Honest communication helps patients through a difficult time News, Sports, Jobs
In the last article we met Casey, a worker laid off due to COVID-19.
His girlfriend Sylvia, who lives separately from Casey, persuaded him to seek counseling. Like Sylvia, he owns his own house. His dog Beauty shares the house. We have learned that Casey has collected unemployment. He had also collected extra unemployment benefits. A frugal man, he saved some money to make up for his loss of income. He continues to pay into health insurance. As a late shift worker, he had to adapt to a different sleep pattern.
Casey reports no counseling history. This is a new experience for him. Since he was unemployed for many months, Casey has made a new daily routine. Adjusting to this schedule can be a struggle. Those who work the late shift sleep during the day. Now he trains his body to sleep at night. If his employer calls him back to work, he faces another sleep adjustment if he keeps his previous shift times. Daily updates on Casey’s day reveal a man running the basics. I suggested to him that he reconsider his daily activities and consider some changes. He has books. He reads sparingly. He trains minimally. His diet might draw attention. First of all, these areas of his life can be re-evaluated. Also, we can discuss them here in therapy if Casey wishes.
Nice to see you again, Casey. How was your week?
“Well, you gave me a lot to think about last week. Talking about my life during COVID-19 is a new thing for me. When I visit with my work colleagues, we usually talk about sports or our dogs. Some of my friends are married and have children. You share a little with me. I don’t identify with them, mostly because Sylvia and I haven’t seen each other that often. We talk every day. I had a thought. I think I share little with Sylvia. I think we have a good thing going. When you invited me to reconsider my life while out of work, man… I guess I fell short. Sylvia shares much of her life. I hear about her job and her work at home. My dog Beauty loves Sylvia. We used to go on hikes together or go for walks in the park. Beauty barks when she hears Sylvia’s voice on the phone. Sylvia thinks it’s cute. So I thought about my relationship with Sylvia.”
That’s a great start, Casey. You said Sylvia was concerned that you were worried. Can you tell me more about your worries?
“Well, Sylvia has her job, which has remained stable. Since I have limited unemployment benefits, well… will I be able to pay my bills? I also think it could affect our relationship. I think about it a lot. I couldn’t talk to her about that.”
Casey, that’s a concern, are you worried like Sylvia is about your concerns?
“I try not to let it overwhelm me. A few times I’ve snapped at Beauty for no reason. Poor puppy. She crouched under my bed. I never told Sylvia anything about the incident.”
If you’re thinking about telling Sylvia about your worries, do you have any idea what you would say to her?
“I don’t know what to do about it. I sometimes think the worst. Will Sylvia lose her care for me? That’s a big concern. Will she remember to help me pay my bills?”
These are relevant and important concerns, Casey. How does that feel?
“I feel terrible. Losing Sylvia during this COVID-19 time is going to make me feel really alone. Damn, I feel alone a lot.”
What do you think you could say to Sylvia on this subject?
“I guess I need to spend some time thinking about it.”
Your feelings came from your heart. Knowing Sylvia, how do you think she would react if you spoke from your heart?
“I think maybe sharing my feelings with Sylvia will help me.”
I wonder how this might affect your relationship. Do you even think it could bring you and Sylvia closer? Do you think it could negatively affect your relationship?
“I have a lot to think about, you know? I isolated myself from COVID-19. I guess you got me thinking that I’ve isolated myself from Sylvia too. i really love her I guess I’m feeling down You see, she gives me so much of herself. I didn’t love you back. I’m angry with myself.”
Can you tell Sylvia about this, Casey?
“No, I couldn’t.”
What’s in your way? Do you have any feeling or feeling about it, Casey?
“How am I? How am I?! I feel lousy in my skin. I don’t have a job. Sylvia has been generous to me. I’m very ashamed. When we talk, she shares her life with me. She’s allowed talk about her work. She likes her job very much. Sometimes she just wants to talk about the good and the not so good of her job. I have a problem listening to her. Even with good and not so good work experiences, Sylvia tells me everything. I have to admit, I’m not a very good listener. I think she can tell. I don’t have a job, so there’s nothing I can do but bitch about being fired. Sylvia is an optimist. She says my job and my situation will be better improve. Yeah…I’m starting to not believe her.”
Casey begins to tear.
Casey, this is great stuff. This is growth material. you are stuck Her work is a source of self-identity. Now fired, how does your identity match your feelings? Months without a job, how does that affect your self-esteem, your self-worth?
“I feel down and depressed. I don’t think much about myself. As the months go by, I get more and more down on myself. Sylvia is hard to be with at times. I don’t think I have much to offer her. You know what I mean?”
Can you tell me more about that, Casey? This is an area where you could see where you are stuck. Yes, when you look at the situation, you feel stuck with the dismissal. Maybe you feel out of control in this part of your life. Do you think Sylvia might be open to hearing about this part of your life? You know, there’s a lot of interesting stuff. Many unemployed people feel depressed and anxious. Describing Sylvia as a good listener, a caring person, think about the obstacles that stand in your way of revealing your true, authentic self to her. I think there is a lot to gain.
“I guess I need to be more honest with her.”
You’ll be right there. Also, your first thought might be to be honest with yourself, Casey. See you in a week?
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Marshall Greenstein holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in the state of New York. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or topic suggestions, email [email protected]