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|A Day in the Life - Day in Life 3|
My 4:00 p.m. client, Paul, entered with a look of grim determination. "I can't live like this anymore," he began. "It's as if we're already divorced. We have no relationship." Paul's body was heavy, weary. He spoke into his beard. For nearly a year, he'd worked in therapy to gain enough strength to face the reality that his wife had dropped out of his life. Clinically depressed, she rarely got out of bed, refused to bathe, and dressed only to see her psychiatrist for meds. "I know now that I'll have to hospitalize her if I have any hope of getting her back," Paul continued in a dull monotone. He looked up at me sadly. "I need your help in figuring out how to do that."
Action. The possibility of change. For the first time that day, my energy surged. Calling on my earlier experience as an inpatient therapist, I coached Paul through the process of creating a hospitalization plan. We decided that after he left my office, he'd call his wife's psychiatrist (who was also his own psychiatrist) and explain what he wanted to do, and why. The following day, he'd drive his wife to her scheduled psychiatrist appointment, where he and the doctor would gently but firmly confront her with her choices: she could enter the hospital voluntarily, or Paul would commit her. As we discussed each step, I frequently paused to ask, "How are you feeling? Do you feel ready to go through with this?" Each time, Paul nodded resolutely. As our plan grew clearer, his voice became more spirited, and he seemed to grow taller. I felt my own body expand with fresh vitality. Plans equal hope, I thought. Hope equals life.
My last session of the day was with Katy, the single parent of two spirited teenage girls. As she barged through my open office door, late for our appointment, she was already talking. "I'm leaving those impossible kids!" she declared. "I can't take it anymore!" Katy paced for a while, then fixed herself a cup of tea, but was too jangled to drink it. Finally, she threw herself down on the couch, spitting out: "Let them raise themselves!"
Her anger distracted and enlivened me. I'd been there myself, raising three sons on my own. I'd felt similar frustrations, had thought the very same thoughts. As Katy vented, I tried to normalize her feelings, acknowledging my own moments of motherly ambivalence. Gradually Katy's fury spent itself, and she turned her energy to a playful fantasy of escape from responsibilities. "I dream of around-the-world cruises—alone!" she said, her eyes dancing. Together, we spun a scenario of a shorter Mediterranean cruise, and then modified that into a weekend getaway downtown. Eventually, we came up with a realistic and fun list of ways by which Katy could take care of herself, including signing up for a Latin dance class. By the end of the session, we were laughing. I loved the inner fire that pushed her forward.