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HELP- Trapped at Home
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An_257428 posted:
I'm in my late 30's. Due to a job loss last fall (not a firing), I had to move back home with my mom. We don't see eye-to-eye on much. I was adopted, and believe it or not that in and of itself doesn't usually cause too much friction, but we disagree politically and religiously. She is obsessed with her beliefs, but I am an agnostic mostly because I got fed up with the obsessional cult-like environment I grew up in. My parents raised me and my sibling in a very strict, controlling environment with severely limited social interaction. I've had years of counseling because of our family dysfynction, and have suffered from severe depression and anxiety- no time to go into detail here. Being home IS NOT the best situation for me, but I have nowhere else to go. I am socially awkward, not married, and don't feel close enough to other relatives to go stay with them or even ask for help. Sometimes the stress has been so bad, I've felt like I can't take another day.


For most of my adult life, I've worked a variety of boring/awful jobs- customer service, office assistant, etc. I have a B.S., but all it's really done for me financially is given me student loan payments. I've always managed to pay the bills and rent during times when I've been on my own, but with VERY little left over- I've never made over $16/hr, and 4 out of the last 5 years I averaged $10-$12/hr. Rent in my area is very high, even with roommates. Having no personal safety net has contributed to my being forced to move home 3 times in the past 5 years. I just managed to find a new job a few weeks ago, but will be playing catch-up for a while, obviously. I wish I had my own family to stay with, but I don't. "Home" can be kind of cold, can trigger memories of really bad traumatic experiences, and is extremely stressful, if that makes any sense. But right now I have nowhere else to go.

My mom doesn't get along well with others- she has few friends and is suspicious and critical. Over the years, I've watched many people strike up friendships with her, only to gradually distance themselves into having little if any contact because of her critical, condescending attitude. I understand the reasons behind it better than most people, and try to just put up with it, but it causes a lot of tension. I feel like I can't develop my own relationships here in our neighborhood, for example, because she gets jealous or tells people I'm "rebellious" because I don't go to church (we're in the bible belt!). And quite frankly, I'm embarrassed by her reputation. I'm also unhappy because I feel like they associate me with her and think I'm crazy too, and/or, because of having to move home so much, that I'm a lazy freeloader- not realizing how being self-sufficient is a challenge for me due to my complex history. It's a vicious cycle.


Tonight she threatened to throw away my stuff if I don't vacuum my room. She hasn't done that the whole time I've been here, until now. I told her the other day I will be cleaning it up, so I was shocked that she threatened me like this. Then again, my sibling and their family is coming up tomorrow and she gets grouchy and all uptight when company's coming (i don't think they're going to inspect my room, though). I've been exhausted while adjusting to my new full-time job schedule, so things have been a bit more messy than usual. But to threaten to THROW AWAY my stuff?! Come on... I'm not a bratty 15 year old, and even if I was, throwing away my things over an unvacuumed rug is a HUGE overreaction, especially after I recently said I would clean it up. I can't jump out of the frying pan into the fire, though. I've been upset before, left, and had to move back.

I would like to move out, but financially can't afford rent anywhere, even working full time. I've been helping with food, with utilities, so it's not like I've been freeloading, and she's expressed satisfaction several times to me when I've been worried if I was doing enough. Please give insight. What can I do?
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD responded:
Wow. You are in a tough spot. To your credit, it sounds like you are clear about the difficulties of your situation and your goal of developing an independent life. For many people, gaining this kind of clarity is a big step in itself. The next helpful step is often to figure out what steps you need to take to get to your goal. For instance, will your current job provide you with enough money to live independently? Or, do you need to use this as a stepping stone to another job in order to gain independence? Also, I'm wondering if you are thinking that you eventually want to move out of the area, given some of what you said. If so, then you might want to figure that into your planning.

In the meantime, as you are having to live each day in this difficult environment, it's important that you find a way to make the most of your situation -- which will obviously not be an easy task. Many people find it helpful to build a social support network -- casual and closer friends to hang out with and to be able to really share with. Even online forums, such as this one, can be helpful. People often also find it helpful to explore their interests or potential interests -- such as painting, hiking, reading, exercising (i.e. weight lifting, training for a marathon) or cooking. Joining groups can also be helpful -- such as a hiking club, reading group, or local softball team. The idea is to fill your life as much as you can with supportive people and meaningful activities. Do you do any of these things? Can you imagine trying to add any of them (or similar things) to your life?
 
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rohvannyn responded:
I can really understand your frustration with this situation! Your mother is really behaving in an unreasonable way, and getting away with it. You shouldn't be treated that way.

I'm about to suggest a radical solution and you may not take my advice. There is risk involved but it is a way out if you want it badly enough.

