Helen walks in for her first session. She is 27 years old, and has put a lot of effort into looking nice, wearing lots of makeup and an expensive suit. She comes because she is concerned about her binge drinking and her problematic gambling. She considers herself to be a highly intelligent person and cannot understand why she is so stupid as to lose control so often.
We talk further as I work to understand her in her context. Helen’s managerial role at work is leaving her feeling very stressed, with occasional heart palpitations and panic attacks. She worries that she is working so hard that she will eventually have a heart attack. She complains about her boss who constantly increases what he expects of her. She is a perfectionist and believes she has to complete all her work to the very best of her ability. Also, when her boss is away sick, she is expected to do his paperwork as well. She feels victimised and taken for granted and so angry. She works long hours and then goes home to her three cats where she spends a lot of time worrying about workplace issues and her health. She can’t relax, and she doesn’t sleep very well.
Helen’s one outlet is going out with her friends on Friday nights. She drinks and plays the pokies and switches off from her workplace. She is also concerned about how much she drinks, saying that once she starts she cannot stop. She spends hours drinking and often asks her friends the next day what she got up to and whether or not she acted inappropriately. She also can lose anywhere between $500 to $1500 on the pokies each week.
In fact, her finances are a huge problem for Helen. She earns very good money, but often has difficulty paying her mortgage. When friends, or even friends of friends, ask her for a loan of money, she readily agrees, and then has trouble asking for her money back. With all her loans, her gambling and her drinking she has nothing saved. Helen feels like she is busily treading water in the ocean and exhausting herself to stop herself drowning. She is sick of her life and has started feeling suicidal.
We talk about her earlier life and the ways it has left her needing to be liked by others, and unable to say “no” to the requests/demands of others. We then talk about how these factors are directly contributing to the stress she feels at work by not being clear with her boss about what is acceptable to her. We then discuss how her extreme stress leaves her needing extreme forms of relaxation.
As we talk, I see a light of understanding beginning to shine in Helen’s eyes. She is starting to realise that her binging is not her main problem. Even her boss and her demanding friends are not really her core problem. Her reactions to their demands are at the centre of her real problems. She asks me to help her with her real problems. Our real work begins.Leave a reply