“Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.” Sigmund Freud
“Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.” Sigmund Freud
I struggle with this one since so often I have to cancel people out because I’m flaring. I advise them that I have a chronic medical condition which unfortunately knocks me out. But I think it also sends the message to patients that my needs are more important than theirs. People are really great about it, but it bothers me that I cannot offer the consistency and dependability people need when they go to therapy.
For example, I was flaring last week and told people I’d be calling them today, Sunday, to hopefully reschedule tomorrow. Well as it turns out I now have a cold and still need to stay at home. It sounds so…flaky… and the STRESS of the uncertainty only makes me feel worse . One thing about lupus is you need to really baby your body when anything comes on because your immune system cannot defend the body against invading viruses, bacteria, etc.
Therapists are trained to only self disclose for the benefit of the patient. I’m thinking that if they knew exactly what the medical condition is, they would understand why I have to frequently cancel and the uncertainty of when I can reschedule. But I’m not sure if I’m considering telling them for my benefit, so they won’t think badly of me, or theirs, so they won’t feel blown off and therefore feel badly about themselves. And then I’m afraid that if they understand the seriousness of my condition, it might scare them off…
So I’d really appreciate your input on this, especially if you’ve ever been a therapy patient. Would you want to know its lupus? How do you think this would make you feel? How might you respond? Or is that way too much information? Do you think the “chronic medical condition” is enough of an explanation?
Thanks for any help you can offer me here.
I’m taking one today. I mean, everyone else gets them. Why shouldn’t I? Even shrinks need mental health days once in a while. I need to relax and not HAVE to get in my car and go anywhere, be anywhere. No pressure…Mmmm…..
So lets see….I think I will dust today since I have an allergy to the stuff and its a real pain to walk around choking all the time….and do more Christmas shopping ONLINE (I don’t do malls anymore)..and finalize my choice of photos from the wedding for my “parent album”…oh…and i guess it would be a good idea to search again for my very expensive, lost wedding rings, I know they’re in this house someplace…and i need to get started on the jewelry I’m making for Christmas gifts….and call my mother which is never, ever less than a one hour conversation (that’s another whole post in itself)…and I have several, repeat SEVERAL baskets of ironing that I’ve been avoiding like the bubonic plague…and for that matter there’s probably at least the same amount of wash to be done…
Ok, so this is not what I’d advise a client to do on a mental health day. I would suggest to a client that she do something fun, relaxing, no chores allowed! But then again, for some people, getting chores done on a day when they would be going to work is good for their mental health because all that stuff is no longer waiting for them…hovering.…stalking them…
I guess I should call this my housework health day.
Tell us the truth. What do YOU do on your mental health days?
I think I do count them frequently on my blog, but today is not one of those days. I’m down with a flare again. I’m in pain which the pain killers dull but do not eradicate. Had to cancel plans with my sister, my son, and my daughter. I was really looking forward to them. I realize I did just count three blessings, but you know what I mean. Please don’t anyone point my blessings out to me by way of comment because I will have to ban you from my blog. I mean, what would
I do with all this anger????? And if anyone asks me what advice do you give your clients, they are also banned from my blog. Is anyone out there having as bad a day as I am?
I can’t believe you read this far.
What a weekend! Major issues with my sister that grew into a full blown cat fight in the middle of a restaurant, with both our husbands ducking for cover. I kid you not. She even flung a napkin or something that ended up at another table, much to the delight of those patrons…it had to do with all kinds of chick stuff the grist of which fuels the book and film industry not to mention Lifetime Channel… Anyway I write this as a fairly anonymous confession…we therapists preach non-reactivity but even we lose it sometimes!!!!
Hi All…well I’m home from the hospital and should be grateful to be alive…which I am…but I’m having a delayed reaction to the whole emergency experience. One minute you’re feeling as normal as anyone else (which you’re not, of course, no one is with a chronic potentially fatal disease like lupus) the next minute you’re in an emergency room, delirious with fever while doctors fight to save your life. You’re vaguely aware of what’s going on, including the fear in your husband’s eyes, but mostly you just slip in and out of the the delirium.
Stabilized, they find you a bed and you remain for five days till there is no fever and vital signs remain normal. Tests are performed from head to foot in order to discover the source of the infection, but it is never found. Nor could it be since they pumped me up with IV antibiotics the minute I got to the emergency room. One doctor told me later that I would have been dead within 24 hours had I not been given the antibiotics.
