Relationship Design

A few weeks ago it was refreshing to have a college student that I have been seeing for individual therapy request that I meet and do a session with a girlfriend he has known for one week! Could they already have deep, unresolved issues this quickly? I was curious. However, he merely wanted to structure and guide their relationship so that problems could be avoided! So in the session I talked for a few minutes alone with each and then we all talked together. I had both take notes. We talked about communication, spirituality, resolving issues with fair fighting techniques, sex, and dealing with anger. We covered nuances of relationships such as deception, honesty, revealing the past, social media decisions, and not allowing their relationship to interfere with other life aspects of each ie. school, family, and personal life and career goals.
It was a pleasure to help “design” and address the pitfalls and delights that each can toss into this new relationship. So many families and marriages I see have already suffered years of abuse, trauma, and violence. Would that more people sought therapy in the beginning of a relationship!

The Synchronicity of Physical and Mental Health

I began working out with weights 4 decades ago. Without exercise I would probably be either insane, dead, or look like a chocolate truffle sphere. Working out with weights and walking the treadmill I can safely eat like a little piggy on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every other feast holiday. Because I work out the day/night before I never need to binge on ginger snaps and obsess over a Hershey bar because I can eat anything no matter how rich or sweet or gooey. Why? Because I do not eat a lot of anything and I eat slowly. When I do eat what I desire I enjoy every morsel.

I do not like exercise. To this day the first 15 minutes I am asking myself why I am there and I tell myself it is too difficult. However, I float out when I am finished. Every muscle feels awake and serene. In the beginning I had to trick myself. I kept my work out clothes in the car and would not go home first after work: I scrambled reluctantly to the health club. Fortunately, the one I chose and still frequent after all these years is open 24/7. There were no women when I began working out. It was scary. I was frightened. And self conscious. At the end of the first year two big brawny guys came up to me and put out hands to shake mine. Why when the entire year all of the men were explicitly trying to topple me off any machine I chose to use? The two admitted they had made bets that I would not last a year in that gym. Most of the guys pretended I did not exist or rather they wish I had not invaded their private world. I often felt like a woman entering a hookah bar in Istanbul. Not welcome: eyes turned to stare and glare. I even asked the gym owner, a woman, to buy the gym a 5 pound set of weights and she refused!

Last year when I fell strolling into a conference and broke my femur/thigh bone I realized the thousands of hours I had spent toiling my muscles was worth every bit of sleep or partying that I had declined in my life. I was in the hospital for a few days and the nurses were in disbelief that I took no medications for any illness at all, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart, etc., and at the outpatient rehab center the physical therapist said my hamstrings were stronger than most of the employees. At 62 I did not feel so ancient. At first I was terrified I would never walk again. But a year later I am almost well. And after five months of absence I am back in the gym.

More and more frequently in therapy I recommend that my clients do exercise. Stretching those muscles transforms thoughts, turns feelings upside down, spurs on the spirit, and, of course, keeps the blood flowing through the veins. Exercise makes me feel very alive.

Weeping in Grief

Kisu, my 20 ½ year-old cat, died today, October 4, 2013. I still feel very sad and relieved for her more than I feel peaceful. But I think that’s because I just said goodbye a few hours ago when we buried her in my back yard. She had a thyroid condition and I tried medicine but I finally gave up and just let her eat whatever she wanted. She kept losing weight and her daily existence became survival, trying to gobble up enough food. She was barely sleeping and looked weary.

Years ago my vet said that, “You know when an animal needs to die because the dog or cat lose their dignity.” I remember my husky was no longer able to leap into the truck. I began to think about putting him to sleep but instead a few weeks later he, himself, chose to lie down and die under the chinaberry tree in my front yard. At 18 years old.

Today Kisu weighed in at 3.9 pounds. This time I had to decide. Kisu was the tiniest, most delicate cat I had ever had. At her best she only weighed 9 pounds. She had tiny pink paws. She was not that active, as she liked to sleep at least half the day her entire two decades of life. The key to longevity must be deep sleep! LOL But her fierceness in survival was impressive. In the last few months she slowly went blind, which I blindly did not see until several weeks ago. However, within a few days she maneuvered within the house by touching certain objects with her body as she walked by. I never thought she would adjust to so many differences as her body deteriorated. She never cried in pain as she tried to adjust her body in order to nap without feeling her bony structure as she lost weight. In the end, I realized I was unconsciously mimicking her. I was not sleeping much. I kept checking on her every break I had between clients in my office next door. I was feeding her multiple times a day as she lingered near the kitchen. I felt restless and I realized she was not doing well as neither was I! I could feel her discomfort. It was like long ago when my mother was dying. Soon after she departed I was at my doctor’s office because I was experiencing pain near my heart. My doctor said, “Of course, that is because your mother just died of heart failure.” He said it was called “sympathetic pain.” I said to him that it felt real. And he said that it was real.

I really did not want to decide to have my cat die today. I wanted her to go naturally. But she was slowly starving to death. A close friend shared my pain today as we have experienced loss together before and loss only increases our closeness. Life is real. And while we are here we need to smile and laugh and touch and cry. Weeping in pure grief for a loved one is the profound way to honor that being. I wept today.

Who is Fritz?

Nobody in my family was thrilled that I wanted to work with the mind. My father was a medical doctor and I was given a stethoscope and a little black bag at age 5. But I did not want to poke people with needles. I preferred to probe the mind. Not until I had been a psychotherapist for over 2 decades did I find out that one of my relatives, Dr. Fritz Wittels, was a psychiatrist who worked with Freud! However, he diverged from Dr. Sigmund Freud’s theories, moved to New York, and wrote several books, one of which is called, “Critique of Love.”

I do believe some of our gifts, talents, and desires, are inherited through our ancestors. Whether it be music, writing, talking, drawing, or math whatever comes easy or we are naturally drawn to, is usually a gift from above, or from across the ancestral years. So I titled this Blog Freud because everybody knows he is the father of psychiatry and Fritz because he, well maybe and most likely, is an influence upon my being and work across space and time.