Extended anger in the family
Part one invited the reader to meet Mark, a self-described depressive man. Mark is a 43-year-old married man with two sons. His parents and siblings with family reside nearby. He works as an electrician on a maintenance crew for a local shop. His wife, Lucy, is a nurse. Lucy was unable to join Mark for his first visit with me. She and Mark enjoyed skiing, an activity born at their high-school ski club. They share the experience currently with their adolescent sons.
Symptoms described ever so briefly of Mark’s depression include irritability, anger and being quiet. Mark requested that Lucy join us. We met for a second session a couple of days after the first session. I met Lucy, a healthy-looking woman with a slight touch of gray to her otherwise black hair. She was dressed casually. She had worked the night before for 12 hours. She apologized for a yawn. She slept for six hours before rising to make dinner for the family. “The boys like to eat after school; same for Mark. They all have healthy appetites.” I thanked Lucy for making time to join us. Mark looked drained. I made a mental note suggesting Mark’s countenance looking drained from something other than physical strain.
So Lucy, I asked, Mark shared that you, in fact, encouraged him to seek counseling. Is that right? “Yes,” Lucy answered.
How would you describe your thought process that led to that decision? What were you experiencing and for how long? Lucy stared at me, then turned to Mark. “Is it OK if I tell him everything, Mark?”
Mark continued to look drained. “Marshall, we’ve been dealing not so great with this for months, may a year or so. I’m a nurse and deal with all kinds of people and their stuff. This thing is beyond me. I feel helpless. Mark is not himself. He’s usually even-tempered. He’s got a good sense of humor. He makes us all laugh.
“When he’s mad, he gets over it quickly. Now when Mark gets mad it lasts for days, sometimes weeks. The one thing he’s been doing lately is withdrawing to our basement. It’s sort of a man-cave for Mark and the boys for games, television and deer heads. He goes down there and sits. His face will look red and strange. Marshall, his body shakes. It’s almost like he’s hyperventilating. About an hour or two later, he’ll come upstairs and go rest. The boys look scared when this happens.” Lucy stopped and took hold of Mark’s hand. He gave her a wry smile.
“So Mark,” I asked. “How do you feel about what Lucy shared?”
Mark looked at Lucy, then back to me. “Yeah, she’s pretty accurate. Lucy knows me well. What she said is true. It was hard to hear.”
“The part about withdrawing and shaking, Mark, what is that experience like?”
“I feel almost overwhelmed. it’s like my energy is zapped. Then I shake like my energy needs an outlet.”
“This scares your boys, Mark. What do you think about that?”
“I guess I’m in a vacuum and don’t see anything. I just need to rest like I had a major workout. I’m sorry if I scared my boys.” Mark starts to cry. Lucy takes hold of him in a warm embrace. She, too, begins to cry. “Mark … Lucy… are you two OK? How is your marriage?”
“We’re OK. I’m just worried about Mark,” Lucy states. “We’re OK, Marshall.” The session ended on that note. They agreed to come in a couple days for another session.
What is happening, you might ask? Family and marriage are OK. Is something happening at work for Mark? Is he keeping any work problems to himself, not sharing with Lucy? We’ll explore that avenue at the third session.
Let there be peace and let it begin with me.
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