Archive for May, 2009

Four Therapists and a Termination

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Termination is something the Terminator does to annoying people who irritate him. Termination, as in terminating therapy, for me sounds as though I am planning my own funeral. Ending therapy sounds better and completing therapy sounds perfectly natural, feels enormously egalitarian and realistically authentic; as though I have achieved a desired goal rather than dying or having a relationship die an untimely, unnatural death. Words have power and meaning and create much feelings and emotions. So we need to choose our words carefully.

Something my first therapist didn’t do. He asked me if I was breast or bottle fed and I thought he was coming on to me so I never went back. My second therapist told me there were people worse off than me and my third therapist literally terminated me, after eight sessions, declaring me cured (?) and I was told in no uncertain terms, Hasta La Vista, Baby. I later heard she had a nervous breakdown and terminated her career as a therapist.

After thirteen years I am separating from my fourth therapist. Although we were not married or living together, I felt merged and enmeshed with her. She lived permanently inside my head and was my constant companion where I would silently talk, argue, resolve, reflect and ponder over many issues, ideas, aims, intentions and problems. I always tried to see the world through her loving/kindness and all-encompassing, all-accepting, child-like, wonder-filled viewpoint where everyday is a brand new experience to be explored, shared and cherished.

I grew up in her room feeling unconditionally loved and accepted. This is where I learned emotional regulation and the importance of long-term relationships with all its ups, downs and vagaries with a substitute mother who gave me the instruments and abilities to leave home and forge my own future, making my own choices based on how I react mindfully to what happens around me. I am now solely in charge of my own destiny. I’m migrating to another country. I’m moving into a new era. It’s not a tragic ending so much as …

Existential Moments of Psychology

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I had a mind-bending existential experience yesterday. I attend University where I am doing a psychology degree. When I received my latest assignment instead of a high distinction I was expecting – I only got a credit. I was nearly in tears.

For most people that would be an acceptable mark. According to my lecturer it was a very good mark as a lot of people fail this particular assignment. But that’s not good enough for me. It’s hard to be average when you have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Back in the early 1990’s when I had my first baby, I would breast-feed my daughter with most of my mind on housework I hadn’t finished, on the garden bed that wasn’t quite up to scratch and on the furniture and ornaments we couldn’t afford to buy at that particular moment. I had to get a high distinction in house-keeping and motherhood every day.

I envied my friends who were able to just focus on breast and baby, ignoring the mess around them, and zone into those magical bonding and attachment moments. I was always too anxious and guilt-ridden over my perceived slackness as a human being in general and a new mother in particular.

By the time I had three children I was overwhelmed by life in general. I remember one evening my parents had visited and were leaving and my husband was going out and I cried because I couldn’t cope with a newborn, a toddler and a three year old. I was shaking and begging everyone not to leave, but they did. No-one quite grasped the gravity of the situation. Eight months after I ended up in hospital where the staff realised it wasn’t just the initial diagnosis of depression and anxiety I was suffering; because I had to have my hospital room immaculate at all times, they cottoned onto the fact OCD was probably an issue as well.

About ten years into my thirteen years of therapy I slowly conceded that perfectionism is a disorder of the mind. With my therapist facilitating the enabling head-space …

Depression, Grieving and Therapy

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Depression knows my address very well. It has visited many times over the past fourteen years. Even when the door is closed and locked it manages to furtively sneak in through the keyhole and wrap its misty tendrils around my brain and my body. But that is where it ends. I have processes in place that allow it to penetrate no further. So while it’s hovering around me like fog on a cold day, the sunshine of past therapy eventually dissipates it into nothingness. It might take twenty-four hours to do this though. Sleeping on it works for me.

When a friend blanked me out several times recently I was very hurt. I could feel those familiar misty emotions welling up inside along with tears in my eyes. Considering my last interaction with her was to offer some help with a mutual assignment along with the promise of a delicious lunch, I still felt I had somehow offended her. My thirteen year old son gave me some wise advice to remember. “She’s a PMT bitch!” he said. My husband said something similar.

I tend to analyze the situation and think what could I have done differently? What role did I play in her blanking me out? What was she feeling at the time? Perhaps she’d had a row with her husband? Not once did I think maybe she’s at fault here and I have done nothing wrong. I took it on board as being all about me. That is when I used to get so depressed I was consumed with guilt, anxiety and suicide ideation over my perceived lack of social skills.

Not any more! I felt the ancient feelings that sat heavily in my body and recognised them as sadness, loss and grief because I thought we were friends. That took several hours. Then my family came home from school and work and gave me their honest, non-analytical opinion. This was followed by my monthly book-club meeting upon which it was my turn to host, …

Ending Therapy – A Grieving Process

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

The time has to come to end therapy. After thirteen years it’s not an easy decision and one that I’ve wrestled with for at least the past two. Ending a therapeutic relationship for some is relatively easy; a handshake, a few well wishes and off to experience life post-therapy with fresh eyes on an old world.

