Friday, January 6, 2012

Sorry We Have to Stop Now, Our Time is Up - Is It Counseling or Analysis?

At the time of my father's bout with brain cancer, I was married with two teenagers and a pre-teen.  I had a full time job and I was also going to school 4 nights a week.   Most nights, after class, I would stop at the hospital to see my dad and give my mom a ride home.  I was holding up rather well.

My father died four months after he was diagnosed.  I went with my mom to make all of the funeral arrangements.  I remember the first viewing at the funeral parlor.  My younger sister was too upset to come into the room where my father was laid out.  I came out and put my arm around her and told her that it was okay.
I was holding up rather well.

My mom had a tough time afterwards.  There were financial issues to straighten out which led to her having to find a new home.   Even though she lived close by to my sister and brother, she was very lonely in her new unfamiliar surroundings.   And even though I was 1-1/2 hours away, she wanted me to visit every weekend.
I was holding up rather well.

Then about six months after the death of my father, I was at work having a horrible day.  Everything seemed to be going wrong.  The phones seemed to be ringing louder and more often than normal.  Everyday tasks seemed to be overwhelming.  My boss seemed to be more demanding.  The kids were calling expecting me to referee an argument they were having.  And to top it off I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner that night.

It happened in an instant.  I don't know specifically what triggered it.  But I suddenly found myself sitting at my desk crying uncontrollably.

I remember vividly as two of my co-workers walked me out to my car.  One on either side of me, practically holding me up.  When they offered to drive me home,  I shakily said, "No, I will be okay"

Well obviously I was not okay and obviously I was not holding up that well after all.

That was the first time that I sought counseling.

About six years later, I separated from my husband which was then followed by a divorce.  That was the second time that I found counseling necessary.

Two years ago my mom was diagnosed with cancer.  She passed away in November, two days before Thanksgiving.

Ross suggested that grief counseling might be something I might want to consider.

I said, "No I'm fine."

Two months after my mom passed away, my 34 year old son was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.

When I told my my family doctor that I was having trouble sleeping, was not that interested in eating and that I was experiencing headaches, she suggested that counseling might be something I should consider.
I agreed.  I knew I was struggling and not holding up that well after all.

Each of my experiences with counseling was similar.  

I expected support, comfort, perhaps a shoulder to cry on and for sure a sympathetic ear. 

But instead I found the sessions to be personally probing and analytical.  

Apparently, my mother was not loving enough and I did not get enough nurturing or attention from her. 
Not only that, but I was also probably suffering from PTSD.  The trauma being exposed to the constant loud, middle of the night, screaming matches between my parents. 

So instead of counseling I found myself in therapy being psychoanalyzed.  

The first two "counseling" experiences lasted only a couple of months.   After about a month, I would start canceling appointments and then eventually just stopped going.

This last time, went pretty much the same way as the other two times did.

There was the initial analysis and typical conclusion that there was a hurt little girl inside of me who was crying out for love, nurturing and mothering.   

I have to say that I, probably like most people, know myself pretty well.  After all how would the counselor know that I didn't feel loved as a child if I hadn't told her that myself?  How would she have been able to figure out how traumatic it was for me to watch my mother and father have violent battles, if I hadn't told her?
And if she was so aware and considerate of my fragile state, why would she tell me "sorry our time is up" while I was still upset and in tears? 

I stayed with this counselor all during the time my son was ill.  Even though the analysis was uncomfortable, it was a place for me to be able to talk about my feelings. 

The day my son died, was the day of my regularly scheduled appointment.   I called my counselor and left a message, telling her that my son had just passed away and that I would not be able to make my appointment.  I also told her (or rather her answering machine) that I wanted to take a break from my sessions until perhaps after the first of the year.  I said that she could give me a call if she liked.

I never heard from her. 

And yes, that is my inner child expressing hurt feelings.  

At about the same time that I started this last round of counseling, I started writing my blog. 
I have found that exploring my thoughts and feelings through writing helps me as much, if not more, than a 45 minute, "we have to stop now" session with a counselor. 

And I have finally also found the support, comfort, sympathetic ears and many shoulders to cry on that I had been looking for all along.



  1. Lynda, YOU  may have found the support, comfort, and sympathetic ears and shoulders on which to cry but WE  have found a treasure in you.  Your writing voice is universal - you say what others think and you say it so articulately, so poignantly,  or with just the right sense of humor.  I am glad you are taking care of yourself and being part of a world where the door is always open - not just for 45 minutes.  BTW, I find it unconscionable that your counselor did not get back to you after you canceled the appt a month and a day ago.  In my opinion, she should have been on the phone with you that day or as soon as possible for her.
    I could write a book on counseling - both from the professional angle (though I am NOT a therapist - no siree - just a school counselor but a school counselor who is grounded, feet firmly on the ground,  and who has been around the block more times than one might imagine) and from a personal angle.  Perhaps at another time..... Just keep writing, okay?  JT

  2. I'm with JT on that one.  A human being, not to mention a counsellor, would/should have gotten back to you after your message.  That alone pains me beyond description.  At this point in time, however, I think you are being guided by the right  instincts.  I think you need to follow those instincts.  We'll provide the "support, comfort, sympathetic ears and shoulders to cry on"; you just provide your writing.