Maybe that last statement is what has really got me. How close I was to death. I’ve licked death beyond all odds several times in my life. About ten years ago I flipped my car over on black ice. It was completely crushed and I was hanging upside down. No one could believe I managed to extricate myself and crawl away from the crushed car before the emergency people arrived… but somehow I did. No one should have survived the stroke I had in 2004, nor the Stevens Johnson Syndrome I developed after that, but I did.
Maybe what really has me is how many more times can I beat the odds? I am an at risk older female. All the time. You feel so infantilized in the hospital. They are always watching you, taking care of you. By the time you get out, it somehow feels scary to be an adult again. You kind of want to crawl back into the womb, even though you thought you wanted to get out. It was constrictive, but safe…
I wanted to go back to work this week, but I just can’t. Half of it is that my body is telling me I need to rest. But the other half is the post trauma effect I see in myself. I have to help myself before I can help my patients. Yet then I feel like I’m abandoning them.
On the other hand, I had no idea how many caring friends and neighbors I have here in the community in which I live. We’re “weekenders” here so you never really feel like you belong. Yet flowers, people, sweets, cards and prayers just came pouring in. I was truly astounded and moved. Who knew?
So since I know that God is always trying to teach me something, maybe this is what it is, the clue phone for the therapist, a message from God: ” You always teach your patients about the importance of a sense of connection to a supportive community. What makes you think you are any different? When are you going to realize that being a loner is lonely, even with a husband and kids?”
I’m getting it, God. I’m getting it.
Just an update….a colleague told me she’d had great success with hypnotherapy and medical conditions, including lupus. I waited 2 months for her to get back from a vacation. She’s a BIG cahuna in the hypnosis field. And she proceeds to give me a different kind of therapy altogether. Completely different intervention. When I, a colleague, questioned her on this, she interpreted it as resistance! Now I can understand why the general public often has such negativity toward therapists. Bottom line, if you agree to a certain kind of therapy with your therapist, you’re supposed to get it, people! Thus my exit from that path and new forage into the world of accupressure….
Here’s your chance to rant….or rave….I am curious…what was (or is) helpful in your therapy? What was not? Studies show that clients rate the relationship with the therapist to be the single most healing factor, over and above methods used. Do you agree with this?
Intro: I’ve decided to periodically give some very brief tips which may seem obvious to some, but not so to others who are embroiled in a battleground relationship…or at the other end of the spectrum, frozen solid….
Never try to talk your partner out of his or her feelings. Just last night for the umpteenth time a spouse in my office said “But you really shouldn’t feel that way!” This never works because it is logic speaking to emotion. Totally different languages. You may think what you think, but feelings are feelings and the person has a right to them. No one ever talked a person out of how they feel. They may succumb to your logic out of sheer weariness, but trust me the emotion that follows will probably be worse than the one that is now stuffed. Better to try to understand, and express empathy. Your partner will love you for it, and love is what this is supposed to be all about, isn’t it?
Copyright 2008 by Psychscribe
Well, this article pretty much validates my point in my previous post about screening potentially violent clients (to put it mildly). Still, who’s to know if she didn’t do this and assess him to be safe? You can never really know…Anway, I for one have ADT coming over to give me an estimate for some panic buttons for myself and my therapists. Geez….makes me feel so sick when I think of that poor woman. I mean, we do go into this field to help people…what an ending…
Horrified, I watched the story on the news this morning, shocked and stunned. At 9 o’clock last night a patient went in and used a cleaver and a knife to murder his therapist, a 57 year old woman. Another male therapist tried to come to some assistance, but was injured and unable to stop the carnage. This is truly every therapist’s worst nightmare, and a wake up call to me to get a security system that goes right to the police station.
I think this is also a wake up call to therapists everywhere to thoroughly screen prospective patients on the phone before even making the first appointment. There are a lot of ways we can ask questions and history to make an educated guess if this is a safe person or not. I’m not saying the victim of this murder didn’t do the screening. I am saying too many therapists I know do NOT. Way too many of us feel that we work with “issues” not “pathology”. But sadly, as this incident proves, pathology has no boundaries and can surface in any of our offices.
I am so very sorry for the victim and her loved ones.
