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February 9, 2013

Dysfunctional Families: Surviving and Thriving
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:31 PM *

I want to highlight and poke at something that Jacque said in the last DF thread:

…having spent one’s formative years surviving and protecting that embryo—and one finally Gets Out, and all of a sudden it’s “Now what?” Surviving is a fundamentally different skill-set from Thriving.

This community talks a lot about how the expectations that the children of dysfunctional families have turn out to be wrong in the outside world. Something goes wrong and there is not inevitably an immediate explosion of fury and blame. Arguments are often a tool for resolving differences, not deepening them. Instead of defensiveness and denial, wrongdoing is usually followed by apologies and restitution. Relationships generally run on joy and generosity rather than fear and obligation. Coming from a dysfunctional background, it must be like walking into a mirror universe.

(The above paragraph has been updated in bold with Lee @4’s suggestions. Thanks to her and Pvt_Prvt @2 for highlighting my over-generalizations, and I apologize to anyone whom they hurt or made feel uncomfortable.)

It’s inevitable that the skillsets of people who grew up amidst dysfunction will be similarly out of synch. The transition from the old to the new is only partly geography; the real challenge is moving out of the habits and reflexes that made it possible to survive an abusive situation. We often talk about this transformation in the negative: not doing this destructive thing, not listening to that tape. And all of that is hugely important.

But if thriving is a different thing than surviving, how does a survivor start? How does someone build a new, functional self on a shaky foundation? What are the tools, tricks and habits to acquire to not just exist in this new world, but blossom in it?

And can a person still in the old situation lay the foundations for those skills, tuck them away like linens in a hope chest for a better future?

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

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

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

Comments on Dysfunctional Families: Surviving and Thriving:
#1 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 06:12 PM:

Certain YA novels gave me a hint that minds could work differently (and SF, of course, showed me some minds that were REALLY different!). I think reading Bujold's Komarr could be an uncomfortable mirror-moment for someone in that sort of abusive relationship; it was certainly the best ... worst? ... bad-sex scene (for a certain kind of bad sex) I've EVER read, and immediately made me sort of compassionately want to give a hug Bujold's way, because if she could write it that well that meant she'd BEEN there.

#2 ::: Pvt_Prvt ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 06:17 PM:

"Something goes wrong and there is not an immediate explosion of fury and blame. Arguments are a tool for resolving differences, not deepening them. Instead of defensiveness and denial, wrongdoing is followed by apologies and restitution. Relationships run on joy and generosity rather than fear and obligation"

That only happens in books. Except Komarr, and anything Valente has written -- Valente and Bujold are pretty much the only people I've read who write about real relationships.

#3 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 06:23 PM:

I think there's a lot to be said with having someone outside the situation who can point out how bad it is. My fiancee was one of the first people I knew who pointed out that my dad's kind of an asshole.

And then I realised just how much I was dreading being home on one of his (rotating, thanks to the way his workplace runs) days off, particularly if it was warm enough that he'd have a mind to do yard stuff.

Oddly, now that I've moved out, I think I'm getting on better with him than my mom. It has a bit to do with the fact that Mom's more likely to get into the 'but DO YOU HAVE A JOB' infinite loop than he is.

(Further comparisons, based on my fiancee's ongoing tussle with her parents and whether/how she's going to respond to their tremendous difficulty with her lifestyle: I can at least say my parents are coming from a place where they love me and are concerned for my well-being. It's just that they're concerned in a way that is more hlepy than helpful. My fiancee's not sure if her parents are coming from that place, or just the place where she doesn't FIT their way to Do It Right anymore and they can't cope.)

#4 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 06:35 PM:

Pvt_Prvt, #2: I believe you may be making the same kind of mistake that people from reasonable families often make, but in the opposite direction -- failing to distinguish between an occasional occurrence and an ongoing harmful pattern of behavior.

Of course all of those things may happen from time to time in ordinary relationships. Perhaps more often if one or more of the people involved have an unreasonable-family background and hence some trigger events about which they do not react rationally. The key phrase here is "from time to time". Try reading it this way:

Something goes wrong and there is not inevitably an immediate explosion of fury and blame. Arguments are often a tool for resolving differences, not deepening them. Instead of defensiveness and denial, wrongdoing is usually followed by apologies and restitution. Relationships generally run on joy and generosity rather than fear and obligation.

If you don't see non-dysfunctional patterns of interaction in any of the family units to which you are regularly exposed, I submit that something is badly amiss with your entire corner of the world. Which is possible -- there are several subcultures in America based around horribly dysfunctional assumptions, and if you're stuck in one, it can be hard even to see outside the box, let alone get there.

#5 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 06:52 PM:

Bricklayer 1: ...if [Bujold] could write [the bad-sex-in-abusive-relationship] that well that meant she'd BEEN there.

Wow, I hope you're wrong, for Bujold's sake. I fear you may be right, but I would point out that, for example, John Varley wrote a rape scene (from the victim's POV) that led women friends of mine to conclude that John Varley was really a woman (he isn't). So maybe it's possible that Bujold has talked with a bunch of women who've been in that situation.

But I fear you may be right. I just really like her and I hope that didn't happen to her. If it did, I hope writing about it in Komarr was helpful to her.

Lee 4: My thoughts exactly. Thank you.

#6 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 06:58 PM:

re: Komarr, when my marriage was disintegrating and I was describing the situation to friends with the anguished question "should I really pursue divorce?", one friend answered "Do not wait for Tien to make you a widow, Ekaterin. Get out."

That was a moment of clarity if ever there was one.

#7 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 07:33 PM:

Followup from last thread: Somewhere Else mentioned using pictures, and produced yet another evocative image. So, Somewhere Else, I just wanted to tell you that I find your pictures difficult but beautiful, that they help me understand what you're going through, and that I hope you might be able to consider putting them into poetry or other non-DFD writing someday.

#8 ::: abcd ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 08:57 PM:

I'm not sure if my wife, even now, has completely accepted the dysfunctional nature of the family she grew up in.

Her saving grace was having fantastic parental role models when she went to visit her friends. They demonstrated more clearly than anything that it didn't have to be that way ...

But although I'm sure I often fail in being as patient, understanding and forgiving as I should, I do feel that having a partner who Gets It and tolerates reversion to the Surviving mindset is really important. Because the Surviving mindset seems like really bad behavior if you don't understand its cause.

I remain thankful, as ever, that these threads exist to remind me that I'm part of a community of people going through similar scenarios.

#9 ::: canisfelicis ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 08:57 PM:

I was twenty when I really started the process of Getting Out. I'm thirty now. It's only been in the last year or two that I was able to say I'd done well, and that certainly not alone.

Things that helped me (and thus might help someone else):

Starting something new. Something entirely new, something they'd never touched, never really talked about. In my case, a martial art, which was a twofer; it built confidence/ate fear and was a skill that none of my family was tied to at all in my mind.

Doing something I'd wanted to do, and been told I couldn't. In my case, starting school. Potentially difficult for Americans under twenty-four years of age, due to financial law in the US; not impossible.

Practicing aloneness. This was hardest for me. I am the eldest of six children; doing something just for myself felt senseless, beyond the point of enjoyable hedonism into somewhere that was incomprehensible. So I'd take a day, every week or two, where I'd go out into the middle of the woods solo, or go to a street festival where I wouldn't see anybody I knew, or go to a new coffee-shop, and be just-me. All alone, with no expectations (or backup). Terrifying. I was so accustomed to being part of the thing that is my family that I didn't have any idea who I was without it. The notion that I could build that person was like getting too much oxygen.

#10 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 09:50 PM:

Two things that helped me survive my childhood: knowing what I was feeling (whether or not it was safe for others to know) and having laser-bright boundaries.

It's fairly common for dysfunctional parents to demand "appropriate" feelings. My mom was subject to dangerous rages if she wasn't shown the signs of submission, "respect," and adoration. I could usually do them when it was required, but I knew what was performance and what was actually felt. (Answering rage. Seething resentment. Matricidal fury.)

My upbringing gave me very little useful information on how human relationships work, and a lot of misinformation that had to be combed through before discarding. I was a tiny anthropologist, trying to piece together others' rules. I adopted the scientific method early, asking: What happens if I do this? (What happens if I don't?) "Here's my theory, let's test it." Pretty much everything I knew about civilized behavior I worked out from first principles. (Golden rule. Other people have feelings. Power corrupts.)

Using my powers of observation, I noticed that while one day I was "the best little girl in the world," two days later I was back to being "the spawn of the devil." I knew I hadn't changed. I noted that my mom's situation had. Aha! This was hers, not mine.

As an adult, it turns out those skills are also helpful for building healthy, respectful relationships. And it's lovely to have feelings other than anger to own.

#11 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 10:58 PM:

Now that I've gotten myself to actually do it, applying for jobs in the freelance world feels much easier than putting myself out there for the kind of job where you have to leave the house. Not sure why that is, but there you have it.

At the very least, now I'm properly taking a step I've meant to for a while now.

(For the ongoing Goddamn Tapes pool: "It's not like it's a Real Job anyway." Shut up, tape, if I can be paid for it, it's a real job.)

#12 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2013, 11:09 PM:

On new boundaries in old relationships... especially the sort of new boundaries that are developed through new self-awareness built from places and discussions like this, and the sort of old relationships that are valued but are with people who have not been in these discussions.

So I haven't said anything about my parents before because I have a good relationship with them, even if sometimes they frustrate me - not exactly DFD relevant. My participation here has been mostly about those issues remaining from the ex.

Apologies in advance for the long post. I'm also not sure this belongs here or would be better at one of the other sites I've been reading which have helped me process a lot of stuff this past year, but here is where I've been participating.

Last time I visited my parents, my mother made a joke that kicked me right in the I deserve better. I made it clear that I was Not Amused and that she should drop the issue. She said she thought I was overreacting, which also pissed me off.

A couple of days later, I got mad all over again while trying to go to sleep because I had just figured out why I was so mad about what she had said. It's been almost two weeks since then, and while I think I've mostly unpacked it, I still don't know what to do about it.

First and most obvious, kicking me in a sensitive spot, even accidentally. Yeah, that hurts. And it's a spot that didn't used to hurt so much because I'd kicked myself there often enough to have some armour. My "I deserve better" peeled a lot of that armour off though, which opened me up to that pain even as it helped me get past other things.

Second, telling me I was overreacting. One of many things I've learned here and elsewhere is that things hurt as much as they hurt, and telling people their hurt is invalid and that they don't know what's inside their own heads is hurtful in its own right. I have an easier time believing that about other people's pain than about my own.

Third, "you're overreacting" is one of the ways my ex built up the structure that held that I was wrong and he was right, and if there were arguments it was my fault, and if I got upset it was because I was over-sensitive and not because he was a jerk, and I was the one who was broken and needed to change and go talk to a counsellor, and unfortunately the counsellor agreed with him. Used the term "overly-" whatever, and worked on how to get past my upset reactions instead of looking into why I was getting upset in the first place.

Fourth, I realized that part of the reason I was so susceptible to that line is because I'd been hearing it my entire life, and I'd already internalized it long before I met the ex.

Specifically, my extended family loves the "friendly insult" and the teasing. My dad and his brothers call each other assholes and between them, they know it means "I love you". It works for them; I wouldn't try to change their interactions with each other. My mom's family also loves teasing, and they do it all the time.

I have never been able to take the friendly insults or the teasing.

I've been told I'm serious, or sometimes too serious. I've been told to relax and lighten up and it's just a joke.

Between those who can take it, it is just a joke.

Basically, I'm a more sensitive person (or at least a less armoured person) and they just don't get it. My dad thrives on the friendly insults. I'm not sure if my mom does as well or if she's built up enough armour and practice to get by in those situations due to growing up in a family that also does that. Some things she's said in the past lead me to think maybe she's also more sensitive but has built up her armour and internalized the "you're over-sensitive, this is actually funny" to the point where she believes it really is funny and ok and that armour-building is what I need to do too.

But either way, the friendly insult was another thing the ex did that ended up controlling me. "Oh you're so demanding," said with a smile when we both knew that I was actually very easy-going, but repeated a thousand times caused me to stop asking for things I needed. Stuff like that. Mild stuff when said only once.

Fifth, when I was separating from the ex, my mom told me she wasn't sure how I'd got dragged in to suppressing my own opinions and going with the ex's when he was so clearly not as smart as he thought he was and not as smart as I actually was. And now, in the past couple of weeks, I realise what growing up being told your reactions are wrong will do to a person who then goes into a relationship with somebody who tells you your reactions are wrong. Of course I believed the ex!

I've barely talked to either of them for the past two weeks, ostensibly because mom can't stop herself from quizzing me intrusively about the new boyfriend. I've told her very clearly that the more she is pushy and nosy the less I will be willing to tell her. I ended up shutting off my IM client entirely (our main communication channel; neither of us much likes the phone) and told her via email a couple of days ago that I wouldn't turn it on again until she promised not to harass me about the new boyfriend. (None of the questions individually are problematic. It's how many of them she asked, and how she asked them, after I'd had exactly one date, that got my back up. I still haven't got the answer to half her questions because the subject just hasn't come up when I'm talking to the new boyfriend. It's only been 5 dates so far, and his height, age, and what sort of car he has, for example, are much less important topics of discussion than what kind of person he is.)

And while that is a large part of the reason, there's also the part that doesn't know how to make her acknowledge the new boundaries I'm trying to build, so I'm pulling the avoidance routine right now, for lack of any more useful ideas.

All of that leads up to me not knowing how to communicate my new boundaries and make them stick, while still preserving the good parts (the majority) of the relationship I have with my mom. I don't know that I'd do well explaining all this in person. Just thinking about doing so makes my throat close, so saying it aloud is probably a non-starter. I could try to explain it in writing, I suppose, but I haven't had much luck in the past explaining to somebody in writing that something they did was hurtful. (Or explaining any other way, for that matter, but at least in writing I can get all my words out.) The boundaries in question would be them not making jokes or criticisms about certain subjects because DAMMIT I KNOW ALREADY DON'T THINK I DON'T SAY WORSE TO MYSELF.

I'll be seeing them next in two weeks, so I have a bit of time to figure this out.

#13 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 12:23 AM:

the invisible one, @12: I can't remember who posted this link, but it has been a godsend for me.

Anytime someone tells me "You're overly [something]" these days, I start thinking about what behavior of mine they want to curtail. I internalized the overly sensitive, too smart, too crazy stuff in my childhood, and then my parents wondered why I went from one crappy relationship to another. Uh, conditioning?

and thanks to those [Mea and others] who gave me input on meeting with my dad. I've got my goal and my scripts and my escape plan all figured out. My emotional sticking point was tough to figure out, but I finally realized that I have to be ready on Monday to walk away from lunch without a dad. Tough to process, but necessary.

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

the invisible one@12 - That rings some serious bells within my family in a couple of different directions. My father's family is a big one for teasing and "friendly" insults. Even within the parts of the family that embrace the behavior, some of the insults are rather more pointed than friendly, but the whole thing is mostly taken as good fun, and mostly works.

Where it doesn't work is with all the spouses. My mother, and one of my aunts are not the types who can take this sort of teasing with equinamity. My mother because her mother was a bully and control freak whose insults were absolutely meant to wound, not tease. My aunt was raised in a strict fundamentalist faith, and teasing and like behavior was not allowed.

The larger family is simply unable to deal with the fact that their rough-and-tumble interactions don't work for everyone, and has de facto driven these two women out of the larger family structure. I have seen my aunt exactly once in the last thirty years, and was startled at how friendly and engaged and interested she was in me and the family at large. She just couldn't handle the atmosphere at mass family gatherings. My mother, otoh, goes to the reunions with Dad, but hides in her room or cabin and interacts the bare minimum needed to keep people from whispering about her the way they do about Aunt. It seems like a lot of groups that have this kind of interaction are defensive about it in some very hostile ways, which suggests to me that they know there's something there that can be legitimately criticized.

The other bell-ringer was the comment about setting new boundaries. The more separated I become from my childhood family culture, the more I begin to establish sensible boundaries with the people I interact with. I actually belong to a church where I have not been drafted into positions I don't want, with responsibilities I'm not prepared for - and more amazing, they were heading down that path, and I stopped, and established my boundaries, and they are being respected.

Historically any attempts to establish boundaries with my parents have been met with complete freak-outs. However, right now due to a confluence of medical issues, my parents have pulled away slightly (my father ended up depending on me as a physical rescuer last year, and it made him extremely uncomfortable, so he's been establishing some distance to prove his independence. My mother is having memory problems, and calling me less frequently, because she can't remember when she last did, and is afraid of giving herself away.) I've relaxed tremendously in the luxury of moar space(!), and am trying to figure out if I can establish the new boundaries here, without making it seem like I'm setting up fences and causing a freak-out.

In response to the general question, learning to survive gave me a whole bunch of skills, many of which weren't conducive to thriving life outside my environment-of-raising, and I've found that stripping away those un-useful skills sometimes leaves me with no skills at all in critical areas. For example - the way I learned to clean a house involved huge chunks of dedicated, disruptive time - empty everything out of a room, scrub it down (sometimes repeatedly), and put everything back, one item at a time, cleaning them as you go. It was a revelation to realize that I didn't have to do that - or at least certainly not every Saturday. Unfortunately, the realization that it's possible to clean without single-minded, punitive, all-or-nothing drive, didn't give me the necessary skills to do it. So my house is a mess, because I won't use my old skills, but I don't have any other skills to draw on. It's been an ongoing project of years to start developing those skills, not least because any time I start to overdo, my hind brain kicks into panic mode (I'm becoming like my mother! NOOO!!!!!), and I find myself spending hours knitting while reading blog posts to numb away the reaction.

I have found that trying to specifically identify what needs were being covered by the old sets of behaviors, and thereby being able to target what sorts of new behaviors I need to sort out has been helpful in this process. Like canisfelicis @9, martial arts played a big part in my breakaway - unfortunately MA doesn't have a lot to say about doing dishes or laundry.

#15 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 01:22 AM:

A Tape I'm dealing with at the moment:

I'm going on a trip tomorrow. A sort of vacation-thing (only "sort-of" because to me, a vacation is when I get a week where I can sit in my room and not have to deal with other people). Right now, I have packed a carry-on bag full of clothes (bulky winter clothes I normally don't need in Texas), a little less than half a suitcase I'm sharing with my girlfriend, and my laptop bag. And I strongly feel that this is too much.

This, like all things, comes from when I was a kid and my parents just didn't want to be bothered with me, so I got attacked for bringing more than a backpack or so worth of stuff anywhere we went. I get that now, I'm only going to inconvenience myself (and even then, not much), and that I have every damn right to bring both my shiny new laptop and my shiny new tablet in the laptop bag, and that both the giant coat and the box of toiletries and medications aren't really optional and no one will begrudge me bringing them. But I still feel like a bad person rolling out of here tomorrow morning with more than a laptop bag for a week-long trip.

#16 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:03 AM:

the invisible one, #12: A joke is only a joke if it's funny to all participants. If your family's style of "friendly insults" bugs you, and they won't back off, then it's NOT joking any more, it's bullying.

Does it bug you only when it's directed at you personally, or does it make you twitch when it's happening between people who both clearly do take it as a joke? The latter is going to be much harder to deal with, and you may simply have to curtail your time spent around these people. But if it's the former, and they won't recognize that this is NOT FUNNY to you when you're the butt, it starts to look as if hurting you is one of the things that makes it funny for them. Which is one of the canonical definitions of bullying.

when I was separating from the ex, my mom told me she wasn't sure how I'd got dragged in to suppressing my own opinions and going with the ex's when he was so clearly not as smart as he thought he was and not as smart as I actually was. And now, in the past couple of weeks, I realise what growing up being told your reactions are wrong will do to a person who then goes into a relationship with somebody who tells you your reactions are wrong. Of course I believed the ex!

Can you tell your mother any part of this? Is she able to understand that her behavior (and that of the rest of the family) is part of what messed you up WRT the ex? Because when you lay it out like that, it really is a "Well, DUH!" -- but maybe not to someone who's still invested in telling you that your reactions are wrong.

#17 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:07 AM:

knitcrazybooknut - good to hear. You have already done a lot just to get to this point. So be proud of yourself. And I hope that you have a relaxing Sunday. Whatever happens on Monday, we are here and rooting for you.

#18 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:25 AM:

Lee 16: A joke is only a joke if it's funny to all participants. If your family's style of "friendly insults" bugs you, and they won't back off, then it's NOT joking any more, it's bullying.

I keep saying this. People keep scoffing. Someone posted a "funny" story about a guy who was phobic about garden gnomes—I mean the statues with the red caps. He had panic attacks if he went near them. His father put one right by the entrance to the family home. He posted about it via smartphone after two hours of walking back and forth in front of his house, watching his father laugh from inside.

I think his father's a fucking asshole who he should never speak to again after he gets out of that fucking hellhole house. My friend who linked me to it thought I was being hypersensitive and humorless. I cannot understand that attitude. Deliberately exposing someone to a known phobia? Is it supposed to somehow matter that the phobia is "silly"? And how did the guy acquire a phobia of garden gnomes anyway? I bet his sadistic shit of a father did that to him too.

#19 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:52 AM:

Is it possible to be triggered by a co-worker?

I have a newish, temporary-ish (currently only supposed to be here until September, though he was originally going to be gone after Christmas). He triggers and freaks me out so bad, but I can't tell if this is just me overreacting or no.

He makes everything a joke and inserts his usually inapplicable opinion about everything. He wears headphones at work, as we are allowed to do. His music was very loud on Friday. One of my other co-workers told him it was overly loud and asked him, politely, to turn the music down. He responded that he must have hearing problems to find his music loud. I informed him that I found it distractingly loud, too. He said we both must have hearing issues and have been raised in nunneries. My other co-worker who objected to the music does have hearing issues. I have severe auditory processing issues myself. He was informed of this. He still makes fun of and belittles us, if we in any way disagree with him.

I do not know what to do, or if it is just me overreacting. I cannot go to HR even if I had a reason to. HR has been my department's boss since our boss died over a year ago. If I bring any issue to her she either tells me to handle it myself even if I have tried and failed, or she laughs and says there cannot possibly be an issue.

And with triggery co-worker, I cannot even tell if he is wrong or, more likely, I am.

#20 ::: Finny ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 04:24 AM:

Should be that she--the girl co-worker--has hearing problems, not he.

#21 ::: kadr ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 04:39 AM:

Pvt_Prvt @2: "Something goes wrong and there is not an immediate explosion of fury and blame. Arguments are a tool for resolving differences, not deepening them. Instead of defensiveness and denial, wrongdoing is followed by apologies and restitution. Relationships run on joy and generosity rather than fear and obligation"

That only happens in books. Except Komarr, and anything Valente has written -- Valente and Bujold are pretty much the only people I've read who write about real relationships.

Agreed that there are vastly few healthy relationships depicted even in books which aren't "about" unhealthy relationships. What's worse is when the author apparently thinks that the relationship is healthy, for which we needn't reach too far into the past NYT bestsellers for examples.

Before I left home, healthy relationships like that were something I'd only encountered in books, but they can exist. Now I've seen them with my own eyes, been part of them, I know that.

A lot of what I like about Valente's writing is her depiction of the continual communication of good relationships, the way partners discuss and negotiate boundaries. (Thinking particularly of Palimpsest here.) After reading too many novels where the characters magically fell into bed together, it was a relief to realize that by communicating and negotiating I wasn't... somehow Doing It Wrong.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:17 AM:

Pvt_Prvt @2, Lee @4:

I've updated the post. I'm sorry that I overgeneralized; it robbed the entry of its real point. I appreciate the feedback and suggestions for correction.

#23 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:53 AM:

Cynthia W. #14: MA doesn't have a lot to say about doing dishes or laundry.

Some martial arts also include meditative practices, and others have old links to such. Think the "chop wood, carry water" idea -- a book by that name was a fad a few years back.

Finny #19: He's way out of line. New guy and temporary to boot, and he refuses correction from two co-workers? Let alone being pushy in conversation as well -- what you describe sounds suspiciously like trying to establish dominance, and it's not his place.

This may well be connected to the point that HR is failing you both as a boss, and as HR. Both roles are supposed to include handling personnel conflicts, respectively for the workgroup and for the company.

#24 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:55 AM:

Dianna Wynne Jones' books are also good for portraying both functional and dysfunctional relationships.

As for the general topic, I just don't seem to have the motivation to move towards thriving, or at least I'm spending a lot of time killing time, and not doing much to make my life better. This has been a problem to some extent for my whole life. The blazing self-hatred (partly set off by a felt demand that I ought to care more) isn't as strong or pervasive but the inertia is no better than it ever was, maybe worse.

The self-hatred isn't in play about a third of the time for just about anything, but actually it was pretty awful the other day when I was running some errands.

As far as I can tell, I'm a lot better at knowing what I don't want than what I do want.

I suspect I feel a lot of underlying panic, but this is more like a guess/barely perceptible feeling rather than an actual experience.

I have stress-related tinitus (it seems to be related to worrying, and I can end it by relaxing the right side of my neck). Reading the more recent comments was the first time I've felt the moment when it set in (loud-by-my-standards hissing started with a pop), though I'm not sure what triggered it, and rereading doesn't help.

I will say that teasing seems to be a very strong compulsion for (some? many? all?) people who have it-- I've seen people who were asked to not tease react with "Not even a little bit?" with a tone that implies that they're being asked to not breathe.

#19 ::: Finny

I'd say it's possible to be triggered by a co-worker. They don't have authority (though your co-worker seems to have taken a good bit of authority), but it's possible to be triggered by a stranger, so why not a co-worker?

#25 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 07:47 AM:

I learned about healthy partner relationships from the 1990s television sitcom Mad About You.

#26 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:24 AM:

On the subject of jokes, embarrassment humor, and something only being funny to all participants: my housemate/BFF is a supertaster, and, as a result, something of a picky eater. Early in our cohabitation, I hadn't yet figured out where the limits of that were, so I sometimes encouraged her to try new foods to see if they were within her tolerances. For example, I knew she didn't like coffee, but I wanted to know if she could tolerate a fancy mocha, because, to me, those taste like pure sugary chocolate. So I gave her a sip of mine.

She did an involuntary full-body recoil. I laughed -- I couldn't help it, it was pure slapstick. But I immediately aoologized and bought her a mint chocolate square to get the taste out of her mouth.

Likewise, when she was still eating fish and chicken, I offered her a bite of my salmon roe sushi, because that's one of my favorites. Full-body recoil (with a scrunchy face), and again, I laughed. But I handed over my eel (with the sweet sauce on it) as apology.

Ever since then, I've warned her if something might cause one of those reactions. Sometimes she tries it anyway -- sometimes even deliberately, if she's in front of people who haven't seen the reaction, in order to make them laugh (and to show them that she's not kidding).

Sometimes it's not possible to avoid laughing at slapstick, even as you realize it must be awful for the person who's affected. But it's the aftermath that makes all the difference. If I'd kept trying to feed her things that would make her flinch, without telling her, or even by lying to her about them? That would be seriously dysfunctional, and NOT FUNNY, and I doubt she'd be my friend any more.

#27 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:37 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @24, that inertia sounds extremely familiar to me. I don't know what to do about it in my own case, either. Sometimes just doing small things that I know I'm good at, even if it's as simple as picking out a good t-shirt/jeans outfit to wear or writing several paragraphs on a short story, helps with the self-hatred. One little thing at a time. When it will be right, I don't know; what it will be like, I don't know; etc.

I'm currently in a relationship with a lovely woman who grew up in a far more functional family environment than I did. Sometimes I don't know how to describe to her what's going on in my head when the bad stuff hits. Like, for example, why I had a huge Do Not Want reaction to her telling me about her sister-in-law who chose to wait for marriage to have sex: to me, that choice is tied up in "purity culture" and serious headfuckery, and I'd just been reading about survivors of that culture and feeling all the stresses of it again. So the temptation was for me to say, "You don't understand and you don't care about me," when she brought up the counterexample of someone for whom that choice wasn't necessarily coerced.

But--a victory!--I managed to use enough words to say, "I'm feeling triggered by [other discussion I've been reading] and I either need to blister your ear off with ranting [about people you never met, don't know, and aren't in any way responsible for] or I just need to not talk about it." And she says, "You can rant, if you need to, love." and explain it to your closest loved ones. ("Why can't they be psychic?") Maybe that's part of the healing process, though? I'm certainly open to advice for how to navigate the interface between survivor of dysfunctional family and beloved who was spared that.

#28 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:44 AM:

(dammit, less-than-three ASCII hearts fuck up formatting--this is what I meant to type)

Nancy Lebovitz @24, that inertia sounds extremely familiar to me. I don't know what to do about it in my own case, either. Sometimes just doing small things that I know I'm good at, even if it's as simple as picking out a good t-shirt/jeans outfit to wear or writing several paragraphs on a short story, helps with the self-hatred. One little thing at a time. When it will be right, I don't know; what it will be like, I don't know; etc.

I'm currently in a relationship with a lovely woman who grew up in a far more functional family environment than I did. Sometimes I don't know how to describe to her what's going on in my head when the bad stuff hits. Like, for example, why I had a huge Do Not Want reaction to her telling me about her sister-in-law who chose to wait for marriage to have sex: to me, that choice is tied up in "purity culture" and serious headfuckery, and I'd just been reading about survivors of that culture and feeling all the stresses of it again. So the temptation was for me to say, "You don't understand and you don't care about me," when she brought up the counterexample of someone for whom that choice wasn't necessarily coerced.

But--a victory!--I managed to use enough words to say, "I'm feeling triggered by [other discussion I've been reading] and I either need to blister your ear off with ranting [about people you never met, don't know, and aren't in any way responsible for] or I just need to not talk about it." And she says, "You can rant, if you need to, love." And "You can give me as much detail or as little detail as you want to." And I realized I probably would rather go look at cute kitten pictures for a while.

I guess my point is--sometimes I'm glad to be with someone who doesn't "get it" from the inside, because it means we aren't going to reinforce each other's bad tape. Other times, it's hard to have to both work through the pain and explain it to your closest loved ones. ("Why can't they be psychic?") Maybe that's part of the healing process, though? I'm certainly open to advice for how to navigate the interface between survivor of dysfunctional family and beloved who was spared that.

#29 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:46 AM:

Ross, if it helps t o hear it from outside, that's a perfectly reasonable amount of stuff to bring on a week-long trip. If I had to pack for one and include a large, bulky coat that I wasn't going to wear from the start, I might even need a full suitcase to myself, in addition to the carry-on and laptop bag. Mostly because my warmest winter coat is modeled after the one Captain Jack Harkness wears. If I were the squishable down parka sort, I'd probably take up just as much space as you're doing.

When I packed for a mere weekend at a science fiction convention, I had my purse, a gym bag, and a full-size garment bag, and I was wearing the Jack Harkness coat. Admittedly, I had other large/bulky cosplay items: girl!Loki had a cloak and a pair of thigh-high boots, Bellatrix Lestrange had a robe, The Doctor's Wife had a tolerably full-skirted wedding dress, and I also had another dress to wear as a Naughty Nurse, all of which accounted for the garment bag, with the boots taking up about half the gym bag. BFF, whose outfits were a Slytherin and the Eleventh Doctor, had a similar amount of luggage. On the way in, we had a plan worked out for taking the stuff out of the car together, and then BFF minding it in the lobby while I went to the affordable offsite parking and took public transportation back; on the way out, when she was going to a panel during check-out hours, I took a deep breath and realized that I could justify a tip to the bellman to get all this stuff onto a cart and bring it down to the lobby, rather than having to do it all myself. It's a startling thing to realize that you're a grownup now, and you're allowed.

When we packed for four days at Disney World, we each managed with a backpack (and my purse, which held things for the both of us, 'cause I'm sort of The Mom/The Girl for the pair of us), but neither of us brought laptops, and we didn't need any warmer items than hoodies, which we wore on the plane.

You're allowed to take all the luggage you choose. :-)

#30 ::: Rikibeth has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:47 AM:

The cookies are gone, but would the gnomes care for toast with Nutella?

#31 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 08:54 AM:

Finny, both your co-worker and HR are wrong. Your co-worker in this specific case: if you can hear the music outside someone else's headphones, they've got it too loud, and are likely damaging their own hearing with it. The other stuff he does is annoying, but may or may not be something it's possible to resolve.

Your HR boss is absolutely wrong. It's HR's job to resolve issues that co-workers are having difficulty resolving, and she's neglecting her duty. Going over someone's head is always risky, but I would at least try documenting, bringing her the documentation for a time frame (two weeks? a month?) and, when she refuses to resolve it, consider ASKING her supervisor if they're interested in seeing the documentation.

#32 ::: greening ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 09:06 AM:

the invisible one@12: Do you follow It's a blog that's all about relationships and boundaries, and I find it very supportive to read. I too have the "it was just a joke" family member who can't back down and admit that 1) if it was really just a joke, only one of us finds it funny, and 2) it didn't so much sound like just a joke-- it sounded like a way of expressing anger and contempt which they're not copping to.

Finny@19: Oh, my sympathies. The frequencies that leak out of headphones are irritating and distracting to me as well. I'd honestly rather they just played the same music through speakers; I could ignore that better, or at least bop along to it. Fortunately, every time I've had to ask a coworker to turn it down, they've done so. (One made it pretty clear by tone of voice and facial expression that he thought I was a little nutty, but whatever. He's since left for unrelated reasons.)

#33 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 09:31 AM:

Had to stop reading after a few posts since my brain went into panic mode. Hopefully I can catch up later.

TexAnne @7, I'll think about it. In general, yes, writing about this is a thing I do, but usually in my mother tongue. In English the words just don't react in the same way to my writing attempts, which frustrates me.

Phew, I've got way too much nervous energy. Maybe somebody has an idea what I could do to ground myself? I don't know where to start as my poor head feels like somebody stuffed it with cotton balls.

#34 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 09:56 AM:

somewhere_else, 33: English isn't your native language????? I had *no* idea. (I'm currently teaching 3 languages, and I've had a fair amount of linguistics training besides.) Wow.

#35 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:34 AM:


Not only is your coworker wrong, but he's essentially claiming that he won't do what you and your other coworker need because he perceives you as disabled. Either he's mistaken, or what you're asking for is an entirely reasonable accommodation. If/when you decide to talk to HR, it might be worth saying "this guy refuses to turn his music down, and says it's because I have a hearing problem. If I did, it would count as a reasonable accommodation, but I don't think we need to go down that route. After all, lots of people both with and without disabilities find other people's music a distraction from the work they're hired for."

#36 ::: sansa ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:46 AM:

One thing that I found useful is asking people (safe people I trust) what they mean by something. If they make a statement that seems offensive or demeaning - confront them about it.

It has worked! I find that what I think they meant is often not what they meant. I interpret things to be nefarious, when the person didn't mean them that way at all. A cigar is just a cigar.

I also stay in unhealthy relationships way too long (at unhealthy jobs, etc.) Because in my family, you never quit and you never say no. So I now make use of pro's and con's lists, I value my opinion, and if I rant about a situation too many times, I start questioning whether or not it's worth it.

#37 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:43 AM:

#13, knitcrazybooknut: thanks for the link, I'll look into it. I think I saw it in passing a while back, the little self-test seems familiar.

#14, Cynthia W. and #16, Lee: re: bullying vs. joking; they don't tease directly at me all that much, so I'd say they're toning it down for me because they know I don't like it. The vast majority of the insulting goes on between the people who "give as good as they get"; I think I'm not fun to tease because I don't respond in kind. (This is what makes me call it joking and not bullying. I catch the edges of it, not the focus of it, and I get less, not more, because it bothers me.) When watching people in the family who both enthusiastically enjoy the insults, I find most of them entertaining. (A few I don't, but that's tied to the subject matter, not to the form of the insult.)

#32, greening: Yes! I discovered Captain Awkward not long ago and I've been slightly obsessively reading through the archives ever since. My novel editing project has kind of slipped to a lower priority, but I'm accepting that for now because CA have been the source of more than a few lightbulbs for me.

There is one specific joke that I just decided I would ask my dad to never use in my presence, even if it's not directed at me, because it's uncomfortably close to something my ex would say to make me believe I couldn't leave. This one makes me twitch even when it's clearly not directed at me at all. How does one explain triggers to somebody who isn't familiar with the vocabulary? An involuntary fear/stress reaction caused by a reminder of a past situation or event, even though one isn't in the actual stressful situation, maybe? "Trigger" is so much more compact.

#38 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:59 AM:

the invisible one, 37: I'd say "that reminds me of something That Jerk always said." Or "that hits a sore spot."

#39 ::: greening ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 12:09 PM:

the invisible one@37: Actually I think you've got it right there: "Would you be willing to not make that joke when I'm around? It reminds me of some bad stuff with Ex, and it makes me twitch, even when it's not directed at me at all."

#40 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 12:35 PM:

Finny, adding my reaction to the comments: if Earphone Man's music is so loud that you and a co-worker can hear it and be bothered by it, then Earphone Man is the one with the hearing problem, not you. HR absolutely needs to deal with it. Make a Very Polite written request to HR, and ask your co-worker to sign on to it with you. Document everything. Document your interactions with Earphone Man, and document your interactions with HR. Keep a written record of every conversation. Remain firm, calm and courteous at all times, even if you have to go into the bathroom at regular intervals and bang on the walls.

#41 ::: Dia ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 01:16 PM:

"But if thriving is a different thing than surviving, how does a survivor start? How does someone build a new, functional self on a shaky foundation? What are the tools, tricks and habits to acquire to not just exist in this new world, but blossom in it?"

Well, here's mine:

1) Go to law school. I know law school gets a bad rap, and it's a lot more expensive than it was, but it teaches you there are objective standards for behavior, you can prove people are liars and scoundrels, and you can think critically about the information that you've been presented and come to a different conclusion. Also you can paid for what you learned when you get out -- and fix things for other people.

2) Get out into a completely different environment. This is probably obvious.

3) Guaranteed support: adopt a pet, join AA, or a yoga studio, or something similar (yes I know this is also the appeal of joining a cult, but vulnerability attracts vultures). There is a certain rent-a-friend quality to this, but even though a rescued pet loves you just because you feed it, that love is still genuine.

#42 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 01:24 PM:

Funny how explaining something to people not involved leads to the explanation I couldn't come up with for the people who are involved.

I'll work on what to say to my parents. I have 2 weeks to practice...

#43 ::: Dia ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 01:31 PM:

#19- Finney - among his other problems your co-worker has cheap-ass earphones; good earphones insulate sound. Tell his this, and it might shame him into turning down the music while he pretends he got new earphones.

#29 - Rikibeth - rock on Loki! Kenneth Branaugh's movie "Thor" depicts a very dysfunctional family. Loki is the "fixer" child, Thor is actually the "rebel." Watch it and you'll see.

Also, isn't it amazing that you can do something and you won't get yelled at? Such a silence greets the dropping of a dish. Amazing.

#44 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 01:45 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @24 and Nenya @28 re inertia.

With the usual caveat to disregard if hlepy, a book I found surprisingly helpful in combatting inertia is Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. It's a small book that talks about applying the principles of improv theater to your daily life - start anywhere, dare to be average, say yes (and see where that takes you), pay attention, etc. It was simultaneously entertaining and illuminating. Particularly good if there's a component of perfectionism in your inertia - you're unwilling to try things because you might not Do It Right.

#45 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:13 PM:

the invisible one @12 said: Specifically, my extended family loves the "friendly insult" and the teasing. My dad and his brothers call each other assholes and between them, they know it means "I love you". It works for them; I wouldn't try to change their interactions with each other. My mom's family also loves teasing, and they do it all the time.

This relates to something we've encountered in our family. My husband's family is not quite that sort, but they're VERY much the kind that would have a conversation like this with a kid:

Kid: I'm hungry.
Dad: What do you want to eat?
Kid: … I dunno.
Dad: Do you want (dramatic pause) a pickle? (when kid doesn't like pickles)
Kid, a bit frustrated: No.
Dad: Do you want (dramatic pause, grin) some paper towels?
Kid, more frustrated: No.
Dad: Do you want A TICKLE!?!
Kid, royally hacked off now, "NOOOO!"

He thinks he's being funny. I think he's being at best unhelpful and tone-deaf (not noticing she is NOT HAVING THIS and that he's only making her more frustrated, which isn't helping us figure out what to give her to eat).

This pattern led to a point where she and I were having a conversation and she said, basically, "I love you SO MUCH MORE than Daddy." I was disturbed, and eventually teased out of her that the reason is "He's always tickling me and bothering me and he won't stop, so I don't love him."

……. 0.0

Yeah. At that point I started teaching her how to say, "Daddy, please stop being annoying," and articulating the feeling of being made frustrated by something someone else was clearly doing on purpose.

Then we went to visit her grandparents, and my MiL started in on the pattern when I could see from before the first question the kid was grumpy and a bit upset and underslept. I smoothly derailed what I knew was going to turn into a silverware-throwing tantrum by saying, "Yes, Numma is trying to be funny, but she needs to stop being annoying. Can we go look at what you could have and see what you want to eat?"

My MiL blew up at me instantly about how she was "not allowed" to have fun with, tease, play with, or do ANYTHING fun with her grandchild and how DARE I poison those shell-pink ears by BRANDING Numma with a capital-A-for-annoying scarlet letter and and and and!!

This reserved woman was literally raising her voice to me in public and threatening to just go back to her room and skip breakfast, which I have never seen her that angry, ever.

I tried to explain to her the history, and she kept insisting that none of that mattered because CLEARLY she was being funny and it was completely reasonable and I should never have interfered in the interaction.



So that's a thing, apparently.

As the kid gets older, I'm going to keep sending facetiousness up the flagpole and see when (if ever) she starts finding it funny, because I like deeply facetious double-talk conversations, but if she never does find it funny I'll just have to deal with that … and not ANNOY THE EVERLOVING PISS out of my child on a daily basis just because *I* think it's funny.

Now that I'm reading over this post (looking for tyops), I realize that a lot of the conflicts I've had with MiL (though NOT ALL) revolve around her wanting to do stuff that's not developmentally appropriate yet -- that the kid is really too young for. She keeps really wanting to buy her a porcelain-head-and-hands, real-hair dolly, for example, which HELL NO SRSLY NO NO NOPE for a 4-year-old!

Interesting that I've noticed that; I'll keep an eye out for it in future.

#46 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Dia @43: I've seen "Thor", and I loved it. I agree about Loki's role in the family!

Girl!Loki was for a skit to promote the Heinlein Society blood drive -- we did genderswapped Avengers, with the punchline being Gangam Style. You can watch the video here. I'm terribly vain about having been able to rock that costume at age 43.

#47 ::: Rikibeth has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:20 PM:

Probably for a link to the Tube of You. I appeal to the gnomes to watch it and release it to the thread, as *I* think it's amusing...

[No, it was for odd spacing around punctuation (specifically an exclamation point with no space on either side). -- JDM]

#48 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:29 PM:

Bricklayer: so your MiL LIKES driving her grandchild to a tantrum? I wonder how she's achieved that disconnect between engaging in behavior that's fun for HER to perform and the distinctly un-fun results it produces in your kid.

I sympathize with your kid so much. My grandfather liked to do that sort of teasing, and not only was I a sufficiently literal child that I failed to grasp the humor, he was LOUD, and that set off my sensory defensiveness. It took a long time for me to be able to deal with him without bursting into tears.

#49 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:41 PM:

She (a) does not believe this behavior of hers could ever spark tantrums because (b) patently, IT IS FUNNY, of course!

Her view is that we should (goodness knows how) teach the kid that this behavior is funny.

In other words, tell her that her reactions aren't her reactions.

I think anyone who knows how long I've been participating in these threads could guess the aversion I have to even the hint of doing that to my kid ...

She doesn't intend it to be a 'I deny your reality and replace it with my own' moment, she just honestly thinks I'm curmudgeoning my child into a humorless existence.

Of course, she also strongly disbelieves me when I make other predictions of kidlet's habits, patterns, or reactions to certain stimuli. Which is also a Thing, apparently, now that I think about it.

(See also: If you want to do fun things with Kid on your visit, please be to our house by 9:30 so you can be out the door before 10, because if you get to Fun Place later than 11 she'll be too droopy and oppositional to ACTUALLY PLAY and then there will both be a meltdown AND no nap that afternoon. And then they show up at 11 and want us all to go spend a whole day at the zoo-or-whatever)

#50 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:51 PM:

The_L's post in the previous thread, which was dead on target, made me wonder if what I went through would sound familiar to other people. I had to tease out three distinct patterns in the way I felt about things and how I reacted in certain situations before I was able to figure out some workarounds. A huge contributing factor was being a gifted kid and knowing it; it's central to the patterns. A very similar mechanism happens with very physically attractive people whose self-worth is wrapped up in their looks, the way mine was wrapped up in my brain.

First, I was smart and talented. Everyone noticed before I did, but I noticed soon enough as well. I skipped a few years in school, read voraciously, knew a lot more than all the other kids, topped my class with little effort, was held up as an example to various relatives for being a genius, got scholarships for excellence, was praised for writing and artistic ability, that sort of thing. Being smart is very convenient in many ways. However, having well-meaning and frankly admiring parents, relatives, teachers, and peers telling me repeatedly what a pretty, brilliant, sensitive genius I was—when I didn't really have anything to do with it; I was born that way—meant that at one point, I started believing the press. Net result: hubris, and lots of it. I could do no wrong in their eyes, or in mine, and I was always right. The people who didn't agree with me were just not smart enough to grasp the nuances that my fancy highly-evolved brain could, and I felt a mixture of pity and contempt for them.

Second, impostor syndrome. I was also a screamingly insecure child, a fraud, afraid of making missteps, afraid of being unmasked, afraid that if I messed up in some way, everyone would find out just how wrong they were about my brilliance and hate me forever. All the tapes The_L mentioned were playing at full blast. I had to be perfect. I couldn't make mistakes. I couldn't ask questions or show the slightest sign of doubt, because I was a genius who knew everything, remember? I couldn't give myself permission to suck in any way, and if that meant I had to lie to cover up, I'd lie. I couldn't say no to anything if saying no would make the people I cared about angry, because I was trained to please and I thrived on the praise I'd been fed for so long. And because I downplayed all the stuff that I could in fact do well and did, because it was easy so it didn't count, I was also full of contempt for the fools who couldn't see that it was all an act, while being deathly scared of the day they would all wake up to the truth. I also felt horribly unattractive, because in my family, it had been hammered into our heads since we were little that we were all too fat and therefore ugly. Oh, and that we were too smart too, so that would scare suitors away.

The thing is, I was smarter than most people, so even when I knew I wasn't ok and sought psychological help, it was astonishingly easy to mislead the therapists, or to make them go down paths of questioning that deflected them from getting to the core of my misery, all the while hating them for their incompetence and despairing of ever feeling better. And I got to tell myself that since I was getting professional help and that that didn't do jack shit, well hey, I was doing my part and it just meant I was doomed to be miserable forever.

The tapes from the second pattern have been mentioned in DFD threads several times. I was quite clearly depressed and needed help. I wonder if the interference from the first pattern has been as strong for other people as well, though, because there was such a total dissonance between the two attitudes: I'm better than all of you and I can prove it, and I'm worthless compared to all of you (the latter, typical of depression).

Third, an absolute lack of a sense of proportion and an inability to prioritize properly, due to the first two patterns and the resulting loss of perspective. I'd do things that affected people in concrete, negative ways with nary a thought (miss appointments without notice or without rescheduling, not process papers that could mean the difference between getting sponsorship or not for a given group, etc.), yet remain paralyzed by my inability to choose between a medium or a large Coke in a fast-food joint, or refuse to go home and rest even though I was deliriously ill with a 103°F fever because I was on call that day and didn't want to leave my groupmates in a bind.

I ended up cracking under the strain, some 15 years ago. I've been rebuilding myself since, with lots of mistakes and setbacks along the way. I'm now in a much better place than I ever thought I could be. I haven't gone into ways I moved from surviving to thriving in this post, though I have a number of mindhacks. But in case these descriptions are helpful to anyone, I'm putting them out here now.

#51 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 02:55 PM:

Bricklayer, would you be able to teach kidlet the generic phrase "Please stop that, I don't like it" and then request husband and in-laws to honor that EVEN IF THEY DON'T SEE THE PROBLEM. Because, really, learning to speak up for yourself and expecting other people to respect that is a valuable life skill. It can't always be done, of course - medical necessities come to mind - but the child should at least know that it's normal for people to listen to you.

Also, specifically wrt MIL wanting you to teach kidlet that the behavior is funny, do you have any luck showing her the things that kidlet actually thinks are funny? I would hope that the experience of making kidlet laugh instead of fuss would be reinforcing.

#52 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 04:18 PM:

Bricklayer, has MiL not SEEN the tantrums? If she hasn't, well, it's GREAT that you've managed to keep her from harming your kid. I was curious whether she'd somehow seen them and managed to convince herself that they aren't a consequence of her actions.

But oh, yes, do I ever understand the reaction of "Kid is Too Sensitive and should stop reacting like that because X only meant it in fun!" Yeah. See that bit about it only being fun if both people think it is... but of course, a little kid's opinions on an adult's behavior don't deserve respect. *grumble*

#53 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 04:24 PM:

Pendrift: CLICK. You've just provided me with an answer to my parents' frequent question, after I'd attempted to cover up a mistake and been found out, "Well, why didn't you just ASK FOR HELP?" I could never explain why, but you've answered both why I didn't ask, and why I felt the need to cover up my lack of success.

#54 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 04:28 PM:

the invisible one @ 37:

How does one explain triggers to somebody who isn't familiar with the vocabulary? An involuntary fear/stress reaction caused by a reminder of a past situation or event, even though one isn't in the actual stressful situation, maybe? "Trigger" is so much more compact.

When I want to express the concept to someone who isn't likely to know the word "trigger" with that meaning, I tend to say "That gives me bad flashbacks to [bad situation]."

In the U.S., at least, there seems to be a fairly widespread cultural understanding of the concept of "flashbacks," from media representations of Vietnam veterans with PTSD. Many people can understand from that standpoint how it's possible for something to remind you of a past stressful event and cause involuntary emotional reactions.

It's a vocabulary word that's worked for me in the past, anyway.

#55 ::: anonmouse ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 04:51 PM:

Of all things it was Canadian's Worst Driver (a reality show) that broke open the floodgates of my current relationships dysfunctions. Because the people on that show are actually pretty terrible drivers, and I had a meltdown not understanding why no one was screaming at them/giving them loads of hell about what they were doing and spouse was like why would anyone do that, and it was at that moment I could say "But that is what you do to me." and all the dominos started falling down. Funny where the straw comes from. Sometimes seeing someone not get punished for things you would be punished for is absolutely revelatory. Reading these threads has helped me understand many things. Thank you for the stories y'all have shared.

#56 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 05:04 PM:

Bricklayer, if "Grand"ma-ma INSISTS on the doll thing -- steer her toward a babydoll, American Girl makes a nice one, or if you prefer soft dolls, take a look at Magic Cabin.

If she gives you any guff, tell her it's better for the child to play with age appropriate toys.

#57 ::: SlightlyAfraid_butStillAwed ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 05:09 PM:

Neutrino 5: I once took the opportunity to personally thank Bujold for that particular scene in Komarr; I was already divorced by then, but at the time it helped a great deal with the 'have I made a mistake' doubts. As in, I really had done the correct thing, even if it was the hard thing.

She was visibly discomfited, and she replied that she had been thanked quite a lot for that particular scene, far more often than she had ever expected, by various women.

So no, I don't think it was personal experience in first-person for her in particular, but given she has worked as an emergency responder and has military experience, I don't doubt that she's seen and heard enough from others to be able to write that so accurately.

I'm still really glad she did write that, despite how incredibly triggery it was to stumble across it in the text the first time. I still have my signed copy of it, though, so I think in retrospect, it was a very good catharsis.

#58 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 05:24 PM:

The invisible one, Cynthia W., Bricklayer: Your various tormentors have something in common, which is that they can't or won't admit that they're doing something wrong.

Which reminds me that in my book roundup last thread, I forgot one: People of the Lie, by Scott Peck. (summary: "Personality Disorder, Evil Type".) That is in fact the "lie" by which Dr. Peck characterizes these people -- they repeatedly do things that hurt and wound anyone they have power over, while proclaiming (and "enforcing" on their victims) that whatever they're doing is perfectly OK.

#59 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 05:47 PM:

Bricklayer, the bit about MiL's humor being Not Funny was ringing a distant bell for me, so I googled "developmental stages humor children". This article and similar ones in the results may be helpful in explaining that Kidlet just isn't old enough to understand that it's supposed to be funny.

As for the porcelain dolly -- well, when my MiL insisted on getting such a thing for my kidlet at a similar age, my response was "Fine. And I'm letting Kidlet play with it, because it's cruel to give a child a toy that can't be played with." The doll pretty quickly lost one of her forearms, but was nevertheless loved for a great many years.

#60 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:24 PM:

Neutrino, #18: I agree, his father's an asshole and he needs to get out of there ASAP.

[mini-rant] This is what happens when people are raised on a diet of humiliation-humor "comedies". They get it in their heads that this kind of shit is supposed to be funny, and then they treat people that way in real life. People talk about the rape culture, but they don't realize yet that we also have a Culture of Bullying, and this is part of it, the idea that it's perfectly okay to make fun of someone because they have an issue that's out-of-band or "trivial". It's not trivial to the person who has the issue, dammit! And it's NOT FUCKING FUNNY, and no, that doesn't mean that I have "no sense of humor", it means that YOU (person making that claim) have NO COMMON DECENCY. [/mini-rant]

This is one place where I seriously advocate "mirroring therapy". If there's any issue that the person doing the bullying is sensitive about, start poking "jokes" at them about that issue. Yes, even if it's something like body acceptance that you'd normally consider off-limits. When they get upset, then you are in a position to make a deal -- you'll stop teasing them about X if they'll stop teasing you about Y. Because if they won't take a polite request, it's like the farmer and the mule -- you have to get their attention first.

Finny, #19: This is maybe a little off from your specific question, but it is definitely possible to be triggered by a co-worker if they have behavior patterns that match the triggery ones in your background. I had that problem once -- there was one particular co-worker who managed to hit exactly the same patterns as my mother, and it made it nearly impossible for me to respond to her rationally. She had the turns of phrase, the mannerisms, everything, and it drove me batshit. All I could do was limit my interaction with her as far as possible.

And also, agreeing with what several other people have said. If he's playing it loudly enough to be heard outside the headphones, it's too goddamn loud. That's the whole REASON for headphones.

Dave H., #23: Aha! And with a side of sexism to boot -- it just now hit me that this is a man brushing aside the concerns of two women, and using stereotypically sexist language to do so.

Nancy, #24: I've seen people who were asked to not tease react with "Not even a little bit?" with a tone that implies that they're being asked to not breathe.

That might relate back to the discussion we had a couple of threads ago about abuse-as-addiction.

Nenya, #28: For future reference, you can get a less-than sign that doesn't screw with the HTML by typing & lt ; without the spaces. <3

Rikibeth, #29: It's a startling thing to realize that you're a grownup now, and you're allowed.

QFT. I think this is an epiphany that happens to a lot of people even from functional backgrounds. It's a paradigm shift in the way you see yourself.

the invisible one, #37: Ah. That makes the situation sound considerably less toxic than I had inferred from your first post. Still, if you're getting a lot of the "too sensitive / where's your sense of humor" bullshit, that's a problem which may need to be addressed.

You might also try "flashback" to explain why you find a particular phrase stressful. "The ex used to say that to me all the time, and every time I hear it I feel like I'm back there again." A lot of people understand flashbacks because there have been some popular movies that had them as a plot point.

Bricklayer, #45: This reserved woman was literally raising her voice to me in public and threatening to just go back to her room and skip breakfast

Oh, the temptation to have said, "Fine. Come back out when you're done with your tantrum and ready to behave like an adult again." Because honestly, that is SUCH nursery-school behavior.

#61 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:34 PM:

Bricklayer 45: Yeah, Grandma sounds like an abuser to me. If she really were unaware that she was being abusive, she would have been startled and perhaps hurt by your implication; her blowing up and yelling at you raises all kinds of red flags with me.

She's also, as Rikibeth implies, being abusive to YOU because YOU have to deal with the upset child.

And as you imply in #49, she's demanding that YOU be emotionally abusive to YOUR CHILD (by telling her that her reactions aren't her reactions) in order to make HER happy.

If you didn't scream obscenities at her, you showed great restraint. VERY tempting to suggest that you teach the kid some behavior that will annoy the LIVING HELL out of Grandma! (You know, "the wheels on the bus go ROUND AND ROUND" in the shrillest possible voice. Or something else that won't annoy YOU. I'm guessing you don't leave the kid alone with that jerkazoid.)

SA_bSA 57: Wow, thanks for that information. And I'm a) sorry you had that experience, b) glad you found the Komarr scene healing, and c) glad you told LMB so.

Lee 60: Oh, right, right on! Especially the mini-rant. I HATE those "comedies." And the commercials that are the same thing in miniature.

#62 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:41 PM:

#60, Lee: Now that I've identified it as a pattern in the family and an ingredient in some of the problems I've had, I am planning to bring it up.

"Where's your sense of humour" is something I got a lot at university, along with "Where's your sense of adventure." I learned that the former was usually associated with somebody being an asshole, and the latter with suggestions to do something stupid, dangerous, illegal, or some combination of the three. Just as I've since learned that "I know it's not politically correct but..." is very frequently followed by some sexist, racist, or other -ist comment that the speaker knows very well isn't socially acceptable.

#63 ::: Daedelean ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:51 PM:

Pendrift @50. On being smart: for many years when I was a kid, I coasted through school on sheer innate talent, getting good grades easily while everyone around me was sweating. But, eventually the material got to be too advanced, and the assignments got too hard to get by that way, and it was at that point it became apparent that while I had been phoning it in and just doing what came intuitively, everyone else had actually been learning how to get the work done. Essentially learning how to learn, a skill which I had completely failed to acquire, and hadn't even realized was a skill until I got to the point where I was supposed to have been practicing it for ten years in order to keep up.

It's hard not to draw a parallel between that and my current situation. My friends of my own age all have careers (not just jobs but actual careers), are getting married, buying houses, and having children, whereas I am currently living in my mother's apartment while I try to finish my MA, and hoping that the government will send my disability check soon so that I can afford to move out without begging for loans from my siblings (none of whom I particularly want to interact with at all).
Meanwhile, all the tapes are playing very loudly about how pitiful I am and how I Do Not Deserve a flat where I get to decide on my own where the furniture is and what if anything plays on the tv all day. Who do I think I am to have that, when I can't even get any significant progress done on my thesis. Sigh.

#64 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 06:55 PM:

Lee says :

[mini-rant] This is what happens when people are raised on a diet of humiliation-humor "comedies". They get it in their heads that this kind of shit is supposed to be funny, and then they treat people that way in real life. People talk about the rape culture, but they don't realize yet that we also have a Culture of Bullying, and this is part of it, the idea that it's perfectly okay to make fun of someone because they have an issue that's out-of-band or "trivial". It's not trivial to the person who has the issue, dammit! And it's NOT FUCKING FUNNY, and no, that doesn't mean that I have "no sense of humor", it means that YOU (person making that claim) have NO COMMON DECENCY. [/mini-rant]

This is SO TRUE. Phobias are, by definition, not rational, and also, by definition, deeply upsetting to the person who has one. How hard is it to exercise kindness instead of cruelty?

When I was writing up an account of the Hogwarts Experience 3D-immersion ride at Universal Studios' Harry Potter theme park, I made sure to say, "For arachnophobes considering this ride, shut your eyes after the dragon breathes steam, and don't open them until you feel drops of cold water on your face. That way you'll be able to miss Aragog and the other BIG CREEPY SPIDERS." Several people thanked me.

Similarly, I have a friend who, like me, is a fan of the actor Samuel West. However, she's got a phobia about feathery wings, especially if they're flapping -- she was mobbed by pigeons when she was small, and it's a very visceral reaction. I watched all the episodes of Eternal Law in advance, and reported back to her on just what the wings were like (large, but decidedly costume-rental type, and their mechanism only allowed a very slow extension, no flapping) so she could decide whether she'd feel comfortable watching it. Knowing that in advance helped her make the choice to go ahead, and then we were able to share our delighted fangirl incoherency of "he's doing that THING with his FACE and I HAVE LOST MY ABILITY TO CAN." If I'd mocked her about the wings, I wouldn't have had that pleasure. Even if her phobia had struck me as funny, how would that add up? The mean people, they are not using the same math, I believe.

#65 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 07:49 PM:

Pendrift, @50: Thank you for telling your story. This is a letter-perfect description of how I felt growing up as well. Being smarter than everyone else, not knowing how to study, and swinging between impossible perfectionism and self-sabotage. Using my acting abilities to lie my way out of any uncomfortable situation because of the dire consequences that awaited any transgressions in my family. Feeling simultaneously better than everyone else, and not good enough for anything. Having my feelings slighted, disagreed with, and invalidated.

I told a friend of mine that I was pretty sure I was smarter than my current therapist. She voiced doubt that I could make any progress. I disagreed; "I'm there to work." It's a huge difference from when I wasn't sure what was going on, and could talk my way out of any "bad" thing my therapist might think about me.

#66 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 07:49 PM:

I'm beginning to think I'm up against a sort of perfectionism which is either rare or at least not written about much-- experience perfectionism as distinct from outcome perfectionism, though I've got the latter some of the time, too.

What I mean is that I expect myself to not feel "off-key" or demotivated. Do I care enough? Am I as happy as I should be? Or sad about what I'm supposed to be sad about?

Obviously, this can squeeze a lot of the fun and energy out of life.

I'm reasonably sure about two background pieces-- one is my mother, who really wanted me to feel what she thought was appropriate. However, I didn't like her and I wasn't interested in clothes.

Weirdly enough, very good bodywork probably made the situation worse in some ways. All of the sudden, I found out that light touch by a skilled practitioner (mostly Alexander Technique and Rubenfeld Synergy) could make me feel a lot better, and I jumped to the conclusion that I could and should get that sort of improvement all the time by myself. It's all very well to know you have the kingdom of heaven within you, but not so good if you keep knocking your head against the wall because you can't find the door.

This was made worse when I thought I should have big goals (and, of course, be willing to endure whatever suffering it took to try to achieve them), but my mind would just shut down when I tried to think about big goals. I wonder if this is related to when I was a kid, and I just couldn't imagine my life past twenty. I wasn't expecting to die, it was just a blind spot.

This is obviously therapist fodder, but also I can keep an eye out for being on my own case about how I'm feeling and try to not do that.


In re popular culture and emotional abuse: There's an entertainer called Jimmy Kimmel. He told parents to tell their kids that the parent had eaten all of the kid's Halloween candy, video tape the result, and send it in.

He thinks that watching someone lose their composure is the funniest thing in the world. His mother would lie down on the floor and pretend to be dead until the kids started crying. I begin to wonder whether there's a genetic component.


I get the impression that a lot of adults think children are there to be their parents' emotional sumps. Just dump pain into them and expect to never see it again.

My father tended to do rather light weight teasing-- the problem is that there wasn't much else to the relationship. He also didn't like the way I laughed. Thank God it was safe for me to ignore him, and that I did ignore him.

#67 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 09:57 PM:

OMG the phobia thing. This is one of the very few things that is a source of conflict with my spouse (Seriously, we've had like two real fights in 20 years.) When it comes to a major phobia, he's fine, wonderful even. He ran into one (being touched in certain ways unexpectedly) on our second date, was very understanding, and has been scrupulous about not triggering me ever since.

The problem is minor phobias. He a) finds it funny to see people flinch, jump and squawk; b) fancies himself something of a volunteer therapist - I.e. exposing people to their phobias is "desensitization" and good for them; and c) has a couple of minor phobias himself, and expects this treatment from others - so why should it bother us?

As a consequence, since I have a minor phobia for large insects, various fake insects are likely to find their way onto my desk, into my hair, appear on top of my knitting, etc., etc.. He does likewise for friends, co-workers, and our sons, and nothing I can do will convince him to stop. We nearly lost a good friend over it, for which I don't blame her at all.

It's screamingly frustrating, because he's so good when a problem gets bad enough for him to count it as serious, and such a complete ass when he thinks it's minor.

#68 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:13 PM:

Hmmm. Now that I've ranted about humiliation humor, I think I should point out that not all humor involving humiliation is humiliation humor. The setup is critical.

An example of something that I don't consider humiliation humor: the Disastrous Dinner Party in A Civil Campaign. Why not? Because Miles sets himself up for every last bit of it, and once the snowballing clusterfuck starts, the witnesses are distressed and sympathetic -- they like Miles, and are unhappy about seeing him fuck up like that. It's still an uncomfortable scene to read, but it doesn't hit that particular trigger.

An example of something that I do consider humiliation humor: the "prank" played on Malvolio in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". Yes, he's a jerk. Yes, the prank plays directly to the traits that make him a jerk. Nonetheless, he is deliberately and maliciously set up to make a fool of himself, and the people who did it wait and watch and nearly cream themselves with delight when it happens. This one didn't bother me as much when I was in college, because then I was more focused on the "asshole gets his comeuppance" angle of it. I've matured since then, and now I see it with a different eye.

It is exponentially worse when the people doing the setting-up are represented as being friends of the target. Not just no, but HELL NO. That is NOT how you treat a friend! And if you're the kind of person who thinks it's okay to do that to your friends, then something is drastically wrong with either your concept of friendship or your circle of friends or both.

#69 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:22 PM:

Pendrift @ 50, Rikibeth @53, Daedelean @63, knitcrazybooknut @65

The perfectionism and fear of failure and being praised for your intelligence are actually intimately connected, as studies have shown.

#70 ::: Merricat has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:25 PM:

I linked to an article in NY Mag about Carol Dweck's work on children and motivation, in response to Pendrift @50.

I have nothing delicious, due to a snowstorm closing everything down ...

It's actually worth trying to quote part of the article, I think:
"Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure."

#71 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 10:59 PM:

Lee @ 60: Your mini-rant helped me figure out a reason why I can't watch most sitcoms. It's either humiliation, or the first thing I noticed, which is "why do people think it is entertaining to watch dysfunctional families get in fights?" I lasted through less than an episode of Roseanne.

I'm on a phone so sorry if that was worded badly or had grammatical errors.

#72 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:13 PM:

Re: headphones. Fwiw, the quality of the headphones had nothing to do with how much sound is heard from outside, There are (at least) two kinds of headphones, open ear and closed ear. Closed ear phones insulate you from the outside world, and make it difficult for the outside world to hear what you're listening to. Open ear ones vary, but tend to have no reduction of outside sounds, and can be quite loud for those around you. Sometimes, the more expensive and better ones leak even more sound than the cheaper earbud ones,

#73 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:23 PM:

Emphasizing effort can also backfire, however, when badly done. I can remember teachers heaping praise on me for having worked so hard, when in fact I'd simply written down things I already knew. That just reinforced my idea that I did NOT have to work to get places in school (and also gave me the idea that my teachers were stupid, when they simply weren't mind readers and didn't know what books I'd already read).

I've always felt that the most important feedback is simply interest in whatever the child takes most seriously.

Oh, and also, the extra value placed on things being "hard work" always puzzles me. Surely if you're doing things really well, being very organized and efficient, at some point it should become easier? Otherwise what's the point? There's enough "hard" in life just in circumstances. People should learn to do things the easy way when they can.

#74 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:31 PM:

Win, I've always used 'practice' for things a kiddo seems to do easily. "You must be really talented at that!" is different from, "You must have practiced a lot to get that good!" I almost never compliment a kid on something they can't change and only one case is not spurred by the kid complimenting me on the corresponding trait: I will often tell kiddos asking about my parasol that it's to keep me from getting sunburned, but they have pretty brown skin and don't have to worry. If I can get 'pretty brown skin' into someone's Tapes, I will be happy.

#75 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:32 PM:

On the praised-for-intelligence/perfectionism connection: I wouldn't call myself a perfectionist, but fear of failure? Definitely. I've been the kind of person who needs to know I can do a new thing before I even try it for a long time.

On humiliation humor: That's why I can't watch the 'reality' shows that go 'LOOK AT THIS HILARIOUS PRANK WE ARE PULLING' or 'WATCH THESE PEOPLE FREAK OUT IN A COMPLETELY DARK ROOM.' Even Funny Home Videos rides the line sometimes. (You know those 'give your friend a fake lottery ticket' videos? Not a fan.)

General update: My fiancee and I got whammied by Nemo (thanks to drifting we're not sure exactly how much snow, but we think it's about two feet; we started clearing off the car today but it's got a ways to go yet), and we both only just heard from our respective parents today.

My parents actually have a pass. First, as I found out while tracking down tax info, they've both been fighting bronchitis; second, as Mom said, they figured if we planned for the hurricane we planned for the blizzard, too. She also did minimal 'BUT JOB???' poking, for which I'm very grateful.