But what about some of us for whom parting with a therapist is like having your heart ripped out with a blunt spoon and although you can function more than adequately in the real world you now have to deal with a grieving process for which there are no books, no information and no-one to talk to.

The person you are grieving for is still alive and well and functioning, is only a phone call, a letter, a text-message or an email away. Also you can if you wish go back to therapy anytime you want to. It’s not like the person is no longer available ever.

So the strength of the situation lies in the ability to move on from a loving/kindness, almost perfect relationship and enter into one with less than perfect others and the real world.

No-one has ever measured up to my therapist – although my husband has come a close second. I’m now at University studying psychology and there are lecturers and tutors and people with the same qualities as my therapist. I’m doing very well at Uni and recently got a high distinction for an essay, part of which was on the association between academic success and emotional/social intelligence. I had a smile when I learned there is very little correlation between the two. I understand psychology but I don’t understand why I am finding it difficult to move on and live an authentic life post-therapy.

I’m afraid to leave her because I dread the grieving process which may go on for months if not years. I tried two years ago and lasted three months. Thank God a crisis occurred and I had a legitimate excuse to re-establish my relationship with her again.

This time I want to handle …

Walk Therapy

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I have three children and while I love them all equally sometimes it’s difficult to give them equal attention. So when my middle child, the oldest son came to me and complained I spent more time with his younger brother, I realised it was time to do something about it.

And the something that I did was to take him and the dog for a half-hour walk when I really would have preferred to stay home, open a bottle of wine and watch the evening news.

My son is past the grunting stage and just wants to connect and communicate (he’s 15). He also appears to have an urgent need for confession in a private arena with a non-judgemental understanding parent. My role, as I see it, is to simply listen. His sins were a few years ago and he has moved on since.

I often take my kids out on “dates”. I took my daughter out to breakfast recently and listened to her sort out all her friends’ problems. I sat back, enjoyed my coffee and nodded and ummed in the right places with my therapist face well and truly in place. Chill out time with kids is very important.

I chill out in the car in front of my therapist’s office. I talk to her in the car along the freeway driving there. I talk to her while I’m parked up the street, so when I get into her office I feel like I’ve already been there for a while. Because sometimes an hour is not enough time to relax, gather those scattered thoughts, get engaged in the deep and meaningful and connect in an intimate synchronous manner. It hasn’t always been that way.

Walking the dog and connecting with my family is most important to me. By the time I got back from that walk, my son and I were in a happy place and the need to open a bottle of wine had disappeared.

Peeling the Layers of Family Therapy

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Today’s society not only encourages, but expects us to have a post-graduate career, a loving partner, happy, motivated children, an even greater post-natal career, followed by a well-deserved nervous breakdown. If you’re not highly-strung and stressed out to the max, you’re simply not trying hard enough.

No wonder family therapy is required to nut out those vitally important issues in life – such as whose job it is to peel the veggies for dinner. No-one wants to peel them, but everyone expects a healthy, delicious, creative surprise at six o’clock.

Job rosters appear to be the universal solution. But job rosters, like family self-help manuals written by single people – have good intentions, but bugger all practical application in the real world.

In Little House on the Prairie, Ma and Pa Ingalls NEVER had any problem getting Mary and Laura to rise at the crack of midnight, milk the cows, collect the eggs and mend the fences. The Brady Bunch never had a “jobs around the house” problem either. Less to do with an effective roster system – and more to do with Good Old Alice.

I doubt the earth would stop turning if my kids voluntarily rose off the couch and offered to help with dinner, but it would certainly rock my world.

Many parents have spent hours creating complicated colour- coordinated children’s job roster spread-sheets dating well into the next millennium. Never confuse activity with productivity. Multi-coloured spreadsheets, like your lazy offspring, DO NOT peel the spuds and carrots for dinner.

A computer-generated lifestyle might fool Nanna and Granddad into thinking your household is an efficient, well oiled machine, But it’s purpose is purely aesthetic. If our family was a business, we’d have declared bankruptcy before we started. We are less efficient at running our household than Basil Fawlty is at running a hotel in Torquay.

It’s not easy nurturing and maintaining a constant state of dysfunction. A lot of hard work is required. Pulling together as a team requires softer voices and effective communication. Radical unworkable thought processes like these that could put family therapists out of …

What Women Want

Monday, May 11th, 2009

There is no shortage of people who feel that post-natal-depression was invented somewhere around the early seventies. My father is convinced there was no such thing back in his mother’s time when she had four boys. Three of whom were born close together and the fourth, referred to as God’s Little Gift, was born about fifteen years later. He always maintains that he and his three brothers never fought or gave his mother much grief and that no-one they knew suffered post-natal-depression.

