't deserve it.

I was going along thinking (mistakenly of course) that things were quiet and okay between the crazy folks and me, with my mostly keeping to myself, not physically living in close quarters, meeting them only on occasion for meals out "to keep the peace".

Recently I stayed over at parents house because they keep saying I have a room there and should move back in, (NO WAY.) but ok, I made a visit for the sake of a niece who was having a birthday and wanted me around ( sib's family lives there).

Somehow during that short stay my overnight kit with my makeup, toiletries, toothbrush, jewelry and watch went missing. Note that it went missing After I had put on makeup and after packing it in my bag and putting it in parents' car for the trip out and back.

It's days later and after yet another short meeting with parents in a mall, my mother claims that I am ungrateful and should be deprived more, because I don't want to live in the big house they built to try to keep me prisoner in. Yes I know that sounds dire but it really is dire. Sidenote: there's something wrong with the construction of the house, with a leak coming from the bathroom attached to the room assigned to me, which I was promptly blamed for causing even if I am almost never in that house to use or even to cause such structural plumbing damage. I refused to move back in, saying that among other reasons, the place needs repair, and was told that I was ungrateful and should have grown up without running water.

The funny and odd thing about this statement is that somewhere in my childhood there WAS a period where our neighborhood didn't have steady water for some reason and we had to have water delivered to us for our use. Sigh. So it's not as if I don't know how to economize on water, heck I know how to take "a bath" with a scant gallon for washing.

But that's not the most miserable thing. The most miserable thing is to have parents who dont deserve to be called parents, who provide then deprive one of truth, of stable accounting between people, and of respect.

#563 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2012, 01:44 PM:

ma larkey @562: Sympathies. Still listening. I don't know what else to say. Keep keeping your distance and protecting yourself.

#564 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2012, 10:49 PM:

Still reading and witnessing myself. Still not ready to share my own tales, as I literally have to wait for someone to die (whom I do NOT want ANY sort of backblast or shunning to hit, and as near as I can see this is the only way).

ma larkey @562, apologies in advance if this is hlepy. If you know you're going to encounter them - going back to the house, meeting them for lunch - and it's at all possible, don't take ANYTHING with you that you'd miss? You've said before that they/she will steal things from you if not constantly sat on, and willthen deny the heck out of it... make yourself a "visiting her" pack, thrift-store watch & accessories, inexpensive makeup and towels, etc., and take that with you? If you have a PDA or phone or computer that goes with you, consider getting a cheap one and syncing it before you leave home, and only taking the 'disposable' one? I don't know if this is feasible ... but if she's gonna steal stuff, it seems sensible to me to exhibit Stuff To Steal that isn't actually gonna impact on you?

(Of course, this is based on absolutely HAVING to go back there in the first place, but I quite understand you're not completely untangled from them yet.)

--Dave, tentatively

#565 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2012, 12:00 AM:

ma larkey: (((hugs))) and glad that you're able to mostly keep your distance. I think "genetic depositors" is about the best you can call them, and I hope you get a family someday that deserves the name. (Note that I consider "family" to be a term without any legal requirements, and you may apply it as you choose.)

#566 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2012, 09:28 AM:

Thanks for the responses, much appreciated, and now I need to admit how confused and stupid I feel: I found the overnight pouch tucked under a shelf today, puzzled as to how it got there. I didn't know how bad my memory has been but now I have a terrible example of it.
Meanwhile genetic material donors pressing me to move back, still. Also, pressed to do caregiver duty for an ailing relative but the irony is that I feel as if I were ailing myself.
Flu-like symptoms respond to vegetable soup and fruit though. Sometimes it's a matter of remembering to feed myself on time.

I wish all of the others on this thread more than I can possibly express, gratitude, commiseration, empathy.

#567 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2012, 02:37 PM:

ma larkey #566: Given what you've told us about your mother in the past, and what you said in your last letter, I find it likely this is more of your mothers' gaslighting.

#568 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2012, 04:01 PM:

ma larkey @ 566

If you're worried about it, can you talk to your doctor? S/he may be able to help you rule out it being a problem with you, or if there is something else going on, s/he can help you figure out what it is...

I agree with Dave. I'm not sure this is about you. But would you feel better if an expert told you that? Serious question.

#569 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2012, 02:43 PM:

Sorry for the rant-and-run; after I got that out of my system, I didn't want to think about it at all.

dcb #561: Thank you for listening, and responding.

re: bullying at school (which she enabled, by telling me the old lie "if you don't react, they'll stop" - thereby effectively putting the blame on me for being bullied

oh my yes... except in my case I got it from the school counsellor as well. Mom was a teacher, and that was the given wisdom of the time, so I don't blame her for it... But don't get me started on the horribly counter-productive techniques the counsellor gave me to get me to deal with the bullying myself (and the jellyfish principle who punished *me* for standing up for myself instead of the bullies who pushed me to it - easier target?)

To this day, if something goes wrong, it's automatically in my head my fault, no matter if there needs to be fault assigned. *sigh* My husband's trying to help me to break that reflex... (wonderful, supportive man. So lucky.)

So glad you have excellent people around you now! And a hobby! And a great volunteering experience! People make such a difference, as do things that get you out of yourself. :)

To m larkey: hugs if appreciated, and a witness...

#570 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2012, 09:45 PM:

Yikes, I've gotten further behind on this thread than I realized. Belated congratulations to Radiosongs!

I'm having a headdesky moment with my spousal unit, who does not seem to grasp that "I need to be left alone" means "You are already bothering me, please shut up and go away ten minutes ago" and not "Sure, I'll get back to whatever I was trying to do after I answer your one short question / scratch your itchy spot / listen to what you found on the internet / etc."

I'm deep in introspection to a degree that is unusual, even for me (long story, see view all by if necessary) and I am not ready to give a play by play of this journey to the person I share living space with.

I am having a great deal of trouble communicating my non-availability - the more I try to set boundaries and withdraw behind them, the more I feel like my other half is trying to pry open my shell and poke around inside and pull me out. It is doubly frustrating because Spouse is an introvert too and really Ought To Know Better.

Thank you for listening to me vent.

#571 ::: AnotherQuietOne is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2012, 09:47 PM:

Visiting the gnomes, possibly for enthusiasm or misuse of punctuation and/or spaces.

All I have to offer their Lownesses are peanut M&Ms and some leftover Thai takeout.

#572 ::: AnotherQuietOne is NOT gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2012, 09:48 PM:

I swear I got the moderation message a minute ago. They must be moving fast tonight.

Either that or they aren't in the mood for Thai.

#573 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2012, 05:36 PM:

Life update: My birthday was this weekend. I was kind of grumpy by the end of the day but I got everything I asked for and a minor adventure. I can attribute a large part of the grumpiness to the circumstances in which I read the card my parents wrote. The present-and-card thing was done in the TV room, while my dad was watching TV. I left the room to read the cards, since my dad has this way of making me feel like I'm being incredibly rude by interrupting his TV time. In the card, he had written "Your adult life awaits you. I know you can do this." which out of context sounds nice but to me just sounded like "why aren't you gone yet, you lazy useless moocher? try harder and get a job already." (I realize I was reading a bit much into it). Later my mom and I talked, she basically said I seem depressed and that my dad doesn't know how to be supportive because his dad was a terrible parent. I think I already knew that.