First, start by picking what city you want to live in. Pick somewhere nice with low cost of living, that has good jobs in call centers. For example, Tucson Arizona. The cost of living is comparatively low and you can get a call center job that pays for your training starting at $9.50 an hour and goes up to $10 or $11 an hour. I can give you a reference if you need one that will guarantee you an interview.

Next, do some research and find out how much a weekly motel is in that area. Save up enough for at least a month of rent. If you don't have a car, you can check bus fares and pick one near your potential workplace. Many places will let you do internet applications so you can have interviews lined up already. You can check out housing prices online, see transit maps, check local taxes, all kinds of things. I had to leave my home area and I WISH I had done this, I survived anyway but if had done it this way I wouldn't have had to be homeless at all or really have any hardship.

Example in my area: I came to town with NOTHING. Basically half a tank of gas and a bare few dollars to my name. I lived in a tent for a month. Even so, I managed to get a job in under two weeks, it paid me within my first month, and I got my own apartment within a month and a half. Pay was $9.50 an hour, rent was under $550 for my own place with no roommates. Sure it's call center work but they are ALWAYS hiring and you can get better work later. You can save even more if you get a roommate. There are places who will let you move in with no deposit.. Just look around. But at all costs, get away from that toxic location so you don't have to have the albatross of past acquaintances around your neck.

Save all the money you can while meeting obligations. If there is overtime, work it. You may find that you feel a lot better if you have focus and hope ahead of you instead of an endless hole of abuse to look down. You are not a child running away from home, you are an adult building your future.
Roh

'Your focus determines your reality.' --QGJ
 
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An_257428 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Yes, I do have a limited support of a few friends. She is visibly upset when I mention them, but I do not hide anything from her. They know something of the situation, for example they know of her reputation for having strange interpretations and being suspicious of things, but they have no idea of the extent of what went on to myself and my sibling as kids. My dad passed away several years ago, I can't remember if I mentioned that. He checked her more weird behavior, even though it caused significant issues in their relationship, but struggled with severe physical illness that ultimately took his life, and depression. I honestly don't know how he did it, and he definitely had his faults- like striking out physically at us when upset- but at least he had a grip on reality and wasn't in his own little world, which she is, often. Our family situation was a special kind of clusterF, made even worse because to members of our fundy church group we seemed so perfect. Aunts and uncles simply did not know, and when I first explained as a young adult some of what went on to us kids, they didn't believe me. Now I struggle with being genuinely worried about my mom because in many ways developmentally she is like a teenager, yet with my dad no longer there to handle everything, she has to handle all the bills on her own, and can't balance her checkbook. She had severe poisoning as a baby, from eating lead paint, and I believe it caused cognitive impairments and learning disabilities. I also think that some kind of serious mental illness runs in her family- going by the behavior of other relatives who display similar weird behavior or have dependency issues. I would say she has an addictive personality. So in many ways all of this is physical and not her fault. But I can't destroy my mental health trying to help or fix her. Being coupled up with her this winter has taken its toll- I had to go on blood pressure meds and have gained 50 pounds. I am an emotional eater, despite me best efforts not to mistreat my body, I turn to food for comfort.

The worst part is that I need a parent- someone to give me guidance from a sane perspective would be awesome, some safety net, a place to go where I can feel safe. She does not understand that when she threatens to throw away my things, I do not feel safe. All she is thinking is that it's her house, and I am not cleaning up my room. My dad was depressed, but rational, and he's not here. I don't trust other relatives to advise me because they have no way of knowing the extent of what went on in our dysfunctional family, or that's suspect I may have PTSD. They judge without knowing the facts. I've been reading up on it, and I definitely have triggers that bring back horrible intrusive memories and panic attacks. I've only understood recently that that's what was happening. They have tried in the past but have said very uninformed and hurtful things. My sibling's way of dealing with it is to ignore our past. I don't bring it up because they get annoyed or it triggers them to remember unhappy things. There 's also somewhat of an attitude like, why can't you just get on with your life and forget about it. I feel they see me as a loser who keeps winding up at home because I can't manage to find steady employment. There can be triggers at work, too, which makes it hard sometimes to stay in a job. Also, the unemployment rate here is over 10%.


Sorry this is so rambling- I am SO glad you responded to me, I'm having another sleepless night. Since starting my new job and adjusting to the new hours I've been getting about 4-5 hours a night, even when I'm in bed at a decent hour. I tried to explain this to her as one reason why my room has been such a mess: I'm exhausted when I get home.

I'm very grateful to have this forum. I have indeed been looking for other areas to move to, but feel paralysed somewhat because I'm afraid my best efforts will bring me back here onceagain.
 
