Sorry guys, I need some advice.

I've written this out several times and erased it, left the site and come back. So here goes.

My mother is a hoarder. If you've ever seen the show "Hoarders," imagine that at least doubled. She suffers from anxiety, depression, bipolar, and probably several other afflictions, all undiagnosed. 

My father is an enabler; a coddler. Whatever mother wants, mother gets. Unless he happens to be away from her, then it's all brash manliness and how he's "about to lay down the law..." But as soon as she's back in the room, he's her little lapdog.

If you happen to accidentally find yourself on the wrong side of my mom, she will erupt into such an evil screaming rage that you would swear she was possessed by a demon. She literally turns into a monster. Without going into it, let's just say "mean" is an understatement. It's scary.

It was not always this way. 

Growing up, none of this existed. Mom and Dad were awesome. There was never any yelling and punishments, for even serious stuff, were light. It wasn't until I grew up and moved out that all of this began. 

They have always had problems with money. In fact, it doesn't matter how much or how little they have, everything is always just bordering on a crisis with them. My parents and money are like oil and water. Or better, like the back sides of magnets. They just repel one another.

I grew up, well, pretty normal. I have a beautiful wife and an incredible daughter and one on the way. I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood and we do pretty well for ourselves.

And my mother hates it so bad she could spit.

But that's not why I'm here.

Back in April I got a call that Dad was in the emergency room for kidney failure. Everyone was worried, even the doctors who usually at least try to be upbeat. Dad was hooked up to all the machines and pumps, looking beaten and forlorn... defeated is the word. Mom, (and I know this seems unsympathetic but just let me rant please) would not shut the fuck up. She just kept bitching and nagging and criticizing the poor old man in the hospital bed.

I got my sister to lure her away and then asked my father, "Is there any insurance?

No. Investments? No. Will? No. Any plan? Anything at all? 

No, No, No, and again No. Nothing. Nothing at all. 

"I need help, son." he said.

So, I jumped into action. I called the Social Security office and got a very detailed explanation of benefits, survivorship, disability, etc. I set up an insurance policy and a bank account and offered money and muscle and time and everything else I could think of to get them out of their sinking ship. It's too late now to help them retire well, but at least I could keep one of them from losing their home if the other was to pass away, right?

So, dad got better. They sucked the seed money out of the bank account I started and let it go into overdraft. And didn't say a word to me (I saw it happening online and chose to wait to see if and when someone would say something. They never did)

I sent a check to Colonial Penn (the only company that would insure in his condition) and started the insurance policy. Never heard anything, until today. 

What I found out today is that they got a check (return of premium for denial of policy refund) from Colonial back in July but instead of calling me, they cashed the check and spent it on whatever. And never said anything.

When I've tried to ask what the hell, all my mother does is scream and cry and hang up the phone. My dad claims he doesn't remember any of the conversations we had because he was "all doped up." Although the only drugs he was on were blood thinners and saline

And what you just read is only the chapter from this month. This shit goes back decades. 

I'm to the point, after all these years, that I'm done. Finished. Just let them take their fucking bag of cats to the river and drown it.

I don't want to see, speak, or be involved with either of them anymore. I'm to the point that if they want to see their grandchild, they can make an appointment with my wife and I'll go somewhere else. And even that's teetering on just fuck all.

Mom will not go to a doctor, dad will not make her go to one. Even if they did, there's no money to pay for it and I'm just evil asshole if I even suggest it.

I'm stuck, lost, angry, and at the end of my rope.

Please help.

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What kind of help do you want?  You've told us of a decision, but not what you want advice about.

If it's advice about whether to, I suggest you pay into something they can't draw money out of, to pay bills now that they are incompetent.  If an insurance policy is in your name, for example, I don't think the check can be made out to someone else.  You pay the property tax yourself.  That kind of thing.  A lawyer could help.

I once cut off all contact with one of my parents, and I still have very little to do with her.  It was what I needed at the time.  Now I don't.  Did me a world of good and didn't harm her (any more than taking the drugs away from an addict harms the addict).  You can have your independence without letting them live in destitution.  (Maybe.)  But unless they're mentally incompetent, and it doesn't sound like it, you'll also have to give up on straightening them out.  She doesn't want to go to a doc, she doesn't go.