My fiancee's parents, on the other hand, are usually of the 'oh noes there is a GIANT STORM headed RIGHT FOR YOU in FIVE DAYS' school of checking in. The fact that it took this long for one of them to reach out has a lot to do with the Christmas disaster.

Her dad emailed her, basically rehashing 'we seem to be having tremendous difficulty with your lifestyle' (as I dubbed the text the other week). He claims to want an open dialogue with her.

She wrote back and told him she's not sure he can offer it. We'll see how it goes from here.

#76 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2013, 11:48 PM:

Further to humiliation humor: I suspect that's also why I don't find Family Guy very funny. You know, aside from the piles of -isms that make up their jokes. It's either offensive or having fun at Meg's expense.

#77 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:02 AM:

I just don't like humiliation humor either. Or pain humor. It's not funny to me. That's one reason I've been a great fan of the Flying Karamazov Brothers for a long time -- very little of their humor is of that sort.

#78 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:45 AM:

I actually have a huge, screaming trigger about "emphasize effort over outcome."

I was Gifted. I got things easily. This was noted. It was understood that I should not be praised for things that came easily! That praising effort/practice should happen instead!

And after that nothing I did was valued unless I had been seen to perform the adequate amount of "effort" to the watcher. No achievement, no grade, no performance, no nothing was of any value whatsoever, or anything to pay any attention to, unless I had Performed Effort adequately.

As an adult, I actually have no fucking clue what "a reasonable amount of work" is. My default assumption is that unless I am working on something 100%, no rests, no distractions, I am not "working hard". And I spent four years battling with depression and its manifest effects on my degree, my life, my work-life and my relationships, beating the shit out of myself because obviously, I wasn't working hard enough.

So, you know. "Effort" and "practice" aren't holy grails either.

#79 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:52 AM:

Ah, it's such a delight to hear other people say they don't like humiliation humour. So, so lovely that there are people in this world for whom that kind of bullying is not the default.

Lee @60, ooh, thank you about less than signs. Let's see: <3 ...did that work?

OtterB @ 44: start anywhere, dare to be average, say yes (and see where that takes you), pay attention, etc. [...] Particularly good if there's a component of perfectionism in your inertia

*lightbulb* Oh, yes! Start anywhere and dare to be average. That does seem to help. So much less pressure, and then there's something you can say "I did this thing," even if it wasn't perfect. Hmm.

(And, yes, perfectionism was a huge component of the dysfunction: our church taught that sinless perfection on earth was the goal of Christianity. Oh, and that it would make us immortal. And that it was attainable by everyone if we just tried hard enough. Way to make persistence and diligence into heavily toxic words, geez! Plus I was another one of those kids who was brilliant and didn't have to learn to study till I was in college. But was also a bit ADD and got punished for that. Meh.)

#80 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:53 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 24:

Teasing is a communication-mode for me (and for almost everyone I'm intimately close with, for that matter) - it indicates a level of comfort and closeness and mutual knowledge that covers "friendship" and "family relations". Relationships where teasing is not at all appropriate are distant, formal and often unfriendly - I think perhaps because the implication is, teasing in those relationships will be taken as an attack.

So while I would certainly make every effort to respect the wishes of someone who drew a hard line against ANY teasing, it would feel very distancing to me and like a rejection of closeness.

The flipside is that teasing that actually harms the other person isn't teasing, it's harm. The price of having a relationship sufficiently intimate to be allowed to tease is also knowing what not to touch, what's funny, and what expressions indicate that this time you've hit a sore spot and need to apologize and reassure the person that you are not belittling them. (And remembering where that sore spot is and not touching it.)

MMV. And I'm also coming at this from a background where I was "teased" by family members who hurt me badly by doing so, because they didn't pay any damn attention to any of the above and ran roughshod over hugely sensitive areas, so.

#81 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:54 AM:

Ross, #71: I think I actually have an answer for the "why do people like to watch dysfunctional families?" question. It's because by doing so, they get to feel smug and superior. And the worse the people on TV fuck up, the more smug and superior they can feel.

I can't stand stuff like that (it bothers me in books, too) because if I'm supposed to like the protagonist, it's triggery, and if I'm not... well, I generally don't care for watching / reading about people I don't like. It's not fun, and I watch / read for fun.

#82 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:54 AM:

Feather @78: Ouch, that sounds very painful and wearing. I hear you on not being able to tell if you're working "hard enough" or not. Very difficult.

#83 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:59 AM:

Nenya @ 82:

It was. Is. It just makes me bitter when the subject comes up and someone always says "Well the way to keep Gifted kids from becoming perfectionists/slackers/timid/whatever is to praise effort rather than achievement!"

And, you know. I gesture to myself and I say, not so guaranteed much, actually.

#84 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:25 AM:

Lee @81: Yuck. I don't like watching somebody else's car wreck, either. (and yes, I have seen car wrecks happen in front of me. Not fun...)

#85 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:33 AM:

I’m boggled to hear people talk about the universal functionality of relationships portrayed by Valente, since all I’ve read of hers is Deathless.

#86 ::: Hope in Disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:13 AM:

Avram @85, a careful reading of Pvt_Prvt @2 suggests that the point was that Valente does write unhappy and flawed relationships? Unless I am confused by it being 4 am.

#87 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:35 AM:

I'm another smart-person-who-coasted-a-lot type, and it has been an issue for me at times in my adult life. I did take a lot of psychology in grad school and read Dweck, and rather took it to heart. Although her studies focus on academic effort, I really think it's generalizable to the issue of innate qualities versus controllable behaviors.

I have a child now (she's about to turn 2), and I'm working on varying the kinds of things I comment on and praise her for. This includes innate qualities (which I think should be acknowledged - mine weren't always), general effort, and all sorts of specific other behaviors that I can frame in positive lights. For the moment I especially focus on actions like being careful, trying things multiple times, taking turns, all that kind of purposeful engagement that will pay off in the long run. Right now paying attention and listening/observing are things I comment on a lot (since 2 year olds are not known for strong skills in these areas).

As one example, today I was walking with her outside a store, and someone had left a Red Bull can in the parking lot. The wind caught it and it was rolling down the slope of the lot, rattling, and coming towards us (from behind). She turned to look at the noise, so (once I figured out what it was) I pointed it out to her and told her she had good ears and was listening well to hear that. We watched until the can hit a curb and stopped rolling, so that I knew that she could clearly see the relationship between sound and action. I'm trying to help her learn how to be attentive to her environment and appropriately responsive. If she were older I've have gone to pick up the can and talked about littering and recycling, but I don't want her running out in the parking lot just yet! We do pick up trash that's in less hazardous places.

#88 ::: oliviacw has been captured by the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:56 AM:

Some honey-wheat pretzels shaped like bunnies, perhaps would be an appropriate offer?

#89 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:15 AM:

Feather #83: There's a difference between rewarding effort, and actively dismissing a kid's achievements unless the parent has personally seen the kid sweating blood to the parent's satisfaction.

And what you're describing sounds like the latter -- I'm betting there was no recognition of prior study/practice/observation making a difference, no credit for any work done outside the parent's orbit (unless maybe you submitted an intrusive accounting of your actions), and especially no recognition that being smarter than the people around you poses its own challenges.

#90 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:22 AM:

Codemonkey, from the previous thread, if you are reading this one: It sounds to me like the only way that you can excuse your mother's sabotage and probably gaslighting toward you is to point out that she is actually abusive toward your father. I think you will be much better able to find solutions for your entire family if you have space. You're taking some of the first steps, and that's good. Please don't forget that the point of getting out is not to make being there more bearable. It's to make your family something that you don't have to endure but something you enjoy. Find a really terrible sublet somewhere, take a vacation abroad or nearby, stay in a hotel for a month, but give yourself the space to recover and evaluate your next move. The perfect is the enemy of the good in moving out, too.

#91 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:22 AM:

oliviacw #87: It's certainly worth teaching her about both her ordinary and extraordinary abilities, and how those relate to others.

For example, (maybe not at 2, but eventually), you might note that as a young child, she probably hears better than most adults, and especially most older ones. Also, there are some people of any age, who can't hear very well at all. Then go on to note that for both sorts, that's not something they can help, so to be a nice person, she can (e.g.) help them out by pointing out things she hears that they would want to know about.

#92 ::: Merricat has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:00 AM:

Feather @83: There's almost nothing that's guaranteed to work on all kids, and I can absolutely see ways in which blindly praising "effort" or "hard work" would be damaging. (Someone else noted how ineffective insincere praise is, ie "you must have worked really hard" when it was actually intelligence.) That sounds like a really painful experience.

I think what I take away from it, is:
1) Teach that a failure at a challenging thing is good and worthwhile, just like a success at an easy thing.
2) Teach that things that are difficult usually get easier with time and effort.
3) Teach that you are allowed to prioritize where you put your time and effort.

#93 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:01 AM:

Ack, I wasn't gnomed this time -- just forgot to change my name.

#94 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 09:15 AM:

I'm feeling shaky and caught halfway between triumphant and incredulous. I stood up for myself and my needs a little this morning.

I expressed, politely, a strong preference for Course of Action A over B even though A would be somewhat less convenient for him, because B would UTTERLY WIPE ME OUT and lose me a day of productivity in a period when I am already several days of productivity down AND there are two big events next weekend that I have to have preparations finished for.

And he didn't yell at me.

He didn't say sure right away either, so I had no idea which way it was going to go until he just did it, but still! I won! Sort of. Not that it's about winning, it's about trying to set a boundary and acknowledge that my preferences/needs have value.

Hard, that.

#95 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 12:32 PM:

Feather@78: may I virtually fist-bump you for solidarity? That's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about.

I've never known for sure if it's actually a whole lot easier for people who fall closer to the average to develop certain needed skills (I think that's probably true part of the time), or if highly articulate people can just put common experiences into words better.

#96 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:24 PM:

Feather @ 78: Thanks for writing that so I didn't have to. :) I had the exact same experience; "tear him down any chance you get so he doesn't get too full of himself." And I didn't: I hate myself. Always have.

The other thing that bothers me about focusing on effort: suppose I tried to play basketball. I'm about 5'1". No amount of practice is going to make me any better at basketball, but focusing on practice means if I suck it's my fault for not trying hard enough. It's like positive thinking for cancer. What, it's now my fault I'm sick because I didn't think happy thoughts?

More I'd like to say, but, tiny phone keyboard.

#97 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:55 PM:

Ross #96: suppose I tried to play basketball. I'm about 5'1". No amount of practice is going to make me any better at basketball,

I beg to differ! Just being short doesn't mean you can't be quite good at basketball!; No, you still won't be able to play professional basketball... but that's because current rules and conditions there make shortness a fatal weakness for that level of competition. (Actual fans can cite fairly short Big Name Players from prior regimes.)

But you know something? Just because you can't make umpty-grand playing basketball for a living, doesn't mean you can't enjoy playing the game with your friends. At a prior job¹, My sister (5'2") used to occasionally play with a remarkably distinguished amateur group... the Supreme Court Justices. (They have their own indoor court.)

¹ She was a clerk for one of them. For non-US-ians and non legal geeks, clerking for any of the Supreme Court justices is an extremely-high-status "seasoning" gig for a new law-school grad. I forget whether it's a paid position or "intern" style.

#98 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 01:55 PM:

probably punctuation...

#99 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:25 PM:

I internalized a lot of "If I can do it, it isn't important or valuable." I didn't get much praise (or blame!) for what I could or couldn't do. It was just there. And sometimes I saw other people get praise.

I've learned that I don't hear generic praise -- I discount it completely. When it's anchored in some specific (like a sensory modality, or attached to a very specific set of actions/experiences on my part), it's much harder for me to discount it. Sometimes I manage anyway. And if I get a general-purpose award -- I've usually managed to discount the people giving it by the time I get it. I suppose I got to learn this in the service of humility, but there are times when I'd like to be proud of myself. I sometimes manage it, but it's usually for things that others don't even notice.

#100 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:41 PM:

Re talent vs. effort, it seems to me that the most pernicious messages are all one-sided - either it's all talent (so you don't have to work, and you don't dare let anybody know if you have trouble because it means you're Not A Golden One), or it's all effort (in which case if you're not succeeding you must not be trying hard enough).

The correct messages are too nuanced to fit neatly into sound bites. Which means that even well-functioning parents may have trouble figuring out which piece needs to be emphasized at any one time.

IMO the correct message goes something like this.

1. The results you get out of something are a mix of talent, effort, and wild-card-environment stuff.
2. Of those, you control only one. If you want to succeed, you put in the effort. But even if you put in the effort, results are not guaranteed.
3. Nobody is good at everything. This means (a) acknowledge (to yourself, anyway) and enjoy your talents, and make use of them if you can, (b) don't look down on people who don't share your skill; they have their own strengths, and (c) some things will come more easily to you than others. It can be frustrating, but it just works that way.
4. You can spend your effort on depth in things you are already good at (specialist), or on breadth, improving the things you aren't as good at (generalist), or on exploration (things you don't know if you're good at because you haven't tried). Probably you want a mix, depending on your age, other commitments, etc. I'm not going to let a 3rd grader declare that he's no good at math and he's done with it forever. I see nothing wrong with an adult who can afford it saying that he's not good at numbers and hiring an accountant.
5. Sometimes it's important to be good at things. Sometimes it's just important that the things get done, whether they're done well or not. And sometimes it's more important to enjoy the process than to grade the results. No one standard of quality applies across the board. It depends on the purpose.

#101 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:44 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 89: How does a parent/teacher/instructor/etc know someone has made effort if not by watching them? "You must have worked hard on that" when in fact the kid sat down, wrote through a test and then read under her desk for an hour (again, personal example) is just about as meaningless, and also gives the kid guilt for being praised for something zie didn't do. (And emphasizes that ONLY "work" is worth anything, so the achievement is once again worthless and the transgression intense) Further, what you describe is the failure-mode of effort/practice-praise - that I'm not disputing. My point is there is a failure mode, it's not a perfect or safe tactic, and the failure mode can cause intense and lasting harm. Which is not something that tends to be acknowledged with the facile "the problem is we emphasize achievement and not effort".

Merricat @ 92: Your take-aways are excellent, I think. *thumbs up* I think my biggest thing is that, well, there isn't a simple, one-focus way to help kids (whether gifted or not), and the obsession with finding the one simple one damages all the kids.

Win @ 95: Fistbump accepted. :) Although man I'm sorry you want to offer it. =\

Ross @ 96: Ugh, I'm sorry that happened to you, too. And yeah, it's like. . . it's not that praising effort is homg bad. It's just that like I said above, it also has failure modes and those failure modes should be acknowledged and taken care with and everything else, just like any other kind of praise (or criticism).

One of mine was ballet. I actually worked really hard at ballet, but my body is naturally about as flexible as a glass rod, my balance is imperfect and my natural body-state is slightly chubby. I was also painfully socially anxious, socially awkward, and terrified of most of my teachers, so since I didn't Perform Effort the right way (asking for help in class, practicing in front of other people, joining small groups), all failures or frustrations were my Lack of Effort.

Sooo yeah. "Effort", "trying hard enough", "working hard enough", "practice" - by this point in my life they're not quite the trigger-for-self-loathing they were when I was in the middle of my undergrad and (due to the cognitive impairment that comes with Major Depressive Disorder) staring at book pages crying because I could not make myself focus, they still make me grimace. They're not magical, they don't automatically fix the problem, and as a concept the whole thing can (and does) cause harm.

#102 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 02:51 PM:

OtterB @ 100: Yes, I think that sounds about right. That's what I've tried to do with my students (I'm a music teacher), my younger siblings and the kids I nanny. Number three especially - that it's okay to enjoy your talents, that you'll have to work harder at things you want you aren't talented at, and that it's not okay to look down on other people who have a harder time (or just don't care enough about whatever skill it is to put in the effort) but #4 as well.

#103 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:06 PM:

Ross at 96: Muggsy Bogues was five foot three.

How are your passing skills?

Just sayin'.

#104 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:25 PM:

Ross @96 said: The other thing that bothers me about focusing on effort: suppose I tried to play basketball. I'm about 5'1". No amount of practice is going to make me any better at basketball, but focusing on practice means if I suck it's my fault for not trying hard enough. It's like positive thinking for cancer.

Not quite like that, but as a geek at a geek school I did my best to earnestly do well in gym class (despite horrendous cardio, what I now know to be hugely uneven muscular development, and NO SUPPORT from the teacher to redress either of those -- which should be a separate post from me, what I'm learning from starting to work out seriously!). This means I studied. We did take tests and notes on things like the rules of various games, and then we'd go play them … and then we'd have a 'skills test'.

I consistently got Cs and very low Bs in gym class because I got perfect scores on anything that involved writing stuff down, and near-zeros on anything that involved doing something with my body. Even (and I felt this bitterly unfair at the time) when, as with free throws, I studied and practiced the form and HAD perfect form … but missed the basket slightly (outside of basketball kissed rim). Almost no points, despite our written materials having emphasized the importance of form. My classmates who were on the intramural basketball team just stood there, reached out with one arm, and bam it went in: horrible form, perfect score.

OH I BURNED LIKE LAVA WITH THE HATE. So it's not good to SAY you're grading on criterion A and then grade on criterion B instead. General rule of childrearing, perhaps?

And bringing in Lizzy L's @103 in re professional basketball … I'm afraid I'm horrible with names, but there was a player on the championship Bulls teams (Also cited in the literature as Jordan, Pippen, et. al.) who was something like 5'9, looked like he was standing IN A HOLE compared to his teammates, and with great regularity managed to just float that ball over half the length of the court to PLOP right on into the basket like it was destined. Or an episode of Gumby or something. Amazing ability.

#105 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:34 PM:

OK then two questions:

1) What do you suggest I do before I start looking for flats, in order to minimize the negative consequences which leaving may have on my family?

2) Would it be problematic viewing properties after work, when it would be getting dark?

3) What should my priorities be when looking for a place? How important is it that I find somewhere with off-road car parking available (given I have a car) or that I avoid properties with prepayment meters for electricity and gas? What other things do I need to consider that perhaps I haven't thought of?

Also, since my latest post on the old thread seems to have had very little attention, should I re-post it here?

#106 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:35 PM:

Oops, that was three questions -- changed it immediately before posting and forgot to check through it again!

#107 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:41 PM:


I'm having brief flashbacks to Monty Python and the Spanish Inquisition skit.

But yes, why don't you post that last post in the other thread over here, and then I'll close the old thread.

#108 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:56 PM:

(References to previous thread's posts marked with a "P" -- you can also delete the post from that thread if you wish.)

First of all, I did call Sharon's office this morning to tell them I was sorry about the call I made on Friday. I also told the person answering my call (she was one of her colleagues, not the same person I spoke to on Friday) to forget about that e-mail I requested, and that we (myself and my mother) were both grateful for Sharon's services. Hopefully that will clear things up (especially since as was earlier pointed out, Sharon herself may not even know about the call I made as she was still away on holiday).

TexAnne @P910: Is this a pattern? And when you do things she's asked you to do, how does it usually go? Does she get upset if you don't drop what you're doing and help her instantly?

I always try to respond to requests from my mother to do something as soon as I can, but my father often won't do something unless she nags and nags and nags him to do it. So the pattern you describe certainly exists, but wrt to my father rather than to me.

Does she get upset if you Do It Wrong, even if you're doing it the way she taught you, or if you find a way that works better for you?

In fact I find she's reluctant to teach me how to do household tasks in the first place -- "Don't you realize that you were already starting comprehensive school when I was your age? Nobody showed me how to keep the house in order, so why should I show you?" Of course if I moved out I'd probably not have much trouble learning to do things for myself, now that there'd be no-one there to yell at me for Doing It Wrong. (I am thinking though that once I Get Out I'd be well advised to find a DIY course which I could take...)

KayTei @P934: Also, on the question of "what your mom really wants is for you and your dad to pitch in more on the house"...

When you are depressed, having a messy house makes it worse. It adds an extra level of stress that never goes away, and you're always feeling bad about the choices you have to make - either taking care of your relative or cleaning the house, and either way you feel guilty about what you're not doing.

I get the impression that my mam does very little housework herself, other than things relating to my sister (this includes washing and drying her hair, supervising her when doing exercises, and filling in paperwork to keep Sharon informed of what's been going on at home). Instead she leaves almost all the housework to my dad, no doubt believing that I have more right to free time (because I'm employed) than he does. In fact, sometimes when I've offered to do housework my mam has said "thanks for offering, but if you did it yourself you'd only be encouraging your dad's laziness".

What my mam also complains about (possibly more than the need to nag my dad so much) is how slow dad is at doing household tasks (and this started well before his stroke, btw). I think this resentment is because she suspects (probably correctly) that my dad takes his time so that he'll have an excuse not to spend time with her. Again, it's all down to my mam's unbearable loneliness.

The weird thing is that my mam says she felt a lot less stressed when my dad was in hospital (even though she would have had to do most of the housework herself then, although I did contribute). She also said that once the backlog of mess was cleared up (as I think I mentioned before, I was up until half-past midnight on two consecutive Saturdays doing this) she actually had little trouble keeping the house in a cleaner condition that it was when dad was there. Obviously much of the mess in our house is dad's fault. The things though, it's not just dirt but also widespread damage (dad's been clumsy since well before his stroke, and the extremely cluttered condition of our house makes it more accident-prone). And I suspect if I offered to replace damaged goods, my mam would turn me down on the basis that I'd just be wasting my money since my dad would shortly damage the replacements too!

#109 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 03:58 PM:

Codemonkey: I'm not in the best position to help with the first question, and I'm addressing this from a US perspective, so it may not be completely helpful to you. But some things from my own apartment hunt last summer:

Landlords are somewhat flexible in the times you can view a property; whether it's getting dark or not, they will likely be willing to sort out a good time for you both to view the place. Also, we're heading into the time of year where you'll have a lot of extra daylight on your side.

Off-road parking will depend on how busy the street where you're looking is, and the odds that you'll come up against a parking ban (weather-related or otherwise). We rent a separate parking space, partly because there's not much off-road parking for local businesses, so that traffic clogs our street, and partly because parking bans are a thing. There's one on now, thanks to Nemo.

Some flats might have heat, water, electricity or some combination of the above included in the rent. Our building includes heat and hot water; we pay separately for electricity and cooking gas.

I don't know how the UK is on laundry, but that might be something to ask about. If there's not on-site laundry, ask where the nearest laundromat is.

Trust your gut when you're doing your initial sweep for places to look at. Rental scams are VERY common, especially if you do your hunting online; if it sounds too good to be true or they want all of your personal info before you ask to fill out an application, run away fast.

Things that raised our security deposit: No prior rental history and ill-established work history. I don't know how security deposits work out in the UK, but in the US you can generally expect to have to pay a month's rent worth of extra money up front.

Don't settle for the first place you see; try to look at a couple before you spring for an application, and sleep on that decision if you can. We ended up liking the second place so much we asked for an application on the spot, but we didn't go in with that in mind.

that's everything I can think of for now. Good luck!

#110 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Various: I was just picking an example; I actually have no desire to play basketball. I've always been good at shooting but I could be better, so that's what I'd do if I wanted to do a sport. Though my current goal is "walk a half-mile without being short of breath."

Lee: yeah, I got that failure mode too. All through school I had abysmal math grades because I didn't "show my work," when I could just look at a problem for a couple seconds and know the answer, and anyway writing too much hurt my hands.

Then I graduated and started solving problems like those for a living. People no longer thought I was bad at math. :) But you grade on how much effort was put in instead of getting the right answer (no joke, my school district was not allowed to take correctness into account for math homework grades) and people like me will get sort of messed up pictures of themselves.

#111 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:03 PM:

(Eee! I made it to the front page! 8-> )

knitcrazybooknut @S&r/874: The uber awareness necessary to know exactly where they are in the house, to know what the mood is, to know what might set them off and how to avoid it.

Wow. I just flashed on the memory of listening to fights raging up and down the hallway outside my bedroom door.

Reading emotional weather. Survival radar. Or were you going down another path?

Wow. My brain turns to pudding just trying to think about this stuff.

Well, your description is not not what I'm talking about, if you take my meaning.

The metaphor that comes to mind is a sub, making an emergency dive at the sight of a destroyer on the surface. I had to lock away all—not just expression of my me-ness, but experience of it. Because my mother was good enough that if I was aware of it, she was aware of it. (This was one reason Spock was my main role model for much of my early life.)

Trying to think about this stuff is kinda like trying to parse dreams (which seem entirely logical and straightforward while you're having them) with waking consciousness. It's like you're trying to make sense out of this stuff using the wrong software, and doesn't even come up as gibberish. It's just "Failed to load."

The_L @S&r/882: Chocolate is, apparently, a not-uncommon migraine trigger.

Dave Harmon @S&r/895: The big thing that Paganism did for me, was to give me access to that stuff, by training my intuition. As it turned out, that intuition, provided me with a back-channel to find out about my emotions and body-state.

Care to elaborate (given that many of us struggle with this issue)?

Froth @S&r/906: "It's time in and I haven't made my kit and I've lost my facepaint and I'm in the wrong city!"

Entirely tangential to the discussion, but it tickles me highly that there is a sterotypical LARP anxiety dream....

Chickadee @917: First off, wrt "feeling like a bad daughter," stop it! :-) ::shakes finger sternly:: Children to grow up and move away from their parents. That's how the world works.

Secondly, since your mother actually gets that trying to pull you closer makes you want to pull away, I would point out to her that her imprecations to you to visit more often are having the opposite of the desired effect on your actual desire to do so.

And following on OtterB's @S&r/936: There is, of course, Miss Manners on the topic of saying "no". The key paragraph:

If somebody tries to pressure you into doing something you really don’t want to do or have time to do, the less you engage them the better. Meaning, you should say “No, thank you,” period; “I’m very sorry, I’m busy,” period; “Thank you, but I’d rather walk home,” period. The key is not just to say “no,” but to shut up afterwards. Miss Manners says that if you continue to engage the requester, more than likely, the conversation will result in an argument. In other words, you don’t owe anyone an explanation (principals, parents, students excluded). You’re in charge of your own time.

She has parents exempted from this, but I think that's in the case where the parents are actually responsible for the person being asked. I think, once you've reached your majority, they drop off that list. IMHO, anyway.

#112 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:04 PM:

Mmmm, Jolly Rancher, mmmm....

#113 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:05 PM:

Sorry, not Lee, Feather. My mistake. I plead tiny phone screen. :(

#114 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:33 PM:

Feather #101: Dave Harmon @ 89: How does a parent/teacher/instructor/etc know someone has made effort if not by watching them? "You must have worked hard on that" when in fact the kid sat down, wrote through a test and then read under her desk for an hour (again, personal example) is just about as meaningless, and also gives the kid guilt for being praised for something zie didn't do.

It's a tough issue, but first of all, the teacher needs to recognize that their own evaluations are not perfect either -- just their hopefully-best effort at the task. But I repeat, my issue is specifically with denigrating a kid's performance solely because they were thought to not have "put in effort". This represents perfectionism and "making the perfect the enemy of the good": If that overnight paper is good, the proper response is to praise it, not to denigrate it because it (presumably) "could have been better".

The other thing is, "You must have worked very hard on that" is essentially a compliment, and a praise -- the take-home there is that the teacher/boss whatever approves. Discounting it because "you know you earn it" is a problem on your end -- perhaps Imposter Syndrome. And the thing is, that praise may well be more true than you know -- that last-minute, overnight paper is likely to reflect both previous work -- reading and considering the material -- and a surprising level of focused intelligence, that is, working very hard to get it done quickly. And if the result passes muster, it was clearly enough work for the occasion.

A thought that's been rattling around my brain since early in this subthread, but I'm not quite sure where it fits in: Aristotle¹ distinguished between the things people are praised for (virtues), the things they are admired for (qualities such as beauty, strength or intelligence), and the things they are congratulated for (good fortune). A lot of the issues here seem to reflect modern shifts, confusions, and clarities about what things go in what categories.

¹ I can't lay hands on the reference, but I'm pretty sure it was him

#115 ::: Dave Harmon, gnomed again. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:34 PM:

I finished the leftover Korean soup, but there's some take-out pizza in the fridge.

#116 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 04:46 PM:

The psych appointment went very well! I was prescribed Effexor, which...has been interesting. I went out with my boyfriend to dinner that night, and he ordered us a large dish to share. The appetite-suppressant aspect was so strong that all I could think was, "Yep, that sure looks like food!" I had to force-feed myself, because I knew I should be hungry, but I wasn't.

I'm getting used to it--and to suddenly feeling lighter. But that first night on the new meds felt weird.

@Ross, #15: Only a bag-and-a-half for a week-long trip? In the middle of winter? Dude, that's packing seriously light! I'd have needed at least a full suitcase, and maybe a second, smaller carry-on. But then, the main place I go in the winter is my grandmother's house, and she doesn't own a hair-dryer.

@Pendrift, #50: Oh wow, take away the "too fat" thing, and that is me in a nutshell. My dad reinforced the "no permission to suck" more than I think he realizes.

#117 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:00 PM:

Dave Harmon @ 114:

This seems to me to have gone sideways; I am certainly not arguing that the adults in my childhood handled me correctly. Obviously.

My point, again: "praise the effort, rather than the outcome" has a failure mode and that failure mode damages kids. It is also not an outrageously esoteric failure-mode found only by evil teachers; it is one which people with the best intentions and reasonable intelligence fall into without intent to abuse.

Your model in fact involves praising the outcome, the achievement, which in and of itself means we're not talking about what I have a problem with, which is, again: the implication or outright statement that the way to "fix" the perfectionism/underachievement/later problems of Gifted kids is "praise the effort put into the test rather than the high test score, because effort is what's important".

Your initial comment led to my reply because yes of course I was only praised for work I was seen to do: anything else would be committing the dangerous sin (under that system) of praising something that did not require effort, ergo teaching the Gifted kid only to seek out things that required no effort in order to be more awesome than other people, and teaching them to fail. That is the idea I was brought up in, from both parents and teachers, and that's part of what damaged me.

I'm not saying that's right. I'm saying that's what the tidy little unexamined "praise effort, not outcome" can lead to.

#118 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Correction to me #114: "you know you earn it" should have been "you know you didn't earn it".

#119 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 05:42 PM:

Feather #117: I think that we're in violent agreement that "praise the effort, not the outcome" is problematic, especially beyond a beginning stage of learning whatever.

It's worth noting that's not actually what modern educational knowledge prescribes -- that would be "praise the effort, not the ability" -- meaning, don't assign a kid's successes to an unchangeable quality. But what you #78, perhaps Tom Whitmore #99, and Ross #110, all got hit with, was a dysfunctional, extremist version of that, where actual ability counted for nothing, or counted against you.

(For completeness, Elliot Mason #104 just got shafted by, as she notes, not being judged by the announced criteria -- where "effort not outcome" was the theory, the reality was "outcome only, and a miss is as good as a mile".)

Jacque #111: I don't have the spoons just now to marshal the whole thing, but briefly, modern Paganism practice is basically a crude technology of altered consciousness.

The various exercises and techniques that are taught as background or basis, include efforts at "quieting the monkey", and using the shifts in consciousness to make contact with the parts of the mind that even normal people tend to neglect. There is also the matter of contact with "spirits" and "gods" of various stripes. From a materialist point of view, that comes out as constructive, or functional, dissociation -- but that doesn't really capture all the effects that such methods can produce.

#120 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:11 PM:

Okay, I'm going to have a go:

Surviving was all about keeping your head down, doing as you're told, don't draw attention to yourself, don't volunteer any information about what's going on inside of you, or (Ghu forbid!) what actually matters to you.

Thriving is about knowing what you want and going after it. Figuring out what you need to accomplish what you want. Taking initiative.

Job-hunting is the arena where these dynamics play out most conspicuously for me:

In my case, it was all about satisfying my mom, getting her off my back. Getting her to shut up and leave me along. Getting Out.

With my brother (and I actually talked about this with him once), it was much more a resource state: having freedom. Having a little money in his pocket. Having options.

For me it's a case of crawling out of one nasty trap into another, slightly less nasty trap.

I would really like to know what it felt like to get a job because I wanted that job. Not because I just wanted to get away from this job.

And, unfortunately, my working life too often prompts me to fall back into Survival mode. In my current job, this is accutely the case. (Initiative? What, are you crazy?) ::SIGH::

Nancy Lebovitz @24: As far as I can tell, I'm a lot better at knowing what I don't want than what I do want.

YES. This is another neon marker.

#121 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:13 PM:

Neutrino @18: The father is a Grade A asshole. Your friend is a Grade B asshole.

Finny @19: Does Newguy's behavior interfere with work getting done? Then Newguy is off-base. As to how to deal with it when management doesn't have one's back...that's tougher. Only think I can think of is to do something that is similarly disruptive to Newguy (with other coworker's consent) so that one can make the point.

There's a certain Type that I've run across who think that any noise they make is just peachy dandy and can't understand why anyone would object. (Sometimes even in otherwise nice and reasonable people.) Serious lack-of-empathy. Sometimes you just have to resign yourself that they Won't Get It, and use whatever club comes to hand to convey to them that they are better off not making the noise.

For my money, no, you are not being over-sensitive.

Nancy Lebovitz @24: but the inertia is no better than it ever was, maybe worse.

I've had a lot less trouble (which is not to say I've had no trouble) with that since I've made some progress on identifying how to identify what I like and what I want.

Basically, I've finally tuned into the physical sensation that occurs when I really like something. It's like that charge you get from a close call in traffic, only pleasant. If you're running perpetual low-grade panic, I can see how that would mask the "happy excitement" signal, being (in my body, at least) very similar sensations.

The trick in the beginning, I think, is to keep a watch out for any cases of liking something, and tuning in to what that sensation feels like in your body. It can be really small and subtle, too. Watching TV is a great time to do this.

Rikibeth @26: If I'd kept trying to feed her things that would make her flinch

Gads. My brother. "Here, Jacque, taste this!" Pure powdered ginger from the ginger can. "Here, Jacque, touch this!" The inadequately-grounded TV antenna. These are two of the most conspicuous memories from my toddler-hood. I reported these to a friend of mine—who was otherwise pretty sharp and on the ball. Her response? "He probably just couldn't believe that you'd keep coming back for more." Um, no.

Nenya @27: I'm certainly open to advice for how to navigate the interface between survivor of dysfunctional family and beloved who was spared that.

I dunno, from your description, sounds like both you and partner are doing wonderfully well. For those times when finding words is a burden on top of coping with reaction, maybe come up with a hand-signal which means "Coping now, will get words when brain-space becomes available."?

#122 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:29 PM:

Bricklayer, Cynthia W: the most crucial question to ask of the "Just Joking!" scenario, I think, is Is it reciprocable? That is, are you allowed to "tease" back, or are you bad/mean/cruel/wicked when you try to engage in the same behavior, responding in kind? If the latter, then it is not really joking, but a power display only permissible from higher-status against lower-status persons, and all the "where's your sense of humor?" business is simply very efficient gaslighting.

Codemonkey in NE England: I'm getting very worried about your dad in all this, as 1. you seem to have internalized your mother's belief that he deserves to be abused by her because he is a "loser", and 2. much of this supposed loserdom, or rather, mental and physical incapacity is presently the result of an actual major brain injury caused disability, while past years of failure to satisfy her ambitions for him may well have been caused by undiagnosed declining health culminating in his stroke, or undiagnosed depression. (Or both.)

Elder abuse can occur laterally, too.

#123 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:42 PM:

Been intermittently lurking this thread and the last. Most of my time for the last month has been tied up in getting my divinity school application prepared.

It went out in the mail this morning. The earliest (and softest) of three deadlines is Friday. (The hard deadline, for financial aid, is a month from Friday. The absolute last deadline is not until June.)

I am cautiously optimistic that I might be getting a handle on this whole time management thing. Still not certain; I'm still waiting to hear from one reference that they did in fact mail the letter. But that is out of my control and I am trying to let go of it.

The whole perfectionism and effort / talent / outcome discussion is really resonating with me. Given that I've just spent the greater part of a month cataloguing my academic and spiritual history, with all its false starts, dead ends, and well-that-didn't-go-as-planneds, I'm wondering how I got this far.

Oh well. If nothing else, I am getting a pretty good catalogue of all the Great Vortices of Psychological Suck to which I am susceptible:
"It doesn't matter how good the product is if you didn't appear to make a sufficient effort. That doesn't count."
"But you have to succeed at your work! Because if you didn't get a perfect outcome you weren't working hard enough."
"Or maybe you just aren't good enough to attempt that, if you haven't succeeded yet."
"Stop doing that thing that way, I don't understand it so you must be doing it wrong!"
"Why aren't you doing anything? Are you lazy? Unmotivated? Here, let me find something for you to do. Something productive. Unlike whatever it was that you were doing."

What a loverly catalogue of Goddamn Tapes. Now that I am in the waiting stage of things, I think I will go unspool some of these tapes and make weird modern art from them or something.

I love all you people. You remind me that my personal bag of crazy is just another flavor of normal and I am more human than I was ever allowed to think.

#124 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:44 PM:

Dave Harmon @91 - thank you, that's a good way to discuss differing abilities. As it happens, I have been able to discuss (dis)abilities a little bit with my daughter - her day care center has several children, including one in her class, with various levels of physical or developmental differences. The boy in her class has some structural ocular issues, so he wears heavy glasses and has poor vision (hard to be certain exactly what he can see for sure at his age - he's only about 18 months old). I know he explores a lot through touch and sound. I should bring it up with her again, though - it's been a few months and she's got a lot better vocabulary now to understand things.

As to the broader ongoing conversation, there seem to be three parts to the process: ability/talent, effort, and outcome. I think ability needs to be acknowledged, though not necessarily praised per se [noting Dave Harmon's @114 discussion of admiration, praise, and congratulations]. It is mostly innate and thus relatively uncontrollable - I know when I was a kid I did a lot of "I'm just good at taking tests" in order to deflect attention from other kids - it would have been nice to have adults talk to me seriously about what that ability really meant. Positive outcomes should always be acknowledged and praised, whether they come from the application of ability, effort, or the combination thereof.

Effort is the tricky part of the triumvirate. It doesn't bear a direct relationship to either ability or outcome. And knowing what to comment on or encourage in terms of effort requires actual attention on the part of the parent/teacher/supervisor/etc. Someone who is achieveing negative outcomes may still be putting forth good effort (like the basketball example by Elliott Mason @104), which should be acknowledged and given credit. Elliott's classmates who always made their baskets should have been encouraged to find other tasks which could benefit from enhanced effort, while still receiving recognition for their ability. But the key is that requires someone who can recognize both effort and ability, and can judge what is most useful to the individual.

Of course, the whole point of this group of threads is that many people do end up in families and life situations with adults who aren't paying that kind of careful attention. >sigh<

#125 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:56 PM:

I'm learning a lot from the effort/ability/outcome discussion. Thank you to all the participants.

I've been known to ask my students the following questions: Was this task easy, medium, or difficult? Is it getting easier as we go along? Are we going the right speed? IS IT FUN?

#126 ::: upset ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 06:56 PM:


Only have a couple of comments at this point.

Re law school as a solution, per Dia @41: YMMV--I am the counterexample. While it does help retrain your brain, I'm not sure it's worth the five or six figures in debt it incurs (and that's me with some parental assistance). Furthermore, not having fixed some other issues before going in, like undiagnosed inattentive-type ADHD, coasting through school instead of having to work, and automatic capitulation to authority figures as a self protection mechanism (or even to people who merely projected themselves as authority figures!) meant that I was going into what was already a difficult, top tier and famously competitive program with handicaps-in-the-horse-racing-sense. To top it off, I am several years out from graduating and passing, on first attempt, one of the nation's most difficult bar exams--and I still don't have a job that requires a JD. I might not get one for several years, and even then might be working for just above minimum hourly wage.

Again, YMMV, but that's been my experience. I don't regret going to law school, but at $90k in in-state tuition at a public school, I think there are other ways to learn to think critically and about objective standards for behavior. Like reading Making Light.

And while I'm playing lawyer: Dave Harmon's sister @41? The Supreme Court clerk? It's a paid position, highly coveted, and very very difficult to get. It also pays dividends, as the largest firms will offer signing bonuses to those exiting clerkships and going into private practice. Or at least they used to--the legal landscape has changed since the 2008 recession. I'm told that at some firms, attorneys aren't guaranteed a spot at their former firm if they leave to do a yearlong clerkship.

#127 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:00 PM:

Bricklayer @94: Congratulations! Seriously. Both on recognising that you needed A and on politely indicating such and sticking by it. You do, indeed, have the right to be treated with consideration.

Codemonkey: Off-street parking will keep your car insurance down; otherwise, how important it is depends on how easy it is to find ON-street parking. For flats, viewing in the evening - no big deal - you can always go back in daylight by yourself at the weekend, or arrange a second viewing if you like the place. Also check out public transport links - yes, you have a car, but decent bus routes are a nice backup.

Absolutely you want to avoid somewhere with pre-payment meters - the rate of payment with those are always higher than paying by direct debit. Water meter is fine - single person, you'll probably save on that unless you run a full bath every night (and you don't need to pre-pay, it's just how they work out how much you pay).

Laundry: If it's a ready-furnished flat, that may well include a washing machine. Or there may be a pre-plumbed space for one. If not then yes, you need to check if there's somewhere close by. [Note for USAians: a washing machine in the kitchen is a lot more common over here. I've never lived anywhere that didn't have one (except actually in college (dorm equivalent) where there was a separate laundry room).

Ross @ 15: A bit late, but I'd say you're packing really lightly, considering the time of year.

Lee @60, Ross @71: Sitcoms/humiliation humour: I can watch a whole episode of "The Good Life". I can very ocasionally watch a whole episode of "To the Manor Born", but I'm squirming inside. I can't watch a whole episode of Fawlty Towers. I have no wish to ever watch Friends, Seinfeld etc.

Lee @68: Yes, he sets himself up for it. But the 2nd to 5th or so times I read that book, I couldn't bear to read that scene - it was too painful for me.

Re. "Just joking" in general: for me, if the person on the receiving end doesn't find it funny, it's not funny and not permissible. The person who initiated should apologise as soon as this is indicated, and should not repeat. Otherwise, it's bullying - even if they don't mind (or even enjoy it) if it's done to them.

#128 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:05 PM:

Bricklayer @45: Oh, sweet Ghu, those hoomans...

which HELL NO SRSLY NO NO NOPE for a 4-year-old! made me giggle.

Suggestion: use "frustrating" instead of "annoying." A) it's an actual emotional state, and therefore more informative to the communicatee, and B) it's a rather less fraught term, so might not be nearly as triggery.

Your MiL seriously needs a lesson in the Meta-Model. "Um, funny for whom, please?" Most specifically, "Deletion, Distortion and Generalization."

Heh. Just found these flashcards.

Of course, she also strongly disbelieves me when I make other predictions

It sounds like MiL is kinda in the general habit of denying that others have experience that differs from hers.

Pendrift @50: We can haz mindhacks, plz?

#129 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:15 PM:

Feather, #101: Your comment has kicked up a memory, and for once it's a good one, and about gym class, no less! Most of my gym teachers are better forgotten, but the one I had in 10th grade was exemplary. First off, she did grade the less-athletic students on effort, which was something none of the others had ever done (results were all that mattered, and I passed 9th-grade gym only by virtue of being able to ace all the written tests and the teacher begrudged me that). But when we got to the gymnastics unit, she did something I've never seen done before or since.

There were 5 sections to the gymnastics unit: trampoline, uneven parallel bars, mats, balance beam, and horse. And next to each one, she posted a list of routines to be performed and the grade each routine would get. And then she let us decide where to put our efforts. She gave us agency.

Trampoline was an easy A for me, and the bars a fairly easy A-. I settled for a B routine on the balance beam because the higher ones got into things that scared me, and a C on the horse (which I hated), and put all my focus into mastering a headstand for the B+ routine on the mats. I worked on that for at least half the class period every day, and every day the teacher would come by and say something encouraging. At the end of the unit, I felt as though I'd really accomplished something.

Jacque, #111: Re saying no (particularly WRT importunate requests), I've also heard the formulation, "I'm afraid that's not possible," recommended. It should be said in a cheerful voice, as though you're doing the other person a favor. If they press, simply keep repeating it like a mantra.

#130 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:21 PM:

Dave Harmon @119, a friend of mine thinks of his magic practice in a similar way. I said, "documenting the API?" and he said "EXACTLY."

#131 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:31 PM:

I don't know how much detail is necessary or appropriate, especially as some people are triggered by fitness-related issues.

So: Trigger Warning: Gym Class. Better safe than sorry.

But my experiences with gym class as a kid were, in retrospect and with what I know now, significantly more hellish than they needed to be.

In grade school, yes, there were calisthenics (x jumping jacks, x squat-thrusts, some toe-touch windmills, etc, at the beginning of the timeslot), but most of the rest of it involved some kind of structured running-around. Sometimes it was tumbling, and that WAS OSSIM from my pov.

I always viewed myself as an exceptionally clumsy kid. I knew by the time I was in mid-high-school that at least some of my difficulty with catching thrown objects involved my vision; I got my first pair of glasses at 16. Confirming this is the fact that I was very good at kick-baseball (which is like baseball, only smaller field and you kick a dodgeball-type play ball instead of using a bat and smaller one) and dodgeball, both of which involved balls BIGGER THAN MY HEAD. Helps with aim, in retrospect. :->

However, as an adult, I'm connecting up two of the narratives of my childhood: the "I was sooooo clumsy" one, with the "I skipped almost three grades by the time I was a sophomore in high school" one, and getting an interesting sum. There is quite a bit of peer-reviewed stuff talking about how star-class athletes are disproportionately born in certain months ... because given their school systems, that meant they were the oldest (and best physically-developed) children in their classes in grade school, and the natural payoff in coordination compared to their younger peers led to coaches exercising Fundamental Attribution and encouraging their "obvious talent". I was in some cases nearly two years younger than some of my classmates in high school (if their birthday was in early September, and mine in March, a 2-year spread in the numbers was not uncommon in October), with whom I was being athletically compared.

Add to that a tendency that in retrospect (and I know the anecdata with which I am beginning was a very limited set of a limited set -- what I REMEMBER of what I EXPERIENCED) seems kind of cargo-cultish on behalf of my gym teachers ... They seemed to believe that if they chivvied you into performing all the set beginning-of-class activities (jumping jacks, pushups, running distance, squat-thrusts, etc), you would naturally progress in your athletic ability and general strength, and therefore become more able to perform same without exhausting yourself.

So when I proved unable to perform kneeling pushups (after proving unable to perform REGULAR pushups), their response was "Well, keep doing them -- you need twenty!" I did not know until just this year that the response I WOULD have gotten from people with a more improvement-based workout philosophy would probably have included, "Did you know we have a weight room? If you're free after school on (day), I'll take you up there and show you proper form on a few exercises to build up your _____, _____, and ____, which are what's failing you. We'll have you doing pushups properly in a month or two, never you fear!"

Instead I repeatedly whacked myself in the face with the gym floor, twenty times a day, for two years of required gym class. I never managed an actual kneeling pushup with good form and THE RIGHT MUSCLES WORKING until, um, two weeks ago, actually. Which is several months after starting weight training as an adult.

My gym teachers were perpetually bemused by me and sometimes seemed kind of pitying. They could often tell I was trying; I did everything short of sweating blood, and was visibly pissed at myself for my failures. As far as they could tell, I was medically fit and ready for class; I was even of a 'normal' weight range. They had no idea why everything was so hard for me, and STAYED so hard for me.

I don't know if it was a failure of empathy, or of training on their part ... but the only people who ever got permission to use the weight room were the people on actual sports teams (mostly the wrestlers), or, as I discovered as a senior, students who requested permission and proved to the coaches they could be trusted around heavy things.

I could have been one of those people, if I even slightly knew the option existed.

I went out for cheerleading, too, my freshman year, because it seemed fun and active and I really WANTED to be able to make my body do those things. I went to the audition and clearly everyone else present had at least three years' experience. I had no chance. They weren't even slightly interested in admitting anyone to the squad who wanted to LEARN to do it; they only wanted people who already could.

Repeated experience of this kind of disappointment caused me, in college, to never even turn up at an audition for the school chorus, despite my at-that-point 9 years of moderate to intensive vocal training. I made friends years later with someone in it who, when he heard me sing, double-taked, and said I was about twice as good as 90% of the people in the choir, and that it was mostly for fun.

I could have had that. I could have done that. Instead I let group singing and harmony fall out of my life because 'clearly' if anything required an audition, I would fail it, so why bother?

#132 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:42 PM:

oliviacw, #124: there seem to be three parts to the process: ability/talent, effort, and outcome

And there is a HUGE American cultural meme that Effort In -> Outcome Out, without regard to ability. And also without regard to luck, which is an important component of success for most people -- fortune favors the prepared, but if the cards just keep falling against you, preparedness doesn't look much different from failure.

(This also ties into privilege of all types, because one of the things privilege does is function as a luck attractor when other people are involved. If you seem to be the Right Kind of Person, you'll get cut breaks that others won't.)

This is the primary thing that vanity publishers (among others) exploit. You've worked SO HARD on that novel, but it keeps getting rejected? It can't be that it's not good enough, because you WORKED on it, you paid your dues, you're supposed to be rewarded for all that HARD WORK you did! No, the reason you keep getting rejections is [insert conspiracy theory of choice]. OUR company won't do that to you! We're committed to publishing the works the Giant Trad1t10nal Publ1shers don't want anyone to see! And so on and so forth.

#133 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:54 PM:

dcb: yes, this is the big failure mode of the Golden Rule, I agree. If it hurts it isn't made okay because the offender isn't a hypocrite, too.

But I suspect that a lot of us find the "Only joking! Where's your sense of humor?" thing particularly debilitating because it gets contradicted: "This is funny & everyone should behave this way!" followed by, "That's not funny, why are you behaving like that?" if we do. Leaving us to try to reconcile the two incompatible tape sets, or give up.

It's like being told to "Take initiative! Always show initiative! Be proactive!" in between being punished Every. Single. Time one does take the initiative...

#134 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 07:54 PM:

Codemonkey, one thing that I try to remember is that if I get the wrong place, I can move. The perfect is the enemy of the good here. I was entirely serious when I said you could check into a hotel for a month-- that would be very expensive, but it would be out.

In any case, I think you're doing a good job of figuring out what problems you'll face. I think it would be best to tell your family you're moving out when you already have a place to go and a date set-- when your mother can't talk or badger you into staying home.

#135 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:02 PM:

Bricklayer: Parts of that sound a bit like one of the major problems I had with my middle school gym class.

This was a three-grade middle school, seventh to ninth (non-USians: roughly ages 13 to 15; I was 12 and 13 while I was there, thanks to skipping a grade). There were two sub-classes having class in the same period. One was mostly seventh graders, one was mostly ninth, and the eighth-grade kids were split down the middle.

They ALWAYS picked teams by which class you were officially listed in, never randomly from the whole pool of available students. Guess which class won the most often.

I did have sports experiences that weren't in that environment, and I liked them okay, but it wasn't something I wanted to devote a big chunk of my life to, in the end. Other than a few years of marching band, anyway, but I couldn't even get gym credit for that at the time.

#136 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:05 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England @108: You probably know this already, but for learning household tasks, you can look online. There are instructions online for most anything. Before I moved to Houston I'd never ironed a shirt or made a bed with a hospital corner; I've learned to do both by looking them up on the web.

#137 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 08:23 PM:

Re praise, I want to second Tom Whitmore @99 I've learned that I don't hear generic praise -- I discount it completely. When it's anchored in some specific (like a sensory modality, or attached to a very specific set of actions/experiences on my part), it's much harder for me to discount it.

So important. If you're giving specific praise, I think the line blurs between praising talent, effort, and outcome. Thinking about responding to someone's writing, for example, praise might sound like, "This builds a solid argument. You're good at making the logical connections." or "You've really improved your use of commas" or "You succeeded in making me sympathize with the villain." Any of those are more informative and more rewarding than any amount of generalized superlative "wonderful job."

Lee @129, that gym teacher sounds great.

Bricklayer @94, congrats on the positive interaction.

And Bricklayer @131, I'm another one who was not good at organized sports as a kid, probably because of having skipped a grade plus an August birthday putting me way young.

#138 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 10:35 PM:

a heart in hiding @133 It's like being told to "Take initiative! Always show initiative! Be proactive!" in between being punished Every. Single. Time one does take the initiative...

I'm reminded of a role-playing game called "Cyberpunk" that I played some years ago. Every single time you left the safe-house that your group of adventurers lived in, you had to roll on a chart. THERE WERE NO GOOD RESULTS ON THAT CHART. They ranged from (at best) humiliating to (at worst) character-killing. Our GM couldn't figure out why, after the first few sessions playing the game, not a single one of our characters ever wanted to leave the safe-house, for any reason. Operand conditioning at work...

We switched to playing "Traveller".

#139 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 10:47 PM:

Had lunch with my dad. [Background for those new: I wrote my mom a no contact letter about a month ago. Dad called and wanted to have lunch.] Can you hear Admiral Ackbar yelling?

After a half hour of talking about how his life is going, he treated me to, "I don't know if that was your intention, but you put a stake through your mother's heart. She spends every night crying because she's worried that you're going to off yourself. If you could communicate to her that you're not going to do that, it would make my life a lot easier."

I've pretty much processed it with a friend & my husband, but I'd love to read reactions here. If only because my emotional distance/dissonance is one of the consequences of my wacked out upbringing.

#140 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 10:54 PM:

knitcrazybooknut #119: I'd say your Dad just blew his probation.

#141 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:07 PM:

knitcrazybooknut #119, What Dave Harmon said.

You can tell him, if you feel it appropriate, that you're not planning suicide, but he's violated the terms of your meeting. (You did tell your dad that he was not to try to mediate between you and your mother, yes? I seem to remember that...)

My sincere sympathies. That must've felt like a punch in the gut.

#142 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:37 PM:

knitcrazybooknut, I'm sorry you had to experience that.

Your dad shouldn't have done that. I'm not familiar with your situation in detail, but it should definitely have consequences.

#143 ::: Hope in Disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2013, 11:54 PM:

a heart in hiding @133: It's like being told to "Take initiative! Always show initiative! Be proactive!" in between being punished Every. Single. Time one does take the initiative...

I have an anecdote* about that.

My then-boyfriend and I were visiting his family. I am quite a shy person with people I perceive as authority figures and do not know well, so I was very soft-spoken and passive around his mother, who is a bit overbearing. She kept telling me to stand up/speak up for myself, assert myself, all that.

The last night we were there, we watched some comedian. It was reasonably funny, except for the gay jokes. Somehow, at the end of the show, it came up that I hadn't enjoyed them. I was told to "lighten up!" and came up, on the spot, with a response/rant that amounted to "I will not compromise my religious principles for the sake of a few laughs," because one major principle of my faith is the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

I am reasonably certain she did not say a single word to me after that moment.

The not-so-funny part is that her son also had that behavior ('stand up for yourself, unless it involves disagreeing with me').

* This is possibly an identifying anecdote, if anyone who knows me is on this thread. Please do not identify me. <3

#144 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:02 AM:

knitcrazybooknut: When my mother pulled that after I cut off my father, that was pretty much the instant end of our relationship. Although her exact wording was "if you don't want to talk to him then don't talk to me either because I don't want to hurt him."

Still not sure why she stalked me for weeks after I cut her off at that point. She literally told me to.

Anyway, yeah, I'd say if you want to be especially nice then telling your father that you aren't going to kill yourself, in your last message to him, would be cool. But just totally cutting off contact is normal at this point. If she were actually worried about you she'd apologize and come to you herself. This is just concern trolling.

#145 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:58 AM:

knitcrazybooknut, #139: Before responding to you, I went back and read thru your entire View All By. And I can say this with absolute conviction: YOUR MOTHER IS NUTS. There has never been any hint, in anything you write (and I read some of your blog posts too), that you are even remotely suicidal. You are, by and large, happy and building a life for yourself; this includes dealing with some shit from when you were younger, but there's no sign that it's overwhelming you. You do not appear to be depressed or overstressed. I rather wish we lived closer together, because you seem like someone I'd enjoy having as a friend.

You have, in the past, discussed your mother's habit of trying to convince everyone else in the family that you are crazy, irrational, delusional, whatever would cause them to doubt that you are telling the truth about things that happened to you. This is more of the same; she is MAKING SHIT UP about you, and either your father has swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, or he's in collusion with her. The language he used strongly suggests the latter. "Stake through her heart," my fat pink ass. As for telling her that no, you really aren't going to kill yourself... well, now he's seen you and talked to you and knows you're not suicidal, so that's HIS job.

I'm with David. He's just blown his chance, and should now be added to your no-contact request until such time as you are comfortable with the idea of talking to him and your mother again.

#146 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:00 AM:

Dry-roasted peanuts and Ghirardelli chocolate?

#147 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:17 AM:

Hope in disguise: no recognition, but many sympathies. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

knitcrazybooknut: Also ouch. Boundaries? what boundaries?

Ross: I like the variant where they tell you, in so many ways, that you're not welcome, and then wonder why you never come over? Apparently you obeying is not in the script-you're supposed to protest & beg to be taken back, right?- so the stalking may be an attempt to provoke you to play your part, or figure out why you're not responding to the cues.

(Bonus points if one of the ways of unwelcoming was to invite you over, or to tell you to make free of the house, and then accuse you of just being there to take advantage of the free food & facilities. This can be followed by "What? Why would you think that? I never said that!" and if there are enough countering witnesses of sufficient status to make that untenable, with "I must have been joking, then, because I would never, ever say something like that to my children." Rinse, repeat.)

#148 ::: greening ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:05 AM:

Lee@129, Bricklayer@131:

I had many years of mandatory gym class in the public school system as a shy, nerdy, uncoordinated kid (and yes, a birthday that made me one of the youngest kids in my grade). Not once in all those years do I remember a gym teacher actually offering advice to improve my performance. My experience was that whatever activity we were doing, the athletic / coordinated kids grouped up with each other to actually do it, while the rest of us just milled around wishing for the 50 minutes to be over soon. Sometimes punctuated with humiliating public failure if it were the kind of thing where you stood in lines to shoot baskets or whatever.

I found out this isn't at all how things work when you're an adult. I can take a yoga class and the yoga teacher doesn't snort with disgust at my lack of flexibility, but offers me a modified version to do, or makes a slight adjustment, and now I can do it a little bit better. A weight training coach doesn't give me a 400 lb bench press and then say, "Huh. Guess you can't lift it. Well, try again next week." They lower the weight to something I *can* lift.

And the human body isn't some mysterious blob filled with athletic talent or lack thereof-- it's actually a connected system of levers subject to the laws of physics! Even if you're not quick at intuiting how to do something, someone else can look at what you're doing and *tell you how to fix it*. Beginners that I take climbing can generally go a grade higher than they usually climb, because when they get really stuck I can tell them things like "you can reach that handhold if you shift your weight to your other leg and turn your left hip into the wall".

I don't see why gym teachers can't do that for kids. In math it's expected that the teacher will point out useful information like "it's not coming out right because you need to carry the 3". In English you're going to be told "this is a runon sentence-- make it two sentences". Why is gym class only for the kids who can already do something well?

(Lee, that one gym teacher you mention sounds fantastic. And Bricklayer, congratulations on the kneeling pushup!)

#149 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:34 AM:

greening: Why is gym class only for the kids who can already do something well?

Because, at least back when I was in school, the gym "teachers" had never been taught how to teach gym. The only kind of exercise that interested most public schools was competitive athletics, and in most cases a small subset of those (boys' basketball, football and baseball).

Cf. math. Most of our math teachers were football coaches by inclination and training. They could do the math, mostly, but weren't particularly interested in teaching anyone else (girls particularly) to do it.

BTW, I exempted PE in high school by joining the choir (which did not involve actually reading music--I learned that from my father). I didn't actually learn to do anything athletic until I took up taekwondo at age 40.

#150 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:43 AM:

If there are any phys ed teachers reading this, I'd love to hear otherwise, but... looking back, I get the impression that the actual education part of physical education was extremely lacking, as if the teachers didn't actually learn how to teach that subject.

I was one of the older kids in class, being a spring child, but I was still not very good at sports.

The particular lack that I notice now as an adult was in running. In gym class, it was "ok, now we're doing the running module. Here's the route, it's 3km, go." (later) "why are you so slow? run faster! you're taking the entire class to do something that should only take half the class!" And so, I hated running.

It wasn't until I was 30 that I decided, based on how much some people I loved enjoyed running, to sign up for a learn-to-run clinic at my local running store and give it a go. They actually moved through a run/walk sequence, gradually increasing the time spent running and decreasing the time spent walking until wow, I could actually run for more than a block without being out of breath! In fact, by the end of the 3 month clinic, I could run more than a whole 5km without being out of breath! And it was fun and relaxing and cleared my head when I was doing the two solo runs that were the "homework" every week and I looked forward to it! And so, I kept running on my own after I was done with the group.

Another one, not as much part of my life but still a thing that I noticed, was the rope climbing. Hey, let's climb the ropes! Absolutely no indication as to how one would do such a thing if one's arms weren't strong enough to go hand over hand, only one hand holding and lifting your entire weight while the other hand moved to a higher position on the rope. One day as an adult, on a lark, I joined a group that was spending an afternoon at a circus school. One of the stations was the silks, and one of the first things they taught us was how to wrap the silks around our leg and foot and step on it with the other foot and that would take our weight while we did something else with our hands. Lightbulb moment! Next thing I knew, I was climbing the silks all the way to the ceiling.

So, you know, way to go phys ed teachers. What you taught me was that I sucked at all things physical activity related. People who only know me from the last few years are very surprised at this because I'm a very active person now.

But I still hate team sports.

#151 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:06 AM:

Re: gym -various. I spent most of my growing up years convinced I was unathletic and uncoordinated. The only thing I did at all well in was gymnastics. Some of this was a lack of 3-D vision - nothing that involved parsing the motion of a ball through space was going to go well - but a lot of it was self-fulfilling prophecy. When you spend your gym class being sent to the furthest stretch of the outfield, you don't develop a lot of skills, for some odd reason. It all culminated in an awful day when the school discovered I had missed too many gym classes (because I was in several small singing groups that did pull-out events), and I needed to make up about eight classes to pass. Their solution was to send me to gym for the entire school day. We were doing square dancing. So I did the same square dancing class over and over and over again for the whole school day. The idea of dancing wasn't awful, but as a tremendously unpopular kid, I kept getting partnered up with boys who hated my guts, so it was a day of getting tripped, collided with, or in one case, spat on. Followed by the gym teacher's exasperated anger that I didn't seem to be getting any better at the dance, despite having spent 6+ hours doing nothing else.

I switched schools my senior year of HS. It was an absolute revelation to me that I was actually a decent athlete when I wasn't being actively sabotaged by my own classmates.

I don't think my PE teachers were particularly awful (except for one), but they didn't have much clue how to teach, and they certainly weren't keeping an eye out for student-to-student interaction.

#152 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:11 AM:

a heart in hiding @122: My dad last worked more than 20 years before the stroke, so I don't think the "undiagnosed declining health" was a reason for his lack of employment, as that decline in health only really became noticeable in the last 3 years. Perhaps undiagnosed Asperger's may have been a factor though (some of his mannerisms looked familiar in that respect), or perhaps the depression you suggested (neither myself nor my dad show our emotions very much, certainly not compared with my mother, so perhaps he could have been suffering from depression without it being detected).

When he was working it was in rubbish jobs (to the extent that it was only a significant redundancy payment that allowed him to finish his driving lessions -- on hiatus for over a decade -- pass his test, and buy an old car in the early '90s). And I think giving up looking for work may have been (if only to a very minor extent) a result of my mother putting him in double-binds. Hit last job was an 8-week temporary job IIRC, and he got so much stick from my mother for taking that job (he'd lied to her about its temporary status) that it probably destroyed whatever confidence he had left. And the fact that he could say to himself that it would be better he stayed at home in case my sister needed him -- for example to take her to her many hospital appointments -- may have further dented his incentives to look for work.

dcb @127: Absolutely you want to avoid somewhere with pre-payment meters - the rate of payment with those are always higher than paying by direct debit.

I was thinking the same, but I was concerned that pre-payment meters may actually be standard in the vast majority of private-sector rental properties (as they'd stop landlords from being landed with bills run up by former tenants). I know I wouldn't find social housing myself (unless you're a single parent there's a huge waiting list, as so much of it was sold off under the Right to Buy scheme).

Incidentally, my mother pays her bills (rent, council tax, electricity, gas, phone, TV licence) in person at the Post Office as she doesn't trust direct debit -- the only bill in our house paid by direct debit is the broadband (which I pay myself as I'm by far the biggest internet user in the house). That's another concern of mine (albeit a relatively minor one) -- what if my parents refuse to take over this bill themselves once I've moved out and I'm no longer using the internet there? Will I have to pay for the internet not just at my new place, but also at the family home too?

you can always go back in daylight by yourself at the weekend

Weekends are out because I need plausible deniability. If I looked at a property after work, I could always claim I left work late to finish something off. Lunchtime would be even better of course, but only for properties close to work.

Diatryma @134: One thing that I try to remember is that if I get the wrong place, I can move.

Not for 6 months AFAIK (that's the standard minimum contract length when renting a property -- perhaps it's different in the States?). Incidentally, what do people here think of my mother's attitude that renting any privately-owned property is something to be Avoided At All Costs? Is it reasonable, or is it just down to her burning resentment against my dad for failing to make her a homeowner? I don't want to buy a property for myself yet, both because I expect house prices to fall further, and because it may make it more difficult for me to move again (for example, to move to a higher-paid job in another part of the country).

#153 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 08:50 AM:

Codemonkey @151, I don't understand your question about renting privately-owned property; perhaps it's a cross-Pond confusion. In the US, when you rent an apartment (or a house) you're pretty much ALWAYS renting it from either an individual or a company; there's not a lot of government-owned property for rent that I've ever noticed. (Perhaps on military bases and places like that....)

So in the US at least, it's a non-problem. You'll rent from an individual (if a two-flat) or a company (if a large apartment block). Both situations are very standard.

#154 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:01 AM:

By "privately owned" I mean not owned by the council or by a housing association (the US equivalent of these would be "public housing" IIRC).

Perhaps my mother here has a "buy at all costs" attitude, which is about 12 years out of date now...

#155 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:19 AM:

codemonkey @151 what if my parents refuse to take over this bill themselves once I've moved out and I'm no longer using the internet there? Will I have to pay for the internet not just at my new place, but also at the family home too?

You won't HAVE to, unless there's a contract for a specified period of time in which case you may be obligated until the end of that time. You can ask them to take it over (which, I suspect, will be met with unwillingness from your mam as she doesn't want you to move out anyway - she will say they can't afford it, which may or may not be true). At that point you will have the choice of letting their internet lapse, or of choosing to continue to pay it as a gift for them.

Re plausible deniability on viewing rental places on the weekend ... disregard if this sounds like too much to think about with everything else, but perhaps you could establish a routine block of "free time" on the weekend in which you usually (but not necessarily) leave the house - and you don't need to account for your time to anyone. Because there are caring issues involved, it makes sense to me that this be arranged in advance. Perhaps you could even suggest trading off with your mam and offering her a similar block of time.

#156 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:24 AM:

Piping in quickly, Codemonkey, renting privately owned property is completely normal and what almost everyone does. Nothing to be avoided there.

If anything I've been told to avoid social housing areas (which is a whole kettle of fish not to go into right now)

I've rented several privately owned flats in the UK and none of them had prepaid metering for gas and electricity. The landlord wants a security deposit at the start of you moving in which is usually 1-1.5x monthly rent. They won't give you that back when you movie out until you've shown you're completely up to date on all bills and council tax and that the state of the flat is acceptable (i.e. you've not wrecked the place)

#157 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:28 AM:

Codemonkey: if you move out, your mother's unwillingness to pay the internet bill does not obligate you to pay it. That's on her.

#158 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:31 AM:

#120 ::: Jacque

>>"Nancy Lebovitz @24: As far as I can tell, I'm a lot better at knowing what I don't want than what I do want.

>YES. This is another neon marker.

Neon marker for what?

To clarify: I'm very good at knowing what I like, the blank spot is for larger goals.

Which gets to something I call laughing depression (rather common in fandom)-- someone with laughing depression is good at pursuing hobbies, but just can't gather themselves to do much to take care of their lives.

>>Nancy Lebovitz @24: but the inertia is no better than it ever was, maybe worse.

>I've had a lot less trouble (which is not to say I've had no trouble) with that since I've made some progress on identifying how to identify what I like and what I want.

>Basically, I've finally tuned into the physical sensation that occurs when I really like something. It's like that charge you get from a close call in traffic, only pleasant. If you're running perpetual low-grade panic, I can see how that would mask the "happy excitement" signal, being (in my body, at least) very similar sensations.

I can tell when I like something and when I'm happy. The internal break is that being happy from something (especially if it takes some effort or will be useful for the long haul) doesn't motivate me to do more of it.