While my father was very supportive of me during my post-natal and subsequent depressions, he doesn’t understand why it is such a phenomenon these days when before men and women just got on with life regardless. There was little anecdotal evidence of women’s suffering in his day.

Last night I attended a University lecture on the History of Psychology. Self-actualization and the Humanist Movement was on the agenda. Self-actualization is based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From the bottom up, we need physiological needs; food, water, air, shelter and safety from the forces of nature and carnivorous predators. Then we can concentrate on belonging within a community and love needs followed by developing confidence and self-esteem. After which we then have the capacity to reach our full creative, independent and spiritual potential. History tends to reveal that men self-actualize and women bring up the children.

It’s my experience that it’s difficult to reach your full potential with screaming babies, sore nipples, sleepless nights, two-year-old tantrums, supermarket fights or three great big thumping teenagers in the house all arguing over whose human rights have been abused the most by other members of the family. Had I been a 1950’s housewife and mother, I think I would have drunk myself to death in the corner of my immaculate, gadget-filled kitchen. Think Julie-Anne Moore in The Hours. Would Abraham Maslow self-actualized had he been a house-husband up to his neck in nappies?

History and Literature was mainly written from the point of view of men, without the added balance of women, and mainly concerned men’s issues, …

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Therapy

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I have written many stories about my therapist. She is an exceptional lady, has a great sense of humor, was a journalist in another life and enjoys and approves of my blogs before I post them. I also enjoy a good relationship with my mother and she has also read this blog.

It’s emotionally exhausting and physically draining trying to stay positive, optimistic and generally uphold a bright outlook during life’s ups and downs. As well as with the added bonus of having to continually bolster the rest of your family’s flagging self-esteem, especially when you just want to crash and burn somewhere private.

Teaching self-responsibility to selfish teenagers is not only time-consuming but fundamentally self-defeating as well. I get sick and tired of taking responsibility for my own actions somtimes and there are moments when I just want to lay the blame at someone else’s door.

And if my mother’s at home, it’s always a good place to start. But when I got the door slammed in my face, that’s when therapy seemed like a good idea.

And who wouldn’t enjoy spending the best part of an hour whinging and blaming everyone but yourself for the poor state of your life. But I’ve learned along the way that just because your therapist validates your dysfunctionality in a soft cooing voice doesn’t mean that, like your mother, she can’t see your faults either.

Here’s some good, some bad and some pretty ugly stuff I’ve learned on the path to realizing that my glass of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is actually half-full and not half-empty as I previously thought.

The Good is when you see a therapist.
The Bad is when you fall in love with your therapist.
The Ugly is when your therapist falls in love with you.

The Good is when you realise it’s ALL about your mother.
The Bad is when you think your therapist IS your mother.
The Ugly is when you want to crawl into your therapist’s lap and stay there forever.

The Good is when you can see your mother’s point of view.
The Bad is when your mother can see only her own point of …

Mothers' Psychology of Breastfeeding – When the Milk of Human Kindness Turns to Sour Cream

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Breastfeeding, unlike Hugh Jackman’s butt is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Anyone who has suffered the toe-curling experience of trying to breastfeed with sore, cracked, scabbed and bleeding nipples, will understand when I say I once broke the footrest off a rocking chair with my foot, whilst breastfeeding my four-day-old dearly wanted and treasured baby daughter.

Babies have a stronger suck than both engines of a jet plane. And believe me, that’s something else I do not want to stick my breasts into.

And just as powerful is the magnetic pull of glossy covered books and magazines telling us just how NATURALLY easy and wonderful it is to breastfeed babies. Don’t you hate reading covers that say if only you buy this book/magazine/DVD you too can become a beautiful, serene mother with bountiful, luscious bosoms swollen with nutritious milk elegantly feeding a serene, angelic looking baby?

And not only is it supposed to be possible to change a dirty nappy with one hand but it is also possible, and expected, to write the best seller ‘How to Achieve Success and Respect whilst Breastfeeding in the Oval Office or at a Board Meeting’ with the other.

I want someone to write the book that shows a middle-aged, un-made-up, harassed mother with hair scraped back and four grubby toddlers all blowing their collective noses on her hem-hanging skirt and trying to breastfeed a newborn, squalling infant at the same time. Flat, unperky, south-bound nipples stuck on the end of pendulous breasts, resembling wet socks hanging on the line, rather than rotund, barking at the moon, objects of male lust. In today’s society, it would appear that mother’s breasts need to learn how to multi-skill in order to keep the whole family happy.

In my reality book, one hand is holding back acres of flesh-coloured jelly – two fingers prized open to allow a swollen, cracked and bleeding nipple to protrude up and out – and the other trying to connect a red-faced, screaming watermelon. And just when enough milk has been exchanged for a good bout of colic to develop, baby pukes the lot up all …


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