I certainly relate, and sympathize.

I guess the advice I need is from people who have been/are in similar situations. 

"You're doing the right thing," or "No you're not, keep trying."

I can't be sort of involved. At this point it's so toxic there's only two choices: stay and fight or cut my losses and all contact. And I'm really tired of fighting.

I haven't been in this situation but I have a friend who cut ties with her parents after years of a toxic relationship. The circumstances weren't like this but the word toxic was used and she says she feels much better after cutting the relationship.

Look at it this way, you're definitely fighting a losing battle. They don't want your help or they are unable to properly benefit from it. Maybe if you cut contact it'll spark the change in them that will lead to you being able to benefit them. But for now it certainly doesn't look to me like you'll be able to help and it'll really hurt you trying.

I'm going to vote for "You're doing the right thing" based on my gut feeling and what my friend went through. Either way you have my deepest sympathies because it is obviously a really difficult situation.

Wow, you must be feeling a lot of hurt and frustration.

Mom will not go to a doctor

It probably wouldn't help. They could give her mood stabilizers and other drugs, but her body is trying to reach homeostasis. It starts compensating for the drugs, and they lose effectiveness. They might try upping the dose but that creates an ever-more-unstable situation.

Personally, I have never met someone who went mentally-ill, and then got all better as the result of taking "medicine". It's "treatment", not a "cure", and lacking a cure, it doesn't tend to get better over time; it deteriorates.

I wonder if you might be looking for solutions where there are none. Sometimes there are simply no solutions to problems, and you have to accept them the way they are.

"What you resist, persists. What you accept, you can change".

You needn't be angry at your mother because she has gone mentally ill. It's not a character flaw, and it's not something she intentionally did. She's probably having some sort of imbalance in either her mood regulating hormones and/or her neurotransmitters. This state impacts the ever-changing wiring of her brain, and it starts feeding on itself.

FWIW, mine went schizophrenic, but all the time I was growing up she had something like hystrionic personality disorder going on. My sister is borderline. Both emotionally unstable personality types. Between the two of them, I ended up being the family whipping boy. Watch the movie "The effects of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds some time". I was the protagonist, except I'm a boy not a girl. Thanks to my hormones--testosterone is somewhat anti-neurotic--I did not end up crazy, but I did end up a bit neurotic until I got away from them, at which point I reached a fairly normal level of emotional control and rational behavior patterns, but plateaued earlier than I would have liked, until about 2-3 years ago when I made a rapid improvement in my emotional stability.

As for your dad...there is a saying that insanity is contagious. It's partially true. If you've ever lived with someone with a psychosis or a personality disorder or even just neurosis, you know that your own reactions to their behaviors will start turning into habits...

I've known a lot of men married to borderlines (not saying it's the same situation, just analogous), and you start noticing strange behavior patterns in them too. Bizarre rituals that they start doing to tiptoe around the wife. Like one chap I know who calls me up on the phone when he is standing right outside my back door--instead of knocking. Because he's quite hard of hearing sometimes I end up standing right next to him while he's trying to get me on the line. If he spends enough time around me, he starts acting fairly normal and functional, but it breaks down again as soon as he gets back home.

Your dad did not know how to deal with your mom's behavior, so he started compensating in increasingly strange and dysfunctional ways. You have to accept this too. It's nothing personal, it's not a character flaw, he didn't consciously plan this, it's just human frailty.

I've written this out several times and erased it, left the site and come back

You did the right thing coming back and committing it, but you're going to need more emotional support than you're going to find online from strangers. You need flesh-and-blood friends and relatives to give you moral support if nothing else.

You also need to learn to handle your own stress. It sounds like your stress level is already out of your control, is that right?

I don't know what resources you have available to you. Let's continue the conversation.

In the mean time I suggest doing nothing rash. Take a vacation from your parents. Spend some time with OTHER family and friends, people who are supportive of you, doing things you enjoy, and make sure that you CLEAR YOUR MIND before turning in for bed every evening. Don't sleep on a troubled mind, to the extent that you can do otherwise. Sleep and relaxation are the cures for stress; don't shortchange yourself on these, or you will burn out. Instead, tell yourself that you need the sleep and the relaxation.

