Looking for advice/thoughts/feedback. house is causing harm, mom isn't able to call the helper

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littleoc

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I'm not really sure where this goes, so it's going here for now.

For background, my home that I live in, now that I'm done with college, is a hoarder's house. My dad was a hoarder, and also a psychopath and no one likes him but that's not what this post is about. After he was legally removed about ten years ago, we tried cleaning up the house. Long story short, my mother mostly kept out of it which led to huge problems, which were traumatizing and led to horrible neglect (my life in a nutshell I guess) in my teenage years, and now the house is worse than it has ever been.

That means, basically, that to live in the house, I have to take three extra medications -- an allergy medication, a stress medication (being used for anxiety and OCD which were causing feelings of being overwhelmed), and a medication to reduce flashbacks/dissociations that makes me extremely tired -- I have to be willing to carefully nagivate at night to take these medications because getting through the house is hard, and I have to deal with itchy eyes, sore throat, and always being stressed because everything is dirty. When I try to clean it, OCD takes over and I end up getting physically injured in ways that don't heal properly for days.

On top of this, it triggers my PTSD in multiple ways (much trauma in different life stages), giving me flashbacks and dissociations (ESPECIALLY if I try to clean), and also simply adding to my stress and causing emotional overload.

The environment is also a safety hazard.

Even worse, my mother, who can barely walk, lives there.

My service dog isn't getting her needs met, and it really shows. There is no room for her to play, so she MUST lay around in a bed she claimed (it's my little brother's bed) during the day, because otherwise she's in the way. Even her food and water bowl are in the way. Where her bed used to be was by the front door, so she could never sleep soundly because the door might open or someone might walk to it. Her second bed was upstairs, in my mom's room, but it was covered in a mountain of crap. Mostly very heavy boxes. She has no space of her own.

I tried cleaning my room for her, but I can't get far enough to give her a decent space. Therefore, she sleeps in my bed part of the night and eventually moves to my little brother's bed.

For her to get her playtime, I walk her 3 miles a day, even if it hurts or I'm unwell. At times I do it twice a day. I try to play with toys in our front yard, but she only has 25 feet (about 7 and a half meters or so) and is built for running and chasing.

Her work performance has gone down. Her stress has gone up.

My pet cockatiel, who is dealing with traumas of her own, isn't able to leave her cage unless I am able to over-supervise her, because everything is dangerous.

Our pet cat was raised in it, but she has mild allergies, clearly. She has started asking every day for her litter to be changed.

New background:

This past week, I have not been home. I'm not home right now as I type this. I'm in my university because I was taking a large three day exam to prove that I've earned my BA in biology (yay!!!). It was stressful so I devoted all my freetime to studying (and I think it's paid off!). I'm staying in a sorority house with eight other young women, and my bedroom is their living room, which is the second part of a very large room that also holds their kitchen. The couch is my bed. I put a sleeping bag on it, and am using a stuffed sheep and a stuffed unicorn-pig as a pillow. A small throw blanket is my blanket.

I'm being very specific about that because my OCD primarily rules over cleanliness and sleep habits, which are extremely intertwined for me. Each night I must shower, must brush my teeth, must change into a pair of pajamas, etc. I must be clean for sleep or (in my DISTORTED mind/beliefs) I will get nightmares.

My service dog's current bed is a choice between an ottoman this sorority has, and a small loveseat which I've covered in a thick green blanket just for her. This loveseat is close to and somewhat facing the couch-bed I've made (they're at a 90 degree angle to each other), so she can see me while I sleep.

Since I've been here, despite sleeping on a couch, I've been much more stress free and happier. I don't feel stuck, surrounded by mountains of trash. More, my service dog is back to her old self. She's playing, her sense of humor is back more than it was at the hoarded home, and she's doing her job correctly. She's waking me up from nightmares and suggesting casually that we walk around indoors instead of outdoors at 3am.

I am taking THREE less medications here than I have to at home to function.

Current problem:

I was finally able to get possible outside help for the house. (See my older post on "Hoarding cleanup... when it's someone else's mess" if you are looking for details. Probably something in my trauma diary as well but I have stuff in there you probably don't need to see and which aren't related to this post.) It was difficult and for me to even be able to speak I had to get a therapist to help me.

Long story short, my mom agreed.

I have been trying every day since, maybe a month by now, to get her to just call the woman who can help us.

She has untreated anxiety from a past similar to mine, and just keeps freezing up and not doing anything. On top of this she has other major stress in her life currently (which I won't get into here but is definitely serious and financially tied) and has relatable fears about what will happen when getting help.



