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|Blindsided - Page 9|
I'm a person of ordinary temperament who's faced down extraordinary experiences. So when I'm in the therapy room, I carry with me the confidence that my ordinary clients can get through what they are struggling with. Getting past my own suffering has given me courage to go into the depths of other people's suffering without fearing what might get stirred up in them or me.
I work with a middle-aged woman who has a disabling combination of medical and psychological symptoms. A survivor of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse in childhood, this woman was able to integrate multiple personalities in a prior therapy. She came to me devastated and suicidal after being precipitously and mysteriously left by the love of her life, a woman with whom she'd had a multiyear platonic relationship. Suicidal and self-mutilating, she was shoplifting (a survivor response), and had migraine headaches and fibromyalgia. Many times in the early going I dealt with crisis calls and crisis sessions, during which she was convinced that the only solution for her suffering was to kill herself.
Before my own struggles, I don't believe I could have conveyed the confidence and hope that were repeatedly called for at these times. However, knowing from my own experience that ordinary people can get through extraordinary struggles and that she herself had already done that by integrating multiple personalities, I stolidly reassured her that she'd make it. I believed in the woman and her strengths, and believed that she could find her way to a meaningful life and to the love and connectedness that she so desperately desired. Because of my own pain, I was able to sit patiently with her in her pain without having to "fix it."