I've seen this with my mom as it relates to me. When she is not interacting with me, I do not exist, my life without her doesn't really exist. Kind of like when we were kids and trying to see if the light in the fridge really goes off when we close it (ala Schroedingers Cat) She acknowledges it must, but does not believe it. Like reading a book, watching a movie or being the only player in a video game. When you close the book, just off the movie or pause that video game you can continue to live & exist, but those characters you were interacting with stay in stasis until you return to them.
The life I have led in other countries, the clothes I wear when I am in the office, the people I interact with on a daily basis, the friends I made outside my home town, do not exist except through our email/phone/in person conversations. They are as real to her as characters in a book. That's why I can have a shirt I've owned for five years and she can see me wear it and say, "Oh, is that a new shirt, I've never seen it before." I own a lot of clothes she has never seen before, but to her they do not exist until she has seen them, until she has interacted with them.
When she told me who I should invite to my baby shower she included people I had not seen or interacted with in 10-20 years. They were important to her. She had interacted with them recently and I had known them in my childhood so they must also be important to me.
I think many of our hoarders are playing one player video games (this concept was mentioned in someone else's post on COH group, I think it is spot on). They are the center of the universe and when you leave their sphere of influence you get paused (in their minds). That's why their perception of you, your likes, dislikes, friends, clothes, everything is essentially paused as a teen or younger depending how independent you were of them at what age. Kind of like that old program where the kids were placed into tupperware containers to keep them safe, if you were paused no harm would come to you, you didn't get exposed to your father's craziness, you didn't go off to a foreign country and get felt up on a bus, you didn't take chances that made them uncomfortable, you were safely paused and in a safe place.
I just shared this on the COH forum and thought you might also appreciate this dark humor...
This was when I was still in contact with my HP, but towards the end when I was finally getting it.
I cleaned my mom's fridge out. Just the really nasty stuff, like moldy and green foods, bulging containers.
She flipped out.
I had tossed the perfectly good ham that she had just taken out of the freezer the day before and was going to use for our lunches that day. I was just so wasteful. I hadn't tossed it and told her so. She insisted I had, that it was no longer in the fridge. I asked if it was the ziplock baggy of green ham on the top shelf over to the left. No there was no ham, she had just taken it out of the freezer yesterday, maybe the day before. I had thrown out her good ham, how could I. It was perfectly good. She went into the bathroom. I was spitting mad and went to the fridge, grabbed the baggy of green ham (no idea why I saved it) and followed her into the bathroom (luckily the door couldn't close because of the bookcase in the way) screaming (and waving the baggy in her face while she sat on the toilet) is this the ham, is this the good ham I threw out that you were going to feed to me, IS THIS THE HAM, is it???
I really don't remember what happened after I confronted her screaming and waving the green ham in her face. But in retrospect it sure is funny (deranged COH confronts HP in bathroom waving bag of green ham more at 11 ;)
My HP for years has had all sorts of get rich schemes. She picked up things from craigslist for free she was going to sell (they fell apart sitting in the front yard covered by a tarp). My dead father's truck still sits in her front yard as it has since 1991. But she says it might be worth money. It has a tree growing up through the engine. The car that was in that accident, still out front because she knows she can get money for it. She was going to grow herbs and sell them at the farmer's market. She was going to scan her botanical drawings and sell those. We bought her a scanner, it's still in the box.
My HP has for years tried to get me to post things on EBAY for her to sell, since she "knows" I sell on EBAY. I have never sold on Ebay. I have purchased from, but never sold. I keep telling her this, but she "knows" I sell on Ebay (insert exasperated sigh) so it doesn't matter how many times or ways I've told her.
But with all these ideas, has she ever successfully sold anything belonging to her, nope. It's not like she's stupid, as she likes to remind anyone she think is talking down to her, she has a BA in Biology and a certificate in computer arts. Have I ever successfully sold anything? Yup. Lots of stuff. Has she ever taken my advice? Nope. Will she take the advice from wonderful strangers and casual friends? Yes. Sigh.