#80 ::: Feather

Thanks for the reminder that there's such a thing as friendly teasing, and you've amplified for me that it can be a basic mode.

Actually, I'd started a pretty good discussion on the various sorts of teasing, but had forgotten.

If anyone wants to know more about PUA (pickup artists, a subculture that's mostly men comparing notes on how to pick up women), here's a book by a woman who explored the various sub-sub-cultures. Short version: some of it's useful and benign, especially if taken in moderate doses. Some of the variants are quite toxic.

In re gym: I was mostly bad at it. I didn't try, either, because I hated feeling out of breath.

I didn't find out until I'd done a lot of body work that the reason I was apt to fall over my own feet when walking was that my legs were so tight that I wasn't taking steps long enough for my toes to reliably clear the ground, so I'd swing my lower leg around the outside and sometimes my toes would catch on the ground and I'd fall down.

I've had that as a fact I've known for some years, but it's getting to me now. It isn't right for a kid to be that tense. (I realize that there are probably neurological problems which would have the same effect, but I don't believe that was the case for me.)

Just as well I didn't try-- I think I could have given myself bad knee problems if I'd done a lot of running.

As for out of breath, I've recently noticed that some largish fraction of the time, I pull my chest inwards rather than letting it expand when I inhale. I haven't found out yet whether I do it when I exert myself, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Does anyone know anything about that pattern? What might cause it? What might undo it? Does it have a name?

I could do some of the coordination based things-- I was adequate at square dancing and still find it satisfying that grand right and left would come out even. I could do some of the gymnastics, and have a fond memory of the time I did a cartwheel off a balance beam. And of the time I bunted at softball. I bunted because it was the thing I could see I could do, but it turned out to be the correct strategic choice. People were pleased with me, and I didn't explain how it actually happened. Now that I think about it, this should be filed with some other evidence that I wasn't comprehensively disliked.

On the other hand, I was very good at serving at volley ball, and no one noticed. I would "see" a hole in the other side, put the ball there, get the point, and do it again until my hand hurt, at which point I'd miss on purpose. I think I'd get five or ten points in a row. I probably should have made a big deal about it.

As folks have been saying, there was just about no teaching of skills. (There was one teacher who explained how to get a foul shot in basket ball every time-- I don't remember all the details, but it included swinging the ball up from between your legs so that the basket rim was like a halo over it.) Considering the way gym and singing were handled (I was told to just move my mouth), I count my blessings that I'm naturally good with words and somewhat good with math-- I get the impression that kids who were bad at those would have just been written off. (I think this has improved somewhat, but not at all reliably.)

#159 ::: Nancy Lebovitz got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:32 AM:

I've been gnomed. Would their Lownesses like some dark chocolate from Ikea?

#160 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:41 AM:

Codemonkey, your description of your father and your mother reminds me of something which I've noticed. It may or may not apply to them.

I call it the anger-weakness cycle, and it can be played out between people or within a person. The angrier one person gets, the more the other person collapses, and the more that one collapses, the angrier the first person gets.

A variant I've been getting out of is a clumsiness-anger-dissociation cycle, where I'd feel disconnected from the world and be somewhat physically inept, get angry at myself, and then feel as though paying attention to the physical world just wasn't worth it, which led to not being comfortable or competent.

Noticing the cycle and realizing that it doesn't work for me has helped.

#161 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 10:03 AM:

For the record, there was one line in my no contact letter that said: I am not doing this to hurt you. I am doing this to save my life.

My mom decided to turn that into suicidal.

When I made the appointment to have lunch with my dad, there were no boundaries set. I pretty much knew what would happen, but I was hopeful that it would be otherwise. Now I know.

And here's the summary: My mom isn't crying because of me. She's crying because she wants someone to feel sorry for her, and to fix her feelings. The family dynamic says that it's my job, the way it has been for decades. So my dad came to warn me that I need to come back and start doing my job again.

I'm not going back. So that's two parents with no contact. Kinda makes it simpler, too.

As soon as we get [tax funds] back from our govt, my husband and I are changing our names. I'm very excited about this.

Thanks to everyone who gave me their take on my situation. It was really helpful. If you're just coming to this, feel free to comment. Seeing what other people think helps me enormously.

#162 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 10:38 AM:

Codemonkey @151: is the internet account in your name? If so you can just contact the ISP and say "hi, I'm moving, please transfer everything to the new property". (You might have to pay a £50 or so reconnection charge if the new place isn't hooked up to a phone line; not sure about that). If it's in your mam's name… stop the direct debit, and tell her you've done so. As others have said, it's not your responsibility once you've left.

#163 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:19 AM:

knitcrazybooknut #119, 160: well, we could all predict that your dad's reaction would be to reflect some of his wife's mental state. I was going to ask how YOU felt about his reaction but in post #160 it sounds like you have already carefully thought through what you want, and that it is a clean break entirely.

do you want to break it off with silence, or a "goodbye, I plan to have a good life" letter? YOU get to decide.

A name change leaves a public record. Depending on their sophistication, that might or might not result in you actually and completely disappearing off their radar. but you have already claimed your power by your actions in saying who will and will not be a real part of your life.

#164 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:27 PM:

Those of you posting about not liking/watching what passes for humor on situation comedies? Count me in.

Recently, I went to see Les Miz in the theater, and was plagued by the awful trailers that were shown before film. Most were so-called comedies and most of the audience in the theater WAS laughing at them...

These are the same folks that were crying by the end of the film. What I can't get my head around is how they could laugh at the trailers (which weren't funny to me) and then have enough empathy to cry over the film?

#165 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 12:42 PM:

Lila, #149: In Texas (and pretty much throughout the South) it's very common for a school to hire a football coach by pretending they're hiring an academic teacher. So he's teaching math, or English, or history, but what he's being PAID for is to coach football. It should be obvious what that does to the quality of teaching.

TexAnne seems to have encountered the opposite problem a few times -- she's mentioned schools that were hoping to hire her in her field but also expected her to coach one of the girls' sports.

A little meditation on team sports: Right Field.

Nancy, #158: If you have any interest in pursuing dance as a physical activity, there's a very active contradance culture around where you live. Contradancing has some important similarities to square dancing, in that it's all about patterns and things that "come out right" like your grand right and left. If you liked square dancing, you're likely to enjoy contradance.

knitcrazybooknut, #161: I'm delighted that you've chosen to pursue your own happiness, and sorry that it comes at the price of losing contact with the rest of your family. (Because I'm sure your mother is going to make everyone else choose sides, and guilt them into picking her.)

My break with family wasn't that dramatic. It was just that when I moved, I didn't bother to give any of them (except my parents) my new contact information, and the most interesting thing that happened was what you've already noticed -- I suddenly felt far less constrained, knowing that they weren't in a position to look over my shoulder, and that there was nobody else nearby who might spy on me for them.

#166 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @158, As for out of breath, I've recently noticed that some largish fraction of the time, I pull my chest inwards rather than letting it expand when I inhale. I haven't found out yet whether I do it when I exert myself, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Does anyone know anything about that pattern? What might cause it? What might undo it? Does it have a name?

I don't know if it has a name, but I've done it all my life too. The two things that a) made me notice it and b) helped fix it were voice lessons and yoga. Both of them involved learning to listen to my body and my breath, and as I got better at breathing fully my chest started expanding the way it's supposed to.

I think I still pull my chest in on inhales when I'm exercising, though. I'm -- enjoying isn't the right word, but appreciating? -- the discussion of gym class, but can't write about it right now because I'm on deadline at work and have negative spoons today already.

#167 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:26 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @66: I can keep an eye out for being on my own case about how I'm feeling and try to not do that.

Or try to do something different...? (Don't think of a blue horse, and all that.)

May I suggest: "notice being on my own case about how I'm feeling, and experiment with 'attending to and accepting' how I'm actually feeling"?

On praising talent vs effort: Chuck Jones reports that his mother (who spawned multiple successful artists), when shown a work by a child, would not respond to the work, but to the child's attitude about it. This makes tremendous sense, because by so doing, she was reinforcing the child's own perception and values.

Feather @78: beating the shit out of myself because obviously, I wasn't working hard enough.

This is one I've fought for much of my life—relaxing or taking care of yourself is "lazy," in my mother's GDTape. One consequence of this is that I was probably almost through my forties that I worked out that "lazy" was actually tired, and that I should maybe, I dunno, eat? Rest? Coming to this insight required taking six years off work and observing that, left to my own devices, I do not sit around all day eating ice cream. Rather, I get up, eat something, start working on a project until I get hungry, eat, work some more, eat, and go to bed. Elapsed waking time: sixteen hours. No, not lazy, I don't think.

But I don't know that I could have come to that observation while juggling outside demands on my time, such as a job.

Also: early work experience played into these tapes, as well (and I still haven't fully eradicated them). Working minimum-wage assembly line work, you're supposed to be moving—workingevery single minute from the time you clock in to the time you clock out, absent breaks and lunch.

True to form, I internalized this metric as a way of getting there first so Authority Figure wouldn't have a chance to reprimand me. (While simultaneously fighting off my rebellious impulse to get away with doing as little as possible. And feeling like crap about myself as a result. Because I'm just trying to look like I'm actually working, and I'm really a lazy, worthless sod.)

(Which, being fair to myself, actually meant angling to do work that I found more pleasant and interesting, instead of the mindnumbingly dull and stupid work my superiors thought was appropriate. I'm still fighting this dynamic at work.)

#168 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:36 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @24: As far as I can tell, I'm a lot better at knowing what I don't want than what I do want.
Quoted for personal truth.

Codemonkey @151 Incidentally, what do people here think of my mother's attitude that renting any privately-owned property is something to be Avoided At All Costs? Is it reasonable, or is it just down to her burning resentment against my dad for failing to make her a homeowner?
I don't weigh in on questions much, in large part because I feel like I'm the last person on earth that anyone would want advice from. But I feel compelled to say something here, if only to function as a Bad Example. So, here goes (with the caveat that this is from a US perspective)...

[Codemonkey] I don't want to buy a property for myself yet, both because I expect house prices to fall further, and because it may make it more difficult for me to move again (for example, to move to a higher-paid job in another part of the country).
I think that you are being reasonable and sensible. I wish that I had been similarly so. I grew up surrounded by a prevailing attitude that renting is "throwing money away", whereas owning property is "an investment". I am still living unhappily with the results of decisions that I made based on this, without due consideration for my own context. I think it's a good and important thing that you're critically examining your options, with an eye to what is best for your own future, rather than trusting to "common wisdom" or your mother's ideas (which, even if 100% right for her, are not necessarily going to be equally right for you). Sometimes, you need to trust that you best know what's right for you. Easier said than done (well do I know).

knitcrazybooknut @161:
Sympathies on the situation, but congratulations, for setting the boundaries, enforcing them, and being able to recognize the patterns. Go you! :)

#169 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 01:51 PM:

knitcrazybooknut @139: Sympathies for how this went. I know this is post-decision, but still, you asked for comments and I'd written this already, so: I think in your place I'd say (assuming your Dad contacts you again and wants to meet up again) something like: "I would like to continue to have contact with you. However, I ask that you respect my boundaries, one of which is that I am not prepared to discuss my relationship with, or lack of contact with, my mother. If you can't respect my boundaries then regretfully I'm going to have to stop having contact with you."

Re. gym/sports. My school was really all about the team sports. Since I wasn't good at any of those (under-age, inability to follow ball with eye, unpopular so always chosen last anyway), most such classes were to be endured. I was okay (not brilliant, but okay) at gymnastics, but that wasn't a core activity. I was reasonably good at the 1500 m/mile, but we only did athletics in summer, and there wasn't any coaching regarding running better/faster. I had to wait until university to try sports I was really interested in (judo, archery) and until the last couple of years to discover long-distance running (my goal for this year is to complete 5 x 50 mile races). I look at the coaching that the juniors in the other local club are getting (we tend to attract older runners doing 10K and longer; they cater for the youngsters) and I wonder what I might have managed with a bit of encouragement and training at the same age.

the invisible one @150: I wish somebody had taught me how to climb the ropes properly - I really wanted to but...

#170 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 02:52 PM:

All the way back to Cynthia @ #14:

One site I've found helpful for cleaning/decluttering is Unfuck Your Habitat. The author offers lots of tips and instructions for everything from light situations to dire, and emphasizes the importance of taking breaks. She's very big on encouragement.

She also takes note of folks whose mental and/or physical issues may impact their ability to clean. As she says, her techniques don't work for everyone, but I've found them quite helpful.

#171 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 03:15 PM:

Bricklayer @94: but still! I won! Sort of. Not that it's about winning,

Oh, I dunno. Expressing a preference and setting a boundary, irrespective of the result, and especially when it's a scary thing to do, sounds like a win to me.

Tom Whitmore @99: there are times when I'd like to be proud of myself. I sometimes manage it, but it's usually for things that others don't even notice.

There was a time, about fifteen years ago, when I caught myself feeling proud about something I'd achieved (some minor hack to streamline some project I was working on), and then heard the thought, "Well, yeah, but $AuthorityFigure wouldn't be impressed." Then I did a mental double-take. "Well, I am impressed and, you know? That's really quite sufficient. My opinion of my achievement is at least as important as $AuthorityFigure's. It's okay if I feel pleased with myself about this."

Don't know what it was that caused this particular instance to float into awareness, or what had shifted inside of me that I was able to own my own opinion about it. But ever since then, I've been much more conscientious about valuing my own work, and my own opinion of my work, and the progress I've made in improving the quality of my work has accelerated noticeably ever since.

What would it take for it to be enough that you notice?

AnotherQuietOne @123: catalogue of all the Great Vortices of Psychological Suck to which I am susceptible

Brrrr ::shiver:: Yeah. Those. The last two are particularly ... um, familiar.

TexAnne @125: I've been known to ask my students the following questions: Was this task easy, medium, or difficult? Is it getting easier as we go along? Are we going the right speed? IS IT FUN?

Referring back to Chuck Jones, again, he reports on of his (most beloved) art teachers as using that last as his sole feedback. He'd walk by and observe the student and the artwork, and ask, "Having fun?" This, by implication, being the pointer to the optimal convergence of ability, effort, and outcome.

#172 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 03:25 PM:

Jacque: You're right, it IS about the win. What it's NOT IN ANY WAY about is beating someone else, most especially my life partner. Which is what I meant. But not what I said. :->

#173 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 03:27 PM:

On the topic of gym classes and the like, I'd like to mention a good experience I had. I was just barely a teenager, and homeschooled; for several years my main organized gym-class equivalent was the local youth recreational soccer organization. (This seems to have been a thing that a really large number of kids in the local area did -- the relevant web page says 600 kids -- and it meant a couple of practices a week and games on Saturdays.)

I wasn't very good. In particular, as a warmup before class the teacher would send us all to do a run around the field, and I'd get winded and have to start walking a third of the way around.

Then, one year I had a really excellent coach named Apos, who I think was taking a break from coaching in a more competitive league. His response to this was to start jogging along beside me and encourage me to keep going and push myself just a little harder -- lots of "you can do this!" I have two clear memories from that year; one of them is him jogging along beside me, huffing and puffing because he was half jogging-in-place as he encouraged me, and the other is towards the end of the year being at the front of the group running around the last corner of the field.

#174 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 03:50 PM:

Lurking away here. I appreciate the effort/ability/outcome subthread, since I've been running into that for a long time. I've written up several responses but then deleted them. I keep doing that, but it helps to write them even if I don't post them.

Re: alarms and apps from last thread: Those tended to not work for me because I was treating them like magic. "This will make me do the things I'm not doing!" Now, I've set my ipod to beep every day ten and fifteen minutes before I'm supposed to take my 10pm insulin. My blood glucose meter also has a "reminder" function that I'm making use of. These are helping me stay on track, but only because I'm treating them like I would the oven timer when I'm making tea. They can help me not lose track of time, but in the end it's up to me to do the actual work.

Re: that vague diabetes-related health scare from last thread: Went to specialist appointment, had the first of several unpleasant-but-necessary treatments. (I'm being vague because my impulse is to share everything, and I know that it's bound to hit someone's triggers. So, vague it is.) Still haven't told my dad about it. Mom said it's up to me whether or not to tell him, but I do think it'd be better to be open about it. We've kept stuff from him in the past because we could guess (and didn't like) how he'd react, and it just made the eventual reveal worse. Admittedly, the previous scenarios involved hiding pets that he'd forbidden, or hiding the fact that my mom was taking martial arts lessons that he disapproved of, where this involves hiding a medical situation he'll be worried/disappointed by. So not exactly the same. But it's still going to put further strain on things and reinforce that it's Him vs. Us (mom and I in this case, mom and my brother and I with the pets and martial arts).

Basically the only reason to keep this a secret is that he'd get hlepy. He'd deliver a prolonged "I told you so*" with a heavy side of "This is why you NEED to MANAGE your DIABETES". He'd end up making me feel bad and like I'm a total failure, intentionally or not. I'm being hard enough on myself, I don't need his help. I'm going to need to put down some boundaries and make sure he stays on the other side.

*not the "HA I was RIGHT and you were WRONG, wow you're so stupid!" kind, the "oh my god I was RIGHT you should have LISTENED to me, this is terrible!" kind, with worrying.

I had the first appointment with the new counsellor about two weeks ago. It went okay, I didn't take any notes so I was kind of all over the place. This time I've got a few things to show her so maybe that'll go better. Incidentally, I'm wondering something. I find that I'm much more willing to believe compliments or take advice when it's not specifically directed at me. Last thread (I think) I linked an advice blog called Calming Manatee, which is a good example of what I mean by advice that's not directed at me. So, what I was wondering is, does anyone else experience something similar? Like, if someone said to you "You deserve to feel happy", or something, you'd kind of brush it off or outright reject it. But, if you saw someone else describe a situation much like yours, and someone told them "You deserve to feel happy", you'd maybe go "oh, I guess that could apply to me, then". My reasoning is that, because framing it that way means I've sort of come to that conclusion on my own, I'm way more accepting of it. Does anyone know what I mean?

Oh, side note about the counsellor. She called me "an intelligent, ambitious young lady," and didn't question my correcting it to "person". Not sure if I want to get into pronouns but it could happen.

#175 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 04:07 PM:

Jacque -- What would it take for it to be enough that you notice? A different definition of "enough". Which I've developed, in some cases, but not as a default.

#176 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 04:27 PM:

Phenicious, you are reminding me of something my friend Susan McCarthy ("I volunteer at a wildlife rescue center, one which specializes in aquatic birds. Sometimes volunteers and staff apologize to the birds.") wrote in her lovely book Becoming a Tiger which is about how baby animals learn, in the wild, the skills they need. A lot of the time, animals learn by example. One baby watches adult A teaching a different baby, and absorbs information that way. But I don't know a name for it; I should reread the book.

#177 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 04:54 PM:

Bricklayer @131: Trigger Warning: Gym Class.

I was of the just-post-Eisenhower generation, werein school gym class (even grade school) was modeled on Army boot camp. Plus having a late-August birthday. Our "play"ground featured an obstacle course. My performance in gym class (and my subsequent assumptions about my physical ability) are left as an exercise for the reader.

Lee @132: there is a HUGE American cultural meme that Effort In -> Outcome Out

Except when it's "you should be able to create fully-formed masterworks on your first try, as Athena was born fully formed from the forehead of Zeus" That's the trap I fell into, wherein if a work took any effort at all, I had failed and might as well give up completely. Gladwell's 10K was a huge breakthrough for me. "What? I get to fail? What, I have to fail this much in order to succeed? Well! That's entirely different!" Rough drafts; what a concept!

but if the cards just keep falling against you

Or, if someone stole the goddamned deck.... (Me? Angry? Little bit, yeah....)

It can't be that it's not good enough, because you WORKED on it

The demonstration that hard work may be necessary, but is not necessarily sufficient, that really sank in for me was once, at a convention masquerade, someone came on with a cloak that had "[many thousands] of feathers, each sewn by hand" (so the voice-over told us) which looked like nothing so much as a ratty bath robe. You just knew that the maker had sweated blood to make this thing but had...not paid sufficient attention to the result of the work.

knitcrazybooknut @139: "...If you could communicate to her that you're not going to do that, it would make my life a lot easier."

Me to Dad, "Please tell mom, and use these exact words, please: 'Give me a fckng break!'" With a side of, "Dad, tell mom: "Get, you know, a life? Of your own? A rental, if necessary?"

And following on Dave Harmon: "Dad, making your life easier is not my job."1

But, you know, polite-like.

Ross @144: If she were actually worried about you she'd apologize and come to you herself. This is just concern trolling.

*Ding!* QFT.

And Lee's @145 suggests that the vehemence of my reaction is perhaps not as out of proportion as I initially worried. Which suggests that you could usefully leave off the "polite-like" part of my recommendation. If you don't just chop him off at the knees, which would be entirely appropriate.

Nancy Lebovitz @158:
>>>As far as I can tell, I'm a lot better at knowing what I don't want than what I do want.

>>YES. This is another neon marker.

>Neon marker for what?

Sorry: marker for survival skill vs thriv(al?) skill.

The internal break is that being happy from something (especially if it takes some effort or will be useful for the long haul) doesn't motivate me to do more of it.

Oh. That sucks. When I'm doing soemthing that makes me happy, I have trouble stopping. Different kettle of greeps altogether.

I wonder if the "long haul" part is an active disincentive?

1 knitcrazybooknut @161: Oh! Pardonnez-moi! It is your job. Well!</ShirleyMclaine> Sheesh. Some people's children. And I don't mean you.

May I congratulate you on the finalization of your divorce?

#178 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 04:59 PM:

Phenicious @174 But, if you saw someone else describe a situation much like yours, and someone told them "You deserve to feel happy", you'd maybe go "oh, I guess that could apply to me, then". My reasoning is that, because framing it that way means I've sort of come to that conclusion on my own, I'm way more accepting of it.

The other thing that might factor in is, if you don't expect other people to give you truthful or useful feedback, then you'd not put much faith in what they told you directly. But if it was advice to someone else, then not only have you done the thinking to conclude that it applies to you, but also you know that they aren't just saying it to manipulate you in some way since they aren't speaking to you at all.

Sorry to hear about medical issues related to the diabetes. Your dad has a record of being hlepy at best, so it makes perfect sense to me that you don't want to tell him about it.

#179 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 05:10 PM:

On football coaches as teachers: Lee, I'd suggest it's not limited to the South. I grew up in the Midwest (old Northwest Territories, not the Great Plains) and had to endure a year of it in high school.

I love history, but the worst class I've ever taken was the history class taught by the school's football coach. He'd been coaching for the school since before it existed as a co-ed entity (with the boys' Catholic school that eventually merged with the girls' one) - so, about 60 years by the time I got there. It was his one class that he taught.

He insulted the class regularly, appointed a student to fill in his grade book for him (who he called his 'squaw' - if it'd been me I would not have stood for that), and was generally not a very good teacher. After a while I decided if he didn't care, neither did I - anyway, thanks to curriculum changes, I'd learned it all the year before.

In greater detail.

I slept through most of the second semester, and he didn't care because I was still passing his 10-point quizzes. (I know this because he said so; one of my friends was sleeping through the class and failing.)

Basically, it would really be helpful if coaches who teach could also be teachers who coach.

#180 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 05:32 PM:

Codemonkey, what I mean by moving somewhere else is that you have the resources to do so. You can afford a bad rental. You can afford something imperfect. You can do this, and if it goes wrong, you can still do it. You don't need to worry about controlling everything, though it is reassuring to do so. Whatever string of choices moves you to a better place is exactly the right string.

#181 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:15 PM:

Codemonkey: I doubt pre-payment meters will be standard unless you're in a very grotty area - as Sica says, leaving without paying bills is part of what the deposit covers. Really, in the medium term, I think you need to be looking to buy your own place (since you have adequate finances to do so, and with the sort of deposit you could put down on a mortgage, your mortgage payments would be less than rent payments). But in the circumstances, I'd say that renting first would be sensible. As for seeing the place in the light - it doesn't really matter, unless you're really hung up about it, for renting. You've grown up locally, you know which areas are okay and which you'd prefer to avoid. Additional hint: if there are locks or key-locking bolts at the top and bottom of the doors (on the outside) as well as a Chubb/Mortice and a Yale in the middle, chances are that burglary is a problem!*

Sica appears to have better info. on this than me - I was lucky enough to go straight from rent-free "renting" a room in a relative's house to buying my own flat.

When you do get towards buying, remember that, unless it's so perfect you're going to want to stay there for ever, you need to consider resale when you move. Which means choosing the sensible, if slightly boring, flat over the quirky "well, I like it, but it's been on the market for 18 months and it's going to take a lot of luck to find someone else who likes it" one!

Phenicious @174: But, if you saw someone else describe a situation much like yours - there are a lot of us having those reactions on these threads. Sometimes, just seeing something from the outside can help - and yes, realising that their situation is like yours' and they're deserving of praise/sympathy/understanding - hey, that means...

And well done re. the timers. That's a good combination of the "help me not to lose track of time" and you, as you say, doing the actual work. You're not the only one who has to work out things like that. To give a really basic, unimportant example, I have to do it over boiling the kettle: turn the kettle on then stay in the kitchen and do something else (tidy, wash up, do balancing exercises) until it boils, then pour the water onto the tea. Sound minor, and it is in the grand scheme of things, but otherwise I can boil the kettle (UK, so it's electric and turns itself off when it boils) four or five times before actually making the tea. Which is irritating, and wastes electricity.

*One place I went to see when i was looking to buy, not only had all that door hardware, but there was a notice in the shared entrance area asking everyone to please remember to lock their doors properly because there had been several burglaries recently. The estate agent took one look at that and knew she wasn't going to make a sale. But we went through the motions anyway.

#182 ::: dcb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:17 PM:

Word of Power? Sorry, we ate all the pancakes (they were very nice and for once I managed to mix un-lumpy batter).

#183 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:38 PM:

@Phenicious: I had the same problem with timers-as-magic. Oddly enough, the meds I'm on now helped me to actually want to do what I know I'm supposed to, at the time I set to do it. So when I hear the timer, my thought process isn't "just a few more minutes of %hobby," it's "Well, time to work on %important_thing!"

@tamiki: Ugh. I've had "teachers" like that. I'm glad to be a teacher now, just so I'll never be taught by a glorified coach again.

@dcb: I guess I should be grateful to have a small apartment and an old-fashioned whistling kettle, then--I've never forgotten that I had water on to boil, because it reminds me, very shrilly and loudly! One of many reasons I'm very very glad to have a stove.

#184 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 06:48 PM:

tamiki, #179: Oh, I'm sure it happens outside the South too; I just don't think it's as widespread. High school football counts as a religion in Texas.

What you ran into sounds more like a different thing I encountered once -- the teacher who has just run way past when he should have retired. At least the one I had was the "nice doddering old man" type, not the "mean as a snake" one that you got. I would also bet my betting nickel that his assistant coach(es) were doing most or all of the work by then, but the coach was too popular with the parents and alumni to be pushed out.

Codemonkey: Just as a datapoint, when my family moved from Detroit to Nashville, we rented an apartment on a 6-month lease while my parents looked for a suitable house. It's a reasonable and common short-term arrangement.

#185 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:01 PM:

@Lee: HS football is damn-near a religion in AL, too. The one time I can think of when my mother went with "what is the right thing to do?" over "what will the neighbors think?" was when "No Pass, No Play" was implemented. The coaches were complaining because some of their star players were getting F's on tests and thus having to sit out games. The principal asked my mother if she couldn't just give the students in question C's or D's, because playing football and maybe qualifying for a football scholarship was just so important to these boys.

My mother said, "I don't give them anything. They earned those F's, and if they want D's, then they can pay attention in my class and study and actually earn those D's, because they aren't doing anything to earn them now." As she explained to me later: "My job is to teach kids math, not to baby them and pretend they've learned something they haven't."

I don't consider it a coincidence that she quit teaching at that school at the end of the school year.

#186 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:52 PM:

I actually missed out on a great history course in high school because it was taught by a guy I thought of as a coach. Turned out he was both a great coach and a great teacher, and had, I believe, gotten his foot in the door at the school by getting an athletic job first.

But yeah, at most schools that's not the way to bet.

#187 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 07:58 PM:

Lee: I'm pretty sure both of those were the case with the Teacher From Hell. He was billed as ~the winningest coach in the state~, but the football team lost more than it won (in fact, the marching band brought home more trophies). He finally retired after my senior year.

(Other teachers who overstayed their welcome: Actually, I think he was one of the assistant coaches in question. He was a member of the school's very first graduating class, and didn't change his lesson plan once in 40-some years, as far as I know. We got sheets he'd mimeographed originally. He taught English, so it was both a blessing and a curse, really - but when someone who graduated 15 years before you can look at your assigned reading and say 'it must be semester exam time,' you might consider shaking things up.)

#188 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 09:06 PM:

I actually had a pretty good experience with a coach: he taught tenth grade geometry, and the first day he told us "I was hired for geometry not volleyball, so if you think this is a blow-off class because I'm a coach think again." And he actually was a good geometry teacher.

#189 ::: Cynthia W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2013, 11:54 PM:

Quill@170 - thanks for the recommendation. UFYH looks refreshingly less cheery than FlyLady, who has been my staple go-to for a while. I find I just can't face the excessive optimism some days. Things have been falling apart this month because the shoulder in my dominant arm is painful and not very functional - not so much that I couldn't do the housework, but enough that I am very unmotivated to do it, and then try to beat myself into doing it, and get into the whole panic spiral.

If the shoulder gets straightened out (which looks hopeful, MRI shows bursitis in a different spot than they were trying to treat, so a shift in focus may fix things), then I need to get motivated to start catching things back up, and a new system to follow or person to give advice is usually a good way to go.

I know the coach/teacher thing is common, but it seems very weird to me. My school district was academically focused to the near exclusion of anything else (our football team was pitiful). Not to say that all of our teachers were wonderful - some were outright abusive - but they all knew their subject areas, and were capable of basic teaching.

#190 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:09 AM:

Cynthia: UFYH has made me the kind of person who'll wash dinner dishes at midnight, because I'm up and might as well, instead of the kind who leaves it until the next morning.

Usually, at least.

In short, it's an awesome system (for me; I know at least one commenter here said in a previous thread it doesn't work for them). I hope it works well for you!

#191 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:22 AM:

On the mention of setting timers to do things: I do have rather a problem with the "just a few more minutes of this thing I'm doing" reaction to the timer going off. And the real problem was that I'd then turn off the timer while intending to get up in a moment and do the thing the timer was for, and then find myself still there quite a while later.

What seemed to work for that for me was applied Zeno: If I'm not going to immediately get up, I reset the timer -- but the rule is no setting the timer for more than half the time it was previously set for. I can't get more than twice the original time no matter how many times I reset it.

#192 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:27 AM:

Thanks to everyone for your responses. I really do freeze in lieu of having an emotion. Then later, I start to shake, and stammer, and feel. During the meal with my dad, I really got to observe that process up close. He lit into me, not yelling, just warning, with that look that says you're not doing what I want you to, and didn't I tell you how dangerous that is? And my response was just go along to get through it. survive.

Sarcasm on: I can't imagine why I would need to lie about anything ever in my life! (off with the sarcasm) Seriously, my husband was shocked when I told him I lied a lot growing up. It was instinctive. When I was eight, I started helping my brother and sister (3 and 5) cover up when they screwed up, so mom and dad wouldn't be mad.

A friend of mine pointed out that if my mom is indeed having such a visceral reaction to my letter, then it not only validates my sending of it, but it validates the reason I needed to send it.

I'm really done with my parents. I hope to maintain relationships with my brother and sister. But if not, I can live without them. They're the ones who needed me, that's for damn sure. Done and done.

The irs money can't come fast enough! Want to change my name NOW!

#193 ::: Neutrino ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 12:35 AM:

"Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym."

First part isn't very true in my experience. Second part is, and probably should have scare quotes around the second 'teach'.

#194 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 01:17 AM:

knitcrazybooknut: I had the same kind of realization when I sent my letter. If they had actually loved me and wanted me to be happy, they wouldn't have responded to my letter with a death threat.

(When part of your therapy homework is "clean your gun and ensure it's in good working order" it's about to be a strange week. I saved that homework note, as a reminder.)

#195 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 04:37 AM:

Last night, as I was approaching the end of my Scrabble game with my mother, she said she didn't want a second game as she had a bit of a headache. She suggested playing Guess Who instead -- originally we were going to play until one person had won 5 rounds, but she later decided to quit once person had won 3 rounds -- I suspected she was tired.

As I was putting the games away, I asked her "are you not wanting to play more, because you're tired after taking Helen (my sister) to the hospital?" (She'd been very badly behaved there, as both my parents had informed me.) My mother responded "It's not me that isn't wanting to play more, but you! I can see you're itching to get back on that damn computer -- dunno why when you spend all day on one!"

Is this an example of gaslighting (in that she said she didn't want to play more games with me while playing, but claimed it was my fault once I was putting the games away), or is that something else?

EJ @161: Is the internet account in your name? If so you can just contact the ISP and say "hi, I'm moving, please transfer everything to the new property". (You might have to pay a £50 or so reconnection charge if the new place isn't hooked up to a phone line; not sure about that). If it's in your mam's name… stop the direct debit, and tell her you've done so. As others have said, it's not your responsibility once you've left.

If I'd left home last year then I would have done exactly that (the account is in my name, by the way). The issue is a connection at my parents' house is still needed for my sister's iPad, but I may not want to pay for two internet accounts (it would depend on how my cash flow works out when I start living independently).

#196 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 07:21 AM:

Brooks, 191: Why didn't I think of that? Thank you!

#197 ::: TexAnne is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 07:24 AM:

I thanked Brooks exuberantly, forgetting that such things are dangerous.

#198 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 08:06 AM:

Codemonkey, I would put that on the gaslighting spectrum. More than that, I would say it's a perfect example of your mother's way of changing things around to suit herself.

Your sister's internet connection is not solely your job. If you spontaneously combusted tomorrow, it would not be your job the day after. If you leave the house for good tomorrow, it is still not your job the day after. Your family will figure out the internet or they will not.

(I am not sure why so many of my examples are 'imagine you are suddenly dead, what are you expected to do?' these days. I suppose because you can't argue with dead. Please let me know if this kind of example isn't working for you.)

#199 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 08:25 AM:

knitcrazybooknut @192: Oh. You were right, cut off NOW, no further chances (I wasn't sure how far along that line he was when I suggested "final warning"). Good luck on the money coming through quickly and the name change going smoothly.

Brooks Moses @191: Yes, I get that too. That's why the "stay in the kitchen" rule with the kettle on. Otherwise I hear it click off but I still think "just get this done then..." So 30 minutes later I go switch the kettle on again - and repeat if I'm not careful.

Codemonkey @195: I agree with Diatryma. It's gaslighting / turning it around to make it your fault.

Re. the internet connection: it's really NOT your responsibility. IF you choose to pay for their connection, as a gift to them, that's your choice. But you are not obliged to do so.

Another sub-topic entirely, shared in the hope it will be useful to someone: "Concerned" vs "nosey". My relationship with my mother has improved in recent years: as my self esteem has improved, I've been better able to cope with her, and to simply say "no", or to make non-committal noises without either agreeing with her or arguing (my husband taught me how to do that), and it's become harder for her to upset me. Also, I recently organised a big-number surprise birthday party for her, and she's amazed at my organisational ability, which I've obviously (!) inherited from her, so that's bumped me up in her esteem. (She is good at organising, but I think I learned by observing other people and by organising other things).

Anyway, after the toast and the singing of "Happy Birthday", she said a few words, including saying outright that she was a nosey person and it had "nearly killed her" that we were planning something and nobody would tell her what. [Clue: it's supposed to be a surprise - you're not meant to know]. Anyway, that was a real light bulb moment for me. You see, one of my problems growing up (and continuing after I reached adulthood) was that she would pry into things. If I told her a little, she wanted to know more, and she would then always tell me (unasked) how she would have dealt with it much better than I had, and give hlepy advice which she would push for me to promise to follow (she knew that if I promised, I'd keep my promise). All these years, she's explained how it's natural for her to want to know everything, she's my mother and it's just that she's concerned about me. Now she's admitted that actually, she's nosey. It's a light coming on from an unexpected direction, which totally changes my perspective.

#200 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 09:06 AM:

Codemonkey @195:

It's possible that it's gaslighting. To me, though, it feels more like she's charging you for a trip to Abilene that you didn't order.

Basically, it sounds like she came to the conclusion that you didn't want to play any more, and therefore declared that she didn't want to play any more in order to be accommodating. That's the Abilene aspect.

But because she was doing something that she thought you wanted, she feels put out and angry. She resents the feeling that you don't want to play with her, even though she doesn't quite know where that feeling comes from.

The classic Aspie solution to a one-off situation like that is to make a deal: "If I don't want to play, I'll tell you." But that requires trust that that message is acceptable. And it doesn't work when there's a whole network issues and resentments in the relationship; there are only so many deals you can strike before the whole relationship feels like an example from a contracts class in law school.

#201 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 09:30 AM:

@Codemonkey: That is exactly what we mean by gaslighting. She is pretending that what actually happened (her saying she was tired and didn't want to play much) didn't really happen, in favor of a fictionalized account that makes her look good, or at least Better Than You. That is not normal behavior, even in this lighter, not-about-important-things form.

My father engaged in this same sort of gaslighting-lite. He would go along with the truth, except when you proved that he had recently (i.e., within the past year) been wrong about something. Then, when you explained the actual facts of the matter, he would say, "That's what I've been saying the whole time; you just misunderstood!" Um, no. You were vehemently insisting %wrong_thing, not %right_thing. We heard you. Repeatedly.

On the plus side, since Mom didn't go along with this, and nobody else we knew did it, we understood that this is not how you're supposed to behave.

#202 ::: colin ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 09:33 AM:

tamiki@11 : ""It's not like it's a Real Job anyway." Shut up, tape, if I can be paid for it, it's a real job."

Personally, I'm not sure that "anything you can get paid for" is a "real job". "Real jobs" generally involve showing up consistently at a predictable place at predictable times, doing what someone else tells you to do, and getting paid predictable amounts of money. There are lots of ways to make a living that don't fit that description, including many of the best (such as being a freelancer and working for yourself).

I'm wary of sounding didactic in a DFD thread, but I know so many people who work "real jobs" and hate them, and have just never been able to imagine that life could be different. So I guess I'm here to register a "go you!" for the idea that you're taking the leap into the less safe, but possibly more fulfilling, world of self-directed freelancing, rather than getting the illusion of security from a "real job". You aren't ducking out of some "adult" obligation -- you're doing something braver, as far as I'm concerned.

#203 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 09:55 AM:

codemonkey @195, I think abi nailed it @200. What you described is, essentially, her having a conversation with the image of you in her head instead of directly with the real you, and then expecting real-you to follow the script. Image-of-you is tired of playing, so she agreeably cuts the game short, and then real-you acts like it was her idea, and she's offended.

IMO huge amounts of communication dysfunction happen in this pattern even in basically functional relationships. We adjust what we do based on what we think the other person wants. Which works reasonably well as long as (a) the give and take is more-or-less equal, instead of one person always doing the adjusting, and (b) we are right about what the other person wants. Trouble comes when we get the wants wrong, either because we've misinterpreted from the beginning or because they have changed what they want. Real trouble comes when we get the other person's wants wrong and are unwilling to correct even when told so, or when the other person develops an expectation that we'll mind read and always get it right.

#204 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:09 AM:

I think I need a reality check. Several months ago, in the course of my mental scab-picking, I hit an artery. I've been hesitant to bring this up because it's not family-related, exactly. Except for the part where I had no-one, growing up, that I could feel safe talking to about it. And I worry about whether it's triggery, but that's part of the problem—I just don't know. I can't seem to think clearly, and my mind flips back and forth. I will think I know the answer, and then I will not be able to see it again. The tip of the iceberg is this:

If you took your pre-teen (10 or 11ish) daughter to a dermatologist for a mole on her scalp, would you think it strange if the dermatologist, after checking the scalp thing, told her that now he wanted to "see the rest of her moles"?

#205 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:27 AM:

eep @204, I don't think that's out of line. At least it's common with adults, that if there's one questionable spot or mole it's best to have a whole body check.

I will soon be taking my teen daughter to have a mole on her face checked, and such a request would not surprise me. I would, though, want the dermatologist to explain the reason and to be understanding and not scornful of a girl's body privacy issues. And, while the request itself doesn't seem strange, it could be carried out in strange ways.

#206 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:41 AM:

eep @204, IANAD (though I did got to med school for several years), but I don't find it unusual per se either. In fact I'd find the dermatologist remiss in their duty if they didn't ask about or check any other suspicious moles.

Basically, what OtterB said. There are certainly ways in which such an inspection could be requested or carried out inappropriately, but the request in and of itself doesn't raise a red flag for me.

#207 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:50 AM:

eep @204: As an adult, I went to a dermatologist to have some moles looked at.

He asked me, "do you come from a mole-y family?"

(My answer was "No, I come from two," but that's not important.)

So I see the question as being relevant and important. I find the phrasing clever; the question "do you have other moles?" might get an unthinking and inaccurate "no."

#208 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 11:36 AM:

Codemonkey, #195: That can be either gaslighting or flexible-reality behavior. The difference is subtle, and more about motivation than effect; gaslighting is deliberate, and the person doing it is fully aware that they're lying. Someone with flexible reality may not even be aware that they're making self-contradictory statements -- reality is just whatever they choose it to be at any given moment. Also, abi has a good third alternative with the trip-to-Abilene suggestion.

If this happens again, you might try pointing out that she said she didn't want to play, and see if what comes back is, "You know I didn't, why are you lying to me?" (gaslighting), "No, I didn't!" (flexible reality), or "I only said that because I knew YOU didn't want to play!" (trip to Abilene).

But it doesn't matter at all in terms of the effect on you, which is to make you scratch your head and wonder if you're the crazy one.

dcb, #199: "Nosiness masked as concern" is extremely common in people who push other people's boundaries. Also, that "you tell them a little bit, and they push for more" behavior, which may also manifest in refusal to accept compromise -- you give a little out of courtesy, and they immediately push for the next level.

colin, #202: I disagree with your argument, but I think it's mostly a matter of semantics. What you are calling a "real job" is what I would call a "9-to-5" or "day job"*. tamiki is right in saying that self-employment (which includes freelance work) is just as "real" a job as any other kind. (Note: part of my objection is to the "REAL [x]" formation in and of itself, which has issues that go way beyond what you said.)

eep, #204: Agreeing with OtterB and Pendrift that the request itself is not out of band. Do you feel up to telling us what happened next and/or why this is so triggery for you?

* "Day job" has other connotations for some people, but I used to use it to describe my work even though I had no avocation, because I never felt that my work defined my life. "9-to-5" means any job with a schedule, no matter what shift or how irregular.

#209 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 11:40 AM:

CodeMonkey @195: Re Internet-- My Inlaws (in NI) have pretty cheap broadband through a third party provider (TalkTalk maybe?). I'm thinking that it's ~ £10 a month with a wifi router. It's not great internet maybe 6/1 on a good day, It felt pretty slow when I was there, but it's good enough for facetime.

#210 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 03:16 PM:

colin: Lee hit closer to what I had in mind - the work has worth whether you leave the house at a pre-set time every day to do it or not. I was trying to redefine 'real' in the context of the tape I've got playing about it.

Thanks for the encouragement, though; it's much appreciated.

#211 ::: Win ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 04:58 PM:

[content note: unwanted touching]

eep@204: I can't seem to think clearly, and my mind flips back and forth. I will think I know the answer, and then I will not be able to see it again.

FWIW, I had a very similar experience (a doctor saying a breast exam was necessary when I was about fourteen) and the feeling of flipping back and forth sounds very familiar. I was doing it even at the time, with my head going round and round between "People my age don't get breast cancer, and breasts have nothing to do with asthma," and "He's my sister's boss, he's got to be okay." I finally came to the conclusion that I would listen to his breathing when he was doing the exam and see if I heard him sounding turned on. (He didn't, and I never said anything until decades later.) It literally never occurred to me that it was wrong regardless to put a kid through that kind of anxiety, and that I should have been able to discuss anything that made me that uncomfortable, even if it was a misunderstanding.

#212 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2013, 10:11 PM:

Codemonkey @ #152: It's perfectly normal and sensible here in Canada to rent from a private owner, whether a corporation or a person. Public housing has a different application process and usually a long waiting list. Moving on, lots of people find job-hunting difficult and demotivating, so I can definitely see how your father could have had his motivation sapped enough over time to just give up, especially with the economy the last few years and living in a very negative emotional environment, where he'll always do something wrong according to somebody. After enough of that, you wonder why you bother trying at all. As well as needing help over that part, he probably also would have benefited from a career counselor, for help with his searching technique and resume, and maybe courses to develop job-related skills.

Phenicious @ #174: I also find that it's easier to recognize things as they apply to others, and then apply them to me. It's the deeply-installed "you are worthless/undeserving" tape that causes that effect, I think. Talking about other people lets me approach it sidewise enough to see I need/deserve something, though I find it is still very hard to *ask* for the thing after that.

knitcrazybooknut @ #192: congratulations on divorcing your parents! They sound like they deserve it. People are forever telling me that I should either confront or quit seeing my mother, but I have not been brave enough to do either. Instead we have mostly-minimal contact and I have at least one semi-valid reason to not change it. I have been opting instead for changing the rules of the game on her, by being harder to push around and predict, and it does help. The question is, does it help anywhere near as much as it would to just call it done?

Codemonkey's question about "am I being gaslighted" is turning out educational, because I would have put that down as dishonest/manipulative somehow, but not necessarily gaslighting. Aside from tiredness, I can think of a not-bad reason to stop playing -- she might not have been doing well in the game and wanted to stop rather than be a sore loser or spend more time on it. I have no idea whether she originally thought Codemonkey wanted to stop playing, but chances are good that she did want to stop, or felt she ought to. Then when asked why, she wasn't ready with a non-embarrassing polite answer, and ended up choosing one that let her get in a disapproving dig. Guaranteed she resents and possibly hates him spending so much time on the computer.

#213 ::: Samatha Cooper ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 12:06 AM:

I am putting my name in the clear, because I cannot remember to use the right email so I'm just going to do this. I had been writing in this threads as "SlightAfraid_butStillAwed" but geez, why did I pick something so long, anyway?

Neutrino #61: I conflated LMB and Elizabeth Moon on the emergency medical and military experience. I'm not sure of LMB's actual background, but I am very glad myself I got to tell her how much that scene helped. (I've never gotten to attend an Elizabeth Moon signing at a con).

There. Somewhat straight. As close as I'll be getting anyway.
Something about writing in these subjects always seems to scramble my thinker a bit.
Big surprise. Not.

#214 ::: colin ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 07:38 AM:

Lee@208, Tamiki@210: I think my point was not so much that it matters exactly how you define "real job", but that I've found it to be harmful to divide the world up into "real" jobs and (presumably) "fake" jobs. The kind of people who worry about whether you've got a "real job" yet are putting their anxieties onto you, and you don't need to accept them. I think it's better to spend my emotional energies not on worrying whether a given job is "real" or not, but on reminding myself that it really doesn't matter. Either way gets you through to the end of the day, but one is more liberating long-term.

But most important, of course, is that tamiki is *taking* this step she's wanted to, and I think we all agree on that.

#215 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:00 AM:

Thank you for the replies. It's really helpful to have some outside perspective in trying to untangle my head.

Lee @208 Agreeing with OtterB and Pendrift that the request itself is not out of band. Do you feel up to telling us what happened next and/or why this is so triggery for you?
This may sound weird or silly, but I really appreciate the way you phrased that in such a way that even my worst inner demons haven't been able to twist it around. Anyways... sorry for the slow response. I have a wall of text that I'm still trying to make into something coherent, trying to find some kind of balance between making no sense and TMI, trying to appease the censors in my head. :/

#216 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 11:57 AM:

colin @214: Either way gets you through to the end of the day, but one is more liberating long-term.

I think part of the point is, "more liberating" for whom. My read of tamiki's @11 is that's her reclaiming the term, and placing it in the context that worked for her. Tamiki's definition (and redefinition) clearly matters to tamiki.

Whereas you find the division between "real" and "not real" to be harmful to you, which is a somewhat different discussion.

This is one of those situations where mileage innevitably varies.

(I get a little twitchy when Alice redefines Bob's terms for him because of Alice's own twitches.)

eep @215: trying to find some kind of balance between making no sense and TMI

If it helps any, I'm in favor of TMI. :-)

#217 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 01:00 PM:

eep #204:

My husband and everyone else in his family has had suspicious moles, and has described a variety of personally-awkward but professional and medically-necessary checks at the dermatologist's. So the question, on its own, wouldn't surprise or disturb me. Of course there's a world of body language information that I don't have which could affect that answer.

But I'd probably ask my daughter if she wanted me and/or a nurse to be in the room while the doctor checked, depending on where I knew other moles to be, and would ask the doctor to be very specific about what he needed to check and how, so that my daughter could identify what was expected for the next few minutes. Particularly if she didn't want me in there.

#218 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:04 PM:

in re 'Real Job': up here, we have the expression "joe-job"*. It's not the job you love or enjoy, or the job you ever pictured yourself doing, but it's the job that's paying your rent. There's no question of whether it's 'real' or not; it's a job.

*the expression existed long before the concept of email spam attacks

#219 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:22 PM:

My medical clinic has a policy that no minor is checked in a room alone, though that's not particularly helpful if the parent is not a figure of trust. I do like the idea of asking your daughter what she needs to feel comfortable in that situation.

#220 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:45 PM:

This seems to be a non-unique situation. Doctors demanding suspicious, and not-clearly-connected-to-the-problem access of a minor, without either asking permission or explaining why; and just assuming that that's okay.

In my case it was "go into counselling for extreme needle phobia" (6 people required to hold me down for a blood test I know I need ... to fix my broken arm) and the attending medical team deciding that I would benefit from a general psych evaluation and discovery. They cleared it with my mother, so that's okay, right?

4 sessions in, and I finally asked "so what does my relationship history with my father have to do with my problem with needles?" "Nothing." "Then why are you asking?"

The explanation ended that counselling session (literally, I walked out then and there, went right past my mother with the obvious question, and out the hospital door), and ended any trust with psychiatrists for 15 years. My mother just assumed they'd explain what was going on to the patient; I have no idea if the doctors just assumed that the parent would explain what was going on, or whether informed consent was considered unnecessary or unfeasible for a minor, or whether patients aren't actually human, minors doubly so.

It could, of course, just be (especially in eep's case) that the reasoning behind the question is so obvious to the steeped in the study specialist that it was inconceivable that it couldn't be IOTTMCO (intuitively obvious to the most casual observer. Usually used just as sarcastically as I am this time) - and that as a result, the creepy edge of the question doesn't appear on the radar. But that is a well-documented failure of the medical profession, as well.

All I can say is that the effects of this behaviour can last longer than the problem trying to be solved... For anyone else that has had this problem, you have my sympathy. For anyone who is still dealing with its legacy, the above, and the hope that since it can go away, it will, in time.

#221 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Jacque @216: If it helps any, I'm in favor of TMI. :-)
Thank you for this. I just logged in, feeling nearly crushed by the weight of the Wall o' Text that follows, and this made me cry a little (in a good way).

Also realizing now that the way I asked might cause confusion. This happened to me; I don't have children, I guess it was just easier, since I'm an adult now to think of it in terms of "how would I feel if it were a daughter instead of myself?" Also a bit of what Phenicious was saying @174 about it being easier to see when it's about someone else.

-Content notice: Body stuff and I'm-not-sure-whether-it-was-sexual-abuse-or-not discussion-

Lee @208 Do you feel up to telling us what happened next and/or why this is so triggery for you?
Part of the problem is that I don't have any memory at all of what happened next. There's just this hole in my memory. I know that there is one mole in particular that I associate with this whatever-it-was. It's pretty much at ground zero, so to speak, and my subconscious has sort of labelled it my "shame mole". But, the thing is, and this is the realization that was the "hitting an artery" that I referred to earlier: I went into that appointment expecting the worst. Whatever happened, or I thought happened, it didn't surprise me at the time, and the memory (and lack thereof) was of the "this is what you get" variety.

I have these holes in my memory, and I have symptoms. Sometimes it feels like my entire life is a symptom.

I have had verified incidents with two different trusted long-time partners of blanking out in non-threatening, but... explicit situations. The first I discovered several years after, when the other party, with whom I was still close, made a reference to "that time you sort of curled up in the corner, wimpering," and I had no idea what he was talking about, and never have been able to remember it since. This was my first head-on collision with a hole in my memory, the first time that I consciously "saw" it.

More recently, there have been several occasions when my current partner didn't notice anything unusual about my behavior, but we discovered after the fact that I had a memory gap. Something specific enough that it seems strange that I can't remember, even after being told about it.

I recently discovered, almost by accident, that pretty much any list of symptoms for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse reads like a description of me. Here's one, but you could go and do a search, and pick a list at random. I can say with confidence (and I'm really bad at confidence) that it will describe me within at least 90% accuracy, and I don't mean "hmm, that thing could apply if you look at it a certain way." I mean as in a sense of, "someone has precisely described this strange thing about me that I thought nobody knew about and could barely even put into words." I understand (and as the list I linked states) that having these symptoms does not automatically mean that a person was sexually abused. I can look at each item individually and posit other explanations, but then another part of me goes, "yes, but all of it?".

(there is more—I had to cut it up for length...)

#222 ::: eep is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 03:00 PM:

For part one of a wall of text with a link and, well, a lot of text for me to have stepped on gnomish toes somewhere within.

Do the gnomes like bread pudding? I've been meaning to make some...

#223 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 03:54 PM:

Quoted by permission from Quixote here:

I've noticed that the dishonest people are more likely to react explosively when dishonesty is suggested.

Let me unpack that a bit.

"Are you sure that's true?"
"How can I prove it to you?"

"Are you sure that's true?"

The former exchange is likely to be a normal misunderstanding (on either of our parts). The latter, in my experience, usually means that, yes, the person is a liar.

(This came up in The Short Con, and it seemed to me to be a potentially-useful metric for some types of family dysfunctions as well.)

#224 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 04:26 PM:

Continued from me @221

-Content notice: Body stuff and I'm-not-sure-whether-it-was-sexual-abuse-or-not discussion-

I once had a boyfriend many years ago ask me if I had been sexually abused (we had been together for quite a few years at this point and it was not just out of left field). At the time, I was surprised, said I couldn't imagine when or by whom. I thought of the dermatologist at that point, but all I remembered was what I already described @204, and at the time, I didn't notice the complete absence of any memory at all for whatever followed. This is probably because I have similar holes in my memory for every previous doctor visit. I say holes, because they're different from the sort of vague fog that much of my past falls into. I have relatively clear, occasionally vivid, memories surrounding a thing, and then a blank. This goes all the way back to the first instance I'm aware of (I think I was maybe 4), in which I was hospitalized on a family vacation for a fever. (Everything in between, as far as I know, was with one regular pediatrician).

What I remember most vividly: the fear. I know that a kid being anxious about going to the doctor is a normal, to-be-expected thing. Because of this, I'd never really taken a second look at my reactions. If my attitude was a little extreme, well, I was just weak and weird, right? But looking back, it was pretty extreme. My fear of doctors was an obsession. It was a constant thing. I lived in ever-present terror of being hurt or sick in any way, not for fear of the pain or illness or even dying, but for fear that I would not be able to hide it. And that would mean a trip to the doctor. And yet, I was obsessed with "playing doctor", and this meant pain and shame and things that I can't type. Wikipedia: "...the strongest indicator of sexual abuse is sexual acting out and inappropriate sexual knowledge and interest." Once I was in control of my own life, this strange obsession melted away to the point that I was mostly able forget that it had happened.

The phobia, on the other hand, stayed with me. I've only sought medical attention on a couple of occasions, "in case of emergency". Last year, I found myself in several situations of needing to be There For others in a big, stressful medical emergency-plus-follow-ups kind of way. The immediate effect was me being in near-meltdown state for the duration of each hospital/waiting room episode. The cumulative effect was a Major Meltdown in which I barely managed to get to the privacy of my own home before I started screaming. I'm guessing this was probably the catalyst for all this stuff resurfacing. But I still don't have any memory at all of any causes that might explain the effects, and I go from conviction that something must have happened to complete denial, and all points between.

#225 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 04:42 PM:

eep: IANA psychiatrist, but the fact that you have such an extreme terror of doctors seems to indicate that something untoward must have happened at the doctor's office at some point. It's the only thing I can think of that hits all the data points so well. If that's the case, well, all I can really offer is my sympathy and a virtual shoulder to cry on.

#226 ::: The_L got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 04:43 PM:

Gnomed, possibly for "armchair psychiatry." It's up to Abi whether or not to release it, as it may be a bit hlepy.

#227 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 05:17 PM:

eep #224: Was the fear there in the memories before your first gap? My quick guess is that, depending on the answer, you were traumatized either at that appointment or a previous one (before your normal loss of infantile memory). Not necessarily a sexual trauma, and not necessarily something that would traumatize a healthy adult -- but as we all know, children are more vulnerable.

#228 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Lee @208: That can be either gaslighting or flexible-reality behavior. The difference is subtle, and more about motivation than effect; gaslighting is deliberate, and the person doing it is fully aware that they're lying. Someone with flexible reality may not even be aware that they're making self-contradictory statements -- reality is just whatever they choose it to be at any given moment. Also, abi has a good third alternative with the trip-to-Abilene suggestion.

If this happens again, you might try pointing out that she said she didn't want to play, and see if what comes back is, "You know I didn't, why are you lying to me?" (gaslighting), "No, I didn't!" (flexible reality), or "I only said that because I knew YOU didn't want to play!" (trip to Abilene).

Describing it like that, it seems like "trip to Abilene" was the most likely possibility.

Rikibeth @S&r 563: But things are already well out of hand. A mother manifesting the signs of depression, severe anxiety, frequent insomnia, and suicidal ideation? A father partially disabled by a brain hemorrhage? An autistic sister who cannot live independently (never mind the fact that she refuses to go into a home, your mother is her full time care provider right now)? More than one person should handle.

What do people here suggest I do to minimize the chances of something terrible happening with my family:

a) before I start flat-hunting
b) when I've found where I want to live and am waiting for the keys
and c) after I've moved out?

#229 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 06:44 PM:

Codemonkey @228 -- what is the something terrible you're afraid of happening? Different problems are solved in different ways.

#230 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 07:03 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England: Well yes, but it doesn't sound like an innocent trip to Abilene to me -- there's a Bad Guy and a Martyred Innocent in her story now, and you're the Bad Guy (again, like everyone according to her, from everything you've said) so she can play Martyred Self-Sacrificing Innocent.

(I think the line between "gaslighter" and "Abilene-bound" is probably usually a little fuzzy, mainly because I don't know anybody who has had a relative try to convince them they're crazy in order to have them locked up so they can inherit their property, but I have seen a lot of gaslighting first- and second-hand. And anyone who always has to be the Martyred Innocent and cast the other party as the Bad Guys, is definitely rejecting other people's realities for their own, especially if they get indignant about it. (Lewis fans may remember "I just want a bit of dry toast!" here.)

Here is a very serious question: has your mother ever held a job, or tried to get, a job of her own? Because it really doesn't seem at all fair that she just carped at your dad for twenty years for being a loser until he had a stroke, unless she herself had given up a good career to look after your sister and found it easy to get hired repeatedly. That would still be wrong, but at least not hypocritical. I no longer take seriously anyone who has not been on the job market in the past 15 years, let alone ever, who tells me I ought to have a better job and it ought to be easy for me to find one.

And yes, constantly being told that anything you do is wrong, that nothing you can do will ever be good enough, will train a person very young that there is no point in even trying. Others have mentioned Bujold re marriage: I will add that eventually the hardiest of us get tired of playing Wall.

From everything you've said, your mother respects nobody else's rights or feelings, demands that everyone serve her, complains that the world has not handed itself to her the way she feels entitled, yet doesn't stir herself at all to try to fix anything, just harangues everyone else to do her (unpleasable) pleasure -- and then harangues them for not wanting to be around her and her put-downs and whining. If she hated your father so much, why didn't she divorce him at some point in the past 20 years instead of just abusing him, even? Not that he sounds any less passive, but you've never said anything to indicate that he has been the least bit aggressive in all this.)

You've said she's not working herself to the bone around the house (except in so far as carping at your dad is "work") you've said she has resources to help with your sister, and that she has even more resources that she refuses to take advantage of -- that all she does is reject everything she's offered, and demand the impossible of you, while refusing to respect your extremely personal rights. (She snoops through your personal papers and funds! You don't dare go out on weekends! How is this right?)

Frankly, the word I am hearing very strongly here is "toxic" -- there's a book called Toxic Parenting that's been out for many years now, it's quite important, some people are just emotional Wreckers who will lead you onto the rocks of destruction if you let them rule your path -- and there may be nothing you can do to fix her situation, if (hopefully "when") you move out.

But, as my old psychiatrist pounded into me, It's not your job to fix your parents. They're grownups, they're adults, you're not their boss or their teacher or their mom & dad, you can't control anyone except yourself. And by enabling this mess, by everything you've said, it's just getting worse and worse when it will have to be dealt with. (And really the best thing in the world for them may be for you to stop propping them up, and let them figure out how to deal with the world on their own!)

tl;dr, I know -- but lemme sum up Listen to the folks with practical advice about renting & so forth in the UK: everyone here is worried about you, and you are not in a good way to judge how badly off you are (except your first instinct, to ask for help here) -- fish in water and all that. But honestly, I don't think there are many people from controlling dysfunctional situations who regret anything but having waited so long to make a break for freedom.

#231 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Codemonkey @228 and earlier:

I'm going to jump in with some ideas, because I went through a situation similar to yours two years ago. I was living unhappily with my (controlling) parents, and after a long period of struggle and planning, I did.

To my surprise, they didn't try to rip me a new one for moving out. They were surprisingly non-obnoxious about it, and even gave me a hand moving my stuff. But it speaks volumes about their overall attitude that I fully expected them to bring out the big guns. (The big guns are crying, guilt-tripping, and armchair psychology. You know the sort of fake-concerned "analysis". "We're CONCERNED that you may be doing this just to spite us. Where did we go wrong raising you? I think you're enraged that we don't bend over backwards to please you. It seems to us like you don't care about us anymore.")

So, my overall advice: prepare for the worst, but realize that you may be pleasantly surprised and it may actually be pretty easy.

The hardest lesson for me was that I can't control what my parents do or say, only what I do and say. Likewise, I can't guarantee that you'll be safe from "something terrible" happening with your family while you move, no matter how smoothly you facilitate your escape. Your mother may make it a hard and painful process for you.

Nonetheless, even the pain of attacks from your family will not last forever, and it is 100% worth it to escape. Your lifestyle with your parents sounds unbearable. So was mine, a couple of years ago. But I escaped, and I actually like my life now. I'm happy and free and I look back with satisfaction on all the trouble I went through to get where I am. So will you, after you escape, I promise.

This is what I did to make the transition easier for myself, as far as I can remember:

--Took out student loans from my school for the first time. I'd been on a merit-based scholarship, and doing a boring student job shelving books at the library.
--Went room-hunting without telling my parents what I was doing. As far as they knew, I was at my job or visiting friends or studying. I didn't have a car back then, but I had a bike and a cell phone and an e-mail address, so I could travel within reason and call the numbers of the "Room for rent" ads on [the List of Craig].
--Confided only in people whom I could trust not to tell my parents. The only people whom I told about my impending move were close friends or people who didn't know my parents from a hole in the wall.
--Found a really cheap place to live. I rented the guest bedroom of a man who lived near my college.

Now, here's the thing: in retrospect, it was a crappy situation. He was a miserable old bastard who hated people and barely spoke, the house was tiny and had only one bathroom among five people (me, him and his girlfriend, our other housemate and her boyfriend), the dog shed all over the house and crapped all over the driveway, and the walls were so thin that if one couple made love, the rest of us knew all about it.

Sounds awful, right? Actually, no! That's the thing. It was wonderful. I loved living there. From the moment my parents brought my stuff over there and I was alone in my bedroom, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of peace and happiness. It lasted through the entire time I lived there. I only have to think back to that winter to feel the same blissful easiness of mind return. No matter how small or grubby the house, it was a Paradise to me, because it was my own place, where my parents couldn't tell me what to do. The dog and I spent our spare time curled up on the sofa watching old movies or looking out the window at the snow. That was all I did in my leisure moments, all that winter, and it was glorious.

My message here is that you can find peace and happiness even in an imperfect place.

I won't try to advise you about finding housing since I don't know much about how it works in the UK, but even where you live there may be similar options--older people who want to rent out their guest bedroom by the month, students who would like to share their rented house with you. Note: you are an adult and steadily employed, which would make you a very appealing prospect to potential housemates/flatmates.

I recently went through a second exodus, this time from my hometown area to the nearest big city. This one was more difficult because I'd been unemployed for a long time, and the only way I seemed able to earn money was remodeling a house for my parents. It was like working for the Company Store in the song "Sixteen Tons," because whatever I earned in money, I lost about twice as much in self-respect.

Anyway, then I found a job in the city and finally had a little income and an excuse to move a long way away from my parents. This recent move was a lot more like the move you're about to go through.

Observations you may find helpful:

I had the help of a trusted friend in Big City, who let me sleep in her living room during three consecutive weekends while I was earning enough money to find permanent housing. If I'd ever needed to hide from my parents (thank goodness, I didn't), I could have stayed with her. She was my ally. Do you know anyone who could potentially offer you crash space for a weekend? Store a change of clothes at their house in case your parents make it impossible for you to go home to their place during the moving process?

Oh! Here's a concrete bit of advice. When you move your stuff out of your parents' house, have someone else there--someone who will side with you or remain neutral. (A friend? Someone from work? A hired team of moving men? Some other person you like who doesn't know your parents? Your choice.) This is good in several ways. It defuses tension. It means you always have someone to talk to. It means that your family will be less likely to act abusively towards you. This is something I've learned from watching friends escape dire situations. Even a longtime abuser/violent husband/cruel housemate will usually not dare to be a jerk in front of a neutral outside witness.

After you escape? Well, I'd recommend a new hobby/obsession/task. After I moved out here to Big City, I had a new job to occupy my mind and keep me from fretting about what my parents would do. It kept me busy, which was what I needed right then. The more of your time you spend doing something engrossing that you enjoy, the less of your headspace will be available for guilt and worry. Gardening? Dance lessons? Reading? TV-show marathon? Comic-book binge? Word puzzles? Writing? Listening to music? I don't know what you enjoy, these are just random things I like.

I'm rooting for you. I want you to be free to enjoy the same light-hearted, peaceful feeling that I do now. But please believe that I realize what a struggle you're undergoing now. It is hard, but ultimately it's rewarding.

#232 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:40 PM:

Codemonkey, as harsh as it sounds, I don't think you can prevent "something terrible" happening with your family when you move out, because it seems to me that the source of Something Terrible would come from your mother's reaction, and that is a) unlikely to be good, and b) not under your control. I think, given the recent "trip to Abilene" situation, that your mother's already sensing your (VERY NECESSARY) efforts to disengage from her emotionally, and she doesn't like it at all.

The only thing I can think of is to make Sharon aware of it and let her know that your mother may need additional support when you move. I wouldn't do this until you have keys in hand, because I do not trust your mother not to bring out the big guns of emotional manipulation in order to pressure you into staying.

Your mother is an adult (though she isn't acting like one). Her own actions are her responsibility, not yours. If you're looking for a magic solution to keep her from throwing tantrums, I haven't got one.

Are you worried she'll become violent or physically abusive to your father or your sister? Or suicidal? These are all things to tell Sharon.

Apart from those three outcomes... her tantrums are her problem, not yours. Her access to food shopping may change, and you might choose to continue to drive her to the store every week. Her loneliness is also her problem, not yours, and if you chose to spend an evening or two each week continuing to play games with her, why, that would be the action of a remarkably dutiful son and more than she ought to expect (though of course she expects a great deal more).

But short of violence directed at herself or others... it's really not your problem, as much as she wants to make it so.

Don't let her make it your problem.

#233 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 08:51 PM:

Little John @231: "We're CONCERNED that you may be doing this just to spite us. ... It seems to us like you don't care about us anymore."

That strikes me as a remarkable density of "we think" phrasings, of a sort that would lead me to wonder how much one parent's differing opinions might be being assumed away by the other, in the sort of dysfunctional "I speak for both of us even though I have no idea if you disagree" way.

No idea if that's there in the original or just in your summation, but if in the original it seems interestingly noteworthy.

#234 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 09:30 PM:

Pulling a bit out of context here, because it resonated with me.

a heart in hiding: I no longer take seriously anyone who has not been on the job market in the past 15 years, let alone ever, who tells me I ought to have a better job and it ought to be easy for me to find one.

