Therapists in Los Angeles

The More You Help Yourself The More Help You Will Get
by Dorothea McArthur

Alice looked pale and completely worn out. “My husband is still in the process of leaving. He doesn’t see that I’m really upset. He didn’t notice that I took too many pills even though he is a dentist.. I went to the hospital emergency room to check myself in to the psych ward because I felt so bad, because he wouldn’t even drive me there. I don’t think he cares if I die. I still love him. I go back and forth between being loving and screaming at him that I’m in really bad shape. Everything I do seems to drive him farther and farther away. We were in love; how can he be so heartless? I don’t know what else to do. I feel so hopeless; suicide seems like the only thing left to do. My whole married life has been for him and he doesn’t even care.”

“I can understand that you’re very upset and that this is an extremely difficult time for you. When you’re being rejected, it’s really hard to remember that you’re still a valuable person with your own strengths and talents.”

Alice spoke with certainty. “Well, all I know is that I must have done something terribly wrong.”

“That’s not a foregone conclusion we can make at this time. However, sometimes we learn something new as a result of facing hard times squarely.”

“What can I do?”

“Well . . . let’s take a look. Apparently, you’re telling him how badly you feel through all of the different ways you’ve tried to get his attention. It seems that your actions may only be making him pull away more.”

 “Yup.” Alice continued to slump on the couch.

 “You have said, ‘My whole married life has been for him and he doesn’t seem to care.’

What would happen if you focused in on what you need to do right now to make your own life feel better for you? . . . what could you do to help yourself?

“Well . . . I think I need to find a new place to live because living with him when he doesn’t love me anymore is hell.”

“Good thought.”

Alice sat up a little more and looked at me for the first time, “A friend mentioned that she has a neighbor who is renting a room in her condo because her husband died. She has a home instead of our tiny apartment, so I could bring my two cats with me. At least I would not have to separate from them too.”

“More good thinking . . . and I wonder if your husband would be more responsive to you if you showed him how you were taking care of yourself?”

“When I told him about this possible plan, he spoke to me nicely for the first time.”

“There’s a principle here that might be of enormous help to you just now, especially when you feel suicidal. Sometimes we ask for help from others by letting them know just how much we’ve been hurt. In a way, we try to ‘go belly up.’ We’ve all tried it from time to time. I think you’re already noticing that the more we can take care of ourselves, the more other people will step forward and give us a hand. When we go ‘belly up,’ others may get nervous and pull away; not sure what to do or if they can help. However, if we come up with a plan, take it as far as we can ourselves, then they’re more likely to say, ‘Sure, I can contribute something.’

People like to be asked and like to help, but only when they can figure out what to do and feel as if it’s going to be worth their time.”

“Maybe you’re right . . . Three friends have offered to help me with a garage sale and to put some things in storage if I decide to move.”

“That’s a good example. Have you talked with the person who has the room to rent?”

“Not yet. I fluctuate between wanting to stay in the apartment to piss my husband off, and just getting away from all of his rejection of me. I came here today to ask you what you thought.”

“Which one is taking care of you?”

“I guess that leaving would be best for me.”

“I agree because retaliation never really works.”

“But it’s so much work to move. He should have to do it instead of me.”

“I get it. Life is not fair sometimes. But, remember that if you have a clear plan to take care of yourself, others have already offered to help. It’s a productive plan that moves your life

forward and is much better than going to a psychiatric hospital or planning an overdose. You have so much of life ahead of you to enjoy if you take it in hand. I do understand that it’s really hard to believe what I just said today. When you take good care of yourself, then you have the most to offer others. I believe there will be another person for you to love, who can love you back fully.”

“Sometimes, I wish I could just leave the country for a while and come back later. I need some distance to figure out how I want to earn money. I’ve been doing whatever job I could get while he finished his training to be a dentist.”

“Since you’re able to tell me what you would really like to do, I can offer you a particular option to look at carefully. You might want to consider the Peace Corps or a program called Teaching English in a Foreign Land (TEFL). They will train you in a hundred hours, place you in a country, pay all of your living and travel expenses, and a salary. Look it up on the internet.”

“I’ll be sure to do that! . . . Well, I do feel more like going on with life now. Thanks for fitting me in at the last minute. Can I see you again towards the end of the week?”

”More good thinking on your part. Yes, of course. Make the rest of your day a good day for you, not a bad day for him. Maybe you can meet with the person who has the room to rent this evening. Before you leave, would you be willing to sign this sentence that you promise not to commit suicide because it’s first degree murder and would be treating you unnecessarily badly. Should you change your mind, you will promise to call and talk with me first?”

“Yes, I can do that now.”

“Thank you. It’s important for you, and would reassure me too.”


“I’ll see you again for sure on Friday.”     

“I’ll be there.”

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