Friend’s life is on down­ward spi­ral

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports -

A close friend, “Jenna,” has a men­tal ill­ness: She hoards. Her house would be con­demned if the health ad­min­is­tra­tion were to go there.

I can start trac­ing this be­hav­ior back to when she first be­came a mother and dis­cov­ered that rais­ing chil­dren re­quires more than just buy­ing them new clothes and get­ting pic­tures taken. She worked and had trou­ble jug­gling ev­ery­thing. For­tu­nately, her mother lived next door and helped out a lot. But then her mother died, and Jenna’s per­son­al­ity be­gan to change even more. She could not keep up with the daily needs of her fam­ily. Then her hus­band died, only 10 months af­ter her mother. Long story short, her life has con­tin­ued spi­ral­ing down­ward. Her house is a dis­as­ter, with holes in the walls that let the out­side air in, mice, snakes and cat urine and fe­ces ev­ery­where be­cause the lit­ter box never gets changed.

She’s met a man who lives out of state. He will never be in­vited to her home, yet she’s talk­ing of mar­ry­ing him and mov­ing to his lo­ca­tion. Her kids are well-ad­justed to their home­town. She can only think of her­self and get­ting a new start. Oth­ers close to her need to know how to help her and her kids.

Start with Jenna. Ex­press your con­cerns about her men­tal health, and en­cour­age her to seek pro­fes­sional coun­sel­ing. Then ex­pand to her cir­cle of fam­ily and close friends. Make sure everyone is aware of the prob­lem. If she’s been pre­vent­ing peo­ple from com­ing into the house, it’s pos­si­ble they have no idea how se­vere the sit­u­a­tion is.

Visit the In­ter­na­tional OCD Foun­da­tion’s hoard­ing web­site at https://hoard­ing.iocdf.org for more re­sources.

I read your col­umn ev­ery day. I’ve never sent a let­ter, but I had to re­spond to “Ex In or Ex Out.” I mar­ried my sec­ond hus­band 29 won­der­ful years ago and met his ex a few months later at his daugh­ter’s high school grad­u­a­tion. I was so pleased to find out how friendly and out­go­ing she was to­ward me. I was a lit­tle jeal­ous be­cause he still cared for her, as he had two chil­dren with her. She wrote me a beau­ti­ful, kind, gen­er­ous let­ter say­ing how happy she was with our mar­riage and how he de­served the best. From then on, she in­vited us to Christ­mas and Thanks­giv­ing in Florida to stay with her and see the chil­dren. We each bonded as close friends from then on and have taken sev­eral trips to­gether by our­selves and with oth­ers, sep­a­rate from my hus­band. I came to know her as the most hon­est woman I know and think of her as my best friend. The chil­dren and grand­chil­dren were the im­por­tant thing. They have all of us! I sug­gest that “Ex In or Ex Out’s” fi­ancee, “Beth,” grow up and think about what’s re­ally im­por­tant. Jeal­ousy doesn’t be­come her, and it re­ally com­pli­cates mat­ters for her hus­band and her in-laws. “Ex In or Ex Out” shouldn’t make his fam­ily mem­bers choose between his ex and Beth, or Beth might lose.

Your ex­am­ple is a re­minder that women can of­ten find so much com­mon ground if they just look for it. Thanks for shar­ing.

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