This is precisely the disconnect I've had with my parents when it comes to my job hunt. Dad got his current job not long before I was born; while Mom hasn't been employed at the same place quite that long, she hasn't been on the job market so much as half daydreaming when she does apply to things. (Besides, she's of an age where she's going to have a hard time convincing a new place of employment to take her on.)

Neither of them really know the shape of the current job market, particularly not in the fields I'm hoping to get into. Dad has the further disconnect of 'you're the one with the college degree, you get a job somewhere and make your fiancee follow.' He even said this after I said I was moving to join my fiancee... because she got a full-time job before I did...

Dovetailing back into the 'real job' discussion: I agree that calling something a Real Job is problematic in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, society (with a little help from my parents) made it really easy to internalise the message that it's only a Real Job if it's full-time leave-the-house work. Some of this even held when I was working part-time retail - but hey, that's a Real Job. If someone wasn't doing it all the shoppers would be rather upset.

So I was trying to reclaim the idea that work has worth no matter where or how often you do it. And that, for these purposes, makes it a Real Job. It's not ideal, but it's work and it has worth.

(I got a nibble on one of my freelance applications today! Don't know for sure if they're picking me up yet, but that's a start!)

#235 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2013, 09:44 PM:

Note of clarification on my last point: My parents don't work at the same place (I just realised it reads that way). I was going for 'Mom hasn't held her current job for quite that long.'

General update on my fiancee's parent situation: They haven't responded to her email yet, but she did get the usual Holiday Box from her mother. (Without any sign in said box that 'we seem to be having tremendous difficulty with your lifestyle' affected its contents.) So there's that, at least.

#236 ::: Little John ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 12:32 AM:

Brooks Moses #233: Yes, my parents' method was always that when my father was angry, he would flounce around the house pouting and ignoring me, and my mother would wring her hands and appoint herself as the kind and impartial interpreter and peacemaker between the two of us.

She was nothing of the sort, of course. No matter what had happened, she had one goal: to jockey me into apologizing and asking my father's forgiveness. To this end, she used a lot of armchair-psychology jargon and "We think" phrases. I'm spoofing her slightly in the above comment, but not by much. The most egregious examples were always along the lines of "We're not angry, we're just worried that you may be a horrible daughter with no filial piety." Concern-trolling mom.

It's possible she was making stuff up sometimes instead of actually voicing Dad's opinion, but most of the time she was pretty obviously speaking for both of them. If you want to envision C-3PO interpreting for Jabba, I won't stop you.

The dynamic has always been: Dad's feelings are important and matter. If you hurt his feelings, you must apologize and admit wrongdoing till he loves you again. [Little John], however, is touchy and hypersensitive and a brat. If you hurt her feelings, that just means she's inexplicably weak and thin-skinned, and can't take a little friendly teasing.

This is much on my mind because I was just thinking how glad I am I don't have to live with them anymore, and top of my list of reasons is manipulative Mom.

All the discussion about the double standard of teasing--"I can do it to you, but you can't do it to me"--has been refreshing to me in this thread.

#237 ::: RainInTheHouse ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 01:52 AM:

Here witnessing, but to be honest, I'm also here to assuage, I think, my survivor's guilt after leaving behind an unhappy situation. I am amazed reading about the Abilene paradox. I'm sorry if this question is a bit off-track, but I am curious: Is it the same phenomena if the journey to Abilene is clearly disastrous, but no one dares to say so in case one or two usual members in the group go screamy-berserk for someone daring to say it just wasn't great? If it's not part of the Abilene paradox, is there another name for this kind of behavior? I've been in the situation too often where the individual pointing out (even politely) that the Emperor wears no clothes are ripped to absolute shreds. Thanks in advance.

#238 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:11 AM:

Little John: Ooh, and what about "we're just so worried that this will be a harmful decision for you" (so stay here in the vortex of violence forever) which is especially difficult to counter when they've kept you a near prisoner cut off from the outside world, in all the ways they could manage, and sabotaged your ability to trust your own judgment for years?

RainInTheHouse: my feeling is that that gets outside the Abilene Paradox purview and into Emperor's New Clothes territory, "nobody dare contradict the violent tyrant" or else!

Abilene would seem to be appropriate to decisions made out of group apathy and an internal fear of being "selfish" -- which, granted, can come from being raised by violent/manipulative tyrants, making it hard for us who were to stop committing Abilene Trips when we're in new situations where there is no penalty for speaking out or "being selfish" by expressing a preference however mild, which comes back to the thread title.

#239 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:18 AM:

RainInTheHouse: Also, if the attempt to point out that the trip will clearly be a fiasco comes beforehand, and is met with berserkdom, that could be Cassandra Syndrome.

(Dealing with the memories of Just Giving Up because on the one hand, trying to warn of inevitable trainwrecks got yelling denunciation, but pointing out after the fact that this could be a Valuable Learning Experience got "You're just so mean and spiteful saying I told you so!" and silence got "Why didn't you say something beforehand? Did you want to see us fail?" followed by gaslighting "What do you mean, you were afraid I'd yell at you for speaking out? I want people to be frank with me!" Yeah, right, after 20 years one starts to know better.)

#240 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:25 AM:

tamiki: oh, and do you get the, college degree must be an instant "door-opener" thing? Regardless of field or anything? And people who don't want to hear that you actually have gotten "You're overqualified" instead, or that the (very expensive!) college degree and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee, because a B.A. doesn't magically convey C++ certification or network skilz or anything else, like a position where they want graduate degrees? Bonus points if it comes from people who themselves only got their jobs after advanced degrees, specialized training, or personal connections in the field...

#241 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:36 AM:

RainInTheHouse @ #237:

The point of the trip to Abilene story, as I understand it, is the process of how the group talks itself into going on the trip in the first place. How it reacts when it realises that the trip was a disaster is a separate question, and doesn't affect whether it was a trip-to-Abilene or not.

Calmly discussing the situation and figuring out what happened is certainly not the only way people react (otherwise nobody would have needed to write a book to explain it). What it is, is a useful way for a teaching story to end, to help lay things out clearly for the student.

#242 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:50 AM:

Regarding Abilene, remember that functional families do and experience many of the same things as dysfunctional ones. The difference is that those things aren't toxic in functional families, because they have the mechanisms for coping with them (thus, also, Lee's emendation to my original post).

That story is written from the perspective of a fairly functional family. They got into the situation from a desire to make one another happy, as part of spending pleasant time with one another. And when they discuss the matter afterward, there's remarkably little blame or exasperation. The fact that it became a management anecdote is also a sign that the people there could chalk the entire thing up to one of those glitches of communication that happen to everyone.

In a dysfunctional family, it all goes sour. But that's not Abilene's fault, or even the fault of the mechanism that leads people there. Everyone probably ends up in Abilene from time to time. Like any other common experience, from moving house to sitting down at a table together, it can become toxic if the relationships aren't functioning, or it can be harmless or even funny if they are.

#243 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 08:04 AM:

a heart in hiding @230: Here is a very serious question: has your mother ever held a job, or tried to get, a job of her own? Because it really doesn't seem at all fair that she just carped at your dad for twenty years for being a loser until he had a stroke, unless she herself had given up a good career to look after your sister and found it easy to get hired repeatedly.

As far as I know, my mother hasn't been employed since before I was born. However, she does get a Carer's Allowance for looking after my sister (I think it's about £50 per week) which she'd lose if she took a job.

And yes, constantly being told that anything you do is wrong, that nothing you can do will ever be good enough, will train a person very young that there is no point in even trying.

I don't think that describes my mother's behaviour towards me at all (at least until last year when I tried to de-guilt myself by offering to buy a house for them). Perhaps my excellent academic performance meant though that my mother wasn't seriously tested in this area? I think my mother has her own burdens of guilt too -- for instance about the fact that my sister and I have never had a family holiday (due to lack of money).

If she hated your father so much, why didn't she divorce him at some point in the past 20 years instead of just abusing him, even?

I've sometimes heard her say she would have sought a divorce were it not for my sister -- perhaps she didn't want to expose her to such a wrenching (for an autistic) change (maybe she doesn't want me to leave for the same reason?). Or perhaps she felt that he need the help with the housework (however inadequate) that he provided, so that she could concentrate more on my sister's needs.

Another datapoint I wish to mention is that my mother mentioned (I think it was late 2011 -- after my grandmother died, but before my dad's stroke) that she longed for me to get my own place so that she could move in with me (no doubt with my sister in tow) and escape from my dad, and from the dilapidated state of our house (especially the kitchen). Was I a bad person for being very unenthusiastic about this suggestion?

You don't dare go out on weekends! How is this right?

She has no problem with me going out on weekends, as long as I tell her where I'm going and what time I'll be back. Sometimes though, I've been deterred from going out by fear of what questions she may ask me when I return, or fear that she'd accuse me of wasting money. (One related behaviour of hers in the latter respect is that if anything in the house goes missing, she'll go crazy ransacking the house to find it even if a replacement wouldn't cost very much.)

If I want to check out possible places to live and don't want her to know I plan to move out, that would be a problem, especially as (in her view at least) there's no good reason why I'd want to go out on a weekend in winter.

Rikibeth @232: Are you worried she'll become violent or physically abusive to your father or your sister? Or suicidal? These are all things to tell Sharon.

That is essentially what I'd be worried about, but I don't know how to contact Sharon directly as I don't have her mobile phone number. After my bad experience with her supervisor (mentioned on the S&r thread) I'm concerned what would happen if I called her again in order to get Sharon's mobile number. Do you think it would be a good idea to wait until I'd moved out, and once I was out try to contact Sharon with my concerns ASAP?

RainInTheHouse @237: Here witnessing, but to be honest, I'm also here to assuage, I think, my survivor's guilt after leaving behind an unhappy situation.

Could my unease about leaving my family home be down to (for want of a better term) "pre-emptive survivor's guilt"?

#244 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 08:58 AM:

Codemonkey @243: If I want to check out possible places to live and don't want her to know I plan to move out, that would be a problem, especially as (in her view at least) there's no good reason why I'd want to go out on a weekend in winter.

Apologies if this is hlepy, but as a full-time employee in the UK you ought to be entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave (this may translate as something like 20 days plus bank holidays, depending on your employer). Can you use some of that time for flat-hunting? You could arrange time off with your boss and tell your family you're going to work.

Of course if you already use the time for other things, this is more of a problem. But you say you don't go on holidays, so I'm guessing you're likely to have some time left.

I've rented flats by myself, albeit in a city in southern England where property prices are high, and in the early 2000s before the credit crunch. My experience was that I needed to be prepared to say yes to a suitable rental quickly, or someone else would get it. Sometimes my viewing appointments would be cancelled because the flat had gone already. Having said yes, though, I would have anything up to a month before my tenancy began, so the move didn't have to happen overnight.

I learned to go prepared with a list of things I wanted the flat to have (a decent shower; a landline for internet; proximity to a bus route) and things I wanted to know (bill-paying arrangements; why and how often the landlord would need access, with how much notice - for instance, one landlord kept stuff in the loft, and the hatch was in my flat; what equipment was included). I learned that top floor flats are quieter and more secure but that you need to make more effort not to disturb the neighbours. I learned that other people would disapprove of arrangements that seemed acceptable to me - such as the landlord needing loft access - but that I did not necessarily care what they thought.

Above all, remember that if the flat turns out to be bad for whatever reason, you can always move again when your lease is up. You are unlikely to get it right the first time. This is why you should rent before you buy -- moving is much cheaper when you don't have to sell up.

#245 ::: Tatterbots has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 09:00 AM:

Or at least held for review; I don't know if that's the same thing.

Would the gnomes like some sesame snaps?

#246 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 10:36 AM:

a heart in hiding: I didn't quite get that one, though sometimes I think Dad thinks it will (his father told him the money to finish his degree wasn't there, never mind that it actually was, so he never finished).

What my parents tend to push for is grad school, sometimes out of 'well, if you're not going to get a job you should do that.' But I don't want to go back to school, and the consensus from other people I've asked is that grad school is something you should want to do if you're going to bother. I'm also not in a field where I feel like it's required; English is not biology (or another field where post-grad implies skill mastery a bachelor's doesn't), and a creative writing master's would just drive me insane. There's also the chance that it would just make me too expensive of a hire for anyone to consider - and besides, the last thing I want is more debt (that I'd now have to pay on while I was earning the degree, thank you Congress).

I was also told once that I should have majored in something other than English because there's no money in it. I told that person that I didn't go into the major for the money, but for the love of the thing. Fortunately, my parents were on my side in that one.

#247 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 10:42 AM:

Codemonkey: Another datapoint I wish to mention is that my mother mentioned (I think it was late 2011 -- after my grandmother died, but before my dad's stroke) that she longed for me to get my own place so that she could move in with me (no doubt with my sister in tow) and escape from my dad, and from the dilapidated state of our house (especially the kitchen). Was I a bad person for being very unenthusiastic about this suggestion?

Absolutely not! You're not obligated to move your mother or your sister into your place just because your place is no longer hers.

Hell, I was very unenthusiastic about Mom choosing to phrase her hopes that I'd move out as 'then we'll have somewhere else to go on vacation.' Parents don't get to invite themselves to their adult children's places Just Because; I'd say that goes double if they're inviting themselves to move in.

#248 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 11:47 AM:

Codemonkey, something that was briefly touched on, but if you've never lived in a flat, starts to loom large the first time you do:

In flats, sound travels down. Footsteps, music, everything. If you have an aversion to other people's noise, get an upper flat. If you don't care about footsteps overhead, than you've got more options.

And do remember that you're not required to find the perfect place the first try. Even if you hatehatehate it, you can always move out at the end of the lease, and now you'll know something about your housing preferences you didn't know before.

#249 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 11:55 AM:

Codemonkey, #243: Another datapoint I wish to mention is that my mother mentioned (I think it was late 2011 -- after my grandmother died, but before my dad's stroke) that she longed for me to get my own place so that she could move in with me (no doubt with my sister in tow) and escape from my dad, and from the dilapidated state of our house (especially the kitchen). Was I a bad person for being very unenthusiastic about this suggestion?

"I want you to go to all the work and trouble of finding a new house, of which I will certainly criticize any choice you make, and then when you have finally found one I consider marginally acceptable, I want to take advantage of your hospitality by moving in with you permanently and bringing your disabled sister along." If she had actually phrased it that way, would you have felt bad about being unenthusiastic? But in effect, that was what she was saying.

You are not a bad person for resisting being effectively treated as her personal servant.

tamiki, #246: Very few people actually end up in a job related to their undergraduate major! And a lot of people have to "waste" their college degrees by working in a position that doesn't really require one, especially now that a high-school diploma is no longer enough to get anything beyond a McJob. My father had a master's degree in education, and he was an accountant all his life.

#250 ::: RainInTheHouse ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 12:36 PM:


Thinking out loud: My unease before moving out only went away the moment that arguing with my bully reached a point I knew I didn't have to take the fear and physical intimidation a moment longer. I also knew where I was going to go, had emergency bags packed and had already begun the moving process sneakily. It was all set up "just in case" but when the moment of clarity came, the back-up refuge was a lifeline. I don't know which came first, really, but I probably would never have dared to leave if I hadn't prepared somewhere to go.

I have of course been accused of "walking out" since. I know it's crap but I feel it's pointless to compete in conflicting narratives after all these years, and, I don't have the energy for it. Yet it seems I have to repeat the story to myself every so often to believe I did the right thing.

Thanks, abi, Paul A and heart in hiding for the Abilene responses.

#251 ::: Dave H ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 07:43 PM:

Mostly witnessing, but if Codemonkey wants a UK perspective on moving out I've got it. I moved out of a house in Birmingham into a flat, from there to a flat in London, and I'm about to buy in London.

Cliff notes - I mostly saw flats in the evening after work, and that was fine. I took an afternoon off as a half day and planned it in advance with a letting agent so I saw 5 or 6 properties and was still home around the normal time. I filled in an online form about myself for credit purposes, not a big deal.

You can do this.

#252 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 09:07 PM:

RainInTheHouse, #250: Damn straight you walked out! You chose to save yourself and your child, and walking out was exactly the right thing to do. Or to put it a different way, you walked out while you could, while you still had the strength and the will to do so, before they could grind you down into helpless compliance. Wear the label with pride.

#253 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 09:24 PM:

Codemonkey: She has no problem with me going out on weekends, as long as I tell her where I'm going and what time I'll be back. Sometimes though, I've been deterred from going out by fear of what questions she may ask me when I return, or fear that she'd accuse me of wasting money.

Are you still a minor child? Are you a prisoner on parole, and she your parole officer? A secret agent, and she is your handler? No? Then why the everloving daylight do you feel obligated to answer her? She has no right to micromanage what you do in your free time, as if she were Big Brother. It's not 1984 any more! She's so far out of line the line isn't even in sight.

You're afraid she'll complain about how you're spending your hard-earned money, when she doesn't do a single fluffy thing to bring in money, other than deliberately not even try to get a job?

That, frankly, sounds like a whole bunch of caricatures here in the States -- people who have children, or adopt children (especially disabled ones), or refuse to work, just because they'd rather sit around and collect Welfare cheques. (I've only met one person ever who --proudly, by her own words-- qualified for the first, and one for the last, and he was borderline unemployable, both lazy and stupid, and worst of all, dishonest on top of it. I saw someone apologize to a business rival for recommending him, once.)

No. You have the right to pursue your own happiness -- it didn't start or stop on our side of the Atlantic. And the first step is -- taking the first step away from a disrespectful, using, control-freak.

(And I was referring to your father, what I said about giving up when nothing you do is good enough. Seriously, if all she's ever done is collect Disability on your sister, then what fluffy right did she have to mock him for taking temp work? At least it was something! A hundred dollars a week is such a pittance, I find it hard to believe that she couldn't have done better than that with even a part-time job. But point being, she wasn't even willing to give it the Old College Try.)

#254 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2013, 11:30 PM:

a heart in hiding, #253: Are you still a minor child? Are you a prisoner on parole, and she your parole officer? A secret agent, and she is your handler? No? Then why the everloving daylight do you feel obligated to answer her?

Excellent point. Codemonkey, those were battles I had fought AND WON well before I moved out of my parents' house, and I was only 24 when I left for good.

Where are you going? "Shopping." "To a movie." "To hang out with friends." "To the park with my book (or laptop)." When will you be back? "Before dinnertime." "After dinner." (Those are courtesy, to let her know whether she needs to cook for you or not.) "Not until late." Just like with the checkbook thing, there's a huge difference between wanting a general idea of what you're doing and demanding a minute-by-minute accounting.

And as for "wasting money," I will bet my betting nickel that she hauls that one out any time you spend as little as a pound on anything that doesn't directly benefit HER. But she's living off YOUR money, apart from the small stipend she gets for being your sister's primary carer. You have the right to use some of YOUR money for things that YOU need or want!

#255 ::: Feather ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 12:02 AM:

Nancy @ 158: NP.

. . . coming back to it, I sort of want to reemphasize one part of what I said, because I also think it's what a lot of people get really wrong: which is that in order to have the RIGHT to tease someone, you have the RESPONSIBILITY not to hurt them. Non-intimate relationships don't allow for teasing because you just DON'T KNOW the person well enough to know what's okay and what's not okay, so you avoid it all. The price of people letting their guards down is you learning not to punch them.

A lot of my extended fam spent a lot of time hurting me (and my siblings, and my mother) with their "teasing"; by contrast, despite the fact that it looks like my immediate fam and my heart-friends tease just as much, we do it with really good knowledge of each other and what subjects are okay and not okay, and what tones of voice indicate this isn't the moment.

And, I think most importantly, the ability to look at someone, see you've mis-stepped, and the willingness to go, "I'm sorry. I was teasing. Are you okay?" and to accept correction about when something isn't okay.

(Personal example that is thus okay to share: I react really badly to any kind of teasing with a flirting edge. It's a PTSD thing for me. Thus, despite happily doing that kind of teasing all around in other situations, my friends DON'T do it to me, and tend either to notice when I'm getting uncomfortable with them doing it to each other, or respond to a request that we shift gears nao plz.)

#256 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 08:55 AM:

Lee #254: And as for "wasting money," I will bet my betting nickel that she hauls that one out any time you spend as little as a pound on anything that doesn't directly benefit HER. But she's living off YOUR money, apart from the small stipend she gets for being your sister's primary carer. You have the right to use some of YOUR money for things that YOU need or want!

Wow that really brings out the reason why Codemonkey feels something so "off" with her pressing gifts, that he didn't ask for/doesn't want, on him.

Taken together with this Scroogelike accounting of his own money, it clearly becomes a dominance thing, not an act of genuine generosity. Now I wonder if both of these behaviors (along with the micromanaging of his free time) are tied together, ways that she refuses to recognize or allow him to be an adult human, her peer now, and is trying to manually keep him in that "dependent child" role even though in reality the roles are reversed and she has no right to be refusing him candy and doling out socks, so to speak.

You also made me wonder if she resents him spending his money on anything because she sees it as rightfully "hers", particularly with her saying as much re the inheritance.

(Not being allowed to spend your own earned money on things you need/want, while being forced to accept white elephants--with or without being told how much of a familial burden you are-- is a huge trigger for me. Leaving out identifying particulars, one particularly egregious incident made me realize suddenly what real generosity looked like -- NOT like this!)

#257 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 09:16 AM:

Feather #255: Yes! True friends will know your buttons and not push them. If they know your buttons and keep pushing them, they don't like you, no matter what they claim.

#258 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 09:26 AM:

Dave H @251: Wow you must be well-off if you can afford to buy in London!

One thing you did mention that concerns me -- would my lack of a credit rating (because I lived with my parents while at uni and started in 1996, I've never had to use credit) be problematic, when it came to renting a property? I am clearly in no position to provide a guarantor, but would the amount of money in my bank account (the account I use day-to-day has about £18k) be enough to avoid that problem?

Incidentally, I think I'll probably try to get a credit card once I have my own place, mainly for online use. At the moment I use a pre-pay card to assuage my mother's paranoia about Internet crime, but there are loads of charges associated with it (80p a time to load it with money, and 50p per transaction). Another thing I'll probably get myself once I move out is a smartphone -- if I got one now it would probably raise too many eyebrows as in "why are you wasting your money on that, when you don't have enough of a social life to justify it?"

a heart in hiding @253, Lee @254: It seems like that for my mother, my sister's care comes before anything else.

And it certainly isn't true that she's "living off my money", as almost all of the £80 a week which I currently pay to them goes on paying rent and council tax (which they wouldn't have to pay if I wasn't living with them). I've often offered her more money (thinking it would reduce her power over me) but she always refuses. A couple of times I even resorted to "reverse stealing" (sneaking into her room and putting extra money in her purse without telling her).

I'm unsure of precisely what my mother's attitude to money is: earlier this week when I mislaid a roll of sticky-backed plastic, my mother spent two hours looking for it (but couldn't find it, and neither could I) and she specifically warned me against going to the shop to replace it, on the grounds that I'd "get my eyes robbed out because you don't know where sells it cheap".

a heart in hiding @256: Wow that really brings out the reason why Codemonkey feels something so "off" with her pressing gifts, that he didn't ask for/doesn't want, on him.

I think that some of the gift-giving may be a desperate attempt to lure me away from the computer (my mother has alluded to it) -- which doesn't work, as my on-life is currently for me an invaluable substitute for the real social life which I have been denied by fear of my mother's questions. (In fact, when I want to imagine how unhappy my mother is, I imagine how I would feel if deprived of internet access for an extended period of time.) Another possible motive is that she's hoping that the more stuff I have, the harder it will be for me to leave home.

You also made me wonder if she resents him spending his money on anything because she sees it as rightfully "hers", particularly with her saying as much re the inheritance.

I'm not sure about that, because when I bought a new car back in 2010 she was pleased for me, saying "if you're not going to spend any of your money, what's the point of working in the first place?". I don't spend much not because I don't want to, but because I'm worried about what she'd say about what I'm spending it on.

#259 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 09:44 AM:

Codemonkey: A social life is not the only thing a smartphone can facilitate. I'm finding it very useful as a mental prosthetic for a lot of things: when I need 'company' it can do that, via podcasts, video, or fiddly puzzle-games. Puzzle-games are also stimming, for me, and it's available when I need it. Also, I've been migrating my stuff-I-follow-on-the-internet over to things where the cloud remembers where I was instead of my computer doing the remembering, so I can access THEM from my tablet too (like Google Reader for everything I RSS).

Apps are not just for socializing. Though they can facilitate it. :->

#260 ::: Merricat ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Codemonkey @258: I want to introduce the idea of competing commitments, because you might find that a useful framework for your mam's attitude towards money. It is possible that she genuinely wants you to spend your money in ways that make you happy ... but she ALSO has really intense fears about poverty, and limited ideas about how money "should" be spent, which means she's going to send conflicting messages about what you should be doing. There's a very narrow zone where all three of those things overlap.

I generally try to keep my finances separate from other people for that reason; I have some unresolved money-scarcity issues, and even though I firmly believe it is not my job to police other people's money habits, it gets REALLY hard for me to honor that if I have any control/access to/dependency on someone else's money.

#261 ::: anonymous dysfunctional ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 12:23 PM:

Codemonkey - you have a job, a car, and money in the bank. You shouldn't have any problems getting credit or assuring a landlord that you're able to pay your rent. (And if the landlord does give you trouble, they would be a jerk to you later anyway. You're losing nothing by not getting that particular place.)

The easiest place to get a credit card is probably your bank. They're not going to want to lose you as a customer.

#262 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 01:25 PM:

Codemonkey: The car is something she gets the benefit of, since you drive her places in it, right? But things that you alone use do nothing for her, and she doesn't want you enjoying yourself anyway. The evidence is just getting deeper and deeper that your instinct to escape was the right one. The Velociraptors are not going to stop biting you!

(It could also be partly more gaslighting: I frequently experienced whiplash between being told --often-- that I was a fool for spending money on "trinkets" to decorate my living space, or snacks, since you eat them and they're gone--and being told "You should buy something nice for yourself!" on the other hand, when I was trying to save. It all came down to controlling, in the end.)

#263 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 01:56 PM:

First of all, can anyone warn me if anything I might do in a rented flat (other than failing to pay the rent of course) would put me at risk of eviction?

anonymous dysfunctional @260: The easiest place to get a credit card is probably your bank.

Does that mean any of the banks where I have accounts (there's four of them) or the specific bank into which my salary is paid?

a heart in hiding @261: The car is something she gets the benefit of, since you drive her places in it, right?

NOT in 2010 when the car was purchased!

My parents had a Motability car (which they got due to my sister's disabilities -- Motability is a UK scheme available to those on high disability benefits where part of the benefit is used to rent a car instead of being paid in cash), but it was obviously useless after my dad's stroke (as I was now the only driver in the house), so they arranged to return it and get the extra money instead.

And not this year either, as my mother hasn't been in my car since the Xmas period. She didn't even ask to be taken out this afternoon -- when we've had the first bit of niceish (sunny, 7 °C/43 °F) weather on a Saturday this year -- but when I came into give her her afternoon games she started carping about my not taking her out.

When I enquired "if you wanted to go out, why didn't you tell me?" she immediately fired back "why didn't you offer?!" I assumed from the fact that she asked me to wash my car after lunch (and didn't tell me to hurry up with it so she could go out) meant that she didn't want to go out. I also sort of lost it and started making whimpering noises (which I haven't done in response to criticism from anyone other than my mother, AFAIK) which only made her even angrier.

We ended up playing the games, but in silence for the most part, because I didn't know if talking to her was going to set her off again...

I'm dreading Mother's Day (that's March 10th in the UK this year). Can't buy her ornaments as there's nowhere in this cluttered house to put them, can't get anything to do with her interests as she doesn't have any, nor would I probably be able to get her to suggest any places she'd like to go...

#264 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 02:15 PM:


When I enquired "if you wanted to go out, why didn't you tell me?" she immediately fired back "why didn't you offer?!"

Nothing you do will ever be good enough for her. She's got you terrified of doing anything that will even cause her to ask questions. Please don't beat yourself up for not being able to make her happier -- she's just about proven you can't do it.

Get her a greeting card for Mother's Day. As you've pointed out, ornaments would make her life worse, and there are no specific items that would please her. If you feel you must spend money, get her a gift card to somewhere you think she might actually choose to make a purchase from.

Get the credit card now. Even if you don't use it in her presence, get it. Establishing a credit rating is good.

Get a smartphone, now, if you want it. It's not her business why you're getting one.

Why on earth doesn't she have a driving license? I can only imagine the explosion if you bought her driving lessons for Mother's Day, but that would materially improve her life, wouldn't it?

You are not going to be able to make her happy. Don't make yourself crazier by believing it's your job.

#265 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 02:19 PM:

Codemonkey, #262: When I enquired "if you wanted to go out, why didn't you tell me?" she immediately fired back "why didn't you offer?!"

AKA "if I have to ask, it doesn't count", aka you're supposed to read her mind.

I won't say that this pattern never occurs in healthy relationships, because unfortunately there's a fair amount of social conditioning (particularly of women) to behave like this, and so it's something a lot of us have to unlearn. But it's extremely common in unhealthy relationships, and it's also common with the moving-target problem. It's very likely that if you had offered to take her out, there would have been something else you hadn't done that she would have bitched about instead.

Cannot blame you one bit for dreading Mother's Day. Imagine, a WHOLE DAY when she can jerk you around with complete social approval and you don't dare complain!

#266 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 02:46 PM:

Codemonkey @262 First of all, can anyone warn me if anything I might do in a rented flat (other than failing to pay the rent of course) would put me at risk of eviction?

You might find this website useful:

It's a UK gov't guide on renting; there's a whole section on "private renting".

#267 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 02:48 PM:

Rikibeth @263: Why on earth doesn't she have a driving license?

She's a nervous wreck even as a passenger! She was especially bad when I took her and my sister to the MetroCentre, which means driving the A1 Gateshead Western Bypass (one of England's busiest 4-lane highways, and also a road which I use every weekday to get to work). She is utterly convinced she'd never be able to pass a driving test no matter how many lessons she took.

Note that UK driving tests are much more difficult than US ones -- they now also include theory and hazard perception tests in addition to the practical test.

#268 ::: Cheryl has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 02:54 PM:

One URL; maybe bad punctuation?

I have only green tea with honey to share...

#269 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 03:50 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England @263, I don't know English law at all, but in the USA (as I understand it; I am not a lawyer) you pretty much have to stop paying rent or substantially materially damage (as in taking a sledgehammer to the walls and fixtures) the apartment before you can be evicted. It's possible that if you engage in illegal behavior -- running a meth lab or a brothel on the premises -- you might also be subject to eviction, but I'm not sure. Of course, the landlord may choose not to renew the lease if the neighbors complain about loud music or even if s/he just doesn't like you, but that's a different matter. It's HARD for a landlord to break a lease, at least in America.

#270 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 03:55 PM:

The_L @225/226: Not hlepy. It helps to see what people outside my own head make of it. And thank you for the virtual shoulder.

Dave Harmon @227: Was the fear there in the memories before your first gap?
As near as I can tell, the fear and related memories and gaps all start from when I was four and hospitalized on family vacation, well before the incident I described @204. I guess I questioned the thing with the mole first, even though it happened later, because it's the first (and only) memory I have from an actual appointment for that entire period.

The Can of Headworms was blown open several months ago, when I read something triggery (especially coming as it did after the recent run-ins with my medical phobia), and that memory about the dermatologist was what came back first. I was struck (given how I had interpreted it, regardless of intent) by the fact that, when it originally happened, my attitude was that that's just how it is.

I was raised in a very repressed, body-negative environment. Stuff like, I have a specific memory from when I was small of my grandmother (she lived with us—grandfather died before I was born) saying to my mother in a sharp, vehement voice, that she "didn't know of anything so ugly as a naked man." I don't doubt that the body-shame would have magnified whatever trauma I had. I stuffed something in the keyhole of the door to my bedroom so no-one would be able see in. I was obsessive-compulsive about locking the bathroom door, and still felt unsafe with my clothes off. But these memories are all almost certainly from sometime after the hospitalization (but before the dermatologist appointment). Could a child of four have already absorbed enough of the body-shame attitude to equate some legitimate medical procedure with rape?

I feel so stuck. It feels like I should be able to just get over it, whatever "it" was, because it's ancient history, just don't think about it, I'm an adult now, why can't I just act like one? But even when I was able to "just not think about it" all those years in between, I still had a list of symptoms as long as my arm (as I said @221, just look at any list of survivor traits, and there you have it). Big stuff, like chronic depression and anxiety (undiagnosed, because in my family, mental illness is something that other people, "crazy" people have). Little stuff, like hating cold weather, but preferring winter anyway; in winter, I feel like less of a freak, wearing multiple layers of clothes plus a coat everywhere because I feel safer that way. I've had two serious relationships in my life. The first was ultimately destroyed by my inability to cope with intimacy, and the second, with my current partner, nearly so.

When I started reading all this material about and for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, it was like all of a sudden, for the first time ever, my whole life made sense. Reading about coping strategies for survivors, I was able to start making some small positive steps. But I still have no memories to account for my issues, and my inner bullies use the complete lack of evidence as a bludgeon. You're a fraud, you're just a bad person, just a freak, just looking for excuses, go the Tapes. You have no business identifying with real survivors, how dare you appropriate that term. I keep looking for proof, some memory, something that I could point to with certainty, to shut them up. And then I feel even worse, for trying to prove such a thing.

How do you get over something, when you can't seem to stop doubting yourself that there is anything to get over?

#271 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 04:26 PM:

Codemonkey - a few things about renting

First of all you basically won't be evicted. The landlord can choose not to renew the lease but they still need to give you a month's notice.

If you have a job you won't need a guarantor. Having 6 months of rent in the bank is usually enough as well if you're a student or don't have a job but you do so that's not needed really.

Also just so you know when you rent the right of access etc. belongs to you, that's part of what the rent buys you. The landlord can enter the flat for reasonable purposes (like if you've said you're not renewing the lease and they need to show the flat to prospective tenants or something like that, or just to do an annual flat inspection) but they need to give you 24 hour written notice before doing so.

A few things that might make the landlord unhappy is things like keeping pets without permission or smoking inside if they asked for non smokers, things like that but everything of that sort should be clear up front and I sincerely doubt you'd have any problems with that kind of thing

#272 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 04:27 PM:

Eep, I don't think there's a statute of limitations on when things stop hurting or affecting you. Adoptive families are told to expect any combination of a list of potential issues; my impression has been that it's the medium-range kiddos that can be toughest, the ones who are not infants (and thus have more time before the final family was formed) and not old enough to talk things out and get metathinky about it. Would it help you to imagine that you are caring for a Dickensian orphan of sorts? You have all the symptoms for this hypothetical child inside you, but the child can't say what caused them. If it were your kid, what would you do to help?

#273 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 04:27 PM:

"she longed for me to get my own place so that she could move in with me (no doubt with my sister in tow) and escape from my dad, and from the dilapidated state of our house (especially the kitchen). Was I a bad person for being very unenthusiastic about this suggestion?"

Codemonkey, you are NOT a bad person for wanting to move away and NOT have your mother and sister follow you. It is totally normal and OK for you to want to have a place of your *own*, and you need it very badly. In fact, when you move, make sure you move somewhere that is clearly too small for 3 adults to share. I also want to chime in about how the kinds of questions you fear your mam will ask if you go out evenings and weekends are not appropriate to ask an adult, even if you are her son, even if you are living in her house. What is appropriate is for her to know which meals you'll be there for, or if you need to change existing, specific plans you had with her -- for example if you had promised to watch your sister while she went out. It is polite to call if your plans change substantially in a way that affects her. Otherwise she mostly only needs to know if you are in or out, and that you are employed and not broke.

You were asking about tenant law in the UK -- I don't know it myself, but try googling united kingdom rental law. The first page seemed to have some useful results from some UK government or nonprofit agencies.

The more I hear about your mam, the more I am reminded of mine, especially in the personality and the things you have been taught to think and feel. As far as anyone can tell, I am alive and sane because I moved out, and probably wouldn't be if I hadn't. I'm going to tell you some about her so you can see if she sounds familiar to you too.

My mother has been a housewife since around the time she married, because she believes it is what she signed up for, and she will damn well do it, even if it does last a lifetime and she hates it. Now that my father is old and sick, she cares for him too, and hates that even more. She takes all that hate and despair out on him and whoever else happens to be in range by being controlling and passive-aggressive, and when she can't abuse someone else enough, she'll start abusing herself. I was her preferred chew toy while I was there. Now that my sister and I are both gone, my father does chew toy duty (he seems to be confused at the change) and she is slowly smothering him. She's wanted divorce for decades but never did it. She calls herself the house slave, and does in fact do the work of 2-3 people, but she enslaves and slavedrives herself. She's extremely unhappy, and so damaged and in pain that even when she wants to be kind and loving, she'll probably insult/hurt/reject you just as much as she helps. Her behaviour and motives are complex and layered, and often mix kicks and kindness. Her reactions are unpredictable -- sometimes she's upset that I do something nice for myself, but other times, she will react positively. (I think the distinguishing feature is whether the thing is something *she* empathises with or wants to do for herself, and hasn't yet denied herself enough to be resentful about someone else having it.)

My mother was brought up Catholic when a woman's role was to be forever subordinate, sacrificing, serving. So she has a lot of guilt and a lot of martyrdom. She sacrifices herself day in day out for decades on end, and won't stop. So she is painfully bitter and resentful about her martyrdom, which she tries to tell us is our fault, but I spent some thought on that, and concluded that it is more self-imposed than required by us. She also tries to bear an unbearable burden of guilt, some rational, some not, some deserved, some not. On some level she is aware that her treatment of her family is unacceptable, and she feels guilt over that too. As well as taking out her guilt and resentment on her family, she deliberately and actively instills neuroses and guilt complexes in us. And at the time, she was masterful at making all this deeply dysfunctional and abusive behaviour seem normal and okay, not just to me, but to everyone.

I already know that your mother aimed enough of the "always wrong" at you, and demonstrated the consequences enough with you there, that you are continually afraid of doing the wrong thing, no matter how small. She is wanting and expecting you to read her mind, to be an extension of her, and does not want you to be an independent person. Your struggle to separate yourself from her scares her, and some of the reasons are good and could be sympathized with, and others will sound monstrous. She wants and needs you controlled and fearful. On some level, she needs you to not exist for her convenience. I know because I was there. You definitely are being deliberately and inappropriately treated like a child, so that you will stay cooped up, isolated, and scared of using your resources (especially financial) to get what you want.

I think you're uneasy about leaving because not only have you been given a multitude of spoken reasons -- good or not or in-between -- that you should never ever leave, but you have also been given given unrealistic financial expectations, kept isolated and dependent, kept in a child's position, and occasionally outright lied to. On top of all that, I think you probably have a Goddamned Tape, a guilt loop, running in your head saying, "I don't deserve to leave. I don't deserve privacy or a social life or control over my day-to-day affairs and living space. There can't really be anything excessive or wrong about the obligations my family puts me under since they are family after all and you do ANYTHING for family, and I am a bad person to think of rejecting them. I don't deserve to be an independent adult who can enjoy and cope with an adult life with all its freedoms, choices, responsibilities, and pleasures. I should stay in my cage as I have been taught is best."

So yes, you remind me of me, and so I want very much for you to move out soon and be safe and well, so that you have a life and be loved and get down to work on removing all that stuff she installed in your head. Because I know from experience that it's going to take a while, and you're going to need some help.

#274 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 04:41 PM:

Codemonkey, this is very important. When you get your own place, DO NOT GIVE YOUR MOTHER THE KEY. She will try to make you, but you must stand firm. It is NOT her home, it is YOUR home.

In fact, you might consider not inviting her over until you've been there a month or two. That way she can't nitpick and take the pleasure away from you.

#275 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 05:01 PM:

Moonlit Night #273: oh ghu, the people who hurt or deprive themselves for whatever private reason, and then use it to make you feel guilty! (Including having children in the first place...)

"Look how I martyr myself for you! You now owe it to me to do everything I want in return, you ingrate!"

"But I never ever asked you to! And anyway, you said you did it for yourself!" And then they wonder why we get gunshy and mistrustful about "generosity"!

TexAnne #274: This.

#276 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 05:21 PM:

eep #270: Could a child of four have already absorbed enough of the body-shame attitude to equate some legitimate medical procedure with rape?

Such as being ordered to take off all their clothes while alone with a stranger? While already probably sick as a dog? Quite possible... or there might have been some other trauma before the start of your effective memory, that got hooked to doctor's visits.

It feels like I should be able to just get over it, whatever "it" was, because it's ancient history, just don't think about it,

Totally not how it works! The human mind accretes by layers over time. An early trauma that never got resolved, can become like an encysted infection, always hurting and occasionally leaking trauma out into the rest of the mind.

At this point, I would suggest looking into the "content-independent" phobia treatments out there, such as that eye-movement thing (IIRC, Tom Whitmore recently posted some info about that.) If you can get the phobic response defused enough, you might be able to access some of the missing memories, maybe enough to figure out what happened.

#277 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 06:29 PM:

eep, #270: At this point, I would be strongly tempted to recommend regression therapy. It's got a bad rep because a practitioner with an agenda can take advantage of the patient to implant false "recovered" memories, but there are also people who have found it useful and liberating when they finally figured out what was at the root of things that had been messing with them for all their lives. Is there anyone you trust who would be able to recommend a competent practitioner?

Codemonkey: TexAnne has an excellent point @274. At this time, your mother should not have a key to the home where you live independent of her. You would be entirely too likely to come home some afternoon and find her and your sister moved in!

#278 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 07:47 PM:

eep: from my perspective, if a particular treatment makes you feel better, and makes you able to function better, it's worth doing, even if you don't know where the problem came from.

This is true of some physical conditions/treatments as well; for example, there are habituation treatments for dizziness that work whether the dizziness is caused by an eye problem, a brain problem, or an inner ear problem.

#279 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2013, 11:44 PM:

Codemonkey, TexAnne is right. Truly. Don't give your mother a key to your home, even if she suggests that she needs one because you might have a health emergency, and someone would have to be able to get inside... Be polite, thank her for her concern, tell her you'll consider it (if you must say something), and Just Don't Do It.

#280 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 12:48 AM:

Codemonkey, chiming in with my agreement to TexAnne's 274. If I were in your shoes, I would rather have emergency medical services break down the door with a fire ax than let my mother have a key. And if I were too ill to manage the bare subsistence tasks of "fill a water bottle, keep it by the bed," then I'd want inpatient care, not my mother's intrusions.

An anxiety level so high that it often prevents your mother from being a passenger and utterly precludes her obtaining a driver's license is strikingly high. It's especially striking as it suggests she's had that level of anxiety since she was a young woman first eligible to get a license. (When the requirements weren't as strict as they are now, if I can trust Dick Francis as a source.) Or was there some other external obstacle to her getting one then (parental objection perhaps)? At this point, it falls under "problems which require a time machine to fix need not be addressed now," but it's something to think about when you work on sorting out how your mother's perception of reality differs from most people's. If you decide to see a therapist, it would be an interesting data point to give them.

#281 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 08:59 AM:

Still reading, can't comment that much at the moment though due to internet problems.

I just wanted to share the following on darkness, because it might be helpful to some (it was for me today). There is a reference to religion in the second to last paragraph, skip if necessary.

I'm, well, if not getting better than at least a bit more stable. I'm freer now as far as I can tell and that takes some getting used to, but I'm glad for it.
Still beating back all manners of unbidden thoughts (last week-end was hellish in that regard), but I think I'm getting the upper hand now. Once I can comment properly again I might write a bit more about the methods I've used.
I registered for some artsy courses that'll allow me to do something fun and practice being new at something. It certainly fits my current state.

I've also been thinking about your suggestion, TexAnne and considering it has continued to bounce around in my brain pan, I'll give it a shot.

Mh, the impressions say I'm too self-centered right now and should of course try to answer each and every interesting comment I've read. I'll go with disagreement today.

#282 ::: anonymous dysfunctional ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 12:44 PM:

Codemonkey - what everyone else said about giving your mother a key: DON'T EVEN THINK OF IT.

When you do ask her over (and give yourself plenty of time to decompress before you do) she is, from all you say, going to find plenty of faults with how you are living. That's not your problem. That's hers.

As to the bank account: you have more than one, at different banks? That's a good thing; now you have several places to go to apply for credit and can get the best deal for you.

A thing doesn't have to be the perfect thing for yourself. It just has to be something for yourself.

#283 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 01:45 PM:

Codemonkey -- regarding the mother's day present. Go with the card* since you're in a no-win situation anyway.

As to the "emergency" key? If you rent with a complex that has its own office, there will always be someone there who can let the EMTs in, should that be necessary.

*In your shoes I'd make my move-in date to the new flat March 9, 2013...

#284 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2013, 02:24 PM:

eep, it sounds as though your situation is similar to having a piece of metal under your skin. You can't see it; it comes from some accident you're too young/traumatized to remember, and you don't really know what's there—but it continues to nick you on the inside, and hurt.

Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there.

#285 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 06:19 AM:

Immediately after lunch on Sunday (weather similar to Saturday) I asked my mam if she wanted to go out that afternoon. She said it was "too late" (it was 12:40, as she'd delayed lunch a bit), so I said "OK then, I'm going for a walk", which I then did, in spite of her efforts to talk me out of it by saying it was too cold, and that I was "supposed to be playing games with her this afternoon". I came in to play the games anyway when I returned from my walk (at 14:30) and she started bitching me because the TV commercials (she usually watches TV -- often game shows -- while we play board games) for home improvements (obviously no good if you're not a homeowner) and for luxury holidays were making her jealous.

She then accused me of being "as bad as my dad, unable to handle criticism" (at which point does criticism become abuse, by the way?), and also moaning (after a commercial for Rightmove) about how I hadn't recently checked it for houses for her. The last time I did that was last April, but when she rejected as "too small" every one of 60 properties I printed out in a bare-bones list (basically just price, location and bedroom sizes), without so much as asking to view a printout of full details for any of them (let alone actually viewing any of them in person), I pretty much lost heart at that point -- was that a failing on my part? Should I have kept on checking every month or so?

Or is she just resenting that I didn't start spending time with her until after Dad's stroke, which made me feel I had no choice?

Lizzy L @279: Don't give your mother a key to your home, even if she suggests that she needs one because you might have a health emergency, and someone would have to be able to get inside.

If I moved to anywhere in the general area I was contemplating (Gateshead through Washington to Sunderland) then my parents would need to get at least 2 and more likely 3 bus rides to get to my flat, even if they had a key for it. For the "health emergency" reason you mentioned (as well as a belief that a more rural area would be less dangerous crime-wise -- my mother is worried by reports of violent crime on the local TV news) my dad (who's much less anxious than my mam) has tried to persuade me to stay in eastern County Durham (former Easington District, before the introduction of the county-wide unitary authority) instead. I find that unappealing though -- the "Billy Elliot country" thing I mentioned in my first post here, as well as the longer commuting distance.

Rikibeth @280: An anxiety level so high that it often prevents your mother from being a passenger and utterly precludes her obtaining a driver's license is strikingly high. It's especially striking as it suggests she's had that level of anxiety since she was a young woman first eligible to get a license. (When the requirements weren't as strict as they are now, if I can trust Dick Francis as a source.) Or was there some other external obstacle to her getting one then (parental objection perhaps)?

I don't think she's quite so anxious as to be unwilling to be a passenger, except that she was unwilling to have dad drive her further than the local shops in the last year before his stroke. And that was due to his markedly deteriorating driving skills more than anything else.

I suspect that Mam didn't learn to drive when young less because of anxiety, and more because of

a) a view that driving was "men's work". Perhaps traditional gender roles lingered longer in my area, because it was dominated by coal mining until the late '80s. The 1984 miners' strike was an attempt to bring down the Thatcher government, which the NUM saw (rightfully as it turned out) as hell-bent on closing down Britain's coal mining industry.
b) a view that she'd never be able to afford a car (as she only had low-paid factory or shop work, and her parents couldn't help her financially as they were paying a mortgage).

Perhaps the fact that public housing was very much the norm in our area (until Thatcher's government started selling it off in the '80s to those tenants who could afford to buy) may be another reason why mam views private renting so negatively?

Lori Coulson @283: Regarding the mother's day present. Go with the card since you're in a no-win situation anyway.

Can't even do that, as she's already bought her own card! She always buys all the greeting cards in our house, usually at least a month in advance (which I wouldn't dream of doing myself -- I'd regard two weeks as enough, maybe more for Xmas), and then has the unmitigated gall to accuse me of being too stingy to buy my own cards!

#286 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 08:26 AM:

Codemonkey: It's sounding like your mom is (a) desperately unhappy, (b) in denial -- people of that generation that I've encountered in the US often have Goddamn Tapes about 'drawing attention to yourself' or 'moping' or any number of things that would amount to self-examination and finding your happiness properly -- and (c) taking it out on you as the only person with whom she has ANY normal social interaction on a regular basis.

Not, perhaps, to be mean ... but if she got either more people to be social with or a better way to relieve her pent-up stress and unhappiness (a hobby, new outlets?), she would probably quit being so unpleasant to you all the freaking time.

Which is not to say it's your JOB to help her get/feel better, but if you were so kind as to want to be a good friend and do so ... these are symptoms that, to trained personnel, can help create diagnostics.

I would say that if you're up to it, encouraging/chivvying her into at least leaving the house with you regularly (2-5 times a week), even if only for a walk to the end of the block and back, would probably pay dividends in her worldview opening out a little bit. Plus, even small amounts of regular physical activity can make a big difference in one's biological ability to regulate one's mood ... for you AND for her.

#287 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 08:28 AM:

One ohnosecond later, I realized I should add:

And if you can get regular with what outlets you provide her, and make a point of being prompt/regular with them, she may (over several weeks, not immediately) stop freaking out at the (perhaps unconscious) idea that you could quit anytime and that her one social lifeline is precarious. Which might also be informing her reaction -- I could see she might push back against anything you do that seems to be giving YOU other social outlets because they might mean she would lose HERS.

Relationships are not a zero-sum game, but when you're stuck in Surviving (as, perhaps, she is?) they can sure as hell LOOK like that.

#288 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 08:43 AM:

Codemonkey #285: at which point does criticism become abuse, by the way?

Given what you've described... some time ago! seriously, besides general accumulation, you've gotten double-binds, gaslighting, attacking your boundaries, undercutting your initiative and independence, and who knows what all else. At this point, I'd say your mother's criticism falls squarely under "unreliable source", with a side of "unfriendly agenda".

#289 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 09:06 AM:


Just in case you needed any confirmation, it was ridiculous of your mother to say 12:40 was "too late" to go out for the afternoon. Lots of people don't even start lunch until after that. It seems she's determined to be contrary/unhappy and is clutching at straws.

Move out as soon as you can. Then she will have to start taking responsibility for her own happiness, because you won't be around for her to blame. Also, it sounds as if she expects you to hand her the perfect home on a plate. You would be justified in telling her you will not do a single other thing about it until she comes to you with particulars of some affordable houses she can (at least on paper) accept. Actually, you would be justified in taking all your savings and inheritance and moving to (picks random place a long way from County Durham) Cornwall.

#290 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 09:55 AM:

Bricklayer @287, you're making me think about maybe having more compassion for my mother. Which is hard, because she demands compassion and I never feel like I'm allowed to ask for it in return, something which she seems incapable of parsing. (Short version: she's a recovering alcoholic and medicated for depression and is fairly quick to assume malice over thoughtlessness, but is not actually a bad person...)

#291 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 10:01 AM:

Which is to say that I still resent the hell out of her for various things and she makes it worse by saying things that sound to me, in aggregate, as if the fact that she's tried to make amends meant that I had to instantly and forever forgive her. Also I don't really like her as a person and I'm made uncomfortable by her efforts to get involved in everysinglehobby and live vicariously through her but cast as a meanypants for trying to set boundaries (over something as innocuous as a nickname!)

#292 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 10:18 AM:

Codemonkey, there are a lot of things you could do to make your mother happier, but I think most if not all of them require that you be out of her house to start with. I don't want to give advice or ideas that would make living in an abusive situation bearable for the longer-term and thus keep you in a dys- or subfunctional home. You can spackle over the cracks, but finding a new foundation will much more effective in the long term.

Context for this lack of advice: I am a boiled frog person. I very easily fall into 'good enough' even when things are not, in fact, good enough; it's not always even a local maximum. It helps me to stick with a bad thing I know and know I want out of rather than to find something incrementally better at the local maximum. I am giving you advice,or not, as if you are me.

You can get through this. You can move out, rent for a while, buy a house that suits you perfectly, find happiness, and shore up your family, not always in that order. You can do this. It is not wrong, it is not selfish, it is not abandoning your family. You can do this. You are allowed to do this. You are able to do this.

#293 ::: Diatryma, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 10:19 AM:

I've been gnomed.

#294 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 10:21 AM:

hope in disguise, #290/291: Compassion is not the same thing as capitulation. You can have compassion for someone who has none to offer you in return, but that doesn't mean you must allow them to run roughshod over your life. (See also, "forgiveness".)

#295 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 11:04 AM:

Me @291: *live vicariously through me

#296 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 11:13 AM:

Lee @294, technically true but it's hard for me to forgive her without feeling like I have to pretend that *nothing bad ever happened*. It's hard for me to have compassion for someone who behaves as if my feelings about the past are irrelevant because it is past while simultaneously using my *childhood behaviors* against me. It feels as though forgiving her means that she has "won" in the sense that she seems to think she deserves my unconditional love and acceptance and as though every time I have an issue with her it means that zomg I hate her forever and it is simply the Worst Thing. Because after all she does love me and I should be grateful for such accepting parents. I feel like as long as I'm not allowed to have issues with her, I can't truly forgive her, because it's letting her tell me my emotions aren't okay. Which isn't true but feels true.

#297 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 11:29 AM:

Hope in Disguise, Abi said something in one of the DFD threads about forgiveness being something you notice happened, rather than something you actively pursue. A scar isn't something you do, but it does mean the wound isn't bleeding any more and you don't have to worry about it getting infected. The mark may not go away, but the healing has happened.

Your mother seems to want you to forgive her for things she is still doing. You can't put a scar where someone is stabbing you. Bodies don't work that way and I see no reason that minds should*.

As for 'should', that's a word I notice. 'Should' is not the way to frame things, at least not for me. Don't think in shoulds. If you do want a should, you should be happy and healthy, and your relationships should be happy and healthy.

(*yes, I know, should, but it's not the same should.)

#298 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 11:41 AM:

Diatryma: Seconding the 'should' thing. I have a tendency of falling into that thought pattern myself, and my fiancee's told me more than once that 'should' doesn't mean beans when what is is what you have to deal with.

Maybe something should be X, but right now it's Y, and you have to work with Y if you're going to get to X.

#299 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 01:15 PM:

This seems like a good time to share this article I just found about to what extent grown children do, or do not, owe their abusive parents.

The Debt

(Apologies if someone already linked and I missed it).

Codemonkey: First, CONGRATULATIONS on going out for a walk on Sunday once your mother refused the offered trip out. I think that unfortunately your mother has been unhappy for so long that she doesn't know how to react to anything anymore except by complaining. She no longer knows how to be happy, and she's clinging to you so hard she's going to drag you into the mire with her. As things stand, nothing you do for your mother is going to be good enough. If you get out and can put down some healthy roots, elsewhere, then you might be able to help her - or not, if she really doesn't want help.

t's not your fault she's in the situation she's in, and it's not your job to get her out of it - certainly not by sacrificing your own life.

#300 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Codemonkey @285: "Can't even do that, as she's already bought her own card! She always buys all the greeting cards in our house, usually at least a month in advance (which I wouldn't dream of doing myself -- I'd regard two weeks as enough, maybe more for Xmas), and then has the unmitigated gall to accuse me of being too stingy to buy my own cards!"

Oh, good grief! That's completely ridiculous (on her part).

So buy her a card anyway, if you want. "It was important to me that it be a card from me that I'd picked out" or somesuch explanation when she complains of the waste.

#301 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 01:34 PM:

Codemonkey @285: first of all, congratulations on the "all right, I'm going for a walk" response. Even a minor assertion of independence like that should be counted a victory, when dealing with your mother!

Also, for heaven's sake, she is wallowing in her helplessness. The TV commercials are making her jealous? When, because she unreasonably invades your privacy by monitoring your bank statements, she knows exactly how much money is available, and it could be used to achieve both homeownership AND a luxury vacation, if she were willing to connect with practical reality about it. If she is so all-fired desperate to live in an owned house, why isn't she going on the computer and searching the properties? "She doesn't know how" is not an excuse. If she wanted to, she could learn. Instead, she seems to prefer making it all your responsibility and then deciding that nothing is good enough.

side note, if the "luxury vacations" on TV as it's broadcast are the same as the ones I see on the ITV iPlayer ads, they'd be for cruises? Given the recent unpleasantness on that Carnival cruise ship, I wouldn't be in such a hurry to go on one!

As for the gender roles, good heavens. Local customs must have been very different in your area. I am forty-three years old. Not only my mother, but both my grandmothers had driver's licenses, as a purely expected thing. I think that ONE female relative of my grandmothers' generation might have never gotten a driver's license on the thought that it was "man's work," and she was considered the oddity. The only way that idea ever really manifested among people I knew was that, if a husband and wife were both in the car together, generally the husband drove.

And yes, I'd bet that your mother's opposition to private renting probably stems from considering council housing the norm. This doesn't have to affect your decision at all.

I should also point out that, just because your mother's already bought a Mother's Day card doesn't mean that there are no other cards left in the shops. You could still get her one on your own. You certainly don't have to. I hardly think she deserves one. But if you do, it might be instructive to observe her reaction. Most mothers don't buy their own Mother's Day cards. Most mothers would react to an independently-bought card with pleasure, or at least with thanks. I have the funny feeling that this wouldn't be her reaction. I'd put money on some combination of "why did you do that when I'd already bought a card" and "why didn't you get me a gift?" I wouldn't concern myself too much with when she buys the cards -- there's room for a lot of individual variation there, and there's no One Right Way to do it. My mother has been known to amass cards throughout the year, buying them if she sees ones that strike her as appropriate. Some people buy their next year's Christmas cards in the week after Christmas when they're on sale. I send e-cards and I generally pick them out the night before, because I'm not wonderful at planning things like that. :) As long as the cards get there, it shouldn't matter much.

That applies to a lot of things, really. There's generally more than one right way to do things. Focus on the results.

#302 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 02:30 PM:

On "should" -- totally agreeing that it's a word that marks something potentially bad. I've taken, in my own head, to looking at "supposed to". Whenever I think something is "supposed to be" some way, I try to stop and ask myself who is doing that supposing. Usually, I can't identify a person who supposes (directly). This makes it easier to question the assumption.

#303 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 02:36 PM:

Codemonkey, #285: Remember what I said @265 about how if you had offered to take her out, she'd have found something else you were doing wrong to bitch about? Now you have proof, because that's exactly what she did. She wanted you to make the offer, but when you did, then suddenly it wasn't what she wanted after all. MOVING TARGET. You will never be able to get her approval, because your value to her is as a whipping post.

dcb, #299: That's an amazing article -- all the more amazing because of its being written by "Dear Prudence", who has repeatedly demonstrated her tone-deafness and insensitivity over similar issues in the past. I guess even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

This article, which is linked from the one you posted, may also be useful. It's an editorial by a doctor who has worked with the victims of parental abuse, and who has (apparently reluctantly and incompletely*) been forced to acknowledge that sometimes the best thing to do is walk away.

* Because, as Dear Prudence points out, if one substitutes "abusive spouse" for "abusive parents", he would surely be much faster to suggest getting the hell out of Dodge.

#304 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 04:27 PM:

Codemonkey, the thumping sound you're hearing is my head hitting the desk.

She bought her own card?!

Man oh man, I do not know what to say -- wow...

I knew it was a bad situation, but the above action shows me she's got no faith in anyone.

#305 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 07:32 PM:

I always wonder what would happen if someone refused to follow the script, instead answer the "You don't love me! You don't want to spend time with me!" refrain with, "Why would anyone want to spend time with you, when you treat everyone like dirt? Why should they?"

But we are too well-conditioned, too early, to ever bite the Wire Mothers...

#306 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 07:38 PM:

Diatryma @272: Would it help you to imagine that you are caring for a Dickensian orphan of sorts? You have all the symptoms for this hypothetical child inside you, but the child can't say what caused them. If it were your kid, what would you do to help?
This is something that I'm going to have to make a concerted effort to try to figure out. It's a good technique, and a lot of the material for survivors that I've read focuses on "healing the inner child". It's more fun to say "my inner Dickensian orphan". :) I haven't got a clue when it comes to kids, though (other than, for the love of mercy, I must not become a parent). In theory, I should have a pretty good sense of what not to do, anyway...

Dave Harmon @276:
The human mind accretes by layers over time. An early trauma that never got resolved, can become like an encysted infection, always hurting and occasionally leaking trauma out into the rest of the mind.
Funny, reading up on brain functioning has been something of a hobby of mine since way before I started this latest round of poking at the Worm-Can, but I have so much trouble remembering that it applies to my own brain, too. Thank you for the reminder.

Dave Harmon @276 & Lee @277:
Thank you for the therapy suggestions. I will definitely try to research into them a bit. Unfortunately, research is the only thing in the budget at the moment. If I can manage to get out of my present tailspin, some kind of professional help would be on the asap to-do list, and these sound like a good place to start looking.

Lila @278: if a particular treatment makes you feel better, and makes you able to function better, it's worth doing, even if you don't know where the problem came from.
I am going to try using this as a mantra to chant against my brainbullies. :)
Also B. Durbin @284: Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there.

Thanks to everyone for the perspective-check.

#307 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 07:51 PM:

hope in disguise, #296: I feel like as long as I'm not allowed to have issues with her, I can't truly forgive her, because it's letting her tell me my emotions aren't okay.

Given the rest of what you've described here, she is telling you that your emotions aren't okay! There's no "letting her" involved, it's something she's taken up all by herself. No wonder you feel conflicted; she's still beating up on you. Someone doesn't have to be a bad person in order to do bad things; sometimes they just have to be self-deluded.

This sounds like an excellent place to exercise compassion from a distance. Are you trapped living with her right now?

#308 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 08:30 PM:

Lee @307, only between semesters and over the summer, but given that "semi-guaranteed job in $HOMETOWN + free room and board + living with my dad*" actually outweighs "not living with my mom + no guarantee of job + having to pay rent", basically I am trapped living with her when I'm not off at school (I have one more year of undergrad). It takes up to a week before being in the same room as her starts grating on my nerves. Like most annoying things, the effect calms down after a while (mostly).

*My dad is actually awesome and I like him a lot. They seem to have a pretty healthy, worked-on marriage at this point**. I don't want my dad to be sad and not with her. But I also wish that living with him were not contingent on living with her. This is one of those basically irreconcilable things that I just don't think about.

** Possibly because he goes to Al Anon pretty religiously and actually lets it help him. I have resisted going because it would feel like I was doing it for her rather than for myself; my brother only started going when he realized his (ex-)housemate was an addict and he couldn't deal with it.

#309 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2013, 09:14 PM:

Quill @ 170: Thank you for the link to Unfuck Your Habitat. Soooo much easier to take, for me, than Flylady. (I do not cope well with perky cheerfulness.)

Everyone: Am reading and witnessing, but commenting is mostly beyond me. Am having more down than up days still, but that's not due to family disfunction, it's just grief, and I know it does pass, eventually. *wry*

#310 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 01:19 AM:

oof. We haven't had a doozy of a fight like that... I think ever, in person. Certainly not after I moved here.

My fiancee's computer needs a quick repair done, and we debated getting a spare laptop before we left the store. I had reservations (mostly of the 'do we really NEED another computer?' sort), and when I gave voice to them in the form of 'I really don't think we'd have the money to do this and take care of other stuff'...

Well, I think her brain took that as a cue to let the depressive tailspin take over. There was storming out of the store. There was accusing me of not meaning it when I said I'd say the same thing if it were my computer in the shop (I would). There was locking me out of the car when we got home (I had my keys, so I just climbed back in the back hatch - it's a station wagon and there's still too much snow for me to've gotten back in the door, which is the only reason I got out). There was "just leave me alone," which I did for a while once she came in.

(There was, on my side, identifying the 'the financial holdups here are ALL YOUR FAULT' tapes for what they are and telling myself she's not the one saying that. Limited success in the heat of the moment; it got better when we talked it through.)

So I gave her space for a while, had my own little crying jag (because, hey, she did cut me deep there), and eventually went into the bedroom, where we talked it through. We actually got through the pros and cons of it and decided no, we don't need a third computer; replacing one that's borked beyond repair is one thing, but a quick fix is quite another. We talked through the things we did in the heat of the moment that set each other off, and we both apologised.

Later, she thanked me for pulling her out of that tailspin.

It's hard work, but it's entirely worth doing.

#311 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 01:33 AM:

I want to record some things. First: my dad's cousin died over the weekend. The visitation was today, and next month there'll be a memorial and lunch, I think. My aunt took it upon herself to tell the relatives planning the lunch that my brother and I shouldn't be invited. As my mom told it, she basically said that we don't know how to behave in public. What that means is that we're autistic/Aspergers and (mostly) don't pretend not to be. I was trying to put it another way but yeah, that's it.

This is annoying for several reasons. That she thinks it's her business. That she thinks it's up to HER to tell family we haven't seen in years what to think of us. That she thinks we're not self-aware enough to know when to act "polite". That she thinks we can't handle this, and need her hlep.

I don't even know why she did it. Was she worried we'd embarrass her, or my parents? Maybe, that was kind of my mom's concern. But there's a difference between us dealing with that amongst ourselves, and what she did.

One thing my mom pointed out is that Aunt is fine using us (and my parents) as free manual labour. We're suitable for yard work and packing and moving boxes and snow shovelling. But oh no, there's a chance my brother might make a badly timed joke in front of Important People! She must intervene! Yeah, I'm gonna think twice before helping her again.

An unrelated thing that happened after: My mom brought up Applying For Jobs on the way home, which pushed me into a vortex of Tapes. I was being super pessimistic, saying that "Will you please look for a job?" ends up sounding like "Oh my GOD just GET A JOB ALREADY, you're a waste of space etc". Mom said that I'm trying to make her feel guilty, but I'm just telling her what the Tapes are saying. I know that sounds kind of, uh, bad, but I don't really want feedback on that. I just want to document this.

She thinks I'm manipulative. She once said that I was acting affectionate to distract her, or something like that. She interpreted me hugging her as a ploy to make her stop asking about something. I don't know where she's getting it from. I hug because I'm tired and her shoulder's a good headrest, or because I just want a hug. Jeez. And now she's saying that I'm trying to guilt her. I need to talk to her about this.

Third thing: This feels related to what I mentioned @174. I do a lot of fandom-related reading, which often involves character analysis of some kind. Maybe it's because it's basically someone's issues and personality laid out for you to examine, but I think it's helping me understand myself. Sort of like, "If it was your best friend in your situation, you wouldn't doubt if it was bad enough to ask for help.". I don't mean to say I don't care about real people. It's just that it's easier to casually think about how someone hates themself, or has huge trust issues, when they're fictional. Which makes it easier to recognize parts of myself in those characters. Sort of reminds me of how some (adult) people say they've learned important social lessons by watching shows aimed at children. It's totally a valid way to learn, but it's looked at as kinda weird.

Anyway, I'm still reading.

#312 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 02:10 AM:

Rikibeth @301: As for the gender roles, good heavens. Local customs must have been very different in your area. I am forty-three years old. Not only my mother, but both my grandmothers had driver's licenses, as a purely expected thing. I think that ONE female relative of my grandmothers' generation might have never gotten a driver's license on the thought that it was "man's work," and she was considered the oddity. The only way that idea ever really manifested among people I knew was that, if a husband and wife were both in the car together, generally the husband drove.

Are you American? Britain was 30 years behind the US where car ownership was concerned -- second cars didn't become common until the 1990s here.

#313 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 08:16 AM:

Rickibeth @301 (& response by Codemonkey @312). Yes, this is a UK/USA difference. We have, in general, better public transport systems (buses etc.) particularly in cities and it would not have been uncommon for women, particularly, of Codemonkey's mother's generation, from traditional backgrounds in working class communities, not to learn to drive. Conversely I was shocked, when I first visited the USA, by the number of teenagers with their own cars. I learned to drive when I was 18, but only got my first car when I was half way through my six-year course university, and only took on the expense then (with parental assistance) because I needed it for extramural studies

#314 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 08:17 AM:

Phenicious, I think that looking at fictional characters has one aspect that may make it more useful than looking at best friends: in fictional characters, when issues arise, when the issues have serious consequences, it's fun. We* can examine what's going on in their heads with anticipation rather than dread, so it's easier to what-if and find that something makes sense.

I think your aunt was completely out of line and you would be well within your rights to show up and, if anyone asks or comments, say, "I don't know what she thinks we'd do. We spent all last weekend shoveling her out after the storm and she didn't say anything about a problem."