So how do we define ourselves? I posted that question when I started this blog. I asked if it was by our roles, our relationships, our work… I didn’t get many responses and I can see why – that’s not exactly an easy answer! Sounds like it ought to be the topic of a term paper. So I think its only fair to muse a bit on this myself…
When I was a child, of course it was by relationship. I was a daughter. An extension of my mother and father and my wonderful extended family. I was also an avid reader and writer from the first day I learned to sound out my phonics. Later I became a friend, a wife, a mother, and a Christian. And those relational definitions of myself satisfied me for many years. But then depression crept in like a cold dark fog, and with it a long, long search for my own identity. I wanted a definition of myself created by myself, not one that I had blindly accepted from my culture. I began to feel that those roles did not define me…they described me.
So then I went through a phase of believing you are what you do. I mean I really did believe that. I went back to school , pregnant with my second child, and I was also a student. And that satisfied me for a while. I felt a lot better about myself, because I am an intelligent person and I liked that label. I defined myself as a learner. I also had to read and write a lot, which was what I’d had a passion for from the age of six.
But sooner or later, I had to graduate. And off I went into my occupation, degree in hand, a “professional”. Now I know who I am, I thought. When the buzz died I continued, and continue, to take more postgraduate training. And I still get that buzz from learning. The only thing is….I’ve also learned that my occupation does not define me either. I am not what I do. True, the occupation I’ve chosen says some things about the kind of person I am, but it doesn’t define me.
All I know for sure is that I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a therapist, a learner, a writer, an artist, a soul searcher, and a Christian. But none of those define me. How can they? Isn’t the human soul greater than the sum of its parts?
As a human, I am God’s patient. As a therapist, I have many patients. I pray He uses me to heal them today, and myself as well.
I have so many clients who come to me with histories of abuse, tragedy or loss. They are usually in my office for something else: problems with the kids, finding or keeping a partner in life, depression, etc. The list goes on and on for what we shrinks call “the presenting problem”. When a careful assessment uncovers the sorrow underneath, the silent sorrow that drives the current problem, they very often shrug it off. Therapist empathy falls upon a stone wall.
“I don’t want to feel sorry for myself,” they say. And let me tell you, they really mean it that they don’t want to feel sorry for themselves. And I don’t blame them. The words have such a negative connotation. That connotation has been imposed on all of us by our fast moving culture that wants people to “get over it”. And so such words as “feeling sorry for herself” evoke the image of a person who wants to wallow in misery. No one wants to be that person, in their own eyes or in the eyes of others. So walls are built to hide the feelings. Sometimes even from yourself.
But wallowing is one thing. Working to get through it is something else again. You have to get through whatever is behind the wall if you want your present life to improve. Here’s the thing: you have to feel it to get through it. It is ok to have compassion for yourself and what you went through. Compassion is a feeling of sympathy along with the desire or yearning to alleviate the suffering of another. It is ok to extend the same compassion to yourself that you would to a loved one who went through the same thing. You need to have compassion for yourself in order to allow yourself to feel the feelings and walk through, and beyond, the pain.
That’s not wallowing. That’s doing something about it.
“I was driving back to my old apartment one afternoon and I had lived one block away from a church. That day I was stopped as a funeral procession exited. I waited and watched the cars go by, trying to see the kinds of people who were a part of this. However, the procession never stopped. I saw every kind of person imaginable.
I was probably there for a good seven minutes and I started to get a chill down my spine at the length of this procession. I felt this surge through me and I had a “defining moment.” I wanted that to be me! Not to pass on, but to have known and touched that many people in my life.
Ever since then I have had this drive to want to help people and I am making the time to have that happen. I’m becoming more social and more outgoing. I do volunteer work and donate to charities I believe in. I know the names of my neighbors. And I want this to increase as my life continues. I want to be an outstanding member of my community. I want to change things.
So at my eulogy? I don’t think it matters so much what they say, but how the people who are there remember how I personally affected them.”
Its a nasty little creature but it does have a good purpose. Assuming you’re not a sociopath you know what it feels like. We all do. Who hasn’t done something wrong in this life and felt awful about it? We’re supposed to feel bad when we do something bad…. The healthy feeling of guilt prods us into making amends. For example, you’ve had a lousy week at work and realize you’ve been very cranky to your Person ( I happen to like this word much better than “significant other”. Its shorter and …well…more personal.) So when you realize this, and feel appropriately guilty, you apologize. Hopefully you have a healthy enough relationship that your Person accepts the apology and you’re both done with feeling offended and feeling guilty. And you move on.
