How Counselling May Help Alleviate Physical Ill health - A Case Study
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Julia Duffin RGN, Reg Mem MBACP
27th February, 20140 Comments
Sue worked in a high powered job, she had worked there for many years, in a very stressful job. Sue was married with two ‘stroppy’ teenage children, as well as going through a difficult demanding time with elderly parents.
Gradually she found she wasn't coping any more, she was going home in tears. Getting angry over nothing, colleagues where avoiding her. Her manager told her in a meeting that she was becoming very difficult. However, despite all this she still thought she was OK, she helped others, she didn't need help herself. Women are supposed to be strong, mothers are supposed to be strong, wives have to be strong, she was strong, always had been, and in her mind believed she always would be. Sue had needed to be strong and self reliant, having had a childhood where her parents physically and emotionally abused her. Where, Sue, as the eldest child had been made responsible for her younger siblings welfare. Her only happy times had been in school, until she started being bullied and then she became increasingly self reliant not having the friends she would have turned to previously
Sue couldn’t go on being strong, she did not recognize that she needed care too, so what happened? Her body screamed out in protest and she began to develop physical symptoms. First, irritable bowel type symptoms, food intolerance's, and mild indigestion, nothing that she could not live her life around and mostly ignore. Yet, they were signs that her body was telling her she was under stress and needed to take time to care for herself. It took serious chest pain, admission to hospital, and a suspected heart attack to make her see her life maybe under threat. It was with great relief she heard that there was nothing seriously wrong, that it may have been caused by Sues’ stressful life. Her inability to recognise that she didn't have to do it all and her self reliance. The chest pain had shown her that feeling solely responsible for everyone else's well-being was at the expense of her own, her mind and body could not continue in this way.
So Sue, very bravely, accessed work placed counselling, six sessions, she kept tight control over these only having them when she wanted them, not every week as most would, but this just demonstrated how hard it was for Sue to accept help, to trust someone else to be there for her no matter what. For Sue to find what had been missing all her life, a reliable, caring, person who thought, listened, talked and cared for her as an individual for that 50 minutes.
At the end of Sues’ six sessions she had begun to recognise consciously that her present problems and relationship difficulties had their roots in her childhood. She saw that her marriage was at risk, her teenage children were suffering with a mother who wasn't coping. Also, most importantly to Sue at the time, Sue wanted to be free of the resentment, hurt, and anger she felt towards her parents, in order for her gain a healthy relationship with them into their old age.
So, six years on, Sue has, with the help of her counsellor worked through, thought about and grieved for her lost childhood. She understands herself more and why she is who she is. Her marriage is rock solid as she is less self reliant and turns to her husband and others for support. The self reliance, shows itself occasionally, yet it is not her normal way of relating to others. The chest pain has never returned, the irritable bowel symptoms have disappeared and she can recognize when her body is telling her she is doing to much or getting stressed.
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