As I have said, the experiences I had as Robin’s therapist in 2003 changed my life. I never expected Robin to have such a dramatic meltdown. I certainly never expected it to take a year for her psychiatrist and I to get her back to being stabilized. The blog we have written documents in detail the nightmare Robin and I both experienced. Obviously her nightmare was MUCH worse than mine. But it is difficult to verbalize how being a witness to her pain, and knowing I was the only person on the planet who she could be honest with about her experiences, affected me.
The best way I can explain it is that I went from being a somewhat anxious (it’s genetic) person who tended to be stressed easily by change or ambiguity, to being able to maintain a much more healthy perspective. Before 2003 I used to worry about many issues related to my own security…finances, job security, my husband’s job security, issues related to our house whenever repairs were needed (because it added stress both financially and in terms of throwing me out of my routine), and other things like that. I need to be clear…I was needlessly worried. We were doing okay financially, and our jobs were not in jeopardy. I was excessively and irrationally anxious and easily stressed, somewhat like Robin. There is a reason I could relate to some of Robin’s issues. Anxiety clearly runs in my family, going back at least several generations, and I got a healthy dose of it.
There was something significant for me about being so completely immersed in Robin’s reality for such a long period of time. The stakes were high. Her life was on the line. I knew, deep in my gut, that I needed to be there for her. When I try to explain how it changed me to be so involved with Robin’s care for almost a year, I can only say that I gained a completely new perspective about what was important for me to worry about. Suddenly all the issues I had always previously worried about…finances, job security, my house being okay, etc., were not important. My focus just automatically shifted. I had much more important things to be anxious about, like whether Robin was going to survive.
I realized about halfway through the year that this shift seemed to be taking place. I recognized that I was worrying much less about things I did not need to be worried about. In fact, I wasn’t worrying much at all about these things. What I didn’t realize or expect, was that this change would be permanent. It never occurred to me that I would never again worry the way I had before. The experience with Robin caused a shift within me that has changed my life. I am a much more relaxed person. I am not stressed by change or ambiguity like I used to be. I am not nearly as worried about security issues. If my current experience is not involving a life or death struggle, everything else still seems minor. I am much more able to “go with the flow.”
I began to write in a journal when I was ten years old. I remember reading a book in which the main character kept a journal (“Harriet the Spy”) and I thought it was a cool idea. Journaling became a regular part of my life, and still is to this day. It is more than a hobby. It is a need. I have to write, or I don’t feel okay. I have over forty years of my life documented in detail. I have joked with my nieces and nephews (I have never had children) that they will have interesting reading some day when I am gone. There has been much laughing about me “highlighting the good parts.”
After 2003, as I began to realize how I had been transformed by the experience with Robin, I began to think it was significant enough that it warranted writing a book about it. Of course, at that time I was still Robin’s therapist. I was still very focused on helping her to recover from the devastation that had happened to her as a result of her meltdown.
But, being a writer, I kept feeling compelled to try to write a book about the significant experience Robin and I had gone through. At some point, several years after things stabilized for Robin, I actually began to try to write the book on my own. I wrote probably twenty pages, which are similar to the beginning of this blog. But I was trying to disguise Robin’s identity and write the book from my own perspective without Robin being aware of it. It wasn’t appropriate for me, as her therapist, to talk to her about writing a book about her. At that time I was more focused on how the experience had impacted me, and I wanted to tell that story.
The problem was, it was mostly Robin’s story. And, as I wrote I became completely clear that it would be impossible to tell the story in enough detail for people to truly understand what happened, without violating Robin’s confidentiality. Her issues are very significant and very specific. I couldn’t reconcile a way to tell the story and honor Robin’s privacy at the same time. I quickly abandoned the whole idea of writing a book about it.
The last thing I expected, at that point, was for Robin to later bring up the idea of writing a book…..