Also my counselling appointment was cancelled, and the counsellor I was supposed to see is on "indefinite leave" for reasons unknown to me.

But on the plus side, I finally finished an online job application I'd been dragging out. So that feels like an accomplishment. Also I decided I'm going to start going to the knitting evenings at my local yarn store, which feels like a step towards not being a hermit.

Trying to make goals and work out what "adult life" might be, instead of moping around feeling stupid. Still reading and witnessing as always, even though I'm not participating very much.

#574 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Phenecious, #573: The present-and-card thing was done in the TV room, while my dad was watching TV. I left the room to read the cards, since my dad has this way of making me feel like I'm being incredibly rude by interrupting his TV time.

The mind boggles. His child's birthday is so much less important than his TV time that he can't take a few minutes to pay attention to YOU? Or do the present-and-card thing at a different time, when he's not glued to the idiot box?

To paraphrase an old line, there's a problem there, but it's not your problem.

#575 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2012, 09:47 PM:

Phenicious @573, happy birthday, and congrats on finishing the online job application. Knitting evenings sound like a good way to get out of the house.

#576 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2012, 12:50 PM:

Chickadee @569: Very glad you have a supportive husband as well. You know, one of things about these threads, for me anyway, is the "oh, I'm not/wasn't the only one..." All by itself that can be helpful - knowing people are listening, sympathetic and, where appropriate, offer advice are also useful, of course.

AnotherQuietOne @570: Sympathies. Vent away!

Phenicious @573: Happy birthday. Like Lee, I boggle at the idea that a parent wouldn't stop watching the goggle box long enough to watch their child opening birthday cards. Well done in getting the application finished. And going to the knitting evenings sounds good.

#577 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2012, 02:46 PM:

I've been reading everything but I haven't posted anything because I haven't really had anything interesting happen to me for a while. But:

Phenicious @573: Oh my does that sound familiar. The old "his parents were worse, so he has an excuse to treat you like crap".

No. No he doesn't. If anything it should be the other way around: he ought to know what it's like to have a disinterested / disconnected parent, and should be really conscious not to do that to anyone else.

#578 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2012, 04:13 PM:

I had another crying fit last night. I mentioned it in passing to two of my friends, including my roommate. Not sure if they realize it wasn't just a joke, that I really did cry myself to sleep last night.
The reason for it is that I still haven't had motivation to do my work... which is a problem when it's getting closer to finals time and I have a lot of stuff I should be doing. I'm used to doing things last-minute, but I know I shouldn't be relying on that, but I still am... My nails are bitten to shreds from the stress too, I bought some nail polish that I'll have to put on to stop myself from biting them again.
The good news is, I've found somebody to talk to in my roommate. While I don't think it's for the same reasons as myself, she has a lot of the same mental baggage as I do- perfectionism, depression, passing (or sometimes lingering) self-loathing, and above all lack of motivation to do things that need to get done. So while I'm still not getting ahead on the pile of homework I need to do, at least I have somebody to commiserate with. And she's talked to the school counselor who I'd talk to in January, and apparently she's actually pretty helpful and knowledgeable, which I was concerned about. Good to hear.
But the more I think about my future, the more I don't know what I want to do. I don't want to go home or do schoolwork or do much of anything that involves effort, and that's not how life works, sadly.
Oh, and I don't think I'll be getting many, if any, As this semester. Not horrible, but for a perfectionist who's come to expect good grades and awards- for somebody for whom being good at schoolwork has come to be a defining trait- this isn't acceptable. But... it's probably too late now.
Crying again. Coming here tends to make me cry, because it makes me think about how screwed I really am. Better than avoiding the issue, though, I suppose?

#579 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2012, 05:31 PM:

Dash @578 - Witnessing.

#580 ::: upset ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2012, 12:39 PM:

Minor revelation here, not sure if it will help anyone else--when in an emotionally unsafe environment where lack of performance is attributed (or might be!) to a personal flaw rather than factors beyond my control, I frequently turn into a compulsive liar. It probably comes from how I was raised: even honest mistakes were cause for a lecture on how I was a horrible, unappreciative child, and an enumeration of all my failings. It was easier just to lie about stuff and then solve the problem on my own.

I am not proud of the compulsion. Nor am I proud of throwing other people under the bus, although a few friends have informed me that my philosophy of "a manager is responsible for everything that happens on hir watch" is a little too all-encompassing.

And a further repercussion of my compulsive lying habit--I'm unable to claim legitimate successes as my own, because then they'd know about the instigating lie.

Question for ya'll: when does "tough love" cross the border into "abusive"?

#581 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2012, 04:51 PM:

Dash @578: Witnessing. Is there something nice you can do for yourself (like you'd do for a friend who was feeling down)? Are you getting enough sleep? (I ask because for me, negative emotions are always worse when I'm tired).

upset @580: it obviously crossed the line by some margin for how you were brought up, if compulsive lying is the result. - Someone linked in this or the last DFD thread to a list of signs (in adults) of abuse as a child - that was the top one... And self-revelation is good, even when you don't like what you've discovered.

Zen {{{{hug}}}} to anyone needing one.

#582 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2012, 06:38 PM:

dcb @ 581- I probably do need more sleep, I've been running a bit low trying to get time to do schoolwork and then not using that time on schoolwork anyway so it's a bit silly. As for treating myself... well, I've been sort of subconsciously doing that with food recently (I do consciously have a large chocolate bar "for emergencies"), but I don't think that's terribly healthy... I'm not sure what else to treat myself with. Maybe I just need the downtime.
On a happier note, I actually managed to do some schoolwork tonight! Not major progress by any means, but starting is a big step in and of itself at this point.

#583 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2012, 12:28 PM:

upset @580: I was a fiercely compulsive liar as a kid, I suspect for many of the same reasons as you, and while I'm not nearly as bad as I was then, I don't think I'll ever fully kick it. It becomes a reflex so easily - you get used to people wanting things from you, wanting you to be perfect, and if you can give them the illusion that you are, then why not? Each lie seems so minor in the telling. Like you're doing everyone involved a favor, almost.

These days it's very hard not to think of myself as a manipulator - I was called a liar for so long (and I was a liar for so long) that I can't be certain I didn't just get much, much better at it. I am never entirely certain where the stories I tell myself end and the real truth begins.

Dash @various: I feel like I never quite have anything useful to say to you, but I just wanted to let you know that it sounds like you've got a lot going on in your head, and I am sending you all kinds of wishes for calm and peace. It's really good to hear that you have someone in your life who understands what's going on, too.

And a general note on my own life -

My mother called yesterday. This is the fourth time one of my parents has tried to contact me in the month and a half that we've been out of contact. She left a voicemail telling me that she loves me, that she thinks about me all the time, that she hopes I'm happy. She didn't say that she's sorry.

