Denise came to counseling after her father had died of a heart attack at the age of 84. She had been on a cruise to Alaska when he died, and she felt guilty for leaving her 76-year-old mother and younger sister to plan the funeral. A few months later, Denise was flying back every other weekend to Denver to clean out her father’s belongings and check in on her mother. She complained that her sister rarely stopped by to help, even though she only lived half an hour from their childhood home.
Denise always thought her mother would be the first to go in the family. She had diabetes and had experienced a heart attack several years before. Her father had been in great shape and was a regular at the gym. He was actively involved in a local church and was president of the local American Legion. He also took on most of the household responsibilities—he loved to cook and paid all the bills. Denise was surprised to learn how little her mother knew about their finances—she couldn’t even tell them where to locate important papers in the house. “She can barely make scrambled eggs. She eats TV dinners and I can’t get her to leave the house more than once a week.”
Does thinking about spending time with your family have you feeling stressed out and anxious? If you’re dreading your family reunion or annual family vacation, read my advice at psycom.net.
“Erin” came to counseling with all the signs of depression. She was unhappy with her career, her health and her family. Her mother was distressed, her father was distant and her disabled brother was sick.
Erin spent a lot of energy calming and directing her family, and she complained about how little her family supported her in return. She increasingly relied on sugar to calm herself down, and she struggled to end this dependence.
Erin’s anxiety was high, and as a newbie counselor, I struggled to operate outside of it. She cried through many of our meetings, and she grew increasingly critical of our work together.
Read the rest of my essay at Counseling Today.
Not long ago, a close friend of mine was struggling with a huge life decision: Should she marry her long-term partner, or was it time to part ways? “Be my therapist!” she begged me at one point, when the two of us were hanging out with a group of friends. I tried to deflect, but she kept requesting my advice, like it was a party trick. Over the course of the night, I watched as our other friends offered their own opinions on her partner, only sharing my thoughts when we finally got a moment alone.
Read the rest of my essay from New York magazine here.
My latest from Thought Catalog
Did you know that when a work project is past due, or a massive truck veers in front of you on the highway, your body flips on the same physiological responses as if a lion was chasing you? Our physiology kept us alive as a species when we had to escape predators on the savannah, but now this chronic triggering takes its toll on the human body.
While thirty lions might not chase you every day, you might have thirty worries that send the stress-response system into overdrive. The fact that we can anticipate catastrophe before it even occurs is one of the best and worst things about being human. Thinking ahead keeps us alive, but it also keeps us up at night, with worries tipping over like dominoes in our anxious heads. Read the rest here.