I can't take the stalling. I'm becoming convinced that nothing will ever get done. I'll have to move out, because it's not fair to me to have to live like that, and my service dog absolutely isn't enjoying it either. This environment is horrible for so many reasons.

Thinking about going back home is bothering me, making me feel heavy and sad. I want to stay here. I even grabbed a summer job that will get me a bed on this campus, because my bed at home feels unclean and foreign and like no amount of cleaning will purify it because the air around it is wrong.

My pet snake has more room than I do to live.

My bird's cage is huge to compensate.

During a phone call with my mom today, I finally lost it a bit... calmly though. I don't lose my temper easily. She's was having fun with my sister and my nephew when I called. I was just checking to make sure she had remembered to water my snake. And instruct her on how I'm doing my bird's vitamins.

She wasn't fully listening (she was at the store) and brought up when I'm coming home, which immediately made me sadder. Not that I said that. But this morning I was awake a thing 8:30am debating how to text her literally everything I typed above just now (but in a smaller, text format obviously) because I've started reminding her everyday to call S (the woman who can help us). She's just hasn't. Honestly, probably a combination of stress, fear, and legitimately not having time.

So I began to try to talk about how good my service dog has been -- mentioning specifically that she has been playing, has been doing her job better, mentioning again the SPACE she has, but not being forceful about it. Just trying to get her to think about that.

She changed the subject quickly back to when I'd be getting home -- probably because she was distracted. (My nephew is almost two, so he takes up much attention, understandablely.)

I brought up again the house in another way, mentioning that I'm taking three less medications when I'm not at the house.

No acknowledgement. Change of subject.

I brought up again something else, I'm not sure what because I didn't get to finish, because I got interrupted by something. (Something about a pickle display with no pickles in it.)

I do understand that this wasn't malicious behavior, she was just distracted and this wasn't something I should have brought up in the context of grocery shopping with my tiny nephew.

But I got frustrated. So after she addressed me again, she said she'd text my little brother about his concert date, and then let me know.

I blurted out, "Also about fixing the house."

Something like that. Phone went silent. Now I have her attention. But now I'm completely mute. On the spot. She says she made it to the checkout, says love you, hangs up quickly. I feel immense guilt and hold back tears.

I'm also angry but I don't understand why.

There are no drawbacks at this point to getting our house clean.

My mom hasn't called the lady who could help us at all. Keeps putting it off. I'm so scared the house will never be cleaned -- or I'll be the one stuck with it if she passes away.

Because she's not managing her diabetes either.

What do I do? How should I be thinking about this? I'm confused and overwhelmed, and on top of that I really can't stand the thought of going back... even though I want to, to watch Netflix with my mom and direct her diet away from the sugary treats she keeps eating.

Thank for letting me vent, even if you have no advice.
 
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littleoc

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I did get a "I love you and goodnight <3" text from her so I don't think she's angry. I think she just didn't know what to say to me.

I can't know for sure but it's doubtful that would anger her.

I don't even know that the silence in the call wasn't just from looking for a checkout person, I guess... phones with distracted people are difficult
 

Justmehere

Sponsor
There are no drawbacks at this point to getting our house clean.
There is one for her: she will have to change. She will have to begin to reduce her avoidance.

Because it’s a shared home, it will require all the parties to be ready for a big change. Frankly, with the amount of reminding you have been doing, and the amount she has been avoiding, she may not actually be willing to engage in changing the condition of the house.

I’d look at what you do have control over: you.

I’d invest in making those plans to take a job where you can live away from the house, and set the boundary that you won’t come back to live there until there is outside help there to clean it up.
 

littleoc

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There is one for her: she will have to change. She will have to begin to reduce her avoidance.

Bec...
That seems like it could be a good idea.

The job I'm taking would only last for three months, and then I'd have to move out.

But I think generally speaking, if I can manage it, this sounds right. Thank you for your input, i appreciate it
 

Suzetig

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I'll have to move out, because it's not fair to me to have to live like that,
This. Your mum needs to make her own decisions - and she’s deciding not to sort the house out. You can’t control what she does with her health or her home so as much as you might want to be there to direct her to care for herself, if she doesn’t want to do won’t.

If theres a way for you to move out, take it. Your first responsibility is to yourself, to your own health and well-being - you can’t help her if you yourself are unwell and triggered where you’re living. Having lived away while at uni, you know you can cope with independent living so figure out what you want to do with yourself for work or further study and go do it, living away from your mum.
 

