Saturday, December 31, 2016

My last client of 2016

This was an early-20’s young woman who looked and sounded like a vulnerable teenager. I had asked her to remind me of the issues she’d described at the Intake-Assessment session three weeks earlier (the chart was unavailable). She reeled off an absolutely believable, egregious and heartbreaking series of abuses by “Bill” and “Susan” – what she called her father and mother – then a pool of abuses by Susan and “Jeff,” the meth addict mother latched onto after being enabled, if not coerced, to ditch Bill by Child Protective Services. The child and her sister would be “beaten so badly we couldn’t walk.” She saw Bill shove her mother down two flights of stairs then kick her repeatedly, because he had screwed up some woodworking project. The siblings had to beg both parents for food, if there was any in the house. She had to ask permission to get a drink of water, or to go to the bathroom. If father, picking her up from school, saw her socializing with another student – that is, talking – she would be beaten. She was allowed no friends from the neighborhood or at home. Later, mother found the alcoholic and meth user. Bill died by suicide. As my client, now seventeen, was forbidden from having a lock on her bedroom door, Jeff would barge in, slimily begging for a hug from this young woman he had only recently met and whose home he now commandeered in his unemployed and entitled glory.

One day the young woman, now with a baby by a transient boyfriend, became enraged and got into a punching and biting fight with her younger sister – whom she had protected as much as possible but who in deepest neurosis became a loyal symbiont of their personality-disordered mother. The months-old child was in the fray, and CPS took charge of it. Grandmother – borderline, hateful, vengeful, immature – was given custody of the infant. My client, twisted into knots mind and body from her first years on, never safe and never free, moved out.

If you see this twenty-something wandering The Strip at night, to stay away from her parents’ home and from her latest refuge; if she asserts that her mother is damaging her little child, and is mysteriously causing stains and holes in her laundry; if she claims to have no power with CPS, despite being a “very good mother” who loves her child If you see her, will you think she is a mentally ill person, a being on a different level from you, with mood swings and failure? In fact, she is one of the best people I know. She asked for help, and said “thank you” when it was offered. She wasn’t a botch or a criminal. She was a soldier left behind on the battlefield, ignored and forgotten in a ceaseless war.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.