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April 7, 2019

Dysfunctional Families: Growing Wings
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:53 PM * 206 comments

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new entry to this community, and I know the comments on the last one have gotten unworkably long. I’m sorry. You deserve better.

There’s been stuff. There still is stuff. I’ll explain in the comments.

But I’d just like to point out that even with my highly intermittent presence, this community has continued, and continued to be a wonderful thing.

I’ll continue to be back as I can. But it fills me with so much delight to see the egg I hatched, the hatchling I fed, grow wings, spread them, and fly.

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 “helpiness”/”hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but don’t take account of the addressee’s situation and agency). 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: Growing Wings:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 05:14 PM:

So, a brief explanation of my absence, posted with permission.
CW: suicide, self-harm
Spoiler: no one is dead

In October of 2016, my then 12 year old daughter came to me with a note—she couldn't bring herself to say it to me in person—explaining that she was not only depressed (which we knew, but not to what degree), but also harming herself and struggling with suicidal ideation.

The years since then have been spent navigating the various therapeutic options, helping her transfer to a school that might improve things, and riding a difficult and exhausting emotional rollercoaster.

She turned 15 earlier this year, a lovely young woman, with a remarkable artistic talent. And still-crippling depression and impulses to suicide.

The only way out is through. As her parents, we are doing everything we can think of. But it has required me to, with as much clarity and love as I can, carefully control what other commitments I can keep. I cannot promise that I'll be around any more than I have been. I'll try, and I am reachable at this username at this domain.

I love this community. I am, as I said in the OP, immeasurably proud of it and impressed by the people who make it up. My delight that my absence has not destroyed it is enormous.

Much love.

#2 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 05:35 PM:

I'm so sorry you and your family are going through this, and hope you all come through to better times.

#3 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 06:31 PM:

Our family has been on a similar journey; even the ages match. Much love and prayers, if wanted, from the other side. You can't go back, of course, but the vista does widen again.

#4 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 08:40 PM:

Abi (and daughter): witnessing. I remember that age as being extremely difficult, without the added challenge of that level of depression. She’s fortunate to have such supportive parents, and it's only fitting that your focus is there, not here.

#5 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 09:31 PM:

dropped off this thread almost nine years ago, when my mom (with whom i'd had a mostly tolerable relationship) showed me that an accusation of racism is much, much worse than, y'know, actual racism. she said a racist thing. i said, whoa, that's racist, and she decided she didn't want me to come visit any more, and took me off her power of attorney, and lordess only knows how she changed the will. she did not invite me to visit for her husband's last days, and i know that pained him.

but i asked myself: if i could repair this rift, would i want to? are the visits not harder and harder (aging bites)? is it not wearing to be always prepared to fly in and fix whatever she's managed to break? do i think sainthood and wearing myself out for the unappreciative is so very inviting?

so i've let it go. we send each other cards on birthdays and holidays. we exchange token gifts. i make sure she has flowers delivered for mother's day and her birthday. other than that? nada. we were always strangers, and now we act like it.

i'm okay with that.

abi, i am sorry to hear of the troubles that have visited your family. i'm pretty sure, though, that being taken seriously, being listened to, being important enough to be taken care of, are all gifts your daughter needs, and that many of us in this thread are still repairing the absence of in our early lives.

holding you all in the light.

#6 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 09:54 PM:

::Kermit flail!:: Hi, abi! Your post makes me very happy.

#7 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 09:59 PM:

abi: Having now read your update: I can't say how glad I am that your daughter was able to come to you, and that you have prioritized her well-being. I delight in your presence here; I delight even more in reports of your parenting. Best wishes, know you have my support in your ongoing efforts.

#8 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2019, 11:00 PM:

My wishes for good fortune and better days to you and your daughter, Abi.

#9 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 01:45 AM:

Abi: I'm so sorry to hear of your family's difficulties. I'm glad you've been able to share that with us, and hope that you and yours have light ahead of you.

#10 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 08:14 AM:

abi, what Jacque said @7. Glad to have you here, fully understand why your primary attention needs to be elsewhere, wishing the best for your daughter and all your family.

SpawnoftheDevil @5 with the exception of being unable to visit during your stepfather's last days, this sounds like a good outcome. Good for you for identifying what you were and were not willing to live with.

#11 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 11:33 AM:

So, since we have a shiny new thread to play in, I have a question:

I have, over the last year, had two cases of that thing where you object to someone's (a man, in these cases) behavior, and they come back with, "Oh, just relax." Meaning they don't like that I'm objecting, and want me/my objection to just go away.

I know there's been lately talk discussion around that and related phenomena, but I find myself strangely bereft of vocabulary around this. Is there a name for this particular behavior? It seems related to but not the same as gaslighting. What are y'all's thoughts?

#12 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 12:32 PM:

Abi @OP, witnessing. Your daughter comes first; we'll keep muddling through without you as long as necessary. But it's good to see your pixels, however fleetingly!

Jacque @11, again, this is not quite the right word, but perhaps my flailing will help someone else come up with it.

This behavior seems to me to be inextricably intertwined with privilege. The person doing it simply cannot see the ten thousand microaggressions that preceded his (in my experience, 90% of the time it's "his") comment or behavior, and can't understand why anyone would react so strongly to a "harmless joke".

Catcalled on the street? "Oh, you should take that as a compliment!" Unwanted hug or too-familiar touching? "But I'm just being friendly!" And so forth.

Utterly trivial anecdote; I play D&D in the same mixed-gender group I've played with for thirty years. In one linked series of games, I played a wizard character that was only sixth level while the rest of that particular adventuring party was about tenth level (we all have multiple characters in that world, and we they needed a wizard, however under-powered, for one particular quest); the leader of the group was introducing the party to an NPC and when he came to my character he said, "And this is Seamus. He... tries." It was legitimately funny. We all laughed, me included. But then, every single time I played Seamus, even in situations where he was balanced with the rest of the party, that "he... tries" joke came out. Every. Single. Time. It honestly started to hurt; it felt like my playing, not the character Seamus, was being mocked.

I said this privately to my husband (who plays in the same group) after a game; he'd been repeating the joke himself. "It's just a joke!" he protested, but after I fumbled to explain myself, he apologized and immediately stopped saying it. The other female players noticed my body language in reaction to the phrase coming up again and again and didn't repeat it after the first game where it was, to be fair, appropriate and funny. But the other three male players still say it sometimes, although I know my husband has privately asked them not to. It's made me reluctant to play Seamus.

For weird socialization reasons I haven't felt like I can complain publicly about this to the gaming group. I don't know why. Because I'd be whining? Because it's such a trivial thing to be upset about? Because it'll make me look thin-skinned and like I can't take a joke? Because if I leave it alone it's the character being mocked, instead of me? Until I started writing this post I haven't actually unpacked this....

Like I said, this is a trivial example. It's a game; it's not my parents or my boss or my spouse or anything that truly matters. And these are people I've known, some of them for thirty years, all of them for at least twenty years, none of whom would deliberately hurt anyone in the group. (So why can't I say anything....? I don't know.)

#13 ::: SpawnOfTheDevil ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 01:41 PM:

otterb @10 thanks. i admit to channeling elsa at the top of my lungs when the movie came out: LET. IT. GO.

jacque @11: "just relax" unpacked:
"you don't matter. i do."
"my reality is the only valid reality."
"the natural order of the universe dictates that if anyone objects to me, they are the ones in the wrong."

so here's the thing: consequences are a gift. if you are kind enough to point out to somebody that they're being a dick, and they reject your gift, they have told you an important thing about themselves. you get to choose how many spoons they are worth.

when similar things happen to me, my face telegraphs my sudden realization: "oh, i get it: you're an asshole. all right then, move along. we're done."

#14 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 05:12 PM:

@Jacque no. 11, CassyB no. 12: SpawnOfTheDevil speaks truth @ no. 13. It's tempting to try to tackle the root of the behavior--to enlighten the person so they won't do that anymore. I shared a gaming group with one of those smirky-berkies myself, though, and I can tell you that as long as one person in the room thought he was funny (or not that bad, or that he would stop on his own eventually, or that I somehow had the power to make him stop by adjusting my own behavior and wasn't using it for reasons)...then he thought he was just the awesomest and anybody who protested being used as his straight man was hilariously square. This lasted until he decided to use the cops, those hilarious squares, as his next straight man, by removing some of the kibble from a cop car while it was parked behind the cop shop. When a judge told him he wasn't funny, it stuck. (The judge told him that the court was not pursuing a felony indictment only because he was obviously too stupid to understand that the world was not his oyster, but that was his one chance to quit clowning around.)

Barring your respective smirky berkies getting a similar slapdown from the Clue Bat, there's really no point in hoping that they will change. So your options are, as SpawnOfTheDevil says, limited to a more immediate response.

When you say no, don't even try to justify it.

"That's not funny. Stop saying it."

"I don't care if you think it's funny. It's not funny. Knock it off."

"I'm sure you think you're funny. Moving on." [Immediately turn to someone else to speak, or change the subject.]

Or, there's always the long, quiet, silent stare. Channel your inner large-cat-confronted-by-yapping-chihuahua.

If they play any card at all--"You hurt my feelings," or "You're just a square," or "Politics time!," your response is the same: "I asked you to drop it. Drop. It."

And if they won't, or if other people start to gang up on you...then it may be time to find another venue to do [thing].

Note that this does not apply if they are in a position of authority over you. In that case, if there's nobody to go to (their boss, for example), your only option besides gritting your teeth is to find a way to get out from under that authority.

Also, @Jacque in particular: In my opinion this is just plain bullying.

#15 ::: fagricipni ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 07:31 PM:

(In the first story, X gets her-series pronouns; and Y, he-series -- Z is only mentioned once in the singular.)

I had a friend X tell me about how another friend Y was rude to her. I tried to explain to X that I didn't think that Y intended his actions in the way that X interpreted them. X wasn't having it, even when I used examples of the "shit-talking" between Y and Z; they were best friends, but from the words alone one might think that they were worst enemies. So I decided to talk to Y about it. (In retrospect, not telling X that I intended to talk to Y was probably not the right thing to do, but no harm came to my relationship with X from it.) At any rate, I figured that I could be gentle with Y about it. What I got out was, "You might want to ease off on the joking with X; you've kinda hurt her feelings." What I got in response from Y at that point was "Well, f*** her if she can't take a joke." At which point, I instantaneously gave up on trying to smooth things over between X and Y. It was hard for me to hold in my head that Y was unintentionally offending X when his reaction to being told that he had hurt X's feelings was to verbally aggressively attack the messenger. It is perhaps of interest to note that while I still consider X a friend, I no longer consider Y a friend; and part of it is my perception of a lack of empathy on the part of Y which he revealed that day.

(Forgive my use of the expression "offending party"; I haven't come up with a better short way to express the opposite side to the expression "offended party".)

I have contemplations on acknowledging intention and effects, but I don't know how useful it will be in any of the situations mentioned. I have seen situations where the offended party basically says that offending party's intentions don't matter to em; or worse refuse to accept any explanation of actual intention except that offending party had malice -- I am referring to situations where an honest unawareness of the problem is still a reasonable explanation. While the response of the offending party that I am about to describe is not always a reaction to "demonizing" of the offending party by the offended party, sometimes I think that it is. In contrast to the offended party saying that intention is irrelevant, the offending party takes the position that effects are irrelevant -- only intention matters. My own desire when I am informed of giving unintentional offense is to have my innocent intentions acknowledged, yet at the same time I care about the effects that my actions are causing; and if they are causing bad effects, I want to know this so that I can better achieve the more positive effects that I do want. Unfortunately, I have run in to a few situations where I have felt that the innocence of my intent was not only not acknowledged, but actively rejected: to those "messengers" their view of how social interactions should work is so ingrained in them as "The Right Way" that even considering that others might have differing styles is impossible -- I had to take what I could from the feedback about what effects my actions were having, and ignore their fixed assumptions about the intent behind my actions because they refused to consider even when given my explanation anything other than what they had already decided. Because in my discussion of my own experience I am mostly thinking of where the "messenger" was not the offended party and a third party was involved, I was more willing to filter out the "hostility" and use what was useful of the feedback. Also, a consideration for me is that it seems to me that one of the best ways to demonstrate innocent intent is to change the actions when asked; maybe, even some of the offended parties with fixed ideas about intention will change their minds upon seeing the offending party immediately change eir actions. But I can also see how someone who had innocent intention might be polarized in to the position of not being willing to make the effort to change eir actions for a person who refuses to acknowledge that eir intentions were innocent.

I'm not sure how useful my idea in the paragraph above will actually be: there are too many people who seem to want to do or say whatever they want without consequence to think that it is any silver bullet, but I know I would have felt less "slandered" had some people been willing to accept that the reason that I am choosing a different course of action in the future is that my intentions were never bad in the first place.

#16 ::: fagricipni ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 07:41 PM:

As far as,

Catcalled on the street? "Oh, you should take that as a compliment!"

I'm male and I have on a couple of occasions been catcalled by women. Perhaps it's because I'm less confident in my ability to defend myself than the average man, but it's still an uncomfortable situation to me. I tried to take it as a compliment and maybe half-managed, but it felt more like teasing/bullying than anything else.

#17 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 09:24 PM:

A dog humping my leg is just being friendly because he likes me. Why should I treat a human any differently from the unwelcome dog?

#18 ::: rooster ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2019, 10:48 PM:

I don't know how to deal with people, in general, but also this person, in particular:

He seems to want to be my friend. Invites me to things. Sometimes forcefully. "You're going to come to this thing, it will be good for you." Honestly, I'm grateful that someone wants to spend time with me.

He's delighted to find out that we have things in common, until I'm doing it wrong. "You do this thing, but never learned to do a related thing? Oh my god."

He's reminding me of an abusive ex of mine, who was only ok with me if I was willing to apologize for the things I love. I could like Star Trek if I wasn't One Of Those Fans. The bad ones whom he hated. I got sick of being insulted for existing and left him.

Now I have this new person, and it feels the same. Is there a way to deal with this without just ... cutting him out of my life? We have social spaces in common. What's going on? Why is he treating me like this?

#19 ::: Lobelia Potswallow ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2019, 10:45 AM:

Abi: I am so sorry for what you and your daughter have been struggling with. Both of my daughters went through similar experiences at around that age--the elder, with self-harm and suicidal ideation, the younger, with what the psych community quaintly refers to as "irritability", which led to all sorts of destructive acting out, and which was set off by a suicide cluster in her grade that took one of her closest friends.

Older daughter is now almost 30, got married this winter, and is as grounded as a human can be about her ongoing (tho' greatly diminished) struggles. Younger daughter is 23, about to graduate from college, and already working toward establishing herself in the career she has chosen. I note all this to let you know that with love and support, our kids come out on the other side, often stronger at the broken parts.

I also want to witness the terror and rage and helplessness that having a beloved child go through this can bring to a parent. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your daughter.


#20 ::: Lobelia Potswallow ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2019, 10:45 AM:

Abi: I am so sorry for what you and your daughter have been struggling with. Both of my daughters went through similar experiences at around that age--the elder, with self-harm and suicidal ideation, the younger, with what the psych community quaintly refers to as "irritability", which led to all sorts of destructive acting out, and which was set off by a suicide cluster in her grade that took one of her closest friends.

Older daughter is now almost 30, got married this winter, and is as grounded as a human can be about her ongoing (tho' greatly diminished) struggles. Younger daughter is 23, about to graduate from college, and already working toward establishing herself in the career she has chosen. I note all this to let you know that with love and support, our kids come out on the other side, often stronger at the broken parts.

I also want to witness the terror and rage and helplessness that having a beloved child go through this can bring to a parent. Be as kind to yourself as you are to your daughter.


#21 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2019, 02:24 PM:

abi #1: Witnessing. I've had my own struggles with depression (though a few years later in life), and both of you have my sympathies.

#22 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2019, 04:35 PM:

Moderators: I think Lobelia Potswallow might have inadvertently left a revealing URL linked on the above comments on this thread, and may want it redacted. Please handle as you see fit.

#23 ::: Jacque flags the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2019, 06:13 PM:

for Clifton's @22.

#24 ::: Lobelia Potswallow ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 10:58 AM:

Clifton@22: thank you! I was just worried about deleting the extra iteration... Typing while morning.

And thank you, Moderators.

#25 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 02:59 PM:


You and your family are in my prayers.

#26 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 04:45 PM:

abi: Huge sympathies for what you and your daughter and the rest of your family have been and are going through. My thoughts are with you, and a zen *****hug*****. Take the time you need, be kind to yourself - and many thanks for making the time to start this new thread.

All: I've been rather intermittently getting to the previous iteration and by the time I'd caught up on the comments was always way too far behind to comment. But I have been reading and witnessing.

Jacque @10: definitely a privilege thing. I've been on the receiving end of that myself. Sympathies.