The hug thing may be something you can work on if it turns out to be a serious issue. It's possible that your mother resents being a headrest and a source of comfort or that your genuine affection isn't showing through. In either case, if you decide to act on her complaint, there are things you can do to fix it. If you talk about it and it turns out to be less important, you're already fine.

*First-person we here. Everyone has a line beyond which fictional dysfunctionality ceases to be fun. Mine is mine.

#315 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 08:19 AM:

Something I forgot to mention:

Tatterbots @289: Just in case you needed any confirmation, it was ridiculous of your mother to say 12:40 was "too late" to go out for the afternoon. Lots of people don't even start lunch until after that. It seems she's determined to be contrary/unhappy and is clutching at straws.

Actually I think there is a good reason why my mother wouldn't want to go out with me after a certain time on a weekend -- when she has gone out with me on a weekend afternoon, she said she didn't want to be still out after 16:00, because it would likely cause my sister to have a temper tantrum back home.

Lee @303: Remember what I said @265 about how if you had offered to take her out, she'd have found something else you were doing wrong to bitch about? Now you have proof, because that's exactly what she did. She wanted you to make the offer, but when you did, then suddenly it wasn't what she wanted after all. MOVING TARGET. You will never be able to get her approval, because your value to her is as a whipping post.

To be honest, I never expected my mother to actually accept my Sunday offer to take her out, but I still felt I had to make it (not just for her sake, but for my own as well). When I said I was going for a walk, I expected my mother to be a bit relieved thinking "oh, at least he's going to get some fresh air, instead of sitting on the computer all afternoon", but instead all I got was a resigned "all right then".

Another question -- since it's fairly likely that my mother is suffering from clinical depression, who do people here think she'd be most likely to listen to if they told her to go to a doctor about it?

#316 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 10:16 AM:

I got the funding I needed to teach abroad this summer. So excited.
I also had a dream that was basically... this thread, in dream form. As in, somebody explaining, in detail and over time, their experiences with dysfunction/abuse. Not sure what to make of that.
Still doing fairly well overall. I think being at school rather than home is helpful, as are the meds. Still haven't consulted the school therapist, but I've at least met her in person and introduced myself, which... is something, I guess. (I actually introduced myself at a public mental health screening my school offered, which showed not only that I had depression as it'd shown last year, but also anxiety issues. Maybe things have to get worse before they get better.)

#317 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:31 AM:

Dash @316: Dunno if this might be useful or not, though it went rather similar for me re: depression and anxiety. The depression came first (I assumed I had it and my first therapist confirmed it) and one or two years later I sort of stumbled upon the whole anxiety thing. With what I currently know I'd say the depression actually hid the anxiety and that the latter is at the root of it all. That I was able to recognize how afraid I was all the time, was actually a sign of me getting stable enough to handle that knowledge. But of course YMMV, so ignore if unhelpful.
Also probs for introducing yourself, it's a pain and a half to arrange this stuff, but hopefully you'll get the help you need!

#318 ::: somewhere_else, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 11:33 AM:

Or so I think.

#319 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 12:15 PM:

CodeMonkey @215: Honest answer? Only person I can think of as likely for her to listen to on that subject is a doctor, or possibly another outsider.

It's really hard for a depressed person to listen to advice that they're depressed, without hearing it as both unfounded ("But I have all these reasons why I'm unhappy, which you're ignoring!") and a disapproval/rebuke ("You shouldn't be having the feelings you're having."), and that generally goes nowhere except to make it harder for them to seek help because they don't want to prove the advice correct.

#320 ::: Brooks Moses is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 12:16 PM:

Probably for using punctuation of unusual messiness, rather than a word of power.

In any case, breakfast? I should be fixing myself some, anyway.

#321 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 05:00 PM:

Codemonkey @ 315:

She might listen to your sister's caseworker. It also might help if a semi-outside person like that phrases it as "I'm worried about you because you've been carrying such a heavy load, especially since your husband's stroke." And *not* mentioning any possible mental health issues such as depression, because that might cause a reaction of instant denial, and of blocking out anything further that person says.

Just a thought, and not meant to be hlepy.

#322 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 05:08 PM:

hope in disguise @ 308:

** Possibly because he goes to Al Anon pretty religiously and actually lets it help him. I have resisted going because it would feel like I was doing it for her rather than for myself;

I have friends who got to Al Anon meetings, and they're doing it strictly for themselves. I've seen instances where the alcoholic/addict in the family hasn't wanted family members to go to Al Anon, because the things those family members learned made the addict/alcoholic less able to control or manipulate everyone else. It changes the "rules of the game" if someone just doesn't play it any more...

#323 ::: glinda has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 05:10 PM:

*offers cranberry-orange scones and coffee*

Wonder what Word(s) of Power I used?

#324 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 08:41 PM:

glinda @322, it's really the activation energy problem, and the distorted thinking re: what counts as her 'winning' which I am not, at this point, bothered enough by to correct, I think? But thank you.

#325 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2013, 09:04 PM:

hope in disguise, #324: If you refuse to do something that would help you because if would feel like she was winning, she is controlling you every bit as much as if you did it because she said to. I understand the desire not to reward bad behavior on her part, but sometimes you just have to say fuckit, I'm doing it anyhow whether she wants me to or not.

I went thru this on a semi-regular basis for a long time WRT the guys I dated. My parents invariably hated them, and would bad-mouth them to me at every opportunity. And then when I broke up with them (as happens for all kinds of reasons when you're in your 20s), my parents would be all, "Oh thank God you finally LISTENED to us!" Drove me nuts -- but the alternative was to continue dating someone I didn't want to date any more, and I wasn't masochistic enough to do that just to keep them from feeling like they'd won.

#326 ::: ma larkey ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 01:49 AM:

May I vent frustration (and gratitude) here?
Ok, negative stuff first: since I broke away from genetic donor town, I've felt orphaned by the silence from relatives who were in a position to at least advise me or help me find suitable temporary lodging. Not even advice as to where to stay, or to offer a sounding board, or even a note of support, nothing. My mother, whose job growing up was to parent her own siblings, has taken such pains to be the good host for anyone who shows up in town, so it's kind of strange to witness this particular exchange recently.

Let's put it this way: if you had a very ill (but not drug or drink or crime related illness) niece or nephew who needed temporary assistance in your vicinity, even just to find a hostel or a sublet if you yourself couldn't take them into your house, and you ignored emails and other pleas for help, would you then turn around and ask your own sibling to play host to your own son and his fiancee and expect your sibling to spare no expense making your son and his fiancee comfortable and safe?

Add a layer to that that the visiting vacationers have more money and so does the sibling who refuses to help the troubled offspring of her own sibling, and yet expects her own offspring to be treated like royalty when they visit?

So bizaare and so wrong. I'm already hurt that my own relatives, who could at least be within hailing distance via internet to offer advice, or support, don't do so. While I'm also aware that no one is obligated to offer support or required to respond to my pleas for help, I am stunned that the sense of entitlement from the other end is so great. It's like: NO I won't host your daughter, let alone reply to her emails or take her calls, but please host my son and his fiancee and make sure they have a grand time and chauffer them around and book their trips and pay for everything.

So yeah. I feel for my genetic donors and the mess they face.

Meanwhile I am sick and alone in a hotel room, somewhat frightened and (this close) to calling a homeless shelter. Good thing, though, my mother has acknowledged that I need help now, and has called a friend hers to arrange for safe lodging, but in another state. Also, kind people have offered to host me part of the way for the interim.

Now the gratitude part: Veritable strangers who have taken me into their homes, extended themselves way beyond expectations, and have remained supportive and in touch, astound me continually and make me aware that even chosen family can be as good as or even better than functional genetic-donor family.

Also, my genetic donors have extended some financial assistance so that I can stay in a hotel for now. That in itself is a miracle.

#327 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 08:38 AM:

ma larkey, sorry to hear you're still struggling, but you're doing a hard thing. It's good to hear from you. I'd wondered how you were.

#328 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 05:25 PM:

I'd also wondered how you were doing, Ma Larkey, and I'm glad you're still checking in. You are doing a difficult thing here and I hope it gets easier soon.

#329 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 07:31 PM:

ma larkey, thank you for posting. Your entire family sounds like a piece of work! It does get better.

#330 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 10:01 PM:

Lee, #325, but I don't want to want to. I am actually just not ready to be an adult about it, I think. I have only been able to be away from her for a few years, and going to Al Anon requires thinking about my relationship with her, and I want to have significant parts of my life that she doesn't touch, since she takes every opportunity to insert herself into it and feels aggressively unwanted when I ask her for some freaking space please, or don't want her to be involved with or know about something, however insignificant.

#331 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2013, 10:06 PM:

ma larkey, I wish you so much luck and safety :-( I do not know your story, but it sounds as though the journey so far has been a hard one.

#332 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 03:04 AM:

I wonder why no-one seems to have commented on my comment that my mother can't even have a decent day out with me, because she fears my sister will have a temper tantrum back home if she stays out too late.

I'm getting worried by the fact she hasn't asked me to take her out yet at any time this year, especially since she always seems a lot less anxious when she's out with me (and away from my father and sister).

It didn't help that we hardly went out as a family at all last year, mainly because we in Britain had one of the wettest summers in our history. The time of the Olympics was pretty much the only time when it wasn't raining. :(

Rikibeth @301: If she is so all-fired desperate to live in an owned house, why isn't she going on the computer and searching the properties?

Actually my sister's iPad did get her looking at houses on Zoopla (perhaps Apple's simple-to-use interface was a winner with her), but unfortunately she only seems interested in properties which are way outside my price range. If I was going to buy her a house, my budget would pretty much restrict me to former council houses.

At one point though (I think it was last autumn) when bringing her back from getting shopping at Hartlepool, she pointed to some houses (which were 4-bedroom houses at about £200K each, so still too much for my budget) and said tha once she thought a nice house would change my life, but now she increasingly thought it would be nothing more than a "posher prison" (her exact words). She's often said that her life is like "living in solitary confinement". :(

#333 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 03:45 AM:

ma larkey @326: Sympathies. Vent as you need to. Good luck for better times ahead.

Codemonkey @332: Okay, let's look at this. It seems clear to me that both (a) your mother needs a break; (b) you still need to get out of there. I have sympathy for your mother's situation, but not for what she's doing to you: having you drown will not actually save her. Actually, if you can get out and develop your own life, I can see several possible positive outcomes for her as well as for you: (i) without you as an (unacknowledged) prop, her problems in coping with your sister and father may become more visible to social services, who may then be encouraged to get her the proper help she needs; (ii) from a secure base, you may be more able to give her effective support - if you're not being forced into the role of her major social contact every evening and both days at the weekend, the times you -are- there, or take her out, could be much more positive.

#334 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 07:26 AM:

Codemonkey @332, as a parent of a child who is not on the autism spectrum but shares some of those behaviors, I can sympathize with your mam's desire not to do things she knows will precipitate a tantrum, while simultaneously feeling trapped by the situation. On the other hand, that is part of the overall picture your mam sees (and is teaching you to see) that Nothing Will Help.

The answer to the one specific issue is perhaps to start earlier in the day and say to your mam over breakfast (or over dinner the night before), "It's supposed to be nice, shall we go out?" and plan a time that works with your sister's schedule. Or, to establish a routine that your sister can get used to that includes outings for your mam (if your sister's problem is, as with many persons with autism, that she doesn't like change and unpredictability). But that only deals with the one specific issue. It doesn't deal with the larger picture.

From my perspective, going by what you've said, it looks like (1) your mam has some genuinely difficult issues with caregiving for your sister and your father, and (2) those have caused or made worse existing problems of perhaps depression and/or anxiety, and (3) that has led your mam to some dysfunctional coping strategies that are dragging you down with her. Perhaps she's being deliberately controlling trying to keep you from leaving, perhaps it's unconscious, perhaps it's some of both. But in any case you feel stuck, and rightfully so.

You, on the other hand, want to help AND you want to have a life. Both of those are reasonable goals. They do not have to be mutually exclusive, as long as you keep your goal for your family as "helping" - not as fixing all their problems. You can't fix everything, both because the problems legitimately need outside help, and because you are entangled with them.

People here who have had experience with similar situations recommend getting yourself out of the house and giving yourself time and space to think and to be yourself. From that solid ground, you will be better able to see what you can and can't do to help.

So from one perspective I completely believe that the temper tantrums are an issue. From the larger perspective, it's perhaps a red herring.

#335 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 07:33 AM:

A lot of what's being said about Codemonkey's mother is reminding me of what my friends would say about my mother.

My mother was very emotionally narcissitic (bad at imagining that everyone didn't feel what she did, or assuming they were wrong if they felt differently, but she was also good at taking physical care of people.

Both of these are equally true. I don't know whether it's a rare combination, or just something that doesn't get talked about much.

In any case, my friends would be apt to assume the worst about her and this didn't help me.

Example of assuming the worst: my mother would do a good meticulous job of making sure I had shoes that fit when I was a kid. She'd take the time for me to try on a lot of pairs of shoes, and treat it as normal that I was going to get shoes which were entirely comfortable.

One of my friends went on the assumption that my mother was showing off in some way. I didn't see any evidence of it in the shoe store, and she didn't talk about me being difficult to fit afterwards, or at least not in front of me. I think she actually thought that having shoes that fit properly was important.

She caused a lot of emotional damage, but she also wasn't as bad as she might have been.

#336 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 07:51 AM:

Seconding dcb. Codemonkey, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your mother with hers. That means Getting Out.

It's not selfish; it's helping yourself so that you are in a better position to be able to help others. You cannot help your mother, or anybody else, in your current position. Living with your mother in her current condition is clearly mentally draining for you. In New Age terms, she's a "psychic vampire," unwittingly feeding on your emotional energy. I doubt you'd want to live with a real vampire if they existed; it's no healthier to live with a metaphorical one.

#337 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 08:27 AM:

Codemonkey, I have noticed that some of your posts have a pattern: you mention something that your mother does that harms you, others here comment that her behavior is dysfunctional and/or abusive, and you excuse the behavior in some way. This does not seem like a helpful pattern to me-- not because of anything you've said here, but because it puts you in a position of constantly saying that your mother is completely okay. What you say, you think and come to believe.

You will probably be happier if you move out and distance yourself from this situation. It does not matter if your mother is depressed. It does not matter if your mother is more abusive to your father than to you. It does not matter that your sister needs so much care. It does not matter that your mother is doing the best she can with a truly difficult situation. What matters is that the situation is not working for you.

I can't comment on your mother's reasons for doing or not doing anything. I can only note the effects her actions are having on you. It is very likely that you will be much better able to help her once you have escaped the situation and recovered your strength, but that's less important than the fact that you will be better able to help yourself.

Your living situation is dysfunctional. The reasons for that don't make it functional.

#338 ::: Diatryma, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 08:28 AM:

Yup, that's a post held up.

#339 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 08:46 AM:

Codemonkey: As someone whose depression has lied to them in precisely this way, it can be FACTUALLY true BOTH that in some cases, if mam is out of the house when sister would prefer her not to be, TANTRUM ENSUES ... but still be the case that your mam might be overreacting, self-censoring herself and putting fences around fences because of not wanting to even CONSIDER triggering a tantrum even once ever. Tiptoeing around the landmines, as it were.

In other words, the lying Goddamn Tapes in her head (and I guarantee she has some, whether these are what they're saying or not) may be saying "Better not to leave at all, really, because who wants to go through that?" when a healthier set of coping strategies might instead tell her "Yeah, fine, she might throw a tantrum if we're out really late, but I need to get out of this fecking house, so today we'll risk it -- and be sure to be back before 3:30."

And I second the other commenter who said that if you start prepping your sister that mam goes out on such-and-such a day and she'll be back, it might reduce tantrums because it makes the leaving part of her routines.

#340 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 09:01 AM:

Codemonkey #332 I wonder why no-one seems to have commented on my comment that my mother can't even have a decent day out with me, because she fears my sister will have a temper tantrum back home if she stays out too late.

Because if it wasn't for that reason, it would be something else, and she'll always have another reason. And if you do convince her to have a day out, she'll complain about it. Which is not a reason against dragging her outside once in a while, as that will at least help disrupt her loop.

unfortunately she only seems interested in properties which are way outside my price range

As noted previously, she's double-binding you on the house search, and it's not the house that's her problem. Get yourself a house (oxygen mask rule). After you've gotten loose from her House of Bees, you'll be in much better position to help her out. Even if it's just that not having you handy to feed off of, will seriously interfere with her dysfunctional routine.

#341 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 09:08 AM:

I agree that Codemonkey's mother is abusive, that Codemonkey doesn't owe her a house, and that Codemonkey would be better off moving out.

However, writing from the assumption that Codemonkey's mother hasn't done anything to look for a house (rather than not doing anything effective) doesn't seem helpful. It might be better to ask.

#342 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 09:36 AM:

@Nancy: That's just the thing. Codemonkey's mother has been looking for a house, or at least going through the motions. However, she is continually rejecting any possibility that is within price range. That indicates that she's either not really trying, or that she has unusually high expectations. Neither one is particularly good.

(And isn't 200k quid = roughly $350k? That's a pretty expensive house!)

#343 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 09:43 AM:

The_L @342: more like $300,000... and no, by UK standards it's average-to-cheap depending on the area. That'd get you maybe a pokey one-bed flat in a not-too-nice area of London, for instance. But that's because of a massive housing bubble showing no sign of serious deflation (the graph here is instructive).

#344 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 10:46 AM:

(sorry, that was really off-topic. I'll save it for the open thread)

#345 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 12:20 PM:

EJ and The_L: Housing prices vary widely depending on where you go in the US, too. One reason my aunt turned down a... basically lateral move (keep her position, but move to Chicago) is that she'd get a house maybe a third the size of her current one (which is huge) for the same money.

ma larkey: Glad to hear from you. From what you've said about your other relatives, your genetic donors may come by some of their horribleness honestly (which, of course, excuses none of their horribleness, only explains it).

#346 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 12:42 PM:

Codemonkey -- consider this:

"The thought manifests as the word
The word manifests as the deed
The deed develops into habit
Habit hardens into character
So watch the thought and its ways with care
And let it spring out of love
Born out of concern for all beings
As the shadow follows the body as we think, so we become..."

~Shakyamuni Buddha~

Your mother has and is continuing to program you, as thoroughly and completely as any computer. Get out before she manages to turn your operating system into malware.

Stop making excuses for her, you're sabotaging yourself.

#347 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 02:26 PM:

Cdemonkey, the tantrum sounded familiar to me, so I didn't comment on it. One of my mother's cousins had cognitive disabilities -- I'm not clear on their exact nature, as I never met him, but he suffered brain injury during a forceps delivery, and remained at about the developmental level of a preschooler. Tantrums were definitely part of his repertoire. His parents chose to care for him at home, rather than institutionalize him -- a humane decision, given the quality of institutional care in the 1950s, but one that added to the difficulty of their lives. I do know that as he grew into an adult, he required the care of a male attendant, as his mother didn't have the physical strength to handle him if he became oppositional. I can see making a choice to avoid a tantrum, and I have to assume that there was no possible activity out that could be accomplished in under three hours, if your mother's refusal was strictly pragmatic, and not influenced by a habit of Nothing Being Good Enough.

I'll also note that your mother's rigid financial anxieties are limiting her options. If you were to buy a house to live in with her (which I think would be a terrible idea, as doing so curtails your adult independence), using half your inheritance on a down payment on the sort of house she desires and carrying a mortgage might make it possible (you'd have to consult with specialists to see if your income supported this) and then the other half of your inheritance would be a cushion against loss of income. Her insistence on buying outright is creating the stumbling block. However, I don't think you need concern yourself with pursuing this course of action, because her comment about "a posher prison" shows that even she realizes that a house wouldn't solve all her problems.

She's pretty clearly overwhelmed, with good reason to be. You might look at it this way: by staying, and providing just enough social support to keep her existence just barely tolerable, you're being an inadvertent obstacle to her making larger changes in her life, in addition to the damage you're exposing yourself to, from her excessive dependency and controlling behavior.

The only source of outside support for your mother I can see from your current descriptions is Sharon, and I'm not sure how best to engage her support in bringing more resources to bear -- perhaps someone else here could help devise a script for bringing it up? A while back, did you mention that she has a brother, with an adult son? Is she on speaking terms with them? Could you engage their support at all?

Your current situation living with her is good for nobody. Not you, not her. Don't let her drown you.

#348 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 03:12 PM:

I've been away for a while; found the teasing subthread entirely too triggery.

So, catching up:

Jacque @111: Thanks for making me giggle. :) Also, I keep meaning to say that, but can't, in the moment. *sigh*

AnotherQuietOne @123:

"Stop doing that thing that way, I don't understand it so you must be doing it wrong!"
"Why aren't you doing anything? Are you lazy? Unmotivated? Here, let me find something for you to do. Something productive. Unlike whatever it was that you were doing."

Oh my, yes. And I love the contradiction in the last one. Why aren't you doing anything/whatever it was that you were doing. My poor cousin had to deal with the caring version of this when she was staying with my parents for radiation (cancer treatment). She just wanted to sit on the couch and read, but Mom insisted on entertaining her (i.e. making her play board games together) because she "wasn't doing anything."

But yeah, lifetime of being convinced I'm the most horribly lazy person on the face of the earth because taking a break = lazy, not wanting to do something (even if I do it anyway) = lazy, not enjoying [unpleasant task] = lazy.

To her credit (?), Mom applies the same standard to herself, but it's incredibly toxic to her, my dad, me, and everyone in her close orbit.

And don't even get me started on the damage that her insistence that her preferred way (or at least a way that she understands) is right, and all others are WRONG almost did to my marriage... We are good communicators, hubby and I, so we figured out the pattern I was falling into. It was worse because it was combined with Mom's "Don't ever get angry with your husband or dire consequences will befall you" which of course just means you bottle it up instead until you explode...


I've got enough distance now that I can ignore it/shrug it off/tell her to bugger off when she starts to tell me I'm Doin It Rong because it's not her preferred way of doing it, but it's still a damn strong tape.

#349 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 03:14 PM:

re: bullying

I watched this video and just bawled. To this day, I'm still working on really, deeply believing that the awful things the bullies said are (and were!) WRONG. Be warned, it will pull up memories and emotions you may have thought were buried. But SO worth watching.

(Also, my apologies if someone's already posted it here. As I said in my last post, I'm just catching up.)

#350 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 04:31 PM:

clarification re: 348: Interestingly enough, my pattern is not to repeat Mom's "my way is the only right way" in my own relationships but instead to immediately and unquestioningly obey any other suggestion that comes from (usually) an authority figure - at least, someone who sounds like they know what they're talking about. Even if I've already tried that and it doesn't work. Because it's just not worth the conflict to try to do it my way. Especially if my way doesn't work flawlessly the first time with flustered mother (mother-memory?) hovering over my shoulder.

#351 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 06:08 PM:

Chickadee #349: Wow. Talk about transcendence.

#352 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2013, 11:01 PM:

Anyone see the Colbert report from (I think) Tuesday? (Tivo messes up my knowledge of dates-aired.) A woman wrote a book about bullying. Colbert asked her if she was bullied, and she said something like, "well, yes, once my friends all got together and told me they weren't my friends anymore."

<rant> Once.

And she had friends. That (after that episode) took her back. And while she was (briefly) on the outside, she made friends with another outsider, but when she was back on the inside, she confessed to Colbert that she didn't stand up for that girl when her friends bullied the temporary-friend outsider....

Feh. I wanted to throw something at the TV. She doesn't know from bullying, if she can say it happened ONCE to her. I'll bet SHE was never thrown into lockers or locked in a storage closet or had her books stolen from her...

Bullying happens over an extended period of time, frequently, and makes of your life a hell. It's not something that happens to you ONCE unless you're very, very lucky.</rant>

Ok. Better now.

#353 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 12:22 AM:

Cassy, #352: In fact, it's very much like the difference between normal family friction and abuse. Both bullying and abuse require a pattern of ongoing behavior.

I was ostracized and verbally mocked and abused, but the incidents of physical bullying were rare enough to be individually memorable. (Which is not to say that there can't be verbal bullying, but that the crap I got didn't fully descend to that level.)

#354 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 03:48 AM:

I think there's two obstacles to be dealt with before I start looking for somewhere to go: Mother's Day is one (I looked at some What's On web pages to see if there was anywhere nice I could take her, instead of buying her a gift, but I couldn't seem to find anything appropriate) while the other, more minor one is my own birthday a week later. My mother is pleading with me to tell her what I want, but the only thing I can think of that I'd like is a smartphone (my thoughts lean towards a PAYG Android phone between £100 and £150 in price). I'm not sure I ought to suggest this to her, as a) it may raise a red flag as it would be an obvious white elephant in my current living situation (of course, I want it for when I Get Out), and b) I'm worried she wouldn't know what to look for in terms of capabilities, tariffs etc, and may get one which wither lacks features I want or is too expensive (either for my mother to reasonably afford to buy, or for me to run).

EJ @343:

Of course, London (and to a lesser extent, South East England) is far more expensive than the rest of the UK, due to the distorting effect of the City (Britain's equivalent of Wall Street) and more recently because Russian oligarchs and other wealthy foreigners have been buying up London property in the belief that it is a "safe haven" for their money. While London prices are still increasing even now, they are slowly sliding down (a la Japan) in the rest of the UK. Here in the North, £200k gets you a rather nice four-bedroomed house -- pity my budget is only half that (I've got a bit more than £100k in the bank, but I wanted to leave enough back that I'd have a downpayment for a place of my own as well).

Rikibeth @347:

Glad to meet someone else who has someone in the family with severe developmental disabilities -- you should be able to understand my situation better! My sister isn't quite as bad as your mother's cousin, but I still resent her for in my view enslaving my mother (although I wouldn't ever say that openly, as my mother loves my sister dearly). One fantasy I have is that after a few years living away from my family, I could invite my mother back, but only if she didn't have to bring my sister along too! Another worry is that from April she'll have to pay for the transport to take my sister to the various day care facilities (due to government cuts), and that my sister seems to have become besotted with one of the young men at one of them. When my mother took her with her for shopping yesterday (in order to be able to travel for free on the bus -- she was off to day as one of the day care facilities was closed this week) my sister humiliated my mother by erupting in a tantrum, prompted by jealousy at seeing a loving young couple in the supermarket!

To me, my mother's "posher prison" comment suggests that what she desperately needs is more social interaction, but how can I deliver it when we're living in a former colliery village that doesn't even have a decent main shopping street any more? (Since I was a child, the shops have gradually closed due to competition from big supermarkets in the towns (as well as general poverty caused by the demise of coal mining). The street has largely been colonized by take-away outlets, and the local community centre doesn't offer any activities that my mother found appealing (she's checked).

#355 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 10:38 AM:

Codemonkey, I'm hardly the most experienced one here with a family member with developmental disabilities! There are folks who have much more direct and daily experience with it.

I wouldn't think asking for the phone is a good idea. no, for all the reasons you mention. Based on what you've said here, why not ask for exercise equipment? I don't mean large machinery; something as basic as a yoga mat for doing sit-ups and push-ups, or resistance bands, or small hand weights, something of that nature. Yes, she may belittle you for expressing this. I'd almost expect that. The answer to that is a calm "I want to get in better shape, and I'd like some things to help with that." Further argument can be met with "fine, then, what do you think I should get ?" Or, if you want to be especially pointed about it, "What do you think I should want?" although that's more argumentative. The point here isn't actually whether she buys you the equipment or not. The point is to express an independent desire and not apologize for it.

I think you're dead on about her needing more social interaction. Unfortunately, you can't deliver it. You could buy her a monthly bus pass so that she could go places while your sister is at her day programs, but with what you said about her not wanting to attend anything at the local community center, the saying about leading a horse to water comes to mind. This is why I'm thinking that, maybe, if you weren't there every day playing board games with her, the community center's offerings might look more appealing! Also, I'm not sure if your local center works like the one near me, but when I was using space there to meet with my census crew, I noticed there were plenty of seniors who came just to sit in the canteen or in the library where the television was, and chat with each other, without attending the organized programs.

Realistically speaking, you're never going to be able to have your mother live with you without your sister, unless your sister either changes her mind about living in a care home, or deteriorates to the point where it's no longer a voluntary choice. Your sister's tantrums, infatuations, etc. aren't under your control and there's nothing you can do to directly reduce their impact on your mother. If you stopped looking at the inheritance money as a house that's stored in a bank vault, and started looking at it as Money To Provide Services That Might Make Mam Less Dependent On Codemonkey, there might be indirect things. A bus pass. How about a cleaner, since your dad isn't up to the task any more? Even if you decided that half the money was still Down Payment On A House and untouchable, fifty thousand pounds can buy a lot of services. A private care nurse for your father and sister for.a three day vacation for your mother to spend at a spa resort being pampered? I'm sure that wouldn't take all of it!

I can understand very easily how a lifetime of financial struggle has distorted your mother's views on money. That bit about the sticky back plastic, and not wanting you to get more because you'd be robbed blind? Like that. She's so afraid of losing even pennies that she can't see money as a flexible tool for accomplishing things. If you're able to step back from her attitude and look at it differently, there might be a lot you could get done.

#356 ::: Rikibeth has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 10:41 AM:

I probably got the spacing wrong as I'm typing on my phone.

[Please check the URL in your heading. It starts "http://Http://" -- JDM]

#357 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 02:05 PM:

The http://Http thing is an iOS behavior, mixed with helpfulness on the backend of MT. MT adds http infront of the url, but only if http isn't already there, and it doesn't check case. iOS tends to uppercase the first letter of a textbox/sentence. That's bitten me before when posting from the iPad.

</debugging session>

#358 ::: eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2013, 07:05 PM:

Codemonkey, even with Mother's Day and your bday upcoming, it might not be a bad idea to start looking - these things can take a lot of time. It'd help you get into the practice of what to look for when it's not so important too and might also help to know you're doing something toward the aim.

#359 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 12:37 AM:

Codemonkey @ #354:

Thinking laterally here: You've said you looked at what's on around Mother's Day for somewhere to take your mam, and didn't find anything suitable. Are the prospects any better around your birthday? Your mam getting out of the house and having a nice time is something that potentially falls into the category of things you want that your mam can give you.

(Feel free to ignore this idea if it doesn't do anything for you, of course.)

#360 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 06:24 PM:

As soon as I came in from work on Friday, my mam called me into her room to confront me with the latest energy bill (£490 for gas, and £240 for electricity). She sternly warned me if I had my own place I'd have to pay just as much for gas as they did (and it's worth my mentioning that the gas bill was mostly just for hot water, as she can't afford to use the heating. I suspect that being in a freezing house most days is another contributor to her misery).

When I responded "why? I wouldn't be running three hot baths a day" she replied "we only have it on two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, and it takes more than an hour to heat up the water in the first place before you can use it". I'm thinking "not in the morning, when I wouldn't need a whole bath-load of water just to wash my hair over the sink". What do people here think of this issue? Could I use substantially less gas than my family currently does without compromising my personal hygiene?

I also got a phone call this evening from my former PhD supervisor (I never feel comfortable on the phone at home BTW because I'm anxious about my mam listening in on my conversation), who wants me to come back into his office tomorrow afternoon to check some calculations in a paper he wants to submit for publication. I've got no problem with this, but my mother muttered about how he's "using me" and "does he think my car runs on water?" (surely a 15 mile round trip isn't excessive?) and also about how he's "putting foolish ideas (about independent living, that is) in my head". She also explicitly warned me tonight that in privately rented property I could be thrown out with only a month's notice. It certainly looks like she's now pulling out all the stops to scare me into staying with her -- she also berated my dad for "not teaching me common sense" as well as for ruining my sister's life through "losing the car" (my sister has certainly taken a serious emotional turn for the worse in the last year).

I've got an idea (some DVD box sets) for the Mother's Day gift which sounds reasonable to me, except that my mother earlier said she'd want to wait until all the series came out together in a single box set (currently it's one box set per series) as she felt it'd be cheaper that way. Surely though if she accused me of wasting money when buying her a gift that would take the cake wouldn't it?

Oh, and could abi correct the URL in Rikibeth's post @355? It looks to me like a colon needs to be added after the http.

#361 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Codemonkey, your local authority has advice and subsidy schemes to lower energy costs. A new or renovated flat will have a far more efficient system than an old house, and probably a shower with an on-demand hot water system which will be vastly quicker and cheaper. Most landlords provide estimated monthly energy costs if you ask. You can check the UK tenancy laws online -- I can't give links well on this device.
My 22 year old son is renting in London and has been in three different flats in the last two years. One developed terrible mould in the winter, so he moved - no big deal. His landlords have been perfectly reasonable businnespeople, not vicious Rackrents and his energy costs are way lower than you've reported. Renting on the private market is totally normal and millions of people do it. If you want to, you can too.

#362 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 06:48 PM:

Oh, and another example of possible gaslighting -- when she mentioned I hadn't taken her anywhere this year, I said it wasn't because I refused to take her, and she said "you only offered once, last Sunday and not until quarter-to-two" (the actual time I made the offer was twenty-to-one).

#363 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 06:53 PM:

Codemonkey, she really is pulling out all the stops to keep you captive with her. I'm glad you recognize it and know which questions to ask.

#364 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 06:54 PM:

By the way, my son is half a world away and we miss him every day. But he is following a dream of a theatrical career and making a life in London, and that is more important than the fact that my life would be easier if he were here minding his little brother and sister now and then.

#365 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 06:59 PM:

Codemonkey, ignore if hlepy, but it seems to me that the sooner you're out, the better. Your mother has moved from impediment-to-independence to active sabotage. Hot water for one is much cheaper than hot water for four (especially if you normally don't run a full shower twice a day!), and in America at least, hot water is often (not always) free-with-the-rent (I don't know if this holds true in the UK, however).

Certainly, even if you need to pay for gas, a modern flat will have more efficient heating and water heating, probably better insulation, and as its a smaller area to heat than a house it'll pretty much by definition be substantially less than she's paying for gas for the house.

And your adviser asking you to make a fifteen mile round trip sounds perfectly reasonable to my American ears. (I understand that in the UK people tend not to drive as much or as long distances as we do in the US.)

#366 ::: Cassy B. has been gnomed. ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 07:01 PM:

I'll bet you it's the old three-spaces-in-a-row thing; I learned to type in the dark ages and it's HARD for me to remember not to double-space after a period.

I just got a box of chocolates from my brother-in-law; would the gnomes care to share?

#367 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 07:03 PM:

codemonkey @360 Some of the other posters from the UK are better at estimating reasonable utility costs there, so I'm going to leave that to them.

It does sound like your mam is determined to browbeat you into not leaving.

Re your former PhD supervisor, it's interesting that your mam thinks he is putting ideas in your head about living independently. Is that just her, or does he encourage you (to get a better job, for example)? Keeping up your professional networks is a good thing.

The DVDs sound like a good idea for Mother's Day.

#368 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 07:50 PM:

Codemonkey, #360: This may be an England/America thing, but our hot-water heater is on all the time and it doesn't run up the gas bill like that! A hot-water heater is basically a giant Thermos bottle; once the water inside it is hot, it stays that way for a long time, and if you set the thermostat properly it doesn't have to do a lot of actual heating except right after you've taken a shower or run a load of laundry or dishes. If your mother is repeatedly turning the hot-water heater on and off, she may actually be running the bill up!

This is definitely an England/America thing: one month's notice to move out of rented property (either by the landlord OR the tenant) is absolutely standard over here, so that doesn't sound like a horror to me at all.

I never feel comfortable on the phone at home BTW because I'm anxious about my mam listening in on my conversation

The unexpressed assumption on the end of your sentence is "and giving me hell about it". That's something people who respect you don't do, and another thing you shouldn't have to put up with. It was one of my hot buttons for a long time after I moved out of my parents' home, and it took a couple of explosions that (from my partner's POV) came completely out of the blue for me to figure that out; I've since managed to defuse that trigger, but it took some work.

Fifteen miles for a round-trip is certainly not excessive, especially since you live out in the boonies! If you were in the larger city, you might be able to use public transportation instead.

She may simply be misremembering the time you asked if she wanted to go out, which isn't necessarily gaslighting, but it's still annoying as shit -- and having made the statement, she will now stick to it tooth and toenail even if you try to correct her.

It does sound rather as though she's figured out that you're seriously considering moving out, and is pulling out all the stops to keep you in chains.

#369 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 08:36 PM:

Lee @ 368 It's almost certainly a UK/USA thing. In the UK, some sort of on demand heating is quite common for the bathroom plumbing, rather than the 30-50 gallon Giant Always-Hot Tank deal that we in the US tend to have.

Codemonkey, do note that flats tend to be much less expensive to heat than houses are, as all the flats around/above/below you are helping to heat you. You're insulated not just by insulation, but by other people's heated living spaces. My first apartment, the people below me must have liked to keep the place at sauna temperatures; I literally had the heat off almost all winter.

#370 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2013, 11:46 PM:

In my experience, plumbing in general is a US/UK thing. In the US, hot water is almost always a big heated tank, separate from home heat and on all the time. In the UK, (at the inlaws ) it's been a tank that's occaisionally heated from an oil boiler, which also runs the house radiator heat. The hot water tank is a copper thing that's upstairs in the hot press where you can get nicely warmed towels and other ( finally) dry clothes and such. There's also a pressure tank up in the upper floors that supplies all the faucets with cold water, except for the kitchen, which gets it straight from the line, And, for some reason, all the drains seem to be in the exterior of the house. (I won't go into the light switch in the powder room that turns off the boiler controller, as I suspect that it's a quirk of their house.) And after all that, the showers are run off of little electric units which apparently either heat the water or pressurize it, but not both.

On the other hand, their electric kettles heat water to tea temperature really quickly.

Fwiw, my memory is that my inlaws fill their oil tank once a winter or so, and it's about 700 pounds a shot. Codemonkeys gas bill seems somewhat outrageous, if its really just on for a handful of hours a day. I wonder if the timing on the gas is set to warm the radiators, but they got turned off to save money, but to really save money, you'd have to adjust back the controller as well.

#371 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 02:04 AM:

Two other possibilities I can think of for the high gas bills are:

a) an old, inefficient hot water system -- the council actually wanted to change it last year, but mam persuaded them not to because the cluttered state of our house meant it would have led to a catastrophic level of disruption
b) a higher than normal tariff (caused by my mam's refusal to use direct debit to pay the bill)

Also, American readers ought to remember that gas prices in general are much higher in Europe than in North America. North American gas is currently being sold below cost (subsidized by motor fuel profits) in order to encourage electricity companies to use gas rather than nuclear for power generation.

#372 ::: EJ ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 05:44 AM:

Codemonkey, I live in a cold, poorly insulated one-bedroom flat (but with a reasonably modern boiler/shower system) and my energy bills are £30-£50 a month all in for gas and electricity together. If I was really extravagant I could probably double that by leaving the heating, lights and appliances all on all the time.

I guess you could accidentally run up huge bills if you moved into a big, poorly insulated multi-room house and insisted on heating every room of it all the time, but otherwise there's no way you'd be racking up bills that big in your own place.

#373 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 11:28 AM:

Having just slipped badly on my stairs, I forget: am I supposed to put an icepack on the muscular area with which I struck the stair, or is that now thought to retard healing?

I did take a prophylactic dose of 600mg ibuprofen.

#374 ::: Elliott Mason clicked the wrong thread ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 11:29 AM:

Oops. Moving it to the open thread, where I *thought* I was posting!

#375 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 12:27 PM:

@Codemonkey: I was under the impression that the gas used to heat US homes was natural gas, not petroleum. I know we Americans pay below-cost for petroleum, but didn't think we paid below-cost for natural gas as well?

#376 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 12:47 PM:

Codemonkey, #371: an old, inefficient hot water system -- the council actually wanted to change it last year, but mam persuaded them not to because the cluttered state of our house meant it would have led to a catastrophic level of disruption

Still more proof that your mother's thought processes are not functioning normally. She'd rather put up with a miserably-cluttered house and ruinous utility bills than make the effort to do something (that someone else was going to pay for!) which would seriously improve her quality of life in several directions at once.

#377 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 01:59 PM:

The gas used in the USA for heating/cooking is either natural gas which is mostly methane or bottle gas (propane). It is not usually used for fueling cars.

The only petroleum product used for heating is oil, not gasoline and you're most likely to find that in rural areas. There may still be areas using coal, and some folks buy super-efficient wood stoves and heat their homes with firewood.

Note -- natural gas is cheap right now due to the fruits of fracking.

Utilities in a one bedroom flat are going to be much cheaper than a house. The only way the landlord can throw you out is for failure to pay your rent or causing massive damage to the property. At the end of the lease, if you and the landlord agree on a "month to month" lease, then yes, the landlord can give you 30 days notice that you have to move out.

#378 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 02:44 PM:

Good to hear from ma larkey. I hope you're feeling healthier now; this has been a horrendous winter for one round of sickness after another.

Codemonkey, I'm sorry that your mother appears determined to be unhappy. That's not something you can solve, unfortunately.

#379 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 03:37 PM:

Codemonkey - I'm a single person living in a one bedroom flat. I generally keep the flat warm, i.e. I do run the central heating if I think it's cool.

My average heating bill is £45 a month for gas and electricity combined. Note that I have a large fishtank with filters and a heater etc running 24/7 which does bump up the electricity some.

#380 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 04:21 PM:

The_L @375: Yes, I am talking about natural gas, whose wholesale price in Europe is about 3 times that in North America, and in Japan about 5 times North American prices. (Of course, the disparity in retail prices paid by households will be less.) My opinion is that predatory pricing aimed against nuclear energy is part of the reason why North American natural gas prices are so low.

Lee @376: Perhaps the fact that almost all the clutter isn't my mother's has something to do with it! One problem is that we have a dinner table in the middle of our kitchen floor (which it was never intended to accommodate) because what was intended to be the dining area is actually being used as a home office for myself (as my bedroom -- the smallest of the three -- was too small to accommodate my desktop computer). My dad sealed that area off from the rest of the living room with a pair of double doors before we moved into the house back in 2000: we had to move because our previous house (built in the interbellum period) was condemned due to structural problems beyond economical repair. As well as my computer cabinet (which also has a printer, a scanner and a bunch of stationery), I have a filing cabinet there, and my sister's goldfish tank and tropical fish aquarium are also found there along with a couple of bookshelves and a glass cupboard.

The bedrooms themselves are an even bigger problem. My sister has the largest bedroom of the house, and must have over 1,000 CDs and DVDs each, plus dozens of console games (Wii and Xbox Kinect), about six stacked boxes full of clothes in addition to her wardrobes, plus an exercise bike and cross trainer (she also has a rowing machine, but as there's no room left for it in her own room, it's at the bottom of my parents' bed instead). She also has a dressing table in front of the window (in fact all our bedroom windows have furniture in front of them).

My parents' bedroom is slightly smaller than my sisters' -- it has wardrobes (extending all the way to the ceiling) and drawers around almost all it's perimeter, plus my sister's rowing machine as previously mentioned. One of the wardrobes is used for my clothes, as my own bedroom is only big enough for one (and even so, I have a load of clothes hung in front of the wardrobe, or on hooks on the wall alongside it. After my bed and my sets of drawers, I probably have less than 30 square feet of free floor space in my own room.

Rikibeth @355: If you stopped looking at the inheritance money as a house that's stored in a bank vault, and started looking at it as Money To Provide Services That Might Make Mam Less Dependent On Codemonkey, there might be indirect things. A bus pass. How about a cleaner, since your dad isn't up to the task any more? Even if you decided that half the money was still Down Payment On A House and untouchable, fifty thousand pounds can buy a lot of services. A private care nurse for your father and sister for.a three day vacation for your mother to spend at a spa resort being pampered? I'm sure that wouldn't take all of it!

Forgot to address this in my previous posts, so I'll have a go at it now.

The attractions of buying my parents a house in my mind were:

a) it would be a one-off payment for me that would permanently improve my parents' life (although this may have been a misconception on my part, due to the issue of maintenance)
b) it would give her a nicer kitchen, which would make my mam less unhappy. Ours is currently dilapidated -- my dad was always accident prone, perhaps in part due to the clutter, and a lot of things got damaged. The floor tiling also gets damaged a lot due to the table and chairs which have to be moved when the floor needs cleaning.
c) it could move her into town, giving more access to shops and amenities without expensive bus journeys, and more access to other towns (currently we only have direct bus access to three smallish towns).

I thought of two other possible ways to use the money -- one would be to replace the kitchen in the current house at my own expense (you can do this apparently, given written permission from the housing association). It would be a pure loss for me financially of course, but much less so than buying them a house (as it's clear I couldn't get any rent out of my family). To my mother however the idea of me paying for a new kitchen in a house which we don't own is unthinkable -- is she just being awkward?

The second would be that (assuming I got myself my own place with a spare bedroom) that I invite my mother to live with me for a year, while paying a carer to look after my father and sister at the family home. Only problem is how would my mother react when the year was up? I could hardly afford to pay a carer for longer than that, unless I somehow managed to get a job with three times my current salary!

One last question, would I be correct in guessing many of the people with small gas bills would be using showers rather than baths?

#381 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 04:41 PM:

Codemonkey, 380: Buying a kitchen for a house you don't own is a terrible idea. Buy your own house! Don't let your mother move in! You need your own home. You are an adult and your mother should accept that. But she can't accept that, as every single one of your posts shows, so it's time to take what's yours--i.e. your life and privacy--and get out from under her.

#382 ::: TexAnne is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 04:42 PM:

I don't know why. Perhaps the gnomes thought I was being hlepy, in which case they may certainly toss the post.

#383 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 05:15 PM:

Codemonkey, #380: Two things jump out at me from that description: (1) If you move out, taking all your stuff with you, your parents' house will become much less cluttered automatically! (2) Okay, that's a lot of stuff, but how much of it would actually have had to be moved to upgrade the hot-water system? Were they going to redo just the heater, or all the pipes as well?

I'm with your mam on the ultimate futility of using your own money to redo the kitchen in a rental home. To me in similar circumstances, that would feel like throwing money away. Better to put it on buying your own place instead -- and don't have her move in with you!

#384 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 05:34 PM:

Lee @383: AFAIK the plan was to replace the entire system, including all the radiators. We were told (before mam convinced them to cancel the work -- this was possible mainly because the council inspector happened to have an autistic son himself) that every carpet in the house would need to be taken up.

Another worry was that the new boiler was to be housed in a cupboard that was currently full of our own stuff.

#385 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 05:53 PM:

Codemonkey @384, it occurs to me that after you move out your mother will have your room (rather than the cupboard) to store stuff in (and there may be less stuff to store), and then she could have the pipe work done more easily.

Looking at it this way, your moving out will help your mother.

But I agree with the others that it doesn't sound like a good idea for you to allow her move in with you.

#386 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2013, 06:44 PM:

I live in a 1970's breezeblock flat, as insulated as it can be. In winter my gas bill is as high as £30 a month, or a bit more, which is for heating and hot water. In summer it's about a fiver, because there's usually enough sunlight to warm the place up nicely. Electricity is roughtly £20-30 a month.
You didn't specify if that was a quarterly bill, I am assuming so, and on your own, even in winter, you'd be looking at about a quarter of that bill. It helps if you switch suppliers - they are all predatory in their pricing, but some are definitely a bit cheaper than others. And paperless billing with direct debit is the cheapest way to do.

#387 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 02:09 AM:

Codemonkey, I'm curious: as the council still owns the house, are they not required to maintain the kitchen to some sort of minimum standard?

I agree with everyone else who's said that renovating the kitchen in a house you don't own is a terrible idea. And that if you moved out and took your things with you, your family would have an easier time moving the rest of their things to allow the heating work to be done. The dining table could go back in the dining room, for starters!

You've explained your reasons for wanting to buy your mother a house very well. What I'm saying is that, given your mother's resistance to practicalities, it may not be possible to do so.

I also think it would be a terrible idea to have your mother live with you at any time. You've said yourself that she's making every effort to intimidate you out of living independently. Taking her with you when you moved would not improve your quality of life.

Are you familiar with Pink Floyd's song Mother, from their album The Wall? Your situation has been making me think of it. A lot.

It's possible that after you moved out, your mother would, after some time adjusting to the fact that you're not there and not coming back, be willing to consider your eminently practical suggestions for smaller houses in town rather than insisting on one that she considers big enough for you to live in with the rest of your family. However, if she's still resistant, you'd be more than justified 1) to use the money towards a house of your own, NOT one for her, and 2) to consider using some portion of it to provide much smaller improvements like a cleaner and bus passes.

If you do wind up buying them a house, I strongly suggest keeping it in your own name. At some point in the future, your parents will no longer be alive, and as you've said you don't intend to become your sister's full-time carer (a good decision), she's going to have to go into residential care. I'm hardly an expert on UK law, but I get the impression that if the house was in your mother's name, not only would there be inheritance taxes to pay (on something you bought yourself!) but if your sister inherits a share in the house as well, it might have to be sold to offset the cost of her care. Your grandmother left you the money. If you buy a house for your parents and sister to live in, speak to a lawyer about such things as "life tenancy" for your mother, so that you don't wind up losing that money in the end.

But worry about a house later. The first order of business is to be able to get away from her, so that you can make independent decisions without her penny-wise, pound-foolish, smothering interference.

#388 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 10:31 AM:

Still reading and witnessing, even if spoons have been a bit short for posting. I came across a site with a lot of CBT resources, and thought I'd share the link in case any others find it helpful.

Caveat: the site is selling stuff—books, mp3s and such, but they have a lot of info and free PDFs as well (and well-designated which is which).

#389 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 03:26 PM:

Rikibeth @387: I also think it would be a terrible idea to have your mother live with you at any time. You've said yourself that she's making every effort to intimidate you out of living independently. Taking her with you when you moved would not improve your quality of life.

If I did do that it would be an alternative to buying my family a house, and probably be at least a year after I moved out (to give me time to develop as an independent person). The idea would be to use some of my money to pay a carer to look after my sister and father (in the current family home) while I'd take my mother in for the duration (as a kind of extended respite from her caring responsibilities).

One other thing I've thought about doing when I have my own place is trying out new foods (which I'd be too embarrassed to do in my parents' presence) so that perhaps I'd be able to take my mother out for a meal in the future (which I'm currently unable to do because I'm such a picky eater). Being a less-picky eater would also be a great asset once I start girlfriend-hunting...

#390 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 05:42 PM:

Codemonkey, from everything you've said, I still think that having your mother live with you, at all, ever, would be a terrible idea. Also, I suspect that one year of a full-time carer's salary would use up about 25% of your funds, if not more... and then, as you said, there's the question of what happens after that year.

What's more, from what you've said, I don't think your mother would ever give up being your sister's carer. Your father, yes, but not your sister.

On a brighter note, I think that trying new foods is a wonderful idea! And how sad is it that you feel too embarrassed to do this in front of your family? My parents considered "encourage children to try new foods" to be a keystone of child-raising.

Sometimes people on the autism spectrum are picky eaters because of sensory processing issues -- I know someone who flinches horribly from the sensation of anything gritty, which makes things like honey-roasted nuts or breads that have been baked on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet very challenging. Likewise, they reject mushrooms not because of flavor but because of the "squoogy" texture. If they're sautéed over high heat to drive off the moisture and eliminate the sponginess, then they're okay. And there are sensory issues with flavors as well as with textures. And it's often hard to determine just what the unacceptable qualities are without a lot of experimenting. Experimenting is great!

And, a note of hope as it applies to finding-a-girlfriend: just being willing to experiment with food can be enough to be socially graceful. "I've never had this before, I think I'll try it" or "what's it like?" are acceptable sorts of things to say! My boyfriend is somewhere-on-the-spectrum, and he's actually an adventurous eater, even though it means he runs the risk of finding things he turns out not to like. After a few years, I've learned enough about his tastes that if he's looking indecisively at an unfamiliar menu, I can glance over it and say "That one," and I'm usually right. I find it a great deal of fun to do this. It's even more fun with unusual cocktails! Don't know whether the craft-cocktail movement has reached Billy Elliot country, but anyway, a willingness to experiment with food and drink is good.

#391 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 05:52 PM:

I was watching something for completely other reasons, and then suddenly realized it was exceedingly DFD-relevant: a TED talk by Esther Perel entitled The secret to desire in a long-term relationship. The title's accurate; it is about that. And in the course of her matter-of-fact-yet-ridiculously-deeply-true talk, she says a lot of interesting, thought-provoking things. She must be amazing to have as a therapist.

And then about 3/4 of the way through everything she's been saying ties into a deeply true statement about childhoods and how their training affects all our later life, especially (for her talk) our ability to engage in intimacy and to walk the line in a relationship that allows both security AND passionate physical desire.

Highly recommended. Faintly possible to be triggery, but not blatantly upsetting, I don't think (Your Issues May Vary). Good both for people with reasonably functional childhood families and those who WERE NOT.

#392 ::: Bricklayer got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 05:52 PM:


#393 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 06:19 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England #380, I find it fascinating that your sister is allowed, and apparently encouraged, to exercise and have tons of exercise equipment, to the point where it inconveniences everyone (surely she isn't using it all?) While you are mocked for trying anything health-related, and so are now afraid to even venture to get a set of weights!

Double standard much?

#394 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 06:21 PM:

Codemonkey, I think that at this point, long-term planning is a good way to reassure yourself that you are not abandoning your family, but a bad way to actually leave them and improve your life. You do not have to find exactly the right flat to move into. You do not have to find exactly the right house to move into. You do not have to find a long-term solution to your mother's depression, your father's health, and your sister's care.

Worst-case scenario financially, you get a room in a hotel for a month straight. You take the time to be away from your family, to relax, to find another solution. You remember that it's all right to make mistakes with this process and that just about everyone has a story of that one apartment or that one roommate and how awful that was, and none of that makes them bad people, just people who have had adventures.

You will be much better able to figure out a long-term solution when you are safely ensconced in a short-term one. You can do this.

#395 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2013, 08:43 PM:

Codemonkey, I'm not surprised at all your mom found a semi-valid reason to spike the day out. Semi-valid reasons are real concerns, too big to ignore, too small to truly decide an issue, so they make really good excuses for decisions, especially in groups. If my mother were in your mam's situation, she'd feel guilty for going out and enjoying herself, so between a possible tantrum/scene, martyrdom vs. fun, and money worries, she'd have enough semi-valid reasons to stay home. But the reason underlying all the ones she'd own up to would be the letdown of going back to a daily round she hates.

Your mam calls a better house a "posher prison" and her life "solitary confinement" because it is *true*. What she's leaving out is that she walked into the prison and shut the door, and that she's the only one who can let herself out. My mother did the exact same thing with different choices on a different continent. I'm tempted to trade addresses for our mothers so they can be pen-pals, complaining about their ungrateful children and husbands, and we'll both go have our own lives.

I can see why when you were younger, it seemed to you that your mother was enslaved by your sister. I used to wonder why my father forced my mother be a housewife when it obviously made her miserable, and it wasn't until the last couple years that I realized that she does it to herself because she feels my father requires it of her, not because he actually does. I also feel your sister's loneliness -- if I were her, I would be unhappy that I couldn't have a boyfriend and life of my own.

Your entire family needs more and different social interaction, so moving to a bigger town, with better transit, and more amenities in walking distance, is something that would benefit all of them and they should seriously consider how to make it happen -- while repairing the kitchen in the council house is really the council's responsibility, and not a good use of your funds.

Those utility bills are horrendous, even if bimonthly or quarterly, even if rates are higher than where I live. There are several things that should be done about them. One, ask the council if those bills are typical for the old system. Two, if they're not, ask the energy companies to check for problems that would cause these obscene bills -- the meter or the system could be broken, or maybe the system should used differently. (I have trouble imagining that the tariff for not-direct-deposit could be high enough to account for this.) Three, ask the council about what the bills would be with the more efficient system, and what would have to be done to install it. I have to agree with the others that your moving out would not only help you, but give your family more space to have the system installed and generally be more comfortable.

On a happier note, I also used to be a very picky eater and am now much more adventurous. What really helped was to have a situation where I could try just a bite or two of something, and not eat any more if I didn't like it, without causing any difficulty or being shamed for it. Large parties at restaurants where either you serve yourself, or food arrives in very small portions, or in big dishes for the whole table, are great venues for this. I particularly like dim sum, buffets, and all-you-can-eat Korean or sushi places. Another useful thing was learning how to develop a spice tolerance, and it's really easy. Order something a little spicier than you're used to (but it's not the only dish), and make sure there are cooling foods to alternate with, like rice, bread, milk, raita, lassi, or thick mango juice. Eat and enjoy, and gradually the level of spice you enjoy ("pleasantly warm", I call it) will go up. And as you get used to variety in food, you'll seek it out because it is so much tastier and more nourishing!

#396 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2013, 09:10 AM:

Drawing some attention back up to my previously-gnomed post @391, for those who missed it.

#397 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2013, 09:56 AM:

Bricklayer: very interesting Ted talk. I have a feeling I will be returning to it if this new relationship I found turns into a longer one.

#398 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2013, 03:57 PM:

Bricklayer @391 & 396: Drawing some attention back up to my previously-gnomed post

Will have to watch it when I get home tonight, but sounds Interestingly Pointful.

One of the weird things I've been pondering about myself of late is the nearly-revulsion I feel at the thought of intimate contact, and wondering where the hell that came from?

Last time I had an intimate relationship was over fifteen years ago and, while I don't recall having any particularly triggery reactions around that stuff in the past, the fact remains that I haven't been involved with anybody in over fifteen years. What's up with that, I wonder?

(And, yes, for the record, there is incest in my personal past, though of a very mild (as such things go) sort.)

#399 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 12:26 AM:

"the nearly-revulsion I feel at the thought of intimate contact, and wondering where the hell that came from?"

"there is incest in my personal past, though of a very mild (as such things go) sort."

I can see where those might be related (which I don't think is a revelation to you. ;) ) There's an awful lot of cultural baggage that comes with that particular wrong—even if you've dealt with the direct issues, pretty much our entire culture is whispering "ew" in your ears even in relation to the topic. So it doesn't surprise me that there's a bit of spillover.

#400 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 01:50 AM:

I aten't dead yet. I've got a "pump start" appointment booked for early May, which means if all goes well I'll be using an insulin pump starting that day. So that's cool.

Also the counsellor wants me to do a bunch of stuff, like tell myself "You are good enough" 5 times a day and get out of the house to do some volunteering. It's for my own good but at this point I'm just thinking, "Ugh, you want me to actually try? But that's difficult, I'm gonna have a tantrum and spend all day on the internet.". Which is a good summary of the last couple days. And now I feel stupid because wow, self, you are absolutely not helping yourself.

I just feel frustrated after every session. I know that counselling takes work! But I'm really bad at work. I hate unpleasant things, I'm really resistant to change from outside sources, and I don't have sufficient drive to change myself. I'm approaching this whole thing like if I can just explain how awful I am, she'll believe me and things will somehow get easier and I won't have to grow up. Hell, I'm approaching these threads like I can convince you all that I'm hopeless and you'll stop wasting your time caring. My mom has said she'll eventually feel that way (when I'm being particularly stubborn about moving forward), so I'm sort of applying it to everyone. "Don't bother, I'm a waste of your energy."

I've acknowledged that I sort of need someone to hold me accountable. It feels more like I'm looking for an outside source of willpower. A couple of counsellors have said that I didn't have to do anything I'm not comfortable with ("Do you want to try writing that email now?" and I'd look like I'd rather escape out the window. "Are you sure you don't?" "Yeah, no thanks." and she'd back off). But the problem with that is that a lot of what I'm not comfortable with are things I have to do anyway, whether I'm comfortable or not. I find myself wishing they would say, "You still have to do this, I don't care if you're uncomfortable." and make me do it so I wouldn't have to develop any self-discipline. Of course, when that actually does happen, I resent the person for making me do things I don't want to do.

I'm constantly conflicted about whether to talk about this here or just shut up, because it feels like all I ever do is talk about myself. I mean, I know it's not healthy, to go totally silent to "make up for talking too much" in the past (whether I actually did is debatable). I started talking less around my friends because I thought I was making every conversation about me. And now I don't even contact them at all, because I'm scared they'll be busy or annoyed I waited this long and they'd want nothing to do with me. I realize I've set myself up to fail. Realistically, they'll either be happy to hear from me again, or they'll want nothing to do with me, in which case I'll just go back to not talking to them. I'm finding "local maximum" is very relevant with me.

But I definitely know I'm being unrealistic about it in the context of this thread. Both from observation and from the responses when I've fretted about this in earlier threads. I just, blech. I'm going to leave it here. Sorry I keep saying the same things looking for reassurance and never actually changing.

#401 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 04:38 AM:

Phenicious @400: I feel you on this, motivation, talking too much and going silent and all. Since you wrote you had a hard time getting started with the difficult stuff, I thought I write a bit about it.

Telling myself I'm good enough? In the beginning it felt fake. It's something I started at the beginning of last year and it felt put on for a long time. I tried to keep in mind that I was trying to be kinder to myself, I gave up sometimes, I forgot or rather "forgot" to do it and yes, you are right, you'll have to find it in yourself to go ahead and do the uncomfortable stuff. In the end I realized, I can be anxious and sit around and do nothing or be anxious and do the dishes. It doesn't make a difference in how I feel, but at least the dishes are done. And after doing stuff like that for a while I noticed I felt the tiniest bit better, because, as it turns out, feeling anxious is worse when I don't even take care of my basic needs. After doing the dishes (and going to bed at a reasonable time and taking a walk, even though the weather is shitty and so on) I could point to that as concrete thing I did.

It's all very well to think to myself "hey, I want to get to a better place for myself", but the vulnerable part, call it inner child or whatever you like only really started to believe me, the adult me, the one with the tools, once I started doing something. This is hard. This means being true to yourself (general you, same as in the rest of my entry). Not just true to the part that is like "I don't want to overexert myself therefore I'm going to avoid anything that makes me feel anxious, internet it is" (that is a valid strategy by the way and one I still employ, since it has its uses), but to the part that actually needs you to do the painful, thankless, seamingly boring stuff as well.

The part that is scared or angry with me right now will be only convinced, like a small child, if I really take the time to sit with it and tell it "you are okay, I believe in you, I like (love) you and no, you don't have to be perfect" and prove it by taking the pains to eat enough, provide social interaction, mental stimulation, enough sleep, a secure and tidy environment, you name it. I fail a lot, but I get to try again, right?

If any of this is hlepy or just expressed in way that isn't right for you, please feel free to discard it. I wish you good luck and perseverance! You know yourself best and if you push back against discipline imposed from the outside, there is probably a good reason for it. You are okay as you are and there is no price to be had for correctly done recovery.

#402 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 08:43 AM:

somewhere_else, that's exactly what we tell people who are recovering from whiplash: your neck is going to hurt for a while. You can either lie in bed and get weaker while your neck hurts, or do your exercises, get on with your life and get stronger while your neck hurts.

And I too had trouble with the self-affirmation stuff, but amazingly, it worked anyway. Which makes sense. Going around thinking "you're a worthless piece of crap" makes me feel worse, but going around thinking "you're a human being and you deserve respect and kindness" makes me feel better. (Whether, and I emphasize this strongly, I actually BELIEVE it at the moment or not.)

#403 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 09:43 AM:

Jacque #398: One of the weird things I've been pondering about myself of late is the nearly-revulsion I feel at the thought of intimate contact, and wondering where the hell that came from? Last time I had an intimate relationship was over fifteen years ago ...

Possibly an adaptation to deal with touch-starvation?

#404 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 10:19 AM:

Dave Harmon @403: And now you've made me teary-eyed in one question. *sniffle* Of course it's so obvious once somebody else points it out.

Lila @402: That's a pretty neat comparison, you're right. I have to train those muscles, though slowly and carefully at first, to get started again. And yes, it's great how these affirmations help even when we don't believe them hundred percent of the time. They slowly dig their way in until it starts to sound right: "Of course I'm wonderful and deserve kindness and don't have to do everything perfectly at the first try."

Well, trying do dig myself out of the funk I've been in today. Does anybody else get these backlash days after they've done pretty well the day or days before? It's like I somehow have to make up for the good days or it might go to my head? It's just plain weird.
Anyway, goals for today, prepare lunch and eat it, go out for a bit and write some stuff.

#405 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 11:13 AM:

Affirmations = Tapes we control, yes?

Of course the other Tapes don't want us making those work. (It's amazing how often treating depression like a hostile, sentient being with an instinct for self-preservation maps to reality.)

#406 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 12:17 PM:

Phenicious @400: Let's try a little test. If I were to say to you, "Yes, you are as awful as you are afraid you are." How would you feel about that? From what you're saying, I would predict that, among other things, you might feel some relief? Is it that you're just trying to get the counselor to acknoweldge your reality about yourself?

It feels more like I'm looking for an outside source of willpower.

Don't know if this applies, but I've finally worked out that, when I'm feeling like this, it's because I'm tired or sick. Given the dissociation that resulted from my upbringing, I don't feel the fatigue or illness directly. Rather, it parses as simple, "I don't wanna." When I feel like that, I've learned to check in with myself physically. Contrariwise, I've gotten much more attentive to the times when I do "wanna," both as counterexample, and also to observe the conditions that produce this state. (Adequately slept, recently fed, and so on.)

it feels like all I ever do is talk about myself.

When I feel myself angsting about that, I make a point of picking something to respond to in somebody else's comment, even if it's only to ask a clarifying question, or just say, "Yeah, me too." (It's surprising how helpful hearing "me too" can be, sometimes. "You mean I'm not the one-and-only Unique Lazy Horror that my mother tried to convince me I am?")

Remember that it can take a lot of spoons to drive out of the local maximum.

somewhere_else & Lila: I am very careful with affirmations because of family history around truth and authenticity. (Which is to say, I often find affirmations to be actively squicky.)

The work-around I use to feel better about myself when I'm feeling particularly down is to look for something—any tiny little thing—I've done that I can honestly feel good about, or something that I like about myself, or how I approach my world. My guinea pigs, for example, are great for this: I really like who I am when I'm being loving towards them. It's sickening to any adult nearby, but I really enjoy chirping at them and talking to them when I am, for example, handing out their dinner. And I find this is a consistent enough behavior on my part that it will actually support some reliable self esteem.

It's starting to streamline into habit. I now occasionally notice myself nodding in approval at having completed a task, or something. There is hope!

Dave Harmon @403: Possibly an adaptation to deal with touch-starvation?

Er...? Hm. Not an implausible notion. Touch-starvation is a particularly pernicious state with me, too, because it is much more the norm over the course of my life than not. I can actually call out one year in my life when I was regularly nourished on that score. Out of 55.

That's one thing I miss about going to conventions: in mainstream culture, backrubs are (IME) sexual overtures. In fandom, they're just backrubs. (Unless they're not, but it seems to be much easier to tell the difference.)

#407 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 12:50 PM:

Phenicious -- would hearing it set to music help?

Libana does a lovely chant that goes:

"I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself, I am a child of the universe being born each moment."

#408 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 01:21 PM:

Jacque @406 re Phenicious & affirmations I often find affirmations to be actively squicky.

I have this problem too. What I considered to be overly-saccharine affirmations made me more angry and discouraged, not less. The things that worked for me were (a) finding positive statements that resonated with me as true - "I am working to make my life better" for example, or (b) using mindfulness skills from meditation to recognize and stop the negative tapes and substitute some more positive statement on the fly. The tape, for example, says the equivalent of, "You have never done anything worthwhile in your life and you are a waste of oxygen." I stop it, not with anger or contempt for myself, but with an almost amused observation, "Really? Doesn't that seem a little overly melodramatic?" And, having stopped the general awfulizing, I can usually find a specific positive counterexample - I did this difficult thing, or people liked this project or action of mine, or I have contributed in this small way to improving myself or the world around me.

#409 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 04:42 PM:

bright-red quicksand filled with teeth,
filled with glass shards and despair,
drags me under, pulls me down

I offer

skin of my back for endurance
tears, hot and heavy, just for me
dreams turned to dust for words, new and sharp on my tongue
And biting and spitting I will speak story upon story into stone

Make of that what you will. I had a long day and really could use some boring, predictable days going forward.

#410 ::: somewhere_gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 04:43 PM:

The gnomes probably saw how hesitant I was to post it. :)

[Three spaces in a row gnomed it. (Thou canst not use spaces for formatting here. MT strips them.) -- JDM]

#411 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Phenicious, you say you don't have sufficient drive to change yourself-- but that is not a thing you are. It is a thing you do. You have not practiced changing yourself yet. You have not worked on changing yourself. You are learning how to change yourself and are getting help so you can do it on your own. You'll get better at it, even though you may hate it all the time, but eventually you'll be hating tougher parts of it.

You are doing this. You are not being this.

#412 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2013, 06:10 PM:

Disregard if hlepy, please?

Phenicious @ 400:

I just feel frustrated after every session. I know that counselling takes work! But I'm really bad at work. I hate unpleasant things, I'm really resistant to change from outside sources, and I don't have sufficient drive to change myself. I'm approaching this whole thing like if I can just explain how awful I am, she'll believe me and things will somehow get easier and I won't have to grow up.