Still Standing

MyPTSD Pro
I agree with Suzette. You have been striving hard at getting your degree. That work has been with the foresight of becoming independent, I would assume? If so, you are at the cusp of becoming independent. You have three months of work to help put you toward the goal of doing that. Hoarders are mentally ill. You know I have shared with you about my mom's hoarding. Hoarders are locked into their own world unless there is something that breaks through the guard and helps them get help. Most do not do it willingly. So, you might have to be the one to initiate a phone call to that lady and have her call your mom (and you do not tell your mom you are doing this.) making it look like the lady is checking up to see if your mom has made a decision. You said this lady used to be a hoarder. If so, she knows the mindset of your mom, generally speaking. She might be able to crack open the door for resolving things. If not, I don't know where you live, but there are state programs in the USA where one can call in a concern and ask for a check on your mom. You will need to tell them that she is living as a hoarder and the house has become unhealthy for you, as her daughter, who lives with her. Tell them you have a disability. You can also do this anonymously. I did this to my mom. She got madder than a wild hornet but it gave her a heads up that she was being watched by the state. And she couldn't yell at me because she did not know I reported her. Sadly, she fell through the cracks and remained in her unsafe, hoard filled mobile until she was collapsed with pancreatic cancer. There is no easy answer to your problem. The best and easiest is to plan for you own future and begin to transition to living on your own...or with a roommate. Wish this could be easier for you.
 

Sideways

Moderator
Idk, but if someone came to me and said, “I’ve decided this is your problem, and I’ve decided it’s time we fixed it so I’m going ahead with changing your life because I’m ready”...that wouldn’t be a helpful way for me to address a mental health issue...

If you’ve identified that living somewhere else resolves your issues, then perhaps focus on making that happen for you. Supporting mum through this issue? Is something you do when your situation is healthy and safe. Forcing help on people who chave clearly demonstrated they’re not ready can be incredibly destructive to the person and the relationship you have with them.

Your mum isn’t ready. She’s made that clear. And push, push, push as a strategy doesn’t seem to be helping.
 

littleoc

Sponsor
Hoarders are mentally ill. You know I have shared with you about my mom's hoarding. Hoarders are locked into their own world unless there is something that breaks through the guard and helps them get help. Most do not do it willingly.

That's true. I should probably explain this part more. It's not actually our mess, it's my father's. He made a huge mess and as teenagers we were expected to get rid of it after he was kicked out, which obviously didn't work. My mom actually has to help me pack, and decide what I really need, and unpack into new dorm rooms, because I can't do it alone most of the time. She's incredibly organized. If anything I think it's possible I might be a bit of a hoarder -- for foods and stuffed animals, or other things I think I won't have enough of or am afraid of running out of.

My mom seems more afraid of shame than anything. And she gets so stressed that she freezes up. It's what has been an issue for her children's wellbeing for years.

I'm sorry, I should have explained that better. I was pretty upset when I wrote this post.

Who owns the house? If it's your mother's house, are you a renter or a guest?

That's a gigantic can of worms, and one reason both of us are afraid. My mom almost owned the house (literally one payment off), and then my psycho dad used the money on drugs, or possibly another box of conputer parts he would never use. We were about to be homeless, but my father's stepmom stepped in and bought the house. She isn't psychopathic but she's rather controlling and already makes a big deal out of dealing with this house. She talks badly about it with dangerous relatives -- not truthful things. She wants to pack up things that belong to me or my mom and give them to my dad, ten years after he's been kicked out, because it would make him quieter. We don't want her to know anything about this, because it could be dangerous to our wellbeing.

Every time she's tried to come over we found a way to prevent it, but it's getting increasingly harder and I feel in danger about it. We all do. It seems like any help we get could also cause harm. My dad used to try to thieve things from here. We changed locks and I blocked lower windows even within this year. Although the stuff that happened this year seems to be my own fear, rather than reality, to be clear. I don't think he's been by here trying to break in for at least a year.

What would happen if YOU made the phone call?

I actually did. But I want her permission to continue. I want her to have a say with her stuff, I don't want her to just get forced to have nice things. I feel like that would cause more harm than good. But I am thinking about streamlining it. But I don't want to get too forceful.

Idk, but if someone came to me and said, “I’ve decided this is your problem, and I’ve decided it’s time we fixed it so I’m going ahead with changing your life because I’m ready”...that wouldn’t be a helpful way for me to address a mental health issue...