Don't return to dealing with your parents' situation until and unless you feel comfortable doing so. If you've ever known someone who had a nervous breakdown, you have to build them back up again and hand responsibilities back no faster than they can handle it. Hopefully, it doesn't come to that, though it sounds like it might be close. Take action now to clear your head, take a break, and build yourself back up again.

Does what I am saying ring true to you?

Thank you for the long and thoughtful response. Much of what you say does ring true and I really appreciate it. 

It's not that I'm wishing for Mom to get hopped up on a bunch of meds, it's that she's mean as hell, passive aggressive, moody, etc. and literally EVERYONE knows it. She needs to talk to someone: a doctor, a therapist, a pharmacist, a minister, a magic 8-ball... SOMETHING. But instead she sits in her nasty house (that's always on the verge of foreclosure) having ostracized all friends and most family and thinking it's everyone else that has a problem. 

This has been going on for many, many years and although it was an annoying and tragic part of my life, it had reached a level of functionality. Until Dad got sick and asked for help. Now I feel there's no going back. 

See, if and when Dad dies, here's what's going to happen:

Mom does not and has never worked. Never paid into SS. They refuse to fill out the form for survivorship, so if Dad were to die today, SS goes away rather than to Mom. She cannot qualify for her own. Literally never had a job.

There's a tax lien on their house and a sizeable upside down mortgage. The house itself is in deplorable condition and full of a mountain of junk, most of it taken from thrift and dollar stores from the beginning. It's not a mountain of priceless artifacts.

There's no insurance, as we've already discussed. 

So, for all of this, if Dad dies there's no income to pay for the house, it will be foreclosed and auctioned for less than is owed. The IRS will take their chunk. Mom will be effectively homeless and unemployable and very likely sitting on a judgement for the difference of the auction and the mortgage. I can't even begin to imagine what would happen to all the stuff.

As angry as I sound, it's not that I'm angry at her for being crazy (I am angry at her for being mean and envious and full of venom, but what can you do?) I'm angry that they have gotten themselves into this situation and refuse to even spend 5 minutes to fill out a form. 

They ask for help but when the help looks like a plan they (she) turn it around to accuse me of trying to run their lives. 

No, I am, in fact, trying to save her, and it's because he asked.

So it's not just one problem, but a whole nest of them. I'm familiar with a similar situation; the problem is that adults are assumed to be "financially responsible" regardless of the actual state of their mind.

And it's not a simple matter to have someone declared "incompetent", but it might be worth checking out. It is probably a matter for a lawyer.

I appreciate your filial piety in thinking for your mother's future. You're a good man and a good son.

I wish I could help you with your problems, but as you know, I can't. What you can do to help yourself, to maximize your own problem-solving capacity, is to make sure that you're getting plenty of rest, relaxation, and at least some occasional breaks from the "drama".

The reason I am telling you this is that you seem to be overwhelmed. You are also reacting emotionally to a situation that you anticipate--probably accurately--but you're suffering now before it even happens, WITHOUT changing the outcome through your suffering. In the spirit of goodwill I suggest that you need to keep your attention focused on the present moment, without emotional attachments to the future.

You need to accept that all those problems that you are worried about might in fact come to pass. Once you accept them, then you can release the anxiety that you've been building up, and just deal with the situation at hand. Just do whatever you need to do (you decide, not us) to accomplish whatever you think you can accomplish that is in harmony with your values, focusing on what you're doing, NOT on the outcome.

I'm not saying "don't care"; I'm saying "don't worry". It won't help.

Please come to terms with the situation, clear your mind, focus on what's happening RIGHT NOW and not on the outcome, make sure your mind is cleared and calm before bedtime, and remember to give thanks for all the people and things in your life that are going right for you, to balance out all the negative.


I can imagine how disgusted, disappointed, and hurt you must feel--not to mention having your generosity, time, and financial support taken for granted. I don't blame you for being angry, and I really can't fault you for feeling like you need to take a break. But regardless of what THEY do, what's most important is what YOU did. You tried to step up to the plate and take care of your mom and dad in a crisis--and you were right in doing so. Nothing takes away from that, and you can look at yourself in the mirror and know in your heart that, whatever they chose to do with it, you did the right thing when it mattered most. Now, let it go.

