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.

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