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supertiredandworried replied to An_257428's response:
Sorry for the autotype unhelpful corrections. I meant to say I was cooped up at home this winter.
 
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An_257428 replied to rohvannyn's response:
Yes, a few weeks.ago I researched cities with great art/music scenes, open minded, educated people and lots of natural beauty. it's now a matter of getting the money to actually move. I do.t have much stuff, at least nothing I couldn't fit into a small uhaul. But I'm currently behind on bills and am going to have to catch up first, before I can start saving to move. I'm currently temping, so OT is not an option. I know I need to save 3 months of living expenses in order to minimise the chances of having to move back here again. that's going to be really tough. I just have to go somewhere I really fit in, where I can make friends and not get deeply depressed. maybe that will help me work 3 jobs or whatever I have to do I. order to save, without burning out emotionally. I have thought of camping, as long as the weather's warm enough.

Thanks for the suggestions, I think I am on the right track, it's just going to take some time to save. maybe I.can network with my employment agency and find a job through them.in another city, who knows.

I think online forums are going to be a lifeline because I really have very few people here to talk to- and also my issues are.so heavy and complex, I have burned people out before, because people can't handle hearing about my situation.

My mom is never going to change or admit she has issues, so I have to take care of myself and remember not to get too comfortable here. some families are supportive, and many adult daughters live with parents, but mine isn't, so I just have to deal with it and think in terms of survival.
 
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An_257428 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
I realize I don't really have a group of friends, most because.I refuse to join a church- no thanks! - church itself is actually a trigger for very unpleasant memories, and I'm not going to go just to make anyone happy. I tried going to a non religious women's group in my area, but they meet in the daytime while.I'm working, so that's not an.option. I do make art in my room, but that is becoming an issue because she is.now harping on how messy my work area in my room is, and that I make too much of it, there isn't enough room for it, I'm cluttering up the house, etc. She feels she is.perfectly within her right as a parent to demand that I obey her, and keep the room neat and tidy. Her personality is very much about routines and keeping everything around the house very neat. I tend to messy, but I do try to not be as messy here, although I think I'm simply wired to not notice how messy I am being, until it's to late. I tried to remind her of this last night, but I'm not sure if it got through. I also tried to explain that I feel trapped when she threatens to throw away my things, and she denied she said that- but I know she did.

it's nice to be away for 8 hours a day now, and see friendly faces at my new job. but I have failed to make any close friends for most of my adult life, I think due to being often depressed and also burning out very quickly around people- or giving up on the friendship/shutting it down. I worry constantly that I will suck as a friend, the reason being that I have a tendency to meltdown over family relationship issues and my friends just can't handle it. I will often have just one close friend and we will do a lot of fun activities, but when I try to explain how bothered I am with things that come up from my upbringing- and they inevitably do- the friend usually becomes freaked out. it's not fair for them to have to deal with my anxiety, panic, and depression symptoms, I know. So I've gotten used to doing a lot of things by myself. I'd rather not, but the emotional energy to really engage other people, including more than one person at a time, is something I don't have.

So I know all these things, but knowing doesn't really make it easier to live, doesn't take away the feelings or prevent my mom's behavior. A therapist told me once that things are so complicated with me, I may need counseling on and off during stressful periods for the rest of my life. at least I am pretty good at recognizing when I need to get some support, including coming here. it might also be helpful to join a support group for children of mentally ill parents.

it's now 4:45 am, and my clock goes off at 5:30 am, but I simply cannot sleep, and writing this is very important to me.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to An_257428's response:
Knowing all that you've shared does not make it better, but it does provide direction for what you need. For instance, you know that you need social support. You also know that it can't be from the church. Your idea of attending a support group for children of mental ill parents sounds like a good one -- maybe you can follow up on it? Also, I hope that you continue to post here -- both sharing your struggles and offering support for others-- and that this helps. If you are not in therapy now, it sounds like it might be a good thing to get back to at this point.

As for your difficulties maintaining relationships, perhaps your insights can help you to approach relationships a bit differently now. I'm sure the community here would be responsive in supporting your efforts in this area.

While I've just listed a number of actions you can take, I also want to emphasize that people generally become overwhelmed when they try to take on a lot all at once. So, think about what you believe could be most helpful and proceed at a pace that works for you. And, feel free to talk about any of your struggles here.
 
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rohvannyn replied to An_257428's response:
Sounds like you have a really mature, self-aware mindset and I congratulate you for that. Many people never really have the understanding that it's not their job to fix their parents. I think you will be just fine if you keep your last statement in mind, about taking care of yourself and thinking in terms of survival. I really wish you the best.
Roh

'Your focus determines your reality.' --QGJ


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