After the tiff with my Mother the other day I was pretty upset. My period is due, I feel like crap both physically and emotionally, and am really struggling with her alcoholism. I googled help for families of alcoholics and could find nothing other than Al Anon (there was legions of help for the actual alcoholic though, which is great but it’s not the alcoholic who has to live with the fallout from their disease, it’s the people around them – the alcoholic is so high most of the time their life is just a blur). However, the nearest Al Anon meeting is an hour’s drive away and I’m not well enough to do that every week.
So, I’m considering some counselling. I want to choose someone in the next town though, as I don’t want to see someone locally only to bump into them in the supermarket knowing they know every intimate detail about my life. There is a counsellor who used to work at the local Hospice who looks well qualified and experienced, but I don’t know whether I need a Psychologist rather than “just” a Counsellor. My history goes something like this:
- Perfect childhood until the age of 7 when my Mum left my Dad out of the blue.
- Taken away from everything and everyone I knew, moved 200 miles to live with a grandparent who used to hit me. Mum was clinically depressed, drank too much and was addicted to prescription Valium. Moved 9 times in the next 2 years, couch surfing with various relatives.
- Started being bullied at school, which went on for the next 10 years.
- Mum met and married my step-dad but their relationship was volatile from the start, including daily rows and the odd plate throwing. I never knew what the atmosphere at home would be like from one day to the next. This was all kept a secret though and to the outside world my parents were really nice – my school friends were all jealous that I had such a “lovely Mum”.
- Repeatedly sexually assaulted by my step-brother aged 9-10.
- Sexually assaulted at the age of 11 by a neighbour.
- Became clinically depressed around the age of 13 but this wasn’t recognized in children in those days. Woke every day for 4 years wishing I were dead.
- My saving grace was my boyfriend, who was three years older than me. We were together for 4 years until he dumped me on New Year’s Eve when I had just turned 17 – turned out he was seeing someone else.
- Had a mini-breakdown aged 18 and dropped out of school. Spent 9 months barely leaving the house – put on antidepressants and saw a Clinical Psychologist for a year who was really helpful.
- Met my future husband aged 19. He was dominating and critical, just like my biological dad. Married at the age of 21 and my husband became much more controlling and mentally abuse, eventually alienating me from my family and friends. Thankfully I came to my senses and divorced him.
- Went to work abroad aged 23, which is where I caught the virus which lead to my M.E.
- Came home and met my next boyfriend, who was lovely in most respects other than he flirted with anything with a pulse and was highly critical of my appearance – which did nothing for my self-esteem.
- Developed ME aged 26 and spent the next 10 years bedridden and alone. Boyfriend was dumped as he couldn’t cope with me being sick.
- Lived alone for the next 20 years.
- After going through the Menopause, my Mum became increasingly verbally abusive to my Dad and a very angry person (though she hid this behaviour in public and I was still constantly told how lucky I was to have such a lovely Mum). Our previously close relationship started to deteriorate.
- Just as my ME was starting to improve, my Ehlers-Danlos and Mast Cell Disease kicked off. Yay.
- Mum had lung surgery in 2011. She had to give up her 20 a day cigarette habit so took to drinking instead, along with taking 16 prescription drugs a day.
- She then had a heart attack in 2013 and now needs constant care, provided solely by me and my Dad.
- Dad recently diagnosed with Dementia.
- I’m now in peri-menopause and finding it hard to cope with my hormones, health, Dad’s Dementia and Mum’s health and alcoholism.
I know there are people who have lives much worse than mine, and I do my best to just get on with it and not wallow in self pity, but even I have to admit there are times I struggle and I think I need the perspective of a trained Counsellor to help me navigate the next few years. Waking up in the morning and actually wishing your parent would hurry up and die so you didn’t have to cope with their crap any more is not good. Therapy is expensive though and at £35 a session I can probably only afford to see a Counsellor twice a month, which isn’t ideal.
I still can’t decide whether to see a Psychologist or a Counsellor. Counsellors have a tendency to listen then just repeat your problems back to you in the hopes you’ll find your own solution, which isn’t what I need. But I still think the Counsellor who used to work at the Hospice would be good to see, as I know I’m already grieving for my Mum (despite the fact she’s still alive) plus obviously I have my own health problems which this particular Counsellor would be used to dealing with. She offers a free first consultation, so maybe I’ll go along for that and see if we click. She also does telephone appts which is great and means I don’t have to travel to see her if I’m not well enough on a particular day.
I recognise that my life is challenging and that I’m struggling. Reaching out for help is important and the Psychologist I saw when I was 18 turned my life around. I don’t want to become depressed again and need some new coping skills and ways of navigating the caring role I now face with my parents (which I’m finding difficult when I spend days basically hating my Mother). I’ll let you know how I get on.