  3. I am sorry that your experiences with counseling didn't serve you better. I have been lucky to have met with a couple of good therapists, first after my separation and then later at a turning point in my employment, and I found the time to be well spent. I hope you won't rule out speaking to a counselor forever;  you just have not yet met a good match.

    As for your blog being cathartic... I am happy that writing helps you and that you feel our love and concern for you as you read our comments. You share descriptions of events, people, and your loss in such a moving way. I have learned strength and patience from reading your posts lately and you have moved me to tears and prayer more times than I can count.
    Blessing, warm hugs, and peace sent your way from Boston.... e

  4. I think your writing is your therapy. We are here to listen to you without judgement. 
    The idiot lady who called from the bowling league really didn't want to hear from you, she wanted you to hear from her. You were more than patient with her.  I have a couple of "friends" like that and know when they call it isn't about what I'm doing or feeling but what they want to tell me. I have gotten very good and cutting them off, nicely I hope. 
    Regarding therapy, "forgetta 'bout it". Perhaps you can  see what your local hospice or hospital has to offer in the way of grief therapy.
    How is your DIL doing, and your grandchildren? You are all in my prayers. 

  5. Ugh.  I think I'm struggling with wanting to hunt down all your therapists right now. What's up with the "deficit focus?" And, how is it that the environment was never safe enough for you to express that your needs weren't being met? Ugh. 

    You're right - writing is wonderful therapy. And, I'm glad you found what works. And, I'm sorry for so many damn hard things happening in your life. Good for you...writing this down. I hope the message is read by therapist who tend to analyze, rather than listen to the clients goals and help process with them how best to get there.

    ~ Red Dirt Kelly

  6. Nannette Turner SaundersJanuary 6, 2012 at 10:39 PM

    Thanks I am so glad you write.  I love to read what you write.  I did not like the part about your therapist not calling you back.  As I read it my mouth fell open in disbelief!  WTH?  Man, that sucks.  I've had good therapists and bad ones.  It has been a while since I've been to one.  I too find writing therapeutic and I will continue.

  7. I will echo the sentiments of others who have commented: I am so sorry you've had such negative experiences with therapy. It shouldn't be that way. I rejoice that you have found an outlet in blogging and that it helps. You are obviously a strong woman to have borne up under so many tragic events in such a relatively short time. You should never have to do that alone.

  8. Im glad that you've find an outlet to explore your feelings and get the support you need. And Im sorry you had such bad experiences with counselling. I think you've been very strong and I really admire you.

  9. LifeinContradictionsJanuary 7, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    I've tried counseling twice - both times I was tied up in knots and needed some relief.  Neither time did counseling provide me with any relief at all.  I am stymied by how one is to find a counselor that is right for the person or the situation...particularly when one is in the midst of a crisis. 

  10. Never tried counseling.  I have thought about it, but don't really think it's my thing.  I really don't have much use for 'counselors' per se.    I know me better than anyone else ever will.  I have had my ups and downs, and am pretty much okay.  I think.   We will see, won't we?

  11. Thank JT for your always encouraging words.

  12. Thank you, Erin. 

  13. Hi Yvonne,
    My DIL is having a tough time  and my heart aches for her.  But she is a strong woman with a strong faith and lot of love and support around her.  Her son, my grandson, Domani is just too cute and a great comfort to his mother.  Even though my other grandchildren, Domani's cousins are pretty young and may not totally understand, what they do know is that they  miss their Uncle Joe.

  14. Nannette, thank you for your kind words.  

  15. It does seem difficult to find the right counselor.  It usually takes a few sessions to find out if you and the counselor are compatible.   At this point, I don't have the energy to put the time and effort into an "interviewing" process.

  16. I have a feeling you are more than "pretty much okay", Gina. :)

  17. I think counseling/therapy or whatever can be tremendously beneficial but it's like anything that involves human beings--so much depends on the intention and abilities of the person in charge. That, and the "fit" the client and counselor have with one another. I live in a very rural area where the options are extremely limited and two attempts at finding that "fit" failed miserably.

    I am glad for you that you have found an outlet in your writing and glad for myself as well since I've loved adding your unique voice to my weekly blogging rounds.