I feel like I still have too much anger in me to speak to them yet, that it would be unproductive; I should go to therapy, get all the bad feelings out, wait until I'm calm and reasonable and ready to deal with them like an adult. In the meantime I should: ignore them/tell them politely to respect my boundaries/not call. Definitely not call. Definitely not let any of this anger loose at them. At the same time... I worry that maybe I am just choking on my own tongue again, but this time at a distance. I can feel myself stomping all the anger back down inside me, all the rage at them for getting to be big whiny children who kick and stamp their feet when I don't give them my attention, and I have to go on being the fucking reasonable mature grown-up just so I don't give them any ammunition. It's not fair and it's exhausting and I don't know what the right thing is here.

#584 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2012, 05:36 PM:

radiosongs, #583: I worry that maybe I am just choking on my own tongue again, but this time at a distance. I can feel myself stomping all the anger back down inside me, all the rage at them for getting to be big whiny children who kick and stamp their feet when I don't give them my attention, and I have to go on being the fucking reasonable mature grown-up just so I don't give them any ammunition. It's not fair and it's exhausting and I don't know what the right thing is here.

This is exactly the sort of thing you should be discussing with your therapist. Also, it's a very normal reaction to have when your parents are playing the "But we LOVE you!" card.

Does your telephone have a blocklist that you can put their number(s) on? If they refuse to respect your requests for a boundary, you may have to make the boundary a little less permeable.

#585 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2012, 10:03 PM:
when does "tough love" cross the border into "abusive"?
I'm not exactly sure how to phrase it, but it's related to the difference between "consequences" and "punishment." And parents who don't know there's a difference between those two terms are likely to screw up "tough love" as well.
#586 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2012, 01:34 AM:

The safest practice of "tough love" involves giving and maintaining clear boundaries between the parties in question.

I can't quite craft a good example just now. Perhaps later, when I can brain better.

Crazy(and full of cobwebs today)Soph

#587 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2012, 08:26 AM:

Upset #580: when does "tough love" cross the border into "abusive"?

As I recall, the original "tough love" was about dealing with kids who was essentially out of control. As crazysoph notes, it was very much about setting clear boundaries, and not shielding the kid from natural consequences.

Unfortunately, the ideas proved all too easily perverted into a program of domination "show that kid who's boss", neglect "you wanna talk back to me? Go earn your food and rent!", and other sorts of abuse.

#588 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2012, 08:59 AM:

Re tough love vs. abuse, there is a line that's clear in my mind, but much of it is internal, so hard to tell by observation. As a rule of thumb I think it crosses into abuse when it's more about the "tough" than about the "love." There are times when a parent needs to step back and let a child take the consequences rather than being helpful and rescuing, in the same way the family of an alcoholic may need to stop enabling. But a step like that always needs to be aimed at the long-term good of the child. (This assumes that the parent has some sensible notion of what love means and a sensible picture of long-term good, an assumption I'm well aware it's not safe to make on this thread. They should not, for example, think that the long-term good involves doing exactly what the parent wants, or shoving an alternate sexuality back into the closet.)

Tough love as I understand it is not coercive. It's more passive than active - saying "these are things I'm no longer going to accept from you or do for you," not saying "these are the things I'm going to make you do."

It cares about the wellbeing of the child, not about "what people will think."

And it's done with all hopes and intentions for the child to straighten up. Things that cause the parent to feel satisfied that the child is getting what he/she has coming are highly suspect.

#589 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2012, 08:24 PM:

Might this be an example of tough love?

A teenaged Facebook friend of mine recently posted that he was out of minutes on the phone, so if you wanted to contact him, try Facebook, and do not call. Not being able to use the phone is a natural consequence of using all the minutes/spending all the money.

Overboard would have been taking the phone away for 2 months, and grounding him to boot.

Dash, I keep wanting to reach through the internet and hug you, which is really me wanting to reach through time and hug me when I was younger. I can tell you what helped me with perfecionism, but I might need to find words for it and also don't want to be hlepy.

Radiosongs, do I hear you! It absolutely sucks to have to parent your parents. It is so ... wearing....

#590 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2012, 10:55 PM:

Re "tough love" and abuse, this sentence from "Sredni Vashtar" seems apropos:

Mrs. De Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she might have been dimly aware that thwarting him "for his good" was a duty which she did not find particularly irksome.

"Tough love" should never IMO involve an element of enjoyment on the part of the parent(s); it should be considered a last resort, the thing you do, reluctantly, when all other forms of communication have broken down. If the parents are getting pleasure from doing it and/or it's a go-to measure, it's abuse.

#591 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 09:51 AM:

Jennifer Baughman @510: I am so sorry that you've been having such a difficult time of things. I wish I'd seen your post earlier, but I haven't been online much recently. I just wanted to say that you haven't failed at life, not at all, and you might not have realised it but you've achieved at least one huge thing this past year in the life of a complete stranger.

If it wasn't for your conversation with Leah, and the subsequent conversation and advice on attention deficit disorder that happened in this and other DFD threads, then I might never have figured out some things about myself, but more importantly I would have had a much more miserable year, with the same old trouble, issues, and self-hate I've had year after year for decades. As things have turned out, and this is not hyperbole, 2012 has easily been the best year of my life.

Things aren't perfect, and to be honest probably never will be, but I've learned so much about how to manage my attention issues that I've been much, much more productive with things, which in turn has reduced my stress levels, which has helped with lots of other problems. My relationship with my partner has rarely been better, because now we have the words to use to understand why I'm like I am.

But the single biggest thing is that I've learned not to blame myself for something that I now believe to be a measurable, medical problem, and not a hideous character flaw that I should be blamed for. I feel less of a failure, and I find it much easier to forgive my younger self for things I just wasn't to blame for. It's brought me an incredible amount of peace, and I owe so much of that to the people here, like Lee and Renatus and others.

Months and months ago you said something to me that I desperately needed to hear at the time: "We are not losers. We are not stupid, and we are not lazy." It meant so much to me, and it would mean a lot again if I could advise you in the exact same way here, almost a year later. You haven't failed, you're not sucking up resources here that could be put to better use; if you'd chosen not to post about your problems before, then my life would be immesurably poorer.

I know that the anonymous thanks of a stranger on the internet doesn't translate to much value in the outside world, but you do have my heartfelt thanks, and hugs too if you want them.

#592 ::: Of The World has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 09:52 AM:

I have no food to offer the esteemed gnomes, but I do have some delicious, strong coffee.

#593 ::: Of The World ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 09:54 AM:

Gosh, and I've been de-gnomed at record speed! The coffee is obviously working.

#594 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 11:58 AM:

I've just finished my second reading of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, and I have to wonder if it isn't going to help a lot of people who are stuck in not-toxic-but-unhealthy family situations in the same way that Komarr helped a lot of women in emotionally-abusive marriages. Without getting into spoiler territory, one thing that struck me was the almost-instant understanding and bonding between Ivan and Tej over the shared experience of being "the family disappointment".

#595 ::: she pushes down, back again ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 01:35 PM:

I haven't been following the DFD conversation this past couple of posts (due to spoon-lackage and Doing Okay), but I find myself back again.

I just changed my name. For background, I'm transgender (FTM), have always been fairly closeted in meatspace, and only last year did I even really come out to myself inside my own head. My mom has always seen me as the sweet little girl of her daydreams; she was constantly frustrated by how butch I acted, and I think, imagined that someday I'd grow out of the awkward tomboy phase like... Anne of Green Gables or somebody.