When we got that 12/13 week confirmation that all was good with our baby and had the tests & ultrasounds to prove it, we sent off an email with the ultrasounds to our mothers, immediately. We decided not to call for several reasons, I went back to work for the rest of the day, my mother's answering machine often does not operate and she is a notoriuous talker (she would not have been satisfied with a quick call), my mother-in-law lives in another time zone and we didn't want either to claim favoritism. I was also very excited by the ultrasounds.
I made my husband promise that he would not tell anyone else until the following day (he took that to mean a minute after midnight). The response from my MIL was positive, effusive and pretty darn quick. I sent an email to the rest of my extended family the following morning (since my dear husband had already posted in a rather public social media site). The response I got from my mother later that day or perhaps the next, "I hear congratulations are in order."
It went down hill from there.
A week later I got another email from my mother.
"I am planning your baby shower. Please call at your convenience to discuss details (such as... I had thought that 9/22 might be a good day... two months before your due date... to give you time to see what you will need before your babies birth), then, perhaps Columbus Day Weekend on Sunday, Oct 7 (I think Saturday is a family birthday), or the following weekend if you have plans for the previous/long weekend."
My mother could not plan herself out of a plastic bag. She couldn't get herself to my wedding reception when she said she'd be there (she was two hours late - good thing preparations did not hinge on her) and she couldn't plan an outing with just my brother and I (she didn't get the whole call ahead and find out when things are open and plan your route accordingly thing - it was our fault we drove in circles and she was frustrated).
I have not called my mother for a long time. She is highly toxic and I choose not to subject myself to the anxiety. She chose to tell me of her plans via email, I responded via email.
"I appreciate that you want to plan a baby shower for me, however I've already got a committee working on it. It is my understanding that Emily Post discourages the mother & grandmother to be from planning the event, probably to avoid the stress and just let them enjoy the celebration.
It all came about during the show on Sunday. Friend C had already said she wanted to plan one for my friends while we were setting up for the show in a S-town and then when Aunt L and Aunt M showed up they all put their heads together. I am sure they will value your input."
I thought it was a pleasant even email. My mother did not. Her next two emails spaced a week apart were increasingly hostile. I will not post them, but just say she was mad we chose to email rather than call, mad that she didn't have a more important role in our wedding (two years ago), mad that I didn't have flowers at our civil cerremony, mad that I mentioned Emily Post, worried that the people she thought should be invited wouldn't be (those ladies who were at her baby shower and people who were important in my life when I was a child, but haven't seen in 20 years) and generally just nasty hostile. The emails were not the sort you send to people you want to improve or maintain a positive relationship with. My counselor was stunned by the last one. I felt released. She was obviously burning bridges and wanted to injure me one last time. And I decided she was not going to be at the baby shower or in the birth room.
My husband saw the whole email exchange the day of that last email and called her that evening when I was out for a walk. He told her it was inappropriate and if he ever heard of another email or call with a similar tone there would be no more contact, at this point she was not welcome at the baby shower and might not be welcome at the birth.
She has not emailed since. She did send me a birthday package and call my work number to wish me happy birthday (almost five months after my husband's call), I wasn't there to pick up. No apology, but then again there never will be one. She apologizes to my younger brother, but not to me. Historically I have been expected to get over whatever the imagined insult was and to act as if nothing ever happened. I have not responded to the birthday package (received like two weeks ago). I don't want to engage, but feel a plain thank you card might be appropriate.
My hoarding mom's first grandchild is due this November, in just over three weeks. It makes me sad to know that although she is awesome with small children (before they become independent people), my baby will not have the relationship with her that I had with my grandma. There will be no trips to the grandparents with nights spent in the guest room or mornings drawing at the kitchen table. There is no room for my child in my mother's home. The last time I was there there were two places to sit, a footstool in front of the TV and the bed, in a 1364 sq ft house. The kitchen sink and the bathroom sink were inaccessible. Treacherous trails lead from the front door to the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. And due to her toxic behavior as a guest she is no longer welcome in our home.