Cassie B.: it's difficult, when there's something like that. I find it a lot harder to call out bad behaviour directed at me - easier when it's directed at someone else.

#27 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2019, 11:39 PM:


You have been in my prayers for some time now. I will add you daughter and family as well.

I wish I had more to offer you, for making this wonderful place.

#28 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2019, 01:26 PM:

@rooster #18: I'm in the grip of a double-whammy sinus & migraine today, so pardon me if I make no sense.

First: I do not mean the sweet codswallop that some lady once told my old child sexual abuse survivors support group, that "we attract toward us the experiences we need in order to grow." That is self-serving bullshit devised by people who don't want to admit that other people freely choose to do bad things to third parties.

That said, it is true that we may subconsciously attract people who are, consciously or subconsciously, looking for somebody who fits certain criteria. They may be self-aware abusers who know how to push certain buttons and so look for them because they get a charge out of it. But usually they're--well, here's speculation about your current friend's thought process: "It's my duty to find and fix people who aren't as honest and forthright and with-it and together and certain of themselves as me." The underlayer of that being, "I am the pattern; people should be like me." And the underlayer of THAT might be, "I only know how to interact with people in the roles of controller or controlee, and I don't like being the controlee."

And that's where you come in. For whatever reason, you subconsciously send signals that to anybody else might mean "I am not an aggressive person, I don't like to argue or lay down the law," but to people who have their controlly pants on, the signals mean, "Aha! Here's somebody in need of the awesomeness that is my wisdom," layered over, "My opinions are best," layered over, "I gotta control somebody and rooster looks like a possibility."

How to get out of it? Explaining all of the above to the person who's trying to force their pattern on you is pointless; they either won't want to hear it or you'll discover that they have a "Please be my therapist and also my uncritical support system" mode and have switched to that.

First, try short responses. Don't explain or justify or argue. Just say the words. If they try to get you to make more words about your words (i.e. provide them with more to study in order to find an opening through which to get at you), say, "I've already said what I'm going to say," or "You asked and I answered, let's move on." If they demonstrate hurt feelings, that is not your problem.


"No, thank you."

"I don't want to."

"I'm not interested, but thanks for thinking of me."


"Not my thing."

"I have other plans." (Don't describe the plans. It's not necessary to actually have plans, other than "not doing the thing.")

If the controlly-pants person won't change out of their controlly pants, and makes a big fuss, and flounces off or comes after you, then you can switch to responses to a jerk, because they are no longer your friend: they are a jerk.

And if other people in your interest group come to you and say not to rock the boat: They started it. You ain't the boat rocker.

Also, it's very common for the signals we sent to come out of experiences in our past. Identifying the event, mapping the patterns the event set, and working on changing them is part of therapy (self- or otherwise).

#29 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 12:13 PM:

rooster #18: All of what J said. Additionally, speaking from my Vast Age & Wisdom™, save yourself some time. If he smells abusive, tick the tickey-box & move on. (I just fired a new therapist after two sessions because it "didn't feel right" in some vague ways. Further communications have given me no reason to change my mind.)

If you say simply, "This isn't working for me. I need to move on." and he gets weird about it, that's good information.

If you're not already familiar, Captain Awkward is a gold mine of perspective, scripts, and boundaries around this stuff. The specific tags that may relate to your situation: "Abuse," "Boundaries," & "Darth Vader boyfriend."

J @28: codswallop

Such a great word. I agree that there's no Cosmic Attraction Spirit Energy bringing you challenges for your Spiritual Improvement. It has, however, been my observation that people (myself included) tend to be attracted to other people who will play patterns that are familiar to us, and which hold extra "juice." Often that "juice" is dysfunction that we were trained into growing up. As we work through the dysfunction (like learning to recognize it, in rooster's example above), the juice fades, to be replaced by new, (we hope more functional) kinds of "juice."

#30 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 01:53 PM:

@Jacque no. 29, also @rooster: I've also heard it called the normality filter. Our normality filters are calibrated by our formative experiences. We look for situations that fit through our normality filters, even if they are uncomfortable or actually harmful, because our experiences have taught us that these are normal. It isn't that we want them, necessarily; we just figure that that's how the world is supposed to work, like it or lump it. And recalibrating the normality filter is an important part of recovery.

I've certainly experienced that in my own life, particularly in my working life. I actually once quit a job in which I was given respect, dignity, and trust because it "felt wrong" and I was worried that I was "turning into a diva" and "acting spoiled." I immediately got a job that was so bad I ended up in arbitration for unemployment benefits. I freely chose that job because it "felt right." No, it fit into my normality filter. Guess how the people who raised me treated me...The good news, rooster, is that you can change the filter. I have changed mine to the point that the only cow orkers who leave me gaping without immediate response are the ones who do the same to people who have it a lot more together than me! :D

#31 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 03:13 PM:

@J: Far more eloquently-put description than mine. Thank you. And I learned a new term today!

#32 ::: rooster ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2019, 08:00 PM:

Y'all make a lot of sense. Thank you. I don't want to give up the social spaces that we both occupy but I can dial back how much we interact otherwise.

How do you deal with, like, other people's normality filters? When they're like "this thing is not normal" and you're like "yes it is, for me it is." It always feels like gaslighting, to me.

#33 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2019, 10:33 AM:

@rooster no. 32: It's useful to consider why the other person thinks that your experience isn't normal. Is it flatware thinking (paraphrased from C.S. Lewis: "The flatware our family uses is the true, proper, and normal flatware and everybody else's is weird and wrong"), or are they concerned because they see that your normality involves you being shortchanged or harmed?

#34 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2019, 11:35 PM:


Or somewhere in between: "that's not normal flatware, why don't you use the big spoon/steak knife/whatever for that?" "Well, buddy, this is what I've got and you're right, it would be easier that way, but this'll get the job done."

#35 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 12:11 AM:


Part of my job involves bookkeeping, providing numbers for the accountant and Big Boss to crunch. I just found out today that Ex-Prez's executive decisions, if they had been allowed to stand, absolutely would have destroyed the non-profit I work for. It's all there in black, white, and glaring red: Our obligations are $N, our cash on hand and emergency savings total $N+X, and Ex-Prez's plans would have cost $(N+X)2. Even the plans she was legitimately allowed to make without consulting anybody, such as figuring out which insurance plan to choose, cost more than they should have.

Because of my limitations, I would have been out of a job, possibly for many months. If they hadn't hired Big Boss when they did, I would be up Shit Creek right now. I made sure to thank him.

Also, thanks to self-help groups like y'all, I did not react to the news with tears or instant gabbling rage. So, thanks.

#36 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 08:24 AM:

J, glad to hear that bullet was dodged! Close call.

#37 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 10:34 AM:

Yes indeed!

My employer's fiscal year ends on March 31. Before then I had known in a general sense that Ex-Prez's ill-founded plans would have cost about as much as this non-profit has in its reserves, but I hadn't had a full picture of income, expense, obligations, etc. (Under Ex-Prez, the only figure ever checked before a decision to spend money was made was the bank balance--NOT the budget, NOT expected bills to be paid, just the bank balance!) Now I have the figures. Yiiiiikes.

#38 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2019, 11:35 AM:

J: Some years ago, we went through a variation on that theme at my HOA, except that the Level Heads came in after much of the damage had been done.

I rejoice in your sense of relief at having dodged a bullet—on more levels than one!

#39 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2019, 02:40 PM:

Hey, anybody who might currently be in contact with Arachne Jericho, who posted at these threads years ago: Could you pass on that I'm thinking of her and she has my prayers if wanted? The blog she linked in her comments, and the blog she linked in that blog, were both updated more recently than her latest comment at DFD, but that's still not recent.

Her dysfunctional family has stuck in my mind as one of the most actively malignant, violent, and potentially murderous--counting both soul-murder and physical murder--ever described here. And her description of the way her formative memories affects her self-image sounds like me, cubed.

If you're still out there, Arachne, if you're still breathing in and out, you've won. Every breath a victory.

#40 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2019, 05:56 PM:

For anybody in the U.S. who's not looking forward to Mother's Day: Witnessing. I wish I had words to make it better.

Treat yourselves kindly. Give yourselves what you were not given. You have the right to be comforted.

#41 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2019, 05:02 PM:

Lighting a candle for Codemonkey as well. It's been about as long...Codemonkey, I hope you got out. And if you haven't, you still can. It is never too late to begin; you just begin from a different place.

#42 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2019, 08:42 PM:

I think I found Codemonkey, but I'm not 100% sure it's the right guy. If it is, reading between the lines he seems to be doing okay.

#43 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2019, 09:30 PM:

@Helen S. no. 42: I'm glad.

#44 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2019, 05:06 PM:

I think this thread (on what happens *after* you escape the dysfunctional family/system/whatever) is really useful and on point for this group.

While frustrating that the "happy ending" of a movie (where the main character escapes the dungeon) is not the happy ending of life, being aware of this is really critical for not reiterating or repeating the patterns you despise. A lesson I learned painfully in therapy, but am incredibly grateful for having learned.

#45 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2019, 08:56 AM:

abi: so glad to hear/read you again. I've been missing your online presence lately and hoping you were doing all right. You and your family have my best wishes for navigating such a very difficult place.

Cassy B. @12: I've had RP experiences that led to me crying myself to sleep that night; people can say, "oh, it's happening to the character, not to you!" but that's not actually true. I was thinking when I read your comment that improv works (when it works) because the actors pay close attention to each other, and work with what they each give. It sounds like some of the people in your party are paying that kind of attention to you in this situation, but some are not. Do you have a GM? If so, perhaps the GM could allow Seamus the opportunity to totally pants the next character who disparages Seamus' abilities. Or maybe something along those lines could be arranged with the connivance of those players who understand when a joke has gone stale.

#46 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2019, 02:28 PM:

@Chickadee no. 44: I think this is very important to know and I'm glad my therapist told it to me early and often.

There is no reset button. There is only forward from where you are, who you are, when you climb out of the wreckage.

#47 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2019, 05:11 PM:

There are some things I don't like about how Tolkien handled the Scouring of the Shire, but the necessity for it? He was so right about that. Also the stories-never-end bit.

#48 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2019, 07:47 AM:

@44 and @46 Bujold, from Memory. Miles is getting advice on how to recover from a self-induced disaster, not one imposed by circumstances, but it still applies.

“You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on."

"What do you find on the other side? When you go on?"

She shrugged. "Your life again. What else?”

#49 ::: Floofcatcher ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2019, 03:04 PM:

Abi - I'm reading this a bit late and I'm very sorry to hear about your daughter's troubles. This speaks to me very personally.

When I finally got my parents' attention regarding my depression and suicidal thoughts, I was 14, but it had been going on for two or three years. They were very loving and concerned and they arranged for me to see a therapist—once. Or maybe twice? It was all a blur, but anyway, either they had a disagreement with the therapist or they just couldn't afford him, because apparently nothing more could be done and so I got the impression that what I was supposed to do was wait it out and not talk about it any more. I did, and (obviously) survived, and the year after that was quite a bit better, so we never mentioned it again—until the next time, in college, when I needed to use their insurance to pay for treatment because it had gotten that bad again. There have been many next times after that, which they were mostly unaware of until recently, and we still haven't ever really been able to talk about it. And I think that's more or less because my mother also has had major depression off and on for her whole life, and never had any professional help, and doesn't think she needs it; it's just the family curse, what can you do. Maybe if it had been something completely alien to them, they might've taken it more seriously. But I'll never know.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that it is terrible to have been fighting this for three years and still see it happening, but as I'm sure you know, your continued engagement and support is incredibly valuable.

#50 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2019, 05:41 PM:

Floofcatcher: Your story resonates with mine. I came up before depression was really even in the public consciousness as a formal diagnosis, and my mother's family history made her incredibly twitchy around mental illness in general. I was almost certainly deeply clinically depressed for most of my teenage years (at least), but I didn't dare bring it to her attention. Entirely aside from the likelihood of getting effective treatment (slim), her reaction would have been far more hazardous to my health than the illness itself.

abi's OP makes me fantasize, not for the first time, what it would have felt like to have a parent who was actually and effectively on my side.

#51 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2019, 10:06 PM:

Diary entry from the other day: "Today I got two tweens and a teen to feed themselves and get themselves decent to leave the house despite summer-break-itis, shopped for a wide variety of rarely bought items around a large store, helped to prepare a large garden tub for planting and plant out assorted salad starts, made a square-meal dinner for five, made sure that my very sick relative got her supper, did two loads of laundry, worked on next month's events calendar, and looked after the cat. Nevertheless, I feel as though I didn't do enough. Man, my brain is a jerk." That's the first time I ever put it into words. Progress!

@Jacque no. 50: Me too...I was taught early and often that if I reported a problem, I would get one of two reactions depending on who I reported it to and their mood at the time: Oodles of affection and no help, or a cold reminder that nothing that ever happened to me could possibly be a problem to me, although my reaction to it could certainly be a problem to somebody else.

Learned that lesson so well that I had the same doctor for 20 years before I told her about my chronic pain.

#52 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2019, 10:30 AM:

From Andrea Bonior's Baggage Check column at Washington Post Express. Second letter at

I’m guessing that the seeds of self-doubt and hypersensitivity to criticism have grown over time because they’ve never truly been dealt with, and now they’re full-blown shrubbery that necessitates a backhoe to dig out.

I liked the metaphor - try to root things out when they are small, vs. waiting until you need a backhoe.

#54 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2019, 01:50 PM:

@Quill no. 53: Definitely relevant. A significant percentage of the posts in the Raised by Narcissists subreddit (ob. disclaimer: is moderated) come from people who are trying to break free from that role. It isn't easy, because they are trying to undo a literal lifetime of conditioning.

RBN cross-pollinates with another subreddit, JustNoMIL (also moderated). JNMIL was founded specifically for people whose mothers-in-law behave like this--for people who feel like the side piece in a marriage between their spouse and their spouse's mother. There are more topics than that at JNMIL now, but "sonsbands," as they often put it, still feature heavily.

This happens a lot, is what I'm saying. It's a classic dysfunction. At the heart of it is the failure of the parent to actually raise the child. No, not every culture expects the children to grow up and leave, or even stop giving their parent(s) a veto--but at some point the child is supposed to at least expand their focus from the tight bond with the parent. (It's not always the mother--although, yes, it's nearly always the mother.) And the parent is supposed to seek interaction with their peers.

I think, though, that the article's explanation of Taylor's relationship with her mother as an attempt by her mother to avoid the pain of abandonment misses something. Plenty of people, faced with being left like that, will pursue rebound relationships with people their own age. Or they'll join groups that offer emotional highs from worship/demonstration/rescue work. Or they'll join exercise clubs to chase a high of another kind. Or they'll hook up in bars, if sex is their high. The point is, they'll attempt to avoid the emotional labor of dealing with it, whatever it is, by seeking the company of their peers.

People who commit emotional incest, though, are looking for something else. They're looking for the security of control. You can tell a child, whose social contacts you curate, any old bullshit, and they won't see through it. You can switch smoothly from needing them to take on the pain of empathizing with your adult issues to needing them to shush and go play now, and they'll do it. The child will never sit down across the breakfast table, look you in the eye, and say, "Honey...we need to talk.
Something has to change." And if, in adult life, they end up at DFD or RBN or JNMIL because the cognitive dissonance between their life with you and the expectations of their peers is too much, and they do try to have that talk? Then you can push their emotional buttons--which you installed.

#55 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2019, 02:40 PM:

I read this article and its preceding article the other day, and it hit me like a punch to the stomach.

Kaj describes:

I realized that I had a sense of unease, a vague feeling of shame… as if there was something shameful about me that I knew, but was trying to avoid thinking about. And I knew that I had felt this same vague shame many times before, often particularly when I was tired. […]

… there’s always an underlying insecurity, a sense of unease from the fact that anything might cause your attention to swing back to the [memories of being a terrible person]. You need a constant stream of external validation and evidence in order to keep your attention anchored on the examples [of being a good person]; the moment it ceases, your attention risks swinging to the [memories of being a terrible person] again.

My experiences are not quite as strong as his but it rhymes a great deal. I don't really like myself in a lot of ways and I do frequently feel like I'm avoiding... something...

I think some of it was accidentally exposing myself to an allergen repeatedly over the last week, because I'm not feeling it so hard now, but I did have a miniature emotional breakdown in the middle of Friday after reading those posts. I also realized that for most positive self-concept adjectives that one might use, I have a fairly negative or ambivalent self-concept. I think of myself as not-resilient, not-persistent, not-scintillating, not-dependable, not-particularly-likable. Most of what I have going for me in the self-concept department is that I know I'm intelligent. Hrm.

#56 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 13, 2019, 12:05 PM:

So, I need to check my behavior.

Newly Teenaged Child had a birthday party earlier this week. One of NTC's guests (who walked to the party) showed up with his little sister, aged seven. No, she wasn't invited. No, nobody told us she was coming. No, the parents weren't there.