You need to step back from your parents' situation. To the extent that you could help, you did--but their current problems are theirs to deal with (or not deal with), and unless they're asking for your help or advice, you need to stay out of it. If your mother is a hoarder, has mental or emotional issues, or has a bad temper, really, all you need to concern yourself with is how she interacts with you and your family. You're entitled to back away if she becomes abusive toward you---but you can't change her, and you can't change your dad. Their money problems, your dad's apparent inability to do anything about your mother, and their marital concerns are their private affairs--and if they don't handle them as you think they should, they're STILL their private affairs. You're their son; not their accountability partner, and certainly not their judge.

You've been involved in a bit of a role reversal, here, which is what is causing you this frustration and disappointment. The problem is, if you choose to insert yourself into their issues and try to help, they REALLY don't have to meet you on your terms. The answer to that is not disowning them or cutting completely off from them, but it is refusing to take on the responsibility of being the adult in their lives.

I copied this text from the response above because it is relavent to your response too. Thanks for your insight. 

I realize that how they choose to live their lives is their business, but here's the reality of things:

See, if and when Dad dies, here's what's going to happen:

Mom does not and has never worked. Never paid into SS. They refuse to fill out the form for survivorship, so if Dad were to die today, SS goes away rather than to Mom. She cannot qualify for her own. Literally never had a job.

There's a tax lien on their house and a sizeable upside down mortgage. The house itself is in deplorable condition and full of a mountain of junk, most of it taken from thrift and dollar stores from the beginning. It's not a mountain of priceless artifacts.

There's no insurance, as we've already discussed. 

So, for all of this, if Dad dies there's no income to pay for the house, it will be foreclosed and auctioned for less than is owed. The IRS will take their chunk. Mom will be effectively homeless and unemployable and very likely sitting on a judgement for the difference of the auction and the mortgage. I can't even begin to imagine what would happen to all the stuff. 

So it's a bit more serious than just shrugging it off to quirky. I can't be "kind of" in. If and when this thing comes down, it's going to be serious and I'm literally the only person on the entire planet who can, could, or would do anything to keep my mother from actually being homeless. 

I can't be "kind of" in. If and when this thing comes down, it's going to be serious and I'm literally the only person on the entire planet who can, could, or would do anything to keep my mother from actually being homeless. 

I understand, and I apologize for not being sensitive to what the real issue is for you. OKAY---here's what I'd do---<revised advice>:

Get the right-of-survivorship paper and fill out all you can on your own (minus the signature, of course).  Call them when tempers are calm and everything is cool and tell them you need to stop by and visit with them regarding something rather urgent.  

1. SET THE TONE Go over there and begin the conversation chatting about ANYTHING else---the weather, the cat, how the kids are getting more like their dad/mom everyday--you get the picture.  

2. DISARM THEM Start the conversation by telling them up-front that you are in no way trying to stick your nose into their personal business or tell them how to run their lives.  Use phrases such as "I respect your privacy...respect your rights to manage your affairs..." (and you can be sincere when you say that, because after this conversation, YOU'RE DONE!)

3. ESTABLISH YOU'RE RIGHT TO AN INTEREST:  Explain in brief that when your dad almost died, you found out that they have no coverage, and that your mom needs right of survivorship on the social security.  Short, sweet, to the point.  DO NOT allow yourself to go into ANY of the other details---you want one thing and one thing only---their signature on that stupid piece of paper.  If you need it notarized, then you need them to go with you to the bank, but whatever....that's all you want.  Don't bring up about how they squandered your help, messed up the insurance, mom's a basket case--nothing.  

4. REFUSED TO DANCE: Your mother has been manipulating you and the entire family for a long time by becoming aggressive, blowing up, yelling, and spewing out venom---so resolve ahead of time that you will react to NOTHING she says or does.  If she has a melt-down, you'll stand there and watch.  If she falls on the floor frothing at the mouth and flailing her arms, c'est la vie....sip your coffee, wait for her to come up for air, and ask, "are you through?"  Don't yell, stand your ground, and don't take responsibility for her behavior.   You're not being unreasonable or out of line.


5. BE MATTER OF FACT: Explain what you've just told us here---that if something happens to your dad, she'll be homeless with no means of support, and all you need to prevent that nightmare is a signature.