I agree with this (I would not like being told what to do in such a sensitive situation), but I was extremely careful not to handle it this way. I was too mute to bring up the help I managed to accquire, so I told my therapist, who suggested I bring my mother into a session and let T mediate. I told my mom a story about how I found the help, and she turned out to have been doing similar things. But fear and helplessness too over because she hears the people who were going to help her talking about people they had helped by name to other community members. She didn't want to do that to her kids.

She agreed this time, and I gave her S's (helpful woman's) phone number. She has frozen up since, saying she feels panicky when she thinks about it and that she's worried about her job situation. She's been sold off but maybe it'll end up being a good thing..?

I'm afraid of what would happen if I called and reported it.

Also, I like knowing that S might be aware that it takes a while to get the necessary help. Though for the record (I'm sorry for not making this clearer before) it wasn't her mess either. I've gone through so much stuff myself and I can't let go of literally useless items because I'm afraid I'll never have enough, so maybe it's me. My therapist has been talking to me about my tendency to hoard food when I'm stressed.

But no, I don't own this house. My mom technically rents it and my grandmother (dad's step mother) owns it. It's slightly complicated until it clicks.

Thank you all for your responses, by the way :) I really do appreciate it. You make good points. I really don't want to accept that this house could be like this forever. I don't want to have to move out yet because I don't have enough to live on. I'm scared of starving. I don't even have a driver's lisence.

But within a few minutes of having to live in this house again I'm already teary eyed and saying weird comments at my mom about how I just wish my service dog had a bed. Also that she could more comfortablely sleep in my room so she could actually do her job.

The summer at the university should help.
 
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Nessa7

MyPTSD Pro
Do you think that you would feel safe in the house if it were clean? It seems like the house is one way that your family remains tied to your abuser. Has your family considered leaving the house? The hoarder is no longer in the home to benefit theraputically from the cleaning process. It sounds like it will actually be retraumatizing instead. Unless there is a plan in place to transfer ownership to your mother, your family is dependent on your grandmother and doesn't have a financial stake in the house.
 

Freida

Sponsor
Oh punkin.......
I'm also angry but I don't understand why.
because you have to be the adult and it is affecting you physically, mentally and emotionally

I want to stay here. I even grabbed a summer job that will get me a bed on this campus, because my bed at home feels unclean and foreign and like no amount of cleaning will purify it because the air around it is wrong.
YES YES YES!! Sweetie you cannot live your mom's life for her. I understand that you feel responsible for her but you are not.
She is making her own choices, just like you are. And now you have seen the difference between living at home and living at school. And those differences have been astounding in just a few days for both you and your dog. Why would you go back to an environment that is so bad you have to take multiple meds and keeps your dog sick?

t's not actually our mess, it's my father's
Dad may have started it but mom is just as much to blame. Hoarders can't be hoarders unless someone enables them. And that enabler would be your mom. And yes - she is probably embarrassed. But something in that must make her feel safe because otherwise it wouldn't be a hoard.

But within a few minutes of having to live in this house again I'm already teary eyed and saying weird comments at my mom about how I just wish my service dog had a bed. Also that she could more comfortablely sleep in my room so she could actually do her job.
This ^^^^ this is your statement. Your dog can't do her job because she can't work in this environment. That isn't healthy for either of you

What do I do? How should I be thinking about this? I'm confused and overwhelmed, and on top of that I really can't stand the thought of going back... even though I want to, to watch Netflix with my mom and direct her diet away from the sugary treats she keeps eating.
You already know the answer. You cannot save someone who is drowning if they won't reach out for the lifeboat.

You have a horrible choice to make --- but horrible doesn't mean complicated. You either stay with her and agree to live as she does or you move out and being living your own life.

If you choose to stay then you have to accept that things will probably be the same 5 months or 5 years from now. Because it is where she is comfortable. You can't make her change. She is who she is. You can't monitor how she lives or what she cleans or what she eats and make decisions for her. She is not a child. And she isn't ready to do the work required to become the person you want her to be.

If you choose to walk away then you have to accept that your mom is an adult who is perfectly capable of taking care of herself and you are not abandoning her. You are moving forward into your own life - where you and your service dog can be safe and healthy. And those are huge things for you to have to accept.

Is it awful to think of leaving your mom in that situation? God yes.
But it is just as awful to think of you staying there with her
 

littleoc

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It sounds like it will actually be retraumatizing instead.

It's interesting you say that, because last time it was -- but that situation is incredibly complicated. My sister took too much control, my mother didn't intervene, I kept getting triggered, I got put into a was-a-garage-once to sleep in despite it having no foundation (it would get wiped away in a tornado or flood situation, two big fears I have, and was close enough to ground level for a thief to get in my window during a time that my dad kept threatening to break in), and eventually I got hospitalized against my will for depressed by an honestly concerned pediatrician -- but I got massively abused in that hospital and haven't even been able to address it in therapy. So... complicated. A lot tied into that.