NTC informed me that the little girl's parents do this all the time. The mother is occupied with three even younger children and the father...I dunno what he the little girl is dumped on her brother, and the parents expect their oldest to tote this kid everywhere. Even to places where she wasn't invited.

Well, my main interest was in keeping the party going, and NTC's 9-year-old brother was also there, so I handed the little girl a balloon and let her run around.

But then, she started being bratty. Pretended to be hurt as a "joke." Interrupted other people's conversations. Whined and wheedled for a second helping of ice cream cake. Started reaching onto her brother's plate to grab his food.

I never know what to do in these situations, so (as usual for me) I emulated a movie. I put on my best Mary Poppins voice and said, "I'm sure that you can find your big girl manners, which do not include reaching onto other people's plates. I'm sure you have a chair, and you can sit in it."

And she did--but she was dripping tears and wouldn't participate in party games when invited to do so.

Was I mean? What should I do if this happens again?

#57 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 05:46 AM:

J @56

My own first reaction is you did just fine. Unexpected guests must know that being unexpected means perhaps having to make do.

My second reaction confirms the first: you were working on a party, true, on the behalf of someone else, but still your house, your rules.

And you let the little girl know that tears were not going to reset the boundaries you have every right to expect, and set, and (as she made necessary) explain.

Thank you for the riff on Mary Poppins - I'll have to remember that, for future reference.

Crazy(and, alas, none of those folks have the excuse of youth...)Soph

#58 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 06:47 AM:

J #56: Agreed with crazysoph. Also, in context those tears sound downright manipulative to me. Good on you for not buying into it.

#59 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 07:52 AM:

Maybe manipulative, maybe not: if her family is such that a 7-year-old and a 13-year-old are considered an independent unit capable of looking after themselves, there could be a lot of things going on there. It does not sound like she is thoroughly looked-after even if all her basic needs are met, y'know?

Either way, I wouldn't put the tears on J, though. Assuming there was no bellowing or knife-waving involved, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable and even appropriately gentle reminder to mind your manners.

#60 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 12:56 PM:

Inge's little girl was spending time with both households she was a part of. At one point, when she was around 5, at Inge's place, daughter started working up towards a tantrum. Inge told her, "Oh, stop. You know that doesn't work around here." Daughter deflated. Inge asked her, "Does that kind of thing work at your other house?" Daughter grinned and nodded.

Children are generally not stupid, and young ones tend to have very self-focused "ethics". They learn pretty quickly what works to get what they want, and apply it.

J, my experience of being in something like a parental role is very limited, but I think you handled that very well.

#61 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 01:52 PM:

J: when I was 7 I probably would have cried upon a completely reasonable and gentle rebuke from an authority figure, as yours sounds like it was, and been unable to cope for the rest of the event. But that wouldn't make the rebuke unreasonable or the authority figure mean; nor would it obligate anyone to soothe me. I was just a fragile child (and am still sometimes a fragile adult). Something of that nature could have been going on.

#62 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 02:36 PM:

@hope in disguise no. 61: I was wondering the same thing.

In the moment, when I saw her face, I also remembered having that expression when I'd been going along thinking that I was doing something Okay, but then an authority figure used the Big Voice on me and I felt like I was being punished for not magically knowing rules that nobody had bothered to teach me. And I tried to figure out what could have made that better, back then...and just started hurting for that poor kid. I was the overlooked afterthought too.

Ofc. trying to explain that to a 7-year-old would have been either pointless or painful; I just invited her back into the party games, and eventually she started participating again.

#63 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2019, 04:27 PM:

What would have made it better, probably, was somebody teaching me (us?) the rules in the first place, in a way I (we) could understand, and gently making sure they really were understood. This would have been a job for parents, or a heroic cause for a teacher or peer to take up. For me, my parents were distracted at best and dysfunctional at worst, while teachers I think did not have the time(?), may have been content with my strong academic performance despite my abysmal social skills, and were definitely not obligated to step in. I don't think I managed to make friends with any socially skilled peers, either, who were willing or able to explain what I was doing wrong and what to do instead.

I'm glad to hear that she did start participating again, though!

#64 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2019, 05:15 PM:

J @56: Setting reasonable boundaries is never mean. In fact, if anything, I suspect you did her a favor, as your description of her behavior sounds to me like she's desperate for attention, and that in her family of origin, that means she has to annoy someone before it's forthcoming. The only rec I would offer, if this comes up again, is: try to catch her doing something right, and compliment her on it. Do so as often and as specifically as you can. "Wow, thank you for sitting in your chair! I know it's hard when there's so much going on and you want to take part!"

I infer that her refusal to join party games may be because, having been rebuked, she didn't know how to do so in an acceptable way. (It could totally also be manipulative—oddly, it doesn't read that way to me, though.) If you had the cycles free, it might have been worthwhile to get down to eye level and ask her what she would need for her to want to play?

#65 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2019, 01:30 AM:

@Abi, I am saddened to hear that your daughter is having those experiences, but grateful she has someone like you to support her. I don't know if it can help, but I've had suicidal ideation and self-harm impulses all my life and I've never acted on them - it's scary, but it can be lived with, even quite happily the rest of the time, especially with effective treatment. I'm hopeful your daughter will find her own safe path through this and will hold your family in my heart until that time.

#66 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2019, 03:06 PM:

@abi no. 1: I concur with KayTei no. 65. I have intrusive thoughts and other "brain weather" even after a freaking shipload of therapy. My basic pattern is:

1. oh SHIT

2. Oh, that again.

3. Apply therapeutic measures.

4. Go on with life.

The key--and this is where therapy is almost literally vital--is to be able to lean back for a minute, to recognize, "No, this is neither an inextricable feature of my character nor an exterior force acting upon me; this is my brain doing a thing, like a charley horse. And it has passed before, and it will pass again." I had to have an episode in front of a professional who reassured me and handed me the tools I needed.

#67 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2019, 08:28 PM:

I want to thank everyone here, and especially abi, for founding this holiday and these threads. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and my mom is ... difficult at the best of times.

Knowing you all are here is a comfort.

#68 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2019, 10:58 PM:

Nancy: Ouch, that's hard. Jedi hugs if welcome.

#70 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2019, 11:04 PM:

Jacque, very welcome, and thank you.

#71 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2019, 11:04 PM:

Jacque, very welcome, and thank you.

#72 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2019, 12:11 AM:

Nancy @67 Oh, my sympathies, that's tough. Wishing you comfort and self-compassion.

#73 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2019, 11:32 AM:

I just saw Into the Spiderverse again, and I wasn't happy with a lot of the emotional stuff.

Part of it is watching the heavy father material-- I know it's supposed to be cringeworthy, but it's painful. And (as I recall) the mother handling it as "he means well". Meaning well is better than meaning ill, but it's not a complete justification.

But also, and possibly worse, is the idea that becoming an adult is a matter of will and choice and it's a complete state change.

This is worse than training montages, which at least sketch the idea that you need to learn something.

On the plus side, I'm about 2/3 through Ferrett Steinmetz' On Sol Majestic-- emotional abuse is complicated, and so is recovering from it. It's also a good gaudy science fiction novel, if you can enjoy the kind with very little science in it, which I can.

#74 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2019, 11:57 AM:

Jacque @ 69

I'm not crying, YOU'RE crying!!!

Crazy(okay, so maybe I am crying, too)Soph

PS because even if I am pretty firmly cis-het in my sexuality, OMG the support that mother gives her kid. Gave me some good fodder for mining my own childhood (still working on "the places that got hurt", to quote Peter Gabriel)

#75 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2019, 10:11 PM:

Thank you KayTei.

#76 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 03:49 AM:

Hey, so, I read something I shouldn't have and am now having a bad night. Just checking: If your adult son, who lives on his own, calls you in a panic because he's having a cocaine overdose, and you, his mother, tootle over there with your college-freshman and mid-high-school daughters in the car, that's not normal, right?

And if your older daughter then proclaims that she's not going to stay with him and your youngest says that she'll stay with her brother while you go to get help because the phone got ripped out of the wall after your son hung up, and you actually agree to this, that's not normal, right?

And if you then drive away leaving your youngest child to attempt to keep your suicidal raving adult son away from the knives/go frantically over CPR in her mind in case his heart really does stop, and somehow it takes somewhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours (I was too freaked out to remember this exactly) for emergency services to arrive from the hospital that's less than 10 minutes away, that's not normal, right?

And nobody ever talking about it again except for a casual mention that he's in rehab a few months later...that's not normal, right?

(And still feeling guilty, like being either allowed or very strongly hinted to stay was somehow my fault and I brought the trauma and terror on myself...that's not normal, right?)

(I can't remember parts of that night. I may have been the one to summon help. I remember, or think I remember, or maybe I remember trying to get out in order to do this, going to the neighbors and banging on their door after some interminable time stuck with my brother. If it happened, which I'm not saying it did, it would have been a monumental shove against a lifetime of conditioning to do no such thing. Certainly my mother didn't think of knocking on any doors even though you could throw a rock and hit neighbors on either side.)

(Did somebody yell at me for not calling earlier?)

(Did the people in the house have to figure out something was wrong, because by that point I couldn't even talk?)

I'm going to lie down as soon as I can, but right now I don't think I could rest. Damn I hate nights like this.

#77 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 06:37 AM:

J #76: I'm sorry for your rough night. And no, your mother's response to the situation was in no way appropriate. Here's the Dysfunction Bingo squares I can see offhand:
(1) In deadly crisis, insisting it must be handled entirely within the immediate family.(*) Before cell phones, asking a neighbor to make a phone call was a thing. Even today, it still is, just rarer.

(2) Dumping the problem and its hazards on the kid who's too young to refuse, not to mention least-equipped to deal with it, and then leaving.

(3) Crisis and brother "disappear" afterwards, and are not spoken of afterwards, let alone any discussion with the kid who was dealing with the situation.

(4) Blaming the kid who was left to deal with it for their own suffering.

* Even (or especially) if the police weren't to be relied on ("911 don't go to Motown" or worse), there should have been some other family, friends, or neighbors.

#78 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 11:40 AM:

Thank you.

I think, looking back, that my mother's chief concern was that people might know that cocaine was involved.

Not that the man who could feel his heart trying to leap through his ribs might die, or that he might hurt his little sister during his paranoid/suicidal freakout. Just that people might see and disapprove.

#79 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 12:42 PM:

J, trust your voice of reason. No, that wasn't/isn't normal or appropriate.

There's a CBC radio show, "Out in the Open", about things that We Do Not Talk About which we really should be paying attention to. Today's episode is a rebroadcast, "Family Tree" (podcast here) about people who have determined to -- as the show's description puts it -- branch out from the family tree. Interviewees include a guy who is determined to break the cycle of violence and abuse that he suffered ("when did this stuff become 'normal'?"), and a young guy who succeeded in graduating from high school, first one in his large family, despite everyone else telling him that there was no way he could do so. "Nah, you're gonna drop out, you're going to be a father at age 16, ..."

#80 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 04:50 PM:

J: Well, first off, let's distinguish "normal" from "appropriate" and "healthy."

Speaking from the perspective of the fam I grew up in (and divorced as soon as I had the means), the cocaine part and the almost dying part is an order of magnitude beyond what I ever experienced. But the rest of it sounds like pretty bog-standard codependency. Especially the bit about "never speak of this again." Denial is not just a river in Africa, wot? I was schooled early that talking about my father's drinking outside the family was strictly Not Done.

Another metric I'd suggest applying: "acceptable?" And I'd say, most assuredly not.

#81 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2019, 05:07 PM:

From my generally typical and healthy upbringing, I can say that yes, that's messed up.

#82 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2019, 01:14 AM:

J: What everyone else is saying, and it sounds like you know it but just need the backstop: that's not anything that I'd recognize as either normal or acceptable.

#83 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2019, 01:24 PM:

@David Goldfarb no. 82 et al: Thanks, and that's what I needed. My old programming ("you are to blame if you are upset or afraid, you are responsible for fixing anything that goes wrong, it's your fault if you can't instantly figure out how to do something nobody ever taught you, any claiming of child-status by child-you is/was horrifically spoiled and demanding behavior") is overwritten, but that doesn't mean erased.

#84 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2019, 10:12 AM:

J: Deepest sympathies. I'm going through a variant of that right now with the news cycle. "What do you mean you haven't figured out how to fix the climate crisis!?! You've known about this for forty years! What have you been doing all this time??!??" :-\ I know it makes no sense, but that doesn't help knock it back.

#85 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2019, 12:26 PM: do I keep forgetting about this....

Wandered into Ursula Vernon's Twitter feed. SO soul-healing....

#86 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2019, 06:54 PM:

Look back at what I wrote @76, I seem to have recovered a slice of memory.

I did go to the neighbors' house. I am so proud of that screwed-up beaten-down kid for doing it. She thought that if she left her brother's house he would instantly kill himself and it would be all her fault. Or if she dared to disturb the sacred privacy of the neighbors with her irrelevant problems (irrelevant because "why aren't you solving them yourself, GOD, such a prima donna, so damn spoiled"--I'm quoting an abuser) she would be told that she was horrible, as usual (note: these people were complete strangers) and they would slam the door in her face, or else attack and beat her without any fear of censure. Or she would see emergency services showing up before she had managed to summon them herself and then her abusers would know and be hugely insulted that she had dared believe that they wouldn't summon help (eventually, when they felt like it, stop being so pushy and demanding, GOLLLL), and then it would be punishment time. And so on, and so on. But she still made it to the neighbors' house.

I still don't remember whether I made that call, or the neighbors called, or what. I do recall praying that they would have a phone just inside their front door with a long cord on the handset, so that I wouldn't have to step into their home and instantly, automatically cue a punishment avalanche.

Damn, I was a mess.

Today I admitted that a late tax return may have been my fault (I cannot confirm this or rule it out) and that I had made a mistake in some research, and did not feel more than a distant ghost of anxiety that I would get picked at. Which, nobody did. There were four of us at the table, trying to figure out if we really were late with the payroll taxes (not connected to the late tax return), and if so how it had happened. And they doublechecked my research to that point (which involved tons of sleuthing and reorganizing things because the filing system before I was hired here oh my goodness), found something I had missed, and passed stacks of paper around until we had correctly identified the issue (which turns out to stem from the last quarter of 2016 although we just heard about it last month).

Y'know, adulting. With adults. Who didn't feel the need to shit all over the nearest convenient target.

Five years ago I would've had the shakes afterward. Ten years ago I would've had the shakes DURING. Twenty years ago I would've cried all night the night before.

God bless therapy and support groups, is what I'm saying.

#87 ::: J needed a nick change ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2019, 06:55 PM:

GNAH! Wrong nick, pretend you didn't see that.