My name, my given name, was one of those that's impossible to nickname into gender-ambiguity or male-soundingness. This has always been a frustration to me. I finally went through with changing it - to a name that's equally impossible to nickname into female-soundingness, because why go halfway? ;-) It became legal this past Tuesday. I announced it on Facebook and by e-mail after the fact, having kept it intensely secret till then; I was terrified somebody would find out and lodge a complaint or otherwise use The Law to fck me up.

I've received one communication from a member of my bio-family since then. My father, a lawyer, e-mailed me back asking "could he see my court order of change of name, where and when did I publish the newspaper notice as required in [section of The Law], what disinterested person verified it according to [other section of The Law], and how much did it cost?". I answered him with the relevant data, as well as a brief summary of how easy the process is - the latter because my mom has wished to change her first name for many years but always gotten discouraged by the paperwork.

I haven't heard anything from any of them since.

And you know - I expect most of you get this on some level... part of me would be fine with it if they just never contacted me again. I just wish I KNEW if they were going to or not. If I need to take steps to avoid them, or what.

And part of me, because they were dysfunctional and emotionally abused me and a few times physically abused me, but they were THERE and they were very, very good at the "if you were just a little more X we'd all be loving at you"... part of me is having a massively hard time processing that they might actually be gone. That whatever happens, chosen-family is the way I'm going now (if I can find one; all of mine are currently online, which is a bit inconvenient). And - I mean, this seems stupid to me, but what's messing me up the most? Is that after all their threats in my teenage years of legal action if I didn't "behave myself" (we're talking hitting back when spanked / slapped / throttled, not the usual sorts of teenage misbehavior), it's something completely legal, moral, and ethical that gets me shunned.

Which makes sense. I guess. I mean, the law was the big stick, and I stole it and I hit them in the face with it - dumped the family surname (which was unique), didn't inform them till it was all finalized, gave them NO OPENINGS to take this back from me. It's got to be pretty shocking.

I'm just... not managing to process it. Any of it. I'm terrible at grieving anyway, and... there's no closure here. *frustrated*

I'm going to be reading back through the DFD threads (I've found that helpful before), but - does anyone have any suggestions for me from their experience? I do at least have plans to move far out of town next month, to live with a friend and also finally get access to therapy; I'm definitely doing that. The fewer opportunities for me to try to reconnect with my "famd*mnily" by mistake at this point, the better, I think.

#596 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 02:10 PM:

 she  he* @595: it's something completely legal, moral, and ethical that gets me shunned.

Well, of course. It's unassailable and entirely unilateral. There are no chinks for them to get their claws into. You committed the ultimate sin: you took title to your life. How—how dare you!?

Congratulations. I hope you'll pardon me if I feel an inordinate amount of vicarous satisfaction.

I had similar issues with my mother. Had I been born twenty years later, it's not at all inconceivable that I could be FTM trans, as well. My mother was really bothered by my refusal to buy into the Socially Accepted model of femininity. I can only imagine how she would have reacted if I'd had the means to actualize that dissent.

As to advice, I don't know that there ever is closure. I divorced my parents back in 1980. Last time I (tried to) talk to my mother was ten years later. She died a year or two after that.

Even though I know better (which is to say, that it would be entirely ineffective), I still find myself having the old arguments with her in my head, 30+ years later.

But it does get a lot better. Now those arguments comprise only <1% of my attention, as opposed to most of it, for years after I moved out.

#597 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 02:21 PM:

Argh. Lost the asterisk:

* ;-)

#598 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 02:59 PM:

she pushes down, back again @595: My suggestion is basic and broadly applicable: filter your email. Set it up so that anything from your parents' email address(es) goes directly to a separate folder, not your inbox, and you can deal with it when you have the emotional spoons, or not at all. Interact on your schedule, not theirs. If you have a way to set up your phone so they automatically go to voicemail or get blocked, go ahead and do that. Make it so the contact can be on your terms.

That way there won't be Exploding Nuggets of Drama dropping on you unsuspected.

also, is it just me, or did your father's email carry the sense of "you probably did it wrong, so I bet it wasn't actually valid, so neener" to it? *sticks tongue out at him in response*

#599 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 03:26 PM:

she pushes down: CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! And good luck. I hope that having a name that fits you makes every hill easier to climb.

#600 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 04:27 PM:

protecting @598: a more positive (but maybe overly naive) perspective on the father's email could be that he wants to acknowledge the magnitude of the change, but doesn't know how to deal with it, so he's fallen back on his own legal expertise as an emotionally neutral way of acknowledging the change? I think pushes down's factual response was probably the best in either case; either "thanks for your concern, here are some emotionally neutral details" or "here's the evidence I did it right, sorry to disappoint you", depending on the meaning of the question.

Either way, congratulations to she pushes down @595. I'm tempted to say "Happy Birthday", because getting the name you want strikes me as a form of re-birth.

#601 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 04:51 PM:

she pushes down @595:

Adding my voice to the congratulations! Identities, and naming, are so very important. I wish you all luck and joy in this journey to living as your true self.

#602 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 07:07 PM:

she pushes down, #595: You've apparently changed your e-mail; I went to look back at your previous postings and they weren't connected with the post you just made. This is not a criticism; I was only wanting to check my memories of what you had posted previously, but I'll proceed without that step.

Based on those memories, you are becoming one of our success stories -- you've successfully extracted yourself from an unhealthy situation, and are now taking control of your own life. Change is hard and scary, so it's not at all surprising that you're having some problems processing everything. But please allow me to join the chorus of congratulations on achieving this large and important step! Your name is (and should be) yours to choose, no one else's.

I also agree with the suggestion of aggressive filtering for your e-mail, voicemail, etc. for at least the next year. Give everybody a chance to settle down before you have any further contact, and use that time to work on developing your own support net (which is not quite the same thing as chosen-family, although the latter is usually a subset of the former).

#603 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 07:33 PM:

I'm still here; I just haven't had much to add lately.

she pushes down @595: Congratulations on the name change!

In other news: Has anyone else noticed how many of the parents on Once Upon a Time are kind of awful at it? Especially after reading these threads, that keeps striking me. I'm enjoying Regina trying to unlearn all the horrible things her mother put in her head, but she's not the only one (Belle's dad and the ultimate in gaslighting, Red's grandmother not telling her everything she needed to know, Rumpelstiltskin... BEING HIMSELF...).

#604 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2012, 10:23 PM:

Happy nameday to she pushes down @595!

#605 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2012, 01:20 AM:

I can change the email addresses to link she pushes down's comments, if he wants me to.

spd, if you would like me to link the comments, I'll do it based on the email address you're currently using—go back and change it in your previous comments. I'm happy to do this if you like, but I want to check with you. It is, after all, a privacy issue.

#606 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2012, 10:29 AM:

On tough love vs abuse: I think that enjoying the tough love isn't quite right, but it is close.