I was sort of hoping to get closure on that situation by getting it cleaned up -- because I have been blamed for it getting so bad ever since I was 14 or so. Because I got hospitalized. In therapy we have discussed that this wasn't true, but currently I can't remember why. I feel incredible guilt for the way this house is, but the fault is with other people. I still feel guilt anyway.

When I was a teen and I went to my sister's new house, my mom used to look at it and then at her three teenagers (my twin brother and my little brother and I) and say, "Don't you all want to live in a place like this?" Because it was our responsibility to clean the house. She couldn't do it.

I was also expected to do actually dangerous housework that people need lisences for. I remember my mother getting upset when I tried to explain that I couldn't fix the house's HVAC a cat had messed up (broke a "pipe") with foil. I even almost got fiberglass in my eye because someone turned on the unit while I was in there... and I didn't even have basic equipment like goggles. Just disposable gloves you can buy at the general store and a hoodie I could wash in warm water later.

My family also totally turned against me when I broke down when I was told I would be moving downstairs to the room I hated. I could hear my siblings talking badly about me, and when I went to my mother about it she basically told me that I was exaggerating. I got hospitalized after that, and abused in the hospital. Severely retraumatized.

I'm very convinced that if someone can help me get this house cleaned, I can stop feeling guilt and shame every time it has to be hidden. Even my brother-in-law blames me and my little brother. I can't really live on my own because I don't have basic skills like knowing how to drive a car, and with my career future I will need to know this. I'm afraid of moving out too soon because I hope to save money first, as much as possible. My mom likes having company and doesn't even have me pay for food. She's a great parent, nowadays, as long as I'm otherwise independent because, yeah, sometimes she just doesn't understand.

I think getting the house cleaned up would allow for me to feel freer and not just full of guilt. We also can't leave the house this messy when we move, because to move we actually have to clean it out. I've discussed that with my T, and the thought of people getting to live here happily without stuff everywhere ruins that feeling of getting it cleaned and finally being able to enjoy OUR HOUSE. It still feels like my dad's because of all the junk. It wouldn't if we could get it out and be able to live in it.

Unless there is a plan in place to transfer ownership to your mother, your family is dependent on your grandmother and doesn't have a financial stake in the house.

I barely understand how things like this work, but I would assume you're right. It's been implied that I or my brother will inherit the house, or my mother directly, but I will say that my dad has tried to get us kicked out of this house numerous times so he could live here, but his stepmother told him to f*ck off all those times. I'm not actually afraid of my grandmother's reaction to the house for my sake, anyway. I'm worried about my mom, because she will get blamed for something that isn't even her fault.



I couldn't help but notice that her purse weighs ten pounds and her car is trashed. She's disabled to a point where it's difficult to clean things like dishes. The fact that the house is this bad is making that worse. I've had it happen to me -- I can't get backpacks cleaned out because there's nowhere to do it. And I can actually walk.

Does all that clarify things, or am I adding too much information to this? I like to make long post stuff with all the necessary information to state the problem without adding too much extra, but since I don't really understand this full situation myself I'm having trouble figuring out what's helpful. But this feedback is helping me figure this out.

Although it's depressing to realize that it's possible that this hosue will never get clean when I feel it absolutely has to, and I'm always having to push thoughts of what I did to this house aside. My family makes fun of the fact that when I move to college or to summer apartments I always bring so much stuff that while my brothers can use one big car, I either require two large cars, a large car and a hotel room to store things for two days of driving from home to apartment, or I need a rented work van or a U-haul moving truck. It's incredibly expensive to move me because I don't know how to get rid of things and I don't understand what I need and what I don't need. I've never learned this. Even as a kid I was never taught to put toys away unless it was a punishment for being hated by my dad or whatever, and I was never really allowed to get rid of toys I didn't play with, because I might want them. My dad took away my toys all the time as punishment and I had ones I had attached to like cats (my mom was not allowed to mother me, so I bonded to stuffed animals and cats) be given away when I was too small to understand what gone meant, and my aunt who tried to clean up my dad's mess donated my favorite toys against my will and I remember them more than I remember human faces (I am facial blind but have a weirdly good memory for childhood things).

So honestly I could really use the help but my mom is preventing that. And I don't know how to get it otherwise. I hate that I have flashbacks to abuse every time I try to clean. If I didn't maybe I wouldn't even need help.
 
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