Tag Archives: anger

Abandoned again: psychological irresponsibility

I really had hoped I’d seen the last of “psychological irresponsibility” in my life, but it seems I attract mental healthcare professionals who like to end our professional relationships with cruel abandon. Thankfully, I have the rest of my far more reliable care team backing me up – though the shock of D’s departure was enough to increase my depression to the point where hospital was required. (Yes, I’m back in hospital. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Am I angry? You betcha.

This time, the news was broken in a phone call. His tone was chipper: “I told the hospital last week that I’m leaving to focus on my private practice.” I accessed his services through my hospital’s outpatient outreach program, which is designed to help people stay well and prevent admissions – yet here I find myself again; ironic much?

He didn’t even suggest we have a final wrap-up session. I asked for one, and we made a time, but I was certainly left with the impression that this was something of an imposition. Would you believe he sent me a text asking to reschedule that session because he had a lunch to attend? Mate, sometimes it’s best to give a little less information: I don’t want to know that finishing up our work together is less important to you than a social outing.

I called his supervisor the day after the news. (The psychologist in question wasn’t available, or I would have had a conversation with him.) I reminded him that, about a year ago, he’d asked me to “give [this psychologist] a go” after an administrative reshuffle meant the excellent worker who had had my case was re-assigned. I reminded him that I’d had reservations about welcoming a man into my home, that it had taken a great leap of trust on my behalf to make that OK. I also let him know – since he seemed unaware of the fact – that my mental health had been deteriorating over prior three weeks. He asked that I give the next worker assigned to my case “a go”. I put down the phone with a shiver: those words no longer inspire confidence.

Having left the supervisor in no doubt as to my displeasure, I tried to put the matter out of my mind; but, as I was driving to the post office nine days ago, I suddenly remembered the original phone call with awful clarity. I remembered how cheerful the psychologist has sounded, how he delivered the news as though he were commenting on the pleasing results of a sports match.

If you’re new to this blog, you won’t know my history with abandonment and health care professionals. I had a close professional relationship with my first psychiatrist who treated me for almost five years, then stopped with five days’ notice. The rupture of that therapy came at a time when I was vulnerable on many fronts, and eventually resulted in a complete breakdown. This psychologist knew of that history. I’d made sure of it, and included it in the PowerPoint presentation I made summarizing my medical history when we started work together.

Anyway, I was driving to the post office, and I heard his voice on the phone again in memory’s ear. My reaction was immediate and physical. I felt numb. I walked into the post office and stood at the counter with my parcels. The clerk said something to me from across the shop, but the words didn’t penetrate the fog which had wrapped itself round me, filling my ears and eyes with thick whiteness. I mailed the parcels, walked back to the car, and started the engine. I was only as I approached the corner that I realized the clerk had asked if I was all right. I’d completely ignored her! I drove around the block and walked back inside.

“I’m so sorry about before,” I said, and felt tears on my cheeks. “I think you were talking to me, but I didn’t hear what you said. I probably seemed rude.”

“That’s all right,” she replied, looking at me carefully. “Perhaps you need to go home now?”

“Yes, I think I do.”

“Should you be driving?”

“No, probably not; but I don’t have far to go.”

“OK. Take care of yourself.”

I turned and walked back to the car as though I’d received a full-body beating.

It seems as though my trauma, like my preferred name, is something this psychologist “can’t be expected to remember”. Yes, sadly, that’s a direct quote when I reminded him I prefer to be called “Catie” rather than “Catharine” … three months into treatment.

So: here I am in hospital again. Is it wholly because of the rupturing of that professional relationship? No; my mental health had been deteriorating before that. On the other hand, would I be here if he had handled things differently? No, almost certainly not. This trauma, re-opening the door to that historical hurt, is what precipitated the events which landed me here.

I understand that I don’t know all the details surrounding this incident. I acknowledge that there may be factors beyond anyone’s control which contributed to D’s sudden departure. However, what I do know is this:

  • D had been given the knowledge that an event like this would be extremely triggering to me
  • D had told the hospital a week before he told me that he would be leaving (which implies that he had been planning the move for longer)
  • the therapeutic relationship we’d had was terminated abruptly, and without closure
  • I am now in hospital.