Changed. —Idumea Arbacoochee

#88 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2019, 01:44 PM:

~~~~thank youuuuu!~~~~~

#89 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2019, 11:16 PM:

@56 -

Given how you were blindsided by the situation, you handled it fine.

But this is likely to happen again, if your child and the older child remain friends.

So you need to be prepared to deal with it. Because the parents aren't actually asking a newly minted teenager to assume responsibility for the younger child. They are assuming you will take responsibility for the child. And if something went wrong, I don't doubt they'd try to sue you.

The most important issue for you now is what will you do the next time the older child is invited over and the younger shows up.

You need to plan a response in advance, or this will keep happening.

If you want to take a hard line...

Send older child inside, keep younger child outside. Immediately call the parents, and tell them that you invited teenager, not young kid. They need to puck up young kid. Now. Because you are hosting a party for teenagers, not elementary school children. And you are not willing to manage supervising a young child while running a teenage party safely.

And if they will not take responsibility for young kid, you will call CPS. Because teenage kid at a party is not an acceptable safe alternative for childcare. And they can't draft you to the job.

The bad behavior here is the parents, not either child.

#90 ::: Gregor Mendel ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2019, 04:03 AM:

Wow, I never thought I'd be posting in this thread.

Really, I had a pretty great childhood, growing up as a military (Navy) brat, moving around, but only a few times -- somehow, once my Dad got posted to the office where they literally decided where people were posted (after a few years in the Naval War College), he never had to move again*!

To be fair, his second posting after the personnel office was CO of NAVFSSO (Naval Food Service Systems Office), so it makes sense he'd stay in the DC area.

Anyway, I'm not here to just brag about my Dad. He was an alcoholic (I say was, because in my experience it is not necessarily an ongoing condition -- not to say that for some it is not). My Mom is sad for all the times that he missed with me and my brother. Honestly, I never felt that he was absent from my life. I think, like most people of my time (born 1972), that my Mom was the primary parent, but, well -- that's just how things were done.

Anyway, none of this is really relevant. The problem is that my Dad's sister has been stealing from my Mom for 40 fucking years.

I didn't know any of this until about 3 months ago, when my Mom and Dad finally told me about it.

Just a moment to sketch *my* idea of what my extended family was (all my Dad's family, 'cuz Mom was an only child).

Uncle B--- got divorced (scandal! -- but not so scandalous that I was not allowed at the wedding to his new wife F---) As an 8-10 year old, I really wondered what had happened to Aunt P--. (Spoiler alert: B--- and P-- were spectacularly ill-suited to be married, and both B--- and P-- were much happier in their new marriages.)

Phew -- now we get to the meat of it -- my father's sister J---- married my Uncle R---. They have 3 lovely children and 6 amazing grandchildren, and ain't that the best thing ever?

I feel I must at this point interject into my own story -- my older brother, who was married to a woman I love (because my brother loved her -- I said at their wedding, and I hold to still that I had always had a brother, but never had a sister, and 4 years on, I 'm glad I do), died of ALS 4 years ago. I am asexual/aromantic/dontreallycare.

So. Apparently, Aunt J---- has been stealing from my Mom for 40 years. I love Aunt J----. I still do. But she's been attacking my Mom for 40 years. She's stolen dozens of things from their home (but always things that are hers.) That's tough stuff. Not nearly as tough as some of you have had to deal with, but, y'know tough. One of the things she stole was a large kitchen knife. That's worrisome, right?'s the thing. I could forgive almost anything Aunt J---- did. But. While talking about financial planning, my Mom showed her a book that my Dad had prepared for her in case he pre-deceased her (statistically likely and a perfectly in-character preparation for my Dad to make). It had all the account information and what-not that Mom would need when he was pushing up the daisies.

And she stole it.

So, like I said, this has been going on for 40 years, but that, specifically, hurts. My Aunt was viciously, viciously, attacking my Mom. That's fucked up. The things she'd stolen before that were not especially valuable, but a book that only had value to her? That's just evil.

My Uncle R--- called me last week to see if I could help deal with this situation. It's obvious he believes his wife (Aunt J----), but there's only two possible things here -- my Mom's crazy or Aunt J---- is crazy. Yes, crazy is an unscientific word that doesn't mean anything, but seriously. One of them is crazy, right?

I'm pretty sure it's not my Mom. I honestly don't know if I'm going to have a relationship with my extended family after this.

* Oooh, caught on preview that I almost didn't pay that off! Man, the things you could get away with in the Navy in the '80s....

So, imagine a bunch of mid-level officers drunk off their minds deciding "we should make a video!"

And so they did. It was a sketch "comedy" video that I only remember one scene from:

SCENE: Cramped office


Low-ranking officer picks up the phone. Listens, nods....

LOW-RANKING OFFICER: Oh, yes, Seaman Johnson, I have your paperwork right here.

Low-ranking officer opens desk drawer and pulls out a dart. Low-ranking officer throws the dart.

LOW-RANKING OFFICER: Oh, sorry Seaman Johnson, it's going to be Anchorage for you.

Bah-dum-pah! Comedy!

#91 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2019, 09:47 AM:

Gregor Mendel @90, disregarding for the moment the emotional component of your aunt doing this (which is what you wrote about), she has a history of stealing things from your parents AND she now has a book with a complete list of account numbers. I think your mom needs to be vigilant about watching for theft from those accounts, perhaps even transfer funds to new accounts. (If we're talking things like the power company, and not financial accounts, never mind.)

#92 ::: Divizna ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2019, 07:53 PM:

Re 56:
I feel with the girl. If I understand your story right, she's constantly being pushed on her brother, resented by her brother, dragged to older boys' events where she has no friends and the activities are far from her seven-year-old liking, resented by her brother's friends, resented by the friends' parents who are burdened by her presence...
No wonder she got upset. (And acted out. Upset children tend to do that. And not realise it.)
I think she's probably getting the rawest deal of all the people involved. (Second place, of course, belongs to her brother.)
I don't think she was being manipulative when she started crying. I think she was lonely, frustrated, overwhelmed, exhausted and humiliated.
I don't have any advice, just this observation.

#93 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2019, 11:29 AM:

Gregor Mendel @90: Following on OtterB's excellent comment, once money is moved and is secure, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to make a new book, and also make sure there is a backup to be kept in a trusted location.

Also, it's probably good to track actions that occur in the old accounts, and if any actions occur that Mom or her heirs & assigns didn't perform, that would be pretty compelling evidence against Aunt J, no?

Divizna: I think this is an excellent perspective, and I'm ashamed that it hadn't occurred to me.

#94 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2019, 11:53 AM:

UGH this mother.

My daughter's actual agemate was invited to a sleepover here last night. Kiddo usually walks, but this time was driven here. And here comes the mom, asking me, who she's spoken to for less than 5 minutes total over our entire acquaintance, whether we can juuuuust watch the four year old for the afternooonnn while Momma goes on a hiiike. (Duplicating her speech patterns, but cannot duplicate the cute little head-tilt.) Turns out that her big sib was supposed to have been going along too, but would rather go to the sleepover. And now suddenly the little 'un "can't handle" the hike. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

When I said I'd have to ask my husband, she suddenly changed her mind and said that the four year old was just itching to go hiking so they would go after all.

I still have not seen or spoken to this four year old, BTW, and have never heard her name.

She's more and more reminding me of certain divorced parents--although she's married--who proclaim their devotion to their children and show this by arranging to never actually be alone with them. As somebody put it over at Captain Awkward, they pat themselves on the back for watching other people watch their children. Always unpaid people, you understand.

#95 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2019, 01:34 PM:

What bugs me about all this, deep down, is that she's letting down her kids, and my instincts tell me "Child in need--help child."

But this isn't a crisis. Her schedule didn't just suddenly blow up. If I let her offload her kids on me, she'll do it more often, and that isn't actually helping. It certainly isn't helping ME.

But she's still doing it, and there is nothing I can do to make her stop. She is satisfied with her solution to this issue.

Another thing: There are buttloads of paid and even free programs around here, all year round, that will watch your kids for you. In particular, two preschools do summer programs for up to age 8, and I know that both of them offer financial aid. If she doesn't want to interact with her younger children without a buffer, she can do so, and get good professional service. But her tween kid doesn't have to be paid and can't tell her she's messing up, so.

UGH this mother.

#96 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2019, 09:59 PM:

J, would it be possible to point her at the programs?

And, as hard as it is, good for you for holding your boundaries.

#97 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2019, 05:01 PM:

hope in disguise @55: Small world department: a couple of books referenced in the linked post were written by folks local to me, from whom I took my first NLP trainings.

#98 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2019, 09:31 AM:

Jacque @97: I did remember that you've talked about NLP before, while I was reading! I actually picked up Transforming Your Self and have done a bit of trying to do the exercises, although I'm not the greatest at pinning down an internal experience (visualization or otherwise) to describeability and repeatability.

#99 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2019, 01:31 PM:

I've got TYS on order (it's apparently out of print*) but the one I'm really interested in is Core Transformation. I remember hearing some interesting things about it back when it came out.

Yeah, the self-image stuff is slippery and difficult, and I, too, struggle with nailing it down. But those articles you linked speak rather directly to some of the things I'm struggling with these days, so I think it might be worth having a look.

* I've seen it on Amzn, but I don't trade with them anymore if I can help it.

#100 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2019, 03:38 PM:

@Nancy C. Mittens no. 96: I didn't mention before that my daughter's actual friend is trans. I am worried that if I get his parents' backs up by even hinting that they might have done something wrong, that they will react by forbidding him to see my daughter anymore, because they misgender him all the time but they probably have noticed that we don't.

The other day he was rumpusing with my son (I think he digs it because it's all girls at his house) and I snapped, "Boys! Take it outside!" and he just lit up.

#101 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2019, 07:22 PM:

Outing my self here a bit, but I've linked to a Twitter thread about a book I just read - Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. (link in my name rather than in the body of the comment). Such a good and compassionate story starting in a dysfunctional family, and ending in hope.

#102 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2019, 12:24 AM:

J @100: "Boys! Take it outside!" and he just lit up.

Awwww! ::grin:: That just fills me with warm fuzzies! :) <3 <3

Chickadee: Very interesting! Thank you for the link! (I've added the book to my TBR pile.) (NB: my library has the capacity to make "lists," so for a miracle, much of my TBR pile is virtual, doesn't take up any shelf space, and doesn't need to be dusted! This is a glorious thing!)

#103 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2019, 07:11 PM:

Not relevant to the current topic, but this seems to fit certain past DFD topics very well.

(Warning for drawing of snake-like creature, possibly offensive language)

#104 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2019, 07:49 PM:

Quill #103: Yeah, that's the way to do it... ;-)

#105 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 01:25 AM:

Yet another annual family reunion this summer, which I went to partly because I wanted to get to know the niblings (the eldest of whom is now about 10) and partly because faaaaaaaaaaamily and parental sadface about how I couldn't come for a few years due to work schedules. While there, I had a lovely chat with eldest nibling, and shortly after getting home from the trip I suggested that we start writing letters and being pen pals. (This was enthusiastically agreed to and we've already exchanged our first letters.)

Dunno about the rest of the family, but there's always hope for the littles. From this distance the best I can really do is model acceptance and kindness, which isn't a complete solution to the casual broad-spectrum bigotry the rest of the family considers normal, but at least it'll be there.

#106 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 06:27 PM:

I need another reality check.

Middle Child is 13. Middle child has had a disturbing pattern of behavior from the moment she could put coherent sentences together. On one hand, I'm's childish behavior...right? But on the other hand, she is 13 now, and still doing these things...

Group 1: She is doing a thing (stomping around the house, ripping a magazine as she reads it, smacking her gum extra loud, rhythmically banging the arm of the couch, etc.) I say, "Stop [description of thing]." She responds, "I'm not [description of thing]," often while she is doing it. She keeps doing it. If I point directly at the thing, she just insists more and more that she is not doing it, while doing it.

Group 2: I witness a conversation between her and someone else. Someone Else says, "Let's A." Middle Child says, "No, let's B." She starts B. Someone Else shows lack of interest in B. Middle Child says angrily, "Why did you make me do B if you're not going to even do B?" This is one example of many, many times when she remembers being forced to or asked to do something that nobody forced or asked her to do. It is always--somebody--else's--fault.

Group 3: I repeatedly discuss a decision with her, such as going to summer camp or choosing an elective. I can attest from my checked-off task list that I have done this. I proceed according to her stated decision. When the time comes to do the thing, she NEVER heard me talk about it and she NEVER decided to do it, capitals often verbatim, sometimes to the point of screaming fits.

Group 4: Can't seem to remember that other people don't like being grabbed without warning AND cannot seem to learn that when somebody says "No, stop," that means her, immediately.

I did some of this shit when I was a kid, but one sorta-kinda-accidentally-useful thing my abusers did was mash my shame button whenever I, for example tackle-hugged somebody. Middle Child does not seem to have the ability to think, "That was bad and I feel bad about it." I have tried to at least awaken her self-interest by having her consider (for example) whether a joke she plans to put in a birthday card is one that her friend has found funny in the past, because if it isn't her friend may not want to be around her for a while. But I am only seeing glimmers of understanding of that.

The other thing is...there is narcissism in my family. Never diagnosed, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and attempts to consume other people like a duck...

Should I worry?

#107 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 07:36 PM:

J #106: I'd say that you shouldn't just worry, you should call in the professionals.

It's not necessarily narcissism as per the diagnosis, but it's certainly a Problem, and it's not likely to go away on its own, if its a long-time pattern that has been tolerated through the pre-pubertal years.

#108 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 08:47 PM:

J: That all sounds...strangely dissociative. I am no flavor of professional, but that certainly would concern me. Some deep research might at least be in order...?

#109 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 09:04 PM:

@107: Not tolerated. I call her on it every single time. And she does do nice things for people without apparent hope of gain, and she does think about ways to live more independently instead of just assuming that everything will come to her like a complete narcissist. And she is doing more of that kind of thing. And in school she is seen as a mature, steady, self-motivated person by teachers and students.

But she's also still doing the other stuff.

#110 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 09:05 PM:

@107: Sorry, wrong tense: I have been calling her on it every single time, right from the beginning.

#111 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 10:06 PM:

J 109-110: OK, that's good. If she's not showing other signs of narcissism, then indeed, it's likely something else. But if you're not seeing improvements, or even attempts by her to self-correct, then it is at least "something".

And again, I do think this calls for professional expertise -- parental love and concern do count for a lot, but no matter how loving, there are limits to what an untrained person (especially one who's involved in the situation) can accomplish.

#112 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2019, 10:56 PM:

I have floated therapy to her on the basis that she can tell or ask a therapist things that she may not want to talk about with us and the therapist will never tell...but she is just NOPE. And she is fully capable of walking out the door and just vanishing for hours if we make her go.

I'll keep bringing it up quarterly.

#113 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 09:34 AM:

This is a tough situation. My first thought is, are there any adults outside the family who she respects and responds to? Also, look back at your own memories -- is there any approach besides the abuse you suffered that might have gotten through to you-back-then?

Beyond that, the best I can come up with is to sit down with her when she's not actually doing any of these things, go down the list you provided above, and make a couple of points clear:

First, this talk is not optional, and you're not going to back down and go away just because she says so. You are her parent, and calling this stuff out is part of your job and authority as her parent.

And second, explain that these behaviors are not acceptable, not just to you, but to society in general -- and she's past the age when she gets a free pass for being "just a kid". Tell her flat out that even if she manages to keep on stonewalling you for another five years or whatever, she's about to start running into people who aren't her parents, and who will not-accept-it with progressively more serious consequences: Friends lost, school discipline, lost opportunities and options, getting thrown out of groups, programs, schools, stores and workplaces, and eventually trouble with the law.

In that last vein, you might point her at the Not Always Right site, which is full of stories about people who tried enforcing their personal reality on the world at large, with consequences ranging from the people in their wake saying CWAA, to simply not getting what they want, and onward up to getting arrested or worse.

And a comment about getting help: As you describe, this isn't a "talk therapy" situation, you're going to need someone who can diagnose and treat a likely personality disorder.

#114 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 03:31 PM:

I've flat-out told her that she will end up friendless and unemployed if she does not stop that stuff. That it doesn't matter whether she thinks it's okay or not if people who have the power to affect her life think it isn't okay.

Eyeroll. "Whatever." Or denial. Or a freak-out.

#115 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 03:33 PM:

Forgot to add...the counselors I have in mind are trained to combine listening with CBT, and I think that hearing the same things that I am saying, but not coming from dumb ol' Mom, would get through.

But physically dragging a screaming muscular 13-year-old through the lobby, into the elevator, and down the hall...would not help. So I keep trying to get through to her about seeing a counselor with words.

#116 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 04:08 PM:

J, is there any chance that talking to someone at school (a teacher or counselor) could get some help without making things worse? You say "in school she is seen as a mature, steady, self-motivated person by teachers and students", which suggests that she does have some control over these behaviors, and also that people at school may be able to get her to do things that you can't get her to do. If a teacher sent her to talk to a counselor, and the counselor said "you need to get your parents to make you an appointment with X", would that help? If you're not involved as an authority, but just as Mom helping her comply with a school thing, maybe that would work better?

#117 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 04:16 PM:

For some reason I hadn't thought of that. Thanks.

#118 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 05:52 PM:

I actually went through some... not-dissimilar denial-of-obvious-reality stuff, at a similar age. (Mostly Group 1, and some modified Group 3, but see disclaimers.)

