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Therapeutic Bullying. Tuesday April 22, 2014

There are some problems with knowing your doctor or therapist socially. Generally I rather like the fact that they know me when I am well so they can tell when I'm not. They also know that they're not dealing with a hypochondriac or attention-seeker.

The downside is that, in the case of my eagle-eyed therapist, she is likely to fix me with an intense stare and say "You're not well; you need to come and see me. When would you like your appointment?"

Like many of us, I'm sure; I fight against acknowledging my illness. In fact, I refer to it as a "condition" which I "manage." And, yes, sometimes that management means giving in and admitting that I'm not well (again) and that I need to go back on the pills.

So there I am, in the small white room, with the peaceful pictures on the walls, arguing once more with the woman who knows me far too well to argue with.

"So, let us just go over your symptoms again, shall we? You are constantly fatigued, you are experiencing frequent feelings of nausea, and often have headaches; you burst into tears for no reason, you feel overwhelmed to the point where you have been having suicidal thoughts. You cannot even summon enthusiasm for your job which I know you adore? At what point exactly do you admit that you are ill and that you need to take steps to recover?"
Well, when you put it like that...

Then she starts the war of attrition. "So, what are you going to give up so that you have that time and space to recover?"

This bit is painful, because we all hate letting people down. It's also awkward, because other people in one's life very often have strong views on what should and should not help: e.g. lots of time "having fun" with the family: good; lots of time shut away by yourself writing or reading: bad. Sadly, those strong views are not always (or even often) helpful.

So I come away from her office having promised to have some awkward conversations and to write some emails resigning from various activities. And I know I need to have those conversations and write those emails because she will be checking up.

I tell her she's a bully and she laughs. "You are paying me to throw my weight around on your behalf."

She's right. She most often is.

So, yes, she's a bully. I need her to be.

A Moodscope member.

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Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 7:25am

Having someone who can be honest, assertive and compassionate enough to tell it like it is is a blessing when you are managing a mental health condition. But that's not bullying and bullying is never therapeutic

GreenJean Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 7:44am

That was so helpful & honest, thank you - I have recently been diagnosed with Bipolar2 after 38 years of living on a see-saw & I could really identify with your feelings of thinking I am attention seeking and the difficulties of having to keep up to committments that I have taken on in great abundance. I have finally accepted that it is an illness and thank you so much for helping me see I'm not alone. Moodscope has also been a great help in tracking the mood swings and taking appropriate mindful action.We just need to be reminded to take our pills and see the professionals from time to time !

Lex McKee Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 7:48am

Oh Mary! I so appreciate the way you are able to weave an account of your own life and journey, then, as if by magic, we are suddenly seeing ourselves in your story.

Off to put an add in the personals, "Therapeutic Bully required... conditions apply"!

Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:08am

Thanks Mary...was feeling guilty - as " bullied " my best friend yesterday -diagnosed Bi-polar -
( & we talk on the phone most days ) Bless her she is Miss "anti-everything'' , but can't
recognise it's mostly her being low in mood, NOT... IN FACT the world being against

Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 9:08am

Therapeutic Bully is a very true and interesting concept. I know because, like Mary, I need one to tell me I need help when I am beyond seeing it for myself. I fight it as if it is going to make any difference: it never does in the end, because it is an illness which is part of me. So yes, I CAN REALLY, REALLY IDENTIFY with what you say, Mary! Many thanks for that.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 9:31am

I found some of your ideas very useful. I also felt a little sad hearing you use the words 'hypochondriac' and 'attention-seeker' as these seem judgmental. I hope that on this board, where many of us have been very depressed and exhibited all kinds behaviour, that we would try to understand people, however they are behaving, rather than label them in a way that 'puts them down'. I have a need for respect and consideration, both for myself and others, even when behaviours are challenging or confusing.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 10:02am

Sometimes, Mary, when I read your blog posts, I wonder if I've been writing them in my sleep. I'm called Mary too and you inevitably express feelings that I share and describe situations in which I've found myself. I even drive an elderly Swedish car.

Even if these similarities weren't there though, to know that others share our problems and feelings is what Moodscope is all about. Thankyou. And take care of yourself.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 11:03am

Yes, I agree - labelling is not helpful.

I'm surprised that a therapeutic relationship co-exisst with a social one. I've always understood that this is not encouraged as boundaries can be fragile.

heather Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 12:36pm

I'll bully you any day Lex!

Richard Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 3:29pm

Thankyou, Mary. I think it very brave of you to share some of your therapist's comments. As always, your writing is frank, open and inspirational.
Love, Richard.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 5:39pm

Absolutely, GreenJean. We feel so energetic in the up bits that we always take on lots and lots and then.... whoops! All the energy drains away and we just don't have the resources to fill those commitments. Enter guilt and feelings of worthlessness stage left. It's really great to have people in our life who can see things clearly from the outside and tell us when we've taken on too much. You're absolutely not alone, and we can all support each other.