My issue is not that D stopped treating me, nor even that he stopped treating me suddenly. My issue that that he had been given the information that this would be a destructive event in my life, and yet did nothing to mitigate the damage it may cause.

Here endeth the rant.

Have you ever been the subject of psychological irresponsibility? How did you recover?

Therapy ruptured

6 Comments

Filed under In

Neatly Packaged: A Therapy Moment

In therapy, we spend a lot of time (a lot of time) talking about my relationship with anger. Yesterday, my therapist suggested I may have found a particular situation frustrating, and I went quiet for a bit, staring into space, then laughed, and said: “I know this will make you chuckle, but do you know what’s popped into mind just now? That someone’s cleaned the door!”

I thought he’d find it amusing because instead of choosing to think about frustration – something like anger, which my mind tends to ‘slide off’ – my mind had chosen to latch onto something in its line of sight, a tiny detail. I mean, what had been cleaned wasn’t anything dramatic, just a mark below the door handle where fingerprints had accumulated into a smudge.

Of course, being a therapist, he had to find something even deeper in that tiny moment.

He made the connection between the smudge – something “messy”, “out of place”, “unfinished” – and the frustration we’d been talking about. He wondered whether it was that connection which was why my mind had focused on that detail instead of any of the  myriad others my eye could have rested upon.

I think he may have had a point, however, I don’t think my desire to see things all neatly tied up and tucked away is pathological, nor deeply related to my depression and anxiety. It’s there, but it’s not pathological. Still, it’s nice to be reminded that it is a part of my mental make-up, and that it might unconsciously feed into my decision-making process, in matters small and large.

This is why I absolutely adore therapy, and why I’ll continue with it, even after I’m “better”! I just love living an “examined life”. I may not go quite so far as Socrates*, but once the worst of my depression and anxiety are behind me (and I have faith that that day will come) I’ll continue with therapy, because it makes life richer.

I wonder – do you engage in therapy? Do you think you’ll continue, even after you’re “better”?

Jul to Dec 2010 002

 

* “The unexamined life is not worth living”

29 Comments

Filed under Up

Venting vs Bitching

Just thought I’d write a few lines about what I see as the difference between venting and bitching.

To me, venting is when you choose someone appropriate and share something that’s on your mind. It’s an unburdening, but once it’s done, it’s done. Sometimes it might take a while; other times – an example being when I called my sister this morning – just one sentence will do it. It’s “complaining with a purpose”, if you like.

Bitching, on the other hand, is re-hashing a vent over and over. It’s no longer “complaining with a purpose”: the purpose has become complaining. A vent has a beginning, and an end, when you feel that you’ve spoken and been heard, and hopefully something has shifted, or at least been realized. A bitch doesn’t have an end, because it’s become the end in itself.

So, in my opinion, venting is healthy and helpful, but getting stuck in bitching is less helpful. Hey, we all do it now and then (well, I do, so I’ll make a sweeping generalization!) but these days I try to stick with a vent rather than a bitch.

This morning … well, it was just magic. My sister is an awesome listener, so full credit to her, but I’m also going to give myself a little pat on the back (yeah, I did it, and I can feel OK about it, too! – I don’t like praising myself). Anyway, I had this thing on my mind which was really upsetting me, I called her up, asked her to listen, and just spoke one sentence – and *poof* the anger was gone. It was processed, turned into something different; I could see the situation differently.

What do you think? Is there a difference between what I call venting, and what I call bitching? Or am I just playing with words?

26 Comments

Filed under Up

Neighbours

My troublesome neighbours completely filled our garden waste bin without consulting us yesterday:

Full Bin

I was incandescently furious when I saw it. I made myself walk inside so I didn’t march right up to them and start a slanging match. There will be a time to have that conversation, but that time is not when you’re quivering with rage.

I went through my usual process of invalidating my emotions (“Why are you so angry? It’s only a bin”) to refuelling it (“Yes, but it only gets emptied once a fortnight, and I had some stuff of my own I wanted to prune this weekend!”) to then feeling guilty and ashamed about my anger.