I'm not real sure what it was about. It wasn't, y'know, actual delusions: I knew I was lying. (In my case, it was generally past events, so there was at least some level of superficial plausibility... But really not much.) I think therapy helped (or else I was aging out of that particular reaction/coping mechanism and therapy helped head off whatever it would have turned into, or most likely a little of both).

In my case, the Group 3 stuff was, I think, mostly about the fact that my mother is/was extremely disorganized and there were plenty of times she in fact had not discussed the decision with me, or I had not decided the way she remembered it. (She has acknowledged this, though she says there were also times I merely claimed that had happened. That's plausible: I don't remember doing it specifically, but I likely did.) It sounds like that's not a factor for you, if you're taking written notes (and then able to find and reference those notes).

But the Group 1 stuff... Dunno. I wish I had a good grasp on what was going on there and could tell you "oh, yeah, it's X," but I don't. I did get through it, and it wasn't schizophrenia or narcissistic personality disorder or anything, and I did turn out mostly okay.

I guess one thing I'd suggest is looking at context. Are these... tactics being deployed any time for any purpose, or are they defensive responses to negative events (specifically: the imposition of authority, for Group 1; the realization that your friendship strategy didn't work out and you've hurt/annoyed someone you like, for Groups 2 and 4; a plan turning out poorly, for Groups 2 and 3.)

#119 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2019, 09:50 PM:

I am not normally a "diagnosis via internet" person.

However, your description of middle child (including the 'capable of up and vanishing for several hours' bit) is remarkably similar to something a friend is going through with their child. They have a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). I offer this as a possible avenue of research and hope it helps.

#120 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2019, 01:22 PM:

J, does it make a difference if there's concrete evidence that what she's asserting isn't true? Rather than just your word against hers?

Some years back, I was having "disagreements" with a couple of the other members of the exec for a social group. They were *fiercely* resistant to anything that would provide such concrete evidence that what they were asserting about the past wasn't true, such as recording exec meetings. It became pretty clear that they were conscious of their own obstructionism.

#121 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2019, 09:02 AM:

Six years since I last posted on these threads and very little has changed. :(

In fact, in some ways my home situation is now even worse: my sister's original daycare arrangement broke down (it was no longer satisfying her due to the effect of budget cuts, and this caused her to lash out at staff on multiple occasions). She is now at a college specifically for autistics, but due to its high cost to the local authority she was only there on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (though starting from this week she's now going on Mondays too). In addition, my mam has had major health issues of their own: in the summer of 2016 my mam had a brain aneuryism of her own (thank goodness her brain functioning wasn't appreciably affected by it, unlike my dad) and later that year also had a radical hysterectomy due to cancer: although this got rid of the cancer it's made her tired and hot ever since. Incidentally I learned another reason why my mam never learned to drive: she isn't just extremely anxious but also suffers from an extremely poor sense of direction (such that I had to take her to her hospital appointments because she'd get lost if she tried to go alone).

I am now becoming increasingly sceptical that my dad was a significant source of pain in my mam's life: rather I now suspect that her abusive behaviour towards him was simply because he was a more acceptable target than the disabled sister that is overwhelmingly the real cause of my mam's anguish. Perhaps this misled me earlier in life: my mam's carping at my dad for not getting a job made me believe that money could give my mam a better life. And perhaps when I got a job and my mam refused to take substantially more money from me (even though I was convinced she'd want it) I believed that she was helping me save for a place of my own (with the corollary that I mustn't spend frivolously for fear of making my mam feel exploited) when the real reason may have been a belief that more money simply wouldn't do her any good!

I spent most of the last few years in a resigned mood, and spent much of my spare time on my Microsoft Flight Simulator development hobby (figuring that if I couldn't be happy myself, at least I could make my fellow flight-simmers happy) – climaxing with a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 instrument panel set with a systems simulation more detailed that many commercial add-ons (although not itself commercial quality due to the lack of 3D virtual cockpit) – I started to feel depressed about my life again at the start of this year (at one point causing my mam to come into my room during the night when my sobbing woke her up!)

It's not all bad news though: after one success of losing weight back in the autumn of 2015 (I ended up putting most of it back on again over the next year or two) I succeeded again this summer: interestingly I ended up using a C25k app as dcb had suggested way back in post 527 on the Sitting and Rising thread. I was pretty much the worst kid in my class at PE and never expected I'd try running as an adult, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up being able to run 5k in 27:33 (even if it's nowhere near the sub-20-minute times achieved by some of my work colleagues). Unfortunately, I injured my ankle on July 12th (on the last run of the programme) and haven't run since as now my opposite foot is feeling dodgy. :(

Two things I have been doing this year I have also been doing with a view to facilitating moving out: I have been gradually building up a balance on my pre-pay card (it's now up to almost £500) in case I want to do any big spending without my mam's knowledge, and I have also been trying to get rid of excess possessions, starting with my VHS video collection (now down to less than a dozen tapes: the rest went in the bin as they're so obsolete that even charity shops won't take them now).

Three additional things I'd advise you to read to get an even better handle on my situation:

1. A care review made by my sister's social worker after a visit last October (in my type-up I refer to my sister as "S" rather than her real name): this should give you an idea of just what my mam is up against regarding her needs. I showed it to a close colleague from the flight simulation website where I contribute (after informing him about the sad home situation that gave me so much time for such software development), and he was appalled by my situation.
2. A summary of my life history which I originally prepared in order to show to work colleagues (as well as to a counsellor, after learning that my employer was setting up a counselling service). I decided also to show my mam it so she could understand just what I was feeling, and (perhaps because she didn't see it as I intended her to: my sister found it first and showed it to her) she was so distraught that she vomited and then cried for two solid hours! Perhaps this extreme reaction (plus the fact that in her annotations to the report – which I've reproduced in pink in the linked online document – she outright denied many of her past controlling behaviours) shows that she herself feels terrible guilt for what she is doing to me, but feels like she cannot let me go for my sister's sake.
3. A thread I started on the Carers UK forum (I'm "George_1902" there) &ndas; I'm interested by the fact that I asked "am I a carer" there just as I did here.

#122 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2019, 09:34 AM:

Codemonkey! It's great to hear from you. I was rereading some old threads recently and you were one of the people I wondered about.

I haven't read the things you linked for the details yet, but I'm sorry to hear that some things are the same/worse, but glad to hear that some are better.

#123 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2019, 09:49 AM:

Incidentally, could our webmaster please fix the "view all by" links as they don't seem to be working at the moment?

#124 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2019, 11:47 AM:

Codemonkey (121): Good to see you back! I'm sorry things are still so challenging for you, but glad to hear about the bright spots.

Codemonkey (123): The View All By has been broken for a while and is apparently unfixable.

#125 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2019, 02:30 PM:

Codemonkey: Welcome back! Yeah, you've got a hard row (several!) to hoe. Sounds like you're working on changing your circumstances, but do, please, at least give yourself credit for bearing up under incredibly difficult circumstances.

#126 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 06:42 AM:

I often agonize wondering if I could have got my mother's approval to move out if I'd done things differently: should I have had more of a social life while at university (braving my mother's questioning that she now denies she ever engaged in), or should I have done more housework (even though I'd have had to learn to keep an eye on the home situation so I could judge just the right moment to offer to do something)?

Mary Aileen @124: Why would View All By be unfixable?

#127 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 08:00 AM:

Codemonkey in NE England #126: I often agonize wondering if I could have got my mother's approval to move out if I'd done things differently...

Nope. In the rest of that sentence, you make it clear that trying to "get your mother's approval" was strictly a setup. And still is, given that you're still self-blaming for not somehow managing to satisfy her demands.

#128 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 08:08 AM:

Codemonkey in NE England #126: Why would View All By be unfixable?

I have no idea bout the technical issues, but while Martin (and anyone else behind the scenes) have dealt summarily with a variety of other site problems, they have been unable to restore the VAB functionality over the course of multiple years.

Given that this is a Big Deal WRT Teresa's published moderation philosophy ("a commenter's history is their reputation"), I really have to assume that if they could have fixed it, they would have done so long ago.

#129 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 01:25 PM:

Here's a Twitter discussion about repairing the VAB from some months back.

I volunteered to try to help (which does not speak to any likelihood that I could help), but with various factors falling out of sync, that possibility hasn't come back around on the guitar yet. I dropped Patrick a Twitter DM a few days ago, but haven't heard back. (And I still don't 100% understand how Twitter works, so that may well have vanished into the void.) I'm loathe to pester them because, you know, life.

~ Meanwhile in other news: I'm struggling to break in some new downstairs neighbors. The sound issue (knock on wood) seems to have gotten sorted. But they like smoke. All sorts of smoke. Cedar & sage & incense. And this new thing I'd never heard of called "dabbing." And I get to share! And, it appears, there are no ordinances, city, state, or HOA, preventing them from inflicting this stuff on me. (Oh, and did I mention? I'm apparently allergic to marijuana.)

We've had four go-rounds already (they moved in over the weekend), and I've already gotten myself labeled "oversensitive." :-\ :'(

I'm going to stop of at McGuckin's tonight and see what's available in the nature of a HEPA air filter, but I'm doubtful how effective it will be, given that I don't have airconditioning and as such need to keep my windows open.

Wish me luck.

#130 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 02:44 PM:

Jacque -- re: neighbors, I don't have any suggestions as such. But I'll recount a bit of history, in case it sparks any ideas for you.

For about 16 months, I was living in the top easternmost apartment in a building of about 20 floors. What with warm air rising, and prevailing winds, any time anyone smoked in the stairwells in cold weather, some of it ended up going through my apartment. Building management refused to take any action, even to the extent of putting up no-smoking signs, even though smoking in the stairwells was strictly illegal by city ordinance. The on-site manager herself was frustrated and apologetic; she didn't like the mess of cigarette butts or any of the rest of it, but her hands were tied.

So I cranked up the heaters in the stairwell (they'd removed the knobs, but I had pliers), and any time I smelled smoke, I propped open the stairwell door on my level, and propped open my apartment door and opened a window. This did a reasonably good job of blasting the air through, and cleared the smell in a few minutes.

#131 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 03:20 PM:

One possibility that occurs to me, is to build an entirely new VAB system based on an index of comments by screen names. It would lose a lot of joke names and "sees spam" warnings (though substring searching could cover some of that), and would sweep together homonyms, but might be worthwhile anyway just for the "normal case".

#132 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 03:52 PM:

I realized that my Stuff may have been coloring my perception of my child's behavior. (The short version: I come from a narcissistic family of origin; certain things still have the power to induce emotional flashbacks.)

I decided to check myself about my child's apparent narcissistic tendencies. I have begun keeping a tally of the times she did things for other people without apparent expectation of reward, gave way to somebody else in a minor matter without flipping her lid, or in other ways demonstrated Ability to Mutually Person 101; vs. times when she did stuff that brings back the bad old times for me.

ISTM that she is at present showing more signs that her brain is maturing along non-narcissistic pathways, than otherwise. But I will continue to keep a tally in a private document so that I can spot any patterns, narcissistic or otherwise, that may suggest need for intervention.

#133 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2019, 08:48 PM:

J, good for you, in recognizing that your history may skew your perception, and taking steps to have some objective data. I'm glad to hear it seems things are falling out better than you feared - but either way, solid information helps.

#134 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 11:29 AM:

Still reading and witnessing.

I struggle with starting tasks and other executive dysfunction issues, and I often appreciate being able to quantify the qualitative. Thus was I moderately gratified to get the results from the Brown Executive Function/Attention Scales, which my psychiatrist had me self-administer.

For each of the six components, I received a raw score, an indication of which band of 'normality'/'functionality' that score fell into, and a percentile rating (and, like, error bars and stuff). The only component on which I fell into the 'normal' category was Emotional Regulation, which I put down largely to socialization.

Fellow DFDers, I fall into the 97th percentile of dysfunction on task activation and the 93rd percentile for sustaining effort. This is all kinds of validating, honestly. I have a real problem with doing stuff! I am worse at starting tasks than roughly 97% of people! Wow! I'm impressed with myself that I do stuff well enough and fast enough to get a complicated bachelor's degree and hold down a fancy job!

On the other hand, tell me plz, mister psychiatrist, how I can become better at coping and doing things, because I like the outcomes of doing things... ("I don't think this changes our treatment plan, but it's very interesting," he said.)

#135 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 12:30 PM:

hope: Starting stuff is hard! It is something I've struggled with, like, forever.

I've finally come up with some hacks that have resulted in my actually getting my chores done over the weekend (even in the face of a nearly innevitable failure condition, yay!). But it has taken me 60+ years to get here. So, yeah, it's totally a thing. (Ironically, for me, stopping is, if possible, even more of an issue. Yes, getting to bed early enough to get a full night's sleep is a good thing! Staying up painting is very gratifying and all, but— :-\ )

me @129: Knock on wood, downstairsians have proven to be livable-with over the last week, so yay! I've been reading up on dabbing, and I really really hope they're not making their own BHO. O.O

Meanwhile, I'm hoping one of you-all that speaks Human can offer a clarification:

If I say, "I object to your intoxicant vapors" and I get back, "Yeah, but what about your cooking smells?"—that's what a derail is, right? (I'm still learning the terms and structure of these various rhetorical tactics.)

#136 ::: hope in disguise ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 02:09 PM:

Jacque @135: I believe in context that is indeed a derail. It might be different if, for example, you cook a lot of fish and one of them is scent-level allergic to fish and your cooking odors infiltrate their living space -- then you would both be negotiating around an allergenic smell. But there is a meaningful distinction between "known health risk" and "obnoxion." (For that matter, it probably wouldn't be derailing if you were regularly processing durian or surstromming or something similarly noxious...) But I'm assuming that your cooking odors are fairly tame and they just want an excuse to make it seem like there's an even exchange going on/they have negotiating leverage/they can demand concessions as well.

#137 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 04:11 PM:

hope: Yeah, okay, thanks. That squares up with my sense as well.

The same exchange also included an attempt to mansplain to me about "having neighbors." (Probably just as well I refrained from pointing out that I've had apt/condo neighbors likely since before he was born.)

So, yeah. Thank you!

("Obnoxion." ::giggle:: This would be the single-unit particle that carries "obnoxins." Hee hee. I'm totally stealing that.)

#138 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 06:13 PM:

Yeah, I'd drop that in derail territory. Context does matter a bit: I'm not the sort to go bug my neighbors unless they're doing something REALLY obnoxious, and I might well take "can you stop doing X" as a good opening to respond with "Sure, but can you stop doing Y?" The distinction here is that this is not actually a quid-pro-quo, it's two separate issues. (Though of course your diligence in refraining from annoying me is very likely to affect my diligence in return: I just ain't that worked up about making sure you get a good night's sleep when you can't be bothered to return the favor.)

The gripping hand is, stoners generally seem to have a very poor grasp on the difference between "things I, Stoner J, personally like" and "things that everyone in the world regards as universally good." I'm not sure why: drunks seem to be able to remember that not everyone is a drunk, and junkies are generally keenly aware that not everyone is a junkie, but try to tell a stoner that you're on your way to work and could they not smoke in the bus shelter and they get all confused and offended.

#139 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 08:02 PM:

hope in disguise #134: Yeah, this is why diagnoses are important.

I just had an accidental epiphany regarding work today myself.

The accident part: Due to my own flub, I came into work today apparently having forgotten that my boss (and implicitly myself) were supposed to be working Tuesday instead of Monday this week. Since I was already there, in the course of sorting out the above, I got permission to stick around and spend the day doing various backlogged jobs.

But... here's the thing. A normal day at work for me is seriously exhausting. Today, I sorted and weeded half the poetry and antiques section, then noticed that we'd acquired a new bookshelf in SF/F, which I promptly filled from the storeroom. (Yay, hardcover space!) Then I walked out... physically a little tired, but nowhere near as dazed and exhausted as I usually am after work.

The thing is, "normal" work for me includes a helluva lot of task-switching, among tasks such as sorting and pricing with Sandy, greeting and directing customers, shelving and weeding (lots of trips up and down stairs), and handling credit-card transactions. Today I got to stick to a single task for hours at a time, with little interaction with customers. (The guy manning the desk today can run the credit card stuff just fine....) Much easier than the usual routine!

#140 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2019, 11:39 PM:

Devin @138: try to tell a stoner that you're on your way to work and could they not smoke in the bus shelter and they get all confused and offended

It hasn't been all that long since that was a common reaction of a tobacco smoker under similar circumstances. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it's still the case in some locales.

#141 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2019, 08:54 AM:

#140, Joel Polowin, #138, Devin:

I wonder if that's because alcohol and other non-smoked drugs don't reach out and affect the people around you.

I mean, it wasn't all that long ago in the grand scheme of things that "secondhand smoke" was recognized as a problem with tobacco. I wonder how long it'll be before pot secondhand smoke is likewise recognized as a problem. (I mean, maybe it's less harmful than tobacco smoke? Or so pot smokers claim. But it's still combustion products and ash particulates, that can't be good for you.)

#142 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2019, 11:01 AM:

Devin @138: Thank you, your thinking matches mine pretty well. If I say, "Can you not [____]?" and you say, "Oh, sorry! Let me know if [____] is an issue again!", I am far more willing to put up with at least some [____]. But if you argue at me that it's your God Given Right to [____] (especially if it's specifically injurious to me), then I'm going to be much less tolerant.

