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Learning to Care for Myself, Part Two

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Last week I shared about my emotional meltdown and trying to care for my loved one and get them the help they need.

My mother has been in the hospital for a week now, but in a weakened condition. Her heart sometimes fibrillates and she has 100lb. of excess fluid and fat (mainly due to congestive heart failure). This is a cycle that is repeated in her life in the last several years. A hospital stay followed by a few months in a nursing home/rehab center to get the fluid off. She really does lose 100 lb. in 2-3 months each time. It is quite remarkable.

I've been cleaning her home and re-organizing everything. She has a hoarding problem, and I've dealt with this most of my life (though for years I'd be too ashamed to admit it). Trying to help a true hoarder clean their home is very difficult. They will fight you tooth and nail over things that you would consider trash. It's a tiring battle, and one I still fight w/ my mom as an adult.

I'm currently reading a book called "Dirty Little Secret" by Jessie Sholl. Her life mirrors mine in so many ways. Her story deals with coming to terms with her childhood as the daughter of a hoarder, but also how she helps her mom as an adult. Her mother tells her she has colon cancer, and Jessie must fly to her mom's state to clean her house (as she did many, many times before). It's like Jessie ripped a few pages from my own life story. Here I am, as I have so many times before, cleaning up my mother's bedroom and home, trying to clear the clutter out so she can have a nice place to come home to. It's much easier to clean when she's not there, partially because she has health issues and I don't want to "stir up the dust" around her, and also I don't have to fight over every "precious" object.

I also joined an online support group for Children of Hoarders, which is helping me find others who share similar experiences and find ways to cope, heal and move on. I'm learning so much. For example, that a hoarder exhibits similar behaviors of an alchoholic and children react to their hoarding parent in similar unhealthy ways. There's a lot of control and perfectionism (hard as that is to believe when surrounded by piles of clutter). And the main thing which I've only been aware of in the past year....Co-dependency.

(image found on Pinterest)

Basically, I'm learning that I need healthy boundaries as her caregiver (which ranges from part-time to full-time depending on her health) and also in how I handle her hoarding tendencies. I don't have to carry around guilt for her behavior, even if the messes don't get cleaned up. There have been many times I've simply had to remove myself from her life when things got to be too much (mainly control) and sometimes her reclusive, paranoid nature would shut me out for months or yrs. at a time.

I'm learning that it's OK to have "me time", and that I need to focus on self-care. That this isn't being selfish or self-centered. And I'm also learning to let go of clutter from my own life - emotional and body clutter (weight). I've always been good at paring down my own possessions (with the exception of a current out of control craft room!). But burdens can be carried around unseen as well. I don't have to carry around the weight of the houses I've lived that my mom (and stepdad) have wrecked. I don't have to be the superhero daughter who comes in and saves the day. Life's too short.

I've never shared this in such a public way, but I feel God is giving me strength to share with the same "radical honesty" Jessie shares in her book. If anyone wants to talk openly or in private, please share your thoughts. Just drop me a Spark Mail.

Children of Hoarders Blog (with link to Yahoo support group)

Dirty Little Secret by Jessie Sholl
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    emoticon That is a big endeavor. Hope you are doing well my dear.
    1887 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    1898 days ago
    1898 days ago
    You are very brave to share this. Thank you for doing so. You're not alone. My situation was similar. My mother was a hoarder and very co-dependent. I took care of her until she died seven and a half years ago. It took me a long time to work through my guilt after she died because I couldn't save her from herself. It was two years ago when my oldest brother had a stroke that I finally understood that the problem was boundaries. I had a talk with the psychiatrist working on his case. I thought I was helping by telling him all the past issues. It turns out I was telling on myself. This man gave me a stern talking to about my tendency to be a doormat and told me I had to start having boundaries. I was able, with reassurance, to walk away and trust the VA to take care of my brother. I check in with him and the staff to make sure he's okay but otherwise leave it up to the professional caregivers and God. Thank you also for mentioning the "child of an alcoholic" behavior". That one took me awhile to figure out too. My entire family were addicts. I'm here if you ever need to talk about all this. I think it would be beneficial for both of us.

    1898 days ago
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