Society tells us this is cold and how could I be so heartless, I owe her, after all she did give birth to me and since I did not grow up to be a mass murderer she must have done it well. But really it has been her behavior since I became an adult that has been inappropriate & toxic. If she were not my mother I could have cut her off years ago. I do not accept that treatment from strangers or "friends" why should I accept it from someone who is related by blood. And I am certainly not going to let her poison my child.
As I child I loved the colors blue and purple (now I am all about purple). One year when we had gone to visit our father (crazy, but not a hoarder), I think I may have been a pre-teen, my hoarding mother took everything out of our rooms and painted them. My brother got a lovely blue/green color I got coral (pink/orange). I was furious I had an orange room (really it depended on the light). She also pulled up all of the old tile in my room because she was going to install carpet (I came home to all of my stuff piled outside on the patio). Several years later, I ended up painting the floor white. Eventually we got hand me down carpet when someone else re did their house and the room had carpet for a couple of years until we realized the entire carpet under the bed was soaking wet and moldy due to a pipe leak in the wall (and I wondered why I was having respiratory issues when I came home from college). Still no carpet in the room some six plus years later, but you'd never know. Mom made it into her bedroom (her ceiling leaks, the light doesn't work and she never finished cleaning under her bed after she started it some years ago) and she sleeps on my childhood mattress.
One of my hoarder's overnight visits sticks in my mind. I bought instant coffee and creamer for her for her visit (I don't drink coffee or milk). I heated the water for her in the electric tea pot. She poured water into a cup and then asked, does it keep the water hot. I thought she was asking if it maintained the heat like a coffee pot would and I said no. She then put the cup of hot water in the microwave for another minute or two. When she added the coffee, it erupted, spilling coffee and boiling hot water/coffee all over the counter, floor, down the cupboard doors and it seeped into the utensil drawer. I looked at her and then the mess and said, let me get a towel for you. Her response, "I knew you didn't want me here, I just knew I was unwelcome in your home." And then she stomped into the other room, leaving me to clean up her mess.
According to my mother. Things got out of hand because we didn't help enough, or I didn't help enough, or I didn't make my brother do the chores she gave him, or he spent too much time out with his friends instead of helping, or she was so overwhelmed, or it was other family members dropping stuff off at her house, or it because she hurt her back at work and had to fight for workers comp, or because when she went back to college she didn't have time to focus on the house and we weren't any help, or because when they built the development around her house the tractors created a lot of dust, and they move her fence, or it was because it flooded again, or if only she had a file cabinet and file folders (which I bought for her, but they weren't the right ones), or a vacuum that worked (she has five), or shelves in the garage (which I build for her, but it wasn't quite what she wanted) or some time to get organized, if only she had some help it would be perfect.
And our relationship is the way it is because of my dad's family, because of her sister/my aunt, because of my husband, because of my husband's family, because of my friends, because I have replaced her with other people. Which tells me she thinks I am weak and easily swayed by the opinions of other people. She used to brag to everyone how strong willed and stubborn I was.
My hoarding mother is telling people her sisters are keeping me from her. As if I am some weak simpleton who can be kept from someone I want to see. I am 38 years old. I have traveled the world several times by myself. I can make travel arrangements to see friends in a language besides English. I own a car and have a job. She used to tell people how stubborn and pigheaded I was. If I wanted to see my mother I would see my mother.
Both her and her sister live about 50 miles from me (in different cities). The fact that I choose to visit her sister over her is because her sister is pleasant to be around and is supportive of me and my decisions and well, there are places to sit in her home and she has a functioning toilet I can use. The other sister supposedly keeping me from my mother is the only one who still tries to see her point of view, the only one who still calls to check in on her, the one who very gently keeps trying to get me to reconnect with my mother.
This morning I was pouring myself a glass of milk and spilled a little on the table. I put away the milk, got a sponge and wiped up the mess. Such a simple and easy task. I didn't have to move stuff to get to the spill, I didn't have to search for a sponge, I didn't have to go to the bathroom and wet the sponge under the bathtub faucet, my kitchen sink is clear and accessible. Simple and easy in a non-hoarded home.