this is not actually a quid-pro-quo

Thank you. I finally worked this out, too. My script if this comes up again will be, "I'm sorry if my cooking smells annoy you. We can negotiate about that if you want. But that's a different discussion."

As it happens, I went and bought a HEPA filter over the weekend (which may or may not be effective for this particular concern). But at the very least, I can run it while I'm cooking, so to at least take away that point of argument. (If it even works for that, which...maybe?)

The gripping hand is, stoners...

...Yeah, I got to thinking about that. Given their level of consumption, I remind myself that I'm not talking to the people so much as the drugs. And she's a demonstrated gaslighter. Our complex doesn't allow dogs, but when I went down to talk to them the third time, I heard a dog bark behind the door. When I asked, she straight-up lied to my face. "Nope! No dogs here!" So she appears to be whatchacallit, an "unreliable narrator."

But: Knock on wood, the VOC issue has been entirely tolerable since we had our most recent talk. So: ::crosses fingers:: sorted? Maybe?

Next up: breaking in the new upstairsians. So far, what I know them: a whole fleet (okay, three—but that seems like a lot for a two-bedroom apartment) of shiny black cars. o.0 Anyone wanna help me spin conspiracy theories? :D

the invisible one @141: But it's still combustion products and ash particulates, that can't be good for you.

...and also psychoactive. And allergenic.

#143 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2019, 01:22 PM:

invisible one @141: I wonder how long it'll be before pot secondhand smoke is likewise recognized as a problem. (I mean, maybe it's less harmful than tobacco smoke? Or so pot smokers claim. But it's still combustion products and ash particulates, that can't be good for you.)

It's already recognized, though the degree of harmfulness isn't clear. But many of the same carcinogenic substances are known to be there, along with other toxic compounds. It seems to me that for most purposes regarding involuntary exposure to smoke, the two should be treated the same.

Jacque @142: A HEPA filter will deal with particulates (because "high efficiency particulate air" filter). It'll take care of things like aerosolized oil from frying food, and smoke from whatever source. It's not likely to do much for odours from vaporized substances that aren't attached to particles, though if your filter system includes something like an activated-charcoal layer, that may help.

Perhaps your black-car neighbors are investigating your drug-using neighbors. :-)

#144 ::: the invisible one ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2019, 08:47 AM:

#143, Joel Polowin:

*Widely* recognized, as it finally is for tobacco. I'm sure that people who study these things know it. I don't even study it and I used simple logical connection. :p

But pot was recently legalized in my area, pot shops are popping up everywhere, and I have no idea if they have the health warnings that cigarettes have had on their packages for a few decades.

#142, Jacque:

I don't know if I'm allergic or not, but I have a pretty bad reaction to pot smoke myself. I've described it as "think of an asthma attack and you won't be too far off."

I hope your neighbours continue to keep the smoke down.

#145 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2019, 06:52 PM:

Someone who smokes twenty joints a day is some kind of champion pothead, so the volume of cannabis smoke is considerably smaller than it would be for a similar number of similarly-enthusiastic cigarette smokers. But I don't imagine the health effects are all that different for similar volumes: a little better or a little worse, but not wildly different.

Today's adventure in "having neighbors," presented for your amusement: apparently the folks across the street needed to do a little leafblowing at 10:30PM. I'm really not sure why: I can't personally imagine a circumstance that would require me to spend fifteen minutes with a leafblower at that time of night rather than just getting a broom... but I guess they found one. Fortunately, it was just fifteen minutes and my associate was only on her way to bed and not actually trying to sleep, so whatever.

#146 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2019, 05:27 PM:

Were my links too much text for the readers here to check out?

Dave Harmon @127: Nope. In the rest of that sentence, you make it clear that trying to "get your mother's approval" was strictly a setup. And still is, given that you're still self-blaming for not somehow managing to satisfy her demands.

Where did I go so badly wrong with my mother? Were her instructions a test of my initiative (I think when I first started posting on these threads I used a Prussian wargame analogy) where she was actually expecting me to disobey her and I was unable to figure that out (either due to my Asperger's or due to my guilt re her life situation)?

Or do you think that she has indeed been sabotaging my development towards independence not just since my dad's brain haemorrhage in 2012, but for 20 years or more? What reason would she have to do this (given that for most of this period I was 100% not a carer for any other family members – in fact before 2012 I hardly spent any time with my mother because I didn't want her to get too attached to me)? Was she looking at me as my sister's future carer even way back then? (And if so, why did she encourage me not just to go to university but to do a PhD? Did she really think I had a strong possibility of getting a job at my local university? I now realize that if a professor like my supervisor had something like 20 PhDs pass through his group during the course of his career, then only one of those PhDs would end up becoming a professor themselves, and the odds would be even longer for someone who is geographically immobile. One man who studied at the same time as me did his postdoc at a French-speaking Canadian university!)

Once when I bemoaned my lack of career success to my mother she said it wasn't my fault (putting it down to my Asperger's) and mentioned how I'd looked really nervous about a possible business trip alone during my PhD (which ended up being cancelled for reasons outside my control). Didn't it occur to her that my nervousness was actually simply because I had no experience of travelling long distances alone, for pleasure let alone for business purposes? (In fact, when my supervisor arranged for the group to go on the train to York – not work-related at all – my mother while letting me go clearly wasn't happy: she thought it was a waste of money!)

If my second interpretation of your comment is correct, does this mean that at least I no longer spend my time ruing that I didn't get out before 2012, because I would have still faced resistance from my mother even without the extra burden of my dad's disability? I suspect opposition (if it had existed, and given that an argument that I was needed at home would have been less plausible) would have been on the grounds that the money in the bank was mostly really hers not mine, as it was my grandfather's inheritance. However, I can hardly just ask her how she would have reacted as I feel I couldn't trust her to answer honestly, given how recently she denied a lot of the overprotective behaviours that prevented me from socializing at university as much as I would have liked.

#147 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2019, 07:03 PM:


Where did I go so badly wrong with my mother?

I was where you are, and I want to cry for you.

The conundrum I have seen you wrestle with from your earliest posts--which is like wrestling a drunken and amorous octopus because it has been present most likely since your earliest memories-- is this: Your mother doesn't want you to be a separate person whose mind, heart, and decision-making processes are not open books to her.

It does not matter why she wants to keep you entwined. It doesn't matter that she is most likely in awful emotional pain or that consuming you drop by drop keeps that pain at bay. It doesn't matter whether or not she deliberately does this or whether she's just reacting to OH GOD NO CODEMONKEY MIGHT LEAVE ME. She has picked the wrong solution to her troubles. And. There. Is. No. Way. For. You. To. Manage. Her. Emotions. So. That. She. Will. Let. You. Go.

That stuff that you ruminate on, the stuff you shoulda-coulda-woulda done? That's your brain trying to follow the pattern she set into it, the pattern of "I Manage Mother." You are her child. This is not supposed to be your job! (It's not supposed to be anybody's job, but that's a whole other rant I won't get into, because her issues? Hers. Not yours. You cannot achieve enlightenment for her.)

The point of you managing (absorbing, siphoning off, mirroring, suffering) her emotions while allowing her to manage (batten on, rain on, depress) yours is that you continue to do so. Asking how to make things go right WITH your mother is like asking how you can fly WHILE standing still. You have to pick one: things go right, or you continue orienting your life with regard to your mother.

The next step is a lulu. I know. You can only take it when you're ready...and you can't take your mother with you.

PS: Not all doors are physical. The one between your thoughts and your mother's ears should remain locked, with the deadbolt on your side of it.

#148 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2019, 09:13 PM:

@Codemonkey, I agree with Jenny Islander; I think due to your mother's influence, you're over-constraining your problem space. There's no solution to "Make Codemonkey happy" AND "Make Mother happy", and in fact I don't think "Make Mother happy" is attainable by you no matter what you do. It's not clear to me how much she's doing/has done intentionally, and how much is just the involuntary expression of her dysfunction, but either way it's not your responsibility to "save" her, no matter how much you wish you could.

On the subject of "View all by" (aka VAB), I'd be interested in helping if someone with access wants me to. I probably don't know all of the technology involved, but I'm sure I know some parts, and I've made a career of learning and fixing stuff like that (aka "git grep is my superpower").

#149 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2019, 02:47 AM:


I read your links. I guess I felt like you were owed an answer of appropriate scope and depth and I sure wasn't up to providing it, but: witnessing.

I don't think your mother was deliberately sabotaging you, and I don't think she was testing you either. I think she had, as Jenny says, some kind of emotional need/pain of her own and that the actions she took to try and fill that hole undermined you. "Undermined," rather than "sabotaged," because I think all along the story she wanted to live was that she was trying to help you be independent.

I'm also seeing a lot of... Well, her responses look awfully familiar to me. There's a lot of "I never told you not to do X, I just wanted to know when you would be back" that, well, I wasn't there and I might easily be projecting but I know I've lived where that was technically true but somehow, mysteriously, the message that I wasn't really supposed to be doing X and why did I insist on causing problems? got across very clearly anyhow.

Is it okay if I drop some advice about "having a social life?" Please please please say no if that sounds hlepy: there is a strong possibility that I am spotting something that looks like one of my roadblocks and assuming you share it... which maybe you do, but maybe not, and my solutions may not be much good for you.

And while I'm asking possibly-intrusive questions that you should feel free to ignore... Do you have a long-term... vision for your sister's care? Because that's one hole I noticed in your writing. Do you intend to take over as her primary caregiver? ("No, I'd be terrible at that and she deserves better" is an excellent answer to this question and would mark you as a wise and loving brother, if that's how it looks from your eyes! There are other ways you can love and care for her besides the exact pattern your parents set. "I don't know what I'll do; I feel like I need to get my own house in order before I can make those plans" is also a great answer. As is "my mother expects me to so right now the answer is 'fuck no' but I'm hoping to get to a place, eventually, where I can have a think about me and my sister without my mother's expectations mattering, and maybe I'll think differently then.")

#150 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2019, 08:23 AM:

Codemonkey in NE England: #146: Or do you think that she has indeed been sabotaging my development towards independence

Yes. Jenny Islander has explained than I could have, I'll just add that inconsistency is part of that package, and for us spectrum folks, that just makes it harder to deal with. It's not like she had (or has) a coherent, long-term scheme to bind you, some plan that you could sabotage and it would fall apart. It's just trying to push you into the image in her head of "Codemonkey will take care of the family, because I can't...".

She's just reacting to her own drives and impulses... mostly or often trying to hold on to you, but other times she's probably going "what am I doing to my kid?" and flailing at trying to "undo" -- but not effectively, because that's also a momentary impulse, not an actual plan based on real enlightenment.

#151 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2019, 01:26 PM:

@Codemonkey: Dave Harmon #150 made an excellent point. However, I would argue that once you figure out her pattern, your mother is completely consistent, and predictable. It's just that her pattern is not reality congruent.

I recommend Issendai's list of non-reality-based assumptions WRT relationships. While the overall site is about how some people feel driven to cut their parents completely out of their lives, this particular page simply spotlights the non-reality-based assumptions that may drive the behavior of difficult people. In particular:

If I’m attached to you, then you’re attached to me. You can’t consider yourself detached from me until I’ve detached from you.

Take a look at this page: Think about your relationship with your mother. Might any of these explain her relationship with you? Is it possible that, having been raised in that mindset, you also hold some of these beliefs?

THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT: If you spot some, don't show them to your mother. You can't, you can-not, reason her out of such beliefs. You can only decide what you are going to do in response to her actions. She has to want to change, which is a difficult, scary, and seemingly destructive * process. You can't change her, and you can't cause her to want to change.

* If you are fixing a house, you first have to make a huge mess by ripping out the old stuff. If you are eliminating pests in your kitchen, you have to pull everything out of the cupboards first. Change looks like destruction, at first glance.

#152 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2019, 12:08 AM:

Someone can be bad for you without wanting or trying to be bad for you. Which doesn't make it any easier to recognize sometimes. And even if someone is bad for you because they are hurting, that doesn't mean you have to endure their treatment or fix their pain, not in any order.

I'm going through a work-flavored Dys Day experience lately, and I am reminding myself that any staffing issues are not my problem.

#153 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 01:47 AM:

God Jesus I hate my brain.


Last night I was woken up by a nightmare so bad I could not tell my husband. I could not write it in my diary because one of the kids might have a fit of the snoops and be traumatized. I can't even record the details here because Jesus it's that bad.

And I thought, the entire time, that I was awake. Not even the kind of awake-dream that falls apart when you really do wake up. It felt absolutely plausible and reasonable when I was asleep and when I was awake it still felt real. It still felt like something you might read in a true crime book. I could see all of the steps that led to what happened in the dream.

And in the dream I, while feeling how absolutely rewarding and reasonable this was, did something so absolutely evil that if I had actually done it I would have lost my family, my freedom, every shred of respect, and all hope of redemption. I would have been unclean with it for life.

And while I have not had this exact dream before and please God never will again...this is not the first time I have had a dream that involved me doing something absolutely evil and (in the dream) believing that I had the right.

I have to sleep.

I am at least going to lie down, and try to think of something harmless and intricate.

I don't know what will happen. Please, God, just sleep.

Please God no more dreams.

#154 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 01:53 AM:

The worst part? For just a moment, at the end of the dream...I suspected that other people knew what I had done.

And for just a moment, as I woke up in bed...I thought the dream was actually my late-night wakeful mulling over something I had enjoyed and my thoughts about how to get out of the consequences of something I had actually done.

I can't. I have to stop talking about it now. I have to sleep.

I have to look my dream-victim in the face tomorrow.

Please no more dreams.

#155 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 07:58 AM:

#153-154: Witnessing your pain. Are you currently seeing a therapist? As far as your personal fault, goes, "it was just a dream" does cover -- you are definitely not responsible for stuff you do in dreams no matter how awful.

But "dreams disturbing enough to cause anguish" is a problem in its own right, and likely warrants professional assistance.

#156 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 10:03 AM:

@J, witnessing. <hugs> if welcome.

#157 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 10:45 AM:

@J, what Dave Harmon said. You are not responsible for your dreams, and you can't extrapolate from them to what you want to do, would do given the opportunity, etc. But dreams causing this level of misery would be appropriate for taking to a professional.


#158 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 10:48 AM:

J: Yow. That sounds harrowing. It sounds like the worst of it is that it shook your basic faith in yourself—?

#159 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 11:14 AM:

Thanks, all. A decent night's sleep and better hydration put me on a more even keel.

I have had dreams similar to this since I was eight years old and dreamed that I was planning to torture somebody to death in order to seal a bargain with a demon, sitting there sipping a martini(?!) next to this terrified man who was bound into a stress position and feeling not a shred of remorse. At least that one fell apart when I woke up enough to remember, "Hey, I don't believe in demon-summoning rituals," but I despised myself for much of my childhood for the person I had been while dreaming. I was also isolated, without emotional support other than a dog, and just generally a mess, so I endured that one alone.

I go years without a dream like this and start thinking, "Hey, therapy and self-care and maturation have finally put the kibosh on this crap!" and then BAM I get another one. Night before last was the worst one yet.

Last night I "just" dreamed that my husband behaved toward me in a way he never would and in response I said vile, vicious, hateful, violent things to him that I would never say even if I believed them in waking life, and worst of all our children were within earshot. Two in a row is a new one, but at least I was able to dismiss that one quickly.

I think I know why this stuff happens:

For various reasons, I read grown-ups' id-fic, as we call it these days, when I was much too young to cope with it (Lovecraft, Norman, etc.);

My memory is, unfortunately, highly retentive;

I have hyperempathy;

I have intrusive thoughts in waking life;

I have a very vivid imagination.

But I have never been shaken the way I was the other night. Yes, it made me fundamentally doubt myself, because, most of all, it was a completely realistic dream and I thought I was awake.

The further away I get from it, the more I realize that while I might have become such a person if I had made certain choices, that is true of anyone, and intrusive thoughts are not my fault even if they metastasize into ultra-vivid dreams.

#160 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 01:05 PM:

J - You have my sympathy. I have some idea of what you're experiencing. My most disturbing dreams are those in which I get pleasure from doing something violent that abhors me when I wake up. I then spend a couple of hours lying there, stewing: Is that the "real" me, when the brakes come off? If I were to drink alcohol, would that come out? If, later in life, I suffer from frontal dementia, will that be what I'm like?

Rationally, I know that this is almost certainly not the case. In an emergency, I have good reflexes -- or something -- to do the appropriate thing. When I see someone in pain, I don't have to think about trying to help; the higher-level thought that kicks in is "is it actually appropriate for me to try to intervene?" (And given how much time I've spent with Inge in hospital these last N years, there have been a lot of people I've seen in distress.) But that doesn't help much in the wee hours.

#161 ::: J ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 01:27 PM:

@160: Fistbump of rueful solidarity

Brains are just. The worst.

#162 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 02:37 PM:

J #159:

For various reasons, I read grown-ups' id-fic, as we call it these days, when I was much too young to cope with it (Lovecraft, Norman, etc.);
My memory is, unfortunately, highly retentive;
I have hyperempathy;
I have intrusive thoughts in waking life;
I have a very vivid imagination.

Well. "Cast thy bread upon the waters...". This rings strongly to parts of my own experience... in my case it doesn't appear as dreams, but I think I did take damage from reading various inappropriate things as a young child.

#163 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2019, 03:28 PM:

