Some years ago I wrote this letter to an intern of mine who had been hospitalized three times for mania related to bipolar disorder and struggling to deal with clients suffering from similarly debilitating conditions. With the intern’s permission, I am publishing it now because I believe it contains an important message both for clients and therapists. Any disability can be overcome, but it requires genuine courage and determination. Honestly assessing whether you have the resources – both inside you and in your relationships with others – is the first step towards change.

“I’m glad you feel the way you explained. I feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing when a person tells me about how they feel after a temporal redirection. Remember, we live in a time-space reality. If you look up temporal lobe seizures, you will find out some amazing behavior changes while a person is conscious and talking to you. I try to remember when I have a case that is puzzling me to investigate and refer them to their MD for an EEG. I have been right half the time, and with a small dose of seizure medication, the mood stabilizes. The point here is about change, permanent change. It is a process, and your client needs to feel that the change was their decision. There might be times when you have worked for months or years, and functional residual capacity improves but there is too much fluctuation over time. That is not how healing looks: what you want to aim for is temporal change. When it happens, both will know it is the truth, and that is healing. It is a process with no destination and progress is the rule, never perfection.

 

“In your case, the things required for change are present. All you need is love. But one must learn how to give it before they can take it in. What you achieved is extraordinary because your weakness causes severe regression and it doesn’t care what you want. At times, it was the captain of your ship. When something is wrong temporally, it amplifies natural human fear, and people act in all sorts of ways. Giving love comes from a different place than just acting like you love, like saying and doing all the right things. What you did, you did for the two souls that are bonded to you. So, basically, you have the same bonding experiences now that only a few children receive from their confused parents. You have tackled the bonding issue about your mother and closed the gaps with your family of origin. It is almost always necessary in every case you work. I can explain more when we see each other. I have to assume you are deeply in love with one or both of your wife and daughter. I’m confident it is both, but it doesn’t have to be for a change to happen that has the same energy you feel in your spirit and soul now. It only takes one other person, two or more are not required.

 

“The deeper issue here is the kind of man you are becoming despite all the hardships life has thrown at you. Do not ever believe that your bipolar label diminishes your value to that of a lesser human. We are all of the same value; you are finding that out because of love. It made you do what was necessary, and you pulled your head out of the sand and got humble enough to become teachable, then you began listening to direction because it was the loving thing to do. We are worthless to others if we don’t take care of ourselves. The truth of your word can be measured by the actions you take to be a party to love.

 

“Rest assured that I have walked in your shoes in my way. As a psychologist, the months of personal struggle were worth it. It’s one thing to be able to keep a critically ill person alive on a dialysis machine: all I have to do is tweak clotting times, adjust blood Ph and potassium, while I remove fluid as I’m dumping blood products and hyperalimentation in them. I just use a syringe, pre-bottled chemicals, a high-tech roller pump on a computerized machine. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is a different skill set entirely, and it requires of the therapist that he or she has a perspective of psychopathology. Doing what causes healing can’t be taught from academics or review. It comes from the humiliation of looking at self. Our dirty laundry is always covered up. Some more than others. Character is built and judged by content. Taking an honest look at resentments and understanding injustice requires looking at the truth, and working through a process to be the kind of person one wants to be, regardless of the handicap.

 

“Welcome to freedom. But you still need to check in with me every few months as needed. So, make an appointment please, and God bless those girls in your life. Gratitude is the essential ingredient for the real happiness recipe. People have a hard time with that concept because it means they aren’t the center of the universe. Go to your spouse for true meaning. Come to me when your fear level starts going up, or you start to negotiate terms with the universe. I think you should check in so my keen eye can pull your covers if truth starts changing.

 

“Thank you for the privilege of being invited into the most personal aspects of your life. I tried to remain respectful and remember how important the stakes were for you. Shall we meet next week?”

Dr. Robert Marselle earned his doctorate degree in psychology (Psy.D.) from Ryokan College in Los Angeles and his Masters in Counseling Psychology from La Jolla University. He is a licensed clinical  psychologist and a Registered Nurse (RN) in the state of California and is a certified TeleMental Health Provider by the TeleMental Health Institute, TMHI.

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