But there’s another kind of guilt where the guilt creature turns into a monster that rules your life…not the kind that prods you to make amends, but the kind that takes over your life and relationships. A logical, cognitive solution that helps some of my clients, and maybe will help you, is this:
Imagine yourself in a court of law, where your guilt must be proven so that appropriate punishment, or amends, can be decided. You’re the defendant representing yourself because no honest attorney worth their salt would represent you in this case.
Judge Judy, who has moved up to a higher court in her career (no I’ve never watched her in my entire life and I don’t feel guilty lying about this either) : Ok, so its the State vs. You. What exactly is the crime we’re trying?
You (possibly stuttering at this point!): Uh, not a crime…..I just feel really guilty….
Judge Judy: Where’s your lawyer?
You: I couldn’t find one to defend me.
Judge Judy: Well why not? That tells me already that no one even thought you had a case.
You: Well….my therapist told me to come.
Judge Judy, rubbing her eyes: Oh my dear God, why do therapists always send their clients to me? Do I look like a therapist???? What crime does your therapist think you commited?
You: Well….nothing…that’s why she told me to come here.
Judge Judy: Fine. So she wants me to do her work?
You: Well, actually I think she wants me to do the work….
Judge Judy with a flamboyant sigh : Ok, lets get on with this. What crime do you think you committed?
You: Well, not a crime, exactly….I just feel guilty about….everything….
Judge Judy: Could you give me an example?
You: Well, my son is unhappy a lot…actually he’s depressed…so I feel guilty all the time for being a terrible mother.
Judge Judy with confusion on her face: How old is your son?
Judge Judy (sighing and with even more confusion on her face) : Ok…so….what exactly is the crime that I should convict you of?
You: Well, I didn’t say I committed a crime.
Judge Judy: But you did say you feel guilty. Guilt by definition indicates wrongdoing of some kind. What did you do wrong?
You: Well….I’m not exactly sure….but I must have done something wrong to be feeling so guilty. If I’d been a good mother maybe he would’ve turned out happier.
Judge Judy: Did you take algebra in school? From what I’m hearing, a + b is not equal to c here.
You: Excuse me?
Judge Judy: You have not convinced me with any logic at all that you are guilty of anything. Feelings do not necessarily imply cause and effect. What has your son chosen to do about his depression? Does he see a therapist? Is he on medication?
Judge Judy: Why not?
You: He just….won’t….he flatly refuses.
Judge Judy: Are you supportive? Do you love him?
You: Of course!
Judge Judy: So what are you guilty of? (She raises her hand in the air, to stop any possible interruption). And please don’t tell me about his childhood stuff. That’s your stuff you’re consumed with here, not his. He’s a man now and its his choice how to deal , or not deal with, the effects of his childhood. Did you do the best that you knew how when you raised him? Have you apologized for any serious mistakes you made?
You: Yes! But if I could, I’d go back and do things differently now….
Judge Judy: Wouldn’t we all…thus the old saying “if I knew then what I know now”….But you have not convinced me of any crime worth the guilt you’re carrying on our back like a boulder. What was your crime? What should I convict you of?
You: I could’ve been a better mother.
Judge Judy: I cannot convict you of youth and imperfection. Would you convict a mother of that?
Judge Judy: Then what are you guilty of?
Judge Judy: Whose responsibility is it for your son to get help? Can you pick him up and carry him into a therapist’s office? Can he still fit into a car seat? How big is he?
You: Too big (and now the light dawns…)
You grab Judge Judy’s gavel and slam it yourself. Case dismissed.
So think about it…if you will….and tell me….of what crime have you convicted yourself?
How would you like to have yourself described in your eulogy? What do you want people to remember that you did? (An authentic eulogy, not the kind that’s so generic you know the officiant pulled it out of a drawer because no one could think of anything nice to say!) I do not lay claim to the originality of this question. We therapist folks often use it to get people thinking. Because when you think about the answers to these questions, you begin to define yourself as you’d like to be. And it becomes possible to begin new defining moments as you redefine yourself.
Who has time to think these days? Who has time for introspection? One reader, spingshiny writes “in these days of chaotic living, I seldom get the time to reflect on how I would define myself! I simply dont know. I would like to believe certain things about myself but are those qualities and attitudes the real me? I dont know.”
