Cross your bridges
She was a quiet-spoken woman in her late forties. Her hair was styled fashionably. She wore well-cut clothes, made from quality fabric. She wore many rings on her fingers. Some of the designs were quite bold, I thought. She carried a little extra weight which was concealed by her choice in clothes. What struck me most was her face. Pale, puffy, black rings around the eyes, indicating many sleepless nights of tossing and turning and worrying. Her blue eyes had a non-registering look about them. Kind of dreamy, with a ‘nobody home’ appearance. Her mouth, soft, with kind lips, were lightly coloured with lipstick. When she smiled, her mouth softened, revealing a lovely set of white teeth. What I noticed was that the smile never found her eyes.
“It is nearly two years now since my nervous breakdown. I have been on all these pills since I left the hospital after I’d had sleep therapy”. With this she unpacked four different kinds of antidepressants, tranquilizers and sleeping tablets onto my desk. “I find I do not remember well. My doctor says my body will adjust to the medication, which is most probably causing the poor memory recall; after two years it is getting worse, not better. He is reluctant to reduce my medication as I can become very anxious and depressed. Can you offer me an alternative?” She spoke in a monotone voice with little if any facial expressions. Her eyes stared empty into mine.
“Why did you have the nervous breakdown?” This question could bring me some insight into what her problem might be. A good place to start if any good was to come from our meeting.
“My eldest son is very abusive towards me.” This she said as if she was starting to tell mea about the weather. The drugs had succeeded in making her feel completely shut away, absent, out of reach of how she really felt. “We are a prominent family in the church and in the community. I feel very ashamed by his behaviour. What will I do if the people knew what was going on in the family?” Her fear of rejection by her friends and family had driven this woman to think that she would be judged a complete failure for not having the perfect family. I would later learn that part of the church teaching was the subordination of women to men. Even her own son could dominate her without her having recourse for objection. The power the church had in her life was huge.