From my own life, a kiddo came in from recess not wearing his coat, and it was clear from others that he had left it outside on purpose-- he said he was going to get it after school after I told him to go get it and bring it in. While he and another student argued, I leaned over to another adult and said, "Could you please make sure the coat disappears?" She checked in with me after lunch and said it was in the lost and found.

At the end of the day, the kiddo couldn't find his coat. He was told to look in the lost and found ("But I did!") and then went to look in another place the lost and found used to be. After another direction, he found the coat.

Natural consequence, elegant solution, and the adults involved got some enjoyment from it. So that's appropriate.

Inappropriate would have been me taking his coat and putting it in the teacher closet, then waiting until he was properly hysterical to pull it out, ask him if he's learned his lesson, and wait until he apologized to give it back.

I suppose I think that the difference between tough love and abuse is that tough love is making sure the natural consequence happens, even if it wasn't going to happen just then. Abuse is making sure a separate, worse consequence happens. In neither case is it okay to gloat.

#607 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2012, 02:19 PM:

tamiki, #603: I don't watch the show, but this doesn't surprise me. The stories in it are based on fairy tales, and many of those have stellar examples of bad parenting (as well as being one of the primary sources for the "evil stepmother" stereotype).

#608 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Radiosongs and She Pushes Down, congratulations!

Phenicious, I ran across this -- -- and thought it might be helpful for you checking out careers. Haven't had much else original to contribute about your current situation, and others have been giving good advice. *hugs* and keep trucking -- it'll get better, especially if you can get one or two breaks to go your way.

Things over here are mixed. Not much progress on projects like moving or mental health, but at the same time, the last day or two, it feels like a logjam might be starting to break up -- the uncomfortable truce in a triangle of close relationships seems to be disintegrating. I'm not sure what direction it's going to go, or how long it will take, but there is now clearly some movement. This will hopefully be good even if initially uncomfortable. I’m not sure what else I want to say about that (very detailed, complex, and personal, and possibly too identifiable).

#609 ::: she pushes down ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2012, 11:59 PM:

Abi @605 - yes, please match up the e-mail addresses. I was trying to use the same one, but apparently I didn't remember it quite right. :P

Everyone: thanks muchly for the congratulations and well-wishes! :D

Jacque @596: "Well, of course. It's unassailable and entirely unilateral. There are no chinks for them to get their claws into." - *nods* Of course. Man, it's so HARD to... get out of the headspace where they're supposed to make the kind of sense they claim they do make? (Threatening me with The Law because I'm being *dangerous* and doing *wrong*, not because it's the threat easiest for my lawyer-father to use and least likely to turn back against him, for instance. UNTIL NOW. *g*)

*headshake* Anyway. I'll be out of meatspace!here soon, then I can work harder on getting out of headspace!here as well. ;P

protecting others' privacy @598: I wish I could filter my e-mail. They know my Gmail's my primary. And it doesn't seem to have direct-to-folder filter functionality, that I can find. :P Nor do I know if my phone has a block-these-numbers function; it's a pretty basic phone. I am doing a form of both manually, but it does take a lot more "spoons".

Re my dad's e-mail: the tone really could have been either what you suggest or what Jeremy Leader @600 posited. It's hard to tell with my dad's writing style.

Lee @602: "[Y]ou've successfully extracted yourself from an unhealthy situation, and are now taking control of your own life." I don't feel like I'm quite out yet. I'm so scared something will happen before I get out of my family's immediate area, or that they'll find / deduce my forwarding address. I... guess this is normal? *looks around* For taking control to feel really, really scary, and like it's going to be snatched back again.

"I also agree with the suggestion of aggressive filtering for your e-mail, voicemail, etc. for at least the next year. Give everybody a chance to settle down before you have any further contact[.]" That - I don't know how to get the tone of this right, but that sounds so extreme from where I am that it's probably the best advice I've received? ;-) A whole year. ...I could sign on to that.

#610 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 01:23 AM:

she pushes down @609: I wish I could filter my e-mail. They know my Gmail's my primary. And it doesn't seem to have direct-to-folder filter functionality, that I can find. :P

If you use a single computer, you can download messages to a client email program instead of using the Gmail web interface. I can verify that Thunderbird does have a filter move-to-folder function. I use it for the opposite purpose: Plucking favored correspondents out of the inbox clutter. And two of my three email accounts are Gmail.

Guide to the settings needed

#611 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 01:31 AM:

This page is probably a better starting point than the one I posted @610.

#612 ::: Will Cooper ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 05:00 AM:

she pushes down @609:

To filter emails in gmail, you can do the following:

1 - select an example email of the sort you want to filter - i.e. one from an unwelcome email address.

2 - select the 'more' button with the little down arrow; it's at the top of the window just below the search bar

3 - from the list that appears, select 'filter messages like these'

4 - you will see a 'filter wizard' appear, with the from address of your example email already filled in. This is where you would add additional criteria if you wanted, but you don't need to

5 - select 'Create filter with this search' at the bottom of the wizard. The wizard will change, and give you options for what to do with the email

6 - you probably want to select 'Skip the inbox', and 'Apply the label ...' and then choose which folder (or label) to send the emails to. Consider also checking the 'Mark as read' box, so you don't get bold numbers appearing next to the folders telling you how many unread emails you have from unwanted sources.

7 - select the 'Create filter' button. Consider also selecting the 'apply to all existing matches' checkbox, if you really want to clean up your inbox in one swell foop.

8 - rinse and repeat with further unwanted email addresses. You can maybe be more efficient by adding multiple source addresses at once in step 4, if you want to experiment.

Hope that's useful - I find it valuable to not have my peace of mind challenged by unwanted emails, and this way I'm not aware of them until I deliberately go and look.

#613 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 09:46 AM:

she pushes down, back again @595: Whether or not I can say anything else productive or helpful for you, let me offer big warm zen bro-hugs from a guy who's been there on the name-change.

Only I'm still so much of a fucking coward that MY LEGAL NAME FOR NEARLY 4 YEARS is still not my Facebook name, which confuses the bejabers out of people I've met recently.

I did finally come out to my dad, but I'm not sure how to come out to my huge cousinage on his side of the family -- doing it on Facebook seems 'the wrong way,' but I never SEE these people. Sigh.

I am so, so lucky that (whatever her other failings as a parent or a human being) my mother is so immersed in Much Weirder Things Than Me that she took my transition as a complete matter of course. I never had to worry for a second that telling her I'm going to transition would change our relationship in any way.

#614 ::: Bricklayer messed up the nym ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 09:47 AM:

.... argh. Take a long vacation from the thread and completely forget how things work, that's me. :->

#615 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 10:13 AM:

she pushes down, Will Cooper got there before I did.

I would also add that, if you don't even want to look at an already-read message, you can access the filter menu from the cog-looking doodad at the upper right corner of your main inbox. Click for the dropdown, go to Settings, and then go to the Filters tab, and you should be able to take it from there.

#616 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 10:13 AM:

she pushes down, Will Cooper got there before I did.

I would also add that, if you don't even want to look at an already-read message, you can access the filter menu from the cog-looking doodad at the upper right corner of your main inbox. Click for the dropdown, go to Settings, and then go to the Filters tab, and you should be able to take it from there.