J: If that was me, I'd be eyeing the day before I'd had that dream, looking for emotional energy that rhymed with the upsetting dream. My particular "demon" is my faith in my ability to support myself. When I get those dreams, I've learned to go look for something in the previous day that provoked that worry. "Trigger" is an excellent term.

My dream is weirdly elegant, because whenever I wake up from one of these, I always review my life as an adult, and remember that I can support myself, and always have.

I wonder if your brain is responding to anxiety about your conduct, and trying to remind you (in its inept, inarticulate fashion) that this is not the kind of person you are?

#164 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2019, 10:24 PM:

It's the equinox again, and to all who celebrate this day, I wish you peace.

#165 ::: Angiportus Librarysaver ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2019, 11:46 AM:

J, Dave Harmon: I too was occasionally upset by something I read, when I was young, but the worst was when I was 14. We were visiting parents' friends and there was one of those dirty books that kids under 21 aren't supposed to read. I decided to take a peek at what I then thought would be my future--bad move. The very first episode wound up with one partner being injured to the point of screaming, bleeding, and so on, and this was considered normal in that story. I was scared out of a year's growth, and my parents--who prided themselves on how liberal and progressive they thought they were, and how they didn't censor my reading--just waved my concerns aside. I dreaded anyone hurting me and I didn't want to hurt someone else (innocent). It was a very rough couple of years, until I found something in that desolate town that was nice. And realized I was an ace arrow. But I never did get over running onto a sex scene that turns into a bloodbath, however it is explained, and I guess it's just one of a million or so reasons I didn't have kids, to have to nurse one thru the aftereffects of reading something like that. No one should be hurt in bed, when life already serves up enough first aid lessons.
There are lots of scenes of torture, abuse, rape, bullying etc that I skip over if I can, and all I can say is thanks to whoever invented content/trigger warnings. And thanks to all the rest of you who listen.

#166 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2019, 05:57 AM:

OK, now that I've copied my VHS tapes of Alec Baldwin's "Nuremberg" to DVD on my dad's recorder (my own VHS/DVD recorder had bitten the dust a few weeks back, and I couldn't just buy it on DVD as I couldn't find it at a reasonable price: perhaps its rarity on DVD was the reason I'd bought it on VHS in the first place!) I have well and truly entered the post-VHS era!

I've also sent to a charity shop the CD/DVD-ROMs (about half of my collection, mostly games) that I didn't want any more. I currently still have a long way to go decluttering-wise, but would getting rid of everything that I wouldn't want to take with me to a place of my own give me more credibility with my mother if/when I bring up again the dreaded issue of Moving Out?

Jenny Islander @147: The conundrum I have seen you wrestle with from your earliest posts--which is like wrestling a drunken and amorous octopus because it has been present most likely since your earliest memories-- is this: Your mother doesn't want you to be a separate person whose mind, heart, and decision-making processes are not open books to her.

I am aware of this – the fact that my mother also seems to be very proud of the fact that she made her life an open book for her own parents just seemed to clinch this – but I have this voice in the back of my head saying to me "how can you be so cruel to your mother that you don't want her to know what you're doing with your life?" I also wonder what the hell I must have done wrong to make my mother so clingy in the first place: what do normal young adults do to convince their parents they are capable of living independently, that I overlooked?

Given my mother's obvious fears regarding my living alone, was I wrong in my own belief (which I'd held pretty much since my teens) that my fraught family situation meant that seeking a relationship was a fool's errand as long as I was living with my parents? While at university, I also though seeking a relationship was pointless because anyone I got involved with would be very likely to end up in a different part of the UK to myself after graduation. One reason I bring this up is that a few months back I was visibly upset (due to envy) when I heard someone talking of their recent wedding – on seeing this my line manager asked me why I didn't register on some dating sites to try to find a partner, but I thought my home situation would prove prohibitive (or worse, that I let myself get too old for online dating, even though I look a lot younger than my age).

Jeremy Leader @148: I had to look up the "git grep" you mentioned, as my work currently involves creating tools that interface with the company's Gitlab repository (though I hadn't heard of that particular command!)

#167 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2019, 12:35 PM:

Codemonkey in NE England @166: give me more credibility with my mother if/when I bring up again the dreaded issue of Moving Out?

I have/had the very deep pleasure of watching a truly wonderful/remarkable friend grow from a whip-smart, kind and loving young student to solid, fully-growed-up adult. One of the transitions that was particularly fascinating to watch was his relationship with his father who, even after Friend was fully out on his own, making his own living, was still trying to "parent" Friend. For the first, let's call it eight years of our acquaintance, Friend was still trying to win his father's approval for his rather-different-than-his-father's way in the world.

The day I could tell Friend had Grown Up was the day he and his father had this exchange:

Father: "I was just reading your website. I have some comments. Would you like to hear them?"

Friend: "If they're positive and supportive, sure!"

Father: *crickets*

Friend had stopped seeking approval. Friend had stopped needing approval. Friend's relationship with his father changed fundamentally from that moment forward. But not because of any shift in the father's attitude.

You don't have to have credit with your mother. From everything you've said, you'll never get credit with your mother. Because she likes things the way they are, and has no incentive to change.

Captain Awkward has three posts on strategies for managing/deflecting weaponized parental worry:

The only person whose approval is required to change your situation is you. It sounds like your biggest obstacle is your own feelings. It's entirely reasonable to need/want help making that shift, and I salute your ongoing efforts: in talking it out (here, and also, do you have access to therapy?), changing your physical circumstances by decluttering, and so on.

I also recognize that this is incredibly hard when you want to do right by the people close to you. (And not for nothing, when the people you care about are running an active sabotage campaign against your efforts.*) And to follow through on responsibilities you want to meet. I wonder if you might benefit from doing some deep thinking about what responsibilities towards your family have been pushed on you, versus responsibilities you feel you want to take on.** This, it sounds to me, is the crucial distinction you're struggling with.

But from where I sit, it seems to me that the biggest hill to climb is to cease to require your mother's permission. The only "credit" you need to move forward with your goals is your own.

Good luck, and good strength.

* However unconscious or well-meaning that campaign might be.

** And by that I mean, responsibilities you want to take on, and what responsibilities you can reasonably take on. I'd lay a bet that the first set is going to be larger than the second set.

#168 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2019, 12:10 PM:

@Codemonkey no. 166: Young adults from upbringing other than yours do not convince their parents to allow them to leave. They just leave. No permission is required. No approval is required.

Also, off something Jacque said @167: Even if your mother doesn't like the way things are, but is least upset by keeping things the way they are, she has no incentive to change.

And you can't give her that incentive, or help her find it, or help her be happy, or get her to see things your way, or get her permission.

And if you just leave, without even telling her beforehand? I mean, yeah, that would be rude, but it would also be leaving. Anyway, if you leave, and she is very upset and is unable to do things?

That's not your cue to go back. Or even to answer the phone.

If she really cannot conduct her own life without derailing yours, then she needs help that you cannot give, help that you cannot cause her to want.

#169 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 03:49 AM:

Jenny Islander @168: Young adults from upbringing other than yours do not convince their parents to allow them to leave. They just leave. No permission is required. No approval is required.

Whoa there, are you telling me that my mother's super-clingy behaviour is actually normal and that most young adults essentially have to fight their way out of their family homes?

Couldn't buy that, especially when when I was at university the overwhelming majority of my fellow students were not living with their parents...

#170 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 07:21 AM:

Codemonkey at 169:
I'd interpreted Jenny Islander's point the opposite way than that- people from most families don't have to "convince their parents to allow them to leave" because the parents assume that the children will leave.

For example, I didn't have to request permission to leave home, or seek approval from my parents for leaving- they simply assumed that I would go to university away from home, and that when I left university I would get a job in a different city; through my teens they taught me skills that would prepare me for that independence. (This is partly a middle-class thing, of course, but my working-class schoolmates also had parents who expected that they would leave the parental house when they became adults.)

#171 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 10:40 AM:

@Codemonkey no. 169: Jen Birren no. 170 is correct. Young adults who were not brought up the way you were brought up, i.e. the majority of young adults, just leave, because their parents assume that this is going to happen. The only condition that must be met before they can leave is legal majority. Most parents do not imagine that their own emotional readiness or approval have anything to do with it. They may have big feelings about their little 'uns leaving home, or serious doubts about whether they are really ready to do so, but they recognize that these issues are purely personal and do not put them on their children. Because even if the adult children flounder at first, they are, in fact, ready to leave, because adults. And if the parents cannot survive without some other adult helping at home, they do everything they can to make that adult not be their own adult child.

#172 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 10:53 AM:

One thing that I noticed is that when (in my teens and early 20s) I asked my mother to teach me various skills that I'd need for independent living, she'd always answered "what do you MEAN you want me to SHOW you how to do X? NOBODY showed ME how to do X – I just figured out how to do it for myself!"

I'd love to know what she actually meant by this (as I'm not sure how to ask her in a way that would lead to an honest response):

1. Did she mean that she couldn't be bothered to show me step by step how to do these tasks, and it was my fault for failing to phrase my requests correctly? (What I actually meant by her "showing me how to do" a task is that she'd ask me to do it at a convenient time, and stand by to pick up the mistakes I made...)
2. Did she mean that she only learned how to do these tasks after moving out (although it would be unlikely given that she lived with her parents until marriage) and that I was wrong for expecting that she wouldn't let me leave until I'd demonstrated my competence to live independently?
3. Did she mean that she didn't think me capable of living independently, because that doesn't just mean knowing how to do household tasks, but knowing how to determine when they need to be done?
4. Or had she already decided even then that she didn't want me to move out, and she was intentionally keeping me ignorant to dissuade me from getting ideas?

#173 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 11:01 AM:

@Codemonkey no. 172: You're focusing on your mother again. Focus on yourself. Not yourself through the lens of your mother. Just yourself.

She meant, "I am an inadequate parent, whether or not I recognize it, and don't want to do the work of change; also, I never did the hard work of accepting that my own inadequate upbringing was not an inevitable fact of life, that my family of origin could have done better but didn't." Further explication is irrelevant and a waste of your energy and time.

#174 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 11:26 AM:


Following up on what Jenny Islander said, you have to focus on yourself as yourself, not through the lens of your mother. Think of her as an unreliable narrator of your situation. There are often times where viewing the situation from someone else's perspective and varying your approach will help, but I don't think this is one of them. I do not think anything you can do will change her into the supportive parent you deserved but didn't get. You can certainly view her with compassion, because it sounds like her background was rough and the situation with your sister is overwhelming. But no amount of contorting yourself to meet her demands will fix that situation. It can only, in the long run, break you.

#175 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 11:28 AM:

@173, Your mother was telling you (whether she meant to tell you or not) that she couldn't be bothered to do the basic work of being a parent. The JOB of a parent is to prepare their children for independent living. She excused her inadequacies as a parent by citing her own poor upbringing.

However, there's another unintended message there. She managed without training. SO CAN YOU. Take THAT message to heart, and ignore the rest.

Whatever your mother may think, and whatever she may have told you, in modern Western cultures, GROWN CHILDREN DO NOT NEED TO ASK PERMISSION TO LEAVE THEIR PARENTS' HOME AND SET UP THEIR OWN. Grown children are EXPECTED to leave their parents' home, absent very specific, rare circumstances.

I hope this helps and is not hlepy.

#176 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 12:30 PM:

It's also worth noting that in this glorious 21st century we are living in, there are instructions findable online for just about everything. I'd heard the phrase "hospital corners" but nobody ever actually showed me how to make a bed properly: so I looked it up.

And let me add my voice to this chorus: Codemonkey, you do not need your mother's permission to move out and make your own life. (Which is good, because it sounds like you're not ever going to actually get it.)

#177 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 01:34 PM:

@Codemonkey, re David Goldfarb no. 176: Indeed! My own mother just sort of expected that I would always be there, like a houseplant, and also assuaged her own guilt over something not relevant to this discussion by excusing me from all chores forever at a very young age. The upshot is that she taught me no practical skills. I had to learn them out of books--but I did learn them out of books, making some hilarious mistakes along the way.

Nowadays you don't even have to find a book. If you need to know how to do anything from gracefully ending a conversation to unclogging a sink, there are how-to guides and discussions all over the Web. No wonder so many of us auties are online!

And the people who post them won't expect you to handle their Stuff for them.

#178 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 01:48 PM:

To the emotional-support stuff offered above (which I agree with), I'll also suggest that the stuff that your mother "figured out on her own" might not be correct. I've met several adults who weren't taught how to use washing machines correctly, so as to actually get the clothes clean -- literally didn't know how to load the machine. (And also weren't alert enough to read the instructions printed on the inside of the washing machine lid.) I know one guy who had a small fire because he didn't know he needed to clean the lint out of the clothes drier vent from time to time. I'll second David Goldfarb's suggestion to look things up online.

#179 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 05:18 PM:

A small case study: I went to school an hour's drive away from home (and I did not drive, nor did we have an extra car). Therefore, I lived at school but came home for the summers. I also came home to live with my mother after graduation until I found a place of my own.

I did not ask permission to move away, either freshman year or after school. It was the obvious thing in both cases and I simply assumed I would be supported in it. When it was time for me to Move Out For Good I just told my mom I'd found a place and the only ensuing discussion was logistical: when I was moving and what sort of help I might need with the move.

The only time I made a bid for parental approval was when I wanted to move off-campus after living in school housing. And there, my argument consisted entirely of establishing that it would be cheaper and that it was viable: I showed my dad the numbers and told him that lots of other students did the same thing. There was no discussion of whether I would be able to manage this. It was assumed that I would figure it out, or perhaps that I would screw some things up and then figure it out (indeed I did!).

It didn't even occur to me that I would need to prove that I was competent to live independently. I knew I wasn't 100% competent and that I'd need to figure some of it out, but it was so deeply ingrained that this was an endeavor my parents expected of me that I neither said I was ready nor was I asked.

#180 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 09:16 PM:

Specific advice for learning to cook: go to a library and look for children's cookbooks. They don't assume the reader has any knowledge or experience to start with. I like the "Easy Menu Ethnic Cookbooks" series:

#181 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2019, 10:46 PM:

Codemonkey, this might be a weird data point, but my last job was working as a paraeducator with disabled young adults. We expected, and the vast majority of parents expected, that all of them would move out of their parents' houses at some point. Not all of them moved into completely independent living, particularly not the ones I worked with, but it was still baseline expected that Adults Move Out. From there, it was a matter of figuring out what accommodations had to be made and what skills developed.

You can develop the skills. You would, if something horrible happened and left you alone. Anyone who tells you you can't function on your own is flat wrong. It's an apartment, not Hatchet.

#182 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 06:33 AM:

Jenny Islander @168: Instead of saying "no permission is required", wouldn't "permission comes automatically on legal majority" have been a less ambiguous way to say what you were trying to get across?

Once I recognize that my mother's attitude towards my moving out is indeed not normal, that just leads to the question "what the hell did I do wrong to make my mother cling to me the way she is doing?"

Jen Birren @170: What do you think of the hypothesis that a significant number of the votes for Brexit and for Trump were from parents who resented their offspring for leaving the locality? I just thought I'd bring it up because my mother voted for Brexit while I voted Remain. I suspect in hindsight that it wasn't surprising I failed to change her mind beforehand (especially given that both her parents voted Out in the 1975 referendum) but she now regrets her vote given the chaos it has unleashed in Britain.

Jenny Islander @173, OtterB @174: I know full well that my mother is an unreliable narrator – the fact that earlier this year she denied that she'd ever engaged in the controlling/snooping behaviour (that deterred me from socializing more while at university) just confirmed it for me – not to mention that her denial also shows that (at least now) she knows that she was wrong to engage in such behaviour. (Why did she do it then if she knew it was wrong? Was she compelled to by her fears?)

It's interesting though that you label her as unsupportive: she often recounts proudly that when I was a baby the medical profession was claiming that I'd never even be able to attend a mainstream school, but that she (and I) proved them wrong as I didn't just succeed outstandingly at school, but also learned to drive and went to university! It seems like she's only been unsupportive in the single area of my moving out, and I'm desperate to understand why so I can hopefully do something about it!

Diatryma @181: You can develop the skills. You would, if something horrible happened and left you alone. Anyone who tells you you can't function on your own is flat wrong. It's an apartment, not Hatchet.

I know I can develop whatever skills I currently lack: the skills question is really more about reassuring my mother than anything else.

On the subject of her fears, I'm also wondering why about two weeks ago she went out of her way to show me a ten-minute clip about knife crime in the city where I work? Was she showing me it to encourage me to come straight home after work and not consider doing any evening social activities (now that she's admitted she can't actually forbid me from doing such), or was she (more optimistically) acknowledging that I won't be living with her for the rest of her life, and trying to push me towards a safer place to live (which I'd read as "more rural" – she's very much a country mouse and would find living in even a small city extremely stressful)?