PWD Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 5:42pm

Thank you Mary your wording is spot, on I can really relate to your description it is me to a tee especially today. I find it very difficult to put it into words how awful and hopeless it makes you feel.


Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 6:27pm

So appreciate your blog today

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 7:47pm

I think you need to include the words "Form an orderly queue here", Lex; Heather's not the only one, I'm sure, who will offer to (gently and lovingly of course) bully you!

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 7:51pm

Bless you and your friend. I know I really appreciate people who are brisk and no-nonsense when I'm down and don't waste their breath saying "there-there" and offering sympathy. If you can help her see what she needs (as opposed to what she might want/not want) in a loving and gentle way then you are a true friend indeed.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:02pm

To both of you - yes, absolutely labelling is not helpful. I want to make it clear that these are labels I am using for myself and which I fight against, along with "ditsy airhead", "blonde bimbo", "intellectual lightweight", "lazy waste of space" and similar... I'm sure you get the picture. We are all far more cruel to ourselves than to others.

In answer to your point about boundaries and social/professional relationships with health practitioners: I have known my therapist for twenty years; we were friends long before she trained as a therapist. For many years my GP and I attended the same church, and growing up in a small village, it just wasn't possible not to know the doctor socially. I absolutely take your point that while, in many or most cases, a social relationship would not be encouraged; in small communities, the GP/therapist would be lonely indeed if they did not mix with their patients.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:06pm

Ah, so when I wake up with an idea for a blog post, I know we have been dream-sharing! If only I got paid for this you could claim a share of the copyright! Every good wish for you and your elderly Swedish car (does it have a name? Ours is Sylvester)

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:13pm

Ah Paul, it can be grim, can't it? We just need to keep hanging on. It does get better, eventually. It just seems a long, long time getting there. But you're not alone. Thank you for taking the time and energy to reply to this post: knowing that we've spoken to someone and maybe helped, just a little bit, is wonderfully encouraging for we folk on the writing team. If ever you do find the words, then do send them in to share with the rest of us: you'll find that you are reaching others too.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:14pm

Thank you. You are always encouraging. I really appreciate you. (Are you the Richard who drives and writes the lovely poems?)

Lex McKee Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:17pm

Thank you both for your encouragement... OK, form an orderly queue... behind Heather... (wanna buddy up, Heather?)

Mary Blackhurst Hill Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 8:23pm

Thank you. I hope you have someone in your life who can speak frankly and strongly to you when you need it. And yes, fighting it is no good, but neither is giving in and being a victim. I think we need to learn to ride it and flow with it. It's difficult to "relax into it" - I always want to do more; I am always asking myself (especially on a good day (today was a good day)) "Am I better yet? Can I do that seminar, make that meeting, commit to that committee?" The answer (within the depression bit), if I'm sensible, is always no. We have to decide for it to be restful, not frustrating.... and ah ha - I feel another blog coming on. Thanks for the inspiration!

GreenJean Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 10:43pm

Thank you so much Mary - it seems like a revelation to me now I have actually got a reason for why I have had these incredible depression/elation swings since the birth of my first child 38 years ago but can clearly see how important it is to listen to the folk who know us. Thank God for medical advances in Psychiatry and medications. I have had such amazing support from the local mental health team both as an in-patient 2 years ago after a particularly bad (psychotic) episode and subsequently as an out patient

Richard Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 11:09pm

Yes. I have just watched " Jamaica Inn " on BBC1 and " Later...with Jules Holland " on BBC2. They are both well worth a watch.
Mary Blackhurst Hill is a good, strong author's name. Please keep writing. From one aspiring writer to another, thankyou for your encouragement.
Warmest Regards,
Richard Harrison.

Anonymous Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 @ 11:52pm

You are welcome, Mary. I do have someone who can speak frankly to me, however I don't always want to listen ! That is what I meant by fighting it ( the realisation) and no, I do not go into victim mode, rather I accept what I cannot change and reduce the social load to the lowest level I can. In a good phase, friends and family tell me I do too much for others, and not enough for myself.

heather Wed, Apr 23rd 2014 @ 12:00pm

So glad it gave you a laugh - made me laugh but was a bit worried it would be deemed inappropriate !!

Lex McKee Wed, Apr 23rd 2014 @ 12:27pm

I think a bit of light banter is a great addition to the blog exchanges... and I took your comment as a compliment! Actually, your comment has led to a train of thought that has generated not one but eight blogs! Got me thinking about how I could work with a buddy towards a positive goal rather than just checking in with me when my mood scores dip. You see, you're an inspiration, Heather!

Idiosyncratic Eye Wed, Apr 23rd 2014 @ 10:50pm

We need more of that kind of 'bully'! :)

Anonymous Thu, Apr 24th 2014 @ 10:33pm

Mary - so very many thanks, as ever, for your insightful post, which resonates strongly but also inspires and challenges.
One of your big fans!

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