6. MEET REFUSAL WITH A FORCEFUL DOSE OF REALITY *YOUR* REALITY, THAT IS:  This is hard to do, but stay calm, (REMEMBER---she knows how to push your buttons---she's had practice).  Imagine this was a son or a daughter who was engaging in outrageously irresponsible behavior and expecting you to bail him/her out.  You'd have your limits---and you'd have to state them and be prepared to stand by them.  In measured tones tell your folks that, while you will always be their son and be as much of a support as you can, there will be no repeats of what happened when your dad almost died--you cannot sacrifice what you are trying to responsibly lay up for your own family on the altar of their irresponsible unwillingness to take measures to protect themselves--so perhaps they need to look into what housing will be available should she lose the place and become an indigent ward of the state.  Then, leave it alone---you've done your part and made your intentions clear.

6. Are you SURE that paper has to be signed?  People die all the time---without a survivorship paper being signed---so I'd bet that there is a way around this.  Furthermore, depending on the state you're in, if your mother is elderly, then Medicaid will probably kick in and cover her stay in a facility---so she's not going to be "out in the street".  Understand that Medicaid is different from Medicare---and there may be another name for it in your state.

You're under a lot of stress, and it's natural for you to be angry and ready to just bolt from the situation.  You're hurt, frustrated, and outraged---a bad combination.  But most of the things we worry about never really happen---they've rocked along all these years without you, and if you weren't in the picture, they'd still have to figure something out.  So make your final attempt and let it go at that.  Then, go back to just being their son and leave them to their own affairs.  You're scared, Buddy---you love your dad (and can hardly stand your mother)---but ultimately, they're responsible (or irresponsible) for themselves.


Awful picture you paint there.

And you've come to the right decision, one I was ready to make but fortunately never did.

I was raised in a very dysfunctional parent-relationship, one parent bipolar and the other meek and enabling. As a family we went to therapy, but it didn't help. What my parents should have done was divorce, but for their generation it was still a tabu.

As I started a family I pledged to protect it from this toxidity should it show up at all costs, including severing of ties. I had therapy to cleanse myself of the poisoned environment I was marinated in as a child. One thing the therapist told me, in my response to the guilt my mother was using to manipulate me was this: "in the end, you owe your parents nothing". That shook me up, as    I've been brought up to honor my parents no matter what. I could cut ties and not be a horrible person.

So, yes, go ahead. You have gone above and beyond what many caring men would have done. 

For me that never needed to happen. My dad came down with Parkinson's and my mother took on herself to be his caregiver for the last years of his life. Somehow her sacrifice and their suffering washed clean the poison out of their relationship, and today without my dad around my mother is a different person.

Good luck and hope this helps.

I think your decision to keep your parents at a broad distance is a very wise one.  I understand and share the moral ideal of honoring ones' parents and I certainly love my parents a great deal, but I do not think we should allow our own lives to be poisoned by others just because we're related to them.  Distancing ones self from their parents is not to be done lightly, but I agree with the others who have said that you have done all that can be expected of you and then some.  Unless you intend to completely cut them out of your life for good, my suggestion is to let them know you love them unconditionally, but that you need to look out for yourself and your family first.  Tell them you know they are adults (even if their actions scream otherwise) and you have confidence they'll work it out on their own, even if you don't.  Then call every month or two, if you like.  Do nothing more than that.  As much as it hurts, some people are determined to destroy themselves, and sometimes, no amount of wishing or intervention from anyone can alter that fact.  In fact, often times getting too involved only ensures that the person will take you down with them.  Do what is best for your own well being and that of your family, and let God sort out the rest.  That is what I believe I would do were I in your place.

Sadly sir, my words are failing me a bit right now, as it is a sad and dire story you tell :(. While never directly correlated to me, I have had friends and family with varying toxic households, and there is very little on this earth that can wound someone as deeply as such things..

Your decision, while a very difficult one, is the correct one. It's obvious that despite all that has happened, you care very much about your parents, but you yourself are a father now (and rather proudly I believe :) and your first job as the head male is to protect your family as best you can: and saving them from a hurtful and negative situation is definitely doing just that. Even if they were never directly involved in it, that hurt and negativity would affect you, which in turn could spill over to them.

You're doing the right thing, difficult as it is. I can but offer you that, and a manly embrace telepathically good sir. I hope everything works out in the end, and just keep your eyes up and looking to the future.


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