Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 2nd, 2010

Love Story

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 2, 2010

   Jessica, sixty-one, a long-term, once a week patient, single, no children, has gone through many challenging years. Her low back pain disabled her, leading her to surgery without relief. Her job in the investment banking business ended suddenly. She went back to school to become a teacher, but then she realized that did  not suit her well. Her financial situation has deteriorated to the point where she feels she has to sell her house. Her boyfriend of six years broke up with her. Her friends, seemingly inpatient with her back pain, seemed to evaporate. Jessica, never got along with her mother, but she was close to her father, and then she was “devastated” when he died ten years ago. She still tears up when she speaks about her dad.

     Week after week, Jessica came in angry, bitter, depressed and profoundly hopeless. “You don’t understand” she told me over and over. “What is it that I don’t understand?” I ask. “You don’t know what it is like to have to sell your house, to be in chronic pain, to feel like you have no friends, no family,” she says. “Do I seem like I am not getting it?” I ask. “Well, I doubt that you have been in my situation,” she replies. “Whether or not I have been in your situation, does it seem like I can’t imagine what you are feeling?” I ask. “No one can,” she says emphatically.

     One week, Jessica walks in; an expression on her face tells me something drastically has changed. I am curious. I am not quite sure what makes me so sure that Jessica’s life has been suddenly transformed, but I feel confident of that. Jessica sits down with ease. It appears that her back pain is better. She is quiet. She looks at me with joy on her face. “What’s up?”I ask. “Well, something really good has happened to me.” “Go on” I say. “I reconnected with my dear dear friend from high school, Lola. I was thinking about her one day, so I went on Facebook.  Since we connected, we have been speaking an hour a day. I am going to go back to Nebraska to visit her next month. I am so excited. Her life has been really hard. I really feel bad for her. It was so nice for both of us to start talking again. ” The session is almost over. “You know, I still have to sell my house,” she says with some sadness, but not nearly the heaviness that she has had before. “I know.” I replied, reassuring her that I was still aware of her struggles.

     Despite twenty years in private practice,  I was amazed at Jessica’s new lens on her world. Although I know that relationships are transformative, to see Jessica go from being bitter and angry about her life, to excited to get on an airplane to visit Lola, rendered me speechless. Lola seemed to bring back the memories of Jessica as a happy and vibrant teenager; loving her life, and loving her friends. Jessica’s most recent rough patch made her forget the parts of herself which engaged in life in an excited and meaningful way. Lola brought the old Jessica back to life. Perhaps Jessica is doing the same thing for Lola. It is a love story.

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