#617 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 10:15 AM:

Sorry about the double post. My computer, or net connection, or something, is being flaky today.

#618 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 10:42 AM:

she pushes down:

Others have covered email filtering, here's a comment on phones.

If your phone doesn't have a call filtering feature, maybe check if it has a custom ringtone feature? My (pretty basic) phone has that. I can put somebody's number in my address book and set a custom ringtone for calls from that contact's phone number.

Then you can set the custom ringtone to something silent. It'll have the same effect as a direct-to-voicemail filter.

#619 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 11:29 AM:

she pushes down, #609: Yes, distance helps. Even though I had arranged my life in Nashville in such a way that I was unlikely to encounter my parents while about my daily business, it was a surprising relief when I moved to Texas and was 14 hours away from them! No chance that they'd drop by to visit (they didn't really do that anyhow, but the possibility was there), no chance that someone else they knew would see me and rat on me to them, etc.

The reason I suggested a year is that that's about how long it generally takes for people to adjust to any major upset/reset in their lives. It will also give them a chance to start worrying that they'll never have contact with you again, and therefore to be relieved rather than snippy when you do get back in touch.

Is there anyone you can trust to leave your contact information with who could be a go-between if anything happens that you genuinely need to know about? I didn't think about this when I moved because I'd left my contact information with my parents -- but when my father collapsed, they were at the hospital and the information was at home and no one else in the family had it, and it took some creative thinking on the part of one of my cousins (who called my ex's parents, who called my ex, who called another mutual friend, who e-mailed me) to let me know that there was an emergency and I needed to get back in touch.

the invisible one, #618: One caveat about that, from someone who has a couple of annoying spam-call numbers set to "no ring" on their cellphone. If you have your phone set to "ring AND vibrate", it will still vibrate when you get the call, which can be somewhat startling the first few times it happens. Otherwise yes, it functions very much like a dump-direct-to-voicemail, an option that my first cellphone has but my current one doesn't.

#620 ::: radiosongs ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 02:34 PM:

she pushes down @595: Mazel tov - I can only imagine the kind of work you must've done in the past year to get from acknowledging to yourself to a legal name change - that is phenomenal! So happy for you :)

And also sorry re: your parents' reaction. I don't really have anything helpful to offer as to their specific reaction, but I get the frustration of having things left open-ended. For me at least, I know talking to them or not talking to them will always feel like a mixed bag regardless, even if I do know that not talking to them would be the far better mix. So it's hard not to know what I'm going to have to deal with, what messy set of emotions I'll probably have, and I end up trying to deal with all the possibilities at once. It gets exhausting, you know?

Bricklayer @613:If you don't see your extended family that frequently, & you're not close enough to communicate this to any of them personally via other communications - is it worth not troubling them for you to use an incorrect name?

My wife will be coming out to extended family via a Facebook name change, but then, she also intends to come out to her brother that way, so not really sure if she's a good statistical sample here :x

#621 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 03:25 PM:

she pushes down @609:

I'll have to do it sometime in the near future...we're in the middle of home renovations, and I've spent the entire weekend moving everything from my office/bindery/craft space into the common space, building furniture, and moving (not yet) everything into the new place.


Sorted. It's really helpful that you post immediately afterward, because then I can open both comments and C&P the email address.

#622 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 03:29 PM:

abi @621: I live to serve. It helps that I see it about five ohnoseconds too late, so I can post my fess-up immediately.

#623 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 05:00 PM:

Bricklayer, #622: So abi is Simon Illyan? :-)

(Feel free to ignore this post -- I don't want to introduce a potentially-hijacking topic, but it's always nice to know that someone got the joke.)

#624 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2012, 07:35 PM:

Lee: And our Cordelia Naismith. Very talented lady, our abi.

#625 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2012, 02:18 PM:

Disclaimer: there is no Urgent Action Needed; I am not about to do anything rash. I just need to vent what Tumblr likes to call "all the feels", and this seemed a safe place to do it. Because the feels, I haz them.

It is 1PM. In less than 4 hours, I have to drive downtown and pick up my daughter from school, then collect my husband from his place of work. Driving is still a heavy spoon-consuming activity, so I have to make sure I'm 'safe' to do it by then.

I am wearing (only) the shirt I slept in, have not left this chair since 9, and have eaten two pitas and some hummus, plus a Coke.

Oh, and I reset my desk clock, which had its batteries popped out two days ago and lost its setting.

And I knit. And watched some Hulu.

Such a horrifically productive day I'm having, y'know? There's a load of laundry in the washer and another in the dryer downstairs, and two clean loads in hampers in the living room, where they've been waiting for me to put them away for days. At least I HAVE hampers to put the new loads in, because he bought some yesterday ... I'd PREFER to have our existing hampers empty and usable, but, um, yeah. Hasn't happened.

I'm mad at myself for not getting anything done. I didn't even take a nap, and I could have; I still could, I suppose, but despite grinding tireds I don't think I could fall asleep.

It's a pretty day out. I could sit outside -- and knit/read, even if I can't bring myself to yardwork -- but that would mean (a) getting dressed and (b) opening a door, which is already going to be a big enough problem whenever the dogs finally wake up from their nap and ask to go pee.

I hate bad days. I hate them like Gollum hates. And I hate even worse that almost every day for the past several weeks has been a bad one (though not all of them THIS bad, quite).

I want a good, productive, at-least-two-hours-of-cheerful-chores day. I want it so bad I'm almost yelling swearwords (though I don't particularly feel like typing them out here, you kind folks don't need to read them) about how bad I want one.

And it's kind of pitiful that a large component of why (though by far not the only) is because it would give him so much less ammunition to blow off in my face when we get home.

I know the instant he gets in the car tonight (after I've already psyched myself up for dealing with traffic AND wrangled a probably-oppositional-and-certainly-hyper kid out of school and into her carseat AND kept her calm all the way to his office) he's going to be throwing off tension in all directions, because work MAKES him tense, and class MAKES him tense, and taking the kid to school makes him tense ALL DAY. And I'm going to have to sit there trying to make him feel loved and listened to while simultaneously managing the kid's backseat experience so SHE feels loved and listened to and stops freaking out about how we can't stop the car RIGHT NOW and let her sit in laps and go to a playground IN THE FRAKKING DARK because it is DARK AT 4:30 NOW, HOW IS THAT FAIR?

Not that she's wrong. We just can't DO any of those things. But she keeps whining for them every DAMN commute of my ENTIRE life and it gets really old, y'know?

I hope our upcoming family trip to Toronto (for the latter half of December) will be more restful than stressful. At minimum, we'll have some days where there are additional adults around to kid-wrangle (though no days she is in school).

I don't want to be the kind of parent that yells and screams at their kid nearly every night of their entire life, but that seems like who I'm turning into.

Serenity prayer, serenity prayer, serenity prayer ...

#626 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2012, 02:33 PM:

Bricklayer: In the language of tumblr, I KNOW THOSE FEELS, BRO.

I haven't been that bad in a while. Thank all the gods for decent mood stabilizers. I did spend Monday and Tuesday last week in bed, but that was probably-physical -- it's looking like I might be diagnosed with asthma. But I HAVE BEEN THERE.

