Psycho Babble by Jamie Inman

Some people think that psychotherapy is for self-indulgent whiners who won't face their problems. I have learned from both chairs in the counseling office that real therapy, the kind that produces transformation, can be arduous, sometimes tedious, and always courageous. It is hard work that requires a ferocious honesty that most people cannot imagine, let alone practice.

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Depression For Christmas

Depression came calling last month. No tragedies befell me, no cancer recurrence or family deaths.  A bunch of little nothings in particular over several unremarkable months imperceptibly mounted a sneak attack on my mojo.  I couldn’t write a thank you note, let alone a blog.  I missed appointments and struggled to focus on the ones I did not forget. 
A couple of weeks ago I took a step back and recognized that my old nemesis, depression, had moved in. I have an intimate knowledge of this condition as a psychotherapist, but more importantly, as a patient. So I knew what to do for myself to get well, the first being to reach out to safe people and let them know I needed support.
One such person is a leader in breast cancer activism, and to my surprise she admitted that she, too, was struggling with depression. Neither of us had known that the other was in trouble, and we both felt encouraged by the empathy shared. 
Because that shared vulnerability bolstered me so deeply, I decided to share my own experience with suicidal depression to let others know that they are not alone, and that things do get better.  Below is a meditation I wrote thirty years ago about my  


Often I would cry through the night, the family mercifully unaware of yet another collapse.  On one such night I sobbed alone by the fire until my sides hurt.  I frantically thought of harming myself, or ending my life impulsively, before the part of me that wanted to live could stop me.  Such thoughts terrified me, that I might lose control and kill myself.  I had to evaluate my feelings about dying as opposed to living in agony:  I did want to die, to end my suffering, but I kept holding on because wholeness is worth the struggle (so I heard) and because I knew my dying would hurt my family too much.  
Besides, what if the unpardonable sin was suicide (a notion I rejected when in my right mind) then I would only succeed in condemning myself to an eternity of the despair I sought to escape.  Anyway, suicide was not an option for me because I had already promised God to keep myself alive.
          As these questions rummaged through my beleaguered mind I trudged through day after endless day, looking at the clock for signs of nearing darkness and the escape into sleep.  "Only ten minutes have passed?"  Then sleep would give way to another day of waiting for hands on the clock to move.
          Three steps forward, two steps back—permanent residence in the pit gave way to moments up, then moments linked with others to give me a day of relief.  Days linked to each other into periods of something like happiness.  I functioned again as a wife and mother, yet gloom clutched my heart.  I looked like a concentration camp victim, even when I smiled.  Inevitably I would buckle under the effort, and plummet to the pit.

The pit is filled with tarry mud that weighs heavily on my limp soul.  With titanic effort I lift my head, look around at the black heaviness, and drop my head in defeat.
I pray for death.

God is silent.

Eventually the misery of despair yields to the agony of hope; I push through the layer on top of me, gradually working my way to a standing position. From there I can see where I've been and where I need to go.

I must scale a very steep grade that is covered with a thick layer of mud oozing downward, engulfing me if my concentration on the ascent slips, i.e., simple things like keeping the head up and forward, lifting one foot up, down, then the other up, down, straining all the while against the pull of the mud. 

When I stumble from exhaustion, or from looking down, I collapse, and hope vanishes.   But I learn that if I scoop the muck from my eyes, to my amazement I find that I am not at the bottom of the pit—my face is mired only a pace or two back from where I fell. All is not lost!

It just feels that way as long as my face stays in the mud. 

So I drag myself up again…and again…and again, NOT from the bottom of the pit, but from a ledge on the wall that I could not see from below. 

And from here I see glimpses of a rim of this pit where I hope I shall be able to step clear out of the mud, shake off all the residue, and run and play and laugh again.

But never so far that I would not look for others in the pit, to show them how to get out.

I did recover from that Major Depression with the help of good therapists and appropriate medication. I have had ups and downs, but never as severe as my time in the pit, not even during two bouts with breast cancer. 
My recent dip into depression was painful and immobilizing, but short-lived, largely because I have learned how to read the signs and take action quickly.  It is very common for cancer patients to experience depression of varying degrees of severity. It is critical to talk about it, and to get professional help in severe cases.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Missing My Dad On Father's Day

The beach played a big part in our family life.  It was only an hour's drive and free, so we spent many weekends body surfing, picnicking, and playing foxes and geese.  This snapshot suggests that my enduring love for the ocean was formed before I could walk.

When we weren't at the beach we were usually involved in the arts in a lowbrow sort of way.  All of us at one time or another participated in local or school theater, but music was the one art we all did together with equal enthusiasm.  Both Mom and Dad had gorgeous voices and a deep appreciation for most types of music.  None of us kids inherited our parents' talent, but what we lacked in quality we made up for in gusto. We sang in the car, around the piano, at the dinner table and at parties. 
Daddy had no musical training but his natural gifts were prodigious and supplied endless family entertainment.  He sang bass in a barbershop quartet and played a homegrown honky tonk on our piano.   He patiently taught me simple melodies so we could play mean duets of a sort--me plunking with one finger and him with at least twenty five fingers banging on the other eighty seven keys.  

But my fondest memory is of the ballroom dances my folks learned and happily practiced with us at home.  

As much as I later loved to do the twist and the bump, bopping to the Beach Boys never held a candle to waltzing with my father.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Are therapists crazy?

Dear Yahoo

Is my therapist insane?


Dear Worried

No, she's just a carrier.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Psycho Babble: No charge!

You might have landed here because you know me from my activities as a health activist in the breast cancer world. There is much overlap of these two worlds, particularly for people facing breast cancer.  Self-image is so closely interwoven with body image, especially in our highly sexualized society, that mental and emotional stability are often deeply shaken by a diagnosis of breast cancer. A big part of the breast cancer experience is adjusting to the "new normal," both physically and emotionally. 

Although struggles with breast cancer and mental health usually go hand in hand, the reverse is not true: most mental health issues have nothing to do with breast, or any other, cancer.

So this blog is set aside for topics related directly to mental health and emotional well-being.  I will write about marriage, kids, stress, fighting fair and other relationship issues.  Or I might talk about depression, anxiety, or PTSD.  And I would love to address questions from readers.    Oh, did I mention sex?  That, too.

Anyway,  welcome to my funny farm!

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