I don't do well with changes that seem imposed from outside, whether my rational mind knows they'd be of benefit or not. It can be so much more comfortable to stay with things the way they are, no matter how painful, than to risk moving into the unknown. As abi said @ 405, depression and the negative things we've been taught to believe about ourselves seem to fight back when we try to change them. There's also a thing I've noticed in my own journey, where it's so much harder to move one step forward, even if that step is headed away from the quicksand I'm mired in.

(I've been so fortunate to have the therapist I'm working with now. I was also gobsmacked, in our first will-we-be-able-to-work-together intro session, when her answer to my hesitant question about how much "homework" there would be was "None." And yet, as the EMDR progresses, I find myself looking back and seeing that I've somehow started doing things I'd have considered homework - but it's not been imposed from outside, it's not been something I felt I *should* be doing, it's just an outgrowth of what's going on inside my head.)

somewhere_else @ 404:

Does anybody else get these backlash days after they've done pretty well the day or days before? It's like I somehow have to make up for the good days or it might go to my head? It's just plain weird.

Oh dear ghods, yes, this. Compounded with the "if I do anything one day, I'll crash for the next two" from the fibro and CFS and daily migraine... it took me a few times to realize that I should just plan to not do much beyond feeding the cat, the day or two after a session. I think (this is just me thinking out loud) that we tend to not recognize that emotional work is as tiring as physical labor? (Incoherent glinda is incoherent. *wry*)

Lori Coulson @ 407:

Thank you for that link! A slight variant of that chant was used in a service I attended nine or ten years ago, and I've wanted to track it down ever since. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

#413 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2013, 01:20 AM:

OtterB @ 408

I also found that I didn't have to start with a perfectly positive affirmation - I'm more likely to practice an affirmation that is close to how I feel but slightly more positive, then as that replaces the tapes, adjust as needed to get closer to good.

So the last round I did started with "I am just as good as other people" and then dropped the word "just" and then at some point I found myself thinking "I am pretty awesome!" which I'm hoping will eventually improve even a reasonable bit more. (If it's not obvious, the starting point prior to affirmation was something much closer to "Oh God, how am I ever going to make up for being who I am?")

I have to work to keep moving in a positive direction, but I also feel like there can be a little tendency to overstate the need to start out with a perfect counterpoint, rather than more incremental victories. For me, it's a balance between bogging down/moving backwards and choosing a practice that I can maintain on a regular basis.

#414 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2013, 11:46 AM:

Dear glinda, glad to be of service. :-D

#415 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2013, 06:44 PM:

This morning I finally got past the YOU SUCK WHY WOULD YOU TRY THAT DON'T EVEN TRY JUST HIDE IN YOUR HOLE voices in my head and emailed someone a fiction story of mine they asked to read last May. Someone who runs a small publisher.

I'm now hovering between terror, anticipation, and ... impending squee? Is that even a sensation?

Meanwhile, I keep sensibly telling myself that there's no reason the person I sent it to has to read their work email on a weekend, I should hold my horses and give it time ... but I keep going and checking my inbox irrationally anyway.

#416 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2013, 08:09 PM:

Bricklayer, I think you have concisely outlined the feelings of A LOT of writers upon sending out their work, and, yes, impending squee is a thing, and part of it. Best of luck!

#417 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2013, 03:54 PM:

Can anyone here comment or give advice about changing your legal name? After some "I'm done" moments, I've gone no contact with my parents, and my husband, independently and coincidentally, has done the same with his.

My husband and I are both changing all three of our names. We've filed the paperwork at our courthouse, and we're scheduled for the Open Hearing on March 15. I'd love to hear any advice, cautionary tales, or anything you'd like to share.

#418 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2013, 04:14 PM:

glinda @412: I think you're dead on with your point about emotional work. There is a lot going on of that right now for me, but I rarely consider the impact beforehand and don't take it seriously even though I should. Add some wonky sensory issues and I'm completely wasted after a couple of days without longer stretches of time to myself.
If you want to answer: once you did incorporate the one to two days off, how did you deal with possible negative messages from yourself, if you had them?

Jacque @ 406: Makes sense that this would require some tweaking. I had to get at it sideways as well since straight-up positive affirmations like "I'm worth to be taken care of, a good person, wonderful" didn't work. They sound either over the top and laughable or too close to people in the past mocking* me. *Praising me to get something out of me, therefore praise=bad.
Things I can and do use are statements from trusted (or once-trusted) people about my abilities since I can easily prove them true. What helped with the part of liking and loving myself (gah, that is even hard to type, saying it out loud is something I avoid altogether) were the pictures of "friend to myself" and "having my own back" and interacting with the child part, which again happens with actions instead of words. The description I used in #401 is something that came only after the fact and is now believable (most of the time).

Given the dissociation that resulted from my upbringing, I don't feel the fatigue or illness directly. Rather, it parses as simple, "I don't wanna." Dammit, this. Thank you for the reminder! Could you perhaps expand (only if you feel like it) on how your check-ins look like or which things helped you to catch this early?

#419 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2013, 05:56 PM:

KnitCrazyBookNut @417: Varies by state, but sounds like you've already filled out the paperwork. The rest of it is more emotionally difficult than complicated-to-do. Remember: the judge sees thirty of you a day, this is routine for them (even if it's momentous for you). Their main line of interest in questioning is -- or should be -- determining you have no fraudulent purpose for the name change.

Come up with, and practice, a straighforward one-sentence answer to the "So, why are you changing it?" question, so you don't get flustered and upset on the day of. Mentioning that you're estranged from your parents is totally fair game as a motivator, from what I sat through in court while waiting for my case to come up.

For the record, my answer was, "I've been using this name for a long time, it's what people know me as, and since I'm about to have a baby (I was hugely pregnant at the time), I want to make it legal so it can be on her paperwork from the start." Which he found totally unexceptional; I was only changing the first (keeping the middle and married-last the same).

#420 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2013, 11:40 PM:

knitcrazybooknut: My advice is to make absolutely sure that all of your paperwork gets straight with the IRS. This isn't a cautionary tale; it's just the memory of our tax filing not working because of a misplaced name. (I consider it a second middle name, but according to the Social Security folks, it's my first last name. Which means the IRS wouldn't accept it in the wrong place.) So if you make sure that's streamlined, you'll be much happier next year.

#421 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2013, 04:02 AM:

a heart in hiding @230: You've said she's not working herself to the bone around the house (except in so far as carping at your dad is "work")

The main 'jobs' my mother does are related to my sister: she washes and dries her hair when she goes in the bath (7 am weekdays, 10 am weekends), she keeps an eye on her when she does her exercises, and she fills in the forms about her behaviour which she then passes on to Sharon.

a heart in hiding @393: Codemonkey in NE England #380, I find it fascinating that your sister is allowed, and apparently encouraged, to exercise and have tons of exercise equipment, to the point where it inconveniences everyone (surely she isn't using it all?) While you are mocked for trying anything health-related, and so are now afraid to even venture to get a set of weights!

Yes she does use it all, pretty much. I'd estimate she's exercising about 3 hours a day (not counting the activities she does at the day centres). In spite of that she's been putting weight on recently (and giving my mother a lot of stick about it, even though it's her own doing) -- she just loves her food too much!

As for me, it could be partly a case of Assigned Roles -- even 5 years ago when my sister was obese, she was still a lot more into physical activity than I've ever been. It could also be a bit of the 'Doing It Rong' syndrome -- my mother thinks that I need to do abdominal exercises to lose weight, but these have me in terrible pain after only a few minutes? Surely if I want to lose weight I need an exercise that I can sustain for an hour or more per day? If I had my own place I'd probably go for an exercise bike as my first bit of equipment (I'd buy one now, if I had the space for one).

Moonlit Night @395: Those utility bills are horrendous, even if bimonthly or quarterly, even if rates are higher than where I live. There are several things that should be done about them. One, ask the council if those bills are typical for the old system. Two, if they're not, ask the energy companies to check for problems that would cause these obscene bills -- the meter or the system could be broken, or maybe the system should used differently. (I have trouble imagining that the tariff for not-direct-deposit could be high enough to account for this.) Three, ask the council about what the bills would be with the more efficient system, and what would have to be done to install it. I have to agree with the others that your moving out would not only help you, but give your family more space to have the system installed and generally be more comfortable.

It's a quarterly bill, and to me, the electricity part of the bill doesn't seem abnormally high. My suspicion is that the cause of the high gas bill is that heating/hot-water system is performing sub-par. Unfortunately the council refuses to maintain the existing system because they want to replace it instead (which my mother stopped them from doing last summer because of the disruption it would cause in our cluttered house).

Incidentally I got the smartphone I wanted after all: on Saturday morning my mother happened to mention the idea of a phone for my birthday present (though she mentioned a Blackberry when I actually wanted an Android phone -- she went along with me though because she knows she not tech-savvy at all). I didn't want to bring the idea up myself (because I was worried that my mother would ask me why I wanted a new phone) but when she mentioned it I naturally jumped at the chance (she was a bit miffed though that I hadn't mentioned it myself earlier, but nothing really to worry about). Incidentally she let me have it straight away rather than putting it away until my actual birthday in two weeks time (even though I didn't have my old SIM card transferred in the phone shop in case she'd wanted to put it away until then) -- she said it would be "cruel" and "unnecessary since I'm no longer a child". I also took her to Tesco that afternoon, although another minor disappointment is that I had to tell her what she was getting for Mother's Day (as she was looking at one part of the DVD collection in the shop and I didn't want her buying it herself!)

She was pleased with what she'll be getting (she said I'd "spoiled" her this year), although she did suggest that I wouldn't have been willing to spend so much (it was £70, but I haven't told her that) if I hadn't wanted to watch them myself when I was with her. I think she is a bit less stressed out since this weekend because a change in my sister's day care arrangements was finally sorted out.

Back on Thursday, I'd sort of stepped on a mine when my mother commented about possible negative interest rates from the Bank of England, and I replied "it looks like they're pulling out all the stops to keep house prices high", at which point I got the "why aren't you buying a house?" shtick again. I don't really know how to respond to this -- I wouldn't want to buy immediately if moving out a) in case house prices do fall, and b) in case I want to move again (perhaps to a better paid job).

#422 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2013, 03:02 PM:

Codemonkey @421

Back on Thursday, I'd sort of stepped on a mine when my mother commented about possible negative interest rates from the Bank of England, and I replied "it looks like they're pulling out all the stops to keep house prices high", at which point I got the "why aren't you buying a house?" shtick again. I don't really know how to respond to this -- I wouldn't want to buy immediately if moving out a) in case house prices do fall, and b) in case I want to move again (perhaps to a better paid job).

Perhaps you could tell her that, though the Bank of England seems to be pulling out all the stops to keep house prices high, given what's happened elsewhere you don't believe they'll ultimately succeed, and it would be foolish to buy a house when you're pretty sure the prices will be going down in a year or two?

#423 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2013, 10:43 PM:

Couple of things.

First, Codemonkey: You are right. If you want to lose weight you have to pick an exercise you can sustain (and ideally enjoy, to help with maintaining the routine). There's no such thing as localized weight loss, all internet/TV advertising to the contrary. Weight gain, yes - you can develop specific muscle groups. But you cannot target specific parts of your body for fat reduction. And if you want to burn enough calories to make a difference to your metabolic rate, it has to be something that doesn't have you quitting from ouch within a few minutes.

Unrelated thing: Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism is looking for responses to the question "What do we owe our parents." This was prompted by the Slate article that dcb @299 linked to. She's now atheist and so has lost the Biblical injunction to honour one's parents, but as she says "But they're still my parents." She invites responses both in the comment section and on people's own blogs. Thought some here might want to chime in.

#424 ::: Chickadee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2013, 10:43 PM:

Giant home-made chocolate chip cookie?

#425 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 02:40 AM:

Codemonkey, #421: Your mother is confusing "exercise to burn calories" with "exercise to tone specific areas". No, you do NOT need to be doing abdominal exercises if weight loss is your overall goal; you just need to be doing more than you're currently doing, without changing your food intake. And yes, you need to do things that you can do for half an hour or more without actual pain. (Discomfort / sore muscles the next day is actually a sign that you're doing something right, pushing beyond your normal limits. Just don't make yourself so sore that you can't move; if that happens, rest for a day or two and then do somewhat less.)

#426 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 08:48 AM:

Codemonkey in NE England @421:Re. exercise and weight loss. The best exercise for weigh loss is one that you enjoy doing, for more-than-trivial amounts of time. The next best is one that you don't mind doing, ditto. If you really don't like exercise-as-exercise, then it's easiest to build it into your daily routine: if you were getting public transport to work, I'd be suggesting getting off one or two stops earlier and walking the rest of the way. But you drive, so that's not so useful. That doesn't mean you can't go for a walk during your lunch break. If you walk briskly for 30 minutes five times a week, and don't eat any more, you will lose some weight and improve leg muscle tone. You could listen to music or audiobooks or whatever as you walk. You can get free apps to track your exercise, which can be helpful. Once you're happy doing the brisk walking, you could consider a couch-to-5K programme to progress to running - lots of people find running useful for weight loss, and many of them find that their increasing ability to run further and faster is very motivational for keeping going. And/or, is there a reason you can't use your sister's exercise equipment when she's not using it? Apart from your mother's offputting comments?

#427 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 09:42 AM:

Codemonkey, why on earth does your mother wash your sister's hair? If your sister can dress herself, and spend hours exercising, surely she is able to bathe alone.

#428 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 10:24 AM:

TexAnne @427 Codemonkey, why on earth does your mother wash your sister's hair?

I still wash the hair of my 19-year-old with special needs. It's a motor-skill thing with her. She can manage a lot of self-care, and she could manage her hair if she was willing to wear it short instead of in a ponytail like 95% of the other female high school students. But she really doesn't want it short and it's not a battle I'm willing to fight. She's moving toward independence with it but isn't there yet.

So it's not as off base as it might sound.

#429 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 12:04 PM:

OtterB, 428: Thank you for explaining.

#430 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 01:39 PM:

Codemonkey -- the simplest exercise is walking. The easiest way I've found to encourage myself to do more is by getting a pedometer. There is a program called "10,000 Steps" which is online and has all sorts of ways to help you reach that goal.

Warning -- wear the pedometer for a week to find out just how much you're actually walking. Once you've established a baseline, then you can look for ways to increase it.

I have been doing this and it has helped me lose weight. I've also lowered my blood pressure. Since I have Fibromyalgia, finding a form of exercise that didn't leave me in pain was a priority.

Oh -- if you have any sort of foot problems, wearing a good supportive walking shoe may be necessary.

#431 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2013, 01:51 PM:

dcb @426: I had an epiphany the other day at the gym, and realized that a lot of 'organized' exercises are designed to get you doing something active while distracting you from how freaking boring it is to exercise -- like jumping rope. Jumping rope makes a game out of, basically, jumping up and down in place. It's jumping jacks with a high-scores list and an ability to do 'tricks'. :->

Makes me feel better about gamifying more of my activity, really; we've always done it.

For Codemonkey's situation, if there are stairs at his workplace he can perhaps take part of a lunch break and walk/jog up and down them several times, to get heart rate up in the middle of the day? Wouldn't work if they're display stairs, but an emergency/fire-exit set where people can't see you puffing and wheezing would be ideal. :->

Also, asking if he can use, say, his sister's rowing machine when she's not on it? Possibly, anyhow.

I like Fitocracy for exercise-logging, because it gives me imaginary Internet points and level-ups.

#432 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2013, 05:27 PM:

My mother saw her brother today (for the first time in over 2 years -- she doesn't get on with hi at all) when she was in town shopping (and sorting out the strap on a watch she'd decided to buy me as an extra birthday present -- was the smartphone not enough?).

It turns out my cousin lost his job this time last year, and was foreclosed in September -- he's now dossing at the house of a former workmate. My uncle only got to find out when told by a woman (who was one of my cousin's Facebook "friends" -- I didn't even know my cousin had had internet access! When living with his parents he didn't even have a computer.)

His dad (my mother's brother) had offered to take him back in but he refused to return -- she told me that she'd practically force me back if I were to find myself in a similar situation! (She also asked if it had made me less keen to want my own place, but I didn't say anything.)

TexAnne @427: My mother still dries my hair before I go to work too, and when I offer to do it myself she says "you don't do it as tidily, and I'm only waiting around for your sister anyway" (more annoyingly, if I get acne spots she occasionally insists on squeezing them...)

#433 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2013, 08:02 PM:

Codemonkey, my goodness, those are kid-boundaries and not terribly healthy ones. What would she do if you insisted (verbally or by moving away) that you can do it yourself?

#434 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2013, 10:04 PM:

I wanted to chime in on the doing things/taking care of oneself/monitoring energy levels discussion.

I have a lot of trouble with routines. Pretty much the only routine I can sustain that isn't imposed by outside forces (work/class) is brushing my teeth before I go to bed, because it doesn't make sense to move that around (and I've been working on associating putting out the next day's clothes with going to bed, and making the bed with getting up). All other tasks get shoved around based on how much time I have left myself, or not left myself, on any given day, and I'm trying to be okay with that!

A key thing I have noticed is that if I let myself do things when it is convenient/feels possible to do them, I can usually get the important things done without feeling horribly stressed or rebelling at the idea that I "have to" do this or that. Planners never work for me because I can't break my work down by when to do it (since I instinctively rebel against or despair of such systems), and putting assignments in when they're due only means I forget about ones more than a week away. So I have a notebook where each line is a task, and I write the due date next to each, and check them off when they're done. This works well enough that I don't feel inadequate for not being 'organized enough'. And doing things makes me feel better about myself!

I also have gotten a lot of empirical evidence, this semester, that getting enough sleep is possibly the most important factor in how in-control-of-things I feel (I explain as I have work in 8 hours and am reading ML instead of sleeping, because I am Clever).

Also, my mother just texted to ask, "You know I love you, right?" My gut reaction is "yes, and that doesn't make everything better." Because yes, okay, she loves me. And that counts. But it doesn't actually make up for the various dysfunctionalities of her treatment of me over the course of my life. Just, how does one respond to that? gah

#435 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2013, 11:20 PM:

Codemonkey, re: your mother drying your hair: ...And if you don't dry it neatly, that's what you follow up with a comb for, is my gut reaction. She doesn't need to fix your hair for you, not if your motor skills are coordinated enough that you can hold down a job.

(This is my gut reaction, though; my mother stopped micro-managing my hair when I was 10, and that was more 'you're not combing it so you're getting a haircut' after repeated warnings. You might have more to it than simply telling your mother to back off, and that's all right.)

General update: Still here, still reading. My fiancee and I had a bit of a dust-up last night that pretty much boiled down to us communicating at cross purposes; it didn't help that I came in to bed and woke her up from a full night's worth of sleep, so her brain kicked into panic mode when mine was going 'just sleep already.' We talked it through afterward, and all is better now.

She also had a therapy appointment yesterday, as her brain fog/ongoing parent shenanigans built up to a point that she wanted to hash it out with someone outside the situation. It went well enough that she's at least going to use the rest of her EAP free sessions, and see how things go from there. I'm really glad it's helping her, especially since her brain is such a complicated place.

#436 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2013, 11:44 PM:

Codemonkey, #432: I suggest you read up on primate grooming as dominance behavior, because that's definitely the vibe I'm getting off your mother wanting to fool with your hair and (especially) pop your pimples.

For contrast, my partner and I will sometimes ask each other for "an examination", which is code for "please look at my back and take care of any pimples or blackheads you find" -- but we would neither of us dream of doing it without being asked first! And playing with someone else's hair (outside the context of the hairdresser's salon) is a form of intimacy appropriate for parents to young children or between lovers, but not otherwise. (Your sister still counts as a young child because of her impaired mental facility. You do not.)

hope in disguise, #434: Oh, the temptation to respond to that text with "Whatever." Because you're absolutely right, it's not a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. But if that's too snarky for you, the next best choice is to ignore it, and the third-best option is along the lines of, "Yes, Mother." (With an eyeroll as you send it.)

#437 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 10:23 AM:

One pattern I've noticed recently that might be of relevance to this thread is that I feel overwhelmed with things to do and stressed, and particularly that even when I'm doing something I should be working on, my mind keeps retreating to "I need to do X and I need to do Y..."
It might be an ADHD/anxiety thing- ADHD meaning I can't focus, anxiety meaning my distractions are my worries. But I think it probably relates to upbringing as well. At the very least, the anxiety probably is connected to my mother's similar anxieties, if not her treatment of me.
Anybody else have a similar problem? Anybody know how to focus on one thing at a time when your mind just keeps reminding you of everything else you should be doing?

#438 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 10:50 AM:

Dash @437: I know the feeling all too well. I try to (a)concentrate first on what's got the nearest deadline; but (b) if my brain really wants to work on something, even if it's not the thing on the shortest deadline, it's generally worth letting it because then I feel good, do that work well, and can sometimes carry it over into working well on the next thing that needs doing.

However, I'd welcome hints on shutting other things out so I can concentrate on one thing at a time.

#439 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 12:04 PM:

Dash and dcb, here's one of the techniques I've used many many times to calm my brain down.

1. Get a big piece of paper and write down every single thing that you're thinking about. Yes, this may take some time. But eventually I promise that you will run out.

2. If there are subtopics or steps that come up after you write something down, then write those down too. Connect them on the piece of paper.

3. Pick one thing. Get another blank piece of paper and write down everything that needs to be done in order to really complete that task. Break it down into small steps.

4. Are you feeling focused now? Then start on that project, even if you just do the first step. "#1. Clean off work surface."

5. When you've finished it, or even just the first step, give yourself a pat on the back. Good job!

6. If you aren't feeling focused enough to work on a specific task, pick another one. Break it down into small steps.

Make sure you celebrate in some way when you finish a task. Say something like, "I get things done!" or whatever positive statement works for you. Or just do a "Wooooo!" Find something that you like to do.

Yes, this results in a lot of papers covered with overwhelming things. But that's better than your brain being covered with overwhelming things. If your brain keeps coming back to something, tell it, "Brain, I appreciate your help. That's already on my piece of paper. Stop bugging me about it." If your brain keeps coming up with new things, thank it for the input and write them down too. Good brain gets a biscuit.

#440 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 01:58 PM:

somewhere_else @418: Could you perhaps expand (only if you feel like it) on how your check-ins look like or which things helped you to catch this early?


  • Remember to feel my body. (And if I'm feeling tired or "don't wanna," credit that I'm under-spooned.
  • Which is more attractive, doing the dishes or going to bed?

  • If I'm working on [project] and can't make myself stop: is it because I'm having fun, or too tired to move? (This one's really pernicious.)
  • Catching it early seems to mostly have to do with believing myself when I feel like "don't wanna." Also, keep track of context: an I adequately slept/nourished? (E.g., if my diet is inadequate, That Doesn't Help, and I need to cut myself more slack.)

    Please ask if this doesn't answer your question.

    hope in disguise @434: I let myself do things when it is convenient/feels possible to do them, I can usually get the important things done without feeling horribly stressed or rebelling

    Oh, yeah. I've gotten better about this since I've come to understand that it is, at least in part, a spoons-budget issue. Also, being conscious of the times I'm most likely to "wanna": in that productive window after I've gotten up in the morning, and starting a half hour or so after having eaten a good meal. Also, oddly, after I've gotten evening chores done before bed. (I have to be really careful with this one, because it takes nothing to tip me over into an all-nighter—and then I'm blown for the next day.)

    I also have gotten a lot of empirical evidence, this semester, that getting enough sleep is possibly the most important factor in how in-control-of-things I feel

    Getting enough sleep is crucial to many things for me: anxiety management, civility, being able to think, productivity....

    "You know I love you, right?" My gut reaction is "yes, and that doesn't make everything better." ... Just, how does one respond to that?

    Your gut reaction is absolutely correct. The response depends on whether your mother intends to reassure you or herself, and/or if she means it to mitigate the effect of her behavior toward you. If it's, "I love you, and I want the best for you, and I want to understand what you need/want from me," is one thing. "I love you, so you should forgive/accept anything I do," is ... entirely different. My initial response would be to clarify that question, though how to do so diplomatically escapes me at the moment. (I bailed on a particularly badly conceived HR class this morning, and am still recovering, so I'm not feeling a surplus of charity right now.)

    Dash @437: Anybody know how to focus on one thing at a time when your mind just keeps reminding you of everything else you should be doing?

    I've actually found meditation has helped me strengthen the "bring attention back to [topic]" muscle. And it really does feel like a muscle. Also, the best way I've found to focus is to get into a good, solid state of Flow. Which can be tough if what one is trying to do is boring, tedious, or otherwise unpleasant. That said, it's very much a spoons-dependent capability.

    dcb @438: I'd welcome hints on shutting other things out

    For me it's less about "shutting other things out" than it is making what I'm focusing on larger/louder/brighter/closer in my attention (so it drowns out the other stuff). Also, I have a physical sensation of bringing my attention to bear on what I want to attend to, kind of like a kinesthetic spot-light.

    #441 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 02:07 PM:

    Late thought:

    hope in disguise @434: "You know I love you, right?" My gut reaction is "yes, and that doesn't make everything better." Because yes, okay, she loves me. And that counts. But it doesn't actually make up for the various dysfunctionalities of her treatment of me over the course of my life. Just, how does one respond to that?

    "Dear Mom, Love doesn't hurt. [Things you are doing / have done] hurt me. Therefore, however you may have intended these things that you did, I don't feel loved when you [do|did] them."

    #442 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 02:55 PM:

    dcb @426: And/or, is there a reason you can't use your sister's exercise equipment when she's not using it? Apart from your mother's offputting comments?

    I don't think my sister would let me borrow her stuff like that (although I did borrow her exercise bike once years ago: back when my grandmother was alive, and my mother and sister were away visiting her).

    tamiki @435: re: your mother drying your hair: ...And if you don't dry it neatly, that's what you follow up with a comb for, is my gut reaction.

    I think the issue was that in some parts I was over-drying my hair to the point that it became impossible to tidy up with the comb.


    Another question -- what should I do if after I move out, my mother starts pestering me on the phone ever other night wanting technical tips of some kind or other? She's often said that "I wouldn't know what I'd do without you, as with anything technical I'm as numb as a clot!"

    #443 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 08:01 PM:

    Codemonkey, you intend to visit her once or twice a week anyway, right? You could tell her that you will research the problem, and you will fix it the next time you are over.

    #444 ::: NoTrace ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 08:28 PM:

    Codemonkey in NE England@442
    Two thoughts on your last posts: 1) For exercise, you may want to look into downloading a pedometer app for you new phone. I was surprised to learn that I did 3 miles a day at work in incidental walking and then started to take the long way and more stairs when not in a rush. The app will run down the battery quickly, but after a few days you have a good average and can turn off the app.
    2) The joys of being family tech support. Not knowing what operating system/s any of you run, I can't recommend a specific way to proceed, but Win7 has built in capability for Remote Desktop Connection, and in the long ago past I used a program called PC Anywhere to connect and take over client systems, so there should be something out there to fit your situation.

    Please ignore if hlepy - says the long lurking 45 year old who moved back in with her parents after a year of unemployment, and having been employed for 1 yr 10 months, can't figure how to get back out.

    #445 ::: NoTrace wuz gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 08:37 PM:

    At best guess, my error is in using a new nym and addy for this thread. My only offering is some presciption very high fiber kibble for diabetic canines, though even the dog wouldn't eat it, so one could only assume that a gnome would expect better, too.

    #446 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 10:31 PM:

    Lee @436: I stuck with a simple 'yes', because I am very conflict-avoidant and it's absurdly easy to hurt her feelings.

    Jacque @440, 441: The precise context is that she had just been being sad at me for not coming home for spring break, preferring to stay in the dorms and do my homework. Because she had asked me at the beginning of the semester to reserve spring break for her, which I had forgotten about. So it was at the end of a conversation in which I had just reassured her that I didn't want to run far far away forever, I just didn't want to live with them forever and ever (which is true, up to a point. Running away would isolate me from my dad and wouldn't get rid of her contacting me). So I'm really not sure what she was trying to do - maybe reassure herself that I care about her via reminding me that she cares about me?

    So I was weirded out. She doesn't get nearly so sad (it seems) about my brother being very far away (much farther than me) and I wonder if it's because she feels closer to me due to shared gender (which bothers me), or because she's more along in resolving things with him (because his hurts are different, and he is able to talk about them without massive welling-up of resentment), or what. (She seems very into me being her daughter, which bothers me for gender-identity reasons, but I'm not trans enough (by my definition) to feel comfortable asking her to stop expressing caring about my femaleness.)

    There's a huge conversation that's being had in bits and pieces, but progress relies on both of us being sufficiently not hurting at a given time to actually *listen* to each other. (Mostly her being calm and stable enough to listen to me. Some depression/victim complex feeding on each other...)

    #447 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2013, 11:04 PM:

    NoTrace, #444: Are you looking for advice or suggestions on getting back out? If so, what seem to be the stumbling blocks?

    hope in disguise, #336: A lot of women do have this Thing about mother/daughter relationships, so that may very well be at least part of it. Some of it may also be Not The Child I Had In Mind syndrome, especially if she feels that you have been disappointing as a daughter because you don't feel/do the things she thinks a daughter should feel/do. That would also explain why she's finding it easier to mend fences with your brother.

    #448 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2013, 12:11 AM:

    Dash @ 437

    I agree with knitcrazybooknut @ 439. When I'm in that mode, it's because I'm trying to hold too many things in my head at once.

    I've done everything from journaling, to creating a Guide to Everything KayTei, to creating a folder tracking system somewhat similar to what KCBN was describing.

    It just depends on how loose or structured an approach you find helpful at the time. And how much you're juggling. I find that the more I have happening, the more robust my structure needs to be.

    #449 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2013, 11:49 AM:

    Dash: That's essentially me in a nutshell. The Effexor helped a lot, but if I hadn't already been using my calendar to obsessively plot out which days should be devoted to which Big Things, I'd still never get anything done.

    Every day off is carefully planned; every morning before work, I do small cleaning tasks. That way, my home doesn't have a chance to get nasty (which makes cleaning feel more daunting), the occasional Big Things still get done, and my dog gets his home-grooming time.

    #450 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2013, 11:12 PM:

    Thank you to everyone who has been talking about how they don’t like affirmations or that affirmations make them uncomfortable. My partner (who has pretty good self-confidence) keeps telling me, periodically, that I *need* to do affirmations because they will Make Everything Better, and he doesn’t get it when I tell him that they tend to make me feel sick or stupid. Especially the classic “stand proud in front of a mirror and use a confident tone” version. I can’t say such things confidently because they seem like lies. I can do the baby-steps version that KayTei mentioned in #413, especially in writing. Somehow writing is safer than speaking, and maybe a little more magical. If I can find my notebook and pens for that (still in a moving box) then I should take that up again. I do the more-rational self-talk thing too, but it makes me weary sometimes because that voice can’t outdo the guilt-monster voice. Instead they are about the same volume and I do not know how to make the guilt-monster go away.

    It is hard to make time to do things that are just for me, especially when they are either hard (e.g. finishing portfolio) or frivolous (e.g. bubble bath). There is always something that needs doing For The Household, and my feeling that I can’t count on the others to do them is right enough of the time that I cannot tell it to go away. This kind of thing is a pattern -- bad stuff my parents instilled is not being reinforced often by them anymore, but it’s still getting reinforced by others who don’t mean to trigger me or reinforce dysfunction, but manage to do it anyway. So I can’t get away from dysfunction/coping/surviving long and hard enough to have the weird new thriving skills take the way I would like them to, even when I am trying but can’t give it all my spoons. Home is bad enough -- when it is happening there I may be able to persuade the doer to stop it -- but work is worse. My corner of government has major communications breakdown, upper management that don’t want to hear things they don’t like from their reports, managers who are gone a lot… On top of that it’s going to be a new financial year with exciting new budget cuts soon, and there’s rumours of a reorg, so everybody is even more afraid than usual. So the emotional climate there is going toxic, at least to me, because the gyrations required are exactly what’s bad for my mental health: pretending, ignoring, lying, anticipating bosses perfectly or else, not noticing inconsistency…. Basically, one of the things that makes me useful there is knowing how to be part of a dysfunctional system and not rocking the boat, and the problem is that I don’t know this particular boat and its language well enough yet. I need to stop being required to do this crap, and I have no job security anyway, but job hunting is the scariest thing in the world and what if I just ended up someplace else dysfunctional?

    Also, because of lack of job security, I can’t just follow my recent mini-epiphany about being allowed to have nice (or at least average) things instead of scraps and leftovers, and spend money to make the house nice as I so very much want to. Instead I have to consider every purchase and put things off because what if in 2 months I can’t pay my rent? So I have to semi-sabotage my own recovery on this point, and give back the financial reins to my worry-demons when I had just managed to half-kill them after much effort, and had there been job security, they would have been dead by now. Instead I go down the rabbit-hole of “is there any real security anyway” which makes me more inclined to stay with the devil I know even though I know it is slowly driving me crazy.

    It also does not help that I have been trying to learn to get up earlier when I have strongly night-owl biology, when there is no good reason (conformity isn’t one), and therefore have been short of sleep and feeling vaguely lousy for weeks. I’m tired when I need/want to be doing stuff and when I finally feel awake it’s time to go to bed, so I have almost no time to myself when I feel good. It also means my housemates keep telling me when to go to bed and when to get up, and forbidding me to sleep in weekends, all for my own good. Because it actually is for my own good I have been letting them do so even though I hate it all and sometimes want to scream.

    #451 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 08:24 AM:

    Will comment later properly, because I need to rant first. I just hate it. This whole process is so exhausting, I don't want to be afraid anymore. This is all I do right now, being afraid of everything and it's just so immensly frustrating. When does it get better really? I've been trying to change stuff around for more then 10 years now and my entire life seems to consist only of falling into holes I have then to try to climb my way out of. And during that process? I'll see how others just get on with there stuff all easy-peasy like. And I know that's not true, that most struggle with something, but seriously, there are certainly people you have to deal with less shit. And then I think to myself, why can't it be that easy for me? Why does every single step I take have to be a goddamn fight that I only win by a hair's breadth? And yes, I know I will make my way out of this pit as well even though it seems even deeper than before and around me there is just fog and lots of nothing so I don't even now which direction to go. When does it get easier, for fucks sake? Do I really expect too much?

    #452 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 09:08 AM:

    somewhere_else, hugs, if wanted, and sympathy.

    #453 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 09:10 AM:

    somewhere_else, rant witnessed. I'm sorry it's so tough.

    #454 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 09:26 AM:

    Following up on dash @437, knitcrazybooknut @439, and Jacque @440 on focus.

    I agree with knitcrazybooknut that writing things down helps. That's also my "can't sleep because I can't turn off my brain" solution.

    There's a personal-organizing book called Getting Things Done by David Allen. His system has more details than perhaps you need, but one of his key insights is that you can't concentrate on one thing when you're spending lots of mental energy remembering everything else. His solution is to establish one trusted location - electronic, paper, doesn't matter - where you write everything down, and create a routine for reviewing that. Once your backbrain is reassured that you're not going to forget anything vital, it's easier to make it stop spinning.

    I personally am getting a lot of value out of a piece of software called workflowy. I recently upgraded from their free version, which I'd been using for months, to the paid version. I didn't really feel the need for the additional features, but I wanted to reward the developers for something I found so useful. In workflowy you develop your own list of projects and subprojects, categories and subcategories, whatever. You can tag each item with hashtags of any kind, then easily search for all items with a given hashtag - whether that's #today, #thisweek, #errands, etc. It's really good at letting you organize things your own way, not forcing you into someone else's organizational scheme.

    #455 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 09:27 AM:

    me @454, forgot to second Jacque that I also have found meditation helpful in teaching me to quiet the monkey mind.

    #456 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 10:47 AM:

    Moonlit Night, I think the first step of changing my mood manually is matching it. I can't listen to calm music when I'm revved up; I make a mix that starts out revved and then slows down. The Yarn Harlot has a post about crying babies and how if they're absolutely flipping out, you can't just hold them and pat their back, you have to stand and walk and rock and bounce and really really whack them and sing along with the radio at the tops of your lungs and maybe be vacuuming.

    Somewhere Else, I'm so sorry things are hard and have been hard for so long. I also get frustrated when other people seem to get things easily, especially if they don't acknowledge how much it sucks not to get them, like everyone getting a job ever. Some people are better trained to walk the crooked path* than others.

    *this is how I explain it to myself. The path is not straight. Some of us hate that and are filled with anxiety because of it. Some paths are straight.

    #457 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 11:24 AM:

    Moonlit Night and somewhere_else: Heard and witnessed, and my sympathies.

    #458 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 12:14 PM:

    Second attempt for today, less distraught after some confused crying and eating.

    Thank you Nancy C. Mittens and OtterB, for your words, it helps.

    Diatryma @456, it's a crooked path alright. I realized early that I'll have to carve my own path and it is far from straight, but I guess that's the way it is. Though still pissed, because, as you said some seem to have it so much easier.

    Moonlit Night @450, "oh, just do X, it'll solve the problems you've tried to deal with for years", at least that's what I hear when someone with no history of 'overcoming lots of bullshit' tells me what I should do instead. Does your partner hear you when you tell them that their suggestions are not actually helpful to you (especially considering that you have found a way to tackle the issue, even though it might look less straightforward)?
    Please disregard suggestions if hlepy: Instead they are about the same volume and I do not know how to make the guilt-monster go away. Sometimes talking to them helps, in the sense of "I'm willing to hear your concerns about the things that need to get done and worry you, but you need to remember that I'm the boss here and you'll have to follow my rules". After all, the big fear-monster I'm dealing with is reaaally concerned about my safety and the possible ramifications if I continue on my current path. The way it goes about 'helping' me though actually achieves the opposite, because I'm less likely to see trouble coming and deal with it appropriately when I'm scared out of my mind and unable to focus and therefore unable to act.
    Do you think talking to the guilt-monster would be a possibility for you?
    As for the rest of your post: you have my deepest sympathies!

    Jacque @440, I think I got a better grip on why what you wrote tripped me up. Even though I got better at the "cutting myself some slack" part, it's in name only most of the time.
    Reading that I'm under-spooned and ...I need to cut myself more slack I thought to myself "but that way I won't do anything!".
    Catching it early seems to mostly have to do with believing myself when I feel like "don't wanna." This is the key point for me in the end. I don't really believe myself and just keep going after I got that signal. I guess I need to build some trust here.

    #459 ::: somewhere_gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 12:16 PM:

    Probably spacing or messed up formatting. I blame it on my complete and utter exhaustion.

    #460 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 03:34 PM:

    NoTrace @444 says the long lurking 45 year old who moved back in with her parents after a year of unemployment, and having been employed for 1 yr 10 months, can't figure how to get back out.

    Wish I had something more to offer than sympathy and understanding, but you have mine, fwiw.

    Moonlit Night @450 Sympathies, and count me as another one who has the they tend to make me feel sick or stupid reaction to affirmations—the stronger the tactic, the more strongly negative my reaction. Pretty much the reverse of intended.

    In general, do others who find affirmations squickish find that they are less repulsed by positivity from an anonymous outside source?

    I've found two sites with positive and/or validating messages that often pick me up a bit to read, despite (or because of, mayhap?) coming from animal avatars who don't know me from Eve: Boggle the Owl and Calming Manatee. For some reason, these don't seem to trigger my knee-jerk reactions so much.

    somewhere_else @451 Witnessing, and sympathy. I wish I had answers, but boy, can I relate.

    It can be extremely frustrating to struggle so constantly, and with the world at every turn reinforcing the idea that it should be easy. And then, to top it all, there's little validation for the hard effort that you do put in, because the world at large doesn't recognize it as such. I wish I had any answer for when, or if, it gets easier, but I can and do acknowledge that it is a knock-down, drag-out struggle.

    I know that in my case, I spent a lot of years feeling like I was "just lazy" or needed to "just try harder" (when, in fact, I was exhausted all the time). I've only recently begun to realize how different my internal environment is from that of (most of) the people I've been measuring myself against. There's a certain sense of relief, but also a lot of anger. I've burned up my engine, trying to keep up, and NOW I find out that three of the wheels were never turning?

    If any one has ever seen the video on capuchin monkeys and fairness (part of a TED talk—I don't want to link, since I've already put two in above), I feel like the monkey with the cucumber, seeing the other monkey getting a grape for the same amount of effort. The ticket to happiness may be just to learn to enjoy (or at least work with) my cucumber, but my monkey brain is still very much in the fling the cucumber at the lab person and shake my cage and screech phase.

    Still working on how to move beyond that.

    Diatryma @456 Plus one to the "match mood first before attempting to steer" strategy.

    #461 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2013, 05:47 PM:

    This is more about depression than dysfunctional families, but I'm sure there's a bit of comorbidity happening there, so it's probably still relevant. Boggle the owl offers advice and reassurance to people who write in to ask questions. Here is what boggle has to say about the term "a cry for help". If you choose to read the rest of Boggle's tumblr, be warned that sometimes the questions can be triggery.

    #462 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 08:39 AM:

    I really wish I could convince my husband that there is a difference in degree that makes a difference in kind between my statement, "I really wish you would do Thing X on a weekly basis because the entire context in which it must be done terrifies and triggers me" and his statement, "I really wish you would do Thing X on a weekly basis instead, because I'm tired and I want to hang around the house and think about some home improvement for that half hour instead."

    He doesn't. And I'm not sure how pushy I can be about it. He's done the first three weeks of Thing X (it is a kid activity that we need to accompany her for) and I got the impression last night that he thinks it's my 'turn' this week. Even going into the area last week to help collect them had me shaky and hypervigilant. :-/

    #463 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 10:55 AM:

    Bricklayer, is there a specific story behind the triggery nature of the activity, and does your husband know it? My ex-husband and I discovered, after some attempts at managing the task jointly, that all instances of confronting school authorities to advocate on our kid's behalf had to be solely his job, because when I found myself in that situation, I reverted emotionally to being twelve years old and panicky because I was in trouble again, and, worse, that I was in trouble for defending myself, and, because of that, while I could usually hold off the visible tearful breakdown until after the meeting, I was completely unable to be an effective advocate.

    Maybe with an explanation, your husband would be more willing to accommodate you? Assuming he doesn't have one already, and assuming he'd be sympathetic and not see it as an "excuse".

    #464 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 11:41 AM:

    Bricklayer: I've found for myself, with my current partner, that saying "I know this irrational, but it's real" helps with the stuff I Just Can't Do. With my previous partner, it didn't help at all -- so I know this isn't a perfect solution. Current and I bicker amicably about certain household tasks that don't have that particular set of triggers, but when either one of us invokes our equivalent of "that's triggering me", the other one listens. Is it possible (as Rikibeth suggests) for the two of you to agree on a safe-word around triggery stuff?

    #465 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 12:01 PM:

    Bricklayer, #462: I don't like saying this, but you may have a situation here in which your husband won't be able to see the difference unless/until you have an actual disabling meltdown. IME, too much of the time that's what it takes to get people to grasp the difference between "I don't wanna" and "this is something I can't do". Which is totally unfair and unreasonable, but also seems in many cases to be unavoidable.

    #466 ::: justkeepsmiling ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 01:50 PM:

    @Bricklayer: (As always, this advice is based on my own experience and relationships, which are not your experience and relationships, please ignore if hlepy.) As someone who's occasionally been on the other side of this, I think you need a two-pronged approach.

    The first prong, as Rikibeth and others have touched on, is to make a request that is as specific and detailed as possible. Something along the lines of "because of Experience X, being forced to do Task Y causes me serious distress [insert details here]. So I'm asking you to take over Task Y. And this is unlikely to change, so I'm asking you to take over Task Y permanently, not just when you feel like it."

    The other part is to acknowledge that this means that your partner will be taking on a task which, while not soul-shredding, is probably not particularly pleasant for them either, and be willing to have a broader conversation about the work of the household in a way that's not confrontational or competitive ("but I did the dishes 6 times last week and you only did them once!"). This might result in an explicit quid pro quo ("if you do Task Y I'll do the dishes 5 nights a week instead of 3.5") but really the conversation is more important than the outcome. Without that conversation, it's all too easy for your partner to think of your request as adding an additional task on top of the "fair share" of the work of the household that they are already doing. Thoughts like "Bricklayer and I each do our fair share of the household work, except for tasks X,Y and Z which trigger Bricklayer, and therefore I have to do them, so really, I do more than my fair share and Bricklayer does less." can naturally lead to a little resentment. And the thing is that these thoughts can take root even if the balance of work is equitable or tilted in your partner's favor, because the work that your partner does is always going to be more salient to them than the work that you do. The only way to avoid this sort of resentment is to come to a consensus that you both agree is fair.

    #467 ::: justkeepsmiling was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 01:52 PM:

    Not sure if it was improper spacing or a word of power.

    #468 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 03:01 PM:

    Bricklayer @ 462

    Are you seeing a therapist who could help you frame this, or is it a possibility to visit one and maybe give you tools to address the problem over time?

    Alternatively, would your spouse be amenable to couples therapy?

    I'm taking you seriously, you see. If it is disablingly panic-inducing, it seems like something you should have professional medical support to address.

    #469 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 06:01 PM:

    I am currently avoiding (because terrified of) the phone tag that would lead to, among other useful things, finding out how to access the mental-health portion of our insurance.

    The specific triggering is more of a sensory-processing-and-overload situation than any particular PTSDish flashback, so kind of hard to describe. The entire room involved is so sound-bouncy that one person speaking calmly in an ordinary 'indoor' voice comes back in jagged shards of angry argument from every concrete surface in it -- and when I'm there, there are usually at least three rambunctious kids present, plus dinning hot-air hand dryers. So it's louder than it would be with one quiet grownup.

    I did try to offer an inexplicit quid-pro-quo chore trade over Activity X this morning. I took the kid for the whole morning, letting him sleep in (though less effectively than on any other morning this week -- stupid time change!), including letting her bike the mile to the park in the lovely 50degF wetness we had this morning. Then I guided her through lunch and put her down for nap, and reassured her repeatedly until she actually fell asleep, without him having to do any of the work.

    But I'm not sure he views that as an explicit scratching of his back in return for, etc etc. I should try to have this conversation with him in more detail before next Sunday.

    #470 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 06:34 PM:

    Bricklayer, have you looked at the Highly Sensitive Person website at all? What you're describing as sensory overload is really, deeply familiar to me, and I had a huge sigh of relief when I realized that I Was Not The Only One. (Scoring 17 of 21 positives when 11 was a positive indicator didn't hurt, either.)

    That website's been mentioned before, but I thought it was worth bringing up again, in light of your comment. It also might help your partner understand that this is a Real Thing, if it's seen on a website with actual people doing research and writing books about it.

    Here's to peacefulness!

    #471 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 07:27 PM:

    knitcrazybooknut, #470: I score a 6 on that test, which might become an 8 depending on my mood about a couple of the questions. This corresponds to my self-sense that I do not fit the profile under discussion -- although too much time spent in a noisy environment does make me cranky after a while, it doesn't send me into a meltdown.

    A random thought popped into my head this afternoon -- a memory of a comment made to me by an old college friend, which may resonate with others here as well: "Parents are people who will do anything for you, but who will also believe anything of you." Some of the lies my parents swallowed whole about me were absolutely beyond belief.

    #472 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2013, 08:29 PM:

    Bricklayer, a sensory-processing reaction is just as valid as a PTSD reaction. You can frame it as directly physical! If you had a bum knee, and this activity was only accessible up several flights of stairs, you wouldn't be able to do it. Your hearing/auditory processing is tuned such that a large, echoey concrete environment with voices and hot-air dryers (lemme guess, this is a swimming pool? god, indoor pools are horrific soundscapes) makes you physically ill, by raising your heart rate and blood pressure and causing you to breathe more shallowly, thus creating a feeling of fear and panic.

    Boyfriend has some similar auditory issues. I have finally trained him to reach for the earplugs BEFORE he reaches for a stiff drink. Usually.

    It's definitely worth addressing and asking for accommodation. Out loud, explicitly.

    Is the level of supervision you have to provide at this activity high enough that you can't wear some foam earplugs? Knocking 30 decibels off the top really DOES make a difference.

    #473 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 12:43 AM:

    earplugs are a good thought.

    In re HSP: I don't think I am, really, though I do have some sensory stuff (looooong story: I used to be a cripplingly picky eater, especially in regards to texture, but mostly general noophobia).

    This particular triggery thing is actually a mix of a recent thing (in the last couple of years, when I am spoon-low I find it exceptionally disorienting to try to deal with multiple conflicting audio streams -- this didn't USE to be a problem, but now it boy howdy is) and an old thing (when I am spoon-low or at all uncertain, any anger in my environment triggers my reaction to the Hovering Terror-Eagle, because of course any shoutiness or anger anywhere near me must BE BECAUSE OF ME).

    It's a swimming pool change room, yes. So the thing I'd have to do there is make sure my kid and I get appropriately naked and re-dressed, while not dropping things on the floor, and additionally I'd have to do all the managing of Stuff into and out of lockers in close quarters with lots of other stressed parents around doing the same thing. While the kid attempts to make breaks for it.

    Earplugs are a definite thought. I think we even own some orange foam ones, somewhere. Should ask DH. My usual way of getting through situations like this (or doing anything Upsetting out in the world while I'm not armored for it) is sticking one earbud headphone in my ear and having calming British nonfiction podcasts piped in, while still getting ambient sound through the other ear.

    You'd think that'd bother my sensory-parallel-procssing phobia, but it totally doesn't, for some reason; I do it when I take the kid to the park, so I can calm down enough to pay attention to her and answer when she talks to me instead of just FREAKING OUT all the time and acting angrily when she does, um, age-appropriate things. But when I'm talking to her I don't miss content from the podcasts, either; in THAT situation it dual-streams nicely to my cortex.

    I think the problem arises when at least one stream is loud enough to start making me cringe by reflex, at which point my ability to parse ANY verbal input goes straight down the shitter.

    My strong sensory preferences (though not getting 'overwhelmed' by them as that website describes) and several other things about how my head works make me think some of my non-neurotypicality might involve being on the high-functioning end of an Asperger's spectrum diagnosis. Among, well, other things, which makes it complicated.

    When I was in high school I just thought I was a loser who couldn't possibly understand people in social situations (although, if you asked me about fictional people or people who didn't trigger me, HELL YEAH I knew exactly what was going on emotionally with them etc). In college I had to consciously train myself into social skills that I think a lot of people pick up accidentally in grade school or kindergarten (when I was busy reading books and socializing mostly with grownups). See also: extrovert who wasted a whole decade thinking I was an introvert.

    #474 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 12:46 AM:

    @470 knitcrazybooknut

    I just scored 21 out of 27.

    Damn. That's what that is.

    #475 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 12:01 PM:

    knitcrazybooknut @470, Cheryl @474:
    I just scored 16/27, and a few of the ones I left unchecked were arguable.
    Maybe there is something to me being "sensitive" after all.
    Quite an interesting link, thank you.

    #476 ::: Vrdolyak ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 12:13 PM:

    kcbn @470: On that test, I scored 15 out of 27 (and would have scored higher but for urban adaptations).

    Not that I didn't know, but it was educational to see all that in one place.

    #477 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 03:57 PM:

    hope in disguise @446: So I was weirded out. She doesn't get nearly so sad (it seems) about my brother being very far away (much farther than me)

    This varies rather a lot by age-group and geography, but in "Western" cultures, girl-children are often kept closer to home than boy-children. (This was certainly true of my generation—I was born mid-late '50s, FWIW.) So I wonder if some of that may be coming in to play.

    She seems very into me being her daughter

    My mother seemed to have in mind that I would be a live-action Barbie Doll. Imagine her dismay when I turned out to be a Martian.

    There's a huge conversation that's being had in bits and pieces

    Well, at least you're having the conversation, which says much that is positive about both of you.

    Moonlit Night @450: Erf. Sounds all too familiar. Dysfunctional job situation: check. Night owl trying to live to morning lark schedules: check. Tight financial circumstances: check.

    The only potentially useful item I have to offer is my observation that I tend to generally function better if I'm diligent about getting some dark leafy greens in my diet on a daily basis.

    Instead they are about the same volume and I do not know how to make the guilt-monster go away.

    Following on somewhere_else's comments: Don't know how to make it "go away," but I sometimes have success draining that stuff out of my head by journalling it, so maybe that's another item for the list once you've unearthed your notebook and pens. Additionally, I find that, by setting stuff like that down on paper, it gets laid out in a way that I can see it more clearly than when it's just a jumble inside my head, and connections and potential solutions will often suggest themselves that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

    somewhere_else @451: When does it get easier, for fucks sake?

    This may or may not be useful, but something I've been finding helpful lately is to go into things (most usually, tasks) assuming it will be difficult, painful, exhausting, and just gearing waaaaayyy down so that I approach things slowly, head down, one foot in front of the other. I've actually been find that I get stuff done (although there's still way too much to do), and the painfulness/difficulty isn't such a jarring shock to my system.

    But yeah, I've got several holes I'm really tired of staring at the sky out of.

    Reading " that I'm under-spooned and ...I need to cut myself more slack" I thought to myself "but that way I won't do anything!".

    Heh, that worry does loom, doesn't it? For me, it's been mostly about practice: the times when I just really "don't wanna," I do cut back and let stuff slide. Over time, I've noticed that stuff does eventually get done (though sometimes it's a long eventually!), and I've slowly developed faith that "Wanna" will eventually come around on the guitar.

    Case in point: after being an absolute minimalist potato for the last several weeks (precipitated by the nasty gut-bug that ate my President's Day long weekend, feh!), I finally, this weekend, was possessed of a Burning Urge, and actually got all of my crucial chores done over the weekend. But when one is in the depths of the torpitude, it can be hard to remember/have faith in those productive interludes.

    I guess I need to build some trust here.

    It seems very weird that we should have so much trouble trusting ourselves, n'est-ce pas?

    OtterB @455: I also have found meditation helpful in teaching me to quiet the monkey mind.

    And, if my experience is any guide, it doesn't have to be meditation meditation, just any practice that puts you (well, me) into a non-verbal Flow state that can be maintained over a good period of time.

    I had gotten into the habit for a while of drawing nearly every night after work (listening to music), and that was astonishingly effective. I have been doing sculpture the last year or so, which doesn't admit of that same state nearly as well, so I'm going back to drawing for a bit to see if I can get my brain cleaned out.

    eep @460: In general, do others who find affirmations squickish find that they are less repulsed by positivity from an anonymous outside source?

    Not so much, no. Still parses as Denial. (Sourly amusing tangent: was kvetching about the long week caused by having to make up for the time off for flu bug, and a coworker told me Very Firmly that I should just tell myself that I'll sail through the coming week happily, without difficulty. I did manage to refrain from punching her in the mouth and/or inviting her to FOAD, but I find myself a lot less enthusiastic about talking to that coworker now.)

    Neither the Owl nor the Manatee are "affirmations" in the sense of saying that you are in a different state than what you're feeling. Rather, they very specifically acknowledge the difficulty and discomfort of the state that you're struggling with, and then give recommendations for how to deal with it. Very different approach. (And, for my money, far more effective.)

    Bricklayer @462: Does husband have any issues around which he is triggery/irrational? If so, maybe make the comparison? "You know how you react in Situation Y? Well, that's me, only N-times worse." If not, I predict that putting your foot down and declaring, "Well, you're just going to have to take my word for it!" is probably not a viable option...? :-(

    Bricklayer @473: try to deal with multiple conflicting audio streams

    I had known that I'm weak in audio processing, but the time I tried to take a job at a call-center where I had to: call out, remember the script I was supposed to use, plus context-dependent variations, plus deal with phone response on the other end, plus deal with instructor kibbitzing behind me—I got as far as making one (1) actual call, and then had to go outside afterward to calm down. Tried it again, and my brain shorted out this time, and I quit (despite being desperate for a job), went home, and lay in bed in a fetal position for several hours. While I was laying there, I realized my body smelled like I'd had a bad bout of intestinal flu.

    See also: extrovert who wasted a whole decade thinking I was an introvert.

    Hi there! I've recently concluded that, while I am extroverted in one-to-one or one-to-two, in groups of more than four or five, I am functionally introverted. Had a couple of HR classes last week. When the weekend (finally!) rolled around, I dove back under my rock.

    #478 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 04:05 PM:

    Have some orange Fanta!

    #479 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 04:45 PM:

    Bricklayer, I know what you mean about the soothing British voices -- although, for me, if I'm using it as a calming factor, I have to not care at all about processing the information content of that audio stream. I was able to use audiobooks whose plots I didn't care about, narrated by Paul McGann, when I was having terrible insomnia (that turned out to be a medication issue). His voice especially is the auditory equivalent of soothing cuddles. (It has something to do with the northern accent. Go figure.) For me, though, it's not enough to counter a harsh, angry-sounding environment, just a busy one, or an internally racing brain.

    It does sound like the earplugs would be worth trying, especially if you can remind the kidlet that you're wearing them and she needs to speak close to your ear when she's addressing you.

    And if the earplugs don't help enough, this is probably going to have to be your husband's job. It's physical. It's not you being a slacker or an uncaring parent. This is the equivalent of being shoved into an over-lit environment that gives you piercing headaches. Most people can relate to "the light is too bright, I need sunglasses" and "the light is so bright that it hurts even with sunglasses." This is the auditory equivalent.

    Swimming pool changing rooms are so chaotic. There was a period of about a year (around age six?) where we had to suspend the kid's swimming lessons, because they happened after school, and even if we managed to get a snack into the kid between school and the lesson, by the end of it, the kid was wound up to a ridiculous level, and was way more interested in running around with a friend shutting each other into lockers than in changing clothes, and there was one time where I wound up SITTING on the kid to get a winter coat put on. That was my breaking point. When we resumed them a year later, the kid was much better behaved. But it was awful.

    Good luck with it. IT'S NOT JUST YOU.

    #480 ::: charming quark ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 10:40 PM:

    Rikibeth@479: "IT'S NOT JUST YOU." I think this should be the motto of the Dysfunctional Families threads. Everyone's situation is different, but none of us are That Unique Freak that others or the tapes would have us believe.

    On the hs person test, I routinely score between 22 and 25 out of 27.

    #481 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2013, 11:44 PM:

    That's what I get for posting without reading to the end of the thread. Doubleboggle!

    #482 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 12:46 AM:

    And I got 17 lowballing the Highly Sensitive Persons Test. Pfui.

    #483 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 07:22 AM:

    I need to drain some stuff so that I can get to work for today.

    Jacque @477: yes, the teeny, tiny step approach is so far the only thing that worked long-term and as frustrating as I sometimes think it is, I'll stick with it. The point is, I really get stuff done, but, as you said, it might take me some time if I allow myself to go as slow as needed. Currently I'm trying to get an extension for something I didn't hand in in time because of brain fog and pain. And somehow it feels like I'm cheating because not only have I been cutting myself some slack, I now also expect others to do that. How dare I?
    But yeah, I've got several holes I'm really tired of staring at the sky out of. I really had to laugh out loud when I read this, it's really spot-on.

    further@discussion about affirmations: I think for affirmations to work for me I have to first affirm that I am where I am. Otherwise it's just smoke and mirrors, putting up some nicely painted cardboard to suggest that the smoking ruins are not actually there.

    Urgh, stuff is still difficult and I would just like to rest indefinitely. It's really annoying how I catch myself again and again ignoring my basic needs after I made a half-assed attempt to take care of them once. No wonder my body doesn't trust me the way I treat it.

    #484 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 09:00 AM:

    Reading and witnessing.

    Jacque: I just wanted to give you a shout-out for the word "torpitude".

    #485 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 09:35 AM:

    Lee @265: Cannot blame you one bit for dreading Mother's Day. Imagine, a WHOLE DAY when she can jerk you around with complete social approval and you don't dare complain!

    In the end it wasn't anything like as bad as I'd feared -- I can think of three possible reasons:

    * I spent more money than she expected on her gift. Perhaps she refused to believe that my lacklustre gifts in previous years were not down to stinginess, but because I didn't have a clue what she'd like!
    * My sister had caused a lot of trouble the previous day (she'd mislaid something and it took over 2 hours to find it), and my mam was relieved that she wasn't faced with similar trouble on Mother's Day itself.
    * Perhaps she thought that telling me (on Friday) how my cousin had lost his job and ended up homeless, would deter me from wanting my own place.

    Incidentally, I now increasingly suspect (based on what I've over-heard), that my mam wouldn't really be interested in my buying her a house unless I was going to live in it with her as well -- I heard her saying that it would be "better to have my money in property than in the bank", but even at today's derisory interest rates, I don't see how that could be true if I wasn't living with my parents (given that I'd have essentially zero prospect of getting rent from them). Unless my mam's deluded enough to think house prices will shortly start rocketing again...

    NoTrace @442: I'd be overjoyed if the only tech support my mother needed was with using a Windows PC! As it is, it's unthinkable that she'd even try to learn how to use a PC -- she's so inept with electronic devices that she even relies on me to set the clocks on any new device she gets that has a digital clock included, and when she want to know how to use my old mobile phone (a fairly basic 8-year old model), she became hopelessly confused halfway through my showing her how to make a call using a stored contact. I had to print out a crib sheet explaining how to do it, with diagrams showing where the appropriate buttons were (although I half-expect that if she ever did have to use the phone, she'd just enter the number manually instead).

    Previously she relied on my dad to deal with anything technical, but after his stroke he can hardly even read instruction manuals.

    #486 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 09:46 AM:

    25 out of 27 on the test for me. I own and love Aron's HSP book, but had never taken the quiz.

    Last year, I worked primarily from home due to a boss who recognized the obvious: I'm a writer for a website. It shouldn't matter where I am as long as I'm meeting deadlines. The ability to work in my own environment meant I got a lot more done and was much less stressed. That year was the happiest of my life.

    After a reorg a few months ago at work, I was moved to a team where the managers are very invested in the egoboo of seeing butts in seats. My telecommuting has been heavily restricted. I get to listen to other people type and chatter all day. I get much less done and my stress level has gone way, way up. I've started reserving conference rooms (we have plenty) to hide out in just so I can get things done.

    There are some other things going on, too. This team has a high-school social dynamic and they're not being exactly welcoming to the newcomer. I don't drink, bowl, or race go karts, so "team-building activities" are awkward, to put it mildly. And I really don't want to turn this into a work rant or I'll be typing all day.

    #487 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 10:04 AM:

    somewhere_else :@483: further@discussion about affirmations: I think for affirmations to work for me I have to first affirm that I am where I am. Otherwise it's just smoke and mirrors, putting up some nicely painted cardboard to suggest that the smoking ruins are not actually there.

    ::SNORT:: Um, yeah.

    #488 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 10:19 AM:

    Codemonkey @485, Hi! I've been following your situation but haven't had anything to contribute till now.

    Regarding your mother's technology issues: I have a friend, sort of an adopted aunt (would that be a hanai aunt?) who's in her early 50s and is pretty hopeless with computers. My husband and I have become her primary tech support recently, and some of the things I've learned there may be of use to you.

    We gave this friend, A, a four-year-old desktop computer when hubby upgraded his as his Christmas present last year. A's previous computer was ancient and barely ran, so even a middle-aged computer was a major upgrade for her.

    I quickly found out after we replaced the computer and transferred her data over that it wasn't going to be that simple. She'd call me at all hours of the day, panicking and getting angry that her computer wouldn't print, or wouldn't let her access her email, or that she didn't like the shortcut arrows on her desktop icons.* Sometimes these were genuine issues that needed to be fixed right away, sometimes not, but everything became a Reason! To! Panic!

    Here's what I learned after some tense, frustrating conversations. First, with her permission, I installed LogMeIn on her computer and created an administrator account for myself so I wouldn't need her Windows password.

    Then I started letting all her calls go to voicemail. When I had time the same day, I'd listen to her message. If it was urgent, I'd either log in and fix the issue, find the solution, or find a space on my calendar to run to her house. (Or text her back if it was a yes/no question.)

    THEN I'd call her back. I'd sum up the problem and tell her I'd fixed it, or calmly and firmly walk her through the solution, or tell her I needed to see the computer/printer/scanner in person and that I'd be over on X day at Y time. Then I'd tell her I needed to go, and do so. If it seemed appropriate, I'd send her an email or leave a text file on her computer with instructions for doing the task she'd had issues with or how to fix the problem if it happened again. And finally, I log in to her computer every couple of weeks to check the virus scanner, install any updates and do a general Windows wellbeing check.

    Doing it this way eventually trained her that I was here for her, but wouldn't allow her to interrupt my workday (or evening) and treat me to 15 minutes of angry ranting before even telling me about the problem. It also encouraged her to experiment and try to figure out things herself.

    I think for people like A (and your mother), who are afraid of technology but have reliable tech support on hand, there's a sense of learned helplessness. If you know someone will be along to program your DVR, why learn how to do it yourself?**

    If you don't mind the suggestion, this may be a good technique for dealing with your mother's technology fears. Create some diagrams and walkthroughs for things she might do commonly and use the voicemail filter for the rest. When faced with waiting an hour or two for you to talk her through finding a saved contact on her phone or figuring it out herself, she may eventually start working things out.

    And if she doesn't, that's okay too. If she calls people using stored contacts or phone numbers from her memory or from a paper address book, the calls still get made. If she writes her passwords -- and only passwords, with no account names -- in highlighter on post-it notes, that's her system to struggle with or improve as she sees fit.*** You may be surprised at how much she improves on her own.

    *Yes. This was an actual conversation. She swore that her previous version of Windows didn't have "those ugly arrows" and that she didn't want them.

    **To be fair, I sometimes see this in myself. I'm married to a programmer who builds our desktop computers from scratch. I could probably fix a hardware issue or replace a power supply by myself, but it takes less spoons to ask him to do it.

    ***Yes, A does this. Drives me crazy, but I've made a number of helpful suggestions on the topic and she still does it, so it's a hill I've chosen not to die on.

    #489 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 12:03 PM:

    Persephone, re: passwords

    I have fibro -- which means I can't remember sh**, um things.

    I have a system for generating passwords,* place where I write them down, and they are not kept with/near the computer.

    When I forget, which I have done with every password I've ever used, I go find the list, and get the password.

    Having an alphabetical list of potential passwords makes them easy to change on a regular schedule.

    *Pick a subject, generate passwords or phrases based on said subject, keep list, then encrypt passwords before using.

    #490 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 01:44 PM:

    Yeep. I thought I was being conservative, leaving unchecked anything I was ambivalent about, and I got a 22 on the HSP quiz. On the other hand, I've always been proud that I can put up with a lot of crap, so although all those things make me anxious and uncomfortable and what I really want to do is hide under a blanket, I can put up with it and not complain.

    But I do certainly notice the very faint repetitive beeping noise from the other room, so I guess that makes me highly sensitive.

    Unrelated, on the topic of Ross-tries-to-follow-his-interests: I'm writing a computer game this week. There's a thing, the 7-Day Roguelike Challenge, where you write a (roguelike) game in seven days. Having a deadline seems to make me better at saying "that's not perfect but I'll leave it alone now" instead of tweaking until it's perfect and then getting depressed because it never is.

    #491 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 01:49 PM:

    Also: the "putting up with it and not complaining" is really annoying to my therapist, because it's hard for me to decide "yes, this is something I can put up with, but it's not something I have to put up with, so I'll fix it." Things like a messy apartment, headaches, not having any food, not getting enough sleep, loneliness, mean people, etc, I'll tend to just put up with until she reminds me "why not just do something about it?"

    #492 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 01:53 PM:

    Persephone, #486: That's the point at which I'd be saying something along the lines of, "I find that my productivity is greatly improved when I keep my professional and social lives separate." I mean, really -- bowling and go-karts?!! (Dodging pub-crawls was common enough, and I found that saying I don't drink was usually acceptable.)

    and @488: I'm married to a programmer who builds our desktop computers from scratch. I could probably fix a hardware issue or replace a power supply by myself, but it takes less spoons to ask him to do it.

    I hear that. I spent 20 years as a programmer, but none of it was PC programming, just mainframes and minis, and I've never been a hardware person. My partner has a CS degree that focused on PCs, and has been doing his own repairs and upgrades for decades. When something goes wonky on my machine, it's safer for me to ask him to look at it than to try to fix it myself! OTOH, I'm also used to looking things up in manuals, so if it's just a question of "how do I do X?" I can generally find the answer myself.

    Re passwords, I have a text file on the computer where I keep a list of all my online accounts, the usernames associated with them, and not the passwords themselves, but a hint that will remind me what the password is. Yes, it's not the randomly-generated-keyboard-dump that security experts recommend, but I have about a dozen bases each of which occurs in multiple variations, so I'm not reusing the same password everywhere either.

    #493 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 01:54 PM:

    Lori @489, there are definitely lots of good ways to keep passwords! I keep mine in an encrypted Evernote file.

