Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Fall Within - More About My Anxiety Story Part V

I’m trying to finish up this thread quickly, as I am leaving town tonight for 10 days. I am also uncomfortable talking so candidly about these things. I realized that my last points of my story will have to be divided up into two more posts.

Counseling Experience 4:

Peter was a PhD psychologist, in his late 50s and had the physical appearance and extreme confidence of the character House, MD on the drama by the same name. By the time I got to him, I was at my worse. With the extreme anxiety and panic attacks, my greatest fear was I was going completely insane (and would spend the rest of my life locked up in a psychiatric warehouse). He had gotten to know my wife, Denise, very well by that time and knew of my problems from her angle.

On the first visit I completed a couple of personality questionnaires. On the second visit, we reviewed them. I had scored very high on the anxiety scale and less than I expected on the depression scale. Then Peter told me, in his very confident way, that this type of anxiety is usually caused by deep feelings of guilt (which I certainly could believe) . . . but guilt brought on by events in childhood. He suggested that we spend several sessions exploring my childhood.

The next session he tried his darndest to get me to admit that my parents had sexually abused me. It simply never happened. I was determined to resist his pressure to admit to such. Then he started getting into the concept of repressed memories. Again I didn’t buy it. Lastly he attempted to hypnotize so he could dig out those suppressed memories. The hypnosis didn’t work, although I did lay there with my eyes closed breathing deeply but still, no repressed memories. I could see why people do start to invent repressed memories under such pressure. I felt like I was in Gutomino Bay, I was the bad guy and Peter was some CIA contractor.

In the next session he moved on to a new therapy technique called EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing). This is simply where you think of some bad memory and then follow his finger back and forth rapidly with your eyes. This was supposed to have erased bad emotions associated with traumatic events. After about 4 sessions, and him claiming it was working, I felt no better.

Next, he had a complete turn around. It caught me by surprise when he announced that we were going to take a new approach. It was based on a book, which in turn, was based on a Christian interpretation of Carl Jung. (I was going to link the book but I can’t find it now, as it must be out of print.) The concept was simply, if we have depression, anxiety etc. then we must have some dark, evil secrets . . . or what Jung would call the “shadow.” In the book, and Peter’s opinion, I needed to get to know my dark side, repent, then we can get better. Peter explained that I was feeling anxious and guilty because I really was guilty and he was convinced of that.

Trying to keep this short, I will summarize that I met with him weekly for a few months. Each time I came out of his office feeling worse than when I went in. I know it sounds odd, but, each session was him trying to expose more and more my “evil side.”

Each session began with me telling him, "If your point is get me to feel more guilty or ashamed, then their is nothing you can do that would make me feel more this way than I already do. I wish I could die just to rid this world of my pathetic self." To which he would reply, "That's only a smoke screen. You have no clue how much evil lurks within you."

The reason I stayed with him was frankly because I was so desperate. I felt like my psyche was coming unglued at the seams and I was actually going insane. My wife, who was having a totally different experience with the man, also encouraged me to continue with him.

Peter was also starting to drive a wedge between Denise and me (looking back). He was persuading her too that I had a very dark side and that she only knew the tip of the iceberg and that I was not as good man as I had pretended to be, or that she had thought I was.

As a sidebar, I know about the abusive husbands who their wives drag to counseling only to have them storm out as soon as the counselor starts putting his finger on the abuse. I truly believe that this was not our situation. I honestly believe that I had been a very good father and husband for 15 years, and I think Denise would be the first to agree.

However, as we entered these three years of great misfortunate (I’ve only alluded to the circumstances), which led up to my emotional breakdown, she was under a great deal of stress. As I started to emotionally unravel, I became a desperate drowning man—drowning in a stew of guilt, shame, depression all within a strong broth of terror. I really thought that I was loosing my mind. Denise had jumped into the soup to save me, like someone would try to save any drowning victim. And like those rescuers, I was starting to pull her under with me. This was the only abuse I was guilty of.

It wasn’t until a few months later and we had a group family vacation (12 people in an RV for crying out loud) that I spent some quality time with my older sister. She was one of the few people who knew what was going on with me personally. She loves me unconditionally, and I have great confidence in that. As she looked over the material that Peter was asking me to work through, she became very alarm and thought it was damaging. I think it was at that point that I saw the light. Things had only worsened for me during the 6 months I had been seeing Peter.

When I returned to Rochester, MN, I canceled my follow up appointment with Peter. Yet, I had to find help. This will lead me to my final, and most rewarding counseling experience.


Jaimie said...

Wow. Peter is quite a character. No wonder they did a show, one of my favorite shows, on him. :P

My god, I couldn't imagine that. Yuck. I'm seeing a therapist now, and thank goodness her only fault is that she is quite harmless.

Anonymous said...

The next session he tried his darndest to get me to admit that my parents had sexually abused me. It simply never happened. I was determined to resist his pressure to admit to such. Then he started getting into the concept of repressed memories. -- JMJ

Ah. Yes. "Repressed memories of sexual abuse" as a universal explanation, just like demon possession.

"Recovered Memory Testimony" was a fad of the Eighties. 400 years ago it was called "Spectral Evidence". Now it's called "False Memory Syndrome", said false memories implanted by the True Believer therapist.

Among Christians, this fad fed into and powered the "Satanic Panic" of the Eighties -- the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" Christian Conspiracy Theory about a Grand Conspiracy of Satanists behind every door and under every bed. (And just like during Witch trials, any doubting of The Conspiracy Theory PROVED you were One of Them.) I got caught in the edge of the blast zone because I read SF and played D&D.

I think there are still people doing time for being falsely accused on such Recovered Memory Evidence some 20 years ago. Janet Reno launched her political career as a DA with a couple successful prosecutions like that.

Headless Unicorn Guy