So think about it, if you will, and tell me….what would you like to believe about yourself?
We have so many roles, personally, professionally, relationally. Do we define ourselves by some of these, a combination of these, or something else at our core?
Think about it…if you will…and tell me what you think.
A defining moment for me was when I learned the secret. I overheard a woman I admired, a former boss, responding to a request for her time with the phrase “that’s not gonna work for me”. She didn’t make up a million excuses for giving her time. She didn’t recite a list of activities that would prevent her from doing what someone had asked. What a beautifully honest response. Maybe it wasn’t gonna work because she’d planned to spend her time staying in with a good book that night. Think about how important your time is. Your sands in your hourglass.
It was a defining moment for me because until then I didn’t know how to say no. I didn’t know how to set a boundary between my needs and wants and those of others. It was a big moment on my journey to define myself.
I know we hear the phrase a lot. Its no longer original. (Though in my opinion whoever first said it and set it in motion deserves an award of some kind.) But its usually used when two people in the business or professional world have their schedules in front of them and are trying to arrive at a mutually agreeable appointment. In the personal realm its a different story. At least, according to what I hear in my office. I hear way too many people telling me they went somewhere they didn’t want to go ,with someone they didn’t want to go with. When asked why, they will sheepishly tell me they feel guilty to say no to just about any request.
The guilt thing is something else again. Another post for another day. All I can tell you is when I coach people to begin to use this simple phrase in their personal lives, they see it really works for them. Because usually there is some family member who is accustomed to arguing or debating or insisting that they do something according to their agenda. This phrase stops them dead in their tracks. How can any reasonable person argue it? Ah, but so and so is beyond, beyond unreasonable, you think? All you have to do is never veer off the “that’s not gonna work for me” path. Don’t explain or make excuses because then they’ve engaged you into your former pattern and before you know it you’ve given up more precious sands from your hourglass. Once my clients learn to use this phrase they feel happier, less stressed, and are on their way to defining themselves.
So now I’ve shared another defining moment. Please think about it and tell me, if you will, what was yours?
In his comment, Jimiyo writes of his struggle for personal authenticity. Always feeling like an artist, knowing he is an artist, but also feeling forced to go corporate in order to make a living. He has many defining moments in his story, but the one that stands out for me, the snapshot from his life movie that seems to be his first defining moment, is when he writes:
“Then my grandfather died.
Something about having someone relatively close to you die makes you question your purpose in life. Soon after his death, on my 28th birthday, I looked around at the
sales office lit by the dull, buzzing fluorescent lights, listening to the chatter of sales pitches, the frustrated tones of rebuttals to all the repetitive common objections that
used to suck the life out of me.
I looked around.
My heart paced.
I wanted to vomit. “
This is what I mean by defining moment. After that, he pursues his soul’s longing without fear and in doing so defines himself, measuring his success by his own standards. This is also an inspiring comment, and my first one, on my first blog. Thank you, Jimiyo. Perhaps you’ve given me a defining moment here. I love who I’ve become, but there’s more…there’s more…there’s a writer who has remained silent for too long due to other defining moments….but God they’ve been great….
Ok, straight off I need to disclose that I’m a therapist. I know its in the tag line but I want to emphasize this because it just feels fair (and legally sound) that you should know. I decided to start this blog because I’m a junkie for defining moments and I want to hear yours. I am not here to help, or give advice. I won’t, and can’t, be doing that. What I will be doing is commenting upon, and maybe analyzing, the themes that come up. I will offer my biased opinions based upon my professional training and my life. I hope you will offer yours. It should be interesting and fun.
It works like this: you look back at your life so far as if it were a movie. You see the star and the supporting actors. The script was partly written by the screenplay you landed in, and partly written by you. Yes you. Unless you arrived on this planet as a rock,.
So anyway, to find your defining moments you watch the movie of your life and you stop it HERE, and then THERE, into still shots….which of course stop time……. and you capture, perhaps for the first time, one of the moments that had to happen for you to become the person you are today.
The cool thing to me is how these defining moments change in our memories and perceptions…. …that’s ok, that’s fine. Blogs are not written in stone and neither are our definitions of ourselves…The journey outward means nothing without journeying inward as well. Come back later and tell me other defining moments, that piece together the story of your life…
Think about it, if you will, and tell me one of yours….