    My friend A refuses to adopt any kind of system because she firmly believes that her One Chosen Password should work across the entire Internet. So when a website forces her to choose something more secure than the One Chosen Password, she gets frustrated and then writes the new password on a post-it. So six months down the line when she needs to use that website again, she goes for the One Chosen Password, futzes around, then finally remembers she wrote it down somewhere...

    I'd love to get her on a real system, or even just convince her not to use the One Chosen Password everywhere that will let her, but it's not a discussion we've been able to have productively just yet.

    #494 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 02:05 PM:

    Coming back online after a truly hellacious month and a half, I find the question, how does one thrive, a marvelous one to address.

    Thrive. Yes. That. How does one stop flinching? How does one start reaching out, becoming that new person? I have just been blessed with sanctuary, to live alone with no one to look over my shoulder when I run naked thru the house. My partner just died (*wail of pain*), not unexpectedly, but still... and he left me his house. Barring complications from relatives who may want to dispute the will, and it was really hard to not explain to the lawyer why that was truly a non-issue, the house will be mine. Alone. There will be no one looking over my shoulder, no one asking questions, wondering why I do things this way rather than that. In telling him my backstory, which horrified him in some ways, I got a better handle on it for myself.

    Now, with his death, and his gift of sanctuary, I am realizing that I am to learn how to be the me I want to be. Me first. Not selfishly, but to learn how to stop being me-second, me-cautious, me-quiet and afraid to be noticed. This is his gift to me.

    I have santuary. How does one learn to stop flinching? I have been given the space and time to find out. How does one learn to step out? I have been given a new environment in which to explore, where no one knows my flinches, so if I don't flinch, no one will notice they are gone.

    I have sanctuary.
    And it scares me spitless.

    #495 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 03:22 PM:

    My sympathies, Quietly Learning to be Loud @494. Expected or not, the death of a loved one is never easy. That's a lovely gift from your partner, but it will take time. So give yourself time, one step at a time.

    #496 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 03:24 PM:

    Lee @492, I know, right? These are Official Teambuilding Activities Done on Work Time, though, so there's not much to do other than sit and try not to look miserably bored. If these people were friendly it wouldn't matter so much that I wasn't bowling/drinking/whatever, because there's no reason not to hang out and chat while doing it, but...they aren't.

    I don't think I've ever worked with a group of people who appear to actively dislike me before. In one-on-one discussions, they range from friendly enough to "Why is this person talking to me and how can I get away?" When two or more are together, they pretend I'm invisible. It's a very middle-school dynamic. I'm very introverted and shy, but when I put on my game face I'm open, friendly, charming, and pleasant to interact with. I'm not doing anything outside the bounds of civilized behavior or making anyone uncomfortable in any way.

    Last week was the bowling and happy hour teambuilding; in a couple of months they're having a margarita-making contest. The go-kart race hasn't actually occurred yet; this group did that last year, before I joined, and wants to do it again. All official events on work time I can't refuse to do. (This is a tech company in a fairly wealthy area.)

    I don't bowl due to bad wrists and don't drink for a number of reasons. I'm over the weight limit for the go-karts. To be fair, my idea of a good time involves me and a camera and a mountain; I'm not really suited to upper-middle-class ideas of group outings. But the upshot is that their new team member appears to be a stick in the mud who doesn't join their fun; another reason to snub her.

    #497 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 04:56 PM:

    Quietly Learning to Be Loud, I'm sorry for your loss. And I fully understand why all that freedom is scary. Wishing you all the best as you decide how to move forward.

    #498 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 06:10 PM:

    Not been posting much on any of the threads - lot happening in RL - and I haven't seemed to have much to contribute to this discussion of late. But I've been reading all the posts here every day.

    Quietly Learning To Be Loud @494: Sympathies for the loss of your partner. No real words of wisdom, but..give yourself time. Time to mourn. Time to relax. Time to learn who you are and who you want to be. It's okay that it takes time. Don't expect it to happen all at once. And, if you want it, a {{{{{hug}}}}}.

    (And of course, as always, ignore if hlepy.)

    #499 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 06:57 PM:

    I guess the sudden lack of light in the morning as DST began really did a number on me. Something did a number on me yesterday, anyway.

    After a normal day of research -- frustrating, but not particularly more than usual -- I burst into tears the second I got into my car to drive home, cried all the way home, and kept crying until my partner got home a couple of hours later. I just kept thinking "I'll never get this to work, I'll never graduate, I'm such a complete failure. No one will ever hire me if I fail at this Ph.D. And my partner is depending on me to get a good breadwinning job so he can pursue his dreams, so if I can't do that, he's going to resent me for the rest of his life. Maybe it's already too late; he's had to work a job that stresses him out for much too long because I'm such a fuckup. Maybe he already permanently resents me. I'm such a failure as a person and a partner. The world would be better off without me."

    When my partner got home, he asked what was wrong, and I blubbed out some semi-coherent version of those thoughts. His response was a lecturing-tone "I know it can be frustrating, but I just ask that you work on a regular schedule."

    I might have lost my temper at that point. I have been working on this stuff on a regular schedule. That's why I was so tired and frustrated that I was in tears, because I've been beating my head against it. "I've been fucking working on it," I snapped. "Do you even see that? Do you appreciate that at all?"

    "Before I even have a chance to get upset at you, you start yelling at me. Do you think that's reasonable?" he returned.

    "I break down crying in front of you and the first thing you do is scold me about not working enough. Do you think that's reasonable?" I flung back, still sobbing.

    Of course, then he was just silent and tense and there was hardly any point in saying anything after that. I tried to tell him how terrified I am, how scared I am that I'll fail at this and lose his love and respect along with everyone else's. He tried to tell me that it would be okay and said "I won't leave you over that." (Which I of course immediately took to mean "I'll leave you over something else instead.")

    Then he got a migraine, and I felt like the world's biggest asshole for dumping on him and needing him when he's stressing himself into migraines. I stress him out enough by my very existence; I shouldn't add to his stress.

    He really wanted to vent about his stressful day and his job, and I should have just kept quiet about my own shit and let him do it. I don't think he can understand why I can't just finish with this work already, instead of stressing out about it.

    I also don't think he understands how much depression has affected me -- how during the times when he saw me not working enough, which he's characterized as "just giving up when things get tough," I was either intensely depressed, or on meds that made me so intensely sleepy that I couldn't function. It hasn't been easy to pull out of that, but I've done it.

    I feel like all he sees is that I wasted time, that I'm lazy, that I have no work ethic, and that I'm trapping him in a miserable job he hates. I'm afraid I was right and he already does permanently resent me, like his mother permanently resents his father for being ill and disabled and trapping her in a job for health insurance.

    I feel like I'm not allowed to talk to him about how stressed and scared and frustrated I get with my Ph.D work. I have no right to those feelings, not when he's so stressed out and miserable from the job he's taken to make sure I have health insurance. I should be supporting him, listening to him vent about his job, not making him listen to me vent.

    Half of me is angry at him for not understanding, and half of me feels terrible and guilty for not just being a better grad student/person in the first place so this wouldn't even be an issue.

    We can communicate functionally about so many other things, we can enjoy each other's company and laugh together, but I can't bring up my work without huge amounts of stomach-twisting tension filling the room. Guilt and resentment and anger on both sides.

    Yesterday I seriously considered killing myself. I felt like he'd be better off without me; he'd be sad for a while, but he'd ultimately be relieved not to have to think about any of this anymore, to be free to live his life without me dragging him down. The only reason I didn't is because it would destroy my parents. They don't deserve to go through that.

    I considered calling the National Graduate Student Crisis Line, but I figured even they couldn't help a fuckup like me. I just couldn't face the possibility of having the person on the phone ask how much longer I had, then fall into an awkward silence like everybody else does when I try to explain that it depends on how the research goes, and that that's the whole problem. I couldn't face the possibility that even they wouldn't understand, because that would prove I'm a useless failure.

    So instead I just went to bed, and woke up early this morning. I feel much less in immediate crisis today -- but only because I've successfully tamped down on the intensity of the fear and guilt, not because anything really feels like it can be solved.

    Today I even found an answer to a research problem that's been dogging me for months. But I don't feel any sense of satisfaction. Just disappointment in myself for not finding it long before now, wasting so much time on things that didn't work because I was too stupid to understand it until now. Anyway, it didn't really solve the underlying problem. It just let me rule out one more possibility for what was wrong.

    OK. Rationally, I know that this -- everything I just wrote up there -- is a giant flashing signal that my depression is coming back, and I need to call my doctor, because a tweak in meds could fix it.

    But what if a tweak in meds doesn't fix it? I don't have time to waste on being crazy right now. I have to work so that I can hope to make up to my partner even a little bit of the debt I owe him.

    I realize this was long and whiny and selfish and needy. I'm sorry for that.

    Practical suggestions on how to proceed are welcome. I'd really like to feel like there's something I can do.

    I'd like to go for a few sessions of couples counseling with my partner, because I think it would help us figure out how to talk about this -- but the task of finding a couples counselor from scratch feels incredibly daunting at the moment. (I already know my doctor won't refer me to anyone in particular -- I asked about an individual counselor, and they said "Well, look at your insurance list, and if you find anybody in particular you're thinking about, call us and we'll tell you if we know them." Right, guys, very helpful.)

    So, um, thoughts?

    #500 ::: Anon4Now is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 06:59 PM:

    Probably for being too long-winded.

    [Actually, the word "dogging." Do Not Google on this word unless you really want to know. -- JDM]

    #501 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 07:22 PM:

    Persephone said in #488 that the technically inept friend A "swore that her previous version of Windows didn't have 'those ugly arrows' [shortcut arrows] and that she didn't want them." A could be right. It's quite easy to turn those off with TweakUI on Windows XP. I used to do that before I got a Mac.

    #502 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 07:37 PM:

    Anon4Now #499: For starters, if this is how your depression starts, if it gets any worse you won't be able to work. You don't have "time" not to deal with the meds, so call the doctor or ask your partner to call.

    Also, crisis lines do their best to help everyone. They don't think in terms of "fuckups".

    #503 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2013, 07:40 PM:

    Anon4Now, 499: Oh, the memories that brings back. Grad school gives people bad headweather, if it doesn't break them into little pieces. Me, for example. I've never needed meds, but when I was in grad school my doctor asked me every six months like clockwork if I wanted them. (Hm. I suspect I should have taken her up on that...) If you went in with suboptimal headweather, grad school will make it worse. I don't know a single person who came out happier and better-adjusted than they went in.

    Please do call the grad-student helpline. It has "grad student" in the name--so whatever you tell them won't be a surprise.

    And lastly...if I can do it, you can do it. I'm even happy again! It took forever, and my partner was unsupportive so I left him. But I have all the degrees I want, and my headweather has mostly gone back to my original baseline.

    You are not alone. You can do this. You are worth it. We are here for you.

    #504 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 12:24 AM:

    Anon4now @504: So much of that sounds incredibly familiar indeed. (One small difference: I generally had an idea how much longer I had -- about a year. I had this idea for approximately five years. This is extremely typical, to the point where I could say "about a year" with the right body language and people I'd never met knew all of the "but who really knows" implications and we could share a laugh over it.) Grad school can be incredibly wearing like that; in some ways I'm still recovering.

    This also sounds like the sorts of things that couples therapy is really useful for, indeed. Or someone that you can vent to who's outside the whole tangle so you don't feel guilty about venting.

    Helpy idea: Call the crisis line now, while you're up to it. You've still got a serious amount of background crisis; it's not unreasonable to call them even though you're not immediately in a panic.

    Does your school have a counseling center? They may have recommendations for couples therapists. (For that matter: If you're anywhere at all near the San Francisco Bay Area, look up Russell Wilkie in Google and email him to ask if he's taking clients or has suggestions -- tell him I sent you, if it helps. Russell is both a good person and a good couples therapist.)

    Also, can your partner do some of the legwork in finding a couples therapist?

    #505 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 12:27 AM:

    That should have been Anon4now @499. Apparently I can't count.

    Also, my experience of grad school was that the "How much longer do you have?" question was considered rather a taboo unless you really knew someone well, because of exactly this sort of reason.

    #506 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:11 AM:

    Anon4Now, I have nothing to add to what others have recommended, but I'm seconding what they said. Call the hotline. Get some help. It's definitely time. And it will take less time to deal with it than not to.

    #507 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:08 AM:

    Brooks, 505: Among my friends, the question was, "Should I ask?"

    #508 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:09 AM:

    Anon4Now, you are not a fuckup. There is nothing wrong with you relying on research to figure out when you'll be done with your PhD. There is nothing wrong with being stressed about it and wanting your partner to react compassionately when he comes home to see you crying.

    You can call for help and it will not be selfish. You can go to couples counseling and it will not be selfish. You can take another five years to finish the work that's important to you and it will not be selfish. You can ask your partner to investigate other ways of getting healthcare so he can leave the job he hates and it will not be selfish.

    I think couples counseling is a very good idea. From what you've said, there's a lot of, "I will support you for X years, then you will support me for X years," going on, and if that's going to work under stress, I think you have to be able to say, "I need you to support me for tonight," first. This isn't something that makes you weak. It's something that makes you partners. And since it's possible that your partner will still act like he's entitled to your labor, whether he feels that way or not, even after grad school, it would be a very good idea to work that out now.

    You can do this. You are not weak or selfish. You are in a tough situation and you can survive it. Grad school is difficult. Research is often impossible. You will get through this.

    (I say this as someone who graduated with a Master's after entering for a PhD. That's also okay.)

    #509 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 11:03 AM:

    How to find the right balance of discussing what needs to be discussed and just enjoying the time together, or of not feeling I'm inserting unneeded drama and not feeling I'm being unheard.

    My sense of what is normal (or at least common) and what is a problem that I alone have was thrown off by the ex. After all, every problem was my fault and I was broken and he was such a saint for putting up with me. Yuck.

    There's stuff with the new interest that needs to be talked about and worked out. My experience in the past was that the only way to get serious talks to happen was for there to be some crisis that forces a discussion, so I don't know how to start one of those talks without a crisis.

    With the ex, I would force a crisis and make myself really upset because that was the only way to get his attention. I'm trying to avoid that. And yet, this weekend I kept pushing even with warnings. I realized after the fact I was pushing to see what was past the warnings, even though I knew that it would be something that would make me upset. (Not in the intrinsically bad sense, but in the "I'm not ready for it yet" sense.) It wasn't about getting his attention because I get lots of that. I don't know why I was trying to make a crisis.

    I also keep going back to telling myself I'm overthinking things. (Oh wait, that's something that other people told me until I started telling myself that.)

    So far the new interest has been understanding and patient. Sometimes I wonder why.

    #510 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 01:13 PM:

    Today I finally worked myself up to do a Very Scary Thing I've been capable (in terms of prereqs available) since last August. And then I discovered the important piece of paper that I GOT in August, was missing, AS I WAS READY TO GO OUT THE DOOR to go deal with the thing.

    I seriously lost my shit, freaking out, while I found every pile of flat papers it could possibly be in (more than six months' worth, of course).

    I have now worked myself down and will go do the paperwork -- I can add (a new copy of) the important paper thing afterwards, if I do all the hard heavy lifting today.

    I just wanted to document, and to thank this thread, because without this thread, and another board I am on with a "random complaints and problems" thread that explicitly invites ranting and emotional venting -- and someone I met over there who does good hand-holding and incitation ... I would not have even gotten to the 'about to leave the house to do the hard thing' stage. Or out of the tailspin as well as I have. And without this thread, I wouldn't have been able to talk about it on the OTHER thread coherently enough to know how to do stuff in a way that would help me.

    Thank you, DFD.

    #511 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 01:43 PM:

    Reading and witnessing everybody; having my own Issues, so not much of use to offer, except:

    the invisible one @509: I haven't been in a formal Relationship in over fifteen years, but one of my rereqs, should the opportunity ever arise in the future, is this:

    Agreeing on a formal arrangement wherein we have a standing Appointment to talk about Stuff on a regular, recurring basis, like maybe weekly. If the week's Appointment rolls around and everything's hunky-dory, then we spend some time recognizing and appreciating the Hunky-Doriness, and then break for ice cream or whatever.

    This arrangement would be set up proactively in advance of any actual Issues arising.

    #512 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 02:52 PM:

    Anon4now, #499: I am not happy with the way your partner is treating you. He may not intend it as abusive, but he's got some really bad patterns going there, and they are not helping either of you be happy in the relationship. Is there any chance at all that you could get him into some form of couples counseling? You've both got serious issues in the area of personal communication*, and if you could get those even partially straightened out, I think you'd see a huge difference.

    * Which are probably not either your fault or his, they're just hangovers from the past. This is stuff you learn, and if it isn't modeled for you, how are you supposed to learn it?

    #513 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 03:20 PM:

    Went back to the psych today. He says I look and act a lot happier and more, well, normal. I'm still quite certain that it's my parents who caused my anxiety attacks, but the meds seem to be evening me back out. It is good to only have to worry about things that actually matter, instead of constantly torturing myself with what-if.

    To celebrate, since I've got some extra money this month, I bought some new dolls and donated some money to a charity. (I like to celebrate by doing something for me AND something for others. It gives me a way to indulge while quieting that "how dare you do anything selfish" voice.)

    Other than that, just reading and sympathizing. May we all end up in a good headspace soon. :)

    And quietlylearningtobeloud, I'm very sorry for your loss. Remember that you have us here for support if you need it.

    #514 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:01 PM:

    Bricklayer @510: Congratulations! Not only for actually getting yourself to the "about to go out the door to do the thing" stage, but for recovering as well as you did and not losing that momentum. That sort of recovery is hard when you're dealing with that sort of emotion.

    #515 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 05:08 PM:

    #511, Jacque:

    That's a good idea. It reminds me of the "date night" arrangement for couples living together as well, so they don't get completely stuck in the daily routine and never take time to have fun either. Checking in for serious stuff and checking in for fun stuff. It appeals to my organizational tendencies.

    I think I'll try to bring up the topic.

    Unfortunately 1) when something does bother me, jerkbrain immediately starts to spin horrible stories about how he's going to react to me bringing it up and causes me stress and I lose track of what I've said to him in person and what I've said inside my head with jerkbrain poking at me. Jerkbrain hasn't been right about him yet, but is still loud enough to cause me stress until we manage to talk even when I remind myself that jerkbrain hasn't been right yet. Twice now I've asked to talk to him outside our normal meeting times because I was stressing myself out. And 2) we only see each other once or twice a week, and I'd both rather not have these discussions via phone or computer and not have these discussions take over the relationship with a weekly chat, hence the comment about balance.

    And now I feel like I'm making excuses for why this can't possibly work and I'm sure that's jerkbrain talking too. I will try to suggest it despite jerkbrain telling me it won't work.

    #516 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:38 PM:

    The_L, #513: I like to celebrate by doing something for me AND something for others. It gives me a way to indulge while quieting that "how dare you do anything selfish" voice.

    Quoting to re-emphasize, because I think you're onto something important there.

    I do something along the same lines when I come into a windfall. Most of it I'll put into savings the way I'm "supposed" to do -- but I will always take about 10% and do something frivolous for my own enjoyment, because that way I don't feel angry and resentful about banking the rest of it. My parents thought that was a horrible, wasteful, squandering thing for me to do, but I knew that if I didn't, I'd end up spending more than 10% of it over the course of the next few months.

    #517 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 06:52 PM:

    Hey, the invisible one,

    At a certain point in the construction of a relationship with my eventual husband, I started just saying out loud what my jerkbrain was rambling about. This served a few different purposes:

    1. It made my jerkbrain the subject of laughter. Whenever I would just express what the jerkbrain was saying, I'd use a funny voice, and it would always sound ridiculous, with or without the funny voice, and it would make us laugh. That tends to defuse a lot of the tension.

    2. It let my partner know that I knew it was ridiculous, but I was still feeling those insecurities. From what I know now, this really made things easier. I think when we hide ourselves and our fears away from the people we care about, we can appear normal and perfect and unapproachable. My husband has his own issues, and helping me deal with mine made it easier for him to express his own insecurities.

    3. It also told my partner that I was comfortable enough to share these things with him.

    There's probably another list of things that this accomplished, but those occur right off the bat. Your new interest has been patient and understanding because he's interested, and wants to know more about you. You can take it as slowly as you want, and reveal as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.

    (Sorry for the grammar. Just, ideas vs. syntax.)

    I really clicked with what you said in #509 about creating a crisis and not knowing why. Like, flashy lights and neon signs, PING.

    About two months into said relationship, I got really mad at him. I didn't yell, but I got all stern and eyebrows stiff and angry about [something to do with cleaning or something]. I drew a line and said, past this is not okay with me.

    A month or two later, he was painstakingly following the line, and fixing the problem I'd gotten all het up about, and puzzled, I asked him what he was doing. He said, well, you said that this was the line, and it wasn't okay with you. So I'm fixing it.

    I honestly couldn't really remember why I had drawn the line.

    I thought about it for a while and figured out that it was a test. With all of my crappy relationships, I would draw a line and get it pushed back into forever, and never see the line again. In the new relationship, I [subconsciously?] wanted to see if he would respect me and my wishes about something. I talked it out with him and said, dude, don't bother doing that again, but thanks.

    When our concerns have not been heard or addressed, we need to make sure that they will be in the future. It's a healthy thing, to test the boundaries. In my opinion, you're not overthinking. You're just thinking, and that's outstanding.

    #518 ::: knitcrazybooknut got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 08:43 PM:

    Just for the record, prolly for punctuation and listing things. All apologies to the gnomemasters. Gnomes can join me in leftover hamburger and sweet potato fries, if desired.

    #519 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:23 PM:

    Anon4Now at 499,

    Grad school is hard. On you, and on your partner. You are NOT a fuckup. You are not the world's biggest asshole. Grad school sucks a bag of rocks.


    I went into it, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I almost broke up with my boyfriend, partly because of the stress and depression, and partly because I made some poor decisions that affected our relationship. (I took extensions without discussing it while he was supporting me. That was a pretty shitty thing to do to him.)

    After 9 years, I took a Masters and left. I found a job within a few months of finishing, at a local company, and 2 years later, I am doing very well, we are doing well, and I have a really good life right now. I don't regret going to grad school, and I don't regret leaving it, either.


    I wanted to say those so that you know that it is possible to not get a PhD, and still be okay. This is not to say you won't get one, just to comfort you that taking a Masters is not the end of everything. For me in particular, grad school and academia were not a good fit.

    I agree with everyone above who said you (singular or plural) might do well with counseling. I know it's one of the things that helped me immensely while I was in school. And a couples counselor might be able to explain how just getting up in the morning is an achievement, sometimes.

    An idea: can you and your sweetheart set some venting rules? Each person gets five minutes to vent? Then listens to the other person? That way you could both destress, and be supportive of the other person.

    I hope this is helpy, and not hlepy, and if nothing else that you know you have my sympathy, and my empathy, and if you were here and wanted them, I would give you many, many hugs.

    #520 ::: Hiding a little ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2013, 09:53 PM:

    Alas, I still cannot bear to run across a comment by or mention of my ex on a friend's Facebook post. It's a very visceral reaction; I'm still shaken. And it's petty to say "they were MY friends first" or "how can you still be friends with that scum." So I guess I will quietly just drop them from my feed, though I wish I didn't have to; I LIKE to know what's going on with them.

    But I do sometimes wonder what would happen if I opened up and told them what he did to me.

    #521 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:48 AM:

    Hiding a little, I want to share what happened with me. When I broke up with Worst Ex Ever (physical & psychological abuse involved, ick ick ick), a dear friend of mine remained friends with him.

    I told her some stories of what had happened. She remained friends with him.

    I drew the conclusion that her friendship with him was more valuable to her than our friendship. It made me sad, but there was no reason to continue to be friends with her. Fast forward eight years or so, and we reconnected. She is still self-absorbed and will never value me as a friend the way that I did her. It's good for me to be able to see that now, and confirms my earlier decision.

    I just want to let you know that if you do decide to open up to anyone, you run risks. (I know you probably know this.) You have to be prepared to walk away from the friendship, or at least agree to disagree. It's not an easy step to take.

    Have you blocked your ex on Facebook? I am fairly sure that doing so removes any mention of them, as long as they are officially tagged in a post. About three months ago, I blocked my parents, and went no contact with them. They have been beautifully absent from facebook, which is truly relaxing.

    #522 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 10:55 AM:

    Lee @516: My parents thought that was a horrible, wasteful, squandering thing for me to do

  • I found out, not too long after I started my current job, that a fellow fan and high school classmate, had died the previous year of a brain tumor.
  • Not too long after that, I found out that a favorite high school teacher, who was maybe twelve years older than I, had also died of cancer.
  • A coworker, who had retired about this time last year, suddenly up and died of a heart attack a week or two back.
  • Et fcking cetera.
  • You just never fcking know, you know? I've always been in the habit of putting a little something by, but I've never made much money and, dammit, if I have to go through this life, I'm damn well going to live it, you know, now. Not put every last scrap and penny away for "someday." Because, you know? Too often, "someday" never comes.

    #523 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 11:02 AM:

    #517, knitcrazybooknut:

    Yeah, I've had boundary pushing before. I have been practicing with setting boundaries and he's not only been good at respecting them, he's spotted a few that I hadn't noticed myself. He told me this past weekend that even though I didn't say anything, he could tell where there were some boundaries because I would start to get tense. (And truly, I hadn't noticed. What does this say about how much I'm used to people ignoring my discomfort that I stopped noticing it myself?!)

    This particular case of trying to cause a crisis, I'm not sure it's the same thing. It isn't pinging with any recognition yet, and between DFD and Captain Awkward, I've gotten to know that feeling. It's like I was pushing him to try and get him to cross my boundaries, but saying it was a test to see if he would doesn't get that recognition.

    I like your idea of giving jerkbrain a ridiculous voice. Once I get to the point of being sure that jerkbrain is wrong I may be able to do that. It still frequently hits points that I'm not sure about as well as the ones that I've already seen are wrong. I have mentioned a few things that jerkbrain has told me, and he said to tell jerkbrain that it was wrong and should stop being mean.

    (And it's really hard to not start saying things like "how/why does he put up with me, I don't deserve this". Not only because I'm trying to convince myself that I do deserve it, but also because that was almost exactly the form that crappy ex used for the previously-discussed competitive "I love you" duel. We'd both say it to each other, and I don't know about him, but I ended up believing for a long time that nobody else would be able to put up with me.)

    #520, Hiding a little:

    I hear you on that. It helped me a little to add my ex to a block list, not only unfriending him. That doesn't stop my friends from mentioning his name, but I haven't seen comments by him on my friends' fb posts in quite a while. I'm not sure if that's because of the blocklist or because he stopped commenting on their posts, but I'm going to assume he hasn't stopped commenting entirely. It's a shame fb doesn't have better filters, like "show stuff from these people except when it uses these keywords".

    #524 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 12:53 PM:

    Hiding a little, #520: When my now-ex and I kicked out the Ex-Roommate From Hell (which was not an abusive relationship per se, but one in which he took severe advantage of us financially) we told most of our friends a fairly minimal version of what had been going on. Most of them stuck by us, although we didn't ask anyone to choose sides. I think it helped that there had already been one incident, which I posted about here, that made some of them consider him a less-than-reliable narrator.

    One person, however, decided that we really needed to reconcile with the XRFH, and used a roundabout method (involving a game for which he was the GM) to try to pitchfork us back together. This Did Not Go Over Well, and afterwards we sat down with him and game him a much more detailed description of the things that had happened while the XRFH was living with us. The result was that (after a little while, not immediately) he backed away from us. I don't know for sure whether or not he continued to hang out and game with the XRFH, but I've always suspected that was part of it.

    All of which is to say, you can't tell what people will do if you tell them what your ex did to you. Some of them will believe you and reject him. Some of them may say they believe you but still insist on trying to be friends with both of you. There will almost certainly be at least some who will either flat-out not believe you (either "he wouldn't do something like that" or "but then why did you stay?"). And some of them may very well reject both of you for "putting them into an uncomfortable situation".

    My take on it is that it's better to know who values your friendship and who doesn't, and then at least you won't be reading Facebook with the quivering expectation of being (effectively) slapped in the face at any moment. But that's my opinion, which may not work for you.

    You might try opening the conversation by simply telling them a version of what you've said here: that seeing his name on their posts is triggery and distressing because it gives you flashbacks, and so you may need to back away. The response to that is likely to tell you whether or not it's safe to say more.

    #525 ::: wildly gestating ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 03:12 PM:

    Pregnancy update: increasingly huge; still fielding quasi-helpful queries from my mother. Her latest was asking whether she can just wear my clothes while she's here so she can load up all of her suitcases with baby stuff instead.

    (When I moved into my first apartment and my parents came to visit me, they promptly invited over a cousin I had never met before and they rearranged my furniture. The next morning, I refused to come out of my bedroom until they went away. I believe they have heard of personal boundaries but think they are for other people.)

    My main hope is that once the twins are born, I will be too exhausted to be annoyed with her, and will simply pass straight out at convenient intervals. In the meantime, I still have to finish bundling various things into storage that I don't want her to get into while I'm passed out-- handwritten journals, awkward-to-explain entertainment media, and so on-- and figure out how to keep her either off our computers or find some way to thoroughly momproof the operating systems so she won't infect us with viruses by opening random email attachments/links.

    #526 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 03:49 PM:

    Anon4Now, yes, ask for help from those who offer it, like that grad school hotline. I've done the therapy thing, and the meds thing, so I speak from having been in that sucking pit of despair. You can survive this. Let people help you. It makes both of you feel good.

    With regards to grad school, I'm headed in to grad school. "Thanks for the warning" is both sarcastic, with eyerolls, and incredibly sincere. My partner got two Masters, and survived to be a charming, witty, delightful person, so I know I can survive it.

    For those who wished me well, thank you. Today is a good day. I had friends over. I will survive, and thrive. It's just that getting from here to there is going to be a bitch.

    #527 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 04:00 PM:

    wildly gestating, #525: When I moved into my first apartment and my parents came to visit me, they promptly invited over a cousin I had never met before and they rearranged my furniture.

    Holy crap, and I thought MY parents were bad! But to them, both of those things would have fallen under the category of "manners" rather than "boundaries".

    WRT keeping your mother off your systems, the best way to do it is to password-lock everything and not give her the password. Does she have a laptop of her own that she could bring with her? Or if not, would it be feasible to hit the Goodwill computer store and buy a cheap secondhand laptop specifically for her use?

    #528 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 05:38 PM:

    My dad had a separate boot and partition (I think) from my mother to prevent that type of problem.

    If you have a windows machine, could you install a linux boot with firefox for her to use while there? She'd have the internet, but a much lower risk of viruses.

    #529 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 06:49 PM:

    wildly gestating @525: It may also be worth taking the time to make good backups. Preferably set up something now rather than at the last minute!

    #530 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:20 PM:

    @wildly gestating: Yikes! Suggestion for mom-proofing the computers: Create a password to log on to it. That way, she can't get on it in the first place. :)

    #531 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:22 PM:

    Just as I was reading recent updates to this thread, I was chatting a little with my partner and mentioned something I had done, and he laughed. I got defensive and detailed why I had done it and basically said why are you laughing, and we talked it out a bit and I apologized and said you know how I am about being laughed at. And he responded kindly and made me feel better -- he was enjoying my ways, not snarking at them -- and reminded me that when he laughs in amusement, it is always atop "the substrate of my love."

    For us, that makes sense and is respectful. Because of our loving and respectful experiences with each other, we have accumulated a really strong substrate. I guess that's what trust is.

    But laughter is so tricky, isn't it? So easy to mistake the laughter of "oh that's so great!" or "oh how very you that is" for the laughter of mockery. Especially for those of us who didn't always have that substrate to depend on.

    #532 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 07:56 PM:

    Nancy M., #528: I mentioned the issue to my partner, who suggests something very similar: (1) install a dual partition of Linux and leave only the Linux side running, and (2) password-protect the Windows installation. But this assumes that either wildly gestating or her partner is enough of a computer geek to do that -- and, having listened to my partner thru a cycle or two of trying to install dual-booting*, I know it's not that easy to do.

    A separate laptop, not networked with any of the house systems, can be nuked-and-paved after her mother leaves.

    * I didn't know he knew cusswords in some of those languages!

    #533 ::: AnotherQuietOne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2013, 11:11 PM:

    I have been silent because I have been busy; reading and witnessing intermittently but haven't had much useful to add to the discussion, etc.

    However, in the interest of latest-installments:

    Sent off letter this week accepting admission to MDiv program of preference this fall. Squee? (!!!)

    Probably need to tell parents and in-laws at some point. Not looking forward to either conversation; have almost convinced self that I am not completely crazy but less confident about persuading People Who Know Me of same.

    #534 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 12:03 AM:

    the invisible one @ 523

    "It helped me a little to add my ex to a block list, not only unfriending him."

    Yes, this. I've blocked a very few people, when seeing posts from them was jarring and taking away spoons I wanted to use elsewhere. It's not a common thing with me, but hey - like my phone, my fb account is there for my benefit, not anybody else's. I do whatever I want to with it, as long as the end result is that it makes me happy.

    #535 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 12:54 AM:

    wildly gestating @525: a separate computer would be great, but there's a much cheaper approximation that should work, and is less work than a full dual-boot setup. Burn a Linux live CD of a friendly distribution like Mint. Test CD on target computer -- does it boot off the CD and have everything important working? Then put a password on all the Windows user accounts on the computer, and nobody is allowed to leave the machine logged in while she's onsite. Result: she can't use it except via Linux, and when she leaves, all you have to do is take out the CD and turn off account passwords if you so desire. No complex or permanent changes.

    #536 ::: kadr ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 03:51 AM:

    There's nothing quite like getting randomly linked to a Wikipedia article on a DSM-IV disorder and recognizing yourself in it.

    (Reactive attachment disorder, for the curious.)

    And posting anonymously here because I trust a bunch of strangers on the Internet who can't hurt me more than I trust my friends is surely an expression of it. (My friends are quite trustworthy people, which is why they're my friends, after all. But that's not the way my brain works.)

    Maybe recognizing it is the first step to doing something useful about it?

    #537 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 07:17 PM:

    In between, I'm half of mind to go, but cannot make myself to leave just yet. If I wait long enough surely everything will fall into place without all this tedious hard work of feeling stuff and accepting that I'm not perfect and never will be and admitting that some things are just a smidge fucked up. I still hold this very tempting belief that if I just figure everything out I'll get to go back to my remote and distant self, even though I'm heading decidedly the other way now. I ask for help (if I remember), I put myself out there, I remind myself that it is entirely normal to make mistakes. And yet.
    But as I stand here in the ruins of my old self, something I worked for years to bring down, I know it's just idle fantasy. I sort through the rubble, because some stuff is still salvageable. I pick up some of my old misshapen tools and slowly, patiently shape them to fit a new purpose. And then there is the cleaning, there is so much I'll have to throw away. This is hard, because all of it is familiar, most of it helped me at some point, all of it has been a part of me and it hurts to let it go. It hurts to admit that I've outgrown it, that it causes more pain than it helps me know and I have to bury it or burn it and scatter the ashes. I mourn.

    The fog is retreating at last. Sitting here by the wayside I just might be able to make out the horizon again.

    #538 ::: Phenicious ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 07:38 PM:

    Today was counselling appointment day. I started a text file with my comment #400 and the responses (thanks for those, this thread continues to be amazing), plus a couple other relevant things from other sources. I printed it out and took it to the appointment to discuss with the counsellor, but things didn't go as planned. I mentioned it, as we were wrapping up, and she said we could go over it next time. So, that's something to hang onto I guess.

    My mom wanted to come in and bring up some of her concerns, so I let her. I guess maybe I should have refused? Because while what she said was useful for the counsellor to know, I felt like it derailed the session. I had stuff I wanted to say, and I couldn't say most of it with her there. She left eventually but then all we talked about after that was what she'd said. Again, it was stuff that needed to be said, it wasn't a waste of an appointment or anything. I just hate the way this keeps happening. Like, why should I even bother writing anything out if I don't get to share it? (because the act of writing it helps me. still upset about it, though)

    By the time I left I was just really angry at myself. I don't want to go over it right now because I spent like four hours climbing out of that pit. I do want to mention that I feel kind of good about the way that went, though. A while ago I put together a playlist of songs that I usually avoid because they're painfully accurate, plus some that are comforting. I titled it "[name], you've gotta try", and it's like a tactical strike to the Feels but also a reassuring hug. It feels silly to talk about but I'm glad I listened to it today. It still wasn't a fun experience, but I didn't break anything so that's better than usual.

    #539 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 09:31 PM:

    I changed my name today! I am really excited. Of course the one part of my family that I'm still in contact with had to be a jerkface about it, but that's the only rain on the parade so far.

    I know that without this community to quiz and draw examples and role models from, I would not have been able to take many steps on this long journey. Thanks to all of you!

    #540 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2013, 11:27 PM:

    kadr, #536: Yes, that's often true. Until you know there's a problem, you can't begin to address it.

    somewhere_else, #537: Reading, witnessing, encouraging.

    Phenicious, #538: Well, you've learned something (Oh no, not another learning experience!) -- letting your mother come to your sessions right now is a bad idea, because they will become All About Her, and that's not what you need. For the next session, make your printout the priority, and don't be afraid to insist that your therapist look at it before talking any more about what your mother said.

    knitcrazybooknut, #539: Go you!

    #541 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 05:38 AM:

    I haven't been commenting much, but I'm reading and witnessing.

    The Dutch have a thing they say to one another at times like this: sterkte. Strength. None of the English-speaking cultures I've lived in are that blunt about naming what is needed and wishing it for people. I'm starting to adopt it, though, the way a person adopts the best of a new culture.

    So, sterkte, allemaal.

    somewhere_else @537:
    I'm glad the fog is retreating. You're in one of the darkest, hardest parts right now, where it seems like everything is broken and nothing is reliable. It is, in its own way, the trough after a local maximum*, though it may not seem that way because even your local maximum was clearly pretty damn sucky.

    Phenecious @538:
    Seconding Lee, here. Enough with your mother injecting herself into things and setting other people's expectations of you. This counseling relationship is between you and the therapist.

    Hopefully, the therapist will use that conversation to glean some good insights into the dynamic between the two of you. That's an important part of tackling where you are at the moment emotionally. But yeah, it's time for the sessions to be about you from the inside, not you as your mother sees you.

    knitcrazybooknut @539:
    Congratulations on the name change! Another step toward being on the outside who you are on the inside.

    * I've linked to that article before. It's a good description of the situation that caused us to up sticks and move from Scotland to the Netherlands in 2007, and the perspective it offered made it easier for us to endure the subsequent depression and homesickness before we climbed out of the pit. Ignore if hlepy, though.

    #542 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2013, 03:04 PM:

    Thank you so much, to everyone. I am still here and feeling better this week. I have not yet called my doctor, but will put it on my calendar and reminders list for Monday morning.

    Nancy @ 519: Your entire comment helps so so so much. Especially the part about how you left with a master's after 9 years and got a job. I've got a master's already (did it along with my prelim), and I've been in a panic thinking that if I left with a master's after 7 years I wouldn't get a job because I'd look like I was lazy/flaky/couldn't finish what I started. So hearing that you can leave with a master's -- even after working on a Ph.D for several years -- and still be employable is really reassuring.

    Lee @ 512: Yeah. I think it's that neither of us is really super-great at expressing anger (or related emotions like frustration) in particularly healthy ways. Both of us tend to handle anger at people we love by denying and repressing it, hoping the problem will just go away, until we're so fed up that we can't take it anymore. So I do think couples counseling would be helpful to us on that front.

    It's also true that I never really explained to him (or anyone, except random anonymous internet people and my doctor) just how intense either my depression or the side effects of the antidepressants were. I tried to hide the whole situation as much as possible because I felt so ashamed and guilty about sleeping so much and not getting anything done. So I don't think he really could have understood everything that was going on. I think I need to talk with him about it in a not-otherwise-tense situation.

    I also notice some symptoms of depression in him. His job really is stressful and frustrating, and I think he does feel stuck. In real life, I don't think he blames me nearly as much as I think when in the throes of a depressive episode. But I do think he could use a change of perspective.

    I want to suggest to him that he could start looking for new jobs in the area. He's been thinking in terms of not wanting to start a new job here, because he'd just have to move away when I graduated and got a job somewhere else. But in all honesty, I would like to get a job in this area if I can. So him starting a new job here would be OK from my own job-search standpoint. (I'm looking to go into industry rather than academia, so it's not a matter of me having to go wherever a tenure-track gig is available. I can have location preferences.)

    I know he really wants to go full-time freelance with his creative work, but that he doesn't want to go completely without some source of stable, predictable income and health insurance. But right now, he seems to be assuming the only two options are that I get a job with great benefits and he goes totally freelance, or he keeps his current job and is miserable. I feel like there are probably other options here.

    Today I have the energy and time to deal with looking up couples counselors covered by our insurance. I think I'll go do that.

    #543 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 06:18 PM:

    OK, so it's my 33rd birthday today -- over the past week I had a look again at possible places to live, but something's still making me feel uncomfortable. (If anyone's interested, here's the searches I set up on RightMove for furnished and unfurnished properties respectively -- does anyone here have any thoughts on whether I may have unrealistic ideas about what I can reasonably afford? (I think £530 per month is now the most I could reasonably afford. Oh, and I work just east of the MetroCentre, west of Dunston.)

    Moonlit Light @273: On top of all that, I think you probably have a Goddamned Tape, a guilt loop, running in your head saying, "I don't deserve to leave. I don't deserve privacy or a social life or control over my day-to-day affairs and living space. There can't really be anything excessive or wrong about the obligations my family puts me under since they are family after all and you do ANYTHING for family, and I am a bad person to think of rejecting them. I don't deserve to be an independent adult who can enjoy and cope with an adult life with all its freedoms, choices, responsibilities, and pleasures. I should stay in my cage as I have been taught is best."

    I think I also have tapes in my head saying "I don't have the skills to look after myself" and/or "I can't afford my own place". I also know that my mother doesn't believe that she's preventing me from having a social life, that rather I'm choosing myself not to have a social life because I'm too addicted to the computer!

    The issue is that I'm unwilling to tell my parents what I'd be doing if I went out -- an attitude which my mother clearly regards as abnormal -- especially if I had to tell them what new activity I was trying out before I actually tried it. I sometimes see a parallel with that superstition of many WWI fighter pilots, who refused to be photographed before a mission. Although the way my mother reacted to my thoughts of going to dance classes last April may have gone someway to justifying those fears of mine...

    Coming back from taking her shopping yesterday, my mother had me divert to show me where my cousin had been living before he was evicted. When we were back home, she brought up a time when I visited my uncle and cousin back in 2007 (of which my mother distinctly disapproved) and how my uncle had said to her a week later that "that looney (meaning myself) would never get a job!" She said that what happened to his son (losing his job and ending up homeless) was an example of karma playing out.

    My mother also said she wished I didn't have Asperger's, even if it had meant that I didn't have my high IQ (and the consequent academic qualifications and programming job) -- she said that it was because if I didn't have Asperger's I would have "had a wife and children by now", even if I was in a rubbish job.

    Although I'm not in the camp that would rather have Asperger's than not if all things were equal (I know some people like that from the social group I attend monthly), I still found this an almost chilling thing to say, and it clearly shows that she doesn't grasp the real reason for my lack of a social life. She thinks it is completely normal for children to want to tell their parents what they're doing with their lives, and my resistance to this is incomprehensible for her.

    What do people here think of what my mother said yesterday, and what it indicates about her state of mind?

    #544 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:07 PM:

    Codemonkey, 543: Happy birthday!

    I think that's a terrible thing for a parent to say to a child. It's yet another example of her failure to accept you for who you are--she will never, ever stop trying to force you into her idea of what you ought to be. I think your plan to get out of there is extremely sound, and should be acted on as soon as possible. You deserve far better treatment than you are ever going to get at home.

    #545 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:50 PM:

    Codemonkey, #543: She thinks it is completely normal for children to want to tell their parents what they're doing with their lives, and my resistance to this is incomprehensible for her.

    I think that once again, your mother is conflating two related-but-separate things. Many people do like to tell their parents what they've been doing recently -- after the fact, and with the expectation that they will not be criticized or belittled for doing it!

    But the decision whether or not, and how much, to tell your parents about your life should be yours. We don't actually hear that much about what my partner's daughter is doing, and we're on much better terms with her than you are with your parents. OTOH, she doesn't hesitate to answer general questions, and we don't press her to provide detailed information. Her life, her business -- boundaries again.

    However, being an adult and being forced to behave like a young teenager, having to run every potential activity by Mum and Dad for permission and then file a full detailed report when you get back... I can think of very few people who would take that well. Your mother is treating you like a minor child rather than an adult child. And this is unlikely to change as long as you're still living with her.

    As to your mother's statements yesterday, my reaction is twofold: (1) I agree with everything TexAnne said above, and (2) I think she's playing moving-target with you again, only in a much more toxic format this time. See, you could have had her approval if only this thing that you have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL OVER had been different! (Also, it sounds as though she'd be perfectly happy for you to be Andy Capp as long as you gave her grandchildren.)

    #546 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:51 PM:

    Codemonkey, your mother is moving the goalposts again. She's showing a profound misunderstanding of how you work, how relationships work, and how people work in general, and I hope that this year is the year you break free of that and start healing. Happy birthday, and may the year bring you strength.

    #547 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:57 PM:

    Oh, fuck this, I'm done. Not only did I have to get an extension, now I didn't even manage to hand it in in time. I really hate that I don't manage to get anything done properly at the moment. I'm just disappointed right now, especially considering all the effort I put into getting some more time in the first place and I realize I'm rambling.

    On the other hand I'm still (physically) recovering and earlier today my brain decided to throw a bag of emotional weirdness at me that had me shaking and gritting my teeth for I don't know how long. It felt as if someone were bending and twisting my bones, kneading and pounding me to give me an entirely new and different shape. I'm so tired. It just feels so completely, utterly, soul-destroyingly useless to try just about anything at the moment. I'm standing here with nothing, my tools and tricks are not just useless, they are a complete joke in the face of whatever I'm dealing with right now. No matter what I'm grasping for, it falls apart the moment I touch it. It's not that I'm hopeless, curiously enough I do have hope and I feel very much alive, but I have no idea whatsofuckingever what and how and?

    All that considered, I think you're onto something, abi wrt the trough.

    #548 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 07:58 PM:

    Codemonkey @543 , happy birthday. Your mother's comment shows a lack of understanding of Asperger's, since many people with it are happily married (some of them hang out on Making Light).

    To give her the greatest possible benefit of the doubt, she might have meant that she was sorry about the aspects of Asperger's that make it harder for you to do things you want to do, such as have a more active social life and a girlfriend. It's difficult, for conditions such as Asperger's that are so intertwined with the rest of who you are, to regret the condition without essentially saying "I wish you were someone else." She may not have meant to say that, but that's what it comes down to.

    She also shows a complete lack of understanding of her own role in interfering with your social life. But you knew already that she doesn't get that. And she doesn't get boundaries - a 33-year-old living at home does not need to tell his/her parents everything they do. My 20-year-old living at home is expected to give basic information about whether she will be there for meals and at approximately what time I should worry if she isn't home. Beyond that, I often ask what she's doing or who she's meeting, because I know many of her friends and I'm interested in what she's doing and that kind of involvement is, to me, one of the differences between being family and being casual roommates. But I don't expect as a matter of course that she will tell me everything.

    I find your mother detouring you past the place your cousin lived before he got evicted as more than a little manipulative; she's trying to persuade you not to move out.

    somewhere_else @537 That was very evocative.

    Phenicious @538 I understand why you were upset about not getting to talk about what you wanted to talk about, but good for you for bringing yourself back from the bad feelings. Maybe, in addition to the things you already wanted to talk about with the counselor, you can add that you don't want the counseling to be derailed to your mother's issues with you instead of focusing on your own issues with yourself.

    knitcrazybooknut @539

    #549 ::: wildly gestating ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 08:05 PM:

    Thanks to all for the computer-momproofing suggestions-- we're a MacOS household, but Linux partitioning may still be plausible? Or I think we do have an older laptop that could be turned over to her for the duration.

    (I'm still vaguely astonished whenever I make pitiful meeping sounds and people actually listen and provide helpful advice, instead of either ignoring me altogether or punishing me for having meeped in the first place ack. So I tend to wait until meeping reaches critical buildup pressure, and then run for cover afterward.)

    #550 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 08:44 PM:

    *hugs* for Anon4Now @499 if you would like them.

    Quietly Learning to be Loud, I'm sorry for your loss.

    Somewhere_else, I feel that tired and frustrated (#451) pretty often too -- now that I am trying to change the old bad programming, I have even less of an idea of what is normal than I used to and everything has to be thought through harder. And I can't tell reliably when people are joking, teasing, or jabbing at me, especially when I'm tired or on edge. I wish it were easier too. My therapist tells me I'm not depressed...but likely instead, a large fraction of my energy goes to getting to normal and functional, and there just isn't that much left for me to do everything else with after that. Like starting with a -50 handicap when many people have 0.

    It's an interesting question, if talking to the guilt-monster like that would help. I'm not sure -- there's a lot of internal debate, but not internal discussion, but I do recognize that much of what it's upset about are exaggerated (often highly exaggerated) legitimate fears. I'm not sure I could pull off the "I'm the boss you follow my rules" part. I just want some peace and quiet in my head.

    I will try your line about "nicely painted cardboard to suggest that the smoking ruins are not actually there" on the self-confident partner. Generally he looks confused when my reality doesn't match his about self-confidence and related things. No bad intentions, but trouble empathizing as it is so far from his experience.

    Jacque, I am also not sure what journalling the guiltmonster would do. I can tell you that journalling about hurtful people and events has mixed results -- it feels good to think it through, but it doesn't resolve anything, so eventually it feels like a waste of time. Sometimes I get new insights out of such things, but other times I feel I'm rehashing. I am not sure, when that happens, if it means that (a) I am so used to having the hurt that I'm hanging onto it out of habit, or (b) that there is something more to learn or do before I can be finished with it.

    Also, eating salad has been helping some. So does sushi -- my guess is the fish, avocado, and seaweed, which I don't eat often otherwise.

    I think the baby-steps affirmation stuff was working, but slowly enough that what with the gap in practice that it's not easily proven so. The best way to prove it (as I don't want to start a new book and create clutter) is to keep unpacking and then tell the others to make me do this and get out of my way when I am.

    #551 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 09:00 PM:

    me @548, knitcrazybooknut @539, oops, posted my previous message unfininshed. Just wanted to congratulate knitcrazybooknut on taking a step forward.

    #552 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 09:46 PM:

    Phenicious @538, you should insist as necessary that your counselor talk about the stuff you want to bring up. You do need to deal with your mom's stuff about you as well sometimes, but it is not the top priority. Your stuff is. Maybe your mom needs her own counselor, because she too deserves a safe place to vent and get advice on how to cope with family strains.

    Codemonkey @543, happy birthday! I bet you are right about those extra tapes. You probably will need to spend a little time learning how to look after yourself and budget, but so does everyone and you will be just fine. If I ever end up in a parental position, I'm going to suggest giving the kids partial support to get a ratty old bachelor's or rented room about as soon as they're legally allowed to, so that they have an incentive to learn all those adulthood skills that sounded really pointless when Mom and Dad took care of it all. Also, they will learn to value a proper kitchen and laundry room. Meanwhile they would have the precious gift of privacy in which to learn who they really are and what sex is like without random interruptions.

    That trick with taking you by your cousin's old place is just a scare tactic combined with mixed leftover vindictiveness.

    That comment about wishing you didn't have Asperger's is (accidentally?) cruel, but also makes me sad for her, because she's also trying to say that she wants more society, wants to have a big happy family, and wants you to have a family of your own. A bigger social circle, and your kids being happily married with their own kids, those are normal and good things to want. She's just going about it in a completely terrible way...

    Given your age, you should not need to tell your mam anything about where you are going and what you are doing except in broad strokes. Your mam is exceptionally controlling and out-of-touch to disagree with that. It is reasonable for her to want to know which meals to include you in, if you expect to be out all night or sleeping elsewhere, and for you to have your cellphone and cab fare home. You're the driver so you control your transport.

    Because your mam sounds so similar to mine, I'm going to tell you what I would do in your position. If it's hlepy, ignore it, but if I have useful insight into what makes your mam tick, I'm happy to keep on consulting.

    Arguing with her about whether computer time is social life time is utterly pointless -- destroy the argument by going out and having a social life the way an adult would, *and* having your computer time and keeping up your family responsibilities. In your position, I would start going out when I wanted and how I wanted, giving her the bare minimum of information about my plans, but faultlessly respecting to any commitments made to family so that she has nothing legitimate to complain about. Example: "I won't be here for dinner tomorrow; I'm going out that evening and taking the car. I should be back by morning, so that we can leave for the Sunday morning shopping around 11." She will likely complain, rant, rave, and rail...and you need to wait calmly for her to wind down and be totally unruffled by everything she can throw at you. If she does come up with a *legitimate* complaint (e.g. you forgot item x when shopping), then act to fix it fully and promptly, which demonstrates your maturity, respect and responsibility. Ignore all manipulation, digging for information, imaginary complaints, etc. If you do this and stick to it she will be rattled to hell and back, especially if you make it sudden, complete, and unrelenting.

    Item 2 is what to tell her if you ever want incite an all-out, nuclear fight with your mam, the kind where she cuts you off. All you need to do is to tell her that the reason she didn't have grandkids earlier is that she refused to let you grow up and be independent. Not only did she try and stop you from meeting women, she was an impediment to you getting married, since no woman with sense would marry you while a mother-in-law like her would be *really* running your household. (It's 100% true based on everything you've told us, and that's what makes it nuclear strike material.)

    #553 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 09:51 PM:

    OtterB, thank you! I was wondering what mystical, mythical message was there waiting for me to decode it!

    In the world of traumadrama vs. performance art, today was my birthday (two days after new name day). I changed our outgoing message to reflect our new names. This morning my dad and sister called my home phone whilst I was out, and sang Happy Birthday to [oldname], called back and listened to the outgoing message, and then called back to listen again, and discuss between themselves what the outgoing message said.

    My sister immediately unfriended me on book of face when I posted about my name change on Friday. And now she's singing me Happy Birthday. Really?

    People just want to fit you into the puzzle where you've always been, regardless of the new shapes you've taken. Too bad, so sad. Moving on!

    #554 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 10:47 PM:

    Codemonkey: I'd like to elaborate a little bit on what Moonlit Night says at the end of hir post above. Not to put too fine a point on it, the only way you are ever going to have a chance of meeting someone and perhaps getting married is to move out, because no woman in her right mind is going to want to step into that wasps' nest. Not only do you have to contend with the stereotype of "adult man still living with parents = mama's boy", but even if someone looks past that to see that you are indeed a functional adult, your mother is actively toxic. Despite her statements about wanting you to have a social life, a wife and kids, etc. the odds are extremely high that if things looked to be developing in that direction, she would try to interfere and break you up with whoever you were seeing -- most likely on the basis of "she's not good enough for you". If this sounds contradictory to what I said above, that's because I believe that what your mother thinks she wants and what she actually wants are two different things.

    Also, something I forgot to mention in my previous post. You may find that after you've been living on your own for a while, and establishing your own routines and interests, you'll be more willing to talk to your mother about what's happening in your life. It's very different when she's not hanging over your shoulder all the time!

    (Of course, your mother may also short-circuit that impulse by acting like my parents did and criticizing your every move whenever you tell her anything of substance. But if you don't get moved out, you'll never find out.)

    #555 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 11:55 PM:

    Codemonkey @543

    You asked if we think £530 per month is affordable for you; I'm afraid I don't know costs of things in your area, so I can't answer you. Around here, we always used to say you should pay a month what you make a week, though I'm not sure if many people can manage that any more.

    Have you sat down and made a budget? Just use a spreadsheet and put in all your projected expenses against your income per month. Microsoft has templates you can download (assuming you're a Windows person). There are tutorials all over the web.

    For the expenses: here, we can contact the service providers, like Gaz, Electricity, etc., and ask for an estimate of monthly costs. My providers have web apps for that, which is nice if you're like me and you don't like using the phone.

    Is there something like a YMCA near you? Community Centres will sometimes have workshops on budgeting and how to manage a household.

    Also, I posted this previously, but in case you didn't see it:
    It's a UK gov't guide on renting; there's a whole section on "private renting".

    I'm not as good at the emotional support stuff as other people here, so I tried to just give you practical suggestions, but I do believe you're right to want to change your life. You don't sound happy with the way things are, and you can't change the world and people around you, so taking hold and changing the things you can is the right move.

    #556 ::: Cheryl is begnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2013, 11:57 PM:

    I'm kind of all out of everything. Tea?

    #557 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 04:48 AM:

    knitcrazybooknut @553 Wish I had a mystical message to post. How about this one?

    Happy birthday to you
    Happy birthday to you
    Happy birthday dear [newname]
    Happy birthday to you

    I know when you went no-contact with your mother that you had hoped to maintain a relationship with other members of the family. It seems like you're getting mixed messages from your father and sister, but it still looks possible to me that they might eventually settle to acknowledgement of the new you. But you will have a better feel than I do how much this parses to "Get back in your box right now" as opposed to "I'm confused, so I'm going to pretend it's not happening."

    #558 ::: The_L ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 09:19 AM:

    @OtterB, #548: It's NOT normal to ask a 20-year-old all of those things? Thanks for the reassurance that my upbringing was Not Normal--I clearly remember asking my parents why my brother was only asked when he'd be back, but I was given the 3rd degree (where are you going, what are you doing, whom are you doing it WITH, etc.) even though I was older than he was, never stayed out as late as he did, ALWAYS called home when plans changed, and often carried a taser or small knife for self-defense. "Well, you know, you're a woman."

    Never mind that we both are reasonably careful people, and we both always have cellphones on us in case of emergency--I have ladyparts, therefore somehow I can't be trusted to take care of myself.

    #559 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 10:17 AM:

    The_L @558
    There's a lot of individual difference in what parents find "normal." I have always tended toward the more freedom/less supervision end of the continuum and she has never given me any reason to reconsider that (not to imply that you did, just that it's another variable). I did ask more when she was in high school about where / what / with whom, as most parents do and should. There's a transition after high school into adulthood, and families make that at different rates depending on parent personality and any risk factors from the kid, friends, family, neighborhood, etc. It's one of the traditional sources of conflict for perfectly adequately functional families when the kid comes home from college for the first time, that kid has gotten used to a lot more freedom but parents haven't. But in any case the parent should have backed off by the time the "child" is 33 as codemonkey is.

    I don't have a boy, so I can't compare what I might have done differently. It's true that ladyparts = some additional risks for a parent to worry about, but on the other hand it's also true that testosterone = some different additional risks to worry about.

    But yeah, I can see that the situation you describe would be really annoying.

    #560 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 10:33 AM:

    OtterB: but on the other hand it's also true that testosterone = some different additional risks to worry about.

    You got that right. For example: eighty percent of spinal cord injury patients are male.

    #561 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 12:41 PM:

    I am warming up a frozen meal right now - some Trader Joe's faux-Mexican thing. I realized that one reason I like frozen corporate food sometimes is that it is less emotionally distracting -- it is just a pod of food, utterly congruent with my expectations, and I don't have to think about a specific person who made it, I don't have to be grateful, I don't have to worry that the person who made it will feel bad if I can't eat the whole thing, will look at me askance if I add a third of a bottle of hot sauce... I wonder if anyone else here feels that way too?

    #562 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 04:58 PM:

    Sumana Harihareswara @561: raises hand

    #563 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 05:11 PM:

    Sumana, 561: Sorry, I'm too busy eating my Trader Joe's frozen pizza to answer you.

    #564 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 05:12 PM:

    I have something which connects with that, but isn't the same -- I'm glad to spend time making nice food for someone else, but not for myself. If it's just for me, I treat food as fuel, mostly.

    #565 ::: Ross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 05:48 PM:

    Sumana @ 561: I know I find eating food someone made for me very stressful, but I never really thought of prepackaged food as being less stressful. More like "frozen burrito stress level is the norm, dinner at friend's is high stress." Sounds like for you maybe "dinner at friend's is normal, frozen burrito is low-stress?" Does that makes sense?

    #566 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 06:51 PM:

    Codemonkey @543: Happy Birthday!
    Re. prices, I agree with what other people have said: do some sort of spreadsheet to check out your expenses (food, clothing, toiletries, gas, electricity and water bills, rent, car expenses etc.) and confirm what you can afford, remembering that you need to have money left over each month for emergencies and savings.

    You should know which are the grotty areas in whuch you REALLY don't want to live, and which ones are good, or okay. From the brief look I had today, your £500/month (approx.) should get you somewhere okay, in your area (down in London would be another matter). Note that given how much you have to put down as a deposit, you may very well end up with a smaller mortage payment per month that what you'll have to pay in rent - but you need to rent for a bit to give yourself breathing space, I think.

    I'm also agreeing with everyone else that your mother is failing to treat you as an adult, and desperately trying to make you afraid to leave the nest. This is not appropriate behaviour. Part of parenting should include letting go when the child reaches adulthood. My mother also wants to know too much, the result being that I now tell her almost nothing, because I know that however much I tell her, she will push for more. However, I don't live with her and it's easier for me to not tell her stuff.

    Have you considered finding something to do, say one evening a week, to start with, and then simply saying. "I'm off out now, be back at X o'clock" and going out the door? Or could you ring and say "I'll be late home tonight, see you at..." I know it's not easy to build the appropriate boundaries when the parent is trying hard to dismantle them. I'm 12 years older than you and it's taken me until a few years ago to really be able to just say no to my mother - and even now I can't always do it.

    #567 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2013, 08:06 PM:

    Codemonkey, at the risk of being hlepy, would you find it easier to break from your routine by going out in the evening to a professional event, instead of for something purely social or personal? I know that I could easily spend several evenings a week going to relevant professional society meetings, talks, etc. in my city, and it's not even a particularly large one. It might be easier for you to justify (to yourself, not just to your mother) some time spent potentially enhancing your career, rather than just because you want to (an equally valid reason, but sometimes harder to accept).

    To everyone else, I'm still witnessing here.

    #568 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 12:21 PM:

    I'm feeling crushed right now. My sister moved down last week and is settling in, but having a two-year-old in the house is a major disruption. Husband and I are both hurting from Circe's death, and so are the other two cats (Freddie and Bu). Freddie's also freaking out over the moving-around of boxes, and he's terrified of the Small!Pink!Screaming!Thing!. Our current worry is that we can't tell if he's listless because he's scared and missing Circe, or if it's the cancer. And we can't afford a vet visit right now to pin it down. And the moving company that was supposed to move Sister's few belongings down did things that weren't in the agreement and tried to add it to her bill without her knowledge (Niece was in the hospital, on oxygen, with bronchiolitis, at the time), and the truck may or may not have left Colorado yet.

    On the plus side, Husband has a job interview this afternoon.

    I keep trying to tell myself things will get better, but it's hard; this year so far has just been more kicks when I already feel laid out.

    I'm still reading, still witnessing, but that's all I have strength to do, I'm afraid.

    #569 ::: Jennifer Baughman is Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 12:22 PM:

    I can offer a nice sweet clementine?

    #570 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 02:26 PM:

    Jennifer Baughman @568: I keep trying to tell myself things will get better, but it's hard

    OOf! {{{{HUGS}}}} if desired.

    A hack I've found useful for situations like that is to focus on just the one (1) thing right in front of me. (Though I imagine that's tough if one is coping with a freefloating agent of chaos whirling about.)

    Is there a room (like your master bedroom, maybe?) where Freddie and Bu could be sequestered and therefore have Their Own Space where they don't have to deal with boxes and toddlers? (That might also clarify things wrt Freddie's physical state.)

    (One wonders if toddler's behavior is also in reaction to the move; probably stressed and overstimulated. Any chance there are other toddlers in the neighborhood that could be employed to wear this one out?)

    In your place, I would be very tempted to use the moving company's behavior as an excuse take out my frustrations on them: call them and nail their foot to the floor about precise details and correct billing. (But then that's me, so MMV.) If you need a Colorado-local agent to (diplomatically) impress upon them the importance of appropriate conduct, I can be reached at the email at the bottom of my linked homepage.

    Appendages crossed for Husband's job interview!

    #571 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 02:40 PM:

    On the topic of "Things will get better," I can testify:

    My mood has been abysmal and I've been cowering under my rock for about the last month, even after nominally recovering from the gastric crud, which basically blew all of my self-care routines out of the water. I finally mustered enough extra spoons, the last couple of days, to add a little spinach to my dinner. And darned if today I'm actually feeling somewhat civil and extroverted for the first time in what seems like forever.

    #572 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 03:02 PM:

    A potential motivator-type thing I'm considering that I don't think has been offered up here: Challenge Accepted, also known as Get Ye Done, in which you can get experience points for taking care of your daily tasks. (And, from reading, no one's going to tell you how monumental a task should be; if you consider, say, doing laundry a hard thing, you can call it a hard thing, even if to someone else it's easy as pie.)

    Still reading, just low on commenting spoons.

    #573 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 03:54 PM:

    Jennifer Baughman @568, heard and witnessed. Good vibes being sent your way. Do your best to make a little time for whatever re-spoons you, even if it requires something like sitting in the car in the parking lot in silence for a few minutes before getting on with it.

    #574 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2013, 06:18 PM:

    Jennifer Baughman @568: Also offering hugs. {{{{{HUG}}}}}

    It's a lot to have happening all at once, a lot to process - for you and for the cats.

    For the cats, I second the suggestion of a retreat for them - even shut them into it for a day or two. Alternatively, any chance of borrowing a baby gate that the cats can get through and the toddler can't, to put at least one room available to cats and off-limits to the toddler? We've done that, both with visiting toddlers and with visiting dogs.

    For you, again, try to find some time/space that's just yours - is there a park nearby you can go for a walk around, just to clear your head?

    #575 ::: Anon4Now ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 09:32 AM:

    Update: I just called my doctor and left a message asking for an appointment. I'm proud of myself for overcoming phone anxiety enough to do that. This morning I just feel so overwhelmed by depression, I realized that I could no longer hope/pretend that maybe it was just an isolated incident and that things would just get better on their own. And since I have access to medical help, there's no reason not to use it.

    I also talked with my partner in a much calmer and more productive way, with much more trust and commitment and compassion obvious from both of us. Things aren't all fixed, but I have much more hope that we can actually work through this school/job conflict in a functional way.

    I'd still like to go to couples counseling because I feel like there are still some underlying issues. When I first suggested couples counseling to him, "because we don't seem to be very good at having this conversation," he said "Well, why don't we just try to have the conversation?" which resulted in the reasonably good conversation described above. I worry that he thinks couples counseling = heading for divorce and will therefore resist the idea -- but he hasn't said that, and I need to actually ask him rather than making that assumption. He's generally a reasonable person, and I think he would listen to the reasons I think counseling would help us.

    #576 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 10:01 AM:

    On Monday evening my mother guilt-tripped me again by mentioning a news story about rising house prices (of course, the story was referring to asking prices, not actual selling prices).

    Lee @545: Also, it sounds as though she'd be perfectly happy for you to be Andy Capp as long as you gave her grandchildren.

    I think you're wrong on that point -- my evidence being the amount of carping which my dad gets subjected to for being a "loser".

    Cheryl @555: Here's an estimated monthly budget I did last year (updated to accound for my pay rise). Does it look plausible to people here?

    Take-home pay per month: £1350
    Rent: £500
    Council tax: £82
    Food: £220
    Electricity: £50
    Gas: £50
    Water: £30
    TV licence: £12
    Phone: £15
    Internet: £15
    Car depreciation: £95
    Car insurance: £60
    Car fuel: £90

    Remaining: £131 per month

    #577 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 10:14 AM:

    I think electricity, gas and water are on the high side, mine is bundled together into around 50 quid a month and the water is a part of my council tax too if I remember correctly. Food seems a little on the low side but I'm lazy and buy a lunch every day at work.

    Basically the budget seems plausible and doable and with the 100k savings you already have you can totally go for it and see if you're right. I.e. it's not super important to save up even more money just yet. You will need to spend money sometimes on upgrading clothes and you might want to buy yourself some stuff, go to the cinema, that kind of thing but it seems perfectly doable as a budget if on the tight side, but again that tight side helped massively by your existing savings.

    #578 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 10:54 AM:

    Anon4Now @475, good for you for making the call.

    Codemonkey, I don't have any feel for reasonable prices in the UK but congratulate you on continuing to prepare for living independently.

    #579 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 12:11 PM:

    Anon4Now, #575: Re "couples counsling = heading for divorce", I am still convinced that if my now-ex and I had gotten counseling earlier, we could have avoided the divorce. But we kept putting it off for financial reasons (the same reason we needed it in the first place -- I'd been laid off and we were struggling to survive on 1/3 of our former income, and I was going thru the classic wage-earner's depression), and by the time we got desperate enough to try anyhow, he was already having an affair and just wanted out. Anecdotes != data, but just to provide a counter-viewpoint.