Triage. When I'm in such a situation. I have found that taking a shower (no matter how little I want to do it) can give me at least a little forward motion. (Sometimes not. Sometimes I've gotten stuck in my bathrobe for a few hours. But usually it sends me on to the next thing.)

Food is also important. Even if the brainweasels are telling you that you haven't earned the right to eat yet. God knows, they've done that to me.

After that... well, if you have to spend the rest of the time psyching yourself up to drive, and take care of two emotionally needy people on the drive, then you do that, because collecting them is non-negotiable.

The rest is negotiable. So triage.


#627 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2012, 02:55 PM:

Bricklayer: Hugs if you're open to them.

It sounds like you're not getting full opportunities to re-spoon (and boy, do I know the feeling when it comes to wanting to get something done largely so someone else doesn't yell at you); I'm sorry for that, and I hope you can find a way to do that sooner than later.

The vacation just might help. One, you'll have other adults around sometimes to help keep the kid occupied; two, you'll all be doing something out of the ordinary and possibly more able to match her enthusiasm; three, you won't be in the same space you're usually in and away from all the stress factors that come from it (the state of the house, the job, the classes, etc.). Maybe it'll also help budge the buildup of issues that have gone improperly addressed.

(Also, I completely agree with your daughter that it *isn't* fair it's getting dark so early now. Very silly of the planet's rotational axis to do that. At the risk of sounding hlepy, are there any activities she likes doing at home that you can try distracting her with to make up for not being able to stop at a playground? The promise of something fun if she's relatively calm in the car might help.)

#628 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2012, 03:44 PM:

bricklayer, vent away to sympathetic readers.

#629 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2012, 03:54 PM:

bricklayer: Yeah, me too. Unaccountable feeling-like-crap plus not getting stuff done. Fortunately, the only people I have yelling at me are guinea pigs. Hugs as desired, plus sympathies. And what protecting said about triage.

#630 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2012, 10:44 PM:

Congrats to you, she pushes down!

Bricklayer: I definitely know that feel. "Why can't I just DO the freaking laundry/dishes/get dressed???" And having someone taking their workplace frustrations out on you just plain sucks. I don't have any advice, since my approach is usually "leave the room and drown him out with suitably loud music".

What's up:
1. I did another trial shift, at a different restaurant, and now I have a job! It's only a few hours a week but a little income is better than none. There are some issues with the workplace (safety and cleanliness-wise) but I've told my mom about them and I'm taking what precautions I can for now. Optimistically I might be able to fix at least one of the problems.

2. Going to the knitting group was a good idea. I don't actually participate much in the conversation, but just being around other people is nice. Plus, even though it's only two hours a week it's still part of a routine, which I really need right now.

3. Counselling is still not happening. I'm not sure if I want to go back once the counsellor returns. Obviously having someone I can talk to in person who isn't involved/emotionally invested in the situation is helpful. But I dunno, I'm still thinking about it.

#631 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 09:48 AM:

A statement asserted without further context:

Sleep deprivation REALLY incredibly SUCKS.

(cross-reference 'parenting a preschooler', 'nightmares', 'transient fever')

#632 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 10:42 AM:

Bricklayer @631, amen. Sleep deprivation leaches some of the joy out of the things you want to do and makes the things you don't want to do darn near insurmountable. Wishing you restful nights soon.

#633 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 11:04 AM:

Bricklayer: if you're open to them, HUGS!

Phenecious: ignore if hlepy. The hardest thing I've ever done is go to a psychologist. The second hardest thing I've ever done is to go *back* to the psychologist. And this was the good ones - not the crappy ones who didn't believe I was depressed. So IF it helps, encouragement to go again!

#634 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 12:14 PM:

Phenicious, congratulations on the job. Yay you!

#635 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 01:33 PM:

Bricklayer: yes, it really, really does. Carried far enough, it's classified as torture, remember. Even before that, it's pretty seriously impairing -- ISTR a study comparing amounts of sleep deprivation to blood alcohol levels for their effects on driving performance: I don't remember the details, but the short takeaway was "if you're overtired, you're a danger to yourself and others, pull over and take a fucking nap!" Even without considering that, it can depress the immune system, change the way your body metabolizes food, and all SORTS of things.

All of these real, physical, documentable results, NOT personal weakness. IOW: yes. It really, really sucks.

Phenicious! Congratulations! But, as a former food service person, I offer this heartfelt urging: if you ALREADY see health and safety concerns, PLEASE do not hesitate to refuse an order that would put you, your co-workers, or the customers at risk. Even if it gets you fired. Any decent future employer ought to accept "I refused to do $UNSAFE_ACTION" as a reason for dismissal that reflects more poorly on that employer than on you. If they don't... you don't want to work there, either.

I say this through sad experience. So I hope I'm reading too much into it, and what you've spotted is minor and not likely to cause problems, and that the job goes wonderfully well!

#636 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 02:02 PM:

Rikibeth: I'm pretty sure the Mythbusters tested sleep-deprived driving vs. drunk driving. Can't remember if they said sleep-dep driving is *as* dangerous or *more* dangerous, but it was one of the two.

#637 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 02:05 PM:

Phenicious @630 Congrats on the job, and on the benefits of getting out for the knitting group.

#638 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 04:16 PM:

Fiancee leaves to visit her parents for Thanksgiving tomorrow. On the whole I'm good with it, despite the occasional 'but I want to spend the holiday with my girl, dammit!'

The main thing I'm trying to do now is talk my brain out of the patterns that come of years of long-distance relationship; there's part of me that's still bracing not to see her again for a long time, even though I know she'll be back Sunday.

As much as she's going for bridge maintenance with her parents, she's also somewhat using this as a litmus test of whether she's going to visit for Christmas. If this time isn't bad she does want to visit next month, but if all they do is hlep at her about Needing To Lose Weight And Get Meds, it's not fun for anyone. (Yes, meds are hlepy in this circumstance; she needs to not be lost in a fog while trying to do her job until at least summer, and she has a Complicated history with them regardless.)

If she doesn't go for Christmas, we'll have to come up with some way to keep them from trying to come here.

#639 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 04:23 PM:

Tamiki @638

I have no idea whether the logistics involved would be too much, or even if you'd want to, but if she doesn't go there for Christmas, perhaps the two of you could travel somewhere else together? I don't know if that would be sufficient to prevent unwanted parental visits. (If you could contrive to visit friends elsewhere, it would be harder for parents to invite themselves along.)

Again, this might not suit.

Everyone: I'm still reading and witnessing. (And trying to examine my own parenting in the light of what I read in these threads.)

#640 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2012, 04:40 PM:

Alternatively, just announce that you're traveling far away to visit friends. Then, "cancel" the trip at the last minute, but "forget" to tell the parents.

#641 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2012, 12:12 AM:

she pushes down, Congratulations! I'm so glad you've decided to make your exterior name and your self-image more congruent.

Bricklayer, sympathies and hugs.

Phenicious, congratulations on the job, and I hope that you're correct that you can fix one or more of the safety concerns, because that's just bad news.

tamiki, being braced for the bad is, indeed, a stress nightmare. I'm sending you good wishes for purposeful thought repatterning.

