Blurting it out

Sometimes, just when I'm thinking that my patients aren't hearing a word I'm saying, something great like this happens.

Let's call her Alice. (all the names are made up names in all of my posts, except for mine). Alice suffers from some pretty serious depression. She's tried to take her life a zillion times. But when I got the referral, knowing that she had a strong history of that, she sounded so cheerful that I HAD to meet her.

And Alice is everything I want her to be and more. She's totally trying to enjoy living and has made a commitment to staying alive by following the advice of her doctors, myself and the psychiatrist who referred her to me.

Not surprisingly, she's never really had any decent psychotherapy. Lots of drug trials. Little therapy, virtually none.

So when she told me what happened while she was on vacation, and how she handled it so well, I asked if I could use the story and she said, FOR SURE.

Alice and her husband Joe are retirees in their sixties. They recently went to visit Joe's brother Al in Miami. It wasn't a pleasure trip. Al had back surgery and was having trouble with his rehabilitation. He had a live-in girlfriend, Lisa, who needed some time off from care-taking to work on some business in another state. So Alice and Joe had decided to give them Al a hand while she was gone.

Lisa returned the day before Alice was scheduled to return to Chicago. Al was joking around, playing with his walker and almost fell. This scared all four of them, but Lisa lost her temper and scolded Al for joking around, almost reversing whatever good would come of the surgery.

She shouted, If you fall and hurt yourself again, then you're HER problem.. (pointing to Alice) . I'll be finished with you. I can't believe how you've done this to me. I'm so angry at you!

Alice said that at that moment she heard me in her head telling her that her depression was related to being passive and that she had to stand up to people and tell them what she was thinking. She had to tell just the facts with no emotion, like she was reading a newspaper out loud.

So Alice shook her head slowly at Lisa, narrowed her eyes and said, No way. Your brother and I are retired and we have a life. I am NOT taking care of Al. We are not going to be there for him if you go.

After she told me the story Alice said, You have no idea how good that felt, just opening my mouth and saying No.

You're amazing, Alice. Here's to feeling good.

Copyright, 2006 TherapyDoc


deb said…
Dear Doc,
this blog comment has nothing to do with your current blog except that it is worth noting that depression is linked to not being assertive....anyway yesterday I had two mail deliveries-the last at 7:00pm. I didn't really think too much about this as it is the Season to get alot of mail...I answered the door right away(I love mail) and I discovered that the Postlady had delivered to the wrong person on the wrong block. I ran after her and yelled--hey Postlady you are the wrong block---you are one block east of where you need to be...She then responded with ...OH! NO!I have to pick up a blocks worth of mail! So you see delivering mail can be have to be on the right block. Read all of your current blogs including Margo's link...Great stuff.
Mark said…
Great story. Love it when someone hears our voice in their heads and it helps! Great job!
RY said…
Thanks for sharing the story. I always loved hearing about the positive changes in my clients' lives, especially when I knew I had some small part in the change occurring. It reminded me of why I chose to go into that line of work, and it felt very rewarding.

Therapy Doc said…
We can easily forget why we ever got into this field in the first place. Sometimes that's for the best. Not always!
Katy Murr said…
'Alice said that at that moment she heard me in her head telling her that her depression was related to being passive and that she had to stand up to people and tell them what she was thinking. '

Something I've been thinking about recently is people taking charge for of their own lives, their own emotions, their own actions, and realising that although they sometimes cannot change the situation (and it is okay to admit that they cannot, even if it is scary), that they can change their response (not reaction! that sounds more violent) to the situation... and that by learning how to adapt their response, they can make small steps to take control of how they feel. It's easier saying than doing (aren't most things?), but it was quite a revelation for me, to actually see this.

My friend showed me a book called 'Being Happy' (corny, yes...) which I've yet to order but which had some good bits in about taking control. You know, things like stopping throwing the idea of 'blame' around and actually think about what can be done to change the situation, communicating this with the other people, and working together to hopefully some kind of compromise rather than shifting blame... that kind of thing.

Maybe you've heard of this book already, but if not, I'd say you might like it. Not sure whether the tone would be best for kids, but I'm a teenager and didn't take offence from it.
therapydoc said…
Thanks for the recommendation. I'll be on the look-out for it at the library. You're awfully mature for a teenager, btw.