    #580 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 12:25 PM:

    Codemonkey, or anybody who lives in the UK: What's "car depreciation" when it's in a budget?

    #581 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 12:34 PM:

    @576 Codemonkey

    People in the UK will have a better idea of local-to-you prices for things; I noticed when looking at a property on the Rightmove site that there's a link to an EPC rating at the bottom, which gives estimates on what lighting, heating and hot water will cost per year for the flat in question, so that might be useful to you (the photos made it seem like a perfectly reasonable flat for £400, btw, so if that's the norm for your area, your £530 budget seems fine).

    #582 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 01:05 PM:

    TexAnne @580: It's the money I'd need to save up in order to replace my car when the time comes.

    #583 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 04:51 PM:

    Codemonkey in NE England:

    By the way, it's my recollection that the Citizens Advice Bureau is a good resource for some of your budgeting and general living-alone reference. Might be worth looking into on the web, or getting in touch.

    #584 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 05:39 PM:

    Codemonkey: Thanks. Having that line in the budget pretty much proves your mother is wrong about your responsibility and foresightedness, I think.

    #585 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 07:43 PM:

    Reading and witnessing. I owe responses to a couple of people, and want to comment on others, but spoons are at an all-time low.

    (However, saw my doctor on Monday; she has a *potential* diagnosis for the new and extremely debilitating stuff; I get fasting bloodwork done tomorrow, the results will assist in diagnosing this, as will reaction to treatment if the bloodwork makes it... gah. words. Anyway, an actual part of diagnosis is response to meds; if you don't improve within about a week of starting, it isn't that thing. On the down side, treatment = corticosteriods, and there'll be a fair amount of additional medication needed. I don't even want to remember the side effects I've had from those in the past.)

    What I'm really sort of meandering on about is that I'm... cautiously optimistic, which is NOT something I'm used to feeling about a health matter.

    #586 ::: Quietly Learning To Be Loud ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 08:25 PM:

    Couples therapy, as with any therapy, is a way for a third party to see the patterns of your conversations that you're too close to see. I've done both. I recommend both.

    I recommend finding a therapist you're comfortable with. I've walked away from ones I don't like, whether it's body language, actual language, or methodologies. I'm already messed up. I don't need to add trying to adapt to someone else's idea of therapy to mess me up even more.

    My experiences, use if not hlepy.

    My status: It has been recommended to me that I join a grief counseling group. I despise group therapy. I've attended group therapy sessions with other people (as in, come with me, I can't go alone) and there has always been someone in the group I severely want to bitchslap. This would not be helpful to my personal grieving process. What I want to do is howl, scream into the darkness "Come back! It wasn't enough!" I want to have a really, really good cry. I don't want to do it alone, but there's no one I feel comfortable dumping all that on. I get teary and that's ok, but somehow I feel like I'm imposing on people if I break down and cry. People try to be hlepy or otherwise try to fix this sobbing person, and I don't need that either. I need...something and I don't know how to find it.

    #587 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2013, 09:10 PM:

    That's an important and real thing to want, Quietly Learning to Be Loud. I wish you sincere luck in finding it. It's not impossible, as I've seen it done; it's just hard to find.

    #588 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 11:55 AM:

    Quietly Learning to be Loud: that is the quintessential hleping issue, and I am really bad for it (trying to hlep when someone gripes about a situation, when what they want is just a wall-that-responds or a wall-that-cares to yell/cry/gripe at).

    What worked for me as the receiver (given that I'm really not very good at non-verbal communication) is for the person to say right at the start that all they want is to vent, and are *not* looking for solutions at the moment. Then I can do it.

    I don't know if you know someone that you trust to keep secrets that you can say that to and be listened to. But maybe I just turned on a lightbulb, or you can find a way to set up those parameters with a therapist/helpline.

    As Tom said, that is a valid want and a common need; my best wishes to you to find it.

    To the rest: still witnessing. Don't really have enough spoons to engage, though, sorry (I've wanted to scream for notice/help here, but as it's not family, it's work, I didn't want to derail). I wish you all the comfort of the DFD caring "ear", and the strength to continue your journey. whatever journeys you may be on.

    #589 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 01:03 PM:

    Teaching Kids Touch: Consent vs. Grandma's Feelings

    Includes a lot of discussion about boundaries, and why it's a good idea to teach children from a young age that they do not have to let anyone touch them in a social situation, even if it's Grandma. Also some discussion of the way predators and abusers use that "you'll hurt someone's feelings, and that's more important than your bodily autonomy" conditioning to snare victims.

    #590 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 01:28 PM:

    Mycroft W @588: I've wanted to scream for notice/help here, but as it's not family, it's work, I didn't want to derail

    If it's any help, it certainly seems to me that dysfunctional work situations are parallel to / an outgrowth of dysfunctional family situations, and therefore appropriate in this conversation. I'm curious what abi thinks?

    #591 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 01:50 PM:

    Mycroft, #588: We've had discussions of abusive work situations here before. They follow a lot of the same kinds of patterns as abusive family situations.

    #592 ::: Bricklayer ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 02:11 PM:

    Lee @589: My daughter has sparked thoughts from me on those topics before (and I look forward to reading the linked article). She can be amazingly cuddly and touch-hungry ... but she can also be extremely self-sufficient and totally disinterested in being hugged or touched, even when (as happened last night) someone in her immediate family whom she has not seen all day is going out for the whole evening and wants a hello/goodbye hug. She was all Nope, No Interest and stuck to her guns even when wheedled.

    I backed up her preference on the grounds that She Gets To Feel What She Feels, And Want What She Wants (one of my foundational building-blocks of parenting theory), but I recognized the hunger/want from the adult present, too, and empathized with it.

    #593 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 02:54 PM:

    I think that as long as work-dysfunction conversations don't overwhelm and drown out family-dysfunction ones, it's OK. And not the first time we've had 'em in here, either.

    The problems are often shaped much the same, and have the same sorts of costs for people. And where do most people learn the interpersonal tactics that they use to relate to their colleagues, anyway?

    #594 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 04:26 PM:

    Am still working on getting Betty's things dealt with, and my own back under some sort of control. It's going slowly, which is to be expected, but I'm having trouble keeping track of things, priorities... I don't seem to work well with Google Calendar's Task stuff; the Palm task scheduler/list I've been using for years isn't working for me either, and paper? paper gets lost. If it's in a binder, the *binder* gets hidden by gremlins for a week or two.

    So, as an AKICIML sort of question: any recommendations for a program that might work? My Google-fu came up with a lot of project management stuff, but that's too complex for me to deal with right now. I need freeware, available for Win7, something where I can nest (or at least color-code) different types of task (frex, my medical, Betty's estate, Betty's *stuff*, routine household tasks, going through and re-organizing much of my own stuff - especially paperwork), and be able to set recurring tasks for basic things like doing the dishes, scooping the cat litter, and taking the recycling out.

    (Tamiki @ 572: I looked at Challenge Accepted; it looks like fun, but isn't for me. Aside from anything else, you can't set a task to recur. Palm Desktop did that well for me, but... right now, there are so many things to be done that don't fit into a calendar setup.)

    --glinda, trying to be less overwhelmed by it all

    #595 ::: glinda has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 04:29 PM:

    Hm. Words of Power? Punctuation? Whatever it is, I've got corned beef sandwiches (last of the leftovers from my belated St. Patrick's Day dinner) and/or and homemade banana bread for the gnomes.

    [Word of Power: Win7 -- JDM]

    #596 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 04:47 PM:

    glinda @594, If you need a calendar thing, this may not help, but if you need a list thing, I recommend workflowy. It lets you organize items in ways that make sense to you and requires little startup investment (in terms of time/mental energy - no monetary investment; basic version is free). You create indented/bulleted lists and then use hashtags (whatever hashtags you want) to identify schedule and context. You can then use the search function to display only the items with selected hashtags. I use hashtags for #today, #thisweek, #beforevacation, #aftervacation, etc. Or you can code by context - use a hashtag or an @ symbol to flag all the things you need to do next time you're running errands, for example, or group phone calls.

    I manage recurring tasks by keeping a separate section of the hierarchy for them and flagging them with #today when they are due. Then, instead of marking them "complete" as one does with one-time tasks, I just delete the hashtag and, if necessary, note the next time they should be done.

    Do spend the little bit of time it takes to watch the training videos (really is a little bit - they are in the neighborhood of 2 minutes each); it makes it much more obvious.

    #597 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 04:57 PM:

    Glinda @594, you might check out Producteev. It's got a reasonably attractive interface and isn't overwhelming. (If you like pretty websites, you might also try Kona.) Both sites are free and their basic concepts are the same, so if you like one you can try out the other without too big a learning curve.

    #598 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 05:47 PM:

    glinda @ 594

    I use Outlook for that set of organizational challenges--tasks for the "sometime today/this week" items, calendar entries for the fixed-time items.

    #599 ::: tamiki ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2013, 08:56 PM:

    glinda: Entirely fair! Their coming-soon page says they're working on recurring tasks, but I'm not sure how far down the pipeline that is for 'em.

    #600 ::: Dash ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2013, 08:21 PM:

    Thanks for the advice on the thinking-of-other-things front, everybody. I do write some things down in an agenda, but it's generally schoolwork, not other Equally Important Things. Maybe I should use it for more general purposes as well. Also, I find that this is a problem even when what's at stake is quite minor- things like "post photos on Facebook", or even "post in this thread", are right alongside "buy airfare" and "do my paper".
    And I do think the highly sensitive person concept is a useful one. I mentioned it to my mother, and I think it helps her, and myself, recognize that it's not that I'm willfully being over-sensitive, just that that's how I am. The former interpretation is still a common one for my mother though.
    Speaking of my mother...
    I had my spring break, and over that week back home, I had two crying fits, about the same amount as I'd had in the two months beforehand.
    The topics were different, but both amounted to the same thing- my mother told me to do some chore, I attempted to do what was asked, and she yelled at me for Doing It Wrong in ways that had not clearly been specified beforehand. Cue the tears.
    Also, I visited my doctor, and her responses seemed pretty unhelpful. Tired all the time? A lot of girls your age have that, so unless it's your medication (which admittedly seems to have been a contributing factor), you're SOL. Asexual? Don't get your hormones checked or acknowledge this as a legitimate sexuality, just wait to find the right guy.
    The good news is pretty much all of the paperwork related to teaching abroad has been completed.
    But other than that... this really didn't feel like much of a break.

    #601 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2013, 05:29 PM:

    Dash @600: I attempted to do what was asked, and she yelled at me for Doing It Wrong in ways that had not clearly been specified beforehand. Cue the tears.

    Is this something you can say explicitly to her (and she will, like, hear you?) Failing that, can you call her out for requiring you to read her mind?

    #602 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2013, 07:43 PM:

    Dash, #600: If at all possible, I would suggest firing that doctor and finding another one. If you have a third episode of having your concerns pooh-poohed like that, I would say definitely find another doctor. The "wait till you find the right guy" thing in particular sounds as though this one is patronizing you based on your age and gender -- which is unfortunately a Thing with many doctors.

    #603 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 01:32 AM:

    Dash @ 600

    I hated going to doctors in my early 20s, because I felt like every doctor I talked to dismissed my concerns out of hand. (One doctor shut me down hard on three different topics in one appointment. She did not remain my doctor.) When I finally got a doctor who believed me about my chronic pain issues, things got way better.

    While you're looking for doctors you can work with one-on-one, one thing that helped me was to bring a friend to help me self-advocate. Sometimes doctors listened more carefully if someone who wasn't me asked the same questions. It was frustrating that it was necessary, but it was also a really useful tool while I grew some grey hairs.

    #604 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 11:39 AM:

    Reading and witnessing, not commenting because anything I might say would almost certainly be hlepy. I'm just delurking to link this TEDx talk by a psychologist who is directly answering the questions abi posed at the start of the thread, based on both her clinical experience and the research in the field:
    Trauma change resilience

    I expect that if it's helpful to anyone at all it won't be for everybody, but it does offer a set of concrete suggestions for how to thrive once you get out.

    #605 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 06:00 PM:

    Being pressured to give up my nice, cozy frying pan. Doesn't this fire look inviting?

    Parent A wants to move to Otherstate. I have no objection to this. Parent A asked, some months ago, wouldn't I like to move to Otherstate? I did my best to convey, without being rude, how very little this idea appealed to me, but that that should in no way deter [parents] from moving, if they wanted to. Now I have been contacted by [relation], who was given my number by parent A, to "no pressure" (pressure) me into moving.

    Parent B (I gather) does not want to move to Otherstate. I am being pressured to just up and move my entire life so that I can be BAIT to convince parent B to move. No pressure, but wouldn't you like a newer, shinier (and incidentally sturdier, tighter) pair of golden handcuffs? No pressure, but you see how it'll be so much easier for all concerned if you just go along with what we want?

    Sorry if this is a bit incoherent. Still shaking from the phone conversation.

    #606 ::: somewhere_else ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 06:28 PM:

    eep @605: Witnessing. And in case it needs saying, this is a complete bullshit move on their part. You are your own person with your own goals and not some kind of bargaining chip to be used at their convenience.

    #607 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 06:32 PM:

    Eep, holy cats, that is manipulative and terrible. I am glad you recognize it as such and hope that you will stand firm against it.

    #608 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 06:36 PM:

    eep: "Oh my, [relation]! That sounds like a splendid idea! In fact, so splendid that I couldn't possibly do so. If I did, that would deprive you of the One Time Opportunity to move to Otherstate with Parent A!"


    Okay, maybe not. But it's fun to think about.

    #609 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 06:36 PM:

    Care for some fresh raw carrot?

    #610 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 06:49 PM:

    eep @605: Sympathies. This is totally inappropriate behaviour from your parents. Stand firm; vent here if needed, and feel free to run suggested responses past us.

    #611 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 07:04 PM:

    eep, that's a total dick move, and I second Jaque's suggestion!

    #612 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 09:00 PM:

    Thank you, everyone, for the supportive responses. It really helps me to feel less alone, especially after having just talked to my closest friend about it and getting an "is it really such a big deal" sort of response.

    I am feeling a bit calmer now anyway (albeit still scared and upset), having gotten out of the house for a bit.

    Jacque @608: Thank you for the laugh. Practically speaking, [relation] is already at the intended destination, but it's still fun to pretend.

    I am so terrible at phone conversations (let alone confrontations) that I just jibbered and babbled and then had to ask my partner afterward to tell me what I'd said. (The gist was "no", but they didn't take no for an answer, so that won't be an end to it).

    Ack, words fail.

    #613 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 09:32 PM:

    eep, #605: Fuck that shit. And in your shoes, I would feel no hesitation about saying exactly that, especially to the third party who is joining the game. They are not treating you with the sort of consideration which merits any concern for their feelings.

    Failing that, I recommend that you adopt one of the standard assertiveness techniques, and simply continue to say, "I'm not moving to Otherstate." Make that your only response to whatever arguments they bring to bear. (To all questions of why, the answer is "Because I don't want to.") It's really hard to argue with the equivalent of a broken record. :-)

    #614 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 10:44 PM:

    eep @605 I did my best to convey, without being rude, how very little this idea appealed to me,

    Seconding Lee's recommendation that your answer be a clear, consistent, unequivocal "No, I'm not moving." Because it's too easy, when struggling to be polite, to leave them with the impression that you aren't totally opposed, and that will lead them to push harder since it looks to them like perhaps you'll give in.

    #615 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2013, 11:38 PM:

    OtterB, #614: I think you may be giving them too much credit. When people start by using unethical tactics as their very first move, it's generally a mistake to ascribe normal "miscommunication" motives to them. They know exactly what eep is saying; they just refuse to accept it.

    Anything more than an unadorned, unequivocal "no" gives them a hook with which to continue pressing. Any reason beyond "I don't want to" is a reason that can be attacked, argued against, worn down, turned against the person being pressured. The idea is to present a hard, unyielding reflective surface against which their every attempt simply bounces off.

    It's not an easy approach to take, because you keep thinking that maybe if you just explain it properly, they'll understand and leave you alone. But there is no explanation that they are going to be willing to accept, so the only course of action that stands any chance of succeeding is to make none.

    #616 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 05:05 AM:

    eep: I'm going to second Lee's suggestion @613, because I've been there too many times - trying to explain why my answer is "no", and having my mother try to erode or twist my explanation that into acceptance of what she wants.

    #617 ::: a heart in hiding ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 07:25 AM:

    @Lee #613, Anything more than an unadorned, unequivocal "no" gives them a hook with which to continue pressing. Any reason beyond "I don't want to" is a reason that can be attacked, argued against, worn down, turned against the person being pressured.

    And this is the identical tactic advised and beloved of PUAs. Only shutting them down hard by being "mean" gets them to stop pressing you for more concessions, each of which "proves" you didn't REALLY mean your earlier "No"...

    #618 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 07:26 AM:

    Indeed, the only relevant explanation (not that any is needed) would be "Why would I want to live closer to people who treat me like this?"

    #619 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 10:44 AM:

    OtterB @614/Lee @ 615:
    In the case of parent A, I think probably it's not so much miscommunication as "wishful hearing". That impression does not extend to [relation], and this is what scares me. [Relation] is the one with the real leverage (read: power, money, and influence over parent A).

    I am in a precarious position. I have a job, which I've been at for almost two decades. I don't love it, but I've made a space for myself there, they are appreciative, and I am good at what I do. The work is suited to my particular peculiarities. Basically, I am very much a square peg, and rather than trying to file off my corners, they have given me a square hole to fill, just so. But my hours are few and flexible, which is good in that I have a lot of chronic pain and issues that it is a relief to be able to work around, but it means that I must be quite careful with budgeting, and I am not in a position to just seize the reins of my life. (When I read the article that Abi highlighted recently about stuff, wealth and risk, I couldn't stop crying—so much truth!)

    After I graduated, I was supporting myself in an apartment for a while, but when my parents offered to "help me" buy the house next door to theirs, I made the bad decision that I have been regretting ever since. All of my acquaintances thought this was a great opportunity. Even my one close friend who knew something of the bigger picture, the one person that I felt comfortable expressing my severe reservations to, thought it was worth it for the investment. And I thought, well, it would be a learning experience. But I was kept entirely out of the process, and I learned not Thing One about buying a house. Neither was I able to put away any of the money that I'd previously been spending on rent, as the house came with more problems than I could well afford to fix. Then, after I'd spent considerable effort and savings already on the place, I learned, entirely by chance, that not only was my name not on the house, but that it was not my parents, but rather parent A and [relation] whose names were listed on the deed.

    And now it is being implied ("no pressure") by [relation] that I can have whatever I want, my expenses will be taken care of, if I just cooperate. My job is of no consequence; they (the family empire) will find some way to put me to work. All very smooth and friendly, but with a strong undertone of Look, it's not like you're doing anything of importance with your life anyway, so what's the problem?

    I have for some time been trying to get into a position for flight, looking at getting rid of more and more things that I can't afford to replace, but it's a long, painful and scary process, and now it looks like time may be running out.

    I don't think it's deliberate malice on the part of my parents, at least. And I can completely understand why parent A wants to move. They are both suffering the effects of advanced age, parent B in particular, and there is the promise of considerable easing of responsibilities/burdens if they were to make the move. I am not in a position to offer any of those things myself, and [relation] is. And, I can equally sympathize with parent B's position in not wanting to be isolated, for the rest of zir life, among A's family.

    And part of me doesn't want to burn any bridges, and another part wants to set the dynamite and run screaming for the hills.

    #620 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 12:12 PM:

    Eep -- am I correct in understanding the deed IS NOT IN YOUR NAME?! Did you sign a lease for this house?

    If possible -- get out of there and into a rental as soon as you can. Are you paying anything towards the house? Stop doing so, and put the money aside to rent a room, studio apartment, whatever.

    If you don't own the house, and have not signed a lease with said parent, then you're not responsible for any of the bills.

    I find (relation's) actions to get you to move really creepy...

    #621 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 12:48 PM:

    eep @621: See a lawyer about your house. I could be wrong, but if you can document that you have put significant money into repairs/upgrades you may have a claim to partial ownership. Are you giving money to your parent for them to pay the mortgage? That would probably be construed as rent, but if you're making payments directly to the mortgage company, it might be a different story. IANAL, this is only speculation, but I think it's worth checking out.

    #622 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 12:54 PM:

    eep, #619: I'm with Lori here. If you were given the impression that you were buying the house but your name is not on the deed, then any money you have paid toward "the mortgage" has been STOLEN from you and you owe them NOTHING -- in fact, you could sue to recover any money that you have paid under false pretenses.

    Do you have any friends locally who can help you with apartment-hunting and moving? If so, stop paying anything on the house and apply that money to an apartment deposit and get the fuck out of there ASAP. At this point, I don't think that "not burning bridges" is an option -- not if you want to be anything but a slave for the rest of your life, in a city where you know no one except the people who are abusing you.

    #623 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 12:56 PM:

    Err, that would be eep @619

    #624 ::: hurt and lonely ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 01:00 PM:

    My mother is coming to visit this weekend, and I want to crawl into a hole and pull it closed over me.

    I hate feeling like this, because I love my mom, and I do mostly enjoy spending time with her. But there's always a gauntlet to run, a series of comments she just has to make at least once every time I see her. You should really buy a better bra, that one looks terrible. Why are you wearing that shirt when I know you have ones that look nicer (or pants, or skirt, or whatever). You should try to lose some weight. You should try to stop taking those antidepressants. You should try to find a full-time job. Once we get through those, it's a perfectly pleasant visit. But goddamn, those.

    My mother is not a terribly supportive person overall. I've come to the conclusion that she wants to think I am perfect, and any evidence to the contrary is simply ignored. I've resisted this thought for a long time because I'm afraid of a self-fulfilling prophecy situation (I don't think my mother will support me = I never tell my mother my problems = my mother never has a chance to support me) but every time I try to express a problem I'm having, she dismisses it out of hand.

    This last time, a couple of weeks ago, it was that I'd found a job I wanted to apply to, but it was out of state, and my roommate (who is also a long-time friend, one of the few I live together well with) was going through a hell of a time. Her dad was in the hospital, her dysfunctional family issues were exploding all over the place, and her dad's friends were actively trying to sabotage his recovery (long, awful, irrelevant story). And I felt like an asshole for wanting this thing that would cause me to move out, when I know she doesn't have someone else who could move in with her and she can't cover the rent on her own, and I'd be throwing all that on top of everything else. And Mom's response was, well, worry about yourself, you can't solve everyone else's problems. Which is, y'know, true. But I could possibly try to avoid piling problems on top of problems for people I love? I already moved out on someone to take the job I have now, and I still feel guilty about that. (Yes, this is the very last time I live with friends. I can't take this any more.) Mom just doesn't seem to understand why this bothers me, and makes no effort to try. And this is only the most recent incident.

    So I've learned. We can't talk about my frustrations with my job, she'll only tell me I should find a new one and refuse to acknowledge any obstacles to that goal. We can't talk about my relationship with my friends, unless it's going well and there's nothing to talk about. We can't talk about my utter lack of current and projected romantic relationships (I'm not interested, she thinks that means she failed somehow). We can't talk about my mental health or lack thereof, because my reliance on medication outside of a serious external stressor is a sign of my inability to cope.

    We talk about books a lot. And history. Art. Intellectual conversations, ones I enjoy, but it's not the relationship that I wanted to have with my mother. So she'll come visit this weekend, and we'll go to some museums and go out to dinner, and she'll make a couple of nasty comments I can't seem to convince her are actually hurtful and not just constructive criticism, and it won't be as bad as dreading it is right now. But oh, I wish it didn't have to be like this.

    #625 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 01:09 PM:

    hurt and lonely, #624: Is there any chance that you can draw a boundary she'll respect? IOW, before she gets here, send her an e-mail to the effect of: "The following topics are not open for discussion during your visit: my weight, my clothing, my medication, my job situation. This is non-negotiable; if you start in on any of those things, I will require you to leave. I don't care what you think you're doing by saying those things; I am not going to discuss them, period."

    I understand and sympathize about not having the kind of relationship you wish you had with your mother, but this isn't something you can fix. If you did everything she says she wants you to do, she'd just find something else to complain and make hurtful comments about. The problem isn't you, it's her.

    #626 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 02:12 PM:

    hurt and lonely @624: Sympathies. Would a virtual {{{{{hug}}}}} help? This sounds horribly familiar. My mother always wants to know everything, but never offers sympathy for anything that's going wrong, only terribly hlepy advice - and then goes on and on at me to take that advice and why haven't I done it yet and my life would be so much better if I did what she told me to do after all she just wants me to be happy. Yeah. So I don't share with her. And I still wish I could.

    1) you're not alone in this dynamic.
    2) your concern for your friend's well-being makes you a considerate friend and a nice person. I think that's a -good- thing.
    3) as has been discussed in these DF threads several times, if you need anti-depressants because your brain isn't producing the right chemicals, then you need them, just like you'd need insulin if your pancreas wasn't producing that or thyroid hormone if your thyroid wasn't functioning correctly.

    #627 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 02:21 PM:

    eep @612: I am so terrible at phone conversations (let alone confrontations) that I just jibbered and babbled and then had to ask my partner afterward to tell me what I'd said.

    Here's a suggestion: Get your partner to call you and roleplay your [parent(s)|relation]. Your line: "I need to get back to you. Thanks for calling. Goodbye."

    Practice this a few times, to arm yourself for the next instance.

    Then, once you've rung off, sit down and think out what you want to say, and script it out, on paper. Then, call your [parent(s)|relation] and read your response off the paper. If they try to interrupt, either just keep reading and/or start reading from the beginning. When you're done, take notes on what they say. Respond with "Thanks, I need to get back to you. Goodbye."

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Always give yourself permission to ring off if you feel your composure slipping.

    Practicing the ring-off with a trusted other will help cement that response so you don't have to exercise strength/discipline to enforce it.

    See also what Lee said. "I am not moving to Otherstate," set on automatic repeat. I would modify "Because I don't want to" to "Because I'm not." Even less informative and equivocal. Following on OtterB, explanations will often invite argument and case-making. Best just not to go there.

    It's amazing what the Broken Record can accomplish. I've used it to very good effect with difficult clients.

    Lee @615: Any reason beyond "I don't want to" is a reason that can be attacked

    Even "I don't want to" is too much information, because that leaves open the possibility of changing eep's desire or (even more likely, given this crowd's demonstrated tendencies) challenging the validity, reasonableness, or acceptability of eep's preferences. (I've had this one run on me too many times.) Saying simply, "I'm not doing that," forstalls that line of argument. Yes, "I don't want to" is the more personally-possessed position, but in eep's place I'd want more armor than that.

    The idea is to present a hard, unyielding reflective surface against which their every attempt simply bounces off.

    Go all Teflon on their ass. Yeah, that's the ticket!

    But there is no explanation that they are going to be willing to accept, so the only course of action that stands any chance of succeeding is to make none.

    And, in fact, eep has no earthly obligation or responsibility to do otherwise.

    eep @619: I think probably it's not so much miscommunication as "wishful hearing".

    I think you're right—I might even extend that to "willful deafness."

    when my parents offered to "help me" buy the house next door to theirs ... Then, after I'd spent considerable effort and savings already on the place, I learned, entirely by chance, that not only was my name not on the house, but that it was not my parents, but rather parent A and [relation] whose names were listed on the deed.

    GlendaP @621: if you can document that you have put significant money into repairs/upgrades you may have a claim to partial ownership

    Even cancelled checks and/or credit card records will support this.

    Hm. ::taps knuckles speculatively:: How long have you been living there? Do you have any documentation on the original "helping you" conversation? I wonder if you could make a case for adverse possession. (Sadly, it would probably cost too much in lawyer's fees, unless you could find a family law practitioner who would be willing to charge on a sliding scale and/or take the job pro bono).

    For icing, invite parent B to live with you (if you find the idea attractive) and let parent A and [relation] go hang themselves in Otherstate.

    hurt and lonely @624: there's always a gauntlet to run, a series of comments she just has to make at least once every time I see her.

    Copy this list out of your comment into a Word file, with each comment as a separate paragraph. Format with a LARGE (at least 48pt) BLACK (Arial Black, perhaps) font. Print these out onto some nice, egregious Astrobrite colored paper. Cut them into separate cards. As she says each one, hand her the appropriate card. Make multiple copies if necessary.

    I'm betting after the third card, she'll start thinking twice before opening her mouth. Maybe you can cut staight to the pleasant visit part.

    I would actually be curious what she would say if you asked her, "Say, mom. I've been studying relationships a lot lately. Can you tell me what you want from your relationship with me?" Depending on her answer, this might give you an opening to express your frustrations with the way she communicates with you. If she says she just wants pleasant visits, you know that something deeper simply isn't in the cards, and can maybe let that frustration go?

    #628 ::: upset ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 02:45 PM:

    Jacque @627: I'm totally stealing your idea for warning cards on fluorescent paper. That is dadgum brilliant.

    Mind you, intended recipient is probably just going to giggle embarassedly and keep plowing on, but I think if I keep it up the technique will have its intended effect. A streak of perverseness has me ripping off a corner of every one I hand over, so I can keep track of how many of them have been issued.

    Now I just have to, um, figure out exactly what goes on those cards, which is anxiety inducing because I usually try to just. not. think about it.

    #629 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 02:59 PM:

    upset: Oh, nononono, don't just rip off a corner. Make it a two-part card with numbers, like movie tickets:

    You're nose is weird!
    Why don't you get plastic surgery?

    Instance: 1

    - - - - - - - 8< - - - - - -

    You're nose is weird!
    Why don't you get plastic surgery?

    Instance: 1

    You tear off one half and keep it; they get the other half.

    Not only does this make it obvious you're keeping score, it also gives the recipient clear feedback about how many times they're voiced each particular creeb.

    #630 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 04:41 PM:

    I like the warning cards. How about just a bingo card?

    hurt and lonely @624, I was thinking along similar lines as Lee @625 about setting boundaries. I was wondering if you'd have any luck saying up front, okay, every visit has a comment about my weight, my clothes, my job, and my medication. Can we consider those comments to be made, and move on to the part of the visit I enjoy? What have you been reading lately?

    #631 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 09:42 PM:

    A complicated Latina feminist, ending violence.

    A Los Angeles woman writes about growing up in a culture which venerates family and sweeps gender-based violence under the rug. Some of the choices she's made are not the ones we would recommend here, but she articulates her position clearly and strongly, and talks about what she is doing to change that culture from within.

    #632 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2013, 10:32 PM:

    all: reading and witnessing

    Jacque @627, @629: warning cards? a wicked and brilliant idea :D
    my problem is unwanted positive comments, and a reaction of "clearly you hate me forever" whenever I so much as hint at the unwanting. if only that could be taken care of easily, without saying "well, no. I don't hate you. but I don't like you either and this is part of why"

    #633 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 07:33 AM:

    Lori Coulson @620: The deed is definitely not in my name. But neither did I contribute to the purchase and associated costs.

    GlendaP @621: I don't think there is a mortgage. All the money that I've spent myself has been in terms of upkeep/fixing up, and all in all, I'd say I probably spent no more than I would have if I'd been renting—less so recently.

    Lee @622: I don't really think I've been cheated, money-wise, just trapped. I don't even pay the taxes or insurance. But the house is a money-pit, and I am in way over my head. Since I found out about the actual status of ownership, I've been sort of living in limbo to some extent, spending as little as possible* and trying to figure out how to get back out.

    The added complication now is that the pressure to Stop Being A Problem is being amplified greatly by the fact that the people applying the pressure are also the same whose names are on the deed.

    Jacque @627: Partner (who is being wonderful and supportive about this whole mess) did suggest scripts and help me practice, but my brain goes completely on autopilot once I get into a situation, and unfortunately the much older, firmly cemented programming won that round.

    I haven't heard any more since the phone call, at least, (aside of all the jangly noise in my head, that is).

    *As little as possible still adds up, though—some winter months the electric bill alone is higher than my whole rent used to be (though not higher than it would be now), despite my keeping the heat so low that I wear a coat in the house all winter.

    #634 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 11:18 AM:

    eep, #633: The added complication now is that the pressure to Stop Being A Problem is being amplified greatly by the fact that the people applying the pressure are also the same whose names are on the deed.

    So moving out would then have a twofold benefit: (1) it gives them one less lever to use on you, and (2) you Stop Being A Problem by allowing them to sell the house and stop "throwing away money" on it. (And I'll bet that phrase has been used to you at least once.)

    I'm sorry, I don't remember -- is your partner on disability or otherwise unable to work?

    #635 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 12:03 PM:

    For reasons too long to get into just now, I followed a trail of breadcrumbs to a touchstone weblog post on gaslighting from Feministe and it (yet again) moved me on several DFD related fronts.

    I'd be grateful for a chance to natter on this with the collected wisdom of you guys here, spoons permitting. Not quite sure yet what I need to say, though.

    Crazy(but apologizing if this article has already been shared in this or another DFD thread)Soph

    #636 ::: crazysoph has her first visit with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 12:08 PM:

    And despite everything, that has actually made me smile. It's like a rite of passage!

    Would their Lownesses care to partake of some Italian rabbit?(simmered in tomato sauce and white wine - made on my request by Dear Hubby, because I am suffering a hellacious migraine at the moment)

    Crazy(guessing that it was posting from a new gadget, unfamiliar IP?)Soph

    #637 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 12:18 PM:

    hope in disguise @632: my problem is unwanted positive comments

    How to optimally handle these depends on their form.

    I've encounterd comments that might fit this description. I finally fired one "friend" who felt compelled to comment on my boobs whenever he saw me. I'm contemplating doing similar to another, though the latter may be more edjucable.

    Positive comments of a form that are pitched to maneuver you into some position or response is another category. The way to handle these is to respond to the hidden directive. "No, I am not willing to do a painting for you, unpaid, just because you think I'm 'talented.'"

    That they decide you "hate them forever" suggests their fishing for some particular result.

    Care to elaborate?

    eep @633: my brain goes completely on autopilot once I get into a situation, and unfortunately the much older, firmly cemented programming won that round.

    Yeesh. Old programming. Tell me about it. (Shall we discuss how old I was by the time I finally caught the knack of saying "no"?)

    Do you have a friend who would be willing to advocate/avatar for you? (Preferably somebody with a deep and authoritative voice.) You put this person on the phone and let hir relay what [parent|relation] says, and then speaks the words you wish to respond with? [Parent|relation] would doubtless have issues with this arrangement, but you know? That's okay. Probably good for 'em.

    #638 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 12:56 PM:

    Lee @631: Here's the sticking point for me:

    Everything I do is with the hope of making him proud, making him feel loved, and trying to repair whatever is broken inside of him that causes him to be abusive.

    This is bog-standard 1950's American-style codependency. As previously discussed in these threads, being abusive is an addiction, like alcohol (compounded by the presense of actual alcohol abuse). If you changed her words to "causes him to be alcoholic," it becomes clear that what she's doing will more likely be enabling, not reformative. She can't reform him. His damage is too early and too deep.

    The only one who can do that is he, himself. And to be motivated to do so, it has to be he that sees that it's necessary and desireable. What she's doing is simply perpetuating the abusive/addictive cycle. He's like the old farm mule: to be interested in changing, he'd have to be hit hard enough with some clue-by-four. It's arguable whether she has the capacity to provide that, the way the situation is currently structured.

    But she's thinking about it, and talking about it. That's progress.

    (I'm curious now; I wonder how the Recovery movement manifests in Mexican culture, generally?)

    #639 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 06:56 PM:

    I simply have come to add, re: the discussions on the phone scripts: Remember, after the statement and the explanation, the conversation is *over*. Hang up. Delete further texts on the topic without reading, and especially without replying.

    Market Research training, sales training, any persuasiveness training makes it clear that if the client is still on the phone, she's willing to be convinced. Sometimes it works, too. So, don't be "still on the phone".

    In other topics, still too up in the air to discuss work issues directly (except to thank all for allowing the digression, and for the caring); but it's not *abuse*, just each person left doing the job of 3 (so dysfunctional). I'm having issues dealing with the stress; suggestions for survival (particularly for introverts)?

    #640 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 08:09 PM:

    Jacque @637, generally things like compliments, statements that she's so proud of her only daughter*, "have I told you today that you're amazing/i love you?", generally things that in a healthier relationship might properly be interpreted as genuine, deep affection. But I don't want her unconditional love because I feel, perhaps falsely, that it demands such from me in return, or that accepting it carries an implication that things are okay. I don't want her to be proud of me. I don't want her to be involved in my life. Yet she reaches and reaches, and tries and tries, and when I try to set boundaries she pulls the "you hate me and reject me" shit and mopes and is sad.

    * This is extra-fraught because of past acknowledged gender identity issues. Also as I mentioned before that I don't think she expresses the same way towards my brother.

    #641 ::: knitcrazybooknut ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 08:47 PM:

    Mycroft, #639:

    I'm a semi-introvert. I'm one of those sensitive types, and interaction with more than one person wears me way down. But I've been in a zillion work stress situations, and a lot of them were as you describe - doing the work of three people. Wait, did I use past tense? *wry grin*

    Anyway, here are some of the things I have used to make my life easier during these times.

    1. Set strong, unbending boundaries for breaks and lunches. Get up and away from your desk during those breaks and lunches. If you're laughing because you don't get any, at least schedule one lunch break per day. If you can't set a solid schedule, just make sure you get away from your workplace at least once a day. If your break consists of five minutes, stand up and do some stretching. Turn your back on your computer. Walk around the building. Do something that reminds you there is an outside world and the fate of it does not depend on everything being done before you go home.

    2. Communicate your limits to your coworkers. If you only have another five minutes of interaction before you bust a brain cell, tell them. It can help to have a calm, sit-down conversation about your introversion *before* you get stressed out. I've found that most people, when you state, "I need your help with something," immediately become receptive and open to listening. If you start with that, and state what you need from them, you may find that they will be allies in your quest for non-interaction. Even something as small as emailing things that don't *need* to be talked through can help.

    3. Keep your sense of humor any way you can. For a long time at my desk, I had a sticky note that said "Don't Panic!" Your geekdom may vary, but pick something meaningful for you, and use what makes you laugh to defuse anything stressful.

    I hope this helps. Work can be awesome, and it can really try to kill you. Your reaction to things happening will make the difference. Take good care of yourself.

    #642 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 09:27 PM:

    Jacque, #638: Yeah, that was the part that jumped out at me too. She's figuring out that something isn't right, but she hasn't yet gotten to the point of figuring out that she can't fix it.

    Mycroft, #639: Market Research training, sales training, any persuasiveness training makes it clear that if the client mark is still on the phone, she's willing to be convinced.

    Seconding that, loudly and emphatically. I still remember the first time I ran into that dynamic -- I spent nearly half an hour on the phone with a telemarketer, explaining over and over again that yes, I understood that what he was offering was a good deal, but no, it would not be a good deal FOR ME because I wouldn't use it. We must have gone thru that section of the script a dozen times before I ran out of patience and hung up, because I kept expecting him to respond like a normal person and get the point. Some time later I found out about hard-sell training, and suddenly the whole thing made much more sense.

    These days the merest hint of that shit is enough to make me go up like Vesuvius.

    hope in disguise, #640: Or perhaps that all those compliments are in expectation of some other kind of concession from you in return? That eventually it will be, "I love you so much, why won't you do this one little thing for me?" Only it's not one little thing, it's pick-pick-pick about everything you do and are.

    The thing you need to keep firmly in your mind is that you cannot fix your mother. The response to "you hate me forever" is, "I don't, and I'm sorry you feel that way, but [boundary] isn't going to change." And if she's being all pointedly mopey and sad, then you say, "I can see that you're not feeling well, so I'll leave you to get some rest and come back to see you when you're better." And then you leave. After a while, she'll get the message.

    #643 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 09:29 PM:

    Possibly because of bad HTML -- I fixed it in preview, but that sort of thing has sent me downstairs before. I have fresh-made chili, if Their Lownesses are interested.

    #644 ::: Moonlit Night ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2013, 10:06 PM:

    Eep, they picked a house with electric heating? I think we can add that to their tally of sins.

    I'm not sure what your relations' aim is in this, but I just can't see a way for the house-buying scenario as detailed to be mostly kittens and rainbows. Especially since the same people are also currently pressuring you to move to a new state. What I do see is a situation where the deed-holders can pull the rug out from under you whenever they like. That deed should have been in your name unless they had your advance, explicit, informed consent to do otherwise, since the project was advertised as "buying you a house".

    I think you are completely right to be nervous as hell about this setup, and to be thinking about burning bridges. For sure don't spend another dime on the place, and see a lawyer about whether it is possible to get your money back and/or end up in legal possession of the house. Once you know, it'll be easier to decide what to do.

    I know nothing about your local property law, but could the legal owners throw you out, possibly after you've spent a lot of money repairing and renovating? Could you lose any of your personal property if they did so? Was the house next door the only house this offer was valid for? Were the needed repairs surprises for you but not for them? Was there a professional inspection, and did they show you the report or take you along? What reasons does Parent A give for why it was done this way?

    It sounds like your relations need to be told that you're not moving to Otherstate, the house is an albatross, and you'd like to hear why the deed isn't in your name. If that conversation burns bridges, well, that might be because the relations painted the bridge with tar and tied on some sticks of dynamite for good measure, then ran around making sparks.

    #645 ::: eep ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 07:12 AM:

    Lee @634: I'm sorry, I don't remember -- is your partner on disability or otherwise unable to work?
    He's retired. We divide expenses pretty equally between us. Both of us are squarely on the spectrum, but neither to the point of disability. Between us, we manage to be much more functional than we were separately. I blundered into my current living situation before we met. In retrospect, of course, it would have been much sounder for me to go and live with Current Partner (he lived in Much Farther Away Otherstate when we met). There were several large factors (my job among them) that made our decision seem like a good idea at the time.

    Jacque @637: Do you have a friend who would be willing to advocate/avatar for you?
    I do have a good friend (chosen family, really) who did a lot of advocating/translating for me, but he had an opportunity to move to State He Really Wanted To Live In, and did so last year. Since then, family dynamics have been much more awkward. (In fact, the point in the phone call with [relation] where it *really* went off the rails was when ze asked if I even have any friends here.)

    hope in disguise @640: Holy cats, that sounds like my mother! I've never been able to put into words why her generic, syrupy praise (often delivered before an audience) is so repellant to me, but that's it in a nutshell. Especially the Blithely Ignores Boundaries Until You Defend Them With Enough Force For Her To Make You The Bad Guy dynamic. Sympathy, empathy, and gratitude for the words.

    Moonlit Night @644 I know nothing about your local property law, but could the legal owners throw you out, possibly after you've spent a lot of money repairing and renovating? Could you lose any of your personal property if they did so?
    I don't think they would go that far, but as for the legal possibility I'm not sure, and I couldn't possibly afford a lawyer if it came to that. At the moment, it seems like operation Get Out is my best hope.

    Was the house next door the only house this offer was valid for? Yes, exactly.

    Were the needed repairs surprises for you but not for them? Was there a professional inspection, and did they show you the report or take you along? What reasons does Parent A give for why it was done this way?
    I definitely had no idea what I was getting into, either in terms of homeownership in general or this house in particular. Another fine example of a learning experience in which I learned too little, too late. How much they knew, or whether there was an inspection, I have no idea. I realize that I should have educated myself a lot more, rather than assuming that my (expected) inclusion in the process was going to be an education, but at the time I didn't even really realize just how little I knew (I was also blissfully unaware of the Dunning-Kruger effect). In retrospect, I should have been keeping tabs, pressing to be included in the process, and asking lots of questions, but the offer came out of the blue, it all happened very quickly, and I was not raised to ask questions. By the time I realized that I wasn't being included in the process, it was all over but the "buyer's" regret.

    #646 ::: eep waves to the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 07:15 AM:

    I will be happy to share some homemade hot cross buns!

    #647 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 09:44 AM:

    Mycroft W @639: I'm having issues dealing with the stress; suggestions for survival (particularly for introverts)?

    I think the suggestions of knitcrazybooknut @641 sound good.

    In addition, I'd suggest the following: find out what you need, in your life in general, to keep you on an even mental/emotional footing (which enables you to better cope with e.g. bad stuff at work). For me, this includes:
    - Reading at least one fiction book each week.
    - Running
    - Getting enough sleep.

    If I don't do those things, then I am less able to cope with whatever else life throws at me (I get really cranky if I'm injured and can't run, for example).

    I'm also trying to get back into doing a 10-mins relaxation every day, as that used to be very helpful - I could go into my relaxation and ten minutes later I'd be considerably recharged.

    hope in disguise @ 640: "so proud of my daughter" can have two meanings: "proud of the achievements of this independant human being I am pleased to say I am associated with" or "proud of this extension of me, for which I can take credit." I've been on the recieving end of both and the second really didn't feel good.

    #648 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 10:57 AM:

    dcb, that second really sucks, and is one of the issues from my childhood with my mother.

    #649 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 11:02 AM:

    Still witnessing, though mostly in absorbing-not-responding mode. Hugs, good wishes, prayers to many, especially eep, hurt and lonely and hope in disguise.

    I *love* the bingo card/movie ticket idea for repeated unwanted suggestions/comments! Brilliant!

    hope in disguise @640 "so proud of my daughter" and dcb @647 response to that: yes, this. My sympathies. I've finally mostly escaped from the trap of being an extension of my mother. Only child, and a daughter, and naturally similar enough to her in tastes and abilities (and docile enough) that she was able to really mold me in her image. Also, sadly, pass on many of her issues and insecurities. Despite this, I am my own person! (which confuses her to no end...)

    But for the longest time, every good thing I did was because she trained me that way/taught me well/passed on good genes. And if it was something she was shitty at (like money management), it was because my dad trained me/taught me well/passed on good genes. Conversely, every bad thing that happened to me (i.e. being bullied in school, flapping too much over mildly stressful situations) was her fault for bad training, bad genes, or passing on bad habits.

    At this point, "I'm so proud of you" gives me warm fuzzies (and I am grateful that our relationship is healed enough for it to do so), but it doesn't mean nearly as much as it used to (i.e. before I started to attempt to differentiate as an individual - and oh the fights there... I hear you about the "you reject me and you hate me"!). And I am careful to not tell her about a lot of stuff.

    So yeah, being on the receiving end of praise for being an extension of your mother - not so happy. It negates your accomplishments, and erases your legitimate, important and necessary differences as individuals.

    Hugs and sympathies, and the best of luck in dealing with your mom...

    #650 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 11:47 AM:

    Eep -- regarding eviction possibilities:

    If there was no lease signed by you (i.e.,"Legal Contract") the owners can turf you out any time they like. In some jurisdictions, they could keep personal property in lieu of money owed to them* which is why when you do depart, make it a very fast trip.

    If you need help -- there are many of us here, should we be geographically close to you, who would be willing to help you escape. And if we're not nearby, we may know people near you who would help.

    *I'm quite sure you don't owe them ANYTHING, but the law has a different viewpoint on that.

    #651 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 12:55 PM:

    Lee @642: And if she's being all pointedly mopey and sad, then you say, "I can see that you're not feeling well, so I'll leave you to get some rest and come back to see you when you're better." And then you leave. After a while, she'll get the message.
    I honestly had a moment of "wait, I can do that?" Of course I can do that... And just because I can't think of what concession, exactly, she might be looking for (I suspect it is 'allow her to be deeply involved in every part of my life and tell her I love and forgive her' actually) doesn't mean she isn't seeking a concession of some kind.

    She doesn't actually criticize me; rather, as implied, she tries to become involved in every hobby I pick up, in a weird, unhelpful, sometimes patronizing way.

    eep @645: It's not so much that she blithely ignores boundaries as that she makes me the bad guy for even trying to set them. For example, she wants to call me by a nickname that originated with a boyfriend. Each time I've asked her not to, she's gone all victim-y and "Just give me this one thing!" She also expects me to give her hugs when she asks, and other things, and I don't say no because I don't actually want to hurt her, I just want her to leave me alone.

    I have no suggestions on the housing thing, but I do wish you luck with it. :(

    dcb@647, I'm honestly not sure which variety of 'proud' she is meaning it/I am processing it as. Hm. But I think both would bother me. Hm.

    Chickadee @649, I'm much more my father's daughter than hers, but also I think she's trying to simultaneously make up for the eleven-thirteen years of parenting she completely was emotionally absent for and become My Bestest Fwiend (which extends to trying to have utterly inappropriate conversations about, like, my sex life?!). The combination of chumminess/vicarious-living-through with Parenting is not an effective one, all other factors aside. :P

    #652 ::: protecting others' privacy ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 01:00 PM:

    Back to pseudonymity for this one:

    I have a hard time takin my mother's "I'm so proud of you" literally, because she (what is a word between "sometimes" and "often"? Assume I used it here) praises me for things I feel I have not done a very praiseworthy job on.

    Especially my parenting -- I am thrilled at my teenager's successes, but sometimes I feel like they're in spite of my errors, not because of anything positive I did. Sometimes I have to reassure myself on that score by using Elizabeth Bear's Criminal Minds-inspired metric: "Ask yourself: 'Is anything I'm doing likely to make my child turn out a cannibal?' If the answer is 'no', you're doing okay."

    I can believe it more when she says it about things I'm actually proud of, like having a novel accepted for publication.

    When she says it about stuff I feel is below what I SHOULD be able to achieve (based on my youthful academic success, for example), I feel disgusted with myself, that she should be proud of me for something so lowly, because it means I'm such a loser that she's had to lower her expectations of me.

    When she says it about achievements in the areas I've struggled with all my life (athletic/fitness/body coordination things), I can accept it, even if the achievement is objectively small. (Progress on the 100 Push-Ups program, or being able to dance socially without making a fool of myself to a level that lets me socialize in dance venues.)

    But, whenever she says it, even when it makes me uncomfortable/unhappy/angry with myself to hear, I can accept that part of what she's saying is "I love you."

    As I've said before, I feel like my grouchy reactions make ME the dysfunctional one.

    #653 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 01:33 PM:

    protecting others' privacy @652: I have a hard time takin my mother's "I'm so proud of you" literally, because she (what is a word between "sometimes" and "often"? Assume I used it here) praises me for things I feel I have not done a very praiseworthy job on.

    omg me too. Except that often it is things that I felt were easy and therefore undeserving of praise. Not necessarily that I was trying to accomplish anything, even. Like "Oh you did *such* a good job washing the dishes!" (not an actual example) ... Um, yes. I washed them. Big freaking deal. Or, why on earth is she so proud that I turned out to be who I am? It's not like she had much to do with it, and it's not like I was trying very hard to get here!

    I feel like my grouchy reactions make ME the dysfunctional one.

    Sometimes I feel like this. It, hm, helps? to remember that my issues ultimately stem from something over which neither of us had any control (her alcoholism and depression) and over which I have no control (her subsequent behavior). But then I worry that I am just justifying childish resentful behavior. But then she makes me mad again and I feel better about myself? It's all very confusing.

    #654 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 02:39 PM:

    hope in disguise @651:
    "I'm much more my father's daughter than hers, but also I think she's trying to simultaneously make up for the eleven-thirteen years of parenting she completely was emotionally absent for and become My Bestest Fwiend (which extends to trying to have utterly inappropriate conversations about, like, my sex life?!). The combination of chumminess/vicarious-living-through with Parenting is not an effective one, all other factors aside. :P"

    Reverse that to "what I grew up with" and...yeah. Mom has this romanticized, idealized idea of what kind of relationship you can have with your daughter, and tried to set it up when I was a teen. Except, she's all sympathy and no empathy so even though she wanted to be My Bestest Fwiend it just ended up convincing me I was selfish and useless. Selfish because I expected her to actually LISTEN to what I was saying and not just make the appropriate noises and useless because frankly we're different people and her solutions were usually useless and often actively toxic to my actual situations.

    And you know what I needed when I was being bullied/recovering from bullying? A MOM. NOT someone who was trying to live through me vicariously. (and also not someone who'd unintentionally reinforce the messages that the bullies were giving me. :(

    #655 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 07:44 PM:

    hope in disguise @651: she wants to call me by a nickname that originated with a boyfriend. Each time I've asked her not to, she's gone all victim-y and "Just give me this one thing!

    This is a very child-like reaction. I don't get what I want, so I pout and whine.

    she's trying to simultaneously make up for the eleven-thirteen years of parenting she completely was emotionally absent for and become My Bestest Fwiend

    The consistent thread here is that she's entirely missing the fact (as small children do) that there's another, independent (and grown-up) human being involved in this transaction. The only thing that could, in my estimation, make up for that absence (at least, were I in your place) would be for her to step back, realize that she doesn't know who you are, and take the time to get acquainted with you. By, like you know, paying attention. But that is an independent, adult behavior. And, as such, is entirely at odds with the childish mode in which she's approaching you. Question: do you ever observe her being a peer with anyone else? (This would indicate whether or not she even has the capacity.)

    The combination of chumminess/vicarious-living-through with Parenting is not an effective one, all other factors aside. :P

    Can you say, "Righteously squicky, in point of fact"? Ew. See also: I think you're aversion to conceding to her demands is very intelligent: to do so would be enabling, and would perpetuate the current pattern. Not desirable.

    The sad fact is that, I'm betting, if she could approach you respectfully adult-to-adult, I'm guessing she could possibly build with you the kind of connection she wants? But this would require her to be able to release all the fantasies and attachments she is currently clinging to. Not an easy thing to do under the best of circumstances, especially if she's feeling insecure/anxious. Also, not something anybody but she can do. Which also maps with the alcoholism. Where is she with that? Is she in recovery in any form?

    Which also maps to your aversion to accepting the pride she expresses in you. It would fit the pattern if her pride in you is a way for her to bolster her own self esteem using your (in her estimation) achievements/virtues. It would make sense for you to feel averse to her doing this, because it's another boundary violation.

    Problem is (for her) that even if she sincerely appreciates and respects what you've achieved as a person, it's going to be really tough for her to communicate this distinction; until her overall conception of you changes dramatically, it's going to be contaminated by her historical conduct.

    (It would be so lovely to be able to outsource one's personal growth.) (Hm. It's a shame writing sf has slid off my list of ambitions. This would make a great story. (Shades of Phil Dick?))

    Heh. This-all has me thinking about my last few of interactions with my mother. For the first time after leaving that house more than twelve years previously (and being resolutely out of touch for ten), I went to see her (on the recommendation of a subsequently-fired therapist), and when I came in the front door, she pounced on me in a big clingy hug. I had to peel her off. To the best of my recollection, this was the first time in my life she had ever hugged me. Certainly the first time since I was a very small child.

    When, during the subsequent conversation, I pointed out that I had to physically fend her off, her response was, "You sure did!" Ahem. Had she been, like, not paying attention for the past, oh I don't know, thirty years? (The answer is left as an exercise for the reader.)

    (This was the same conversation in which, when I asked her what she thought of my having been divorced from them for the past twelve years, she responded with, "Well, it was embarrassing. When people asked about you, I didn't know what to tell them." Yes, mum. I know. It's all about you.)

    Some while after that, in one of the last conversations I had with my brother, he conveyed that she wanted me to know that she was proud of me for being independent and self-supporting. Which left me speechless. To this day, I am non-plussed. It's entirely in character for her, and I totally believe it.* Because I had developed this capacity in order to repair and protect myself from the damage she had done to me.

    In point of fact I have, to this day, never really developed the capacity for interdependence that is needed to have healthy close relationships with other people. I have largely given up hope of ever having an intimate partner, for example.

    * It was a major breakthrough for me when I finally worked out that one of the things that was fucking me up was that I was rebelling against her imperative that I should be independent and self-supporting. Because that was a deep and intrinsic ambition of my own. It wasn't until I got that one untangled that I could finally fully take title to my life.

    #656 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2013, 09:33 PM:

    hope in disguise, #651: she wants to call me by a nickname that originated with a boyfriend. Each time I've asked her not to, she's gone all victim-y and "Just give me this one thing!"

    Two thoughts about this:
    1) I take it the boyfriend is an ex? Was it an amiable breakup, or a nasty one? If the latter, it takes on several more layers of unpleasantness -- but in either case, she's wanting to let someone who is no longer in your life define you, and it makes absolute sense that you resist letting her do so.

    YOU get to select the name you want to be called -- this is really, really basic. Remember that one of the things often done to slaves is to give them a new name and refuse to use the one they had before they were enslaved. Names have power, and it's telling that she wants to control yours.

    2) I will bet my betting nickel that "Just give me this one thing!" is one of her favorite phrases, hauled out whenever you resist anything she wants. IOW, it's not really "this one thing" at all, it's a whole string of concessions that she's demanding under the pretense that each one is individual and trivial. If this is the case, using Jacque's card trick might be a useful endeavor -- print a bunch of cards with that on them, hand her one every time she says it, and keep a count.

    #657 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 03:33 AM:

    Hi, all. Still reading and witnessing and offering good mojo and virtual hugs to all who need/want them. Spoonage to offer what I would hope would be helpful rather than hlepy feedback/other support has been sidetracked into...well, I'll get to it. Usual wall-o'-text warning.

    Monday will mark my six-month anniversary at [job], and is only a couple of days off the three-month anniversary of moving into the department for which I was hired (I spent the first three months in sales because everybody starts in sales). I'm enjoying the hell out of it. Feeling like I'm falling behind at the moment because more duties for accounts payable are falling to me, what with the person who's been training me preparing to shift to receivables when the person now handling those tasks leaves the company in mid-April--but I am finally able to see that yes, there's a learning curve, and yes, I'm bloody well competent, so if I have to "swallow my pride" and let my boss know that I might actually have to work some overtime to catch up--overtime that my trainer has already told me would be approved, because yes, they get that even competent people have a learning curve--it won't be the end of the world.

    But I like everyone I work with, and the pay's equitable, and the insurance has kicked in, and y'all can color me a happy camper. :) If there's a down side, it's that by the time I get home, I just want to unhook my brain, which makes it a trifle difficult to, frex, interact with the folks on ML in a coherent manner.

    On the housing front, this weekend marks the end of my second month as the proud renter of an RV. The bathroom has about the same square footage as a postage stamp, and the shower is tucked against the back wall of the RV and so rather looms over me--and I'm pretty sure the vehicle isn't quite level, so the looming shower plus the minor tilt leads to the occasional "Okay, am I actually standing up? And is the water going to stay where it's supposed to?" But I bought myself a turquoise tea kettle and a violently purple toaster, and they make me smile; the cats are doing okay, too, which also makes me smile, so yay on that front as well. I will need to get a fan--there's an air conditioner in the window at the end of the bed, but I think it may leak, and I'm sure it's no energy saver--but other than that, I think it's all good.

    I'm also working on one last pass through a novel-length work I've had kicking around on my hard drive for 20 years, in preparation for putting it up at one of the fan fiction sites mentioned on the ML front page in the not too distant past. And the general story line is of a sort that lends itself to the potential for steamy romance at a minimum, so I'm also working on ramping up what was already there to the level I would have taken it at the start, had I not been thinking about publication and known up front that such things would never ever make it past the first edit so why include it in the first place.

    Then Jacque brought up lack of intimate relationships for long periods of time (**waves to Jacque on the 15-year deck from the 30-year deck of the same frickin' boat**), and David Harmon aptly referenced touch starvation. Oh boy. Oh boy does that describe me. I'm not even around friends who hug, and there are times when I think I'd sell my soul just to be able to stand there and hug/be hugged back by any of my friends...let alone intimacy. Oi.

    Then I saw a photo of a friend on the book of face. A perfectly normal, average photo of one of my numerous musicians friends, a guy I've known for nearly ten years and with whom I've had many wonderful conversations and the occasional good cry (with hugs!), someone I'd trust with my life and who I'm pretty sure holds me in a similar regard...and the expression on his face in this photo immediately suggested to my fevered brain things that I know were in no wise involved in the situation which resulted in the photo being taken (on stage with the band at a show). Perfectly innocuous photo.

    Except that my reaction to said photo met up with the part of my brain that's working on steaming up my rewrite and the part that's been dying of touch starvation and they spawned...well, I'm up to 14,349 words of explicit fantasy about a happily married man whose wife I also love and adore, and it isn't doing me any damned good and it has about the same chance of happening as a snowball does of surviving in the hottest circle of hell but that reality does not seem to have been invited along for the ride on this one and did I mention that I'm blessed (or in this particular situation, possibly cursed) with an extremely vivid imagination? EXTREMELY vivid? Hell, I have an idea for a fic related to the 1960s series "The Wild Wild West" and bought the DVDs and have watched several in order to remind myself of the interactions between the lead characters...and I keep finding myself wondering how Robert Conrad didn't split those trousers they must have sewn him into, because those are some damned tight...


    And I know that part of the answer for me is to Get Out And Meet People which sounds really simple except that I'm at least 75 pounds overweight and have no way to get places except by bus (and having to contend with their not terribly convenient late-evening schedules which in some cases are, in fact, nonexistent) and no idea where to go in the first place. I've had people tell me to go to church to meet a nice man, even after I've told them I'm atheist/agnostic (depends on when you ask me)--what, I'm lonely so I should become a hypocrite? Great, thanks for that... But finding a place to meet nice people--I can't even bring myself to think about the "meet a nice man" bit because I'm afraid I'll give off "NEEDY PERSON AVOID AT ALL COSTS" vibes--that's bus-accessible and inexpensive/ that, my vivid imagination goes on holiday.

    And then there's the Tape that tells me if this is all I have to worry about compared to what some of the folks on this thread are contending with, I should just stuff it.

    I repeat: Argh.

    [/end vent]

    #658 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised, goes a-gnoming ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 03:36 AM:

    My comment that would have been around #657 hath been captured by their Esteemed Lownesses. Possibly punctuation or odd capitalization in pursuit of a point, although an inadvertent use of a Word of Power is also possible.

    Milano double chocolate cookies and tea?

    #659 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 11:09 AM:

    Syd, it's good to hear from you. I was afraid the wall-o-text would be problems on the job front or living-situation front, and am delighted to hear that both are going well.

    You are, in fact, in the position that abi described in the original post to this thread. For some time now, all your energy was taken up by surviving. You've survived. How do you move forward from that into thriving?

    I might guess that the explicit fantasy is your subconscious's way of waving and shouting, "Hey! You've survived! It's okay to want things now!"

    As always, disregard if hlepy. But when you think about activities you could take up to meet people, think about things you really enjoy (or think you might enjoy if you've never tried them), things where people you meet are likely to feel like your kind of people. Things you used to do but had to let go in the bad times. Things you always wanted to do but never tried. Things you feel a passion for. Music? Gaming? Animal rescue?

    As for the weight - the only thing I have to advise there is not to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to lose weight before you get to have a life. Or even a relationship. Because you don't.

    #660 ::: OtterB is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 11:10 AM:

    Not sure why. Inadvertent punctuation error or word of power, I suppose.

    #661 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 12:41 PM:

    Syd, 657: I like your walls-o'-text. And I'm glad to hear that things are going well.

    I have some relevant experience on the subject of going to church to meet a man: namely, it doesn't work even if you're there because you like it. Which leads me to wonder...has anybody tried meeting a nice man at the library?

    #662 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 01:24 PM:

    Syd, #657: Good to hear from you, and SO good to hear that you're doing well on the job/housing/cats front!

    Don't feel bad about having what seems like "lesser" troubles -- all that means is that you've moved up Maslow's Hierarchy a couple of steps. Your basic survival needs are now being met, so you've got brain-space to spare to notice other things that are missing from your life. You might want to consider "independent transportation" as the next thing to focus on, because it would give you more options for addressing the rest.

    People may be suggesting that you go to church to meet someone nice because the only options they can think of are "church" and "bars", and if you go to bars, you meet... well, the kind of guys who like to pick up chicks at bars. You're much better off doing hobby/activity stuff for its own sake, from which meeting someone may (or may not) develop, but which will at least nourish your need for social contact and let you get started on developing a friends network.

    Re your RPF, I will simply remind you of the lyrics to "Imaginary Lovers". :-)

    Also, strongly seconding what OtterB said about weight and life. I know plenty of people, male and female both, who have found partners despite being much heavier than society wants to insist is "the norm".

    #663 ::: Lee is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 01:26 PM:

    Probably for a link, although I tried to avoid the Tube of You.

    #664 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 01:34 PM:

    Syd, on the library: Is there one close to you?

    If so, what about talking to the librarian(s) on doing a book discussion group? SF, Fantasy, your favorite genre here...?

    This is how I got involved in SF fandom way back in the day. My fellow classmates in Mythology 100 decided to form an SF reading group...

    #665 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 01:37 PM:

    Still underwater. We had to give Freddie a peaceful death last night; the original cancer diagnosis was wrong, and the lump we found initially was a metastasis from growths in his abdomen which, by yesterday, had infiltrated liver, spleen, and lung. We are devastated.

    #666 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 02:21 PM:

    Syd, somewhat disguised @657: First off: Hi Hi Hi Hi! It's really good to hear you doing so well!

    <HLEP> May I assign you some homework? Pull up your View All By*, scroll all the way back to when your story started here (which I think is with this comment), and re-read your saga from the beginning. I want to be sure you appreciate how far you've come. Also, think about, when this thing started, how the future looked to you. Compare that with how the experience feels to you now, looking back. Also note: this first comment was only a year and a half ago. You did it. And you did it in jig time.

    Second, I want to point out, in my not particularly humble opinion, that your postings here have provided a really important service. You demonstrated, in realtime, how one can go from having lost absolutely everything, wailing in the depths of dispair, to being in a very happy place, not only having survived, but now actually thriving. (I mean: violently purple toaster FTW!)

    The hardest thing about situations like this is: when one is feeling trapped and dispairing, how the hell do you get out? You have provided, right here in River City, a roadmap out of hell to those who will (innevitably) follow. It Can Be Done.


    And here you have described, in short, my relationship with Robert Carlyle. :-9 Um. Ahem. ::gnaws knuckle::

    I'm at least 75 pounds overweight and have no way to get places except by bus

    There's a solution for that. Please look at this picture, and note the black scribbly bits on the front grill. That's a bike rack. We have those on busses here in Boulder, and they are, in fact, extremely easy to use (once you've hoised the bike up onto it, which does take a bit of muscle.) This doesn't help with wonky bus schedules, but what it does do is give you some added range. Not to mention getting you some good ol' aerobic exercise on top. Start out gently, and be kind to yourself.** But that's a viable resource.

    Also, if one doesn't insist on being obsessive or impatient about it, adjusting one's diet to trim off fat is actually doable. In my case, I've been managing to trim off about a half pound a month. by the simple expedient of eating meals that are maybe 10% smaller than what had been my habit, and escewing the ice cream after dinner some evenings.

    Not a blinding rate, but it is going in the right direction, and without feeling any particular hardship or deprivation.

    But for pete's sake, don't hole up because of your weight! Isolation makes it much harder to pursue dreams. If you need mental judo, think of it as "practice" going-out while you work on your physical aspect.

    no idea where to go in the first place.

    Check around; I'll bet (in Lee's words) my bettin' nickle that there's a conscious nightlife movement in LA.***


    Budget a one or two outings to just do that. I'm betting money that once you find something interesting to do, you'll forget all about this.

    Tape that tells me if this is all I have to worry about compared to what some of the folks on this thread are contending with, I should just stuff it.

    May I suggest to M. Tape that instead of stuffing it, you should puff up your chest feathers and feel PROUD PROUD PROUD (see history review recommendation above) that this is what you're worrying about these days.

    To echo OtterB: You are now officially Thriving, and that is a Good Thing.

    * Note, this takes a bit of work; there seem to be postings under at least three different emails. (I'd dig up the whole set, but I want to get this comment off before its time to take Snowflake to the vet.)

    ** And be mindful. City biking is doable, especially these days, but it does require some attention.

    *** I'd noticed this article when I was cleaning the guinea pig cages, but now actually looking at it, I see an event billed as "yoga-music-dance-connect." This looks very appealing. So, see? Here's another service you're performed! :-)

    #667 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 02:22 PM:

    Oh, Jennifer! {{{hugs}}}

    #668 ::: Jacque, gnomed again ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 02:23 PM:

    ...but offering excellent mushroom chicken from Basil Pho.

    #669 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 02:54 PM:

    Jennifer, I'm so sorry.

    Sid, a violently purple toaster would make me smile, too....

    All, witnessing.

    #670 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 04:23 PM:

    Jennifer Baughman @ 665, I am so sorry.

    It seems to have been a bad few months in the Fluoroshpere re: loss of loved ones regardless of species. My sympathies to all.

    #671 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 04:50 PM:

    Jennifer, #665: Ouch. My condolences -- it's always hard, but I would think that having hope and then having it snatched away so cruelly would be even harder.

    #672 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 06:53 PM:

    Jennifer at 665: I'm so sorry.

    #673 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 09:39 PM:

    Jennifer @665, condolences

    #674 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2013, 11:27 PM:

    Syd, so glad to hear things are at that stage! And glad to hear the kittehs are well (we're dealing with one with large cell lymphoma who is responding Incredibly Well to chemo thank you thank you thank you). The touch starvation thing is real, and it isn't about sex. It's about touch. It really