To all, may your Thanksgiving be as unstressful as may be, and may you be surrounded only by those people who you want to see (or who are, at worst, only annoying.)

#642 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2012, 08:13 AM:

Well, she's on the train. (I'm up because I had to drive the car back and then figured I was too awake to go back to bed; in my native habitat I am the opposite of a morning person.)

And it's not as bad as I thought. I've at least put that tiny corner of my brain that's still in long-distance mode in a box.

But when you've spent the bulk of your relationship to date not sure when you'll see each other again (and in fact started that out not sure if you'd see each other again - for the record, I don't recommend that unless you're sure you have the stomach for it), that corner hangs around.

I miss her already, but I'm not sobbing the way I used to. The last time I visited before the chance to move came up it took me a whole DAY to stop thinking I needed to turn my ass around and go back, and I know she's been just as torn up to do the leaving.

But she'll be back Sunday night.

(There was a point where my mother wondered how badly I wanted the relationship when she didn't see any concrete steps toward occupying the same place. I couldn't explain to her that that was why we were on the phone so much! Long-distance sucks, but it can work if you put the effort in. We wanted it badly enough to make sure it lasted long enough for us to move in together, through all the part-time work and functional homelessness and toxic home situations.

The distance also gave us time to sort out a lot of our foibles with each other. There's still been adjusting - living together != talking every day - but I think all the time we spent talking things through helped a ton.)

#643 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2012, 10:01 AM:

tamiki, wishing you a calm holiday and a happy reunion.

#644 ::: xiaoren ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2012, 11:07 AM:

My best wishes go out for everyone here over the holiday weekend. I don't envy the tough row many of you are hoeing.

For my part, my son is with his mother for the next eight days, and the rest of my family is far, far away— both geographically and psychically. Hence, I'm bunkering myself alone into a resort hotel in Humboldt for the weekend. Maybe, just maybe, I'll turn back to writing genre fiction again. It's just barely possible that I may have gotten my headspace reconfigured sufficiently well that I can write without turning out complete shit.

#645 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2012, 11:54 AM:

In re The Naming Of Cats (or guys), I also picked a name that I thought was fairly unambigously male, and one of the first things someone said to me as I introduced myself to them was, "Oh! Like that doctor on Scrubs!" So apparently there is at least one moderately-well-known fictional character, who is female, with my new name -- she uses one T, I use two, whatever. Same name.

Oh, well. It lets me keep "El" as a nickname, which was important to me.

#646 ::: unready for her closeup ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2012, 02:22 PM:

Everyone: reading and witnessing.

Bricklayer, I hope so badly that you get a chance to breathe and re-spoon soon.

B. Durbin, something you said (the bit about anticipation being a stressor) was helpful, and thank you for that.

#647 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2012, 08:22 AM:

What turns out to be a very toxic person is, in less than 72h of my starting to fight back, has mostly removed herself from my life, rather than face refusal to accept further bad behaviour in even very small ways. And what she correctly guessed was going to be my righteous wrath for previous intolerable disrespect tolerated at length for sake of another.

She's doing it in less than optimal fashion (when 30min more of planning/thinking through would have gotten her to optimal for everyone especially her), but I can cope with that, since she's doing the hard work rather than me having to force a very ugly confrontation and even uglier choices on all involved. And her enabler's head is already starting to clear from the fog she created. Things are *already* noticeably improved, less than 48h after she moved out, both between him and me and in his ability to listen and think straight about what the situation has been.

Break out the everything tasty; we need to celebrate!

#648 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2012, 09:00 AM:

Moonlit Night: Hooray! Sharing virtual portions of cranberry/apple crumble and pumpkin pie from here. Also a kickass mushroom tart.

#649 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2012, 10:50 AM:

@Phenicious no. 630: Congratulations! And, yes, please do not hesitate to speak up to your proximate layer of management about the concerns. If management brushes you off, hey, you took the job in good faith, not your fault you have to look elsewhere, and any future employer who faults you for being honest about issues at this job is not an employer worth sticking around for.

I am thankful, deeply thankful, that the most stressful things I am facing today are a two-year-old who is practicing for three (non-parents: three is like 13, only with a much smaller brain; remember yourself at 13?) and making one Thanksgiving side dish for 15 people. There will be no toxic people at my extended family's Thanksgiving table.

I am also thankful for my first solid night's sleep in several days; when my children have trouble sleeping due to illness or rapid brain development, I'm the one who stays up because the breadwinner has to be rested or we're in deep kimchi; also he's the one who shovels the driveway at chicken o'clock. I am very, very thankful that all three kids slept deeply and well so that I could wake up still sated and humming from the previous night instead of twitchy and unfulfilled and facing a day without a prospect of privacy to take care of the problem.

Everybody in the U.S., I hope you have the best day that's possible for you right now and that there are long stretches of time when the reasons you post on DF threads never even cross your minds.

#650 ::: J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2012, 12:49 PM:

One more really big thank-you: I read over the things I post under this pseud now and then. I spent the second half of my childhood in a trailer that could have been a set for a slasher flick; the windows didn't open; one toilet went unfixed for years and years because alcoholism; one shower ditto; there was water pooled on the backs of the drop panels in the ceiling, they sagged slowly down, and long strands of something alive started hanging down into the room; raw sewage regularly ran across the road I had to walk up to meet the bus; the landlord was a thief on top of never fixing anything; and all of this because my mother had seriously fritzed decision circuits; all of this was unnecessary, we had the money to live somewhere else.

So I had nightmares for years that consisted simply of waking in my old bed in my old room to discover that the trailer had kept right on decaying, so that the built-ins were sinking into the soft spot in the floor and I had to walk on things that were alive to get out and etc.

But it's been more than a year since the last one! I had forgotten all about them until I reread my DFD posts. I am so very thankful for that.

#651 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2012, 02:44 PM:

Moonlit Night, #647: Yay! Now that's something to be thankful for!

To all: May you have a holiday as free as possible of drama and stress.

#653 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2012, 08:29 AM:

I am grateful to all of you.

#654 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: November 23, 2012, 10:40 PM:

I am deeply and profoundly grateful for the Fluorosphere and its participants and mods, without whom I would still probably be a reasonably grown-up and functional adult human being, but with whom this achievement has been immeasurably enhanced. In particular, I am grateful for this thread and the denizens thereof, for helping me learn life lessons (in interesting and non-painful ways) that have helped me be a much kinder and more thoughtful human being.

#655 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2012, 11:12 PM:

Further happy updates! (The universe seems to think I live in the US, with how they are happening on US Thanksgiving.)

Now that Toxic Person is moved out, we are working on having the rest of her stuff fetched and keys returned. (If they won't be, then we tell the landlord we may need locks changed and start using the bolt, for which she has no key.) And soon, Toxic Person will be entirely evicted from my life, aside from random crossing of paths. We'll need to reconfigure Christmas plans, but that is such a solvable problem in comparison.

Enabler is doing a quite good job of recovering from his bout of blindness and stupidity, apologizing for it, and trying to fix the problems that have resulted. Toxic Person, we have concluded, has one hell of a r