This morning, I can look at my anger and think: it was justified. You don’t just go around presuming to fill your neighbour’s bin without asking their permission, especially not five days before they’re emptied. That’s just not on. On the other hand, I can see that becoming incandescently furious about this may be seen as an overreaction, which means that something else was fuelling my anger.

I’m working on the theory that it was the violation of boundaries which made me so furious. I know I have major boundary issues, deriving in no small part from not having been taught to form good boundaries in my childhood, and having them violated so many times since.  I also have a very dysfunctional relationship with anger, so my rage fired up a whole host of secondary emotions – guilt, shame, self-loathing, etc.

My neighbours have been a pain in the butt this week. OK, they have a cute puppy which dotes on me, but they have also:

  • denied me access to my house by parking their car in my driveway
  • asked me to park my car on the street so they could use the entire driveway … whereupon some idiot knocked my front headlight out
  • put rubbish into our “normal” rubbish bin; this had their names on it, so I put it back in theirs
  • left their gate banging in the wind, which kept me awake, so I had to go out and close it, which mucked up my sleep
  • woken us up late at night by being noisy.

Clearly it’s time for a bit of a chat.

Back to the boundaries thing. I suspect quite a few of us who suffer mood disorders have issues with boundaries. Am I right in thinking this? Do you have problems saying “no” when people ask you to do things, or having an overly strong emotional reaction when your boundaries are violated (as I did with our bin)? I’d be very interested to know. I’d also love to hear from any psychologists or therapists who are reading!

xx DB

30 Comments

Filed under Out

A New Sensation

Yesterday, I experienced something new to me on WordPress – a sense that I was being spoken down to, preached at, by someone who did not know me or understand my circumstances. I have to say, it made me pretty jolly annoyed!*

So I stepped away from the computer – drew a few deep breaths – poured a cup of tea – and laid out the facts in an orderly fashion.

Fact One: I have chosen to write about matters close to my heart in an open forum.

Fact Two: My baseline for anger is not at its usual level this week, due not only to my chronic struggles with depression and anxiety, but also recent traumatic events.

Fact Three: There are an innumerable number of fatuous, moronic, insensitive know-it-alls in the world.

Now we move into analysis. Given Fact Three, it’s pretty astounding that I’ve been writing this blog for seven months and not yet been deeply insulted or hurt by someone. >breathe< Given Fact Two, it’s hardly surprising that I feel like I’ve been kicked in the guts. >breathe< And finally, did I really expect this wouldn’t happen at some stage, given Fact One?

I know I keep harping on about this, but I feel truly blessed by the company I keep here on WordPress. I am usually surrounded by absolutely beautiful, wonderful people who are sensitive, who do not presume to advise me when their advice is not sought, who are positive, who are respectful, and whom I in turn respect.

One negative experience will not take that community away from me.

As I typed that sentence, I felt anger and bitterness fall off me like a coat shrugged to the ground. Yay!

In fact, this whole episode has highlighted something I learnt recently through my DBT group: pain is natural and inevitable; but it is not pain which leads to suffering, it is the non-acceptance of pain which leads to suffering. Suffering, in this case, would be my holding onto the initial anger I felt at reading what I experienced as condescending, ignorant comments, ruminating about them – constantly re-living the anger. I guess in this moment I accept my anger, I validate it, and now I move into a ‘wise mind’ approach to the experience instead of staying stuck in ’emotional mind’. Pain has a beginning and an end: suffering may become a closed, self-perpetuating loop, if we allow it.

So, to all my dear friends here on WordPress, if I have ever spoken out of turn or offended you with my words, I am sorry. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I ever cause you distress, either by replying publicly or emailing me at dysthymia.bree at gmail.com. To those of us whom I consider ‘community’, I give you my special thanks for your continued support during this difficult time. You are people who brighten up my life, and even after just seven short months, I couldn’t imagine tomorrow without you.

Be well, and may tomorrow be one of the better days.

* “Pretty jolly annoyed” is my current favourite synonym for absolutely, incandescently, fucking furious.

36 Comments

Filed under Down