I could hardly believe this was the same woman who sat with me last month. Diane's usually cheerful face was haggard. There were dark circles under her eyes and her hair was untidy. Her clothes looked as though she had slept in them. She looked exhausted! What could have happened to bring on such a sudden change?
Diane had been seeing me on and off for a few months.
She initially consulted me about her daughter, who was diagnosed with ADHD and had been in some trouble at school. Together we worked on a management plan and I recommended some natural remedies for ADHD, along with parent counseling regarding discipline, how to manage homework issues and some tips on diet. This helped a lot and Diane continued to visit me for help with her parenting role as well as issues at work and with her partner. Even though she had a lot on her plate and was under plenty of stress, Diane always found time to be friendly and she was a person who liked to look on the bright side - a 'glass half full' type of person.
The person who sat opposite to me today, however, looked like a 'glass is empty' person. She could not meet my gaze, slumped on the chair and it was not long before the tears began to roll down her cheeks.
I let her be until she was ready to speak - and then it all poured out! The stress and frustrations at work, the demands of being a mother, the difficulties in her marriage and the struggle she was having trying to help her father who was frail, yet refusing to acknowledge he needed help. On top of everything, Diane was not sleeping well and had started to have hot flashes, during the day as well as at night. Her concentration was terrible and she was falling behind with her work. In short, Diane said, she had had enough!
Good, I replied. Good. What is it you have had enough of? 'Everything!' she said. OK, so let's break this 'Everything' down into bite sized bits', I replied.
Slowly we went through the problems one by one. It turned out that the cheerful face that Diane usually showed to the world was just a cover to hide the overwhelmed person underneath. Due to her upbringing and her relationship with her mother (who died two years ago), Diane had never learned to ask for help or to receive it when it was offered. Instead she took on everyone else's problems, to the point where Diane was the 'go to' person for her entire family and friends. And because deep down she did not believe that people would still love her if she said 'No', she just kept piling on the stress, taking on far too much responsibility for other people's lives.
And now it had become too much. The weight of all the demands had finally worn Diane out - and she did not know how to put it down.
I told Diane that she had come to a very important crossroads in her life. Finally admitting that she needed help was a great start. However, it would be important to work on new ways of relating to herself and to her friends and family. Some of them would not like it and some would. Diane needed to see me weekly for a while so that I could support and guide her through the process - and make sure that she didn't slip right back into her 'SuperWoman' cape when things got too scary. I also recommended a natural remedy for depression, as well as one to help with the hot flashes.
Leaving the therapy room, Diane said 'We have a lot of work to do, don't we?' 'Yes' I said '...but you will see - the journey will be good and you are going to love the destination!'