She also brought up my cousin again: he's now flat-sharing in the city where I work and has a job in technical support (which supposedly pays more than my own job, though I'm sceptical on that score), but strangely he sleeps over at his dad's bungalow every weekend, and she suggested that the only reason he flat-shares at all is because he hasn't learnt to drive. (Is she implying that she believes that if my cousin could drive he would move back in with his dad permanently and commute, rather than find a place of his own outside the city? If not, then why mention his weekend sleep-overs at all, and wouldn't there be plenty of places outside the city but much nearer than his dad's place, and with good public transport access to the city?)

She also described how as a teenager she believed that losing weight would solve her problems, only to find that actually didn't make her any happier, and warned me not to develop a similar belief in moving out as a panacea: in that vein she also mentioned that my cousin still hadn't got into a relationship, and that the only time he (briefly) had a girlfriend was when he still lived with his parents full-time!

Also hearing my mother describe (when bringing up the weight loss issue) how she was bullied at school and couldn't seem to make friends causes me to think back to GlendaP's suggestion on the Shooting and Shouting thread that maybe she's on the autism spectrum herself: Is there any test I could give her (that would be applicable for a carer leading a highly restricted life, and also not obviously a test for autism) that I could give her to check out this possibility?

#183 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 08:45 AM:

"No permission is required" seems like the most accurate phrasing to me. Just as it would be inaccurate to say "your boss automatically gives you permission to go to the park any time outside working hours," because your boss's feelings are completely irrelevant to the question of whether it's okay for you to go to the park.

You didn't do anything wrong to cause your mother to make the choices she makes. They're her choices. She owns them. (Likewise, many Trump voters were motivated by racism. This does not mean that racialized Americans should have found ways to "be less ethnic" because 1. that's wrong and 2. it would never have worked anyway.)

You are spending an enormous amount of thought on why your mother does this or that, and how you can change her mind. What if you stopped? What if you just spent some time thinking about what might be best for you? (Or your dad, or your sister?) And about the possibility that you might do the things that you judge best even if she says something else would be better? She'd have feelings about your decisions, but those would be her feelings and, as a grown-up, it would be her responsibility to manage those feelings (and not your responsibility).

Just for a specific, minor example: what if her possible autistic-spectrum status was her business and not yours? What if you weren't required to either a) try and screen her, or b) keep her from learning that you think she might be on the spectrum? What if you could just say "hey mom, ever wonder if you might be on the spectrum? You could get screened if you wanted" and that was all you owed her, neither dancing around the subject nor trying to diagnose nor managing her feelings about any possible diagnosis or non-diagnosis?

I wish I thought her "losing weight wasn't a magic bullet" speech was meant to help you instead of just to keep you close. It's a good point: moving out is the beginning (or a beginning) of the process, not the end. But I think her moral-of-the-story is "just don't bother," not "don't stop there."

#184 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 09:23 AM:

Codemonkey @182, Once I recognize that my mother's attitude towards my moving out is indeed not normal, that just leads to the question "what the hell did I do wrong to make my mother cling to me the way she is doing?"

The answer is you did absolutely nothing wrong. This is on her, not on you. She doesn't want you to leave, and it doesn't matter what you do or say, that is not going to change.

Let me repeat: you did nothing wrong.

There might be a clue in that speech you relay about doctors saying you won't be independent when you were an infant. Perhaps she's internalized that to the point that she can't not believe it, no matter what the evidence is to the contrary. But that's still not your fault.

#185 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 10:19 AM:

Codemonkey, an example of permission not being needed: when I was 30, I decided to move in with my boyfriend without marrying him first. The information I gave my parents was, "I am moving in with my honey." I did not discuss this with them beforehand, or solicit opinions or approval. I stated it as what would happen, and it did.

What would happen if you just ... moved out? Found a place, packed your stuff, and moved? Told your mother this is what is happening, (just before it happened) and left? You will never get her permission or approval, so take action without it to get what you want.

Your mother has raised you so that her reactions, fears, and desires dominate your thoughts and reactions, and are given more weight in your mind than your fears and desires. You should be as important to yourself as she is to you.

#186 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 10:25 AM:

@Codemonkey, addendum: The people who described their just moving out? It is very possible, indeed probable, that their parents were upset or did not think they were ready. It is equally probable that the posters did not know it then and may even still not know it. Because their parents' feelings and opinions had zero bearing on the decisions of their adult children, and those parents recognized that, and therefore did not reveal their feelings or opinions to their adult children.

Your mother's permission and approval are irrelevant. She has trained you to see them as relevant, but they aren't.

Also, you don't make her do stuff or not do stuff, because she too is an adult.

#187 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 10:47 AM:

Codemonkey #182: As far as the "stuff she's showing you"... that looks to me like she's trying to raise your anxiety level to discourage you from striking out on your own. If not simply trying to infect you with her own fears.

As far as autism, she might indeed be on the spectrum... but the thing is, at this point, it doesn't matter. At this point, her compensations are baked-in; the personality she developed is one that's pulled the world in around herself -- and she's trying to keep you in there with her. You need to think, plan, develop for yourself, and that includes breaking out of her enclosed world.

#188 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 10:52 AM:

I can't "just move out" because I have enough stuff (partly because my mother gets a huge amount of pleasure out of buying me things, and gets very upset if I tell her I don't want anything) that moving out would be a major undertaking logistically – why do you think I'm trying to declutter at the moment?

#189 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 11:32 AM:

Question: What would happen if you abandoned the stuff? Not being rhetorical here; can you envision the outcome if you, without telling anybody or discussing it with anybody or asking anybody to approve of it, left without most of the stuff and, when asked about it, said, "I don't want it anymore, do as you like with it?" Is that outcome tolerable?

#190 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 02:35 PM:

codemonkey: You have a lot of questions/guesses/inferrences about what your mother thinks, feels, and wants. Have you ever actually asked her about any of these things?

#191 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2019, 10:36 PM:

Codemonkey: regarding all the *stuff* - I, too, was given many, many things. And I, too, was functionally forbidden to refuse any of them. In fact, every time I tried to declutter, I got the guilt trip of plausible deniability - she wasn't telling me what to do with the things, she was just making sure I thought about how awful I'd feel when I got rid of them. Let me tell you, it's SUCH a relief to be able to give away a shirt I don't like, or to say "no thank you" to gifts I don't want...

Right now, the stuff seems to be a fairly effective anchor holding you in place. Your mother, like mine, has every interest in keeping you at home and no interest whatsoever in you moving out/becoming an independent adult, no matter what she claims.

You should have seen the fireworks when I declared (yes, declared - I'd spent the past 10 years asking permission) I was moving out. You also should have seen how quickly she took over my new apartment and made it functionally hers.

Not saying this is what you need to do, but the thing that finally allowed me to learn what boundaries are (and probably got my new marriage off to a MUCH better start) was moving to a city too far away to drive to easily. For two years. This may feel extreme to you, but you are (and I was) in a fairly extreme situation.

At the very least, consider moving out with only the stuff that (to invoke Marie Kondo) brings you joy.

#192 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2019, 07:35 AM:

Codemonkey@ 182:
"What do you think of the hypothesis that a significant number of the votes for Brexit and for Trump were from parents who resented their offspring for leaving the locality?"

I think I don't have an informed opinion. It's not a motivation I've seen mentioned, but it makes sense- maybe as a sole reason for voting for Brexit, or (what seems intuitively more likely to me) as part of a worldview that made it more likely for a person to vote that way.

But I don't have the data on what people said were their reasons, and there isn't any data on people's unexpressed reasons!

#193 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2019, 10:35 AM:

I think, @Codemonkey, that your proper focus right now is not Brexit or your mother or being Correct about disposing of your stuff. You're focusing on connections. Try focusing on nodes instead. Specifically, the node that is you. Not you in relationship to your mother or your stuff or as part of a class of persons whose parents may have done something dumb in the past. Just, you. What you, personally, without reference to anybody or anything else, need and want.

It isn't selfish. I promise.

#194 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 03:30 AM:

Codemonkey @188: seconding Jenny Islander @189, why not move out with what you can reasonably take? For the rest, either you move it to your own place gradually, or your mother disposes of it if she really wants to.

Note: it's normal for someone moving out to their own place to leave some stuff in the family home initially and move it to their own place gradually. I certainly didn't take everything when I first moved into one room of a shared house. Heck, I'm in my early 50s, I've been in my own place for 20-something years, and there are still bits and pieces of my childhood stuff that I'm now being encouraged (due to my stepmother decluttering) to bring away with me and make the decision to keep/throw/give to a charity shop! Similarly my husband had some stuff (e.g. old skiing gear) that was stored in his parents' loft until they downsized a couple of years ago.

(Many people might move everything sooner, but it doesn't have to be 'everything now' unless she's not going to let you back in the house to collect more later. In which case, so be it.)

#195 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 07:27 AM:

Codemonkey #188 -> dcb #194:

dcb: Note: it's normal for someone moving out to their own place to leave some stuff in the family home initially and move it to their own place gradually.

Well, this is true for normal move-outs. I hate to be the one to say it, but: When someone escapes a controlling or abusive family (and your mother is at least controlling!), it's not unheard of for the parent to retaliate against the escapee's remaining possessions; holding them hostage if not throwing them away or destroying them outright.

Rather than "decluttering", I advise you to think in terms of choosing core possessions that you absolutely want to keep, and take those with you. How much stuff fits in that category will depend on your practicalities of how you are actually leaving -- that is, are you going to be filling a car, van, or a moving truck? Happily, I get the sense that you can at least do better than "whatever you can carry as you sneak out", but some folks do get stuck with that. (And now I'm thinking of a sometime regular here. :-( )

#196 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 11:27 AM:

@Codemonkey: I agree with Dave Harmon no. 195. I do not want to emphasize the potential unpleasantness of your moving "imperfectly" (with stuff left behind, with Big Feelings in your wake, etc.), but it is possible that you will have to endure some emotionally gross stuff in order to move. And that may include accepting that things that carry emotional resonance will no longer be in your life.

People who are desperate to maintain a level of contact with you that you no longer want may indeed hold some of your stuff hostage, because if you have to keep talking to them about when and where and how you will finally get your stuff...then you're talking to them. Cut the Gordian knot by accepting that you'll never have that stuff again/will never be able to dispose of it properly.

And don't explain what you're doing. Scripts:

"I don't want it anymore; do with it what you think best. I don't need to know what that is."

"I already told you that I don't want it anymore and you should do with it what you think best, without discussing it with me."

"We've had this conversation. How's the weather?"

#197 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 12:26 PM:

Apropos Jenny Islander #196: Cut the Gordian knot by accepting that you'll never have that stuff again/will never be able to dispose of it properly.

I'll qualify that: It's by no means certain you'll lose what you leave behind -- but for all the reasons we've mentioned, you need to accept that you may lose it. Aside from being able to face the worst case, that acceptance denies your mother so much leverage over you.

#198 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2019, 03:24 PM:

In the category of a Casablanca-style "I am shocked, shocked!" - research recently published shows that children who were lied to by their parents grow up to lie more, and have trouble adjusting to adulthood challenges.

Science Daily summary here

"Adults who reported being lied to more as children, were more likely to report lying to their parents in their adulthood. They also said they faced greater difficulty in meeting psychological and social challenges. Adjustment difficulties include disruptiveness, conduct problems, experience of guilt and shame, as well as selfish and manipulative character."

Thought this would resonate with at least some of the denizens of this thread...

#199 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2019, 10:54 PM:

Chickadee: Similarly, ISTR reading that kids whose parents behave in a reliable, trustworthy manner tend to fare better with the marshmallow test.

#200 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2019, 10:09 AM:

Jacque@199: Rather. :/

Unrelated: Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend. Not nearly as big a deal as the original DFD, but still...

I'd been down, quiet, withdrawn - generally dreading Sunday. Awesome Spouse helped me to draw out what in particular I'm afraid of. Finally I realized that I was afraid I'd somehow ruin the day - that because of me it wouldn't "go well." We pulled out the definition of "go well." In the end, it involved my extended family not being racist or classist or any other sort of ist - or failing that (because truly, not going to happen), me being sweet and happy and not reacting *at all* to any of it.

Definition of setting myself up for failure, right? I'm not nearly as afraid of Sunday as I was, though still not *happy* about the event.

Putting this out there for anyone else who might be getting caught in that particular trap for upcoming family events.

#201 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2019, 10:59 AM:

Chickadee #200, kudos to you and Awesome Spouse for pinpointing the reason for dread and being able to redefine success.

#202 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2019, 11:21 AM:

@Chickadee, best wishes for a Not Awful Thanksgiving.

#203 ::: lasslisa ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2019, 03:10 AM:

@Codemonkey, sometimes people don't have perfect reasonable and consistent reasons for their actions. When you asked why she showed you an article about knife crime, my thought was this: "Because she had seen it, and was anxious, and sharing her anxiety with you reduced the bad feeling she was having". Maybe she enjoyed feeling like a caring parent who wants to make sure you're aware of everything, maybe she is afraid or anxious - lots of us get scary messages from our parents like "are you sure it's safe to walk to your car in the dark? What if you get mugged?" and it's about their fears, not about a logical and accurate assessment of us or our living situation. Maybe she was just offloading it: she was going to worry all night until she knew that *you* were worrying instead so she didn't have to.

The point is that whatever the reason, it is inside of her. It isn't because of something she's seeing about you that you just don't realize and need to solve. It isn't probably even some grand intentional plan. We are all basically pigeons with levers, at the most basic psychological level. If something has given a reward in the past, it's likely we'll keep doing it, without noticing or planning or even thinking about why. Sometimes the best thing we can do is give up on understanding another person perfectly and instead just shrug and say "oh, that's so Mom."

Also. As a parent, your greatest fear is for your child's safety. Seeing them take risks, even risks that are necessary to make them happy independent adults, is hard. Good parents suppress that and get past it. Less good parents push their kids into "sure thing" degrees they hate, or scare them out of traveling, or encourage them to marry for money, or forbid them from pursuing hobbies they love, or set an impossibly high bar for when the child will be allowed to make their own decisions.

#204 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2019, 11:34 AM:

One thing I really hate about family gatherings is how my mom is a survival-chameleon.* I get it - I was one, to a large degree. (through her training, granted) But it's still painful. Especially around people who dislike or disdain those who aren't like them. And she doesn't see that disdain as something to counter, or even as what hurt her so badly when she first married my dad - she joins in!

Thank goodness for the cats being shut downstairs (to keep them out of the food on the kitchen table), so I had the excuse of going to comfort the kitties. Also, the excuse of clearing the table and loading the dishwasher between supper and dessert. Awesome spouse handles it better than I do, but even he escaped to the kitchen to help me wash dishes... Oh, and we couldn't even escape politics. Yay kitties in the basement...

Note: there were genuinely good parts. Like when we were all talking about how good the food was, or when we were talking about safe/neutral topics.

In any case, it is over.

re: lasslisa #203: "Less good parents ... scare them out of traveling, ... or set an impossibly high bar for when the child will be allowed to make their own decisions." It me. Codemonkey, it's a trap. And for me, it took being forcibly removed to a different city (spouse's grad school requirements) for me to even see it.

*takes on the views and opinions of the perceived powerful around them, and talks as if those have always been their views. See my mom around people who think all men in turbans are scary terrorists, vs. my mom talking to me. Also, sadly, see Mom slagging her *friend* to join in the mockery of a certain group of people. :(

#205 ::: Chickadee ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2019, 12:30 PM:

Correction to the preview: I knew darn well it was a trap before I moved out. I just thought it was an inescapable one. It's not - it's just very, very hard.

#206 ::: Codemonkey in NE England ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2019, 04:38 AM:

Devin @183: Just for a specific, minor example: what if her possible autistic-spectrum status was her business and not yours? What if you weren't required to either a) try and screen her, or b) keep her from learning that you think she might be on the spectrum? What if you could just say "hey mom, ever wonder if you might be on the spectrum? You could get screened if you wanted" and that was all you owed her, neither dancing around the subject nor trying to diagnose nor managing her feelings about any possible diagnosis or non-diagnosis?

The reason why I'm wondering whether my mother is on the autism spectrum is that one of the things that I'm finding especially depressing is seeing work colleagues marrying and having children of their own, even though when I first started posting on these threads (over 6 years ago) I believed it would be better if I didn't have children due to the risk of having a disabled child like my sister. If her situation (and mine to a lesser extent) resulted from the genetic misfortune of having two parents on the spectrum, then that would suggest that I could minimize it by ensuring that any partner was as neurotypical as possible.

Incidentally, when taking my mother for shopping last Saturday I told her again how depressed I felt still having to live with her, and this time she responded "don't you realize how vulnerable you are? (because of my Asperger's)" and pointed me to a recent case where a teenager's clumsy attempt to make a friend resulted in a sexual assault conviction.

I guess fears like this may explain why she talked me out of going to that dance class over 7 years ago: she also told me on Saturday that when I was diagnosed (at the age of 10) her whole world fell apart as it meant I would almost certainly never marry or have children – seeing people posting on the Carers UK thread (which I linked to further up) that this isn't necessarily an insuperable obstacle, plus my awareness that my mother suspects my own father was also on the spectrum (if it didn't stop him, why should it stop me when I have various advantages over him: being far better educated for one) is just making me feel even worse!

Surely the main obstacle to improving my life is not my Asperger's but my mother's overprotective behaviour?

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