Feeling Compelled to Write a Book

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…..


About Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.

Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. completed her doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Purdue University. She spent ten years doing full-time clinical practice at a community mental health center with primarily adults. She then spent eight years working as an administrator at that same community mental health center while continuing to maintain a small caseload of therapy clients. She now provides clinical services in long-term care facilities in addition to writing, consulting and spending as much time as possible with the people she loves.
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10 Responses to Feeling Compelled to Write a Book

  1. So thankful for the reblog! Happy to have you join us.

  2. Dawn D says:

    I think it is wonderful that this story had such a positive outcome for *both* of you. And that you both had the same idea of writing a book about it!

  3. Aden Ng says:

    Hey, happy to hear more from you two. Your continued story is I believe, one of the best eye-opening experience for people who do not have mental illness.

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve added Despair to Deliverance in a Link and Resources page on my site that will be linked in all my new posts on mental health. Hopefully will help drive some traffic here. Do let me know if you have any problems with that. Cheers!

    • Thank you so much as always! Of course we have no problem with you helping to drive traffic to our site. We appreciate you! I was reading your post about your writing, and taking a break when necessary, etc. I love what you do! Don’t ever stop writing…you are great.

  4. I just saw all this. I myself saw horrific things happen when therapists became overinvolved with their clients. I saw client-staff marriages, suicides due to overinvolvment, and people’s lives being entirely taken over until they understand that overinvolvement is abuse. I realize the excuses therapists make, such as, “It’s mutual.” But it isn’t. It can’t be. So I want to ask how you managed to be so personally involved with a client without being abusive? These types of situations almost always come to a bad end….

    • I am so glad you asked this question! I checked out your blog and want to say I am so sorry you have had such negative exeriences in treatment. To answer your question, good clinicians know the difference between a “boundary crossing” and a “boundary violation.” The difference is, a boundary crossing is an appropriate extension of the boundaries for reasons that are healthy and in the best interests of the client. Boundary violations are inappropriate, unhealthy, and as you pointed out, can have disatrous consequences. I managed to be personally involved with Robin without being abusive by consulting regularly with supervisors and trusted colleagues, by constantly staying vigilant about how Robin was responding to the well thought out interventions I was using, and by trusting my gut in some cases. The blog is long, but if you are willing to start at the beginning and read the whole story, I think you will understand more…I explain a lot of it in the context of telling the story. The bottom line is, Robin got better as a result of my interventions and my extending of the boundaries in ways that were crucial to her healing. I would welcome your feedback if you choose to read, as I always welcome dialogue. The goal of our writing is to help people, and I would love for you to be aware of at least one example in which the mental health system, including ECT and multiple hospitalizations, worked the way it should work for everyone. Thanks again for checking out our blog, and for your important question!

      • Everyone? Really? Everyone should do multiple hospitalizations? I once had an overinvolved therapist named Liz. She had me wrapped around her finger and TOTALLY CONVINCED that she was the best therapist in the world. A freaking God. After three years being totally trapped by her, I got out and realized just how wrong it all was. She was claiming the precise same thing you are claiming, that it was all right, all just so perfect, this “therapy.” No, no no no no no. Abuse. If I’d listened to her, I’d be toting around stuffed animals and talking baby talk, completely nonfunctional. Just like she wanted it. Because they thrive on that power. Many are addicted to their clients’ crises. I personally think that multiple hospitalizations is NOT a reflection on how sick the person is, but how badly the System fails just about all of us, turning ordinary people into permanent patient$.

      • No! I did not say everyone should do multiple hospitalizations. I said Robin needed them to stay safe. Big difference. I am so sorry you had a therapist who abused her power. I am not going to defend myself as a therapist. Just suggesting you read the story before making assumptions about Robin’s experience and my therapy interventions…..

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